Writing to Teacher While on a Walk

Marcus Aurelius to Fronto Ad M. Caes. v. 47 (62) (54–156 a.d).

“Greetings, my teacher,

I hope that now, finally, my teacher, you may tell me something more comforting. For your letter tells me that you were in pain at the very time you were writing to me. I have dictated this letter while walking. For my present state has been longing for this movement. But I will only feel gratitude for this harvest season when your greater health begins to be clearer to me. Be well, my most comforting of teachers.”

Magistro meo salutem.

Nunc denique opto, mi magister, iucundiora indices. Nam doluisse te in id tempus, quo mihi scribebas, litterae declarant. Haec obambulans dictavi. Nam eum motum in praesentia ratio corpusculi desiderabat. Vindemiarum | autem gratiam nunc demum integram sentiam, quom tua valetudo placatior esse nobis coeperit. Vale mi iucundissime magister.

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Imagine the Awkward Conference Panels: Plato and Aristotle, Frenemies

Aelian, Varia Historia 3.19

“It is reported that the first difference between Plato and Aristotle developed for the following reasons. Plato was displeased with Aristotle’s life, and in the clothing he selected. See, Aristotle dressed in well-made clothes and shoes; he also had his haircut in a manner disliked by Plato; he also took pride in wearing many rings. His face, moreover, bore a certain aspect of derision; and within this face, an untimely talkativeness brought his character into question too. All these characteristics are obviously foreign to a philosopher. When Plato saw them, he was repelled by the man and preferred Xenocrates, Speusippos, Amykles, and others. These men received his respect and regular conversation.

When Xenocrates was out of town to visit his home, Aristotle set upon Plato and made a chorus of his companions around him with Mnason of Phocis and other similar men. Speusippus was ill and was incapable of walking with Plato who was already eighty years old. Thanks to his age, he had lost some parts of his memory. Aristotle plotted against him and set upon him: he questioned him rather aggressively and in the manner of refutation, which was clearly unjust and unsympathetic. Because of this, Plato stopped going for his walk outside; he walked inside with his friends.”

Λέγεται τὴν διαφορὰν ᾿Αριστοτέλους πρὸς Πλάτωνα τὴν πρώτην ἐκ τούτων γενέσθαι. οὐκ ἠρέσκετο τῷ βίῳ αὐτοῦ ὁ Πλάτων οὐδὲ τῇ κατασκευῇ τῇ περὶ τὸ σῶμα. καὶ γὰρ ἐσθῆτι ἐχρῆτο περιέργῳ ὁ ᾿Αριστοτέλης καὶ ὑποδέσει, καὶ κουρὰν δὲ ἐκείρετο καὶ ταύτην ἀήθη Πλάτωνι, καὶ δακτυλίους δὲ πολλοὺς φορῶν ἐκαλλύνετο ἐπὶ τούτῳ· καὶ μωκία δέ τις ἦν αὐτοῦ περὶ τὸ πρόσωπον, καὶ ἄκαιρος στωμυλία λαλοῦντος κατηγόρει καὶ αὕτη τὸν τρόπον αὐτοῦ. πάντα δὲ ταῦτα ὡς ἔστιν ἀλλότρια φιλοσόφου, δῆλον. ἅπερ οὖν ὁρῶν ὁ Πλάτων οὐ προσίετο τὸν ἄνδρα, προετίμα δὲ αὐτοῦ Ξενοκράτην καὶ Σπεύσιππον καὶ ᾿Αμύκλαν καὶ ἄλλους, τῇ τε λοιπῇ δεξιούμενος αὐτοὺς τιμῇ καὶ οὖν καὶ τῇ κοινωνίᾳ τῶν λόγων.

