Κρινεῖ τίς αὑτὸν πώποτ’ ἀνθρώπων μέγαν,
ὃν ἐξαλείφει πρόφασις ἡ τυχοῦσ’ ὅλον;
[Euripides, fr. 1041]

Who among men will ever judge himself great, when a chance cause can wipe him away completely? (tr. Christopher Collard & Martin Cropp)



Trichonem equitem Romanum memoria nostra, quia filium suum flagellis occiderat, populus graphiis in foro confodit; vix illum Augusti Caesaris auctoritas infestis tam patrum quam filiorum manibus eripuit. Tarium, qui filium deprensum in parricidii consilio damnavit causa cognita, nemo non suspexit, quod contentus exsilio et exsilio delicato Massiliae parricidam continuit et annua illi praestitit, quanta praestare integro solebat; haec liberalitas effecit, ut, in qua civitate numquam deest patronus peioribus, nemo dubitaret, quin reus merito damnatus esset, quem is pater damnare potuisset, qui odisse non poterat. hoc ipso exemplo dabo, quem compares bono patri, bonum principem. cogniturus de filio Tarius advocavit in consilium Caesarem Augustum; venit in privatos penates, adsedit, pars alieni consilii fuit, non dixit; “Immo in meam domum veniat”; quod si factum esset, Caesaris futura erat cognitio, non patris. audita causa excussisque omnibus, et his, quae adulescens pro se dixerat, et his, quibus arguebatur, petit, ut sententiam suam quisque scriberet, ne ea omnium fieret, quae Caesaris fuisset; deinde, priusquam aperirentur codicilli, iuravit se Tarii, hominis locupletis, hereditatem non aditurum. dicet aliquis: “pusillo animo timuit, ne videretur locum spei suae aperire velle filii damnatione.” Ego contra sentio; quilibet nostrum debuisset adversus opiniones malignas satis fiduciae habere in bona conscientia, principes multa debent etiam famae dare. Iuravit se non aditurum hereditatem. Tarius quidem eodem die et alterum heredem perdidit, sed Caesar libertatem sententiae suae redemit; et postquam approbavit gratuitam esse severitatem suam, quod principi semper curandum est, dixit relegandum, quo patri videretur. non culleum, non serpentes, non carcerem decrevit memor, non de quo censeret, sed cui in consilio esset; mollissimo genere poenae contentum esse debere patrem dixit in filio adulescentulo impulso in id scelus, in quo se, quod proximum erat ab innocentia, timide gessisset; debere illum ab urbe et a parentis oculis submoveri.
(Seneca Minor, De Clementia 15)

I recall the case of Tricho, a Roman knight, whom the people attacked with styluses in the forum because he had flogged his son to death: the authority of Augustus Caesar barely rescued him from the outrage of fathers and sons alike. When Tarius discovered that his son was planning to kill him and condemned him in a trial held in his own household, everyone looked up to him because he was content to sentence the young man to exile—and a pampered exile at that, in Massilia, where he provided him with the same annual allowance he used to give him before his disgrace. Because of this generous gesture, everyone in Rome—where even scoundrels never lack an advocate—believed that the young man had been justly condemned, seeing that a father incapable of hating him had been able to condemn him. This very same episode also provides a model of the good prince for you to compare with the good father. When Tarius was going to conduct the trial he asked Caesar Augustus to sit on his advisory council; and so Augustus came to a private home and sat at Tarius’s side as a counselor—he did not say, “No, no, let him come to my home,” for in that case the trial would have been Caesar’s, not the father’s. When the case had been heard and the evidence thoroughly examined—both the points that the young man made on his own behalf and those that tended to convict him—Augustus asked that each man write down his own judgment, lest everyone make Caesar’s verdict his own. Then, before the tablets were opened, he took an oath that he had no intention of accepting an inheritance from Tarius, who was a wealthy man. Someone will say, “That was a petty concern, not wanting to seem to make room for himself by voting to condemn the son.” Quite the opposite, I think: any of us ordinary folk should have had sufficient confidence in his own clear conscience to withstand malicious talk, but princes must make many concessions even to gossip. He swore that he would not accept an inheritance. And indeed on the same day Tarius lost two heirs, but Caesar secured his own freedom of judgment; and after he proved that his own strictness was not self-interested—a prince’s constant concern—he said that the son should be banished, the location to be left to the father’s discretion. Mindful not of the charge he was judging but of the man he was advising, he decreed neither the sack nor snakes nor a prison cell but made plain that a father should be content with the mildest punishment in the case of a young son driven to a crime in which he had shown himself, by his timid conduct, only one step removed from innocence: he should be removed from the city and from his father’s sight. (tr. Robert A. Kaster)



