On the Folly of Complete Victories

Aelian, Varia Historia 14.25

“When there was once that worst of plagues, civil conflict, on Khios, one man who was a politician among them said to some of his companions who were hurrying to exile all their opponents, “Don’t! Now that we’ve won, let’s keep some of them around so that we won’t start to fight one another in the future because we don’t have any enemies.”

He persuaded them when he said this since it seemed to all that he spoke well in saying so.”

Ἐστασίασάν ποτε πρὸς ἀλλήλους οἱ Χῖοι, ἀνδρειότατα νοσήσαντες νόσον ταύτην βαρυτάτην. ἀνὴρ οὖν ἐν αὐτοῖς πολιτικὸς τὴν φύσιν πρὸς τοὺς σπουδάζοντας τῶν ἑταίρων πάντας ἐκβάλλειν τοὺς ἐναντίους “μηδαμῶς” ἔφη· “ἀλλ᾿ ἐπεὶ κεκρατήκαμεν, ὑπολειπώμεθά τινας, ἵνα μὴ τοῦ χρόνου προϊόντος, οὐκ ἔχοντες ἀντιπάλους, ἡμῖν αὐτοῖς ἀρξώμεθα πολεμεῖν.” καὶ εἰπὼν ἔπεισε· καὶ γὰρ ἔδοξε καλῶς λέγειν, ἐπεὶ οὕτως ἔλεγεν

Hieronymus Bosch, “The Ship of Fools”

“Living Today Is Too Late”: Some Procrastination in Latin and Greek

Our word ‘procrastination’ is pretty much a direct borrowing from Latin (first attested in English in 1548, according to the OED–we really delayed in adopting it!). There was also a brief-lived adaptation of Latin cunctatio (delay) in English cunctation, cunctatory, cunctatious (etc.) but, thankfully, that fell into disuse. Eventually.

Here are some Greek and Roman thoughts on delay:

From the Suda:

Ἀμβολία: ἡ ὑπέρθεσις: Hesitation: postponement
Ἀναβάλλειν: To Delay
Ἀνάθεσις: ἡ ὑπέρθεσις: A delay: postponement
Διαμέλλει: ἀναβολῇ χρῆται: He/she put something off: to employ procrastination.

A few proverbs from the Suda

“The wings of Daidalos”: used of those who employ delay because they lack a prosthetic.

Δαιδάλου πτερά: ἐπὶ τῶν δι’ ἀπορίαν προσθήκης χρωμένων παρελκύσει.

“The hedgehog would put off childbirth.” This proverb is applied to situations that become worse with delay”

Ἐχῖνος τὸν τόκον ἀναβάλλῃ: λέγεται ἐφ’ ὧν τὸ ἀναβάλλεσθαι πρὸς χείρονος γίνεται.

Image result for Medieval manuscript hedgehog

Terence, Andria 206

“Dave, this is no place for sluggishness or procrastination.”

Dave, nil locist segnitiae neque socordiae,

Propertius, 1.12

“Why can’t you stop flinging a charge of laziness at me—
The claim that Rome, Ponticus, is making me procrastinate?”

Quid mihi desidiae non cessas fingere crimen,
quod faciat nobis, Pontice, Roma moram?

Achilles Tatius, Leucippe and Clitophon 18

“For when beauty, wealth and sex converge upon you, you better not sit or procrastinate!”

κάλλος γὰρ καὶ πλοῦτος καὶ ἔρως εἰ συνῆλθον ἐπὶ σέ, οὐχ ἕδρας οὐδὲ ἀναβολῆς

Cicero, Letters (to Atticus) 10.9

“Fearing this, I fell into this delay. But I might achieve everything if I hurry—if I procrastinate, I lose.”

hoc verens in hanc tarditatem incidi. sed adsequar omnia si propero: si cunctor, amitto.

Cicero, Letters to Friends (Caelius Rufus to Cicero, 87)

“You know how slow and barely effective Marcellus is. And Servius too, the procrastinator….”

nosti Marcellum, quam tardus et parum efficax sit, itemque Servium, quam cunctator

Thucydides, 2.18

“The Peloponnesians believed that when they arrived they would have captured everything outside still immediately, except for his procrastination…”

καὶ ἐδόκουν οἱ Πελοποννήσιοι ἐπελθόντες ἂν διὰ τάχους πάντα ἔτι ἔξω καταλαβεῖν, εἰ μὴ διὰ τὴν ἐκείνου μέλλησιν

Demosthenes, Second Olynthiac 23

“It is no surprise that Philip, when he goes on campaign himself, toiling and present at every event, overlooking no opportunity or season, outstrips us as we procrastinate, vote on things, and make official inquiries.”

