“For me, this was frightening to see,
And for you to hear. Know well that my child
Would be wondrous to behold if he did well but,
He’s not beholden to the state:
he will rule the land if he merely survives.”
Porph. On Abstaining from Animal Food (de abst. 2. 18(p. 148 Nauck))
“People say that when the Delphians asked Aeschylus to write a paean for the god he said that Tynnichus had already composed the best one. His would be no better when compared to it than modern statues set alongside ancient ones.”
“We have frequently noted more than a few words or expressions which we cannot say in a few words, as in Greek, and which, even if we use as many words as possible to say them, cannot be articulated as clearly or pointedly in Latin as the Greeks can convey in a few words. For recently, when a book of Plutarch came my way and I was reading the title, which was “Peri polypragmosunes”, a man who didn’t know Greek asked me whose book it was and what it was written about. I spoke the name of the writer immediately, but the subject of the book was something I hesitated on.
At first, since I did not believe that it would be an elegant translation if I said that the book was De Negotiositate (about busyness), I began to search my mind for some other description which, as the saying goes, would express it “word for word”. But there was nothing which I could remember that I read nor anything I could invent that would not in some way be harsh or silly—if I made a new word out of multitude and negotium, in the same way we say “multifaceted” or “multicolored” or “multiform”. But it would be said no less awkwardly than if one were to translate into a single world polyphilia (having many friends), polytropia (of many ways) or polysarkia (with much flesh). Therefore, after I spent a while thinking silently, I responded that it did not seem possible to me to communicate the subject in a single word and that, as a result, I was considering how to convey the meaning of that Greek word with a phrase.”
“Therefore, beginning many affairs and working on all of them is called in Greek polypragmosunê” I said, “and the label communicates that this book is written about this matter.” Then, that unrefined man, misled by my incomplete and unclear words and thinking that polypragmonê is a virtue, said “Certainly, then, this man Plutarch, whoever he is, exhorts us to engage in business, and that very many endeavors should be pursued with dedication and speed, and he has written the name of this virtue, about which he plans to speak, on the book itself, just as you say, with propriety.” I answered “Not at all, in truth. For that is in no way a virtue, that subject which is anticipated by the Greek name on the book. And Plutarch does not do what you believe—and I did not mean to say that. Indeed, he dissuades us in this book as much as he is able from too varied and frequent and unnecessary planning or seeking of too many types of obligations. But” I added, “I do see that the root of your mistake is in my lack of eloquence, the way that I could not express in many words and with clarity what a single Greek word indicates completely and plainly.”
Adiecimus saepe animum ad vocabula rerum non paucissima, quae neque singulis verbis, ut a Graecis, neque, si maxime pluribus eas res verbis dicamus, tam dilucide tamque apte demonstrari Latina oratione possunt, quam Graeci ea dicunt privis vocibus. 2 Nuper etiam cum adlatus esset ad nos Plutarchi liber et eius libri indicem legissemus, qui erat peri polypragmosynes, percontanti cuipiam, qui et litterarum et vocum Graecarum expers fuit, cuiusnam liber et qua de re scriptus esset, nomen quidem scriptoris statim diximus, rem, de qua scriptum fuit, dicturi haesimus. 3 Ac tum quidem primo, quia non satis commode opinabar interpretaturum me esse, si dicerem librum scriptum “de negotiositate”, aliud institui aput me exquirere, quod, ut dicitur, verbum de verbo expressum esset. 4 Nihil erat prorsus, quod aut meminissem legere me aut, si etiam vellem fingere, quod non insigniter asperum absurdumque esset, si ex multitudine et negotio verbum unum compingerem, sicuti “multiiuga” dicimus et “multicolora” et “multiformia”. 5 Sed non minus inlepide ita diceretur, quam si interpretari voce una velis polyphilian aut polytropian aut polysarkian. Quamobrem, cum diutule tacitus in cogitando fuissem, respondi tandem non videri mihi significari eam rem posse uno nomine et idcirco iuncta oratione, quid ucliet Graecum id verbum, pararam dicere.
