If (Si)

Or Philip II of Macedonia vs Sparta

Philip II of Macedonia, the father of Alexander the Great, invaded Greece in the 4th century BC and subjugated most of the Greek city states, Athens included.

He then turned his attention to Sparta:

Philip wrote [to the Spartans] at the time when he entered their country, asking whether they wished that he should come as a friend or as a foe; and they made answer, “Neither.”

(Plutarch: Morals, Vol. III, Sayings of Spartans)

Needless to say, this was not the end of the affair…

O Filipo II de Macedonia contra Esparta

Filipo II de Macedonia, el padre de Alejandro Magno, invadió Grecia en el siglo IV  a.C.  y subyugó la mayoría de las ciudades-estado griegas, incluso Atenas.

Después, centró la atención en Esparta:

Filipo, cuando entraba en su territorio, les escribió [a los espartanos] si preferían que fuera como amigo o como enemigo. Le respondieron: «Ni lo uno, ni lo otro.»

 (Plutarco: Obras morales y de costumbres, III. Máximas de espartanos)

Sobra decir que esto no fue el final del asunto…

Quote of the Week / La cita de la semana:

When Philip wrote to them, “If I invade Laconia, I shall turn you out,” they wrote back,

“If.”

(Plutarch: Morals, On Talkativeness)


Y a lo que les escribió a su vez Filipo: «Si invado Laconia os arruinaré totalmente», le contestaron por escrito: 

«Si».

(Plutarco: Obras morales y de costumbres, Sobre la charlatanería)

Neither Philip II, nor even his son Alexander the Great invaded Sparta.

Ni Filipo II, ni siquiera su hijo, Alejandro Magno invadió Esparta.

I don’t know about you but it is one of my most favourite quotes – it’s so wonderfully… well, laconic, right?

No sé de ti, pero esta es una de las citas que me gustan sobre todo – es so maravillosamente… pues, lacónica, ¿no?

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Back Then, Before the Great War

Today’s quote by Joseph Roth takes us back to the times before the Great War – times which, when I was growing up, were still habitually referred to by the oldest generation as ‘those happy times of peace’. Not that any of them actually could remember those times – theirs would have been the generation born during or immediately after the Great War. Roth on the other hand was born in 1894 and wrote these lines – oozing nostalgia – in 1932. Enjoy!

Quote of the Week:

Joseph Roth (1894-1939)

Back then, before the Great War, when the incidents reported on these pages took place, it was not yet a matter of indifference whether a person lived or died. If a life was snuffed out from the host of the living, another life did not instantly replace it and make people forget the deceased. Instead, a gap remained where he had been, and both the near and distant witnesses of his demise fell silent whenever they saw this gap.

If a fire devoured a house in a row of houses in a street, the charred site remained empty for a long time. For the bricklayers worked slowly and leisurely, and when the closest neighbours as well as casual passersby looked at the empty lot, they remembered the shape and the walls of the vanished house.

That was how things were back then. Anything that grew took its time growing, and anything that perished took a long time to be forgotten. But everything that had once existed left its traces, and people lived on memories just as they now live on the ability to forget quickly and emphatically.

(Joseph Roth: The Radetzky March)

A Thought of Marcus Aurelius

Quote of the Week:

Marcus Aurrelius Antoninus (121-180 AD)

And thou wilt give thyself relief if thou doest every act of thy life as if it were the last, laying aside all carelessness and passionate aversion from the commands of reason, and all hypocrisy, and self-love, and discontent with the portion which has been given to thee.

(Marcus Aurelius: The Thoughts)

A very Zen-like advice from the Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius, aka ‘the philosopher king’.

Links:
The Thoughts of Marcus Aurelius, available for free download from Project Gutenberg

A Snowy Morning (Una mañana de nieve)

(Avanza el texto para leer esto en castellano.)

