Merely Playing with Words: Learning For School Not for Life

Seneca, Moral Epistle 106.11-12

“In sum, whatever we do we are compelled to do by either malice or virtue. What controls a body, is corporeal; what gives force to a body is a body. The good of a body is corporeal good; the good of a person is the good of a body—therefore it too is corporeal.

Since I have pursued this custom as you wanted, now I myself will say what I expect you to say: “we have been playing games!” Our wit is worn thing by silly things—they make us learned but not good. To be wise is a more obvious matter—it is much better to use literature to improve the mind, but we waste the rest of our time in empty matters, and so we waste philosophy itself. Just as in all things, so too we labor excessively over literature. We learn not for life but for school. Goodbye.”

Denique quidquid facimus, aut malitiae aut virtutis gerimus imperio. Quod imperat corpori, corpus est, quod vim corpori adfert, corpus. Bonum corporis corporalest,bonum hominis et corporis bonum est; itaque corporale est.

11Quoniam, ut voluisti, morem gessi tibi, nunc ipse dicam mihi, quod dicturum esse te video: latrunculis ludimus. In supervacuis subtilitas teritur; non faciunt bonos ista, sed doctos. Apertior res est sapere, immo simpliciter satius est ad mentem bonam uti litteris, sed nos ut cetera in supervacuum diffundimus, ita philosophiam ipsam. Quemadmodum omnium rerum, sic litterarum quoque intemperantia laboramus; non vitae sed scholae discimus. Vale.

Dirc van Delf | Table of Christian Faith | Illuminated by the Masters of Dirc van Delft | ca. 1405–10 | The Morgan Library & Museum
Dirc van Delf, Table of Christian Faith, in Dutch, The Netherlands, Utrecht(?), ca. 1405-10, Illuminated by the Masters of Dirc van Delft (from pinterest)

 

Didn’t Get What You Want for Christmas? Cicero Writes His Brother About Books

Cicero, Letters to Quintus 25

“I believe that you will anticipate that I didn’t lose those books without some kind of a stomach ache…”

puto enim te existimaturum a me illos libros non sine aliquo meo stomacho esse relictos.

Cicero, Letters to Quintus 24

“Concerning the issue of supplementing your Greek library and trading books in order to acquire Latin ones, I would really like to help get this done, since these exchanges are to my benefit as well. But I don’t have anyone even for my own purposes whom I can trust with this. The kinds of books which are helpful are not for sale and they cannot be procured without a deeply learned person who has a serious work ethic.”

De bibliotheca tua Graeca supplenda, libris commutandis, Latinis comparandis, valde velim ista confici, praesertim cum ad meum quoque usum spectent. sed ego mihi ipsi ista per quem agam non habeo. neque enim venalia sunt, quae quidem placeant, et confici nisi per hominem et peritum et diligentem non possunt.

Bonus Quotes from Cato, Dicta Catonis

“Read books”

“Remember the things you read”

Libros lege.

Quae legeris memento.

 

Picture stolen from here

Pliny Writes to Redfin

Pliny Letters 3.19

“I am seeking your advice in a personal matter, as I usually do. The property next to mine, which intrudes upon it in many places, is for sale. This interests me for many reasons, but there are a few detractors too. The foremost attraction is the beauty of joining the lands and then, which is no less useful than pleasurable, to be able to visit both at the same time on the same trip, to have both under the same steward and have nearly all the same workers, to build and decorate only one house, provided the other was kept safe. On this balance sheet, I place the expenditure of furniture, domestic labor, gardeners, and handymen along with hunting materials since there is a big different in cost if you have all of these in one place instead of spreading them around several.

Against this, I fear that it may be irrational to leave a property of so great a size to the same climate risks and the same fortunes. It seems safer to dilute risk by having property in different places. In addition, there is a much delight in a change of location and a journey between places. The final point of our decision is this: the fields are fertile and has access to water; the property is filled with fields, vineyards, and a forest which produces a regular income.”

Plinius Calvisio Rufo Suo S.

