Don’t Worry, I Read it For You

Macrobius, Saturnalia (Preface) 1-4

“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.

Image result for ancient greek and roman education

Awkward Correspondence on Paternity: Alexander and Olympias

Aulus Gellius, Attic Nights 13.iv

A transcript of a letter from Alexander to his mother Olympias; and what Olympias wrote back to him.

“In the majority of the records of the deeds of Alexander and rather recently in the book of Marcus Varro, which is called “Orestes” or “On Insanity”, we find that Olympias, the wife of Philipp, most cleverly replied to her son. For, when he wrote to his mother, “King Alexander, the son of Zeus Ammon, sends his greetings to his mother Olympias”, she said “My son, hush! lest you defame me or incriminate me before Juno! She will certainly allot me some great harm once you have confessed in your letters that I am her husband’s adultress.” This courtesy from a wise and prudent woman to a boastful son moderately and elegantly warned him that his puffed-up belief, which he had inflated from great victories, the charms of praise and from successes beyond belief–the idea that he was the offspring of Zeus–ought to be abandoned.”

Descripta Alexandri ad matrem Olympiadem epistula; et quid Olympias festive ei rescripserit.

In plerisque monumentis rerum ab Alexandro gestarum et paulo ante in libro M. Varronis, qui inscriptus est Orestes vel de insania, Olympiadem Philippi uxorem festivissime rescripsisse legimus Alexandro filio. 2 Nam cum is ad matrem ita scripsisset: “Rex Alexander Iovis Hammonis filius Olympiadi matri salutem dicit”, Olympias ei rescripsit ad hanc sententiam: “Amabo”, inquit “mi fili, quiescas neque deferas me neque criminere adversum Iunonem; malum mihi prorsum illa magnum dabit, cum tu me litteris tuis paelicem esse illi confiteris”. 3 Ea mulieris scitae atque prudentis erga ferocem filium comitas sensim et comiter admonuisse eum visa est deponendam esse opinionem vanam, quam ille ingentibus victoriis et adulantium blandimentis et rebus supra fidem prosperis inbiberat, genitum esse sese de Iove.

The Best Things The Gods Gave Us (Aelian, Varia Historia 12.59)

“Pythagoras said that man received these two finest things from the gods: to tell the truth and to do good deeds. And he added that both of these things resemble the works of the gods.”

Πυθαγόρας ἔλεγε δύο ταῦτα ἐκ τῶν θεῶν τοῖς ἀνθρώποις δεδόσθαι κάλλιστα, τό τε ἀληθεύειν καὶ τὸ εὐεργετεῖν· καὶ προσετίθει ὅτι καὶ ἔοικε τοῖς θεῶν ἔργοις ἑκάτερον.

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.