οὐ δὴ θαυμαστόν ἐστιν, εἰ στρατευόμενος καὶ πονῶν ἐκεῖνος αὐτὸς καὶ παρὼν ἐφ᾿ ἅπασι καὶ μήτε καιρὸν μήθ᾿ ὥραν παραλείπων ἡμῶν μελλόντων καὶ ψηφιζομένων καὶ πυνθανομένων περιγίγνεται.

Plato, Critias 108d

“I need to do this already, I can’t procrastinate anymore!”

τοῦτ᾿ οὖν αὐτὸ ἤδη δραστέον, καὶ μελλητέον οὐδὲν ἔτι.

Minucius Felix, Octavius 13

“Shouldn’t everyone should respect and imitate the procrastination of Simonides, the lyric poet? When he was asked by the tyrant Hiero what he thought about the nature of the gods, first he asked for a day to think about it. On the next day, he asked for two more days. And he requested another two when reminded again!

Finally, when the tyrant asked the cause of so much delay, he responded that to him “the truth became as much more obscure as the time spent pursuing it”. To my taste, matters that are uncertain should be let as they are. When so many impressive minds disagree, decisions should not be made rashly or speedily for either side to avoid entertaining an old woman’s superstition or the loss of all religion.”

Simonidis Melici nonne admiranda omnibus et sectanda cunctatio? Qui Simonides, cum de eo, quid et quales arbitraretur deos, ab Hierone tyranno quaereretur, primo deliberationi diem petiit, postridie biduum prorogavit, mox alterum tantum admonitus adiunxit. Postremo, cum causas tantae morae tyrannus inquireret, respondit ille ‘quod sibi, quanto inquisitio tardior pergeret, tanto veritas fieret obscurior.’Mea quoque opinione quae sunt dubia, ut sunt, relinquenda sunt, nec, tot ac tantis viris deliberantibus, temere et audaciter in alteram partem ferenda sententia est, ne aut anilis inducatur superstitio aut omnis religio destruatur.”

Martial, 5.58

“Postumus, you always say that you will live tomorrow, tomorrow!
But that ‘tomorrow’ of yours – when does it ever come?
How far off is that ‘tomorrow’! Where is it, or where should it be sought?
Does it lie hidden among the Parthians, or the Armenians?
That ‘tomorrow’ is as old as Priam or Nestor.
For how much can ‘tomorrow’ be purchased?
You will live tomorrow, you say?
Postumus, even living today is too late;
he is the wise man, who lived yesterday.

Cras te uicturum, cras dicis, Postume, semper:
dic mihi, cras istud, Postume, quando uenit?
Quam longe cras istud! ubi est? aut unde petendum?
Numquid apud Parthos Armeniosque latet?
Iam cras istud habet Priami uel Nestoris annos.              5
Cras istud quanti, dic mihi, possit emi?
Cras uiues? Hodie iam uiuere, Postume, serum est:
ille sapit quisquis, Postume, uixit heri.

Odysseus, Scammer

Philoxenos of Cythera 818  = Synes. Epist. 121

“To Athanasios, wine-diluter: Odysseus was persuading Polyphemos to release him from the cave: “I am a sorcerer and it is the right time for me to help you in your lack of success in maritime love. I certainly know chants, binding spells, and love-magic which it is unlikely for Galateia to resist for long. Just promise to move the door, or, more, the door stone. It seems the size of a cliff to me. I’ll swim back faster than this word itself, once I have compelled the girl. What do I mean by compelling her? I will show her here to you once she is easier because of the magic.

She will beg you and plead with you and you will act shy and be bashful. But something still gives me pause here. I am worried that the goat-reek of your blankets will be displeasing for a girl used to luxury, who bathes often during the day. It would be great if you cleaned everything up, sweeping, washing, and fumigating your place. It would be even better if you readied some ivy and bindweed to crown yourself and the girl when she gets here. Why are you wasting time? Why don’t you open the door now?”

