The Exploding Frog, A Fable for Musk-ateers

Phaedrus 1.24 The Exploding Frog

“A poor man, when he tries to imitate the powerful, dies.
Once in a meadow a frog saw a bull
Whose great size exerted on her such a pull
That she inflated her wrinkled skin and asked
Her children whether she was bigger than that.
They denied it and she puffed herself out self again
But when she asked who was bigger, they said “him”.
Finally angry, she didn’t want to blow it,
She puffed again and her body exploded.”

frog

I.24. Rana Rupta

Inops, potentem dum vult imitari, perit.
In prato quondam rana conspexit bovem,
et tacta invidia tantae magnitudinis
rugosam inflavit pellem. Tum natos suos
interrogavit an bove esset latior.
Illi negarunt. Rursus intendit cutem
maiore nisu, et simili quaesivit modo,
quis maior esset. Illi dixerunt “bovem”.
Novissime indignata, dum vult validius
inflare sese, rupto iacuit corpore.

Pythagorean Self-Invention

Scholion to Sophocles Electra 62.2

“Pythagoras shut himself in a hole in the ground and told his mother to tell people that he was dead. After that, once he reappeared again later, he was telling fantastic tales of reincarnation and the people of Hades, explaining to the living about the matters of the dead. From these stories, he created that kind of repute for himself that, before the Trojan War, he was Aithalidês the son of Hermes and then Euphorbos, and then Hermotimos of Samos, then Delian Pythios and after all of them, Pythagoras.”

…Πυθαγόρας καθείρξας ἑαυτὸν ἐν ὑπογείῳ λογοποιεῖν ἐκέλευσε τὴν μητέρα, ὡς ἄρα τεθνηκὼς εἴη. καὶ μετὰ ταῦτα ἐπιφανεὶς περὶ παλιγγενεσίας καὶ τῶν καθ’ ᾅδου τινὰ ἐτερατεύετο, διηγούμενος πρὸς τοὺς ζῶντας περὶ τῶν οἰκείων, οἷς ἐν ᾅδου συντετυχηκέναι ἔλεγεν. ἐξ ὧν τοιαύτην ἑαυτῷ δόξαν περιέθηκεν, ὡς πρὸ μὲν τῶν Τρωϊκῶν Αἰθαλίδης ὢν ὁ Ἑρμοῦ, εἶτα Εὔφορβος, εἶτα Ἑρμότιμος Σάμιος, εἶτα Πύθιος Δήλιος, εἶτα ἐπὶ πᾶσι Πυθαγόρας.A picture of a cave with the text over it saying: “Pythagoras shut himself in a hole in the ground and told his mother to tell people that he was dead. " This is a quotation from a scholion to Sophocles.

#BuyNothingDay: Read Some More Lucretius

Lucretius, De Rerum Natura 5.1430-1439 (Full text on the Scaife Viewer)

“The human race, then, labors uselessly and in vain
as we always consume our time in empty concerns
because we don’t understand that there’s a limit to having—
and there’s an end to how far true pleasure can grow.
This has dragged life bit by bit into the deep sea
and has stirred at its bottom great blasts of war.
But the guardian of the earth turns around the great sky
and teaches men truly that the year’s seasons come full circle
and that all must be endured with a sure reason and order.”

Ergo hominum genus in cassum frustraque laborat
semper et [in] curis consumit inanibus aevom,
ni mirum quia non cognovit quae sit habendi
finis et omnino quoad crescat vera voluptas;
idque minutatim vitam provexit in altum
et belli magnos commovit funditus aestus.
at vigiles mundi magnum versatile templum
sol et luna suo lustrantes lumine circum
perdocuere homines annorum tempora verti
et certa ratione geri rem atque ordine certo.

