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.

Not Literature, But Blotterature!

John Colet, Statutes of St. Paul’s School:

“As tovching in this scole what shalbe taught of the Maisters and lernyd of the scolars it passith my wit to devyse and determyn in particular but in generall to speke and sum what to saye my mynde, wolde they were taught all way in good litterature both laten and greke, and goode auctors suych as haue the veray Roxnayne eliquence joyned withe wysdome specially Cristyn auctours that wrote theyre wysdome with clene and chast laten other in verse or in prose, for my entent is by thys scole specially to increase knowledge and worshipping of god and oure lorde Crist jesu and good Crist en lyff and manors in the Children

And for that entent I will the Chyldren lerne ffirst aboue all the Cathechyson in Englysh and after the accidence that I made or sum other yf eny be better to the purpose to induce chyldren more spedely to laten spech And thanne Institutem Christiani homines which that lernyd Erasmus made at my request and the boke call Copia of the same Erasmus And thenne other auctors Christian as lactancius prudentius and proba and sedulius and Juuencus and Baptista Mantuanus and suche other as shalbe taught convenyent and moste to purpose unto the true laten spech all barbary all corrupcion all Laten adulterate which ignorant blynde folis brought into this worlde and with the same hath distayned and poysenyed the olde laten spech and the varay Romayne tong which in the tyme of Tully and Salust and Virgill and Terence was vsid, whiche also seint Jerome and seint ambrose and seint Austin and many hoorly doctors lernyd in theyr tymes. I say that ffylthynesse and all such abus you which the later blynde worlde brought in which more ratheyr may be callid blotterature thenne litterature I vtterly abbanysh and Exclude oute this scole and charge the Maisters that they tec he all way that is the best and instruct the chyldren in greke and Redyng laten in Redyng unto them such auctours that hathe with wisdome joyned the pure chaste eloquence.”

John Colet by Hans Holbein the Younger.jpg

Deception as Statecraft

Francis Bacon, Of Simulation and Dissimulation:

DISSIMULATION is but a faint kind of policy or wisdom; for it asketh a strong wit and a strong heart to know when to tell truth, and to do it. Therefore it is the weaker sort of politics that are the great dissemblers.

Tacitus saith, Livia sorted well with the arts of her husband and dissimulation of her son; attributing arts or policy to Augustus, and dissimulation to Tiberius. And again, when Mucianus encourageth Vespasian to take arms against Vitellius, he saith, We rise not against the piercing judgment of Augustus, nor the extreme caution or closeness of Tiberius. These properties, of arts or policy and dissimulation or closeness, are indeed habits and faculties several, and to be distinguished. For if a man have that penetration of judgment as he can discern what things are to be laid open, and what to be secreted, and what to be showed at half lights, and to whom and when (which indeed are arts of state and arts of life, as Tacitus well calleth them), to him a habit of dissimulation is a hinderance and a poorness.

But if a man cannot obtain to that judgment, then it is left to him generally to be close, and a dissembler. For where a man cannot choose or vary in particulars, there it is good to take the safest and wariest way in general; like the going softly by one that cannot well see. Certainly the ablest men that ever were have had all an openness and frankness of dealing; and a name of certainty and veracity; but then they were like horses well managed; for they could tell passing well when to stop or turn; and at such times when they thought the case indeed required dissimulation, if then they used it, it came to pass that the former opinion spread abroad of their good faith and clearness of dealing made them almost invisible.

Half-Assing It: A Love Story

Aristokles, BNJ 831 F 3b (=Stobaios, Florides 4.20 b74)

“In the second book of his Wonders, Aristokles has this: A young man named Aristonymos, an Ephesian of a noble family, was Demostratos’ son, but in reality he was Ares’ son.

In the middle of the night, because he hated all women, he went to his father’s herd and had sex with a female donkey. She got pregnant and gave birth to the most beautiful girl, named Onoskelia, a nickname borrowed from the way she was born.”

᾽Αριστοκλέους ἐν β̄ Παραδόξων. <᾽Αριστώνυμος> ᾽Εφέσιος τῶι γένει, νεανίας τῶν ἐπισήμων, υἱὸς Δημοστράτου, ταῖς δ᾽ ἀληθείαις ῎Αρεως. οὗτος τὸ θῆλυ μισῶν γένος νυκτὸς βαθείας εἰς τοὺς πατρώιας ἔτρεχεν ἀγέλας, καὶ ὄνωι συνεγένετο θηλείαι· ἡ δὲ ἔγκυος γενομένη ἔτεκε κόρην εὐειδεστάτην ᾽Ονοσκελίαν τοὐνομα, τὴν προσηγορίαν λαβοῦσαν ἀπὸ τοῦ συμπτώματος.

