Sing Me a Dinner! A Comic Fragment for an Epic Feast

Antiquity has bequeathed us many odd things. Among them, the Attic Dinner attributed to Matro of Pitane, a poet so obscure he does not merit his own wikipedia article. A student of Greek epic–even a rather poor one–should recognize the many allusions to Homer. (Of course, this poet is largely preserved by the gastronome Athenaeus).

“Dinners, tell me, Muse, of dinners, much nourishing and many.
Which Xenokles the orator ate at my house in Athens.
For I went there too, but a great hunger plagued me—
Where I saw the finest and largest loaves
Whiter than snow, tasting like wheat-cakes
The north-wind lusted after them as they baked.
Xenicles himself inspected the ranks of men
As he stopped while standing at the threshold; next to him was the parasite
Khairephoôn, a man like a starving sea-gull,
Hungry, and well-acquainted with other people’s feasts.”

δεῖπνα μοι ἔννεπε, Μοῦσα, πολύτροφα καὶ μάλα
πολλά ἃ Ξενοκλῆς ῥήτωρ ἐν ᾿Αθήναις δείπνισεν ἡμᾶς·
ἦλθον γὰρ κἀκεῖσε, πολὺς δέ μοι ἕσπετο λιμός.
οὗ δὴ καλλίστους ἄρτους ἴδον ἠδὲ μεγίστους,
λευκοτέρους χιόνος, ἔσθειν δ’ ἀμύλοισιν ὁμοίους
τάων καὶ Βορέης ἠράσσατο πεσσομενάων
αὐτὸς δὲ Ξενοκλῆς ἐπεπωλεῖτο στίχας ἀνδρῶν
στῆ δ’ ἄρ’ ἐπ’ οὐδὸν ἰών. σχεδόθεν δέ οἱ ἦν παράσιτος
Χαιρεφόων, πεινῶντι λάρῳ ὄρνιθι ἐοικώς,
νήστης, ἀλλοτρίων εὖ εἰδὼς δειπνοσυνάων.

grapes

The first line quite obviously adapts the first line of the Odyssey:

“Of a man, tell me, Muse, a man of many ways who [suffered] many things…”

῎Ανδρα μοι ἔννεπε, Μοῦσα, πολύτροπον, ὃς μάλα πολλὰ

How To Earn A Dinner Invitation: Some Roman Advice (Hint: Lie)

Martial 9.35

“You will always earn a dinner with these skills, Philomusus:
Fabricate many tales, but relay them as if they are true.
You know what Pacorus is considering in his Arsacian abode;
You count the number of Rhenish and Sarmatian men,
You reveal the words consigned to paper by the Dacian chef,
And you see the victor’s crown before it arrives.
You know how many times Pharian rain dampens dark Syene
And the number of ships departing from Lybian shores
For whose head Julian olives are harvested,
And for whom the heavenly father has promised his wreaths.
Forget your skill! You will dine with me today
Under one rule: Philomusus, tell me nothing of the news.”

Artibus his semper cenam, Philomuse, mereris,
plurima dum fingis, sed quasi vera refers.
scis quid in Arsacia Pacorus deliberet aula,
Rhenanam numeras Sarmaticamque manum,
verba ducis Daci chartis mandata resignas, 5
victricem laurum quam venit ante vides,
scis quotiens Phario madeat Iove fusca Syene,
scis quota de Libyco litore puppis eat,
cuius Iuleae capiti nascantur olivae,
destinet aetherius cui sua serta pater. 10
Tolle tuas artes; hodie cenabis apud me
hac lege, ut narres nil, Philomuse, novi.

Image result for Ancient Roman Feasting

A Dinner Conversation Prompt: Why Are We Hungrier in the Fall?

Plutarch, Moralia 635—Table-Talk, Book 2 Problem 2: Why People are Hungrier in The Fall

“After the Mysteries in Eleusis when the entire festival was at its peak, we were having a feast at the house of Glaukias the rhetorician. When the rest had finished their dinner, Xenokles the Delphian began to mock my brother, as he usually does, about his “Boiotian gluttony”.

As I was defending him I used the words of Epicurus against Xenokles, and said “All men don’t make the avoidance of what hurts the boundary and the limit of pleasure. Lamprias honors the Peripatos and the Lukeion before the garden and therefore attests to Aristotle. For this man says that everyone is hungriest in the autumn. He also provided an explanation, which I do not recall.”

