A Reminder: One Who Is Disordered Cannot Create Order

Plutarch’s “To the Uneducated Ruler” has no relevance today, at all (780a-c)...

“The majority of kings and rulers are stupid–they imitate those artless sculptors who believe that their over-sized figures seem large and solid if they make them with a wide stance, flexing their muscles, mouths gaped open. For these types of rulers seem merely to be imitating the impressiveness and seriousness of leadership with their deep voice, severe glance, bitter manners and their separate way of living: but they are not really any different from the sculpted colossus which is heroic and godly on the outside, but filled with dirt, stone or lead within.

The real difference is that the weight of the statue keeps it standing straight, never leaning; these untaught generals and leaders often wobble and overturn because of their native ignorance. For, because they have built their homes on a crooked foundation, they lean and slide with it. Just as a carpenter’s square, if it is straight and solid, straightens out everything else that is measured according to it, so too a leader must first master himself and correct his own character and only then try to guide his people. For one who is falling cannot lift others; one who is ignorant cannot teach; one who is simple cannot manage complicated affairs; one who is disordered cannot create order; and one who does not rule himself cannot rule.”

Ἀλλὰ νοῦν οὐκ ἔχοντες οἱ πολλοὶ τῶν βασιλέων καὶ ἀρχόντων μιμοῦνται τοὺς ἀτέχνους ἀνδριαντοποιούς, οἳ νομίζουσι μεγάλους καὶ ἁδροὺς φαίνεσθαι τοὺς κολοσσούς, ἂν διαβεβηκότας σφόδρα καὶ διατεταμένους καὶ κεχηνότας πλάσωσι· καὶ γὰρ οὗτοι βαρύτητι φωνῆς καὶ βλέμματος τραχύτητι καὶ δυσκολίᾳ τρόπων καὶ ἀμιξίᾳ διαίτης ὄγκον ἡγεμονίας καὶ σεμνότητα μιμεῖσθαι δοκοῦσιν, οὐδ᾿ ὁτιοῦν τῶν κολοσσικῶν διαφέροντες ἀνδριάντων, οἳ τὴν ἔξωθεν ἡρωικὴν καὶ θεοπρεπῆ μορφὴν ἔχοντες ἐντός εἰσι γῆς μεστοὶ καὶ λίθου καὶ μολίβδου· πλὴν ὅτι τῶν μὲν ἀνδριάντων ταῦτα τὰ βάρη τὴν ὀρθότητα μόνιμον καὶ ἀκλινῆ διαφυλάττει, οἱ δ᾿ ἀπαίδευτοι στρατηγοὶ καὶ ἡγεμόνες ὑπὸ τῆς ἐντὸς ἀγνωμοσύνης πολλάκις σαλεύονται καὶ περιτρέπονται· βάσει γὰρ οὐ κειμένῃ πρὸς ὀρθὰς ἐξουσίαν ἐποικοδομοῦντες ὑψηλὴν συναπονεύουσι. δεῖ δέ, ὥσπερ ὁ κανὼν αὐτός, ἀστραβὴς γενόμενος καὶ ἀδιάστροφος, οὕτως ἀπευθύνει τὰ λοιπὰ τῇ πρὸς αὑτὸν ἐφαρμογῇ καὶ παραθέσει συνεξομοιῶν, παραπλησίως τὸν ἄρχοντα πρῶτον τὴν ἀρχὴν κτησάμενον ἐν ἑαυτῷ καὶ κατευθύναντα τὴν ψυχὴν καὶ καταστησάμενον τὸ ἦθος οὕτω συναρμόττειν τὸ ὑπήκοον· οὔτε γὰρ πίπτοντός ἐστιν ὀρθοῦν οὔτε διδάσκειν ἀγνοοῦντος οὔτε κοσμεῖν ἀκοσμοῦντος ἢ τάττειν ἀτακτοῦντος ἢ ἄρχειν μὴ ἀρχομένου·

Image result for Ancient Roman Statue colossus


“Among the weak, base and private citizens, ignorance when combined with a lack of power yields little wrongdoing, as in nightmares some trouble upsets the mind, making it incapable of responding to its desires. But when power has been combined with wickedness it adds energy to latent passions. And so that saying of Dionysus is true—for he used to say that he loved his power most when he could do what he wanted quickly. It is truly a great danger when one who wants what is wrong has the power to do what he wants to do.

