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Book X

This webpage reproduces a section of
Noctes Atticae (Attic Nights)

A. Cornelius Gellius

published in Vol. II
of the Loeb Classical Library edition, 1927

The text is in the public domain.

This page has been carefully proofread
and I believe it to be free of errors.
If you find a mistake though,
please let me know!


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Book XII

(Vol. II) Gellius
Attic Nights

 p299  Book XI

1 [Legamen ad versionem Latinam] On the origin of the term terra Italia, or "the land of Italy"; of that fine which is called "supreme"; concerning the reason for the name and on the Aternian law; and in what words the "smallest" fine used to be pronounced in ancient days.

1 Timaeus, in the History1 which he composed in the Greek language about the affairs of the Roman people, and Marcus Varro in his Human Antiquities,2 wrote that the land of Italy derived its name from a Greek word, oxen in the old Greek tongue being called ἰταλοί; for in Italy there was a great abundance of cattle, and in that land pastures are numerous and grazing is a frequent employment.

2 Furthermore, we may infer that it was for the same reason — namely, since Italy at that time so abounded in cattle — that the fine was established which is called "supreme," consisting of two sheep and thirty oxen each day, obviously proportionate to the abundance of oxen and scarcity of sheep. But when a fine of that sort, consisting of cattle and sheep, was pronounced by a magistrate, oxen and sheep were brought, now of small, again of greater value; and this made the penalty of the fine unequal. Therefore later, by the Aternian law,3 the value of a sheep was fixed at ten pieces of brass, of the cattle at a hundred apiece. 3 Now the "smallest"  p301 fine is that of one sheep. The "supreme" fine is of that number which we have mentioned, beyond which it is not lawful to impose a fine for a period of successive days;4 and for that reason it is called "supreme," that is, greatest and heaviest.

4 When therefore even now, according to ancient usage, either the "smallest" or the "supreme" fine is pronounced by Roman magistrates, it is regularly observed that oves ("sheep") be given the masculine gender; and Marcus Varro has thus recorded the words of the law by which the smallest fine was pronounced:5 "Against Marcus Terentius, since, though summoned, he has neither appeared nor been excused, I pronounce a fine of one sheep (unum ovem);" and they declared that the fine did not appear to be legal unless that gender was used.

5 Furthermore, Marcus Varro, in the twenty-first book of his Human Antiquities, also says6 that the word for fine (multa) is itself not Latin, but Sabine, and he remarks that it endured even to within his own memory in the speech of the Samnites, who are sprung from the Sabines. But the upstart herd of grammarians have asserted that this word, like some others, is used on the principle of opposites.7 6 Furthermore, since it is a usage and custom in language for us to say even now, as the greater number of the early men did, multam dixit and multa dicta est, I have thought it not out of place to note that Marcus Cato spoke otherwise.8 For in the fourth book of his Origins are these words: "Our commander, if anyone has gone to battle out of order, imposes (facit) a fine upon him." 7 But it may seem that Cato changed the word with an eye to propriety, since the fine was imposed in camp  p303 and in the army, not pronounced in the comitium or in the presence of the people.

2 [Legamen ad versionem Latinam] That the word elegantia in earlier days was not used of a more refined nature, but of excessive fastidiousness in dress and mode of life, and was a term of reproach.

1 It was not customary to call a man elegans, or "elegant," by way of praise, but up to the time of Marcus Cato that word as a rule was a reproach, not a compliment. 2 And this we may observe both in some other writers, and also in the work of Cato entitled Carmen de Moribus. In this book is the following passage:9 "They thought that avarice included all the vices; whoever was considered extravagant, ambitious, elegant, vicious or good-for‑nothing received praise."10 3 It is evident from these words that in days of old the "elegant" man was so called, not because of refinement of character, but because he was excessively particular and extravagant in his attire and mode of life.

4 Later, the "elegant" man ceased indeed to be reproached, but he was deemed worthy of no commendation, unless his elegance was very moderate. Thus Marcus Tullius commended Lucius Crassus and Quintus Scaevola, not for mere elegance, but for elegance combined with great frugality. "Crassus," he says,11 "was the most frugal of elegant men; Scaevola the most elegant of the frugal."

5 Besides this, in the same work of Cato, I recall also these scattered and cursory remarks:12 "It was  p305 the custom," says he, "to dress becomingly in the forum, at home to cover their nakedness. They paid more for horses than for cooks. The poetic art was not esteemed. If anyone devoted himself to it, or frequented banquets, he was called a 'ruffian.' " 6 This sentiment too, of conspicuous truthfulness, is to be found in the same work:13 "Indeed, human life is very like iron. If you use it, it wears out; if you do not, it is nevertheless consumed by rust. In the same way we see men worn out by toil; if you toil not, sluggishness and torpor are more injurious than toil."

