Tuesday, May 31, 2016


Beyond the World of Time and Change

A.J. Toynbee (1889-1975), The Tragedy of Greece: A Lecture Delivered for the Professor of Greek to Candidates for Honours in Literae Humaniores at Oxford in May 1920 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1921), p. 12:
Certainly I found, in the worst moments of the war, that passages from the classics—some line of Aeschylus or Lucretius or Virgil, or the sense of some speech in Thucydides, or the impression of some mood of bitterness or serenity in a dialogue of Plato—would come into my mind and give me relief. I felt that these men had travelled along the road on which our feet were set; that they had travelled it farther than we, travelled it to the end; and that the wisdom of greater experience and the poignancy of greater suffering than ours was expressed in the beauty of their words. Personally I got that relief from acquaintance with Greek civilization as expressed in Greek literature, and I got it because it put me in communication with a different civilization from our own—with people who had experienced all and more than we had experienced, and who were now at peace beyond the world of time and change.


Out of Control

Vergil, Georgics 1.510-514 (tr. H. Rushton Fairclough):
Breaking the covenants which bind them, neighbouring cities
draw the sword; the god of unholy strife rages throughout the world,
even as when from the starting gates the chariots stream forth
and gather speed lap by lap, while the driver, tugging vainly at the reins,
is carried along by his steeds, and the car heeds not the curb!

vicinae ruptis inter se legibus urbes
arma ferunt; saevit toto Mars impius orbe:
ut cum carceribus sese effudere quadrigae,
addunt in spatia, et frustra retinacula tendens
fertur equis auriga neque audit currus habenas.


A Cold, Severe, Watchful Calculation of Probabilities

Charles Badham (1813-1884), ed., The Philebus of Plato, 2nd ed. (London: Williams and Norgate, 1878), pp. 21-22:
I have known critics to be charged with making difficulties and fancying faults for the pleasure of displaying their ingenuity in conjecture. The charge shows a thorough ignorance of the very frame of mind in which a critical scholar is obliged to work: such an one well knows that, if he durst so tamper with his own sense of truth, he would most certainly and speedily injure the one instrument on which he relies for success, his judgment. Others there are who treat all conjecturing as at best an effort of wit, and a pretty pastime. Such persons seem not to have considered that, if the ἄπειρον of verbal criticism consists of changes of similar letters and compendia, transpositions, bracketings and indications of hiatus, the πέρας which is to bring these elements to a γένεσις is, not a dithyrambic ecstasy which exults in its own contortions and tosses about wildly whatever it picks up, but a cold, severe, watchful calculation of probabilities, which shuns all outbreaks of fancy as interruptions of its work. But why should any one try to expostulate with the gainsayers? Some of them are too ignorant of the language to see any faults, and therefore cannot see the use of corrections. And yet it is useless to tell them so, for they can count on the applause of the many hundred minds which they have perverted. Some have tried verbal criticism and failed; and hate the pursuit which would not gratify their vanity and yield them fame. Let us dismiss the former with:
εὐδαιμονίζων ὄχλος ἐξέπληξέ σε.
and the latter with:
ἀπόλωλεν ἁλήθει᾿, ἐπεὶ σὺ δυστυχεῖς;
Both of the quotations are from Euripides, The former is fragment 783a (Calling you happy, the crowd drove you out of your senses), and the latter is Phoenician Women 922 (Has truth perished because you are unlucky?).



Jerome Carcopino, Daily Life In Ancient Rome. Edited with Bibliography and Notes by Henry T. Rowell...Translated from the French by E.O. Lorimer (London: George Routledge & Sons, Ltd., 1941), p. 271, with note on p. 318:
As among the Arabs still, belching was considered a politeness, justified by philosophers who thought the highest wisdom was to follow the dictates of nature.161

161. Cicero, Ad Fam. X [sic, read IX] 22, 5; Juvenal, 3, 107; Martial, X 48, 10; Pliny, Panegyricus 49.
Gilbert Highet, "Petronius the Moralist," Transactions and Proceedings of the American Philological Association 72 (1941) 176-194 (at 178, n. 14), rpt. in his Classical Papers (New York: Columbia University Press, 1983), pp. 191-209 (at 193-194), criticizing Carcopino:
The same savant informs us (p. 271) that belching at table was good manners in Rome. He supports this remarkable assertion by quoting Cic. Fam. 9.22.5, Juv. 3.107, and Plin. Paneg. 49, which prove the exact opposite.
Cicero, Letters to Friends 9.22.5 (to L. Papirius Paetus; tr. D.R. Shackleton Bailey, with his note):
So there you have a Stoic lecture: 'The Sage will call a spade a spade.' What a multitude of words out of one of yours, to be sure! I like you to have no inhibitions when you are addressing me. For myself, I adhere (and shall so continue, since it is my habit) to the modesty of Plato. That is why I have written to you in guarded language on a theme which the Stoics handle with complete freedom. But they also say that we ought to break wind and belch with equal unconstraint. So let us respect the Kalends of March!15

15 The date of the Matronalia, the festival of married women, on which husbands and lovers gave presents to their ladies.

habes scholam Stoicam: ὁ σοφὸς εὐθυρρημονήσει. quam multa ex uno verbo tuo! te adversus me omnia audere gratum est; ego servo et servabo (sic enim adsuevi) Platonis verecundiam. itaque tectis verbis ea ad te scripsi, quae apertissimis agunt Stoici ; sed illi etiam crepitus aiunt aeque liberos ac ructus esse oportere. honorem igitur Kalendis Martiis.
Juvenal, 3.104-108 (tr. Susanna Morton Braund):
So we are not on a par. He's always ahead because, day or night, he can take his expression from someone else's face: he's ready to throw up his hands and cheer if his friend belches nicely or pisses straight or if the golden cup gives a fart when it's turned upside-down.

