Knowledge, Cooperation, and the Common Good

Manilius, Astronomica 67-84

“Humanity waited, thunderstruck by the new light in the sky,
First grieving as it disappeared, then overjoyed at its return.
The human race was incapable of understanding the reasons
Why the sun rose so frequently once it sent the stars
In flight, why the length of days and nights was uncertain
And why the shadows changed too as the sun moved farther away.

Stubborn obsession had not yet taught humankind knowledge and skill
And the land was resting open at the hands of untrained farmers.
At that time gold was resting in untouched mountains
And the untroubled sea hid strange worlds—
For the human race did not dare to risk life
In the waves or wind—people believed that they did not know enough.

But the passage of long days sharpened mortal thought
And hard work produced invention for the miserable
Just as each person’s luck compelled him to turn to himself to make life better.
Then, they competed with each other once their interests were divided
And whatever wisdom practice found through testing,
They happily shared for the common good.”

et stupefacta novo pendebat lumine mundi,
tum velut amisso maerens, tum laeta renato,
surgentem neque enim totiens Titana fugatis
sideribus, variosque dies incertaque noctis
tempora nec similis umbras, iam sole regresso
iam propiore, suis poterat discernere causis.
necdum etiam doctas sollertia fecerat artes,
terraque sub rudibus cessabat vasta colonis;
tumque in desertis habitabat montibus aurum,
immotusque novos pontus subduxerat orbes,
nec vitam pelago nec ventis credere vota
audebant; se quisque satis novisse putabant.
sed cum longa dies acuit mortalia corda
et labor ingenium miseris dedit et sua quemque
advigilare sibi iussit fortuna premendo,
seducta in varias certarunt pectora curas
et, quodcumque sagax temptando repperit usus,
in commune bonum commentum laeta dederunt.

17th-century chart of the universe, with zodiac signs and the earth at the center
From Wikipedia. 17th-century depiction in Andreas Cellarius‘s Harmonia Macrocosmica.

The Ideal Friend According to Ennius

Gellius, Attic Nights 12.4

“Some verses are quoted from the seventh book of Quintus Ennius’ Annals in which the character and behavior of a lower ranked man towards a socially superior friend is depicted and defined”

In the seventh book of the Annals we find Quintus Ennius  clearly and learnedly describing and defining in the story of Geminius Servilius, a nobleman, with what character, attitude, humility, trust, control over speech, context for speaking, with which knowledge of ancient things and old and new manners, with how much effort for guarding secret belief, and what kinds of treatments there are against the annoyances of life which are necessary aids for a friend of a man who is superior by birth and fortune to have.

I judge these verses to be no less worthy of frequent and constant remembrance than the philosophers’ sayings about responsibilities. In addition to this, the savor of antiquity in these verses must be so revered, its sweetness is so simple and removed from every kind of contamination, that my belief is that they must be remembered, and considered, and cultivated in the place just as ancient and sacred laws of friendship

Versus accepti ex Q. Enni septimo Annalium, quibus depingitur finiturque ingenium comitasque hominis minoris erga amicum superiorem.

Descriptum definitumque est a Quinto Ennio in Annaliseptimo graphice admodum sciteque sub historia Gemini Servili, viri nobilis, quo ingenio, qua comitate, qua modestia, qua fide, qua linguae parsimonia, qua loquendi opportunitate, quanta rerum antiquarum morumque veterum ac novorum scientia quantaque servandi tuendique secreti religione, qualibus denique ad muniendas vitae molestias fomentis,
levamentis, solacis amicum esse conveniat hominis genere et fortuna superioris.

Eos ego versus non minus frequenti adsiduoque memoratu dignos puto quam philosophorum de officiis decreta. Ad hoc color quidam vestustatis in his versibus tam reverendus est, suavitas tam inpromisca tamque a fuco omni remota est, ut mea quidem sententia pro antiquis sacratisque amicitiae legibus observandi, tenendi colendique sint. Quapropter adscribendos eos existimavi, si quis iam statim desideraret:

Ennius, Annals 7 fr.12

Once he said these things, he calls for a man with whom he often, happily, and freely
Shared a table and conversations about his own private affairs
When he found himself worn thin after the greater part of the day
From ruling the most important affairs of the state:
Advice grated in the form and in the sacred Senate.
To this man he would speak boldly on matters small and great
And tell jokes and empty himself of evil and good concerns
Through speech if he wanted to and know they are safe.
This man with whom he shares much pleasure
Communicating both secret and public joys
Whose nature no mere saying of evil sways
So that he might commit a lightly considered or evil deed.
A learned, trusty, kind, pleasurable, happy man content with his life,
Understanding, offering the right word at the right time,
Friendly but of few words, possessing much knowledge of antiquity
Buried by time, mastering customs new and old
The laws of many gods and men of antiquity,
A wise man, who can speak or be silent on what has been spoken.
In the middle of the fight Servilius addresses this man.

