#MondayMotivation: Where Does Happiness Come From?

The following essay by Dio Chrysostom is fragmentary. I can imagine where it goes from where it starts, but I might be wrong. One of the seductive things about fragments is their lure to be ‘completed’ or ‘restored’. Here’s one about happiness–a topic perhaps profitably left unfinished for each of us to write our own endings.

Dio Chrysostom, 24 Discourse on Happiness

“The majority of people have generally given no thought regarding what kind of people they should be nor what at all is best for a person, nor what it is right to do in all other things. Instead, they have spent their lives in private pursuits—some dedicate themselves to horses; others to military leadership; others to athletic competition. Some are devoted to music; while others look to farming; and others to being able to speak well. But they neither know nor try to figure out what use each of these pursuits has for them or what profit might come from it.

As a result, while some people do become good horsemen—the kinds of people who love to work at it and care about it completely—and while others are better than some at wrestling and boxing, and running, and the rest of the athletic games, or in not screwing up planting, or sailing without ruining a ship, and some know the matters of the art of better than others—it is not possible to find among them a good and prudent man who also knows what makes a good and intelligent person.

Start first with the example of oratory—there are many people altogether of noble families who also seem to be ambitious who are dedicated to it so much that they compete in public courts, even speaking to the people and because of this have gained more than others and can do what they want while others [endeavor] so that they might be considered clever on account of the fame of their field.

But there are some people who say that they want what they get from experience, and some of these are speakers some are only writers, people whom someone of former times said were on the border of philosophy and politics. Whatever advantage their work brings them or what use their reputation is or what the profit of their experience might be, they do not examine.

But I claim that all the rest is worthless without this kind of care and examination  For the person who has considered and understood this, it is clear that the advantage of public speaking or military leadership or any other thing we do comes when it it directed towards good.

For being praised by ignorant people in itself—for most people are like that—or having power among them or living pleasurably will not bring any more happiness than being rebuked by these people, having no power among them, or living a hard life.”

Οἱ πολλοὶ ἄνθρωποι καθόλου μὲν οὐδὲν πεφροντίκασιν ὁποίους χρὴ εἶναι οὐδὲ ὅ τι βέλτιστον ἀνθρώπῳ ἐστίν, οὗ ἕνεκα χρὴ πάντα τἄλλα πράττειν, ἰδίᾳ δὲ ἐσπουδάκασιν οἱ μὲν ἱππεύειν, οἱ δὲ στρατηγεῖν, οἱ δὲ περὶ ἀγωνίαν, οἱ δὲ περὶ μουσικήν, ἄλλοι περὶ γεωργίαν, ἄλλοι δύνασθαι λέγειν. ἥντινα δὲ χρείαν αὐτοῖς ἔχει τούτων ἕκαστον ἢ τί τὸ ὄφελος ἐξ αὐτοῦ γίγνοιτ᾿ ἄν, οὐκ ἴσασιν οὐδὲ ζητοῦσιν. τοιγαροῦν ἱππεῖς μὲν ἀγαθοὶ γίγνονταί τινες, οἳ ἂν φιλοπονῶσιν αὐτὸ καὶ ἐκμελετῶσι, καὶ παλαῖσαι ἄλλοι ἄλλων ἱκανώτεροι καὶ πυκτεῦσαι καὶ δραμεῖν καὶ τἄλλα ἀγωνίσασθαι, καὶ τοῦ σπόρου μὴ διαμαρτεῖν, καὶ πλέοντες μὴ διαφθεῖραι τὴν ναῦν, καὶ τὰ κατὰ μουσικήν τινες ἐπίστανται βέλτιον ἑτέρων· ἀγαθὸν δὲ ἄνδρα καὶ φρόνιμον, καὶ αὐτὸ τοῦτο εἰδότα ὅστις ἐστὶν ὁ χρηστὸς ἀνὴρ καὶ νοῦν ἔχων, οὐδένα τούτων ἔστιν εὑρεῖν.

Αὐτίκα περὶ τὸ λέγειν πάντως ἐσπουδάκασι πολλοὶ τῶν ἐλευθέρων, καὶ φιλοτίμων εἶναι δοκούντων, οἱ μὲν ὥστε ἐν δικαστηρίοις ἀγωνίζεσθαι, καὶ πρὸς δῆμον λέγοντες, διὰ δὲ τοῦτο ἰσχύειν πλέον τῶν ἄλλων καὶ πράττειν ὅ τι ἂν αὐτοὶ θέλωσιν, οἱ δὲ τῆς δόξης ἕνεκα τῆς ἀπὸ τοῦ πράγματος, ὅπως δεινοὶ νομίζωνται. τινὲς δὲ αὐτῆς φασι τῆς ἐμπειρίας ἐπιθυμεῖν, καὶ τούτων οἱ μὲν λέγοντες, οἱ δὲ συγγράφοντες μόνον, οὓς ἔφη τις τῶν πρότερον μεθόρια εἶναι τῶν φιλοσόφων καὶ τῶν πολιτικῶν. ὅτι δὲ συμφέρει πράττουσιν ἢ πρὸς ὅ τι ἡ δόξα αὐτοῖς ὠφέλιμος ἢ τί τῆς ἐμπειρίας ταύτης ὄφελος, οὐ σκοποῦσιν.

