Rage: The Seed of Future Enemies

Seneca, De Clementia 8

“Think over this as well that, while endurance of what has already occurred exposes private citizens to the danger of receiving additional injuries, greater safety comes to kings from lenience because frequent punishments serve to suppress the hatred of a few while exciting the anger of every one.

The willingness to rage should be weaker than its cause. If not, just as trees which are pruned sprout again with even more branches and as many other plants are cut back so that they may grow more thickly, in the same way a king’s cruelty increases the number of his enemies by cutting some of them down. For the parents and children of those who were killed along with their relatives and friends take up the place of a single victim.”

Adice nunc, quod privatos homines ad accipiendas iniurias opportuniores acceptarum patientia facit, regibus certior est ex mansuetudine securitas, quia frequens vindicta paucorum odium opprimit, omnium irritat. Voluntas oportet ante saeviendi quam causa deficiat; alioqui, quemadmodum praecisae arbores plurimis ramis repullulant et multa satorum genera, ut densiora surgant, reciduntur, ita regia crudelitas auget inimicorum numerum tollendo; parentes enim liberique eorum, qui interfecti sunt, et propinqui et amici in locum singulorum succedunt.

Valentine
The Martydom of St. valentine

A Troubling Take on Reason and Rage

Seneca, De Ira 19

“I say that anger has this evil: it is not willing to be ruled. It is irate against truth itself it truth seems to be against what it desires. It attacks those it has selected with bellowing, chaos, and near complete bodily seizure when it piles on insults and curses.

Reason does not do this. But if there is a need, it quietly and secretly destroys whole households and families which threaten the state along with wives and children. It demolishes the very roofs themselves and wipes out the names of those opposed to liberty.”

Habet, inquam, iracundia hoc mali; non vult regi. Irascitur veritati ipsi, si contra voluntatem suam apparuit; cum clamore et tumultu et totius corporis iactatione quos destinavit insequitur adiectis conviciis maledictisque. Hoc non facit ratio; sed si ita opus est, silens quietaque totas domus funditus tollit et familias rei publicae pestilentes cum coniugibus ac liberis perdit, tecta ipsa diruit et solo exaequat et inimica libertati nomina exstirpat.

Image result for medieval manuscript rage
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Ms. 66 (99.MK.48), fol. 55

Advice for the Electoral Season: Rage Coming On? Sing Yourself a Song

Aelian, 14.23 Achilles plays the Lyre to Calm his Rage

“Kleinias was serious in his manner and he was a Pythagorean in his philosophical training. If he was ever driven towards rage or had a sense of getting hot-headed, immediately before he became too overwhlemed with anger and before it was clear it was coming, he picked up the lyre and began to play. In response to people asking what the reason for this was, he responded melodiously, “I am calming myself”. Achilles in the Iliad seems to me to put his rage sleep when he sings along to a lyre and brings reminds himself of the famous tales of former men through his song. For, since he was a musical man, he chose the lyre first out of all the spoils.”

Κλεινίας ἀνὴρ ἦν σπουδαῖος τὸν τρόπον, Πυθαγόρειος δὲ τὴν σοφίαν. οὗτος εἴ ποτε ἐς ὀργὴν προήχθη καὶ εἶχεν αἰσθητικῶς ἑαυτοῦ ἐς θυμὸν ἐξαγομένου, παραχρῆμα πρὶν ἢ ἀνάπλεως αὐτῷ ἡ ὀργὴ καὶ ἐπίδηλος γένηται ὅπως διάκειται, τὴν λύραν ἁρμοσάμενος ἐκιθάριζε. πρὸς δὲ τοὺς πυνθανομένους τὴν αἰτίαν ἀπεκρίνετο ἐμμελῶς ὅτι ‘πραΰνομαι.’ δοκεῖ δέ μοι καὶ ὁ ἐν ᾿Ιλιάδι ᾿Αχιλλεύς, ὁ τῇ κιθάρᾳ προσᾴδων καὶ τὰ κλέα τῶν προτέρων διὰ τοῦ μέλους ἐς μνήμην ἑαυτῷ ἄγων, τὴν μῆνιν κατευνάζειν• μουσικὸς γὰρ ὢν τὴν κιθάραν πρώτην ἐκ τῶν λαφύρων ἔλαβε.

