Officiosi

Quintus_Haterius

The Elder Seneca on the orator Quintus Haterius:

Ille in hoc scholasticis morem gerebat, ne verbis calcatis et obsoletis uteretur; sed quaedam antiqua et a Cicerone dicta, a ceteris deinde deserta dicebat, quae ne ille quidem orationis citatissimae cursus poterat abscondere: adeo quidquid insolitum est etiam in turba notabile est. hoc exempto nemo erat scholasticis nec aptior nec similior, sed, dum nihil vult nisi culte, nisi splendide dicere, saepe incidebat in ea quae derisum effugere non possent. memini illum, cum libertinum reum defenderet, cui obiciebatur quod patroni concubinus fuisset, dixisse: “Impudicitia in ingenuo crimen est, in servo necessitas, in liberto officium.” res in iocos abiit: “non facis mihi officium” et “multum ille huic in officiis versatur.” ex eo impudici et obsceni aliquamdiu officiosi vocitati sunt.
(Seneca the Elder, Controversiae 4 Pr. 9-10)

With this exception, no-one was better adapted to the schoolmen or more like them; but in his anxiety to say nothing that was not elegant and brilliant, he often fell into expressions that could not escape derision. I recall that he said, while defending a freedman who was charged with being his patron’s lover: “Losing one’s virtue is a crime in the freeborn, a necessity in a slave, a duty for the freedman.” The idea became a handle for jokes, like “you aren’t doing your duty by me” and “he gets in a lot of duty for him.” As a result the unchaste and obscene got called “dutiful” for some while afterwards. (tr. Michael Winterbottom)

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