Salvete! It is Latin Thursday. Today we have dug up a bit of Horace, the lyric poet of Augustus’ time:
Nihil est omnīnō beātum.
No thing is wholly blessed.
Ninguna cosa es totalmente bendecida.
It is interesting that Horace here, obviously concerned with meter more than wording, refers to things rather than people. While ‘nihil’ is not very clear, ‘beatum’ is. Because Horace is using the verb ‘to be’ (est) beatum is wholly equal to ‘nihil’ both in concept and grammar; thus, ‘beatum’ is the subject of ‘to be’ as much as ‘nihil’ and since ‘beatum’ it is only a thing (neuter- neither masculine nor feminine), nihil refers to a ‘thing’ concept as well. So what “things” are meant here?
Things that are neuter (considered neither feminine nor masculine) in the Roman world are as diverse as ‘caelum’ (heaven), ‘astrum’ (constelation), ‘fas’ (religious right), or ‘basia’ (kisses); all of these things are blessed in their own ways but, Horace suggests, only that which is male or female can be perfectly blessed, that which is not a thing. The gods created things to be used, female and male to use them; as such, things lack what is most precious to Romans: a will to choose (libertas – liberty). Therefore, things cannot have perfection for, as John Milton put it, “will is the most godly of human traits.” Thus, choice, could be found in a person. In our freedom to choose we are like the gods. However, such will does not exist in a thing, like a rock. Horace is saying, in four words, that we should appreciate our humanity and avoid taking liberty from others for in objectifying someone we remove choice, and we make him or her less perfect than who that person was meant to be.