Drinking with Roman Usurpers

Firmus was, according to the HA, a usurper. The historical record is less clear.

Historia Augusta 29.IV

“Firmus was nevertheless of huge stature with prominent eyes, curly hair, a scarred forehead, a darker complexion on his face while most of his body was white, although it was tough and hairy, so that many used to call him a Cyclops. He used to eat a lot of meat and allegedly ate an ostrich in a day. He drank some wine and a lot of water. He was extremely strong in mind, most robust in nerves to the extent that he overcame Tritannus, whom Varro mentions. For he endured an anvil placed on his chest and struck constantly while he seemed to be rising up rather than lying down because he was face up supporting himself on his hands.

Yet, [Firmus] had a drinking competition with Aurelian’s generals when they wanted to test him. For, when a certain Burburus, one of the standard-bearers and a notable drinker, challenged him to a drinking context, he sucked down two pails of wine but was still sober after the banquet. When Burburus asked him, “Why didn’t you drink the dregs?” he responded “Fool, the earth is not drunk.” We are pursuing lighter notes here, we must speak of more important ones.”

Fuit tamen Firmus statura ingenti, oculis foris eminentibus, capillo crispo, fronte vulnerata, vultu nigriore, reliqua parte corporis candidus sed pilosus atque hispidus, ita ut eum plerique Cyclopem vocarent. carne multa vescebatur, struthionem ad diem comedisse fertur. vini non multum bibit, aquae plurimum. mente firmissimus, nervis robustissimus, ita ut Tritannum vinceret, cuius Varro meminit. nam et incudem superpositam pectori constanter aliis tundentibus pertulit, cum ipse reclinis ac resupinus et curvatus in manus penderet potius quam iaceret.  fuit tamen ei contentio cum Aureliani ducibus ad bibendum, si quando eum temptare voluissent. nam quidam Burburus nomine de numero vexillariorum, notissimus potator, cum ad bibendum eundem provocasset, situlas duas plenas mero duxit et toto postea convivio sobrius fuit; et cum ei Burburus diceret, “Quare non faeces bibisti?” respondit ille, “Stulte, terra non bibitur.” levia persequimur, cum maiora dicenda sint.

 

 

Drinking with Roman Usurpers

Firmus was, according to the HA, a usurper. The historical record is less clear.

Historia Augusta 29.IV

“Firmus was nevertheless of huge stature with prominent eyes, curly hair, a scarred forehead, a darker complexion on his face while most of his body was white, although it was tough and hairy, so that many used to call him a Cyclops. He used to eat a lot of meat and allegedly ate an ostrich in a day. He drank some wine and a lot of water. He was extremely strong in mind, most robust in nerves to the extent that he overcame Tritannus, whom Varro mentions. For he endured an anvil placed on his chest and struck constantly while he seemed to be rising up rather than lying down because he was face up supporting himself on his hands.

Yet, [Firmus] had a drinking competition with Aurelian’s generals when they wanted to test him. For, when a certain Burburus, one of the standard-bearers and a notable drinker, challenged him to a drinking context, he sucked down two pails of wine but was still sober after the banquet. When Burburus asked him, “Why didn’t you drink the dregs?” he responded “Fool, the earth is not drunk.” We are pursuing lighter notes here, we must speak of more important ones.”

Fuit tamen Firmus statura ingenti, oculis foris eminentibus, capillo crispo, fronte vulnerata, vultu nigriore, reliqua parte corporis candidus sed pilosus atque hispidus, ita ut eum plerique Cyclopem vocarent. 2carne multa vescebatur, struthionem ad diem comedisse fertur. vini non multum bibit, aquae plurimum. mente firmissimus, nervis robustissimus, ita ut Tritannum vinceret, cuius Varro meminit. 3nam et incudem superpositam pectori constanter aliis tundentibus pertulit, cum ipse reclinis ac resupinus et curvatus in manus penderet potius quam iaceret.  fuit tamen ei contentio cum Aureliani ducibus ad bibendum, si quando eum temptare voluissent. nam quidam Burburus nomine de numero vexillariorum, notissimus potator, cum ad bibendum eundem provocasset, situlas duas plenas mero duxit et toto postea convivio sobrius fuit; et cum ei Burburus diceret, “Quare non faeces bibisti?” respondit ille, “Stulte, terra non bibitur.” levia persequimur, cum maiora dicenda sint.

 

Image result for ancient roman drinking games

Leadership, A Conference and Some Quotes

Starting next week a Virtual Conference “Teaching Leaders and Leadership Through Classics” is going live. This conference includes many interesting speakers (and friends) but it also comes at a time when we are nearly constantly thinking about how we choose our leaders and our assumptions about the purpose of education.

We will be posting more Greek and Roman material that reflects on the topic over the next few days as proverbial food for thought. One can register online to be part of the conversation: https://teachingleadershipthruclassics.wordpress.com/register/

 

Plutarch, Precepts of Statecraft 802 E

“Public leadership comes from persuading people through argument. But manipulating a mob in this way differs little from the capture and herding of stupid animals.”