“This is better”, Glaukias added, “for we ourselves will try to find one when we have stopped dining, Once the meals were taken away, both Glaukias and Xenokles were claiming that it was autumn’s fruit which was to blame, but for different reason.

The first claimed that it cleansed the bowels and by emptying the body was preparing the appetites anew. The other said that the pleasant and delicate nature of the fruit incited the stomach to food much more than any relish or source. Indeed, the offering of some fruit to people who have been sick and have fasted incites the appetite.”

Image result for Ancient Greek Autumn feast

Διὰ τί βρωτικώτεροι γίγνονται περὶ τὸ μετόπωρον
Ἐν Ἐλευσῖνι μετὰ τὰ μυστήρια τῆς πανηγύρεως ἀκμαζούσης εἱστιώμεθα παρὰ Γλαυκίᾳ τῷ ῥήτορι. πεπαυμένων δὲ δειπνεῖν τῶν ἄλλων, Ξενοκλῆς ὁ Δελφὸς ὥσπερ εἰώθει τὸν ἀδελφὸν ἡμῶν Λαμπρίαν εἰς ἀδηφαγίαν Βοιώτιον ἐπέσκωπτεν. ἐγὼ δ᾿ ἀμυνόμενος ὑπὲρ αὐτοῦ τὸν Ξενοκλέα τοῖς Ἐπικούρου λόγοις χρώμενον, “οὐ γὰρ ἅπαντες,” εἶπον, “ὦ βέλτιστε, ποιοῦνται τὴν τοῦ ἀλγοῦντος ὑπεξαίρεσιν ὅρον ἡδονῆς καὶ πέρας· Λαμπρίᾳ δὲ καὶ ἀνάγκη, πρὸ τοῦ κήπου κυδαίνοντι τὸν περίπατον καὶ τὸ Λύκειον, ἔργῳ μαρτυρεῖν Ἀριστοτέλει· φησὶ γὰρ ὁ ἀνὴρ βρωτικώτατον ἕκαστον αὐτὸν αὑτοῦ περὶ τὸ φθινόπωρον εἶναι, καὶ τὴν αἰτίαν ἐπείρηκεν· ἐγὼ δ᾿ οὐ μνημονεύω.”
“Βέλτιον,” εἶπεν ὁ Γλαυκίας· “αὐτοὶ γὰρ ἐπιχειρήσομεν ζητεῖν, ὅταν παυσώμεθα δειπνοῦντες.” Ὡς οὖν ἀφῃρέθησαν αἱ τράπεζαι, Γλαυκίας μὲν καὶ Ξενοκλῆς ᾐτιάσαντο τὴν ὀπώραν διαφόρως, ὁ μὲν ὡς3 τὴν κοιλίαν ὑπεξάγουσαν καὶ τῷ κενοῦσθαι τὸ σῶμα νεαρὰς ὀρέξεις ἀεὶ παρασκευάζουσαν· ὁ δὲ Ξενοκλῆς ἔλεγεν εὔστομόν τι καὶ δηκτικὸν ἔχοντα τῶν ὡραίων τὰ πλεῖστα τὸν στόμαχον ἐπὶ τὴν βρῶσιν ἐκκαλεῖσθαι παντὸς μᾶλλον ὄψου καὶ ἡδύσματος· καὶ γὰρ τοῖς ἀποσίτοις τῶν ἀρρώστων ὀπώρας τι προσενεχθὲν ἀναλαμβάνει τὴν ὄρεξιν.

 

Athenians also allegedly called Boiotians “piggies” and “oak trees”

Dinner for a Dog, and Ancient Wine Criticism

Gellius, Attic Nights 13.31

“The words of the passage, in which we find the proverb caninum prandium (a dog’s dinner) are these: ‘Do you not see that Menestheus lists three types of wine, including the black, white, medium (which they call kirron) as well as new, old, and medium? And further, that the dark one produces virility, the white one is a diuretic, and the medium is a digestive aid? Still more, that the new one cools you down, the old one heats you up, and the middle is a dinner for a dog (caninum prandium)?’

We investigated for a long time just what was meant by ‘dinner for a dog.’ An abstemious dinner – that is, one without wine – is called a ‘dinner for a dog’ because dogs do not drink wine. Therefore Menestheus named it ‘medium wine,’ because it is neither new nor old – and many men speak thus, as though every wine were either new or old – and he indicated that the medium wine had none of the power either of the old or the new wine, and was on that account not to be considered wine at all, because it could neither cool one down nor heat one up.”

