What a Beautiful Box! I Will Put the Iliad In It

Plutarch, Life of Alexander 26.4

“When a small box was brought to him—which seem more valuable than the rest of the possessions and baggage they had taken from Dareios, [Alexander] asked his friends what thing seem especially worthy of being put in it. Although many of them made many suggestions, Alexander said that he would keep the Iliad safe by placing it inside. Not a few of the most credible sources claim this.

If, as the Alexandrians say is true—since they believe Herakleides—Homer was no lazy or unprofitable travel companion…”

Κιβωτίου δέ τινος αὐτῷ προσενεχθέντος, οὗ πολυτελέστερον οὐδὲν ἐφάνη τοῖς τὰ Δαρείου χρήματα καὶ τὰς ἀποσκευὰς παραλαμβάνουσιν, ἠρώτα τοὺς φίλους, ὅ τι δοκοίη μάλιστα τῶν ἀξίων σπουδῆς εἰς αὐτὸ καταθέσθαι. πολλὰ δὲ πολλῶν λεγόντων, αὐτὸς ἔφη τὴν ᾿Ιλιάδα φρουρήσειν ἐνταῦθα καταθέμενος· καὶ ταῦτα μὲνοὐκ ὀλίγοι τῶν ἀξιοπίστων μεμαρτυρήκασιν. εἰ δ’, ὅπερ ᾿Αλεξανδρεῖς λέγουσιν ῾Ηρακλείδῃ (fr. 140 W.) πιστεύοντες, ἀληθές ἐστιν, οὔκουν [οὐκ] ἀργὸς οὐδ’ ἀσύμβολος αὐτῷ συστρατεύειν ἔοικεν ῞Ομηρος.

This passage refers to an earlier moment in the Life. Coincidentally, I also sleep the same way…

8.4

“[Alexander] was also naturally a lover of language, a lover of learning, and a lover of reading. Because he believed that the Iliad was a guidebook for military excellence—and called it that too—he took a copy of it which had been edited by Aristotle which they used to refer to as “Iliad-in-a-Box”. He always kept it with his dagger beneath his pillow—as Onêsikritos tells us.

When there were no other books in -and, he sent to Harpalos for some more. Then Harpalus sent him Philistos’ books along with some tragedies of Euripides, Sophokles and Aeschylus and the dithyrambs of Telestes and Philoxenos.”

ἦν δὲ καὶ φύσει φιλόλογος καὶ φιλομαθὴς καὶ φιλαναγνώστης, καὶ τὴν μὲν  ᾿Ιλιάδα τῆς πολεμικῆς ἀρετῆς ἐφόδιον καὶ νομίζων καὶ ὀνομάζων, ἔλαβε μὲν ᾿Αριστοτέλους διορθώσαντος ἣν ἐκ τοῦ νάρθηκος καλοῦσιν, εἶχε δ’ ἀεὶ μετὰ τοῦ ἐγχειριδίου κειμένην ὑπὸ τὸ προσκεφάλαιον, ὡς ᾿Ονησίκριτος ἱστόρηκε (FGrH 134 F 38)· τῶν δ’ ἄλλων βιβλίων οὐκ εὐπορῶν ἐν τοῖς ἄνω τόποις, ῞Αρπαλον ἐκέλευσε πέμψαι, κἀκεῖνος ἔπεμψεν αὐτῷ τάς τε Φιλίστου βίβλους καὶ τῶν Εὐριπίδου καὶ Σοφοκλέους καὶ Αἰσχύλου τραγῳδιῶν συχνάς, καὶ Τελέστου καὶ Φιλοξένου διθυράμβους.

 

Plutarch tells a slightly different story in the Moralia

Plutarch, On the Fortune—or Virtue—of Alexander 327f-328a

“Yes, indeed, the accoutrements he possessed thanks to Aristotle were greater than what he got from Phillip when he went against the Persians. But, while we believe those who claim that Alexander said that the Iliad and the Odyssey went with him as guides on his expedition—since we do think that Homer is sacred—don’t we dismiss anyone who claims that the epics followed him as his solace and distraction from work with sweet leisure when the true guide was the reason he had from philosophy and his ‘baggage’ was his notes on Bravery, Prudence, and greatness of spirit?”

