Sergius, Victor Over Fortune

Pliny, Natural History 7.104-106

“Even though the great accomplishments of Sergio’s virtue are clear in these deeds, the impact of fortune is greater. I do not think that anyone can justly rank any person higher than Marcus Sergius—even with his great-grandson Catiline undermining his name.

Sergius lost his right hand in his second expedition; in two campaigns he received twenty-three wounds and even though he was disabled in both hands and both feet, his spirit was still whole and he still served on many campaigns despite his disabilities. He was captured twice by Hannibal—for he was no regular enemy at all—and escaped twice from his chains even though he was guarded in bonds or shackles every day for 20 months.

He fought only with his left hand four times and had two horses he was riding on killed under him. He made an iron right had for himself and with that tied on, he ended the siege at Cremona, rescued Placentia, and seized twelve hostile camps in Gaul. All these exploits are told in his speech during his quaestorship when his senatorial colleagues wanted to expel him from the sacrifices because he was disabled—this man who would have made a heap of wreaths had he faced a different enemy. How much a difference the times in which your virtue emerges matters! What civic rewards were offered by Trebbia, Ticinus or Trasimine? What crowns were earned after Cannae, where the greatest virtue was flight? Others were victors over men, only Sergius conquered fortune.”

Verum in his sunt quidem virtutis opera magna, sed maiora fortunae: M. Sergio, ut equidem arbitror, nemo quemquam hominum iure praetulerit, licet pronepos Catilina gratiam nomini deroget. secundo stipendio dextram manum perdidit, stipendiis duobus ter et vicies vulneratus est, ob id neutra manu, neutro pede satis utilis, animo tantum salvo, plurimis postea stipendiis debilis miles. bis ab Hannibale captus—neque enim cum quolibet hoste res fuit—,bis vinculorum eius profugus, in viginti mensibus nullo non die in catenis aut compedibus custoditus. sinistra manu sola quater pugnavit, duobus equis insidente eo suffossis. dextram sibi ferream fecit, eaque religata proeliatus Cremonam obsidione exemit, Placentiam tutatus est, duodena castra hostium in Gallia cepit, quae omnia ex oratione eius apparent habita cum in praetura sacris arceretur a collegis ut debilis, quos hic coronarum acervos constructurus hoste mutato! etenim plurimum refert in quae cuiusque virtus tempora inciderit. quas Trebia Ticinusve aut Trasimenus civicas dedere? quae Cannis corona merita, unde fugisse virtutis summum opus fuit? ceteri profecto victores hominum fuere, Sergius vicit etiam fortunam

Image result for roman iron hand

As the amazing Dr. Liv Yarrow recently let me know, there is a coin commemorating Sergius. Check out her post. She also wrote an awesome follow-up.

Spit it Out: Expectoration for Your Special Occasion

Remember last year when someone spitting at people was major news?


Demosthenes, De Corona 200

“Who wouldn’t have spat in your face?”

τίς οὐχὶ κατέπτυσεν ἂν σοῦ;


Tertullian, Apologeticus 8-9

“The Attic sex-worker, once the torturer was finally worn out, chewed threw her own tongue and spat it out at the face of the angry tyrant—that is, she spat out her voice too so that she would not be able to expose her conspirators if she was overcome…”

Attica meretrix carnifice iam fatigato postremo linguam suam comesam in faciem tyranni saevientis exspuit, ut exspueret et vocem, ne coniuratos confiteri posset, si etiam victa voluisset.


Plutarch, Moralia 1088b

“Metrodoros says ‘I have often spat on the pleasures of the flesh.’ ”

Μητρόδωρος μὲν λέγων ὅτι ‘πολλάκις προσεπτύσαμεν ταῖς τοῦ σώματος ἡδοναῖς,’


Nossis, Greek Anthology 5.170

“Nothing is sweeter than sex. All blessings are second to this.
I spat even honey from my mouth.”

Ἅδιον οὐδὲν ἔρωτος· ἃ δ᾽ ὄλβια, δεύτερα πάντα
ἐστίν· ἀπὸ στόματος δ᾽ ἔπτυσα καὶ τὸ μέλι.

