“Theophrastus, in the book I already discussed, addresses the same matter which Cicero does, but more extensively and more pointedly. But he too does not make his opinion clear concerning distinguishing about a solitary and separate action—he does not use clearly established examples, but discusses classes of action in summary in close to the following:
“A small and rather thin shame or bad reputation ought to be endured if it is possible through it to be of great advantage to a friend. Certainly, the loss from a compromised sense of honor is repaid and repaired by some greater or weightier service to a friend and that momentary slip, or in a way, your damaged reputation is made whole again with the fine material of usefulness to a friend.”
21 Theophrastus autem in eo, quo dixi, libro inquisitius quidem super hac ipsa re et exactius pressiusque quam Cicero disserit. 22 Set is quoque in docendo non de unoquoque facto singillatim existimat neque certis exemplorum documentis, set generibus rerum summatim universimque utitur ad hunc ferme modum: 23 “Parva” inquit “et tenuis vel turpitudo vel infamia subeunda est, si ea re magna utilitas amico quaeri potest. Rependitur quippe et compensatur leve damnum delibatae honestatis maiore alia gravioreque in adiuvando amico honestate, minimaque illa labes et quasi lacuna famae munimentis partarum amico utilitatium solidatur.
17: Who was the first of all to provide books for the public to read; and what quantity of books were in Athenian public libraries before the Persian invasions?
Pisistratus the tyrant is said to have been the first to make books of liberal disciplines available to be read publicly in Athens. Afterwards, the Athenians themselves increased the collection eagerly and carefully. But later when Xerxes became master of Athens and the city was burned except for the citadel, he stole the entire collection and took it to Persia. Many years later, King Seleucus, who was nicknamed Nicanor, made sure that all of these books were returned to Athens.
At a later date, a great number of books—nearly seven hundred thousand volumes, were either collected or published in Egypt under the Ptolemaic kings; but these books were all burned in our first Alexandrian War during the sack of the city—this wasn’t done on purpose or by any orders, but accidentally by the auxiliary regiment.”
XVII. Quis omnium primus libros publice praebuerit legendos; quantusque numerus fuerit Athenis ante clades Persicas librorum in bibliothecis publicorum.
1 Libros Athenis disciplinarum liberalium publice ad legendum praebendos primus posuisse dicitur Pisistratus tyrannus. Deinceps studiosius accuratiusque ipsi Athenienses auxerunt; sed omnem illam postea librorum copiam Xerxes Athenarum potitus urbe ipsa praeter arcem incensa abstulit asportavitque in Persas. 2 Eos porro libros universos multis post tempestatibus Seleucus rex, qui Nicanor appellatus est, referendos Athenas curavit. 3 Ingens postea numerus librorum in Aegypto ab Ptolemaeis regibus vel conquisitus vel confectus est ad milia ferme voluminum septingenta; sed ea omnia bello priore Alexandrino, dum diripitur ea civitas, non sponte neque opera consulta, sed a militibus forte auxiliaris incensa sunt.
[The War mentioned here is likely 48 CBE; the Library at Alexandria was rebuilt by 41 BCE. It was burned again in 272 CE and abandoned by the end of the 4th century CE]
“Marcus Cato is reported to have criticized Aulus Albinus rightly and efficiently. Albinus wrote a Roman history in the Greek language during the consulship of Lucius Lucullus [151 BCE].
In the introduction to his history he wrote something of the following sentiment: no one ought to seek to fault him if anything presented in the book was inaccurate or written inelegantly; “For”, he writes “I am a Roman man born in Latium and the Greek language is most foreign to me.”
For this, then, he sought a favor, freedom from a poor evaluation, if he made any mistake. When Marcus Cato read this, he said “Aulus, you are certainly no minor dilettante, since you prefer to apologize for a mistake rather than avoiding it. We ought to seek forgiveness when we have made a mistake accidentally or have wronged someone without choice. But tell me—who compelled you to do this thing you’re doing, the thing you ask to be forgiven before you do it?” This story is recorded in the thirteenth book of Cornelius Nepos’ On Illustrious Men.”
