Professors of Learned Praise

Ammianus Marcellinus, Constantius et Julianus 17.11

“Once these facts were known in the court of Constantius—for it was required that Caesar should report about all of his deeds to Augustus like any inferior—everyone who previously had power in the palace and were already professors of learned praise, they were converting Julian’s correctly considered and successfully accomplished deeds into mockery, wisecracking without end like this: “This girl-goat, not a man, is getting hateful because of his victories”; they picked on Julian because he was hairy, calling him a “talking mole”, or “a purple-robed ape”, or “a Greek professor” and other similar insults.

Because they were echoing in the ears of an emperor who longed to hear these kinds of things, they were also trying to hide his virtues with shameful speeches, calling him lazy and fearful and one who dressed up his failures with polished words. This was not happening then for the first time.”

Haec cum in comitatu Constantii subinde noscerentur—erat enim necesse, tamquam apparitorem, Caesarem super omnibus gestis ad Augusti referre scientiam—omnes qui plus poterant in palatio, adulandi professores iam docti, recte consulta prospereque completa vertebant in deridiculum, talia sine modo strepentes insulse: “In odium venit cum victoriis suis capella, non homo,” ut hirsutum Iulianum carpentes, appellantesque “loquacem talpam” et “purpuratam simiam” et “litterionem Graecum,” et his congruentia plurima. Atque ut tintinnabulaprincipi resonantes, audire haec taliaque gestienti, virtutes eius obruere verbis impudentibus conabantur ut segnem incessentes et timidum et umbratilem, gestaque secus verbis comptioribus exornantem; quod non tunc primitus accidit.

Email to Class: Instructor is Sick; Aurelius: I’m Dying

Marcus Aurelius to Fronto, Lorium 145-7 CE

“My teacher,

You must be messing with me, but you have sent me extraordinary worry and egregious anguish, the most severe pain and the hottest fever with your letter, so that I cannot eat, sleep or even study.

While you might find some relief in your speech today, what can I do when I have lost the pleasure of hearing it and I fear that you may come a bit late to Lorium and I am in pain because you are in pain?

Farewell my teacher, whose health makes my health untroubled and secure.”

| Magistro meo.

Ludis tu quidem, at mihi peramplam anxietatem et summam aegritudinem, <acerbissimum> dolorem, et ignem flagrantissimum litteris his tuis misisti, ne cenare, ne dormire, ne denique studere libeat. Verum tu orationis hodiernae tuae habeas aliquod solacium; at | ego quid faciam? qui et auditionis iam voluptatem consumpsi, et metuo ne Lorium tardiuscule venias, et doleo quod interim doles. Vale, mi magister, cuius salus meam salutem inlibatam et incolumem facit.

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c. 1480, Yates Thompson 7, f. 174r

The Infantile Mind: Pliny on Where Amber Comes From

Pliny, NH 37 40-42

“[Sophocles] has described how [amber] is made on the other side of India from the tears of the birds called the “daughters of Meleager” as they weep for Meleager. Who doesn’t wonder at the fact that he believed this or expected to convince others to do so. What mind is so infantile or foolish that it could believe that there are birds who weep every year and shed such large tears or that they left Greece where Meleager perished and went to weep for him in India?

What, then? Don’t the poets offer us many tales equally fantastic? Indeed they do, but when it comes to this substance, which is imported daily and fills the market revealing the poet’s lie, this is a grave offense to human intelligence and and unendurable misuse of our ability to lie.

It is known that amber comes from islands in the Northern Oceans and that the Germans call it glaesum and, as a result of this, one of the islands which the natives called Austeravia was named Glaesariam by us when Caesar Germanicus was on campaign there with his fleet [16 CE]. Amber is created, moreover, as the pitch of a particular type of pine drips down in the same way as gum from cherry trees or resin in local pines bursts out because of an excess of liquid.”

hic ultra Indiam fieri dixit e lacrimis meleagridum avium Meleagrum deflentium. quod credidisse eum aut sperasse aliis persuaderi posse quis non miretur? quamve pueritiam tam inperitam posse reperiri, quae avium ploratus annuos credat lacrimasve tam grandes avesve, quae a Graecia, ubi Meleager periit, ploratum adierint Indos? quid ergo? non multa aeque fabulosa produnt poetae? sed hoc in ea re, quae cotidie invehatur atque abundet ac mendacium coarguat, serio quemquam dixisse summa hominum contemptio est et intoleranda mendaciorum inpunitas.