Eius autem loci, in quo id proverbium est, verba haec sunt: “Non vides apud Mnesitheum scribi tria genera esse vini, nigrum, album, medium, quod vocant kirron, et novum, vetus, medium? et efficere nigrum viris, album urinam, medium pepsin? novum refrigerare, vetus calefacere, medium esse prandium caninum?” XV. Quid significet “prandium caninum”, rem leviculam diu et anxie quaesivimus. XVI. Prandium autem abstemium, in quo nihil vini potatur, caninum dicitur, quoniam canis vino caret. XVII. Cum igitur “medium vinum” appellasset, quod neque novum esset neque vetus, et plerumque homines ita loquantur, ut omne vinum aut novum esse dicant aut vetus, nullam vim habere significavit neque novi neque veteris, quod medium esset, et idcirco pro vino non habendum, quia neque refrigeraret neque calefaceret.

 

For any readers engaging (engorging) in non-canine dinners tomorrow, I hope that you avoid the fate of the earliest wine drinkers (depicted in this 3rd century mosaic from Cyprus), particularly the guy in the bottom right!

CY24-3-09

Late For the Meal? Maybe Dine Alone…

In his Deipnosophists Athenaeus pretty much talks about everything (e.g., the masturbation habits of the Achaeans during their nine years at Troy). Early on, he expands on good manners when coming to dinner at someone else’s expense (don’t go late) and the general creepiness of a man who dines alone (1.14.30-50):

“The comic poet Amphis says:

If someone comes late to a free diner,
Believe that he’d rush to leave the battle line too!

And Chrysippus adds:

Don’t make light of the free drinking party
A free drinking party shouldn’t be treated lightly, but pursued!

Antiphanes also says:

The life of the gods is this: whenever you can
Eat someone else’s food and think nothing of the bill.

And elsewhere:

This is the blessed life when I must always seek
Some new trick to find a nibble for my lips.

I came from home to this drinking parting bringing these lines, making sure as well that I arrived carrying my rent money too, since “we singers always sacrifice without smoke”.

The word monophagein [“to eat alone”]is used [negatively] among ancient writers. For instance, Antiphanes says: “You’re eating alone already and causing me harm!” Amphis, too, says, “To hell with you, you solitary diner, you thief!”

banquet

ἀσυμβόλου δείπνου γὰρ ὅστις ὑστερεῖ,
τοῦτον ταχέως νόμιζε κἂν τάξιν λιπεῖν,

῎Αμφις φησὶν ὁ κωμικός (II 248 K). Χρύσιππος δέ φησιν·

ἀσύμβολον κώθωνα μὴ παραλίμπανε.
κώθων δ’ οὐ παραλειπτὸς ἀσύμβολος, ἀλλὰ διωκτός.

᾿Αντιφάνης δέ φησι (II 117 K)·

βίος θεῶν γάρ ἐστιν, ὅταν ἔχῃς ποθὲν
τἀλλότρια δειπνεῖν, μὴ προσέχων λογίσμασι.

καὶ πάλιν·

μακάριος ὁ βίος, ᾧ δεῖ μ’ ἀεὶ καινὸν πόρον
εὑρίσκειν, ὡς μάσημα ταῖς γνάθοις ἔχω.

ταῦτα οἴκοθεν ἔχων εἰς τὸ συμπόσιον ἦλθον καὶ προμελετήσας, ἵνα κἀγὼ τὸ στεγανόμιον κομίζων παραγένωμαι.

ἄκαπνα γὰρ αἰὲν ἀοιδοὶ θύομεν.
ὅτι τὸ μονοφαγεῖν ἐστιν ἐν χρήσει τοῖς παλαιοῖς.

᾿Αντιφάνης (II 128 K)·
.. μονοφαγεῖς, ἤδη τι καὶ βλάπτεις ἐμέ.

᾿Αμειψίας (I 677 K)·
ἔρρ’ ἐς κόρακας, μονοφάγε καὶ τοιχωρύχε.

A Pressing Topic for the Table: Old Men and Their Strong Wine

If you experience any lulls in conversation during your holiday meals and gatherings, here’s another topic ready-to-hand.

Plutarch, “Table-Talk”, Moralia 624: Why Do Old Men Prefer Strong Wine?

