Talking Dreams in Silent Speech

Lucretius, De Rerum Natura 4.453-461

“And when sleep has bound our limbs with sweet
slumber and the whole body lies in deep repose,
we still seem to ourselves to be awake and to move
our limbs—in the obscure darkness of night.
We think that we see the sun and the light of day;
we seem to trade a closed room or the sky, sea,
rivers and mountains—-we cross fields on our feet.
We hear sounds when the heavy quiet of night
hangs over everything; we utter words while staying silent.”

Denique cum suavi devinxit membra sopore
somnus et in summa corpus iacet omne quiete,
tum vigilare tamen nobis et membra movere
nostra videmur, et in noctis caligine caeca
cernere censemus solem lumenque diurnum,
conclusoque loco caelum mare flumina montis
mutare et campos pedibus transire videmur,
et sonitus audire, severa silentia noctis
undique cum constent, et reddere dicta tacentes.

 

Image result for Ancient Roman Dreams

Need, Benefit, Fear: Ancient Thinkers on the Origin of the Social Contract

We often make a lot of noise about our political beliefs and affiliations without coming straight out and saying what we think a government is for. Such questions are not merely ‘academic’–without an articulation of core beliefs, politics devolves into mere tribalism.

Today is the start of a virtual conference  “Teaching Leaders and Leadership Through Classics” . (You can participate by registering). In teaching courses on leadership, I have found that students are sometimes surprised by the questions “What is a state for? Why do we have government?”

In thinking about ancient politics and leadership, it is important to consider what authors say about where governments come from: Ancient states did not have constitutions and guiding treatises, they had traditions. But, sometimes, authors spoke to the issue directly.

A city develops to help us pursue the good?

Aristotle, Politics 1252a1-8

“Since we recognize that every state is some kind of a partnership and that every partnership has been undertaken for the sake of some good—for it seems that all people do everything for what seems good—it is clear that all states pursue some benefit, but that the most powerful state of all pursues the most powerful benefit which also includes all others. This state is called the city and this partnership is political.”

    ᾿Επειδὴ πᾶσαν πόλιν ὁρῶμεν κοινωνίαν τινὰ οὖσαν καὶ πᾶσαν κοινωνίαν ἀγαθοῦ τινος ἕνεκεν συνεστηκυῖαν (τοῦ γὰρ εἶναι δοκοῦντος ἀγαθοῦ χάριν πάντα πράττουσι πάντες), δῆλον ὡς πᾶσαι μὲν ἀγαθοῦ τινος στοχάζονται, μάλιστα δὲ καὶ τοῦ κυριωτάτου πάντων ἡ πασῶν κυριωτάτη καὶ πάσας περιέχουσα τὰς ἄλλας. αὕτη δ’ ἐστὶν ἡ καλουμένη πόλις καὶ ἡ κοινωνία ἡ πολιτική.

What is good? Is it to supply something we’re missing?

Plato, Republic 369b

“A city develops, I believe, because each of us isn’t self-sufficient— we lack much of what we need. Is there any other reason to build a community?”

γίγνεται τοίνυν, ἦν δ᾽ ἐγώ, πόλις, ὡς ἐγᾦμαι, ἐπειδὴ τυγχάνει ἡμῶν ἕκαστος οὐκ αὐτάρκης, ἀλλὰ πολλῶν ὢν ἐνδεής: ἢ τίν᾽ οἴει ἀρχὴν ἄλλην πόλιν οἰκίζειν;

Perhaps the good is to avoid what is bad…

Lucretius, De Rerum Natura 5.1145-1160

“The human race, tired of living in a state of violence 
and languishing in feuds, was eager 
to submit to law and strict judgments.
Otherwise, each person would turn to vengeance
More harshly than our current laws allow,
And this is why people have avoided living in a state of violence.
From here comes the fear that alters life’s rewards
Since violence and pain entrap the one who wields them
And tend to return most to those who acted first.
It isn’t easy to lead a quiet and peaceful life
If you break the faith of a community’s written peace.
Even if you deceive the races of god and man,
There’s no way to be sure to keep a secret forever.
Often many reveal themselves by speaking in sleep
Or confused by a lengthy illness, they finally
Disclose their deeply hidden memories and sins.”