They claim that Lucius Aelius Stilo used to say that Ennius composed these words about him and that this was actually the detail of Ennius’ own character and customs.”

Haece locutus vocat quocum bene saepe libenter
Mensam sermonesque suos rerumque suarum
Comiter inpertit, magnam cum lassus diei
Partem fuisset, de summis rebus regundis
Consilio indu foro lato sanctoque senatu;
Cui res audacter magnas parvasque iocumque
Eloqueretur sed cura malaque et bona dictu
Evomeret, si qui vellet, tutoque locaret,
Quocum multa volup ac gaudia clamque
palamque;
Ingenium cui nulla malum sententia suadet
Ut faceret facinus levis aut malus; doctus, fidelis,
Suavis homo, facundus, suo contentus, beatus,
Scitus, secunda loquens in tempore, commodus,
verbum
Paucum, multa tenens antiqua sepulta, vetustas
Quem facit et mores veteresque novosque tenentem,
Multorum veterum leges divumque hominumque;
Prudenter qui dicta loquive tacereve posset;
Hunc inter pugnas conpellat Servilius sic.

Image result for Ennius
Ennius from Wikipedia

#BuyNothingDay: Read Some More Lucretius

Lucretius, De Rerum Natura 5.1430-1439

“The race of man, then, labors uselessly and in vain
as we always consume our time in empty concerns
because we don’t understand that there’s a limit to having—
and there’s an end to how far true pleasure can grow.
This has dragged life bit by bit into the deep sea
and has stirred at its bottom great blasts of war.
But the guardian of the earth turns around the great sky
and teaches men truly that the year’s seasons come full circle
and that all must be endured with a sure reason and order.”

Ergo hominum genus in cassum frustraque laborat
semper et [in] curis consumit inanibus aevom,
ni mirum quia non cognovit quae sit habendi
finis et omnino quoad crescat vera voluptas;
idque minutatim vitam provexit in altum
et belli magnos commovit funditus aestus.
at vigiles mundi magnum versatile templum
sol et luna suo lustrantes lumine circum
perdocuere homines annorum tempora verti
et certa ratione geri rem atque ordine certo.

Epicureanism doesn’t do it for you? Here’s something else;

Epictetus, Encheiridion 44

“These statements are illogical: “I am richer than you and therefore better than you. I am more articulate than you and therefore better than you.” But these conclusions are more fitting: “I am wealthier than you, therefore my possessions are greater than yours. I am more articulate than you, therefore my speech is better than yours.” You are neither your property nor your speech.”

c. 44. Οὗτοι οἱ λόγοι ἀσύνακτοι· “ἐγώ σου πλουσιώτερός εἰμι, ἐγώ σου ἄρα κρείσσων”· “ἐγώ σου λογιώτερος, ἐγώ σου ἄρα κρείσσων” ἐκεῖνοι δὲ μᾶλλον συνακτικοί· “ἐγώ σου πλουσιώτερός εἰμι, ἡ ἐμὴ ἄρα κτῆσις τῆς σῆς κρείσσων”· “ἐγώ σου λογιώτερος, ἡ ἐμὴ ἄρα λέξις τῆς σῆς κρείσσων.” σὺ δὲ γε οὔτε κτῆσις εἶ οὔτε λέξις.

Some Approving Words from Cicero,

Cicero, Paradoxa Stoicorum 7-8

“Can something good be bad for anyone, or is it possible for someone not to be good in the abundance of goods? But indeed, we see that all of those things we mentioned are of such a sort that the wicked have them, but the good do not. For that reason, anyone at all may laugh at me if they wish, but true reasoning will possess more power with me than the opinion of the common mob. Nor will I ever say that someone has lost their goods if they should lose their cattle or furniture. I will always praise the wise man Bias who, as I think, is numbered among the seven sages. When the enemy had seized his fatherland of Priene, and the other citizens were fleeing while carrying many of their possessions with them, Bias was advised by another to do them same himself. Bias responded, ‘I am doing just that – I carry everything I own with me.’”