LSJ 1902

Spit LSJ

Pseudo-Lucian, Lucius or the Ass

“But when she saw that I was wholly human, she spat at me, saying “Won’t you fuck off from me and my house and only sleep somewhere far away?”

ἡ δὲ ἐπειδὴ εἶδέ με πάντα ἀνθρώπινα ἔχοντα, προσπτύσασά μοι, Οὐ φθερῇ ἀπ᾿ ἐμοῦ, ἔφη, καὶ τῆς ἐμῆς οἰκίας καὶ μακράν ποι ἀπελθὼν κοιμήσῃ;


Plutarch, Phocion 36

“One of them came right up to him and spat at him.”

εἷς δὲ καὶ προσέπτυσεν ἐξεναντίας προσελθών.

Beekes 2010

SPIT Beekes

Select Papyri, P Gurob. 2

“Woman, you were at that place with Kallipos…and you were insulting me, claiming that I had said to certain people that…When I was insulting you in turn, you spat on me….and took my collar…so I am suing you for assault for 200 drachmae.”

, παρα]γενομένη εἰς τὸν τόπον τοῦτον μετὰ Καλλίππου τοῦ . . . . . . . . . αν . . . . . ου ἐλοιδόρησας φαμένη με εἰρηκέναι πρός τινας δι[ότι – – -] γυναῖκα, ἐμοῦ δέ σε ἀντιλοιδοροῦντος οὕτως ἔπτυσας [- – -] καὶ λαβομέ[νη μ]ου τῆς ἀναβολῆς τοῦ ἱματίου – – – διὸ δικάζομαί σοι κατα-27[. . . . . . . . . . . . ὕ]βριν (δραχμῶν) σ. τίμημα τῆς δίκης (δραχμαὶ) [.

Diogenes Laertius, Aristippos 2.8

“When someone was criticizing him for spending too much on meals, he said “Wouldn’t you have purchased the same for three obols?” When the man said he would, Aristippos said, “Ok, I am not a hedonist; you are a money-grubber.”

At a different time, Simos, who was Dionysius’ steward, a Phrygian and a nasty fellow too, was showing him expensive houses with fine tile work. When Aristippos coughed and spat in his face and he resented it, the man replied, “I didn’t have any more appropriate a place.”

τὸν ὀνειδίσαντα αὐτῷ πολυτελῆ ὀψωνίαν ἔφη, “σὺ δ᾿ οὐκ ἂν τριωβόλου ταῦτ᾿ ἐπρίω;” ὁμολογήσαντος δέ, “οὐκέτι τοίνυν,” ἔφη, “φιλήδονος ἐγώ, ἀλλὰ σὺ φιλάργυρος.” Σίμου ποτὲ τοῦ Διονυσίου ταμίου πολυτελεῖς οἴκους αὐτῷ καὶ λιθοστρώτους δεικνύντος—ἦν δὲ Φρὺξ καὶ ὄλεθρος—ἀναχρεμψάμενος προσέπτυσε τῇ ὄψει· τοῦ δ᾿ ἀγανακτήσαντος, “οὐκ εἶχον,” εἶπε, “τόπον ἐπιτηδειότερον.

Diogenes Laertius, Anaxarchus 9.10

“He never forgot the slight. After the king’s death when Anaxarchus was sailing and was forced to land on Cyprus, Nicocreon had him arrested and placed him on a mortar, ordering that he be pounded to death with iron pestles.

But he, not giving a shit about the punishment, uttered that famous saying, “You pound the bag of Anaxarchus but you do not pound Anaxarchus.” When Nicocreon ordered his tongue to be cut off, the story is that he bit it off and spat it at him.”

