Imagine the Awkward Conference Panels: Plato and Aristotle, Frenemies

Aelian, Varia Historia 3.19

“It is reported that the first difference between Plato and Aristotle developed for the following reasons. Plato was displeased with Aristotle’s life, and in the clothing he selected. See, Aristotle dressed in well-made clothes and shoes; he also had his haircut in a manner disliked by Plato; he also took pride in wearing many rings. His face, moreover, bore a certain aspect of derision; and within this face, an untimely talkativeness brought his character into question too. All these characteristics are obviously foreign to a philosopher. When Plato saw them, he was repelled by the man and preferred Xenocrates, Speusippos, Amykles, and others. These men received his respect and regular conversation.

When Xenocrates was out of town to visit his home, Aristotle set upon Plato and made a chorus of his companions around him with Mnason of Phocis and other similar men. Speusippus was ill and was incapable of walking with Plato who was already eighty years old. Thanks to his age, he had lost some parts of his memory. Aristotle plotted against him and set upon him: he questioned him rather aggressively and in the manner of refutation, which was clearly unjust and unsympathetic. Because of this, Plato stopped going for his walk outside; he walked inside with his friends.”

Λέγεται τὴν διαφορὰν ᾿Αριστοτέλους πρὸς Πλάτωνα τὴν πρώτην ἐκ τούτων γενέσθαι. οὐκ ἠρέσκετο τῷ βίῳ αὐτοῦ ὁ Πλάτων οὐδὲ τῇ κατασκευῇ τῇ περὶ τὸ σῶμα. καὶ γὰρ ἐσθῆτι ἐχρῆτο περιέργῳ ὁ ᾿Αριστοτέλης καὶ ὑποδέσει, καὶ κουρὰν δὲ ἐκείρετο καὶ ταύτην ἀήθη Πλάτωνι, καὶ δακτυλίους δὲ πολλοὺς φορῶν ἐκαλλύνετο ἐπὶ τούτῳ· καὶ μωκία δέ τις ἦν αὐτοῦ περὶ τὸ πρόσωπον, καὶ ἄκαιρος στωμυλία λαλοῦντος κατηγόρει καὶ αὕτη τὸν τρόπον αὐτοῦ. πάντα δὲ ταῦτα ὡς ἔστιν ἀλλότρια φιλοσόφου, δῆλον. ἅπερ οὖν ὁρῶν ὁ Πλάτων οὐ προσίετο τὸν ἄνδρα, προετίμα δὲ αὐτοῦ Ξενοκράτην καὶ Σπεύσιππον καὶ ᾿Αμύκλαν καὶ ἄλλους, τῇ τε λοιπῇ δεξιούμενος αὐτοὺς τιμῇ καὶ οὖν καὶ τῇ κοινωνίᾳ τῶν λόγων.

ἀποδημίας δὲ γενομένης ποτὲ τῷ Ξενοκράτει ἐς τὴν πατρίδα, ἐπέθετο τῷ Πλάτωνι ὁ ᾿Αριστοτέλης, χορόν τινα τῶν ὁμιλητῶν τῶν ἑαυτοῦ περιστησάμενος, ὧν ἦν Μνάσων τε ὁ Φωκεὺς καὶ ἄλλοι τοιοῦτοι. ἐνόσει δὲ τότε ὁ Σπεύσιππος, καὶ διὰ ταῦτα ἀδύνατος ἦν συμβαδίζειν τῷ Πλάτωνι. ὁ δὲ Πλάτων ὀγδοήκοντα ἔτη ἐγεγόνει, καὶ ὁμοῦ τι διὰ τὴν ἡλικίαν ἐπελελοίπει τὰ τῆς μνήμης αὐτόν. ἐπιθέμενος οὖν αὐτῷ καὶ ἐπιβουλεύων ὁ ᾿Αριστοτέλης, καὶ φιλοτίμως πάνυ τὰς ἐρωτήσεις ποιούμενος καὶ τρόπον τινὰ καὶ ἐλεγκτικῶς, ἀδικῶν ἅμα καὶ ἀγνωμονῶν ἦν δῆλος· καὶ διὰ ταῦτα ἀποστὰς ὁ Πλάτων τοῦ ἔξω περιπάτου, ἔνδον ἐβάδιζε σὺν τοῖς ἑταίροις.

