Nothing To Write about: Cicero Gives Up

Cicero to Atticus, 129 (VII.6) Formiae, ca. 18 December 50 (Full Latin text on the Scaife Viewer)

“There’s clearly nothing for me to write to you about. You know everything worth knowing and I have nothing to expect from you. Still, let me keep up our practice so that we don’t let anyone travel near you without a letter.

I am really afraid for our country. I have barely found anyone who doesn’t think we should give Caesar what he wants, rather than fighting with him.”

Plane deest quid ad te scribam. nota omnia tibi sunt, nec ipse habeo a te quod exspectem. tantum igitur nostrum illud sollemne servemus, ut ne quem istuc euntem sine litteris dimittamus.

De re publica valde timeo, nec adhuc fere inveni qui non concedendum putaret Caesari quod postularet potius quam depugnandum.

I Hope this Finds You With Nothing to Write About

Cicero, Letters to Atticus, 128 (VII.5)

 “Right now I simply have nothing to write to you about. Certainly not politics, since we know the same things and we also know each other’s domestic matters. Jokes are all that remain, if that guy will allow it.

I am one who thinks that it is better to give in to his demands than start a war. It is too late for us to resist someone we’ve been raising against us for ten years!

What’s my strategy? Nothing unless by your judgment and nothing before I’ve completed my own affairs or given them up. Take care of yourself!”

Iam plane mihi deest quid ad te scribam; nec enim de re publica, quod uterque nostrum scit eadem, et domestica nota sunt ambobus. reliquum est iocari, si hic sinat; nam ego is sum qui illi concedi putem utilius esse quod postulat quam signa conferri; sero enim resistimus ei quem per annos decem aluimus contra nos. ‘quid senti<e>s4 igitur?’ inquis. nihil scilicet nisi de sententia tua, nec prius quidem quam nostrum negotium aut confecerimus aut deposuerimus. cura igitur ut valeas…

Top third of a surviving 4th-century Roman letter, from Vitalis to his dominus Achillio, from Franz Steffens’ Lateinische Paläographie (1903), table 13. The letter is reported to be Latin papyrus “Argent 1”, at Strassbourg.

Politics is Horrifying: Plato on Lykanthropy

Werewolf week continues

From Plato’s Republic, Book 8 (565d)

“What is the beginning of the change from guardian to tyrant? Isn’t clear when the guardian begins to do that very thing which myth says happened at the shrine of Lykaion Zeus in Arcadia?

Which is? He said.

That once someone tastes a bit of human innards mixed up with the other sacrifices he becomes a wolf by necessity? Haven’t you heard this tale?

I have.

Is it not something the same with a protector of the people? Once he controls a mob that obeys him, he cannot restrain himself from tribal blood, but he prosecutes unjustly, the sorts of things men love to do, and brings a man into court for murder, eliminating the life of a man—and with tongue and unholy mouth that have tasted the murder of his kind, he exiles, kills, and promises the cutting of debts and the redistribution of land. Is it not by necessity that such a man is fated either to be killed by his enemies or to become a tyrant, to turn into a wolf from a man?”

werewolf-1

Τίς ἀρχὴ οὖν μεταβολῆς ἐκ προστάτου ἐπὶ τύραννον; ἢ δῆλον ὅτι ἐπειδὰν ταὐτὸν ἄρξηται δρᾶν ὁ προστάτης τῷ ἐν τῷ μύθῳ ὃς περὶ τὸ ἐν ᾿Αρκαδίᾳ τὸ τοῦ Διὸς τοῦ Λυκαίου ἱερὸν λέγεται;

Τίς; ἔφη.

῾Ως ἄρα ὁ γευσάμενος τοῦ ἀνθρωπίνου σπλάγχνου, ἐν ἄλλοις ἄλλων ἱερείων ἑνὸς ἐγκατατετμημένου, ἀνάγκη δὴ τούτῳ λύκῳ γενέσθαι. ἢ οὐκ ἀκήκοας τὸν λόγον;

῎Εγωγε.

