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.

Image result for medieval manuscript sick teacher

c. 1480, Yates Thompson 7, f. 174r

On The Dangers of Not Being Trained in the Classics

Julian, Fragment of a letter to a priest, 296a

“The reason [they are unwise] is that they don’t give their mind over to be cleansed by the traditional curriculum and they do not open those tightly closed eyes with it and clear the mist that has settled over them.

But because these people are like those who see a great light through a fog neither clearly nor sharply and because they think they do not see a clear light but a fire and they cannot see anything around it, they shout “Be afraid, shake, fire, flame, death, knife, blade…” interpreting in many names the force of a fire. Ah, it would be a lot easier to show how much worse than our own poets are these teachers of tales about ‘god’.”

αἴτιον δέ, ὅτι τὴν ἑαυτῶν ψυχὴν οὐ παρέσχον ἀποκαθῆραι τοῖς ἐγκυκλίοις μαθήμασιν οὐδὲ ἀνοῖξαι μεμυκότα λίαν τὰ ὄμματα οὐδὲ ἀνακαθῆραι τὴν ἐπικειμένην αὐτοῖς ἀχλύν, ἀλλ᾿ οἷον φῶς μέγα δι᾿ ὁμίχλης οἱ ἄνθρωποι βλέποντες οὐ καθαρῶς οὐδὲ εἰλικρινῶς, αὐτὸ δὲ ἐκεῖνο νενομικότες οὐχὶ φῶς καθαρόν, ἀλλὰ πῦρ καὶ τῶν περὶ αὐτὸ πάντων ὄντες ἀθέατοι βοῶσι μέγα· Φρίττετε, φοβεῖσθε, πῦρ, φλόξ, θάνατος, μάχαιρα, ῥομφαία, πολλοῖς ὀνόμασι μίαν ἐξηγούμενοι τὴν βλαπτικὴν τοῦ πυρὸς δύναμιν. ἀλλ᾿ ὑπὲρ μὲν τούτων ἰδίᾳ βέλτιον παραστῆσαι, πόσῳ φαυλότεροι τῶν παρ᾿ ἡμῖν οὗτοι γεγόνασι ποιητῶν οἱ τῶν ὑπὲρ τοῦ θεοῦ λόγων διδάσκαλοι.

Image result for julian the apostate

Julian the Apostate.

Just in Time for Midterm Exams: Marcus Aurelius on Reading a Teacher’s Comments

From Marcus Aurelius to M. Cornelius Fronto

To my teacher,

“I received two letters from you at the same time. In one of them, you were criticizing me and you were showing that I wrote a sentence rashly; in the second, however, you were trying to approve my work with praise. Still, I swear by my mother and by my health that I got more joy from the first letter, to which I often yelled out while reading: “Lucky me!” And someone might ask whether I am happy because I have a teacher who teaches me to write a gnome with more care, precision, and concision?  No! This is not the reason I say I am lucky. Why then? Because I learn from you to speak the truth.

This lesson—speaking truly—is hard for both gods and men. There is no oracle so truthful that it is not also ambiguous or unclear or which does not have some obstacle which may catch the unwise who interprets whatever is said the way he wants to and understands this only after the moment when the affair is complete. But this is advantageous and clearly it is customary to excuse these things as sacred error or silliness.

But what you say—whether they are criticisms or rules—they show the path itself immediately and without deceit or riddling words. I ought to give you thanks since you teach me foremost to speak the truth and at the same time how to hear it too! Therefore, you should get a double reward, which you will endeavor that I will not pay. If you wish to accept nothing, how may I balance our accounts except through obedience? [some incomplete lines].

Farewell my good, my best teacher. I rejoice that we have become friends. My wife says hello.

Magistro meo.

Duas per id<em> tempus epistulas tuas excepi. Earum altera me increpabas et temere sententiam scripsisse arguebas, altera vero tueri studium meum laude nitebaris. Adiuro tamen tibi meam, meae matris, tuam salutem mihi plus gaudii in animo coortum esse illis tuis prioribus litteris; meque saepius exclamasse inter legendum O me felicem! Itane, dicet aliquis, feiicem te, si est qui te doceat quomodo γνώμην sollertius dilucidius brevius politius scribas? Non hoc est quod me felicem nuncupo. Quid est igitur?  Quod verum dicere ex te disco. Ea res—verum|dicere—prorsum deis hominibusque ardua: nullum denique tam veriloquum oraculum est, quin aliquid ancipitis in se vel obliqui vel impediti habeat, quo imprudentior inretiatur, et ad voluntatem suam dictum opinatus captionem post tempus ac negotium sentiat. Sed ista res lucrosa est, et plane mos talia tantum pio errore et vanitate ex<cus>are. At tuae seu accusationes seu lora confestim ipsam viam ostendunt sine fraude et inventis verbis. Itaque deberem etiam gratias agere tibi si verum me dicere satius simul et audire verum me doces. Duplex igitur pretium solvatur, pendere quod ne valeam <elabora>bis. Si resolvi vis nil, quomodo tibi par pari expendam nisi obsequio? Impius tamen mihi malui te nimia motum cura . . . . die<s isti quom essent> vacui, licuit me . . . . bene st<udere et multas sententias> excerpere . . . . Vale mi bone et optime <magister. Te>, optime orator, sic m<ihi in  amicitiam> venisse gaudeo. | Domina mea te salutat.

