I Did The Silly Thing You Told Me To Do

Pliny, Letters 1.1

To my friend Septicius Clarus, from your buddy Pliny:

You have often encouraged me to gather and publish any of my letters which I wrote with a little effort. I have done this, but without keeping them in chronological sequence but as they arrive to me, since I am not assembling a history. Now all we have left is for me not to regret taking your advice and you forgiving that I followed it! Here’s the way it will go: I will keep looking for letters that lie neglected still and will not hide any I add to them!

Goodbye!

    1. Plinius Septicio <Claro> Suo S.

Frequenter hortatus es ut epistulas, si quas paulo curatius scripsissem, colligerem publicaremque. Collegi non servato temporis ordine (neque enim historiam componebam), sed ut quaeque in manus venerat. Superest ut nec te consilii nec me paeniteat obsequii. Ita enim fiet, ut eas quae adhuc neglectae iacent requiram et si quas addidero non supprimam. Vale.

Image result for do you like my party hat
From your buddy, P.D. Eastman

Just a Lazy Sunday Morning Contemplating the Nature of Things

Cicero, Tusculan Disputations. 3.16

“To begin with, they wrongly reject prior meditation on future affairs. For there is nothing which works so well to calm or relieve anxiety as much as the thought throughout your life that there is nothing that is can’t happen; there’s no contemplation better for our human condition as the law of of life and learning obedience to it—this doesn’t make us sad all the time but keeps us from ever being so. For the person who reflects on the nature of things, on the variety of life, and the precarity of human existence is not sad in considering these things but is carrying out the duty of wisdom in the fullest way.

For they pursue both in enjoying the particular harvest of philosophy by considering what happens in human life and in suffering adverse outcomes by cleansning with a three-part solace. First, by previously accepting the possibility of misfortune—which is the most way of weakening and managing any annoyance and second, by learning that human events must be endured humanely; and third, by recognizing that there is nothing evil except for blame and there is no blame when the event is something against which no human can endure.”

Principio male reprehendunt praemeditationem rerum futurarum. Nihil est enim quod tam obtundat elevetque aegritudinem quam perpetua in omni vita cogitatio nihil esse, quod non accidere possit, quam meditatio condicionis humanae, quam vitae lex commentatioque parendi, quae non hoc adfert, ut semper maereamus, sed ut numquam. Neque enim qui rerum naturam, qui vitae varietatem, qui imbecillitatem generis humani cogitat, maeret, cum haec cogitat, sed tum vel maxime sapientiae fungitur munere. Utrumque enim consequitur, ut et considerandis rebus humanis proprio philosophiae fruatur officio et adversis casibus triplici consolatione sanetur: primum quod posse accidere diu cogitavit, quae cogitatio una maxime molestias omnes extenuat et diluit; deinde quod humana humane ferenda intelligit; postremo quod videt malum nullum esse nisi culpam, culpam autem nullam esse, cum id, quod ab homine non potuerit praestari, evenerit.

 

Lucretius, De Rerum Natura .540-147

“Unless matter itself had been eternal before our time
Everything would have already reverted to nothing
And whatever we see would also have come from nothing.
But since I have demonstrated that nothing can be made from nothing
And what has been made cannot be returned to nothing
There ought to be a primal creation for the immortal body
Where everything diffuses again at the final moment
to supply matter itself for the rebirth of things.”

raeterea nisi materies aeterna fuisset,
antehac ad nilum penitus res quaeque redissent,
de niloque renata forent quaecumque videmus.
at quoniam supra docui nil posse creari
de nilo neque quod genitum est ad nil revocari,
esse inmortali primordia corpore debent,
dissolui quo quaeque supremo tempore possint,
materies ut suppeditet rebus reparandis.

