Archive for the ‘Plutarch’ Category
καὶ καθάπερ ὅταν ἐν συλλόγῳ τινὶ σιωπὴ γένηται, τὸν Ἑρμῆν ἐπεισεληλυθέναι λέγουσιν, οὕτως ὅταν εἰς συμπόσιον ἢ συνέδριον γνωρίμων λάλος εἰσέλθῃ, πάντες ἀποσιωπώσι μὴ βουλόμενοι λαβὴν παρασχεῖν.
And just as, when a silence occurs in a meeting, they say ‘Hermes has come in’, so when a chatterbox comes in to a dinner-party or a gathering of friends, everyone falls silent, not wishing to let him get a hold.
The ancient equivalent of taking a deep breath and counting to ten.
Ἀθηνοδώρῳ δὲ τῷ φιλοσόφῳ διὰ γῆρας εἰς οἶκον ἀφεθῆναι δεηθέντι συνεχώρησεν. ἐπεὶ δὲ ἀσπασάμενος αὐτὸν ὁ Ἀθηνόδωρος εἶπεν, “ὅταν ὀργισθῇς, Καῖσαρ, μηδὲν εἴπῃς μηδὲ ποιήσῃς πρότερον ἢ τὰ εἰκοσι καὶ τέτταρα γράμματα διελθεῖν πρὸς ἑαυτόν,” ἐπιλαβόμενος αὐτοῦ τῆς χειρός, “ἔτι σοῦ παρόντος,” ἔφη, “χρείαν ἔχω”, καὶ κατέσχεν αὐτὸν ἐνιαυτὸν ὅλον, εἴπων ὅτι “ἔστι καὶ σιγῆς ἀκίνδυνον γέρας.”
He granted the request of the philosopher Athenodorus, who asked to be allowed to return home because of his old age. But when Athenodorus was taking his leave he said, ‘Whenever you get angry, Caesar, say nothing and do nothing before you have run through the twenty-four letters of the alphabet to yourself.’ Augustus seized hold of his hand and said, ‘I still need you to be here!’ and kept him for a whole year, saying ‘The reward of silence is a lack of risk’ [Simonides, fr. 582].
Plutarch, priest of Apollo at Delphi, doesn’t really approve of Egyptian religion.
τοῦτο δ’ οὐχ ἥκιστα πεπόνθασιν Αἰγύπτιοι περὶ τὰ τιμώμενα τῶν ζῴων. Ἕλληνες μὲν γὰρ ἔν γε τούτοις λέγουσιν ὀρθῶς καὶ νομίζουσιν ἱερὸν Ἀφροδίτης ζῷον εἶναι τὴν περιστερὰν καὶ τὸν δράκοντα τῆς Ἀθηνᾶς καὶ τὸν κόρακα τοῦ Ἀπόλλωνος καὶ τὸν κύνα τῆς Ἀρτέμιδος, ὡς Εὐριπίδης· “Ἑκάτης ἄγαλμα φωσφόρου κύων ἔσῃ”· Αἰγυπτίων δ’ οἱ πολλοὶ θεραπεύοντες αὐτὰ τὰ ζῷα καὶ περιέποντες ὡς θεοὺς οὐ γέλωτος μόνον οὐδὲ χλευασμοῦ καταπεπλήκασι τὰς ἱερουργίας, ἀλλὰ τοῦτο τῆς ἀβελτερίας ἐλάχιστόν ἐστι κακόν· δόξα δ’ ἐμφύεται δεινὴ τοὺς μὲν ἀσθενεῖς καὶ ἀκάκους εἰς ἄκρατον ὑπερείπουσα τὴν δεισιδαιμονίαν, τοῖς δὲ δριμυτέροις καὶ θρασυτέροις εἰς ἀθέους ἐμπίπτουσα καὶ θηριώδεις λογισμούς.
The Egyptians have fallen into no less an error in their worship of animals. For the Greeks speak of these matters in the correct way, and consider the dove to be the sacred animal of Aphrodite, the snake that of Athena, the raven that of Apollo, and the dog that of Artemis – as Euripides says: ‘You shall be a dog, the image of Hecate the torch-bearer.’ But most of the Egyptians do honour to the animals themselves and treat them with respect as though they were gods; not only have they filled the sacred rites with laughter and mockery – this is the smallest evil to come out of their silliness – but a terrible belief is implanted, which casts the weak and guileless into superstition and which brings down the more shrewd and bold into atheism and savage theorising.
περὶ δὲ τῶν Δημοσθένους λόγων ἐρωτηθείς, τίνα δοκοίη κάλλιστον εἶναι, τὸν μέγιστον εἶπε.
When he was asked which of Demosthenes’ speeches he thought the best, he said, ‘The longest one.’
It’s the thought that counts.
Ἀρταξέρξης ὁ Περσῶν βασιλεύς, ὦ μέγιστε αὐτοκράτορ Καῖσαρ Τραϊανέ, οὐχ ἧττον οἰόμενος βασιλικὸν καὶ φιλάνθρωπον εἶναι τοῦ μεγάλα διδόναι τὸ μικρὰ λαμβάνειν εὐμενῶς καὶ προθύμως, ἐπεί, παρελαύνοντος αὐτοῦ καθ’ ὁδόν, αὐτουργὸς ἄνθρωπος καὶ ἰδιώτης οὐδὲν ἔχων ἕτερον ἐκ τοῦ ποταμοῦ ταῖς χερσὶν ἀμφοτέραις ὕδωρ ὑπολαβὼν προσήνεγκεν, ἡδέως ἐδέξατο καὶ ἐμειδίασε, τῇ προθυμίᾳ τοῦ διδόντος οὐ τῇ χρείᾳ τοῦ διδομένου τὴν χάριν μετρήσας.