ναί, πλείονας παρ᾿ Ἀριστοτέλους τοῦ καθηγητοῦ ἢ Fπαρὰ Φιλίππου τοῦ πατρὸς ἀφορμὰς ἔχων διέβαινεν ἐπὶ Πέρσας. ἀλλὰ τοῖς μὲν γράφουσιν, ὡς Ἀλέξανδρος ἔφη ποτὲ τὴν Ἰλιάδα καὶ τὴν Ὀδύσσειαν ἀκολουθεῖν αὐτῷ τῆς στρατείας ἐφόδιον, πιστεύομεν, Ὅμηρον σεμνύνοντες· ἂν δέ τις φῇ τὴν Ἰλιάδα καὶ τὴν Ὀδύσσειαν παραμύθιον πόνου καὶ διατριβὴν ἕπεσθαι σχολῆς γλυκείας, ἐφόδιον δ᾿ ἀληθῶς γεγονέναι τὸν ἐκ φιλοσοφίας λόγον καὶ τοὺς περὶ ἀφοβίας καὶ ἀνδρείας ἔτι δὲ σωφροσύνης καὶ μεγαλοψυχίας ὑπομνηματισμούς, καταφρονοῦμεν;

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I can’t wait until the battle is over so I can get back to reading…

 

 

Plutarch’s Advice On What To Look At

Plutarch’s prepared guidelines for choosing what to watch on Netflix.

Plutarch, Pericles 1.1

“When Caesar saw that many wealthy foreigners in Rome were carrying around and caring for puppies and monkey babies, he asked whether or not their wives bore children—he was warning in a masterly way that they were wasting our innate love and affection on beasts when it is owed to human beings.

Therefore, when our soul naturally possesses a certain love of learning and love of observation, isn’t it logical to rebuke people who fail to use it for anything worthy of hearing or seeing, people who neglect what is noble or useful?

Perhaps it is necessary for our perception—which apprehends the things it meets through the experience of their force—to examine everything which appears for whether it is useful or not. But each person, if he wishes to use his mind, can naturally turn himself away and change most easily to gaze upon something which seems right—with the result that it is necessary to pursue what is best, not only to look at it, but to be enriched by doing so.”

 Ξένους τινὰς ἐν Ῥώμῃ πλουσίους κυνῶν τέκνα καὶ πιθήκων ἐν τοῖς κόλποις περιφέροντας καὶ ἀγαπῶντας ἰδὼν ὁ Καῖσαρ, ὡς ἔοικεν, ἠρώτησεν εἰ παιδία παρ᾿ αὐτοῖς οὐ τίκτουσιν αἱ γυναῖκες, ἡγεμονικῶς σφόδρα νουθετήσας τοὺς τὸ φύσει φιλητικὸν ἐν ἡμῖν καὶ φιλόστοργον εἰς θηρία καταναλίσκοντας ἀνθρώποις ὀφειλόμενον.  ἆρ᾿ οὖν, ἐπεὶ φιλομαθές τι κέκτηται καὶ φιλοθέαμον ἡμῶν ἡ ψυχὴ φύσει, λόγον ἔχει ψέγειν τοὺς καταχρωμένους τούτῳ πρὸς τὰ μηδεμιᾶς ἄξια σπουδῆς ἀκούσματα καὶ θεάματα, τῶν δὲ καλῶν καὶ ὠφελίμων παραμελοῦντας; τῇ μὲν γὰρ αἰσθήσει κατὰ πάθος τῆς πληγῆς ἀντιλαμβανομένῃ τῶν προστυγχανόντων ἴσως ἀνάγκη πᾶν τὸ φαινόμενον, ἄν τε χρήσιμον ἄν τ᾿ ἄχρηστον ᾖ,  θεωρεῖν, τῷ νῷ δ᾿ ἕκαστος εἰ βούλοιτο χρῆσθαι, καὶ τρέπειν ἑαυτὸν ἀεὶ καὶ μεταβάλλειν ῥᾷστα πρὸς τὸ δοκοῦν πέφυκεν, ὥστε χρὴ διώκειν τὸ βέλτιστον, ἵνα μὴ θεωρῇ μόνον, ἀλλὰ καὶ τρέφηται τῷ θεωρεῖν.