Epicureanism doesn’t do it for you? Here’s something else;

Epictetus, Encheiridion 44 (Full text on the Scaife Viewer)

“These statements are illogical: “I am richer than you and therefore better than you. I am more articulate than you and therefore better than you.” But these conclusions are more fitting: “I am wealthier than you, therefore my possessions are greater than yours. I am more articulate than you, therefore my speech is better than yours.” You are neither your property nor your speech.”

c. 44. Οὗτοι οἱ λόγοι ἀσύνακτοι· “ἐγώ σου πλουσιώτερός εἰμι, ἐγώ σου ἄρα κρείσσων”· “ἐγώ σου λογιώτερος, ἐγώ σου ἄρα κρείσσων” ἐκεῖνοι δὲ μᾶλλον συνακτικοί· “ἐγώ σου πλουσιώτερός εἰμι, ἡ ἐμὴ ἄρα κτῆσις τῆς σῆς κρείσσων”· “ἐγώ σου λογιώτερος, ἡ ἐμὴ ἄρα λέξις τῆς σῆς κρείσσων.” σὺ δὲ γε οὔτε κτῆσις εἶ οὔτε λέξις.

Some Approving Words from Cicero,

Cicero, Paradoxa Stoicorum 7-8 (Full Latin text on the Scaife Viewer)

“Can something good be bad for anyone, or is it possible for someone not to be good in the abundance of goods? But indeed, we see that all of those things we mentioned are of such a sort that the wicked have them, but the good do not. For that reason, anyone at all may laugh at me if they wish, but true reasoning will possess more power with me than the opinion of the common mob. Nor will I ever say that someone has lost their goods if they should lose their cattle or furniture. I will always praise the wise man Bias who, as I think, is numbered among the seven sages. When the enemy had seized his fatherland of Priene, and the other citizens were fleeing while carrying many of their possessions with them, Bias was advised by another to do them same himself. Bias responded, ‘I am doing just that – I carry everything I own with me.’”

Potestne bonum cuiquam malo esse, aut potest quisquam in abundantia bonorum ipse esse non bonus? Atqui ista omnia talia videmus, ut et inprobi habeant et absint probis. Quam ob rem licet inrideat, si qui vult, plus apud me tamen vera ratio valebit quam vulgi opinio; neque ego umquam bona perdidisse dicam, si quis pecus aut supellectilem amiserit, nec non saepe laudabo sapientem illum, Biantem, ut opinor, qui numeratur in septem; cuius quom patriam Prienam cepisset hostis ceterique ita fugerent, ut multa de suis rebus asportarent, cum esset admonitus a quodam, ut idem ipse faceret, ‘Ego vero’, inquit, ‘facio; nam omnia mecum porto mea.’

Market scene, 15th century, Manuscript, Bibliothèque Municipale, Rouen

Get the Best of Every Thanksgiving Dish With this One Simple Trick!

The training regimen of Philoxenus of Leucus (Athenaeus, Deipnosophists 1.9.1-19)

“Certain flat-cakes were eventually named ‘Philoxenian’ from a man named Philoxenus. Chrysippus says of him: ‘I know of a certain foodie who fell so far from worrying about what people thought of his actions that he publicly tried to get used to heat in the public baths by plunging his hands in the hot water or gargling with it so that he couldn’t be moved from the hot plates! People claimed that he was pressuring the cooks to serve the food as hot as possible so that he could swallow it alone, since no one else would be able to keep up with him.’

The same accounts are given of Philoxenus the Cytherean, Archytas and many others—one of them says the following in a comedy by Crobylus (fr. 8):

A. ‘For this dish that is beyond hot

I have Idaean finger tips
And it is sweet to steam my throat with fish steaks!

B. He’s a kiln not a man!’

Cooking1
Make it hotter!

ἀπὸ τούτου τοῦ Φιλοξένου καὶ Φιλοξένειοί τινες πλακοῦντες ὠνομάσθησαν. περὶ τούτου Χρύσιππός φησιν· ‘ἐγὼ κατέχω τινὰ ὀψοφάγον ἐπὶ τοσοῦτον ἐκπεπτωκότα τοῦ μὴ ἐντρέπεσθαι τοὺς πλησίον ἐπὶ τοῖς γινομένοις ὥστε φανερῶς ἐν τοῖς βαλανείοις τήν τε χεῖρα συνεθίζειν πρὸς τὰ θερμὰ καθιέντα εἰς ὕδωρ θερμὸν καὶ τὸ στόμα ἀναγαργαριζόμενον θερμῷ, ὅπως δηλονότι ἐν τοῖς θερμοῖς δυσκίνητος ᾖ. ἔφασαν γὰρ αὐτὸν καὶ τοὺς ὀψοποιοῦντας ὑποποιεῖσθαι, ἵνα θερμότατα παρατιθῶσι καὶ μόνος καταναλίσκῃ αὐτὸς τῶν λοιπῶν συνακολουθεῖν μὴ δυναμένων.’ τὰ δ’ αὐτὰ καὶ περὶ τοῦ Κυθηρίου Φιλοξένου ἱστοροῦσι καὶ ᾿Αρχύτου καὶ ἄλλων πλειόνων, ὧν τις παρὰ Κρωβύλῳ τῷ κωμικῷ φησιν (IV 568 M)·