Ἐγὼ δέ φημι πάντα τἄλλα δίχα τῆς τοιαύτης ἐπιμελείας καὶ ζητήσεως ὀλίγου ἄξια εἶναι, τῷ δὲ ἐκεῖνο ἐννοήσαντι καὶ ξυνέντι, τούτῳ καὶ τὸ λέγειν καὶ τὸ στρατηγεῖν καὶ ὅ τι ἂν ἄλλο ποιῇ, ξυμφέρον τε εἶναι καὶ ἐπ᾿ ἀγαθῷ γίγνεσθαι. ἐπεὶ τό γε ἐπαινεῖσθαι καθ᾿ ἑαυτὸ ὑπὸ ἀνθρώπων ἀνοήτων, οἷοίπερ εἰσὶν οἱ πολλοί, ἢ τὸ δύνασθαι ἐν τοῖς τοιούτοις ἢ τὸ ἡδέως ζῆν οὐδὲν ἂν διαφέροι πρὸς εὐδαιμονίαν τοῦ ψέγεσθαι καὶ μηδὲν ἰσχύειν καὶ ἐπιπόνως ζῆν.

Cologny, Fondation Martin Bodmer, Cod. Bodmer 174, detail of f. 3r (Isis gathering Osiris’ body parts). Boccaccio, Des cas des nobles hommes et femmes. 15th century

Cologny, Fondation Martin Bodmer, Cod. Bodmer 174, detail of f. 3r (Isis gathering Osiris’ body parts)

Cicero On Using “Leftover Time” for Writing Projects

Cicero, Laws 1.8-10

M. I do understand that I have been promising this work for a long time now, Atticus. It is something I would not refuse if any bit of open and free time were allotted to me. A work as momentous as this cannot be taken up when one’s efforts are occupied and his mind is elsewhere. It is really necessary to be free from worry and business.

A. What about the other things you have written more of than any of our people? What free time did you have set aside then?

M. These ‘leftover moments’ occur and I will not suffer wasting them—as when there are some days set aside for going to the country, I write something equal to what the number of days allow. But a history cannot be begun unless there is dedicated time and it can’t be completed in a short time. I habitually weigh down my thought when, once I have started, I am distracted by something else. And once a project is interrupted, I do not finish what was started easily.”

M. Intellego equidem a me istum laborem iam diu postulari, Attice; quem non recusarem, si mihi ullum tribueretur vacuum tempus et liberum; neque enim occupata opera neque inpedito animo res tanta suscipi potest; utrumque opus est, et cura vacare et negotio.

A. Quid ad cetera. quae scripsisti plura quam quisquam e nostris? quod tibi tandem tempus vacuum fuit concessum?

M. Subsiciva quaedam tempora incurrunt, quae ego perire non patior, ut, si qui dies ad rusticandum dati sint, ad eorum numerum adcommodentur quae scribimus. historia vero nec institui potest nisi praeparato otio nec exiguo tempore absolvi, et ego animi pendere soleo, cum semel quid orsus sum,1 si traducor alio, neque tam facile interrupta contexo quam absolvo instituta.

I encourage everyone to copy “Intellego equidem a me istum laborem iam diu postulari” and paste it liberally into emails explaining why you have yet to complete that review, abstract, etc. etc. Take a break for a day or a nap for an hour. Let Cicero speak for you!

 

“When Will This Year Be Over”? Seneca on Speeding Life Along

Seneca, De Brevitate Vitae 7

“The man who has hoped for the fasces longs to put them down once he gets them and says constantly, “When will this year be over?” This man sponsors games which he once valued as a great opportunity for him, yet he says “When can I get away from them?” A lawyer is raised up by the whole forum and with full crowd beyond where he can be heard, but he complains “When will we have a break?” Everyone speeds his own life along and suffers for a desire for the future and boredom with the present.

But the person who portions out every moment to his own use, who schedules out every day like it is the last, neither hopes for nor fears tomorrows. For what kind of new pleasure is any hour alone capable of bringing? Everything is known and has been enjoyed fully. Fortune may by chance bring out something else, but life is already safe. Something can be added; nothing can be subtracted, and he will accept anything which is added like someone who is already satisfied and full will take some food he does not desire.

