We Don’t Have Justice, But We Still have Hope

Theognis, Elegies 1135-1150

“Hope is the only noble god left among mortals:
The rest of have abandoned us to go to Olympos.
Trust, a great god, left; Prudence has left men.
The Graces, my friend, have surrendered the earth.

Oaths in a court of law can no longer be trusted;
And no one fears shame before the immortal gods
As the race of righteous men has disappeared.
People no longer recognize precedents or sacred duties.

But as long as someone lives and sees the light of the sun,
Let him foster Hope and act righteously before the gods.
Let him pray to the gods and, while burning shining thigh bones,
Sacrifice to Hope first and last.

And let each person always look out for the crooked word of unjust men:
Those men who do not fear the rage of the gods at all,
Who forever conspire in their thoughts against others’ property,
Men who make shameful agreements for future evil deeds.”

᾿Ελπὶς ἐν ἀνθρώποισι μόνη θεὸς ἐσθλὴ ἔνεστιν,
ἄλλοι δ’ Οὔλυμπόν<δ’> ἐκπρολιπόντες ἔβαν·
ὤιχετο μὲν Πίστις, μεγάλη θεός, ὤιχετο δ’ ἀνδρῶν
Σωφροσύνη, Χάριτές τ’, ὦ φίλε, γῆν ἔλιπον·
ὅρκοι δ’ οὐκέτι πιστοὶ ἐν ἀνθρώποισι δίκαιοι,
οὐδὲ θεοὺς οὐδεὶς ἅζεται ἀθανάτους.
εὐσεβέων δ’ ἀνδρῶν γένος ἔφθιτο, οὐδὲ θέμιστας
οὐκέτι γινώσκουσ’ οὐδὲ μὲν εὐσεβίας.
ἀλλ’ ὄφρα τις ζώει καὶ ὁρᾶι φῶς ἠελίοιο,
εὐσεβέων περὶ θεοὺς ᾿Ελπίδα προσμενέτω·
εὐχέσθω δὲ θεοῖσι, καὶ ἀγλαὰ μηρία καίων
᾿Ελπίδι τε πρώτηι καὶ πυμάτηι θυέτω.
φραζέσθω δ’ ἀδίκων ἀνδρῶν σκολιὸν λόγον αἰεί,
οἳ θεῶν ἀθανάτων οὐδὲν ὀπιζόμενοι
αἰὲν ἐπ’ ἀλλοτρίοις κτεάνοισ’ ἐπέχουσι νόημα,
αἰσχρὰ κακοῖσ’ ἔργοις σύμβολα θηκάμενοι.

Recueil de prose et de vers concernant Alexandre, Annibal et Scipion, Hector et Achille, Dagobert, Clovis II et Charles VIII, Philippe le Beau, roi d'Espagne, les comtes de Dammartin.

 

The Pleasure of Mistakes that Persist No More

Augustine, Confessions  10.3.4

“Now you, then, doctor of my deepest self, tell me what benefit I will reap from my work. For the confessions of my previous mistakes–the ones you have pardoned and buried so that I might feel joy in you, changing my soul with faith and your worship–when they are read and told move the heart so that it may not slumber in desperation and just say, “I can’t”.

Instead, it will stay awake in its love of your pity and the sweetness of your grace, which makes everyone who is weak strong when you help them understand their own weakness. It pleases good people as well to hear the mistakes of those who have now escaped them. They take pleasure not because of the wrong that was done, but because those mistakes existed once but persist no more.”

(4) Verum tamen tu, medice meus intime, quo fructu ista faciam, eliqua mihi. nam confessiones praeteritorum malorum meorum, quae remisisti et texisti ut beares me in te, mutans animam meam fide et sacramento tuo, cum leguntur et audiuntur, excitant cor ne dormiat in desperatione et dicat, “non possum,” sed evigilet in amore misericordiae tuae et dulcedine gratiae tuae, qua potens est omnis infirmus qui sibi per ipsam fit conscius infirmitatis suae. et delectat bonos audire praeterita mala eorum qui iam carent eis, nec ideo delectat quia mala sunt, sed quia fuerunt et non sunt.

Hieronymus Bosch- The Seven Deadly Sins and the Four Last Things

Chance, Virtue, and Evil Deeds

Boethius, Consolation of Philosophy 4 145-155

“It does often turn out that the conduct of the most important affairs is entrusted to good people, that overwhelming corruption may be restrained. Chance apportions a proper mix of bad and good luck to some people based on the quality of their souls so they don’t exult in excess thanks to prolonged happiness. It lets other people suffer more, so that their minds’ virtues gain strength from the use and habit of patience.

Some people fear more than they need to about how much they can take while others are not serious enough about what they cannot. No few purchase a name the world honors at the price of a glorious death; others provide in their tortures an example to the rest of human kind that virtue cannot be conquered by evil deeds.”

