“We would not rightly say that an ox or a horse or any other animal is happy. For it is not possible for any of these to have a common share of ennobling work. This is the reason a child is not happy—they are not yet capable of ennobling actions because of their age. When children are called this, they are being blessed because of their hope for future nobility. There is a need yet, as we said, for complete excellence and a full lifetime.
There are certainly many changes and fortunes of every sort throughout life. It is possible for someone who is extremely fortunate to meet great troubles in old age, just as the story is told about Priam in the heroic epics. No one considers someone who faces these kinds of misfortunes and then dies terribly happy.
But if we then believe that no human being should be considered happy while they live, according to that Solonic saying, “look to the end”—if indeed it must mean this—is it really the case that a person is happy when they’re dead? Well, that would be really strange, right, for us to say others size that this is a kind of obvious happiness? Unless we mean that that dead person is happy, not in the way that Solon wants, but that someone can only say that someone is happy safely when he is out of the way of evils and misfortune.
Even this interpretation has some controversy. For then evil and good seem to be possible for the dead, even as it is for the living even when they do not perceive it, as in the case of honors, and dishonors or the noble or ignoble deeds of children and all of their descendants.
These things are a problem too. For it is possible that someone has lived a rather blessed life up to old age and died in the same way, he could still experience many troubles because of his descendants—some of whom are good and received a life worthy of this, and others who were opposite. It is clear that it is possible for them to be different in every way from their forebears. It would be strange if the dead man would change along with them and become wretched when he was blessed before. But it would also be strange if the affairs of descendants had no impact on their ancestors at all.”
Plutarch De Garrulitate (On Talkitiveness), 505f-506e
“No word uttered has helped as much as many held in silence. For it is possible to say later what has been kept silent, but certainly not to render silent what has been said—that has been poured out and has wandered far afield. This is why I think that we have men as teachers of speech, but gods as teachers of silence, since we maintain quiet in their sacrifices and rites.
And the poet has made the most capable speaker Odysseus the most silent, along with his son, wife and nurse. For the nurse says “I will keep it as a strong tree or iron would.” (19.494). And Odysseus is described when he sits next to Penelope as “mourning in his heart as he pities his wife, though his eyes stood strong untrembling beneath his brows like horn or iron” (19.210-212). He was so full of self-control throughout his body and reason kept him completely obedient and ready and ordered his eyes not to weep, his tongue not to speak, and his heart neither to tremble nor yelp since his power of reason extended even to the subconscious movements, mastering and softening even his breath and blood.
Many of Odysseus’ companions were similar in character—for they did not turn against Odysseus or reveal the fire-made too prepared for his eye even as the Cyclops was dragging them and smashing them on the ground. Instead, they were willing to be eaten raw rather than disclose any part of the secret, and a better example of self-control and trust does not exist. This is why, when the king of Egypt sent a sacrificial victim to him and ordered him to cut out the best and worst meat, Pittakos did not do badly when he cut out the tongue because it was the organ of the greatest good and evil.
Just so, Euripides’ Ino, when offering a speech about herself, says she knows “how to be silent when it is right and to speak when it is safe.” (fr. 413.2). For those who obtain a noble and royal education learn first to be silent and then to speak.”
“Those light-weight, annoying and pointless talkers who, though they cannot rely on any strong foundation, pour out lolling, liquid words, are correctly believed to draw only as deep as the lips and not the heart. Indeed, most people say that the tongue should not be free but should be guided by lines tied to the deepest part of the chest and the heart, as if by a ship’s captain. But still you may see certain men who toss around words without any semblance of judgment, but instead with a certainty so great and profound that even while they are speaking they do not seem to understand that they speak.
Homer has his Ulysses, however,–a man suffused with wise eloquence–move his voice not from his mouth but from his chest. This depiction is not so much about the sound and style of his voice as it is indicative of the considerable weight of the thoughts conceived within. And Homer also said quite appropriately that teeth are a wall built to contain immature and dangerous words—not just so that the watchful guardian of the heart could restrain them, but that they may be stopped by a guardhouse of sorts positioned at the mouth. The Homeric lines which I mentioned above are: “But when he released the great voice from his chest” (Il.3.221) and “What kind of word has escaped the bulwark of your teeth”? (Il. 4.350)
1 Qui sunt leves et futtiles et inportuni locutores quique nullo rerum pondere innixi verbis uvidis et lapsantibus diffluunt, eorum orationem bene existimatum est in ore nasci, non in pectore; linguam autem debere aiunt non esse liberam nec vagam, sed vinclis de pectore imo ac de corde aptis moveri et quasi gubernari. 2 Sed enim videas quosdam scatere verbis sine ullo iudicii negotio cum securitate multa et profunda, ut loquentes plerumque videantur loqui sese nescire.
