Water Feeding Beautiful Voices: An Odd Philological Detail

Vitruvius 8. 25

“Gaius Julius, Masinissa’s son, who controlled all the lands of the city [Zama], fought alongside the emperor. He was my guest from time to time. In our daily conversations we often were compelled to argue about philology.

Once we had a debate about the power of water and its finer qualities. He told me that there were springs which came from his own land along which whoever was born there developed exceptional singing voices. Because of this, people used to purchase fine looking lads and full-grown girls to mate with them, so that the children who were born from them would be exceptional in voice and form.”

Gaius Iulius Masinissae filius, cuius erant totius oppidi agrorum possessiones, cum patre Caesare militavit. Is hospitio meo est usus. Ita cotidiano convictu necesse fuerat de philologia  disputare. Interim cum esset inter nos de aquae potestate et ius virtutibus sermo, exposuit esse in ea terra eiusmodi fontes, ut, qui ibi procrearentur, voces ad cantandum egregias haberent, ideoque semper transmarinos catlastros emere formonsos et puellas maturas eosque coniungere, ut, qui nascerentur ex his, non solum voce egregia sed etiam forma essent non invenusta.

Frescoes of Marine Life found on a wall along the via La Portuense in the river port of San Paolo Rome CE) – National Museum of Rome

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Frescoes found, in the river port of San Paolo Rome  – National Museum of Rome

Pindar, Ol. 1 1–7

“Water is best, yet gold shining as a fire
Clear in the night is beyond all noble wealth—
But if you desire,
Dear heart, to sing of contests,
Don’t look farther than the sun
For any bright star warmer by day, alone in the sky.
And let us sing no contest greater than Olympia.”

Α′ ῎Αριστον μὲν ὕδωρ, ὁ δὲ χρυσὸς αἰθόμενον πῦρ
ἅτε διαπρέπει νυκτὶ μεγάνορος ἔξοχα πλούτου·
εἰ δ’ ἄεθλα γαρύεν
ἔλδεαι, φίλον ἦτορ,
μηκέτ’ ἀελίου σκόπει
ἄλλο θαλπνότερον ἐν ἁμέρᾳ φαεν-
νὸν ἄστρον ἐρήμας δι’ αἰθέρος,
μηδ’ ᾿Ολυμπίας ἀγῶνα φέρτερον αὐδάσομεν·

Thales, fr. 20

“Water is the beginning and the end of everything.”

[οὕτος ἔφη] ἀρχὴν τοῦ παντὸς εἶναι καὶ τέλος τὸ ὕδωρ

Pity the Cruel

Boethius, Consolation 3.140-150

“Evil people themselves, too, if they were allowed to catch some sight of the virtue they left through a small imperfection, and they could note that they would put down the filth of their vices thanks to the tortures of their punishments, once they weighed them against the value of acquiring goodness, they would not consider them torturous at all, but they would refuse the aid of defense attorneys and surrender themselves fully to their accusers and judges.

If this happened, there would be no place among wise men any longer for hatred. For who hates good people except for complete fools? But hating the wicked lacks reason too. For if, just as feeling faint is a sickness of the body, in the same way vice is a kind of sickness of minds. And since we should think those sick in body worthy less of hatred than of pity, so much more should those who are sick in mind not be attacked but be pitied, those whose minds are afflicted by a wickedness more cruel than any frailty.”

Ipsi quoque improbi, si eis aliqua rimula virtutem relictam fas esset aspicere vitiorumque sordes poenarum cruciatibus se deposituros viderent, compensatione adipiscendae probitatis nec hos cruciatus esse ducerent defensorumque operam repudiarent ac se totos accusatoribus iudicibusque permitterent. Quo fit ut apud sapientes nullus prorsus odio locus relinquatur. Nam bonos quis nisi stultissimus oderit? Malos vero odisse ratione caret. Nam si, uti corporum languor, ita vitiositas quidam est quasi morbus animorum, cum aegros corpore minime dignos odio sed potius miseratione iudicemus, multo magis non insequendi sed miserandi sunt quorum mentes omni languore atrocior urget improbitas.

