Wednesday, 20 September 2017

Cicero: Hunger makes hard beans sweet.



Romans loved extensive meals – as far as they could afford it and most could not – but when you are really hungry or thirsty, anything tastes. In his Tusculanae Disputationes, Cicero gives various examples of this. They serve as illustration for the stoic dictum that one doesn’t need much to live on. This is true, but I hope I will never come in the situation that Spartan black soup seems to me something delicious.

Cicero, Tusculanae Disputationes, 97,98

XXXIV. [97] Darius in fuga cum aquam turbidam et cadaveribus inquinatam bibisset, negavit umquam se bibisse iucundius: numquam videlicet sitiens biberat. Nec esuriens Ptolomaeus ederat; cui cum peragranti Aegyptum comitibus non consecutis cibarius in casa panis datus esset, nihil visum est illo pane iucundius. Socraten ferunt, cum usque ad vesperum contentius ambularet quaesitumque esset ex eo, quare id faceret, respondisse se, quo melius cenaret, obsonare ambulando famem.
[98] Quid? victum Lacedaemoniorum in philitiis nonne videmus? ubi cum tyrannus cenavisset Dionysius, negavit se iure illo nigro, quod cenae caput erat, delectatum. Tum is qui illa coxerat: 'Minime mirum; condimenta enim defuerunt.' 'Quae tandem?' inquit ille. 'Labor in venatu, sudor, cursus ad Eurotam, fames, sitis; his enim rebus Lacedaemoniorum epulae condiuntur.' Atque hoc non ex hominum more solum, sed etiam ex bestiis intellegi potest, quae, ut quicquid obiectum est, quod modo a natura non sit alienum, eo contentae non quaerunt amplius.


Darius: Darius Codomanus fleeing for Alexander
turbidus: muddy
cadaver cadaveris (n.): corpse
inquino (-are): to pollute
iucundius: more pleasantly
videlicet: of course, obviously
biberat: `used to drink’
sitio sitivi : to be thirsty
esurio: to be hungry
edo edi esum: to eat
cui peragranti…panis datus est
peragro: to travel
comitibus non consecutis: i.e. without his probably extensive staff
cibarius panis: black bread, usually given to slaves
casa: cottage
Socraten: Greek acc.
ferunt: they say, it is said
contentius: with very much exertion
quaesitum: still depending on ferunt
quo melius cenaret: he would eat the better
obsonare ambulando famem: `to buy an appetite by walking’, obsonare is to buy provisions (obsonia), cater.
victus -us (m.): food
philitia -ōrum  the public meals of the Lacedœmonians (= Spartans)
iure illo nigro: black soup (ius iuris `juice’) was a Spartan speciality with unknown ingredients, but with an awful taste.
cenae caput: the main dish
coquo coxi coctum: to cook
condimentum: spice, seasoning
ille: Dionysius
venatus –us (m.): hunting
sudor –is (m.): sweat
cursus ad Eurotam: running near the Eurota (the main river of Sparta, where running competitions were held
epulae –arum: meal
condio: to season
ex more hominum: from the habit of people
quicquid obiectum est: whatever is thrown before them
a natura: by their nature
eo contentae: satisfied with that
amplius: further

Translation by Charles Duke Yonge (1877)

When Darius, in his flight from the enemy, had drunk some water which was muddy and tainted with dead bodies, he declared that he had never drunk anything more pleasant; the fact was, that he had never drunk before when he was thirsty. Nor had Ptolemy ever eaten when he was hungry; for as he was travelling over Egypt, his company not keeping up with him, he had some coarse bread presented him in a cottage, upon which he said, “Nothing ever seemed to him pleasanter than that bread.” They relate, too, of Socrates, that, once when he was walking very fast till the evening, on his being asked why he did so, his reply was that he was purchasing an appetite by walking, that he might sup the better. And do we not see what the Lacedæmonians provide in their Phiditia? where the tyrant Dionysius supped, but told them he did not at all like that black broth, which was their principal dish; on which he who dressed it said, “It was no wonder, for it wanted seasoning.” Dionysius asked what that seasoning was; to which it was replied, “Fatigue in hunting, sweating, a race on the banks of Eurotas, hunger and thirst,” for these are the seasonings to the Lacedæmonian banquets. And this may not only be conceived from the custom of men, but from the beasts, who are satisfied with anything that is thrown before them, provided it is not unnatural, and they seek no farther. easily supplied by the ground, and plants in great abundance, and of incomparable sweetness. Add to this strength and health, as the consequence of this abstemious way of living. Now, compare with this those who sweat and belch, being crammed with eating, like fatted oxen; then will you perceive that they who pursue pleasure most attain it least; and that the pleasure of eating lies not in satiety, but appetite.

