previous next

Damasippus, in a conversation with Horace, proves this paradox of the Stoic philosophy, that most men are actually mad.

You write so seldom, as not to call for parchment four times in the year, busied in reforming your writings, yet are you angry with yourself, that indulging in wine and sleep you produce nothing worthy to be the subject of conversation. What will be the consequence? But you took refuge here, it seems, at the very celebration of the Saturnalia, out of sobriety. Dictate therefore something worthy of your promises: begin. There is nothing. The pens are found fault with to no purpose, and the harmless wall, which must have been built under the displeasure of gods and poets, suffers [to no end]. But you had the look of one that threatened many and excellent things, when once your villa had received you, free from employment, under its warm roof. To what purpose was it to stow Plato upon Menander? Eupolis, Archilochus? For what end did you bring abroad such companions? What are you setting about appeasing envy by deserting virtue? Wretch, you will be despised. That guilty Siren, Sloth, must be avoided; or whatever acquisitions you have made in the better part of your life, must with equanimity be given up. May the gods and goddesses, O Damasippus, present you with a barber for your sound advice! But by what means did you get so well acquainted with me? Since all my fortunes were dissipated at the middle of the Exchange,1 detached from all business of my own, I mind that of other people. For formerly I used to take a delight in inquiring, in what vase the crafty Sisyphus might have washed his feet; what was carved in an unworkmanlike manner, and what more roughly cast than it ought to be; being a connoisseur, I offered a hundred thousand sesterces for such a statue; I was the only man who knew how to purchase gardens and fine seats to the best advantage: whence the crowded ways gave me the surname of Mercurial.2 I know it well; and am amazed at your being cured of that disorder. Why a new disorder expelled the old one in a marvelous manner; as it is accustomed to do, when the pain of the afflicted side, or the head, is turned upon the stomach; as it is with a man in a lethargy, when he turns boxer, and attacks his physician. As long as you do nothing like this, be it even as you please. O my good friend, do not deceive yourself; you likewise are mad, and it is almost "fools all,"3 if what Stertinius insists upon has any truth in it; from whom, being of a teachable disposition, I derived these admirable precepts, at the very time when, having given me consolation, he ordered me to cultivate a philosophical beard, and to return cheerfully from the Fabrician bridge. For when, my affairs being desperate, I had a mind to throw myself into the river, having covered my head4 [for that purpose], he fortunately5 was at my elbow; and [addressed me to this effect]: Take care,6 how you do any thing unworthy of yourself; a false shame, says he, afflicts you, who dread to be esteemed a madman among madmen. For in the first place I will inquire, what it is to be mad: and, if this distemper be in you exclusively, I will not add a single word, to prevent you from dying bravely.

The school and sect of Chrysippus7 deem every man mad, whom vicious folly or the ignorance of truth drives blindly forward. This definition takes in whole nations, this even great kings, the wise man [alone] excepted. Now learn, why all those, who have fixed the name of madman upon you, are as senseless as yourself. As in the woods, where a mistake makes people wander about from the proper path; one goes out of the way to the right; another to the left; there is the same blunder on both sides, only the illusion is in different directions: in this manner imagine yourself mad; so that he, who derides you, hangs his tail,8 not one jot wiser than yourself. There is one species of folly, that dreads things not in the least formidable; insomuch that it will complain of fires, and rocks, and rivers opposing it in the open plain; there is another different from this, but not a whit more approaching to wisdom, that runs headlong through the midst of flames and floods. Let the loving mother, the virtuous sister, the father, the wife, together with all the relations [of a man possessed with this latter folly], cry out: "Here is a deep ditch; here is a prodigious rock; take care of yourself:" he would give no more attention, than did the drunken Fufius9 some time ago, when he overslept the character of Ilione, twelve hundred Catieni at the same time roaring out, O mother, I call you to my aid. I will demonstrate to you, that the generality of all mankind are mad in the commission of some folly similar to this.

