The Homeric Diet – ‘Equal Meals’

Athenaeus, Deipnosophistae 1.12.c -13.a:

“‘Greetings, Achilles – you will not be lacking an equal meal.’ (Iliad 9.225)

From these words, Zenodotus was persuaded that by an ‘equal meal’ (daita eisen) Homer meant a ‘good’ (agathen) one. He says that because nourishment was a necessary good (agathon) to humans, Homer stretched the word ‘eisen’ to his purposes. The earliest humans possessed no easy abundance of food, so as soon as it appeared they rushed upon it, stealing it by force and taking it away from those who had it, becoming murderers in the process of this frenzy. From this, it is likely that the word ‘impudent folly’ (atasthalia) is derived, because people first committed crimes against each other at festivals (thaliai). But, once they received a bountiful measure of Demeter’s gift, they apportioned out an equal (isen) portion to each person, and thus there came to be a certain sense of order to human meals. This is the source of the notion that bread and cakes should be apportioned equally (eis ison), and for drinking from goblets. These things occurred as people gradually moved toward equality (to ison). Thus, food is called a ‘meal’ (dais) from ‘divide into equal portions’ (daiesthai). Similarly so, the man who roasts the mean is called a daitros, because he would give an equal portion of meat to each person. The poet uses the word ‘meal’ (dais) only for human beings, and never for animals. Zenodotus, in his ignorance regarding the sense of this word, writes in his own edition of the Iliad,

‘…he made them a spoil for the dogs,

and a meal (daita) for the birds…’

thus signaling that they were food for vultures and other birds, even though it is humanity alone which has progressed toward equality from its primitive state of violence, on which account it is human food alone which can be called a ‘meal’ (dais).”

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χαῖρ’, ᾿Αχιλεῦ, δαιτὸς μὲν ἐίσης οὐκ ἐπιδευεῖς. ἐκ τούτων δ’ ἐπείσθη Ζηνόδοτος δαῖτα ἐίσην τὴν ἀγαθὴν λέγεσθαι. ἐπεὶ γὰρ ἡ τροφὴ τῷ ἀνθρώπῳ ἀγαθὸν ἀναγκαῖον ἦν, ἐπεκτείνας, φησίν, εἴρηκεν ἐίσην· ἐπεὶ οἱ πρῶτοι ἄνθρωποι, οἷς δὴ οὐ παρῆν ἄφθονος τροφή, ἄρτι φαινομένης ἀθρόον ἐπ’ αὐτὴν ἰόντες βίᾳ ἥρπαζον καὶ ἀφῃροῦντο τοὺς ἔχοντας, καὶ μετὰ τῆς ἀκοσμίας ἐγίνοντο καὶ φόνοι. ἐξ ὧν εἰκὸς λεχθῆναι καὶ τὴν ἀτασθαλίαν, ὅτι ἐν ταῖς θαλίαις τὰ πρῶτα ἐξημάρτανον οἱ ἄνθρωποι εἰς ἀλλήλους. ὡς δὲ παρεγένετο αὐτοῖς πολλὴ ἐκ τῆς Δήμητρος, διένεμον ἑκάστῳ ἴσην, καὶ οὕτως εἰς κόσμον ἦλθε τοῖς ἀνθρώποις τὰ δόρπα. διὸ ἄρτου τε ἐπίνοια πέμματός τε εἰς ἴσον διαμεμοιραμένου καὶ τοῖς διαπίνουσιν ἄλεισα· καὶ γὰρ ταῦτα εἰς <τὸ> ἴσον χωρούντων ἐγίνετο. ὥστε ἡ τροφὴ δαὶς ἐπὶ τῷ δαίεσθαι λέγεται, ὅ ἐστι διαμοιρᾶσθαι ἐπ’ ἴσης· καὶ ὁ τὰ κρέα ὀπτῶν δαιτρός, ἐπεὶ ἴσην ἑκάστῳ μοῖραν ἐδίδου. καὶ ἐπὶ μόνων ἀνθρώπων δαῖτα λέγει ὁ ποιητής, ἐπὶ δὲ θηρίων οὐκ ἔτι. ἀγνοῶν δὲ ταύτης τῆς φωνῆς τὴν δύναμιν Ζηνόδοτος ἐν τῇ κατ’ αὐτὸν ἐκδόσει γράφει (Α 4)·

