October 21: Old Roman

Young Roman...and bread enthusiast.

How I wish I could delve a little more into "Of Old Age," which I had to translate in high school and of which I remember nothing, not a word. But my day has been taken up with comedy and dealing with FUCKING Toyota of Hollywood who have managed to screw up my Prius and then deny that they did it.

I should take this development with more equanimity, the way the Romans did. One of the two observations I'm going to make (because I don't have time to gin up something more systemic) is how Roman this essay strikes me -- i.e., tough-guy. First of all, Cicero puts his dialogue into the mouth of the ultimate Roman tough guy, Cato the Elder. Sample of life with Cato the Elder, from Wikipedia:
By strict economy of time he accomplished an immense amount of work; he exacted similar application from his dependents, and proved himself a hard husband, a strict father, a severe and cruel master. There was little difference apparently, in the esteem in which he held his wife and his slaves; his pride alone induced him to take a warmer interest in his sons...To the Romans themselves there was little in this behaviour which seemed worthy of censure; it was respected rather as a traditional example of the old Roman manners.
This guy's from the school they tore down so they could build the old school.

And Cicero's Cato...well, he talks a lot, but much of it can be boiled down to the phrase "Shut up, he explained":
In that category before anything else comes old age, to which all wish to attain, and at which all grumble when attained. Such is Folly’s inconsistency and unreasonableness! They say that it is stealing upon them faster than they expected. In the first place, who compelled them to hug an illusion?...

The fact is that the blame for all complaints of that kind is to be charged to character, not to a particular time of life. For old men who are reasonable and neither cross-grained nor churlish find old age tolerable enough: whereas unreason and churlishness cause uneasiness at every time of life.
And you know what makes Cato churlish? Churlishness. And you wouldn't like him when he's churlish.

The other example of Romanness was this kind of "Humor In Uniform" anecdote:
It was indeed in my hearing that he made the famous retort to Salinator, who had retreated into the citadel after losing the town: “It was owing to me, Quintus Fabius, that you retook Tarentum.” “Quite so,” he replied with a laugh; “for had you not lost it, I should never have recovered it.”
Now stand still while I execute you. One tends to think of ancient Romans as Englishmen or something, but this anecdote reminds me that they were Italians; this exchange could have been on "The Sopranos" (with some updating of the language, naturally). Although it must be noted that the Italians have made a lot of progress on the personal-luxury front since the days of Cato the Elder; Italian shoes alone would probably give the old Roman a conniption.

1 comment:

Lisa Simeone said...

Good lord, that Wikipedia excerpt could have been written about Madonna. Her ancestors are from the region of Abruzzo, not far from Lazio, where Rome is. Maybe that explains it.