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.”

Gregory the Great Says: “Forget Grammar, Donatus be Damned”

J.E. Sandys, A History of Classical Scholarship, Vol. 1

“Towards the close of the long letter prefixed to the Moralia, he confesses his contempt for the art of speech, and admits that he is not over-careful in the avoidance of barbarisms or inaccurate uses of prepositions, deeming it ‘ utterly unworthy to keep the language of the Divine Oracles in subjection to the rules of Donatus’; and this principle he applies to his own commentary, as well as to the sacred text. His attitude towards the secular study of Latin literature is well illustrated in the letter to Desiderius, bishop of Vienne. He is almost ashamed to mention the rumour that has reached him, to the effect that the bishop was in the habit of instructing certain persons in grammatical learning. ‘ The praises of Christ cannot be pronounced by the same lips as the praises of Jove’. He hopes to hear that the bishop is not really interested in such trifling subjects. Elsewhere, however, the study of Grammar and the knowledge of the liberal arts are emphatically commended on the ground of the aid they afford in the understanding of the Scriptures; but the genuineness of the work, in which this opinion is expressed is doubtful. Later writers record the tradition that Gregory did his best to suppress the works of Cicero, the charm of whose style diverted young men from the study of the Scriptures’, and that he burnt all the books of Livy which he could find, because they were full of idolatrous superstitions. It was even stated that he set the Palatine Library on fire, lest it should interfere with the study of the Bible, but the sole authority for this is John of Salisbury’ (d. 1 180), and the statement is unworthy of credit. “

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.

Image result for Solon ancient greek

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.”

Factional Strife and the Road to Servitude

Livy, ab Urbe Condita 1.17:

“The struggle and desire for absolute power was exercising the minds of the senators, but this power was not granted to any individuals, because no one in the new state was greatly preeminent above the others. Therefore, the contest was waged among the classes through factional strife. Those who were born as Sabines, considering that they had not had a share in the throne following the death of Titus Tatius, wished that one of their own would be made king, so that they would not lose hold of power in the ostensibly equal society. The Romans, however, dismissed the idea of a foreign king. Yet, despite all of their varying desires, they wanted universally to be ruled by a king, because they had not yet tasted the sweet fruit of liberty. Fear then seized the senators that the state would lack government, the army would lack a general, and that some external force would threaten them, since so many of the neighboring peoples had been provoked to anger.”

Patrum interim animos certamen regni ac cupido versabat; necdum ad singulos, quia nemo magnopere eminebat in novo populo, pervenerat: factionibus inter ordines certabatur. Oriundi ab Sabinis, ne quia post Tati mortem ab sua parte non erat regnatum in societate aequa possessionem imperii amitterent, sui corporis creari regem volebant: Romani veteres peregrinum regem aspernabantur. In variis voluntatibus regnari tamen omnes volebant, libertatis dulcedine nondum experta. Timor deinde patres incessit ne civitatem sine imperio, exercitum sine duce, multarum circa civitatium inritatis animis, vis aliqua externa adoriretur.

Some Latin and Greek Passages on Treason

[This is a repost]

Lucan 4.218-226
“Must we beg Caesar to handle us no worse than
His other slaves? Have your generals’ lives been begged?
Our safety will never be the price and bribe for foul treason.
This is not a civil war they fight for us to live.
We are dragged this way under the claims of peace.
People would not search for iron in a deep mine,
They would not strengthen any city with walls,
No fierce steed would rush to war,
No sea would bear towered ships of the fleet,
If it were ever just to trade freedom for peace.”

Utque habeat famulos nullo discrimine Caesar,
Exorandus erit? ducibus quoque vita petita est?
Numquam nostra salus pretium mercesque nefandae
Proditionis erit; non hoc civilia bella,
Ut vivamus, agunt. Trahimur sub nomine pacis.
Non chalybem gentes penitus fugiente metallo
Eruerent, nulli vallarent oppida muri,
Non sonipes in bella ferox, non iret in aequor
Turrigeras classis pelago sparsura carinas
Si bene libertas umquam pro pace daretur

From the Twelve Tables
“The Law of the Twelve Tables commands that anyone who has conspired with an enemy against the state or handed a citizen to a public enemy, should suffer capital punishment.”

Marcianus, ap. Dig., XLVIII, 4, 3: Lex XII Tabularum iubet eum qui hostem concitaverit quive civem hosti tradiderit capite puniri.

