It Is Their Fault They Suffer: Libanius with Some Malicious Stupidity

At the news that thousands of children are still separated (and being separated) from their families at the border, some Americans lay the blame on their parents, claiming that if they all just stayed home, we wouldn’t have to put them in concentration camps. This is a rather ancient rhetorical strategy.

Libanius, Oration 23.1-2

“We are all hearing the reports that everywhere is filled with corpses—the fields, the roads, the hills, crests, caves, peaks, groves, and trenches—and that some of the corpses are feasts for birds and beasts while the rivers carry others to the sea.

I am sometimes surprised by this news but at other times I blame those who suffer it and I say that they have suffered what is right, that they have earned this for going into exile. You might even say that they invited upon themselves the swords of their murderers.

They would not have suffered these things if they stayed at home. They have met these events because they are wandering and are offering themselves as a feast to these men who have been criminals for a long time. Think of it like this: they have made others into bandits by making the inducement greater! Who could pity people who ruin themselves willingly?”

Τὰ μὲν ἀγγελλόμενα πάντες ἀκούομεν, ἅπαντα εἶναι μεστὰ νεκρῶν, τάς τε ἀρούρας τάς τε ὁδοὺς τά τε ὄρη τούς τε λόφους τά τε σπήλαια καὶ τὰς κορυφὰς τῶν ὀρῶν καὶ τὰ ἄλση καὶ τὰς φάραγγας, τῶν τε νεκρῶν τοὺς μὲν ἑστιᾶν ὄρνιθας καὶ θηρία, τοὺς δὲ ὑπὸ τοῦ ποταμοῦ πρὸς θάλατταν φέρεσθαι.

πρὸς τοίνυν τὰς ἀγγελίας ποτὲ μὲν πλήττομαι, ποτὲ δὲ τοῖς παθοῦσιν ἐγκαλῶ καί φημι δίκαια πεπονθέναι τοὺς τῆς φυγῆς ταῦτα ἀπολαύσαντας. οὓς φαίη τις ἂν αὐτοὺς ἐπισπάσασθαι τὰ τῶν κακούργων ξίφη. ἃ γὰρ οὐκ ἂν ἐπεπόνθεσαν οἴκοι μένοντες, τούτοις περιέπεσον πλανώμενοι θοίνην μὲν αὑτοὺς προθέντες τοῖς πάλαι λῃστεύουσι, ποιήσαντες | δὲ λῃστὰς ἑτέρους τῷ ποιῆσαι πολὺ τὸ πεισόμενον. ἑκόντας οὖν ἀπολωλότας τίς ἂν ἐλεήσειε;

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York Psalter, c. 1170 CE: Adam and Eve Expelled from Eden

On Homer’s Poverty and Lies

Dio Chrysosthom, Oration 11. 15-19

“First, people claim that Homer was a beggar in Greece because of his poverty and lack of means. But they believe that this sort of a man is incapable of lying for the sake of those who gave him things, that he would not say the sorts of things he would intend only to please them! Yet people say that beggars today say nothing credible, and no one ever provides one as a witness on anything, nor do they ever accept praise from them as something true. For they know that beggars say everything to manipulate, by necessity.

And then they say that some people gave money to a beggar while others gave money to a madman and that they think the people then decided he was crazy when he was speaking truth rather than lying. Really, I am not so much rebuking Homer in these things. For nothing prevents a wise man from begging or seeming insane. But I am saying that, according to the belief people hold about Homer and these sort of people, nothing they say is believable.

Furthermore, they do not believe that lying is in Homer’s nature or that he employs this sort of thing at all. Yet he makes Odysseus lie the most, a man he praises, and he says that Autolykos even breaks an oath and that this was granted to him by Hermes! Nearly everyone agrees that Homer says nothing true about the gods, even those who praise him, and they try to offer various defenses, that he does not say these things because he means them but because he is riddling and using metaphor. What keeps him from speaking this way about men too?

For, whoever speaks nothing manifestly true about the gods, but so much to the contrary that people who encounter them take them as lies—and which bring no help to the singer—how would he hesitate to utter any kind of falsehood about men too? Many have previously noted that he has created gods grieving and groaning, wounded and nearly dying, and has added divine adulteries, bonding, and vows. I don’t wish to prosecute Homer, only to show what the truth was. I will also defend the matters as they seem to me. I say that he showed no hesitation in lying and did not think it a shame. I will move now to consider whether he was right or not.”

