Comparatively little is known about Aulus Gellius, the author of the Noces Atticae, and our sources of information are almost entirely his own writings. There is difference of opinion as to the date and the place of his birth and of his death, as to the time and duration of his residence in Athens, and as to the time of his appointment as index and the beginning of his legal career. Opinions regarding these moot points are based upon his own statements or on the certain dates — also comparatively few in number — in the lives of various personages whom he mentions in the Noctes; and the estimates of different scholars vary greatly.
The gens Gellia was a clan of Samnite origin, which seems to have taken up its residence in Rome soon after the close of the second Punic war. Two generals of the family, Statius Gellius and Gellius Egnatius, fought against the Romans, the former in the first, the latter in the second Samnite war. The one was defeated and taken prisoner in 305 B.C., the other lost his life in the battle of Sentinum in 295. At Rome one branch of the family attained noble rank, if not earlier, through Lucius Gellius Publicola, who was praetor peregrinus in 94 B.C., consul in 72, and censor in 70. It was he who proposed to the senate that the civic crown should be conferred upon Cicero, in recognition of his services in suppressing the conspiracy of Catiline. Aulus Gellius also mentions two other members of the clan: Gnaeus Gellius, a contemporary and opponent of Cato the censor, and another Gnaeus Gellius, of the time of the Gracchi, who wrote a history of Rome, entitled Annales, extending at least to the year 145 B.C. Aulus Gellius does not claim kinship with any of these Gellii, and tells us nothing of his own rank and social position. He was evidently of a good family and possessed of considerable means, being also, perhaps, the owner of a country estate at Praeneste. He lived on terms of intimacy with many eminent men of his day, all of whom owed their distinction, at least in part, to their intellectual qualities.
The birthplace of Aulus Gellius, or Agellius, as he was miscalled in the Middle Ages, is unknown. Some have thought that he was of African origin, but this is questioned by others. He is perhaps one of the few Roman writers who were natives of the eternal city; at any rate, he was in Rome at the time when he assumed the gown of manhood, probably at the age of between fifteen and seventeen. The year of his birth has been variously conjectured from the few certain dates of his career We know that he was in Athens after A.D. 143, since at the time of his residence there he refers to Herodes Atticus, who was consul in that year, as consularis vir. At the same time he speaks of himself as invenis, from which some have inferred that he was then thirty years of age; but too much weight cannot be given to Gellius’ use of iuvenis and adulescens (or adulescentulus). Not only are iuvenis and adulescens used loosely by the Romans in general, and applied indifferently to men between the ages of seventeen and thirty or more, but Gellius seems to use iuvenis in a complimentary sense and adulescens with some degree of depreciation or, in speaking of himself, of modesty. Thus he commonly refers to his fellow-students at Athens, and to legitimate students of philosophy in general, as iuvenes, while the ignorant and presuming young men whose “taking down” he describes ordinarily figure as adidlescentes.
The date of his birth is variously assigned to A.D. 113, to the early years of the second century, to 123, and to “about 130.” It is certain that no part of his writing was done until the reign of Antonius Pius (138–161), since he always refers to Hadrian as Divus, and it probably continued during the first half of the principate of Marcus Aurelius (161–180). As he says nothing of the remarkable death of Peregrinus Proteus, whom he knew and admired, some have assumed that he died before that event took place, in 165; but Radulfus de Diceto, writing in the early part of the thirteenth century, says: “Agellius scribit anno CLXIX.” It seems probable from the Preface to the Noctes Atticae, which was obviously written after the completion of that work, that Gellius died soon after completing his book, since he has not given us the continuation which he promises. It seems evident that at the time of writing the Preface he was in the prime of life; for his children were still continuing their education, while he himself was actively engaged in the practice of his profession, or of managing his property. On the whole, it seems probable that he was born about 123, and, if we accept the statement of de Diceto, that he died soon after 169.
Gellius pursued in the schools the usual course of study, consisting of grammar, in the Roman sense of the term, and rhetoric. Among his instructors in grammar was the celebrated Carthaginian scholar Sulpicius Apollinaris, who was also the teacher of the emperor Pertinax. He studied rhetoric with Antonius Julianus, with Titus Castricius, and perhaps with Cornelius Fronto. After completing his studies in Rome Gellius went to Athens for instruction in philosophy, and, as Nettleship thought, remained there from the age of nineteen to that of twenty-three. It is certain that he spent at least a year in Greece, since he mentions the four seasons of spring, summer, autumn and winter in that connection. There is nothing, so far as I know, that indicates a longer residence; his book was merely begun in Athens, not finished there.
The question of the time of Gellius’ stay in Greece is closely connected with that of his appointment as index. At the time of his first appointment he must have been at least twenty-five years old, although he refers to himself as adulescens, and it seems wholly probable that he began his legal career after returning to Rome; otherwise, since he continued to practice his profession for some time, if not to the end of his life, we must infer that his legal career was interrupted by his sojourn in Athens, which seems improbable.
Gellius’ student life in Athens combined serious work with agreeable entertainment. With Calvisius Taurus he studied Plato and Aristotle, but to what extent is uncertain. He seems to have seen a good deal of Peregrinus Proteus, of whom he gives us a very different impression from that conveyed by Lucian, and he was on intimate terms with the famous rhetorician Tiberius Claudius Herodes Atticus, who was afterwards, at Rome, the praeceptor of Lucius Verus and Marcus Aurelius. With his fellow-students he enjoyed the hospitality of Herodes at his villa at Cephisia and elsewhere. He made an excursion to Aegina with his comrades, and with Calvisius Taurus a trip to Delphi. Every week the young philosophers met at dinner, where they indulged in various intellectual diversions.
After his return to Rome Gellius continued his interest in philosophy and other learning, and it was there that he became intimate with Favorinus, the friend of the emperor Hadrian. He speaks with particular admiration of Favorinus, whose παντοδαπὴ ‘ιστορία ‘ιστορία may have suggested the form of the Nodes Atticae, and perhaps have furnished some of its material. He was intimate also with the poets Julius Paulus and Annianus, and with other intellectual men of the time.
The Noctes Atticae is a collection of interesting notes on grammar, public and private antiquities, history and biography, philosophy (including natural philosophy), points of law, text criticism, literary criticism, and various other topics. It gives us valuable information in many fields of knowledge, and it contains extracts from a great number of Greek and Roman writers (275 are mentioned by name), the works of many of whom are otherwise wholly or in great part lost. While his ability is only moderate, Gellius is in the main accurate and conscientious, although he sometimes gives the impression that he has consulted original authorities when in fact he took his material at second hand. It is believed that he cites from no one whom he does not mention at least once by name, but it is not certain that this applies to the single works of a writer; it does not apply to his contemporaries. He seems to have consulted no authority earlier than Varro (116–28 B.C.), and often to have resorted for his quotations from earlier writers to commentaries and grammatical works. He sometimes tries to pass off the learning of others as his own, particularly in the case of his contemporaries.
The style of Gellius is sometimes obscure, and although he deprecates the use of obsolete words, his own writings are by no means free from unusual and archaic words and expressions. His faults are largely those of the time in which he lived, when the reaction which led to the so-called Silver Latin had come to an end and an archaistic tendency had taken its place. He frequently cites Cicero and Virgil, and always speaks of them with respect, but his authorities for the use of the Latin language are in large part the writers of the ante-classical period. His translator Weiss rates him most highly, and he is doubtless right in considering him modest and fond of learning. Augustine calls him “vir elegantissimi eloquii et facundae scientiae,” and Erasmus speaks of “Gellii commentariis, quibus nihil fieri potest neque tersius neque eruditius.” He was used by many later writers, extensively by Nonius Marcellus and Macrobius.
In the treatise which he wrote on the mental and physical endowment and achievements of Hercules while he was among men, Plutarch says that the philosopher Pythagoras reasoned sagaciously and acutely in determining and measuring the hero’s superiority in size and stature. For since it was generally agreed that Hercules paced off the racecourse of the stadium at Pisae, near the temple of Olympian Zeus, and made it six hundred feet long, and since the other courses in the land of Greece, constructed later by other men, were indeed six hundred feet in length, but yet were somewhat shorter than that at Olympia, he readily concluded by a process of comparison that the measured length of Hercules' foot was greater than that of other men in the same proportion as the course at Olympia was longer than the other stadia. Then, having ascertained the size of Hercules’ foot, he made a calculation of the bodily height suited to that measure, based upon the natural proportion of all parts of the body, and thus arrived at the logical conclusion that Hercules was as much taller than other men as the course at Olympia exceeded the others that had been constructed with the same number of feet.
While we were students at Athens, Herodes Atticus, a man of consular rank and of true Grecian eloquence, often invited me to his country houses near that city, in company with the honorable Servilianus and several others of our countrymen who had withdrawn from Rome to Greece in quest of culture. And there at that time, while we were with him at the villa called Cephisia, both in the heat of summer and under the burning autumnal sun, we protected ourselves against the trying temperature by the shade of its spacious groves, its long, soft promenades, the cool location of the house, its elegant baths with their abundance of sparkling water, and the charm of the villa as a whole, which was everywhere melodious with plashing waters and tuneful birds.
There was with us there at the time a young student of philosophy, of the Stoic school according to his own account, but intolerably loquacious and presuming. In the course of the conversations which are commonly carried on at table after dinner, this fellow often used to prattle unseasonably, absurdly, and at immoderate length, on the principles of philosophy, maintaining that compared with himself all the Greek-speaking authorities, all wearers of the toga, and the Latin race in general were ignorant boors. As he spoke, he rattled off unfamiliar terms, the catchwords of syllogisms and dialectic tricks, declaring that no one but he could unravel the “master,” the “resting,” and the “heap” arguments, and other riddles of the kind. Furthermore, as to ethics, the nature of the human intellect, and the origin of the virtues with their duties and limits, or on the other hand the ills caused by disease and sin, and the wasting and destruction of the soul, he stoutly maintained that absolutely no one else had investigated, understood and mastered all these more thoroughly than himself. Further, he believed that torture, bodily pain and deadly peril could neither injure nor detract from the happy state and condition of life which, in his opinion, he had attained, and that no sorrow could even cloud the serenity of the Stoic’s face and expression.
Once when he was puffing out these empty boasts, and already all, weary of his prating, were thoroughly disgusted and longing for an end, Herodes, speaking in Greek as was his general custom, said: “Allow me, mightiest of philosophers, since we, whom you call laymen, cannot answer you, to read from a book of Epictetus, greatest of Stoics, what he thought and said about such big talk as that of yours.” And he bade them bring the first volume of the Discourses of Epictetus, arranged by Arrian, in which that venerable old man with just severity rebukes those young men who, though calling themselves Stoics, showed neither virtue nor honest industry, but merely babbled of trifling propositions and of the fruits of their study of such elements as are taught to children.
Then, when the book was brought, there was read the passage which I have appended, in which Epictetus with equal severity and humour set apart and separated from the true and genuine Stoic, who was beyond question without restraint or constraint, unembarrassed, free, prosperous and happy, that other mob of triflers who styled themselves Stoics, and casting the black soot of their verbiage before the eves of their hearers, laid false claim to the name of the holiest of sects:
“‘Speak to me of good and evil.’ — Listen:
The wind, bearing me from Ilium, drove me to the Cicones.
“Of all existing things some are good, some evil, and some indifferent. Now the good things are virtues and what partakes of them, the evil are vice and what partakes of vice, and the indifferent lie between these: wealth, health, life, death, pleasure, pain. — ‘How do you know this?’ — Hellanicus says so in his Egyptian History. For what difference does it make whether you say that, or that it was Diogenes in his Ethics or Chrysippus or Cleanthes? Have you then investigated any of these matters and formed an opinion of your own? Let me see how you are accustomed to act in a storm at sea. Do you recall this classification when the sail cracks and you cry aloud? If some idle fellow should stand beside you and say: ‘Tell me, for Heaven’s sake, what you told me before. It isn’t a vice to suffer shipwreck, is it? It doesn’t partake of vice, does it?’ Would you not hurl a stick of wood at him and cry: ‘What have we to do with you, fellow? We perish and you come and crack jokes.’ But if Caesar should summon you to answer an accusation…”
On hearing these words, that most arrogant of youths was mute, just as if the whole diatribe had been pronounced, not by Epictetus against others, but against himself by Herodes.
Of Chilo the Lacedaemonian, one of that famous group of sages, it is written in the books of those who have recorded the lives and deeds of distinguished men, that he, Chilo, at the close of his life, when death was already close upon him, thus addressed the friends about his bedside:
“That very little of what I have said and done in the course of a long life calls for repentance, you yourselves may perhaps know. I, at any rate, at such a time as this do not deceive myself in believing that I have done nothing that it troubles me to remember, except for just one thing; and as to that it is not even now perfectly clear to me whether I did right or wrong.
“I was judge with two others, and a friend’s life was at stake. Therefore, either my friend must suffer capital punishment or violence must be done to the law. I considered for a long time how to remedy so difficult a situation. The course which I adopted seemed, in comparison with the alternative, the less objectionable; I myself secretly voted for conviction, but I persuaded my fellow judges to vote for acquittal. Thus I myself in a matter of such moment did my duty both as a judge and as a friend. But my action torments me with the fear that there may be something of treachery and guilt in having recommended to others, in the same case, at the same time, and in a common duty, a course for them contrary to what I thought best for myself.”
This Chilo, then, though a man of surpassing wisdom, was in doubt how far he ought to have gone counter to law and counter to equity for the sake of a friend, and that question distressed him even at the very end of his life. So too many subsequent students of philosophy, as appears in their works, have inquired very carefully and very anxiously, to use their own language, εἰ δεῖ βοηθεῖν τῷ φίλῳ παρὰ τὸ δίκαιον καὶ μέχρι πόσου καὶ ποῖα. That is to say, they inquired “whether one may sometimes act contrary to law or contrary to precedent in a friend’s behalf, and under what circumstances and to what extent.”
This problem has been discussed, as I have said, not only by many others, but also with extreme thoroughness by Theophrastus, the most conscientious and learned of the Peripatetic school; the discussion is found, if I remember correctly, in the first book of his treatise On Friendship. That work Cicero evidently read when he too was composing a work On Friendship. Now, the other material that Cicero thought proper to borrow from Theophrastus his talent and command of language enabled him to take and to translate with great taste and pertinence; but this particular topic which, as I have said, has been the object of much inquiry, and is the most difficult one of all, he passed over briefly and hurriedly, not reproducing the thoughtful and detailed argument of Theophrastus, but omitting his involved and as it were over-scrupulous discussion and merely calling attention in a few words to the nature of the problem. I have added Cicero’s words, in case anyone should wish to verify my statement: “Therefore these are the limits which I think ought to be observed, namely: when the characters of friends are blameless, then there should be complete harmony of opinions and inclinations in everything without any exception; and, even if by some chance the wishes of a friend are not altogether honorable and require to be forwarded in matters which involve his life or reputation, we should turn aside from the straight path, provided, however, utter disgrace does not follow. For there are limits to the indulgence which can be allowed to friendship.”
“When it is a question,” he says, “either of a friend’s life or good name, we must turn aside from the straight path, to further even his dishonorable desire.” But he does not tell us what the nature of that deviation ought to be, how far we may go to help him, and how dishonorable the nature of the friend’s desire may be. But what does it avail me to know that I must turn aside from the straight path in the event of such dangers to my friends, provided I commit no act of utter disgrace, unless he also informs me what he regards as utter disgrace and, once having turned from the path of rectitude, how far I ought to go? “For,” he says, “there are limits to the indulgence which can be allowed to friendship.” But that is the very point on which we most need instruction, but which the teachers make least clear, namely, how far and to what degree indulgence must be allowed to friendship. The sage Chilo whom I mentioned before, turned from the path to save a friend. But I can see how far he went; for he gave unsound advice to save his friend. Yet even as to that he was in doubt up to his last hour whether he deserved criticism and censure.
“Against one’s fatherland,” says Cicero, “one must not take up arms for a friend.” That of course everybody knew, and “before Theognis was born,” as Lucilius says. But what I ask and wish to know is this: when it is that one must act contrary to law and contrary to equity in a friend’s behalf, albeit without doing violence to the public liberty and peace; and when it is necessary to turn aside from the path, as he himself put it, in what way and how much, under what circumstances, and to what extent that ought to be done. Pericles, the great Athenian, a man of noble character and endowed with all honorable achievements, declared his opinion — in a single instance, it is true, but yet very clearly. For when a friend asked him to perjure himself in court for his sake, he replied in these words: “One ought to aid one’s friends, but only so far as the gods allow.”