3 [Legamen ad versionem Latinam] The nature and degree of the variety of usage in the particle pro; and some examples of the differences.

1 When I have leisure from legal business, and walk or ride for the sake of bodily exercise, I have the habit sometimes of silently meditating upon questions that are trifling indeed and insignificant, even negligible in the eyes of the uneducated, but are nevertheless highly necessary for a thorough understanding of the early writers and a knowledge of the Latin language. For example, lately in the retirement of Praeneste,14 as I was taking my evening walk alone, I began to consider the nature and degree of variety in the use of certain particles in the Latin language; for instance, in the preposition pro. 2 For I saw that we had one use in "the priests passed a decree in the name of their order," and another in "that a witness who had been called in  p307 said by way of testimony"; that Marcus Cato used it in still another way in the fourth book of his Origins:15 "The battle was fought and ended before the camp," and also in the fifth book:16 "That all the islands and cities were in favour of the Illyrian land." Also "before the temple of Castor" is one form of expression, "on the rostra" another, "before, or on, the tribunal"17 another, "in presence of the assembly" another, and "the tribune of the commons interposed a veto in view of his authority" still another. 3 Now, I thought that anyone who imagined that all these expressions were wholly alike and equal, or were entirely different, was in error; for I was of the opinion that this variety came from the same origin and source, but yet that its end was not the same. 4 And this surely anyone will easily understand,18 if he attentively considers the question and has a somewhat extensive use and knowledge of the early language.

4 [Legamen ad versionem Latinam] How Quintus Ennius rivalled19 certain verses of Euripides.

1 In the Hecuba of Euripides there are some verses remarkable and brilliant in their diction, their thought and their terseness. 2 Hecuba is speaking to Ulysses:20

 p309  Thine high repute, how ill soe'er though speak'st,

Shall sway them; for the same speech carrieth not

Like weight from men contemned and men revered.

3 These verses Quintus Ennius, when he translated that tragedy, rivalled with no little success. The verses of Ennius are the same in number, as follows:21

Though thou speak'st ill, thou wilt the Achivi sway;

The selfsame words and speech have other weight

When spoken by the great and by the obscure.

4 Ennius, as I have said, did well; but yet ignobiles and opulenti do not seem to express the full force of ἀδοξούντων and δοκούντων; for not all who are obscure are contemned, nor are the great all revered.

5 [Legamen ad versionem Latinam] Some brief notes about the Pyrronian philosophers and the Academics; and of the difference between them.

1 Those whom we call the Pyrronian philosophers are designated by the Greek name σκεπτικοί, or "sceptics," 2 which means about the same as "inquirers" and "investigators." 3 For they decide nothing and determine nothing, but are always engaged in inquiring and considering what there is in all nature concerning which it is possible to decide and determine. 4 And moreover they believe that they do not see or hear anything clearly,  p311 but that they undergo and experience something like seeing and hearing; but they are in doubt as of that nature and character of those very things which cause them those experiences, and they deliberate about them; and they declare that in everything assurance and absolute truth seem so beyond our grasp, owing to the mingling and confusing of the indications of truth and falsehood, that any man who is not rash and precipitate in his judgment ought to use the language which they say was used by Pyrro, the founder of that philosophy: "Does not this matter stand so, rather than so, or is it neither?" For they deny that proofs of anything and its real qualities can be known and understood, and they try in many ways to point this out and demonstrate it. 5 On this subject Favorinus too with great keenness and subtlety has composed ten books, which he entitled Πυρρωνεῖοι Τρόποι, or The Pyrronian Principles.22

6 It is besides a question of long standing, which has been discussed by many Greek writers, whether the Pyrronian and Academic philosophers differ at all, and to what extent. For both are called "sceptics, inquirers and doubters," since both affirm nothing and believe that nothing is understood. But they say that appearances, which they call φαντασίαι, are produced from all objects, not according to the nature of the objects themselves, but according to the condition of mind or body of those to whom these appearances come. 7 Therefore they call absolutely all things that affect men's sense τὰ πρός τι.23 This expression means that there is nothing at all that is self-dependent or which has its own power and nature, but that absolutely all things have "reference  p313 to something else" and seem to be such as their is appearance is while they are seen, and such as they are formed by our senses, to whom they come, not by the things themselves, from which they have proceeded. 8 But although the Pyrronians and the Academics express themselves very much alike about these matters, yet they are thought to differ from each other both in certain other respects and especially for this reason — because the Academics do, as it were, "comprehend"24 the very fact that nothing can be comprehended, while the Pyrronians assert that not even that can by any means be regarded as true, because nothing is regarded as true.

