Learning, Recollection, and Babies Laughing in their Sleep

Plutarch, Moralia: other Fragments 217

“A summary of different arguments by Plutarch of Charoneia showing that learning is recollection

    1. Do we think one thing because of another thing? Not unless it was known beforehand. This is a Platonic argument.
    2. Do we supplement ideas that are missing things? This is also Platonic
    3. Are children better at learning because they are nearer to the period before life when memory is preserved? This is an obvious approach.
    4. Are different people more capable for different kinds of learning?
    5. Have many people taught themselves entire art forms?
    6. Do babies laugh while they’re sleeping when they don’t while they are awake? Indeed, many speak when asleep even though they have not yet otherwise.
    7. Are some people frightened of silly things even though they are brave, like someone afraid of a weasel, or a rooster for no clear reason?
    8. Is discovery not attainable otherwise? For no one would seek what we know nor for what we never knew previously and we couldn’t find what we do not know.
    9. Is truth conversant with reality once forgetfulness has been removed? An argument based on diction.
    10. Is Memory the mother of the Muses, since unclear memory is the reason for our examinations.”

Ἐπιχειρημάτων διαφόρων συναγωγὴ δεικνύντων ἀναμνήσεις εἶναι τὰς μαθήσεις ἐκ τῶν τοῦ Χαιρωνέως Πλουτάρχου·

(a) Εἰ ἀφ᾿ ἑτέρου ἕτερον ἐννοοῦμεν. οὐκ ἂν εἰ μὴ προέγνωστο. τὸ ἐπιχείρημα Πλατωνικόν.

(b) Εἰ προστίθεμεν τὸ ἐλλεῖπον τοῖς αἰσθητοῖς· καὶ αὐτὸ Πλατωνικόν.

(c) Εἰ παῖδες εὐμαθέστεροι, ὡς ἐγγίους τῆς προβιοτῆς, ἐν  ἡ μνήμη ἐσῴζετο. ἐπιπόλαιος ὁ λόγος.

(d) Εἰ ἄλλοι πρὸς ἄλλο μάθημα ἐπιτηδειότεροι.

(e) Εἰ πολλοὶ αὐτοδίδακτοι ὅλων τεχνῶν.

(f) Εἰ πολλὰ παιδία ὑπνώττοντα γελᾷ, ὕπαρ δ᾿ οὔπω· πολλὰ δὲ καὶ ὄναρ2 ἐφθέγξατο, ἄλλως οὔπω φθεγγόμενα.

(g) Εἰ ἔνιοι καὶ ἀνδρεῖοι ὄντες ὅμως φοβοῦνται φαῦλ᾿ ἄττα, οἷον γαλῆν ἢ ἀλεκτρυόνα, ἀπ᾿ οὐδεμιᾶς φανερᾶς αἰτίας.

(h) Εἰ μὴ ἔστιν ἄλλως εὑρίσκειν. οὔτε γὰρ ἃ ἴσμεν ζητήσειεν ἄν τις, οὔτε ἃ μηδαμῶς ἴσμεν πρότερον, ἀλλ᾿ οὐδ᾿ ἂν εὕροιμεν ἃ μὴ ἴσμεν.

(i) Εἰ ἡ ἀλήθεια κατ᾿ ἀφαίρεσιν τῆς λήθης ἔντευξις τοῦ ὄντος ἐστί. λογικὴ ἡ ἐπιχείρησις.

(j) Εἰ ἡ μήτηρ τῶν Μουσῶν Μνημοσύνη, ὡς ἡ ἀδιάρθρωτος μνήμη τῶν ζητήσεων αἰτία.

New Mexico Recollections by Marsden Hartley (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:New_Mexico_Recollections_by_Marsden_Hartley,_Columbus_Museum_of_Art.jpg)

“The Last Sign of Nobility”: How to Flatter Your Favorite Classicists

Sidonius, Letters 7.2

“Most learned man, I believe that I might commit a sin against learning if I procrastinate at all in offering you praise for fending off the end of all literature. When it has already been buried, you are celebrated as its reviver, its agent, and its guardian. Throughout Gaul in this tempest of wars, Latin works have gained safe harbor because you are their teacher even as Latin arms have endured disaster.

