Monday, January 22, 2018

 

The Laws

[Demosthenes] 25 (Against Aristogeiton, I), § 16 (tr. J.H. Vince):
The law is that which all men ought to obey for many reasons, but above all because every law is an invention and gift of the gods, a tenet of wise men, a corrective of errors voluntary and involuntary, and a general covenant of the whole State, in accordance with which all men in that State ought to regulate their lives.

[sc. νόμῷ] πάντας πείθεσθαι προσήκει διὰ πολλά, καὶ μάλισθ᾿ ὅτι πᾶς ἐστι νόμος εὕρημα μὲν καὶ δῶρον θεῶν, δόγμα δ᾿ ἀνθρώπων φρονίμων, ἐπανόρθωμα δὲ τῶν ἑκουσίων καὶ ἀκουσίων ἁμαρτημάτων, πόλεως δὲ συνθήκη κοινή, καθ᾿ ἣν πᾶσι προσήκει ζῆν τοῖς ἐν τῇ πόλει.
Id., § 24:
All the noble and reverend qualities that adorn and preserve our city,—sobriety, orderliness, the respect of your younger men for parents and elders—hold their own, backed by the laws, against the base qualities of indecency, audacity, and shamelessness.

πάντα γὰρ τὰ σεμνὰ καὶ καλὰ καὶ δι᾿ ὧν ἡ πόλις κοσμεῖται καὶ σῴζεται, ἡ σωφροσύνη, πρὸς τοὺς γονέας καὶ τοὺς πρεσβυτέρους ὑμῶν ἡ παρὰ τῶν νέων αἰσχύνη, ἡ εὐταξία, τῇ τῶν νόμων προσθήκῃ τῶν αἰσχρῶν περίεστι, τῆς ἀναισχυντίας, τῆς θρασύτητος, τῆς ἀναιδείας.
In the latter passage, I noticed an error in the Digital Loeb Classical Library version, which has an extra καὶ between σεμνὰ and καλὰ. Here is a screen capture showing the error:


In my copy of the physical book (1935; rpt. 1956 = Loeb Classical Library, 299), p. 528, the text is sound.

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Perfection

Donald Richie (1924-2013), Journals (summer, 1947; he = Eugene Langston):
We were talking about The New Yorker, a publication excluded from both commissary and PX after it ran John Hersey's issue-long account of Hiroshima.

"It never contains a typographical error," he said.

I, believing in unavoidable sloppiness, said that this was impossible.

"Oh no, it's not," he said mildly. "It is quite possible. All that is necessary is that every error is caught. I admire the editor."

Perfection was possible, all one had to do was to take all possible care. I watched him doing so. When he practiced his calligraphy no mistake was made—the forming of the kanji, the width of the stroke, the pressure of the brush—everything was as it ought to be. Methodical, he built up, line upon line, his ideal world.

Sunday, January 21, 2018

 

Perhaps It Is We Who Are Strange

Peter Brown, The Ransom of the Soul: Afterlife and Wealth in Early Western Christianity (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2015), chapter 1 (page number unknown):
Altogether, we are dealing with a notion that causes acute embarrassment to modern persons. Such embarrassment is calculated to make the historian of religion sit up and take notice. Why is it that a way of speaking of the relation between heaven and earth that late antique and medieval Christians took for granted seems so very alien to us? Perhaps it is we who are strange.


Later in the same chapter:
Augustine found himself confronted by exactly the same questions. In order to reassure Laurentius, he took refuge in a trenchant formula. He offered what can best be called a Van Ness diagram of the other world. In this diagram, only in the area of overlap could ritual action by the living be thought to affect the fate of the dead.
I suspect that Van Ness is a mistake for Venn.

