“Still,” he said, “Cluvius told Lucius and Manilius he was not on sworn oath.” If he told them while sworn in, would you believe? What is the difference between a perjurer and a liar? A man who is accustomed to lying, can get used to committing perjury.
I can easily get a man to perjure himself once I am able to persuade him to lie. For once someone has departed from the truth, he is not in the habit of being constrained by greater belief from perjury than from lying. For what man who is not moved by the force of his own conscience is moved by invocation of the gods?
The reason for this is that the gods dispense the same penalty for the perjurer and the liar. The gods become enraged and punish a man not for the institution which frames the swearing of the words but because of the evil and the malice that these traps are set for another person.”
XVI. “Dicit enim,” inquit, “iniuratus Luscio et Manilio.” Si diceret iuratus, crederes? At quid interest inter periurum et mendacem? Qui mentiri solet, peierare consuevit. Quem ego, ut mentiatur, inducere possum, ut peieret, exorare facile potero. Nam qui semel a veritate deflexit, hic non maiore religione ad periurium quam ad mendacium perduci consuevit. Quis enim deprecatione deorum, non conscientiae fide commovetur? Propterea, quae poena ab dis immortalibus periuro, haec eadem mendaci constituta est; non enim ex pactione verborum, quibus ius iurandum comprehenditur, sed ex perfidia et malitia, per quam insidiae tenduntur alicui, di immortales hominibus irasci et suscensere consuerunt.
“Who can get a doctor for me and which one?
Who is an expert in the art of assholes?
Is it Amunôn? Perhaps he will decline.
Have someone call Antisthenes by any means.
For this man knows why an asshole wants
To shit thanks to the groaning.
Queen Eleithuia, don’t you ignore me
When I am breaking but all stopped up,
Don’t let me be the comic chamberpot!”
This is the first of what we hope will be many guest posts by Tom Bolin
This past weekend, Sententiae Antiquaeposted a passage from the Septuagint (LXX) and Vulgate of the biblical book of Ecclesiastes (3:9-15). The passage occurs immediately after the well-known poem (and popular folk song) of 3:1-8.
Ecclesiastes has long been known as the biblical book most liked by people who don’t like the Bible. Its direct questioning of divine justice and human purpose has challenged readers practically from the time it was composed (most likely in the 3rd-2nd centuries BCE). Some of those readers have responded to these challenges by creative interpretations which read obvious statements from the book in a symbolic or otherwise non-literal fashion. For example, the Midrash Rabbah, commenting on Eccl 2:24 states simply that:
Dead flies rot the aromatic oil. A little wisdom is more honorable than the glory of great folly.
The historical importance of the Septuagint, first as a complex engagement of Hebrew texts with Greek language, and later as the appropriated canon of the “Old Testament” for Christians, is worth the attention of anyone interested in Hellenistic and Roman era Greek texts. Anyone interested can find the LXX text online. A clear, concise, and engaging place to start learning about the LXX is Timothy Michael Law’s When God Spoke Greek.
“What does someone gain from the work of their toil?
I have seen the weight which God gives to burden the children of the human race.
He made everything beautiful in its own season.
But he also put time in the human heart
so that no person can discover creation, what god made, from the beginning to its end.
I know that there is nothing good for people
except from being happy and doing good in life.
So it is God’s gift
that every person eats and drinks and sees the good in their own toil.
I know that everything which god has done will last this lifetime.
It is not possible to add anything to it,
It is not possible to take anything away.
God did this so we might turn from his face.
What is, has happened already.
All that may happen, has happened before.
God will find the place where they meet.”
9 [Quid habet amplius homo de labore suo?
10 Vidi afflictionem quam dedit Deus filiis hominum,
ut distendantur in ea.
11 Cuncta fecit bona in tempore suo,
et mundum tradidit disputationi eorum,
ut non inveniat homo opus
quod operatus est Deus ab initio usque ad finem.
12 Et cognovi quod non esset melius nisi lætari,
et facere bene in vita sua;
13 omnis enim homo qui comedit et bibit,
et videt bonum de labore suo,
hoc donum Dei est.
14 Didici quod omnia opera quæ fecit Deus perseverent in perpetuum;
non possumus eis quidquam addere, nec auferre,
quæ fecit Deus ut timeatur.
15 Quod factum est, ipsum permanet;
quæ futura sunt iam fuerunt,
et Deus instaurat quod abiit.
Consider this how this could turn out on many ships or even just one: there is a captain of some size and strength beyond the rest of the men in the ship, but he is deaf and similarly limited at seeing, and he knows as much about sailing as these qualities might imply. So, the sailors are struggling with one another about steering the ship, because each one believes that he should be in charge, even though he has learned nothing of the craft nor can indicate who his teacher was nor when he had the time to learn. Some of them are even saying that it is not teachable, and that they are ready to cut down the man who says it can be taught.
