Our Ghosts Are Mirrors of What We Were

From Porphyry’s on Styx [Fragments preserved in Stobaeus 1.49.50]

“The notion explored is that the souls [of the dead] are like images which appear in mirrors or those on the surface of water which appear to resemble us completely and imitate our movements but have no solid matter for grasping or touching. This is why he calls them “images of exhausted men” (11.476).”

῾Υποτίθεται γὰρ τὰς ψυχὰς τοῖς εἰδώλοις τοῖς ἐν τοῖς κατόπτροις φαινομένοις ὁμοίας καὶ τοῖς διὰ τῶν ὑδάτων συνισταμένοις, ἃ καθάπαξ ἡμῖν ἐξείκασται καὶ τὰς κινήσεις μιμεῖται, στερεμνιώδη δ’ ὑπόστασιν οὐδεμίαν ἔχει εἰς ἀντίληψιν καὶ ἁφήν· ὅθεν αὐτὰς ‘βροτῶν εἴδωλα καμόντων’ (λ 476) λέγει.”

From Porphyry’s comments on Kirkê and the transformation of the soul (Stobaeus, 1.49.60.48):

“These things are no longer myth and poetry, but the truth and an account of nature.”

Καὶ οὐκέτι ταῦτα μῦθος οὐδὲ ποίησις, ἀλλὰ ἀλήθεια καὶ φυσικὸς λόγος.

This makes me think of stories as ghosts of deeds:

Euripides, fr. 532

“Do good while people are alive; when each man dies
He is earth and shadow. What is nothing changes nothing.”

τοὺς ζῶντας εὖ δρᾶν· κατθανὼν δὲ πᾶς ἀνὴρ
γῆ καὶ σκιά· τὸ μηδὲν εἰς οὐδὲν ῥέπει.

fr. 509

“What else? An old man is voice and shadow.”

τί δ’ ἄλλο; φωνὴ καὶ σκιὰ γέρων ἀνήρ.

Tragic Adesp. Fr. 95

“I want to advise all mortals
To live our brief life sweetly. For after you die,
You are nothing more than a shadow over the earth.”

πᾶσιν δὲ θνητοῖς βούλομαι παραινέσαι
τοὐφήμερον ζῆν ἡδέως· ὁ γὰρ θανὼν
τὸ μηδέν ἐστι καὶ σκιὰ κατὰ χθονός·

This connects to a repeated idea from classical Greek poetry:

Aeschylus, fr. 399.1-2

“Humanity thinks only about temporary seeds,
Its pledge is nothing more than the shadow of smoke”

τὸ γὰρ βρότειον σπέρμ’ ἐφήμερα φρονεῖ,
καὶ πιστὸν οὐδὲν μᾶλλον ἢ καπνοῦ σκιά

Sophocles, fr. 13.

“A person is only breath and shadow.”

ἄνθρωπός ἐστι πνεῦμα καὶ σκιὰ μόνον

Pindar, Pythian 8.95

“Alive for a day: What is a person? What is not a person? Man is a dream of a shadow”

ἐπάμεροι· τί δέ τις; τί δ’ οὔ τις; σκιᾶς ὄναρ

 

Democritus, fr. B145

“A story is the shadow of the deed”

λόγος ἔργου σκιή

 

Arsenius, 6.33a

“The shadow of Doiduks”: A proverb applied to nothing.”

Δοίδυκος σκιά: ἐπὶ τοῦ μηδενός.

 

Michael Apostolios, 5.74

“Shadow instead of a body”: A Proverb applied to those who seem strong but have no power.”

Σκιὰ ἀντὶ τοῦ σώματος: ἐπὶ τῶν δοκούντων κρα-
τεῖν τι, οὐδὲν δ’ ὅμως κρατούντων.