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

“The Last Sign of Nobility”: How to Flatter Your Favorite Classicists

Sidonius, Letters 7.2

“Most learned man, I believe that I might commit a sin against learning if I procrastinate at all in offering you praise for fending off the end of all literature. When it has already been buried, you are celebrated as its reviver, its agent, and its guardian. Throughout Gaul in this tempest of wars, Latin works have gained safe harbor because you are their teacher even as Latin arms have endured disaster.

For this reason our peers and posterity should unanimously and with enthusiasm claim you as a second Demosthenes, a second Cicero, here with statues—if it is allowed—and there with portraits because your teaching has so shaped them and trained them that, even though they remain surrounded by an unconquerable and still foreign people, they safeguard the signs of their ancient birthright. For as the signs of dignity—the ways in which every noble person used to be separated from the base—become more distant the only remaining sign of nobility after this will be a literary education.

But the advantages from your teaching demand thanks from me beyond others because I am trying to compose something which people in the future might read. For a crowd of competent readers will always come from your school and your lectures. Farewell.”

  1. Credidi me, vir peritissime, nefas in studia committere, si distulissem prosequi laudibus quod aboleri tu litteras distulisti, quarum quodammodo iam sepultarum suscitator fautor assertor concelebraris, teque per Gallias uno magistro sub hac tempestate bellorum Latina tenuerunt ora portum, cum pertulerint arma naufragium. 2. debent igitur vel aequaevi vel posteri nostri universatim ferventibus votis alterum te ut Demosthenen, alterum ut Tullium nunc statuis, si liceat, consecrare, nunc imaginibus, qui te docente formati institutique iam sinu in medio sic gentis invictae, quod tamen alienae, natalium1vetustorum signa retinebunt: nam iam remotis gradibus dignitatum, per quas solebat ultimo a quoque summus quisque discerni, solum erit posthac nobilitatis indicium litteras nosse. 3. nos vero ceteros supra doctrinae tuae beneficia constringunt, quibus aliquid scribere assuetis quodque venturi legere possint elaborantibus saltim de tua schola seu magisterio competens lectorum turba proveniet. vale.

Need A New Memory Strategy for the School Year? Here’s Cicero on Simonides’ Good Fortune

Ancient memory techniques go back to oratorical training in theory, but in practice probably much further back in human history. PPhilostratus records the reputation of Dionysius of Miletus and his “memory-men”. But one of the most easily abused and likely misunderstood method from the ancient world is the “memory palace” (or “method of loci“), made famous by Cicero, but credited to the lyric poet Simonides.

Cicero De Oratore 2.352–355

“But, so I may return to the matter”, he said, “I am not as smart as Themistocles was as to prefer the art of forgetting to the art of memory. And So I am thankful to that Simonides of Ceos who, as they say, first produced an art of memory. For they say that when Simonides was dining at the home of a wealthy aristocrat named Scopas in Thessaly and had performed that song which he wrote in his honor—in which there were many segments composed for Castor and Pollux elaborated in the way of poets. Then Scopas told him cruelly that he would pay him half as much as he had promised he would give for the song; if it seemed right to him, he could ask Tyndareus’ sons for the other half since he had praised them equally.

A little while later, as they tell the tale, it was announced that Simonides should go outside—there were two young men at the door who had been calling him insistently. He rose, exited, and so no one. Meanwhile, in the same space of time, the ceiling under which Scopas was having his feast collapsed: the man was crushed by the ruins a d died with his relatives. When people wanted to bury them they could not recognize who was where because they were crushed. Simonides is said to have shown the place in which each man died from his memory for their individual burials.

From this experience, Simonides is said to have learned that it is order most of all that brings light to memory. And thus those who wish to practice this aspect of the skill must select specific places and shape in their mind the matters they wish to hold in their memory and locate these facts in those places. It will so turn out that the order of the places will safeguard the order of the matters, the reflections of the facts will remind of the facts themselves, and we may use the places like wax and the ideas like letters written upon it.”

Sed, ut ad rem redeam, non sum tanto ego, inquit, ingenio quanto Themistocles fuit, ut oblivionis artem quam memoriae malim; gratiamque habeo Simonidi illi Cio quem primum ferunt artem memoriae protulisse.  Dicunt enim cum cenaret Crannone in Thessalia Simonides apud Scopam fortunatum hominem et nobilem cecinissetque id carmen quod in eum scripsisset, in quo multa ornandi causa poetarum more in Castorem scripta et Pollucem fuissent, nimis illum sordide Simonidi dixisse se dimidium eius ei quod pactus esset pro illo carmine daturum: reliquum a suis Tyndaridis quos aeque laudasset peteret si ei videretur. Paulo post esse ferunt nuntiatum Simonidi ut prodiret: iuvenes stare ad ianuam duos quosdam qui eum magnopere evocarent; surrexisse illum, prodisse, vidisse neminem; hoc interim spatio conclave illud ubi epularetur Scopas concidisse; ea ruina ipsum cum cognatis oppressum suis interiisse; quos cum humare vellent sui neque possent obtritos internoscere ullo modo, Simonides dicitur ex eo quod meminisset quo eorum loco quisque cubuisset demonstrator uniuscuiusque sepeliendi fuisse; hac tum re admonitus invenisse fertur ordinem esse maxime qui memoriae lumen afferret. Itaque eis qui hanc partem ingeni exercerent locos esse capiendos et ea quae memoria tenere vellent effingenda animo atque in eis locis collocanda: sic fore ut ordinem rerum locorum ordo conservaret, res autem ipsas rerum effigies notaret, atque ut locis pro cera, simulacris pro litteris uteremur.

thanks to S. Raudnitz for reminding me of this passage too!

