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)



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)


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?


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)


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)



Qui vero non astrorum constitutionem, sicuti est cum quidque concipitur vel nascitur vel inchoatur, sed omnium conexionem seriemque causarum, qua fit omne quod fit, fati nomine appellant: non multum cum eis de verbi controversia laborandum atque certandum est, quando quidem ipsum causarum ordinem et quandam conexionem Dei summi tribuunt voluntati et potestati, qui optime et veracissime creditur et cuncta scire antequam fiant et nihil inordinatum relinquere; a quo sunt omnes potestates, quamvis ab illo non sint omnium voluntates. ipsam itaque praecipue Dei summi voluntatem, cuius potestas insuperabiliter per cuncta porrigitur, eos appellare fatum sic probatur. Annaei Senecae sunt, nisi fallor, hi versus:
“duc, summe pater altique dominator poli,
quocumque placuit, nulla parendi mora est.
adsum impiger: fac nolle, comitabor gemens
malusque patiar, facere quod licuit bono.
ducunt volentem fata, nolentem trahunt.”
nempe evidentissime hoc ultimo versu ea fata appellavit, quam supra dixerat summi patris voluntatem; cui paratum se oboedire dicit, ut volens ducatur, ne nolens trahatur; quoniam scilicet “ducunt volentem fata, nolentem trahunt.”
illi quoque versus Homerici huic sententiae suffragantur, quos Cicero in Latinum vertit:
“tales sunt hominum mentes, quali pater ipse
Iuppiter auctiferas lustravit lumine terras.”
nec in hac quaestione auctoritatem haberet poetica sententia, sed quoniam Stoicos dicit vim fati asserentes istos ex Homero versus solere usurpare, non de illius poetae, sed de istorum philosophorum opinione tractatur, cum per istos versus, quos disputationi adhibent quam de fato habent, quid sentiant esse fatum apertissime declaratur, quoniam Iovem appellant, quem summum deum putant, a quo conexionem dicunt pendere fatorum.
(Augustine, Civ. Dei 5.8)

But, as to those who call by the name of fate, not the disposition of the stars as it may exist when any creature is conceived, or born, or commences its existence, but the whole connection and train of causes which makes everything become what it does become, there is no need that I should labor and strive with them in a merely verbal controversy, since they attribute the so-called order and connection of causes to the will and power of God most high, who is most rightly and most truly believed to know all things before they come to pass, and to leave nothing unordained; from whom are all powers, although the wills of all are not from Him. Now, that it is chiefly the will of God most high, whose power extends itself irresistibly through all things which they call fate, is proved by the following verses, of which, if I mistake not, Annæus Seneca is the author:—
“Father supreme, You ruler of the lofty heavens,
Lead me where’er it is Your pleasure; I will give
A prompt obedience, making no delay,
Lo! Here I am. Promptly I come to do Your sovereign will;
If your command shall thwart my inclination, I will still
Follow You groaning, and the work assigned,
With all the suffering of a mind repugnant,
Will perform, being evil; which, had I been good,
I should have undertaken and performed, though hard,
With virtuous cheerfulness.
The Fates do lead the man that follows willing;
But the man that is unwilling, him they drag.”
Most evidently, in this last verse, he calls that fate which he had before called the will of the Father supreme, whom, he says, he is ready to obey that he may be led, being willing, not dragged, being unwilling, since the Fates do lead the man that follows willing, “but the man that is unwilling, him they drag”. The following Homeric lines, which Cicero translates into Latin, also favor this opinion:—
“Such are the minds of men, as is the light
Which Father Jove himself does pour
Illustrious o’er the fruitful earth.”
Not that Cicero wishes that a poetical sentiment should have any weight in a question like this; for when he says that the Stoics, when asserting the power of fate, were in the habit of using these verses from Homer*, he is not treating concerning the opinion of that poet, but concerning that of those philosophers, since by these verses, which they quote in connection with the controversy which they hold about fate, is most distinctly manifested what it is which they reckon fate, since they call by the name of Jupiter him whom they reckon the supreme god, from whom, they say, hangs the whole chain of fates. (tr. Marcus Dods)

* Cf. Homer, Od. 18.136-137:
τοῖος γὰρ νόος ἐστὶν ἐπιχθονίων ἀνθρώπων
οἷον ἐπ’ ἦμαρ ἄγησι πατὴρ ἀνδρῶν τε θεῶν τε.

…for the spirit of men upon the earth is just such as the day which the father of gods and men brings upon them. (tr. Augustus Taber Murray, revised by George E. Dimock)

See also this post.