Theophrastus, however, in the book that I have mentioned, discusses this very question more exhaustively and with more care and precision than Cicero. But even he in his exposition does not express an opinion about separate and individual action, nor with the corroborative evidence of examples, but treats classes of actions briefly and generally, in about the following terms:
“A small and trifling amount of disgrace or infamy,” he says, “should be incurred, if thereby great advantage may be gained for a friend; for the insignificant loss from impairment of honor is repaid and made good by the greater and more substantial honor gained by aiding a friend, and that slight break or rift, so to speak, in one’s reputation is repaired by the buttress formed by the advantages gained for one’s friend. “Nor ought we,” says he, “to be influenced by mere terms, because my fair fame and the advantage of a friend under accusation are not of the same class. For such things must be estimated by their immediate weight and importance, not by verbal terms and the merits of the classes to which they belong. For when the interests of a friend are put into the balance with our own honor in matters of equal importance, or nearly so, our own honor unquestionably turns the scale; but when the advantage of a friend is far greater, but our sacrifice of reputation in a matter of no great moment is insignificant, then what is advantageous to a friend gains in importance in comparison with what is honorable for us, exactly as a great weight of bronze is more valuable than a tiny shred of gold.”
On this point I append Theophrastus’ own words: “If such and such a thing belongs to a more valuable class, yet it is not true that some part of it, compared with a corresponding part of something else, will be preferable. This is not the case, for example, if gold is more valuable than bronze, and a portion of gold, compared with a portion of bronze of corresponding size, is obviously of more worth; but the number and size of the portions will have some influence on our decision.”
The philosopher Favorinus too, somewhat loosening and inclining the delicate balance of justice to suit the occasion, thus defined such an indulgence in favor: “That which among men is called favor is the relaxing of strictness in time of need.”
Later on Theophrastus again expressed himself to about this effect: “The relative importance and insignificance of things, and all these considerations of duty, are sometimes directed, controlled, and as it were steered by other external influences and other additional factors, so to say, arising from individuals, conditions and exigencies, as well as by the requirements of existing circumstances; and these influences, which it is difficult to reduce to rules, make them appear now justifiable and now unjustifiable.”
On these and similar topics Theophrastus wrote very discreetly, scrupulously and conscientiously, yet with more attention to analysis and discussion than with the intention or whether of arriving at a decision, since undoubtedly the variations in circumstances and exigencies, and the minute distinctions and differences, do not admit of a definite and universal rule that can be applied to individual cases; and it is such a rule, as I said at the beginning of this essay, of which we are in search.
Now this Chilo, with whom I began this little discussion, is the author not only of some other wise and salutary precepts, but also of the following, which has been found particularly helpful, since it confines within due limits those two most ungovernable passions, love and hatred. “So love,” said he, “as if you were possibly destined to hate; and in the same way, hate as if you might perhaps afterwards love.”
Of this same Chilo the philosopher Plutarch, in the first book of his treatise On the Soul, wrote as follows: “Chilo of old, having heard a man say that he had no enemy, asked him if he had no friend, believing that enmities necessarily followed and were involved in friendships.”
The rhetorician Antonius Julianus had an exceedingly noble and winning personality. He also possessed learning of a delightful and helpful sort, devoting great attention to the refinements of the writers of old and readily recalling them. Moreover, he inspected all the earlier literature with such care, weighing its merits and ferreting out its defects, that you might say that his judgment was perfect.
This Julianus expressed the following opinion of the syllogism which is found in the speech of Marcus Tullius spoken In Defense of Gnaeus Plancius — but first I will quote the exact words on which he passed judgment: “And yet, a debt of money is a different thing from a debt of gratitude. For he who discharges a debt in money ceases forthwith to have that which he has paid, while one who continues in debts keeps what belongs to another. But in the case of a debt of gratitude, he who returns it has it; and he who has it returns it by the mere fact of having it. In the present instance I shall not cease to be Plancius’ debtor if I pay this debt, nor should I be paying him any the less simply by feeling goodwill, if the present unfortunate situation had not occurred.” “Here,” said Julianus, “is to be sure a fine artistry in the way the words are marshalled, something well-rounded that charms the ear by its mere music; but it must be read with the privilege of a slight change in the meaning of one word in order to preserve the truth of the proposition. Now the comparison of a debt of gratitude with a pecuniary debt demands the use of the word ‘debt’ in both instances. For a debt of money and a debt of gratitude will seem to be properly compared, if we may say that both money and gratitude are owed; but let us consider what happens in the owing or paying of money, and on the other hand in the owing and paying of a debt of gratitude, if we retain the word ‘debt’ in both instances. Now Cicero,” continued Julianus, “having said that a debt of money was a different thing from a debt of gratitude, in giving his reason for that statement applies the word ‘owe’ to money, but in the case of gratitude substitutes ‘has’ (i.e. ‘feels’) for ‘owes’; for this is what he says: ‘But in the case of a debt of gratitude, he who returns it has it; and he who has it returns it by the mere fact of having it.’ But that word ‘has’ does not exactly fit the proposed comparison. For it is the owing, and not the having, of gratitude that is compared with money, and therefore it would have been more consistent to say: ‘He who owes pays by the mere fact of owing.’ But it would be absurd and quite too forced if a debt of gratitude that was not yet paid should be said to be paid by the mere fact that it was owed. Therefore,” said Julianus, “Cicero made a change and substituted a similar word for one which he had dropped, in order to seem to have kept the idea of a comparison of debts, and at the same time retained the careful balance of his period.” Thus it was that Julianus elucidated and criticized passages in the earlier literature, which a select group of young men read under his guidance.
It is said that Demosthenes in his dress and other personal habits was excessively spruce, elegant and studied. It was for that reason that he was taunted by his rivals and opponents with his “exquisite, pretty mantles” and “soft, pretty tunics”; for that reason, too, that they did not refrain from applying to him foul and shameful epithets, alleging that he was no man and was even guilty of unnatural vice.
In like manner Quintus Hortensius, quite the most renowned orator of his time with the exception of Marcus Tullius, because he dressed with extreme foppishness, arranged the folds of his toga with great care and exactness, and in speaking used his hands to excess in lively gestures, was assailed with gibes and shameful charges; and many taunts were hurled at him, even while he was pleading in court, for appearing like an actor. But when Sulla was on trial, and Lucius Torquatus, a man of somewhat boorish and uncouth nature, with great violence and bitterness did not stop with calling Hortensius an actor in the presence of the assembled jurors, but should that he was a posturer and a Dionysia — which was the name of a notorious dancing-girl — then Hortensius round in a soft and gentle tone: “I would rather be a Dionysia, Torquatus, yes, a Dionysia, than like you, a stranger to the Muses, to Venus and to Dionysus.”
A number of learned men were listening to the reading of the speech which Metellus Numidicus, an earnest and eloquent man, delivered to the people when he was censor, On Marriage, urging them to be ready to undertake its obligations. In that speech these words were written: “If we could get on without a wife, Romans, we would all avoid that annoyance; but since nature has ordained that we can neither live very comfortably with them nor at all without them, we must take thought for our lasting well-being rather than for the pleasure of the moment.”
It seemed to some of the company that Quintus Metellus, whose purpose as censor was to encourage the people to take wives, ought not to have admitted the annoyance and constant inconveniences of the married state; that to do this was not so much to encourage, as to dissuade and deter them. But they said that his speech ought rather to have taken just the opposite tone, insisting that as a rule there were no annoyances in matrimony, and if after all they seemed sometimes to arise, they were slight, insignificant and easily endured, and whether completely forgotten in its greater pleasures and advantages; furthermore, that even these annoyances did not fall to the lot of all or from any fault natural to matrimony, but as the result of the misconduct and injustice of some husbands and wives. Titus Castricius, however, thought that Metellus had spoken properly and as was altogether worthy of his position. “A censor,” said he, “ought to speak in one way, an advocate in another. It is the orator’s privilege to make statements that are untrue, daring, crafty, deceptive and sophistical, provided they have some semblance of truth and can by any artifice be made to insinuate themselves into the minds of the persons who are to be influenced. Furthermore,” he said, “it is disgraceful for an advocate, even though his case be a bad one, to leave anything unnoticed or undefended. But for a Metellus, a blameless man, with a reputation for dignity and sense of honor, addressing the Roman people with the prestige of such a life and course of honors, it was not becoming to say anything which was not accepted as true by himself and by all men, especially when speaking on a subject which was a matter of everyday knowledge and formed a part of the common and habitual experience of life. Accordingly, having admitted the existence of annoyances notorious with all men, and having thus established confidence in his sincerity and truthfulness, he then found it no difficult or uphill work of convince them of what was the soundest and truest of principles, that the State cannot survive without numerous marriages.”
This other passage also from the same address of Metellus in my opinion deserves constant reading, not less by Heaven! than the writings of the greatest philosophers. His words are these: “The immortal gods have mighty power, but they are not expected to be more indulgent than our parents. But parents, if their children persist in wrong-doing, disinherit them. What different application of justice then are we to look for from the immortal gods, unless we put an end to our evil ways? Those alone may fairly claim the favour of the gods who are not their own worst enemies. The immortal gods ought to support, not supply, virtue.”
In the fifth oration of Cicero Against Verres, in a copy of unimpeachable fidelity, since it was the result of Tiro’s careful scholarship, is this passage: “Men of low degree and humble birth sail the seas; they come to places which they had never before visited. They are neither known to those to whom they have come nor can they always find acquaintances to vouch for them, yet because of this mere faith in their citizenship they believe that they will be safe, not only before our magistrates, who are constrained by fear of the laws and public opinion, and not only among Roman citizens, who are united by the common bond of language, rights, and many interests, but wherever they may come, they hope that this possession will protect them.”
It seemed to many that there was an error in the last word. For they thought that futuram should be written instead of futurum, and they were sure that the book ought to be corrected, lest like the adulterer in the comedy of Plautus — for so they jested about the error which they thought they had found — this solecism in an oration of Cicero’s should be “caught in the act.”
There chanced to be present there a friend of mine, who had become an expert from wide reading and to whom almost all the older literature had been the object of study, meditation and wakeful nights. He, on examining the book, declared that there was no mistake in writing or grammar in that word, but that Cicero had written correctly and in accordance with early usage. “For futurum is not,” said he, “to be taken with rem, as hasty and careless readers think, nor is it used as a participle. It is an infinitive, the kind of word which the Greeks call ἀπαρέμφατος or ‘indeterminate,’ affected neither by number nor gender, but altogether free and independent, such a word as Gaius Gracchus used in the speech entitled On Publius Popilius, delivered in the places of assembly, in which we read: ‘I suppose that my enemies will say this.’ He said dicturum, not dicturos; and is it not clear that dicturum in Gracchus is used according to the same principle as futurum in Cicero? Just as in the Greek language, without any suspicion of error, words such as ἐρεῖν, ποιήσειν, ἔσεσθαι, and the like, are used in all genders and all numbers without distinction.” He added that in the third book of the Annals of Claudius Quadrigarius are these words: “While they were being cut to pieces, the forces of the enemy would be busy there (copias … futurum)”; and at the beginning of the eighteenth book of the same Quadrigarius: “If you enjoy health proportionate to your own merit and our good-will, we have reason to hope that the gods will bless the good (deos … facturum)”; that similarly Valerius Antias also in his twenty-fourth book wrote: “If those religious rites should be performed, and the omens should be wholly favorable, the soothsayers declared that everything would proceed as they desired (omnia … processurum esse).” “Plautus also in the Casina, speaking of a girl, used occisurum, not occisuram in the following passage:
Has Casina a sword? — Yes, two of them. —
Why two? — With one she’d fain the bailiff slay,
With t’other you.
So too Laberius in The Twins wrote:
I thought not she would do (facturum) it.
Now, all those men were not unaware of the nature of a solecism, but Gracchus used dicturum, Quadrigarius futurum and facturum, Antias processurum, Plautus occisurum and Laberius facturum, in the infinitive mood, a mood which is not inflected for mood or number or person or tense or gender, but expresses them all by one and the same form, just as Marcus Cicero did not use futurum in the masculine or neuter gender — for that would clearly be a solecism — but employed a form which is independent of any influence of gender.”
Furthermore, that same friend of mine used to say that in the oration of that same Marcus Tullius On Pompey’s Military Command Cicero wrote the following, and so my friend always read it: “Since you know that your harbors, and those harbors from which you draw the breath of life, were in the power of the pirates.” And he declared that in potestatem fuisse was not a solecism, as the half-educated vulgar think, but he maintained that it was used in accordance with a definite and correct principle, one which the Greeks also followed; and Plautus, who is most choice in his Latinity, said in the Amphitruo:
Número mihi in mentém fuit,
not in mente, as we commonly say.
But besides Plautus, whom my friend used as an example in this instance, I myself have come upon a great abundance of such expressions in the early writers, and I have jotted them down here and there in these notes of mine. But quite apart from that rule and those authorities, the very sound and order of the words make it quite clear that it is more in accordance with the careful attention to diction and the rhythmical style of Marcus Tullius that, either being good Latin, he should prefer to say potestatem rather than potestate. For the former construction is more agreeable to the ear and better rounded, the latter harsher and less finished, provided always that a man has an ear attuned to such distinctions, not one that is dull and sluggish; it is for the same reason indeed that he preferred to say explicavit rather than explicuit, which was already coming to be the commoner form.
These are his own words from the speech which he delivered On Pompey’s Military Command: “Sicily is a witness, which, begirt on all sides by many dangers, he freed (explicavit), not by the threat of war, but by his promptness in decision.” But if he had said explicuit, the sentence would halt with weak and imperfect rhythm.
Sotion was a man of the Peripatetic school, far from unknown. He wrote a book filled with wide and varied information and called it Κέρας Ἀμαλθείας, which is about equivalent to The Horn of Plenty.
In that book is found the following anecdote about the orator Demosthenes and the courtesan Lais: “Lais of Corinth,” he says, “used to gain a great deal of money by the grace and charm of her beauty, and was frequently visited by wealthy men from all over Greece; but no one was received who did not give what she demanded, and her demands were extravagant enough.” He says that this was the origin of the proverb common among the Greeks:
Not every man may fare to Corinth town,
for in vain would any man go to Corinth to visit Lais who could not pay her price. “The great Demosthenes approached her secretly and asked for her favors. But Lais demanded ten thousand drachmas” — a sum equivalent in our money to ten thousand denarii. “Amazed and shocked at the woman’s great impudence and the vast sum of money demanded, Demosthenes turned away, remarking as he left her: ‘I will not buy regret at such a price.’” But the Greek words which he is said to have used are neater; he said: Ούκ ὠνοῦμαι μυρίων δραχμῶν μεταμέλειαν.
It is said that the order and method followed by Pythagoras, and afterwards by his school and his successors, in admitting and training their pupils were as follows: At the very outset he “physiognomized” the young men who presented themselves for instruction. That word means to inquire into the character and dispositions of men by an inference drawn from their facial appearance and expression, and from the form and bearing of their whole body. Then, when he had thus examined a man and found him suitable, he at once gave orders that he should be admitted to the school and should keep silence for a fixed period of time; this was not the same for all, but differed according to his estimate of the man’s capacity for learning quickly. But the one who kept silent listened to what was said by others; he was, however, religiously forbidden to ask questions, if he had not fully understood, or to remark upon what he had heard. Now, no one kept silence for less than two years, and during the entire period of silent listening they were called ἀκουστικοί or “auditors.” But when they had learned what is of all things the most difficult, to keep quiet and listen, and had finally begun to be adepts in that silence which is called ἐχεμυθἐα or “continence in words,” they were then allowed to speak, to ask questions, and to write down what they had heard, and to express their own opinions. During this stage they were called μαθηματικοἐ or “students of science,” evidently from those branches of knowledge which they had now begun to learn and practice; for the ancient Greeks called geometry, gnomonics, music and other higher studies μαθήματα or “sciences”; but the common people apply the term mathematici to those who ought to be called by their ethnic name, Chaldaeans. Finally, equipped with this scientific training, they advanced to the investigation of the phenomena of the universe and the laws of nature, and then, and not till then, they were called φυσικοἐ or “natural philosophers.”
Having thus expressed himself about Pythagoras, my friend Taurus continued: “But nowadays these fellows who turn to philosophy on a sudden with unwashed feet, not content with being wholly ‘without purpose, without learning, and without scientific training,’ even lay down the law as to how they are to be taught philosophy. One says, ‘first teach me this,’ another chimes in, “I want to learn this, I don’t want to learn that’; one is eager to begin with the Symposium of Plato because of the revel of Alcibiades, another with the Phaedrus on account of the speech of Lysias. By Jupiter!” said he, “one man actually asks to read Plato, not in order to better his life, but to deck out his diction and style, not to gain in discretion, but in prettiness.” That is what Taurus used to say, in comparing the modern students of philosophy with the Pythagoreans of old.
But I must not omit this fact either — that all of them, as soon as they had been admitted by Pythagoras into that band of disciples, at once devoted to the common use whatever estate and property they had, and an inseparable fellowship was formed, like the old-time association which in Roman legal parlance was termed an “undivided inheritance.”
