Some of the Smartest People Agree–Sometimes Being Silent is Far Superior to Speech

A reminder that oftentimes silence is better than speech.

Two sayings come from the Gnomologium Vaticanum

58 “When Aristotle was asked what the most burdensome thing in life is he said “staying silent.”

῾Ο αὐτὸς ἐρωτηθείς, τί δυσκολώτατόν ἐστιν ἐν βίῳ, εἶπε· „τὸ σιωπᾶν”.

382 “[Kratês] the Cynic used to say that it is better to slip with your foot than your tongue.”

῾Ο αὐτὸς ἔφη κρεῖττον εἶναι τῷ ποδὶ ὀλισθῆσαι ἢ τῇ γλώττῃ.

Plutarch De Garrulitate (On Talkitiveness), 505f-506e

No word uttered has helped as much as many held in silence. For it is possible to say later what has been kept silent, but certainly not to render silent what has been said—that has been poured out and has wandered far afield. This is why I think that we have men as teachers of speech, but gods as teachers of silence, since we maintain quiet in their sacrifices and rites.

And the poet has made the most capable speaker Odysseus the most silent, along with his son, wife and nurse. For the nurse says “I will keep it as a strong tree or iron would.” (19.494). And Odysseus is described when he sits next to Penelope as “mourning in his heart as he pities his wife, though his eyes stood strong untrembling beneath his brows like horn or iron” (19.210-212). He was so full of self-control throughout his body and reason kept him completely obedient and ready and ordered his eyes not to weep, his tongue not to speak, and his heart neither to tremble nor yelp since his power of reason extended even to the subconscious movements, mastering and softening even his breath and blood.

Many of Odysseus’ companions were similar in character—for they did not turn against Odysseus or reveal the fire-made too prepared for his eye even as the Cyclops was dragging them and smashing them on the ground. Instead, they were willing to be eaten raw rather than disclose any part of the secret, and a better example of self-control and trust does not exist. This is why, when the king of Egypt sent a sacrificial victim to him and ordered him to cut out the best and worst meat, Pittakos did not do badly when he cut out the tongue because it was the organ of the greatest good and evil.

Just so, Euripides’ Ino, when offering a speech about herself, says she knows “how to be silent when it is right and to speak when it is safe.” (fr. 413.2). For those who obtain a noble and royal education learn first to be silent and then to speak.”

οὐδεὶς γὰρ οὕτω λόγος ὠφέλησε ῥηθεὶς ὡς πολλοὶ σιωπηθέντες· ἔστι γὰρ εἰπεῖν ποτε τὸ σιγηθέν, οὐ μὴν σιωπῆσαί γε τὸ λεχθέν, ἀλλ’ ἐκκέχυται καὶ διαπεφοίτηκεν. ὅθεν οἶμαι τοῦ μὲν λέγειν ἀνθρώπους τοῦ δὲ σιωπᾶν θεοὺς διδασκάλους ἔχομεν, ἐν τελεταῖς καὶ μυστηρίοις σιωπὴν παραλαμβάνοντες. | ὁ δὲ ποιητὴς τὸν λογιώτατον ᾿Οδυσσέα σιωπηλότατον πεποίηκε καὶ τὸν υἱὸν αὐτοῦ καὶ τὴν γυναῖκα καὶ τὴν τροφόν· ἀκούεις γὰρ λεγούσης (τ 494) ‘ἕξω δ’ ἠύτε περ κρατερὴ δρῦς ἠὲ σίδηρος.’
αὐτὸς δὲ τῇ Πηνελόπῃ παρακαθήμενος (τ 210—2)

‘θυμῷ μὲν γοόωσαν ἑὴν ἐλέαιρε γυναῖκα,
ὀφθαλμοὶ δ’ ὡς εἰ κέρα ἕστασαν ἠὲ σίδηρος,
ἀτρέμας ἐν βλεφάροισιν·’

οὕτω τὸ σῶμα μεστὸν ἦν αὐτῷ πανταχόθεν ἐγκρατείας, καὶ πάντ’ ἔχων ὁ λόγος εὐπειθῆ καὶ ὑποχείρια προσέταττε τοῖς ὄμμασι μὴ δακρύειν, τῇ γλώττῃ μὴ φθέγγεσθαι, τῇ καρδίᾳ μὴ τρέμειν μηδ’ ὑλακτεῖν (υ 13). ‘τῷ δ’ αὖτ’ ἐν πείσῃ κραδίη μένε τετληυῖα’ (υ 23), μέχρι τῶν ἀλόγων κινημάτων διήκοντος τοῦ λογισμοῦ καὶ
τὸ πνεῦμα καὶ τὸ αἷμα πεποιημένου κατήκοον ἑαυτῷ καὶ χειρόηθες. τοιοῦτοι δὲ καὶ οἱ πολλοὶ τῶν ἑταίρων·

