Thursday, 28 September 2017

Acts of the Scillitan Martyrs

The earliest Latin document of the Western Church is the Acts of the Scillitan Martyrs. It describes the trail of a number of Christians, which took place at Cartage on July 17, AD 180. For an overview see this link:

Martyrdom was something which some Christians desired, as it was considered a special grace of God. For us this is something strange, but the world of Late Antiquity was a world of harsh conditions and death was everywhere. Religions promising salvation – so-called mystery religions - were popular and Christianity can also be considered as such a religion. What sets Christianity apart was their refusal to pay homage to the emperor and to partake in state-organized religious festivities. Its outlook was at that time very much directed towards the afterlife and the suffering in this life stood in no comparison with reward gained in heaven.
Martyrs had a special status and their date of execution - or from the perspective of Christians, the day they were received in heaven – was celebrated with a mass in their remembrance in which their acts were read.
Apart from genuine religious convictions, it is not impossible that such a special status, be it after their death, was also a reason for seeking martyrdom.
There are a number of problems which are not mentioned in the link above, such as the question to what extend this text is a verbatim report and how it came into the hands of Christians. Of course these questions can’t be answered, but the first question must be kept in mind when reading martyr acts.

Acta Martyrum Scillitanorum.

Praesente bis et Claudiano consulibus, XVI Kalendas Augustas, Karthagine in secretario inpositis Sperato, Nartzalo et Cittino, Donata, Secunda, Vestia, Saturninus proconsul dixit: Potestis indulgentiam domini nostri imperatoris promereri, si ad bonam mentem redeatis. 2. Speratus dixit: Numquam malefecimus, iniquitati nullam operam praebuimus; numquam malediximus, sed male accepti gratias egimus, propter quod imperatorem nostrum observamus. 3. Saturninus proconsul dixit: Et nos religiosi sumus, et simplex est religio nostra, et iuramus per genium domini nostri imperatoris et pro salute eius supplicamus, quod et vos quoque facere debetis. 4. Speratus dixit: Si tranquillas praebueris aures tuas, dico mysterium simplicitatis. 5. Saturninus dixit: Initianti tibi mala de sacris nostris aures non praebebo; sed potius iura per genium domini nostri imperatoris. 6. Speratus dixit: Ego imperium huius saeculi non cognosco: sed magis illi Deo servio, quem nemo hominum vidit nec videre his oculis potest. Furtum non feci; sed si quid emero, teloneum reddo: quia cognosco dominum meum, regem regum et imperatorem omnium gentium. 7. Saturninus proconsul dixit ceteris: Desinite huius esse persuasionis. 8. Speratus dixit: Mala est persuasio homicidium facere, falsum testimonium dicere. 9. Saturninus proconsul dixit: Nolite huius dementiae esse participes. 10. Cittinus dixit: Nos non habemus alium quem timeamus, nisi dominum Deum nostrum qui est in caelis. 11. Donata dixit: Honorem Caesari quasi Caesari; timorem autem Deo. 12. Vestia dixit: Christiana sum. 13. Secunda dixit: Quod sum, ipsud volo esse. 14. Saturninus proconsul Sperato dixit: Perseveras Christianus? 15. Speratus dixit: Christianus sum; et cum eo omnes consenserunt. 16. Saturninus proconsul dixit: Numquid ad deliberandum spatium vultis? 17. Speratus dixit: In re tam iusta nulla est deliberatio. 18. Saturninus proconsul dixit: Quae sunt res in capsa vestra? 19. Speratus dixit: Libri et epistulae Pauli viri iusti. 20. Saturninus proconsul dixit: Moram XXX dierum habere et recordemini. 21. Speratus iterum dixit: Christianus sum; et cum eo omnes consenserunt. 22. Saturninus proconsul decretum ex tabella recitavit: Speratum, Nartzalum, Cittinum, Donatam, Vestiam, Secundam et ceteros ritu Christiano se vivere confessos, quoniam oblata sibi facultate ad Romanorum morem redeundi obstinanter perseveraverunt, gladio animadverti placet. 23. Speratus dixit: Deo gratias agimus. 24. Nartzalus dixit: Hodie martyres in caelis sumus: Deo gratias. 25. Saturninus proconsul per praeconem dici iussit: Speratum, Nartzalum, Cittinum, Veturium, Felicem, Aquilinum, Laetantium, Ianuarium, Generosam, Vestiam, Donatam, Secundam duci iussi. 26. Universi dixerunt: Deo gratias. 27. Et ita omnes simul martyrio coronati sunt, et regnant cum Patre et Filio et Spiritu Sancto per omnia saecula saeculorum. Amen.

bis: for the second time
in secretario inpositis: put before court (a secretarium was a closed courtroom)
proconsul –is (m.): governor of a province
indulgentia: indulgence, mildness
promereo –ui: to deserve or in a juridical sense `to be entitled to’
iniquitas –atis (f.): injustkice
operam praebeo = operam dare `to give attention to’
male accepti: ill treated
gratias egimus: suffering was seen as a special favour of God and something to be thankful for
imperatorem nostrum: God
observo: to honour
simplex: simple iuro: to swear
genius: titular deity, the divine part of a person, especially the emperor
supplico: to pray
praebuo aures: to listen (Si tranquillas praebueris aures tuas: if you listen quietly)
mysterium simplicitatis: Speratus refers back to the earlier simplex.
initianti tibi mala:  to you revealing negative things
saeculum: world
furtum: theft
emo emi emptum: to buy
teloneum: (an unpopular) tax on the purchase of goods
persuasio –onis (f.): conviction
mala est persuasio homicidium facere: again Speratus uses a word earlier used by Saturninus. Of course Christians considered their persecution and trail not as legal, but as murder.
dementia: madness
honorem (da)
quod sum, ipsud (= ipsum) volo esse: what I am, that very thing I want to be (namely a Christian)
numquid ad deliberandum spatium: some time for consideration
capsa: bookcase
libri: the gospels. Probably some version of the Vetus Latina, the latin translation in use before the Vulgate translation. There was not a fixed canon at that moment, but the gospels and the letters of Paul belonged to the core of the biblical writings used by Christian communities.
moram XXX dierum habere: i.e. period of thirty days to reconsider their stubborn attitude
recordor recordatus: to think over
decretum: decision (of the court)
tabula: writing tablet covered with wax
oblata sibi facultate ad Romanorum morem redeundi: though the possibility has been given for them to return to the way of life of the Romans
gladio animadverti placet: it behoves (the proconsul) (them) to be punished with the sword
praeco –onis (m.): herald
duci: to be led away (to the place of their execution)
martyrium: martyrdom

Ante-Nicene Fathers Vol. IX, The Passion of the Scillitan Martyrs
Various, translated by Philip Schaff et al.

When Praesens, for the second time, and Claudianus were the consuls, on the seventeenth day of July, at Carthage, there were set in the judgment-hall Speratus, Nartzalus, Cittinus, Donata, Secunda and Vestia. Saturninus the proconsul said: Ye can win the indulgence of our lord the Emperor, if ye return to a sound mind. 2. Speratus said: We have never done ill, we have not lent ourselves to wrong, we have never spoken ill, but when ill-treated we have given thanks; because we pay heed to our Emperor. 3. Saturninus the proconsul said: We too are religious, and our religion is simple, and we swear by the genius of our lord the Emperor, and pray for his welfare, as ye also ought to do. 4. Speratus said: If thou wilt peaceably lend me thine ears, I can tell thee the mystery of simplicity. 5. Saturninus said: I will not lend mine ears to thee, when thou beginnest to speak evil things of our sacred rites; but rather swear thou by the genius of our lord the Emperor. 6. Speratus said: The empire of this world I know not; but rather I serve that God, whom no man hath seen, nor with these eyes can see. I have committed no theft; but if I have bought anything I pay the tax; because I know my Lord, the King of kings and Emperor of all nations. 7. Saturninus the proconsul said to the rest: Cease to be of this persuasion. 8. Speratus said: It is an ill persuasion to do murder, to speak false witness. 9. Saturninus the proconsul said: Be not partakers of this folly. 10. Cittinus said: We have none other to fear, save only our Lord God, who is in heaven. 11. Donata said: Honour to Caesar as Caesar: but fear to God. 12. Vestia said: I am a Christian. 13. Secunda said: What I am, that I wish to be. 14. Saturninus the proconsul said to Speratus: Dost thou persist in being a Christian? 15. Speratus said: I am a Christian. And with him they all agreed. 16. Saturninus the proconsul said: Will ye have a space to consider? 17. Speratus said: In a matter so straightforward there is no considering. 18. Saturninus the proconsul said: What are the things in your chest? 19. Speratus said: Books and epistles of Paul, a just man. 20. Saturninus the proconsul said: Have a delay of thirty days and bethink yourselves. 21. Speratus said a second time: I am a Christian. And with him they all agreed. 22. Saturninus the proconsul read out the decree from the tablet: Speratus, Nartzalus, Cittinus, Donata, Vestia, Secunda and the rest having confessed that they live according to the Christian rite, since after opportunity offered them of returning to the custom of the Romans they have obstinately persisted, it is determined that they be put to the sword. 23. Speratus said: We give thanks to God. 24. Nartzalus said: To-day we are martyrs in heaven; thanks be to God. 25. Saturninus the proconsul ordered it to be declared by the herald: Speratus, Nartzalus, Cittinus, Veturius, Felix, Aquilinus, Laetantius, Januaria, Generosa, Vestia, Donata and Secunda, I have ordered to be executed. 26. They all said: Thanks be to God. 27. And so they all together were crowned with martyrdom; and they reign with the Father and the Son and the Holy Ghost, for ever and ever. Amen.

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?