Full Frontal Sodomy: A Philosopher’s Insult

Aulus Gellius, 3.5:

The fault of luxury and the effeminacy of both eyes and body reproached by a certain philosopher named Arcesilaus in a bitter but amusing way.

Plutarch relates that the philosopher Arcesilaus used a rather strong word about an excessively dainty man, who was nevertheless thought to be morally sound and free from sensual vice. When he noted the man’s smooth voice, his well-arranged hair, and his eyes so full of play and wanton pleasure, he said, ‘It really makes no difference in which parts you are a sodomite, whether they be up front or behind!’

Deliciarum vitium et mollities oculorum et corporis ab Arcesila philosopho cuidam obprobrata acerbe simul et festiviter. 1 Plutarchus refert Arcesilaum philosophum vehementi verbo usum esse de quodam nimis delicato divite, qui incorruptus tamen et a stupro integer dicebatur. 2 Nam cum vocem eius infractam capillumque arte compositum et oculos ludibundos atque inlecebrae voluptatisque plenos videret : “nihil interest,” inquit “quibus membris cinaedi sitis, posterioribus an prioribus”.

The Poetic Enigma

 

Aulus Gellius 13.6 On the enigma

 

“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.

 

 

Chameleon Tales from Pliny

Aulus Gellius, Attic Nights 10.12

 

12 Concerning the miraculous tales which Pliny the Elder ascribes most unworthily to the philosopher Democritus; and also about the image of a flying dove

 

In the twenty-eighth book of his Natural Histories, Pliny the Elder reports that there was a book by the most noble Philosopher Democritus On the Power and Nature of the Chameleon and that he had read it himself. He ascribes to it many silly and ridiculous things, allegedly written by Democritus—a few of which I remember, unwillingly, since they are so repulsive. For instance, that Democritus claimed that a hawk, the fastest of all birds, if he flies over a chameleon by chance, is suddenly dragged to the ground by a chameleon crawling below it and that after it comes down by some force offers itself willingly on the ground to be taken and torn to pieces by other birds!

Another thing that is beyond all human belief: if the head and neck of a chameleon is burned with the wood which we call oak, rain and thunder occur suddenly; the same thing, allegedly, happens if that animal is burned on the top of a house. There is still another tale which, by Hercules, I doubted that I should include since it is so absurd. But I have decided clearly that it is necessary that we speak what we think about the false incitements that come from this type of wonder—the types of things by which many sharp minds—indeed, those which are most desirous of knowledge—are often possessed and which lead them especially to ruin. But I return to Pliny. He says to roast the chameleon’s left foot with iron heated in a fire along with a herb  which bears the same name (“chameleon”), and to mix both into an ointment and to rub it into paste and place it in a wooden container. Whoever carries that, even if he is in the middle of a crowd, can be seen by no one.”

chameleon

12De portentis fabularum, quae Plinius Secundus indignissime in Democritum philosophum confert; ibidem de simulacro volucri columbae.

 

1 Librum esse Democriti, nobilissimi philosophorum, de vi et natura chamaeleontis eumque se legisse Plinius Secundus in naturalis historiae vicesimo octavo refert multaque vana atque intoleranda auribus deinde quasi a Democrito scripta tradit, ex quibus pauca haec inviti meminimus, quia pertaesum est: 2 accipitrem avium rapidissimum a chamaeleonte humi reptante, si eum forte supervolet, detrahi et cadere vi quadam in terram ceterisque avibus laniandum sponte sua obicere sese et dedere. 3 Item aliud ultra humanam fidem: caput et collum chamaeleontis si uratur ligno, quod appellatur “robur”, imbres et tonitrus fieri derepente, idque ipsum usu venire, si iecur eiusdem animalis in summis tegulis uratur. 4 Item aliud, quod hercle an ponerem dubitavi, – ita est deridiculae vanitatis – nisi idcirco plane posui, quod oportuit nos dicere, quid de istiusmodi admirationum fallaci inlecebra sentiremus, qua plerumque capiuntur et ad perniciem elabuntur ingenia maxime sollertia eaque potissimum, quae discendi cupidiora sunt. 5 Sed redeo ad Plinium. Sinistrum pedem ait chamaeleontis ferro ex igni calefacto torreri cum herba, quae appellatur eodem nomine chamaeleontis, et utrumque macerari unguento conligique in modum pastilli atque in vas mitti ligneum et eum, qui id vas ferat, etiamsi is in medio palam versetur, a nullo videri posse.

All Words Are Ambiguous; Or No Words Are

Aulus Gellius, Attic Nights, 11.12

  1. 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.”

Seven

What Would Diodorus Make of This Classic?

 

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”.

