Cicero Was a Cut-Up: Tully’s Jokes

Macrobius, Saturnalia (II.2.3.1-4) 

“I am surprised that you all have been quiet about Cicero’s jokes which prove him as eloquent as in everything else he said. If it seems right, I am prepared—like the guardian of a temple about to announce the oracles of a god—to repeat the Ciceronian jests I remember.

When everyone appeared ready to listen to him, he began: “When Marcus Cicero dined with Damasippus and his host offered him a rather middling wine and said “Drink this forty-year old Falernian,” Cicero replied “It carries its age well.” At another time when he saw his own son-in-law Lentulus, a man of short stature, girded up with a long sword, he asked “Who has attached my son-in-law to a sword?” Nor did he keep a similar bite from his brother Quintus Cicero. For, when visiting the province Quintus that was administering, he saw his brother’s portrait armed with a circular shield sculpted with much greater size near the chest in the manner of pictures (his brother was also a bit on the shorter side), he said “Half of my brother is bigger than the whole!”

Sed miror omnes vos ioca tacuisse Ciceronis, in quibus facundissimus, ut in omnibus, fuit: et, si videtur, ut aedituus responsa numinis sui praedicat ita ego quae memoria suggesserit refero dicta Ciceronis. Tum omnibus ad audiendum erectis ille sic incipit: 2 M. Cicero, cum apud Damasippum coenaret et ille mediocri vino posito diceret: Bibite Falernum hoc, annorum quadraginta est: Bene, inquit, aetatem fert. 3 Idem cum Lentulum generum suum, exiguae naturae hominem, longo gladio adcinctum vidisset: Quis, inquit, generum meum ad gladium alligavit? 4 Nec Q. Ciceroni fratri circa similem mordacitatem pepercit. Nam cum in ea provincia quam ille rexerat vidisset clypeatam imaginem eius ingentibus lineamentis usque ad pectus ex more pictam (erat autem Quintus ipse staturae parvae), ait: Frater meus dimidius maior est quam totus.

Some Advice on Starting the Year Anew from Macrobius

Macrobius, 1.11.8-11

 

“Some are slaves to desire, others to greed, others to ambition; all are enthralled to hope, all to fear. To be sure, there is no slavery more base than one voluntarily undertaken. But we walk all over the man subjected to the yoke imposed by fortune as though he were a wretched and worthless character, but we do not suffer the yoke which we place upon our own necks to be jeered at. You will find among servants one with a deeper purse than the others, you will even find a lord himself kissing the hands of another man’s servants in the hope of financial gain; I do not, therefore, form my opinion of people based on their fortune, but on their character. Chance assigns you a condition, but you give yourself a character.”

alius libidini servit, alius avaritiae, alius ambitioni, omnes spei, omnes timori. et certe nulla servitus turpior quam voluntaria. at nos iugo a fortuna imposito subiacentem tamquam miserum vilemque calcamus, quod vero nos nostris cervicibus inserimus non patimur reprehendi. invenies inter servos aliquem pecunia fortiorem, invenies dominum spe lucri oscula alienorum servorum manibus infigentem: non ergo fortuna homines aestimabo sed moribus. sibi quisque dat mores, condicionem casus adsignat.

Mile-By-Mile Quotes for a Marathon

 

Sentantiae Antiquae is running a Marathon today (For real, Rock N’ Roll San Antonio). Here’s a quote for every mile.

 

Mile 1: Feeling Irrational Noble Thoughts

 

Hesiod Works and Days, 289-90

“The gods made sweat the price for virtue.”

τῆς δ’ ἀρετῆς ἱδρῶτα θεοὶ προπάροιθεν ἔθηκαν

ἀθάνατοι·

 

Actual Shirt Worn During Marathon

Actual Shirt Worn During Marathon Last Year

 

Mile 2: Positive Feelings Continue

 

Horace, Epistles 1.4.12-14

“Amidst hope and anxiety, fear and rage, believe that every day has risen as your last: pleasant is the arrival of the hour which was never expected”.

inter spem curamque, timores inter et iras omnem crede diem tibi diluxisse supremum: grata superveniet quae non sperabitur hora

 

Mile 3: When I try to Check Myself

Plutarch, Agesilaos 2.2

“His weakness made his desire for glory manifest: he would refuse no labor and shirk no deed.”

ἀλλὰ καὶ τὴν φιλοτιμίαν ἐκδηλοτέραν ἐποίει, πρὸς μηδένα πόνον μηδὲ πρᾶξιν ἀπαγορεύοντος αὐτοῦ διὰ τὴν χωλότητα.