Iuste venusteque admodum reprehendisse dicitur Aulum Albinum M. Cato. 2 Albinus, qui cum L. Lucullo consul fuit, res Romanas oratione Graeca scriptitavit. 3 In eius historiae principio scriptum est ad hanc sententiam: neminem suscensere sibi convenire, si quid in his libris parum composite aut minus eleganter scriptum foret; “nam sum” inquit “homo Romanus natus in Latio, Graeca oratio a nobis alienissima est”, ideoque veniam gratiamque malae existimationis, si quid esset erratum, postulavit. 4 Ea cum legisset M. Cato: “Ne tu,” inquit “Aule, nimium nugator es, cum maluisti culpam deprecari, quam culpa vacare. Nam petere veniam solemus, aut cum inprudentes erravimus aut cum compulsi peccavimus. Tibi,” inquit “oro te, quis perpulit, ut id committeres, quod, Priusquam faceres, peteres, ut ignosceretur?” 5 Scriptum hoc est in libro Corneli Nepotis de inlustribus viris XIII.
One Should Avoid Very Archaic Words That Have Become Antiquated and Fallen Out of Use
“Using words that are obsolete and worn down seems as affected as using uncustomary or new ones of harsh or unpleasant character. Personally, I find more annoying and offensive those words that are new, unknown, or previously unheard rather than those that are merely colloquial and vulgar. I do insist, however, that phrases seem new when they are unused and abandoned, even if they are really ancient. In truth, it is a common vice of learning late in life, what the Greeks call opsimathia, when there’s something you’ve never said and of which you were ignorant for a while, which, once you have begun to understand it, you manage to work it into any place or into any matter you’re discussing.
For example, at Rome we met an experienced man famous for his work as a public defender who had achieved a rapid and incomplete education. When he was speaking to the prefect of the city and wanted to say that a certain many lived on poor and miserable food—he ate bread made of bran and drank old, spoiled wine—he said “this Roman knight eats apluda and drinks flocces.” Everyone who was there looked at one another, at first rather severely and with confused, inquiring faces wondering what either word meant: then, as if he had spoken in Etruscan or Gallic, they all laughed together. That man had read that ancient farmers had called grain apluda—the word is used by Plautus in a comedy called Astraba, if that is a Plautine comedy. Similarly, “flocces” in ancient usage indicated the lees of a vine pressed from grapes, like the fruit from olives, a thing he read in Caecilius’ Polumeni. And he had saved these two words for decorating a speech!”
Verbis antiquissimis relictisque iam et desitis minime utendum.
Verbis uti aut nimis obsoletis exculcatisque aut insolentibus novitatisque durae et inlepidae par esse delictum videtur. Sed molestius equidem culpatiusque esse arbitror verba nova, incognita, inaudita dicere quam involgata et sordentia. Nova autem videri dico etiam ea, quae sunt inusitata et desita, tametsi sunt vetusta. Est adeo id vitium plerumque serae eruditionis, quam Graeci opsimathian appellant, ut, quod numquam didiceris, diu ignoraveris, cum id scire aliquando coeperis, magni facias quo in loco cumque et quacumque in re dicere. Veluti Romae nobis praesentibus vetus celebratusque homo in causis, sed repentina et quasi tumultuaria doctrina praeditus, cum apud praefectum urbi verba faceret et dicere vellet inopi quendam miseroque victu vivere et furfureum panem esitare vinumque eructum et fetidum potare, “hic” inquit “eques Romanus apludam edit et flocces bibit”.
Aspexerunt omnes, qui aderant, alius alium, primo tristiores turbato et requirente voltu, quidnam illud utriusque verbi foret; post deinde, quasi nescio quid Tusce aut Gallice dixisset, universi riserunt. Legerat autem ille “apludam” veteres rusticos frumenti furfurem dixisse idque a Plauto in comoedia, si ea Plauti est, quae Astraba inscripta est, positum esse. Item “flocces” audierat prisca voce significare vini faecem e vinaceis expressam, sicuti fraces oleis, idque aput Caecilium in Poltimenis legerat, eaque sibi duo verba ad orationum ornamenta servaverat.