 

Image result for ancient greek memory palace medieval giulio camillo

This stuff is still popular: The Memory Theater of Guilio Camillo

As a bonus, here’s Plato for the mind and wax:

 

Plato, Theaetetus 191a

Soc. “For the sake of argument, imagine that there is a single chunk of wax in our minds, for some it is bigger, for some smaller, and for one the wax is clearer, while for another it is more contaminated and rather inflexible;  for others, in turn, the wax more pliable and even.”

Th. Ok….

Soc. Let us say that this is the gift of the Muses’ mother, Mnemosunê, and when we wish to recall something we have seen or heard or thought ourselves, we show this wax to our perceptions or thoughts and find the imprint, just as we find meaning in seal rings. Whatever is printed can be remembered and understood as long as its image persists. Whenever it is softened or cannot be recorded is forgotten and not understood.”

Soc. Θὲς δή μοι λόγου ἕνεκα ἐν ταῖς ψυχαῖς ἡμῶν ἐνὸν κήρινον ἐκμαγεῖον, τῷ μὲν μεῖζον, τῷ δ᾿ ἔλαττον, καὶ τῷ μὲν καθαρωτέρου κηροῦ, τῷ δὲ κοπρωδεστέρου, καὶ σκληροτέρου, ἐνίοις δὲ ὑγροτέρου, ἔστι δ᾿ οἷς μετρίως ἔχοντος.

ΘΕΑΙ.Τίθημι.

Soc. Δῶρον τοίνυν αὐτὸ φῶμεν εἶναι τῆς τῶν Μουσῶν μητρὸς Μνημοσύνης, καὶ ἐς τοῦτο, ὅ τι ἂν βουληθῶμεν μνημονεῦσαι ὧν ἂν ἴδωμεν ἢ ἀκούσωμεν ἢ αὐτοὶ ἐννοήσωμεν, ὑπέχοντας αὐτὸ ταῖς αἰσθήσεσι καὶ ἐννοίαις, ἀποτυποῦσθαι, ὥσπερ δακτυλίων σημεῖα ἐνσημαινομένους· καὶ ὃ μὲν ἂν ἐκμαγῇ, μνημονεύειν τε καὶ ἐπίστασθαι ἕως ἂν ἐνῇ τὸ εἴδωλον αὐτοῦ· ὃ δ᾿ ἂν ἐξαλειφθῇ ἢ μὴ οἷόν τε γένηται ἐκμαγῆναι, ἐπιλελῆσθαί τε καὶ μὴ ἐπίστασθαι.

And Quintilian trying to turn our ability to fantasize into something more ‘productive’:

Quintilian’s Inst. Orat. 6.2

“The fictions I have been talking about pursue us when our minds are at rest as empty hopes or certain daydreams so that we imagine we are on a journey, sailing, fighting, talking to new people, or distributing wealth we do not have—and we seem not to be considering but to be doing these things. Couldn’t we transfer this vice of the mind to something useful?”

quod quidem nobis volentibus facile continget; nisi vero inter otia animorum et spes inanes et velut somnia quaedam vigilantium ita nos hae de quibus loquor imagines prosecuntur ut peregrinari navigare proeliari, populos adloqui, divitiarum quas non habemus usum videamur disponere, nec cogitare sed facere, hoc animi vitium ad utilitatem non transferemus [ad hominem]

And Plutarch on the importance of memory for education

Plutarch, The Education of Children (Moralia 9)

It is especially important to train and practice children’s memory: for memory is the warehouse of learning. This is why we used to mythologize Memory as the mother of the Muses, making it clear through allegory that nothing creates and nourishes the way memory does. This should be trained in both cases, whether children have a good memory from the beginning or are naturally forgetful. For we may strengthen the inborn ability and supplement the deficiency. The first group will be better than others; but the second will be better than themselves. This is why the Hesiodic line rings true: “If you add a little by little, and you keep doing it, soon you can have something great.”

Parents should also not forget that a skill of memory contributes its great worth not only to education but to life’s actions in general. For the memory of past events becomes an example of good planning for future actions.”

Πάντων δὲ μάλιστα τὴν μνήμην τῶν παίδων ἀσκεῖν καὶ συνεθίζειν· αὕτη γὰρ ὥσπερ τῆς παιδείας ἐστὶ ταμιεῖον, καὶ διὰ τοῦτο μητέρα τῶν Μουσῶν ἐμυθολόγησαν εἶναι τὴν Μνημοσύνην, αἰνιττόμενοι καὶ παραδηλοῦντες ὅτι οὕτως οὐδὲν γεννᾶν καὶ τρέφειν ὡς ἡ μνήμη πέφυκε. καὶ τοίνυν ταύτην κατ᾿ ἀμφότερ᾿ ἐστὶν ἀσκητέον, εἴτ᾿ ἐκ φύσεως μνήμονες εἶεν οἱ παῖδες, εἴτε καὶ τοὐναντίον ἐπιλήσμονες. τὴν γὰρ πλεονεξίαν τῆς φύσεως ἐπιρρώσομεν, τὴν δ᾿ ἔλλειψιν ἀναπληρώσομεν· καὶ οἱ μὲν τῶν ἄλλων ἔσονται βελτίους, οἱ δ᾿ ἑαυτῶν. τὸ γὰρ Ἡσιόδειον καλῶς εἴρηται