1Adsumo te in consilium rei familiaris, ut soleo. Praedia agris meis vicina atque etiam inserta venalia sunt. In his me multa sollicitant, aliqua nec minora  deterrent. Sollicitat primum ipsa pulchritudo iungendi; deinde, quod non minus utile quam voluptuosum, posse utraque eadem opera eodem viatico invisere, sub eodem procuratore ac paene isdem actoribus habere, unam villam colere et ornare, alteram tantum tueri. Inest huic computationi sumptus supellectilis, sumptus atriensium topiariorum fabrorum atque etiam venatorii instrumenti; quae plurimum refert unum in locum conferas an in diversa dispergas. Contra vereor ne sit incautum, rem tam magnam isdem tempestatibus isdem casibus subdere; tutius videtur incerta fortunae possessionum varietatibus experiri. Habet etiam multum iucunditatis soli caelique mutatio, ipsaque illa peregrinatio 5 inter sua. Iam, quod deliberationis nostrae caput est, agri sunt fertiles pingues aquosi; constant campis vineis silvis, quae materiam et ex ea reditum

redfin

How Gift-Giving is Like Getting Drunk: Fronto with Seasonal Advice

Cornelius Fronto, To Appian from Fronto 7

“The person who sends rather weighty gifts causes no less grief than the one who throws the ball too hard to his teammate or offers a big cup to his fellow drinker in toast. For the latter seems to toast not for pleasure but for getting drunk. Just as in wise drinking parties we see that the wine is mixed with a little pure alcohol and a lot of water, so too are gifts mixed best with a lot of thought and a little expenditure.

For who should we say gets the benefit from expensive gifts? Is it the poor? They are not capable of giving them. The rich? They don’t need to get them. In addition, it is not possible to constantly give expensive gifts—there will be a failure of resources if someone should often send out immense gifts. It is possible, however, to give small gifts endlessly and without regret—since someone owes only small thanks to the one who gave a small gift.”

  1. Ὁ δὲ τὰ βαρύτερα δῶρα πέμπων οὐχ ἧττον λυπεῖ τοῦ βαρεῖαν πέμποντος ἐπὶ τὸν συσφαιρίζοντα ἢ μεγάλην κύλην προπίνοντος τῷ συμπότῃ・ εἰς γὰρ μέθην οὐκ εἰς ἡδονὴν προπίνειν ἔοικεν. ὥσπερ δὲ τὸν οἶνον ἐν τοῖς σώφροσιν συμποσίοις ὁρῶμεν κιρνάμενον ἀκράτῳ μὲν πάνυ ὀλίγῳ, πλείστῳ δὲ τῷ ὕδατι, οὕτω δὴ καὶ τὰ δῶρα κιρνάναι προσῆκεν πολλῇ μὲν φιλοφροσύνῃ, ἐλαχίστῳ δὲ ἀναλώματι. τίσιν γὰp ἂν Φαίημεν ἁρμόττειν τὰ πολυτελῆ δῶρα; ἆρά γε τοῖς πένησιν; ἀλλὰ πέμπειν οὐ δύνανται・ ἢ τοῖς πλουσίοις; ἀλλά λαμβάνειν οὐ δέονται. τοῖς μὲν οὖν μεγάλοις δώροις τὸ συνεχὲς οὐ πρόσεστιν, ἢ ἐκπεσεῖν ἀναγκὴ τῶν ὑπαρχόντων, εἴ τις μεγάλα τε πέμποι καὶ πολλάκις. τοῖς δὲ μικροῖς δώροις τό τε συνεχὲς πρόσεστιν καί τὸ ἀμεταγνωστόν, εἰ <καὶ μικρὰ δεῖ τε>λέσαι μικρὰ πέμψαντι.†

 

Image result for Fronto medieval manuscript
Hermit at work on a manuscript, from the Estoire del Saint Graal, France

Pliny, With an Epistolary Guilt-Trip

Pliny, Letters 3.17

 “Is the reason your letters have not come for so long because everything is going well? Or, is everything good but you are really busy? Or are you not that busy but just have barely any time for writing?

Please take this worry away from me, I can’t handle it! Do it even if you have to send a courier. I will pay the cost and top him too as long as he tells me what I want.

I am well, if to be well is to live in suspense and worry, expecting all day long and fearing that anything which can hurt a person as happened to my dearest friend.”

Plinius Iulio Serviano Suo S.

1Rectene omnia, quod iam pridem epistulae tuae cessant? an omnia recte, sed occupatus es tu? an tu non occupatus, sed occasio scribendi vel rara vel nulla? Exime hunc mihi scrupulum, cui par esse non possum, exime autem vel data opera tabellario misso. Ego viaticum, ego etiam praemium dabo, nuntiet modo quod opto. Ipse valeo, si valere est suspensum et anxium vivere, exspectantem in horas timentemque pro capite amicissimo, quidquid accidere homini potest. Vale.