In response to this, Polyphemos cackled as loud as he could and clapped his hands. Odysseus believed that because he was expecting to gain this girl quickly he was not able to restrain his joy. But Polyphemos rubbed his own chin and said, “No-man, you seem like the slickest fellow, a polished little businessman. Work on some other elaborate scam. You will never get out of here.”

Ἀθανασίῳ ὑδρομίκτῃ. Ὀδυσσεὺς ἔπειθε τὸν Πολύφημον διαφεῖναι αὐτὸν ἐκ τοῦ σπηλαίου· ‘γόης γάρ εἰμι καὶ ἐς καιρὸν ἄν σοι παρείην οὐκ εὐτυχοῦντι τὰ εἰς τὸν θαλάττιον ἔρωτα· ἀλλ᾿ ἐγώ τοι καὶ ἐπῳδὰς οἶδα καὶ καταδέσμους καὶ ἐρωτικὰς κατανάγκας, αἷς οὐκ εἰκὸς ἀντισχεῖν οὐδὲ πρὸς βραχὺ τὴν Γαλάτειαν. μόνον ὑπόστηθι σὺ τὴν θύραν ἀποκινῆσαι, μᾶλλον δὲ τὸν θυρεὸν τοῦτον· ἐμοὶ μὲν γὰρ καὶ ἀκρωτήριον εἶναι φαίνεται· ἐγὼ δὲ ἐπανήξω σοι θᾶττον ἢ λόγος τὴν παῖδα κατεργασάμενος· τί λέγω κατεργασάμενος; αὐτὴν ἐκείνην ἀποφανῶ σοι δεῦρο πολλαῖς ἴυγξι γενομένην ἀγώγιμον. καὶ δεήσεταί σου καὶ ἀντιβολήσει, σὺ δὲ ἀκκιῇ καὶ κατειρωνεύσῃ. ἀτὰρ μεταξύ μέ τι καὶ τοιοῦτον ἔθραξε, μὴ τῶν κωδίων ὁ γράσος ἀηδὴς γένηται κόρῃ τρυφώσῃ καὶ λουομένῃ τῆς ἡμέρας πολλάκις· καλὸν οὖν εἰ πάντα εὐθετήσας ἐκκορήσειάς τε καὶ ἐκπλύνειας καὶ ἐκθυμιάσειας τὸ δωμάτιον· ἔτι δὲ κάλλιον εἰ καὶ στεφάνους παρασκευάσαιο κιττοῦ τε καὶ μίλακος, οἷς σαυτόν τε καὶ τὰ παιδικὰ ἀναδήσαιο. ἀλλὰ τί διατρίβεις; οὐκ ἐγχειρεῖς ἤδη τῇ θύρᾳ;’ πρὸς οὖν ταῦτα ὁ Πολύφημος ἐξεκάγχασέ τε ὅσον ἠδύνατο μέγιστον καὶ τὼ χεῖρε ἐκρότησε. καὶ ὁ μὲν Ὀδυσσεὺς ᾤετο αὐτὸν ὑπὸ χαρμονῆς οὐκ ἔχειν ὅ τι ἑαυτῷ χρήσαιτο κατελπίσαντα τῶν παιδικῶν περιέσεσθαι. ὁ δὲ ὑπογενειάσας αὐτόν, ‘ὦ Οὖτι,’ ἔφη, ‘δριμύτατον μὲν ἀνθρώπιον ἔοικας εἶναι καὶ ἐγκατατετριμμένον ἐν πράγμασιν. ἄλλο μέντοι τι ποίκιλλε· ἐνθένδε γὰρ οὐκ ἀποδράσεις.’

Jakob Jordaens 009.jpg
Jakob Jordans, 17th Century

“Living Today Is Too Late”: Some Procrastination in Latin and Greek

Our word ‘procrastination’ is pretty much a direct borrowing from Latin (first attested in English in 1548, according to the OED–we really delayed in adopting it!). There was also a brief-lived adaptation of Latin cunctatio (delay) in English cunctation, cunctatory, cunctatious (etc.) but, thankfully, that fell into disuse. Eventually.

Here are some Greek and Roman thoughts on delay:

From the Suda:

Ἀμβολία: ἡ ὑπέρθεσις: Hesitation: postponement
Ἀναβάλλειν: To Delay
Ἀνάθεσις: ἡ ὑπέρθεσις: A delay: postponement
Διαμέλλει: ἀναβολῇ χρῆται: He/she put something off: to employ procrastination.

A few proverbs from the Suda

“The wings of Daidalos”: used of those who employ delay because they lack a prosthetic.