Certum est gigni in insulis septentrionalis oceani et ab Germanis appellari glaesum, itaque et ab nostris ob id unam insularum Glaesariam appellatam, Germanico Caesare res ibi gerente classibus, Austeraviam a barbaris dictam. nascitur autem defluente medulla pinei generis arboribus, ut cummis in cerasis, resina in pinis erumpit umoris abundantia.

British Library, Royal MS 12 F. xiii, Folio 10v

Just in Time for Midterm Exams: Marcus Aurelius on Reading a Teacher’s Comments

From Marcus Aurelius to M. Cornelius Fronto

To my teacher,

“I received two letters from you at the same time. In one of them, you were criticizing me and you were showing that I wrote a sentence rashly; in the second, however, you were trying to approve my work with praise. Still, I swear by my mother and by my health that I got more joy from the first letter, to which I often yelled out while reading: “Lucky me!” And someone might ask whether I am happy because I have a teacher who teaches me to write a gnome with more care, precision, and concision?  No! This is not the reason I say I am lucky. Why then? Because I learn from you to speak the truth.

This lesson—speaking truly—is hard for both gods and men. There is no oracle so truthful that it is not also ambiguous or unclear or which does not have some obstacle which may catch the unwise who interprets whatever is said the way he wants to and understands this only after the moment when the affair is complete. But this is advantageous and clearly it is customary to excuse these things as sacred error or silliness.

But what you say—whether they are criticisms or rules—they show the path itself immediately and without deceit or riddling words. I ought to give you thanks since you teach me foremost to speak the truth and at the same time how to hear it too! Therefore, you should get a double reward, which you will endeavor that I will not pay. If you wish to accept nothing, how may I balance our accounts except through obedience? [some incomplete lines].

Farewell my good, my best teacher. I rejoice that we have become friends. My wife says hello.

Magistro meo.

Duas per id<em> tempus epistulas tuas excepi. Earum altera me increpabas et temere sententiam scripsisse arguebas, altera vero tueri studium meum laude nitebaris. Adiuro tamen tibi meam, meae matris, tuam salutem mihi plus gaudii in animo coortum esse illis tuis prioribus litteris; meque saepius exclamasse inter legendum O me felicem! Itane, dicet aliquis, feiicem te, si est qui te doceat quomodo γνώμην sollertius dilucidius brevius politius scribas? Non hoc est quod me felicem nuncupo. Quid est igitur?  Quod verum dicere ex te disco. Ea res—verum|dicere—prorsum deis hominibusque ardua: nullum denique tam veriloquum oraculum est, quin aliquid ancipitis in se vel obliqui vel impediti habeat, quo imprudentior inretiatur, et ad voluntatem suam dictum opinatus captionem post tempus ac negotium sentiat. Sed ista res lucrosa est, et plane mos talia tantum pio errore et vanitate ex<cus>are. At tuae seu accusationes seu lora confestim ipsam viam ostendunt sine fraude et inventis verbis. Itaque deberem etiam gratias agere tibi si verum me dicere satius simul et audire verum me doces. Duplex igitur pretium solvatur, pendere quod ne valeam <elabora>bis. Si resolvi vis nil, quomodo tibi par pari expendam nisi obsequio? Impius tamen mihi malui te nimia motum cura . . . . die<s isti quom essent> vacui, licuit me . . . . bene st<udere et multas sententias> excerpere . . . . Vale mi bone et optime <magister. Te>, optime orator, sic m<ihi in  amicitiam> venisse gaudeo. | Domina mea te salutat.

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.

 

Legal Strategies When You Can’t Deny Or Defend

Quintilian, Orator’s Education, 5.13 7-9

“Hence, what cannot be denied or put off must eventually be defended, whatever kind of case it is, or else just surrendered. We have demonstrated that there are two types of denial: either to say “this was not done” or to claim “what was done was not this.” Issues that cannot be defended or avoided must ultimately be denied and not only if there is some “redefinition” which might come to our aid, but also if there is nothing else but simple denial.

If there are witnesses, it is permitted to say much against them. If there is written proof, we can discredit the authenticity of the letter. Whatever the matter, there is nothing worse than a confession. The final option, when there is no room for defending or denying, is attacking the legality of the proceeding.”