εἰ γάρ κεν καὶ σμικρὸν ἐπὶ σμικρῷ καταθεῖο
καὶ θαμὰ τοῦτ᾿ ἔρδοις, τάχα κεν μέγα καὶ τὸ γένοιτο. (=Works and Days, 361-2)

μὴ λανθανέτω τοίνυν μηδὲ τοῦτο τοὺς πατέρας, ὅτι τὸ μνημονικὸν τῆς μαθήσεως μέρος οὐ μόνον πρὸς τὴν παιδείαν ἀλλὰ καὶ πρὸς τὰς τοῦ βίου πράξεις οὐκ ἐλαχίστην συμβάλλεται μοῖραν. ἡ γὰρ τῶν γεγενημένων πράξεων μνήμη τῆς περὶ τῶν μελλόντων εὐβουλίας γίγνεται παράδειγμα.

Knowing Helps and Hurts a Lot Too: Some Sayings for Back to School

These sayings [‘Apophthegmata’] are drawn from the Gnomologium Vaticanum.

470: “Socrates, when asked what is sweetest in life, said “education, virtue, and the investigation of the unknown”

Σωκράτης ὁ φιλόσοφος ἐρωτηθεὶς τί ἥδιστον ἐν τῷ βίῳ εἶπε· „παιδεία καὶ ἀρετὴ καὶ ἱστορία τῶν ἀγνοουμένων”.

 

24: “Aristippos used to say the he took money from students not in order to straighten their lives but so they might learn to spend their money on fine things.”

῾Ο αὐτὸς παρὰ τῶν μαθητῶν λαμβάνειν ἔφασκε μισθόν, οὐχ ὅπως τὸν βίον ἐπανορθώσῃ, ἀλλ’ ὅπως ἐκεῖνοι μάθωσιν εἰς τὰ καλὰ δαπανᾶν.

 

50: “Aristotle said that education is a decoration for the lucky but a refuge for the unfortunate.”

῾Ο αὐτὸς ἔφη τὴν παιδείαν εὐτυχοῦσι μὲν εἶναι όσμον, ἀτυχοῦσι δὲ καταφύγιον.

 

87: “When he was asked whom he loved more, Phillip or Aristotle, Alexander said “both the same—for the first gave me the gift of life and the second taught me to live well.”

῾Ο αὐτὸς ἐρωτηθεὶς τίνα μᾶλλον ἀγαπᾷ, Φίλιππον ἢ ᾿Αριστοτέλην, εἶπεν· „ὁμοίως ἀμφοτέρους· ὁ μὲν γάρ μοι τὸ ζῆν ἐχαρίσατο, ὁ δὲ τὸ καλῶς ζῆν ἐπαίδευσεν.”

 

164: “Glukôn the philosopher called education a sacred refuge.”

Γλύκων ὁ φιλόσοφος τὴν παιδείαν ἔλεγεν ἱερὸν ἄσυλον εἶναι.

259: “When Demetrios [of Phalerus] was asked what was the noblest of animals he said “A human adorned by education.”

῾Ο αὐτὸς ἐρωτηθεὶς τί τῶν ζώων κάλλιστόν ἐστιν εἶπεν· „ἄνθρωπος παιδείᾳ κεκοσμημένος”.

 

302: “[Zeno the Stoic] used to say that education was sufficient for happiness”

῾Ο αὐτὸς ἔφη τὴν παιδείαν πρὸς εὐδαιμονίαν αὐτάρκη.

 

314: “Heraclitus used to say that learning is a second sun for the educated”

῾Ηράκλειτος τὴν παιδείαν ἕτερον ἥλιον εἶναι τοῖς πεπαιδευμένοις ἔλεγεν.

 

439: [Plato] used to say that someone being educated needs three things: ability, practice and time.”

῾Ο αὐτὸς ἔλεγεν ὅτι ὁ παιδευόμενος τριῶν τούτων χρῄζει· φύσεως, μελέτης, χρόνου.

 

469: “[Protagoras] used to say “knowing a lot helps a lot and hurts a lot.”

῾Ο αὐτὸς ἔφη· „πολυμαθίη κάρτα μὲν ὠφελέει, κάρτα δὲ βλάπτει”.

Other passages

Euripides, Iphigenia at Aulis 559-567

“People have different natures;
They have different ways. But acting rightly
Always stands out.
The preparation of education
points the way to virtue.
For it is a mark of wisdom to feel shame
and it brings the transformative grace
of seeing through its judgment
what is right; it is reputation that grants
an ageless glory to your life.”

διάφοροι δὲ φύσεις βροτῶν,
διάφοροι δὲ τρόποι· τὸ δ’ ὀρ-
θῶς ἐσθλὸν σαφὲς αἰεί·
τροφαί θ’ αἱ παιδευόμεναι
μέγα φέρουσ’ ἐς τὰν ἀρετάν·
τό τε γὰρ αἰδεῖσθαι σοφία,
†τάν τ’ ἐξαλλάσσουσαν ἔχει
χάριν ὑπὸ γνώμας ἐσορᾶν†
τὸ δέον, ἔνθα δόξα φέρει
κλέος ἀγήρατον βιοτᾶι.

