Neanikōtera

roman

Σκοπεῖτε δέ· καλεῖν κελεύω τοὺς νέους ἐπ’ ἀκρόασιν, δραμὼν ὁ παῖς τοῦτο ποιεῖ, οἱ δ’ οὐ μιμοῦνται τὸν ἐκείνου δρόμον, ὃν ἔδει τῷ παρ’ αὑτῶν καὶ νικᾶν, ἀλλ’ οἱ μὲν ἐν ταῖς ᾠδαῖς μένουσιν ἃς ἴσασιν ἅπαντες, οἱ δ’ ἐν φλυαρίαις, οἱ δ’ ἐν γέλωσι· τῆς δὲ ἐν τούτοις βραδυτῆτος παρὰ τῶν ὁρώντων κατηγορουμένης, εἴ ποτε καὶ γνοῖεν εἰσελθεῖν, κατὰ τὰς νύμφας βαδίζουσιν ἤ, τό γε ἀληθέστερον, κατὰ τοὺς ἐπὶ τῶν καλῶν ἰόντας, πρίν τε εἴσω θυρῶν εἶναι καὶ εἰσελθόντες, ὥστ’ εἶναι τοῖς καθημένοις ἀγανακτεῖν οὕτω βλακεύοντας ἀναμένουσι νέους. καὶ τοιαῦτα μὲν τὰ πρὸ τοῦ λόγου, λεγομένου δὲ ἤδη καὶ δεικνυμένου πολλὰ μὲν νεύματα πρὸς ἀλλήλους ὑπὲρ ἡνιόχων καὶ μίμων καὶ ἵππων καὶ ὀρχηστῶν, πολλὰ δὲ ὑπὲρ μάχης ἢ γενομένης ἢ μελλούσης. ἔτι τοίνυν οἱ μὲν ἑστᾶσι, λιθίνοις ἐοικότες, καρπῷ καρπὸν ἐπιβάλλοντες, οἱ δ’ ἑκατέρᾳ χειρὶ τὰς ῥῖνας ἐνοχλοῦσιν, οἱ δὲ κάθηνται τοσούτων ὄντων τῶν κινούντων, οἱ δὲ βίᾳ καθίζουσι τὸν κεκινημένον, οἱ δ’ ἀριθμοῦσι τοὺς ἐπεισερχομένους, τοῖς δ’ ἀρκεῖ πρὸς τὰ φύλλα βλέπειν, τοῖς δὲ λαλεῖν ὅ τι τύχοιεν ἥδιον ἢ παρέχειν αὑτοὺς τῷ ῥήτορι. τὰ δ’ αὖ νεανικώτερα, τὸν γνήσιον τῷ νόθῳ βλάψαι κρότον, καὶ βοὴν κωλύσαι προελθεῖν, καὶ διὰ τοῦ θεάτρου πορευθῆναι παντὸς ἀφέλκοντα τῶν λόγων ὁπόσους οἷόν τε, νῦν μὲν ἀγγελίαις ἐψευσμέναις, νῦν δ’ ἐπὶ λουτρὸν κλήσει τὸ πρὸ ἀρίστου· δαπανῶνται γὰρ δὴ καὶ τὰ τοιαῦτά τινες. οὔτ’ οὖν ὑμῖν, ὦ κακοὶ νέοι, κέρδος οὐδέν, ὥσπερ οὐδὲ τοῖς ἀποῦσιν, οὔτε τῷ λέγοντι τό γε ἐφ’ ὑμᾶς ἧκον, ὅταν ὃς μόνος ἐστὶ μισθὸς ἐπιδείξεων, τοῦτον οὐκ ἔχῃ.
(Libanius, Or. 3.11-14)

Just consider. I tell my slave to invite the students to a lecture. Off he runs and does my bidding, but they don’t match his speed, though it should be even outdone by their own: some of them dilly-dally over popular songs, or horse-play, or joking, and if ever they do condescend to put in an appearance, when the onlookers object to their slowness on such occasions, they mince along like brides or, with more truth perhaps, like tight-rope walkers, both before and after entering the door, so that they annoy those already seated and awaiting the arrival of such idle young good-for-nothings. That is what happens before the speech; but when I am speaking and developing any theme, there is much nodding of heads to one another about drivers, actors, horses, dancers or some fight that has happened or is due to happen. What is more, some stand there with arms folded like graven images, or fidget with their noses with either hand, or sit stock still, though there is so much to excite them, or they force an excited listener to sit down, or count the number of the newcomers, or content themselves with looking at the leaves or chattering about anything that comes into their heads – anything rather than attend to the speaker. And the horse-play, too! – spoiling genuine applause with the slow hand-clap, preventing the utterance of an approving cheer, walking through the middle of the whole theatre and diverting as many as they can away from the speech, sometimes by a faked message, sometimes by an invitation to bathe before dinner – yes! There are people who waste their money even on things like that! You wretched students, there is no more profit in it for you, any more than for absentees, nor for the speaker, at least as far as you are concerned, when he fails to get the one real reward for declamations. (tr. Albert Francis Norman)

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