Some sayings by Cicero from the ‘Saturnalia’ of Macrobius

I have been reading the Saturnalia of Macrobius, that curious store of Latin learning from the very end of the empire.  Book 2 contains a collection of witticisms.  Here are a few.

[ 1] But I am surprised, continued Symmachus, that none of you have said anything of Cicero’s jests, for here, as in everything else, he had the readiest of tongues. If it is your pleasure, then, I shall play the part of the mouthpiece of an oracle and repeat as many of his sayings as I can remember. All were eager to hear him and he began as follows.

[2] When he was dining at the house of Damasippus, his host produced a very ordinary wine, saying, “Try this Falernian; it is forty years old. ” “Young for its age,” replied Cicero.

[3] Seeing his son-in-law Lentulus (who was a very short man) wearing a long sword, he said: “Who has buckled my son-in-law to that sword?”…

[ 11] There was another occasion on which Cicero openly jeered at the readiness with which Caesar admitted new members to the Senate; for, asked by his host Publius Mallius to procure the office of decurion for his stepson, he said in the presence of a large company: “Senatorial rank? Well, at Rome he shall certainly have it, if you so wish; but at Pompeii it isn’t easy.”

[ 12] And indeed his biting wit went even further; for, greeted by a certain Andron from Laodicea, he asked what had brought him to Rome and, hearing that the man had come as an envoy to Caesar to beg freedom for his city, he made open reference to the servile state of Rome by saying, in Greek, “If you are successful, put in a word for us too.”


Whoopee!!! Pray-o-mat installed at Manchester University, UK! That’ll show ’em, man!

I thought this story must be a spoof.  But apparently it isn’t:

A multi-faith praying machine called the Pray-O-Mat has been installed at the University of Manchester.

The specially converted photo booth offers more than 300 pre-recorded prayers and incantations in 65 different languages via a touch screen.

The free-to-use machine, designed by German artist Oliver Sturm, is part of a three-year project on multi-faith spaces by the university. …

Project leader Ralf Brand, senior architecture lecturer, said: “Though the Pray-o-mat is a bit tongue-in-cheek, there is a serious message to what we’re doing.

“Successful multi-faith spaces do not need to be flashy or expensive.

Other than to the taxpayer, no doubt, who carried these clowns for three years.

I was under the impression that there was a real problem for young scholars in obtaining teaching posts in UK universities.  A young scholar with skills in Syriac and Coptic will still find himself on the dole, unless he emigrates.  Young archaeologists and classicists fight over a handful of opportunities, and the money spent educating the rest is wasted. 

Perhaps Manchester University might consider terminating the contract of Dr Ralf Brand and his merry pranksters, and using the money instead to fund some junior research fellowships in real academic disciplines.  That is, after all, what the education budget is supposed to be used for.

UPDATE: This rubbish cost you and me 452,000 pounds UK, or around $700,000.  It costs around 5,000 GBP — about $7,000 — to translate a 10,000 word ancient text into English.  That’s about the size of a “book” in most ancient texts, and perhaps relates to the size of a papyrus roll.  So for the same money we could have funded the translation of 100 texts which are unknown and inaccessible to everyone. 


Stupidity in Colorado prison administration

An amusing item was posted by Professor Edith Hall on the CLASSICS-L list yesterday, which came into LT-ANTIQ as well:

Meanwhile, proof has arrived of the potency of our subject. One of my PhD students, Katie Billotte, sent a copy of a scholarly book I published as a sedate OUP monograph in 1989, “Inventing the Barbarian: Greek Self-Definition through Tragedy”, to her penpal currently housed in a Colorado gaol. This is the letter she has just received from the Wardens’ Office–Crowley Correctional Facility (pictured here):

‘We are returning to you this shipment made to Inmate #90704 currently held in the Colorado Department of Corrections. We have determined that Inventing the Barbarians by Edith Hall constitutes contraband under the State of Colorado’s Revised Statute. It has been determined by the wardens of this facility that the primary or secondary purpose of the author was to compromise the good order and efficient operation of a facility under the jurisdiction of the Colorado Department of Corrections. Please note that any further attempts to introduce this item into any facility currently operated by the Colorado Department of Corrections will be referred to the Office of the Attorney General.’

