Death and Love from Friendship

Augustine, Confessions 4.8-9

“Certainly, the comfort of various friends used to repair and refresh me—friends whom I once loved in your place. This was an immense fiction and a long-lasting lie, the incitement of which in our ears made our mind corrupted. But my fiction would was not relenting even if some of my friends would die.

There were other things that attracted my mind more: conversation, laughter, doing each other favors, reading sweet-tongued books together, having fun, being serious, sometimes disagreeing without anger just as a people might do on his own and even mixing up our many agreements with occasional dissent. We get pain when some are absent only to receive them with joy as they return. By these kinds of signs coming from the heart of those who love and love in return, through their mouth, tongue, eyes and a thousand very grateful gestures,  fan the burning of our minds and  make one out of many.

This is what is loved in friends and what we love such that the human conscience—if it does not love what loves it back or if it does not return love when loved—seeks nothing from that source except for a sign of kindness. This is where grief comes from if someone dies—the shadows of sorrows—and when sweetness turns bitter a heart weighs heavy and the loss of the life of those who are dying is the death of those still alive.”

Maxime quippe me reparabant atque recreabant aliorum amicorum solacia, cum quibus amabam quod pro te amabam, et hoc erat ingens fabula et longum mendacium, cuius adulterina confricatione corrumpebatur mens nostra pruriens in auribus. sed illa mihi fabula non moriebatur, si quis amicorum meorum moreretur. alia erant quae in eis amplius capiebant animum, conloqui et conridere et vicissim benivole obsequi, simul legere libros dulciloquos, simul nugari et simul honestari, dissentire interdum sine odio tamquam ipse homo secum atque ipsa rarissima dissensione condire consensiones plurimas, docere aliquid invicem aut discere ab invicem, desiderare absentes cum molestia, suscipere venientes cum laetitia: his atque huius modi signis a corde amantium et redamantium procedentibus per os, per linguam, per oculos et mille motus gratissimos, quasi fomitibus conflare animos et ex pluribus unum facere.

 Hoc est quod diligitur in amicis, et sic diligitur ut rea sibi sit humana conscientia si non amaverit redamantem aut si amantem non redamaverit, nihil quaerens ex eius corpore praeter indicia benivolentiae. hinc ille luctus si quis moriatur, et tenebrae dolorum, et versa dulcedine in amaritudinem cor madidum, et ex amissa vita morientium mors viventium.

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Hot and cold bath Livre de la Vigne nostre Seigneur, France ca. 1450

Elections and the Good Life

Seneca, De Vita Beata 2

“Now, in truth, the people stand against reason as champion of their own wickedness. And this happens as in elections when, the flitting breeze has changed direction and the very people who chose their candidates are amazed that these candidates were selected. We approve the same thing one moment and hate it another. This is the product of every decision which is dependent upon the majority’s opinion.

When what is debated is the good life, it is useless for you to respond to me “This side seems to be in the majority. For this is likely the worse side. Humanity is not so well governed that the better ways please the majority of people. The crowd is proof of the worst choice.”

Nunc vero stat contra rationem defensor mali sui populus. Itaque id evenit quod in comitiis, in quibus eos factos esse praetores idem qui fecere mirantur, cum se mobilis favor circumegit. Eadem probamus, eadem reprehendimus; hic exitus est omnis iudicii, in quo secundum plures datur.

Cum de beata vita agetur, non est quod mihi illud discessionum more respondeas: “Haec pars maior esse videtur.” Ideo enim peior est. Non tam bene cum rebus humanis agitur, ut meliora pluribus placeant; argumentum pessimi turba est.

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Seneca here echoes some anti-democratic opinion that was popular among ancient thinkers from Plato on. Similar prejudices against majority rule are emerging here and there in response to current events. Such sneering dismissal of the wishes of the majority is likely also a result of a disengagement from the needs of the majority. Blithe confidence–if not satisfaction–in one’s superior taste and sense in respect to the majority serves only to preserve the exclusivity of one’s claims to superiority. It does little to serve the common good. But, hey, some people don’t even believe that there is such a thing as the common good!