Fit autem saepe, uti bonis summa rerum regenda deferatur, ut exuberans retundatur improbitas. Aliis mixta quaedam pro animorum qualitate distribuit; quosdam remordet ne longa felicitate luxurient, alios duris agitari ut virtutes animi patientiae usu atque exercitatione confirment. Alii plus aequo metuunt quod ferre possunt, alii plus aequo despiciunt quod ferre non possunt; hos in experimentum sui tristibus ducit. Nonnulli venerandum saeculi nomen gloriosae pretio mortis emerunt: quidam suppliciis inexpugnabiles exemplum ceteris praetulerunt invictam malis

Boethius Imprisoned

Despair Upon Checking on the News

Cicero, Letters 4.6 

“The single solace I still had has been stolen from me. My thoughts were occupied with neither the business of my friends nor the the country’s bureaucracy. Nothing was drawing me to the courts; I couldn’t even look at the Senate. I was imagining–the truth–that I had lost every benefit of my luck and hard work. Yet when I realized that I had this in common with you and some others, I settled myself down and resolved to endure it well. Even while I did this, I had a place where I could retreat and rest, where I could escape all my worries and defeats in conversation and kindness.

But now those injuries I thought were healed are torturing me again thanks to this heavy hit. When I retreated from public life in the past, I found safety and comfort in my home. But I cannot flee from pain at home in public service, as if it offers any relief at all. So I make myself scarce from home and the Forum the same. Neither public nor private life can offer any relief to the pain and anxiety that plague me.”

unum manebat illud solacium quod ereptum est. non amicorum negotiis, non rei publicae procuratione impediebantur cogitationes meae, nihil in foro agere libebat, aspicere curiam non poteram, existimabam, id quod erat, omnis me et industriae meae fructus et fortunae perdidisse. sed cum cogitarem haec mihi tecum et cum quibusdam esse communia et cum frangerem iam ipse me cogeremque illa ferre toleranter, habebam quo confugerem, ubi conquiescerem, cuius in sermone et suavitate omnis curas doloresque deponerem.

Nunc autem hoc tam gravi vulnere etiam illa quae consanuisse videbantur recrudescunt. non enim, ut tum me a re publica maestum domus excipiebat quae levaret, sic nunc domo maerens ad rem publicam confugere possum ut in eius bonis acquiescam. itaque et domo absum et foro, quod nec eum dolorem quem e re publica capio domus iam consolari potest nec domesticum res publica.


Le Forum Romain à Rome. Vue panoramique HDR sur 9 photos (3 expositions sous 3 angles différents). Photo prise des musées du Capitole.

Woken From Sleep By Pain

Quintus, Posthomerica 13.122-133

“….the boundless grief shook from sleep
The young children whose hearts had previously felt no pain.

People were dying all over, mixed among one another.
Some faded away seeing their death alongside dreams. And their Deaths
Took some kind of shrill joy in their pitiful passing.

They were killed by the thousands like pigs lined up
For an endless banquet for friends in a rich man’s home.

The wine that was left over in their cups was mixed with
Bloody gore and there was no one at all who could have carried
An iron weapon out of the slaughter–and so the Trojans were dying.”

οἰμωγὴ δ’ ἀταλάφρονας ἔκβαλεν ὕπνου
νηπιάχους τῶν οὔ πω ἐπίστατο κήδεα θυμός.
Ἄλλοι δ’ ἀμφ’ ἄλλοισιν ἀπέπνεον· οἳ δ’ ἐκέχυντο
πότμον ὁμῶς ὁρόωντες ὀνείρασιν· ἀμφὶ δὲ λυγραὶ
Κῆρες ὀιζυρῶς ἐπεγήθεον ὀλλυμένοισιν.
οἳ δ’ ὥς τ’ ἀφνειοῖο σύες κατὰ δώματ’ ἄνακτος
εἰλαπίνην λαοῖσιν ἀπείριτον ἐντύνοντος
μυρίοι ἐκτείνοντο, λυγρῷ δ’ ἀνεμίσγετο λύθρῳ
οἶνος ἔτ’ ἐν κρητῆρσι λελειμμένος. οὐδέ τις ἦεν
ὅς κεν ἄνευθε φόνοιο φέρε στονόεντα σίδηρον,
οὐδ’ εἴ τις μάλ’ ἄναλκις ἔην. ὀλέκοντο δὲ Τρῶες·

One of a series of designs (the Trojan War) by Jean Foucquet (1415–1485) from which tapestry hangings were woven, probably at Arras in the middle of the 15th century.

Words, Friends, and the Future: Solace and Distraction for the Pain

From the Suda

“Pharmakon [medicine]: conversation, consoling, it comes from pherein [bringing] akos [relief/cure]. But it is also said to come from flowers.”

Φάρμακον: παραμυθία, ὁμιλία, εἴρηται δὲ ἀπὸ τοῦ φέρειν τὴν ἄκεσιν: εἴρηται δὲ ἀπὸ τῶν ἀνθέων

Euripides, Helen 698-699

“if you find good luck in the time that is left
Perhaps it will be solace for the things in the past”

εἰ καὶ τὰ λοιπὰ τῆς τύχης εὐδαίμονος
τύχοιτε, πρὸς τὰ πρόσθεν ἀρκέσειεν ἄν.

Basil, Letter 131

“Since we both need consolation, may we be solace to one another.”

ἐπεὶ οὖν ἀμφότεροι χρῄζομεν παρακλήσεως, ἀλλήλοις γενώμεθα παραμυθία

Letter 302

“Since he has left you a memory of his particular virtue, believe that this is a sufficient solace for your pain.”