τοιοῦτοι δὲ καὶ οἱ πολλοὶ τῶν ἑταίρων· τὸ γὰρ ἑλκομένους καὶ προσουδιζομένους (ι 289) ὑπὸ τοῦ Κύκλωπος μὴ κατειπεῖν τοῦ ᾿Οδυσσέως μηδὲ δεῖξαι τὸ πεπυρακτωμένον ἐκεῖνο καὶ παρεσκευασμένον ὄργανον ἐπὶ τὸν ὀφθαλμόν, ἀλλ’ ὠμοὺς ἐσθίεσθαι μᾶλλον ἢ φράσαι τι τῶν ἀπορρήτων ὑπερβολὴν ἐγκρατείας καὶ πίστεως οὐ λέλοιπεν. ὅθεν ὁ Πιττακὸς οὐ κακῶς τοῦ Αἰγυπτίων βασιλέως
πέμψαντος ἱερεῖον αὐτῷ καὶ κελεύσαντος τὸ κάλλιστον καὶ χείριστον ἐξελεῖν κρέας ἔπεμψεν ἐξελὼν τὴν γλῶτταν ὡς ὄργανον μὲν ἀγαθῶν ὄργανον δὲ κακῶν τῶν μεγίστων οὖσαν. ἡ δ’ Εὐριπίδειος ᾿Ινὼ παρρησίαν ἄγουσα περὶ αὑτῆς εἰδέναι φησί (fr. 413, 2)

‘σιγᾶν θ’ ὅπου δεῖ καὶ λέγειν ἵν’ ἀσφαλές.’

οἱ γὰρ εὐγενοῦς καὶ βασιλικῆς τῷ ὄντι παιδείας τυχόντες πρῶτον σιγᾶν εἶτα λαλεῖν μανθάνουσιν

Perhaps Plutarch was inspired by the proverb attributed to Zeno:  “for this reason we have two ears and one mouth, so that we might hear more and say less…”

διὰ τοῦτο … δύο ὦτα ἔχομεν, στόμα δὲ ἕν, ἵνα πλείω μὲν ἀκούωμεν, ἥττονα δὲ λέγωμεν

Aulus Gellius, Attic Nights 1.15.1

“Those light-weight, annoying and pointless talkers who, though they cannot rely on any strong foundation, pour out lolling, liquid words, are correctly believed to draw only as deep as the lips and not the heart. Indeed, most people say that the tongue should not be free but should be guided by lines tied to the deepest part of the chest and the heart, as if by a ship’s captain. But still you may see certain men who toss around words without any semblance of judgment, but instead with a certainty so great and profound that even while they are speaking they do not seem to understand that they speak.

Homer has his Ulysses, however,–a man suffused with wise eloquence–move his voice not from his mouth but from his chest. This depiction is not so much about the sound and style of his voice as it is indicative of the considerable weight of the thoughts conceived within. And Homer also said quite appropriately that teeth are a wall built to contain immature and dangerous words—not just so that the watchful guardian of the heart could restrain them, but that they may be stopped by a guardhouse of sorts positioned at the mouth. The Homeric lines which I mentioned above are: “But when he released the great voice from his chest” (Il.3.221) and “What kind of word has escaped the bulwark of your teeth”? (Il. 4.350)

1 Qui sunt leves et futtiles et inportuni locutores quique nullo rerum pondere innixi verbis uvidis et lapsantibus diffluunt, eorum orationem bene existimatum est in ore nasci, non in pectore; linguam autem debere aiunt non esse liberam nec vagam, sed vinclis de pectore imo ac de corde aptis moveri et quasi gubernari. 2 Sed enim videas quosdam scatere verbis sine ullo iudicii negotio cum securitate multa et profunda, ut loquentes plerumque videantur loqui sese nescire.

3 Ulixen contra Homerus, virum sapienti facundia praeditum, vocem mittere ait non ex ore, sed ex pectore, quod scilicet non ad sonum magis habitumque vocis quam ad sententiarum penitus conceptarum altitudinem pertineret, petulantiaeque verborum coercendae vallum esse oppositum dentium luculente dixit, ut loquendi temeritas non cordis tantum custodia atque vigilia cohibeatur, sed et quibusdam quasi excubiis in ore positis saepiatur. 4 Homerica, de quibus supra dixi, haec sunt:
ἀλλ’ ὅτε δὴ ὄπα τε μεγάλην ἐκ στήθεος εἵη (Il.3.221)

 

Vergerio, de ingenuis moribus et liberalibus adulescentiae studiis, XIII:

“They should be deterred from this vain mendacity as much as possible. First, because men who became accustomed to lying in youth tend to maintain the habit, and nothing could be more shameful. Second, because almost nothing offends elders more, than the mendacity of youths who try, though just born yesterday, to ensnare old men with deceit. It would be well if our youth were advised to speak little and rarely, unless bid to do so. For, in excessive speech there is always something which can be criticized, and if one is to make a mistake in either direction, it is much safer to be silent than to speak. Indeed, he who is silent at the wrong time, makes only this one mistake, that he is silent: but in speaking, one may make many mistakes. Therefore, we ought to see to it that youths do not become accustomed to base and dishonest talk. For, as was said by a Greek poet and repeated by the Apostle Paul,

                “Bad conversations will corrupt good characters.”