Therefore, it is not right to thing that anyone has lived long because of grey hair or wrinkles. He has not lived a while, but he has existed a while. Certainly, what if you thought that he had traveled far whom a terrible storm grabbed in the harbor and dragged here and there in turns of winds raging from different directions and drove him over the same space in a circle? He did not travel far, but he was tossed around a lot.”

Adsecutus ille quos optaverat fasces cupit ponere et subinde dicit: “Quando hic annus praeteribit?” Facit ille ludos, quorum sortem sibi optingere magno aestimavit: “Quando,” inquit, “istos effugiam?” Diripitur ille toto foro patronus et magno concursu omnia ultra, quam audiri potest, complet: “Quando,” inquit, “res proferentur?” Praecipitat quisque vitam suam et futuri desiderio laborat, praesentium taedio. At ille qui nullum non tempus in usus suos confert, qui omnem diem tamquam ultimum ordinat, nec optat crastinum nec timet. Quid enim est, quod iam ulla hora novae voluptatis possit adferre? Omnia nota, omnia ad satietatem percepta sunt. De cetero fors fortuna, ut volet, ordinet; vita iam in tuto est. Huic adici potest, detrahi nihil, et adici sic, quemadmodum saturo iam ac pleno aliquid cibi, quod nec desiderat et capit. Non est itaque quod quemquam propter canos aut rugas putes diu vixisse; non ille diu vixit, sed diu fuit. Quid enim si illum multum putes navigasse, quem saeva tempestas a portu exceptum huc et illuc tulit ac vicibus ventorum ex diverso furentium per eadem spatia in orbem egit? Non ille multum navigavit, sed multum iactatus est.

Another Day Of Freedom

ἐλευθερία: “freedom” Chantraine: sens “libre”, par opposition à δοῦλος

αὐτονομία: “independence”

παρρησία: “freedom of speech”

Sophocles, fr. 873 [= Mich. Apostol 13.8]

“Whoever does business with a tyrant is
That man’s slave, even if he starts out free.”

ὅστις γὰρ ὡς τύραννον ἐμπορεύεται
κείνου ‘στι δοῦλος, κἂν ἐλεύθερος μόλῃ.

Iliad 6.450-455 (Hektor to Andromakhe)

“But no grief over the Trojans weighs as heavy on me,
Not even for Hekabê herself or lord Priam or
Any of my brothers who have died in their great, fine numbers
In the dust at the hands of wicked men,
As my grief for you, when one of the bronze-dressed Akhaians
Will lead you off and steal away your day of freedom.”

ἀλλ’ οὔ μοι Τρώων τόσσον μέλει ἄλγος ὀπίσσω,
οὔτ’ αὐτῆς ῾Εκάβης οὔτε Πριάμοιο ἄνακτος
οὔτε κασιγνήτων, οἵ κεν πολέες τε καὶ ἐσθλοὶ
ἐν κονίῃσι πέσοιεν ὑπ’ ἀνδράσι δυσμενέεσσιν,
ὅσσον σεῦ, ὅτε κέν τις ᾿Αχαιῶν χαλκοχιτώνων
δακρυόεσσαν ἄγηται ἐλεύθερον ἦμαρ ἀπούρας·

Publius Syrus, 724

“Where freedom has died, no one may dare to speak freely”
Ubi libertas cecidit, audet libere nemo loqui

vase

Gnomologica Vat.

“Wise Periander, when asked what freedom is, said “a good conscience”.

Περίανδρος ὁ σοφὸς ἐρωτηθεὶς τί ἂν εἴη ἐλευθερία εἶπεν· „ἀγαθὴ συνείδησις”.

Cicero, Phillipic 3.36

“We were born to honor and freedom: let us keep them or die with dignity.”

Ad decus et ad libertatem nati sumus: aut haec teneamus aut cum dignitate moriamur.

Plato, Rep. 564.a4

“Excessive freedom seems to lead to nothing other than excessive slavery both in private and in public.”

῾Η γὰρ ἄγαν ἐλευθερία ἔοικεν οὐκ εἰς ἄλλο τι ἢ εἰς ἄγαν δουλείαν μεταβάλλειν καὶ ἰδιώτῃ καὶ πόλει.

Cicero, Philippic 10.20

“So glorious is the reclamation of freedom that not even death should be avoided when freedom must be regained.”

Ita praeclara est recuperatio libertatis ut ne mors quidem sit in repetenda libertate fugienda

Naevius, fr. 5-6

“I have always considered freedom more powerful than money.”

potioremque habui libertatem multo quam pecuniam.

Sidonius, Letters 7.7

“We have been made slaves as the price of others’ security”

 facta est servitus nostra pretium securitatis alienae

Sallust, Second Letter to Caesar 12

“I consider freedom more precious than fame”

Libertatem gloria cariorem habeo

Demades On the Twelve Years 45

“Freedom is not well prepared for espionage”

Ἐλευθερία ὠτακουστὴν οὐκ εὐλαβεῖται.