Bodleian Library, MS. Bodley 764, Folio 44r

The Tragedy of the Aeneid’s Dido As Told Through Buffy GIFs

Vergil, Aeneid 1.748–749

“Nor did unhappy Dido fail to drag out the night
With all kinds of talk as she was drinking deep of love.”

nec non et vario noctem sermone trahebat
infelix Dido longumque bibebat amorem,

Last year, Christian Lehmann (@buffyantiqua) told the story of Aeneas and Dido from Vergil’s Aeneid through GIFs from Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Here it is again, because, well, this is what we need.

This is not only genius which the world needs to witness for its own sake, but it also combines a few things I love: Homeric reception/myth and Buffy. (I tried to write about this once and partially failed.)

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I loved this so much that I wanted to share it with those who don’t use Twitter and Christian was kind enough to give his consent (see his work on “The 100 and Classical (Under)Worlds” too). This is a lively and fascinating retelling–it forces reconsiderations, I think, of both the Aeneid and BVTS. Also, Buffy and Spike > Buffy and Riley.

[below is my contribution: I learned this passage in high school where it was obligatory to understand that Dido was not dutiful enough and gave into passion, whereas Aeneas was oh so very pius.]

Vergil, Aeneid 4. 165-172

To the same cave came Dido and the Trojan captain
Earth first then nuptial Dido gave their sign
The lightning bolts were shining out and the Sky was a witness
to their bridal rites as the Nymphs sounded out on the mount’s highest peak
That day was the first cause of death; the first cause of evils.
For no longer was Dido cautioned by appearances or rumor
And no more was she harboring a secret love.
She calls it a marriage: with this name she cloaks her fault.

speluncam Dido dux et Troianus eandem
deveniunt. prima et Tellus et pronuba Iuno
dant signum; fulsere ignes et conscius Aether
conubiis, summoque ulularunt vertice Nymphae.
ille dies primus leti primusque malorum
causa fuit. neque enim specie famave movetur
nec iam furtivum Dido meditatur amorem;
coniugium vocat; hoc praetexit nomine culpam.

“My Soul Tried to Cross Our Lips”: Platonic Love

Two love poems attributed to Plato

Diogenes Laertius Vita Phil 1.3 [Plato 31] and Athenaeus 589e

“I have a lover from Kolophôn named Arkheanassa—
Potent lust rests even on her wrinkles
Poor wretches who met her during the first sailing
Of her youth—what a conflagration you passed through!”

Ἀρχεάνασσαν ἔχω τὴν ἐκ Κολοφῶνος ἑταίραν,
ἧς καὶ ἐπὶ ῥυτίδων ἕζετο δριμὺς ἔρως.
ἆ δειλοὶ νεότητος ἀπαντήσαντες ἐκείνης
πρωτοπλόου, δι᾿ ὅσης ἤλθετε πυρκαϊῆς.

The Greek Anth. 7.217 attributes a slightly different version to Asclepiades

“I have Arkheanassa, a lover from Kolophôn—
Sweet lust rests even on her wrinkles
Oh lovers who harvested the fruit of her youth
At first bloom—what a conflagration you passed through!”

Ἀρχεάνασσαν ἔχω, τὰν ἐκ Κολοφῶνος ἑταίραν,
ἇς καὶ ἐπὶ ῥυτίδων ὁ γλυκὺς ἕζετ᾿ Ἔρως.
ἆ νέον ἥβης ἄνθος ἀποδρέψαντες ἐρασταὶ
πρωτοβόλου, δι᾿ ὅσης ἤλθετε πυρκαϊῆς.

D. L = Gr. Anth. 7.78

“When kissing Agathon I felt my soul at my lips.
The wretch—for she was trying to cross between us.”

τὴν ψυχὴν Ἀγάθωνα φιλῶν ἐπὶ χείλεσιν εἶχον·
ἦλθε γὰρ ἡ τλήμων ὡς διαβησομένη.

According to Aelian, Plato’s career as a poet was cut short (Varia Historia 2.30); but note, though there is mention of epic and tragedy, the anecdote makes no claims for lyric and elegy:

“Plato, the son of Ariston, at first pursued poetry and used to write heroic verse. But he soon burned it all because he despised it, since he reckoned that his poetry was far inferior when compared to Homer’s. He then tried tragedy and even completed a tetralogy, and he was about to enter the competition, even to the point of giving the verses to actors. But right before the Dionysia, he went and heard Socrates; and once he was seized by that Siren, he not only withdrew from the competition, but he also gave up the writing of tragedy for good to immerse himself in philosophy.”