ἐγὼ δὲ πρὸς τὰ θερμὰ ταῦθ’ ὑπερβολῇ
τοὺς δακτύλους δήπουθεν ᾿Ιδαίους ἔχω
καὶ τὸν λάρυγγ’ ἥδιστα πυριῶ τεμαχίοις.

Β. κάμινος, οὐκ ἄνθρωπος.

Sing Me a Dinner! A Comic Fragment for an Epic Feast

Antiquity has bequeathed us many odd things. Among them, the Attic Dinner attributed to Matro of Pitane, a poet so obscure he does not merit his own wikipedia article. A student of Greek epic–even a rather poor one–should recognize the many allusions to Homer. (Of course, this poet is largely preserved by the gastronome Athenaeus).

“Dinners, tell me, Muse, of dinners, much nourishing and many.
Which Xenokles the orator ate at my house in Athens.
For I went there too, but a great hunger plagued me—
Where I saw the finest and largest loaves
Whiter than snow, tasting like wheat-cakes
The north-wind lusted after them as they baked.
Xenicles himself inspected the ranks of men
As he stopped while standing at the threshold; next to him was the parasite
Khairephoôn, a man like a starving sea-gull,
Hungry, and well-acquainted with other people’s feasts.”

δεῖπνα μοι ἔννεπε, Μοῦσα, πολύτροφα καὶ μάλα
πολλά ἃ Ξενοκλῆς ῥήτωρ ἐν ᾿Αθήναις δείπνισεν ἡμᾶς·
ἦλθον γὰρ κἀκεῖσε, πολὺς δέ μοι ἕσπετο λιμός.
οὗ δὴ καλλίστους ἄρτους ἴδον ἠδὲ μεγίστους,
λευκοτέρους χιόνος, ἔσθειν δ’ ἀμύλοισιν ὁμοίους
τάων καὶ Βορέης ἠράσσατο πεσσομενάων
αὐτὸς δὲ Ξενοκλῆς ἐπεπωλεῖτο στίχας ἀνδρῶν
στῆ δ’ ἄρ’ ἐπ’ οὐδὸν ἰών. σχεδόθεν δέ οἱ ἦν παράσιτος
Χαιρεφόων, πεινῶντι λάρῳ ὄρνιθι ἐοικώς,
νήστης, ἀλλοτρίων εὖ εἰδὼς δειπνοσυνάων.

grapes

The first line quite obviously adapts the first line of the Odyssey:

“Of a man, tell me, Muse, a man of many ways who [suffered] many things…”

῎Ανδρα μοι ἔννεπε, Μοῦσα, πολύτροπον, ὃς μάλα πολλὰ

The Best Time For Sex? A Holiday Dinner Conversation Prompt

Plutarch, Moralia 653: Table-Talk—Book 3, Question 8: Concerning the Right Time for Sex

“Some young men who had not spent much time in classical literature were criticizing Epicurus, that it was not noble or necessary that he included a discussion about the right time for sex in his Symposium. For, they claimed that it was the worst kind of impropriety for an older man to talk about sexual matters during dinner when youths were present and to work through whether it was better after dinner or before dinner.

To this, some guests added that Xenophon used to take his dinner companions home after dinner not by foot but by horse to have sex with their wives. Zopyros the doctor—a man very familiar with Epicurus’ arguments, said that they has not read Epicurus’ Symposium very carefully. For, he did not put forth the problem as one based on a certain rule or established practice,  and then provide his arguments in its favor. Instead, he roused the youths after dinner for a walk and talked for the reason of instruction, to curb them from their desires, because sex is always a matter which might bring harm and which afflicts those worst who engage after food and drink.

He said, “If, indeed, this discussion were earnestly about sex, would it seem right not to examine the better opportunity and hour for doing these kinds of things? Would it be otherwise right for him to look look for another moment more opportune except at the symposium and the dinner table?”

 

Image result for Ancient Greek Symposium Sex vase

Περὶ καιροῦ συνουσίας

Νεανίσκοι τινὲς οὐ πάλαι τοῖς παλαιοῖς λόγοις προσπεφοιτηκότες ἐσπάραττον τὸν Ἐπίκουρον, ὡς οὐ καλὸν οὐδ᾿ ἀναγκαῖον ἐμβεβληκότα λόγον περὶ καιροῦ συνουσίας εἰς τὸ Συμπόσιον· μιμνήσκεσθαι γὰρ ἀφροδισίων ἄνδρα πρεσβύτερον ἐν δείπνῳ μειρακίων παρόντων καὶ διαπορεῖν, πότερον μετὰ δεῖπνον ἢ πρὸ δείπνου χρηστέον, ἐσχάτης ἀκολασίας εἶναι. πρὸς ταῦθ᾿ οἱ μὲν τὸν Ξενοφῶντα παρέλαβον ὡς ἀπάγοντα τοὺς συμπότας μετὰ δεῖπνον οὐχὶ βάδην ἀλλ᾿ ἐφ᾿ ἵππων ἐπὶ συνουσίας πρὸς τὰς γυναῖκας. Ζώπυρος δ᾿ ὁ ἰατρός, εὖ μάλα τοῖς Ἐπικούρου λόγοις ἐνωμιληχώς, οὐκ ἔφη προσέχοντας αὐτοὺς ἀνεγνωκέναι τὸ Ἐπικούρου Συμπόσιον· οὐ γὰρ ὥσπερ ἐξ ἀρχῆς τινος καὶ καταστάσεως τοῦτο πρόβλημα ποιησάμενον εἶτα λόγους ἐπ᾿ αὐτῷ περαίνειν, ἀλλὰ τοὺς νέους ἀνιστάντα μετὰ δεῖπνον εἰς περίπατον ἐπὶ σωφρονισμῷ διαλέγεσθαι καὶ ἀνακρούειν ἀπὸ τῶν ἐπιθυμιῶν, ὡς ἀεὶ μὲν ἐπισφαλοῦς εἰς βλάβην τοῦ πράγματος ὄντος, κάκιστα δὲ τοὺς περὶ πότον καὶ ἐδωδὴν χρωμένους αὐτῷ διατιθέντος. “εἰ δὲ δὴ καὶ προηγουμένως,” εἶπεν, “ἐζητεῖτο περὶ τούτου, πότερον οὐδ᾿ ὅλως ἐσκέφθαι καλῶς εἶχε τὸν βέλτιον μὲν ἐν καιρῷ καὶ μετὰ λογισμοῦ τὰ τοιαῦτα πράττειν, τὸν δὲ καιρὸν ἄλλως μὲν ἐπισκοπεῖν οὐκ ἄωρον ἐν δὲ συμποσίῳ καὶ περὶ τράπεζαν αἰσχρόν;

Make A Seating Plan for Your Holiday Feast, Unless Simonides is Coming…

Ancient memory techniques go back to oratorical training in theory, but in practice probably much further back in human history. Philostratus records the reputation of Dionysius of Miletus and his “memory-men”. But one of the most easily abused and likely misunderstood method from the ancient world is the “memory palace” (or “method of loci“), made famous by Cicero, but credited to the lyric poet Simonides.

Cicero De Oratore 2.352–355

“But, so I may return to the matter”, he said, “I am not as smart as Themistocles was as to prefer the art of forgetting to the art of memory. And So I am thankful to that Simonides of Ceos who, as they say, first produced an art of memory. For they say that when Simonides was dining at the home of a wealthy aristocrate named Scopas in Thessaly and had performed that song which he wrote in his honor—in which there were many segments composed for Castor and Pollux elaborated in the way of poets. Then Scopas told him cruelly that he would pay him half as much as he had promised he would give for the song; if it seemed right to him, he could ask Tyndareus’ sons for the other half since he had praised them equally.