 

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Augustus Caesar, Maybe Not the Nicest Guy

Suetonius, Divus Augustus 15

“Following the capture of Perusia, [Augustus] turned his mind to vengeance on many people—facing those who were trying to beg forgiveness or make an excuse with one response: “you must die.”

Some authors record that three hundred people from both orders were picked out from the war-prisoners and slaughtered like sacrificial animals at the altar built to Divine Julius on the Ides of March. There are those who report that he turned to war with a specific plan, namely to trap his secret adversaries and those whom fear rather than willingness constrain and, once the model of Lucius Antonius* was offered, to pay the bonuses promised to veterans once he had conquered his enemies and liquidated their assets.”

Perusia capta in plurimos animadvertit, orare veniam vel excusare se conantibus una voce occurrens “moriendum esse.” Scribunt quidam trecentos ex dediticiis electos utriusque ordinis ad aram Divo Iulio exstructam Idibus Martiis hostiarum more mactatos. Exstiterunt qui traderent conpecto eum ad arma isse, ut occulti adversarii et quos metus magis quam voluntas contineret, facultate L. Antoni ducis praebita, detegerentur devictisque iis et confiscatis promissa veteranis praemia solverentur.

*Lucius (Marcus Antonius’ brother) had been a target of the siege at Perusia. Octavian [Augustus] let him live and sent him to serve as governor in what is now Spain.

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Augustus as Pontifex Maximus, A Righteous and Religious Man

Preferring Death to Fear on the Ideas of March

Velleius Paterculus, History of Rome 2.57

“The advice of Pansa and Hirtius should be praised based on what happened. They always admonished Caesar that he should hold by means of weapons what he earned with weapons. But as he was always saying that he would prefer to die instead of feeling fear–because he was expecting the clemency which he had doled out–he was caught by surprise by people who did not feel such gratitude, despite the fact that the gods provided him with many signs and indications of future danger.

For the soothsayers gave him advanced warning that he should be especially careful of the Ids of March; his wife Calpurnia was terrified by a dream and was begging him to stay home; and there were also notes given to him informing of the conspiracy, which he did not take the time to read. But the power of fate is ultimately inescapable; it corrupts the plans of any one who decides to change their fortune.”

1LVII. Laudandum experientia consilium est Pansae atque Hirtii, qui semper praedixerant Caesari ut principatum armis quaesitum armis teneret. Ille dictitans mori se quam timere malle dum clementiam, quam praestiterat, expectat, incautus ab ingratis occupatus est, cum quidem plurima ei praesagia atque indicia dii immortales futuri obtulissent periculi. Nam et haruspices praemonuerant, ut diligentissime iduum Martiarum caveret diem, et uxor Calpurnia territa nocturno visu, ut ea die domi subsisteret, orabat, et libelli coniurationem nuntiantes dati neque protinus ab eo lecti erant. Sed profecto ineluctabilis fatorum vis, cuiuscumque fortunam mutare constituit, consilia corrumpit.

 

Suetonius, Divus Julius, 81-82

“For these reasons and because of his own health, Caesar dithered for a while on whether he should stay home and postpone what he had proposed to do in the senate; but then, because he was encouraged by Decimus Brutus that he should not fail to appear at a meeting which was full and already long-awaiting his arrival, he left home at nearly the fifth hour.

When a little message describing the conspiracy was handed to him along the way by some person, he added it to the other texts which he was holding with his left hand as if he were about to read them soon. Then, once many sacrifices had been made and he was not able to get a good reading, he went into the Senate house dismissing the signs and laughing at Spurinna, claiming he was a liar because the Ides of March had come upon him with no injury at all—even though he said that they certainly had come, but they had not yet passed.

