Solon and Critias on Fortune, Fate and Good Sense

Solon, (fr. 11 1-4) seems to echo Zeus’ comments from the Odyssey (that men are always blaming the gods).

“If you have suffered grief through your own wickedness
Don’t blame the gods for this fate.”

εἰ δὲ πεπόνθατε λυγρὰ δι’ ὑμετέρην κακότητα,
μὴ θεοῖσιν τούτων μοῖραν ἐπαμφέρετε·

The later Presocratic Critias (fr. 10.3) is more explicit in his play Pirithous:

“Fortune is a friend to men of good sense.”

ὡς τοῖσιν εὖ φρονοῦσι συμμαχεῖ τύχη

This is no Terminator ethic (“no fate but what we make”) but it is a long way off from oracular predestination!

A Pre-Socratic Saturday: Xenophanes and Friends on Thinking, Waking, Being and Lust

The collection of luminaries known as the Presocratics are great to quote because their words have already been quoted and excerpted for over 2000 years.  This makes our job easy.

But here are some of our favorites: selections of selections.

On Herakles or Achilles?

Xenophanes, Fragment 2 13-14

“It is unjust to judge strength to be better than good wisdom.”

οὐδὲ δίκαιον / προκρίνειν ῥώμην τῆς ἀγαθῆς σοφίης·

A line stolen from the Rocky Horror Picture Show:

Parmenides, fragment 3.7

“Thinking and being are the same thing.”

… τὸ γὰρ αὐτὸ νοεῖν ἐστίν τε καὶ εἶναι

Wake Up! Inspiration for Plato?

Heraclitus, Fragment 73

“It is not right to act and speak like men who are sleeping”

οὐ δεῖ ὥσπερ καθεύδοντας ποιεῖν καὶ λέγειν·

Money Corrupts, right?

Democritus, Fragment 50

“A man wholly committed to money can never be just.”

ὁ χρημάτων παντελῶς ἥσσων οὐκ ἄν ποτε εἴη δίκαιος.

David Byrne said something like this:

Thales fr. 20 (Hippolytus, Refutation of all Heresies. 1.1.1)

“Water is the beginning and the end of everything.”

[οὕτος ἔφη] ἀρχὴν τοῦ παντὸς εἶναι καὶ τέλος τὸ ὕδωρ

If you thought money was bad…

Prodicus fr. B7 (Stobaeus 4.20.65)

“Desire when doubled is lust; lust doubled is madness.”

ἐπιθυμίαν μὲν διπλασιασθεῖσαν ἔρωτα εἶναι, ἔρωτα δὲ διπλασιασθέντα μανίαν γίγνεσθαι.

But don’t worry, it is all in your head:

Diogenes F6 (from Simplicius Physics152.21-153.13)

And yet all things live, see and hear though the same thing; and they derive every other part of their mind from that very source.

ὅμως δὲ πάντα τῶι αὐτῶι καὶ ζῆι καὶ ὁρᾶι καὶ ἀκούει, καὶ τὴν ἄλλην νόησιν ἔχει ἀπὸ αὐτοῦ πάντα

Innocent as a babe? That’s what some think:

Ion of Chios, fr. 5a 1-2

“All creatures are born to their parents ignorant
but experience teaches them.”

καὶ μὴν ἅπαντα τίκτεται πρῶτον γοναῖς
ἄϊδρα, πειραθέντα δ’ ἐκδιδάσκεται

But we all have to start somewhere. And then work real hard:

Protagoras fr. B10 (Stobaeus 3.29.80)

“[Protagaras said that] skill is nothing without practice and practice is nothing without skill.”

[Πρωταγόρας ἔλεγε] μηδὲν εἶναι μήτε τέχνην ἄνευ μελέτης μήτε μελέτην ἄνευ τεχνης

καὶ μὴν ἅπαντα τίκτεται πρῶτον γοναῖς
ἄϊδρα, πειραθέντα δ’ ἐκδιδάσκεται

If this wasn’t enough for you, search for some Heraclitus, Democritus, and Parmenides. We love quoting these guys. And then read them again, because:

Critias 9 (Stobaeus, Anthology 3.29.11)

“Men become good more from practice than nature.”

