Think You’re Done with that Pee? Wait, There’s More!

Marcus Cato, On Agriculture 157.10-11

“Wait, there’s more: save the urine of someone who eats cabbage all the time, warm it, bathe your patient in it, you will heal them! This has been tested. As a bonus, if you wash a babies in this urine, they will never be unhealthy. If someone’s eyes are a little weak, work that potion into them and they will see more! Head pain or neck pain will also lessen when treated with re-heated urine.

If a woman heats her private parts with this urine, they will suffer no disease. Here’s what you do: warm the urine in a pain and place it on a chair with a cut-out cushion. Have the woman sit on it; cover her; and put clothes over her.”

Et hoc amplius lotium conservato eius qui brassicam essitarit, id calfacito, eo hominem demittito, cito sanum facies hac cura; expertum hoc est. Item pueros pusillos si laves eo lotio, numquam debiles fient. Et quibus oculi parum clari sunt, eo lotio inunguito, plus videbunt.

Si caput aut cervices dolent, eo lotio caldo lavito, desinent dolere. Et si mulier eo lotio locos fovebit, numquam miseri fient, et fovere sic oportet: ubi in scutra fervefeceris, sub sellam supponito pertusam. Eo mulier adsidat, operito, circum vestimenta eam dato.

What It Takes to Understand Vergil

Macrobius, Saturnalia 5.14-15

“Has it been proved to you that Vergil cannot be understood by someone who is ignorant of the sound of Latin and is equally distant to one who has not drunk Greek learning deep with the fullest thirst?

If I did not fear making you antsy, I could fill huge volumes with the material he translated from the most obscure Greek teachings. But these assertions are enough to support the thesis I have proposed.”

probatumne vobis est Vergilium, ut ab eo intellegi non potest qui sonum Latinae vocis ignorat, ita nec ab eo posse qui Graecam non hauserit extrema satietate doctrinam?

nam si fastidium facere non timerem, ingentia poteram volumina de his quae a penitissima Graecorum doctrina transtulisset implere: sed ad fidem rei propositae relata sufficient.’

 

Image result for Medieval manuscript Vergil

Escaping the Self is Impossible

Lucretius, De Rerum Natura 3.1053-1075

“When people seem to feel that there is a weight
On their minds, which wears them out with its pressure–
If they were able to understand where it comes from and what causes
So great a burden of misery to press upon their chests,
They would hardly live their lives as we now see most do:
Each person does not know what he wants and always seeks
To change his place as if he could possibly slough off the burden.

Often this man departs from the doors of his great home,
When he has tired of being there, only to return suddenly
When he comes to believe that he is no better off outside.
He rushes out driving his ponies heedlessly to his villa
As if he were bringing crucial help to a burning home.
Yet when he arrives and crosses the threshold of the house,
He either falls into a deep sleep or pursues oblivion,
Or he even rushes to visit the city again,
This is the way each man flees from himself, but it is his self
That it is impossible to escape, so he clings to it thanklessly and hates.

He does this because he is a sick man who is ignorant of the cause.
If he knew the cause, he would abandon all these things
And begin his first study of the nature of things,
Since the problem is not that of a single hour but of eternal time—
In what state we must understand that all time will pass
For mortal man after the death that awaits all of us.”

Image result for ancient roman art death

Si possent homines, proinde ac sentire videntur
pondus inesse animo, quod se gravitate fatiget,
e quibus id fiat causis quoque noscere et unde
tanta mali tam quam moles in pectore constet,
haut ita vitam agerent, ut nunc plerumque videmus
quid sibi quisque velit nescire et quaerere semper,
commutare locum, quasi onus deponere possit.
exit saepe foras magnis ex aedibus ille,
esse domi quem pertaesumst, subitoque [revertit>,
quippe foris nihilo melius qui sentiat esse.
currit agens mannos ad villam praecipitanter
auxilium tectis quasi ferre ardentibus instans;
oscitat extemplo, tetigit cum limina villae,
aut abit in somnum gravis atque oblivia quaerit,
aut etiam properans urbem petit atque revisit.
hoc se quisque modo fugit, at quem scilicet, ut fit,
effugere haut potis est: ingratius haeret et odit
propterea, morbi quia causam non tenet aeger;
quam bene si videat, iam rebus quisque relictis
naturam primum studeat cognoscere rerum,
temporis aeterni quoniam, non unius horae,
ambigitur status, in quo sit mortalibus omnis
aetas, post mortem quae restat cumque manendo.

