Suffering Condensed Into One Letter

Epistles of Phalaris, VIII: To Sameas

“Since I am well acquainted with the simplicity of your life and your abundant philanthropy to all, and because you benignly consider the good fortunes of your friends while sympathizing with their private pains and misfortunes, I have decided to write to you in brief that I have conquered in court, on the sea, on land, and on horse. I have done this so that, when you hear it (as befits a good and noble man), you will grieve incessantly, as you take up from your nature these tortures so worthy and befitting such a bad character.”

Εἰδώς σου τὴν χρηστότητα τοῦ τρόπου καὶ τὴν ὑπερφυᾶ πρὸς ἅπαντας φιλανθρωπίαν, καὶ ὅτι τὰς τῶν πλησίον εὐτυχίας ἡμέρως καὶ συμπαθῶς ἰδίας ἀλγηδόνας καὶ συμφορὰς ἡγῇ, γέγραφά σοι συντόμως, ὅτι καὶ τὴν δίκην καὶ τὴν ναυμαχίαν καὶ τὴν παράταξιν καὶ τὸ τελευταῖον τὸν ἱππικὸν ἀγῶνα νενικήκαμεν, ἵν’ ἀκούσας, ὡς προσήκει καλῷ κἀγαθῷ, στένῃς ἀδιαλείπτως, λαμβάνων παρὰ τῆς σεαυτοῦ φύσεως τὰς ἀξίας καὶ πρεπούσας τοσαύτῃ κακοηθείᾳ βασάνους.

Fire Increases Life: Plutarch, Against Water

Plutarch, On Whether Fire or Water is Better, 958

“Since we have come to this point in the argument: what is more profitable to life than art? Fire exposed every art and preserves them. This is the reason poets have made Hephaistos the first craftsman. Since humans have been given only a little bit of life and—as Ariston puts it—sleep claims half of life like a tax-collector, I would say that darkness is important: even if it were possible to stay awake through the night, this vigil would be useless if fire did not provide the advantages of day to us and strip away the difference between day and night. If there is nothing more important to people than life and fire increases life considerably, how could fire not be the most beneficial thing of all?”

Ἐπεὶ δὲ κατὰ τοῦτο τοῦ λόγου γεγόναμεν, τί τέχνης τῷ βίῳ λυσιτελέστερον; τέχνας δὲ πάσας καὶ ἀνεῦρε τὸ πῦρ καὶ σῴζει· διὸ καὶ τὸν Ἥφαιστον ἀρχηγὸν αὐτῶν ποιοῦσι. καὶ μὴν ὀλίγου χρόνου καὶ βίου τοῖς ἀνθρώποις δεδομένου, ὁ μὲν Ἀρίστων φησὶν ὅτι ὁ ὕπνος οἷον τελώνης τὸ ἥμισυ ἀφαιρεῖ τούτου· ἐγὼ δ᾿ ἂν εἴποιμ᾿ ὅτι σκότος· ἐγρηγορέναι ἂν εἴη διὰ νυκτός, ἀλλ᾿ οὐδὲν ἦν ὄφελος τῆς ἐγρηγόρσεως, εἰ μὴ τὸ πῦρ τὰ τῆς ἡμέρας ἡμῖν παρεῖχεν ἀγαθά, καὶ τὴν ἡμέρας καὶ νυκτὸς ἐξῄρει διαφοράν. εἰ τοίνυν τοῦ ζῆν οὐδὲν ἀνθρώποις λυσιτελέστερον καὶ τοῦτο πολλαπλασιάζει τὸ πῦρ, πῶς οὐκ ἂν εἴη πάντων ὠφελιμώτατον;

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Head and Heart: A Quotation Falsely Attributed to Aristotle

A twitter correspondent asked me to check on the following quotation often attributed to Aristotle: “Educating the mind without educating the heart is no education at all.” The proliferation of unattributed quotations was one of the reasons we started our twitter feed years back–and tracking down proverbs is something that allows me to procrastinate with purpose!