6 [Legamen ad versionem Latinam] That at Rome women did not swear by Hercules nor men by Castor.

1 In our early writings neither do Roman women swear by Hercules nor the men by Castor. 2 But why the women did not swear by Hercules is evident, since they abstain from sacrificing to Hercules. 3 On the other hand, why the men did not name Castor in oaths is not easy to say. Nowhere, then, is it possible to find an instance, among good writers, either of a woman saying "by Hercules" or a man, "by Castor"; 4 but edepol, which is an oath by Pollux, is common to both man and woman. 5 Marcus Varro, however, asserts25 that the earliest  p315 men were wont to swear neither by Castor nor by Pollux, but that this oath was used by women alone and was taken from the Eleusinian initiations; 6 that gradually, however, through ignorance of ancient usage, men began to say edepol, and thus it became a customary expression; but that the use of "by Castor" by a man appears in no ancient writing.

7 [Legamen ad versionem Latinam] That very old words which have become antiquated and obsolete ought not to be used.

1 To use words that are too antiquated and worn out, or those which are unusual and of a harsh and unpleasant novelty, seems to be equally faulty. But for my own part I think it more offensive and censurable to use words that are new, unknown and unheard of, than words that are trite and mean. 2 Furthermore, I maintain that those words also seem new which are out of use and obsolete, even though they are of ancient date.26 3 In fact, it is a common fault of lately acquired learning, or ὀψιμαθία as the Greeks call it, to make a great point anywhere and everywhere, and in connection with any subject whatever, to talk about what you have never learned and of which you were long ignorant, when at last you have begun to know something about it. For instance, at Rome in my presence a man of experience and celebrated as a pleader, who had acquired a sudden and, so to speak, haphazard kind of education, was speaking before the prefect of the city and wished to say that a certain man lived upon poor and wretched food, ate bread made from bran,  p317 and drank flat and spoiled wine: "This Roman knight," said he, "eats apluda and drinks flocces." 4 All who were present looked at one another, at first somewhat seriously, with a disturbed and inquiring aspect, wondering what in the world the two words meant; then presently they all burst into a laugh, as if he had said something in Etruscan or Gallic. 5 Now that man had read that farmers of ancient days called the chaff of grain apluda, and that the word was used by Plautus in the comedy entitled Astraba,27 if that play be the work of Plautus. 6 He had also heard that flocces in the early language meant the lees of wine pressed from the skins of grapes, corresponding to the dregs of oil from olives. This he had read in the Polumeni28 of Caecilius,29 and he had saved up those two words as ornaments for his speeches.

7 Another Einfaltspinsel also, after some little reading of that kind, when his opponent requested that a case be postponed, said: "I pray you, praetor, help me, aid me! How long, pray, shall this bovinator delay me?" And he bawled it out three or four times in a loud voice: "He is a bovinator." 8 A murmur began to arise from many of those who were present, as if in wonder at this monster of a word. 9 But he, waving his arms and gesticulating, cried: "What, haven't you read Lucilius, who calls a shuffler bovinator?" And, in fact, this verse occurs in Lucilius' eleventh book:30

If trifling shuffler (bovinator) with abusive tongue.

 p319  8 [Legamen ad versionem Latinam] What Marcus Cato thought and said of Albinus, who, though a Roman, wrote a history of Rome in the Greek language, having first asked indulgence for his lack of skill in that tongue.

1 Marcus Cato is said to have rebuked Aulus Albinus with great justice and neatness. 2 Albinus, who had been consul with Lucius Lucullus,31 composed a Roman History in the Greek language. 3 In the introduction to his work he wrote to this effect:32 that no one ought to blame him if he had written anything then in those books that was incorrect or inelegant; "for," he continues, "I am a Roman, born in Latium, and the Greek language is quite foreign to me"; and accordingly he asked indulgence and freedom from adverse criticism in case he had made any errors. 4 When Marcus Cato had read this, "Surely, Aulus," said he, "you are a great trifler in preferring to apologize for a fault rather than avoid it. For we usually ask pardon either when we have erred through inadvertence or done wrong under compulsion. But tell me, I pray you," said he, "who compelled you to do that for which you ask pardon before doing it." 5 This is told in the thirteenth book of Cornelius Nepos' work On Famous Men.33

9 [Legamen ad versionem Latinam] The story of the Milesian envoys and the orator Demosthenes, found in the works of Critolaus.