Damasippus is mad for purchasing antique statues: but is Damasippus' creditor in his senses? Well, suppose I should say to you: receive this,10 which you can never repay: will you be a madman, if you receive it; or would you be more absurd for rejecting a booty, which propitious Mercury offers? Take bond,11 like the banker Nerius, for ten thousand sesterces; it will not signify: add the forms of Cicuta,12 so versed in the knotty points of law: add a thousand obligations: yet this wicked Proteus will evade all these ties. When you shall drag him to justice, laughing as if his cheeks were none of his own;13 he will be transformed into a boar, sometimes into a bird, sometimes into a stone, and when he pleases into a tree. If to conduct one's affairs badly be the part of a the madman; and the reverse, that of a man well in his senses; brain of Perillius (believe me), who orders you [that sum of money], which you can never repay, is much more unsound [than yours].

Whoever grows pale with evil ambition, or the love of money: whoever is heated with luxury, or gloomy superstition, or any other disease of the mind, I command him to adjust his garment and attend: hither, all of ye, come near me in order, while I convince you that you are mad.

By far the largest portion of hellebore is to be administered to the covetous: I know not, whether reason does not consign all Anticyra to their use. The heirs of Staberius engraved the sum [which he left them] upon his tomb: unless they had acted in this manner, they were under an obligation14 to exhibit a hundred pair of gladiators to the people, beside an entertainment according to the direction of Arrius; and as much corn as is cut in Africa. Whether I have willed this rightly or wrongly, it was my will; be not severe against me, [cries the testator]. I imagine the provident mind of Staberius foresaw this. What then did he mean, when he appointed by will that his heirs should engrave the sum of their patrimony upon his tomb-stone? As long as he lived, he deemed poverty a great vice, and nothing did he more industriously avoid: insomuch that, had he died less rich by one farthing, the more iniquitous would he have appeared to himself. For every thing, virtue, fame, glory, divine and human affairs, are subservient to the attraction of riches; which whoever shall have accumulated, shall be illustrious, brave, just — What, wise too? Ay, and a king, and whatever else he pleases. This he was in hopes would greatly redound to his praise, as if it had been an acquisition of his virtue. In what respect did the Grecian Aristippus15 act like this; who ordered his slaves to throw away his gold in the midst of Libya; because, encumbered with the burden, they traveled too slowly? Which is the greater madman of these two? An example is nothing to the purpose, that decides one controversy by creating another. If any person were to buy lyres, and [when he had bought them] to stow them in one place, though neither addicted to the lyre nor to any one muse whatsoever: if a man were [to buy] paring-knives and lasts, and were no shoemaker; sails fit for navigation, and were averse to merchandising; he would every where deservedly be styled delirious, and out of his senses. How does he differ from these, who hoards up cash and gold [and] knows not how to use them when accumulated, and is afraid to touch them as if they were consecrated? If any person before a great heap of corn should keep perpetual watch with a long club, and, though the owner of it, and hungry, should not dare to take a single grain from it; and should rather feed upon bitter leaves: if, while a thousand hogsheads of Chian, or old Falernian, is stored up within (nay, that is nothing — three hundred thousand), he drink nothing, but what is mere sharp vinegar: again — if, wanting but one year of eighty, he should lie upon straw, who has bed-clothes rotting in his chest, the food of worms and moths; he would seem mad, belike, but to few persons: because the greatest part of mankind labors under the same malady.