[also proposed via twitter: “freedom does not respect eavesdropping”; more literal, less provocative!]

Cicero, Letters to Brutus 5.2

“I [said] everything for the sake of freedom: without peace, it is nothing. I used to believe that peace itself could be achieved through war and weapons.”

ego omnia ad libertatem, qua sine pax nulla est. pacem ipsam bello atque armis effici posse arbitrabar.

Livy, 24.25

“This is the nature of the crowd: it serves humbly or rules arrogantly. Freedom, which is between these two things, they cannot manage to take or keep moderately. And there is no lack of indulgent assistants of their rage, men who provoke eager and unbalanced minds to blood and murder.”

Ea natura multitudinis est: aut servit humiliter aut superbe dominatur; libertatem, quae media est, nec suscipere modice nec habere sciunt; et non ferme desunt irarum indulgentes ministri, qui avidos atque intemperantes suppliciorum animos ad sanguinem et caedes inritent;

Arsenius, 7.9c

“It is impossible to be free if you are a slave to the senses and ruled by them” Attributed to Pythagoras

 ᾿Ελεύθερον ἀδύνατον εἶναι τὸν πάθεσι δουλεύοντα καὶ ὑπὸ παθῶν κρατούμενον Πυθαγόρου.

Livy, 24.29

“They were not happy with freedom unless they might also rule and be masters”

nec iam libertate contentos esse nisi etiam regnent ac dominentur

Seneca, De Vita Beata 15.7

“We were born in a  monarchy: freedom is obeying god.”

In regno nati sumus; deo parere libertas est.

Seneca, EM 3.5

’Think upon death.’ He who orders you to do thus, orders you to think upon freedom.”

‘meditare mortem’: qui hoc dicit, meditari libertatem iubet.

Arsenius, 17.43 a

“Agamemnon had less concern for Thersites’ freedom of speech than a tortoise does for flies.”

Τῷ δὲ ᾿Αγαμέμνονι τῆς Θερσίτου παῤῥησίας ἧττον ἔμελεν ἢ χελώνη μυιῶν τὸ τῆς παροιμίας.

[The grammar is a little strange in this one, but I think the translation is right. Michael. Apostol provides a slightly different version: τῷ δὲ ᾿Αγαμέμνονι τῆς Θερσίτου παῤῥησίας ἔλαττον ἔμελλεν, ἢ χελώνῃ μυῶν. Here I prefer the dative χελώνῃ but not ἔλαττον ἔμελλεν]

Tacitus, Histories 1.16

“You will be ruling over a people who cannot endure total servitude, nor total freedom.”

sed imperaturus es hominibus qui, nec totam servitutem pati possunt nec totam libertatem.

Epicurus (Gnom. Vat. Epic, fr. 77)

“Freedom is the greatest fruit of self-sufficiency”

Τῆς αὐταρκείας καρπὸς μέγιστος ἐλευθερία.

Publilius Syrus, 61

“To accept a bribe is to offer freedom for sale”

Beneficium accipere libertatem est vendere.

Epictetus, Diss 1.12.10

“What, then, is freedom insanity? May it not be so, for freedom and insanity do not overlap!”

τί οὖν; ἀπόνοιά ἐστιν ἡ ἐλευθερία; μὴ γένοιτο. μανία γὰρ καὶ ἐλευθερία εἰς ταὐτὸν οὐκ ἔρχεται

Epictetus, Diss. 2.1.22

“What is the profit of these beliefs? The very thing which is the most noble and ennobling for those who are truly educated, tranquility, lack of fear, freedom. For we must not trust the masses who say that it is only possible for the free to be educated. No, we must heed the philosophers who say that only the educated can be free.”

Τίς οὖν τούτων τῶν δογμάτων καρπός; ὅνπερ δεῖ κάλλιστόν τ’ εἶναι καὶ πρεπωδέστατον τοῖς τῷ ὄντι παιδευομένοις, ἀταραξία ἀφοβία ἐλευθερία. οὐ γὰρ τοῖς πολλοῖς περὶ τούτων πιστευτέον, οἳ λέγουσιν μόνοις ἐξεῖναι παιδεύεσθαι τοῖς ἐλευθέροις, ἀλλὰ τοῖς φιλοσόφοις μᾶλλον, οἳ λέγουσι μόνους τοὺς παιδευθέντας ἐλευθέρους εἶναι.

freedom (n.)

Old English freodom “power of self-determination, state of free will; emancipation from slavery, deliverance;” see free (adj.) + -dom. Meaning “exemption from arbitrary or despotic control, civil liberty” is from late 14c. Meaning “possession of particular privileges” is from 1570s. Similar formation in Old Frisian fridom, Dutch vrijdom, Middle Low German vridom. Freedom-rider recorded 1961 in reference to civil rights activists in U.S. trying to integrate bus lines.

“Freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose” Kris Kristofferson “Me and My Bobby McGee”

Here’s an etymology from Beekes 2010:

Beekes on Freedom

More Human to Laugh than to Mourn?

There is just too much wrong in the world. I am not sure that Seneca helps. But here he is.

Seneca, de Tranquilitate Animi 15

“But it does no good to escape the causes of private sadness—for sometimes the hatred of humankind overwhelms us. When you consider how uncommon simplicity is, how innocence is unknown and trust is scarcely there unless it brings some advantage; or when you recognize so thick a crowd of successful crimes and the profits and losses of lust—both equally despicable—and an ambition that does not restrain itself within its own limits but even gains glory because of its wickedness—when you do this, the soul is driven into darkness and, just as if the meaning of the virtues were flipped and they can’t be hoped for nor is it advantageous to possess them, then the shadows hang over us.

At this moment, we must begin to believe that all the vices of the mob do not seem hateful but instead absurd; let us imitate Democritus rather than Heraclitus. The latter, indeed, whenever he braved the public, used to weep; but the former used to laugh. To the second, everything which we do seems miserable; to the first merely incompetent. We must, therefore, make everything lighter and carry it with an easy mind. It is more human to laugh at life than to mourn it.

Consider too that the one who laughs at humanity earns more from it than the one who laments it—for the first saves for himself some hope of good while the latter foolishly despairs that change is possible. When everything is considered, the person who does not restrain laughter seems to be of a greater spirit than the one who will not retain tears, and this is because laughter moves the slightest aspect of the mind and believes that nothing is great, nothing is severe, nor miserable either in the whole setup of life.

Let each person look directly at what the causes of happiness and sadness are personally and then let it be learned that what Bion said is true—all human business is similar to its beginning and human life is no more sacred or severe than its conception—that we return to nothing because from nothing we were born.”

Sed nihil prodest privatae tristitiae causas abiecisse; occupat enim nonnumquam odium generis humani. Cum cogitaveris, quam sit rara simplicitas et quam ignota innocentia et vix umquam, nisi cum expedit, fides, et occurrit tot scelerum felicium turbaet libidinis lucra damnaque pariter invisa et ambitio usque eo iam se suis non continens terminis, ut per turpitudinem splendeat: agitur animus in noctem et velut eversis virtutibus, quas nec sperare licet nec habere prodest, tenebrae oboriuntur. In hoc itaque flectendi sumus, ut omnia vulgi vitia non invisa nobis sed ridicula videantur et Democritum potius imitemur quam Heraclitum. Hic enim, quotiens in publicum processerat, flebat, ille ridebat; huic omnia quae agimus miseriae, illi ineptiae videbantur. Elevanda ergo omnia et facili animo ferenda; humanius est deridere vitam quam deplorare.

Adice quod de humano quoque genere melius meretur qui ridet illud quam qui luget; ille ei spei bonae aliquid relinquit, hic autem stulte deflet quae corrigi posse desperat. Et universa contemplanti maioris animi est qui risum non tenet quam qui lacrimas, quando lenissimum adfectum animi movet et nihil magnum, nihil severum, ne miserum quidem ex tanto paratu putat. Singula propter quae laeti ac tristes sumus sibi quisque proponat et sciet verum esse quod Bion dixit: omnia hominum negotia simillima initiis esse nec vitam illorum magis sanctam aut severam esse quam conceptum, in nihilum recidere denihilo natos.

Take A Break! The Elder and Younger Seneca on the Importance of Vacations

Seneca the Elder, Controversiae 1. 14-15

“Moderation was missing from this enthusiastic person in two ways. He did not know how to take a break from work nor how to start it again. When he brought himself to write, the days used to join with nights and he was pushing himself mercilessly without a break, stopping only when he was completely worn out. But when he stopped then, he would lose himself in every kind of game and distraction. Indeed, when he entrusted himself to the forest and the mountains, he was the equal to those born to the forests and mountains, those wild men, in endurance of labor and expertise of the hunt. He was so completely engaged with the embrace of that lifestyle that he could scarcely be dragged back to his former life.

But when he did get himself under control and took himself from alluring leisure, he used to fall into his studies with such passions that he seemed not so much to have lost nothing as to have gained much.

