A Phaethon for the World

Suetonius, Caligula 11:

Even then, he was unable to restrain his savage and corrupted nature. Instead, he regularly took part rather eagerly in the investigations and the punishments of those who had been sentenced; disguised in a wig and a long cloak, he would spend long nights in cook shops and brothels; and he sought out the stage arts of dancing and singing with an immoderate zeal. All of this happened rather easily with Tiberius’ permission, the latter hoping that his fierce temper could be somewhat mollified by these arts. That sagacious old emperor had foreseen the problem with sufficient clarity to predict that Caligula would live to be the death of him (Tiberius) and everyone else, and he used to claim that he was nursing a viper for the Roman people and a Phaethon to burn the whole world.

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Naturam tamen saevam atque probrosam ne tunc quidem inhibere poterat, quin et animadversionibus poenisque ad supplicium datorum cupidissime interesset et ganeas atque adulteria capillamento celatus et veste longa noctibus obiret ac scaenicas saltandi canendique artes studiosissime appeteret, facile id sane Tiberio patiente, si per has mansuefieri posset ferum eius ingenium. Quod sagacissimus senex ita prorsus perspexerat, ut aliquotiens praedicaret exitio suo omniumque Gaium vivere et se natricem populo Romano, Phaethontem orbi terrarum educare.

Little Sparks of Virtue

Cicero, De Finibus 5. 43

“There is certainly seems to be natural power for humans for attaining every kind of virtue and for these reasons small children are motivated by the attraction of virtues whose seeds they possess without teaching. These are surely the fundamental aspects of human nature which increase and grow as if planted. This is because we are made in such a way at birth that we already possess the basic impulses of doing something, of loving some people, and with qualities of liberality, and giving things. We also receive spirits which reach toward knowledge, wisdom, and bravery, already disinclined toward the opposites.

It is not without reason that we see those things I have mentioned in children like little sparks of virtue from which the philosopher’s reason must be kindled—the child must find their way to nature’s end by following their divine guide. As I have often said in the early period when our minds are still weak, we see nature’s power as if through fog. But once the mind progresses and gets stronger, it recognizes the power of its nature, that it may still proceed further and has become only half-finished on its own.”

 Est enim natura sic generata vis hominis ut ad omnem virtutem percipiendam facta videatur, ob eamque causam parvi virtutum simulacris quarum in se habent semina sine doctrina moventur; sunt enim prima elementa naturae, quibus auctis virtutis quasi germen efficitur. Nam cum ita nati factique simus ut et agendi aliquid et diligendi aliquos et liberalitatis et referendae gratiae principia in nobis contineremus atque ad scientiam, prudentiam, fortitudinem aptos animos haberemus a contrariisque rebus alienos, non sine causa eas quas dixi in pueris virtutum quasi scintillas videmus, e quibus accendi philosophi ratio debet, ut eam quasi deum ducem subsequens ad naturae perveniat extremum. Nam ut saepe iam dixi in infirma aetate imbecillaque mente vis naturae quasi per caliginem cernitur; cum autem progrediens confirmatur animus, agnoscit ille quidem naturae vim, sed ita ut progredi possit longius, per se sit tantum inchoata.

 

Sarcophagus, Roma, Musei Vaticani, Museo Chiaramont

Porson: Critic, Librarian, DRUNKARD

Porsoniana:

“A man of such habits as Porson was little fitted for the office of Librarian to the London Institution. He was very irregular in his attendance there; he never troubled himself about the purchase of books which ought to have been added to the library; and he would frequently come home dead-drunk long after midnight. I have good reason to believe that, had he lived, he would have been requested to give up the office in other words, he would have been dismissed. I once read a letter which he received from the Directors of the Institution, and which contained, among other severe things, this cutting remark: ‘We only know that you are our Librarian by seeing your name attached to the receipts for your salary.’ His intimate friend, Dr. Raine, was one of those who signed that letter; and Raine, speaking of it to me, said, ‘Person well deserved it.’ As Librarian to the Institution, he had 200l. a-year, apartments rent-free, and the use of a servant. Yet he was eternally railing at the Directors, calling them ‘mercantile and mean beyond merchandize and meanness.’