Δαιδάλου πτερά: ἐπὶ τῶν δι’ ἀπορίαν προσθήκης χρωμένων παρελκύσει.

“The hedgehog would put off childbirth.” This proverb is applied to situations that become worse with delay”

Ἐχῖνος τὸν τόκον ἀναβάλλῃ: λέγεται ἐφ’ ὧν τὸ ἀναβάλλεσθαι πρὸς χείρονος γίνεται.

Image result for Medieval manuscript hedgehog

Terence, Andria 206

“Dave, this is no place for sluggishness or procrastination.”

Dave, nil locist segnitiae neque socordiae,

Propertius, 1.12

“Why can’t you stop flinging a charge of laziness at me—
The claim that Rome, Ponticus, is making me procrastinate?”

Quid mihi desidiae non cessas fingere crimen,
quod faciat nobis, Pontice, Roma moram?

Achilles Tatius, Leucippe and Clitophon 18

“For when beauty, wealth and sex converge upon you, you better not sit or procrastinate!”

κάλλος γὰρ καὶ πλοῦτος καὶ ἔρως εἰ συνῆλθον ἐπὶ σέ, οὐχ ἕδρας οὐδὲ ἀναβολῆς

Cicero, Letters (to Atticus) 10.9

“Fearing this, I fell into this delay. But I might achieve everything if I hurry—if I procrastinate, I lose.”

hoc verens in hanc tarditatem incidi. sed adsequar omnia si propero: si cunctor, amitto.

Cicero, Letters to Friends (Caelius Rufus to Cicero, 87)

“You know how slow and barely effective Marcellus is. And Servius too, the procrastinator….”

nosti Marcellum, quam tardus et parum efficax sit, itemque Servium, quam cunctator

Thucydides, 2.18

“The Peloponnesians believed that when they arrived they would have captured everything outside still immediately, except for his procrastination…”

καὶ ἐδόκουν οἱ Πελοποννήσιοι ἐπελθόντες ἂν διὰ τάχους πάντα ἔτι ἔξω καταλαβεῖν, εἰ μὴ διὰ τὴν ἐκείνου μέλλησιν

Demosthenes, Second Olynthiac 23

“It is no surprise that Philip, when he goes on campaign himself, toiling and present at every event, overlooking no opportunity or season, outstrips us as we procrastinate, vote on things, and make official inquiries.”

οὐ δὴ θαυμαστόν ἐστιν, εἰ στρατευόμενος καὶ πονῶν ἐκεῖνος αὐτὸς καὶ παρὼν ἐφ᾿ ἅπασι καὶ μήτε καιρὸν μήθ᾿ ὥραν παραλείπων ἡμῶν μελλόντων καὶ ψηφιζομένων καὶ πυνθανομένων περιγίγνεται.

Plato, Critias 108d

“I need to do this already, I can’t procrastinate anymore!”

τοῦτ᾿ οὖν αὐτὸ ἤδη δραστέον, καὶ μελλητέον οὐδὲν ἔτι.

Minucius Felix, Octavius 13

“Shouldn’t everyone should respect and imitate the procrastination of Simonides, the lyric poet? When he was asked by the tyrant Hiero what he thought about the nature of the gods, first he asked for a day to think about it. On the next day, he asked for two more days. And he requested another two when reminded again!

Finally, when the tyrant asked the cause of so much delay, he responded that to him “the truth became as much more obscure as the time spent pursuing it”. To my taste, matters that are uncertain should be let as they are. When so many impressive minds disagree, decisions should not be made rashly or speedily for either side to avoid entertaining an old woman’s superstition or the loss of all religion.”

Simonidis Melici nonne admiranda omnibus et sectanda cunctatio? Qui Simonides, cum de eo, quid et quales arbitraretur deos, ab Hierone tyranno quaereretur, primo deliberationi diem petiit, postridie biduum prorogavit, mox alterum tantum admonitus adiunxit. Postremo, cum causas tantae morae tyrannus inquireret, respondit ille ‘quod sibi, quanto inquisitio tardior pergeret, tanto veritas fieret obscurior.’Mea quoque opinione quae sunt dubia, ut sunt, relinquenda sunt, nec, tot ac tantis viris deliberantibus, temere et audaciter in alteram partem ferenda sententia est, ne aut anilis inducatur superstitio aut omnis religio destruatur.”

