It’s Not Fate, It’s My Fault

Cicero, Letter to Terentia 14.1

“Many letters—every letter—come to me with news about your incredible character and bravery, that you are overhwelmed by neither mental nor physical exertions. I am filled with sorrow to think that you, my noble, faithful, honest, kind wife would experience so much grief because of me. Or that our Tulliola would also take as much grief from her father as he ever gave her pleasure! When it comes to Marcus, our son, what can I say? From the moment he first began to understand the world, he has experienced the most bitter griefs and pains.

If, as you write, I could believe that this all happened because of fate, I could endure it more easily. But everything is my fault. I used to believe that I was loved by people who envied me and I did not follow people who were reaching out to help me. The fact is that if I had listened to my own mind instead of heeding our friends’ chatter—both the fools and the criminals—we might have ended up really happy.

But now, since our friends command us to hope, I will try not to let my health add to your burdens. I do understand how momentous this matter is, how much easier it would have been to remain at home than come back. But, still, if we have all the tribunes with us, if Lentulus is as eager as he appears, and if we still have Caesar and Pompey, we should not lose hope.”

Et litteris multorum et sermone omnium perfertur ad me incredibilem tuam virtutem et fortitudinem esse teque nec animi neque corporis laboribus defatigari. me miserum! te ista virtute, fide, probitate, humanitate in tantas aerumnas propter me incidisse, Tulliolamque nostram, ex quo patre tantas voluptates capiebat, ex eo tantos percipere luctus! nam quid ego de Cicerone dicam? qui cum primum sapere coepit, acerbissimos dolores miseriasque percepit. quae si, tu ut scribis, fato facta putarem, ferrem paulo facilius; sed omnia sunt mea culpa commissa, qui ab iis me amari putabam qui invidebant, eos non sequebar qui petebant. quod si nostris consiliis usi essemus neque apud nos tantum valuisset sermo aut stultorum amicorum aut improborum, beatissimi viveremus. nunc, quoniam sperare nos amici iubent, dabo operam ne mea valetudo tuo labori desit. res quanta sit intellego quantoque fuerit facilius manere domi quam redire. sed tamen, si omnis tribunos pl. habemus, si Lentulum tam studiosum quam videtur, si vero etiam Pompeium et Caesarem, non est desperandum.

Studiolo di Federico da Montefeltro

Starting Fights with Doctors

Horace, Epistles 1.8

“Celsus Albinovanus: Hello! I hope this finds you well.

Muse, take this message to Nero’s friend and secretary,
Should he ask how I’m doing, tell him that even though I threatened
Many fine things, I don’t live rightly or pleasantly.

And this isn’t because hail ruined my vines or heat shrank my olives
Or because my flock is getting sick in a far-away field.
No, it’s that my mind is less well than any part of my body.

I don’t want to listen or learn about anything that relieves the disease.
I start fights with doctors; I fly into a rage with friends
Over why they want to get me out of this deadly funk.
I keep stalking what hurt me, I avoid anything I suspect will help.
I flit back and forth, wanting the Tibur in Rome and in Rome the Tibur.

After that, ask him if he’s well, how he and his stuff are,
How his standing is with the young man and his crew.
If he says “well”, first, rejoice! But then
Leave this reminder in his little ears:
“As you bear fortune, Celsus, we’ll bear you.”

Celso gaudere et bene rem gerere Albinovano
Musa rogata refer, comiti scribaeque Neronis.
si quaeret quid agam, dic multa et pulchra minantem
vivere nec recte nec suaviter; haud quia grando
contuderit vitis oleamque momorderit aestus,
nec quia longinquis armentum aegrotet in agris;
sed quia mente minus validus quam corpore toto
nil audire velim, nil discere, quod levet aegrum;
fidis offendar medicis, irascar amicis,
cur me funesto properent arcere veterno;
quae nocuere sequar, fugiam quae profore credam;
Romae Tibur amem ventosus, Tibure Romam.
Post haec, ut valeat, quo pacto rem gerat et se,
ut placeat iuveni percontare utque cohorti.
si dicet, “recte,” primum gaudere, subinde
praeceptum auriculis hoc instillare memento:
“ut tu fortunam, sic nos te, Celse, feremus.”

