Tyrannical, Violent, and Greedy for Tribute

Strabo, Geography 10.4.8

“As Ephoros has claimed, Minos modeled himself after a certain ancient Rhadamanthys, a most just man who had the same name as his own brother and apparently was the first to make Crete more civilized through laws, integrations of cities, and constitutions, insisting that he was simply introducing each of these ideas to the public from Zeus himself.

In imitating him, Minos also, it seems, retreated for nine years into Zeus’ cave and, after he spent time there, came back carrying certain declarations which he composed but he was claiming were established by Zeus. This is the reason why [Homer] has said, “there, for nine years, Minos was ruling as a companion of great Zeus.”

While Ephorus records these things, ancient authors have provided different accounts about him which run against these claims. They say that Minos was tyrannical, very violent, and greedy for tribute. Some put into tragedies the stories about the Minotaur and the Labyrinth along with the events of Theseus and Daidalos. It is hard to say whether things happened that way.

But there is another account which does not agree with the rest: some claim that Minos was an immigrant to the island, while others claim he was a native. Homer certainly seems to argue for the second view when he says that “[Zeus] first fathered Minos as a protector for Crete.”

 

ὡς δ᾽ εἴρηκεν ῎Εφορος, ζηλωτὴς ὁ Μὶνως ἀρχαίου τινὸς ῾Ραδαμάνθυος, δικαιοτάτου ἀνδρός, ὁμωνύμου τοῦ ἀδελφοῦ αὐτοῦ, ὃς πρῶτος τὴν νῆσον ἐξημερῶσαι δοκεῖ νομίμοις καὶ συνοικισμοῖς πόλεων καὶ πολιτείαις, σκηψάμενος παρὰ Διὸς φέρειν ἕκαστα τῶν τιθεμένων δογμάτων εἰς μέσον. τοῦτον δὴ μιμούμενος καὶ ὁ Μίνως δι᾽ ἐννέα ἐτῶν, ὡς ἔοικεν, ἀναβαίνων ἐπὶ τὸ τοῦ Διὸς ἄντρον καὶ διατρίβων ἐνθάδε ἀπήιει συντεταγμένα ἔχων παραγγέλματά τινα, ἃ ἔφασκεν εἶναι προστάγματα τοῦ Διός. ἀφ᾽ ἧς αἰτίας καὶ τὸν ποιητὴν οὕτως εἰρηκέναι· «ἐνθάδε Μίνως ἐννέωρος βασίλευε Διὸς μεγάλου ὀαριστής». τοιαῦτα δ᾽ εἰπόντος, οἱ ἀρχαῖοι περὶ αὐτοῦ πάλιν ἄλλους εἰρήκασι λόγους ὑπεναντίους τούτοις, ὡς τυραννικός τε γένοιτο καὶ βίαιος καὶ δασμολόγος, τραγωιδοῦντες τὰ περὶ τὸν Μινώταυρον καὶ τὸν λαβύρινθον καὶ τὰ Θησεῖ συμβάντα καὶ Δαιδάλωι. ταῦτα μὲν οὖν ὁποτέρως ἔχει, χαλεπὸν εἰπεῖν. ἔστι δὲ καὶ ἄλλος λόγος οὐχ ὁμολογούμενος, τῶν μὲν ξένον τῆς νήσου τὸν Μίνων λεγόντων, τῶν δ᾽ ἐπιχώριον. ὁ μέντοι ποιητὴς τῆι δευτέραι δοκεῖ μᾶλλον συνηγορεῖν ἀποφάσει, ὅταν φῆι ὅτι «πρῶτον Μίνωα τέκε Κρήτηι ἐπίουρον».

Image result for Minos medieval manuscript
King Minos from BL Harley 4431, f. 98

 

Worse Through Words: National Emergencies and War

Cicero, Philippic 8.2

“But what is the substance of the controversy? Some people were thinking that the title “war” should not be given in the statement; they were preferring to use the term “national emergency” because they are ignorant not only of the matter but of words too. For a war is possible without a “national emergency”, but a “national emergency”, however, cannot exist without a war. What thing could be a “national emergency” but a trouble so great that a serious fear arises?

This is where the terminology itself for “national emergency” [tumultus] comes from. For our ancestors used to say that there was a “national emergency” in Italy  which was domestic or a “national emergency” in Gaul, which is on our border, but they used to call nothing else that. And that a “national emergency” is, moreover, more serious than a war can be understood from the fact that exemptions from service are valid in war but they are not in “national emergency”.