As he was sitting down, the conspirators stood in a circle about her as a mark of her office. Then Tillius Cimber who had taken on the first part for himself, came closer as if he was going to ask something. When Caesar was trying to put him off with a gesture for another time, Cimber grabbed his toga by both shoulders. As one of the Cascas stabbed him from one side below the throat, he was shouting, “this is force!” Caesar grabbed Cascas’ arm and punctured it with his stylus, but when he tried to leap up, he was slowed by another wound. When he noticed that he was sought on all sides by drawn daggers, he drew his toga down from his head and pulled it down with its fold to his legs with his left hand so he might fall more decently once the lower half of his body was covered. In this way, he was stabbed 23 times even though he uttered no word but only a groan after the first strike. Some have recorded that when he saw Marcus Brutus rushing at him he said in Greek kai su teknon?”

Ob haec simul et ob infirmam valitudinem diu cunctatus an se contineret et quae apud senatum proposuerat agere differret, tandem Decimo Bruto adhortante, ne frequentis ac iam dudum opperientis destitueret, quinta fere hora progressus est libellumque insidiarum indicem ab obvio quodam porrectum libellis ceteris, quos sinistra manu tenebat, quasi mox lecturus commiscuit. Dein pluribus hostiis caesis, cum litare non posset, introiit curiam spreta religione Spurinnamque irridens et ut falsum arguens, quod sine ulla sua noxa Idus Martiae adessent; quanquam is venisse quidem eas diceret, sed non praeterisse.

LXXXII. Assidentem conspirati specie officii circumsteterunt, ilicoque Cimber Tillius, qui primas partes susceperat, quasi aliquid rogaturus propius accessit renuentique et gestu in aliud tempus differenti ab utroque umero togam adprehendit; deinde clamantem: “Ista quidem vis est!” alter Cascis aversumvulnerat paulum infra iugulum. Caesar Cascae brachium arreptum graphio traiecit conatusque prosilire alio vulnere tardatus est; utque animad­vertit undique se strictis pugionibus peti, toga caput obvolvit, simul sinistra manu sinum ad ima crura deduxit, quo honestius caderet etiam inferiore corporis parte velata. Atque ita tribus et viginti plagis confossus est uno modo ad primum ictum gemitu sine voce edito, etsi tradiderunt quidam Marco Bruto irruenti dixisse: καὶ σὺ τέκνον;

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Harmless, Useless Sophistry

Diogenes Laertius, Lives of the Eminent Philosophers  [Chrysippus] 7.7

“If someone is in Megara he is not in Athens. If a body is in Megara there is nobody in Athens. If you say something, then something moves through your mouth. So, you say “wagon”. And then a wagon moves through your mouth. Also, if you did not lose anything, then you have it. You never lost horns, so you have horns.” Some say Euboulides said this.”

“εἴ τίς ἐστιν ἐν Μεγάροις, οὐκ ἔστιν ἐν Ἀθήναις· ἄνθρωπος δ᾿ ἐστὶν ἐν Μεγάροις· οὐκ ἄρ᾿ ἐστὶν ἄνθρωπος ἐν Ἀθήναις.” καὶ πάλιν· “εἴ τι λαλεῖς, τοῦτο διὰ τοῦ στόματός σου διέρχεται· ἅμαξαν δὲ λαλεῖς· ἅμαξα ἄρα διὰ τοῦ στόματός σου διέρχεται.” καί· “εἴ τι οὐκ ἀπέβαλες, τοῦτ᾿ ἔχεις· κέρατα δ᾿ οὐκ ἀπέβαλες· κέρατ᾿ ἄρ᾿ ἔχεις.” οἱ δ᾿ Εὐβουλίδου τοῦτό φασι.

Seneca, Moral Epistle 45.8

“Again, the one who is asked whether he has horns is not so foolish as to search his own brow nor also so incompetent or limited that you may persuade him that he doesn’t know this with that most sophisticated logic. These kinds of things deceive without harm in the same way as the dice and cup of a juggler in which the deception itself entertains me. But explain how the trick works, and I lose my interest. I say that same thing about these word tricks, for by what name might I better call sophistries? They are harmless if you don’t understand them, and useless if you do.”

Ceterum qui interrogatur, an cornua habeat, non est tam stultus, ut frontem suam temptet, nec rursus tam ineptus aut hebes, ut ne sciat tu illi subtilissima collectione persuaseris. Sic ista sine noxa decipiunt, quomodo praestigiatorum acetabula et calculi, in quibus me fallacia ipsa delectat. Effice, ut quomodo fiat intellegam; perdidi usum. Idem de istis captionibus dico; quo enim nomine potius sophismata appellem? Nec ignoranti nocent nec scientem iuvant.