Potestne bonum cuiquam malo esse, aut potest quisquam in abundantia bonorum ipse esse non bonus? Atqui ista omnia talia videmus, ut et inprobi habeant et absint probis. Quam ob rem licet inrideat, si qui vult, plus apud me tamen vera ratio valebit quam vulgi opinio; neque ego umquam bona perdidisse dicam, si quis pecus aut supellectilem amiserit, nec non saepe laudabo sapientem illum, Biantem, ut opinor, qui numeratur in septem; cuius quom patriam Prienam cepisset hostis ceterique ita fugerent, ut multa de suis rebus asportarent, cum esset admonitus a quodam, ut idem ipse faceret, ‘Ego vero’, inquit, ‘facio; nam omnia mecum porto mea.’

Image result for medieval manuscript marketplace scene
Market scene, 15th century, Manuscript, Bibliothèque Municipale, Rouen

It’s Wednesday: An Eternal Death Awaits, No Matter What

Lucretius, De Rerum Natura 3.1076-1094

 

“Finally, what great and vile desire for life compels us
To quake so much amidst doubts and dangers?
Mortals have an absolute end to our lives:
Death cannot be evaded—we must leave.
Nevertheless, we move again and still persist—
No new pleasure is procured by living;
But while what we desire is absent, that seems to overcome
All other things; but later, when we have gained it, we want something else—
An endless thirst for life grips us as we gasp for it.
It remains unclear what fortune life will offer,
What chance may bring us and what end awaits.
But by extending life we do not subtract a moment
Of time from death nor can we shorten it
So that we may somehow have less time after our ends.
Therefore, you may continue as living as many generations as you want,
But that everlasting death will wait for you still,
And he will be there for no less a long time, the man who
Has found the end of life with today’s light, than the man who died
Many months and many years before.”

Denique tanto opere in dubiis trepidare periclis
quae mala nos subigit vitai tanta cupido?
certe equidem finis vitae mortalibus adstat
nec devitari letum pote, quin obeamus.
praeterea versamur ibidem atque insumus usque
nec nova vivendo procuditur ulla voluptas;
sed dum abest quod avemus, id exsuperare videtur
cetera; post aliud, cum contigit illud, avemus
et sitis aequa tenet vitai semper hiantis.
posteraque in dubiost fortunam quam vehat aetas,
quidve ferat nobis casus quive exitus instet.
nec prorsum vitam ducendo demimus hilum
tempore de mortis nec delibare valemus,
quo minus esse diu possimus forte perempti.
proinde licet quod vis vivendo condere saecla,
mors aeterna tamen nihilo minus illa manebit,
nec minus ille diu iam non erit, ex hodierno
lumine qui finem vitai fecit, et ille,
mensibus atque annis qui multis occidit ante.

Before You Shop for Christmas, Read Some More Lucretius

Lucretius, De Rerum Natura 5.1430-1439

“The race of man, then, labors uselessly and in vain
as we always consume our time in empty concerns
because we don’t understand that there’s a limit to having—
and there’s an end to how far true pleasure can grow.
This has dragged life bit by bit into the deep sea
and has stirred at its bottom great blasts of war.
But the guardian of the earth turns around the great sky
and teaches men truly that the year’s seasons come full circle
and that all must be endured with a sure reason and order.”

Ergo hominum genus in cassum frustraque laborat
semper et [in] curis consumit inanibus aevom,
ni mirum quia non cognovit quae sit habendi
finis et omnino quoad crescat vera voluptas;
idque minutatim vitam provexit in altum
et belli magnos commovit funditus aestus.
at vigiles mundi magnum versatile templum
sol et luna suo lustrantes lumine circum
perdocuere homines annorum tempora verti
et certa ratione geri rem atque ordine certo.

