Libanius, Upon Facing Another Monday

Libanius, Autobiography 246

“And the affair followed and these were my fears, leaving me with a desire for nothing but death. And my conversations with everyone nearby were about this as were my prayers to the gods. One who mentioned baths was my enemy; anyone who mentioned dinner was my enemy.

And I fled in exile from the books which contained the classical texts of my toil; I fled from writing and composition of my lectures. I lost my ability to speak even though my students were shouting for me. Whenever I tried, I was taken off track like a boat facing an opposing wind. Even though they harbored hopes of hearing me, I still went silent. My doctors were telling me to seek healing somewhere else because there were no medicines for these kinds of ills in their craft.”

καὶ εἵπετο δὲ τὸ ἔργον, φόβοι τε ἐκεῖνοι καὶ πλὴν τελευτῆς οὐδενὸς ἐπιθυμία. ἀλλὰ περὶ τούτου λόγοι τε πρὸς τοὺς ἀεὶ παρόντας εὐχαί τε πρὸς θεούς. ἐχθρὸς μὲν ὁ λουτροῦ μεμνημένος, ἐχθρὸς δὲ ὁ δείπνου, καὶ φυγὴ ἀπὸ βιβλίων ἐν οἷς οἱ τῶν ἀρχαίων πόνοι, φυγὴ δὲ ἀπὸ γραφῆς τε καὶ ποιήσεως λόγων, κατελέλυτο δὲ τὸ λέγειν, καὶ ταῦτα τῶν νέων βοαῖς τοῦτο ἀπαιτούντων. ὁπότε γὰρ δὴ πρὸς αὐτὸ γιγνοίμην ἀπεφερόμην ὥσπερ ἀκάτιον ἐναντίῳ πνεύματι, καὶ οἱ μὲν εἶχον ἀκροάσεως ἐλπίδας, ἐγὼ δ᾿ ἂν1ἐσίγων. ἰατροὶ δὲ τὴν τούτων ἴασιν ἄλλοθι ζητεῖν ἐκέλευον, ὡς οὐκ ὄντων σφίσι τῶν τοιούτων ἐν τῇ τέχνῃ φαρμάκων.

mondays

Missing Deadlines Because of Chronic Illness

Fronto to Praeciilius Pompeianus          (Ambr. 312, following 313)

“You will hear from my, Pompeianus, the truth of how the matter is and I would hope that you would believe that I am speaking the truth. Nearly last year I took that oration For the Bithynians into my hand and I started to correct it. I also promised you some things concerning that oration when I was at Rome then. And, if my memory serves me correctly, when we were having a conversation about certain sections of the speech, I said and was somewhat proud that I had carefully enough examined in that speech which hinged on the crime of contract killing.

But in the meantime a bout of neuritis overcame me pretty strongly and it has remained longer and more burdensome than is typical. When my limbs are coursing with pain, I am incapable of giving any attention to things that must be written or read. I have not dared up to now to ever ask this much of myself. When those wondrous beasts, philosophers, tell us that the wise man, even if he were locked in the bull of Phalaris, would be no less blessed, I could believe it more easily that we would be a little bit happier while cooking in the brass to contemplate some introduction or write some letters.”

Fronto Praecilio Pompeiano salutem.

Verum ex me, mi Pompeiane, uti res est,  audies; velimque te mihi verum | dicenti fidem habere. Orationem istam Pro Bithynisante annum fere in manus sumpseram et corrigere institueram. Tibi etiam Romae tunc agenti nonnihil de ista oratione promiseram. Et quidem, si recte memini, quom sermo inter nos de partitionibus orationum ortus esset, dixeram et prae me tuleram, satis me diligenter in ista oratione coniecturam, quae in crimine mandatae caedis verteretur, divisisse argumentis ac refutasse. Interea nervorum dolor solito vehementior me invasit, et diutius ac molestius solito remoratus est. Nec possum ego membris cruciantibus operam ullam litteris scribendis legendisque impendere; nec umquam istuc a me postulare ausus sum. Philosophis etiam mirificis hominibus dicentibus, sapientem virum etiam in Phalaridis tauro inclusum beatum nihilominus fore, facilius crediderim beatum eum fore quam posse tantisper amburenti in aheno prohoemium meditari aut epigrammata scribere.

