The Athenians are Nice! (A Roman Writes From Athens)

Cicero, Letters to Atticus, 5.10 27 (June 51)

“What else besides? Nothing really except for this. Athens has been a delight to me, when it comes to the city and its decoration and the love that its people show you, a certain kind of goodwill they have for us. But many things have been changed and philosophy is disordered this way and that. If there is anything left, it is Aristos’ and I am staying with him.

I left your, or rather ‘our’, friend Zeno to Quintus even though he is close enough that we are together the whole day. I wish that you will write me of your plans as soon as you can so I may know what you are doing and where you will be at which time and, especially, when you will be in Rome.

Quid est praeterea? nihil sane nisi illud: valde me Athenae delectarunt, urbe dumtaxat et urbis ornamento et hominum amore in te, in nos quadam benevolentia; sed mu<tata mu>lta.6 philosophia sursum deorsum. si quid est, est in Aristo, apud quem eram; nam Xenonem tuum vel nostrum potius Quinto concesseram, et tamen propter vicinitatem totos dies simul eramus. tu velim cum primum poteris tua consilia ad me scribas, ut sciam quid agas, ubi quoque tempore, maxime quando Romae futurus sis.

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The Roman Agora

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

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Athens: Sometimes You Want to Go Where Nobody Knows Your Name

Valerius Maximus, 8 ext 5: Democritus Unknown in Athens

“Democritus could have been esteemed for his wealth which was so immense that his father was able to provide a feast to all of Xerxes’ army with ease. In order that he might focus a free mind on the study of literature, he donated his wealth to his country keeping only a very small part for himself.

Even though he stayed in Athens for many years and dedicated himself to gathering and using knowledge, he lived unknown in the city, which he attests too in a certain book. My mind is awestruck with admiration of such a work ethic. And now it moves to something else.”

Democritus, cum divitiis censeri posset, quae tantae fuerunt ut pater eius Xerxis exercitui epulum dare ex facili potuerit, quo magis vacuo animo studiis litterarum esset operatus, parva admodum summa retenta patrimonium suum patriae donavit. Athenis autem compluribus annis moratus, omnia temporum momenta ad percipiendam et exercendam doctrinam conferens, ignotus illi urbi vixit, quod ipse quodam volumine testatur. stupet mens admiratione tantae industriae et iam transit alio.

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Cicero: When I Think of Greece, I Think of Athens

Cicero, Brutus 26.7

“Greece is the witness to this because it was set aflame with a desire for eloquence and has surpassed in it and exceeded other places But Greece also has greater antiquity in all arts which it not only discovered but perfected because the power and abundance of speaking was developed by the Greeks. When I consider Greece, Atticus, your Athens occurs to me especially and shines out like a lighthouse. It is here that an orator first showed himself and here that oratory began to be entrusted to monuments and writings.”

vii. Testis est Graecia, quae cum eloquentiae studio sit incensa iamdiuque excellat in ea praestetque ceteris, tamen omnis artis vetustiores habet et multo ante non inventas solum sed etiam perfectas, quam haec est a Graecis elaborata dicendi vis atque copia. In quam cum intueor, maxime mihi occurrunt, Attice, et quasi lucent Athenae tuae, qua in urbe primum se orator extulit primumque etiam monumentis et litteris oratio est coepta mandari.

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Cicero: I Love Athens, Let Me Change It

Cicero, Letters 6.1 20 Feb 50

“I wish you’d think about one thing also. I am hearing that Appius is building a gateway at Eleusis. Would we be fools if we made one at the Academia too? “I think so” you will answer. But, still, then—write this to me. I really do love Athens itself. I want there to be some memento in the city and I hate lying inscriptions on other’s statues. But do what pleases you. And let me know what day the Roman mysteries indicate and how the winter has been. Take care of yourself.”

