Elections or Street Violence

Cicero, Letters to Atticus 4.3 [22 November 57]

“The candidate Marcellus has been snoring so loudly that his neighbor—me—can hear him. I have learned that Clodius’ yard is almost completely empty, only a few nobodies with a lamp. They all claim that this has come about thanks to my plan, ignorant of how much is in the spirit of that Milo, and how great his judgment is too.

I won’t talk about certain recent miracles, but this is the essence of it. I don’t think the elections will happen, Clodius will be a defendant, unless he is killed beforehand and I think it is in Milo’s hands. If he thrusts himself into that mob, I suspect that he will be killed by Milo himself. He is not at all in doubt about it and looks forward to it. He does not fear what I faced—he’s never going to listen to jealous and deceptive advice or trust his life to a lazy nobility.”

Marcellus candidatus ita stertebat ut ego vicinus audirem. Clodi vestibulum vacuum sane mihi nuntiabatur: pauci pannosi sine lanterna. <m>eo consilio omnia illi fieri querebantur, ignari quantum in illo hero<e> esset animi, quantum etiam consili. miranda virtus est. nova quaedam divina mitto, sed haec summa est: comitia fore non arbitror, reum Publium, nisi ante occisus erit, fore a Milone puto; si se in turba ei iam obtulerit, occisum iri ab ipso Milone video. non dubitat facere, prae se fert; casum illum nostrum non extimescit. numquam enim cuiusquam invidi et perfidi consilio est us<ur>us nec inerti nobili<tati> crediturus.

Cicero denouncing Cataline (from The Comic History of Rome, c. 1850)

Dying to Kill a Tyrant

Cod. Paris. Suppl. gr., Gnomologium Parisinum , 134f. 266v

“Phalaris, after Peristhenes sent him the wives of Euboulos and Aristophantes who had conspired against them so they might die, asked the women if they had known about the conspiracy their husbands planned. They said that not only did they know about it, but that they had begged them to kill the tyrant. And when he asked in turn what evil this was for, they responded, “It is nothing personal, but for a communal injustice. For it is a communal crime when a free state is enslaved.”

He followed up with another question, “What fate did you meet? For you would certainly pay a deserved penalty for your hatred…” and they interrupted, “if we died.” This stalled his anger because he was amazed by the extreme nobility of these answers and judged that women who were prepared to die with such uprightness should live instead of dying.”

Φάλαρις, Περισθένους τὴν Εὐβούλου καὶ τὴν ᾽Αριστοφάντου γυναῖκα τῶν ἐπιβουλευσάντων αὐτῶι πέμψαντος ὡς ἀπολουμένας, ἐπεὶ ἤιρετο, εἰ συνήιδεσαν τὴν ἐπιβουλὴν τοῖς ἀνδράσιν, αἱ δὲ ἔφασαν οὐ τοῦτο μόνον ἀλλὰ καὶ παροτρῦναι τυραννοκτονῆσαι. καὶ αὖθις ἐρομένου τοῦ Φαλάριδος ἀνθ᾽ ὅτου κακοῦ, αἱ δὲ εἶπον· ‘οὐδενὸς μὲν ἰδίου, τῆς δὲ κοινῆς ἀδικίας· κοινὴ γὰρ τὸ καταδουλοῦσθαι πόλιν ἐλευθέραν’. εἶθ᾽ αὖθις ἐπανερομένου ‘ὑμεῖς δὲ τί πεπόνθατε; τοιγαροῦν δίκην ἀποτίσαιτ’ ἄν μοι τοῦ μίσους τὴν κατ᾽ ἀξίαν᾽, αἱ δὲ προσέθησαν ‘ἀποθανοῦσαι’, ὑφήιρηκε τῆς ὀργῆς, ἀγασθεὶς τὸ ὑπερβάλλον τῆς εὐγενείας ἐν ταῖς ἀποκρίσεσι, καὶ ζῆν μᾶλλον ἢ τεθνάναι κρίνας τὰς μετὰ τοιαύτης ἀρετῆς ἀποθνήσκειν προηιρημένας.

Phalaris condemning the sculptor Perillus to the Bronze Bull, after Baldassare Peruzzi by Pierre Woeiriot

Divine Justice is a Lot Slower than it Used to Be

Anonymus, Origin of the Roman Tribe, 18, 2

“Aremulus Silvius ruled after him, and he was reported to be a man of such arrogance against not only humans but even against the gods that he declared that he was greater than Jupiter and when the sky was thundering told his troops to slap their shields with their swords to make a louder sound.

Well, he suffered retribution for this almost immediately: he was struck by lightning, ripped away by a wind, and plunged into the Alban Lake, according to the fourth book of the Annals and in the second Epitome following Piso. Aufidius claims in his Epitome—and Domitius repeats this in his first book—that Aremulus was not hit by lightning, but that he was immersed in the Alban Lake along with his whole palace thanks to an earthquake.”