A little while later, as they tell the tale, it was announced that Simonides should go outside—there were two young men at the door who had been calling him insistently. He rose, exited, and sAW no one. Meanwhile, in the same space of time, the ceiling under which Scopas was having his feast collapsed: the man was crushed by the ruins and died with his relatives. When people wanted to bury them they could not recognize who was where because they were crushed. Simonides is said to have shown the place in which each man died from his memory for their individual burials.

From this experience, Simonides is said to have learned that it is order most of all that brings light to memory. And thus those who wish to practice this aspect of the skill must select specific places and shape in their mind the matters they wish to hold in their memory and locate these facts in those places. It will so turn out that the order of the places will safeguard the order of the matters, the reflections of the facts will remind of the facts themselves, and we may use the places like wax and the ideas like letters written upon it.”

Sed, ut ad rem redeam, non sum tanto ego, inquit, ingenio quanto Themistocles fuit, ut oblivionis artem quam memoriae malim; gratiamque habeo Simonidi illi Cio quem primum ferunt artem memoriae protulisse.  Dicunt enim cum cenaret Crannone in Thessalia Simonides apud Scopam fortunatum hominem et nobilem cecinissetque id carmen quod in eum scripsisset, in quo multa ornandi causa poetarum more in Castorem scripta et Pollucem fuissent, nimis illum sordide Simonidi dixisse se dimidium eius ei quod pactus esset pro illo carmine daturum: reliquum a suis Tyndaridis quos aeque laudasset peteret si ei videretur. Paulo post esse ferunt nuntiatum Simonidi ut prodiret: iuvenes stare ad ianuam duos quosdam qui eum magnopere evocarent; surrexisse illum, prodisse, vidisse neminem; hoc interim spatio conclave illud ubi epularetur Scopas concidisse; ea ruina ipsum cum cognatis oppressum suis interiisse; quos cum humare vellent sui neque possent obtritos internoscere ullo modo, Simonides dicitur ex eo quod meminisset quo eorum loco quisque cubuisset demonstrator uniuscuiusque sepeliendi fuisse; hac tum re admonitus invenisse fertur ordinem esse maxime qui memoriae lumen afferret. Itaque eis qui hanc partem ingeni exercerent locos esse capiendos et ea quae memoria tenere vellent effingenda animo atque in eis locis collocanda: sic fore ut ordinem rerum locorum ordo conservaret, res autem ipsas rerum effigies notaret, atque ut locis pro cera, simulacris pro litteris uteremur.

thanks to S. Raudnitz for reminding me of this passage too!

 

Image result for ancient greek memory palace medieval giulio camillo
This stuff is still popular: The Memory Theater of Guilio Camillo

A Dinner Conversation Prompt: Why Are We Hungrier in the Fall?

Plutarch, Moralia 635—Table-Talk, Book 2 Problem 2: Why People are Hungrier in The Fall

“After the Mysteries in Eleusis when the entire festival was at its peak, we were having a feast at the house of Glaukias the rhetorician. When the rest had finished their dinner, Xenokles the Delphian began to mock my brother, as he usually does, about his “Boiotian gluttony”.

As I was defending him I used the words of Epicurus against Xenokles, and said “All men don’t make the avoidance of what hurts the boundary and the limit of pleasure. Lamprias honors the Peripatos and the Lukeion before the garden and therefore attests to Aristotle. For this man says that everyone is hungriest in the autumn. He also provided an explanation, which I do not recall.”

“This is better”, Glaukias added, “for we ourselves will try to find one when we have stopped dining, Once the meals were taken away, both Glaukias and Xenokles were claiming that it was autumn’s fruit which was to blame, but for different reason.

The first claimed that it cleansed the bowels and by emptying the body was preparing the appetites anew. The other said that the pleasant and delicate nature of the fruit incited the stomach to food much more than any relish or source. Indeed, the offering of some fruit to people who have been sick and have fasted incites the appetite.”

