Disguise Your Villainy

Quintilian, Institutio Oratoria 3.8

“Meanwhile, should anyone persuade a good man of dishonest, let them remember not to persuade them as dishonest thing, as some declaimers say that Sextus Pompeius should turn to piracy precisely because it is shameful and cruel. Rather, one should give unpleasant acts a certain favorable coloring even among the wicked, because no one is so evil that they wish to appear to be so. Thus Catiline speaks in Sallust in such a way that he seems to undertake the most wicked crime not from malice but from indignation. Thus Atreus in Varius says, ‘Now I will undertake the most unspeakable things, now I am compelled to do so.’ How much more should this display be maintained by those who care about their reputation! For this reason we will even give Cicero the counsel to entreat with Anthony, or even to burn his Philippics if Antony promised to leave him alive, and we will not attribute this to his desire to stay alive (even if this is his chief motive, it will have its force as we remain silent on the matter. But we will urge the Republic to save itself. It is necessary for it on this occasion that one not be ashamed of such prayers. We will even affirm to Julius Caesar, as we persuade him to take the throne, that the republic can not stand unless it be ruled by one man. For one who deliberates about a nefarious deed only asks how he might appear to have sinned the least.”

Image result for ancient pirates

Interim si quis bono inhonesta suadebit, meminerit non suadere tamquam inhonesta, ut quidam declamatores Sextum Pompeium ad piraticam propter hoc ipsum, quod turpis et crudelis sit, inpellunt, sed dandus illis deformibus color idque etiam apud malos: neque enim quisquam est tam malus ut videri velit. XLV. Sic Catilina apud Sallustium loquitur ut rem scelestissimam non malitia sed indignatione videatur audere, sic Atreus apud Varium “iam fero” inquit “infandissima, iam facere cogor”. Quanto magis eis quibus cura famae fuit conservandus est hic vel ambitus. XLVI. Quare et cum Ciceroni dabimus consilium ut Antonium roget, vel etiam ut Philippicas, ita vitam pollicente eo, exurat, non cupiditatem lucis adlegabimus (haec enim si valet in animo eius, tacentibus quoque nobis valet), XLVII. sed ut se rei publicae servet hortabimur – hac illi opus est occasione, ne eum talium precum pudeat: et C. Caesari suadentes regnum adfirmabimus stare iam rem publicam nisi uno regente non posse. Nam qui de re nefaria deliberat id solum quaerit, quo modo quam minimum peccare videatur.

Seneca on What Parents Do For Children

Seneca, De Beneficiis 6.24

“Don’t you see how parents compel the tender age of their children toward a healthy endurance of matters? They lavish care on their bodies even as they weep and struggle against them and, so that early freedom does not destroy their limbs, they even swaddle them to help them stay straight. And soon they shape them with a liberal education, adding threats when the children are unwilling. And they treat the final boldness of youth with frugality, shame, good habits, and, compulsion, if necessary.

Force and severity are added to to these youths who are already in control of themselves if they reject these remedies because of fear or intemperance. These are the greatest benefits which we receive from our parents, while we are either ignorant or unwilling.”

Non vides, quemadmodum teneram liberorum infantiam parentes ad salubrium rerum patientiam cogant? Flentium corpora ac repugnantium diligenti cura fovent et, ne membra libertas immatura detorqueat, in rectum exitura constringunt et mox liberalia studia inculcant adhibito timore nolentibus; ad ultimum audacem iuventam frugalitati, pudori, moribus bonis, si parum sequitur, coactam applicant.

Adulescentibus quoque ac iam potentibus sui, si remedia metu aut intemperantia reiciunt, vis adhibetur ac severitas. Itaque beneficiorum maxima sunt, quae a parentibus accepimus, dum aut nescimus aut nolumus.