For this reason our peers and posterity should unanimously and with enthusiasm claim you as a second Demosthenes, a second Cicero, here with statues—if it is allowed—and there with portraits because your teaching has so shaped them and trained them that, even though they remain surrounded by an unconquerable and still foreign people, they safeguard the signs of their ancient birthright. For as the signs of dignity—the ways in which every noble person used to be separated from the base—become more distant the only remaining sign of nobility after this will be a literary education.

But the advantages from your teaching demand thanks from me beyond others because I am trying to compose something which people in the future might read. For a crowd of competent readers will always come from your school and your lectures. Farewell.”

  1. Credidi me, vir peritissime, nefas in studia committere, si distulissem prosequi laudibus quod aboleri tu litteras distulisti, quarum quodammodo iam sepultarum suscitator fautor assertor concelebraris, teque per Gallias uno magistro sub hac tempestate bellorum Latina tenuerunt ora portum, cum pertulerint arma naufragium. 2. debent igitur vel aequaevi vel posteri nostri universatim ferventibus votis alterum te ut Demosthenen, alterum ut Tullium nunc statuis, si liceat, consecrare, nunc imaginibus, qui te docente formati institutique iam sinu in medio sic gentis invictae, quod tamen alienae, natalium1vetustorum signa retinebunt: nam iam remotis gradibus dignitatum, per quas solebat ultimo a quoque summus quisque discerni, solum erit posthac nobilitatis indicium litteras nosse. 3. nos vero ceteros supra doctrinae tuae beneficia constringunt, quibus aliquid scribere assuetis quodque venturi legere possint elaborantibus saltim de tua schola seu magisterio competens lectorum turba proveniet. vale.
High praise, coming from a Saint

Baudelaire Among the Greeks

At age 17, Charles Baudelaire wrote to his stepfather: 

“I’m writing with a request which will very much surprise you. You’ve promised me lessons in fencing and horse riding. But instead of that, I ask you–if you’re willing, if it’s possible, if you don’t mind–for a private tutor . . . 

What I would ask of him, among other things, would be Greek–yes, to teach me Greek, which I don’t know at all (like all those who learn it in middle school) . . .

You know I’ve got a taste for ancient languages, and Greek inspires a great curiosity in me. I believe, whatever people say nowadays, that it brings not only great pleasure, but also practical advantage. Why stifle these tastes?”

Baudelaire lettre au Colonel Aupick, 26 February 1839:

Je t’écris pour te faire une demande qui te surprendra fort. Tu m’as promis des leçons d’arme, de manège; au lieu de cela, je te demande, si tu le veux, si c’est possible, si cela ne te gêne pas, un répétiteur . . .

Ce que je lui demanderais aussi, ce serait du grec – oui, de m’apprendre le grec, que je ne sais pas du tout, comme tous ceux qui l’apprennent au collège . . .

Tu sais que je me suis pris de goût pour les langues anciennes, et le grec m’inspire une grande curiosité. Je crois, quoi qu’on dise aujourd’hui, que cela procure non seulement de grandes jouissances, mais encore un avantage réel. Pourquoi étouffer ces goûts-là?

We don’t know whether Baudelaire got his tutor, but we do know that he read a lot of Greek literature in his school days and won prizes for his translations. 

Let’s assume that when in his maturity he sat down to write, somewhere in his memory there was a poem the likes of this Hellenistic “aubade,” the song of lovers interrupted by the arrival of daybreak:

Antipater of Thessalonica 5.3 (Greek Anthology)

The early-morning light came some time ago, Chrysilla,
And dawn’s rooster, with his proclaiming, brings jealous daybreak.
Most envious birds, be gone! You chase me from my own house
And out into the profusion of young men’s blabbing.
You’re growing old, Tithonus.
Why else drive Dawn from your bed at first light?

Antipater of Thessalonica 5.3 (Greek Anthology)
ὄρθρος ἔβη, Χρύσιλλα, πάλαι δ᾽ ἠῷος ἀλέκτωρ
κηρύσσων φθονερὴν Ἠριγένειαν ἄγει.
ὀρνίθων ἔρροις φθονερώτατος, ὅς με διώκεις
οἴκοθεν εἰς πολλοὺς ἠιθέων ὀάρους.
γηράσκεις, Τιθωνέ: τί γὰρ σὴν εὐνέτιν Ἠῶ
οὕτως ὀρθριδίην ἤλασας ἐκ λεχέων;

Spiritual Dawn

In the room of the debauched, the white and vermillion dawn
Forms a league with the gnawing Ideal,
And by the workings of an avenging mystery
An angel awakens in the drowsy brute.