Martial, 5.58

“Postumus, you always say that you will live tomorrow, tomorrow!
But that ‘tomorrow’ of yours – when does it ever come?
How far off is that ‘tomorrow’! Where is it, or where should it be sought?
Does it lie hidden among the Parthians, or the Armenians?
That ‘tomorrow’ is as old as Priam or Nestor.
For how much can ‘tomorrow’ be purchased?
You will live tomorrow, you say?
Postumus, even living today is too late;
he is the wise man, who lived yesterday.

Cras te uicturum, cras dicis, Postume, semper:
dic mihi, cras istud, Postume, quando uenit?
Quam longe cras istud! ubi est? aut unde petendum?
Numquid apud Parthos Armeniosque latet?
Iam cras istud habet Priami uel Nestoris annos.              5
Cras istud quanti, dic mihi, possit emi?
Cras uiues? Hodie iam uiuere, Postume, serum est:
ille sapit quisquis, Postume, uixit heri.

Some Deipnosophistic Advice on What To Bring to Dinner

Athenaeus, Deipnosophists 1.4.34-1.5.5

“For this reason, someone may say Antiphanes’ famous lines of him appropriately: “You are always near the Muses and their words, whenever any work of wisdom is consulted.” Or, to use the Theban lyric poet:

He glories in
The finest type of song
The kind men play often
At a friendly table.

By inviting these men to dinner, [Athenaeus] says, he made Rome feel like their homeland. For who longs for things at home when he knows a man who throws his house open to friends? It’s like the comic Apollodorus says:

Whenever you enter the house of a friend,
You can see, Nicophon, your friend’s love
As soon as you pass through the doors.
First, the doorkeeper is happy and the dog
Wags its tale as it comes up; a servant immediately
Offers you a chair, even if no one says
Anything.

It would be right if the rest of rich people were like this. And someone might say to those who don’t act this way: “Why are you so cheap? Your shelters are full of wine—it befits you to have a fine feast for the elders!” [paraphrase of Il. 9.70-1]. Alexander the Great was this magnanimous!

… διόπερ ἐκεῖνα τῶν ᾿Αντιφάνους ἐρεῖ τις εἰς αὐτόν (II 124 K)·
ἀεὶ δὲ πρὸς Μούσαισι καὶ λόγοις πάρει,
ὅπου σοφίας ἔργον ἐξετάζεται. —

ἀγλαίζεται δὲ καὶ
μουσικᾶς ἐν ἀώτῳ·
οἷα παίζομεν φίλαν
ἄνδρες ἀμφὶ θαμὰ τράπεζαν,

κατὰ τὸν Θηβαῖον μελοποιόν (Pind. O I 14). καὶ ἐπὶ τὰς ἑστιάσεις δὲ παρακαλῶν πατρίδα, φησί, τὴν ῾Ρώμην πᾶσιν ἀποφαίνει. τίς γὰρ τὰ οἴκοι ποθεῖ τούτῳ
ξυνὼν ἀναπεπταμένην ἔχοντι τοῖς φίλοις τὴν οἰκίαν; κατὰ γὰρ τὸν κωμῳδιοποιὸν ᾿Απολλόδωρον (IV 455 M)·

εἰς οἰκίαν ὅταν τις εἰσίῃ φίλου,
ἔστιν θεωρεῖν, Νικοφῶν, τὴν τοῦ φίλου
εὔνοιαν εὐθὺς εἰσιόντα τὰς θύρας.
ὁ θυρωρὸς ἱλαρὸς πρῶτόν ἐστιν, ἡ κύων
ἔσηνε καὶ προσῆλθ’, ὑπαντήσας δέ τις
δίφρον εὐθέως ἔθηκε, κἂν μηδεὶς λέγῃ
μηδέν.
τοιούτους ἔδει καὶ τοὺς λοιποὺς εἶναι πλείους ὡς τοῖς γε μὴ τοῦτο ποιοῦσιν ἐρεῖ τις ‘τί μικρολόγος εἶ;’ —‘πλεῖαί τοι οἴνου κλισίαι· δαίνυ δαῖτα γέρουσι θάλειαν· ἔοικέ τοι (I 70. 71. H 475).’ τοιοῦτος ἦν τῇ μεγαλοψυχίᾳ ὁ μέγας ᾿Αλέξανδρος.

Image result for Papyrus Ancient Roman Dinner Invitation