I was almost immediately certain that this line could not be Aristotelian (or even ancient Greek) for the following reasons: the mind/heart division would only make sense from the period of Classical Greek if it were a drastic mis-translation; the phraseology as translated does not seem Aristotelian at all.

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I started out with a simple google search and was a little disappointed, but not exactly surprised, at how widespread the unattributed quote was. I then searched for discussions of the provenance/authenticity of the quotation (there were a few). While doing this, I switched between the TLG where I search Aristotle’s corpus for paideu-, didask- and manthan– compounds (varied as well for their root forms etc.) and the Loeb Classical Library online where I searched using English “education”, “teaching”. “learning” etc. I was not shocked to come up with nothing.

The best texts for education in Aristotle are the Politics  and the Nicomachean Ethics. There is also some material in the Poetics and the Rhetorica. The closest I came to a comment like the quotation is actually in the margin of the Loeb for the Politics (H. Rackham, 1926) 8.6 “Teaching is powerless without a foundation of good habits”. This annotates a passage that begins as follows:

“Some think that we are good by nature; others by habit, and others by teaching. It is clear that what comes naturally is not subject to our will, but it is based on divine causes, given to those who are fortunate

—γίνεσθαι δ᾿ ἀγαθοὺς οἴονται οἱ μέν φύσει, οἱ δ᾿ ἔθει, οἱ δὲ διδαχῇ. τὸ μὲν οὖν τῆς φύσεως δῆλον ὡς οὐκ ἐφ᾿ ἡμῖν [ὑπάρχει],2 ἀλλὰ διά τινας θείας αἰτίας τοῖς ὡς ἀληθῶς εὐτυχέσιν ὑπάρχει·

This is too tenuous a connection and unrelated a statement, I think, to have anything to do with the quotation. So, taking a tip from Yahoo answers, I looked into Google books and found several variations on the saying without attribution during the latter half of the 19th century.

In Home, the School and the Church, Or, the Presbyterian Education we find “whilst the state plan educates the mind without educating the heart…” (1850). Similarly, in the report of the faculty of Waterville College (1856) we find  “To educate the head without educating the heart is to make moral monsters…”

But this did not explain how and when the text came to be attributed to Aristotle. Many self-help books, educational texts, and business texts past-2000 attribute the quotation to Aristotle, but the earliest print attribution in google books I could find is from  1991’s Invitational Teaching, Learning Living.

So, the quotation is as I first suspected: absolutely false (and, to add my opinion, rather banal). I cannot say with certainty when it made the leap from proverbial blather to Aristotelian counterfeit, but it happened before the modern internet.

Here are some actual quotes on education from Aristotle.

Politics 8 (1337a)

“No one could doubt that a lawgiver must make provisions for the education of the youth. For, when this does not happen in a state, it undermines the constitution.”

Ὅτι μὲν οὖν τῷ νομοθέτῃ μάλιστα πραγματευτέον περὶ τὴν τῶν νέων παιδείαν, οὐδεὶς ἂν ἀμφισβητήσειεν. καὶ γὰρ ἐν ταῖς πόλεσιν οὐ γιγνόμενον τοῦτο βλάπτει τὰς πολιτείας.

“It is clear that education must be one and the same for everyone.”

φανερὸν ὅτι καὶ τὴν παιδείαν μίαν καὶ τὴν αὐτὴν ἀναγκαῖον εἶναι πάντων


“Since it is clear from these arguments that music is able to shape the character of the soul, and if it can do this, it is manifest that it should applied and taught to the young.”

ἐκ μὲν οὖν τούτων φανερὸν ὅτι δύναται ποιόν τι τὸ τῆς ψυχῆς ἦθος ἡ μουσικὴ παρασκευάζειν, εἰ δὲ τοῦτο δύναται ποιεῖν, δῆλον ὅτι προσακτέον καὶ παιδευτέον ἐν αὐτῇ τοὺς νέους.

Here are some quotes attributed to Aristotle by Diogenes Laertius in his Lives of the Eminent Philosophers.

“He said that the root of education is bitter but the fruit is sweet. ”

Τῆς παιδείας ἔφη τὰς μὲν ῥίζας εἶναι πικράς, τὸν δὲ καρπὸν γλυκύν.

