Too Busy Writing to Fear Ghosts

Lucian, The Lover of Lies, 32

“He was completely convinced that nothing like this can possibly exist, so much so that, once he closed himself in a funerary monument outside the city gates, he was spending all day and night writing and editing.

Then some of the young men who wanted to annoy or frighten him dressed like corpses in black robes and masks that were imitations of skulls stood around him and were danced, leaping to the air in a quick step. He did not fear their mimicry nor even look at them, but kept writing and said, “Stop playing around.” That’s how certainly he was that souls do not exist once they have left their bodies.”

ὕτως ἄρα ἐπέπειστο μηδὲν οἷόν τε εἶναι συστῆναι τοιοῦτον ὥστε, ἐπειδὴ καθείρξας ἑαυτὸν εἰς μνῆμα ἔξω πυλῶν ἐνταῦθα διετέλει γράφων καὶ συντάττων καὶ νύκτωρ καὶ μεθ᾿ ἡμέραν, καί τινες τῶν νεανίσκων ἐρεσχελεῖν αὐτὸν βουλόμενοι καὶ δειματοῦν στειλάμενοι νεκρικῶς ἐσθῆτι μελαίνῃ καὶ προσωπείοις εἰς τὰ κρανία μεμιμημένοις περιστάντες αὐτὸν περιεχόρευον ὑπὸ πυκνῇ τῇ βάσει ἀναπηδῶντες, ὁ δὲ οὔτε ἔδεισεν τὴν προσποίησιν αὐτῶν οὔτε ὅλως ἀνέβλεψεν πρὸς αὐτούς, ἀλλὰ μεταξὺ γράφων, ‘Παύσασθε,’ ἔφη, ‘παίζοντες·’ οὕτω βεβαίως ἐπίστευε μηδὲν εἶναι τὰς ψυχὰς ἔτι ἔξω γενομένας τῶν σωμάτων.”

Antakya Archaeology Mosaic

Plutarch’s Advice On What To Watch

Plutarch’s prepared guidelines for choosing what to watch on Netflix.

Plutarch, Pericles 1.1

“When Caesar saw that many wealthy foreigners in Rome were carrying around and caring for puppies and monkey babies, he asked whether or not their wives bore children—he was warning in a masterly way that they were wasting our innate love and affection on beasts when it is owed to human beings.

Therefore, when our soul naturally possesses a certain love of learning and love of observation, isn’t it logical to rebuke people who fail to use it for anything worthy of hearing or seeing, people who neglect what is noble or useful?

Perhaps it is necessary for our perception—which apprehends the things it meets through the experience of their force—to examine everything which appears for whether it is useful or not. But each person, if he wishes to use his mind, can naturally turn himself away and change most easily to gaze upon something which seems right—with the result that it is necessary to pursue what is best, not only to look at it, but to be enriched by doing so.”

 Ξένους τινὰς ἐν Ῥώμῃ πλουσίους κυνῶν τέκνα καὶ πιθήκων ἐν τοῖς κόλποις περιφέροντας καὶ ἀγαπῶντας ἰδὼν ὁ Καῖσαρ, ὡς ἔοικεν, ἠρώτησεν εἰ παιδία παρ᾿ αὐτοῖς οὐ τίκτουσιν αἱ γυναῖκες, ἡγεμονικῶς σφόδρα νουθετήσας τοὺς τὸ φύσει φιλητικὸν ἐν ἡμῖν καὶ φιλόστοργον εἰς θηρία καταναλίσκοντας ἀνθρώποις ὀφειλόμενον.  ἆρ᾿ οὖν, ἐπεὶ φιλομαθές τι κέκτηται καὶ φιλοθέαμον ἡμῶν ἡ ψυχὴ φύσει, λόγον ἔχει ψέγειν τοὺς καταχρωμένους τούτῳ πρὸς τὰ μηδεμιᾶς ἄξια σπουδῆς ἀκούσματα καὶ θεάματα, τῶν δὲ καλῶν καὶ ὠφελίμων παραμελοῦντας; τῇ μὲν γὰρ αἰσθήσει κατὰ πάθος τῆς πληγῆς ἀντιλαμβανομένῃ τῶν προστυγχανόντων ἴσως ἀνάγκη πᾶν τὸ φαινόμενον, ἄν τε χρήσιμον ἄν τ᾿ ἄχρηστον ᾖ,  θεωρεῖν, τῷ νῷ δ᾿ ἕκαστος εἰ βούλοιτο χρῆσθαι, καὶ τρέπειν ἑαυτὸν ἀεὶ καὶ μεταβάλλειν ῥᾷστα πρὸς τὸ δοκοῦν πέφυκεν, ὥστε χρὴ διώκειν τὸ βέλτιστον, ἵνα μὴ θεωρῇ μόνον, ἀλλὰ καὶ τρέφηται τῷ θεωρεῖν.

