The Reason for Empire’s Fall

Isocrates, On the Peace 116-119

“If you listen to me, and you stop taking just any kind of advice at all and pay attention to yourselves and the city, you will gain some wisdom and examine what happened to these two cities, ours and Sparta. How did their empires over Greece rise up from pretty basic affairs and then, once they each took unrivaled power, how did they risk enslavement? What was the reason that the Thessalians, who have the most wealth, and the best and most abundant land, fell into poverty, but the Megarians, whose starting point was small and ragged, and even though they did not have land or harbors, or silver minds but were just farming stones, developed the richest economy of the Greeks?

Why do other people frequently control the Thessalians’ fortresses when they have a cavalry over three thousand and countless peltasts beyond that while the Megarians, who have only a small force, control their city as they want? In addition to this, why are the Thessalians always at war against one another while the Megarians who live near the Peloponnesians, the Thebans, and our city manage to survive at peace?

If you work through these questions, you will find that a lack of self-control and arrogance are the cause of our problems, while prudence is responsible for all of our advantages.”

Ἢν οὖν ἐμοὶ πεισθῆτε, παυσάμενοι τοῦ παντάπασιν εἰκῇ βουλεύεσθαι προσέξετε τὸν νοῦν ὑμῖν αὐτοῖς καὶ τῇ πόλει, καὶ φιλοσοφήσετε καὶ σκέψεσθε τί τὸ ποιῆσάν ἐστι τὼ πόλη τούτω, λέγω δὲ τὴν ἡμετέραν καὶ τὴν Λακεδαιμονίων, ἐκ ταπεινῶν μὲν πραγμάτων ἑκατέραν ὁρμηθεῖσαν ἄρξαι τῶν Ἑλλήνων, ἐπεὶ δ᾿ ἀνυπέρβλητον τὴν δύναμιν ἔλαβον, περὶ ἀνδραποδισμοῦ κινδυνεῦσαι· καὶ διὰ τίνας αἰτίας Θετταλοὶ μέν, μεγίστους πλούτους παραλαβόντες καὶ χώραν ἀρίστην καὶ πλείστην ἔχοντες, εἰς ἀπορίαν καθεστήκασι, Μεγαρεῖς δέ, μικρῶν αὐτοῖς καὶ φαύλων τῶν ἐξ ἀρχῆς ὑπαρξάντων, καὶ γῆν μὲν οὐκ ἔχοντες οὐδὲ λιμένας οὐδ᾿ ἀργυρεῖα, πέτρας δὲ γεωργοῦντες, μεγίστους οἴκους τῶν Ἑλλήνων κέκτηνται· κἀκείνων μὲν τὰς ἀκροπόλεις ἄλλοι τινὲς ἀεὶ κατέχουσιν, ὄντων αὐτοῖς πλέον τρισχιλίων ἱππέων καὶ πελταστῶν ἀναριθμήτων, οὗτοι δὲ μικρὰν δύναμιν ἔχοντες τὴν αὑτῶν ὅπως βούλονται διοικοῦσιν· καὶ πρὸς τούτοις οἱ μὲν σφίσιν αὐτοῖς πολεμοῦσιν, οὗτοι δὲ μεταξὺ Πελοποννησίων καὶ Θηβαίων καὶ τῆς ἡμετέρας πόλεως οἰκοῦντες εἰρήνην ἄγοντες διατελοῦσιν. ἢν γὰρ ταῦτα καὶ τὰ τοιαῦτα διεξίητε πρὸς ὑμᾶς αὐτούς, εὑρήσετε τὴν μὲν ἀκολασίαν καὶ τὴν ὕβριν τῶν κακῶν αἰτίαν γιγνομένην, τὴν δὲ σωφροσύνην τῶν ἀγαθῶν.

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Absentmindedness is…uh, What?

I lose my campus ID every 6 months or so; each morning, finding my keys is a wild adventure even though they are almost always in the same place…

Theophrastus, Characters: Absentmindedness

“To give it a definition, absent-mindedness, is a slowness of mind in speech and actions. An absent-minded person is the kind of person who:

Even after making a calculation with counters and coming to a sum asks the person sitting next to him, “What’s this”?

If he is called to court and meant to go, forgets and goes to the country;

If he is watching something at the theater, he is left alone when he falls a sleep;

When he eats too much he gets up at night for the bathroom and is bitten by the neighbor’s dog.

When he gets something and puts it away, is not able to find it when he looks for it;

When he learns that one of his friends has died and he should attend the funeral, he frowns and cries but says “it’s for the best”

When he gets money paid back to him he is sure to ask for proof of receipt.

