Καὶ Μέλισσος δὲ τὸ ἀγένητον τοῦ ὄντος ἔδειξε τῷ κοινῷ τούτῳ χρησάμενος ἀξιώματι. γράφει δὲ οὕτως· “ἀεὶ ἦν ὅ τι ἦν καὶ ἀεὶ ἔσται. εἰ γὰρ ἐγένετο, ἀναγκαῖόν ἐστι πρὶν γενέσθαι εἶναι μηδέν. † εἰ τύχοι νῦν μηδὲν ἦν, οὐδαμὰ ἂν γένοιτο οὐδὲν ἐκ μηδενός.” [Melissus, fr. B 1]
[Simplicius, In Aristotelis Physicorum Libros Commentarium 162.23-26]
Melissus also demonstrated the ungenerability of what is by using this common principle. He writes as follows: “What was, always was, and always will be. For if it came to be, it is necessary that before it came to be there was nothing. Now if there was nothing, in no way could anything come to be from nothing.” (tr. Pamela Huby & Christopher Charles Whiston Taylor)
Ergo hoc quidem apparet, nos ad agendum esse natos. Actionum autem genera plura, ut obscurentur etiam minora maioribus, maximae autem sunt primum, ut mihi quidem videtur et iis, quorum nunc in ratione versamur, consideratio cognitioque rerum caelestium et earum, quas a natura occultatas et latentes indagare ratio potest, deinde rerum publicarum administratio aut administrandi scientia, tum prudens, temperata, fortis, iusta ratio reliquaeque virtutes et actiones virtutibus congruentes, quae uno verbo complexi omnia honesta dicimus; ad quorum et cognitionem et usum iam corroborati natura ipsa praeeunte deducimur. omnium enim rerum principia parva sunt, sed suis progressionibus usa augentur nec sine causa; in primo enim ortu inest teneritas ac mollitia quaedam, ut nec res videre optimas nec agere possint. virtutis enim beataeque vitae, quae duo maxime expetenda sunt, serius lumen apparet, multo etiam serius, ut plane qualia sint intellegantur. praeclare enim Plato: “beatum, cui etiam in senectute contigerit, ut sapientiam verasque opiniones assequi possit” [cf. Plato, Nomoi 653a].
(Cicero, De Finibus Bonorum et Malorum 5.58)
It is evident, then, that we are born to act. There are many forms of activity, however: so much so that one may lose sight of the trivial amidst the more important ones. As to the most important, it is my view and that of the thinkers whose system I am discussing, that these are: the contemplation and study of the heavenly bodies, and of the mysterious secrets of nature that rational thought has the power to uncover; the administration of public affairs, or perhaps knowledge of its theory; and a way of thinking that displays practical reason, temperance, bravery and justice, and which manifests the other virtue too and the actions that flow from them. We may sum up this latter category under the single heading of “morality”. When we are fully mature, nature herself gives us the cue that leads us to understand and practise it. Everything has small beginnings, but grows greater by gradual progress. The reason for this is that when we are born we possess a certain delicacy and weakness which prevents us from seeing and doing what is best. The light of virtue and happiness, the two most desirable possessions of all, dawns rather late; and much later still a clear understanding of what they are. Plato puts the point very well: “Happy the one who even in old age has managed to acquire wisdom and true beliefs!” (tr. Raphael Woolf)
Hoc sceptrum, quod ab arbore est recisum,
nulla iam poterit virere fronde,
sceptrum, quod pathicae petunt puellae,
quod quidam cupiunt tenere reges,
cui dant oscula nobiles cinaedi,
intra viscera furis ibit usque
ad pubem capulumque coleorum!
This scepter, which was cut from a tree,
will now be able to grow green with no leaf,
this scepter, which pathic girls seek out,
which certain kings desire to hold,
to which aristocratic fags give kisses,
will go into the guts of a thief all the way
up to my crotch and the hilt of my balls.
(tr. Amy Richlin)
Ἔστι γένος τι τῶν ἀνακτόρων μέσον
θῆλυ πρὸς ἄρρεν, ἄρρεν εἰ θῆλυ βλέπει·
ἄμφω δὲ κοὐδέν ἐστιν, ὧν δ’ ἔχει δύο
τοῦ μὲν μετέσχεν οὐδαμῶς, τὸ δ’ ἐρρύη·
κρατεῖ δὲ πᾶσι καὶ κρατεῖται τοῖς ὅλοις,
καὶ πάντα τολμᾷ, πάντα δὲ φρίσσει τρέμον·
στέργει γέλωτας, ἀλλ’ ἐρᾷ τῶν δακρύων·
ἄδοξόν ἐστι κομπόδοξον ὂν φύσει,
τυραννικὸν, λατρῶδες, ἄστοργον φύλον,
σεμνὸν, ταπεινὸν, ἄφρον, ἄγλωττον, λάλον,
δοῦλον, βίαιον, θυμικὸν, δειλὸν, λάγνον·
ἐκ τῶν ἄκρων κραθὲν δὲ τῶν ἐναντίων
ἄκρον πέφυκεν ἐκ κακῶν κακὸν μέγα.