1 Critolaus has written34 that envoys came from Miletus to Athens on public business, perhaps for  p321 the purpose of asking aid. Then they engaged such advocates as they chose, to speak for them, and the advocates, according to their instructions, addressed the people in behalf of the Milesians. Demosthenes vigorously opposed the demands of the Milesians, maintaining that the Milesians did not deserve aid, nor was it to the interest of the State to grant it. The matter was postponed to the next day. The envoys came to Demosthenes and begged him earnestly not to speak against them; he asked for money, and received the amount which he demanded. On the following day, when the case was taken up again, Demosthenes, with his neck and shoulders wrapped in thick wool, came forward before the people and said that he was suffering from quinsy and hence could not speak against the Milesians. Then one of the populace cried out that it was, not quinsy, but "silverinsy" from which Demosthenes was suffering.

2 Demosthenes himself too, as Critolaus also relates, did not afterwards conceal that matter, but actually made a boast of it. For when he had asked Aristodemus, the player, what sum he had received for acting, and Aristodemus35 had replied, "a talent," Demosthenes rejoined: "Why, I got more than that for holding my tongue."

10 [Legamen ad versionem Latinam] That Gaius Gracchus in a speech of his applied the story related above to the orator Demades, and not to Demosthenes; and a quotation of Gracchus' words.

1 The story which in the preceding chapter we said was told by Critolaus about Demosthenes, Gaius  p323 Gracchus, in the speech Against the Aufeian Law, applied to Demades in the following words:36 2 "For you, fellow citizens, if you wish to be wise and honest, and if you inquire into the matter, will find that none of us comes forward here without pay. All of us who address you are after something, and no one appears before you for any purpose except to carry something away. 3 I myself, who am now recommending you to increase your taxes, in order that you may the more easily serve your own advantage and administer the government, do not come here for nothing; but I ask of you, not money, but honour and your good opinion. 4 Those who come forward to persuade you not to accept this law, do not seek honour from you, but money from Nicomedes; those also who advise you to accept it are not seeking a good opinion from you, but from Mithridates a reward and an increase of their possessions; those, however, of the same rank and order who are silent are your very bitterest enemies, since they take money from all and are false to all. 5 You, thinking that they are innocent of such conduct, give them your esteem; 6 but the embassies from the kings, thinking it is for their sake that they are silent, give them great gifts and rewards. So in the land of Greece, when a Greek tragic actor boasted that he had received a whole talent for one play, Demades, the most eloquent man of his country, is said to have replied to him: 'Does it seem wonderful to you that you have gained a talent by speaking? I was paid ten talents by the king for holding my tongue.' Just so, these men now receive a very high price for holding their tongues."

 p325  11 1  [Legamen ad versionem Latinam] The words of Publius Nigidius, in which he says that there is a difference between "lying" and "telling a falsehood."

1 These are the very words of Publius Nigidius,37 a man of great eminence in the pursuit of the liberal arts, whom Marcus Cicero highly respected because of his talent and learning: "There is a difference between telling a falsehood and lying. One who lies is not himself deceived, but tries to deceive another; he who tells a falsehood is himself deceived." 2 He also adds this: "One who lies deceives, so far as he is able; but one who tells a falsehood does not himself deceive, any more than he can help." 3 He also had this on the same subject: "A good man," says he, "ought to take pains not to lie, a wise man, not to tell what is false; the former affects the man himself, the latter does not." 4 With variety, by Heaven! and neatness has Nigidius distinguished so many opinions relating to the same thing, as if he were constantly saying something new.

12 [Legamen ad versionem Latinam] That the philosopher Chrysippus says that every word is ambiguous and of doubtful meaning, while Diodorus, on the contrary, thinks that no word is ambiguous.

1 Chrysippus asserts38 that every word is by nature ambiguous, since two or more things may be understood from the same word. 2 But Diodorus, surnamed Cronus, says: "No word is ambiguous, and no one speaks or receives a word in two senses; and it ought not to seem to be said in any other sense than  p327 that which the speaker feels that he is giving it. 3 But when I," said he, "meant one thing and you have understood another, it may seem that I have spoken obscurely rather than ambiguously; for the nature of an ambiguous word should be such that he who speaks it expresses two or more meanings. But no man expresses two meanings who has felt that he is expressing but one."

13 [Legamen ad versionem Latinam] What Titus Castricius thought about the wording of a sentence of Gaius Gracchus; and that he showed that it contributed nothing to the effectiveness of the sentence.

1 The speech of Gaius Gracchus Against Publius Popilius39 was read before Titus Castricius, a teacher of the art of rhetoric and a man of sound and solid judgment. 2 At the beginning of that speech the sentences were constructed with more care and regard for rhythm than was customary with the early orators. 3 The words, arranged as I have said, are as follows: "If you now reject rashly the things which all these years you have earnestly sought and longed for, it must be said either that you formerly sought them earnestly, or now have rejected them without consideration."

