Pliny Goes on A Campus Tour

Pliny, Letters to Friends 18, to Junius Mauricius

“What could you ask me to do which would be more pleasant than to find a teacher for your nephews? Because of this favor, I am going back to school and it’s like I am returning to the sweetest time of my life. I sit among the young as I used to and I am even learning how much authority I have among them from my own writings.

Just recently  they were joking among themselves in a full classroom when several senators were present. But when I came in, they were silent. I am telling you this only because it confers more praise on them than on me and I want you never to fear that your brother’s sons won’t learn properly. All that’s left is for me to write you what I think of each of the teachers once I have heard them lecture and to make it same like you have heard them all yourself, as much as I can do that with a letter!”

Plinius Maurico Suo S.

Quid a te mihi iucundius potuit iniungi, quam ut praeceptorem fratris tui liberis quaererem? Nam beneficio tuo in scholam redeo, et illam dulcissimam aetatem quasi resumo: sedeo inter iuvenes ut solebam, atque etiam experior quantum apud illos auctoritatis ex studiis habeam. Nam proxime frequenti auditorio inter se coram multis ordinis nostri clare iocabantur; intravi, conticuerunt; quod non referrem, nisi ad illorum magis laudem quam ad meam pertineret, ac nisi sperare te vellem posse fratris tui filios probe discere. Quod superest, cum omnes qui profitentur audiero, quid de quoque sentiam scribam, efficiamque quantum tamen epistula consequi potero, ut ipse omnes audisse videaris.

Image result for pliny campus tour
Pliny the Younger and his Mother at Misenum, 79 CE (Angelica Kaufman, 1785)

“Well, Actually, None IS”: Seneca the Elder on Grammatical Pedantry

Seneca the Elder, Suasoriae 2.13, 540 M

“The grammarian Procellus used to claim that [Severus’] line was a solecism because, although he indicated many were speaking, he used to say “this is my day” instead of “this is our day”. And in this he was carping at the best part of a great poem. For, it is feeble if you make it “our” instead of my—all of the verse’s elegance will disappear.

For its greatest decorum is in this line and it comes from the vernacular (for, “this is my day” is something like a proverb). If, in addition, you reconsider the sense, then the grammarian’s pedantry—which should be kept away from all of the better minds—has no place at all. For, they did not all speak together as a chorus might with a leader guiding them, but each one spoke individually, “this is my day.”

Illud Porcellus grammaticus arguebat in hoc versu quasi soloecismum quod, cum plures induxisset, diceret: “hic meus est dies,” non: “hic noster est,” et in sententia optima id accusabat quod erat optimum. Muta enim ut “noster” sit: peribit omnis versus elegantia, in quo hoc est decentissimum, quod ex communi sermone trahitur; nam quasi proverbii loco est: “hic dies meus est”; et, cum ad sensum rettuleris, ne grammaticorum quidem calumnia ab omnibus magnis ingeniis summovenda habebit locum; dixerunt enim non omnes simul tamquam in choro manum ducente grammatico, sed singuli ex iis: “hic meus est dies.”

this is my day, punk.

The Rise of Foreign Education in Rome

Cicero, Republic 2.19

“It was then that our state first seemed to have become more learned with a certain foreign type of education. For it was no little stream which flowed from Greece into this city, but the most powerful river of those disciplines and arts. Some people tell the tale that Demaratus—a Corinthian exceptional in his own city for his respect, wealth, and authority—who was not able to endure the tyrant Cypselos at Corinth, fled with his money and took up residence in Tarquinii, the most elegant city of Etruria at the time.

Once he heard that Cypselos’ power was complete, the man of freedom and bravery officially became an exile and re-established his home and roots here. When he had two sons with the Tarquinian mother of his family, he had them educated in every art of the Greek system…”

XIX. Sed hoc loco primum videtur insitiva quadam disciplina doctior facta esse civitas. influxit enim non tenuis quidam e Graecia rivulus in hanc urbem, sed abundantissimus amnis illarum disciplinarum et artium. fuisse enim quendam ferunt Demaratum Corinthium et honore et auctoritate et fortunis facile civitatis suae principem; qui cum Corinthiorum tyrannum Cypselum ferre non potuisset, fugisse cum magna pecunia dicitur ac se contulisse Tarquinios, in urbem Etruriae florentissimam. cumque audiret dominationem Cypseli confirmari, defugit patriam vir liber ac fortis et adscitus est civis a Tarquiniensibus atque in ea civitate domicilium et sedes collocavit. ubi cum de matre familias Tarquiniensi duo filios procreavisset, omnibus eos artibus ad Graecorum disciplinam erudiit. . .