Saturday, 9 September 2017

Cicero on grumpy old men.



Grumpy old men –we all know some – have existed in every period of history. Cicero dwells on these characters in his De Senectute, a dialogue written about 44 BC, but set in 150 BC. The speakers are Cato Maior, Scipio Africanus and Laelius. The latter two are asking Cato – 83 at that moment – about old age. Cato is of course reflecting the opinions of Cicero. Cato – and thus Cicero – was not too harsh for grumpy old men and showed some understanding. Though not the youngest anymore, I try not to become grumpy. Might I however still become grumpy, let people around me read this passage.

Cicero, De Senectute:

[65] At sunt morosi et anxii et iracundi et difficiles senes. si quaerimus, etiam avari; sed haec morum vitia sunt, non senectutis. ac morositas tamen et ea vitia, quae dixi, habent aliquid excusationis, non illius quidem iustae, sed quae probari posse videatur: contemni se putant, despici, illudi; praeterea in fragili corpore odiosa omnis offensio est; quae tamen omnia dulciora fiunt et moribus bonis et artibus, idque cum in vita tum in scaena intellegi potest ex eis fratribus qui in Adelphis sunt. quanta in altero diritas, in altero comitas! Sic se res habet: ut enim non omne vinum, sic non omnis natura vetustate coacescit. severitatem in senectute probo, sed  eam, sicut alia, modicam; acerbitatem nullo modo; avaritia vero senilis quid sibi velit, non intellego. [66] Potest enim quicquam esse absurdius quam, quo viae minus restet, eo plus viatici quaerere?

morosus: peevish, morose, difficult
iracundus: irascible
quaero quaesivi quaesitum: to seek
avarus: avaricious 
morum vitia: faults of character
non illius quidem iusta: though not justified (illius is superfluous in translation, but is standard in Latin when quidem with concessive meaning is followed by sed.)
probo: to approve
posse videatur: note the careful formulation
despicio dispexi dispectum: to despise
illudo illusi illusum: to mock
odiosus: unpleasant, hateful
offensio (f.): offense, blow
dulciora: softer
moribus et artibus: by disposition and cultivation
scaena: stage
Adelphis: the Adelphi (`The Brothers’) is a play by Terence, friend of Scipio and Laelius. Two old man occur in this play of which one is characterized by diritas (f. `harshness), the other by comitas (f. `kindness’)
sic se res habet: the matter is thus
natura: character
coacesco coacescui: to become acid
vetustas vetustatis (f.): old age
severita severitatis (f.): austerity
modicus: not too much
acerbitas acerbitatis (f.): bitterness
avaritia: greed
senilis: of an old man
quid sibi velit: what use is it
quo viae minus restet, eo plus viatici quaerere: to seek the more of provision for a journey (viaticum), as the less of the way shall remain.

Translation by E. S. Shuckburgh (1909–14)

But, it will be said, old men are fretful, fidgety, ill-tempered, and disagreeable. If you come to that, they are also avaricious. But these are faults of character, not of the time of life. And, after all, fretfulness and the other faults I mentioned admit of some excuse—not, indeed, a complete one, but one that may possibly pass muster: they think themselves neglected, looked down upon, mocked. Besides, with bodily weakness every rub is a source of pain. Yet all these faults are softened both by good character and good education. Illustrations of this may be found in real life, as also on the stage in the case of the brothers in the Adelphi. What harshness in the one, what gracious manners in the other! The fact is that, just as it is not every wine, so it is not every life, that turns sour from keeping. Serious gravity I approve of in old age, but, as in other things, it must be within due limits: bitterness I can in no case approve. What the object of senile avarice may be I cannot conceive. For can there be anything more absurd than to seek more journey money, the less there remains of the journey?

Tuesday, 29 August 2017

Phaedrus: The eagle and the crow.