As Homer puts it “When the plan was made, then the deed was done.” When wickedness has an open course because of its power, it compels every passion to emerge, producing rage, murder, lust, adultery, and greedy acquisition of public wealth.”

Ἐν μὲν γὰρ τοῖς ἀσθενέσι καὶ ταπεινοῖς καὶ ἰδιώταις τῷ ἀδυνάτῳ μιγνύμενον τὸ ἀνόητον εἰς τὸ ἀναμάρτητον τελευτᾷ, ὥσπερ ἐν ὀνείρασι φαύλοις τις ἀνία τὴν ψυχὴν διαταράττει συνεξαναστῆναι ταῖς ἐπιθυμίαις μὴ δυναμένην· ἡ δ᾿ ἐξουσία παραλαβοῦσα τὴν κακίαν νεῦρα τοῖς πάθεσι προστίθησι· καὶ τὸ τοῦ Διονυσίου ἀληθές ἐστιν· ἔφη γὰρ ἀπολαύειν μάλιστα τῆς ἀρχῆς, ὅταν ταχέως ἃ βούλεται ποιῇ. μέγας οὖν ὁ κίνδυνος βούλεσθαι ἃ μὴ δεῖ τὸν ἃ βούλεται ποιεῖν δυνάμενον· αὐτίκ᾿ ἔπειτά γε μῦθος ἔην, τετέλεστο δὲ ἔργον (Il. 19.242). ὀξὺν ἡ κακία διὰ τῆς ἐξουσίας δρόμον ἔχουσα πᾶν πάθος ἐξωθεῖ, ποιοῦσα τὴν ὀργὴν φόνον τὸν ἔρωτα μοιχείαν τὴν πλεονεξίαν δήμευσιν.


“It is not possible to hide wickedness in power. But, as when someone with vertigo* might go up in a high place and move around, only to become dizzy and uncertain, thus revealing their suffering, so fortune amplifies the untaught and ignorant a little with some wealth, reputation or offices and, once they have risen up, it shows them falling. Or rather, it is the same as when you cannot tell which of some containers is solid and which is cracked but when you pour water into them, the culprit leak is clear: rotten minds cannot manage power, but they ooze out random desires, rages, improprieties, and base manners.”

Οὐδὲ γὰρ λαθεῖν οἷόν τε τὰς κακίας ἐν ταῖς ἐξουσίαις· ἀλλὰ τοὺς μὲν ἐπιληπτικούς, ἂν ἐν ὕψει τινὶ γένωνται καὶ περιενεχθῶσιν, ἴλιγγος ἴσχει καὶ σάλος, ἐξελέγχων τὸ πάθος αὐτῶν, τοὺς δ᾿ ἀπαιδεύτους καὶ ἀμαθεῖς ἡ τύχη μικρὸν ἐκκουφίσασα πλούτοις τισὶν ἢ δόξαις ἢ ἀρχαῖς μετεώρους γενομένους εὐθὺς ἐπιδείκνυσι πίπτοντας· μᾶλλον δ᾿, ὥσπερ τῶν κενῶν ἀγγείων οὐκ ἂν διαγνοίης τὸ ἀκέραιον καὶ πεπονηκός, ἀλλ᾿ ὅταν ἐγχέῃς, φαίνεται τὸ ῥέον· οὕτως αἱ σαθραὶ ψυχαὶ τὰς ἐξουσίας μὴ στέγουσαι ῥέουσιν ἔξω ταῖς ἐπιθυμίαις, ταῖς ὀργαῖς, ταῖς ἀλαζονείαις, ταῖς ἀπειροκαλίαις.

