Quotes from Now and Then
A few quotes from well-known Romans. Some things remain as true 2000 years later.
Juvenal (Decimus Junius Juvenalis) A.D. c.55 - c.130
Honesty is praised and starves.
Satires, I, 1.74
But who is to guard the guards themselves?
Ibid., VI, l.347
The people that once bestowed commands, consoleships, legions, and all else, now concerns itself no more, and longs eagerly for just two things -- bread and circuses!
Ibid., X, l.79
Cornelius Tacitus A.D. c.56 - c.120
He had talents equal to business, and aspired no higher.
Annals, Bk. VI, 39
Where they make a desert, they call it peace.
Agricola, sec. 30
Marcus Aurelius Antoninus A.D. 121-180
Never esteem anything as of advantage to you that will make you break your
word or lose your self-respect.
Meditations, III, 7
Epictetus A.D. c.55 - c.135
(Actually a freed Greek slave, but he did his philosophizing in Rome)
What is the first business of one who practices philosophy? To get rid of self-conceit.
For it is impossible for anyone to learn that which he thinks he already knows.
Discourses, bk. II, ch.17
"We live in a society that is overworked and under-educated; a society
in which people are so industrious that they become absolutely stupid."
--Oscar Wilde: "The Critic as Artist"
Posted April 16, 1997
"Nothing the wise men promised has happened, and everything the damned
fools said would happen has come to pass."
SOME QUOTES ON SCIENCE
Posted May 9, 1997
"Everthing is theoretically impossible, until it's done. One could write
a history of science in reverse by assembling the solemn pronouncements of highest
authority about what could not be done and could never happen."
--Robert A. Heinlein
"Genius doesn't lie in seeing the truth that other scientists have missed.
It lies in getting other scientists to see the truth they have missed."
--James P. Hogan
"Public proclamation of absurd ideas is indecent and sets a harmful example."
--Philip Melanchthon on Copernicus's absurd
idea that Earth goes around the sun.
"Science really doesn't exist. A scientific belief is either proved wrong,
or it quickly becomes engineering. Everything else is untested speculation."
--James P. Hogan
"There is something fascinating about science. One gets such wholesale
returns of conjecture out of such a trifling investment of fact."
(On being trapped by false assumptions)
"Not finding the error visible, and not mistrusting their first ground,
[they] know not which way to clear themselves, but spend time in fluttering
over their books; as birds that entering by the chimney and finding themselves
enclosed by a chamber flutter at the false light of a glass window, for want
of wit to consider which way they came in."
Posted August 17, 1997
Some gems pronounced by those who know better:
Julius Frontinius, chief military adviser to the Roman emperor Vespasian, 1st
"I will ignore all ideas for new works and engines of war, the invention
of which has reached its limits and for whose improvement I see no further hope."
Scipio Chiaramonti, Professor of Philosophy and Mathematics at the University
of Pisa, 1633, on Galileo's insistence of a moving Earth:
"Animals, which move, have limbs and muscles; the Earth has no limbs
and muscles, hence it does not move."
Joseph Galloway, Speaker of the Pennsylvania Assembly, in a letter to the British
Admiral Richard Howe, January 21, 1777:
"The power of the rebellion is pretty well broken, and though 'tis
probable that the colonies may make some further efforts, those efforts will
be only feebel and ineffectual."
Editorial in the "Boston Post," 1865, on the arrest for fraud of
Joshua Coppersmith, who had been attempting to raise funds for research into
a telephone design:
"Well-informed people know it's impossible to transmit the voice over
wires, and that were it possible to do so, the thing would be of no practical
U.S. Ditrict Attorney, prosecuting inventor Lee DeForest for fraud, 1913:
"DeForest has said . . . that it would be possible to transmit the
human voice across the Atlantic before many years. Based on these absurd and
deliberately misleading statements, the misguided public . . . has been persuaded
to purchase stock in his comany."
Newton D. Baker, U.S. Secretary for War, 1921, on Billy Mitchell's proposal
to demonstrate the coming importance of air power by sinking a battleship:
"The idea is so damned nonsensical and impossible that I'm willing
to stand on the bridge of a battleship while that nitwit tries to hit it from
From a "New York Times" editorial, 1921, on Goddard's proposals concerning
"That Professor Goddard with his 'chair' at Clark College and the countenancing
of the Smithsonian Institution does not know the relation of action and reaction,
and the need to have something better than a vacuum against which to react--that
would be absurd. Of course, he only seems to lack the knowledge ladled out daily
in high schools."