Ἐπεὶ οὖν κατέλιπέ σοι τὴν μνήμην τῆς οἰκείας αὐτοῦ4ἀρετῆς, ἀρκοῦσαν νόμιζε ἔχειν παραμυθίαν τοῦ πάθους.

Marcus Aurelius, Meditations 9

“If you want a private passage at hand to soothe your heart, the knowledge of the world around you will give you some solace at death, the world you leave and the kind of people your soul will no longer be associated with…..”

Εἰ δὲ καὶ ἰδιωτικὸν παράπηγμα ἁψικάρδιον ἐθέλεις, μάλιστά σε εὔκολον πρὸς τὸν θάνατον ποιήσει ἡ ἐπίστασις ἡ ἐπὶ τὰ ὑποκείμενα, ὧν μέλλεις ἀφίστασθαι, καὶ μεθ᾿ οἵων ἠθῶν οὐκέτι ἔσται ἡ <σὴ ψυχὴ> συμπεφυρμένη…

Thucydides, book 5

“Hope is indeed a comfort in danger: it may harm people who use it from abundance it does not destroy them. But for those who risk everything on one chance—since hope is expensive by nature—they will only know her nature when they suffer…”

Ἐλπὶς δέ, κινδύνῳ παραμύθιον οὖσα, τοὺς μὲν ἀπὸ περιουσίας χρωμένους αὐτῇ, κἂν βλάψῃ, οὐ καθεῖλε, τοῖς δὲ ἐς ἅπαν τὸ ὑπάρχον ἀναρριπτοῦσι (δάπανος γὰρ φύσει) ἅμα τε γιγνώσκεται σφαλέντων…

Plutarch, Dion, 53

“…for whom daily feasts and distractions provide are a consolation for their labors and risks.”

οἷς αἱ καθ᾿ ἑκάστην ἡμέραν πλησμοναὶ καὶ ἀπολαύσεις παραμυθία τῶν πόνων καὶ τῶν κινδύνων εἰσίν

This last bit reminds me of Thetis’ words to Achilles (24.128-132)

“My child, how long will you consume your heart
Grieving and mourning, thinking little of food
Or of sleep? It is good too to join a woman in love—
For you will not live with me long, but already
Death and strong fate loom around you.”

τέκνον ἐμὸν τέο μέχρις ὀδυρόμενος καὶ ἀχεύων
σὴν ἔδεαι κραδίην μεμνημένος οὔτέ τι σίτου
οὔτ’ εὐνῆς; ἀγαθὸν δὲ γυναικί περ ἐν φιλότητι
μίσγεσθ’· οὐ γάρ μοι δηρὸν βέῃ, ἀλλά τοι ἤδη
ἄγχι παρέστηκεν θάνατος καὶ μοῖρα κραταιή.

William-Adolphe Bouguereau (1825-1905) – Young Woman Contemplating Two Embracing Children (1861)

Some Proverbs from Arsenius, Paroemiographer

“Only words [reason] is medicine for grief”

Λόγος μέν ἐστι φάρμακον λύπης μόνος.

“Conversation [ or ‘reason’] is the doctor for suffering in the soul”

Λόγος ἰατρὸς τοῦ κατὰ ψυχὴν πάθους.

Euripides, fr. 1079

“Mortals have no other medicine for pain
Like the advice of a good man, a friend
Who has experience with this sickness.
A man who troubles then calms his thoughts with drinking,
Finds immediate pleasure, but laments twice as much later on.”

Οὐκ ἔστι λύπης ἄλλο φάρμακον βροτοῖς
ὡς ἀνδρὸς ἐσθλοῦ καὶ φίλου παραίνεσις.
ὅστις δὲ ταύτῃ τῇ νόσῳ ξυνὼν ἀνὴρ
μέθῃ ταράσσει καὶ γαληνίζει φρένα,
παραυτίχ’ ἡσθεὶς ὕστερον στένει διπλᾶ.

Menander (fr. 591 K.).

“The man who is sick in the body needs a doctor;
someone who is sick in the mind needs a friend
For a well-meaning friend knows how to treat grief.”

Τῷ μὲν τὸ σῶμα † διατεθειμένῳ κακῶς
χρεία ‘στ’ ἰατροῦ, τῷ δὲ τὴν ψυχὴν φίλου·
λύπην γὰρ εὔνους οἶδε θεραπεύειν φίλος.

Attributed to Socrates (in Stobaeus)

“The sick need doctors; the unlucky need encouragement from friends.”

Τοῖς μὲν νοσοῦσιν ἰατρούς, τοῖς δ’ ἀτυχοῦσι φίλους δεῖ παραινεῖν.

Education: Insurance for the Shipwrecked

Phaedrus, Fabulae 4.23

“A person of learning always has wealth on on their own.

Simonides, who wrote exceptional lyric poems,
Thanks to this lived more easily with poverty
He began to go around the Asia’s noble cities
Singing the praise of victors for a set price.

Once he had done this to make a wealthier life
He planned to make a seaward journey home.
For it was on Ceos people claim he was born.
He climbed aboard a ship which an awful storm
And its advanced age caused to break apart in the sea.