“He used to say that three things are needed for education: innate ability, study, and practice.”

τριῶν ἔφη δεῖν παιδείᾳ, φύσεως, μαθήσεως, ἀσκήσεως.

“When asked what the difference was between those who were educated and those who were not, Aristotle said “as great as between the living and the dead.” He used to say that education was an ornament in good times and a refuge in bad. He also believed that teachers should be honored more than parents who merely gave birth. The latter give life, but the former help us live well. “

ἐρωτηθεὶς τίνι διαφέρουσιν οἱ πεπαιδευμένοι τῶν ἀπαιδεύτων, “ὅσῳ,” εἶπεν, “οἱ ζῶντες τῶν τεθνεώτων.” τὴν παιδείαν ἔλεγεν ἐν μὲν ταῖς εὐτυχίαις εἶναι κόσμον, ἐν δὲ ταῖς ἀτυχίαις καταφυγήν. τῶν γονέων τοὺς παιδεύσαντας ἐντιμοτέρους εἶναι τῶν μόνον γεννησάντων· τοὺς μὲν γὰρ τὸ ζῆν, τοὺς δὲ τὸ καλῶς ζῆν παρασχέσθαι.

“When asked what he had gained from philosophy, he said “doing unbidden what some do for fear of the law.”

ἐρωτηθεὶς τί ποτ’ αὐτῷ περιγέγονεν ἐκ φιλοσοφίας, ἔφη, “τὸ ἀνεπιτάκτως ποιεῖν ἅ τινες διὰ τὸν ἀπὸτῶν νόμων φόβον ποιοῦσιν.”

I also quickly searched Stobaeus to see if the sentiment had been mis-attributed from some other ancient author. It wasn’t. But there are some other worthy quotes.

Stobaeus, 2.31.64

“Diogenes said that the uneducated differ from wild beasts only in their shape.”

     ῾Ο αὐτὸς ἔφη τοὺς ἀπαιδεύτους μόνῃ τῇ μορφῇ τῶν θηρίων διαφέρειν.

2.31.68 [Antisthenes]

“It right that those who are to become good men shape their bodies in the gymnasium and their soul through education.”

Δεῖ τοὺς μέλλοντας ἀγαθοὺς ἄνδρας γενήσεσθαι τὸ μὲν σῶμα γυμνασίοις ἀσκεῖν, τὴν δὲ ψυχὴν παιδεύσει.

Ariston (Stob. 2.31.95)

“A navigator loses his way in neither a great nor a small vessel; but the inexperienced do in both. In the same way, an educated person is not troubled in wealth or poverty, but the uneducated is troubled in both.”

     Κυβερνήτης μὲν οὔτε ἐν μεγάλῳ πλοίῳ οὔτε ἐν μικρῷ ναυτιάσει, οἱ δὲ ἄπειροι ἐν ἀμφοῖν· οὕτως ὁ μὲν πεπαιδευμένος καὶ ἐν πλούτῳ καὶ ἐν πενίᾳ οὐ ταράττεται, ὁ δ’ ἀπαίδευτος ἐν ἀμφοῖν.

2.31.96 Pythagoras

    “A lack of education is the mother of all suffering.”

᾿Απαιδευσία πάντων τῶν παθῶν μήτηρ·

3.4.61 (Attributed to Socrates)

“While foreigners wander on the roads, the uneducated wander in their actions.”

     Οἱ μὲν ξένοι ἐν ταῖς ὁδοῖς, οἱ δὲ ἀπαίδευτοι ἐν τοῖς πράγμασι πλανῶνται.

3.20 12b

“Many evils come from uneducated rage.”

     Πόλλ’ ἐστὶν ὀργῆς ἐξ ἀπαιδεύτου κακά.


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Less Strength, More Skill: Homeric Boxing

Quid prodest multos vincere luctatione vel caestu, ab iracundia vinci?