He fights with his slave because he didn’t buy cucumbers even though it is winter.

He makes his children practice wrestling and running until they are exhausted.

When he is cooking bean soup in the country, he salts the pan twice, ruining the food.”

(1) ἔστι δὲ ἡ ἀναισθησία, ὡς ὅρῳ εἰπεῖν, βραδυτὴς ψυχῆς ἐν λόγοις καὶ πράξεσιν, ὁ δὲ ἀναίσθητος τοιοῦτός τις,

(2) οἷος λογισάμενος ταῖς ψήφοις καὶ κεφάλαιον ποιήσας ἐρωτᾶν τὸν παρακαθήμενον· “τί γίνεται;”

(3) καὶ δίκην φεύγων καὶ ταύτην εἰσιέναι μέλλων ἐπιλαθόμενος εἰς ἀγρὸν πορεύεσθαι.

(4) καὶ θεωρῶν ἐν τῷ θεάτρῳ μόνος καταλείπεσθαι καθεύδων.

(5) καὶ πολλὰ φαγὼν καὶ τῆς νυκτὸς ἐπὶ θάκου ἀνιστάμενος ὑπὸ κυνὸς τῆς τοῦ γείτονος δηχθῆναι.

(6) καὶ λαβών <τι> καὶ ἀποθεὶς αὐτός, τοῦτο ζητεῖν καὶ μὴ δύνασθαι εὑρεῖν.

(7) καὶ ἀπαγγέλλοντος αὐτῷ ὅτι τετελεύτηκέ τις αὐτοῦ τῶν φίλων, ἵνα παραγένηται, σκυθρωπάσας καὶ δακρύσας εἰπεῖν· “ἀγαθῇ τύχῃ.”

(8) δεινὸς δὲ καὶ ἀπολαμβάνων ἀργύριον ὀφειλόμενον μάρτυρας παραλαβεῖν.

(9) καὶ χειμῶνος ὄντος μάχεσθαι τῷ παιδὶ ὅτι σικύους οὐκ ἠγόρασεν.

(10) καὶ τὰ παιδία ἑαυτοῦ παλαίειν ἀναγκάζων καὶ τροχάζειν εἰς κόπον ἐμβάλλειν.

(11) καὶ ἐν ἀγρῷ αὐτὸς φακῆν ἕψων δὶς ἅλας εἰς τὴν χύτραν ἐμβαλὼν ἄβρωτον ποιῆσαι..

Forgetfuljones01
Forgetful Jones, a Muppet you have likely forgotten.

 

The Reason for Empire’s Fall

Isocrates, On the Peace 116-119

“If you listen to me, and you stop taking just any kind of advice at all and pay attention to yourselves and the city, you will gain some wisdom and examine what happened to these two cities, ours and Sparta. How did their empires over Greece rise up from pretty basic affairs and then, once they each took unrivaled power, how did they risk enslavement? What was the reason that the Thessalians, who have the most wealth, and the best and most abundant land, fell into poverty, but the Megarians, whose starting point was small and ragged, and even though they did not have land or harbors, or silver minds but were just farming stones, developed the richest economy of the Greeks?

Why do other people frequently control the Thessalians’ fortresses when they have a cavalry over three thousand and countless peltasts beyond that while the Megarians, who have only a small force, control their city as they want? In addition to this, why are the Thessalians always at war against one another while the Megarians who live near the Peloponnesians, the Thebans, and our city manage to survive at peace?

If you work through these questions, you will find that a lack of self-control and arrogance are the cause of our problems, while prudence is responsible for all of our advantages.”