Aelian is referring to the following passage from Homer when the embassy from Agamemnon comes to treat with Achilles in book 9. Odysseus, Ajax and Phoenix arrive and find Achilles singing.

Calliope

Iliad, 9.185-191

“They came to the dwellings and the ships of the Myrmidons
And they found [Achilles] delighting his heart with the clear-voiced lyre,
A finely wrought one which was silver on the bridge,
The one he chose as a prize after sacking the city of Êetiôn.
He delighted his heart with that and sang the famous stories of men.
But Patroklos sat alone opposite him in silence,
Waiting for time when the grandson of Aiakos would stop his songs.”

Μυρμιδόνων δ’ ἐπί τε κλισίας καὶ νῆας ἱκέσθην,
τὸν δ’ εὗρον φρένα τερπόμενον φόρμιγγι λιγείῃ
καλῇ δαιδαλέῃ, ἐπὶ δ’ ἀργύρεον ζυγὸν ἦεν,
τὴν ἄρετ’ ἐξ ἐνάρων πόλιν ᾿Ηετίωνος ὀλέσσας•
τῇ ὅ γε θυμὸν ἔτερπεν, ἄειδε δ’ ἄρα κλέα ἀνδρῶν.
Πάτροκλος δέ οἱ οἶος ἐναντίος ἧστο σιωπῇ,
δέγμενος Αἰακίδην ὁπότε λήξειεν ἀείδων,

Aelian’s interpretation is interesting in part because it makes sense—Achilles is often seen as resting, or taking up time with the singing. But modern interpretations put a lot more weight into Achilles’ words, and what exactly it means to sing the “famous stories of men”. In the same book, Phoenix chastises Achilles by saying: “This is not what we have heard before in the famous stories of men/ heroes, whenever a powerful anger overtook someone” (οὕτω καὶ τῶν πρόσθεν ἐπευθόμεθα κλέα ἀνδρῶν / ἡρώων, ὅτε κέν τιν’ ἐπιζάφελος χόλος ἵκοι, 9.524-5). And in the Odyssey, the same phrase is used to indicate Demodokos’ ability to sing songs from the Trojan War, right before he sings about the conflict between Odysseus and Achilles. (Μοῦσ’ ἄρ’ ἀοιδὸν ἀνῆκεν ἀειδέμεναι κλέα ἀνδρῶν, 8.73)

So, the basic argument is that the phrase kléa andrôn is a metonym for tales from myth or epic and that Achilles is not merely entertaining himself but, just as Phoenix invites him to consider the lessons from “the famous stories of men” as precedents to help correct his behavior, Achilles is singing in order to figure out where his story fits in the pantheon of tales he knows. And, against Aelian’s interpretation, Achilles doesn’t seem to have overcome his anger for very long once Odysseus begins to speak…

The Ever-Quotable Seneca the Younger

People quote Seneca a lot. Why? He’s  pithy and quotable. And he wrote a lot. He’s our favorite fabulously wealthy, tyrant-aiding poet-philosopher.  Here’s a sampling of some of his words.  Search the blog for (too) many more.

On asking nicely

De Beneficiis

“He who asks timidly, teaches others to refuse”.

qui timide rogat, docet negare

On Procrastination

De Beneficiis, 2.5.4

“If someone says he’ll do something ‘later’, that usually means he doesn’t want to do it”.

tarde velle nolentis est

On Frenemies,

EM 14.7

“It is hard work having everyone as a friend; it is enough not to have enemies”.

omnes amicos habere operosum est, satis est inimicos non habere.