Stobaeus 2.31 88

“Diogenes used to say that educating children was similar to potters’ sculpting because they take clay that is tender and shape it and decorate it how they wish.  But once it has been fired, it can’t be shaped any longer.  This is the way it is for those who were not educated when they were children: once they are grown, they have been hardened to change.”

Διογένης ἔλεγε τὴν τῶν παίδων ἀγωγὴν ἐοικέναι τοῖς τῶν κεραμέων πλάσμασιν· ὡς γὰρ ἐκεῖνοι ἁπαλὸν μὲν τὸν πηλὸν ὄντα ὅπως θέλουσι σχηματίζουσι καὶ ῥυθμίζουσιν, ὀπτηθέντα δὲ οὐκέτι δύνανται πλάσσειν, οὕτω καὶ τοὺς ἐν νεότητι μὴ διὰ πόνων παιδαγωγηθέντας, τελείους γενομένους ἀμεταπλάστους γίνεσθαι.

Antisthenes, fr. 38

“The examination of words is the beginning of education.”

ἀρχὴ παιδεύσεως ἡ τῶν ὀνομάτων ἐπίσκεψις

Alcman, fr. 125

“Trying is the first step of learning”

πῆρά τοι μαθήσιος ἀρχά

Dionysus Thrax, On the Art of Grammar (2nd to 1st Centuries BCE; go here for a nice translation of the remaining works)

“The art of grammar is the experience-derived knowledge of how things are said, for the most part, by poets and prose authors. It has six components. First, reading out loud and by meter; second, interpretation according to customary compositional practice; third, a helpful translation of words and their meanings; fourth, an investigation of etymology; fifth, a categorization of morphologies; and sixth—which is the most beautiful portion of the art–the critical judgment of the compositions.”

Γραμματική ἐϲτιν ἐμπειρία τῶν παρὰ ποιηταῖϲ τε καὶ ϲυγγραφεῦϲιν ὡϲ ἐπὶ τὸ πολὺ λεγομένων.   Μέρη δὲ αὐτῆϲ ἐϲτιν ἕξ· πρῶτον ἀνάγνωϲιϲ ἐντριβὴϲ κατὰ προϲῳδίαν, δεύτερον ἐξήγηϲιϲ κατὰ τοὺϲ ἐνυπάρχονταϲ ποιητικοὺϲ τρόπουϲ,  τρίτον γλωϲϲῶν τε καὶ ἱϲτοριῶν πρόχειροϲ ἀπόδοϲιϲ, τέταρτον ἐτυμολογίαϲ εὕρεϲιϲ, πέμπτον ἀναλογίαϲ ἐκλογιϲμόϲ, ἕκτον κρίϲιϲ ποιημάτων, ὃ δὴ κάλλιϲτόν ἐϲτι πάντων τῶν ἐν τῇ τέχνῃ.

Sophocles, fr. 843

“I learn what can be taught; I seek what
can be found; and I ask the gods what must be prayed for.”

τὰ μὲν διδακτὰ μανθάνω, τὰ δ’ εὑρετὰ
ζητῶ, τὰ δ’ εὐκτὰ παρὰ θεῶν ᾐτησάμην

Phocylides

“It is right to teach noble things to one who is still a child”

χρὴ παῖδ᾿ ἔτ᾿ ἐόντα / καλὰ διδάσκειν ἔργα

 

Aristotle, According to Diogenes Laertius, Vitae Philosophorum 5.21

“He said that the root of education is bitter but the fruit is sweet.”

Τῆς παιδείας ἔφη τὰς μὲν ῥίζας εἶναι πικράς, τὸν δὲ καρπὸν γλυκύν.

“He used to say that three things are needed for education: innate ability, study, and practice”

τριῶν ἔφη δεῖν παιδείᾳ, φύσεως, μαθήσεως, ἀσκήσεως.

When asked what the difference was between those who were educated and those who were not, Aristotle said “as great as between the living and the dead.” He used to say that education was an ornament in good times and a refuge in bad.

ἐρωτηθεὶς τίνι διαφέρουσιν οἱ πεπαιδευμένοι τῶν ἀπαιδεύτων, “ὅσῳ,” εἶπεν, “οἱ ζῶντες τῶν τεθνεώτωντὴν παιδείαν ἔλεγεν ἐν μὲν ταῖς εὐτυχίαις εἶναι κόσμον, ἐν δὲ ταῖς ἀτυχίαις καταφυγήν

Heraclitus, fr. 40

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

πολυμαθίη νόον ἔχειν οὐ διδάσκει.

Teachers: Be Careful When You Go On Vacation

Libanius, Autobiography 90

“There was a certain Phoenician here who was valued for his technical skill—he was the son and grandson of sophists and honored for this no less than from his own words. As was the custom, this man happened to have gone home for the summer.

But after my performances speeches and everyone was leaving, letters were sent to him advising him to return to his students as quickly as possible because they were being taken from him. The letters were saying, “if you will delay, then you will come to an empty school—that’s how his Orpheus will be gone, leading everyone with him.”