It is clear that everyone benefits from a mental vacation—energy is gathered in leisure and all the sadness which is developed through endless pursuit of work can be dispelled though the enjoyment of distractions. But no one benefited more from a vacation than Latro. Every time he used to speak after a break, he would speak more sharply and with more force—he used to glory in how his mind was refreshed and his strength made whole. And he would squeeze as much from himself as he desired. He did not know how to portion out his powers—but he was a master of unrestrained tyranny—his eagerness had to be stopped because it was not able to be controlled…”

In utramque partem vehementi viro modus deerat: nec intermittere studium sciebat nec repetere.  Cum se ad scribendum concitaverat, iungebantur noctibus dies, et sine intervallo gravius sibi instabat, nec desinebat nisi defecerat: rursus cum se remiserat, in omnes lusus, in omnes iocos se resolvebat; cum vero se silvis montibusque tradiderat, in silvis ac montibus natos, homines illos agrestis, laboris patientia et venandi sollertia provocabat, et in tantam perveniebat sic vivendi cupiditatem ut vix posset ad priorem consuetudinem retrahi. At cum sibi iniecerat manum et se blandienti otio abduxerat, tantis viribus incumbebat in studium ut non tantum nihil perdidisse sed multum adquisisse desidia videretur. Omnibus quidem prodest subinde animum relaxare; excitatur enim otio vigor, et omnis tristitia, quae continuatione pertinacis studii adducitur, feriarum hilaritate discutitur: nulli tamen intermissio manifestius proderat. Quotiens ex intervallo dicebat, multo acrius violentiusque dicebat; exultabat enim <animo>2 novato atque integro robore, et tantum a se exprimebat quantum concupierat. Nesciebat dispensare vires suas, sed inmoderati adversus se imperii fuit, ideoque studium eius prohiberi debebat quia regi non poterat…

 

Seneca the Younger, De Tranquillitate Animi, 5

“Our minds must be allowed a break—once rested, they will rise better and sharper. Just as fertile fields must not be overworked—for endless productivity will exhaust them soon—so too continuous work crushes the force of our minds; but rested and relaxed they restore their own powers. Weakness and weariness are born to minds from constant efforts.”

Danda est animis remissio; meliores acrioresque requieti surgent. Ut fertilibus agris non est imperandum—cito enim illos exhauriet numquam intermissa fecunditas,—ita animorum impetus adsiduus labor franget, vires recipient paulum resoluti et remissi; nascitur ex assiduitate laborum animorum hebetatio quaedam et languor.

Bonus Quotation

Fragments of Dio Chrysostom, Stob. Flor. 4, XIX

“It is right, then, to be be proper master and to permit those who want to rest sometimes. For breaks are preparation for toil—the both, the lyre and human kind become their best through resting.”

Χρὴ οὖν δεσπόζειν ἐπιεικῶς καὶ ἀνεθῆναί ποτε βουλομένοις ἐπιτρέπειν. αἱ γὰρ ἀνέσεις παρασκευαστικαὶ πόνων εἰσί, καὶ τόξον καὶ λύρα καὶ ἄνθρωπος ἀκμάζει δι᾿ ἀναπαύσεως.

Gardecorps. Metallic buttons?  Codex Manesse 1300-1340(DE)​ 141 (Zürich, Switzerland)

Codex Manesse 1300-1340(DE)​ 141 (Zürich, Switzerland)

For more Roman vacation advice, see Pliny’s suggestions for translating Greek into Latin and writing poems and some other selections from antiquity.

On Falling in Love in Old Age

87 Plato Parmen. 137a and Ibykos fr. 287

“And I certainly seem to be experiencing the fate of Ibykos’ horse, a prize-winner who, even though old, was about to compete in the chariot race and was trembling because of experience at what was about to happen. Ibykos compared himself to him when he said that he too was old and was being compelled to move towards lust”

καίτοι δοκῶ μοι τὸ τοῦ Ἰβυκείου ἵππου πεπονθέναι ᾧ ἐκεῖνος ἀθλητῇ ὄντι καὶ πρεσβυτέρῳ ὑφ᾿ ἅρματι μέλλοντι ἀγωνιεῖσθαι καὶ δι᾿ ἐμπειρίαν τρέμοντι τὸ μέλλον ἑαυτὸν ἀπεικάζων ἄκων ἔφη καὶ αὐτὸς οὕτω πρεσβευτὴς ὢν εἰς τὸν ἔρωτα ἀναγκάζεσθαι ἰέναι.

schol. ad loc. 

[Scholiast] Here is the saying of Ibykos the lyric poet:

τὸ τοῦ μελοποιοῦ Ἰβύκου ῥητόν·

“Love again, gazing up from under dark lashes,
Throws me down with every kind of spell
Into the Cyprian’s endless nets.
In truth, I tremble at this arrival,
Just as a prize-winning horse on the yoke in old age
Goes into the contest with his swift wheels, but not willingly.”

