Unmasking Characters In Power

Plutarch, Life of Sulla 30 5.10

“It is understandable that he brought a prejudice on the highest offices in the land, which would no longer allow people to return the characters they started with, but instead could make them mean, boastful, and inhumane. Whether this is a movement or a change of nature because of chance or it is an unmasking of the truth when there is evil in authority, some other investigation will discover.”

εἰκότως προσετρίψατο ταῖς μεγάλαις ἐξουσίαις διαβολὴν ὡς τὰ ἤθη μένειν οὐκ ἐώσαις ἐπὶ τῶν ἐξ ἀρχῆς τρόπων, ἀλλ’ ἔμπληκτα καὶ χαῦνα καὶ ἀπάνθρωπα ποιούσαις.  τοῦτο μὲν οὖν εἴτε κίνησίς ἐστι καὶ μεταβολὴ φύσεως ὑπὸ τύχης, εἴτε μᾶλλον ὑποκειμένης ἀποκάλυψις ἐν ἐξουσίᾳ κακίας, ἑτέρα τις ἂν διορίσειε πραγματεία.

ἀποκαλύπτειν, [anakaluptein] “to unveil, uncover,” perhaps, “unmask”; “to disclose or uncover one’s mind”

ἀποκάλυψις, ἡ [apokalupsis]: “a revelation, disclosure, making known of a fault”, perhaps “unmasking”

From Wikimedia Commons

Debate-Me Guys and the Nature of Bigness

Plato, Phaedo 101 and 102

“But you wouldn’t mix things up like those debate-me guys who talk about a principle and its results at the same time if you really want to discover something real. These guys probably have not one single understanding or concern for the truth.

They’re just good enough to please themselves with their ‘wisdom’, even though they’re mixing everything up.”

ἅμα δὲ οὐκ ἂν φύροιο ὥσπερ οἱ ἀντιλογικοὶ περί τε τῆς ἀρχῆς διαλεγόμενος καὶ τῶν ἐξ ἐκείνης ὡρμημένων, εἴπερ βούλοιό τι τῶν ὄντων εὑρεῖν; ἐκείνοις μὲν γὰρ ἴσως οὐδὲ εἷς περὶ τούτου λόγος οὐδὲ φροντίς· ἱκανοὶ γὰρ ὑπὸ σοφίας ὁμοῦ πάντα κυκῶντες ὅμως δύνασθαι αὐτοὶ αὑτοῖς ἀρέσκειν· σὺ δ’, εἴπερ εἶ τῶν φιλοσόφων, οἶμαι ἂν ὡς ἐγὼ λέγω ποιοῖς.

“Bigness seems to me not only never willing to be big and small at the same time, but the bigness in us is never eager to accept smallness nor to be surpassed, but it does two things: it flees or shrinks whenever the opposite—smallness—is present or, once it has approached, it perishes.”

ἐμοὶ γὰρ φαίνεται οὐ μόνον αὐτὸ τὸ μέγεθος οὐδέποτ’ ἐθέλειν ἅμα μέγα καὶ σμικρὸν εἶναι, ἀλλὰ καὶ τὸ ἐν ἡμῖν μέγεθος οὐδέποτε προσδέχεσθαι τὸ σμικρὸν οὐδ’ ἐθέλειν ὑπερέχεσθαι, ἀλλὰ δυοῖν τὸ ἕτερον, ἢ φεύγειν καὶ ὑπεκχωρεῖν ὅταν αὐτῷ προσίῃ τὸ ἐναντίον, τὸ σμικρόν, ἢ προσελθόντος ἐκείνου ἀπολωλέναι· ὑπομένον δὲ καὶ δεξάμενον τὴν σμικρότητα.

Bigness

Untroubled as Day Passes to Night?

Euripides, Herakles Mainomenos 502-507

“I guess it is necessary that we die.
Old men—the matters of life are brief,
So complete this course as sweetly as you can,
Going untroubled as the days pass to night.

Time has no idea how to keep hope alive;
No, it hurries on for itself and flits away.

Just look at me: I was once something special to look at,
Famous for my deeds, but luck stole me away
In a single day, just like a feather on the wind.”