The inaccessible azure of the spiritual heavens,
For the stricken man who still dreams and suffers,
Opens and gapes with the lure of the abyss.
Thus, dear Goddess, Being light and pure,

Above the smoking debris of stupid orgies
Your memory, clearer, more roseate, more charming,
Flutters incessantly before my widened eyes.

The sun has darkened the candles’ flame;
Thus, ever victorious, your phantom is equal,
Resplendent soul, to the immortal sun!

L’Aube Spirituelle

Quand chez les débauchés l’aube blanche et vermeille
Entre en société de l’Idéal rongeur,
Par l’opération d’un mystère vengeur
Dans la brute assoupie un ange se réveille.

Des Cieux Spirituels l’inaccessible azur,
Pour l’homme terrassé qui rêve encore et souffre,
S’ouvre et s’enfonce avec l’attirance du gouffre.
Ainsi, chère Déesse, Être lucide et pur,

Sur les débris fumeux des stupides orgies
Ton souvenir plus clair, plus rose, plus charmant,
A mes yeux agrandis voltige incessamment.

Le soleil a noirci la flamme des bougies ;
Ainsi, toujours vainqueur, ton fantôme est pareil,
Ame resplendissante, à l’immortel soleil !

Pierre Bonnard. “Man and Woman.” (1900) Musee d’Orsay.

Larry Benn has a B.A. in English Literature from Harvard College, an M.Phil in English Literature from Oxford University, and a J.D. from Yale Law School. Making amends for a working life misspent in finance, he’s now a hobbyist in ancient languages and blogs at featsofgreek.blogspot.com.

Learning to Speak and to Hear the Truth: Reading a Teacher’s Comments

From Marcus Aurelius to M. Cornelius Fronto

To my teacher,

“I received two letters from you at the same time. In one of them, you were criticizing me and you were showing that I wrote a sentence rashly; in the second, however, you were trying to approve my work with praise. Still, I swear by my mother and by my health that I got more joy from the first letter, to which I often yelled out while reading: “Lucky me!” And someone might ask whether I am happy because I have a teacher who teaches me to write a gnome with more care, precision, and concision?  No! This is not the reason I say I am lucky. Why then? Because I learn from you to speak the truth.

This lesson—speaking truly—is hard for both gods and men. There is no oracle so truthful that it is not also ambiguous or unclear or which does not have some obstacle which may catch the unwise who interprets whatever is said the way he wants to and understands this only after the moment when the affair is complete. But this is advantageous and clearly it is customary to excuse these things as sacred error or silliness.

But what you say—whether they are criticisms or rules—they show the path itself immediately and without deceit or riddling words. I ought to give you thanks since you teach me foremost to speak the truth and at the same time how to hear it too! Therefore, you should get a double reward, which you will endeavor that I will not pay. If you wish to accept nothing, how may I balance our accounts except through obedience? [some incomplete lines].

Farewell my good, my best teacher. I rejoice that we have become friends. My wife says hello.

Magistro meo.

Duas per id<em> tempus epistulas tuas excepi. Earum altera me increpabas et temere sententiam scripsisse arguebas, altera vero tueri studium meum laude nitebaris. Adiuro tamen tibi meam, meae matris, tuam salutem mihi plus gaudii in animo coortum esse illis tuis prioribus litteris; meque saepius exclamasse inter legendum O me felicem! Itane, dicet aliquis, feiicem te, si est qui te doceat quomodo γνώμην sollertius dilucidius brevius politius scribas? Non hoc est quod me felicem nuncupo. Quid est igitur?  Quod verum dicere ex te disco. Ea res—verum|dicere—prorsum deis hominibusque ardua: nullum denique tam veriloquum oraculum est, quin aliquid ancipitis in se vel obliqui vel impediti habeat, quo imprudentior inretiatur, et ad voluntatem suam dictum opinatus captionem post tempus ac negotium sentiat. Sed ista res lucrosa est, et plane mos talia tantum pio errore et vanitate ex<cus>are. At tuae seu accusationes seu lora confestim ipsam viam ostendunt sine fraude et inventis verbis. Itaque deberem etiam gratias agere tibi si verum me dicere satius simul et audire verum me doces. Duplex igitur pretium solvatur, pendere quod ne valeam <elabora>bis. Si resolvi vis nil, quomodo tibi par pari expendam nisi obsequio? Impius tamen mihi malui te nimia motum cura . . . . die<s isti quom essent> vacui, licuit me . . . . bene st<udere et multas sententias> excerpere . . . . Vale mi bone et optime <magister. Te>, optime orator, sic m<ihi in  amicitiam> venisse gaudeo. | Domina mea te salutat.