“What the Greeks call enigmas, some of most ancient writers called this genre “scirpi” (“rushes”). I have just found an example of this that is very old, by Hercules, and very charming, composed in three iambic trimeters. I have left it without an answer so that I can prompt theories of my readers in answering it. These are three lines:
I don’t know whether he is less once or twice
Or both of these at once; as I once heard him say
That he did not wish to yield his place to king Zeus himself
He who does not wish to bother himself for too long over this will find what the answer is in the second book of Varro’s On Latin Language, dedicated to Marcellus.”
[The answer is Terminus. Once and twice minus equals thrice minus (terminus). Terminus refused to be removed from a section of the temple to Capitoline Jupiter].
6 De aenigmate.
1 Quae Graeci dicunt “aenigmata”, hoc genus quidam ex nostris veteribus “scirpos” appellaverunt. Quale est quod nuper invenimus per hercle anticum, perquam lepidum, tribus versibus senariis compositum aenigma, quod reliquimus inenarratum, ut legentium coniecturas in requirendo acueremus. 2 Versus tres hi sunt:
semel minusne an bis minus sit nescio,
an utrumque eorum; ut quondam audivi dicier,
Iovi ipsi regi noluit concedere.
3 Hoc qui nolet diutius aput sese quaerere, inveniet quid sit in M. Varronis de sermone Latino ad Marcellum libro secundo.
On the fact that the philosopher Chrysippus claimsthat every word was ambiguous and unclear and that Diorous thinks on the contrary that no word is ambiguous.
Chrysippus says that every word is ambiguous by nature since two or more things can be understood from the same thing. Diodorus, however, the one who had the name Cronus, says: “No word is ambiguous nor may anyone say or understand a word in an ambiguous sense; and it ought not to seem to be anything other than what the person who says it believes he is saying. But when I,” he continues, “mean something different from what you interpret, it may seem that the word has been spoken unclearly rather than ambiguously: for the nature of an ambiguous word ought to be that the person who speaks it has two or more meanings. No one, however, says two or more things when he has meant only one.”
XII. Quod Chrysippus philosophus omne verbum ambiguum dubiumque esse dicit, Diodorus contra nullum verbum ambiguum esse putat.
Chrysippus ait omne verbum ambiguum natura esse, quoniam ex eodem duo vel plura accipi possunt. II. Diodorus autem, cui Crono cognomentum fuit: “nullum” inquit “verbum est ambiguum, nec quisquam ambiguum dicit aut sentit, nec aliud dici videri debet, quam quod se dicere sentit is, qui dicit. III. At cum ego” inquit “aliud sensi, tu aliud accepisti, obscure magis dictum videri potest quam ambigue; ambigui enim verbi natura illa esse debuit, ut, qui id diceret, duo vel plura diceret. Nemo autem duo vel plura dicit, qui se sensit unum dicere”.
“I have been reading the comedies by our poets which are based on and translated from Greek poets like Menander, Posidippus, Apollodorus or Alexis (and some comic writers as well). They do not at all displease while I read them—no, they seem written cleverly and attractively to the extent that you might believe that they cannot be made better. But if you take them and compare them to the Greek originals upon which they are based and consider the individual passages both together and separately with clear focus: the Latin texts immediately seem to be vulgar and simple: they are eclipsed by the wit and brilliance of the Greek texts which they are incapable of rivaling.”
Comoedias lectitamus nostrorum poetarum sumptas ac versas de Graecis Menandro aut Posidippo aut Apollodoro aut Alexide et quibusdam item aliis comicis. 2 Neque, cum legimus eas, nimium sane displicent, quin lepide quoque et venuste scriptae videantur, prorsus ut melius posse fieri nihil censeas. 3 Sed enim si conferas et componas Graeca ipsa, unde illa venerunt, ac singula considerate atque apte iunctis et alternis lectionibus committas, oppido quam iacere atque sordere incipiunt, quae Latina sunt; ita Graecarum, quas aemulari nequiverunt, facetiis atque luminibus obsolescunt.
17. That humanitas does not mean that which the common people believe it does but those who speak more properly use this word with a different meaning.