Post eum regnavit Aremulus Silvius, qui tantae superbiae non adversum homines modo, sed etiam deos fuisse traditur, ut praedicaret superiorem se esse ipso Jove ac tonante caelo militibus imperaret, ut telis clipeos quaterent, dictitaretque clariorem sonum se facere. (3) qui tamen praesenti affectus est poena; nam fulmine ictus raptusque turbine in Albanum lacum praecipitatus est, ut scriptum est Annalium libro quarto et Epitomarum Pisonis secundo. (4) Aufidius sane in Epitomis et Domitius libro primo non fulmine ictum, sed terrae motu prolapsam simul cum eo regiam in Albanum lacum tradunt.

The status of Zeus at Tonnerre de Zeus at Parc Astérix

Milking the He-Goat: The Only Proverb You Need Today

Polybius, Book 33 16a fragmenta incertae sedis (Full text on the Scaife viewer)

“20. As soon as the masses are compelled to love or hate people excessively, every excuse is sufficient for them to complete their plans.

21 But I worry that I might overlook the fact that the oft-cited saying applies to me: “who is the greater fool, the one who milks a male-goat or the one who holds the bucket* to catch it?”

For, I also seem, in reporting what is agreed upon as a lie and in dragging out the process to do something very similar. For this reason, it is pointless to talk about these things, unless someone also wants to write down dreams and examine the fantasies of someone who is awake.”

*koskinos here actually means “sieve”, which makes the whole process even more futile. I simplified to “bucket” to make it easier to understand…

20. Ὅτι ὅταν ἅπαξ οἱ πολλοὶ σχῶσιν ὁρμὴν πρὸς τὸ φιλεῖν ἢ μισεῖν τινας ὑπερβαλλόντως, πᾶσα πρόφασις ἱκανὴ γίνεται πρὸς τὸ συντελεῖν τὰς αὑτῶν προθέσεις.

21. Ἀλλὰ γὰρ ὀκνῶ μή ποτ᾿ εἰς τὸ περιφερόμενον ἐμπεσὼν λάθω, πότερον ὁ τὸν τράγον ἀμέλγων ἀφρονέστερος ἢ ὁ τὸ κόσκινον ὑπέχων· δοκῶ γὰρ δὴ κἀγὼ πρὸς ὁμολογουμένην ψευδολογίαν ἀκριβολογούμενος καὶ τὸν ἐπιμετροῦντα λόγον εἰσφέρων παραπλήσιόν τι ποιεῖν. διὸ καὶ μάτην τελέως περὶ τούτων λέγειν, εἰ μή τις καὶ γράφειν ἐνύπνια βούλεται καὶ θεωρεῖν ἐγρηγορότος ἐνύπνια.

Diogenianus writes on this proverb (Centuria 95.3; Cf. Mantissa Proverb., 2.68)

“Who is the greater fool, the one who milks a male-goat or the one who holds the bucket to catch it? You should say the [one who milks] the male-goat”

Πότερον ὁ τὸν τράγον ἀμέλγων ἀφρονέστερος, ἢ ὁ τὸ κόσκινον ὑποτιθείς; εἴποις, ὁ τὸν τράγον:

Arsenius, Centuria 17 41a7

“To milk a he-goat”: this is applied to those who do something incongruous and ignorant. From this we also get the saying from Diogenianus: “Who is the greater fool, the one who milks a male-goat or the one who holds the bucket to catch it?”

“Τράγον ἀμέλγειν: ἐπὶ τῶν ἀνάρμοστόν τι ποιούντων καὶ ἀνόητον. ὅθεν καὶ Διογενιανός· πότερον ὁ τὸν τράγον ἀμέλγων ἢ ὁ τὸ κόσκινον ὑποτιθεὶς ἀφρονέστερος;

From Medieval Bestiary: Bibliothèque Nationale de France, lat. 6838B, Folio 15r

Only Bad Dudes Want Statues in the First Place

Plutarch, Precepts of Statecraft  820b (Full text on the Scaife viewer)

“Cato, since Rome was then already getting full of statues, would not allow one of himself. He said, “I would rather have people ask why there isn’t a statue of me rather than why there is one.” Indeed, these kinds of things do create envy and many believe that they owe gratitude to people who have not received them but that those who have taken them have oppressed them, as when people ask for payment for something they have done.

So, just as a person who has sailed passed the Syrtis and overturned his ship right near the channel has done nothing great nor worthy of awe, so to the man who has served in the treasury and guarded the public coffers but has done a poor job in other offices finds himself wrecked on a cliff near the sea. No, the best person is one who doesn’t want any of these kinds of things, avoiding and refusing them when needed.”