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Some Advice for Dinner Companions: Philosophize Appropriately

Macrobius, Saturnalia 16

“For, just as those who believe it a type of exercise when they dance in the middle of feasts will chase away companions who dare them to footrace or box because it is better exercise, in the same way when at the table a fool is given some space by the alacrity of his companion, it is permitted that one can philosophize at dinner but in the appropriate manner, since you temper the bowl which is mixed for happiness not just with the Nymphs but with the Muses too.”

nam sicut inter illos qui exercitii genus habent in mediis saltare conviviis, si quis ut se amplius exerceat vel ad cursum vel ad pugilatum sodales lacessiverit, quasi ineptus relegabitur ab alacritate consortii, sic apud mensam quando licet aptis philosophandum est, ut crateri liquoris ad laetitiam nati adhibeatur non modo Nympharum sed Musarum quoque admixtione temperies.

peculum humanae salvationis, London, 1485-1509; British Library, Harley MS 2838, f.45r.

The Highest Good: Friendship

Some Latin passages on Friendship

Seneca, De Tranquilitate Animi

“Still nothing lightens the spirit as much as sweet and faithful friendship. What a good it is when hearts have been made ready in which every secret may be safely deposited, whose understanding of yourself you worry about less than your own, whose conversation relieves your fear, whose opinion hastens your plans, whose happiness dispels your sadness, and whose very sight delights you!”

Nihil tamen aeque oblectaverit animum, quam amicitia fidelis et dulcis. Quantum bonum est, ubi praeparata sunt pectora, in quae tuto secretum omne descendat, quorum conscientiam minus quam tuam timeas, quorum sermo sollicitudinem leniat, sententia consilium expediat, hilaritas tristitiam dissipet, conspectus ipse delectet!

Image result for Ancient Roman Friendship

Boethius, On the Consolation of Philosophy 3.35

“The most sacred thing of all is friends, something not recorded as luck but as virtue, since the rest of the goods are embraced with a view toward power or pleasure.”

amicorum vero quod sanctissimum quidem genus est, non in fortuna sed in virtute numeratur, reliquum vero vel potentiae causa vel delectationis assumitur

Cicero, De Finibus 1.64

“A subject remains which is especially important to this debate, that is friendship which, as you believe, will completely disappear if pleasure is the greatest good. Concerning friendship, Epicurus himself says that of all the paths to happiness wisdom has prepared, there is none greater, more productive, or more enchanting than this one. And he did not advocate for friendship in speech alone but much more through his life, his deeds and his customs.

Myths of the ancients illustrate how great friendship is—in those tales however varied and numerous you seek from the deepest part of antiquity and you will find scarcely three pairs of friends, starting with Theseus and up to Orestes. But, Epicurus in one single and quite small home kept so great a crowd of friends united by the depth of their love. And this is still the practice among Epicureans.”

XX Restat locus huic disputationi vel maxime necessarius, de amicitia, quam si voluptas summum sit bonum affirmatis nullam omnino fore; de qua Epicurus quidem ita dicit, omnium rerum quas ad beate vivendum sapientia comparaverit nihil esse maius amicitia, nihil uberius, nihil iucundius. Nec vero hoc oratione solum sed multo magis vita et factis et moribus comprobavit. Quod quam magnum sit fictae veterum fabulae declarant, in quibus tam multis tamque variis, ab ultima antiquitate repetitis, tria vix amicorum paria reperiuntur, ut ad Orestem pervenias profectus a Theseo. At vero Epicurus una in domo, et ea quidem angusta, quam magnos quantaque amoris conspiratione consentientes tenuit amicorum greges! quod fit etiam nunc ab Epicureis.

Herodotus 5.24.2

“An intelligent and well-disposed friend is the finest of all possessions.”

κτημάτων πάντων ἐστὶ τιμιώτατον ἀνὴρ φίλος συνετός τε καὶ εὔνοος

Pity the Cruel

Boethius, Consolation 3.140-150

“Evil people themselves, too, if they were allowed to catch some sight of the virtue they left through a small imperfection, and they could note that they would put down the filth of their vices thanks to the tortures of their punishments, once they weighed them against the value of acquiring goodness, they would not consider them torturous at all, but they would refuse the aid of defense attorneys and surrender themselves fully to their accusers and judges.

If this happened, there would be no place among wise men any longer for hatred. For who hates good people except for complete fools? But hating the wicked lacks reason too. For if, just as feeling faint is a sickness of the body, in the same way vice is a kind of sickness of minds. And since we should think those sick in body worthy less of hatred than of pity, so much more should those who are sick in mind not be attacked but be pitied, those whose minds are afflicted by a wickedness more cruel than any frailty.”

Ipsi quoque improbi, si eis aliqua rimula virtutem relictam fas esset aspicere vitiorumque sordes poenarum cruciatibus se deposituros viderent, compensatione adipiscendae probitatis nec hos cruciatus esse ducerent defensorumque operam repudiarent ac se totos accusatoribus iudicibusque permitterent. Quo fit ut apud sapientes nullus prorsus odio locus relinquatur. Nam bonos quis nisi stultissimus oderit? Malos vero odisse ratione caret. Nam si, uti corporum languor, ita vitiositas quidam est quasi morbus animorum, cum aegros corpore minime dignos odio sed potius miseratione iudicemus, multo magis non insequendi sed miserandi sunt quorum mentes omni languore atrocior urget improbitas.

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Long Term Effects of Anger and Hate

Valerius Maximus, Memorable Words and Deeds 9.3. Praef.

“Anger, also, or hatred may inspire great waves of emotion in human hearts. The onset of the first is faster, but the second is more lasting in the desire to cause harm. Either feeling is full of turbulence and is never violent without some self-torture because it suffers pain when it wants to cause it, anxious from its bitter obsession that it might not win vengeance.

But there are the most clear examples of the particular property of these emotions which the gods themselves have desired be evident in famous individuals through something said or done rather rashly. Think of how great Hamilcar’s hate for the Roman people was! When he was gazing at his four sons when they were boys, he used to say that he was raising lion cubs of that number for the ruin of our empire! Instead, they converted their upbringing to the destruction of their own country, as it turned out.

That is how great the hate was in a boy’s heart, but it was equally fierce in a woman’s too. For the Queen of the Assyrians, Semiramis, when it was announced to her that Babylon was in rebellion as she was having her hair done, went out right away to put down the revolt with part of her hair still undone and she did not put her hair back in order before she regained power over the city. This is why there is a statue of her in Babylon where she is shown reaching for vengeance in wild haste.”

Ira quoque aut odium in pectoribus humanis magnos fluctus excitant, procursu celerior illa, nocendi cupidine hoc pertinacius, uterque consternationis plenus adfectus ac numquam sine tormento sui violentus, quia dolorem, cum inferre vult, patitur, amara sollicitudine ne non contingat ultio anxius. sed proprietatis eorum certissimae sunt imagines, quas <di> ipsi in claris personis aut dicto aliquo aut facto vehementiore conspici voluerunt.

Quam vehemens deinde adversus populum Romanum Hamilcaris odium! quattuor enim puerilis aetatis filios intuens, eiusdem numeri catulos leoninos in perniciem imperii nostri alere se praedicabat. digna nutrimenta quae in exitium patriae suae, ut evenit, <se> converterent!

ext. In puerili pectore tantum vis odii potuit, sed in muliebri quoque aeque multum valuit: namque Samiramis, Assyriorum regina, cum ei circa cultum capitis sui occupatae nuntiatum esset Babylona defecisse, altera parte crinium adhuc soluta protinus ad eam expugnandam cucurrit, nec prius decorem capillorum in ordinem quam urbem in potestatem suam redegit. quocirca statua eius Babylone posita est, illo habitu quo ad ultionem exigendam celeritate praecipiti tetendit.

Dishekel hispano-cartaginés-2.jpg
Carthaginian Coin

I hate Education: Let Me Compose a Poem About It

Petronius, Satyricon 4

“The fact is this: if they would tolerate the work advancing by stages, so that the studious youth were were steeped in strict reading, they shaped their minds with the sayings the wise, they were digging out words with a tireless pen, they were listening at length to words they want to imitate, and they believed that what was pleasing to children was never truly exceptional, then that old style of oratory would have the weight of its majesty.

As it is now, children play at school and our youths are mocked in public. And what is more disgusting than this, no one is willing to admit in old age whatever nonsense they learned before. But, please don’t think that I am attacking a tenet of Lucilian humility. I will put what I believe in a poem.”

Quod si paterentur laborum gradus fieri, ut studiosi iuvenes lectione severa irrigarentur, ut sapientiae praeceptis animos componerent, ut verba atroci stilo effoderent, ut quod vellent imitari diu audirent, <ut persuaderent>2 sibi nihil esse magnificum, quod pueris placeret: iam illa grandis oratio haberet maiestatis suae pondus. Nunc pueri in scholis ludunt, iuvenes ridentur in foro, et quod utroque turpius est, quod quisque perperam didicit, in senectute confiteri non vult. Sed ne me putes improbasse schedium Lucilianae humilitatis, quod sentio, et ipse carmine effingam:

Petronius Arbiter by Bodart 1707.jpg