“Now you, then, doctor of my deepest self, tell me what benefit I will reap from my work. For the confessions of my previous mistakes–the ones you have pardoned and buried so that I might feel joy in you, changing my soul with faith and your worship–when they are read and told move the heart so that it may not slumber in desperation and just say, “I can’t”.
Instead, it will stay awake in its love of your pity and the sweetness of your grace, which makes everyone who is weak strong when you help them understand their own weakness. It pleases good people as well to hear the mistakes of those who have now escaped them. They take pleasure not because of the wrong that was done, but because those mistakes existed once but persist no more.”
(4) Verum tamen tu, medice meus intime, quo fructu ista faciam, eliqua mihi. nam confessiones praeteritorum malorum meorum, quae remisisti et texisti ut beares me in te, mutans animam meam fide et sacramento tuo, cum leguntur et audiuntur, excitant cor ne dormiat in desperatione et dicat, “non possum,” sed evigilet in amore misericordiae tuae et dulcedine gratiae tuae, qua potens est omnis infirmus qui sibi per ipsam fit conscius infirmitatis suae. et delectat bonos audire praeterita mala eorum qui iam carent eis, nec ideo delectat quia mala sunt, sed quia fuerunt et non sunt.
In the Iliad, Pandarus’ status as hero is marked by his distinctive weapon: a bow. On battlefields where spears are most common, a bow stands out.
In the Catalogue of Ships Homer gives the bow’s genealogy:
Iliad 2. 824-827
They who lived in Zeleia, under Mt. Ida’s farthest foot,
Rich from drinking the dark water of the river Aesepus,
They were Trojans, and their leader was Lycaon’s brave son,
Pandarus, the man to whom Apollo himself gave a bow.
Later, however, when Pandarus violates the truce by shooting Menelaus, Homer gives the bow a different genealogy:
And right away he grabbed his polished bow.
It was made from the horns of a prancing goat,
A wild goat he himself had shot beneath the breastplate.
There he’d been, lying in wait, when it capered out
A hollow in the rocks. He shot it square in the chest
And down it went, back into the rocky crevice.
Horns sixteen palms long–some 4 feet, that is–grew from its head.
It was these a craftsman, expert in making bows from horns,
Joined together, polished top to bottom, and tipped with gold.
This was the bow he set down with care to string,
Bracing it on the ground.
Let’s call these contradictory accounts something other than a mistake on Homer’s part.
The two passages show two methods at the singer’s disposal for accomplishing the same end–namely, to mark the bow (and by extension, Pandarus) as special.
But having two genealogies also allows Homer to make two points, and those points reinforce one another.
When Homer makes the bow a gift from Apollo, the gift is both the bow itself and the skill of archery. Like Agamemnon’s scepter, fashioned by a god and passed to men, the bow exists in, and yet it is not of, human time. The object, and what it represents, will outlast the mortal recipient. It is imperishable.
In the second genealogy, the bow is special precisely because it is the product of human making. And this allows Homer to make a point about mortal frailty. The skillful killing of the goat would seem to anticipate how Pandarus will kill his man. But of course he fails, and ultimately he is killed while trying to kill. Human excellence, Homer seems to say, is only so reliable.
And let’s put another of Homer’s “mistakes” to use. Homer’s craftsman fashions the bow by joining the goat’s two horns. Commentators have noted that a bow made in this way would not produce enough power to kill anything at a distance. And that’s precisely the point! What comes from human hands–even the best of hands–is fallible.
All of this is to say, even Homer’s “mistakes” accomplish a lot.
There is a matter of Necessity, a decree of the gods,
Ancient, eternal, and sealed with broad oaths:
When someone commits the sin of murder
He pollutes his dear limbs, breaching his oath.
But since spirits are allotted long lives,
He’s to wander thirty-thousand years
Separated from the blessed ones,
Coming into being throughout time
As every kind of mortal thing,
This then that painful way of being.
Aether’s might pursues him into in the sea,
Then sea spits him out onto the earth’s floor;
Earth pelts him into the shining sun’s rays,
And that last throws him into aether’s whirls.
One then another, and all despise him.
I’m one of them myself–an exile from god and a wanderer,
Because I put my trust in frenzied Strife.
“….For they are not desirous of honors. It is indeed necessary to add some compulsion and penalty on them if they are intending to be willing to rule. This is likely the reason that a willingness to go to office without facing compulsion is considered shameful.
But the greatest penalty is to be ruled by someone worse if a person is not willing to hold office himself. It seems to me that people of propriety hold office (when they do) because they fear that outcome and that they enter into power not because they are going after something good or because they enjoy it, but because it is necessary and they are not able to entrust it to those better than themselves or their equals.”
The earliest instance of this I can find online is from 1963, in Proceedings and Debates of the Congress, 109, part 29. If you search google books, you will find this quote is really popular in management leadership books where it debuts in the early 2000s and finds steady, unattributed representation.
Wikiquote.com notes that this is an “unsourced quotation”. It should not be considered so, but its use might receive a little more nuanced: this passage is about how ‘good’ people should not be interested in power and enter into it not for profit or possible self-interest, but to prevent lesser people from ruling and harming the state. This is an old-fashioned Greek noblesse oblige. But it is not a fake quote.
"τῆς δὲ ζημίας μεγίστη τὸ ὑπὸ πονηροτέρου ἄρχεσθαι, ἐὰν μὴ αὐτὸς ἐθέλῃ ἄρχειν" "But the chief penalty is to be governed by someone worse if a man will not himself hold office and rule." But yeah, totally fake.
Thanks to those who called me out on the tweet. And to those who didn’t: call me out when I am wrong and I will fix it! As Cicero says: “All men make mistakes; but it is fools who persist in them” cuiusvis hominis est errare; nullius nisi insipientis perseverare in errore (Philippics 12.5). Or, as I prefer it: “any person can fuck up: but only fools keep fucking up in the same way.”
“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?