Pliny on the Utility of Gossip

Pliny, Epistle 18 to Fadius Rufinus 12

“You now have all the city’s rumors: for all our gossip is Tullus. His estate sale is hotly anticipated. For he had so much that on that day when he purchased the largest gardens he also filled them with the most and most ancient statues. These were works of finest beauty in which he had forgotten!

If you have any news you think is worthy of sharing, don’t keep it from me. For human ears are always pleased by news, and we use these examples to learn the art of living. Farewell.”

Habes omnes fabulas urbis; nam sunt omnes fabulae Tullus. Exspectatur auctio: fuit enim tam copiosus, ut amplissimos hortos eodem quo emerat die instruxerit plurimis et antiquissimis statuis; tantum illi pulcherrimorum operum in horreis quae neglegebat. Invicem tu, si quid istic epistula dignum, ne gravare. Nam cum aures hominum novitate laetantur, tum ad rationem vitae exemplis erudimur. Vale.

BL MS Royal 6 E VII


I Am Dedicating My Life to Philosophy. Please Send Me Some Gossip From Rome

Cicero, Letters to Atticus (25; II.5)

“I am waiting for your letters on those events [in Rome]: what is Arrius saying and what is is opinion about being overthrown. Which consuls are being prepared—is it Pompey and Crassus as people claim or, as was just written to me, is it Servius Sulpicius with Gabinius. Are there new laws? Is there anything worthy of news at all? Or, who, since Nepos has left, is going to be nominated as Augur? (and this is the one thing I might be captured with by those people—look at how easy I am!)

Why do I ask these things when I want to put them aside and pursue philosophy with all my focus? This, I say, is what is in my mind. I wish I had pursued this from the start. But now when I have learned that everything which I thought was precious is empty, I am planning to dedicate myself to all the Muses.

Nevertheless, please do tell me in your reply about ?Tutius? and whether they have readied someone for his place and also what has become of Publius Clodius. Write me about everything, as you promised, at leisure. And also tell me on what day you think you will leave Rome so that I may tell you more certainly where I will be then? Please send me a letter right away on the things I have written you about. I am deeply awaiting your letter.”

De istis rebus exspecto tuas litteras, quid Arrius narret, quo animo se destitutum ferat, et qui consules parentur, utrum, ut populi sermo, Pompeius et Crassus, an, ut mihi scribitur, cum Gabinio Ser. Sulpicius, et num quae novae leges et num quid novi omnino, et, quoniam Nepos proficiscitur, cuinam auguratus deferatur, quo quidem uno ego ab istis capi possum—vide levitatem meam! sed quid ego haec, quae cupio deponere et toto animo atque omni cura ϕιλοσοϕεῖν? sic, inquam, in animo est; vellem ab initio, nunc vero, quoniam quae putavi esse praeclara expertus sum quam essent inania, cum omnibus Musis rationem habere cogito.

3Tu tamen de †Tutio†1 ad me rescribe certius et num quis in eius locum paretur, et quid de P. Clodio fiat, et omnia, quem ad modum polliceris, ἐπὶ σχολῆς scribe. et quo die Roma te exiturum putes velim ad me scribas, ut certiorem te faciam quibus in locis futurus sim, epistulamque statim des de iis rebus de quibus ad te scripsi. valde enim exspecto tuas litteras.

Письменные принадлежности и аксессуары – 308 photos
Chroniques de Hainaut (vers 1470)

The Distinguished Antiquity of the Mushroom as a Membrum Virile

This popped into my mind for no particular reason.

μύκης, μύκητος: “mushroom”…2. membrum virile


Herodian. Anecd. Ox. iii.231.5 = Archilochus 252

“Mushroom: can also mean a man’s genitals—which is what Archilochus says when he presents it with the same number of syllables: “The tendons of my ‘mushroom’ were ruptured.”

(μύκης) σημαίνει δὲ καὶ τὸ αἰδοῖον τοῦ ἀνθρώπου, ὅπερ καὶ ἰσοσυλλάβως ἔκλινεν Ἀρχίλοχος εἰπὼν

ἀλλ᾿ ἀπερρώγασι μύκεω τένοντες.

Henderson, The Maculate Muse 1991: 20

mushroom henderson

Beekes, Etymological Dictionary of Ancient Greek 2010

beekes mush 1

beekes mush 2

Dio Cassius, Rom. Hist. Ep. 41

“Nero has also left for us a saying worth remembering. For he used to say that mushrooms were food of the gods because [Claudius] became a god thanks to a mushroom”

Καὶ ὁ Νέρων δὲ οὐκ ἀπάξιον μνήμης ἔπος κατέλιπε· τοὺς γὰρ μύκητας θεῶν βρῶμα ἔλεγεν εἶναι, ὅτι καὶ ἐκεῖνος διὰ τοῦ μύκητος θεὸς ἐγεγόνει.

Hippocrates of Cos, Epidemics 7.102

“The young daughter of Pausanias ate a raw mushroom and felt nausea, choking, and stomach pain. Drinking warm melicrêt and puking relieved her along with a warm bath. She puked up the mushroom in the bath and she sweated while she was getting better”

Τῇ Παυσανίου κούρῃ μύκητα ὠμὸν φαγούσῃ ἄση, πνιγμός, ὀδύνη γαστρός. μελίκρητον θερμὸν πίνειν καὶ ἐμεῖν ξυνήνεγκε, καὶ λουτρὸν θερμόν· ἐν τῷ λουτρῷ ἐξήμεσε τὸν μύκητα, καὶ ἐπεὶ λήξεινἔμελλεν ἐξίδρωσεν.

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.


Image result for medieval manuscript Pliny

Sex and Gossip Advice from Epictetus

Epictetus, Encheiridion 8-9

“As much as it is in your power, keep yourself clean regarding sexual activities before marriage. If you sample these things, you must pursue what is lawful. But do not be annoying to people who do engage in sex nor disapproving. And don’t offer up the fact that you don’t have sex [or not].

If someone tells you that some person is saying awful things about you, don’t get defensive about what he’s said. But answer: “Ah, he doesn’t know the rest of my nagging faults—otherwise, he wouldn’t be gossiping about only these!”

Περὶ ἀφροδίσια εἰς δύναμιν πρὸ γάμου καθαρευτέον· ἁπτομένῳ δὲ ὧν νομιμόν ἐστι μεταληπτέον. μὴ μέντοι ἐπαχθὴς γίνου τοῖς χρωμένοις μηδὲ ἐλεγκτικός· μηδὲ πολλαχοῦ τὸ ὅτι αὐτὸς οὐ χρῇ, παράφερε.

Ἐάν τίς σοι ἀπαγγείλῃ ὅτι ὁ δεῖνά σε κακῶς λέγει, μὴ ἀπολογοῦ πρὸς τὰ λεχθέντα, ἀλλ᾿ ἀποκρίνου διότι “ἠγνόει γάρ τὰ ἄλλα τὰ προσόντα μοι κακά, ἐπεὶ οὐκ ἂν ταῦτα μόνα ἔλεγεν.”

Image result for medieval manuscript gossiping monks
Miniatura de la rúbrica “De adulterio et abrupto”

Cicero, Always Chirping about the Ides of March

Earlier in the Month I posted some of 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