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Bronze head of a Philosopher from a shipwreck near Antikythera

Writing Biography is Like Being In Love

Eunapius, Live of the Philosophers 2.2.4

“Even though I have recorded these things faithfully, I do recognize that some things have probably escaped me. And if, although I have applied great thought and effort trying to compose a continuous and clear history of the lives of the best philosophers and rhetoricians, I did not obtain my goal, I have suffered much the same kind of thing as those who love madly and obsessively. For they, when they see the one they love and witness her overwhelming beauty in real life, they look down, too weak and dazed to gaze upon the one they desire.”

Καὶ ταῦτά γε εἰς μνήμην ἐγὼ τίθεμαι, τοῦτο συνορῶν, ὅτι τὰ μὲν ἔλαθεν ἴσως ἡμᾶς, τὰ δὲ οὐκ ἔλαθεν. ἐκείνου δὲ καίπερ πολλὴν ποιούμενος φροντίδα καὶ σπουδήν, τοῦ συνεχῆ καὶ περιγεγραμμένην εἰς ἀκρίβειαν ἱστορίαν τινὰ λαβεῖν τοῦ φιλοσόφου καὶ ῥητορικοῦ βίου τῶν ἀρίστων ἀνδρῶν, εἶτα οὐ τυγχάνων τῆς ἐπιθυμίας, ταὐτόν τι τοῖς ἐρῶσιν ἐμμανῶς καὶ περιφλέκτως ἔπαθον. καὶ γὰρ ἐκεῖνοι, τὴν μὲν ἐρωμένην αὐτὴν ὁρῶντες καὶ τὸ περίψυκτον ἐν τῷ φαινομένῳ κάλλος, κάτω νεύουσιν, ὃ ζητοῦσιν ἰδεῖν ἐξασθενοῦντες, καὶ περιλαμπόμενοι•

Eunapius? A 5th century (CE) intellectual who wrote about sophists, picking up from Philostratus.

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Cato’s Radical Tax Plan

From Plutarch’s Life of Marcus Cato 18

“He also levied a tax of three on every thousand so that people, distressed by these charges, would note also that families of equal wealth whose lives were modest and simple payed less to the public treasury and repent from their behavior. Both those who payed the taxes because of luxury and those who gave up their luxury because of the taxes were angry to him. For most people believe that hindering the display of their wealth deprives them of it and also that the display comes from their luxuries not their necessities.

This is what they say really surprised Ariston the philosopher, that those who possess superficial excess are thought to be luckier than those who are well-supplied with what is needed and useful.”

 καὶ προσετίμησε τρεῖς χαλκοῦς πρὸς τοῖς χιλίοις, ὅπως βαρυνόμενοι ταῖς ἐπιβολαῖς καὶ τοὺς εὐσταλεῖς καὶ λιτοὺς ὁρῶντες ἀπὸ τῶν ἴσων ἐλάττονα τελοῦντας εἰς τὸ δημόσιον ἀπαγορεύωσιν. ἦσαν οὖν αὐτῷ χαλεποὶ μὲν οἱ τὰς εἰσφορὰς διὰ τὴν τρυφὴν ὑπομένοντες, χαλεποὶ δ᾿ αὖ πάλιν οἱ τὴν τρυφὴν ἀποτιθέμενοι διὰ τὰς εἰσφοράς. πλούτου γὰρ ἀφαίρεσιν οἱ πολλοὶ νομίζουσι τὴν κώλυσιν αὐτοῦ τῆς ἐπιδείξεως, ἐπιδείκνυσθαι δὲ τοῖς περιττοῖς, οὐ τοῖς ἀναγκαίοις. ὃ δὴ καὶ μάλιστά φασι τὸν φιλόσοφον Ἀρίστωνα θαυμάζειν, ὅτι τοὺς τὰ περιττὰ κεκτημένους μᾶλλον ἡγοῦνται μακαρίους ἢ τοὺς τῶν ἀναγκαίων καὶ χρησίμων εὐποροῦντας.

 

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