Rage: The Seed of Future Enemies

Seneca, De Clementia 8

“Think over this as well that, while endurance of what has already occurred exposes private citizens to the danger of receiving additional injuries, greater safety comes to kings from lenience because frequent punishments serve to suppress the hatred of a few while exciting the anger of every one.

The willingness to rage should be weaker than its cause. If not, just as trees which are pruned sprout again with even more branches and as many other plants are cut back so that they may grow more thickly, in the same way a king’s cruelty increases the number of his enemies by cutting some of them down. For the parents and children of those who were killed along with their relatives and friends take up the place of a single victim.”

Adice nunc, quod privatos homines ad accipiendas iniurias opportuniores acceptarum patientia facit, regibus certior est ex mansuetudine securitas, quia frequens vindicta paucorum odium opprimit, omnium irritat. Voluntas oportet ante saeviendi quam causa deficiat; alioqui, quemadmodum praecisae arbores plurimis ramis repullulant et multa satorum genera, ut densiora surgant, reciduntur, ita regia crudelitas auget inimicorum numerum tollendo; parentes enim liberique eorum, qui interfecti sunt, et propinqui et amici in locum singulorum succedunt.

Valentine
The Martydom of St. valentine

The Mind Recoils When Left to Itself: What Do You Do on The Weekend?

Seneca, De Tranquillitate Animi 2

“Regret for work only begun grips them and then fear of starting again and then the anxiety of a mind that can find no end—because they can neither control their desires nor serve them, the hesitation of a life which cannot make its own way and the stillness of a soul growing dull among failed schemes.

These traits grow worse when people flee toward leisure because of hatred of unsuccessful work, or they flee to private studies which a mind set on more public achievement cannot tolerate because it desires accomplishment and is restless by nature since it certainly has too little comfort in itself. Therefore, once the distractions are removed which vocations themselves offer those who run to them, the mind cannot endure home, quiet, or the walls of a room as it recoils unwillingly at being left to itself.

From this arises that boredom and displeasure and the volatility of mind that can rest nowhere—the sad and sickly tolerance of one’s own leisure. This especially is true when it is a matter of shame to admit the causes and embarrassment suppresses the torments deeper. Desires compressed in a narrow space without escape choke on one another.

This is the origin of mourning and depression and the endless fluctuations of an uncertain mind which hopes for work begun keep in suspense and the failure makes sorrowful. This is where that feeling that makes people despise their own leisure comes from and why they complain they have nothing to do; this also prompts their hateful envy of other’s success. Their sad lack of motion feeds jealousy and they want everyone to fail because they could not succeed themselves. Then from this dismissal of the success of others and their own despair, the mind is enraged against fortune—it complains of the era, and then retreats and ruminates over its trouble until it bores and shames itself.

For the human mind is naturally agile and prone to motion. It welcomes every cause of excitement and reason for being distracted from itself—even more welcome to those worse types who are worn out more freely in pursuing such diversions.”

Tunc illos et paenitentia coepti tenet et incipiendi timor subrepitque illa animi iactatio non invenientis exitum, quia nec imperare cupiditatibus suis nec obsequi possunt, et cunctatio vitae parum se explicantis et inter destituta vota torpentis animi situs. Quae omnia graviora sunt, ubi odio infelicitatis operosae ad otium perfugerunt, ad secreta studia, quae pati non potest animus ad civilia erectus agendique cupidus et natura inquies, parum scilicet in se solaciorum habens; ideo detractis oblectationibus, quas ipsae occupationes discurrentibus praebent, domum, solitudinem, parietes non fert, invitus aspicit se sibi relictum.

Hinc illud est taedium et displicentia sui et nusquam residentis animi volutatio et otii sui tristis atque aegra patientia; utique ubi causas fateri pudet et tormenta introsus egit verecundia, in angusto inclusae cupiditates sine exitu se ipsae strangulant. Inde maeror marcorque et mille fluctus mentis incertae, quam spes inchoatae suspensam habent, deploratae tristem; inde ille adfectus otium suum detestantium querentiumque nihil ipsos habere, quod agant et alienis incrementis inimicissima invidia. Alit enim livorem infelix inertia et omnes destrui cupiunt, quia se non potuere provehere; ex hac deinde aversatione alienorum processuum et suorum desperatione obirascens fortunae animus et de saeculo querens et in angulos se retrahens et poenae incubans suae, dum illum taedet sui pigetque. Natura enim humanus animus agilis est et pronus ad motus. Grata omnis illi excitandi se abstrahendique materia est, gratior pessimis quibusque ingeniis, quae occupationibus libenter deteruntur.

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MS from Bodleian Library. (Found on Pinterest)

A Source of Fear and Hate

Suetonius, Domitian 13-14

“Once he accepted the cognomen Germanicus after two triumphs, he renamed the months of September and October from his own names, calling one Germanicus and the other Domitianus because he had assumed rule in one and was born in the other.