3 Ulixen contra Homerus, virum sapienti facundia praeditum, vocem mittere ait non ex ore, sed ex pectore, quod scilicet non ad sonum magis habitumque vocis quam ad sententiarum penitus conceptarum altitudinem pertineret, petulantiaeque verborum coercendae vallum esse oppositum dentium luculente dixit, ut loquendi temeritas non cordis tantum custodia atque vigilia cohibeatur, sed et quibusdam quasi excubiis in ore positis saepiatur. 4 Homerica, de quibus supra dixi, haec sunt:
ἀλλ’ ὅτε δὴ ὄπα τε μεγάλην ἐκ στήθεος εἵη (Il.3.221)
Vergerio, de ingenuis moribus et liberalibus adulescentiae studiis, XIII:
“They should be deterred from this vain mendacity as much as possible. First, because men who became accustomed to lying in youth tend to maintain the habit, and nothing could be more shameful. Second, because almost nothing offends elders more, than the mendacity of youths who try, though just born yesterday, to ensnare old men with deceit. It would be well if our youth were advised to speak little and rarely, unless bid to do so. For, in excessive speech there is always something which can be criticized, and if one is to make a mistake in either direction, it is much safer to be silent than to speak. Indeed, he who is silent at the wrong time, makes only this one mistake, that he is silent: but in speaking, one may make many mistakes. Therefore, we ought to see to it that youths do not become accustomed to base and dishonest talk. For, as was said by a Greek poet and repeated by the Apostle Paul,
“Bad conversations will corrupt good characters.”
Ab hac autem mentiendi vanitate deterrendi sunt maxime. Primum, quod assueti in iuventute mentiri morem hunc viri servant, quo nihil est turpius; deinde, quod prope nihil aeque maiores offendit quam mendacia adulescentium, qui studeant, pridie nati, senes fallaciis circumvenire. Proderit autem si admoneantur parum loqui et raro, nisi iussos, dicere. In multo namque sermone est aliquid semper quod reprehendi possit. Quod si alterutro est peccandum, multo sane tutius est tacere quam loqui. Nam qui intempestive tacet, hoc in unum peccat, quod tacet; loquendo autem, in multis errare contingit. Providendum etiam ne foedis atque inhonestis sermonibus assuescant. Nam, ut est a graeco poeta dictum et ab apostolo Paolo repetitum,
corrumpunt bonos mores colloquia mala.
Aeneas Silvius Piccolomini, de Educatione Liberorum XXXV
“What then should we say, considering that there is great utility in both silence and in speaking? We would have you hold to the middle course, and find yourself neither always speaking nor always quit. I do not demand a five-years silence in the Pythagorean fashion, nor would I recommend the loquacity of a Thersites. The ancients used to say that the tongue should not always be free and wandering, but moved and perhaps even governed by chains rooted deep in the heart and soul. The words of those who speak freely, lightly, aimlessly, and with no sense of timing ought to be considered as springing not from the heart, but from the mouth itself. Homer, however, says that Ulysses – a man endowed with wisdom and eloquence – would speak not from his mouth, but from his heart. Certainly, the ‘bulwark of the teeth’ is placed as a restraint on inconsiderate speech, so that temerity in speaking would not be checked only by the heart’s guardianship, but also be hedged in by guards placed in the mouth. One should take care not to deserve that charge of Epicharmus, of being a man ‘who, although he was unable to speak, yet could not be silent,’ or even that of Sallust, who speaks of one who ‘when he spoke was talkative rather than eloquent.’”
