A Model Friend Request for Readers; A Somewhat Awkward Dating Profile

Dio Chrysostom, 18.21

 “I would like it, if it were also pleasing to you, for us to meet at some time and then, spending time with ancient writers and talking about them, be useful to one another.”

βουλοίμην δ᾿ ἄν, εἴ σοι κεχαρισμένον εἴη, καὶ ἐν τῷ αὐτῷ ποτε ἡμᾶς γενέσθαι, ἵνα καὶ ἐντυγχάνοντες τοῖς παλαιοῖς καὶ διαλεγόμενοι περὶ αὐτῶν χρήσιμοί τι γενοίμεθα.

Image result for Ancient Greek and Roman Reading fresco

[I actually find this sentiment a little sweet and completely relatable]

Dreaming of the Catalog of Ships?

Philostratus, Heroicus 6. 3-4

“I am sailing from Egypt and Phoenicia for twenty-five days at this point, somehow. As the ship was drawing up into Elaious, I dreamed I was reading the words of Homer when he describes the catalog of the Achaeans and that I was inviting all the Achaeans to get on to my ship as if it were large enough to hold them all!

When I was waking from the dream because some shiver had spread over me, I supposed that it prophesied a slow and long journey. For visions of the dead are bad signs for eager people.”

ΟΙΝ. Πλέω μὲν ἐξ Αἰγύπτου καὶ Φοινίκης πέμπτην καὶ τριακοστὴν ἤδη που ταύτην ἡμέραν. κατασχούσης δὲ τῆς νεὼς εἰς Ἐλεοῦντα τοῦτον ἔδοξα τὰ Ὁμήρου ἔπη ἀναγινώσκειν, ἐν οἷς τὸν κατάλογον τῶν Ἀχαιῶν φράζει, καὶ ξυνεκάλουν τοὺς Ἀχαιοὺς ἐμβῆναι τὴν ναῦν ὡς ἀποχρῶσαν ὁμοῦ πᾶσιν. 4ἐπεὶ δὲ ἐξέθορον τοῦ ἐνυπνίου (καὶ γάρ με καὶ φρίκης τι ὑπεληλύθει), ξυνεβαλόμην μὲν αὐτὸ ἐς βραδυτῆτα τοῦ πλοῦ καὶ μῆκος· αἱ γὰρ τῶν ἀποθανόντων ὄψεις ἀργοὶ τοῖς ἐσπουδακόσι.

Detail showing a painting of ships in a harbour from the illuminated border of the Treaty of Amiens between England and France, 18 August 1527. Catalogue reference E 30/1113. The full image is available through our Image Library.
From the UK National Archives

Memory, Our Guide to the Future

Plutarch, Obsolesence Of Oracles (Moralia 432)

“It is not necessary to feel wonder or disbelieve upon seeing this ability in the mind which is a parallel for prophecy, even if we see nothing else, which we call memory—how great an effort it proves to be to save and preserve the things that have happened before or, really, what is now. For nothing of what has happened exists or persist, but at the very moment everything comes to be it also perishes: deeds, words, emotions, each of them passing away on the stream of time.

But this power of the mind in some way I do not understand apprehends them and endows them with appearance and substance for those who are not here now. The prophecy which was given to the Thessalians was ordering them to consider “the hearing of a deaf man; the sight of the blind.”

And so memory is for us the hearing of affairs we are deaf to and the sight of matters to which we are blind. This is why, as I was saying, it should not be a surprise when it has control over things which no longer are and can anticipate those which have not yet happened. For these matters are much better fit to it and those are similar. Memory approaches and attaches to what will be and it breaks off from what has happened before and reached an end except for the sake of remembering it.”

