Presidential Advice: Keep Up With Latin and Greek!

Letter From Thomas Jefferson to Francis Eppes, 6 October 1820:

“Your letter of the 28th came to hand yesterday, and, as I suppose you are now about leaving Richmond for Columbia, this letter will be addressed to the latter place. I consider you as having made such proficiency in Latin & Greek that on your arrival at Columbia you may at once commence the study of the sciences: and as you may well attend two professors at once, I advise you to enter immediately with those of Mathematics & Chemistry. after these go on to Astronomy, Natl philosophy, Natl history & Botany. I say nothing of Mineralogy or Geology, because I presume they will be comprehended in the Chemical course. nor shall I say any thing of other branches of science, but that you should lose no time on them until the accomplishment of those above named, before which time we shall have opportunities of further advising together. I hope you will be permitted to enter at once into a course of mathematics, which will itself take up all that is useful in Euclid, and that you will not be required to go formally thro’ the usual books of that Geometer. that would be a waste of time which you have not to spare, and if you cannot enter the Mathematical school without it, do not enter it at all, but engage in the others sciences above mentioned. Your Latin & Greek should be kept up assiduously by reading at spare hours: and, discontinuing the desultory reading of the schools. I would advise you to undertake a regular course of history & poetry in both languages, in Greek, go first thro’ the Cyropaedia, and then read Herodotus, Thucydides, Xenophon’s Hellenies & Anabasis, Arrian’s Alexander, & Plutarch’s lives,, for prose reading: Homer’s Iliad & Odyssey, Euripides, Sophocles in poetry, & Demosthenes in Oratory; alternating prose & verse as most agreeable to yourself. in Latin read Livy, Caesar, Sallust Tacitus, Cicero’s Philosophies, and some of his Orations, in prose; and Virgil, Ovid’s Metamorphoses, Horace, Terence & Juvenal for poetry. After all these, you will find still many of secondary grade to employ future years, and especially those of old age and retirement.”

Vengeance, Justice and Civil Strife: A Timeless Tale

Hesiod, Works and Days, 265

“The man who does evil against another harms himself.”
οἷ αὐτῷ κακὰ τεύχει ἀνὴρ ἄλλῳ κακὰ τεύχων

Plato, Gorgias, 473a5
“Doing wrong is worse than suffering it”
τὸ ἀδικεῖν τοῦ ἀδικεῖσθαι κάκιον εἶναι


Thucydides, 3.82.7-8 

“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…”

ἀντιτιμωρήσασθαί τέ τινα περὶ πλείονος ἦν ἢ αὐτὸν μὴ προπαθεῖν. καὶ ὅρκοι εἴ που ἄρα γένοιντο ξυναλλαγῆς, ἐν τῷ αὐτίκα πρὸς τὸ ἄπορον ἑκατέρῳ διδόμενοι ἴσχυον οὐκ ἐχόντων ἄλλοθεν δύναμιν· ἐν δὲ τῷ παρατυχόντι ὁ φθάσας θαρσῆσαι, εἰ ἴδοι ἄφαρκτον, ἥδιον διὰ τὴν πίστιν ἐτιμωρεῖτο ἢ ἀπὸ τοῦ προφανοῦς, καὶ τό τε ἀσφαλὲς ἐλογίζετο καὶ ὅτι ἀπάτῃ περιγενόμενος ξυνέσεως ἀγώνισμα προσελάμβανεν. ῥᾷον δ’ οἱ πολλοὶ κακοῦργοι ὄντες δεξιοὶ κέκληνται ἢ ἀμαθεῖς ἀγαθοί, καὶ τῷ μὲν αἰσχύνονται, ἐπὶ δὲ τῷ ἀγάλλονται. πάντων δ’ αὐτῶν αἴτιον ἀρχὴ ἡ διὰ πλεονεξίαν καὶ φιλοτιμίαν· ἐκ δ’ αὐτῶν καὶ ἐς τὸ φιλονικεῖν καθισταμένων τὸ πρόθυμον. οἱ γὰρ ἐν ταῖς πόλεσι προστάντες μετὰ ὀνόματος ἑκάτεροι εὐπρεποῦς, πλήθους τε ἰσονομίας πολιτικῆς καὶ ἀριστοκρατίας σώφρονος προτιμήσει, τὰ μὲν κοινὰ λόγῳ θεραπεύοντες ἆθλα ἐποιοῦντο, παντὶ δὲ τρόπῳ ἀγωνιζόμενοι ἀλλήλων περιγίγνεσθαι ἐτόλμησάν τε τὰ δεινότατα ἐπεξῇσάν τε τὰς τιμωρίας ἔτι μείζους…


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No Fence-sitters in a Time of Civil Strife

Aristotle, Constitution of the Athenians

“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.”

