The Effect of Contact with Greek Literature

Cicero, Oratore II 14 (Cicero is not the speaker here…)

“What, then? There is something else still, I will admit, that, as when I walk in the sun—even if I am doing so for some other reason—I still grow darker by nature. Something similar happens when I eagerly read those books at Misenum—for Rome scarcely allows it. I sense that my own speaking takes own a new appearance from this contact. But, so that this does not seem too general to you, I understand only those things contained within Greek works which their very authors conceded the common people to understand.

When by chance I come upon your philosophers, led astray by the titles of their books which are titled with common and famous names—on virtue, justice, goodness, pleasure—I do not understand any word: they are so bound up in precise and abbreviated argumentation. I don’t even try to manage the Greek poets at all since they are communicated in an entirely different language. No, I lose myself, as I have said, with those who write histories or present speeches which they wrote, or who speak in a what that they don’t seem to wish that we be the most well educated men, but merely conversant.”

Quid ergo? Est, fatebor, aliquid tamen: ut, cum in sole ambulem, etiamsi aliam ob causam ambulem, fieri natura tamen, ut colorer: sic, cum istos libros ad Misenum (nam Romae vix licet) studiosius legerim, sentio illorum tactu orationem meam quasi colorari. Sed ne latius hoc vobis patere videatur, haec duntaxat in Graecis intellego, quae ipsi, qui scripserunt, voluerunt vulgo intellegi. In philosophos vestros si quando incidi, deceptus indicibus librorum, quod sunt fere inscripti de rebus notis et illustribus, de virtute, de iustitia, de honestate, de voluptate, verbum prorsus nullum intellego: ita sunt angustis et concisis disputationibus illigati. Poetas omnino, quasi alia quadam lingua locutos, non conor attingere: cum his me (ut dixi) oblecto, qui res gestas, aut qui orationes scripserunt suas, aut qui ita loquuntur, ut videantur voluisse nobis, qui non sumus eruditissimi, esse familiars…

 

Image result for Medieval manuscript Cicero

Norbanus, Caesar, Oedipus: Candidates for Impeachment?

Cicero, De Oratore II. 167

This is a kind of argument deduced from connected notions: “If the highest praise must be given to piety, then you should be moved when you see Quintus Metellus grieving so dutifully”. And, as for a deduction from generalities, “if magistrates owe their power to the Roman people, then why impeach Norbanus when he depends on the will of the citizenry?”

Ex coniunctis sic argumenta ducuntur: ‘si pietati summa tribuenda laus est, debetis moveri, cum Q. Metellum tam pie lugere videatis.’ Ex genere autem: ‘si magistratus in populi Romani potestate esse debent, quid Norbanum accusas, cuius tribunatus voluntati paruit civitatis?’

Suetonius, Julius Caesar 1.30

“Others claim that he feared being compelled to provide a defense for the things he had done in his first consulate against auspices, laws, and legislative actions. For Marcus Cato often announced with an oath that he would impeach Caesar by name, as soon as he dismissed his army.”

Alii timuisse dicunt, ne eorum, quae primo consulatu adversus auspicia legesque et intercessiones gessisset, rationem reddere cogeretur; cum M. Cato identidem nec sine iure iurando denuntiaret delaturum se nomen eius, simul ac primum exercitum dimisisset

Accius, Fr. 598 (From Oedipus)

TEIRESIAS

“They impeach him voluntarily and they separate him
From his good fortune and all his wealth,
A man isolated, bereft, depressed and tortured”

Incusant ultro, a fortuna opibusque omnibus
desertum abiectum adflictum exanimum expectorant.

Image result for Roman Oedipus

(NSFW) Famous Indulgences

Martial 2.89

“Gaurus, I can pardon you when you have fun drawing out your night with too much wine: that was Cato’s vice too. You ought to be praised when you write poems without the blessing of Apollo or the Muses, for that was Cicero’s vice. When you vomit, you share Antonius’ vice, and when you indulge yourself, that of Apicius. But tell me: whose vice do you share when you gorge yourself on cock?”

Quod nimio gaudes noctem producere uino
ignosco: uitium, Gaure, Catonis habes.
Carmina quod scribis Musis et Apolline nullo
laudari debes: hoc Ciceronis habes.
Quod uomis, Antoni: quod luxuriaris, Apici.
Quod fellas, uitium dic mihi cuius habes?