Some grabbed their money-belts, others their valuable things,
Safeguards for their life. A rather curious man asked
“Simonides, you are saving none of your riches?”
He responded, “Everything that is mine is with me”

Few swam free, because most died weighed down by a drowning burden.
Then thieves arrived and seized whatever each man carried.
They left them naked. By chance, Clazomenae, that ancient city,
Was nearby. The shipwrecked men went that way.
There lived a man obsessed with the pursuit of poetry
Who had often read the poems of Simonides,
He was his greatest distant admirer.

Once he knew Simonides from his speech alone
He greedily brought him home, and decorated him
With clothes, money, servants. The rest were carrying
Signs asking for food. When Simonides by chance
Would see these men he reported “I said that all my things
Were with me: and you lost everything you took.”

Image result for Ancient Greek Shipwreck vase

Homo doctus in se semper divitias habet.
Simonides, qui scripsit egregium melos,
quo paupertatem sustineret facilius,
circum ire coepit urbes Asiae nobiles,
mercede accepta laudem victorum canens.
Hoc genere quaestus postquam locuples factus est,
redire in patriam voluit cursu pelagio;
erat autem, ut aiunt, natus in Cia insula.
ascendit navem; quam tempestas horrida
simul et vetustas medio dissolvit mari.
Hi zonas, illi res pretiosas colligunt,
subsidium vitae. Quidam curiosior:
“Simonide, tu ex opibus nil sumis tuis?”
“Mecum” inquit “mea sunt cuncta.”Tunc pauci enatant,
quia plures onere degravati perierant.
Praedones adsunt, rapiunt quod quisque extulit,
nudos relinquunt. Forte Clazomenae prope
antiqua fuit urbs, quam petierunt naufragi.
Hic litterarum quidam studio deditus,
Simonidis qui saepe versus legerat,
eratque absentis admirator maximus,
sermone ab ipso cognitum cupidissime
ad se recepit; veste, nummis, familia
hominem exornavit. Ceteri tabulam suam
portant, rogantes victum. Quos casu obvios
Simonides ut vidit: “Dixi” inquit “mea
mecum esse cuncta; vos quod rapuistis perit.

Wreck of a small boat in Nea Artaki, Euboea, Greece

Poor Judgment and a Poor Poet: Seneca vs. Cicero

Quintilian, (on Seneca) 10.1

“You might wish that he had spoken with his own skill, but using someone else’s judgement.”

Velles eum suo ingenio dixisse, alieno iudicio

Aulus Gellius, Attic Nights 12.2

That Annaeus Seneca, when judging Ennius and Cicero, was possessed of light and silly judgment.

Some think of Seneca as a worthless writer, whose books it is not even worth the effort to touch, because his speech seems vulgar and played-out, while his matter and thoughts are characterized either by a bungling and empty force or a light and rather juridical affectation. His learning, however, is common and plebeian, and has neither the grace nor the dignity of the ancient writers. Though others may not deny that he has too little of elegance in his words, they affirm that he is not lacking a knowledge and understanding of the things which he discusses, in addition to a not unpleasing severity in censuring moral lapses. It is not necessary for me to make a judgment or criticism of his talent or writing as a whole; but I would like to consider the nature of the judgment which he made on Cicero, Ennius, and Vergil. In the twenty-second book of his moral epistles, which he wrote to Lucullus, he says that Ennius wrote these ridiculous verses about that ancient man Cethegus:

He was called by the people once,

who lived about that time,

the special flower of the people, and the marrow of Persuasion.

Then he writes about these same verses, ‘I wonder at the fact that the most eloquent and devoted fans of Ennius have praised this claptrap as fine poetry. Cicero, to be sure, mentions these among Ennius’ best lines.’ He then adds about Cicero himself, ‘I am not surprised that there was a man who could write verses like this since there was also a man who would praise them; but perhaps Cicero, that famous orator, was pleading his own case by praising these, in order to make his own awful verses appear good.’ After this, Seneca adds most foolishly, ‘Even in Cicero’s prose you can find some things, from which it is clear that he did not waste his time when he read Ennius.’ Then he includes an example of the sort of thing which he reprehends in Cicero as being  ‘Ennian,’ which he wrote in his book de re publica: ‘Menelaus the Laconian was graced with a sweet-talking charm,’ and in another passage, ‘he cultivates brevity of speech in his oratory.’ Then that clown Seneca has the audacity to make apology for Cicero’s errors by writing, ‘It was not the fault of Cicero himself, but of his times; it was inevitable that one would speak thus, when that sort of thing was commonly read.’ Then he suggests that Cicero included these bits to avoid the charge that his speech was too ornate and polished.

In the same place, he says this of Vergil: ‘Even our own Vergil has, for the same reason, placed certain ugly and unwonted verses which go somewhat beyond the limit, so that his Ennian audience could recognize a little bit of antiquity in his new poem.’

But now I’m sick of Seneca’s words. Nevertheless, I won’t omit to mention these little jokes of that stupid and witless man: ‘There are some verses of Ennius of such great sense that they could, though written among those that smell like goats, could nevertheless please a perfumed audience.’ When he is criticizing the verses about Cethegus which I quoted above, he says, ‘Whoever loves this kind of verse would probably also like the couches of Sotericus.’