πρῶτον μὲν οὖν φασι τὸν ῞Ομηρον ὑπὸ πενίας τε καὶ ἀπορίας προσαιτεῖν ἐν τῇ ῾Ελλάδι· τὸν δὲ τοιοῦτον ἀδύνατον ἡγοῦνται ψεύσασθαι πρὸς χάριν τῶν διδόντων, οὐδ’ ἂν τὰ τοιαῦτα λέγειν ὁποῖα ἔμελλεν ἐκείνοις καθ’ ἡδονὴν ἔσεσθαι· τοὺς δὲ νῦν πτωχοὺς οὐδέν φασιν ὑγιὲς λέγειν, οὐδὲ μάρτυρα οὐδεὶς ἂν ἐκείνων οὐδένα ποιήσαιτο ὑπὲρ οὐδενός, οὐδὲ τοὺς ἐπαίνους τοὺς παρ’ αὐτῶν ἀποδέχονται ὡς ἀληθεῖς. ἴσασι γὰρ ὅτι πάντα θωπεύοντες ὑπ’ ἀνάγκης λέγουσιν. ἔπειτα δὲ εἰρήκασι τοὺς μὲν ὡς πτωχῷ, τοὺς δὲ ὡς μαινομένῳ ἀπάρχεσθαι, καὶ μᾶλλον οἴονται τοὺς τότε καταγνῶναι αὐτοῦ μανίαν τἀληθῆ λέγοντος ἢ ψευδομένου. οὐ μὴν ὅσον γε ἐπὶ τούτοις ψέγω ῞Ομηρον· κωλύει γὰρ οὐθὲν ἄνδρα σοφὸν πτωχεύειν οὐδὲ μαίνεσθαι δοκεῖν· ἀλλ’ ὅτι κατὰ τὴν ἐκείνων δόξαν, ἣν ἔχουσι περὶ ῾Ομήρου καὶ περὶ τῶν τοιούτων, εἰκός ἐστι μηθὲν ὑγιὲς εἶναι τῶν εἰρημένων ὑπ’ αὐτοῦ.

οὐ τοίνυν οὐδὲ τόδε νομίζουσιν, οὐκ εἶναι ἐν τῇ ῾Ομήρου φύσει τὸ ψεῦδος οὐδὲ ἀποδέχεσθαι αὐτὸν τοιοῦτον <οὐδέν>· πλεῖστα γοῦν τὸν ᾿Οδυσσέα πεποίηκε ψευδόμενον, ὃν μάλιστα ἐπῄνει, τὸν δὲ Αὐτόλυκον καὶ ἐπιορκεῖν φησι, καὶ τοῦτ’ αὐτῷ παρὰ τοῦ ῾Ερμοῦ δεδόσθαι. περὶ δὲ θεῶν πάντες, ὡς ἔπος εἰπεῖν, ὁμολογοῦσι μηθὲν ἀληθὲς λέγειν ῞Ομηρον καὶ οἱ πάνυ ἐπαινοῦντες αὐτόν, καὶ τοιαύτας ἀπολογίας πειρῶνται πορίζειν, ὅτι οὐ φρονῶν ταῦτ’ ἔλεγεν, ἀλλ’ αἰνιττόμενος καὶ μεταφέρων. τί οὖν κωλύει καὶ περὶ τῶν ἀνθρώπων αὐτὸν οὕτως εἰρηκέναι; ὅστις γὰρ περὶ θεῶν οὐ φανερῶς τἀληθῆ φησιν, ἀλλὰ τοὐναντίον οὕτως ὥστε τὰ ψευδῆ μᾶλλον ὑπολαμβάνειν τοὺς ἐντυγχάνοντας, καὶ ταῦτα μηδὲν ὠφελούμενος, πῶς ἂν περί γε ἀνθρώπων ὀκνήσειεν ὁτιοῦν ψεῦδος εἰπεῖν; καὶ ὅτι μὲν πεποίηκεν ἀλγοῦντας τοὺς θεοὺς καὶ στένοντας καὶ τιτρωσκομένους καὶ ἀποθνῄσκοντας σχεδόν, ἔτι δὲ μοιχείας καὶ δεσμὰ καὶ διεγγυήσεις θεῶν, οὐ λέγω, πρότερον εἰρημένα πολλοῖς. οὐδὲ γὰρ βούλομαι κατηγορεῖν ῾Ομήρου, μόνον δὲ ἐπιδεῖξαι τἀληθὲς ὡς γέγονεν· ἐπεί τοι καὶ ἀπολογήσομαι περὶ αὐτοῦ τὰ ἐμοὶ δοκοῦντα. ὅτι δὲ τὸ ψεῦδος οὐκ ὤκνει πάντων μάλιστα οὐδὲ αἰσχρὸν ἐνόμιζε, τοῦτο λέγω· πότερον δὲ ὀρθῶς ἢ μὴ παρίημι νῦν σκοπεῖν.