Quote of the Week:

We sleep, and at length awake to the still reality of a winter morning. The snow lies warm as cotton or down upon the window-sill; the broadened sash and frosted panes admit a dim and private light, which enhances the snug cheer within. The stillness of the morning is impressive. The floor creaks under our feet as we move toward the window to look abroad through some clear space over the fields. We see the roofs stand under their snow burden. From the eaves and fences hang stalactites of snow, and in the yard stand stalagmites covering some concealed core. The trees and shrubs rear white arms to the sky on every side; and where were walls and fences, we see fantastic forms stretching in frolic gambols across the dusky landscape, as if nature had strewn her fresh designs over the fields by night as models for man’s art.

Silently we unlatch the door, letting the drift fall in, and step abroad to face the cutting air. Already the stars have lost some of their sparkle, and a dull, leaden mist skirts the horizon. A lurid brazen light in the east proclaims the approach of day, while the western landscape is dim and spectral still, and clothed in a sombre Tartarian light, like the shadowy realms. They are Infernal sounds only that you hear,—the crowing of cocks, the barking of dogs, the chopping of wood, the lowing of kine, all seem to come from Pluto’s barn-yard and beyond the Styx;—not for any melancholy they suggest, but their twilight bustle is too solemn and mysterious for earth. The recent tracks of the fox or otter, in the yard, remind us that each hour of the night is crowded with events, and the primeval nature is still working and making tracks in the snow. Opening the gate, we tread briskly along the lone country road, crunching the dry and crisped snow under our feet, or aroused by the sharp clear creak of the wood-sled, just starting for the distant market, from the early farmer’s door, where it has lain the summer long, dreaming amid the chips and stubble; while far through the drifts and powdered windows we see the farmer’s early candle, like a paled star, emitting a lonely beam, as if some severe virtue were at its matins there. And one by one the smokes begin to ascend from the chimneys amidst the trees and snows.

(Henry David Thoreau: A Winter Walk)

Cita de la semana:

Dormimos, y al final despertamos a la inmóvil realidad de una mañana de invierno. La nieve yace tibia como el algodón y se acumula sobre el alféizar de la ventana; el marco hinchado y los cristales helados reciben una luz débil e íntima que realza la acogedora comodidad interior. La quietud de la mañana es impresionante. El suelo cruje bajo nuestros pies cuando nos acercamos a la ventana a mirar un claro sobre los campos. Vemos los techos bajo el peso de la nieve. De los aleros y las cercas cuelgan estalactitas de hielo, y en el jardín se alzan estalagmitas que cubren su corazón oculto. Los árboles y los arbustos elevan sus brazos blancos al cielo; y donde había paredes y setos vemos formas fantásticas que retozan haciendo cabriolas por el sombreado paisaje, como si la Naturaleza hubiera esparcido sus diseños hechos durante la noche como modelos para el artista.

Abrimos la puerta en silencio, dejando que caiga dentro la nieve amontonada, y salimos a enfrentarnos con el aire cortante. Las estrellas ya han perdido parte de su brillo, y una niebla opaca y plúmbea bordea el horizonte. Una tenue luz bronceada sobre el este proclama la llegada del día, mientras el paisaje occidental aún permanece espectral y oscuro, envuelto en una tenebrosa luz tartárea, como si fuera un reino umbrío. Se oyen sólo sonidos infernales: el canto de los gallos, el ladrido de los perros, hachazos contra la madera, el mugir de las vacas… todo parece venir del corral de Plutón, más allá de la laguna Estigia, no porque evoquen melancolía alguna, sino porque su bullicio crepuscular es demasiado solemne y misterioso para la tierra. El rastro fresco de algún zorro o alguna nutria en el huerto nos recuerda que la noche está repleta de acontecimientos, y la naturaleza primitiva aún sigue en marcha dejando huellas en la nieve. Abrimos la verja y echamos a andar a paso vivo por el solitario camino; la nieve seca y quebradiza cruje bajo nuestros pies y nos estimula el chirrido agudo del trineo de madera que parte hacia el distante mercado, desde la puerta matinal del granjero donde ha permanecido todo el verano soñando entre las briznas de hierba y los rastrojos, mientras vemos de lejos la luz de la primera vela a través de las ventanas nevadas de la granja, como una pálida estrella que emite su rayo solitario o una severa virtud rezando sus maitines. Las volutas de humo de las chimeneas empiezan a ascender una tras otra entre los árboles y la nieve.

