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.
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)
I stayed late ostensibly to finish rewriting a section, but while I was doing word searches, I got distracted by Pliny (the Younger).

This one is kind of bizarre (and totally irrelevant to what I'm working on, but whatever):

(Ep. 1.21) Dear Plinius Paternus
Just as I honor your mental discernment, so do I your visual -- not because you have so much good taste (don't get conceited!) but because you have exactly as much as I do (although this is no small amount!). Joking aside, I think the slaves I bought on your recommendation are quite suitable. It remains to be seen that they are reliable, which in chattel one judges more with the ears than with the eyes.
Gaius Plinius

What's interesting to me is the eyes/ears joke (?) at the end, because it's so reverse historiographical. *Everyone* knows that the eyes are more reliable than the ears, usually. I mean, I guess it's just "character > appearance" with excessive learned wit, but I want it to be something more... (Pliny is obsessed with historiography). Also, I think that Pliny would have been all over emoticons, if they had been available to him.
ricardienne: (tacitus)
...and I still don't have a suitable sight-reading passage to put on the exam I'm giving on Friday.

I have, however, been reading Valerius Maximus's "Memorable Deeds and Sayings," book two of which is a lot of random anecdotes about the way things were in back in the good old days (ValMax* is Tiberian), including things about how Back In the Good Old Days women weren't allowed to drink wine, and always sat at banquets instead of reclining. People don't usually give Valerius credit for a facultas snarkendi**, but I'm pretty sure that we need to give him snark points for things like "our era preserves this kind of strictness more carefully in the temples of the Capitoline [where Jove gets a ritual couch but Juno and Minerva get ritual chairs] than in our own homes; doubtless because it is more important to control the behavior of goddesses than mortal women."***

There's also a long section about how it used to be that What Happened in the Senate house Stayed in the Senate house," and it was all serious business.

Then there's this one:

2.2.2 How strenuously the ancient magistrates acted to preserve their own majesty and that of the Roman people can be see from this: that among other means of maintaining their dignity, they were especially careful that they would never speak to the Greeks expect in Latin. In fact, they even forced them to shake off their fluency -- which is their greatest strength -- and speak through interpreters, not only in our city, but even in Greece and Asia, so that the glory of the Latin language would spread with even more reverence among all the peoples of the world. They did not lack interest in learning, but they judged that there was no instance in which the pallium should not be made subject to the toga, thinking it improper that the weight and authority of empire be endowed with the enticements and literary elegance.

Way to be jerks about everything, Romans!

Then there is this one, one of my favorite Romans Doing Their Thing anecdotes:

2.2.4 [Fabius Maximus] was sent to Suessa as a legate to his son, who was then consul. Arriving, he noticed that he had come out of the city walls to meet him, and, offended that out of his son's eleven lictors none had ordered him to get down from his horse, he remained sitting, full of rage. When his son realized what was going on, he ordered his nearest lictor to get on with his duty [and command the legate to show respect to the consul and dismount]. As soon as he heard the order, Fabius said, "I was not being disrespectful of your authority, son, but I wanted to see if you knew how to act like a consul. I know what respect is due to a father, but I judge that public institutions are more powerful than filial piety."

*I do not originate this portmanteau. I think it would be more to the point if we also portmanteaued "Valerius Flaccus" into ValFlax"

**It's an objective genitive of the gerund. You're welcome.

***The definitive modern study on issues of dining posture and proper social relations is Matthew Roller's Dining Posture in Ancient Rome: Bodies, Values, and Status (Princeton, 2006), which is really awesome and breaks down the implicit clearly-defined dining roles implied by anecdotes like this one.
ricardienne: (heiro)
From Quintilian, Institutio Oratoria, 5.11.34:

Some people distinguish analogy from similarity; we consider it a subset of this trope. For "as one is to ten, so is ten to one hundred" is certainly based on similarity, and "a bad citizen is just like an enemy." Although these things often go too far, too, as for example: "if it is shameful for the mistress of the house to have intercourse with a slave, then it is shameful for the master to have intercourse with a slave girl."

The other thing I've been reading today (well, apart from 2.5 pages of a really tedious German article about the origins of "the garment of vanity" (lit: "the chiton of empty glory") (it's the last piece of clothing/passions philosophers remove, in case you were wondering)) is a book of short stories and poetry of John M. Ford: he likes his sci-fi/modernized antiquity, and I do too! The poetry I am not so into, with a few exceptions. The couplets about various topics in physics are very nice. An excerpt:

open/oscillating universe
So will it stop, or not? The answer tells
Much less about the stars than of ourselves.

Planck epoch
One flash when gravity was consummate--
No era spans less time, or greater weight.

quantum leap
The particle is here, and then is there --
But never in between. How does it dare?