῏Αρ’ οὖν οὕτω καὶ ὃς ἂν δήμου προεστώς, λαβὼν σφόδρα πειθόμενον ὄχλον, μὴ ἀπόσχηται ἐμφυλίου αἵματος, ἀλλ’ ἀδίκως ἐπαιτιώμενος, οἷα δὴ φιλοῦσιν, εἰς δικαστήρια ἄγων μιαιφονῇ, βίον ἀνδρὸς ἀφανίζων, γλώττῃ τε καὶ στόματι ἀνοσίῳ γευόμενος φόνου συγγενοῦς, καὶ ἀνδρηλατῇ καὶ ἀποκτεινύῃ καὶ ὑποσημαίνῃ χρεῶν τε ἀποκοπὰς καὶ γῆς ἀναδασμόν, ἆρα τῷ τοιούτῳ ἀνάγκη δὴ τὸ μετὰ τοῦτο καὶ εἵμαρται ἢ ἀπολωλέναι ὑπὸ τῶν ἐχθρῶν ἢ τυραννεῖν καὶ λύκῳ ἐξ ἀνθρώπου γενέσθαι;

In ancient Greek myth, Lykaon (Lycaon, related to lúkos, “wolf”) was a king of Arcadia. According to Pausanias (8.31-5) , Lykaon sacrificed a newborn child to Zeus. In other sources he offers the infant mixed up with other food to test Zeus’ divinity (although some attribute the deed to his sons, see Apollodorus, 3.8.1). Zeus killed the sons with lightning; Lykaon was transformed into a wolf. Stay tuned for more of this in coming days.

There may actually be physical evidence of human sacrifice in Arcadia now.

Lettuce Discuss a Flaccid Situation

Athenaeus, Deipnosophists 2.69b-d

“Nikandros of Kolophon says in the second book of his Glossary that lettuce (thridaks) is called brenthis among the Kyprians, for Adonis fled to lettuce when he was mortally wounded by the boar. Amphis writes in his Lamentations:

…in the worst, accursed lettuce,
If anyone eats it who is under sixty-years old
When he shares any space with a woman
He can twist the whole night without accomplishing
What he wants. Instead of getting any help,
He presses his hand on his necessary fate.

Kallimachus adds too that Aphrodite hid Adonis in a lettuce patch—a poet’s way of saying that men who continuously eat lettuce are weakened in their sexual ability. Euboulos in his Impotent Men:

Don’t serve me lettuce at the table,
Woman, or you will blame yourself.
The story goes that once Kypris placed Adonis
In this plant after he died—
Now it is food for corpses.

ADonis

Νίκανδρος δ’ ὁ Κολοφώνιος ἐν β′ Γλωσσῶν (fr. 120 Schn) βρένθιν λέγεσθαί φησι παρὰ Κυπρίοις θρίδακα, οὗ ὁ ῎Αδωνις καταφυγὼν ὑπὸ τοῦ  κάπρου διεφθάρη. ῎Αμφις τε ἐν ᾿Ιαλέμῳ φησίν

(II 241 K)·

ἐν ταῖς θριδακίναις ταῖς κάκιστ’ ἀπολουμέναις,
ἃς εἰ φάγοι τις ἐντὸς ἑξήκοντ’ ἐτῶν,
ὁπότε γυναικὸς λαμβάνοι κοινωνίαν,
στρέφοιθ’ ὅλην τὴν νύκτ’ ἂν οὐδὲ ἓν πλέον
ὧν βούλεται δρῶν, ἀντὶ τῆς ὑπουργίας
τῇ χειρὶ τρίβων τὴν ἀναγκαίαν τύχην.