Pharmorphix, Cambridge
https://www.diamond.ac.uk/Home/News/LatestNews/14-11-14.html

An Address to a Senator Upon His Return to the Government

Cicero, In Catilinam 1.16-17

“But what is this life of yours like now? I shall speak to you in this way so that I do not seem to be moved by hatred but by the pity which you have earned from no one.

A little while ago you entered the senate. Who from that great crowd of your many friends and companions hailed you? If this treatment has affected no other person in human memory, are you waiting for verbal abuse even though you have been rejected by the weightiest judgement of their silence?

What do you make of the fact that the seats emptied at your arrival, that all the former consuls who were signaled for death by you left their seats naked and abandoned when you sat down? With what feelings do you think you should accept this?”

Nunc vero quae tua est ista vita? Sic enim iam tecum loquar, non ut odio permotus esse videar, quo debeo, sed ut misericordia, quae tibi nulla debetur. Venisti paulo ante in senatum. Quis te ex hac tanta frequentia, tot ex tuis amicis ac necessariis salutavit? Si hoc post hominum memoriam contigit nemini, vocis exspectas contumeliam, cum sis gravissimo iudicio taciturnitatis oppressus? Quid, quod adventu tuo ista subsellia vacuefacta sunt, quod omnes consulares qui tibi persaepe ad caedem constituti fuerunt, simul atque adsedisti, partem istam subselliorum nudam atque inanem reliquerunt, quo tandem animo tibi ferendum putas?

Writing Your Way Out of Misery

Cicero, De Natura Deorum 1.4

“Many scholars of Greek studies were not able to communicate what they could teach to their own people because they were unsure that they could share in Latin what they had learned from the Greeks. But I think that in style we have made such improvement that the Greeks do not defeat us even in abundance of words.

The great sickness and heavy pain of our fortune also compelled my mind to this work. If I could have discovered any greater relief, I would not have taken refuge in this most potent comfort. Indeed, I was incapable of enjoying this in any other way that not merely reading books but also writing a monograph on all of philosophy.

We most readily come to learn every part of a subject and all of its parameters when all the questions are explained by writing. And philosophy, moreover, is a certain kind of marvelous continuation and series of things where different ideas appear to be interwoven with each other and they all connect in some way and are bound together.”

Complures enim Graecis institutionibus eruditi ea quae didicerant cum civibus suis communicare non poterant, quod ilia quae a Graecis accepissent Latine dici posse diffiderent: quo in genere tantum profecisse videmur ut a Graecis ne verborum quidem copia vinceremur. Hortata etiam est ut me ad haec conferrem animi aegritudo fortunae magna et gravi commota iniuria; cuius si maiorem aliquam levationem reperire potuissem, non ad hanc potissimum confugissem, ea vero ipsa nulla ratione melius frui potui quam si me non modo ad legendos libros sed etiam ad totam philosophiam pertractandam dedissem. Omnes autem eius partes atque omnia membra tum facillume noscuntur cum totae quaestiones scribendo explicantur; est enim admirabilis quaedam continuatio seriesque rerum, ut alia ex alia nexa et omnes inter se aptae conligataeque videantur.

Cicero, after 10 months in quarantine

Oaths, Relief, and Restoration

Homer, Iliad 3.230

“You are all witnesses: ensure the oaths are kept”

ὑμεῖς μάρτυροι ἔστε, φυλάσσετε δ’ ὅρκια πιστά ῾

Michael Apostolios, Proverbs 15.17

“An oath of Rhadamanthys: [a proverb] applied to those bearing witness to justice”

῾Ραδαμάνθυος ὅρκος: ἐπὶ τῶν ἐπὶ δικαιοσύνῃ μαρτυρουμένων.

 

Plato, Republic 9

“So we should not believe that pleasure is a release from grief nor that grief is a relief from pleasure.”

Μὴ ἄρα πειθώμεθα καθαρὰν ἡδονὴν εἶναι τὴν λύπης ἀπαλλαγήν, μηδὲ λύπην τὴν ἡδονῆς.