Ἢν οὖν ἐμοὶ πεισθῆτε, παυσάμενοι τοῦ παντάπασιν εἰκῇ βουλεύεσθαι προσέξετε τὸν νοῦν ὑμῖν αὐτοῖς καὶ τῇ πόλει, καὶ φιλοσοφήσετε καὶ σκέψεσθε τί τὸ ποιῆσάν ἐστι τὼ πόλη τούτω, λέγω δὲ τὴν ἡμετέραν καὶ τὴν Λακεδαιμονίων, ἐκ ταπεινῶν μὲν πραγμάτων ἑκατέραν ὁρμηθεῖσαν ἄρξαι τῶν Ἑλλήνων, ἐπεὶ δ᾿ ἀνυπέρβλητον τὴν δύναμιν ἔλαβον, περὶ ἀνδραποδισμοῦ κινδυνεῦσαι· καὶ διὰ τίνας αἰτίας Θετταλοὶ μέν, μεγίστους πλούτους παραλαβόντες καὶ χώραν ἀρίστην καὶ πλείστην ἔχοντες, εἰς ἀπορίαν καθεστήκασι, Μεγαρεῖς δέ, μικρῶν αὐτοῖς καὶ φαύλων τῶν ἐξ ἀρχῆς ὑπαρξάντων, καὶ γῆν μὲν οὐκ ἔχοντες οὐδὲ λιμένας οὐδ᾿ ἀργυρεῖα, πέτρας δὲ γεωργοῦντες, μεγίστους οἴκους τῶν Ἑλλήνων κέκτηνται· κἀκείνων μὲν τὰς ἀκροπόλεις ἄλλοι τινὲς ἀεὶ κατέχουσιν, ὄντων αὐτοῖς πλέον τρισχιλίων ἱππέων καὶ πελταστῶν ἀναριθμήτων, οὗτοι δὲ μικρὰν δύναμιν ἔχοντες τὴν αὑτῶν ὅπως βούλονται διοικοῦσιν· καὶ πρὸς τούτοις οἱ μὲν σφίσιν αὐτοῖς πολεμοῦσιν, οὗτοι δὲ μεταξὺ Πελοποννησίων καὶ Θηβαίων καὶ τῆς ἡμετέρας πόλεως οἰκοῦντες εἰρήνην ἄγοντες διατελοῦσιν. ἢν γὰρ ταῦτα καὶ τὰ τοιαῦτα διεξίητε πρὸς ὑμᾶς αὐτούς, εὑρήσετε τὴν μὲν ἀκολασίαν καὶ τὴν ὕβριν τῶν κακῶν αἰτίαν γιγνομένην, τὴν δὲ σωφροσύνην τῶν ἀγαθῶν.

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Your Ignorance of My Suffering

Libanius, Letters 155

“You don’t know, dear Heortius, the number or the severity of the sicknesses which are assailing me nor how long this has plagued me. For you would not disregard sympathy and criticize me if you did. But ignorance is harmful to human beings everywhere and it has forced you to accuse instead of console. I will not call you out for not knowing about my suffering.

But someone of those who easily criticize you might still say that you were ignorant because you failed to inquire and that you did not inquire because of antipathy, and by attracting a suspicion of arrogance to yourself you risk greater accusations. But I will not do this because I don’t think it is right to ruin a strong friendship through nonsense. But whenever something like this happens, once I search around or a likely cause for events, I make a defense to myself on others’ behalf.”

1. Οὐκ οἶσθα, ὦ φίλε Ἐόρτιε, τῶν προσβαλόντων μοι νοσημάτων οὔτε τὸ πλῆθος οὔτε τὸ μέγεθος οὔτ᾿ ἐφ᾿ ὅσον προῆλθε τοῦ χρόνου. οὐ γὰρ ἄν ποτε ὑπερβὰς τὸ συναλγεῖν ἐμέμφου. νῦν δὲ ἡ ἄγνοια πανταχοῦ τοῖς ἀνθρώποις βλαβερὸν καὶ δὴ καὶ σὲ κατηγορεῖν ἐπῆρεν ἀντὶ τοῦ παραμυθεῖσθαι. ἐγὼ δέ σοι οὐκ ἐγκαλῶ τὸ τὰς δυσκολίας ἡμῶν ἀγνοεῖν.

2. καίτοι φαίη τις ἂν τῶν ὥσπερ σὺ ῥᾳδίως ἐπιτιμώντων, ὡς ἀγνοεῖς μὲν τῷ μὴ πυνθάνεσθαι, οὐ πυνθάνῃ δὲ τῷ μισεῖν, καὶ οὕτως ἂν ὑπεροψίαν προφέρων αὐτὸς ἐνέχοιο μείζοσιν. ἐγὼ δὲ τοῦτο οὐ ποιήσω φιλίαν ἰσχυρὰν ὑβρίζειν οὐκ ἀξιῶν συκοφαντίᾳ. ἀλλ᾿ ὅταν τι γένηται τοιοῦτον, ζητήσας αἰτίαν τοῖς πράγμασιν ἐπιεικεστέραν οὕτω πρὸς ἐμαυτὸν ὑπὲρ ἐκείνων ἀπολογοῦμαι.

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Bibliothèque Municipale de Lyon, MS P.A. 78, Folio 36r

Impossible Plausible Events are Better than Implausible Possible Ones

Aristotle, Poetics 1460a26

“Narratives ought to prefer likely events, even if impossible, to improbable possible ones. Stories should not be made from illogical parts: in the best case, they should contain nothing illogical, unless it comes from outside the plot itself as when Oedipus is not aware how Laios died, instead of in the play itself, as when they report the events at Delphi in the Elektra or when the silent man comes from Tegea to Mysia in the Mysians. To say that otherwise the plot would be wrecked is ridiculous—it isn’t right to set up these sorts of events from the beginning.

