Thursday, July 27, 2017


What is Man?

Seneca, De Consolatione ad Marciam 11.3 (tr. John W. Basore):
What is man? A vessel that the slightest shaking, the slightest toss will break. No mighty wind is needed to scatter you abroad; whatever you strike against, will be your undoing. What is man? A body weak and fragile, naked, in its natural state defenceless, dependent upon another's help, and exposed to all the affronts of Fortune; when it has practised well its muscles, it then becomes the food of every wild beast, of everyone the prey; a fabric of weak and unstable elements, attractive only in its outer features, unable to bear cold, heat, and toil, yet from mere rust and idleness doomed to decay; fearful of the foods that feed it, it dies now from the lack of these, and now is burst open by their excess; filled with anxiety and concern for its safety, it draws its very breath on sufferance, keeping but a feeble hold upon it—for sudden fear or a loud noise that falls unexpectedly upon the ears will drive it forth—and fosters ever its own unrest, a morbid and a useless thing.

quid est homo? quolibet quassu vas et quolibet fragile iactatu. non tempestate magna, ut dissiperis, opus est; ubicumque arietaveris, solveris. quid est homo? imbecillum corpus et fragile, nudum, suapte natura inerme, alienae opis indigens, ad omnis fortunae contumelias proiectum; cum bene lacertos exercuit, cuiuslibet ferae pabulum, cuiuslibet victima, ex infirmis fluidisque contextum et lineamentis exterioribus nitidum, frigoris, aestus, laboris impatiens, ipso rursus situ et otio iturum in tabem, alimenta metuens sua, quorum modo inopia deficit, modo copia rumpitur; anxiae sollicitaeque tutelae, precarii spiritus et male haerentis, quem pavor repentinus aut auditus ex improviso sonus auribus gravis excutit; sollicitudinis semper sibi nutrimentum, vitiosum et inutile.


Only Aristophanes

Aldus Manutius, preface to the editio princeps of Aristophanes (1498), tr. N.G. Wilson:
For people wishing to learn Greek there is nothing more suitable, nothing better to read. And that is not simply my opinion, but that of Theodore Gaza, a man of much learning in all fields. When he was asked which Greek author should be read assiduously by people wishing to learn Greek, he replied, "Only Aristophanes," because he was very witty, rich, erudite and pure in his Attic language.

Graece discere cupientibus nihil aptius, nihil melius legi potest, non meo solum iudicio, quod non magnifacio, sed etiam Theodori Gazae, viri undecunque doctissimi, qui, interrogatus quis ex Graecis auctoribus assidue legendus foret Graecas literas discere volentibus, respondit: 'Solus Aristophanes,' quod esset sane quam acutus, copiosus, doctus et merus Atticus.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017


Lucian Lambasted

N.G. Wilson, Scholars of Byzantium, rev. ed. (London: Gerald Duckworth & Co Ltd., 1996), p. 12:
Another writer capable of moving the Byzantines to anger was Lucian, whose occasional scornful comments on the early Christians earned him equally scornful epithets from the orthodox reader. The ancient and medieval commentaries on his essays are found to contain no less than thirty-nine terms of abuse directed against him.3 Yet the essays remained firm favourites with Byzantine readers of all periods.

3 H. Rabe, Scholia in Lucianum (Leipzig 1906) 336.
Rabe's list of terms of abuse directed against Lucian:


Free and Easy

The Complete Works of Zhuangzi, tr. Burton Watson (New York: Columbia University Press, 2013), p. 239:
Shun tried to cede the empire to Shan Quan, but Shan Quan said, "I stand in the midst of space and time. Winter days, I dress in skins and furs; summer days, in vine cloth and hemp. In spring, I plow and plant—this gives my body the labor and exercise it needs; in fall, I harvest and store away—this gives my form the leisure and sustenance it needs. When the sun comes up, I work; when the sun goes down, I rest. I wander free and easy between heaven and earth, and my mind has found all that it could wish for. What use would I have for the empire? What a pity that you don’t understand me!"


Civil Service Requirements for Hiring and Promotion

Theodosian Code 14.1.1 (tr. Clyde Pharr with his notes):
Emperor Constantius Augustus and Julian Caesar to Julianus.2

In the distinguished order of the decuries3 which bears the name of either copyists or fiscal clerks or tax assessment clerks, by no means shall any person obtain a place of the first order, unless it is established that he excels in the practice and training of the liberal studies and that he is so polished in the use of letters that words proceed from him without the offense of imperfections, and it is Our will that all men shall be so informed. Moreover, in order that its rewards may not be denied to literature, which is the greatest4 of all the virtues, if any man should appear to be worthy of the first place on account of his studies and his skill in the use of words, Our provision shall make him of more honorable rank ... or Your Sublimity shall report his name to Us, so that We may deliberate as to the kind of high rank that should be conferred upon him.

Given on the sixth day before the kalends of March at Constantinople: February 24 (25). Received on the ides of May at Rome in the year of the ninth consulship of Constantino Augustus and the second consulship of Julian Caesar.—May 15, 357; 360.5

2 His official position is unknown.
3 Guilds of clerical workers in the imperial service, found primarily in Rome.
4 the teacher, G.
5 The tenth consulship of Constantius Augustus and the third consulship of Julian Caesar (360), since Constantius was not in Constantinople in 357 and did not arrive there before 359/360, G.

Imp. Constantius a. et Iulianus caes. ad Iulianum.

In decuriarum ordine insigni, cui librariorum vel fiscalium sive censualium nomen est, nequaquam aliquis locum primi ordinis adipiscatur nisi is, quem constiterit studiorum liberalium usu adque exercitatione pollere et ita esse litteris expolitum, ut citra offensam vitii ex eodem verba procedant: quod cunctis volumus intimari. Ne autem litteraturae, quae omnium virtutum maxima est, praemia denegentur, eum, qui studiis et eloquio dignus primo loco videbitur, honestiorem faciet nostra provisio sublimitate ... tuave eius nomina indicante, ut deliberemus, quae in eum dignitas deferenda sit.

Dat. VI kal. mar. Constantinopoli; accepta id. mai. Romae Constantio a. VIIII et Iuliano caes. II conss. (357 [360] febr. 24).

Tuesday, July 25, 2017


Our Masters

The Diary of H.L. Mencken, ed. Charles A. Fecher (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1989), p. 127 (August 11, 1939, with the editor's note):
One cannot read the narrative without recalling Oxenstjerna's saying to his son: "My son, as you grow older, you will be astonished to discover what imbeciles run the world."1

1 In A New Dictionary of Quotations, under the rubric "Government," Mencken gives this saying as "You do not know, my son, with how little wisdom the world is governed (An nescis, mi fili, quantilla prudentia mundus regatur)," and then adds: "Commonly ascribed to BISHOP AXEL OXENSTJERNA, Chancellor of Sweden (1583–1654), but Büchman says in Geflügelte Worte that it probably originated with Pope Julius III, who said to a Portuguese monk: 'If you knew with how little expenditure of sense the world is governed, you would wonder.'"
Georg Büchmann, Geflügelte Worte. Der Citatenschatz des Deutschen Volks, 10th ed. (Berlin: Haude- und Spener'sche Buchhandlung, 1877), p. 267:


Talking to Oneself

John Jackson (1881-1952), Marginalia Scaenica (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1955), p. 110:
Anne Boleyn is said to have been perplexed by the fact that she understood French perfectly when speaking it to herself, but not otherwise. The same thing — mutatis mutandis — may be true of emenders...


A Quick Study

Joseph Fontenrose (1903-1986), Classics at Berkeley: The First Century 1869-1970 (Berkeley: Department of Classics, History Fund, 1982), p. 59:
My study of Greek began in August, 1925, after I had taken my A.B. in Political Science at Berkeley. In October I decided upon a classical career and that fall I went through Smith's Latin Lessons by myself (under Roger Jones's supervision) and then began German in January and Hebrew the following August (under William Popper, a great teacher). Later I learned French and Italian without attending classes (before 1925 I had studied only Spanish). In May, 1928, I received the M.A. degree in Greek, just two years and nine months after learning the Greek alphabet.

Monday, July 24, 2017



F.W. Farrar (1831-1903), Ephphatha or The Amelioration of the World: Sermons (London: Macmillan and Co., 1880), pp. 55-56:
Or look at Hatred, its rarer active forms of murder, assault, violence, cruelty; its more universal, and in their aggregate hardly less injurious forms of envy, spite, scandal, uncharitableness, innuendo, depreciation, slander, malice, whispering, backbiting—multiform developments of one base passion, multiform names for one base thing. Thousands of men, for instance, get their living by writing anonymously. The anonymous is to them an invisible ring whereby they can, with impunity, often even unsuspected, speak of others all words that may do hurt. It is as an impregnable shield, from behind whose shelter they can shower arrow-flights of falsehoods, sneers, misrepresentations, disparagements at their defenceless victims. They can tarnish the merits of an opponent. They can obliterate the services of a rival. They can gild the follies of a partisan. They can secretly blight the hopes of a nominal friend. They can give a false aspect to fair reasonings, a foolish appearance to just opinions. They can sneer away honest reputations, and push empty pretensions into prominence. They can abuse the good, and belaud the bad. They can be as false, as hollow, as malignant as many such writers daily show themselves to be.