 

Valerius Maximus, 2.2

“What then has our returned restraint, our renewed labor accomplished? Well, it brought forth many victories over the enemy whose back was impossible for a Roman soldier to see under such a narcissistic leader.”

quid ergo restituta continentia, quid repetita industria profecit? crebras scilicet victorias et multa tropaea peperit ex eo hoste cuius tergum sub ambitioso imperatore Romano militi videre non contigerat.

 

Cicero, Letters 12.3

“We rejoice at both the safety of the Republic and its victory and the restoration of your honors…”

Cum rei publicae vel salute vel victoria gaudemus tum instauratione tuarum laudum…

he altar dedicated to Hermes, late 2nd century BC. Agora of the Competaliasts (or Hermaists) on Delos.

Knowledge, Cooperation, and the Common Good

Manilius, Astronomica 67-84

“Humanity waited, thunderstruck by the new light in the sky,
First grieving as it disappeared, then overjoyed at its return.
The human race was incapable of understanding the reasons
Why the sun rose so frequently once it sent the stars
In flight, why the length of days and nights was uncertain
And why the shadows changed too as the sun moved farther away.

Stubborn obsession had not yet taught humankind knowledge and skill
And the land was resting open at the hands of untrained farmers.
At that time gold was resting in untouched mountains
And the untroubled sea hid strange worlds—
For the human race did not dare to risk life
In the waves or wind—people believed that they did not know enough.

But the passage of long days sharpened mortal thought
And hard work produced invention for the miserable
Just as each person’s luck compelled him to turn to himself to make life better.
Then, they competed with each other once their interests were divided
And whatever wisdom practice found through testing,
They happily shared for the common good.”

et stupefacta novo pendebat lumine mundi,
tum velut amisso maerens, tum laeta renato,
surgentem neque enim totiens Titana fugatis
sideribus, variosque dies incertaque noctis
tempora nec similis umbras, iam sole regresso
iam propiore, suis poterat discernere causis.
necdum etiam doctas sollertia fecerat artes,
terraque sub rudibus cessabat vasta colonis;
tumque in desertis habitabat montibus aurum,
immotusque novos pontus subduxerat orbes,
nec vitam pelago nec ventis credere vota
audebant; se quisque satis novisse putabant.
sed cum longa dies acuit mortalia corda
et labor ingenium miseris dedit et sua quemque
advigilare sibi iussit fortuna premendo,
seducta in varias certarunt pectora curas
et, quodcumque sagax temptando repperit usus,
in commune bonum commentum laeta dederunt.

17th-century chart of the universe, with zodiac signs and the earth at the center
From Wikipedia. 17th-century depiction in Andreas Cellarius‘s Harmonia Macrocosmica.

Cranky about the State of the Country

Cicero, letters to Atticus 375 (11 May 44)

“I have no doubt that our state is looking at war. This affair has been managed with a man’s bravery and a child’s planning. Can’t everyone see that a king was removed but his heir was left on the throne?

What is more ridiculous? To fear this but not to consider that a risk at all! There is still in this moment much which is crooked. That the house of Pontius near Naples is held by the mother of that tyrannicide! Oh!

I should read the “Cato the Elder” I made for you more often. Old age is making me rather cranky. I am annoyed by everything. But, certainly, I have lived. Let the young men see to these things. You will care for my affairs as you do.”

Mihi autem non est dubium quin res spectet ad castra. acta enim illa res est animo virili, consilio puerili. quis enim hoc non vidit, <regem sublatum>,2 regni heredem relictum? quid autem absurdius? ‘hoc metuere, alterum in metu non ponere!’ quin etiam hoc ipso tempore multa ὑποσóλοικα. Ponti Neapolitanum a matre tyrannoctoni possideri! legendus mihi saepius est ‘Cato maior’ ad te missus. amariorem enim me senectus facit. stomachor omnia. sed mihi quidem βεβíωται; viderint iuvenes. tu mea curabis, ut curas.

cranky cicero

Saving the State With A Single Body

Cicero, De Domo Sua 63-64

“Leaders, this violence, this crime, this rage was what I defended from the necks of all good people with my body—I met with my skin the full force of civil strife, the explosive savagery of criminals which was just now bursting out because it had found such daring leaders after it had grown for so long as hatred suppressed.

