Nature vs. Nurture, or On Hands and Walls

Philostratus, Discourse II

“To me, custom and nature are not merely not opposed but they are most closely related, similar and overlapping one another. For custom is the way we approach nature and nature is our avenue to custom; we do call one the starting point and one the result: let nature be called the leader and culture the follower. Custom never would have built walls or outfitted men against them if nature hadn’t given man hands.”

ἐμοὶ δὲ νόμος καὶ φύσις οὐ μόνον οὐκ ἐναντίω φαίνεσθον, ἀλλὰ καὶ ξυγγενεστάτω καὶ ὁμοίω καὶ διήκοντε ἀλλήλοιν· νόμος τε γὰρ παριτητέος ἐς φύσιν καὶ φύσις ἐς νόμον καὶ καλοῦμεν αὐτοῖν τὸ μὲν ἀρχήν, τὸ δ’ ἑπόμενον, κεκληρώσθω δὲ ἀρχὴν μὲν φύσις, νόμος δὲ τὸ ἕπεσθαι, οὔτε γὰρ ἂν νόμος ἐτειχοποίησεν ἢ ὑπὲρ τείχους ὥπλισεν, εἰ μὴ φύσις ἔδωκεν ἀνθρώπῳ χεῖρας….

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Wall_street_of_the_tombs_sacred_way_Kerameikos_Athens.jpg

Philostratus?

Wine Makes You King of the World

Bacchylides, fr. 20B [=P. Oxy. 1361 frr. 1 al]

To Alexander, son of Amyntas*

“Lyre, don’t hang on your peg any longer,
Keeping your seven-toned voice still–
Here are my hands! I want to send
Alexander something, a golden wing of the Muses,
A centerpiece for the parties to end the month,
When the sweet pressure of fast cups
Warms the sensitive hearts of young men,
And expectation of Aphrodite mixed up
with Dionysian gifts shakes up their thoughts.

Wine makes the thoughts of men blast off!
Suddenly one is tearing down a city’s walls,
And another thinks he is king of the world!”

[ΑΛΕΞΑ]Ν[ΔΡΩΙ ΑΜΥΝΤ]Α
ὦ βάρβιτε, μηκέτι πάσσαλον φυ[σων
ἑπτάτονον λ[ι]γυρὰν κάππαυε γᾶρυν·
δεῦρ᾿ ἐς ἐμὰς χέρας· ὁρμαίνω τι πέμπ[ειν
χρύεον Μουσᾶν Ἀλεξάνδρωι πτερό
καὶ συμπο[ίαι]σιν ἄγαλμ᾿ [ἐν] εἰκάδε[σιν,
εὖτε νέων ἁ[παλὸν γλυκεῖ᾿ ἀ]νάγκα
σευομενᾶν κ[υλίκων θάλπη]σι θυμ[όν,
Κύπριδος τ᾿ ἐλπ[ὶς <δι>αιθύσσηι φρέ]νας,
ἀμμειγνυμέν[α Διονυσίοισι] δώροις·
ἀνδράσι δ᾿ ὑψο[τάτω πέμπει] μερίμν[ας·
αὐτίκ[α] μὲν π[ολίων κράδε]μνα λ[ύει,
πᾶσ[ι δ᾿ ἀνθρώποις μοναρ]χήσ[ειν δοκεῖ·

*This Alexander was King of Macedon from 498-456

inside of a shallow drinking vessel. Black background. One red figure stands over a nude man who is drunk and confused/sick
Getty Villa Museum, Los Angeles, California: Roman, Greek, and Etruscan Antiquities. Kylix, red figure

On Knowledge, Wealth and Fortune

Bacchylides Epinicia, fr. 10.38-53

“Human knowledge has countless forms—
whether learned in some prophetic art
or allotted the Graces’ honor,
the wise man certainly flourishes with golden hope.

Another man aims his dabbled bow at boys.
Others fortify their hearts in the field
Or with herds of cattle.
But the future bears ends that make the path of fortune
unmeasurable.

This thing is best: to be a noble man
envied by many men.

I know something about wealth’s great power:
It makes even the most useless man useful.