Xunxi: The Complete Text, tr. Eric L. Hutton (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2014), p. 5:
Where does learning begin? Where does learning end? I say: Its order begins with reciting the classics, and ends with studying ritual. Its purpose begins with becoming a well-bred man, and ends with becoming a sage. If you truly accumulate effort for a long time, then you will advance. Learning proceeds until death and only then does it stop. And so, the order of learning has a stopping point, but its purpose cannot be given up for even a moment. To pursue it is to be human, to give it up is to be a beast.
The same, from Xunxi: Basic Writings, tr. Burton Watson (New York: Columbia University Press, 2003), pp. 19-20:
Where does learning begin and where does it end? I say that as to program, learning begins with the recitation of the Classics and ends with the reading of the ritual texts; and as to objective, it begins with learning to be a man of breeding, and ends with learning to be a sage. If you truly pile up effort over a long period of time, you will enter into the highest realm. Learning continues until death and only then does it cease. Therefore we may speak of an end to the program of learning, but the objective of learning must never for an instant be given up. To pursue it is to be a man, to give it up is to become a beast.


Sufficit Una Domus

Juvenal 13.157-161 (tr. Susanna Morton Braund, with her note):
This is only a tiny proportion of the crimes that Gallicus,27 guardian of Rome, hears continuously from the morning star until the sun sets! If you want to understand the behaviour of humankind, a single courthouse is enough. Spend a few days there and then dare to call yourself unlucky, after you've come away.

27 Gaius Rutilius Gallicus, City Prefect under Domitian.

haec quota pars scelerum, quae custos Gallicus Vrbis
usque a lucifero donec lux occidat audit?
humani generis mores tibi nosse volenti
sufficit una domus; paucos consume dies et        160
dicere te miserum, postquam illinc veneris, aude.
Cambridge University Examination Papers. Michaelmas Term, 1871 to Easter Term, 1872 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1873), p. 9:
Una domus: what place is here meant?
Ludwig Friedlaender, ed., D. Junii Juvenalis Saturarum Libri V. Mit erklärenden Anmerkungen (Leipzig: S. Hirzel, 1895), Vol. II, p. 537:
jedes beliebige einzelne Haus.
Lowell Edmunds, "Juvenal's Thirteenth Satire," Rheinisches Museum für Philologie 115.1 (1972) 59-73 (at 69):
...any one house...
F.W. Farrar, Ephphatha or The Amelioration of the World: Sermons (London: Macmillan and Co., 1880), p. 19:
Look, for instance, at the world of disease and pain. You need not go far to look. One house will suffice you to see the wretchedness of the human race.2

"Humani generis mores tibi nosse volenti,
Sufficit una domus; paucos consume dies et
Dicere te miserum, postquam illinc veneris aude."
                                              —Juv. Sat. xiii.159.
George Santayana, "My Father," Selected Critical Writings, Vol. I (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1968), pp. 279-286 (at 282):
He had a great respect for authority in science or letters, and would quote Quintilian in support of his own preference for limited views: Ad cognoscendum genus humanum sufficit una domus:* 'For exploring human nature one household is large enough.'

* Probably a confused memory, mine or my father's, of Juvenal, Satire XIII, 159-160...
J.D. Duff, ed., Fourteen Satires of Juvenal (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1900), p. 408:
either the office or private house, used as an office, of Gallicus: not (as Friedl.), any private house taken at random.
Thomas J. B. Brady, "Notulae," Hermathena 2 (1876) 193-197 (at 196-197):
Surely, here 'domus' is not, as it is usually explained, the private house of Ponticus [sic]; it is the police court where he sits from morning till night...
Edward Courtney, A Commentary on the Satires of Juvenal (1980; rpt. Berkeley: Department of Classics, University of California, 2013), pp. 488-489:
Not his [Gallicus'] house, but his office, by the temple of Tellus (RE 22.2519, Lanciani Bull. del Commissione Archeol. di Roma 20, 1892, 19); cf. Demosth. 21.85 τὸ τῶν ἀρχόντων οἴκημα.
The reference is to Rodolfo Lanciani, "Gli edificii della prefettura urbana fra la Tellure e le terme di Tito e di Traiano," Bullettino della Commissione Archeologica Comunale di Roma 20 (1892) 19-37.

Sunday, July 23, 2017


Competitive Eating

Pausanias 5.5.4 (tr. W.H.S. Jones):
There was also a story that Lepreüs contended with Heracles that he was as good a trencherman. Each killed an ox at the same time and prepared it for the table. It turned out, even as Lepreüs maintained, that he was as powerful a trencherman as Heracles.

ἐλέγετο δὲ καὶ ὡς πρὸς Ἡρακλέα ἐρίσειεν ὁ Λεπρέος μὴ ἀποδεῖν τοῦ Ἡρακλέους ἐσθίων· ἐπεὶ δὲ ἑκάτερος βοῦν αὐτῶν ἐν ἴσῳ τῷ καιρῷ κατέσφαξε καὶ εὐτρέπισεν ἐς τὸ δεῖπνον, καὶ ἦν ὥσπερ καὶ ὑφίστατο ὁ Λεπρέος φαγεῖν οὐκ ἀδυνατώτερος τοῦ Ἡρακλέους.
Natale Conti, Mythologies 7.1 (tr. Glenn W. Most; I changed Hercules' force to Heracles' force):
According to legend, when Heracles set out for Triphylia, a district of Elis, he had a competition in gluttony with Lepreus, the son of Pyrgeus, as Hesiod [fragment 265 Merkelbach-West] says in The Wedding of Ceyx; and after each one had killed an ox for his meal, Lepreus turned out to be not at all slower or less ready to eat. But after dinner they came to blows because of each one’s resentment at his rival's virtue, and Lepreus fell victim to Heracles' force.

fama est Herculem in Triphyliam regionem Eleorum profectum habuisse controversiam de voracitate cum Lepreo Pyrgei filio, ut inquit Hesiodus in Ceycis nuptiis; atque cum uterque bovem in epulas occidisset, Lepreus nihilo fuit tardior aut imparatior edendo inventus. sed cum post epulas ventum esset ad pugnam ob indignationem aemulae virtutis, Lepreus cecidit ob vim Herculeam.
But according to Athenaeus and Aelian, Heracles won the contest.

Athenaeus 10.412a (tr. S. Douglas Olson):
Heracles is also represented as having an eating-contest with Lepreus, after Lepreus challenged him, and as winning.

εἰσάγεται δὲ ὁ Ἡρακλῆς καὶ Λεπρεῖ περὶ πολυφαγίας ἐρίζων ἐκείνου προκαλεσαμένου, καὶ νενίκηκεν.
Aelian, Historical Miscellany 1.24 (tr. N.G. Wilson):
At Astydamia's request Heracles gave up his dislike of Lepreus. But they were overcome by a youthful spirit of quarrelsomeness, and competed with each other in throwing the discus, in bailing out water, in seeing who could first consume a bull for dinner. In all these matters Lepreus was defeated.

δεηθείσης δὲ τῆς Ἀστυδαμείας διαλύεται τὴν πρὸς τὸν Λεπρέα ὁ Ἡρακλῆς ἔχθραν. φιλονεικία δ᾿ οὖν αὐτοῖς ἐμπίπτει νεανικὴ καὶ ἐρίζουσιν ἀλλήλοις περὶ δίσκου καὶ ὕδατος ἀντλήσεως καὶ τίς καταδειπνήσει ταῦρον πρότερος· καὶ ἐν πᾶσι τούτοις ἡττᾶται Λεπρεύς.
See Reinhold Merkelbach and Martin West, "The Wedding of Ceyx," Rheinisches Museum für Philologie 108.4 (1965) 300-317 (at 306-307).

Friday, July 21, 2017


Learning to Read

Inscription preserved by Plutarch, Education of Children 20 (= Moralia 14 B-C), tr. N.G.L. Hammond, The Genius of Alexander the Great (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1997), p. 3:
Eurydice, daughter of Sirras, dedicated this (statue probably of Hermes) to her city's Muses, because she had in her soul a longing for knowledge. The happy mother of sons growing up, she laboured to learn letters, the recorders of the spoken word.
The Greek, from Plutarchi Moralia, Vol. I, ed. W.R. Paton and I. Wegehaupt, rev. Hans Gärtner (Stuttgart: B.G. Teubner, 1993), p. 27, with my apparatus:
Εὐρυδίκη Ἵρρα πολιῆτισι τόνδ' ἀνέθηκε
    Μούσαις εὐκταῖον ψυχῇ ἑλοῦσα πόθον.
γράμματα γὰρ μνημεῖα λόγων μήτηρ γεγαυῖα
    παίδων ἡβώντων ἐξεπόνησε μαθεῖν.

1 Ἵρρα πολιῆτισι Wilamowitz, "Lesefrüchte, CLXIX," Hermes 54.1 (Jan., 1919) 71-72; Σίρρα πολιῆτισι Adolf Wilhelm, "Ein Weihgedicht der Grossmutter Alexanders des Grossen," Mélanges Henri Grégoire (Brussels, 1949 = Annuaire de l'Institut de Philologie et d'Histoire Orientales et Slaves, 9), Vol. 2, pp. 625–633, rpt. Kleine Schriften, II.iv (Vienna, 2002), pp. 627–635: πολιῆτις Ω, ἱεραπολιῆτις Μ2Π
2 Μούσαις εὐκταῖον Wilamowitz; ἐμ Μούσαις εὐκτὸν Wilhelm: Μούσαις εὔιστον codd.
Hammond translated Wilhelm's conjecture in the first line, but the manuscripts' εὔιστον (hapax according to Liddell-Scott-Jones) in the second line. I haven't seen Wilhelm's article. See also Jeanne and Louis Robert, "Bulletin épigraphique," Revue des Études Grecques 97 (1984) 419-522 (at 450-451).