Ἃ μὲν οὖν εἰς γυναῖκας εὖ ἔχοντα ὁ Ῥωμύλος ἐνομοθέτησεν, ἐξ ὧν κοσμιωτέρας περὶ τοὺς ἄνδρας αὐτὰς ἀπειργάσατο, ταῦτ’ ἐστιν, ἃ δ’ εἰς αἰδῶ καὶ δικαιοσύνην παίδων, ἵνα σέβωσι τοὺς πατέρας ἅπαντα πράττοντές τε καὶ λέγοντες ὅσα ἂν ἐκεῖνοι κελεύωσιν, ἔτι τούτων ἦν σεμνότερα καὶ μεγαλοπρεπέστερα καὶ πολλὴν ἔχοντα παρὰ τοὺς ἡμετέρους νόμους διαφοράν. οἱ μὲν γὰρ τὰς Ἑλληνικὰς καταστησάμενοι πολιτείας βραχύν τινα κομιδῇ χρόνον ἔταξαν ἄρχεσθαι τοὺς παῖδας ὑπὸ τῶν πατέρων, οἱ μὲν ἕως τρίτον ἐκπληρώσωσιν ἀφ’ ἥβης ἔτος, οἱ δὲ ὅσον ἂν χρόνον ἠίθεοι μένωσιν, οἱ δὲ μέχρι τῆς εἰς τὰ ἀρχεῖα τὰ δημόσια ἐγγραφῆς, ὡς ἐκ τῆς Σόλωνος καὶ Πιττακοῦ καὶ Χαρώνδου νομοθεσίας ἔμαθον, οἷς πολλὴ μαρτυρεῖται σοφία· τιμωρίας τε κατὰ τῶν παίδων ἔταξαν, ἐὰν ἀπειθῶσι τοῖς πατράσιν, οὐ βαρείας ἐξελάσαι τῆς οἰκίας ἐπιτρέψαντες αὐτοὺς καὶ χρήματα μὴ καταλιπεῖν, περαιτέρω δὲ οὐδέν. εἰσὶ δ’ οὐχ ἱκαναὶ κατασχεῖν ἄνοιαν νεότητος καὶ αὐθάδειαν τρόπων οὐδ’ εἰς τὸ σῶφρον ἀγαγεῖν τοὺς ἠμεληκότας τῶν καλῶν αἱ μαλακαὶ τιμωρίαι· τοιγάρτοι πολλὰ ἐν Ἕλλησιν ὑπὸ τέκνων εἰς πατέρας ἀσχημονεῖται. ὁ δὲ τῶν Ῥωμαίων νομοθέτης ἅπασαν ὡς εἰπεῖν ἔδωκεν ἐξουσίαν πατρὶ καθ’ υἱοῦ καὶ παρὰ πάντα τὸν τοῦ βίου χρόνον, ἐάν τε εἴργειν, ἐάν τε μαστιγοῦν, ἐάν τε δέσμιον ἐπὶ τῶν κατ’ ἀγρὸν ἔργων κατέχειν, ἐάν τε ἀποκτιννύναι προαιρῆται, κἂν τὰ πολιτικὰ πράττων ὁ παῖς ἤδη τυγχάνῃ κἂν ἐν ἀρχαῖς ταῖς μεγίσταις ἐξεταζόμενος κἂν διὰ τὴν εἰς τὰ κοινὰ φιλοτιμίαν ἐπαινούμενος.
(Dionysius of Halicarnassus, Rhōmaikē Archaiologia 2.26.1-4)