Seneca certainly seems worthy for the perusal of adulescents when he compares the dignity and taste of the best ancient poetry to the couches of Sotericus as though they had no grace and were long ago forgotten and condemned. But listen as I remember a few things which Seneca actually said well, such as that which he said about a miser who wanted more money: ‘What does it matter how much money you have? There is always much more which you do not have!’ Was this well-said? Certainly. But good sayings don’t benefit the young as much as bad sayings harm them, and this is especially true when the inferior ones are so much greater in number, and if they are not about some small and simple affair, but a doubtful one which requires serious judgment.”

II Quod Annaeus Seneca iudicans de Q. Ennio deque M. Tullio leui futtilique iudicio fuit.

[1] De Annaeo Seneca partim existimant ut de scriptore minime utili, cuius libros adtingere nullum pretium operae sit, quod oratio eius uulgaria uideatur et protrita, res atque sententiae aut inepto inanique impetu sint aut leui et causidicali argutia, eruditio autem uernacula et plebeia nihilque ex ueterum scriptis habens neque gratiae neque dignitatis. Alii uero elegantiae quidem in uerbis parum esse non infitias eunt, sed et rerum, quas dicat, scientiam doctrinamque ei non deesse dicunt et in uitiis morum obiurgandis seueritatem grauitatemque non inuenustam. [2] Mihi de omni eius ingenio deque omni scripto iudicium censuramque facere non necessum est; sed quod de M. Cicerone et Q. Ennio et P. Vergilio iudicauit, ea res cuimodi sit, ad considerandum ponemus. [3] In libro enim uicesimo secundo epistularum moralium, quas ad Lucilium conposuit, deridiculos uersus Q. Ennium de Cetego antiquo uiro fecisse hos dicit:

is dictust ollis popularibus olim, qui tum uiuebant homines atque aeuum agitabant, flos delibatus populi Suada medulla.

[4] Ac deinde scribit de isdem uersibus uerba haec: ‘Admiror eloquentissimos uiros et deditos Ennio pro optimis ridicula laudasse. Cicero certe inter bonos eius uersus et hos refert.’ [5] Atque id etiam de Cicerone dicit: ‘Non miror’ inquit ‘fuisse, qui hos uersus scriberet, cum fuerit, qui laudaret; nisi forte Cicero summus orator agebat causam suam et uolebat suos uersus uideri bonos.’ [6] Postea hoc etiam addidit insulsissime: ‘Aput ipsum quoque’ inquit ‘Ciceronem inuenies etiam in prosa oratione quaedam, ex quibus intellegas illum non perdidisse operam, quod Ennium legit.’ [7] Ponit deinde, quae apud Ciceronem reprehendat quasi Enniana, quod ita scripserit in libris de republica: ‘ut Menelao Laconi quaedam fuit suauiloquens iucunditas’, et quod alio in loco dixerit: ‘breuiloquentiam in dicendo colat.’ [8] Atque ibi homo nugator Ciceronis errores deprecatur et ‘non fuit’ inquit ‘Ciceronis hoc uitium, sed temporis; necesse erat haec dici, cum illa legerentur.’ [9] Deinde adscribit Ciceronem haec ipsa interposuisse ad effugiendam infamiam nimis lasciuae orationis et nitidae. [10] De Vergilio quoque eodem in loco uerba haec ponit: ‘Vergilius quoque noster non ex alia causa duros quosdam uersus et enormes et aliquid supra mensuram trahentis interposuit, quam ut Ennianus populus adgnosceret in nouo carmine aliquid antiquitatis.’ [11] Sed iam uerborum Senecae piget; haec tamen inepti et insubidi hominis ioca non praeteribo: ‘Quidam sunt’ inquit ‘tam magni sensus Q. Ennii, ut, licet scripti sint inter hircosos, possint tamen inter unguentatos placere’; et, cum reprehendisset uersus, quos supra de Cetego posuimus: ‘qui huiuscemodi’ inquit ‘uersus amant, liqueat tibi eosdem admirari et Soterici lectos.’ [12] Dignus sane Seneca uideatur lectione ac studio adulescentium, qui honorem coloremque ueteris orationis Soterici lectis compararit quasi minimae scilicet gratiae et relictis iam contemptisque. [13] Audias tamen commemorari ac referri pauca quaedam, quae idem ipse Seneca bene dixerit, quale est illud, quod in hominem auarum et auidum et pecuniae sitientem dixit: ‘Quid enim refert, quantum habeas? multo illud plus est, quod non habes.’ [14] Benene hoc? sane bene; sed adulescentium indolem non tam iuuant, quae bene dicta sunt, quam inficiunt, quae pessime, multoque tanto magis, si et plura sunt, quae deteriora sunt, et quaedam in his non pro ἐνθυμήματι aliquo rei paruae ac simplicis, sed in re ancipiti pro consilio dicuntur.

Gilbert Highet, The Classical Tradition (18):

With the beginning of the Renaissance, the amazing strength and flexibility of Cicero’s style was recognized once more. It was copied by writers of Latin prose on almost every subject. For centuries the diplomacy of the European chanceries was carried on not only in the language, but in the precise vocabulary, and word order, and cadences of Cicero’s speeches. There was a long and fierce dispute between scholars who held that Cicero was an unchallengeable ‘authority’ and that no modern writer could use Latin words or constructions not found in his works, and those, more liberal, who pointed out that Latin was still a living language which modern authors could expand and alter to their own needs. Since this was a dispute about the use of the Latin language, it does not come within the scope of our book. But it was closely connected with another dispute which does.