J.S. Phillimore (1873-1926), The Revival of Criticism. A Paper Read at the Meeting of the Classical Association at Oxford on May 17th, 1919 (Oxford: B.H. Blackwell, 1919), p. 8:
The civilized mind is naturally critical: bred by the interaction of various studies, criticism is the peculiar mark of high civilization. But criticism is itself a composite thing: restlessness of intellect is a part of it, but so is a wariness against delusion: curiosity and suspicion are both necessary elements.


Cleopatra's Polyglottism

Plutarch, Life of Antony 27.3-4 (tr. Bernadotte Perrin):
There was sweetness also in the tones of her voice; and her tongue, like an instrument of many strings, she could readily turn to whatever language she pleased, so that in her interviews with Barbarians she very seldom had need of an interpreter, but made her replies to most of them herself and unassisted, whether they were Ethiopians, Troglodytes, Hebrews, Arabians, Syrians, Medes or Parthians. Nay, it is said that she knew the speech of many other peoples also, although the kings of Egypt before her had not even made an effort to learn the native language, and some actually gave up their Macedonian dialect.

ἡδονὴ δὲ καὶ φθεγγομένης ἐπῆν τῷ ἤχῳ· καὶ τὴν γλῶτταν, ὥσπερ ὄργανόν τι πολύχορδον, εὐπετῶς τρέπουσα καθ᾿ ἣν βούλοιτο διάλεκτον ὀλίγοις παντάπασι δι᾿ ἑρμηνέως ἐνετύγχανε βαρβάροις, τοῖς δὲ πλείστοις αὐτὴ δι᾿ αὑτῆς ἀπεδίδου τὰς ἀποκρίσεις, οἷον Αἰθίοψι, Τρωγλοδύταις, Ἑβραίοις, Ἄραψι, Σύροις, Μήδοις, Παρθυαίοις. πολλῶν δὲ λέγεται καὶ ἄλλων ἐκμαθεῖν γλώττας, τῶν πρὸ αὐτῆς βασιλέων οὐδὲ τὴν Αἰγυπτίαν ἀνασχομένων παραλαβεῖν διάλεκτον, ἐνίων δὲ καὶ τὸ μακεδονίζειν ἐκλιπόντων.
Related posts:

Thursday, July 20, 2017


Wisdom of Montaigne

Montaigne, Essais 3.5 (tr. Donald M. Frame):
Even the slightest occasions of pleasure that I can come upon, I seize.

Jusques aux moindres occasions de plaisir que je puis rencontrer, je les empoigne.
Empoigner, from poing (fist).


A Tree Amid the Wood

Ezra Pound (1882-1973), "The Tree," Selected Poems (New York: New Directions, 1957), pp. 6-7 (line numbers added):
I stood still and was a tree amid the wood,
Knowing the truth of things unseen before;
Of Daphne and the laurel bough
And that god-feasting couple old
That grew elm-oak amid the wold.        5
'Twas not until the gods had been
Kindly entreated, and been brought within
Unto the hearth of their heart's home
That they might do this wonder thing;
Nathless I have been a tree amid the wood        10
And many a new thing understood
That was rank folly to my head before.
3 Daphne and the laurel bough: Ovid, Metamorphoses 1.452-567
4 that god-feasting couple: Baucis and Philemon, see Ovid, Metamorphoses 8.620-724

Bernini, Apollo and Daphne (Galleria Borghese, Rome, inv. CV)


Entrance Examination

Joseph Fontenrose (1903-1986), Classics at Berkeley: The First Century 1869-1970 (Berkeley: Department of Classics, History Fund, 1982), pp. 1-2:
In 1869 all candidates for admission to the Fourth Class (first year) of the College of Letters had to pass a satisfactory examination in Latin Grammar, four books of Caesar, Aeneid I–VI, six orations of Cicero, Greek Grammar, and three books of Xenophon's Anabasis (besides examinations in algebra, geometry, English Grammar, geography, and United States history). These represented high-school studies; the University did not offer primary courses in Caesar, Cicero, Virgil, and Xenophon.


The Greatest Danger to Mankind

Cicero, On Duties 2.5.16 (tr. Walter Miller):
There is no curse so terrible but it is brought down by man upon man. There is a book by Dicaearchus on "The Destruction of Human Life." He was a famous and eloquent Peripatetic, and he gathered together [fragment 24 Wehrli] all the other causes of destruction—floods, epidemics, famines, and sudden incursions of wild animals in myriads, by whose assaults, he informs us, whole tribes of men have been wiped out. And then he proceeds to show by way of comparison how many more men have been destroyed by the assaults of men—that is, by wars or revolutions—than by any and all other sorts of calamity.

nulla tam detestabilis pestis est, quae non homini ab homine nascatur. est Dicaearchi liber de interitu hominum, Peripatetici magni et copiosi, qui collectis ceteris causis eluvionis, pestilentiae, vastitatis, beluarum etiam repentinae multitudinis, quarum impetu docet quaedam hominum genera esse consumpta, deinde comparat, quanto plures deleti sint homines hominum impetu, id est bellis aut seditionibus, quam omni reliqua calamitate.
Andrew R. Dyck in his commentary (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1996), pp. 383-384:
Dicaearchus evidently collected material to confirm such statements as Arist. Pol. 1253a31: ὥσπερ γὰρ καὶ τελεωθὲν βέλτιστον τῶν ζῴων ἄνθρωπός ἐστιν, οὕτω καὶ χωρισθὲν νόμου καὶ δίκης χείριστον πάντων. χαλεπωτάτη γὰρ ἀδικία ἔχουσα ὅπλα; and MM 1203a22: ἐπεὶ πότερος ἂν πλείω κακὰ ποιήσειεν λέων ἢ Διονύσιος ἢ Φάλαρις ἢ Κλέαρχος ἤ τις τούτων τῶν μοχθηρῶν; ἢ δῆλον ὅτι οὗτοι; ἡ γὰρ ἀρχὴ ἐνοῦσα φαύλη μεγάλα συμβάλλεται, ἐν δὲ θηρίῳ ὅλως οὐκ ἔστιν ἀρχή; cf. Sen. Ep. 103.1: rari sunt casus, etiamsi graves, naufragium facere, vehiculo everti: ab homine homini cotidianum periculum; Plin. Nat. 7.5; Wehrli ad Dicaearch. fr. 24; Martini, RE 5.1 (1903), 557.40 ff.
Related posts:

Wednesday, July 19, 2017


More Misprints

Peter Levi (1931-2000), Horace: A Life (New York: Routledge, 1998), p. 62:
The most memorable and haunting of the episodes is surely Altera iam teritus bellis civilibus aetas — Another age is crushed with civil wars, with its beautiful, despairing solution and its vision of the fall of Rome.
For episodes read Epodes, and for teritus read teritur.



No Rest From Toil

Euripides, Hippolytus 189-197 (tr. David Kovacs):
But the life of mortals is wholly trouble, and there is no rest from toil. Anything we might love more than life is hid in a surrounding cloud of darkness, and we show ourselves unhappy lovers of whatever light there is that shines on earth because we are ignorant of another life, and the world below is not revealed to us. We are aimlessly borne along by mere tales.

πᾶς δ' ὀδυνηρὸς βίος ἀνθρώπων
κοὐκ ἔστι πόνων ἀνάπαυσις.        190
ἀλλ' ὅ τι τοῦ ζῆν φίλτερον ἄλλο
σκότος ἀμπίσχων κρύπτει νεφέλαις.
δυσέρωτες δὴ φαινόμεθ᾿ ὄντες
τοῦδ' ὅ τι τοῦτο στίλβει κατὰ γῆν
δι' ἀπειροσύνην ἄλλου βιότου        195
κοὐκ ἀπόδειξιν τῶν ὑπὸ γαίας,
μύθοις δ' ἄλλως φερόμεσθα.

191-197 versus delendos suspicatur Barrett ("fort. recte" Diggle)
191 τοῦ ζῆν] τούτου Σ Ar. Ran. 1082
Gilbert Murray's translation:
Yet all man's life is but ailing and dim,
And rest upon earth comes never.
But if any far-off state there be,
Dearer than life to mortality;
The hand of the Dark hath hold thereof,
And mist is under and mist above.
And so we are sick for life, and cling
On earth to this nameless and shining thing.
For other life is a fountain sealed,
And the deeps below us are unrevealed,
And we drift on legends for ever!


