Opinion: A Product of Habit and Pleasure

Dio Chrysostom, the 68th Discourse On Opinion

“Most people practice however many things they do or desire even though they don’t understand about any of them what kind of thing they are or what type of benefit they provide—they are compelled by opinion or pleasure or habit to these things. It is the same too in however many things they avoid and are careful not to do: they do not abstain because they know it is harmful or what kind of harm certain matters threaten, but because they see others taking care concerning these things or just because they have been in the habit of caution regarding affairs or because they imagine that these matters must be unpleasant for them and present what seems to be toilsome, they are really suspicious of them.

And, in addition, the matter of pleasure and toil is common to all people even though some people are slaves to them more than others. But opinion is ungoverned and is not the same for all. This is why some people praise these things and carp at those and others often do the complete opposite.”

Οἱ πολλοὶ ἄνθρωποι ὁπόσα ἐπιτηδεύουσιν ἢ ζηλοῦσιν, οὐδὲν αὐτῶν εἰδότες ὁποῖόν ἐστιν οὐδὲ ἥντινα ἔχει ὠφέλειαν ἐπιτηδεύουσιν, ἀλλ᾿ ὑπὸ δόξης ἢ ἡδονῆς ἢ συνηθείας ἀγόμενοι πρὸς αὐτά· οὐδ᾿ αὖ ὅσων ἀπέχονται καὶ εὐλαβοῦνται μὴ πράττειν, εἰδότες ἃ βλάπτει ἀπέχονται οὐδὲ ὁποίαν τινὰ φέρει τὴν βλάβην, ἀλλὰ καὶ τούτων ὅσα ὁρῶσι τοὺς ἄλλους εὐλαβουμένους ἢ περὶ ὧν ἂν εἰς ἔθος καταστῶσιν ὥστε εὐλαβεῖσθαι, ἢ ἃ νομίζουσιν ἀηδῆ ἔσεσθαι αὐτοῖς καὶ πόνον τινὰ δοκεῖ ἔχειν, ὡς τὸ πολὺ ταῦτα ὑποπτεύουσιν.

Καὶ τὸ μὲν τῆς ἡδονῆς καὶ τὸ τοῦ πόνου πᾶσι κοινόν· ἀλλ᾿ οἱ μὲν ἧττον, οἱ δὲ1 μᾶλλον ὑπ᾿ αὐτῶν δουλοῦνται· τὸ δὲ τῆς δόξης ἀνόμοιον καὶ οὐ ταὐτὸ πᾶσιν. ὅθεν οἱ μὲν ταῦτα, οἱ δὲ ταῦτα ἐπαινοῦσι καὶ ψέγουσι, πολλάκις τἀναντία.

Detail from "The Rutland Psalter", medieval (c1260), British Library Add MS 62925. f 70v
Detail from “The Rutland Psalter”, medieval (c1260), British Library Add MS 62925. f 70v

 

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

Sparta Banned Archilochus. Enough Said.

Sparta has some problems (and a wildly unjustifiable popularity). Here’s another one.

Valerius Maximas, 6.3 Ext 1

“Although it is possible to use the whole planet to offer examples of Roman cruelty, it is not useless to learn of foreign instances in summary. The Spartans ordered that the books of Archilochus were to be expelled from their state because they believed that they were insufficiently modest and were also shameful reading.

They did not want their children’s minds to be filled with these ideas in case they might harm their characters more than it sharpened their wits. For this reason they exiled the greatest or nearly greatest poet because he wounded a household he hated with vulgar curses.”

Ceterum etsi Romanae severitatis exemplis totus terrarum orbis instrui potest, tamen externa summatim cognosse fastidio non sit. Lacedaemonii libros Archilochi e civitate sua exportari iusserunt, quod eorum parum verecundam ac pudicam lectionem arbitrabantur: noluerunt enim ea liberorum suorum animos imbui, ne plus moribus noceret quam ingeniis prodesset. itaque maximum poetam aut certe summo proximum, quia domum sibi invisam obscenis maledictis laceraverat, carminum exsilio multarunt.

The Chiggi Vase

Valerius Maximus’ account is somewhat different from the story most people know. Where he seems to take issue with Archilochus’ invective and his salacious content, others claim the issue was his cowardice. Plutarch claims that Archilochus was expelled from Sparta for this poem:

Fr. 5

“Some Saian takes joy the the shield, that blameless weapon
I left next to a bush unwillingly.
But I rescued myself. What does that shield matter to me?
Fuck it. I’ll buy no worse a shield next time.”

