How is A Gossip Like A Scholar?

Plutarch, De Curiositate [On Being a Busybody] 519c-d


“It turns out that being talkative follows from learning much—this is why Pythagoras assigned a five-year silence to young men which he labeled a “Speech-Truce”—and by necessity slander accompanies excessive curiosity. For, whatever people hear with pleasure, they are pleased to repeat; and whatever they collect eagerly from others, they carry off to even more with joy. As a result, along with the other evils, this disease is also an obstacle to its desire. For everyone guards against the busybody and hides things from him; people don’t want to do anything while the busybody is looking or say anything while he listens; instead, they put off their plans and postpone looking at their affairs until this kind of a person has left.”


Τῇ μὲν οὖν πολυμαθείᾳ τὴν πολυλογίαν ἕπεσθαι συμβαίνει (διὸ καὶ Πυθαγόρας ἔταξε τοῖς νέοις πενταετῆ σιωπήν, ἐχεμυθίαν προσαγορεύσας), τῇ δὲ περιεργίᾳ τὴν κακολογίαν ἀνάγκη συνακολουθεῖν· ἃ γὰρ ἡδέως ἀκούουσιν ἡδέως λαλοῦσι, καὶ ἃ παρ’ ἄλλων σπουδῇ συλλέγουσι πρὸς ἑτέρους μετὰ χαρᾶς ἐκφέρουσιν. ὅθεν αὐτοῖς μετὰ τῶν ἄλλων κακῶν τὸ νόσημα καὶ πρὸς τὴν ἐπιθυμίαν ἐμποδών ἐστι. πάντες γὰρ αὐτοὺς φυλάττονται καὶ ἀποκρύπτονται, καὶ οὔτε πρᾶξαί τι πολυπράγμονος ὁρῶντος οὔτ’ εἰπεῖν ἀκούοντος ἡδέως ἔχουσιν, ἀλλὰ καὶ βουλὰς ἀνατίθενται καὶ σκέψεις πραγμάτων ὑπερβάλλονται, μέχρις ἂν ἐκποδὼν ὁ τοιοῦτος γένηται·


Aulus Gellius Attic Nights 11.16.6-9: On the Difficulty of Translating Greek into Latin, Part 2

A few months earlier, we posted the first part of Aulus’ rumination on the difficulty of translating from Greek into Latin. Here is the rest of it.

“Therefore, beginning many affairs and working on all of them is called in Greek polypragmosunê” I said, “and the label communicates that this book is written about this matter.” Then, that unrefined man, misled by my incomplete and unclear words and thinking that polypragmonê is a virtue, said “Certainly, then, this man Plutarch, whoever he is, exhorts us to engage in business, and that very many endeavors should be pursued with dedication and speed, and he has written the name of this virtue, about which he plans to speak, on the book itself, just as you say, with propriety.” I answered “Not at all, in truth. For that is in no way a virtue, that subject which is anticipated by the Greek name on the book. And Plutarch does not do what you believe—and I did not mean to say that. Indeed, he dissuades us in this book as much as he is able from too varied and frequent and unnecessary planning or seeking of too many types of obligations. But” I added, “I do see that the root of your mistake is in my lack of eloquence, the way that I could not express in many words and with clarity what a single Greek word indicates completely and plainly.”

“Ad multas igitur res adgressio earumque omnium rerum actio polypragmosyne” inquam “Graece dicitur, de qua hunc librum conpositum esse inscriptio ista indicat”. VII. Tum ille opicus verbis meis inchoatis et inconditis adductus virtutemque esse polypragmosynen ratus: “hortatur” inquit “nos profecto nescio quis hic Plutarchus ad negotia capessenda et ad res obeundas plurimas cum industria et celeritate nomenque ipsius virtutis, de qua locuturus esset, libro ipsi, sicuti dicis, non incommode praescripsit”. VIII. “Minime” inquam “vero; neque enim ista omnino virtus est, cuius Graeco nomine argumentum hoc libri demonstratur, neque id, quod tu opinare, aut ego me dicere sentio aut Plutarchus facit. Deterret enim nos hoc quidem in libro, quam potest maxime, a varia promiscaque et non necessaria rerum cuiuscemodi plurimarum et cogitatione et petitione. Sed huius” inquam “tui erroris culpam esse intellego in mea scilicet infacundia, qui ne pluribus quidem verbis potuerim non obscurissime dicere, quod a Graecis perfectissime verbo uno et planissime dicitur”.