Tacitus Histories 3. 57
“How much power the audacity of single individuals can have during civil discord! Claudius Flaventinus, a centurion dismissed by Galba in shame, made the fleet at Misenum revolt with forged letters from Vespasian promising a reward for treason. Claudius Apollinaris, a man neither exceptional for his loyalty nor dedicated in his betrayal, was in charge of the fleet; and Apinius Tiro, an ex-praetor who was by chance at Minturnae then, put himself forth as the leader of the defectors.”

Sed classem Misenensem (tantum civilibus discordiis etiam singulorum audacia valet) Claudius Faventinus centurio per ignominiam a Galba dimissus ad defectionem traxit, fictis Vespasiani epistulis pretium proditionis ostentans. Praeerat classi Claudius Apollinaris, neque fidei constans neque strenuus in perfidia; et Apinius Tiro praetura functus ac tum forte Minturnis agens ducem se defectoribus obtulit.

treason

 

Some Greek Words for Treason

ἀπιστία, “treachery”
προδοσία, “high treason”, “betrayal”
προδοτής, “traitor”
ἐπιβουλή, “plot”

From the Suda

“Dêmadês: He was king in Thebes after Antipater. A son of Dêmeas the sailor, he was also a sailor, a shipbuilder, and a ferry-operator. He gave up these occupations to enter politics and turned out to be a traitor—he grew very wealthy from this and obtained, as a bribe from Philip, property in Boiotia.”
Δημάδης, μετ’ ᾿Αντίπατρον βασιλεύσας Θήβας ἀνέστησε, Δημέου ναύτου, ναύτης καὶ αὐτός, ναυπηγὸς καὶ πορθμεύς. ἀποστὰς δὲ τούτων ἐπολιτεύσατο καὶ ἦν προδότης καὶ ἐκ τούτου εὔπορος παντὸς καὶ κτήματα ἐν Βοιωτίᾳ παρὰ Φιλίππου δωρεὰν ἔλαβεν. οὗτος Δημο-

Euripides’ Orestes 1057-1060

[Elektra] Did he not speak for you, eager that you not die,
Menelaos the coward, our father’s traitor?
[Orestes] He didn’t show his face, because he yearning
For the scepter—he was careful not to save his relatives

Ηλ. οὐδ’ εἶφ’ ὑπὲρ σοῦ μὴ θανεῖν σπουδὴν ἔχων
Μενέλαος ὁ κακός, ὁ προδότης τοὐμοῦ πατρός;
Ορ. οὐδ’ ὄμμ’ ἔδειξεν, ἀλλ’ ἐπὶ σκήπτροις ἔχων
τὴν ἐλπίδ’ ηὐλαβεῖτο μὴ σώιζειν φίλους.

Dinarchus, Against Philocles, 8-9

“Don’t you understand that while, in other cases, it is necessary to impose a penalty on those who have committed crimes after examining the matter precisely and uncovering the truth over time, but for instances of clear and agreed-upon treason, we must yield first to anger and what comes from it? Don’t you think that this man would betray any of the things most crucial to the state, once you made him in charge of it?”

ἆρ᾿ ἴσθ᾿ ὅτι ἐπὶ μὲν τῶν ἄλλων ἀδικημάτων σκεψαμένους ἀκριβῶς δεῖ μεθ᾿ ἡσυχίας καὶ τἀληθὲς ἐξετάσαντας, οὕτως ἐπιτιθέναι τοῖς ἠδικηκόσι τὴν τιμωρίαν, ἐπὶ δὲ ταῖς φανεραῖς καὶ παρὰ πάντων ὡμολογημέναις προδοσίαις πρώτην5 τετάχθαι τὴν ὀργὴν καὶ τὴν μετ᾿ αὐτῆς6 γιγνομένην τιμωρίαν; τί γὰρ τοῦτον οὐκ ἂν οἴεσθε ἀποδόσθαι τῶν ἐν τῇ πόλει σπουδαιοτάτων, ὅταν ὑμεῖς ὡς πιστὸν αὐτὸν καὶ δίκαιον φύλακα καταστήσητε;

Lycurgus, Against Leocrates, 126-7

“It is right that punishments for other crimes come after them, but punishment for treason should precede the dissolution of the state. If you miss that opportune moment when those men are about to do something treacherous against their state, it is not possible for you to obtain justice from the men who did wrong: for they become stronger than the punishment possible from those who have been wronged.”