Image result for Fronto Roman
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A Deep Breath of Clean Air

Seneca, Oedipus 1042-60

“I reject you, speaker of fate, divine protector of truth.
I am in debt only to my father.
I am a double-parricide, more guilty, I fear, since
I killed my mother. She was done in by my crime.
Apollo, you liar, I have outdone my evil destiny.

I pursue lying paths with a trembling step.
Pulling myself away with each slowed print,
I guide my dark sight with a shaking right hand.
I move forward, unsure foot after slipping foot,
Go, flee, disappear. But, stop, don’t fall on mother.

Any who are tired at heart and overcome with sickness,
Lugging around a half-dead body, look at me: I am leaving.
Lift up your gaze to see, a lighter sky follows
My back. Whoever lies in isolation
And still breathes can now take a deep breath
Of clean air. Go, go and help those cast aside.

I take the deadly sicknesses away from this land with me.
Brutal Fate, terrible shaking of Disease,
Starvation and dark Death, maddening Sickness,
Leave with me, Come with me. These are the guides who please me.”

Fatidice te, te praesidem veri deum
compello: solum debui fatis patrem;
bis parricida plusque quam timui nocens
matrem peremi: scelere confecta est meo.
o Phoebe mendax, fata superavi impia.
Pavitante gressu sequere fallentes vias;
suspensa plantis efferens vestigia
caecam tremente dextera noctem rege.
—ingredere praeceps, lubricos ponens gradus,
i profuge vade—siste, ne in matrem incidas.
Quicumque fessi pectore et morbo graves
semianima trahitis corpora, en fugio, exeo:
relevate colla, mitior caeli status
post terga sequitur. quisquis exilem iacens
animam retentat, vividos haustus levis
concipiat. ite, ferte depositis opem:
mortifera mecum vitia terrarum extraho.
Violenta Fata et horridus Morbi tremor,
Maciesque et atra Pestis et rabidus Dolor,
mecum ite, mecum. ducibus his uti libet.

Oedipus at Colonus, by Jean-Antoine-Théodore Giroust.

Taking the Cure in Isolation

Apuleius, Metamorphoses 4.1

“Around noon, when the sun’s flame was already hot, we turned off in some village to the home of some old men known well to the thieves. This was easy to understand for even a donkey thanks to the prolonged conversation and shared kisses. They also gave some gifts to them which I had carried on my back and seemed to relate that they were obtained through theft with secret whispers. Once we were unburdened of every bag, they left us to amble and eat in a field next to the home.

But I was not really drawn to a pastoral communion with either the ass or my old horse and I was also not quite used to eating grass. I could see a garden on the other side of the stable, so I broke into it, already wracked by hunger. I filled my stomach immediately with those vegetables, even though they were raw, and I was saying a little prayer to all the gods as I looked around the place, hoping I might find the light of rose bushes in the nearby gardens.

This isolation was providing me confidence I did not have before, if once I was away from the road and hidden by bushes, I could eat the medicine and rise from the curved-hoof of four-footed pack animal to stand straight like a man, while no one was looking.”

Diem ferme circa medium, cum iam flagrantia solis caleretur, in pago quodam apud notos ac familiares latronibus senes devertimus. Sic enim primus aditus et sermo prolixus et oscula mutua quamvis asino sentire praestabant. Nam et rebus eos quibusdam dorso meo depromptis munerabantur, et secretis gannitibus quod essent latrocinio partae videbantur indicare. Iamque nos omni sarcina levatos in pratum proximum passim libero pastui tradidere. Nec me cum asino vel equo meo compascuus coetus attinere potuit, adhuc insolitum alioquin prandere faenum; sed plane pone stabulum prospectum hortulum iam fame perditus fidenter invado, et quamvis crudis holeribus affatim tamen ventrem sagino, deosque comprecatus omnes cuncta prospectabam loca, sicubi forte conterminis in hortulis candens reperirem rosarium. Nam et ipsa solitudo iam mihi bonam fiduciam tribuebat, si devius et frutectis absconditus, sumpto remedio, de iumenti quadripedis incurvo gradu rursum erectus in hominem inspectante nullo resurgerem.

Nicolai Abildgaard – Fotis sees her Lover Lucius Transformed into an Ass. Motif from Apeleius’ The Golden Ass

Sickness and Knowledge

Sophocles, Trachiniae 1120-1121

“Say what you need to and leave! I am sick
And I can’t understand any of your ancient subtleties”

εἰπὼν ὃ χρῄζεις λῆξον· ὡς ἐγὼ νοσῶν
οὐδὲν ξυνίημ᾿ ὧν σὺ ποικίλλεις πάλαι.