If a poet does this, and there is a more logical option available, it is strange. Even those illogical events in the Odyssey when Odysseus is put ashore [asleep by the Phaeacians] would have been manifestly intolerable if a lesser poet had created it. In the poem now, Homer softens and erases the strangeness with his other good traits.”

προαιρεῖσθαί τε δεῖ ἀδύνατα εἰκότα μᾶλλον ἢ δυνατὰ ἀπίθανα· τούς τε λόγους μὴ συνίστασθαι ἐκ μερῶν ἀλόγων, ἀλλὰ μάλιστα μὲν μηδὲν ἔχειν ἄλογον, εἰ δὲ μή, ἔξω τοῦ μυθεύματος, ὥσπερ Οἰδίπους τὸ μὴ εἰδέναι πῶς ὁ Λάιος ἀπέθανεν, ἀλλὰ μὴ ἐν τῷ δράματι, ὥσπερ ἐν ᾿Ηλέκτρᾳ οἱ τὰ Πύθια ἀπαγγέλλοντες ἢ ἐν Μυσοῖς ὁ ἄφωνος ἐκ Τεγέας εἰς τὴν Μυσίαν ἥκων. ὥστε τὸ λέγειν ὅτι ἀνῄρητο ἂν ὁ μῦθος γελοῖον· ἐξ ἀρχῆς γὰρ οὐ δεῖ συνίστασθαι τοιούτους. †ἂν δὲ θῇ καὶ φαίνηται εὐλογωτέρως ἐνδέχεσθαι καὶ ἄτοπον† ἐπεὶ καὶ τὰ ἐν ᾿Οδυσσείᾳ ἄλογα τὰ περὶ τὴν ἔκθεσιν ὡς οὐκ ἂν ἦν ἀνεκτὰ δῆλον  ἂν γένοιτο, εἰ αὐτὰ φαῦλος ποιητὴς ποιήσειε· νῦν δὲ τοῖς ἄλλοις ἀγαθοῖς ὁ ποιητὴς ἀφανίζει ἡδύνων τὸ ἄτοπον.

On the left-hand side, demons torture the souls of the dead in Hell. On the right-hand side, the Egyptian Pharaoh and his soldiers drown in the Red Sea.
 Harley MS 2838, f. 44r (from this site)

Philosophers, Brush Your Teeth!

Apuleius, Apologia 7

“I have just noticed certain people here barely containing their laughter, probably because that last speaker was viciously attacking oral health and using the word “dentifrice” with as much anger as no one has ever used for “poison”. Why not? A Philosopher must dismiss no crime, allow nothing corrupt associated with himself, suffer no part of his body to ever be messy or smelly, especially his mouth, something people use openly and obviously all the time whether they try to kiss someone, or attempt to have a conversation, address a large group, or offer prayers in a temple.

Speech leads nearly every human deed and, as the foremost poet says, it begins “at the barrier of the teeth”. Consider someone of fairly elevated speech: he would likely say in his own way that someone who cares about speaking must attend to his mouth beyond the rest of his body because it is the entryway of the mind, the door of speech, the assembly-hall of thoughts.

For my part, I can say that nothing is less fitting to a free person who is educated well than a filthy mouth. The mouth is in that elevated part of the human body, easy to see, needed for speech. In animals, whether wild or domesticated, the mouth is lower and pointed toward feet, near food and footprints. An animal’s mouth is rarely seen except when they are dead or annoyed into biting. For a human, there is nothing you see consider more clearly either when silent or speaking.”

Vidi ego dudum vix risum quosdam tenentis, cum munditias oris videlicet orator ille aspere accusaret et dentifricium tanta indignatione pronuntiaret, quanta nemo quisquam venenum. Quidni? Crimen haud contemnendum philosopho, nihil in se sordidum sinere, nihil uspiam corporis apertum immundum pati ac foetulentum, praesertim os, cuius in propatulo et conspicuo usus homini creberrimus, sive ille cuipiam osculum ferat, seu cum quiquam sermocinetur, sive in auditorio dissertet, sive in templo preces alleget. Omnem quippe hominis actum sermo praeit, qui, ut ait poeta praecipuus, dentium muro proficiscitur. Dares nunc aliquem similiter grandiloquum: diceret suo more cum primis cui ulla fandi cura sit impensius cetero corpore os colendum, quod esset animi vestibulum et orationis ianua et cogitationum comitium. Ego certe pro meo captu dixerim nihil minus quam oris illuviem libero et liberali viro competere, est enim ea pars hominis loco celsa, visu prompta, usu facunda. Nam quidem feris et pecudibus os humile est et deorsum ad pedes deiectum, uestigio et pabulo proximum; nunquam ferme nisi mortuis aut ad morsum exasperatis conspicitur: hominis vero nihil prius tacentis, nihil saepius loquentis contemplere.

