aleator classicus

Reading at Random in Classical Literature

Archive for April 2012

Tacitus, Annals 14.44

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In a Senate speech on the punishment of rebellious slaves, Gaius Cassius discusses the Roman practice of decimation, pour encourager les autres.

nam et ex fuso exercitu cum decimus quisque fusti feritur, etiam strenui sortiuntur. habet aliquid ex iniquo omne magnum exemplum, quod contra singulos utilitate publica rependitur.

For when every tenth man from a defeated army is killed with a club, the lot falls on even the brave men. Every great precedent has some injustice about it: the public good balances out the individual men.

Written by aleatorclassicus

April 26, 2012 at 12:00 PM

Posted in Tacitus

Sophocles, fr. 954

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χρόνος δ’ ἀμαυροῖ πάντα κεἰς λήθην ἄγει.

Time dims all things and leads them into oblivion.

Written by aleatorclassicus

April 25, 2012 at 12:00 PM

Posted in Sophocles

Naevius, Punic War, fr.1 Morel

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Here is an elegant fragment perhaps from the very opening of Naevius‘ poem on the Punic War. As Michael von Albrecht says, ‘the unusual luxury of invoking all nine Muses would chime with Naevius’ Campanian arrogance’!

novem Iovis concordes filiae sorores…

Nine sisters like-minded, Jupiter’s daughters…

Written by aleatorclassicus

April 24, 2012 at 12:00 PM

Posted in Naevius

Sophocles, fr. 930 (Radt)

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Preserved, like the fragment from two days ago, in Stobaeus’ Anthology.

κλέπτων δ’ ὅταν τις ἐμφανῶς ἐφευρεθῇ,
σιγᾶν ἀνάγκη, κἂν λάλον φορῇ στόμα.

When someone has been caught red-handed in theft, they need to keep silent, even if they bear a talkative mouth.

Written by aleatorclassicus

April 23, 2012 at 12:00 PM

Posted in Sophocles

Seneca, Mad Hercules 178

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dum fata sinunt vivite laeti.

While the fates allow it, live happily.

Written by aleatorclassicus

April 22, 2012 at 12:00 PM

Posted in Seneca the Younger

Sophocles, Tereus, fr.583 (Radt)

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Procne, sister of Philomela and wife of king Tereus, on the sorrows of women. This passage is the longest surviving fragment of Sophocles’ lost play.

νῦν δ’ οὐδέν εἰμι χωρίς· ἀλλὰ πολλάκις
ἔβλεψα ταύτῃ τὴν γυναικείαν φύσιν,
ὡς οὐδέν ἐσμεν. αἳ νέαι μὲν ἐν πατρὸς
ἥδιστον, οἶμαι, ζῶμεν ἀνθρώπων βίον·
τερπνῶς γὰρ ἀεὶ παῖδας ἁνοία τρέφει.
ὅταν δ’ ἐς ἥβην ἐξικώμεθ’ ἔμφρονες,
ὠθούμεθ’ ἔξω καὶ διεμπολώμεθα
θεῶν πατρῴων τῶν τε φυσάντων ἄπο,
αἱ μὲν ξένους πρὸς ἄνδρας, αἱ δὲ βαρβάρους,
αἱ δ’ εἰς ἀγηθῆ δώμαθ’, αἱ δ’ ἐπίρροθα.
καὶ ταῦτ’, ἐπειδὰν εὐφρόνη ζεύξῃ μία,
χρεὼν ἐπαινεῖν καὶ δοκεῖν καλῶς ἔχειν.

And now I am nothing on my own. But often have I seen women’s nature to be like this, since we are nothing. Young girls in their father’s house live, I think, the happiest life of all humanity. For folly always brings up children delightfully. But when we have reached the prime of life and are prudent, we are pushed out and sold, away from our ancestral gods and our parents, some of us to foreign husbands, some to barbarians, some to joyless homes, and some to abusive ones. And, when a single night has yoked us, this is what we must approve of and think of as a good life.

Written by aleatorclassicus

April 21, 2012 at 12:00 PM

Posted in Sophocles

Caesar, Gallic War 5.6

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Caesar is planning his second invasion of Britain; but the troublesome Dumnorix refuses to join him. Caesar records two of his excuses:

ille omnibus primo precibus petere contendit ut in Gallia relinqueretur, partim quod insuetus navigandi mare timeret, partim quod religionibus sese diceret impediri.

At first he strove to beg by every kind of entreaty that he should be left behind in Gaul, partly on the ground that, being unaccustomed to sailing, he was afraid of the sea, partly because he said that he was prevented by religious obligations.

Written by aleatorclassicus

April 20, 2012 at 12:00 PM

Posted in Caesar

Archilochus, fr. 201(W)

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Famous now because the title of Isaiah Berlin’s essay alludes to it.

πόλλ’ οἶδ’ ἀλώπηξ, ἀλλ’ ἐχῖνος ἓν μέγα.

The fox knows many things, but the hedgehog knows just one – and it’s a big thing.

Written by aleatorclassicus

April 19, 2012 at 12:00 PM

Posted in Archilochus

Horace, Odes 4.9.25-6

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vixere fortes ante Agamemnona

Before Agamemnon there lived many brave men. 

But, Horace goes on to say, they are no longer remembered because they were not celebrated in poetry. Agamemnon was lucky to have Homer memorialize him.

Written by aleatorclassicus

April 18, 2012 at 12:00 PM

Posted in Horace

Anonymous, Greek Anthology 14.6

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Book 14 of the Greek Anthology comprises epigrams that are puzzles of various sorts. Here’s a mathematical one. Answers on a postcard please!

“ὡρονόμων ὄχ’ ἄριστε, πόσον παρελήλυθεν ἠοῦς;”
“ὅσσον ἀποιχομένοιο δύο τρίτα, δὶς τόσα λείπει.”

‘Best by far of sundials, how much of the day has gone by?’ ‘Two thirds of what has passed – twice that much is left.’

Written by aleatorclassicus

April 17, 2012 at 12:00 PM

Posted in anonymi