Novorum

cicero-post

Quaeret aliquis fortasse, ‘tantumne igitur laborem, tantas inimicitias tot hominum suscepturus es?’ non studio quidem hercule ullo neque voluntate; sed non idem licet mihi quod iis qui nobili genere nati sunt, quibus omnia populi Romani beneficia dormientibus deferuntur; longe alia mihi lege in hac civitate et condicione vivendum est. venit mihi in mentem M. Catonis, hominis sapientissimi et vigilantissimi; qui cum se virtute non genere populo Romano commendari putaret, cum ipse sui generis initium ac nominis ab se gigni et propagari vellet, hominum potentissimorum suscepit inimicitias, et maximis laboribus suis usque ad summam senectutem summa cum gloria vixit. postea Q. Pompeius, humili atque obscuro loco natus, nonne plurimis inimicitiis maximisque suis periculis ac laboribus amplissimos honores est adeptus? modo C. Fimbriam, C. Marium, C. Caelium vidimus non mediocribus inimicitiis ac laboribus contendere ut ad istos honores pervenirent ad quos vos per ludum et per neglegentiam pervenistis. haec eadem est nostrae rationis regio et via, horum nos hominum sectam atque instituta persequimur. videmus quanta sit in invidia quantoque in odio apud quosdam nobilis homines novorum hominum virtus et industria; si tantulum oculos deiecerimus, praesto esse insidias; si ullum locum aperuerimus suspicioni aut crimini, accipiendum statim vulnus esse; semper nobis vigilandum, semper laborandum videmus. inimicitiae sunt, subeantur; labor, suscipiatur; etenim tacitae magis et occultae inimicitiae timendae sunt quam indictae atque apertae. hominum nobilium non fere quisquam nostrae industriae favet; nullis nostris officiis benivolentiam illorum adlicere possumus; quasi natura et genere diiuncti sint, ita dissident a nobis animo ac voluntate. quare quid habent eorum inimicitiae periculi, quorum animos iam ante habueris inimicos et invidos quam ullas inimicitias susceperis?
(Cicero, Verr. 2.5.180-182)

“Do you really mean,” I may be asked, “to enter upon so formidable a task, and to procure yourself so many bitter enemies?” Not with any eagerness, to be sure, nor of my own free will. But I have not the same privileges as men of noble birth, who sit still and see the honours our nation bestows laid at their feet; the present conditions of political life oblige me to behave far otherwise. I am reminded of that wise and clear-sighted man Marcus Cato. Believing that his merit, though not his birth, was gaining him his countrymen’s approval, and hoping to become the founder and promoter of a famous family of his own, he readily incurred the enmity of powerful persons, and at the price of immense exertions lived to be a very old and a very famous man. After him Quintus Pompeius, a man of obscure and humble origin, made many enemies, and underwent heavy toils and grave dangers, before he reached the highest position in the state. In more recent times we have seen Fimbria and Marius and Caelius contending with formidable enmities and heavy labours in order to attain the high offices which you, gentlemen, have attained by a life of indolence and indifference. For persons like myself, our lives must be planned to follow the same path and take the same direction; we belong to the school, and copy the methods, of the men I speak of. We are aware with what jealousy, with what dislike, the merit and energy of “new men” are regarded by certain of the “nobles”; that we have only to shut our eyes for a moment to find ourselves caught in some trap; that if we leave them the smallest opening for any suspicion or charge of misconduct, we have to suffer for it at once; that we must never relax our vigilance, and never take a holiday. We have enemies—let us face them; tasks to perform—let us shoulder them; not forgetting that an open and declared enemy is less formidable than one who hides himself and says nothing. There is hardly one member of the old families who looks kindly on our activity; by no services that we render them can we capture their goodwill; they withhold from us their interest and sympathy as completely as if we and they were different breeds of men. And for this reason there is little to be feared from the enmity of such people, since you have them regarding you with ill-will and jealousy long before you have done anything to make them your enemies. (tr. Leonard Hugh Graham Greenwood)