4 Well then, the flow and rhythm of this well-rounded and smooth-flowing sentence pleased us to a remarkable and unparalleled degree, and still more the evidence that composition of that kind appealed even in those early days to Gaius Gracchus, a man of distinction and dignity. 5 But when those very same words were read again and again at our request, we  p329 were admonished by Castricius to consider what the force and value of the thought was, and not to allow our ears to be charmed by the rhythm of a well-turned sentence and through mere pleasure to confuse our judgment as well.

And when by this admonition he had made us more alert, "Look deeply," said he, "into the meaning of these words, and tell me pray, some of you, whether there is any weight or elegance in this sentence: 'If you now reject rashly the things which all these years you have earnestly sought and longed for, it must be said either that you formerly sought them earnestly, or now have rejected them without consideration.' 6 For to whom of all men does it not occur, that it is certainly natural that you should be said earnestly to have sought what you earnestly sought, and to have rejected without consideration what you rejected without consideration? 7 But I think," said he, "if it had been written thus: 'If you now reject what you have sought and longed for these many years, it must be said that you formerly sought it earnestly or that you now reject it without consideration'; 8 if," said he, "it were spoken thus, the sentence would be weightier and more solid and would arouse some reasonable expectation in the hearer; 9 but as it is, these words 'earnestly' and 'without consideration,' on which the whole effect of the sentence rests, are not only spoken at the end of the sentence, but are also put earlier where they are not needed, so that what ought to arise and spring from the very conception of the subject is spoken wholly before the subject demands it. For one who says: 'If you do this, you will be said to have done it earnestly,' says something that is composed and  p331 arranged with some regard to sense; but one who says: 'If you do it earnestly, you will be said to have done it earnestly,' speaks in much the same way as if he should say: 'If you do it earnestly, you will do it earnestly.' 10 I have warned you of this," said he, "not with the idea of censuring Gaius Gracchus — may the gods give me a wiser mind! for if any fault or error can be mentioned in a man of such powerful eloquence, it is wholly excused by his authority and overlooked in view of his antiquity — but in order that you might be on your guard lest the rhythmic sound of any flowing eloquence should easily dazzle you, and that you might first balance the actual weight of the substance against the high quality of the diction; so that if any sentence was uttered that was weighty, honest and sound, then, if you thought best, you might praise also the mere flower of the language and the delivery; that if, on the contrary, thoughts that were cold, trifling and futile should be conveyed in words neatly and rhythmically arranged, they might have the same effect upon you as when men conspicuous for their deformity and their ludicrous appearance imitate actors and play the buffoon."

14 [Legamen ad versionem Latinam] The discreet and admirable reply of King Romulus as to his use of wine.

1 Lucius Piso Frugi has shown an elegant simplicity of diction and thought in the first book of his Annals, when writing of the life and habits of King Romulus. 2 His words are as follows:40 "They say also of  p333 Romulus, that being invited to dinner, he drank but little there, giving the reason that he had business for the following day. They41 answer: 'If all men were like you, Romulus, wine would be cheaper.' 'Nay, dear,' answered Romulus, 'if each man drank as much as he wished; for I drank as much as I wished.' "

15 [Legamen ad versionem Latinam] On ludibundus and errabundus and the suffix in words of that kind; that Laberius used amorabunda in the same way as ludibunda and errabunda; also that Sisenna in the case of a word of that sort made a new form.

1 Laberius in his Lake Avernus spoke42 of a woman in love as amorabunda, coining a word in a somewhat unusual manner. 2 Caesellius Vindex in his Commentary on Archaic Words said that this word was used on the same principle that ludibunda, ridibunda and errabunda are used for ludens, ridens and errans. 3 But Terentius Scaurus, a highly distinguished grammarian of the time of the deified Hadrian, among other things which he wrote On the Mistakes of Caesellius, declared43 that about this word also he was wrong in thinking that ludens and ludibunda, ridens and ridibunda, errans and errabunda were identical. "For ludibunda, ridibunda, and errabunda," he says, "are applied of the one who plays the part of, or imitates, one who plays, laughs or wanders."

4 But why Scaurus was led to censure Caesellius on the spot, I certainly could not understand. For there is no doubt that these words, each after its  p335 own kind, have the same meaning that is indicated by the words from which they are derived. But I should prefer to seem not to understand the meaning of "act the laugher" or "imitate the laugher" rather than charge Scaurus himself with lack of knowledge. 5 But Scaurus ought rather, in censuring the commentaries of Caesellius, to have taken him to task for what he left unsaid; namely, whether ludibundus, ridibundus and errabundus differ at all from ludens, ridens and errans, and to what extent, and so with other words of the same kind; whether they differ only in some slight degree from their primitives, and what is the general force of the suffix which is added to words of that kind. 6 For in examining a phenomenon of that nature that were a more pertinent inquiry, just as in vinulentus, lutulentus and turbulentus it is usual to ask whether that suffix is superfluous and without meaning, παραγωγή, as the Greeks say,44 or whether the suffix has some special force of its own.

