Corrupere

rose petals

Inde et illud sequitur, ut minimis sordidissimisque rebus non exacerbemur. parum agilis est puer aut tepidior aqua poturo aut turbatus torus aut mensa neglegentius posita: ad ista concitari insania est. aeger et infelicis valetudinis est quem levis aura contraxit, affecti oculi quos candida vestis obturbat, dissolutus deliciis cuius latus alieno labore condoluit. Mindyriden aiunt fuisse ex Sybaritarum civitate qui, cum vidisset fodientem et altius rastrum adlevantem, lassum se fieri questus vetuit illum opus in conspectu suo facere; idem habere se peius questus est, quod foliis rosae duplicatis incubuisset. ubi animum simul et corpus voluptates corrupere, nihil tolerabile videtur, non quia dura sed quia mollis patitur. quid est enim cur tussis alicuius aut sternutamentum aut musca parum curiose fugata in rabiem agat aut obversatus canis aut clavis neglegentis servi manibus elapsa? feret iste aequo animo civile convicium et ingesta in contione curiave maledicta cuius aures tracti subsellii stridor offendit? perpetietur hic famem et aestivae expeditionis sitim qui puero male diluenti nivem irascitur? nulla itaque res magis iracundiam alit quam luxuria intemperans et impatiens: dure tractandus animus est ut ictum non sentiat nisi gravem.
(Seneca Minor, De Ira 2.25)

From this it also follows that very trivial and petty matters will not aggravate us. The slave is not quick enough, the water’s too hot to drink, the bed has been mussed, the table’s been carelessly set: to get riled at such things is crazy. Someone whom a slight breeze has made shiver is weak and sickly; eyes that a bright white garment offends aren’t healthy; a person whose own back feels pain at another’s toil has been made effete by luxury. They say that Mindyrides, from the city of the Sybarites, complained that he was becoming exhausted when he saw someone digging and lifting his hoe too high, and he forbade him to work in his sight; the same man complained that he felt worse when he lay down on rose petals that were creased. When pleasures have corrupted mind and body at once, nothing seems bearable, not because things are hard but because the person experiencing them is soft. For why should someone’s cough or a sneeze send you into a frenzy, or a fly chased too negligently, or a dog that has got underfoot, or a key that slipped from the hands of a careless slave? Will someone whose ears are bruised by the scraping of a bench being dragged bear with equanimity the abuse of public life and the curses heaped on him in an assembly or the Senate? Will someone who becomes angry when a slave does a bad job of melting the snow endure hunger and the thirst of a summer campaign? That’s why I say that nothing feeds anger more than luxury that’s out of control and incapable of forbearance: the mind must be treated roughly so it feels only a serious blow. (tr. Robert A. Kaster)

Captivae

merry-joseph blondel, hécube et polyxène, 1814
Merry-Joseph Blondel, Hécube et Polyxène (1814)

[HECVBA. NVNTIVS.]

[HEC.] Ite, ite, Danai, petite iam tuti domos;
optata velis maria diffusis secet
secura classis: concidit virgo ac puer;
bellum peractum est. quo meas lacrimas feram?
ubi hanc anilis expuam leti moram?
natam an nepotem, coniugem an patriam fleam?
an omnia an me? sola mors votum meum,
infantibus, violenta, virginibus venis,
ubique properas saeva: me solam times
vitasque, gladios inter ac tela et faces
quaesita tota nocte, cupientem fugis.
non hostis aut ruina, non ignis meos
absumpsit artus: quam prope a Priamo steti.
[NVN.] repetite celeri maria, captivae, gradu:
iam vela puppis laxat et classis movet.
(Seneca Minor, Tro. 1165-1178)

[HECUBA. MESSENGER.]

[HEC.] Go, go, you Danaans, now you can head for your homes in safety. Let the fleet spread its sails and cut through the longed-for seas without a care. A maiden and boy have fallen: the war is finished. Where shall I take my tears? Where shall I spew out this obstacle to an old woman’s death? Shall I weep for daughter or grandchild, husband or country? For my whole world, or for myself? O death, my only prayer, you come with violence to infants and to girls, everywhere you appear with savage haste; you fear me alone and shun me. Though I sought you all night amid the swords and spears and firebrands, you flee from my desire. No enemy or collapsing building, no fire consumed my body; yet how close I stood to Priam!
[MESS.] Head quickly towards the sea, you prisoners; already the ships are unfurling their sails and the fleet is moving.
(tr. John G. Fitch)

