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QUINTESSENCE

My Hearth Always Burned Brightly, Friend


TE ROGO, PRAETERIENS FAC MORA ET PERLEGE VERSUS
QUOS EGO DICTAVI ET IUSSI SCRIBERE QUENDAM.
EST MIHI TERRA LEVIS MERITO, SED QUIESCO MARMORE CLAUSUS
REDDEDI DEPOSITUMM COAGLAVI SEMPER AMICOS,
NULLIUS THALAMOS TURBAVI, NEMO QUERETUR.
CONIUNX KARA MIHI MECUM BENE VIXIT SEMPER HONESTE.
PRAESTITI QUOD POTUI, SEMPER SINE LITE RECESSI.
UNUS AMICUS ERAT TANTUM MIHI QUI PRAESTITIT OMNIA SEMPER HONESTE,
T.L. HERMES V(IATOR) Q(UAESTORIUS),
TUNC MEUS ADISDUE SEMPER BENE LUXIT, AMICE, FOCUS.

- Tomb Inscription, CE 477, Ager Tusculanus, Italy

I ask you as you pass by
Take a moment's pause and read
The lines I've dictated and
Ordered to be written.
The earth rests lightly on me
Which is as it should be,
And I lie quietly, encased in marble.
I've repaid my debt.

I always had a cluster of friends,
I disturbed no one's bedchamber, and
No complaint was lodged against me.
My dear wife lived with me
In harmony and always virtuously.

I performed the tasks I could,
Always gave place without recourse to the law.
I had just one friend who did all things honorably.
He surpassed all others in virtue:
Titus Flavius hermes, a court officer of quaestorian rank.
In those days my hearth always burned brightly, friend.


- from the translation offered by Paul Shore in "Rest Lightly: An Anthology of Latin and Greek Tomb Inscriptions," Bolchazy-Carducci Publishers, 1997.

Then and now.

Centuries and tides of history separate the long-departed life of this Roman citizen and those of us living today in the 21st Century. This tomb inscription, from the slim but intriguing book of Latin and Greek tomb inscriptions translated by Paul Shore, "Rest Lightly," is particularly notable for its depiction of Roman domestic tranquility.

We take for granted that much about humanity and culture has changed over the millennia, but note the importance - and significance - of those virtues and values that have not: love, loyalty, righteousness, charity, peaceableness. I am struck by the deceased's abundant gratitude for a life well lived, and his outspoken adherence to a code of ethics and noteworthy friendship. Here is a man who honors the simple gift of a life without regrets. Here is domestic life conducted in harmony, with abundant affection and loyalty.

Could we ask for more?

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