οὐ δεῖ δὲ θαυμάζειν οὐδ᾿ ἀπιστεῖν ὁρῶντας, εἰ μηδὲν ἄλλο, τῆς ψυχῆς τὴν ἀντίστροφον τῇ μαντικῇ δύναμιν, ἣν μνήμην καλοῦμεν, ἡλίκον ἔργον ἀποδείκνυται τὸ σῴζειν τὰ παρῳχημένα καὶ φυλάττειν, μᾶλλον δὲ ὄντα· τῶν γὰρ γεγονότων οὐδὲν ἔστιν οὐδ᾿ ὑφέστηκεν, ἀλλ᾿ ἅμα γίγνεται πάντα καὶ φθείρεται, καὶ πράξεις καὶ λόγοι καὶ παθήματα, τοῦ χρόνου καθάπερ ῥεύματος ἕκαστα παραφέροντος· αὕτη δὲ τῆς ψυχῆς ἡ δύναμις οὐκ οἶδ᾿ ὅντινα τρόπον ἀντιλαμβανομένη τοῖς μὴ παροῦσι φαντασίαν καὶ οὐσίαν περιτίθησιν. ὁ μὲν γὰρ Θετταλοῖς περὶ Ἄρνης δοθεὶς χρησμὸς ἐκέλευε φράζειν: “κωφοῦ τ᾿ ἀκοὴν τυφλοῖό τε δέρξιν,”

ἡ δὲ μνήμη καὶ κωφῶν πραγμάτων ἀκοὴ καὶ τυφλῶν ὄψις ἡμῖν ἐστιν. ὅθεν, ὡς ἔφην, οὐκ ἔστι θαυμαστόν, εἰ κρατοῦσα τῶν μηκέτ᾿ ὄντων προλαμβάνει πολλὰ τῶν μηδέπω γεγονότων· ταῦτα γὰρ αὐτῇ μᾶλλον προσήκει καὶ τούτοις συμπαθής ἐστι· καὶ γὰρ ἐπιβάλλεται καὶ προστίθεται πρὸς τὰ μέλλοντα καὶ τῶν παρῳχημένων καὶ τέλος ἐχόντων ἀπήλλακται πλὴν τοῦ μνημονεύειν.

Charles Fernyhough, Pieces of Light (2001):

126: Memory’s “greater value”…”might have been its ability to foretell the future”

Mario Mikulincer. Human Learned Helplessness: A Coping Perspective. New York: Plenum Press, 1994.

102: “The hypothesis that the experience with recurrent lack of control generates an expectancy of no control in a new task is based on two assumptions; first, that people tend to anticipate future events congruent with present and/or past events; and second, that they tend to generalize expectancies to new tasks and situations”

 

Bern Le Hunte and Jan A. Golembiewski. “Stories Have the Power to Save Us: A Neurological Framework for the Imperative to Tell Stories.” Arts and Social Sciences Journal 5.2 (2014) 73-76.

75: “Storytelling, then, is essential to the way we construct our humanity. It’s also vital to our study of the future.”

 

Mark Turner, The Storytelling Mind 1996, 4-5:  “narrative imagining—story—is the fundamental instrument of thought. Rational capacities depend upon it. It is our chief means of looking into the future, of predicting, of planning, and of explaining. It is a literary capacity indispensable to human cognition generally. This is the first way in which the mind is essentially literary.”

 

Valenciennes, Bibl. mun., ms. 0007, f. 055 (the prophet Isaiah being sawn in half inside a cedar tree). Bible (second quarter of the 16th century?)
Valenciennes, Bibl. mun., ms. 0007, f. 055 (the prophet Isaiah being sawn in half inside a cedar tree).

Justice and Taxes: Aristotle and Plato Say Just Enough

Aristotle, Magna Moralia 1194a

“For example, it is fair that one who possesses much should pay a lot in taxes while one who has little should pay little”

οἷον ἀνάλογόν ἐστιν τὸν τὰ πολλὰ κεκτημένον πολλὰ εἰσφέρειν, τὸν δὲ τὰ ὀλίγα κεκτημένον ὀλίγα·

Plato, Republic 8 (568e)

“But, I was saying, we have wandered off topic. Let’s talk again about the tyrant’s camp, how he is going to pay for such a large and strange crew that’s never in the same place.

He said, “it is clear that if there is any money sacred to the state, he will spend it as long as what is left over remains, so that he can demand fewer taxes from the population.”

Ἀλλὰ δή, εἶπον, ἐνταῦθα μὲν ἐξέβημεν· λέγωμεν δὲ πάλιν ἐκεῖνο τὸ τοῦ τυράννου στρατόπεδον, τὸ καλόν τε καὶ πολὺ καὶ | ποικίλον καὶ οὐδέποτε ταὐτόν, πόθεν θρέψεται.