*The original Greek seems to be about people with epilepsy (tous epilêptikous)

Seneca’s Research Advice: Exercise. Then Read and Write in Turn

Seneca, Moral Epistles 84

“I believe that these journeys which remove my languor are good for both my strength and my researches. How they profit my health is clear: my love of literature makes me lazy, neglectful of my body. On a journey, I may exercise incidentally.

I can show you how this helps my research too. But I in no way take a break from reading. My reading, I believe, is necessary: first, it ensures I will not be satisfied with myself as I am; second, once I have understood what others have learned, I may judge what has been discovered and what still must be thought out.

Reading feeds the mind and replenishes it when it is worn from studying—even though it is not without work itself. We should not restrict ourselves to writing or to reading:  endless writing saps our strength and then exhausts it. Too much reading can puff up or dilute our ability. Most commendable is to take them in their turn, to mix one with the other, so that the seeds of one’s reading may be grown anew with the pen.”

Itinera ista, quae segnitiam mihi excutiunt, et valitudini meae prodesse iudico et studiis. Quare valitudinem adiuvent, vides: cum pigrum me et neglegentem corporis litterarum amor faciat, aliena opera exerceor; studio quare prosint, indicabo: a lectionibus nihil recessi. Sunt autem, ut existimo, necessariae, primum ne sim me uno contentus; deinde ut, cum ab aliis quaesita cognovero, tum et de inventis iudicem et cogitem de inveniendis. Alit lectio ingenium et studio fatigatum, non sine studio tamen, reficit. Nec scribere tantum nec tantum legere debemus; altera res contristabit vires et exhauriet, de stilo dico, altera solvet ac diluet. Invicem hoc et illo commeandum est et alterum altero temperandum, ut quicquid lectione collectum est, stilus redigat in corpus.

I was reminded of this passage while contemplating Paul Holdengraber’s regular injunction not to read bad writing:

Seneca offers good advice for anyone working on a long project, but especially for graduate students or anyone working on a thesis.  As we have mentioned before, this resonates with Leonardo de Bruni’s warning about reading trash. Of course, the statement should probably be tempered by Pliny the Elder’s suggestion that “no book is so bad it doesn’t have something to offer”.

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Happy Monday! How Much Of Life Is Really Lived?

From the Roman Empire’s Buzzkill-in-Chief:

Seneca Moral Epistles 99.10-12

“Consider the vastness of time’s expanse; include the universe too; and then compare what we call human life with this endlessness. You will see how small what we desire to lengthen is. How most of this time weeping and anxiety occupy! How much we pray for death, strength, fear before death comes! How much of life is spent ignorant or inexperienced! Half of it is spent in sleep. Add to this our work, grief, dangers and then you will know that even in the longest life the part that is truly lived is the least. But who would concede for himself that a man does not do better who is permitted to return quickly, who completes his journey before he is tired? Life is neither good nor bad, but it is where good and evil happen”

Propone temporis profundi vastitatem et universum complectere, deinde hoc, quod aetatem vocamus humanam, conpara immenso; videbis, quam exiguum sit, quod optamus, quod extendimus. Ex hoc quantum lacrimae, quantum sollicitudines occupant! Quantum mors, antequam veniat, optata, quantum valitudo, quantum timor! Quantum tenent aut rudes aut inutiles anni! Dimidium ex hoc edormitur. Adice labores, luctus, pericula, et intelleges etiam in longissima vita minimum esse, quod vivitur. Sed quis tibi concedet non melius se habere eum, cui cito reverti licet, cui ante lassitudinem peractum est iter? Vita nec bonum nec malum est; boni ac mali locus est.


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Fragmentary Friday: Just Lust, Experience, and Shame–More from Democritus

Fr. 72

“Extreme desires about one thing blind the soul to others.”

αἱ περί τι σφοδραὶ ὀρέξεις τυφλοῦσιν εἰς τἆλλα τὴν ψυχήν.