Nothing But a Shadow: Some Words on Censure and Envy

Dio Chrysostom, 76.3

“One will say goodbye to honors and slights or to censure and praise from simple-minded persons, even if they happen to be many or few, and even if they are the strong and the wealthy. Instead, one will consider what is called “opinion” to be nothing different from a shadow, by observing that opinion often makes little of important matters and much of minor ones. And, often, it makes a big deal at sometimes and then less at another of the same affairs!”

Χαίρειν οὖν ἐάσει τιμὰς καὶ ἀτιμίας καὶ ψόγον τε καὶ ἔπαινον τὸν παρὰ τῶν ἠλιθίων ἀνθρώπων, ἐάν τε πολλοὶ τύχωσιν ὄντες ἐάν τε ὀλίγοι μὲν ἰσχυροὶ δὲ καὶ πλούσιοι. τὴν δέ γε καλουμένην δόξαν ἡγήσεται μηδὲν διαφέρειν σκιᾶς, ὁρῶν ὅτι γίγνεται τῶν μεγάλων μικρὰ καὶ τῶν μικρῶν μεγάλη· πολλάκις δὲ καὶ τῶν αὐτῶν ὁτὲ μὲν πλείων, ὁτὲ δὲ ἐλάττων.

Plutarch, On Envy and Hate 537 c-d

“Envy certainly never develops towards anyone justly—for no one commits injustice in being happy and it is for happiness that people are envied. Many are hated justly—like those we consider “worthy of hate” with the result that we find fault with others when they don’t avoid people like this or fail to find them despicable and annoying.”

Ἔτι τοίνυν τὸ μὲν φθονεῖν πρὸς οὐδένα γίνεται δικαίως (οὐδεὶς γὰρ ἀδικεῖ τῷ εὐτυχεῖν, ἐπὶ τούτῳ δὲ φθονοῦνται)· μισοῦνται δὲ πολλοὶ δικαίως, ὡς οὓς ἀξιομισήτους καλοῦμεν, ὥστε καὶ τοῖς ἄλλοις ἐγκαλοῦμεν ἂν μὴ φεύγωσι τοὺς τοιούτους μηδὲ βδελύττωνται καὶ δυσχεραίνωσι.

Propertius, Elegies 1.8b

‘Here she will be! Here she has sworn to stay! Fuck the haters!
we have won…”

Hic erit! hic iurata manet! rumpantur iniqui!
vicimus

Scrovegni, Invidia

Nothing But a Shadow: Some Words on Censure and Envy

Dio Chrysostom, 76.3

“One will say goodbye to honors and slights or to censure and praise from simple-minded persons, even if they happen to be many or few, and even if they are the strong and the wealthy. Instead, one will consider what is called “opinion” to be nothing different from a shadow, by observing that opinion often makes little of important matters and much of minor ones. And, often, it makes a big deal at sometimes and then less at another of the same affairs!”

Χαίρειν οὖν ἐάσει τιμὰς καὶ ἀτιμίας καὶ ψόγον τε καὶ ἔπαινον τὸν παρὰ τῶν ἠλιθίων ἀνθρώπων, ἐάν τε πολλοὶ τύχωσιν ὄντες ἐάν τε ὀλίγοι μὲν ἰσχυροὶ δὲ καὶ πλούσιοι. τὴν δέ γε καλουμένην δόξαν ἡγήσεται μηδὲν διαφέρειν σκιᾶς, ὁρῶν ὅτι γίγνεται τῶν μεγάλων μικρὰ καὶ τῶν μικρῶν μεγάλη· πολλάκις δὲ καὶ τῶν αὐτῶν ὁτὲ μὲν πλείων, ὁτὲ δὲ ἐλάττων.

Plutarch, On Envy and Hate 537 c-d

“Envy certainly never develops towards anyone justly—for no one commits injustice in being happy and it is for happiness that people are envied. Many are hated justly—like those we consider “worthy of hate” with the result that we find fault with others when they don’t avoid people like this or fail to find them despicable and annoying.”