An eagle (aquila) once held a tortoise (testitudo, f.) in the air, but as this animal was safely hidden in his shell, the eagle had no clue how to eat this creature. Then the eagle is advised by a crow (cornix, f.) to drop the tortoise on a rock to break the shell. Now the tortoise has no way to escape its fate.
This story is, like most of Phaedrus’ fables, based on Aesop, but with a difference: in Aesop version the tortoise asks the eagle to lift him in the air, as he wanted to fly. By leaving this out, Phaedrus makes the tortoise a completely innocent victim of the powerful eagle and its wicked advisor. Through the ages up to our time examples are easy to find.

Phaedrus 2.6, Aquila et Cornix.

Contra potentes nemo est munitus satis;
si vero accessit consiliator maleficus,
vis et nequitia quicquid oppugnant, ruit.
Aquila in sublime sustulit testudinem.
quae cum abdidisset cornea corpus domo
nec ullo pacto laedi posset condita,
venit per auras cornix et propter volans:
Opimam sane praedam rapuisti unguibus;
sed nisi monstraro quid sit faciendum tibi,
gravi nequiquam te lassabit pondere.
Promissa parte suadet, ut scopulum super
altis ab astris duram illidat corticem,
qua comminuta facile vescatur cibo.
Inducta verbis aquila, monitis paruit,
simul et magistrae large divisit dapem.
Sic tuta quae naturae fuerat munere,
impar duabus occidit tristi nece.

munio munivi munitum: to protect
satis: sufficiently
consiliator –oris (m.): counsellor
maleficus: wicked
quicquid …, ruit = quicquid ruit, (quod).. (everything falls down, what etc.)
nequitia: wickedness (vis refers to the potentes, nequitia to the consiliator maleficus)
in sublime: high in the air
abdo abdidi abditum: to hide (= condo)
corneus: made of horn
nec ullo pacto: in no way
laedo laesi laesum: to hurt, damage
propter (adv.): nearby
opimus: fat, plump
sane: indeed
praeda: booty
rapio rapui raptum: to snatch
unguis unguis (m.): nail, claw
monstraro = monstravero
nequiquam: in vain
lasso: to tire
pondus ponderis (n.) : weight
promissa parte: i.e. of the praeda
suadeo suasi suasum: to advise
scopulus: rock (scopulum super = super scopulum)
altis ab astris: from high in the air
illido illiso illisum: to dash to pieces
cortex cortices (m. and by poets f.): shell
qua comminuta: which having been broken (comminuo, ui utum)
vescor (+ abl.): to eat
cibus: food
inducta: lead
monitum: advice
pareo parui (+ dat.): to yield
simul: at once
magistrae: i.e. the cornex
large: generously
daps dapis (f.): meal
naturae munere: by work of nature
impar imparis (+ dat.): ill-matched
occidit from occĭdo , occĭdi, occāsum: to fall down
nex necis (f.): violent death

Translation by Christopher Smart (1912).

The Eagle, Carrion Crow, and Tortoise.

No soul can warrant life or right,
Secure from men of lawless might;
But if a knave's advice assist,
'Gainst fraud and force what can exist ?
An Eagle on a Tortoise fell,
And mounting bore him by the shell:
She with her house her body screens,
Nor can be hurt by any means.
A Carrion Crow came by that way,
" You've got," says she, " a luscious prey;
But soon its weight will make you rue,
Unless I show you what to do."
The captor promising a share,
She bids her from the upper air
To dash the shell against a rock,
Which would be sever'd by the shock.
The Eagle follows her behest,
Then feasts on turtle with his guest.
Thus she, whom Nature made so strong,
And safe against external wrong,
No match for force, and its allies,
To cruel death a victim dies.

Thursday, 17 August 2017

Ovid: courting at the races.



Ovid’s Ars Amatoria is a collection of three poems devoted to how to win a woman. Due to its sometimes explicit descriptions, it has been controversial since its publication. Notwithstanding that, it was used as a school text during the Middle Ages. In this extract Ovid gives advice how to court a girl at the races. His tips are still useful.