 

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Trojan-War Truther Types on Tablet

Deceptive Faces and Useful Snakes

Hyperides was a politician and speech-writer during the 4th century BCE in Athens.

Uncertain Fragments

1. “Teachers must examine whatever is unclear by means of evidence and what is likely.”

Ἃ δ᾿ ἐστὶν ἀφανῆ, ἀνάγκη τοὺς διδάσκοντας τεκμηρίοις καὶ τοῖς εἰκόσι ζητεῖν.

Clem. Alex. Strom. vi. 625

 

2. “Peoples’ faces bear no traces of their opinions.”

Χαρακτὴρ οὐδεὶς ἔπεστιν ἐπὶ τοῦ προσώπου τῆς διανοίας τοῖς ἀνθρώποις.

Clem. Alex. Strom. vi. 625 c

 

11.“A good person must show what they think in words and what they do in deeds”

 Δεῖ τὸν ἀγαθὸν ἐπιδείκνυσθαι ἐν μὲν τοῖς λόγοις ἃ φρονεῖ, ἐν δὲ τοῖς ἔργοις ἃ ποιεῖ.

Max. Conf. Loci Comm. col. 729

 

12. “People are restrained from injustice by two things: fear and shame”

Διὰ δύο προφάσεις τῶν ἀδικημάτων οἱ ἄνθρωποι ἀπέχονται, ἢ διὰ φόβον ἢ διὰ αἰσχύνην.

Max. Conf. Loci Comm. col. 753

 

13. “The least educated of all things is verbal abuse”

 Πάντων ἀπαιδευτότατον (ἔφη) τὸ λοιδορεῖν.

Dionys. Antiochi, Epist. 79.

Fr. 19.5

“[It is true] that politicians are like snakes. Some snakes are completely hateful: some of those snakes, adders, harm people; but the brown ones eat the adders.”

Εἶναι δὲ τοὺς ῥήτορας ὁμοίους τοῖς ὄφεσι· τούς τε γὰρ ὄφεις μισητοὺς μὲν εἶναι πάντας, τῶν δὲ ὄφεων αὐτῶν τοὺς μὲν ἔχεις τοὺς ἀνθρώπους ἀδικεῖν, τοὺς δὲ παρείας αὐτοὺς τοὺς ἔχεις κατεσθίειν.

 

Opinion: A Product of Habit and Pleasure

Dio Chrysostom, the 68th Discourse On Opinion

“Most people practice however many things they do or desire even though they don’t understand about any of them what kind of thing they are or what type of benefit they provide—they are compelled by opinion or pleasure or habit to these things. It is the same too in however many things they avoid and are careful not to do: they do not abstain because they know it is harmful or what kind of harm certain matters threaten, but because they see others taking care concerning these things or just because they have been in the habit of caution regarding affairs or because they imagine that these matters must be unpleasant for them and present what seems to be toilsome, they are really suspicious of them.

And, in addition, the matter of pleasure and toil is common to all people even though some people are slaves to them more than others. But opinion is ungoverned and is not the same for all. This is why some people praise these things and carp at those and others often do the complete opposite.”

