Cicero On Using “Leftover Time” for Writing Projects

Cicero, Laws 1.8-10

M. I do understand that I have been promising this work for a long time now, Atticus. It is something I would not refuse if any bit of open and free time were allotted to me. A work as momentous as this cannot be taken up when one’s efforts are occupied and his mind is elsewhere. It is really necessary to be free from worry and business.

A. What about the other things you have written more of than any of our people? What free time did you have set aside then?

M. These ‘leftover moments’ occur and I will not suffer wasting them—as when there are some days set aside for going to the country, I write something equal to what the number of days allow. But a history cannot be begun unless there is dedicated time and it can’t be completed in a short time. I habitually weigh down my thought when, once I have started, I am distracted by something else. And once a project is interrupted, I do not finish what was started easily.”

M. Intellego equidem a me istum laborem iam diu postulari, Attice; quem non recusarem, si mihi ullum tribueretur vacuum tempus et liberum; neque enim occupata opera neque inpedito animo res tanta suscipi potest; utrumque opus est, et cura vacare et negotio.

A. Quid ad cetera. quae scripsisti plura quam quisquam e nostris? quod tibi tandem tempus vacuum fuit concessum?

M. Subsiciva quaedam tempora incurrunt, quae ego perire non patior, ut, si qui dies ad rusticandum dati sint, ad eorum numerum adcommodentur quae scribimus. historia vero nec institui potest nisi praeparato otio nec exiguo tempore absolvi, et ego animi pendere soleo, cum semel quid orsus sum,1 si traducor alio, neque tam facile interrupta contexo quam absolvo instituta.

I encourage everyone to copy “Intellego equidem a me istum laborem iam diu postulari” and paste it liberally into emails explaining why you have yet to complete that review, abstract, etc. etc. Take a break for a day or a nap for an hour. Let Cicero speak for you!

 

Image result for ancient scholars writing
Image taken from this blog

After the Body, The Mind Fades Away

Seneca, Moral Epistle 26.1-3

“I was recently explaining to you that I am in sight of my old age—but now I fear that I have put old age behind me! There is some different word better fit to these years, or at least to this body, since old age seems to be a tired time, not a broken one. Count me among the weary and those just touching the end.

Despite all this, I still am grateful to myself, with you to witness it. For I do not sense harm to my mind from age even though I feel it in my body. Only my weaknesses—and their tools—have become senile. My mind is vigorous and it rejoices that it depends upon the body for little. It has disposed of the greater portion of its burden. It celebrates and argues with me about old age. It says that this is its flowering. Let’s believe it, let it enjoy its own good.

My mind commands that I enter into contemplation and I think about what debt I owe to wisdom for this tranquility and modesty of ways and what portion is due to my age. It asks that I think about what I am incapable of doing in contrast to what I do not wish to do, whether I am happy because I don’t want something or I don’t want something because I lack the ability to pursue it.

For, what complaint is there or what problem is it if something which was supposed to end has ended? “But,” you interject, “it is the worst inconvenience to wear out, to be diminished, or, if I can say it properly, to dissolve. For we are not suddenly struck down and dead, we are picked away at! Each individual day subtracts something from our strength!”

But, look, is there a better way to end than to drift off to your proper exit as nature itself releases you? There is nothing too bad in a sudden strike which takes life away immediately, but this way is easy, to be led off slowly.”

Modo dicebam tibi, in conspectu esse me senectutis; iam vereor, ne senectutem post me reliquerim. Aliud iam his annis, certe huic corpori, vocabulum convenit, quoniam quidem senectus lassae aetatis, non fractae, nomen est; inter decrepitos me numera et extrema tangentis.

Gratias tamen mihi apud te ago; non sentio in animo aetatis iniuriam, cum sentiam in corpore. Tantum vitia et vitiorum ministeria senuerunt; viget animus et gaudet non multum sibi esse cum corpore. Magnam partem oneris sui posuit. Exultat et mihi facit controversiam de senectute. Hunc ait esse florem suum. Credamus illi; bono suo utatur. Ire in cogitationem iubet et dispicere, quid ex hac tranquillitate ac modestia morum sapientiae debeam, quid aetati, et diligenter excutere, quae non possim facere, quae nolim †prodesse habiturus ad qui si nolim quidquid non posse me gaudeo.† Quae enim querella est, quod incommodum, si quidquid debebat desinere, defecit? “Incommodum summum est,” inquis, “minui et deperire et, ut proprie dicam, liquescere. Non enim subito inpulsi ac prostrati sumus; carpimur. Singuli dies aliquid subtrahunt viribus.”

