Clodius The Monster and the Origin of “Cui Bono”

Cicero, Pro Milone 32

“How, then, is it possible to prove that Clodius conspired against Milo? For such an audacious, nefarious monster it is enough to show that he had a great reason, that great hope resided in the death of Milo, and that there was great purpose to it. And so, let that proverb of Cassius “Who profited from it?” [cui bono fuerit] frame the players on the stage, if truly good men are compelled to deception by no prize while the wicked often are moved by a small one.

Once Milo was killed, Clodius advanced in these ways: not only was he as a praeter under no consul who would do something about his crime, but he was also a praeter serving under consuls with whose plans if not their actually help he hoped that he would be able to get away with his planned insanities. These men, as I am sure we were thinking, would not want to restrain his actions if they could, since they would think about the great benefit they owed him; men who, even if they wanted to, would hardly be capable of squashing the boldness of the most criminal person, an audacity fully strengthened by time.”

Quonam igitur pacto probari potest insidias Miloni fecisse Clodium? Satis est in illa quidem tam audaci, tam nefaria belua docere, magnam ei causam, magnam spem in Milonis morte propositam, magnas utilitates fuisse. Itaque illud Cassianum, “cui bono fuerit,” in his personis valeat, etsi boni nullo emolumento impelluntur in fraudem, improbi saepe parvo. Atqui Milone interfecto Clodius haec adsequebatur, non modo ut praetor esset non eo consule, quo sceleris nihil facere posset, sed etiam ut eis consulibus praetor esset, quibus si non adiuvantibus, at coniventibus certe speraret posse se eludere in illis suis cogitatis furoribus: cuius illi conatus, ut ipse ratiocinabatur, nec cuperent reprimere, si possent, cum tantum beneficium ei se debere arbitrarentur, et, si vellent, fortasse vix possent frangere hominis sceleratissimi conroboratam iam vetustate audaciam.

The Cassius in question is L. Cassius Longinus, Tribune of the Plebs in 127 BCE . We have mentioned the polarizing P. Clodius Pulcher before.

Cicero was a fan of this saying.

Cicero, Pro Sexto Roscio Amerino, 84

The famous Lucius Cassius, whom the Roman people used to consider the most truthful and wisest judge, often used to say in evaluating cases “who stood to profit” [cui bono fuisset]. This is the human way: no one pursues a crime without the hope of some profit.”

Cassius ille, quem populus Romanus verissimum et sapientissimum iudicem putabat, identidem in causis quaerere solebat, “cui bono” fuisset. Sic vita hominum est, ut ad maleficium nemo conetur sine spe atque emolumento accedere.

Roman Coin depicting Vestal Virgin on one side and L. Cassius on the other (he famously prosecuted the Vestal Virgins for not being chaste)

 

 

“Someone Has to Play Patroclus!”

Herodian, History 4.8:

“Caracalla came to Ilium, and as he visited all of the ruins of the city, he came to the tomb of Achilles. Decorating it lavishly with garlands and flowers, he imitated Achilles again. Seeking a Patroclus, he did something like this. He had a particularly beloved freedman named Festus who was the chief imperial secretary. This man Festus died while Caracalla was in Ilium, and some say that he was taken off by poison so that he could have a funeral like Patroclus, but others say that he simply died of an illness.”

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Jacques-Louis David, The Funeral Games of Patroclus

ἧκεν ἐς ῎Ιλιον. ἐπελθὼν δὲ πάντα τὰ τῆς πόλεως λείψανα, ἧκεν ἐπὶ τὸν ᾿Αχιλλέως τάφον, στεφάνοις τε κοσμήσας καὶ ἄνθεσι πολυτελῶς πάλιν ᾿Αχιλλέα ἐμιμεῖτο. ζητῶν δὲ καὶ Πάτροκλόν τινα ἐποίησέ τι τοιοῦτον. ἦν αὐτῷ τις τῶν ἀπελευθέρων φίλτατος, Φῆστος μὲν ὄνομα, τῆς δὲ βασιλείου μνήμης προεστώς. οὗτος ὄντος αὐτοῦ ἐν ᾿Ιλίῳ ἐτελεύτησεν, ὡς μέν τινες ἔλεγον, φαρμάκῳ ἀναιρεθεὶς ἵν’ ὡς Πάτροκλος ταφῇ, ὡς δ’ ἕτεροι ἔφασκον, νόσῳ διαφθαρείς.