Ἦν δέ τις τῇδε Φοίνιξ θαυμαζόμενος ἐπὶ τῇδε τῇ τέχνῃ, σοφιστοῦ μὲν υἱός, σοφιστοῦ δὲ υἱιδοῦς, καὶ τὸ τιμᾶσθαί γε οὐχ ἧττον ἐντεῦθεν ἦν ἢ παρὰ τῶν λόγων αὐτῷ. οὗτος νόμῳ μὲν  ὡραίας ἐτύγχανεν ἀφιγμένος οἴκαδε, δειχθέντων δέ μοι τῶν λόγων καὶ πάντων οἰχομένων γράμματα πέμπεται πρὸς ἐκεῖνον φράζοντα τὴν ταχίστην ἐπιστῆναι τοῖς νέοις ὡς ᾑρημένοις· ‘εἰ δὲ μελλήσεις,’ τὰ γράμματα ἔλεγεν, ‘ἐπὶ κενὸν ἥξεις τὸ διδασκαλεῖον. οὕτως ἅπαντας ἀπαγαγὼν ὁ Ὀρφεὺς οἰχήσεται.’

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I was kind of a big deal.

Alternative Careers: An Accidental Teacher and Scholar

Suetonius, Lives of the Grammarians 24

“Marcus Valerius Probus from Berytus tried to become a centurion for a while and then dedicated himself to study because of the waiting. He had read certain old books with his teacher in the provinces, since the memory of the ancient authors persists there and has not been completely lost as in Rome. Once he returned to these authors more carefully and then wanted to study others, he still pursued this plan even though he knew that everyone had contempt for them and those who studied them earned reproach instead of honor.

Once he obtained many copies, he took care to emend them, edit them, and provide notes for them and he committed himself to this beyond all other aspects of scholarship. Instead of students he had a few followers, for he did not teach in such away as to maintain the façade of a teacher. He used to welcome one or two, or sometimes three or four, in the afternoon hours and while reclining he could occasionally read some things among long and colloquial conversations. He published small number of short works on various minor little questions. But he also left a non insubstantial “Forest of Reflections on the Ancient Language.”

XXIV. M. Valerius Probus, Berytius, diu centuriatum petiit, donec taedio ad studia se contulit. Legerat in provincia quosdam veteres libellos apud grammatistam, durante adhuc ibi antiquorum memoria, necdum omnino abolita sicut Romae. Hos cum diligentius repeteret atque alios deinceps cognoscere cuperet, quamvis omnes contemni magisque opprobrio legentibus quam gloriae et fructui esse animadverteret, nihilo minus in proposito mansit; multaque exemplaria contracta emendare ac distinguere et annotare curavit, soli huic nec ulli praeterea grammatices parti deditus. Hic non tam discipulos quam sectatores aliquot habuit. Nunquam enim ita docuit ut magistri personam sustineret; unum et alterum, vel cum plurimos tres aut quattuor postmeridianis horis admittere solebat, cubansque inter longos ac vulgares sermones legere quaedam idque perraro. Nimis pauca et exigua de quibusdam minutis quaestiunculis edidit. Reliquit autem non mediocrem “Silvam Observationum Sermonis Antiqui.”

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Iliad vs. Odyssey? An Essential Complementarity

A few days back I ran a twitter poll setting the Iliad against the Odyssey. I figured that the Iliad would win, but I did not expect this to be as close as it was.

If we were to evaluate the popularity of the epics based on their mentions (using the Google ngram function), we would see that a few centuries ago, the Iliad had a pretty impressive lead over the Odyssey.

ngram

Here’s a different Ngram provided by Kyle Sanders ()which indicates the Odyssey overtook the Iliad in the late 1960s

NGram od 2

In the past century the mentions of the epics started to draw closer together. Is this because more people had less experience of war? Is there something more modern or simpler about the Odyssey?

the manuscript tradition for the Iliad is much better–there are more copies surviving from almost every period for which we have evidence. The epics were different enough that Samuel Butler (only partly joking) proposed that the Odyssey was composed by a woman. The epics differences were sensed in antiquity as well. Here’s how Aristotle puts it:

Aristotle, Poetics, 1459b

“for [Homer’s] two poems are complementary in structure, the Iliad being simple in plot and a poem of passion, and the Odyssey complex (it has recognitions throughout) and a poem of character; moreover they surpass all other poems in excellent of language and thought.”

πρῶτος καὶ ἱκανῶς. καὶ γὰρ τῶν ποιημάτων ἑκάτερον συνέστηκεν ἡ μὲν ᾿Ιλιὰς ἁπλοῦν καὶ παθητικόν, ἡ δὲ ᾿Οδύσσεια πεπλεγμένον (ἀναγνώρισις γὰρ διόλου) καὶ ἠθική· πρὸς δὲ τούτοις λέξει καὶ διανοίᾳ πάντα ὑπερβέβληκεν.

To pit one poem against another is, to my mind, to imagine a combat between day and night, land and sea, or life and death. These contrasts can be seen as polar–opposites canceling each other out–or they can be treated as binary where one can only exist because the other is there first. But it may be best not to think of them at all in terms of opposition, but instead as contrastive complements. This works on the level of content:

“This complementarity extends into other areas too. The so-called Monro’s Law states that the Odyssey never refers to any incident recounted in the Iliad, which at the very least strongly suggests that the Odyssey knew of the Iliad and deliberately stayed off its territory. Indeed, at the times when the Odyssey threatens to sing of Iliadic material, the moments are marked as highly problematic.” Barker and Christensen 2013

For all the years I have taught Homer in literature and myth courses, I have emphasized their complementarity in slightly different ways. Sometimes, I follow Aristotle’s emphasis on plots, pointing out that the Iliad ends in a funeral and the Odyssey ends in a wedding, anticipating in turn the plot structures of tragedy and comedy respectively. At other times, I have instead described the Iliad as a poem of death and the Odyssey as a poem of life. The former explores what is (and mostly what isn’t) worth fighting and dying for; the latter helps s understand what we live for and who we are outside of war.