File:Rimini219.jpg
Fresco from “House of Sirico” Pompeii (Aeneas with Dr, Iapyx)

Chief Minister of Bullsh*t

Cicero, Letters to Atticus 92 (4.18) October or November 54

You may ask me “how are you handling these things?” By god, pretty damn well and I love myself for doing so. My friend, we have not only lost the marrow and blood of a just state, but we’ve lost its decoration and facade too.

There is no Republic where I might find happiness or comfort. You may ask, “Can you really take this well?” Yes. That’s it. I recall how well the state thrived when I was governing it and the gratitude it gave me. No grief touches me at all at seeing one person capable of everything. Those who were upset that I had any power are wrecked by it.

No, I have many things to bring me solace. But I do not move from where I am, instead I return to that way of life which is most natural, to my books and my research.”

Dices ‘tu ergo haec quo modo fers?’ belle mehercule et in eo me valde amo. amisimus, mi Pomponi, omnem non modo sucum ac sanguinem sed etiam colorem et speciem pristinae civitatis. nulla est res publica quae delectet, in qua acquiescam. ‘idne igitur’ inquies ‘facile fers?’ id ipsum. recordor enim quam bella paulisper nobis gubernantibus civitas fuerit, quae mihi gratia relata sit. nullus dolor me angit unum omnia posse; dirumpuntur ii qui me aliquid posse doluerunt. multa mihi dant solacia, nec tamen ego de meo statu demigro, quaeque vita maxime est ad naturam, ad eam me refero, ad litteras et studia nostra.

Carved bust of Cicero 

The Epidemic’s Over, We’re Fine

Cicero, Letters to Friends, to Terentia 8 (14.1)

“When it comes to my family, I will do what you report seems right to our friends. Concerning where I am currently, the epidemic is certainly already over and, even though it lasted a while, it didn’t touch me. Plancius, the most dutiful man, longs to keep me with him and detains me here.

I was hoping to stay in some deserted place in Epirus where Piso and his soldiers would never come, but Plancius holds me here. He posts that it will turn out to be possible for him to leave for Italy with me. Should I see that day and return to your embrace and my families and get you and myself back again, I will judge that a great profit of your commitment and mine.”

De familia, quo modo placuisse scribis amicis faciemus. de loco, nunc quidem iam abiit pestilentia, sed quam diu fuit me non attigit. Plancius, homo officiosissimus, me cupit esse secum et adhuc retinet. ego volebam loco magis deserto esse in Epiro, quo neque Piso veniret nec milites, sed adhuc Plancius me retinet; sperat posse fieri ut mecum in Italiam decedat. quem ego diem si videro et si in vestrum complexum venero ac si et vos et me ipsum reciperaro, satis magnum mihi fructum videbor percepisse et vestrae pietatis et meae.

Cicero Very Fine

Pliny Plans a Staycation

Pliny, Letters 3.1 to Calvisius Rufus

“I am incapable of recalling a time I spent as pleasantly as I just did when I went to see Spurinna—and, in fact, I cannot imagine anyone I would rather imitate more in my old age, should I be allowed to grow old. For no way of living is better designed than his. A well-planned life pleases me as much as the circuit of the stars. This is especially true when it comes to the old—for while a limited amount of chaos and excitement is not inappropriate for the young, a completely calm and ordered life is better for the elderly. Their public service is over and any aims for advancement is perverse at this point.