During the two last years of his life I could perceive that he was not a little shaken; and it is really wonderful, when we consider his drinking, and his total disregard of hours, that he lived so long as he did. He told me that he had had an affection of the lungs from his boyhood.”

A.E. Housman, Speech at University College 03/29/1911:

“This great College, of this ancient University, has seen some strange sights. It has seen Wordsworth drunk and Porson sober. And here am I, a better poet than Porson, and a better scholar than Wordsworth, [somewhere] betwixt and between.”

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Statius’ Medieval Celebrity

C.S. Lewis, The Discarded Image:

“Statius, whose Thebaid appeared in the ‘nineties of the first century, ranked in the Middle Ages (as we have already seen) with Virgil, Homer, and Lucan. Like Lucan, he strained after the stunning phrase, less successfully, but also less continuously. He had a larger mind than Lucan, more true seriousness, more pity, a more versatile imagination; the Thebaid is a less tiring and a more spacious poem than the Pharsalia. The Middle Ages were quite right to accept it as a noble ‘historial’ romance. It was in many ways especially congenial to them. Its Jupiter was more like the God of monotheism than anyother being in the Pagan poetry they knew. Its fiends (and some of its gods) were more like the devils of their own religion than any other Pagan spirits. Its deep respect for virginity-with even the curious suggestion that the sexual act, however sanctioned by marriage, is a culpa which needs excuse (u, 233, 256)-appealed to the vein of asceticism in their theology. Finally, the vividness and importance of its personifications (Virtus, Clementia, Pietas, and Natura) brought it in places very close to the fully allegorical poetry in which they delighted. But I have shot my bolt about these matters elsewhere1 and at present Natura is my only concern.”

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Her Greek Has Made All Her Celebrity

Frances Burney, The Diary and Letters of Madame D’Arblay

‘Streatham, Sunday, June 13. After church we all strolled the grounds, and the topic of our discourse was Miss Streatfield. Mrs. Thrale asserted that she had a power of captivation that was irresistible; that her beauty, joined to her softness, her caressing manners, her tearful eyes, and alluring looks, would insinuate her into the heart of any man she thought worth attacking.

Sir Philip declared himself of a totally different opinion, and quoted Dr. Johnson against her, who had told him that, taking away her Greek, she was as ignorant as a butterfly.

Mr. Seward declared her Greek was all against her, with him, for that, instead of reading Pope, Swift, or “The Spectator”—books from which she might derive useful knowledge and improvement—it had led her to devote all her reading time to the first eight books of Homer.

“But,” said Mrs. Thrale, “her Greek, you must own, has made all her celebrity:—you would have heard no more of her than of any other pretty girl, but for that.”

“What I object to,” said Sir Philip, “is her avowed preference for this parson. Surely it is very indelicate in any lady to let all the world know with whom she is in love!”

“The parson,” said the severe Mr. Seward, “I suppose, spoke first,—or she would as soon have been in love with you, or with me!”

You will easily believe I gave him no pleasant look.’

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Alternative Facts in Myth: Penelope’s (In)Fidelity

Earlier I posted a bit from Pausanias that discuses Penelope’s gravesite in Arcadia. It also mentions a Mantinean tradition that Penelope was expelled from Ithaca on a suspicion of infidelity. This story is in part reported by Apollodorus, (Ep. 7.38-39)

“Some say that Penelope was corrupted by Antinoos and that Odysseus sent her back to her father Ikarios. When she came to Mantinea in Arcadia she had Pan with Hermes. Others allege that she was killed by Odysseus because of Amphinomos, who seduced her. There are also those who say that Odysseus was charged by the relatives of those he had killed who took Neoptolemos as judge, then king of the islands near Epirus. He handed down a judgment of exile and Odysseus went to Thoas the son of Andraimôn who married him to his daughter. When he died from old age, he left a son Leontophonos.

