Pickpockets of Words

Quintilian, 8.3 (29-31)

“Sallust is assailed by an epigram of no less repute: “Crispus, pickpocket of the words of Ancient Cato / and architect of Jugurtha’s history”. This is a pitifully minor concern—for it is easy for anyone and really poor because the composer will not fit words to facts but will introduce unrelated facts when the words are easier to use.

Neologism, as I said in the first book, is more a custom of the Greeks who are not reluctant to change words for certain sounds and feelings with a liberty little different from when early human beings first gave names to things. Our rare attempts in compounding or deriving new words have rarely been welcomed as sufficient.”

Nec minus noto Sallustius epigrammate incessitur et verba antiqui multum furate Catonis,: Crispe, Iugurthinae conditor historiae.

Odiosa cura: nam et cuilibet facilis et hoc pessima, quod eius studiosus non verba rebus aptabit, sed res extrinsecus arcesset quibus haec verba conveniant. Fingere, ut primo libro dixi, Graecis magis concessum est, qui sonis etiam quibusdam et adfectibus non dubitaverunt nomina aptare, non alia libertate quam qua illi primi homines rebus appellationes dederunt. Nostri aut in iungendo aut in derivando paulum aliquid ausi vix in hoc satis recipiuntur.

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 British Library MS Additional 49622 fol. 153r

Make Up Words and Authorities Who Said Them!

Lucian, A Professor of Public Speaking, 17

“There are times when you yourself make up new and different words and decide to call one interpreter “fine-spoken”, another smart man “wise-brained”, or some dancer “hands-wise”. Let shamelessness be the one medicine you use if you offer a solecism or barbarism: immediately offer up the name of someone who doesn’t exist and never did—some poet or scholar—a wise man who was expertly precise in his language and condoned speaking in this way. But don’t read the classics at all, especially not the silly Isocrates, or the Demosthenes blessed with little skill, or the boring Plato. No! read only those speeches from those a little bit before our time and those things they call ‘practice-pieces” so you may have a supply of phrases you can use at the right time as if you were pulling something from a pantry.”

ἐνίοτε δὲ καὶ αὐτὸς ποίει καινὰ καὶ ἀλλόκοτα ὀνόματα καὶ νομοθέτει τὸν μὲν ἑρμηνεῦσαι δεινὸν “εὔλεξιν” καλεῖν, τὸν συνετὸν “σοφόνουν,” τὸν ὀρχηστὴν δὲ “χειρίσοφον.” ἂν σολοικίσῃς δὲ ἢ βαρβαρίσῃς, ἓν ἔστω φάρμακον ἡ ἀναισχυντία, καὶ πρόχειρον εὐθὺς ὄνομα οὔτε ὄντος τινὸς οὔτε γενομένου ποτέ, ἢ ποιητοῦ ἢ συγγραφέως, ὃς οὕτω λέγειν ἐδοκίμαζε σοφὸς ἀνὴρ καὶ τὴν φωνὴν εἰς τὸ ἀκρότατον ἀπηκριβωμένος. ἀλλὰ καὶ ἀναγίγνωσκε τὰ παλαιὰ μὲν μὴ σύ γε, μηδὲ εἴ τι ὁ λῆρος Ἰσοκράτης ἢ ὁ χαρίτων ἄμοιρος Δημοσθένης ἢ ὁ ψυχρὸς Πλάτων, ἀλλὰ τοὺς τῶν ὀλίγον πρὸ ἡμῶν λόγους καὶ ἅς φασι ταύτας μελέτας, ὡς ἔχῃς ἀπ᾿ ἐκείνων ἐπισιτισάμενος ἐν καιρῷ καταχρῆσθαι καθάπερ ἐκ ταμιείου προαιρῶν.

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Arrighi, Royal 12 C VIII f. 3v. Pandolfo Collenuccio of Pesaro (d. 1504), Lucian, Collenuccio’s Apologues

You Missed My Lecture? No Big Deal.

Cicero, Letter 192 (7.33) to Volumnius Eutrapelus

“The fact that you didn’t hear my speeches is no great loss for you. When it comes to your envy of Hirtius, well, if you did not care for him, there would be no reason for envy, unless of course you were jealous of his own eloquence rather than the fact that he got to witness mine.

On my part, my sweetest friend, I am nothing. Or, I am so dissatisfied with my speeches since I lost my old competitors as you are applauding—if I ever publish anything worthy of my reputation, I groan at this line, “these weapons strike on a feather bound body, not an armored one, and my fame has been exposed for what it is” as Philoctetes complains in Accius”

Quod declamationibus nostris cares, damni nihil facis. quod Hirtio invideres nisi eum amares, non erat causa invidendi, nisi forte ipsius eloquentiae magis quam quod me audiret invideres. nos enim plane, mi suavissime Volumni, aut nihil sumus aut nobis quidem ipsis displicemus gregalibus illis quibus te plaudente vigebamus amissis, ut etiam, si quando aliquid dignum nostro nomine emisimus, ingemiscamus quod haec ‘pinnigero, non armigero in corpore tela exerceantur,’ ut ait Philoctetes apud Accium, ‘abiecta gloria.’