Pitfalls of Linguistic Field Work

William W. Elmendorf, Twana Narratives: Native Historical Accounts of a Coast Salish Culture (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1993), p. 5 (quoting Henry Allen, member of the Skokomish Indian tribe):
Myron Eells was the missionary here. People didn't like him very well. He was collecting Klallam words from some Klallam Indians who were visiting here one time. I had to translate for him. So he would ask them for words like father, mother, house, dog, and so on. And those people didn't think much of Eells, so they would give him all sorts of dirty, nasty words, and he would write them down in a book. Then he would try to use some of these words, thinking he was talking Indian, and people would just about bust trying to keep from laughing.
Joseph Wood Krutch, The Forgotten Peninsula: A Naturalist in Baja California (New York: William Sloane Associates, 1961), p. 109:
Of the minor difficulties of Father Juan de Ugarte, a former professor of philosophy who was sent to take charge at San Javier, Clavijero writes: "At the beginning [the natives] were very restless at the time of the Catechism. Often bursting out into loud laughter. He noticed that the principal reason for the mockery was his mistakes in speaking the language, and that some of the Indians, when he consulted them about the words or pronunciation, intentionally answered him with absurdities in order to have something to laugh at in the Catechism and for that reason, from then on, he asked only children about the language, for they were more sincere."
Francis Parkman, Pioneers of France in the New World, part II (Champlain and His Associates), chap. VI (Jesuits in Acadia):
[Father Pierre] Biard's greatest difficulty was with the Micmac language. Young Biencourt was his best interpreter, and on common occasions served him well; but the moment that religion was in question he was, as it were, stricken dumb, the reason being that the language was totally without abstract terms. Biard resolutely set himself to the study of it, a hard and thorny path, on which he made small progress, and often went astray. Seated, pencil in hand, before some Indian squatting on the floor, whom with the bribe of a mouldy biscuit he had lured into the hut, he plied him with questions which he often neither would nor could answer. What was the Indian word for Faith, Hope, Charity, Sacrament, Baptism, Eucharist, Trinity, Incarnation? The perplexed savage, willing to amuse himself, and impelled, as Biard thinks, by the Devil, gave him scurrilous and unseemly phrases as the equivalent of things holy, which, studiously incorporated into the father's Indian catechism, produced on his pupils an effect the reverse of that intended.
Francis Parkman, The Jesuits in North America in the Seventeenth Century, chap. IV (Le Jeune and the Hunters):
At the outset, he had proffered his aid to Le Jeune in his study of the Algonquin; and, like the Indian practical jokers of Acadia in the case of Father Biard, palmed off upon him the foulest words in the language as the equivalent of things spiritual. Thus it happened, that, while the missionary sought to explain to the assembled wigwam some point of Christian doctrine, he was interrupted by peals of laughter from men, children, and squaws.
Hat tip (for the first quotation): tarnmoor.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017


Ballast to the Mind

Thomas Hardy (1840-1928), The Return of the Native, I.i:
To recline on a stump of thorn in the central valley of Egdon, between afternoon and night, as now, where the eye could reach nothing of the world outside the summits and shoulders of heathland which filled the whole circumference of its glance, and to know that everything around and underneath had been from prehistoric times as unaltered as the stars overhead, gave ballast to the mind adrift on change, and harassed by the irrepressible New.

Monday, July 17, 2017


A Real Conservative

A.E. Housman, letter to Dr. Barnes (June 5, 1914), in The Letters of A.E. Housman, ed. Archie Burnett, Vol. I (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 2007), p. 326 (cf. p. xvi: "Housman's cancellations are placed within angle brackets..."):
I am obliged to you for sending me your petition, but I am returning it without signature. I confess I am attached to the current forms of words, and <I> also I am what you have often heard of but perhaps not often seen, a real conservative, who thinks change an evil in itself.
I don't have access to Burnett's edition of Housman's letters in its entirety, but it appears that he doesn't identify Dr. Barnes, who must be William Emery Barnes (1859-1939), Hulsean Professor of Divinity, University of Cambridge, and member of the Simplified Spelling Society.


Criticism and Forbearance of the Young

Euripides, Hippolytus 114-115 (tr. David Kovacs):
We should not imitate the young when their thoughts are like these.

                     τοὺς νέους γὰρ οὐ μιμητέον
φρονοῦντας οὕτως.
Id. 117-119:
One should be forgiving: if youth makes someone's heart stiff with pride and he utters folly, pretend not to hear him.

                                    χρὴ δὲ συγγνώμην ἔχειν·
εἴ τίς σ᾿ ὑφ᾿ ἥβης σπλάγχνον ἔντονον φέρων
μάταια βάζει, μὴ δόκει τούτου κλυεῖν.
The young probably say similar things about the old:
We should not imitate the old when their thoughts are like these.

One should be forgiving: if old age makes someone's heart stiff with pride and he utters folly, pretend not to hear him.


A Scholar Working in Isolation

Maurice Platnauer, review of John Jackson, Marginalia Scaenica (London: Oxford University Press, 1955), in Classical Review 6.2 (June, 1956) 112-115 (at 112):
The greater part of Jackson's life was spent not in the studious seclusion of a university but in a remote village in the wilds of Cumberland, where he managed his mother's farm, his reading and writing being of necessity done on his return from the day's work. He was further inhibited by having no public library to which to go for new editions or books of reference, and by the fact that his own texts and commentaries were neither very numerous nor always up to date; yet he has produced a collected body of emendations the like of which, at least for brilliance and ingenuity, has not seen the light of day since the publication of Madvig's Adversaria and Cobet's Variae and Novae Lectiones more than a century ago.


Reading and Knowing Great Books

Joseph Fontenrose (1903-1986), Classics at Berkeley: The First Century 1869-1970 (Berkeley: Department of Classics, History Fund, 1982), pp. 40-41:
A staunch defender of the traditional curriculum was Arthur W. Ryder, who came to Berkeley as Instructor in Sanskrit and German in January, 1906. He was in this respect even more conservative than Merrill: Ryder would have pretty much limited the university curriculum to Latin, Greek, and mathematics. Study of history, philosophy, physics, for example, and of languages such as Sanskrit, Hebrew, German, and French would be entered upon only after thorough grounding in the basics as a sort of reward for serious study. As for psychology, sociology, and the like, he dismissed them out of hand as not worth damning. Ryder especially loved Latin ("a man's language," he said), and once said that he had loved Caesar's Gallic Wars from the very first sentence. In later years he limited his reading in ancient languages mostly to Sanskrit and Latin (and in modern to English and French). It was not that he disliked Greek; he was glad to see young men go into Greek studies (he did much to help and encourage Harold Cherniss and me); but he had decided that he could not perfect himself in all three ancient languages, and so he limited himself to the two that he liked most. Certainly he read little Greek in later years, and yet he could recite long passages from Greek tragedy.
Id., p. 43:
Ryder graduated from Harvard and took his Ph.D. in Germany, and then worked with C.R. Lanman on Sanskrit texts for the Harvard Oriental Series before coming to Berkeley. Perhaps it was this experience that turned him against scholarly writing. He did none after 1906. As he told it, he had observed a feature of Sanskrit drama and had mentioned it to a Sanskritist (perhaps Lanman), who was impressed and urged him to write it up in an article. Ryder set out to do so and then reflected that to anyone who knows Sanskrit the point is obvious, and to anyone who does not, it would be meaningless; hence he never wrote the article. To him most scholarship was concerned with trivialities, and so he especially enjoyed translating an epigram in the Panchatantra in these words:
Scholarship is less than sense;
    Therefore seek intelligence.
For him reading and knowing great books were what Sanskrit, Latin, and Greek are all about.
Id., p. 44:
Ryder loved the civilization of India, its literature, religions, philosophies; he even had good words for the caste system—but he never went to India. As a young man he wanted very much to go there; but, when older, he apparently no longer wanted to make the effort. One could say that his life rippled inwards: he limited himself more and more, dropping one interest after another. If a new book on war by Liddell Hart came out, he would buy it and read it—but otherwise he would say, citing Emerson (whom he admired), "Whenever a new book is published, I read an old one." And so Ryder read Dickens's novels, Boswell's Johnson, and Gibbon's Decline and Fall over and over again. Death came to him, as he would have wished, suddenly as he was teaching Sanskrit (an advanced class of just one student, on March 21, 1938), when he was just sixty-one years old. An Italian Sanskritist said after a conversation with him, "Ten men like that would make a civilization."
Related posts:

Sunday, July 16, 2017


An Embarrassing Mistake

Joseph Fontenrose (1903-1986), Classics at Berkeley: The First Century 1869-1970 (Berkeley: Department of Classics, History Fund, 1982), pp. 19-20:
It was [William A.] Merrill's practice to read a certain amount every day in some (usually) previously unread text. Thus in time he read about all Latin literature. But for all his profound knowledge of Latin he once made an embarrassing mistake. He had the task of composing the Latin inscription for the arch of the bridge that crosses Strawberry Creek into Faculty Glade, and he began it HANC PONTEM, which was cut in the stone. At once his error was pointed out, and someone said that this was the only feminine bridge in the world. Merrill defended the gender as written, having found feminine pons in some late ancient or early medieval writings (perhaps in Hisperica Famina, which has female bridges). But as the last act of his administration (so I have heard) Benjamin Ide Wheeler had the A of HANC changed to V. The repair is still visible.

Merrill was a convinced conservative in everything. He used to say that the founding fathers had not established a democracy but a republic. For him our government, society, and schools were steadily getting worse. The weakening of Greek and Latin in school and college curricula was a major example of the loss of standards, a symptom of general decline. If he had lived another half-century, he would not have changed his mind; rather he would have thought his worst fears confirmed.
See University of California Chronicle 13 (1911) 213:
The class of 1910, with the generous cooperation of Mrs. Phoebe A. Hearst, will soon have erected a memorial footbridge over Strawberry Creek north of the Faculty Club. The bridge will be of concrete, from plans drawn by John Bakewell '93, and Arthur Brown, Jr., '96. On the walk of the South Drive a Roman arch will be built, from which nine steps will lead to an arched bridge across the creek. On the south side of the creek nine steps will descend to the path. Professor W. A. Merrill has written the following inscription which will be placed over the portal:
Here is a photograph of the inscription:

Hisperica Famina, A-Text, line 160 = arboreas pontes pedestri tramite tranant, obelized in Francis John Henry Jenkinson's edition (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1908), p. 6. Here is the manuscript (Vat. Reg. lat. 81, fol. 4, look at lines 5-6):

Hat tip: Ian Jackson.