θανεῖν γάρ, ὡς ἔοικ’, ἀναγκαίως ἔχει.
ἀλλ’, ὦ γέροντες, σμικρὰ μὲν τὰ τοῦ βίου,
τοῦτον δ’ ὅπως ἥδιστα διαπεράσατε
ἐξ ἡμέρας ἐς νύκτα μὴ λυπούμενοι.
ὡς ἐλπίδας μὲν ὁ χρόνος οὐκ ἐπίσταται
σώιζειν, τὸ δ’ αὑτοῦ σπουδάσας διέπτατο.
ὁρᾶτ’ ἔμ’ ὅσπερ ἦ περίβλεπτος βροτοῖς
ὀνομαστὰ πράσσων, καί μ’ ἀφείλεθ’ ἡ τύχη
ὥσπερ πτερὸν πρὸς αἰθέρ’ ἡμέραι μιᾶι.

Hercules and the Hesperides, by G. A. Pellegrini

We Need An Art of Forgetting

Cicero De Finibus 2 104-5

“What kind of sense, then, is there to the idea that a wise person should not let go of good memories but forget bad ones? First, is what we remember under our control? Themistocles, it is said, when Simonides promised to teach him the art of memory, responded, “I’d prefer learning to forget. For I remember things I wish I didn’t and I can’t forget the things I want to.” [Epicurus] was a man of great insight, but the fact us that a philosopher who prohibits remembering asks too much of us.”

Iam illud quale tandem est, bona praeterita non effluere sapienti, mala meminisse non oportere? Primum in nostrane est potestate quid meminerimus? Themistocles quidem, cum ei Simonides an quis alius artem memoriae polliceretur, ‘Oblivionis,’ inquit, ‘mallem; nam memini etiam quae nolo, oblivisci non possum quae volo.’ Magno hic ingenio; sed res se tamen sic habet ut nimis imperiosi philosophi sit vetare meminisse.

Magic Words and Quack Cures: An ‘Epic’ Fail During a Plague

Lucian, Alexander the False Prophet 36

“There was one oracle, also an autophone, which he had sent to all peoples during the plague. It was a single line of verse, “Phoebus, with uncut hair, keeps off the cloud of plague.”

This line was to be seen everywhere, written on doorposts as a spell against the plague. In most cases it produced the opposite result. For, through some fortune, those homes on which the line was written were those which were especially impacted. Don’t imagine that I am saying that they were destroyed because of the line, but that it happened this way in some fashion. Perhaps the people who were encouraged by the words acted negligently or took everything too easily and did nothing to help the oracle against the disease because they believed they had these syllables to fight for them and “long-haired” Apollo to shoot down the plague with his bow.”

ἕνα δέ τινα χρησμόν, αὐτόφωνον καὶ αὐτόν, εἰς ἅπαντα τὰ ἔθνη ἐν τῷ λοιμῷ διεπέμψατο· ἦν δὲ τὸ ἔπος ἕν·

Φοῖβος ἀκειρεκόμης λοιμοῦ νεφέλην ἀπερύκει.

καὶ τοῦτο ἦν ἰδεῖν τὸ ἔπος πανταχοῦ ἐπὶ τῶν πυλώνων γεγραμμένον ὡς τοῦ λοιμοῦ ἀλεξιφάρμακον. τὸ δ᾿ εἰς τοὐναντίον τοῖς πλείστοις προὐχώρει· κατὰ γάρ τινα τύχην αὗται μάλιστα αἱ οἰκίαι ἐκενώθησαν αἷς τὸ ἔπος ἐπεγέγραπτο. καὶ μή με νομίσῃς τοῦτο λέγειν, ὅτι διὰ τὸ ἔπος ἀπώλλυντο· ἀλλὰ τύχῃ τινὶ οὕτως ἐγένετο. τάχα δὲ καὶ οἱ πολλοὶ θαρροῦντες τῷ στίχῳ ἠμέλουν καὶ ῥᾳθυμότερον διῃτῶντο, οὐδὲν τῷ χρησμῷ πρὸς τὴν νόσον συντελοῦντες, ὡς ἂν ἔχοντες προμαχομένας αὑτῶν τὰς συλλαβὰς καὶ τὸν ἀκειρεκόμην Φοῖβον ἀποτοξεύοντα τὸν λοιμόν.

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Apollo and Herakles fight over tripod, Taleides painter

The Sorrow of Times Like These

Lucretius, De Rerum Natura 6.1230-1251

“This thing alone had to be mourned the most,
This lamented: how when anyone would give up
when they realized they had contracted the disease
As condemned to die, they would stretch out with a sad heart,
Surrendering their spirit while considering the rites of the dead.

For the spread of that greedy sickness did not stop
Even for a single moment from one to another,
Thick together as woolly flocks and horned heads—
That’s the reason why grave was piling on grave.
Whoever was reluctant to see their own sick,
For this very excessive love of life and fear of death
They were punished eventually with a foul and evil end,
As deserters without help, paid back for their neglect.