ἐκ μελέτης πλείους ἢ φύσεως ἀγαθοί

Critias was an uncle of Plato

And:

Parmenides, fr. 6.16

“The path of all things goes backwards.”

…πάντων δὲ παλίντροπός ἐστι κέλευθος.

Upon Entering A Classroom: Unsolicited Reflections on Teaching

[This is a revision of an earlier post]

Next week, I start my 18th semester of teaching at my institution. This also means I am well into my second decade of teaching. At the same time, my collaborator and co-conspirator Palaiophron is starting a new position as a Latin teacher in a local high school.

As is my custom, the coming semester fills me with excitement, anxiety and just a little bit of dread. But then again, I started on my teaching journey in the same way. So, before many of us throughout the country (and the world) prepare to return to classrooms, I need to review my thoughts about teaching. (In part to ready myself for an Ancient Greek classroom of over 35 students!).

We all know that technology, politics, and money are changing the way we think, talk and approach the classroom. In applications for positions and awards, the ‘statement of teaching philosophy’ is all the rage; but most of us who practice as teachers, I suspect, operate from a mixture of experience and precept, observation and reaction. Whatever happens outside, we know that teaching is about human beings learning from each other.

So, below, I have gathered my basic precepts, some classical topoi they resonate with, and some very basic explanations. This is unsolicited and probably unneeded, but I write it as much to remind myself as anything else.

“Men become good more from practice than nature.”
ἐκ μελέτης πλείους ἢ φύσεως ἀγαθοί (Critias, fr. 9)

Continue reading “Upon Entering A Classroom: Unsolicited Reflections on Teaching”

Philostratus, Lives of the Sophists 1.502 (Critias): On the Importance of Harmony in Word and Deed

In discussing the life and death of Critias (relative of Plato, one of the Thirty Tyrants of Athens), Philostratus writes.

“I claim that no man can die nobly if he does so for the wrong beliefs. This seems to me to be the reason that [Critias’] wisdom and thoughts are less well esteemed by the Greeks. For, if our words are not in accord with our character, we seem to speak with a foreign tongue, like flutes.”

ἐμοὶ δὲ ἀποπεφάνθω μηδένα ἀνθρώπων καλῶς δὴ ἀποθανεῖν ὑπὲρ ὧν οὐκ ὀρθῶς εἵλετο, δι’ ἅ μοι δοκεῖ καὶ ἡ σοφία τοῦ ἀνδρὸς καὶ τὰ φροντίσματα ἧττον σπουδασθῆναι τοῖς ῞Ελλησιν• εἰ γὰρ μὴ ὁμολογήσει ὁ λόγος τῷ ἤθει, ἀλλοτρίᾳ τῇ γλώττῃ δόξομεν φθέγγεσθαι, ὥσπερ οἱ αὐλοί.

Critias, fr. 23

 

 

 

“Whoever rushes to satisfy his friends’ every whim

Produces temporary pleasure but sows hatred for a future day.”

 

ὅστις δὲ τοῖς φίλοισι πάντα πρὸς χάριν

πράσσων ὁμιλεῖ, τὴν παραυτίχ’  ἡδονήν

ἔχθραν καθίστησ’ εἰς τὸν ὕστερον χρόνον.

 

Critias? Yeah, we’ve seen him before

Critias, fr. 11. 1-4 (Pirithous)

 

 

“A good character is stronger than the law;

It is a thing no orator can ever twist

Over and back as he troubles it and stains

It with words.”

 

τρόπος δὲ χρηστὸς ἀσφαλέστερος νόμου·

τὸν μὲν γὰρ οὐδεὶς ἂν διαστρέψαι ποτέ

ῥήτωρ δύναιτο, τὸν δ’ ἄνω τε καὶ κάτω

λόγοις ταράσσων πολλάκις λυμαίνεται

 

Who is Critias? Even Plato (his grand-nephew) liked to talk about him…But, alas, he was one of the Thirty Tyrants too.  So, no friend to Lysias.