Advice on Social Media Use from Ancient Rome

Ovid, Amores 14.1-8

“I don’t beg you not to mess around because you’re pretty,
But to spare miserable me the need of knowing about it.
I am not some censor who orders you to be a prude,
But only someone who asks you to try to be discreet.
Whoever can deny her mistakes, hasn’t messed up at all.
Only the admitted fault brings dishonor.
What madness it is to confess in light things done at night?
And to report openly deeds performed in secret?”

Non ego, ne pecces, cum sis formosa, recuso,
sed ne sit misero scire necesse mihi;
nec te nostra iubet fieri censura pudicam,
sed tamen, ut temptes dissimulare, rogat.
non peccat, quaecumque potest peccasse negare,
solaque famosam culpa professa facit.
quis furor est, quae nocte latent, in luce fateri,
et quae clam facias facta referre palam?

graffiti
‘Social Media’ can last forever…

Persius Addresses a Petulant Man-Baby

Persius, Satires 3.15-19

“Fool, more foolish with each passing day,
Is this what we’ve come to? Ah, why not just be like
A little pigeon or a baby prince and insist on eating chopped up food
Or stop your mom from singing to you because you’re so angry?”

“o miser inque dies ultra miser, hucine rerum
venimus? a, cur non potius teneroque columbo
et similis regum pueris pappare minutum
poscis et iratus mammae lallare recusas?”

Elon Musk's Rich Life Is a Friggin Nightmare (He Tears up Explaining It) |  by Tim Denning | ILLUMINATION | Medium

A Son Gives His Father Life

Vergil, Aeneid. X.783-800

Then pious Aeneas hurled his spear, piercing
Mezentius’s incurved shield, its three bronze sheets,
linen layers, and three bull-hides well joined.
The spear sunk into his groin, though not with force.

Aeneas thrilled at the sight of Tuscan blood.
He whipped out his sword and dashed forward, fired up.
Lausus saw, and with his face awash in tears
heaved a heavy groan from love for his dear father.

O Lausus, this is where your hard death came,
And your finest actions too: . . .

Mezentius, now helpless and injured, turned
In retreat, dragging the enemy’s spear
lodged in his shield. His son then rushed to the fight:
and when Aeneas raised his death-bearing right hand,
Lausus faced the sword himself, obstructing
and stopping him.

Lausus’s comrades cheered like mad:
the father was leaving the field
protected by his son’s shield.

tum pius Aeneas hastam iacit: illa per orbem
aere cauum triplici, per linea terga tribusque
transiit intextum tauris opus, imaque sedit
inguine, sed uiris haud pertulit. ocius ensem
Aeneas, uiso Tyrrheni sanguine laetus,
eripit a femine et trepidanti feruidus instat.
ingemuit cari graviter genitoris amore,
ut vidit, Lausus, lacrimaeque per ora volutae.
hic mortis durae casum tuaque optima facta. . .
Ille pedem referens et inutilis inque ligatus
cedebat clipeoque inimicum hastile trahebat:
prorupit iuvenis seseque immiscuit armis
iamque adsurgentis dextra plagamque ferentis
Aeneae subiit mucronem ipsumque morando
sustinuit. socii magno clamore sequuntur,
dum genitor nati parma protectus abiret…

Detail from Rembrandt’s Return of the Prodigal Son (1669).
Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg.

Larry Benn has a B.A. in English Literature from Harvard College, an M.Phil in English Literature from Oxford University, and a J.D. from Yale Law School. Making amends for a working life misspent in finance, he’s now a hobbyist in ancient languages and blogs at featsofgreek.blogspot.com.

Frying Fish and Accepting People as they Are

Terence, Adelphoe 420-432

“JFC, I don’t have the time to listen to you.
I have the fish I was thinking about and now
My main concern is that they don’t go bad.
That would be as big a crime on our part, Demea,
As ignoring everything you were just talking about.

As far as I can, I give my fellow enslaved friends this advice
“Too much salt or overcooked or undercleaned, ooh that’s perfect–
Remember what you did next time!
I am serious about giving them as much wisdom as I can.

Finally, I say “gaze into the saucepan as if into a mirror!”
And I tell them what they should do as practice.

I know that all these things we do are foolish—
But what would you do? You need to take each person as they are.
What else do you want?”

