He was a man of extreme lust: he used to refer to his endless intercourse as “bed-wrestling”, as if it were a type of exercise. There was a rumor that he used to depilate his concubines himself and that he used to go swimming with street prostitutes. Even though he repeatedly refused a wedding to his brother’s daughter who was offered to him for marriage when she was still a virgin because he was overcome with the Domitia affair, he seduced her not long after she was married to someone else and while Titus was still alive. But, soon, he loved her openly and with the utmost passion once she was deprived of father and husband, to the point that he was the reason for her death when she was forced to abort a child conceived with him.”
XXII. Libidinis nimiae, assiduitatem concubitus velut exercitationis genus clinopalen vocabat; eratque fama, quasi concubinas ipse develleret nataretque inter vulgatissimas meretrices. Fratris filiam adhuc virginem oblatam in matrimonium sibi cum devinctus Domitiae nuptiis pertinacissime recusasset, non multo post alii conlocatam corrupit ultro et quidem vivo etiam tum Tito; mox patre ac viro orbatam ardentissime palamque dilexit, ut etiam causa mortis exstiterit coactae conceptum a se abigere.
“Some people blame these traits on Marcus Cato’s cheapness; but others believe he is a model for his rectitude and wisdom, since he counterbalanced the excess of everyone else. But I believe that how he used slaves up as if they were pack animals and then driving them away and selling them when they were old is the mark of a deeply cruel character—one that believes that human beings have nothing in common except for need.
But we know that kindness occupies more territory than justice. For we use law and justice only in reference to human beings, but it is kindness and charity that at times pour out from a gentle character even for the unthinking animals just as water from a full spring. Kind people take care of horses even when they are old and dogs too—not just when they are puppies, but when their old age requires care.”
Suetonius, Lives of Illustrious Men, On Grammarians 16
“Quintus Caecilius Epirota, a native of Tusculum and a freedman of Atticus the Roman Knight (the one who corresponded with Cicero), was suspected of taking advantage of his patron Marcus Agrippa’s daughter when he was teaching her and was removed for this. Then he went to Cornelius Gallus and lived with him in a very familiar way, the very matter which was presented against him by Augustus among the most serious crimes.
After Gallus’ conviction and death, Epirota opened a school but received only a few students and adolescents, barring others younger unless he was not able to deny the parent. He is the first reported to have spontaneous debates in Latin and to begin to read Vergil and the recent poets, which is implied in the little verse of Domitius Marsus: “Epirota, little nurse of baby bards”
XVI. Q. Caecilius Epirota, Tusculi natus, libertus Attici equitis Romani, ad quem sunt Ciceronis epistulae, cum filiam patroni nuptam M. Agrippae doceret, suspectus in ea et ob hoc remotus, ad Cornelium Gallum se contulit vixitque una familiarissime, quod ipsi Gallo inter gravissima crimina ab Augusto obicitur. Post deinde damnationem mortemque Galli scholam aperuit, sed ita ut paucis et tantum adulescentibus praeciperet, praetextato nemini, nisi si cuius parenti hoc officium negare non posset. Primus dicitur Latine ex tempore disputasse, primusque Vergilium et alios poetas novos praelegere coepisse, quod etiam Domitii Marsi versiculus indicat: Epirota, tenellorum nutricula vatum.
14 “Similarly, near Kosê there is a spring which, if you place a container filled with wine in it until it covers the mouth then it is more bitter than vinegar right away according to the same author.”
17 “Ktêsias records that in Aithiopia there is a stream which is similar in color to cinnamon. When people drink from it they change their minds so much that they admit to things which were done secretly.”
[Note: the Greek in the epigram below is a little strange. I am not sure I have it right.]
24 “Among the Kleitorians of Arkadia they say there is a spring and when people drink from it they hate wine. Next to this this kind of epigram is placed
Hick, with flocks, at midday thirst weighs down on you
As you come through the farthest part of Kleitoros;
Take a drink from this spring. And rest your whole flock
Among the water nymphs here.
But don’t put your skin to bathe, so that the smell
might not cause you pain when you are in drunken pleasure.
Avoid my vine-hating spring where Melampous*,
Once he washed of the madness of harsh Proitos**
Cut off every disgrace in secret, when they came from Argos
to the mountains of steep Arkadia.”
Textual variations: ἀρτεμέας for ἀργαλέης; for ἔβαψεν for ἔκοψεν
*Melampous was a seer who dealt with the king Proitos in either Argos or Pylos. The references to “vine-hating” and “washing” recall the story of Melampous cleansing the women of the city of madness inspired by Dionysus. Hence, the water makes people hate wine. This epigram appears in a supplement to the Greek Anthology and Vitruvius
25 “Aristôn the peripatetic philosopher says that there is a spring of water in Kios and when people drink from it they lose their senses in their mind. And he adds that there is this kind of an epigram for it.
“Sweet is the offering of the cool drink which this spring
Offers up. But whoever drinks of it is a stone in his mind.”