ἀσπίδι μὲν Σαΐων τις ἀγάλλεται, ἣν παρὰ
θάμνῳ, ἔντος ἀμώμητον, κάλλιπον οὐκ ἐθέλων·
αὐτὸν δ᾿ ἐξεσάωσα. τί μοι μέλει ἀσπὶς ἐκείνη;
ἐρρέτω· ἐξαῦτις κτήσομαι οὐ κακίω.

Plutarch also reports:

Spartan Sayings, 241f6

“Another spartan woman as she was passing her son his shield advised him, “child, [come home] either with this or on it.”

῎Αλλη προσαναδιδοῦσα τῷ παιδὶ τὴν ἀσπίδα καὶ παρακελευομένη ‘τέκνον’ ἔφη, ‘ἢ ταύταν ἢ ἐπὶ ταύτας.’

On Using Humor in Public Speaking

Cicero, De inventione

“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.

[1] 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. [2] 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. [3] Ea res tamen, priusquam emeret, prodita est et in uulgus exiuit, obiectumque ei est, quod pecuniam domus emendae causa a reo accepisset. [4] 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.

Image result for Cicero

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?

Image result for demosthenes
Demosthenes tried to be pretty perfect…

What Physicians Want: Fleet Footed is Gout!

Plutarch Moralia 501b

“Physicians by birth want two things—that person not be sick, and that someone who is sick should not be ignorant of being sick. This latter case is what happens in the afflictions of the mind. For when people are foolish, inappropriate, or unjust, they do not think they are doing wrong but some even imagine they are acting correctly. So, while no one ever calls a fever “healthy” or claims that consumption is “feeling fit” or that “gout” is being “fleet-footed”, or jaundice a “youthful blush”, many people call rage “manliness”, and lust “love” and envy “rivalry” and cowardice “circumspection”.

Even though people who are sick call doctors because they understand that they need them to address what is making them sick, those with mental ailments avoid philosophers since they believe that they are succeeding in the very acts in which they are going astray. Should we use this kind of logic, at least, we may say that poor vision is easier than madness and gout simpler than sickness in the brain. For a sick person feels it and calls for the doctor with cries….”

  1. Διὸ παῖδες ἰατρῶν βούλονται μὲν μὴ νοσεῖν τὸν ἄνθρωπον, νοσοῦντα δὲ μὴ ἀγνοεῖν ὅτι νοσεῖ· ὃ τοῖς ψυχικοῖς πάθεσι πᾶσι συμβέβηκεν. οὔτε γὰρ ἀφραίνοντες οὔτ᾿ ἀσελγαίνοντες οὔτ᾿ ἀδικοπραγοῦντες ἁμαρτάνειν δοκοῦσιν, ἀλλ᾿ ἔνιοι καὶ κατορθοῦν. πυρετὸν μὲν γὰρ οὐδεὶς ὑγίειαν ὠνόμασεν οὐδὲ φθίσιν εὐεξίαν οὐδὲ ποδάγραν ποδώκειαν οὐδ᾿ ὠχρίασιν ἐρύθημα, θυμὸν δὲ πολλοὶ καλοῦσιν ἀνδρείαν καὶ ἔρωτα φιλίαν καὶ φθόνον ἅμιλλαν καὶ δειλίαν ἀσφάλειαν. εἶθ᾿ οἱ μὲν καλοῦσι τοὺς ἰατρούς, αἰσθάνονται γὰρ ὧν δέονται πρὸς ἃ νοσοῦσιν· οἱ δὲ φεύγουσι τοὺς φιλοσόφους, οἴονται γὰρ ἐπιτυγχάνειν ἐν οἷς διαμαρτάνουσιν. ἐπεὶ τούτῳ γε τῷ λόγῳ χρώμενοι λέγομεν ὅτι κουφότερόν ἐστιν ὀφθαλμία μανίας καὶ ποδάγρα φρενίτιδος, ὁ μὲν γὰρ αἰσθάνεται καὶ καλεῖ τὸν ἰατρὸν κεκραγώς…
  2. Image result for medieval manuscript doctors
    Image Taken from here

“I hear You’re a Lover of Learning”: An Unlikely Letter to a Leader

Isocrates, Letter to Alexander, 5

“I hear everyone saying how you are a man of goodwill to humanity and lover of learning, not foolishly so, but in practical fashion. For they add that you welcome some of our citizens who have not neglected themselves by pursuing base interests but those in whose presence you would not feel any grief by staying and whose alliance and shared goals would bring you neither harm nor injustice. Indeed, these are the sorts of men wise people should choose to be near.