non sumus ergo pares: melior, qui semper et omni
nocte dieque potest aliena sumere vultum
a facie, iactare manus laudare paratus,
si bene ructavit, si rectum minxit amicus,
si trulla inverso crepitum dedit aurea fundo.
Martial 10.48.7-10 (tr. D.R. Shackleton Bailey):
The bailiff's wife has brought me mallows to relieve the stomach and the garden's various wealth. There is sessile lettuce and clipped leeks, belching mint is not to seek, nor the salacious herb.

exoneraturas ventrem mihi vilica malvas
    attulit et varias quas habet hortus opes,
in quibus est lactuca sedens et tonsile porrum,
    nec deest ructatrix mentha nec herba salax.
Pliny, Panegyric 49.6 (tr. Betty Radice):
You do not arrive already gorged with a solitary feast before midday, to sit menacingly over your guests, watching and marking all they do, nor when they are fasting and hungry do you belch from a full stomach and present or rather throw at them the food you disdain to touch, and after a pretence at enduring this insulting mockery of a banquet take yourself back to secret gluttony and private excesses.

non enim ante medium diem distentus solitaria cena, spectator adnotatorque convivis tuis immines, nec ieiunis et inanibus plenus ipse et eructans non tam adponis quam obicis cibos quos dedigneris attingere, aegreque perpessus superbam illam convictus simulationem, rursus te ad clandestinam ganeam occultumque luxum refers.

Jonathan Swift (1667-1745), A Tale of a Tub, Sect. VIII:
In consequence of this, their next principle was, that man brings with him into the world, a peculiar portion or grain of wind, which may be called a quinta essentia, extracted from the other four. This quintessence is of a catholic use upon all emergencies of life, is improveable into all arts and sciences, and may be wonderfully refined, as well as enlarged, by certain methods in education. This, when blown up to its perfection, ought not to be covetously hoarded up, stifled, or hid under a bushel, but freely communicated to mankind. Upon these reasons, and others of equal weight, the wise Æolists affirm the gift of BELCHING to be the noblest act of a rational creature. To cultivate which art, and render it more serviceable to mankind, they made use of several methods. At certain seasons of the year, you might behold the priests among them, in vast numbers, with their mouths gaping wide enough against a storm. At other times were to be seen several hundreds linked together in a circular chain, with every man a pair of bellows applied to his neighbour's breech, by which they blew up each other to the shape and size of a tun; and for that reason, with great propriety of speech, did usually call their bodies, their vessels. When, by these and the like performances, they were grown sufficiently replete, they would immediately depart, and disembogue, for the public good, a plentiful share of their acquirements, into their disciples' chaps.

Monday, May 30, 2016



R.S. Surtees (1805-1864), Jorrocks's Jaunts and Jollities, new ed. (London: George Routledge and Sons, 1874), pp. 63-64:
It was a nice comfortable-looking place, with a blazing fire, half the floor covered with an old oil-cloth, and the rest exhibiting the cheerless aspect of the naked flags. About a yard and a half from the fire was placed the breakfast-table; in the centre stood a magnificent uncut ham, with a great quartern loaf on one side and a huge Bologna sausage on the other; besides these there were nine eggs, two pyramids of muffins, a great deal of toast, a dozen ship-biscuits, and half a pork-pie, while a dozen kidneys were spluttering on a spit before the fire, and Betsy held a gridiron covered with mutton-chops on the top; altogether there was as much as would have served ten people. "Now, sit down," said Jorrocks, "and let us be doing, for I am as hungry as a hunter. Hope you are peckish too; what shall I give you? tea or coffee?—but take both—coffee first and tea after a bit. If I can't give you them good, don't know who can. You must pay your devours, as we say in France, to the 'am, for it is an especial fine one, and do take a few eggs with it; there, I've not given you above a pound of 'am, but you can come again, you know— 'waste not want not.' Now take some muffins, do, pray. Batsey, bring some more cream, and set the kidneys on the table, the Yorkshireman is getting nothing to eat. Have a chop with your kidney, werry luxterous—I could eat an elephant stuffed with grenadiers, and wash them down with a ocean of tea; but pray lay in to the breakfast, or I shall think you don't like it. There, now take some tea and toast or one of those biscuits, or whatever you like; would a little more 'am be agreeable? Batsey, run into the larder and see if your Missis left any of that cold chine of pork last night—and hear, bring the cold goose, and any cold flesh you can lay hands on, there are really no wittles on the table. I am quite ashamed to set you down to such a scanty fork breakfast; but this is what comes of not being master of your own house. Hope your hat may long cover your family: rely upon it, it is 'cheaper to buy your bacon than to keep a pig.'"
Related post: Bacon and Eggs.