αὐτοὺς δὲ ἑλώρια τεῦχε κύνεσσιν

οἰωνοῖσί τε δαῖτα,

τὴν τῶν γυπῶν καὶ τῶν ἄλλων οἰωνῶν τροφὴν οὕτω καλῶν, μόνου ἀνθρώπου χωροῦντος <εἰς> τὸ ἴσον ἐκ τῆς πρόσθεν βίας. διὸ καὶ μόνου τούτου ἡ τροφὴ δαίς· καὶ μοῖρα τὸ ἑκάστῳ διδόμενον.

 

Aiakos Built A Wall…And the Gods Paid for It

According to some authors Aiakos, who ends up as a judge of the dead in the underworld, was the son of Zeus and Europa. According to others (Pindar, Corinna) he was son of Zeus and Aegina (Or Poseidon and Aegina). When Poseidon and Apollo went to build the walls of Troy, they took Aiakos along to help them. A scholiast reports that it had to happen this way: since a mortal helped build the walls, they were not wholly invincible.

Pindar’s account of this emphasizes an omen that appeared at the completion of the walls. In his telling, Apollo interprets the omen as indicating that the descendants of Aiakos will be instrumental in the destruction of the city. Who are his descendants? Ajax, Achilles. Oh, Neoptolemos and Epeius the builder of the Trojan horse too!
(go here for the full Ode and a good commentary).

Pindar, Ol. 8.24-54

“For whatever weighs a great deal is hard
To judge with a fair mind at the right time.
But some law of the gods established this sea-protected land [Aegina]
As a sacred pillar
For every kind of stranger.
May rising time never tire
Of making this true
for this land tended by the Dorian people since Aiakos’ time.
It was Aiakos that Leto’s son and wide-ruling Apollo took
When they were going to build a wall around Troy. They summoned him
As a coworker for the wall. For it was fated that
When wars arose in the city-sacking battles,
That the wall would breathe out twisting smoke.
When the wall was just built, three dark serpents
Leapt up at it: two fell against it
and, stunned, lost their lives.
One rose up with cries of mourning.
Apollo interpreted this sign immediately and said:
“Pergamos will be sacked, hero, by your hands’ deeds:
So this sacred vision says to me
Sent by loud-thundering Zeus.
And it won’t be done without your sons: the city will be slaughtered by the first
And the third generations.*” So the god spoke clearly
And he rode Xanthus to the well-horsed Amazons and to the Danube.
The trident-bearer directed his swift-chariot.
To the sea by the Isthmus
Bearing Aiakos here
With golden horses,
Gazing upon the ridge of Corinth, famous for its feasts.
But nothing is equally pleasing among men.”