Οἱ πολλοὶ ἄνθρωποι ὁπόσα ἐπιτηδεύουσιν ἢ ζηλοῦσιν, οὐδὲν αὐτῶν εἰδότες ὁποῖόν ἐστιν οὐδὲ ἥντινα ἔχει ὠφέλειαν ἐπιτηδεύουσιν, ἀλλ᾿ ὑπὸ δόξης ἢ ἡδονῆς ἢ συνηθείας ἀγόμενοι πρὸς αὐτά· οὐδ᾿ αὖ ὅσων ἀπέχονται καὶ εὐλαβοῦνται μὴ πράττειν, εἰδότες ἃ βλάπτει ἀπέχονται οὐδὲ ὁποίαν τινὰ φέρει τὴν βλάβην, ἀλλὰ καὶ τούτων ὅσα ὁρῶσι τοὺς ἄλλους εὐλαβουμένους ἢ περὶ ὧν ἂν εἰς ἔθος καταστῶσιν ὥστε εὐλαβεῖσθαι, ἢ ἃ νομίζουσιν ἀηδῆ ἔσεσθαι αὐτοῖς καὶ πόνον τινὰ δοκεῖ ἔχειν, ὡς τὸ πολὺ ταῦτα ὑποπτεύουσιν.

Καὶ τὸ μὲν τῆς ἡδονῆς καὶ τὸ τοῦ πόνου πᾶσι κοινόν· ἀλλ᾿ οἱ μὲν ἧττον, οἱ δὲ1 μᾶλλον ὑπ᾿ αὐτῶν δουλοῦνται· τὸ δὲ τῆς δόξης ἀνόμοιον καὶ οὐ ταὐτὸ πᾶσιν. ὅθεν οἱ μὲν ταῦτα, οἱ δὲ ταῦτα ἐπαινοῦσι καὶ ψέγουσι, πολλάκις τἀναντία.

Detail from "The Rutland Psalter", medieval (c1260), British Library Add MS 62925. f 70v
Detail from “The Rutland Psalter”, medieval (c1260), British Library Add MS 62925. f 70v

 

Don’t Try to Make that Speech Too Perfect

Quintilian, 9.4 (112)

“This whole topic is handled here not merely to make oratory, which should move and flow, grow ancient because it must measure out each foot and weigh out each syllable. No, that is what miserable minds who are obsessed with minor things think about.

No one who throws himself into this concern completely will have any time for more important matters if, once the weight of the material is forgotten and polish itself is rejected, he constructs “mosaic work”, as Lucilius says, and works his words together in “vermiculate construction”. Won’t his fire cool down and his force diminish, the same way show-riders break the pace of their horses with a dancing gait?”

Totus vero hic locus non ideo tractatur a nobis ut oratio, quae ferri debet ac fluere, dimetiendis pedibus ac perpendendis syllabis consenescat: nam id cum miseri, tum in minimis occupati est: neque enim qui se totum in hac cura consumpserit potioribus vacabit, si quidem relicto rerum pondere ac nitore contempto ‘tesserulas’, ut ait Lucilius, struet et vermiculate inter se lexis committet. Nonne ergo refrigeretur sic calor et impetus pereat, ut equorum cursum delicati minutis passibus frangunt?

Demosthenes, Practicing

Potions and Spells: Crimes and their Legal Names

Quintilian, 7.3.10

“A different kind of question arises when the argument depends on a word which comes from a written text. This does not happen in courtrooms unless the words shape the legal outcome: is killing oneself a homicide? Is the one who compels a tyrant to kill himself a tyrannicide? Are magical spells like poisoning?

The matter is clear. Suicide is not understood as being the same as killing another person; it is not the same thing to kill a tyrant and compel him to die. Spells are not the same thing as mortal poison. The issue is whether they should be referred to with the same legal name.”

Diversum est genus cum controversia consistit in nomine quod pendet ex scripto, nec versatur in iudiciis nisi propter verba quae litem faciunt: an qui se interficit homicida sit, an qui tyrannum in mortem compulit tyrannicida, an carmina magorum veneficium. Res enim manifesta est sciturque non idem esse occidere se quod alium, non idem occidere tyrannum quod compellere ad mortem, non idem carmina ac mortiferam potionem, quaeritur tamen an eodem nomine appellanda sint.

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Spell book?

On Using Humor in Public Speaking

Cicero, De inventione

“If the matter allows, it is not useless to begin from some different angle or with a joke or something which you think up on the spot, the sort of thing which gets applause and shouts. You might also use something which is prepared for you, an anecdote, fable, or something else which has something funny in it.