A World of Its Own

David Grene (1913-2002), Of Farming & Classics: A Memoir (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2007), p. 74:
But the most remarkable feature of classical training in my time was its obdurately philological character. This was much less so in France and Germany, where university professors paid much more than lip service to the content of Greek and Latin literature. Within such a specific context, our Irish professors certainly concerned themselves almost exclusively with the verbal and stylistic aspects of the languages studied (and the same was, as far as I can find out, largely true in England). In their publications these same interests took precedence. A few of these teachers and professors, I suppose, were a kind of barbarian, but not most of them. They felt that classics in itself was something quite different from literature, philosophy, or history. It was a study of a world of its own. In fact, I recently saw this very phrase in a speech by Professor Tom Mitchell, the present provost of Trinity College Dublin. The greater philologists of the old order penetrated deeper than most scholars with the power of an imagination awakened by an endless attention to, and absorption of, the minutest aspects of words of well-known texts in Greek and Latin. These classical texts are not exactly like those in modern languages, where contemporary usage is continually revising and rendering more exact our knowledge of the words, and where there is always more literature coming into existence to modify one's understanding of what has already been read. The Greek and Latin classics, frozen in expression, are beyond further contemporary modification.
Id., p. 75:
Nowadays, there is a distinct effort to see the classical projection as a field for comparative studies in anthropology or linguistic disciplines. But the period of classical studies between the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries knew nothing of all this. Their attitude truly was toward a kind of liturgy, and liturgies achieve their effects by being learned (by heart if necessary) and forcing themselves into the obscurer parts of the mind and emotions. As a result, in the devotion, love, and veneration of the actual words of the texts, something has come alive in the culture of the West that cannot, I think, be put totally to sleep or lost.
Id., pp. 75-76:
I am one of the last living products of the older training. There are times when I feel that was fortunate for me because I was a late developer, and I doubt that in my early twenties I could have effectively dealt with the challenge to passion and mind in those classical texts—all the matters that I now press on my American students' attention. I was perhaps better served by the relentless Talmudism of my teachers, as far as my future career went, than I would have been by what now appears to be a much more enlightened approach. At the end of eight years in school and four more undergraduate years in college, I had come to know rather well, even if in a peculiar and some people would say distorted fashion, the languages and the texts of Greek and Latin literature.


In Memoriam

Xenophon, Memorabilia 2.2.13 (tr. E.C. Marchant):
Yes, and if someone fails to honor his parents' graves, the state inquires into that too, when it examines the candidates for office.

ἐάν τις τῶν γονέων τελευτησάντων τοὺς τάφους μὴ κοσμῇ, καὶ τοῦτο ἐξετάζει ἡ πόλις ἐν ταῖς τῶν ἀρχόντων δοκιμασίαις.
Plato, Laws 4.717d-718a (tr. R.G. Bury, emphasis added):
When parents die, the most modest funeral rites are the best, whereby the son neither exceeds the accustomed pomp, nor falls short of what his forefathers paid to their sires; and in like manner he should duly bestow the yearly attentions, which ensure honor, on the rites already completed. He should always venerate them, by never failing to provide a continual memorial, and assigning to the deceased a due share of the means which fortune provides for expenditure.

τελευτησάντων δὲ γονέων ταφὴ μὲν ἡ σωφρονεστάτη καλλίστη, μήτε ὑπεραίροντα τῶν εἰθισμένων ὄγκων μήτ᾽ ἐλλείποντα ὧν οἱ προπάτορες τοὺς ἑαυτῶν γεννητὰς ἐτίθεσαν, τάς τε αὖ κατ᾽ ἐνιαυτὸν τῶν ἤδη τέλος ἐχόντων ὡσαύτως ἐπιμελείας τὰς κόσμον φερούσας ἀποδιδόναι· τῷ δὲ μὴ παραλείπειν μνήμην ἐνδελεχῆ παρεχόμενον, τούτῳ μάλιστ᾽ ἀεὶ πρεσβεύειν, δαπάνης τε τῆς διδομένης ὑπὸ τύχης τὸ μέτριον τοῖς κεκμηκόσιν νέμοντα.
Demosthenes 24.107 (against Timocrates; tr. J.H. Vince):
What adequate satisfaction can you render, or by what punishment can you be punished as you deserve, you who, to say nothing of the rest, subvert the laws that protect old age, that compel the maintenance of parents in their lifetime, and ensure that they shall be honoured with due observance when they die?

καίτοι τίν᾿ ἂν ἀξίαν δοίης δίκην, ἢ τί σὺ παθὼν ἂν τὰ προσήκοντ᾿ εἴης πεπονθώς, ὅς, τὰ μὲν ἄλλ᾿ ἐῶ, ἀλλὰ τοὺς τῷ γήρᾳ βοηθοὺς λυμαίνει, οἳ καὶ ζῶντας ἀναγκάζουσι τοὺς παῖδας τοὺς γονέας τρέφειν, καὶ ἐπειδὰν ἀποθάνωσιν, ὅπως τῶν νομιζομένων τύχωσι, παρασκευάζουσιν;
See David Whitehead, "Goneis in Athenian Law (and Perception)," Electronic Antiquity 13.1 (November 2009) 27-56 (at 44-46, § 3.4).

