Brave Athenians

A battle painting was once made, which portrayed the Athenians slaying Spartan soldiers.  One man, after seeing the painting, kept repeating how brave the Athenians were.  A Spartan, fed up with this, finally replied, “Yes, in the painting!”


The Worth of Speech

A lecturer once said that speech was the most important thing of all.  Agis, king of Sparta, retorted that if that were the case, than if the lecturer were silent, he was worthless.

Faust and Gutenberg

According to Czech legend, John Faust was a Bohemian necromancer, whose name was St’astný, the Czech word for happy, the Latin word for which is Faustus, and thence Faust. During the Hussite Wars, he moved to Germany, changed his name to Faust von Kuttenberg, after the town of his birth, Kutná Hora, and invented the printing press, entering history as Johann Gutenberg.

Jan Erazim Vocel, in his poem The Labyrinth of Flory, tells of how after the defeat of the Taborites in 1434 at the Battle of Lipany, Jan Kutenský, yet another name for Johann Kuttenberg/Gutenberg, devoted himself to alchemy, and in pursuit of knowledge, sold his soul to the devil Duchamor.  Ludmila, his beloved, sacrificed herself to free him from Duchamor’s clutches, and thereafter, Faust settled in Mainz and built the printing press.

The Impossible Musculature of Angels

The chapel at Cornell University, known as Sage Chapel, was enlarged and decorated in 1903 and 1904, gifts of William H. Sage.  Among the new decorations included several angels, a feature that prompted Burt G. Wilder, Professor of Comparative Anatomy and Natural History, to refuse to enter Sage Chapel unless absolutely necessary.  He was “outraged by the impossible musculature of angels with both wings and arms.”

Learn, Learn, Learn!

There existed in the Soviet Union a well-known joke concerning Marx, Engels, and Lenin.  Lenin’s advice to the Soviet youth was always, “Learn, learn, learn!” a saying evoked everywhere, and often found on the walls of school buildings as an exhortation to students.

The joke goes: Marx, Engels, and Lenin were all asked whether they would prefer a wife or a mistress.  Karl Marx, with his unexpectedly bourgeois morality, answers, “A wife.”  Friedrich Engels, infamous for his unconventional relationships with women, replies, “A mistress.”  When Lenin is asked, though, he surprised them both by saying he would have both.  Why is this? they wonder.  Does the great revolutionary have a hidden prurient side?  No, not at all, he explains.  “That way, I can tell my wife I am with my mistress and I can tell my mistress I am with my wife.”  What, then, will you do?  “I will find a solitary place to be by myself and learn, learn, learn!”