Felix Dies Natalis — Sententiae Antiquae: A Pu Pu Platter from our Infancy

 

This site and its twitter feed is three years old today.  We have passed from diapers (nappies in the UK!) and a liquid diet to full sentences and a different kind of liquid diet. Here are some quotations from our first few months.

 

The first post we ever put up:

 

Homer, Iliad 22.304-5

“May I not die without a fight and without glory but after doing something big for men to come to learn about”

μὴ μὰν ἀσπουδί γε καὶ ἀκλειῶς ἀπολοίμην,

ἀλλὰ μέγα ῥέξας τι καὶ ἐσσομένοισι πυθέσθαι.

 

A good one for Halloween:

Seneca, De clementia 1.1.6

“No one can wear a mask for very long; affectation soon returns to true nature”

nemo enim potest personam diu ferre, ficta cito in naturam suam recidunt

And this made an appearance again in our aggregation of Seneca quotes.

 

A reminder to carpere diem, but in Greek:

Semonides, Fragment 3

“We have ample time to be dead yet we live our few years badly”

πολλὸς γὰρ ἥμιν ἐστι τεθνάναι χρονος

ζῶμεν δ᾿ ἀριθμῷ παῦρα κακῶς ἔτεα

 

One of our many lines about friendship:

Sallust, Catilinae coniuratio 20.4

“Wanting the same thing and also not wanting the same thing: this, ultimately, is true friendship”

idem velle atque idem nolle, ea demum firma amicitia est

 

Proof that U2 plagiarizes:

Martial, Epigrams 12.46.2

“I can’t live with you or without you”

nec tecum possum vivere nec sine te

 

A necessary does of humility:

Heraclitus, Fragment 40

“Knowing much doesn’t teach you how to think.”

πολυμαθίη νόον ἔχειν οὐ διδάσκει.

 

Existential Angst:

Pindar, Pythian 8.95

“What is a person? What is not a person? Man is a dream of a shadow”

τί δέ τις; τί δ’ οὔ τις; σκιᾶς ὄναρ / ἄνθρωπος.

 

Pithy Rumsfeldian Response:

Tacitus, Agricola 30.4

 

“Every unknown is overblown”

omne ignotum pro magnifico est

 

Because we still don’t understand this:

Pisander, fr. 9 (Hesychius 683)

“You can’t reason with Centaurs”

νοῦς οὐ παρὰ Κενταύροισι

 

Because to err is human:

 

Cicero, Philippics 12.5

“All men make mistakes; but it is fools who persist in them”

cuiusvis hominis est errare; nullius nisi insipientis perseverare in errore

 

This is for Cicero and Seneca who came to unhappy ends:

Sophocles, Electra 1007-8

“Death isn’t the most hateful thing. Worse is when someone wants to die but cannot.”

οὐ γὰρ θανεῖν ἔχθιστον, ἀλλ᾽ ὅταν θανεῖν
χρῄζων τις εἶτα μηδὲ τοῦτ᾽ ἔχῃ λαβεῖν.

 

A rejected motto:

Ovid, Ars Amatoria 1.159

“Trivialities occupy fickle minds”

para leves capiunt animos

 

From a quotable but less well-known sage:

Publilius Syrus, Sententiae M.54

“A bad plan is one that can’t be changed”

malum est consilium quod mutari non potest

 

The eternal troll of anonymous wit:

 

CIL IV, 1904

“I am amazed, wall, that you have not fallen in ruins,
you who bear the weight of so many boring inscriptions.”

admiror, paries, te non cecidisse ruinis,
qui tot scriptorum taedia sustineas.

 

Something that may or may not be true about quotation:

Horace, Ars Poetica 309

“The origin and source of good writing is good judgment”.

scribendi recte sapere est et principium et fons.

 

As good a way to start as to end:

Parmenides, fr. 6.16

 

“The path of all things goes backwards.”

…πάντων δὲ παλίντροπός ἐστι κέλευθος.

 

Thanks to everyone who has read, commented and retweeted over the past three years!

Πόλλ’ ἀγαθὰ γένοιτό ὑμῖν!

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Tacitus, Dialogus de Oratoribus 21 (On the Poetry of Brutus, Caesar, and Cicero)

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“We may grant to Caesar that he achieved less in the way of eloquence than his divine genius would have demanded, largely due to the greatness of his thoughts and occupations. Similarly, we may leave Brutus to his philosophical inquiries. For, in the realm of rhetoric, even his admirers would admit that he was not equal to his own reputation. That is, perhaps, unless there is someone who would read Caesar’s On Behalf of Decius the Samnite or Brutus’ On Behalf of King Deiotarus and other works of the same dull mildness; this reader must also admire the poems of these same men. For indeed, they wrote poems and even deposited them in libraries; though they were no better poets than Cicero, they were more fortunate, because fewer people know about their poetic endeavors.”

concedamus sane C. Caesari, ut propter magnitudinem cogitationum et occupationes rerum minus in eloquentia effecerit, quam divinum eius ingenium postulabat, tam hercule quam Brutum philosophiae suae relinquamus; nam in orationibus minorem esse [6] fama sua etiam admiratores eius fatentur: nisi forte quisquam aut Caesaris pro Decio Samnite aut Bruti pro Deiotaro rege ceterosque eiusdem lentitudinis ac teporis libros legit, nisi qui et carmina eorundem miratur. fecerunt enim et carmina et in bibliothecas rettulerunt, non melius quam Cicero, sed [7] felicius, quia illos fecisse pauciores sciunt.

Tacitus, Annales 1.81

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“Appealing words, but of a hollow or deceitful nature: the more they were covered with the appearance of freedom, the more they would burst into hostile servitude.”

speciosa verbis, re inania aut subdola, quantoque maiore libertatis imagine tegebantur, tanto eruptura ad infensius servitium.

Tacitus, Germania 18.12

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“Thus one must live, thus one must die.”

sic vivendum, sic pereundum.

This line is, in its proper context, much less sententious than it sounds when isolated and presented as some sort of gnomic utterance. Tacitus is describing the situation of Germanic women, who were expected to take up an equal share of military duties with their husbands.

Tacitus, Annals XII.37

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“For if you wish to rule over all, does it then follow that all welcome slavery?”

nam si vos omnibus imperitare vultis, sequitur ut omnes servitutem accipiant?

This is taken from a speech delivered by the British leader Caratacus, who was defeated and led to Rome after an unsuccessful uprising aimed at casting off the Roman yoke during the reign of Claudius. Before the conflict with the Romans, Caratacus huc illuc volitans illum diem, illam aciem testabatur aut reciperandae libertatis aut servitutis aeternae initium fore. (Caratacus, rushing all about here and there that day, declared that that battle would be the beginning either of recovering their freedom or of eternal servitude.” Tacitus, Annals XII.34) Vae victis!

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