Wednesday’s Wondrous Water, 2

The second part of translations from the Paradoxographus Florentinus: Mirabilia de aquis

12 “Among the Kleitorians [Isigonos] says there is a spring and whenever anyone drinks its water, he cannot bear the smell of wine.”

Παρὰ Κλειτορίοις ὁ αὐτός φησιν εἶναι κρήνην, ἧς ὅταν τις τοῦ ὕδατος πίῃ, τοῦ οἴνου τὴν ὀσμὴν οὐ φέρει.

13 “The same author says that in Italy, in the Rheatinon plain, there is a stream called the Mentes which is similar to the one just mentioned.”

῾Ο αὐτός φησιν ἐν ᾿Ιταλίᾳ, ἐν τῷ ῾Ρεατίνῳ ἀγρῷ, κρήνην εἶναι Μέντην ὀνομαζομένην ὁμοίαν τῇ προειρημένῃ.

14 “Similarly, near Kosê there is a spring which, if you place a container filled with wine in it until it covers the mouth then it is more bitter than vinegar right away according to the same author.”

῾Ομοίως ἐγγὺς Κόσης ἔστι κρήνη, εἰς ἣν ἐὰν θῇς κεράμιον οἴνου γέμον, ὥστε ὑπερχεῖν τὸ στόμα, παντὸς ὄξους εἶναι δριμύτερον παραχρῆμα, ὡς ἱστορεῖ ὁ αὐτός.

15 “Theopompos records that there is a spring in Kingkhrôps in Thrace from which those who bathe in it are immediately transformed.”

Θεόπομπος ἱστορεῖ κρήνην ἐν Κίγχρωψι τῆς Θρᾴκης, ἐξ ἧς τοὺς λουσαμένους παραχρῆμα μεταλλάσσειν.

16 “Hellanikos says that near Magnesia there is a spring in Sipylos and when people drink from it their bowels turn to stone.”

῾Ελλάνικός φησι περὶ Μαγνησίαν τὴν ἐπὶ Σιπύλου πηγὴν εἶναι, ἀφ’ ἧς τοὺς πίνοντας <τὰς> κοιλίας ἀπολιθοῦσθαι.

17 “Ktêsias records that in Aithiopia there is a stream which is similar in color to cinnamon. When people drink from it they change their minds so much that they admit to things which were done secretly.”

Κτησίας δὲ ἐν Αἰθιοπίᾳ κρήνην ἱστορεῖ τῷ χρώματι κιννάβαρι παραπλησίαν· τοὺς δὲ πίνοντας ἀπ’ αὐτῆς παραλλάττειν τὴν διάνοιαν, ὥστε καὶ τὰ κρυφίως πεπραγμένα ὁμολογεῖν.

18 “In Arabia there is the spring of Isis, which, once a cup of wine has been moistened with it, also makes the drink more tempered, as Amômêtos says.”

᾿Εν ᾿Αραβίᾳ ἔστιν ῎Ισιδος κρήνη, ἥτις κοτύλης οἴνου ἐμβληθείσης κίρναται καὶ πρὸς τὴν πόσιν εὔκρατος γίνεται, ὥς φησιν ᾿Αμώμητος.

19 “Aristotle says that the spring of Ammon, whose water at midday and midnight is hot, is by nature the coldest.”

᾿Αριστοτέλης ῎Αμμωνος κρήνην εἶναί φησιν, ἧς τὸ ὕδωρ μεσημβρίας καὶ μεσονύκτου γίνεσθαι θερμόν, ὂν φύσει ψυχρότατον.

20 “Theopompos says that in Lugkêstai there is a spring which tastes like vinegar but when people drink it they get drunk as is from wine.”

Θεόπομπος ἐν Λυγκήσταις φησὶ πηγὴν εἶναι τῇ μὲν γεύσει ὀξίζουσαν, τοὺς δὲ πίνοντας μεθύσκεσθαι ὡς ἀπὸ οἴνου.

21 “Among the Sukaminai the city has a pond and when people either bathe in it or drink from it their hair falls off and hooves of senseless animals fall off, as Isigonos records.”

᾿Εν Συκαμίναις πόλει λίμνη ἐστίν, ἧς τῷ ὕδατι οἱ λουσάμενοι ἢ πιόντες ἀπ’ αὐτοῦ μαδῶσι τὰς τρίχας, τῶν δὲ ἀλόγων ζῴων αἱ ὁπλαὶ ἀποπίπτουσιν, ὡς ἱστορεῖ ᾿Ισίγονος.

22 “Herakleides of Pontus says that there is a pond among the Sauromati and any birds who have flown over it fall into it”

῾Ηρακλείδης ὁ Ποντικὸς λίμνην ἐν Σαυρομάταις φησὶν εἶναι, περὶ ἣν τὰ πετασθέντα τῶν ὀρνέων εἰς αὐτὴν πίπτειν.

22 “Herodotus records that there is a spring among the Macrobian Aithiopians from which people anoint themselves after they bathe.”

῾Ηρόδοτος ἐν Μακροβίοις Αἰθίοψι κρήνην ἱστορεῖ, ἀφ’ ἧς τοὺς λουσαμένους λιπαίνεσθαι.

[Note: the Greek in the epigram below is a little strange. I am not sure I have it right.]

