How To Be, from Seneca

Seneca, Moral Epistles 7.8-9

“Both habits, moreover, should be avoided. Don’t imitate bad people, because there are many of them, nor hate the many, because you aren’t like them. Take shelter in yourself, whenever you can. Spend time with people who will make you a better person. Embrace those whom you can make better. Such improvement is a partnership, for people learn while they teach.”

Utrumque autem devitandum est; neve similis malis fias, quia multi sunt, neve inimicus multis, quia dissimiles sunt. Recede in te ipsum, quantum potes. Cum his versare, qui te meliorem facturi sunt. Illos admitte, quos tu potes facere meliores. Mutuo ista fiunt, et homines, dum docent, discunt.

Seneca, De Beata Vita 17-18

“ ‘This is enough for me: to each day lose one of my vices and recognize my mistakes. I have not perfected my health, nor certainly will I. I hope to relieve my gout rather than cure it, happy if it comes less frequently and cause less pain. But when I compare myself to your feet, I am a sprinter even though crippled.’

I do not say these things for myself—since I am deep in every kind of vice—but for the person who has done something.

You say, “You talk one way but you live another.” This insult, most shameful and hateful friend, was thrown at Plato, tossed at Epicurus, and dropped on Zeno. For all these people were talking not about how they were living themselves but about how they should live. When it comes to virtue, I do not talk about myself, and my fight is with vices, but chiefly my own. When I can, I will live as I should.”

Hoc mihi satis est, cotidie aliquid ex vitiis meis demere et errores meos obiurgare. Non perveni ad sanitatem, ne perveniam quidem; delenimenta magis quam remedia podagrae meae compono, contentus, si rarius accedit et si minus verminatur; vestris quidem pedibus comparatus, debilis1 cursor sum.” Haec non pro me loquor—ego enim in alto vitiorum omnium sum—, sed pro illo, cui aliquid acti est.

 “Aliter,” inquis, “loqueris, aliter vivis.” Hoc, malignissima capita et optimo cuique inimicissima, Platoni obiectum est, obiectum Epicuro, obiectum Zenoni; omnes enim isti dicebant non quemadmodum ipsi viverent, sed quemadmodum esset ipsis vivendum. De virtute, non de me loquor, et cum vitiis convicium facio, in primis meis facio. 2Cum potuero, vivam quomodo oportet.

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Verdun, Bibl. mun., ms. 0070, f. 42v.

Pickpockets of Words

Quintilian, 8.3 (29-31)

“Sallust is assailed by an epigram of no less repute: “Crispus, pickpocket of the words of Ancient Cato / and architect of Jugurtha’s history”. This is a pitifully minor concern—for it is easy for anyone and really poor because the composer will not fit words to facts but will introduce unrelated facts when the words are easier to use.

Neologism, as I said in the first book, is more a custom of the Greeks who are not reluctant to change words for certain sounds and feelings with a liberty little different from when early human beings first gave names to things. Our rare attempts in compounding or deriving new words have rarely been welcomed as sufficient.”

Nec minus noto Sallustius epigrammate incessitur et verba antiqui multum furate Catonis,: Crispe, Iugurthinae conditor historiae.

Odiosa cura: nam et cuilibet facilis et hoc pessima, quod eius studiosus non verba rebus aptabit, sed res extrinsecus arcesset quibus haec verba conveniant. Fingere, ut primo libro dixi, Graecis magis concessum est, qui sonis etiam quibusdam et adfectibus non dubitaverunt nomina aptare, non alia libertate quam qua illi primi homines rebus appellationes dederunt. Nostri aut in iungendo aut in derivando paulum aliquid ausi vix in hoc satis recipiuntur.

Image result for medieval manuscript thief
 British Library MS Additional 49622 fol. 153r

Logic Bros: Better to Have No Reason Than Use it for Harm?

Cicero, De Natura Deorum, 3.77–78

“These kind of things belong to poets; we, moreover, want to be philosophers, masters of facts not fables. And yet, these gods of poetry, if they know that these things would be ruinous for their children, would be considered to have sinned in conferring a favor.

