The Difference between Dialogues and Letters

Demetrius, On Style 223-224

“Then we will talk about the style of a letter which also needs to be simple. Artemôn who edited the letters of Aristotle, says that we ought to write letters the same way as dialogues since a letter is similar to one side of a dialogue.

Perhaps he speaks the truth in this, but not all of it. For a letter ought to be a little more formalized than a dialogue. For a dialogue imitates speaking extemporaneously while a letter is written and sent as a gift in some way.”

(223) Ἐπεὶ δὲ καὶ ὁ ἐπιστολικὸς χαρακτὴρ δεῖται ἰσχνότητος, καὶ περὶ αὐτοῦ λέξομεν. Ἀρτέμων μὲν οὖν ὁ τὰς Ἀριστοτέλους ἀναγράψας ἐπιστολάς φησιν, ὅτι δεῖ ἐν τῷ αὐτῷ τρόπῳ διάλογόν τε γράφειν καὶ ἐπιστολάς· εἶναι γὰρ τὴν ἐπιστολὴν οἷον τὸ ἕτερον μέρος τοῦ διαλόγου.

(224) καὶ λέγει μέν τι ἴσως, οὐ μὴν ἅπαν· δεῖ γὰρ ὑποκατεσκευάσθαι πως μᾶλλον τοῦ διαλόγου τὴν ἐπιστολήν· ὁ μὲν γὰρ μιμεῖται αὐτοσχεδιάζοντα, ἡ δὲ γράφεται καὶ δῶρον πέμπεται τρόπον τινά.

 

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Writing Advice from Demetrius: Leave Some Details Out!

Demetrius, On Style  222

“Believability resides in these things, then, as in what Theophrastus says, that you should not go through everything in precise detail, but instead leave some things out for your audience to imagine and to figure out for themselves. This is because when someone imagines what you have left out, they turn out to be not only your audience but your witness too and becomes more favorably disposed for this reason.

For, thanks to you, he seems to be intelligent through your action, since you have provided him the chance to show his intelligence. Telling an audience everything as if they are stupid makes it seem like you think they are.”

(222) ἐν τούτοις τε οὖν τὸ πιθανόν, καὶ ἐν ᾧ Θεόφραστός φησιν, ὅτι οὐ πάντα ἐπ᾿ ἀκριβείας δεῖ μακρηγορεῖν, ἀλλ᾿ ἔνια καταλιπεῖν καὶ τῷ ἀκροατῇ συνιέναι καὶ λογίζεσθαι ἐξ αὑτοῦ· συνεὶς γὰρ τὸ ἐλλειφθὲν ὑπὸ σοῦ οὐκ ἀκροατὴς μόνον ἀλλὰ καὶ μάρτυς σου γίνεται, καὶ ἅμα εὐμενέστερος. συνετὸς γὰρ ἑαυτῷ δοκεῖ διὰ σὲ τὸν ἀφορμὴν παρεσχηκότα αὐτῷ τοῦ συνιέναι, τὸ δὲ πάντα ὡς ἀνοήτῳ λέγειν καταγινώσκοντι ἔοικεν τοῦ ἀκροατοῦ.

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Terence on His Haters

Terence, The Woman of Andros Prologue 15-23

“These people attack the poem and deny
That it is proper to ruin stories in this way.
But aren’t they showing that they understand nothing in being so clever?
When they criticize me, they accuse Naevius, Plautus and Ennius,
Those authorities I hold as my my own,
Since it is better to take their negligence as a model
Than to copy the pedantic diligence of those fools.
I warn them to be quiet from now on and stop
Talking shit unless they want to own up to their own failings.”

id isti vituperant factum atque in eo disputant
contaminari non decere fabulas.
faciuntne intellegendo ut nil intellegant?
qui quom hunc accusant, Naevium, Plautum, Ennium
accusant, quos hic noster auctores habet,
quorum aemulari exoptat neglegentiam
potius quam istorum obscuram diligentiam.
dehinc ut quiescant porro moneo et desinant
maledicere, malefacta ne noscant sua.

 

No, Virginia…There is No Tragic Flaw

Aristotle, Poetics 1452e34-1453a9

“Since it is right that the structure of the best tragedy not be simple but be complex instead and evoking both fearful and pitiful emotions—for that is the particular power of this kind of artistic representation—as an initial principle, it is clear that decent men should not be  be shown undergoing a change from good fortune to bad fortune, for that is repugnant rather than pitiful or fearful. And it is also not right for depraved people to enjoy a change from bad fortune to good fortune, because that is the least tragic notion of all and has none of the necessary qualities. Such a plot does not create empathy and fails to produce pity or fear.