Exaggera

zp0ks

Desine ergo philosophis pecunia interdicere: nemo sapientiam paupertate damnavit. habebit philosophus amplas opes, sed nulli detractas nec alieno sanguine cruentas, sine cuiusquam iniuria partas, sine sordidis quaestibus, quarum tam honestus sit exitus quam introitus, quibus nemo ingemescat nisi malignus. in quantum vis exaggera illas: honestae sunt in quibus, cum multa sint quae sua quisque dici velit, nihil est quod quisquam suum possit dicere. ille vero fortunae benignitatem a se non summovebit et patrimonio per honesta quaesito nec gloriabitur nec erubescet. habebit tamen etiam quo glorietur, si aperta domo et admissa in res suas civitate poterit dicere ‘quod quisque agnoverit tollat.’ o magnum virum, o optime divitem, si post hanc vocem tantundem habuerit! ita dico: si tuto et securus scrutationem populo praebuerit, si nihil quisquam apud illum invenerit cui manus iniciat, audaciter et propalam erit dives.
(Seneca Minor, De Vita Beata 23.1-2)

So stop forbidding philosophers to have money. No one has sentenced wisdom to poverty. The philosopher will have ample wealth, but not wrested from anyone or dripping with another’s blood, and acquired without any harm to anyone or any filthy profiteering. Its exit will be as morally good as its entry, and no one except a stingy person would mourn for it. Pile it up as much as you wish: that wealth is morally good in which, even when there are many things that each person might wish to be called his, there is nothing that anyone can rightly call his. In fact, the philosopher will not push fortune’s generosity away from him, and he will neither boast nor blush over an estate that was gained by morally acceptable methods. He will actually have something of which he can boast, however, if he can open up his house and admit the citizenry among his possessions and say: “What each recognizes, let him take.” What a great man he is, and wealthy in the best way, if he can say this and then retain exactly the same amount! What I mean is that if he can allow the people to scrutinize his things and not lose anything or feel anxious—if no one finds anything in his house to which he can lay claim—he will be wealthy boldly and publicly.

Inordinatum

God-creation

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.

Relegandum

Napoleon_sainthelene

Trichonem equitem Romanum memoria nostra, quia filium suum flagellis occiderat, populus graphiis in foro confodit; vix illum Augusti Caesaris auctoritas infestis tam patrum quam filiorum manibus eripuit. Tarium, qui filium deprensum in parricidii consilio damnavit causa cognita, nemo non suspexit, quod contentus exsilio et exsilio delicato Massiliae parricidam continuit et annua illi praestitit, quanta praestare integro solebat; haec liberalitas effecit, ut, in qua civitate numquam deest patronus peioribus, nemo dubitaret, quin reus merito damnatus esset, quem is pater damnare potuisset, qui odisse non poterat. hoc ipso exemplo dabo, quem compares bono patri, bonum principem. cogniturus de filio Tarius advocavit in consilium Caesarem Augustum; venit in privatos penates, adsedit, pars alieni consilii fuit, non dixit; “Immo in meam domum veniat”; quod si factum esset, Caesaris futura erat cognitio, non patris. audita causa excussisque omnibus, et his, quae adulescens pro se dixerat, et his, quibus arguebatur, petit, ut sententiam suam quisque scriberet, ne ea omnium fieret, quae Caesaris fuisset; deinde, priusquam aperirentur codicilli, iuravit se Tarii, hominis locupletis, hereditatem non aditurum. dicet aliquis: “pusillo animo timuit, ne videretur locum spei suae aperire velle filii damnatione.” Ego contra sentio; quilibet nostrum debuisset adversus opiniones malignas satis fiduciae habere in bona conscientia, principes multa debent etiam famae dare. Iuravit se non aditurum hereditatem. Tarius quidem eodem die et alterum heredem perdidit, sed Caesar libertatem sententiae suae redemit; et postquam approbavit gratuitam esse severitatem suam, quod principi semper curandum est, dixit relegandum, quo patri videretur. non culleum, non serpentes, non carcerem decrevit memor, non de quo censeret, sed cui in consilio esset; mollissimo genere poenae contentum esse debere patrem dixit in filio adulescentulo impulso in id scelus, in quo se, quod proximum erat ab innocentia, timide gessisset; debere illum ab urbe et a parentis oculis submoveri.
(Seneca Minor, De Clementia 15)