… ὅ τι γὰρ πολὺ καὶ πολλᾷ ῥέπῃ,
ὀρθᾷ διακρίνειν φρενὶ μὴ παρὰ καιρόν,
δυσπαλές: τεθμὸς δέ τις ἀθανάτων καὶ τάνδ᾽ ἁλιερκέα χώραν
παντοδαποῖσιν ὑπέστασε ξένοις
κίονα δαιμονίαν
ὁ δ᾽ ἐπαντέλλων χρόνος
τοῦτο πράσσων μὴ κάμοι
Δωριεῖ λαῷ ταμιευομέναν ἐξ Αἰακοῦ:
τὸν παῖς ὁ Λατοῦς εὐρυμέδων τε Ποσειδᾶν,
Ἰλίῳ μέλλοντες ἐπὶ στέφανον τεῦξαι, καλέσαντο συνεργὸν
τείχεος, ἦν ὅτι νιν πεπρωμένον
ὀρνυμένων πολέμων
πτολιπόρθοις ἐν μάχαις
λάβρον ἀμπνεῦσαι καπνόν.
γλαυκοὶ δὲ δράκοντες, ἐπεὶ κτίσθη νέον,
πύργον ἐσαλλόμενοι τρεῖς, οἱ δύο μὲν κάπετον,
αὖθι δ᾽ ἀτυζομένω ψυχὰς βάλον:
εἷς δ᾽ ἀνόρουσε βοάσαις.
ἔννεπε δ᾽ ἀντίον ὁρμαίνων τέρας εὐθὺς, Ἀπόλλων:
‘ Πέργαμος ἀμφὶ τεαῖς, ἥρως, χερὸς ἐργασίαι ἁλίσκεται:
ὣς ἐμοὶ φάσμα λέγει Κρονίδα
πεμφθὲν βαρυγδούπου Διός:
οὐκ ἄτερ παίδων σέθεν, ἀλλ᾽ ἅμα πρώτοις ῥάζεται
καὶ τερτάτοις.’ ὣς ἆρα θεὸς σάφα εἴπαις
Ξάνθον ἤπειγεν καὶ Ἀμαζόνας εὐίππους καὶ ἐς Ἴστρον ἐλαύνων.
Ὀρσοτρίαινα δ᾽ ἐπ᾽ Ἰσθμῷ ποντίᾳ
ἅρμα θοὸν τανύεν,
ἀποπέμπων Αἰακὸν
δεῦρ᾽ ἀν᾽ ἵπποις χρυσέαις,
καὶ Κορίνθου δειράδ᾽ ἐποψόμενος δαιτικλυτάν.
τερπνὸν δ᾽ ἐν ἀνθρώποις ἴσον ἔσσεται οὐδέν.

*First and Third generation: Aiakos had two sons (Telemon and Peleus) with Endeis and one with another woman (Phocus). Telemon and Peleus killed their half-brother; but the three sons fathered Ajax, Achilles and Panopeus (Phocus). The latter two grandsons fathered Neoptolemus and Epeios. Achilles’ son Neoptolemus helped take Troy; Epeios built the wooden horse.

Zeus – Aegina
|
Endeis – Aiakos – Psamathe
|                 |
Telamon Peleus                  Phocus
|                |                               |
Ajax       Achilles                  Panopeus
|                                  |
Neoptolemus                 Epeios

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How Many Cities in Crete?

Schol. A. ad Il. 2.649

“Others have instead “those who occupy hundred-citied Crete” in response to those Separatists because they say that it is “hundred-citied Crete” here but “ninety-citied” in the Odyssey. Certainly we have “hundred-citied” instead of many cities, or he has a similar and close count now, but in the Odyssey lists it more precisely as is clear in Sophocles. Some claim that the Lakedaimonian founded ten cities.”

Ariston. ἄλλοι θ’ οἳ Κρήτην <ἑκατόμπολιν ἀμφενέμοντο>: πρὸς τοὺς Χωρίζοντας (fr. 2 K.), ὅτι νῦν μὲν ἑκατόμπολιν τὴν Κρήτην, ἐν ᾿Οδυσσείᾳ (cf. τ 174) δὲ ἐνενηκοντάπολιν. ἤτοι οὖν ἑκατόμπολιν ἀντὶ τοῦ πολύπολιν, ἢ ἐπὶ τὸν σύνεγγυς καὶ ἀπαρτίζοντα ἀριθμὸν κατενήνεκται νῦν, ἐν ᾿Οδυσσείᾳ δὲ τὸ ἀκριβὲς ἐξενήνοχεν, ὡς παρὰ Σοφοκλεῖ (fr. 813 N.2 = 899 P. = 899 R.). τινὲς δέ †φασι πυλαιμένη† τὸν Λακεδαιμόνιον δεκάπολιν κτίσαι.