ὁ δὲ μνησικακήσας μετὰ τὴν τελευτὴν τοῦ βασιλέως ὅτε πλέων ἀκουσίως προσηνέχθη τῇ Κύπρῳ ὁ Ἀνάξαρχος, συλλαβὼν αὐτὸν καὶ εἰς ὅλμον βαλὼν ἐκέλευσε τύπτεσθαι σιδηροῖς ὑπέροις. τὸν δ᾿ οὐ φροντίσαντα τῆς τιμωρίας εἰπεῖν ἐκεῖνο δὴ τὸ περιφερόμενον, “πτίσσε τὸν Ἀναξάρχου θύλακον, Ἀνάξαρχον δὲ οὐ πτίσσεις.” κελεύσαντος δὲ τοῦ Νικοκρέοντος καὶ τὴν γλῶτταν αὐτοῦ ἐκτμηθῆναι, λόγος ἀποτραγόντα προσπτύσαι αὐτῷ.

Laughing at Babies

Pseudo-Hippocrates, Letter 9.360 

 “I [Hippocrates] said, “Know that you should explain the reason for your laughter.” And [Democritus], after glaring at me for a bit, said, “you believe that there are two reasons for my laughter, good things and bad things. But I laugh for one reason: the human being. Humans are full of ignorance but empty of correct affairs, acting like babies in their little plots, and also laboring over endless toil without winning any profit.

Humans travel to the ends of the earth and over the uncharted wilds with unchecked desires, minting silver and gold and never stopping in the pursuit of possession, but always throwing a fit for more, so that there’s never one bit less than others have. And then, they are not at all ashamed to call themselves happy.”

[ΙΠ.] “ἴσθι δὲ νῦν περὶ σέο γέλωτος τῷ βίῳ λόγον δώσων.”

ὁ δὲ μάλα τρανὸν ἐπιδών μοι, “δύο,” φησὶ, “τοῦ ἐμοῦ γέλωτος αἰτίας δοκέεις, ἀγαθὰ καὶ φαῦλα· ἐγὼ δὲ ἕνα γελῶ τὸν ἄνθρωπον, ἀνοίης μὲν γέμοντα, κενεὸν δὲ πρηγμάτων ὀρθῶν, πάσῃσιν ἐπιβουλῇσι νηπιάζοντα, καὶ μηδεμιῆς ἕνεκεν ὠφελείης ἀλγέοντα τοὺς ἀνηνύτους μόχθους, πείρατα γῆς καὶ ἀορίστους μυχοὺς ἀμέτροισιν ἐπιθυμίῃσιν ὁδεύοντα, ἄργυρον τήκοντα καὶ χρυσὸν, καὶ μὴ παυόμενον τῆς κτήσιος ταύτης, αἰεὶ δὲ θορυβεύμενον περὶ τὸ πλέον, ὅκως αὐτοῦ ἐλάσσων μὴ γένηται· καὶ οὐδὲν αἰσχύνεται λεγόμενος εὐδαίμων [. . .].”

Image result for medieval manuscript crying baby

Re-use Suggestions for Toppled Statues

Diogenes Laertius, Lives of the Eminent Philosophers 5.5: Life of Demetrius (c. 350-280 BCE) 75 and 77

“Demetrios, the son of Phanostratos, from Phalerum. This guy was a student of Theophrastus. He was the lead of the city of Athens for ten years through his public speeches and was publicly awarded three hundred bronze statues for this, the vast majority of them had him on horse or chariot or with a pair of horse. He was supported so much that these statues were finished in not even 30 days.


Δημήτριος Φανοστράτου Φαληρεύς. οὗτος ἤκουσε μὲν Θεοφράστου· δημηγορῶν δὲ παρ᾿ Ἀθηναίοις τῆς πόλεως ἐξηγήσατο ἔτη δέκα, καὶ εἰκόνων ἠξιώθη χαλκῶν ἑξήκοντα πρὸς ταῖς τριακοσίαις, ὧν αἱ πλείους ἐφ᾿ ἵππων ἦσαν καὶ ἁρμάτων καὶ συνωρίδων, συντελεσθεῖσαι ἐν οὐδὲ τριακοσίαις ἡμέραις· τοσοῦτον ἐσπουδάσθη.

