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,

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.

Solon Says: Sue Bad Leaders of State

Aeschines, Against Timarchus

“[Solon] believed that someone who managed their own personal affairs badly would manage matters of state similarly. It did not seem likely to the lawgiver that that the same person who was a scoundrel in private would be a useful citizen in public. He also did not think right that a person should come to speak in public before being prepared for it, not just for words but in life.

And he also thought that advice from a good and noble person, however poorly and simply it was framed, is beneficial to those who hear it, while the words of a person who has no shame, who has made a mockery of his own body and who has shamefully managed his inheritance—well, these words he believed would never help the people who heard them, not even if they were delivered well.

This is why he keeps these kinds of people from the platform, why he forbids them from addressing the public. If someone speaks, then, not merely against these precepts but also for the sack of bribery and criminality, and if the state can no longer endure such a person, he adds “Let any citizens who desires it, and who is able, sue him…”

τὸν γὰρ τὴν ἰδίαν οἰκίαν κακῶς οἰκήσαντα, καὶ τὰ κοινὰ τῆς πόλεως παραπλησίως ἡγήσατο διαθήσειν, καὶ οὐκ ἐδόκει οἷόν τ᾿ εἶναι τῷ νομοθέτῃ τὸν αὐτὸν ἄνθρωπον ἰδίᾳ μὲν εἶναι πονηρόν, δημοσίᾳ δὲ χρηστόν, οὐδ᾿ ᾤετο δεῖν τὸν ῥήτορα ἥκειν ἐπὶ τὸ βῆμα τῶν λόγων ἐπιμεληθέντα πρότερον, ἀλλ᾿ οὐ τοῦ βίου. καὶ παρὰ μὲν ἀνδρὸς καλοῦ καὶ ἀγαθοῦ, κἂν πάνυ κακῶς καὶ ἁπλῶς ῥηθῇ, χρήσιμα τὰ λεγόμενα ἡγήσατο εἶναι τοῖς ἀκούουσι· παρὰ δὲ ἀνθρώπου βδελυροῦ, καὶ καταγελάστως μὲν κεχρημένου τῷ ἑαυτοῦ σώματι, αἰσχρῶς δὲ τὴν πατρῴαν οὐσίαν κατεδηδοκότος, οὐδ᾿ ἂν εὖ πάνυ λεχθῇ συνοίσειν ἡγήσατο τοῖς ἀκούουσι. τούτους οὖν ἐξείργει ἀπὸ τοῦ βήματος, τούτους ἀπαγορεύει μὴ δημηγορεῖν. ἐὰν δέ τις παρὰ ταῦτα μὴ μόνον λέγῃ, ἀλλὰ καὶ συκοφαντῇ καὶ ἀσελγαίνῃ, καὶ μηκέτι τὸν τοιοῦτον ἄνθρωπον δύνηται φέρειν ἡ πόλις, “Δοκιμασίαν μέν,” φησίν, “ἐπαγγειλάτω Ἀθηναίων ὁ βουλόμενος, οἷς ἔξεστιν,” ὑμᾶς δ᾿ ἤδη κελεύει

File:Portrait bust of Sophocles on Herm (known as Solon)-Uffizi.jpg
Bust Labeled “Solon” but Probably actually Sophocles. Sue Me.

Actually, The Destruction of Melos Only Seems Bad…

Isocrates engages in thoroughly familiar apologetics in response to criticism of the Athenian empire. (Yes, this does seem to be in reference to the Melos of the Melian Dialogue)

Isocrates, Panegyricus 100-102

“Before these things, I think that everyone would agree that our city was responsible for the most good things and that we held our empire justly. But after that, some people start to criticize us, that once we obtained power over the sea, we were responsible for many evils for the Greeks and they offer as evidence in their speeches our enslavement of the Melians and the slaughter of the Skiônians.

I am of the opinion, first, that it is no indication of our ruling badly if some of those who were fighting against us appear to have been punished severely, but it is a much greater sign that we were running our allies’ affairs well that none of the states who were still subject to us faced these kinds of disasters.

As a second point, if other states had managed similar affairs more gently, then we could be criticized fairly. But since this did not happen and it is not possible to rule a group of so many states unless you punish those who insult you, how would it not be right to praise us when we actually were able to maintain our empire for so long all while being harsh in the fewest number of cases?”

Μέχρι μὲν οὖν τούτων οἶδ᾿ ὅτι πάντες ἂν ὁμολογήσειαν πλείστων ἀγαθῶν τὴν πόλιν τὴν ἡμετέραν αἰτίαν γεγενῆσθαι, καὶ δικαίως ἂν αὐτῆς τὴν ἡγεμονίαν εἶναι· μετὰ δὲ ταῦτ᾿ ἤδη τινὲς ἡμῶν κατηγοροῦσιν, ὡς ἐπειδὴ τὴν ἀρχὴν τῆς θαλάττης παρελάβομεν, πολλῶν κακῶν αἴτιοι τοῖς Ἕλλησι κατέστημεν, καὶ τόν τε Μηλίων ἀνδραποδισμὸν καὶ τὸν Σκιωναίων ὄλεθρον ἐν τούτοις τοῖς λόγοις ἡμῖν προφέρουσιν. ἐγὼ δ᾿ ἡγοῦμαι πρῶτον μὲν οὐδὲν εἶναι τοῦτο σημεῖον ὡς κακῶς ἤρχομεν, εἴ τινες τῶν πολεμησάντων ἡμῖν σφόδρα φαίνονται κολασθέντες, ἀλλὰ πολὺ τόδε μεῖζον τεκμήριον ὡς καλῶς διῳκοῦμεν τὰ τῶν συμμάχων, ὅτι τῶν πόλεων τῶν ὑφ᾿ ἡμῖν οὐσῶν οὐδεμία ταύταις ταῖς συμφοραῖς περιέπεσεν. ἔπειτ᾿ εἰ μὲν ἄλλοι τινὲς τῶν αὐτῶν πραγμάτων πραότερον ἐπεμελήθησαν, εἰκότως ἂν ἡμῖν ἐπιτιμῷεν· εἰ δὲ μήτε τοῦτο γέγονε μήθ᾿ οἷόντ᾿ ἐστὶ τοσούτων πόλεων τὸ πλῆθος κρατεῖν, ἢν μή τις κολάζῃ τοὺς ἐξαμαρτάνοντας, πῶς οὐκ ἤδη δίκαιόν ἐστιν ἡμᾶς ἐπαινεῖν, οἵ τινες ἐλαχίστοις χαλεπήναντες πλεῖστον χρόνον τὴν ἀρχὴν κατασχεῖν ἠδυνήθημεν;


