Germanic warriors

Nec arare terram aut exspectare annum tam facile persuaseris quam vocare hostem et vulnera mereri. pigrum quin immo et iners videtur sudore adquirere quod possis sanguine parare.
(Tacitus, Germ. 14.5)

Nor could you so easily persuade them to cultivate the ground, or to await the return of the seasons and produce of the year, as to provoke the foe and to risk wounds and death: since stupid and spiritless they account it, to acquire by their sweat what they can gain by their blood. (tr. Thomas Gordon)


Obelisk of Ramesses II in Luxor. (Not the one mentioned in the text.)

Opus id fecisse dicuntur CXX hominum. ipse rex, cum surrecturus esset verereturque, ne machinae ponderi non sufficerent, quo maius periculum curae artificum denuntiaret, filium suum adalligavit cacumini, ut salus eius apud molientes prodesset et lapidi. hac admiratione operis effectum est, ut, cum oppidum id expugnaret Cambyses rex ventumque esset incendiis ad crepidines obelisci, extingui iuberet molis reverentia qui nullam habuerat urbis.
(Pliny the Elder, Nat. Hist. 36.66)

It is said that one hundred and twenty thousand men were employed upon this work;* and that the king, when it was on the point of being elevated, being apprehensive that the machinery employed might not prove strong enough for the weight, with the view of increasing the peril that might be entailed by due want of precaution on the part of the workmen, had his own son fastened to the summit; in order that the safety of the prince might at the same time ensure the safety of the mass of stone. It was in his admiration of this work, that, when King Cambyses took the city by storm, and the conflagration had already reached the very foot of the obelisk, he ordered the fire to be extinguished; he entertaining a respect for this stupendous erection which he had not entertained for the city itself.

* This, Hardouin says, was the same obelisk that was afterwards erected by Constantius, son of Constantine the Great, in the Circus Maximus at Rome; whence it was removed by Pope Sextus V., in the year 1588, to the Basilica of the Lateran.

(tr. John Bostock & H.T. Riley, with their note)



Πρῶτοι δὲ νόμοις ἐγγράπτοις χρήσασθαι πεπιστευμένοι εἰσί*· καὶ πλεῖστον χρόνον εὐνομηθέντας Διονύσιος ἐκπεσὼν ἐκ τῆς Συρακουσσίων ἀνομώτατα πάντων διεχρήσατο, ὅς γε προεγάμει μὲν παρεισιὼν εἰς τὸ δωμάτιον τὰς νυμφοστοληθείσας, συναγαγὼν δὲ τὰς ὡραίας παρθένους περιστερὰς κολοπτέρους ἐν τοῖς συμποσίοις ἠφίει, κἀκείνας ἐκέλευσε θηρεύειν γυμνάς, τινὰς δὲ καὶ σανδάλια ὑποδουμένας ἄζυγα, τὸ μὲν ὑψηλὸν τὸ δὲ ταπεινόν, περιδιώκειν τὰς φάσσας τοῦ ἀπρεποῦς χάριν.

* sc. οἱ Λοκροὶ οἱ Ἐπιζεφύριοι.

(Strabo, Geogr. 6.1.8)

The Locri Epizephyrii are believed to have been the first people to use written laws. After they had lived under good laws for a very long time, Dionysius, on being banished from the country of the Syracusans, abused them most lawlessly of all men. For he would sneak into the bed-chambers of the girls after they had been dressed up for their wedding, and lie with them before their marriage; and he would gather together the girls who were ripe for marriage, let loose doves with cropped wings upon them in the midst of the banquets, and then bid the girls waltz around unclad, and also bid some of them, shod with sandals that were not mates (one high and the other low), chase the doves around – all for the sheer indecency of it. (tr. Horace Leonard Jones)


Tum vero apparuit ab ira et ab odio urbem oppugnatam esse. nemo capiendi vivos, nemo patentibus ad direptionem omnibus praedae memor est; trucidant inermes iuxta atque armatos, feminas pariter ac viros; usque ad infantium caedem ira cruelis pervenit. ignem deinde tectis iniciunt ac diruunt quae incendio absumi nequeunt; adeo vestigia quoque urbis exstinguere ac delere memoriam hostium sedis cordi est.
(Livy 28.20.6-7)