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See Sarah E. Bond’s great post on Ancient School Exercises

Seneca on What Parents Do For Children

Seneca, De Beneficiis 6.24

“Don’t you see how parents compel the tender age of their children toward a healthy endurance of matters? They lavish care on their bodies even as they weep and struggle against them and, so that early freedom does not destroy their limbs, they even swaddle them to help them stay straight. And soon they shape them with a liberal education, adding threats when the children are unwilling. And they treat the final boldness of youth with frugality, shame, good habits, and, compulsion, if necessary.

Force and severity are added to to these youths who are already in control of themselves if they reject these remedies because of fear or intemperance. These are the greatest benefits which we receive from our parents, while we are either ignorant or unwilling.”

Non vides, quemadmodum teneram liberorum infantiam parentes ad salubrium rerum patientiam cogant? Flentium corpora ac repugnantium diligenti cura fovent et, ne membra libertas immatura detorqueat, in rectum exitura constringunt et mox liberalia studia inculcant adhibito timore nolentibus; ad ultimum audacem iuventam frugalitati, pudori, moribus bonis, si parum sequitur, coactam applicant.

Adulescentibus quoque ac iam potentibus sui, si remedia metu aut intemperantia reiciunt, vis adhibetur ac severitas. Itaque beneficiorum maxima sunt, quae a parentibus accepimus, dum aut nescimus aut nolumus.

Livre des Vices et des Vertus , XVe siècle. Paris, BnF, département des Manuscrits, Français 20320, fol. 177v
Livre des Vices et des Vertus , XVe siècle. Paris, BnF, département des Manuscrits, Français 20320, fol. 177v

When You Can, Live as You Should

Seneca, Moral Epistles 7.8-9

“Both habits, moreover, should be avoided. Don’t imitate bad people, because there are many of them, nor hate the many, because you aren’t like them. Take shelter in yourself, whenever you can. Spend time with people who will make you a better person. Embrace those whom you can make better. Such improvement is a partnership, for people learn while they teach.”

Utrumque autem devitandum est; neve similis malis fias, quia multi sunt, neve inimicus multis, quia dissimiles sunt. Recede in te ipsum, quantum potes. Cum his versare, qui te meliorem facturi sunt. Illos admitte, quos tu potes facere meliores. Mutuo ista fiunt, et homines, dum docent, discunt.

Seneca, De Beata Vita 17-18

“ ‘This is enough for me: to each day lose one of my vices and recognize my mistakes. I have not perfected my health, nor certainly will I. I hope to relieve my gout rather than cure it, happy if it comes less frequently and cause less pain. But when I compare myself to your feet, I am a sprinter even though crippled.’

I do not say these things for myself—since I am deep in every kind of vice—but for the person who has done something.

You say, “You talk one way but you live another.” This insult, most shameful and hateful friend, was thrown at Plato, tossed at Epicurus, and dropped on Zeno. For all these people were talking not about how they were living themselves but about how they should live. When it comes to virtue, I do not talk about myself, and my fight is with vices, but chiefly my own. When I can, I will live as I should.”

Hoc mihi satis est, cotidie aliquid ex vitiis meis demere et errores meos obiurgare. Non perveni ad sanitatem, ne perveniam quidem; delenimenta magis quam remedia podagrae meae compono, contentus, si rarius accedit et si minus verminatur; vestris quidem pedibus comparatus, debilis1 cursor sum.” Haec non pro me loquor—ego enim in alto vitiorum omnium sum—, sed pro illo, cui aliquid acti est.