A Melian Stater

Attracting the Greatest Numbers of Students with the Least Truth

Isocrates, Against the Sophists 9-10

“We must rebuke not only those sophists but also those who promise to teach political oratory—for these guys don’t care at all about the truth but instead think that it is an art because they get the greatest number of students thanks to the small size of their fee and the greatness of their pronouncements and then they get something from them.

They are so imperceptive and imagine everyone else to be that even though they write speeches worse than some of the untrained masses compose, they still guarantee that they will make their students the kinds of politicians who never leave out any of the possibilities in a matter.

Even worse, they don’t derive any of that power from their experiences or the talent of a student, but they say that they can train the knowledge of speaking as they would basic literacy—in reality, each of them believe that because of the insanity of their promises they will be objects of wonder and that people will think that training in their discipline is worth more than it is. In this, they have not even considered that the people who make arts great are not those who dare to boast about them, but those who have the ability to discover what the power of each art is on its own.”

Οὐ μόνον δὲ τούτοις ἀλλὰ καὶ τοῖς τοὺς πολιτικοὺς λόγους ὑπισχνουμένοις ἄξιον ἐπιτιμῆσαι καὶ γὰρ ἐκεῖνοι τῆς μὲν ἀληθείας οὐδὲν φροντίζουσιν, ἡγοῦνται δὲ τοῦτ᾿ εἶναι τὴν τέχνην, ἢν ὡς πλείστους τῇ μικρότητι τῶν μισθῶν καὶ τῷ μεγέθει τῶν ἐπαγγελμάτων προσαγάγωνται καὶ λαβεῖν τι παρ᾿ αὐτῶν δυνηθῶσιν· οὕτω δ᾿ ἀναισθήτως αὐτοί τε διάκεινται καὶ τοὺς ἄλλους ἔχειν ὑπειλήφασιν, ὥστε χεῖρον γράφοντες τοὺς λόγους ἢ τῶν ἰδιωτῶν τινες αὐτοσχεδιάζουσιν, ὅμως ὑπισχνοῦνται τοιούτους ῥήτορας τοὺς συνόντας ποιήσειν ὥστε μηδὲν τῶν ἐνόντων ἐν τοῖς πράγμασι παραλιπεῖν. καὶ ταύτης τῆς δυνάμεως οὐδὲν [293]οὔτε ταῖς ἐμπειρίαις οὔτε τῇ φύσει τῇ τοῦ μαθητοῦ μεταδιδόασιν, ἀλλά φασιν ὁμοίως τὴν τῶν λόγων ἐπιστήμην ὥσπερ τὴν τῶν γραμμάτων παραδώσειν, ὡς μὲν ἔχει τούτων ἑκάτερον, οὐκ ἐξετάσαντες, οἰόμενοι δὲ διὰ τὰς ὑπερβολὰς τῶν ἐπαγγελμάτων αὐτοί τε θαυμασθήσεσθαι καὶ τὴν παίδευσιν τὴν τῶν λόγων πλέονος ἀξίαν δόξειν εἶναι, κακῶς εἰδότες ὅτι μεγάλας ποιοῦσι τὰς τέχνας οὐχ οἱ τολμῶντες ἀλαζονεύεσθαι περὶ αὐτῶν, ἀλλ᾿ οἵτινες ἄν, ὅσον ἔνεστιν ἐν ἑκάστῃ, τοῦτ᾿ ἐξευρεῖν δυνηθῶσιν.

Vaticanus Graecus, 65. 121v Public Domain


Don’t Try to Make that Speech Too Perfect

Quintilian, 9.4 (112)

“This whole topic is handled here not merely to make oratory, which should move and flow, grow ancient because it must measure out each foot and weigh out each syllable. No, that is what miserable minds who are obsessed with minor things think about.

No one who throws himself into this concern completely will have any time for more important matters if, once the weight of the material is forgotten and polish itself is rejected, he constructs “mosaic work”, as Lucilius says, and works his words together in “vermiculate construction”. Won’t his fire cool down and his force diminish, the same way show-riders break the pace of their horses with a dancing gait?”

Totus vero hic locus non ideo tractatur a nobis ut oratio, quae ferri debet ac fluere, dimetiendis pedibus ac perpendendis syllabis consenescat: nam id cum miseri, tum in minimis occupati est: neque enim qui se totum in hac cura consumpserit potioribus vacabit, si quidem relicto rerum pondere ac nitore contempto ‘tesserulas’, ut ait Lucilius, struet et vermiculate inter se lexis committet. Nonne ergo refrigeretur sic calor et impetus pereat, ut equorum cursum delicati minutis passibus frangunt?

Demosthenes, Practicing

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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