Δῆλον, ἔφη, ὅτι, ἐάν τε ἱερὰ χρήματα ᾖ ἐν τῇ πόλει, ταῦτα ἀναλώσει, ὅποι ποτὲ ἂν ἀεὶ ἐξαρκῇ τὰ τῶν ἀποδομένων, ἐλάττους εἰσφορὰς ἀναγκάζων τὸν δῆμον εἰσφέρειν.

Plato, Republic 1 (343e)

“As matters of state go, whenever there are taxes, the just person pays in more from the same amount on which the unjust man pays less. And when there are refunds, the former takes nothing while the lesser profits a lot.”

ἔπειτα ἐν τοῖς πρὸς τὴν πόλιν, ὅταν τέ τινες εἰσφοραὶ ὦσιν, ὁ μὲν δίκαιος ἀπὸ τῶν ἴσων πλέον εἰσφέρει, ὁ δ’ ἔλαττον, ὅταν τε λήψεις, ὁ μὲν οὐδέν, ὁ δὲ πολλὰ κερδαίνει.

 

Image result for Ancient Greek money

What Physicians Want: Fleet Footed is Gout!

Plutarch Moralia 501b

“Physicians by birth want two things—that person not be sick, and that someone who is sick should not be ignorant of being sick. This latter case is what happens in the afflictions of the mind. For when people are foolish, inappropriate, or unjust, they do not think they are doing wrong but some even imagine they are acting correctly. So, while no one ever calls a fever “healthy” or claims that consumption is “feeling fit” or that “gout” is being “fleet-footed”, or jaundice a “youthful blush”, many people call rage “manliness”, and lust “love” and envy “rivalry” and cowardice “circumspection”.

Even though people who are sick call doctors because they understand that they need them to address what is making them sick, those with mental ailments avoid philosophers since they believe that they are succeeding in the very acts in which they are going astray. Should we use this kind of logic, at least, we may say that poor vision is easier than madness and gout simpler than sickness in the brain. For a sick person feels it and calls for the doctor with cries….”

  1. Διὸ παῖδες ἰατρῶν βούλονται μὲν μὴ νοσεῖν τὸν ἄνθρωπον, νοσοῦντα δὲ μὴ ἀγνοεῖν ὅτι νοσεῖ· ὃ τοῖς ψυχικοῖς πάθεσι πᾶσι συμβέβηκεν. οὔτε γὰρ ἀφραίνοντες οὔτ᾿ ἀσελγαίνοντες οὔτ᾿ ἀδικοπραγοῦντες ἁμαρτάνειν δοκοῦσιν, ἀλλ᾿ ἔνιοι καὶ κατορθοῦν. πυρετὸν μὲν γὰρ οὐδεὶς ὑγίειαν ὠνόμασεν οὐδὲ φθίσιν εὐεξίαν οὐδὲ ποδάγραν ποδώκειαν οὐδ᾿ ὠχρίασιν ἐρύθημα, θυμὸν δὲ πολλοὶ καλοῦσιν ἀνδρείαν καὶ ἔρωτα φιλίαν καὶ φθόνον ἅμιλλαν καὶ δειλίαν ἀσφάλειαν. εἶθ᾿ οἱ μὲν καλοῦσι τοὺς ἰατρούς, αἰσθάνονται γὰρ ὧν δέονται πρὸς ἃ νοσοῦσιν· οἱ δὲ φεύγουσι τοὺς φιλοσόφους, οἴονται γὰρ ἐπιτυγχάνειν ἐν οἷς διαμαρτάνουσιν. ἐπεὶ τούτῳ γε τῷ λόγῳ χρώμενοι λέγομεν ὅτι κουφότερόν ἐστιν ὀφθαλμία μανίας καὶ ποδάγρα φρενίτιδος, ὁ μὲν γὰρ αἰσθάνεται καὶ καλεῖ τὸν ἰατρὸν κεκραγώς…
  2. Image result for medieval manuscript doctors
    Image Taken from here

The Illegal, Murderous Rapist: Herodotus Subtweets a Tyrant

I covered a class for a colleague today and read this bit from Herodotus for the first time in many years. It was, well, just a little eerie.