Livre des Vices et des Vertus , XVe siècle. Paris, BnF, département des Manuscrits, Français 20320, fol. 177v

Livre des Vices et des Vertus , XVe siècle. Paris, BnF, département des Manuscrits, Français 20320, fol. 177v

One Way to Deal With Men: “The Lame Man is the Best Lover”

Mimnermus fr. 21 [=] Corp. Paroem. suppl., 1961, V), p. 15

“The lame man is the best lover.” They say that the Amazons crippled their male offspring by cutting off either a leg or a hand. When the Skythians were fighting them and they offered to make a treaty, they promised the Amazons that they would not be married to any Skythians who were crippled or mutilated. The leader of the Amazons, Antianeira, responded “The lame man is the best lover.” Mimnermus preserves this proverb.”

“ἄριστα χωλὸς οἰφεῖ.” φησὶν ὅτι αἱ Ἀμαζόνες τοὺς γιγνομένους ἄρσενας ἐπήρουν, ἢ σκέλος ἢ χεῖρα περιελόμεναι· πολεμοῦντες δὲ πρὸς αὐτὰς οἱ Σκύθαι καὶ βουλόμενοι πρὸς αὐτὰς σπείσασθαι ἔλεγον ὅτι συνέσονται τοῖς Σκύθαις εἰς γάμον ἀπηρώτοις καὶ οὐ λελωβημένοις· ἀποκριναμένη δὲ πρὸς αὐτοὺς ἡ Ἀντιάνειρα ἡγεμὼν τῶν Ἀμαζόνων εἶπεν· “ἄριστα χωλὸς οἰφεῖ.” μέμνηται τῆς παροιμίας Μίμ<ν>ερμος.

Cf. Diogenianus 2.2.1

“The lame man is the best lover.” They say that the Amazons crippled their male offspring by cutting off either a leg or a hand. When the Skythians were fighting them and they wanted to deceive them, they said that they would have no crippled or mutilated men marry them, since their husbands were all mutilated. In response to this, the leader of the Amazons, said “A cripple fucks the best” instead of using “sunosiazei” [to have sex with]

῎Αριστα χωλὸς οἰφεῖ: φασὶν ὅτι αἱ ᾿Αμαζόνες τοὺς γεννωμένους ἄῤῥενας ἐπήρουν. ῞Οθεν πολεμοῦντες αὐταῖς οἱ Σκύθαι, καὶ βουλόμενοι αὐτὰς ἐξαπατῆσαι,ἔλεγον ὅτι συνέσονται αὐταῖς εἰς γάμον ἀπήρωτοι καὶ οὐ λελωβημένοι, ὡς τῶν ἐκείνων ἀνδρῶν λελωβημένων ὄντων. ᾿Εξ ὧν ἀποκριθεῖσα ἡ ἡγεμὼν τῶν ᾿Αμαζόνων, ῎Αριστα, φησὶ, χωλὸς οἰφεῖ, ἀντὶ τοῦ συνουσιάζει.

Pausanias, Attic Lexicon alpha 149

“This proverb is used for those who choose local evils rather than foreign goods. For when the Skythians were warring against the Amazons and there was a ceasefire, while they were considering other things they were also saying to the woman that if they consented to them they would have un-disabled husbands instead pf the mutilated, lame, and useless men who were already among them. Antineira, who was leading them, was both bold and persistent, and she said to them: “A lame man fucks the best” instead of using the term for intercourse. For the Amazons handicap those male children born to them in either their legs or their right hands. [hence it is clear they they have lame husbands.]”

     ἄριστα χωλὸς οἰφεῖ (com. fr. ad. 36 K.)· ἐπὶ τῶν οἰκεῖα κακὰ μᾶλλον αἱρουμένων ἢ τὰ ἀλλότρια ἀγαθά. τῶν γὰρ Σκυθῶν ποτε ταῖς ᾿Αμαζόσι πολεμούντων καὶ ἀνοχῆς γενομένης, τά τε ἄλλα φιλοφρονουμένων καὶ φασκόντων αὐταῖς, ὅτι εἰ τούτοις πεισθεῖεν, ἀπηρώτοις συνέσονται ἀνδράσιν, ἀλλ’ οὐχὶ λελωβημένοις καὶ χωλοῖς καὶ ἀχρείοις ὡς οἱ παρ’ αὐταῖς, ᾿Αντιάνειρα ἡ τούτων ἡγουμένη, θρασεῖα ἅμα καὶ ἀκόλαστος οὖσα, εἶπε πρὸς αὐτούς· ‘ἄριστα χωλὸς οἰφεῖ’ ἀντὶ τοῦ συνουσιάζει. αἱ γὰρ ᾿Αμαζόνες τῶν τικτομένων παρ’ αὐταῖς ἀρρένων ἐπήρουν τὰ σκέλη ἢ τὰς δεξιὰς χεῖρας. [δῆλον οὖν ὅτι χωλοῖς ἀνδράσιν ἐχρῶντο].