I recall the case of Tricho, a Roman knight, whom the people attacked with styluses in the forum because he had flogged his son to death: the authority of Augustus Caesar barely rescued him from the outrage of fathers and sons alike. When Tarius discovered that his son was planning to kill him and condemned him in a trial held in his own household, everyone looked up to him because he was content to sentence the young man to exile—and a pampered exile at that, in Massilia, where he provided him with the same annual allowance he used to give him before his disgrace. Because of this generous gesture, everyone in Rome—where even scoundrels never lack an advocate—believed that the young man had been justly condemned, seeing that a father incapable of hating him had been able to condemn him. This very same episode also provides a model of the good prince for you to compare with the good father. When Tarius was going to conduct the trial he asked Caesar Augustus to sit on his advisory council; and so Augustus came to a private home and sat at Tarius’s side as a counselor—he did not say, “No, no, let him come to my home,” for in that case the trial would have been Caesar’s, not the father’s. When the case had been heard and the evidence thoroughly examined—both the points that the young man made on his own behalf and those that tended to convict him—Augustus asked that each man write down his own judgment, lest everyone make Caesar’s verdict his own. Then, before the tablets were opened, he took an oath that he had no intention of accepting an inheritance from Tarius, who was a wealthy man. Someone will say, “That was a petty concern, not wanting to seem to make room for himself by voting to condemn the son.” Quite the opposite, I think: any of us ordinary folk should have had sufficient confidence in his own clear conscience to withstand malicious talk, but princes must make many concessions even to gossip. He swore that he would not accept an inheritance. And indeed on the same day Tarius lost two heirs, but Caesar secured his own freedom of judgment; and after he proved that his own strictness was not self-interested—a prince’s constant concern—he said that the son should be banished, the location to be left to the father’s discretion. Mindful not of the charge he was judging but of the man he was advising, he decreed neither the sack nor snakes nor a prison cell but made plain that a father should be content with the mildest punishment in the case of a young son driven to a crime in which he had shown himself, by his timid conduct, only one step removed from innocence: he should be removed from the city and from his father’s sight. (tr. Robert A. Kaster)

Salubriter

091414_GWU_Mass_20-copy

Sic loquere, sic vive: vide ne te ulla res deprimat. votorum tuorum veterum licet deis gratiam facias, alia de integro suscipe: roga bonam mentem, bonam valetudinem animi, deinde tunc corporis. quidni tu ista vota saepe facias? audacter deum roga: nihil illum de alieno rogaturus es. sed ut more meo cum aliquo munusculo epistulam mittam, verum est quod apud Athenodorum inveni: “tunc scito esse te omnibus cupiditatibus solutum, cum eo perveneris ut nihil deum roges nisi quod rogare possis palam.” [Athenodorus, De Superstitione fr. 36] nunc enim quanta dementia est hominum! turpissima vota dis insusurrant; si quis admoverit aurem, conticiscent, et quod scire hominem nolunt deo narrant. vide ergo ne hoc praecipi salubriter possit: sic vive cum hominibus tamquam deus videat, sic loquere cum deo tamquam homines audiant. vale.
(Seneca Minor, Ep. ad Luc. 10.4-5)

Speak, and live, in this way; see to it that nothing keeps you down. As for your former prayers, you may dispense the gods from answering them; offer new prayers; pray for a sound mind and for good health, first of soul and then of body. And of course you should offer those prayers frequently. Call boldly upon God; you will not be asking him for that which belongs to another. But I must, as is my custom, send a little gift along with this letter. It is a true saying which I have found in Athenodorus: “Know that thou art freed from all desires when thou hast reached such a point that thou prayest to God for nothing except what thou canst pray for openly.” But how foolish men are now! They whisper the basest of prayers to heaven; but if anyone listens, they are silent at once. That which they are unwilling for men to know, they communicate to God. Do you not think, then, that some such wholesome advice as this could be given you: “Live among men as if God beheld you; speak with God as if men were listening”? Farewell. (tr. Richard M. Gummere)