… non hercle otiumst
nunc mi auscultandi. piscis ex sententia
nactus sum. hi mihi ne corrumpantur cautiost.
nam id nobis tam flagitiumst quam illa, Demea,
non facere vobis quae modo dixti. et quod queo
conservis ad eundem istunc praecipio modum.
“hoc salsumst, hoc adustumst, hoc lautumst parum.
illud recte, iterum sic memento.” sedulo
moneo quae possum pro mea sapientia.
postremo tamquam in speculum in patinas, Demea,
inspicere iubeo et moneo quid facto usu’ sit.
inepta haec esse nos quae facimus sentio.
verum quid facias? ut homost, ita morem geras.
numquid vis?

A Priapic Poem That’s A Tad Too Defensive

Warning: this is potentially just awful trash.

Carmina Priapea, 28

“Mercury’s form has the power to please.
And Apollo’s body sticks out especially.
Lyaeus in pictures has a shapely line,
And Cupid is still finest of the fine.

My body lacks a certain beauty, I confess
But, look, my dick’s a jewel beyond the rest.
Any girl should prefer it to the gods I named,
And if she doesn’t, then a greedy pussy’s to blame.”

Forma Mercurius potest placere,
forma conspiciendus est Apollo,
formosus quoque pingitur Lyaeus,
formosissimus omnium est Cupido.
me pulchra fateor carere forma,
verum mentula luculenta nostra est:
hanc mavult sibi quam deos priores,
si qua est non fatui puella cunni.

Woman painting a statue of Priapus, from a fresco at Pompeii

Don’t Look Back

Here is a portion of Virgil’s account of what happened after Orpheus, escorting his wife from the underworld, turned around to look at her:

Virgil., Georgics, IV. 494-506

She said: “What folly, Orpheus, what terrible folly
Has destroyed me, a wretched woman, and you too?
Look, the hard fates are calling me back again.
And look, sleep is closing my swimming eyes.
Now, farewell! I’m borne away in the vast encircling
Night, and I reach out to you with helpless hands
That, alas, are no longer your hands.”

That’s what she said. Then suddenly, from his sight,
Like smoke amid light breezes, she was gone.
She did not see him vainly clutching shadows
And trying to say ever more things to her.
What’s more, Death’s boatman did not let him cross
The swamp stretched before him.

What could he do? Where was he scrambling to
With his wife snatched away a second time?
With what tears could he move the gods?
Which divinities could he move with words?

No matter. She was afloat the Stygian raft, already cold.

Illa “Quis et me” inquit “miseram et te perdidit, Orpheu,
quis tantus furor? en iterum crudelia retro
fata vocant conditque natantia lumina somnus.
iamque vale: feror ingenti circumdata nocte
invalidasque tibi tendens, heu! non tua, palmas.”
dixit et ex oculis subito, ceu fumus in auras
commixtus tenues, fugit diversa, neque illum
prensantem nequiquam umbras et multa volentem
dicere praeterea vidit; nec portitor Orci
amplius obiectam passus transire paludem.
quid faceret? quo se rapta bis coniuge ferret?
quo fletu manis, quae numina voce moveret?
Illa quidem Stygia nabat iam frigida cumba.

Christian Gottlieb Kratzenstein.
Orpheus and Eurydice. 1806.
Glyptoteket, Copenhagen.

Larry Benn has a B.A. in English Literature from Harvard College, an M.Phil in English Literature from Oxford University, and a J.D. from Yale Law School. Making amends for a working life misspent in finance, he’s now a hobbyist in ancient languages and blogs at featsofgreek.blogspot.com.

One Love, Two Bodies

Greek Anthology, 5.88 (Rufinus): The Fire of Unrequited Love

“Fire-bearing love, if you haven’t the strength to light two equally afire
Either extinguish it or share the flame burning in only one.”

Εἰ δυσὶν οὐκ ἴσχυσας ἴσην φλόγα, πυρφόρε, καῦσαι,
τὴν ἑνὶ καιομένην ἢ σβέσον ἢ μετάθες.

Diogenes Laertius, Aristotle 5.21

When [Aristotle] was asked what a friend is, he replied “one soul occupying two bodies.”

ἐρωτηθεὶς τί ἐστι φίλος, ἔφη, “μία ψυχὴ δύο σώμασιν ἐνοικοῦσα.”

Catullus, 87

“No woman can claim that she has been loved as much
Truly, as my Lesbia has been loved by me.
No promise has ever been made in as much faith
As can be found on my part in loving you.”

Nulla potest mulier tantum se dicere amatam
vere, quantum a me Lesbia amata mea est.
nulla fides ullo fuit umquam foedere tanta,
quanta in amore tuo ex parte reperta mea est.

Image result for medieval manuscript love
from here

Sex as Antidote to Uncertainty

Horace, Ode I.11

Don’t ask (it’s sin to know), Leuconoē,
What end the gods intend for you and me.
And don’t resort to Babylonian voodoo.
It’s better to accept whatever will be.