Tuscum des Plinius Schninkel AA2.jpg
Pliny’s Villa at Tuscum

The Greater Deeds of Famous People

Pliny, Letters 3.16

“I believe I have already noted that the more famous deeds and words of men and women are sometimes not their greatest ones. My opinion was confirmed yesterday during a conversation with Fannia. She is a granddaughter of that Arria who was a source of strength and an example for her husband in his death. She was telling me many things about her grandmother which were no less important even if they were less well-known. I think they will be as amazing for you to read as they were for me to hear them.

Her husband Caecina Paetus was sick, and their son was sick, and it seemed that both would died. The son did die and he was a boy of exceeding beauty matched by his humble character who was dear to his parents no less for these qualities than for the fact he was their son. Arria prepared everything for the funeral and then led the ceremony in such a way that her husband did not know. Indeed, whenever she went into his bedroom, she pretended that their son was still alive and was actually getting better.

When he was asking how the boy was doing, she would respond, “he slept well and is eating easily.” And then, when her tears which she had held back overcame her and burst out, she left the room and surrendered herself to sorrow. When she was done, she returned with dry eyes and a composed face as if she had left her loss outside.

It was truly a famous deed when she took a dagger, drove it into her chest, pulled it out again, and then, as she offered it to her husband, added that immortal and nearly divine word, “Paetus, it does not hurt.” But when she was doing these things and saying them, fame and eternity stood before her eyes. For this reason it was greater when she suppressed her tears, hid her grief, and still acted as a mother once she had lost herself without the promise of eternity or the prize of glory to come.”

On Arria’s death.

C. Plinius Nepoti Suo S.

Adnotasse videor facta dictaque virorum feminarumque alia clariora esse alia maiora. Confirmata est opinio mea hesterno Fanniae sermone. Neptis haec Arriae illius, quae marito et solacium mortis et exemplum fuit. Multa referebat aviae suae non minora hoc sed obscuriora; quae tibi existimo tam mirabilia legenti fore, quam mihi audienti fuerunt. Aegrotabat Caecina Paetus maritus eius, aegrotabat et filius, uterque mortifere, ut videbatur. Filius decessit; eximia pulchritudine pari verecundia, et parentibus non minus ob alia carus quam quod filius erat. Huic illa ita funus paravit, ita duxit exsequias, ut ignoraret maritus; quin immo quotiens cubiculum eius intraret, vivere filium atque etiam commodiorem esse simulabat, ac persaepe interroganti, quid ageret puer, respondebat: “Bene quievit, libenter cibum sumpsit.” Deinde, cum diu cohibitae lacrimae vincerent prorumperentque, egrediebatur; tunc se dolori dabat; satiata siccis oculis composito vultu redibat, tamquam orbitatem foris reliquisset. Praeclarum quidem illud eiusdem, ferrum stringere, perfodere pectus, extrahere pugionem, porrigere marito, addere vocem immortalem ac paene divinam: “Paete, non dolet.” Sed tamen ista facienti, ista dicenti, gloria et aeternitas ante oculos erant; quo maius est sine praemio acternitatis, sine praemio gloriae, abdere lacrimas operire luctum, amissoque filio matrem adhuc agere.

Antoine Rivalz - La Mort de Paetus.jpg
La Mort de Paetus by Antoine Rivalz

 

I Made Your Poems Worse: You’re Welcome!

Pliny, Letters, 4.18

“To Arrius Antonius, My friend:

Is there any way I can prove myself to you beyond the work I have put in to your Greek epigrams, which I have tried to match in Latin translation? It’s still a turn for the worse: the cause is the weakness of my own genius followed by the inadequacy of what Lucretius calls the “poverty of our country’s language.” But, if these Latin translations of mine seem to you to possess any bit of charm, then you know how much pleasure I have in the originals you made in Greek. Farewell.”

Plinius Arrio Antonino Suo S.

Quemadmodum magis adprobare tibi possum, quanto opere mirer epigrammata tua Graeca, quam quod quaedam Latine aemulari et exprimere temptavi? in deterius tamen. Accidit hoc primum imbecillitate ingenii mei, deinde inopia ac potius, ut Lucretius ait, egestate patrii sermonis. Quodsi haec, quae sunt et Latina et mea, habere tibi aliquid venustatis videbuntur, quantum putas inesse iis gratiae, quae et a te et Graece proferuntur! Vale.

Greek Epigram by Sopater