Learning Requires Memory and Experience

Aristotle, Metaphysics 980a22-981

“All people naturally yearn for knowledge. A sign of this our delight in our senses: for we take pleasure in them beyond their use—especially in the use of our eyes. This is not only so we may act but also when we are about to do nothing we choose seeing before all of the other senses, in general. The cause of this is that this sense especially helps us learn and clarifies many differences.

Animals too are born having senses, and from these some have memory and some do not. This is why some animals have more thoughts and may learn better than those who are not capable of memory. Some are clever but without the skill of learning, for example the bee or another other type of this kind of creature. However so many creatures have perception in addition to memory can learn. The rest of the animals live by images and instincts and have a small portion of experience.

The human race survives both by skill and reasoning. Experience comes to us from memory—for the many memories of the same matter results in the power of a single experience. Experience certainly seems similar to knowledge and skill, but knowledge and skill come to people from experience. For, “experience produces art,”  as Polus has rightly pronounced, “while inexperience makes good luck.”

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Πάντες ἄνθρωποι τοῦ εἰδέναι ὀρέγονται φύσει. σημεῖον δ᾿ ἡ τῶν αἰσθήσεων ἀγάπησις· καὶ γὰρ χωρὶς τῆς χρείας ἀγαπῶνται δι᾿ αὑτάς, καὶ μάλιστα τῶν ἄλλων ἡ διὰ τῶν ὀμμάτων. οὐ γὰρ μόνον ἵνα πράττωμεν ἀλλὰ καὶ μηθὲν μέλλοντες πράττειν τὸ ὁρᾶν αἱρούμεθα ἀντὶ πάντων ὡς εἰπεῖν τῶν ἄλλων. αἴτιον δ᾿ ὅτι μάλιστα ποιεῖ γνωρίζειν τι ἡμᾶς αὕτη τῶν αἰσθήσεων, καὶ πολλὰς δηλοῖ διαφοράς. Φύσει μὲν οὖν αἴσθησιν ἔχοντα γίγνεται τὰ ζῷα, ἐκ δὲ ταύτης τοῖς μὲν αὐτῶν οὐκ ἐγγίγνεται μνήμη τοῖς δ᾿ ἐγγίγνεται. καὶ διὰ τοῦτο ταῦτα φρονιμώτερα καὶ μαθητικώτερα τῶν μὴ δυναμένων μνημονεύειν ἐστί, φρόνιμα μὲν ἄνευ τοῦ μανθάνειν ὅσα μὴ δύναται τῶν ψόφων ἀκούειν, οἷον μέλιττα, καὶ εἴ τι τοιοῦτον ἄλλο γένος ζῴων ἔστι· μανθάνει δ᾿ ὅσα πρὸς τῇ μνήμῃ καὶ ταύτην ἔχει τὴν αἴσθησιν. Τὰ μὲν οὖν ἄλλα ταῖς φαντασίαις ζῇ καὶ ταῖς μνήμαις, ἐμπειρίας δὲ μετέχει μικρόν· τὸ δὲ τῶν ἀνθρώπων γένος καὶ τέχνῃ καὶ λογισμοῖς. γίγνεται δ᾿ ἐκ τῆς μνήμης ἐμπειρία τοῖς ἀνθρώποις αἱ γὰρ πολλαὶ μνῆμαι τοῦ αὐτοῦ πράγματος μιᾶς ἐμπειρίας δύναμιν ἀποτελοῦσιν. καὶ δοκεῖ σχεδὸν ἐπιστήμῃ καὶ τέχνῃ ὅμοιον εἶναι ἡ ἐμπειρία, ἀποβαίνει δ᾿ ἐπιστήμη καὶ τέχνη διὰ τῆς ἐμπειρίας τοῖς ἀνθρώποις· ἡ μὲν γὰρ ἐμπειρία τέχνην ἐποί- ησεν, ὡς φησὶ Πῶλος, ὀρθῶς λέγων, ἡ δ᾿ ἀπειρία τύχην.