Ἔρος αὖτέ με κυανέοισιν ὑπὸ
βλεφάροις τακέρ᾿ ὄμμασι δερκόμενος
κηλήμασι παντοδαποῖς ἐς ἀπειρα
δίκτυα Κύπριδος ἐσβάλλει·
ἦ μὰν τρομέω νιν ἐπερχόμενον,
ὥστε φερέζυγος ἵππος ἀεθλοφόρος ποτὶ γήρᾳ
ἀέκων σὺν ὄχεσφι θοοῖς ἐς ἅμιλλαν ἔβα

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A force of nature

Hegesias, The Death-Persuader

In an earlier post I talked about “threshold” theory and some of the very different beliefs Ancient Greeks and Romans had about suicide. This excerpt from Cicero touches upon some of the philosophical ideas about taking one’s own life while also reflecting in part on the group effect. While Hegesias’ arguments are extreme, they have some affinity with Epicurean doctrines against fearing death. In this formulation, however, the argument that death is preferable because it frees us from evils reaches a bit of an absurd conclusion. Diogenes Laertius provides an over of the Cyrenaic School.

Cicero, Tusculan Disputations 1.83-84

“Therefore, death removes us from evils not from goods, if we are seeking the truth. This, in fact, is argued by Hegesias the Cyrenaic so fully that it is said he was prohibited from speaking on these matters in schools because many people killed themselves after they heard him speak.

There is also an epigram attributed to Callimachus on the topic of Cleombrotus the Ambracian who, he says, even though nothing bad happened to him, he threw himself from the wall into the see after reading a book of Plato. From that book of Hegesias I mentioned—Starving to Death—there is a person who while in the process of leaving life by starvation is called back by his friends to whom he responds by listing the unpleasantries of human life.

I could do the same, although I will not go as far as he who thinks that there is no point for anyone to live at all. I am overlooking all others—is it still meaningful for me to continue on? I live deprived of the comfort and decoration of a family or of a public life and, certainly, if I had died previously, death would have saved me from evils not from good.”

A malis igitur mors abducit, non a bonis, verum si quaerimus. Et quidem hoc a Cyrenaico Hegesia sic copiose disputatur, ut is a rege Ptolemaeo prohibitus esse dicatur illa in scholis dicere, quod multi iis auditis mortem sibi ipsi consciscerent. Callimachi quidem epigramma in Ambraciotam Cleombrotum est, quem ait, cum ei nihil accidisset adversi, e muro se in mare abiecisse lecto Platonis libro. Eius autem, quem dixi, Hegesiae liber est, ᾽Αποκαρτερῶν, in quo a vita quidam per inediam discedens revocatur ab amicis, quibus respondens vitae humanae enumerat incommoda. Possem idem facere, etsi minus quam ille, qui omnino vivere expedire nemini putat. Mitto alios: etiamne nobis expedit? qui et domesticis et forensibus solaciis ornamentisque privati certe, si ante occidissemus, mors nos a malis, non a bonis abstraxisset.

Suda, pi 1471

“Hegesias is called the ‘death-persuader’

Πεισιθάνατος ὁ ῾Ηγησίας ἐλέγετο.

If you or someone you know feel alone, uncertain, depressed or for any reason cannot find enough joy and hope to think life is worth it, please reach out to someone. The suicide prevention hotline has a website, a phone number (1-800-273-8255), and a chat line. And if we can help you find some tether to the continuity of human experience through the Classics or a word, please don’t hesitate to ask.

The Fruitless Toil of Worry: Two Passages on Happiness

Horace, Odes 2.16 25-32

“The spirit which is happy for a single day
Has learned not to worry about what remains
And tempers bitter tastes with a gentle smile—
Nothing is blessed through and through.

A swift death stole famed Achilles away;
Drawn-out old age wore Tithonos down.
Perhaps some hour will hand to me
Whatever it has refused to you.”

laetus in praesens animus quod ultra est
oderit curare et amara lento
temperet risu; nihil est ab omni
parte beatum.

abstulit clarum cita mors Achillem,
longa Tithonum minuit senectus,
et mihi forsan, tibi quod negarit,
porriget hora.

Bacchylides, Processionals fr. 11-12

“There is one border, a single path to happiness for mortals—
When a person is able to keep a heart free of grief
Until the end of life. Whoever keeps a ten thousand
Affairs in their thoughts
Whoever tortures their heart
Night and day over what may come,
Has toil which brings no profit.”

εἷς ὅρος, μία βροτοῖσίν ἐστιν εὐτυχίας ὁδός,
θυμὸν εἴ τις ἔχων ἀπενθῆ δύναται
διατελεῖν βίον· ὃς δὲ μυρία
μὲν ἀμφιπολεῖ φρενί,
τὸ δὲ παρ᾿ ἆμάρ τε <καὶ> νύκτα μελλόντων
χάριν αἰὲν ἰάπτεται
κέαρ, ἄκαρπον ἔχει πόνον.