7 However, in noting this criticism of Scaurus it occurred to me that Sisenna, in the fourth book of his Histories, used a word of the same form. He says:45 "He came to the town, laying waste the fields (populabundus)," which of course means "while he was laying waste the fields," not, as Sisenna says of similar words, "when he played the part of, or imitated, one laying waste."

8 But when I was inquiring about the signification and origin of such forms as populabundus, errabundus, laetabundus, ludibundus, and many other words of that kind, our friend Apollinaris — very appositely by Heaven! remarked that it seemed to him that the final syllable of such words indicated force and abundance, and as it were, an excess of the quality belonging to  p337 the primitive word. Thus laetabundus is used of one who is excessively joyful, and errabundus of one who has wandered long and far, and he showed that all other words of that form are so used that this addition and ending indicates a great and overflowing force and abundance.46

16 [Legamen ad versionem Latinam] That the translation of certain Greek words into the Latin language is very difficult, for example, that which in Greek is called πολυπραγμοσύνη.47

1 We have frequently observed not a few names of things which we cannot express in Latin by single words, as in Greek; and even if we use very many words, those ideas cannot be expressed in Latin so aptly and so clearly as the Greeks express them by single terms. 2 Lately, when a book of Plutarch had been brought to me, and I had read its title, which was Περὶ Πολυπραγμοσύνης, a man who was unacquainted with Greek letters and words asked who the author was and what the book was about. The name of the writer I gave him at once, but I hesitated when on the point of naming the subject of the work. 3 At first indeed, since it did not seem to me that it would be a very apt interpretation if I said that it was written De Negotiositate or "On Busyness," I began to rack my brains for something else which would render the title word for word, as the saying is. 4 But there was absolutely nothing that  p339 I remembered to have read, or even that I could invent, that was not to a degree harsh and absurd, if I fashioned a single word out of multitudo, or "multitude," and negotium, or "business," in the same way that we say multiiugus ("manifold"), multicolorus ("multicoloured") and multiformius ("multiform"). 5 But it would be no less uncouth an expression than if you should try to translate by one word πολυφιλία (abundance of friends), πολυτροπία (versatility), or πολυσαρκία (fleshiness). 6 Therefore, after spending a brief time in silent thought, I finally answered that in my opinion the idea could not be expressed by a single word, and accordingly I was preparing to indicate the meaning of that Greek word by a phrase.

"Well then," said I, "undertaking many things and busying oneself with them all is called in Greek πολυπραγμοσύνη, and the title shows that this is the subject of our book." 7 Then that illiterate fellow, misled by my unfinished, rough-and‑ready language and believing that πολυπραγμοσύνη was a virtue, said: "Doubtless this Plutarch, whoever he is, urges us to engage in business and to undertake very many enterprises with energy and dispatch, and properly enough he has written as the title of the book itself the name of this virtue about which, as you say, he is intending to speak." 8 "Not at all," said I; "for that is by no means a virtue which, expressed by a Greek term, serves to indicate the subject of this book; and neither does Plutarch do what you suppose, nor do I intend to say that he did. For, as a matter of fact, it is in this book that he tries to dissuade us, so far as he can, from the haphazard, promiscuous and unnecessary planning and pursuit  p341 of such a multitude of things. 9 But," said I, "I realize that this mistake of yours is due to my imperfect command of language, since even in so many words I could not express otherwise than very obscurely what in Greek is expressed with perfect elegance and clearness by a single term."

17 [Legamen ad versionem Latinam] The meaning of the expression, found in the old praetorian edicts: "those who have undertaken public contracts for clearing the rivers of nets."

1 As I chanced to be sitting in the library of Trajan's temple,48 looking for something else, the edicts of the early praetors fell into my hands, and I thought it worth while to read and become acquainted with them. 2 Then I found this, written in one of the earlier edicts: "If anyone of those who have taken public contracts for clearing the rivers of nets shall be brought before me, and shall be accused of not having done that which by the terms of his contract he was bound to do." 3 Thereupon the question arose what "clearing of nets" meant.

4 Then a friend of mine who was sitting with us said that he had read in the seventh book of Gavius On the Origin of Words49 that those trees which either projected from the banks of rivers, or were found in their beds, were called retae, and that they got their name from nets, because they impeded the course of ships and, so to speak, netted them. Therefore he thought that the custom was to farm  p343 out the rivers to be "cleaned of nets," that is to say, cleaned out, in order that vessels meeting such branches might suffer neither delay nor danger.