Ovidius, Ars Amatoria 1,135-62

Nec te nobilium fugiat certamen equorum;               135
     multa capax populi commoda Circus habet.
Nil opus est digitis, per quos arcana loquaris,
     Nec tibi per nutus accipienda nota est:
proximus a domina, nullo prohibente, sedeto,
     iunge tuum lateri qua potes usque latus;               140
et bene, quod cogit, si nolis, linea iungi,
     quod tibi tangenda est lege puella loci.
Hic tibi quaeratur socii sermonis origo,
     Et moveant primos publica verba sonos.
Cuius equi veniant, facito, studiose, requiras:               145
     Nec mora, quisquis erit, cui favet illa, fave.
At cum pompa frequens caelestibus ibit eburnis,
     tu Veneri dominae plaude favente manu;
utque fit, in gremium pulvis si forte puellae
     Deciderit, digitis excutiendus erit:               150
Etsi nullus erit pulvis, tamen excute nullum:
     quaelibet officio causa sit apta tuo.
Pallia si terra nimium demissa iacebunt,
     collige, et inmunda sedulus effer humo;
protinus, officii pretium, patiente puella               155
     contingent oculis crura videnda tuis.
Respice praeterea, post vos quicumque sedebit,
     Ne premat opposito mollia terga genu.
Parva leves capiunt animos: fuit utile multis
     pulvinum facili composuisse manu.               160
profuit et tenui ventos movisse tabella,
     et cava sub tenerum scamna dedisse pedem.

Nec te fugiat certamen: let not the contest escape you
capax commoda: easily containing (+ gen.)
Nil opus est digitis: i.e. for making secret (arcana) signs
nutus, nutus (m.): nod, hint
nota: sign
proximus a: next to
sedeto: -to is the 2nd and 3rd imp. of the futurum
iunge tuum lateri qua potes usque latus = iunge tuum latus lateri usque qua potes: join your side to her side right on as far as you can
et bene, quod cogit, si nolis, linea iungi = et bene (est vos) linea (abl !) iungi, si nolis
linea: line (marked on the benches for separating the seats)
si nolis: even if you don’t want it
lege loci: by law of the place she sits (we all experiencethis when we are sitting in an overcrowded train or bus: we are touched by others and touche others by lege loci)
socii sermonis origo: the beginning of an informal chat
publica verba: common talk (i.e. don’t go at once into private matters!)
facito requiras: make that you ask
studiose: eagerly, studiously
mora: delay
faveo favi fauturus (+ dat.): to favour
pompa frequens: a crowded procession (befor beginning of a race a festive procession was held at which ivory images of gods (caelestibus eburnis) were carried, amongst these also one of Venus)
gremium: lap
etsi: albeit
pulvis pulveris (m.): dust
decido decidi: to fall down
excutio excussi excussum: to remove
officium: service
pallia si (in) terra nimium demissa iacebunt: when the mantle to much hanging down is lying on the ground (the plural is either used for the singular or it denotes a frequent occurrence – with various girls of course. Likewise tergum `back’ in line 158 and scamna in 162. The description is like a scene from some movie.)
immundus: dirty (immunda pallia)
sedulus: careful, sedulous
effer humo: lift from the ground
protinus: immediately
patiente puella: if the girl permits
contigo contigi contactum (+ dat.): to touch, fall upon
crura videnda: her visible legs (litt. `her legs to be seen’)
opposite genu: with his opposing knee
mollis mollis: soft, gentle
parva leves: small things, small gestures
pulvinum compono: to arrange a cushion
tenuis: small, elegant
tabella: fan
cava scamna: a scamnun is a stool and here probably a small  foot-bench, hollow (cavus) for the comfort of the feet.

                                                              
Translation by A.S. Klyne.

Don’t forget the races, those noble stallions:
the Circus holds room for a vast obliging crowd.
No need here for fingers to give secret messages,
nor a nod of the head to tell you she accepts:
You can sit by your lady: nothing’s forbidden,
press your thigh to hers, as you can do, all the time:
and it’s good the rows force you close, even if you don’t like it,
since the girl is touched through the rules of the place.
Now find your reason for friendly conversation,
and first of all engage in casual talk.
Make earnest enquiry whose those horses are:
and rush to back her favourite, whatever it is.
When the crowded procession of ivory gods goes by,
you clap fervently for Lady Venus:
if by chance a speck of dust falls in the girl’s lap,
as it may, let it be flicked away by your fingers:
and if there’s nothing, flick away the nothing:
let anything be a reason for you to serve her.
If her skirt is trailing too near the ground,
lift it, and raise it carefully from the dusty earth:
Straightaway, the prize for service, if she allows it,
is that your eyes catch a glimpse of her legs.
Don’t forget to look at who’s sitting behind you,
that he doesn’t press her sweet back with his knee.
Small things please light minds: it’s very helpful
to puff up her cushion with a dextrous touch.
And it’s good to raise a breeze with a light fan,
and set a hollow stool beneath her tender feet.