 

Necessities of Nature

Tertullian, Apology. De Spectaculis. With an English Translation by T.R. Glover ... Minucius Felix. With an English Translation by Gerald H. Rendall ... . (1931; rpt. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1977 = Loeb Classical Library, 250), pp. 282-283 (Tertullian, De Spectaculis 21):
Sic ergo evenit, ut qui in publico vix necessitate vesicae tunicam levet, idem in circo aliter non exuat, nisi totum pudorem in faciem omnium intentet ...

So it comes about that a man who will scarcely lift his tunic in public for the necessities of nature, will take it off in the circus in such a way as to make a full display of himself before all ...
Glover bowdlerizes slightly. Tertullian specifies exactly which necessity he means, viz., that of the bladder (vesicae).

 

Retaliation

Helen Langdon, Caravaggio: A Life (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1998), pp. 340-341:
The late sixteenth century, when the Ottoman Empire threatened, and the religious militancy of Spain was at its height, was a glorious period in the Knights' history. In 1565, in the Great Siege of Malta, they had, against terrible odds, and suffering appalling losses, fought off a massive Turkish onslaught made by the most powerful Turkish sovereign, Suleiman the Magnificent. The Siege was marked by individual feats of heroism and macabre acts of cruelty. The Turks floated the bodies of decapitated knights on wooden crucifixes in the Grand Harbour, and Jean de La Valette Parisot, the Grand Master, who became an almost legendary hero, responded by firing Turkish heads from the guns of Fort St Angelo.
René-Aubert Vertot (1655-1736), The History of the Knights Hospitallers of St. John of Jerusalem; Styled afterwards, The Knights of Rhodes, And at present, the Knights of Malta. Translated from the French, Vol. IV (Edinburgh: Alexander Donaldson, 1770), pp. 347-348:
Mustapha, of a cruel and bloody nature, by way of revenge, and at the same time to terrify the knights that were in the town, and the other fortresses of the island, ordered such as were found found lying among the dead, and had still any marks of life left, to be ripped open, and their hearts to be plucked out. To this unexampled piece of barbarity, the Basha, in order to insult the instrument of our salvation, which the knights wore as the badge of the Order, had gashes made over their body in form of a cross, when putting their subrevests upon them, they tyed them to planks, and threw them into the sea, hoping, as indeed fell out, that the tide would carry them to the foot of the town and the castle of St. Angelo.

This dismal and shocking spectacle drew tears from the Grand Master. His first sensations were those of grief, but his next were those of anger and indignation; in consequence of which, and by way of reprisals, he, in order to teach the Basha to make war with less barbarity, ordered all the Turkish prisoners to be immediately executed; and ramming their heads into his cannon, had them shot, all covered with blood as they were, instead of ball, into the camp of the infidels.

Saturday, January 20, 2018

 

Asyndeton in Tertullian, De Spectaculis

Tertullian, Apology. De Spectaculis. With an English Translation by T.R. Glover ... Minucius Felix. With an English Translation by Gerald H. Rendall ... . (1931; rpt. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1977 = Loeb Classical Library, 250), pp. 260-261 (Tertullian, De Spectaculis 10):
Scimus nihil esse nomina mortuorum, sicut nec ipsa simulacra eorum; sed non ignoramus, qui sub istis nominibus institutis simulacris operentur et gaudeant et divinitatem mentiantur, nequam spiritus scilicet, daemones.

We know that the names of dead men are nothing—just as their images are nothing—but we are not unaware who are at work under those names and behind the images set up for them,a what joy they take in them, and how they feign deity,—I mean, evil spirits, demons.

It is possible to take institutis as "customs" and render "those names, customs, images"; but in this tract at least there is hardly another case of asyndeton.
Other examples of asyndeton in Tertullian, De Spectaculis:
§ 8 Magnis Potentibus Valentibus (p. 252)

§ 22 quadrigarios scaenicos xysticos arenarios .... curia rostris senatu equite (p. 284)

§ 23 amores iras gemitus lacrimas (p. 286)

§ 29 sancta perpetua gratuita (p. 296)
See Einar Löfstedt, Zur Sprache Tertullians (Lund: C.W.K. Gleerup, 1920), pp. 29-33 ("Kopulative und asyndetische Verbindung"). Emanuele Castorina, Tertulliani De Spectaculis. Introduzione, testo critico, commento e traduzione (Firenze: La Nuova Italia, 1961), is unavailable to me.