18 [Legamen ad versionem Latinam] The punishment which Draco the Athenian, in the laws which he made for his fellow-citizens, inflicted upon thieves; that of Solon later; and that of our own decemvirs, who compiled the Twelve Tables; to which it is added, that among the Egyptians thefts were permitted and lawful, while among the Lacedaemonians they were even strongly encouraged and commended as a useful exercise; also a memorable utterance of Marcus Cato about the punishment of theft.

1 Draco the attention was considered a good man and of great wisdom, and he was skilled in law, human and divine. 2 This Draco was the first of all to make laws for the use of the Athenians. 3 In those laws he decreed and enacted that one guilty of any theft whatsoever should be punished with death, and added many other statutes that were excessively severe.

4 Therefore his laws, since they seemed very much too harsh, were abolished, not by order and decree, but by the tacit, unwritten consent of the Athenians. 5 After that, they made use of other, milder laws, compiled by Solon. This Solon was one of the famous wise men.50 He thought proper by his law to punish thieves, not with death, as Draco had formerly done, but by a fine of twice the value of the stolen goods.

6 But our decemvirs, who after the expulsion of the kings compiled laws on Twelve Tables for the use of the Romans, did not show equal severity in punishing  p345 thieves of every kind, nor yet too lax leniency. 7 For they permitted51 a thief who was caught in the act to be put to death, only if it was night when he committed the theft, or if in the daytime he defended himself with a weapon when taken. 8 But other thieves taken in the act, if they were freemen, the decemvirs ordered to be scourged and handed over52 to the one from whom the theft had been made, provided they had committed the theft in daylight and had not defended themselves with a weapon. Slaves taken in the act were to be scourged and hurled from the rock,53 but they decided that boys under age should be flogged at the discretion of the praetor and the damage which they had done made good. 9 Those thefts also which were detected by the girdle and mask,54 they punished as if the culprit had been caught in the act.

10 But to‑day we have departed from that law of the decemvirs; for if anyone wishes to try a case of manifest theft by process of law, action is brought for four times the value. 11 But "manifest theft," says Masurius,55 "is one which is detected while it is being committed. The act is completed when the stolen object is carried to its destination." 12 When stolen goods are found in possession of the thief (concepti) or in that of another (oblati), the penalty is threefold.

But one who wishes to learn what oblatum means, and conceptum, and many other particulars of the same kind taken from the admirable customs of our forefathers, and both useful and agreeable to know, will consult the book of Sabinus entitled On Thefts. 13 In this book there is also written56 a thing that is not  p347 commonly known, that thefts are committed, not only of men and movable objects which can be purloined and carried off secretly, but also of an estate and of houses; also that a farmer was found guilty of theft, because he had sold the farm which he had rented and deprived the owner of its possession. 14 And Sabinus tells this also, which is still more surprising, that one person was convicted of having stolen a man, who, when a runaway slave chanced to pass within sight of his master, held out his gown as if he were putting it on, and so prevented the slave from being seen by his master.

15 Then upon all other thefts, which were called "not manifest," they imposed a two-fold penalty.57 16 I recall also that I read in the work of the jurist Aristo,58 a man of no slight learning, that among the ancient Egyptians, a race of men known to have been ingenious in inventions and keen in getting at the bottom of things, thefts of all kinds were lawful and went unpunished.

17 Among the Lacedaemonians too, those serious and vigorous men (a matter for which the evidence is not so remote as in the case of the Egyptians) many famous writers, who have composed records of their laws and customs, affirm that thieving was lawful and customary, and that it was practised by their young men, not for base gain or to furnish the means for indulgence of amassing wealth, but as an exercise and training in the art of war; for dexterity and practice in thieving made the minds of the youth keen and strong for clever ambuscades, and for endurance in watching, and for the swiftness of surprise.

18 Marcus Cato, however, in the speech which he  p349 wrote On Dividing Spoils among the Soldiers, complains in strong and choice language about unpunished thievery and lawlessness. I have quoted his words, since they pleased me greatly:59 "Those who commit private theft pass their lives in confinement and fetters; plunderers of the public, in purple and gold."

19 But I think I ought not to pass over the highly ethical and strict definition of theft made by the wisest men, lest anyone should consider him only a thief who privately purloins anything or secretly carries it off. 20 The words are those of Sabinus in his second book On Civil Law:60 "He is guilty of theft who has touched anything belonging to another, when he has reason to know that he does so against the owner's will." 21 Also in another chapter:61 'He who silently carries off another's property for the sake of gain is guilty of theft, whether he knows to whether the object belongs or not."