Thou dotard, hateful to the gods, dost thou guard [these possessions], for fear of wanting .thyself: to the end that thy son, or even the freedman thy heir, should guzzle it all up For how little will each day deduct from your capital, if you begin to pour better oil upon your greens and your head, filthy with scurf not combed out? If any thing be a sufficiency, wherefore are you guilty of perjury [wherefore] do you rob, and plunder from all quarters? Are you in your senses? If you were to begin to pelt the populace with stones, and the slaves, which you purchased with your money; all the very boys and girls will cry out that you are a madman. When you dispatch your wife with a rope, and your mother with poison, are you right in your head? Why not? You neither did this at Argos, nor slew your mother with the sword as the mad Orestes did. What, do you imagine that he ran mad after lie had murdered his parent; and that he was not driven mad by the wicked Furies, before he warmed his sharp steel in his mother's throat? Nay, from the time that Orestes is deemed to have been of a dangerous disposition, he did nothing in fact that you can blame; he did not dare to offer violence with his sword to Pylades, nor to his sister Electra; he only gave ill language to both of them, by calling her a Fury, and him some other [opprobrious name], which his violent choler suggested.

Opimius, poor amid silver and gold hoarded up within, who used to drink out of Campanian ware Veientine16 wine on holidays, and mere dregs on common days, was some time ago taken with a prodigious lethargy; insomuch that his heir was already scouring about his coffers and keys, in joy and triumph. His physician, a man of much dispatch and fidelity, raises him in this manner: he orders a table to be brought, and the bags of money to be poured out, and several persons to approach in order to count it: by this method he sets the man upon his legs again. And at the same time he addresses him to this effect. Unless you guard your money your ravenous heir will even now carry off these [treasures] of yours. What, while I am alive? That you may live, therefore, awake; do this. What would you have me do? Why your blood will fail you that are so much reduced, unless food and some great restorative be administered to your decaying stomach. Do you hesitate? come on; take this ptisan17 made of rice. How much did it cost? A trifle. How much then? Eight asses. Alas! what does it matter, whether I die of a disease, or by theft and rapine?

Who then is sound? He, who is not a fool. What is the covetous man? Both a fool and a madman. What — if a man be not covetous, is he immediately [to be deemed] sound? By no means. Why so, Stoic? I will tell you. Such a patient (suppose Craterus [the physician] said this) is not sick at the heart. Is he therefore well, and shall he get up? No, he will forbid that; because his side or his reins are harassed with an acute disease. [In like manner], such a man is not perjured, nor sordid; let him then sacrifice a hog to his propitious18 household gods. But he is ambitious and assuming. Let him make a voyage [then] to Anticyra. For what is the difference, whether you fling whatever you have into a gulf, or make no use of your acquisitions?

Servius Oppidius, rich in the possession of an ancient estate, is reported when dying to have divided two farms at Canusium between his two sons, and to have addressed the boys, called to his bed-side, [in the following manner]: When I saw you, Aulus, carry your playthings and nuts carelessly in your bosom, [and] to give them and game them away; you, Tiberius, count them, and anxious hide them in holes; I was afraid lest a madness of a different nature should possess you: lest you [Aulus], should follow the example of Nomentanus, you, [Tiberius], that of Cicuta. Wherefore each of you, entreated by our household gods, do you (Aulus) take care lest you lessen; you (Tiberius) lest you make that greater, which your father thinks and the purposes of nature determine to be sufficient. Further, lest glory should entice you, I will bind each of you by an oath: whichever of you shall be an aedile or a praetor, let him be excommunicated and accursed. Would you destroy your effects in [largesses of] peas, beans, and lupines,19 that you may stalk in the circus at large, or stand in a statue of brass, O madman, stripped of your paternal estate, stripped of your money To the end, forsooth, that you may gain those applauses, which Agrippa20 gains, like a cunning fox imitating a generous lion?

O Agamemnon, why do you prohibit any one from burying21 Ajax? I am a king. I, a plebeian,22 make no further inquiry. And I command a just thing: but, if I seem unjust to any one, I permit you to speak your sentiments with impunity. Greatest of kings, may the gods grant that, after the taking of Troy, you may conduct your fleet safe home: may I then have the liberty to ask questions, and reply in my turn?