Ab hac autem mentiendi vanitate deterrendi sunt maxime. Primum, quod assueti in iuventute mentiri morem hunc viri servant, quo nihil est turpius; deinde, quod prope nihil aeque maiores offendit quam mendacia adulescentium, qui studeant, pridie nati, senes fallaciis circumvenire. Proderit autem si admoneantur parum loqui et raro, nisi iussos, dicere. In multo namque sermone est aliquid semper quod reprehendi possit. Quod si alterutro est peccandum, multo sane tutius est tacere quam loqui. Nam qui intempestive tacet, hoc in unum peccat, quod tacet; loquendo autem, in multis errare contingit. Providendum etiam ne foedis atque inhonestis sermonibus assuescant. Nam, ut est a graeco poeta dictum et ab apostolo Paolo repetitum,

                corrumpunt bonos mores colloquia mala.

Aeneas Silvius Piccolomini, de Educatione Liberorum XXXV

“What then should we say, considering that there is great utility in both silence and in speaking? We would have you hold to the middle course, and find yourself neither always speaking nor always quit. I do not demand a five-years silence in the Pythagorean fashion, nor would I recommend the loquacity of a Thersites. The ancients used to say that the tongue should not always be free and wandering, but moved and perhaps even governed by chains rooted deep in the heart and soul. The words of those who speak freely, lightly, aimlessly, and with no sense of timing ought to be considered as springing not from the heart, but from the mouth itself. Homer, however, says that Ulysses – a man endowed with wisdom and eloquence – would speak not from his mouth, but from his heart. Certainly, the ‘bulwark of the teeth’ is placed as a restraint on inconsiderate speech, so that temerity in speaking would not be checked only by the heart’s guardianship, but also be hedged in by guards placed in the mouth. One should take care not to deserve that charge of Epicharmus, of being a man ‘who, although he was unable to speak, yet could not be silent,’ or even that of Sallust, who speaks of one who ‘when he spoke was talkative rather than eloquent.’”

Quid ergo dicemus, cum et silentii et orationis magna utilitas sit? Tenere te medium volumus, neque tacere semper neque loqui semper. Non exigimus Pythagoreum illud quinquennale silentium neque Thersitis loquacitatem. Linguam dicebant veteres debere non esse liberam nec vagam sed vinculis de pectore imo ac de corde aptis moveri et quasi gubernari. Nam qui sunt faciles, leves, futiles et importuni locutores, horum orationem bene aestimatum in ore nasci, non in pectore. Ulixem contra Homerus sapienti facundia praeditum vocem mittere ait non ex ore, sed ex pectore. Nempe verborum coercendae petulantiae vallum positum est dentium, ut loquendi temeritas non cordis tantum custodia cohibeatur, sed et quibusdam quasi excubiis in ore positis saepiatur. Cavendum est, ne obiici possit illud Epicharmi, ‘<qui> cum loqui non posset, tacere non potuit,’ aut Sallustianum: ‘loquax inquit magis quam facundus.’

A Sardinian Laugh, A Sardonic Smile? A Proverb and State of Mind

From the Suda:

“Sardinian Laugh”: A proverb used for people who laugh at their own death. According to Demôn it developed from the fact that the Sardinians used to sacrifice the best and the oldest of their captives each year to Cronus as they laughed to display their courage. Timaios, on the other hand, claims that men who had lived a long enough time were in the habit of laughing when they were pushed by their sons into the trenches in which they would bury them. But others claim the saying comes from smiling with devious intent.

Others say—and this includes Cleitarchus—that when they place a small child in Kronos’ hand in Carthage during their most important prayers (a bronze statue is set out with hands stretched out over a cooking pot) and after they light the fire, the boy seems to laugh as he is shriveled by the fire. But Simonides says that when the Sardinians were not willing to hand over Talos—the fabricated man—to Minos, that Talos leapt into the fire, because he was bronze, clutched them to his chest and killed them as they gasped for air.

Silenus argues in the fourth book of his On the Syracusans that there is a sweet plant similar celery which when people eat it they bite off segments of their own faces.  There are also some who say that this is to laugh at danger. This is what happens when Homer says that “shining Odysseus grinned sardonically” and in other places,” she laughed with her lips, but she was not pleased under her dark brows”