The graves of my parents, with flowers placed there by my sister (her husband in the background):


Original Notions on the Subject of Education

Letter to the Editor of the Germantown, Pennsylvania, Telegraph (December 2, 1890), rpt. in The Critic, Vol. XV n.s., No. 367 (January 10, 1891) 22, partially rpt. from The Critic in Daniel Shealy, ed., Alcott in Her Own Time: A Biographical Chronicle of Her Life, Drawn from Recollections, Interviews, and Memoirs by Family, Friends, and Associates (Iowa City: University of Iowa Press, 2005), p. 27:
Some weeks since I observed a query in the Telegraph as to the location of the house in Germantown in which Miss Alcott, the authoress, daughter of Amos Bronson Alcott, was born. As no one has answered it, I take the liberty of offering the subjoined reply:—

Louisa May Alcott, authoress of 'Little Women,' and other stories, was born Nov. 29, 1832, in a house somewhat retired from the main street, and known as 'The Pinery,' or 'Pine Place,' owing to its being surrounded by pine trees, and situated where the Post Office now stands, a few doors northwest of St. Luke's Church. Here her father taught school, composed of children of tender age. Mr. Alcott had original notions on the subject of education, and part of his system was to fortify his pupils against all surprises and to prepare them for all emergencies. One of his means of achieving this end was to walk stealthily behind them, when absorbed in study, and, without warning, suddenly kick the chair from under them. Whether this heroic practice answered the end desired or not I am unable to say, but I am able to say that it was far too advanced a method for the latitude of Germantown, where but one house had been built in forty years, and the risk of breaking the children's heads too great to commend it to their parents. So, after experimenting for a year or two, Mr. A., in despair, shook the dust of the stagnant old town from his feet, and didn't draw rein until he had reached Boston, in whose intellectual atmosphere his 'advanced thought' probably met with greater sympathy.
Above from The Critic.

Hat tip: Ian Jackson.

Sunday, May 29, 2016


Take Up Sound Studies

Philip Melanchthon (1497-1560), "De Corrigendis Adolescentium Studiis" (inaugural lecture at the University of Wittenberg, August 29, 1518), in his Opera quae supersunt omnia, ed. Carl Gottlieb Bretschneider (Halle: C.A. Schwetschke, 1843 = Corpus Reformatorum, XI), cols. 15-25 (at 25, tr. Ralph Keen):
Take up sound studies, and bear in mind what the poet said: Well begun is half done. Dare to know, cultivate the Romans, embrace the Greeks without whom the Romans cannot be properly studied.

Capessite ergo sana studia, et quod a Poëta dictum est, animo volvite: Dimidium facti qui coepit habet. Sapere audete, veteres Latinos colite, Graeca amplexamini, sine quibus Latina tractari recte nequeunt.
The poet is Horace, Epistles 1.2.40:
dimidium facti, qui coepit, habet; sapere aude.
What noun should we supply with Graeca? Volumina, or perhaps exemplaria? Cf. Horace, Ars Poetica 268-269 (tr. John Conington):
Make Greece your model when you write,
And turn her volumes over day and night.

                        vos exemplaria Graeca
nocturna versate manu, versate diurna.


Why need a noun be supplied at all? Might it not be a neuter plural adjective used as a substantive? ‘Greek things’, perhaps ‘Greek culture?’ Perfectly good Latin to do so.

Yours faithfully,

Dr A Girdwood
Head of Classics
Albyn School
17-23 Queen's Road,
Aberdeen, AB15 4PB


Nature Speaks to Us

Lucretius 3.931-962 (tr. C.H. Sisson):
If nature found a voice and began to scold
This is the sort of thing she might say to any of us:
'What is all this fuss about because you are mortal?
Have you got to burst into tears? What is wrong with death?
If the life you have had so far has been quite pleasant
And everything has not gone down the drain with a rush,
Why not depart like a guest who has had enough?
And, you fool, take your simple rest with a quiet mind?
But if all the pleasures of life have turned to nothing
And life is offensive, why do you want to add to it
Days which will end as badly as those you have had?
Better to make an end of life and effort
For there is nothing new I can devise for you
That is likely to please you: the rest of life is the same.
If your body is not worn out and there is still some movement
In your arms and legs, still, nothing will ever change
Although you should go on living for several centuries
Or even supposing you did not die at all.'
What could we reply but that nature has a good case
And that as she presents it every word is true?
If some poor wretch should complain of death more than he should
It serves him right if nature speaks even more sharply:
'No more blubbering, you moron; forget your complaints.'
And if it is a man of considerable age:
'You have gone feeble after having your life?
You want what you haven't got and despise the present
And that is how your life has slipped away.
Now death stands at your pillow before you are ready,
You cannot leave because you've not had enough!
You are too old for everything; give it up!
Give way gracefully; you have to, anyway.'

denique si vocem rerum natura repente
mittat et hoc alicui nostrum sic increpet ipsa:
"quid tibi tanto operest, mortalis, quod nimis aegris
luctibus indulges? quid mortem congemis ac fles?
nam si grata fuit tibi vita anteacta priorque        935
et non omnia pertusum congesta quasi in vas
commoda perfiuxere atque ingrata interiere,
cur non ut plenus vitae conviva recedis
aequo animoque capis securam, stulte, quietem?
sin ea quae fructus cumque es periere profusa        940
vitaque in offensost, cur amplius addere quaeris,
rursum quod pereat male et ingratum occidat omne,
non potius vitae finem facis atque laboris?
nam tibi praeterea quod machiner inveniamque,
quod placeat, nil est: eadem sunt omnia semper.        945
si tibi non annis corpus iam marcet et artus
confecti languent, eadem tamen omnia restant,
omnia si perges vivendo vincere saecla,
atque etiam potius, si numquam sis moriturus";
quid respondemus, nisi iustam intendere litem        950
naturam et veram verbis exponere causam?
atque obitum lamentetur miser amplius aequo,
non merito inclamet magis et voce increpet acri:
"aufer abhinc lacrimas, baratre, et compesce querellas!"
grandior hic vero si iam seniorque queratur:        955
"omnia perfunctus vitai praemia marces;
sed quia semper aves quod abest, praesentia temnis,
inperfecta tibi elapsast ingrataque vita,
et nec opinanti mors ad caput adstitit ante
quam satur ac plenus possis discedere rerum.        960
nunc aliena tua tamen aetate omnia mitte
aequo animoque agedum iam annis concede: necessest."
Most modern editors follow Lachmann and transpose 952-954 after 955, but Sisson's translation retains the original order, and so I've kept it in the Latin text above.

