Writing Biography is Like Being In Love

Eunapius, Live of the Philosophers 2.2.4

“Even though I have recorded these things faithfully, I do recognize that some things have probably escaped me. And if, although I have applied great thought and effort trying to compose a continuous and clear history of the lives of the best philosophers and rhetoricians, I did not obtain my goal, I have suffered much the same kind of thing as those who love madly and obsessively. For they, when they see the one they love and witness her overwhelming beauty in real life, they look down, too weak and dazed to gaze upon the one they desire.”

Καὶ ταῦτά γε εἰς μνήμην ἐγὼ τίθεμαι, τοῦτο συνορῶν, ὅτι τὰ μὲν ἔλαθεν ἴσως ἡμᾶς, τὰ δὲ οὐκ ἔλαθεν. ἐκείνου δὲ καίπερ πολλὴν ποιούμενος φροντίδα καὶ σπουδήν, τοῦ συνεχῆ καὶ περιγεγραμμένην εἰς ἀκρίβειαν ἱστορίαν τινὰ λαβεῖν τοῦ φιλοσόφου καὶ ῥητορικοῦ βίου τῶν ἀρίστων ἀνδρῶν, εἶτα οὐ τυγχάνων τῆς ἐπιθυμίας, ταὐτόν τι τοῖς ἐρῶσιν ἐμμανῶς καὶ περιφλέκτως ἔπαθον. καὶ γὰρ ἐκεῖνοι, τὴν μὲν ἐρωμένην αὐτὴν ὁρῶντες καὶ τὸ περίψυκτον ἐν τῷ φαινομένῳ κάλλος, κάτω νεύουσιν, ὃ ζητοῦσιν ἰδεῖν ἐξασθενοῦντες, καὶ περιλαμπόμενοι•

Eunapius? A 5th century (CE) intellectual who wrote about sophists, picking up from Philostratus.

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Harmless, Useless Sophistry

Diogenes Laertius, Lives of the Eminent Philosophers  [Chrysippus] 7.7

“If someone is in Megara he is not in Athens. If a body is in Megara there is nobody in Athens. If you say something, then something moves through your mouth. So, you say “wagon”. And then a wagon moves through your mouth. Also, if you did not lose anything, then you have it. You never lost horns, so you have horns.” Some say Euboulides said this.”

“εἴ τίς ἐστιν ἐν Μεγάροις, οὐκ ἔστιν ἐν Ἀθήναις· ἄνθρωπος δ᾿ ἐστὶν ἐν Μεγάροις· οὐκ ἄρ᾿ ἐστὶν ἄνθρωπος ἐν Ἀθήναις.” καὶ πάλιν· “εἴ τι λαλεῖς, τοῦτο διὰ τοῦ στόματός σου διέρχεται· ἅμαξαν δὲ λαλεῖς· ἅμαξα ἄρα διὰ τοῦ στόματός σου διέρχεται.” καί· “εἴ τι οὐκ ἀπέβαλες, τοῦτ᾿ ἔχεις· κέρατα δ᾿ οὐκ ἀπέβαλες· κέρατ᾿ ἄρ᾿ ἔχεις.” οἱ δ᾿ Εὐβουλίδου τοῦτό φασι.

Seneca, Moral Epistle 45.8

“Again, the one who is asked whether he has horns is not so foolish as to search his own brow nor also so incompetent or limited that you may persuade him that he doesn’t know this with that most sophisticated logic. These kinds of things deceive without harm in the same way as the dice and cup of a juggler in which the deception itself entertains me. But explain how the trick works, and I lose my interest. I say that same thing about these word tricks, for by what name might I better call sophistries? They are harmless if you don’t understand them, and useless if you do.”

