SCA. Stulta es plane
quae illum tibi aeternum putes fore amicum et benevolentem.
moneo ego te: te ille deseret aetate et satietate.
PHI. non spero.
SCA. insperata accidunt magis saepe quam quae speres.
(Plautus, Mostellaria 194-197)
SCA. You’re plain stupid for believing that he’ll remain your friend and benefactor for ever. I remind you: he’ll leave you when you’re older and he’s colder.
PHI. I hope not.
SCA. Things you don’t hope for happen more often than things you do hope for. (tr. Wolfgang De Melo)
Post mortem nihil est, ipsaque mors nihil,
velocis spatii meta novissima.
spem ponant avidi, solliciti metum:
tempus nos avidum devorat et chaos.
mors individua est, noxia corpori
nec parcens animae. Taenara et aspero
regnum sub domino limen et obsidens
custos non facili Cerberus ostio
rumores vacui verbaque inania
et par sollicito fabula somnio.
quaeris quo iaceas post obitum loco?
quo non nata iacent.
(Seneca, Troades 397-408)
After death is nothing, and death itself is nothing,
the finishing line of a swiftly run circuit.
Let the greedy lay down their hopes, the anxious their fears:
greedy time and Chaos devour us.
Death is indivisible, destructive to the body
and not sparing the soul. Taenarus, and the kingdom
under its harsh lord, and Cerberus guarding
the entrance with its unyielding gate
– hollow rumours, empty words,
a tale akin to a troubled dream.
You ask where you lie after death?
Where unborn things lie. (tr. John G. Fitch)
A boy from Eretria attended Zeno’s school over quite a long period, until reaching maturity. After that he returned to Eretria and his father asked him what wisdom he had learned in such a long time. The boy said he would show him, and soon did so. When his father became annoyed and finally beat him, he remained calm and patient and said that what he had learned was to endure the anger of parents and not to lose his temper. (tr. Nigel G. Wilson)
This* is the man who once threw in my direction an object designed to make me a laughing-stock, the evil-smelling chamber-pot, and he did not miss his aim; it struck me on the head and smashed into fragments, wafting over me an odour very unlike that of perfume-jars.
* Not certainly identifiable, but most likely Ctesippus, in the Odyssey (20.287-302) the only suitor other than Antinous and Eurymachus who throws an object (a cow’s hoof) at the disguised Odysseus; later he is appropriately killed by the oxherd Philoetius.
Eo anno caelum ardere visum, terra ingenti concussa motu est. bovem locutam, cui rei priore anno fides non fuerat, creditum. inter alia prodigia et carne pluit, quem imbrem ingens numerus avium intervolitando rapuisse fertur; quod intercidit, sparsum ita iacuisse per aliquot dies, ut nihil odor mutaret.
This year* the heavens were seen to blaze, and the earth was shaken with a prodigious quake. That a cow had spoken – a thing which had found no credence the year before – was now believed. Among other portents there was even a rain of flesh, which is said to have been intercepted by vast numbers of birds flying round in the midst of it; what fell to the ground lay scattered about for several days, but without making any stench.
Post ipse* dum deficientem a se oppugnat civitatem, sagittae ictu interiit, relicta uxore Semirame cum duobus filiis Trebeta et Nina. quorum primus, videlicet Trebetas, ex regina quadam Chaldeorum, quam ante Semiramem duxerat, Ninas autem de Semirame natus erzat. occiso ergo Nino, Semiramis privignum suum Trebetam maritum ducere voluit, eumque renitentem et execrantem, invidia ac libidine stimulata, tam diu persecuta est, donec eum patria pelleret et regno. pulsus igitur, dum diu longeque sedes vagando quaereret et non inveniret, coepit ex diuturni itineris fatigatione taedere, et ubinam sibi fata quiescendum consulerent, missione sortis inquirere. sors optulit Europam, quae est tertia pars orbis, licet quidam secundam diffiniant et Africam non per se partem esse set ad Europam pertinere contendant. transfretato mari mediterraneo, quod ab Asia dividit Europam, per vasta solitudinum et invia saltuum venit ad Mosellam, in cujus littore repperit vallem speciosam, aquis irriguam, silvis nemorosam, montibus undique circumseptam. captus amenitate loci, ibidem subsistere delegit, urbemque constituit, quam ex suo nomine Treberim appellavit.
(Gesta Treverorum 1 (ed. Georg Waitz, in Monumenta Germaniae Historica, Scriptores tom. VIII, Hannover 1848))
* Ninus, the first Assyrian king. In the next chapter we are informed that all this supposedly took place 1250 years before the founding of Rome.
Afterwards, while Ninus was attacking a city that defected from him, he was wounded by an arrow and died, leaving his wife Semiramis and their two sons Trebetas and Ninas. The first of those, Trebetas, he had from some Chaldean queen that he was married to before Semiramis; but Ninas was born from Semiramis. So when Ninus was killed, Semiramis wanted to marry her son-in-law Trebetas, but when he proved resistant and disgusted, she, incited by spite and lust, persecuted him for a long time, until finally she ejected him from the country and from his royal state. So, having been ejected, while he wandered far and wide in search of a place to live, but couldn’t find any, he began to get sick of the exhaustion brought on by his long journey, and he turned to the throwing of lots to find out where the Fates advised him to find rest. The lot suggested Europe, which is the third part of the world, although some define it as the second, claiming that Africa is not a part in itself but belongs to Europe. Having sailed across the Mediterranean sea, which divides Europe from Asia, through vast deserts and inaccessible mountain passes, he came to the Moselle river, on the banks of which he found a lovely valley, well-watered, covered with woods, and girded on all sides by mountains. Captivated by this lovely place, he chose to halt there, and founded a city, which he named Treberis after himself. (tr. David Bauwens)
CRE. Was not he who dies on the other side also your brother?
ANT. My brother with the same mother and the same father.
CRE. Then how can you render the other a grace which is impious towards him?
ANT. The dead body will not bear witness to that.
CRE. Yes, if you honour him equally with the impious one.
ANT. It was not a slave, but my brother who had died.
CRE. But he was trying to destroy this country, and the other stood against him to protect it.
ANT. None the less, Hades demands these laws.
CRE. But the noble man has not equal claim to honour with the evil.
ANT. Who knows if this action is free from blame in the world below?
CRE. An enemy is never a friend, even when he is dead.
ANT. I have no enemies by birth, but I have friends by birth.
CRE. Then go below and love those friends, if you must love them! But while I live a woman shall not rule!