See Tobias Reinhardt, "The Speech of Nature in Lucretius' 'De Rerum Natura' 3.931-71," Classical Quarterly 52.1 (2002) 291-304.

Saturday, May 28, 2016


Libertines versus Ascetics

Jerome, Letters 45.5 (to Asella), tr. F.A. Wright, Select Letters of St. Jerome, with an English Translation (London: William Heinemann Ltd, 1933 = Loeb Classical Library, 262), p. 185:
It is your pleasure to take a bath everyday; another man thinks such refinement rubbish. You belch after a meal of wild duck and boast of the sturgeon you devour; I fill my belly with beans. You take delight in troops of jesters; Paula and Melanium prefer those who weep. You want other people's goods; they despise their own. You like wine flavoured with honey; they have a sweeter drink, cold water. You consider that you are losing all that you have not at once drained dry, gobbled up, and devoured; they believe that the Scriptures are true and fix their desires on what is to come. Well, they are foolish old women to be persuaded of the resurrection of the body! But what is that to you? We for our part are not satisfied with your mode of life. Fatten yourself to your heart's content: I prefer a lean body and a pale face. You think people like us miserable: we regard you as more miserable still. Our opinion of you is like your opinion of us, and each in turn thinks the other insane.

tibi placet lavare cotidie, alius has munditias sordes putat; tu attagenam ructuas et de comeso acipensere gloriaris, ego faba ventrem inpleo; te delectant cachinnantium greges, Paulam Melaniumque plangentium; tu aliena desideras, illae contemnunt sua; te delibuta melle vina delectant, illae potant aquam frigidam suaviorem; tu te perdere aestimas, quidquid in praesenti non hauseris, comederis, devoraris, et illae futura desiderant et credunt vera esse, quae scripta sunt. esto: inepte et aniliter, quibus resurrectio persuasit corporum; quid ad te? nobis e contrario tua vita displicet. bono tuo crassus sis, me macies delectat et pallor; tu tales miseros arbitraris, nos te miseriorem putamus. par pari refertur sententia: invicem nobis videmur insani.
I've taken the Latin text from S. Eusebii Hieronymi Opera (Sect. I Pars I). Epistularum Pars I: Epistulae I-LXX, ed. Isidor Hilberg (Vienna: F. Tempsky, 1910 = Corpus Scriptorum Ecclesiasticorum Latinorum, LIV), pp. 326-327, although I've changed Hilberg's consonantal u's to v's. Wright's Latin text (p. 184) omits par pari refertur sententia, although he translates it ("Our opinion of you is like your opinion of us"). Here is an image of Wright's Latin text (screen shot from Internet Archive):

The omission persists in the Digital Loeb Classical Library.




Edward Gibbon (1737-1794), Memoir F (on William Law's A Serious Call to a Devout and Holy Life):
Hell-fire and eternal damnation are darted from every page of the book; and it is, indeed, somewhat whimsical that the Fanatics who most vehemently inculcate the love of God should be those who despoil him of every amiable attribute.


Incompetent Botchers

Joshua Whatmough (1897-1964), review of J. Svennung, Compositiones Lucenses. Studien zum Inhalt, zur Textkritik und Sprache (Uppsala: Lundequistska Bokhandeln, 1941), in American Journal of Philology 69.4 (1948) 453-455 (at 454):
It is the merit of the book to demonstrate once more—what ought not to be and would not be necessary, if "scholarship" did not lure so many incompetent botchers beneath its cotton-wool protection from a cold and hard world—that the prime (and final) requirement of a would-be editor, first, last, and all the time, is a complete and accurate knowledge of the language of his text and of the history of it at the date at which the text was compiled. Again and again there are forms here which ninety-nine editors out of a hundred would gaily "emend."


Plea for Fewer Dogmas

Erasmus, letter 1334 (to John Carondelet; January 5, 1523), tr. John C. Olin, Christian Humanism and the Reformation: Selected Writings of Erasmus (New York: Fordham University Press, 1987), p. 190:
The sum and substance of our religion is peace and concord. This can hardly remain the case unless we define as few matters as possible and leave each individual's judgment free on many questions. This is because the obscurity of most questions is great and the malady is for the most part intrinsic to our human nature: we do not know how to yield once a question has been made a subject of contention. And after the debate has warmed up each one thinks that the side he has undertaken rashly to defend is absolute truth.
The Latin, from Opus Epistolarum Des. Erasmi Roterodami, edd. P.S. Allen and H.M. Allen, tom. V: 1522-1524 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1924; rpt. 1992), pp. 177-178:
Summa nostrae religionis pax est et vnanimitas. Ea vix constare potest, nisi de quam potest paucissimis definiamus, et in multis liberum relinquamus suum cuique iudicium; propterea, quod ingens sit rerum plurimarum obscuritas, et hoc morbi fere innatum sit hominum ingeniis, vt cedere nesciant simul atque res in contentionem vocata est: quae postquam incaluit, hoc cuique videtur verissimum quod temere tuendum susceperit.
Voltaire, Treatise on Tolerance, on the Occasion of the Death of Jean Calas, XXI, tr. Brian Masters:
The fewer dogmas one has to deal with, the fewer the disputes over them; and the fewer disputes, the less the risk of calamity. If this is not true, then I am much mistaken.