 “Aliter,” inquis, “loqueris, aliter vivis.” Hoc, malignissima capita et optimo cuique inimicissima, Platoni obiectum est, obiectum Epicuro, obiectum Zenoni; omnes enim isti dicebant non quemadmodum ipsi viverent, sed quemadmodum esset ipsis vivendum. De virtute, non de me loquor, et cum vitiis convicium facio, in primis meis facio. 2Cum potuero, vivam quomodo oportet.

Image result for medieval manuscripts meditating
Verdun, Bibl. mun., ms. 0070, f. 42v.

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.

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Plotinus Sounds Like a Cult Leader

Eunapius, 456 Life of Porphyry

“Longinus at that time was like a breathing library, a walking museum. And if anyone at all judged ancient poets and criticized one of them, his evaluation did not gain strength unless Longinus’ judgment prevailed first. After [Porphyry] pursued his education in this way and he was admired by all, because he desired to see Rome that greatest city so that he might master the city with his wisdom, then he went there quickly and entered the group with the greatest Plotinus. He completely forgot everyone else and went about dedicating himself to him.

He dedicated himself to his studies hungrily and his original words and inspired teachings, and it was satisfying for that time to be his student, as he himself says. And then because he was overcome by the majesty of his words he hated his body and that he was human.

After he sailed to Sicily to the strait and Charybdis where Odysseus is also said to have sailed, and he could not bear to see any city or to hear the voice of people, and in this way tried to keep the experience of pleasure and pain away from himself. He went across to Lilybaeum which is one of the three promonitories of Sicily, the one that looks out and stretches toward Libya.

He lied down there groaning and self-harming, refusing to take any food and avoiding the travel of humans. But great Plotinus was no poor guard for these things, he followed him by foot….or he was asking some youth who fled from him and found him lying there. He furnished words to him which revived his soul as it was about to fly from his body. And he also strengthened his body enough to meet the return of his soul.”

 

Λογγῖνος δὲ κατὰ τὸν χρόνον ἐκεῖνον βιβλιοθήκη τις ἦν ἔμψυχος καὶ περιπατοῦν μουσεῖον, καὶ κρίνειν γε τοὺς παλαιοὺς καὶ εἴ τις κατέγνω τινὸς τῶν παλαιῶν, οὐ τὸ δοξασθὲν ἐκράτει πρότερον, ἀλλ᾿ ἡ Λογγίνου πάντως ἐκράτει κρίσις. οὕτω δὲ ἀχθεὶς τὴν πρώτην παιδείαν καὶ ὑπὸ πάντων ἀποβλεπόμενος, τὴν μεγίστην Ῥώμην ἰδεῖν ἐπιθυμήσας, ἵνα κατάσχῃ διὰ σοφίας τὴν πόλιν, ἐπειδὴ τάχιστα εἰς αὐτὴν ἀφίκετο καὶ τῷ μεγίστῳ Πλωτίνῳ συνῆλθεν εἰς ὁμιλίαν, πάντων ἐπελάθετο τῶν ἄλλων, καὶ προσέθετο φέρων ἑαυτὸ ἐκείνῳ. ἀκορέστως δὲ τῆς παιδείας ἐμφορούμενος καὶ τῶν πηγαίων ἐκείνων καὶ τεθειασμένων λόγων, χρόνον μέν τινα εἰς τὴν ἀκρόασιν ἤρκεσεν, ὡς αὐτός φησιν, εἶτα ὑπὸ τοῦ μεγέθους τῶν λόγων νικώμενος, τό τε σῶμα καὶ τὸ ἄνθρωπος εἶναι ἐμίσησε, καὶ διαπλεύσας εἰς Σικελίαν τὸν πορθμὸν καὶ τὴν Χάρυβδιν, ᾗπερ Ὀδυσσεὺς ἀναπλεῦσαι λέγεται, πόλιν μὲν οὔτε ἰδεῖν ὑπέμεινεν, οὔτε ἀνθρώπων ἀκοῦσαι φωνῆς (οὕτω τὸ λυπούμενον αὑτῷ1 καὶ ἡδόμενον ἀπέθετο), συντείνας δὲ ἐπὶ Λιλύβαιον ἑαυτὸν (τὸ δέ ἐστι τῶν τριῶν ἀκρωτηρίων τῆς Σικελίας τὸ πρὸς Λιβύην ἀνατεῖνον καὶ ὁρῶν), ἔκειτο καταστένων καὶ ἀποκαρτερῶν, τροφήν τε οὐ προσιέμενος, καὶ ἀνθρώπων ἀλεείνων πάτον. οὐδ᾿ ἀλαοσκοπιὴν ὁ μέγας εἶχε Πλωτῖνος ἐπὶ τούτοις, ἀλλὰ κατὰ πόδας ἑπόμενος,2 . . . . . . . . . . . . ἢ τὸν ἀποπεφευγότα νεανίσκον ἀναζητῶν, ἐπιτυγχάνει κειμένῳ, καὶ λόγων τε πρὸς αὐτὸν ηὐπόρησε τὴν ψυχὴν ἀνακαλουμένων ἄρτι ἐξίπτασθαι3 τοῦ σώματος μέλλουσαν, καὶ τὸ σῶμα ἔρρωσεν ἐς κατοχὴν τῆς ψυχῆς.