Children and the Uneducated Need Scary Stories

Strabo 1.8

“Whenever you also consider the amazing and the disturbing, you amplify the pleasure which is a magic charm for learning. In the early years, we must use this sort of thing to entice children, but as their age increases we must lead them to a knowledge of reality as soon as their perception has gotten stronger and they no longer need much cajoling. Every illiterate and ignorant person is in some way a child and loves stories like a child. The one who has been only partially educated is similar, for he does not abound in the ability to reason and, in addition, his childish custom persists. Since not only frightening but also disturbing tales bring pleasure, we need to use both of these kinds of tales for children and those who are grown up too. For children, we provide pleasing fictions to encourage them and frightening tales to deter them.”

ὅταν δὲ προσῇ καὶ τὸ θαυμαστὸν καὶ τὸ τερατῶδες, ἐπιτείνει τὴν ἡδονήν, ἥπερ ἐστὶ τοῦ μανθάνειν φίλτρον. κατ᾿ ἀρχὰς μὲν οὖν ἀνάγκη τοιούτοις δελέασι χρῆσθαι, προϊούσης δὲ τῆς ἡλικίας ἐπὶ τὴν τῶν ὄντων μάθησιν ἄγειν, ἤδη τῆς διανοίας ἐρρωμένης καὶ μηκέτι δεομένης κολάκων. καὶ ἰδιώτης δὲ πᾶς καὶ ἀπαίδευτος τρόπον τινὰ παῖς ἐστι φιλομυθεῖ τε ὡσαύτως· ὁμοίως δὲ καὶ ὁ πεπαιδευμένος μετρίως· οὐδὲ γὰρ οὗτος ἰσχύει τῷ λογισμῷ, πρόσεστι δὲ καὶ τὸ ἐκ παιδὸς ἔθος. ἐπεὶ δ᾿ οὐ μόνον ἡδύ, ἀλλὰ καὶ φοβερὸν τὸ τερατῶδες, ἀμφοτέρων ἐστὶ τῶν εἰδῶν χρεία πρός τε τοὺς παῖδας καὶ τοὺς ἐν ἡλικίᾳ· τοῖς τε γὰρ παισὶ προσφέρομεν τοὺς ἡδεῖς μύθους εἰς προτροπήν, εἰς ἀποτροπὴν δὲ τοὺς φοβερούς.

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Two Accounts for the Name Therapne: Helen Dendrites; Clever Menelaos

In a mythography assignment, several students wrote about cults of Helen in the ancient world (below are some of the secondary texts I told them to consult). I don’t know if I forgot or just never heard of the story of Helen’s death in Rhodes (below). Several students mentioned this (including the one who just wrote about Helen’s deaths). Pausanias presents the best known account of this story; there is a variation from a rhetorician below.

Pausanias 3.19. 9–13

“Therapnê has its name for the country from the daughter of Lelegos. There is a shrine of Menelaos there where they say that Menelaos and Helen are married. The Rhodians do not agree with the Lakedamonians when they say that because Menelaos died and Orestes was still wandering, Helen was expelled by Nikostratos and Megapenthes and arrived in Rhodes where she had help from Poluksô, the wife of Tlepolemos. Poluksô was Argive by birth, and she shared Tlepolemos’ exile to Rhodes after she married him. Then she ruled the island, abandoned with an orphan child. They claim that this Poluksô, once she got her in her power, wanted to take vengeance upon Helen for the death of Tlepolemos. When Helen was bathing, she sent serving women dressed up just like the Furies to her. These women took ahold of Helen and hanged her from a tree. For this reason, there is a shrine to “Helen of the Tree”.