Moins de dogmes, moins de disputes; & moins de disputes, moins de malheurs: si cela n'est pas vrai, j'ai tort.

Friday, May 27, 2016



Jonathan Swift (1667-1745), A Tale of a Tub, Sect. I:
Wisdom is a fox, who, after long hunting, will at last cost you the pains to dig out. It is a cheese, which, by how much the richer, has the thicker, the homelier, and the coarser coat; and whereof, to a judicious palate, the maggots are the best. It is a sack-posset, wherein the deeper you go, you will find it the sweeter. Wisdom is a hen, whose cackling we must value and consider, because it is attended with an egg; but then lastly, it is a nut, which, unless you choose with judgment, may cost you a tooth, and pay you with nothing but a worm.

Sack-posset recipes, from Mrs. Glasse, The Art of Cookery, Made Plain and Easy, new ed., (London: A. Millar et al., 1789), pp. 177-178:

To make an excellent SACK-POSSET.

BEAT fifteen eggs, whites and yolks very well, and strain them; then put three quarters of a pound of white sugar into a pint of canary, and mix it with your eggs in a bason; set it over a chafing-dish of coals, and keep continually stirring it till it is scalding hot. In the mean time grate some nutmeg in a quart of milk and boil it; then pour it into your eggs and wine, they being scalding hot. Hold your hand very high as you pour it, and somebody stirring it all the time you are pouring in the milk; then take it off the chafing-dish, set it before the fire half an hour, and serve it up.

To make another SACK-POSSET.

Take a quart of new-milk, four Naples biscuits, crumble them, and when the milk boils throw them in. Just give it one boil, take it off, grate in it some nutmeg, and sweeten to your palate; then pour in half a pint of sack, stirring it all the time, and serve it up. You may crumble white-bread, instead of biscuit.

Or make it thus:

BOIL a quart of cream, or new-milk, with the yolks of two eggs; first take a French roll, and cut it as thin as possibly you can in little pieces; lay it in the dish you intend for the posset. When the milk boils (which you must keep stirring all the time), pour it over the bread, and stir it together; cover it close, then take a pint of canary, a quarter of a pound of sugar, and grate in some nutmeg. When it boils pour it into the milk, stirring it all the time, and serve it up.


Blessings of Peace

Philemon, fragment 74 Kassel and Austin = 71 Kock (from the play Pyrrhus; tr. J.M. Edmonds):
There's a riddle wise men spend much time about;
So I've been told, and no one's yet found out.
What's meant by Good. Virtue, they say, or wit,
Any fudge rather than what's really it.
Out on my land, digging it spit by spit,
I've found the answer — Peace. Dear Zeus above,
What a Goddess! full of kindliness and love.
She gives us weddings, feasts, and friends, and wealth,
Offspring and kindred, corn, wine, pleasure, health;
And these are the things the loss of which implies
That all the life of all the living dies.

οἱ φιλόσοφοι ζητοῦσιν, ὡς ἀκήκοα,
περὶ τοῦτό τ' αὐτοῖς πολὺς ἀναλοῦται χρόνος,
τί ἐστιν ἀγαθόν, κοὐδὲ εἰς εὕρηκέ πω
τί ἐστιν. ἀρετὴν καὶ φρόνησίν φασι, καὶ
πλέκουσι πάντα μᾶλλον ἢ τί τἀγαθόν.        5
ἐν ἀγρῷ διατρίβων τήν τε γῆν σκάπτων ἐγὼ
νῦν εὗρον· εἰρήνη 'στίν· ὦ Ζεῦ φίλτατε,
τῆς ἐπαφροδίτου καὶ φιλανθρώπου θεοῦ.
γάμους, ἑορτάς, συγγενεῖς, παῖδας, φίλους,
πλοῦτον, ὑγίειαν, σῖτον, οἶνον, ἡδονὴν        10
αὕτη δίδωσι· ταῦτα πάντ' ἂν ἐκλίπῃ,
τέθνηκε κοινῇ πᾶς ὁ τῶν ζώντων βίος.



Jerome, Letters 52.8.2 (to Nepotian; tr. W.H. Fremantle et al.):
There is nothing so easy as by sheer volubility to deceive a common crowd or an uneducated congregation: such most admire what they fail to understand.

nihil tam facile, quam vilem plebiculam et indoctam contionem linguae volubilitate decipere, quae, quidquid non intellegit, plus miratur.



Joshua Whatmough (1897-1964), review of G. Herdan, Language as Choice and Chance (Groningen: Noordhoof, 1956), in American Journal of Philology 78.3 (1957) 314-320 (at 319):
Modern critics of Vergil would strike Vergil himself as lunatics, who ought to be restrained....And God himself, who gave man language, must regard some modern linguists (or would be linguists) in the same light.

