Werewolf Week, Religious Returns: St. Augustine on Lycanthropy

In discussing tales of Diomedes’ companions being turned into birds, Augustine in De Civitate Dei (City of God) discusses werewolves (18.17, the full text):

“In order to make this seem more likely, Varro reports other fantastic tales concerning the infamous witch Circe, who transformed Odysseus’ companions into beasts, and concerning the Arcadians, who were by chance transformed when they swam across a certain lake in which they were turned into wolves. Then, they lived as wolves in the same region. If they did not eat human flesh, then they would be returned to human form after swimming across the same lake again.

werewolf-histories

And he also specifies that a certain Demanaetus tasted of the sacrifice which the Arcadians used to make to the Lycaean god, after the child was burned on the altar, and that he transformed into a wolf and, once he became a man again, competing in boxing at the Olympian games and achieved a victory. Varro does not believe for this reason that Pan or Jupiter were given the name “Lykaios” in Arcadia for any other reason than their ability to turn men into wolves, since they did not believe that this could happen except through divine power. As you know, a wolf is called lykos in Greek, and this is where the name Lykaian comes from. Varro adds that the Roman Luperci arose from their own mysteries similarly.

But what can we who talk about these things say about this kind of deceit by the devil’s forces?”

Augustine goes on to object to these tales and discuss Apuleius’ Golden Ass. I started translating this, but it is a bit of a Halloween buzzkill..

No Room For Werewolves in this city...
No Room For Werewolves in this city…

[XVII] Hoc Varro ut astruat, commemorat alia non minus incredibilia de illa maga famosissima Circe, quae socios quoque Vlixis mutauit in bestias, et de Arcadibus, qui sorte ducti tranabant quoddam stagnum atque ibi conuertebantur in lupos et cum similibus feris per illius regionis deserta uiuebant. Si autem carne non uescerentur humana, rursus post nouem annos eodem renatato stagno reformabantur in homines.

Denique etiam nominatim expressit quendam Demaenetum gustasse de sacrificio, quod Arcades immolato puero deo suo Lycaeo facere solerent, et in lupum fuisse mutatum et anno decimo in figuram propriam restitutum pugilatum sese exercuisse et Olympiaco uicisse certamine. Nec idem propter aliud arbitratur historicus in Arcadia tale nomen adfictum Pani Lycaeo et Ioui Lycaeo nisi propter hanc in lupos hominum mutationem, quod eam nisi ui diuina fieri non putarent. Lupus enim Graece *lu/kos dicitur, unde Lycaei nomen apparet inflexum. Romanos etiam Lupercos ex illorum mysteriorum ueluti semine dicit exortos.

Sed de ista tanta ludificatione daemonum nos quid dicamus…

Consumerist Approaches to Education in the Ancient World

Some inspirational anecdotes in time for the new semester.

Aulus Gellius, Attic Nights 1.9.8-9

“After our friend Taurus said these things about Pythagoras, he added, “Today, these people who turn to philosophy on whim and without washed feet [i.e. without preparation for the study], for them it isn’t enough that they are “completely without logic, without education, and without mathematical training”; no, they give the orders about how they should learn philosophy. One says “teach me this first”; another says “I’d like to learn this, but not that.” One is burning to start with Plato’s Symposium because of the appearance of Alcibiades; a different one wants the Phaedrus because of Lysias’ oration. By Jupiter! One even asks to read Plato not for the sake of improving his life, but only to decorate his speech and oratory—not so that it may be more appropriate, but in order to make it fancier.”

Haec eadem super Pythagora noster Taurus cum dixisset: “nunc autem” inquit “isti, qui repente pedibus inlotis ad philosophos devertunt, non est hoc satis, quod sunt omnino ἀθεώτεροι, ἄμουσοι, ἀγεωμέτρητοι, sed legem etiam dant, qua philosophari discant. 9 Alius ait “hoc me primum doce”, item alius “hoc volo” inquit “discere, istud nolo”; hic a symposio Platonis incipere gestit propter Alcibiadae comisationem, ille a Phaedro propter Lysiae orationem. 10 Est etiam,” inquit “pro Iuppiter! qui Platonem legere postulet non vitae ornandae, sed linguae orationisque comendae gratia, nec ut modestior fiat, sed ut lepidior.”