Dedicata

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Bene vero quod Mens, Pietas, Virtus, Fides consecrantur, quarum omnium Romae dedicata publice templa sunt, ut illa qui habeant (habent autem omnes boni) deos ipsos in animis suis collocatos putent. nam illud vitiosum Athenis, quod Cylonio scelere expiato, Epimenide Crete suadente, fecerunt Contumeliae fanum et Impudentiae; virtutes enim, non vitia consecrari decet. araque vetusta in Palatio Febris, et altera Esquiliis Malae Fortunae, detestanda, atque omnia eius modi repudianda sunt. quod si fingenda nomina, Vicae Potae potius vincendi atque potiundi, Statae standi, cognominaque Statoris et Invicti Iovis, rerumque expetendarum nomina, Salutis, Honoris, Opis, Victoriae, quoniamque exspectatione rerum bonarum erigitur animus, recte etiam Spes a Caiatino consecrata est; Fortunaque sit, vel Huiusce Diei (nam valet in omnes dies), vel Respiciens ad opem ferendam, vel Fors in quo incerti casus significantur magis, vel Primigenia a gignendo.
(Cicero, De Legibus 2.28)

It is right that ‘Good Sense, Devotion, Moral Excellence, and Good Faith’ should be deified; and in Rome temples have long been publicly dedicated to those qualities, so that those who possess them (and all good people do) should believe that actual gods have been set up within their souls. At Athens, after atoning for the crime against Cylon, on the advice of the Cretan Epimenides they built a shrine to Insult and Shamelessness. That was a misguided act; for virtues, not vices, should be deified. The ancient altar to Fever on the Palatine, and the other to Evil Fortune on the Esquiline must be refused recognition, and all things of that kind are to be rejected. If we have to devise names, we should choose rather ones like Conquering Power and Protectress, and titles like Jove the Stopper and the Invincible, and names of desirable things like Safety, Honour, Help, and Victory. Because the spirit is raised by the expectation of good things, Hope was rightly deified by Calatinus*. And let Today’s Fortune be acknowledged as a deity, for it has influence over every day, or Fortune the Heedful, that she may send help, or Chance Fortune in cases where uncertain events are particularly indicated, or First-born Fortune from giving birth.

* rather than Caiatinus (ed.).

(tr. Niall Rudd)

Elabitur

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O morem praeclarum disciplinamque quam a maioribus accepimus, si quidem teneremus! sed nescio quo pacto iam de manibus elabitur. nullam enim illi nostri sapientissimi et sanctissimi viri vim contionis esse voluerunt; quae scisceret plebes aut quae populus iuberet, submota contione, distributis partibus, tributim et centuriatim discriptis ordinibus, classibus, aetatibus, auditis auctoribus, re multos dies promulgata et cognita iuberi vetarique voluerunt. Graecorum autem totae res publicae sedentis contionis temeritate administrantur. itaque ut hanc Graeciam quae iam diu suis consiliis perculsa et adflicta est omittam, illa vetus quae quondam opibus, imperio, gloria floruit hoc uno malo concidit, libertate immoderata ac licentia contionum. cum in theatro imperiti homines rerum omnium rudes ignarique consederant, tum bella inutilia suscipiebant, tum seditiosos homines rei publicae praeficiebant, tum optime meritos civis e civitate eiciebant.
(Cicero, Pro Flacco 15-16)

Oh, if only we could maintain the fine tradition and discipline that we have inherited from our ancestors! But somehow it is now slipping out of our hands. Those wisest and most upright of our men did not want power to lie in the public meetings. As for what the commons might approve or the people might order, when the meeting had been dismissed and the people distributed in their divisions by centuries and tribes into ranks, classes and age groups, when the proposers of the measure had been heard, when its text had been published well in advance and understood, then they wished the people to give their orders or their prohibitions. In Greece, on the other hand, all public business is conducted by the irresponsibility of a public meeting sitting down. And so – to pass over the modern Greece which has long since been struck down and laid low in its councils – that Greece of ancient times, once so flourishing in its wealth, dominion and glory, fell through this single evil, the excessive liberty and licence of its meetings. When untried men, totally inexperienced and ignorant, had taken their seats in the theatre, then they would decide on harmful wars put troublemakers in charge of public affairs and expel from the city the citizens who had served it best. (tr. Coll MacDonald)