If the gravity of the affair prohibits a sense of humor, it is not inappropriate to include something sad, unknown, or pretty dreadful right from the beginning. For, just as weariness for good can be treated with some small bite or lightened by something sweet, a mind tired of listening is reinvigorated by amazement or a laugh.”

Sin res dabit, non inutile est ab aliqua re nova aut ridicula incipere aut ex tempore quae nata sit, quod genus strepitu acclamatione; aut iam parata, quae vel apologum vel fabulam vel aliquam contineat irrisionem; aut si rei dignitas adimet iocandi facultatem, aliquid triste, novum, horribile statim non incommodum est inicere. Nam, ut cibi satietas et fastidium aut subamara aliqua re relevatur aut dulci mitigatur, sic animus defessus audiendo aut admiratione integratur aut risu novatur.

Some Examples of Ciceronian jokes:

Macrobius, Saturnalia 2.1:

“Who is there, that has taken care to read those those books of his jokes which his freedman composed, who does not know how much Cicero excelled in humor?   (Though, some suspect that the freedman was the author.) Who is there, who doesn’t know that he was often called the ‘consular clown’ by his enemies? Vatinius mentioned this in his own speech. I would, if it wouldn’t take too long, recall those cases in which he represented guilty clients, which he won by joking.”

Cicero autem quantum in ea re valuerit quis ignorat qui vel liberti eius libros quos is de iocis patroni conposuit, quos quidam ipsius putant esse, legere curavit? Quis item nescit consularem eum scurram ab inimicis appellari solitum? quod in oratione etiam sua Vatinius posuit. Atque ego, ni longum esset, referrem, in quibus causis, cum nocentissimos reos tueretur, victoriam iocis adeptus sit.

Aulus Gellius, Attic Nights 12.12

12 The clever response of Marcus Cicero as he defends himself against a claim of obvious lying

“This is a part of rhetorical training too—to admit criminal matters not subject to danger cleverly and with charm so that, if something foul is alleged which cannot be denied, you may defuse it with a humorous response and make the whole matter more dignified with a joke rather than an allegation, just as it is recorded that Cicero did when he tempered what could not be denied with a clever and amusing comment.

For when Cicero wanted to purchase a house on the Palatine hill and he did not have the money at hand, he accepted in private as much as two million sesterces [$100,000?] from Publius Sulla* who was then a defendant in a case. But the whole matter was made public before he bought the house and he was charged with receiving money for buying a house from an accused defendant. So then, troubled by the unanticipated criticism, Cicero denied that he had received the money and denied that he would have bought the house, saying “Indeed, If I buy the house, it is true that I took the money”.

But later, when he had bought the house and was charged with being a liar in the senate by his enemies, he laughed plenty and said while chuckling: “You are senseless men if you don’t know that it is a mark of a wise and cautious head of a family, when he wants to buy something, to deny that he wants to buy it to scare off competitors!”

*He was charged for participating in the conspiracy with Cataline.

XII Faceta responsio M. Ciceronis amolientis a se crimen manifesti mendacii.

[1] Haec quoque disciplina rhetorica est callide et cum astu res criminosas citra periculum confiteri, ut, si obiectum sit turpe aliquid, quod negari non queat, responsione ioculari eludas et rem facias risu magis dignam quam crimine, sicut fecisse Ciceronem scriptum est, cum id, quod infitiari non poterat, urbano facetoque dicto diluit. [2] Nam cum emere uellet in Palatio domum et pecuniam in praesens non haberet, a P. Sulla, qui tum reus erat, mutua sestertium uiciens tacita accepit. [3] Ea res tamen, priusquam emeret, prodita est et in uulgus exiuit, obiectumque ei est, quod pecuniam domus emendae causa a reo accepisset. [4] Tum Cicero inopinata obprobratione permotus accepisse se negauit ac domum quoque se empturum negauit atque ‘adeo’ inquit ‘uerum sit accepisse me pecuniam, si domum emero’. Sed cum postea emisset et hoc mendacium in senatu ei ab inimicis obiceretur, risit satis atque inter ridendum: ‘ἀκοινονόητοι’ inquit ‘homines estis, cum ignoratis prudentis et cauti patrisfamilias esse, quod emere uelit, empturum sese negare propter competitores emptionis.’

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.

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