τινὲς δὲ Πηνελόπην ὑπὸ Ἀντινόου φθαρεῖσαν λέγουσιν ὑπὸ Ὀδυσσέως πρὸς τὸν πατέρα Ἰκάριον ἀποσταλῆναι, γενομένην δὲ τῆς Ἀρκαδίας κατὰ Μαντίνειαν ἐξ Ἑρμοῦ τεκεῖν Πᾶνα: [39] ἄλλοι δὲ δι᾽ Ἀμφίνομον ὑπὸ Ὀδυσσέως αὐτοῦ τελευτῆσαι: διαφθαρῆναι γὰρ αὐτὴν ὑπὸ τούτου λέγουσιν. [40] εἰσὶ δὲ οἱ λέγοντες ἐγκαλούμενον Ὀδυσσέα ὑπὸ τῶν οἰκείων ὑπὲρ τῶν ἀπολωλότων δικαστὴν Νεοπτόλεμον λαβεῖν τὸν βασιλεύοντα τῶν κατὰ τὴν Ἤπειρον νήσων, τοῦτον δέ, νομίσαντα ἐκποδὼν Ὀδυσσέως γενομένου Κεφαλληνίαν καθέξειν, κατακρῖναι φυγὴν αὐτοῦ, Ὀδυσσέα δὲ εἰς Αἰτωλίαν πρὸς Θόαντα τὸν Ἀνδραίμονος παραγενόμενον τὴν τούτου θυγατέρα γῆμαι, καὶ καταλιπόντα παῖδα Λεοντοφόνον ἐκ ταύτης γηραιὸν τελευτῆσαι.

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The detail about Amphinomos might be drawn from a passage in the Odyssey where the narrative provides some insight into Penelope’s mind (16.394-398):

Amphinomos rose and spoke among them,
The dashing son of Nisos, the son of lord Arêtiades,
Who joined the suitors from grain-rich and grassy
Doulikhos. He was especially pleasing to Penelope
For he made good use of his brains.”

τοῖσιν δ’ ᾿Αμφίνομος ἀγορήσατο καὶ μετέειπε,
Νίσου φαίδιμος υἱός, ᾿Αρητιάδαο ἄνακτος,
ὅς ῥ’ ἐκ Δουλιχίου πολυπύρου ποιήεντος
ἡγεῖτο μνηστῆρσι, μάλιστα δὲ Πηνελοπείῃ
ἥνδανε μύθοισι· φρεσὶ γὰρ κέχρητ’ ἀγαθῇσιν·

It is somewhat amusing to compare this to what Telemachus says earlier when he describes the suitors.

Homer, Odyssey 15.518-524

“But I will tell you of another man you might encounter,
Eurymakhos, the shining son of sharp-minded Polyboios,
Whom the Ithakans now look upon the way they would a god.
He is by far the best man remaining and the best
To marry my mother and receive my father’s geras.
But Zeus is the one who knows these things as he rules on high”
Whether or not he will bring about a deadly day for them before a marriage.”

ἀλλά τοι ἄλλον φῶτα πιφαύσκομαι, ὅν κεν ἵκοιο,
Εὐρύμαχον, Πολύβοιο δαΐφρονος ἀγλαὸν υἱόν,
τὸν νῦν ἶσα θεῷ ᾿Ιθακήσιοι εἰσορόωσι·
καὶ γὰρ πολλὸν ἄριστος ἀνὴρ μέμονέν τε μάλιστα
μητέρ’ ἐμὴν γαμέειν καὶ ᾿Οδυσσῆος γέρας ἕξειν.

What to make of this difference? Telemachus’ evaluation appears to be based on Eurymakhos’ standing among the Ithakans. Penelope seems to favor someone who is not Ithakan and whose traits are like her own and her absent husband.

Lykophron in his Alexandra takes the view that Penelope was not faithful (768-773)

“For he will come, he will come to the harbor shelter of Reithron
And the cliffs of Nêritos. And he will see
His whole house upturned from its foundations
By wife-stealing adulterers. And that vixen
Will hollow out his home with shameless whoring,
Pouring out the wretch’s fortune feast by feast”.