ἀποδημίας δὲ γενομένης ποτὲ τῷ Ξενοκράτει ἐς τὴν πατρίδα, ἐπέθετο τῷ Πλάτωνι ὁ ᾿Αριστοτέλης, χορόν τινα τῶν ὁμιλητῶν τῶν ἑαυτοῦ περιστησάμενος, ὧν ἦν Μνάσων τε ὁ Φωκεὺς καὶ ἄλλοι τοιοῦτοι. ἐνόσει δὲ τότε ὁ Σπεύσιππος, καὶ διὰ ταῦτα ἀδύνατος ἦν συμβαδίζειν τῷ Πλάτωνι. ὁ δὲ Πλάτων ὀγδοήκοντα ἔτη ἐγεγόνει, καὶ ὁμοῦ τι διὰ τὴν ἡλικίαν ἐπελελοίπει τὰ τῆς μνήμης αὐτόν. ἐπιθέμενος οὖν αὐτῷ καὶ ἐπιβουλεύων ὁ ᾿Αριστοτέλης, καὶ φιλοτίμως πάνυ τὰς ἐρωτήσεις ποιούμενος καὶ τρόπον τινὰ καὶ ἐλεγκτικῶς, ἀδικῶν ἅμα καὶ ἀγνωμονῶν ἦν δῆλος· καὶ διὰ ταῦτα ἀποστὰς ὁ Πλάτων τοῦ ἔξω περιπάτου, ἔνδον ἐβάδιζε σὺν τοῖς ἑταίροις.

Aelian, Varia Historia 4.9

“Plato used to call Aristotle Pôlos [the Foal]. What did he wish with that name? Everyone knows that a foal, when it has had its fill of baby’s milk, kicks its mother. Thus Plato was signaling a certain ingratitude on Aristotle’ part. Indeed, Aristotle received the greatest seeds of Philosophy from Plato and then, though he was filled to the brim with the best ideas, he broke with Plato rebelliously. He founded his own house, took his friends on Plato’s walk, and set himself up to be Plato’s rival.”

῾Ο Πλάτων τὸν ᾿Αριστοτέλη ἐκάλει Πῶλον. τί δὲ ἐβούλετο αὐτῷ τὸ ὄνομα ἐκεῖνο; δηλονότι ὡμολόγηται τὸν πῶλον, ὅταν κορεσθῇ τοῦ μητρῴου γάλακτος, λακτίζειν τὴν μητέρα. ᾐνίττετο οὖν καὶ ὁ Πλάτων ἀχαριστίαν τινὰ τοῦ ᾿Αριστοτέλους. καὶ γὰρ ἐκεῖνος μέγιστα ἐς φιλοσοφίαν παρὰ Πλάτωνος λαβὼν σπέρματα καὶ ἐφόδια, εἶτα ὑποπλησθεὶς τῶν ἀρίστων καὶ ἀφηνιάσας, ἀντῳκοδόμησεν αὐτῷ διατριβὴν καὶ ἀντιπαρεξήγαγεν ἐν τῷ περιπάτῳ ἑταίρους ἔχων καὶ ὁμιλητάς, καὶ ἐγλίχετο ἀντίπαλος εἶναι Πλάτωνι.

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A Routine for Managing Old Age from Cicero

Cicero, De Senectute 35-36

“Laelius and Scipio, we must resist old age and counteract its weaknesses with care. We must fight against it as we would a disease. A heath regimen must be established. We need moderate exercise and only as much food and drink as is needed to replenish our abilities but not to overcome them. And we should not attend to the body alone: but much greater service is owed to the mind and soul.

For these parts flicker out from old age just as a lamps unfilled with oil waver and dim. The body, moreover, grows worn out from excessive exercise, but our minds are unburdened by working out. For, the men Caecilius calls “the comic old fools” are those he means to mark out as credulous, forgetful, and discombobulated. These are not the faults of old age altogether, but of a lazy, careless, and sleepy old age. Just as petulance and lust are more often traits of young men than old ones, yet are not present in all young men but only the corruptible ones, so too is that aged foolishness which people usually call senility a mark of those who have weak minds, not of all old men.”

Resistendum, Laeli et Scipio, senectuti est eiusque vitia diligentia compensanda sunt, pugnandum tamquam contra morbum sic contra senectutem, habenda  ratio valetudinis, utendum exercitationibus modicis, tantum cibi et potionis adhibendum, ut reficiantur vires, non opprimantur. Nec vero corpori solum subveniendum est, sed menti atque animo multo magis. Nam haec quoque, nisi tamquam lumini oleum instilles, exstinguuntur senectute. Et corpora quidem exercitationum defetigatione ingravescunt, animi autem exercitando levantur. Nam quos ait Caecilius “comicos stultos senes,” hos significat credulos obliviosos dissolutos, quae vitia sunt non senectutis, sed inertis ignavae somniculosae senectutis. Ut petulantia, ut libido magis est adulescentium quam senum, nec tamen omnium adulescentium, sed non proborum, sic ista senilis stultitia, quae deliratio appellari solet, senum levium est, non omnium.