Therefore, as I was just saying, a war can exist without a “national emergency” but a “national emergency” cannot exist without a war. And since there can be no middle-ground between war and peace, it is true that a “national emergency”, if it is not part of a war, must be part of a peace. And what could be a crazier to say or imagine? But I have gone on too long about a word. Let’s look at the matter itself, Senators, which I do think often can become worse through language.”

At in quo fuit controversia? Belli nomen ponendum quidam in sententia non putabant: tumultum appellare malebant, ignari non modo rerum sed etiam verborum: potest enim esse bellum ut tumultus non sit, tumultus autem esse sine bello non potest. Quid est enim aliud tumultus nisi perturbatio tanta ut maior timor oriatur? Unde etiam nomen ductum est tumultus. Itaque maiores nostri tumultum Italicum quod erat domesticus, tumultum Gallicum quod erat Italiae finitimus, praeterea nullum nominabant. Gravius autem tumultum esse quam bellum hinc intellegi potest quod bello [Italico] vacationes valent, tumultu non valent. Ita fit, quem ad modum dixi, ut bellum sine tumultu possit, tumultus sine bello esse non possit.4Etenim cum inter bellum et pacem medium nihil sit, necesse est tumultum, si belli non sit, pacis esse: quo quid absurdius dici aut existimari potest? Sed nimis multa de verbo. Rem potius videamus, patres conscripti, quam quidem intellego verbo fieri interdum deteriorem solere.

Image result for cicero national emergency
There is a town called Cicero. It responds to emergencies.

Quomodo Dicitur “State of the Union Address”?

The amazing Dani Bostick (@danibostick) live tweeted the State of the Union Address tonight in Latin. For those off twitter (or off TV), here are her tweets.

 

 

Continue reading “Quomodo Dicitur “State of the Union Address”?”

The State of Our Union, In Latin

Tonight we will witness the annual political theater of the President’s State of the Union address. It will be charged and probably traumatizing. But, never fear, the inimitable Dani Bostick has promised to provided commentary in Latin from her twitter account (.@danibostick). Look for the hashtag #LatinSOTU.

In honor of her personal sacrifice, here are some of her #FakeLatin for #RealNews posts  chronicling the rise of the mysterious Manicula from the past few months.

Caesar on Forestry in Finland

C. Julius Caesar (?), De Silvis. Edited by Dani Bostick.

1.3 The best part of Gaul is Finland which is inhabited by the most intelligent citizens of all because they most often rake leaves and keep four rakes under every tree. For this reason the Finnish people also surpass everybody in safety, because almost every day they clean their forest with these rakes either when leaves fall from trees or when there is dirt of another kind.

1.3 Optima pars Galliae est Finlandia quam cives intellegentissimi omnium colunt propterea quod saepissimeque folias conradunt atque quattuor pectines sub omni arbore ponunt. Qua de causa Finlandi quoque omnes sapientia praecedunt, quod fere cotidie pectinibus silvas purgant, cum aut foliae ex arboribus cadunt aut illuvies alterius generis est.

1.4 This technique is thought to have originated in Canada, where there are many forests, and brought to Finland, but now those who want to learn more about it do not go there for the sake of learning about it. You see, the entire nation of the Finnish people is extremely devoted to learning and on that account foreign teachers come to Finland so that they might learn to teach well, but they never ask how to keep forests clean on account of their stupidity.

1.4 Haec disciplina in Canada reperta atque in Finlandiam translata esse existimatur, sed nunc, qui diligentius eam rem cognoscere volunt, plerumque illo discendi causa non proficiscuntur. Nam natio est omnis Finlandorum admodum dedita eruditioni, atque ob eam causam barbari magistri veniunt ut bene docere discant, sed ob stultitiam quomodo silvae purgentur numquam rogant.

 

Caesar on Education in Finland

C. Julius Caesar (?), De Silvis. Edited by Dani Bostick.

1.5 In Finland schools are very different from prisons and for this reason seem rather unusual to foreigners. It is permitted to walk and play outside rather often so that teachers, who are considered to be almost gods and receive the greatest honor among their people, can keep students in a happy state of mind. When students learn, their bodies are calm not because they fear punishment or are asleep but because they delight in knowledge. They enjoy excellent lunches consisting of small fish, sausages, cheese, and fruit so that bad nutrition does not diminish their strength and enthusiasm. And none of this originates in factories far away, but in neighboring gardens and fields. The state prepares for slaughter in schools in proportion to the danger of this possibility; since there is no danger of this type of situation, they have nothing to prepare for. This is the greatest glory to Finland.