Many writers in the vernacular languages felt that the ‘big bow-wow’ style of speaking and writing was bogus. All style is artificial, no doubt; but they held that prose should at least give the appearance of being natural. They therefore turned away from Cicero and most of the devices he had developed, and, as models for modem prose, picked Seneca and Tacitus. Some of them went farther back, to Demosthenes and Plato. The aim of them all was to be personal, to avoid formalism. On the models of Seneca’s moral essays and Tacitus’ histories — and, to a much smaller extent, Demosthenes’ plainer speeches and Plato’s quieter dialogues — they created the prose of most modem essays and character-sketches, the prose in which some great modem sermons have been written.

Fronto to Marcus Aurelius Antoninus Augustus (“On Speeches”, Ambr. 382)

“…I am going to add in some potentially inapt and unfair comments, for I plan to remind you of the experience of having me as a teacher…

Still, it would be better for you to neglect these things than to nurture them poorly. For when it comes to that confused in the combined type, grafted in part on Cato’s pine-nuts and Seneca’s soft and febrile plums, well I think it should be pulled up by the roots—no, to use a Plautine line, uprooted below the roots!

I am not ignorant that Seneca is a person fully stuffed and overflowing with ideas, but to be honest I see his sentences as trotting around, announcing their course with a full gallop, but stopping to fight nowhere and never striking the sublime. Like Laberius, he plays at wit-darts, or really just assembling sounds, rather than composing words worth repeating.

Do you believe that you would uncover graver sentiments on the same ideas in your Annaeus than in Sergius*? Ah, Sergius’ words don’t have the same rhythm or the same speed as Seneca’s, I admit. The sounds don’t sing the same, I won’t deny it.

But what if the same meal is offered to two people and the first picks up the olives on the table with his fingers, brings them to his mouth, puts them between his teeth to chew them in the right and proper way, while the other throws them up high and catches them with his mouth open and then shows them off once caught with his lips like a juggler? Really, children at school would applaud at what was done and the guest would be entertained, but one will have eaten lunch properly while the other did tricks with his lips.

So you say that some things are expressed cleverly and some with weight. But sometimes little silver coins are found in the sewer. Should we take over the job of cleaning the sewers too?”

…pauca subnectam fortasse inepta iniqua, nam rursus faxo magistrum me experiare….

Neglegas tamen vero potius censeo quam prave excolas. Confusam eam ego eloquentiam, catachannae ritu partim pineis nucibus Catonis partim Senecae mollibus et febriculosis prunulis insitam, subvertendam censeo radicitus, immo vero, Plautino ut utar verbo, exradicitus. Neque ignoro copiosum sententiis et redundantem hominem esse: verum sententias eius tolutares video nusquam quadripedo concitas cursu ten<d>ere, nusquam pugnare, nusquam maiestatem studere; ut Laberius dictabolaria, immo dicteria, potius eum quam dicta confingere.

Itane existimas graviores sententias et eadem de re apud Annaeum istum reperturum te quam apud Sergium? Sed non modulatas aeque: fateor;  neque ita| cordaces: ita est; neque ita tinnulas: non nego. Quid vero, si prandium utrique adponatur, adpositas oleas alter digitis prendat, ad os adferat, ut manducandi ius fasque est ita dentibus subiciat, alter autem oleas suas in altum iaciat, ore aperto excipiat, ut calculos praestigiator, primoribus labris ostentet? Ea re profecto pueri laudent, convivae delectentur; sed alter pudice pranderit, alter labellis gesticulatus erit.

At enim sunt quaedam in libris eius scite dicta, graviter quoque nonnulla. Etiam laminae interdum argentiolae cloacis inveniuntur; eane re cloacas purgandas redimemus?

Ronald Syme, The Roman Revolution (p. 146):

The Second Philippic, though technically perfect, is not a political oration, for it was never delivered: it is an exercise in petty rancour and impudent defamation like the invectives against Piso. The other speeches against Antonius, however, may be counted for vigour, passion and intensity, among the most splendid of all the orations. But oratory can be a menace to posterity as well as to its author or its audience. There was another side – not Antonius only, but the neutrals. Cicero was not the only consular who professed to be defending the highest good of the Roman People. The survival of the Philippics imperils historical judgment and wrecks historical perspective.

Longinus, On the Sublime, 1

“Cicero also departs from Demosthenes in the size of his constructions. For Demosthenes impresses more in his chunks of sublimity, while Cicero does it more generally. Our orator most clearly burns thanks to his violence, speed, and strength, and he leaves a path of destruction like a lightning strike or a thunderbolt.

Cicero, I think, is more like a large wildfire, consuming everything and laying waste around him. He has a strong fire, always burning, and it is allotted evenly from one place to another, rekindled by steady refueling. You [Romans] may be able to judge these matters better, but the real power of Demosthenes’ sublimity and tension arises in his terrifying and earnest emotions where it is necessary that he surprises his audience; diffusion is when you need to overwhelm [the audience] at length. The latter is most harmonious for general topics, going on at length, description and performance pieces, as well as for history, scientific writing, and many other kinds.”

