Quae ab condita urbe Roma ad captam eandem Romani sub regibus primum, consulibus deinde ac dictatoribus decemuirisque ac tribunis consularibus gessere, foris bella, domi seditiones, quinque libris exposui, res cum vetustate nimia obscuras velut quae magno ex intervallo loci vix cernuntur, tum quid rarae per eadem tempora litterae fuere, una custodia fidelis memoriae rerum gestarum, et quod, etiam si quae in commentariis pontificum aliisque publicis privatisque erant monumentis, incensa urbe pleraeque interiere. Clariora deinceps certioraque ab secunda origine velut ab stirpibus laetius feraciusque renatae urbis gesta domi militiaeque exponentur.
The history of the Romans from the founding of the City of Rome to the capture of the same – at first under kings and afterwards under consuls and dictators, decemvirs and consular tribunes – their foreign wars and their domestic dissensions, I have set forth in five books, dealing with matters which are obscure not only by reason of their great antiquity – like far-off objects which can hardly be descried – but also because in those days there was but slight and scanty use of writing, the sole trustworthy guardian of the memory of past events, and because even such records as existed in the commentaries of the pontiffs and in other public and private documents, nearly all perished in the conflagration of the City. From this point onwards a clearer and more definite account shall be given of the City’s civil and military history, when, beginning for a second time, it sprang up, as it were from the old roots, with a more luxuriant and fruitful growth. (tr. Benjamin Oliver Foster)
ΣΩΚΡΑΤΗΣ. Ἀλλὰ τί ἡμῖν, ὦ μακάριε Κρίτων, οὕτω τῆς τῶν πολλῶν δόξης μέλει; οἱ γὰρ ἐπιεικέστατοι, ὧν μᾶλλον ἄξιον φροντίζειν, ἡγήσονται αὐτὰ οὕτω πεπρᾶχθαι, ὥσπερ ἂν πραχθῇ.
ΚΡΙΤΩΝ. ἀλλ’ ὁρᾷς δή, ὅτι ἀνάγκη, ὦ Σώκρατες, καὶ τῆς τῶν πολλῶν δόξης μέλειν. αὐτὰ δὲ δῆλα τὰ παρόντα νυνί, ὅτι οἷοί τ’ εἰσὶν οἱ πολλοὶ οὐ τὰ σμικρότατα τῶν κακῶν ἐξεργάζεσθαι, ἀλλὰ τὰ μέγιστα σχεδόν, ἐάν τις ἐν αὐτοῖς διαβεβλημένος ᾖ.
ΣΩΚΡΑΤΗΣ. εἰ γὰρ ὤφελον, ὦ Κρίτων, οἷοί τ’ εἶναι οἱ πολλοὶ τὰ μέγιστα κακὰ ἐργάζεσθαι, ἵνα οἷοί τ’ ἦσαν καὶ τὰ μέγιστα ἀγαθά, καὶ καλῶς ἂν εἶχεν· νῦν δὲ οὐδέτερα οἷοί τε· οὔτε γὰρ φρόνιμον οὔτε ἄφρονα δυνατοὶ ποιῆσαι, ποιοῦσι δὲ τοῦτο ὅ τι ἂν τύχωσι.
(Plato, Crito 44 c-d)
SOCRATES. But, my dear Crito, why do we care so much for what most people think? For the most reasonable men, whose opinion is more worth considering, will think that things were done as they really will be done.
CRITO. But you see it is necessary, Socrates, to care for the opinion of the public, for this very trouble we are in now shows that the public is able to accomplish not by any means the least, but almost the greatest of evils, if one has a bad reputation with it.
SOCRATES. I only wish, Crito, the people could accomplish the greatest evils, that they might be able to accomplish also the greatest good things. Then all would be well. But now they can do neither of the two; for they are not able to make a man wise or foolish, but they do whatever occurs to them. (tr. Harold North Fowler)
Γᾶ δ’ αἰάζει τὰν ἐς τις ἐγγαίαν
ἥβαν Ξέρξᾳ κταμέναν, Ἅιδου
σάκτορι Περσᾶν· ἀγδαβάται γὰρ
πολλοὶ φῶτες, χώρας ἄνθος,
τοξοδάμαντες, πάνυ ταρφύς τις
μυριὰς ἀνδρῶν, ἐξέφθινται.
αἰαῖ αἰαῖ κεδνᾶς ἀλκᾶς·
Ἀσία δὲ χθών, βασιλεῦ γαίας,
αἰνῶς αἰνῶς ἐπὶ γόνυ κέκλιται.
(Aeschylus, Pers. 922-930)
The land laments its native youth
killed by Xerxes, who crammed Hades
with Persians: many men
who were marched away, the flower of the land,
slayers with the bow, thronging
myriads of men, have perished and gone.
Aiai, aiai, for our brave defenders!
King of our country, the land of Asia
is terribly, terribly down on her knees!
(tr. Alan H. Sommerstein)
Ἑσπέριος κεῖνός γε τελεῖ τά κεν ἦρι νοήσῃ·
ἑσπέριος τὰ μέγιστα, τὰ μείονα δ’, εὖτε νοήσῃ.
οἱ δὲ τὰ μὲν πλειῶνι, τὰ δ’ οὐχ ἑνί, τῶν δ’ ἀπὸ πάμπαν
αὐτὸς ἄνην ἐκόλουσας, ἐνέκλασσας δὲ μενοινήν.
(Callimachus, Hymn to Zeus 87-90)
At evening he accomplishes what he thinks of in the morning; at evening the greatest things, the lesser, immediately he thinks of them. Others accomplish some things in a year, other things not in one; of others you yourself cut short their accomplishment and thwart their desire. (tr. Susan A. Stephens)
Fuit praeterea idem ingeniosissimus, cuius ostendendi acuminis scilicet pauca libet ponere: nam cum taurum ingentem in arenam misisset, exissetque ad eum feriendum venator neque productum decies potuisset occidere, coronam venatori misit, mussantibusque cunctis, quid rei esset quod homo ineptissimus coronaretur, ille per curionem dici iussit: ‘taurum totiens non ferire difficile est’. idem, cum quidam gemmas vitreas pro veris vendidisset eius uxori, atque illa re prodita vindicari vellet, subripi quasi ad leonem venditorem iussit, deinde e cavea caponem emitti, mirantibusque cunctis rem tam ridiculam per curionem dici iussit: ‘imposturam fecit et passus est’. deinde negotiatorem dimisit.
(Historia Augusta, Gall. 12.5)
Gallienus, furthermore, was exceedingly clever, and I wish to relate a few actions of his in order to show his wit. Once, when a huge bull was led into the arena, and a huntsman came forth to fight him but was unable to slay the bull though it was brought out ten times, he sent the huntsman a garland, and when all the crowd wondered what it might mean that so foolish a fellow should be crowned with a garland, he bade a herald announce: “It is a difficult thing to miss a bull so many times.” On another occasion, when a certain man sold his wife glass jewels instead of real, and she, discovering the fraud, wished the man to be punished, he ordered the seller to be haled off, as though to a lion, and then had them let out from the cage a capon, and when all were amazed at so absurd a proceeding, he bade the herald proclaim: “He practised deceit and then had it practised on him.” Then he let the dealer go home. (tr. David Magie)
Nos adhuc iter per Graeciam summa cum admiratione fecimus, nec mehercule habeo, quod adhuc quem accusem meorum. videntur mihi nosse nostram causam et condicionem profectionis suae; plane serviunt existimationi meae. quod superest, si verum illud est, ‘οἵαπερ ἡ δέσποινα…’, certe permanebunt; nihil enim a me fieri ita videbunt, ut sibi sit delinquendi locus. sin id parum profuerit, fiet aliquid a nobis severius.
(Cicero, Ep. ad Att. 104(=5.11).5)
So far my journey through Greece has been the admiration of the country, and I must say that I have no complaint to make so far of any of my party. I think they know my position and the understanding on which they come. They are really jealous for my good name. As for the future, if there is anything in the old saying ‘like master…’, they will certainly keep it up, for they will see nothing in my behaviour to give them any pretext for delinquency. Should that not answer however, I am prepared for sterner measures. (tr. David Roy Shackleton Bailey)
Arrigis ad vetulas, fastidis, Basse, puellas,
nec formosa tibi sed moritura placet.
hic, rogo, non furor est, non haec est mentula demens?
cum possis Hecaben, non potes Andromachen.
You rise at old women, Bassus, you despise girls; not beauty but approaching death attracts you. I ask, is this not madness, is this not a crazy cock? You can do Hecuba, but you can’t do Andromache. (tr. David Roy Shackleton Bailey)