19. The account of the Sibylline Books and King Tarquin the Proud
This story is preserved in the ancient accounts concerning the Sibylline books. An old woman, unknown, approached king Tarquin the Proud with new books which she was claiming were divine oracles (and she wished to see them). Tarquin asked the price. The woman asked for an enormous, excessive amount. The King, as if he believed she was senile, laughed. Then she placed a brazier already lit before him, burned three of the nine books and asked whether the King wished to buy the remaining six for the same amount. But Tarquin laughed even more and said that he’d lost all doubt that the woman was insane. The woman then burned up three more books immediately and calmly asked him the same thing again, to buy the three remaining books for that price. Tarquin then became more serious and attentive, believing that this insistence and confidence ought not to be ignored: he bought the remaining books for no less than the price which had been sought for all of them!
But it is agreed that after the woman departed from Tarquin, she was never seen again. The Three books, which were placed in a shrine, are called “The Sibylline Books”. The Fifteen [priests] turn to them for oracles whenever the gods must be consulted for the public good.”
XIX. Historia super libris Sibyllinis ac de Tarquinio Superbo rege.
1 In antiquis annalibus memoria super libris Sibyllinis haec prodita est: 2 Anus hospita atque incognita ad Tarquinium Superbum regem adiit novem libros ferens, quos esse dicebat divina oracula; eos velle venundare. 3 Tarquinius pretium percontatus est. Mulier nimium atque inmensum poposcit; 4 rex, quasi anus aetate desiperet, derisit. 5 Tum illa foculum coram cum igni apponit, tris libros ex novem deurit et, ecquid reliquos sex eodem pretio emere vellet, regem interrogavit. 6 Sed enim Tarquinius id multo risit magis dixitque anum iam procul dubio delirare. 7 Mulier ibidem statim tris alios libros exussit atque id ipsum denuo placide rogat, ut tris reliquos eodem illo pretio emat. 8 Tarquinius ore iam serio atque attentiore animo fit, eam constantiam confidentiamque non insuper habendam intellegit, libros tris reliquos mercatur nihilo minore pretio, quam quod erat petitum pro omnibus. 9 Sed eam mulierem tunc a Tarquinio digressam postea nusquam loci visam constitit. 10 Libri tres in sacrarium conditi “Sibyllini” appellati; 11 ad eos quasi ad oraculum quindecimviri adeunt, cum di immortales publice consulendi sunt.
The Sibylline books had 15 priestly interpreters by the time of Cicero. Why? Maybe because they were in Greek!
“It is necessary to consider the ancient sophistic art as a kind of rhetoric. For it presents discourses on the same things philosophers cover, but where the philosophers, in setting forth questions and in making small advances on their objects of investigations, assert that they still do not know anything, the ancient sophist claims that he does know the things he describes. At least, he recites as a beginning of his discourse phrases like “I know”, “I recognize”, and “I have noticed for some time,” or “Nothing is certain for man”. This species of introduction furnishes a sense of nobility and certainty to a speech along with implying a clear sense of what is real.”
30. “[Pythagoras] healed psychic and bodily sufferings with rhythm, songs, and incantations. He adapted these treatments to his companions, while he himself heard the harmony of everything because he could understand the unity of the spheres and the harmonies of the stars moving with them. It is not our nature to hear this in the least.”
32. “Diogenes says that Pythagoras encouraged all men to avoid ambition and lust for fame, because they especially inculcate envy, and also to stay away from large crowds. He used to convene gatherings at his house at dawn himself, accompanying his singing to the lyre and singing some ancient songs of Thales. And he also sang the songs of Hesiod and Homer, as many as appeared to calm his spirit. He would also dance some dances which he believed brought good mobility and health to the body. He used to take walks himself but not with a crowd, taking only two or three companions to shrines or groves, finding the most peaceful and beautiful places.”
33. “He loved his friends overmuch and was the first to declare that friends possessions are common and that a friend is another self. When they were healthy, he always talked to them; when they were sick, he took care of their bodies. If they were mentally ill, he consoled them, as we said before, some with incantations and spells, others by music. He had songs and paeans for physical ailments: when he sang them, he relieved fatigue. He also could cause forgetfulness of grief, calming of anger, and redirection of desire.”
“Pythagoras believed that music produced great benefits for health, should someone apply it in the appropriate manner. For he was known to use this kind of cleansing and not carelessly. And he also called the healing from music that very thing, a purification. And he used a melody as follows during the spring season. He sat in the middle someone who could play the lyre and settled around him in a circle people who could sing. They would sing certain paeans as he played and through this they seemed to become happy, unified, and directed.
At another time they used music in the place of medicine, and there were certain songs composed against sufferings of the mind, especially despair and bitterness—songs which were created as the greatest aids. He also composed others against rage, desires, and every type of wandering of the soul. There was also another kind of performance he discovered for troubles: he also used dancing.
He used the lyre as an instrument since he considered flutes to induce arrogance as a dramatic sound which had no type of freeing resonance. He also used selected words from Homer and Hesiod for the correction of the soul.”