“What good is it to conquer many in boxing or wrestling only to be overcome by own own anger?”  -Seneca the Younger, Moral Epistles 88.19

During the funeral games in the Iliad, the victor in the boxing match, the older Epeios—who is described as the “son of Kapaneus, a man knowledgeable in boxing” (εἰδὼς πυγμαχίης υἱὸς Πανοπῆος ᾿Επειός, 23.665) knocks down Euryalos with a single blow (23.660-699). In the scholia to this passage, we find the comment that “this shows, as is right, that they had an art of boxing–it was not just about strength” (schol. B ad Il. 23.665: ἦν δέ, ὡς ἔοικε, καὶ τέχνη παρ’ αὐτοῖς τῆς πυγμῆς, οὐ μόνον ἡ δύναμις).

In the Odyssey, Odysseus returns home in disguise and is forced to box the local beggar Iros to entertain the suitors who are plaguing his home. In this scene, it is again his intelligence that wins the day.

Odyssey 18.89-100

“They led [Iros and Odysseus] into the middle. Both men raised their hands.
Much-enduring, godly Odysseus deliberated then
whether he would pummel him and make the soul depart his fallen opponent
or just strike him enough to lay him out on the ground.
As he deliberated this seemed better to him,
just to strike him so that the Achaians might not figure out who he was.
And then, when their hands were raised, Iros punched his right shoulder,
but Odysseus hit him on the neck under the ear—the bones within
bent. Immediately, dark blood spat from his mouth
And he fell moaning in the dust as he ground his teeth together
and kicked the ground with his feet. Then the arrogant suitors
nearly died with laughter as they raised their hands….”

ἐς μέσσον δ’ ἄναγον· τὼ δ’ ἄμφω χεῖρας ἀνέσχον.
δὴ τότε μερμήριξε πολύτλας δῖος ᾿Οδυσσεύς,
ἢ ἐλάσει’ ὥς μιν ψυχὴ λίποι αὖθι πεσόντα,
ἦέ μιν ἦκ’ ἐλάσειε τανύσσειέν τ’ ἐπὶ γαίῃ.
ὧδε δέ οἱ φρονέοντι δοάσσατο κέρδιον εἶναι,
ἦκ’ ἐλάσαι, ἵνα μή μιν ἐπιφρασσαίατ’ ᾿Αχαιοί.
δὴ τότ’ ἀνασχομένω ὁ μὲν ἤλασε δεξιὸν ὦμον
῏Ιρος, ὁ δ’ αὐχέν’ ἔλασσεν ὑπ’ οὔατος, ὀστέα δ’ εἴσω
ἔθλασεν· αὐτίκα δ’ ἦλθεν ἀνὰ στόμα φοίνιον αἷμα,
κὰδ δ’ ἔπεσ’ ἐν κονίῃσι μακών, σὺν δ’ ἤλασ’ ὀδόντας
λακτίζων ποσὶ γαῖαν· ἀτὰρ μνηστῆρες ἀγαυοὶ
χεῖρας ἀνασχόμενοι γέλῳ ἔκθανον. αὐτὰρ ᾿Οδυσσεὺς

This post is in honor of Paul Holdengraber and his fabulous interviews with the pugilist Mike Tyson.

A Twitter correspondent aptly added this:

A Hydrophilic High: Aelian on the Effects of Medicinal Seahorse

Aelian, De Natura Animalium 14.20

“Some people who know a lot about fishing claim that the stomach of a sea-horse—if someone dissolves it in wine after boiling it and gives it to someone to drink—is an extraordinary potion combined with wine, when compared to other medicines. For, at first, the most severe retching overcomes anyone who drinks it and then a dry coughing fit takes over even though he vomits nothing at all, and then: the upper part of his stomach grows and swells; warm spells roll over his head; and, finally, snot pours from his nose and releases a fishy smell. Then his eyes turn blood-red and heated while his eye-lids swell up.

They claim that a desire to vomit overwhelms him but that he can bring nothing up. If nature wins, then he evades death and slips away into forgetfulness and insanity. But if the wine permeates his lower stomach, there is nothing to be done, and the individual dies eventually. Those who do survive, once they have wandered into insanity, are gripped by a great desire for water: they thirst to sea water and hear it splashing. And this, at least, soothes them and makes them sleep. Then they like to spend their time either by endlessly flowing rivers or near seashores or next to streams or some lakes. And even though they don’t want to drink, they love to swim, to put their feet in the water, and to wash their hands.”