 

Euripides, Orestes, 229-230

“Look, when someone is sick, their bed is dear.
It may be an annoying thing, but it’s still what they need.”

ἰδού. φίλον τοι τῷ νοσοῦντι δέμνια,
ἀνιαρὸν ὄντα κτῆμ᾿, ἀναγκαῖον δ᾿ ὅμως.

314-315

“Even if someone isn’t sick, but thinks they are,
They are struck by exhaustion and helplessness.”

κἂν μὴ νοσῇ γάρ, ἀλλὰ δοξάζῃ νοσεῖν,
κάματος βροτοῖσιν ἀπορία τε γίγνεται.

395-396

[Menelaos] “What thing do you suffer? What disease destroys you?
[Orestes]: “Understanding—that I know the terrible things I have done.”

ΜΕΝΕΛΑΟΣ τί χρῆμα πάσχεις; τίς σ᾿ ἀπόλλυσιν νόσος;
ΟΡΕΣΤΗΣ ἡ σύνεσις, ὅτι σύνοιδα δείν᾿ εἰργασμένος.

Hans Sebald Beham, The Death of Herakles

Just Think Your Way Out of Sickness!

For more on plagues and leadership, see this post.

Aelian, Varia Historia 13.27

“Remember that Socrates’ body was thought to be orderly and in control of wisdom for this reason too. When the Athenians were suffering a pandemic and some were dying and others were near death, Socrates was the only one who was not sick. What mind do we think shared space with such a body?”

Ὅτι τὸ Σωκράτους σῶμα πεπίστευτο κόσμιον καὶ σωφροσύνης ἐγκρατὲς γεγονέναι καὶ ταύτῃ. ἐνόσουν Ἀθηναῖοι πανδημεί, καὶ οἱ μὲν ἀπέθνῃσκον, οἱ δὲ ἐπιθανατίως εἶχον, Σωκράτης δὲ μόνος οὐκ ἐνόσησε τὴν ἀρχήν. ὁ τοίνυν τοιούτῳ συνὼν σώματι τίνα ἡγούμεθα ἐσχηκέναι ψυχήν;

Apollonius of Tyana, 8.28

“Do these practices merely make a refinement of the senses or establish power over the greatest and most amazing forces? You need to see what I mean from different things, not the least of which were done during that epidemic in Ephesus.

When the disease was in the shape of an old beggar, I saw it and once I saw it I tackled it. I did not stop the disease but instead I destroyed it. The one I prayed to is clear as day in the temple which I built in thanks. It was for Herakles the Defender, the one I chose as a helper—because he is wise and brave, he once cleansed Elis of a plague and wiped away the waves of filth which the earth released when Augeas was tyrant.”

“Ἆρ᾿ οὖν τὸ οὕτως διαιτᾶσθαι λεπτότητα μόνον ἐργάζεται τῶν αἰσθήσεων ἢ ἰσχὺν ἐπὶ τὰ μέγιστά τε καὶ θαυμασιώτατα; θεωρεῖν δ᾿ ἔξεστιν ὃ λέγω καὶ ἀπ᾿ ἄλλων μέν, οὐχ ἥκιστα δὲ κἀκ τῶν ἐν Ἐφέσῳ περὶ τὴν νόσον ἐκείνην πραχθέντων· τὸ γὰρ τοῦ λοιμοῦ εἶδος, πτωχῷ δὲ γέροντι εἴκαστο, καὶ εἶδον καὶ ἰδὼν εἷλον, οὐ παύσας νόσον, ἀλλ᾿ ἐξελών, ὅτῳ δ᾿ εὐξάμενος, δηλοῖ τὸ ἱερόν, ὃ ἐν Ἐφέσῳ ὑπὲρ τούτου ἱδρυσάμην, Ἡρακλέους μὲν γὰρ Ἀποτροπαίου ἐστί, ξυνεργὸν δ᾿ αὐτὸν εἱλόμην, ἐπειδὴ σοφός τε καὶ ἀνδρεῖος ὢν ἐκάθηρέ ποτε λοιμοῦ τὴν Ἦλιν, τὰς ἀναθυμιάσεις ἀποκλύσας, ἃς παρεῖχεν ἡ γῆ κατ᾿ Αὐγέαν τυραννεύοντα.

