Sunday, May 10, 2009

My Jewels

This fair Mother's Day I am reminded of a favorite story from Roman history, the story of Cornelia and her sons, Tiberius and Gaius Gracchus. Cornelia was the daughter of Scipio Africanus the Elder, defeater of Hannibal in the second Punic War, and thus, the memory of Scipio was formative in the shaping of his grandsons' goals of civic service and duty.

The Gracchi occupy their own significant place in Roman history, however it is the anecdote told of their mother, Cornelia, which has the most correspondence to my own life:

A rich noble women once visited Cornelia and ostentatiously displayed her jewels. After doing so, she asked Cornelia to show her own; Cornelia called her boys into the room and said,

"These are my jewels!"

My Jewels

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Plutarch on Facebook, Video Games, and Television

Not really, but sort of:

"Caesar, we hear, on seeing one day some wealthy foreigners at Rome carry puppies and young monkeys around in their arms and petting them, asked if in the country they came from women did not bear children. By that royal reprimand he showed his disapproval of persons who lavish on brute beasts the natural love and tenderness we ought to bestow on human beings. In like fashion, we may reasonably criticize those who waste the instinct for learning and the love of seeing, which nature has implanted in our souls, by spending them on worthless sounds and sights instead of on things beautiful and useful. It is, probably, unavoidable that every external object we meet, whether good or bad, should by its mere impact, produce some effect on our senses; but we can all of us, if we choose, concentrate our minds on, or turn away from any object and shift easily to something we like better. We should, therefore, look for the best, not merely to contemplate it, but to be benefited by the contemplation. Just as those colors are healthful whose fresh and pleasant hues strengthen and stimulate our eyes; so with our mental vision we should fix our sight on things which by the joy they give it attract it to its own proper good. Such things are acts of virtue, which create in the minds of those who study them a strong desire and eagerness to imitate them." From the Life of Pericles

Plutarch, biographer and moral philosopher of the ancient world noted that he wrote not histories, but rather, lives. He likens himself to a portrait painter who works to reveal character by paying close attention to the face and particularly, the look of the eyes. So Plutarch chooses to dwell on the seemingly small, yet significant things in the lives of his subjects, things which he feels reveal the souls of these men, leaving their mighty deeds for others to chronicle. Through the ancient lives of Plutarch I am reminded that somethings never change, particularly human nature. And, as I dream of 'mighty deeds' that I or my children may accomplish I am reminded of the importance of small yet very significant choices that we make moment by moment, to set our hearts and minds on contemplating those virtuous things which will form our souls.