1.5 In Finlandia scholae dissimillimae carceribus atque ob eam causam inusitatioresque barbaris sunt. licet in locis apertis saepius errare ludereque ut magistri, qui paene deorum habentur loco maximamque inter suos ferunt laudem, animi felicitate discipulos contineant. Cum hi docent, corpora eorum neque timore poenarum neque somnio, sed delectationibus scientiae immota sunt. gustant prandia optima, quae in pisculis et tomaculis et caseo et pomis consistunt, ne malus victus vires studiumque diminuat. nec quicquam in remota fabrica, sed in hortis et agris vicinis nascitur. Civitas pro magnitudine periculi caedem in scholis parat. Quoniam nullum periculum caedis est, nihil parandum est. Finlandiae maxima laus est.

1.6 The leader of Finland can read and understands everything easily even without pictures. When he hears gossip or a rumor, he does not communicate it publicly because it has been discovered that fearful and ignorant people are scared by rumors and sometimes believe false words. The leader avoids driving his citizens to greater madness and conveys the truth to the people. For in Finland they do not think it is appropriate to deceive or manipulate with deceitful lies. For this reason the leader of Finland is held in high regard not only at home home but also among all nations.

1.6 Dux Finlandiae legere potest omniaque etiam sine picturis faciliter intellegit. Cum rumorem aut famam accepit, publice non communicat, quod saepe homines temerarios atque imperitos falsis rumoribus terreri et falsis verbis interdum credere cognitum est. Itaque dux cives ad maiorem amentiam impellere vitans veritatem multitudini prodit. Nam in Finlandia nefas esse existimatur subdolis mendaciis fallere aut inducere. Qua de causa dux Finlandiae non solum domi sed etiam apud omnes nationes honore largiter habetur.

 

Bellum Incivile, The Unlikely candidate

C. Julius Caesar (?), Bellum Incivile. Edited by Dani Bostick

1.30 Although he had five draft deferments, did not pay taxes along with everyone else, had nothing to do with politics, and had no skill in public speaking, Manicula sought the consulship, but not out of a desire to serve the people nor out of enthusiasm for his political party.

For which reason his associates Michael Cohen, Ivanka, Don Jr., Paul Manafort, Michael Flynn, George Papadopoulus, Carter Page, Roger Stone, and Rick Gates, driven by the hope of influence and rewards, started communicating with Russians that Manicula had hoped for a long time to build opulent housing in their country and that he was seeking the enemy’s help so that he could be elected consul.

Manicula and his associates were completely incapable of reading Cicero’s orations, but they believed his words: “There are no plots more undetectable than those carried out under the guise of public duty or in the name of some sort of obligation. For you can easily avoid a known enemy by being cautious; to contrast, a hidden and deep-seated domestic threat not only exists, but actually crushes you before you can detect it and learn more about it.”* Because of this, they all thought they were able to avoid suspicion.

1.30 Manicula cum militiae quinque vacationes haberet neque tributa una cum reliquis penderet neque forum attingeret neque ullam dicendi facultatem haberet, tamen consulatum petivit, sed neque cupiditate serviendi populi neque studio partium adficiebatur.

Qua de causa eius comites M. Coenus et Ivanca et Donaldellus et P. Virfortus et M. Flinnus et G. Papadus et P. Cartus et R. Lapis et R. Porta spe auctoritatis atque munerum inducti cum legatis Sarmatiae loqui coeperant: Maniculam se aulam auream in Sarmatiae finibus aedificaturum diu speravisse et auxilium hostium quo consul nuntiaretur petere.

Manicula comitesque orationes Ciceronis legere haudquaquam poterant, sed crederunt eius verbis: “Nullae sunt occultiores insidiae quam eae quae latent in simulatione offici aut in aliquo necessitudinis nomine. Nam eum qui palam est adversarius facile cavendo vitare possis; hoc vero occultum intestinum ac domesticum malum non modo non exsistit, verum etiam opprimit antequam prospicere atque explorare potueris.” Ob eam causam omnes sese suspicionem vitare posse arbitrabantur.