(Henry David Thoreau: Un paseo de invierno)

Wishing you all a peaceful, happy Christmas! 🙂

Links/Enlaces:Henry David Thoreau texts on Project GutenbergTextos por Henry David Thoreau en Archives.orgImage via Pixabay [Public Domain]

El arco romano de Medinaceli (The Roman Arch of Medinaceli)

 

The Roman arch of Medinaceli, Spain. Photo by By Diego Delso via Wikipedia [CC BY-SA 4.0].

La cita de la semana / Quote of the Week:

¡Medinaceli! El arco romano, imperial, mirando con ojos que son pura luz al paisaje planetario de aquellas tierras tan tristes…

(Miguel de Unamuno: Por las tierras del Cid)


Medinaceli! The Roman arch, imperial, looking with eyes of pure light at the planetary landscape of those sad lands…

(Miguel de Unamuno: Through the lands of Cid)

 

Fighting Spirit (Espíritu de lucha)

Quote of the Week / La cita de la semana:

Androcleidas the Spartan, who had a crippled leg, enrolled himself among the fighting-men. And when some persons were insistent that he be not accepted because he was crippled, he said, “But I do not have to run away, but to stay where I am when I fight the opposing foe.”

(Plutarch: Morals, Vol. III, Sayings of Spartans)


Andróclidas, el espartano, con una pierna mutilada se alistó entre los combatientes. Como algunos insistieran en impedírselo, puesto que estaba mutilado, les dijo: «Pero yo no tengo por qué huir, sino que debo permanecer firme para luchar contra los que se me opongan.»

(Plutarco: Obras morales y de costumbres, III. Máximas de espartanos)

Take Preventive Action (Prevenir antes de que suceda)

Quote of the Week / La cita de la semana:

That which is at rest is easily kept hold of; before a thing has given indications of its presence, it is easy to take measures against it; that which is brittle is easily broke; that which is very small is easily dispersed. Action should be taken before a thing has made its appearance, order should be secured before disorder has begun.

(Tao Te Ching 64:1)


Lo que está en reposo es fácil de retener.
Lo que no ha sucedido es fácil de resolver.
Lo que es frágil es fácil de romper.
Lo que es menudo es fácil de dispersar.
Prevenir antes de que suceda,
y ordenar antes de la confusión.

(Tao te king LXIV)

The Fifth of November

It being not only Monday but the 5th of November, for today’s quote of the week we’re going to remember the Gunpowder Plot of 1605.

The First Suicide Bomber in Britain

To cut a long story short, in 1605, the much persecuted Catholics hatched a plot to blow up Westminster while Parliament was in session and the king, James I, in attendance. A cellar below the building was filled with barrels of gunpowder and Guy Fawkes was left to ignite to fuse. If he succeeded, he would have gone to heaven (or hell) with his victims, but as history would have it, he had been apprehended in the act.

The day when the plot failed, known as Bonfire Night or Guy Fawkes’ Night, is still celebrated in England with fireworks and bonfires.

Effigy of Guy Fawkes on the bonfire, Billericay, 2010. Photo by William Warby [CC-BY 2.0]
When I first lived through it, in the near aftermath of the Second Iraq War, I had the worrying sensation of having been transported to Baghdad, because the explosions around the house went on all night. You get used to it eventually, and one year long ago, when Sophisticated Young Lady was not yet sophisticated, nor yet a lady, and Young Friend of the Elephants was even younger than she is now, I’ve even gone to the trouble of making a ragdoll ‘guy’ to burn at the stake of our garden bonfire.

Guess if it rained that year.

Quote of the Week:

Remember, remember
The fifth of November
Gunpowder, treason and plot
I see no reason
Why Gunpowder Treason
Should ever be forgot.

Socrates on Integrity (Sócrates sobre la integridad)

Quote of the Week

Socrates said:

… a man who is good for anything ought not to calculate the chance of living or dying; he ought only to consider whether in doing anything he is doing right or wrong – acting the part of a good man or a bad.