Photios offers an explanation for the proverb:

“The lame man is the best lover” for, lame men are inclined towards sex. Douris in the 6th book of his Philippika records that the Amazons crippled their male offspring.”

῎Αριστα χωλὸς οἰφεῖ· καταφερεῖς γὰρ οἱ χωλοὶ πρὸς συνουσίαν. Δοῦρις δὲ ἐν ζ′ τῶν Φιλιππικῶν ἱστορεῖ (fr. novum) τὰς ᾿Αμαζόνας χωλοῦν τὴν ἄρρενα γενεάν.

Scholia to Theocritus Prolog. 4.6263

“The proverb, which they say is given, “the lame man makes the best lover, is said since lame men sit at home constantly having sex…”

καὶ ἡ παροιμία ‘ἄριστα χωλὸς οἰφεῖ’, ἥν φασι διαδοθῆναι, ἐπεὶ οἱ χωλοὶ ἐν οἴκῳ καθεζόμενοι συνεχῶς ἀφροδισιάζουσιν.

Image result for ancient greek amazon and lover

A short lexical note to explain why I should translate οἰφεῖ as “fuck”.

In the fourth translation of the proverb I introduce a vulgar variation that I think is probably closer to what is going on with the anecdote. I think the point is that the Amazon queen is being vulgar to put off the Skythians. The verb used here, oiphein, is rare and vulgar enough that the LSJ does not provide a decent translation.

oipho lsj

Henderson (Maculate Muse, 157) follows LSJ in translating as “mount”

oipho hend

But Beekes (2010) seems to see the verb as more specific and active:

oipho beeks

Some additional Thoughts:

There is an interesting cultural dynamic behind these statements that engages with some of the myths from Ancient Greece that I have mentioned recently, especially in the tension between heroic beauty and disabled bodies. In ancient Greek myth and poetry there is a problematic fetish of the perfect heroic body and within this system, a disfigured body is non-heroic. As a result of an overlap between heroic virtue and the body, negative ethics and character are expressed through a symbolic disfigurement of the body as with Thersites. The Odyssey, of course, adjusts this and deploys Odysseus as a compromised heroic body: he is nearly lamed and thus is capable of demonstrating intelligence instead of force. In the Odyssey, the beautiful and perfect bodies of the suitors are contrasted with Odysseus’ older, scarred body: their perfection becomes a type of deformity and their morals are accordingly distorted.

What I think is going on with this anecdote and the connected proverb is that there is a basic assumption that the disabled are morally corrupt and here that their moral corruption emerges in the form of licentiousness. But the Amazon queen turns the tables on the heroized Skythian leaders and privileges the disabled bodies for their sexual ability over the promised domination of the proper marriage to the able-bodied men. In addition, there is the symbolic valence of the disabled man, who does not represent the threatened violence implicit in the able-bodied man. In a way, this may also help us to think about Odysseus’ value as a husband.

