Thaumaston

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This is part 2 of 3. Part 1 is here.

Ἐπεὶ δὲ περὶ ἐκείνων διήλθομεν λέγοντες τὸ φαινόμενον ἡμῖν, λοιπὸν περὶ τῆς ζωϊκῆς φύσεως εἰπεῖν, μηδὲν παραλιπόντας εἰς δύναμιν μήτε ἀτιμότερον μήτε τιμιώτερον. καὶ γὰρ ἐν τοῖς μὴ κεχαρισμένοις αὐτῶν πρὸς τὴν αἴσθησιν κατὰ τὴν θεωρίαν ὁμοίως ἡ δημιουργήσασα φύσις ἀμηχάνους ἡδονὰς παρέχει τοῖς δυναμένοις τὰς αἰτίας γνωρίζειν καὶ φύσει φιλοσόφοις. καὶ γὰρ ἂν εἴη παράλογον καὶ ἄτοπον, εἰ τὰς μὲν εἰκόνας αὐτῶν θεωροῦντες χαίρομεν ὅτι τὴν δημιουργήσασαν τέχνην συνθεωροῦμεν, οἷον τὴν γραφικὴν ἢ τὴν πλαστικήν, αὐτῶν δὲ τῶν φύσει συνεστώτων μὴ μᾶλλον ἀγαπῷμεν τὴν θεωρίαν, δυνάμενοί γε τὰς αἰτίας καθορᾶν. διὸ δεῖ μὴ δυσχεραίνειν παιδικῶς τὴν περὶ τῶν ἀτιμοτέρων ζῴων ἐπίσκεψιν· ἐν πᾶσι γὰρ τοῖς φυσικοῖς ἔνεστί τι θαυμαστόν·
(Aristotle, Part. An. 645a4-645a19)

And since we have completed the account of our views concerning these, it remains to speak about animal nature, omitting nothing if possible whether of lesser or greater value. For even in the study of animals unattractive to the senses, the nature that fashioned them offers immeasurable pleasures in the same way to those who can learn the causes and are naturally lovers of wisdom. It would be unreasonable, indeed absurd, to enjoy studying their representations on the grounds that we thereby study the art that fashioned them (painting or sculpture), but not to welcome still more the study of the actual things composed by nature, at least when we can survey their causes. Therefore we must avoid a childish distaste for examining the less valued animals. For in all natural things there is something wonderful. (tr. David M. Balme)

Suntrophon

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This is part 1 of 3.

Τῶν οὐσιῶν ὅσαι φύσει συνεστᾶσι, τὰς μὲν <λέγομεν> ἀγενήτους καὶ ἀφθάρτους εἶναι τὸν ἅπαντα αἰῶνα, τὰς δὲ μετέχειν γενέσεως καὶ φθορᾶς. συμβέβηκε δὲ περὶ μὲν ἐκείνας τιμίας οὔσας καὶ θείας ἐλάττους ἡμῖν ὑπάρχειν θεωρίας (καὶ γὰρ ἐξ ὧν ἄν τις σκέψαιτο περὶ αὐτῶν, καὶ περὶ ὧν εἰδέναι ποθοῦμεν, παντελῶς ἐστὶν ὀλίγα τὰ φανερὰ κατὰ τὴν αἴσθησιν), περὶ δὲ τῶν φθαρτῶν φυτῶν τε καὶ ζῴων εὐποροῦμεν μᾶλλον πρὸς τὴν γνῶσιν διὰ τὸ σύντροφον· πολλὰ γὰρ περὶ ἕκαστον γένος λάβοι τις ἂν τῶν ὑπαρχόντων βουλόμενος διαπονεῖν ἱκανῶς. ἔχει δ’ ἑκάτερα χάριν. τῶν μὲν γὰρ εἰ καὶ κατὰ μικρὸν ἐφαπτόμεθα, ὅμως διὰ τὴν τιμιότητα τοῦ γνωρίζειν ἥδιον ἢ τὰ παρ’ ἡμῖν ἅπαντα, ὥσπερ καὶ τῶν ἐρωμένων τὸ τυχὸν καὶ μικρὸν μόριον κατιδεῖν ἥδιόν ἐστιν ἢ πολλὰ ἕτερα καὶ μεγάλα δι’ ἀκριβείας ἰδεῖν· τὰ δὲ διὰ τὸ μᾶλλον καὶ πλείω γνωρίζειν αὐτῶν λαμβάνει τὴν τῆς ἐπιστήμης ὑπεροχήν, ἔτι δὲ διὰ τὸ πλησιαίτερα ἡμῶν εἶναι καὶ τῆς φύσεως οἰκειότερα ἀντικαταλλάττεταί τι πρὸς τὴν περὶ τὰ θεῖα φιλοσοφίαν.
(Aristotle, Part. An. 644b23-645a4)