When it comes to schools of philosophy, people report that you do not despise the practice of eristic argumentation, which you think is right to value in individual conversations, you do think that it is not proper for those in charge of many people or those who rule in monarchies. For, it is not advantageous or proper for those who think that they are greater than others to strive with politicians on their own or to allow others to disagree with them.

I hear that you do not take pleasure in this training, but instead have selected for yourself education about arguments which you might use in response to events which transpire on any given day and which help us us make plans about common affairs. Through this, it is possible to form an appropriate opinion about what will happen in the future and to give commands competently to the people you rule as to what is best for each person to do, you will learn how to make good judgments about what is right and just and opposite to both. In addition, you will learn when to honor and criticize as is fitting for each group.

You are wise, then, in showing concern for these things. For you provide hope to your father and the rest that, as you get older if you persist in these studies, you will outpace others as far in prudence as your father has surpassed all people [in war].”

 

Ἀκούω δέ σε πάντων λεγόντων ὡς φιλάνθρωπος εἶ καὶ φιλαθήναιος καὶ φιλόσοφος, οὐκ ἀφρόνως ἀλλὰ νοῦν ἐχόντως. τῶν τε γὰρ πολιτῶν ἀποδέχεσθαί σε τῶν ἡμετέρων οὐ τοὺς ἠμεληκότας αὑτῶν καὶ πονηρῶν πραγμάτων ἐπιθυμοῦντας, ἀλλ᾿ οἷς συνδιατρίβων τ᾿ οὐκ ἂν λυπηθείης, συμβάλλων τε καὶ κοινωνῶν πραγμάτων οὐδὲν ἂν βλαβείης οὐδ᾿ ἀδικηθείης, οἵοις περ χρὴ πλησιάζειν τοὺς εὖ φρονοῦντας· τῶν τε φιλοσοφιῶν οὐκ ἀποδοκιμάζειν μὲν οὐδὲ τὴν περὶ τὰς ἔριδας, ἀλλὰ νομίζειν εἶναι πλεονεκτικὴν ἐν ταῖς ἰδίαις διατριβαῖς, οὐ μὴν ἁρμόττειν οὔτε τοῖς τοῦ πλήθους προεστῶσιν οὔτε τοῖς τὰς μοναρχίας ἔχουσιν· οὐδὲ γὰρ συμφέρον οὐδὲ πρέπον ἐστὶ τοῖς μεῖζον τῶν ἄλλων φρονοῦσιν οὔτ᾿ αὐτοῖς ἐρίζειν πρὸς τοὺς συμπολιτευομένους οὔτε τοῖς ἄλλοις ἐπιτρέπειν πρὸς αὑτοὺς ἀντιλέγειν.

Ταύτην μὲν οὖν οὐκ ἀγαπᾶν σε τὴν διατριβήν, προαιρεῖσθαι δὲ τὴν παιδείαν τὴν περὶ τοὺς λόγους, οἷς χρώμεθα περὶ τὰς πράξεις τὰς προσπιπτούσας καθ᾿ ἑκάστην τὴν ἡμέραν καὶ μεθ᾿ ὧν βουλευόμεθα περὶ τῶν κοινῶν· δι᾿ ἣν νῦν τε δοξάζειν περὶ τῶν μελλόντων ἐπιεικῶς, τοῖς τ᾿ ἀρχομένοις προστάττειν οὐκ ἀνοήτως ἃ δεῖ πράττειν ἑκάστους, ἐπιστήσει, περὶ δὲ τῶν καλῶν καὶ δικαίων καὶ τῶν τούτοις ἐναντίων ὀρθῶς κρίνειν, πρὸς δὲ τούτοις τιμᾶν τε καὶ κολάζειν ὡς προσῆκόν ἐστιν ἑκατέρους. σωφρονεῖς οὖν νῦν ταῦτα μελετῶν· ἐλπίδας γὰρ τῷ τε πατρὶ καὶ τοῖς ἄλλοις παρέχεις, ὡς, ἂν πρεσβύτερος γενόμενος ἐμμείνῃς τούτοις, τοσοῦτον προέξεις τῇ φρονήσει τῶν ἄλλων, ὅσον περ ὁ πατήρ σου διενήνοχεν ἁπάντων

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