Corrupt Leaders Make Corrupt Countries: Hesiod, Works and Days, 217-229

“Oath runs right alongside crooked judgments.
But a roar comes from Justice as she is dragged where
bribe-devouring men lead when they apply laws with crooked judgments.
She attends the city and the haunts of the hosts
weeping and cloaked in mist, bringing evil to men
who drive her out and do not practice righteous law.
For those who give fair judgments to foreigners and citizens
and who do not transgress the law in any way,
cities grow strong, and the people flourish within them;
A child-nourishing peace settles on the land, and never
Does wide-browed Zeus sound the sign of harsh war.”

αὐτίκα γὰρ τρέχει ῞Ορκος ἅμα σκολιῇσι δίκῃσιν·
τῆς δὲ Δίκης ῥόθος ἑλκομένης ᾗ κ’ ἄνδρες ἄγωσι
δωροφάγοι, σκολιῇς δὲ δίκῃς κρίνωσι θέμιστας·
ἣ δ’ ἕπεται κλαίουσα πόλιν καὶ ἤθεα λαῶν,
ἠέρα ἑσσαμένη, κακὸν ἀνθρώποισι φέρουσα,
οἵ τέ μιν ἐξελάσωσι καὶ οὐκ ἰθεῖαν ἔνειμαν.
οἳ δὲ δίκας ξείνοισι καὶ ἐνδήμοισι διδοῦσιν
ἰθείας καὶ μή τι παρεκβαίνουσι δικαίου,
τοῖσι τέθηλε πόλις, λαοὶ δ’ ἀνθεῦσιν ἐν αὐτῇ·
εἰρήνη δ’ ἀνὰ γῆν κουροτρόφος, οὐδέ ποτ’ αὐτοῖς
ἀργαλέον πόλεμον τεκμαίρεται εὐρύοπα Ζεύς·

Homer in Argos, Troezen and India: More Anecdotes from Aelian

9.14

“They say that the Argives granted Homer the first prize of all poetic art and put all other poets second to him. When they made a sacrifice, they used to call Apollo and Homer to their table. It is said in addition that because he had no money to give his daughter in marriage, that he gave her the epic the Kypria as a dowry. Pindar agrees with this.”

 

῞Οτι ποιητικῆς ἁπάσης ᾿Αργεῖοι τὰ πρῶτα ῾Ομήρῳ ἔδωκαν, δευτέρους δὲ αὐτοῦ ἔταττον πάντας. ποιοῦντες δὲ θυσίαν, ἐπὶ ξένια ἐκάλουν τὸν ᾿Απόλλωνα καὶ ῞Ομηρον. λέγεται δὲ κἀκεῖνο πρὸς τούτοις, ὅτι ἄρα ἀπορῶν ἐκδοῦναι τὴν θυγατέρα, ἔδωκεν αὐτῇ προῖκα ἔχειν τὰ ἔπη τὰ Κύπρια. καὶ ὁμολογεῖ τοῦτο Πίνδαρος.

11.2

“The traditions of Trozen report that the epics of Oroebantius of Troezen are earlier than Homer’s. They also say that Dares the Phrygian, whose Phrygian Iliad survives even to today, I think, was earlier than Homer. Melêsander of Miletus wrote about the battle of the Lapiths and Centaurs.”

῞Οτι ἦν ᾿Οροιβαντίου Τροιζηνίου ἔπη πρὸ ῾Ομήρου, ὥς φασιν οἱ Τροιζήνιοι λόγοι. καὶ τὸν Φρύγα δὲ Δάρητα, οὗ Φρυγίαν ᾿Ιλιάδα ἔτι καὶ νῦν ἀποσωζομένην οἶδα, πρὸ ῾Ομήρου καὶ τοῦτον γενέσθαι λέγουσι. Μελήσανδρος ὁ Μιλήσιος Λαπιθῶν καὶ Κενταύρων μάχην ἔγραψεν.

 

12.48

“[Men say] that the Indians have translated the words of Homer into their own native language and they sing them; and they aren’t the only ones: the Persian kings do too, if we can trust those who write about these things.”

῞Οτι ᾿Ινδοὶ τῇ παρά σφισιν ἐπιχωρίῳ φωνῇ τὰ ῾Ομήρου μεταγράψαντες ᾄδουσιν οὐ μόνοι ἀλλὰ καὶ οἱ Περσῶν βασιλεῖς, εἴ τι χρὴ πιστεύειν τοῖς ὑπὲρ τούτων ἱστοροῦσιν.