Mile 4: Self-Righteous Thoughts Get Delirious

Cicero, Pro Sestio 143

“Let us spurn the rewards of today and look to future glory; let us deem best what is most honorable; let us hope for what we want, but bear what befalls us; finally, let us consider that even the bodies of brave men and great citizens are mortal; but that activity of the mind and the glory of virtue are forever.”

praesentis fructus neglegamus, posteritatis gloriae serviamus; id esse optimum putemus quod erit rectissimum; speremus quae volumus, sed quod acciderit feramus; cogitemus denique corpus virorum fortium magnorum hominum esse mortale, animi vero motus et virtutis gloriam sempiternam

Mile 5: When I start to Make Jokes to Myself about Pheidippides

Lucian, On Mistakes in Greeting

“After saying ‘hello’ he died with his greeting a gasped out a final farewell”

καὶ τοῦτο εἰπὼν συναποθανεῖν τῇ ἀγγελίᾳ καὶ τῷ χαίρειν συνεκπνεῦσαι

Continue reading

Sententiae Lepidae: Publilius’ One-Liners (Macrobius II. 7.11)

The sententious Syrian Publilius Syrus has left to posterity a series of witticisms in verse. Macrobius has preserved some of them for us in his Saturnalia.

“There are some charming sayings of Publilius circulating which are most convenient for regular use. Of these I can remember the following, confined to single-lines.

Who has done a favor for a good man deserves one
You should endure and not blame whatever cannot be changed.
The man who has more than is right wants more than is right
A good companion on the road is as good as a vehicle
Frugality is the penance for a good reputation.
Beneath his mask, a heir’s tear is a grin.
Patience too often tried becomes fury.
A man who is shipwrecked twice blames Neptune wrongly.
Excessive arguing obscures the truth.
It is half a favor if you quickly turn down a request
Approach your friend as you would if you could imagine him an enemy.
You invite a new offense by tolerating an old one.
Danger is never surpassed without danger.”

Publii autem sententiae feruntur lepidae et ad communem usum adcommodatissimae, ex quibus has fere memini singulis versibus circumscriptas

1 Beneficium dando accepit qui digno dedit.
Feras, non culpes, quod mutari non potest.
Cui plus licet quam par est plus vult quam licet.
Comes facundus in via pro vehiculo est.
Frugalitas miseria est rumoris boni.
Heredis fletus sub persona risus est.
Furor fit laesa saepius patientia.
Inprobe Neptunum accusat qui iterum naufragium facit.
Nimium altercando veritas amittitur.
Pars beneficii est, quod petitur si cito neges.
Ita amicum habeas, posse ut fieri hunc inimicum putes.
Veterem ferendo iniuriam invites novam.
Numquam periclum sine periclo vincitur.

Augustus Knew How to Take a Joke (Macrobius, Saturnalia II.4.19-20)

I often wonder in surprise more at the jokes Augustus tolerated than the ones he made (since tolerance is a quality worthier of praise than wit). Especially remarkable are the jests he accepted with ease which were a bit biting. A sharp retort from a certain soldier became well known. A man came to Rome and caused everyone to turn their heads because he was so very similar to Caesar. Augustus order that the man be introduced to him and when he saw him he asked this: “Tell me, young man, was your mother ever in Rome?” He denied that she was, but still not content he added “But my father was often!”

19 Soleo in Augusto magis mirari quos pertulit iocos quam ipse quos protulit, qui maior est patientiae quam facundiae laus, maxime cum aequanimiter aliqua etiam iocis mordaciora pertulerit. 20 Cuiusdam provincialis iocus asper innotuit. Intraverat Romam simillimus Caesari et in se omnium ora converterat. Augustus perduci ad se hominem iussit, visumque hoc modo interrogavit: Dic mihi, adolescens, fuit aliquando mater tua Romae? Negavit ille, nec contentus adiecit: Sed pater meus saepe.

Dressing Up or Dressing Down, Vanity Abounds (Aelian, Historical Miscellany 9.35-6)

“When Diogenes went to Olympia and observed some young Rhodians dressed very finely, he laughed and said “That is vanity.” When at the same time he came upon some Spartans in poorly made and filthy coats, he said, “This is a different kind of vanity.”

Διογένης ἐς ᾿Ολυμπίαν ἐλθὼν καὶ θεασάμενος ἐν τῇ πανηγύρει ῾Ροδιακούς τινας νεανίσκους πολυτελῶς ἠσθημένους, γελάσας ‘τῦφος’ ἔφη ‘τοῦτό ἐστιν.’ εἶτα περιτυχὼν Λακεδαιμονίοις ἐν ἐξωμίσι φαύλαις καὶ ῥυπώσαις ‘ἄλλος’ εἶπεν ‘οὗτος τῦφος.’

