Dodwell on Attic Hospitality

This village, which is about three miles from the sea, and at a shorter distance from the foot of Pentelikon, is one of the prettiest spots in Attica, and is enriched with many kinds of fruit trees; particularly walnuts, figs, pomegranates, pears, and cherries. On our arrival, the fine country girls, with attractive looks and smiling faces, brought us baskets of fruit. Some of them appeared unwilling to accept our money in return; and the spontaneous civility and good humour of the inhabitants soon convinced us that we were in Attica, where they are more courteous to strangers than in other parts of Greece.

—Edward Dodwell, A Classical and Topographical Tour through Greece, p. 157

The Meaning of Wine

Wine (vinum) is so called because it is a drink that quickly refills the veins (venas)with blood. Others call it Lyaeus, because it loosens (solvat) us from our cares. The ancients called wine (vinum) venom (venenum); but after poison from a deadly sap was discovered, they called the one wine, and the other venom.

Vinum inde dictum quod eius potus venas sanguine cito repleat. Hoc alii, quod nos cura solvat, Lyaeum appellant. Veteres vinum venenum vocabant; sed postquam inventus est virus letiferi sucus, hoc vinum vocatum, illud venenum.

—Isidore, Etymologicae 20.3.2

Where Do Bees Even Come From?

What does it matter if you get your wealth from sheep or birds? Is wealth from cattle, whence bees are born, sweeter for you than wealth from the bees which do their work in the hives at Seius’ villa?

Quid enim refert, utrum propter oves, an propter aves fructus capias? Anne dulcior est fructus apud te ex bubulo pecore, unde apes nascuntur, quam ex apibus, quae ad villam Sei in alvariis opus faciunt?

—Varro, De re rustica 3.2.11

For more on cattle and bees, see Isidore of Seville.

The Natural Philosophy of Archery

Quintus Claudius, in the nineteenth of his Annals, was describing a town being assaulted by Metellus and the attacks down from the walls by the townsfolk, and wrote, “The archers on both sides, along with the slingers, shot very powerfully and with great enthusiasm; but when you fire an arrow or a stone downwards versus upwards, there is a difference. It is not possible to fire either one accurately in a downward direction, yet it is much better to fire either one upwards. This is why fewer of Metellus’ soldiers were wounded, and what is most important, they easily repelled the enemy from the wings.”

I asked Antonius Julianus, the rhetorician, why it happened in the way that Quadrigarius had said, that shots are closer and more direct if you fire off either a stone or an arrow from below rather than above, since a shot is sharper and easier from a high point to a lower one than from a low point to a high one. Then Julianus, after the line of questioning was praised, said, “What he said about an arrow and a stone could be said about almost every projectile weapon. Now, it is more easy to throw, as you have just said, if you throw downwards—and if you want to throw more so than strike. But when the direction and movement need to be measured and moderated, then, if you are throwing downwards, that moderation and measurement is ruined by the very downward movement of what is thrown and the weight of the falling projectile. But if you are firing upward, and line up your hand and your eye to strike something higher up, then the projectile that you have thrown will go right where the motion you gave it carries it.

Quintus Claudius in undevicesimo annali, cum oppidum a Metello proconsule oppugnari, contra ab oppidanis desuper e muris propugnari describeret, ita scripsit: “Sagittarius cum funditore utrimque summo studio spargunt fortissime. Sed sagittam atque lapidem deorsum an sursum mittas, hoc interest: nam neutrum potest deorsum versum recte mitti, sed sursum utrumque optime. Quare milites Metelli sauciabantur multo minus et, quod maxime opus erat, a pinnis hostis defendebant facillime.”

Percontabar ego Antonium Iulianum rhetorem, cur hoc ita usu veniret, quod Quadrigarius dixisset, ut contigui magis directioresque ictus fiant, si vel lapidem vel sagittam sursum versus iacias quam deorsum, cum proclivior faciliorque iactus sit ex supernis in infima quam ex infimis in superna. Tum Iulianus comprobato genere quaestionis: “quod de sagitta” inquit “et lapide dixit, hoc de omni fere missili telo dici potest. Facilior autem iactus est, sicuti dixisti, si desuper iacias, si quid iacere tantum velis, non ferire. Sed cum modus et impetus iactus temperandus derigendusque est, tum, si in prona iacias, moderatio atque ratio mittentis praecipitantia ipsa et pondere cadentis teli corrumpitur. At si in editiora mittas et ad percutiendum superne aliquid manum et oculos conlinies, quo motus a te datus tulerit, eo telum ibit, quod ieceris.”

—Aulus Gellius, Noctes Atticae 9.1.1–6

Ambrose on Baptism

What did you see? Water all around, but not alone; the levites [deacons] ministering there, the high priest [bishop] asking questions and sanctifying. First and foremost, the Apostle taught you that we should not contemplate what is visible, but what is not visible, since what is visible is temporal, but what is not visible is eternal.

Quid vidisti? Aquas utique, sed non solas: levitas illic ministrantes, summum sacerdotem interrogantem et consecrantem. Primo omnium docuit te Apostolus non ea contemplanda nobis quae videntur, sed quae non videntur, quoniam quae videntur, temporalia sunt: quae autem non videntur, aeterna [2 Cor 4.18].

—Ambrose, De mysteriis 3.8

Iphicrates on Vigilance

Iphicrates, the Athenian general, was holding Corinth with a garrison, and on the approach of their enemies, he himself was keeping watch. A guard was sleeping, so he pierced him through with a spear; some rebuked this act as though it were cruel, but he said, “As I found him, so I left him.”

Iphicrates, dux Atheniensium, cum praesidio Corinthum teneret et sub adventum hostium ipse vigilias circumiret, vigilem, quem dormientem invenerat, transfixit cuspide; quod factum quibusdam tamquam saevum increpantibus “qualem inveni”, inquit, “talem reliqui.”

—Frontinus, Strategemata 3.12.2

The Value of a Good Education?

He was voracious when it came to wine and food, sometimes to the point of drunkenness, but only in the evening hours. Though he would eat a very small breakfast, even in private, he would be very extravagant at dinner. He would bring intellectuals to his feasting, as though he would be more moderate by necessity when talking about liberal studies.

vini cibique avidissimus, nonnumquam usque ad ebrietatem, sed vespertinis horis. nam si prandisset vel privatim parcissimus, in cena effusissimus. adhibuit convivio litteratos, ut loquens de studiis liberalibus necessario abstemius.

Historia Augusta, Macrinus 13.4–5