These, then, are the excellent laws which Romulus enacted concerning women, by which he rendered them more observant of propriety in relation to their husbands. But those he established with respect to reverence and dutifulness of children toward their parents, to the end that they should honour and obey them in all things, both in their words and actions, were still more august and of greater dignity and vastly superior to our laws. For those who established the Greek constitutions set a very short time for sons to be under the rule of their fathers, some till the expiration of the third year after they reached manhood, others as long as they continued unmarried, and some till their names were entered in the public registers, as I have learned from the laws of Solon, Pittacus and Charondas, men celebrated for their great wisdom. The punishments, also, which they ordered for disobedience in children toward their parents were not grievous: for they permitted fathers to turn their sons out of doors and to disinherit them, but nothing further. But mild punishments are not sufficient to restrain the folly of youth and its stubborn ways or to give self-control to those who have been heedless of all that is honourable; and accordingly among the Greeks many unseemly deeds are committed by children against their parents. But the lawgiver of the Romans gave virtually full power to the father over his son, even during his whole life, whether he thought proper to imprison him, to scourge him, to put him in chains and keep him at work in the fields, or to put him to death, and this even though the son were already engaged in public affairs, though he were numbered among the highest magistrates, and though he were celebrated for his zeal for the commonwealth. (tr. Earnest Cary)



Οἶον τὸ γλυκύμαλον ἐρεύθεται ἄκρῳ ἐπ’ ὔσδῳ,
ἄκρον ἐπ’ ἀκροτάτῳ, λελάθοντο δὲ μαλοδρόπηες·
οὐ μὰν ἐκλελάθοντ’, ἀλλ’ οὐκ ἐδύναντ’ ἐπίκεσθαι
(Sappho, fr. 105a)

As the sweet-apple reddens on the bough-top, on the top of the topmost bough; the apple-gatherers have forgotten it—no they have not forgotten it entirely, but they could not reach it. (tr. David Campbell)


Jean-Simon Berthélemy, Manlius Torquatus condamnant son fils à mort, 1785
Jean-Simon Berthélemy, Manlius Torquatus condamnant son fils à mort (1785)

T. autem Manlius Torquatus, propter egregia multa rarae dignitatis, iuris quoque civilis et sacrorum pontificalium peritissimus, in consimili facto ne consilio quidem necessariorum indigere se credidit: nam cum ad senatum Macedonia de filio eius D. Silano, qui eam provinciam obtinuerat, querellas per legatos detulisset, a patribus conscriptis petiit ne quid ante de ea re statuerent quam ipse Macedonum filiique sui causam inspexisset. summo deinde cum amplissimi ordinis tum etiam eorum, qui questum venerant, consensu cognitione suscepta domi consedit solusque utrique parti per totum biduum vacavit, ac tertio plenissime diligentissimeque auditis testibus ita pronuntiavit: ‘cum Silanum filium meum pecunias a sociis accepisse probatum mihi sit, et re publica eum et domo mea indignum iudico protinusque e conspectu meo abire iubeo’. tam tristi patris sententia perculsus Silanus lucem ulterius intueri non sustinuit suspendioque se proxima nocte consumpsit. peregerat iam Torquatus severi et religiosi iudicis partis, satis factum erat rei publicae, habebat ultionem Macedonia, potuit tam verecundo fili obitu patris inflecti rigor: at ille neque exsequiis adulescentis interfuit et, cum maxime funus eius duceretur, consulere se volentibus vacuas aures accommodavit: videbat enim se in eo atrio consedisse, in quo imperiosi illius Torquati severitate conspicua imago posita erat, prudentissimoque viro succurrebat effigies maiorum cum titulis suis idcirco in prima parte aedium poni solere, ut eorum virtutes posteri non solum legerent, sed etiam imitarentur.
(Valerius Maximus, Facta et Dicta Memorabilia 5.8.3)