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It Is Good For Women to Exercise Too! (But for Predictable, Instrumental Reasons)

Philostratus, Gymnasticus 27

“And there is also a notion older than this which seemed right to Lykourgos for Sparta. Because he meant to provide warrior-athletes for Sparta, he said, “Let the girls exercise and permit them to run in public. Certainly this strengthening of their bodies was for the sake of good childbearing and that they would have better offspring.

For one who comes from this training to her husband’s home will not hesitate to carry water or to mill grain because she has prepared from her youth. And if she is joined together with a youth who has joined her in rigorous exercise, she will provide better offspring—for they will be tall, strong and rarely sick. Sparta became so preeminent in war once her marriages were prepared in this way.”

Καίτοι καὶ πρεσβύτερον τούτου, ὃ καὶ Λυκούργῳ ἐδόκει τῷ Σπαρτιάτῃ· παριστάμενος γὰρ τῇ Λακεδαίμονι πολεμικοὺς ἀθλητὰς, “γυμναζέσθων,” φησὶν, “αἱ κόραι καὶ ἀνείσθων δημοσίᾳ τρέχειν.” ὑπὲρ εὐπαιδίας δήπου καὶ τοῦ τὰ ἔκγονα βελτίω τίκτειν ὑπὸ τοῦ ἐρρῶσθαι τὸ σῶμα· ἀφικομένη γὰρ ἐς ἀνδρὸς ὑδροφορεῖν οὐκ ὀκνήσει οὐδὲ ἀλεῖν διὰ τὸ ἠσκῆσθαι ἐκ νέας· εἰ δὲ καὶ νέῳ καὶ συγγυμναζομένῳ συζυγείη, βελτίω τὰ ἔκγονα ἀποδώσει, καὶ γὰρ εὐμήκη καὶ ἰσχυρὰ καὶ ἄνοσα. καὶ ἐγένετο ἡ Λακεδαίμων τοσαύτη κατὰ πόλεμον, ἐπειδὴ τὰ γαμικὰ αὐτοῖς ὧδε ἐπράττετο.

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For Resolution Season: Galen on the Importance of Delighting the Soul During Exercise

Galen, On Exercise with A Small Ball, 1-2

“My Epigenes, how important for health exercise is—and how it is right to engage in it before good—has been sufficiently explained by much earlier men, the best of the philosophers and doctors. But no one before has sufficiently explained how much exercises with a small ball are better than the others. It is right, for this reason, for me to explain what I know so that you may evaluate it as someone who is of all men most well practiced in these arts and also so that it may be useful for others—should you truly believe that they have been elaborated sufficiently—when you share the work with them.

For I say that he best of all exercises are not only those which thoroughly wear out the body, but can also delight the soul. Men who invented the practice of hunting with dogs figured out how to combine hunting with pleasure, delight, and competitive spirit—they were wise in respect to human nature. The soul may be moved so much in this activity, that many people are freed from disease because of pleasure alone while many others who felt sickness coming on were relieved of the pressure.

There is nothing of the experiences of the body which is so strong that it completely overpowers the soul. Therefore, we should not neglect the movements of the spirit—whatever kind they are—but, instead, we should make a greater consideration of it than of the body because it is that much more powerful. This is certainly a shared quality of all exercises which happen pleasurably, but it is a choice quality of those performed with the small ball, which I will now explain.”