nam genus humanum, defessum vi colere aevom,
ex inimicitiis languebat; quo magis ipsum
sponte sua cecidit sub leges artaque iura.

acrius ex ira quod enim se quisque parabat
ulcisci quam nunc concessumst legibus aequis,
hanc ob rem est homines pertaesum vi colere aevom.
inde metus maculat poenarum praemia vitae.
circumretit enim vis atque iniuria quemque
atque unde exortast, ad eum plerumque revertit,
nec facilest placidam ac pacatam degere vitam
qui violat factis communia foedera pacis.
etsi fallit enim divom genus humanumque,
perpetuo tamen id fore clam diffidere debet;
quippe ubi se multi per somnia saepe loquentes
aut morbo delirantes protraxe ferantur
et celata [mala] in medium et peccata dedisse.

Image result for Ancient Roman Government

Xenophon Memorabilia 2.1.12-14

Socrates: “Come now, if only this path wouldn’t lead through men at all, just as through slavery or dominion, you would be saying something. But, as it is, since you live among human beings, if you think it right neither to rule nor to be ruled, nor again to serve rulers willingly, I think that you may see that the stronger know how to make those weaker weep in public and in private—and how to use them as slaves. Or does it escape you that they cut the grain and harvest the trees where others have sown and planted, or that the powerful set siege to the weaker in every way until they “persuade” them to choose to serve as slaves instead of warring against the stronger? Don’t you think it’s the same in private life—that brave and capable men prey upon the weak and powerless once they have enslaved them?”

Aristippus said, “But, indeed, to avoid suffering these things, I do not bind myself to any state—I am a stranger [guest/foreigner] everywhere.”

Socrates: “You have now described a clever trick!” For since the time of Sinis, Skeiron and Procrustes died, no one has done a stranger wrong! But now men gathered together in their states and make laws so that they might not suffer harm, that they might acquire friends as help beyond what they have acquired by birth, and they have built defenses around their cities and acquired weapons to defend themselves against those who might do them wrong and, in addition to this, they have managed to make alliances in other lands. And even those who have done all these things still suffer injustice. Now you, who have none of these advantages, you spend time on the roads where men suffer harm the most and in every city you arrive you arrive you are weaker than all of the citizens—you are the sort of man who are especially exposed to those who want to harm someone. Given all this, you think that you will not suffer harm because you are a “guest”? Is it because the cities announce your safety when you are coming and going that you are so bold? Or is it because you think that you’re the kind of man who’d be of profit to no master? For who would welcome a man into his home who delights in living well but is unwilling to work?”

᾿Αλλ’ εἰ μέν, ἔφη ὁ Σωκράτης, ὥσπερ οὔτε δι’ ἀρχῆς οὔτε διὰ δουλείας ἡ ὁδὸς αὕτη φέρει, οὕτω μηδὲ δι’ ἀνθρώπων, ἴσως ἄν τι λέγοις· εἰ μέντοι ἐν ἀνθρώποις ὢν μήτε ἄρχειν ἀξιώσεις μήτε ἄρχεσθαι μηδὲ τοὺς ἄρχοντας ἑκὼν θεραπεύσεις, οἶμαί σε ὁρᾶν ὡς ἐπίστανται οἱ κρείττονες τοὺς ἥττονας καὶ κοινῇ καὶ ἰδίᾳ κλαίοντας καθίσαντες δούλοις χρῆσθαι· ἢ λανθάνουσί σε οἱ ἄλλων σπειράντων καὶ φυτευσάντων τόν τε σῖτον τέμνοντες καὶ δενδροκοποῦντες καὶ πάντα τρόπον πολιορκοῦντες τοὺς ἥττονας καὶ μὴ θέλοντας θεραπεύειν, ἕως ἂν πείσωσιν ἑλέσθαι δουλεύειν ἀντὶ τοῦ πολεμεῖν τοῖς κρείττοσι; καὶ ἰδίᾳ αὖ οἱ ἀνδρεῖον καὶ δυνατοὶ τοὺς ἀνάνδρους καὶ ἀδυνάτους οὐκ οἶσθα ὅτι καταδουλωσάμενοι καρποῦνται;

᾿Αλλ’ ἐγώ τοι, ἔφη, ἵνα μὴ πάσχω ταῦτα, οὐδ’ εἰς πολιτείαν ἐμαυτὸν κατακλείω, ἀλλὰ ξένος πανταχοῦ εἰμι.