…For wherever a man’s place is, whether the place he has chosen or that where he has been placed by a commander, there he ought to remain in the hour of danger; he should not think of death or of anything, but of disgrace.

Plato: Apology


La cita de la semana

Sócrates dijo:

A este hombre le daré una respuesta muy decisiva, y le diré que se engaña mucho al creer que un hombre de valor tome en cuenta Ios peligros de la vida ó de la muerte. Lo único que debe mirar en todos sus procederes es ver si lo que hace es justo ó injusto, si es acción de un hombre de bien ó de un malvado.

…todo hombre que ha escogido un puesto que ha creído honroso, ó que ha sido colocado en él por sus superiores, debe mantenerse firme, y no debe temer ni la muerte, ni lo que haya de más terrible, anteponiendo á todo el honor.

Platón: La apología de Sócrates

Carnival of Light

Quote of the Week:

Antoine de Saint-Exupéry in Toulouse in 1933 [public domain]

I had been looking on at a carnival of light. The ceiling had risen little by little and I had been unaware of an intervening space between the clouds and me. I had been zigzagging along a line of flight dotted by ground batteries. Their tracer bullets had been spraying the air with wheat-coloured shafts of light. I had forgotten that at the top of their flight the shells of those batteries must burst. And now, raising my head, I saw around and before me those rivets of smoke and steel driven into the sky in the pattern of towering pyramids.

I was quite aware that those rivets were no sooner driven than all danger went out of them, that each of those puffs possessed the power of life and death only for a fraction of a second.

(Antoine de Saint-Exupéry: Flight to Arras)

Borders

This week’s quote is from a satire about the no longer existing Soviet Union seen from the inside. As books come, Venedikt Yerofeev’s short novel, Moscow Stations, was the ultimate in subversion. It’s a book I cannot recommend enough; you can read more about it here.

I hope you enjoy Yerofeev’s cheeky black humour; you can look forward to some more (in-your-face) quotes in the future!

Quote of the Week:

And what are borders anyway? Borders are necessary to stop the different nations getting mixed up. In this country, for instance, a border guard can stand there in the absolute certainty that the border isn’t some sort of fiction or emblem, because on one side people speak Russian and drink more – whereas on the other side they drink less and speak non-Russian. But over there, how can you have borders when everybody drinks the same amount, and they all speak non-Russian?

(Venedikt Yerofeev: Moscow Stations)

Guided Tour

Quote of the Week:

The guide is a layman, he has a dusty grey complexion and talks down to us from his privilege of sharing in the sanctity of the site, a scholar, for the stream of dates and names gushes forth at great speed. He has a record to break, it seems, so I get no more than a glimpse of all there is to see, a mere smattering of the Arab cloister with harmonious pavilion in two styles, Gothic and Moorish, or as my Spanish guidebook says, “el gótico del elevada espiritualidad con el árabe sensorial y humano”. I can believe it: elevated, spiritual, humane, sensual, for before me I see high aspiration and beauty combined, and I hear the self-absorbed trickle of the fountain, but I am not permitted to linger here because the guide has already herded the others into the museum, and is waiting for me like a sheepdog.

(Cees Nooteboom: Roads to Santiago)

Silence in the Desert

Sahara Desert, Morocco. Photo by flowcomm via Flickr [CC BY 2.0]

Quote of the Week:

There is the silence of peace, when the tribes are reconciled, when the evening cool returns and it seems as if you were putting in, sails furled, at a quiet harbour.

There’s silence at noon, when the sun suspends all thought and movement.

There’s a false silence when the north wind flags and insects appear, ripped away from oases in the interior like pollen, presaging a sandstorm from the east.

There’s the silence of brewing plots, when you know that some distant tribe is simmering.

There’s a mysterious silence when the Arabs gather for their indecipherable confabulations.

There’s a tense silence when a messenger is late returning.

An acute silence when, at night, you hold your breath to listen.

A melancholy silence if you’re remembering someone you love.

(Antoine de Saint-Exupéry: Introduction to 33 Days)