 

Image result for ancient roman theater

Rich People Need the Poor

Lucian, Saturnalia 33 (for more Lucian go to the Scaife viewer)

“See that they don’t blame you any longer but honor you and have affection for you because they take part in these things. While the cost is of little account to you, the gift in their time of need will always be remembered. Furthermore, you would not be able to live in cities if the poor did not live there with you and make your happiness possible in countless ways. You would have no one to amaze with your wealth if you were rich alone, in private, and without anyone knowing.

So, let the masses gaze upon and wonder at your silver, your fine tables, and then, when you are toasting them, have them weigh their cups while they drink, consider the weight of the gold applied with skill, and contemplate the truth of the story it tells. In addition to hearing them call you noble and philanthropic, you will fall outside their envy. For who begrudges someone who shares and gives a little portion? And who wouldn’t pray for him to live as long as possible, benefiting from his goods? Right now, your blessings go unwitnessed, your wealth is an object of envy, and your life is not pleasant.”

Ὁρᾶτε οὖν ὅπως μηκέτι ὑμᾶς αἰτιάσωνται, ἀλλὰ τιμήσωσι καὶ φιλήσωσι τῶν ὀλίγων τούτων μεταλαμβάνοντες· ὧν ὑμῖν μὲν ἡ δαπάνη ἀνεπαίσθητος, ἐκείνοις δὲ ἐν καιρῷ τῆς χρείας ἡ δόσις ἀείμνηστος. ἄλλως τε οὐδ᾿ ἂν οἰκεῖν δύναισθε τὰς πόλεις μὴ οὐχὶ καὶ πενήτων συμπολιτευομένων καὶ μυρία πρὸς τὴν εὐδαιμονίαν ὑμῖν συντελούντων, οὐδ᾿ ἂν ἔχοιτε τοὺς θαυμάζοντας ὑμῶν τὸν πλοῦτον, ἢν μόνοι καὶ ἰδίᾳ καὶ ὑπὸ σκότῳ πλουτῆτε. ἰδέτωσαν οὖν πολλοὶ καὶ θαυμασάτωσαν ὑμῶν τὸν ἄργυρον καὶ τὰς τραπέζας καὶ προπινόντων φιλοτησίας, μεταξὺ πίνοντες περισκοπείτωσαν τὸ ἔκπωμα καὶ τὸ βάρος ἴστωσαν αὐτοὶ διαβαστάσαντες καὶ τῆς ἱστορίας τὸ ἀκριβὲς καὶ τὸν χρυσὸν ὅσος, ὃς ἐπανθεῖ τῇ τέχνῃ. πρὸς γὰρ τῷ χρηστοὺς καὶ φιλανθρώπους ἀκούειν καὶ τοῦ φθονεῖσθαι ὑπ᾿ αὐτῶν ἔξω γενήσεσθε. τίς γὰρ ἂν φθονήσειε τῷ κοινωνοῦντι καὶ διδόντι τῶν μετρίων; τίς δ᾿ οὐκ ἂν εὔξαιτο εἰς τὸ μήκιστον διαβιῶναι αὐτὸν ἀπολαύοντα τῶν ἀγαθῶν; ὡς δὲ νῦν ἔχετε, ἀμάρτυρος μὲν ἡ εὐδαιμονία, ἐπίφθονος δὲ ὁ πλοῦτος, ἀηδὴς δὲ ὁ βίος.

Midas, transmitting all gold into paper, print by James Gillray

 

Philosophy and Fear of the Body

Empedocles R87  Hermias 4 Derision of Gentile Philosophers

“Whenever I see myself, I fear my body and I don’t know how I should describe it. Is it human, or dog, or wolf, a bull, a bird, a snake, a dragon, or a chimaira?