Friday, January 19, 2018

 

A Plump Little Man

Gilbert Highet (1906-1978), Poets in a Landscape (1957; rpt. New York: New York Review Books, 2010), p. 120:
Nowadays Rome is not so crowded, nor so rich and splendid, as it was in Horace's time. Yet it is often recognizably the same city. As one wanders through its busy streets, one occasionally sees a plump little man strolling vaguely along, eyeing the shop windows, glancing at the pretty girls, pausing to buy a lottery ticket, reading the headlines in a newspaper-office window, and at last sitting down to drink a glass of bitter Campari and to watch, with apparent complacency, the noisy traffic swirling past. One puts him down as—well, what? A Milanese business-man, who has just concluded a successful transaction, and is enjoying Rome before returning to his desk and his wife? Or a small landowner from central Italy, on his annual visit to the capital? He may be either of these, the plump little man with the watchful eyes; he may be a metropolitan lawyer, taking the air after a difficult day in court. But it is still possible that he may be an artist, a philosopher, or a poet.

 

What If?

Tertullian, On Christ's Flesh 4.5 (tr. Ernest Evans):
If indeed it had been his will to come forth of a she-wolf or a sow or a cow, and, clothed with the body of a wild or a domestic animal, he were to preach the kingdom of heaven, your censorship I suppose would make for him a ruling that this is a disgrace to God, that this is beneath the dignity of the Son of God, and consequently that any man is a fool who so believes.

si revera de lupa aut sue aut vacca prodire voluisset, et ferae aut pecoris corpore indutus regnum caelorum praedicaret, tua opinor illi censura praescriberet turpe hoc deo et indignum hoc dei filio, et stultum propterea qui ita credat.
Your = Marcion's.

Thursday, January 18, 2018

 

Libelli Famosi

Helen Langdon, Caravaggio: A Life (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1998), p. 134, with note on p. 402:
In 1593, for example, a young married woman, Leonora Palelli, who lived near the Piazza dei Santissimi Apostoli, denounced Decio and Onorio for making a disturbance in the streets, beneath her windows — 'singing with lutes and guitars abusive songs in the manner of famous insults' (libelli famosi), and making such a racket that all the neighbours had come out.6

6 S. Corradini, 'Nuove e false notizie sulla presenza del Caravaggio in Roma', in S. Macioce (ed.), Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio: La Vita attraverso i Documenti (Rome, 1995), p. 73. Obscene lyrics were part of the usual weaponry of scorned young men; E. Cohen, in 'Honor and Gender in the Streets of Early Modern Rome', Journal of Interdisciplinary History, xxii, 4, 1992, p. 613, tells the story of a young prostitute, Aurelia, woken by the delicate harmonies of lute and guitar, accompanied by the lyric 'Oh little whore, now comes the summer / Prepare your ass for your lover'.
Andrew Graham-Dixon, Caravaggio: A Life Sacred and Profane (New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2011), p. 254:
On 28 August [1600], Baglione lodged a complaint with the Governor of Rome about some libelli famosi, or 'famous libels'. The accused were Onorio Longhi, Caravaggio, Orazio Gentileschi and the hapless Filippo Trisegni.
It seems to me that "famous insults" and "famous libels" are misleading translations of the phrase libelli famosi. The phrase, which occurs in both Latin and Italian, would be better translated as "defamatory writings."

 

What Is a Classic?