Unum etiam velim cogites. audio Appium πρόπυλον Eleusine facere; num inepti fuerimus si nos quoque Aca<de>miae fecerimus? ‘puto’ inquies. ergo id ipsum scribes ad me. equidem valde ipsas Athenas amo; volo esse aliquod monumentum, odi falsas inscriptiones statuarum alienarum, sed ut tibi placebit, faciesque me in quem diem Romana incidant mysteria certiorem et quo modo hiemaris. cura ut valeas.

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Arch of Hadrian in Athens

Idiot Words

 

From the Suda

Idiôtai: Private individuals, used in place of citizens [politai]. This is how Thucydides uses it. But in the Frogs, Aristophanes calls idiots the people who are your own—“regarding strangers and idiots. It is derived from the word idios. And so idiôtês is what they call someone who is related to you by clan; but it is also an unlearned person. And in his Wealth, Aristophanes also uses idiôtikon as that which belongs to a person privately or idion as one’s own.

᾿Ιδιῶται: ἀντὶ τοῦ πολῖται. οὕτως Θουκυδίδης. ᾿Αριστοφάνης δὲ ἐν Βατράχοις ἰδιώτας τοὺς ἰδίους λέγει· περὶ τοὺς ξένους καὶ τοὺς ἰδιώτας· κατὰ παραγωγὴν ἴδιος, ἰδιώτης. ἰδιώτης δὲ λέγεται, ὁ πρὸς γένος ἴδιος, καὶ ὁ ἀμαθής. καὶ ἐν Πλούτῳ ἴδιον τὸ ἰδιωτικόν φησιν.

Some Words

ἰδιάζω: “to live as a private person”

ἰδιασμός: “peculiarity”

ἰδιόβιος: “living by or for oneself”

ἰδιόγλωσσος: “of distinct, peculiar tongue”

ἰδιογνώμων: “private opinion”

ἰδιοθανέω: “to die in a peculiar way”

ἰδιολογία: “private conversation”

ἰδιοξενία: “private friendship”

ἰδιοπάθεια: “feeling for oneself alone”

Also from the Suda

Idiôtês: someone who is illiterate. Damaskios writes about Isidore: “of all the idiots and all the philosophers of his time he was equally tight-lipped generally and he hid his thoughts. But he poured his mind out into the shared increase of virtue and the limit of vice.

᾿Ιδιώτης: ὁ ἀγράμματος. Δαμάσκιος περὶ ᾿Ισιδώρου φησί·  πάντων τῶν καθ’ αὑτὸν ἰδιωτῶν ὁμοίως καὶ φιλοσόφων ἐχέμυθος ἐς τὰ μάλιστα καὶ κρυψίνους ἦν, ἀλλ’ εἴς γε συναύξησιν τῆς ἀρετῆς καὶ τῆς κακίας μείωσιν ὅλην ἐξεκέχυτο τὴν ψυχήν.

Some More Words

ἰδιοποιέω: “to make separately” in the middle: “to appropriate to oneself”

ἰδιόσημος: “peculiar in signification”

ἰδιόστολος: “equipt at private expense”

ἰδιοσύγκριτος: “Peculiarly composed”

ἰδιόφωνος: “with one’s own voice”

ἰδιοφυής: “of peculiar nature”

ἰδιόχειρος: “written by one’s own hand”

ἰδίωμα: “a peculiarity”

Andocides, On His Return 2

“These men must be the dumbest of all people or they are the most inimical to the state. If they believe that it is also better for their private affairs when the state does well, then they are complete fools in pursuing something opposite to their own advantage right now. If they do not believe that they share common interests with you, then they must be enemies of the state”

δεῖ γὰρ αὐτοὺς ἤτοι ἀμαθεστάτους εἶναι πάντων ἀνθρώπων, ἢ τῇ πόλει ταύτῃ δυσμενεστάτους. εἰ μέν γε νομίζουσι τῆς πόλεως εὖ πραττούσης καὶ τὰ ἴδια σφῶν αὐτῶν ἄμεινον ἂν φέρεσθαι, ἀμαθέστατοί εἰσι τὰ ἐναντία νῦν τῇ ἑαυτῶν ὠφελείᾳ σπεύδοντες· εἰ δὲ μὴ ταὐτὰ ἡγοῦνται σφίσι τε αὐτοῖς συμφέρειν καὶ τῷ ὑμετέρῳ κοινῷ, δυσμενεῖς ἂν τῇ πόλει εἶεν·