For these reasons he became a source of fear and hateful to everyone. He was finally overthrown by plots led together by his friends and freedman with his wife’s knowledge. He had a longstanding suspicion over the final year and day of his death. When he was young, astrologers had predicted all these things to him. His father also once mocked him at dinner because he was refusing mushrooms, claiming that he was ignorant of his fate because he did not fear the sword instead. For these reasons he was always fearful and anxious and was excessively upset even over the smallest suspicions.”

Post autem duos triumphos Germanici cognomine assumpto Septembrem mensem et Octobrem ex appellationibus suis Germanicum Domitianumque transnominavit, quod altero suscepisset imperium, altero natus esset.

XIV. Per haec terribilis cunctis et invisus, tandem oppressus est insidiis amicorum libertorumque intimorum simul et uxoris. Annum diemque ultimum vitae iam pridem suspectum habebat, horam etiam nec non et genus mortis. Adulescentulo Chaldaei cuncta praedixerant; pater quoque super cenam quondam fungis abstinentem palam irriserat ut ignarum sortis suae, quod non ferrum potius timeret. Quare pavidus semper atque anxius minimis etiam suspicionibus praeter modum commovebatur.

 

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Better to Laugh at Life Than Mourn

Seneca, De Tranquilitate Animi 15

“There is no advantage to have disposed of the causes of private sorrow, for the hatred of humankind is at times overwhelming. When you have considered how uncommon simplicity is, how unknown innocence is, and how trust is hardly anywhere unless it brings some benefit, or when the mass of successful crimes occurs to you along with the profit and losses of desire—each equally hateful—or of ambition so incapable of staying without its limits that it shines forth because of its foulness. The mind descends into night because of these thoughts as if the virtues had been reversed, those qualities it is neither possible to acquire nor profitable to practice, and shadows hang over us.

In this process, however, we should bend ourselves so that all the common faults seem not hateful to us but instead absurd and we should imitate Democritus rather than Heraclitus. The latter, whenever he stepped outside, used to weep; but the former used to laugh. To one, all human deeds seemed pitiful; to the other, they seemed signs of incompetence. Everything should be taken more lightly and endured with an easy spirit. It is more human to laugh at life than to hate it.

Consider too that that the person who laughs at humanity instead of mourning it deserves better from it. For the one reserves some space for good hope; while the other foolishly weeps affairs which he believes may not possibly be corrected.”

  1. Sed nihil prodest privatae tristitiae causas abiecisse; occupat enim nonnumquam odium generis humani. Cum cogitaveris, quam sit rara simplicitas et quam ignota innocentia et vix umquam, nisi cum expedit, fides, et occurrit tot scelerum felicium turba et libidinis lucra damnaque pariter invisa et ambitio usque eo iam se suis non continens terminis, ut per turpitudinem splendeat: agitur animus in noctem et velut eversis virtutibus, quas nec sperare licet nec habere prodest, tenebrae oboriuntur. In hoc itaque flectendi sumus, ut omnia vulgi vitia non invisa nobis sed ridicula videantur et Democritum potius imitemur quam Heraclitum. Hic enim, quotiens in publicum processerat, flebat, ille ridebat; huic omnia quae agimus miseriae, illi ineptiae videbantur. Elevanda ergo omnia et facili animo ferenda; humanius est 3deridere vitam quam deplorare. Adice quod de humano quoque genere melius meretur qui ridet illud quam qui luget; ille ei spei bonae aliquid relinquit, hic autem stulte deflet quae corrigi posse desperat.
Royal_ms_12_f_xiii_f042v_detail
Royal MS 12 F XIII, f. 42v (found here)

Fear of Ghosts in Imperial Rome

Pliny, Natural History 27.98

“For treatment against night terrors and fear of ghosts it is suggested that a string of big teeth will help”

contra nocturnos pavores umbrarumque terrorem unus e magnis dentibus lino alligatus succurrere narratur.

Seneca, Moral Epistle 82.16

“Death should be hated more than it is customarily. For we believe many things about death. There has been a struggle among geniuses to increase its bad reputation. The world below is depicted as a prison and the region is oppressed by eternal night where:

“The huge guardian of death / laying upon half-eaten bones in his gory cave / horrifies the bloodless ghosts with eternal barking”*

Even if you can persuade someone that these are stories and that there is nothing there for the dead to fear, another fright comes over you. For they fear going to the underworld no less than they fear going nowhere.”

Mors contemni debet magis quam solet. Multa enim de illa credidimus. Multorum ingeniis certatum est ad augendam eius infamiam. Descriptus est carcer infernus et perpetua nocte oppressa regio, in qua

Ingens ianitor Orci

Ossa super recubans antro semesa cruento,

Aeternum latrans exsangues terreat umbras.

Etiam cum persuaseris istas fabulas esse nec quicquam defunctis superesse, quod timeant, subit alius metus. Aeque enim timent, ne apud inferos sint, quam ne nusquam.

*From Vergil’s Aeneid.

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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.

Museum Meermanno, MMW, 10 D 7, Folio 34v

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