  1. Λέγουσι δὲ ἄνδρες ἁλιείας ἐπιστήμονες, τὴν τοῦ ἱπποκάμπου γαστέρα εἴ τις ἐν οἴνῳ κατατήξειενἕψων καὶ τοῦτον δοίη τινὶ πιεῖν, φάρμακον εἶναι τὸν οἶνον ἄηθες ὡς πρὸς τὰ ἄλλα φάρμακα ἀντικρινόμενον· τὸν γάρ τοι πιόντα αὐτοῦ πρῶτον μὲν καταλαμβάνεσθαι λυγγὶ σφοδροτάτῃ, εἶτα βήττειν ξηρὰν βῆχα, καὶ στρεβλοῦσθαι μέν, ἀναπλεῖν δὲ αὐτῷ οὐδὲ ἕν, διογκοῦσθαι δὲ καὶ διοιδάνειν τὴν ἄνω γαστέρα, θερμά τε τῇ κεφαλῇ ἐπιπολάζειν ῥεύματα, καὶ διὰ τῆς ῥινὸς κατιέναι φλέγμα καὶ ἰχθυηρᾶς ὀσμῆς προσβάλλειν· τοὺς δὲ ὀφθαλμοὺς ὑφαίμους αὐτῷ γίνεσθαι καὶ πυρώδεις, τὰ βλέφαρα δὲ διογκοῦσθαι. ἐμέτων δὲ ἐπιθυμίαι ἐξάπτονταί φασιν, ἀναπλεῖ δὲ οὐδὲ ἕν. εἰ δὲ ἐκνικήσειεν ἡ φύσις, τὸν μὲν <τὸ> ἐς θάνατον σφαλερὸν παριέναι, ἐς λήθην δὲ ὑπολισθαίνειν καὶ παράνοιαν. ἐὰν δὲ ἐς τὴν κάτω γαστέρα διολίσθῃ, μηδὲν ἔτι εἶναι, πάντως δὲ ἀποθνήσκειν τὸν ἑαλωκότα. οἱ δὲ περιγενόμενοι ἐς παράνοια ἐξοκείλαντες ὕδατος ἱμέρῳ πολλῷ καταλαμβάνονται, καὶ ὁρᾶν διψῶσιν ὕδωρ καὶ ἀκούειν λειβομένου· καὶ τοῦτό γε αὐτοὺς καταβαυκαλᾷ καὶ κατευνάζει. καὶ διατρίβειν φιλοῦσιν ἢ παρὰ τοῖς ἀενάοις ποταμοῖς ἢ αἰγιαλῶν πλησίον ἢ παρὰ κρήναις ἢ λίμναις τισί, καὶ πιεῖν μὲν οὐ πάνυ <τι>7 γλίχονται, ἐρῶσι δὲ νήχεσθαι καὶ τέγγειν τὼ πόδε ἢ ἀπονίπτειν τὼ χεῖρε.


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This is not a suggestion for experimentation over the long weekend. Drugs, as the Odyssey warns, might make you forget your homecoming

Retreat or Resist? Seneca and Plutarch Disagree on Peace of Mind

How do we maintain equanimity in the midst of chaos? It is probably not at all coincidental that I keep turning to authors from the Roman Imperial period for answers….

Seneca, Moral Epistle 94.68-69

“Don’t believe it is possible for anyone to be happy because of someone else’s unhappiness. The these examples placed before our ears and ears, must be taken apart—we have to empty our hearts of the corrupting tales that fill them. Virtue must be introduced into the place they held—a virtue which can uproot these lies and contrafactual ideologies; a virtue which may separate us from the people whom we have trusted too much, to return us to sane beliefs. This is wisdom, truly: to be returned to a prior state and to that place from where public sickness dislodged us. A great part of health is to have rejected the champions of madness and to have abandoned that union which was destructive for everyone involved.”