The philosopher Favorinus thus addressed a young man who was very fond of old words and made a display in his ordinary, everyday conversation of many expressions that were quite too unfamiliar and archaic: “Curius,” said he, “and Fabricius and Coruncanius, men of the olden days, and of a still earlier time than these famous triplets, the Horatii, talked clearly and intelligibly with their fellows, using the language of their own day, not that of the Aurunci, the Sicani, or the Pelasgi, who are said to have been the earliest inhabitants of Italy. You, on the contrary, just as if you were talking today with Evander’s mother, use words that have already been obsolete for many years, because you want no one to know and comprehend what you are saying. Why not accomplish your purpose more fully, foolish fellow, and say nothing at all? But you assert that you love the olden time, because it is honest, sterling, sober and temperate. Live by all means according to the manners of the past, but speak in the language of the present, and always remember and take to heart what Gaius Caesar, a man of surpassing talent and wisdom, wrote in the first book of his treatise On Analogy: ‘Avoid, as you would a rock, a strange and unfamiliar word.’”
Thucydides, the most authoritative of Greek historians, tells us that the Lacedaemonians, greatest of warriors, made use in battle, not of signals by horns or trumpets, but of the music of pipes, certainly not in conformity with any religious usage or from any ceremonial reason, nor yet that their courage might be roused and stimulated, which is the purpose of horns and trumpets; but on the contrary that they might be calmer and advance in better order, because the effect of the flute-player’s notes is to restrain impetuosity. So firmly were they convinced that in meeting the enemy and beginning battle nothing contributed more to valor and confidence than to be soothed by gentler sounds and keep their feelings under control. Accordingly, when the army was drawn up, and began to advance in battle-array against the foe, pipers stationed in the ranks began to play. Thereupon, by this quiet, pleasant, and even solemn prelude the fierce impetuosity of the soldiers was checked, in conformity with a kind of discipline of military music, so to speak, so that they might not rush forth in straggling disorder.
But I should like to quote the very words of that outstanding writer, which have greater distinction and credibility than my own: “And after this the attack began. The Argives and their allies rushed forward eagerly and in a rage, but the Lacedaemonians advanced slowly to the music of many flute-players stationed at regular intervals; this not for any religious reason, but in order that they might make the attack while marching together rhythmically, and that their ranks might not be broken, which commonly happens to great armies when they advance to the attack.”
Tradition has it that the Cretans also commonly entered battle with the lyre playing before them and regulating their step. Furthermore, Alyattes, king of the land of Lydia, a man of barbaric manners and luxury, when he made war on the Milesians, as Herodotus tells us in his History, had in his army and his battle-array orchestras of pipe- and lyre-players, and even female flute-players, such as are the delight of wanton banqueters. Homer, however, says that the Achaeans entered battle, relying, not on the music of lyres and pipes, but on silent harmony and unanimity of spirit:
In silence came the Achaeans, breathing rage,
resolved in mind on one another’s aid.
What then is the meaning of that soul-stirring shout of the Roman soldiers which, as the annalists have told us, was regularly used when charging the foe? Was that done contrary to so generally accepted a rule of old-time discipline? Or are a quiet advance and silence needful when an army is marching against an enemy that is far off and visible from a distance, but when you have almost come to blows, then must the foe, already at close quarters, be driven back by a violent assault and terrified by shouting?
But, look you, the Laconian pipe-playing reminds me also of that oratorical pipe, which they say was played for Gaius Gracchus when he addressed the people, and gave him the proper pitch. But it is not at all true, as is commonly stated, that a musician always stood behind him as he spoke, playing the pipe, and by varying the pitch now restrained and now animated his feelings and his delivery. For what could be more absurd than that a piper should play measures, notes, and a kind of series of changing melodies for Gracchus when addressing an assembly, as if for a dancing mountebank? But more reliable authorities declare that the musician took his place unobserved in the audience and at intervals sounded on a short pipe a deeper note, to restrain and calm the exuberant energy of the orator’s delivery. And that in my opinion is the correct view, for it is unthinkable that Gracchus’ well-known natural vehemence needed any incitement or impulse from without. Yet Marcus Cicero thinks that the piper was employed by Gracchus for both purposes, in order that with notes now soft, now shrill, he might animate his oratory when it was becoming weak and feeble, or check it when too violent and passionate. I quote Cicero’s own words: “And so this same Gracchus, Catulus, as you may hear from your client Licinius, an educated man, who was at that time Gracchus’ slave and amanuensis, used to have a skillful musician stand behind him in concealment when he addressed an audience, who could quickly breathe a note to arouse the speaker if languid, or recall him from undue vehemence.”
Finally, Aristotle wrote in his volume of Problems that the custom of the Lacedaemonians which I have mentioned, of entering battle to the music of pipers, was adopted in order to make the fearlessness and ardour of the soldiers more evident and indubitable. “For,” said he, “distrust and fear are not at all consistent with an advance of that kind, and such an intrepid and rhythmical advance cannot be made by the faint-hearted and despondent.” I have added a few of Aristotle’s own words on the subject: “Why, when on the point of encountering danger, did they advance to music of the pipe? In order to detect the cowards by their failure to keep time.” ***
Those who have written about “taking” a Vestal virgin, of whom the most painstaking is Antistius Labeo, have stated that it is unlawful for a girl to be chosen who is less than six, or more than ten, years old; she must also have both father and mother living; she must be free too from any impediment in her speech, must not have impaired hearing, or be marked by any other bodily defect; she must not herself have been freed from paternal control, nor her father before her, even if her father is still living and she is under the control of her grandfather; neither one nor both of her parents may have been slaves or engaged in mean occupations. But they say that one whose sister has been chosen to that priesthood acquires exemption, as well as one whose father is a flamen or an augur, one of the Fifteen in charge of the Sibylline Books, one of the Seven who oversee the banquets of the gods, or a dancing priest of Mars. Exemption from that priesthood is regularly allowed also to the betrothed of a pontiff and to the daughter of a priest of the tubilustrium. Furthermore the writings of Ateius Capito inform us that the daughter of a man without residence in Italy must not be chosen, and that the daughter of one who has three children must be excused.
Now, as soon as the Vestal virgin is chosen, escorted to the House of Vesta and delivered to the pontiffs, she immediately passes from the control of her father without the ceremony of emancipation or loss of civil rights, and acquires the right to make a will.
But as to the method and ritual for choosing a Vestal, there are, it is true, no ancient written records, except that the first to be appointed was chosen by Numa. There is, however, a Papian law, which provides that twenty maidens be selected from the people at the discretion of the chief pontiff, that a choice by lot be made from that number in the assembly, and that the girl whose lot is drawn be “taken” by the chief pontiff and become Vesta’s. But that allotment in accordance with the Papian law is usually unnecessary at present. For if any man of respectable birth goes to the chief pontiff and offers his daughter for the priesthood, provided consideration may be given to her candidacy without violating any religious requirement, the senate grants him exemption from the Papian law.
Now the Vestal is said to be “taken,” it appears, because she is grasped by the hand of the chief pontiff and led away from the parent under whose control she is, as if she had been taken in war. In the first book of Fabius Pictor’s History the formula is given which the chief pontiff should use in choosing a Vestal. It is this: “I take thee, Amata, as one who has fulfilled all the legal requirements, to be priestess of Vesta, to perform the rites which it is lawful for a Vestal to perform for the Roman people, the Quirites.”
Now, many think that the term “taken” ought to be used only of a Vestal. But, as a matter of fact, the flamens of Jupiter also, as well as the augurs, were said to be “taken.” Lucius Sulla, in the second book of his Autobiography, wrote as follows: “Publius Cornelius, the first to receive the surname Sulla, was taken to be flamen of Jupiter.” Marcus Cato, in his accusation of Servius Galba, says of the Lusitanians: “Yet they say that they wished to revolt. I myself at the present moment wish a thorough knowledge of the pontifical law; shall I therefore be taken as chief pontiff? If I wish to understand the science of augury thoroughly, shall anyone for that reason take me as augur?”
Furthermore, in the Commentaries on the Twelve Tables compiled by Labeo we find this passage: “A Vestal virgin is not heir to any intestate person, nor is anyone her heir, should she die without making a will, but her property, they say, reverts to the public treasury. The legal principle involved is an unsettled question.”
The Vestal is called “Amata” when taken by the chief pontiff, because there is a tradition that the first one who was chosen bore that name.
In interpreting, evaluating and weighing the obligations which the philosophers call καθήκοντα, or “duties,” the question is often asked, when some task has been assigned to you and exactly what was to be done has been defined, whether you ought to do anything contrary to instructions, if by so doing it might seem that the outcome would be more successful and more advantageous to the one who imposed the task upon you. It is a difficult question which has been answered both ways by wise men. For several have taken a position on the one side and expressed the decided belief that when a matter has once for all been determined, after due deliberation, by the one whose business and right are concerned, nothing should be done contrary to his order, even if some unlooked for occurrence should promise a better way of accomplishing the end in view; for fear that, if the expectation were not realized, the offender would be liable to blame and inexorable punishment for his insubordination. If, on the other hand, the affair chanced to result more favorably, thanks would indeed be due the gods, but nevertheless a precedent would seem to have been established, which might ruin well-laid plans by weakening the binding force of a command. Others have thought that the disadvantages to be feared, in case the order was not strictly obeyed, should carefully be weighed in advance against the advantage hoped for, and if the former were comparatively light and trivial, while on the contrary a greater and more substantial advantage was confidently to be expected, then they judged that one might go counter to instructions, to avoid losing a providential opportunity for successful action; and they did not believe that a precedent for disobedience was to be feared, provided always that considerations of such a kind could be urged. But they thought that particular regard should be paid to the temperament and disposition of the person whose business and command were involved: he must not be stern, hard, autocratic and implacable, as in the case of the orders of a Postumius and a Manlius. For if an account must be rendered to such a commander, they recommended that nothing be done contrary to the letter of his order.
I think that this question of obedience to commands of such a nature will be more clearly defined, if I add the example set by Publius Crassus Mucianus, a distinguished and eminent man. This Crassus is said by Sempronius Asellio and several other writers of Roman history to have had the five greatest and chiefest of blessings; for he was very rich, of the highest birth, exceedingly eloquent, most learned in the law, and chief pontiff. When he, in his consulship, was in command in the province of Asia, and was making preparations to beset and assault Leucae, he needed a long, stout beam from which to make a battering-ram, to breach the walls of that city. Accordingly, he wrote to the chief engineer of the people of Mylatta, allies and friends of the Romans, to have the larger of two masts which he had seen in their city sent him. Then the chief engineer on learning the purpose for which Crassus wanted the mast, did not send him the larger, as had been ordered, but the smaller, which he thought was more suitable, and better adapted for making a ram, besides being easier to transport. Crassus ordered him to be summoned, asked why he had not sent the mast which had been ordered, and ignoring the excuses and reasons which the man urged, caused him to be stripped and soundly beaten with rods; for he thought that all the authority of a commander was weakened and made of no effect, if one might reply to orders which he received, not with due obedience, but with an unsolicited plan of his own.
Julius Hyginus, in the sixth book of his work On the Lives and Deeds of Famous Men, says that a deputation from the Samnites came to Gaius Fabricius, the Roman general, and after mentioning his many important acts of kindness and generosity to the Samnites since peace was restored, offered him a present of a large sum of money, begging that he would accept and use it. And they said that they did this because they saw that his house and mode of life were far from magnificent, and that he was not so well provided for as his high rank demanded. Thereupon Fabricius passed his open hands from his ears to his eyes, then down to his nose, his mouth, his throat, and finally to the lower part of his belly; then he replied to the envoys: “So long as I can restrain and control all those members which I have touched, I shall never lack anything; therefore I cannot accept money, for which I have no use, from those who, I am sure, do have use for it.”
The talk of empty-headed, vain and tiresome babblers, who with no foundation of solid matter let out a stream of tipsy, tottering words, has justly been thought to come from the lips and not from the heart. Moreover, men say that the tongue ought not to be unrestrained and rambling, but guided and, so to speak, steered by cords connected with the heart and inmost breast. Yet you may see some men spouting forth words with no exercise of judgment, but with such great and profound assurance that many of them in the very act of speaking are evidently unaware that they are talking. Ulysses, on the contrary, a man gifted with sagacious eloquence, spoke, not from his lips but from his heart, as Homer says — a remark which applies less to the sound and quality of his utterance than to the depth of the thoughts inwardly conceived; and the poet went on to say, with great aptness, that the teeth form a rampart to check wanton words, in order that reckless speech may not only be restrained by that watchful sentry the heart, but also hedged in by a kind of outpost, so to speak, stationed at the lips.
The words of Homer which I mentioned above are these:
When from his breast his mighty voice went forth
What a word has passed the barrier of your teeth.
I have added also a passage from Marcus Tullius, in which he expresses his strong and just hatred of silly and unmeaning volubility. He says: “Provided this fact be recognized, that neither should one commend the dumbness of a man who knows a subject, but is unable to give it expression in speech, nor the ignorance of one who lacks knowledge of his subject, but abounds in words; yet if one must choose one or the other alternative, I for my part would prefer tongue-tied knowledge to ignorant loquacity.” Also in the first book of the De Oratore he wrote as follows: “For what is so insane as the empty sound of words, however well-chosen and elegant, if there be no foundation of sense or sagacity?” But Marcus Cato in particular is a relentless assailant of this fault. For in the speech entitled If Caelius, tribune of the commons, should have summoned him, he says: “That man is never silent who is afflicted with the disease of talking, as one in a lethargy is afflicted with that of drinking and sleeping. For if you should not come together when he calls an assembly, so eager is he to talk that he would hire someone to listen. And so you hear him, but you do not listen, just as if he were a quack. For a quack’s words are heard, but no one trusts himself to him when he is sick.” Again Cato, in the same speech, upbraiding the same Marcus Caelius, tribune of the commons, for the cheapness at which not only his speech but also his silence could be bought, says: “For a crust of bread he can be hired either to keep silence or to speak.” Most deservedly too does Homer call Thersites alone of all the Greeks ἀμετροεπής, “of measureless speech,” and ἀκριτόμυθος, “a reckless babbler,” declaring that his words are many and ἄκοσμα, or “disordered,” like the endless chatter of daws; for what else does ἐκολώα (“he chattered”) mean? There is also a line of Eupolis most pointedly aimed at men of that kind:
In chatter excellent, unable quite to speak,
and our countryman Sallust, wishing to imitate this, writes: “Talkative rather than eloquent.” It is for the same reason that Hesiod, wisest of poets, says that the tongue should not be vulgarly exposed but hidden like a treasure, and that it is exhibited with best effect when it is modest, restrained and musical. His own words are:
The greatest of man’s treasures is the tongue,
Which wins most favour when it spares its words
And measured is of movement.
The following verse of Epicharmus is also to the point:
Thou art not skilled in speech, yet silence cannot keep,
and it is from this line surely that the saying arose: “Who, though he could not speak, could not be silent.”
I once heard Favorinus say that the familiar lines of Euripides:
Of unrestrained mouth
And of lawless folly
Is disaster the end,
ought not to be understood as directed only at those who spoke impiously or lawlessly, but might even with special propriety be used also of men who prate foolishly and immoderately, whose tongues are so extravagant and unbridled that they ceaselessly flow and seethe with the foulest dregs of language, the sort of persons to whom the Greeks apply the highly significant term κατάγλωσσοι, or “given to talk.” I learned from a friend of his, a man of learning, that the famous grammarian Valerius Probus, shortly before his death, began to read Sallust’s well-known saying, “a certain amount of eloquence but little discretion,” as “abundant talkativeness, too little discretion,” and that he insisted that Sallust left it in that form, since the word loquentia was very characteristic of Sallust, an innovator in diction, while eloquentia was not at all consistent with lack of discretion.
Finally, loquacity of this kind and a disorderly mass of empty grandiloquence is scored with striking epithets by Aristophanes, wittiest of poets, in the following lines:
A stubborn-creating, stubborn-pulling fellow,
Uncurbed, unfettered, uncontrolled of speech,
And no less pointedly did our forefathers also call men of that kind, who were drowned in words, “babblers, gabblers and chatterboxes.”
Quadrigarius in the third book of his Annals wrote the following: “There a thousand of men is killed,” using occiditur, near occiduntur. So too Lucilius in the third book of his Satires,
From gate to gate a thousand of paces is.
Thence to Salernum six,
has mille est, not mille sunt. Varro in the seventeenth book of his Antiquities of Man writes: “To the beginning of Romulus’ reign is more than a thousand and one hundred years,” Marcus Cato in the first book of his Origins, “From there it is nearly a thousand of paces.” Marcus Cicero has in his sixth Oration against Antony, “is the middle Janus so subject to the patronage of Lucius Antonius? Who has ever been found in that Janus who would lend Lucius Antonius a thousand of sesterces?”