Politicians Take Note: Lying Vs. Reporting an Untruth

 

Aulus Gellius, Attic Nights, 11.11 The Difference Between Lying and Speaking an Untruth

11: The words of Publius Nigidius in which he has that there is a difference between lying [mentiri] and “speaking an untruth” [mendacium dicere]

These are the precise words of Publius Nigidius, a man of surpassing talents in the pursuit of the liberal arts, whom Marcus Cicero revered for his intelligence and his impressive control of his learning: “There is a difference between speaking an untruth and lying.  A man who lies is not deceived himself; he is trying to deceive another. Someone who speaks an untruth, is himself deceived.”

He also adds this: “The man who lies, deceives as much as he can; but the one who speaks an untruth, does not deceive to the extent of his ability.” And then he adds as well on this matter: “A good man, ought to strain not to lie; a wise man should endeavor not to say anything untrue; the one affects the man himself, the other does not.” By Heracles, Nigidius so variously and cleverly sets out so many opinions on the same matter, as if he were saying something different each time!”

Haruspex

P. Nigidius Figulus Wrote About Stuff Like This.

Verba P. Nigidii, quibus differre dicit “mentiri” et “mendacium dicere”.

Verba sunt ipsa haec P. Nigidii, hominis in studiis bonarum artium praecellentis, quem M. Cicero ingenii doctrinarumque nomine summe reveritus est: “Inter mendacium dicere et mentiri distat. Qui mentitur, ipse non fallitur, alterum fallere conatur; qui mendacium dicit, ipse fallitur”. II. Item hoc addidit: “Qui mentitur,” inquit “fallit, quantum in se est; at qui mendacium dicit, ipse non fallit, quantum in se est”. III. Item hoc quoque super eadem re dicit: “Vir bonus” inquit “praestare debet, ne mentiatur, prudens, ne mendacium dicat; alterum incidit in hominem, alterum non”. IV. Varie me hercule et lepide Nigidius tot sententias in eandem rem, quasi aliud atque aliud diceret, disparavit.

On Roman Imitations in Comparison to Greek Models

Aulus Gellius, Attic Nights II.23

 

“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.”

Laocoon

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.

Cato Said He Needed Little And Proved It

Aulus Gellius, Attic Nights 13.24

 

24: The words of Marcus Cato who says that he lacks many things but he desires nothing

 

“The consul and censor Marcus Cato says that when the state and private citizens had abundant wealth, his own country home was plain and simple and that it was not even whitewashed even when he was nearly seventy-years old.  And later, he uses these words, saying: “I have no expensive building, tool or piece of clothing—nor a costly slave or maid. If there is anything to use, I use it.  If there is not, I lack it. I believe that everyone should use and enjoy what he possesses.” He adds to this: “Some complain that I lack many things; but I fault those who cannot go without.”

This plain honesty of the Tusculan man, who says that he lacks many things but still desires nothing, does more in encouraging thrift and happiness with modest possession than the treatises of those Greeks who claim to be philosophers, forming empty shadows of words, declaring that they have nothing, and still need nothing, and desire nothing when they are burning with having, needing, and desiring.”

Cato

Cato Also Did Not Have Good Looks

XXIV. Verba M. Catonis, egere se multis rebus et nihil tamen cupere dicentis

M. Cato consularis et censorius publicis iam privatisque opulentis rebus villas suas inexcultas et rudes ne tectorio quidem praelitas fuisse dicit ad annum usque aetatis suae septuagesimum. Atque ibi postea his verbis utitur: “Neque mihi” inquit “aedificatio neque vasum neque vestimentum ullum est manupretiosum neque pretiosus servus neque ancilla. Si quid est,” inquit “quod utar, utor; si non est, egeo. Suum cuique per me uti atque frui licet”. Tum deinde addit: “Vitio vertunt, quia multa egeo; at ego illis, quia nequeunt egere”. II. Haec mera veritas Tusculani hominis egere se multis rebus et nihil tamen cupere dicentis plus hercle promovet ad exhortandam parsimoniam sustinendamque inopiam quam Graecae istorum praestigiae philosophari sese dicentium umbrasque verborum inanes fingentium, qui se nihil habere et nihil tamen egere ac nihil cupere dicunt, cum et habendo et egendo et cupiendo ardeant.

Cicero Teaches Us How To Lie and Get Away with It

Aulus Gellius, Attic Nights 12.12

12 The clever response of Marcus Cicero as he defends himself against a claim of obvious lying

“This is a part of rhetorical training too—to admit criminal matters not subject to danger cleverly and with charm so that, if something foul is alleged which cannot be denied, you may defuse it with a humorous response and make the whole matter more dignified with a joke rather than an allegation, just as it is recorded that Cicero did when he tempered what could not be denied with a clever and amusing comment.