Literature vs. the Bordello

John Milton, An Apology for Smectymnuus:

Next, (for hear me out now, readers,) that I may tell ye whither my younger feet wandered; I betook me among those lofty fables and romances, which recount in solemn cantoes the deeds of knighthood founded by our victorious kings, and from hence had in renown over all Christendom. There I read it in the oath of every knight, that he should defend to the expense of his best blood, or of his life, if it so befel him, the honour and chastity of virgin or matron; from whence even then I learned what a noble virtue chastity sure must be, to the defence of which so many worthies, by such a dear adventure of themselves had sworn; and if I found in the story afterward, any of them, by word or deed, breaking that oath, I judged it the same fault of the poet, as that which is attributed to Homer, to have written indecent things of the gods: only this my mind gave me, that every free and gentle spirit, without that oath, ought to be born a knight, nor needed to expect the gilt spur, or the laying of a sword upon his shoulder to stir him up both by his counsel and his arms, to secure and protect the weakness of any attempted chastity. So that even these books, which to many others have been the fuel of wantonness and loose living, I cannot think how, unless by divine indulgence, proved to me so many incitements, as you have heard, to the love and steadfast observation of that virtue which abhors the society of bordelloes.

Thus from the laureat fraternity of poets, riper years and the ceaseless round of study and reading led me to the shady spaces of philosophy; but chiefly to the divine volumes of Plato, and his equal Xenophon: where, if I should tell ye what I learnt of chastity and love, I mean that which is truly so, whose charming cup is only virtue, which she bears in her hand to those who are worthy; (the rest are cheated with a thick intoxicating potion, which a certain sorceress, the abuser of love’s name, carries about;) and how the first and chiefest office of love begins and ends in the soul, producing those happy twins of her divine generation, knowledge and virtue: with such abstracted sublimities as these, it might be worth your listening, readers, as I may one day hope to have ye in a still time, when there shall be no chiding; not in these noises, the adversary, as ye know, barking at the door, or searching for me at the bordelloes, where it may be he has lost himself, and raps up without pity the sage and rheumatic old prelatess, with all her young Corinthian laity, to inquire for such a one. Last of all, not in time, but as perfection is last, that care was ever had of me, with my earliest capacity, not to be negligently trained in the precepts of Christian religion: this that I have hitherto related, hath been to show, that though Christianity had been but slightly taught me, yet a certain reservedness of natural disposition, and moral discipline, learnt out of the noblest philosophy, was enough to keep me in disdain of far less incontinences than this of the bordello.

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The old Miltonic maneuver.

Latin Reading for the Decadent

Compton Mackenzie, Sinister Street:

“There on my shelves are all the ages. I have spoken to you of Petronius, of Lucian and Apuleius. There is Suetonius, with his incredibly improper tales that show how beastliness takes root and flowers from the deposited muck of a gossip’s mind. There is Tacitus, ever willing to sacrifice decency to antithesis, and Ausonius, whose ribald verses are like monkish recreation; yet he had withal a pretty currency of honest silver Latin, Christian though he was. You must read your Latin authors well, for, since you must be decadent, it is better to decay from a good source. And neglect not the Middle Ages. You will glide most easily into them from the witches and robbers of Apuleius. You will read Boccaccio, whose tales are intaglios carved with exquisitely licentious and Lilliputian scenes. Neither forget Villon, whose light ladies seem ever to move elusively in close-cut gowns of cloth-of-gold and incredibly tall steeple-hats. But even with Villon the world becomes complicated, and you will soon reach the temperamental entanglements of the nineteenth century, for you may avoid the coarse, the beery and besotted obviousness of the Georgian age.”