Still, More Words

ἰδιωματικός: “characteristic”

ἰδίωσις: “distinction between things”

ἰδιωτεία: “private life or business”

ἰδιωτεύω: “to be a private person”

ἰδιώτης: “a private person, an individual” 2cL “unpracticed, unskilled, ignoant, ill-informed”

ἰδιωτίζω, “to put into a common language”

ἰδιωτικός: “of or for a private person”; 2: “unprofessional, rude”

ἰδιώτις: “inconsiderable”

ἰδιωτισμός: “the way or fashion of a common person”

ἰδιωφελής: “privately profitable”

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Epictetus, Encheiridion, 48

“The state and character of an ‘idiot’ is this: he never expects harm or help from himself, but he always looks elsewhere. This is the state and character of a philosopher: he expects all help and harm to come from himself

These are signs of someone making progress: he blames no one; praises no one; criticizes no one; impugns no one; and says nothing about himself as if he were someone or knew something. Whenever he meets an obstacle or is held back, he takes the blame. Whenever anyone praises him, he chuckles to himself while they praise. If someone criticizes him, he offers no defense. He proceeds just like the feeble, taking care not to disturb anything he is developing before it grows firm.

He has banished every desire from himself and he has admitted to disinclination only those aspects of nature which are under our control, He applies a disinterested impulse toward all things. Should he seem to be simple or unlearned, he doesn’t care. In sum, he guards against himself as if he were an enemy conspirator.”

48. Ἰδιώτου στάσις καὶ χαρακτήρ· οὐδέποτε ἐξ ἑαυτοῦ προσδοκᾷ ὠφέλειαν ἢ βλάβην, ἀλλ᾿ ἀπὸ τῶν ἔξω. φιλοσόφου στάσις καὶ χαρακτήρ· πᾶσαν ὠφέλειαν καὶ βλάβην ἐξ ἑαυτοῦ προσδοκᾷ.

Σημεῖα προκόπτοντος· οὐδένα ψέγει, οὐδένα ἐπαινεῖ, οὐδένα μέμφεται, οὐδενὶ ἐγκαλεῖ, οὐδὲν περὶ ἑαυτοῦ λέγει ὡς ὄντος τινὸς ἢ εἰδότος τι. ὅταν ἐμποδισθῇ τι ἢ κωλυθῇ, ἑαυτῷ ἐγκαλεῖ. κἄν τις αὐτὸν ἐπαινῇ, καταγελᾷ τοῦ ἐπαινοῦντος αὐτὸς παρ᾿ ἑαυτῷ· κἂν ψέγῃ, οὐκ ἀπολογεῖται. περίεισι δὲ καθάπερ οἱ ἄρρωστοι, εὐλαβούμενός τι κινῆσαι τῶν καθισταμένων, πρὶν πῆξιν λαβεῖν.

ὄρεξιν ἅπασαν ἦρκεν ἐξ ἑαυτοῦ· τὴν δ᾿ ἔκκλισιν εἰς μόνα τὰ παρὰ φύσιν τῶν ἐφ᾿ ἡμῖν μετατέθεικεν. ὁρμῇ πρὸς ἅπαντα ἀνειμένῃ χρῆται. ἂν ἠλίθιος ἢ ἀμαθὴς δοκῇ, οὐ πεφρόντικεν. ἑνί τε λόγῳ, ὡς ἐχθρὸν ἑαυτὸν παραφυλάσσει καὶ ἐπίβουλον.

From Beekes 2010

idiot

 

 

Two Weeks of Posts on India

For the past two weeks I have been traveling in India for a family wedding. It has been busy, but jetlag and odd hours didn’t keep me from reading about India in Greek sources. There is a surprising amount of material–most of it positioning India as ‘exotic’ and ‘mystic’ the way many Western stereotypes do. I barely touched the fragments of Megasthenes; I didn’t cite much from Strabo; and I didn’t even begin to introduce Roman sources (Pliny the Elder has a lot to say).