καὶ ὁ Κικέρων τοῦ Δημοσθένους ἐν τοῖς μεγέθεσι παραλλάττει. ὁ μὲν γὰρ ἐν ὕψει τὸ πλέον ἀποτόμῳ, ὁ δὲ Κικέρων ἐν χύσει· καὶ ὁ μὲν ἡμέτερος διὰ τὸ μετὰ βίας ἕκαστα ἔτι δὲ τάχους ῥώμης δεινότητος οἷον καίειν τε ἅμα καὶ διαρπάζειν σκηπρῷ τινι παρεικάζοιτ᾿ ἂν ἢ κεραυνῷ· ὁ δὲ Κικέρων ὡς ἀμφιλαφής τις ἐμπρησμὸς οἶμαι πάντη νέμεται καὶ ἀνειλεῖται, πολὺ ἔχων καὶ ἐπίμονον ἀεὶ τὸ καῖον καὶ διακληρονομούμενον ἄλλοτ᾿ ἀλλοίως ἐν αὐτῷ καὶ κατὰ διαδοχὰς ἀνατρεφόμενον. ἀλλὰ ταῦτα μὲν ὑμεῖς ἂν ἄμεινον ἐπικρίνοιτε, καιρὸς δὲ τοῦ Δημοσθενικοῦ μὲν ὕψους καὶ ὑπερτεταμένου ἔν τε ταῖς δεινώσεσι καὶ τοῖς σφοδροῖς πάθεσι καὶ ἔνθα δεῖ τον ἀκροατὴν τὸ σύνολον ἐκπλῆξαι, τῆς δὲ χύσεως ὅπου χρὴ καταντλῆσαι· τοπηγορίαις τε γὰρ καὶ ἐπιλόγοις κατὰ τὸ πλέον καὶ παρεκβάσεσι καὶ τοῖς φραστικοῖς ἅπασι καὶ ἐπιδεικτικοῖς, ἱστορίαις τε καὶ φυσιολογίαις, καὶ οὐκ ὀλίγοις ἄλλοις μέρεσιν ἁρμόδιος.

Marcus Fronto, To Marcus Antoninus? 

“Cato attacks with words brutally, Gracchus overwhelms. Tully attacks fully. When in the courtroom, Cato seethes with rage, Cicero is victorious, Gracchus sets of a riot, and Calvus picks a fight,”

Contionatur autem Cato infeste, Gracchus turbulente, Tullius copiose. Iam in iudiciis saevit idem Cato, triumphat Cicero, tumultuatur Gracchus, Calvus rixatur.

Tacitus, Dialogus de Oratoribus 21

“We may grant to Caesar that he achieved less in the way of eloquence than his divine genius would have demanded, largely due to the greatness of his thoughts and occupations. Similarly, we may leave Brutus to his philosophical inquiries. For, in the realm of rhetoric, even his admirers would admit that he was not equal to his own reputation. That is, perhaps, unless there is someone who would read Caesar’s On Behalf of Decius the Samnite or Brutus’ On Behalf of King Deiotarus and other works of the same dull mildness; this reader must also admire the poems of these same men. For indeed, they wrote poems and even deposited them in libraries; though they were no better poets than Cicero, they were more fortunate, because fewer people know about their poetic endeavors.”

concedamus sane C. Caesari, ut propter magnitudinem cogitationum et occupationes rerum minus in eloquentia effecerit, quam divinum eius ingenium postulabat, tam hercule quam Brutum philosophiae suae relinquamus; nam in orationibus minorem esse [6] fama sua etiam admiratores eius fatentur: nisi forte quisquam aut Caesaris pro Decio Samnite aut Bruti pro Deiotaro rege ceterosque eiusdem lentitudinis ac teporis libros legit, nisi qui et carmina eorundem miratur. fecerunt enim et carmina et in bibliothecas rettulerunt, non melius quam Cicero, sed [7] felicius, quia illos fecisse pauciores sciunt.

Aulus Gellius, Attic Nights 12.2

“It is so tedious to quote Seneca’s words. still, I won’t overlook the jokes of that incompetent and improper man.”

Sed iam verborum Senecae piget; haec tamen inepti et insubidi hominis ioca non praeteribo

Macrobius, Saturnalia (II.2.3.1-4) 

“I am surprised that you all have been quiet about Cicero’s jokes which prove him as eloquent as in everything else he said. If it seems right, I am prepared—like the guardian of a temple about to announce the oracles of a god—to repeat the Ciceronian jests I remember.

When everyone appeared ready to listen to him, he began: “When Marcus Cicero dined with Damasippus and his host offered him a rather middling wine and said “Drink this forty-year old Falernian,” Cicero replied “It carries its age well.” At another time when he saw his own son-in-law Lentulus, a man of short stature, girded up with a long sword, he asked “Who has attached my son-in-law to a sword?” Nor did he keep a similar bite from his brother Quintus Cicero. For, when visiting the province Quintus that was administering, he saw his brother’s portrait armed with a circular shield sculpted with much greater size near the chest in the manner of pictures (his brother was also a bit on the shorter side), he said “Half of my brother is bigger than the whole!”

