“Posidonios of Apamea records the story of [Athenion] which I am going to lay out even though it is rather long, so that we may examine carefully all men who claim to be philosophers, and not merely trust in their shabby robes and unkempt beards. For, as Agathon says (fr. 12):
If I tell the truth, I won’t make you happy.
But if I am to make you happy, I will say nothing true.
Since the truth, they say, is dear to us, I will tell the whole story about this man.”
“And you yourself, bestie Geminus, were clear in holding the same opinion about the man in your letter in which you write verbatim: “in other types of composition it is easy to fall somewhere between praise and blame—but in ornament, what does not succeed, fails completely. For this reason, it seems right to me not to interrogate these men for their few failures but for the greater number of their successes.”
And later after this you say these things an addition: “Even though I am able to mount a defense for all of these passages or most of them, I do not dare to speak against you. But I do take this one point hard—that it is not possible to succeed impressively in every way unless you take these kind of risks and enter those situations in which it is necessary to stumble”.
We don’t diverge from one another—for you agree that it is necessary that one who has great aims sometimes stumbles while I say that Plato in reaching for sublime, magnificent, and surprising phrases did not succeed all the time, but that his mistakes occupy only a small portion of his total attempts. I also add that this is one way in which Plato is less than Demosthenes—for his heightened style at times slips into emptiness and unpleasantry; for Demosthenes this happens never or rarely at all. That’s enough about Plato.”
“Your language is so clear and distinct that the analysis of Palaemon, the dignity of Gallio, the duration of Delphidius, the discipline of Agroecius, the fortitude of Alcimus, the tenderness, the rigor of Magnus, and the sweetness of Victorius are not only not superior but are also barely its equal. So that I might not seem to have flattered you or tried to gain favor from you with an exaggerated catalog of rhetoricians, I do not doubt but insist that you are only to be compared to the acrimony of Quintilian and the glory of Palladius.
This is the reason if anyone after you takes a liking to Latia and gives thanks to this friendship for it and desires to be admitted as a third to your community—if he has any humanity all. This is rather more serious, however, evne though this ambition or desire is not about to cause you too much trouble, since few now hold much respect for this course of study. And, at the same time, due to a natural fault, it is fixed and well-rooted in human chests that those who do not understand arts, do not admire the artists. Goodbye.”
tua vero tam clara, tam spectabilis dictio est, ut illi divisio Palaemonis gravitas Gallionis, abundantia Delphidii Agroecii disciplina, fortitudo Alcimi Adelphii teneritudo, rigor Magni dulcedo Victorii non modo non superiora sed vix aequiperabilia scribant. sane ne videar tibi sub hoc quasi hyperbolico rhetorum catalogo blanditus quippiam gratificatusque, solam tibi acrimoniam Quintiliani pompamque Palladii comparari non ambigo sed potius adquiesco. 4. quapropter si quis post vos Latiae favet eruditioni, huic amicitiae gratias agit et sodalitati vestrae, si quid hominis habet, tertius optat adhiberi. quamquam, quod est gravius, non sit satis ambitus iste fastidium vobis excitaturus, quia pauci studia nunc honorant, simul et naturali vitio fixum est radicatumque pectoribus humanis, ut qui non intellegunt artes non mirentur artifices. vale.
“Not so vile is the deed and saying of Caius Fimbria, but on their own they are both extremely bold. He planned that Scaevola would be slaughtered at the funeral of Gaius Marius. Once he learned that [Scaevola] had healed from his wound, he turned to accuse him in court.
There, when he was asked what he had to say against someone whose character couldn’t possibly be sufficiently praised, he said that he would claim the man had let the weapon wound him too easily. What an excess of insanity that accompanied the groan of a sick country!”
Non tam atrox C. Fimbriae est factum et dictum, sed si per se aestimetur, utrumque audacissimum. id egerat ut Scaevola in funere C. Marii iugularetur. quem postquam ex vulnere recreatum comperit, accusare apud populum instituit. interrogatus deinde quid de eo secus dicturus esset cui pro sanctitate morum satis digna laudatio reddi non posset, respondit obiecturum se illi quod parcius corpore telum recepisset. licentiam furoris aegrae rei publicae gemitu prosequendam!
A former dean of mine once sent an email to the faculty announcing a large grant to the college by a local business, providing for endowed chairs in the liberal arts. He had the temerity to announce in the very same email that he was giving himself one of these chairs. And he had a chair made with an inscription. The following is a slightly more humble epigraph.
Constantinus of Sicily, Greek Anthology 15.13
“If you are wise, sit on me. But if you’ve tasted the muse
Only with the tip of your finger…..
Move far away and find a different seat.
I am a chair who bears the burden of men who seek wisdom.”