Salsissimus

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Sed scitis esse notissimum ridiculi genus, cum aliud exspectamus, aliud dicitur: hic nobismet ipsis noster error risum movet: quod si admixtum est etiam ambiguum, fit salsius; ut apud Novium videtur esse misericors ille, qui iudicatum duci videt: percontatur ita: “quanti addictus?” “mille nummum.” Si addidisset tantummodo “ducas licet”; esset illud genus ridiculi praeter exspectationem; sed quia addidit “nihil addo, ducas licet”; addito ambiguo, altero genere ridiculi, fuit, ut mihi quidem videtur, salsissimus. hoc tum est venustum, cum in altercatione arripitur ab adversario verbum et ex eo, ut a Catulo in Philippum, in eum ipsum aliquid, qui lacessivit, infligitur. sed cum plura sint ambigui genera, de quibus est doctrina quaedam subtilior, attendere et aucupari verba oportebit; in quo, ut ea, quae sint frigidiora, vitemus, (etenim cavendum est, ne arcessitum dictum putetur), permulta tamen acute dicemus. alterum genus est, quod habet parvam verbi immutationem, quod in littera positum Graeci vocant παρονομασίαν, ut “Nobiliorem, mobiliorem” Cato; aut, ut idem, cum cuidam dixisset “eamus deambulatum” et ille “quid opus fuit de?” “immo vero” inquit “quid opus fuit te?” aut eiusdem responsio illa “si tu et adversus et aversus impudicus es.” etiam interpretatio nominis habet acumen, cum ad ridiculum convertas, quam ob rem ita quis vocetur; ut ego nuper Nummium divisorem, ut Neoptolemum ad Troiam, sic illum in campo Martio nomen invenisse; atque haec omnia verbo continentur.
(Cicero, De Oratore 2.255-257)

You know already, however, that the most familiar of these is exemplified when we are expecting to hear a particular phrase, and something different is uttered. In this case our own mistake even makes us laugh ourselves. But, if there be also an admixture of equivocation, the jest is rendered more pungent: as, in that play of Novius, the man is apparently moved by compassion when, on seeing a condemned debtor taken away, he earnestly inquires the amount of the judgement. He is told, ‘A thousand sesterces.’ Had he then gone on to say merely, ‘You may take him away,’ his rejoinder would have belonged to the unexpected kind, but what he actually said was, ‘No advance from me ; you may take him away,’ whereby he brought in an element of equivocation, a different category of the laughable, the result, in my opinion at any rate, being piquancy in perfection*. This playing on words is most delightful when, during a wrangle, a word is snatched from an antagonist and used to hurl a shaft at the assailant himself, as was done by Catulus against Philippus. But since equivocation is of numerous kinds, and the teaching as to these is somewhat abstruse, we shall have to be watchful and lie in wait for the words: in this way, while avoiding the feebler retorts (for we must see to it that our bon-mot be not thought forced), we shall still find ourselves delivering very many a pointed remark.
Another category, which uses a slight change in spelling, the Greeks call ‘assonance,’ when the variation is in a letter or two; for example, one surnamed ‘the Noble’ was referred to by Cato as ‘the Mobile,’ or again Cato said to a certain man, ‘Let us go for a deambulation,’ and, on the other asking, ‘What need of the “de — ?”,’ Cato rejoined,  ‘Nay, rather, what need of thee?’ or take that other answer of the same Cato’s, ‘Whether you turn hither or thither, you are filthy.’ There is point also in the explanation of a name, when you make fun of the reason for a man being called as he is, as I said the other day of Nummius, the voters’ paymaster, that he had found a name in the Election Field**, as Neoptolemus had done at Troy. Now all such jests hinge upon a word.

* The piquant equivocation must lurk in ‘nihil addo,’ which may mean, ‘I say no more,’ or (at an auction) ‘I bid no more.’
** Pyrrhus, son of Achilles, received the name of Neoptolemus, as being ‘a new-comer to the (Trojan) war.’ Caesar facetiously derives the name ‘Nummius’ from the coins (nummi) which its bearer had distributed, in the course of his duties as bribery agent at elections.