 

Augustine, Confessions 5.12

“I then started to pursue the work for which I traveled there, to teach the art of Rhetoric at Rome. Soon, certain men gathered at my home among whom and through whom I became well known. But look: I learned that some things happened in Rome which I would not have endured in Africa. For, in truth, the destruction caused by wasted youths which I saw there would not have happened in Africa. They said to me: “Suddenly, in order not to pay their teacher, many young men will conspire and move on to another—they abandon their promises: because of their love of money, justice is cheap.” My heart hated those bastards, but not with a complete hatred: surely, I hated more what I would suffer because of them than the wrongs they committed against others.”

sedulo ergo agere coeperam, propter quod veneram, ut docerem Romae artem rhetoricam, et prius domi congregare aliquos quibus et per quos innotescere coeperam. et ecce cognosco alia Romae fieri, quae non patiebar in Africa. nam re vera illas eversiones a perditis adulescentibus ibi non fieri manifestatum est mihi: ‘sed subito,’ inquiunt, ‘ne mercedem magistro reddant, conspirant multi adulescentes et transferunt se ad alium, desertores fidei et quibus prae pecuniae caritate iustitia vilis est.’ oderat etiam istos cor meum, quamvis non perfecto odio. quod enim ab eis passurus eram magis oderam fortasse quam eo quod cuilibet inlicita faciebant.

School and Its Attendant Sorrow: Augustine, Confessions 1.9

“From there I was sent to school, so that I could learn my letters, though I (wretch that I was) could not see what use there was in them. Nevertheless, if I were lazy in my studies, I was beaten. This practice was praised by our ancestors, and many before us who led that life constructed these sorrowful paths through which we are compelled to trudge on with multiplied labor and grief to the sons of Adam.”

inde in scholam datus sum ut discerem litteras, in quibus quid utilitatis esset ignorabam miser. et tamen, si segnis in discendo essem, vapulabam. laudabatur enim hoc a maioribus, et multi ante nos vitam istam agentes praestruxerant aerumnosas vias, per quas transire cogebamur multiplicato labore et dolore filiis Adam.

Werewolf Week, Augustine Edition, nos quid dicamus?

In discussing tales of Diomedes’ companions being turned into birds, Augustine in De Civitate Dei (City of God) discusses werewolves (18.17, the full text):

“In order to make this seem more likely, Varro reports other fantastic tales concerning the infamous witch Circe, who transformed Odysseus’ companions into beasts, and concerning the Arcadians, who were by chance transformed when they swam across a certain lake in which they were turned into wolves. Then, they lived as wolves in the same region. If they did not eat human flesh, then they would be returned to human form after swimming across the same lake again.

And he also specifies that a certain Demanaetus tasted of the sacrifice which the Arcadians used to make to the Lycaean god, after the child was burned on the altar, and that he transformed into a wolf and, once he became a man again, competing in boxing at the Olympian games and achieved a victory. Varro does not believe for this reason that Pan or Jupiter were given the name “Lykaios” in Arcadia for any other reason than their ability to turn men into wolves, since they did not believe that this could happen except through divine power. As you know, a wolf is called lykos in Greek, and this is where the name Lykaian comes from. Varro adds that the Roman Luperci arose from their own mysteries similarly.

But what can we who talk about these things say about this kind of deceit by the devil’s forces?”

Augustine goes on to object to these tales and discuss Apuleius’ Golden Ass. I started translating this, but it is a bit of a Halloween buzzkill..

No Room For Werewolves in this city...
No Room For Werewolves in this city…

[XVII] Hoc Varro ut astruat, commemorat alia non minus incredibilia de illa maga famosissima Circe, quae socios quoque Vlixis mutauit in bestias, et de Arcadibus, qui sorte ducti tranabant quoddam stagnum atque ibi conuertebantur in lupos et cum similibus feris per illius regionis deserta uiuebant. Si autem carne non uescerentur humana, rursus post nouem annos eodem renatato stagno reformabantur in homines.