“The Course Fortune Gave Me”: Cicero and Seneca on Suicide

Ibykos, Fr. 32

“It is not possible to find medicine to bring life to the dead.”

οὐκ ἔστιν ἀποφθιμένοις ζωᾶς ἔτι φάρμακον εὑρεῖν

Basil, Letter 131

“Since we both need consolation, may we be solace to one another.”

ἐπεὶ οὖν ἀμφότεροι χρῄζομεν παρακλήσεως, ἀλλήλοις γενώμεθα παραμυθία

Attributed to Socrates (in Stobaeus)

“The sick need doctors; the unlucky need encouragement from friends.”

Τοῖς μὲν νοσοῦσιν ἰατρούς, τοῖς δ’ ἀτυχοῦσι φίλους δεῖ παραινεῖν.

Prior to the spread of Christianity, Romans and Greeks had somewhat different attitudes on suicide from our own, but they were by no means consistent and harmonious. Some–like Aristotle in his Nicomachean Ethics–viewed suicide as cowardly. Roman authors like Cicero and Seneca go far to the other direction, seeming to glorify it at times while granting the act far greater complexity on other occasions.

For those of us who have suffered from depression or have lost loved ones to substance abuse or suicide, ancient comments on suicide and mental health can provide little comfort. Greek and Roman attitudes on the subject are important to reckon with, however, for the very reason that they can seem so different from our own.

The Ancient touches upon ours but does not necessarily need to define it. The boundaries of life and death cannot be crossed again. If you or someone you know feel alone, uncertain, depressed or for any reason cannot find enough joy and hope to think life is worth it, please reach out to someone. The suicide prevention hotline has a website, a phone number (1-800-273-8255), and a chat line. And if we can help you find some tether to the continuity of human experience through the Classics or a word, please don’t hesitate to ask.

Cicero, De Officiis 1.112-113

“This diversity of charactertistics has so much power that it may be required for one person to bring about his own death but forbidden for another. For wasn’t Marcus Cato in one kind of need and others were in different situations when he gave himself up to Caesar in Africa? Perhaps there would have been condemnation of the others if they had killed themselves because their style of life and their habits had been easier while life granted Cato an unbelievable seriousness which he himself strengthened through unending dedication as he remained always persistent in his plans and his decisions. He had to die before gazing upon the face of a tyrant.

Think of how much Odysseus endured on his prolonged journey when he even served women—if Cicero and Calypso must be called women—and he labored to be likable and pleasant to everyone in every speech! Indeed, once at home he even put up with the insults of slaves and slave-girls so that he might finally come to the end he desired. But Ajax—thanks to the spirit he is given—would have preferred a thousand deaths to such indignity.”

 Atque haec differentia naturarum tantam habet vim, ut non numquam mortem sibi ipse consciscere alius debeat, alius [in eadem causa] non debeat. Num enim alia in causa M. Cato fuit, alia ceteri, qui se in Africa Caesari tradiderunt? Atqui ceteris forsitan vitio datum esset, si se interemissent, propterea quod lenior eorum vita et mores fuerant faciliores, Catoni cum incredibilem tribuisset natura gravitatem eamque ipse perpetua constantia roboravisset semperque in proposito susceptoque consilio permansisset, moriendum potius quam tyranni vultus aspiciendus fuit.

Quam multa passus est Ulixes in illo errore diuturno, cum et mulieribus, si Circe et Calypso mulieres appellandae sunt, inserviret et in omni sermone omnibus affabilem [et iucundum]3esse se vellet! domi vero etiam contumelias servorum ancillarumque pertulit, ut ad id aliquando, quod cupiebat, veniret. At Aiax, quo animo traditur, milies oppetere mortem quam illa perpeti maluisset.

Seneca, De Beata Vita 19

“They deny that Diodorus the Epicuruean philosopher who in recent days took his own life with his own hand was not obedient to Epicurus when he cut his own throat. Some would wish that this deed be seen as insanity, others as fear—but he, at the same time, announced that he was happy and full with good conscience as he left life. He praised the time of life spent peaceful in port at anchor and spoke words which you have heard unwillingly as if you must do the same: “I have lived and I have completed the course fortune gave me.”

Diodorum, Epicureum philosophum, qui intra paucos dies finem vitae suae manu sua imposuit, negant ex decreto Epicuri fecisse, quod sibi gulam praesecuit. Alii dementiam videri volunt factum hoc eius, alii temeritatem; ille interim beatus ac plenus bona conscientia reddidit sibi testimonium vita excedens laudavitque aetatis in portu et ad ancoram actae quietem et dixit, quod vos inviti audistis, quasi vobis quoque faciendum sit:

Vixi et quem dederat cursum fortuna peregi.

Image result for ancient greek ajax

Ajax’s earlier burden

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