Alain Finkielkraut, L'Identité malheureuse (Paris: Stock, 2013), p. 193-194:
Qu'est-ce qu'un classique, en effet? C'est un livre dont l'aura est antérieure à la lecture. Nous n'avons pas peur qu'il nous déçoive mais que nous le décevions en n'étant pas à la hauteur. Nous admirons avant de comprendre et, si nous comprenons, c'est parce que l'admiration a tenu bon et forcé tous les obstacles.
A rough translation:
What, indeed, is a classic? It is a book whose reputation precedes its reading. We aren't afraid that it will disappoint us, but that we will disappoint it, by not being up to its level. We admire it before we understand it, and, if we do understand, it's because our admiration stood firm and overcame all obstacles.

 

Architecture

Kirkbride Asylum, Fergus Falls, Minnesota, built in the 1890s:


Weisman Art Museum, Minneapolis, Minnesota, built in the 1990s:


I'm just a Philistine, but the contrast symbolizes for me the immense cultural decline that occurred over the space of just a century.

I used to walk by the Weisman Art Museum a few times a week when it was under construction — it reminded me of scrap metal shacks in third-world slums. I call it the ugliest building in Minnesota, but maybe it qualifies as the ugliest building in the United States, or even the whole world. Another Minneapolis eyesore, Riverside Plaza, built in the 1970s, would be a close runner-up for ugliest building, though:


I just read that the Kirkbride Asylum is slated for demolition. A pity. It may not be an architectural masterpiece, but whatever replaces it is bound to be far inferior, aesthetically and structurally.
damnosa quid non inminuit dies?
aetas parentum, peior avis, tulit
nos nequiores, mox daturos
progeniem vitiosiorem.
Another symptom of decline — we used to house and care for the mentally ill in buildings like the Kirkbride Asylum, but now we just dump them on the streets to fend for themselves.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

 

Credulity

Thomas Browne (1605-1682), Pseudodoxia Epidemica, Book I, Chapter 5:
A Third cause of common Errors is, the Credulity of men, that is, an easie assent to what is obtruded, or a believing, at first ear, what is delivered by others. This is a weakness in the understanding, without examination assenting unto things which, from their Natures and Causes, do carry no perswasion; whereby men often swallow falsities for truths, dubiosities for certainties, feasibilities for possibilities, and things impossible as possibilities themselves.

 

The Triumph of Marcantonio Colonna

Helen Langdon, Caravaggio: A Life (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1998), p. 9:
On 4 December 1571 an enormous theatrical triumph was staged in Rome. Its hero was Marcantonio Colonna, scion of one of the most illustrious of all Roman families, and commander of the papal galleys in the triumph of the Holy League over the Turks at Lepanto. He progressed from the church of San Sebastiano, on the Appian Way, passing the Baths of Caracalla, and under the triumphal arches of Constantine and Titus, to the monastery of Santa Maria in Aracoeli, built on the holiest site of the Capitol, at the very centre of the old Roman Empire.

Colonna rode, unarmed, on a white horse. He was escorted by a glittering cortège of five thousand people, and 170 liveried and chained Turkish prisoners were driven before him. Before them the standard of the sultan was trailed in the dust. The procession pressed forward through tumultuous applause. 'Here from every part', wrote an observer, 'his name rang out. Everyone rushed to the street, clapping their hands. Crowds of people thronged together, crying out, while trumpets serenaded him. He was greeted from far and near, by people gesturing, shouting, waving caps and banner'. Ringed by twenty-five Cardinals, Colonna crossed the Tiber at the Ponte Sant' Angelo, and then rode to St Peter's and the Vatican Palace, where Pope Pius V received him in the Sala Regia.

His progress was modelled on the triumphs that were granted to generals in ancient Rome and it drew on the splendour of ancient myth. Yet it was also an intensely Christian event. The façade of the church of Santa Maria in Aracoeli was decorated with captured Turkish flags. It bore the proud inscription: `The gratitude which, in their pagan folly, the Ancients offered to their idols, the Christian conqueror, who ascends the Aracoeli, now gives, with pious devotion, to the true God, to Christ the Redeemer, and to His most glorious Mother'. Colonna seemed to bring the new promise of a more joyful Christian era.