Denique etiam nominatim expressit quendam Demaenetum gustasse de sacrificio, quod Arcades immolato puero deo suo Lycaeo facere solerent, et in lupum fuisse mutatum et anno decimo in figuram propriam restitutum pugilatum sese exercuisse et Olympiaco uicisse certamine. Nec idem propter aliud arbitratur historicus in Arcadia tale nomen adfictum Pani Lycaeo et Ioui Lycaeo nisi propter hanc in lupos hominum mutationem, quod eam nisi ui diuina fieri non putarent. Lupus enim Graece *lu/kos dicitur, unde Lycaei nomen apparet inflexum. Romanos etiam Lupercos ex illorum mysteriorum ueluti semine dicit exortos.

Sed de ista tanta ludificatione daemonum nos quid dicamus…

Education and Religion Can Corrupt: Augustine, Confessions IV,1

“Through the same nine-year span from my nineteenth year until my twenty-eighth, we were seduced and we were seducing, tricked and tricking others with a variety of desires: we did this openly through the teachings that we call ‘liberal’ but also secretly under the name of a false religion. In the first, we were haughty; in the other, superstitious—but we were arrogant everywhere. In the liberal education, we were pursuing the emptiness of popular glory, even for applause for our performances, our songs for the competitions, contests for brief-lived crowns, the sideshows of spectacle and unrestrained desires. In our ‘religion’ we were longing to be cleansed from those filthy acts when we used to bring meals to the men who were considered chosen and holy. In the factories of their stomachs they were going to create the angels and gods who would free us. And I was pursuing these things and I did it with the friends who were deceived with me and by me.”

per idem tempus annorum novem, ab undevicensimo anno aetatis meae usque ad duodetricensimum, seducebamur et seducebamus, falsi atque fallentes in variis cupiditatibus, et palam per doctrinas quas liberales vocant, occulte autem falso nomine religionis, hic superbi, ibi superstitiosi, ubique vani, hac popularis gloriae sectantes inanitatem, usque ad theatricos plausus et contentiosa carmina et agonem coronarum faenearum et spectaculorum nugas et intemperantiam libidinum, illac autem purgari nos ab istis sordibus expetentes, cum eis qui appellarentur electi et sancti afferremus escas de quibus nobis in officina aqualiculi sui fabricarent angelos et deos per quos liberaremur. et sectabar ista atque faciebam cum amicis meis per me ac mecum deceptis.

Augustine Was Ripped off by Students: He hated them, and himself (Confessions 5.12)

“I then started to pursue the work for which I traveled there, to teach the art of Rhetoric at Rome. Soon, certain men gathered at my home among whom and through whom I became well known. But look: I learned that some things happened in Rome which I would not have endured in Africa. For, in truth, the destruction caused by wasted youths which I saw there would not have happened in Africa. They said to me: “Suddenly, in order not to pay their teacher, many young men will conspire and move on to another—they abandon their promises: because of their love of money, justice is cheap.” My heart hated those bastards, but not with a complete hatred: surely, I hated more what I would suffer because of them than the wrongs they committed against others.”

sedulo ergo agere coeperam, propter quod veneram, ut docerem Romae artem rhetoricam, et prius domi congregare aliquos quibus et per quos innotescere coeperam. et ecce cognosco alia Romae fieri, quae non patiebar in Africa. nam re vera illas eversiones a perditis adulescentibus ibi non fieri manifestatum est mihi: ‘sed subito,’ inquiunt, ‘ne mercedem magistro reddant, conspirant multi adulescentes et transferunt se ad alium, desertores fidei et quibus prae pecuniae caritate iustitia vilis est.’ oderat etiam istos cor meum, quamvis non perfecto odio. quod enim ab eis passurus eram magis oderam fortasse quam eo quod cuilibet inlicita faciebant.