Ecquis exitus est melior quam in finem suum natura solvente dilabi? Non quia aliquid mali est ictus et e vita repentinus excessus, sed quia lenis haec est via, subduci.

seneca strength

“Well, Actually, None IS”: Seneca the Elder on Grammatical Pedantry

Seneca the Elder, Suasoriae 2.13, 540 M

“The grammarian Procellus used to claim that [Severus’] line was a solecism because, although he indicated many were speaking, he used to say “this is my day” instead of “this is our day”. And in this he was carping at the best part of a great poem. For, it is feeble if you make it “our” instead of my—all of the verse’s elegance will disappear.

For its greatest decorum is in this line and it comes from the vernacular (for, “this is my day” is something like a proverb). If, in addition, you reconsider the sense, then the grammarian’s pedantry—which should be kept away from all of the better minds—has no place at all. For, they did not all speak together as a chorus might with a leader guiding them, but each one spoke individually, “this is my day.”

Illud Porcellus grammaticus arguebat in hoc versu quasi soloecismum quod, cum plures induxisset, diceret: “hic meus est dies,” non: “hic noster est,” et in sententia optima id accusabat quod erat optimum. Muta enim ut “noster” sit: peribit omnis versus elegantia, in quo hoc est decentissimum, quod ex communi sermone trahitur; nam quasi proverbii loco est: “hic dies meus est”; et, cum ad sensum rettuleris, ne grammaticorum quidem calumnia ab omnibus magnis ingeniis summovenda habebit locum; dixerunt enim non omnes simul tamquam in choro manum ducente grammatico, sed singuli ex iis: “hic meus est dies.”

this is my day, punk.

Latin vs. Philology, Part XV:

Francesco Filelfo, Letter to Lorenzo Medici (Part 15)

As it was, among the Athenians, one thing to speak Attic and another to speak grammatically, so too the same difference may be observed among the Romans, that there is one mode for Latinity, and another for literature, but it is nevertheless a small distinction. This is obvious from the nouns which are found in both the fourth and second declensions.

For, words like ornatus, tumultus, senatus, victus, and many others of this sort have genitives, grammatically speaking, which end in –us, as huius ornatus, huius tumultus, huius senatus, huius victus, though they are declined in Latin as ornatus ornati, tumultus tumulti, senatus senati, and victus victi.

In the same way, nouns of the fifth declension will for the most part take, according to the grammarians, nominatives in –es and genitives in –ei, as for example barbaries barbariei, segnities segnitiei, duricies duriciei, mollicies molliciei, but in actual Latin use, the nominative ends in –a and the genitive in the diphthong –ae, as barbaria barbariae, segnitia segnitiae, duricia duriciae, mollicia molliciae.

Bearing on this, one may observe in actual Latin the use of the word nex in the nominative, which the rules of the grammarians prohibit.

The grammarians would also argue that the word sponte is in the ablative and lacking all of the other cases. But Cornelius Celsus shows that actual Latin uses the word differently, when he writes in the first book of his Art of Medicine, ‘A healthy person, who is in good health and in possession of their own will, should bind himself to no set rules.’

So, I say, Latin speech is common and known to all, but literary speech is not so. But while it is primarily restricted to the educated and the learned, yet it is such that it can correct and nourish Latin speech which has become degraded.”

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Et ut apud Athenienses aliud erat attice loqui, aliud grammatice, eadem quoque differentia fuit apud Romanos, ut alia esset latinitatis ratio, et litteraturae alia, sed ea tamen admodum parva: quod patet in iis nominibus quae et in quarta reperiuntur et in secunda declinatione.

Nam ornatus, tumultus, senatus, victus multaque huiusmodi emittunt grammatice genitivos in – us, ut huius ornatus, huius tumultus, huius senatus, huius victus, cum latine declinentur ornatus -ti, tumultus -ti, senatus -ti et victus victi.

Et eodem modo quintae declinationis nomina secundum grammaticos emittunt, maiore ex parte, rectos in -es et genitivos in -ei, ut barbaries barbariei, segnities segnitiei, duricies duriciei, mollicies molliciei, quae in recto, secundum latinitatem, desinunt in -a et in genitivo in -ae diphtongon, ut barbaria barbariae, segnitia segnitiae, duricia duriciae, mollicia molliciae.

Ad haec latine reperitur nex in casu nominativo, quod grammaticorum praecepta prohibent.

Et sponte grammatice ablativum habere volunt, caeteris autem casibus carere. At latinitatem aliter eo uti ostendit Cornelius Celsus, qui libro primo suae artis medicae ita ait: “Sanus homo, qui et bene valet et suae spontis est, nullis obligare se legibus debet”.
Latinus, inquam, sermo et vulgaris erat et omnibus cognitus, litteralis vero non ita prorsus, sed viris peritis ac doctis duntaxat, caeterum talis qui depravatam latinitatem et emendaret et aleret.

