Cicero Delayed Publishing a Book of Poetry Because the Acknowledgements Would Be Too Long

Cicero, Letters to Friends  30 Lentulus Spinther 1.9. 29

“I have also composed a three book poem On My Times which I ought to have send you previously if I thought it right to publish it. For these books are truly an eternal testament of your efforts for me and my duty to you. But I was reluctant not because of those who might judge themselves wounded by it—I have done this rarely and gently—but because of those who had helped me, if I had named them at all I would have gone on for ever.

But you will still see these books if I can find anyone I can rightly trust to bring them to you. I will entrust this for your preservation. I pass to you for judgment this part of my life and my practice, however much I am able to accomplish in literature, in research and in our old pleasures, I send to you who have always loved these things.”

scripsi etiam versibus tris libros De temporibus meis, quos iam pridem ad te misissem si esse edendos putassem; sunt enim testes et erunt sempiterni meritorum erga me tuorum meaeque pietatis. sed quia verebar, non eos qui se laesos arbitrarentur (etenim id feci parce et molliter), sed eos quos erat infinitum bene de <me> meritos omnis nominare ∗ ∗ ∗quos tamen ipsos libros, si quem cui recte committam invenero, curabo ad te perferendos. atque istam quidem partem vitae consuetudinisque nostrae totam ad te defero; quantum litteris, quantum studiis, veteribus nostris delectationibus, consequi poterimus, id omne <ad> arbitrium tuum, qui haec semper amasti, libentissime conferemus.

 

Infrastructure Struggles in Imperial Rome

Pliny To the Emperor Trajan, Letter 37

Lord, the people of Nicomedia have spent 3,318,000 sesterces on an aqueduct which was left unfinished and then it was taken down. Then they allotted two hundred thousand sesterces to a second one. Because this one was also abandoned, they need to spend more to have water when they have wasted so much money badly.

I have gone to the cleanest spring myself, the one from which it seems likely that water could be conducted by an aqueduct as was tried from the beginning, if we want the water to make it beyond the lower levels of the city. There remain only a few arches standing there still but there are others which could be made from stones which remain from previous attempts. Another part, I think, should be built from brick, which is easier and cheaper.

But foremost, we need you to send out a water-works engineer or an architect so what happened before does not happen again. I will encourage only this, that the work should have a function and beauty worthy of your era.”

C. Plinius Traiano Imperatori
1In aquae ductum, domine, Nicomedenses impenderunt HS |X̅X̅X̅| C̅C̅C̅X̅V̅I̅I̅I̅, qui imperfectus adhuc omissus, destructus etiam est; rursus in alium ductum erogata sunt C̅C̅. Hoc quoque relicto novo impendio est opus, ut aquam habeant, qui tantam pecuniam male perdiderunt. Ipse perveni ad fontem purissimum, ex quo videtur aqua debere perduci, sicut initio temptatum erat, arcuato opere, ne tantum ad plana civitatis et humilia perveniat. Manent adhuc paucissimi arcus: possunt et erigi quidam lapide quadrato, qui ex superiore opere detractus est; aliqua pars, ut mihi videtur, testaceo opere agenda erit, id enim et facilius et vilius. Sed in primis necessarium est mitti a te vel aquilegem vel architectum, ne rursus eveniat quod accidit. Ego illud unum adfirmo, et utilitatem operis et pulchritudinem saeculo tuo esse dignissimam.

 

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Remains of Aqueduct constructed in Nicomedia

Basil Goes Into Deep Guilt Over Late Correspondence

Basil, Letter 20

 

“For me, the intensity of the business I am now engaged in might give me some reason for a lack of correspondence. In addition, the smell I have contracted from excessive association with the idiotic mob makes me less at ease in addressing you sophisticates who will grow irritable and intolerant if you don’t hear anything worthy of your own wisdom.

 

But you, I guess, since you are readier to speak than all the Greeks I know, are accustomed to making your voice public on any pretext. And I think I know the most famous people in your ranks. There is no reason for your silence. And that is enough about that.”

 

Ἡμῖν μὲν γὰρ τὸ πυκνὸν τῆς ἀσχολίας τοῦτο ἐν ᾧ νῦν ἐσμὲν κἂν παραίτησιν ἐνέγκοι τυχὸν πρὸς τὴν ἔνδειαν τῶν γραμμάτων· καὶ τὸ οἱονεὶ ἐῤῥυπῶσθαι λοιπὸν τῇ κατακορεῖ συνηθείᾳ πρὸς ἰδιωτισμὸν ὄκνον εἰκότως ἐμποιεῖ προσφθέγγεσθαι ὑμᾶς τοὺς σοφιστάς, οἵ, εἰ μή τι ἄξιον τῆς ὑμετέρας αὐτῶν σοφίας ἀκούσεσθε, δυσχερανεῖτε καὶ οὐκ ἀνέξεσθε. σὲ δέ που τὸ ἐναντίον εἰκὸς ἐπὶ πάσης προφάσεως δημοσιεύειν σαυτοῦ τὴν φωνήν, ἐπιτήδειον ὄντα εἰπεῖν ὧν αὐτὸς οἶδα Ἑλλήνων. οἶδα γάρ, ὡς οἶμαι, τοὺς ὀνομαστοτάτους τῶν ἐν ὑμῖν. ὥστε οὐδεμία παραίτησις σιωπῶντι. καὶ ταῦτα μὲν εἰς τοσοῦτον.

 

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Souls Burning for Censure: Sallust Advises Caesar

Sallust, First Letter to Caesar 8-10

I have offered you as briefly as possible what things I think are necessary for our nation and your glory. It does not seem any worse to say a few things now about what I have accomplished here.

Most mortals possess—or pretend to possess—enough intelligence to make judgments. But, in truth, everyone’s soul burns to criticize the words and deeds of others, even though their mouth and tongue are not large and quick enough to produces the words contemplated in their hearts.

It causes me no grief to be subject to these men—no, it would hurt more to stay quiet. For whether you persist on this path or another one, I have spoken and offered help in a manly way. All that is left is to hope that the immortal gods smile on what you do and allow it to turn out well.

Quae rei publicae necessaria tibique gloriosa ratus sum, quam paucissimis apsolvi. Non peius videtur pauca nunc de facto meo disserere. Plerique mortales ad iudicandum satis ingenii habent aut simulant; verum enim ad reprehendunda aliena facta aut dicta ardet omnibus animus, vix satis apertum os aut lingua prompta videtur quae meditata pectore evolvat. Quibus me subiectum haud paenitet, magis reticuisse pigeret. Nam sive hac seu meliore alia via perges, a me quidem pro virili parte dictum et adiutum fuerit. Relicuum est optare uti quae tibi placuerint ea di immortales adprobent beneque evenire sinant.

Pliny on Public Readings and the Difficulty of Studying

Pliny 17, to his friend Claudius Restitutis

“I am unable to control the fact that I am a bit upset after leaving the reading of a certain friend so I will pour out my feelings to you in a letter since I can’t see you in person. The work which was read was completely done. Two or three learned men—as they seemed to themselves and a few others—were listening as if they were deaf and dumb. They did not move their lips or flick a hand—they did not even rise to their feet because they were bored of sitting.

What’s all this seriousness for? What’s with such great learning? This, really, is lazy negligence, a lack of manners or common sense to spend the whole day so you might offend someone and leave a man you approached as a dearest friend an enemy?

Are you a more learned speaker? Then for this much alone you should not begrudge him since it is the lesser man who envies. Indeed, whether you appear greater or less or the same praise him whether he is lesser, greater or equal. For, you can’t possibly be praise if the one who is superior to you isn’t and it matters for your own reputation if anyone you surpass or equal seems to have the greatest amount of glory possible.

In truth, I am in the habit of honoring and feeling wonder at everyone who achieves something in their studies. For scholarship is a difficult, impatient, and temperamental affair likely to show contempt for those who disregard it.

Perhaps you believe something different, even though no one else is a more admiring or serious judge of this matter than you. I have selected you rather than any other friend I have for my anger since you are most capable of sharing it. Farewell!”

Plinius Restituto Suo S.

1Indignatiunculam, quam in cuiusdam amici auditorio cepi, non possum mihi temperare quo minus apud te, quia non contigit coram, per epistulam effundam. Recitabatur liber absolutissimus. Hunc duo aut tres, ut sibi et paucis videntur, diserti surdis mutisque similes audiebant. Non labra diduxerunt, non moverunt manum, non denique adsurrexerunt saltem lassitudine sedendi. Quae tanta gravitas? quae tanta sapientia? quae immo pigritia adrogantia sinisteritas ac potius amentia, in hoc totum diem impendere ut offendas, ut inimicum relinquas ad quem tamquam amicissimum veneris? Disertior ipse es? Tanto magis ne invideris; nam qui invidet minor est. Denique sive plus sive minus sive idem praestas, lauda vel inferiorem vel superiorem vel parem: superiorem quia nisi laudandus ille non potes ipse laudari, inferiorem aut parem quia pertinet ad tuam gloriam quam maximum videri, quem praecedis 5 vel exaequas. Equidem omnes qui aliquid in studiis faciunt venerari etiam mirarique soleo; est enim res difficilis ardua fastidiosa, et quae eos a quibus contemnitur invicem contemnat. Nisi forte aliud iudicas tu. Quamquam quis uno te reverentior huius operis, quis1 benignior aestimator? Qua ratione ductus tibi potissimum indignationem meam prodidi, quem habere socium maxime poteram. Vale.

 

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Marcus Aurelius’ Terrible, No Good, Scorpion-Killing Day

Marcus Aurelius to Fronto, 145-157 CE

 

My teacher,

 

I have gone through those kinds of days. My sister was suddenly taken so much by pain in her women’s parts that it was terrible to be around her. My mother, moreover, jammed her side against the corner of a wall in her distraction from her worry. She hurt herself and us deeply with that fall.

 

And me? When I went to lie down, I found a scorpion in my bed. But I still managed to kill it before I stretched out. If you are feeling better, that’s one bit of solace. My mother feels steadier now, gods willing.

 

Farewell my best, sweetest, teacher. My wife says “hi” too.

 

Magistro meo.

Ego dies istos tales transegi. Soror dolore muliebrium partium ita correpta est repente, ut faciem horrendam viderim. Mater autem mea in ea trepidatione imprudens angulo parietis costam inflixit: eo ictu graviter et se et nos adfecit. Ipse quom cubitum irem, scorpionem in lecto offendi: occupavi tamen eum occidere priusquam accumberem. Tu si rectius vales, est solacium. Mater iam levior est, dis volentibus. Vale mi optime dulcissime magister. Domina mea te salutat.

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Pliny Looks Up From His Desk to the Horizon….

Pliny to his Friend Caninius, 8

Are you studying, fishing, hunting, or everything at once? All of this can happen at the same time on the shores of Como. For, the lake has fish, the forests around the lake have beasts, and your most isolated retreat supplies constant opportunities for study. But whether you are doing it all at once or just one thing, I cannot say that “I hate you for it”, but I am still anguished that I can’t join in when I long for them the way a sick man desires wine, baths, and springs.

Ah! how shall I ever drop these tightest of bonds if there is no way to untie them? Never, I suspect. For new business grows on top of the old before what was there is handled. As many links as already exist are added anew each day as my chain extends ever on.

Goodbye.

Plinius Caninio Suo S.

1Studes an piscaris an venaris an simul omnia? Possunt enim omnia simul fieri ad Larium nostrum. Nam lacus piscem, feras silvae quibus lacus cingitur, studia altissimus iste secessus adfatim suggerunt. 2Sed sive omnia simul sive aliquid facis, non possum dicere “invideo”; angor tamen non et mihi licere, qui sic concupisco ut aegri vinum balinea fontes. Numquamne hos artissimos laqueos, si solvere negatur, abrumpam? Numquam, puto. Nam veteribus negotiis nova accrescunt, nec tamen priora peraguntur: tot nexibus, tot quasi catenis maius in dies occupationum agmen extenditur. Vale.

How Does Learning Accents Help Your Soul?

Cicero to Atticus 31 May 45 (12.6)

“I now turn to Tyrannio. Do you really do this? Was this true? There without me? And this when I so many times did not go without you even though I had the ability. How will you make this up to me? There is one way, clearly, if you send me the book which I ask again that you should send  to me. Even if the book itself will not delight me any more than your admiration of it.

I adore the man who loves every kind of learning and I am truly happy that you cherish so refined a course of study. But this is completely you. For you are passionate to learn, the only thing which feeds the mind. But, I must ask, what impact does this ‘grave’ and ‘acute’ stuff have on the pursuit of the highest good?”

Venio ad Tyrannionem. ain tu? verum hoc fuit? sine me? at ego quotiens, cum essem otiosus, sine te tamen nolui! quo modo ergo hoc lues? uno scilicet, si mihi librum miseris; quod ut facias etiam atque etiam rogo. etsi me non magis ipse liber delectabit quam tua admiratio delectavit. amo enim πάντα φιλειδήμονα teque istam tam tenuem ϑεωρíαν tam valde admiratum esse gaudeo. etsi tua quidem sunt eius modi omnia. scire enim vis; quo uno animus alitur. sed, quaeso, quid ex ista acuta et gravi refertur ad τέλος?

 

Cicero seems to have his finger on a Senecan pulse here:

Seneca, De Brevitate Vitae 13

“This sickness used to just afflict the Greeks, to discover the number of oars Odysseus possessed, whether the Iliad was written before the Odyssey, whether the poems belong to the same author, and other matters like this which, if you keep them to yourself, cannot please your private mind; but if you publish them, you seem less learned than annoying.”

Graecorum iste morbus fuit quaerere, quem numerum Ulixes remigum habuisset, prior scripta esset Ilias an Odyssia, praeterea an eiusdem essent auctoris, alia deinceps huius notae, quae sive contineas, nihil tacitam conscientiam iuvant sive proferas, non doctior videaris sed molestior.

 

Seneca, Moral Epistle 108

“But some error comes thanks to our teachers who instruct us how to argue but not how to live; some error too comes from students, who bring themselves to teachers not for the nourishing of the soul, but the cultivation of our wit. Thus what was philosophy has been turned into philology.”

Sed aliquid praecipientium vitio peccatur, qui nos docent disputare, non vivere, aliquid discentium, qui propositum adferunt ad praeceptores suos non animum excolendi, sed ingenium. Itaque quae philosophia fuit, facta philologia est.

The Athenians are Nice! (A Roman Writes From Athens)

Cicero, Letters to Atticus, 5.10 27 (June 51)

“What else besides? Nothing really except for this. Athens has been a delight to me, when it comes to the city and its decoration and the love that its people show you, a certain kind of goodwill they have for us. But many things have been changed and philosophy is disordered this way and that. If there is anything left, it is Aristos’ and I am staying with him.

I left your, or rather ‘our’, friend Zeno to Quintus even though he is close enough that we are together the whole day. I wish that you will write me of your plans as soon as you can so I may know what you are doing and where you will be at which time and, especially, when you will be in Rome.

Quid est praeterea? nihil sane nisi illud: valde me Athenae delectarunt, urbe dumtaxat et urbis ornamento et hominum amore in te, in nos quadam benevolentia; sed mu<tata mu>lta.6 philosophia sursum deorsum. si quid est, est in Aristo, apud quem eram; nam Xenonem tuum vel nostrum potius Quinto concesseram, et tamen propter vicinitatem totos dies simul eramus. tu velim cum primum poteris tua consilia ad me scribas, ut sciam quid agas, ubi quoque tempore, maxime quando Romae futurus sis.

Cicero: When I Think of Greece, I Think of Athens

Cicero, Brutus 26.7

“Greece is the witness to this because it was set aflame with a desire for eloquence and has surpassed in it and exceeded other places But Greece also has greater antiquity in all arts which it not only discovered but perfected because the power and abundance of speaking was developed by the Greeks. When I consider Greece, Atticus, your Athens occurs to me especially and shines out like a lighthouse. It is here that an orator first showed himself and here that oratory began to be entrusted to monuments and writings.”

vii. Testis est Graecia, quae cum eloquentiae studio sit incensa iamdiuque excellat in ea praestetque ceteris, tamen omnis artis vetustiores habet et multo ante non inventas solum sed etiam perfectas, quam haec est a Graecis elaborata dicendi vis atque copia. In quam cum intueor, maxime mihi occurrunt, Attice, et quasi lucent Athenae tuae, qua in urbe primum se orator extulit primumque etiam monumentis et litteris oratio est coepta mandari.

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