It is just as if, according to that thing which Aristo of Chios used to say, that philosophers hurt their audiences when the things they say well are interpreted badly (for it was possible still to leave Aristippus’ school as a profligate or Zeno’s school bitter and angry).

If it is this way, and those who have heard them leave with twisted minds because they understand the philosophers’ arguments incorrectly, then it befits philosophers more to be quiet than cause their audiences harm. In this way, if people pervert the capacity for reason which was given by the gods to provide good council and used it instead for fraud and harm, then it would have been better if it had not been given to the human race at all.”

Poetarum ista sunt, nos autem philosophi esse volumus, rerum auctores, non fabularum. Atque hi tamen ipsi di poetici si scissent perniciosa fore illa filiis, peccasse in beneficio putarentur. Ut si verum est quod Aristo Chius dicere solebat, nocere audientibus philosophos iis qui bene dicta male interpretarentur (posse enim asotos ex Aristippi, acerbos e Zenonis schola exire), prorsus, si qui audierunt vitiosi essent discessuri quod perverse philosophorum disputationem interpretarentur, tacere praestaret philosophos quam iis qui se audissent nocere: sic, si homines rationem bono consilio a dis immortalibus datam in fraudem malitiamque convertunt, non dari illam quam dari humano generi melius fuit. Ut, si medicus sciat eum aegrotum qui iussus sit vinum sumere meracius sumpturum statimque periturum, magna sit in culpa, sic vestra ista providentia reprehendenda, quae rationem dederit

Internet pugilists take the following things very, very seriously. Form triumphs over content!

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“Come, Let Us Build Walls”

Pindar, Fr. 194

“Come, let us build walls now,
A speaking, intricate, construction of words”

εἶα τειχίζωμεν ἤδη ποικίλον
κόσμον αὐδάεντα λόγων

Dio Chrysostom, Diogenes, Or On Tyranny (6.37)

“And still when he was awake, he would pray to be asleep to forget his fears. But when he was asleep, he jumped up as soon as possible because he believed he was being killed by his dreams, that the golden-plane tree, all the mansions of Semiramis, and the walls of Babylon were useless to him”

ἔτι δὲ ἐγρηγορότα μὲν εὔχεσθαι καθυπνῶσαι ὅπως ἐπιλάθηται τῶν φόβων, κοιμώμενον δὲ ἀναστῆναι τὴν ταχίστην, ἅτε ὑπ᾿ αὐτῶν τῶν ἐνυπνίων ἀπολλύμενον, τῆς δὲ χρυσῆς αὐτῷ πλατάνου καὶ τῶν Σεμιράμιδος οἰκοδομημάτων καὶ τῶν ἐν Βαβυλῶνι τειχῶν μηδὲν ὄφελος γιγνόμενον.

Diogenes Laertius, Antisthenes 13

“[Antisthenes used to say] “rational thought is the mightiest wall. It never falls apart or betrays you. We must build walls in our own unconquerable calculations.”

Τεῖχος ἀσφαλέστατον φρόνησιν· μήτε γὰρ καταρρεῖν μήτε προδίδοσθαι. τείχη κατασκευαστέον ἐν τοῖς αὑτῶν ἀναλώτοις λογισμοῖς.

Marcus Aurelius, Meditations 3.7

“Value nothing which compels you to break your promise, to abandon your honor, to hate, suspect or curse anyone, to be a hypocrite, or to lust after anything which needs walls or decorations.”

Μὴ τιμήσῃς ποτὲ ὡς συμφέρον σεαυτοῦ, ὃ ἀναγκάσει σέ ποτε τὴν πίστιν παραβῆναι, τὴν αἰδῶ ἐγκαταλιπεῖν, μισῆσαί τινα, ὑποπτεῦσαι, καταράσασθαι, ὑποκρίνασθαι, ἐπιθυμῆσαί τινος τοίχων καὶ παραπετασμάτων δεομένου.

Aristotle, Politics 1276a

“Imagine that a set of people inhabit the same place, what should make us believe that they inhabit a single state? For, it could not be walls since it would certainly be possible to build a wall around all of the Peloponnese.”

