The Three Words That Best Describe You: DRINK! DRANK! DRUNK!

Tobias Smollett, Roderick Random (Chp. XLV):

The ceremonious physician returned immediately and sat down by me, asking a thousand pardons for leaving me alone: and giving me to understand that what he had communicated to Mr. Medlar at the bar, was an affair of the last importance, that would admit of no delay. He then called for some coffee, and launched out into the virtues of that berry, which, he said, in cold phlegmatic constitutions, like his, dried up the superfluous moisture, and braced the relaxed nerves. He told me it was utterly unknown to the ancients; and derived its name from an Arabian word, which I might easily perceive by the sound and termination. From this topic he transferred his disquisitions to the verb drink, which he affirmed was improperly applied to the taking of coffee, inasmuch as people did not drink, but sip or sipple that liquor; that the genuine meaning of drinking is to quench one’s thirst, or commit a debauch by swallowing wine; that the Latin word, which conveyed the same idea, was bibere or potare, and that of the Greeks pinein or poteein, though he was apt to believe they were differently used on different occasions: for example—to drink a vast quantity, or, as the vulgar express it, to drink an ocean of liquor, was in Latin potare, and in Greek poteein; and, on the other hand, to use it moderately, was bibere and pinein;—that this was only a conjecture of his, which, however, seemed to be supported by the word bibulous, which is particularly applied to the pores of the skin, and can only drink a very small quantity of the circumambient moisture, by reason of the smallness of their diameters;—whereas, from the verb poteein is derived the substantive potamos, which signifies a river, or vast quantity of liquor. I could not help smiling at this learned and important investigation; and, to recommend myself the more to my new acquaintance, whose disposition I was by this time well informed of, I observed that, what he alleged, did not, to the best of my remembrance, appear in the writings of the ancients; for Horace uses the words poto and bibo indifferently for the same purpose, as in the twentieth Ode of his first Book.

    “Vile potabis modicis sabinum cantharis—
    —Et praelo domitam caleno tu bibes uvam.”

That I had never heard of the verb poteein, but that potamos, potema, and potos, were derived from pino, poso, pepoka, in consequence of which, the Greek poets never use any other word for festal drinking. Homer describes Nestor at his cups in these words,

    “Nestora d'ouk elathen iache pinonta perempes.”

And Anacreon mentions it on the same occasion always in every page.

          “Pinonti de oinon hedun.
          Otan pino ton oinon.
          Opliz' ego de pino.”

And in a thousand other places. The doctor who doubtless intended by his criticism to give me a high idea of his erudition, was infinitely surprised to find himself schooled by one of my appearance; and after a considerable pause cried, “Upon my word, you are in the right, sir—I find I have not considered this affair with my usual accuracy.” Then, accosting me in Latin, which he spoke very well, the conversation was maintained full two hours, on a variety of subjects, in that language; and indeed he spoke so judiciously, that I was convinced, notwithstanding his whimsical appearance and attention to trifles, that he was a man of extensive knowledge, especially in books; he looked upon me, as I afterwards understood from Mr. Medlar, as a prodigy in learning, and proposed that very night, if I were not engaged, to introduce me to several young gentlemen of fortune and fashion, with whom I had an appointment at the Bedford coffee house.

File:Roderick Random (a licentiate from Scotland) facing a board Wellcome V0010902.jpg

Improving on Antiquity

Coluccio Salutati, de Laboribus Herculis 1.7.11

“The investigations of any science would quickly dry up if posterity had accepted each field’s principles with such simplicity that it thought nothing therein worth inquiring after but what the original thinkers either could or would make known. Indeed, our sciences have grown mature by successive and continual gradations; and, by the force of new and daily considerations, many things have been discovered which not only could escape, but in fact did escape the notice of the first thinkers.”

Image result for coluccio salutati

Nimis etenim arida foret cuiuslibet artis speculatio si que ex arte dicta sunt adeo simpliciter posteritas recepisset quod nichil in eis duceret speculandum nisi quod inventores ipsi potuerint vel voluerint declarare. Adoleverunt equidem artes successivis et continuis incrementis, et novis in dies considerationibus multa sunt deprehensa que priscos illos nedum latere potuerunt sed sine dubio latuerunt.

A Tyranny of Luck and a Stranger

Sallust, Letter to Caesar 2.3

“While the courts just as in previous eras have been run by the three orders, those political factions still rule them: they give and take what they may, giving the innocent the runaround and heaping honors on their own. Neither crime nor shame nor public disgrace disqualifies them from office. They rob, despoil whomever they please. And finally, as if the city has been sacked, they rely on their own lust and excess instead of the laws.

