Quintilian on Pedantry

Quintilian, 8.3 (55)

“There is also that phenomenon which is called periergia—as I might call it, an ultimately useless carefulness in which a dilettante contrasts with a scholar the same way superstition differs from religion. So, to summarize, a word which helps neither the understanding nor the form can be said to be a mistake.”

Est etiam quae periergia vocatur, supervacua, ut sic dixerim, operositas, ut a diligenti curiosus et religione superstitio distat. Atque, ut semel finiam, verbum omne quod neque intellectum adiuvat neque ornatum vitiosum dici potest.

The Infantile Mind: Pliny on Where Amber Comes From

Pliny, NH 37 40-42

“[Sophocles] has described how [amber] is made on the other side of India from the tears of the birds called the “daughters of Meleager” as they weep for Meleager. Who doesn’t wonder at the fact that he believed this or expected to convince others to do so. What mind is so infantile or foolish that it could believe that there are birds who weep every year and shed such large tears or that they left Greece where Meleager perished and went to weep for him in India?

What, then? Don’t the poets offer us many tales equally fantastic? Indeed they do, but when it comes to this substance, which is imported daily and fills the market revealing the poet’s lie, this is a grave offense to human intelligence and and unendurable misuse of our ability to lie.

It is known that amber comes from islands in the Northern Oceans and that the Germans call it glaesum and, as a result of this, one of the islands which the natives called Austeravia was named Glaesariam by us when Caesar Germanicus was on campaign there with his fleet [16 CE]. Amber is created, moreover, as the pitch of a particular type of pine drips down in the same way as gum from cherry trees or resin in local pines bursts out because of an excess of liquid.”

hic ultra Indiam fieri dixit e lacrimis meleagridum avium Meleagrum deflentium. quod credidisse eum aut sperasse aliis persuaderi posse quis non miretur? quamve pueritiam tam inperitam posse reperiri, quae avium ploratus annuos credat lacrimasve tam grandes avesve, quae a Graecia, ubi Meleager periit, ploratum adierint Indos? quid ergo? non multa aeque fabulosa produnt poetae? sed hoc in ea re, quae cotidie invehatur atque abundet ac mendacium coarguat, serio quemquam dixisse summa hominum contemptio est et intoleranda mendaciorum inpunitas.

Certum est gigni in insulis septentrionalis oceani et ab Germanis appellari glaesum, itaque et ab nostris ob id unam insularum Glaesariam appellatam, Germanico Caesare res ibi gerente classibus, Austeraviam a barbaris dictam. nascitur autem defluente medulla pinei generis arboribus, ut cummis in cerasis, resina in pinis erumpit umoris abundantia.

British Library, Royal MS 12 F. xiii, Folio 10v

Pliny on the Utility of Gossip

Pliny, Epistle 18 to Fadius Rufinus 12

“You now have all the city’s rumors: for all our gossip is Tullus. His estate sale is hotly anticipated. For he had so much that on that day when he purchased the largest gardens he also filled them with the most and most ancient statues. These were works of finest beauty in which he had forgotten!

If you have any news you think is worthy of sharing, don’t keep it from me. For human ears are always pleased by news, and we use these examples to learn the art of living. Farewell.”

Habes omnes fabulas urbis; nam sunt omnes fabulae Tullus. Exspectatur auctio: fuit enim tam copiosus, ut amplissimos hortos eodem quo emerat die instruxerit plurimis et antiquissimis statuis; tantum illi pulcherrimorum operum in horreis quae neglegebat. Invicem tu, si quid istic epistula dignum, ne gravare. Nam cum aures hominum novitate laetantur, tum ad rationem vitae exemplis erudimur. Vale.

 

Cicero on Character Attacks

Cicero, De Inventione 2.33

“In every case, [the orator] should know the nature, the way of life, the interests or the fortune or any of those personal qualities which he might say were a cause for him to have committed the act he did or he should find fault with his character by reference to another kind of crime if there is no ability to bring up those of a similar crime.

If you are arguing that someone acted because of greed and you cannot show that the person you are accusing is greedy, you need to show that he has an affinity with other vices and, by implication, that it is not a surprise for someone who has acted either corruptly or greedily, or petulantly in other matters should have been wrong in this affair too. For every bit that detracts from a defendant’s honesty and authority diminishes the ease of his whole defense.”

Item in omni causa naturam aut victum aut studium aut fortunam aut aliquid eorum quae personis attributa sunt ad eam causam qua commotum peccasse dicet adiungere atque ex dispari quoque genere culparum, si ex pari sumendi facultas non erit, improbare animum adversari oportebit: si avaritia inductum arguas fecisse, et avarum eum quem accuses demonstrare non possis, aliis affinem vitiis esse doceas, et ex ea re non esse mirandum, qui in illa re turpis aut cupidus aut petulans fuerit, hac quoque in re eum deliquisse. Quantum enim de honestate et auctoritate eius qui arguitur detractum est, tantundem de facultate eius totius est defensionis deminutum.