Linguistic Laws: Look to the Learned

Aeneas Silvius Piccolomini, de Liberorum Educatione:

“There is the greatest number of those who pamper and arrange their hair, who drink at the baths, who dine out with unseemly zeal, who serve unlawful profit and pleasure. There are few who abstain from these things. Let it not be that we imitate the former; let us avoid them. How many there are, who degrade the Latin language! In place of the word ‘love’ (amare) and ‘to chase after ladies with carnal desire,’ the people of this land say hovizare. They call ‘the expenses incurred on a journey’ cerealia. When they want to say that someone will come, they do not say, ‘he will come,’ but ‘the coming will be soon.’ What then? Shall we follow these people (because they are the majority) and adopt our mode of speaking from the mob? Let this error go away. For indeed, though something faulty has settled in the minds of ever so many people, it should not be accepted as a rule of speech, because good morals – not vice – make for linguistic correctness. Just as it is proper, in life, to call upon and imitate the custom of the good, so too in the field of speech, we must call upon and imitate the established usage of the learned.”


Maximus est eorum numerus, qui comas nutriunt et in gradus frangunt, qui perpotant in balneis, qui summo studio cenas sectantur, qui lucris illicitis, qui libidini serviunt; pauci, qui ab his abstinent. Absit, ut illos imitemur; istos fugiamus. Quam multi sunt, qui verba Latina depravant! Pro eo, quod est ‘amare’ atque ‘insequi Veneris cupiditate feminas,’ ‘hovizare’ huius terrae populus dicit; ‘sumptus qui fiunt ab itinerantibus,’ ‘ceralia’ vocat; quando venturum quemquam significare vult, ipse inquit non ‘veniet,’ sed ‘erit cito venire.’ Quid igitur? Sequemurne istos, quia plurimi sunt, et loquendi consuetudinem ex multitudine recipiemus? Facessat hic error. Non enim, quod vitiose quamvis multis insiderit, pro regula sermonis accipiendum erit, quia non vitia sed mores boni consuetudinem faciunt. Sicut ergo vivendi consensum bonorum, sic et loquendi consonantiam eruditorum appellare et imitari consuetudinem oportebit.

Who Is the Most Beautiful Under the Earth?

Nireus is famed as the second most beautiful of the Greeks at Troy; Thersites is claimed as the ugliest. Lucian puts them together in the underworld.

Lucian, Dialogue of the Dead 30

Nireus: Look here, Menippos, this one will teach which one is better looking. Tell me, Menippos, don’t I look prettier to you?

Menippus: Who are you two? I think I need to know that first.

Nireus: Nireus and Thersites

Menippos: Which of you is Nireus and which is Thersites? This is not at all clear to me.

Thersites: I have this one thing already, that I am similar to you and you are not at all different now than when Homer that blind guy praised you as the most beautiful of all when he addressed you, but he said that I am a cone-headed hunchback no worse for a beating. But, Menippos, examine which ever one you think is better looking.

Nireus: Be he said that I am “the son of Aglaia and Kharops, the most beautiful man who came to Troy.”

Menippos: Eh, you did not come as the most beautiful under the earth, I think: but the bones are the same and your head can only be distinguished from Thersites’ head by that little bit, that yours is a bit better shaped. For you do not have the same peak and you are not as manly.

Nireus: Ask Homer what sort I was when I joined the expedition to Troy!

Thersites: That’s good enough for me.

ΝΙΡΕΥΣ
᾿Ιδοὺ δή, Μένιππος οὑτοσὶ δικάσει, πότερος εὐμορφότερός ἐστιν. εἰπέ, ὦ Μένιππε, οὐ καλλίων σοι δοκῶ;

ΜΕΝΙΠΠΟΣ
Τίνες δὲ καὶ ἔστε; πρότερον, οἶμαι, χρὴ γὰρ τοῦτο εἰδέναι.

ΝΙΡΕΥΣ
Νιρεὺς καὶ Θερσίτης.

ΜΕΝΙΠΠΟΣ
Πότερος οὖν ὁ Νιρεὺς καὶ πότερος ὁ Θερσίτης; οὐδέπω γὰρ τοῦτο δῆλον.