Together, the epics teach how to live and how to die. One is essentially and forever incomplete without the other. But in concert, they reflect on the totality of life. (And I am so bold as to believe that this characteristic is part of why these two epics surpassed all others and survived antiquity: any other epic from their period would have been redundant).

I spent the first decade or more of my study of Homer passionately dedicated to the Iliad. I started working on the Odyssey primarily because I found students responding to it more easily than to the Iliad. I also grew more interested in how that epic engaged with other traditions, specifically those of Thebes and the so-called epic cycle. And then, when writing an introductory book about the epic with my friend Elton Barker, I was forced to think more deeply about the Telemachy and the importance of the reunions in epic’s second half.

But what really changed my relationship with the Odyssey was my own life. When I was writing on the Iliad in the 2000s, we were living a new state of war, sending our soldiers from the west to kill and be killed in a dwindling “coalition of the willing” in the east. The Iliad made sense to me. I used to mock the Odyssey too as that ‘other’ epic.

In 2010-11, I taught that other epic three times. We also welcomed two children into the world and lost my father to a sudden sickness in between. There is nothing like losing a parent and becoming one in the same year to force a reconsideration of life. These years also marked half a decade in Texas and a decade since I left New England. The Odyssey‘s exploration of who we are and nostalgia started to resonate with me like never before.

But I also started to see more in the epic itself. If the Iliad is a raging maelstrom of fire and blood, the Odyssey is a lit fuse which may or may not ever lead to a detonation. If the Iliad is loud and brash and confusing, the Odyssey is so subtle that many of us make the mistake of thinking it is simple. It is extremely sensitive to human mental function, to how we create ourselves through narrative, and to the therapeutic function of stories.

In antiquity, traditions of allegory were extremely influential among various approaches to the epics. Among these, one of my favorite readings of the epics as complements frames one as a narrative concerned with the development and excellence of the body and the other about the virtues of the mind.

Pseudo-Plutarch, De Homero 31–32

“Of these poems, the Iliad features the acts of the Greeks and the Barbarians over the abduction of Helen, especially the valor demonstrated by Achilles in that war; the Odyssey details Odysseus’ return home from the Trojan War and how much he endured wandering during his nostos and how he avenged himself on those plotting against him in his home. From these summaries it is clear that the Iliad is really about the bravery of the body while the Odyssey concerns the nobility of the soul.

It is not right to fault the poet if he does not only present virtues in his poem, but includes as well weaknesses of spirit, pains, pleasures, fears and desires. For it is necessary that the poet show not just noble characters but weak ones too—without these unexpected accomplishments do not appear—from all of these it is possible that an audience will choose the better ones.”

ὧν ἡ μὲν ᾿Ιλιὰς ἔχει τὰς ἐν ᾿Ιλίῳ πράξεις ῾Ελλήνων τε καὶ βαρβάρων διὰ τὴν ῾Ελένης ἁρπαγὴν καὶ μάλιστα τὴν ᾿Αχιλλέως ἐν τῷ πολέμῳ τούτῳ διαδειχθεῖσαν ἀλκήν, ἡ δὲ ᾿Οδύσσεια τὴν ᾿Οδυσσέως ἀνακομιδὴν εἰς τὴν πατρίδα ἀπὸ τοῦ Τρωικοῦ πολέμου καὶ ὅσα πλανώμενος ἐν τῷ νόστῳ ὑπέμεινε καὶ ὅπως τοὺς ἐπιβουλεύοντας τῷ οἴκῳ αὐτοῦ ἐτιμωρήσατο. ἐξ ὧν δῆλός ἐστι παριστὰς διὰ μὲν τῆς ᾿Ιλιάδος ἀνδρείαν σώματος, διὰ δὲ τῆς ᾿Οδυσσείας ψυχῆς γενναιότητα.

     Εἰ δὲ μὴ μόνον ἀρετὰς ἀλλὰ καὶ κακίας ψυχῆς ἐν ταῖς ποιήσεσι παρίστησι, λύπας τε καὶ χαρὰς καὶ φόβους καὶ ἐπιθυμίας, οὐ χρὴ αἰτιᾶσθαι τὸν ποιητήν· <ποιητὴν> γὰρ ὄντα δεῖ μιμεῖσθαι οὐ μόνον τὰ χρηστὰ ἤθη ἀλλὰ καὶ τὰ φαῦλα (ἄνευ γὰρ τούτων παράδοξοι πράξεις  οὐ συνίστανται), ὧν ἀκούοντα ἔνεστιν αἱρεῖσθαι τὰ βελτίω.

Of course, not all contrasts made between the two epics were positive. (Pseudo)-Longinus believed that the differences in the poem were results of the senility of the Iliad poet as he turned to the Odyssey.