Ἔτι τοίνυν τὸ μὲν φθονεῖν πρὸς οὐδένα γίνεται δικαίως (οὐδεὶς γὰρ ἀδικεῖ τῷ εὐτυχεῖν, ἐπὶ τούτῳ δὲ φθονοῦνται)· μισοῦνται δὲ πολλοὶ δικαίως, ὡς οὓς ἀξιομισήτους καλοῦμεν, ὥστε καὶ τοῖς ἄλλοις ἐγκαλοῦμεν ἂν μὴ φεύγωσι τοὺς τοιούτους μηδὲ βδελύττωνται καὶ δυσχεραίνωσι.

Propertius, Elegies 1.8b

‘Here she will be! Here she has sworn to stay! Fuck the haters!
we have won…”

Hic erit! hic iurata manet! rumpantur iniqui!
vicimus

Scrovegni, Invidia

Fat Knights, Censorious Censors,  and Cato the Elder

Aulus Gellius, Attic Nights 6.22

“The censors used to remove a man who was out of shape and too fat from his horse because they thought that a man of such weight was less than fit for performing the duties of a knight. This was not as much a punishment as one might think: the duty’s burden was removed without the shame of losing office. Nevertheless, Cato, in the speech which he wrote concerning the neglect of sacrifice, objects that this matter is more criminal, that it was possible to be seen as a matter of public disgrace. If you accept his argument, it must be assumed that a man was not wholly free of being blamed for lethargy, since he had spoiled and plumped his body to such an immoderate size.”

1 Nimis pingui homini et corpulento censores equum adimere solitos scilicet minus idoneum ratos esse cum tanti corporis pondere ad faciendum equitis munus. 2 Non enim poena id fuit, ut quidam existimant, sed munus sine ignominia remittebatur. 3 Tamen Cato in oratione, quam de sacrificio commisso scripsit, obicit hanc rem criminosius, uti magis videri possit cum ignominia fuisse. 4 Quod si ita accipias, id profecto existimandum est non omnino inculpatum neque indesidem visum esse, cuius corpus in tam inmodicum modum luxuriasset exuberassetque.

Aulus Gellius kept a collection of passages for his son.

Some Men’s Health Advice for the New Year

Celsus, On Medicine 4.7

“If a swelling develops in the testicles when they haven’t been struck, blood should be let from the ankle; the patient should fast; and the swelling should be treated with bean meal cooked in honeyed-wine or rubbed with cumin with boiled honey; or ground cumin with rose oil, or wheat flour with honey wine and cypress roots; or the root of a lily, pounded.

In testiculis vero si qua inflammatio sine ictu orta est, sanguis a talo mittendus est; a cibo abstinendum; inponenda ex faba farina eo ex mulso cocta cum cumino contrito et ex melle cocto; aut contritum cuminum cum cerato ex rosa facto; aut lini semen frictum, contritum et in mulso coctum; aut tritici farina ex mulso cocta cum cupresso; aut lilii radix contrita.

 

Pliny the Elder, Natural History 26.81

“Ebulum, when ground up with its tender leaves and drunk with wine, takes care of stones; when applied as a salve, it helps testicles. Erigeron, as well, when mixed with frankincense and sweet wine, relieves swollen testicles.”

ebulum teneris cum foliis tritum ex vino potum calculos pellit, inpositum testes sanat. erigeron quoque cum farina turis et vino dulci testium inflammationes sanat.

 

Pliny the Elder, Natural History 28.215

“They say that a goat’s dung is good for you with honey or vinegar, or just butter by itself. Testicular swelling can be treated  with veal suet mixed with soda, or by the calf’s dung reduced in vinegar.”

fimum etiam prodesse cum melle dicunt aut cum aceto et per se butyrum. testium tumor sebo vituli addito nitro cohibetur vel fimo eiusdem ex aceto decocto.

Image result for Ancient Roman medicine testicles

Happy Halloween: Werewolves in Greek and Roman Culture

This week we charged full speed down a lykanthropic rabbit-hole in the annual tradition.

Did the Wolf Win or Lose this FIght?
Did the Wolf Win or Lose this Fight?