καὶ ὁ Σωκράτης ἔφη· Τοῦτο ἤδη λέγεις δεινὸν πάλαισμα. τοὺς γὰρ ξένους, ἐξ οὗ ὅ τε Σίνις καὶ ὁ Σκείρων καὶ ὁ Προκρούστης ἀπέθανον, οὐδεὶς ἔτι ἀδικεῖ· ἀλλὰ νῦν οἱ μὲν πολιτευόμενοι ἐν ταῖς πατρίσι καὶ νόμους τίθενται, ἵνα μὴ ἀδικῶνται, καὶ φίλους πρὸς τοῖς ἀναγκαίοις καλουμένοις ἄλλους κτῶνται βοηθούς, καὶ ταῖς πόλεσιν ἐρύματα περιβάλλονται, καὶ ὅπλα κτῶνται οἷς  ἀμυνοῦνται τοὺς ἀδικοῦντας, καὶ πρὸς τούτοις ἄλλους ἔξωθεν συμμάχους κατασκευάζονται· καὶ οἱ μὲν ταῦτα πάντα κεκτημένοι ὅμως ἀδικοῦνται· σὺ δὲ οὐδὲν μὲν τούτων ἔχων, ἐν δὲ ταῖς ὁδοῖς, ἔνθα πλεῖστοι ἀδικοῦνται, πολὺν χρόνον διατρίβων, εἰς ὁποίαν δ’ ἂν πόλιν ἀφίκῃ, τῶν πολιτῶν πάντων ἥττων ὤν, καὶ τοιοῦτος, οἵοις μάλιστα ἐπιτίθενται οἱ βουλόμενοι ἀδικεῖν, ὅμως διὰ τὸ ξένος εἶναι οὐκ ἂν οἴει ἀδικηθῆναι; ἦ διότι αἱ πόλεις σοι κηρύττουσιν ἀσφάλειαν καὶ προσιόντι καὶ ἀπιόντι, θαρρεῖς; ἢ διότι καὶ δοῦλος ἂν οἴει τοιοῦτος εἶναι οἷος μηδενὶ δεσπότῃ λυσιτελεῖν; τίς γὰρ ἂν ἐθέλοι ἄνθρωπον ἐν οἰκίᾳ ἔχειν πονεῖν μὲν μηδὲν ἐθέλοντα, τῇ δὲ πολυτελεστάτῃ διαίτῃ χαίροντα;

In Sleep, Dreams Seem Real; Awake…

Lucretius, De Rerum Natura 4.453-461

“And when sleep has bound our limbs with sweet
slumber and the whole body lies in deep repose,
we still seem to ourselves to be awake and to move
our limbs—in the obscure darkness of night.
We think that we see the sun and the light of day;
we seem to trade a closed room or the sky, sea,
rivers and mountains—-we cross fields on our feet.
We hear sounds when the heavy quiet of night
hangs over everything; we utter words while staying silent.”

Image result for Ancient Roman art dreams

Denique cum suavi devinxit membra sopore
somnus et in summa corpus iacet omne quiete,
tum vigilare tamen nobis et membra movere
nostra videmur, et in noctis caligine caeca
cernere censemus solem lumenque diurnum,
conclusoque loco caelum mare flumina montis
mutare et campos pedibus transire videmur,
et sonitus audire, severa silentia noctis
undique cum constent, et reddere dicta tacentes.

Shakespeare, Hamlet

To sleep–perchance to dream: ay, there’s the rub,
For in that sleep of death what dreams may come
When we have shuffled off this mortal coil,
Must give us pause.

Advice on Christmas Gifts from Solon to Lucretius

Epigonoi Fr. 4 (From Clement of Alexandria)

“Many evils come to men from gifts”

ἐκ γὰρ δώρων πολλὰ κάκ’ ἀνθρώποισι πέλονται.