ὁρῶν δὲ τὴν μὲν πόλιν πολλάκις στασιάζουσαν, τῶν δὲ πολιτῶν ἐνίους διὰ τὴν ῥᾳθυμίαν [ἀγα]πῶντας τὸ αὐτόματον, νόμον ἔθηκεν πρὸς αὐτοὺς ἴδιον, ὃς ἂν στασιαζούσης τῆς πόλεως μ[ὴ] θῆται τὰ ὅπλα μηδὲ μεθ’ ἑτέρων, ἄτιμον εἶναι καὶ τῆς πόλεως μὴ μετέχειν.

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Cicero, Letters to Atticus 10.1.2

“In all honesty, I shall ignore that law of Solon—your countryman and, I suppose, mine too—which mandated death for anyone who was a part of neither side in a time of civil strife [or sedition]: unless you advise otherwise, I will abstain from that side and this one. But the other side is more certain to me—nevertheless, I won’t race ahead of myself on this.”

ego vero Solonis, popularis tui et ut puto etiam mei, legem neglegam, qui capite sanxit si qui in seditione non alterius utrius partis fuisset, et, nisi si tu aliter censes, et hinc abero et illim. sed alterum mihi est certius, nec praeripiam tamen.


Giorgio Agamben, Stasis: Civil War as a Political Paradigm. Stanford, 2015, 16:

“The stasis…takes place neither in the oikos nor in the polis, neither in the family nor in the city; rather, it constitutes a zone of indifference between the unpolitical space of the family and the political space of the city. In transgressing the threshold, the oikos is politicized; conversely, the polis is ‘economised’, that is, it is reduced to an oikos. This means that in the system of Greek politics civil war functions as a threshold of politicisation and depoliticisation, through which the house is exceeded in the city and the city is depoliticized in the family.”

Governments, Fame and More Maxims from Epicurus

from Diogenes Laertius


6. “Whatever one can have once prepared for the sake of protecting against other men—governments or kingdoms—was good by nature”

VI. ῞Ενεκα τοῦ θαρρεῖν ἐξ ἀνθρώπων, ἦν κατὰ φύσιν [ἀρχῆς καὶ βασιλείας] ἀγαθόν, ἐξ ὧν ἄν ποτε τοῦτο οἷός τ’ ᾖ παρασκευάζεσθαι.


7. “Some men have wished to become famous and widely known, believing that this will make them strong against [danger from] other people. If the life of these kinds of people is really safe, then they have obtained a natural good. If it is not safe, they have not not accomplished what nature urged from the beginning.”

VII. ῎Ενδοξοι καὶ περίβλεπτοί τινες ἐβουλήθησαν γενέσθαι, τὴν ἐξ ἀνθρώπων ἀσφάλειαν οὕτω νομίζοντες περιποιήσεσθαι. ὥστ’ εἰ μὲν ἀσφαλὴς ὁ τῶν τοιούτων βίος, ἀπέλαβον τὸ τῆς φύσεως ἀγαθόν· εἰ δὲ μὴ ἀσφαλής, οὐκ ἔχουσιν οὗ ἕνεκα ἐξ
ἀρχῆς κατὰ τὸ τῆς φύσεως οἰκεῖον ὠρέχθησαν.


8. “No pleasure is evil on its own, but the things that produce some pleasures introduce problems far greater than the pleasures”

VIII. Οὐδεμία ἡδονὴ καθ’ ἑαυτὸ κακόν· ἀλλὰ τὰ τινῶν ἡδονῶν ποιητικὰ πολλαπλασίους ἐπιφέρει τὰς ὀχλήσεις τῶν ἡδονῶν.


9. “If all pleasure could be heaped up together, if it were possible for this to occur in time, through all of experience, and the most powerful parts of nature, there never would have been differences in the pleasures”

IX. Εἰ κατεπυκνοῦτο πᾶσα ἡδονή, καὶ χρόνῳ καὶ περὶ ὅλον τὸ ἄθροισμα ὑπῆρχεν ἢ τὰ κυριώτατα μέρη τῆς φύσεως, οὐκ ἄν ποτε διέφερον ἀλλήλων αἱ ἡδοναί.