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F**k Aristotle [FTS Week]

Petrarch, de sua multorumque ignorantia:

I think that Aristotle was a great and learned man, but also that he was just a human, and for that reason I think that there are some things – nay, many things, which he was unable to know. I would say a little more if it be allowed by those who are better friends to sects than to the truth. I believe, and by Hercules I don’t doubt it, that he went totally off the rails not only in small matters (in which a mistake is a small and hardly dangerous thing), but even in the greatest things which bear upon the key point of our health. And though he may have discussed many things concerning felicity in the beginning and in the end of his Ethics, I will dare to say – and my detractors may shout as they like – that he was so deeply ignorant of true happiness that any pious old lady, or fisherman, or faithful pastor, or farmer would be happier, and perhaps even more subtle, in their knowledge of it.

Ego vero magnum quendam virum ac multiscium Aristotilem, sed fuisse hominem, et idcirco aliqua, imo et multa nescire potuisse arbitror; plus dicam, si per istos liceat non tam veri amicos quam sectarum: credo hercle, nec dubito, illum non in rebus tantum parvis, quarum parvus et minime periculosus est error, sed in maximis et spectantibus ad salutis summam aberrasse tota, ut aiunt, via. Et licet multa Ethicorum in principio et in fine de felicitate tractaverit, audebo dicere — clament ut libuerit censores mei — veram illum felicitatem sic penitus ignorasse, ut in eius cognitione, non dico subtilior, sed felicior fuerit vel quelibet anus pia, vel piscator pastorve fidelis, vel agricola.

F**k Sunsets, We Want Greek Heroes! [FTS Week]

Mark Twain, The Innocents Abroad:

“But what were sunsets to us, with the wild excitement upon us of approaching the most renowned of cities! What cared we for outward visions, when Agamemnon, Achilles, and a thousand other heroes of the great Past were marching in ghostly procession through our fancies? What were sunsets to us, who were about to live and breathe and walk in actual Athens; yea, and go far down into the dead centuries and bid in person for the slaves, Diogenes and Plato, in the public market-place, or gossip with the neighbors about the siege of Troy or the splendid deeds of Marathon? We scorned to consider sunsets.

We arrived, and entered the ancient harbor of the Piraeus at last. We dropped anchor within half a mile of the village. Away off, across the undulating Plain of Attica, could be seen a little square-topped hill with a something on it, which our glasses soon discovered to be the ruined edifices of the citadel of the Athenians, and most prominent among them loomed the venerable Parthenon. So exquisitely clear and pure is this wonderful atmosphere that every column of the noble structure was discernible through the telescope, and even the smaller ruins about it assumed some semblance of shape. This at a distance of five or six miles. In the valley, near the Acropolis, (the square-topped hill before spoken of,) Athens itself could be vaguely made out with an ordinary lorgnette. Every body was anxious to get ashore and visit these classic localities as quickly as possible. No land we had yet seen had aroused such universal interest among the passengers.”

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F**k Those Vergilian Bees! [FTS Week]

Charles Dickens, Our Mutual Friend (Chapter 8):

So that instruction, too, was taken by Mr Lightwood; and Mr Lightwood, having taken it, was in the act of showing Mr Boffin out, when Mr Eugene Wrayburn almost jostled him in the door-way. Consequently Mr Lightwood said, in his cool manner, ‘Let me make you two known to one another,’ and further signified that Mr Wrayburn was counsel learned in the law, and that, partly in the way of business and partly in the way of pleasure, he had imparted to Mr Wrayburn some of the interesting facts of Mr Boffin’s biography.

‘Delighted,’ said Eugene—though he didn’t look so—‘to know Mr Boffin.’

‘Thankee, sir, thankee,’ returned that gentleman. ‘And how do you like the law?’

‘A—not particularly,’ returned Eugene.

‘Too dry for you, eh? Well, I suppose it wants some years of sticking to, before you master it. But there’s nothing like work. Look at the bees.’

‘I beg your pardon,’ returned Eugene, with a reluctant smile, ‘but will you excuse my mentioning that I always protest against being referred to the bees?’

‘Do you!’ said Mr Boffin.