Thursday, May 26, 2016


The Medical Version of the Platonic Ideal

Anne de Courcy, 1939: The Last Season (London: Thames and Hudson, 1989; pbk. London: Phoenix, 1989), pp. 123-124:
No organ, however, came under closer scrutiny than the gut, regarded with particular suspicion by Sir Arbuthnot [Lane] because of the large number of bacteria found there. His view was taken to heart by the general public, largely owing to the fact that any malfunction was so readily apparent. Anyone could tell if his gut was in good working order, or not. No specialist knowledge was required, no examination by another person necessary to know if Sir Arbuthnot's one vital criterion for a healthy colon — a regular daily motion — had been met. Every true-born Briton, of whatever age, social class, sex, or metier, was able to tell almost without thinking whether he or she had had 'a movement' that morning.

Such was the power of Sir Arbuthnot's proselytizing that the alternative spelt — quite literally, for many — doom and despair. Almost every complaint that did not actually kill was laid at the door of the sluggish bowel. Constipation, ran the accepted wisdom, caused not only migraine, lethargy, indigestion, halitosis and a poor complexion, but also more esoteric conditions such as difficulty in childbirth, depression, permanent fatigue, frigidity and impotence. Liquid paraffin sold by the gallon, and no bathroom cupboard was complete without a wardrobe of laxatives, frequently compared as to taste and effectiveness. Children were sent to the lavatory after breakfast to 'go', and were asked immediately afterwards if they had 'been', a metronomic punctuality being held up as the medical version of the Platonic ideal. At some preparatory schools, boys had to put a tick or cross against their names on a notice board, and thus it followed that everyone knew the state of his neighbour's bowels — information which occasionally followed them inconveniently into later life. In the greater delicacy of girls' boarding schools, those unable to mumble or nod the required affirmative were summoned that night to matron for a spoonful of Milk of Magnesia, Syrup of Figs or, in recalcitrant cases, a foul-tasting dose of castor oil.


But this was nothing compared to the remedies advertised in the popular press. Nowhere was Sir Arbuthnot Lane's influence so apparent as in the advertisement columns. If the Fuehrer had studied these, he could have been forgiven for thinking the entire British nation was so obsessed with its bowels, let alone so incapacitated by constipation, so as to render the rumble of war a mere irrelevant twittering on the sidelines.
Hat tip: Eric Thomson.



Dinner with Atticus

Cornelius Nepos, Life of Atticus 14.1 (tr. J.C. Rolfe):
No one at a dinner-party of his heard anything but a reader, which is the most agreeable form of entertainment, at least in my opinion; and dinner was never served at his house without reading of some kind, so that his guests enjoyed the gratification of the mind as well as of the appetite.

nemo in convivio eius aliud acroama audivit quam anagnosten, quod nos quidem iucundissimum arbitramur; neque umquam sine aliqua lectione apud eum cenatum est, ut non minus animo quam ventre convivae delectarentur.


The Blind Led by the Blind

Joshua Whatmough (1897-1964), review of Erik Wistrand, Nach innen oder nach aussen? Zum geographischen Sprachgebrauch der Römer (Göteborg: Wettergren und Kerbers Förlag, 1946), in Classical Philology 44.2 (April, 1949) 138-139 (at 139):
Every day of the week I observe students using Loeb—the blind led by the blind.
Dictionaries are no help, for the people who make them usually no longer do their own reading, and translators more often are found with dictionaries in their hands, and students with translations in theirs, than either of them with knowledge of Greek or Latin in their heads.
I suspect most moderns of a Babu knowledge of Greek and Latin...


Three Virtues

Euripides, fragment 853 (tr. Christopher Collard and Martin Cropp):
There are three virtues you should practise, child:
to honour the gods, the parents who begot you,
and the common laws of Greece. If you do these things,
you will always have good repute, the fairest of crowns.

τρεῖς εἰσιν ἀρεταὶ τὰς χρεών σ᾿ ἀσκεῖν, τέκνον,
θεούς τε τιμᾶν τούς τε φύσαντας γονῆς
νόμους τε κοινοὺς Ἑλλάδος· καὶ ταῦτα δρῶν
κάλλιστον ἕξεις στέφανον εὐκλείας ἀεί.
Cf. Lycurgus, Against Leocrates 15 (tr. J.O. Burtt):
For you must realize, Athenians, that you would be held to have neglected the virtues which chiefly distinguish you from the rest of mankind, piety towards the gods, reverence for your ancestors and ambition for your country, if this man were to escape punishment at your hands.

εὖ γὰρ ἴστε, ὦ Ἀθηναῖοι, ὅτι ᾧ πλεῖστον διαφέρετε τῶν ἄλλων ἀνθρώπων, τῷ πρός τε τοὺς θεοὺς εὐσεβῶς καὶ πρὸς τοὺς γονέας ὁσίως καὶ πρὸς τὴν πατρίδα φιλοτίμως ἔχειν, τούτου πλεῖστον ἀμελεῖν δόξαιτ᾿ ἂν εἰ τὴν παρ᾿ ὑμῶν οὗτος διαφύγοι τιμωρίαν.
One could translate γονέας in Lycurgus as parents.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016


A Misprint in the Loeb Classical Library

Cornelius Nepos, fragment 3 (from a letter by him to Cicero), in Cornelius Nepos, On Great Generals. On Historians. Translated by J.C. Rolfe (1929; rpt. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1984), pp. 330-331:
Tantum abest ut ego magistram esse putem vitae philosophiam beataeque vitae perfectricem, ut nullis magis existimem opus esse magistros vivendi quam plerisque qui in ea disputanda versantur. Video enim magnam partem eorum qui in schola de pudore et continentia praecipiant argutissime, eosdem in omnium ibidinum cupiditatibus vivere.