In these and many other passages mille is used in the singular number, and that is not, as some think, a concession to early usage or admitted as a neat figure of speech, but it is obviously demanded by rule. For the word mille does not stand for the Greek χίλιοι, “thousand,” but for χιλιάς, “a thousand”; and just as they say one χιλιάς, or two χιλιάδες, so we say one thousand and two thousands according to a definite and regular rule. Therefore these common expressions are correct and good usage, “There is a thousand of denarii in the chest,” and “There is a thousand of horsemen in the army.” Furthermore Lucilius, in addition the example cited above, makes the point still clearer in another place also: for in his fifteenth book he says:
This horse no jolting fine Campanian steed,
Though he has passed him by one thousand, aye
And twain, of paces, can in a longer course
Compete with, but he will in fact appear
To run the other way.
So too in the ninth book:
With sesterces a thousand you can gain
A hundred thousand.
Lucilius wrote milli passum instead of mille passibus and uno milli nummum for unis mille nummis, thus showing clearly that mille is a noun, and that it also forms an ablative case. Nor ought we to expect the rest of these cases; for there are many other words which are declined only in single cases, and even some which are not declined at all. Therefore we can no longer doubt that Cicero, in the speech which he wrote In Defense of Milo, used these words: “Before the estate of Clodius, where fully a thousand of able-bodied men was employed on those crazy substructures,” not “were employed,” as we find it in less accurate copies; for one rule requires us to say “a thousand men,” but another, “a thousand of men.”
Xanthippe, the wife of the philosopher Socrates, is said to have been ill-tempered and quarrelsome to a degree, with a constant flood of feminine tantrums and annoyances day and night. Alcibiades, amazed at this outrageous conduct of hers towards her husband, asked Socrates what earthly reason he had for not showing so shrewish a woman the door. “Because,” replied Socrates, “it is by enduring such a person at home that I accustom and train myself to bear more easily away from home the impudence and injustice of other persons.”
In the same vein Varro also said in the Menippean Satire which he entitled On the Duty of a Husband: “A wife’s faults must be either put down or put up with. He who puts down her faults, makes his wife more agreeable; he who puts up with them, improves himself.” Varro contrasted the two words Mentollere and ferre very cleverly, to be sure, but he obviously uses tollere in the sense of “correct.” It is evident that Varro thought that if a fault of that kind in a wife cannot be corrected, it should be tolerated, in so far of course as a man may endure it honorably; for faults are less serious than crimes.
In the fourteenth book of his Divine Antiquities Marcus Varro shows that Lucius Aelius, the most learned Roman of his time, went astray and followed a false etymological principle in separating an old Greek word which had been taken over into the Roman language into two Latin words, just as if it were of Latin origin.
I quote Varro’s own words on the subject: “In this regard our countryman Lucius Aelius, the most gifted man of letters within my memory, was sometimes misled. For he gave false derivations of several early Greek words, under the impression that they were native to our tongue. We do not use the word lepus (‘hare’) because the animal is levipes (‘light-footed’), as he asserts, but because it is an old Greek word. Many of the early words of that people are unfamiliar, because today the Greeks use other words in their place; and it may not be generally known that among these are Graecus, for which they now use Ἕλλην, puteus (‘well’) which they call φρέαπ, and lepus, which they call λαγωός. But as to this, far from disparaging Aelius’ ability, I commend his diligence; for it is good fortune that brings success, endeavor that deserves praise.”
This is what Varro wrote in the first part of his book, with great skill in the explanation of words, with wide knowledge of the usage of both languages, and marked kindliness toward Aelius himself. But in the latter part of the same book he says that fur is so called because the early Romans used furvus for ater (‘black’), and thieves steal most easily in the night, which is black. Is it not clear that Varro made the same mistake about fur that Aelius made about lepus. For what the Greeks now call κλέπτης, or “thief,” in the earlier Greek language was called φώρ. Hence, owing to the similarity in sound, he who in Greek is φώρ, in Latin is fur. But whether that fact escaped Varro’s memory at the time, or on the other hand he thought that fur was more appropriately and consistently named from furvus, that is, “black,” as to that question it is not for me to pass judgment on a man of such surpassing learning.
In ancient annals we find this tradition about the Sibylline Books. An old woman, a perfect stranger, came to king Tarquin the Proud, bringing nine books; she declared that they were oracles of the gods and that she wished to sell them. Tarquin inquired the price; the woman demanded an immense and exorbitant sum: the king laughed her to scorn, believing her to be in her dotage. Then she placed a lighted brazier before him, burned three of the books to ashes, and asked whether he would buy the remaining six at the same price. But at this Tarquin laughed all the more and said that there was now no doubt that the old woman was crazy. Upon that the woman at once burned up three more books and again calmly made the same request, that he would buy the remaining three at the original figure. Tarquin now became serious and more thoughtful, and realizing that such persistence and confidence were not to be treated lightly, he bought the three books that were left at as high a price as had been asked for all nine. Now it is a fact that after then leaving Tarquin, that woman was never seen again anywhere. The three books were deposited in a shrine and called “Sibylline”; to them the Fifteen resort whenever the immortal gods are to be consulted as to the welfare of the State.
Of the figures which the geometers call σχήματα there are two kinds, “plane” and “solid.” These the Greeks themselves call respectively ἐπίπεδος and στερεός. A “plane” figure is one that has all its lines in two dimensions only, breadth and length; for example, triangles and squares, which are drawn on a flat surface without height. We have a “solid” figure, when its several lines do not produce merely length and breadth in a plane, but are raised so as to produce height also; such are in general the triangular columns which they call “pyramids,” or those which are bounded on all sides by squares, such as the Greeks call κύβοι, and we quadrantalia. For the κύβος is a figure which is square on all its sides, “like the dice,” says Marcus Varro, “with which we play on a gaming-board, for which reason the dice themselves are called κύβοι.” Similarly in numbers too the term κύβος is used, when every factor consisting of the same number is equally resolved into the cube number itself, as is the case when three is taken three times and the resulting number itself is then trebled.
Pythagoras declared that the cube of the number three controls the course of the moon, since the moon passes through its orbit in twenty-seven days, and the ternio, or “triad,” which the Greeks call τριάς, when cubed makes twenty-seven.
Furthermore, our geometers apply the term linea, or “line,” to what the Greeks call γραμμή. This is defined by Marcus Varro as follows: “A line,” says he, “is length without breadth or height.” But Euclid says more tersely, omitting “height”: “A line is μῆκος ἀπλατές, or ‘breadthless length.”” Ἀπλατές cannot be expressed in Latin by a single word, unless you should venture to coin the term inlatabile.
Nearly everyone reads these lines from the Georgics of Virgil in this way:
At sapor indicium faciet manifestus et ora
Tristia temptantum sensu torquebit amaro.
Hyginus, however, on my word no obscure grammarian, in the Commentaries which he wrote on Virgil, declares and insists that it was not this that Virgil left, but what he himself found in a copy which had come from the home and family of the poet:
Tristia temptantum sensus torquebit amaror,
and this reading has commended itself, not to Hyginus alone, but also to many other learned men, because it seems absurd to say “the taste will distort with its bitter sensation.” “Since,” they say, “taste itself is a sensation, it cannot have another sensation in itself, but it is exactly as if one should say, ‘the sensation will distort with a bitter sensation.’” Moreover, when I had read Hyginus’ note to Favorinus, and the strangeness and harshness of the phrase “sensu torquebit amaro” at once displeased him, he said with a laugh, “I am ready to swear by Jupiter and the stone, which is considered the most sacred of oaths, that Virgil never wrote that, but I believe that Hyginus is right. For Virgil was not the first to coin that word arbitrarily, but he found it in the poems of Lucretius and made use of it, not disdaining to follow the authority of a poet who excelled in talent and power of expression.” The passage, from the fourth book of Lucretius, reads as follows:
Cum tuimur misceri absinthia, tangit amaror.
And in fact we see that Virgil imitated, not only single words of Lucretius, but often almost whole lines and passages.
An incorrect and improper meaning of a word has been established by long usage, in that we use the expression hic illi superest when we wish to say that anyone appears as another’s advocate and pleads his cause. And this is not merely the language of the streets and of the common people, but is used in the forum, the comitium and the courts. Those, however, who have spoken language undefiled have for the most part used superesse in the sense of “to overflow, be superfluous, or exceed the required amount.” Thus Marcus Varro, in the satire entitled “You know not what evening may bring,” uses superfuisse in the sense of having exceeded the amount proper for the occasion. These are his words: “Not everything should be read at a dinner party, but preferably such works as are at the same time improving and diverting, so that this feature of the entertainment also may seem not to have been neglected, rather than overdone.”
I remember happening to be present in the court of a praetor who was a man of learning, and that on that occasion an advocate of some repute pleaded in such fashion that he wandered from the subject and did not touch upon the point at issue. Thereupon the praetor said to the man whose case was before him: "You have no counsel.” And when the pleader protested, saying “I am present (supersum) for the honorable gentleman,” the praetor wittily retorted: “You surely present too much, but you do not represent your client.”
Marcus Cicero, too, in his book entitled On Reducing the Civil Law to a System wrote these words: “Indeed Quintus Aelius Tubero did not fall short of his predecessors in knowledge of the law, in learning he even outstripped them.” In this passage superfuit seems to mean “he went beyond, surpassed and excelled his predecessors in his learning, which, however, was excessive and overabundant”; for Tubero was thoroughly versed in Stoic dialectics. Cicero’s use of the word in the second book of the Republic also deserves attention. This is the passage in question: “I should not object, Laelius, if I did not think that these friends wished, and if I myself did not desire, that you should take some part in this discussion of ours, especially since you yourself said yesterday that you would give us even more than enough (te superfuturum). But that indeed is impossible: we all ask you not to give us less than enough (ne desis).”
Now Julius Paulus, the most learned man within my recollection, used to say with keenness and understanding that superesse and its Greek equivalent had more than one meaning: for he declared that the Greeks used περισσόν both ways, either of what was superfluous and unnecessary or of what was too abundant, overflowing and excessive; that in the same way our earliest writers also employed superesse sometimes of what was superfluous, idle and not wholly necessary, a sense which we have just cited from Varro, and some, as in Cicero, of that which indeed surpassed other things in copiousness and plentifulness, yet was immoderate and too extensive, and gushed forth more abundantly than was sufficient. Therefore one who says superesse se with reference to a man whom he is defending tries to convey none of these meanings, but uses superesse in a sense that is unknown and not in use. And he will not be able to appeal even of that authority of Virgil, who in his Georgics wrote as follows:
I will be first to bear, so but my life still last (supersit),
Home to my native land …
For in this place Virgil seems to have used that word somewhat irregularly in giving supersit the sense of “be present for a longer or more extended period,” but on the contrary his use of the word in the following line is more nearly the accepted one:
They cut him tender grass,
Give corn and much fresh water, that his strengthen
Be more than equal to (superesse) the pleasing toil.
for here superesse means to be more than equal to the task and not be crushed by it.
I also used to raise the question whether the ancients used superesse in the sense of “to be left and be lacking for the completion of an act.” For to express that idea Sallust says, not superesse, but superare. These are his words in the Jugurtha: “This man was in the habit of exercising a command independently of the king, and of attending to all business which had been left undone (superaverant) by Jugurtha when he was weary or engaged in more important affairs.” But we find in the third book of Ennius’ Annals:
Then he declares one tasks’s left over (super esse) for him,
that is, is left and remains undone; but there superesse must be divided and read as if it were not one part of speech, but two, as in fact it is. Cicero, however, in his second Oration against Antony expresses “what is left” by restare, not by superesse.
Besides these uses we find superesse with the meaning “survive.” For it is so employed in the book of letters of Marcus Cicero to Lucius Plancus, as well as in a letter of Marcus Asinius Pollio to Cicero, as follows: “For I wish neither to fail the commonwealth nor to survive it (superesse),” meaning that if the commonwealth should be destroyed and perish, he does not wish to live. Again in the Asinaria of Plautus that same force is still more evident in these, the first verses of that comedy:
As you would hope to have your only son
Survive (superesse) you and be ever sound and hale.
Thus we have to avoid, not merely an improper use of the word, but also the evil omen, in case an older man, acting as advocate for a youth, should say that he “survives” him.
The story of Papirius Praetextatus was told and committed to writing in the speech which Marcus Cato made To the soldiers against Galba, with great charm, brilliance and elegance of diction. I should have included Cato’s own words in this very commentary, if I had had access to the book at the time when I dictated this extract. But if you would like to hear the bare tale, without the noble and dignified language, the incident was about as follows: It was formerly the custom at Rome for senators to enter the House with their sons under age. In those days, when a matter of considerable importance had been discussed and was postponed to the following day, it was voted that no one should mention the subject of the debate until the matter was decided. The mother of the young Papirius, who had been in the House with his father, asked her son what the Fathers had taken up in the senate. The boy replied that it was a secret and that he could not tell. The woman became all the more eager to hear about it; the secrecy of the matter and the boys’ silence piqued her curiosity; she therefore questioned him more pressingly and urgently. Then the boy, because of his mother’s insistence, resorted to a witty and amusing falsehood. He said that the senate had discussed the question whether it seemed more expedient, and to the advantage of the State, for one man to have two wives or one woman to have two husbands. On hearing this, she is panic-stricken, rushed excitedly from the house, and carries the news to the other matrons. Next day a crowd of matrons came to the senate, imploring with tears and entreaties that one woman might have two husbands rather than one man two wives. The senators, as they entered the House, were wondering at this strange madness of the women and the meaning of such a demand, when young Papirius, stepping forward to the middle of the House, told in detail what his mother had insisted on hearing, what he himself had said to her, in fact, the whole story exactly as it had happened. The senate paid homage to the boy’s cleverness and loyalty, but voted that thereafter boys should not enter the House with their fathers, save only this Papirius; and the boy was henceforth honoured with the surname Praetextatus, because of his discretion in keeping silent and in speaking, while he was still young enough to wear the purple-bordered gown.
There are three epitaphs of famous poets, Gnaeus Naevius, Plautus and Marcus Pacuvius, composed by themselves and left to be inscribed upon their tombs, which I have thought ought to be included among these notes, because of their distinction and charm.
The epitaph of Naevius, although full of Campanian arrogance, might have been regarded as a just estimate, if he had not written it himself:
If that immortals might for mortals weep,
Then would divine Camenae weep for Naevius.
For after he to Orcus as treasure was consigned,
The Romans straight forgot to speak the Latin tongue.
We should be inclined to doubt whether the epitaph of Plautus was really by his own hand, if it had not been quoted by Marcus Varro in the first book of his work On Poets:
Since Plautus has met death, Comedy mourns,
Deserted is the stage; then Laughter, Sport and Wit,
And Music’s countless numbers all together wept.
Pacuvius’ epitaph is the most modest and simple, worthy of his dignity and good taste:
Young man, although you haste, this little stone
Entreats thee to regard it, then to read its tale.
Here lie the bones of Marcus, hight Pacuvius.
Of this I would not have you unaware. Good-bye.
Marcus Varro, in that book of his Antiquities of Man which treats Of War and Peace, defines indutiae (a truce) in two ways. “A truce,” he says, “is peace for a few days in camp;” and again in another place, “A truce is a holiday in war.” But each of these definitions seems to be wittily and happily concise rather than clear or satisfactory. For a truce is not a peace — since war continues, although fighting ceases — nor is it restricted to a camp or to a few days only. For what are we to say if a truce is made for some months, and the troops withdraw from camp into the towns? Have we not then also a truce? Again, if a truce is to be defined as only lasting for a few days, what are we to say of the fact, recorded by Quadrigarius in the first book of his Annals, that Gaius Pontius the Samnite asked the Roman dictator for a truce of six hours? The definition “a holiday in war,” too, is rather happy than clear or precise.
Now the Greeks, more significantly and more pointedly, have called such an agreement to cease from fighting ἐκεχειρία, or “a staying of hands,” substituting for one letter of harsher sound a smoother one. For since there is no fighting at such a time and their hands are withheld, they called it ἐκεχειρία. But it surely was not Varro’s task to define a truce too scrupulously, and to observe all the laws and canons of definition; for he thought it sufficient to give an explanation of the kind which the Greeks call τύποι (“typical”) and ὑπογραφαί (“outline”), rather than ὁρισμοί (“exact definition”).
I have for a long time been inquiring into the derivation of indutiae, but of the many explanations which I have either heard or read this which I am going to mention seems most reasonable. I believe that indutiae is made up of inde uti iam (“that from then on”). The stipulation of a truce is to this effect, that there shall be no fighting and no trouble up to a fixed time, but that after that time all the laws of war shall again be in force. Therefore, since a definite date is set and an agreement is made that before that date there shall be no fighting but when that time comes, “that from then on,” fighting shall be resumed: by uniting (as it were) and combining those words which I have mentioned the term indutiae is formed.
But Aurelius Opilius, in the first book of his work entitled The Muses, says: “It is called a truce when enemies pass back and forth from one side to another safely and without strife; from this the name seems to be formed, as if it were initiae, that is, an approach and entrance.” I have not omitted this note of Aurelius, for fear that it might appear to some rival of these Nights a more elegant etymology, merely because he thought that it had escaped my notice when I was investigating the origin of the word.