καὶ Καλλίμαχος δέ φησιν (fr. 371 Schn.) ὅτι ἡ ᾿Αφροδίτη τὸν ῎Αδωνιν ἐν θριδακίνῃ κρύψειεν, ἀλληγορούντων τῶν ποιητῶν ὅτι ἀσθενεῖς εἰσι πρὸς ἀφροδίσια οἱ συνεχῶς χρώμενοι θρίδαξι. καὶ Εὔβουλος δ’ ἐν ᾿Αστύτοις φησί (II 169 K)·

μὴ παρατίθει <σύ> μοι θριδακίνας, ὦ γύναι,
ἐπὶ τὴν τράπεζαν, ἢ σεαυτὴν αἰτιῶ.
ἐν τῷ λαχάνῳ τούτῳ γάρ, ὡς λόγος, ποτὲ
τὸν ῎Αδωνιν ἀποθανόντα προὔθηκεν Κύπρις·
ὥστ’ ἐστὶ νεκύων βρῶμα.

Can Liz Truss outlast a lettuce, UK tabloid asks in Twitter post | Reuters

 

Do What You’re Told

Sophocles. Antigone. 663-676.

The transgressor who abuses the laws
Or thinks he can push around his rulers
Won’t get a slap on the back from me.

In matters small, just, or otherwise
Obey the man the city elevates.
This is the man I myself would trust
To rule well, to be willingly ruled,
And to remain a just, noble comrade
When he’s assigned his station in the storm.

No one in charge: there’s no greater evil.
It wrecks cities, turns houses upside down,
And sends spear-bearing allies scrambling.
Obeying El Jefe is life saving
For the many who get with the program.

Blaise Pascal, far-seeing moralist, where are you on this?

Pensées. Fr.326 [=66 Laf.]

It’s dangerous to tell the people that the laws are unjust, since they obey them only because they believe them to be just. This is why you must at the same time tell the people they must obey the laws because they are laws, just as they must obey their superiors not because they are just, but because they are their superiors. In this way all sedition is prevented, if you can make the people understand this, and make them understand that it is the correct definition of justice.

Sophocles:

ὅστις δʼ ὑπερβὰς ἢ νόμους βιάζεται
ἢ τοὐπιτάσσειν τοῖς κρατύνουσιν νοεῖ,
οὐκ ἔστʼ ἐπαίνου τοῦτον ἐξ ἐμοῦ τυχεῖν.
ἀλλʼ ὃν πόλις στήσειε τοῦδε χρὴ κλύειν
καὶ σμικρὰ καὶ δίκαια καὶ τἀναντία.
καὶ τοῦτον ἂν τὸν ἄνδρα θαρσοίην ἐγὼ
καλῶς μὲν ἄρχειν, εὖ δʼ ἂν ἄρχεσθαι θέλειν,
δορός τʼ ἂν ἐν χειμῶνι προστεταγμένον
μένειν δίκαιον κἀγαθὸν παραστάτην.
ἀναρχίας δὲ μεῖζον οὐκ ἔστιν κακόν.
αὕτη πόλεις ὄλλυσιν, ἥδʼ ἀναστάτους
οἴκους τίθησιν, ἥδε συμμάχου δορὸς
τροπὰς καταρρήγνυσι· τῶν δʼ ὀρθουμένων
σῴζει τὰ πολλὰ σώμαθʼ ἡ πειθαρχία.

Pascal:

Il est dangereux de dire au peuple que les lois ne sont pas justes, car il n’y obéit qu’à cause qu’il les croit justes. C’est pourquoi il faut lui dire en même temps qu’il y faut obéir parce qu’elles sont lois, comme il faut obéir aux supérieurs non pas parce qu’ils sont justes, mais parce qu’ils sont supérieurs. Par là voilà toute sédition prévenue, si on peut faire entendre cela et que proprement (c’est) la définition de la justice.

Larry Benn has a B.A. in English Literature from Harvard College, an M.Phil in English Literature from Oxford University, and a J.D. from Yale Law School. Making amends for a working life misspent in finance, he’s now a hobbyist in ancient languages and blogs at featsofgreek.blogspot.com.

