“An Ass with a Crown” – Advice for Future Rulers (VOTE!)

Aeneas Silvius Piccolomini, de Liberorum Educatione IV:

“The study of literature offers a great aid to attaining virtue, and this befits no one more than a king. With this understanding, the Roman Emperor sent a letter to the king of the Franks, with whom he was then joined in friendship, in which he urged him to have his children brought up in the study of letters, and in which he claimed that an illiterate king was no more than an ass with a crown. I find that the Roman emperors were themselves not uneducated when the empire was at its height; then, learning prevailed in both the senate and the army. Yet it is obvious to all that, once learning was abandoned, all virtues fell into decay, because the strength of the military and the imperial office were weakened as though cut at the root. Indeed, Socrates – as is related by Boethius – used to think that republics were fortunate if it should chance that their rulers were caught up in the pursuit of wisdom, because only those people are perfect, who wish to mix civil business with philosophy and who earn themselves a double good; for, their lives serve the public interest, and is spent in the greatest tranquillity, disturbed by no troubles, engaged in the pursuit of wisdom. Therefore, princes and all those who are to reign should strive with the utmost effort that they both perform their public duties and engage in philosophy, as much as will seem fitting for the times.”

Ad virtutem autem capessendam litterarum studia plurimum adiumenti praebent, nec cuiquam magis quam regi doctrina congruit. Quod intelligens Romanus imperator Francorum regi, quocum tunc amicitia iunctus erat, per epistulam magnopere suadebat, liberos uti suos litteris erudiri curaret, illiteratumque regem quasi coronatum asinum esse dicebat. Nec ego Romanorum principes, dum res publica floruit, illiteratos esse comperi, sed domi atque militiae, et in senatu et in exercitu dominatam esse doctrinam; manifestumque omnibus est, postquam exclusae sunt litterae, omnes elanguisse virtutes. Nam et armatae quoque militiae infirmata est manus et ipsius principatus quasi praecisa radix. Socrates quidem, ut est a Boethio relatum, fortunatas esse res publicas opinabatur, si rectores earum studere sapientiae contigisset. Soli namque perfecti sunt homines, qui civiles cum philosophia partes quaerunt immiscere sibique gemina vendicant bona, nam et eorum vita communi servit utilitati et summa cum tranquillitate nullis obiecta fluctibus per sapientiae studia versatur. Principibus igitur et qui regnaturi sunt experiundum est totis viribus, ut et publica conficiantur negotia et philosophia vendicetur, quemadmodum pro temporibus attinere videbitur.

 

“An Ass with a Crown” – Advice for Future Rulers

Aeneas Silvius Piccolomini, de Liberorum Educatione IV:

“The study of literature offers a great aid to attaining virtue, and this befits no one more than a king. With this understanding, the Roman Emperor sent a letter to the king of the Franks, with whom he was then joined in friendship, in which he urged him to have his children brought up in the study of letters, and in which he claimed that an illiterate king was no more than an ass with a crown. I find that the Roman emperors were themselves not uneducated when the empire was at its height; then, learning prevailed in both the senate and the army. Yet it is obvious to all that, once learning was abandoned, all virtues fell into decay, because the strength of the military and the imperial office were weakened as though cut at the root. Indeed, Socrates – as is related by Boethius – used to think that republics were fortunate if it should chance that their rulers were caught up in the pursuit of wisdom, because only those people are perfect, who wish to mix civil business with philosophy and who earn themselves a double good; for, their lives serve the public interest, and is spent in the greatest tranquillity, disturbed by no troubles, engaged in the pursuit of wisdom. Therefore, princes and all those who are to reign should strive with the utmost effort that they both perform their public duties and engage in philosophy, as much as will seem fitting for the times.”

Ad virtutem autem capessendam litterarum studia plurimum adiumenti praebent, nec cuiquam magis quam regi doctrina congruit. Quod intelligens Romanus imperator Francorum regi, quocum tunc amicitia iunctus erat, per epistulam magnopere suadebat, liberos uti suos litteris erudiri curaret, illiteratumque regem quasi coronatum asinum esse dicebat. Nec ego Romanorum principes, dum res publica floruit, illiteratos esse comperi, sed domi atque militiae, et in senatu et in exercitu dominatam esse doctrinam; manifestumque omnibus est, postquam exclusae sunt litterae, omnes elanguisse virtutes. Nam et armatae quoque militiae infirmata est manus et ipsius principatus quasi praecisa radix. Socrates quidem, ut est a Boethio relatum, fortunatas esse res publicas opinabatur, si rectores earum studere sapientiae contigisset. Soli namque perfecti sunt homines, qui civiles cum philosophia partes quaerunt immiscere sibique gemina vendicant bona, nam et eorum vita communi servit utilitati et summa cum tranquillitate nullis obiecta fluctibus per sapientiae studia versatur. Principibus igitur et qui regnaturi sunt experiundum est totis viribus, ut et publica conficiantur negotia et philosophia vendicetur, quemadmodum pro temporibus attinere videbitur.