“Ad multas igitur res adgressio earumque omnium rerum actio polypragmosyne” inquam “Graece dicitur, de qua hunc librum conpositum esse inscriptio ista indicat”. VII. Tum ille opicus verbis meis inchoatis et inconditis adductus virtutemque esse polypragmosynen ratus: “hortatur” inquit “nos profecto nescio quis hic Plutarchus ad negotia capessenda et ad res obeundas plurimas cum industria et celeritate nomenque ipsius virtutis, de qua locuturus esset, libro ipsi, sicuti dicis, non incommode praescripsit”. VIII. “Minime” inquam “vero; neque enim ista omnino virtus est, cuius Graeco nomine argumentum hoc libri demonstratur, neque id, quod tu opinare, aut ego me dicere sentio aut Plutarchus facit. Deterret enim nos hoc quidem in libro, quam potest maxime, a varia promiscaque et non necessaria rerum cuiuscemodi plurimarum et cogitatione et petitione. Sed huius” inquam “tui erroris culpam esse intellego in mea scilicet infacundia, qui ne pluribus quidem verbis potuerim non obscurissime dicere, quod a Graecis perfectissime verbo uno et planissime dicitur”.
“Let’s offer some examples from other peoples as well. Many kings and people in charge, have given themselves to death after listening to an oracle, so that they might save their citizens with their own blood. And many private citizens have exiled themselves in order to decrease civil strife.”
“When a plague was afflicting the Spartans because of the murder of the heralds sent by Xerxes—because he demanded earth and water as signs of servitude—they received an oracle that they would be saved if some Spartans would be selected to be killed by the king. Then Boulis and Sperkhis came forward to the king because they believed they were worthy to be sacrificed. Because he was impressed by their bravery he ordered them to go home.”
“After Oksulos, Laias, his son, held power, but I have learned that his descendants did not rule as kings. I am going to pass over them even though I know who they are, since I do not want my story to descend to talking about private citizens.
Later on, Iphitos, who was a descendant of Oksulos and around the same age as Lykourgos who wrote the laws for the Spartans, he organized the contests at Olympia and re-organized the Olympic festival and the truce from the beginning, since the games had been neglected for some amount of time. I explain this in the parts of my record which discuss the region of Olympia.
It was Iphitos’ responsibility to ask the god in Delphi for a relief from suffering since Greece was at that time especially suffering destruction from civil strife and epidemic disease. The story is that the Pythia commanded that Iphitos himself had to renew the Olympic Games along with the Eleians. Iphitos persuaded the Eleians to sacrifice to Herakles too, even though that had previously believed that Herakles was their enemy.
The inscription at Olympia claims that Iphitos was the child of Haimon. But most Greeks say that he was the son of Praksônides, not Haimôn. But the Eleians’ ancient writings attribute Iphitos to a father of the same name.”
“Kuanippos, a Syracusan by birth, did not sacrifice to Dionysus alone. In rage over this, the god caused him to become drunk and then he raped his daughter Kuanê in some shadowy place. She took his ring and gave it to her nurse as to be proof of what had happened in the future.
When they were later struck by a plague and Pythian Apollo said that they had to sacrifice the impious person to the Gods-who-Protect, everyone else was uncertain about the oracle. Kuanê understood it. She grabbed her father by the hair and sacrificed herself over him once she’d butchered him on the altar.
That’s the story Dositheos tells in the third book of his Sicilian Tales.”
“The whole state often suffers because of a wicked man
Who transgresses the gods and devises reckless deeds.
Kronos’ son rains down great pain on them from heaven:
Famine and plague and the people start to perish.
[Women don’t give birth and households waste away
Thanks to the vengeance of Olympian Zeus.] And at other times
Kronos’ son ruins their great army or their wall
Or he destroys their ships on the the sea.”
“He had banquet and bedroom furniture made from silver. He often ate camel-heels and cock’s combs removed from birds who were still alive to imitate Apicius, as well as the tongues of peacocks and nightingales because it was said that whoever ate them was safe from the plague.
He also gave the the Palace visitors enormous serving dishes piled with the innards of mullets, flamingo-brains, partridge eggs, the brains of thrushes, and the whole heads of parrots, pheasants, and peacocks.”
Hic solido argento factos habuit lectos et tricliniares et cubiculares. comedit saepius ad imitationem Apicii calcanea camelorum et cristas vivis gallinaceis demptas, linguas pavonum et lusciniarum, quod qui ederet a pestilentia tutus diceretur. exhibuit et Palatinis lances ingentes extis mullorum refertas et cerebellis phoenicopterum et perdicum ovis et cerebellis turdorum et capitibus psittacorum et phasianorum et pavonum.