Fr. 73

“Just lust is longing for noble things without arrogance.”

δίκαιος ἔρως ἀνυβρίστως ἐφίεσθαι τῶν καλῶν

Fr. 74

“It is sweet to receive nothing unless it brings advantage.”

ἡδὺ μηδὲν ἀποδέχεσθαι, ἢν μὴ συμφέρηι.

Fr. 75

“It is better for the witless to be ruled than to rule”

κρέσσον ἄρχεσθαι τοῖς ἀνοήτοισιν ἢ ἄρχειν

Fr. 76

“Children have no reason, but experience is their teacher”

νηπίοισιν οὐ λόγος, ἀλλὰ ξυμφορὴ γίνεται διδάσκαλος.

Fr. 77

“Fame and wealth without understanding are not stable possessions.”

δόξα καὶ πλοῦτος ἄνευ ξυνέσιος οὐκ ἀσφαλέα κτήματα

Fr. 78

“It is not pointless to acquire wealth but it is more evil than anything to get it from injustice.”

χρήματα πορίζειν μὲν οὐκ ἀχρεῖον, ἐξ ἀδικίης δὲ πάντων κάκιον

Fr. 79

“It is hard for evil people to imitate the good when they are not willing.”

χαλεπὸν μιμεῖσθαι μὲν τοὺς κακούς, μηδὲ ἐθέλειν δὲ τοὺς ἀγαθούς.

Fr. 80

“It is shameful for one who meddles in the business of others to be ignorant about his own.”

αἰσχρὸν τὰ ὀθνεῖα πολυπραγμονέοντα ἀγνοεῖν τὰ οἰκήϊα.

Fr. 81

“Continuous delay renders deeds incomplete.”

τὸ ἀεὶ μέλλειν ἀτελέας ποιεῖ τὰς πρήξιας

Fr. 82

“Those who are deceitful and seem good in all things in word, do nothing in action.”

κίβδηλοι καὶ ἀγαθοφανέες οἱ λόγωι μὲν ἅπαντα, ἔργωι δὲ οὐδὲν ἔρδοντες.

Fr. 83

“Fortunate is one who has wealth and a mind—for he uses them well for what is necessary.”

μακάριος, ὃς οὐσίαν καὶ νοῦν ἔχει· χρῆται γὰρ εἰς ἃ δεῖ καλῶς.

Fr. 84

“Ignorance of what is better is the cause of error”

ἁμαρτίης αἰτίη ἡ ἀμαθίη τοῦ κρέσσονος.

On (the many) Signs of Rain

It is rainy today. I wore the wrong shoes and jacket and brought no umbrella. How could I have predicted this?

Theophrastus, Concerning Weather Signs 13

“Many shooting stars [are indications of] rain or wind and the wind or rain will originate from their directions. If the rays of the sun are think together at sunrise or sunset, it might be a sign of rain. It is also a sign when during sunrise the raise have the color of an eclipse. And also when there are clouds that are similar to the hair of wool—that’s a sign of rain. Many bubbles rising on the surface of rivers are signs of rain. And, generally speaking, when a rainbow appears around or through the light of the lamp, it means rain from south.”

Ἀστέρες πολλοὶ διᾴττοντες ὕδατος ἢ πνεύματος, καὶ ὅθεν ἂν διᾴττωσιν ἐντεῦθεν τὸ πνεῦμα ἢ τὸ ὕδωρ. καὶ ἐὰν ἀκτῖνες ἀθρόαι ἀνίσχωσιν ἀνιόντος ἢ δύνοντος, σημεῖον <ὕδατος>. καὶ ὅταν ἀνίσχοντος τοῦ ἡλίου αἱ αὐγαὶ οἷον ἐκλείποντος χρῶμα ἴσχωσιν, ὕδατος σημεῖον. καὶ ὅταν νεφέλαι πόκοις ἐρίων ὅμοιαι ὦσιν, ὕδωρ σημαίνει. [ὑετοῦ δὲ σημεῖα] πομφόλυγες ἀνιστάμεναι πλείους ἐπὶ τῶν ποταμῶν ὕδωρ σημαίνουσι πολύ. ὡς δ᾿ ἐπὶ τὸ πολὺ ἶρις περὶ λύχνον ἢ διὰ λύχνου διαφαινομένη νότια σημαίνει ὕδατα.