[Tragedy] should also not show an especially bad person falling from good fortune to bad—for this might engender empathy but without pity or fear since the first is felt for someone who is unworthy of bad fortune and the second is for someone who is similar [to us] (pity is for someone unworthy of suffering; fear is for someone like us suffering). The response to [a wicked person] falling is not pitiful or fearful. What remains [for tragedy] is the person in between. A person like this is not impeccable in terms of justice nor for his wickedness and evil, but he falls into misfortune because of some kind of mistake. This kind of person is from those well-known families, like Oedipus or Thyestes.”

γον, ἐφεξῆς ἂν εἴη λεκτέον τοῖς νῦν εἰρημένοις. ἐπειδὴ οὖν δεῖ τὴν σύνθεσιν εἶναι τῆς καλλίστης τραγῳδίας μὴ ἁπλῆν ἀλλὰ πεπλεγμένην καὶ ταύτην φοβερῶν καὶ ἐλεεινῶν εἶναι μιμητικήν (τοῦτο γὰρ ἴδιον τῆς τοιαύτης μιμήσεώς ἐστιν), πρῶτον μὲν δῆλον ὅτι οὔτε τοὺς ἐπιεικεῖς ἄνδρας δεῖ μεταβάλλοντας φαίνεσθαι ἐξ εὐτυχίας εἰς δυστυχίαν, οὐ γὰρ φοβερὸν οὐδὲ ἐλεεινὸν τοῦτο ἀλλὰ μιαρόν ἐστιν· οὔτε τοὺς μοχθηροὺς ἐξ ἀτυχίας εἰς εὐτυχίαν, ἀτραγῳδότατον γὰρ τοῦτ’ ἐστὶ πάντων, οὐδὲν γὰρ ἔχει ὧν δεῖ, οὔτε γὰρ φιλάνθρωπον οὔτε ἐλεεινὸν οὔτε φοβερόν ἐστιν· οὐδ’ αὖ τὸν σφόδρα πονηρὸν συμβαῖνον. ὁ μεταξὺ ἄρα τούτων λοιπός. ἔστι δὲ τοιοῦτος ὁ μήτε ἀρετῇ διαφέρων καὶ δικαιοσύνῃ μήτε διὰ κακίαν καὶ μοχθηρίαν μεταβάλλων εἰς τὴν δυστυχίαν ἀλλὰ δι’ ἁμαρτίαν τινά, τῶν ἐν μεγάλῃ δόξῃ ὄντων καὶ εὐτυχίᾳ, οἷον Οἰδίπους καὶ Θυέστης καὶ οἱ ἐκ τῶν τοιούτων γενῶν ἐπιφανεῖς ἄνδρες.

This passage (and a few others) have been misread since the rise of Christianity to mean that the tragic protagonist “suffers a fall because of a tragic flaw”. This is essentially bogus for lexicographical and contextual reasons. In early Greek, hamartia means to make a mistake: it comes from an archery metaphor and is related to the verb hamartanô, which means “to miss the mark”. This is a mistake that is not connected to an essential character goodness or badness.

from Beekes 2010

hamartano

The Christian use of hamartia is “sin”, which, as we all know from our Sunday School, is innate and a sign of our essential badness. Wanting to have sex with people is a sin; driving badly and hitting someone from inattention is an accident. In my understanding of tragedy, hamartia means the latter. Yes, one might be distractable and an essentially bad driver and we may see this as in some way a flaw, but this is a cultural perspective that mixes determinism and responsibility in a strange way.

Contextually, Aristotle makes the specific point that the tragic hero should not be essentially wicked. If one is essentially wicked, the audience cannot make the key identification necessary to feel pity or fear. Now, one could argue that in a Christian context where everyone is flawed because of sin, the doctrine might still be said to apply. But this is not the Aristotelian context and this is not what Aristotle had in mind.

[The Wikipedia article is pretty good on this]

C6668-05a
MS Yates Thompson 13, f. 68v

No, Virginia, There is No Tragic Flaw

Aristotle, Poetics 1452e34-1453a9

“Since it is right that the structure of the best tragedy not be simple but be complex instead and evoking both fearful and pitiful emotions—for that is the particular power of this kind of artistic representation—as an initial principle, it is clear that decent men should not be  be shown undergoing a change from good fortune to bad fortune, for that is repugnant rather than pitiful or fearful. And it is also not right for depraved people to enjoy a change from bad fortune to good fortune, because that is the least tragic notion of all and has none of the necessary qualities. Such a plot does not create empathy and fails to produce pity or fear.

[Tragedy] should also not show an especially bad person falling from good fortune to bad—for this might engender empathy but without pity or fear since the first is felt for someone who is unworthy of bad fortune and the second is for someone who is similar [to us] (pity is for someone unworthy of suffering; fear is for someone like us suffering). The response to [a wicked person] falling is not pitiful or fearful. What remains [for tragedy] is the person in between. A person like this is not impeccable in terms of justice nor for his wickedness and evil, but he falls into misfortune because of some kind of mistake. This kind of person is from those well-known families, like Oedipus or Thyestes.”