I once asked Taurus in his lecture-room whether a wise man got angry. For after his daily discourses he often gave everyone the opportunity of asking whatever questions he wished. On this occasion he first discussed the disease or passion of anger at length, setting forth what is to be found in the books of the ancients and in his own commentaries; then, turning to me who had asked the question, he said: “This is what I think about getting angry, but it will not be out of place for you to hear also the opinion of my master Plutarch, a man of great learning and wisdom. Plutarch,” said he, “once gave orders that one of his slaves, a worthless and insolent fellow, but one whose ears had been filled with the teachings and arguments of philosophy, should be stripped of his tunic for some offense or other and flogged. They had begun to beat him, and the slave kept protesting that he did not deserve the flogging; that he was guilty of no wrong, no crime. Finally, while the lashing still went on, he began to shout, no longer uttering complaints or shrieks and groans, but serious reproaches. Plutarch’s conduct, he said, was unworthy of a philosopher; to be angry was shameful: his master had often descanted on the evil of anger and had even written an excellent treatise Περὶ Ἀοργησίας; it was in no way consistent with all that was written in that book that its author should fall into a fit of violent rage and punish his slave with many stripes. Then Plutarch calmly and mildly made answer: ‘What makes you think, scoundrel, that I am now angry with you. Is it from my expression, my voice, my color, or even my words, that you believe me to be in the grasp of anger? In my opinion my eyes are not fierce, my expression is not disturbed, I am neither shouting madly nor foaming at the mouth nor getting red in the face; I am saying nothing to cause me shame or regret; I am not trembling at all from anger or making violent gestures. For all these actions, if you did but know it, are the usual signs of angry passions.’ And with these words, turning to the man who was plying the lash, he said: ‘In the meantime, while this fellow and I are arguing, do you keep at it.’”
Now the sum and substance of Taurus’ whole disquisition was this: he did not believe that ἀοργησία or “freedom from anger,” and ἀναλγησία, or “lack of sensibility,” were identical; but that a mind not prone to anger was one thing, a spirit ἀνάλγητος and ἀναίσθητος, that is, callous and unfeeling, quite another. For as of all the rest of the emotions which the Latin philosophers call affectus or affectiones, and the Greeks πάθη, so of the one which, when it becomes a cruel desire for vengeance, is called “anger,” he did not recommend as expedient a total lack, στέρησις as the Greeks say, but a moderate amount, which they call μετριότης.
Among voluntary tasks and exercises for strengthening his body for any chance demands upon its endurance we are told that Socrates habitually practiced this one: he would stand, so the story goes, in one fixed position, all day and all night, from early dawn until the next sunrise, open-eyed, motionless, in his very tracks and with face and eyes riveted to the same spot in deep meditation, as if his mind and soul had been, as it were, withdrawn from his body. When Favorinus in his discussion of the man’s fortitude and his many other virtues had reached this point, he said: “He often stood from sun to sun, more rigid than the tree trunks.”
His temperance also is said to have been so great, that he lived almost the whole period of his life with health unimpaired. Even amid the havoc of that plague which, at the beginning of the Peloponnesian war, devastated Athens with a deadly species of disease, by temperate and abstemious habits he is said to have avoided the ill-effects of indulgence and retained his physical vigor so completely, that he was not at all affected by the calamity common to all.
The governor of the province of Crete, a man of senatorial rank, had come to Athens for the purpose of visiting and becoming acquainted with the philosopher Taurus, and in company with this same governor was his father. Taurus, having just dismissed his pupils, was sitting before the door of his room, and we stood by his side conversing with him. In came the governor of the province and with him his father. Taurus arose quietly, and after salutations had been exchanged, sat down again. Presently the single chair that was at hand was brought and placed near them, while others were being fetched. Taurus invited the governor’s father to be seated; to which he replied: “Rather let this man take the seat, since he is a magistrate of the Roman people.” “Without prejudicing the case,” said Taurus, “do you meanwhile sit down, while we look into the matter and inquire whether it is more proper for you, who are the father, to sit, or your son, who is a magistrate.” And when the father had seated himself, and another chair had been placed near by for his son also, Taurus discussed the question with what, by the gods! was a most excellent valuation of honours and duties.
The substance of the discussions was this: In public places, functions and acts the rights of fathers, compared with the authority of sons who are magistrates, give way somewhat and are eclipsed: but when they are sitting together unofficially in the intimacy of home life, or walking about, or even reclining at a dinner party of intimate friends, then the official distinctions between a son who is a magistrate and a father who is a private citizen are at an end, while those that are natural and inherent come into play. “Now, your visit to me,” said he, “our present conversation, and this discussion of duties are private actions. Therefore enjoy the same priority of honors at my house which it is proper for you to enjoy in your own home as the older man.”
These remarks and others to the same purport were made by Taurus at once seriously and pleasantly. Moreover, it has seemed not out of place to add what I have read in Claudius about the etiquette of father and son under such circumstances. I therefore quote Quadrigarius’ actual words, transcribed from the sixth book of his Annals: “The consuls then elected were Tiberius Sempronius Gracchus for the second time and Quintus Fabius Maximus, son of the Maximus who had been consul the year before. The father, at the time proconsul, mounted upon a horse met his son the consul, and because he was his father, would not dismount, nor did the lictors, who knew that the men lived in the most perfect harmony, presume to order him to do so. As the father drew near, the consul said: “What next?” The lictor in attendance quickly understood and ordered Maximus the proconsul to dismount. Fabius obeyed the order and warmly commended his son for asserting the authority which he had as the gift of the people.
The letter h (or perhaps it should be called a breathing rather than a letter) was added by our forefathers to give strength and vigor to the pronunciation of many words, in order that they might have a fresher and livelier sound; and this they seem to have done from their devotion to the Attic language, and under its influence. It is well known that the people of Attica, contrary to the usage of the other Greek races, pronounced ἱχθύς (fish), ἵππος (horse), and many other words besides, with a rough breathing on the first letter. In the same way our ancestors said lachrumae (tears), sepulchrum (burial-place), ahenum (of bronze), vehemens (violent), incohare (begin), helluari (gormandize), hallucinari (dream), honera (burdens), honustum (burdened). For in all these words there seems to be no reason for that letter, or breathing, except to increase the force and vigor of the sound by adding certain sinews, so to speak.
But apropos of the inclusion of ahenum among my examples, I recall that Fidus Optatus, a grammarian of considerable repute in Rome, showed me a remarkably old copy of the second book of the Aeneid, bought in the Sigillaria for twenty pieces of gold, which was believed to have belonged to Virgil himself. In that book, although the following two lines were written thus:
Before the entrance-court, hard by the gate,
With sheen of brazen (aena) arms proud Pyrrhus gleams,
we observed that the letter h had been added above the line, changing aena to ahena. So too in the best manuscripts we find this verse of Virgil’s written as follows:
Or skims with leaves the bubbling brass’s (aheni) wave.
When inquiry is made about the choice of a prosecutor, and judgment is rendered on the question to which of two or more persons the prosecution of a defendant, or a share in the prosecution, is to be entrusted, this process and examination by jurors is called divinatio. The reason for the use of this term is a matter of frequent inquiry.
Gavius Bassus, in the third book of his work On the Origin of Terms, says: “This kind of trial is called divinatio because the juror ought in a sense to divine what verdict it is proper for him to give.” The explanation offered in these words of Gavius Bassus is far from complete, or rather, it is inadequate and meager. But at least he seems to be trying to show that divinatio is used because in other trials it was the habit of the juror to be influenced by what he has heard and by what has been shown by evidence or by witnesses; but in this instance, when a prosecutor is to be selected, the considerations which can influence a juror are very few and slight, and therefore he must, so to speak, “divine” what man is the better fitted to make the accusation.
Thus Bassus. But some others think that the divinatio is so called because, while prosecutor and defendant are two things that are, as it were, related and connected, so that neither can exist without the other, yet in this form of trial, while there is already a defendant, there is as yet no prosecutor, and therefore the factor which is still lacking and unknown — namely, what man is to be the prosecutor — must be supplied by divination.
Favorinus used to say of Plato and Lysias: “If you take a single word from a discourse of Plato or change it, and do it with the utmost skill, you will nevertheless mar the elegance of his style; if you do the same to Lysias, you will obscure his meaning.”
Some grammarians of an earlier time, men by no means without learning and repute, who wrote commentaries on Virgil, and among them Annaeus Cornutus, criticize the poet’s use of a word in the following verses as careless and negligent:
That, her white waist with howling monsters girt,
Dread Scylla knocked about (vexasse) Ulysses’ ships
Amid the swirling depths, and, piteous sight!
The trembling sailors with her sea-dogs rent.
They think, namely, that vexasse is a weak word, indicating a slight and trivial annoyance, and not adapted to such a horror as the sudden seizing and rending of human beings by a ruthless monster.
They also criticize another word in the following:
Who has not heard
Of king Eurystheus’ pitiless commands
And altars of Busiris, the unpraised (inlaudati)?
Inlaudati, they say, is not at all a suitable word, but is quite inadequate to express abhorrence of a wretch who, because he used to sacrifice guests from all over the world, was not merely “undeserving of praise,” but rather deserving of the abhorrence and execration of the whole human race.
They have criticized still another word in the verse:
Through tunic rough (squalentem) with gold the sword drank from his pierced side,
on the ground that it is out of place to say auro squalentem, since the filth of squalor is quite opposed to the brilliance and splendor of gold.
Now as to the word vexasse, I believe the following answer may be made: vexasse is an intensive verb, and is obviously derived from vehere, in which there is already some notion of compulsion by another; for a man who is carried is not his own master. But vexare, which is derived from vehere, unquestionably implies greater force and impulse. For vexare is properly used of one who is seized and carried away, and dragged about hither and yon; just as taxare denotes more forcible and repeated action than tangere, from which it is undoubtedly derived; and iactare a much fuller and more vigorous action than iacere, from which it comes; and quassare something severer and more violent than quatere. Therefore, merely because vexare is commonly used of the annoyance of smoke or wind or dust is no reason why the original force and meaning of the word should be lost; and that meaning was preserved by the earlier writers who, as became them, spoke correctly and clearly.
Marcus Cato, in the speech which he wrote On the Achaeans, has these words: “And when Hannibal was rending and harrying (vexaret) the land of Italy.” That is to say, Cato used vexare of the effect on Italy of Hannibal’s conduct, at a time when no species of disaster, cruelty or savagery could be imagined which Italy did not suffer from his hands. Marcus Tullius, in his fourth Oration against Verres, wrote: “This was so pillaged and ravaged by that wretch, that it did not seem to have been laid waste (vexata) by an enemy who in the heat of war still felt some religious scruple and some respect for customary law, but by barbarous pirates.”
But concerning inlaudatus it seems possible to give two answers. One is of this kind: There is absolutely no one who is of so perverted a character as not sometimes to do or say something that can be commended (laudari). And therefore this very ancient line has become a familiar proverb:
Oft-times even a fool expresses himself to the purpose.
But one who, on the contrary, in his every act and at all times, deserves no praise (laude) at all is inlaudatus, and such a man is the very worst and most despicable of all mortals, just as freedom from all reproach makes one inculpatus (blameless). Now inculpatus is the synonym for perfect goodness; therefore conversely inlaudatus represents the limit of extreme wickedness. It is for that reason that Homer usually bestows high praise, not by enumerating virtues, but by denying faults; for example: “And not unwillingly they charged,” and again:
Not then would you divine Atrides see
Confused, inactive, nor yet loath to fight.
Epicurus too in a similar way defined the greatest pleasure as the removal and absence of all pain, in these words: “The utmost height of pleasure is the removal of all that pains.” Again Virgil on the same principle called the Stygian pool “unlovely.” For just as he expressed abhorrence of the “unpraised” man by the denial of praise, so he abhorred the “unlovable” by the denial of love. Another defense of inlaudatus is this: laudare in early Latin means “to name” and “cite.” Thus in civil actions they use laudare of an authority, when he is cited. Conversely, the inlaudatus is the same as the inlaudabilis, namely, one who is worthy neither of mention nor remembrance, and is never to be named; as, for example, in days gone by the common council of Asia decreed that no one should ever mention the name of the man who had burned the temple of Diana at Ephesus.
There remains the third criticism, his use of the expression “a tunic rough with gold.” But squalentem signifies a quantity or thick layer of gold, laid on so as to resemble scales. For squalere is used of the thick, rough scales (squamae) which are to be seen on the skins of fish or snakes. This is made clear both by others and indeed by this same poet in several passages; thus:
A skin his covering was, plumed with brazen scales (squamis)
And clasped with gold.
And now has he his flashing breastplate donned,
Bristling with brazen scales (squamis).
Accius too in the Pelopidae writes thus:
This serpent’s scales (squamae) rough gold and purple wrought.
Thus we see that squalere was applied to whatever was overloaded and excessively crowded with anything, in order that its strange appearance might strike terror into those who looked upon it. So too on neglected and scaly bodies the deep layer of dirt was called squalor, and by long and continued use in that sense the entire word has become so corrupted, that finally squalor has come to be used of nothing but filth.
It is a frequent subject of discussion with philosophers, whether a father should always be obeyed, whatever the nature of his commands. As to this question writers On Duty, both Greeks and our own countrymen, have stated that there are three opinions to be noticed and considered, and these they have differentiated with great acuteness. The first is, that all a father’s commands must be obeyed; the second, that in some he is to be obeyed, in others not; the third, that it is not necessary to yield to and obey one’s father in anything.
Since at first sight this last opinion is altogether shameful, I shall begin by stating what has been said on that point. “A father’s command,” they say, “is either right or wrong. If it is right, it is not to be obeyed because it is his order, but the thing must be done because it is right that it be done. If his command is wrong, surely that should on no account be done which ought not to be done.” Thus they arrive at the conclusion that a father’s command should never be obeyed. But I have neither heard that this view has met with approval — for it is a mere quibble, both silly and foolish, as I shall presently show — nor can the opinion which we stated first, that all a father’s commands are to be obeyed, be regarded as true and acceptable. For what if he shall command treason to one’s country, a mother’s murder, or some other base or impious deed? The intermediate view, therefore, has seemed best and safest, that some commands are to be obeyed and others not. But yet they say that commands which ought not to be obeyed must nevertheless be declined gently and respectfully, without excessive aversion or bitter recrimination, and rather left undone than spurned.
But that conclusion from which it is inferred, as has been said above, that a father is never to be obeyed, is faulty, and may be refuted and disposed of as follows: All human actions are, as learned men have decided, either honorable or base. Whatever is inherently right or honorable, such as keeping faith, defending one’s country, loving one’s friends, ought to be done whether a father commands it or not; but whatever is of the opposite nature, and is base and altogether evil, should not be done even at a father’s order. Actions, however, which lie between these, and are called by the Greeks now μέσα, or “neutral,” and now ἀδιάφορα, or “indifferent,” such as going to war, tilling the fields, seeking office, pleading causes, marrying a wife, going when ordered, coming when called; since these and similar actions are in themselves neither honorable nor base, but are to be approved or disapproved exactly according to the manner in which we perform them: for this reason they believe that in every kind of action of this description a father should be obeyed; as for instance, if he should order his son to marry a wife or to plead for the accused. For since each of these acts, in its actual nature and of itself, is neither honorable nor base, if a father should command it, he ought to be obeyed. But if he should order his son to marry a woman of ill repute, infamous and criminal, or to speak in defense of a Catiline, a Tubulus, or a Publius Clodius, of course he ought not to be obeyed, since by the addition of a certain degree of evil these acts cease to be inherently neutral and indifferent. Hence the premise of those who say that “the commands of a father are either honorable or base” is incomplete, and it cannot be considered what the Greeks call “a sound and regular disjunctive proposition.” For that disjunctive premise lacks the third member, “or are neither honorable nor base.” If this be added, the conclusion cannot be drawn that a father’s command must never be obeyed.
Plutarch, in the second book of his essay On Homer, asserts that Epicurus made use of an incomplete, perverted and faulty syllogism, and he quotes Epicurus’s own words: “Death is nothing to us, for what is dissolved is without perception, and what is without perception is nothing to us.” “Now Epicurus,” says Plutarch, “omitted what he ought to have stated as his major premise, that death is a dissolution of body and soul, and then, to prove something else, he goes on to use the very premise that he had omitted, as if it had been stated and conceded. But this syllogism,” says Plutarch, “cannot advance, unless that premise be first presented.”
What Plutarch wrote as to the form and sequence of a syllogism is true enough; for if you wish to argue and reason according to the teaching of the schools, you ought to say: “Death is the dissolution of soul and body; but what is dissolved is without perception; and what is without perception is nothing to us.” But we cannot suppose that Epicurus, being the man he was, omitted that part of the syllogism through ignorance, or that it was his intention to state a syllogism complete in all its members and limitations, as is done in the schools of the logicians; but since the separation of body and soul by death is self-evident, he of course did not think it necessary to call attention to what was perfectly obvious to everyone. For the same reason, too, he put the conclusion of the syllogism, not at the end, but at the beginning; for who does not see that this also was not due to inadvertence??