‘I object on principle,’ said Eugene, ‘as a biped—’

‘As a what?’ asked Mr Boffin.

‘As a two-footed creature;—I object on principle, as a two-footed creature, to being constantly referred to insects and four-footed creatures. I object to being required to model my proceedings according to the proceedings of the bee, or the dog, or the spider, or the camel. I fully admit that the camel, for instance, is an excessively temperate person; but he has several stomachs to entertain himself with, and I have only one. Besides, I am not fitted up with a convenient cool cellar to keep my drink in.’

‘But I said, you know,’ urged Mr Boffin, rather at a loss for an answer, ‘the bee.’

‘Exactly. And may I represent to you that it’s injudicious to say the bee? For the whole case is assumed. Conceding for a moment that there is any analogy between a bee, and a man in a shirt and pantaloons (which I deny), and that it is settled that the man is to learn from the bee (which I also deny), the question still remains, what is he to learn? To imitate? Or to avoid? When your friends the bees worry themselves to that highly fluttered extent about their sovereign, and become perfectly distracted touching the slightest monarchical movement, are we men to learn the greatness of Tuft-hunting, or the littleness of the Court Circular? I am not clear, Mr Boffin, but that the hive may be satirical.’

‘At all events, they work,’ said Mr Boffin.

‘Ye-es,’ returned Eugene, disparagingly, ‘they work; but don’t you think they overdo it? They work so much more than they need—they make so much more than they can eat—they are so incessantly boring and buzzing at their one idea till Death comes upon them—that don’t you think they overdo it? And are human labourers to have no holidays, because of the bees? And am I never to have change of air, because the bees don’t? Mr Boffin, I think honey excellent at breakfast; but, regarded in the light of my conventional schoolmaster and moralist, I protest against the tyrannical humbug of your friend the bee. With the highest respect for you.’

‘Thankee,’ said Mr Boffin. ‘Morning, morning!’

But, the worthy Mr Boffin jogged away with a comfortless impression he could have dispensed with, that there was a deal of unsatisfactoriness in the world, besides what he had recalled as appertaining to the Harmon property.

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F**k Greek Particles! [FTS Week]

Thomas Hughes, Tom Brown’s School Days:

“To condense the Squire’s meditation, it was somewhat as follows: ‘I won’t tell him to read his Bible, and love and serve God; if he don’t do that for his mother’s sake and teaching, he won’t for mine. Shall I go into the sort of temptations he’ll meet with? No, I can’t do that. Never do for an old fellow to go into such things with a boy. He won’t understand me. Do him more harm than good, ten to one. Shall I tell him to mind his work, and say he’s sent to school to make himself a good scholar? Well, but he isn’t sent to school for that—at any rate, not for that mainly. I don’t care a straw for Greek particles, or the digamma; no more does his mother. What is he sent to school for? Well, partly because he wanted so to go. If he’ll only turn out a brave, helpful, truth-telling Englishman, and a gentleman, and a Christian, that’s all I want,’ thought the Squire; and upon this view of the case he framed his last words of advice to Tom, which were well enough suited to his purpose.”

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F**k Modernity – Give Me Pagan Antiquity! [FTS Week]

William Wordsworth, The World Is Too Much With Us:

“THE WORLD is too much with us; late and soon,
Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers;
Little we see in nature that is ours;
We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon!
This sea that bares her bosom to the moon;
The winds that will be howling at all hours,
And are up-gathered now like sleeping flowers;
For this, for everything, we are out of tune;
It moves us not.—Great God! I ’d rather be
A Pagan suckled in a creed outworn,
So might I, standing on this pleasant lea,
Have glimpses that would make me less forlorn;
Have sight of Proteus rising from the sea,
Or hear old Triton blow his wreathèd horn.”

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F**k Donatus, Shakespeare’s Got Talent [FTS Week]

John Williams, Stoner (Chp. 9): 

“Charles Walker fiddled for a moment with the sheaf of papers on the desk before him and allowed the remoteness to creep back into his face. He tapped the forefinger of his right hand on his manuscript and looked toward the corner of the room away from where Stoner and Katherine Driscoll sat, as if he were waiting for something. Then, glancing every now and then at the sheaf of papers on the desk, he began.