So far am I from thinking that philosophy can teach how to live and is the perfecter of a happy life, that I believe that none have more need of learning how to live than the greater number of those who are engaged in teaching philosophy. In fact, I observe that a great part of those same men who in the schools argue most subtly about moderation and self-restraint pass their lives a prey to all the passions.
For ibidinum read libidinum. The error persists in the Digital Loeb Classical Library. Here is an image of the sentence containing the error from the physical book (screen shot from Google Books):



The Art of Political Lying

Jonathan Swift (1667-1745), The Examiner, No. 15 (November 9, 1710; an "Essay upon the Art of Political Lying"):
I have been sometimes thinking, if a man had the art of the second sight for seeing lies, as they have in Scotland for seeing spirits, how admirably he might entertain himself in this town, by observing the different shapes, sizes, and colours of those swarms of lies which buzz about the heads of some people, like flies about a horse's ears in summer; or those legions hovering every afternoon in Exchange-alley, enough to darken the air; or over a club of discontented grandees, and thence sent down in cargoes to be scattered at elections.
Id. (on Thomas Wharton):
The superiority of his genius consists in nothing else but an inexhaustible fund of political lies, which he plentifully distributes every minute he speaks, and by an unparalleled generosity forgets, and consequently contradicts, the next half hour. He never yet considered whether any proposition were true or false, but whether it were convenient for the present minute or company to affirm or deny it; so that, if you think fit to refine upon him, by interpreting everything he says, as we do dreams, by the contrary, you are still to seek, and will find yourself equally deceived whether you believe or not: the only remedy is to suppose that you have heard some inarticulate sounds, without any meaning at all; and besides, that will take off the horror you might be apt to conceive at the oaths wherewith he perpetually tags both ends of every proposition: although, at the same time, I think he cannot with any justice be taxed with perjury when he invokes God and Christ, because he has often fairly given public notice to the world that he believes in neither.
Few lies carry the inventor's mark, and the most prostitute enemy to truth may spread a thousand without being known for the author: besides, as the vilest writer has his readers, so the greatest liar has his believers: and it often happens that, if a lie be believed only for an hour, it has done its work, and there is no further occasion for it. Falsehood flies, and truth comes limping after it, so that when men come to be undeceived it is too late; the jest is over, and the tale has had its effect: like a man who has thought of a good repartee when the discourse is changed or the company parted; or like a physician who has found out an infallible medicine after the patient is dead.

Considering that natural disposition in many men to lie, and in multitudes to believe, I have been perplexed what to do with that maxim so frequent in everybody's mouth, that truth will at last prevail. Here has this island of ours, for the greatest part of twenty years, lain under the influence of such counsels and persons, whose principle and interest it was to corrupt our manners, blind our understanding, drain our wealth, and in time destroy our constitution both in church and state, and we at last were brought to the very brink of ruin; yet by the means of perpetual misrepresentations, have never been able to distinguish between our enemies and friends.


A Climax in St. Jerome

There is a good example of the rhetorical device known as climax or gradatio in Jerome, Letters 14.7.2 (to Heliodorus; tr. W.H. Fremantle et al.):
But where there is no honor there is contempt; and where there is contempt there is frequent rudeness; and where there is rudeness there is vexation; and where there is vexation there is no rest; and where there is no rest the mind is apt to be diverted from its purpose.

sed ubi honor non est, ibi contemptus est; ubi contemptus, ibi frequens iniuria; ubi autem iniuria, ibi et indignatio; ubi indignatio, ibi quies nulla; ubi quies non est, ibi mens a proposito saepe deducitur.
Related posts:


Mutual Aid

Cicero, Pro Sexto Roscio Amerino 38.111 (tr. J.H. Freese):
For we cannot do everything by ourselves; each has his part to play, in which he can be more useful than others. That is why friendships are formed—that the common interest may be furthered by mutual services.

non enim possumus omnia per nos agere; alius in alia est re magis utilis. idcirco amicitiae comparantur, ut commune commodum mutuis officiis gubernetur.


Latin Texts Suitable for Children?

Edward Gibbon (1737-1794), Memoir F:
By the common methods of discipline, at the expence of many tears and some blood, I purchased the knowledge of the Latin syntax; and not long since I was possessed of the dirty volumes of Phaedrus and Cornelius Nepos, which I painfully construed and darkly understood. The choice of these authors is not injudicious.

The Lives of Cornelius Nepos, the friend of Atticus and Cicero, are composed in the style of the purest age; his simplicity is elegant, his brevity copious; he exhibits a series of men and manners; and with such illustrations as every pedant is not indeed qualified to give, this Classic biographer may initiate a young Student in the history of Greece and Rome.

The use of fables or apologues has been approved in every age, from ancient India to modern Europe; they convey in familiar images the truths of morality and prudence, and the most childish understanding (I advert to the scruples of Rousseau) will not suppose either that beasts do speak, or that men may lye. A fable represents the genuine characters of animals, and a skillful master might extract from Pliny and Buffon some pleasing lessons of Natural history, a science well adapted to the taste and capacity of children. The Latinity of Phaedrus is not exempt from an alloy of the Silver age; but his manner is concise, terse, and sententious; the Thracian slave discreetly breathes the spirit of a freeman, and when the text is sound, the style is perspicuous. But his fables, after a long oblivion, were first published by Peter Pithou, from a corrupt manuscript: the labours of fifty editors confess the defects of the copy, as well as the value of the original; and a schoolboy may have been whipt for misapprehending a passage which Bentley could not restore, and which Burman could not explain.


This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?