But why do I pilot my great tongue so
and drive off the road?
When the moment of victory is appointed for mortals,
only then the wise man must…[ ]
With flutes [pay back the favor of the gods]
And mingle [among those who may envy]

… Μυρίαι δ’ ἀνδρῶν ἐπιστᾶμαι πέλονται·
ἦ γὰρ σ[ο]φὸς ἢ Χαρίτων τιμὰν λελογχὼς
ἐλπίδι χρυσέᾳ τέθαλεν
ἤ τινα θευπροπίαν ἰ-
δώς· ἕτερος δ’ ἐπὶ παισὶ
ποικίλον τόξον τιταίνει·
οἱ δ’ ἐπ’ ἔργοισίν τε καὶ ἀμφὶ βοῶν ἀ[γ]έλαις
θυμὸν αὔξουσιν. Τὸ μέλλον
δ’ ἀκρίτους τίκτει τελευτάς,
πᾶ τύχα βρίσει. Τὸ μὲν κάλλιστον, ἐσθλὸν
ἄνδρα πολλῶν ὑπ’ ἀνθρώπων πολυζήλωτον εἶμεν·
οἶδα καὶ πλούτου μεγάλαν δύνασιν,
ἃ καὶ τ[ὸ]ν ἀχρεῖον τί[θησ]ι
χρηστόν. Τί μακρὰν γ̣[λ]ῶ[σ]σαν ἰθύσας ἐλαύνω
ἐκτὸς ὁδοῦ; Πέφαται θνατοῖσι νίκας
[ὕστε]ρον εὐφροσύνα,
αὐλῶν []
μειγν[υ]

χρή τιν[]

The last few lines of this poem are completely fragmentary. In italics I put in something just to complete the sentence. I think that the reference to flutes probably indicates some ritual celebration, but I also wanted the end to repeat the note of warning about the mutability of fortune. 

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

No Time For the Weekend: On the Spartan Way of Drinking

Critias, fr. 6 [=Ath. 10.432d–33b]

“Drinking toasts that stretch beyond reason bring
Pleasure for the moment but pain for all time.

The Spartan style is one of moderation:
To eat and drink with limits so people can still
Work and think. They don’t set apart a day
To soak the body with excessive drinking.”

αἱ γὰρ ὑπὲρ τὸ μέτρον κυλίκων προπόσεις παραχρῆμα
τέρψασαι λυποῦσ᾿ εἰς τὸν ἅπαντα χρόνον·
ἡ Λακεδαιμονίων δὲ δίαιθ᾿ ὁμαλῶς διάκειται,
ἔσθειν καὶ πίνειν σύμμετρα πρὸς τὸ φρονεῖν
καὶ τὸ πονεῖν εἶναι δυνάτους· οὐκ ἔστ᾿ ἀπότακτος
ἡμέρα οἰνῶσαι σῶμ᾿ ἀμέτροισι πότοις.

Red figure vase with two figures. Black background.  A servant girl unhappily carries a full wineskin and jug, while an older woman drinks from a large vessel; the reverse of the cup establishes a (rare) interior scene of a storeroom.
Skyphos with a Woman Drinking in a Storeroom (Greek, Athens, 470-460 BC).
Also, image of me sneaking drinks if I lived in Sparta

Lock Up Your Winds! A Song for Safe Passage

Anonymous, To The Rhodian Winds [P. Oxy. xi. 1915, no. 1383, p. 236.]

“I used to give orders to the Rhodian winds
And the neighborhoods of the sea
When I wanted to sail
When I wanted to stay there

I used to sing to the corners of the sea:
Don’t let the waters strike me!
Put the waves at the command of the sailors!
The whole wind is pressing on us!

Night, Lock up your winds and
make safe our way.”

Ῥοδίοις ἐκέλευον ἀνέμοις
καὶ μέρεσι τοῖς πελαγίοις
ὅτε πλέειν ἤθελον ἐγώ,
ὅτε μένειν ἤθελον ἐκεῖ,
ἔλεγον μέρε(σιν) πελαγίο(ις)·
μὴ τύπηι τὰ πελάγη·
ἅλ᾿ ὑποτάξατε ναυσιβά[τ]αις.
ὅλος ἄρ᾿ ἄνεμος ἐπείγεται.
ἀπόκλειε τὰ πνεύματα καί, Ν[ύ]ξ,
δὸς τὰ [. .]ατ᾿ εὔβατα.