Quid ergo dicemus, cum et silentii et orationis magna utilitas sit? Tenere te medium volumus, neque tacere semper neque loqui semper. Non exigimus Pythagoreum illud quinquennale silentium neque Thersitis loquacitatem. Linguam dicebant veteres debere non esse liberam nec vagam sed vinculis de pectore imo ac de corde aptis moveri et quasi gubernari. Nam qui sunt faciles, leves, futiles et importuni locutores, horum orationem bene aestimatum in ore nasci, non in pectore. Ulixem contra Homerus sapienti facundia praeditum vocem mittere ait non ex ore, sed ex pectore. Nempe verborum coercendae petulantiae vallum positum est dentium, ut loquendi temeritas non cordis tantum custodia cohibeatur, sed et quibusdam quasi excubiis in ore positis saepiatur. Cavendum est, ne obiici possit illud Epicharmi, ‘<qui> cum loqui non posset, tacere non potuit,’ aut Sallustianum: ‘loquax inquit magis quam facundus.’
“Still nothing lightens the spirit as much as sweet and faithful friendship. What a good it is when hearts have been made ready in which every secret may be safely deposited, whose understanding of yourself you worry about less than your own, whose conversation relieves your fear, whose opinion hastens your plans, whose happiness dispels your sadness, and whose very sight delights you!”
Nihil tamen aeque oblectaverit animum, quam amicitia fidelis et dulcis. Quantum bonum est, ubi praeparata sunt pectora, in quae tuto secretum omne descendat, quorum conscientiam minus quam tuam timeas, quorum sermo sollicitudinem leniat, sententia consilium expediat, hilaritas tristitiam dissipet, conspectus ipse delectet!
Boethius, On the Consolation of Philosophy 3.35
“The most sacred thing of all is friends, something not recorded as luck but as virtue, since the rest of the goods are embraced with a view toward power or pleasure.”
amicorum vero quod sanctissimum quidem genus est, non in fortuna sed in virtute numeratur, reliquum vero vel potentiae causa vel delectationis assumitur
Cicero, De Finibus 1.64
“A subject remains which is especially important to this debate, that is friendship which, as you believe, will completely disappear if pleasure is the greatest good. Concerning friendship, Epicurus himself says that of all the paths to happiness wisdom has prepared, there is none greater, more productive, or more enchanting than this one. And he did not advocate for friendship in speech alone but much more through his life, his deeds and his customs.
Myths of the ancients illustrate how great friendship is—in those tales however varied and numerous you seek from the deepest part of antiquity and you will find scarcely three pairs of friends, starting with Theseus and up to Orestes. But, Epicurus in one single and quite small home kept so great a crowd of friends united by the depth of their love. And this is still the practice among Epicureans.”
XX Restat locus huic disputationi vel maxime necessarius, de amicitia, quam si voluptas summum sit bonum affirmatis nullam omnino fore; de qua Epicurus quidem ita dicit, omnium rerum quas ad beate vivendum sapientia comparaverit nihil esse maius amicitia, nihil uberius, nihil iucundius. Nec vero hoc oratione solum sed multo magis vita et factis et moribus comprobavit. Quod quam magnum sit fictae veterum fabulae declarant, in quibus tam multis tamque variis, ab ultima antiquitate repetitis, tria vix amicorum paria reperiuntur, ut ad Orestem pervenias profectus a Theseo. At vero Epicurus una in domo, et ea quidem angusta, quam magnos quantaque amoris conspiratione consentientes tenuit amicorum greges! quod fit etiam nunc ab Epicureis.
“An intelligent and well-disposed friend is the finest of all possessions.”
“The people of the west have their own alcohol made from soaked grain in many different ways in Gaul and Spain with many different names but with the same idea. The people of Spain have already taught us that these kinds of beverages will last even a long amount of time.
Egypt, too, has worked out a similar drink made from grain and in no corner of the world does intoxication ever take a break. They even drink this type of beverage without diluting them as one does with wine. But, by Hercules, that land used to seem to offer grains alone. Alas, the miraculous inventiveness of vice! A way has also been found to make water intoxicating!”
. Est et occidentis populis sua ebrietas e fruge madida, pluribus modis per Gallias Hispaniasque, nominibus aliis sed ratione eadem. Hispaniae iam et vetustatem ferre ea genera docuerunt. Aegyptus quoque e fruge sibi potus similis excogitavit, nullaque in parte mundi cessat ebrietas; meros quippe hauriunt tales sucos nec diluendo ut vina mitigant; at, Hercules, illic tellus fruges parare videbatur. heu, mira vitiorum sollertia! inventum est quemadmodum aquae quoque inebriarent.
Julian the Apostate, Epigrams 1
“Who are you and where are you from Dionysus? By the Bakhos true
I know only the son of Zeus and I do not know you.
He smells like nektar, but you smell like goat.
Did the Celts make you from grain because of their lack of grapes?