George Turnbull, Observations Upon Liberal Education
One exercise should be daily to write a page of English, and after that to examine every word by the grammar rules, and in every sentence they have composed, to oblige them to give an account of the English syntax and construction. Thus an habit would soon be acquired, and they would do it of course. All affected words and harsh transpositions should be noted; every phrase not used in good company exploded; harsh metaphors, which have neither a peculiar light or force, be discarded: Metaphors are a kind of embroidery, which do admirably on proper occasions, but shew a tawdry mind, if it scruples to appear, unless dressed in such finery. Another exercise should be obliging them to speak every day in unwritten thoughts on any subject in English. Let them read an oration in Tully or Livy; let them read it to themselves in Latin as often as they please, then shut the book, and speak the sense of it extempore in unpremeditated words. A little use will make it most agreeably easy: and what a habit is this for a man of quality? Begin with a fable of Phaedrus, thence to a short speech in an historian, you’ll be amazed how soon the would enter into the spirit of Cicero, and plead the cause of Ligarius with his ardour, and feel what they utter. This is the ambition I would have you pursue: afford to gentlemen this distinguishing, this necessary education, and become thus a nursery of state orators.
Harpies, Scylla, Charybdis, the Cyclops, Etna in eruption! Each one of the trials which the exiled pilot must have undergone could occasion an anxiety-neurosis or effort-syndrome in a man less well-balanced. One wonders how he reacted to Aeneas’ public account of them. Dido, we know, fell disastrously ‘in love” with Aeneas, and it is when he departs (Aeneas abandoning her after their cave-wedding), that Palinurus speaks again. The fleet has stolen out in the early morning and Dido has set alight her funeral pyre whose glow the sailors see, but Aeneas alone interprets rightly. At once a storm gets up.
But soon the Heav’ns with shadows were overspread;
A swelling Cloud hung hov’ring o’er their Head:
Livid it look’d (the threat’ning of a Storm),
Then Night and Horror Ocean’s Face deform.
The Pilot Palinunis ciy’d aloud,
‘What Gusts of Weather from that gath’ring Cloud
My Thoughts presage ; e’er yet the Tempest roars.
Stand to your Tackle, Mates, and stretch your Oars ;
Contract your swelling Sails, and luff to Wind’
The frighted Crew perform the Task assign’d.
Then, to his fearless Chief, ‘ Not Heav’n,’ said he,
‘ Tho’ Jove himself shou’d promise Italy
Can stem the Torrent of this raging Sea.
Mark how the shifting Winds from West arise,
And what collected Night involves the Skies
Nor can our shaken Vessels live at Sea,
Much less against the Tempest force their way;
’Tis fate diverts our Course ; and Fate we must obey.
Not far from hence, if I observ’d aright
The southing of the Stars and Polar Light,
Sicilia lies ; whose hospitable Shores
In safety we may reach with strugling oars.
The Course resolv’d, before the Western Wind
They scud amain; and make the Port assign’d
It seems clear that Palinurus who had led the fleet between Scylla and Charybdis, recognized that his storm could not be ridden out because he knew it followed on Aeneas’ betrayal of Dido. He also read the true meaning of the fire which they had seen and from that moment realized that was guilty of hubris and impiety; he was ‘not the Messiah’.
In Sicily Aeneas celebrates his arrival with elaborate games. In these — although they include various sailing contests — Palinurus himself does not join and lets the other pilots fight them out. One can imagine him brooding over the storm and his leader’s conduct while the noisy sport proceeds around him. Finally, to prevent the men leaving, the women set fire to the ships and four are destroyed. Here occurs an incident for which no scientific explanation is forthcoming, and which, if the narrator were Palinurus and not Viigil, we would be tempted to ascribe to a delusion of reference. Venus begs Neptune to guarantee that her beloved Aeneas and all his men will not be subjected to any more disasters and storms at sea by their enemy, Juno. Neptune agrees, but warns her that ‘In safety as thou prayest shall he reach the haven of Avernus. Only one shall there be whom, lost in the flood, thou shalt seek in vain; one life shall be given for many.’
“Know that since I got back to the city, I have renewed my relationships with my old friends—by which I mean my books. It is not as if I avoided their presence because I was judging them, but because they filled me with shame. For I believe that since I submitted myself to events with the most turbulent and faithless companions, I had insufficiently obeyed my books’ commands.
But they have pardoned me. They welcome me back into that ancient communion and they tell me that you were wiser than I was because you persisted in this practice. But this is how I have achieved an understanding with them and why I think I am right to hope that should I see you again it will be easy for me to manage whatever is happening and whatever threatens in the future.”
scito enim me, postea quam in urbem venerim, redisse cum veteribus amicis, id est cum libris nostris, in gratiam. etsi non idcirco eorum usum dimiseram quod iis suscenserem sed quod eorum me suppudebat; videbar enim mihi, cum me in res turbulentissimas infidelissimis sociis demi<si>ssem, praeceptis illorum non satis paruisse. ignoscunt mihi, revocant in consuetudinem pristinam teque, quod in ea permanseris, sapientiorem quam me dicunt fuisse. quam ob rem, quoniam placatis iis utor, videor sperare debere, si te viderim, et ea quae premant et ea quae impendeant me facile laturum.