Domitian, Ovid, Lucan and Friends: Quintilian With Some World-Class Shade

Quintilian, Inst. Orat. 10.1

“Atacinus Varro acquired his name as a translator of other’s work—he certainly shouldn’t be dismissed, but in truth he has little to commend for improving an ability in speaking. Ennius, we should adore as we would groves sacred with age whose ancient trees have less beauty than they have religious awe. Others are closer to this time and are more useful for our subject. Ovid is certainly indulgent in his epic verse and too in love with his own genius, but still should be praised for some things. Cornelius Severus, moreover, even if he was a better metrician than a poet, still would have claimed second place for himself if he had finished his Sicilian War to the standard of his first book.

An early death kept Serranus from reaching his potential, yet his youthful works demonstrate special ability and a desire for correct form that is especially admirable in one so young. We recently lost a lot in Valerius Flaccus. Saleius  Bassus had a forceful poetic ability—it did not improve with age. Rabirius and Pedo are worth a read, if you have extra time. Lucan is forceful, intense, and famous for his quotability, but, if I may say what I really think, a model more for orators than poets.

I am listing these authors because care for the lands of the earth has distracted Germanicus Augustus [Domitian] from the pursuits he began—it seemed insufficient to the gods that he be the greatest of poets. But, still, what could appear more sublime, more learned, and more outstanding by every account than the works of this young man who put the empire aside? Who could sing of wars better than the one who wages them in this way? Whom would the deities of these arts heed more closely? To whom would Minerva more easily unveil her own arts? Future generations will explain these things more fully, for now this praise is constrained by the glare of his other virtues.”

Atacinus Varro in iis per quae nomen est adsecutus interpres operis alieni, non spernendus quidem, verum ad augendam facultatem dicendi parum locuples. Ennium sicut sacros vetustate lucos adoremus, in quibus grandia et antiqua robora iam non tantam habent speciem quantam religionem. Propiores alii atque ad hoc de quo loquimur magis utiles. Lascivus quidem in herois quoque Ovidius et nimium amator ingenii sui, laudandus tamen partibus. Cornelius autem Severus, etiam si sit versificator quam poeta melior, si tamen (ut est dictum) ad exemplar primi libri bellum Siculum perscripsisset, vindicaret sibi iure secundum locum. Serranum consummari mors inmatura non passa est, puerilia tamen eius opera et maximam indolem ostendunt et admirabilem praecipue in aetate illa recti generis voluntatem. Multum in Valerio Flacco nuper amisimus. Vehemens et poeticum ingenium Salei Bassi fuit, nec ipsum senectute maturuit. Rabirius ac Pedo non indigni cognitione, si vacet. Lucanus ardens et concitatus et sententiis clarissimus et, ut dicam quod sentio, magis oratoribus quam poetis imitandus. Hos nominamus quia Germanicum Augustum ab institutis studiis deflexit cura terrarum, parumque dis visum est esse eum maximum poetarum. Quid tamen his ipsis eius operibus in quae donato imperio iuvenis secesserat sublimius, doctius, omnibus denique numeris praestantius? Quis enim caneret bella melius quam qui sic gerit? Quem praesidentes studiis deae propius audirent? Cui magis suas artis aperiret familiare numen Minerva?  Dicent haec plenius futura saecula, nunc enim ceterarum fulgore virtutum laus ista praestringitur. Nos tamen sacra litterarum colentis feres, Caesar, si non tacitum hoc praeterimus et Vergiliano certe versu testamur

 

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Comparing Domitian to Ovid, Lucan and Friends: Quintilian With Some World-Class Shade

Quintilian, Inst. Orat. 10.1

“Atacinus Varro acquired his name as a translator of other’s work—he certainly shouldn’t be dismissed, but in truth he has little to commend for improving an ability in speaking. Ennius, we should adore as we would groves sacred with age whose ancient trees have less beauty than they have religious awe. Others are closer to this time and are more useful for our subject. Ovid is certainly indulgent in his epic verse and too in love with his own genius, but still should be praised for some things. Cornelius Severus, moreover, even if he was a better metrician than a poet, still would have claimed second place for himself if he had finished his Sicilian War to the standard of his first book.