Image result for Ancient Greek burial sites

 

Pliny on the Malice and Villainy of Regulus

From Pliny’s Letters, 1.4

“After a few days, Regulus himself came to see me in his function as a praetor. Having followed me there, he asked to speak in private. He said that he was afraid that I may still be vexed by a comment which he made in the centumviral court, when he responded both to me and to Satrius Rufus with, ‘Satrius Rufus, who does not vie with Cicero, and is perfectly content with the eloquence of our age.’ I responded that I now understood that he had spoken maliciously, under his own confession; otherwise, I would have thought that it was a compliment. I said, ‘I, for my part, do attempt to rival Cicero, nor am I content with the eloquence of our day, and I think it the stupidest thing not to sent out the finest things of their kind for imitation. But you, who have recalled this case, why have you forgotten the one in which you asked me what I thought about the piety of Mettius Modestus?’ He grew notably pale (even though he was always pale) and hesitating, he said, ‘I asked you that not to harm you, but Modestus.’ Just consider the cruelty of this man, who does not even pretend that he did not wish to harm a man in exile. He even added a note about that famous case, ‘Modestus wrote in a certain letter, which was recited in front of Domitian, Regulus, the most worthless thing with two feet,’ which Modestus wrote with considerable truth. This was about the end of our talk, and I did not want to proceed any longer, so that I could keep everything  open until Mauricus arrived; nor did it escape me that Regulus was difficult to catch; for he is wealthy, intriguing, cared for by many, and feared by most (which is often a much stronger thing than love). Nevertheless, it happens that these things can be struck and diminished, because the favor of the wicked is as untrustworthy as they themselves are.”

Meant to represent ‘verbal wrangling.’

11 Paucos post dies ipse me Regulus convenit in praetoris officio; illuc persecutus secretum petit; ait timere se ne animo meo penitus haereret, quod in centumvirali iudicio aliquando dixisset, cum responderet mihi et Satrio Rufo: ‘Satrius Rufus, cui non est cum Cicerone aemulatio et qui contentus est eloquentia saeculi nostri’. 12 Respondi nunc me intellegere maligne dictum quia ipse confiteretur, ceterum potuisse honorificum existimari. ‘Est enim’ inquam ‘mihi cum Cicerone aemulatio, nec sum contentus eloquentia saeculi nostri; 13 nam stultissimum credo ad imitandum non optima quaeque proponere. Sed tu qui huius iudicii meministi, cur illius oblitus es, in quo me interrogasti, quid de Metti Modesti pietate sentirem?’ Expalluit notabiliter, quamvis palleat semper, et haesitabundus: ‘Interrogavi non ut tibi nocerem, sed ut Modesto.’ Vide hominis crudelitatem, qui se non dissimulet exsuli nocere voluisse. 14Subiunxit egregiam causam: ‘Scripsit’ inquit ‘in epistula quadam, quae apud Domitianum recitata est: “Regulus, omnium bipedum nequissimus”‘; quod quidem Modestus verissime scripserat. 15 Hic fere nobis sermonis terminus; neque enim volui progredi longius, ut mihi omnia libera servarem dum Mauricus venit. Nec me praeterit esse Regulum ‘dyskathaireton’; est enim locuples factiosus, curatur a multis, timetur a pluribus, quod plerumque fortius amore est. 16 Potest tamen fieri ut haec concussa labantur; nam gratia malorum tam infida est quam ipsi. Verum, ut idem saepius dicam, exspecto Mauricum. Vir est gravis prudens, multis experimentis eruditus et qui futura possit ex praeteritis providere. Mihi et temptandi aliquid et quiescendi illo auctore ratio constabit. 17 Haec tibi scripsi, quia aequum erat te pro amore mutuo non solum omnia mea facta dictaque, verum etiam consilia cognoscere. Vale.

Gallienus: Emperor of Pranks

Historia Augusta, Duo Gallieni (XII):

“Gallienus was, moreover, exceedingly clever, and I would do well to add a few examples of his sharp wit here. Once, when he had a huge bull sent into the amphitheater and the gladiator who was sent to kill him proved unable to kill the bull even after being brought out ten times, Gallienus sent the man a crown. When everyone began to murmur and wonder what the world was coming to for a totally incompetent person to be crowned, Gallienus ordered a herald to announce, ‘It is a difficult thing not to wound a bull so many times.’

Similarly, when a certain merchant had sold glass gems as real to his wife, and she (after discovering the trick) wanted him to be punished, Gallienus ordered that the merchant be seized and thrown to the lions. Then, a chicken was sent up from the amphitheater’s holding cage. When everyone was marveling at such an absurd sight, Gallienus ordered the herald to declare, ‘He has committed an imposture, and suffered one in turn.'”