“Next was examined the issue of old men, in particular why they enjoy drinking stronger wine. Some were supposing that their core, which is rather cold and difficult to warm, appearsto accord well with a stronger proof. This was not at all sufficient, in the light of cause nor in that they said anything true. For, in respect to the rest of the senses, the same thing happens: old men are hard to move, hard to change in regards to experiences of this sort, unless they fall on him with full strength and no subtlety. The reason for this is the decline of his constitution. Because it is weakened and dulled, it prefers to be struck hard.

Therefore stronger flavors are more to the taste of old men. Their sense of smell undergoes similar alterations regarding odors—for it is moved to pleasure by those that are really pure and pressing. Their sense of touch is harmed by scars and while they suffer wounds from time to time, they don’t really feel them. Similar too is their sense of hearing—musicians as they grow old play more sharply and loudly as if trying to wake up their senses with the clash  of sound. The treatment that gives steel an edge provides the body’s perception with breath. When this begins to surrender and is weak, the senses are left dull and muddy and needing some shaking—this is what need strong wine fills.”

Image result for Ancient Greek old man drinking

Διὰ τί μᾶλλον ἀκράτῳ χαίρουσιν οἱ γέροντες

Ἐζητεῖτο περὶ τῶν γερόντων, διὰ τί μᾶλλον ἀκρατοτέρῳ τῷ ποτῷ χαίρουσιν. οἱ μὲν οὖν κατεψυγμένην τὴν ἕξιν αὐτῶν καὶ δυσεκθέρμαντον οὖσαν οἰόμενοι διὰ τοῦτο τῇ σφοδρότητι τῆς κράσεως ἐναρμόττειν ἐφαίνοντο κοινόν τι καὶ πρόχειρον οὐχ ἱκανὸν δὲ πρὸς τὴν αἰτίαν οὐδ᾿ ἀληθὲς λέγοντες· καὶ γὰρ ἐπὶ τῶν ἄλλων αἰσθήσεων τὸ αὐτὸ συμβέβηκεν· δυσκίνητοι γάρ εἰσι καὶ δυσμετάβλητοι πρὸς τὰς ἀντιλήψεις τῶν ποιοτήτων, ἂν μὴ κατάκοροι καὶ σφοδραὶ προσπέσωσιν. αἰτία δ᾿ ἡ τῆς ἕξεως ἄνεσις· ἐκλυομένη γὰρ καὶ ἀτονοῦσα πλήττεσθαι φιλεῖ. διὸ τῇ τε γεύσει μάλιστα τοὺς δηκτικοὺς προσίενται χυμούς, ἥ τ᾿ ὄσφρησις αὐτῶν ὅμοια πέπονθε πρὸς τὰς ὀσμάς, κινεῖται γὰρ ὑπὸ τῶν ἀκράτων καὶ σφοδρῶν ἥδιον· ἡ δ᾿ ἁφὴ πρὸς τὰ ἕλκη δυσπαθής, τραύματα γὰρ ἐνίοτε λαμβάνοντες οὐ μάλα πονοῦσιν· ὁμοιότατον δὲ γίγνεται τὸ τῆς ἀκοῆς, οἱ γὰρ μουσικοὶ γηρῶντες ὀξύτερον ἁρμόζονται καὶ σκληρότερον οἷον ὑπὸ πληγῆς τῆς συντόνου φωνῆς ἐγείροντες τὸ αἰσθητήριον. ὅ τι γὰρ σιδήρῳ πρὸς ἀκμὴν στόμωμα, τοῦτο σώματι πνεῦμα παρέχει πρὸς αἴσθησιν· ἐνδόντος δὲ τούτου καὶ χαλάσαντος, ἀργὸν ἀπολείπεται καὶ γεῶδες τὸ αἰσθητήριον καὶ σφοδροῦ τοῦ νύττοντος, οἷον ὁ ἄκρατός ἐστι δεόμενον.

If I were in this conversation I would add: the older man also needs to urinate more frequently. A stronger drink means less liquid consumed for the desired result. And, therefore, fewer trips to the bathroom.