‘Confronted as we are by the mystery of literature, and by its inenarrable power, we are behooved to discover the source of the power and mystery. And yet, finally, what can avail? The work of literature throws before us a profound veil which we cannot plumb. And we are but votaries before it, helpless in its sway. Who would have the temerity to lift that veil aside, to discover the undiscoverable, to reach the unreachable? The strongest of us are but the puniest weaklings, are but tinkling cymbals and sounding brass, before the eternal mystery.’

His voice rose and fell, his right hand went out with its fingers curled supplicatingly upward, and his body swayed to the rhythm of his words; his eyes rolled slightly upward, as if he were making an invocation. There was something grotesquely familiar in what he said and did. And suddenly Stoner knew what it was. This was Hollis Lomax—or, rather, a broad caricature of him, which came unsuspected from the caricaturer, a gesture not of contempt or dislike, but of respect and love.

Walker’s voice dropped to a conversational level, and he addressed the back wall of the room in a tone that was calm and equable with reason. ‘Recently we have heard a paper that, to the mind of academe, must be accounted most excellent. These remarks that follow are remarks that are not personal. I wish to exemplify a point. We have heard, in this paper, an account that purports to be an explanation of the mystery and soaring lyricism of Shakespeare’s art. Well, I say to you’—and he thrust a forefinger at his audience as if he would impale them— ‘I say to you, it is not true.’ He leaned back in his chair and consulted the papers on the desk. ‘We are asked to believe that one Donatus—an obscure Roman grammarian of the fourth century A.D.— we are asked to believe that such a man, a pedant, had sufficient power to determine the work of one of the greatest geniuses in all of the history of art. May we not suspect, on the face of it, such a theory? Must we not suspect it?’

Anger, simple and dull, rose within Stoner, overwhelming the complexity of feeling he had had at the beginning of the paper. His immediate impulse was to rise, to cut short the farce that was developing; he knew that if he did not stop Walker at once he would have to let him go on for as long as he wanted to talk. His head turned slightly so that he could see Katherine Driscoll’s face; it was serene and without any expression, save one of polite and detached interest; the dark eyes regarded Walker with an unconcern that was like boredom. Covertly, Stoner looked at her for several moments; he found himself wondering what she was feeling and what she wished him to do. When he finally shifted his gaze away from her he had to realize that his decision was made. He had waited too long to interrupt, and Walker was rushing impetuously through what he had to say.

‘ … the monumental edifice that is Renaissance literature, that edifice which is the cornerstone of the great poetry of the nineteenth century. The question of proof, endemic to the dull course of scholarship as distinguished from criticism, is also sadly at lack. What proof is offered that Shakespeare even read this obscure Roman grammarian? We must remember it was Ben Jonson’—he hesitated for a brief moment—’it was Ben Jonson himself, Shakespeare’s friend and contemporary, who said he had little Latin and less Greek. And certainly Jonson, who idolized Shakespeare this side of idolatry, did not impute to his great friend any lack. On the contrary, he wished to suggest, as do I, that the soaring lyricism of Shakespeare was not attributable to the burning of the midnight oil, but to a genius natural and supreme to rule and mundane law. Unlike lesser poets, Shakespeare was not born to blush unseen and waste his sweetness on the desert air; partaking of that mysterious source to whence all poets go for their sustenance, what need had the immortal bard of such stultifying rules as are to be found in a mere grammar? What would Donatus be to him, even if he had read him? Genius, unique and a law unto itself, needs not the support of such a ‘tradition’ as has been described to us, whether it be generically Latin or Donatan or whatever. Genius, soaring and free, must …’

After he became used to his anger Stoner found a reluctant and perverse admiration stealing over him. However florid and imprecise, the man’s powers of rhetoric and invention were dismayingly impressive; and however grotesque, his presence was real. There was something cold and calculating and watchful in his eyes, something  needlessly reckless and yet desperately cautious. Stoner became aware that he was in the presence of a bluff so colossal and bold that he had no ready means of dealing with it.”

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