“When Will This Year Be Over”? Seneca on Speeding Life Along

Seneca, De Brevitate Vitae 7

“The man who has hoped for the fasces longs to put them down once he gets them and says constantly, “When will this year be over?” This man sponsors games which he once valued as a great opportunity for him, yet he says “When can I get away from them?” A lawyer is raised up by the whole forum and with full crowd beyond where he can be heard, but he complains “When will we have a break?” Everyone speeds their own life along and suffers for a desire for the future and boredom with the present.

But the person who portions out every moment to his own use, who schedules out every day like it is the last, neither hopes for nor fears tomorrows. For what kind of new pleasure is any hour alone capable of bringing? Everything is known and has been enjoyed fully. Fortune may by chance bring out something else, but life is already safe. Something can be added; nothing can be subtracted, and he will accept anything which is added like someone who is already satisfied and full will take some food he does not desire.

Therefore, it is not right to think that anyone has lived long because of grey hair or wrinkles. He has not lived a while, but he has existed a while. Certainly, what if you thought that he had traveled far whom a terrible storm grabbed in the harbor and dragged here and there in turns of winds raging from different directions and drove him over the same space in a circle? He did not travel far, but he was tossed around a lot.”

Adsecutus ille quos optaverat fasces cupit ponere et subinde dicit: “Quando hic annus praeteribit?” Facit ille ludos, quorum sortem sibi optingere magno aestimavit: “Quando,” inquit, “istos effugiam?” Diripitur ille toto foro patronus et magno concursu omnia ultra, quam audiri potest, complet: “Quando,” inquit, “res proferentur?” Praecipitat quisque vitam suam et futuri desiderio laborat, praesentium taedio. At ille qui nullum non tempus in usus suos confert, qui omnem diem tamquam ultimum ordinat, nec optat crastinum nec timet. Quid enim est, quod iam ulla hora novae voluptatis possit adferre? Omnia nota, omnia ad satietatem percepta sunt. De cetero fors fortuna, ut volet, ordinet; vita iam in tuto est. Huic adici potest, detrahi nihil, et adici sic, quemadmodum saturo iam ac pleno aliquid cibi, quod nec desiderat et capit. Non est itaque quod quemquam propter canos aut rugas putes diu vixisse; non ille diu vixit, sed diu fuit. Quid enim si illum multum putes navigasse, quem saeva tempestas a portu exceptum huc et illuc tulit ac vicibus ventorum ex diverso furentium per eadem spatia in orbem egit? Non ille multum navigavit, sed multum iactatus est.

Image result for medieval manuscript calendar
Johannes von Gmunden: Calendar, [Nuremberg], 1496

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

The Lost De Imaginibus Verendorum

A pamphlet was recently discovered along with the fragments of Bellum Incivile, a text tentatively attributed to Caesar. De Imaginibus Verendorum was almost certainly not written by Caesar, but was very possibly distributed to his troops.* Edited by Dani Bostick

“All people arrive into the world nude on the day of their birth, but many men as adults want to show off their unclothed private parts very often. They have a frightful custom of making images of their private parts, which can also be called dick pics, penis pictures, and members at mast, and sending them to women. These men are very different with respect to dignity and virtue from men who are in the habit of keeping their private parts covered unless someone says she wants to see them.

When the eyes of women are too far away or when there is a concern about breaking the law– for it is not OK to expose bystanders to penises when you are outside– inflamed by a desire to show his private parts, a man of this kind creates an image of them, which you would believe to be real, but would not in any way want to look at. He marvels at this, but it is not enough for him to see it. Even if women have already said they do not want to see any private parts, he thinks the image must be seen by as many women as possible.

For this reason the man sends this image to one woman, then to two women, then to five; then to another ten. “Careful,” he says to himself as he sends the picture through the ether. “Don’t send it to your mom or sisters by accident.” In this way, he believes he is operating with restraint and modesty.

At last, many women see the image of the private parts and seeing it, they are horrified, but the man, proud of his private parts and the picture of them, happily awaits the replies of the women. “How lucky these women are! How beautiful are my private parts!” But the women do not respond.

Although he is happy with himself, he lacks friends and dignity, but he does not want to change because he thinks he is the best.  Catullus once said, “Each of us has a flaw, but we cannot see what is in our own backpacks.”  

I will make this very clear to you. It is the greatest flaw to send pictures of your private parts to women who absolutely do not want to see them.

Men, having read these words, may you recognize this flaw and stop it!

Homines die natali nudi nati sunt, sed multi viri adulti verenda exerta saepissime ostendere volunt. His mos terribilis est imagines verendorum, quae appellari etiam pictura passeris, simulacrum siculae, vincens verpa possunt, facere ac ad feminas mittere.  Hi sunt dignitate et virtute disimiles viris qui verenda operire solent, nisi quis ea videre velle dicat.

Vir huius generis cum aut oculi feminarum longius absit aut leges violare timeat– nam verendis foris circumstantes obiecere est nefas– inflammato verendorum ostendendorum cupidine imaginem, quam vivere credas, sed haud spectare velis, facit. miratur, sed non est satis eam videre. etiamsi feminae se verenda videre nolle iam dixerunt, imaginem quam plurimis feminis videndam existimat.