22 Thus has Sabinus written, in the book which I just now mentioned, about handling things for the purpose of stealing them. 23 But we ought to remember, according to what I have written above, that a theft may be committed even without touching anything, when the mind alone and the thoughts desire that a theft be committed. 24 Therefore Sabinus says62 that he has no doubt that a master should be convicted of theft who has ordered a slave of his to steal something.

The Loeb Editor's Notes:

1 F.H.G. I.195, Müller.

2 X fr. 1, Mirsch.

3 Passed by the consul, A. Atinius, in 454 B.C.

4 That is, for a certain number of animals to be paid on a number of successive days.

5 XXIII fr. 2, Mirsch.

6 XXI fr. 1, Mirsch.

7 That is, the "lucus a non lucendo" idea.

8 Fr. 82, Peter2.

9 p82, 10, Jordan.

10 That is, in comparison with the miser.

11 Brut. 148.

12 p83, 1, Jordan.

13 Id., p83, 5.

14 From this passage some have inferred that Gellius had a villa at Praeneste.

15 Fr. 91, Peter2.

16 Fr. 96, Peter2.

17 On the origin of such expressions, see Frank, Riv. di Fil. LIII (1925), p105.

18 The preceding statement is not "easy to understand." Gellius seems to mean that all the different significations of pro developed from one or two original meanings. Thus "for" or "before" will give the general meaning in nearly all the examples except "on the rostra" and "on the tribunal," for which see Frank's article, cited in the preceding note.

19 The principle of rivalry, the ἀγών, was a recognized feature of literary technique.

20 V.293; the translation is that of Way, L. C. L.

21 v. 165, Ribbeck3.

22 p88, Marres. Apparently a discussion of the arguments by which the Pyrronian philosophers supported their beliefs.

23 That is, "things relative to something else."

24 Comprehendo is used in a technical sense; cf. Cic. Acad. Pr. II.47, cum plane compresserat (manum) pugnumque fecerat, comprehensionem illam esse dicebat; also Acad. Post. I.11, where κατάληπτον is rendered by comprehensio, and κατάληψιν by rebus quae manu prenderentur.

25 p375, Bipont.

26 Cf. Hor. Ars Poet. 46 ff.

27 14, Götz; 16, Linds.

28 The Πωλούμενοι, or "men offered for sale."

29 190, Ribbeck3.

30 417, Marx.

31 In 151 B.C.

32 Fr. 1, Peter2.

33 Fr. 15, Peter2.

34 F.H.G. IV.373.

35 Ps.‑Plutarch, Decem Orat. Vitae, Demosth., p848B, says that the actor was Polos. Famous actors made large sums of money; according to Plin. N. H. VII.129, the celebrated Roman actor Roscius made 500,000 sesterces yearly.

36 O.R.F., p242, Meyer2.

37 Fr. 49, Swoboda.

38 ii.152, Arn.

39 O.R.F., p238, Meyer.

40 Fr. 8, Peter.

41 That is, his table companions.

42 57, Ribbeck3.

43 Fr. 9, Kummrow.

44 That is, "an addition to the end of a syllable."

45 Fr. 55, Peter.

46 In general these words in -bundus have the same force as the pres. participle; the intensive force in a few words comes originally from forms like versabundus, formed from intensive verbs. See Stolz, Hist. Lat. Gr. I, p570.

47 The word means "being busy about many things," often with the idea of "officiousness" or "meddling."

48 The Bibliotheca Ulpia in the temple in Trajan's forum. Other great public libraries at Rome were in Vespasian's temple of Peace (see V.21.9 and the note), in Augustus' temple of Apollo on the Palatine hill, and in the porticus Octaviae. The first public library at Rome was founded by Asinius Pollio.

Prof. Rolfe mislaid his note; there is none at V.21.9. See instead the Bibliothecae articles in Platner and Ashby's Topographical Dictionary of Ancient Rome.

49 Fr. 2, Fun.; Jur. Civ. 126, Bremer.

50 See note 2, vol. I, p11.

51 viii.13 ff.

52 To be his bondsman, until the debt was paid.

53 That is, the Tarpeian Rock on the Capitoline Hill.

54 See Paul. Festus, pp104‑5, Lindsay. The searchers were clad only in a girdle, that they might not be suspected of bringing anything in with them and saying that it had been stolen, and they held a perforated plate before their faces, because of the presence of the women of the household.

55 Fr. 7, Huschke; Jur. Civ. 126, Bremer (II, 517).

56 Fr. 7, Huschke; 3‑5, Bremer (II, p383).

57 XII Tab. viii.16.

58 Fr. 1, Huschke; II.2, p393, Bremer.

59 p69, Jordan.

60 Fr. 2, Huschke; 113, Bremer (II, p513).

61 Fr. 3, Huschke; 119, Bremer (II, p515).

62 Fr. 4, Huschke; 127, Bremer.

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