Don’t Piss Before the Sun

Erasmus, Adagia 1.20:

Πρὸς τὸν ἥλιον τετραμμένον μὴ ὀμιχεῖν, that is, Don’t turn and piss against the sun. I think that this recommends modesty. Yet Pliny offers a superstitious account of this thing in book 28, chapter 6 of his history, and I will put down his words below:

Tokens of health are conveyed by one’s urine. If it is clear in the morning, then reddish, the first means that it is seething, and the second that it has finished seething. The indications of red urine are bad, but the worst are those of black urine; the signs of bubbling and thick urine are bad, in which, if the subsident material be white, it means that pain is impending around the joints or the organs. Similarly, if it is green, it indicates a disease of the organs, pale indicates a disease of the bile, and red indicates a disease of the blood. It is also a bad sign if what appear to be bran chunks or clouds are found in the urine. Pale white urine is also bad. But thick urine with a heavy odor and (in children) light and diluted urine can be deadly. For that reason, magi forbid one to get naked in front of the sun and moon, or to sprinkle anyone’s shadow with urine. Hesiod advises that it should be done next to some object standing in the way, lest nudity offend some god.

The place to which Pliny here refers and from which the symbol of Pythagoras appears to have been taken is in the poem named Works and Days:

Μηδ᾽ ἄντ᾽ ἠελίοιο τετραμμένος ὀρθὸς ὀμιχεῖν,
Αὐτὰρ ἐπεί κε δύῃ μεμνημένος ἔς τ᾽ ἀνιόντα.
Μήτ᾽ ἐν ὁδῷ μήτ᾽ ἐκτὸς ὁδοῦ προβάδην οὐρησῃς
Μηδ᾽ ἀπογυμνωθείς, μακάρων τοι νύκτες ἔασσιν.
Ἑζόμενος δ᾽ ὅ γε θεῖος ἀνήρ, πεπνυμένα εἰδώς,
Ἢ ὅ γε πρὸς τοῖχον πελάσας ἐυερκέος αὐλῆς,

That is,

“Don’t stand upright and piss facing the sun, but when it goes down, remember this until it rises. Don’t piss on the road, nor off the road as you walk, and don’t get naked, since indeed nights are sacred to the blessed gods. But the man who is smart and pious will either piss recumbent, or only after moving his body near the walls of the house.”

XX. ADVERSVS SOLEM NE MEIITO

Πρὸς τὸν ἥλιον τετραμμένον μὴ ὀμιχεῖν, id est Aduersus solem ne meiito. Opinor
commendari verecundiam. Tametsi Plinius superstitiosam huius rei causam
reddit lib. xxviii., cap. vi., verba ipsius subscribam: Auguria valetudinis ex vrina
traduntur. Si mane candida, dein rufa sit, illo modo concoquere, hoc concoxisse
significatur. Mala signa rubrae, pessima nigrae, mala bullantis et crassae, in qua quod
subsidit, si album est, significat circa articulos aut viscera dolorem imminere, eadem
viridis morbum viscerum, pallida bilis, rubens sanguinis. Mala et in qua veluti furfures
atque nubeculae apparent. Diluta quoque alba vitiosa est. Mortifera vero crassa graui
odore et in pueris tenuis ac diluta. Magi vetant eius rei causa contra solem lunamque
nudari aut vmbram cuiusquam ab ipsa aspergi. Hesiodus iuxta obstantia reddi suadet,
ne deum nudatio aliquem• offendat. Locus hic quem Plinius citat et ex quo
symbolum Pythagorae sumptum apparet, est in opere, cui titulus Ἔργα καὶ
ἡμέραι:

Μηδ᾽ ἄντ᾽ ἠελίοιο τετραμμένος ὀρθὸς ὀμιχεῖν,105
Αὐτὰρ ἐπεί κε δύῃ μεμνημένος ἔς τ᾽ ἀνιόντα.
Μήτ᾽ ἐν ὁδῷ μήτ᾽ ἐκτὸς ὁδοῦ προβάδην οὐρησῃς |
Μηδ᾽ ἀπογυμνωθείς, μακάρων τοι νύκτες ἔασσιν.
Ἑζόμενος δ᾽ ὅ γε θεῖος ἀνήρ, πεπνυμένα εἰδώς,106
Ἢ ὅ γε πρὸς τοῖχον πελάσας ἐυερκέος αὐλῆς, id est
Aduersus solem rectus ne meiito, verum vt
Occiderit, donec redeat, facere ista memento.
Sed neque progrediens locium desperseris vnquam,
Inue viis extraue vias, neque membra renudes
Micturus, siquidem diuis nox sacra beatis.
At qui• vir fuerit prudensque piusque, recumbens
Siue domus muris admotus corpore, meiet.

 

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