Πηλίκον μὲν ἀγαθόν ἐστιν, ὦ Ἐπίγενες, εἰς ὑγίειαν γυμνάσια, καὶ ὡς χρὴ τῶν σιτίων ἡγεῖσθαι αὐτά, παλαιοῖς ἀνδράσιν αὐτάρκως εἴρηται, φιλοσόφων τε καὶ ἰατρῶν τοῖς ἀρίστοις· ὅσον δ’ ὑπὲρ τἄλλα τὰ διὰ τῆς σμικρᾶς σφαίρας ἐστί, τοῦτ’ οὐδέπω τῶν πρόσθεν ἱκανῶς οὐδεὶς ἐξηγήσατο. δίκαιον οὖν ἡμᾶς ἃ γιγνώσκομεν εἰπεῖν, ὑπὸ σοῦ μὲν κριθησόμενα τοῦ πάντων ἠσκηκότος ἄριστα τὴν ἐν αὐτοῖς τέχνην, χρήσιμα δ’,3 εἴπερ ἱκανῶς εἰρῆσθαι δόξειε, καὶ τοῖς ἄλλοις, οἷς ἂν μεταδῷς τοῦ λόγου, γενησόμενα.

φημὶ γὰρ ἄριστα μὲν ἁπάντων γυμνασίων εἶναι τὰ μὴ μόνον τὸ σῶμα διαπονεῖν, ἀλλὰ καὶ τὴν ψυχὴν τέρπειν δυνάμενα. καὶ ὅσοι κυνηγέσια καὶ τὴν ἄλλην θήραν ἐξεῦρον, ἡδονῇ καὶ τέρψει καὶ φιλοτιμίᾳ τὸν ἐν αὐτοῖς πόνον κερασάμενοι, σοφοί τινες ἄνδρες ἦσαν καὶ φύσιν ἀνθρωπίνην ἀκριβῶς καταμεμαθηκότες. τοσοῦτον γὰρ ἐν αὐτῇ δύναται ψυχῆς κίνησις, ὥστε πολλοὶ μὲν ἀπηλλάγησαν νοσημάτων ἡσθέντες μόνον, πολλοὶ δ’ ἑάλωσαν ἀνιαθέντες. οὐδ’ ἔστιν οὐδὲν οὕτως ἰσχυρόν τι τῶν κατὰ τὸ σῶμα παθημάτων, ὡς κρατεῖν τῶν περὶ τὴν ψυχήν. οὔκουν οὐδ’ ἀμελεῖν χρὴ τῶν ταύτης κινήσεων ὁποῖαί τινες ἔσονται, πολὺ δὲ μᾶλλον ἢ τῶν τοῦ σώματος ἐπιμελεῖσθαι τά τ’ ἄλλα καὶ ὅσῳ κυριώτεραι. τοῦτο μὲν δὴ κοινὸν ἁπάντων γυμνασίων τῶν μετὰ τέρψεως, ἄλλα δ’ ἐξαίρετα τῶν διὰ τῆς σμικρᾶς σφαίρας, ἃ ἐγὼ νῦν ἐξηγήσομαι.

By Unknown – Own work, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=5715834

Not too Hard or Too Soft: Plato Likes His Citizens Just Right

In a recent blog post, Neville Morley takes on a quotation attributed to Plato (and sometimes Thucydides) which makes an assertion about the preeminence of the scholar-athlete. When Neville put out a query about the line on Twitter, it drew my attention, because, well, sourcing quotes is a great way not to start editing an article. (Also, I seem to like doing it.)

Here’s the quotation:

As far as I can tell, this seems to use the language of Jowett’s translation of Plato’s Republic in a rather liberal summary:

Plato, Republic 410b-d (Book 3)

[Socrates] “Isn’t it the case then, Glaukos,” I said, “that those who set out education in both music and athletic training did not do it for the reason some believe they did, so that they might care for the body with one and the soul with the other?”

“But, what do you mean?” [Glaukos Said]

I said, “They run the risk of providing both for the soul in particular.”

“How is this the case?”

I said, “Have you not noticed how those who cling particularly to athletic training throughout life but have little to do with music develop a certain personality? Or, vice versa, how those who do the opposite turn out?”

“Um, what do you mean?” he said.

‘Well, the first kind of person ends up especially wild and mean-spirited while the other is equally effeminate and extremely mild,” I said.

“Ah, I see,” he said, “I have noticed that those who have submitted to constant athletic training end up wilder than is necessary and those devoted to music become accordingly more effeminate than would be good for them.”