Here are the sources I’ve gathered in rough chronological order. Most of the material is mentioned in the Oxford Classical Dictionary, although the entry says nothing about the medical texts.

  1. Herodotus’ Histories: A Description of the Neuri, a tribe near the Skythians who could turn into wolves and back.
  2. Plato’s Republic: Lycanthropy is used as a metaphor for the compulsive behavior of tyrants.
  3. Pliny the Elder’s Natural History: Pliny describes the origins of ideas about lycanthropy and blames the traditions on the credulity of the Greeks!
  4. Petronius’ Satyricon: A character tells the story of a companion transforming into a wolf at night and back at day.
  5. Pausanias’ Geography of Greece: Like Pliny, Pausanias tells the story of the human sacrifice performed by Lykaon as an origin of lycanthropic narratives.
  6. Greek Medical Treatises on the Treatment of Lycanthropy: Medical authors from the time of Marcus Aurelius to the fall of Byzantium treat lycanthropy as a mental illness.
  7. Augustine of Hippo, City of God:  St. Augustine (5th Century CE) gives an account similar to Pliny’s, but attributes it to Varro.
  8. Michael Psellus, Poemata 9.841:An 11th century CE monk wrote a book of didactic poems about medicine. His description of lycanthropy is clearly influenced by the Greek medical treatises.

What I have learned from these texts:

  1. The early Greek tradition is harmonious with some structural aspects of Greek myth.  Lycanthropy is related to sacrilegious eating–in a system where what you eat communicates who you are, human flesh is taboo (monsters eat it).  In the Greek lycanthropic tradition, this is non mono-directional. Werewolves who abstain from human flesh can turn back again.
  2. The later ‘folkloric’ tradition (e.g. Petronius) is separate from this structural logic. in the earlier tradition, men transform for 9-10 years (in something of a purificatory period). The other tradition has shorter periods (nightly) that don’t correlate with sacrilege: Petronius’ werewolf doesn’t eat human flesh (that we know of).
  3. The moon-association may be a later accretion on the tradition. All of the medical texts associate werewolves with the night; the Roman texts agree. The lunar cycle may be implied in the Petronius tale (where the transformation happens when the light is almost as bright as day) or in the later medical texts vis a vis the connection with menstrual cycles.
  4. There is one hint of a dog-bite being associated with lycanthropy, but no foundational notion that you contract lycanthropy from a werewolf.  In addition, there are no specific suggestions or methods for how to kill a werewolf.

Continue reading “Happy Halloween: Werewolves in Greek and Roman Culture”

Advice on Social Media Use from Ancient Rome

Ovid, Amores 14.1-8

“I don’t beg you not to mess around because you’re pretty,
But to spare miserable me the need of knowing about it.
I am not some censor who orders you to be a prude,
But only someone who asks you to try to be discreet.
Whoever can deny her mistakes, hasn’t messed up at all.
Only the admitted fault brings dishonor.
What madness it is to confess in light things done at night?
And to report openly deeds performed in secret?”

Non ego, ne pecces, cum sis formosa, recuso,
sed ne sit misero scire necesse mihi;
nec te nostra iubet fieri censura pudicam,
sed tamen, ut temptes dissimulare, rogat.
non peccat, quaecumque potest peccasse negare,
solaque famosam culpa professa facit.
quis furor est, quae nocte latent, in luce fateri,
et quae clam facias facta referre palam?

graffiti
‘Social Media’ can last forever…

The Difficulty of Translating From Greek to Latin

Aulus Gellius, Attic Nights, 11.16.1-9

“We have frequently noted more than a few words or expressions which we cannot say in a few words, as in Greek, and which, even if we use as many words as possible to say them, cannot be articulated as clearly or pointedly in Latin as the Greeks can convey in a few words. For recently, when a book of Plutarch came my way and I was reading the title, which was “Peri polypragmosunes”, a man who didn’t know Greek asked me whose book it was and what it was written about. I spoke the name of the writer immediately, but the subject of the book was something I hesitated on.

