Souls and Time: Some Old-Fashioned Riddles from Athenaeus

Athenaeus Deipnosophists 10: 453b-c

“A really ancient type of logic riddle is also related to the basic nature of riddling to begin with: “What do we all teach without knowing it?”  or “What is nowhere and everywhere at once?” and in addition to these “What is in the sky, on the land, and in the sea at the same time?”  And this example is about words that mean more than one thing because a bear [arktos], a serpent [ophis], an eagle [aietos] and a dog [kuôn] are each in the sky, on the earth and in the sea. The answer to the question prior to that is “time”, because it is everywhere and nowhere at once because it does not inhabit any single space. And the first question is about souls: none of us know our soul, but we always show it to those we meet.”

ἀρχαιότατος δ᾿ ἐστὶ λογικὸς γρῖφος καὶ τῆς τοῦ γριφεύειν φύσεως οἰκειότατος· “τί πάντες οὐκ ἐπιστάμενοι διδάσκομεν;” καί “τί ταὐτὸν οὐδαμοῦ καὶ πανταχοῦ;” καὶ πρὸς τούτοις “τί ταὐτὸν ἐν οὐρανῷ καὶ ἐπὶ γῆς καὶ ἐν θαλάττῃ;” τοῦτο δ᾿ ἐστὶν ὁμωνυμία· καὶ γὰρ ἄρκτος καὶ ὄφις καὶ αἰετὸς καὶ κύων ἐστὶν ἐν οὐρανῷ καὶ ἐν γῇ καὶ ἐν θαλάσσῃ. τὸ δὲ χρόνον σημαίνει· ἅμα γὰρ παρὰ πᾶσιν ὁ αὐτὸς καὶ οὐδαμοῦ διὰ τὸ μὴ ἐν ἑνὶ τόπῳ τὴν φύσιν ἔχειν. τὸ δὲ προάγον ἐστὶ ψυχὰς ἔχειν· τοῦτο γὰρ οὐθεὶς ἡμῶν ἐπιστάμενος διδάσκει τὸν πλησίον.


Matfre Ermengau, Breviari d’amor, Occitania 14th century
BnF, Français 857, fol. 197v

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