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K067546 Royal 17 E. iii f. 93v

Worse Through Words: National Emergencies and War

Cicero, Philippic 8.2

“But what is the substance of the controversy? Some people were thinking that the title “war” should not be given in the statement; they were preferring to use the term “national emergency” because they are ignorant not only of the matter but of words too. For a war is possible without a “national emergency”, but a “national emergency”, however, cannot exist without a war. What thing could be a “national emergency” but a trouble so great that a serious fear arises?

This is where the terminology itself for “national emergency” [tumultus] comes from. For our ancestors used to say that there was a “national emergency” in Italy  which was domestic or a “national emergency” in Gaul, which is on our border, but they used to call nothing else that. And that a “national emergency” is, moreover, more serious than a war can be understood from the fact that exemptions from service are valid in war but they are not in “national emergency”.

Therefore, as I was just saying, a war can exist without a “national emergency” but a “national emergency” cannot exist without a war. And since there can be no middle-ground between war and peace, it is true that a “national emergency”, if it is not part of a war, must be part of a peace. And what could be a crazier to say or imagine? But I have gone on too long about a word. Let’s look at the matter itself, Senators, which I do think often can become worse through language.”

At in quo fuit controversia? Belli nomen ponendum quidam in sententia non putabant: tumultum appellare malebant, ignari non modo rerum sed etiam verborum: potest enim esse bellum ut tumultus non sit, tumultus autem esse sine bello non potest. Quid est enim aliud tumultus nisi perturbatio tanta ut maior timor oriatur? Unde etiam nomen ductum est tumultus. Itaque maiores nostri tumultum Italicum quod erat domesticus, tumultum Gallicum quod erat Italiae finitimus, praeterea nullum nominabant. Gravius autem tumultum esse quam bellum hinc intellegi potest quod bello [Italico] vacationes valent, tumultu non valent. Ita fit, quem ad modum dixi, ut bellum sine tumultu possit, tumultus sine bello esse non possit.4Etenim cum inter bellum et pacem medium nihil sit, necesse est tumultum, si belli non sit, pacis esse: quo quid absurdius dici aut existimari potest? Sed nimis multa de verbo. Rem potius videamus, patres conscripti, quam quidem intellego verbo fieri interdum deteriorem solere.

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There is a town called Cicero. It responds to emergencies.

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

Demosthenes On Gift-Giving and Silence

Demosthenes, On the Crown 268-9

“This was my behavior in my actions for the city. In private matters, if any of you do not know that I have been generous and kind and solicitous of those in need, I am silent and I say nothing and present no witness of these things, not the war prisoners I have ransomed, nor the money I have provided for daughters, nor anything like that at all.

This is a rule I live by. I believe that the person who receives a favor should remember it for the rest of time but that the person who does it should forget it immediately for the former to act rightly and the latter not to play the part of a cheap-minded person. To remind someone of a favor you have provided in private and to speak so cheaply is just like reproaching them. I will not do anything like this but however I am considered about these things will be enough for me.”

Ἐν μὲν τοίνυν τοῖς πρὸς τὴν πόλιν τοιοῦτος· ἐν δὲ τοῖς ἰδίοις εἰ μὴ πάντες ἴσθ᾿ ὅτι κοινὸς καὶ φιλάνθρωπος καὶ τοῖς δεομένοις ἐπαρκῶν, σιωπῶ καὶ οὐδὲν ἂν εἴποιμ᾿ οὐδὲ παρασχοίμην περὶ τούτων οὐδεμίαν μαρτυρίαν, οὔτ᾿ εἴ τινας ἐκ τῶν πολεμίων ἐλυσάμην, οὔτ᾿ εἴ τισιν θυγατέρας συνεξέδωκα, οὔτε τῶν τοιούτων οὐδέν. καὶ γὰρ οὕτω πως ὑπείληφα ἐγὼ νομίζω τὸν μὲν εὖ παθόντα δεῖν μεμνῆσθαι πάντα τὸν χρόνον, τὸν δὲ ποιήσαντ᾿ εὐθὺς ἐπιλελῆσθαι, εἰ δεῖ τὸν μὲν χρηστοῦ, τὸν δὲ μὴ μικροψύχου ποιεῖν ἔργον ἀνθρώπου. τὸ δὲ τὰς ἰδίας εὐεργεσίας ὑπομιμνῄσκειν καὶ λέγειν μικροῦ δεῖν ὅμοιόν ἐστιν τῷ ὀνειδίζειν. οὐ δὴ ποιήσω τοιοῦτον οὐδέν, οὐδὲ προαχθήσομαι, ἀλλ᾿ ὅπως ποθ᾿ ὑπείλημμαι περὶ τούτων, ἀρκεῖ μοι.