For I am changed by philosophers into every kind of beast from the land, the sea, the sky, those of many forms, the wild ones, tame ones, mute animals, singing animals, unthinking ones, thinking ones. I swim. I fly. I creep on the ground. I run. I sit still. And then—Empedocles makes me into a bush too.”

ὅταν δὲ ἐμαυτὸν ἴδω, φοβοῦμαι τὸ σῶμα καὶ οὐκ οἶδα ὅπως αὐτὸ καλέσω, ἄνθρωπον ἢ κύνα ἢ λύκον ἢ ταῦρον ἢ ὄρνιν ἢ ὄφιν ἢ δράκοντα ἢ χίμαιραν· εἰς πάντα γὰρ τὰ θηρία ὑπὸ τῶν φιλοσοφούντων μεταβάλλομαι, χερσαῖα ἔνυδρα πτηνὰ πολύμορφα ἄγρια τιθασσὰ ἄφωνα εὔφωνα ἄλογα λογικά· νήχομαι ἵπταμαι ἕρπω θέω καθίζω. ἔτι δὲ ὁ Ἐμπεδοκλῆς καὶ θάμνον με ποιεῖ.

Image result for animal metamorphosis medieval manuscript
What story isn’t about a hellmouth? (Royal ms 19 c I_f. 33r)

 

Isolation and Self-Sufficiency

Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics 1. 6-9

“We use ‘self-sufficient’ not to mean a person alone—someone living in isolation—but to include one’s parents, children, spouse, friends, and even fellow citizens, since a human being is a social creature by nature. Now, some limit needs to be observed in these ties—for it will go on endlessly if you extend it to someone’s ancestors and descendants.  But that’s a problem for another time.

We posit that self-sufficiency is something which in itself makes life attractive and lacks nothing and for this reason we think it is happiness, since we imagine that happiness is the most preferable of all things when it is not counted with others. It is clear that it is desirable even with the least of the goods—the addition of goods increases the total, since the greater good is always desirable.”

τὸ δ᾿ αὔταρκες λέγομεν οὐκ αὐτῷ μόνῳ, τῷ ζῶντι βίον μονώτην, ἀλλὰ καὶ γονεῦσι καὶ τέκνοις καὶ γυναικὶ καὶ ὅλως τοῖς φίλοις καὶ πολίταις, ἐπειδὴ φύσει πολιτικὸν ὁ ἄνθρωπος. τούτων δὲ ληπτέος ὅρος τις· ἐπεκτείνοντι γὰρ ἐπὶ τοὺς γονεῖς καὶ τοὺς ἀπογόνους καὶ τῶν φίλων τοὺς φίλους εἰς ἄπειρον πρόεισιν. ἀλλὰ τοῦτο μὲν εἰσαῦθις ἐπισκεπτέον, τὸ δ᾿ αὔταρκες τίθεμεν ὃ μονούμενον αίπετὸν ποιεῖ τὸν βίον καὶ μηδενὸς ἐνδεᾶ· τοιοῦτον δὲ τὴν εὐδαιμονίαν οἰόμεθα εἶναι. ἔτι δὲ πάντων αἱρετωτάτην μὴ συναριθμουμένην—συναριθμουμένην γὰρ δῆλον ὡς αἱρετωτέραν μετὰ τοῦ ἐλαχίστου τῶν ἀγαθῶν, ὑπεροχὴ γὰρ ἀγαθῶν γίνεται τὸ προστιθέμενον, ἀγαθῶν δὲ τὸ μεῖζον αἱρετώτερον

John Donne, Meditation 17

No man is an Iland, intire of itselfe; every man
is a peece of the Continent, a part of the maine;
if a Clod bee washed away by the Sea, Europe
is the lesse, as well as if a Promontorie were, as
well as if a Manor of thy friends or of thine
owne were; any mans death diminishes me,
because I am involved in Mankinde;
And therefore never send to know for whom
the bell tolls; It tolls for thee.

Wounded Philoctetes by Nicolai Abildgaard

Heraclitus on the True Story of Lamia

This story probably needs trigger warnings. Here, the legend of the Lamia is explained by the Paradoxographer Heraclitus (not the same figure as the philosopher).  Antiquity has bequeathed to us a collection of works on ‘wonders’: some are mere lists of amazing things; others are rationalizing explanations of myths (for which the Hellenistic Palaephaetus is most famous). This summer I am going to post material from the paradoxographers periodically since there is very little of it translated and free online.

