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supellectilem vitae

Discussion in 'Lingua Latina (Latin)' started by William Stein, Nov 1, 2013.

  1. William Stein Senior Member

    San Jose, Costa Rica
    American English
    This is Wheelock's (simplified, I believe) quote from Cicero's "De Amictia"

    Quid vero stultius quam cetera parare quae parantur pecunia sed amicos non parare optimam et pulcherrimam quasi
    supellectilem vitae.

    All the translations of suppellectilem I find on line say "furniture" or "home furnishings". Doesn't that seem incredibly anticlimactic and utilitarian:

    What could be more foolish than to seek things money can buy without seeking friends, the best and most beautiful thing there is, almost the furniture of life!

    There must be a better translation than that or Cicero is even more boring than I thought!


     
  2. Cagey post mod Staff Member

    California
    English - US
    The unabridged version:

    Quid autem stultius quam, cum plurimum copiis, facultatibus, opibus possint, cetera parare, quae parantur pecunia, equos, famulos, vestem egregiam, vasa pretiosa, amicos non parare, optimam et pulcherrimam vitae, ut ita dicam, supellectilem
    ? (Cicero de Amicitia 15,55. [Latin Library].)

    Cicero is using 'supellectilem' metaphorically, with the meaning we might express as 'furnishings' or 'accouterments' or 'provisions.' Friends are what make life comfortable and bearable. It is a figurative use Cicero is fond of. He uses it elsewhere. “usus oratoriae quasi supellectilis,” id. Or. 24, 80.

    Lewis and Short (the source of above quotations) offers us a similar example from Persius: “tecum habita, et noris, quam sit tibi curta supellex,” i. e. what an ill-furnished mind you have, [Persius Satires. 4, 52.].
     
  3. William Stein Senior Member

    San Jose, Costa Rica
    American English
    That sounds a lot better, but still the idea of friends as furniture or furnishings seems like a very object-oriented approach (the image that immediately came to mind was Cicero leaning back on the huge pot-belly of his friend on the floor while downing a few hummingbird's tongues at a banquet). It seems to exclude any kind of reciprocity (learning from each other, emotional exchanges, etc.). He seems to take a very instrumental self-serving approach in another passage, too, where he says friends are more useful than fire or water. He also says that everybody loves himself and true friendship is a form of projecting self-love onto another person in a form of shared narcissism. Anyway, I never expected him to be a great philosopher. There's another passage in Wheelock where he asks his brother to help get some escaped slave back from Athens!
     
  4. Scholiast

    Scholiast Senior Member

    Reading, UK
    English - UK
    Salvete omnes!

    Three observations here, in reaction to William Stein's post # 1.

    First, Cicero does mitigate the sentiment by ut ita dicam; and I cannot anyway see what is wrong with friends being described as part of the "furniture of one's life".

    Secondly, amicitia was a much more mercantile relationship than we think "friendship" is, or ought to be, in which favours and hospitality were exchanged, but also debts or obligations undertaken and repaid - and if neglected, regarded as dire faux pas.

    Thirdly, for all his talents, Cicero was in any case a thoroughly self-absorbed individual. Aspergic, possibly.

    Σ
     
  5. William Stein Senior Member

    San Jose, Costa Rica
    American English
    I suppose there is a certain prestige attached to being a "Chair Person".

    That may be, but "furniture" is the least reciprocal thing there is (except for your occasional magic-fingers massage).

    I haven't enjoyed anything I've read by him so far. I learned Latin to read Ovid, Vergil and maybe Suetonius but Wheelock makes you plow through all those boring passages by Marcus Tullius Garbanzo

    Σ
     
    Last edited: Nov 2, 2013
  6. William Stein Senior Member

    San Jose, Costa Rica
    American English

    Looking at the whole quote, I think I found a version that makes sense (not that I'm anxious to vindicate Cicero or anything :) :

    Quid autem stultius quam, cum plurimum copiis, facultatibus, opibus possint, cetera parare, quae parantur pecunia, equos, famulos, vestem egregiam, vasa pretiosa, amicos non parare, optimam et pulcherrimam vitae, ut ita dicam, supellectilem


    What could be more foolish than for some one with a great abundance of wealth and power to seek after things that money can buy (accoutrements such as horses, servants, flashy clothes and precious vases) without seeking life's very finest and most beautiful accoutrements, in a manner of speaking: friends.

    Does anybody (dis)agree with that?
     

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