Augustine, Confessions 1.8: On Learning how Things have Names

“Was it really this man—me—who jumped from infancy and moved to childhood? Or was it more that childhood entered me and replaced infancy? Infancy didn’t depart—where would it go? But still, it was not there anymore. For I was no longer an infant who could not speak but I was a boy who spoke. I remember this and sometime later I understood where I learned to speak. My elders were not teaching me, offering me words in some established curriculum as they would later with reading, but I, with the mind you gave me, my God, I wanted to make clear the feelings of my heart with all types of groaning and sounds and mad moving of the limbs, so that my will would be obeyed; when I did not prevail over all the things which I wanted from everyone, I picked at it with my memory. Whenever anyone called something something and when they moved toward a thing in response to that word a second time, I observed it and I understood that the thing was named by them—when they made that sound they meant to indicate it.”

nonne ab infantia huc pergens veni in pueritiam? vel potius ipsa in me venit et successit infantiae? nec discessit illa: quo enim abiit? et tamen iam non erat. non enim eram infans qui non farer, sed iam puer loquens eram. et memini hoc, et unde loqui didiceram post adverti. non enim docebant me maiores homines, praebentes mihi verba certo aliquo ordine doctrinae sicut paulo post litteras, sed ego ipse mente quam dedisti mihi, deus meus, cum gemitibus et vocibus variis et variis membrorum motibus edere vellem sensa cordis mei, ut voluntati pareretur, nec valerem quae volebam omnia nec quibus volebam omnibus, prensabam memoria. cum ipsi appellabant rem aliquam et cum secundum eam vocem corpus ad aliquid movebant, videbam et tenebam hoc ab eis vocari rem illam quod sonabant cum eam vellent ostendere.

The Full Latin Text

Don’t Bother Me, I’m Reading! Augustine on Ambrose, Confessions 6.3

“But when he [St. Ambrose] was reading, his eyes were lead along the pages and his heart was revealing their sense, but his voice and tongue maintained silence. Often, when we were in his presence (for he prohibited no one from coming in, nor was it his habit that an entrant should be announced to him), we would see him reading silently – never otherwise. After sitting in unbroken silence (who, indeed,would burden a man so intent on something?), we would leave him. We conjectured that when he had seized upon that small interval of time for rejuvenating his mind, taking a break from the tumult of other people’s affairs, he did not want to be summoned away to something else, so he took care lest some eavesdropper get caught up in it would hear something which the author of the book being read had expressed unclearly, thus making it necessary for Ambrose to explain and discuss various difficult questions. Then, by spending his free minutes on such a task, he would get through fewer books than he wished, even though the cause of preserving his voice, which was easily wrecked, had been a more just reason for reading silently.”

sed cum legebat, oculi ducebantur per paginas et cor intellectum rimabatur, vox autem et lingua quiescebant. saepe cum adessemus (non enim vetabatur quisquam ingredi aut ei venientem nuntiari mos erat), sic eum legentem vidimus tacite et aliter numquam, sedentesque in diuturno silentio (quis enim tam intento esse oneri auderet?) discedebamus et coniectabamus eum parvo ipso tempore quod reparandae menti suae nanciscebatur, feriatum ab strepitu causarum alienarum, nolle in aliud avocari et cavere fortasse ne, auditore suspenso et intento, si qua obscurius posuisset ille quem legeret, etiam exponere esset necesse aut de aliquibus difficilioribus dissertare quaestionibus, atque huic operi temporibus impensis minus quam vellet voluminum evolveret, quamquam et causa servandae vocis, quae illi facillime obtundebatur, poterat esse iustior tacite legendi. quolibet tamen animo id ageret, bono utique ille vir agebat.

 

Reading aloud is often viewed with some derision in the modern world, but it was the default mode of reading in antiquity. Augustine (4th-5th centuries BCE) is a comparatively late author, yet found Ambrose’s habit of silent reading sufficiently remarkable to record here.

I confess that I usually read silently, yet I find that it is – in contradistinction to the suggestion here – the surest way to guarantee that someone will assume that you are at your leisure and effectively begging to be interrupted.