ὁ δὲ Κάτων, ἤδη τότε τῆς Ῥώμης καταπιμπλαμένης ἀνδριάντων, οὐκ ἐῶν αὑτοῦ γενέσθαι “μᾶλλον,”ἔφη, “βούλομαι πυνθάνεσθαί τινας, διὰ τί μου ἀνδριὰς οὐ κεῖται ἢ διὰ τί κεῖται.” καὶ γὰρ φθόνον ἔχει τὰ τοιαῦτα καὶ νομίζουσιν οἱ πολλοὶ τοῖς μὴ λαβοῦσιν αὐτοὶ χάριν ὀφείλειν, τοὺς δὲ λαβόντας αὑτοῖς καὶ βαρεῖς εἶναι, οἷον ἐπὶ μισθῷ τὰς χρείας ἀπαιτοῦντας. ὥσπερ οὖν ὁ παραπλεύσας τὴν Σύρτιν εἶτ᾿ ἀνατραπεὶς περὶ τὸν πορθμὸν οὐδὲν μέγα πεποίηκεν οὐδὲ σεμνόν, οὕτως ὁ τὸ ταμιεῖον φυλαξάμενος καὶ τὸ δημοσιώνιον ἁλοὺς δὲ περὶ τὴν προεδρίαν ἢ τὸ πρυτανεῖον, ὑψηλῷ μὲν προσέπταικεν ἀκρωτηρίῳ βαπτίζεται δ᾿ ὁμοίως. ἄριστος μὲν οὖν ὁ μηδενὸς δεόμενος τῶν τοιούτων ἀλλὰ φεύγων καὶ παραιτούμενος·

Marcus Porcius Cato

A Good Law?

Herodotus, 2.177 (Full text on the Scaife viewer)

“Amasis made this law for the Egyptians, that each one should reveal how he makes his living to the leader of his state each year and if he does not prove in some way that he lives justly to be punished by death. Solon took this law from Egypt and made it the rule among his people. May they keep this law forever because it is perfect.”

νόμον τε Αἰγυπτίοισι τόνδε Ἄμασις ἐστὶ ὁ καταστήσας, ἀποδεικνύναι ἔτεος ἑκάστου τῷ νομάρχῃ πάντα τινὰ Αἰγυπτίων ὅθεν βιοῦται· μὴ δὲ ποιεῦντα ταῦτα μηδε ἀποφαίνοντα δικαίην ζόην ἰθύνεσθαι θανάτῳ. Σόλων δὲ ὁ Ἀθηναῖος λαβὼν ἐξ Αἰγύπτου τοῦτον τὸν νόμον Ἀθηναίοισι ἔθετο· τῷ ἐκεῖνοι ἐς αἰεὶ χρέωνται ἐόντι ἀμώμῳ νόμῳ.

Solon - Wikipedia
Do I look just to you?

A Rich Man’s Plague from Kisses

Pliny, Natural History, 26 3 (Full text on the Scaife Viewer)

“This plague didn’t exist among our ancestors. It first invaded Italy during the principate of Tiberius Claudius when some Roman knight from Perusia, secretary to a quaestor, brought the infection with him after he had been serving in Asia Minor. Women, enslaved people, and those of the low or humble classes tend not to get this disease, but it spreads quickly through nobles thanks to a brief kiss. Many of those who endured the medicine for the sickness handled the scar more foully than the disease. It was cured by burning treatments and the symptom would return unless the flesh was burned up almost to the bone in that spot.

Many physicians came from Egypt—that parent of these kinds of blights—in order to dedicate themselves to this work only, gaining a considerable profit, since it is true that Manilius Cornutus, a man of praetorian rank and legate in Aquitania, paid two hundred thousand for the treatment of his disease.

It does often happen, however, that new kinds of diseases are experienced en masse. What discovery would be more surprising? Some afflictions appear in a certain part of the world and attack certain body parts or people of specific ages or stations—as if a sickness were selective—one harming children, another adults, this one for the nobles, and that one for the poor.”

III. Non fuerat haec lues apud maiores patresque nostros, et primum Ti. Claudi Caesaris principatu medio inrepsit in Italiam quodam Perusino equite Romano quaestorio scriba, cum in Asia adparuisset, inde contagionem eius inportante. nec sensere id malum feminae aut servitia plebesque humilis aut media, sed proceres veloci transitu osculi maxime, foediore multorum qui perpeti medicinam toleraverant cicatrice quam morbo. causticis namque curabatur, ni usque in ossa corpus exustum esset, rebellante taedio. adveneruntque ex Aegypto genetrice talium vitiorum medici hanc solam operam adferentes magna sua praeda, siquidem certum est Manilium Cornutum e praetoriis legatum Aquitanicae provinciae HS CC elocasse in eo morbo curandum sese. acciditque contra saepius ut nova genera morborum gregatim sentirentur. quo mirabilius quid potest reperiri? aliqua gigni repente vitia terrarum in parte certa membrisque hominum certis vel aetatibus aut etiam fortunis, tamquam malo eligente, haec in pueris grassari, illa in adultis, haec proceres sentire, illa pauperes?