 

Ovid, Ars Amatoria 2.275

“Poems are certainly praised, but great gifts are what is sought.”

carmina laudantur sed munera magna petuntur.

 

Sophocles, Ajax, 664-5

“But the old saying is true: the gifts of enemies are no gifts, and sure to yield no profit.”

ἀλλ᾽ ἔστ᾽ ἀληθὴς ἡ βροτῶν παροιμία,
ἐχθρῶν ἄδωρα δῶρα κοὐκ ὀνήσιμα

 

Aeschylus, fr. 279a2

“Alone of the gods, Death doesn’t long for gifts.”

μόνος θεῶν γὰρ Θάνατος οὐ δώρων ἐρᾶι·

 

Solon, 13.64

“The gifts of the gods must not be rejected”

δῶρα δ᾿ ἄφυκτα θεῶν γίγνεται ἀθανάτων

religion-09

Nostoi, fr. 8.1

“Gifts debase the minds and actions of men”

δῶρα γὰρ ἀνθρώπων νόον ἤπαφεν ἠδὲ καὶ ἔργα

 

Lucretius, De Rerum Natura 5.1430-1439

“The race of man, then, labors uselessly and in vain
as we always consume our time in empty concerns
because we don’t understand that there’s a limit to having—
and there’s an end to how far true pleasure can grow.
This has dragged life bit by bit into the deep sea
and has stirred at its bottom great blasts of war.
But the guardian of the earth turns around the great sky
and teaches men truly that the year’s seasons come full circle
and that all must be endured with a sure reason and order.”

Ergo hominum genus in cassum frustraque laborat
semper et [in] curis consumit inanibus aevom,
ni mirum quia non cognovit quae sit habendi
finis et omnino quoad crescat vera voluptas;
idque minutatim vitam provexit in altum
et belli magnos commovit funditus aestus.
at vigiles mundi magnum versatile templum
sol et luna suo lustrantes lumine circum
perdocuere homines annorum tempora verti
et certa ratione geri rem atque ordine certo.

Children, Shipwrecked into Life

Lucretius, De Rerum Natura 5.218-227

“Why does nature nourish and increase the races
of horrible beasts, enemies to humankind on land and sea?
Why do the seasons of the year bring diseases?
Why does an early death come suddenly?
So a child, just like a shipwrecked man tossed by savage waves,
lies naked and speechless on the ground needing everything required
to support life at the very moment when nature pours him
from his mother’s womb into the world of light,
he fills the room with a sorrowful wail, as if he knows
the measure of troubles that still remain for him to endure in life.”

silenus-holding-the-baby-dionysus

praeterea genus horriferum natura ferarum
humanae genti infestum terraque marique
cur alit atque auget? cur anni tempora morbos
adportant? quare mors inmatura vagatur?
tum porro puer, ut saevis proiectus ab undis
navita, nudus humi iacet infans indigus omni
vitali auxilio, cum primum in luminis oras
nixibus ex alvo matris natura profudit,
vagituque locum lugubri complet, ut aequumst
cui tantum in vita restet transire malorum.

Peril Shows the True Character of a Man

Lucretius, De Rerum Natura 3.41-58:

“For men often claim that disease and a life
of a bad reputation should be feared more than Tartaros.
And they claim they know that the nature of the soul is like blood
Or even air, if that fits their current desire.
And they claim that they do not need our arguments.
But what follows will make you see these things as a matter of boasting
rather than because the matter itself has been proved.
The same men, out of their homeland and in a long exile
From the sight of others, charged with some foul crime,
live as they do, even afflicted with all possible troubles.
But, still, wherever they go the outcasts minister to their ancestors
and slaughter dark cattle and make their offerings
to the departed ghosts and when things get worse
they focus more sharply on religion.
For this reason it is better to examine a man in doubt or danger:
Adverse circumstances make it easier to know who a man is,
for then true words finally rise from his deepest heart;
when the mask is removed, the thing itself remains.”