Ask. Why does Ajax, the second hero after Achilles, rot [above ground], so often renowned for having saved the Grecians; that Priam and Priam's people may exult in his being unburied, by whose means so many youths have been deprived of their country's rites of sepulture. In his madness he killed a thousand sheep, crying out that he was destroying the famous Ulysses and Menelaus, together with me. When you at Aulis substituted your sweet daughter in the place of a heifer before the altar, and, O impious one, sprinkled her head with the salt cake; did you preserve soundness of mind? Why do you ask? What then did the mad Ajax do, when he slew the flock with his sword? He abstained from any violence to his wife and child, though he had imprecated many curses on the sons of Atreus: he neither hurt Teucer, nor even Ulysses himself. But I, out of prudence, appeased the gods with blood, that I might loose the ships detained on an adverse shore. Yes, madman! with your own blood. With my own [indeed], but I was not mad. Whoever shall form images foreign from reality, and confused in the tumult of impiety,23 will always be reckoned disturbed in mind: and it will not matter, whether he go wrong through folly or through rage. Is Ajax delirious, while he kills the harmless lambs? Are you right in your head, when you willfully commit a crime for empty titles?

And is your heart pure, while it is swollen with the vice?24 If any person should take a delight to carry about with him in his sedan a pretty lambkin; and should provide clothes, should provide maids and gold for it, as for a daughter; should call it Rufa and Rufilla, and should destine it a wife for some stout husband; the praetor would take power from him being interdicted, and the management of him would devolve to his relations, that were in their senses. What, if a man devote his daughter instead of a dumb lambkin, is he right of mind? Never say it. Therefore, wherever there is a foolish depravity, there will be the height of madness. He who is wicked, will be frantic too: Bellona, who delights in bloodshed, has thundered about him, whom precarious fame has captivated.

Now, come on, arraign with me luxury and Nomentanus; for reason will evince that foolish spendthrifts are mad. This fellow, as soon as he received a thousand talents of patrimony, issues an order that the fishmonger, the fruiterer, the poulterer, the perfumer, and the impious gang of the Tuscan alley, sausage-maker, and buffoons, the whole shambles, together with [all] Velabrum, should come to his house in the morning. What was the consequence? They came in crowds.

The pander makes a speech: "Whatever I, or whatever each of these has at home, believe it to be yours: and give your order for it either directly, or to-morrow." Hear what reply the considerate youth made: "You sleep booted in Lucanian snow, that I may feast on a boar: you sweep the wintery seas for fish: I am indolent, and unworthy to possess so much. Away with it: do you take for your share ten hundred thousand sesterces; you as much; you thrice the sum, from whose house your spouse runs, when called for, at midnight."

The son of Aesopus, [the actor] (that he might, forsooth, swallow a million of sesterces at a draught), dissolved in vinegar a precious pearl, which he had taken from the ear of Metella: how much wiser was he [in doing this,] than if he had thrown the same into a rapid river, or the common sewer? The progeny of Quintius Arrius, an illustrious pair of brothers, twins in wickedness and trifling and the love of depravity, used to dine upon nightingales bought at a vast expense: to whom do these belong? Are they in their senses? Are they to be marked with chalk, or with charcoal?25

