Email to Class: Instructor is Sick; Aurelius: I’m Dying

Marcus Aurelius to Fronto, Lorium 145-7 CE

“My teacher,

You must be messing with me, but you have sent me extraordinary worry and egregious anguish, the most severe pain and the hottest fever with your letter, so that I cannot eat, sleep or even study.

While you might find some relief in your speech today, what can I do when I have lost the pleasure of hearing it and I fear that you may come a bit late to Lorium and I am in pain because you are in pain?

Farewell my teacher, whose health makes my health untroubled and secure.”

| Magistro meo.

Ludis tu quidem, at mihi peramplam anxietatem et summam aegritudinem, <acerbissimum> dolorem, et ignem flagrantissimum litteris his tuis misisti, ne cenare, ne dormire, ne denique studere libeat. Verum tu orationis hodiernae tuae habeas aliquod solacium; at | ego quid faciam? qui et auditionis iam voluptatem consumpsi, et metuo ne Lorium tardiuscule venias, et doleo quod interim doles. Vale, mi magister, cuius salus meam salutem inlibatam et incolumem facit.

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c. 1480, Yates Thompson 7, f. 174r

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.

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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.

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The Sickness of the Soul: Cicero on Irrational Hate

Cicero, Tusculan Disputations 5.25-6

“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

Epictetus on Scholarship and Sickness

At the end of the semester, sickness and scholarship go hand-in-hand. But Epictetus advises to take time to be sick properly…

Epictetus, 3.10-12

“But, am I not a scholar? Why do you pursue scholarship? Servant, do you do this to be content? Do you do it to be safe? Do you do it to grasp nature and live in accordance with it? What stops you when you’re sick from having your principle align with nature? This is the test of the matter, the crucible for any philosopher. This is also a part of life, like a stroll, a voyage, a trip, the fever too! Do you read while walking? No! And you don’t read while having a fever.  But if you walk well, you deliver the promise of one who walks.

If you have a fever, then do what one who has a fever should do. What does it mean to be sick well? Don’t blame god, or man. Don’t be undone by the things that happen. Await death bravely and correctly, and do what is given to you.”

Ἀλλ᾿ οὐ φιλολογῶ;—Τίνος δ᾿ ἕνεκα φιλολογεῖς; ἀνδράποδον, οὐχ ἵνα εὐροῇς; οὐχ ἵνα εὐσταθῇς; οὐχ ἵνα κατὰ φύσιν ἔχῃς καὶ διεξάγῃς;  τί κωλύει πυρέσσοντα κατὰ φύσιν ἔχειν τὸ ἡγεμονικόν; ἐνθάδ᾿ ὁ ἔλεγχος τοῦ πράγματος, ἡ δοκιμασία τοῦ φιλοσοφοῦντος. μέρος γάρ ἐστι καὶ τοῦτο τοῦ βίου, ὡς περίπατος, ὡς πλοῦς, ὡς ὁδοιπορία, οὕτως καὶ πυρετός. μή τι περιπατῶν ἀναγιγνώσκεις;—Οὔ.—Οὕτως οὐδὲ πυρέσσων. ἀλλ᾿ ἂν καλῶς περιπατῇς, ἔχεις τὸ τοῦ περιπατοῦντος· ἂν καλῶς πυρέξῃς, ἔχεις τὰ τοῦ πυρέσσοντος. 13τί ἐστὶ καλῶς πυρέσσειν; μὴ θεὸν μέμψασθαι, μὴ ἄνθρωπον, μὴ θλιβῆναι ὑπὸ τῶν γινομένων, εὖ καὶ καλῶς προσδέχεσθαι τὸν θάνατον, ποιεῖν τὰ προστασσόμενα·

The Madness of Advising Madmen

A timely reminder that societies can be ill…

Seneca, EM 94 [Quoting Aristo]

“Between this general public insanity and that which is subject to medicine, there is no difference except that the latter is caused by a disease and the former by false beliefs. In the case of a disease, the symptoms of madness come from sickness; the other is a terrible sickness of the mind. If anyone offers arguments to a crazy person—how he should talk, walk, act in public or private—he would be crazier than the very man he intends to advise! The dark bile must be treated and the causes of the madness should be removed. This must be done for the insanity of the mind too—the malady needs to be dispelled. In any other vase, words of warning will disappear into the void.”

“Inter insaniam publicamet hanc, quae medicis traditur, nihil interest nisi quod haec morbo laborat, illa opinionibus falsis. Altera causas furoris traxit ex valitudine, altera animi mala valitudo est. Si quis furioso praecepta det, quomodo loqui debeat, quomodo procedere, quomodo in publico se gerere, quomodo in privato, erit ipso, quem monebit, insanior. Ei bilis nigra curanda est et ipsa furoris causa removenda. Idem in hoc alio animi furore faciendum est. Ipse discuti debet; alioqui abibunt in vanum monentium verba.”