Σαρδάνιος γέλως: παροιμία ἐπὶ τῶν ἐπ’ ὀλέθρῳ τῷ σφῶν αὐτῶν γελώντων· ἣν Δήμων μὲν διαδοθῆναι, ὅτι οἱ Σαρδόνα κατοικοῦντες αἰχμαλώτων τε τοὺς καλλίστους καὶ πρεσβυτέρους ὑπὲρ ο′ ἔτη τῷ Κρόνῳ ἔθυον, γελῶντας, ἕνεκα τοῦ τὸ εὔανδρον ἐμφῆναι (τουτ έστιν ἀνδρεῖον). Τίμαιος δέ, τοὺς ἱκανὸν βεβιωκότας χρόνον ἐν Σαρδοῖ συνωθουμένους σχίζαις ὑπὸ τῶν υἱῶν εἰς ὃν ἔμελλον θάπτεσθαι βόθρον γελᾶν. οἱ δέ, ἀπὸ τοῦ σεσηρέναι μετὰ ἀνίας. καί φασιν ἄλλοι τε καὶ Κλείταρχος, ἐν Καρχηδόνι ἐν ταῖς μεγάλαις εὐχαῖς παῖδα ταῖς χερσὶ τοῦ Κρόνου ἐπιτιθέντας (ἵδρυται δὲ χαλκοῦς, προβεβλημένας ἔχων τὰς χεῖρας ὑφ’ ᾧ κρίβανος), ἔπειτα ὑποκαίειν· τὸν δὲ συνελκόμενον ὑπὸ τοῦ πυρὸς δοκεῖν γελᾶν. Σιμωνίδης δὲ Τάλων τὸν ἡφαιστότευκτον Σαρδωνίους οὐ βουλομένους περαιῶσαι πρὸς Μίνῳα, εἰς πῦρ καθαλλόμενον, ὡς ἂν χαλκοῦν, προστερνιζόμενον ἀναιρεῖν ἐπιχάσκοντας. Σιληνὸς δὲ ἐν δ′ τῶν περὶ Συρακούσας λάχανον εἶναι παρὰ Σαρδωνίοις ἡδύ, σελίνῳ ἐμφερές· οὗ τοὺς γευσαμένους τάς τε σιαγόνας καὶ τὰς σάρκας ἑαυτῶν ἀποδάκνειν. ἔνιοι δὲ τοὺς ἐπὶ κακῷ γελῶντας· ὡς καὶ ᾿Οδυσσέα φησὶν ῞Ομηρος· μείδησε δὲ δῖος ᾿Οδυσσεὺς Σαρδώνιον. καὶ ἐν ἄλλοις· ἡδὺ γέλασσε χείλεσσιν, οὐδὲ μέτωπον ἐπ’ ὀφρύσι κυανέῃσιν ἰάνθη.

Smile Vase

Suffering for a Lack of the Latin Language

Seneca the Elder, Controversiae 7.72

I used to tell you that Cestius, because he was Greek, suffered because of a lack of Latin words though he had an abundance of ideas. Thus, whenever he dared to describe something more broadly, he often stalled especially when he attempted to imitate some great genius.

This is the issue in this controversy. For, in his story, when he was telling about how his brother was given to him, he was pleased by this lonely and sad description: “night was laid out, and everything, judges, was singing under silent stars.” Julius Montanus, who was a companion of Tiberius and an exceptional poet, was claiming that he wanted to imitate Vergil’s line: “it was night and all the tired animals over the earth, the races of birds and beasts, were held by a deep sleep.”

Soleo dicere vobis Cestium Latinorum verborum inopia hominem Graecum laborasse, sensibus abundasse; itaque, quotiens latius aliquid describere ausus est, totiens substitit, utique cum se ad imitationem magni alicuius ingeni derexerat, sicut in hac controversia fecit. Nam in narratione, cum fratrem traditum sibi describeret, placuit sibi in hac explicatione una et infelici: nox erat concubia, et omnia, iudices, canentia sideribus muta erant. Montanus Iulius, qui comes fuit , egregius poeta, aiebat illum imitari voluisse Vergili descriptionem:

nox erat et terras animalia fessa per omnis,alituum pecudumque genus, sopor altus habebat

Cats doing cat things: sleep, play with mice, and take an unhealthy interest in caged birds from a medieval bestiary

Oxford University: Bodleian Library

Rain and Four-Horse Chariots: Some Metaphors for Language

Varro, On The Latin Language 5.11-12

“Pythagoras of Samos claims that the basic elements of all things are paired—finite and infinite; good and bad; alive and dead, day and night. For this reason, then, two basic elements are motion and set-position; and both split into four parts: what is still or is moved is a body; where it is moved is a place; while it is moved, is a time; what is the character of the movement, an action. The four-part split will be more obvious like this: the body is something like a runner; the stadium is where he runs; the hour is his time; and the running is the action.

For this reason, then, all things can be divided into four parts and these are eternal—since there is never time unless there is motion—even an interruption of motion needs time; nor is there motion without place and body, since the former is the thing that moves and the latter is where it moves; nor is there a lack of action where the body moves. Therefore, location, body, time and action are the four-horse chariot of etymological foundations.”

Pythagoras Samius ait omnium rerum initia esse bina ut finitum et infinitum, bonum et malum, vitam et mortem, diem et noctem. Quare item duo status et motus, utrumque quadripertitum: quod stat aut agitatur, corpus, ubi agitatur, locus, dum agitatur, tempus, quod est in agitatu, actio. Quadripertitio magis sic apparebit: corpus est ut cursor, locus stadium qua currit, tempus hora qua currit, actio cursio.

