“You have the free time to track down everyone else’s faults and pass judgment on anyone you please? ‘Why does this philosopher have such a big home? Why does that one eat so richly?’ These are the things you say. You stare at other people’s pimples when you’re afflicted with oozing sores!
This is the same thing as if someone who is covered by a gross disease points and laughs at blemishes and warts on the most beautiful bodies. Attack Plato because he looked for money, Aristotle because he took it, Democritus because he ignored it, and Epicurus because he spent it all!
Sure, yell at me about Alcibiades and Phaedrus even though it would be the happiest day in your life if you copied my vices!”
Vobis autem vacat aliena scrutari mala et sententias ferre de quoquam? “Quare hic philosophus laxius habitat? Quare hic lautius cenat?” Papulas observatis alienas, obsiti plurimis ulceribus. Hoc tale est, quale si quis pulcherrimorum corporum naevos aut verrucas derideat, quem foeda scabies 5depascitur. Obicite Platoni, quod petierit pecuniam Aristoteli, quod acceperit, Democrito, quod neglexerit, Epicuro, quod consumpserit; mihi ipsi Alcibiadem et Phaedrum obiectate, evasuri maxime felices, cum primum vobis imitari vitia nostra contigerit!
“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:
M. I do understand that I have been promising this work for a long time now, Atticus. It is something I would not refuse if any bit of open and free time were allotted to me. A work as momentous as this cannot be taken up when one’s efforts are occupied and his mind is elsewhere. It is really necessary to be free from worry and business.
A. What about the other things you have written more of than any of our people? What free time did you have set aside then?
M. These ‘leftover moments’ occur and I will not suffer wasting them—as when there are some days set aside for going to the country, I write something equal to what the number of days allow. But a history cannot be begun unless there is dedicated time and it can’t be completed in a short time. I habitually weigh down my thought when, once I have started, I am distracted by something else. And once a project is interrupted, I do not finish what was started easily.”
M. Intellego equidem a me istum laborem iam diu postulari, Attice; quem non recusarem, si mihi ullum tribueretur vacuum tempus et liberum; neque enim occupata opera neque inpedito animo res tanta suscipi potest; utrumque opus est, et cura vacare et negotio.
A. Quid ad cetera. quae scripsisti plura quam quisquam e nostris? quod tibi tandem tempus vacuum fuit concessum?
M. Subsiciva quaedam tempora incurrunt, quae ego perire non patior, ut, si qui dies ad rusticandum dati sint, ad eorum numerum adcommodentur quae scribimus. historia vero nec institui potest nisi praeparato otio nec exiguo tempore absolvi, et ego animi pendere soleo, cum semel quid orsus sum,1 si traducor alio, neque tam facile interrupta contexo quam absolvo instituta.
“What did I want? What have I gained from my good intention?” I gain even in torture; I gain the fire. Even if the fire consumes my limbs bit by bit and overcomes my whole body, even as my heart is filled up with good conscience yet still drips blood, it will be delighted by the flame whose light proves its pure intention.”
‘Quid mihi volui? Quid nunc mihi prodest bona voluntas?’” Prodest et in eculeo, prodest et in igne; qui si singulis membris admoveatur et paulatim vivum corpus circumeat, licet ipsum cor plenum bona conscientia stillet: placebit illi ignis, per quem bona fides conlucebit.
Seneca, De tranquilitate animi 15-16
“Although I should not give too much information, I am stalked by the weakness of good intention in all things. This worry, that I am slowly slipping behind or–what I fear more–that I am wavering like someone who is always just about to fall and may actually be much worse off than I can sense. We tend to look favorably upon our own affairs and this inclination impedes our judgment.
I imagine many people would have made it up that hill to wisdom if they had not already imagined they had already arrived, if they had not told themselves lies about their own character, as if they passed by everyone with eyes firmly shut. There’s no good reason to think that other people’s praise is more harmful to us than our own. Who is so daring as to tell themselves the truth?”
Ne singula diutius persequar, in omnibus rebus haec me sequitur bonae mentis infirmitas. Quin ne paulatim defluam vereor, aut quod est sollicitius, ne semper casuro similis pendeam et plus fortasse sit quam quod ipse pervideo; familiariter enim domestica aspicimus et semper iudicio favor officit.