*Cypselos was allegedly a tyrant in the 7th century BCE.

Image result for Cypselus of corinth

Listeners and Readers Have Different Needs

Quintilian Institutio Oratoria, 10.1

“Indeed, some things are useful for listeners and others are good for readers. A speaking narrator causes excitement with his energy and feeds our attention not only with vivid images but with the material itself. Everything comes alive and is moved and we feed on new ideas as if they are just born in charm and worry. We are hand not just on the fate of the plot but on the danger faced by those who narrate it. In addition, the voice itself, proper movement, and performance shaped as each segment will demand are the most powerful aspects of recitation and, as I may say, teacheverything equally.

When it comes to reading, the audience’s judgment can be more certain since a listener’s prejudice often turns either by their own taste or by the shouting of those who are responding to the performance. Disagreement makes us feel shame and our unacknowledged humility keeps us from trusting our own responses even though pretty terrible stuff is pleasing to the majority of people. A summoned audience, moreover, will even applaud for things they don’t like. The opposite occurs too: poor taste often can’t tell when something has been finely put.

Reading is private—it does not move through us with the force of live performance and you’re allowed to re-read often just in case you are uncertain or want to memorize it. We may return to the text and work it again the way we let our food be chewed and worked because we swallow it for easier digestion. In this way, our reading is not raw but it is ready for memory through repeated softening and preparation.”

Alia vero audientis, alia legentis magis adiuvant. Excitat qui dicit spiritu ipso, nec imagine tantum rerum sed rebus incendit. Vivunt omnia enim et moventur, excipimusque nova illa velut nascentia cum favore ac sollicitudine: nec fortuna modo iudicii sed etiam ipsorum qui orant periculo adficimur. Praeter haec vox, actio decora, accommodata ut quisque locus postulabit pronuntiandi vel potentissima in dicendo ratio, et, ut semel dicam, pariter omnia docent. In lectione certius iudicium, quod audienti frequenter aut suus cuique favor aut ille laudantium clamor extorquet. Pudet enim dissentire, et velut tacita quadam verecundia inhibemur plus nobis credere, cum interim et vitiosa pluribus placent, et a conrogatis laudantur etiam quae non placent. Sed e contrario quoque accidit ut optime dictis gratiam prava iudicia non referant.

Lectio libera est nec ut actionis impetu transcurrit, sed repetere saepius licet, sive dubites sive memoriae penitus adfigere velis. Repetamus autem et tractemus et, ut cibos mansos ac prope liquefactos demittimus quo facilius digerantur, ita lectio non cruda sed multa iteratione mollita et velut confecta memoriae imitationique tradatur.

MS Additional 11639, f. 116r, France, 1277-1286 — From Here

I hate Education: Let Me Compose a Poem About It

Petronius, Satyricon 4

“The fact is this: if they would tolerate the work advancing by stages, so that the studious youth were were steeped in strict reading, they shaped their minds with the sayings the wise, they were digging out words with a tireless pen, they were listening at length to words they want to imitate, and they believed that what was pleasing to children was never truly exceptional, then that old style of oratory would have the weight of its majesty.

As it is now, children play at school and our youths are mocked in public. And what is more disgusting than this, no one is willing to admit in old age whatever nonsense they learned before. But, please don’t think that I am attacking a tenet of Lucilian humility. I will put what I believe in a poem.”