Aelian, Varia Historia 4.9

“Plato used to call Aristotle Pôlos [the Foal]. What did he wish with that name? Everyone knows that a foal, when it has had its fill of baby’s milk, kicks its mother. Thus Plato was signaling a certain ingratitude on Aristotle’ part. Indeed, Aristotle received the greatest seeds of Philosophy from Plato and then, though he was filled to the brim with the best ideas, he broke with Plato rebelliously. He founded his own house, took his friends on Plato’s walk, and set himself up to be Plato’s rival.”

῾Ο Πλάτων τὸν ᾿Αριστοτέλη ἐκάλει Πῶλον. τί δὲ ἐβούλετο αὐτῷ τὸ ὄνομα ἐκεῖνο; δηλονότι ὡμολόγηται τὸν πῶλον, ὅταν κορεσθῇ τοῦ μητρῴου γάλακτος, λακτίζειν τὴν μητέρα. ᾐνίττετο οὖν καὶ ὁ Πλάτων ἀχαριστίαν τινὰ τοῦ ᾿Αριστοτέλους. καὶ γὰρ ἐκεῖνος μέγιστα ἐς φιλοσοφίαν παρὰ Πλάτωνος λαβὼν σπέρματα καὶ ἐφόδια, εἶτα ὑποπλησθεὶς τῶν ἀρίστων καὶ ἀφηνιάσας, ἀντῳκοδόμησεν αὐτῷ διατριβὴν καὶ ἀντιπαρεξήγαγεν ἐν τῷ περιπάτῳ ἑταίρους ἔχων καὶ ὁμιλητάς, καὶ ἐγλίχετο ἀντίπαλος εἶναι Πλάτωνι.

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Lessons of Love and Loyalty from the Purple Coot

The purple coot is more properly known now as a purple swamphen

Aelian De Natura Animalium 5. 28

“The purple coot, as well as being very jealous, possesses this oddity as well. For people say that it cherishes its family and delights in a shared life with its companions. I heard that a rooster and a coot were raised together in the same house—they ate the same things, and they measured out the same steps, and got dirty in the same place. From these experiences, an amazing friendship developed between them.

Then, when there was a festival, the lord of the house sacrificed the rooster and included it in a banquet for the household. The purple coot, now without his companion and intolerant of the solitude, killed itself through starvation.”

Ἴδιον δὲ ἄρα <ὁ>πορφυρίων πρὸς τῷ ζηλοτυπώτατος εἶναι καὶ ἐκεῖνο δήπου κέκτηται. φιλοίκειον αὐτὸν εἶναί φασιν καὶ τὴν συντροφίαν τῶν συννόμων ἀγαπᾶν. ἐν οἰκίᾳ γοῦν τρέφεσθαι πορφυρίωνα καὶ ἀλεκτρυόνα ἤκουσα, καὶ σιτεῖσθαι μὲν τὰ αὐτά, βαδίζειν δὲ τὰς ἴσας βαδίσεις καὶ κοινῇ κονίεσθαι. οὐκοῦν ἐκ τούτων φιλίαν τινὰ θαυμαστὴν αὐτοῖς ἐγγενέσθαι. καί ποτε ἑορτῆς ἐπιστάσης ὁ δεσπότης ἀμφοῖν τὸν ἀλεκτρυόνα καταθύσας εἱστιάθη σὺν τοῖς οἰκείοις· ὁ δὲ πορφυρίων τὸν σύννομον οὐκ ἔχων καὶ τὴν ἐρημίαν μὴ φέρων ἑαυτὸν ἀτροφίᾳ διέφθειρεν.

 

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A Hydrophilic High: Aelian on the Effects of Medicinal Seahorse

Aelian, De Natura Animalium 14.20

“Some people who know a lot about fishing claim that the stomach of a sea-horse—if someone dissolves it in wine after boiling it and gives it to someone to drink—is an extraordinary potion combined with wine, when compared to other medicines. For, at first, the most severe retching overcomes anyone who drinks it and then a dry coughing fit takes over even though he vomits nothing at all, and then: the upper part of his stomach grows and swells; warm spells roll over his head; and, finally, snot pours from his nose and releases a fishy smell. Then his eyes turn blood-red and heated while his eye-lids swell up.