Ceterum qui interrogatur, an cornua habeat, non est tam stultus, ut frontem suam temptet, nec rursus tam ineptus aut hebes, ut ne sciat tu illi subtilissima collectione persuaseris. Sic ista sine noxa decipiunt, quomodo praestigiatorum acetabula et calculi, in quibus me fallacia ipsa delectat. Effice, ut quomodo fiat intellegam; perdidi usum. Idem de istis captionibus dico; quo enim nomine potius sophismata appellem? Nec ignoranti nocent nec scientem iuvant.

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Bronze head of a Philosopher from a shipwreck near Antikythera

Writing Biography is Like Being In Love

Eunapius, Live of the Philosophers 2.2.4

“Even though I have recorded these things faithfully, I do recognize that some things have probably escaped me. And if, although I have applied great thought and effort trying to compose a continuous and clear history of the lives of the best philosophers and rhetoricians, I did not obtain my goal, I have suffered much the same kind of thing as those who love madly and obsessively. For they, when they see the one they love and witness her overwhelming beauty in real life, they look down, too weak and dazed to gaze upon the one they desire.”

Καὶ ταῦτά γε εἰς μνήμην ἐγὼ τίθεμαι, τοῦτο συνορῶν, ὅτι τὰ μὲν ἔλαθεν ἴσως ἡμᾶς, τὰ δὲ οὐκ ἔλαθεν. ἐκείνου δὲ καίπερ πολλὴν ποιούμενος φροντίδα καὶ σπουδήν, τοῦ συνεχῆ καὶ περιγεγραμμένην εἰς ἀκρίβειαν ἱστορίαν τινὰ λαβεῖν τοῦ φιλοσόφου καὶ ῥητορικοῦ βίου τῶν ἀρίστων ἀνδρῶν, εἶτα οὐ τυγχάνων τῆς ἐπιθυμίας, ταὐτόν τι τοῖς ἐρῶσιν ἐμμανῶς καὶ περιφλέκτως ἔπαθον. καὶ γὰρ ἐκεῖνοι, τὴν μὲν ἐρωμένην αὐτὴν ὁρῶντες καὶ τὸ περίψυκτον ἐν τῷ φαινομένῳ κάλλος, κάτω νεύουσιν, ὃ ζητοῦσιν ἰδεῖν ἐξασθενοῦντες, καὶ περιλαμπόμενοι•

Eunapius? A 5th century (CE) intellectual who wrote about sophists, picking up from Philostratus.

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The Incestuous Feast: Fronto’s Religious Slander

Fronto Ex Octavio Minucii Felicis, ix. 8

This is known to us concerning the banquet; everyone is talking about this here and there. The speech of our countryman of Cirta attests to it too:

“They gather together for a meal each good day with all their children, sisters, mothers, and people of every sex and every age. Then, after much eating, when the meal has warmed and a fever of incestuous lust and drunkenness has taken fire, a dog which is tied to a candelabra is enticed by the toss of a little cake to rush and jump beyond the strain of the line to which its bound. Thus, when the light has been thrown down and put out, under shadows with no shame they turn to embraces of sick desire in chance meetings and everyone, if not by certainty, are still somewhat liable for incest since whatever can happen in the act of an individual is sought by universal desire.”

Et de convivio notum est: passim omnes loquuntur: id etiam Cirtensis nostri testatur oratio:—

“Ad epulas solemni die coeunt cum omnibus liberis sororibus matribus sexus omnis homines et omnis aetatis. Illic post multas epulas, ubi convivium caluit et incestae libidinis, ebrietatis fervor exarsit, canis qui candelabro nexus est, iactu offulae ultra spatium lineae, qua vinctus est, ad impetum et saltum provocatur: sic everso et extincto conscio lumine impudentibus tenebris nexus infandae cupiditatis involvunt per incertum sortis, et si non omnes opera, conscientia tamen pariter incesti, quoniam voto universorum adpetitur quidquid accidere potest in actu singulorum.”