Hesiod and Marx Disagree

Hesiod, Works & Days, 302-310.

Hunger follows the man who does not work.
Gods and men resent the one who lives his life
Work-shy, his nature that of a stingless drone
Which consumes the labors of other bees:
That is to say, he’s idle but still eats.

Welcome labor that’s sensibly arranged
So your stores are full of life’s needs each season.
From work men are rich in sheep and rich outright.
Besides, the immortals prefer hard workers.
Work is not disgraceful; not working is.

Karl Marx. Capital. Bk. I. Part III. Chpt. 10 (“The Workday”)

“During the 24 hours of the natural day a man can expend only so much of his vital energy . . . During a part of the day the energy must rest . . .”

Hesiod

λιμὸς γάρ τοι πάμπαν ἀεργῷ σύμφορος ἀνδρί.
τῷ δὲ θεοὶ νεμεσῶσι καὶ ἀνέρες, ὅς κεν ἀεργὸς
ζώῃ, κηφήνεσσι κοθούροις εἴκελος ὀργήν,
οἵ τε μελισσάων κάματον τρύχουσιν ἀεργοὶ
ἔσθοντες: σοὶ δ᾽ ἔργα φίλ᾽ ἔστω μέτρια κοσμεῖν,
ὥς κέ τοι ὡραίου βιότου πλήθωσι καλιαί.
ἐξ ἔργων δ᾽ ἄνδρες πολύμηλοί τ᾽ ἀφνειοί τε:
καὶ ἐργαζόμενοι πολὺ φίλτεροι ἀθανάτοισιν.
ἔργον δ᾽ οὐδὲν ὄνειδος, ἀεργίη δέ τ᾽ ὄνειδος.

Marx

Ein Mensch kann während des natuerlichen Tags von 24 Stunden nur ein bestimmtes Quantum Lebenskraft verausgben . . . Während eines Teils des Tags muß die Kraft ruhen . . .

image of president jimmy carter working to build a home
Seasoned Laborers.

Larry Benn has a B.A. in English Literature from Harvard College, an M.Phil in English Literature from Oxford University, and a J.D. from Yale Law School. Making amends for a working life misspent in finance, he’s now a hobbyist in ancient languages and blogs at featsofgreek.blogspot.com.

A Student Debt Proposal: Collect The Balance In Hell

Valerius Maximus, Wonndrous Deeds and Sayings 2.6.10

“This ancient custom of the Gauls returns to my mind as I leave their walls: The story goes that they used to loan money which was scheduled to be repaid in the underworld, because they considered human souls to be immortal. I would call them fools if they didn’t believe the same thing wearing pants as Pythagoras did wrapped in his cloak.”

Horum moenia egresso vetus ille mos Gallorum occurrit,quo[s] memoria proditum est pecunias mutuas, quae iis apud inferos redderentur, da<ri soli>tas,  quia persuasum habuerint animas hominum immortales esse. dicerem stultos, nisi idem bracati sensissent quod palliatus Pythagoras credidit.

Image result for Ancient Roman Loans

 

The Frog-King

Aesop’s Fables, No. 44:

“The frogs, distressed by the anarchy prevailing among them, sent ambassadors to Zeus asking him to give them a king. He took note of their silliness and threw down a piece of wood into the pond. The frogs, terrified at first by the loud sound, submerged themselves in the depths of the pond.

Later, when the piece of wood was still, they came back up and rose to such a height of insolence that they mounted the wood and perched upon it. Deeming this king unworthy of them, they sent messengers to Zeus, asking him to change their king, because the first one was too lazy. Zeus was irritated by this, so he sent them a snake as king, by whom they were all snatched up and eaten.”