Some excerpts from following paragraphs


“When birds who do not live in the water bathe, it is a sign of rain or storm. It is also a sign when frogs sing louder or when a toad takes a bath.”

Ὄρνιθες λουόμενοι μὴ ἐν ὕδατι βιοῦντες ὕδωρ ἢ χειμῶνας σημαίνουσι. καὶ φρύνη λουομένη καὶ βάτραχοι μᾶλλον ᾄδοντες σημαίνουσιν ὕδωρ.


“When a crow places its head on a rock which is washed by waves it is a sign of rain. Also: when it frequently dives down and flies around near the water, it is a sign of rain.”

Κορώνη ἐπὶ πέτρας κορυσσομένη ἣν κῦμα κατακλύζει ὕδωρ σημαίνει· καὶ κολυμβῶσα πολλάκις καὶ περιπετομένη ὕδωρ σημαίνει.


“If a hawk sits on a tree and then flies straight in a search for bugs, it is a sign of  rain.”

Ἐὰν ἱέραξ ἐπὶ δένδρου καθεζόμενος καὶ εἴσω εἰσπετόμενος φθειρίζηται, ὕδωρ σημαίνει.


“If a domesticated duck goes under the eaves of a roof and flaps its wings, it is a sign of rain.”

Καὶ ἡ νῆττα ἥμερος <ἐὰν> ὑπιοῦσα ὑπὸ τὰ γεῖσα ἀποπτερυγίζηται

Image result for ancient greek weather vase


Also, Theophrastus is like….


But then later he says….

Fragmentary Friday, Greek: To Not Even Desire to Do Wrong

More Fragments of Democritus

Fr. 55

“It is necessary to envy the deeds of the work of virtue not the words.”

ἔργα καὶ πρήξιας ἀρετῆς, οὐ λόγους, ζηλοῦν χρειών

Fr. 56

“Those who are shaped in relation to them will recognize and envy noble things.”

τὰ καλὰ γνωρίζουσι καὶ ζηλοῦσιν οἱ εὐφυέες πρὸς αὐτά.

Fr. 58

“The hopes of those who think correctly are achievable, those of the fools are impossiblities”

ἐλπίδες αἱ τῶν ὀρθὰ φρονεόντων ἐφικταί, αἱ δὲ τῶν ἀξυνέτων ἀδύνατοι

Fr. 59

“Neither art nor wisdom are achievable unless someone learns.”

24. οὔτε τέχνη οὔτε σοφίη ἐφικτόν, ἢν μὴ μάθηι τις

Fr. 60

“It is better to rebuke familiar faults than foreign ones.”

25. κρέσσον τὰ οἰκήϊα ἐλέγχειν ἁμαρτήματα ἢ τὰ ὀθνεῖα

Fr. 61

“it is not good to not commit injustice, but rather to not desire to.”

ἀγαθὸν οὐ τὸ μὴ ἀδικεῖν, ἀλλὰ τὸ μηδὲ ἐθέλειν

Fr. 62

“It is good to utter praise for noble works. For it is the work of a charlatan and a deceiver to praise base works.”

εὐλογέειν ἐπὶ καλοῖς ἔργμασι καλόν· τὸ γὰρ ἐπὶ φλαύροισι κιβδήλου καὶ ἀπατεῶνος ἔργον

Fr. 64

“Many who have learned a lot do not have a mind”

πολλοὶ πολυμαθέες νοῦν οὐκ ἔχουσιν

Fr. 65

“It is better to take counsel before actions than to change your mind afterwards”

προβουλεύεσθαι κρεῖσσον πρὸ τῶν πράξεων ἢ μετανοεῖν.