“Although he was super famous among the Athenians,  his light dimmed later on under the shadow of envy, which consumes everything. After he was indicted by some people on a charge carrying a penalty of death, he did not appear in court. When his opponents could not catch him in person, they took it out on his statues. Once they tore the statues down, they sold some, sank some in the sea, and broke others up for chamber pots. A single one is left on the Akropolis.”

Σφόδρα δὲ λαμπρὸς ὢν παρὰ τοῖς Ἀθηναίοις, ὅμως ἐπεσκοτήθη καὶ αὐτὸς ὑπὸ τοῦ τὰ πάντα 77διεσθίοντος φθόνου. ἐπιβουλευθεὶς γὰρ ὑπό τινων δίκην θανάτου οὐ παρὼν ὦφλεν. οὐ μὴν ἐκυρίευσαν τοῦ σώματος αὐτοῦ, ἀλλὰ τὸν ἰὸν ἀπήρυγον εἰς τὸν χαλκόν, κατασπάσαντες αὐτοῦ τὰς εἰκόνας καὶ τὰς μὲν ἀποδόμενοι, τὰς δὲ βυθίσαντες, τὰς δὲ κατακόψαντες εἰς ἀμίδας· λέγεται γὰρ καὶ τοῦτο. μία δὲ μόνη σώζεται ἐν ἀκροπόλει.

File:Bronze youth BM Br828 n3.jpg
A bronze statue of a young man. Roman Copy. Not Demetrius.

Demetrius may have been a pro-Macedonian puppet. Thanks to @skaios_ from twitter for suggesting this passage.

Philosophy and Fear of the Body

Empedocles R87  Hermias 4 Derision of Gentile Philosophers

“Whenever I see myself, I fear my body and I don’t know how I should describe it. Is it human, or dog, or wolf, a bull, a bird, a snake, a dragon, or a chimaira?

For I am changed by philosophers into every kind of beast from the land, the sea, the sky, those of many forms, the wild ones, tame ones, mute animals, singing animals, unthinking ones, thinking ones. I swim. I fly. I creep on the ground. I run. I sit still. And then—Empedocles makes me into a bush too.”

ὅταν δὲ ἐμαυτὸν ἴδω, φοβοῦμαι τὸ σῶμα καὶ οὐκ οἶδα ὅπως αὐτὸ καλέσω, ἄνθρωπον ἢ κύνα ἢ λύκον ἢ ταῦρον ἢ ὄρνιν ἢ ὄφιν ἢ δράκοντα ἢ χίμαιραν· εἰς πάντα γὰρ τὰ θηρία ὑπὸ τῶν φιλοσοφούντων μεταβάλλομαι, χερσαῖα ἔνυδρα πτηνὰ πολύμορφα ἄγρια τιθασσὰ ἄφωνα εὔφωνα ἄλογα λογικά· νήχομαι ἵπταμαι ἕρπω θέω καθίζω. ἔτι δὲ ὁ Ἐμπεδοκλῆς καὶ θάμνον με ποιεῖ.

Image result for animal metamorphosis medieval manuscript
What story isn’t about a hellmouth? (Royal ms 19 c I_f. 33r)


“Beware the many, if you do not fear the one”

From the Historia Augusta, on the two Maximini, IX

“In order to hide his low birth, he had everyone who knew about it killed—not a few of them were friends who had often given him much because of his pitiable poverty. And there was never a crueler animal on the earth, placing all in his strength as if he could not be killed. Finally, when he believed that he was nearly immortal because of the magnitude of his body and bravery, there was a certain actor whom they report recited some Greek lines when he was present in the theater which had this Latin translation:

Even he who cannot be killed by one is killed by many
The elephant is large and he is killed.
The lion is brave and he is killed
The tiger is brave and he is killed.
Beware the many if you do not fear the one.

And these words were recited while the emperor was there. But when he asked his friends what the little clown had said, they claimed he was singing some old lines written against mean men. And, since he was Thracian and barbarian, he believed this.”