File:Philosopher probably Apollonius of Tyana Heraklion museum original.jpg
Statue of a philosopher, probably Apollonius of Tyana. Late 2nd – 3rd century AD.

A Mind Devouring Sickness

Sophocles, Ajax, 621–635 (go here for the full text on the Scaife viewer)

“His mother, old age’s roommate
And pale in old age
When she hears he is afflicted with a mind-devouring sickness
Will not hold back her mourning,
Her mourning nor the pitiful lament of the nightingale
But she will wail the sharp funereal tones.
Strikes will sound as they fall on her breasts
And she will rip out her white hair.

Anyone who is pointlessly sick is better off
When he lies down with Hades.”

ἦ που παλαιᾷ μὲν σύντροφος ἁμέρᾳ,
λευκῷ τε γήρᾳ μάτηρ νιν ὅταν νοσοῦν-
τα φρενοβόρως ἀκούσῃ,
αἴλινον αἴλινον
οὐδ᾿ οἰκτρᾶς γόον ὄρνιθος ἀηδοῦς
σχήσει δύσμορος, ἀλλ᾿ ὀξυτόνους μὲν ᾠδὰς
θρηνήσει, χερόπληκτοι δ᾿
ἐν στέρνοισι πεσοῦνται
δοῦποι καὶ πολιᾶς ἄμυγμα χαίτας.
κρείσσων γὰρ Ἅιδᾳ κεύθων ὁ νοσῶν
μάταν

640-645

“Someone who is pointlessly sick
Is better when lying in Hades.
Look—one who came from one of the best lines
Of the much suffering Achaeans
Is no longer secure
In his childhood’s mind.
He wanders outside of it.
Miserable parent, what kind of a fate
remains for you to learn of your child,
the kind of life no other the descendants of Aiakos
faced before now.”

κρείσσων γὰρ Ἅιδᾳ κεύθων ὁ νοσῶν
μάταν,
ὃς εἷς πατρῴας ἥκων γενεᾶς ἄρι-
στα πολυπόνων Ἀχαιῶν,
οὐκέτι συντρόφοις
ὀργαῖς ἔμπεδος, ἀλλ᾿ ἐκτὸς ὁμιλεῖ.
ὦ τλᾶμον πάτερ, οἵαν σε μένει πυθέσθαι
παιδὸς δύσφορον ἄταν,
ἃν οὔπω τις ἔθρεψεν
αἰὼν Αἰακιδᾶν ἄτερθε τοῦδε.

Aelian Varia Historia, 9. 6-7

“Perikles, when he lost his sons in the plague, took their deaths most bravely and persuaded the Athenians to endure the deaths of their closest friends more graciously.

Xanthippe was in the habit of saying that even through endless troubles had afflicted Athens and themselves, she always saw the same expression on Socrates’ face when he left the home and returned. He kept a level response to all things and was always pleasant in attitude, above any kind of grief, and entirely stronger than fear.”

Ὅτι Περικλῆς ἐν τῷ λοιμῷ τοὺς παῖδας ἀποβαλὼν ἀνδρειότατα τὸν θάνατον αὐτῶν ἤνεγκε καὶ πάντας Ἀθηναίους εὐθυμότερον ἔπεισε τοὺς τῶν φιλτάτων θανάτους φέρειν.

Ἡ Ξανθίππη ἔφη μυρίων μεταβολῶν τὴν πόλιν <καὶ αὐτοὺς> κατασχουσῶν ἐν πάσαις ὅμοιον τὸ Σωκράτους πρόσωπον καὶ προϊόντος ἐκ τῆς οἰκίας καὶ ἐπανιόντος ἀεὶ θεᾶσθαι·ἥρμοστο γὰρ πρὸς πάντα ἐπιεικῶς, καὶ ἦν ἵλεως ἀεὶ τὴν διάνοιαν καὶ λύπης ὑπεράνω πάσης καὶ φόβου κρείττων παντὸς ὤν.

The Poor are Always Sick

Sophocles, fr. 354 [perhaps from the Creusa]

“Don’t be at all surprised that I hold on to my money,
Lord, Even mortals who have immense wealth
Still clutch to profits when humans put everything
In second place after money.
Some people envy the person who isn’t sick.
But no poor person seems healthy to me—the poor are always sick.”