It was then in truth evident that the city had been attacked out of anger and hatred. No one thought of taking men alive, no one thought of booty, although every place was open for plunder. They slaughtered the unarmed and the armed alike, women as well as men; cruel anger went even so far as to slay infants. Then they threw firebrands into houses and demolished what could not be consumed by the flames. So delighted were they to destroy even the traces of the city and to blot out the memory of their enemies’ abode. (tr. Frank Gardner Moore)


Tertius eorum est ordo, qui ut in professione turbulenta clarescant, ad expugnandam veritatem ora mercenaria procudentes, per prostitutas frontes vilesque latratus, quo velint aditus sibi patefaciunt crebros: qui inter sollicitudines iudicum per multa distentas, irresolubili nexu vincientes negotia, laborant, ut omnis quies litibus implicetur, et nodosis quaestionibus de industria iudicia circumscribunt, quae cum recte procedunt, delubra sunt aequitatis: cum depravantur, foveae fallaces et caecae: in quas si captus ceciderit quisquam, non nisi per multa exsiliet lustra, ad usque ipsas medullas exsuctus.
(Ammianus Marcellinus, Res Gestae 30.4.13)

A third group* consists of those who, in order to gain glory by their troublous profession, sharpen their venal tongues to attack the truth, and with shameless brow and base yelping often gain entrance wherever they wish. When the anxious judges are distracted by many cares, they tie up the business in an inexplicable tangle, and do their best to involve all peace and quiet in lawsuits and purposely by knotty inquisitions they deceive the courts, which, when their procedure is right, are temples of justice, when corrupted, are deceptive and hidden pits: and if anyone is deluded and falls into those pits, he will not get out except after many a term of years, when he has been sucked dry to his very marrow.

* of the “powerful and rapacious classes of men flitting from one forum to another, besieging the homes of the wealthy” (30.4.8).

(tr. John C. Rolfe)


bartolomeo pinelli
Bartolomeo Pinelli, The head of Pompey offered to Caesar by the rhetorician Teodato.

Sic fatus opertum
detexit tenuitque caput. iam languida morte
effigies habitum noti mutaverat oris.
non primo Caesar damnavit munera visu
avertitque oculos; voltus, dum crederet, haesit;
utque fidem vidit sceleris tutumque putavit
iam bonus esse socer, lacrimas non sponte cadentes
effudit gemitusque expressit pectore laeto,
non aliter manifesta potens abscondere mentis
gaudia quam lacrimis, meritumque immane tyranni
destruit et generi mavolt lugere revolsum
quam debere caput. qui duro membra senatus
calcarat voltu, qui sicco lumine campos
viderat Emathios, uni tibi, Magne, negare
non audet gemitus.
(Lucan, Bell. Civ. 9.1032-1046)

With these words he took off the covering from the head, and held it in his hands. By now the features, relaxed by death, had changed the aspect of that familiar face. When Caesar first saw it, he did not condemn the gift nor turn away: his eyes were fixed upon the face till he could be sure. Then, when he saw the proof of the crime, and thought it safe at last to be the loving kinsman, he shed crocodile tears and forced out groans while his heart rejoiced. By tears alone was he able to hide his obvious delight; and thus he belittles the king’s horrid service, preferring to mourn the severed head of his kinsman rather than owe obligation for it. Though he had trampled on corpses of senators with face unmoved, and had beheld dry-eyed the field of Pharsalia, to Magnus alone he dares not deny the tribute of tears. (tr. James Duff Duff)



Ἤν τινα καλὸν ἴδῃς, εὐθὺς τὸ πρῆγμα κροτείσθω·
βάζ’ ἃ φρονεῖς· ὄρχεων δράσσεο χερσὶν ὅλαις·
ἢν δ’ εἴπῃς, “Τίω σε, καὶ ἔσσομαι οἷά τ’ ἀδελφός,”
αἰδώς σου κλείσει τὴν ἐπὶ τοὔργον ὁδόν.
(Addaeus, Anth. Gr. 10.20)

If you see someone beautiful
hammer it out right then.
Say what you think; put your hands full
on his bollocks: be a man.
But if ‘I admire you’ is what you say
and ‘I’ll be a brother to you’ –
shame will bar the only way
to all you want to do
(tr. Alistair Elliot)