At first, since I did not believe that it would be an elegant translation if I said that the book was De Negotiositate (about busyness), I began to search my mind for some other description which, as the saying goes, would express it “word for word”. But there was nothing which I could remember that I read nor anything I could invent that would not in some way be harsh or silly—if I made a new word out of multitude and negotium, in the same way we say “multifaceted” or “multicolored” or “multiform”. But it would be said no less awkwardly than if one were to translate into a single world polyphilia (having many friends), polytropia (of many ways) or polysarkia (with much flesh). Therefore, after I spent a while thinking silently, I responded that it did not seem possible to me to communicate the subject in a single word and that, as a result, I was considering how to convey the meaning of that Greek word with a phrase.”

“Therefore, beginning many affairs and working on all of them is called in Greek polypragmosunê” I said, “and the label communicates that this book is written about this matter.” Then, that unrefined man, misled by my incomplete and unclear words and thinking that polypragmonê is a virtue, said “Certainly, then, this man Plutarch, whoever he is, exhorts us to engage in business, and that very many endeavors should be pursued with dedication and speed, and he has written the name of this virtue, about which he plans to speak, on the book itself, just as you say, with propriety.” I answered “Not at all, in truth. For that is in no way a virtue, that subject which is anticipated by the Greek name on the book. And Plutarch does not do what you believe—and I did not mean to say that. Indeed, he dissuades us in this book as much as he is able from too varied and frequent and unnecessary planning or seeking of too many types of obligations. But” I added, “I do see that the root of your mistake is in my lack of eloquence, the way that I could not express in many words and with clarity what a single Greek word indicates completely and plainly.”

Adiecimus saepe animum ad vocabula rerum non paucissima, quae neque singulis verbis, ut a Graecis, neque, si maxime pluribus eas res verbis dicamus, tam dilucide tamque apte demonstrari Latina oratione possunt, quam Graeci ea dicunt privis vocibus. 2 Nuper etiam cum adlatus esset ad nos Plutarchi liber et eius libri indicem legissemus, qui erat peri polypragmosynes, percontanti cuipiam, qui et litterarum et vocum Graecarum expers fuit, cuiusnam liber et qua de re scriptus esset, nomen quidem scriptoris statim diximus, rem, de qua scriptum fuit, dicturi haesimus. 3 Ac tum quidem primo, quia non satis commode opinabar interpretaturum me esse, si dicerem librum scriptum “de negotiositate”, aliud institui aput me exquirere, quod, ut dicitur, verbum de verbo expressum esset. 4 Nihil erat prorsus, quod aut meminissem legere me aut, si etiam vellem fingere, quod non insigniter asperum absurdumque esset, si ex multitudine et negotio verbum unum compingerem, sicuti “multiiuga” dicimus et “multicolora” et “multiformia”. 5 Sed non minus inlepide ita diceretur, quam si interpretari voce una velis polyphilian aut polytropian aut polysarkian. Quamobrem, cum diutule tacitus in cogitando fuissem, respondi tandem non videri mihi significari eam rem posse uno nomine et idcirco iuncta oratione, quid ucliet Graecum id verbum, pararam dicere.

“Ad multas igitur res adgressio earumque omnium rerum actio polypragmosyne” inquam “Graece dicitur, de qua hunc librum conpositum esse inscriptio ista indicat”. VII. Tum ille opicus verbis meis inchoatis et inconditis adductus virtutemque esse polypragmosynen ratus: “hortatur” inquit “nos profecto nescio quis hic Plutarchus ad negotia capessenda et ad res obeundas plurimas cum industria et celeritate nomenque ipsius virtutis, de qua locuturus esset, libro ipsi, sicuti dicis, non incommode praescripsit”. VIII. “Minime” inquam “vero; neque enim ista omnino virtus est, cuius Graeco nomine argumentum hoc libri demonstratur, neque id, quod tu opinare, aut ego me dicere sentio aut Plutarchus facit. Deterret enim nos hoc quidem in libro, quam potest maxime, a varia promiscaque et non necessaria rerum cuiuscemodi plurimarum et cogitatione et petitione. Sed huius” inquam “tui erroris culpam esse intellego in mea scilicet infacundia, qui ne pluribus quidem verbis potuerim non obscurissime dicere, quod a Graecis perfectissime verbo uno et planissime dicitur”.

Roman Mosaic