Phew! No wonder people want to close Classics down!”

The stupidity of petty officialdom is one reason why the number of petty officials should be kept as low as possible.

UPDATE: I’ve found a webpage for the prison here, and forwarded the email on CLASSICS-L to their PR man with a note that it is going viral.  It will be interesting to see how they handle the matter.


Following Jesus ever more closely … ouch

I’ve just seen the website of St. Marys, Bletchley, which has the slogan:

Following Jesus ever more closely

Just like this:

Hmm.  It’s probably my warped sense of humour, but this conjured up quite an image.

Following Jesus closely…
And more closely …
And still more closely …
And … ouch!

I have this picture of Jesus, robes and all, walking down the street with a gang of anglicans jostling to follow him “ever more closely”, until one of them accidentally treads on His robe!

Which is possible not the image intended.

A worthy sentiment, but possibly in need of some rephrasing!


From my diary

I have taken another step to prepare for my forthcoming trip to Israel, visiting Jerusalem, the Dead Sea, Galilee, etc.  It is a step that may strike fear into the hearts of many. 

I have bought a pair of swimming trunks.

I promise not to post pictures.  Lady readers might be overcome.

UPDATE: The internet is a curious place.  I just visited Google images and typed “swimsuit” in the search box, thinking to get a photo of a pair of trunks.  What I actually got was 10 pages of pretty young ladies in beachwear.  Not a single man, nor a single image of swimwear, rather than people wearing swimwear. I infer the male-to-female use of Google images must still be something like 20:1, therefore!


A camel for your thoughts, my dear

In certain societies, in order for a marriage to take place, the groom must purchase the bride from her father, in return for a certain number of camels.  (I vaguely remember reading this somewhere, or perhaps heard it on the radio, so it must be true)

In others, the father is obliged to pay the groom to take his daughter away, again in livestock, i.e. camels.

One can only speculate as to why this is so.  Possibly the daughters in the first tribe are more attractive than those in the second. 

But the important thing is the central role played by the camel.  It is hardly important in which direction the camel is travelling, after all.

Which leads naturally to the question of why this foul-tempered, evil-smelling, vicious quadruped has become the medium of exchange necessary for the continuance of the human race in these tribes?

Possibly it explains the preference for raiding instead, in which obtaining a wife does not require the involvement of camels.


Blogging about the Fathers is like seeing airships over Jerusalem


Airship Graf Zeppelin in 1931

The site explains:

Two lengthy flights to the Middle East were conducted by the Graf Zeppelin in 1929 and 1931.  The ship’s flight over Jerusalem in 1929 took place at night, and no pictures of the ship were taken.  But the flight in 1931, in daylight, was photographed by the American Colony photographers and by an Armenian photographer in Jerusalem, Elia Kahvedjian.

Mail sacks were supposed to have been dropped from the Graf Zeppelin over Jerusalem, Haifa and Jaffa.  The airships did not moor in Palestine but flew from Germany to Cairo, then over Palestine and then back to Germany.  The flight took 97 hours and traversed some 9,000 kilometers over 14 countries.

I looked to see if there were any images online of the supersonic airliner Concorde in Palestine — it did fly to Amman at least once — but in vain.


More on the raid on a blogger

Further to the story earlier about a blogger’s computers being seized by Norfolk police on what seemed very dubious grounds, the victim is a blogger named “TallBloke”, who records events on the day here.

Fortunately his sense of humour was not damaged in the raid…

Visit and buy a t-shirt or mug or something!

I wish I were a German

Well, maybe I don’t.

But I’m still OCR’ing the annotations to Ibn Abi Usaibia — page 32 of the 62.  Those annotations mention translations of various Arabic works.  And, you guessed it, they were translated into German.

In fact they were translated into German yonks ago.   Back in the 19th century, to be specific.  Just imagine the quantity of useful stuff you could put online?

Alternatively, I wish I could read German easily.  At least I could then use these translations.

Mind you, they say that the best way to learn a language is to have a girlfriend of that nationality.  I could probably cope with a German girlfriend.  So long as she looked something like this, perhaps?