 

The Pursuit of Intellectual Pleasure

Aeneas Silvius Piccolomini, de Educatione Liberorum XVIII:

When that famous and distinguished man Aristotle was disputing about the pleasures of taste and touch – that is, of food and love – he used to assert that the pleasures which sprang from these senses were the only ones which humans had in comon with beasts, and that on that account anyone who was occupied with these pursuits was to be held in the number of herds and beasts. ‘The pleasures which arise from the other three senses are proper to humans,’ says Eustathius in Macrobius’ Saturnalia. ‘For, what person possessed of any human dignity, would be gratified by these two pleasures of sex and the table, which we share in common with the ass and the pig?’ But it will be more proper to warn a young man than a boy about the pleasure of Venus. Meanwhile, since we are censuring lavish dinners, the opinion of Cato the elder comes into my mind. He was inveighing against the prodigality and unrestrained expenses among the Romans, when he said, ‘Ah! How hard it is to give a speech to the stomach, which has no ears!’


Aristoteles, vir clarus et inclitus, cum de voluptate gustus atque tactus, id est cibi et Veneris, disputaret, quae ab his proficiscerentur sensibus delectationes solas hominibus communes esse cum bestiis asserebat, aqtue idcirco in pecudum haberi ferarumque numero, quisque esset his voluptatibus occupatus. ‘Ceterae ex tribus aliis prodeuntes homini tantum propriae sunt,’ sicut apud Macrobium in Saturnalibus Eustathius affirmat: ‘quis igitur habens aliquid humani pudoris, voluptatibus his duabus, coeundi atque comedendi gratuletur? Quae communes sunt cum asino et sue.’ Sed de Venere adolescentem magis quam puerum commonefacere oportebit. Interim, dum cenarum sumptus reprehendimus, Cato senior venit in mentem, qui cum apud Romanum populum in prodigalitatem et immodicos sumptus inveheretur, ‘vah! quam,’ inquit, ‘difficile est ad ventrem orationem habere, qui aures nullas habet!’

Human Nature – Born to Learn

Aeneas Silvius Piccolomini, de Educatione Liberorum VI:

“Few, however, will be found who are naturally unteachable. For, as Quintilian notes, just as birds are born for flying, horses for running, and beasts for savagery, so are mental agitation and intelligence the natural qualities of humanity. Lazy and unteachable people are no more natural than the giant and remarkable bodies of monsters. Although one person might supercede another in intellect, no one can be found who has not engaged in some pursuit with zeal.”

Pauci tamen reperiuntur quibus natura indocilis est. Sicut enim aves ad volatum (Quintilianus ait), equi ad cursum, ad saevitiam ferae gignuntur, sic hominis propria est agitatio mentis atque solertia; hebetes vero et indociles non magis secundum naturam quam prodigiosa corpora et insignia monstris eduntur. Et quamvis alius alium praestet ingenio, nemo tamen reperitur qui nihil sit studio consecutus.

“An Ass with a Crown” – Advice for Future Rulers

Aeneas Silvius Piccolomini, de Liberorum Educatione IV:

“The study of literature offers a great aid to attaining virtue, and this befits no one more than a king. With this understanding, the Roman Emperor sent a letter to the king of the Franks, with whom he was then joined in friendship, in which he urged him to have his children brought up in the study of letters, and in which he claimed that an illiterate king was no more than an ass with a crown. I find that the Roman emperors were themselves not uneducated when the empire was at its height; then, learning prevailed in both the senate and the army. Yet it is obvious to all that, once learning was abandoned, all virtues fell into decay, because the strength of the military and the imperial office were weakened as though cut at the root. Indeed, Socrates – as is related by Boethius – used to think that republics were fortunate if it should chance that their rulers were caught up in the pursuit of wisdom, because only those people are perfect, who wish to mix civil business with philosophy and who earn themselves a double good; for, their lives serve the public interest, and is spent in the greatest tranquillity, disturbed by no troubles, engaged in the pursuit of wisdom. Therefore, princes and all those who are to reign should strive with the utmost effort that they both perform their public duties and engage in philosophy, as much as will seem fitting for the times.”