Black figure vase. Sailing vessel in the middle of a red vase with dolphins around. A beareded figure sits in the middle
Dionysos in a ship, sailing among dolphins. Attic black-figure kylix, ca. 530 BC. From Vulci.

If A Poem Is Written in the Forest….

Martial, 3.8

“Quintus Loves Thais, Which one? The One-eyd Thais.
She’s missing one eye but he’s lost two.”

Thaida Quintus amat. ‘quam Thaida?’ Thaida luscam.
unum oculum Thais non habet, ille duos.

3. 9

“Someone says Cinna writes little poems against me.
No one really writes if nobody reads their poems.”

Versiculos in me narratur scribere Cinna.
Non scribit, cuius carmina nemo legit.

Bonus Epigram from the Greek Anthology

11.252 Lucilius

“If you kiss me, you hate me. And if you hate me, you kiss me.
But if you don’t hate me, dearest friend, don’t kiss me!”

Εἴ με φιλεῖς, μισεῖς με· καὶ εἰ μισεῖς, σὺ φιλεῖς με·
εἰ δέ με μὴ μισεῖς, φίλτατε, μή με φίλει.

File:Marble plaque with epigram of Sopatros MET DP132678.jpg
Marble epigram of Sopatros

Come, Be A Wise Guy Like Me

Epicharmea, fr. 2

“There are many kinds of useful notions in this book,
Against a friend or an enemy, when speaking in court or assembly
Addressing a scoundrel or someone good and noble, for a stranger
Or someone in a rage, for someone drunk, or violent
Or anything bad that happens–this book has a sharp point for them.

It also has wise sayings– whoever heeds them becomes
Better and readier for every situation.
You don’t need to say a lot, just one of these words.
Steer any subject to whichever one of them fits.

Even though I was ready for many things, I used to be blamed
Because I was long winded, and could not give my opinion concisely.
So I listened to this complaint and I composed this craft
So that anyone may say “Epicharmus was a smart dude.
He spoke many clever ideas in short verses and now
He is letting us try to speak briefly as he does too!”

Everyone who learns these things will appear to be wise,
He won’t talk nonsense ever, if he remembers every word.

If someone is annoyed by something in these words,
Not because he has acted wrongly or is in disagreement with them,
Let him know that it is a good misfortune to nurture a broadly-informed mind.”

τεῖδ᾿ ἔνεστι πολλὰ καὶ παν[τ]οῖα, τοῖς χρήσαιό κα,
ποτὶ φίλον, ποτ᾿ ἐχθρόν, ἐν δίκαι λέγων, ἐν ἁλίαι,
ποτὶ πονηρόν, ποτὶ καλόν τε κἀγαθόν, ποτὶ ξένον,
ποτὶ δύσηριν, ποτὶ πάροινον, ποτὶ βάναυσον,αἴτε τις
ἄλλ᾿ ἔχει κακόν τι, καὶ τούτοισι κέντρα τεῖδ᾿ ἔνο.

ἐν δὲ καὶ γνῶμαι σοφαὶ τεῖδ᾿, αἷσιν αἰπίθοιτό τις,
δεξιώτερός τέ κ᾿ εἴη βελτίων τ᾿ ἐς πά[ν]τ᾿ ἀνήρ.
κο]ὔτι πολλὰ δεῖ λέγειν, ἀλλ᾿ ἓν μόνον [τ]ούτων ἔπος,
ποττὸ πρᾶγμα περιφέροντα τῶνδ᾿ ἀεὶ τὸ συμφέρον.
αἰτίαν γὰρ ἦχον ὡς ἄλλως μὲν εἴην δεξιός,
μακρολόγος δ᾿ οὔ κα δυναίμαν ἐν β[ρ]αχεῖ γνώμα[ς λέγ]ειν.
ταῦτα δὴ ᾿γὼν εἰσακούσας συντίθημι τὰν τέχναν
τάνδ᾿, ὅπως εἴπηι τις, Ἐπίχαρμος σοφός τις ἐγένετο,
πόλλ᾿ ὃς εἶ]π᾿ ἀστεῖα καὶ παντοῖα καθ᾿ ἓν ἔπος [λέγων,
πεῖραν] αὐταυτοῦ διδοὺς ὡς καὶ β[ραχέα καλῶς λέγοι.
εὖ δὲ τάδ]ε μαθὼν ἅπας ἀνὴρ φαν[ήσεται σοφός,
οὐδὲ ληρ]ήσει ποτ᾿ οὐδέν, ἔπος ἅπ[αν μεμναμένος.
εἰ δὲ τὸν λαβ]όντα λυπήσει τι τῶνδ[ε τῶν λόγων,
οὔτι μὰν ἄσκεπτ]α δρῶντα τοῖσδ[έ θ᾿ ἧσσον ὁμότροπα,
ἀγαθὸν ἴστω σύμφ]ορόν τε πολυμαθῆ [νόον τρέφειν