Strabo, 10.15

“Because the poet sometimes calls Krete “hundred-citied” but at others, “ninety-cited”, Ephorus says that ten cities were founded after the battles at Troy by the Dorians who were following Althaimenes the Argive. But he also says that Odysseus names it “ninety-cities” This argument is persuasive. But others say that ten cities were destroyed by Idomeneus’ enemies. But the poet does not claim that Krete is “hundred-citied” during the Trojan War but in his time—for he speaks in his own language even if it is the speech of those who existed then, just as in the Odyssey when he calls Crete “ninety-citied”, it would be fine to understand it in this way. But if we were to accept that, the argument would not be saved. For it is not likely that the cities were destroyed by Idomeneus’ enemies when he was at war or came home from there, since the poet says that “Idomeneus led to Crete all his companions who survived the war and the sea killed none of them.

He would have mentioned that disaster. For Odysseus certainly would not have known of the destruction of the cities because he had not encountered any of the Greeks either during his wandering or after. And one who accompanied Idomeneus against Troy and returned with him would not have known what happened at home either during the expedition or the return from there. If Idomeneus was preserved with all his companions, he would have come back strong enough they his enemies were not going to be able to deprive him of ten cities. That’s my overview of the land of the Kretans.”

Τοῦ δὲ ποιητοῦ τὸ μὲν ἑκατόμπολιν λέγοντος τὴν Κρήτην, τὸ δὲ ἐνενηκοντάπολιν, Ἔφορος μὲν ὕστερον ἐπικτισθῆναι τὰς δέκα φησὶ μετὰ τὰ Τρωικὰ ὑπὸ τῶν Ἀλθαιμένει τῷ Ἀργείῳ συνακολουθησάντων Δωριέων· τὸν μὲν οὖν Ὀδυσσέα λέγει ἐνενηκοντάπολιν ὀνομάσαι· οὗτος μὲν οὖν πιθανός ἐστιν ὁ λόγος· ἄλλοι δ᾿ ὑπὸ τῶν Ἰδομενέως ἐχθρῶν κατασκαφῆναί φασι τὰς δέκα. ἀλλ᾿ οὔτε κατὰ τὰ Τρωικά φησιν ὁ ποιητὴς εκατοντάπολιν ὑπάρξαι τὴν Κρήτην, ἀλλὰ μᾶλλον κατ᾿ αὐτόν (ἐκ γὰρ τοῦ ἰδίου προσώπου λέγει· εἰ δ᾿ ἐκ τῶν τότε ὄντων τινὸς ἦν ὁ λόγος, καθάπερ ἐν τῇ Ὀδυσσείᾳ, ἡνίκα ἐνενηκοντάπολιν φράζει, καλῶς εἶχεν ἂν οὕτω δέχεσθαι), οὔτ᾿ εἰ συγχωρήσαιμεν τοῦτό γε, ὁ ἑξῆς λόγος σώζοιτ᾿ ἄν. οὔτε γὰρ κατὰ τὴν στρατείαν οὔτε μετὰ τὴν ἐπάνοδον τὴν ἐκεῖθεν τοῦ Ἰδομενέως εἰκός ἐστιν ὑπὸ τῶν ἐχθρῶν αὐτοῦ τὰς πόλεις ἠφανίσθαι ταύτας· ὁ γὰρ ποιητὴς φήσας, πάντας δ᾿ Ἰδομενεὺς Κρήτην εἰσήγαγ᾿ ἑταίρους, οἳ φύγον ἐκ πολέμου, πόντος δέ οἱ οὔτιν᾿ἀπηύρα·