Puto multos potuisse ad sapientiam pervenire, nisi putassent se pervenisse, nisi quaedam in se dissimulassent, quaedam opertis oculis transiluissent. Non est enim, quod magis aliena iudices adulatione nos perire quam nostra. Quis sibi verum dicere ausus est?
Cicero can seem an insufferable windbag in some of his speeches–but some of his letters humanize him.
Cicero to Atticus 1.18 20 Jan 60
“Know that I need nothing so much as a person to whom I can explain the things I worry about, someone who cares about me, who is wise, to whom I may speak and fabricate nothing, lie about nothing, and hold nothing back.
My brother is away, the most honest and beloved man. Metellus is not a man but instead is “shore and air” and “only solitude”. You, moreover, who most wisely lightens by concern and anxiety of spirit with conversation and counsel, you are my companion in public affairs and my confidant in private matters, and who are usually a companion of all my speeches and plans, where are you? I am so completely isolated that I only have as much relaxation as those moments spend with my wife, my little girl and my sweetest Marcus.
For my ambitious and convenient friendships have a certain shine in public affairs, but they bear no domestic fruit. My home is so full with a crowd in the morning but when I go to the forum with flocks of friends, I can’t find a single person in the great crowd to share a joke with or to whisper familiarly.
This is why I am looking for you, why I miss you, and I am also now calling you home. Many things really trouble me and make me anxious—but these are things which I think I can get off my chest once I have your ears for a talk during a single walk.”
Nihil mihi nunc scito tam deesse quam hominem eum quocum omnia quae me cura aliqua adficiunt una communicem, qui me amet, qui sapiat, quicum ego cum loquar nihil fingam, nihil dissimulem, nihil obtegam. abest enim frater ἀϕελέστατος et amantissimus. †Metellus† non homo sed ‘litus atque aër’ et ‘solitudo me<r>a.’ tu autem qui saepissime curam et angorem animi mei sermone et consilio levasti tuo, qui mihi et in publica re socius et in privatis omnibus conscius et omnium meorum sermonum et consiliorum particeps esse soles, ubinam es? ita sum ab omnibus destitutus ut tantum requietis habeam quantum cum uxore et filiola et mellito Cicerone consumitur. nam illae ambitiosae nostrae fucosaeque amicitiae sunt in quodam splendore forensi, fructum domesticum non habent. itaque cum bene completa domus est tempore matutino, cum ad forum stipati gregibus amicorum descendimus, reperire ex magna turba neminem possumus quocum aut iocari libere aut suspirare familiariter possimus. qua re te exspectamus, te desideramus, te iam etiam arcessimus. multa sunt enim quae me sollicitant anguntque, quae mihi videor auris nactus tuas unius ambulationis sermone exhaurire posse.
The following is a spurious letter from the wild Historia Augusta. This is filled with religious confusion, some hate, and an odd detail about cups.
Historia Augusta, 29.7
“Hadrianus Augustus greets Servianus the Consul.
Dearest Servianus, that Egypt you were praising to me is completely light of learning, volatile, and swinging toward every little rumor. The people there who follow Serapis are Christians and those who claim to be followers of Christ are actually worshipers of Serapis. There’s no one in charge of the synagogue of the Jews, there’s no Samaritans, no Christian presbyter who is not also an astrologer, a psychic or some baptist. Even the Patriarch, when he has come to Egypt, is made to worship Serapis by some and Christ by others.
These people are the most traitorous, the most vain, most likely to injure while their state is wealthy, showy, fertile and a place where no one is without work. Some people blow glass; paper is made by others; everyone weaves some kind of linen or are part of some kind of craft. The lame have things they do; eunuchs have things they do as do the blind and even those with crippled hands are not without work among them.
Money is their only god—Christians, Jews, every people and race worship him. I wish that this place had a better nature, for it is truly worthy because of its size and richness to be the chief place of all Egypt. I conceded everything to it; I returned its ancient rights and added new ones so that the people thanked me while I was there. But, then, the moment I left, they said many things against my son Verus and I believe that you have learned what they said about Antinoos.
I wish nothing for them except that they live on their own chickens which they raise in a way that is shameful to speak. I am sending you some cups which are decorated with changing colors and were given to me by the priest of a temple but are now dedicated to you and my sister. I want you to use them on feast days. Be careful that our companion Africanus does not use them as he wants.”