Image result for gallienus

Fuit praeterea idem ingeniosissimus, cuius ostendendi acuminis scilicet pauca libet ponere: nam cum taurum ingentem in harenam misisset exissetque ad eum feriendum venator neque productum decies potuisset occidere, coronam venatori misit,  mussantibusque cunctis, quid rei esset, quod homo ineptissimus coronaretur, ille per curionem dici iussit: “Taurum totiens non ferire difficile est.” Idem, cum quidam gemmas vitreas pro veris vendidisset eius uxori atque illa re prodita vindicari vellet, subripi quasi ad leonem venditorem iuissit, deinde e cavea caponem emitti, mirantibusque cunctis rem tam ridiculam per curionem dici iussit: “Inposturam fecit et passus est.”

Drink Your Vergil!

Pietro Bembo, Letter to Pico della Mirandola (1530)

We cannot say the same thing about Vergil, namely, that he is fit to be emulated by everyone who takes pleasure in his poems. For those who write elegies or lyric poems, or those who are held by an enthusiasm for writing comedies or tragedies, will find very little help from the Vergilian structure, meter, or poetic program. Rather, they should imitate those whom they consider to be the chief poets in each individual genre of writing, and should give themselves wholly to the project of following them and even overcoming them. To be sure, I myself have done this. In writing my elegies, I imitated the poet who seemed to me to be the best in that genre. But for the poet who commits himself to heroic verse, then surely Vergil is to be learned, drunk in, and expressed as much as possible, as I had once personally told you was my opinion on the matter.

Pietro Bembo - Wikipedia

De Virgilio vero non idem possumus dicere, ut idoneus sit, quem, qui carminibus delectantur, imitari omnes queant. Neque enim qui aut elegos aut lyricos conficiunt versus, quique vel comoediarum vel tragoediarum scribendarum studio detinentur, horum ullos Virgiliana carminum structura, numerus, ratio ipsa multum iuvabit. Sed imitentur ii quidem eos quos habent principes singulis in scriptorum generibus singulos atque illis assequendis superandisque dedant. Quod profecto nos aliquando fecimus, ut in elegis pangendis, qui optimus eo in genere poematis nobis visus est, eum imitaremur. Heroicis autem conscribendis carminibus qui se dederit, huic certe erit Virgilius ediscendus, ebibendus et quam maxime fieri poterit exprimendus, quemadmodum coram tibi dixeram mihi videri.

Paging Dr. Isidore

Isidore of Seville, Etymologies 6.14 (go here for the full text):

Previously, librarii were called bibliopolas, because the Greeks call a book a biblion. The same people are called both librarii and antiquarians, but librarii are those who copy out both old and new things, while antiquarians are those who write out only the old, from which fact they derive their name. The scribe has received this name from writing (scribendo), expressing their duty with the quality of the word.

The scribe’s tools are the reed and the quill, because it is from these tools that words are fashioned on the page. But the reed comes from a plant, while the quill comes from a bird; its tip is divided into two, with its unity preserved throughout its whole form. I think that this is on account of the mystery rite and signifies the Old and New Testaments on its two points, by which the sacramen of the word is expressed as it pours forth from the blood of the Passion.

The reed (calamus) is so called because it lays down its liquid. For this reason, among sailors the word calare means “to set down”. The quill (penna) however, gets its name from hanging (pendendo), that is to say, from flying. It is, as I have said, proper to birds.

The sheets (foliae) of books are so called either from their similarity to the leaves of trees, or because they are made from folles, that is, from the hides which are typically taken from slain animals. The parts of these are called pages (paginae) because they are joined together (compingantur) in turn.

Verses are so called by the common people because the ancients used to write in the same way that they ploughed the land. At first, they drew the stylus from left to right, and then they turned it around on the following line, and then the succeeding line was again written from left to right. Rustic people still call these things verses. A scheda is a page which is still being corrected and not yet put back into the books. This is a Greek word, just like tomus.

Boustrophedon - Wikimedia Commons
An example of the boustrophedon mode of writing which Isidore describes here.