Quod si paterentur laborum gradus fieri, ut studiosi iuvenes lectione severa irrigarentur, ut sapientiae praeceptis animos componerent, ut verba atroci stilo effoderent, ut quod vellent imitari diu audirent, <ut persuaderent>2 sibi nihil esse magnificum, quod pueris placeret: iam illa grandis oratio haberet maiestatis suae pondus. Nunc pueri in scholis ludunt, iuvenes ridentur in foro, et quod utroque turpius est, quod quisque perperam didicit, in senectute confiteri non vult. Sed ne me putes improbasse schedium Lucilianae humilitatis, quod sentio, et ipse carmine effingam:

Petronius Arbiter by Bodart 1707.jpg

Great Authors Err Too

Quintilian, Inst. Orat. 10.1.24-26

“Let the reader not be persuaded as a matter of course that everything the best authors said is perfect. For they slip at times, they give in to their burdens, and they delight in the pleasure of their own abilities. They do not always pay attention; and they often grow tired. Demosthenes seems to doze to Cicero; Homer naps for Horace. Truly, they are great, but they are still mortals and it happens that those who believe that whatever appears in these authors should be laws for speaking often imitate their lesser parts, since this is easier—and they believe they are enough like them if they emulate the faults of great authors.

Still, one must pass judgment on these men with modesty and care to avoid what often happens when people condemn what they do not understand. If it is necessary to err in either part, I would prefer readers to enjoy everything in these authors rather than dismiss much.”

Neque id statim legenti persuasum sit, omnia quae summi auctores dixerint utique esse perfecta. Nam et labuntur aliquando et oneri cedunt et indulgent ingeniorum suorum voluptati, nec semper intendunt animum, nonnumquam fatigantur, cum Ciceroni dormitare interim Demosthenes, Horatio vero etiam Homerus ipse videatur.  Summi enim sunt, homines tamen, acciditque iis qui quidquid apud illos reppererunt dicendi legem putant ut deteriora imitentur (id enim est facilius), ac se abunde similes putent si vitia magnorum consequantur. Modesto tamen et circumspecto iudicio de tantis viris pronuntiandum est, ne, quod plerisque accidit, damnent quae non intellegunt. Ac si necesse est in alteram errare partem, omnia eorum legentibus placere quam multa displicere maluerim.

Image result for Ancient Roman Literature

Is Being a Student Like Being a Stan?

Dio Chrysostom, On Homer and Socrates 4-6

“If he was a fan, he could also be a student. For whoever is really interested in someone certainly knows what kind of a person he is and in imitating his works and words tries to make himself seem as much like him as possible. This is the very thing which a student seems to do: in imitating and watching the teacher he tries to acquire that art. But observing and associating with someone is not the same as learning.

For many people watch musicians and spend time with them or listen to them every day, but they would not be able to play an instrument unless they spend time attending to the musicians for the purpose of their art. But if you are reluctant to call Socrates a student of Homer and would just like to call him a fan, it makes no difference to me.”

Εἴπερ οὖν ζηλωτής, καὶ μαθητὴς εἴη ἄν. ὁ γὰρ ζηλῶν τινα ὀρθῶς ἐπίσταται δήπου ἐκεῖνον ὁποῖος ἦν καὶ μιμούμενος τὰ ἔργα καὶ τοὺς λόγους ὡς οἷόν τε ἐπιχειρεῖ ὅμοιον αὑτὸν ἀποφαίνειν. ταὐτὸ δὲ τοῦτο καὶ ὁ μαθητὴς ποιεῖν ἔοικε· μιμούμενος τὸν διδάσκαλον καὶ προσέχων ἀναλαμβάνει τὴν τέχνην. τὸ δὲ ὁρᾶν καὶ ξυνεῖναι οὐδέν ἐστι πρὸς τὸ μανθάνειν· πολλοὶ γὰρ καὶ ὁρῶσι τοὺς αὐλητὰς καὶ ξύνεισι καὶ ἀκούουσιν ὁσημέραι, καὶ οὐδ᾿ ἂν ἐμφυσῆσαι τοῖς αὐλοῖς δύναιντο, οἳ ἂν μὴ ἐπὶ τέχνῃ μηδὲ προσέχοντες ξυνῶσιν. ἀλλ᾿ εἴ γε δυσωπῇ μαθητὴν Ὁμήρου τὸν Σωκράτην καλεῖν, ζηλωτὴν δὲ μόνον, οὐδέν μοι διοίσει.

Image result for medieval manuscript students
Yale Manuscript 229, Folio 272v. Courtesy of Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library at Yale