ὁμοίως δὲ καὶ12 τῶν τὸν αὐτὸν τόπον κατοικούντων ἀνθρώπων πότε δεῖ νομίζειν μίαν εἶναι τὴν πόλιν; οὐ γὰρ δὴ τοῖς τείχεσιν, εἴη γὰρ ἂν Πελοποννήσῳ περιβαλεῖν ἓν τεῖχος·

Dio Chrystostom, The Euboean Discourse 50

“But you will give us a home there, or how will we be able to survive the cold? You have many homes in your walls left empty. One of them is enough for us.”

ἀλλ᾿ ὅπως δώσετε ἡμῖν ἐνθάδε οἰκίαν· ἢ πῶς ὑπενεγκεῖν δυνησόμεθα τοῦ χειμῶνος; ἔστιν ὑμῖν οἰκήματα πολλὰ ἐντὸς τοῦ τείχους, ἐν οἷς οὐδεὶς οἰκεῖ· τούτων ἡμῖν ἓν ἀρκέσει.

Cicero, Republic, 1.19

“Don’t you think that we should know what affects our homes—what is happening and what occurs in a home which is not bounded by our walls but is instead the whole world, the dwelling and homeland the gods gave us to share, since, especially, if we are ignorant of these things, we must be ignorant of many other weighty matters too?”

An tu ad domos nostras non censes pertinere scire, quid agatur et quid fiat domi, quae non ea est, quam parietes nostri cingunt, sed mundus hic totus, quod domicilium quamque patriam di nobis communem secum dederunt, cum praesertim, si haec ignoremus, multa nobis et magna ignoranda sint?

[for the the theme of being a citizen of the world, see this post]

wall

Seneca, De Tranquillitate Animi 4-5

“We do not shut ourselves up in the walls of a single city as proof of our great souls, but instead we enter into exchange with the whole world and claim the world as our homeland so that we are allowed to give our virtue a wider field.”

Ideo magno animo nos non unius urbis moenibus clusimus, sed in totius orbis commercium emisimus patriamque nobis mundum professi sumus, ut liceret latiorem virtuti campum dare.

Wall Hating

“We Are Not Born for Ourselves”: Cicero on Private Property

Cicero De officiis 1.21-22

“There is, moreover, no private property naturally, but it develops either through ancient possession—as when people came into empty territory long ago—or through conquest—as when people possess it in war—or through law, contract, purchase, or lot. This is why the land of Arpinas are said to be of the Arpinates and the Tusculan lands of the Tusculans. The assignment of private property is much the same. For this reason, because what had been communal property by nature because the possession of an individual, each person should take hold of what has come to him—but, if he desire anything else beyond this, he will transgress the law of human society.

But since, as Plato has famously written, we are not born only for ourselves, but our country takes a part and our friends take a part, and since, as the Stoics maintain, everything which develops from the earth has been created for human use, and we human beings are born to be of use to other human beings, that we may in some way be able to help one another, we ought to make nature our leader in this, to produce common good by an exchange of favors, by giving and receiving….”

Sunt autem privata nulla natura, sed aut vetere occupatione, ut qui quondam in vacua venerunt, aut victoria, ut qui bello potiti sunt, aut lege, pactione, condicione, sorte; ex quo fit, ut ager Arpinas Arpinatium dicatur, Tusculanus Tusculanorum; similisque est privatarum possessionum discriptio. Ex quo, quia suum cuiusque fit eorum, quae natura fuerant communia, quod cuique obtigit, id quisque teneat; e quo si quis sibi appetet, violabit ius humanae societatis.

