aleator classicus

Reading at Random in Classical Literature

Symmachus, Letters 2.46.1-2

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Writing to his brother in AD 393, Symmachus waxes philosophical after some of his gladiators kill themselves. Peter Stothard discusses this rather discomfiting letter at the beginning of his excellent book On the Spartacus Road.

SYMMACHUS FLAVIANO FRATRI. ferunt Socraten, si quando excidit cupitis aut destinatis, id sibi utile, quod evenerat, aestimasse; nam meriti sui securus interpres ea coniectabat esse meliora, quae casus dabat, quam quae animus adpetebat. sequor sapientis exemplum et in bonam partem traho, quod Saxonum numerus morte contractus intra summam decretam populi voluptatibus stetit, ne nostrae editioni, si quid redundasset, accederet. nam quando prohibuisset privata custodia desperatae gentis impias manus, cum viginti et novem Saxonum fractas sine lacqueo fauces primus ludi gladiatorii dies viderit? nihil igitur moror familiam Spartaco nequiorem velimque, si ita facile factu est, hanc munificentiam principis Libycarum largitione mutari.

Symmachus sends greeting to his brother Flavianus. They say that, if Socrates ever missed out on something which he desired or strove for, he considered what had occurred to be beneficial to him; for as he had no concern for his own worth he interpreted those things – which fortune had given him – to be better than the things which his mind was aiming at. I am following the wise man’s example and taking in good part the fact that death has taken away a number of Saxons from the total number I had decreed for the enjoyment of the people – lest, if it were overabundant, it might work to the disadvantage of my show. For when could private guards have held back the impious hands of a desperate group of men, when the first day of the gladiatorial games saw twenty-nine Saxons strangled without a noose? Therefore I am not wasting any of my time on that troop, who are more worthless than Spartacus; and (if it could easily be done) I would gladly replace this spectacle for the emperor with a show of Libyan beasts.

Written by aleatorclassicus

August 19, 2011 at 12:00 PM

Posted in Symmachus

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