In Plato too you will often find syllogisms in which the order prescribed in the schools is disregarded and inverted, with a kind of lofty disdain of criticism.
In the same book, Plutarch also finds fault a second time with Epicurus for using an inappropriate word and giving it an incorrect meaning. Now Epicurus wrote as follows: “The utmost height of pleasure is the removal of everything that pains.” Plutarch declares that he ought not to have said “of everything that pains,” but “of everything that is painful”; for it is the removal of pain, he explains, that should be indicated, not of that which causes pain.
In bringing this charge against Epicurus Plutarch is “word-chasing” with excessive minuteness and almost with frigidity; for far from hunting up such verbal meticulousness and such refinements of diction, Epicurus hunts them down.
Servius Sulpicius, an authority on civil law and a man well versed in letters, wrote to Marcus Varro and asked him to explain the meaning of a term which was used in the records of the censors; the term in question was favisae Capitolinae. Varro wrote in reply that he recalled that Quintus Catulus, when in charge of the restoration of the Capitol, had said that it had been his desire to lower the area Capitolina, in order that the ascent to the temple might have more steps and that the podium might be higher, to correspond with the elevation and size of the pediment; but that he had been unable to carry out his plan because the favisae had prevented. These, he said, were certain underground chambers and cisterns in the area, in which it was the custom to store ancient statues that had fallen from the temple, and some other consecrated objects from among the votive offerings. And then Varro goes on to say in the same letter, that he had never found any explanation of the term favisae in literature, but that Quintus Valerius Sorianus used to assert that what we called by their Greek name thesauri (treasuries) the early Latins termed flavisae, their reason being that there was deposited in them, not uncoined copper and silver, but stamped and minted money. His theory therefore was, he said, that the second letter had dropped out of the word flavisae, and that certain chambers and pits, which the attendants of the Capitol used for the preservation of old and sacred objects, were called favisae.
We read in the annals that Lucius Sicinius Dentatus, who was tribune of the commons in the consulship of Spurius Tarpeius and Aulus Aternius, was a warrior of incredible energy; that he won a name for his exceeding great valor, and was called the Roman Achilles. It is said that he fought with the enemy in one hundred and twenty battles, and had not a scar on his back, but forty-five in front; that golden crowns were given him eight times, the siege crown once, mural crowns three times, and civic crowns fourteen times; that eighty-three neck chains were awarded him, more than one hundred and sixty armlets, and eighteen spears; he was presented besides with twenty-five decorations; he had a number of spoils of war, many of which were won in single combat; he took part with his generals in nine triumphal processions.
Among those very early laws of Solon which were inscribed upon wooden tablets at Athens, and which, promulgated by him, the Athenians ratified by penalties and oaths, to ensure their permanence, Aristotle says that there was one to this effect: “If because of strife and disagreement civil dissension shall ensue and a division of the people into two parties, and if for that reason each side, led by their angry feelings, shall take up arms and fight, then if anyone at that time, and in such a condition of civil discord, shall not ally himself with one or the other faction, but by himself and apart shall hold aloof from the common calamity of the State, let him be deprived of his home, his country, and all his property, and be an exile and an outlaw.”
When I read this law of Solon, who was a man of extraordinary wisdom, I was at first filled with something like great amazement, and I asked myself why it was that those who had held themselves aloof from dissension and civil strife were thought to be deserving of punishment. Then those who had profoundly and thoroughly studied the purpose and meaning of the law declared that it was designed, not to increase, but to terminate, dissension. And that is exactly so. For if all good men, who have been unequal to checking the dissension at the outset, do not abandon the aroused and frenzied people, but divide and ally themselves with one or the other faction, then the result will be, that when they have become members of the two opposing parties, and, being men of more than ordinary influence, have begun to guide and direct those parties, harmony can best be restored and established through the efforts of such men, controlling and soothing as they will the members of their respective factions, and desiring to reconcile rather than destroy their opponents.
The philosopher Favorinus thought that this same course ought to be adopted also with brothers, or with friends, who are at odds; that is, that those who are neutral and kindly disposed toward both parties, if they have had little influence in bringing about a reconciliation because they have not made their friendly feelings evident, should then take sides, some one and some the other, and through this manifestation of devotion pave the way for restoring harmony. “But as it is,” said he, “most of the friends of both parties make a merit of abandoning the two disputants, leaving them to the tender mercies of ill-disposed or greedy advisers, who, animated by hatred or by avarice, add fuel to their strife and inflame their passions.”
The early orators and writers of history or of poetry called even one son or daughter liberi, using the plural. And I have not only noticed this usage at various times in the works of several other of the older writers, but I just now ran across it in the fifth book of Sempronius Asellio’s History. This Asellio was military tribune under Publius Scipio Africanus at Numantia and wrote a detailed account of the events in whose action he himself took part.
His words about Tiberius Gracchus, tribune of the commons, at the time when he was killed on the Capitol, are as follows: “For whenever Gracchus left home, he was never accompanied by less than three or four thousand men.” And farther on he wrote thus of the same Gracchus: “He began to beg that they would at least defend him and his children (liberi); and then he ordered that the one male child which he had at that time should be brought out, and almost in tears commended him to the protection of the people.”
In an old copy of the speech of Marcus Cato, which is entitled Against the Exile Tiberius, we find the following words: “What if with veiled head you had kept your recognizance?” Cato indeed wrote stitisses, correctly; but revisers have boldly and falsely written an e and put stetisses in all the editions, on the ground that stitisses is an unmeaning and worthless reading. Nay, it is rather they themselves that are ignorant and worthless, in not knowing that Cato wrote stitisses because sisteretur is used of recognizance, not staretur.
Among the earliest Romans, as a rule, neither birth nor wealth was more highly honored than age, but older men were reverenced by their juniors almost like gods and like their own parents, and everywhere and in every kind of honor they were regarded as first and of prior right. From a dinner-party, too, older men were escorted home by younger men, as we read in the records of the past, a custom which, as tradition has it, the Romans took over from the Lacedaemonians, by whom, in accordance with the laws of Lycurgus, greater honor on all occasions was paid to greater age.
But after it came to be realized that progeny were a necessity for the State, and there was occasion to add to the productivity of the people by premiums and other inducements, then in certain respects greater deference was shown to men who had a wife, and to those who had children, than to older men who had neither wives nor children. Thus in chapter seven of the Julian law priority in assuming the emblems of power is given, not to the elder of the consuls, but to him who either has more children under his control than his colleague, or has lost them in war. But if both have an equal number of children, the one who has a wife, or is eligible for marriage, is preferred. If, however, both are married and are fathers of the same number of children, then the standard of honor of early times is restored, and the elder is first to assume the rods. But when both consuls are without wives and have the same number of sons, or are husbands but have no children, there is no provision in that law as to age. However, I hear that it was usual for those who had legal priority to yield the rods for the first month to colleagues who were either considerably older than they, or of much higher rank, or who were entering upon a second consulship.
Virgil has the following lines in the sixth book:
Yon princeling, thou beholdest leaning there
Upon a bloodless lance, shall next emerge
Into the realms of day. He is the first
Of half-Italian strain, thy last-born heir,
To thine old age by fair Lavinia given,
Called Silvius, a royal Alban name
(Of sylvan birth and sylvan nurture he),
A king himself and sire of kings to come,
By whom our race in Alba Longa reign.
It appeared to Caesellius that there was utter inconsistency between
thy last-born heir
To thine old age by fair Lavinia given,
Of sylvan birth.
For if, as is shown by the testimony of almost all the annals, this Silvius was born after the death of Aeneas, and for that reason was given the forename Postumus, with what propriety does Virgil add:
To thine old age by fair Lavinia given,
Of sylvan birth?
For these words would seem to imply that while Aeneas was still living, but was already an old man, a son Silvius was born to him and was reared. Therefore Caesellius, in his Notes on Early Readings, expressed the opinion that the meaning of the words was as follows: “Postuma proles,” said he, “does not mean a child born after the death of his father, but the one who was born last; this applies to Silvius, who was born late and after the usual time, when Aeneas was already an old man.” But Caesellius names no adequate authority for this version, while that Silvius was born, as I have said, after Aeneas’ death, has ample testimony.
Therefore Sulpicius Apollinaris, among other criticisms of Caesellius, notes this statement of his as an error, and says that the cause of the error is the phrase quem tibi longaevo. “Longaevo,” he says, “does not mean ‘when old,’ for that is contrary to historical truth, but rather ‘admitted into a life that is now long and unending, and made immortal.’ For Anchises, who says this to his son, knew that after Aeneas had ended his life among men he would be immortal and a local deity, and enjoy a long and everlasting existence.” Thus Apollinaris, ingeniously enough. But yet a “long life” is one thing, and an “unending life” another, and the gods are not called “of great age,” but “immortal.”
After careful observation Marcus Tullius noted that the prepositions in and con, when prefixed to nouns and verbs, are lengthened and prolonged when they are followed by the initial letters of sapiens and felix; but that in all other instances they are pronounced short.
Cicero’s words are: “Indeed, what can be more elegant than this, which does not come about from a natural law, but in accordance with a kind of usage? We pronounce the first vowel in indoctus short, in insanus long; in immanis short, in infelix long; in brief, in compound words in which the first letters are those which begin sapiens and felix the prefix is pronounced long, in all others short; thus we have cŏnposuit but cōnsuevit, cŏncrepuit but cōnficit. Consult the rules of grammar and they will censor your usage; refer the matter to your ears and they will approve. Ask why it is so; they will say that it pleases them. And language ought to gratify the pleasure of the ear.
In these words of which Cicero spoke it is clear that the principle is one of euphony, but what are we to say of the preposition pro? For although it is often shortened or lengthened, yet it does not conform to this rule of Marcus Tullius. For it is not always lengthened when it is followed by the first letter of the word fecit, which Cicero says has the effect of lengthening the prepositions in and con. For we pronounce prŏficisci, prŏfugere, prŏfundere, prŏfanum and prŏfestum with the first vowel short, but prōferre, prōfligare and prōficere with that syllable long. Why is it then that this letter, which, according to Cicero’s observation, has the effect of lengthening, does not have the same effect by reason of rule or of euphony in all words of the same kind, but lengthens the vowel in one word and shortens it in another.
Nor, as a matter of fact, is the particle con lengthened only when followed by that letter which Cicero mentioned: for both Cato and Sallust said “faenoribus copertus est.” Moreover cōligatus and cōnexus are pronounced long.
But after all, in these cases which I have cited one can see that this particle is lengthened because the letter n is dropped; for the loss of a letter is compensated by the lengthening of the syllable. This principle is observed also in the word cōgo; and it is no contradiction that we pronounce cŏegi short; for this form cannot be derived from cōgo without violation of the principle of analogy.
Phaedo of Elis belonged to that famous Socratic band and was on terms of close intimacy with Socrates and Plato. His name was given by Plato to that inspired dialogue of his on the immortality of the soul. This Phaedo, though a slave, was of noble person and intellect, and according to some writers, in his boyhood was driven to prostitution by his master, who was a pander. We are told that Cebes the Socratic, at Socrates’ earnest request, bought Phaedo and gave him the opportunity of studying philosophy. And he afterwards became a distinguished philosopher, whose very tasteful discourses on Socrates are in circulation.
There were not a few other slaves too afterwards who became famous philosophers, among them that Menippus whose works Marcus Varro emulated in those satires which others call “Cynic,” but he himself, “Menippean.”
Besides these, Pompylus, the slave of the Peripatetic Theophrastus, and the slave of the Stoic Zeno who was called Persaeus, and the slave of Epicurus whose name was Mys, were philosophers of repute.
Diogenes the Cynic also served as a slave, but he was a freeborn man, who was sold into slavery. When Xeniades of Corinth wished to buy him and asked whether he knew any trade, Diogenes replied: “I know how to govern free men.” Then Xeniades, in admiration of his answer, bought him, set him free, and entrusting to him his own children, said: “Take my children to govern.”
But as to the well-known philosopher Epictetus, the fact that he too was a slave is too fresh in our memory to need to be committed to writing, as if it had been forgotten.
I have observed that the verb rescire has a peculiar force, which is not in accord with the general meaning of other words compounded with that same preposition; for we do not use rescire in the same way that we do rescribere (write in reply), relegere (reread), restituere (restore), … and substituere (put in the place of); but rescire is properly said of one who learns of something that is hidden, or unlooked for and unexpected.
But why the particle re has this special force in this one word alone, I for my part am still inquiring. For I have never yet found that rescivi or rescire was used by those who were careful in their diction, otherwise than of things which were purposely concealed, or happened contrary to anticipation and expectation; although scire itself is used of everything alike, whether favorable or unfavorable, unexpected or expected. Thus Naevius in the Triphallus wrote:
If ever I discover (rescivero) that my son
Has borrowed money for a love affair,
Straightway I’ll put you where you’ll spit no more.
Claudius Quadrigarius in the first book of his Annals says: “When the Lucanians discovered (resciverunt) that they had been deceived and tricked.” And again in the same book Quadrigarius uses that word of something sad and unexpected: “When this became known to the relatives (rescierunt propinqui) of the hostages, who, as I have pointed out above, had been delivered to Pontus, their parents and relatives rushed into the street with hair in disarray.” Marcus Cato writes in the fourth book of the Origins: “Then next day the dictator orders the master of the horse to be summoned: ‘I will send you, if you wish, with the cavalry.’ ‘It is too late,’ said the master of the horse, ‘they have found it out already (rescivere).’”
In the third book of his treatise On Farming, Marcus Varro says that the name leporaria is given to certain enclosures, in which wild animals are kept alive and fed. I have appended Varro’s own words: “There are three means of keeping animals on the farm — bird houses, leporaria (warrens), and fish-ponds. I am now using the term ornithones of all kinds of birds that are ordinarily kept within the walls of the farmhouse. Leporaria I wish you to understand, not in the sense in which our remote ancestors used the word, of places in which only hares are kept, but of all enclosures which are connected with a farmhouse and contain live animals that are fed.” Farther on in the same book Varro writes: “When you bought the farm at Tusculum from Marcus Piso, there were many wild boars in the leporarium.”
But the word vivaria, which the common people now use — the Greek παράδεισοι and Varro’s leporaria — I do not recall meeting anywhere in the older literature. But as to the word roboraria, which we find in the writings of Scipio, who used the purest diction of any man of his time, I have heard several learned men at Rome assert that this means what we call vivaria and that the name came from the “oaken” planks of which the enclosures were made, a kind of enclosure which we see in many places in Italy. This is the passage from Scipio’s fifth oration Against Claudius Asellus: “When he had seen the highly-cultivated fields and well-kept farmhouses, he ordered them to set up a measuring rod on the highest point in that district; and from there to build a straight road, in some places through the midst of vineyards, in others through the roborarium and the fish-pond, in still others through the farm buildings.”
Thus we see that to pools or ponds of water in which live fish are kept in confinement, they gave their own appropriate name of piscinae, or “fish-ponds.”
Apiaria too is the word commonly used of places in which bee-hives are set; but I recall almost no one of those who have spoken correctly who has used that word either in writing or speaking. But Marcus Varro, in the third book of his treatise On Farming, remarks: “This is the way to make μελισσῶνες, which some call mellaria, or ‘places for storing honey.’“ But this word which Varro used is Greek; for they say μελισσῶνες, just as they do ἀμπελῶνες (vineyards) and δαφνῶνες (laurel groves).
Several of us, Greeks and Romans, who were pursuing the same studies, were crossing in the same boat from Aegina to the Piraeus. It was night, the sea was calm, the time summer, and the sky bright and clear. So we all sat together in the stern and watched the brilliant stars. Then those of our company who were acquainted with Grecian lore discussed with learning and acumen such questions as these: what the ἅμαξα, or “Wain,” was, and what Boötes, which was the Great, and which the Little Bear and why they were so called; in what direction that constellation moved in the course of the advancing night, and why Homer says that this is the only constellation that does not set, in view of the fact that there are some other stars that do not set.
Thereupon I turned to our compatriots and said: “Why don’t you barbarians tell me why we give the name of septentriones to what the Greeks call ἅμαξα. Now ‘because we see seven stars’ is not a sufficient answer, but I desire to be informed at some length,” said I, “of the meaning of the whole idea which we express by the word septentriones.”