Herodotus 3.80

“Otanês was first urging the Persians to entrust governing to the people, saying these things: “it seems right to me that we no longer have a monarchy. For it is neither pleasing nor good. For you all know about the arrogance of Kambyses and you were a party to the insanity of the Magus. How could monarchy be a fitting thing when it permits an unaccountable person to do whatever he pleases? Even if you put the best of all men into this position he might go outside of customary thoughts. For hubris is nurtured by the fine things present around him, and envy is native to a person from the beginning.

The one who has these two qualities possesses every kind of malice. For one who is overfilled does many reckless things, some because of arrogance and some because of envy. Certainly, it would be right for a man who is a tyrant at least to have no envy at all, since he has all the good things. Yet he becomes the opposite of this towards his citizens: for he envies those who are best around him and live, and he takes pleasure in the worst of the citizens—he is the best at welcoming slanders.

He becomes the most disharmonious of all people—for if you admire him only moderately, then he is upset because you do not support him ardently. But if someone supports him excessively, he is angry at him for being a toady. The worst things are still to be said: he overturns traditional laws, he rapes women, and kills people without reason.”

᾿Οτάνης μὲν ἐκέλευε ἐς μέσον Πέρσῃσι καταθεῖναι τὰ πρήγματα, λέγων τάδε· «᾿Εμοὶ δοκέει ἕνα μὲν ἡμέων μούναρχον μηκέτι γενέσθαι· οὔτε γὰρ ἡδὺ οὔτε ἀγαθόν. Εἴδετε μὲν γὰρ τὴν Καμβύσεω ὕβριν ἐπ’ ὅσον ἐπεξῆλθε, μετεσχήκατε δὲ καὶ τῆς τοῦ μάγου ὕβριος. Κῶς δ’ ἂν εἴη χρῆμα κατηρτημένον μουναρχίη, τῇ ἔξεστι ἀνευθύνῳ ποιέειν τὰ βούλεται; Καὶ γὰρ ἂν τὸν ἄριστον ἀνδρῶν πάντων στάντα ἐς ταύτην τὴν ἀρχὴν ἐκτὸς τῶν ἐωθότων νοημάτων στήσειε. ᾿Εγγίνεται μὲν γάρ οἱ ὕβρις ὑπὸ τῶν παρεόντων ἀγαθῶν, φθόνος δὲ ἀρχῆθεν ἐμφύεται ἀνθρώπῳ. Δύο δ’ ἔχων ταῦτα ἔχει πᾶσαν κακότητα· τὰ μὲν γὰρ ὕβρι κεκορημένος ἔρδει πολλὰ καὶ ἀτάσθαλα, τὰ δὲ φθόνῳ. Καίτοι ἄνδρα γε τύραννον ἄφθονον ἔδει εἶναι, ἔχοντά γε πάντα τὰ ἀγαθά· τὸ δὲ ὑπεναντίον τούτου ἐς τοὺς πολιήτας πέφυκε· φθονέει γὰρ τοῖσι ἀρίστοισι περιεοῦσί τε καὶ ζώουσι, χαίρει δὲ τοῖσι κακίστοισι τῶν ἀστῶν, διαβολὰς δὲ ἄριστος ἐνδέκεσθαι.

᾿Αναρμοστότατον δὲ πάντων· ἤν τε γὰρ αὐτὸν μετρίως θωμάζῃς, ἄχθεται ὅτι οὐ κάρτα θεραπεύεται, ἤν τε θεραπεύῃ τις κάρτα, ἄχθεται ἅτε θωπί. Τὰ δὲ δὴ μέγιστα ἔρχομαι ἐρέων· νόμαιά τε κινέει πάτρια καὶ βιᾶται γυναῖκας κτείνει τε ἀκρίτους.

 

Image result for medieval manuscript manuscript
Image from here

Genius or Madness? An Epistle on Democritus

Hippocrates, Letter 10

A man of ours takes the greatest risks in the city now, Hippocrates, who both in the present moment and in the future has been a hope for fame for the city. May this, by the all the gods, never be a source of envy! When he has become so sick because of the great wisdom which possesses him that as a result he was afraid he might not obtain it—well, that’s how Democritus himself lost hits mind, and then abandoned our city of Abdera.