Telling Teacher about Groin Pain

Marcus Aurelius to Fronto, 148–149 a.d. 

“I have learned that you have pain in your groin, my teacher. Because I remember how much trouble this pain usually gives you, I myself am suffering the worst worry. But my hope that in the time it took for this news to come to me that pain has potentially given in to applications and treatments lessons my worry. We are at this point enduring the summer heat, but our little girls—may it be permitted to say—are growing well. We suspect we are enduring healthy weather and spring temperatures. Goodbye, best of teachers.”

Magistro meo salutem.

Doluisse te inguina cognosco, mi magister, et quom recordor quantam vexationem tibi iste dolor adferre soleat, gravissimam sollicitudinem patior. Sed me levat quod spero illo spatio, quo perferebatur huc1 nuntius, potuisse cedere fomentis et remediis illam vim doloris. Nos aestivos calores adhuc experimur, sed quom parvolae nostrae, dixisse liceat, commode valeant, mera salubritate et verna temperie frui existimamus. Vale mi optime magister.

 

For the second part we have the better translation from Marius Ivașcu  “We are still experiencing the scorching heat of summer, but as long as our little ones – if we may say so – are feeling comfortable – we reckon we are enjoying pure health and springly mildness.” 

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Persius Addresses a Petulant Man-Baby

Persius, Satires 3.15-19

“Fool, more foolish with each passing day,
Is this what we’ve come to? Ah, why not just be like
A little pigeon or a baby prince and insist on eating chopped up food
Or stop your mom from singing to you because you’re so angry?”

“o miser inque dies ultra miser, hucine rerum
venimus? a, cur non potius teneroque columbo
et similis regum pueris pappare minutum
poscis et iratus mammae lallare recusas?”

Livre d’astrologie, France, XIVe siècle
Paris, BnF, département des Manuscrits, Latin 7344, fol. 7v.

Give Me The Books! Legacy Hunter, Bibliophile Edition

Cicero to Atticus, 1.20 12 May 60

“Now, so I might return to my own affair, Lucius Papirius Paetus, a good man and my fan, has set aside as a gift for me the books which Servius Claudius left. Because your friend Cincius informed me that it is permitted thanks to the Lex Cincias for me to take them, I told him happily that I would accept the books if he brought them to me. Now, if you care for me and you know that I care for you too, please endeavor through your friends, clients, guests even your freedmen and slaves if necessary, to ensure that not even a page is lost.

For I seriously need both the Greek books—which I have an idea about—and the Latin ones—which I know that he left. Day-by-day I find rest for myself in these books in whatever time is left for me from my political work. I will be really, really thankful if you would be as diligent in this as you are usually in the affairs which you understand concern me deeply. I also entrust to you Paetus’ personal business, concerning which he owes you the greatest thanks. And I not only ask but I even implore you to visit us soon.”

7 Nunc ut ad rem meam redeam, L. Papirius Paetus, vir bonus amatorque noster, mihi libros eos quos Ser. Claudius reliquit donavit. cum mihi per legem Cinciam licere capere Cincius amicus tuus diceret, libenter dixi me accepturum si attulisset. nunc si me amas, si te a me amari scis, enitere per amicos, clientis, hospites, libertos denique ac servos tuos, ut scida ne qua depereat. nam et Graecis iis libris quos suspicor et Latinis quos scio illum reliquisse mihi vehementer opus est. ego autem cottidie magis quod mihi de forensi labore temporis datur in iis studiis conquiesco. per mihi, per, inquam, gratum feceris si in hoc tam diligens fueris quam soles in iis rebus quas me valde velle arbitraris, ipsiusque Paeti tibi negotia commendo, de quibus tibi ille agit maximas gratias, et ut iam invisas nos non solum rogo sed etiam suadeo.

15th century Bologna, University Library. Cod. Bonon. 963, f. 4

 

Cicero might be a bit of a bibliomaniac. We have posted earlier about his letter to his brother, asking for books. He describes returning home as a reunion with his books. (Vergerio riffs on this) Petrarch seems to have contracted a similar disease. (Really, he was incurable.)

Antiquity had an apocryphal moral argument about Cicero earning his life in exchange for burning his books.

And although Mark Tully is all about giving books, he’s not much into lending them:

Letters to Atticus, 8

“Beware of lending your books to anyone; save them for me, as you write that you will. The greatest excitement for them has gripped me, along with a contempt for everything else.”

libros vero tuos cave cuiquam tradas; nobis eos, quem ad modum scribis, conserva. summum me eorum studium tenet, sicut odium iam ceterarum rerum.