Spurinna insistently follows this rule and even in small things—minor if they did not happen daily—he follows a plan as if an orbiting body. He lies abed a bit every morning but then asks for his shoes in the second hour and takes a three-mile walk to exercise his mind no less than his body. If his friends are present, they have the most earnest conversations. If they are not there, he has a book read—something he also does at times when his friends are there if it will not annoy them too much. Then, once he sits down, the book is read again or, even better, the conversation continues. Then he climbs into his carriage and takes his wife—a model of her gender—or some friend—recently, me!—along with him.

How fine it is, how sweet a secret! How much of the past one finds there—what deeds and what heroes you hear of! What principles you absorb! He bows to his own modesty, however, and does not seem to give orders. After he has been driven seven miles or so, he walks another mile, and then returns to sit again or he goes back to his writing. For then he writes the most learned lyric lines in both Latin and Greek—they are amazingly sweet and impressive as well for their charm, humor, and grace which the taste of the one who writes them only increases.”

Nescio an ullum iucundius tempus exegerim, quam quo nuper apud Spurinnam fui, adeo quidem ut neminem magis in senectute, si modo senescere datum est, aemulari velim; nihil est enim illo vitae genere distinctius. Me autem ut certus siderum cursus ita vita hominum disposita delectat. Senum praesertim: nam iuvenes confusa adhuc quaedam et quasi turbata non indecent, senibus placida omnia et ordinata conveniunt, quibus industria sera turpis ambitio est.

Hanc regulam Spurinna constantissime servat; quin etiam parva haec—parva si non cotidie fiant—ordine quodam et velut orbe circumagit. Mane lectulo continetur, hora secunda calceos poscit, ambulat milia passuum tria nec minus animum quam corpus exercet. Si adsunt amici, honestissimi sermones explicantur; si non, liber legitur, interdum etiam praesentibus amicis, si tamen illi non gravantur. Deinde considit, et liber rursus aut sermo libro potior; mox vehiculum ascendit, adsumit uxorem singularis exempli vel aliquem amicorum, ut me  proxime. Quam pulchrum illud, quam dulce secretum! quantum ibi antiquitatis! quae facta, quos viros audias! quibus praeceptis imbuare! quamvis ille hoc temperamentum modestiae suae indixerit, ne  praecipere videatur. Peractis septem milibus passuum iterum ambulat mille, iterum residit vel se cubiculo ac stilo reddit. Scribit enim et quidem utraque lingua lyrica doctissima; mira illis dulcedo. mira suavitas, mira hilaritas, cuius gratiam cumulat sanctitas scribentis.

Image result for pliny the younger

Cicero, Always Chirping about the Ides of March

Previously we have posted about Cicero’s comments about the Ides of March to Brutus. Here is a letter from Brutus complaining about Cicero.

Letters: Brutus to Atticus, I.17

“You write to me that Cicero is amazed that I say nothing about his deeds. Since you are hassling me, I will write you what I think thanks to your coaxing.

I know that Cicero has done everything with the best intention. What could be more proved to me than his love for the republic? But certain things seem to me, what can I say, that the most prudent man has acted as if inexperienced or ambitiously, this man who was not reluctant to take on Antony as an enemy when he was strongest?

I don’t know what to write to you except a single thing: the boy’s desire and weakness have been increased rather than repressed by Cicero and that he grinds on so far in his indulgence that he does not refrain from invectives that rebound in two ways. For he too has killed many and he must admit that he is an assassin before what he objects to Casca—in which case he acts the part of Bestia to Casca—

Or because we are not tossing about every hour the Ides of March the way he always has the Nones of December in his mouth, will Cicero find fault in the most noble deed from a better vantage point than Bestia and Clodius were accustomed to insult his consulship?

Our toga-clad friend Cicero brags that he has stood up to Antony’s war. How does it profit me if the cost of Antony defeated is the resumption of Antony’s place?  Or if our avenger of this evil has turned out to be the author of another—an evil which has a foundation and deeper roots, even if we concede <whether it is true or not> those things which he does come from the fact that he either fears tyranny or Antony as a tyrant?

