Throwing ‘Shades’

Erasmus, Adagia 1.1.9: Umbrae

“Σκιαί, that is, Shadows, once used to be said as a proverbial joke about those who came to a party to which they were not invited, but had followed their friends who had been invited just as a shadow follows a body. Horace alluded to this saying in the first book of his Epistles, writing to Torquatus:

‘I will take Bruta, Septimius, and – unless some earlier dinner or a finer girl detains him – Sabinus; there is even a spot for many shadows, but stinking goats oppress excessively tight parties.’

In this spot, Acron makes no mention of the proverb, I think, because he would rather pass over a thing bandied about or well-known to the common mob. Christopher Landinus, a man learned in other respects, interprets ‘shadows’ as spots in the country covered with shadows, in which party guests can conveniently lie down. Further, he interprets ‘goats’ as snappish clowns. Finally, he explains ‘say what number you would like it to be’ in this way: ‘Write back of what pecuniary condition you would like the guests to be. For if you desire guests more worthy than you, you will be the last; if you desire inferior guests, you will be the first.’ I would not have recorded all of this, if it were not the proper to show what sort of delirious nonsense the ignorance of even one proverb can sometimes drive an educated man.

The sense of the Horatian poem is this. He advises Torquatus to come to the dinner accompanied by only a few men, namely Bruta, Septimius, and Sabinus, not because there would be a deficiency of places to recline, but because there would be some inconvenience from the stench of their armpits if they sat too close. Then, if he would like there to be more shadows, that is companions, he should forewarn himself about the number, lest he be unprepared to respond. Therefore, he calls Bruta, Septimius, and Sabinus the shades of Torquatus if they should come not because they had been invited by Horace, but simply as companions of Torquatus, whom Horace had actually invited. Similarly, we find elsewhere:

‘Vibidius with Servilius Balatro, the shades which Maecenas had brought out…’

that is, his voluntary companions. Plutarch, in the seventh book of his Symposiacs, explains what shadows are with these words:

Τὸ δὲ τῶν ἐπικλήτων ἔθος, οὓς νῦν σκιὰς καλοῦσιν, οὐ κεκλημένους αὐτούς, ἀλλ᾿ ὑπὸ τῶν κεκλημένων ἐπὶ τὸ δεῖπνον ἀγομένους, ἐζητεῖτο πόθεν ἔσχε τὴν ἀρχήν· ἐδόκει δὲ ἀπὸ Σωκράτους, Ἀριστόδημον ἀναπείσαντος οὐ κεκλημένον εἰς Ἀγάθωνος ἰέναι σὺν αὐτῷ καὶ παθόντα τι γελοῖον· ἔλαθε γὰρ κατὰ τὴν ὁδὸν ὑπολειφθεὶς ὁ Σωκράτης, ὁ δὲ προεισῆλθεν, ἀτεχνῶς σκιὰ προβαδίζουσα σώματος ἐξόπισθεν τὸ φὼς ἔχοντος, that is

 ‘It has been asked where the habit arose of bringing to a party companions (whom they now call shadows) who were not actually invited or who were brought along by others who had been invited. They say that it started with Socrates, who persuaded Aristodemus to accompany him to Agathon’s party, those he had not been invited. Something ridiculous happened to Aristodemus, since indeed, he did not sense that Socrates had fallen behind, and entered first, obviously just as a shadow preceding its body as the light follows from the back.’

Thus says Plutarch. This story about Socrates and Aristodemus is, however, found in Plato’s dialogue The Symposium.”

Image result for ancient greek symposium

Umbrae.ix

Σκιαί, id est Umbrae, proverbiali joco dicebantur olim ii, qui venirent ad conuiuium non ipsi quidem vocati, sed comites eorum qui vocati fuerant, sic illos sequentes velut umbra corpus ultro sequitur. Ad hanc paroemiam allusit Horatius Epistolarum libro primo scribens ad Torquatum :

Brutam tibi Septimiumque,

Et nisi coena prior potiorque puella Sabinum

Detinet, ad summam, locus est et pluribus umbris,

Sed nimis arcta premunt olidae convivia caprae.

Hoc loco neque Acron proverbii facit mentionem, opinor, quod rem vulgo jactatam ceu notam praeterierit. Christophorus Landinus, vir alioqui doctus, umbras interpretatur loca in rure operta umbris, in quibus commode discumbant convivae. Praeterea capras interpretatur scurras mordaces. Postremo : Dic quotus esse velis, ad hunc exponit modum : Rescribe, cujus fortunae homines tibi convivas adhibeam. Nam si cupis digniore te, eris postremus, si inferiores, eris primus. Haec non fueram adscripturus, nisi conduceret ostendisse in quae deliramenta virum eruditum adigat nonnunquam unius proverbiali ignorantia. Sensus autem Horatiani carminis sic habet. Admonet Torquatum, ut ad coenam veniat paucis comitatus, videlicet Bruta, Septimio et Sabino, non quod sit defuturus in accubitu locus, si velit plures umbras secum adducere, verum id futurum incommodi, ut alarum odor convivii suavitatem, si angustius sedeatur. Deinde si velit omnino plures umbras, id est comites, praemoneat se de numero, ne non respondeat apparatus. Brutam itaque, Septimium et Sabinum umbras Torquati vocat, si veniant non ipsi quidem inuitati, sed a Torquato, quem vocarat Horatius, ceu comites adducti. Item alibi :

Cum Servilio Balatrone

Vibidius, quos Mecoenas adduxerat umbras,

id est ultroneos comites. Plutarchus Συμποσιακῶν libro septimo, quid sint umbrae narrat his verbis : Τὸ δὲ τῶν ἐπικλήτων ἔθος, οὓς νῦν σκιὰς καλοῦσιν, οὐ κεκλημένους αὐτούς, ἀλλ᾿ ὑπὸ τῶν κεκλημένων ἐπὶ τὸ δεῖπνον ἀγομένους, ἐζητεῖτο πόθεν ἔσχε τὴν ἀρχήν· ἐδόκει δὲ ἀπὸ Σωκράτους, Ἀριστόδημον ἀναπείσαντος οὐ κεκλημένον εἰς Ἀγάθωνος ἰέναι σὺν αὐτῷ καὶ παθόντα τι γελοῖον· ἔλαθε γὰρ κατὰ τὴν ὁδὸν ὑπολειφθεὶς ὁ Σωκράτης, ὁ δὲ προεισῆλθεν, ἀτεχνῶς σκιὰ προβαδίζουσα σώματος ἐξόπισθεν τὸ φὼς ἔχοντος, id est, Mos autem adducendi comites, quos nunc umbras appellant, non ipsos quidem vocatos, sed ab aliis qui vocati fuerant ad convivium adductos, quaesitum est, undenam inoleverit. Existimabant natum a Socrate, qui Aristodemo persuaserit, ut non vocatus secum ad Agathonis convivium accederet. Acciderat enim Aristodemo ridiculum quiddam. Siquidem cum inter eundum non sentiret Socratem a tergo relictum, prior ingressus est, plane velut umbra corpus praecedens lumine a tergo sequente. Hactenus Plutarchus. Est autem haec de Socrate et Aristodemo fabula apud Platonem in dialogo, cui titulus Συμπόσιον.

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