If an [aged person] with a long beard should take a delight to build baby-houses, to yoke mice to a go-cart, to play at odd and even, to ride upon a long cane, madness must be his motive. If reason shall evince, that to be in love is a more childish thing than these; and that there is no difference whether you play the same games in the dust as when three years old, or whine in anxiety for the love of a harlot: I beg to know, if you will act as the reformed Polemon26 did of old? Will you lay aside those ensigns of your disease, your rollers, your mantle, your mufflers; as he in his cups is said to have privately torn the chaplet from his neck, after he was corrected by the speech of his fasting master? When you offer apples to an angry boy, he refuses them: here, take them, you little dog; he denies you: if you don't give them, he wants them. In what does an excluded lover differ [from such a boy]; when he argues with himself whether he should go or not to that very place whither he was returning without being sent for, and cleaves to the hated doors? "What shall I not go to her now, when she invites me of her own accord? or shall I rather think of putting an end to my pains? She has excluded me; she recalls me: shall I return? No, not if she would implore me." Observe the servant, not a little wiser: "0 master, that which has neither moderation nor conduct, can not be guided by reason or method. In love these evils are inherent; war [one while], then peace again. If any one should endeavor to ascertain these things, that are various as the weather, and fluctuating by blind chance; he will make no more of it, than if he should set about raving by right reason and rule." Whatwhen, picking the pippins27 from the Picenian apples, you rejoice if haply you have hit the vaulted roof; are you yourself? What-when you strike out faltering accents from your antiquated palate, how much wiser are you than [a child] that builds little houses To the folly [of love] add bloodshed, and stir the fire with a sword.28 I ask you, when Marius lately, after he had stabbed Hellas, threw himself down a precipice, was he raving mad? Or will you absolve the man from the imputation of a disturbed mind, and condemn him for the crime, according to your custom, imposing on things names that have an affinity in signification?

There was a certain freedman, who, an old man, ran about the streets in a morning fasting, with his hands washed, and prayed thus: "Snatch me alone from death" (adding some solemn vow), "me alone, for it is an easy matter for the gods:" this man was sound in both his ears and eyes; but his master, when he sold him, would except his understanding, unless he were fond of law-suits.29 This crowd too Chrysippus places in the fruitful family of Menenius.

O Jupiter, who givest and takest away great afflictions, (cries the mother of a boy, now lying sick a-bed for five months), if this cold quartan ague should leave the child, in the morning of that day on which you enjoin a fast,30 he shall stand naked in the Tiber. Should chance or the physician relieve the patient from his imminent danger, the infatuated mother will destroy [the boy] placed on the cold bank, and will bring back the fever. With what disorder of the mind is she stricken? Why, with a superstitious fear of the gods. These arms Stertinius, the eighth of the wise men, gave to me, as to a friend, that for the future I might not be roughly accosted without avenging myself. Whosoever shall call me madman, shall hear as much from me [in return]; and shall learn to look back upon the bag that hangs behind him.31 0 Stoic, so may you, after your damage, sell all your merchandise the better: what folly (for, it seems,] there are more kinds than one) do you think I am infatuated with? For to myself I seem sound. What-when mad Agave carries the amputated head of her unhappy son, does she then seem mad to herself? I allow myself a fool (let me yield to the truth) and a madman likewise: only declare this, with what distemper of mind you think me afflicted. Hear, then: in the first place you build; that is, though from top to bottom you are but of the two-foot size you imitate the tall: and you, the same person, laugh at the spirit and strut of Turbo in armor, too great for his [little] body: how are you less ridiculous than him? What-is it fitting that, in every thing Maecenas does, you, who are so very much unlike him and so much his inferior, should vie with him? The young ones of a frog being in her absence crushed by the foot of a calf, when one of them had made his escape, he told his mother what a huge beast had dashed his brethren to pieces. She began to ask, how big? Whether it were so great? puffing herself up. Greater by half. What, so big? when she had swelled herself more and more. If you should burst yourself, says he, you will not be equal to it. This image bears no great dissimilitude to you. Now add poems (that is, add oil to the fire), which if ever any man in his senses made, why so do you. I do not mention your horrid rage. At length, have done — your way of living beyond your fortune — confine yourself to your own affairs, Damasippus — those thousand passions for the fair, the young. Thou greater madman, at last, spare thy inferior.

1 The name of Janus was sometimes given to those great arcades which crossed the streets of Rome. Livy tells us there were three of them erected in the forum, the middle of which Horace means, and which he distinguishes from the Ianus summus and Ianus imus.

2Mercuriale. Damasippus, ever in character, boasts of a surname, which was given him in raillery. Mercury was the god of commerce, and when a man had an uncommon skill in buying and selling, he was usually called Mercurialis, or favorite of Mercury. A number of merchants, in 259, formed themselves into a body with this title, and dedicated a temple to the god.