IX. nam ignobilitatis tegendae causa omnes conscios generis sui interemit, nonnullos etiam amicos, qui ei saepe misericordiae paupertatis causa pleraque donaverant. neque enim fuit crudelius animal in terris, omnia sic in viribus suis ponens quasi non posset occidi. denique cum immortalem se prope crederet ob magnitudinem corporis virtutisque, mimus quidam in theatro praesente illo dicitur versus Graecos dixisse, quorum haec erat Latina sententia:

“Et qui ab uno non potest occidi, a multis occiditur.

elephans grandis est et occiditur,
leo fortis est et occiditur,
tigris fortis est et occiditur;
cave multos, si singulos non times.”

et haec imperatore ipso praesente iam dicta sunt. sed cum interrogaret amicos, quid mimicus scurra dixisset, dictum est ei quod antiquos versus cantaret contra homines asperos scriptos; et ille, ut erat Thrax et barbarus, credidit.


Image result for maximinus thrax
I am big. Really big. Everyone is saying that, not me. I mean, look how big I am.

Have You Tried Stabbing the Coronavirus?

Pliny the Elder, Natural History 34.151

“There are other medicinal applications of iron beyond surgery. For when a circle is drawn around both adults and infants—or of they carry a sharp iron weapon with them—it is useful against poisonous drugs. Iron nails which have been taken out of tombs are useful protections against nightmares if they are hammered down before a threshold.

A small penetration with an iron weapon which has wounded a man is effective against sudden side and chest pains. Some afflictions are treated by cauterization, especially true for the bite of a rabid dog, since even when the disease has advanced and those afflicted are starting to exhibit fear of water, they experience relief at cauterization. The drinking of water which has been heated with burning iron is good for many symptoms, but especially for dysentery.”

XLIV. Medicina e ferro est et alia quam secandi. namque et circumscribi circulo terve circumlato mucrone et adultis et infantibus prodest contra noxia medicamenta, et praefixisse in limine evulsos sepulchris clavos adversus nocturnas lymphationes, pungique leviter mucrone, quo percussus homo sit, contra dolores laterum pectorumque subitos, qui punctionem adferant. quaedam ustione sanantur, privatim vero canis rabidi morsus, quippe etiam praevalente morbo expaventesque potum usta plaga ilico liberantur. calfit etiam ferro candente potus in multis vitiis, privatim vero dysentericis.

Bodleian Library, MS. Ashmole 1462, Folio 16r

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

Being Happy Takes Practice!

Diogenes Laertius, Diogenes 71

“He used to say, however, that there was no success in life at all without practice and that this can conquer everything. For this reason, people must choose the types of practice nature demands to live well instead of useless toils—and to live unhappily is a type of madness.

For even despising pleasure is extremely pleasurable, when it has been practiced; and just as those who are used to pleasure feel discomfort when they try to opposite, so too do those who have practiced the opposite get more pleasure from hating pleasure than from pleasure itself.

These were the things Diogenes talked about and clearly did—for he debased the currency and gave no rule authority unless it was natural. He used to say that he lived the same kind of life Herakles did and valued nothing more than freedom.”

Οὐδέν γε μὴν ἔλεγε τὸ παράπαν ἐν τῷ βίῳ χωρὶς ἀσκήσεως κατορθοῦσθαι, δυνατὴν δὲ ταύτην πᾶν ἐκνικῆσαι. δέον οὖν ἀντὶ τῶν ἀχρήστων πόνων τοὺς κατὰ φύσιν ἑλομένους ζῆν εὐδαιμόνως, παρὰ τὴν ἄνοιαν κακοδαιμονοῦσι. καὶ γὰρ αὐτὴ τῆς ἡδονῆς ἡ καταφρόνησις ἡδυτάτη προμελετηθεῖσα, καὶ ὥσπερ οἱ συνεθισθέντες ἡδέως ζῆν, ἀηδῶς ἐπὶ τοὐναντίον μετίασιν, οὕτως οἱ τοὐναντίον ἀσκηθέντες ἥδιον αὐτῶν τῶν ἡδονῶν καταφρονοῦσι. τοιαῦτα διελέγετο καὶ ποιῶν ἐφαίνετο, ὄντως νόμισμα παραχαράττων, μηδὲν οὕτω τοῖς κατὰ νόμον ὡς τοῖς κατὰ φύσιν διδούς· τὸν αὐτὸν χαρακτῆρα τοῦ βίου λέγων διεξάγειν ὅνπερ καὶ Ἡρακλῆς, μηδὲν ἐλευθερίας προκρίνων.