Qua de causa vir hanc imaginem ad unam feminam mittit; deinde ad duas feminas; deinde ad quinque; dein ad decem alteras. “Cave,” mittenti per caelum imaginem sibi ait. “Noli ad matrem aut ad sorores peperam mittere.” ad hunc modum se caute et pudenter agere credit.

Tandem multae feminae imaginem verendam vident et videntes horrescunt; verum vir suis verendis ac imagine eorum superbiens responsa feminarum laete expectat. “Quam beatae hae feminae! Quam pulchra mea verenda!”  sed feminae nihil respondent.

quamvis se ipso contentus sit, amicae dignitasque ei desunt, sed mutari non vult, quia se optimum esse credit.  “Suus cuique attributus est error,” scripsit Catullus. “sed non videmus manticae quod in tergo est.”

Hoc vobis manifestissimum faciam. Est maximus error imagines verendorum ad feminas, quae ea videre minime velint, mittere.  

Viri, his verbis acceptis, videatis errorem et desinatis!

 

Caesar

[*N.B. This is satire. This Latin is not from antiquity]

Lyric Love, Translation and Transformation

Sappho fr. 31

“That man seems like the gods
To me—the one who sits facing
You and nearby listens as you
sweetly speak—

and he hears your lovely laugh—this then
makes the heart in my breast stutter,
when I glance even briefly, it is no longer possible
for me to speak—

but my tongue sticks in silence
and immediately a slender flame runs under my skin.
I cannot see with my eyes, I hear
A rush in my ears—

A cold sweat breaks over me, a tremble
Takes hold of me. Then paler than grass,
I think that I have died
Just a little.”

φαίνεταί μοι κῆνος ἴσος θέοισιν
ἔμμεν’ ὤνηρ, ὄττις ἐνάντιός τοι
ἰσδάνει καὶ πλάσιον ἆδυ φωνεί-
σας ὐπακούει

καὶ γελαίσας ἰμέροεν, τό μ’ ἦ μὰν
καρδίαν ἐν στήθεσιν ἐπτόαισεν,
ὠς γὰρ ἔς σ’ ἴδω βρόχε’ ὤς με φώναι-
σ’ οὐδ’ ἒν ἔτ’ εἴκει,

ἀλλ’ ἄκαν μὲν γλῶσσα †ἔαγε λέπτον
δ’ αὔτικα χρῶι πῦρ ὐπαδεδρόμηκεν,
ὀππάτεσσι δ’ οὐδ’ ἒν ὄρημμ’, ἐπιρρόμ-
βεισι δ’ ἄκουαι,

†έκαδε μ’ ἴδρως ψῦχρος κακχέεται† τρόμος δὲ
παῖσαν ἄγρει, χλωροτέρα δὲ ποίας
ἔμμι, τεθνάκην δ’ ὀλίγω ‘πιδεύης
φαίνομ’ ἔμ’ αὔται·

As many know and many love, Catullus 51 is a ‘translation’. This poem brought my first exposure to Sappho at the tender age of 16. I can translate it almost without looking at it.

“That man seems to me equal to a gods,
that man, if it is right, surpasses the gods
as he sits opposite you
seeing and hearing you

sweetly laughing; every sense escapes
miserable me: for the same time I see you
Lesbia, nothing is left for me

my tongue grows heavy, and a tender flame
flickers under my limbs, and twin ears
ring with their own sound, my eyes
are shaded by night.

Leisure, Catullus, is your problem:
you revel in leisure and you have done too much.
Leisure has brought kings low,
and destroyed cities once rich.”

Ille mi par esse deo videtur,
ille, si fas est, superare divos,
qui sedens adversus identidem te
spectat et audit
dulce ridentem, misero quod omnis
eripit sensus mihi: nam simul te,
Lesbia, aspexi, nihil est super mi
* * * * * * * *

lingua sed torpet, tenuis sub artus
flamma demanat, sonitu suopte
tintinant aures gemina, teguntur
lumina nocte.

otium, Catulle, tibi molestum est:
otio exsultas nimiumque gestis:
otium et reges prius et beatas
perdidit urbes.

Sappho is pretty amazing. I also love this anecdote from Aelian:

Aelian, Fragment 187/190 (from Stobaeus 3.29.58)

“Solon the Athenian, the son of Eksêkestides, when his nephew sang some song of Sappho at a drinking party, took pleasure in it and asked the young man to teach it to him. When someone asked why he was eager to learn it, he responded: “So, once I learn it, I may die.”

Σόλων ὁ ᾿Αθηναῖος ᾿Εξηκεστίδου παρὰ πότον τοῦ ἀδελφιδοῦ αὐτοῦ μέλος τι Σαπφοῦς ᾄσαντος, ἥσθη τῷ μέλει καὶ προσέταξε τῷ μειρακίῳ διδάξει αὐτόν. ἐρωτήσαντος δέ τινος διὰ ποίαν αἰτίαν τοῦτο σπουδάσειεν, ὃ δὲ ἔφη ‘ἵνα μαθὼν αὐτὸ ἀποθάνω.’

Image result for medieval manuscript sappho
Boccacio, de mulieribus claris/Le livre de femmes nobles et renomées (trad. anonyme), 15-16th century, France (Cognac). Bibliothèque Nationale MS Français 599 fol. 42