 But I don’t have gratitude for anyone who does not protest the situation itself provided only that he serves one who is not raging at him. Triumphs, stipends, encouragement with every kind of degree so that it does not shame him to desire the fortune of the man whose name he has taken—is that a mark of a Consular man, of a Cicero?

1Scribis mihi mirari Ciceronem quod nihil significem umquam de suis actis; quoniam me flagitas, coactu tuo scribam quae sentio.

Omnia fecisse Ciceronem optimo animo scio. quid enim mihi exploratius esse potest quam illius animus in rem publicam? sed quaedam mihi videtur—quid dicam? imperite vir omnium prudentissimus an ambitiose fecisse, qui valentissimum Antonium suscipere pro re publica non dubitarit inimicum? nescio quid scribam tibi nisi unum: pueri et cupiditatem et licentiam potius esse irritatam quam repressam a Cicerone, tantumque eum tribuere huic indulgentiae ut se maledictis non abstineat iis quidem quae in ipsum dupliciter recidunt, quod et pluris occidit uno seque prius oportet fateatur sicarium quam obiciat Cascae quod obicit et imitetur in Casca Bestiam. an quia non omnibus horis iactamus Idus Martias similiter atque ille Nonas Decembris suas in ore habet, eo meliore condicione Cicero pulcherrimum factum vituperabit quam Bestia et Clodius reprehendere illius consulatum soliti sunt?

Sustinuisse mihi gloriatur bellum Antoni togatus Cicero noster. quid hoc mihi prodest, si merces Antoni oppressi poscitur in Antoni locum successio et si vindex illius mali auctor exstitit alterius fundamentum et radices habituri altiores, si patiamur, ut iam <dubium sit utrum>ista quae facit dominationem an dominum [an] Antonium timentis sint? ego autem gratiam non habeo si quis, dum ne irato serviat, rem ipsam non deprecatur. immo triumphus et stipendium et omnibus decretis hortatio ne eius pudeat concupiscere fortunam cuius nomen susceperit, consularis aut Ciceronis est?

Image result for Ancient Roman Cicero

 

Cicero on the “Unforgettable Ides of March”

Cicero, Letters to Atticus (14.4) 10 April 44

“But should all these things befall us, the Ides of March may console. Our heroes too accomplished most gloriously and magnificently everything it was in their power to do. For the rest, we need money and troops, neither of which we have.”

Sed omnia licet concurrant, Idus Martiae consolantur. nostri autem ἥρωες quod per ipsos confici potuit gloriosissime et magnificentissime confecerunt; reliquae res opes et copias desiderant, quas nullas habemus

 

Cicero, Letters to Brutus  I.15 (23) 14 July 43

“Therefore, come here, by the gods, as fast as possible; Convince yourself that it would do your country no greater good if you come quickly than you did on the Ides of March when you freed your fellow citizens from slavery.”

subveni igitur, per deos, idque quam primum, tibique persuade non te Idibus Martiis, quibus servitutem a tuis civibus depulisti, plus profuisse patriae quam, si mature veneris, profuturum.

 

Cicero, Letters to Brutus, 1.15 (23) July 43

“After the death of Caesar and your unforgettable Ides of March, Brutus, you will not have lost sight of the the fact that I said that one thing was overlooked by you—how much a storm loomed over the Republic. The greatest disease was warded off thanks to you—a great blight was cleansed from the Roman people—and you won immortal fame for your part. But the mechanism of monarchy fell then to Lepidus and Antonius—one of whom is more erratic, while the other is rather unclean—both fearing peace and ill-fit to idle time.”

Post interitum Caesaris et vestras memorabilis Idus Martias, Brute, quid ego praetermissum a vobis quantamque impendere rei publicae tempestatem dixerim non es oblitus. magna pestis erat depulsa per vos, magna populi Romani macula deleta, vobis vero parta divina gloria, sed instrumentum regni delatum ad Lepidum et Antonium, quorum alter inconstantior, alter impurior, uterque pacem metuens, inimicus otio.