Tertullian addresses this type of slander (Apology 7)

“We are said to be the most illicit people thanks to our rite of baby-killing and the baby-eating and the incest that follows the banquet where dogs overturn lamps like pimps of the shadows and purchase some respectability for our sinful lust. This is how we are always talked about. You don’t try at all to eradicate what has been said for so long. So, then, either expose the crime if you believe it, or stop believing it if you do not prove it.”

VII. Dicimur sceleratissimi de sacramento infanticidii et pabulo inde, et post convivium incesto, quod eversores luminum canes, lenones scilicet tenebrarum, libidinum impiarum in verecundiam procurent. Dicimur tamen semper, nec vos quod tam diu dicimur eruere curatis. Ergo aut eruite, si creditis, aut nolite credere, qui non eruistis.

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Banquet Fresco from Herculaneum

For Recommendation Season, A Letter of Reference from Fronto

Fronto, Letters to Friends 1.4 (Ambr. 308):

“Greetings to Aegrilius,

If you trust me at all, I comment to you Julius Aquilinus, a man most learned, most articulate, fantastically trained by the disciplines of philosophy for the best arts, and shaped by the study of eloquence to a peerless ability to speak. It is right that so very serious and wise a man should receive from you, a man as learned and serious, not only protection but promotion and respect.

Aquilinus is also—if you trust my opinion—a man of the kind of character that he must be considered an ornament to you no less than he has been to me. You will not doubt that what I say is true once you take the time to hear him speak about Platonic doctrine.

Thanks to your wisdom and intelligence, you will see that he is not inequal to his impressive fame, thanks to his immense wealth in the finest words and the great flood of his thoughts. Once you have understood that this is true, be warned that there is more to this man’s character still since his honesty and his modesty are so great. The greatest crowds of people came together to hear him at Rome on many occasions.”

Aegrilio Plariano salutem.

Iulium Aquilinum virum, si quid mihi credis doctis|simum facundissimum, philosophiae disciplinis ad optimas artes, eloquentiae studiis ad egregiam facundiam eximie eruditum, commendo tibi quam possum studiosissime. Decet a te gravissimo et sapientissimo viro tam doctum tamque elegantem virum non modo protegi sed etiam provehi et illustrari. Est etiam, si quid mihi credis, Aquilinus eiusmodi vir ut in tui ornamentis aeque ac nostri merito numerandus sit. Non dubitabis ita esse ut dico, si eum audire disputantem de Platonicis disciplinis dignatus fueris. Perspicies pro tua prudentia intellegentiaque summa <non> minorem fama, lucu lentissimum verborum adparatu, maxima frequentia sententiarum. Quom haec ita esse deprehenderis, scito amplius esse in hominis moribus, tanta probitate est et verecundia: maximi concursus ad audiendum eum Romae saepe facti sunt.

Royal Library. Ms. 4, 2o f. 183v

Souls and Time: Some Old-Fashioned Riddles from Athenaeus

Athenaeus Deipnosophists 10: 453b-c

“A really ancient type of logic riddle is also related to the basic nature of riddling to begin with: “What do we all teach without knowing it?”  or “What is nowhere and everywhere at once?” and in addition to these “What is in the sky, on the land, and in the sea at the same time?”  And this example is about words that mean more than one thing because a bear [arktos], a serpent [ophis], an eagle [aietos] and a dog [kuôn] are each in the sky, on the earth and in the sea. The answer to the question prior to that is “time”, because it is everywhere and nowhere at once because it does not inhabit any single space. And the first question is about souls: none of us know our soul, but we always show it to those we meet.”