Sed quoniam, ut praeclare scriptum est a Platone, non nobis solum nati sumus ortusque nostri partem patria vindicat, partem amici, atque, ut placet Stoicis, quae in terris gignantur, ad usum hominum omnia creari, homines autem hominum causa esse generatos, ut ipsi inter se aliis alii prodesse possent, in hoc naturam debemus ducem sequi, communes utilitates in medium afferre mutatione officiorum, dando accipiendo,

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From the Fitzwilliam Museum

Cicero on Judicious Generosity

Cicero, De officiis 2.62-63

“The case of the person who is hard-pressed by disaster is different from that of the one who seeks improved affairs when nothing adverse stands in the way. Charity will be obligated to favor those in misfortune unless there is some way they have earned their misfortune. Even for these, still, we should not refuse those who desire to be helped not only that they are suffering misfortune but that they may rise to a higher station. But we should guide our judgment and care in selecting those who are worthy. For, as Ennius famously says: “I believe that good deeds poorly placed are poorly done.”

In addition, when some benefit is given to a good and grateful man, it is useful both in his response and in others’ reactions too. For, generosity is most gratefully received it is not random and people praise it more heartily because it it is represents the goodness of a man in a high station and common refuge for all. Hence, efforts much be made to provide as many people as possible with benefits so that the memory of our generosity will be handed down to their children and grandchildren so that even they may not be ungrateful. For all people hand forgetfulness of a favor and consider it as an injury which has been committed against them because generosity is discouraged and those who do this are a common enemy of the poor.”

Alia causa est eius, qui calamitate premitur, et eius, qui res meliores quaerit nullis suis rebus adversis. Propensior benignitas esse debebit in calamitosos, nisi forte erunt digni calamitate. In iis tamen, qui se adiuvari volent, non ne affligantur, sed ut altiorem gradum ascendant, restricti omnino esse nullo modo debemus, sed in deligendis idoneis iudicium et diligentiam adhibere. Nam praeclare Ennius:

Bene fácta male locáta male facta árbitror.

Quod autem tributum est bono viro et grato, in eo cum ex ipso fructus est, tum etiam ex ceteris. Temeritate enim remota gratissima est liberalitas, eoque eam studiosius plerique laudant, quod summi cuiusque bonitas commune perfugium est omnium. Danda igitur opera est, ut iis beneficiis quam plurimos afficiamus, quorum memoria liberis posterisque prodatur, ut iis ingratis esse non liceat. Omnes enim immemorem beneficii oderunt eamque iniuriam in deterrenda liberalitate sibi etiam fieri eumque, qui faciat, communem hostem tenuiorum putant.

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from the Roman de la Rose, Royal MS 20 A XVII, f. 9r

Celestial and Parental Debts of Gratitude

Seneca, De Beneficiis 6.4

“Therefore, we owe a great debt to the sun and the moon and the rest of the celestial bodies since, even if the reasons for which they rise are more important to them, still they help us greatly in our march towards greater things. Consider to that they help us from a certain purpose and for that reason we are obligated to them, because we do not happen upon an advantage from the ignorant but from those who knew we would accept their help.

So, even though it may be proposed that they have a greater purpose and profit for what they do beyond serving mortal creatures, still from the beginning of nature their concern has been oriented towards us and in this organization given to the universe it is clear that concern oriented towards us was not held among the most minor concerns.

We owe a debt of duty to our parents even though though most did not have sex in order for us to be born. The gods cannot be thought to be so ignorant of what they would create when they immediately provided nourishment and aid to everything, nor did they produce through negligence those for whom they created so many things.”

Debemus ergo et soli et lunae et ceteris caelestibus beneficium, quia, etiam si potiora illis sunt, in quae oriuntur, nos tamen in maiora ituri iuvant. Adice, quod ex destinato iuvant, ideoque obligati sumus, quia non in beneficium ignorantium incidimus, sed haec, quae accipimus, accepturos scierunt; et quamquam maius illis propositum sit maiorque actus sui fructus, quam servare mortalia, tamen in nostras quoque utilitates a principio rerum praemissa mens est et is ordo mundo datus, ut appareat curam nostri non inter ultima habitam. Debemus parentibus nostris pietatem, et multi non, ut gignerent, coierant. Di non possunt videri nescisse, quid effecturi essent, cum omnibus alimenta protinus et auxilia providerint, nec eos per neclegentiam genuere, quibus tam multa generabant.

From Wikipedia