MaskTragedy168

nam quod saepe homines morbos magis esse timendos
infamemque ferunt vitam quam Tartara leti
et se scire animi naturam sanguinis esse,
aut etiam venti, si fert ita forte voluntas,
nec prosum quicquam nostrae rationis egere,
hinc licet advertas animum magis omnia laudis
iactari causa quam quod res ipsa probetur.
extorres idem patria longeque fugati
conspectu ex hominum, foedati crimine turpi,
omnibus aerumnis adfecti denique vivunt,
et quo cumque tamen miseri venere parentant
et nigras mactant pecudes et manibus divis
inferias mittunt multoque in rebus acerbis
acrius advertunt animos ad religionem.
quo magis in dubiis hominem spectare periclis
convenit adversisque in rebus noscere qui sit;
nam verae voces tum demum pectore ab imo
eliciuntur [et] eripitur persona manet res.

How to Discover a Person’s True Nature

Lucretius, De Rerum Natura 3.41-58

“For men often claim that disease and a life
of a bad reputation should be feared more than Tartaros.
And they claim they know that the nature of the soul is like blood
Or even air, if that fits their current desire.
And they claim that they do not need our arguments.
But what follows will make you see these things as a matter of boasting
rather than because the matter itself has been proved.
The same men, out of their homeland and in a long exile
From the sight of others, charged with some foul crime,
live as they do, even afflicted with all possible troubles.
But, still, wherever they go the outcasts minister to their ancestors
and slaughter dark cattle and make their offerings
to the departed ghosts and when things get worse
they focus more sharply on religion.
For this reason it is better to examine a man in doubt or danger:
Adverse circumstances make it easier to know who a man is,
for then true words finally rise from his deepest heart;
when the mask is removed, the thing itself remains.”

nam quod saepe homines morbos magis esse timendos
infamemque ferunt vitam quam Tartara leti
et se scire animi naturam sanguinis esse,
aut etiam venti, si fert ita forte voluntas,
nec prosum quicquam nostrae rationis egere,
hinc licet advertas animum magis omnia laudis
iactari causa quam quod res ipsa probetur.
extorres idem patria longeque fugati
conspectu ex hominum, foedati crimine turpi,
omnibus aerumnis adfecti denique vivunt,
et quo cumque tamen miseri venere parentant
et nigras mactant pecudes et manibus divis
inferias mittunt multoque in rebus acerbis
acrius advertunt animos ad religionem.
quo magis in dubiis hominem spectare periclis
convenit adversisque in rebus noscere qui sit;
nam verae voces tum demum pectore ab imo
eliciuntur [et] eripitur persona manet res.

There are always other methods too:

Carm. Conv. 6

“What kind of man each person is
I wish I could know by opening his chest and then
once I have looked at his mind and after closing it again
To recognize a dear friend by his guileless thought”

εἴθ’ ἐξῆν ὁποῖός τις ἦν ἕκαστος
τὸ στῆθος διελόντ’, ἔπειτα τὸν νοῦν
ἐσιδόντα, κλείσαντα πάλιν,
ἄνδρα φίλον νομίζειν ἀδόλωι φρενί.

rabtorture
Rabbits discover a man’s true heart

Eternal Fame, or Specks of Gold in a Sh*theap? – Early Reception of Ennius

In response to a comment about Ennius’ reputation in Joel’s post from yesterday, I began to wonder about the reception of Ennius’ poems.  I remembered that Ennius was cited by practically every (surviving) Roman poet of the Golden Age, but  I could not recall a consistent portrait emerging from these references. The only anecdote which readily stuck in my mind was the one of Vergil, cited by Donatus and Cassiodorus, saying that he was “looking for gold in the shitheap of Ennius.” Yet this is a late reference, and likely a totally fabricated story. As such, I dug through all of the major surviving Roman poets of the 1st century BC for direct references to Ennius, in order to form some sort of rough sketch of Ennian reception at the time. I omitted any prose authors (especially Cicero) in order to keep the search limited to the manageable which seemed appropriate for slapdash online posting, but I may later delve deeper into the subject. For now, here is a brief summary of early Ennian reception:

One of the recurring themes among the poets who mention Ennius is his lack of art or technical skill. This may be readily attributed to the fact that he was, in effect, a pioneer of Latin versification; we ought not to be surprised if his compositions lack the polish of the later writers who took him to task for his roughness:

And as grave Ennius sang of Mars with his own style – Ennius, the greatest in talent, but wanting in art.

