Perhaps later even these things will be pleasing…

We are in hard times, no doubt. We have all faced adversity and the vicissitudes of life. Again reading Classics and Philosophy, especially Stoic Philosophy, can help us cope with these things.

Virgil in his epic poem, The Aeneid, in fact has something to say about these things:

Aeneas has just been shipwreck on the coast of Africa, near Carthage, after a storm, and has just lost most of his ships and men. He now speaks to them about their misfortunes:

…revocāte animōs maestumque timōrem

mittite; forsan et haec ōlim meminisse iuvābit.

Aeneid, Virgil, Versa 202-203.

 

Restore your courage and your gloomy fear let go;

Perhaps one day even these things to have remembered will be pleasing.

The Aeneid, Virgil, Lines 202-203.

 

Aeneas_Tempest
Aeneas in his ship with his men during the tempest. 

 

A well governed state…

Plato has some things to say about a well governed state. Maybe we should take heed in these troubled times.

The one who should rule should not rule for the sake of ruling but for making our society better. Career politicians should not rule for that is what they seek. Instead it should be a person who would rather be doing something else but seeks to make a better society.

“If you discover a life better than ruling for those who are intending to govern, a well-run state becomes a possibility; for only there will the genuinely rich govern, rich not in monetary terms, but in that in which the happy man must be wealthy: a good, intelligent life. But if beggars and those starved of private resources enter public service thinking they must seize the good, it isn’t possible, for when the government becomes a matter of contention, such civil and internal war destroys both them and the rest of the state.”

“That’s very true,” he said.

“Do you have any other way of life that looks down on ruling for political motives,” I asked, “than that of true philosophy?”

“Zeus, no!” he said.

The Republic, Plato, Book VII, 521a

 

εἰ μὲν βίον ἐξευρήσεις ἀμείνω τοῦ ἄρχειν τοῖς μέλλουσιν ἄρξειν, ἔστι σοι δυνατὴ γενέσθαι πόλις εὖ οἰκουμένη· ἐν μόνῃ γὰρ αὐτῇ ἄρξουσιν οἱ τῷ ὄντι πλούσιοι, οὐ χρυσίου ἀλλ’ οὗ δεῖ τὸν εὐδαίμονα πλουτεῖν, ζωῆς ἀγαθῆς τε καὶ ἔμφρονος. εἰ δὲ πτωχοὶ καὶ  πεινῶντες ἀγαθῶν ἰδίων ἐπὶ τὰ δημόσια ἴασιν, ἐντεῦθεν οἰόμενοι τἀγαθὸν δεῖν ἁρπάζειν, οὐκ ἔστι· περιμάχητον γὰρ τὸ ἄρχειν γιγνόμενον, οἰκεῖος ὢν καὶ ἔνδον ὁ τοιοῦτος πόλεμος αὐτούς τε ἀπόλλυσι καὶ τὴν ἄλλην πόλιν.

Ἀληθέστατα, ἔφη.

Ἔχεις οὖν, ἦν δ’ ἐγώ, βίον ἄλλον τινὰ πολιτικῶν ἀρχῶν καταφρονοῦντα ἢ τὸν τῆς ἀληθινῆς φιλοσοφίας;

Οὐ μὰ τὸν Δία, ἦ δ’ ὅς.

Πολιτεία, Πλάτων, βίβλος Ζ

 

plato-2.jpg
Plato, pointing upwards to the sky where the Forms reside. Detail from the “School of Athens,” by Raphael circa 1510 A.D.

Why pointing upwards? Plato’s philosophy relied on the idea of the Forms which exist not on this earth but in another realm. They represented the true Good of all things. It was the responsibility of the philosopher kings to study these forms as much as possible and then relate them to everyone else through education. However, as we have seen in history people like this are usually ridiculed or run out of town because the general masses refuse to accept a philosopher as a ruler.

I think that we should attempt this once again. Since we have never truly had a philosopher ruler except for Marcus Aurelius, ~120 A.D. in Rome (or actually outside Rome, he was at war most of the time), maybe it is time after 2500 years to actually try to do this.

This should be combined with education of the children in the arts and sciences as well as the Classics, Latin and Ancient Greek. This I believe can change our society back towards the good.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wherever there is a human being…

Ubicumque homo est, ibi benefici locus est. 