10. “If the things that produced pleasure for the unhappy could relieve fears of the mind concerning the matters of the universe, death, and coming pain—if they could teach the limit of desires, we would never have to find any fault thing them as they overfilled with pleasures from everywhere since they would have neither physical nor mental pain which is evil.”

X. Εἰ τὰ ποιητικὰ τῶν περὶ τοὺς ἀσώτους ἡδονῶν ἔλυε τοὺς φόβους τῆς διανοίας τούς τε περὶ μετεώρων καὶ θανάτου καὶ ἀλγηδόνων, ἔτι τε τὸ πέρας τῶν ἐπιθυμιῶν ἐδίδασκεν, οὐκ ἄν ποτε εἴχομεν ὅ τι μεμψαίμεθα αὐτοῖς πανταχόθεν ἐκπληρουμένοις τῶν ἡδονῶν καὶ οὐθαμόθεν οὔτε τὸ ἀλγοῦν οὔτε τὸ λυπούμενον ἔχουσιν, ὅπερ ἐστὶ τὸ κακόν.


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Words for a Mouse in the House

There was a mouse in the house in the early morning…


“We will happily dedicate a trophy to the murder of mice.”
στήσομεν εὐθύμως τὸ μυοκτόνον ὧδε τρόπαιον, Batrakhomuomakhia 159

“To mice creeping onto his table, he said: “Look, even Diogenes feeds parasites!”
Πρὸς τοὺς ἑρπύσαντας ἐπὶ τὴν τράπεζαν μῦς, “ἰδού,” φησί,“καὶ Διογένης παρασίτους τρέφει.” Diogenes Laertius, 6.40.2


Some Mouse Compounds

μυόβρωτος, “mouse-eaten”
μυοδόχος, “mouse-harboring
μυοειδής, “Mouse-like”
μυοθήρας, “mouse-hunter”
μυοκτόνος, “mouse-killer”
μυομαχία, “mouse-battle”
μυοπάρων, a light pirate vessel, lit. “mouse-cheeks”
μύουρος, “mouse-tail”
μυόχοδον, “mouse-dung”


Two Mouse Proverbs from Michael Apostolios

“A mouse bites a child and runs away”. A proverb used when the small harm the great.
Μῦς δακὼν παῖδ’ ἀπέφυγε: παρόσον καὶ οἱ μικροὶ τοὺς μεγάλους λυποῦσιν ἐνίοτε.

“A mouse didn’t retreat into his hole, but was carrying a gourd.” A proverb applied to those who can do nothing for themselves but want to help others and make much of it.”

Μῦς εἰς τρώγλην οὐ χωρῶν, κολοκύνταν ἔφερεν: ἐπὶ τῶν ἑαυτοῖς μὴ δυναμένων καὶ ἄλλοις θελόντων βοηθῆσαι καὶ περιποιήσασθαι.

Go here for Mouse proverbs from the Suda

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Epicurus’ First Five Maxims

As printed in Diogenes Laertius’ Lives of the Eminent Philosophers

1. “The blessed and imperishable neither has troubles or gives them to others, so he is bound by neither anger nor debt—for this sort of thing brings weakness.”

I. Τὸ μακάριον καὶ ἄφθαρτον οὔτε αὐτὸ πράγματα ἔχει οὔτε ἄλλῳ παρέχει, ὥστε οὔτε ὀργαῖς οὔτε χάρισι συνέχεται· ἐν ἀσθενεῖ γὰρ πᾶν τὸ τοιοῦτον. ἐν ἄλλοις (fg. 355 Us.) δέ φησι τοὺς


2. “Death is nothing to us. For when [the body] has broken down it perceives nothing. That which is not perceived is nothing to us.”

II. ῾Ο θάνατος οὐδὲν πρὸς ἡμᾶς· τὸ γὰρ διαλυθὲν ἀναισθητεῖ· τὸ δ’ ἀναισθητοῦν οὐδὲν πρὸς ἡμᾶς.


3. “The limit of pleasure’s greatness is the removal of all pain. When pleasure is here, for that amount of time, there is no physical or mental pain or the two together.”