utque suo Martem cecinit grauis Ennius ore,
Ennius ingenio maximus, arte rudis:
Ovid, Tristia II

The work which you ask for is a mortal thing, but I am seeking eternal fame, that my praises might be sung the world over. Homer will live on, while Tenedos and Ida still stand, while the Simois churns its rapid waters into the sea. Hesiod, too, will live, while the grapes teem with must and Ceres falls when cut by curved sickle. Callimachus will always be sung all over the world, though more for his skill than his native talent. No loss will ever befall the Sophoclean buskin; Aratus will last as long as the sun and moon. As long as there be a lying slave, a harsh father, a saucy madam and a pleasing prostitute, Menander will live on; Ennius, lacking art, and windy-mouthed Accius have a name that will die in no age.

Mortale est, quod quaeris, opus. mihi fama perennis
    quaeritur, in toto semper ut orbe canar.
vivet Maeonides, Tenedos dum stabit et Ide,
    dum rapidas Simois in mare volvet aquas;               10
vivet et Ascraeus, dum mustis uva tumebit,
    dum cadet incurva falce resecta Ceres.
Battiades semper toto cantabitur orbe;
    quamvis ingenio non valet, arte valet.
nulla Sophocleo veniet iactura cothurno;               15
    cum sole et luna semper Aratus erit;
dum fallax servus, durus pater, inproba lena
    vivent et meretrix blanda, Menandros erit;
Ennius arte carens animosique Accius oris
    casurum nullo tempore nomen habent.      

Ovid, Amores 1.15.7-20

This appears rarely in the noble trimeters of Accius, and presses upon the verses of Ennius, sent onto the stage with a great weight, with the shameful fault either of hasty workmanship lacking art, or lack of technical skill.

…Hic et in Acci
nobilibus trimetris adparet rarus, et Enni
in scaenam missos cum magno pondere uersus               260
aut operae celeris nimium curaque carentis
aut ignoratae premit artis crimine turpi.

Horace, Ars Poetica 258-262

Propertius in particular seems to focus on the gravity of Ennius as a foil to his own image as the Roman Callimachus in search of softer themes and softer expression. Yet, this impression of gravity which is attributed to him by Propertius is undercut by a note of Horace:

I dreamt that I reclined in the gentle shade of Helicon, where the water of Bellerophon’s horse did flow, and that I could sing, O Alba, your kings and deeds – ah, such a work! – with my instruments. I had brought my tiny mouth to those grand founts (from whence thirsty Ennius once drank, when he sang the Curian brothers and the Horatian spears, and the regal trophies carried on the Aemelian raft, and the victorious delays of Fabius, and the awful fight at Cannae, and the gods who turned to our pious prayers, and the Lares chasing Hannibal from the Roman land, and how Jupiter was saved by the voice of a goose). Suddenly, Phoebus saw me from a Castalian tree, and leaning on his golden lyre by the cave, said, ‘What business have you, you madman, with this stream? Who ordered you to undertake the work of a heroic poem?

Visus eram molli recubans Heliconis in umbra,
Bellerophontei qua fluit umor equi,
reges, Alba, tuos et regum facta tuorum,
tantum operis, nervis hiscere posse meis;
parvaque iam magnis admoram fontibus ora
(unde pater sitiens Ennius ante bibit,
et cecinit Curios fratres et Horatia pila,
regiaque Aemilia vecta tropaea rate,
victricisque moras Fabii pugnamque sinistram
Cannensem et versos ad pia vota deos,
Hannibalemque Lares Romana sede fugantis,
anseris et tutum voce fuisse Iovem),
cum me Castalia speculans ex arbore Phoebus
sic ait aurata nixus ad antra lyra:
‘quid tibi cum tali, demens, est flumine? quis te
carminis heroi tangere iussit opus?
Propertius, 3.3

Ah me, how light is the sound in my mouth! Yet, whatever flows from the tiny heart of this stream, all of it will serve my country. Let Ennius gird his sayings with a bristly crown: but Bacchus, give me the leaves of your ivy, so that Umbria may swell with pride as the birthplace of the Roman Callimachus!

ei mihi, quod nostro est paruus in ore sonus!
sed tamen exiguo quodcumque e pectore riui
    fluxerit, hoc patriae seruiet omne meae.
Ennius hirsuta cingat sua dicta corona:
    mi folia ex hedera porrige, Bacche, tua,
ut nostris tumefacta superbiat Vmbria libris,
    Vmbria Romani patria Callimachi!