Utilitatis Aliquid: A Literary Syllabus for Eloquence and Erudition

Quintilian 1.8

“For comedy—which can provide a great deal to eloquence since it works through every character and feeling—I will explain soon what purpose I think it serves for students in its own place. For, once characters are safely formed, comedy is among the most important things to read. I am speaking of Menander, but I will not bar the others, for the Latin authors also provide some utility.

Students must first read texts which especially nourish the intelligence and strengthen the character. A long life will give them time for the rest of the works which are good mainly for intellectual reasons. The older Latin poets, moreover, who are mostly effective for their innate ability rather than their skill, can offer a lot—especially for building a great vocabulary. One can find a seriousness in their tragedies and in their comedies an elegance and a certain Attic nature. Their compositions are more considered, too, than modern authors who think that the only virtue of writing is its “quotability”. A high register and, if I may say, a kind of power must be found in these authors since we have now stumbled into the vices of pleasure in our manner of speaking too. And, finally, we should lean on the best orators who take from the poems of the ancients to strengthen their claims or decorate their speaking”

Comoediae, quae plurimum conferre ad eloquentiam potest, cum per omnis et personas et adfectus eat, quem usum in pueris putem paulo post suo loco dicam: nam cum mores in tuto fuerint, inter praecipua legenda erit. De Menandro loquor, nec tamen excluserim alios, nam Latini quoque auctores adferent utilitatis aliquid; sed pueris quae maxime ingenium alant atque animum augeant praelegenda: ceteris, quae ad eruditionem modo pertinent, longa aetas spatium dabit. Multum autem veteres etiam Latini conferunt, quamquam plerique plus ingenio quam arte valuerunt, in primis copiam verborum: quorum in tragoediis gravitas, in comoediis elegantia et quidam velut atticismos inveniri potest. Oeconomia quoque in iis diligentior quam in plerisque novorum erit, qui omnium operum solam virtutem sententias putaverunt. Sanctitas certe et, ut sic dicam, virilitas ab iis petenda est, quando nos in omnia deliciarum vitia dicendi quoque ratione defluximus. Denique credamus summis oratoribus, qui veterum poemata vel ad fidem causarum vel ad ornamentum eloquentiae adsumunt.

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Portrait of Matthaeus Platearius d.c.1161 writing “The Book of Simple Medicines”, c.1470 (Wikimedia Commons)

Keep It Simple! Quintilian on Textbooks and Teaching

Quintilian, Inst. Orat. 8.1-3

“The order of the material which was collected in the previous five books introduces the concepts of Invention and Disposition. While it is necessary to understand these completely and deeply to obtain the highest level of learning, it is advantageous for those just beginning to be exposed to them rather briefly and directly.

Beginners are often deterred by the difficulty of such a complex and perplexing course of study or, at the very moment when their intelligences require nourishing and cultivation with some indulgence, they are exhausted by the handling of rather obscure material. They also may think they if they have learned these things enough they can consider themselves prepared for eloquence or, because they are addicted to some other fast rules of speaking, they resist any new attempt.

This is why it is the case that those who are the best writers of textbooks diverge the most from eloquence. Beginners need a path to guide them, but it should be clearly laid out, walkable, and easy to see. The talented teacher, then, should choose the best things from all sources and convey those things in the present which are effective without introducing delay by disputing contrary views.”

His fere, quae in proximos quinque libros conlata sunt, ratio inveniendi atque inventa disponendi continetur, quam ut per omnis numeros penitus cognoscere ad summam scientiae necessarium est, ita incipientibus brevius ac simplicius tradi magis convenit. Aut enim difficultate institutionis tam numerosae atque perplexae deterreri solent, aut eo tempore quo praecipue alenda ingenia atque indulgentia quadam enutrienda sunt asperiorum tractatu rerum atteruntur, aut si haec sola didicerunt satis se ad eloquentiam instructos arbitrantur, aut quasi ad certas quasdam dicendi leges alligati conatum omnem reformidant. Unde existimant accidisse ut qui diligentissimi artium scriptores extiterint ab eloquentia longissime fuerint. Via tamen opus est incipientibus, sed ea plana et cum ad ingrediendum tum ad demonstrandum expedita. Eligat itaque peritus ille praeceptor ex omnibus optima et tradat ea demum in praesentia quae placet, remota refutandi cetera mora.

