M. Cornelii Frontonis
Et M. Aurelii, L. Veri, Aliorumque Epistulae
Ad M. Caesarem et invicem, iv. 3 (Naber, p. 61).
Cod. Vat 180, col. 2 ad med.| Domino meo Fronto.
1. Omnium artium, ut ego arbitror, imperitum et indoctum omnino esse praestat quam semiperitum ac semidoctum. Nam qui sibi conscius est artis expertem esse minus adtemptat, eoque minus praecipitat; diffidentia profecto audaciam prohibet. At Vat. 179ubi quis leviter quid cognitum pro comperto | ostentat, falsa fiducia multifariam labitur. Philosophiae quoque disciplinas aiunt satius esse numquam adtigisse quam leviter et primoribus, ut dicitur, labiis delibasse, eosque provenire malitiosissimos, qui in vestibulo artis obversati prius inde averterint quam penetraverint. Tamen est in aliis artibus ubi interdum delitescas et peritus paulisper habeare quod nescias. In verbis vero eligendis conlocandisque ilico dilucet, nec verba dare diu quis1 potest, quin se ipse
The Correspondence of M. Cornelius Fronto
Fronto to Marcus Aurelius as Caesar
? 139 a.d.
Fronto to my Lord.1
1. In all arts, as I think, total inexperience and ignorance are preferable to a semi-experience and a half-knowledge. For he who is conscious that he knows nothing of an art aims at less, and consequently comes less to grief: in fact, diffidence excludes presumption. But when anyone parades a superficial knowledge as mastery of a subject, through false confidence he makes manifold slips. They say, too, that it is better to have kept wholly clear of the teachings of philosophy than to have tasted them superficially and, as the saying goes, with the tips of the lips; and that those turn out the most knavish who, going about the precincts of an art, turn aside or ever they have entered its portals. Yet in other arts it is possible, sometimes, to escape exposure, and for a man to be deemed, for a period, proficient in that wherein he is an ignoramus. But in the choice and arrangement of words he is detected instantly, nor can anyone make a pretence2 with
- 1Certainly an early letter, possibly the earliest preserved (see § 4). In a subsequent letter to Marcus, as Emperor, it seems to be referred to as prima illa longiuscula epistula (see Ad Ant. i. 2). Marcus became consul in 140, and this fact could scarcely have been ignored in § 6.
- 2The Latin phrase verba dare alicui means ” to use mere words to a person,” i.e. to deceive him. It is difficult to reproduce the subtle play on the words.