ΘΕΡΣΙΤΗΣ
῝Εν μὲν ἤδη τοῦτο ἔχω, ὅτι ὅμοιός εἰμί σοι καὶ οὐδὲν τηλικοῦτον διαφέρεις ἡλίκον σε ῞Ομηρος ἐκεῖνος ὁ τυφλὸς ἐπῄνεσεν ἁπάντων εὐμορφότερον προσειπών, ἀλλ’ ὁ φοξὸς ἐγὼ καὶ ψεδνὸς οὐδὲν χείρων ἐφάνην τῷ δικαστῇ. ὅρα δὲ σύ, ὦ Μένιππε, ὅντινα καὶ εὐμορφότερον ἡγῇ.

ΝΙΡΕΥΣ
᾿Εμέ γε τὸν ᾿Αγλαΐας καὶ Χάροπος, “ὃς κάλλιστος ἀνὴρ ὑπὸ ῎Ιλιον ἦλθον.”

ΜΕΝΙΠΠΟΣ
᾿Αλλ’ οὐχὶ καὶ ὑπὸ γῆν, ὡς οἶμαι, κάλλιστος ἦλθες, ἀλλὰ τὰ μὲν ὀστᾶ ὅμοια, τὸ δὲ κρανίον ταύτῃ μόνον ἄρα διακρίνοιτο ἀπὸ τοῦ Θερσίτου κρανίου, ὅτι εὔθρυπτον τὸ σόν· ἀλαπαδνὸν γὰρ αὐτὸ καὶ οὐκ ἀνδρῶδες ἔχεις.
ΝΙΡΕΥΣ
Καὶ μὴν ἐροῦ ῞Ομηρον, ὁποῖος ἦν, ὁπότε συνεστράτευον τοῖς ᾿Αχαιοῖς.

ΜΕΝΙΠΠΟΣ
᾿Ονείρατά μοι λέγεις· ἐγὼ δὲ ἃ βλέπω καὶ νῦν ἔχεις, ἐκεῖνα δέ οἱ τότε ἴσασιν.

ΝΙΡΕΥΣ
Οὔκουν ἐγὼ ἐνταῦθα εὐμορφότερός εἰμι, ὦ Μένιππε;

ΜΕΝΙΠΠΟΣ
Οὔτε σὺ οὔτε ἄλλος εὔμορφος· ἰσοτιμία γὰρ ἐν ᾅδου καὶ ὅμοιοι ἅπαντες.

ΘΕΡΣΙΤΗΣ
᾿Εμοὶ μὲν καὶ τοῦτο ἱκανόν.

Santo Spirito, Florence. c.1475-1485. Cambrai – BM – ms. 0422, f. 095v. Apocalypsis figurata. Louvain (?), c. 1260. Bibliothque nationale de France,…

Seneca’s Fugue State

Seneca Moral Epistle 83. 5-7

“Not much of my strength remains for a bath. Then, after I do bathe, I have some dry bread, breakfast without a table. Hands don’t need to be washed after such a meal. After that, I nap for a bit. You are familiar with my custom: I take the shortest bit of sleep, as if just releasing myself from the yoke. It is enough for me to stop staying awake. At times, I know I have slept; at others, I only suspect it.”

 Non multum mihi  balneum superest. Panis deinde siccus et sine mensa prandium, post quod non sunt lavandae manus. Dormio minimum. Consuetudinem meam nosti: brevissimo somno utor et quasi interiungo. Satis est mihi vigilare desisse. Aliquando dormisse me scio, aliquando suspicor.

Beaten in School, but Only Once

Guibert of Nogent, Gesta Dei per Francos:

“I was beaten once in school; but that school was nothing else but the dining room of our home. On my account, the teacher abandoned all concern for the others whom he had accepted as students. For my mother had prudently extracted this concession from him by increasing her complains and denouncing his honor. When therefore I was free from that study, whatever it was, for a few evening hours, I came to my mother’s knees after being flogged gravely and beyond what was deserved. When she asked – as was her habit – whether I was beaten that day, I denied that it had happened at all, lest I seem to be bringing a charge against my teacher. She, whether I wanted it or not, tore off my undershirt, which they call a subucula or rather a camisia, she noted the bruised little ribs of my back from the striking of the rod and the skin swelling everywhere. When she grieved for the violence brought against my softness with excessive severity, she, stormy and seething, with eyes suffused with sadness, said ‘You will never afterward be a cleric, nor will you again pay such penalties for the sake of learning your letters.’ I looked back at her with whatever animadversion I could muster and said, ‘Even if it kills me, I will not cease to learn my letters and become a cleric.’ For she had promised that if I wished to become a knight, she would provide me with my military equipment and weapons when I had reached the appropriate age.”