Of all beings naturally composed, some are ungenerated and imperishable for the whole of eternity, but others are subject to coming-to-be and perishing. It has come about that in relation to the former, which possess value—indeed divinity—the studies we can make are less, because both the starting-points of the inquiry and the things we long to know about present extremely few appearances to observation. We are better equipped to acquire knowledge about the perishable plants and animals because they grow beside us: much can be learned about each existing kind if one is willing to take sufficient pains. Both studies have their attractions. Though we grasp only a little of the former, yet because the information is valuable we gain more pleasure than from everything around us, just as a small and random glimpse of those we love pleases us more than seeing many other things large and in detail. But the latter, because the information about them is better and more plentiful, take the advantage in knowledge. Also, because they are closer to us and belong more to our nature, they have their own compensations in comparison with the philosophy concerned with the divine things. (tr. David M. Balme)

Velificans

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This is part 2 of 2. Part 1 is here.

Quid inter haec animi Erasmo tuo fuisse credis? insidebat attonito equo eques attonitus; qui quoties aures erigebat, ego animum deiciebam, quoties ille in genua procumbebat, mihi pectus saliebat. iam Bellerophon ille poeticus suo terrebat exemplo, iam meam ipse temeritatem exsecrabar, qui mutae beluae vitam et una literas meas commiserim. sed audi quiddam, quod tu credas ex veris Luciani narrationibus petitum, ni mihi ipsi Batto teste accidisset. cum arx iam ferme in prospectu esset, offendimus omnia undique glacie incrustata, quae ut dixi in nivem inciderat. et erat tanta ventorum vis, ut eo die unus atque alter collapsi perierint. flabant autem a tergo. itaque per declive montium me demittebam, per summam glaciem velificans, atque interim hastili cursum moderans. id erat clavi vice. novum navigandi genus. toto fere itinere obvius fit nemo, sequitur nemo, adeo non solum saeva sed etiam monstruosa erat tempestas. quarto vix demum die solem aspeximus. hoc unum ex tantis malis commodi excerpsimus, quod latronum incursus timuimus minus; timuimus tamen, ut homines pecuniosos decebat.
(Erasmus, Ep. 88)

How do you think your Erasmus responded to all this? He sat, a terrified rider, on a terrified horse. When my mount’s ears pricked up, my spirit fell; and as often as he fell down on his knees, my heart jumped up into my mouth. I was becoming alarmed at the precedent set by the poets’ Bellerophon, and cursing my foolhardiness in entrusting my life and my letters at one and the same time to a dumb creature. But I will tell you something you would suppose I had borrowed from Lucian’s Vera historia, if I did not have Batt to witness that it really happened to me. When we were almost within sight of the castle, we found the entire countryside covered with a layer of ice which, as I have explained, had fallen on top of the snow. The wind blew so hard that more than one person was blown down and died that day. Since it blew from behind us, I slid down the slopes of the hills, sailing on the surface of the ice, and from time to time steering with my staff, using it as a rudder, a new kind of navigation. In our entire journey we scarcely met a soul or were overtaken by anyone, so wild, indeed monstrous, was the weather. It was only on the fourth day that at last we had a glimpse of the sun. All these difficulties brought us only one advantage: we stood in less fear of attack by robbers; yet fear it we did, as rich men should! (tr. R.A.B. Mynors & D.F.S. Thomson)

Glacies

winter forest

This is part 1 of 2. Part 2 is here.

Pervenimus tandem et quidem incolumes, tametsi invitis (ut apparet) et superis et inferis. o durum iter! quem ego posthac Herculem, quem Ulyssem non contemnam? pugnabat Iuno semper poëticis viris infesta; rursum Aeolum sollicitarat; nec ventis modo in nos saeviebat, omnibus armis in nos dimicabat, frigore acerrimo, nive, grandine, pluvia, imbre, nebulis, omnibus denique iniuriis. hisque nunc singulis nunc universis nos oppugnabat. prima nocte post diutinam pluviam subitum atque acre obortum gelu viam asperrimam effecerat; accessit nivis vis immodica; deinde grando, tum et pluvia, quae simul atque terram arboremve contigit, protinus in glaciem concreta est. vidisses passim terram glacie incrustatam, neque id aequali superficie, sed colliculis acutissimis passim exstantibus. vidisses arbores glacie vestitas adeoque pressas, ut aliae summo cacumine imum solum contingerent, aliae ramis lacerae, aliae medio trunco discissae starent, aliae funditus evulsae iacerent. iurabant nobis e rusticis homines natu grandes se simile nihil umquam in vita vidisse antea. equis interim eundum erat nunc per profundos nivium cumulos, nunc per sentes glacie incrustatos, nunc per sulcos bis asperos, quos primum gelu duraverat, deinde et glacies acuerat, nunc per crustum quod summas obduxerat nives; quod quidem mollius erat quam ut equum sustineret, durius quam ut ungulas non scinderet.
(Erasmus, Ep. 88)