                                                         Seneca, De vita beata, Liber VII, 24.3

 

Wherever there is a human being, there is a place for kindness.

 Seneca, On the happy life, Book VII, 24.3

 

For the Christmas Season, and the Saturnalia, keep this in mind as well as for all the days of your life. Make your life a better life by helping others. This tradition is also rooted in Buddhism…by giving of ourselves we became better people, our soul is cleansed from greediness…we desire less and less..our leaky jar as Plato says is now plugged. Try it out. Keep trying it. You will see the difference but not once, not twice, not even three times, you must keep doing it.

Our society is based on satisfaction guarantees…you will not find it here unless you practice it. Like playing the piano, if you want to get better, you practice, if you want to learn something, you must make a habit of doing it over and over again.

Maybe these sound like cliches. But who do you know that actually practices these things over and over? Anyone? Anyone? Because we don’t have the patience. We lack patience. We are pathetic. Look to ancient classical literature, not religious, and read the authors as I have noted in this wordpress site. Homer, Hesiod, Plato, Seneca, Ovid to name a few. These authors will make you a better person. So as Seneca recommends, help your fellow human being. These times surely need it.

 

chronography_of_354_mensis_december

 

‘As an observance of state religion, Saturnalia was supposed to have been held ante diem xvi Kalendas Ianuarias, sixteen days before the Kalends of January, on the oldest Roman religious calendar, which the Romans believed to have been established by the legendary founder Romulus and his successor Numa Pompilius. It was a dies festus, a legal holiday when no public business could be conducted. The day marked the dedication anniversary (dies natalis) of the Temple to Saturn in the Roman Forum in 497 BC. When Julius Caesar had the calendar reformed because it had fallen out of synchronization with the solar year, two days were added to the month, and Saturnalia fell on 17 December. It was felt, however, that the original day had thus been moved by two days, and so Saturnalia was celebrated under Augustus as a three-day official holiday encompassing both dates.

By the late Republic, the private festivities of Saturnalia had expanded to seven days, but during the Imperial period contracted variously to three to five days.Caligula extended official observances to five.

The date 17 December was the first day of the astrological sign Capricorn, the house of Saturn, the planet named for the god. Its proximity to the winter solstice (21 to 23 December on the Julian calendar) was endowed with various meanings by both ancient and modern scholars: for instance, the widespread use of wax candles (cerei, singular cereus) could refer to “the returning power of the sun’s light after the solstice”.’

Taken from Wikipedia.

 

 

 

 

Do ut des. I give so that you may give.

Do ut des.

The ideology behind religious practices in the ancient world.

 

I give so that you may give.

 

Wouldn’t you say that this still holds true today?

I agree that it does. Most people if not all give with some expectation that they will receive something back. This holds even for religious worship. Why are people worshiping something? Because they expect something in return, not unlike Ancient Romans or Greeks.

This is why these selfish practices must be abandoned. We must give for the sake of giving and NOT expect anything in return. We should be good for the sake of being good and for humanity itself NOT because it will get you somewhere, or something.

As Plato says in the Protagoras, quoting Simonides, we can try to be good, but we can never be good. It is an impossibility. We are human and will have our faults. We can only strive to be the best we are able to be BUT for the sake of being good not ut des.

 

“ἄνδρ᾽ ἀγαθὸν μὲν ἀλαθέως γενέσθαι χαλεπόν,
χερσίν τε καὶ ποσὶ καὶ νόῳ τετράγωνον, ἄνευ ψόγου
τετυγμένον.”

Protagoras, Plato, Line 339b.

“For a man, indeed, to become good truly is hard,
In hands and feet and mind foursquare,
Fashioned without reproach.”

Simonides Fr. 37.1
pompeii_-_osteria_della_via_di_mercurio_-_dice_players
Dice Players during the Saturnalia in December. Pompeii, 79 A.D.

Festina lente

Festina lente.

Attributed to August Caesar.

 

Make haste slowly.