Saturday, July 15, 2017


Song of the Slackers

Alfred Tennyson (1809-1892), "Song of the Lotos-Eaters," lines 11-24:
Why are we weigh'd upon with heaviness,
And utterly consumed with sharp distress,
While all things else have rest from weariness?
All things have rest: why should we toil alone,        15
We only toil, who are the first of things,
And make perpetual moan,
Still from one sorrow to another thrown;
Nor ever fold our wings,
And cease from wanderings,        20
Nor steep our brows in slumber's holy balm;
Nor harken what the inner spirit sings,
'There is no joy but calm!'—
Why should we only toil, the roof and crown of things?
Id., lines 41-53:
Death is the end of life; ah, why
Should life all labour be?
Let us alone. Time driveth onward fast,
And in a little while our lips are dumb.
Let us alone. What is it that will last?        45
All things are taken from us, and become
Portions and parcels of the dreadful past.
Let us alone. What pleasure can we have
To war with evil? Is there any peace
In ever climbing up the climbing wave?        50
All things have rest, and ripen toward the grave
In silence—ripen, fall and cease:
Give us long rest or death, dark death, or dreamful ease.
Id., lines 108-116:
Let us swear an oath, and keep it with an equal mind,
In the hollow Lotos-land to live and lie reclined
On the hills like Gods together, careless of mankind.        110
For they lie beside their nectar, and the bolts are hurl'd
Far below them in the valleys, and the clouds are lightly curl'd
Round their golden houses, girdled with the gleaming world;
Where they smile in secret, looking over wasted lands,
Blight and famine, plague and earthquake, roaring deeps and fiery sands,        115
Clanging fights, and flaming towns, and sinking ships, and praying hands.
Related posts:


A Handmaiden

Siegfried Wenzel, "Reflections on (New) Philology," Speculum 65.1 (January, 1990) 11-18 (at 12):
In this wider sense, I would think of philology not so much as an academic discipline with a clearly defined object and proper methods of investigation, but rather as an attitude. It is precisely what the etymology of the word declares, "love of the word": an appreciative attraction to verbal documents that seeks to understand their meaning, starting with the surface and penetrating to whatever depths are possible, but also alert to the fact that a given text comes from and is shaped by a specific time and place that usually is significantly different from that of the observer.
Id. (at 17-18):
To these and a host of other contemporary critical questions and approaches to literature, philology continues to serve as a handmaiden, furnishing the material basis on which they must stand. Handmaidens are proverbially humble and modest; and however fascinating, even all-consuming for its practitioner, the quest for an elusive etymology or textual variant may become, in the larger scheme of humanistic scholarship and the pursuit of the examined life it certainly has its limitations. At the same time, scholarship is not an absolute monarchy but a republic, in which the handmaiden, while doing her job of preparing the necessities of life — intelligible texts and tools for their understanding — will also remain constantly watchful and critical of the nobility. To order the disciplines devoted to the understanding of literary texts hierarchically, in the shape of a pyramid with paleography at the base and semiotics at the apex, is tempting but dangerous, because such a model allows the semiotician as well as the literary critic in the middle ranges to remain above and aloof from the concerns of philology. Not just an ancillary discipline, philology is an attitude of respect for the datum, for the facts of the text and its contexts, which should be cultivated at all levels of our enterprise to understand and appraise.

Philology thus holds not only a material value, in that it provides the raw materials for understanding, but equally a disciplinary one, by continuously demanding that the intellectual systems built by interpreters or theoreticians be tested against and anchored in the realities of the subject matter.
Id. (at 18):
But as I have defined it, "love of the word" that seeks understanding is a lasting concern of the intellectual life and as such stands above the currents of fashion. This is not to denigrate the many -isms that strut for a while; not only do they play their part in the ongoing performance of intellectual exploration, but they occasionally refine and enrich the more basic work of philologists by developing new "optics," thus sharpening our sights and adding new dimensions of awareness. Yet respect for the facts, for the concrete realities of the text, is and must remain basic.


Usefulness of Pedantic Exactitude

R.G.M. Nisbet, "William Smith Watt, 1913-2002," Proceedings of the British Academy 124 (2004) 359–372 (at 363; footnote omitted):
In May 1941 Watt joined the Inter-Services Topographical Department, then based in Oxford, as a temporary civilian officer, Admiralty; the department had been set up by Admiral J.H. Godfrey, the Director of Naval Intelligence, who had been appalled by the lack of geographical information in the bungled Norwegian campaign in the spring of 1940. It was the duty of the civilian officer to coordinate and edit the data about beaches, roads, and possible airfields collected by the representatives of the three services. Watt commonly worked a twelve-hour day, and sometimes into the night as well when information was needed for plans that were not necessarily executed (perhaps they included some of Churchill's rasher inspirations). Classical scholars were thought suitable for such research as they were used to collating defective scraps of evidence, their pedantic exactitude was seen to be worthwhile when lives were at stake, and they had a reputation at that time for writing concisely and clearly...



Paolo Fedeli, "The History of Propertian Scholarship," Brill's Companion to Propertius (Leiden: Brill, 2006), pp. 3-21 (at 18, n. 63):
Apart from anything else, Richmond can take the credit for bringing into the critical apparatus the lessons of P, which like FL descends from the Petrarchan manuscript...
For lessons read lections or readings (Italian lezioni).


Friday, July 14, 2017


Men and Sheep

Thomas Carlyle (1795-1881), "Boswell's Life of Johnson" (a review of John Wilson Croker's edition), in Fraser's Magazine for Town and Country, Vol. V, No. XXVIII (May, 1832) 379-413 (at 390-391):
Sheep go in flocks for three reasons: First, because they are of a gregarious temper, and love to be together: Secondly, because of their cowardice; they are afraid to be left alone: Thirdly, because the common run of them are dull of sight, to a proverb, and can have no choice in roads; sheep can in fact see nothing; in a celestial Luminary, and a scoured pewter Tankard, would discern only that both dazzled them, and were of unspeakable glory. How like their fellow-creatures of the human species! Men, too, as was from the first maintained here, are gregarious; then surely faint-hearted enough, trembling to be left by themselves; above all, dull-sighted, down to the verge of utter blindness. Thus are we seen ever running in torrents, and mobs, if we run at all; and after what foolish scoured Tankards, mistaking them for suns! Foolish Turnip-lanterns likewise, to all appearance supernatural, keep whole nations quaking, their hair on end. Neither know we, except by blind habit, where the good pastures lie: solely when the sweet grass is between our teeth, we know it, and chew it; also when grass is bitter and scant, we know it,—and bleat and butt: these last two facts we know of a truth and in very deed.—Thus do Men and Sheep play their parts on this Nether Earth; wandering restlessly in large masses, they know not whither; for most part each following his neighbor, and his own nose.


The Last Moment of the Old Europe

Peter Levi (1931-2000), Horace: A Life (New York: Routledge, 1998), p. 2:
When Captain Leigh Fermor, working with the Cretan resistance in the 1939 war, captured General Kreipe and carried him off to a cave in the Cretan mountains, the General was at first not unnaturally nervous of the villainous appearance of his captors, but the next morning was a brilliant one, and they all crowded together to the cave mouth. You could see the snow on every peak in the White Mountains blazing with sunlight, and eagles floating in the clear blue sky. Captain Leigh Fermor was entranced, and murmured to himself the first stanza of Horace's Soracte poem, 'Vides ut alta stet nive candidum...' The General heard him, and continued the poem in Latin to the end. The link held of course, and they became friends from that moment. There is something about this story, some resonance of the past — it could have happened after all in 1643 and not 1943 — that suggests that was the last moment of the old Europe.
Others have pointed out that Kreipe quoted the beginning of the ode, which Leigh Fermor continued (not vice versa). But I like the phrase "the last moment of the old Europe."

Id., p. 3:
I have adored Horace in the simplest manner since I was fifteen, and as undiscerning about poetry as anyone else, but he keeps pace with our years as he does with the ages of the world. Without being deep oneself, one can see the depth in him, and he is one of the very few poets who always leave one feeling wiser, better and more relaxed, with no diminution of energy or of appetite. Whether this has to do with his paganism, or what paganism may mean to him, is one of the avenues we shall explore, but there is no doubt that for three or four hundred years now Horace, with Plutarch, has seemed to offer an alternative to official Christianity, an alternative all the more palatable for the greatness and immediacy of his poetry. Now that I am old I find him greater than ever...

Thursday, July 13, 2017


A Literalist Bias

Charles Segal, introduction to Cedric H. Whitman, The Heroic Paradox: Essays on Homer, Sophocles, and Aristophanes (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1982), p. 13:
Classical scholars are sometimes resistant to new approaches and retain a literalist bias, an unfortunate holdover from the positivism and scientism that sparked the necessary and important philological, historical, and textual achievements of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.
Vive la résistance!


A Wish

Theognis 765-768 (tr. Douglas E. Gerber):
May it be thus or better, to pass the time with cheerful hearts in festive pleasure free of cares; and may malevolent spirits, accursed old age, and death's finality be kept far away.

ὧδ᾿ εἶναι καὶ ἄμεινον, ἐύφρονα θυμὸν ἔχοντας
    νόσφι μεριμνάων εὐφροσύνως διάγειν
τερπομένους· τηλοῦ δὲ κακὰς ἀπὸ κῆρας ἀμῦναι
    γῆράς τ᾿ οὐλόμενον καὶ θανάτοιο τέλος.

765 εἶναι καὶ: εἴη κεν Ahrens, ἐύφρονα: ὁμόφρονα Brunck
Fridericus Theophilus Welcker, ed., Theognidis Reliquiae (Frankfurt-am-Main: Broenner, 1826), p. 127:
Subaudi εὐχόμεθα.


Amazonian Confusion

I wondered how much it would cost to buy Euripides, Orestes. With Introduction and Commentary by C.W. Willink (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1986), so I looked it up on (typing "willink orestes" into the Books search box). On one and the same web page I saw all of the following.

Charles W. Willink's name as editor, alongside a picture of M.L. West's edition of the play (Warminster: Aris & Phillips, 1987):

A review of a translation of Euripides' Orestes by John Peck and Frank Nisetich (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1995):

And finally product details for Willink's edition:

When I clicked on the Look Inside picture (of West's edition) on the same web page, I got the following message:
Just so you know...
This view is of the Paperback edition (2010) from CreateSpace. The Hardcover edition (1987) from Oxford University Press that you originally viewed is the one you'll receive if you click the Add to Cart button on the left.
"[T]he Paperback edition (2010) from CreateSpace" looks like a cheap reprint of an anonymous 19th century translation of Euripides' Orestes. It certainly doesn't correspond to Willink's edition, West's edition, or the translation by Peck and Nisetich.

What book would I really receive by ordering from this web page? Who knows? Certainly it's impossible to buy Willink's edition used for $5.51, which is one of the prices listed. With all of his billions, why can't Jeff Bezos hire a few librarians to bring order into the chaos of's book pages?


A Snail's Life

Erasmus, Adagia IV iv 57, in Collected Works of Erasmus, Vol. 36: Adages IV iii 1 to V ii 51, tr. John N. Grant and Betty I. Knott (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2006), p. 101:
57 Cochleae vita
A snail's life

Κοχλίου βίος, A snail's life. Said of those who live frugally and on little, or have withdrawn from business and are aloof from the activities of commercial daily life. The creature from whom the metaphor has been taken is well known. Plutarch in his essay 'On Love of Wealth': 'You are beset by many troubles, you torture and upset yourself when you live a snail's life because of your stinginess.'1 We have quoted elsewhere from the Two Captives of Plautus about how snails 'live on their own juice ... when it is hot weather.'2

1 Plutarch Moralia 525D-E De cupiditate divitiarum

2 Plautus Captivi 78-83, quoted in Adagia II viii 80 They live on their own juice. Erasmus' version of the title of Plautus' play is common in early editions.
The Latin:
Κοχλίου βίος, id est Cochleae vita. De iis qui parce parvoque vivunt aut contracti a negociis luceque forensi semoti. Notum est animal unde sumpta est metaphora. Plutarchus in libello Περὶ τῆς φιλοπλουτίας: Σὺ δὲ τοσαῦτα πράγματα συνέχεις καὶ ταράττεις καὶ στροβεῖς σεαυτόν, κοχλίου βίον ζῶν διὰ τὴν μικρολογίαν, id est Tu vero tantum molestiarum sustines turbans et torquens teipsum, cum ob parsimoniam cochleae vitam vivas. De cochleis quae, cum caletur, succo victitant suo, alias retulimus ex Plautina Captivi duo.

Erasmus, "Domestica Confabulatio," in Opera Omnia I.3: Colloquia, edd. L.-E. Halkin et al. (Amsterdam: North Holland Publishing Company, 1972), pp. 138-140 (at 139):
PETRVS. Sed tu mihi videre cochleae vitam agere.
IODOCVS. Qui sic?
PETRVS. Quia perpetuo domi lates, nec vsquam prorepis. Non secus atque claudus sutor, iugiter domi desides. Tu tibi domi situm contrahis.
Tr. Craig R. Thompson:
Peter But you seem to me to live a snail's life.
Jodocus How so?
Peter Because you always hide at home and never come out. You're no different from a crippled cobbler, forever sitting at home. You'll grow musty sitting at home.
"Come out" is a bit colorless for the Latin prorepis ("creep forth").

Erasmus, letter 282 (to Andrew Ammonius; November 28, 1513), in Opus epistolarum Des. Erasmi Roterdami, ed. P.S. Allen, Tom. I: 1484-1514 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1906; rpt. 1882), pp. 541-542 (at 542):
Nos, mi Ammoni, iam menses aliquot plane cochleae vitam viuimus; domi contracti conditique mussamus in studiis.
Tr. Francis Morgan Nichols:
We have been living, my dear Ammonius, for some months a snail's life. We shrink and hide ourselves indoors, and are busy as bees in study.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017


Voluntary Confinement

Pascal, Pensées 136 (tr. Stanley Appelbaum):
I've often said that all of man's unhappiness comes from one thing: not knowing how to remain calmly in one room.
But the gentleman mentioned by Montaigne, Essais 2.8 (writing about his children; tr. Donald M. Frame), seems to have taken this to an extreme:
And for this purpose I would not avoid their company; I would observe them close up, and enjoy their fun and festivities within the limitations of my age. If I did not live among them (as I could not without spoiling their gatherings by being fretful as old men are and a slave to my infirmities, and without also doing violence to the rules and ways of living that I should then have), I should at least want to live near them in a part of my house, not the most showy but the most comfortable. Not like a dean of the church of Saint Hilary at Poitiers whom I saw, some years ago, so cut off by his gloomy disagreeableness that when I entered his room it had been twenty-two years since he had gone one step out of it; and yet he was free and easy in all his functions, except for a cold that was going down into his stomach. Hardly once a week would he permit anyone to come in to see him; he kept himself always locked up in his chamber alone, except that a servant, who only came in and went out, brought him something to eat once a day. His occupation was to walk around and read some book (for he had a certain knowledge of letters); moreover, he was obstinately set on dying in this routine, as he did soon after.


Books Are a Load of Crap

Juan Ramón Jiménez (1881-1958), Ideolojía (1897-1957) (Barcelona: Anthropos, 1990), p. 143, #730 (my translation):
Translate, study, read — time wasted. Walk, contemplate, meditate, create!

Traducir, estudiar, leer: Tiempo perdido. ¡Pasear, contemplar, meditar, crear!
I added a comma after Traducir (there's a comma in the index on p. cxxxix). I wasted my time translating this, and you're wasting your time reading it.

Hat tip: Ian Jackson.


Size Matters

[Warning: X-rated.]

It's difficult not to write satire, says Juvenal, when vice abounds everywhere. Is it possible to keep silent, for example (1.37-41; tr. Susanna Morton Braund):
—when you are shoved out of the way by men who earn legacies by night work, men who are raised to the skies by what is now the royal road to highest advancement—a rich old woman's snatch? Proculeius gets one-twelfth but Gillo eleven-twelfths: each heir gets a share of inheritance to match his performance.

cum te summoveant qui testamenta merentur
noctibus, in caelum quos evehit optima summi
nunc via processus, vetulae vesica beatae?
unciolam Proculeius habet, sed Gillo deuncem,        40
partes quisque suas ad mensuram inguinis heres.
Braund boldly and accurately translates vetulae vesica beatae, but slips into euphemism with her rendering of ad mensuram inguinis, which more literally means "to match the size of his penis." Cf. the translation of Braund's Loeb predecessor G.G. Ramsay, who obscures the literal meaning of both phrases:
when you are thrust on one side by men who earn legacies by nightly performances, and are raised to heaven by that now royal road to high preferment—the favours of an aged and wealthy woman? Each of the lovers will have his share; Proculeius a twelfth part, Gillo eleven parts, each in proportion to the magnitude of his services.
Both of the terms for the genitals in this passage (inguen, normally groin; vesica, normally bladder) share an interesting semantic characteristic. See J.N. Adams, The Latin Sexual Vocabulary (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1982; rpt. 1993), p. 47:
Sometimes an explicit word is replaced by a word which strictly designates a neighbouring part without sexual significance. Of words in this category inguen was the most common, and the most readily interchangeable with the uoces propriae for the sexual organs.
Id., pp. 91-92:
I have shown earlier that the sexual organs may be referred to by the name of a nearby part of no sexual significance (pp. 47ff.). A use of uesica (lit. 'bladder') at Juv. 1.39 ('in caelum quos euehit optima summi / nunc uia processus, uetulae uesica beatae') seems to be of the same type: Juvenal may deliberately have failed to make a distinction between the bladder / urethra and the vagina (for the position of the uesica note Cels. 4.1.11 'in feminis (uesica) super genitale earum sita est').
Michael Hendry, "Juvenalia", Museum Criticum 30-31 (1995-1996) 253-266:
As Courtney says, the sense is "each inheriting a share proportionate to the size of his penis". Explaining the point of a joke is a thankless task, all the more so when it is as filthy and tasteless as this one. Nevertheless, it seems to me that there is a bit more to it than that. Besides the comic (and comically precise) exaggeration — a disproportion of 11:1 is far beyond anything likely to be found in nature — Juvenal surely expects us to be amused by the idea that someone so preternaturally ill-endowed as Proculeius can make a living as a gigolo,2 despite his lack of the most basic qualification for the job.3

2 Perhaps not a very good living, unless the estate is large enough to make even a one-twelfth share substantial.

3 Of course, he may have other talents, but the text suggests that the unnamed uetula thinks that size is everything when it comes to lovers.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017


The Bare Irreducible Minimum

J.P. Postgate (1853-1926), Dead Language and Dead Languages, with Special Reference to Latin. An Inaugural Lecture Delivered Before the University of Liverpool ... on Friday, December 10, 1909 (London: John Murray, 1910), pp. 12-13 (endnote omitted):
But first we must lay down some principles. And this to begin with: that a knowledge of some foreign language, ancient or modern, is the bare irreducible minimum for anyone who desires to be educated in any true sense of the term, and that for him who would have a liberal education two are required. Such a one would own the treasure which Ennius, the father of Roman poetry, described when he said, with a grip upon reality not always observable in modern professors of education, that he had three souls, because he could speak Latin, Greek, and Oscan.
Id., pp. 14-15:
Is there anyone who, if he could, would not wish to read Dante in the original? Well, if he knows Latin, he need only acquaint himself with the not very numerous changes which Latin has undergone in Italy since the Roman age, and I will promise him that he shall be able to read the third canto of the 'Inferno' in a day. I will promise it, I say, for I did it in half a day myself.
Id., p. 25:
Such literature surely is not dead; it is for all times surely real and alive. Because it deals, not with what is transitory, superficial, or material, but with what is permanent, essential, and spiritual; because it deals with that universal humanity which neither custom, fashion, nor soi-disant progress can ever change, the same on the Tiber as on the Thames, the same whether those who the moment embody it are carried in litters, or are conveyed in taxicabs or, it may be, on aeroplanes. Should we not say that our Scottish friends showed their insight into the truth of things when they named professorships of Latin professorships of 'Humanity'?