But those who stayed to help faced contagion too,
And the suffering which shame compelled them to meet.
The pleading voice of the weary mixed with cries of complaint.
Well, the best kinds of souls met death like this.

…Then some falling upon others, fighting to bury their masses
Of dead, worn out by tears and grief as they returned.
They surrendered to their beds for the better part.

No one could be found anywhere who was untouched by the disease
By the death, by the sorrow of times like these.”

Illud in his rebus miserandum magnopere unum
aerumnabile erat, quod ubi se quisque videbat
implicitum morbo, morti damnatus ut esset,
deficiens animo maesto cum corde iacebat,
funera respectans animam amittebat ibidem.

quippe etenim nullo cessabant tempore apisci
ex aliis alios avidi contagia morbi,
lanigeras tamquam pecudes et bucera saecla;
idque vel in primis cumulabat funere funus.
nam quicumque suos fugitabant visere ad aegros,
vitai nimium cupidos mortisque timentis
poenibat paulo post turpi morte malaque,
desertos, opis expertis, incuria mactans.

qui fuerant autem praesto, contagibus ibant
atque labore, pudor quem tum cogebat obire
blandaque lassorum vox mixta voce querellae.
optimus hoc leti genus ergo quisque subibat.
. . . . . . .
inque aliis alium, populum sepelire suorum
certantes; lacrimis lassi luctuque redibant;
inde bonam partem in lectum maerore dabantur.
nec poterat quisquam reperiri, quem neque morbus
nec mors nec luctus temptaret tempore tali.

 

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Triumph of Death Fresco, Palermo

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“The Harrowing of Hell” Hieronymus Bosch

Write This Down: You are the City. You Are the people

Aeschylus, Suppliants 179-180

“I suggest you safeguard my words by writing them on tablet in your minds”
αἰνῶ φυλάξαι τἄμ᾿ ἔπη δελτουμένας

Aeschylus, Suppliants, 200-204

“Don’t be too aggressive or broken in speech:
These people are especially ready to be angry.
Remember to be accommodating: you are a foreign refugee in need.
To speak boldly is not a fitting move for the weak.”

καὶ μὴ πρόλεσχος μηδ᾿ ἐφολκὸς ἐν λόγῳ
γένῃ· τὸ τῇδε κάρτ᾿ ἐπίφθονον γένος.
μέμνησο δ᾿ εἴκειν· χρεῖος εἶ, ξένη, φυγάς·
θρασυστομεῖν γὰρ οὐ πρέπει τοὺς ἥσσονας.

Aeschylus, Suppliants, 370-375

“You are the city, really. You are the people.
An unjudged chief of state rules
The altar, the city’s hearth,
With only your votes and nods,
With only your scepter on the throne
You judge every need. Be on guard against contamination!”

σύ τοι πόλις, σὺ δὲ τὸ δάμιον·
πρύτανις ἄκριτος ὢν
κρατύνεις βωμόν, ἑστίαν χθονός,
μονοψήφοισι νεύμασιν σέθεν,
μονοσκήπτροισι δ᾿ ἐν θρόνοις χρέος
πᾶν ἐπικραίνεις· ἄγος φυλάσσου.

File:Nicolas Bertin - The Danaides in Hell.jpg

The Danaides in hell, by Nicolas Bertin

Aeschylus, Suppliants 991-997

“Write this down with the many other notes
In your mind of the wisdoms from your father:
An unfamiliar mob is evaluated by time,
But everyone has an evil tongue prepared to lash out
over immigrants and speaking foully is somehow easy.
I advise you not to bring me shame
Now that you are in the age which turns mortal gazes.”

καὶ ταῦτα μὲν γράψασθε πρὸς γεγραμμένοις
πολλοῖσιν ἄλλοις σωφρονίσμασιν πατρός,
ἀγνῶθ᾿ ὅμιλον ἐξελέγχεσθαι χρόνῳ·
πᾶς δ᾿ ἐν μετοίκῳ γλῶσσαν εὔτυκον φέρει
κακήν, τό τ᾿ εἰπεῖν εὐπετὲς μύσαγμά πως.
ὑμᾶς δ᾿ ἐπαινῶ μὴ καταισχύνειν ἐμέ,
ὥραν ἐχούσας τήνδ᾿ ἐπίστρεπτον βροτοῖς

It’s Not Fate, It’s My Fault

Cicero, Letter to Terentia 14.1

“Many letters—every letter—come to me with news about your incredible character and bravery, that you are overhwelmed by neither mental nor physical exertions. I am filled with sorrow to think that you, my noble, faithful, honest, kind wife would experience so much grief because of me. Or that our Tulliola would also take as much grief from her father as he ever gave her pleasure! When it comes to Marcus, our son, what can I say? From the moment he first began to understand the world, he has experienced the most bitter griefs and pains.