Subsilire

feet-walking

Quid ergo est bonum? rerum scientia. quid malum est? rerum imperitia. ille prudens atque artifex pro tempore quaeque repellet aut eliget. sed nec quae repellit timet, nec miratur quae eligit, si modo magnus illi et invictus animus est. submitti te ac deprimi veto. laborem si non recuses, parum est: posce. “quid ergo?” inquis; “labor frivolus et supervacuus et quem humiles causae evocaverunt non est malus?” non magis quam ille, qui pulchris rebus impenditur, quoniam animi est ipsa tolerantia, quae se ad dura et aspera hortatur ac dicit: “quid cessas? non est viri timere sudorem.” huc et illud accedat, ut perfecta virtus sit, aequalitas ac tenor vitae per omnia consonans sibi, quod non potest esse, nisi rerum scientia contingit et ars, per quam humana ac divina noscantur. hoc est summum bonum. quod si occupas, incipis deorum socius esse, non supplex. “quomodo” inquis “isto pervenitur?” non per Poeninum Graiumve montem nec per deserta Candaviae, nec Syrtes tibi nec Scylla aut Charybdis adeundae sunt, quae tamen omnia transisti procuratiunculae pretio: tutum iter est, iucundum est, ad quod natura te instruxit. dedit tibi illa, quae si non deserueris, par deo surges. parem autem te deo pecunia non faciet: deus nihil habet. praetexta non faciet: deus nudus est. fama non faciet nec ostentatio tui et in populos nominis dimissa notitia: nemo novit deum, multi de illo male existimant, et impune. non turba servorum lecticam tuam per itinera urbana ac peregrina portantium: deus ille maximus potentissimusque ipse vehit omnia. ne forma quidem et vires beatum te facere possunt: nihil horum patitur vetustatem. quaerendum est, quod non fiat in dies eius, quoi non possit obstari. quid hoc est? animus, sed hic rectus, bonus, magnus. quid aliud voces hunc quam deum in corpore humano hospitantem? hic animus tam in equitem Romanum quam in libertinum, quam in servum potest cadere. quid est enim eques Romanus aut libertinus aut servus? nomina ex ambitione aut iniuria nata. subsilire in caelum ex angulo licet. exsurge modo
“et te quoque dignum
finge deo.”
finges autem non auro vel argento: non potest ex hac materia imago deo exprimi similis; cogita illos, cum propitii essent, fictiles fuisse. vale.
(Seneca Minor, Ep. ad Luc. 31.6-11)

What, then, is good? Knowledge of the facts. What is bad? Ignorance of the facts. The man who is truly wise and skilled will exercise avoidance or choice in accordance with circumstances; but he does not fear the things he avoids nor admire the things he chooses, not if he has a great and unconquerable spirit. I forbid you to abase yourself; I forbid you to be downcast. Not refusing labor is too little: ask for it. “But what if the work is demeaning?” you say. “What if it is unnecessary or is demanded for frivolous reasons? Isn’t such work bad?” No more so than labor expended on attractive objects. Your very endurance shows spirit, when you urge yourself on toward difficult tasks, saying, “Why the delay? A real man is not afraid of sweat.” Besides, complete virtue consists in the evenness and steadiness of a life that is in harmony with itself through all events, which cannot come about unless one has knowledge and the skill of discerning things human and divine. This is the highest good; if you obtain it, you begin to be an associate of the gods and not a suppliant. You ask, “How do I get there?” You need not scale the Alps, at either the Pennine or the Graian Pass, or navigate the Syrtaean shoals, or traverse the mountain fastness of Illyria; you need not approach the straits where Scylla and Charybdis are; and yet you passed through all of these for no more reward than your paltry governorship. No, the road is both safe and pleasant, and is one for which you have been equipped by nature. Nature has given you certain gifts, and if you do not abandon them, you will mount up equal to a god. Money will not make you equal to a god: God owns nothing. A tunic bordered with purple will not do it; God is naked. Fame will not do it, and neither will self-display and spreading one’s name far and wide: no one has personal acquaintance with God, and many think ill of him with impunity. Nor will a troop of slaves bearing your sedan chair through the streets, in the city and abroad: God, the greatest and most powerful god, is himself the bearer of everything. Not even beauty and strength can confer blessedness on you; neither endures the onset of age. You must devote your efforts to that which does not deteriorate over time, and which no obstacle can bar. What is that? It is the mind—but specifically this mind, which is upright, great, and good. What else would you call it but God dwelling in a human body? This mind can be found just as well in a freedman or even a slave as in a Roman of equestrian status. For what is a Roman equestrian, or a freedman, or a slave? Those are names born of ambition or of unfair treatment. One may leap up to heaven even from a chimney corner. Rise, then,
“and shape yourself as well into a likeness
worthy of godhead.” [Vergil, Aen. 8.364-365]
But you will not make that likeness from gold or silver: from such materials no likeness can be made that truly resembles God. Bear in mind that in the days when the gods were well disposed, their images were of clay. Farewell. (tr. Margaret Graver & Anthony A. Long)