What is Latin Club?

A relaxing and fun environment, the J.P. Stevens Latin Club plays games, designs memorabilia, plans fundraisers, participates in community service, and so much more! You do not have to know Latin or be enrolled in a Latin class to join!

You do not have to attend every meeting to be an active member. So if you enjoy history, if you enjoy Italy, Rome, and Greece, if you like to enjoy good food and a good time, come out for the Latin club.

Our Certamen Teams!

Here are the members of our Latin II and Upper Level Certamen Teams!

Aryan Nair
Rishita Dasgupta
Oshmi Ghosh
Lokkit Babu Narayanan
Niya Shah
Mahika Arora

Our Latin II Team

Aman Gupta
Michael Galsim
Jason Wang
Randeep Chahal
Pramil Patel

Not Pictured: Arnav Kamulkar
Our Upper Level Latin Team

Certamen Results!

On Saturday, March 6th, 2021, two teams competed for the New Jersey Junior Classical League Certamen in levels II and Upper. We are very proud of the accomplishments of our teams!

Dealing With Stress in Uncertain Times

It can generally be agreed upon that life can be very difficult at times, especially in a time period such as 2020-1, given Covid-19 and a myriad of other issues. Although the going may be rough and tumultuous, know that there’s always the opportunity to better yourself regarding both health and achievement. Below are some methods concerning how to better your lot and to take care of yourself. 

TOP 25 QUOTES BY EPICURUS (of 172) | A-Z Quotes

#1: Practice gratitude. 

It’s easy in a competitive environment (and world) to forget the blessings you have. Although this is understandable, given how the process of natural selection that formed humans doesn’t select for well-being whatsoever (it in fact encourages ingratitude due to those seeking more tending to have better odds of survival and reproduction), this doesn’t mean that individuals should forget how lucky they may be. If you’re reading this, you’re doing it on an electronic device: this automatically makes you luckier than a vast number of other people, given how hundreds of millions of people today (more than 10% of humanity) are struggling just to survive. Though it is difficult for many people to come to grasp that they’re very lucky compared to all the humans beforehand, know that this is true (can you imagine living in the Dark Ages?). On a personal note, consider whatever accomplishments you’ve done so far. While you may not be surprised at what you have been able to do in hindsight, that only reinforces the idea that we should be mindful of ourselves and what’s around us. We all have things to appreciate, which is why we should cherish them and be motivated to not only help ourselves, but others as well. 


Thought for the Day: Bertrand Russell and Doing More of What Makes you  Happy. | Zoe Bulaitis

#2: Give yourself time to relax. 

Overwork and burnout are issues that many millions of people deal with. It manifests itself differently for every individual: for some it may be related to familial responsibilities, for others it can revolve around school, and it is likely to involve financial insecurity and personal issues. Overwork and burnout tend to slowly creep in over weeks, months, and years: the key to handling them effectively is a willingness to give oneself time to relax, for a constantly active mind is unsustainable given our current biology. When it comes to finding time to have leisure, any amount of time is likely to be helpful. Even if one is very busy, one should always take time to pause. For instance, you can give yourself a five-minute break for every half-hour of work, take power naps, or even decrease your workload so that you can do a better job at handling your other responsibilities. Concerning the idea of productivity, providing yourself with leisure will likely enable you to handle more, for the mind needs intervals where it can declutter itself and be rejuvenated. 


(P. S.: for archive.org, you have to make a free account to access many of its resources: be assured, I’ve used it for months and have found it to be an invaluable resource).

TOP 25 QUOTES BY SOPHOCLES (of 421) | A-Z Quotes

#3: Be compassionate towards yourself. 

“If your compassion does not include yourself, it is incomplete.” – Buddha 

As the quote by Sophocles (which came from his astounding Antigone) states, every individual as of yet, despite their potential intelligence and character, has made (many) mistakes. While it is easy to blame oneself for what has occurred and to sink into self-pity or even self-hatred, this course shouldn’t be undertaken, given how (1) it’s likely to make things even worse and (2) it doesn’t change the past. Individuals with tendencies to feel guilt should do whatever they can to rectify their miscalculations and failings and to move on with a better understanding of the world, not to dwell on moments that are beyond one’s reach. Moreover, if determinism is true (which I believe it is), then there is even less reason why a person should be hard towards themselves, for things had to be the way they were and couldn’t have been otherwise. Having compassion towards yourself (hopefully) means treating yourself like how you would treat others. As stated before, taking things easy and enjoying a holistic picture of yourself will most definitely better your life. I would like to end this section by citing Derek Parfit: personal identity may very well (and I believe it is) a myth. That is, the person you were some time ago is different from who you are now. You therefore shouldn’t feel shame towards who you presently are, for the individual guilty of the deed which troubles you wasn’t really you at all (at most, a less inexperienced namesake of you who didn’t have the capacity at the time of understanding that what they were doing was foolhardy). 




#4: Stay connected with others. 

“When we our betters see bearing our woes, 

We scarcely think our miseries our foes. 

Who alone suffers suffers most i’ th’ mind, 

Leaving free things and happy shows behind. 

But then the mind much sufferance doth o’erskip 

When grief hath mates and bearing fellowship.” 

– Shakespeare, King Lear 3.7.111-116. 

