Friday, March 28, 2008

Cornelius Nepos: Lives of Eminent Commanders

An English translation of the text of Cornelius Nepos' Excellentium Imperatorum Vitae is now online. The address is http://www.tertullian.org/fathers/nepos.htm. It includes biographies of Miltiades, Alcibiades, Timotheus, Hamilcar, Hannibal, and Cato as well as many more.

Of the author, Wikipedia notes, "Cornelius Nepos (c. 100-24 BC) was a Roman biographer. Supposedly he was born at Hostilia, a village in Cisalpine Gaul not far from Verona. His Gallic origin is attested by Ausonius, and Pliny the Elder calls him Padi accola ('a dweller on the River Po, Natural History III.22). He was a friend of Catullus, who dedicates his poems to him (I.3), Cicero and Titus Pomponius Atticus. Eusebius places him in the fourth year of the reign of Augustus, which is supposed to be when he began to attract critical acclaim by his writing. Pliny the Elder notes he died in the reign of Augustus (Natural History IX.39, X.23)."

From the site:

I do not doubt that there will be many,1 Atticus, who will think this kind of writing 2 trifling in its nature, and not sufficiently adapted to the characters of eminent men, when they shall find it related who taught Epaminondas music, or see it numbered among his accomplishments, that he danced gracefully, and played skilfully on the flutes 3. But these will be such, for the most part, as, being unacquainted with Greek literature, will think nothing right but what agrees with their own customs.

If these readers will but understand that the same things are not becoming or unbecoming among all people, but that every thing is judged by the usages of men's forefathers, they will not wonder that we, in setting forth the excellencies of the Greeks, have had regard to their manners. For to Cimon, an eminent man among the Athenians, it was thought no disgrace to have his half-sister, 4 by the father's side, in marriage, as his countrymen followed the same practice; but such a union, according to the order of things among us, is deemed unlawful. 306 In Greece it is considered an honour to young men to have as many lovers 5 as possible. At Lacedaemon there is no widow 6 so noble that will not go upon the stage, if engaged for a certain sum. Through the whole of Greece it was accounted a great glory to be proclaimed a conqueror at Olympia; while to appear upon the stage, and become a spectacle to the public,7 307 was a dishonour to no one in that nation; but all these practices are, with us, deemed partly infamous, partly mean, and at variance with respectability. On the other hand, many things in our habits are decorous, which are by them considered unbecoming; for what Roman is ashamed to bring his wife to a feast, or whose consort does not occupy the best room in the house, and live in the midst of company? But in Greece the case is far otherwise; for a wife is neither admitted to a feast, except among relations, nor does she sit anywhere but in the innermost apartment of the house,8 which is called the gynaeconitis, and into which nobody goes who is not connected with her by near relationship.

But both the size of my intended volume, and my haste to relate what I have undertaken, prevent me from saying more on this point. We will therefore proceed to our subject, and relate in this book the lives of eminent commanders.

1 comment:

ciao said...

I see a history blog here. Perfect place I suppose for advertising my "interesting blog". I also wrote stuff about Eminent Commanders. Also plenty of things about music and movies. All from a historian's point of view.