Friday, April 25, 2014

The Sayings of Succo

The Sayings of Succo
Bobby Derie

"There is no idea so sacred as to be beyond question." -Succo, Sayings

Gaius Gallus Succo (b.134, d.79? BCE) was a scholar of Roman Greece. Little known even during his own life, Succo was virtually unknown in post-antiquity until rediscovered in the twentieth century when six copies of his Discourses on Prostitution were discovered in the Villa of the Papyri during the excavation of Herculaneum. This sexually explicit scroll, still unavailable in English except for excerpts, prompted a more thorough search of surviving ancient sources for references to this ancient scholar, and turned up a number of quotations and glosses in contemporary texts in and around Corinth, where Succo is presumed to have been from. These quotes have been compiled from several sources, and scholars are in general agreement that they represent three distinct works - the Discourses, the Sayings, and an unknown (and possibly banned) philosophical and religious work attested to only in a rebuttal from an unknown pontiff, retained in the Vatican Library.

"I do not see why there must be something sacred about sex that precludes it as a profession; certainly there are many who pursue that employment without joy, but only for the income it brings, and in that they are no different than the vast majority of the employed. For those rare few that are paid for doing what they find pleasure in - well, then your definition of 'whore' must be extended to every artist, writer, professional and tradesman that pursues their craft." -Succo, Discourses on Prostitution

Opinion remains divided on The Lost Book, which shows some clear influence from Greek mystery religions and Greco-Buddhism; based on the arguments of the pontiff decrying it, the text seems to have been written in response to the social tensions in Corinth in the generation following the Roman conquest, the pull between Greek nationalist interests, the sometimes harsh administration of alien Romans, and the wider world of learning afforded by contact with Rome.

"I would I had an empty page, to pour out my heart upon it; to wrap in words vain and bereft ambitions, and friendships lost to neglect, and all the weight of ennui that builds from things left unspoken, undone, unrealized. To recount small sins and small penances, and common dramas and tragedies of vulgar people who all dance together toward ultimate destruction, engulfed in petty things. Yet it would be incomplete, without an audience, and perhaps 'tis better not to unload on those who carry their own burdens, but to set the page in the fire, and with a blank sheet, try again." -Succo, The Lost Book

"It is a long road and I have set my foot upon it, and though I race at no pace other than my own I grow weary with the days and miles, but would not count myself content if I were to rest. Better then to finish on this path, and work through the bitter stretch, and know I have accomplished something for all I've done." -Succo, The Lost Book

"The great downfall of every religion is the acceptance by the masses. For any group of individuals, whose needs and wants are so diverse and different, the message must be so altered or watered down that the religion is either destroyed or the masses pay only lip service to its tenants, going about their daily business. Fanaticism, it must be understood, is a lonely preoccupation - and thankfully so." -Succo, The Lost Book

"I will not live a life without regret, for every action has its price and consequence, and many are irreversible. But I also will not let regret stop me from living my life. My god, what I have done? Damn god, I have done what I have done, and if I shed any tears it will be while doing something else." -Succo, The Lost Book
"To have the courage of your convictions means much more than being willing to die for what you believe; you must also be willing to live by the same tenets you ascribe, to know your philosophy well enough that you know its weaknesses as well as its strengths, to answer the questions of hesitant converts and ardent detractors. And if in examining that your beliefs are false, it also means you have the strength of character to shed the errant convictions - for while some may ardently fight to support what they know to be a lie, only a coward could try to live a lie." -Succo, The Lost Book

"Some find joy in achievement, and others in the process; these I understand well. Yet I never could conceive those who take joy in doing nothing, in accomplishing nothing, to wile away the hours and days without purpose and be content." -Succo, The Lost Book

"There's a part of music where the singer stops trying to express themselves in words, and you pass into a place where regular human language fails - and they sing screaming, wailing, moaning, howling, growling, purring, mewling. Wordless songs, but songs nonetheless. How marvelous." -Succo, The Lost Book

The Sayings, by contrast, appear to be simply a collection of common wisdom attributed to Succo, or else excerpts from his work or an oral tradition related to his speech and writings, and have been discovered, often in mutated form, in texts from late antiquity, though often without attribution, and only identifiable when compared to documents that quote Succo more directly. A few of the Sayings have been argued to actually be direct excerpts from The Lost Book or the Discourses.

"Life is in media res." -Succo, Sayings

"Gaze not too deep in shallow pools." -Succo, Sayings

"You are not required to complete the task, yet you are not free to withdraw from it." -Succo, Sayings

"Ignorance is not the same as innocence, nor is it any protection against the world." -Succo, Sayings

"The greatest leap is from competent to good." -Succo, Sayings

"Obscenity is technical language. It's usage must be controlled, or else it loses its efficacy and meaning." -Succo, Sayings

"It's good to have a temptation close at hand, just in case you need it." -Succo, Sayings

"I spend a great many words very carefully not saying certain things." -Succo, Sayings

"A snake is still a snake after it sheds." -Succo, Sayings

"A book is not fully enjoyed until it is shared." -Succo, Sayings

"To define a thing is to change it." -Succo, Sayings

"Foolish decisions should be made while young enough for the wounds to heal up in time for the next one." -Succo, Sayings

According to the Vatican manuscript, the two major works of Succo were suppressed, his religio-philosophical work more successfully than the Discourses, as the very act of banning it appeared to assure its continued popularity. Succo himself is thought to have survived until the destruction of Herculaneum, where he had fled to avoid persecution in his native land.


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