Against me alone the consular firebrands fell, thrown by the tribunes’ hands; all the criminal points of conspiracy which I had broken before struck me. But if I had done what many of the bravest men found pleasing and had decided to face this force in open arms, I would have been victorious with the death of so many criminals who were still citizens or I would have fallen with the Republic following the death of so many good people, something those criminals wished for most.”

Hanc ego vim, pontifices, hoc scelus, hunc furorem meo corpore opposito ab omnium bonorum cervicibus depuli omnemque impetum discordiarum, omnem diu collectam vim improborum, quae inveterata compresso odio atque tacito iam erumpebat nancta tam audaces duces, excepi meo corpore. In me uno consulares faces, iactae manibus tribuniciis, in me omnia, quae ego quondam rettuderam, coniurationis nefaria tela adhaeserunt. Quod si, ut multis fortissimis viris placuit, vi et armis contra vim decertare voluissem, aut vicissem cum magna internicione improborum, sed tamen civium, aut interfectis bonis omnibus, quod illis optatissimum erat, una cum re publica concidissem

Officer Eugene Goodman at the Capitol Building on January 6th, 2021. Image taken from The Hill https://thehill.com/homenews/senate/533657-capitol-police-officer-hailed-as-hero-for-drawing-rioters-away-from-senate

Postmodern Passer

Clive James, North Face of Soho, 11:

“Later on, there was a whole generation of journalists doing the same thing. The new emphasis was given a fancy name: postmodernism. Actually it had been going on for so long that you could trace back through time all the way to wax tablets. T.S. Eliot wrote about Mary Lloyd and the music hall; Mallarmé edited women’s fashion magazines; Love’s Labour’s Lost is a pseudo-pedantic pop concert from start to finish; and Catullus sang a syncopated blues for the dead sparrow of his mistress. But to me this carnival of the qualities felt like a big and complex event, and the symbolic centre of it was the Edward Pygge Review.”

Sir Edward John Poynter, Lesbia and Her Sparrow

Grammar is Bread, Ignorance is Gruel

Lorenzo Valla, Ars Grammatica 15-29

It is a bad teacher who does not exemplify their own rules, and there were several of these in centuries gone by, because they did not flip through the learned books of the ancients. So come on kids, sing with me in Latin, and consider this learning as something like bread, which is good by itself and also enhances other dishes. Every art is in need of Grammar, but it needs none of them, and those who don’t know Grammar are definitely just eating gruel. So come on kids, take this bread from my lips, which will make your bodies robust and minister strength to you. For you will read many things written in no books except in ours, although Bostar and Aspar dare to transfer them into their own pamphlets – I mean, what a disgrace! Laugh at them with me, as though they were little crows wearing the peacock’s tail or geese strutting around like swans.

Doctor enim malus est in quo sua non radiat lex,

quales iam seclis aliquot plerique fuere

quod libros veterum non evolvere disertos.

Quare agite, o pueri, mecum cantate latine,

assimilem pani doctrinam hanc esse putantes

que per se valet et reliquas corroborat escas;

indiga grammatice queque ars est, nullius illa,

quam qui non norunt vescuntur pulte profecto.

Hunc, pueri, nostra de voce capessite panem

qui corpus solidum reddat viresque ministret;

namque legetis adhuc in nullis scripta libellis

multa nisi in nostris quamvis ea Bostar et Aspar

in chartas transferre suas, o dedecus, audent!

quos mecum ridete, velut cornicula pavi

si gestet caudam vel se ferat anser olorem.