Artaxerxes, the king of the Persians, o most high emperor Caesar Trajan, thought that receiving small gifts gladly and eagerly was no less regal and kindly to one’s fellow-men than giving large gifts. When Artaxerxes was riding past on the road, a man who was a farmer, and just a member of the general public, took up water from the river (because he had nothing else) in his two hands and offered it to him; the king accepted it pleasantly and with a smile, measuring the favour by the giver’s willingness rather than by the gift’s usefulness.
χαρίεντος ἀνδρός, ὦ Σόσσιε Σενεκίων, καὶ φιλανθρώπου λόγον ἔχουσι Ῥωμαῖοι διὰ στόματος, ὅστις ἦν ὁ εἰπών, ἐπὶ μόνος ἐδείπνησεν, “βεβρωκέναι, μὴ δεδειπνηκέναι σήμερον”, ὡς τοῦ δείπνου κοινωνίαν καὶ φιλοφροσύνην ἐφηδύνουσαν ἀεὶ ποθοῦντος.
Sossius Senecio, the Romans keep quoting the words of a charming and kind-hearted man who said, when he had dined alone, ‘I have eaten, but I have not dined today’ – since a dinner always needs sociability and friendliness as its seasoning.
ὁ μέντοι πρῶτος ἐκ τοῦ γένους Κικέρων ἐπονομασθεὶς ἄξιος λόγου δοκεῖ γενέσθαι διὸ τὴν ἐπίκλησιν οὐκ ἀπέρριψαν οἱ μετ’ αὐτόν, ἀλλ’ ἠσπάσαντο, καίπερ ὑπὸ πολλῶν χλευαζομένην. κίκερ γὰρ οἱ Λατῖνοι τὸν ἐρέβινθον καλοῦσι, κἀκεῖνος ἐν τῷ πέρατι τῆς ῥινὸς διαστολὴν ὡς ἔοικεν ἀμβλεῖαν εἶχεν ὥσπερ ἐρεβίνθου διαφυήν, ἀφ’ ἧς ἐκτήσατο τὴν ἐπωνυμίαν. αὐτός γε μὴν Κικέρων, ὑπὲρ οὗ τάδε γέγραπται, τῶν φίλων αὐτὸν οἰομένων δεῖν, ὅτε πρῶτον ἀρχὴν μετῄει καὶ πολιτείας ἥπτετο, φυγεῖν τοὔνομα καὶ μεταθέσθαι, λέγεται νεανιευσάμενος εἰπεῖν, ὡς ἀγωνιεῖται τὸν Κικέρωνα τῶν Σκαύρων καὶ τῶν Κάτλων ἐνδοξότερον ἀποδεῖξαι.
The first member of the family who had the nickname ‘Cicero’ seems to have been worthy of note, because his descendants did not cast off the nickname, but were fond of it, even though it was ridiculed by many people. For Latin speakers call the chickpea ‘cicer’, and that ancestor, it seems, had a slight notch in the end of his nose, like the cleft in a chickpea, so from this he acquired the nickname. And when Cicero (the one about whom I am writing this biography) first began his public life and took up public office, his friends thought that he ought to drop or change his name, but he is said to have said, with youthful high spirits, that he would strive to make the name Cicero more renowned than Scaurus ['Bulging-ankles'] and Catulus ['Puppy'].
Is reading about women better than sleeping with them? (This passage might not be entirely without irony.)
τίς δ’ ἂν ἡσθείη συναναπαυσάμενος τῇ καλλίστῃ γυναικὶ μᾶλλον ἢ προσαγρυπνήσας οἷς γέγραφε περὶ Πανθείας Ξενοφῶν ἢ περὶ Τιμοκλείας Ἀριστόβουλος ἢ Θήβης Θεόπομπος;
Who would take more pleasure in sleeping with the most beautiful woman than in sitting up with what Xenophon wrote about Pantheia, or Aristobulus about Timocleia, or Theopompus about Thebe?
Caesar’s famous saying, as carried (in Latin) on placards in his triumphal procession. Plutarch gives a Greek version; Appian (Civil Wars 2.91) likewise says it was sent in a letter, while Dio Cassius (42.48) also alludes to it.
Φαρνάκην δὲ νικήσας τὸν Ποντικὸν ἐξ ἐφόδου πρὸς τοὺς φίλους ἔγραψεν· “ἦλθον, εἶδον, ἐνίκησα.”
After conquering Pharnaces of Pontus at the first assault, he wrote to his friends, ‘I came, I saw, I conquered.’
ἀλλ’ ὥσπερ ἡ παρ’ ἡμῖν ἔχει γῆ κόλπους βαθεῖς καὶ μεγάλους, ἕνα μὲν ἐνταῦθα διὰ στηλῶν Ἡρακλείων ἀναχεόμενον εἴσω πρὸς ἡμᾶς ἔξω δὲ τὸν Κάσπιον καὶ τοὺς περὶ τὴν Ἐρυθρὰν θάλατταν, οὕτως βάθη ταῦτα τῆς σελήνης ἐστὶ καὶ κοιλώματα.
But just as our Earth has large, deep gulfs, one here, pouring in towards us through the Pillars of Hercules, and the Caspian sea outside and the gulfs round the Erythraean sea, of the same sort are the deeps and hollows of the Moon.