ἥξει γάρ, ἥξει ναύλοχον ῾Ρείθρου σκέπας
καὶ Νηρίτου πρηῶνας. ὄψεται δὲ πᾶν
μέλαθρον ἄρδην ἐκ βάθρων ἀνάστατον
μύκλοις γυναικόκλωψιν. ἡ δὲ βασσάρα
σεμνῶς κασωρεύουσα κοιλανεῖ δόμους,
θοίναισιν ὄλβον ἐκχέασα τλήμονος.

Lykophron is positively chaste compared to the account provided in the Scholia:

“And Douris writes in his work on the lewdness of Agathokleos that Penelope had sex with all of the suitors and then gave birth to the goat-shaped Pan whom they took up to be one of the gods.  He is talking nonsense about Pan, for Pan is the child of Hermes and a different Penelope. Another story is that Pan is the child of Zeus and Hubris.”

Καὶ Δοῦρις δὲ ἐν τῷ περὶ ᾿Αγαθοκλέους μάχλον φησὶ τὴν Πηνελόπην καὶ συνελθοῦσαν πᾶσι τοῖς μνηστῆρσι γεννῆσαι τὸν τραγοσκελῆ Πᾶνα ὃν εἰς θεοὺς ἔχουσιν (FHG II 47942). φλυαρεῖ δὲ περὶ τοῦ Πανός· ὁ Πὰν γὰρ ῾Ερμοῦ καὶ Πηνελόπης ἄλλης †T. καὶ ἕτερος δὲ Πὰν Διὸς καὶ ῞Υβρεως.

F**k the Crowd, My Books Are At Home!

Pliny, Letters 9.6:

I have spent all this time among my books and notebooks in the most peaceful tranquility. You ask, ‘How could you do it in the middle of the city?’ It was the time for the games at the Circus, a spectacle which cannot in the least hold my attention. There is nothing new, nothing different, nothing which it would not suffice to have seen once. And so, I marvel all the more at so many thousands of men who desire in such a childish fashion to see over and over again horses running and people sitting in their chariots. If they were drawn by the speed of the horses or the skill of the people, it would he understandable; …and if in the race course, in the middle of the contest itself, this horse exchanged colors with the other, the zeal and favor of the spectators would change as well, and the drivers of horses would abandon those horses, whom they see from afar, and whose names they shout again and again. So much power there is in one worthless tunic – not among the crowd, which is more worthless than the tunic, but among some of our more serious people. When I recall that they have such insatiable desire in such an inane, cold, and unchanging thing, I take some pleasure in not being taken by that pleasure. And during these days, I spend my free time most gladly in literature, while others waste their time in the most frivolous occupations. Goodbye!

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Omne hoc tempus inter pugillares ac libellos iucundissima quiete transmisi. ‘Quemadmodum’ inquis ‘in urbe potuisti?’ Circenses erant, quo genere spectaculi ne levissime quidem teneor. Nihil novum nihil varium, nihil quod non semel spectasse sufficiat. Quo magis miror tot milia virorum tam pueriliter identidem cupere currentes equos, insistentes curribus homines videre. Si tamen aut velocitate equorum aut hominum arte traherentur, esset ratio non nulla; nunc favent panno, pannum amant, et si in ipso cursu medioque certamine hic color illuc ille huc transferatur, studium favorque transibit, et repente agitatores illos equos illos, quos procul noscitant, quorum clamitant nomina relinquent. Tanta gratia tanta auctoritas in una vilissima tunica, mitto apud vulgus, quod vilius tunica, sed apud quosdam graves homines; quos ego cum recordor, in re inani frigida assidua, tam insatiabiliter desidere, capio aliquam voluptatem, quod hac voluptate non capior. Ac per hos dies libentissime otium meum in litteris colloco, quos alii otiosissimis occupationibus perdunt. Vale.