Image result for guibert of nogent

Semel in schola vapulaveram; schola autem non alia erat quam quoddam domus nostrae triclinium. Aliorum enim, quos aliquando docens acceperat, mei solius causa curas obmiserat. Sic enim aucto questu, et delatione honoris prudens ab eo mater exegerat. Soluto igitur vespertinis quibusdam horis qualicunque illo studio, ad materna genua graviter etiam praeter meritum caesus accesseram. Quae cum an eo vapulassem die, ut erat solita, rogitare coepisset, et ego, ne magistrum detulisse viderer, factum omnino negarem, ipsa, vellem nollem, rejecta interula, quam subuculam, imo camisiam vocant, liventes attendit ulnulas dorsiculi ex viminum illisione cutem ubique prominulam. Cumque meae teneritudini ad nimium saeve illatam visceraliter doluisset, turbulenta et aestuans, et oculos moerore suffusa: « Nunquam, ait, deinceps clericus fies, nec ut litteras discas ulterius poenas lues. » Ad haec ego eam cum qua poteram animadversione respiciens: « Si, inquam, proinde mori contingeret, non desistam quin litteras discam, et clericus fiam. » Promiserat enim si eques vellem fieri, cum ad id temporis emersissem, apparatum se mihi militiae et arma daturam.

Breaking the Chains of the Mind, Shaking Off the Chains of the Past

Gilbert Murray, Religio Grammatici

“On these lines we see that the scholar’s special duty is to turn the written signs in which old poetry or philosophy is now enshrined back into living thought or feeling. He must so understand as to re-live. And here he is met at the present day by a direct frontal criticism. ‘Suppose, after great toil and the expenditure of much subtlety of intellect, you succeed in re-living the best works of the past, is that a desirable end? Surely our business is with the future and present, not with the past. If there is any progress in the world or any hope for struggling humanity, does it not lie precisely in shaking off the chains of the past and looking steadily forward?’ How shall we meet this question ?

First, we may say, the chains of the mind are not broken by any form of ignorance. The chains of the mind are broken by understanding. And so far as men are unduly enslaved by the past, it is by understanding the past that they may hope to be freed. But, secondly, it is never really the past — the true past — that enslaves us ; it is always the present. It is not the conventions of the seventeenth or eighteenth century that now make men conventional. It is the conventions of our own age, though, of course, I would not deny that in any age there are always fragments of the uncomprehended past still floating like dead things pretending to be alive. What one always needs for freedom is some sort of escape from the thing that now holds him. A man who is the slave of theories must get outside them and see facts; a man who is the slave of his own desires and prejudices must widen the range of his experience and imagination. But the thing that enslaves us most, narrows the range of our thought, cramps our capacities, and lowers our standards, is the mere present — the present that is all round us, accepted and taken for granted, as we in London accept the grit in the air and the dirt on our hands and faces. The material present, the thing that is omnipotent over us, not because it is either good or evil, but just because it happens to be here, is the great jailer and imprisoner of man’s mind; and the only true method of escape from him is the contemplation of things that are not present. Of the future ? Yes ; but you cannot study the future. You can only make
conjectures about it, and the conjectures will not be much good unless you have in some way studied other places and other ages. There has been hardly any great forward movement of humanity which did not draw inspiration from the knowledge or the idealization of the past.