They claim that a desire to vomit overwhelms him but that he can bring nothing up. If nature wins, then he evades death and slips away into forgetfulness and insanity. But if the wine permeates his lower stomach, there is nothing to be done, and the individual dies eventually. Those who do survive, once they have wandered into insanity, are gripped by a great desire for water: they thirst to sea water and hear it splashing. And this, at least, soothes them and makes them sleep. Then they like to spend their time either by endlessly flowing rivers or near seashores or next to streams or some lakes. And even though they don’t want to drink, they love to swim, to put their feet in the water, and to wash their hands.”

  1. Λέγουσι δὲ ἄνδρες ἁλιείας ἐπιστήμονες, τὴν τοῦ ἱπποκάμπου γαστέρα εἴ τις ἐν οἴνῳ κατατήξειενἕψων καὶ τοῦτον δοίη τινὶ πιεῖν, φάρμακον εἶναι τὸν οἶνον ἄηθες ὡς πρὸς τὰ ἄλλα φάρμακα ἀντικρινόμενον· τὸν γάρ τοι πιόντα αὐτοῦ πρῶτον μὲν καταλαμβάνεσθαι λυγγὶ σφοδροτάτῃ, εἶτα βήττειν ξηρὰν βῆχα, καὶ στρεβλοῦσθαι μέν, ἀναπλεῖν δὲ αὐτῷ οὐδὲ ἕν, διογκοῦσθαι δὲ καὶ διοιδάνειν τὴν ἄνω γαστέρα, θερμά τε τῇ κεφαλῇ ἐπιπολάζειν ῥεύματα, καὶ διὰ τῆς ῥινὸς κατιέναι φλέγμα καὶ ἰχθυηρᾶς ὀσμῆς προσβάλλειν· τοὺς δὲ ὀφθαλμοὺς ὑφαίμους αὐτῷ γίνεσθαι καὶ πυρώδεις, τὰ βλέφαρα δὲ διογκοῦσθαι. ἐμέτων δὲ ἐπιθυμίαι ἐξάπτονταί φασιν, ἀναπλεῖ δὲ οὐδὲ ἕν. εἰ δὲ ἐκνικήσειεν ἡ φύσις, τὸν μὲν <τὸ> ἐς θάνατον σφαλερὸν παριέναι, ἐς λήθην δὲ ὑπολισθαίνειν καὶ παράνοιαν. ἐὰν δὲ ἐς τὴν κάτω γαστέρα διολίσθῃ, μηδὲν ἔτι εἶναι, πάντως δὲ ἀποθνήσκειν τὸν ἑαλωκότα. οἱ δὲ περιγενόμενοι ἐς παράνοια ἐξοκείλαντες ὕδατος ἱμέρῳ πολλῷ καταλαμβάνονται, καὶ ὁρᾶν διψῶσιν ὕδωρ καὶ ἀκούειν λειβομένου· καὶ τοῦτό γε αὐτοὺς καταβαυκαλᾷ καὶ κατευνάζει. καὶ διατρίβειν φιλοῦσιν ἢ παρὰ τοῖς ἀενάοις ποταμοῖς ἢ αἰγιαλῶν πλησίον ἢ παρὰ κρήναις ἢ λίμναις τισί, καὶ πιεῖν μὲν οὐ πάνυ <τι>7 γλίχονται, ἐρῶσι δὲ νήχεσθαι καὶ τέγγειν τὼ πόδε ἢ ἀπονίπτειν τὼ χεῖρε.

 

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This is not a suggestion for experimentation over the long weekend. Drugs, as the Odyssey warns, might make you forget your homecoming

Alcibiades (and Trump!): Asking Questions, Punching Teachers

Quick question: What does Donald Trump have in common with a ‘great’ figure from Greek history? They both punched their teachers.

Seriously, according to The Art of the Deal, Master Trump assaulted a music teacher who did not know enough about music.