From Heraclitus the Paradoxographer 34: On Lamia

“They tell the story that after Zeus had sex with [Lamia], Hera turned her into a beast and further, when she went crazy, she ripped out her eyes and threw them into a cup and, in addition, that she ate flesh and dined on human beings.

It really could have gone this way: Zeus, who was a king, got intimate with her because she was pretty. Then Hera abducted her, gauged out her eyes, and left her on a mountain. For this reason she was living a painful life and had no help at all. Because she was living unwashed and unhealed in desolate places, she seemed to be a beast.”

Περὶ Λαμίας.

     ῾Ιστοροῦσιν ὅτι, Διὸς αὐτῇ συμμιγέντος, ῞Ηρα ἀπεθηρίωσεν αὐτήν, καὶ ὅτι ἡνίκα ἂν μανῇ, τοὺς ὀφθαλμοὺς ἐξαιρεῖ καὶ εἰς κοτύλην βάλλει, καὶ ὅτι σαρκοφαγεῖ καὶ ἀνθρώπους ἐσθίει. εἴη δ’ ἂν τάδε. καλῇ αὐτῇ οὔσῃ ὁ Ζεὺς ἐπλησίασε βασιλεύων, ῞Ηρα δὲ συναρπάζουσα αὐτήν, τοὺς ὀφθαλμοὺς ἐξώρυξε καὶ εἰς τὰ ὄρη ἔρριψεν· ὅθεν ἐπιπόνως ἔζη ἐπικουρουμένη δὲ οὐδέν· <διὰ δὲ τὸ> ὑπὸ ταῖς ἐρημίαις καταγινομένην αὐτὴν ἄλουτον καὶ ἀθεράπευτον εἶναι, ἐδόκει θηρίον ὑπάρχειν.

Here is another account:

Duris, BNJ 76 F17 [= Photios s.v. Lamia]

“In the second book of his Libyan History, Duris reports that Lamia was a fine looking woman but after Zeus had sex with her, Hera killed the children she bore because she was envious. As a result she was disfigured by grief and would seize and kill the children of others.”

ταύτην ἐν τῆι Λιβύηι Δοῦρις ἐν δευτέρωι Λιβυκῶν ἱστορεῖ γυναῖκα καλὴν γενέσθαι, μιχθέντος δ᾽ αὐτῆι Διὸς ὑφ᾽ ῞Ηρας ζηλοτυπουμένην ἃ ἔτικτεν ἀπολλύναι· διόπερ ἀπὸ τῆς λύπης δύσμορφον γεγονέναι καὶ τὰ τῶν ἄλλων παιδία ἀναρπάζουσαν διαφθείρειν.

Lamia and the Soldier, John William Waterhouse

Changing Nature and Isolation’s End

Philo, On Rewards and Punishments 89-90

“At that time, it seems likely that bears, lions, panthers and those animals in India—elephants and tigers—and however many other creates have unconquerable valor and strength will shift from loneliness and isolation to a shared life. From imitating herd animals they will slowly become tame in the presence of human beings.

After this, they will no longer coil in anger as before, but some will be flabbergasted and behave humbly as if before a leader or natural master and others will get happily excited, showing domesticated affection and love just like those little dogs who signal their giddiness with wagging tails. Then, too, the races of scorpions and snakes and the other creepy critters will leave their venom unused.”

τότε μοι δοκοῦσιν ἄρκτοι καὶ λέοντες καὶ παρδάλεις καὶ τὰ παρ᾿ Ἰνδοῖς, ἐλέφαντές τε καὶ τίγρεις, καὶ ὅσα ἄλλα τὰς ἀλκὰς καὶ τὰς δυνάμεις ἀήττητα μεταβαλεῖν ἐκ τοῦ μονωτικοῦ τε καὶ μονοτρόπου πρὸς τὸ σύννομον· κἀκ τοῦ πρὸς ὀλίγον μιμήσει τῶν ἀγελαίων ἡμερωθήσεται πρὸς τὴν ἀνθρώπου φαντασίαν, μηκέτι ὡς πρότερον ἀνερεθισθέντα, καταπλαγέντα δ᾿ ὡς ἄρχοντα καὶ φύσει δεσπότην εὐλαβῶς ἕξει, ἔνια δὲ καὶ τοῦ χειροήθους ἅμα καὶ φιλοδεσπότου τῇ παραζηλώσει, καθάπερ τὰ Μελιταῖα τῶν κυνιδίων ταῖς κέρκοις μεθ᾿ ἱλαρωτέρας κινήσεως προσσαίνοντα. τότε καὶ τὰ σκορπίων γένη καὶ ὄφεων καὶ τῶν ἄλλων ἑρπετῶν ἄπρακτον ἕξει τὸν ἰόν·