Cicero: A Liar Will Probably Commit Perjury Too

Cicero, Pro Quinctui Roscio 16

“Still,” he said, “Cluvius told Lucius and Manilius he was not on sworn oath.” If he told them while sworn in, would you believe? What is the difference between a perjurer and a liar? A man who is accustomed to lying, can get used to committing perjury.

I can easily get a man to perjure himself once I am able to persuade him to lie. For once someone has departed from the truth, he is not in the habit of being constrained by greater belief from perjury than from lying. For what man who is not moved by the force of his own conscience is moved by invocation of the gods?

The reason for this is that the gods dispense the same penalty for the perjurer and the liar. The gods become enraged and punish a man not for the institution which frames the swearing of the words but because of the evil and the malice that these traps are set for another person.”

XVI. “Dicit enim,” inquit, “iniuratus Luscio et Manilio.” Si diceret iuratus, crederes? At quid interest inter periurum et mendacem? Qui mentiri solet, peierare consuevit. Quem ego, ut mentiatur, inducere possum, ut peieret, exorare facile potero. Nam qui semel a veritate deflexit, hic non maiore religione ad periurium quam ad mendacium perduci consuevit. Quis enim deprecatione deorum, non conscientiae fide commovetur? Propterea, quae poena ab dis immortalibus periuro, haec eadem mendaci constituta est; non enim ex pactione verborum, quibus ius iurandum comprehenditur, sed ex perfidia et malitia, per quam insidiae tenduntur alicui, di immortales hominibus irasci et suscensere consuerunt.

Image result for medieval manuscript perjury

Sinon. Augustine, La Cit de Dieu, Books I-X. Paris, Ma tre Franois (illuminator); c. 1475-1480.

The Liar’s Memory

Plautus, The Ghost 181

“I love the truth, I want someone to tell me the truth. I hate a liar.”

ego uerum amo, uerum uolo dici mi: mendacem odi.

Quintilian Orator’s Education 4.2 90-92

“For fictions which are developed entirely from matters outside of the situation betray our license to lie. We must take most special care—which often escapes those who lie—not to contradict ourselves, since some stories are flattering in bits but do not contribute to a coherent whole; that we then say nothing which countermands what is accepted as true; and, in academic exercises, not to seek ornamentation beyond the themes.

Both in training and in the court, the orator ought to remember the what he has claimed falsely during the whole action since false things often escape the mind. That common saying is proved true, that the liar requires a good memory. Let us see, moreover, that if we are questioned about our own deed, we must say one thing only; if it is about somebody else’s we can cast doubt in many directions.”

nam quae tota extra rem petita sunt mentiendi licentiam produnt. Curandum praecipue, quod fingentibus frequenter excidit, ne qua inter se pugnent; quaedam enim partibus blandiuntur, sed in summam non consentiunt: praeterea ne iis quae vera esse constabit adversa sint: in schola etiam ne color extra themata quaeratur. Utrubique autem orator meminisse debebit actione tota quid finxerit, quoniam solent excidere quae falsa sunt: verumque est illud quod vulgo dicitur, mendacem memorem esse oportere.  Sciamus autem, si de nostro facto quaeratur, unum nobis aliquid esse dicendum: si de alieno, mittere in plura suspiciones licere.

Image result for medieval manuscript punishing a liar

The Infernal Torments of the Damned, illuminated French manuscript of Augustine’s City of God by an unknown artist (15th century).

Seneca on What Parents Do For Children

Seneca, De Beneficiis 6.24

“Don’t you see how parents compel the tender age of their children toward a healthy endurance of matters? They lavish care on their bodies even as they weep and struggle against them and, so that early freedom does not destroy their limbs, they even swaddle them to help them stay straight. And soon they shape them with a liberal education, adding threats when the children are unwilling. And they treat the final boldness of youth with frugality, shame, good habits, and, compulsion, if necessary.

Force and severity are added to to these youths who are already in control of themselves if they reject these remedies because of fear or intemperance. These are the greatest benefits which we receive from our parents, while we are either ignorant or unwilling.”

Non vides, quemadmodum teneram liberorum infantiam parentes ad salubrium rerum patientiam cogant? Flentium corpora ac repugnantium diligenti cura fovent et, ne membra libertas immatura detorqueat, in rectum exitura constringunt et mox liberalia studia inculcant adhibito timore nolentibus; ad ultimum audacem iuventam frugalitati, pudori, moribus bonis, si parum sequitur, coactam applicant.