(Propertius, 4.1)

But I have said that he flows like mud, and often bears many things which must be removed from that which should remain. Yet tell me, with all of your learning, do you find nothing to criticize in great Homer? Does pleasing Lucilius change nothing of tragic Accius? Does he not also laugh at the verses of Ennius, which are lighter than the gravity of their subject, when he speaks of himself as not being greater than the things which he reproaches?

at dixi fluere hunc lutulentum, saepe ferentem               50
plura quidem tollenda relinquendis. age quaeso,
tu nihil in magno doctus reprehendis Homero?
nil comis tragici mutat Lucilius Acci?
non ridet versus Enni gravitate minores,
cum de se loquitur non ut maiore reprensis?

Horace, Sermones 1.10.50-55

Yet, Ennius is still given a certain amount of credit for his pioneering efforts. Lucretius and Horace both note the importance of Ennius as a bold adventurer in early Latin versification. Horace, in particular, focuses on his enhancement of Latin vocabulary by “bringing forth new names for things.”

No one knows what the nature of the soul might be, whether it be born, or whether it be inserted into us as we are born, and whether it die at the same time as us, or whether it visits the shadows and vast lakes of Orcus, or whether it insert itself into new flocks, as our Ennius has sung, who first brought down the eternally blooming crown from pleasant Helicon, to appear renowned through all of the Italian races.

ignoratur enim quae sit natura animai,
nata sit an contra nascentibus insinuetur
et simul intereat nobiscum morte dirempta
an tenebras Orci visat vastasque lacunas               115
an pecudes alias divinitus insinuet se,
Ennius ut noster cecinit, qui primus amoeno
detulit ex Helicone perenni fronde coronam,
per gentis Italas hominum quae clara clueret;
Lucretius, 1.112-119

Yet what will the Roman give to Caecilius and Plautus, taken away from Vergil and Varius? Why am I, if I am able to obtain a little, envied, when the language of Cato and Ennius enriched their country’s speech, and brought forth new names for things? It has, and always will be possible to bring forth a name distinguished by some present thing of note.

…. Quid autem
Caecilio Plautoque dabit Romanus, ademptum
Vergilio Varioque? Ego cur, adquirere pauca               55
si possum, inuideor, cum lingua Catonis et Enni
sermonem patrium ditauerit et noua rerum
nomina protulerit? Licuit semperque licebit
signatum praesente nota producere nomen.

Horace, Ars Poetia 53-59

 

Horace also suggests that these early attempts at poetry have been sanctified by their age itself, giving expression to the old notion of gloria primis:

Ennius, a man wise, and brave, and even a second Homer (as the critics say) seems to have given rather light care to where the promises and dreams of Pythagoras fall. Naevius is not to hand, and clings to the mind as though he were almost recent? Such is the sanctity of every ancient poem.

Ennius, et sapiens et fortis et alter Homerus,               50
ut critici dicunt, leuiter curare uidetur
quo promissa cadant et somnia Pythagorea.
Naeuius in manibus non est et mentibus haeret
paene recens? Adeo sanctum est uetus omne poema.

Horace, Epistulae, 2.1.50-54

Yet, for all of the faults which these poets attribute to Ennius, they all accord to him a certain respect. Comparisons to Homer abound, and Ovid suggests that Ennius has earned his immortal fame:

What is sought by our sacred poets, except for fame alone? The sum of our labor inclines to this. At one time, poets were the concern of the gods and kings: ancient choruses bore off great rewards. Poets had a sacred majesty and a respectable name, and great wealth was bestowed upon them. Ennius, born in the Calabrian Mountains, deserved to be placed next to you, great Scipio. Now the ivy crowns lie without honor, and the waking, laborious care exercised by the learned Muses has the name of indolence. But vigilance is a help to Fame: who would have known Homer, if that eternal work, the Iliad, had been hidden?