They are always hanging all over the captain asking him and making a big deal of the fact that he should entrust the rudder to them. There are times when some of them do not persuade him, and some of them kill others or kick them off the ship, and once they have overcome the noble captain through a mandrake, or drugs, or something else and run the ship, using up its contents drinking, and partying, and sailing just as such sort of men might. In addition to this, they praise as a fit sailor, and call a captain and knowledgeable at shipcraft the man who is cunning at convincing or forcing the captain that they should be in charge. And they rebuke as useless anyone who is not like this.
Such men are unaware what a true helmsman is like, that he must be concerned about the time of year, the seasons, the sky, the stars, the wind and everything that is appropriate to the art, if he is going to be a leader of a ship in reality, how he might steer the ship even if some desire it or not, when they believe that it is not possible to obtain art or practice about how to do this, something like an art of ship-steering. When these types of conflicts are occurring on a ship, don’t you think the one who is a true helmsman would be called a star-gazer, a blabber, or useless to them by the sailors in the ships organized in this way?
“I don’t know and it does not seem right to labor over things we haven’t learned”
Οὐκ οἶδ’, οὐδ’ ἐπέοικεν ἃ μὴ μάθομες πονέεσθαι.
Bion fr. 8 [=Stobaeus 4.16.15]
“If my songs are good, then these few
Fate has granted as a safeguard for what I have done.
If they are not pleasing, why should I toil any longer?
If Kronos’ son or devious Fate had granted to us
Two lifetimes, so that we could dedicate
The first to happiness and pleasure and the second to work,
Then it would be right to work first and sample happiness later.
But since the gods have decreed that one time come
For human life and that this is brief and minor too,
How long, wretches, should we toil tirelessly at work.
How long will we throw our soul and hearts into
Profit and skill, longing always for more and greater wealth?
Truly, have we all forgotten that we are mortal?
Have we all forgotten our lifetime is brief?”
“His accuser claimed that he selected the most wretched lines from the most famous poets and used them as proofs to teach his followers to be evildoers and tyrants. He is said to have used the line from Hesiod “there is nothing reproachable about work, but laziness is reproachable” (WD 311) to claim that the poet exhorted not to refrain from any work, unjust or shameful, but to do everything for profit.
Socrates, although he might agree that it is good and useful for a man to be a worker and harmful and bad for him to be lazy—that work is good and laziness is bad—he used to say that being a worker required people to do something good. Gambling or any other immortal occupation which takes from others he used to call laziness. Within these parameters, Hesiod’s claim that “there is nothing reproachable about work, but laziness is reproachable” holds true.
“Critoboulos, Some say that whenever the great king gives gifts, he calls in first those who proved their excellence at war because there is no advantage to plowing many fields unless they defend them. After them, he rewards those who prepare and work the land best, because brave men cannot survive unless someone works the land.”
“Let no one find fault with this line because wealth is made to be much praised ahead of virtue. Know that wealth here is the product workers get from their labors—it is a just portion gathered from their personal toil.”
“No mortal could rival me in work:
No one could best me at building a fire or heaping dry wood,
At serving at the table, cooking meat or serving wine–
All those tasks lesser men complete for their betters.”
“Eurymachus: I wish the two of us could have a labor-contest
In the height of spring when the days are drawing longer,
In the thickening grass. I would grip the curved scythe
And you could hold the same thing, so we could test each other
At work, fasting right up to dusk where the grass was thick.
And then the next day we could drive the oxen, the strongest ones,
Bright and large, both stuffed full with their food,
A pair of the same age, equally burdened, their strength unwavering.
I’d wish for a four-acre parcel to put under the plow.
Then you’d see me, how I would cut a furrow straight from end to end.
Or if, instead, Kronos’ son would send me a war today,
And I would have a shield and two spears
Matched with a bronze helmet well-fit to my temples.
Then you’d see me mixing it up in the front lines
And you wouldn’t bawl about, belittling my hungry stomach.”
“Epikhairekakía: is pleasure at someone else’s troubles”
ἐπιχαιρεκακία δὲ ἡδονὴ ἐπ’ ἀλλοτρίοις κακοῖς
Diogenes Laertius, Vita Philosophorum 7. 114
“Pleasure is irrational excitement at gaining what seems to be needed. As a subset of pleasure, are elation, pleasure at someone else’s pain (epikhairekakía) and delight, which is similar to turning (trepsis), a mind’s inclination to weakness. The embrace of pleasure is the surrender of virtue.”
“There are some vices whose names are cloaked with evil, for instance, pleasure at evils [epikhairekakía], shamelessness, and envy; and there are deeds too: adultery, theft, and manslaughter. All these things and those of this sort are called evil on their own, it is not an indulgence in them or an improper use that is wrong.”