If, as you write, I could believe that this all happened because of fate, I could endure it more easily. But everything is my fault. I used to believe that I was loved by people who envied me and I did not follow people who were reaching out to help me. The fact is that if I had listened to my own mind instead of heeding our friends’ chatter—both the fools and the criminals—we might have ended up really happy.

But now, since our friends command us to hope, I will try not to let my health add to your burdens. I do understand how momentous this matter is, how much easier it would have been to remain at home than come back. But, still, if we have all the tribunes with us, if Lentulus is as eager as he appears, and if we still have Caesar and Pompey, we should not lose hope.”

Et litteris multorum et sermone omnium perfertur ad me incredibilem tuam virtutem et fortitudinem esse teque nec animi neque corporis laboribus defatigari. me miserum! te ista virtute, fide, probitate, humanitate in tantas aerumnas propter me incidisse, Tulliolamque nostram, ex quo patre tantas voluptates capiebat, ex eo tantos percipere luctus! nam quid ego de Cicerone dicam? qui cum primum sapere coepit, acerbissimos dolores miseriasque percepit. quae si, tu ut scribis, fato facta putarem, ferrem paulo facilius; sed omnia sunt mea culpa commissa, qui ab iis me amari putabam qui invidebant, eos non sequebar qui petebant. quod si nostris consiliis usi essemus neque apud nos tantum valuisset sermo aut stultorum amicorum aut improborum, beatissimi viveremus. nunc, quoniam sperare nos amici iubent, dabo operam ne mea valetudo tuo labori desit. res quanta sit intellego quantoque fuerit facilius manere domi quam redire. sed tamen, si omnis tribunos pl. habemus, si Lentulum tam studiosum quam videtur, si vero etiam Pompeium et Caesarem, non est desperandum.

Studiolo di Federico da Montefeltro

Tell Me Aristotle, Why Do We Have Butts?

Thanks to Dr. Rebecca Raphael for sharing this passage on the teleology of the human ass with me. This is mostly for distraction, but it also functions as a timely reminder of some of the absurd conclusions that can arise from teleological thinking.

Aristotle, Parts of Animals 689b

“A human being is has no tail, but does have buttocks although the quadruped does not. A human being also has legs which are fleshy in the thighs and calves, while all the rest of the animals have fleshless legs—and not only those animals which have live births, but as many of the other animals who have legs—and they are covered with sinew, are bony, and full of spines.

There is one explanation, you might say, for these differences and that is that humans are the only animal to stand upright. So, nature removed some of the fleshy parts from above and transferred the weight below in order to make the upper portions of human beings easier to bear. This is why nature made human butts fleshy along with their thighs and their calves. With the same act, it made the nature of the buttocks useful for taking a break.

For it is not a problem for the rest of the quadrupeds and they do not get tired from doing that continually.  This is because they have four supports holding them up, it works the same as if they are lying down.But human beings do not easily remain standing upright: our bodies need rest and need to sit down.

This is why a human being has a fleshy butt and thighs and the same reason why we don’t have tails. All the nutrition which heads that way is spent on butts and thighs. The need and use of a tail, moreover, is negated by having butts and thighs. In quadrupeds and the rest of the animals, the situation is the opposite: because they are like dwarfs, all their weight is centered in their upper parts and it is separated from the lower section. For this reason, they have no butt and have hard legs.