καὶ τούτου τοῦ πάθους ἐμέμνητ᾿ ἄν· οὐ γὰρ δήπου Ὀδυσσεὺς μὲν ἔγνω τὸν ἀφανισμὸν τῶν πόλεων ὁ μηδενὶ συμμίξας τῶν Ἑλλήνων μήτε κατὰ τὴν πλάνην μήθ᾿ ὕστερον. ὁ δὲ καὶ συστρατεύσας τῷ Ἰδομενεῖ καὶ συνανασωθεὶς οὐκ ἔγνω τὰ συμβάντα οἴκοι αὐτῷ οὔτε κατὰ τὴν στρατείαν οὔτε τὴν ἐπάνοδον τὴν ἐκεῖθεν· ἀλλὰ μὴν οὐδὲ μετὰ τὴν ἐπάνοδον· εἰ γὰρ μετὰ πάντων ἐσώθη τῶν ἑταίρων, ἰσχυρὸς ἐπανῆλθεν, ὥστ᾿ οὐκ ἔμελλον ἰσχύσειν οἱ ἐχθροὶ τοσοῦτον, ὅσον δέκα ἀφαιρεῖσθαι πόλεις αὐτόν. τῆς μὲν οὖν χώρας τῶν Κρητῶν τοιαύτη τις ἡ περιοδεία.

File:Map Minoan Crete-fi.svg
There are not one hundred cities here.

The History of Saturnalia, Part III: SaTURDnalia

Macrobius, Saturnalia 1.7:

“They attribute the grafting of sprigs and the cultivation of fruit and of all other productive plants to Saturn. The people of Cyrene, when they perform his sacred rites, are crowned with fresh fig and they send each other cakes, since they consider Saturn to have discovered honey and grain. The Romans even call him ‘Mr. Shit’ (Stercutus) because he first gave fecundity to the fields with manure. The time of his reign is said to have been the happiest, since there was no discrimination based on wealth, nor were people distinguished as either slave or free. This can be readily understood from the license which is permitted to slaves on the Saturnalia.”

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Huic deo insertiones surculorum pomorumque educationes et omnium huiuscemodi fertilium tribuunt disciplinas. Cyrenenses etiam, cum rem divinam ei faciunt, ficis recentibus coronantur placentasque mutuo missitant, mellis et fructuum repertorem Saturnum aestimantes. Hunc Romani etiam Stercutum vocant, quod primus stercore fecunditatem agris conparaverit. Regni eius tempora felicissima feruntur, cum propter rerum copiam tum quod nondum quisquam servitio vel libertate discriminabatur: quae res intellegi potest, quod Saturnalibus tota servis licentia permittitur.

Natural Law and Shared Belief

Cicero, Tusc. Disp 1.30

“Moreover, this seems to be the strongest point to offer on why we believe that there are gods—the fact there are no people so savage, no one in the world so bestial, that no thought of the gods touches his mind. While it is true that many people believe silly things about the gods—which customarily happens because of corrupted customs—still all people believe in divine power and divine nature. Furthermore, human conferences and consensus do not create this, nor is the idea affirmed by practices or laws, but in every matter the shared belief of all peoples must be considered a natural law.

Is there anyone who does not mourn the death of their loved ones because he believes that they have been deprived of life’s pleasures? Remove this belief and you will remove mourning. No one mourns for their own discomfort. People do feel pain, but the mourning and tears of sorrow come from that fact that we believe that a person whom we love has lost access to life’s pleasures and are aware of this. We are led by nature to believe this, not by any teaching or act of reason.”

Ut porro firmissimum hoc adferri videtur, cur deos esse credamus, quod nulla gens tam fera, nemo omnium tam est immanis, cuius mentem non imbuerit deorum opinio—multi de dis prava sentiunt, id enim vitioso more effici solet, omnes tamen esse vim et naturam divinam arbitrantur, nec vero id collocutio hominum aut consensus effecit, non institutis opinio est confirmata, non legibus, omni autem in re consensio omnium gentium lex naturae putanda est—quis est igitur qui suorum mortem primum non eo lugeat, quod eos orbatos vitae commodis arbitretur? Tolle hanc opinionem, luctum sustuleris. Nemo enim maeret suo incommodo: dolent fortasse et anguntur: sed illa lugubris lamentatio fletusque maerens ex eo est, quod eum, quem dileximus, vitae commodis privatum arbitramur idque sentire. Atque haec ita sentimus natura duce, nulla ratione nullaque doctrina.

