Contact High from 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 speak 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…

 

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The Ideal Statesman and Pompey’s True Aims

Cicero, Letters to Atticus, Ep.  8.11 (27 Feb 49)

“I believe it is in his fifth book that Scipio says ‘Just as a favorable trip is a captain’s task, health is the doctor’s, victory is the generals, the duty of the leader of a state is the happy life of its citizens: strength for their safety, abundance for their goods, fame for their self-worth, and truth for their virtue. I wish for the accomplishment of the best men among us to be this.’

‘Our’ Gnaeus has never before thought about this, nor now in the present affair at all. Domination has been sought by both of them—nothing has been done for the happiness and honesty of the state. [Pompey] did not leave the city because he could not defend it nor Italy because he was driven away, but from the beginning he planned to attack every land and sea, to annoy foreign kings, and to bring alien peoples to Italy in arms—to raise the largest armies. He has been salivating for a long time for that type of Sullan rule—and many who follow him long for it to. Do you believe that there was no way for them to come to an agreement, that no pact was possible? It is possible today, but neither man cares whether we are happy. Both want to rule.”

nam sic quinto, ut opinor, in libro loquitur Scipio: ‘ut enim gubernatori cursus secundus, medico salus, imperatori victoria, sic huic moderatori rei publicae beata civium vita proposita est, ut opibus firma, copiis locuples, gloria ampla, virtute honesta sit; huius enim operis maximi inter homines atque optimi illum esse perfectorem volo.’ hoc Gnaeus noster cum antea numquam tum in hac causa minime cogitavit. dominatio quaesita ab utroque est, non id actum, beata et honesta civitas ut esset. nec vero ille urbem reliquit quod eam tueri non posset nec Italiam quod ea pelleretur, sed hoc a primo cogitavit, omnis terras, omnia maria movere, reges barbaros incitare, gentis feras in Italiam armatas adducere, exercitus conficere maximos. genus illud Sullani regni iam pridem appetitur, multis qui una sunt cupientibus. an censes nihil inter eos convenire, nullam pactionem fieri potuisse? hodie potest. sed neutri σκοπὸς est ille, ut nos beati simus; uterque regnare vult.

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Bellum Incivile: The Unlikely Candidate

Another text tentatively attributed to Caesar was discovered along with the fragments of the De Silvis and an appendix to De Bello Gallico. This is almost surely the lost Bellum Incivile.

C. Julius Caesar (?), Bellum Incivile. Edited by Dani Bostick

1.30 Although he had five draft deferments, did not pay taxes along with everyone else, had nothing to do with politics, and had no skill in public speaking, Manicula sought the consulship, but not out of a desire to serve the people nor out of enthusiasm for his political party.

For which reason his associates Michael Cohen, Ivanka, Don Jr., Paul Manafort, Michael Flynn, George Papadopoulus, Carter Page, Roger Stone, and Rick Gates, driven by the hope of influence and rewards, started communicating with Russians that Manicula had hoped for a long time to build opulent housing in their country and that he was seeking the enemy’s help so that he could be elected consul.

Manicula and his associates were completely incapable of reading Cicero’s orations, but they believed his words: “There are no plots more undetectable than those carried out under the guise of public duty or in the name of some sort of obligation. For you can easily avoid a known enemy by being cautious; to contrast, a hidden and deep-seated domestic threat not only exists, but actually crushes you before you can detect it and learn more about it.”* Because of this, they all thought they were able to avoid suspicion.

1.30 Manicula cum militiae quinque vacationes haberet neque tributa una cum reliquis penderet neque forum attingeret neque ullam dicendi facultatem haberet, tamen consulatum petivit, sed neque cupiditate serviendi populi neque studio partium adficiebatur.

Qua de causa eius comites M. Coenus et Ivanca et Donaldellus et P. Virfortus et M. Flinnus et G. Papadus et P. Cartus et R. Lapis et R. Porta spe auctoritatis atque munerum inducti cum legatis Sarmatiae loqui coeperant: Maniculam se aulam auream in Sarmatiae finibus aedificaturum diu speravisse et auxilium hostium quo consul nuntiaretur petere.

Manicula comitesque orationes Ciceronis legere haudquaquam poterant, sed crederunt eius verbis: “Nullae sunt occultiores insidiae quam eae quae latent in simulatione offici aut in aliquo necessitudinis nomine. Nam eum qui palam est adversarius facile cavendo vitare possis; hoc vero occultum intestinum ac domesticum malum non modo non exsistit, verum etiam opprimit antequam prospicere atque explorare potueris.” Ob eam causam omnes sese suspicionem vitare posse arbitrabantur.

 

*Cicero, Verrine Oration 2.39

frog

Leaving Life From an Inn, Not a Home

Cicero De Senectute, 84

“Even if some god should permit that I would return to the time of my birth from this age, I would sternly refuse–for, truly, I do not wish to restart as if to retrace a race run from the finish line to the starting post.

What attraction does life have? Or, rather, what labor does it lack? Let it have clear charm–even still, it must have either satiety or a conclusion. It is not my purpose to deplore life as many–even learned men–have often done. And I do not regret that I have lived, because I lived in a such a way that I do not believe I was pointlessly born.  And I am leaving life as if from an inn, not a home. For nature has given us a way-station for a brief delay, not to permanently reside.”

Et si quis deus mihi largiatur ut ex hac aetate repuerascam et in cunis vagiam, valde recusem, nec vero velim quasi decurso spatio ad carceres a calce revocari. Quid habet enim vita commodi? Quid non potius laboris? Sed habeat sane; habet certe tamen aut satietatem aut modum. Non libet enim mihi deplorare vitam, quod multi et ei docti saepe fecerunt, neque me vixisse paenitet, quoniam ita vixi, ut non frustra me natum existimem, et ex vita ita discedo tamquam ex hospitio, non tamquam e domo; commorandi enim natura divorsorium nobis, non habitandi dedit.