poster of barnum and bailey circus
This is the greatest show

Like People who Cannot Be Saved

Theognis, Elegies 61-68

“Don’t make any of these citizens your friend, Polypaides
At least not in your heart for any real need.
But seem to be friendly to all in your speech,
While sharing your business with no one, especially not
Anything serious. For then, you would know the thoughts of vile men,
How there is nothing trustworthy in their actions,
But they adore tricks, deceptions, and conspiracies,
Just like people who cannot be saved.”

μηδένα τῶνδε φίλον ποιεῦ, Πολυπαΐδη, ἀστῶν
ἐκ θυμοῦ χρείης οὕνεκα μηδεμιῆς·
ἀλλὰ δόκει μὲν πᾶσιν ἀπὸ γλώσσης φίλος εἶναι,
χρῆμα δὲ συμμείξῃς μηδενὶ μηδ᾿ ὁτιοῦν
σπουδαῖον· γνώσῃ γὰρ ὀιζυρῶν φρένας ἀνδρῶν,
ὥς σφιν ἐπ᾿ ἔργοισιν πίστις ἔπ᾿ οὐδεμία,
ἀλλὰ δόλους ἀπάτας τε πολυπλοκίας τ᾿ ἐφίλησαν
οὕτως ὡς ἄνδρες μηκέτι σῳζόμενοι.

- description A: youth and bearded man in padded costumes dancing - B: man playing auloi, dancing youth with cup
Athens – painter: Komast Group, KX Painter – period / date: early archaic, ca. 580-570 – Beazley Archive Pottery Database 300303

Doubled Ignorance: Plato on the Dunning-Kruger Effect and Lawmaking

Plato, Laws, 863 c (Full text on the Scaife viewer)

“Someone wouldn’t be wrong in saying that ignorance is a third cause of f*ck-ups.  But a law-maker would be better in splitting this cause into two, understanding the simple one as a cause of minor mistakes. The doubled ignorance—when someone who is screwing up is held not only by ignorance but by the belief of wisdom too as if they perfectly understand all the things they know nothing about—is the cause of serious and harmful mistakes when it has power and strength.

But when present in people who are weak, doubled ignorance produces the errors of children and old people. A law-maker will consider these mere mistakes and will make laws accordingly, which will be the most lenient and full of pardon of all.”

ΑΘ. Τρίτον μὴν ἄγνοιαν λέγων ἄν τις τῶν ἁμαρτημάτων αἰτίαν οὐκ ἂν ψεύδοιτο· διχῇ μὴν διελόμενος αὐτὸ ὁ νομοθέτης ἂν βελτίων εἴη, τὸ μὲν ἁπλοῦν αὐτοῦ κούφων ἁμαρτημάτων αἴτιον ἡγούμενος, τὸ δὲ διπλοῦν, ὅταν ἀμαθαίνῃ τις μὴ μόνον ἀγνοίᾳ συνεχόμενος ἀλλὰ καὶ δόξῃ σοφίας, ὡς εἰδὼς παντελῶς περὶ ἃ μηδαμῶς οἶδεν, μετὰ μὲν ἰσχύος καὶ ῥώμης ἑπομένης μεγάλων καὶ ἀμούσων ἁμαρτημάτων τιθεὶς αἴτια τὰ τοιαῦτα, ἀσθενείας δὲ ἑπομένης, παίδειά τε ἁμαρτήματα καὶ πρεσβυτέρων γιγνόμενα θήσει μὲν ἁμαρτήματα καὶ ὡς ἁμαρτάνουσιν νόμους τάξει, πρᾳοτάτους γε μὴν πάντων καὶ συγγνώμης πλείστης ἐχομένους.

Medieval Floor Tile with fool