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Porphyry and Plotinus, Getting Serious

“Learn As Long As You Are Ignorant”: Seneca on What He Has to Teach

Seneca, Moral Epistles 76.3-5

“People of every age enter this classroom. “Do we grow old only to follow the young?” When I go into the theater as an old man and I am drawn to the racetrack and no fight is finished without me, shall I be embarrassed to go to a philosopher? You must learn as long as you are ignorant—if we may trust the proverb. And nothing is more fit to the present than this: as long as you live you must learn how to live. Nevertheless, there is still something which I teach there. You ask, what may I teach? That an old man must learn too.

But the human race still shames me every time I enter the school. Near to that theater of the Neapolitans, I have to pass that house of Metronax. There, the place is packed too as with a burning desire they judge who is the best flute player. The Greek horn and a herald bring a crowd. But in the place where we seek what a good man is, where how to be a good man may be learned, the smallest audience sits and they seem to most people to be up to no good in their pursuit. They are called useless and lazy. May such derision touch me. For the insults of the ignorant should be heard with a gentle mind. Contempt itself must be held in contempt as we journey toward better things.”

Omnis aetatis homines haec schola admittit. “In hoc senescamus, ut iuvenes sequamur?” In theatrum senex ibo et in circum deferar et nullum par sine me depugnabit ad philosophum ire erubescam?

Tamdiu discendum est, quamdiu nescias; si proverbio credimus, quamdiu vivas. Nec ulli hoc rei magis convenit quam huic: tamdiu discendum est, quemadmodum vivas, quamdiu vivas. Ego tamen illic aliquid et doceo. Quaeris, quid doceam? Etiam seni esse discendum. Pudet autem me generis humani, quotiens scholam intravi. Praeter ipsum theatrum Neapolitanorum, ut scis, transeundum est Metronactis petenti domum. Illud quidem fartum est et ingenti studio, quis sit pythaules bonus, iudicatur; habet tubicen quoque Graecus et praeco concursum. At in illo loco, in quo vir bonus quaeritur, in quo vir bonus discitur, paucissimi sedent, et hi plerisque videntur nihil boni negotii habere quod agant; inepti et inertes vocantur. Mihi contingat iste derisus; aequo animo audienda sunt inperitorum convicia et ad honesta vadenti contemnendus est ipse contemptus.

 

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Children, Afraid of Masks?

Arrian’s Discourses of Epictetus 3.22

“Look at the children who are scared of masks….”

ζήτει τὰ παιδία· ἐκείνοις τὰ προσωπεῖα φοβερά ἐστιν…

Anti-mask protesters swarm elementary school where NJ Governor announces mask mandate for schools

If you have not heard of the unmask our kids movement, well , you’ve got some delightful reading ahead of you.

Plutarch, Moralia (On Exile) 300 D

“If we truly encounter some pain and grief, we need to force cheer and ease from the good things we have left to us, smoothing away everything from the outside with our inner strength.

But for those things whose nature bears no evil, but whose pain is completely and simply fashioned from empty opinion, we need to behave as with children who fear masks, putting them into their hands and turning them over, training them not to think too much of them. In this way, by touching things and submitting them to reason, we can uncover their weakness, their emptiness, and their histrionic facade.”