Image result for Ancient Greek Autumn feast

Διὰ τί βρωτικώτεροι γίγνονται περὶ τὸ μετόπωρον

Ἐν Ἐλευσῖνι μετὰ τὰ μυστήρια τῆς πανηγύρεως ἀκμαζούσης εἱστιώμεθα παρὰ Γλαυκίᾳ τῷ ῥήτορι. πεπαυμένων δὲ δειπνεῖν τῶν ἄλλων, Ξενοκλῆς ὁ Δελφὸς ὥσπερ εἰώθει τὸν ἀδελφὸν ἡμῶν Λαμπρίαν εἰς ἀδηφαγίαν Βοιώτιον ἐπέσκωπτεν. ἐγὼ δ᾿ ἀμυνόμενος ὑπὲρ αὐτοῦ τὸν Ξενοκλέα τοῖς Ἐπικούρου λόγοις χρώμενον, “οὐ γὰρ ἅπαντες,” εἶπον, “ὦ βέλτιστε, ποιοῦνται τὴν τοῦ ἀλγοῦντος ὑπεξαίρεσιν ὅρον ἡδονῆς καὶ πέρας· Λαμπρίᾳ δὲ καὶ ἀνάγκη, πρὸ τοῦ κήπου κυδαίνοντι τὸν περίπατον καὶ τὸ Λύκειον, ἔργῳ μαρτυρεῖν Ἀριστοτέλει· φησὶ γὰρ ὁ ἀνὴρ βρωτικώτατον ἕκαστον αὐτὸν αὑτοῦ περὶ τὸ φθινόπωρον εἶναι, καὶ τὴν αἰτίαν ἐπείρηκεν· ἐγὼ δ᾿ οὐ μνημονεύω.”

“Βέλτιον,” εἶπεν ὁ Γλαυκίας· “αὐτοὶ γὰρ ἐπιχειρήσομεν ζητεῖν, ὅταν παυσώμεθα δειπνοῦντες.” Ὡς οὖν ἀφῃρέθησαν αἱ τράπεζαι, Γλαυκίας μὲν καὶ Ξενοκλῆς ᾐτιάσαντο τὴν ὀπώραν διαφόρως, ὁ μὲν ὡς3 τὴν κοιλίαν ὑπεξάγουσαν καὶ τῷ κενοῦσθαι τὸ σῶμα νεαρὰς ὀρέξεις ἀεὶ παρασκευάζουσαν· ὁ δὲ Ξενοκλῆς ἔλεγεν εὔστομόν τι καὶ δηκτικὸν ἔχοντα τῶν ὡραίων τὰ πλεῖστα τὸν στόμαχον ἐπὶ τὴν βρῶσιν ἐκκαλεῖσθαι παντὸς μᾶλλον ὄψου καὶ ἡδύσματος· καὶ γὰρ τοῖς ἀποσίτοις τῶν ἀρρώστων ὀπώρας τι προσενεχθὲν ἀναλαμβάνει τὴν ὄρεξιν.

 

Athenians also allegedly called Boiotians “piggies” and “oak trees”

The Spirits of Death and the Choice Each Day Brings

For all those surrounded by ghosts each holiday season. CW, suicide

Simonides, fr. 1 = Stobaeus 4.34.15

“Child, Zeus the loud-thunderer maintains the end
Of everything in the world and makes it how he likes.

Humans have no plans, but we just live for each day
Like animals who know nothing about
How the god will bring each thing to pass.

Hope and belief feed everyone who is eager
For the impossible. Some wait for the day to come,
But others look for the next season;
There’s no mortal alive who doesn’t think
That the new year will make them a friend to wealth and good living.

But old age beats us to it and takes one person
Before they’re done and terrible diseases that
Torture mortals overtake others. In the meantime,
Hades sends others subdued by war under the dark earth.

Even more die tossed about on the sea by winds
And on the rising waves of purple brine,
Whenever they fail to make a living on land.
And some leave the life of the sun by choice,
Tying a noose in a loop for an awful end.

So nothing is free of troubles, and thousands
Of death spirits and unpredictable pains stand waiting for us.
If we listen to my advice, though, we won’t long for grief,
Nor will we give ourselves more, by feasting our hearts on pain.”