Francesco Tramezzino, L'entrata solenne fatta dall'ecmo. Sigr. Marcantono Colonna in Roma doppo la felicissima vittoria havuta dall'armata Christiana contra Turchi (New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art, accession number 47.105.10). Click to enlarge.

Ludwig Pastor (1854-1928), The History of the Popes, Vol. XVIII, tr. Ralph Francis Kerr (London: Kegan Paul, Trench, Trubner & Co., Ltd., 1929), pp. 431-433 (footnotes omitted):
All Rome was in a stir when the bright and sunny day of December 4th dawned. Thousands of people had gathered along the Via Appia, where, near the basilica of St. Sebastian, Girolamo Bonelli and the Swiss Guard, the Senator and the Conservatori, awaited the arrival of Colonna, who was to come from Marino. Unarmed, and with no decoration but the Golden Fleece, Marcantonio rode upon a white horse given him by the Pope; a black silk mantle lined with fur covered his tunic of cloth of gold, and on his head he wore a black velvet cap, with a white plume fastened with a pearl clasp.

Amid scenes of extraordinary rejoicing, the clash of trumpets, and the firing of guns, the cortège was formed, in which were to be seen the gaily coloured banners of all the city corporations, and the 13 Rioni of Rome. As can easily be understood, the chief interest was excited by the 170 Turkish prisoners, dressed in red and yellow, in chains, and guarded by halbardiers. In front of them rode a Roman in Turkish dress dragging the standard of the sultan in the dust. At the side of the prisoners walked a hermit, who had taken part in the battle, and whom the people, by whom he was greatly loved, called Fate bene per voi, from the words which he was always saying. The standard of the Church was borne by Romegasso, and that of the city of Rome by Giovan Giorgio Cesarini, with whom rode Pompeo Colonna and Onorato Caetani, and the two nephews of the Pope, Michele and Girolamo Bonelli; then came Marcantonio Colonna, who was rapturously acclaimed by all, and was followed by the Senator of Rome and the Conservatori, and a large number of his friends and comrades. The Papal light cavalry brought the procession to an end.

As Charles V. had done 35 years before, so Marcantonio Colonna, entering the city by the Porta S. Sebastiano, and passing the Baths of Caracalla, and under the triumphal arches of Constantine and Titus, chmbed the hill of the Capitol, and came to S. Marco, passing thence along the Via Papale to the Bridge of St. Angelo. On the way he came to the statue of Pasquino, which was gaily decorated; in the left hand was the head of a Turk, with blood pouring from the mouth, and in the right a drawn sword.

After praying in St. Peter's at the tomb of the Prince of the Apostles, and offering, in allusion to his own name, a column of silver, Colonna proceeded to the Vatican, where the Pope received him, accompanied by 25 Cardinals, with the greatest honour. He exhorted the victor of Lepanto to give the glory to God, Who, despite our sins, had been so kind and merciful.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

 

Suggestive Pronouns: This and That

Augustine, Confessions 8.11.26 (tr. Henry Chadwick):
Vain trifles and the triviality of the empty-headed, my old loves, held me back. They tugged at the garment of my flesh and whispered: 'Are you getting rid of us?' And 'from this moment we shall never be with you again, not for ever and ever'. And 'from this moment this and that are forbidden to you for ever and ever.' What they were suggesting in what I have called 'this and that' — what they were suggesting, my God, may your mercy avert from the soul of your servant! What filth, what disgraceful things they were suggesting!

retinebant nugae nugarum et vanitates vanitantium, antiquae amicae meae, et succutiebant vestem meam carneam et submurmurabant, 'dimittisne nos?' et 'a momento isto non erimus tecum ultra in aeternum' et 'a momento isto non tibi licebit hoc et illud ultra in aeternum.' et quae suggerebant in eo quod dixi 'hoc et illud,' quae suggerebant, deus meus, avertat ab anima servi tui misericordia tua! quas sordes suggerebant, quae dedecora!