Non est quod credas quemquam fieri aliena infelicitate felicem. Omnia ista exempla, quae oculis atque auribus nostris ingeruntur, retexenda sunt et plenum malis sermonibus pectus exhauriendum. Inducenda in occupatum locum virtus, quae mendacia et contra verum placentia exstirpet, quae nos a populo, cui nimis credimus, separet ac sinceris opinionibus reddat. Hoc est enim sapientia, in naturam converti et eo restitui,unde publicus error expulerit. Magna pars sanitatis est hortatores insaniae reliquisse et ex isto coitu invicem noxio procul abisse.

Seneca seems to be unfamiliar with schadenfreude (probably because it was a Greek word). Or, perhaps he refuses to acknowledge it as real tranquility. Plutarch may have agreed that Seneca’s prescription was good for attaining ataraxia, but Plutarch does not see it as a efficacious for mental health. 

Plutarch, On the Tranquility of the Mind 465c-d

“The one who said that “it is necessary that someone who would be tranquil avoid doing much both in private and public” makes tranquility extremely pricey for us since its price is doing nothing. This would be like advising a sick man “Wretch, stay unmoving in your sheets” [Eur. Orestes 258.].

And certainly, depriving the body of experience is bad medicine for mental illness. The doctor of the mind is no better who would relieve it of trouble and pain through laziness, softness and the betrayal of friends, relatives and country. Therefore, it is also a lie that tranquility comes to those who don’t do much. For it would be necessary for women to be more tranquil than men since they do most everything at home….”

Ὁ μὲν οὖν εἰπὼν ὅτι “δεῖ τὸν εὐθυμεῖσθαι μέλλοντα μὴ πολλὰ πρήσσειν μήτε ἰδίῃ μήτε ξυνῇ,” πρῶτον μὲν ἡμῖν πολυτελῆ τὴν εὐθυμίαν καθίστησι, γινομένην ὤνιον ἀπραξίας· οἷον ἀρρώστῳ παραινῶν ἑκάστῳ
μέν᾿, ὦ ταλαίπωρ᾿, ἀτρέμα σοῖς ἐν δεμνίοις.
καίτοι κακὸν μὲν ἀναισθησία σώματος φάρμακον ἀπονοίας· οὐδὲν δὲ βελτίων ψυχῆς ἰατρὸς ὁ ῥᾳθυμίᾳ καὶ μαλακίᾳ καὶ προδοσίᾳ φίλων καὶ οἰκείων καὶ πατρίδος ἐξαιρῶν τὸ ταραχῶδες αὐτῆς καὶ λυπηρόν.
Ἔπειτα καὶ ψεῦδός ἐστι τὸ εὐθυμεῖν τοὺς μὴ πολλὰ πράσσοντας. ἔδει γὰρ εὐθυμοτέρας εἶναι γυναῖκας ἀνδρῶν οἰκουρίᾳ τὰ πολλὰ συνούσας·

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Walking and Running: More Deep Thoughts with Aristotle

From the Problems attributed to Aristotle (see here and here for other excerpts):


“Why do people fall more while running than walking?”

Διὰ τί μᾶλλον θέοντες ἢ βαδίζοντες πίπτουσιν;


“Why does the road seem longer when we don’t know how far we are walking than when we do, even if everything else is the same?”

Διὰ τί πλείων δοκεῖ ἡ ὁδὸς εἶναι, ὅταν μὴ εἰδότες βαδίζωμεν πόση τις, ἢ ὅταν εἰδότες, ἐὰν τἆλλα ὁμοίως | ἔχοντες τύχωμεν;



“Why is running harder than walking?”

Διὰ τί χαλεπώτερον θεῖν ἢ βαδίζειν;



“Why do short walks wear us out?”

Διὰ τί κοπώδεις οἱ βραχεῖς τῶν περιπάτων;



“Why do those on horses fall less frequently? Is it because they are more afraid?”

Διὰ τί οἱ ἀφ᾿ ἵππων ἧττον πίπτουσιν; ἢ διὰ τὸ φοβεῖσθαι φυλάττονται μᾶλλον;

“Why do some of us feel numb?”

Διὰ τί ναρκῶσιν;

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