On Forgiveness

De Ira, 1.29

“Why should I fear any of my mistakes, when I can say: ‘See that you no longer act in this way. Now I forgive you.’”

quare enim quicquam ex erroribus meis timeam, cum possim dicere: “vide ne istud amplius facias, nunc tibi ignosco.”

On Masks

De Clementia, 1.1.6

“No one can wear a mask for very long; affectation soon returns to true nature”

nemo enim potest personam diu ferre, ficta cito in naturam suam recidunt

On Poverty

EM 2.6

“It is not the one who has little, but the one who desires more, who is truly poor.”

non qui parum habet, sed qui plus cupit, pauper est.

On the Brevity of Life

“We don’t have too little time, but we do waste most of it. Life is long enough for the completion of the greatest affairs—it is apportioned to us generously, if it is wholly well managed.”

non exiguum temporis habemus, sed multum perdidimus. satis longa uita et in maximarum rerum consummationem: large data est, si tota bene conlocaretur.

On Our March to Death

Consolatio at Marciam, 21.6

“From the time that we catch our first glimpse of light, we have entered upon the road to death.”

Ex illo quo primum lucem uidit iter mortis ingressus est….

On Monty Python’s Holy Grail

De Providentia, 2.6

“But even if he falls [his legs fail him], he fights on his knees”   sed etiam si cecidit de genu pugnat.

Seneca the Younger

Yes, he also wrote tragedies.

Anger Lashes Out at Anything: Plutarch, On Controlling Anger 455c

“It is best, as one might gather, to be in control and either to depart and conceal ourselves, anchoring oneself into some quiet place, just as if we perceive that a seizure is beginning, that we might not fall—or rather, that we might not fall on someone else. We most often turn on our friends; for we neither love everyone, nor envy everyone, nor fear everyone to the extent that there is anything that is untouched or untried by anger. We grow angry with enemies, children, parents the gods, by Zeus, with wild animals and even with lifeless tools…”

ἀτρεμεῖν οὖν κράτιστον ἢ φεύγειν καὶ ἀποκρύπτειν καὶ καθορμίζειν ἑαυτὸν εἰς ἡσυχίαν, ὥσπερ ἐπιληψίας ἀρχομένης συναισθανομένους, ἵνα μὴ πέσωμεν μᾶλλον δ’ ἐπιπέσωμεν· ἐπιπίπτομεν δὲ τοῖς φίλοις μάλιστά γε καὶ πλειστάκις, οὐ γὰρ πάντων ἐρῶμεν οὐδὲ πᾶσι φθονοῦμεν οὐδὲ πάντας φοβούμεθα, θυμῷ δ’ ἄθικτον οὐδὲν οὐδ’ ἀνεπιχείρητον, ἀλλ’ ὀργιζόμεθα καὶ πολεμίοις καὶ τέκνοις καὶ γονεῦσι καὶ θεοῖς νὴ Δία καὶ θηρίοις καὶ ἀψύχοις σκεύεσιν…

If You Feel Rage Coming On, Sing Yourself A Song: Aelian on Kleinias and Achilles

Aelian, 14.23 Achilles plays the Lyre to Calm his Rage

“Kleinias was serious in his manner and he was a Pythagorean in his philosophical training. If he was ever driven towards rage or had a sense of getting hot-headed, immediately before he became too overwhlemed with anger and before it was clear it was coming, he picked up the lyre and began to play. In response to people asking what the reason for this was, he responded melodiously, “I am calming myself”. Achilles in the Iliad seems to me to put his rage sleep when he sings along to a lyre and brings reminds himself of the famous tales of former men through his song. For, since he was a musical man, he chose the lyre first out of all the spoils.”