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Seneca in between Plato and Aristotle

Thuc. 1.20.3

“For most people the examination of the truth is so careless that they accept whatever is prepared for them.”

οὕτως ἀταλαίπωρος τοῖς πολλοῖς ἡ ζήτησις τῆς ἀληθείας, καὶ ἐπὶ τὰ ἑτοῖμα μᾶλλον τρέπονται.

Pausanias, 1.3.3

“The majority of people repeat many things which are not true, since they know nothing of history and they believe whatever they have heard since childhood in choruses and tragedy. “

λέγεται μὲν δὴ καὶ ἄλλα οὐκ ἀληθῆ παρὰ τοῖς πολλοῖς οἷα ἱστορίας ἀνηκόοις οὖσι καὶ ὁπόσα ἤκουον εὐθὺς ἐκ παίδων ἔν τε χοροῖς καὶ τραγῳδίαις πιστὰ ἡγουμένοις

There is some Tertullian on this too.

Next Time You Feel Self-Conscious at the Gym, Remember This

Diogenes Laertius, 6.92

“Zeno of Citium writes in his Anecdotes that after Kratês unthinkingly sewed a sheepskin to his cloak, he looked absurd and was laughed at when he exercised. He was in the habit of raising his hands and saying “Be bold, Kratês, for your eyes and your body. Someday you will see these men who laughing at you worn out by sickness and envying you, criticizing their own laziness.

He used to say that we should pursue philosophy until generals seemed to be donkey-drivers. He also claimed that those who lived with flatterers were as exposed as calves among wolves—For there is no one to protect these or those, but only those who contrive against them. When he perceived he was dying, he sang to himself, saying “you are going to Hades’ home, dear hunchback”. [For he was a hunchback because of old age.”

Ζήνων δ’ ὁ Κιτιεὺς ἐν ταῖς Χρείαις καὶ κῴδιον αὐτόν φησί ποτε προσράψαι τῷ τρίβωνι ἀνεπιστρεπτοῦντα. ἦν δὲ καὶ τὴν ὄψιν αἰσχρὸς καὶ γυμναζόμενος ἐγελᾶτο. εἰώθει δὲ λέγειν ἐπαίρων τὰς χεῖρας, “θάρρει, Κράτης, ὑπὲρ ὀφθαλμῶν καὶ τοῦ λοιποῦ σώματος· τούτους δ’ ὄψει τοὺς καταγελῶντας, ἤδη καὶ συνεσπασμένους ὑπὸ νόσου καί σε μακαρίζοντας, αὑτοὺς δὲ καταμεμφομένους ἐπὶ τῇ ἀργίᾳ.” ἔλεγε δὲ μέχρι τούτου δεῖν φιλοσοφεῖν, μέχρι ἂν δόξωσιν οἱ στρατηγοὶ εἶναι ὀνηλάται. ἐρήμους ἔλεγε τοὺς μετὰ κολάκων ὄντας ὥσπερ τοὺς μόσχους ἐπειδὰν μετὰ λύκων ὦσιν· οὔτε γὰρ ἐκείνοις τοὺς προσήκοντας οὔτε τούτοις συνεῖναι, ἀλλὰτοὺς ἐπιβουλεύοντας. συναισθανόμενος ὅτι ἀποθνήσκει, ἐπῇδε πρὸς ἑαυτὸν λέγων (PPF 10 B 9),

στείχεις δή, φίλε κυρτών,

[βαίνεις] εἰς ᾿Αίδαο δόμους [κυφὸς ὥρην διὰ γῆρας].

 

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Greek Anthology 16.112: My Sick Portrait Artist, Another Odysseus

Ep. 16.112

 

“My sculptor is more hateful than all the Dannaans: he’s another Odysseus,
since he made me a memento of a wretched and ruinous sickness.
The stone—rough, dirty, sick and drawn—wasn’t enough
But he has even shaped my pain in bronze.”

 

᾿Εχθρὸς ὑπὲρ Δαναοὺς πλάστης ἐμός, ἄλλος ᾿Οδυσσεύς,
ὅς μ’ ἔμνησε κακῆς οὐλομένης τε νόσου.
οὐκ ἤρκει πέτρη, τρῦχος, λύθρον, ἕλκος, ἀνίη,
ἀλλὰ καὶ ἐν χαλκῷ τὸν πόνον εἰργάσατο.

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