Quare fit, ut ideo fere omnia sint quadripertita et ea aeterna, quod neque unquam tempus, quin fuerit motus: eius enim intervallum tempus; neque motus, ubi non locus et corpus, quod alterum est quod movetur, alterum ubi; neque ubi is agitatus, non actio ibi. Igitur initiorum quadrigae locus et corpus, tempus et action.

Lucretius, De Rerum Natura 1.192-198

“One must consider too that without a fixed annual amount of rain
the land cannot produce its gladdening fruit
nor is it the nature of animals bereft of their customary food
to be able to increase their race and safeguard life;
In this way you ought to understand more readily that many bodies
are shared among many things, just as we see letters shared among words,
than that anything could ever exist without elemental beginnings.”

Huc accedit uti sine certis imbribus anni
laetificos nequeat fetus submittere tellus
nec porro secreta cibo natura animantum
propagare genus possit vitamque tueri; 195
ut potius multis communia corpora rebus
multa putes esse, ut verbis elementa videmus,
quam sine principiis ullam rem existere posse.

 

Image result for Medieval Manuscript abecedario

Skatokhasm: Another Word You Know You Need

How does one say “shithole” in Ancient Greek? As with other such esoteric considerations, this takes us into the depths of metaphor and meaning. Is a “shithole” a place whence shit emerges or one in which shit properly settles to age? To be more pointed, when we say “shithole”, do we mean the rectum (so is it a synonym for “asshole”) or do we mean a receptacle too primitive and unformed to be graced with the designation ‘toilet’?

I think when the leader of what was once the free world uses the term , he probably means the second meaning–that the countries designated so are “primitive”, bereft of proper sanitation, and, as such, both filled with excrement (in his excitable mind) and a worthy place for excrement to stay. Thanks to the magic of the conceptual metaphor, of course, the “shithole” can simultaneously indicate both origin and receptacle. One reason it is terribly racist is that the people who move from one to the other or inhabit them are, by extension, excrement.

Because I process trauma and horror through ancient Greek and lexicography, I need to ‘own’ this word by putting it in Greek. I think the stronger force of this metaphor is the location of discarded shit not the organ of excretion. Ancient Greek does not have a clear parallel (and believe me, gentle reader, I looked). I would love to hear some other suggestions. I put the call on Twitter.

The best suggestion, I think, is σκατοχάσμα (skatokhasma, see below). I like it because it has clear parallels (e.g. skatophage). Also, it sounds like “shit-gasm” which is what I think happens every time a certain chief executive speaks. Weaknesses: khasma is not very productive in ancient Greek compounds and is also rather ‘epic’ in scope. In English, “hole” is dimunitive a small. Shitholes are thus additionally awful because of their insignificance.

Honorable Mentions: τὸ σκατώρυγμον (skatorugmon). this has the sense of something hastily and poorly made by people. Also, κοπροβάραθρον is, as one correspondent declared, totally “metal” and, really epic. (Also, coprophilia is something the captain of our ship might cop to). The Lexicographer Zonaras treats all three of these nouns as synonyms (“Barathron: A ditch. A depth. The maw of the earth.” Βάραθρον. ὄρυγμα· βάθος· χάσμα γῆς). For me, barathron is mythical; orugmon is man-made, and khasma is more generic and ‘natural’. I prefer it, in sum, because of its huuugeness. It is really big. And the speaker mentioned above doesn’t do anything small.

Some Instructive Compounds

κοπρόνους: “manure-minded”
κοπράγωγεω: “to collect crap”
κόπρειος: “full of crap”
κοπρολογεῖν: “to gather crap”
κοπροφαγεῖν: “to eat crap”
κοπροστόμος: “foul-mouthed”
σκατοφάγος: “shit-eater”
κόπρανα: “excrements”
κοπραγωγός: “shit-bearer”
κοπρία: “dung-heap”
κοπρίζω: “to make dung”
κοπρικός: “full of it”
κοπροθέσιον: “a place where dung is put”. ‘Shit-bucket”
κοπροδοχεῖον: “cess pool”
κοπροποιός: “dung-making”
σκατοφάγος: “shit eater”
σκαταιβάτης: “shit-walker”
σκωραμὶς: “shit pot”; cf. Ar.Lys. 371: σκωραμὶς κωμῳδική: “comedic shitpot”

Image result for medieval manuscript toilet

From Beekes:

chasm

Ktesippos Beats his Father (and Conditional Madness)

Plato, Euthydemos 298e-299

Dionysodorus said, “Indeed, if you answer me immediately, you will agree with these things. Tell me, do you have a dog?

Ktesippos said “yes, a real scoundrel”

“And does he have puppies?”

“Yes, several just like him.”

“Therefore, your dog is a father.”

“Yup. I even saw him mounting the mother myself.”

“What about this: Isn’t the dog yours?”

“Absolutely.”

“So, since he is a father who is yours then the dog is your father and you are a puppies’ brother?”