Image result for Ancient Roman death of caesar
The death of Julius Caesar in the Roman Senate by Vincenzo Camuccini

 

“Greetings to My Sister”: A Letter Home

This is from the Loeb collection of private papyri. Thanks to .@graham_claytor, here’s a link to the text on line

B.G.U. 7.1680 (CE 2nd Century?=Trismegistos 30955)

“Isis sends her mother the most greetings. I make a prayer for you each day before lord Sarapis and the gods who are with him.

I want to tell you that I made it safely and well to Alexandria in four days. I send greetings to my sister and her children, and Elouath and his wife, as well as Diokorous and her husband and son and Tamalis and her husband and son, and Hêron and Ammonarion and her children and her husband and Sanpat and her children. If Aiôn wants to join the army, have him come. For everyone is joining the army.

I pray for you and everyone in the house to be well.

Your daughter, Isis

Ἶσεις Θερμουθίῳ τῇ μητρὶ πλεῖστα χαίρειν. τὸ προσκύνημά σου ποιῶ καθ᾿ ἑκάστην ἡμέραν παρὰ τῷ κυρίῳ [Σ]αράπιδι καὶ τοῖς συννάοις θεοῖς. γεινώσκειν σε θέλω ὅτι εὖ καὶ καλῶς γέγονα εἰς Ἀλεξάνδρειαν ἐν τέσσαρσι ἡμέραις. ἀσπάζομαι τὴν ἀδε[λ]φήν μο[υ] καὶ τὰ παιδία καὶ Ἐλουᾶθ καὶ τὴν γυναῖκα αὐτοῦ καὶ Διοσκοροῦν καὶ τὸν ἄνδρα αὐτῆς καὶ τὰ παιδία καὶ Τ[ά]μαλιν καὶ τὸν 7ἄνδρα αὐτῆς καὶ τὸν υἱὸν καὶ Ἥρωνα καὶ Ἀμμωνάριον καὶ τὰ παιδία αὐτῆς καὶ τὸν ἄνδρα καὶ Σανπὰτ καὶ τὰ παιδία αὐτῆς. καὶ ἐὰν θελήσῃ Ἀΐων στρατεύσασθαι, ἐρχέσθω· στρατεύονται γὰρ πάντες. ἐρρῶσθαι ⟦σε⟧ ὑμᾶς εὔχομαι πανοικί.
Verso: – – – π](αρὰ) Ἴσειτος θυγατρός.

Here’s a picture of the letter (again, thanks to @graham_claytor)

papyrus page with legible writing; tattered bottom edge
This is a different letter.

“If it is a girl…”: A Letter about Child Exposure

This letter contains a reference to disposing of a female infant. 

P. Oxy. 120 (1st Century BCE) From Hilarion to Alis

“Hilarion sends sends many, many greetings to his sister along with my lady Berous and Apollonarion. Listen, we are still in Alexandria. Don’t worry about this—if they go home completely, I will stay in Alexandria. I am asking you and begging you to take care of the little child and when we are paid, I will send it to you right away. If you happen to be pregnant again, if it is a boy, leave it; if it is a girl, throw it out.

You have told Aphrodisias “don’t forget me.” How could I possibly forget you? Please, do not be worried….”

Ἱλαρίων{α} Ἄλιτι τῆι ἀδελφῇ πλεῖστα χαίρειν καὶ Βεροῦτι τῇ κυρίᾳ μου καὶ Ἀπολλωνάριν. γίνωσκε ὡς ἔτι καὶ νῦν ἐν Ἀλεξανδρέᾳ ᾿σμεν. μὴ ἀγωνιᾷς· ἐὰν ὅλως εἰσπορεύονται, ἐγὼ ἐν Ἀλεξανδρέᾳ μενῶ. ἐρωτῶ σε καὶ παρακαλῶ σε, ἐπιμελήθ<ητ>ι τῷ παιδίῳ καὶ ἐὰν εὐθὺς ὀψώνιον λάβωμεν ἀποστελῶ σε ἄνω. ἐὰν πολλὰ πολλῶν τέκῃς, ἐὰν ᾖ{ν} ἄρσενον, ἄφες, ἐὰν ᾖ{ν} θήλεα, ἔκβαλε. εἴρηκας δὲ Ἀφροδισιᾶτι ὅτι μή με ἐπιλάθῃς. πῶς δύναμαί σε ἐπιλαθεῖν; ἐρωτῶ σε οὖν ἵνα μὴ ἀγωνιάσῃς.