British Library, Sloane MS 1975, Folio 13r

I Had to Put Myself In Power

Lucian, Phalaris 1.2

“I was not one of the invisible people in Akragas, if anyone was well born, liberally raised, and fully educated, I was. I always made sure to demonstrate my own public nature to the city, a proper and moderate character to my fellow citizens, and no one ever accused me in that previous period of my life of being violent, or inappropriate, or arrogant, or insulting at all.

But once I saw that people who were in the opposing political faction were conspiring against me and trying everything they could to bring me down—when our city was split in strife—I could find only this escape and safety, the very same preservation for the city too: I had to put myself in power so I could stop the conspirators and compel the city to be more sensible.  Since there was no small number of people who approved these things—those reasonable and patriotic men who knew my plan and the necessity of the attempt, I took over easily with them as my helpers.”

Ἐγὼ γὰρ οὐ τῶν ἀφανῶν ἐν Ἀκράγαντι ὤν, ἀλλ᾿ εἰ καί τις ἄλλος εὖ γεγονὼς καὶ τραφεὶς ἐλευθερίως καὶ παιδείᾳ προσεσχηκώς, ἀεὶ διετέλουν τῇ μὲν πόλει δημοτικὸν ἐμαυτὸν παρέχων, τοῖς δὲ συμπολιτευομένοις ἐπιεικῆ καὶ μέτριον, βίαιον δὲ ἢ σκαιὸν ἢ ὑβριστικὸν ἢ αὐθέκαστον οὐδεὶς οὐδὲν ἐπεκάλει μου τῷ προτέρῳ ἐκείνῳ βίῳ. ἐπειδὴ δὲ ἑώρων τοὺς τἀναντία μοι πολιτευομένους ἐπιβουλεύοντας καὶ ἐξ ἅπαντος τρόπου ἀνελεῖν με ζητοῦντας—διῄρητο δὲ ἡμῶν τότε ἡ πόλις—μίαν ταύτην ἀποφυγὴν καὶ ἀσφάλειαν εὕρισκον, τὴν αὐτὴν ἅμα καὶ τῇ πόλει σωτηρίαν, εἰ ἐπιθέμενος τῇ ἀρχῇ ἐκείνους μὲν ἀναστείλαιμι καὶ παύσαιμι ἐπιβουλεύοντας, τὴν πόλιν δὲ σωφρονεῖν καταναγκάσαιμι· καὶ ἦσαν γὰρ οὐκ ὀλίγοι ταῦτα ἐπαινοῦντες, ἄνδρες μέτριοι καὶ φιλοπόλιδες, οἳ καὶ τὴν γνώμην ᾔδεσαν τὴν ἐμὴν καὶ τῆς ἐπιχειρήσεως τὴν ἀνάγκην· τούτοις οὖν συναγωνισταῖς χρησάμενος ῥᾳδίως ἐκράτησα.

Hieronymus Bosch, “Removing the Rocks from the Head

A Reminder: One Who Is Disordered Cannot Create Order

Plutarch’s “To the Uneducated Ruler” has no relevance today, at all (780a-c)...

“The majority of kings and rulers are stupid–they imitate those artless sculptors who believe that their over-sized figures seem large and solid if they make them with a wide stance, flexing their muscles, mouths gaped open. For these types of rulers seem merely to be imitating the impressiveness and seriousness of leadership with their deep voice, severe glance, bitter manners and their separate way of living: but they are not really any different from the sculpted colossus which is heroic and godly on the outside, but filled with dirt, stone or lead within.