Θεράπνη δὲ ὄνομα μὲν τῷ χωρίῳ γέγονεν ἀπὸ τῆς Λέλεγος θυγατρός, Μενελάου δέ ἐστιν ἐν αὐτῇ ναός, καὶ Μενέλαον καὶ Ἑλένην ἐνταῦθα ταφῆναι λέγουσιν. Ῥόδιοι δὲ οὐχ ὁμολογοῦντες Λακεδαιμονίοις φασὶν Ἑλένην Μενελάου τελευτήσαντος, Ὀρέστου δὲ ἔτι πλανωμένου, τηνικαῦτα ὑπὸ Νικοστράτου καὶ Μεγαπένθους διωχθεῖσαν ἐς Ῥόδον ἀφικέσθαι Πολυξοῖ τῇ Τληπολέμου γυναικὶ ἔχουσαν ἐπιτηδείως· εἶναι γὰρ καὶ Πολυξὼ τὸ γένος Ἀργείαν, Τηλπολέμῳ δὲ ἔτι πρότερον συνοικοῦσαν φυγῆς μετασχεῖν τῆς ἐς Ῥόδον καὶ τῆς νήσου τηνικαῦτα ἄρχειν ὑπολειπομένην ἐπὶ ὀρφανῷ παιδί. ταύτην τὴν Πολυξώ φασιν ἐπιθυμοῦσαν Ἑλένην τιμωρήσασθαι τελευτῆς τῆς Τληπολέμου τότε, ὡς ἔλαβεν αὐτὴν ὑποχείριον, ἐπιπέμψαι οἱ λουμένῃ θεραπαίνας Ἐρινύσιν ἴσα ἐσκευασμένας· καὶ αὗται διαλαβοῦσαι δὴ τὴν Ἑλένην αἱ γυναῖκες ἀπάγχουσιν ἐπὶ δένδρου, καὶ ἐπὶ τούτῳ Ῥοδίοις Ἑλένης ἱερόν ἐστι Δενδρίτιδος.

Polyainos, 2nd Century CE (Strategemata 1.13)

“When Menelaos was leaving from Egypt and bringing Helen along he visited Rhodes. The wife of Tlepolemos, who died at Troy, Poluksô, was grieving when someone announced that Menelaos had arrived with Helen. She was planned to avenge her husband and ran toward the ships with all of the Rhodian men and women gathering up stones and fire. When Menelaos was prevented from departing by a wind, he hid Helen in the hollow ship and put her outfit and crown on the maid who was most beautiful. Because they actually believed that this was Helen, they [hurled] fire and stones at the serving woman and retreated because they believed that the death of Helen was a sufficient retribution for Tlepolemos. Then Menelaos sailed away, keeping Helen.”

Μενέλαος ἐπανιὼν ἀπ’ Αἰγύπτου τὴν ῾Ελένην ἄγων ῾Ρόδῳ προσέσχε. Τληπολέμου δὲ ἐν Τροίᾳ τεθνηκότος γυνὴ Πολυξὼ πενθοῦσα, ἐπειδή τις ἤγγειλε Μενέλεων μετὰ τῆς ῾Ελένης ἥκειν, τιμωρῆσαι τῷ ἀνδρὶ βουλομένη μετὰ ῾Ροδίων ἁπάντων ἀνδρῶν καὶ γυναικῶν αἰρομένων πῦρ καὶ λίθους ἐπὶ τὰς ναῦς κατέδραμε. Μενέλεως ὑπὸ τοῦ πνεύματος ἀναχθῆναι κωλυόμενος τὴν μὲν ῾Ελένην ἐς κοίλην ναῦν κατέκρυψε, τὸν δὲ κόσμον αὐτῆς καὶ τὸ διάδημα θεραπαίνῃ τῇ μάλιστα καλλίστῃ περιέθηκεν. οἱ δὲ (μάλιστα) πιστεύσαντες ῾Ελένην εἶναι πῦρ καὶ λίθους ἐπὶ τὴν θεράπαιναν *** καὶ ὡς ἱκανὴν δίκην ἐπὶ τῷ Τληπολέμῳ λαβόντες τὸν ῾Ελένης θάνατον ἀνεχώρησαν. Μενέλεως δὲ τὴν ῾Ελένην ἔχων ἀπέπλευσεν.