Thanks to a twitter friend for the revelation:

 

Plutarch, Alcibiades 7.1

“As Alcibiades passed from childhood he visited a teacher and asked for a book of Homer. When that teacher said that he didn’t have any Homer, Alcibiades set upon him with his fist and left. When another teacher said that he had a copy of Homer which he had corrected himself, Alcibiades said, “Why do you teach the alphabet when you’re good enough to correct Homer,–why don’t you teach young men?”

Τὴν δὲ παιδικὴν ἡλικίαν παραλλάσσων ἐπέστη γραμματοδιδασκαλείῳ καὶ βιβλίον ᾔτησεν ῾Ομηρικόν. εἰπόντος δὲ τοῦ διδασκάλου μηδὲν ἔχειν ῾Ομήρου, κονδύλῳ καθικόμενος αὐτοῦ παρῆλθεν. ἑτέρου δὲ φήσαντος ἔχειν ῞Ομηρον ὑφ’ ἑαυτοῦ διωρθωμένον, „εἶτα” ἔφη „γράμματα διδάσκεις ῞Ομηρον ἐπανορθοῦν ἱκανὸς ὤν, οὐχὶ τοὺς νέους παιδεύεις;”

In Plutarch, these anecdotes serve to characterize the brash character of Alcibiades, one that combines daring and intelligence in a way that anticipates his later deeds. (Because, as we know, Plutarch thinks anecdotes are more telling than great deeds).

In Plato’s spurious Alcibiades 1, Socrates asks his younger interlocutor if he has heard about justice and injustice from Homer (112b2) and in Alcibiades 2 he focuses on the riddle of Homer in the Margites:

Alcibiades II 147 D

“For surely you don’t seem to be ignorant that Homer, the most divine and wisest poet, is not able to know badly—for he says in the Margites that he knows many things but he knows them all badly—but instead I think that he riddles by using the adverb badly instead of the noun “base”, and using “he knew” instead of “knowing”….

οὐ γὰρ δήπου ῞Ομηρόν γε τὸν θειότατόν τε καὶ σοφώτατον ποιητὴν ἀγνοεῖν δοκεῖς ὡς οὐχ οἷόν τε ἦν ἐπίστασθαι κακῶς—ἐκεῖνος γάρ ἐστιν ὁ λέγων τὸν Μαργίτην πολλὰ μὲν ἐπίστασθαι, κακῶς δέ, φησί, πάντα ἠπίστατο—ἀλλ’ αἰνίττεται οἶμαι παράγων τὸ κακῶς μὲν ἀντὶ τοῦ κακοῦ, τὸ δὲ ἠπίστατο ἀντὶ τοῦ ἐπίστασθαι·

So it may be that Alcibiades was expecting a philosopher and just got a school teacher.  But what do I know? I teach γράμματα, but sometimes τοὺς νέους.

alcibiades

According to Aelian (Varia Historia, 3.28), Socrates attempted to deal with Alcibiades’ ego by invoking geography:

“When Socrates noticed that Alkibiades was all puffed up because of his wealth and proud thanks to his property especially because of his lands, he led him to some part of the city where a tablet stood marked with an outline of the earth. He requested for Alkibiades to find Attica. When he found it, he asked him to find his own properties. When he responded “but they are not marked on here,” Socrates said “You think so highly of these things which don’t even amount to a fragment of the earth?”

῾Ορῶν ὁ Σωκράτης τὸν ᾿Αλκιβιάδην τετυφωμένον ἐπὶ τῷ πλούτῳ καὶ μέγα φρονοῦντα ἐπὶ τῇ περιουσίᾳ καὶ ἔτι πλέον ἐπὶ τοῖς ἀγροῖς, ἤγαγεν αὐτὸν ἔς τινα τῆς πόλεως τόπον ἔνθα ἀνέκειτο πινάκιον ἔχον γῆς περίοδον, καὶ προσέταξε τῷ ᾿Αλκιβιάδῃ τὴν ᾿Αττικὴν ἐνταῦθ’ ἀναζητεῖν. ὡς δ’ εὗρε, προσέταξεν αὐτῷ τοὺς ἀγροὺς τοὺς ἰδίους διαθρῆσαι. τοῦ δὲ εἰπόντος ‘ἀλλ’ οὐδαμοῦ γεγραμμένοι εἰσίν’ ‘ἐπὶ τούτοις οὖν’ εἶπε ‘μέγα φρονεῖς, οἵπερ οὐδὲν μέρος τῆς γῆς εἰσιν;’

