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An Ancient Poem Against Sundials (250 B.C.)
A recent episode of the Ezra Klein Show about our relationship to time mentioned an ancient quote lamenting sun dials. After some Googling, we found it - roman playwright Plautus is often quoted as decrying sundials via a poem:
The full poem in its entirety:
The gods confound the man who first found
out how to distinguish hours! Confound him too
Who in this place set up a sundial
To cut and hack my days so wretchedly
Into small portions! When I was a boy,
My belly was my sundial: one more sure, Truer, and more exact than any of them.
This dial told me when it was time
To go to dinner, when I had anything to eat;
But nowadays, why even when I have, I can't fall-to unless the sun gives leave.
The town's so full of these confounded dials,
The greatest part of its inhabitants,
Shrunk up with hunger, creep along the streets.
However the poem is actually from a play Plautus wrote, a comedic play. Its comedic nature leads us to believe he was actually satirizing technophobic social commentary all the way back in 250 B.C.!
That he may have felt compelled to do this as far back as 250 B.C., is fascinating. Perhaps if Plautus were around today, he’d follow @pessimistsarc on Twitter!