And then, Dionysodorus quickly interjected before Ktesippos could speak at all: “And tell me one more thing: do you beat your dog?

Ktesippos laughed then said, “Yes, by the gods, because I can’t beat you!”

“Therefore, you beat your own father”, he said.

“It would be whole lot more just if I would beat your father, since he thought it right to have sons like this!”

Αὐτίκα δέ γε, ἦ δ᾿ ὃς ὁ Διονυσόδωρος, ἄν μοι ἀποκρίνῃ, ὦ Κτήσιππε, ὁμολογήσεις ταῦτα. εἰπὲ γάρ μοι, ἔστι σοι κύων;

Καὶ μάλα πονηρός, ἔφη ὁ Κτήσιππος.

Ἔστιν οὖν αὐτῷ κυνίδια;

Καὶ μάλ᾿, ἔφη, ἕτερα τοιαῦτα.

Οὐκοῦν πατήρ ἐστιν αὐτῶν ὁ κύων;

Ἔγωγέ τοι εἶδον, ἔφη, αὐτὸν ὀχεύοντα τὴν κύνα.

 Τί οὖν; οὐ σός ἐστιν ὁ κύων;

Πάνυ γ᾿, ἔφη.

Οὐκοῦν πατὴρ ὢν σός ἐστιν, ὥστε σὸς πατὴρ γίγνεται ὁ κύων καὶ σὺ κυναρίων ἀδελφός;

Καὶ αὖθις ταχὺ ὑπολαβὼν ὁ Διονυσόδωρος, ἵνα μὴ πρότερόν τι εἴποι ὁ Κτήσιππος, Καὶ ἔτι γέ μοι μικρόν, ἔφη, ἀπόκριναι· τύπτεις τὸν κύνα

τοῦτον; καὶ ὁ Κτήσιππος γελάσας, Νὴ τοὺς θεούς, ἔφη· οὐ γὰρ δύναμαι σέ. Οὐκοῦν τὸν σαυτοῦ πατέρα, ἔφη, τύπτεις. Πολὺ μέντοι, ἔφη, δικαιότερον τὸν ὑμέτερον πατέρα τύπτοιμι, ὅ τι μαθὼν σοφοὺς υἱεῖς οὕτως ἔφυσεν.

Image result for Ancient Greek dog

About seven years ago, soon after the birth  of our first child, I put most of Ancient Greek grammar on powerpoint slides in order to (1) tighten up and improve my Greek courses (I made narrated presentations that I shared with students); (2) create a portfolio of Greek teaching materials that I would use for the foreseeable future; and (3) studiously avoid not writing a book by doing very important work. The sleeplessness of the first few months of my daughter’s life coupled with a special type of cabin-fever (it was 100+ degrees for over 60 days straight) might have warped my judgment a bit. Inspired by Plato’s Euthydemos I wrote the following examples for Greek conditional statements:

Present Simple Conditionals

εἰ Σωκράτης τὸν ἀδελφὸν διδάσκει, ὁ ἀδελφὸς τὸν κύνα κτεῖναι ἐθέλει

If Socrates is teaching your brother, then you brother is wanting/willing to kill the dog

Present General Conditionals

ἐὰν Σωκράτης τὸν ἀδελφὸν διδάσκῃ, ὁ ἀδελφὸς τὸν κύνα κτεῖναι ἐθέλει

If Socrates teaches your brother, then your brother wants to kill the dog.

Present Contrafactual

εἰ Σωκράτης τὸν ἀδελφὸν ἐδιδάσκε, ὁ ἀδελφὸς τὸν κύνα κτεῖναι ἄν ἠθέλε

If Socrates were teaching your brother, then your brother would want to kill the do

Past Simple 

εἰ Σωκράτης τὸν ἀδελφὸν δεδίδαχεν, ὁ ἀδελφὸς τὸν κύνα κτεῖναι ἄν ἠθέληκεν

If Socrates did teach your brother, then your brother wanted to kill the dog

Past General

εἰ Σωκράτης τὸν ἀδελφὸν διδάσκοι, ὁ ἀδελφὸς τὸν κύνα κτεῖναι ἠθέλε

If Socrates taught your brother, then your brother wanted to kill the dog

Past Contrafactual

εἰ Σωκράτης τὸν ἀδελφὸν ἐδίδαξεν, ὁ ἀδελφὸς τὸν κύνα κτεῖναι ἄν ἠθέλἠσεν

If Socrates had taught your brother, then your brother would have wanted to kill the dog

Future Most Vivid (Future Simple)

εἰ Σωκράτης τὸν ἀδελφὸν δίδαξει, ὁ ἀδελφὸς τὸν κύνα κτεῖναι ἄν ἐθελήσει

If Socrates teaches your brother, then your brother will want to kill the dog

Future More Vivid (Future General)

εἰ Σωκράτης τὸν ἀδελφὸν διδάσκῃ, ὁ ἀδελφὸς τὸν κύνα κτεῖναι ἄν ἐθελήσει

If Socrates teaches your brother, then your brother will want to kill the dog

Future Less Vivid (Future Less Real)

εἰ Σωκράτης τὸν ἀδελφὸν διδάσκοι, ὁ ἀδελφὸς τὸν κύνα κτεῖναι ἄν ἐθέλοι

If Socrates should teach your brother, then your brother would want to kill the dog

I am teaching my introductory class conditional statements today. I am still using these highly suspect sentences.