“To exact vengeance from someone was thought to be more important than not suffering at all. If oaths were ever taken in turn, were strong because each person was at a loss and had no power at all. But as soon as one of them had the advantage, he attached if he saw anyone unguarded: it was sweeter to take vengeance despite a pledge than to do so openly. It was thought generally to be safe and to have won a prize for intelligence, prevailing by deceit. Many wicked people become famous for being clever than good people do for being ingenuous. Men are ashamed by the latter but delight in the former.
To blame for all of these things the love of power and a love of honor. From both, they fell into a voluntary love of conflict. For those who were in charge of the state each claimed identities for themselves, some the equal rights of the masses, the others the wisdom of the aristocrats; while guarding the common goods in word, they were making them the contest’s prize, competing with one another to be pre-eminent, they dared the most terrible things—and they surpassed them with greater acts of vengeance too. They did not regard either justice or advantage for the city…”
“Because [Solon] noticed that his city was often breaking out into civil strife and that some of the citizens welcomed the results because of ambivalence, he made a law particularly aimed at these people: whoever did not pick up arms for one side or the other during a time of civil conflict was to be disenfranchised and have no part of the state.”
“Whoever raises a human being into power and thus enslaves the laws, whoever makes the state subordinate to his petty faction and transgresses what is right by doing all of this violently and stirring up civil strife, he should be considered the most inimical to the whole state.
And the kind of person who does not share these actions, but does occupy some of the most important offices of the state and either fails to observe them or does not fail but will not avenge his country because of cowardice, he should be considered as a citizen at a second degree of evil.
Let each person whose worth is small bear witness to the officers of the state by bringing this person to court for his plotting violent and unconstitutional revolution. Give them the same charges we have for temple robbery and run the trial as it is in those cases where the death penalty comes by majority vote.”
“Good government makes everything well ordered and fit,
And at the same time it throws shackles on the unjust.
It levels out the rough, stops insolence, and weakens arrogance.
It causes the growing blossoms of blindness to wither.
It straightens crooked judgments and it levels out over-reaching deeds.
It stops the acts of civil conflict and
It stops the anger of grievous strife and because of it
Everything among men is wisely and appropriately done.”
These are the Suda entries of Sophokles, the famous tragedian, and his grandson.
Σοφοκλῆς, sigma 815
Sophocles, son of Sophilos, from Kolonos, an Athenian and Tragic poet who was born in the 73rd olympian and was 17 years older than Socrates. This poet was the first to use three actors on stage, the one called the tritagonist, and the first to introduce a chorus of fifty young men. Previously they put twelve on the stage. He was nicknamed “Honey-bee” because of his sweetness.
He began by entering the competition with a play against another, but he did not raise the funds for the play. He also wrote elegy and Paeans and a record of the chorus, in which he was competing with Thespis and Choirilos. These were the children he had: Iophôn, Leôsthenes, Aristôn, Stephanos, and Menekleidês. He died after Euripides at 90 years old. He staged 123 plays, although some claim more, and he was a victor 23 times.
You Looked up Sophocles son of Aristôn? How about Apollonios of Tyana?
Suda, s.v Sophocles, Sigma 816
“Sophocles, son of Aristôn, the son of the earlier, older Sophokles; an Athenian and Tragedian. He put on 40 plays, but some people claim 11. He won 7 times. He also wrote elegy. It is understood that Apollonios was not surpassed by Sophocles regarding prudence, for Sophocles himself claims that when he arrived at old age he was escaping a rabid and savage master.
But Apollonios of Tyana was not dominated by these passions even when he was a young because of his virtue and prudence, instead, even as a young man who was especially lively, he was in control of his body and master of the madness. Still, some people spread rumors about his sexual affairs, and because of some kind of a sexual mistake he spend a year living among the Skythians. Not even Euphrates, then, ever slandered the man for sexual behavior, even though he wrote lies about him. He was at odds with Apollonious, since Apollonous was criticizing him for doing everything for money, and he was dragging him for his money-grubbing and selling his wisdom.”
A Letter to Hippocrates: Ps.-Hipp. Epist. 23 (9.392–93 Littré)
“Democritus writes to Hippocrates on the nature of human beings:
“Hippocrates, all people should know the art of medicine, since it it is noble and also advantageous for life and it is a special possession of those people who have deep experience in education and argumentation. I think that the pursuit of wisdom is the sibling and roommate of medicine since wisdom frees the soul of suffering, and medicine rids the body of illnesses.”