For when Cicero wanted to purchase a house on the Palatine hill and he did not have the money at hand, he accepted in private as much as two million sesterces [$100,000?] from Publius Sulla* who was then a defendant in a case. But the whole matter was made public before he bought the house and he was charged with receiving money for buying a house from an accused defendant. So then, troubled by the unanticipated criticism, Cicero denied that he had received the money and denied that he would have bought the house, saying “Indeed, If I buy the house, it is true that I took the money”.

But later, when he had bought the house and was charged with being a liar in the senate by his enemies, he laughed plenty and said while chuckling: “You are senseless men if you don’t know that it is a mark of a wise and cautious head of a family, when he wants to buy something, to deny that he wants to buy it to scare off competitors!”

*He was charged for participating in the conspiracy with Cataline.

XII Faceta responsio M. Ciceronis amolientis a se crimen manifesti mendacii.

[1] Haec quoque disciplina rhetorica est callide et cum astu res criminosas citra periculum confiteri, ut, si obiectum sit turpe aliquid, quod negari non queat, responsione ioculari eludas et rem facias risu magis dignam quam crimine, sicut fecisse Ciceronem scriptum est, cum id, quod infitiari non poterat, urbano facetoque dicto diluit. [2] Nam cum emere uellet in Palatio domum et pecuniam in praesens non haberet, a P. Sulla, qui tum reus erat, mutua sestertium uiciens tacita accepit. [3] Ea res tamen, priusquam emeret, prodita est et in uulgus exiuit, obiectumque ei est, quod pecuniam domus emendae causa a reo accepisset. [4] Tum Cicero inopinata obprobratione permotus accepisse se negauit ac domum quoque se empturum negauit atque ‘adeo’ inquit ‘uerum sit accepisse me pecuniam, si domum emero’. Sed cum postea emisset et hoc mendacium in senatu ei ab inimicis obiceretur, risit satis atque inter ridendum: ‘ἀκοινονόητοι’ inquit ‘homines estis, cum ignoratis prudentis et cauti patrisfamilias esse, quod emere uelit, empturum sese negare propter competitores emptionis.’

Wisdom is the Offspring of Experience and Memory

from Aulus Gellius, Attic Nights 13.8

The poet Afranius wisely and elegantly said that Wisdom is the daughter of Experience and Memory

The poet Afranius expressed himself exceptionally and most truthfully concerning the creation and cultivation of wisdom, that it is the daughter of Experience and Memory. For, with that claim, he shows that whoever wishes to be wise in human matters does not need merely books and training in rhetoric and philosophy, but must also become familiar with and practiced in understanding and facing the rest of life as well—to remember with conviction all of its actions and outcomes and from that to learn and take counsel from what the actual dangers of life teach, not just what books and teachers have attempted to represent through their empty words and fictions, like those in farces or dreams. The lines are from a Roman comedy by Afranius, called the Chair: “Experience fathered me; Memory gave birth to me; the Greeks call me Sophia, I am wisdom in Rome.”

There is a similar sentiment from Pacuvius which the philosopher Macedo, a good man and a close friend, used to think should be written above the entries of all the temples: “I hate men of base work and philosophical sentiment”. He said this because nothing was more shameful or intolerable than the fact that lazy and useless people veiled in beard and cloak should turn the basic foundations of philosophy into games of the tongue and words and then, even as they were dripping with faults, loudly renounce others’ vices.”

 

Quod Afranius poeta prudenter et lepide Sapientiam filiam esse Vsus et Memoriae dixit.

 

  1. Eximie hoc atque verissime Afranius poeta de gignenda conparandaque sapientia opinatus est, quod eam filiam esse Vsus et Memoriae dixit. II. Eo namque argumento demonstrat, qui sapiens rerum esse humanarum velit, non libris solis neque disciplinis rhetoricis dialecticisque opus esse, sed oportere cum versari quoque exercerique in rebus comminus noscendis periclitandisque eaque omnia acta et eventa firmiter meminisse et proinde sapere atque consulere ex his, quae pericula ipsa rerum docuerint, non quae libri tantum aut magistri per quasdam inanitates verborum et imaginum tamquam in mimo aut in somnio deblateraverint. III. Versus Afranii sunt in togata, cui Sellae nomen est:

 

Vsus me genuit, mater peperit Memoria,

Sophiam vocant me Grai, vos Sapientiam.

 

Item versus est in eandem ferme sententiam Pacuvii, quem Macedo philosophus, vir bonus, familiaris meus, scribi debere censebat pro foribus omnium templorum: ego odi homines ignava opera et philosopha sententia. V. Nihil enim fieri posse indignius neque intolerantius dicebat, quam quod homines ignavi ac desides operti barba et pallio mores et emolumenta philosophiae in linguae verborumque artes converterent et vitia facundissime accusarent intercutibus ipsi vitiis madentes.

The Meaning and Etymology of the “Humanities”

 

From Aulus Gellius, Attic Nights Book 13

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.

%d bloggers like this: