ricardienne: (tacitus)



Quintilian, The Education of the Orator, 3.8.44-47:


Meanwhile, if you are trying to persuade someone good to do something shameful, remember not to try to persuade him on the grounds that it is shameful-- the way that some declaimers urge Sextus Pompey toward piracy with the very excuse that he is already dishonest and cruel. Rather, such ugly matters need to be given an angle. This obtains even with evil people: no one is so evil that he wants to seem so. Thus in Sallust, Catiline speaks so as to seem to be attempting the worst crime not out of wickedness but out of a sense of outrage; thus in Varius’s Thyestes, Atreus says: “Now I accept, now I am forced to commit the most unspeakable.” This ambition, as it were, has to be protected all the more in those audiences who are concerned about their reputation. That’s why when we advise Cicero to plead with Antony, even on the condition that he burn the Philippics (Antony promises to spare him if he does), we will not appeal to Cicero’s desire to live (because if this is a strong motive in his mind, it will be strong even if we don’t mention it). Rather, we exhort him to preserve himself for the good of the state. He needs this kind of excuse so that he can be unashamed to make such a plea. Similarly, when we are persuading Caesar to take absolute power, we assert that the state cannot be stable unless a single person rules it.  For someone who is considering a nefarious deed looks chiefly for how he can least appear to be committing a crime.
ricardienne: (tacitus)
Seriously Pliny, keep your Trajan-RPF to yourself...

Now I picture that future triumph: dripping not with plunder from the provinces or gold extorted from our allies, but with enemy arms and the chains of captive kings. I picture myself noting one by one the impressive names of chieftains and the bodies appropriate to those names. I imagine gazing on the litters burdened with barbarians’ massive and bold works, each one, his hands bound, following his own deeds. Then you yourself on high, standing on a chariot on the backs of conquered peoples, and before your chariot shields that you yourself pierced. Nor would you lack the “richest spoils”, if any king should dare to come within range, to shrink back as your throw not only your spear, but your threatening eyes across the whole field and the whole army.
--Pan.17.1-4
ricardienne: (york)
Velleius Paterculus, 2.41.3-43.1
Still a young man, he was captured by pirates, and his behavior among them for the whole duration of his captivity instilled equal measures of fear and respect. Never, either day or night (for why should the most important point be left out, simply because it cannot be said elegantly?) did he go without belt or shoes, to not become suspect, by varying anything from his usual routine, to the men who were guarding him merely with their eyes.

It would be too long to relate how many and what attempts he dared, how vehemently the magistrate of the Roman people who had been allotted the province of Asia failed to support these attempts out of his own cowardice. Consider it evidence of a man who would later survive much. When he was ransomed with funds from the local cities (on the condition that he force the pirates to give hostages beforehand), that very night he got together an adhoc and unofficial fleet, sailed to the pirates' location, where he put some of their ships to flight, sunk others, and captured a number of them along with many souls.

Rejoicing in his nocturnal expedition, he returned to his men in triumph, and, having turned over his captives into custody, he set out for Bithynia to Iuncus the Proconsul (who had been allotted this province as well as that of Asia), asking him to use his authority to execute the captured pirates. When Iuncus refused to do it and said that he would sell them instead, his sloth having turned into a grudge, Caesar sailed back with unbelievable speed. Before the Proconsul's dispatch on the subject could be given to anyone, he crucified all of his captives.

Subsequently, hastening back to Italy to take up a priesthood (he had been chosen Pontifex in the place of the distinguished Cotta)… to avoid being sighted by the pirates, who controlled all the seas and were understandable hostile to him, he embarked on a four-oared boat with only two companions and ten slaves and crossed the raging gulf of the Adriatic. During the crossing, he thought that he sighted the pirates' ships When he had thrown off his clothes and bound a dagger to his thigh, preparing himself for every eventuality of fortune, he then realized that his vision had been mistaken and that a stand of trees seen from an angle had given the appearance of masts.
ricardienne: (tacitus)
One of the problems with fantasy novels is that when you use magic for things like, say, encoding secret messages so that they look innocuous to anyone but their intended recipient, you take a lot of the potential fun out of it. Here are just three of the many examples of ways to send secret messages provided by Aeneas Tacticus (c. 4th/3rd century BCE?):

Send a man bearing a message or a letter about something unconcealed. When he is getting ready to set out, secretly put a message inside the soles of his sandals and sew them back up. (In case of mud or water, you should engrave it lightly on tin to provide against the letters vanishing because of the wet). When he arrives at the appropriate person and has gone to sleep, the recipient undoes the seams of his sandals, takes out the letter and reads it, writes another secretly while he is still sleeping, and, sewing it back up, sends the man back either to report or with another unconcealed letter. This way, no one else, and not even the bearer himself, will know. But you must make the stitching on the sandels as invisible as possible.

A letter was brought to Ephesus in the following manner. A man was sent with a letter written on leaves, and the leaves were bound into a poultice upon a wound on his leg.

A letter could also be sent via a woman's ears, if, instead of earings, she wore thin lead plates rolled up.
Aeneas Tacticus, "How to Survive A Siege", 31.4-7.
ricardienne: (library)
I was browsing the YA section at my public library branch yesterday, and pulled out something called Night School, by C.J. Daugherty. It's your standard rebellious teen + mysterious gothic boarding school + supernatural + love-triangle + ancient evil drivel, but as I was flipping through, a sheet of paper fell out; clearly an elementary/middle schooler's start to a fantasy novel. It made my really happy, you guys -- this is exactly what I was doing in 6th-7th grade. Also, I kind of feel that there is a lot more that is potentially interesting in this novel than in a lot of recently published YA fantasy! So I've transcribed it (supplements the editor has deemed absolutely necessary to the sense are in square brackets; italics represent ornamented capitals in the ms; and obelisks mark uncertain readings).

The Chronciles of Se

"Chastity, the high commander want to see you in his office. ...Now!" and with that the loud speaker clicked off. It seem that I was in trouble again. Making my way the nearly empty corridor to were the High Commander of the Realm reside. But before I open the, it flung open and handed me letters with the seal of the Western Royals and the North. I opened the first one on the way back to my room. It was from my niece empress Mollyania Malkovich †Jamesandsun. Such a long name for a small five year old. All it said was "I miss u, see you on your birthday. The next was from Cecile, my sister in-law, "Dearest †Adilssandra [Allessandra?], I want to be the first to congratulate you turning 15. It's a time of Freedom, but do remember your duties. I know you know that aleast 1,000 gentlemen have asked for hand. But Daneil sent them all packing. Duth has required you to be we[d] before you turn seventeen, since His Majesties health is decliny. Remember your a Malkovich Princess before general in the war. Kayta say her regards so does Mayla. The last letter had been from Her Excellency Ariel. "Excited about turning fifteen, I pondered last two months what to got you, but Maria had the best idea I hope you enjoy, From your spilt personality clone Ariel." At the bottom were a set of keys to a limo maybe. But when I reached my room I saw my gift awaiting. A motorcycle. Tomorrow I would go back to Ruby palace in Flaya. I did not understand why all except the Southern would have three whole day off.

Come on: wouldn't you read this? Apart from the fact that our main character seems to have two names, we've got court and family politics, what with a child empress and also (?) a dying emperor? (Is this Daneil or Duth? I think it's Daneil. Duth is perhaps the chancellor -- either a helpful and loyal adviser or an evil power-behind-the-throne holding the imperial family of Flaya basically hostage). And so Chastity/Adilssandra has to marry to shore up the succession? But she is also a a general on the staff of the High Commander (or maybe she is at the military academy?) and there's a war on! AND SHE HAS A SPLIT PERSONALITY CLONE. (Maybe everyone has one in this universe.) I think I sound like I am making fun. And, obviously, I am, a little bit. But it did honestly give me lot of pleasure to see this anonymous girl working through fantasy tropes and making up a story the way I did. Also, I would genuinely read this novel, split-personality clones and all.

Dear Writer of Chastity's story, I'm sorry that you lost your manuscript, and I hope you keep reading and keep writing. And keep packing your stories with girls! Because that's awesome.
ricardienne: (tacitus)
(To be filed under: Things that would doubtless be less amazing to me if I were less ignorant about medieval literature.)
For after deth clerkis lityl drede
After desert for to bere witnesse     185
Nor of a tyraunt the trouthe to expresse,
As men disserve withoute excepcioun;
With lak or prys thei graunt hem her guerdoun.
Wherfore me semeth every maner man
Schulde be his live in al that ever he can     190
For vertu only eschewe to don amys,
For after dethe, pleynly as it is,
Clerkis wil write, and excepte noon,
The pleyne trouthe whan a man is goon.

The part just before this is pretty good, too, although it doesn't push my sine ira et studio buttons in quite the same way: The trouthe only, whyche thei han compyled/ Unto this fyn - that we wer nat begyled... )

Also this:
Ovide also poetycally hath closyd
Falshede with trouthe, that maketh men ennosed    300
To whiche parte that thei schal hem holde;
His mysty speche so hard is to unfolde
That it entriketh rederis that it se.
Virgile also for love of Enee
In Eneydos rehersyth moche thyng
And was in party trewe of his writyng,
Exsepte only that hym lyst som whyle
The tracys folwe of Omeris stile.


"misty speech" that tricks readers through the very labor they have to expend in unfolding it sums up what Tacitus does very nicely, I think. Just in case you were wondering.

ricardienne: (york)
Failing at Nat'l Poetry Month, failing at school, failing at life. But. THIS POEM. (caveats: publication date 1948; casual racist and misogynist language & unfortunate implications; human sacrifice.)

Falling Asleep over the Aeneid
BY ROBERT LOWELL
An old man in Concord forgets to go to morning service. He falls asleep, while reading Vergil, and dreams that he is Aeneas at the funeral of Pallas, an Italian prince. [cf. Aeneid 11.29-99]

The sun is blue and scarlet on my page,
And yuck-a, yuck-a, yuck-a, yuck-a, rage
The yellowhammers mating. Yellow fire
Blankets the captives dancing on their pyre,
And the scorched lictor screams and drops his rod.
Trojans are singing to their drunken God,
Ares. Their helmets catch on fire. Their files
Clank by the body of my comrade— miles
Of filings! Now the scythe-wheeled chariot rolls
Before their lances long as vaulting poles,
And I stand up and heil the thousand men,
Who carry Pallas to the bird-priest. Then
The bird-priest groans, and as his birds foretold,
I greet the body, lip to lip. I hold
The sword that Dido used. It tries to speak,
A bird with Dido’s sworded breast. Its beak
Clangs and ejaculates the Punic word
I hear the bird-priest chirping like a bird. )
ricardienne: (york)
I'm really anxious about a lot of things (lack of dissertation topic, conference paper to write, bad teaching last week), but here are some bits of gnomic wisdom from Pindar:
Nemean 11
ll. 13-16
εἰ δέ τις ὄλβον ἔχων μορφᾷ παραμεύσεται ἄλλους,
ἔν τ᾽ ἀέθλοισιν ἀριστεύων ἐπέδειξεν βίαν,
θνατὰ μεμνάσθω περιστέλλων μέλη,
καὶ τελευτὰν ἁπάντων γᾶν ἐπιεσσόμενος:

If someone has wealth and outpaces everyone else in beauty, and showed his strength by excelling in competitions, let him remember that he decks out mortal limbs and will put on everyone's last garment of earth.

ll.39-48
ἐν σχερῷ δ᾽ οὔτ᾽ ὦν μέλαιναι καρπὸν ἔδωκαν ἄρουραι,
δένδρεά τ᾽ οὐκ ἐθέλει πάσαις ἐτέων περόδοις
ἄνθος εὐῶδες φέρειν πλούτῳ ἴσον,
ἀλλ᾽ ἐν ἀμείβοντι. καὶ θνατὸν οὕτως ἔθνος ἄγει
μοῖρα. τὸ δ᾽ ἐκ Διὸς ἀνθρώποις σαφὲς οὐχ ἕπεται
τέκμαρ: ἀλλ᾽ ἔμπαν μεγαλανορίαις ἐμβαίνομεν,
ἔργα τε πολλὰ μενοινῶντες: δέδεται γὰρ ἀναιδεῖ
ἐλπίδι γυῖα: προμαθείας δ᾽ ἀπόκεινται ῥοαί.
κερδέων δὲ χρὴ μέτρον θηρευέμεν:
ἀπροσίκτων δ᾽ ἐρώτων ὀξύτεραι μανίαι.

Since, you know, black fields don't give fruit in a row, and branches don't tend to bear at all the turns of the years a fragrant flower that is equally rich; but they alternate. Fate leads the mortal race, too, this way, and clear signs do not come from Zeus to humankind. But all the same we embark on proud ambitions, eager to do many deeds. For our limbs are fettered to unrestrainable hope, and Foreknowledge's streams are not nearby. But one must hunt out moderation in gain; and unattainable passions come with bitterer obsession.
ricardienne: (Default)
One of my favorite parts of Diana Wynne Jones' Tough Guide to Fantasyland is about the relative frequency of hares and rabbits:
s.v. "Hare" (DAW 1998 pp 118-19)
Hares are a distinct species from Rabbits, which they superficially resemble -- about as close to a Rabbit as a monkey is to a human -- but the Management will always try to kind you that they are the same thing. Hares do not dig burrows, but spend all their life above ground, running very hard. This is probably why they so often end up in Tourist traps. Because of their lifestyle, Hares taste bitter and their flesh is so tough that they should be hung for at least two days after slaughter. The Management, however, will want you to eat the Hare that same evening and will therefore call it a Rabbit. That night's Stew will be unpleasant and very hard to chew.


Of course, the necessity of using personal up-close experience to determine the truth about misleading reports about the frequencies of hares versus rabbits is nothing new. The pedantic and mostly unbearable Polybius complains about Timaeus (one of the major historians in the generation just before him) and his inaccurate reports on the wildlife on Corsica:
Book 12, Büttner-Wobst fr. 3.9-10
καθάπερ δὲ καὶ περὶ τῶν κατὰ Λιβύην ἀπεσχεδίακεν, οὕτως καὶ περὶ τῶν κατὰ τὴν νῆσον τὴν προσαγορευομένην Κύρνον. [8] καὶ γὰρ ὑπὲρ ἐκείνης μνημονεύων ἐν τῇ δευτέρᾳ βύβλῳ φησὶν αἶγας ἀγρίας καὶ πρόβατα καὶ βοῦς ἀγρίους ὑπάρχειν ἐν αὐτῇ πολλούς, ἔτι δ᾽ ἐλάφους καὶ λαγὼς καὶ λύκους καί τινα τῶν ἄλλων ζῴων, καὶ τοὺς ἀνθρώπους περὶ ταῦτα διατρίβειν κυνηγετοῦντας καὶ τὴν ὅλην τοῦ βίου διαγωγὴν ἐν τούτοις ἔχειν. [9] κατὰ δὲ τὴν προειρημένην νῆσον οὐχ οἷον αἲξ ἄγριος ἢ βοῦς, ἀλλ᾽ οὐδὲ λαγὼς οὐδὲ λύκος οὐδ᾽ ἔλαφος οὐδ᾽ ἄλλο τῶν τοιούτων ζῴων οὐδέν ἐστι, πλὴν ἀλωπέκων καὶ κυνίκλων καὶ προβάτων ἀγρίων. [10] ὁ δὲ κύνικλος πόρρωθεν μὲν ὁρώμενος εἶναι δοκεῖ λαγὼς μικρός, ὅταν δ᾽ εἰς τὰς χεῖρας λάβῃ τις, μεγάλην ἔχει διαφορὰν καὶ κατὰ τὴν ἐπιφάνειαν καὶ κατὰ τὴν βρῶσιν: γίνεται δὲ τὸ πλεῖον μέρος κατὰ γῆς.

Just as he [sc. Timaeus] made made up random stuff about the animals in Libya, so too his claims about those on the island called Kyrnos. For when he speaks about in his Book II, he says that it has wild goats and flocks and lots of wild cattle, and deer and hares and wolves and various other animals besides; that the people spend their time hunting them, and that this past-time occupies most of their lives. But on the aforementioned island not only are there no wild goats or cattle, but there are not even hares or wolves or deer or any other animals of that sort except for foxes and rabbits and wild flocks. Now the rabbit seen from far away seems to be a small hare, but when one takes it in one's hands, there is a great difference in its appearance and in its taste. And it exists for the most part below ground.
ricardienne: (chord)
Or: Diana Wynne Jones and Classics, an Ongoing Series.

Thinking about Dogsbody:

Marcus Manilius, Astronomica 5.734-45:
utque per ingentis populus discribitur urbes,
principiumque patres retinent et proximum equester 735
ordo locum, populumque equiti populoque subire
vulgus iners videas et iam sine nomine turbam,
sic etiam magno quaedam res publica mundo est
quam natura facit, quae caelo condidit urbem.
sunt stellae procerum similes, sunt proxima primis 740
sidera, suntque gradus atque omnia iusta priorum:
maximus est populus summo qui culmine fertur;
cui si pro numero vires natura dedisset,
ipse suas aether flammas sufferre nequiret,
totus et accenso mundus flagraret Olympo.

Just as throughout great cities the population is apportioned, and the senators have the first place, and the rank of Knights the next, and you can observe the common people coming after the knights and the idle crowd after the common people, and then the herd without report, so even the great universe has its republic, which nature made, which founded its city in the sky. There are stars just like leading men, there are stars just inferior to those highest in rank, and there are gradations of status and all the due privileges of higher rank. Greatest in number is the populace which is born on that highest summit; had nature given it strengths according to its number, the upper air itself would be unable to endure the flames, and the whole universe with enflamed Olympus would burn.
ricardienne: (library)
Suetonius, Lives of the Grammarians and Rhetors 22
Marcus Pomponius Porcellus, a supremely annoying enforcer of the Latin Language, kept on attacking a grammatical error made by his opponent in a certain trial (for he sometimes pled cases), so vociferously that Cassius Severus appealed to the judges and asked for a recess so that his client could bring in another grammarian, since he now thought he wouldn't be disputing with his opponent about a point of law but of usage.

This same Porcellus, when he had criticized a word in a speech of Tiberius and Ateius Capito affirmed that it was Latin and if it wasn't it certainly soon would be, then said: "Capito's lying. For you can give citizenship to men, Caesar, but you can't give it to words."
ricardienne: (heiro)
Apuleius' Apology (c. 158, A.'s defense speech, when accused by his in-laws of winning the affections of his (wealthy) wife by magic) is a pretty awesome and crazy thing: punning jokes about hair, really long dissertations on the importance of brushing your teeth, and snobbish insinuations along the lines of "you're probably too stupid to understand how mirrors work, Aemilianus, but if you ever got your hands on one, even you would be amused by the sight of your ugly face." This bit, however, is especially top-notch:

But if my accusers really think, in the manner of οἱ πολλοί, that I am actually a magician, one who commands the power of speaking with the immortal gods for whatever he desires, by a certain awesome virtue in his enchantments, then I really wonder why weren't afraid to accuse someone who they admit is capable of so much. For no caution can be taken around such a hidden and divine ability the way it can in other cases. Anyone who takes a hitman to court comes with a bodyguard; one who accuses a poisoner dines more carefully; he who lays charges against a thief guards his own possessions. So, one who is bringing such a magician as these men claim I am to court on a capital charge, with what bodyguard, with what precautions, with what safeties is he to prevent an invisible and inexorable destruction? Why with none at all. And that's why a charge of this nature does not arise from the sort of man who actually believes it.-- Apologia 26
ricardienne: (Default)
...but it makes me happy anyway.

vetustas pauca non depravat, multa tollit // there are few things age does not distort, much it deletes (Varro, De Lingua Latina, 5.5.1

Ego multos homines excellenti animo ac virtute fuisse sine doctrina, et naturae ipsius habitu prope divino per se ipsos et moderatos et gravis exstitisse fateor; etiam illud adiungo, saepius ad laudem atque virtutem naturam sine doctrina quam sine natura valuisse doctrinam. Atque idem ego hoc contendo, cum ad naturam eximiam et inlustrem accesserit ratio quaedam conformatioque doctrinae, tum illud nescio quid praeclarum ac singulare solere exsistere // I admit that many men have been of a superlative spirit and valor without training, and that by an almost divine personality of their very nature they have been through their very own capabilities self-controlled and worthy of consideration. I even add this: that nature has oftener been capabale of praise and valor without training than training without nature. And yet I would argue this, too: when some method and the shaping of training is applied to an outstanding and brilliant nature, then something amazing and really special usually comes about. (Cicero, Pro Archia Poeta, 15.5)
ricardienne: (library)
I picked up on a whim at the library book sale corner Fanny Kemble's Journal of a Residence on a Georgian Plantation, 1838-9 (ed. J.A. Scott, Brown Thrasher, 1984) written by the famous English actress who married a wealthy Philadelphian, whose family fortune owed to massive southern plantations. She was a confirmed abolitionist even before her marriage, and published -- after her divorce and return to England -- a journal from the period of her residence on her husband's plantation, written in the form of letters to a friend. She utterly fascinates me: there's quite a lot of self-righteous pronouncements (very entertainingly when about Americans) and Victorian moralizing, and many of her pronouncements on race and culture/"civilization" make one very uncomfortable. But she has some very pointed observations on the effects of racism in the North, and, throughout -- her capacity for snark and sarcasm! It is amazing.
Some choice extracts on American child-rearing, culture, and curfew (TW: food policing) )

But this bit I think is one of the most interesting, especially since Kemble was herself an actress, and from a family of Shakespearean actors. TW: racism and racist language )
ricardienne: (tacitus)
Atque in eam se consuetudinem adduxerunt ut locis frigidissimis neque vestitus praeter pelles haberent quidquam, quarum propter exiguitatem magna est corporis pars aperta...

"Furthermore, they have made themselves accustomed -- in the coldest parts of the world! -- to have no clothing apart from animal pelts, on account of whose scantiness the greater part of their body lies bare..."
--Caesar, BG IV.1
Cf. Diana Wynne Jones, The Tough Guide to Fantasyland, s.v. "Costume":
It is a curious fact that, in Fantasyland, the usual Rules, for Clothing are reversed. Here, the colder the climate, the fewer the garments worn. In the Snowbound North, the Barbarian Hordes wear little more than a fur loincloth and copper wristguards...
ricardienne: (chord)
I'm pretty sure this was a scene from Conrad's Fate, or Christopher wishes it had been!:

From Heliodorus's Aethiopica (7.27): the hero Theagenes has been enslaved by the wicked Persian princess Arsace (she wants to sleep with him; he wants to save himself for eventual marriage to the heroine), and has been entrusted to trusted slave Achaemenes for training:
Καὶ τοῦ Ἀχαιμένους ἀποδεικνύναι τι καὶ ὑφηγεῖσθαι τῶν οἰνοχοϊκῶν πειρωμένου προσδραμὼν ὁ Θεαγένης ἑνὶ τῶν κυλικοφόρων τριπόδων καὶ φιάλην τῶν πολυτίμων ἀνελόμενος «Οὐδὲν» ἔφη «δέομαι διδασκάλων, ἀλλ´ αὐτοδίδακτος ὑπουργήσω τῇ δεσποίνῃ τὰ οὕτω ῥᾷστα μὴ θρυπτόμενος· σὲ μὲν γάρ, ὦ βέλτιστε, ἡ τύχη εἰδέναι τὰ τοιαῦτα καταναγκάζει, ἐμοὶ δὲ ἡ φύσις τὰ πρακτέα καὶ ὁ καιρὸς ὑπαγορεύει.» Καὶ ἅμα προσέφερε τῇ Ἀρσάκῃ προσηνὲς κερασάμενος εὔρυθμόν τέ τι καὶ ἄκροις τοῖς δακτύλοις ἐποχῶν τὴν φιάλην.

When Achaemenes tried to demonstrate and instruct him in the arts of a wine-pourer, Theagenes, running up to one of the stands that held the cups and taking up one of the most valuable vessels, said, "I need no lessons, but I shall serve my mistress self-taught, not prancing around for such an easy task as this. For you, my good fellow, have been forced by your fortune to learn such things, but my nature and the moment instruct me in what has to be done." And at once he mixed an appropriate drink and carried it to Arsake, bearing the vessel in a rather graceful manner and in the tips of his fingers.
ricardienne: (Default)
Fredric Jameson Postmodernism, or, The Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism (1991: Duke University Press):
It is safest to grasp the concept of the postmodern as an attempt to think the present historically in an ages that has forgotten to think historically in the first place"


Peter W. Rose. "Historicizing Sophocles's Ajax in History, tragedy, theory: dialogues on Athenian drama, ed. Barbara Goff (1995: UTexas Press):
...we too in our culture need to come to grips with our deep emotional investments in our own John Waynes, Charles Bronsons, Chuck Norrises, and Clint Eastwoods -- with figures whose essential brutality, moral obtuseness, and gender-based emotional blockage we are constantly invited to forgive for the little behavioral crumbs evincing their stunted potential for human feeling.
ricardienne: (tacitus)
How could a certain violent and bitter indignation not have beset his noble mind more each day and deeply disturbed it? Who does not see that what contributed so much to the pleasing and happy style of writing, which he used as a young man, must have been altered? For this is the rule and nature of the human mind: if someone who has been enraged and savaged once achieves a moment of expounding what things anguish and oppress his mind, he will indulge his everlasting anger with voluble, outpouring speech. If on the other hand for a length of time he is forced to force in his soul's impetus, when at last the power of speaking is returned, having spent so much time in angry thoughts he will lay bare his old indignation in harsh, short, truncated, bitter turns of phrase. Tacitus, for fifteen years forced into unwilling idleness and shameful silence, oppressed and injured by exceptionally cruel rule, in which Domitian, with no intervals of time and pauses for breath, but, as it were, with a single blow drank down the commonwealth, Tacitus, who watched so great a slaughter of former consuls, so many exiles and near-escapes of the most highly-born ladies, drenched as if with "the blood of innocent Senecio," in mental suffering and anguish spent a life full and packed with continuous anger and indignation.

For which reason it is not strange at all that he, when he finally began to compose "the memory of prior servitude and witness of present goods," the ability to speak freely finally restored, he was unable to revive that blooming and luxuriant, copious and even style in which he had flourished as a young man, just as a field injured and stricken down by continuous rains does not resurrect its earlier original and luxuriant growth, especially when it had begun to put up rich and frequent ears of grain. Such a style no longer fit his stricken, afflicted, embittered soul; he was almost unable to use another style than the one he did: short and vigorous, sometimes harsh and bitter.

Quare fieri non poterat, quin dolor quidam vehemens et acerbus nobilem eius animum in diem magis occuparet et penitus perturbaret. Quod quantum valuerit ad gratum illud ac laetum diceudi genus, quo iuvenis usus erat, immutandum, quis non videt? Nam haec est animi humani ratio ac natura, ut, si quis iratus ac lacessitus statim nanciscatur occasionem aperiendi, quae animum angant et premant, oratione volubili, profluente, perenni irae indulgeat, si vero per quoddam tempus ad animi impetum coercendum cogatur, oblata tandem libere loquendi potestate, diu in cogitationibus iracundis versatus, indignationem inveteratam patefaciat sententiis asperis, brevibus, abruptis, acerbis. Per quindecim annos Tacitus ad invitam desidiam et turpe silentium coactus, durissimo imperio pressus ac vexatus, quo Domitianus non per intervalla et spiramenta temporum sed continuo et velut uno ictu rem publicam exhausit, tot consularium caedes, tot nobilissimarum feminarum exsilia et fugas intuitus, innocenti Senecionis sanguine quasi perfusus, vitam degerat animi dolore et angore, continua ira ac indignatione plenam ac refertam. Quare minime mirum, eum, cum recuperata tandem libere loquendi facultate „memoriam prioris servitutis et testimonium praesentium bonorum" componere inciperet, redintegrare non potuisse floridum illud ao laetum, numerosum et aequabile dicendi genus, quo iuvenis viguerat, sicut continuis imbribus vexata et prostrata seges non ad priorem integrum laetumque florem resurgit, cum praesertim uberes iam et frequentes spicas conceperit. Animo eius concusso, exacerbato, indignato talis sermo non amplius conveniebat; uti potuit oratione non fere alia, quam qua usus est, brevi et nervosa, interdum aspera et acerba. --De Tacito Dialogi Auctore, Johann Andreas Heinrich Gerard Jansen (Gronigen: 1878), 69-70
ricardienne: (tacitus)
It never ceases to amuse me that Tacitus literally *does not* call a spade a spade.

The only upside of having signed up for an article presentation in German (it was stupid, yes) is that I get to read pages and pages of 19th century German squee about Tacitus. That, I can get behind.


To be sure this style (the charming and comfortable style of Herodotus, Xenophon, and Livy) has its own great advantages. However, history contains greater themes which it is able to fulfill with difficulty. Powerful struggles, enormous vicissitudes of great individuals and whole nations, the irrepressible passions that wrestle with one another -- these will, if we are to be wholly aware of them, have to be portrayed in a different style than one whose primary aim is to amuse us. The greatest historians of antiquity are above all aware of these stronger themes: Thucydides, Sallust, and Tacitus, and one can say that their greatness lies even in this awareness. They discerned that the task of history was not to amuse, but to apprehend and to ravish, and to impart to the reader the same powerful movement that roars in the life of history." --Nipperdey, Die Antike Historiographie

Who writes semnôs (=with solemnity), he writes first of all in an high style. In all of ancient literature, which indeed until the time of its decline bore an aristocratic exclusivity, there was no writer (with just possibly Thucydides excepted), who wrote so thoroughly in a high register as Tacitus. "I hate everything that is common" sounds around us on every side. He never descends to the level of his reader, he insists that one come to him, but he makes it difficult: he disdains to insert pleasant digressions for the amusement of the reader; there are indeed a few digressions, but they do not serve pleasure, being rather, as in Thucydides and Sallust, political or cultural-historical or personal (especially Annals 4.32) in content.--Eduard Norden, Die Antike Kunstprosa
ricardienne: (tacitus)
The Possibilities of Mind Reading


Nikola Tesla........The Scientific American

It can be taken as a fact, which the theory of the action of the eye implies, that for each external impression, that is, for each image produced on the retina, the ends fo the visual nerves concerned in the conveyance of the impression to the mind must be under a peculiar stress or in a vibratory state. It now does not seem improbably that, when by the power of thought an image is evoked, a distant reflex action, no matter how weak, is exerted upon certain ends of the visual nerves, and, therefore, upon the retina. Will it ever be within human power to analyze the condition of the retina when disturbed by thought of reflect action, by the help of some optical or other means of such sensitiveness that a clear idea of its state might be gained at any time.

If this were possible, then the problem of reading one's thoughts with precision, like the characters of an open book, might be much easier to solve than many problems belonging to the domain of positive physical science, in the solution of which many if not the majority implicitly believe. Helmholtz has shown that the fundi of the eyes are themselves luminous, and he was able to see, in total darkness, the movement of his arm by the light of his own eyes. This is one of the most remarkable experiments recorded in the history of science, and probably only a few men could satisfactorily repeat it, for it is very likely that the luminosity of the eyes is associated with uncommon activity of the brain and great imaginative power. It is fluorescence of brain-action, as it were, in all its essential essence.
Current Literature vol. 14, 626 (1893)


First the late 19th century promised me airships adorned with gaily-colored lights, and now NIKOLA TESLA promises mind reading on totally scientific grounds! Why did the 20th century fail so much, you guys?

I'm also quite taken with this notion of ability to see in the dark correlating with brain power.

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