“But these tales and those like them—whether to ponder them or how to weigh them—I don’t emphasize greatly. Let anyone who reads these instead pay attention to what life was like, what the customs were, through which men and by which skills the empire was born and increased. And, when discipline bit by bit deteriorated, how at first customs degraded with desire, then they collapsed more and more, then they began to fall headlong until we came to our own time when we can endure neither our sins nor their remedies.”
ad haec tempora quibus nec vitia nostra nec remedia pati possumus. Sed haec et his similia utcumque animaduersa aut existimata erunt haud in magno equidem ponam discrimine: ad illa mihi pro se quisque acriter intendat animum, quae vita, qui mores fuerint, per quos viros quibusque artibus domi militiaeque et partum et auctum imperium sit; labente deinde paulatim disciplina velut desidentes primo mores sequatur animo, deinde ut magis magisque lapsi sint, tum ire coeperint praecipites, donec ad haec tempora quibus nec vitia nostra nec remedia pati possumus perventum est.
Diogenes Laertius, Vitae philosophorum 1.110 [Epimenides]
“Epimenides was known among the Greeks and was thought to be extremely beloved to the gods. For this reason, when the Athenians were once afflicted by a plague and the Pythian oracle prophesied that they should cleanse their city, they sent a ship along with Nikias the son of Nikêratos, summoning Epimenides.
He made it to Athens at the time of the 46th Olympiad [c. 596 BCE] and cleansed the city. He stopped it in the following manner. After obtaining white and black sheep, he led them to the Areopagos and then allowed them to go wherever they wanted there. He ordered the people following them to sacrifice the sheep to whichever god was proper to the place where each sheep laid down.
This is how the plague stopped. For this reason it is still even today possible to find altars without names in certain Athenian neighborhoods as a commemoration of that ancient cleansing. Some people report that Epimenides indicated the pollution from the Kylon scandal as the cause of the plague along with a resolution for it. For this reason, they killed two youths, Kratinos and Ktêsibios and the suffering was relieved.”
“I will not deny what I said to everyone:
Now that Troy has been taken we should give your child
To be sacrificed to the first man of the army when he asks it.
Here is where many cities start to stumble—
When there is some excellent and willing man
Who earns no greater than the lesser mob.
Achilles is worthy of our honor, Ma’am,
Because he died most nobly for Greece.
Wouldn’t it be shameful if we used him as a friend
When he was watching but stopped when he was dead?
What would someone say if there was some new reason
To gather an army and lead it against an enemy?
Will we fight or will we worry about our lives
Once we see that the dead are not honored?”
This is from Plato the Attic Comedian, not the Attic Philosopher. Who knew there were at least 30 men with the same name?
Plato, Fr. 202 (Stobaeus, 2.3.3)
“If one wicked person
perishes, then two politicians grow in his place.
For there is no Iolaus* in the city
Who might cauterize the politicians’ heads.
If you’ve been bent over, then you’ll be a politician.”
*Iolaus is Herakles’ nephew who helped the hero kill the Hydra by cauterizing its necks to prevent new heads from growing.
Platôn, Alliance (fr. 168)
“They are like those boys who each time they draw a line
in the street to divide themselves into two groups
stand with some of them on one side of the line and some on the other.
One who stands in the middle of the two hurls a pot sherd–
If the white side faces up, one group must flee right away
And the others must chase them.”
“Because of Aphrodite’s rage, Kinyras’ daughter Smyrna lusted after her father and revealed the compulsion of this love to her nurse. The nurse brought her to her father with a trick. For she claimed that a neighboring girl wanted him but was ashamed to come to him in the open. Kinyras slept with her. At some point, because he wanted to know who his lover was, he asked for a light. But when he saw her, he pursued her with a sword as the most wanton woman. Aphrodite changed her into a tree of the same name thanks to her own forethought. This is the story Theodorus tells in his Metamorphoses
Thanks to the rage of Venus, Valeria Tusculanaria was lusting after her father Valerius and she shared the secret with her nurse. The nurse tricked the father, saying that there was some young neighborhood girl who wanted to sleep with him but was too ashamed to be seen. The father, drunk, kept asking for a torch, but the nurse got ahead of him and woke the daughter. She went to the country because she happened to be pregnant.
At some point, she threw herself over a cliff and the child survived. She stayed pregnant and eventually gave birth to Aegipan, named Silvanus in Latin. Valerius, overcome by despair, threw himself off the same cliff. Aristeides the Milesian tells this story in book three of his Italica.”