(tr. Edward William Sutton, with some of his notes)

Proterva

Suburbanbeatnik - Cicero and Clodia II
Suburbanbeatnik, Cicero and Clodia II

Si quae non nupta mulier domum suam patefecerit omnium cupiditati palamque sese in meretricia vita collocarit, virorum alienissimorum conviviis uti instituerit, si hoc in urbe, si in hortis, si in Baiarum illa celebritate faciat, si denique ita sese gerat non incessu solum, sed ornatu atque comitatu, non flagrantia oculorum, non libertate sermonum, sed etiam complexu, osculatione, actis, navigatione, conviviis, ut non solum meretrix, sed etiam proterva meretrix procaxque videatur: cum hac si qui adulescens forte fuerit, utrum hic tibi, L. Herenni, adulter an amator, expugnare pudicitiam an explere libidinem voluisse videatur? obliviscor iam iniurias tuas, Clodia, depono memoriam doloris mei; quae abs te crudeliter in meos me absente facta sunt, neglego; ne sint haec in te dicta, quae dixi. sed ex te ipsa requiro, quoniam et crimen accusatores abs te et testem eius criminis te ipsam dicunt se habere. si quae mulier sit eius modi, qualem ego paulo ante descripsi, tui dissimilis, vita institutoque meretricio, cum hac aliquid adulescentem hominem habuisse rationis num tibi perturpe aut perflagitiosum esse videatur? ea si tu non es, sicut ego malo, quid est, quod obiciant Caelio?
(Cicero, Pro Caelio 49-50)

If any woman, not being married, has opened her house to the passions of everybody, and has openly established herself in the way of life of a harlot, and has been accustomed to frequent the banquets of men with whom she has no relationship; if she does so in the city in country houses and in that most frequented place, Baiae, if in short she behaves in such a manner, not only by her gait, but by her style of dress, and by the people who are seen attending her, and not only by the eager glances of her eyes and the freedom of her conversation, but also by embracing men, by kissing them at water parties and sailing parties and banquets so as not only to seem a harlot, but a very wanton and lascivious harlot, I ask you, O Lucius Herennius, if a young man should happen to have been with her, is he to be called an adulterer or a lover? does he seem to have been attacking chastity or merely to have aimed at satisfying his desires? I forget for the present all the injuries which you have done me, O Clodia; I banish all recollection of my own distress; I put out of consideration your cruel conduct to my relations when I was absent. You are at liberty to suppose that what I have just said was not said about you. But I ask you yourself, since the accusers say that they derived the idea of this charge from you, and that they have you yourself as a witness of its truth; I ask you, I say, if there be any woman of the sort that I have just described, a woman unlike you, a woman of the habits and profession of a harlot, does it appear an act of extraordinary baseness, or extraordinary wickedness, for a young man to have had some connection with her? If you are not such a woman,—and I would much rather believe that you are not—then, what is it that they impute to Caelius?

Praeconem

homer apotheosis

Nam si quis minorem gloriae fructum putat ex Graecis versibus percipi quam ex Latinis, vehementer errat: propterea quod Graeca leguntur in omnibus fere gentibus, Latina suis finibus, exiguis sane, continentur. qua re si res eae quas gessimus orbis terrae regionibus definiuntur, cupere debemus, quo manuum nostrarum tela pervenerint, eodem gloriam famamque penetrare: quod cum ipsis populis de quorum rebus scribitur, haec ampla sunt, tum eis certe, qui de vita gloriae causa dimicant, hoc maximum et periculorum incitamentum est et laborum. quam multos scriptores rerum suarum magnus ille Alexander secum habuisse dicitur! atque is tamen, cum in Sigeo ad Achillis tumulum astitisset: “o fortunate” inquit “adulescens, qui tuae virtutis Homerum praeconem inveneris!” Et vere. nam nisi Ilias illa exstitisset, idem tumulus, qui corpus eius contexerat, nomen etiam obruisset.
(Cicero, Pro Archia 23-24)