“When Socrates saw that Antisthenes was always making the ripped section of his cloak obvious, he said “Won’t you stop showing yourself off to us?” “

῾Ο δὲ Σωκράτης ἰδὼν τὸν ᾿Αντισθένη τὸ διερρωγὸς τοῦ ἱματίου μέρος ἀεὶ ποιοῦντα φανερὸν, ‘οὐ παύσῃ’ ἔφη ‘ἐγκαλλωπιζόμενος ἡμῖν;’

It seems that Socrates and Diogenes might have been some  of the first proponents of #normcore. Certainly the former might wonder if the unexamined cloak is worth wearing…

Aelian? Claudius Aelianus was a third-fourth century BCE author who in addition to writing “On the Nature of Animals” made a collection of historical (literary, mythical, etc.) oddities and anecdotes less polished than the Saturnalia of Macrobius or the Attic Nights of Aulus Gellius, but no less fascinating.

Macrobius, Saturnalia (II.2.3.1-4) Cicero the Stand-Up: Marcus was Quick with a Quip!

“I am surprised that you all have been quiet about Cicero’s jokes which prove him as eloquent as in everything else he said. If it seems right, I am prepared—like the guardian of a temple about to announce the oracles of a god—to repeat the Ciceronian jests I remember.

When everyone appeared ready to listen to him, he began: “When Marcus Cicero dined with Damasippus and his host offered him a rather middling wine and said “Drink this forty-year old Falernian,” Cicero replied “It carries its age well.” At another time when he saw his own son-in-law Lentulus, a man of short stature, girded up with a long sword, he asked “Who has attached my son-in-law to a sword?” Nor did he keep a similar bite from his brother Quintus Cicero. For, when visiting the province Quintus that was administering, he saw his brother’s portrait armed with a circular shield sculpted with much greater size near the chest in the manner of pictures (his brother was also a bit on the shorter side), he said “Half of my brother is bigger than the whole!”

Sed miror omnes vos ioca tacuisse Ciceronis, in quibus facundissimus, ut in omnibus, fuit: et, si videtur, ut aedituus responsa numinis sui praedicat ita ego quae memoria suggesserit refero dicta Ciceronis. Tum omnibus ad audiendum erectis ille sic incipit: 2 M. Cicero, cum apud Damasippum coenaret et ille mediocri vino posito diceret: Bibite Falernum hoc, annorum quadraginta est: Bene, inquit, aetatem fert. 3 Idem cum Lentulum generum suum, exiguae naturae hominem, longo gladio adcinctum vidisset: Quis, inquit, generum meum ad gladium alligavit? 4 Nec Q. Ciceroni fratri circa similem mordacitatem pepercit. Nam cum in ea provincia quam ille rexerat vidisset clypeatam imaginem eius ingentibus lineamentis usque ad pectus ex more pictam (erat autem Quintus ipse staturae parvae), ait: Frater meus dimidius maior est quam totus.

Macrobius, Saturnalia (Preface, 1-4): Nature, Education and the Original Helicopter Parent

“My child Eustathius: nature has imbued our life with many different instincts, but none is greater than the force which binds us to our own children. She has made our need to educate you and raise you so powerful that parents can gain no greater pleasure–if everything goes according to plan–and feel no more savage sorrow, than when they fail. For this reason I have valued nothing more than your education and, because I believe that focused work should be preferred to prolonged diversion–I am intolerant of delays: I cannot wait for you to advance through only the studies you make tirelessly on your own, so I have also made an effort to read for you and to put together whatever I have read spread out among various volumes of Greek and Latin, before and since you were born as a total supplement of knowledge. And, just as if from your own pantry of culture, whenever you need some fact from history which evades other men by hiding in books, or you need to remember some famous deed or saying, it will be easy and efficient for you to find it.”

Multas variasque res in hac vita nobis, Eustachi fili, natura conciliavit: sed nulla nos magis quam eorum qui e nobis essent procreati caritate devinxit, eamque nostram in his educandis atque erudiendis curam esse voluit, ut parentes neque, si id quod cuperent ex sententia cederet, tantum ulla alia ex re voluptatis, neque, si contra eveniret, tantum maeroris capere possent.Hinc est quod mihi quoque institutione tua nihil antiquius aestimatur, ad cuius perfectionem compendia longis amfractibus anteponenda ducens moraeque omnis inpatiens non opperior ut per haec sola promoveas quibus ediscendis naviter ipse invigilas, sed ago ut ego quoque tibi legerim, et quicquid mihi, vel te iam in lucem edito vel antequam nascereris, in diversis seu Graecae seu Romanae linguae voluminibus elaboratum est, id totum sit tibi scientiae supellex, et quasi de quodam litterarum peno, si quando usus venerit aut historiae quae in librorum strue latens clam vulgo est aut dicti factive memorabilis reminiscendi, facile id tibi inventu atque depromptu sit.

The full text.

Macrobius Ambrosius Theodosius. His friends just called him Mat.

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