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Reading at Random in Classical Literature

Archive for October 2013

Pliny the Elder, Natural History 8.80

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Happy Hallowe’en!

homines in lupos verti rursusque restitui sibi falsum esse confidenter existimare debemus aut credere omnia quae fabulosa tot saeculis comperimus.

We ought to judge with confidence that it is a falsehood that humans can be turned into wolves and then be restored to their own form; or else we ought to believe all the tales which we have learned, through so many centuries, to be the stuff of fiction.

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October 31, 2013 at 12:00 PM

Posted in Pliny the Elder

Alcidamas, On those who write speeches 5

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ἔστι δ’ ἅπαντα τὰ μὲν ἀγαθὰ καὶ καλὰ σπάνια καὶ χαλεπὰ καὶ διὰ πόνων εἰωθότα γίγνεσθαι, τὰ δὲ ταπεινὰ καὶ φαῦλα ῥᾳδίαν ἔχει <τὴν> κτῆσιν.

Everything good and fair is scarce and difficult, and generally comes into being through hard work; but things which are poor and trivial are easy to obtain.

(This is the 500th throw of my dice. Thank you for reading!)

Written by aleatorclassicus

October 28, 2013 at 12:00 PM

Posted in Alcidamas

Frontinus, On the Water-Supply of the City of Rome 1.11

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quae ratio moverit Augustum, providentissimum principem, perducendi Alsietinam aquam, quae vocatur Augusta, non satis perspicio, nullius gratiae, immo etiam parum salubrem ideoque nusquam in usus populi fluentem; nisi forte cum opus Naumachiae adgrederetur, ne quid salubrioribus aquis detraheret, hanc proprio opere perduxit et quod Naumachiae coeperat superesse, hortis adiacentibus et privatorum usibus ad inrigandum concessit.

What the reason was which prompted Augustus, a most prudent ruler, to bring in a water-supply from Alsium (which is known as the ‘Augustan’ water-supply), I cannot fully ascertain; there is nothing good about it, and in fact it is all too unwholesome, for which reason it nowhere runs for the use of the general population. The reason could perhaps have been that when Augustus set about the construction of his Naumachia, he brought in this water in its own conduit, so that he would not be drawing water away from the more wholesome water-supplies – and because there then began to be more water than was needed for the Naumachia, he allowed it to be used in the neighbouring gardens and by private citizens for the purpose of irrigation.

Written by aleatorclassicus

October 27, 2013 at 12:00 PM

Posted in Frontinus

Aristotle, On the Generation of Animals 746b7-13 (=2.9.8)

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λέγεται δὲ καὶ τὸ περὶ τῆς Λιβύης παροιμιαζόμενον ὡς “ἀεί τι τῆς Λιβύης τρεφούσης καινόν”, διὰ τὸ μίγνυσθαι καὶ τὰ μὴ ὁμόφυλα ἀλλήλοις λεχθῆναι τοῦτο· διὰ γὰρ τὴν σπάνιν τοῦ ὕδατος ἀπαντῶντα πάντα πρὸς ὀλίγους τόπους τοὺς ἔχοντας νάματα μίγνυσθαι καὶ τὰ μὴ ὁμογενῆ.

And it is also said that the proverb concerning Libya, that ‘Libya always brings forth some new thing’, has been coined because even creatures which are not of the same species breed with each other. For because of the lack of water all the animals meet at the few places which have springs, and then breed, even if they are of different kinds.

Written by aleatorclassicus

October 26, 2013 at 12:00 PM

Posted in Aristotle

Ammianus Marcellinus, History 29.1.15-16

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et quia fallere non minus videtur qui gesta praeterit sciens quam ille qui numquam facta fingit, non abnuimus – neque enim ambigitur – salutem Valentis et antea saepius per occultas coitiones, et tunc in extrema demersam, ferrumque ad iugulum eius prope adactum a militaribus, fato reflectente depulsum, quem lacrimosis in Thracia discriminibus destinarat. namque et in nemoroso quodam inter Antiochiam et Seleuciam loco leni quiete post meridiem consopitus, a Sallustio tunc scutario, et saepe alias adpetitus insidiantibus multis, vitae terminis a primigenio ortu adscriptis ausa inmania frenantibus evadebat.

