The Worst Form of Arrogance

Petrarch, Secretum 4.12 (Augustine speaking)

“Insulting other people is by far a more importunate type of arrogance than elevating yourself beyond your merits; I would have much preferred that you talked everyone else up (though you placed yourself ahead of them) than that you arrogantly took up the shield of humility after stomping  everyone under your heel.”

Multo quidem importunius superbie genus est alios deprimere quam se ipsum debito magis attollere; longeque maluissem ceteros magnificares, te quanquam ceteris anteferres, quam calcatis omnibus ex alieno superbissime tibi clipeum humilitatis assumeres.

The Fable of the Exploding Frog

Phaedrus 1.24 The Exploding Frog

A poor man, when he tries to imitate the powerful, dies.
Once in a meadow a frog saw a bull
Whose great size exerted on her such a pull
That she inflated her wrinkled skin and asked
Her children whether she was bigger than that.
They denied it and she puffed herself out self again
But when she asked who was bigger, they said “him”.
Finally angry, she didn’t want to blow it,
She puffed again and her body exploded.”


I.24. Rana Rupta

Inops, potentem dum vult imitari, perit.
In prato quondam rana conspexit bovem,
et tacta invidia tantae magnitudinis
rugosam inflavit pellem. Tum natos suos
interrogavit an bove esset latior.
Illi negarunt. Rursus intendit cutem
maiore nisu, et simili quaesivit modo,
quis maior esset. Illi dixerunt “bovem”.
Novissime indignata, dum vult validius
inflare sese, rupto iacuit corpore.

Hungry Dogs, Old Lions: More Fables for Our Time

Phaedrus Fabulae

The Hungry Dogs, 1.20

“A foolish plan not only lacks a happy end,
But it invokes doom too for mortal men.
Some dogs saw a hide half sunk in a stream,
In order to get it and eat it with ease
They began to drink the water up: but they burst
And died before they could grab what they wanted first.”

I.20. Canes Famelici

Stultum consilium non modo effectu caret,
sed ad perniciem quoque mortalis devocat.
Corium depressum in fluvio viderunt canes.
Id ut comesse extractum possent facilius,
aquam coepere ebibere: sed rupti prius
periere quam quod petierant contingerent.

The Elderly Lion, 1.21

“Whoever has lost his ancient dignity
Is a joke to baser men in the midst of grave mistake.
A lion worn by years and deprived of his strength,
Was at last lying prone and ready to take
His last breath as a boar came foaming with bright teeth
And avenged an ancient wound with a strike.
Soon a bull gored him too with horns beneath
His enemy flesh. Even a donkey, when he knew
He could hurt him without harm, kicked his head anew.
But as he breathed out at last, the lion said:
“Without merit I endured the insults of the strong.
But, because of you, nature’s joke, I now seem twice-dead!”


I.21. Leo Senex

Quicumque amisit dignitatem pristinam,
ignavis etiam iocus est in casu gravi.
Defectus annis et desertus viribus
leo cum iaceret spiritum extremum trahens,
aper fulmineis spumans venit dentibus,
et vindicavit ictu veterem iniuriam.
Infestis taurus mox confodit cornibus
hostile corpus. Asinus, ut vidit ferum
impune laedi, calcibus frontem extudit.
At ille exspirans “Fortis indigne tuli
mihi insultare: Te, Naturae dedecus,
quod ferre certe cogor bis videor mori”.

How to Learn Latin

John Milton, Tractate on Education: 

“For the studies, first they should begin with the chief and necessary rules of some good grammar, either that now used, or any better: and while this is doing, their speech is to be fashioned to a distinct and clear pronunciation, as near as may be to the Italian, especially in the vowels. For we Englishmen being far northerly, do not open our mouths in the cold air, wide enough to grace a southern tongue; but are observed by all other nations to speak exceeding close and inward: So that to smatter Latin with an English mouth, is as ill a hearing as Law-French. Next to make them expert in the usefulest points of grammar, and withal to season them, and win them early to the love of virtue and true labor, ere any flattering seducement, or vain principle seize them wandering, some easy and delightful book of education would be read to them; whereof the Greeks have store, as Cebes, Plutarch, and other Socratic discourses. But in Latin we have none of classic authority extant, except the two or three first books of Quintilian, and some select pieces elsewhere. But here the main skill and groundwork will be, to temper them such lectures and explanations upon every opportunity as may lead and draw them in willing obedience, inflamed with the study of learning, and the admiration of virtue; stirred up with high hopes of living to be brave men, and worthy patriots, dear to God, and famous to all ages. That they may despise and scorn all their childish, and ill-taught qualities, to delight in manly, and liberal exercises: which he who hath the art, and proper eloquence to catch them with, what with mild and effectual persuasions, and what with the intimation of some fear, if need be, but chiefly by his own example, might in a short space gain them to an incredible diligence and courage: infusing into their young breasts such an ingenuous and noble ardor, as would not fail to make many of them renowned and matchless men.”

Giving Birth: Some Fables from Phaedrus

A Woman Giving Birth, Phaedrus 1.18

No one happily returns to the place of her wound
When the months had past and birth was soon
A woman was lying on the ground, releasing tremulous moans.
Her husband was trying to get her to climb onto her bed
So she could more easily deliver nature’s burden.
“No,” she said, “I don’t think an evil can be relieved
In the very place where it was first conceived.”

I.18. Mulier Parturiens

Nemo libenter recolit qui laesit locum.
Instante partu mulier actis mensibus
humi iacebat, flebilis gemitus ciens.
Vir est hortatus, corpus lecto reciperet,
onus naturae melius quo deponeret.
“Minime” inquit “illo posse confido loco
malum finiri quo conceptum est initio”.