τῶν μὲν γὰρ ἄλλων ἀδικημάτων ὑστέρας δεῖ τετάχθαι τὰς τιμωρίας, προδοσίας δὲ καὶ δήμου καταλύσεως προτέρας. εἰ γὰρ προήσεσθε τοῦτον τὸν καιρὸν, ἐν ᾧ μέλλουσιν ἐκεῖνοι κατὰ τῆς πατρίδος φαῦλόν τι πράττειν, οὐκ ἔστιν ὑμῖν μετὰ ταῦτα δίκην παρ’ αὐτῶν ἀδικούντων λαβεῖν· κρείττους γὰρ ἤδη γίγνονται τῆς παρὰ τῶν ἀδικουμένων τιμωρίας.

thracian-tattoos

Ancient Authors Say Nice Things About Love (Occasionally)

What a Girl Wants: Mimnermus vs. Homer (Propertius 1.9.9-14)

What good to you is threnody, or crying over the walls built by Amphion’s lyre? In matters of love, a verse of Mimnermus is worth a lot more than Homer. Gentle Cupid would like to hear a softer strain. So please, put down those sad little books, and sing something that a girl would like to hear!

quid tibi nunc misero prodest grave dicere carmen
aut Amphioniae moenia flere lyrae? 10
plus in amore valet Mimnermi versus Homero:
carmina mansuetus lenia quaerit Amor.
i quaeso et tristis istos sepone libellos,
et cane quod quaevis nosse puella velit!

Greek Anthology, 5.88 (Rufinus): The Fire of Unrequited Love

“Fire-bearing love, if you haven’t the strength to light two equally afire
Either extinguish it or share the flame burning in only one.”

Εἰ δυσὶν οὐκ ἴσχυσας ἴσην φλόγα, πυρφόρε, καῦσαι,
τὴν ἑνὶ καιομένην ἢ σβέσον ἢ μετάθες.

Continue reading

Ignorance, Knowledge, and Hate: Pausanias, Thucydides and Tertullian

Pausanias, 1.3.3

“On the opposite wall are painted Theseus, Democracy and the People. Clearly, this painting shows Theseus as the founder of political equality for the Athenians. In other accounts the story has been popularized that Theseus handed the powers of the state over to the people and that the Athenians lived in a democracy from his time until Peisistratus rebelled and became a tyrant. The majority of people repeat many things which are not true, since they know nothing of history and they believe whatever they have heard since childhood in choruses and tragedy. This is how it is with Theseus who actually was king himself and whose descendants continued ruling for four generations until Menestheus died.”

ἐπὶ δὲ τῷ τοίχῳ τῷ πέραν Θησεύς ἐστι γεγραμμένος καὶ Δημοκρατία τε καὶ Δῆμος. δηλοῖ δὲ ἡ γραφὴ Θησέα εἶναι τὸν καταστήσαντα ᾿Αθηναίοις ἐξ ἴσου πολιτεύεσθαι· κεχώρηκε δὲ φήμη καὶ ἄλλως ἐς τοὺς πολλούς, ὡς Θησεὺς παραδοίη τὰ πράγματα τῷ δήμῳ καὶ ὡς ἐξ ἐκείνου δημοκρατούμενοι διαμείναιεν, πρὶν ἢ Πεισίστρατος ἐτυράννησεν ἐπαναστάς. λέγεται μὲν δὴ καὶ ἄλλα οὐκ ἀληθῆ παρὰ τοῖς πολλοῖς οἷα ἱστορίας ἀνηκόοις οὖσι καὶ ὁπόσα ἤκουον εὐθὺς ἐκ παίδων ἔν τε χοροῖς καὶ τραγῳδίαις πιστὰ ἡγουμένοις, λέγεται δὲ καὶ ἐς τὸν Θησέα, ὃς αὐτός τε ἐβασίλευσε καὶ ὕστερον Μενεσθέως τελευτήσαντος καὶ ἐς τετάρτην  οἱ Θησεῖδαι γενεὰν διέμειναν ἄρχοντες.

When I posted this last year, a twitter respondent noted that the main thrust of this section sounds a bit Thucydidean:

Here’s the Greek (Thuc. 1.20.3)

οὕτως ἀταλαίπωρος τοῖς πολλοῖς ἡ ζήτησις τῆς ἀληθείας, καὶ ἐπὶ τὰ ἑτοῖμα μᾶλλον τρέπονται.

“For most people the examination of the truth is so careless that they accept whatever is prepared for them.”

Later Karl brought us some Tertullian

Here’s the Latin: et ignorare illos, dum oderunt, et iniuste odisse, dum ignorant

 

Here’s the translation Karl shared from Robert Sider’s book Christian and Pagan in the Roman Empire:

Any more to add?

 

River-God | Greco-Roman statue