βάτραχοι λυπούμενοι ἐπὶ τῇ ἑαυτῶν ἀναρχίᾳ πρέσβεις ἔπεμψαν πρὸς τὸν Δία δεόμενοι βασιλέααὐτοῖς παρασχεῖν. ὁ δὲ συνιδὼν αὐτῶν τὴν εὐήθειαν ξύλον εἰς τὴν λίμνην καθῆκε. καὶ οἱ βάτραχοι τὸ μὲν πρῶτον καταπλαγέντες τὸν ψόφον εἰς τὰ βάθη τῆς λίμνης ἐνέδυσαν, ὕστερον δέ, ὡς ἀκίνητον ἦν τὸ ξύλον, ἀναδύντες εἰς τοσοῦτο καταφρονήσεως ἦλθον ὡς καὶ ἐπιβαίνοντες αὐτῷ ἐπικαθέζεσθαι. ἀναξιοπαθοῦντες δὲ τοιοῦτον ἔχειν βασιλέα ἧκον ἐκ δευτέρου πρὸς τὸν Δία καὶ τοῦτον παρεκάλουν ἀλλάξαι αὐτοῖς τὸν ἄρχοντα. τὸν γὰρ πρῶτον λίαν εἶναι νωχελῆ. καὶ ὁ Ζεὺς ἀγανακτήσας κατ’ αὐτῶν ὕδραν αὐτοῖς ἔπεμψεν, ὑφ’ ἧς συλλαμβανόμενοι κατησθίοντο.

Image result for Fable frog and king medieval
“Frogs Desiring a King” by John Vernon Lord

Leaders, Corrupting the State for their Own Profit

Theognis, Elegies 39–52

“Kyrnos, this city is pregnant and I am afraid she will bear a man
Meant to correct our evil arrogance.
The citizens are still sane, but the leaders have changed
And have fallen into great evil.

Good people, Kyrnos, have never yet destroyed a city,
But whenever it pleases wicked men to commit outrage,
They corrupt the people and issue legal judgment in favor of the unjust,
For the sake of their own private profit and power.

Don’t expect this city to stay peaceful for very long
Even if it is not at a moment of great peace now,
When these deeds are dear to evil men,
As their profit accrues with public harm.

Civil conflicts and murder of kin comes from this,
And tyrants do too: may this never bring our city pleasure.”

Κύρνε, κύει πόλις ἥδε, δέδοικα δὲ μὴ τέκηι ἄνδρα
εὐθυντῆρα κακῆς ὕβριος ἡμετέρης.
ἀστοὶ μὲν γὰρ ἔθ’ οἵδε σαόφρονες, ἡγεμόνες δέ
τετράφαται πολλὴν εἰς κακότητα πεσεῖν.
οὐδεμίαν πω, Κύρν’, ἀγαθοὶ πόλιν ὤλεσαν ἄνδρες,
ἀλλ’ ὅταν ὑβρίζειν τοῖσι κακοῖσιν ἅδηι
δῆμόν τε φθείρουσι δίκας τ’ ἀδίκοισι διδοῦσιν
οἰκείων κερδέων εἵνεκα καὶ κράτεος·
ἔλπεο μὴ δηρὸν κείνην πόλιν ἀτρεμέ’ ἧσθαι,
μηδ’ εἰ νῦν κεῖται πολλῆι ἐν ἡσυχίηι,
εὖτ’ ἂν τοῖσι κακοῖσι φίλ’ ἀνδράσι ταῦτα γένηται,
κέρδεα δημοσίωι σὺν κακῶι ἐρχόμενα.
ἐκ τῶν γὰρ στάσιές τε καὶ ἔμφυλοι φόνοι ἀνδρῶν·
μούναρχοι δὲ πόλει μήποτε τῆιδε ἅδοι.

Image result for ancient greece megara ruins

Truth, Testimony, and Treason

Plautus, The Ghost 181

“I love the truth, I want someone to tell me the truth. I hate a liar.”

ego uerum amo, uerum uolo dici mi: mendacem odi.