Πλάτων ὁ ᾿Αρίστωνος τὰ πρῶτα ἐπὶ ποιητικὴν ὥρμησε, καὶ ἡρωϊκὰ ἔγραφε μέτρα• εἶτα αὐτὰ κατέπρησεν ὑπεριδὼν αὐτῶν, ἐπεὶ τοῖς ῾Ομήρου αὐτὰ ἀντικρίνων ἑώρα κατὰ πολὺ ἡττώμενα. ἐπέθετο οὖν τραγῳδίᾳ, καὶ δὴ καὶ τετραλογίαν εἰργάσατο, καὶ ἔμελλεν ἀγωνιεῖσθαι, δοὺς ἤδη τοῖς ὑποκριταῖς τὰ ποιήματα. πρὸ τῶν Διονυσίων δὲ παρελθὼν ἤκουσε Σωκράτους, καὶ ἅπαξ αἱρεθεὶς ὑπὸ τῆς ἐκείνου σειρῆνος, τοῦ ἀγωνίσματος οὐ μόνον ἀπέστη τότε, ἀλλὰ καὶ τελέως τὸ γράφειν τραγῳδίαν ἀπέρριψε, καὶ ἀπεδύσατο ἐπὶ φιλοσοφίαν.

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Louvre G 278 Attributed to Briseis Painter

A Lover of Pleasure, A Hater of Toil

Suda entry on Aulus Postumius:

“Aulus Postumius was a man of property and the highest birth, and true to his own birth he was gossipy, loquacious, and notably given to boasting. Having taken an interest from his earliest youth in Greek education and language, he entirely immersed himself in these studies to such a degree that he scandalized the older and more dignified members of the Roman establishment. Finally, he wrote a poem and a history of practical deeds. In the preface to this work, he entreats his chance readers to grant him some pardon, if he as a Roman was not able to fully take command of the Greek language and the judicious use of it. This is a mark of absolute absurdity, and is almost as bad as if someone writing an account of athletic events like boxing or the pancration were to go to the stadium and, when the time to fight arrived, asked the pardon of the spectators in the event that he could not endure the physical exertion or the blows of his opponent. Obviously, this king of man incurs mockery and judgment out of hand. The same thing should happen to other history writers like him, lest they dare things beyond what is good. Aulus Postumius was a lover of pleasure and a hater of toil.”

Wall painting from Room H of the Villa of P. Fannius Synistor at Boscoreale

Αὖλος Ποστόμιος οἰκίας μὲν ἦν καὶ γένους πρώτου, κατὰ τὴν ἰδίαν φύσιν στωμύλος καὶ λάλος καὶ πέρπερος διαφερόντως. ἐπιθυμήσας δ’ εὐθέως ἐκ παίδων τῆς ῾Ελληνικῆς ἀγωγῆς καὶ διαλέκτου πολὺς μὲν ἦν ἐν τούτοις καὶ κατακορής, ὥστε δι’ ἐκεῖνον καὶ τὴν αἵρεσιν τὴν ῾Ελληνικὴν προσκόψαι τοῖς πρεσβυτέροις καὶ τοῖς ἀξιολογωτάτοις τῶν ῾Ρωμαίων, τέλος δὲ καὶ ποίημα γράφων καὶ πραγματικὴν ἱστορίαν ἐνεχείρησεν· ἐν ᾗ διὰ τοῦ προοιμίου παρεκάλει τοὺς ἐντυγχάνοντας συγγνώμην ἔχειν, εἰ ῾Ρωμαῖος ὢν μὴ δύνηται κατακρατεῖν τῆς ῾Ελληνικῆς διαλέκτου καὶ τῆς κατὰ χειρισμὸν οἰκονομίας· ὅπερ ἐστὶ πάσης ἀτοπίας σημεῖον, καὶ παραπλήσιον, ὡς ἂν εἴ τις ἐς τοὺς γυμνικοὺς ἀγῶνας ἀπογραψάμενος πυγμὴν ἢ παγκράτιον, παρελθὼν ἐς τὸ στάδιον, ὅτε δέοι μάχεσθαι, παραιτοῖτο τοὺς θεωμένους συγγνώμην ἔχειν, ἐὰν μὴ δύνηται τὸν πόνον ὑπομένειν μήτε τὰς πληγάς. δῆλον γὰρ ὡς εἰκὸς γέλωτα τὸν τοιοῦτον ὀφλεῖν καὶ τὴν δίκην ἐκ χειρὸς λαμβάνειν· ὅπερ ἔδει καὶ τοὺς τοιούτους ἱστοριογράφους, ἵνα μὴ κατετόλμωντοῦ καλῶς ἔχοντος. ἦν δὲ καὶ φιλήδονος καὶ φυγόπονος.