Dionysius the Distended

Aelian, Historia Varia 9.13:

I hear that Dionysius of Heraclea, the son of Chlearchus the tyrant, was unaware of the fact that he was becoming a bit fleshy and fat from his daily gluttony. The punishment attending this corpulence and protuberance of flesh was difficulty in breathing. They say that the doctors prescribed for this ailment thin and tiny needles which they then drove through his ribs and belly, whenever he happened to be drifting off into a deep sleep. Their concern was to do this until the whole needle went through the whole of the outer part of his skin. But he lay unmoved like a stone. If the needle came to the point where the rest of his healthy and personal body was, and not the external part of the excessive fat, he then perceived it, and was awoken from his sleep. He fabricated oracular responses to those who wished to enter his presence after putting a chest in front of his body. Some say that it was not a chest, but a cupboard, fashioned such that the rest of his body would be hidden while his face remained visible, having – o gods – girded himself with that vexatious outfit, a cage for a beast more than clothing for a human.

Διονύσιον τὸν ῾Ηρακλεώτην, Κλεάρχου τοῦ τυράννου υἱόν, ἀκούω ἐκ τῆς καθ’ ἡμέραν ἀδηφαγίας καὶ τρυφῆς λαθεῖν ἑαυτὸν ὑπερσαρκήσαντα καὶ καταπιανθέντα. τὰ ἐπίχειρα γοῦν τοῦ κατὰ τὸ σῶμα μεγέθους καὶ τοῦ περὶ τὰς σάρκας ὄγκου ἐκαρπώσατο δύσπνοιαν. φάρμακον οὖν αὐτῷ τοῦδε τοῦ πάθους συνέταξάν φασιν οἱ ἰατροὶ βελόνας λεπτὰς κατασκευάσαι μηκίστας εἶτα ταύτας διὰ τῶν πλευρῶν καὶ τῆς κοιλίας διωθεῖν, ὅταν ἐς ὕπνον τύχῃ βαθύτερον ἐμπεσών. ἦν δὲ ἄρα τοῦτο ἐπιμελὲς ἐκείνοις δρᾶν, ἔστε ὅλη διὰ τῆς πεπωρωμένης καὶ τρόπον τινὰ ἀλλοτρίας αὐτοῦ σαρκὸς διεῖρπεν ἡ βελόνη· ἀλλ’ ἐκεῖνός γε ἔκειτο λίθου διαφέρων οὐδέν. εἰ δὲ ἀφίκετο τὸ βέλος ἔνθα λοιπὸν ἦν αὐτῷ τὸ σῶμα ἐρρωμένον καὶ ἴδιον, ἀλλ’ οὐκ ἐκ τῆς ἄγαν πιμελῆς ἀλλότριον, τηνικαῦτα καὶ ἐκεῖνος ᾐσθάνετο, καὶ ἠγείρετο ἐκ τοῦ ὕπνου. τοὺς δὲ χρηματισμοὺς ἐποιεῖτο τοῖς βουλομένοις αὐτῷ προσιέναι, κιβωτὸν τοῦ σώματος προβαλλόμενος. οἳ δὲ οὐ κιβωτόν φασιν ἀλλὰ πυργίσκον, ἵνα τὰ μὲν λοιπὰ αὐτοῦ μέρη ἀποκρύπτοιτο, τὸ δὲ πρόσωπον μόνον ὑπερέχων διαλέγοιτο, πονηράν, ὦ θεοί, ταύτην ἐκεῖνος τὴν στολὴν περιαμπεχόμενος, καὶ θηρίου φρουρὰν μᾶλλον ἢ ἀνθρώπου ἐσθῆτα.


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