The Homeric Diet Part II – ‘Equal Meals’

Athenaeus, Deipnosophistae 1.12.c -13.a:

“‘Greetings, Achilles – you will not be lacking an equal meal.’ (Iliad 9.225)

From these words, Zenodotus was persuaded that by an ‘equal meal’ (daita eisen) Homer meant a ‘good’ (agathen) one. He says that because nourishment was a necessary good (agathon) to humans, Homer stretched the word ‘eisen’ to his purposes. The earliest humans possessed no easy abundance of food, so as soon as it appeared they rushed upon it, stealing it by force and taking it away from those who had it, becoming murderers in the process of this frenzy. From this, it is likely that the word ‘impudent folly’ (atasthalia) is derived, because people first committed crimes against each other at festivals (thaliai). But, once they received a bountiful measure of Demeter’s gift, they apportioned out an equal (isen) portion to each person, and thus there came to be a certain sense of order to human meals. This is the source of the notion that bread and cakes should be apportioned equally (eis ison), and for drinking from goblets. These things occurred as people gradually moved toward equality (to ison). Thus, food is called a ‘meal’ (dais) from ‘divide into equal portions’ (daiesthai). Similarly so, the man who roasts the mean is called a daitros, because he would give an equal portion of meat to each person. The poet uses the word ‘meal’ (dais) only for human beings, and never for animals. Zenodotus, in his ignorance regarding the sense of this word, writes in his own edition of the Iliad,

‘…he made them a spoil for the dogs,

and a meal (daita) for the birds…’

thus signaling that they were food for vultures and other birds, even though it is humanity alone which has progressed toward equality from its primitive state of violence, on which account it is human food alone which can be called a ‘meal’ (dais).”

χαῖρ’, ᾿Αχιλεῦ, δαιτὸς μὲν ἐίσης οὐκ ἐπιδευεῖς. ἐκ τούτων δ’ ἐπείσθη Ζηνόδοτος δαῖτα ἐίσην τὴν ἀγαθὴν λέγεσθαι. ἐπεὶ γὰρ ἡ τροφὴ τῷ ἀνθρώπῳ ἀγαθὸν ἀναγκαῖον ἦν, ἐπεκτείνας, φησίν, εἴρηκεν ἐίσην· ἐπεὶ οἱ πρῶτοι ἄνθρωποι, οἷς δὴ οὐ παρῆν ἄφθονος τροφή, ἄρτι φαινομένης ἀθρόον ἐπ’ αὐτὴν ἰόντες βίᾳ ἥρπαζον καὶ ἀφῃροῦντο τοὺς ἔχοντας, καὶ μετὰ τῆς ἀκοσμίας ἐγίνοντο καὶ φόνοι. ἐξ ὧν εἰκὸς λεχθῆναι καὶ τὴν ἀτασθαλίαν, ὅτι ἐν ταῖς θαλίαις τὰ πρῶτα ἐξημάρτανον οἱ ἄνθρωποι εἰς ἀλλήλους. ὡς δὲ παρεγένετο αὐτοῖς πολλὴ ἐκ τῆς Δήμητρος, διένεμον ἑκάστῳ ἴσην, καὶ οὕτως εἰς κόσμον ἦλθε τοῖς ἀνθρώποις τὰ δόρπα. διὸ ἄρτου τε ἐπίνοια πέμματός τε εἰς ἴσον διαμεμοιραμένου καὶ τοῖς διαπίνουσιν ἄλεισα· καὶ γὰρ ταῦτα εἰς <τὸ> ἴσον χωρούντων ἐγίνετο. ὥστε ἡ τροφὴ δαὶς ἐπὶ τῷ δαίεσθαι λέγεται, ὅ ἐστι διαμοιρᾶσθαι ἐπ’ ἴσης· καὶ ὁ τὰ κρέα ὀπτῶν δαιτρός, ἐπεὶ ἴσην ἑκάστῳ μοῖραν ἐδίδου. καὶ ἐπὶ μόνων ἀνθρώπων δαῖτα λέγει ὁ ποιητής, ἐπὶ δὲ θηρίων οὐκ ἔτι. ἀγνοῶν δὲ ταύτης τῆς φωνῆς τὴν δύναμιν Ζηνόδοτος ἐν τῇ κατ’ αὐτὸν ἐκδόσει γράφει (Α 4)·

αὐτοὺς δὲ ἑλώρια τεῦχε κύνεσσιν

οἰωνοῖσί τε δαῖτα,

τὴν τῶν γυπῶν καὶ τῶν ἄλλων οἰωνῶν τροφὴν οὕτω καλῶν, μόνου ἀνθρώπου χωροῦντος <εἰς> τὸ ἴσον ἐκ τῆς πρόσθεν βίας. διὸ καὶ μόνου τούτου ἡ τροφὴ δαίς· καὶ μοῖρα τὸ ἑκάστῳ διδόμενον.