ὁ δ᾿ ἄνθρωπος ἄκερκον μέν ἐστιν, ἰσχία δ᾿ ἔχει, τῶν δὲ τετραπόδων οὐδέν. ἔτι δὲ καὶ τὰ σκέλη ὁ μὲν ἄνθρωπος σαρκώδη καὶ μηροὺς καὶ κνήμας, τὰ δ᾿ ἄλλα πάντ᾿ ἄσαρκα ἔχει, οὐ μόνον τὰ ζῳοτόκα ἀλλ᾿ ὅλως ὅσα σκέλη ἔχει τῶν ζῴων· νευρώδη γὰρ ἔχει καὶ ὀστώδη καὶ ἀκανθώδη. τούτων δ᾿ αἰτία μία τίς ἐστιν ὡς εἰπεῖν ἁπάντων, διότι μόνον ἐστὶν ὀρθὸν τῶν ζῴων ἄνθρωπος. ἵν᾿ οὖν φέρῃ ῥᾳδίως τἄνω κοῦφα ὄντα, ἀφελοῦσα τὸ σωματῶδες ἀπὸ τῶν ἄνω πρὸς τὰ κάτω τὸ βάρος ἡ φύσις προσέθηκεν· διόπερ τὰ ἰσχία σαρκώδη ἐποίησε καὶ μηροὺς καὶ γαστροκνημίας. ἅμα δὲ τήν τε τῶν ἰσχίων φύσιν καὶ πρὸς τὰς ἀναπαύσεις ἀπέδωκε χρήσιμον· τοῖς μὲν γὰρ τετράποσιν ἄκοπον τὸ ἑστάναι, καὶ οὐ κάμνουσι τοῦτο ποιοῦντα συνεχῶς (ὥσπερ γὰρ κατακείμενα διατελεῖ ὑποκειμένων τεττάρων ἐρεισμάτων), τοῖς δ᾿ ἀνθρώποις οὐ ῥᾴδιον ὀρθῶς ἑστῶσι διαμένειν, ἀλλὰ δεῖται τὸ σῶμα ἀναπαύσεως καὶ καθέδρας. ὁ μὲν οὖν ἄνθρωπος ἰσχία τ᾿ ἔχει καὶ τὰ σκέλη σαρκώδη διὰ τὴν εἰρημένην αἰτίαν, καὶ διὰ ταῦτα ἄκερκον (ἥ τε γὰρ ἐκεῖσε τροφὴ πορευομένη εἰς ταῦτα ἀναλίσκεται, καὶ διὰ τὸ ἔχειν ἰσχία ἀφῄρηται ἡ τῆς οὐρᾶς ἀναγκαία χρῆσις), τὰ δὲ τετράποδα καὶ τἆλλα ζῷα ἐξ ἐναντίας· νανώδεσι γὰρ οὖσι πρὸς τὸ ἄνω τὸ βάρος καὶ τὸ σωματῶδες ἐπίκειται πᾶν, ἀφῃρημένον ἀπὸ τῶν κάτωθεν· διόπερ ἀνίσχια καὶ σκληρὰ τὰ σκέλη ἔχουσιν.

Image result for ancient greek statue rear end
Motya Charioteer

 

Starting Fights with Doctors

Horace, Epistles 1.8

“Celsus Albinovanus: Hello! I hope this finds you well.

Muse, take this message to Nero’s friend and secretary,
Should he ask how I’m doing, tell him that even though I threatened
Many fine things, I don’t live rightly or pleasantly.

And this isn’t because hail ruined my vines or heat shrank my olives
Or because my flock is getting sick in a far-away field.
No, it’s that my mind is less well than any part of my body.

I don’t want to listen or learn about anything that relieves the disease.
I start fights with doctors; I fly into a rage with friends
Over why they want to get me out of this deadly funk.
I keep stalking what hurt me, I avoid anything I suspect will help.
I flit back and forth, wanting the Tibur in Rome and in Rome the Tibur.

After that, ask him if he’s well, how he and his stuff are,
How his standing is with the young man and his crew.
If he says “well”, first, rejoice! But then
Leave this reminder in his little ears:
“As you bear fortune, Celsus, we’ll bear you.”

Celso gaudere et bene rem gerere Albinovano
Musa rogata refer, comiti scribaeque Neronis.
si quaeret quid agam, dic multa et pulchra minantem
vivere nec recte nec suaviter; haud quia grando
contuderit vitis oleamque momorderit aestus,
nec quia longinquis armentum aegrotet in agris;
sed quia mente minus validus quam corpore toto
nil audire velim, nil discere, quod levet aegrum;
fidis offendar medicis, irascar amicis,
cur me funesto properent arcere veterno;
quae nocuere sequar, fugiam quae profore credam;
Romae Tibur amem ventosus, Tibure Romam.
Post haec, ut valeat, quo pacto rem gerat et se,
ut placeat iuveni percontare utque cohorti.
si dicet, “recte,” primum gaudere, subinde
praeceptum auriculis hoc instillare memento:
“ut tu fortunam, sic nos te, Celse, feremus.”

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Fresco from “House of Sirico” Pompeii (Aeneas with Dr, Iapyx)