Κλεινίας ἀνὴρ ἦν σπουδαῖος τὸν τρόπον, Πυθαγόρειος δὲ τὴν σοφίαν. οὗτος εἴ ποτε ἐς ὀργὴν προήχθη καὶ εἶχεν αἰσθητικῶς ἑαυτοῦ ἐς θυμὸν ἐξαγομένου, παραχρῆμα πρὶν ἢ ἀνάπλεως αὐτῷ ἡ ὀργὴ καὶ ἐπίδηλος γένηται ὅπως διάκειται, τὴν λύραν ἁρμοσάμενος ἐκιθάριζε. πρὸς δὲ τοὺς πυνθανομένους τὴν αἰτίαν ἀπεκρίνετο ἐμμελῶς ὅτι ‘πραΰνομαι.’ δοκεῖ δέ μοι καὶ ὁ ἐν ᾿Ιλιάδι ᾿Αχιλλεύς, ὁ τῇ κιθάρᾳ προσᾴδων καὶ τὰ κλέα τῶν προτέρων διὰ τοῦ μέλους ἐς μνήμην ἑαυτῷ ἄγων, τὴν μῆνιν κατευνάζειν• μουσικὸς γὰρ ὢν τὴν κιθάραν πρώτην ἐκ τῶν λαφύρων ἔλαβε.

Aelian is referring to the following passage from Homer when the embassy from Agamemnon comes to treat with Achilles in book 9. Odysseus, Ajax and Phoenix arrive and find Achilles singing.

Iliad, 9.185-191

“They came to the dwellings and the ships of the Myrmidons
And they found [Achilles] delighting his heart with the clear-voiced lyre,
A finely wrought one which was silver on the bridge,
The one he chose as a prize after sacking the city of Êetiôn.
He delighted his heart with that and sang the famous stories of men.
But Patroklos sat alone opposite him in silence,
Waiting for time when the grandson of Aiakos would stop his songs.”

Μυρμιδόνων δ’ ἐπί τε κλισίας καὶ νῆας ἱκέσθην,
τὸν δ’ εὗρον φρένα τερπόμενον φόρμιγγι λιγείῃ
καλῇ δαιδαλέῃ, ἐπὶ δ’ ἀργύρεον ζυγὸν ἦεν,
τὴν ἄρετ’ ἐξ ἐνάρων πόλιν ᾿Ηετίωνος ὀλέσσας•
τῇ ὅ γε θυμὸν ἔτερπεν, ἄειδε δ’ ἄρα κλέα ἀνδρῶν.
Πάτροκλος δέ οἱ οἶος ἐναντίος ἧστο σιωπῇ,
δέγμενος Αἰακίδην ὁπότε λήξειεν ἀείδων,

Aelian’s interpretation is interesting in part because it makes sense—Achilles is often seen as resting, or taking up time with the singing. But modern interpretations put a lot more weight into Achilles’ words, and what exactly it means to sing the “famous stories of men”. In the same book, Phoenix chastises Achilles by saying: “This is not what we have heard before in the famous stories of men/ heroes, whenever a powerful anger overtook someone” (οὕτω καὶ τῶν πρόσθεν ἐπευθόμεθα κλέα ἀνδρῶν / ἡρώων, ὅτε κέν τιν’ ἐπιζάφελος χόλος ἵκοι, 9.524-5). And in the Odyssey, the same phrase is used to indicate Demodokos’ ability to sing songs from the Trojan War, right before he sings about the conflict between Odysseus and Achilles. (Μοῦσ’ ἄρ’ ἀοιδὸν ἀνῆκεν ἀειδέμεναι κλέα ἀνδρῶν, 8.73)

So, the basic argument is that the phrase kléa andrôn is a metonym for tales from myth or epic and that Achilles is not merely entertaining himself but, just as Phoenix invites him to consider the lessons from “the famous stories of men” as precedents to help correct his behavior, Achilles is singing in order to figure out where his story fits in the pantheon of tales he knows. And, against Aelian’s interpretation, Achilles doesn’t seem to have overcome his anger for very long once Odysseus begins to speak…