Others in Athens were less constructive in remonstrating with the dashing young man. We have a line mocking him from the comedian Pherecrates (fr. 164):

“Even though Alcibiades isn’t a man, as it seems, he’s already husband to all the ladies.”
οὐκ ὤν ἀνὴρ γὰρ Ἀλκιβιάδης, ὡς δοκεῖ,
ἀνὴρ ἁπασῶν τῶν γυναικῶν ἐστι νῦν…

This plays on the dual connotations of ἀνὴρ as sexually mature man and husband. In the modern world, such a line might not be considered insulting. But in certain circles in Athens, manly men were mainly interested in men.

Happiness and Madness: My Favorite Twisted, Lovely Anecdote from Aelian

Aelian4.25

“Thrasyllos from the deme Aiksône endured an incredible and novel madness. For he left the city and went to the Peiraia and stayed there. He believed that all the ships that sailed in were his and he wrote down their names, checked the list when they left and rejoiced when they returned safely to the harbor again. He spent many years living with this sickness. When his brother returned from Sicily, he took him to a doctor for treatment and he freed him from that sickness. But he often remembered the avocation of his sickness and used to say that he was never as happy as when he took pleasure at the sight of ships that weren’t his returning safely.”

Θράσυλλος ὁ Αἰξωνεὺς παράδοξον καὶ καινὴν ἐνόσησε μανίαν. ἀπολιπὼν γὰρ τὸ ἄστυ καὶ κατελθὼν ἐς τὸν Πειραιᾶ καὶ ἐνταῦθα οἰκῶν τὰ πλοῖα τὰ καταίροντα ἐν αὐτῷ πάντα ἑαυτοῦ ἐνόμιζεν εἶναι, καὶ ἀπεγράφετο αὐτὰ καὶ αὖ πάλιν ἐξέπεμπε καὶ τοῖς περισωζομένοις καὶ ἐσιοῦσιν ἐς τὸν λιμένα ὑπερέχαιρε· χρόνους δὲ διετέλεσε πολλοὺς συνοικῶν τῷ ἀρρωστήματι τούτῳ. ἐκ Σικελίας δὲ ἀναχθεὶς ὁ ἀδελφὸς αὐτοῦ παρέδωκεν αὐτὸν ἰατρῷ ἰάσασθαι, καὶ ἔπαυσεν αὐτὸν τῆς νόσου οὗτος. ἐμέμνητο δὲ πολλάκις τῆς ἐν μανίᾳ διατριβῆς, καὶ ἔλεγε μηδέποτε ἡσθῆναι τοσοῦτον, ὅσον τότε ἥδετο ἐπὶ ταῖς μηδὲν αὐτῷ προσηκούσαις ναυσὶν

Countless Universes and Critical Horses: Two Anecdotes about Alexander

Aelian, 2.3 and 4.28

Alexander india

(I know I have been painting this site with an Aelian brush, but these two anecdotes are too precious).

2.3: “When Alexander gazed at a likeness of himself in Ephesus painted by Apelles, he didn’t praise it to the worth of its craftsmanship. After his horse approached and neighed toward the horse in the image as if it were real, Apelles said “King, your horse seems to appreciate art much more than you do.”

᾿Αλέξανδρος θεασάμενος τὴν ἐν ᾿Εφέσῳ εἰκόνα ἑαυτοῦ τὴν ὑπὸ ᾿Απελλοῦ γραφεῖσαν οὐκ ἐπῄνεσε κατὰ τὴν ἀξίαν τοῦ γράμματος. ἐσαχθέντος δὲ τοῦ ἵππου καὶ χρεμετίσαντος πρὸς τὸν ἵππον τὸν ἐν τῇ εἰκόνι ὡς πρὸς ἀληθινὸν καὶ ἐκεῖνον ‘ὦ βασιλεῦ’ εἶπεν ὁ ᾿Απελλῆς, ‘ἀλλ’ ὅ γε ἵππος ἔοικέ σου γραφικώτερος εἶναι κατὰ πολύ.