Adulescentibus quoque ac iam potentibus sui, si remedia metu aut intemperantia reiciunt, vis adhibetur ac severitas. Itaque beneficiorum maxima sunt, quae a parentibus accepimus, dum aut nescimus aut nolumus.

Livre des Vices et des Vertus , XVe siècle. Paris, BnF, département des Manuscrits, Français 20320, fol. 177v

Livre des Vices et des Vertus , XVe siècle. Paris, BnF, département des Manuscrits, Français 20320, fol. 177v

Souls Burning for Censure: Sallust Advises Caesar

Sallust, First Letter to Caesar 8-10

I have offered you as briefly as possible what things I think are necessary for our nation and your glory. It does not seem any worse to say a few things now about what I have accomplished here.

Most mortals possess—or pretend to possess—enough intelligence to make judgments. But, in truth, everyone’s soul burns to criticize the words and deeds of others, even though their mouth and tongue are not large and quick enough to produces the words contemplated in their hearts.

It causes me no grief to be subject to these men—no, it would hurt more to stay quiet. For whether you persist on this path or another one, I have spoken and offered help in a manly way. All that is left is to hope that the immortal gods smile on what you do and allow it to turn out well.

Quae rei publicae necessaria tibique gloriosa ratus sum, quam paucissimis apsolvi. Non peius videtur pauca nunc de facto meo disserere. Plerique mortales ad iudicandum satis ingenii habent aut simulant; verum enim ad reprehendunda aliena facta aut dicta ardet omnibus animus, vix satis apertum os aut lingua prompta videtur quae meditata pectore evolvat. Quibus me subiectum haud paenitet, magis reticuisse pigeret. Nam sive hac seu meliore alia via perges, a me quidem pro virili parte dictum et adiutum fuerit. Relicuum est optare uti quae tibi placuerint ea di immortales adprobent beneque evenire sinant.

That Rarified Athenian Air

Cicero, de Fato 7-8 [discussing ideas of Chrysippus and Posidonius]

“We observe how much of a difference there is between the characters of various places: some are healthy, others are unhealthy; we see that people in some places are phlegmatic and like people who have too much moisture while others are dried out and thirsty. There are many other significant differences between different places.

Athens has a rare climate from which the residents of Attica are considered to be smarter than others; it is humid at Thebes, and so the Thebans are thick and strong. Nevertheless, that sterling Athenian environments will not ensure that anyone listens to Zeno or Arcesilas or Theophrastus any more than the thick Theban air will prepare someone better to win at Nemea than in Corinth.”

Inter locorum naturas quantum intersit videmus: alios esse salubres, alios pestilentes, in aliis esse pituitosos et quasi redundantes, in aliis exsiccatos atque aridos; multaque sunt alia quae inter locum et locum plurimum differant. Athenis tenue caelum, ex quo etiamacutiores putantur Attici, crassum Thebis, itaque pingues Thebani et valentes. Tamen neque illud tenue caelum efficiet ut aut Zenonem quis aut Arcesilam aut Theophrastum audiat, neque crassum ut Nemea

Image result for Athens environment

A Model Response to an Engagement

Pliny, Letters 26

To Julius Servianus,

“I am happy and I congratulate because that your daughter is engaged to Fuscus Salinator. His house is patrician; his father most honorable and his mother his equal; the boy himself is educated, literate and even an orator—a boy in his directness, a youth for his charm, yet an older man when it comes to serious matters. I certainly am not deceived by my adoration—for I love as fully as he merits for his actions and his reverence for me—but I have my judgment still and it is as much sharper thanks to the depth of my affection.

I promise you as one who has known him that you will have a son-in-law who will be better than any prayer could anticipate. The only task left is that he will make a grandson like himself sooner rather than later. How happy a day it well be which delivers his children from your embrace—your grandchildren—as if they were my own children or grandchildren and my equal right to care for them. Farewell!

C. Plinius Serviano Suo S.
Gaudeo et gratulor, quod Fusco Salinatori filiam tuam destinasti. Domus patricia, pater honestissimus, mater pari laude; ipse studiosus litteratus etiam disertus, puer simplicitate comitate iuvenis senex gravitate. Neque enim amore decipior. Amo quidem effuse (ita officiis ita reverentia meruit), iudico tamen, et quidem tanto acrius quanto magis amo; tibique ut qui exploraverim spondeo, habiturum te generum quo melior fingi ne voto quidem potuit. Superest ut avum te quam maturissime similium sui faciat. Quam felix tempus illud, quo mihi liberos illius nepotes tuos, ut meos vel liberos vel nepotes, ex vestro sinu sumere et quasi pari cure tenere continget! Vale.

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