One of the best remedies for virtually all of life’s problems is companionship. This could involve your friends, family, and pets. The value of cooperation and mutual care is the primary reason why Homo sapiens has survived so long, and it is what will redeem humankind if it is followed. As the common saying goes, “United we stand, divided we fall.” As the previous quote of Shakespeare relates, having good company is a fantastic way to bear hardship when it does occur and to actively enjoy life. It is no coincidence that Epicureanism and Stoicism, two rival schools of thought of Greece and Rome, were able to agree on the astounding value of comradeship and relationships founded on mutual trust, respect, and affection: without others, no being can survive. Every day individuals rely on various systems to maintain their existence. To name a few, there’re agriculture, government, transportation, news, and the electrical system. Einstein himself said that no matter what state an individual is in, their fates are interlinked with the others. Following this line of thinking, if you want to be well-off yourself as well as conducive to the interests of others, spend time with them and open your heart and mind while doing so, as no individual is all-wise. 

Large mark twain | Kindness quotes, Mark twain quotes, Good life quotes

#5: Be kind towards other beings. 

“Use your voice for kindness, your hands for charity, your mind for truth, and your heart for love.” – Buddha 

Scientists have definitively demonstrated that helping others does in fact boost mood: it is a fantastic way to release dopamine, serotonin, and oxytocin, chemicals that are vital for stability and happiness. Moreover, being willing to assist others provides one with meaning, not-mentioning how it is right in and of itself. As for who one should be kind to, the answer is every living creature. The Nobel laureate Albert Schweitzer put it as follows: “A person is only ethical when life, as such, is sacred to them, that of plants and animals as well as his fellow humans, and when he devotes himself helpfully to all life that is in need of help.” While it is true that one can’t always be kind to everyone, decency should be the minimum: be kind and helpful by default, but decent and fair if the situation calls for it. 

#6: Daydream. 

“And yet even in the hate and turmoil and distresses of the Days of Confusion there must have been earnest enough of the exquisite and glorious possibilities of life. Over the foulest slums the sunset called to the imaginations of men, and from mountain ridges, across great valleys, from cliffs and hillsides and by the uncertain and terrible splendours of the sea, men must have had glimpses of the attainable magnificence of being. Every flower petal, the vitality of young things, the happy moments of the human mind transcending itself in art, all these things must have been material for hope, incentive to effort. And now at last this world!” – H. G. Wells, Men Like Gods

“Even darkness must pass.” – J. R. R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings

“The path to paradise begins in Hell.” – Dante Alighieri. 

One of the best and easiest ways to be happy is to contemplate what wonders the future may have in store. Though dystopian novels and movies are prominent and the various conflicts, sufferings, and abominations the world contains may make one feel like there’s no hope concerning the future, there in fact is, for the accelerating rate of technology (especially in artificial intelligence, nanotechnology, and genetic engineering), if things go even moderately well, may lead to a world of splendor and sublime beauty for all living creatures. When it comes to what happy things to ruminate on, just think about whatever makes you happy, be it spending time with friends, going to college or a vacation, learning new things, or relaxing. A life lived solely in the present and past is suboptimal, for one should have things to strive for. 





10 Awesome Quotes That Will Inspire You To Start Walking | Prevention

#7: Exercise. 

“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” – Aristotle

Aside from keeping you fit, exercise is a fantastic way to boost your mood, for not only does it exert the body, but it gives something to be proud of for the rest of the day. It also doesn’t have to be intense: aerobic workouts such as jogging, jump-roping, or walking can augment your quality of life, thereby making them worthwhile. Of course, exercise should be consistent, not short-lived, as that’s the whole point: it’s something you should be doing for your entire life. It should also be mentioned that the human body is not adapted to the modern era, for it was designed to store fat in the ancestral environment, hence why so many people suffer from ill health from overnutrition. And that’s another reason why one should exercise. 

20 Sleep Quotes - Cute Good Night Quotes

#8: Have a consistent sleep schedule. 

“We dream in our waking moments, and walk in our sleep.” – Nathaniel Hawthorne, The Scarlet Letter

Like exercise, sleep is essential for your health. Make sure to get a significant amount of sleep every night. When it comes to the problems of insomnia and oversleeping/drowsiness, you can deal with it effectively by having a schedule for when you slip into the world of dreams: that way, your body’s circadian rhythm will adjust to the next parameter.


It is better to change an opinion than to persist in a wrong one - ancient  Greek philosopher Socrates quote printed on grunge vintage cardboard Image  - Stock by Pixlr

#9: Learn something new. 

“What we know is a drop, what we don’t know is an ocean.” – Isaac Newton 

“I would rather discover one true cause than gain the kingdom of Persia.” – Democritus 

Learning (for me, at least) is wondrous and sublime: having one’s horizons expanded, understanding deepened, and vision furthered, has the capability of not only transforming an individual but doing so for the better, seeing how both love and knowledge are needed to make the world into a better place (perhaps into a paradise in due time). There are countless subjects to be explored, studied, analyzed, and ruminated on. Various individuals will be interested in various subjects: there’s no “right” or “wrong” field of learning to be engrossed in, so long as you genuinely are interested in it and are willing to learn. Personally, my main focuses are history, economics, philosophy, literature, and science, and I can say that they have drastically improved me as an individual, which is why every individual should be willing to learn. If nothing else, acquiring knowledge (even if only in the human sense) liberates one from oneself, thereby setting one free. To end with a quote from Einstein: “More the knowledge, lesser the ego. Lesser the knowledge, more the ego.” To which Epictetus may add: “No being is free who is not master of themself.” 










#10: Live for others. 

“Only a life lived for others is a life worthwhile.” – Albert Einstein 

“The good life is one inspired by love and guided by knowledge.” – Bertrand Russell 

“In my journey through Joseph Conrad’s heart of darkness, I’ve learned that a man is measured not by how much money he makes, but by how much he’s willing to give away, especially to strangers.” – Philip Wollen 

“If you knew what I know about the power of giving, you would not let a single meal pass without sharing it in some way.” – Buddha 

A life lived for the betterment of others is, to my knowledge, the noblest aspiration to which an individual can strive for. This can take many forms, from working in a profession to directly help others to earning to give to conducting research. Though every person’s capabilities regarding helping others are different, that is in fact a blessing, for there’s a vast amount of talents that can be employed wisely to improve the world. Personally, I plan to become a lawyer so that I can earn to give: I hope to provide at least half of my salary throughout my career to eradicate poverty and to advocate for animal rights, seeing how countless other beings need it more than I do. As stated before, the way each person makes a difference depends on who they are, which is why assessing one’s skills is crucial. When it comes to how this deals with stress, refraining from being self-absorbed and being interested in others is a fantastic way to raise one’s own physical and mental health, as a much better mood following providing aid to others, combined with a sense of purpose and community, is something money can’t buy. As Uncle Iroh from Avatar: The Last Airbender put it, “Sometimes the best way to solve your own problems is to help others.” And indeed, what better arrangement between individuals could there be? Relationships can be wonderful, and the best of the best are almost exclusively those that are transcendental. 




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The Punic Wars

People always want more. The Romans were no different. The Punic Wars were a series of conflicts between the Romans and the Carthaginians for control over the Medierranean Sea, and they defined Rome during its republic period. 

The First Punic War (264-241 BC) occurred over the island of Sicily. The Romans allied themselves with Syracuse and decided to help Messina (which asked for both Carthage’s and Rome’s help) by attacking the Carthaginians. Then they laid siege to Akragas, Carthage’s main fort, and captured it, thus shifting the focus of the battles from land to water. The Romans had one tiny, little problem: they had no ships. Luckily, they were able to capture a Carthaginian ship and largely copied it, and added a corvus (or raven) which was essentially a plank with a spike to attach boats so that Roman soldiers could board. The Romans then proceeded to win battles at Mylae, Sulci, and Ecnomus. The Carthaginian navy was so battered that Rome tried to invade Carthage, but was fought off by Xanthippus. At Cape Hermaeum, the Carthaginian navy was again defeated, but a storm destroyed much of Rome’s fleet. 

The Romans were able to rebuild and took Palermo. The Carthaginians tried to retake the city with elephants but were held back. However, bright skies were ahead for Carthage. They won at both Lilybaeum and Drepana, and had destroyed the Roman fleet at Phintias. At this point, both sides were broke and had no more money. However, Rome was able to lend money from its patricians and raise yet another fleet. This fleet laid siege to Lilybaeum and Drepana once more, but this time Carthage failed to relieve these strongholds. The war ended with the Treaty of Lutatius, with Carthage forced to pay 3,200 silver talents and Sicily annexed by Rome.

After the war, the Carthaginians had nothing to pay their soldiers with, so they revolted. After Sardinia revolted, Carthage wanted to retake their land. Rome claimed this to be an act of war, demanded the turnover of Sardinia and Corsica, and received 1,200 more talents. To gain silver mines in Iberia, Rome and Carthage signed the Ebro treaty, which limited Carthage to south of the Ebro River. Rome also signed a treaty with Saguntum, a city south of the Ebro River. Thus, another dubious claim set the stage for the next conflict.

The Second Punic War (218-201 BC) began when Saguntum was attacked by Carthage, which led Rome to declare war. Rome took Malta, and was planning to invade Carthage once more, but one man had other plans. Hannibal evaded the Roman forces by going through Iberia and then south through the Alps, even bringing 37 elephants with him. He defeated the Roman-aligned Taurini in North Italy, and defeated the Romans at Ticinus. This caused most of the Gauls to side with him, beginning a string of Carthaginian annihilations at Lake Trasimene, Cannae, and Silva Litana. During this time, Quintus Fabius Maximus was appointed dictator, but he was unwilling to attack Hannibal head on. Many cities were beginning to defect to the Carthaginian side.

However, eventually Hannibal was forced to the south of Italy, where he was confined. Many cities went back to Rome. In the interim, Syracuse also turned to Carthage, where it was then sieged and it eventually fell. Notably, Archimedes was killed during this time, as he invented war machines to aid his city. However, Hannibal’s brother Hadsdrubal invaded Italy from the north yet again. Due to Roman trickery, Hannibal was left unaware of this fact, and the invasion failed. The Roman Publius Scipio was able to take Iberia. Furthermore, his other brother Mago failed to reach Hannibal as well. 

Scipio looked to invade Carthage. He allied with a Masinissa, a Numidian prince (who was left without land after a different king allied with Carthage), and united the kingdom at Cirta. Hannibal was then recalled back home, where Rome proceeded to create a treaty that was refused. At Zama, the Carthage forces were annihilated, and Rome won decisively. The truce called for hostages, another fine of 10,000 talents, no land outside Africa, no war elephants, only 10 warships, and couldn’t attack anyone without Roman permission. Scipio also received the name “Africannus”.

Masinissa then proceeded to attack Carthage repeatedly over 48 years. Carthage could not fight back as Rome always denied their requests to defend themselves. Carthage finally had enough and tried fighting back. They lost, and Rome decided to declare war again for the final time in the Third Punic War (149-146 BC). Rome tried to take the city, but with fire ships (ships set on fire) and the camp running rampant with disease, Carthage was able to defend for a while underneath Hasdrubal. Scipio Aemillanus, the adopted grandson of Africanus became consul and defeated what was left of the Carthaginian fleet twice. Then, he attacked Carthage at night and lost. Hasdrubal reacted by heading into the city, torturing Roman prisoners, and killing any Carthaginian dissenters. Scipio was able to take everything but the city, and cut it off from the sea. Then, the massacre began, with Scipio killing everyone in the first five days and accepting prisoners on the last day. Carthage was razed, but salt was not put in the ground. 

What’s the moral of the story here? Rome was a power hungry society who was willing to play dirty for society? Never trust an enemy? I don’t know. It’s 2 in the morning and I want to go to sleep. But the Punic Wars were cool I guess.

Ancient Roman Terracotta Clay Pottery

Image result for roman terracotta

Ancient Rome is famous for its beautiful pottery. Smooth, sleek terracotta bowls and intricately carved plates can be seen in museums like the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the British Museum. Many Romans produced pottery for mainly utilitarian purposes. More specialized workshops in specific provinces of the Roman Empire crafted and traded fine pottery. In this article, I’ll discuss fine wares and more common forms of ancient Roman pottery. To make things even better, I’ll try to make a functional piece of pottery myself!

Terracotta or fired clay was the main resource for making pottery. The word “terracotta” is Italian, but it derives from the Latin terra cocta. This clay has a natural brownish color.  Terracotta is made by baking terracotta clay, and it directly translates to  “baked earth.” The Romans used terracotta to build bricks, tiles, and even statues.

As stated above, most pottery was made for daily use. But what about the beautiful flasks and plates decorated with carvings of gods that the museums love to display? More fine pieces of pottery were packed into graves, used for eating by the extremely rich, or placed around the home as decoration. Terra sigillata are glossy terracotta wares that Romans used to serve food. The drinking cups were thin and covered in lead glazes. They were decorated intricately. Table vessels, like large platters and shallow dishes, were made to bear decorative dishes. As Rome progressed, rich citizens propelled farther from using clay kitchenware. They preferred silver. Other fine wares were made for extremely specific purposes. Terra rubra (red-slipped) and terra nigra (black-slipped) fabrics were put on plates and dishes to bear potters’ stamps. Decorative techniques were used for fine tableware, including slips, painting, and texture. Painted decoration was not as popular. People preferred lead-glazed pottery, which caused the pottery to change from brown to amber or even green.

Normal Romans made extremely plain pottery. They shaped the terracotta clay into huge bowls and cups with large cavities in them. They were inexpensive and a standard part of every Roman kitchen. Mortaria were shallow bowls with a thick rim that made it easy to handle. They were covered with a coating of grit or coarse sand. You may be thinking… mortaria sure does sound like mortar! That is true, the mortaria takes on the role of the modern mortar. It was used with a pestle to puree and pulverize ingredients or enhance the flavor of herbs and spices. Amphorae were large, tall flask-like containers. They had a cylindrical body with a spiked base. They were kept in racks because they could not lie flat. Amphorae held liquid, such as olive oil. Plates, cups, and bowls are other self-explanatory examples of Roman pottery.

Clay was also used to create lamps. Candles were used in ancient Rome as artificial lighting. Lamps were also present, fueled with olive oil. Many lamp holders were made of clay. They were made of a circular area and a filling-hole. The candleholders were decorated with images of animals, myths, chariot-racing, gladiator combat, everyday life, and hunting. Some lamps were not made in the usual style. They were molded to represent animals and many other shapes.

Terracotta figurines were very popular. They were made for ritual and religious purposes. People would show their dedication at temples through the construction of a complex Terracotta figurine. They would also serve more typical purposes, being common burial items and found in many household shrines. Each region of the Empire produced terracotta figurines in distinctive styles.

You can make your own terracotta pottery like the Romans did at home! Buy some terracotta clay (or any type of clay or play-doh you have at home) and shape it into a plate, bowl, cup, flask, or candle holder. You can also find other ways to make clay online if you do not want to go out of your way to buy it. If you aren’t the best at forming shapes, you can use an existing plate or bowl to create your pottery. Make sure to cover your silverware with oil or vaseline if you are using it as a guide, so it will be easier to clean later. While the clay is still malleable, make sure to carve out some designs. You can use a pencil, a knife, or any sharp tool to carve the clay. Here is my creation below!

Ancient Roman Villas

One of the first things learnt in any Latin class is the layout of the ancient Roman house. A domus is a house that was occupied by upper-class Romans during the Republican and Imperial eras. Along with a regular domus, the richest families also owned a separate country house known as a villa. These villas were much grander and larder. They had more space outside and required a more complex setup. Poor Romans lived in crowded, dirty apartments that were known as insulae. They were built up as high as possible, and this made them susceptible to danger. The domus was much more uniform. A domus was limited in size, so they required a strict layout. Because of this strict layout, many of these houses looked the same. The domus is built vertically, so it does not take up too much space.


The interior of a domus includes multiple rooms, indoor courtyards, gardens, and painted walls. The rooms in a domus are the tabernae, atrium, tablinum, hortus, triclinium, and the cubiculum. There was also a vestibulum, or entrance hall, that led into the atrium. The atrium was the main part of the house. It had a statue or an altar to the household gods. In modern days, this would be a type of living room. Bedrooms called cubicula branched off the atrium. There was also a dining room called the triclinium, where guests could only eat their dinner on couches. The tablinum was another smaller living room, what we would consider a parlor today. The culina was the kitchen. On the outside of the atrium were tabernae, small shops facing the street. The hortus was an enclosed garden, usually found towards the back of the house

There was also a specialized roof system that was featured in the atrium. The compluvium was a square opening in the roof of the atrium. Rain would fall from the roofs and through the compluvium. The rain would then pass through an impluvium, or sunken “roof.” The impluvium is designed to carry rainwater away. It is placed below the floor of the atrium, and emptied the water into a below-ground cistern.

Another advanced aspect of the Roman domus is that it usually had a hypocaustum, a means of heating. A hypocaustum produces and circulates hot air below the floor of the room. The floors would warm the air in the room, and the warm air could heat up the upper floors as well. 

What about decorations? The atrium was one of the most decorated rooms in the domus. Symbols that flaunted the family’s wealth and hereditary powers were displayed, as well as figures of the family’s ancestors. Paintings and mosaics adorned the walls. The atrium was a very public room, so the Romans put any decor worthy of attention into that room.

Safety was a major issue for the Romans. The domus did not have any windows. All the light was natural and came through a hole in the roof. Additionally, the domus did not face the streets. The tabernae faced the streets, and the domus was behind the tabernae. If the Romans did have windows, they weren’t the glass kind that we have today. They were typically just holes in the wall with shutters covering them. Little to no windows faced the street. Living in Rome was dangerous and dirty. Unfortunately, textbooks often only show readers the lives of ultra-rich Romans who didn’t really have to worry about threats.

            I made my own model of an ancient Roman villa using Minecraft below! I hope in your spare time you can create your own and have a lot of fun doing it!

The Metamorphoses” – Book XV

The Metamorphoses is a narrative poem by the famed poet Ovid. Published in 8 AD, it focuses on Greek mythology, telling stories that have—you guessed it—a metamorphosis. That is, a character is transformed by higher beings into a form it finds alien. Sometimes, the morphological change involves them being turned into an inanimate object. The Metamorphoses has fifteen books; due to the fact that each book has multiple stories, I’ll split this summary into those components.

Note: some words are misspelled because that’s how they appeared in the text I utilized, not because of my personal carelessness. Moreover, Books I-XIII are from the MIT website while the last two arise from the translation by Anthony S. Kline.

Book XV begins where Book XIV left off: the Romans, anxious for a new leader, decide on Numa. Numa as a king focuses heavily on the keeping of peace through religious ritual: he claims to be married to a nymph who provided him and the Roman people with laws that they must follow. The focus then turns toward Pythagoras, the inventor of the Pythagorean theorem. Pythagoras taught vegetarianism, telling people that by enslaving, harming, and murdering other species they are engaging in awful behavior and are defiling themselves. He begins his argument by mentioning that there is a large abundance of other foods to consume: “‘There are crops; there are apples weighing down the branches; and ripening grapes on the vines; there are flavoursome herbs; and those that can be rendered mild and gentle over the flames; and you do not lack flowing milk; or honey fragrant from the flowering thyme. The earth, prodigal of its wealth, supplies you with gentle sustenance, and offers you food without killing or shedding blood.’” Moreover, he makes it clear that eating meat is in itself a form of cannibalism, for one is devouring other sentient creatures for frivolous gustatory pleasures. This becomes all the more true when the concept of evolution is discovered for Darwin, for every creature is indeed related if the pedigree is examined closely enough. Pythagoras compares people eating other species to how Polyphemus devoured people for his amusement: “‘Oh, how wrong it is for flesh to be made from flesh; for a greedy body to fatten, by swallowing another body; for one creature to live by the death of another creature! So amongst such riches, that earth, the greatest of mothers, yields, you are not happy unless you tear, with cruel teeth, at pitiful wounds, recalling Cyclops’s practice, and you cannot satisfy your voracious appetite, and your restless hunger, unless you destroy other life!’” Pythagoras claims that the Golden Age was one of vegetarians. He then moves on to discuss the sheer injustice of murdering other animals, especially when one examines how much they do for humans as a whole: “‘He is truly thankless, and not worthy of the gift of corn, who could, in a moment, remove the weight of the curved plough, and kill his labourer, striking that work-worn neck with his axe, that has helped turn the head earth as many times as the earth yielded harvest. It is not enough to have committed such wickedness: they involve the gods in crime, and believe that the gods above delight in the slaughter of suffering oxen!’” A large section of Pythagoras’s vegetarianism comes directly from his belief in metempsychosis, otherwise known as the transmigration of souls. To put it simply, metempsychosis states that when organisms die, their souls don’t dissolve; rather, they are reborn in new bodies. Following this logic, when people (and other organisms) consume meat, they may very well be eating their ancestors and deceased friends and loved ones who temporarily took that guise. Interestingly enough, Pythagoras claims that he remembers his previous reincarnations: “‘O species, stunned by your terror of chill death, why fear the Styx, why fear the ghosts and empty names, the stuff of poets, the spectres of a phantom world? Do not imagine you can suffer any evil, whether your bodies are consumed by the flames of the funeral pyre, or by wasting age! Souls are free from death, and always, when they have left their previous being, they live in new dwelling-places, and inhabit what received them. I myself (for I remember) was Euphorbus, son of Panthoüs, at the time of the Trojan War, in whose chest was pinned the heavy spear of the lesser Atrides, Menelaüs. I recognize the shield I used to carry on my left arm, recently, in the temple of Juno at Argos, city of Abas!’” Pythagoras continues his descriptive, poetic language, so much so that he sounds like Lucretius with his focus on the fact that things change over time: “‘Everything changes, nothing dies: the spirit wanders, arriving here or there, and occupying whatever body it pleases, passing from a wild beast into a human being, from our body into a beast, but is never destroyed. As pliable wax, stamped with new designs, is no longer what it was; does not keep the same form; but is still one and the same; I teach that the soul is always the same, but migrates into different forms. So, I say as a seer, cease to make kindred spirits homeless, by wicked slaughter: do not let blood be nourished by blood!’” 

Adding on to the idea of metempsychosis is the idea of cyclical cycles. That is, Pythagoras postulates that existence itself repeats itself innumerable times: “‘Since I have embarked on the wide ocean, and given full sails to the wind, I say there is nothing in the whole universe that persists. Everything flows, and is formed as a fleeting image. Time itself, also, glides, in its continual motion, no differently than a river. For neither the river, nor the swift hour can stop: but as wave impels wave, and as the prior wave is chased by the coming wave, and chases the one before, so time flees equally, and equally, follows, and is always new. For what was before is left behind: and what was not comes to be: and each moment is renewed.’” Pythagoras also believed in four ages of human history, with each succeeding phase being less beautiful, peaceful, and intelligent than the last. In moving language, he describes, “‘When the middle years are also done, life takes the downward path of declining age. Milon, the athlete, grown old, cries when he looks at those weak and flabby arms, that were once, like those of Hercules, a solid mass of muscle. Helen, the daughter of Tyndareus, also weeps, when she sees an old woman’s wrinkles in the glass, and asks why she has been twice ravaged. Devouring Time, and you, jealous Age, consume everything, and slowly gnawing at them, with your teeth, little by little, consign all things to eternal death!’” Pythagoras maintains that the elements themselves are mortal in character and are subsequently subject to change. Predicting the law of conservation of energy, Pythagoras details that “‘Nothing keeps its own form, and Nature, the renewer of things, refreshes one shape from another. Believe me, nothing dies in the universe as a whole, but it varies and changes its aspect, and what we call ‘being born’ is a beginning to be, of something other, than what was before, and ‘dying’ is, likewise, ending a former state. Though, ‘that’ perhaps is transferred here, and ‘this’, there, the total sum is constant.” Pythagoras moves on to natural disasters, stating that lands are changed by phenomena over countless aeons. Pythagoras was also a believer in autogenesis/spontaneous emergence. Because of the little science of his age (biology in this instance), Pythagoras found it to be amazing that when dead bodies are left in the open or are buried, creatures like worms, hornets, and maggots appear on and near them. Pythagoras offers the mythological phoenix as an analogy for change: born out of its own ashes, it lives for a while before burning up, only to be born again. Just like how the phoenix borns and dies repeatedly, empires and ages rise and fall. Pythagoras specifically mentions the future ascendancy of Rome, but his previous statement is also ominous, for it firmly demonstrates that in most instances, even the very best must eventually fall. Ovid’s covering of Pythagoras’s teaching ends with a reiteration of Pythagoras’s view that life is sacred and must be maintained, which is very similar to that of the Buddhists and Jains: “‘We should allow those beings to live in safety, and honour, that the spirits of our parents, or brothers, or those joined to us by some other bond, certainly human, might have inhabited: and not fill our bellies as if at a Thyestean feast! What evil they contrive, how impiously they prepare to shed human blood itself, who rip at a calf’s throat with the knife, and listen unmoved to its bleating, or can kill a kid to eat, that cries like a child, or feed on a bird, that they themselves have fed! How far does that fall short of actual murder? Where does the way lead on from there?’” Put more aptly, Pythagoras once also said, “As long as man continues to be the ruthless destroyer of lower living beings, he will never know health or peace. For as long as men massacre animals, they will kill each other. Indeed, he who sows the seed of murder and pain cannot reap joy and love.” Pythagoras thus encourages people to be merciful, or at least as fair as possible, towards other creatures. They may kill them for the sake of self-defence, but not for sport or pleasure: “‘Let the ox plough, or owe his death to old age: let the sheep yield wool, to protect against the chill north wind: let the she-goats give you full udders for milking! Have done with nets and traps, snares and the arts of deception! Do not trick the birds with limed twigs, or imprison the deer, scaring them with feathered ropes, or hide barbed hooks in treacherous bait. Kill them, if they harm you, but even then let killing be enough. Let your mouth be free of their blood, enjoy milder food!’”  The son of Theseus, Hippolytus, comforted the nymph Egeria, wife and widower of Numa, after his death, by recounting how she’s lucky compared to him: Pasiphaë, the mother of the Minotaur, had Phaedra as a daughter, fancied him. Upon his rejecting her out of principle, she made her father banish him from the city. As he moved towards the city of Pittheus, Troezen. A bull suddenly emerged from the water and his horses panicked, eventually leading to his being thrown from the chariot, turning his body into a bloody pulp as it collided with a tree. He then went down into the underworld and bathed himself in the fiery Phlegethon to purify himself until he was rescued by Aesculapius, the son of Phoebus. The goddess Cynthia provided him with a body but made it somewhat old to make him difficult to recognize, and ordered him to remain in the area where he was then talking to Egeria to ensure he wouldn’t be sought out by those envious of a cure for death. She also instructed him to be known as Virbius from then on. He then reveals that he became a deity that serves Diana. Hearing Hippolytus’s story didn’t ease Egeria’s grief one bit: “prostrate, at the foot of a mountain, she melted away in tears, till Phoebus’s sister, out of pity for he true sorrow, made a cool fountain from her body, and reduced her limbs to unfailing waters.” The next story is that of Cipus, who grew horns unexpectedly. Though initially upset, it turned out his advantage, for when he went to Rome, the people thought of him as divinity, and gave him land and cattle, as well as commemorating him by engraving horns on their gateposts. The focus then moves to Aesculapius, the god of healing. On one occasion, he rescued Rome from a plague and was subsequently honored. Ovid notes that Aesculapius was a rescuer while Caesar was a longstanding citizen of massive reputation in Rome. Ovid praises Caesar for his various military triumphs and cunning, noting that his assassination prevented Rome from reaching its full potential. He imagines that after Caesar’s death, he was deified and became a famed figure of Olympus, and that he was pleased when Augustus/Octavian, his adopted son, ruled Rome: “He had barely finished, when gentle Venus stood in the midst of the senate, seen by no one, and took up the newly freed spirit of her Caesar from his body, and preventing it from vanishing into the air, carried it towards the glorious stars. As she carried it, she felt it flow and take fire, and loosed it from her breast: it climbed higher than the moon, and drawing behind it a fiery tail, shone as a star. Seeing his son’s good works, Caesar acknowledges they are greater than his own, and delights in being surpassed by him. Though the son forbids his own actions being honoured above his father’s, nevertheless fame, free and obedient to no one’s orders, exalts him, despite himself, and denies him in this one thing. So great Atreus cedes the title to Agamemnon: so Theseus outdoes Aegeus, and Achilles his father Peleus: and lastly, to quote an example worthy of these two, so Saturn is less than Jove.” Ovid, who had a patron in Octavian, compares his role to Jove: while Jove rules the world above, Octavian is the leader of the Earth. As for Ovid’s future expectations, “I beg that the day be slow to arrive, and beyond our own lifetime, when Augustus shall rise to heaven, leaving the world he rules, and there, far off, shall listen, with favour, to our prayers!” Ovid then ends Book XV and The Metamorphoses with the following sentences, in which he reminisces the role of books and art: “And now the work is done, that Jupiter’s anger, fire or sword cannot erase, nor the gnawing tooth of time. Let that day, that only has power over my body, end, when it will, my uncertain span of years: yet the best part of me will be borne, immortal, beyond the distant stars. Wherever Rome’s influence extends, over the lands it has civilized, I will be spoken, on people’s lips: and, famous through all the ages, if there is truth in poet’s prophecies, –vivam– I shall live.”

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“The Metamorphoses” – Book XIV

The Metamorphoses is a narrative poem by the famed poet Ovid. Published in 8 AD, it focuses on Greek mythology, telling stories that have—you guessed it—a metamorphosis. That is, a character is transformed by higher beings into a form it finds alien. Sometimes, the morphological change involves them being turned into an inanimate object. The Metamorphoses has fifteen books; due to the fact that each book has multiple stories, I’ll split this summary into those components.

Note: some words are misspelled because that’s how they appeared in the text I utilized, not because of my personal carelessness. Moreover, Books I-XIII are from the MIT website while the last two arise from the translation by Anthony S. Kline.

Book XIV begins with Glaucus going to Circe’s court. He begs Circe to make Scylla return his feelings, but somewhat hilariously, Circe falls for him. She offers herself to him, but Glaucus rejects her. Angry, she went to the pool where Scylla frequently bathed and containment it: “the goddess tainted in advance and contaminated with her monstrous poison. She sprinkled the liquid squeezed from harmful roots, and muttered a mysterious incantation, dark with strange words, thrice times nine, in magical utterance.” When Scylla entered the water, she was mutated into a vicious creature: “Scylla comes, wading waist deep into the pool, only to find the water around her groin erupt with yelping monsters. At first, not thinking them part of her own body, she retreats from their cruel muzzles, fears them, and pushes them away: but, what she flees from, she pulls along with her, and, seeking her thighs, her legs, her feet, in place of them finds jaws like Cerberus’s. She stands among raging dogs, and is encircled by beasts, below the surface, which from her truncated thighs and belly emerge.” Glaucus became broken-hearted upon witnessing this and escaped from Circe. Scylla, in retaliation, attacked Ulysses and his crew, seeing how Circe was trying to help them. She is eventually transformed into a rock by some unknown deity to prevent her from doing any more harm. The next story involves Aeneas going to Cumae. Beforehand, he went to Carthage, where the queen Dido became infatuated with him. He left, however, to found what would become Rome (getting revenge on Greeced, for it would be incorporated), and Dido, in a fit of grief, stabs herself and throws her body on a funeral pyre. Aeneas is troubled by a people known as the Cercopes, and Jove, as punishment for their dishonesty, turns them into monkeys that are incapable of doing anything but screeching. He eventually meets the Sybil of Cumae, who offers to take him to the underworld so that he can acquire knowledge on what he should do next. While they are going down, Aeneas praises her for her courage and offers her a large reward. She declines it, recollecting how she once was careless when it came to asking for gifts: when she was a youth, Phoebus desired to sleep with her. To show that he could give her fantastic presents, he offers her a wish beforehand. Ovid describes, “‘I was offered eternal life without end, if I would surrender my virginity to Phoebus my lover. While he still hoped for it, while he desired to bribe me beforehand with gifts, he said: ‘Virgin of Cumae, choose what you wish, and what you wish you shall have.’ Pointing to a pile of dust, that had collected, I foolishly begged to have as many anniversaries of my birth, as were represented by the dust. But I forgot to ask that the years should be accompanied by youth. He gave me the years, and lasting youth, as well, if I would surrender: I rejected Phoebus’s gift, and never married.” As for her growing older without remaining young, she states that she has lived for more than seven hundred years. Moreover, “‘The time will come when the passage of days will render such body as I have tiny, and my limbs, consumed with age, will reduce to the slightest of burdens. I will thought never to have loved, and never to have delighted a god … I will go as far as having to suffer transformation, and I will be viewed as non-existent, but still known as a voice: the fates will bequeath me a voice.’” The Sybil and Aeneas then reached the underworld, and encountered Achaemenides. He was a friend of Aeneas who became trapped on the island of Polyphemus after Ulysses blinded him and was afraid for his life, watching some of his companions being brutally eaten by the cyclops. After days of deprivation and hiding, he caught sight of a Trojan ship that received him. He eventually made his way to the underworld to find peace of mind and to hide from a wide variety of dangers. 

Another companion of Ulysses in the underworld, Macareus, said that when he was on the boat of Ulysses, they came extremely close to home, only to have some irresponsible crewmates open up a bag which they thought contained valuables. In truth, it contained only a powerful wind gifted to them by Aeolus, the controller of wind, which sent them right back to his palace. When they tried to go home again, they happened to go by Lamus, the city of Laestrygonians. The king Antiphates ordered his citizens, who were cannibals, to attack them. They escaped, though a significant number of them were slain and subsequently consumed. They next arrived at the island of Circe. Circe offered the scouting party, including Maecareus, nourishment, but when they consumed it, they were transformed into pigs. One of them, Eurylochus, escaped. Ulysses himself came and with a white herb—“moly, that springs from a black root”—from Mercury, forced Circe to negotiate. She agreed to restore his crew to their human forms if she sleeps with him. He agrees, and they’re transformed into their usual semblances. They relaxed and lived a luxurious lifestyle at Circde’s palace in one year. While staying at Circle’s home, Macareus learned the story of Picus, who was the son of Saturn but was transformed into a bird when he rejected Circe in favor of Canens, the daughter of Canens. The friends of Picus tried to punish Circe, only to be turned into wild animals. Canens, heartbroken, tries to find Picus to no avail, and after six days of searching dissolves into nothingness, and the palace where she died is known as Canens: “‘Tiber was last to see her, as she lay down, weary with grief and journeying, on his wide banks. There, she poured out her words of grief, tearfully, in faint tones, in harmony with sadness, just as the swan sings once, in dying, its own funeral song. At the last she melted away, wasted by grief, liquefied to the marrow, little by little vanishing into thin air. But her story is signified by the place, that the Muses of old, fittingly, called Canens, from the nymph’s name.” Soon the nurse of Aeneas, Caeita, died, and her body was cremated and the ashes placed into an urn. Aeneas eventually left the underworld and succeeded in courting Lavinia, princess of the kingdom of Latinus. A rejected suitor, Turnus, sought vengeance, and he engaged in a battle with him, only to be defeated. One of Aeneas’s comrades, Acmon, was transformed into a bird beforehand, for he advised Aeneas to not leave and to stand his ground, seeing how they have travelled so much already, not-mentioning how their current location seems an ideal place to establish an empire, as well as insulting Venus. The creation of the wild olive is then narrated by Diomede: “A shepherd from … Apulia scared them [the nymphs] to flight, at first, suddenly inspiring terror in them. When they had collected their wits, scornful of their pursuer, they returned to their dancing, feet skipping to the measure. The shepherd mocked them, leaping wildly in imitation, and adding foul language, with coarse abuse. Nor was his mouth silent till tree-bark imprisoned his throat: he is indeed a tree: you may know its character, by the taste of its fruit that bears the mark of his speech in the wild olives’ bitterness. The sharpness of his words has entered them.” Turnus attacked Aeneas by burning the ships, only to be rebuffed by deities such as Cybele, who remembered that the wood that formed the ships came from Mount Ida. They proceeded to transform the ships into joyful nymphs who aid Trojans but loathe Greeks, as can be noted in their refusing to help Ulysses. After Turnus was defeated, the area, Ardea, was consumed by fire. The “ardea, the heron,” emerged from the fire, and “in the beating of its wings, Ardea mourns itself.” Venus succeeded in persuading Jove to deify Aeneas: “The ordered the river-god to cleanse Aeneas, of whatever was subject to death, and bear it away, in his silent course, into the depths of the ocean … what was best in him remained. Once purified, his mother anointed his body with divine perfume, touched his lips in a mixture of sweet nectar and ambrosia, and made him a god, whom the Romans named Indiges, admitting him to their temples and altars.” The lineage of Alban kings is then mentioned. 

The next tale is that of how Vertumnus, a god, attempted to wed the nymph Pomona. He tells her the story of Anaxarete and Iphis in the guise of a crone. Iphis was a young man who fancied Anaxarete, who was of a higher social rank. After trying to repress his feelings, he at last conceded to them, only to be savagely rebuffed. Outraged and despairing, he hung himself. As his body was being burned, Anaxarete watched and was turned into stone as punishment for her cruelty. After telling Pomona the story, he took off his disguise into his usual form. Ovid disturbingly recounts that he was ready to assault her to get what he wanted: “He was ready to force her”. However, he didn’t do so upon her conceding to him (which is yet another demonstration of the utter sexism of a variety of civilizations). The land that was Latonia became Rome, and after the Sabine women were abducted by Roman men for reproductive purposes, the Sabines were led by their king, Tatius, into war. Tarpeia, the daughter of the keeper of the watchtower, lets them in in exchange for their gold jewelry. However, they gave her what she deserved by crushing her to death with their shields and threw her body off what would become known as the Tarpeian Rock, for it would be a place to put to death traitors and liars by throwing them to the surface below. After much bloodshed, the king of Rome, Romulus, agrees to a peace with Tatius, with them forming an alliance. Romulus, according to legend, ascends godhood: “There he [Mars] caught up Romulus, son of Ilia, as he was dealing royal justice to his people. The king’s mortal body dissolved in the clear atmosphere, like the lead bullet, that often melts in mid-air, hurled by the broad thong of a catapult. Now he has beauty of form, and he is Quirinus, clothed in ceremonial robes, such a form as is worthier of the sacred high seats of the gods.” His wife, Hersilia, grieved for his earthly demise, only to be told by Iris that she should go to the grove on the Quirinal hill to again see her husband. Hersilia obeyed Iris’s orders, and “climbed to Romulus’s hill … There a star fell, gliding from sky to earth, and Hersilia, hair set alight by its fire, vanishes with the star in the air. The founder of the Roman city receives her in his familiar embrace, and altars her former body and her name, and calls her Hora, who, a goddess now, is one with her Quirinus.”

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