An early death kept Serranus from reaching his potential, yet his youthful works demonstrate special ability and a desire for correct form that is especially admirable in one so young. We recently lost a lot in Valerius Flaccus. Saleius  Bassus had a forceful poetic ability—it did not improve with age. Rabirius and Pedo are worth a read, if you have extra time. Lucan is forceful, intense, and famous for his quotability, but, if I may say what I really think, a model more for orators than poets.

I am listing these authors because care for the lands of the earth has distracted Germanicus Augustus [Domitian] from the pursuits he began—it seemed insufficient to the gods that he be the greatest of poets. But, still, what could appear more sublime, more learned, and more outstanding by every account than the works of this young man who put the empire aside? Who could sing of wars better than the one who wages them in this way? Whom would the deities of these arts heed more closely? To whom would Minerva more easily unveil her own arts? Future generations will explain these things more fully, for now this praise is constrained by the glare of his other virtues.”

Atacinus Varro in iis per quae nomen est adsecutus interpres operis alieni, non spernendus quidem, verum ad augendam facultatem dicendi parum locuples. Ennium sicut sacros vetustate lucos adoremus, in quibus grandia et antiqua robora iam non tantam habent speciem quantam religionem. Propiores alii atque ad hoc de quo loquimur magis utiles. Lascivus quidem in herois quoque Ovidius et nimium amator ingenii sui, laudandus tamen partibus. Cornelius autem Severus, etiam si sit versificator quam poeta melior, si tamen (ut est dictum) ad exemplar primi libri bellum Siculum perscripsisset, vindicaret sibi iure secundum locum. Serranum consummari mors inmatura non passa est, puerilia tamen eius opera et maximam indolem ostendunt et admirabilem praecipue in aetate illa recti generis voluntatem. Multum in Valerio Flacco nuper amisimus. Vehemens et poeticum ingenium Salei Bassi fuit, nec ipsum senectute maturuit. Rabirius ac Pedo non indigni cognitione, si vacet. Lucanus ardens et concitatus et sententiis clarissimus et, ut dicam quod sentio, magis oratoribus quam poetis imitandus. Hos nominamus quia Germanicum Augustum ab institutis studiis deflexit cura terrarum, parumque dis visum est esse eum maximum poetarum. Quid tamen his ipsis eius operibus in quae donato imperio iuvenis secesserat sublimius, doctius, omnibus denique numeris praestantius? Quis enim caneret bella melius quam qui sic gerit? Quem praesidentes studiis deae propius audirent? Cui magis suas artis aperiret familiare numen Minerva?  Dicent haec plenius futura saecula, nunc enim ceterarum fulgore virtutum laus ista praestringitur. Nos tamen sacra litterarum colentis feres, Caesar, si non tacitum hoc praeterimus et Vergiliano certe versu testamur

 

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Baldness and Hair Care in Imperial Rome

Martial, 6.12 and 6.57

“Fabulla claims as her own the hair she buys!
Hey Paul—wouldn’t you say that she lies?

Iurat capillos esse, quos emit, suos
Fabulla: numquid illa, Paule, peierat

57

“You make fake hair with gel, Pheobus—
Your filthy scalp is covered with drawn-in hair
You don’t need to summon a barber for that head:
A sponge can give you a better shave, Phoebus.”

Mentiris fictos unguento, Phoebe, capillos
et tegitur pictis sordida calua comis.
Tonsorem capiti non est adhibere necesse:
radere te melius spongea, Phoebe, potest.

The loss of hair was a sensitive issue in antiquity too. Suetonius (Life of Domitian, 18) records the emperor Domitian was extremely touchy about his premature loss of hair:

“His baldness offended him so much that he took it as a personal insult if anyone else was slighted for it in humor or seriousness. Nevertheless, in the pamphlet he published addressed to a friend On Haircare, he offered these words to console both of them: “Don’t you see how beautiful and big I am?”* And even so, my hair’s fate awaits me. I endure with a strong spirit the aging of my hair in youth. Know this: nothing is more gripping or brief than beauty.”