DE LIBRARIIS ET EORVM INSTRVMENTIS. Librarios antea bibliopolas dictos. Librum enim Graeci BIBLON vocant. Librarii autem iidem et antiquarii vocantur: sed librarii sunt qui et nova scribunt et vetera; antiquarii, qui tantummodo vetera, unde et nomen sumpserunt. Ab scribendo autem scriba nomen accepit, officium exprimens vocabuli qualitate. Instrumenta scribae calamus et pinna. Ex his enim verba paginis infiguntur; sed calamus arboris est, pinna avis; cuius acumen in dyade dividitur, in toto corpore unitate servata, credo propter mysterium, ut in duobus apicibus Vetus et Novum Testamentum signaretur, quibus exprimitur verbi sacramentum sanguine Passionis effusum. Dictus autem calamus quod liquorem ponat. Vnde et apud nautas calare ponere dicitur. Pinna autem a pendendo vocata, id est volando. Est enim, ut diximus, avium. Foliae autem librorum appellatae sive ex similitudine foliorum arborum, seu quia ex follibus fiunt, id est ex pellibus, qui de occisis pecudibus detrahi solent; cuius partes paginae dicuntur, eo quod sibi invicem conpingantur. Versus autem vulgo vocati quia sic scribebant antiqui sicut aratur terra. A sinistra enim ad dexteram primum deducebant stilum, deinde convertebantur ab inferiore, et rursus ad dexteram versus; quos et hodieque rustici versus vocant. Scheda est quod adhuc emendatur, et necdum in libris redactum est; et est nomen Graecum, sicut et tomus.

Gratitude for a Recovery

Greek Anthology 6.300, Leonidas [Lathria = Aphrodite]

“Lathrian, please take this from the wanderer, the pauper,
The man of little flour, Leonidas, as thanks:
Moist cakes of barely and well-stored olive oil,
Along with this green fig straight from the tree.
Lady, take these five grapes from a cluster good for wine
And this final libation from the bottom of the cup.
And if you save me from hateful poverty as you saved me
From sickness, expect a young goat too.”

Λαθρίη, ἐκ πλανίου ταύτην χάριν ἔκ τε πενέστεω
κἠξ ὀλιγησιπύου δέξο Λεωνίδεω,
ψαιστά τε πιήεντα καὶ εὐθήσαυρον ἐλαίην,
καὶ τοῦτο χλωρὸν σῦκον ἀποκράδιον,
κεὐοίνου σταφυλῆς ἔχ᾿ ἀποσπάδα πεντάρραγον,
πότνια, καὶ σπονδὴν τήνδ᾿ ὑποπυθμίδιον.
ἢν δέ μέ γ᾿, ὡς ἐκ νούσου ἀνειρύσω, ὧδε καὶ ἐχθρῆς
ἐκ πενίης ῥύσῃ, δέξο χιμαιροθύτην.

File:Greek - Oinochoe in the Camirus, or "Wild Goat" Style - Walters 482108 - Detail.jpg
“Wild Goat Style”

Cometas Scholasticus, Greek Anthology 9.597

“I was struck immobile from my hips to the bottom of my feet
Completely denied my life’s work for so long,
Halfway between life and death, Hades’ neighbor,
Merely breathing, but a corpse in every other way.
But wise Philippos, whom you view in the picture,
Brought me back to life by healing the dread disease.
And Antoninus walks on the earth again as before!
I tread on it with my feet and I feel whole.”

Νωθρὸς ἐγὼ τελέθεσκον ἀπ᾿ ἰξύος ἐς πόδας ἄκρους
τῆς πρὶν ἐνεργείης δηρὸν ἀτεμβόμενος,
ζωῆς καὶ θανάτοιο μεταίχμιον, Ἄϊδι γείτων,
μοῦνον ἀναπνείων, τἄλλα δὲ πάντα νέκυς.
ἀλλὰ σοφός με Φίλιππος, ὃν ἐν γραφίδεσσι δοκεύεις,
ζώγρησεν, κρυερὴν νοῦσον ἀκεσσάμενος·
αὖθις δ᾿ Ἀντωνῖνος, ἅπερ πάρος, ἐν χθονὶ βαίνω:
καὶ ποσὶ πεζεύω, καὶ ὅλος αἰσθάνομαι.

No Kidding!

Bartolomeo Scala, Whether a Wise Man Should Take a Wife (11):

Yet I think that it is pleasant to raise at home an heir, a palliative and comforter to the sufferings of old age. But there can be no better or more pleasant heirs than friends, whom you select – not ones whom you are compelled to have whether you will or not. Moses and Samuel preferred others to their own children, and they did not consider as their own children the ones whom they observed to be displeasing to God.