δημαγωγία γὰρ ἡ διὰ λόγου πειθομένων ἐστίν, αἱ δὲ τοιαῦται τιθασεύσεις τῶν ὄχλων οὐδὲν ἀλόγων ζῴων ἄγρας καὶ βουκολήσεως διαφέρουσιν.

Image result for Ancient Roman Cyclops statue

Plutarch, Sayings of Kings and Commanders 181

“As he died, Demadês the politician was saying that because of its lack of a leader, the Macedonian army was like the Cyclops after he was blinded.”

Τελευτήσαντος δὲ αὐτοῦ Δημάδης ὁ ῥήτωρ ὅμοιον ἔφη διὰ τὴν ἀναρχίαν ὁρᾶσθαι τὸ στρατόπεδον τῶν Μακεδόνων ἐκτετυφλωμένῳ τῷ Κύκλωπι.

Isocrates, On the Peace 142-3

“I am now able to say the most important thing, upon which everything I have said is based and against which one must compare and judge the actions of the city. For if we truly wish to dispel these current slanders, we must stop these wars which were begun with no purpose and safeguard for our state a leadership for all time. We must hate every kind of tyrannical government because we remember and weigh the calamities they have borne. We must envy, even imitate, the Spartan kings: for it is less possible for them to commit injustice than the individual citizens, but they happen to be that much more worthy of envy than men who wield tyranny by force. Men who kill tyrants among them have a greater amount of honor equal to the difference between those who are willing to die in battle and those who flee the ranks and abandon their shield.

This kind of leadership is a worthy goal. We can earn the kind honor the Spartan Kings have among their citizens from the rest of the Greeks if they believe that our power will not cause their servitude but instead their liberation.”

Κεφάλαιον δὲ τούτων ἐκεῖν᾿ ἔχω λέγειν, εἰς ὃ πάντα τὰ προειρημένα συντείνει καὶ πρὸς ὃ χρὴ βλέποντας τὰς πράξεις τὰς τῆς πόλεως δοκιμάζειν. δεῖ γὰρ ἡμᾶς, εἴπερ βουλόμεθα διαλύσασθαι μὲν τὰς διαβολὰς ἃς ἔχομεν ἐν τῷ παρόντι, παύσασθαι δὲ τῶν πολέμων τῶν μάτην γιγνομένων, κτήσασθαι δὲ τῇ πόλει τὴν ἡγεμονίαν εἰς τὸν ἅπαντα χρόνον, μισῆσαι μὲν ἁπάσας τὰς τυραννικὰς ἀρχὰς καὶ τὰς δυναστείας, ἀναλογισαμένους τὰς συμφορὰς τὰς ἐξ αὐτῶν γεγενημένας, ζηλῶσαι δὲ καὶ μιμήσασθαι τὰς ἐν Λακεδαίμονι βασιλείας. ἐκείνοις γὰρ ἀδικεῖν μὲν ἧττον ἔξεστιν ἢ τοῖς ἰδιώταις, τοσούτῳ δὲ μακαριστότεροι τυγχάνουσιν ὄντες τῶν βίᾳ τὰς τυραννίδας κατεχόντων, ὅσον οἱ μὲν τοὺς τοιούτους ἀποκτείναντες τὰς μεγίστας δωρεὰς παρὰ τῶν τολμῶντες ἐν ταῖς μάχαις ἀποθνήσκειν ἀτιμότεροι γίγνονται τῶν τὰς τάξεις λειπόντων καὶ τὰς ἀσπίδας ἀποβαλλόντων. ἄξιον οὖν ὀρέγεσθαι τῆς τοιαύτης ἡγεμονίας. ἔνεστι δὲ τοῖς πράγμασιν ἡμῶν τυχεῖν παρὰ τῶν Ἑλλήνων τῆς τιμῆς ταύτης, ἥνπερ ἐκεῖνοι παρὰ τῶν πολιτῶν ἔχουσιν, ἢν ὑπολάβωσι τὴν δύναμιν τὴν ἡμετέραν μὴ δουλείας ἀλλὰ σωτηρίας αἰτίαν αὑτοῖς ἔσεσθαι.

Rome Was Rebuilt By Expanding Citizenship

 

Velleius Paterculus, History of Rome 2.16.4

 

“Gradually, then, by granting citizenship to those who had not carried arms or had put them down rather late, the population was rebuilt as Pompeius, Sulla and Marius restored the flagging and sputtering power of the Roman people.”

Paulatim deinde recipiendo in civitatem, qui arma aut non ceperant aut deposuerant maturius, vires refectae sunt, Pompeio Sullaque et Mano fluentem procumbentemque rem populi Romani restituentibus.