Ad virtutem autem capessendam litterarum studia plurimum adiumenti praebent, nec cuiquam magis quam regi doctrina congruit. Quod intelligens Romanus imperator Francorum regi, quocum tunc amicitia iunctus erat, per epistulam magnopere suadebat, liberos uti suos litteris erudiri curaret, illiteratumque regem quasi coronatum asinum esse dicebat. Nec ego Romanorum principes, dum res publica floruit, illiteratos esse comperi, sed domi atque militiae, et in senatu et in exercitu dominatam esse doctrinam; manifestumque omnibus est, postquam exclusae sunt litterae, omnes elanguisse virtutes. Nam et armatae quoque militiae infirmata est manus et ipsius principatus quasi praecisa radix. Socrates quidem, ut est a Boethio relatum, fortunatas esse res publicas opinabatur, si rectores earum studere sapientiae contigisset. Soli namque perfecti sunt homines, qui civiles cum philosophia partes quaerunt immiscere sibique gemina vendicant bona, nam et eorum vita communi servit utilitati et summa cum tranquillitate nullis obiecta fluctibus per sapientiae studia versatur. Principibus igitur et qui regnaturi sunt experiundum est totis viribus, ut et publica conficiantur negotia et philosophia vendicetur, quemadmodum pro temporibus attinere videbitur.

 

Back to School, Fools: You Were Made For Learning!

“Who would not be made dull if he had to bear a single teacher of a single science throughout the entire day?”

Quis vero non obtundatur, si per totum diem unius artis unum magistrum ferat?

-Aeneas Silvius Piccolomini, de Liberorum Educatione, chp. 95

 

Aeneas Silvius Piccolomini, de Liberorum Educatione cp.6

“We encounter few, however, who are unteachable by nature. For just as birds (as Quintilian notes) are born for flying, and horses for running, and beasts for savagery, so too are cunning and mental activity the proper sphere of humanity. Dull and ineducable people are therefore born no more according to nature than are prodigious and remarkable bodies are in monsters. And though one person might excel another in natural talent, there is no one to be found who cannot attain something with a bit of application.”

“Pauci tamen reperiuntur quibus natura indocilis est. Sicut enim aves ad volatum (Quintilianus ait), equi ad cursum, as saevitiam ferae gignuntur, sic hominis propria est agitatio mentis atque solertia; hebetes vero et indociles non magis secundum naturam quam prodigiosa corpora et insignia monstris eduntur. Et quamvis alius alium praestet ingenio, nemo tamen reperitur qui nihil sit studio consecutus.”

 

Quintilian, Institutio 1.1.1-3

“It is a false complaint that the faculty of understanding what is taught is granted to only a few, and that most people waste their time and energy due to the slowness of their intellect. Just the opposite: you can find many who have an easy time with thinking, and are ready to learn. Certainly, this is natural for humans, just as birds are born to fly, horses are born to run, and beasts are born for savagery; similarly, the activity and ingenuity of the mind is peculiarly our own.

Slow and ineducable people are no more the product of human nature than are giants and wondrously deformed people, but these have been but few. A proof of this is the fact that the hope of many things shines forth in children: if it passes away with age, it is clear that the fault lay not with human nature, but with our lack of care. One might object, ‘But nevertheless, some people are superior in intellect to others.’ I readily concede that point; but that will do more for some than for others. However, no one will be found who has pursued nothing with effort.”

Falsa enim est querela, paucissimis hominibus vim percipiendi quae tradantur esse concessam, plerosque vero laborem as tempora tarditate ingenii perdere. Nam contra plures reperias et faciles in excogitando et ad discendum promptos. Quippe id est homini naturale, ac sicut aves ad volatum, equi ad cursum, ad saevitiam ferae gignuntur, ita nobis propria est mentis agitatio atque sollertia: unde origo animi caelestis creditur. Hebetes vero et indociles non magis secundum naturam hominis eduntur quam prodigiosa corpora et monstris insignia, sed hi pauci admodum fuerunt. Argumentum, quod in pueris elucet spes plurimorum: quae cum emoritur aetate, manifestum est non naturam defecisse sed curam. “Praestat tamen ingenio alius alium.”  Concedo; sed plus efficiet aut minus: nemo reperitur qui sit studio nihil consecutus.