Though one hopes for the solaces of old age, most frequently we are objects of hatred, and people rejoice that we are dead more than they take comfort in our lives. I don’t want to follow up all of the inconveniences of having children, lest I become prolix and seem to write books to you rather than mere letters, especially since there are many things left which my little discourse here is hastening on to.

Bartolomeo Scala - Wikidata

Suave tamen credo est domi nutrire heredem senectutisque malorum levamen ac solatium. Sed nulli meliores ac suaviores esse possunt heredes quam amici, quos eligas, non quos velis nolis habere cogaris. Moses quoque ac Samuel filiis suis alios praetulerunt, nec habuerunt pro liberis quos ingratos esse Deo animadverterunt. Solatia vero cum exoptantur senectutis, frequentissime odio sumus, mortuosque magis gauderent quam vivos consolarentur. Nolo persequi omnes filiorum incommoditates ne sim longior et librum potius componere quam epistolam scribere ad te videar, praesertim cum multa restent ad quae festinat oratio.

Reading for Deep Erudition

Laurence Sterne, Tristram Shandy (1.20):

“I have imposed this penance upon the lady, neither out of wantonness nor cruelty; but from the best of motives; and therefore shall make her no apology for it when she returns back:—’Tis to rebuke a vicious taste, which has crept into thousands besides herself,—of reading straight forwards, more in quest of the adventures, than of the deep erudition and knowledge which a book of this cast, if read over as it should be, would infallibly impart with them—The mind should be accustomed to make wise reflections, and draw curious conclusions as it goes along; the habitude of which made Pliny the younger affirm, ‘That he never read a book so bad, but he drew some profit from it.’ The stories of Greece and Rome, run over without this turn and application,—do less service, I affirm it, than the history of Parismus and Parismenus, or of the Seven Champions of England, read with it.”

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Humanism vs. Erudition

J.E. Sandys, A History of Classical Scholarship, Vol. III:

“Gesner was one of the foremost leaders of the movement known as the New Humanism. The Old Humanism had aimed at the verbal imitation of the style of the Latin Classics, and at the artificial prolongation of the modern life of the ancient Latin literature. This aim was gradually found to be impracticable, and, about 1650, it was abandoned. Latin was still taught in schools ; it also survived as the medium of university instruction and as the language of the learned world. But the ancient literature came to be considered as a superfluity; neglected at school, it was regarded simply as a waste and barren field, where the learned might burrow in quest of the facts required for building up the fabric of an encyclopaedic erudition. Such was practically the view of the School of Halle.”

Etymology? Leave it to the Prose

Isidore of Seville, Etymologies 1.38:

Prose is speech drawn out and free from the restraint of meter. For the ancients used to call prose productum [drawn out] and straight. Thus, Varro says that in Plautus, the phrase prosis* lectis means ‘read straight through.’ Thus, whatever speech is not contorted by number, but stands straight, is said to be prose, from its drawing forth [producendo] into a straight path.

Others say that prose is so called because it is profuse (profusa), or because it pours forth proruat) and runs on at length, with no limit prescribed to it.

Furthermore, among both the Greeks and the Latins, songs were their chief concern long before prose was. For originally, all things were composed in verse; the pursuit of prose flourished late. Among the Greeks, the first to write prose was Pherecydes the Syrian; among the Romans, Appius Caecus first exercised the composition of prose against Pyrrhus. From that point, others contended in the eloquence of their prose.

*Isidore has conflated prosa with prorsus, meaning “straight onward” or “direct”.

Estatua_de_San_Isidoro_de_Sevilla_en_la_Biblioteca_Nacional

Prosa est producta oratio et a lege metri soluta. Prosum enim antiqui productum dicebant et rectum. Vnde ait Varro apud Plautum “prosis lectis’ significari rectis; unde etiam quae non est perflexa numero, sed recta, prosa oratio dicitur, in rectum producendo. Alii prosam aiunt dictam ab eo, quod sit profusa, vel ab eo, quod spatiosius proruat et excurrat, nullo sibi termino praefinito. Praeterea tam apud Graecos quam apud Latinos longe antiquiorem curam fuisse carminum quam prosae. Omnia enim prius versibus condebantur; prosae autem studium sero viguit. Primus apud Graecos Pherecydes Syrus soluta oratione scripsit; apud Romanos autem Appius Caecus adversus Pyrrhum solutam orationem primus exercuit. Iam exhinc et ceteri prosae eloquentia contenderunt.