Conditions of a Private Library

Samuel Pepys (1633-1703), "On the Conditions of a Private Library," as reprinted in Edward M. Wilson, "Samuel Pepys in Spain," Transactions of the Cambridge Bibliographical Society 7.3 (1979) 322-337 (at 334; endnote omitted):
In distinction noe lesse from those of the more Extensive, Pompous, and Stationary Libraries, of PRINCES, UNIVERSITIES, COLLEGES, and other PUBLICK-SOCIETIES, than of the more Restrained though otherwise Voluminous COLLECTIONS incident to those of the PROFESSORS of PARTICULAR FACULTIES: as being calculated for the SELF-ENTERTAINMENT onely of a solitary, unconfined ENQUIRER into BOOKS, and VOTARY of CICERO'S OTIUM LITERATUM: Iis (dico) Literis quibus Infinitatem Rerum atque Naturae, et in hoc ipso Mundo Coelum, Terras, Maria, cognoscimus. Tusc. Disp. Lib. Wherein what I propose as principally to be attended to is,
1. As to the Generall Scope and Purpose of it:
The comprehending in fewest Books and least Room the greatest diversity of SUBJECTS, STYLES, and LANGUAGES its Owner's Reading will bear; with Reguard had to theyr AUTHORS, EDITIONS, and PROPORTIONS on each Subject, answerable to theyr Weight, and the Particular Genius of their said Owner.
2. In the Book-binders Works,
Decency and Uniformity; with some Marks of theyr Propriety.
3. In theyr Registry.
Clearness, Comprehensiveness, and Order, and that
Three-fold, viz.  Alphabeticall
Originally printed in J.R. Tanner, ed., Private Correspondence and Miscellaneous Papers of Samuel Pepys (London: G. Bell and Sons, Limited, 1926), vol. II, pp. 247-248 (non vidi).

Hat tip: Eric Thomson, who a few years ago sent me this photograph of part of his private library:


Baths, Wine, and Sex

The emperor's slave, Merope, thought that baths, wine, and sex were the things that made life worth living. Here are the views of a later emperor on those things.

Baths (Marcus Aurelius, Meditations 8.24; tr. C.R. Haines):
What bathing is when thou thinkest of it—oil, sweat, filth, greasy water, everything revolting—such is every part of life and every object we meet with.

ὁποῖόν σοι φαίνεται τὸ λούεσθαι· ἔλαιον, ἱδρώς, ῥύπος, ὕδωρ γλοιῶδες, πάντα σικχαντά· τοιοῦτον πᾶν μέρος τοῦ βίου καὶ πᾶν ὑποκείμενον.
Wine (id., 6.13):
This Falernian is merely the juice of a grape-cluster.

ὁ Φάλερνος χυλάριόν ἐστι σταφυλίου.
Sex (id.):
Sexual intercourse ... is merely internal attrition and the spasmodic excretion of mucus.

καὶ ἐπὶ τῶν κατὰ τὴν συνουσίαν ἐντερίου παράτριψις καὶ μετά τινος σπασμοῦ μυξαρίου ἔκκρισις.
In my opinion, the slave woman was wiser than the emperor.

Lawrence Alma-Tadema (1836-1912), At the Wine Shop (1869),
Guildhall Art Gallery, London, inv. 1513

Monday, July 10, 2017


Thoroughly Wicked

Juvenal, Satires 4.2-3 (tr. Susanna Morton Braund):
... a monstrosity without a single good quality to make up for his faults ...

... monstrum nulla virtute redemptum
a vitiis ...


A Scene from Pompeii

Lawrence Alma-Tadema (1836-1912),
A Scene from Pompeii, or The Siesta (1868),
Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid, inv. P03996


A Necessary Presupposition

Machiavelli (1469-1527), Discourses on Livy 1.3.1 (tr. Harvey C. Mansfield):
As all those demonstrate who reason on a civil way of life, and as every history is full of examples, it is necessary to whoever disposes a republic and orders laws in it to presuppose that all men are bad, and that they always have to use the malignity of their spirit whenever they have a free opportunity for it. When any malignity remains hidden for a time, this proceeds from a hidden cause, which is not recognized because no contrary experience has been seen. But time, which they say is the father of every truth, exposes it later.

Come dimostrano tutti coloro che ragionano del vivere civile, e come ne è piena di esempli ogni istoria, è necessario a chi dispone una republica, ed ordina leggi in quella, presupporre tutti gli uomini rei, e che li abbiano sempre a usare la malignità dello animo loro, qualunque volta ne abbiano libera occasione; e quando alcuna malignità sta occulta un tempo, procede da una occulta cagione, che, per non si essere veduta esperienza del contrario, non si conosce; ma la fa poi scoprire il tempo, il quale dicono essere padre d'ogni verità.


Classical Education

G.H.S., "Two Letters to a Classical Friend. I," Classical Review 15.5 (June, 1901) 282-284 (at 283):
But the predominating impression which Virgil left upon my mind, was that of sheer fag, of the stiffest piece of grind which I had ever gone through. And you know I still retain the opinion that grind is one thing, and poetry quite another, as different (to put it briefly) as Martha and Mary.
Id. (at 283-284):
I felt, rightly or wrongly, that the study of the classics was not pursued for its own sake, but as part of an established system of education, of which the value and importance were rather taken for granted than really felt or proved. To me, and to most others on my own level of attainment, it was just mere cram and grind and shop, and could by no possibility be anything more. There was nothing in all this to gratify the love of Letters, the love of Nature, the love of Beauty. No experience could be less Hellenic, or less Humane. The classics, I then felt, and I feel still, were hackneyed to death, and nothing short of a miracle could impart to them the least touch of freshness. A classic text to me both was and is, a thing of verbs and adjectives; of the grammar and the lexicon; and the study of it had no more to do with Poetry than it had to do with Chemistry.
G.H.S., "Two Letters to a Classical Friend. II," Classical Review 15.6 (July, 1901) 320-322 (at 320):
I find that, so far as I am concerned, an Ode of Horace is the literary equivalent of a Chinese puzzle. With pains I can solve the puzzle or construe the text; but the result has neither beauty nor meaning. The whole thing leaves me weary and indifferent.
Id. (at 320-321):
My love for Lycidas and Adonais, and even my indifference to the Bucolics of Virgil, now led me to attempt Theocritus. I might as well have read so many consecutive pages of Liddell and Scott. And when Liddell and Scott come in at the door, Poetry flies out at the window. Clearly Theocritus was a task beyond me, a task for the man who makes the study of classical literature the main business of his life. I must be content to let that go. I had wished to follow downwards the tradition of pastoral poetry. That must now be left to others.
Id. (at 321):
I have somehow made my way through the first twelve books of the Iliad. Frankly, I find it detestable. Let me remind you once more that I am not passing judgment, I do but register the results of much painstaking labour. The vile jargon in which the poem is composed, half barbarism and half affectation; the inextricable confusion of the accidence, which keeps the reader in continual perplexity and embarrassment; the peculiar vagueness and obscurity of the vocabulary, which prevent him from receiving any clear or forcible impression; the sickening conventionalities of the style, the rhetoric and rhodomontade, the verbosity and diffuseness, the set phrases and recurring formulae, the epithets without meaning and adjectives which go without any word; the interminable declamation, as of the professional reciter mouthing polysyllables at so much a verse; the uniform monotonous flow of twaddle disguised in verbiage; the disjointed succession of episodes, without unity, or plan or progress; the tedious elaboration of trivial detail; the prating heroes and ignoble gods; have left upon my mind a sense of absolute nausea.
Out of my unlucky experience, one broad result has clearly emerged, and for myself at least, is henceforth placed beyond the possibility of doubt. The classical literature is by its very nature a study for the specialist; no real appreciation of it is possible except to the specialist; and classical education is the education of the specialist or it is nothing. A subject so alien, so remote, so difficult, so technical, so elaborate, so artificial, can have no value for the purpose of general education. The fallacy which you classical men commit is that of supposing that the ancient languages and texts have, or can have, for your pupils, the same significance that they bear to yourselves.
Id. (at 321-322):
For most of us, what is called classical education means no more than an imperfect, and therefore useless, acquisition of the mechanical or linguistic part of the study; and that which alone has, in the Greek sense, musical, or, as we say, literary value, is never really assimilated. The texts read remain not a literature but a chrestomathy. We ask for bread and you give us a stone. In order to impart, in nineteen cases out of twenty, a mere smattering of the grammar and rhetoric of two dead languages, you have sacrificed all the opportunities of culture and the faculties of the mind. So far from inspiring the love of letters, it would be nearer the truth to say that you have stifled it. So far from communicating a real knowledge of any part of literature, you have stopped the way with your costly and useless commodities, your display of learning without life. In the few cases where your system has the only success of which it is capable it produces the professional scholar, for whom I have no less respect than yourself, though perhaps a less exclusive admiration. In the vast majority it generates the prig, taught to flatter himself upon his acquirements and to prefer form to substance; the smug, versed in his especial task of book-learning and ignorant of all beyond; or the dunce, whose small capacity has been extinguished by those who should have developed it.