 

Suicidal Exhibitionists

Peter Brown, The Ransom of the Soul: Afterlife and Wealth in Early Western Christianity (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2015), pp. 7-8, with notes on p. 214:
Yet, what for Christians such as Cyprian was an "extraordinary" death struck the average pagan as abnormal. Christians were seen by pagans as suicidal exhibitionists. As the Emperor Marcus Aurelius (161-180) wrote in his Meditations: a wise man could decide to leave the world through suicide. But to court death out of a mere spirit of opposition "as is the case with the Christians" was a form of "stage heroics" that repelled him. The phrase "as ... with the Christians" may have been added by a later copyist.11 But the copyist got the point. Some deaths (and not only the deaths of Christians) were public theater of the most obtrusive and unwelcome sort.

We should always remember that, for the average pagan, Christian martyrs were not a unique phenomenon. They fitted all too easily into a long line of gore-soaked and crazed figures. Gladiators played with death in the arena. Their blood and mangled corpses were associated with uncanny powers.12 Maverick philosophers also courted death by going out of their way to insult the powerful. The craziest of these, the philosopher Peregrinus, had even toyed for a time with Christianity. He gained great prestige among Christians as a potential martyr. He ended his life, in 165 AD, by committing suicide through burning himself near the crowds assembled at Olympia for the Olympic Games.13 The deaths of Christian martyrs did not necessarily impress outsiders. Rather, these deaths struck them as bizarre and disturbing. But pagans and Christians had one thing in common: heroic or pathological, the grisly, fully public deaths of the Christian martyrs held their attention, at the expense of more ordinary deaths.

11. Marcus Aurelius, Meditations 11.3, ed. C. Haines, Marcus Aurelius Antoninus, Loeb Classical Library (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1961), 294. See R.B. Rutherford, The Meditations of Marcus Aurelius: A Study (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1989), 188.

12. F. Dölger, "Gladiatorenblut and Märtyrerblut," Vorträge der Bibliothek Warburg 1 (1923-1924), 196-214.

13. Lucian, Peregrinus, 11-14 and 35, ed. A.M. Harmon, Lucian 5, Loeb Classical Library (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1972), 12-16 and 38-40; see J. König, "The Cynic and Christian Lives of Peregrinus," in The Limits of Ancient Biography, ed. B. McGing and J. Mossman (Swansea: Classical Press of Wales, 2006), 227-254.

 

Superlatives of Superlatives

Sophocles, Philoctetes 64-65 (tr. Hugh Lloyd-Jones):
And you may add as many of the most extreme insults against me as you please.

                                                 λέγων ὅσ᾿ ἂν
θέλῃς καθ᾿ ἡμῶν ἔσχατ᾿ ἐσχάτων κακά.
More literally:
Speaking against me evils, most extreme of most extreme, as many as you wish.
T.B.L. Webster ad loc. (on ἔσχατ᾿ ἐσχάτων) cites two works by Holger Thesleff — Studies on Intensification in Early and Classical Greek (Helsingfors, 1954 = Societas Scientiarum Fennica, Commentationes Humanarum Litterarum, XXI.1), § 342, and Studies on the Greek Superlative (Helsingfors, 1955 = Societas Scientiarum Fennica, Commentationes Humanarum Litterarum, XXI.3), §§ 13, 35, both of which are unavailable to me.

In Latin cf. Naevius, comic fragment 118, in Otto Ribbeck, ed., Scaenicae Romanorum Poesis Fragmenta, 3rd ed., Vol. II: Comicorum Fragmenta (Leipzig: B.G. Teubner, 1898), p. 31 (pessimorum pessime = worst of the worst), and Plautus, Captivi 836 (optumorum optume = best of the best).

Related post: King of Kings, and Lord of Lords.

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