Martial, 5.58

“Lupus, you ask long and anxiously to what teacher you should entrust your son. I advise you to avoid all teachers and professors: don’t let him have anything to do with the books of Cicero or Vergil. Let him leave Tutilius to his own reputation. If he writes verses, you will disown him as a poet. Does he want to learn a more… pecuniary skill? Make him learn to be a lute player or a flute player; if he seems a bit on the untalented side, just make him an auctioneer or a builder.”

56

Cui tradas, Lupe, filium magistro
quaeris sollicitus diu rogasque.
Omnes grammaticosque rhetorasque
deuites moneo: nihil sit illi
cum libris Ciceronis aut Maronis;              5
famae Tutilium suae relinquat;
si uersus facit, abdices poetam.
Artes discere uolt pecuniosas?
Fac discat citharoedus aut choraules;
si duri puer ingeni uidetur,              10
praeconem facias uel architectum.

Plutarch, Alexander 8.1-2

“Aristotle, more than others, seems to me to have fostered in Alexander a love of healing. For he delighted not just in talking about medicine but he even used to help his sick friends and assign to them certain therapies and treatments, as one can see from his letters. He was by nature a lover of language, a lover of learning and a lover of reading. Because he believed and named the Iliad the roadmap of military excellence, he took a copy corrected by Aristotle which they called the “Box-Iliad” and he always had it with his knife lying under his pillow, as Onesikritos recounts. And when he did not have other books deep in Asia, he ordered Harpalos to send him some. Harpalos sent him the books of Philistos, the tragedies of Euripides, Sophocles and Aeschylus, and the dithyrambs of Telestos and Philoxenos.

In the beginning, Alexander revered Aristotle and said that he loved him no less than his father because he was alive thanks to one and living well thanks to the other. Later, he was rather suspicious of him, not so much that he harmed him at all, but his attachment and attention were not as eager as before—and this was a sign of their alienation.”

Alexander and Aristotle
Alexander and Aristotle (Artist Unknown)

Δοκεῖ δέ μοι καὶ τὸ φιλιατρεῖν ᾿Αλεξάνδρῳ προστρίψασθαι μᾶλλον ἑτέρων ᾿Αριστοτέλης. οὐ γὰρ μόνον τὴν θεωρίαν ἠγάπησεν, ἀλλὰ καὶ νοσοῦσιν ἐβοήθει τοῖς φίλοις, καὶ συνέταττε θεραπείας τινὰς καὶ διαίτας, ὡς ἐκ τῶν ἐπιστολῶν λαβεῖν ἔστιν. ἦν δὲ καὶ φύσει φιλόλογος καὶ φιλομαθὴς καὶ φιλαναγνώστης, καὶ τὴν μὲν  ᾿Ιλιάδα τῆς πολεμικῆς ἀρετῆς ἐφόδιον καὶ νομίζων καὶ ὀνομάζων, ἔλαβε μὲν ᾿Αριστοτέλους διορθώσαντος ἣν ἐκ τοῦ νάρθηκος καλοῦσιν, εἶχε δ’ ἀεὶ μετὰ τοῦ ἐγχειριδίου κειμένην ὑπὸ τὸ προσκεφάλαιον, ὡς ᾿Ονησίκριτος ἱστόρηκε (FGrH 134 F 38)· τῶν δ’ ἄλλων βιβλίων οὐκ εὐπορῶν ἐν τοῖς ἄνω τόποις, ῞Αρπαλον ἐκέλευσε πέμψαι, κἀκεῖνος ἔπεμψεν αὐτῷ τάς τε Φιλίστου βίβλους καὶ τῶν Εὐριπίδου καὶ Σοφοκλέους καὶ Αἰσχύλου τραγῳδιῶν συχνάς, καὶ Τελέστου καὶ Φιλοξένου διθυράμβους. ᾿Αριστοτέλην δὲ θαυμάζων ἐν ἀρχῇ καὶ ἀγαπῶν οὐχ ἧττον, ὡς αὐτὸς ἔλεγε, τοῦ πατρός, ὡς δι’ ἐκεῖνον μὲν ζῶν, διὰ τοῦτον δὲ καλῶς ζῶν, ὕστερον ὑποπτότερον ἔσχεν, οὐχ ὥστε ποιῆσαί τι κακόν, ἀλλ’ αἱ φιλοφροσύναι τὸ σφοδρὸν ἐκεῖνο καὶ στερκτικὸν οὐκ ἔχουσαι πρὸς αὐτόν, ἀλλοτριότητος ἐγένοντο τεκμήριον.

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