The real difference is that the weight of the statue keeps it standing straight, never leaning; these untaught generals and leaders often wobble and overturn because of their native ignorance. For, because they have built their homes on a crooked foundation, they lean and slide with it. Just as a carpenter’s square, if it is straight and solid, straightens out everything else that is measured according to it, so too a leader must first master himself and correct his own character and only then try to guide his people. For one who is falling cannot lift others; one who is ignorant cannot teach; one who is simple cannot manage complicated affairs; one who is disordered cannot create order; and one who does not rule himself cannot rule.”

Ἀλλὰ νοῦν οὐκ ἔχοντες οἱ πολλοὶ τῶν βασιλέων καὶ ἀρχόντων μιμοῦνται τοὺς ἀτέχνους ἀνδριαντοποιούς, οἳ νομίζουσι μεγάλους καὶ ἁδροὺς φαίνεσθαι τοὺς κολοσσούς, ἂν διαβεβηκότας σφόδρα καὶ διατεταμένους καὶ κεχηνότας πλάσωσι· καὶ γὰρ οὗτοι βαρύτητι φωνῆς καὶ βλέμματος τραχύτητι καὶ δυσκολίᾳ τρόπων καὶ ἀμιξίᾳ διαίτης ὄγκον ἡγεμονίας καὶ σεμνότητα μιμεῖσθαι δοκοῦσιν, οὐδ᾿ ὁτιοῦν τῶν κολοσσικῶν διαφέροντες ἀνδριάντων, οἳ τὴν ἔξωθεν ἡρωικὴν καὶ θεοπρεπῆ μορφὴν ἔχοντες ἐντός εἰσι γῆς μεστοὶ καὶ λίθου καὶ μολίβδου· πλὴν ὅτι τῶν μὲν ἀνδριάντων ταῦτα τὰ βάρη τὴν ὀρθότητα μόνιμον καὶ ἀκλινῆ διαφυλάττει, οἱ δ᾿ ἀπαίδευτοι στρατηγοὶ καὶ ἡγεμόνες ὑπὸ τῆς ἐντὸς ἀγνωμοσύνης πολλάκις σαλεύονται καὶ περιτρέπονται· βάσει γὰρ οὐ κειμένῃ πρὸς ὀρθὰς ἐξουσίαν ἐποικοδομοῦντες ὑψηλὴν συναπονεύουσι. δεῖ δέ, ὥσπερ ὁ κανὼν αὐτός, ἀστραβὴς γενόμενος καὶ ἀδιάστροφος, οὕτως ἀπευθύνει τὰ λοιπὰ τῇ πρὸς αὑτὸν ἐφαρμογῇ καὶ παραθέσει συνεξομοιῶν, παραπλησίως τὸν ἄρχοντα πρῶτον τὴν ἀρχὴν κτησάμενον ἐν ἑαυτῷ καὶ κατευθύναντα τὴν ψυχὴν καὶ καταστησάμενον τὸ ἦθος οὕτω συναρμόττειν τὸ ὑπήκοον· οὔτε γὰρ πίπτοντός ἐστιν ὀρθοῦν οὔτε διδάσκειν ἀγνοοῦντος οὔτε κοσμεῖν ἀκοσμοῦντος ἢ τάττειν ἀτακτοῦντος ἢ ἄρχειν μὴ ἀρχομένου·

Image result for Ancient Roman Statue colossus

782b-c

“Among the weak, base and private citizens, ignorance when combined with a lack of power yields little wrongdoing, as in nightmares some trouble upsets the mind, making it incapable of responding to its desires. But when power has been combined with wickedness it adds energy to latent passions. And so that saying of Dionysus is true—for he used to say that he loved his power most when he could do what he wanted quickly. It is truly a great danger when one who wants what is wrong has the power to do what he wants to do.

As Homer puts it “When the plan was made, then the deed was done.” When wickedness has an open course because of its power, it compels every passion to emerge, producing rage, murder, lust, adultery, and greedy acquisition of public wealth.”