III. ῞Ορος τοῦ μεγέθους τῶν ἡδονῶν ἡ παντὸς τοῦ ἀλγοῦντος ὑπεξαίρεσις. ὅπου δ’ ἂν τὸ ἡδόμενον ἐνῇ, καθ’ ὃν ἂν χρόνον ᾖ, οὐκ ἔστι τὸ ἀλγοῦν ἢ τὸ λυπούμενον ἢ τὸ συναμφότερον.


4. “Constant pain does not persist in the body, but extreme pain, when it does exist, and that which only balances out the body’s pleasure, will not persist for many days. Even long sicknesses allow an excess of bodily pleasure over pain.”

IV. Οὐ χρονίζει τὸ ἀλγοῦν συνεχῶς ἐν τῇ σαρκί, ἀλλὰ τὸ μὲν ἄκρον τὸν ἐλάχιστον χρόνον πάρεστι, τὸ δὲ μόνον ὑπερτεῖνον τὸ ἡδόμενον κατὰ σάρκα οὐ πολλὰς ἡμέρας συμμένει. αἱ δὲ πολυχρόνιοι τῶν ἀρρωστιῶν πλεονάζον ἔχουσι τὸ ἡδόμενον ἐν τῇ σαρκὶ ἤπερ τὸ ἀλγοῦν.


5. “It is impossible to live pleasurably without living thoughtfully, nobly and justly; nor is it possible to live thoughtfully, nobly and justly without living pleasurably. Whenever something is missing from life, such as being thoughtful, it is not possible to live pleasurably even if one is still noble and just.”

V. Οὐκ ἔστιν ἡδέως ζῆν ἄνευ τοῦ φρονίμως καὶ καλῶς καὶ δικαίως, <οὐδὲ φρονίμως καὶ καλῶς καὶ δικαίως> ἄνευ τοῦ ἡδέως. ὅτῳ δὲ τοῦτο μὴ ὑπάρχει ἐξ οὗ ζῆν φρονίμως, καὶ καλῶς καὶ δικαίως ὑπάρχει, οὐκ ἔστι τοῦτον ἡδέως ζῆν.


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The Lost Works of Epicurus, a List

From Diogenes Laertius, 10.27-28

37 Seven books On Nature
Περὶ φύσεως ἑπτὰ καὶ τριάκοντα.

On Atoms and Emptiness
Περὶ ἀτόμων καὶ κενοῦ.

On Lust
Περὶ ἔρωτος.

Summary of Writings Against Physicians [or Natural Philosophers]
Ἐπιτομὴ τῶν πρὸς τοὺς φυσικούς.

Against the Megarians
Πρὸς τοὺς Μεγαρικούς.


Proper Beliefs
Κύριαι δόξαι.

On Choices and Avoidances
Περὶ αἱρέσεων καὶ φυγῶν.

On the End
Περὶ τέλους.

On Standards, or “Canon”
Περὶ κριτηρίου ἢ Κανών.


Concerning the Gods
Περὶ θεῶν.

Concerning Holiness
Περὶ ὁσιότητος.


Five books, On Lifes
Περὶ βίων δ᾽.

On Just Behavior
Περὶ δικαιοπραγίας.

Neokles, dedicated to Themistes
Νεοκλῆς πρὸς Θεμίσταν.


Eurulokhos, for Metrodoros
Εὐρύλοχος πρὸς Μητρόδωρον.

On Seeing
Περὶ τοῦ ὁρᾶν.

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Concerning Angles in Atoms
Περὶ τῆς ἐν τῇ ἀτόμῳ γωνίας.

On Touch
Περὶ ἁφῆς.

On Fate
Περὶ εἱμαρμένης.

Beliefs about Sensations, against Timocrates
Περὶ παθῶν δόξαι πρὸς Τιμοκράτην.

Predicting the Future

And Introduction to Philosophy

On Ghosts
Περὶ εἰδώλων.

On Appearance
Περὶ φαντασίας.


On Music
Περὶ μουσικῆς.

On Justice and the Other Virtues
Περὶ δικαιοσύνης καὶ τῶν ἄλλων ἀρετῶν.

On Gifts and Giving Thanks
Περὶ δώρων καὶ χάριτος.


Three books: Timokrates
Τιμοκράτης γ᾽.

Four Books: Metrodoros
Μητρόδωρος ε᾽.

Ἀντίδωρος β᾽.

Beliefs about Sickness, Against Mithrês
Περὶ νόσων δόξαι πρὸς Μίθρην.


On Kingship
Περὶ βασιλείας.