There are many ancient authors who, through their words, share with us a picture of their world. Whether they speak of philosophy, everyday problems, or witty observations, they bring us a little closer to their times. Here are some of my favorite quotes, poems, letters, etc., from Ancient Roman and Greek authors.
"A room without books is a body without soul." -- Cicero
"Yes, Decianus, I'd delight
To be with you by day, by night.
The miles between us, me and you,
As we both know, are only two.
But if I call in vain, two more
Are added on, and that makes four.
Often you're not at home, and when
You are, they tell me, "Call again!",
"He's resting," "He's in conference"--
Am I that dumb? Am I that dense?
I'd gladly walk a mile or two
If I could count on seeing you,
But when I have to hoof it four
Not to have seen you -- what a bore!"
--Martial (translated by Rolfe Humphries)
"Remember this -- that very little is needed to make a happy life."--Marcus Aurelius
"When the thistle blooms and the chirping cicada
sits on trees and pours down shrill song
from frenziedly quivering wings in the toilsome summer,
then goats are fatter than ever and wine is at its best...Then, ah then,
I wish you a shady ledge and your choice wine,
bread baked in the dusk and mid-August's goat milk
and meat from a free-roving heifer that has never calved --
and from firstling kids. Drink sparkling wine,
sitting in the shade with your appetite sated,
and face Zephyr's breeze as it blows from mountain peaks."
--from Works and Days
"Any one thing in the creation is sufficient to demonstrate a Providence to a humble and grateful mind."--Epictetus
"Avoid arguments and postpone unpleasant quarrels if you can; otherwise, leave and go home."
--Graffiti in the House of the Moralist, Pompeii
"We are all well. I slept in a little this morning because I have a slight cold...After lunch we spent some time picking grapes; we worked up a good sweat, but had fun shouting jokes to one another, and, as some poet has said, "we left a few clusters (too high to reach) as survivors of the vintage." Later in the afternoon we returned home. I did a little scholarly research, but not very well. Then I had a long chat with my dear mother who came in and sat on the edge of my bed. I asked her, "What do you think my friend Fronto is doing right now?" And she asked me, "What do you think my friend Gratia is doing?" And then I asked, "What do you think sweet little Gratia is doing?" While we were chatting away and gossiping and playfully arguing about which of us two loved which of you three best, the gong sounded to let us know that my father had gone to take his bath."
--A letter from Marcus Aurelius to his friend and tutor, Fronto