 

*Cicero, Verrine Oration 2.39

 

More:

Bellum Incivile: Manicula and the Puppet Master

Bellum Incivile: Manicula’s Speech to the Nation

Bellum Incivile: Manicula’s Obsession with the Wall

Bellum Incivile: Manicula Can’t Stop Tweeting

Bellum Incivile: Government Shutdown Over the Wall

Bellum Incivile: The Loyal Fixer

Bellum Incivile: Ryan Zinke Profits From His Position

Bellum Incivile: The Candidi Assemble

Image result for medieval manuscript town crier
Book Of Hours, Medieval Manuscript, Vanitas, Memento Mori, British Library, Skull

Against Pedantry

“..[D]on’t listen to the pedantic and specific precepts of grammarians; but heed your own ear…”

non finitiones illas praerancidas neque fetutinas grammaticas spectaveris, sed aurem tuam interroga

Aulus Gellius, Attic Nights 13.21

When I was applying to graduate school and asked what it was like, I remember my first Greek teacher telling me a story about his PhD qualifying exams. During the two-hour oral component, some eminent professor of distinguished achievement remained conspicuously silent. When he did speak up, he looked critically at the examinee (a Homerist) and asked a single question: “What is the name of Odysseus’ mother?” My teacher could not remember and it caused enough trauma that this was the story he used to characterize his experience in graduate school almost 30 years later.

When I was in a PhD program myself, this anecdote was the first thing that came to my mind as I looked over the returned draft of the first three chapters of my dissertation. Most dissertations leave behind them legacies of confusion, shame, and pain. Mine was not completely traumatizing, but that’s because, after struggling for six months to write over 100 pages of well-footnoted dreck, I had the audacity to throw everything away and start from scratch. During a feverish long-weekend in February 2006, I re-started from page 1 and ended up writing the first draft of a ‘chapter’ that, at over 100 pages, became the first three chapters of a messy, long, but ultimately ‘successful’ dissertation. (Spoiler: I passed).

When you submit chapters of your dissertation to advisors, the ensuing period of silence can be maddening. (And sometimes that long wait never ends.) When I did receive a marked-up version of my magnum opus, I scurried away from my advisor to start poring over his responses, hoping for some clue that I was on the right track, to divine some sign of my future. And inside: Corrected misspellings; Commas inserted and deleted; A Greek accent was repaired. The longest actual comment I could find was scrawled next to a footnote: the word “Phaeacia” was scratched out, next to it: “The Phaeacians live in Skheria.”

This was not the first warning I received in graduate school about the world into which I was seeking initiation. Any failure to translate adequately in seminars was met with sudden questions about obscure aorist stems. In casual conversation, I remember being corrected for calling someone “long-lifed”, when the right way of saying it is “long-lived”. But I am a blustery and confident sort. When I was asked in a seminar why I didn’t know the defective aorist of bainô, I responded, probably with a bit of acid, “because I am a student. I am here to learn.”

The first lesson I was taught in graduate school was either to shed the Socratic notion of owning up to my ignorance or be prepared for shame as a reward for my loyalty to Platonic dogma. The second lesson was really just the application of one I already knew: the best defense is a good offense. Know the nitty-gritty details; and, if you don’t, just put someone else on the spot first.

precise man

Continue reading “Against Pedantry”

Knowledge, Cooperation, and the Common Good

Manilius, Astronomica 67-84

“Humanity waited, thunderstruck by the new light in the sky,
First grieving as it disappeared, then overjoyed at its return.
The human race was incapable of understanding the reasons
Why the sun rose so frequently once it sent the stars
In flight, why the length of days and nights was uncertain
And why the shadows changed too as the sun moved farther away.

Stubborn obsession had not yet taught humankind knowledge and skill
And the land was resting open at the hands of untrained farmers.
At that time gold was resting in untouched mountains
And the untroubled sea hid strange worlds—
For the human race did not dare to risk life
In the waves or wind—people believed that they did not know enough.

But the passage of long days sharpened mortal thought
And hard work produced invention for the miserable
Just as each person’s luck compelled him to turn to himself to make life better.
Then, they competed with each other once their interests were divided
And whatever wisdom practice found through testing,
They happily shared for the common good.”

et stupefacta novo pendebat lumine mundi,
tum velut amisso maerens, tum laeta renato,
surgentem neque enim totiens Titana fugatis
sideribus, variosque dies incertaque noctis
tempora nec similis umbras, iam sole regresso
iam propiore, suis poterat discernere causis.
necdum etiam doctas sollertia fecerat artes,
terraque sub rudibus cessabat vasta colonis;
tumque in desertis habitabat montibus aurum,
immotusque novos pontus subduxerat orbes,
nec vitam pelago nec ventis credere vota
audebant; se quisque satis novisse putabant.
sed cum longa dies acuit mortalia corda
et labor ingenium miseris dedit et sua quemque
advigilare sibi iussit fortuna premendo,
seducta in varias certarunt pectora curas
et, quodcumque sagax temptando repperit usus,
in commune bonum commentum laeta dederunt.