Image result for medieval manuscript childbirth
Walters Art Museum Illuminated Manuscripts · Osée et Gomer. Birth of Yizréel Cote : Français 10 , Fol. 444 Guiard

Death and Side-Parts: Or, Only the Appearance of Good and Evil

Seneca, Moral Epistle  82.13-16

“But, as I began to say, you observe that death is neither bad nor good. Cato met it with the most honor; Brutus faced it most shamefully. Every affair that did not have glory assumes it when virtue is added. We claim that a bedroom is shining and bright when the same place is the darkest at night. Days infuse it with light and night take it a way.

That’s the way it is which those things which are indifferent to us and called middling like wealth, strength, beauty, honors, offices and their opposites such as death, sickness, exile, pain and all similar evils: we get more or less upset because we fear them, but wickedness or virtue gives a name of good or evil.

A thing is not hot or cold through itself. It becomes warm when it is tossed in a furnace and gets cold again when plunged into water. Death is honorable because it is related to an honorable thing, that is virtue and a soul rejecting the worst behaviors.

There are also huge differences in the things we put in the middle class. For instance, death is not as meaningless as whether you part your hair in the middle or on the side. Death is one of those things which are not evil but have the appearance of evil. For we have a native love of protecting and preserving ourselves coupled with a reluctance of returning to nothing because death seems to deprive us of many good things, to take us away from the plenty we have gotten used to.

There is also another aspect that alienates us from death: we know those other things, but we shudder at the unknown, and we are ignorant about where we are going in the future. It is only natural, then, to fear the world of shadows where death allegedly takes us. So, while death is an indifferent to us, it is still not something we can ignore. The soul needs to be strengthened through rigorous practice to tolerate death’s sight and approaching step.”

Sed, ut coeperam dicere, vides ipsam mortem nec malum esse nec bonum; Cato illa honestissime usus est, turpissime Brutus. Omnis res quod non habuit decus, virtute addita sumit. Cubiculum lucidum dicimus, hoc idem obscurissimum est nocte. Dies illi lucem infundit, nox eripit; sic istis, quae a nobis indifferentia ac media dicuntur, divitiis, viribus, formae, honoribus, regno et contra morti, exilio, malae valetudini, doloribus quaeque alia aut minus aut magis pertimuimus, aut malitia aut virtus dat boni vel mali nomen. Massa per se nec calida nec frigida est; in fornacem coniecta concaluit, in aquam demissa1 refrixit. Mors honesta est per illud, quod honestum est, id est virtus et animus extrema contemnens.

Est et horum, Lucili, quae appellamus media, grande discrimen. Non enim sic mors indifferens est, quomodo utrum capillos pares an inpares habeas. Mors inter illa est, quae mala quidem non sunt, tamen habent mali speciem; sui amor est et permanendi conservandique se insita voluntas atque aspernatio dissolutionis, quia videtur multa nobis bona eripere et nos ex hac, cui adsuevimus, rerum copia educere. Illa quoque res morti nos alienat, quod haec iam novimus, illa, ad quae transituri sumus, nescimus, qualia sint, et horremus ignota. Naturalis praeterea tenebrarum metus est, in quas 16adductura mors creditur. Itaque etiam si indifferens mors est, non tamen ea est, quae facile neglegi possit. Magna exercitatione durandus est animus, ut conspectum eius accessumque patiatur.