This reminded me of the saying attributed to Democritus:

Democritus, fr. 200

‘Those who live without enjoying life are fools.’

ἀνοήμονες βιοῦσιν οὐ τερπόμενοι βιοτῆι. #Democritus

Image result for medieval manuscript happiness
Happiness and Fortune

Three Tragedians and One Poll

I rad a poll yesterday which ended giving Euripides the win.

In honor of the correct outcome, here’s how they all died, according to tradition.

Valerius Maximus, Memorable Words and Deeds 9.12

“Aeschylus did not meet a willing death, but it is worth mentioning because of its novelty. As he was leaving the walls where he was staying in Italy, he stopped in a sunny spot. An eagle who was flying above him carrying a tortoise was tricked by his shining skull—for he had no hair—and it dropped it on him as if he were a stone so that it might eat the flesh from the broken shell. By that strike, the origin and font of a better type of tragedy was extinct.”


“But Euripides’ death was a bit more savage. As he was returning from dinner with Archelaus to the place where he was staying in Macedonia, he died, lacerated by the bites of dogs. Such a genius did not merit this cruel fate.”


“When Sophocles was extremely old, and he had entered a tragedy competition, he was agitated for too long over the uncertain outcome of the vote, but when he was the winner by a single vote, his joy was the cause of his death.”

Aeschyli vero poetae excessus quem ad modum non voluntarius sic propter novitatem casus referendus. in Sicilia moenibus urbis, in qua morabatur, egressus aprico in loco resedit. super quem aquila testudinem ferens elusa splendore capitis—erat enim capillis vacuum—perinde atque lapidi eam illisit, ut fractae carne vesceretur, eoque ictu origo et principium <per>fectioris tragoediae exstinctum est.

Sed atrocius aliquanto Euripides finitus est: ab Archelai enim regis cena in Macedonia domum hospitalem repetens, canum morsibus laniatus obiit: crudelitas fati tanto ingenio non debita.

Sophocles ultimae iam senectutis, cum in certamen tragoediam demisisset, ancipiti sententiarum eventu diu sollicitus, aliquando tamen una sententia victor causam mortis gaudium habuit.

Some lines from the Gnomologium Vaticanum


“When Menander was asked what the difference was between Sophokles and Euripides he said that Sophokles makes people feel pleasure while Euripides makes his audience feel anger.”

Μένανδρος ἐρωτηθεὶς τί διαφέρουσιν ἀλλήλων Σοφοκλῆς καὶ Εὐριπίδης εἶπεν ὅτι Σοφοκλῆς μὲν τέρπεσθαι ποιεῖ τοὺς ἀνθρώπους, Εὐριπίδης δὲ σκυθρωπάζειν τοὺς ἀκροατάς.



“Sophokles the tragic poet, after he heard that Euripides died in Macedonia, said “The whetstone of my poems is gone.”

Σοφοκλῆς, ὁ τῶν τραγῳδιῶν ποιητής, ἀκούσας Εὐριπίδην ἐν Μακεδονίᾳ τεθνηκέναι εἶπεν· „ἀπώλετο ἡ τῶν ἐμῶν ποιημάτων ἀκόνη.”



“When he was asked why he made people with noble characters and Euripides made those of base ones, Sophokles answered “Because I make people how they should be and he makes people as they are.”

῾Ο αὐτὸς ἐρωτηθεὶς διὰ τί αὐτὸς μὲν ποιεῖ τὰ ἤθη τῶν ἀνθρώπων χρηστά, Εὐριπίδης δὲ φαῦλα „ὅτι” ἔφη „ἐγὼ μέν, οἵους ἔδει εἶναι, τοὺς ἀνθρώπους ποιῶ, ἐκεῖνος δέ, ὁποῖοί εἰσιν.”


Busts of the Big Three. Photo Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek.