Tuesday, June 9, 2020

M/M: A Love Letter for Homework, Marcus Aurelius and Fronto, Add. 7

In this letter, the future Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius uses erotic terms in his homework assignment from his mentor Fronto, who has asked him to read Plato's Phaedrus. It is interesting to note that Marcus has flipped the traditional arrangement of the Greek same-sex model; although Fronto is his mentor, Marcus calls himself the erastes [lover in charge of the relationship].

Have mi magister optime.

Ave perge, quantum libet, comminare et argumentorum globis criminare: Numquam tu tamen erasten tuum, me dico depuleris; nec ego minus amare me Frontonem praedicabo minusque amabo, quod tu tam variis tamque vehementibus sententiis adprobaris minus amantibus magis opitulandum ac largiendum esse. Ego hercule te ita amore depereo neque deterreor isto tuo dogmate ac, si magis eris aliis non amantibus properus et promptus, ego tamen amabo atque usque amabo. Ceterum quod ad sensuum densitatem, quod ad inventionis argutiarum, quod ad aemulationis tuae felicitatem adtinet, nolo quidem dicere te multo placentis illos sibi et provocantis Atticos antevenisse, ac tamen nequeo quin dicam. Amo enim et hoc denique amantibus vere tribuendum esse censeo, quod victoriis τῶν ἐρωμένων magis gauderent. Vicimus igitur, vicimus, inquam. Num . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . praestabilius sub laquearibus quam sub platanis, intra pomerium quam extra murum, sine deliciis quam ipsa Lai proxime adsistente habitanteve disputari? Nequeo retejaclari, utra re magis caveam, quod de Lysia orator saeculi hujus dogma tulerit an quod magister meus de Platone. 3 Illud equidem non temere adjuravero: Si quis iste re vera Phaeder fuit, si umquam is a Socrate afuit, non magis Socraten Phaedri desiderio quam me per istos dies (‘dies’ dico? ‘menses’, inquam) tui adspectus cupidine arsisse… Tua epistula haec fecit, ne ille Diona esset quin tantum amet nisi confestim tuo amore corripitur.

 Vale, mihi maxima res sub caelo, gloria mea. Sufficit talem magistrum habuisse. Domina mater te salutat.

--A letter of Marcus Aurelius preserved in the correspondence of Marcus Cornelius Fronto, Add.7 ( 249 Haut, Haines I.30)

Hello, my best mentor!

Go on then, threaten and complain with any heap of arguments as much as you can: for you will never get rid of me, your lover (erasten)! For even if you give me a convincing argument with varied and vehement words that the *object* of a lover’s desire (minus amantibus, a Latin pun on the Greek term eromenos) ought to be cherished and lavished with gifts [more than the lover himself], I will not I will not stop declaring that I love my Fronto any less, and I won’t stop loving you. For by Hercules, I am dying for love of you, nor am I kept in check by your rules (dogmate). Even if you treat others--others that you don’t love--better than me, I will still keep on loving you.

[Reading Plato's Phaedrus] I shouldn’t say that you’re better than all those cocky and self-sure Attic intellectuals [in the book] because of the wealth of your thoughts, the cleverness of your wit, the utter perfection of your imitation: but here I am, saying it. I love you and I reckon that it’s proper for a person in love to say that they enjoy their lovers’ [τῶν ἐρωμένων] victories more than their own. We’ve won, so in effect, I’ve won …

But [still reading Plato’s Phaedrus] whether someone is under intricately paneled ceiling or under a plane tree, whether inside or outside the city walls, holding a discussion without your sweetheart (deliciis) is [main clause missing] than while Lais herself is not only at hand, but also a neighbor. But I can’t seem to wrap my head around which is worse, what the politician (orator) Fronto said about Lysia or what my mentor (magister) Fronto has said about Plato. And I don’t say this lightly: if Phaedrus actually existed in real life, if he was ever apart from Socrates, Socrates could not have burned in longing for Phaedrus more than I burn in longing for you all these days (“days”? I mean “months”!). Your letter has such effect that he wouldn’t need to be Dion* to love you so much, but rather he’d immediately be seized by a love for you at first sight.

Goodbye, my glory, the best thing to happen to me under heaven. It’s enough that I had such a mentor. My mother says “hi.”

*Dion was one of Plato's lovers

Name:  Marcus Cornelius Fronto  
Date:  100 – 160 CE
Works: Letters

Region 1: Peninsular Italy; Region 2: Western Europe; Region 3: Western Coast of Africa; Region 4: Egypt and Eastern Mediterranean; Region 5: Greece and the Balkans

Fronto was a Roman statesman born in Cirta (Numidia, located in northern Africa) whose rhetorical and literary abilities earned him the nickname “Second Cicero.” He was tutor and mentor to the future Roman emperors Marcus Aurelius and Lucius Verus; his correspondence with them provides unique insight into the personal lives of much of the Antonine dynasty.
Early Roman Lit: through 2nd c BCE: Republican Rome: through 1st c. BCE; Golden Age: 70 BCE to 18 CE; Silver Age: 18 CE to 150 CE; Age of Conflict: 150 CE - 410 CE; Byzantine and Late Latin: after 410 CE