By Dupons Brüssel – “Das Album”, page 62-63, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=334108

Apion’s a Racist Buffoon, But People Listen to Him

Josephus, Against Apion 2

“I will turn now to refuting the remaining authors who have written against us. I really don’t know if it is worth my time to respond seriously to the attacks of Apion the grammarian. Some of what he has written is similar to what other people claim; things which he added are rather weak, and most of it is complete absurdity which, to speak truthfully, exposes the author for a scoundrel and a fraud right to the end of his life.

But since many people tend because of ignorance to be attracted by these kinds of arguments rather than those of a serious nature and they take pleasure in slander while finding praise annoying, I believe I am compelled to not to leave this person unexamined since he has composed an indictment of us direct enough for a courtroom.

This is because I have also noticed that people are especially pleased when someone who started to slander others first is refuted through his own vices. Now, Apion’s argument is not easy to sum up or to understand clearly what he wants to say. But—as far as is pack of disordered lies can be analyzed—some of his words are like those already examined, related to how our people departed from Egypt; another category is the accusation against the Jewish residents of Alexandria; and the third is mixed up among those with claims against our temple rites and general practices.”

ἄρξομαι δὲ νῦν τοὺς ὑπολειπομένους τῶν γεγραφότων τι καθ᾿ ἡμῶν ἐλέγχειν. καίτοι περὶ τῆς πρὸς Ἀπίωνα τὸν γραμματικὸν ἀντιρρήσεως ἐπῆλθέ μοι διαπορεῖν, εἰ χρὴ σπουδάσαι· τὰ μὲν γάρ ἐστι τῶν ὑπ᾿ αὐτοῦ γεγραμμένων τοῖς ὑπ᾿ ἄλλων εἰρημένοις ὅμοια, τὰ δὲ λίαν ψυχρῶς προστέθεικεν, τὰ πλεῖστα δὲ βωμολοχίαν ἔχει καὶ πολλήν, εἰ δεῖ τἀληθὲς εἰπεῖν, ἀπαιδευσίαν, ὡς ἂν ὑπ᾿ ἀνθρώπου συγκείμενα καὶ φαύλου τὸν τρόπον καὶ παρὰ πάντα τὸν βίον ὀχλαγωγοῦ γεγονότος. ἐπεὶ δ᾿ οἱ πολλοὶ τῶν ἀνθρώπων διὰ τὴν αὐτῶν ἄνοιαν ὑπὸ τῶν τοιούτων ἁλίσκονται λόγων μᾶλλον ἢ τῶν μετά τινος σπουδῆς γεγραμμένων, καὶ χαίρουσι μὲν ταῖς λοιδορίαις, ἄχθονται δὲ τοῖς ἐπαίνοις, ἀναγκαῖον ἡγησάμην εἶναι μηδὲ τοῦτον ἀνεξέταστον καταλιπεῖν, κατηγορίαν ἡμῶν ἄντικρυς ὡς ἐν δίκῃ γεγραφότα. καὶ γὰρ αὖ κἀκεῖνο τοῖς πολλοῖς ἀνθρώποις ὁρῶ παρακολουθοῦν, τὸ λίαν ἐφήδεσθαι ὅταν τις ἀρξάμενος βλασφημεῖν ἕτερον αὐτὸς ἐλέγχηται περὶ τῶν αὐτῷ προσόντων κακῶν. ἔστι μὲν οὖν οὐ ῥᾴδιον αὐτοῦ διελθεῖν τὸν λόγον οὐδὲ σαφῶς γνῶναι τί λέγειν βούλεται, σχεδὸν δ᾿, ὡς ἐν πολλῇ ταραχῇ καὶ ψευσμάτων συγχύσει, τὰ μὲν εἰς τὴν ὁμοίαν ἰδέαν πίπτει τοῖς προεξητασμένοις περὶ τῆς ἐξ Αἰγύπτου τῶν ἡμετέρων προγόνων μεταναστάσεως, τὰ δ᾿ ἐστὶ κατηγορία τῶν ἐν Ἀλεξανδρείᾳ κατοικούντων Ἰουδαίων. τρίτον δ᾿ ἐπὶ τούτοις μέμικται περὶ τῆς ἁγιστείας τῆς κατὰ τὸ ἱερὸν ἡμῶν καὶ τῶν ἄλλων νομίμων κατηγορία.