And for me this would only be a source of limited grief if, in their typical fashion, they were pursuing a victory born from excellence. But the laziest of people whose total strength and excellence come from their tongue are arrogantly administering a tyranny gained through luck and from another person! For what treason or civil discord has obliterated so many families? Who whose spirit was ever so hasty and extreme in victory?”

Iudicia tametsi, sicut antea, tribus ordinibus tradita sunt, tamen idem illi factiosi regunt, dant, adimunt quae lubet, innocentis circumveniunt, suos ad honorem extollunt. Non facinus, non probrum aut flagitium obstat, quo minus magistratus capiant. Quos commodum est trahunt, rapiunt; postremo tamquam urbe capta libidine ac licentia sua pro legibus utuntur.

Ac me quidem mediocris dolor angeret, si virtute partam victoriam more suo per servitium exercerent. Sed homines inertissimi, quorum omnis vis virtusque in lingua sita est, forte atque alterius socordia dominationem oblatam insolentes agitant. Nam quae seditio aut dissensio civilis tot tam illustris familias ab stirpe evertit? Aut quorum umquam in victoria animus tam praeceps tamque inmoderatus fuit?

 

Image result for ancient roman politics

Longing for Something Known

Lucretius, De Rerum Natura 2.349–356

“Offspring are able to recognize their mother by no other way
And neither may a mother know her children—a thing which we can see
No less than people may clearly be known among themselves.

For often before the sacred shrines of the gods a calf falls
Slaughtered alongside the incense-fuming altars,
Breathing out a warm river of blood from her chest.
The mother wanders in grief through the green thickets
And recognizes the prints pressed into the ground by cloven feet
As she examines every place open to her eyes if she can see
Anywhere her lost child, only stopping in the thick woods
To fill the world with her mourning. How often she returns
To the stable, broken with longing for her child.
Tender shoots of willow and new-grown grass soft with due
Are not able to relieve her spirit or lighten anxiety’s burden.
And the sight of other calves amid the happy fields
Can neither distract her spirit nor touch her worries—
This is how much she longs for something her own and known.”

nec ratione alia proles cognoscere matrem
nec mater posset prolem; quod posse videmus
nec minus atque homines inter se nota cluere.
nam saepe ante deum vitulus delubra decora
turicremas propter mactatus concidit aras
sanguinis expirans calidum de pectore flumen;
at mater viridis saltus orbata peragrans
novit humi pedibus vestigia pressa bisulcis,
omnia convisens oculis loca, si queat usquam
conspicere amissum fetum, completque querellis
frondiferum nemus adsistens et crebra revisit
ad stabulum desiderio perfixa iuvenci,
nec tenerae salices atque herbae rore vigentes
fluminaque ulla queunt summis labentia ripis
oblectare animum subitamque avertere curam,
nec vitulorum aliae species per pabula laeta
derivare queunt animum curaque levare
usque adeo quiddam proprium notumque requirit.

found on pinterest

Philosophers, Brush Your Teeth!

Apuleius, Apologia 7

“I have just noticed certain people here barely containing their laughter, probably because that last speaker was viciously attacking oral health and using the word “dentifrice” with as much anger as no one has ever used for “poison”. Why not? A Philosopher must dismiss no crime, allow nothing corrupt associated with himself, suffer no part of his body to ever be messy or smelly, especially his mouth, something people use openly and obviously all the time whether they try to kiss someone, or attempt to have a conversation, address a large group, or offer prayers in a temple.

Speech leads nearly every human deed and, as the foremost poet says, it begins “at the barrier of the teeth”. Consider someone of fairly elevated speech: he would likely say in his own way that someone who cares about speaking must attend to his mouth beyond the rest of his body because it is the entryway of the mind, the door of speech, the assembly-hall of thoughts.

For my part, I can say that nothing is less fitting to a free person who is educated well than a filthy mouth. The mouth is in that elevated part of the human body, easy to see, needed for speech. In animals, whether wild or domesticated, the mouth is lower and pointed toward feet, near food and footprints. An animal’s mouth is rarely seen except when they are dead or annoyed into biting. For a human, there is nothing you see consider more clearly either when silent or speaking.”