ὦ παῖ, τέλος μὲν Ζεὺς ἔχει βαρύκτυπος
πάντων ὅσ᾿ ἐστὶ καὶ τίθησ᾿ ὅκῃ θέλει,
νοῦς δ᾿ οὐκ ἐπ᾿ ἀνθρώποισιν, ἀλλ᾿ ἐπήμεροι
ἃ δὴ βοτὰ ζώομεν, οὐδὲν εἰδότες
5ὅκως ἕκαστον ἐκτελευτήσει θεός.
ἐλπὶς δὲ πάντας κἀπιπειθείη τρέφει
ἄπρηκτον ὁρμαίνοντας· οἱ μὲν ἡμέρην
μένουσιν ἐλθεῖν, οἱ δ᾿ ἐτέων περιτροπάς·
νέωτα δ᾿ οὐδεὶς ὅστις οὐ δοκεῖ βροτῶν
πλούτῳ τε κἀγαθοῖσιν ἵξεσθαι φίλος.
φθάνει δὲ τὸν μὲν γῆρας ἄζηλον λαβὸν
πρὶν τέρμ᾿ ἵκηται, τοὺς δὲ δύστηνοι βροτῶν
φθείρουσι νοῦσοι, τοὺς δ᾿ Ἄρει δεδμημένους
πέμπει μελαίνης Ἀΐδης ὑπὸ χθονός·
οἱ δ᾿ ἐν θαλάσσῃ λαίλαπι κλονεόμενοι
καὶ κύμασιν πολλοῖσι πορφυρῆς ἁλὸς
θνήσκουσιν, εὖτ᾿ ἂν μὴ δυνήσωνται ζόειν·
οἱ δ᾿ ἀγχόνην ἅψαντο δυστήνῳ μόρῳ
καὐτάγρετοι λείπουσιν ἡλίου φάος.
οὕτω κακῶν ἄπ᾿ οὐδέν, ἀλλὰ μυρίαι
βροτοῖσι κῆρες κἀνεπίφραστοι δύαι
καὶ πήματ᾿ ἐστίν. εἰ δ᾿ ἐμοὶ πιθοίατο,
οὐκ ἂν κακῶν ἐρῷμεν, οὐδ᾿ ἐπ᾿ ἄλγεσιν
κακοῖς ἔχοντες θυμὸν αἰκιζοίμεθα.

Mimnermus, 2 [=Stobaeus 4.34.12]5-8

“The dark spirits of death are standing beside us.
One holds eventual old age, in pain,
The other has death. The fruit of youth is brief,
As long as the sun’s light stretches across the earth.”

…Κῆρες δὲ παρεστήκασι μέλαιναι,
ἡ μὲν ἔχουσα τέλος γήραος ἀργαλέου,
ἡ δ᾿ ἑτέρη θανάτοιο· μίνυνθα δὲ γίνεται ἥβης
καρπός, ὅσον τ᾿ ἐπὶ γῆν κίδναται ἠέλιος.

Homer, Iliad 12.326-8

“But now, since the spirts of death stand fast around us
By the thousands, and there is no way any mortal can escape them,
Let us go and offer a reason to boast to someone else, or take it for ourselves”

νῦν δ’ ἔμπης γὰρ κῆρες ἐφεστᾶσιν θανάτοιο
μυρίαι, ἃς οὐκ ἔστι φυγεῖν βροτὸν οὐδ’ ὑπαλύξαι,
ἴομεν ἠέ τῳ εὖχος ὀρέξομεν ἠέ τις ἡμῖν.

Draweing of a main on a bed with one figure floating above him and another standing above him weeping while his spirit flees through a window

A Conversational Prompt for Awkward Silences at Holiday Meals

In his “Table-Talk”, Plutarch provides a series of conversations on specific topics. Here’s the first. Win over new friends and impress your family by bringing these topics to holiday meals!

Table Talk, Moralia 612-613: Question 1:

“It is right to practice philosophy while drinking?”

The question of philosophizing while drinking has been put first of all—for you must remember that in Athens once there was a discussion after dinner whether it is right and what the limit is for having philosophical conversations while drinking. Ariston, one of those present, said “Dear Gods! Are there really people who don’t provide room for philosophers while drinking?”