 

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A Few Words on Politics and Character

Tacitus, Annales 1.81

“Appealing words, but of a hollow or deceitful nature: the more they were covered with the appearance of freedom, the more they would burst into hostile servitude.”

speciosa verbis, re inania aut subdola, quantoque maiore libertatis imagine tegebantur, tanto eruptura ad infensius servitium.

 Critias, Fr. 11.1-4

“A good character is stronger than the law;
no politician can ever twist him around
as he ruins the law by troubling it
this way and that with arguments.”

τρόπος δὲ χρηστὸς ἀσφαλέστερος νόμου·
τὸν μὲν γὰρ οὐδεὶς ἂν διαστρέψαι ποτέ
ῥήτωρ δύναιτο, τὸν δ’ ἄνω τε καὶ κάτω
λόγοις ταράσσων πολλάκις λυμαίνεται

 

with an h/t to Pavel Gregoric for helping me fix the Critias

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Human Agency and the Lord’s Prayer

Caveat: I am neither a theologian nor a specialist in Biblical Greek (my specialty is Homeric Greek). I claim no authority in what follows and will gladly add any comments or corrections.

A twitter correspondent recently noted that Pope Francis wants to change the standard translation of the Lord’s Prater because of the line typically translated as “lead us not into temptation”. The Pope’s objects is that this version might lead people to believe that God is the cause of human sin.

Even though I probably said this prayer a thousand times as a child, I never really thought about it or where it came from. So, Master Clarke’s question made me nervous. I looked at the Greek, and it is straightforward. Then I started thinking about the objection. So, here is my very basic translation (the hubris!) followed by the Greek, the Latin and a short comment. (Wikipedia’s discussion is decent as a starting point)

“Our father, the one in the heavens,
May your name be sacred.
May your kingdom come,
May your desire be done
On the earth as it is in heaven.
Give to us today our bread for the coming day.
Free us of our debts
As we have freed those indebted to us.
And do not compel us to a test
But protect us from wickedness.

Πάτερ ἡμῶν ὁ ἐν τοῖς οὐρανοῖς·
ἁγιασθήτω τὸ ὄνομά σου·
ἐλθέτω ἡ βασιλεία σου·
γενηθήτω τὸ θέλημά σου,
ὡς ἐν οὐρανῷ καὶ ἐπὶ γῆς·
τὸν ἄρτον ἡμῶν τὸν ἐπιούσιον δὸς ἡμῖν σήμερον·
καὶ ἄφες ἡμῖν τὰ ὀφειλήματα ἡμῶν,
ὡς καὶ ἡμεῖς ἀφήκαμεν τοῖς ὀφειλέταις ἡμῶν·
καὶ μὴ εἰσενέγκῃς ἡμᾶς εἰς πειρασμόν,
ἀλλὰ ῥῦσαι ἡμᾶς ἀπὸ τοῦ πονηροῦ.

Compare to the King James Version

Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name.
10 Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.
11 Give us this day our daily bread.
12 And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.
13 And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen.

Here’s the Latin Vulgate

Pater noster, qui es in caelis,
sanctificetur nomen tuum,
adveniat regnum tuum,
fiat voluntas tua,
sicut in caelo, et in terra.
Panem nostrum supersubstantialem da nobis hodie;
et dimitte nobis debita nostra,
sicut et nos dimittimus debitoribus nostris;
et ne inducas nos in tentationem;
sed libera nos a Malo

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A few notes:

An Anglican scholar (Rev. Ian Paul) suggests that the problem comes from the ambiguity of peirasmos (πειρασμόν) which the Latin vulgate translations as tentationem (“temptation”) but which conveys a sense of “test”, “trial” etc. The root peira is also relation to words of experience. As a Classicist and not a theologian, if I can break away from my own protestant upbringing, I would also add that the “lead” of English is not really appropriate for the Latin (inducas) or the Greek (εἰσενέγκῃς). Both of these verbs seem to imply a request for the deity not to force the speaker of the prayer into a test (perhaps crucible or evaluation). But the peirasmos in the context of the New Testament recalls, for me, Jesus’ testing by Satan in the wilderness.