Sed miror omnes vos ioca tacuisse Ciceronis, in quibus facundissimus, ut in omnibus, fuit: et, si videtur, ut aedituus responsa numinis sui praedicat ita ego quae memoria suggesserit refero dicta Ciceronis. Tum omnibus ad audiendum erectis ille sic incipit: 2 M. Cicero, cum apud Damasippum coenaret et ille mediocri vino posito diceret: Bibite Falernum hoc, annorum quadraginta est: Bene, inquit, aetatem fert. 3 Idem cum Lentulum generum suum, exiguae naturae hominem, longo gladio adcinctum vidisset: Quis, inquit, generum meum ad gladium alligavit? 4 Nec Q. Ciceroni fratri circa similem mordacitatem pepercit. Nam cum in ea provincia quam ille rexerat vidisset clypeatam imaginem eius ingentibus lineamentis usque ad pectus ex more pictam (erat autem Quintus ipse staturae parvae), ait: Frater meus dimidius maior est quam totus.

Being Happy Takes Practice!

Diogenes Laertius, Diogenes 71

“He used to say, however, that there was no success in life at all without practice and that this can conquer everything. For this reason, people must choose the types of practice nature demands to live well instead of useless toils—and to live unhappily is a type of madness.

For even despising pleasure is extremely pleasurable, when it has been practiced; and just as those who are used to pleasure feel discomfort when they try to opposite, so too do those who have practiced the opposite get more pleasure from hating pleasure than from pleasure itself.

These were the things Diogenes talked about and clearly did—for he debased the currency and gave no rule authority unless it was natural. He used to say that he lived the same kind of life Herakles did and valued nothing more than freedom.”

Οὐδέν γε μὴν ἔλεγε τὸ παράπαν ἐν τῷ βίῳ χωρὶς ἀσκήσεως κατορθοῦσθαι, δυνατὴν δὲ ταύτην πᾶν ἐκνικῆσαι. δέον οὖν ἀντὶ τῶν ἀχρήστων πόνων τοὺς κατὰ φύσιν ἑλομένους ζῆν εὐδαιμόνως, παρὰ τὴν ἄνοιαν κακοδαιμονοῦσι. καὶ γὰρ αὐτὴ τῆς ἡδονῆς ἡ καταφρόνησις ἡδυτάτη προμελετηθεῖσα, καὶ ὥσπερ οἱ συνεθισθέντες ἡδέως ζῆν, ἀηδῶς ἐπὶ τοὐναντίον μετίασιν, οὕτως οἱ τοὐναντίον ἀσκηθέντες ἥδιον αὐτῶν τῶν ἡδονῶν καταφρονοῦσι. τοιαῦτα διελέγετο καὶ ποιῶν ἐφαίνετο, ὄντως νόμισμα παραχαράττων, μηδὲν οὕτω τοῖς κατὰ νόμον ὡς τοῖς κατὰ φύσιν διδούς· τὸν αὐτὸν χαρακτῆρα τοῦ βίου λέγων διεξάγειν ὅνπερ καὶ Ἡρακλῆς, μηδὲν ἐλευθερίας προκρίνων.

This reminded me of the saying attributed to Democritus:

Democritus, fr. 200

‘Those who live without enjoying life are fools.’

ἀνοήμονες βιοῦσιν οὐ τερπόμενοι βιοτῆι. #Democritus

Image result for medieval manuscript happiness
Happiness and Fortune

Sailing With Fortune to the Grave

Euripides, Trojan Women 102-105

“Sail following the stream, sail following fate,
Don’t set the prow of your life
Against the waves, sailing against fortune.”

πλεῖ κατὰ πορθμόν, πλεῖ κατὰ δαίμονα,
μηδὲ προσίστω πρῷραν βιότου
πρὸς κῦμα πλέουσα τύχαισιν.

510

“Don’t believe that anyone who is lucky is blessed
Before they’re dead.”

…τῶν δ᾽ εὐδαιμόνων
μηδένα νομίζετ᾽ εὐτυχεῖν, πρὶν ἂν θάνῃ.

1203-1206

“Any mortal is a fool who takes some pleasure
From imagining their good luck is safe: in its turns
Fortune’s like a crazed person leaping this way one day
And then another, no one ever keeps the same good luck.”

θνητῶν δὲ μῶρος ὅστις εὖ πράσσειν δοκῶν
βέβαια χαίρει: τοῖς τρόποις γὰρ αἱ τύχαι,
ἔμπληκτος ὡς ἄνθρωπος, ἄλλοτ᾽ ἄλλοσε
πηδῶσι, κοὐδεὶς αὐτὸς εὐτυχεῖ ποτε.

1247-1250

“I imagine it makes no difference to the dead
If they receive some rich funeral.
This is the source of silly pride for the living.”

δοκῶ δὲ τοῖς θανοῦσι διαφέρειν βραχύ,
εἰ πλουσίων τις τεύξεται κτερισμάτων:
κενὸν δὲ γαύρωμ᾽ ἐστὶ τῶν ζώντων τόδε.

Hecuba Kills Polymestor, by Giuseppe Maria Crespi