 

2079 years ago this day, September 23rd, 63 B.C., Augustus Caesar was born as Octavian, nephew of Julius Caesar. He was the first Imperator of Rome, from 27 B.C. to 14 A.D. This aphorism clearly states his style. He was cautious, but moved forward in a steady and confident manner. He made the arts flourish in Rome by having his longtime friend Maecenas be a patron to many famous individuals whom would not have been famous unless for Augustus: Virgil, Ovid, and Horace, for instance. The works, the Aeneid, the Metamorphoses, or the Odes of Horace have influence history so greatly that it is unimaginable without them. The well-known term Carpe diem is one example from Horace. It would be prudent for anyone to study Augustus, where we also get the month of August from.

So make haste slowly and seize the day!

 

primaporta1

 

Nunc scio quid sit amor

Nunc scio quid sit amor

Vergil, The Aeneid, Book VIII, line 43. 

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Virgil flanked by two Muses, Bardo Museum, Tunisia

The Roman poet Virgil, seated with a sheet of scrolls in his hand, is attended by two Mousai, Kleio the Muse of history with a scroll, and Melpomene the Muse of tragedy with a tragic mask.

 

Now I know what love is.

September 21st is the day Publius Vergilius Maro, also known as just Vergil or Virgil, died in Naples in 19 B.C. I know what love is now because reading his Aeneid or hearing the stories of how he influenced others such as Horace are inspiring and up-lifting.

Get to know Virgil. Read Virgil. I am still waiting for the day when I can finish his works. When you think you don’t have enough to read or are bored, read Virgil, and fall in love again.

Remember, ancient literature can inspire you and remove yourself from the everyday depressions and anxieties. When you see heroes in turmoil and overcoming obstacles, you see yourself being able to do the same in this life. Learn Latin and enjoy the reading twice in addition to learning English better.

 

 

 

 

 

When Philosphers become our leaders

In these uncertain political times, we should listen to Socrates:

“Unless philosophers become kings in our states,” I said, “or those we now call kings and potentates genuinely and competently pursue philosophy, and political power and philosophy combine into the same thing, and the many natures of those pursuing exclusively the one or the other are of necessity excluded, there can be no respite from evil in the state, my dear Glaucon, nor, in my view, even in the human race. Until then, this state which we’ve outlined in our discussion can never grow to its full potential, nor see the light of day. But this is what has been making me hesitate for so long, seeing that much will be said that beggars belief. You see it’s difficult to see that anyone, either as an individual or as part of the state, can achieve happiness in any other way.”

 Socrates in The Republic by Plato, 473d, Book V

Ἐὰν μή, ἦν δ’ ἐγώ, ἢ οἱ φιλόσοφοι βασιλεύσωσιν ἐν ταῖς πόλεσιν ἢ οἱ βασιλῆς τε νῦν λεγόμενοι καὶ δυνάσται φιλοσοφήσωσι γνησίως τε καὶ ἱκανῶς, καὶ τοῦτο εἰς ταὐτὸν συμπέσῃ, δύναμίς τε πολιτικὴ καὶ φιλοσοφία, τῶν δὲ νῦν πορευομένων χωρὶς ἐφ’ ἑκάτερον αἱ πολλαὶ φύσεις ἐξ ἀνάγκης ἀποκλεισθῶσιν, οὐκ ἔστι κακῶν παῦλα, ὦ φίλε Γλαύκων, ταῖς πόλεσι, δοκῶ δ’ οὐδὲ τῷ ἀνθρωπίνῳ γένει, οὐδὲ αὕτη ἡ πολιτεία μή ποτε πρότερον φυῇ τε εἰς τὸ δυνατὸν καὶ φῶς ἡλίου ἴδῃ, ἣν νῦν λόγῳ διεληλύθαμεν. ἀλλὰ τοῦτό ἐστιν ὃ ἐμοὶ πάλαι ὄκνον ἐντίθησι λέγειν, ὁρῶντι ὡς πολὺ παρὰ δόξαν ῥηθήσεται· χαλεπὸν γὰρ ἰδεῖν ὅτι οὐκ ἂν ἄλλη τις εὐδαιμονήσειεν οὔτε ἰδίᾳ οὔτε δημοσίᾳ.

Σώκρατης, ΠΟΛΙΤΕΙΑ – Πλάτων473d, βἰβλίον

 

the-death-of-socrates
The Death of Socrates, by David