No : to search the past is not to go into prison. It is to escape out of prison, because it compels us to compare the ways of our own age with other ways. And as to progress, it is no doubt a real fact. To many of us it is a truth that lies somewhere near the roots of our religion. But it is never a straight march forward ; it is never a result that happens of its own accord . It is only a name for the mass of accumulated human effort, successful here, baffled there, misdirected and driven astray in a third region, but on the whole and in the main producing some cumulative result. I believe this difficulty about progress, this fear that in studying the great teachers of the past we are in some sense wantonly sitting at the feet of savages, causes real trouble of mind to many keen students. The full answer to it would take us beyond the limits of this paper and beyond my own range of knowledge . But the main lines of the answer seem to me clear. There are in life two elements, one transitory and progressive, the other comparatively, if not absolutely, non-progressive and eternal, and the soul of man is chiefly concerned with the second. Try to compare our inventions, our material civilization, our stores of accumulated knowledge with those of the age of Aeschylus or Aristotle or St. Francis, and the comparison is absurd. Our superiority is beyond question and beyond measure. But compare any chosen poet of our age with Aeschylus, any philosopher with Aristotle, any saintly preacher with St. Francis, and the result is totally different. I do not wish to argue that we have fallen below the standard of those past ages ; but it is clear that we are not definitely above them. The things of the spirit depend on will, on effort, on aspiration, on the quality of the individual soul, and not on discoveries and material advances which can be accumulated and added up.”

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Learning, Poetry, and Madness

Petrarch, Secretum Book 3:

“What good has it been to know many things if you never learned how to accommodate them to your needs? For my part, I admired your error more in pursuing solitude, because you knew what the best authors among the ancients said against it, and you even added new ones. You complained often that solitude could do you no good, which you said in many places, especially in that poem which you wrote about your own condition. Meanwhile, as you sang, I was delighted by the sweetness of the song, and I was astounded because such a sweet sounding song sprang from your insane mouth in the middle of your spiritual storms, or I was astounded at what love could kept the Muses from fleeing from their accustomed house when they were assailed by such whirlwinds and such an alienation of their host. For, as Plato says, ‘one who is sane knocks on the doors of poetry in vain’, and as his successor Aristotle has it, ‘there is no great talent without some mixture of insanity.’ But these quotations apply to a different kind of insanity than yours; we shall discuss this later.”

petrarch2

Infrastructure Struggles in Imperial Rome

Pliny To the Emperor Trajan, Letter 37

Lord, the people of Nicomedia have spent 3,318,000 sesterces on an aqueduct which was left unfinished and then it was taken down. Then they allotted two hundred thousand sesterces to a second one. Because this one was also abandoned, they need to spend more to have water when they have wasted so much money badly.

I have gone to the cleanest spring myself, the one from which it seems likely that water could be conducted by an aqueduct as was tried from the beginning, if we want the water to make it beyond the lower levels of the city. There remain only a few arches standing there still but there are others which could be made from stones which remain from previous attempts. Another part, I think, should be built from brick, which is easier and cheaper.

But foremost, we need you to send out a water-works engineer or an architect so what happened before does not happen again. I will encourage only this, that the work should have a function and beauty worthy of your era.”

C. Plinius Traiano Imperatori
1In aquae ductum, domine, Nicomedenses impenderunt HS |X̅X̅X̅| C̅C̅C̅X̅V̅I̅I̅I̅, qui imperfectus adhuc omissus, destructus etiam est; rursus in alium ductum erogata sunt C̅C̅. Hoc quoque relicto novo impendio est opus, ut aquam habeant, qui tantam pecuniam male perdiderunt. Ipse perveni ad fontem purissimum, ex quo videtur aqua debere perduci, sicut initio temptatum erat, arcuato opere, ne tantum ad plana civitatis et humilia perveniat. Manent adhuc paucissimi arcus: possunt et erigi quidam lapide quadrato, qui ex superiore opere detractus est; aliqua pars, ut mihi videtur, testaceo opere agenda erit, id enim et facilius et vilius. Sed in primis necessarium est mitti a te vel aquilegem vel architectum, ne rursus eveniat quod accidit. Ego illud unum adfirmo, et utilitatem operis et pulchritudinem saeculo tuo esse dignissimam.

 

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Remains of Aqueduct constructed in Nicomedia

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