Quid petitur sacris, nisi tantum fama, poetis?
     Hoc votum nostri summa laboris habet.
Cura deum fuerant olim regumque poetae:               405
     Praemiaque antiqui magna tulere chori.
Sanctaque maiestas et erat venerabile nomen
     Vatibus, et largae saepe dabantur opes.
Ennius emeruit, Calabris in montibus ortus,
     Contiguus poni, Scipio magne, tibi.               410
Nunc ederae sine honore iacent, operataque doctis
     Cura vigil Musis nomen inertis habet.
Sed famae vigilare iuvat: quis nosset Homerum,
     Ilias aeternum si latuisset opus?

Ovid, Ars Amatoria 3.403-414

Finally, Ennius is mentioned along with Homer, not just as a great poet, but also as one who relied on the assistance of Bacchus for his versification:

The sweet Muses almost smelled of wine in the morning; Homer may be proven to be a sot from his praises of wine. Father Ennius himself never sprang to the task of describing battles unless he got drunk first. ‘I will leave the Forum and the Well of Libo to the sober.”

uina fere dulces oluerunt mane Camenae; 5
laudibus arguitur uini uinosus Homerus;
Ennius ipse pater numquam nisi potus ad arma
prosiluit dicenda. ‘Forum putealque Libonis
mandabo siccis, adimam cantare seueris’:
Horace, Epistulae 1.19.5-9

Fire, Sex, and Children Weakened the Human Race

Lucretius, De Rerum Natura, 5.1011-1018

 

“Then, when they had procured shelter, clothing and fire
And woman joined man in one [home]
They were known, they saw their own children born
And the race of man first began to grow weak.
For fire cared for them so that quaking bodies
Could no longer endure the cold under the roof of the sky;
Venus whittled down their strength and children
Easily broke their parents’ proud character with their charms.”

Roman-Lady-of-Leisure-290x300
As usual, the start of all evil…

Inde casas postquam ac pellis ignemque pararunt
et mulier coniuncta viro concessit in unum
* * *
cognita sunt, prolemque ex se videre creatam,
tum genus humanum primum mollescere coepit.
ignis enim curavit, ut alsia corpora frigus
non ita iam possent caeli sub tegmine ferre,
et Venus inminuit viris puerique parentum
blanditiis facile ingenium fregere superbum.

It’s Wednesday: An Eternal Death Awaits, No Matter What

Lucretius, De Rerum Natura 3.1076-1094

 

“Finally, what great and vile desire for life compels us
To quake so much amidst doubts and dangers?
Mortals have an absolute end to our lives:
Death cannot be evaded—we must leave.
Nevertheless, we move again and still persist—
No new pleasure is procured by living;
But while what we desire is absent, that seems to overcome
All other things; but later, when we have gained it, we want something else—
An endless thirst for life grips us as we gasp for it.
It remains unclear what fortune life will offer,
What chance may bring us and what end awaits.
But by extending life we do not subtract a moment
Of time from death nor can we shorten it
So that we may somehow have less time after our ends.
Therefore, you may continue as living as many generations as you want,
But that everlasting death will wait for you still,
And he will be there for no less a long time, the man who
Has found the end of life with today’s light, than the man who died
Many months and many years before.”

Denique tanto opere in dubiis trepidare periclis
quae mala nos subigit vitai tanta cupido?
certe equidem finis vitae mortalibus adstat
nec devitari letum pote, quin obeamus.
praeterea versamur ibidem atque insumus usque
nec nova vivendo procuditur ulla voluptas;
sed dum abest quod avemus, id exsuperare videtur
cetera; post aliud, cum contigit illud, avemus
et sitis aequa tenet vitai semper hiantis.
posteraque in dubiost fortunam quam vehat aetas,
quidve ferat nobis casus quive exitus instet.
nec prorsum vitam ducendo demimus hilum
tempore de mortis nec delibare valemus,
quo minus esse diu possimus forte perempti.
proinde licet quod vis vivendo condere saecla,
mors aeterna tamen nihilo minus illa manebit,
nec minus ille diu iam non erit, ex hodierno
lumine qui finem vitai fecit, et ille,
mensibus atque annis qui multis occidit ante.