ἀρχαιότατος δ᾿ ἐστὶ λογικὸς γρῖφος καὶ τῆς τοῦ γριφεύειν φύσεως οἰκειότατος· “τί πάντες οὐκ ἐπιστάμενοι διδάσκομεν;” καί “τί ταὐτὸν οὐδαμοῦ καὶ πανταχοῦ;” καὶ πρὸς τούτοις “τί ταὐτὸν ἐν οὐρανῷ καὶ ἐπὶ γῆς καὶ ἐν θαλάττῃ;” τοῦτο δ᾿ ἐστὶν ὁμωνυμία· καὶ γὰρ ἄρκτος καὶ ὄφις καὶ αἰετὸς καὶ κύων ἐστὶν ἐν οὐρανῷ καὶ ἐν γῇ καὶ ἐν θαλάσσῃ. τὸ δὲ χρόνον σημαίνει· ἅμα γὰρ παρὰ πᾶσιν ὁ αὐτὸς καὶ οὐδαμοῦ διὰ τὸ μὴ ἐν ἑνὶ τόπῳ τὴν φύσιν ἔχειν. τὸ δὲ προάγον ἐστὶ ψυχὰς ἔχειν· τοῦτο γὰρ οὐθεὶς ἡμῶν ἐπιστάμενος διδάσκει τὸν πλησίον.

 

Matfre Ermengau, Breviari d’amor, Occitania 14th century
BnF, Français 857, fol. 197v

Harmless, Useless Sophistry

Diogenes Laertius, Lives of the Eminent Philosophers  [Chrysippus] 7.7

“If someone is in Megara he is not in Athens. If a body is in Megara there is nobody in Athens. If you say something, then something moves through your mouth. So, you say “wagon”. And then a wagon moves through your mouth. Also, if you did not lose anything, then you have it. You never lost horns, so you have horns.” Some say Euboulides said this.”

“εἴ τίς ἐστιν ἐν Μεγάροις, οὐκ ἔστιν ἐν Ἀθήναις· ἄνθρωπος δ᾿ ἐστὶν ἐν Μεγάροις· οὐκ ἄρ᾿ ἐστὶν ἄνθρωπος ἐν Ἀθήναις.” καὶ πάλιν· “εἴ τι λαλεῖς, τοῦτο διὰ τοῦ στόματός σου διέρχεται· ἅμαξαν δὲ λαλεῖς· ἅμαξα ἄρα διὰ τοῦ στόματός σου διέρχεται.” καί· “εἴ τι οὐκ ἀπέβαλες, τοῦτ᾿ ἔχεις· κέρατα δ᾿ οὐκ ἀπέβαλες· κέρατ᾿ ἄρ᾿ ἔχεις.” οἱ δ᾿ Εὐβουλίδου τοῦτό φασι.

Seneca, Moral Epistle 45.8

“Again, the one who is asked whether he has horns is not so foolish as to search his own brow nor also so incompetent or limited that you may persuade him that he doesn’t know this with that most sophisticated logic. These kinds of things deceive without harm in the same way as the dice and cup of a juggler in which the deception itself entertains me. But explain how the trick works, and I lose my interest. I say that same thing about these word tricks, for by what name might I better call sophistries? They are harmless if you don’t understand them, and useless if you do.”

Ceterum qui interrogatur, an cornua habeat, non est tam stultus, ut frontem suam temptet, nec rursus tam ineptus aut hebes, ut ne sciat tu illi subtilissima collectione persuaseris. Sic ista sine noxa decipiunt, quomodo praestigiatorum acetabula et calculi, in quibus me fallacia ipsa delectat. Effice, ut quomodo fiat intellegam; perdidi usum. Idem de istis captionibus dico; quo enim nomine potius sophismata appellem? Nec ignoranti nocent nec scientem iuvant.

Image result for Ancient Roman Philosophy paradox
Bronze head of a Philosopher from a shipwreck near Antikythera

Writing Biography is Like Being In Love

Eunapius, Live of the Philosophers 2.2.4

“Even though I have recorded these things faithfully, I do recognize that some things have probably escaped me. And if, although I have applied great thought and effort trying to compose a continuous and clear history of the lives of the best philosophers and rhetoricians, I did not obtain my goal, I have suffered much the same kind of thing as those who love madly and obsessively. For they, when they see the one they love and witness her overwhelming beauty in real life, they look down, too weak and dazed to gaze upon the one they desire.”