17th-century chart of the universe, with zodiac signs and the earth at the center
From Wikipedia. 17th-century depiction in Andreas Cellarius‘s Harmonia Macrocosmica.

“An Equal Amount is Better than More”

Diodorus Siculus, History 9.12

“There is also the story that when the people of Mitylene allowed Pittacus to have half the land over which he fought in single combat, he would not take it. Instead, he assigned an equal portion to each man, saying that an “equal amount is greater than more”. For, since he took the measure of what was greater by fairness not by profit, he judged wisely. He believed that fame and safety would follow equality while gossip and fear followed greed, and they would have quickly reclaimed his gift.”

12. Ὅτι τῶν Μιτυληναίων διδόντων τῷ Πιττακῷ τῆς χώρας ὑπὲρ ἧς ἐμονομάχησε τὴν ἡμίσειαν οὐκ ἐδέξατο, συνέταξε δὲ ἑκάστῳ κληρῶσαι τὸ ἴσον, ἐπιφθεγξάμενος ὡς τὸ ἴσον ἐστὶ τοῦ πλείονος πλεῖον. μετρῶν γὰρ ἐπιεικείᾳ τὸ πλεῖον, οὐ κέρδει, σοφῶς ἐγίνωσκεν· τῇ μὲν γὰρ ἰσότητι δόξαν καὶ ἀσφάλειαν ἀκολουθήσειν, τῇ δὲ πλεονεξίᾳ βλασφημίαν καὶ φόβον, δι᾿ ὧν ταχέως ἂν αὐτοῦ τὴν δωρεὰν ἀφείλαντο.

Cf. Diogenes Laertius, Lives of the Philosophers 1.75

“Then, the Mityleneans honored Pittakos powerfully and gave the rule of the state to him alone. During the ten years he held power, he also corrected the constitution and then surrendered power even though he lived ten years more. The Mityleneans gave him some land, but he donated it as sacred. The plot is called after his name even today. Sôsicrates says that he cut off a little bit for himself, saying that “half is greater than the whole.”

[75] Τότε δ᾽ οὖν τὸν Πιττακὸν ἰσχυρῶς ἐτίμησαν οἱ Μυτιληναῖοι, καὶ τὴν ἀρχὴν ἐνεχείρισαν αὐτῷ. ὁ δὲ δέκα ἔτη κατασχὼν καὶ εἰς τάξιν ἀγαγὼν τὸ πολίτευμα, κατέθετο τὴν ἀρχήν, καὶ δέκα ἐπεβίω ἄλλα. καὶ χώραν αὐτῷ ἀπένειμαν οἱ Μυτιληναῖοι: ὁ δὲ ἱερὰν ἀνῆκεν, ἥτις νῦν Πιττάκειος καλεῖται. Σωσικράτης δέ φησιν ὅτι ὀλίγον ἀποτεμόμενος ἔφη τὸ ἥμισυ τοῦ παντὸς πλεῖον εἶναι. ἀλλὰ καὶ Κροίσου διδόντος χρήματα οὐκ ἐδέξατο, εἰπὼν ἔχειν ὧν ἐβούλετο διπλάσια: ἄπαιδος γὰρ τἀδελφοῦ τελευτήσαντος κεκληρονομηκέναι.

The idea of “half being greater than the whole” is likely proverbial, showing up as well in Hesiod’s Works and Days where the narrator uses it when he complains about how the judges act unfairly in their evaluation of cases (by taking bribes): “the fools don’t know how much greater the half is than the whole” νήπιοι, οὐδὲ ἴσασιν ὅσῳ πλέον ἥμισυ παντὸς.
Diodorus Siculus’ statement that “an equal part is greater than more” is probably a clever departure from the Hesiodic statement. Hesiod’s statement seems to be about greed (wanting more than your due), as glossed by Michael Apostolius

13.77

“They don’t know how much greater the half is than the whole”: [this is a proverb used] for those who desire more and lose what they have.

Οὐδ’ ἴσασιν ὅσῳ πλέον ἥμισυ παντός: ὅτι οἱ τῶν πλειόνων ἐπιθυμοῦντες καὶ ἃ ἔχουσιν ἀποβάλλουσιν.

A unifying theme between the two versions is that in early Greek culture that which is isos is not fair in terms of being equal but it possesses equity in terms of being proper to the recipient’s social status. So, Diodorus’ isos share can map out onto Hesiod’s “half” share.

Image result for pittacus