4.28:  “I am unable to resist laughing at Alexander the son of Philip if, indeed, when he heard what Democritus says in his writings–that there are endless numbers of universes–he was upset that he wasn’t even master of the one we all share. How much would Democritus have laughed at him, do I even need to say, when laughter was his job?”

Οὐ γὰρ δὴ δύναμαι πείθειν ἐμαυτὸν μὴ γελᾶν ἐπ’ ᾿Αλεξάνδρῳ τῷ Φιλίππου, εἴ γε ἀπείρους ἀκούων εἶναί τινας κόσμους λέγοντος Δημοκρίτου ἐν τοῖς συγγράμμασιν ὃ δὲ ἠνιᾶτο μηδὲ τοῦ ἑνὸς καὶ κοινοῦ κρατῶν. πόσον δ’ ἂν ἐπ’ αὐτῷ Δημόκριτος ἐγέλασεν αὐτός, τί δεῖ καὶ λέγειν, ᾧ ἔργον τοῦτο ἦν;

Indian Elephants: Taming a Wild Heart With Music

Aelian, N. A. 12.44 (= Megasthenes fr. 37)

“In India, if an adult elephant is caught it is difficult to tame—it gets murderous from longing for freedom. If you bind it in chains too, it gets even more agitated and will not tolerate its master. But Indians try to pacify it with food and to soften it with a variety of pleasing items, making an effort to fill its stomach and delight its heart. But it remains angry with them and ignores them. What then do they devise and do? They encourage it with their native music and sing to a certain instrument they use. It is called a skindapsos. The instrument strikes the ears and enchants the animal—his anger softens and his spirit yields and bit by bit it pays attention to its food. At this point it is released from its chains and it waits, enthralled by the music, and it eats eagerly, like a guest in love with a banquet. The elephant will no longer leave because of his love of music.”

elephant_dish

Aelianus N. A. XII, 44: ᾿Εν ᾿Ινδοῖς ἂν ἁλῷ τέλειος ἐλέφας, ἡμερωθῆναι χαλεπός ἐστι, καὶ τὴν ἐλευθερίαν ποθῶν φονᾷ· ἐὰν δὲ αὐτὸν καὶ δεσμοῖς διαλάβῃς, ἔτι καὶ μᾶλλον ἐς τὸν θυμὸν ἐξάπτεται, καὶ δεσπότην οὐχ ὑπονέμει. ᾿Αλλ’ οἱ ᾿Ινδοὶ καὶ ταῖς τροφαῖς κολακεύουσιν αὐτὸν, καὶ ποικίλοις καὶ ἐφολκοῖς δελέασι πραΰνειν πειρῶνται, παρατιθέντες, ὡς πληροῦν τὴν γαστέρα καὶ θέλγειν τὸν θυμόν· ὁ δὲ ἄχθεται αὐτοῖς, καὶ ὑπερορᾷ· Τί οὖν ἐκεῖνοι κατασοφίζονται καὶ δρῶσι; Μοῦσαν αὐτοῖς προσάγουσιν ἐπιχώριον, καὶ κατᾴδουσιν αὐτοὺς ὀργάνῳ τινὶ καὶ τούτῳ συνήθει· καλεῖται δὲ σκινδαψὸς τὸ ὄργανον· ὁ δὲ ὑπέχει τὰ ὦτα καὶ θέλγεται, καὶ ἡ μὲν ὀργὴ πραΰνεται, ὁ δὲ θυμὸς ὑποστέλλεταί τε καὶ θόρνυται, κατὰ μικρὰ δὲ καὶ ἐς τὴν τροφὴν ὁρᾷ· εἶτα ἀφεῖται μὲν τῶν δεσμῶν, μένει δὲ τῇ μούσῃ δεδεμένος, καὶ δειπνεῖ προθύμως ἁβρὸς δαιτυμὼν καταδεδεμένος· πόθῳ γὰρ τοῦ μέλους οὐκ ἂν ἔτι ἀποσταίη.