(Manuel Philes, Carm. 2.255)
There is a race that lives in the heart of the palace,
feminine compared to men, but masculine compared to women;
it has traces of both, without being either one or the other;
it has nothing to do with women, but its masculinity is eroded.
It rules everyone but is enslaved by all.
It will dare anything, but trembles with fear before all.
It hates laughter, but loves tears.
Insignificant, but boastful by nature,
a tyrannical, obsequious, cruel race.
Decorous, humble, mindless, speechless, chatty,
servile, violent, spirited, cowardly, greedy,
born of the mixture of extreme opposites,
the greatest evil emerging from evil.
(tr. Anthony Kaldellis)
P. Vergilius Maro Mantuanus parentibus modicis fuit ac praecipue patre, quem quidam opificem figulum, plures Magi cuiusdam viatoris initio mercennarium, mox ob industriam generum tradiderunt, egregiaeque substantiae silvis coemendis et apibus curandis auxisse reculam. natus est Cn. Pompeio Magno M. Licinio Crasso primum consulibus Iduum Octobrium die in pago qui Andes dicitur et abest a Mantua non procul. praegnans eo mater somniavit enixam se laureum ramum, quem contactu terrae coaluisse et excrevisse ilico in speciem maturae arboris refertaeque variis pomis et floribus, ac sequenti luce cum marito rus propinquum petens ex itinere devertit atque in subiecta fossa partu levata est. ferunt infantem ut sit editus neque vagisse et adeo miti vultu fuisse, ut haud dubiam spem prosperioris geniturae iam tum daret. et accessit aliud praesagium, siquidem virga populea more regionis in puerperiis eodem statim loco depacta ita brevi evaluit tempore, ut multo ante satas populos adaequavisset; quae “arbor Vergilii” ex eo dicta atque etiam consecrata est summa gravidarum ac fetarum religione suscipientium ibi et solventium vota.
(Suetonius, Vita Vergili 1-5)
Publius Vergilius Maro was a Mantuan of humble parentage, especially with regard to his father: some have reported that he was an artisan who was a potter, many that he was at first the employee of a viator [a minor official whose main task was to summon people who had to appear before magistrates] named Magus and then a son-in-law on account of his industry, and that he built up a fortune of no mean substance by buying up woodlands and tending bees. [Virgil] was born on the Ides of October, during the first consulships of Gnaeus Pompeius the Great and Marcus Licinius Crassus [October 15, 70 b.c.e.], in a village called Andes, not far from Mantua. While pregnant with him, his mother dreamed that she gave birth to a laurel branch, which took root when it touched the earth and sprang up on the spot into the form of a full-grown tree, stuffed with diverse fruits and flowers. And the following day, while she was making for the neighboring country spot with her husband, she turned aside from the path and delivered herself by childbirth in an adjacent ditch. They say that when the child was born, he did not cry, and so mild was his countenance that even then he gave no small reason to hope that his birth would prove to be auspicious. Another omen was added to this when the poplar sprout that was immediately planted in the same place, according to the custom of the region in cases of childbirth, grew up so fast that it stood level with the poplars planted long before. It was called on that account the tree of Virgil, and it was in fact made sacred by the greatest reverence of pregnant women and new mothers who took and fulfilled vows there. (tr. David Wilson-Okamura, revised by Jan M. Ziolkowski)