Διὸ κἂν ἀληθῶς κακῷ τινι καὶ λυπηρῷ περιπέσωμεν, ἐπάγεσθαι δεῖ τὸ ἱλαρὸν καὶ τὸ εὔθυμον ἐκ τῶν ὑπαρχόντων καὶ ὑπολειπομένων ἀγαθῶν, τῷ οἰκείῳ τὸ ἀλλότριον ἐκλεαίνοντας· ὧν δὲ ἡ φύσις οὐδὲν ἔχει κακόν, ἀλλὰ ὅλον καὶ πᾶν τὸ λυποῦν ἐκ κενῆς δόξης ἀναπέπλασται, ταῦτα δεῖ, καθάπερ τοῖς δεδοικόσι τὰ προσωπεῖα παιδίοις ἐγγὺς καὶ ὑπὸ χεῖρα ποιοῦντες καὶ ἀναστρέφοντες ἐθίζομεν καταφρονεῖν, οὕτως ἐγγὺς ἁπτομένους καὶ συνερείδοντας τὸν λογισμόν, τὸ σαθρὸν καὶ τὸ κενὸν καὶ τετραγῳδημένον ἀποκαλύπτειν.

File:Ancient Greek theatrical mask of Zeus, replica (8380375983).jpg
replica of Theatrical Mask of Zeus

Marcus Cornelius Fronto to Antoninus Augustus Ambr. 390 17

“Aesopus the tragedian reportedly never put a mask on his face until he had looked at it for awhile from the other side so that he might change his gestures and alter his voice in line with the appearance of the mask.”

Tragicus Aesopus fertur non prius ullam suo induisse capiti personam, antequam diu ex adverso contemplaret, ut pro personae voltu gestum sibi capessere ac vocem <adsimulare posset>

Apparently, in Iowa, academic freedom may not extend to discussions of, [gasp] MASKS!

Epictetus, Discourses 2.1.15-19

“Just as masks seem frightening and awful to children because of their inexperience, so too do we suffer something similar to current events—it is not different from how children respond to bogeymen. For what is childish? Ignorance. What else is childish? Lack of learning. When a child has learned something, they are no worse off than we are.

What is death? A bogeyman. Turn it around, get personal with it. Look! How can it bite? This little body needs to be separated from the spirit just as it was once before, either now or some time later. Why is it troubling if it happens now? If it doesn’t, it will later. Why? So that the cycle of the universe doesn’t stop. It requires everything that exists now, all things that will happen, and all those that happened before.

What is pain? It’s a bogeyman. Turn it around and get comfortable with it…”

ὡς γὰρ τοῖς παιδίοις τὰ προσωπεῖα φαίνεται δεινὰ καὶ φοβερὰ δι’ ἀπειρίαν, τοιοῦτόν τι καὶ ἡμεῖς πάσχομεν πρὸς τὰ πράγματα δι’ οὐδὲν ἄλλο ἢ ὥσπερ καὶ τὰ παιδία πρὸς τὰς μορμολυκείας. τί γάρ ἐστι παιδίον; ἄγνοια. τί ἐστι παιδίον; ἀμαθία. ἐπεὶ ὅπου οἶδεν, κἀκεῖνα οὐδὲν ἡμῶν ἔλαττον ἔχει.

θάνατος τί ἐστιν; μορμολύκειον. στρέψας αὐτὸ κατάμαθε· ἰδοῦ, πῶς οὐ δάκνει. · ἰδοῦ, πῶς οὐ δάκνει. τὸ σωμάτιον δεῖ χωρισθῆναι τοῦ πνευματίου, ὡς πρότερον ἐκεχώριστο, ἢ νῦν ἢ ὕστερον. τί οὖν ἀγανακτεῖς, εἰ νῦν; εἰ γὰρ μὴνῦν, ὕστερον. διὰ τί; ἵνα ἡ περίοδος ἀνύηται τοῦ κόσμου· χρείαν γὰρ ἔχει τῶν μὲν ἐνισταμένων, τῶν δὲ μελ-λόντων, τῶν δ’ ἠνυσμένων. πόνος τί ἐστιν; μορμολύκειον. στρέψον αὐτὸ καὶ κατάμαθε…”