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 justVergil 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.
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: “Do you not notice how those who are involved with physical education throughout their lives, but have nothing to do with the arts, develop a particular type of mind? Or again, those who do the opposite?”
Glaucon: “What are you talking about?”
“Roughness and hardness as opposed to softness and gentleness,” I said.
“I get it,” he said: “you mean that those who indulge in nothing but physical training end up rougher than necessary, while those who indulge in the arts become softer than is really good for them.”
“There again,” I said, “the spirited part of their nature may produce a roughness, and if rightly nurtured it might be manly, but applied more than is necessary, it would in all likelihood become intractable and recalcitrant.”
“I think so,” he said.
“What then? Wouldn’t a philosopher’s nature have a gentleness in it and, if it were allowed to go too far, wouldn’t it be softer than need be? But if it were nurtured in the right way wouldn’t it be gentle and orderly?”
I don’t think I have to ask whether you think this is true today. It seems fairly obvious.
In order to exercise our minds, we must have a sound body. Even Seneca agreed to this fact. Yet I think today people do not place this into high in their minds. Somehow they think working all the time or reading or studying all the time will somehow make up for the loss in strength or body tone. Most people give up also after they get married. THIS I BELIEVE IS WRONG. Your health is always important even if you met that special someone who is buff or beautiful. But take note, they like you for who you are now and not always for what happens later (let’s be real here).
So take care of yourself, both of you, in mind [Ψυχῇ] and body [σώματι] and live a much happier and fuller life. Don’t let yourself go in either respect. Make it routine and habit to get in shape but always take heed about what was said above; it must be supplemented with literature, philosophy, and learning, etc. I don’t mean going to the opera, reading the newspaper, or seeing a show on broadway. These are contemporary things that usually have no basis in Ancient Greek or Roman thought. They are usually barren and just entertainment. Think about it. Be a life long learner of literature. See The Great Courses.com on the web for this part and read ancient literature.
Ancient Literature or an Education in the Musescan make you better. Read, write, listen to music, learn an instrument, learn another language, and practice philosophy.
Am I wrong?
Above Apollo, god of music, represents the ideal to strive for, a mixture of beauty and mind. But also let us be practical, we all can’t look like Apollo or Aphrodite. The point is to strive for the best while you are able.
but Lawfulness reveals all that is orderly and fitting,
and often places fetters round the unjust.
Solon, Elegies, 4.31
Does this quote from Solon of Athens remind us of our own laws?
Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, –That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.
Ovid, Metamorphoses, Liber IV.68 -Pyramus et Thisbe
What does love not perceive?
Ovid, Metamorphoses, Book IV.68 -Pyramus and Thisbe
Remember your first love? It seemed love could make you understand anything, be invincible, and know everything. Is this only an allusion?
Ovid has plenty to say about love: Daphne and Apollo, Pyramus and Thisbe, Baucis and Philomen, King Midas, Echo and Narcissus, for better or for worse. Examine your own life. Is it similar to Ovid’s metamorphoses? Does your love change over time? Has it been better? Worse? For the right person? For the wrong?
Reading ancient literature can help you see this and help you evaluate your own life. You can see that others have had it far worse than you if you are not feeling well. Or if you are nostalgic, you can see how passionate love really never lasts. Lastly, you can relive your own life and remember with delight.
Lastly, as Sappho says below, it is what we love that is most beautiful, so love something – love ancient literature and learn to perceive what the ancients have to teach us.
It is well not to see everything, not to hear everything. Many affronts may pass by us; in most cases the man who is unconscious of them escapes them. Would you avoid being provoked? Then do not be inquisitive. He who tries to discover what has been said against him, who unearths malicious gossip even if it was privately indulged in, is responsible for his own disquietude. There are words which the construction put upon them can make appear an insult; some, therefore, ought to be put aside, others derided, others condoned.
Seneca, On Anger, Book 3.11
Non expedit omnia videre, omnia audire. Multae nos iniuriae transeant, ex quibus plerasque non accipit qui nescit. Non vis esse iracundus? Ne fueris curiosus. Qui inquirit quid in se dictum sit, qui malignos sermones, etiam si secreto habiti sunt, eruit, se ipse inquietat. Quaedam interpretatio eo perducit, ut videantur iniuriae; itaque alia differenda sunt, alia deridenda, alia donanda.
Seneca, De Ira, Liber 3.11
Resist the impulse to be curious then about what has been said about you. Remember most things are said in spite or on the whim and usually are not true or what the person actually thinks about you, in jest at the least. The best remedy is not to care what others think of you, but to be a good example and not to fuel the fire. People will observe this and admire you for your strength. Never give in to gossip, let it pass like the wind and let it stay a mystery.