VIII. “Hadrianus Augustus Serviano consuli salutem. Aegyptum, quam mihi laudabas, Serviane carissime, totam didici levem, pendulam et ad omnia famae momenta volitantem. illic3 qui Serapem colunt Christiani sunt, et devoti sunt Serapi qui se Christi episcopos dicunt. nemo illic archisynagogus Iudaeorum, nemo Samarites, nemo Christianorum presbyter non mathematicus, non haruspex, non aliptes. ipse ille patriarcha cum Aegyptum venerit, ab aliis Serapidem adorare, ab aliis cogitur Christum. genus hominum seditiosissimum, vanissimum, iniuriosissimum; civitas opulenta, dives, fecunda, in qua nemo vivat otiosus. alii vitrum conflant, aliis charta conficitur, omnes certe linyphiones aut cuiuscumque artis esse videntur; et habent podagrosi quod agant, habent praecisi quod agant, habent caeci quod faciant, ne chiragrici quidem apud eos otiosi vivunt. unus illis deus nummus est. hunc Christiani, hunc Iudaei, hunc omnes venerantur et gentes. et utinam melius esset morata civitas, digna profecto quae pro sui fecunditate, quae pro sui magnitudine totius Aegypti teneat principatum. huic ego cuncta concessi, vetera privilegia reddidi, nova sic addidi ut praesenti gratias agerent. denique ut primum inde discessi, et in filium meum Verum multa dixerunt, et de Antinoo quae dixerint comperisse te credo. nihil illis opto, nisi ut suis pullis alantur, quos quemadmodum fecundant, pudet dicere. calices tibi allassontes versicolores transmisi, quos mihi sacerdos templi obtulit, tibi et sorori meae specialiter dedicatos; quos tu velim festis diebus conviviis adhibeas. caveas tamen ne his Africanus noster indulgenter utatur.”
“It does often turn out that the conduct of the most important affairs is entrusted to good people, that overwhelming corruption may be restrained. Chance apportions a proper mix of bad and good luck to some people based on the quality of their souls so they don’t exult in excess thanks to prolonged happiness. It lets other people suffer more, so that their minds’ virtues gain strength from the use and habit of patience.
Some people fear more than they need to about how much they can take while others are not serious enough about what they cannot. No few purchase a name the world honors at the price of a glorious death; others provide in their tortures an example to the rest of human kind that virtue cannot be conquered by evil deeds.”
Fit autem saepe, uti bonis summa rerum regenda deferatur, ut exuberans retundatur improbitas. Aliis mixta quaedam pro animorum qualitate distribuit; quosdam remordet ne longa felicitate luxurient, alios duris agitari ut virtutes animi patientiae usu atque exercitatione confirment. Alii plus aequo metuunt quod ferre possunt, alii plus aequo despiciunt quod ferre non possunt; hos in experimentum sui tristibus ducit. Nonnulli venerandum saeculi nomen gloriosae pretio mortis emerunt: quidam suppliciis inexpugnabiles exemplum ceteris praetulerunt invictam malis
“I admit that I now have a bit of a different opinion from what I believed before. Perhaps it would be safest for my reputation to change nothing which I not only believed but also approved for many years. But I cannot endure knowing that I misrepresent myself, especially in this work which I compose as some help for our good students. For even Hippocrates, famous still for his skill in medicine, seems to have conducted himself very honorably when he admitted his own errors so his followers would not make a mistake. Marcus Tullius did not hesitate to condemn some of his own books in subsequent publications, the Catulus and Lucullus, for example.
Prolonged effort in research would certainly be useless if we were not allowed to improve upon previous opinions. Nevertheless, nothing of what I taught then was useless. These things I offer now, in fact, return us to basic principles. Thus it will cause no one grief to have learned from me. I am trying only to collect and lay out the same ideas in a slightly more sensible fashion. I want it made known to all, moreover, that I am showing this to others no later than I have convinced myself.”
