Now a person is thought to be great-souled if he claims much and deserves much; he who claims much without deserving it is foolish, but no one of moral excellence is foolish or senseless. The great-souled man is then as we have descried. He who deserves little and claims little is modest or temperate, but not great-souled, since to be great-souled involves greatness just as handsomeness involves size: small people may be neat and well-made, but not handsome. (tr. Harris Rackham)
Hic ergo rex durus et iniquus Nero fugatus
pelli iubet populum Christianum ipsa de urbe,
participes autem duo sibi Caesares addit,
cum quibus hunc populum persequatur diro furore.
mittunt et edicta per iudices omnes ubique,
ut genus hoc hominum faciant sine nomine Christi;
praecipiunt quoque simulacris thura ponenda
et, ne quis lateat, omnes coronati procedant.
in histrionica si fidelis ire negavit,
feliciter exit: sin vero, de turba fit unus.
nulla dies pacis tunc erit nec oblatio Christo,
sed cruor ubique manat, quem describere vincor,
vincunt enim lacrimae, deficit manus, corda tremiscunt:
quamquam sit martyribus aptum tot funera ferre;
per mare, per terras, per insulas atque latebras
scrutanturque diu, exsecratas victimas ducunt.
(Commodianus, Carmen Apologeticum 862-877)
Then the hard and wicked monarch Nero, formerly exiled, shall order the Christian populace to be expelled from the city. Two Caesars shall participate with him in this, with whom he shall persecute the Christian populace with dire madness. They shall order the judges to issue edicts throughout the land, so that they can compel Christians to abandon the name of Christ. And in the event that any should be able to evade them, they shall order all to go forth crowned that they should place offerings of incense before idols. If any of the faithful refuse to take part in the spectacle, he shall die a blessed death. But if not, he merely becomes one of the crowd. At that time there shall be no day of peace, nor offering to Christ. Blood shall flow everywhere, which I shrink from describing. Fear shall prevail, hands shall fail, and hearts shall tremble: many shall be the deaths fit to impose upon the martyrs. For a long time shall the despised victims be sought over the sea, over the lands, through the islands, and in their hiding places, before they have been led forth to their deaths. (tr. Darius Matthias Klein)
Innumeros inter laqueos quos callidus hostis
omnes per mundi colles camposque tetendit
maximus est, et quem vix quisquam fallere possit,
femina, triste caput, mala stirps, vitiosa propago,
plurima quae totum per mundum scandala gignit;
quae lites, rixas, et duras seditiones
excitat, et veteres bello committit amicos,
separat affectus, natos ciet atque parentes:
parva loquor, reges solio movet atque tetrarchas,
gentes collidit, quatit oppida, diruit urbes,
caedes multiplicat, letalia pocula miscet;
per villas agrosque furens incendia iactat.
dedique nulla mali species grassatur in orbe,
in qua non aliquam sibi sumat femina partem.
(Marbod of Rennes, Liber Decem Capitulorum 3.1-14)
Countless are the traps which the scheming enemy has set throughout the world’s paths and plains: but among them the greatest – and the one scarcely anybody can evade – is woman. Woman the unhappy source, evil root, and corrupt offshoot, who brings to birth every sort of outrage throughout the world. For she instigates quarrels, conflicts, dire dissensions; she provokes fighting between old friends, divides affections, shatters families. But these are trivia I speak of: she dislodges kings and princes from the throne, makes nations clash, convulses towns, destroys cities, multiplies slaughters, brews deadly poisons. She hurls conflagration as she rampages through farmsteads and fields. In sum, there lurks in the universe no manifestation of evil which woman does not claim some part for herself. (tr. Alcuin Blamires)
“Sors pariter nos una manet: iubeoque rogoque,
pastorem regina monens; formidine mortis
territa sollicitor miserandi femina sexus,
conveniens tamen hortor opus, dum congrua vitae
impero, ne moriar tecum peritura cruente;
nam mecum miser ipse cades Agamemnone viso,
impie. funereis nos casibus eripe sollers;
nec labor ullus erit victorem sternere ferro:
semper iners, securus agit, qui perculit hostem,
et patet insidiis nullo terrente quietus.
non est quem metuas: brevis est et parvus Orestes,
unaque natarum cinis est per templa Dianae,
altera sexus iners, recidens, miseranda – quid audet?”
(Dracontius, Orestis Tragoedia 183-195)
“One and the same fate awaits the both of us. I order and beseech you, a queen exhorting a herdsman; I, a woman, belonging to the pitiable sex, am tormented and afflicted by the fear of death. Yet it is a fitting deed to which I urge, a deed wholly agreeing with life which I demand, so that I may not die a bloody death with you. For you, godless one, will perish miserably with me when Agamemnon appears. Save us from these fatal events through your shrewdness. It will be no great trouble to slay the conqueror with your sword. He who has struck down his enemy is always lazy and feels secure; nobody scares him, and in his peace of mind he is easy to deceive. You don’t have anyone to fear. Orestes is but a small child, and of my two daughters one is mere ashes in the temple of Diana; the other one is weak, frail, pitiable – what’s she going to do?” (tr. David Bauwens)
Bred on Cyprus, Cytherean, weaver of deceptions, what is this extraordinary gift that Zeus, showing you honour, has bestowed upon you? You overwhelm the high-mindedness of mankind and there is no one in existence who has the strength or wisdom enough to elude you. (tr. Marguerite Johnson & Terry Ryan)
Quintia formosa est multis, mihi candida, longa,
recta est: haec ego sic singula confiteor.
totum illud formosa nego: nam nulla venustas,
nulla in tam magno est corpore mica salis.
Lesbia formosa est, quae cum pulcherrima tota est,
tum omnibus una omnis surripuit Veneres.
Many find Quintia beautiful. For me she’s fair-complexioned,
tall, of good carriage. These few points I concede.
But overall beauty – no. There’s no genuine attraction
in that whole long body, not one grain of salt.
It’s Lebia who’s beautiful, and, being wholly lovely,
has stolen from all of the others their every charm. (tr. Peter Green)
And this is the position held in the cosmos by God, who maintains the orderliness and preservation of the whole: except that he is not in the centre – for there lies the earth, this turbulent, troubled place – but high aloft, pure in a pure region, which we rightly call “heaven” (οὐρανός) because it forms the uppermost boundary (ὅρος… ἄνω) or “Olympus” because it shines brightly all over (ὁλολαμπής) and is removed from all darkness and disorderly motion such as occurs among us when there is a storm or a violent wind; as the poet says,
To Olympus, where they say the gods’ dwelling stands
always safe; it is not shaken by winds, nor drenched
by showers of rain, nor does snow come near it; always unclouded
the air spreads out, and a white radiance lies upon it. (tr. D.J. Furley)