Charlatans With Unjustified Confidence and Unmeasured Words

M. Cornelius Fronto to Marcus Aurelius (c. 139 CE)

“I believe that a lack of experience and learning is completely preferable in all arts to partial experience and incomplete education. For one who knows that he has no experience in an art tries less and fails less thanks to that. In fact, such hesitation limits arrogance. But whenever anyone uses knowing something lightly as expertise he makes many mistakes because of false confidence.

So, people claim that it is better to never taste Philosophy than to sample it lightly, as it is said, with just the lips. Those men turn out to be the most malicious kind, who travel to a discipline’s entrance and turn away rather than going completely inside. It is still possible in other arts that you can play a part for a while and seem experienced in what you do not know. But in how to choose and arrange words, one shines through immediately when he cannot provide any words but those that show his ignorance of them, that he judges them poorly, provides them rashly, and cannot know either their usage or their strength.”

1. Omnium artium, ut ego arbitror, imperitum et indoctum omnino esse praestat quam semiperitum ac semidoctum. Nam qui sibi conscius est artis expertem esse minus adtemptat, eoque minus praecipitat; diffidentia profecto audaciam prohibet. At ubi quis leviter quid cognitum pro comperto | ostentat, falsa fiducia multifariam labitur. Philosophiae quoque disciplinas aiunt satius esse numquam adtigisse quam leviter et primoribus, ut dicitur, labiis delibasse, eosque provenire malitiosissimos, qui in vestibulo artis obversati prius inde averterint quam penetraverint. Tamen est in aliis artibus ubi interdum delitescas et peritus paulisper habeare quod nescias. In verbis vero eligendis conlocandisque ilico dilucet, nec verba dare diu quis1 potest, quin se ipse indicet verborum ignarum esse, eaque male probare et temere existimare et inscie contrectare, neque modum neque pondus verbi internosse.

 

Image result for Head of Mercury Pompeii wall painting

Fresco, Mercury (Pompeii)

 

Allegory, Mixed Metaphors, and the Decline of Rhetoric

Quintilian 8.6.44

“Allegory, which we translate into Latin as inversion either communicates different things in words or meaning or something completely contrary. The first type emerges from continued metaphor as in “Ship, new waves will return you to this sea—What can you do? Make bravely for the harbor!” And that whole passage in which the ship stands for the state, the waves and storms stand for civil war and he makes the harbor stand for peace and agreement.”

[44] allegoria, quam inversionem interpretantur, aut aliud verbis aliud sensu ostendit aut etiam interim contrarium. prius fit genus plerumque continuatis translationibus, ut

O navis, referent id mare te novi
fluctus; o quid agis? fortiter occupa
portum,

totusque ille Horatii locus, quo navem pro re publica, fluctus et tempestates pro bellis civilibus, portum pro pace atque concordia dicit.

It is of utmost importance that you avoid this kind of mistake, that you move on from the kind of metaphor you began to another. There are many, certainly, who, although they have begun with a storm, end with a fire or collapsing building. This is a most wretched incongruity.

In general, allegory most often graces men of little genius in their quotidian conversations. For those phrase worn by their public use like “putting your foot forward”, “going for the jugular”, or “bloodletting” all come from allegory, although they do not gain much notice. For truly it is novelty and variation which makes for eloquence—and the unexpected delights even ore. For this reason, then, we have abandoned moderation and we have wasted language’s charm by striving too much for attention.”

[50] nam idquoque id primis est custodiendum ut,quo ex genere coeperis translationis, hoc desinas. multi autem, cum initium atempestate sumpserunt, incendio aut ruina finiunt; quae est inconsequentia rerum foedissima.

[51] ceterum allegoria parvis quoque ingeniis et cotidiano sermoni frequentissime servit. nam illa id agendis causis iam detrita, pedem conferre et iugulum petere et sanguinem mittere, inde sunt, nec offendunt tamen. est enim grata id eloquendo novitas et emutatio, et magis inopinata delectant. Ideoque iam id his amisimus modum et gratiam rei nimia captatione consumpsimus.

More on the Pharmacology of Language

Following up on Greek references to conversations with friends as a type of medicine

Gorgias, Defense of Helen 13-14

“The persuasion intrinsic to speech also shapes the mind as it pleases. We must first consider the narratives of astronomers who, by undermining one idea and developing another one, alter beliefs and make the incredible and invisible manifest to the eyes of belief. In turn, consider the necessary struggles in which one argument delights and persuades a great crowd when it has been written skillfully, even if it is spoken falsely. Finally, consider the rivalrous claims of philosophers which feature as well the speed of opinion that engenders volatility in the fidelity of a belief.”

