A few quotations I liked from “The Roman Way” by Edith Hamilton

See also my review on Goodreads – better than reading this post, read the book!  That said here we go, mainly quotations from the second half of the book because for some reason that is when I started underlining.  Quotations from the book that are themselves quotations of someone else are attributed to the original source:

  1. “More ought to be scratched out than left.” ~Horace’s advice to writers
  2. “They change their sky, but not their mind, who run across the sea.” ~Horace
  3. “Let us discuss what is important to us, not other people’s houses or villas or whether Lepos dances badly or not, but whether riches or virtue make men happy, and whether motives of right or utility should influence us in seeking friends.” ~Horace.  Though rarely stated so bluntly, surely many still wonder the same.
  4. “He was wise and good, yet he lived with a monstrous evil and never caught a glimpse of it.  So does custom keep men blinded.” ~the author speaking of Horace’s lack-of-comment on Roman slavery
  5. “Indeed, any attempt to establish a uniform average in that stubbornly individual phenomenon, human nature, will have only one result that can be foretold with certainty: it will press hardest upon the best, as everyone knows who is driven by large numbers to use mass methods.” ~EH
  6. “The spectacle, ever growing more and more varied and more and more gorgeous, was what Rome by now wanted. Not what satisfied the mind nor yet the spirit, but what satisfied the restless eye. Rome’s importance was her size and her wealth and her power. Roman citizens’ lives consisted in the abundance of the things that they possessed. To Pericles, Athens’ glory was not the Parthenon, not the Acropolis, but that Athens had become the school of Greece in all ways of wisdom. Augustus’ title to glory, repeated over and over again, was that he had found Rome a city of brick and left her a city of marble.” ~EH
  7. “Twice, we are told, the citizens stopped a fight as it was about to begin, both times aroused by the protest of a great man. ‘Athenians,’ cried one of them, ‘before you admit the gladiators, come with me and destroy the altar to Pity,’ and the people with one voice declared that their theatre should never be so defiled.” ~EH
  8. “One of the great Victorians has said that if classicism is the love of the usual in beauty, romanticism is the love of the strange in beauty, and the statement gives to admiration the essence of the difference between the two.  The very words romance, romantic, call up a vision, vague yet bright, that banishes the drabness and monotony of every-day life with a sense of possible excitements and adventures.  Of course, if every-day life did not look drab and monotonous there would be no reason to turn to romance.  This is primarily why the Greeks were not romantic.  Facts were full of interest to them.  They found enough beauty and delight in them to have no desire to go beyond.” ~EH
  9. “Cicero’s remark that the investigation of nature seeks to find out either things which nobody can know or things which nobody needs to know, expresses perfectly the Roman attitude.” ~EH
  10. “We have learned to protect ourselves by shutting away within great stone walls shocking sights, but in Rome after the great slave insurrection the main road to the city was lined for more than a mile with the crosses of crucified slaves.” ~EH
  11. “Do you, Roman, remember to rule nations with power supreme.  Your art shall be this, to impose the custom of peace, to spare the humbled and war down the proud.” ~Virgil
  12. “Do you teach? Bowels of iron is what a teacher needs when each pupil stands up in turn and recites the self-same things in the self-same way. The same daily fare again and again – it’s death to the wretched master. ‘What would I not give,’ cries he, ‘that the boy’s father might listen to him as often as I do.’ And you live in a hole no blacksmith would put up with – and the lamps stink – and the boys thumb their begrimed Horace and their smoke-blackened Virgil – Be sure, O parents, to require the teacher to mould the young minds as a man moulds wax – and when the year ends reward him with a jockey’s wage.” ~Juvenal
  13. “…our breath has come back, but genius and learning are more easily extinguished than recalled.” ~Tacitus
  14. “History repeats itself. The fact is a testimony to human stupidity. The saying has become a truism; nevertheless, the study of the past is relegated to the scholar and the school-boy. And yet it is really a chart for our guidance – no less than that. Where we now are going astray and losing ourselves, other men once did the same, and they left a record of the blind alleys they went down. We are like youth that can never learn from age – but youth is young, and wisdom is for the mature. We that are grown should not find it impossible to learn from the ages-old recorded experience of the past.” ~EH



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