Agathon, Fr. 12

If I tell the truth, I won’t make you happy.
But if I am to make you happy, I will say nothing true.

εἰ μὲν φράσω τἀληθές, οὐχί σ’ εὐφρανῶ·
εἰ δ’ εὐφρανῶ τί σ’, οὐχὶ τἀληθὲς φράσω.

Seneca the Elder, Controversiae 10.1

“Look, I have letters here which are obvious proof of treason and have the plans of the enemy.”

teneo ecce epistulas, in quibus manifesta proditionis argumenta sunt, in quibus hostium consilia

Polybius, Histories 5.59.2

“…because of the style of his life and his treason against his country I believe he is worthy of the greatest punishment.”

….κατά γε τὴν τοῦ βίου προαίρεσιν καὶ τὴν εἰς πατρίδα παρανομίαν τῆς μεγίστης ἄξιον κρίνω τιμωρίας

Quintilian Orator’s Education 4.2 90-92

“For fictions which are developed entirely from matters outside of the situation betray our license to lie. We must take most special care—which often escapes those who lie—not to contradict ourselves, since some stories are flattering in bits but do not contribute to a coherent whole; that we then say nothing which countermands what is accepted as true; and, in academic exercises, not to seek ornamentation beyond the themes.

Both in training and in the court, the orator ought to remember the what he has claimed falsely during the whole action since false things often escape the mind. That common saying is proved true, that the liar requires a good memory. Let us see, moreover, that if we are questioned about our own deed, we must say one thing only; if it is about somebody else’s we can cast doubt in many directions.”

nam quae tota extra rem petita sunt mentiendi licentiam produnt. Curandum praecipue, quod fingentibus frequenter excidit, ne qua inter se pugnent; quaedam enim partibus blandiuntur, sed in summam non consentiunt: praeterea ne iis quae vera esse constabit adversa sint: in schola etiam ne color extra themata quaeratur. Utrubique autem orator meminisse debebit actione tota quid finxerit, quoniam solent excidere quae falsa sunt: verumque est illud quod vulgo dicitur, mendacem memorem esse oportere.  Sciamus autem, si de nostro facto quaeratur, unum nobis aliquid esse dicendum: si de alieno, mittere in plura suspiciones licere.

Marcus Aurelius, Meditations 6.47

“So one thing is worth much: to keep on living with truth and justice and in good will even among liars and unjust men”

Ἓν ὧδε πολλοῦ ἄξιον, τὸ μετ᾿ ἀληθείας καὶ δικαιοσύνης εὐμενῆ τοῖς ψεύσταις καὶ ἀδίκοις διαβιοῦν.

Augustine, Confessions 10.23.34:

“Why does truth produce hatred, and why is your person who tells truth made an enemy to others, even though everyone loves the blessed life, which is nothing but rejoicing in truth, unless it be that truth is loved in such a way that those who love something other than truth would wish to believe that what they love is the truth, and because they wish not to be deceived, they do not wish to be convinced that they have been fooled?

And so, they hate the truth on account of that thing which they love in truth’s place. They love it when it shines, they hate it when it refutes them. Because they wish not to be deceived but wish to do the deceiving, they love the truth when it reveals itself, but hate it when it reveals them. “

cur autem veritas parit odium et inimicus eis factus est homo tuus verum praedicans, cum ametur beata vita, quae non est nisi gaudium de veritate, nisi quia sic amatur veritas ut, quicumque aliud amant, hoc quod amant velint esse veritatem, et quia falli nollent, nolunt convinci quod falsi sint? itaque propter eam rem oderunt veritatem, quam pro veritate amant. amant eam lucentem, oderunt eam redarguentem. quia enim falli nolunt et fallere volunt, amant eam cum se ipsa indicat, et oderunt eam cum eos ipsos indicat.

Image result for medieval manuscript punishing a liar
The Infernal Torments of the Damned, illuminated French manuscript of Augustine’s City of God by an unknown artist (15th century).