καὶ μή τι θαυμάσῃς με τοῦ κέρδους, ἄναξ,
ὧδ᾿ ἀντέχεσθαι. καὶ γὰρ οἳ πλοῦτον μακρὸν
θνητῶν ἔχουσι, τοῦ γε κερδαίνειν ὅμως
ἀπρὶξ ἔχονται, κἄστι πρὸς τὰ χρήματα
θνητοῖσι τἆλλα δεύτερ᾿. εἰσὶ δ᾿ οἵτινες
αἰνοῦσιν ἄνοσον ἄνδρ᾿· ἐμοὶ δ᾿ οὐδεὶς δοκεῖ
εἶναι πένης ὢν ἄνοσος, ἀλλ᾿ ἀεὶ νοσεῖν.

Fr. 256

“The most noble thing is to be just.
The best thing is to live without sickness.
But the most pleasurable is to have the power
To take what you want every day.”

κάλλιστόν ἐστι τοὔνδικον πεφυκέναι,
λῷστον δὲ τὸ ζῆν ἄνοσον, ἥδιστον δ᾿ ὅτῳ
πάρεστι λῆψις ὧν ἐρᾷ καθ᾿ ἡμέραν

Asclepius arrives in Kos, Greeted by Hippocrates

Instructors of Evil

Euripides, Andromache 940-951

“I had great wealth and I was ruling my home.
I would have had noble children some day
And she would only give birth to half-slave bastards for them.
But never and I say it over and over, never
Should anyone who has any sense at all and a wife
Allow other women to come to visit them!

These women are instructors of evils.
One ruins a marriage because she hopes to gain something,
While another who’s afflicted wants someone to be sick with.
Many more act because of native vice—and this is how
The homes of men grow diseased.”

πολὺς μὲν ὄλβος, δωμάτων δ᾿ ἠνάσσομεν,
παῖδας δ᾿ ἐγὼ μὲν γνησίους ἔτικτον ἄν,
ἡ δ᾿ ἡμιδούλους τοῖς ἐμοῖς νοθαγενεῖς.
ἀλλ᾿ οὔποτ᾿ οὔποτ᾿ (οὐ γὰρ εἰσάπαξ ἐρῶ)
χρὴ τούς γε νοῦν ἔχοντας, οἷς ἔστιν γυνή,
πρὸς τὴν ἐν οἴκοις ἄλοχον ἐσφοιτᾶν ἐᾶν
γυναῖκας· αὗται γὰρ διδάσκαλοι κακῶν·
ἡ μέν τι κερδαίνουσα συμφθείρει λέχος,
ἡ δ᾿ ἀμπλακοῦσα συννοσεῖν αὑτῇ θέλει,
πολλαὶ δὲ μαργότητι· κἀντεῦθεν δόμοι
νοσοῦσιν ἀνδρῶν. …

954-6

“You’ve laid into your kindred with your tongue too much!
Such things are forgivable for you now, but still
Women must work to cover up women’s afflictions!”

ἄγαν ἐφῆκας γλῶσσαν ἐς τὸ σύμφυτον.
συγγνωστὰ μέν νυν σοὶ τάδ᾿, ἀλλ᾿ ὅμως χρεὼν
κοσμεῖν γυναῖκας τὰς γυναικείας νόσους.

Frederic Leighton, “Captive Andromache”

and here’s a performance of sections of this play from Reading Greek Tragedy Online:

 

The Sickness of the Soul: Cicero on Irrational Hate

Cicero, Tusculan Disputations 5.25-6 (Full text on the Scaife viewer)

“Furthermore, for these things it is believed that their opposites are born from fear, just as in hatred of women as in the Misogunos of Atilius or that against the whole race of humankind which we have heard that Timon who is called the Misanthrope felt or even being inhospitable.

All these diseases of the soul develop from a special fear of those things which people fear and then hate. They define a disease of the soul, moreover, as a vehement belief about a thing which is not desired even though it is anticipated powerfully, a belief which is constant and deeply held.”

Quae autem sunt his contraria, ea nasci putantur a metu, ut odium mulierum, quale in Μισογύνῳ Atilii1 est, ut in hominum universum genus, quod accepimus de Timone, qui μισάνθρωπος appellatur, ut inhospitalitas est: quae omnes aegrotationes animi ex quodam metu nascuntur earum rerum, quas fugiunt et oderunt. Definiunt autem animi aegrotationem opinationem vehementem de re non expetenda, tamquam valde expetenda sit, inhaerentem et penitus insitam.

Royal 15 D V   f. 107v
2nd half of the 15th century, Royal MS 15 D V, f. 107v