Wisdom is the Offspring of Experience and Memory

from Aulus Gellius, Attic Nights 13.8

The poet Afranius wisely and elegantly said that Wisdom is the daughter of Experience and Memory

The poet Afranius expressed himself exceptionally and most truthfully concerning the creation and cultivation of wisdom, that it is the daughter of Experience and Memory. For, with that claim, he shows that whoever wishes to be wise in human matters does not need merely books and training in rhetoric and philosophy, but must also become familiar with and practiced in understanding and facing the rest of life as well—to remember with conviction all of its actions and outcomes and from that to learn and take counsel from what the actual dangers of life teach, not just what books and teachers have attempted to represent through their empty words and fictions, like those in farces or dreams. The lines are from a Roman comedy by Afranius, called the Chair: “Experience fathered me; Memory gave birth to me; the Greeks call me Sophia, I am wisdom in Rome.”

There is a similar sentiment from Pacuvius which the philosopher Macedo, a good man and a close friend, used to think should be written above the entries of all the temples: “I hate men of base work and philosophical sentiment”. He said this because nothing was more shameful or intolerable than the fact that lazy and useless people veiled in beard and cloak should turn the basic foundations of philosophy into games of the tongue and words and then, even as they were dripping with faults, loudly renounce others’ vices.”

 

Quod Afranius poeta prudenter et lepide Sapientiam filiam esse Vsus et Memoriae dixit.

 

  1. Eximie hoc atque verissime Afranius poeta de gignenda conparandaque sapientia opinatus est, quod eam filiam esse Vsus et Memoriae dixit. II. Eo namque argumento demonstrat, qui sapiens rerum esse humanarum velit, non libris solis neque disciplinis rhetoricis dialecticisque opus esse, sed oportere cum versari quoque exercerique in rebus comminus noscendis periclitandisque eaque omnia acta et eventa firmiter meminisse et proinde sapere atque consulere ex his, quae pericula ipsa rerum docuerint, non quae libri tantum aut magistri per quasdam inanitates verborum et imaginum tamquam in mimo aut in somnio deblateraverint. III. Versus Afranii sunt in togata, cui Sellae nomen est:

 

Vsus me genuit, mater peperit Memoria,

Sophiam vocant me Grai, vos Sapientiam.

 

Item versus est in eandem ferme sententiam Pacuvii, quem Macedo philosophus, vir bonus, familiaris meus, scribi debere censebat pro foribus omnium templorum: ego odi homines ignava opera et philosopha sententia. V. Nihil enim fieri posse indignius neque intolerantius dicebat, quam quod homines ignavi ac desides operti barba et pallio mores et emolumenta philosophiae in linguae verborumque artes converterent et vitia facundissime accusarent intercutibus ipsi vitiis madentes.

Alcman fr. 125 (Schol ad Pind. Isthm 1.56)

 

“Trying is the first step of learning”

 

πῆρά τοι μαθήσιος ἀρχά

 

 

Campbell’s Loeb (p. 481) translates “Experience is the beginning of learning” which sound somewhat better (and better glosses the Line from Pindar). But peira also (and primarily?) conveys the sense of making an attempt or test of something. Any other suggestions?