Ah, we should call you not Dionysus, but Demetrios instead.
And Bromos*** not Bromios since you are born of wheat**.”
The note from the Loeb attributes an understanding of this fragment to Hermann who compares it to Nonnos, Dionysiaca, 20.149–153, 166–181
Nonnos, Dion. 20.149-153
“The was a certain murderous man living there, of Ares’s line
Who was a mimic of his father’s wretched customs.
The criminal would drag faultless strangers to their doom,
That dread maniac Lykourgos, and then when he cut off
Their mortal heads with steel he hung them in his doorway…”
On the Wealth of Herodes the Athenian (Philostratus, Lives of the Sophists, 547)
“[Herodes] used his wealth in the best way of all men. We do not, however, believe that this was the easiest thing to do, but instead that it was wholly difficult and unpleasant. For men who are drunk with wealth usually afflict other people with insults. In addition, they make the specious claim that wealth is blind—but even if wealth appears rightly blind at other times, it looked upon Herodes: it gazed upon his friends, his cities, and whole nations since the man was able to keep a watch over them all and make a storehouse of his riches in the opinions of the men with whom he shared them.
For he used to say indeed that it was necessary for the man who would use wealth correctly to provide it to those who need it so that they may not be in need and also to those who didn’t need it, so that they might not become impoverished. He used to call wealth that was not used and was hoarded up by envy ‘corpse wealth’ and the storehouses of those who hoarded their riches ‘prisons of wealth’.
He mocked those who believed it was right to sacrifice to their accumulated riches “Aloadae” because [Otos and Ephialtes] had sacrificed to Ares after they imprisoned him.”*
“A woman is guaranteed to carry a pregnancy to term if she wears around her neck the white flesh from a hyena’s chest with seven of its hairs and a stag’s genitals tied up in leather made from a gazelle,
A hyena’s genitals, consumed with honey, increases desire for sex even if men typically despise sex with women. Really, the peace of the whole home relies upon keeping these genitals and a spine with the skin still on it at hand.”
mulieri candida a pectore hyaenae caro et pili septem et genitale cervi, si inligentur dorcadis pelle, e collo suspensa continere partus promittuntur; venerem stimulare genitalia ad sexus suos in melle sumpta, etiamsi viri mulierum coitus oderint; quin immo totius domus concordiam eodem genitali et articulo spinae cum adhaerente corio adservatis constare
“If the matter allows, it is not useless to begin from some different angle or with a joke or something which you think up on the spot, the sort of thing which gets applause and shouts. You might also use something which is prepared for you, an anecdote, fable, or something else which has something funny in it.
If the gravity of the affair prohibits a sense of humor, it is not inappropriate to include something sad, unknown, or pretty dreadful right from the beginning. For, just as weariness for good can be treated with some small bite or lightened by something sweet, a mind tired of listening is reinvigorated by amazement or a laugh.”
Sin res dabit, non inutile est ab aliqua re nova aut ridicula incipere aut ex tempore quae nata sit, quod genus strepitu acclamatione; aut iam parata, quae vel apologum vel fabulam vel aliquam contineat irrisionem; aut si rei dignitas adimet iocandi facultatem, aliquid triste, novum, horribile statim non incommodum est inicere. Nam, ut cibi satietas et fastidium aut subamara aliqua re relevatur aut dulci mitigatur, sic animus defessus audiendo aut admiratione integratur aut risu novatur.
Some Examples of Ciceronian jokes:
Macrobius, Saturnalia 2.1:
“Who is there, that has taken care to read those those books of his jokes which his freedman composed, who does not know how much Cicero excelled in humor? (Though, some suspect that the freedman was the author.) Who is there, who doesn’t know that he was often called the ‘consular clown’ by his enemies? Vatinius mentioned this in his own speech. I would, if it wouldn’t take too long, recall those cases in which he represented guilty clients, which he won by joking.”
Cicero autem quantum in ea re valuerit quis ignorat qui vel liberti eius libros quos is de iocis patroni conposuit, quos quidam ipsius putant esse, legere curavit? Quis item nescit consularem eum scurram ab inimicis appellari solitum? quod in oratione etiam sua Vatinius posuit. Atque ego, ni longum esset, referrem, in quibus causis, cum nocentissimos reos tueretur, victoriam iocis adeptus sit.