In a similar action, T. Manlius Torquatus, a man of rare prestige founded on many outstanding merits, also a great expert on civil law and pontifical rituals, did not think he needed even a council of relatives and friends. When Macedonia presented to the senate through envoys complaints against his son D. Silanus, who had been governor of the province, he requested the Conscript Fathers not to come to any decision on the matter until he himself had examined the case of the Macedonians and his son. Then he started his enquiry with the full approval both of the most honourable order and of those who had come to complain. Sitting in his house and alone, he listened to both sides through two entire days and on the third, after the most ample and thorough hearing of witnesses, he pronounced as follows: “It having been proved to my satisfaction that my son Silanus took bribes from our allies, I judge him unworthy of the commonwealth and of my house and order him to leave my sight immediately.” Smitten by his father’s terrible sentence, Silanus could not bear to look any longer on the light and hanged himself the following night. Torquatus had now fulfilled the role of a stern and scrupulous judge, the public interest had been satisfied, Macedonia had its revenge; the father’s rigour might have been softened by his son’s remorseful end. But he did not take part in the young man’s obsequies and at the very time of the funeral he gave his attention to persons wishing to consult him. For he saw that within the hall where he sat was placed the mask of Torquatus the Imperious, conspicuous in its severity, and as a very wise man he bethought himself that the effigies of a man’s ancestors with their labels are placed in the first part of the house in order that their descendants should not only read of their virtues but imitate them. (tr. David Roy Shackleton-Bailey)



Τοῖς πᾶσι χρόνος καὶ καιρὸς τῷ παντὶ πράγματι ὑπὸ τὸν οὐρανόν. καιρὸς τοῦ τεκεῖν καὶ καιρὸς τοῦ ἀποθανεῖν, καιρὸς τοῦ φυτεῦσαι καὶ καιρὸς τοῦ ἐκτῖλαι τὸ πεφυτευμένον,
καιρὸς τοῦ ἀποκτεῖναι καὶ καιρὸς τοῦ ἰάσασθαι, καιρὸς τοῦ καθελεῖν καὶ καιρὸς τοῦ οἰκοδομεῖν, καιρὸς τοῦ κλαῦσαι καὶ καιρὸς τοῦ γελάσαι, καιρὸς τοῦ κόψασθαι καὶ καιρὸς τοῦ ὀρχήσασθαι, καιρὸς τοῦ βαλεῖν λίθους καὶ καιρὸς τοῦ συναγαγεῖν λίθους, καιρὸς τοῦ περιλαβεῖν καὶ καιρὸς τοῦ μακρυνθῆναι ἀπὸ περιλήψεως, καιρὸς τοῦ ζητῆσαι καὶ καιρὸς τοῦ ἀπολέσαι, καιρὸς τοῦ φυλάξαι καὶ καιρὸς τοῦ ἐκβαλεῖν, καιρὸς τοῦ ῥῆξαι καὶ καιρὸς τοῦ ῥάψαι, καιρὸς τοῦ σιγᾶν καὶ καιρὸς τοῦ λαλεῖν, καιρὸς τοῦ φιλῆσαι καὶ καιρὸς τοῦ μισῆσαι, καιρὸς πολέμου καὶ καιρὸς εἰρήνης.
(Ecclesiastes 3.1-8)

To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven: a time to be born, a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted; a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing; a time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away; a time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak; a time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace. (tr. King James Version)