I also like the "Sf Clichés: A sonnet cycle" (there's a reason Lois McMaster Bujold is almost the limit of my interest in sci-fi, and that reason can be succinctly summed as "space feudalism!"):

1: Galactic Empires
One would not think that Empire could survive
As starships Roman cavalry displace;
The politics of Space must needs derive
From Einstein's time, Planck's heat and Riemann's space.
Yet "history repeats," some (heedless) say,
Analogies persist, however crude,
And democratic notions all give way
To fealty and service, fief and feud.
The Empire will not die, as mortals must,
The purple of their robes is colorfast;
Their golden age untouched by moth or rust,
And liberties, it seems cannot outlast
The paper image of a narrow Rome
Bestrode by cardboard Caesars dressed in chrome.
ricardienne: (tacitus)
Cicero: De Republica, I.17. As soon as Scipio had spoken, he saw L. Furius coming, and, as he greeted him, embraced him most lovingly wondrous affectionately with particular friendship amicissime and set him in his own bed.

*snerk* Because Scipio is still in bed, you see:

idem, I.18. Scipio had just spoken when a servant announced that Laelius was coming to visit and had already left his house. Then Scipio, when he put on his sandals and clothing, walked out of the bedroom, and just as he came through the courtyard, greeted Laelius as he came in, and those who came with him. <...> When had greeted them all, he turned toward the courtyard and put Laelius in the middle; for this was the practice in their friendship, as a sort of reciprocal right: that on campaign, Laelius would honor Scipio like a god, because of his outstanding glory in war, and that at home, in turn, Sciptio would respect Laelius, who was he elder, like a parent.

My Cambridge-green-and-yellow guide, Professor Zetzel, warns me that all of the politeness and decorous greeting might be as much of a fictitious ideal as the content of the dialogue: "one wonders if the aristocrats of Cicero's day behaved so nicely" (I paraphrase). Which is interesting, if it is true, because I *think* that little scenes of "Roman gentlemen behaving like good, well-bred Roman gentlemen" appear often-ish in 'golden-age Latin' (they're definitely in Livy, all over), but I don't think I've seen any in e.g. Seneca or Tacitus (moral examples yes: all over. But not politeness examples). Hm.
ricardienne: (Default)
I was wandering through Seneca the Elder today... controversiae are hilarious:

The Man Released By his Son the Pirate King
A certain man, when his wife died, from whom he had two sons, married another. He convicted one of the youths at home of parricide; he handed him over to his brother to be punished, who put him in a faulty boad. The youth, carried toward pirates, was made Pirate King (nb the word is archipirata, in case you were wondering). Later the father, having set out abroad, was captured by him and set free to go back home. He disinherits the other son [for disobedience].

The Madman who Married his Daughter to his Slave
A tyrant permitted slaves to rape their mistresses, having killed their masters. The leading men of the city fled; among them one who had a son and a daughter set out abroad. Although all the slaves violated their mistresses, his slaves preserved [his daughter] as a virgin. The tyrant killed, the leading men returned; they put their slaves to the cross. But this man manumitted his slave and gave him his daughter. He is accused by his son of madness.

Or this (tyrants are always fun:
The man beaten by his son in the Citadel
The tyrant called the father with his two sons to the citadel. He ordered the youths to beat (nb the word usually means "kill" but that obviously doesn't work; is also can mean "sodomize"...) their father. One of them flung himself off the citadel, the other beat him. After, he was received into the tyrant's friendship. When the tyrant was killed, he got the reward. The son is to be punished [for striking his father]. His father defends him

So are pirates:
The Prostitute-Priestess
A certain virgin, captured by pirates, was put up for sale. She was bought by a pander and prostituted. She begged alms from her clients. A soldier who had come to her, when she couldn't beg from him, and he was struggling and trying to rape her, she killed. Accused and absolved, she was returned to her family. She seeks a priesthood.

The Tyrannicide Freed by Pirates
A certain killed one brother, a tyrant, and the other when he caught him in adultery, in spite of his father's pleading. Captured by pirates, he write his father about ransom. The father wrote a letter to the pirates: if they cut off his hands first, he would give them double The pirates release him [with hands]. He isn't supporting his impoverished father.

Okay, there are a fair number of more "normal" ones about adopting/disinheriting children, whether or not to bury a suicide, whether Cicero's killer, whom Cicero had previously defended, is guilty of ingratitude. But they aren't nearly as much fun.
ricardienne: (Default)
I came across an awesome epigram today: Tacite vous apprend à vous taire et à vous tuer. Why is it awesome? Because when you think about it: what the heck does it actually mean? In what way is it even true? (I mean, apart from the obvious, that after reading all the way through the Annals, you will have amassed a large repertory of ways to kill yourself, from poison, to starvation, to open veins ± bath, to stabbing, to having someone else do the stabbing, to making them kill you, to throwing a party and draining a little blood out periodically over the course of the evening...)
But it sounds so convincing and authoritative.

Also, I read a very silly article whining about Livy falsifying history, but it did lead me to this very cute passage:

[Fabius Maximus Cunctator, (a great general, former dictator, war hero, etc.)] came to the camp in Suessula as a legate to his son[, the consul]. The son happened to be going out and his lictors, in modesty of his state, were preceding him silently, when the old man was traveling up on horseback. When the consul ordered the nearest lictor to take notice, and he in turn shouted out that he should descend from the horse, the old man said, only then dismounting: "I wanted to find out for myself, son, whether you knew well enough that you were a consul."(XII.44)

Awwww. Ancient Romans are so adorable when they get hung up over precedence.


ricardienne: (Default)

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