Then one of them, who had devoted himself to ancient literature and antiquities, replied: “The common run of grammarians think that the word septentriones is derived solely from the number of stars. For they declare that triones of itself has no meaning, but is a mere addition to the word; just as in our word quinquatrus, so called because five is the number of days after the Ides, atrus means nothing. But for my part, I agree with Lucius Aelius and Marcus Varro, who wrote that oxen were called triones, a rustic term it is true, as if they were terriones, that is to say, adapted to ploughing and cultivating the earth. Therefore this constellation, which the early Greeks called ἅμαξα merely from its form and position, because it seemed to resemble a wagon, the early men also of our country called septentriones, from oxen yoked together, that is, seven stars by which yoked oxen (triones) seem to be represented. After giving this opinion, Varro further added,” said he, “that he suspected that these seven stars were called triones rather for the reason that they are so situated that every group of three neighboring stars forms a triangle, that is to say, a three-sided figure.”
Of these two reasons which he gave, the latter seemed the neater and the more ingenious; for as we looked at that constellation, it actually appeared to consist of triangles.
At Favorinus’ table, when he dined with friends, there was usually read either an old song of one of the lyric poets, or something from history, now in Greek and now in Latin. Thus one day there was read there, in a Latin poem, the word Iapyx, the name of a wind, and the question was asked what wind this was, from what quarter it blew, and what was the origin of so rare a term; and we also asked Favorinus to be so good as to inform us about the names and quarters of the other winds, since there was no general agreement as to their designations, positions or number.
Then Favorinus ran on as follows: “It is well known,” said he, “that there are four quarters and regions of the heavens — east, west, south and north. East and west are movable and variable points; south and north are permanently fixed and unalterable. For the sun does not always rise in exactly the same place, but its rising is called either equinoctial when it runs the course which is called ἰσημερινός (with equal days and nights), or solstitial, which is equivalent to θεριναὶ τροπαί (summer turnings), or brumal, which is the same as χειμεριναὶ τροπαί, or ‘winter turnings.” So too the sun does not always set in the same place; for in the same way its setting is called equinoctial, solstitial, or brumal. Therefore the wind which blows from the sun’s spring, or equinoctial, rising is called eurus, a word derived, as your etymologists say, from the Greek which means ‘that which flows from the east.’ This wind is called by the Greeks by still another name, ἀφηλιώτες, or ‘in the direction of the sun’; and by the Roman sailors, subsolanus (lying beneath the sun). But the wind that comes from the summer and solstitial point of rising is called in Latin aquilo, in Greek βορέας, and some say it was for that reason that Homer called it αἰθρηγενέτης, or ‘ether-born’; but boreas, they think, is so named ἀπὸ τῆς βοῆς, ‘from the loud shout,’ since its blast is violent and noisy. To the third wind, which blows from the point of the winter rising — the Romans call it volturnus — many of the Greeks give a compound name, εὐρόνοτος because it is between eurus and notus. These then are the three east winds: aquilo, volturnus and eurus, and eurus lies between the other two. Opposite to and facing these are three other winds from the west: caurus, which the Greeks commonly call ἀργεστής or ‘clearing’; this blows from the quarter opposite aquilo. There is a second, favonius, which in Greek is called ζέφυρος, blowing from the point opposite to eurus; and a third, Africus, which in Greek is λίψ, or ‘wet-bringing,’ blows in opposition to volturnus. These two opposite quarters of the sky, east and west, have, as we see, six winds opposite to one another. But the south, whence it is a fixed and invariable point, has but one single south wind; this in Latin is termed auster, in Greek νότος, because it is cloudy and wet, for νοτίς is the Greek for ‘moisture.’ The north too, for the same reason, has but one wind. This, called in Latin septentrionarius, in Greek ἀπαρκτίας, or ‘from the region of the Bear,’ is directly opposite to auster. From this list of eight winds some subtract four, and they declare that they do so on the authority of Homer, who knows only four winds: eurus, auster, aquilo and favonius, blowing from the four quarters of the heaven which we have named primary, so to speak; for they regard the east and west as broader, to be sure, but nevertheless single and not divided into three parts. There are others, on the contrary, who make twelve winds instead of eight, by inserting a third group of four in the intervening space about the south and north, in the same way that the second four are placed between the original two at east and west.
“There are also some other names of what might be called special winds, which the natives have coined each in their own districts, either from the designations of the places in which they live or from some other reason which has led to the formation of the word. Thus our Gauls call the wind which blows from their land, the most violent wind to which they are exposed, circius, doubtless from its whirling and stormy character; the Apulians give the name Iapyx — the name by which they themselves are known (Iapyges) — to the wind that blows from the mouth of Ἰαπυγία itself, from its inmost recesses, as it were. This is, I think, about the same as caurus; for it is a west wind and seems to blow from the quarter opposite eurus. Therefore Virgil says that Cleopatra, when fleeing to Egypt after the sea-fight, was borne onward by Iapyx, and he called an Apulian horse by the same name as the wind, that is, Iapyx. There is also a wind named caecias, which, according to Aristotle blows in such a way as not to drive away clouds, but to attract them. This, he says, is the origin of the proverbial line:
Attracting to oneself, as caecias does the clouds.
Moreover, besides these which I have mentioned there are in various places other names of winds, of new coinage and each peculiar to its own region, for example the Atabulus of Horace; these too I intended to discuss; I would also have added those which are called etesiae and prodromi, which at a fixed time of year, namely when the dog-star rises, blow from one or another quarter of the heavens; and since I have drunk a good bit, I would have prated on about the meaning of all these terms, had I not already done a deal of talking while all of you have been silent, as if I were delivering ‘an exhibition speech.’ But for one to do all the talking at a large dinner-party,” said he, “is neither decent nor becoming.”
This is what Favorinus recounted to us at his own table at the time I mentioned, with extreme elegance of diction and in a delightful and graceful style throughout. But as to his statement that the wind which blows from the land of Gaul is called circius, Marcus Cato in his Origins calls that wind, not circius, but cercius. For writing about the Spaniards who dwell on this side the Ebro, he set down these words: “But in this district are the finest iron and silver mines, also a great mountain of pure salt; the more you take from it, the more it grows. The cercius wind, when you speak, fills your mouth; it overturns an armed man or a loaded wagon.”
In saying above that the ἐτησίαι blow from one or another quarter of the heavens, although following the opinion of many, I rather think I spoke hastily. For in the second book of Publius Nigidius’ treatise On Wind are these words: “Both the ἐτησίαι and the annual south winds follow the sun.” We ought therefore to inquire into the meaning of “follow the sun.”
I often read comedies which our poets have adapted and translated from the Greeks — Menander or Posidippus, Apollodorus or Alexis, and also some other comic writers. And while I am reading them, they do not seem at all bad; on the contrary, they appear to be written with a wit and charm which you would say absolutely could not be surpassed. But if you compare and place beside them the Greek originals from which they came, and if you match individual passages, reading them together alternately with care and attention, the Latin versions at once begin to appear exceedingly commonplace and mean; so dimmed are they by the wit and brilliance of the Greek comedies, which they were unable to rival.
Only recently I had an experience of this kind. I was reading the Plocium or Necklace of Caecilius, much to the delight of myself and those who were present. The fancy took us to read also the Plocium of Menander, from which Caecilius had translated the said comedy. But after we took Menander in hand, good Heavens! how dull and lifeless, and how different from Menander did Caecilius appear! Upon my word, the armor of Diomedes and of Glaucus were not more different in value. Our reading had reached the passage where the aged husband was complaining of his rich and ugly wife, because he had been forced to sell his maid-servant, a girl skilled at her work and very good looking, since his wife suspected her of being his mistress. I shall say nothing of the great difference; but I have had the lines of both poets copied and submitted to others for their decision. This is Menander:
Now may our heiress fair on both ears sleep.
A great and memorable feat is hers;
For she has driven forth, as she had planned,
The wench that worried her, that all henceforth
Of Crobyle alone the face may see,
And that the famous woman, she my wife,
May also be my tyrant. From the face
Dam Nature gave her, she’s an ass ‘mong apes,
As says the adage. I would silent be
About that night, the first of many woes.
Alas that I took Crobyle to wife,
With sixteen talents and a foot of nose.
Then too can one her haughtiness endure?
By Zeus Olympius and Athena, no!
She has dismissed a maid who did her work
More quickly than the word was given her,
More quickly far than one will bring her back!
But Caecilius renders it thus:
In very truth is he a wretched man,
Who cannot hide his woe away from home;
And that my wife makes me by looks and acts:
If I kept still, I should betray myself
No less. And she has all that you would wish
She had not, save the dowry that she brought.
Let him who’s wise a lesson take from me,
Who, like a free man captive to the foe,
Am slave, though town and citadel are safe.
What! wish her safe who steals whate’er I prize?
While longing for her death, a living corpse am I.
She says I’ve secret converse with our maid —
That’s what she said, and so belaboured me
With tears, with prayers, with importunities,
That I did sell the wench. Now, I suppose,
She blabs like this to neighbors and friends:
“Which one of you, when in the bloom of youth,
Could from her husband win what I from mine
Have gained, who’ve robbed him of his concubine.”
Thus they, while I, poor wretch, am torn to shreds.
Now, not to mention the charm of subject matter and diction, which is by no means the same in the two books, I notice this general fact — that some of Menander’s lines, brilliant, apt and witty, Caecilius has not attempted to reproduce, even where he might have done so; but he has passed them by as if they were of no value, and has dragged in some other farcical stuff; and what Menander took from actual life, simple, realistic and delightful, this for some reason or other Caecilius has missed. For example, that same old husband, talking with another old man, a neighbor of his, and cursing the arrogance of his rich wife, says:
I have to wife an heiress ogress, man!
I did not tell you that? What, really? no?
She is the mistress of my house and lands,
Of all that’s hereabout. And in return
I have by Zeus! the hardest of hard things.
She scolds not only me, but her son too,
Her daughter most of all. — You tell a thing
There’s no contending with. — I know it well.
But in this passage Caecilius chose rather to play the buffoon than to be appropriate and suitable to the character that he was representing. For this is the way he spoiled the passage:
But tell me sir; is your wife captious, pray? —
How can you ask? — But in what manner, then? —
I am ashamed to tell. When I come home
And sit beside her, she with fasting breath
Straight kisses me. — there’s no mistake in that.
She’d have you spew up what you’ve drunk abroad.
It is clear what your judgment ought to be about that scene also, found in both comedies, which is about of the following purport: The daughter of a poor man was violated during a religious vigil. This was unknown to her father, and she was looked upon as a virgin. Being with child as the result of that assault, at the proper time she is in labor. An honest slave, standing before the door of the house, knowing nothing of the approaching delivery of his master’s daughter, and quite unaware that violence had been offered her, hears the groans and prayers of the girl laboring in childbirth; he gives expression to his fear, anger, suspicion, pity and grief. In the Greek comedy all these emotions and feelings of his are wonderfully vivid and clear, but in Caecilius they are all dull and without any grace and dignity of expression. Afterwards, when the same slave by questioning has found out what has happened, in Menander he utters this lament:
Alas! thrice wretched he who weds, though poor,
And children gets. How foolish is the man
Who keeps no watch o’er his necessities,
And if he luckless be in life’s routine,
Can’t use his wealth as cloak, but buffeted
By ev’ry storm, lives helpless and in grief.
All wretchedness he shares, of blessings none,
Thus sorrowing for one I’d all men warn.
Let us consider whether Caecilius was sufficiently inspired to approach the sincerity and realism of these words. These are the lines of Caecilius, in which he gives some mangled fragments from Menander, patching them with the language of tragic bombast:
Unfortunate in truth the man, who poor,
Yet children gets, to share his poverty.
His fortune and his state at once are clear;
The ill fame of the rich their set conceals.
Accordingly, as I said above, when I read these passages of Caecilius by themselves, they seem by no means lacking in grace and spirit, but when I compare and match them with the Greek version, I feel that Caecilius should not have followed a guide with whom he could not keep pace.
Frugality among the early Romans, and moderation in food and entertainments were secured not only by observance and training at home, but also by public penalties and the inviolable provisions of numerous laws. Only recently I read in the Miscellanies of Ateius Capito an old decree of the senate, passed in the consulship of Gaius Fannius and Marcus Valerius Messala, which provides that the leading citizens, who according to ancient usage “interchanged” at the Megalensian games (that is, acted as host to one another in rotation), should take oath before the consuls in set terms, that they would not spend on each dinner more than one hundred and twenty asses in addition to vegetables, bread and wine; that they would not serve foreign, but only native, wine, nor use at table more than one hundred pounds’ weight of silverware.
But subsequent to that decree of the senate the law of Fannius was passed, which allowed the expenditure of one hundred asses a day at the Roman and the plebeian games, at the Saturnalia, and on certain other days; of thirty asses on ten additional days each month; but on all other days of only ten. This is the law to which the poet Lucilius alludes when he says:
The paltry hundred pence of Fannius.
In regard to this some of the commentators on Lucilius have been mistaken in thinking that Fannius’ law authorized a regular expenditure of a hundred asses on every kind of day. For, as I have stated above, Fannius authorized one hundred asses on certain holidays which he expressly named, but for all other days he limited the daily outlay to thirty asses for some days and to ten for others.
Next the Licinian law was passed which, while allowing the outlay of one hundred asses on designated days, as did the law of Fannius, conceded two hundred asses for weddings and set a limit of thirty for other days; however, after naming a fixed weight of dried meat and salted provisions for each day, it granted the indiscriminate and unlimited use of the products of earth, vine and orchard. This law the poet Laevius mentions in his Erotopaegnia. These are the words of Laevius, by which he means that a kid that had been brought for a feature was sent away and the dinner served with fruit and vegetables, as the Licinian law had provided:
The Licinian law is introduced,
The liquid light to the kid restored.
Lucilius also has the said law in mind in these words:
Let us evade the law of Licinius.
Afterwards, when these laws were illegible from the rust of age and forgotten, when many men of abundant means were gormandizing, and recklessly pouring their family and fortune into an abyss of dinners and banquets, Lucius Sulla in his dictatorship proposed a law to the people, which provided that on the Kalends, Ides and Nones, on days of games, and on certain regular festivals, it should be proper and lawful to spend three hundred sesterces on a dinner, but on all other days no more than thirty.
Besides these laws we find also an Aemilian law, setting a limit not on the expense of dinners, but on the kind and quantity of food.
Then the law of Antius, besides curtailing outlay, contained the additional provision, that no magistrate or magistrate elect should dine out anywhere, except at the house of stipulated persons.
Lastly, the Julian law came before the people during the principate of Caesar Augustus, by which on working days two hundred sesterces is the limit, on the Kalends, Ides and Nones and some other holidays, three hundred, but at weddings and the banquets following them, a thousand.
Ateius Capito says that there is still another edict — but whether of the deified Augustus or of Tiberius Caesar I do not exactly remember — by which the outlay for dinners on various festal days was increased from three hundred sesterces to two thousand, to the end that the rising tide of luxury might be restrained at least within those limits.
In the Latin language, just as in Greek, some have thought that the principle of ἀναλογία should be followed, others that of ἀνωμαλία. Ἀναλογία is the similar inflection of similar words, which some call in Latin proportio, or “regularity.” Ἀνωμαλία is irregularity in inflection, following usage. Now two distinguished Greek grammarians, Aristarchus and Crates, defended with the utmost vigor, the one analogy, the other anomaly. The eighth book of Marcus Varro’s treatise On the Latin Language, dedicated to Cicero, maintains that no regard is paid to regularity, and points out that in almost all words usage rules. “As when we decline,” says he, “lupus lupi, probus probi, but lepus leporis; again, paro paravi and lavo lavi, pungo pupugi, tundo tutudi and pingo pinxi. And although,” he continues, “from ceno and prandeo and poto we form cenatus sum, pransus sum and potus sum, yet from destringor and extergeor and lavor we make destrinxi and extersi and lavi. Furthermore, although from Oscus, Tuscus and Graecus we derive the adverbs Osce, Tusce and Graece, yet from Gallus and Maurus we have Gallice and Maurice; as from probus probe, from doctus docte, but from rarus there is no adverb rare, but some say raro, others rarenter.” In the same book Varro goes on to say: “No one uses sentior and that form by itself is naught, but almost everyone says adsentior. Sisenna alone used to say adsentio (I agree) in the senate, but later many followed his example, yet could not prevail over usage.” But Varro himself in other books wrote a good deal in defense of analogy. Therefore his utterances on the subject are, as it were, commonplaces, to cite now against analogy and again also in its favor.
When the philosopher Favorinus was on his way to visit the exconsul Marcus Fronto, who was ill with the gout, he wished me also to go with him. And when there at Fronto’s, where a number of learned men were present, a discussion took place about colors and their names, to the effect that the shades of colors are manifold, but the names for them are few and indefinite, Favorinus said: “More distinctions of color are detected by the eye than are expressed by words and terms. For leaving out of account other incongruities, your simple colors, red (rufus) and green (viridis), have single names, but many different shades. And that poverty in names I find more pronounced in Latin than in Greek. For the color red (rufus) does in fact get its name from redness, but although fire is one kind of red, blood another, purple another, saffron another, and gold still another, yet the Latin tongue does not indicate these special varieties of red by separate and individual words, but includes them all under the one term rubor, except in so far as it borrows names from the things themselves, and calls anything ‘fiery,’ ‘flaming,’ ‘blood-red,’ ‘saffron,’ ‘purple’ and ‘golden.’ For russus and ruber are no doubt derived from rufus, and do not indicate all its special varieties, but ζανθός and ἐρυθρός and πυρρός and κιρρός and φοῆνιζ seem to mark certain differences in the color red, either intensifying it or making it lighter, or qualifying it by the admixture of some shade.”