Late antique and Byzantine lexicographers (Hesychius, Photius, Etymological texts, the Suda) often gloss Ἐπαγωγή with πειρασμός, defining the former as “a punishment, captivity, or anything bad that happens to a person” (Suda, epsilon 1921: ἢ ζημία, αἰχμαλωσία, ἤτοι τὸ ὁπωσοῦν ἐπαγόμενον κακόν). The Etymologicum Gudianum glosses notes that peirasmos is a noun from the verb “to test” which means “to attach or engage in war” (Πειρασμὸς, παρὰ τὸ πειράζω, ὃ σημαίνει τὸ καταλαμβάνω καὶ πολεμῶ). So, rather than denoting a mere solicitation or inducement (as might be implied by our “temptation”) this noun may carry the force of a violent trial.

So—and again, I am not only not a theologian but I am an agnostic who would claim classical atheism if the modern atheists hadn’t made such a mess of things—what I see from my years of reading Greek is not a blaming of sin on God, but rather a plea that God not make a test of man’s ability to resist. The point of the Greek, I think, is that good and evil exist and man has the ability to choose. The first request is one for God not to force us into testing our mettle.

When followed by the next line (ἀλλὰ ῥῦσαι) where the speaker requests to be “protected from evil”, it seems to me that we have an expanded idea: essentially, “don’t force me into a test [of good and evil] [which I might fail as an imperfect being] but preserve me from the evil” [so I may choose the good, because, as I said, I am imperfect]. And this binary request within the polarization of good and evil seems as well to dovetail with the previous lines where the speaker asks to be released from “debts” or “obligations”.

So, based just on the English of the King James (“lead us not into temptation”), I think the Pope probably has a point that the translation could mislead people about human agency in error. But the “lead” does not do this alone…Also, I think we must content with the radical difference between the translations “debts” and “trespasses” (property anyone?) in addition to the difference between “temptation” and “test”.

I ignored another important problem:

 

 

And this:

 

But I did get this:

Springs Feeding Beautiful Voices: An Odd Philological Detail

Vitruvius 8. 25

“Gaius Julius, Masinissa’s son, who controlled all the lands of the city, fought alongside the emperor. He was my guest from time to time. In our daily conversations we often were compelled to argue about philology.

Once we had a debate about the power of water and its finer qualities. He told me that there were springs which came from his own land along which whoever was born there developed exceptional singing voices. Because of this, people used to purchase fine looking lads and full-grown girls to mate with them, so that the children who were born from them would be exceptional in voice and form.”

Gaius Iulius Masinissae filius, cuius erant totius oppidi agrorum possessiones, cum patre Caesare militavit. Is hospitio meo est usus. Ita cotidiano convictu necesse fuerat de philologia  disputare. Interim cum esset inter nos de aquae potestate et ius virtutibus sermo, exposuit esse in ea terra eiusmodi fontes, ut, qui ibi procrearentur, voces ad cantandum egregias haberent, ideoque semper transmarinos catlastros emere formonsos et puellas maturas eosque coniungere, ut, qui nascerentur ex his, non solum voce egregia sed etiam forma essent non invenusta.

Frescoes of Marine Life found on a wall along the via La Portuense in the river port of San Paolo Rome CE) – National Museum of Rome

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Frescoes found, in the river port of San Paolo Rome  – National Museum of Rome

Pindar, Ol. 1 1–7

“Water is best, yet gold shining as a fire
Clear in the night is beyond all noble wealth—
But if you desire,
Dear heart, to sing of contests,
Don’t look farther than the sun
For any bright star warmer by day, alone in the sky.
And let us sing no contest greater than Olympia.”

Α′ ῎Αριστον μὲν ὕδωρ, ὁ δὲ χρυσὸς αἰθόμενον πῦρ
ἅτε διαπρέπει νυκτὶ μεγάνορος ἔξοχα πλούτου·
εἰ δ’ ἄεθλα γαρύεν
ἔλδεαι, φίλον ἦτορ,
μηκέτ’ ἀελίου σκόπει
ἄλλο θαλπνότερον ἐν ἁμέρᾳ φαεν-
νὸν ἄστρον ἐρήμας δι’ αἰθέρος,
μηδ’ ᾿Ολυμπίας ἀγῶνα φέρτερον αὐδάσομεν·

Thales, fr. 20

“Water is the beginning and the end of everything.”

[οὕτος ἔφη] ἀρχὴν τοῦ παντὸς εἶναι καὶ τέλος τὸ ὕδωρ