γον, ἐφεξῆς ἂν εἴη λεκτέον τοῖς νῦν εἰρημένοις. ἐπειδὴ οὖν δεῖ τὴν σύνθεσιν εἶναι τῆς καλλίστης τραγῳδίας μὴ ἁπλῆν ἀλλὰ πεπλεγμένην καὶ ταύτην φοβερῶν καὶ ἐλεεινῶν εἶναι μιμητικήν (τοῦτο γὰρ ἴδιον τῆς τοιαύτης μιμήσεώς ἐστιν), πρῶτον μὲν δῆλον ὅτι οὔτε τοὺς ἐπιεικεῖς ἄνδρας δεῖ μεταβάλλοντας φαίνεσθαι ἐξ εὐτυχίας εἰς δυστυχίαν, οὐ γὰρ φοβερὸν οὐδὲ ἐλεεινὸν τοῦτο ἀλλὰ μιαρόν ἐστιν· οὔτε τοὺς μοχθηροὺς ἐξ ἀτυχίας εἰς εὐτυχίαν, ἀτραγῳδότατον γὰρ τοῦτ’ ἐστὶ πάντων, οὐδὲν γὰρ ἔχει ὧν δεῖ, οὔτε γὰρ φιλάνθρωπον οὔτε ἐλεεινὸν οὔτε φοβερόν ἐστιν· οὐδ’ αὖ τὸν σφόδρα πονηρὸν συμβαῖνον. ὁ μεταξὺ ἄρα τούτων λοιπός. ἔστι δὲ τοιοῦτος ὁ μήτε ἀρετῇ διαφέρων καὶ δικαιοσύνῃ μήτε διὰ κακίαν καὶ μοχθηρίαν μεταβάλλων εἰς τὴν δυστυχίαν ἀλλὰ δι’ ἁμαρτίαν τινά, τῶν ἐν μεγάλῃ δόξῃ ὄντων καὶ εὐτυχίᾳ, οἷον Οἰδίπους καὶ Θυέστης καὶ οἱ ἐκ τῶν τοιούτων γενῶν ἐπιφανεῖς ἄνδρες.

This passage (and a few others) have been misread since the rise of Christianity to mean that the tragic protagonist “suffers a fall because of a tragic flaw”. This is essentially bogus for lexicographical and contextual reasons. In early Greek, hamartia means to make a mistake: it comes from an archery metaphor and is related to the verb hamartanô, which means “to miss the mark”. This is a mistake that is not connected to an essential character goodness or badness.

from Beekes 2010

hamartano

The Christian use of hamartia is “sin”, which, as we all know from our Sunday School, is innate and a sign of our essential badness. Wanting to have sex with people is a sin; driving badly and hitting someone from inattention is an accident. In my understanding of tragedy, hamartia means the latter. Yes, one might be distractable and an essentially bad driver and we may see this as in some way a flaw, but this is a cultural perspective that mixes determinism and responsibility in a strange way.

Contextually, Aristotle makes the specific point that the tragic hero should not be essentially wicked. If one is essentially wicked, the audience cannot make the key identification necessary to feel pity or fear. Now, one could argue that in a Christian context where everyone is flawed because of sin, the doctrine might still be said to apply. But this is not the Aristotelian context and this is not what Aristotle had in mind.

[The Wikipedia article is pretty good on this]

C6668-05a
MS Yates Thompson 13, f. 68v

Complete and Divine Success? On Thucydides’ Style

Dionysius of Halicarnassus, On Thucydides 24

“I can summarize four the tools of Thucydides’ speech as follows: creativity in language, a variety of constructions, a harshness of order, and a swiftness of meaning. The character of his style includes density and thickness, bitterness and austerity, fierceness, and wonder and fear beyond all the emotional ranges.

This is what Thucydides is like from the character of his language in comparison to the rest. Whenever his intention and power coincide, his success is complete and divine. But whenever his force fails some and his power does not persist entirely, because of speed of his revelation, his expression becomes unclear and introduces another group of infelicities. For example, how it is right to express strange and synthetic language, how far to proceed before stopping, even though these are beautiful and necessary observations in all works, one should guard against it in all history.”