“Truly,” I said, “this wildness emerges from the fiery spirit of our nature and, when it is cultivated properly, becomes bravery but if it is developed more than is necessary, it turns into meanness and harshness, as one might guess.”

     ῏Αρ’ οὖν, ἦν δ’ ἐγώ, ὦ Γλαύκων, καὶ οἱ καθιστάντες μουσικῇ καὶ γυμναστικῇ παιδεύειν οὐχ οὗ ἕνεκά τινες οἴονται καθιστᾶσιν, ἵνα τῇ μὲν τὸ σῶμα θεραπεύοιντο, τῇ δὲ τὴν ψυχήν;

     ᾿Αλλὰ τί μήν; ἔφη.

     Κινδυνεύουσιν, ἦν δ’ ἐγώ, ἀμφότερα τῆς ψυχῆς ἕνεκα τὸ μέγιστον καθιστάναι.

     Πῶς δή;

     Οὐκ ἐννοεῖς, εἶπον, ὡς διατίθενται αὐτὴν τὴν διάνοιαν οἳ ἂν γυμναστικῇ μὲν διὰ βίου ὁμιλήσωσιν, μουσικῆς δὲ μὴ ἅψωνται; ἢ αὖ ὅσοι ἂν τοὐναντίον διατεθῶσιν;

     Τίνος δέ, ἦ δ’ ὅς, πέρι λέγεις;

     ᾿Αγριότητός τε καὶ σκληρότητος, καὶ αὖ μαλακίας τε καὶ ἡμερότητος, ἦν δ’ ἐγώ—

     ῎Εγωγε, ἔφη· ὅτι οἱ μὲν γυμναστικῇ ἀκράτῳ χρησάμενοι ἀγριώτεροι τοῦ δέοντος ἀποβαίνουσιν, οἱ δὲ μουσικῇ μαλακώτεροι αὖ γίγνονται ἢ ὡς κάλλιον αὐτοῖς.

     Καὶ μήν, ἦν δ’ ἐγώ, τό γε ἄγριον τὸ θυμοειδὲς ἂν τῆς φύσεως παρέχοιτο, καὶ ὀρθῶς μὲν τραφὲν ἀνδρεῖον ἂν εἴη, μᾶλλον δ’ ἐπιταθὲν τοῦ δέοντος σκληρόν τε καὶ χαλεπὸν γίγνοιτ’ ἄν, ὡς τὸ εἰκός.

The bigger problem is that I think the summative quote misses out on the spirit and nuance of the original. (Mirabile Dictu! Internet discourse oversimplifies as it appropriates the past!)

A few notes on the translation. Greek mousikê can mean the poetic arts along with singing, dancing, and playing instruments. Given the content of poetry in the Archaic age, one could even dare to see early elements of philosophy here. So, in the modern sense, I would probably call this “Arts and Humanities”. Indeed, at 411d, Socrates suggests that one who is not trained in mousikê “has no love of learning in his soul, since he has not tasted of any learning or inquiry, nor had a share of logic or any other type of mousikê, he becomes feeble, mute, and blind.” (οὐκ εἴ τι καὶ ἐνῆν αὐτοῦ φιλομαθὲς ἐν τῇ ψυχῇ, ἅτε οὔτε μαθήματος γευόμενον οὐδενὸς οὔτε ζητήματος, οὔτε λόγου μετίσχον οὔτε τῆς ἄλλης μουσικῆς, ἀσθενές τε καὶ κωφὸν καὶ τυφλὸν γίγνεται)

The adjective agrios, which I translate as “wild” is given by others as savage. It contrasts, I think, with being civilized. Malakias means “softness” but, as with modern Greek, it conveys effeminacy. I went with the heteronormative, misogynistic language even if it does not map completely onto Plato’s meaning.

Neville Morley, in a follow up exchange, said that he thinks the idea of the spurious quotation is based on the content of this part of the Republic all the way up to 412. At 410e, the speakers agree that the guardians of the state should possess qualities from both extremes. A man who has no training in mousikê  will use only force and not reason to resolve disputes (he becomes a “hater of reason” μισόλογος).

The way this guy is standing, I expect to start hearing “when you’re a Jet…”

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.

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BLMedieval Sloane MS 278, 1280-1300