Roman Emperor Trajan making offerings to Egyptian Gods, on the Roman Mammisi at the Dendera Temple complex, Egypt

Surprise! A Dictator and his Master of Horse

Livy, Ab Urbe Condita 22 8

“Before any certain plans were completed, another disaster was suddenly reported: four thousand cavalry under the command of Gaius Cenentius and sent by the consul Servilius to his colleague in Umbria had turned around after hearing news of the Battle of Lake Trasimene and was trapped by Hannibal.

This news affected people differently: some, whose minds were overcome by a greater sorrow, believed that this recent loss of cavalry was a minor matter when compared to earlier events. Another group did not judge what happened on its own, but just as when a body was already sick any anguish, however minor, would be sensed more deeply than when in wealth, so too this should be judged not by some abstract measure but in realization of the fact that the country was sick and weakened and was incapable of withstanding any more grief.

For this reason, the people took refuge in a solution which had been neither desired nor used for a long time: the declaration of a dictator. But since the consul was away and they believed only he could announce a dictator, and because it was not easy to send a messenger or letter through an Italian countryside overcome by Carthaginian soldiers, the people did something that had never been done before that day: they made Quintus Fabius Maximus dictator and Marcus Mincius Rufus Master of Horse.”

Priusquam satis certa consilia essent, repens alia nuntiatur clades, quattuor milia equitum cum C. Centenio propraetore missa ad collegam ab Servilio consule in Umbria, quo post pugnam ad Trasumennum auditam averterant iter, ab Hannibale circumventa. eius rei fama varie homines adfecit. pars occupatis maiore aegritudine animis levem ex comparatione priorum ducere recentem equitum iacturam; pars non id quod acciderat per se aestimare sed, ut in adfecto corpore quamvis levis causa magis quam in valido gravior sentiretur, ita tum aegrae et adfectae civitati quodcumque adversi inciderit, non rerum magnitudine sed viribus extenuatis, quae nihil quod adgravaret pati possent, aestimandum esse.

Itaque ad remedium iam diu neque desideratum nec adhibitum, dictatorem dicendum, civitas confugit; et quia et consul aberat, a quo uno dici posse videbatur, nec per occupatam armis Punicis Italiam facile erat aut nuntium aut litteras mitti, quod nunquam ante eam diem factum erat, dictatorem populus creavit Q. Fabium Maximum et magistrum equitum M. Minucium Rufum

Jean Lievens, Quintus Fabius Maximus

A Tyranny Gained Through Luck

Sallust, Letter to Caesar 2.3

“While the courts just as in previous eras have been run by the three orders, those political factions still rule them: they give and take what they may, giving the innocent the runaround and heaping honors on their own. Neither crime nor shame nor public disgrace disqualifies them from office. They rob, despoil whomever they please. And finally, as if the city has been sacked, they rely on their own lust and excess instead of the laws.

And for me this would only be a source of limited grief if, in their typical fashion, they were pursuing a victory born from excellence. But the laziest of people whose total strength and excellence come from their tongue are arrogantly administering a tyranny gained through luck and from another person! For what treason or civil discord has obliterated so many families? Whose spirit was ever so hasty and extreme in victory?”

Iudicia tametsi, sicut antea, tribus ordinibus tradita sunt, tamen idem illi factiosi regunt, dant, adimunt quae lubet, innocentis circumveniunt, suos ad honorem extollunt. Non facinus, non probrum aut flagitium obstat, quo minus magistratus capiant. Quos commodum est trahunt, rapiunt; postremo tamquam urbe capta libidine ac licentia sua pro legibus utuntur.

Ac me quidem mediocris dolor angeret, si virtute partam victoriam more suo per servitium exercerent. Sed homines inertissimi, quorum omnis vis virtusque in lingua sita est, forte atque alterius socordia dominationem oblatam insolentes agitant. Nam quae seditio aut dissensio civilis tot tam illustris familias ab stirpe evertit? Aut quorum umquam in victoria animus tam praeceps tamque inmoderatus fuit?


Image result for ancient roman politics

Cruel, Bad, but Loved by the Bodyguards

Historia Augusta, Antoninus Caracella  9

“His way of life was bad and he was more cruel than his father. He was a glutton who was addicted to wine and hated by his own household and despised by every division except for the praetorian guard. There was nothing similar between him and his brother.”

Fuit male moratus et patre duro crudelior. avidus cibi, vini etiam adpetens, suis odiosus et praeter milites praetorianos omnibus castris exosus. prorsus nihil inter fratres simile.

White bust