Fr. 66

“Trust those who are right not everyone. One is stupid, the other is the mark of the wise”

μὴ πᾶσιν, ἀλλὰ τοῖς δοκίμοισι πιστεύειν· τὸ μὲν γὰρ εὔηθες, τὸ δὲ σωφρονέοντος.


Fr. 67

“One of esteem and one without it do not only act for different reasons but they desire for different reasons too.”

δόκιμος ἀνὴρ καὶ ἀδόκιμος οὐκ ἐξ ὧν πράσσει μόνον, ἀλλὰ καὶ ἐξ ὧν βούλεται.

Fr. 68

“Truth and goodness are the same for all people. But pleasure varies from one to another.”

ἀνθρώποις πᾶσι τωὐτὸν ἀγαθὸν καὶ ἀληθές· ἡδὺ δὲ ἄλλωι ἄλλο.

Fr. 69

“It is the mark of a child not an adult to desire without measure.”

παιδός, οὐκ ἀνδρὸς τὸ ἀμέτρως ἐπιθυμεῖν.

Fr. 70

“Untimely pleasures give birth to displeasing things.”

ἡδοναὶ ἄκαιροι τίκτουσιν ἀηδίας.

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The Worst Things and the Best Speeches (Fragmentary Friday: Democritus Edition)

Fr. 38

“It is fine to hinder the one who commits injustice; if not, it is noble not to do wrong with him.”

καλὸν μὲν τὸν ἀδικέοντα κωλύειν· εἰ δὲ μή, μὴ ξυναδικέειν.

Fr. 39

“It is good either to be noble or to imitate it.”

ἀγαθὸν ἢ εἶναι χρεὼν ἢ μιμεῖσθαι

Fr. 40

“Human beings live in good fortune neither by body nor by money but by rectitude and great-intelligence.”

οὔτε σώμασιν οὔτε χρήμασιν εὐδαιμονοῦσιν ἄνθρωποι, ἀλλ’ ὀρθοσύνηι καὶ πολυφροσύνηι.

Fr. 41

“Restrain yourself from mistakes because of what is right not because of fear.”

μὴ διὰ φόβον, ἀλλὰ διὰ τὸ δέον ἀπέχεσθαι ἁμαρτημάτων


Fr. 43

“A change of mind is a saving grace among shameful deeds.”

μεταμέλεια ἐπ’ αἰσχροῖσιν ἔργμασι βίου σωτηρίη.

Fr. 44

“It is right to be a speaker of truth not of many words.”

ἀληθόμυθον χρὴ εἶναι, οὐ πολύλογον

Fr. 45

“The one who does wrong is more evil than the one who is wronged.”

ὁ ἀδικῶν τοῦ ἀδικουμένου κακοδαιμονέστερος.

Fr. 48

“The good person makes no reckoning of rebuking fools.”

μωμεομένων φλαύρων ὁ ἀγαθὸς οὐ ποιεῖται λόγον

Fr. 49

“It is hard to be ruled by the worse person.”

χαλεπὸν ἄρχεσθαι ὑπὸ χερείονος

Fr. 50

“The one completely bested by money could never be just.”

ὁ χρημάτων παντελῶς ἥσσων οὐκ ἄν ποτε εἴη δίκαιος.

Fr. 51

“An argument inclined toward persuasion is often stronger than gold.”

ἰσχυρότερος ἐς πειθὼ λόγος πολλαχῆι γίνεται χρυσοῦ


Fr. 53

“Many live according to reason even if they have not learned it.”

πολλοὶ λόγον μὴ μαθόντες ζῶσι κατὰ λόγον.

Fr. 54

“Many who do the worst things prepare the best speeches.”

πολλοὶ δρῶντες τὰ αἴσχιστα λόγους ἀρίστους ἀσκέουσιν


Related image

1477 Italian fresco, Pinacoteca di Brera, Milan.

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