“Those who have spoken Latin and have used it correctly do not give the word humanitas the meaning which it commonly acquires, one equivalent to Greek philanthropia, indicating a certain kindly disposition and well-wishing toward all men indiscriminately. No, in correct use, humanitas means what the Greeks call paideia, what we have called education and training in the noble arts—these are the arts through which, when men learn them, they become most humanized. For the pursuit of this knowledge and the discipline derived from it has been given alone to mankind of all the animals—this is what it is called humanitas.
This is the way in which older writers use the word and among them especially Marcus Varro and Marcus Tullius, as nearly all the books show. I therefore consider it enough to offer a single example. So, I quote hear the words from Varro’s first book of Human Antiquities, whose beginning goes like this: “Praxiteles, who thanks to his unparalleled artwork, is famous to anyone who has a little bit of liberal learning [humaniori].” Varro, here, does not use humaniori in a colloquial sense, as “easy-going, kind, or friendly, without knowledge of letters”—this meaning does not at all match his statement. What he means with it is a “man of some learning and training” who would know who Praxiteles was from books and spoken accounts.”
XVII. “Humanitatem” non significare id, quod volgus putat, sed eo vocabulo, qui sinceriter locuti sunt, magis proprie esse usos.
Qui verba Latina fecerunt quique his probe usi sunt, “humanitatem” non id esse voluerunt, quod volgus existimat quodque a Graecis philanthropia dicitur et significat dexteritatem quandam benivolentiamque erga omnis homines promiscam, sed “humanitatem” appellaverunt id propemodum, quod Graeci paideian vocant, nos eruditionem institutionemque in bonas artis dicimus. Quas qui sinceriter cupiunt adpetuntque, hi sunt vel maxime humanissimi. Huius enim scientiae cura et disciplina ex universis animantibus uni homini datast idcircoque “humanitas” appellata est.
Sic igitur eo verbo veteres esse usos et cumprimis M. Varronem Marcumque Tullium omnes ferme libri declarant. Quamobrem satis habui unum interim exemplum promere. III. Itaque verba posui Varronis e libro rerum humanarum primo, cuius principium hoc est: “Praxiteles, qui propter artificium egregium nemini est paulum modo humaniori ignotus”. IV. “Humaniori” inquit non ita, ut vulgo dicitur, facili et tractabili et benivolo, tametsi rudis litterarum sit – hoc enim cum sententia nequaquam convenit -, sed eruditiori doctiorique, qui Praxitelem, quid fuerit, et ex libris et ex historia cognoverit.
Aulus Gellius on Demosthenes and the Courtesan Lais (Attic Nights 1.VIII)
8 A detail excerpted from the writings of the philosopher Sotion about the prostitute Lais and the orator Demosthenes
Sotion was a rather well known man from the peripatetic school. He wrote a book filled with varied and extensive anecdotes and named it The Horn of Amaltheia, which in our tongue is pretty close to saying The Horn of Plenty.
In that book he included this anecdote about Demosthenes the orator and Lais the prostitute. “Lais”, he says, “the Corinthian, used to earn a lot of money through the elegance and beauty of her body. Often, some of the most well-known wealthy men from all of Greece came to see her, but not a one was admitted unless he gave what she asked: and she used to ask for no small amount.” He says that this is where the common saying was born among Greeks that “It is not possible for everyman to sail to Corinth”, since a man went to Corinth to Lais in vain if he could not give what she asked.
“And the famous Demosthenes went to her in secret and asked for her services. But she asked for 10,000 drachmas” –an amount which would be exchanged for ten thousand of our denarii—“Struck dumb by the woman’s daring and by the great heap of money, Demosthenes turned away pale and said “I cannot buy regret for such a price”. But the Greek which he is said to have spoken is more charming: “I will not buy remorse for 10,000 drachmas.”
