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

Boethius Says We Should 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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Teachers, Destroyers of Eloquence

Petronius, Satyricon, 2

“By your leave, I need to say this: you teachers foremost have destroyed real eloquence. You create certain absurdities by by making your light and silly sounds so that the body of your speech weakens and falls.  Young men were not yet restrained by practice-speeches when Sophocles and Euripides used to be able to discover the words with which things ought to be said.

No shut-in professor had yet destroyed their geniuses when Pindar and the nine Lyric poets were afraid to sing Homer’s verses. And lest I use only poets for proof, I surely do not see that Plato or Demosthenes went through this kind of exercise. The grand style, as I may say, is a humble one—it is not uneven or inflated, but emerges thanks to its natural beauty.”

Pace vestra liceat dixisse, primi omnium eloquentiam perdidistis. Levibus enim atque inanibus sonis ludibria quaedam excitando effecistis, ut corpus orationis enervaretur et caderet. Nondum iuvenes declamationibus continebantur, cum Sophocles aut Euripides invenerunt verba quibus deberent loqui. Nondum umbraticus doctor ingenia deleverat, cum Pindarus novemque lyrici Homericis versibus canere timuerunt. Et ne poetas [quidem] ad testimonium citem, certe neque Platona neque Demosthenen ad hoc genus exercitationis accessisse video.3 Grandis et ut ita dicam pudica oratio non est maculosa nec turgida, sed naturali pulchritudine exsurgit.

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.

Missing Deadlines Because of Chronic Illness

Fronto to Praeciilius Pompeianus          (Ambr. 312, following 313)

“You will hear from my, Pompeianus, the truth of how the matter is and I would hope that you would believe that I am speaking the truth. Nearly last year I took that oration For the Bithynians into my hand and I started to correct it. I also promised you some things concerning that oration when I was at Rome then. And, if my memory serves me correctly, when we were having a conversation about certain sections of the speech, I said and was somewhat proud that I had carefully enough examined in that speech which hinged on the crime of contract killing.

But in the meantime a bout of neuritis overcame me pretty strongly and it has remained longer and more burdensome than is typical. When my limbs are coursing with pain, I am incapable of giving any attention to things that must be written or read. I have not dared up to now to ever ask this much of myself. When those wondrous beasts, philosophers, tell us that the wise man, even if he were locked in the bull of Phalaris, would be no less blessed, I could believe it more easily that we would be a little bit happier while cooking in the brass to contemplate some introduction or write some letters.”

Fronto Praecilio Pompeiano salutem.

Verum ex me, mi Pompeiane, uti res est,  audies; velimque te mihi verum | dicenti fidem habere. Orationem istam Pro Bithynisante annum fere in manus sumpseram et corrigere institueram. Tibi etiam Romae tunc agenti nonnihil de ista oratione promiseram. Et quidem, si recte memini, quom sermo inter nos de partitionibus orationum ortus esset, dixeram et prae me tuleram, satis me diligenter in ista oratione coniecturam, quae in crimine mandatae caedis verteretur, divisisse argumentis ac refutasse. Interea nervorum dolor solito vehementior me invasit, et diutius ac molestius solito remoratus est. Nec possum ego membris cruciantibus operam ullam litteris scribendis legendisque impendere; nec umquam istuc a me postulare ausus sum. Philosophis etiam mirificis hominibus dicentibus, sapientem virum etiam in Phalaridis tauro inclusum beatum nihilominus fore, facilius crediderim beatum eum fore quam posse tantisper amburenti in aheno prohoemium meditari aut epigrammata scribere.

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Understanding Arts, Admiring the Artist

A letter filled with fulsome praise, but ending with a quotable dictum.

Sidonius, Letters of Sidonius, 5.11

“Your language is so clear and distinct that the analysis of Palaemon, the dignity of Gallio, the duration of Delphidius, the discipline of Agroecius, the fortitude of Alcimus, the tenderness, the rigor of Magnus, and the sweetness of Victorius are not only not superior but are also barely its equal. So that I might not seem to have flattered you or tried to gain favor from you with an exaggerated catalog of rhetoricians, I do not doubt but insist that you are only to be compared to the acrimony of Quintilian and the glory of Palladius.

This is the reason if anyone after you takes a liking to Latia and gives thanks to this friendship for it and desires to be admitted as a third to your community—if he has any humanity all. This is rather more serious, however, evne though this ambition or desire is not about to cause you too much trouble, since few now hold much respect for this course of study. And, at the same time, due to a natural fault, it is fixed and well-rooted in human chests that those who do not understand arts, do not admire the artists. Goodbye.”

tua vero tam clara, tam spectabilis dictio est, ut illi divisio Palaemonis gravitas Gallionis, abundantia Delphidii Agroecii disciplina, fortitudo Alcimi Adelphii teneritudo, rigor Magni dulcedo Victorii non modo non superiora sed vix aequiperabilia scribant. sane ne videar tibi sub hoc quasi hyperbolico rhetorum catalogo blanditus quippiam gratificatusque, solam tibi acrimoniam Quintiliani pompamque Palladii comparari non ambigo sed potius adquiesco. 4. quapropter si quis post vos Latiae favet eruditioni, huic amicitiae gratias agit et sodalitati vestrae, si quid hominis habet, tertius optat adhiberi. quamquam, quod est gravius, non sit satis ambitus iste fastidium vobis excitaturus, quia pauci studia nunc honorant, simul et naturali vitio fixum est radicatumque pectoribus humanis, ut qui non intellegunt artes non mirentur artifices. vale.

 

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Springs Feeding Beautiful Voices: An Odd Philological Detail

Vitruvius 8. 25

“Gaius Julius, Masinissa’s son, who controlled all the lands of the city, 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

Image result for Ancient Roman river art wall painting

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

Identifying Insanity Is A Property of the Sane

Apuleius, Apologia 80

“Finally, what do you prefer that she was sane or insane while she was writing? You claim sane? Therefore, she was not under the influence of occult arts. You will say she was insane? In that case, she was unconscious of what she wrote and must not be trusted. Or, more to the case, if she had been insane, she would not have known that she was insane.

For, it is like when someone is not silent because he says he is silent and by the utterance itself undermines his own claim. But saying “I’m crazy” betrays someone even more because it is not true unless he says it without understanding. The person is sane, moreover, who knows what insanity is; and, certainly, insanity cannot know itself any more than blindness can see itself.

Therefore, Prudentilla was sound in mind, if she did not think she was sound in mind. I could add more, if I wanted to, but I will leave philosopher behind now.”

Postremo quid vis: sanam an insanam fuisse, dum scriberet? Sanam dices? Nihil ergo erat magicis artibus passa. Insanam respondebis? Nesciit ergo quid scripserit, eoque ei fides non habenda est; immo etiam, si fuisset insana, insanam se esse nescisset. Nam ut absurde facit qui tacere se dicit, quod ibidem dicendo tacere sese non tacet et ipsa professione quod profitetur infirmat, ita vel magis hoc repugnant, “ego insanio,” quod verum non est, nisi  sciens dicit. Porro sanus est, qui scit quid sit insania, quippe insania scire se non potest, non magis quam caecitas se videre; igitur Pudentilla compos mentis fuit, si compotem mentis se non putabat. Possum, si velim, pluribus, sed mitto dialectica

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MS of Pseudo-Apuleius Platonicus, De medicaminibus herbarum liber, England 12th century. British Library, Harley 5294, fol. 43r

The Highest Good: Friendship

Two passages in Latin About 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!

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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

Education and Religion Can Corrupt: Augustine, Confessions IV,1

“Through the same nine-year span from my nineteenth year until my twenty-eighth, we were seduced and we were seducing, tricked and tricking others with a variety of desires: we did this openly through the teachings that we call ‘liberal’ but also secretly under the name of a false religion. In the first, we were haughty; in the other, superstitious—but we were arrogant everywhere. In the liberal education, we were pursuing the emptiness of popular glory, even for applause for our performances, our songs for the competitions, contests for brief-lived crowns, the sideshows of spectacle and unrestrained desires. In our ‘religion’ we were longing to be cleansed from those filthy acts when we used to bring meals to the men who were considered chosen and holy. In the factories of their stomachs they were going to create the angels and gods who would free us. And I was pursuing these things and I did it with the friends who were deceived with me and by me.”

per idem tempus annorum novem, ab undevicensimo anno aetatis meae usque ad duodetricensimum, seducebamur et seducebamus, falsi atque fallentes in variis cupiditatibus, et palam per doctrinas quas liberales vocant, occulte autem falso nomine religionis, hic superbi, ibi superstitiosi, ubique vani, hac popularis gloriae sectantes inanitatem, usque ad theatricos plausus et contentiosa carmina et agonem coronarum faenearum et spectaculorum nugas et intemperantiam libidinum, illac autem purgari nos ab istis sordibus expetentes, cum eis qui appellarentur electi et sancti afferremus escas de quibus nobis in officina aqualiculi sui fabricarent angelos et deos per quos liberaremur. et sectabar ista atque faciebam cum amicis meis per me ac mecum deceptis.

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