This is part 3 of 3. Part 1 is here. Part 2 is here.

Atque hoc praestantius mihi fuerit et ad laetitiam animi et ad memoriae dignitatem si in tua scripta pervenero, quam si in ceterorum, quod non ingenium mihi solum suppeditatum fuerit tuum, sicut Timoleonti a Timaeo aut ab Herodoto Themistocli, sed etiam auctoritas clarissimi et spectatissimi viri et in rei publicae maximis gravissimisque causis cogniti atque in primis probati, ut mihi non solum praeconium, quod, cum in Sigeum venisset, Alexander ab Homero Achilli tributum esse dixit, sed etiam grave testimonium impertitum clari hominis magnique videatur; placet enim Hector ille mihi Naevianus, qui non tantum “laudari” se laetatur, sed addit etiam “a laudato viro.” quod si a te non impetraro, hoc est, si quae te res impedierit (neque enim fas esse arbitror quidquam me rogantem abs te non impetrare), cogar fortasse facere quod non nulli saepe reprehendunt: scribam ipse de me, multorum tamen exemplo et clarorum virorum. sed, quod te non fugit, haec sunt in hoc genere vitia: et verecundius ipsi de sese scribant necesse est, si quid est laudandum, et praetereant, si quid reprehendendum est; accedit etiam, ut minor sit fides, minor auctoritas, multi denique reprehendant et dicant verecundiores esse praecones ludorum gymnicorum, qui cum ceteris coronas imposuerint victoribus eorumque nomina magna voce pronuntiarint, cum ipsi ante ludorum missionem corona donentur, alium praeconem adhibeant, ne sua voce se ipsi victores esse praedicent. haec nos vitare cupimus et, si recipis causam nostram, vitabimus, idque ut facias, rogamus. ac, ne forte mirere, cur, cum mihi saepe ostenderis te accuratissime nostrorum temporum consilia atque eventus litteris mandaturum, a te id nunc tanto opere et tam multis verbis petamus, illa nos cupiditas incendit, de qua initio scripsi, festinationis, quod alacres animo sumus, ut et ceteri viventibus nobis ex libris tuis nos cognoscant et nosmet ipsi vivi gloriola nostra perfruamur. his de rebus quid acturus sis, si tibi non est molestum, rescribas mihi velim; si enim suscipis causam, conficiam commentarios rerum omnium, sin autem differs me in tempus aliud, coram tecum loquar. tu interea non cessabis et ea, quae habes instituta, perpolies nosque diliges.
(Cicero, Ep. ad Fam. 22(=5.12).7-10)

There is a further reason why a place in your works as compared with those of other writers will bring my mind a more lively satisfaction and my memory more signal honour. You will confer upon me the benefit not only of your literary skill, as Timaeus did upon Timoleon or Herodotus upon Themistocles, but of your authority as a famed and admired public man, tried and notably approved in public affairs of the greatest moment. Not only shall I gain a herald, such as Alexander when he visited Sigeum said Homer was to Achilles, but a witness—the weighty testimony of a great and famous man. For I am of one mind with Naevius’ Hector, who delights, not in praise merely, but, he adds, ‘from one that praisèd is.’ Suppose, however, I am refused; that is to say, suppose something hinders you (for I feel it would be against nature for you to refuse any request of mine), I shall perhaps be driven to a course often censured by some, namely to write about myself—and yet I shall have many illustrious precedents. But I need not point out to you that this genre has certain disadvantages. An autobiographer must needs write over modestly where praise is due and pass over anything that calls for censure. Moreover, his credit and authority are less, and many will blame him and say that heralds at athletic contests show more delicacy, in that after placing garlands on the heads of the winners and loudly proclaiming their names, they call in another herald when it is their turn to be crowned at the end of the games, in order to avoid announcing their own victory with their own lips. I am anxious to escape these drawbacks, as I shall, if you take my case. I beg you to do so. In case it may surprise you that I urge you so earnestly and at such length now, when you have repeatedly promised me that you will compose the record of my public career, its policies and events, and spare no pains, my motive is, as I wrote in the first place, impatience. I cannot wait to see the world learning about me in my lifetime from your books and to enjoy my modicum of glory myself before I die. If it is not troubling you too much, please write back and tell me what you intend to do. If you undertake the case, I will prepare notes on all pints. If you put me off to a later date, I shall talk to you personally. Meanwhile, do not be idle: Give a thorough polish to the work you have in hand. And love me well. (tr. David Roy Shackleton-Bailey)