Young Cicero Reading

History of Saturnalia, Part II:

Macrobius, Saturnalia 1.7:

“When Janus first stamped images onto bronze coins, he maintained his reverence to Saturn to such a degree that, since he had come to Italy by boat, one side of the coin would show an image of his head, while the other side displayed a ship; in this way he propagated Saturn’s memory for future generations. Copper thus marked is even today understood to apply to dice games, when boys throwing their coins into the air playfully exlaim ‘heads or ships’ as a testament to the practice’s antiquity. Most agree that Janus and Saturn ruled together in peace and founded neighboring towns with communal labor, excepting the claims of Vergil who writes,

This spot was given the name of Janiculum, and that one was given the name Saturnian

It also comes to mind that later generations dedicated two successive months to them, as December is sacred to Saturn, while January bears the name of Janus. When amidst all of this Saturn suddenly disappeared from notice, Janus contrived some augmentation of his honors. First, he named all of the land which obeyed his decree ‘Saturnia.’ Then he established an altar with sacred rites to Saturn as though to a god, which he called ‘Saturnalia.’ By so many generations do the Saturnalia precede the age of Rome herself! He then ordered him to be revered with the majesty of religion as the author of a better life for humans. His statue serves as a sign of this: he added to it a scythe, that symbol of the harvest.

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Cum primus quoque aera signaret, servavit et in hoc Saturni reverentiam, ut, quoniam ille navi fuerat advectus, ex una quidem parte sui capitis effigies, ex altera vero navis exprimeretur, quo Saturni memoriam in posteros propagaret. Aes ita fuisse signatum hodieque intellegitur in aleae lusum, cum pueri denarios in sublime iactantes capita aut navia lusu teste vetustatis exclamant. 23 Hos una concordesque regnasse vicinaque oppida communi opera condidisse praeter Maronem, qui refert:
Ianiculum huic, illi fuerat Saturnia nomen,
etiam illud in promptu est, quod posteri quoque duos eis continuos menses dicarunt, ut December sacrum Saturni, Ianuarius alterius vocabulum possideret. 24 Cum inter haec subito Saturnus non conparuisset, excogitavit Ianus honorum eius augmenta. Ac primum terram omnem ditioni suae parentem Saturniam nominavit: aram deinde cum sacris tamquam deo condidit, quae Saturnalia nominavit. Tot seculis Saturnalia praecedunt Romanae urbis aetatem. Observari igitur eum iussit maiestate religionis quasi vitae melioris auctorem: simulacrum eius indicio est, cui falcem, insigne messis, adiecit.

Wanna Be A Baller, Shot Caller, Lib’ral Arts Degree Hanging On The Wall-a

Pier Paolo Vergerio,
de Ingenuis Moribus et Liberalibus Adulescentiae Studiis (§2):

But while it is right that all people (especially parents) should be such as to seek to educate their children properly and since it is fitting that children should be such that they seem worthy of good parents, yet it is especially true for those who occupy a lofty place in society, whose every saying and deed is exposed to the public eye, that they should be educated in the most important subjects, so that they can be considered worthy of the fortune and rank of dignity which they achieve. It is only fair that those who think that all the best is owed to them should be examples of the best themselves. Nor is there any more sure or stable principle of ruling than that those who get hold of power should be judged by all to be the most worthy of it.

Image result for medieval manuscript king
“But there’s got to be a better way!”

Verum cum omnes homines deceat (parentes quidem in primis) eos esse qui recte erudire suos liberos studeant et filios deinde tales qui parentibus bonis digni videri possint, praecipue tamen qui excelsiore loco sunt, quorumque nihil neque dictum neque factum latere potest, decens est ita principalibus artibus instructos esse, ut et fortuna et gradu dignitatis quam obtinent digni habeantur. Aequum est enim qui sibi summa omnia deberi volunt, debere et eos summa omnia de se praestare. Nec est ulla certior aut stabilior regnandi ratio quam si hi qui regna obtinent, ab omnibus dignissimi omnium regno iudicentur.