Whether Jupiter grants more winters
Or this is the final one now wrecking
The Tyrrhenian Sea on opposing pumice rocks,
Be sensible: filter the wine
and trim far-reaching cares to a small compass.

While we speak, grudging time will have fled.
Relish this day and put little faith in the next.

Tu ne quaesieris, scire nefas, quem mihi, quem tibi
finem di dederint, Leuconoē, nec Babylonios
temptaris numeros. ut melius, quidquid erit, pati.
seu pluris hiemes seu tribuit Iuppiter ultimam,
quae nunc oppositis debilitat pumicibus mare
Tyrrhenum: sapias, vina liques et spatio brevi
spem longam reseces. dum loquimur, fugerit invida
aetas: carpe diem quam minimum credula postero.

Note on the name Leuconoē

  • Leuconoē may be from the Greek Λευκός νόος meaning “white minded.” In Horace’s iconography, white is the color of winter (snow) and winter is symbolic of death. Leuconoē then is a fitting name for a woman preoccupied with her “end” (that of her life, that of her amorous situation), and whose time on earth is measured in winters (“hiemes”) not years. 
  • Leuc- (Λευκ-) carries echoes of Leucas, the Ionian island on whose cliffs Apollo’s temple stood. We could therefore read Leuconoē  as “having a mind of Apollo” and associate its bearer with prophesy (the fixation for which Horace chides her). 
  • Leuconoē (assuming Λευκός νόος again) could also be read as “pure minded,” a possibility reinforced by her task: “purifying” or “filtering” wine (“liques”). The slight variation “clear minded” is possible too, as that is what Horace urges her to be. And if Leuconoē is in fact “clear minded” (by Horace’s standard) at the poem’s end, does that suggest Horace succeeded at seduction? ‘

Larry Benn has a B.A. in English Literature from Harvard College, an M.Phil in English Literature from Oxford University, and a J.D. from Yale Law School. Making amends for a working life misspent in finance, he’s now a hobbyist in ancient languages and blogs at featsofgreek.blogspot.com.

One Love, Two Bodies

Greek Anthology, 5.88 (Rufinus): The Fire of Unrequited Love

“Fire-bearing love, if you haven’t the strength to light two equally afire
Either extinguish it or share the flame burning in only one.”

Εἰ δυσὶν οὐκ ἴσχυσας ἴσην φλόγα, πυρφόρε, καῦσαι,
τὴν ἑνὶ καιομένην ἢ σβέσον ἢ μετάθες.

Diogenes Laertius, Aristotle 5.21

When [Aristotle] was asked what a friend is, he replied “one soul occupying two bodies.”

ἐρωτηθεὶς τί ἐστι φίλος, ἔφη, “μία ψυχὴ δύο σώμασιν ἐνοικοῦσα.”

Catullus, 87

“No woman can claim that she has been loved as much
Truly, as my Lesbia has been loved by me.
No promise has ever been made in as much faith
As can be found on my part in loving you.”

Nulla potest mulier tantum se dicere amatam
vere, quantum a me Lesbia amata mea est.
nulla fides ullo fuit umquam foedere tanta,
quanta in amore tuo ex parte reperta mea est.

Image result for medieval manuscript love
from here

The Only Dinner Invitation Poem You Will Ever Need

Catullus 13

“You’ll dine well at my house, Fabullus
In a few days, if the gods favor you, and
If you bring a fine, large meal with you.
And don’t forget: a bright-eyed girl,
Wine, salt, and every kind of cheer.
If you bring these things I ask, fine friend,
You will dine well: for your Catullus’ wallet
Is full of nothing but spider webs.
In exchange, you’ll get unmixed love,
Or something even sweeter and more elegant:
I will give you a perfume which
Venuses and Cupids gave to my girl.
The kind of thing that when you smell it, Fabullus,
You’ll beg the gods to make you all nose.”

Cenabis bene, mi Fabulle, apud me
paucis, si tibi di favent, diebus,
si tecum attuleris bonam atque magnam
cenam, non sine candida puella
et vino et sale et omnibus cachinnis.
haec si, inquam, attuleris, venuste noster,
cenabis bene; nam tui Catulli
plenus sacculus est aranearum.
sed contra accipies meros amores
seu quid suavius elegantiusve est:
nam unguentum dabo, quod meae puellae
donarunt Veneres Cupidinesque,
quod tu cum olfacies, deos rogabis,

totum ut te faciant, Fabulle, nasum.

 

Image result for Papyrus Ancient Roman Dinner Invitation