Sunday, July 09, 2017


You Had Better Look That Up

H.L. Mencken, diary (November 25, 1938; on Dr. Dean Lewis):
The students in the Hopkins Medical School rather dislike him, but that is only because he is a harsh examiner. He never lets them get away with bluffs. Either they know the matter under discussion or he orders them to go back to their books. His phrase, "You had better look that up," is a byword at the Medical School.


Dispassionate Scientific Inquiry

J.P. Postgate (1853-1926), "Flaws in Classical Research," Proceedings of the British Academy 3 (1907-1908) 161-211 (at 183):
It is no business of the scientific inquirer after truth to sit in judgement on the tastes and morals of antiquity. Sympathy with his author is of some use to a student, but of none to a savant. Dispassionateness and insight are all that he requires. The admiration stirred in us by the greatness and splendour of an ancient monument of genius is prone to pass into a sentiment which dresses the figure of its worship in fictitious and anachronistic excellences, and resents as profanation any fact or hypothesis that would fasten upon the idol deeds, thoughts, or expressions of which the idolater personally disapproves. How strong and prevalent the sentiment is among us it is difficult to say, since its expression is generally confined to protests in unsigned reviews and private 'letters to the editor'. When the evidence opposed to it is overwhelming and admitted, it shuts its eyes or runs away; though it is up in arms on every fresh occasion. My own experience is that it is very strong indeed, and that there are but few who can be trusted to decide with equanimity certain questions affecting the private life, say, of a Sappho or a Tibullus. To the others my advice, if I might presume to offer it, would be this. If a scholar finds that one of two necessarily alternative conclusions is from its character repugnant to his feelings, this is a hint from his personality that he should leave the matter alone.


The Glory is Departing from the Land

Anthony Trollope (1815-1882), The American Senator, Part III, Chapter X:
"I can't understand," said Glomax, "how any man can be considered a good fellow as a country gentleman who does not care for sport. Just look at it all round. Suppose others were like him what would become of us all?"

"Yes indeed, what would become of us?" asked the two Botseys in a breath.

"Ho'd 'ire our 'orses, Runciman?" suggested Harry Stubbings with a laugh.

"Think what England would be!" said the Captain. "When I hear of a country gentleman sticking to books and all that, I feel that the glory is departing from the land."
"Sport" here is fox hunting.

Saturday, July 08, 2017


Individual and Society

Marcus Aurelius, Meditations 6.54 (tr. C.R. Haines):
That which is not in the interests of the hive cannot be in the interests of the bee.

τὸ τῷ σμήνει μὴ συμφέρον οὐδὲ τῇ μελίσσῃ συμφέρει.



Inscriptiones Graecae IX,1 883 (Corcyra, 2nd-3rd century A.D., my translation):
This advice I, Euodos, give to all mortals:
Give a share of good things to your soul; why are you its enemy?
And comfort your life with luxuriousness,
knowing that, if you go down to the drink of Lethe,
down below you will see nothing of the things above, ever,
when your soul has flown away from your limbs.

τοῦτ' Εὔοδος βροτοῖσι πᾶσι παραινῶ·
    τῇ ψυχῇ μετάδος καλ<ῶ>ν· <τί> ἔχθεις;
καὶ τὸν βίον τρυφῇ παρηγόρησον
    εἰδώς, ἢν καταβῇς ἐς πῶμα Λήθης
οὐδὲν τῶν ἐπάνω κάτω ποτ' ὄψει
    ψυχῆς ἐκ μελέων ἀποπταθείσης.
See Valentina Garulli, "Conversazioni in limine mortis: forme di dialogo esplicite e implicite nelle iscrizioni sepolcrali greche in versi," in Cristina Pepe and Gabriella Moretti, edd., Le parole dopo la morte: forme e funzioni della retorica funeraria nella tradizione greca e romana (Trent: Università degli Studi di Trento, 2014), pp. 59-96 (at 78-80).

Friday, July 07, 2017


Epitaph of a Gladiator

Reinhold Merkelbach and Josef Stauber, Steinepigramme aus dem griechischen Osten, Bd. 2: Die Nordküste Kleinasiens (Marmarasee und Pontos) (Munich: K.G. Saur, 2001), p. 205:

This also appears in Friedrich Karl Dörner, ed., Tituli Bithyniae linguis Graeca et Latina conscripti: Paeninsula Bithynica praeter Calchedonem, Nicomedia et Ager Nicomedensis cum septemtrionali meridianoque litore Sinus Astaceni et cum Lacu Sumonensi (Vienna: Academia Scientiarum Austriaca, 1978 = Tituli Asiae Minoris, Vol. IV, Fasc. 1), number 109 (non vidi).

Here is the Greek, with an English translation:
[¯˘˘ ¯˘˘ ¯˘μ' ὁρᾶτ]ε νέκυν, παροδεῖται.
[οὔν]ομά μοι παγανὸν Ἀπολλώ[νι]ς ἐκλήθην,
οὗ πατρὶς Ἀπά[μι]α, νῦν δὲ Νικομηδείας με [γ]αῖᾳ
πρὸς δάπεδον κατέχει με μίτος καὶ νήματα Μοιρῶν.
ὀκτάκι νεικήσας τὸν ἐν σταδίοισιν ἀγῶναν,
τῇ δ' ἐνάτῃ πυγμῇ τὸ πεπρωμένον ὧδε ἀπέδωκε.
παῖζε, γέλα, παροδεῖτα, εἰδὼς ὅτι καὶ σὲ θανεῖν δεῖ.

Ἀλεξάνδρια ἡ σύμβιος αὐτοῦ ἐκ τῶν αὐτοῦ τὸ μνημεῖον ἀνέστησα μνείας χάριν· εἰ δέ τις τὸν βωμὸν τολμήσει καταστρέψε, δώσει προστείμου τῷ φίσκῳ (δην.) βφ'.

O passersby, you see me, a corpse.
For my civilian name I was called Apolloni(o)s.
My fatherland was Apameia, but now in the land of Nikomedeia
the thread and yarn of the Fates hold me fast in the earth.
Having won the contest in the amphitheater eight times,
in the ninth fight destiny delivered me over to this place.
Play, laugh, o passerby, knowing that you too must die.

Alexandria, his wife, with his earnings set up this memorial for the sake of remembrance. If anyone dares to disturb the tomb, he will pay a fine of 2500 denarii to the treasury.

Thursday, July 06, 2017



Carl D. Buck (1866-1955), "A Semantic Note," Classical Philology 15.1 (January, 1920) 39-45 (at 42):
ψοφῶ 'die.' The regular Modern Greek word for 'die' is ἀπέθανα in the aorist, with a new analogical present ἀποθαίνω or πεθαίνω in place of the ancient ἀποθνήσκω. But ψοφῶ, in ancient Greek meaning 'make an inarticulate noise,' came to be used colloquially in the sense of 'die,' especially of animals or of men dying miserably, as from starvation. This use is attested for the twelfth century at least (Prodromus, I, 317, ψόφουν ἐκ τὴν πεῖναν 'I was dying of hunger'), and is doubtless much earlier.

Koraes, Atakta, I, 264 ff., connected this use with the noise made by the body falling in death, comparing the Homeric use of δουπέω to denote the dull thud of the corpse, e.g., δεδουπότος Οἰδιπόδαο 'when Oedipus had fallen.' But it is rather the inarticulate gasp of death that furnishes the transition, for which the closest parallel is the slang croak in the sense of 'die.' Compare also the use in the sense of 'die,' and with the same application and tone as ψοφῶ, of Fr. crever and Ital. crepare, whence NHG. krepieren. While this use may of course be derived from the usual meaning of the French and Italian verbs, namely 'burst,' it more probably represents an old colloquial expression which, like croak, grew out of the notion of noise that was dominant in the Latin verb (crepare 'crack, creak, rattle,' etc.).

A friend pointed out that Buck was born in Orland, Maine, not far from where I grew up. The article on Buck by William M. Calder III in Biographical Dictionary of North American Classicists, ed. Ward W. Briggs, Jr. (Westport: Greenwood Press, 1994), pp. 70-72, calls Buck's Comparative Grammar of Greek and Latin "a book of numbing dullness" and says, "He was a soporific lecturer and an uninspiring teacher."

George S. Lane, "Carl Darling Buck," Language 31.2 (April-June, 1955) 181-189 (at 181-182):
To the end of his days, in spite of his long sojourn in the Middle West, he remained a 'Maine man'. When he walked down to his classes at the University of Chicago on a bad, snowy day, with his fur cap, his long, black, fur-lined greatcoat, and his high galoshes, he looked like any sturdy Maine citizen on his way to the general store or going about his daily routine.
Id. (at 185):
Buck was never a popular teacher, never what would be now considered a 'good' teacher by the criteria of the Colleges of Education. He probably never had enough undergraduate students at any one time to have made a student evaluation possible. If he had been graded by such students, I shudder to think of his score. Buck was a scholar's teacher: if you were not interested in his subject, you had better study something else; if you were not prepared, you had better go back and get your preparation.
Id. (at 187):
A man more modest of his own accomplishments has rarely lived. A short time before his death he was asked by a visiting scholar, who had come to honor him, how it felt to be the greatest living authority in a field (the reference was to the Greek dialects), and what one might prescribe, as it were, as the pattern to be followed to reach this eminence. Buck's lips parted in a slight smile: 'Just outlive all the rest,' he said.

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