From (Ps.) Longinus On the Sublime, 9.11-13

“Nevertheless, all through the Odyssey, which must be examined for many reasons, Homer reveals that as great inspiration fades away, storytelling becomes the dominant attribute of old age. For it is clear in many ways that this epic was composed second. Throughout the Odyssey we find episodes modeled on scenes from the Iliad, and, by Zeus, he apportions his heroes grief and misery as if these tales were long already known. The Odyssey is nothing other than an epilogue to the Iliad:

There lies fierce Ajax; here lies Achilles
There likes Patroklos, an advisor equal to the gods,
There lies my own dear son. (Od. 3.109-111)

The cause of this fact, I imagine, is that when the Iliad was being written at the peak of his strength, Homer imbued the whole work with dramatic power and action; when he was composing the Odyssey, however, he made it more of a narrative, as appropriate for old age. For this reason, you can compare the Odyssey’s Homer to a setting sun: the magnitude remains without its power.  Since, in it, he no longer preserves the same power of the Iliad, that overwhelming consistency which never ebbs, nor the same rush of changing experiences, the variety and reality of it, packed full with things from true experience. It is as if the Ocean were to withdraw into itself, quietly watching its own measure. What remains for us is the retreating tide of Homer’s genius, his wandering in storytelling and unbelievable things. When I claim this, I am not forgetting the storms in the Odyssey and the events placed near the Kyklopes and elsewhere—I am indicating old age, but it is still Homer’s old age. And, yet, the mythical overpowers in every one of these scenes.”

δείκνυσι δ’ ὅμως διὰ τῆς ᾿Οδυσσείας (καὶ γὰρ ταῦτα πολλῶν ἕνεκα προσεπιθεωρητέον), ὅτι μεγάλης φύσεως ὑποφερομένης ἤδη ἴδιόν ἐστιν ἐν γήρᾳ τὸ φιλόμυθον. δῆλος γὰρ ἐκ πολλῶν τε ἄλλων συντεθεικὼς ταύτην δευτέραν τὴν ὑπόθεσιν, ἀτὰρ δὴ κἀκ τοῦ λείψανα τῶν ᾿Ιλιακῶν παθημάτων διὰ τῆς ᾿Οδυσσείας

ὡς ἐπεισόδιά τινα [τοῦ Τρωικοῦ πολέμου] προσεπεισφέρειν, καὶ νὴ Δί’ ἐκ τοῦ τὰς ὀλοφύρσεις καὶ τοὺς οἴκτους ὡς πάλαι που  προεγνωσμένοις τοῖς ἥρωσιν ἐνταῦθα προσαποδιδόναι. οὐ γὰρ ἀλλ’ ἢ τῆς ᾿Ιλιάδος ἐπίλογός ἐστιν ἡ ᾿Οδύσσεια·

ἔνθα μὲν Αἴας κεῖται ἀρήιος, ἔνθα δ’ ᾿Αχιλλεύς,
ἔνθα δὲ Πάτροκλος, θεόφιν μήστωρ ἀτάλαντος·
ἔνθα δ’ ἐμὸς φίλος υἱός.

ἀπὸ δὲ τῆς αὐτῆς αἰτίας, οἶμαι, τῆς μὲν ᾿Ιλιάδος γραφομένης ἐν ἀκμῇ πνεύματος ὅλον τὸ σωμάτιον δραματικὸν ὑπεστήσατο καὶ ἐναγώνιον, τῆς δὲ ᾿Οδυσσείας τὸ πλέον διηγηματικόν, ὅπερ ἴδιον γήρως. ὅθεν ἐν τῇ ᾿Οδυσσείᾳ παρεικάσαι τις ἂν καταδυομένῳ τὸν ῞Ομηρον ἡλίῳ, οὗ δίχα τῆς σφοδρότητος παραμένει τὸ μέγεθος. οὐ γὰρ ἔτι τοῖς ᾿Ιλιακοῖς ἐκείνοις ποιήμασιν ἴσον ἐνταῦθα σῴζει τὸν τόνον, οὐδ’ ἐξωμαλισμένα τὰ ὕψη καὶ ἱζήματα μηδαμοῦ λαμβάνοντα, οὐδὲ τὴν πρόχυσιν ὁμοίαν τῶν ἐπαλλήλων παθῶν, οὐδὲ τὸ ἀγχίστροφον καὶ πολιτικὸν καὶ ταῖς ἐκ τῆς

ἀληθείας φαντασίαις καταπεπυκνωμένον· ἀλλ’ οἷον ὑποχωροῦντος εἰς ἑαυτὸν᾿Ωκεανοῦ καὶ περὶ τὰ ἴδια μέτρα †ἐρημουμένου τὸ λοιπὸν φαίνονται τοῦ μεγέθους ἀμπώτιδες κἀν τοῖς μυθώδεσι καὶ ἀπίστοις πλάνος. λέγων δὲ ταῦτ’ οὐκ ἐπιλέλησμαι τῶν ἐν τῇ ᾿Οδυσσείᾳ χειμώνων καὶ τῶν περὶ τὸν Κύκλωπα καί τινων ἄλλων, ἀλλὰ γῆρας διηγοῦμαι, γῆρας δ’ ὅμως ῾Ομήρου· πλὴν ἐν ἅπασι τούτοις ἑξῆς τοῦ πρακτικοῦ κρατεῖ τὸ μυθικόν.

I think Longinus is on to something here. But rather than being a sign of senility, the Odyssey‘s differences are indications of maturity. I don’t mean ‘mature’ as a sign of greater progress, necessarily; but I mean that the Odyssey is a poem that appeals more to those who have lived more in life, who have, like its hero, “suffered much on the seas and learned the minds of many people”.

So, if I had to save only 1, I would save the Odyssey, not because it is better than or superior to the Iliad but because its existence presupposes the existence of the other. And, one is, for better or worse, currently more meaningful to me.

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