I responded “Really, there are, my friend, and they say very seriously by way of explanation that philosophy has no more right to speak over wine than the lady of the house does. Indeed, they also claim that the Persians act rightly in drinking and dancing not with their wives but their mistresses instead.

They believe it is right that we introduce these things to our drinking party—acting, and music—and that we should not touch philosophy. For they also believe that it is not appropriate to play games with philosophy and that in these situations we are not in earnest moods. They claim, moreover, that Isocrates the sophist submitted to pleas to speak during wine only to say “I am skilled at matters not right for the present time; in matters right for the present time, I am not skilled.”

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“And so philosophers, whenever they engage in subtle and dialogic problems while drinking, annoy most people who cannot follow them. These guests in turn commit to singing any kind of song, nonsense stories, and talk of business and the market. The aim of the shared space of the party goes out the window and Dioynsus himself is offended. In the same way, when Phrynichus and Aeschylus added myths to tragedy and suffering, people asked “What has this to do with Dionysus?”

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Εἰ δεῖ φιλοσοφεῖν παρὰ πότον

Πρῶτον δὲ πάντων τέτακται τὸ περὶ τοῦ φιλοσοφεῖν παρὰ πότον. μέμνησαι γὰρ ὅτι, ζητήσεως Ἀθήνησι μετὰ δεῖπνον γενομένης εἰ χρηστέον ἐν οἴνῳ φιλοσόφοις λόγοις καὶ τί μέτρον ἔστι χρωμένοις, Ἀρίστων παρών, “εἰσὶν γάρ,” ἔφησε, “πρὸς τῶν θεῶν οἱ φιλοσόφοις χώραν ἐπ᾿ οἴνῳ μὴ διδόντες;”

Ἐγὼ δ᾿ εἶπον, “ἀλλὰ γὰρ εἰσίν, ὦ ἑταῖρε, καὶ πάνυ γε σεμνῶς κατειρωνευόμενοι λέγουσι μὴ δεῖν ὥσπερ οἰκοδέσποιναν ἐν οἴνῳ φθέγγεσθαι φιλοσοφίαν, καὶ τοὺς Πέρσας ὀρθῶς φασι μὴ ταῖς γαμεταῖς ἀλλὰ ταῖς παλλακίσι συμμεθύσκεσθαι καὶ συνορχεῖσθαι· ταὐτὸ δὴ καὶ ἡμᾶς ἀξιοῦσι ποιεῖν εἰς τὰ συμπόσια τὴν μουσικὴν καὶ τὴν ὑποκριτικὴν ἐπεισάγοντας φιλοσοφίαν δὲ μὴ κινοῦντας, ὡς οὔτε συμπαίζειν ἐκείνην ἐπιτήδειον οὖσαν οὔθ᾿ ἡμᾶς τηνικαῦτα σπουδαστικῶς ἔχοντας· οὐδὲ γὰρ Ἰσοκράτη τὸν σοφιστὴν ὑπομεῖναι δεομένων εἰπεῖν τι παρ᾿ οἶνον ἀλλ᾿ ἢ τοσοῦτον· ‘ἐν οἷς μὲν ἐγὼ δεινός, οὐχ ὁ νῦν καιρός· ἐν οἷς δ᾿ ὁ νῦν καιρός, οὐκ ἐγὼ δεινός.’”

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οὕτω τοίνυν, ὅταν οἱ φιλόσοφοι παρὰ πότον εἰς λεπτὰ καὶ διαλεκτικὰ προβλήματα καταδύντες ἐνοχλῶσι τοῖς πολλοῖς ἕπεσθαι μὴ δυναμένοις, ἐκεῖνοι δὲ πάλιν ἐπ᾿ ᾠδάς τινας καὶ διηγήματα φλυαρώδη καὶ λόγους βαναύσους καὶ ἀγοραίους ἐμβάλωσιν ἑαυτούς, οἴχεται τῆς συμποτικῆς κοινωνίας τὸ τέλος καὶ καθύβρισται ὁ Διόνυσος. ὥσπερ οὖν, Φρυνίχου καὶ Αἰσχύλου τὴν τραγῳδίαν εἰς μύθους καὶ πάθη προαγόντων, ἐλέχθη τὸ ‘τί ταῦτα πρὸς τὸν Διόνυσον;’