Nam ut adversas res, sic secundas immoderate ferre
levitatis est, praeclaraque est aequabilitas in omni vita et idem
semper vultus eademque frons, ut de Socrate itemque de C. Laelio
For it is as much a sign of weakness to give way to one's
feelings in success as it is in adversity. But it is a fine thing to
keep an unruffled temper, an unchanging men, and the same cast of
countenance in every condition of life; this, history tells us, was
characteristic of Socrates and no less of Gaius Laelius
One of the problems in understanding Latin is that we're trying to
translate it to English. Some constructions that work in Latin don't
fare as well in English.
I read somewhere that the best approach is first to read the Latin
(preferably aloud) for comprehension. This is a good idea, but it
presupposes a good working Latin vocabulary. Let's start by looking at
some of the trickier vocabulary used here.
ut . . . , sic . . .
--> used together like this, "as . . . , so
. . . " English example: as bad times make us frown, so good times
make us smile. Right away that's a problem. This construction sounds
forced and "poetic" in English.
--> adjectives with a variey of meanings
depending on the context. Opposed to each other, "favorable" and
--> When you read this, you think of the English word
"levity". Levity is a good thing, right? Wrong. Not for the
Romans. For them it meant light-mindedness, a wishy-washy frame of
mind. This is scorned by the Romans, who took themselves very
seriously. They esteemed gravitas
. And remember this is written by
Cicero. Even the Romans said "Man, that Cicero needs to get over
himself." Well, maybe not in exactly those words.
--> This is an adjective of high praise like
"brilliant". Note the enclitic -que
. (I love saying things like
"enclitic"; it meakes me sound like I know what I'm talking about.)
It is attached to a word to mean "and", often serving to emphasize a
similarity or contrast.
--> Meaning "same". Note the use of -que
--> Words meaning the face and forehead especially as
means of expression. Think of "poker face" or "game face".
--> This means getting or accepting and in this case learning.
--> Who the heck is he? I don't know much about him, but
Cicero apparently thinks he ranks with Socrates on the aequabilitas
So with this vocabulary added to our store, we read for comprehension
and see that he is saying that overreacting -- bearing immoderately --
with good times is just as bad as overreacting to bad times. Sounds
like a football coach. Note levitatis est
. Literally, "it is of
light-mindedness"; in English we might say "it is a property of
lightmindedness." Then he contrasts this with aequabilitas
steadiness, keeping one's cool. That is preaeclara
(!) in omni vita
all life, that is, in very part of life.
We see that vultus
(mein -- I think "men" is a typo) and frons
(expression) are both modified by "the same" and linked with -que
Now we came to what Miller translates as "history tells us". This is
simply the word accepimus
, "we have learned". "Characteristic of" is
how he translates "de