Aulus Gellius, Attic Nights 12.12
12 The clever response of Marcus Cicero as he defends himself against a claim of obvious lying
“This is a part of rhetorical training too—to admit criminal matters not subject to danger cleverly and with charm so that, if something foul is alleged which cannot be denied, you may defuse it with a humorous response and make the whole matter more dignified with a joke rather than an allegation, just as it is recorded that Cicero did when he tempered what could not be denied with a clever and amusing comment.
For when Cicero wanted to purchase a house on the Palatine hill and he did not have the money at hand, he accepted in private as much as two million sesterces [$100,000?] from Publius Sulla* who was then a defendant in a case. But the whole matter was made public before he bought the house and he was charged with receiving money for buying a house from an accused defendant. So then, troubled by the unanticipated criticism, Cicero denied that he had received the money and denied that he would have bought the house, saying “Indeed, If I buy the house, it is true that I took the money”.
But later, when he had bought the house and was charged with being a liar in the senate by his enemies, he laughed plenty and said while chuckling: “You are senseless men if you don’t know that it is a mark of a wise and cautious head of a family, when he wants to buy something, to deny that he wants to buy it to scare off competitors!”
*He was charged for participating in the conspiracy with Cataline.
XII Faceta responsio M. Ciceronis amolientis a se crimen manifesti mendacii.
 Haec quoque disciplina rhetorica est callide et cum astu res criminosas citra periculum confiteri, ut, si obiectum sit turpe aliquid, quod negari non queat, responsione ioculari eludas et rem facias risu magis dignam quam crimine, sicut fecisse Ciceronem scriptum est, cum id, quod infitiari non poterat, urbano facetoque dicto diluit.  Nam cum emere uellet in Palatio domum et pecuniam in praesens non haberet, a P. Sulla, qui tum reus erat, mutua sestertium uiciens tacita accepit.  Ea res tamen, priusquam emeret, prodita est et in uulgus exiuit, obiectumque ei est, quod pecuniam domus emendae causa a reo accepisset.  Tum Cicero inopinata obprobratione permotus accepisse se negauit ac domum quoque se empturum negauit atque ‘adeo’ inquit ‘uerum sit accepisse me pecuniam, si domum emero’. Sed cum postea emisset et hoc mendacium in senatu ei ab inimicis obiceretur, risit satis atque inter ridendum: ‘ἀκοινονόητοι’ inquit ‘homines estis, cum ignoratis prudentis et cauti patrisfamilias esse, quod emere uelit, empturum sese negare propter competitores emptionis.’
Macrobius, Saturnalia (II.2.3.1-4)
“I am surprised that you all have been quiet about Cicero’s jokes which prove him as eloquent as in everything else he said. If it seems right, I am prepared—like the guardian of a temple about to announce the oracles of a god—to repeat the Ciceronian jests I remember.
When everyone appeared ready to listen to him, he began: “When Marcus Cicero dined with Damasippus and his host offered him a rather middling wine and said “Drink this forty-year old Falernian,” Cicero replied “It carries its age well.” At another time when he saw his own son-in-law Lentulus, a man of short stature, girded up with a long sword, he asked “Who has attached my son-in-law to a sword?” Nor did he keep a similar bite from his brother Quintus Cicero. For, when visiting the province Quintus that was administering, he saw his brother’s portrait armed with a circular shield sculpted with much greater size near the chest in the manner of pictures (his brother was also a bit on the shorter side), he said “Half of my brother is bigger than the whole!”
Sed miror omnes vos ioca tacuisse Ciceronis, in quibus facundissimus, ut in omnibus, fuit: et, si videtur, ut aedituus responsa numinis sui praedicat ita ego quae memoria suggesserit refero dicta Ciceronis. Tum omnibus ad audiendum erectis ille sic incipit: 2 M. Cicero, cum apud Damasippum coenaret et ille mediocri vino posito diceret: Bibite Falernum hoc, annorum quadraginta est: Bene, inquit, aetatem fert. 3 Idem cum Lentulum generum suum, exiguae naturae hominem, longo gladio adcinctum vidisset: Quis, inquit, generum meum ad gladium alligavit? 4 Nec Q. Ciceroni fratri circa similem mordacitatem pepercit. Nam cum in ea provincia quam ille rexerat vidisset clypeatam imaginem eius ingentibus lineamentis usque ad pectus ex more pictam (erat autem Quintus ipse staturae parvae), ait: Frater meus dimidius maior est quam totus.