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Some useful texts

Ruby Blondell. Helen of Troy: Beauty, Myth, Devastation. Oxford: 2013.

Linda Lee Clader. Helen: The Evolution from Divine to Heroic in Greek Epic Tradition. Leiden: Brill, 1976.

Lowell Edmunds. Stealing Helen: The Myth of the Abducted Wife in Comparative Perspective. Princeton 2016.

R. Farnell. The Cults of the Greek City States. 5 Volumes.

Timothy Gantz. Early Greek myth: a guide to literary and artistic sources. Baltimore.

Robert Fowler. Early Greek Mythography. 2 Vols. 2000 and 2013.

Jennifer Larson. Greek Heroine Cults. Madison, 1995. BL795.H47 L37 1995

 

Education and Easy Burials: Two Socratic Anecdotes

Both of these anecdotes appear in Stobaeus where they are attributed to Aelian

Stob. 4.55.10

When Socrates was about to drink the hemlock, and those accompanying Crito asked him how he wished to be buried, he answered “however is easiest for you.”

ὁ Σωκράτης ἐπεὶ τὸ κώνειον ἔμελλε πίεσθαι, τῶν ἀμφὶ τὸν Κρίτωνα ἐρομένων αὐτὸν τίνα τρόπον ταφῆναι θέλει, “ὅπως ἂν ὑμῖν” ἀπεκρίνατο “ᾖ ῥᾷστον.”

Stob. 2.31.38

“Noble Socrates reproached fathers who did not teach their sons and then, when they were destitute, took their sons to court and sued them as ungrateful because they did not support their parents. He said that the fathers were expecting something impossible: those who have not learned just actions are incapable of performing them”

Σωκράτης ὁ γενναῖος ᾐτιᾶτο τῶν πατέρων ἐκείνους, ὅσοι <μὴ> παιδεύσαντες αὑτῶν τοὺς υἱεῖς, εἶτα ἀπορούμενοι ἦγον ἐπὶ τὰς ἀρχὰς τοὺς νεανίσκους καὶ ἔκρινον αὐτοὺς ἀχαριστίας, ὅτι οὐ τρέφονται ὑπ᾿ αὐτῶν. εἶπε γὰρ ἀδύνατον ἀξιοῦν τοὺς πατέρας· μὴ γὰρ οἵους τε εἶναι τοὺς μὴ μαθόντας τὰ δίκαια ποιεῖν αὐτά.

 

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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.

Back to School Week: The Importance of the Liberal Arts

Earlier in the year, we posted Socrates’ odd depiction of the life of the mind as without emotion and pleasure followed by rather gentle epistolary reflections on the urge (or compulsion!) to publish. Here are some Roman thoughts on academic endeavors.

Seneca, Moral Epistles 88.20

“Why do we train our children in the liberal arts? It is not because these studies can grant someone virtue, but because they prepare the soul for accepting it.”

“Quare ergo liberalibus studiis filios erudimus?” Non quia virtutem dare possunt, sed quia animum ad accipiendam virtutem praeparant.

Cicero, De Finibus 5.18

“Don’t we observe that people who are attracted to academic studies and the arts take no account of strength or business when they are dedicated to thought itself and knowledge and they are compensated by the pleasure they derive from learning? Homer seems to me to have understood this when he composed the verses about the Sirens. For they did not seem to attract those who were traveling past by the sweetness of their voices or the newness and variety of their singing, but the men used to cling to their rocks because of a passion for learning the many things they claimed to know.”

qui ingenuis studiis atque artibus delectantur, nonne videmus eos nec valetudinis nec rei familiaris habere rationem omniaque perpeti ipsa cognitione et scientia captos et cum maximis curis et laboribus compensare 49eam quam ex discendo capiant voluptatem? Mihi quidem Homerus huiusmodi quiddam vidisse videtur in iis quae de Sirenum cantibus finxerit. Neque enim vocum suavitate videntur aut novitate quadam et varietate cantandi revocare eos solitae qui praetervehebantur, sed quia multa se scire profitebantur, ut homines ad earum saxa discendi cupiditate adhaerescerent.