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No Politics and Religion at Dinner? Try Love Instead

In one topics for “Table-Talk”, Plutarch suggests the effects of love on a poet as a starting point…Of course, if you want debates about Love, the Symposia of Plato and Xenophon are good inspirations too…

Plutarch: “Table-Talk” Moralia 622 Why Do We Say that Eros Teaches a Poet?

“The question “how it can be said truthful that “Love teaches the poet” even though he was songless before, was considered at Sossius’ house after some Sapphic verses were performed. Philoxenos claims that the Kyklops “cured love with well-voiced songs.”

Love is said to be clever at every kind of audacity and at furnishing ingenuity, just as Plato calls love “speedy” and “prepared for everything”. Indeed, love makes a quiet man talkative and the withdrawn man solicitous; it makes the carefree and easygoing person serious and sedulous. And what is especially wondrous, a cheap and miserly man, after he falls in love, becomes soft, compliant, and persuadable just as iron in fire.  Thus what seems like a joke is not completely absurd in the proverb “a lover’s purse is locked by an onion leaf”.

It has also been said that being in love is like being drunk. For it makes people hot, happy, and troubled–after they come into this state, they fall into speech that sounds like songs or verse. People claim Aeschylus wrote his tragedies while drinking, even completely drunk. My grandfather Lamprias was himself most innovative and insightful when he was drinking. He was in the habit of saying that just as with incense, he too was activated by warmth.

 In addition, people see the ones they want most sweetly—and are no less moved to praise them than to see them. In praise, love, voluble in everything, is the most effusive. When people are in love they want to persuade everyone how beautiful and good are the ones they love, because they believe it themselves.”

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Πῶς εἴρηται τὸ “ποιητὴν δ᾿ ἄρα Ἔρως διδάσκει”

Πῶς εἴρηται τὸ ποιητὴν δ᾿ ἄραἜρως διδάσκει, κἂν ἄμουσος ᾖ τὸ πρίν ἐζητεῖτο παρὰ Σοσσίῳ Σαπφικῶν τινων ᾀσθέντων, ὅπου καὶ τὸν Κύκλωπα “μούσαις εὐφώνοις ἰᾶσθαι” φησὶ “τὸν ἔρωτα” Φιλόξενος. ἐλέχθη μὲν οὖν ὅτι πρὸς πάντα τόλμαν ὁ ἔρως καὶ καινοτομίαν συγχορηγῆσαι δεινός ἐστιν, ὥσπερ καὶ Πλάτων “ἴτην” αὐτὸν καὶ “παντὸς ἐπιχειρητὴν” ὠνόμασεν· καὶ γὰρ λάλον ποιεῖ τὸν σιωπηλὸν καὶ θεραπευτικὸν τὸν αἰσχυντηλόν, ἐπιμελῆ δὲ καὶ φιλόπονον τὸν ἀμελῆ καὶ ῥᾴθυμον· ὃ δ᾿ ἄν τις μάλιστα θαυμάσειεν, φειδωλὸς ἀνήρ τε καὶ μικρολόγος ἐμπεσὼν εἰς ἔρωτα καθάπερ εἰς πῦρ σίδηρος ἀνεθεὶς καὶ μαλαχθεὶς ἁπαλὸς καὶ ὑγρὸς καὶ ἡδίων, ὥστε τουτὶ τὸ παιζόμενον μὴ πάνυ φαίνεσθαι γελοῖον ὅτι “πράσου φύλλῳ τὸ τῶν ἐρώντων δέδεται βαλλάντιον.”

Ἐλέχθη δὲ καὶ ὅτι τῷ μεθύειν τὸ ἐρᾶν ὅμοιόν ἐστιν· ποιεῖ γὰρ θερμοὺς καὶ ἱλαροὺς καὶ διακεχυμένους, γενόμενοι δὲ τοιοῦτοι πρὸς τὰς ἐπῳδοὺς καὶ ἐμμέτρους μάλιστα φωνὰς ἐκφέρονται· καὶ τὸν Αἰσχύλον φασὶ τὰς τραγῳδίας πίνοντα ποιεῖν καὶ διαθερμαινόμενον. ἦν δὲ Λαμπρίας ὁ ἡμέτερος πάππος ἐν τῷ πίνειν εὑρετικώτατος αὐτὸς αὑτοῦ καὶ λογιώτατος· εἰώθει δὲ λέγειν ὅτι τῷ λιβανωτῷ παραπλησίως ὑπὸ θερμότητος ἀναθυμιᾶται. καὶ μὴν ἥδιστα τοὺς ἐρωμένους ὁρῶντες οὐχ ἧττον ἡδέως ἐγκωμιάζουσιν ἢ ὁρῶσιν, καὶ πρὸς πάντα λάλος ὢν ἔρως λαλίστατός ἐστιν ἐν τοῖς ἐπαίνοις. αὐτοί τε γὰρ οὕτως πεπεισμένοι τυγχάνουσιν καὶ βούλονται πεπεῖσθαι πάντας ὡς καλῶν καὶ ἀγαθῶν ἐρῶντες.