A Dog Giving Birth

“The sweet whispers of an evil man are really a trap,
We should avoid them: the following verses tell us that.
When a dog in labor asked another
If she might enter her home to become a mother
She entered easily and begged again in pleas
Asking for a bit more time, to take her leave
When the pups were strong enough to flee.
When this time too had come and gone
And she asked more strongly for them to move on,
She said if you are equal to my pack all alone,
Then I will gladly now leave your home.”

I.19. Canis Parturiens

Habent insidias hominis blanditiae mali;
quas ut vitemus, versus subiecti monent.
Canis parturiens cum rogasset alteram,
ut fetum in eius tugurio deponeret,
facile impetravit. Dein reposcenti locum
preces admovit, tempus exorans breve,
dum firmiores catulos posset ducere.
Hoc quoque consumpto flagitari validius
cubile coepit. “Si mihi et turbae meae
par” inquit “esse potueris, cedam loco”.

A Fanciful Story with a Surprising Climax

Yesterday Palaiophron posted a poem from the Greek Anthology on Praxiteles’ famous statue of Aphrodite on Knidos. Later accounts repeat a memorable anecdote.

Pliny the Elder, Natural History 36.4 (21)

“Later, Nicomedes the king wanted to buy the statue from the Knidians, promising to unburden the state of its public debt, which was immense. They preferred to live with this and not without good reason—for Praxiteles ennobled Knidos with this sculpture. Its temple is open all around so that it is possible to see the goddess’ image from every direction. The goddess favors this herself, as the story goes. There is no less sense of wonder from any direction. They report that a certain man was taken with love for it and, once he had hidden himself for the night, he let himself loose upon the image, and there is a stain to show his desire.”

voluit eam a Cnidiis postea mercari rex Nicomedes, totum aes alienum, quod erat ingens, civitatis dissoluturum se promittens. omnia perpeti maluere, nec inmerito; illo enim signo Praxiteles nobilitavit Cnidum. aedicula eius tot aperitur, ut conspici possit undique effigies deae, favente ipsa, ut creditur, facta. nec minor ex quacumque parte admiratio est. ferunt amore captum quendam, cum delituisset noctu, simulacro cohaesisse, eiusque cupiditatis esse indicem maculam.

Valerius Maximus, Memorable Deeds and Sayings 8.2 ext 3

“Praxiteles centered the wife of Vulcan in marble in the Knidians’ temple as if she were breathing—and she was barely safe from a lustful embrace because of the beauty of the work. In this, a mistake is rather excusable for a horse who, when he sees the picture of a mare is compelled to utter a neigh; or when a dog is excited by the sight of a painted dog to bark; or the bull in Syracuse who was compelled to lust after and mount a bronze cow that was just too close to real. Why, then, should we be amazed that animals who lack reason are deceived by art, when we see a man’s sacrilegious desire elicited by the shape of silent stone?”

Cuius coniugem Praxiteles in marmore quasi spirantem in templo Cnidiorum collocavit, propter pulchritudinem operis a libidinoso cuiusdam complexu parum tutam. quo excusabilior est error equi, qui visa pictura equae hinnitum edere coactus est, et canum latratus aspectu picti canis incitatus, taurusque ad amorem et concubitum aeneae vaccae Syracusis nimiae similitudinis irritamento compulsus: quid enim vacua rationis animalia arte decepta miremur, cum hominis sacrilegam cupiditatem muti lapidis liniamentis excitatam videamus?

Image result for knidian venus

I cannot quite gauge ValMax’s tone here–is he completely sanguine about this anecdote? How might our current, pornographically advanced society strike him? How would he feel about the ethics of sex with robots and its threat against the future of humanity?

You Didn’t Read Today? You Have No Excuse!

Vergerio, de ingenuis moribus et liberalibus adulescentiae studiis, LIV:

“Everything will turn out well enough if our time is disposed of properly, if we on every day give fixed hours to the pursuit of literature, and he we are never dragged away by any business which prevents us from reading something every day. For, if Alexander was in the habit of reading much in his camp, and if Caesar wrote books as he was setting off with his army, and if Augustus after undertaking something so great in the Battle of Mutina nevertheless always read or wrote or declaimed every day in his tent, what could come upon us in our urban leisure which could call us far off from the study of literature? It is useful, however, for us to consider even the smallest loss of time as a great one; we should also keep an account of our time, just as we do of our life and health, so that nothing is uselessly lost, as when we commit our idle hours, (and those which others commit to leisure) to lighter studies or a bit of pleasant reading.”

Fient autem commode omnia si rite tempora dispensabuntur, si singulis diebus statutas horas litteris dabimus, neque ullo negotio abstrahemur quominus aliquid quotidie legamus. Nam si Alexander in castris lectitare plurimum solebat, si Caesar etiam cum exercitu proficiscens libros scribebat, et Augustus Mutinensi bello rem tantam adortus, semper tamen in castris legere aut scribere quotidieque declamitare consueverat, quid poterit urbano otio intervenire quod nos diu prorsus a litterarum studiis avocet? Utile autem est, ut vel cuiuslibet minimi temporis iacturam pro magna deputemus, et ita temporis, quemadmodum et vitae ac salutis, rationem habeamus, ut nihil inutiliter nobis depereat, veluti si inertes horas et quae apud ceteros otiosae sunt aut studiis levioribus dabimus aut lectione iucunda transigemus.