 

NOTE: Cato, despite his censorious attitude, was a heavy drinker. Cicero’s poetry was much reviled in antiquity. Marc Anthony was known for partying, and even composed a treatise on his own drunkenness. Apicius was a Roman gourmet.

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.

Caesar’s Sobriety: Suetonius, Deified Julius 53

“Even Caesar’s most committed enemies did not deny that he was temperate with wine. Cato said that Caesar alone was the only person to have attempted the overthrow of the Republic while sober.”

Vini parcissimum ne inimici quidem negaverunt. Marci Catonis est: unum ex omnibus Caesarem ad evertendam rem publicam sobrium accessisse. 

Sententiae Recentiores: Cato Seems Cool in Comparison!

“The authority of the great Cato has more weight with me, since he – though an old man – applied himself to learning Greek literature, than does the notion of Gaius Marius, who thought that it was a shameful thing to learn a literature whose teachers lived in servitude.”

Plus enim apud me valet magni Catonis auctoritas, qui vel senex Graecis litteris operam dedit, quam Gaii Marii, qui eas litteras turpe putabat discere, quarum magistri servirent.

-Aeneas Silvius Piccolomini, de Liberorum Educatione, chp. 61

Money-Lenders are Twice as Bad as Thieves (or, Cato the Elder loves Farming)

Palaiophron, well into his first month teaching Latin at a new high school, told me that he feels like Cato at times when considering “kids today”. Here’s the introduction to Marcus Porcius Cato’s De Agri Cultura (Praefatio). (He was a censor, by the way. This makes censorious make sense…)

“It is in fact true that one may make a living by trade, if it were less dangerous, or even by money-lending, if it were honorable. Our forefathers thought this way and enshrined it in the laws to indemnify a thief doubly and a usurer by a factor of four. How much they considered a money-lender worse than a thief can be seen from this fact. When they used to praise a man as good, they would praise him by calling him a good farmer, a good land-owner—it was thought that to be praised in this way was the most impressive compliment. I think that the trader is a vigorous man, serious about making money; but, as I said above, this is dangerous and calamitous. No, the bravest men and the strongest soldiers are born from farms—their way is the most dutiful, the most stable, the least susceptible to envy and those who pursue this way of life are also least likely to be depressed. Now, that I may return to the subject at hand, what I have said will serve as a basic introduction to my project.”

Est interdum praestare mercaturis rem quaerere, nisi tam periculosum sit, et item foenerari, si tam honestum. Maiores nostri sic habuerunt et ita in legibus posiverunt: furem dupli condemnari, foeneratorem quadrupli. Quanto peiorem civem existimarint foeneratorem quam furem, hinc licet existimare. Et virum bonum quom laudabant, ita laudabant: bonum agricolam bonumque colonum; amplissime laudari existimabatur qui ita laudabatur. Mercatorem autem strenuum studiosumque rei quaerendae existimo, verum, ut supra dixi, periculosum et calamitosum. At ex agricolis et viri fortissimi et milites strenuissimi gignuntur, maximeque pius quaestus stabilissimusque consequitur minimeque invidiosus, minimeque male cogitantes sunt qui in eo studio occupati sunt. Nunc, ut ad rem redeam, quod promisi institutum principium hoc erit.

(NSFW) Famous Indulgences: Martial 2.89

“Gaurus, I can pardon you when you have fun drawing out your night with too much wine: that was Cato’s vice too. You ought to be praised when you write poems without the blessing of Apollo or the Muses, for that was Cicero’s vice. When you vomit, you share Antonius’ vice, and when you indulge yourself, that of Apicius. But tell me: whose vice do you share when you gorge yourself on cock?”

 

Quod nimio gaudes noctem producere uino
ignosco: uitium, Gaure, Catonis habes.
Carmina quod scribis Musis et Apolline nullo
laudari debes: hoc Ciceronis habes.
Quod uomis, Antoni: quod luxuriaris, Apici.
Quod fellas, uitium dic mihi cuius habes?

 

NOTE: Cato, despite his censorious attitude, was a heavy drinker. Cicero’s poetry was much reviled in antiquity. Marc Anthony was known for partying, and even composed a treatise on his own drunkenness. Apicius was a Roman gourmet.