Then Fronto, replying to Favorinus, said: “I do not deny that the Greek language, which you seem to prefer, is richer and more copious than ours; but nevertheless in naming these colors of which you have just spoken we are not quite so badly off as you think. For russus and ruber, which you have just mentioned, are not the only words that denote the color red, but we have others also, more numerous than those which you have quoted from the Greek. For fulvus, flavus, rubidus, poeniceus, rutilus, luteus and spadix are names of the color red, which either brighten it (making it fiery, as it were), or combine it with green, or darken it with black, or make it luminous by a slight addition of gleaming white. For poeniceus, which you call φοῖνιζ in Greek, belongs to our language, and rutilus and spadix, a synonym of poeniceus which is taken over into Latin from the Greek, indicate a rich, gleaming shade of red like that of the fruit of the palm-tree when it is not fully ripened by the sun. And from this spadix and poeniceus get their name; for spadix in Doric is applied to a branch torn from a palm-tree along with its fruit. But the color fulvus seems to be a mixture of red and green, in which sometimes green predominates, sometimes red. Thus the poet who was most careful in his choice of words applies fulvus to an eagle, to jasper, to fur caps, to gold, to sand, and to a lion; and so Ennius in his Annals uses fulvus of air. Flavus on the other hand seems to be compounded of green and red and white; thus Virgil speaks of golden hair as flava and applies that adjective also to the leaves of the olive, which I see surprises some; and thus, much earlier, Pacuvius called water flava and dust fulvus. I am glad to quote his verses, for they are most charming:
Give me thy foot, that with the same soft hands
With which oft times I did Ulysses soothe
I may with golden (flavis) waters wash away
The tawny (fulvum) dust and heal thy weariness.
“Now, rubidus is a darker red and with a larger admixture of black; luteus, on the other hand, is a more diluted red, and from this dilution its name too seems to be derived. Therefore, my dear Favorinus,” said he, “the shades of red have no more names in Greek than with us. But neither is the color green expressed by more terms in your language, and Virgil, when he wished to indicate the green color of a horse, could perfectly well have called the horse caeruleus rather than glaucus, but he preferred to use a familiar Greek word, rather than one which was unusual in Latin. Moreover, our earlier writers used caesia as the equivalent of the Greek γλαυκῶπις, as Nigidius says, from the color of the sky, as if it were originally caelia.”
After Fronto had said this, Favorinus, enchanted with his exhaustive knowledge of the subject and his elegant diction, said: “Were it not for you, and perhaps for you alone, the Greek language would surely have come out far ahead; but you, my dear Fronto, exemplify Homer’s line:
Thou would’st either have won or made the result indecisive.
But not only have I listened with pleasure to all your learned remarks, but in particular in describing the diversity of the color flavus you have made me understand these beautiful lines from the fourteenth book of Ennius’ Annals, which before I did not in the least comprehend:
The calm sea’s golden marble now they skim;
Ploughed by the thronging craft, the green seas foam;
for ‘the green seas’ did not seem to correspond with ‘golden marble.’ But since, as you have said, flavus is a color containing an admixture of green and white, Ennius with the utmost elegance called the foam of the green sea ‘golden marble.’”
This is Demosthenes’ striking and brilliant description of king Philip: “I saw that Philip himself, with whom we were struggling, had in his desire for empire and absolute power had one eye knocked out, his collar-bone broken, his hand and leg maimed, and was ready to resign any part of his body that fortune chose to take from him, provided that with what remained he might live in honor and glory.” Sallust, desiring to rival this description, in his Histories thus wrote of the leader Sertorius: “He won great glory in Spain, while military tribune under the command of Titus Didius, rendered valuable service in the Marsic war in providing troops and arms; but he got no credit for much that was then done under his direction and orders, at first because of his low birth and afterwards through unfriendly historians; but during his lifetime his appearance bore testimony to these deeds, in many scars on his breast, and in the loss of an eye. Indeed, he rejoiced greatly in his bodily disfigurement, caring nothing for what he had lost, because he kept the rest with greater glory.”
In his estimate of these words of the two writers Titus Castricius said: “Is it not beyond the range of human capability to rejoice in bodily disfigurement? For rejoicing is a certain exaltation of spirit, delighting in the realization of something greatly desired. How much truer, more natural, and more in accordance with human limitations is this: ‘Giving up whatever part of his body fortune chose to take.’ In these words,” said he, “Philip is shown, not like Sertorius, rejoicing in bodily disfigurement, which,” he said, “is unheard of and extravagant, but as a scorner of bodily losses and injuries in his thirst for honor and glory, who in exchange for the fame which he coveted would sacrifice his limbs one by one to the attacks of fortune.”
What is to be regarded as the cause of earthquakes is not only not obvious to the ordinary understanding and thought of mankind, but it is not agreed even among the natural philosophers whether they are due to the mighty winds that gather in the caverns and hollow places of the earth, or to the ebb and flow of subterranean waters in its hollows, as seems to have been the view of the earliest Greeks, who called Neptune “the Earth Shaker”; or whether they are the result of something else or due to the divine power of some other god — all this, I say, is not yet a matter of certain knowledge. For that reason the Romans of old, who were not only exceedingly scrupulous and careful in discharging all the other obligations of life, but also in fulfilling religious duties and venerating the immortal gods, whenever they felt an earthquake or received report of one, decreed a holy day on that account, but forbore to declare and specify in the decree, as is commonly done, the name of the god in whose honor the holy day was to be observed; for fear that by naming one god instead of another they might involve the people in a false observance. If anyone had desecrated that festival, and expiation was therefore necessary, they used to offer a victim “to either the god or goddess,” and Marcus Varro tells us that this usage was established by a decree of the pontiffs, since it was uncertain what force, and which of the gods or goddesses, had caused the earthquake.
But in the case of eclipses of the sun or moon they concerned themselves no less with trying to discover the causes of that phenomenon. However, Marcus Cato, although a man with a great interest in investigation, nevertheless on this point expressed himself indecisively and superficially. His words in the fourth book of his Origins are as follows: “I do not care to write what appears on the tablet of the high priest: how often grain was dear, how often darkness, or something else, obscured the light of sun or moon.” Of so little importance did he consider it either to know or to tell the true causes of eclipses of the sun and moon.
Aesop, the well-known fabulist from Phrygia, has justly been regarded as a wise man, since he taught what it was salutary to call to mind and to recommend, not in an austere and dictatorial manner, as is the way of philosophers, but by inventing witty and entertaining fables he put into men’s minds and hearts ideas that were wholesome and carefully considered, while at the same time he enticed their attention. For example, this fable of his about the little nest of a birdlet with delightful humor warns us that in the case of things which one can do, hope and confidence should never be placed in another, but in one’s own self. “There is a little bird,” he says, “it is called the lark. It lives in the grainfields, and generally builds its nest at such a time that the harvest is at hand exactly when the young birds are ready to be fledged. Such a lark chanced to have built her nest in a field which had been sown rather early in the year; therefore when the grain was turning yellow, the fledglings were still unable to fly. Accordingly, when the mother went off in search of food for her young, she warned them to notice whether anything unusual was said or done there, and to tell it to her on her return. A little later the owner of that grainfield calls his young son and says: ‘Do you not see that this is ripe and already calls for hands? Tomorrow then, as soon as it is light, see that you go to our friends and ask them to come and exchange work with us, and help us with this harvest.’ So saying, he at once went away. And when the lark returned, the chicks, frightened and trembling, twittered about their mother and implored her to make haste and at once carry them off to some other place; ‘for,’ said they, ‘the master has sent to ask his friends to come at daybreak and reap.’ The mother bids them be easy in mind. ‘For if the master,’ said she, ‘has turned the harvesting over to his friends, the field will not be reaped tomorrow, and I need not take you away today. On the following day the mother flies off to get food. The master waits for those whom he had summoned. The sun grows hot and nothing is done. The day advances and no friends come. Then he says again to his son: ‘Those friends of ours are a lot of slackers. Why not rather go and ask our relatives and kinsfolk to come to reap early tomorrow?’ This, too, the frightened chicks tell their mother. She urges them once again to be without fear and without worry, saying that hardly any relatives and kinsfolk are so obliging as to undertake labor without any delay and to obey a summons at once. ‘But do you,’ she said, ‘observe whether anything more is said.’ Next day at dawn the bird left to forage. The relatives and kinsfolk neglected the work which they were asked to do. So finally the owner said to his son. ‘Enough of friends and relatives. Bring two scythes at daybreak; I myself will take one and you yourself the other, and tomorrow we ourselves will reap the grain with our own hands.’ When the mother heard from her brood that the farmer had said this, she cried: ‘It is time to get out and be off; for this time what he said surely will be done. For now it depends on the very man whose business it is, not on another who is asked to do it.’ And so the lark moved her nest, the owner harvested his crop.”
This then is Aesop’s fable, showing that trust in friends and relatives is usually idle and vain. But what different warning do the more highly revered books of the philosophers give us, than that we should rely on ourselves alone, and regard everything else that is outside and beyond our control as helpful neither to our affairs nor to ourselves? This parable of Aesop has been rendered in tetrameter verse by Quintus Ennius in his Saturae most cleverly and gracefully. The following are the last two lines of that version, and I surely think it is worth while to remember them and take them to heart:
This adage ever have in readiness;
Ask not of friends what you yourself can do.
It has often been observed in the motion of the waves caused by the north winds or by any current of air from that quarter of the heaven that it is different from that caused by the south and southwest winds. For the waves raised by the blowing of the north wind are very high and follow hard upon each, but as soon as the wind has ceased, they flatten out and subside, and soon there are no waves at all. But it is not the same when the wind blows from the south or southwest; for although these have wholly ceased to blow, still the waves that they have caused continue to swell, and though they have long been undisturbed by wind, yet the sea keeps continually surging. The reason of this is inferred to be, that the winds from the north, falling upon the sea from a higher part of the sky, are borne straight down, as it were headlong, into the depths of ocean, making waves that are not driven forward, but are set in motion from within; and these, being turned up from beneath, roll only so long as the force of that wind which blows in from above continues. The south and southwest winds, on the contrary, forced down to the southern zone and the lowest part of the heavens, are lower and flatter, and as they blow over the surface of the sea, they push forward the waves rather than raise them up. Therefore the waters are not struck from above but are forced forward, and even after the wind has fallen they retain for some time the motion given by the original impulse. Moreover, this very suggestion of mine may be supported by the following lines of Homer, if one reads them carefully. For he wrote thus of the blasts of the west wind:
Then Notus drives huge waves against the western cliff,
but on the other hand he speaks in a different way of boreas, which we call aquilo:
And Boreas aetherborn, uprolling a great wave.
For he means that the waves stirred up by the north winds, which are high and blow from above, are so to speak rolled downward, but that by the south winds, which are lower than these, they are driven forward in an upward direction by a somewhat greater force and pushed up. For that is the meaning of the verb ὠθεῖ, as also in another passage:
The stone toward the hilltop pushed he up.
This also has been observed by the most learned investigators of nature, that when the south winds blow, the sea becomes blue and bright, but, under the north winds, darker and more gloomy. I noted the cause of this when I was making excerpts from the Problems of Aristotle.
When I was still young and a schoolboy, I heard that this Greek sentiment which I have subjoined was uttered by the philosopher Musonius, and since it is a true and brilliant saying, expressed briefly and roundly, I very willingly committed it to memory: “If you accomplish anything noble with toil, the toil passes, but the noble deed endures. If you do anything shameful with pleasure, the pleasure passes, but the shame endures.”
Later, I read that same sentiment in the speech of Marcus Cato which he delivered At Numantia to the Knights. Although it is expressed somewhat loosely and diffusely compared with the Greek which I have given, yet, since it is prior in time and more ancient, it ought to seem worthy of greater respect. The words in the speech are as follows: “Bear in mind, that if through toil you accomplish a good deed, that toil will quickly pass from you, the good deed will not leave you so long as you live; but if through pleasure you do anything dishonorable, the pleasure will quickly pass away, that dishonorable act will remain with you for ever.”
We were sailing from Cassiopa to Brundisium over the Ionian sea, violent, vast and storm-tossed. During almost the whole of the night which followed our first day a fierce side-wind blew, which had filled our ship with water. Then afterwards, while we were all still lamenting, and working hard at the pumps, day at last dawned. But there was no less danger and no slackening of the violence of the wind; on the contrary, more frequent whirlwinds, a black sky, masses of fog, and a kind of fearful cloud-forms, which they called typhones, or “typhoons,” seemed to hang over and threaten us, ready to overwhelm the ship.
In our company was an eminent philosopher of the Stoic sect, whom I had known at Athens as a man of no slight importance, holding the young men who were his pupils under very good control. In the midst of the great dangers of that time and that tumult of sea and sky I looked for him, desiring to know in what state of mind he was and whether he was unterrified and courageous. And then I beheld the man frightened and ghastly pale, not indeed uttering any lamentations, as all the rest were doing, nor any outcries of that kind, but in his loss of color and distracted expression not differing much from the others. But when the sky cleared, the sea grew calm, and the heat of danger cooled, then the Stoic was approached by a rich Greek from Asia, a man of elegant apparel, as we saw, and with an abundance of baggage and many attendants, while he himself showed signs of a luxurious person and disposition. This man, in a bantering tone, said: “What does this mean, Sir philosopher, that when we were in danger you were afraid and turned pale, while I neither feared nor changed color?” And the philosopher, after hesitating for a moment about the propriety of answering him, said: “If in such a terrible storm I did show a little fear, you are not worthy to be told the reason for it. But, if you please, the famous Aristippus, the pupil of Socrates, shall answer for me, who on being asked on a similar occasion by a man much like you why he feared, though a philosopher, while his questioner on the contrary had no fear, replied that they had not the same motives, for his questioner need not be very anxious about the life of a worthless coxcomb, but he himself feared for the life of an Aristippus.””
With these words then the Stoic rid himself of the rich Asiatic. But later, when we were approaching Brundisium and sea and sky were calm, I asked him what the reason for his fear was, which he had refused to reveal to the man who had improperly addressed him. And he quietly and courteously replied: “Since you are desirous of knowing, hear what our forefathers, the founders of the Stoic sect, thought about that brief but inevitable and natural fear, or rather,” said he, “read it, for if you read it, you will be the more ready to believe it and you will remember it better.” Thereupon before my eyes he drew from his little bag the fifth book of the Discourses of the philosopher Epictetus, which, as arranged by Arrian, undoubtedly agree with the writings of Zeno and Chrysippus.
In that book I read this statement, which of course was written in Greek: “The mental visions, which the philosophers call φαντασίαι or ‘phantasies,’ by which the mind of man on the very first appearance of an object is impelled to the perception of the object, are neither voluntary nor controlled by the will, but through a certain power of their own they force their recognition upon men; but the expressions of assent, which they call συγκαταθέσεις, by which these visions are recognized, are voluntary and subject to man’s will. Therefore when some terrifying sound, either from heaven or from a falling building or as a sudden announcement of some danger, or anything else of that kind occurs, even the mind of a wise man must necessarily be disturbed, must shrink and feel alarm, not from a preconceived idea of any danger, but from certain swift and unexpected attacks which forestall the power of the mind and of reason. Presently, however, the wise man does not approve ‘such phantasies,’ that is to say, such terrifying mental visions (to quote the Greek, ‘he does not consent to them nor confirm them’), but he rejects and scorns them, nor does he see in them anything that ought to excite fear. And they say that there is this difference between the mind of a foolish man and that of a wise man, that the foolish man thinks that such ‘visions’ are in fact as dreadful and terrifying as they appear at the original impact of them on his mind, and by his assent he approves of such ideas as if they were rightly to be feared, and ‘confirms’ them; for προσεπιδοξάζει is the word which the Stoics use in their discourses on the subject. But the wise man, after being affected for a short time and slightly in his color and expression, ‘does not assent,’ but retains the steadfastness and strength of the opinion which he has always had about visions of this kind, namely that they are in no wise to be feared but excite terror by a false appearance and vain alarms.”
That these were the opinions and utterances of Epictetus the philosopher in accordance with the beliefs of the Stoics I read in that book which I have mentioned, and I thought that they ought to be recorded for this reason, that when things of the kind which I have named chance to occur, we may not think that to fear for a time and, as it were, turn white is the mark of a foolish and weak man, but in that brief but natural impulse we yield rather to human weakness than because we believe that those things are what they seem.
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