 (13) ὅτι δ’ ἡ πειθὼ προσιοῦσα τῶι λόγωι καὶ τὴν ψυχὴν ἐτυπώσατο ὅπως ἐβούλετο, χρὴ μαθεῖν πρῶτον μὲν τοὺς τῶν μετεωρολόγων λόγους, οἵτινες δόξαν ἀντὶ δόξης τὴν μὲν ἀφελόμενοι τὴν δ’ ἐνεργασάμενοι τὰ ἄπιστα καὶ ἄδηλα φαίνεσθαι τοῖς τῆς δόξης ὄμμασιν ἐποίησαν· δεύτερον δὲ τοὺς ἀναγκαίους διὰ λόγων ἀγῶνας, ἐν οἷς εἷς λόγος πολὺν ὄχλον ἔτερψε καὶ ἔπεισε τέχνηι γραφείς, οὐκ ἀληθείαι λεχθείς· τρίτον <δὲ> φιλοσόφων λόγων ἁμίλλας, ἐν αἷς δείκνυται καὶ γνώμης τάχος ὡς εὐμετάβολον ποιοῦν τὴν τῆς δόξης πίστιν.

“The power of speech has the same logic regarding the disposition of the soul as that of the application of drugs to the natural function of bodies. For, just as certain drugs dispel certain afflictions from the body, and some end disease while others end life, so too are there stories that create grief and others that cause pleasure; some send us running, others make their audiences bold. Others still intoxicate and deceive the soul though some evil persuasion.”

 (14) τὸν αὐτὸν δὲ λόγον ἔχει ἥ τε τοῦ λόγου δύναμις πρὸς τὴν τῆς ψυχῆς τάξιν ἥ τε τῶν φαρμάκων τάξις πρὸς τὴν τῶν σωμάτων φύσιν. ὥσπερ γὰρ τῶν φαρμάκων ἄλλους ἄλλα χυμοὺς ἐκ τοῦ σώματος ἐξάγει, καὶ τὰ μὲν νόσου τὰ δὲ βίου παύει, οὕτω καὶ τῶν  λόγων οἱ μὲν ἐλύπησαν, οἱ δὲ ἔτερψαν, οἱ δὲ ἐφόβησαν, οἱ δὲ εἰς θάρσος κατέστησαν τοὺς ἀκούοντας, οἱ δὲ πειθοῖ τινι κακῆι τὴν ψυχὴν ἐφαρμάκευσαν καὶ ἐξεγοήτευσαν.

 

rhyme

 

A Sweet Evil: Schadenfreude in Ancient Greek

From the Suda

Epikhairekakía: is pleasure at someone else’s troubles”

ἐπιχαιρεκακία δὲ ἡδονὴ ἐπ’ ἀλλοτρίοις κακοῖς

Diogenes Laertius, Vita Philosophorum 7. 114

“Pleasure is irrational excitement at gaining what seems to be needed. As a subset of pleasure, are elation, pleasure at someone else’s pain (epikhairekakía) and delight, which is similar to turning (trepsis), a mind’s inclination to weakness. The embrace of pleasure is the surrender of virtue.”

῾Ηδονὴ δέ ἐστιν ἄλογος ἔπαρσις ἐφ’ αἱρετῷ δοκοῦντι ὑπάρχειν, ὑφ’ ἣν τάττεται κήλησις, ἐπιχαιρεκακία, τέρψις, διάχυσις. κήλησις μὲν οὖν ἐστιν ἡδονὴ δι’ ὤτων κατακηλοῦσα· ἐπιχαιρεκακία δὲ ἡδονὴ ἐπ’ ἀλλοτρίοις κακοῖς· τέρψις δέ, οἷον τρέψις, προτροπή τις ψυχῆς ἐπὶ τὸ ἀνειμένον· διάχυσις δ’ ἀνάλυσις ἀρετῆς.

Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics 1107a 8-11

“There are some vices whose names are cloaked with evil, for instance, pleasure at evils [epikhairekakía], shamelessness, and envy; and there are deeds too: adultery, theft, and manslaughter. All these things and those of this sort are called evil on their own, it is not an indulgence in them or an improper use that is wrong.”

ἔνια γὰρ εὐθὺς ὠνόμασται συνειλημμένα μετὰ τῆς φαυλότητος, οἷον ἐπιχαιρεκακία
ἀναισχυντία φθόνος, καὶ ἐπὶ τῶν πράξεων μοιχεία κλοπὴ ἀνδροφονία· πάντα γὰρ ταῦτα καὶ τὰ τοιαῦτα λέγεται τῷ αὐτὰ φαῦλα εἶναι, ἀλλ’ οὐχ αἱ ὑπερβολαὶ αὐτῶν οὐδ’ αἱ ἐλλείψεις.

Image result for Ancient Greek Vase party

Twitter correspondents have been providing examples from other languages:

https://twitter.com/ottorosseforp/status/864952164526981120

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