Ergo quae neque negari neque transferri possunt utique defendenda sunt, qualiacumque sunt, aut causa cedendum. Negandi duplicem ostendimus formam, aut non esse factum aut non hoc esse quod factum sit. Quae neque defendi neque transferri possunt, utique neganda, nec solum si finitio potest esse pro nobis, sed etiam si nuda infitiatio superest. Testes erunt: multa in eos dicere licet; chirographum: de similitudine litterarum disserendum. Utique nihil erit peius quam confessio. Ultima est actionis controversia, cum defendendi negandive non est locus

Emotions in the Courtroom

nitial N: King James I of Aragon Overseeing a Court of Law, unknown illuminator c. 1290 – 1310. Courtesy of Getty Images

Seneca’s Hiring Advice

Seneca, De Ira 8. 4-6

“There are many people who will do the same for different reasons. An arrogant man offends you with his scorn, a bitter man uses an insult, the petulant causes an injury; a spiteful man is malicious while a pugnacious man is contentious and the windbag liar is vain. You will not tolerate being feared by a suspicious man, beaten by a stubborn one, or looked own upon by a delicate man.

Choose honest, easy-going, even-tempered people who do not inspire rage and yet endure it if it comes. More advantageous than these are those who are submissive, kind, and even sweet-tempered—but not so bad that they fawn on you since too much toadying upsets temperamental men. There was a friend of mine, who was a good man, but easy to anger, whom it was no safer to praise than to mock”

Multi ex variis causis idem facturi: offendet te superbus contemptu, dicax contumelia, petulans iniuria. lividus malignitate, pugnax contentione, ventosus et mendax vanitate; non feres a suspicioso timeri, a pertinace vinci, a delicato fastidiri. Elige simplices, faciles, moderatos, qui iram tuam nec evocent et ferant. Magis adhuc proderunt summissi et humani et dulces, non tamen usque in adulationem, nam iracundos nimia assentatio offendit. Erat certe amicus noster vir bonus, sed irae paratioris, cui non magis tutum erat blandiri quam male dicere.

 

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Book of Hours, MS M.1001 fol. 88r

Infrastructure Struggles in Imperial Rome

Pliny To the Emperor Trajan, Letter 37

Lord, the people of Nicomedia have spent 3,318,000 sesterces on an aqueduct which was left unfinished and then it was taken down. Then they allotted two hundred thousand sesterces to a second one. Because this one was also abandoned, they need to spend more to have water when they have wasted so much money badly.

I have gone to the cleanest spring myself, the one from which it seems likely that water could be conducted by an aqueduct as was tried from the beginning, if we want the water to make it beyond the lower levels of the city. There remain only a few arches standing there still but there are others which could be made from stones which remain from previous attempts. Another part, I think, should be built from brick, which is easier and cheaper.

But foremost, we need you to send out a water-works engineer or an architect so what happened before does not happen again. I will encourage only this, that the work should have a function and beauty worthy of your era.”

C. Plinius Traiano Imperatori
1In aquae ductum, domine, Nicomedenses impenderunt HS |X̅X̅X̅| C̅C̅C̅X̅V̅I̅I̅I̅, qui imperfectus adhuc omissus, destructus etiam est; rursus in alium ductum erogata sunt C̅C̅. Hoc quoque relicto novo impendio est opus, ut aquam habeant, qui tantam pecuniam male perdiderunt. Ipse perveni ad fontem purissimum, ex quo videtur aqua debere perduci, sicut initio temptatum erat, arcuato opere, ne tantum ad plana civitatis et humilia perveniat. Manent adhuc paucissimi arcus: possunt et erigi quidam lapide quadrato, qui ex superiore opere detractus est; aliqua pars, ut mihi videtur, testaceo opere agenda erit, id enim et facilius et vilius. Sed in primis necessarium est mitti a te vel aquilegem vel architectum, ne rursus eveniat quod accidit. Ego illud unum adfirmo, et utilitatem operis et pulchritudinem saeculo tuo esse dignissimam.

 

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Remains of Aqueduct constructed in Nicomedia

Fronto’s Writing Advice to Aurelius: One Thought Should Follow Through to the Next

Fronto Laudes Fumi et Pulveris [Ambr 249 Caesari suo Fronto. [139 a.d.]]