 ἵνα δὲ συνελὼν εἴπω, τέτταρα μέν ἐστιν ὥσπερ ὄργανα τῆς Θουκυδίδου λέξεως· τὸ ποιητικὸν τῶν ὀνομάτων, τὸ πολυειδὲς τῶν σχημάτων, τὸ τραχὺ τῆς ἁρμονίας, τὸ τάχος τῶν σημασιῶν· χρώματα δὲ αὐτῆς τό τε στριφνὸν καὶ τὸ πυκνόν, καὶ τὸ πικρὸν καὶ τὸ αὐστηρόν, καὶ τὸ ἐμβριθὲς καὶ τὸ δεινὸν καὶ (τὸ) φοβερόν, ὑπὲρ ἅπαντα δὲ ταῦτα τὸ παθητικόν. τοιοῦτος μὲν δή τίς ἐστιν ὁ Θουκυδίδης κατὰ τὸν τῆς λέξεως χαρακτῆρα, ᾧ παρὰ τοὺς ἄλλους διήνεγκεν. ὅταν μὲν οὖν ἥ τε προαίρεσις αὐτοῦ καὶ ἡ δύναμις συνεκδράμῃ, τέλεια γίνεται κατορθώματα καὶ δαιμόνια· ὅταν δὲ ἐλλείπῃ τὸ τῆς δυνάμεως, οὐ παραμείναντος μέχρι πάντων τοῦ τόνου, διὰ τὸ τάχος τῆς ἀπαγγελίας ἀσαφής τε ἡ λέξις γίνεται καὶ ἄλλας τινὰς ἐπιφέρει κῆρας οὐκ εὐπρεπεῖς. τὸ γὰρ ἐν ᾧ δεῖ τρόπῳ τὰ ξένα καὶ πεποιημένα λέγεσθαι καὶ μέχρι πόσου προελθόντα πεπαῦσθαι, καλὰ καὶ ἀναγκαῖα θεωρήματα ἐν πᾶσιν ὄντα τοῖς ἔργοις, οὐ διὰ πάσης τῆς ἱστορίας φυλάττει

 

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Vergil’s Fans and Foes: Some Prep Work for AP Latin Week

Aeneas Silvius Piccolomini, de Liberorum Educatione, chp. 69

“A teacher should prefer Vergil above all other poets, since his eloquence and glory are so great, that they could be neither increased by anyone’s praises nor diminished by anyone’s censure.”

Inter heroicos Vergilium cunctis praeferat, cuius tanta eloquentia est, tanta gloria, ut nullius laudibus crescere, nullius vituperatione minui possit.

Donatus, Vita Vergilii

“Asconius Pedianus wrote a book against Vergil’s detractors, but he nevertheless adds some objections of his own, mostly dealing with Vergil’s narration and the fact that he had taken much from Homer. But he also says that Vergil was accustomed to refute this latter criticism thus: ‘Why did they themselves not try to do take some verses from Homer? To be sure, they would learn that it easier to take Hercules’ club than to lift a verse from Homer.’ Yet, Asconius adds that he decided to retire so that he could do everything to the satisfaction of his malicious critics.”

Asconius Pedianus libro, quem contra obtrectatores Vergiliis scripsit, pauca admodum obiecta ei proponit eaque circa historiam fere et quod pleraque ab Homero sumpsisset; sed hoc ipsum crimen sic defendere adsuetum ait: cur non illi quoque eadem furta temptarent? Verum intellecturos facilius esse Herculi clavam quam Homero versum subripere”; et tamen destinasse secedere ut omnia ad satietatem malevolorum decideret.

Macrobius, Saturnalia 6.2

“I fear that, in my eagerness to show how much Vergil accomplished from his reading of the ancients, and what blossoms and what ornaments he poured forth from all of them into his own poetry, I may accidentally offer an opportunity for criticism to those uncultured and malignant fools who censure such a man for his usurpation of other’s works, not considering that this is the fruit of reading: to imitate those things which you approve in others, and to turn the sayings of others which you marvel at into your own use by a fitting turn. Our poets have done this among themselves, just as much as the best of the Greeks did. And, to avoid talk of foreign precedent, I could show with numerous examples how much the authors of our ancient canon have lifted from one another.”

Etsi vereor me, dum ostendere cupio quantum Virgilius noster ex antiquiorum lectione profecerit et quos ex omnibus flores vel quae in carminis sui decorem ex diversis ornamenta libaverit, occasionem reprehendendi vel inperitis vel malignis ministrem, exprobrantibus tanto viro alieni usurpationem, nec considerantibus hunc esse fructum legendi, aemulari ea quae in aliis probes et quae maxime inter aliorum dicta mireris in aliquem usum tuum oportuna derivatione convertere, quod et nostri tam inter se quam a Graecis et Graecorum excellentes inter se saepe fecerunt. Et, ut de alienigenis taceam, possem pluribus edocere quantum se mutuo conpilarint bibliothecae veteris auctores.

Vergil, Aeneid 2.796-798

“And here, I was shocked to find an overwhelming
Flood of new companions, mothers and men,
A band assembled for exile, a pitiable crowd.”

“Atque hic ingentem comitum adfluxisse novorum
invenio admirans numerum, matresque virosque,
collectam exsilio pubem, miserabile vulgus.

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