3 It was an absurd and ridiculous maxim among the Stoics, that all vicious people were equally fools and madmen. Prope does not therefore lessen the universality of the proposition, for the Latins frequently use prope and fere for semper. In the next line, si is not said in any manner of doubt, but has the force of an affirmative.

4 They who devoted themselves to death for the good of their country, covered their heads with their robe; and it is pleasant enough to see Damasippus doing that, in an excess of despair and folly, which Decius did in a transport of religion and generosity. This image gives rise to the raillery of Stertinius, when he says, “nil verbi, pereas quin fortiter, addam.

5Dexter.Opportunus, propitius. The right was by the ancients esteemed the lucky side.

6Cave faxis. The Stoics despised death when it was honorable or necessary, but to drown himself in despair was a villainous death for a philosopher. But the pleasantry of the scene is, that Stertinius is going to convince him he is a fool, and then advises him not to do any thing which may dishonor his character.

7Chrysippi porticus. The Porticus was a famous gallery at Athens, where Zeno held his school, which, from the Greek word στόα, Porticus, took the name of Stoic.

8Caudam trahat. A metaphor, as the old commentator well observes, taken from a custom among children, who tied a tail behind a person whom they had a mind to laugh at.

9 Fufius was an actor who, playing the character of Ilione, was supposed to be asleep, when the ghost of her son Polydore called to her, "Dear mother, hear me." Fufius, having drunk too much, fell really asleep; and Catienus, who played Polydore, having called to him, without waking him, the whole house, as if each of them was a Catienus, cried out, "Dear mother, hear me," The number of twelve hundred is a pleasant exaggeration. Accius or Pacuvius wrote a tragedy on the story of Ilione, and the whole passage is preserved to us in Cicero: “ Mater, te adpello, tu quae somno curam suspensam levas,
Neque te mei miseret, surge et sepeli natum
Priusquam ferae volucresque.

10 Stertinius goes on to prove, not only that Damasippus is not a fool, in buying statues, since he does not pay for them, but that he would be a fool indeed, to refuse the favor which Mercury offers him, in the credulity of Perillius.

11 Scribere is sometimes used in the sense "to acknowledge the receipt of a sum borrowed"; hence some have supposed that the meaning here is scribe te decem sestertia accepisse a Nerio, as said by Damasippus' creditor. Thus, Nerius is a banker, with whom Damasippus' creditor (Perillius) had lodged his money, and in whose books Damasippus, when drawing the ten sestertia, was required to acknowledge (scribere) the receipt of so much money. But I prefer Gesner's interpretation, scribe decem tabulas a Nerio, i.e. "draw out ten bonds with all the niceties of Nerius," a usurer, well known for his care in wording the bonds, so that there could be no evasion.

12 Cicuta was an old notary, who knew too well the practice of bonds, to neglect any clauses or forms, capable of finding these engagements. Such is the force of “nodosus . Tabulae are the bonds or contracts, from whence notaries were called tabularii.

13 People are not usually too careful of what belongs to others, from whence this kind of proverbial expression, "laughing with another man's cheeks." Dacier very well observes, that our poet hath translated it from Homer, when he says of Penelope's lovers, “Οἴ δ᾽ ἤδη γναθμοῖσι γελώων ἀλλορίοισιODYSS. lib. xx. v. 346.

14Damnati populo. Alluding to the form of the will, in which the testator required any thing of his heir, HERES DAMNAS ESTO.

15 Aristippus was the chief of the Cyrenaic sect. He held that pleasure was the summum bonum, and virtue only valuable as it was a means of gaining that pleasure. Epicurus was perfectly rigid when compared to his master Aristippus, and by our author's manner of mentioning him in many parts of his works, we may believe he was no enemy to so convenient a philosophy. Staberius, who was a Stoic, has given an ill-natured turn to this story, which is much commended by Cicero; for Aristippus had only one slave, whom he commanded to throw away as much of his money as was too heavy to carry.