Cicero, De Senectute 30

“No teachers of the liberal arts should considered unlucky even when they have aged and lost their physical strength”

nec ulli bonarum artium magistri non beati putandi, quamvis consenuerint vires atque defecerint.

Seneca, De Otio 5

“For have we not seen how great nor how many things there are, but our sight lays open a path of investigation and lays the bedrock of truth so that our inquiry may move from well-known things to hidden and discover something older than the world itself…”

Nec enim omnia nec tanta visimus quanta sunt, sed acies nostra aperit sibi investigandi viam et fundamenta vero iacit, ut inquisitio transeat ex apertis in obscura et aliquid ipso mundo inveniat antiquius…

Vergerio, de ingenuis moribus et liberalibus adulescentiae studiis, V:

“Therefore, we should all consider our own natural ability at our own prompting, or, if such consideration is not possible because of one’s age, our parents and others to whom we are dear should turn their attention to this; and we should then exercise our industry and totally absorb ourselves in those pursuits which we are most inclined to by nature. Indeed, those especially who possess liberal intellectual talent should not be allowed to waste away in idle leisure or to be wrapped up in illiberal business.”

Principio igitur erit unicuique suum ingenium per se spectandum aut, si minus per aetatem nobis perpendere licebit, parentes ceterique quibus curae erimus animadvertere debebunt, et in quas res natura proni aptique fuerimus, eo potissimum studia nostra conferri et in eis totos versari conveniet. Maxime vero qui sunt liberale ingenium a natura consecuti, sinendi non sunt aut inerti otio torpere aut illiberalibus implicari negotiis.

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A twitter correspondent desired the addition of a passage. We aim to please…

Cicero, De Oratore I.20

“And, by my judgment, no one could be an orator worthy of all praise unless he has pursued learning in all the significant subject and arts. Surely, it is from an understanding of these things that oratory may blossom and grow. Unless this material is sensed and transmitted through his speech, an orator will possess empty, even childish language. Indeed, I will not completely place such a weight upon our orators—especially not our own who  labor in so much distraction from our urban life—that I believe that there is nothing which they may not know—even though the power of the name orator and the very claim of speaking well seems to accept and promise the ability to speak well and at length about any subject which is proposed.”

Ac, mea quidem sententia, nemo poterit esse omni laude cumulatus orator, nisi erit omnium rerum magnarum atque artium scientiam consecutus. Etenim ex rerum cognitione efflorescat et redundet oportet oratio; quae, nisi subest res ab oratore percepta et cognita, inanem quamdam habet elocutionem, 21et paene puerilem. Neque vero ego hoc tantum oneris imponam nostris praesertim oratoribus, in hac tanta occupatione urbis ac vitae, nihil ut eis putem licere nescire: quanquam vis oratoris professioque ipsa bene dicendi, hoc suscipere ac polliceri videtur, ut omni de re, quaecumque sit proposita, ab 22eo ornate copioseque dicatur.

From Aulus Gellius, Attic Nights Book 13

17. That humanitas does not mean that which the common people believe it does but those who speak more properly use this word with a different meaning.

“Those who have spoken Latin and have used it correctly do not give the word humanitas the meaning which it commonly acquires, one equivalent to Greek philanthropia, indicating a certain kindly disposition and well-wishing toward all men indiscriminately. No, in correct use, humanitas means what the Greeks call paideia, what we have called education and training in the noble arts—these are the arts through which, when men learn them, they become most humanized. For the pursuit of this knowledge and the discipline derived from it has been given alone to mankind of all the animals—this is what it is called humanitas.

This is the way in which older writers use the word and among them especially Marcus Varro and Marcus Tullius, as nearly all the books show. I therefore consider it enough to offer a single example. So,  I quote hear the words from Varro’s first book of Human Antiquities, whose beginning goes like this: “Praxiteles, who thanks to his unparalleled artwork, is famous to anyone who has a little bit of liberal learning [humaniori].” Varro, here, does not use humaniori in a colloquial sense, as “easy-going, kind, or friendly, without knowledge of letters”—this meaning does not at all match his statement. What he means with it is a “man of some learning and training” who would know who Praxiteles was from books and spoken accounts.”

XVII. “Humanitatem” non significare id, quod volgus putat, sed eo vocabulo, qui sinceriter locuti sunt, magis proprie esse usos.

Qui verba Latina fecerunt quique his probe usi sunt, “humanitatem” non id esse voluerunt, quod volgus existimat quodque a Graecis philanthropia dicitur et significat dexteritatem quandam benivolentiamque erga omnis homines promiscam, sed “humanitatem” appellaverunt id propemodum, quod Graeci paideian vocant, nos eruditionem institutionemque in bonas artis dicimus. Quas qui sinceriter cupiunt adpetuntque, hi sunt vel maxime humanissimi. Huius enim scientiae cura et disciplina ex universis animantibus uni homini datast idcircoque “humanitas” appellata est.

Sic igitur eo verbo veteres esse usos et cumprimis M. Varronem Marcumque Tullium omnes ferme libri declarant. Quamobrem satis habui unum interim exemplum promere. III. Itaque verba posui Varronis e libro rerum humanarum primo, cuius principium hoc est: “Praxiteles, qui propter artificium egregium nemini est paulum modo humaniori ignotus”. IV. “Humaniori” inquit non ita, ut vulgo dicitur, facili et tractabili et benivolo, tametsi rudis litterarum sit – hoc enim cum sententia nequaquam convenit -, sed eruditiori doctiorique, qui Praxitelem, quid fuerit, et ex libris et ex historia cognoverit.

R.C. Jebb, Humanism in Education:

“Classical studies help to preserve sound standards of literature. It is not difficult to lose such standards, even for a nation with the highest material civilisation, with abounding mental activity, and with a great literature of its own. It is peculiarly easy to do so in days when the lighter and more ephemeral kinds of writing form for many people the staple of daily reading, The fashions of the hour may start a movement, not in the best direction, which may go on until the path is difficult to retrace. The humanities, if they cannot prevent such a movement, can do something to temper and counteract it ; because they appeal to permanent things, to the instinct for beauty in human nature, and to the emotions ; and in any one who is at all susceptible to their influence they develop a literary conscience. Nor is this all. Their power in the higher education will affect the quality of the literary teaching lower down. Every one can see how vitally important it is for us, in this country and at this moment, to maintain, in our general education, a proper balance of subjects, and to secure that, while scientific and technical studies have full scope, a due efficacy shall be given also to the studies of literature and history.”

Ac de doctrinis quidem et ingeniis ac utrorumque generibus ita videtur definiendum. In quibus est id ante omnia animadvertendum, quod non modo maiora illa praecepta quae provectoribus traduntur, sed et prima quoque atrium elementa ab optimis praeceptoribus accipere convenit, et ex auctoribus librorum, non quibuslibet passim immorari, sed optimis. Qua ratione et Philippus, rex Macedonum, primas litteras ab Aristotele discere Alexandrum voluit, et veteres Romanos suos liberos scholae mancipantes in Vergilio primum erudiri curabant; optima utrique ratione. Nam quod teneris mentibus insitum est, alte radices mittit, nec facile postea divelli ulla vi potest. Ergo si melioribus initio assueverint, illos habebunt praecipuos et veluti ducibus semper utentur. Sin vero errores ullos imbiberint, his duplici tempore opus erit, primum ut errores excutiant, ac deinde ut vera praecepta condiscant. Quamobrem Timotheus, musicus suo tempore illustris, qui ob multiplicatas in cithara chordas et novorum modorum adinventionem Sparta iussus est exulare, ab discipulis quidem, qui nihil apud alios profecissent, certam paciscebatur mercedem, ab iis vero, qui ex aliis quippiam edidicerant, duplam exigebat.

Education and Gardening: Two Plant Metaphors for Learning and Teaching

Hippocrates of Cos, Law 3

“Learning about medicine is a bit like the development of plants in the earth. For our native skill is like the land; the beliefs of our teachers are like seeds. Childhood learning is similar to when seeds are planted in the field. And the place where learning happens is like the nourishment that comes to plants from the sky around them. Hard work is like the working of the field. Time brings strength to all these things so that they grow to completion.”

III. Ὁκοίη γὰρ τῶν ἐν γῇ φυομένων θεωρίη, τοιήδε καὶ τῆς ἰητρικῆς ἡ μάθησις. ἡ μὲν γὰρ φύσις ἡμέων ὁκοῖον ἡ χώρη· τὰ δὲ δόγματα τῶν διδασκόντων ὁκοῖον τὰ σπέρματα· ἡ δὲ παιδομαθίη, τὸ καθ᾿ ὥρην αὐτὰ πεσεῖν ἐς τὴν ἄρουραν· ὁ δὲ τόπος ἐν ᾧ ἡ μάθησις, ὁκοῖον ἡ ἐκ τοῦ περιέχοντος ἠέρος τροφὴ γιγνομένη τοῖσι φυομένοισιν· ἡ δὲ φιλοπονίη, ἐργασίη· ὁ δὲ χρόνος ταῦτα ἐνισχύει πάντα, † ὡς τραφῆναι τελέως.

 

Plutarch, On the Education of Children 4c-d

“I am now going to consider one of the most significant and influential things I have said. For we must select teachers for our students who are also free of slander in their own lives, whose habits cannot be criticized and who are best in regards to experience. For obtaining a proper education is the spring and root of goodness. Just as a farmer helps straighten young plants, so too may good teachers guide students with precepts and advice so that their characters may grow correctly. These days there are certain fathers one might condemn because, before considering the people who will teach their children, entrust them to inexperienced or unworthy teachers, either because of ignorance or naivete.”

Τὸ δὲ πάντων μέγιστον καὶ κυριώτατον τῶν εἰρημένων ἔρχομαι φράσων. διδασκάλους γὰρ ζητητέον τοῖς τέκνοις, οἳ καὶ τοῖς βίοις εἰσὶν ἀδιάβλητοι καὶ τοῖς τρόποις ἀνεπίληπτοι καὶ ταῖς ἐμπειρίαις ἄριστοι· πηγὴ γὰρ καὶ ῥίζα καλοκαγαθίας τὸ νομίμου τυχεῖν παιδείας. καὶ καθάπερ τὰς χάρακας οἱ γεωργοὶ τοῖς φυτοῖς παρατιθέασιν, οὕτως οἱ νόμιμοι τῶν διδασκάλων ἐμμελεῖς τὰς ὑποθήκας καὶ παραινέσεις παραπηγνύουσι τοῖς νέοις, ἵν᾿ ὀρθὰ τούτων βλαστάνῃ τὰ ἤθη. νῦν δέ τις κἂν καταπτύσειε τῶν πατέρων ἐνίων, οἵτινες πρὶν δοκιμάσαι τοὺς μέλλοντας διδάσκειν, δι᾿ ἄγνοιαν, ἔσθ᾿ ὅτε καὶ δι᾿ ἀπειρίαν, ἀνθρώποις ἀδοκίμοις καὶ παρασήμοις ἐγχειρίζουσι τοὺς παῖδας.

When I was in kindergarten, my teacher had us sing this song all the time. I did not realize it at the time that we were engaged in an ultra meta-educative reflection. Do you like to grow ideas in the garden of your mind?