Prosiliam

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Itaque de isto feremus sententiam, an oporteat fastidire senectutis extrema et finem non opperiri, sed manu facere. prope est a timente, qui fatum segnis exspectat, sicut ille ultra modum deditus vino est, qui amphoram exsiccat et faecem quoque exsorbet. de hoc tamen quaeremus, pars summa vitae utrum faex sit an liquidissimum ac purissimum quiddam, si modo mens sine iniuria est et integri sensus animum iuvant nec defectum et praemortuum corpus est; plurimum enim refert, vitam aliquis extendat an mortem. at si inutile ministeriis corpus est, quidni oporteat educere animum laborantem? et fortasse paulo ante quam debet faciendum est, ne, cum fieri debebit, facere non possis; et cum maius periculum sit male vivendi quam cito moriendi, stultus est, qui non exigua temporis mercede magnae rei aleam redimit. paucos longissima senectus ad mortem sine iniuria pertulit, multis iners vita sine usu sui iacuit; quanto deinde crudelius iudicas aliquid ex vita perdidisse quam ius finiendae? noli me invitus audire, tamquam ad te iam pertineat ista sententia, et quid dicam aestima; non relinquam senectutem, si me totum mihi reservabit, totum autem ab illa parte meliore; at si coeperit concutere mentem, si partes eius convellere, si mihi non vitam reliquerit, sed animam, prosiliam ex aedificio putri ac ruenti. morbum morte non fugiam, dumtaxat sanabilem nec officientem animo. non afferam mihi manus propter dolorem: sic mori vinci est. Hunc tamen si sciero perpetuo mihi esse patiendum, exibo, non propter ipsum, sed quia impedimento mihi futurus est ad omne, propter quod vivitur. imbecillus est et ignavus, qui propter dolorem moritur, stultus, qui doloris causa vivit.
(Seneca Minor, Ep. ad Luc. 58.32-36)

So now I will give an opinion on the point you raise, whether it is appropriate to spurn extreme old age, not waiting for the end but making an end by one’s own act. It’s the next thing to cowardice when one merely waits in idleness for death to come, just as one must be excessively devoted to wine if he drains every drop from the vat and guzzles even the lees. My question, though, is this: is the last part of life really the lees, or is it the finest, purest part? That is, provided the mind is without impairment, the senses intact and of use to the mind, and provided the body is not crippled and moribund before its time. For it matters a great deal whether one is prolonging life or prolonging death. Yet if the body can no longer perform any service, why should it not be appropriate to release the suffering mind? Perhaps what is called for is even to act a little before you must, lest when the time comes you should be unable. The risk of living in misery is worse than that of dying swiftly—and that being so, it’s foolish not to use a small amount of time as coin to buy off a huge gamble. Rarely does a prolonged old age deliver anyone to death without impairment; on the contrary, people are frequently confined to their beds without use of their limbs. Do you think it is any more cruel to lose something of your life than it is to lose the privilege of ending it? Don’t be unwilling to hear me, thinking that this opinion relates immediately to yourself. Assess what I’m saying on its own merits. I will not abandon old age as long as it allows me to keep my whole self—that is, the whole of my better part. But if it begins to attack my mind and lop off parts of it—if it keeps me alive without allowing me a life, then I will fling myself from the decayed and collapsing edifice. I will not die to escape sickness, provided it is curable and no impediment to the mind. I will not lay hands on myself because of pain: such a death is defeat. But if I know I will have to endure the pain without intermission, I will depart, not because of the pain itself, but because it will hinder me from everything that makes life worth living. He who dies merely because of pain is weak and lazy; he who lives merely for pain is a fool. (tr. Margaret Graver & Anthony A. Long)

Clementia

Lorenzo_il_Magnifico

Transeamus ad alienas iniurias, in quibus vindicandis haec tria lex secuta est, quae princeps quoque sequi debet: aut ut eum, quem punit, emendet, aut ut poena eius ceteros meliores reddat, aut ut sublatis malis securiores ceteri vivant. ipsos facilius emendabis minore poena; diligentius enim vivit, cui aliquid integri superest. nemo dignitati perditae parcit; impunitatis genus est iam non habere poenae locum. civitatis autem mores magis corrigit parcitas animadversionum; facit enim consuetudinem peccandi multitudo peccantium, et minus gravis nota est, quam turba damnationum levat, et severitas, quod maximum remedium habet, assiduitate amittit auctoritatem. constituit bonos mores civitati princeps et vitia eluit, si patiens eorum est, non tamquam probet, sed tamquam invitus et cum magno tormento ad castigandum veniat. verecundiam peccandi facit ipsa clementia regentis; gravior multo poena videtur, quae a miti viro constituitur.
(Seneca Minor, De Clementia 1.22)

Let’s move along to other people’s injuries, in requiting which the law pursues these three goals, which the prince also ought to pursue: either to correct the person punished, or to improve everyone else by punishing him, or to allow everyone else to live more securely once the malefactors have been removed from their midst. You will more easily correct the wrongdoer himself with a lesser penalty: a person conducts his life more carefully when he is left something whole and unsullied, whereas no one is chary of a self-respect he has utterly lost. Having nothing that punishment can affect is a kind of impunity. However, a sparing use of punishment does more to correct a community’s habits, for a multitude of wrongdoers makes wrongdoing a matter of habit; condemnations that come thick and fast relieve the stigma of punishment, and strictness, when unrelieved, loses its moral authority, which is its most important healing power. The prince establishes good practices for the community, and clears away vices, if he is patient with the latter—not in an approving manner but as one who undertakes their chastisement unwillingly and with great anguish. A ruler’s clemency makes men blush to do wrong: punishment seems much more grievous when ordained by a mild-mannered man. (tr. Robert A. Kaster)

Collectio

mouse cheese

‘Mus syllaba est;
mus autem caseum rodit;
syllaba ergo caseum rodit.’
puta nunc me istuc non posse solvere: quod mihi ex ista inscientia periculum imminet? quod incommodum? sine dubio verendum est ne quando in muscipulo syllabas capiam, aut ne quando, si neglegentior fuero, caseum liber comedat. nisi forte illa acutior est collectio:
‘mus syllaba est;
syllaba autem caseum non rodit;
mus ergo caseum non rodit.’
o pueriles ineptias! in hoc supercilia subduximus? in hoc barbam demisimus? hoc est quod tristes docemus et pallidi?
(Seneca Minor, Ep. ad Luc. 48.6-7)

“Mouse” is a syllable.
But a mouse eats cheese.
Therefore a syllable eats cheese.
Suppose I can’t solve that one: what risk do I incur by not knowing how? What inconvenience even? Sure, I’d have to watch out—someday I might find myself catching syllables in mousetraps! Better be careful—my cheese might be eaten by a book! But wait, maybe this is a smarter syllogism:
Mouse is a syllable.
But a syllable doesn’t eat cheese.
Therefore a mouse doesn’t eat cheese.
What childish pranks! Is this what makes us knit our brows? Is this why we let our beards grow long? Are we pale and earnest in our teaching of this? (tr. Margaret Graver & Anthony A. Long)

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.