And there are even more Greek sources! The Byzantine author Photius summarizes the work of Megasthenes and Ctesias on India. This leaves us with records of three Indica: Arrian’s, Megasthenes’, and Ctesias, whose account would be the oldest (it is allegedly based on accounts he heard from the Persians when he traveled with the expedition of Cyrus, c. 401 BCE).

To be honest, there is a lot more material on India from the ancient world than I expected even without Roman accounts and the fantastic Alexander romance.  I am surprised that there isn’t a monograph already published on the subject! But I suspect that other than being chock-full of titillating details, a monograph couldn’t say much more than India is the exotic other in the Greco-Roman mind: a binary, rather than polar, opposite, occupying a space between the fantasy and reality, between history and fiction. In a way, ‘India’ in the Greco-Roman mind might not be qualitatively different from ‘India’ in Western pop-culture today.

Here’s another dose:

Photius, Bilbiotheca, 72. 46b (=Ctesias of Cnidos)

“[Ctesias says that] in the middle of India there are black men who are called Pygmies and have the same language as other Indians, but they are really small. The tallest of them are only two cubits, but most of them only one and a half. They have extremely long hair, down to their knees and lower, and the largest beards of all men. When they grow their beards long, they don’t wear clothing anymore, but they wrap their hair around them from their head and fasten it below their knees and arrange their beard in the front down near their feet, essentially using their hair to cover their bodies instead of clothing.”

῞Οτι μέσῃ τῇ ᾿Ινδικῇ ἄνθρωποί εἰσι μέλανες (καλοῦνται Πυγμαῖοι) ὁμόγλωσσοι τοῖς ἄλλοις ᾿Ινδοῖς. Μικροὶ δέ εἰσι λίαν· οἱ μακρότατοι αὐτῶν πηχέων δύο, οἱ δὲ πλεῖστοι, ἑνὸς ἡμίσεος πήχεος. Κόμην δὲ ἔχουσι μακροτάτην μέχρις ἐπὶ τὰ γόνατα καὶ ἔτι κατώτερον, καὶ πώγωνα μέγιστον πάντων ἀνθρώπων. ᾿Επειδὰν οὖν τὸν πώγονα μέγα φύσωσιν, οὐκέτι ἀμφιέννυνται οὐδὲν ἱμάτιον, ἀλλὰ τὰς τρίχας, τὰς μὲν ἐκ τῆς κεφαλῆς ὄπισθεν καθίενται πολὺ κάτω τῶν γονάτων, τὰς δὲ ἐκ τοῦ πώγωνος ἔμπροσθεν μέχρι ποδῶν ἑλκομένας, ἔπειτα περιπυκασάμενοι τὰς τρίχας περὶ ἅπαν τὸ σῶμα, ζώννυνται χρώμενοι αὐταῖς ἀντὶ ἱματίου.

Here’s a list of the posts.

The Curious Case of Herodotus’ India (Gold-digging ants)

Alexander and the Gymno-Sophists 1 (Herodotus)

Alexander the Great, Philosopher (King?)

Alexander and the Talking Trees (The Alexander Romance)

Alexander Elephant

Indian Cotton from a Greek Perspective (Arrian)

The Suda’s Somewhat Offensive Comments on India

Dionysus and Indian Cities/Agriculture (Arrian)

Herakles and Indian Pearls (Arrian)

Herakles and Indian Marriage Rites (Arrian)

Indian Rivers and Cities (Arrian)

Gymno-sophists, Part 2 (Arrian)

Laws Against Inter-caste Marriage (Arrian)

Indian Elephants and Soothing Music (Aelian)

A Greek Account of Indian Rice (Athenaeus)

The dog-headed people of India (Ctesias)

Truth -Serum and Magic Cheese

Thank you, India?