Καὶ ταῦτά γε εἰς μνήμην ἐγὼ τίθεμαι, τοῦτο συνορῶν, ὅτι τὰ μὲν ἔλαθεν ἴσως ἡμᾶς, τὰ δὲ οὐκ ἔλαθεν. ἐκείνου δὲ καίπερ πολλὴν ποιούμενος φροντίδα καὶ σπουδήν, τοῦ συνεχῆ καὶ περιγεγραμμένην εἰς ἀκρίβειαν ἱστορίαν τινὰ λαβεῖν τοῦ φιλοσόφου καὶ ῥητορικοῦ βίου τῶν ἀρίστων ἀνδρῶν, εἶτα οὐ τυγχάνων τῆς ἐπιθυμίας, ταὐτόν τι τοῖς ἐρῶσιν ἐμμανῶς καὶ περιφλέκτως ἔπαθον. καὶ γὰρ ἐκεῖνοι, τὴν μὲν ἐρωμένην αὐτὴν ὁρῶντες καὶ τὸ περίψυκτον ἐν τῷ φαινομένῳ κάλλος, κάτω νεύουσιν, ὃ ζητοῦσιν ἰδεῖν ἐξασθενοῦντες, καὶ περιλαμπόμενοι•

Eunapius? A 5th century (CE) intellectual who wrote about sophists, picking up from Philostratus.

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The Incestuous Feast: Fronto’s Religious Slander

While looking for nice and amusing anecdotes about feasting in the ancient world, I was reminded of the following. Enjoy.

Fronto Ex Octavio Minucii Felicis, ix. 8

This is known to us concerning the banquet; everyone is talking about this here and there. The speech of our countryman of Cirta attests to it too:

“They gather together for a meal each good day with all their children, sisters, mothers, and people of every sex and every age. Then, after much eating, when the meal has warmed and a fever of incestuous lust and drunkenness has taken fire, a dog which is tied to a candelabra is enticed by the toss of a little cake to rush and jump beyond the strain of the line to which its bound. Thus, when the light has been thrown down and put out, under shadows with no shame they turn to embraces of sick desire in chance meetings and everyone, if not by certainty, are still somewhat liable for incest since whatever can happen in the act of an individual is sought by universal desire.”

Et de convivio notum est: passim omnes loquuntur: id etiam Cirtensis nostri testatur oratio:—

“Ad epulas solemni die coeunt cum omnibus liberis sororibus matribus sexus omnis homines et omnis aetatis. Illic post multas epulas, ubi convivium caluit et incestae libidinis, ebrietatis fervor exarsit, canis qui candelabro nexus est, iactu offulae ultra spatium lineae, qua vinctus est, ad impetum et saltum provocatur: sic everso et extincto conscio lumine impudentibus tenebris nexus infandae cupiditatis involvunt per incertum sortis, et si non omnes opera, conscientia tamen pariter incesti, quoniam voto universorum adpetitur quidquid accidere potest in actu singulorum.”

Tertullian addresses this type of slander (Apology 7)

“We are said to be the most illicit people thanks to our rite of baby-killing and the baby-eating and the incest that follows the banquet where dogs overturn lamps like pimps of the shadows and purchase some respectability for our sinful lust. This is how we are always talked about. You don’t try at all to eradicate what has been said for so long. So, then, either expose the crime if you believe it, or stop believing it if you do not prove it.”

VII. Dicimur sceleratissimi de sacramento infanticidii et pabulo inde, et post convivium incesto, quod eversores luminum canes, lenones scilicet tenebrarum, libidinum impiarum in verecundiam procurent. Dicimur tamen semper, nec vos quod tam diu dicimur eruere curatis. Ergo aut eruite, si creditis, aut nolite credere, qui non eruistis.

Image result for Ancient Roman feast
Banquet Fresco from Herculaneum