This last bit made me think of Lucretius:

De Rerum Natura, 3.970-971

“Thus one thing never ceases to arise from another,
and life is given to no one for ownership, but to all for rent.”

sic aliud ex alio numquam desistet oriri
vitaque mancipio nulli datur, omnibus usu

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On Kindness, Some Roman Words

Seneca, De Beata Vita 3

“Nature commands me to bring help to all people. What difference is it whether they are slaves, born free or freed, whether laws made then free or friends did? Wherever there is a human being, there is a place for kindness.”

Hominibus prodesse natura me iubet. Servi liberine sint hi, ingenui an libertini, iustae libertatis an inter amicos datae, quid refert? Ubicumque homo est, ibi benefici locus est.

Cicero, Laws 1.18

“Where shall we find a kind man if no one acts kindly for anyone else? Where is the grateful man, if those who return a good turn are not actually thankful to those whom they thank? Where is that sacred thing friendship if the friend himself is not loved with the whole heart for his own sake, as the saying going? Why then should a friend be abandoned an rejected when there is no longer an expectation from benefits and profits? What could be more monstrous than this?”

Ubi enim beneficus, si nemo alterius causa benigne facit? ubi gratus, si non eum ipsi cernunt grati, cui referunt gratiam? ubi illa sancta amicitia, si non ipse amicus per se amatur toto pectore, ut dicitur? qui etiam deserendus et abiciendus est desperatis emolumentis et fructibus; quo quid potest dici immanius?

Dicta Catonis 15

“Remember to tell the tale of another’s kindness many times
But whatever kind deed you do for others, keep quiet.”

Officium alterius multis narrare memento;
at quaecumque aliis benefeceris ipse, sileto.

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A Banquet of Learning; A Dinner No-Show

Cicero Topica V

“But because I have welcomed someone eager for a feast of learning, I shall prepare it so well that there will be some leftovers rather than allow you to leave still hungry for more….”

Sed quoniam avidum hominem ad has discendi epulas recepi, sic accipiam, ut reliquiarum sit potius aliquid quam te hinc patiar non satiatum discedere.

Pliny the Younger to Septimius Clarus (Letter 15)

“Who do you think you are?! You agree to come do dinner…but you don’t come? The judgment is passed: You must pay my cost to a penny, and this is not moderate. All was set out: a lettuce for each, three snails, two eggs, wine with honey chilled with snow—for you should include this too among the highest expense since it dissolves on the plate—and there were olives, beets, pickles, onions and countless other things no less neat.

You would have heard a comedy or a reader or a singer of all of them, given my generosity. But you went where I don’t know, preferring oysters, a sow’s belly, sea-urchins, and Spanish dancers. You will suffer for this, somehow, believe me. You did something bad to one of us, certainly to me, but perhaps to yourself too. How much we played, laughed, and studied! You might eat better food at many homes, but nowhere will you eat so enjoyably, simply, and freely. In sum: try me: and if later you don’t excuse yourself from another’s meal, you can always lie to me again. Goodbye!”

Plinius Septicio Claro Suo S.

Heus tu! promittis ad cenam, nec venis? Dicitur ius: ad assem impendium reddes, nec id modicum. Paratae erant lactucae singulae, cochleae ternae, ova bina, halica cum mulso et nive (nam hanc quoque computabis, immo hanc in primis quae perit in ferculo), olivae betacei cucurbitae bulbi, alia mille non minus lauta. Audisses comoedos vel lectorem vel lyristen vel (quae mea liberalitas) omnes. At tu apud nescio quem ostrea vulvas echinos Gaditanas maluisti. Dabis poenas, non dico quas. Dure fecisti: invidisti, nescio an tibi, certe mihi, sed tamen et tibi. Quantum nos lusissemus risissemus studuissemus! Potes adparatius cenare apud multos, nusquam hilarius simplicius incautius. In summa experire, et nisi postea te aliis potius excusaveris, mihi semper excusa. Vale.

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Fresco from Pompeii

A Costume to Scare the Cicero Right Out of You

Inspired by a rather amusing collection of Classics-themed Halloween costumes, I have been wondering what might put the scare into ancient Greeks and Romans. One answer was easy. Well, if you trust what Marcus says in his speeches…

Cicero calls lots of people monsters (immanis, belva, monstrum) but his favorite beast to burden is Marcus Antonius. Here is a sampling of the monstrous things he says about him.

Philippic 4.1

“Your affair, Romans, is not with a criminal and evil man, but with a twisted, enormous beast who should be overcome now that he has fallen in a trap.

Non est vobis res, Quirites, cum scelerato homine ac nefario, sed cum immani taetraque belua quae, quoniam in foveam incidit, obruatur.

Philippic 7.27

“Beware lest you allow this twisted and pestilential beast who has been constrained by labors.”

taetram et pestiferam beluam ne inclusam et constrictam dimittatis cavete.

 

 

Philippic 13. 21

“Who was ever such a barbarian, such a beast, such an animal?”

Quis tam barbarus umquam, tam immanis, tam ferus?

 

Philippic 13.28

“But who can bear this most twisted beast, or how could they? What exists in Antonius apart from lust, cruelty, immaturity, and arrogance?”

 Hanc vero taeterrimam beluam quis ferre potest aut quo modo? Quid est in Antonio praeter libidinem, crudelitatem, petulantiam, audaciam?

 

Philippic 8.13

“Since you were also accustomed to complain about a person, what do you think you would do about a beast?”

 Quin etiam de illo homine queri solebas: quid te facturum de belua putas?

Image result for Ancient Roman sculpture Marcus Antonius
Pssst…how do you say “trick or treat” in Latin?