And because one who knowingly passes over things that were done seems no less deceitful than one who makes up things that never happened, I do not deny – for there is no doubt – that the personal safety of Valens was plunged into the greatest danger, both at this time and on several previous occasions through secret conspiracies, and that a sword was very nearly thrust into his throat by the soldiers; it was turned away by the influence of Fate, which had destined him for lamentable crises in Thrace. For as he was quietly taking an afternoon nap in a wooded place between Antioch and Seleucia, he was attacked by Sallustius, who was at that time his armed guard, and he was often attacked on other occasions by many ambushers, but he escaped them because the limits of his life assigned to him at the moment of his birth reined in these monstrous acts of daring.

Written by aleatorclassicus

October 23, 2013 at 12:00 PM

Homeric Hymn 4 to Hermes, 17-19

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Hermes grows up fast.

ἠῷος γεγονὼς μέσῳ ἤματι ἐγκιθάριζεν,
ἑσπέριος βοῦς κλέψεν ἑκηβόλου Ἀπόλλωνος
τετράδι τῇ προτέρῃ, τῇ μιν τέκε πότνια Μαῖα.

Born at dawn, by midday he was playing on the lyre;  in the evening he stole the cattle of Apollo the far-shooter, on the fourth of the month, the day when lady Maia gave birth to him.

Written by aleatorclassicus

October 22, 2013 at 12:00 PM

Posted in anonymi

Cicero, Letters to Atticus 7.9.1-2

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‘cottidiene,’ inquis, ‘a te accipiendae litterae sunt?’ si habebo cui dem, cottidie. ‘at iam ipse ades.’ tum igitur cum venero desinam. unas video mihi a te non esse redditas quas L. Quinctius, familiaris meus, cum ferret ad bustum Basili vulneratus et despoliatus est. videbis igitur num quid fuerit in iis quod me scire opus est.

You are asking, ‘Am I to receive a letter from you every day?’ As long as I have someone to give it to, then yes, every day. ‘But you are already here in person.’ When I do actually arrive I shall stop writing. I see that one letter from you to me has not been delivered: it was being carried by Lucius Quinctius, a friend of mine, when he was robbed and wounded at the tomb of Basilus. So do see whether there was anything in it that I need to know.

Cicero is writing from Formiae, down the road from Rome on the Appian Way, on December 27th, 50 BC, at the end of a long journey back from his province in Cilicia.

Written by aleatorclassicus

October 21, 2013 at 12:00 PM

Posted in Cicero

Plutarch, On Talkativeness 502f-503a

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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.

Written by aleatorclassicus

October 20, 2013 at 12:00 PM

Posted in Plutarch

Lucretius, On the Nature of Things 1.926-930

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avia Pieridum peragro loca nullius ante
trita solo. iuvat integros accedere fontis
atque haurire, iuvatque novos decerpere flores
insignemque meo capiti petere inde coronam
unde prius nulli velarunt tempora Musae.

I traverse the unfrequented places of the Pierides, never before trodden by the foot of man. It pleases me to approach the untouched springs and drink them in, and it pleases me to pluck new flowers, and to seek for my head a garland of distinction from this place, from which the Muses have never previously wreathed any man’s temples.

Written by aleatorclassicus

October 14, 2013 at 12:00 PM

Posted in Lucretius

Scythinus, On Nature fr.2

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This fragment is preserved in Stobaeus (1.8.43). I’ve presented it as prose here, based on the text of Edmonds’ Loeb edition (Elegy and Iambus Vol.2): the new Loeb of Gerber omits it as it ‘seems to be a prose version of trochaic tetrameters’.

ὕστατον πρῶτον τε πάντων ἐστὶν ἀνθρώποις χρόνος, 
πάντ’ ἔχων ἐν αὐτῷ, κἄστιν εἷς κοὐκ ἔστ’ ἀεί.
 καὶ παρῳχωκὼς πάρεστι καὶ παρεὼν παροίχεται,
 ἐκ δ’ ἐνεόντος αὐτὸς αὐτῷ νεῖτ’ ἐναντίην ὁδόν.
 τωὔριον γὰρ ἡμὶν ἔργῳ χθές, τὸ δὲ χθὲς αὔριον.

The first and last of all things for men is Time, which has all things in it and is ever one and not one. And it is here when it has passed, and it passes when it is here. Being inside itself it runs in the opposite direction to itself. For what to us seems tomorrow is really yesterday, and yesterday is tomorrow.

Written by aleatorclassicus

October 5, 2013 at 12:00 PM

Posted in Scythinus