Ἀπὸ δὲ τούτου τοῦ χρόνου πλείονι μανίᾳ κατὰ τῶν ἁγίων ἐκκλησιῶν ἐχρήσατο. ἀποστείλας γὰρ κατήνεγκε Πέτρον τὸν ἀοίδιμον στυλίτην ἀπὸ πέτρας, καὶ μὴ ὑπείξαντα τοῖς δόγμασιν αὐτοῦ ζῶντα δήσας τῶν ποδῶν ἐν τοῖς Πελαγίου καὶ τοῦτον διὰ τῆς Μέσης συρόμενον ἐκέλευσε ῥιφῆναι, ἄλλους ἐν σάκκοις δεσμῶν καὶ λίθοις προσαρτίζων ἐν τῷ πελάγει ῥίπτεσθαι προσέταττεν, τυφλόνων, ῥινοκοπῶν, μάστιξι ξαίνων, καὶ πᾶν εἶδος κολάσεως κατὰ τῶν εὐσεβούντων ἐπινοῶν· καὶ ἐν μὲν τῇ πόλει δι’ ἑαυτοῦ ταῦτα ἔδρα καὶ τῶν ὁμοφρόνων αὐτοῦ, Ἀντωνίου, φημί, πατρικίου καὶ δομεστίκου τῶν σχολῶν καὶ Πέτρου μαγίστρου καὶ τοῦ ἐκπαιδευθέντος ὑπ’ αὐτοῦ λαοῦ τῶν ταγμάτων, ἐν δὲ τοῖς ἔξω θέμασι διὰ τῶν προρρηθέντων στρατηγῶν. αὐτὸς δὲ κιθαρῳδίαις ἔχαιρε καὶ συμποσιασμοῖς, αἰσχρολογίαις τε καὶ ὀρχησμοῖς ἐκπαιδεύων τοὺς περὶ αὐτόν. καὶ εἴ πού τις συμπίπτων ἢ ἀλγῶν τὴν συνήθη Χριστιανοῖς ἀφῆκε φωνήν, τὸ “θεοτόκε βοήθει,” ἢ παννυχεύων ἐφωράθη ἢ ἐκκλησίαις προσεδρεύων ἢ εὐλαβείᾳ συζῶν ἢ μὴ ὅρκοις χρώμενος ἀφειδῶς, ὡς ἐχθρὸς τοῦ βασιλέως ἐκολάζετο καὶ ἀμνημόνευτος ὠνομάζετο.
(Theophanes Homologetes, Chron. p. 442-443 de Boor)
From this time onwards he* behaved with increased fury towards the holy churches. He sent his men to remove the celebrated stylite Peter from his rock and, since the latter did not yield to his doctrines, had him tied by the feet and ordered him, too, to be dragged alive along the Mesê and thrown in the ditch of Pelagios. Others he tied up in sacks which he weighted with stones and commanded to be cast in the sea, and he went on blinding, amputating noses, scourging, and inventing every kind of torment for the pious. In the City he perpetrated these things by himself and through those who shared his views, namely Antony, patrician and domestic of the Schools, the magistros Peter, and the men of the tagmata who had been instructed by him, while in the provincial themata he did so through the aforementioned strategoi. He himself delighted in music and banquets and educated his courtiers by means of foul language and dancing. And if anyone on falling down or being in pain let out the usual Christian exclamation, ‘Mother of God, help me!’ or was convicted of attending night vigils or frequenting churches or living in piety without constantly using oaths, he was punished as an enemy of the emperor and was called an ‘unmentionable’.
* Konstantinos V.
(tr. Cyril A. Mango & Roger Scott)
Sic loquere, sic vive: vide ne te ulla res deprimat. votorum tuorum veterum licet deis gratiam facias, alia de integro suscipe: roga bonam mentem, bonam valetudinem animi, deinde tunc corporis. quidni tu ista vota saepe facias? audacter deum roga: nihil illum de alieno rogaturus es. sed ut more meo cum aliquo munusculo epistulam mittam, verum est quod apud Athenodorum inveni: “tunc scito esse te omnibus cupiditatibus solutum, cum eo perveneris ut nihil deum roges nisi quod rogare possis palam.” [Athenodorus, De Superstitione fr. 36] nunc enim quanta dementia est hominum! turpissima vota dis insusurrant; si quis admoverit aurem, conticiscent, et quod scire hominem nolunt deo narrant. vide ergo ne hoc praecipi salubriter possit: sic vive cum hominibus tamquam deus videat, sic loquere cum deo tamquam homines audiant. vale.
[Seneca Minor, Ep. ad Luc. 10.4-5]
Speak, and live, in this way; see to it that nothing keeps you down. As for your former prayers, you may dispense the gods from answering them; offer new prayers; pray for a sound mind and for good health, first of soul and then of body. And of course you should offer those prayers frequently. Call boldly upon God; you will not be asking him for that which belongs to another. But I must, as is my custom, send a little gift along with this letter. It is a true saying which I have found in Athenodorus: “Know that thou art freed from all desires when thou hast reached such a point that thou prayest to God for nothing except what thou canst pray for openly.” But how foolish men are now! They whisper the basest of prayers to heaven; but if anyone listens, they are silent at once. That which they are unwilling for men to know, they communicate to God. Do you not think, then, that some such wholesome advice as this could be given you: “Live among men as if God beheld you; speak with God as if men were listening”? Farewell. (tr. Richard M. Gummere)