For if anyone thinks that the glory won by the writing of Greek verse is naturally less than that accorded to the poet who writes in Latin, he is entirely in the wrong. Greek literature is read in nearly every nation under heaven, while the vogue of Latin is confined to its own boundaries, and they are, we must grant, narrow. Seeing, therefore, that the activities of our race know no barrier save the limits of the round earth, we ought to be ambitious that whithersoever our arms have penetrated there also our fame and glory should extend; for the reason that literature exalts the nation whose high deeds it sings, and at the same time there can be no doubt that those who stake their lives to fight in honour’s cause find therein a lofty incentive to peril and endeavour. We read that Alexander the Great carried in his train numbers of epic poets and historians. And yet, standing before the tomb of Achilles at Sigeum, he exclaimed,—”Fortunate youth, to have found in Homer an herald of thy valour!” Well might he so exclaim, for had the Iliad never existed, the same mound which covered Achilles’ bones would also have overwhelmed his memory. (tr. Neville Hunter Watts)

Divinius

odilon redon, le rêve, 1904
Odilon Redon, Le rêve (1904)

Quid? illa duo somnia, quae creberrime commemorantur a Stoicis, quis tandem potest contemnere? unum de Simonide: qui cum ignotum quendam proiectum mortuum vidisset eumque humavisset haberetque in animo nave conscendere, moneri visus est, ne id faceret, ab eo quem sepultura affecerat; si navigavisset, eum naufragio esse periturum; itaque Simonidem redisse, perisse ceteros, qui tum navigassent. alterum ita traditum clarum admodum somnium: cum duo quidam Arcades familiares iter una facerent et Megaram venissent, alterum ad cauponem devertisse, ad hospitem alterum. qui ut cenati quiescerent, concubia nocte visum esse in somnis ei qui erat in hospitio illum alterum orare ut subveniret, quod sibi a caupone interitus pararetur; eum primo, perterritum somnio, surrexisse; dein, cum se collegisset idque visum pro nihilo habendum esse duxisset, recubuisse; tum ei dormienti eundem illum visum esse rogare, ut, quoniam sibi vivo non subvenisset, mortem suam ne inultam esse pateretur; se interfectum in plaustrum a caupone esse coniectum et supra stercus iniectum; petere, ut mane ad portam adesset, prius quam plaustrum ex oppido exiret. hoc vero eum somnio commotum mane bubulco praesto ad portam fuisse, quaesisse ex eo, quid esset in plaustro; illum perterritum fugisse, mortuum erutum esse, cauponem re patefacta poenas dedisse. quid hoc somnio dici potest divinius?
(Cicero, De Divinatione 1.56-57)

And who, pray, can make light of the two following dreams which are so often recounted by Stoic writers? The first one is about Simonides, who once saw the dead body of some unknown man lying exposed and buried it. Later, when he had it in mind to go on board a ship he was warned in a vision by the person to whom he had given burial not to do so and that if he did he would perish in a shipwreck. Therefore he turned back and all the others who sailed were lost. The second dream is very well known and is to this effect: Two friends from Arcadia who were taking a journey together came to Megara, and one traveller put up at an inn and the second went to the home of a friend. After they had eaten supper and retired, the second traveller, in the dead of the night, dreamed that his companion was imploring him to come to his aid, as the innkeeper was planning to kill him. Greatly frightened at first by the dream he arose, and later, regaining his composure, decided that there was nothing to worry about and went back to bed. When he had gone to sleep the same person appeared to him and said: ‘Since you would not help me when I was alive, I beg that you will not allow my dead body to remain unburied. I have been killed by the innkeeper, who has thrown my body into a cart and covered it with dung. I pray you to be at the city gate in the morning before the cart leaves the town.’ Thoroughly convinced by the second dream he met the cart-driver at the gate in the morning, and, when he asked what he had in the cart, the driver fled in terror. The Arcadian then removed his friend’s dead body from the cart, made complaint of the crime to the authorities, and the innkeeper was punished. What stronger proof of a divinely inspired dream than this can be given? (tr. William Armistead Falconer)