“Zeno of Citium writes in his Anecdotes that after Kratês unthinkingly sewed a sheepskin to his cloak, he looked absurd and was laughed at when he exercised. He was in the habit of raising his hands and saying “Be bold, Kratês, for your eyes and your body. Someday you will see these men who laughing at you worn out by sickness and envying you, criticizing their own laziness.
He used to say that we should pursue philosophy until generals seemed to be donkey-drivers. He also claimed that those who lived with flatterers were as exposed as calves among wolves—For there is no one to protect these or those, but only those who contrive against them. When he perceived he was dying, he sang to himself, saying “you are going to Hades’ home, dear hunchback”. [For he was a hunchback because of old age.”
“Literature and popular memory holds that sudden, unhoped for joy has killed many, when the breath is stalled and incapable of enduring the force of a new, and large emotion.
The philosopher Aristotle reports that when Polycrita heard happy but unexpected news without warning, the noblewoman from the island of Naxos expired. Philippides as well, a comic poet of no mean talent, died of joy itself when he learned he was victorious in a poet’s competition at an advanced age.
The story of Diagoras of Rhodes is also well known. That Diagoras had three children, one was a boxer, the second was a mixed-martial artist, and the third a wrestler. He watched all three win victories and be crowned on one day at the Olympics. When the three embraced him there and kissed him as they placed their garlands on his head, even as the people were throwing flowers on him in congratulations, he wheezed out his soul in that same stadium amid the kisses and the embraces as the people watched.
I have read written in our annals that when the Roman army was destroyed in the storm at Cannae, a messenger afflicted an elderly mother with grief and sorrow over the death of her son. But the messenger was wrong! The youth returned to the city from the battle not much later. When the old woman saw her son, she was so overcome by a confused, ruinous torrent of unhoped for joy that she immediately died.”
15 Exstare in litteris perque hominum memorias traditum, quod repente multis mortem attulit gaudium ingens insperatum interclusa anima et vim magni novique motus non sustinente.
1 Cognito repente insperato gaudio exspirasse animam refert Aristoteles philosophus Polycritam, nobilem feminam Naxo insula. 2 Philippides quoque, comoediarum poeta haut ignobilis, aetate iam edita, cum in certamine poetarum praeter spem vicisset et laetissime gauderet, inter illud gaudium repente mortuus est. 3 De Rhodio etiam Diagora celebrata historia est. Is Diagoras tris filios adulescentis habuit, unum pugilem, alterum pancratiasten, tertium luctatorem. Eos omnis vidit vincere coronarique Olympiae eodem die et, cum ibi cum tres adulescentes amplexi coronis suis in caput patris positis saviarentur, cum populus gratulabundus flores undique in eum iaceret, ibidem in stadio inspectante populo in osculis atque in manibus filiorum animam efflavit. 4 Praeterea in nostris annalibus scriptum legimus, qua tempestate apud Cannas exercitus populi Romani caesus est, anum matrem nuntio de morte filii adlato luctu atque maerore affectam esse; sed is nuntius non verus fuit, atque is adulescens non diu post ex ea pugna in urbem redit: anus repente filio viso copia atque turba et quasi ruina incidentis inopinati gaudii oppressa exanimataque est.
A transcript of a letter from Alexander to his mother Olympias; and what Olympias wrote back to him.
“In the majority of the records of the deeds of Alexander and rather recently in the book of Marcus Varro, which is called “Orestes” or “On Insanity”, we find that Olympias, the wife of Philipp, most cleverly replied to her son. For, when he wrote to his mother, “King Alexander, the son of Zeus Ammon, sends his greetings to his mother Olympias”, she said “My son, hush! lest you defame me or incriminate me before Juno! She will certainly allot me some great harm once you have confessed in your letters that I am her husband’s adultress.” This courtesy from a wise and prudent woman to a boastful son moderately and elegantly warned him that his puffed-up belief, which he had inflated from great victories, the charms of praise and from successes beyond belief–the idea that he was the offspring of Zeus–ought to be abandoned.”
Descripta Alexandri ad matrem Olympiadem epistula; et quid Olympias festive ei rescripserit.
In plerisque monumentis rerum ab Alexandro gestarum et paulo ante in libro M. Varronis, qui inscriptus est Orestes vel de insania, Olympiadem Philippi uxorem festivissime rescripsisse legimus Alexandro filio. 2 Nam cum is ad matrem ita scripsisset: “Rex Alexander Iovis Hammonis filius Olympiadi matri salutem dicit”, Olympias ei rescripsit ad hanc sententiam: “Amabo”, inquit “mi fili, quiescas neque deferas me neque criminere adversum Iunonem; malum mihi prorsum illa magnum dabit, cum tu me litteris tuis paelicem esse illi confiteris”. 3 Ea mulieris scitae atque prudentis erga ferocem filium comitas sensim et comiter admonuisse eum visa est deponendam esse opinionem vanam, quam ille ingentibus victoriis et adulantium blandimentis et rebus supra fidem prosperis inbiberat, genitum esse sese de Iove.