Saturday, December 27, 2014

The bile of Seneca...........................

From then onwards no mansion would be complete without its library of shelves or cupboards for collection of many-coloured rolls.  Then, as now, rich men with not real literary interests bought libraries for show, only to incur the scorn of philosophers like Seneca, who, himself a millionaire, preached modesty and restraint to others, denouncing those who 'lacking the most elementary culture, possess books not for study but as decorations for their dining-rooms'.  No house of any pretentions, he said, lacked 'its library with shelves of rare cedar wood and ivory from floor to ceiling as well as its hot and cold bathing rooms'.  It stirred his bile to see 'the works of divine genius bought merely for show to decorate a wall'.  Despite such lashing, the newly rich continued the practice and thereby kept many an honest bookseller active from whose industry real scholars were also able to benefit.
-F. R. Cowell, Life in Ancient Rome

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