16 This wine was of a very poor kind. See Lamb and Orelli.

17Ptisanarium. The diminutive from ptsana, unhusked barley or rice, from πτίσσω, tundo, tundendo decortico. Here it means a decoction, a kind of gruel made of oryza, rice. Rice was not then cultivated in Italy, but brought from Egypt. The physician purposely uses the diminutive ptisanarium, lest he should terrify the patient.

18 All the good and bad accidents that happened in families were generally attributed to the domestic gods, and as these gods were the sons of the goddess of madness, they were particularly worshiped by persons disordered in their understanding. Stertinius therefore advises the man, who, by the favor of these gods, is neither perjured nor a miser, gratefully to sacrifice a swine to them, which was their usual sacrifice. “Fruge Lares, avidaque porca.Od. xxiii. lib. ii.

19 Distributions of these were frequently made to the people by candidates for offices, or by the aediles at the celebration of the games, etc. Oppidius asks whether his son would be so mad as to squander his property in largesses, for the sake of obtaining an office in the state. Comp.

Vigila et cicer ingere large
Rixanti populo, nostra ut Floralia possint
Aprici meminisse senes.

20 This compliment to Agrippa is introduced with great art, as if it escaped accidentally, and it is enlivened by a comparison, short but noble. Although Agrippa had been consul in 717, yet he condescended to accept the office of aedile in 720, when he entertained the people with a magnificence and expense beyond what they had ever seen.

21 Here opens another scene, in which a king and a Stoic are engaged, and in which the philosopher proves in good form, that this greatest of monarchs is a fool and a madman. The debate arises from an incident in a play of Sophocles, in which Agamemnon refuses to let Ajax be buried.(Ajax 1223-1375)

22 Agamemnon finding his answer, I am a king, a little too tyrannical, adds, our decree was just. Perhaps the humility of the philosopher, either ironical or serious, in seeming to allow his royal manner of deciding the question, extorted this condescension from the monarch.

23 i. e. the perturbation of mind leading to the commission of impious deeds.

24 i. e. of madness.

25 A proverbial expression. Are they to be acquitted or condemned? Are they wise or foolish?

26 Polemon was a young Athenian, who, running one day through the streets, inflamed with wine, had the curiosity to go into the school of Xenocrates to hear him. The philosopher dexterously turned his discourse upon sobriety, and spoke with so much force, that Polemon from that moment renounced his intemperance, and pursued his studies with such application, as to succeed Xenocrates in his school. Thus, as Valerius Maximus remarks, being cured by the wholesome medicine of one oration, he became a celebrated philosopher, from an infamous prodigal.

27 The allusion is to a habit of determining the good or bad fortune of love by trying to strike the ceiling of a room with the pippins of apples. They were raised by pressing them between the first two fingers. If they struck the ceiling, it was considered a good omen.

28Ignum gladio scrutare , a proverbial precept of Pythagoras, "Do not stir the fire with a sword." Our poet uses it. as an easy transition from the folly to the madness of lovers. We shall have another proverb in the same sense, “Oleum adde camino.

29 For an action would lay against those who gave a false character to a slave.

30 The Romans had regular fasts in honor of Jupiter, which were usually celebrated on Thursday, which was consecrated to that god. They began on the eve; and the next morning, which was properly the fastday, was observed with great rigor and austerity. Aristophanes, in his Clouds, introduces the chorus, complaining that they had a fast, rather than a feast(Clouds 578); which was observed on the third day of the festival of Ceres.

31Respicere ignoto. This passage may be explained by the fifty-third line, “caudam trahat , or by the fable, which says that Jupiter threw over the shoulder of every mortal two bags; that the faults of his neighbor were put into the bag before him, and his own into that behind him.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.

An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.

load focus Latin (C. Smart, 1836)
hide References (23 total)
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: