Et quamquam ut bestiarii obiceremur intractabilibus feris, perpendentes tamen hoc bonum habere tristia accidentia, quod in locum suum secunda substituunt, mirabamur illam sententiam Tullianam, ex internis veritatis ipsius promulgatam, quae est talis: “et quamquam optatissimum est perpetuo fortunam quam florentissimam permanere, illa tamen aequalitas vitae non tantum habet sensum, quantum cum ex miseria et perditis rebus ad meliorem statum fortuna revocatur.”
(Ammianus Marcellinus, Res Gestae 15.5.23)

But although we were, like gladiators, cast before ravening wild beasts, yet reflecting that melancholy events after all have this good sequel, that they give way to good fortune, we admired that saying of Tully’s*, delivered even from the inmost depths of truth itself, which runs as follows: “And although it is most desirable that our fortune always remain wholly favourable, yet that evenness of life does not give so great a sense of satisfaction as when, after wretchedness and disaster, fortune is recalled to a better estate.”

* i.e. Cicero’s

(tr. John C. Rolfe)


Ἄστηθι, δούλη Ψύλλα· μέχρι τέο κείσῃ
ρέγχουσα; τὴν δὲ χοῖρον αὐονὴ δρύπτει·
ἢ προσμένεις σὺ μέχρις εὖ ἤλιος θάλψῃ
τὸ]ν̣ κ̣ῦσον ἐσδύς; κῶς δ’, ἄτρυτε, κοὐ κάμνεις
τὰ πλ]ευρὰ κνώσσουσ’; αἰ δὲ νύκτες ἐννέωροι.
ἄστη]θ̣ι, φημί, καὶ ἄψον, εἰ θέλεις, λύχνον,
καὶ τ]ὴν ἄναυλον χοῖρον ἐς νομὴν πέμψ[ο]ν̣.
τ]ό̣ν̣θρυζε καὶ κνῶ, μέχρις εὖ παραστά[ς σοι
τὸ] βρέγμα τῷ σκίπωνι μαλθακὸν θῶμα[ι.
(Herodas, Mim. 8.1-9)

Get up, slave Psylla: how long are you going to lie snoring? Drought is rending the sow. Or are you waiting till the sun crawls into [your] bum and warms it? Unwearied one, how have you avoided tiring [your] ribs with sleeping? The night is nine hours gone. [Get up], I say, and light the lamp, please, [and] send the unmelodious sow to the pasture. Mutter and scratch yourself until I stand beside [you] and make [your] head soft with my stick. (tr. I.C. Cunningham)


barney gumble naked

De patre filium ebrium redarguente

Pater, cum filii ebrietatem saepius nequicquam redarguisset, conspecto semel in via ebrio, retectis verendis turpiter iacente, pueris quoque, qui multi circumstabant, ridentibus atque illudentibus, filium ad tam verecundum spectaculum vocavit, existimans hoc exemplo ab ebrietate deterreri eum posse. ille autem, viso ebrio: “Roga, pater,” inquit, “ubi est id vinum, quo iste ebrius factus est, ut et ego etiam eius vini dulcedinem degustem!”, non ebrii turpitudine absterritus, sed vini cupiditate commotus.
(Poggio Bracciolini, Confabulationes 73)

On a father who reproached his drunken son

A father who had often reproached his son for drunkenness, but to no avail, seeing one day a drunkard lying in the road with his private parts exposed and in a disgusting condition, with a crowd of little boys around him laughing and jeering at him, asked his son to look upon the sad spectacle, hoping that this example of the vice of drunkenness would serve to scare him off his intemperance. But the young man, seeing the drunkard, said: “Father, ask that man where the wine is that he got drunk on, so that I might taste its sweetness myself!” And he showed himself moved, not by the ugly sight of the drunkard, but by the desire for wine. (tr. based on Edward Storer’s, adapted and debowdlerized by David Bauwens)



Θεὸν ὁμολογοῦσιν εἰδέναι, τοῖς δὲ ἔργοις ἀρνοῦνται, βδελυκτοὶ ὄντες καὶ ἀπειθεῖς καὶ πρὸς πᾶν ἔργον ἀγαθὸν ἀδόκιμοι.
(Paul, Titus 1:16)

They profess that they know God; but in works they deny him, being abominable, and disobedient, and unto every good work reprobate. (King James translation)



Gallorum eadem atque Belgarum oppugnatio est haec. ubi circumiecta multitudine hominum totis moenibus undique in murum lapides iaci coepti sunt murusque defensoribus nudatus est, testudine facta portas succedunt murumque subruunt. quod tum facile fiebat. nam cum tanta multitudo lapides ac tela conicerent, in muro consistendi potestas erat nulli.
(Caesar, De Bello Gallico 2.6.2-3)

The Gauls and the Belgae use one method of attack. A host of men is set all round the ramparts, and when a rain of stones from all sides upon the wall has begun, and the wall is stripped of defenders, the attackers form a “tortoise”, move up to the gates, and undercut the wall. This was easily done on the present occasion; for when so vast a host hurled stones and darts, no man might stand firm on the wall.
(tr. H.J. Edwards)


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)