When he forgot everything, even himself before, he was awake both night and day and was laughing at everything great and small and believing that he would accomplish nothing at all for his whole life. Someone marries, another goes into business, another is a public speaker, another serves in office, he is old, he votes, he votes against things, he is sick, he is wounded, he dies. He laughs at everything, even when he sees the downcast and angry or even those who are happy.

The man is researching into the matters of Hades and he is writing these things and he says that the air is full of ghosts and he heeds the voices of birds. He often gets up alone at night and seems to be singing songs in the silence. And he claims that he often travels into the boundlessness and says that there are an endless number of Democriteis like himself. He lives with his skin ruined as ruined judgment. We fear these things, Hippocrates, and we are anxious about them: so save us, and come home quickly and help our country, do not put us off.”

     Κινδυνεύεται τὰ μέγιστα τῇ πόλει νῦν, ῾Ιππόκρατες, ἀνὴρ τῶν ἡμετέρων, ὃς καὶ τῷ παρόντι χρόνῳ καὶ τῷ μέλλοντι αἰεὶ κλέος ἠλπίζετο τῇ πόλει· μηδὲ νῦν ὅδε, πάντες θεοὶ, φθονηθείη· οὕτως ὑπὸ πολλῆς τῆς κατεχούσης αὐτὸν σοφίης νενόσηκεν, ὥστε φόβος οὐχ ὁ τυχὼν, ἂν φθαρῇ τὸν λογισμὸν Δημόκριτος, ὄντως δὴ τὴν πόλιν ἡμῶν ᾿Αβδηριτῶν καταλειφθήσεσθαι. ᾿Εκλαθόμενος γὰρ ἁπάντων καὶ ἑωυτοῦ πρότερον, ἐγρηγορὼς καὶ νύκτα καὶ ἡμέρην, γελῶν ἕκαστα μικρὰ καὶ μεγάλα, καὶ μηδὲν οἰόμενος εἶναι τὸν βίον ὅλον διατελεῖ. Γαμεῖ τις, ὁ δὲ ἐμπορεύεται, ὁ δὲ δημηγορεῖ, ἄλλος ἄρχει, πρεσβεύει, χειροτονεῖται, ἀποχειροτονεῖται, νοσεῖ, τιτρώσκεται,  τέθνηκεν, ὁ δὲ γελᾷ πάντα, τοὺς μὲν κατηφεῖς τε καὶ σκυθρωποὺς, τοὺς δὲ χαίροντας ὁρῶν. Ζητεῖ δὲ ὁ ἀνὴρ καὶ περὶ τῶν ἐν Αδου,

Ζητεῖ δὲ ὁ ἀνὴρ καὶ περὶ τῶν ἐν Αδου, καὶ γράφει ταῦτα, καὶ εἰδώλων φησὶ πλήρη τὸν ἠέρα εἶναι, καὶ ὀρνέων φωνὰς ὠτακουστεῖ, καὶ πολλάκις νύκτωρ ἐξαναστὰς μοῦνος ἡσυχῇ ᾠδὰς ᾄδοντι ἔοικε, καὶ ἀποδημεῖν ἐνίοτε λέγει ἐς τὴν ἀπειρίην, καὶ Δημοκρίτους εἶναι ὁμοίους ἑωυτῷ ἀναριθμήτους, καὶ συνδιεφθορὼς τῇ γνώμῃ τὸ χρῶμα ζῇ. Ταῦτα φοβούμεθα, ῾Ιππόκρατες, ταῦτα ταραττόμεθα, ἀλλὰ σῶζε, καὶ ταχὺς ἐλθὼν νουθέτησον τὴν ἡμῶν πατρίδα, μηδὲ ἡμᾶς ἀποβάλῃς·

Suda s.v. γλουτῶν

“Democritus of Abdera was called the “Laugher” because he laughed at the useless seriousness of human beings”

ὅτι ὁ Δημόκριτος ὁ ᾿Αβδηρίτης ἐπεκλήθη Γελασῖνος διὰ τὸ γελᾶν πρὸς τὸ κενόσπουδον τῶν ἀνθρώπων.

 

More on Democritus:

Robert Burton’s Sketch

Aulus Gellius with Laberius’ Play on Democritus’ Blinding

From ‘The Book of Macharius on the eye’, late 14th-century. BL, Sloane MS 981, f.68.