Περὶ δὲ τραγῳδίας λέγωμεν, ἀπολαβόντες αὐτῆς ἐκ τῶν εἰρημένων τὸν γινόμενον ὅρον τῆς οὐσίας. ἔστιν οὖν τραγῳδία μίμησις πράξεως σπουδαίας καὶ τελείας, μέγεθος ἐχούσης, ἡδυσμένῳ λόγῳ χωρὶς ἑκάστῳ τῶν εἰδῶν ἐν τοῖς μορίοις, δρώντων καὶ οὐ δι’ ἀπαγγελίας, δι’ ἐλέου καὶ φόβου περαίνουσα τὴν τῶν τοιούτων παθημάτων κάθαρσιν. λέγω δὲ ἡδυσμένον μὲν λόγον τὸν ἔχοντα ῥυθμὸν καὶ ἁρμονίαν, τὸ δὲ χωρὶς τοῖς εἴδεσι τὸ διὰ μέτρων ἔνια μόνον περαίνεσθαι καὶ πάλιν ἕτερα διὰ μέλους. ἐπεὶ δὲ πράττοντες ποιοῦνται τὴν μίμησιν, πρῶτον μὲν ἐξ ἀνάγκης ἂν εἴη τι μόριον τραγῳδίας ὁ τῆς ὄψεως κόσμος, εἶτα μελοποιία καὶ λέξις· ἐν τούτοις γὰρ ποιοῦνται τὴν μίμησιν. λέγω δὲ λέξιν μὲν αὐτὴν τὴν τῶν μέτρων σύνθεσιν, μελοποιίαν δὲ ὃ τὴν δύναμιν φανερὰν ἔχει πᾶσαν. ἐπεὶ δὲ πράξεώς ἐστι μίμησις, πράττεται δὲ ὑπό τινων πραττόντων, οὓς ἀνάγκη ποιούς τινας εἶναι κατά τε τὸ ἦθος καὶ τὴν διάνοιαν (διὰ γὰρ τούτων καὶ τὰς πράξεις εἶναί φαμεν ποιάς τινας, καὶ κατὰ ταύτας καὶ τυγχάνουσι καὶ ἀποτυγχάνουσι πάντες), ἔστιν δὲ τῆς μὲν πράξεως ὁ μῦθος ἡ μίμησις, λέγω γὰρ μῦθον τοῦτον τὴν σύνθεσιν τῶν πραγμάτων, τὰ δὲ ἤθη, καθ’ ἃ ποιούς τινας εἶναί φαμεν τοὺς πράττοντας, διάνοιαν δέ, ἐν ὅσοις λέγοντες ἀποδεικνύασί τι ἣ καὶ ἀποφαίνονται γνώμην. Ἀνάγκη οὖν πάσης τῆς τραγῳδίας μέρη εἶναι ἕξ, καθ᾿ἃ ποιά τις ἐστὶν ἡ τραγῳδία· ταῦτα δ’ ἐστὶ μῦθος καὶ ἤθη καὶ λέξις καὶ διάνοια καὶ ὄψις καὶ μελοποιία.
(Aristotle, Poet. 1449b21-1450a10)

But let us now discuss tragedy, taking up the definition of its essence which emerges from what has already been said. Tragedy, then, is mimesis of an action which is elevated, complete, and of magnitude; in language embellished by distinct forms in its sections; employing the mode of enactment, not narrative; and through pity and fear accomplishing the catharsis of such emotions. I use “embellished” for language with rhythm and melody, and “distinct forms” for the fact that some parts are conveyed through metrical speech alone, others again through song. Since actors render the mimesis, some part of tragedy will, in the first place, necessarily be the arrangement of spectacle; to which can be added lyric poetry and diction, for these are the media in which they render the mimesis. By “diction” I mean the actual composition of the metrical speech; the sense of “lyric poetry” is entirely clear. Since tragedy is mimesis of an action, and the action is conducted by agents who should have certain qualities in both character and thought (as it is these factors which allow us to ascribe qualities to their actions too, and it is in their actions that all men find success or failure), the plot is the mimesis of the action—for I use “plot” to denote the construction of events, “character” to mean that in virtue of which we ascribe certain qualities to the agents, and “thought” to cover the parts in which, through speech, they demonstrate something or declare their views. Tragedy as a whole, therefore, must have six components, which give it its qualities—namely, plot, character, diction, thought, spectacle, and lyric poetry. (tr. Stephen Halliwell)