Vidi ego dudum vix risum quosdam tenentis, cum munditias oris videlicet orator ille aspere accusaret et dentifricium tanta indignatione pronuntiaret, quanta nemo quisquam venenum. Quidni? Crimen haud contemnendum philosopho, nihil in se sordidum sinere, nihil uspiam corporis apertum immundum pati ac foetulentum, praesertim os, cuius in propatulo et conspicuo usus homini creberrimus, sive ille cuipiam osculum ferat, seu cum quiquam sermocinetur, sive in auditorio dissertet, sive in templo preces alleget. Omnem quippe hominis actum sermo praeit, qui, ut ait poeta praecipuus, dentium muro proficiscitur. Dares nunc aliquem similiter grandiloquum: diceret suo more cum primis cui ulla fandi cura sit impensius cetero corpore os colendum, quod esset animi vestibulum et orationis ianua et cogitationum comitium. Ego certe pro meo captu dixerim nihil minus quam oris illuviem libero et liberali viro competere, est enim ea pars hominis loco celsa, visu prompta, usu facunda. Nam quidem feris et pecudibus os humile est et deorsum ad pedes deiectum, uestigio et pabulo proximum; nunquam ferme nisi mortuis aut ad morsum exasperatis conspicitur: hominis vero nihil prius tacentis, nihil saepius loquentis contemplere.

By Dupons Brüssel – “Das Album”, page 62-63, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=334108

Rome Should Be Proud Of Its Fall

Petrarch, Against a Man Who Slandered Italy (15):

But what will our detractor do? I know. He will praise the taverns of Gaul – quite fine praise for a teetotaler. I recently went by and saw them entirely wrecked and deserted. He will praise the peace of his fatherland, which I for my part have seen disturbed and anything but peaceful. “But the change there is not as great as in Rome.” Who does not know this and also know the reason for it? The ruin of insignificant things cannot be great, and the people of Gaul are spared this fear. Nothing can fall from the heights if it forever lies in the dirt. Rome therefore fell from on high, but Avignon will never fall. Where could it fall from, or how would it suffer any loss, when it is already nothing?

Roman Capriccio The Pantheon and Other Monuments by Giovanni Paolo Panini.jpg
Giovanni Paolo Pannini, Roman Capriccio

Sed quid aget? Scio. Laudabit Gallie tabernas – pulcra laus sobrii hominis -, quas ego tamen illac nuper transiens et eversas vidi et desertas. Laudabit patrie quietem, quam profecto turbidam inquietamque prospexi. Sed non est ibi mutatio, quanta est Rome. Quis hanc rem reique causam non videt? Minutarum rerum ruina magna esse non potest, procul absunt ab hoc metu: nunquam cadet ex alto, qui in imo iacet. Roma igitur ex alto cecidit, non cadet Avinio. Unde enim caderet, aut quomodo decresceret, que est nichil?

My Heart’s Trouble: On the Death of Young Mothers

Pliny, Letters 4.21

To My Friend Velius Cerialis

“The death of the Helvidii sisters is so sad and bitter! Both from childbirth—each one died while giving birth to a daughter. I am super disturbed, and I do not grieve beyond reason: it seems so mournful to me because motherhood took these most honorable girls in the prime of their life. I feel awful as well for the fate of the infants who are born without mothers and for their noble husbands.

I mourn too on my own part. I have continued loving their father since he died as is proved in my actions and my publications since. Now only one of his three children remain, he alone supports and sustains a household which just a little time ago relied on many pillars.

My sorrow may grow quiet despite such trouble if fate will at least keep him safe, strong, and sound and an equal man to his father and his grandfather. I have more anxiety for his safety and habits now because he is alone. You know my heart’s trouble, you know my fear in love—it will not surprise you any less, then, that I fear more about one for whom I have more hope. Goodbye.”

C. Plinius Velio Ceriali Suo S.

Tristem et acerbum casum Helvidiarum sororum! Utraque a partu, utraque filiam enixa decessit. Adficior dolore, nec tamen supra modum doleo: ita mihi luctuosum videtur, quod puellas honestissimas in flore primo fecunditas abstulit. Angor infantium sorte, quae sunt parentibus statim et dum nascuntur orbatae, angor optimorum maritorum, angor etiam meo nomine. Nam patrem illarum defunctum quoque perseverantissime diligo, ut actione mea librisque testatum est; cui nunc unus ex tribus liberis superest, domumque pluribus adminiculis paulo ante fundatam desolatus fulcit ac sustinet. Magno tamen fomento dolor meus adquiescet, si hunc saltem fortem et incolumem, paremque illi patri illi avo fortuna servaverit. Cuius ego pro salute pro moribus, hoc sum magis anxius quod unicus factus est. Nosti in amore mollitiam animi mei, nosti metus; quo minus te mirari oportebit, quod plurimum timeam, de quo plurimum spero. Vale.

Marble Grave Stele, Greek 450 BCE (MET)