Ἐν μὲν γὰρ τοῖς ἀσθενέσι καὶ ταπεινοῖς καὶ ἰδιώταις τῷ ἀδυνάτῳ μιγνύμενον τὸ ἀνόητον εἰς τὸ ἀναμάρτητον τελευτᾷ, ὥσπερ ἐν ὀνείρασι φαύλοις τις ἀνία τὴν ψυχὴν διαταράττει συνεξαναστῆναι ταῖς ἐπιθυμίαις μὴ δυναμένην· ἡ δ᾿ ἐξουσία παραλαβοῦσα τὴν κακίαν νεῦρα τοῖς πάθεσι προστίθησι· καὶ τὸ τοῦ Διονυσίου ἀληθές ἐστιν· ἔφη γὰρ ἀπολαύειν μάλιστα τῆς ἀρχῆς, ὅταν ταχέως ἃ βούλεται ποιῇ. μέγας οὖν ὁ κίνδυνος βούλεσθαι ἃ μὴ δεῖ τὸν ἃ βούλεται ποιεῖν δυνάμενον· αὐτίκ᾿ ἔπειτά γε μῦθος ἔην, τετέλεστο δὲ ἔργον (Il. 19.242). ὀξὺν ἡ κακία διὰ τῆς ἐξουσίας δρόμον ἔχουσα πᾶν πάθος ἐξωθεῖ, ποιοῦσα τὴν ὀργὴν φόνον τὸν ἔρωτα μοιχείαν τὴν πλεονεξίαν δήμευσιν.

782

“It is not possible to hide wickedness in power. But, as when someone with vertigo* might go up in a high place and move around, only to become dizzy and uncertain, thus revealing their suffering, so fortune amplifies the untaught and ignorant a little with some wealth, reputation or offices and, once they have risen up, it shows them falling. Or rather, it is the same as when you cannot tell which of some containers is solid and which is cracked but when you pour water into them, the culprit leak is clear: rotten minds cannot manage power, but they ooze out random desires, rages, improprieties, and base manners.”

Οὐδὲ γὰρ λαθεῖν οἷόν τε τὰς κακίας ἐν ταῖς ἐξουσίαις· ἀλλὰ τοὺς μὲν ἐπιληπτικούς, ἂν ἐν ὕψει τινὶ γένωνται καὶ περιενεχθῶσιν, ἴλιγγος ἴσχει καὶ σάλος, ἐξελέγχων τὸ πάθος αὐτῶν, τοὺς δ᾿ ἀπαιδεύτους καὶ ἀμαθεῖς ἡ τύχη μικρὸν ἐκκουφίσασα πλούτοις τισὶν ἢ δόξαις ἢ ἀρχαῖς μετεώρους γενομένους εὐθὺς ἐπιδείκνυσι πίπτοντας· μᾶλλον δ᾿, ὥσπερ τῶν κενῶν ἀγγείων οὐκ ἂν διαγνοίης τὸ ἀκέραιον καὶ πεπονηκός, ἀλλ᾿ ὅταν ἐγχέῃς, φαίνεται τὸ ῥέον· οὕτως αἱ σαθραὶ ψυχαὶ τὰς ἐξουσίας μὴ στέγουσαι ῥέουσιν ἔξω ταῖς ἐπιθυμίαις, ταῖς ὀργαῖς, ταῖς ἀλαζονείαις, ταῖς ἀπειροκαλίαις.

*The original Greek seems to be about people with epilepsy (tous epilêptikous)

Send Us Someone Smart

Libanius Oration 33

“Free your cities of these kinds of troubles and send us a smart person eager for work, someone who will act more than they prattle, who will persuade more than force, and who will help the poor and not wear them down, someone who will understand what is possible and what is not along with the right time for abuse and the right time for threats.

Altogether, someone nothing like the plague here.”

Ἀπάλλαξον δὴ τὰς σαυτοῦ πόλεις τοιούτων κακῶν καὶ πέμψον ἄνδρα νοῦν τε ἔχοντα καὶ πόνων ἐπιθυμητὴν καὶ πλείω πράξοντα ἢ λαλήσοντα καὶ | πείσοντα μᾶλλον ἢ ἀναγκάσοντα καὶ βοηθήσοντα πένησιν, οὐκ ἐπιτρίψοντα, καὶ διαγνωσόμενον, τί μὲν δυνατόν, τί δὲ οὔ, καὶ καιρὸν μὲν πληγῶν, καιρὸν δὲ εἰσόμενον ἀπειλῆς, ὅλως οὐδὲν ἐοικότα τῷ λοιμῷ τούτῳ.

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