From my diary

A sunny day this morning – far too nice to sit around in front of the computer with the light on.  But also a day on which chores have to be done.  So I was off out and doing them.  Luckily (?) it clouded over this afternoon so here I am. 

But if it is nice tomorrow morning, then I might go to Oxford for the day.  Next week I have to  go back to work, so each day needs to be used well.

I’ve had a couple of student enquiries about translating Gelasius’ letter on the abolition of the Lupercalia.  The first one sent a sample, which was gibberish.  The title stated that the letter was “Adversus Andromachum” — he didn’t know that this meant “Against Andromachus”!  This is why I specify that a translator that I don’t know must supply a sample — usually the first page — in translation, and that, if it is no good, I don’t owe them anything.

Another enquiry today.  I’ve emailed across the PDF of the letter, and let’s see what happens.

Meanwhile I’ve been reading Paley’s Greek wit again.  Here’s one of the entries:

376.

A celebrated courtesan once said to Socrates, “I have more influence than you; I can draw away all of your followers if I please, but you can win over none of mine.”  “Perhaps so,” said the philosopher; “you lead them all down hill, whereas I make them climb the steep ascent to the temple of Virtue, a road which is familiar to few.” — Aelian, Var. Hist. xiii. 31.

A point that might escape many is that philosphers charged for their teaching.  One of the things that struck me, as I read through the volume, was how important the financial aspect of teaching was.  A professional philosopher, to put it simply, was someone who could attract enough people willing to pay to hear him teach.  Contests between philosophers, therefore, had a very financial aspect.  A defeated philosopher might lose all his livelihood as his pupils deserted him.  The necessity to find something novel to say, to be witty and be quoted, lies behind so much of this.

Only the Greeks, perhaps, could have devised a system where talking could be a trade!  The result of it, however, was a constant stimulus to intellectual activity, of a kind seldom paralleled before the modern age.

One thought on “From my diary

  1. “A point that might escape many is that philosphers charged for their teaching… Only the Greeks, perhaps, could have devised a system where talking could be a trade!”

    Ironic that an anecdote about Socrates prompts this. Surely you know that Socrates – Plato’s Socrates, at any rate – adamantly denied that he took money for teaching (unlike others – and pace Aristophanes and the “old accusation” against him: see, e.g., Plato’s Apology, 19 d-e).

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