Ipse me paulum in alia quam prius habuerim opinione nunc esse confiteor. Et fortasse tutissimum erat famae modo studenti nihil ex eo mutare quod multis annis non sensissem modo verum etiam adprobassem. Sed non sustineo esse conscius mihi dissimulati, in eo praesertim opere quod ad bonorum iuvenum aliquam utilitatem componimus, in ulla parte iudicii mei. Nam et Hippocrates clarus arte medicinae videtur honestissime fecisse quod quosdam errores suos, ne posteri errarent, confessus est, et M. Tullius non dubitavit aliquos iam editos libros aliis postea scriptis ipse damnare, sicut Catulum atque Lucullum et… Etenim supervacuus foret in studiis longior labor si nihil liceret melius invenire praeteritis. Neque tamen quicquam ex iis quae tum praecepi supervacuum fuit; ad easdem enim particulas haec quoque quae nunc praecipiam revertentur. Ita neminem didicisse paeniteat: colligere tantum eadem ac disponere paulo significantius conor. Omnibus autem satis factum volo non me hoc serius demonstrare aliis quam mihi ipse persuaserim.
“There are other medicinal applications of iron beyond surgery. For when a circle is drawn around both adults and infants—or of they carry a sharp iron weapon with them—it is useful against poisonous drugs. Iron nails which have been taken out of tombs are useful protections against nightmares if they are hammered down before a threshold.
A small penetration with an iron weapon which has wounded a man is effective against sudden side and chest pains. Some afflictions are treated by cauterization, especially true for the bite of a rabid dog, since even when the disease has advanced and those afflicted are starting to exhibit fear of water, they experience relief at cauterization. The drinking of water which has been heated with burning iron is good for many symptoms, but especially for dysentery.”
XLIV. Medicina e ferro est et alia quam secandi. namque et circumscribi circulo terve circumlato mucrone et adultis et infantibus prodest contra noxia medicamenta, et praefixisse in limine evulsos sepulchris clavos adversus nocturnas lymphationes, pungique leviter mucrone, quo percussus homo sit, contra dolores laterum pectorumque subitos, qui punctionem adferant. quaedam ustione sanantur, privatim vero canis rabidi morsus, quippe etiam praevalente morbo expaventesque potum usta plaga ilico liberantur. calfit etiam ferro candente potus in multis vitiis, privatim vero dysentericis.
“Whether domestic or civic duties occupy you, keep some time of the day for caring for the body. The chief way of caring for the body is exercise and it should always be done before eating. The work should be greater for one who has labored less and digested well and less for one who is tired and has not digested.
Good exercises include reading aloud, drilling, playing ball, running, walking. The last is not the most useful on a level road, since going up or down moves the body with a variety, unless the body is completely weak. It is better to walk out in the open than under a roof. And it is also better, should your head endure it, to walk in the sun instead of the shade. But better still in the shade than under a roof and better a straight than an indirect walk.
The end of exercise, moreover, should come with sweat or some bit of tiring which should still be on this side of fatigue. Sometimes more and sometimes less needs to be done. But one should not follow the model of athletes with their fixed rule and excessive workout.”
Quem interdiu vel domestica vel civilia officia tenuerunt, huic tempus aliquod servandum curationi corporis sui est. Prima autem eius curatio exercitatio est, quae semper antecedere cibum debet, in eo, qui minus laboravit et bene concoxit, amplior; in eo, qui fatigatus est et minus concoxit, remissior.
Commode vero exercent clara lectio, arma, pila, cursus, ambulatio, atque haec non utique plana commodior est, siquidem melius ascensus quoque et descensus cum quadam varietate corpus moveat, nisi tamen id perquam inbecillum est: melior autem est sub divo quam in porticu; melior, si caput patitur, in sole quam in umbra, melior in umbra quam paries aut viridia efficiunt, quam quae tecto subest; melior recta quam flexuosa. Exercitationis autem plerumque finis esse debet sudor aut certe lassitudo, quae citra fatigationem sit, idque ipsum modo minus, modo magis faciendum est. Ac ne his quidem athletarum exemplo vel certa esse lex vel inmodicus labor debet.
Hippocrates, Regimen 2 61
“I will now explore what kind of impact exercises have. For some are natural and some are pretty violent. Natural exercise deals with sight, hearing, voice, and thinking. The power of sight is like this. The soul, when it attends to what can be seen, moves and warms. As it warms it dries because the moisture is extracted. In hearing, when sound strikes, the soul shakes and works and as it exercises, it turns warm and dries.
A person’s soul is moved by however many thoughts it has and it also warms and is dried and it spends its moisture as it works—it can empty the flesh and make a person thin. Whenever people exercise their voice either in speaking, reading or singing, all these things move the soul. When it is moved, it warms and dries and uses up the moisture.”