*Here, Domitian quotes from Homer’s Iliad where Achilles “consoles” Lykaon before he kills him by pointing to their shared mortality.

caluitio ita offendebatur, ut in contumeliam suam traheret, si cui alii ioco uel iurgio obiectaretur; quamuis libello, quem de cura capillorum ad amicum edidit, haec etiam, simul illum seque consolans, inseruerit: ‘οὐχ ὁράᾳς, οἷος κἀγὼ καλός τε μέγας τε; eadem me tamen manent capillorum fata, et forti animo fero comam in adulescentia senescentem. scias nec gratius quicquam decore nec breuius.’

I guess we can say that not only was Domitian the princeps of the Roman Hair Club for Men, but he was also a member!

Dio Quotes Homer and Trajan Loves Him as Himself (Philostratus, Lives of the Sophists, 1.488)

“[Dio] frequently visited military encampments dressed poorly according to his custom. When he noticed that the troops turning to revolt after the assassination of Domitian, he could not restrain himself as he looked upon the churning disorder. So he leapt naked onto the high rostrum and began his speech like this:

“Then very-clever Odysseus was stripped of his rags..” (Od. 22.1)

And after he said this and made clear that he was not a beggar nor who they thought he was, but instead was Dio the wise man, then he produced a great indictment of the tyrant Domitian and he persuaded the soldiers that it was better to act with the interests of the Roman people in mind. Truly, the persuasiveness of this man was such that it bewitched even those who had no great knowledge of Hellenic matters. For example, when the emperor Trajan seated him beside himself in the golden chariot in which the emperors join the victory procession of a triumph, he often turned to Dio and said: “I don’t know what you’re saying, but I love you as I love myself.”

θαμίζων δὲ ἐς τὰ στρατόπεδα, ἐν οἷσπερ εἰώθει τρύχεσθαι, καὶ τοὺς στρατιώτας ὁρῶν ἐς νεώτερα ὁρμῶντας ἐπὶ Δομετιανῷ ἀπεσφαγμένῳ οὐκ ἐφείσατο ἀταξίαν ἰδὼν ἐκραγεῖσαν, ἀλλὰ γυμνὸς ἀναπηδήσας ἐπὶ βωμὸν ὑψηλὸν ἤρξατο τοῦ λόγου ὧδε•

„αὐτὰρ ὁ γυμνώθη ῥακέων πολύμητις ᾿Οδυσσεύς,”

καὶ εἰπὼν ταῦτα καὶ δηλώσας ἑαυτόν, ὅτι μὴ πτωχός, μηδὲ ὃν ᾤοντο, Δίων δὲ εἴη ὁ σοφός, ἐπὶ μὲν τὴν κατηγορίαν τοῦ τυράννου πολὺς ἔπνευσεν, τοὺς δὲ στρατιώτας ἐδίδαξεν ἀμείνω φρονεῖν τὰ δοκοῦντα ῾Ρωμαίοις πράττοντας. καὶ γὰρ ἡ πειθὼ τοῦ ἀνδρὸς οἵα καταθέλξαι καὶ τοὺς μὴ τὰ ῾Ελλήνων ἀκριβοῦντας• Τραιανὸς γοῦν ὁ αὐτοκράτωρ ἀναθέμενος αὐτὸν ἐπὶ τῆς ῾Ρώμης ἐς τὴν χρυσῆν ἅμαξαν, ἐφ’ ἧς οἱ βασιλεῖς τὰς ἐκ τῶν πολέμων πομπὰς πομπεύουσιν, ἔλεγε θαμὰ ἐπιστρεφόμενος ἐς τὸν Δίωνα „τί μὲν λέγεις, οὐκ οἶδα, φιλῶ δέ σε ὡς ἐμαυτόν”.

Dio? Dio of Prusa, AKA Dio Chyrsostom, friend of philosophy, exiled under Domitian. Champion of Nerva.