We have arrived at last, and safely, too, though the gods above and below, it seems, conspired against us. What a dreadful journey! From now on, I shall feel superior to heroes such as Hercules or Ulysses. Juno was against us: she always dislikes poets. She stirred Aeolus up once again and, not content with unleashing the winds’ rage at us, used every weapon in her armoury: biting cold, snow, hail, rain, showers, mist, in fact every mean trick, sometimes one at a time and sometimes all together. The first evening, after a prolonged period of rain, a sudden keen frost made the road extremely hard going; on top of this came a heavy snowfall, followed by hail, and then again rain, which as soon as it touched the ground, or a tree, turned immediately into ice. Everywhere you would have seen the ground covered with a layer of ice; and its surface was not even flat, but had horribly sharp little ridges protruding all over it. You would also have seen the trees so heavily laden with ice that some of them were bent over, with their tops touching the very ground, while others had branches ripped off or their trunks split in two, and others again lay completely uprooted. The old countrymen swore to us that they had never seen such a sight in their lives before. The horses meanwhile had sometimes to walk through deep drifts of snow or through thickets coated with ice; sometimes in ruts which were doubly difficult going, because first they set hard with frost and then ice made their edges sharp; and sometimes upon a surface crust which had covered the top layer of snow and was too soft to bear the horses’ weight, yet hard enough to injure their hooves. (tr. Roger Aubrey Baskerville Mynors & Douglas Ferguson Scott Thomson)

Niphades

snow stones

Ὣς τώ γε προβοῶντε μάχην ὄτρυνον Ἀχαιῶν.
τῶν δ’, ὥς τε νιφάδες χιόνος πίπτωσι θαμειαὶ
ἤματι χειμερίῳ, ὅτε τ’ ὤρετο μητίετα Ζεὺς
νιφέμεν, ἀνθρώποισι πιφαυσκόμενος τὰ ἃ κῆλα·
κοιμήσας δ’ ἀνέμους χέει ἔμπεδον, ὄφρα καλύψῃ
ὑψηλῶν ὀρέων κορυφὰς καὶ πρώονας ἄκρους
καὶ πεδία λωτοῦντα καὶ ἀνδρῶν πίονα ἔργα,
καί τ’ ἐφ’ ἁλὸς πολιῆς κέχυται λιμέσιν τε καὶ ἀκταῖς,
κῦμα δέ μιν προσπλάζον ἐρύκεται· ἄλλα τε πάντα
εἴλυται καθύπερθ’, ὅτ’ ἐπιβρίσῃ Διὸς ὄμβρος·
ὣς τῶν ἀμφοτέρωσε λίθοι πωτῶντο θαμειαί,
αἱ μὲν ἄρ’ ἐς Τρῶας, αἱ δ’ ἐκ Τρώων ἐς Ἀχαιούς,
βαλλομένων· τὸ δὲ τεῖχος ὕπερ πᾶν δοῦπος ὀρώρει.
(Homer, Il. 12.277-289)

So their cries urged on the Achaeans’ war-lust.
Thick-and-fast as the snows that fall on a winter dawn
when Zeus who rules the world brings on a blizzard,
displaying to all mankind his weaponry of war…
and he puts the winds to sleep, drifting on and on
until he has shrouded over the mountains’ looming peaks
and the headlands jutting sharp, the lowlands deep in grass
and the rich plowed work of farming men, and the drifts fall
on the gray salt surf and the harbors and down along the beaches
and only breakers beating against the drifts can hold them off
but all else on the earth they cover over, snows from the sky
when Zeus comes storming down—now so thick-and-fast
they volleyed rocks from both sides, some at the Trojans,
some from Trojans against the Argives, salvos landing,
the whole long rampart thundering under blows.
(tr. Robert Fagles)

Misericors

Giovanni Battista Pittoni de Jongere, Il sacrificio di Polissena sulla tomba di Achille, ca. 1735 (2)
Giovanni Battista Pittoni, Il sacrificio di Polissena sulla tomba di Achille (ca. 1735)

[PYRRHVS. AGAMEMNON]