8 Historia in libris Sotionis philosophi reperta super Laide meretrice et Demosthene rhetore.
1 Sotion ex peripatetica disciplina haut sane ignobilis vir fuit. Is librum multae variaeque historiae refertum composuit eumque inscripsit Κέρας Ἀμαλθείας. 2 Ea vox hoc ferme valet, tamquam si dicas “cornum Copiae”. 3 In eo libro super Demosthene rhetore et Laide meretrice historia haec scripta est: “Lais” inquit “Corinthia ob elegantiam venustatemque formae grandem pecuniam demerebat, conventusque ad eam ditiorum hominum ex omni Graecia celebres erant, neque admittebatur, nisi qui dabat, quod poposcerat; poscebat autem illa nimium quantum.” 4 Hinc ait natum esse illud frequens apud Graecos adagium:
Οὐ παντὸς ἀνδρὸς ἐς Κόρινθον ἔσθ᾿ ὁ πλοῦς
quod frustra iret Corinthum ad Laidem, qui non quiret dare, quod posceretur. 5 “Ad hanc ille Demosthenes clanculum adit et, ut sibi copiam sui faceret, petit. At Lais myrias drachmas poposcit”, hoc facit nummi nostratis denarium decem milia. 6 “Tali petulantia mulieris atque pecuniae magnitudine ictus expavidusque Demosthenes avertitur et discedens “ego” inquit “paenitere tanti non emo”. Sed Graeca ipsa, quae fertur dixisse, lepidiora sunt: οὐκ ὠνοῦμαι μυρίων δραχμῶν μεταμέλειαν.
 If we use the popular idea that a drachma was worth one day of a skilled worker’s wages, then Lais’ services cost 10,000 working days. Perhaps less overwhelming, but still impressive is valuing a drachma at $25 USD: A night with Lais is only $250,000 dollars. But maybe that’s just because it was Demosthenes….
18: Why and How the Philosopher Democritus blinded himself; and the fine and charming verses Laberius wrote on the subject
“It is recorded among the accomplishments of Greek history that the philosopher Democritus, a man worthy of praise beyond the rest and blessed with ancient authority, deprived himself of eyesight willingly because he believed that his mind’s thoughts and reflections in considering the laws of nature would be clearer and more precise if he freed them from the incitements of sight and the eye’s mistakes.
Laberius the poet has described this deed and the method by which he accomplished his own blindness with a clever device in his farce named the Ropemaker, which describes the affair with just enough verses, written clearly. Laberius, however, created a different cause for the blindness and included it in the tale which he was writing, not inaptly. The character who speaks the following lines in Laberius’ poem is a wealthy but stingy wretch who laments the excessive spending and low behavior of his adolescent son. Here are Laberius’ lines:
“Democritus, the natural philosopher of Adbera
Placed a shield to face Hyperion’s arrival,
So that he might destroy his eyes with blazing bronze,
Thus he ruined his eyes with the rays of the sun,
So that he might not witness wicked citizens faring well.
Just so, I wish to blind the final portion of my years
Through the blaze of shining money
Rather than gazing upon my son’s extravagant prosperity.”
XVII. Quam ob causam et quali modo Democritus philosophus luminibus oculorum sese privaverit; et super ea re versus Laberii pure admodum et venuste facti.
I. Democritum philosophum in monumentis historiae Graecae scriptum est, virum praeter alios venerandum auctoritateque antiqua praeditum, luminibus oculorum sua sponte se privasse, quia existimaret cogitationes commentationesque animi sui in contemplandis naturae rationibus vegetiores et exactiores fore, si eas videndi inlecebris et oculorum impedimentis liberasset. II. Id factum eius modumque ipsum, quo caecitatem facile sollertia subtilissima conscivit, Laberius poeta in mimo, quem scripsit Restionem, versibus quidem satis munde atque graphice factis descripsit, sed causam voluntariae caecitatis finxit aliam vertitque in eam rem, quam tum agebat, non inconcinniter. III. Est enim persona, quae hoc aput Laberium dicit, divitis avari et parci sumptum plurimum asotiamque adulescentis viri deplorantis. IV. Versus Laberiani sunt:
Democritus Abderites physicus philosophus
clipeum constituit contra exortum Hyperionis,
oculos effodere ut posset splendore aereo.
Ita radiis solis aciem effodit luminis,
malis bene esse ne videret civibus.
Sic ego fulgentis splendorem pecuniae
volo elucificare exitum aetati meae,
ne in re bona videam esse nequam filium.