Any student of Roman history understands that Rome’s expansion and strength relied in part on its ability to absorb and assimilate hostile populations. Today we often forget that the Italian peninsula was far from a uniform culture. (And a tour through modern Italy will confirm the persistence of many differences).  The process, of course, was not without pain and hard compromises, as Vergil echoes in Aeneid 6 during Anchises’ prophecy to Aeneas (851-3):

tu regere imperio populos, Romane, memento
(hae tibi erunt artes), pacique imponere morem,
parcere subiectis et debellare superbos.

 

“Roman, remember that your arts are to rule
The nations with your empire, to enforce the custom of peace,
To spare the conquered and to subjugate the proud.”

Josephus, Jewish Antiquities 1.1: Josephus on History in honor of Yom Kippur

“I don’t think that men who set out to write histories have a single reason for their desire, but rather many and with many differences. Some men set out to show off the cleverness of their words; while others rush toward this type of learning in pursuit of fame. Still others, in aiming to ingratiate themselves with those about whom they happen to write, take up a task that is beyond their power. There are also men who are compelled by the force of the deeds in which they happened to share to make sense of them with a clarifying treatise. The magnitude of important affairs that remain in ignorance has turned many men to bring out useful inquiries for common good. The final two of these described motives apply to me. Because I have learned by experience about our war against the Romans both in regards to its events and outcome, I am compelled to explain it completely because others have obscured the truth in writing about it. I have set this current work before myself because I believe that its worth will be clear to the whole Greek world—since it will describe the entirety of our ancient history and the disposition of our constitution translated from the Hebrew writings.”

 

 

Τοῖς τὰς ἱστορίας συγγράφειν βουλομένοις οὐ μίαν οὐδὲ τὴν αὐτὴν ὁρῶ τῆς σπουδῆς γινομένην αἰτίαν, ἀλλὰ πολλὰς καὶ πλεῖστον ἀλλήλων διαφερούσας. τινὲς μὲν γὰρ ἐπιδεικνύμενοι λόγων δεινότητα καὶ τὴν ἀπ’ αὐτῆς θηρευόμενοι δόξαν ἐπὶ τοῦτο τῆς παιδείας τὸ μέρος ὁρμῶσιν, ἄλλοι δὲ χάριν ἐκείνοις φέροντες, περὶ ὧν τὴν ἀναγραφὴν εἶναι συμβέβηκε, τὸν εἰς αὐτὴν πόνον καὶ παρὰ δύναμιν ὑπέστησαν· εἰσὶ δ’ οἵτινες ἐβιάσθησαν ὑπ’ αὐτῆς τῆς τῶν πραγμάτων ἀνάγκης οἷς πραττομένοις παρέτυχον ταῦτα γραφῇ δηλούσῃ περιλαβεῖν· πολλοὺς δὲ χρησίμων μέγεθος πραγμάτων ἐν ἀγνοίᾳ κειμένων προύτρεψε τὴν περὶ αὐτῶν ἱστορίαν εἰς κοινὴν ὠφέλειαν ἐξενεγκεῖν. τούτων δὴ τῶν προειρημένων αἰτιῶν αἱ τελευταῖαι δύο κἀμοὶ συμβεβήκασι· τὸν μὲν γὰρ πρὸς τοὺς ῾Ρωμαίους πόλεμον ἡμῖν τοῖς ᾿Ιουδαίοις γενόμενον καὶ τὰς ἐν αὐτῷ πράξεις καὶ τὸ τέλος οἷον ἀπέβη πείρᾳ μαθὼν ἐβιάσθην ἐκδιηγήσασθαι διὰ τοὺς ἐν τῷ γράφειν λυμαινομένους τὴν ἀλήθειαν, αύτην δὲ τὴν ἐνεστῶσαν ἐγκεχείρισμαι πραγματείαν νομίζων ἅπασι φανεῖσθαι τοῖς ῞Ελλησιν ἀξίαν σπουδῆς· μέλλει γὰρ περιέξειν ἅπασαν τὴν παρ’ ἡμῖν ἀρχαιολογίαν καὶ διάταξιν τοῦ πολιτεύματος ἐκ τῶν ῾Εβραϊκῶν μεθηρμηνευμένην γραμμάτων.

Tacitus, Annals XII.37

“For if you wish to rule over all, does it then follow that all welcome slavery?”

nam si vos omnibus imperitare vultis, sequitur ut omnes servitutem accipiant?

This is taken from a speech delivered by the British leader Caratacus, who was defeated and led to Rome after an unsuccessful uprising aimed at casting off the Roman yoke during the reign of Claudius. Before the conflict with the Romans, Caratacus huc illuc volitans illum diem, illam aciem testabatur aut reciperandae libertatis aut servitutis aeternae initium fore. (Caratacus, rushing all about here and there that day, declared that that battle would be the beginning either of recovering their freedom or of eternal servitude.” Tacitus, Annals XII.34) Vae victis!