PYR. Est regis alti spiritum regi dare.
AGA. cur dextra regi spiritum eripuit tua?
PYR. mortem misericors saepe pro vita dabit.
AGA. et nunc misericors virginem busto petis?
PYR. iamne immolari virgines credis nefas?
AGA. praeferre patriam liberis regem decet.
PYR. lex nulla capto parcit aut poenam impedit.
AGA. quod non vetat lex, hoc vetat fieri pudor.
PYR. quodcumque libuit facere victori licet.
AGA. minimum decet libere cui multum licet.
(Seneca Minor, Troi. 327-336)

[PYRRHVS. AGAMEMNON]

PYR. It is the act of a great king to grant life to a king.
AGA. Why then did your hand deprive the king of life?
PYR. Often a compassionate man will grant death rather than life.
AGA. And now as a compassionate man you seek a virgin for the tomb?
PYR. So nowadays you consider sacrifice of virgins a crime?
AGA. To put fatherland before children befits a king.
PYR. No law spares a prisoner, or forbids reprisal.
AGA. What law does not forbid, a sense of restraint forbids.
PYR. The victor has a right to do whatever he pleases.
AGA. He who has much right should please himself least.
(tr. John G. Fitch)

Vidisti

Rome, Arch of Constantine. Sacrifice to Apollo. Relief on the Ar
Sacrifice to Apollo on the Arch of Constantine

Quod quidem nobis sempter optandum est ut prosperos habeas etiam ultra tua vota successus, qui omnem spem in gremio maiestatis tuae ponimus et tuam ubique praesentiam, quasi dari possit, expetimus. ecce enim, dum a limite paulisper abscesseras, quibus se terroribus barbarorum perfidia iactaverat, scilicet dum sibi illa proponunt: quando perveniet? quando vincet? quando fessum reducet exercitum? cum repente audito reditu tuo velut attoniti conciderunt, ne tuum pro re publica votum aplius quam unius noctis cura tetigisset. postridie enim quam accepto illo nuntio geminatum itineris laborem susceperas, omnes fluctus resedisse, omnem quam relinqueras tranquillitatem redisse didicisti, ipsa hoc sic ordinante Fortuna ut te ibi rerum tuarum felicitas admoneret dis immortalibus ferre quae voveras, ubi deflexisses ad templum toto orbe pulcherrimum, immo ad praesentem, ut vidisti, deum. vidisti enim, credo, Constantine, Apollinem tuum comitante Victoria coronas tibi laureas offerentem, quae tricenum singulae ferunt omen annorum. hic est enim humanarum numerus aetatum quae tibi utique debentur ultra Pyliam senectutem. et—immo quid dico ‘credo’?—vidisti teque in illius specie recognovisti, cui totius mundi regna deberi vatum carmina divina cecinerunt. quod ego nunc demum arbitror contigisse, cum tu sis, ut ille, iuvenis et laetus et salutifer et pulcherrimus, imperator. merito igitur augustissima illa delubra tantis donariis honestasti, ut iam vetera non quaerant. iam omnia te vocare ad se templa videantur praecipueque Apollo noster, cuius ferventibus aquis periuria puniantur, quae te maxime oportet odisse.
(XII Panegyrici Latini, 6.21)

What we must always hope for, indeed, is that you prosper and succeed even beyond your prayers, we who put all our hopes in the lap of your majesty, and wish for your presence everywhere, as if that boon were feasible. Take for instance the short time you were way from the frontier. In what terrifying fashion did barbarian perfidy vaunt itself! Of course all the while they asked themselves: “When will he reach here? When will he conquer? When will he lead back his exhausted army?” when all of a sudden upon the news of your return they were prostrated, as if thunderstruck, so that no more than one night’s anxiety should lay its claim on your pledge to save the commonwealth. For on the day after that news had been received and you had undertaken the labor of double stages on your journey, you learnt that all the waves had subsided, and that the all-pervading calm which you had left behind had been restored. Fortune herself so ordered this matter that the happy outcome of your affairs prompted you to convey to the immortal gods what you had vowed at the very spot where you had turned aside toward the most beautiful temple in the whole world, or rather, to the deity made manifest, as you saw. For you saw, I believe, O Constantine, your Apollo, accompanied by Victory, offering you laurel wreaths, each one of which carries a portent of thirty years. For this is the number of human ages which are owed to you without fail—beyond the old age of a Nestor. And—now why do I say “I believe”?—you saw, and recognized yourself in the likeness of him to whom the divine songs of the bards had prophesied that rule over the whole world was due. And this I think has now happened since you are, O Emperor, like he, youthful, joyful, a bringer of health and very handsome. Rightly, therefore, have you honored those most venerable shrines with such great treasures that they do not miss their old ones, any longer. Now may all the temples be seen to beckon you to them, and particularly our Apollo, whose boiling waters punish perjuries—which ought to be especially hateful to you. (tr. Charles E.V. Nixon and Barbara Saylor Rodgers)