Tzetzes Heads Off a Question

John Tzetzes, Allegories of the Odyssey 6.65-90

Consider with me the head as the organ of reason, trusting to that all-wise philosopher Homer. And in the opinion of the doctors and wise philosophers, he who claims that the heart is the reasoning organ is referring to the material and not the final organ. The rush of the blood from the heart, running to the head from the arteries, heats up the brain and stirs up plans.

If someone should say that the heart is the material organ, but the head the final one, then depend upon it, he is still among the wise. But if he says that the heart is the final organ, he is an all-wise student of Aristotle. If then he is not persuaded by the reasoning of the doctors and all of the myriads of proofs they have worked up, then he is employing the old foolish ‘He himself said it!’ that the Pythagoreans used to spout.

Ask him about the witticism of old uncle Tzetzes about which part of the body we call the back, and he will definitely show you the part between the shoulders, under the head and behind the stomach. Put on a smile, then, and say to that ultra wise man, ‘if reasoning and mind (phrenes) were, as you say, not in the head, but set right there in the heart, then everyone would call the stuff near the seat of manhood ‘metaphrena’, and perhaps they would do the same for the entrance of the stomach, since it is behind the heart, diverging from the practice of everyone else who refers to the spot between the shoulders, since it is behind the head and props up our mind.

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