“Many of my readers may perhaps hate my subject from the title because it is impossible for anything serious to be made of smoke and dust. But you, thanks to your outstanding intelligence, will judge whether these words are wasted or put well.

The subject does, however, seem to ask for a few things to be written about the logic of its composition, since nothing written of this kind of thing noble enough in the Roman tongue exists except for what poets touch in comedies or farces. Anyone who tests himself at writing of this kind will select a mass of ideas and put them together closely, joining them cleverly, but without including many useless and doubled words and then make sure to end each sentence with clarity and skill.

In legal speeches, however, it goes differently because we often pay special attention to sentences ending harshly and artlessly. In this matter, we must labor differently so that nothing is left rude and out of place, instead making sure that everything is interconnected as in a robe with clear borders and ornate edges. Finally, just as the final verses in epigrams should have some kind of shine to them, a sentence should be ended with some kind of a clasp or brooch.

Pleasing the audience, however, should pursued among the first goals. For this kind of address is not composed for defense in a capital trial nor to advocate for the passing of a law, nor to exhort an army, nor to enrage a mass of people, but for delights and pleasure. Nevertheless, we must speeches we do about serious and wonderful things—the small matters must be compared and equaled to great ones. And, finally, the greatest virtue in this kind of speech is the conceit of seriousness. Stories of the gods or heroes should be interwoven where they fit. At he same time, lines of poetry which pertain applicable proverbs, and even clever fictions, as long as the fiction is added by some kind of clever argument.

The chief challenge, then, is to order the materials so that their presentation has a logical connection. This is what Plato faults Lysias for in the Phaedrus, that he has combined his thoughts so carelessly that the first one could be exchanged with the last without any kind of loss. We can only escape this danger if we organize our thoughts in categories so that we do not mix them in an indiscriminate and disordered way like those mixed dishes, but instead arrange it so that the preceding idea reaches into the next one and then shares its boundary, where the second thought begins where the first one has ended, and a sequence emerges in this way, so that we seem to step rather than jump along our way.”

Plerique legentium forsan rem de titulo contemnant, nihil <enim> serium , potuisse fieri de fumo et pulvere: tu pro tuo excellenti ingenio profecto existimabis lusa sit opera4ista an locata. 2. Sed res poscere videtur de ratione scribendi pauca praefari, quod nullum huiuscemodi scriptum Romana lingua extat satis nobile, nisi quod poetae in comoediis vel atellanis adtigerunt. Qui se eiusmodi rebus scribendis exercebit, crebras sententias conquiret, easque dense conlocabit et subtiliter coniunget, Ambr. neque verba multa geminata supervacanea | in-ferciet; tum omnem sententiam breviter et scite concludet. Aliter in orationibus iudiciariis, ubi sedulo curamus ut pleraeque sententiae durius interdum et incautius1finiantur. Sed contra istic laborandum est, ne quid inconcinnum et hiulcum relinquatur, quin omnia ut in tenui veste oris detexta et revimentis sint cincta. Postremo, ut novissimos in epigrammatis versus habere oportet aliquid luminis, sententia clavo aliquo vel fibula terminanda est.

In primis autem sectanda est suavitas. Namque hoc genus orationis non capitis defendendi nec suadendae legis nec exercitus hortandi nec inflammandae contionis scribitur, sed facetiarum et voluptatis.Ubique vero ut de re ampla et magnifica loquendum, parvaeque res magnis adsimilandae comparandaeque. Summa denique in hoc genere orationis virtus est adseveratio. Fabulae deum vel heroum tempestive inserendae; item versus congruenteset proverbia accommodata et non inficete conficta mendacia, dum id mendacium argumento aliquo lepido iuvetur.

Ambr 247 4. Cum primis autem difficile est argumenta ita disponere ut sit ordo eorum rite connexus. Quod Ambr.ille | Plato Lysiam culpat in Phaedro, sententiarum ordinem ab eo ita temere permixtum, ut sine ullo detrimento prima in novissimum locum transferantur, et novissima in primum, eam culpam ita devitabimus, si divisa generatim argumenta nectemus, non sparsa nec sine discrimine aggerata, ut ea quae per saturam feruntur, sed ut praecedens sententia in sequentem laciniam aliquam porrigat et oram praetendat; ubi prior sit finita sententia, inde ut sequens ordiatur; ita enim transgredi potius videmur quam transilire.

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.

 

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