24 “Among the Kleitorians of Arkadia they say there is a spring and when people drink from it they hate wine. Next to this this kind of epigram is placed

Hick, with flocks, at midday thirst weighs down on you
As you come through the farthest part of Kleitoros;
Take a drink from this spring. And rest your whole flock
Among the water nymphs here.
But don’t put your skin to bathe, so that the smell
might not cause you pain when you are in drunken pleasure.

Avoid my vine-hating spring where Melampous*,
Once he washed of the madness of harsh Proitos**
Cut off every disgrace in secret, when they came from Argos
to the mountains of steep Arkadia.”

᾿Εν Κλειτορίοις δὲ τῆς ᾿Αρκαδίας κρήνην φασὶν εἶναι, ἀφ’ ἧς τοὺς πίνοντας μισεῖν τὸν οἶνον· ἐπικεχάρακται δὲ ἐπ’ αὐτῆς ἐπίγραμμα τοιόνδε·

ἀγρότα, σὺν ποίμναις, τὸ μεσημβρινὸν ἤν σε βαρύνῃ
δίψος ἀν’ ἐσχατιὰς Κλείτορος ἐρχόμενον,
τῆς μὲν ἀπὸ κρήνης ἄρυσαι πόμα· καὶ παρὰ νύμφαις
ὑδριάσι στῆσον πᾶν τὸ σὸν αἰπόλιον.
ἀλλὰ σὺ μήτ’ ἐπὶ λουτρὰ βάλῃς χροΐ, μή σε καὶ αὔρη
πημήνῃ τερπνῆς ἐντὸς ἐόντα μέθης.
φεῦγε δ’ ἐμὴν πηγὴν μισάμπελον, ἔνθα Μελάμπους
λουσάμενος λύσσης Προιτίδος ἀργαλέης
πάντα καθαρμὸν ἔκοψεν ἀπόκρυφον· †αγαρ† ἀπ’ ῎Αργους
οὔρεα τρηχείης ἤλυθον ᾿Αρκαδίης.

Textual variations:   ἀρτεμέας for ἀργαλέης; for ἔβαψεν for ἔκοψεν

*Melampous was a seer who dealt with the king Proitos in either Argos or Pylos. The references to “vine-hating” and “washing” recall the story of Melampous cleansing the women of the city of madness inspired by Dionysus. Hence, the water makes people hate wine. This epigram appears in a supplement to the Greek Anthology and Vitruvius

25 “Aristôn the peripatetic philosopher says that there is a spring of water in Kios and when people drink from it they lose their senses in their mind. And he adds that there is this kind of an epigram for it.

“Sweet is the offering of the cool drink which this spring
Offers up. But whoever drinks of it is a stone in his mind.”

᾿Αρίστων δὲ ὁ περιπατητικὸς φιλόσοφος ἐν τῇ Κίῳ πηγήν φησιν ὕδατος εἶναι, ἀφ’ ἧς τοὺς πίνοντας ἀναισθήτους γίνεσθαι ταῖς ψυχαῖς· εἶναι δὲ καὶ ἐπὶ ταύτης ἐπίγραμμα τοιόνδε·

ἡδεῖα ψυχροῖο ποτοῦ λιβάς, ἣν ἀναβάλλει
πηγή· ἀλλὰ νόῳ πέτρος ὁ τῆσδε πιών.

Image result for medieval manuscript water
France ca. 1310 BnF, Français 12400, fol. 6r 

A Kingly Negotiator Buying Books

Aulus Gellius, Attic Nights 1.19

19. The account of the Sibylline Books and King Tarquin the Proud

This story is preserved in the ancient accounts concerning the Sibylline books. An old woman, unknown, approached king Tarquin the Proud with new books which she was claiming were divine oracles (and she wished to see them). Tarquin asked the price.  The woman asked for an enormous, excessive amount. The King, as if he believed she was senile, laughed. Then she placed a brazier already lit before him, burned three of the nine books and asked whether the King wished to buy the remaining six for the same amount. But Tarquin laughed even more and said that he’d lost all doubt that the woman was insane. The woman then burned up three more books immediately and calmly asked him the same thing again, to buy the three remaining books for that price. Tarquin then became more serious and attentive, believing that this insistence and confidence ought not to be ignored: he bought the remaining books for no less than the price which had been sought for all of them!

But it is agreed that after the woman departed from Tarquin, she was never seen again.  The Three books, which were placed in a shrine, are called “The Sibylline Books”. The Fifteen [priests] turn to them for oracles whenever the gods must be consulted for the public good.”

XIX. Historia super libris Sibyllinis ac de Tarquinio Superbo rege.

1 In antiquis annalibus memoria super libris Sibyllinis haec prodita est: 2 Anus hospita atque incognita ad Tarquinium Superbum regem adiit novem libros ferens, quos esse dicebat divina oracula; eos velle venundare. 3 Tarquinius pretium percontatus est. Mulier nimium atque inmensum poposcit; 4 rex, quasi anus aetate desiperet, derisit. 5 Tum illa foculum coram cum igni apponit, tris libros ex novem deurit et, ecquid reliquos sex eodem pretio emere vellet, regem interrogavit. 6 Sed enim Tarquinius id multo risit magis dixitque anum iam procul dubio delirare. 7 Mulier ibidem statim tris alios libros exussit atque id ipsum denuo placide rogat, ut tris reliquos eodem illo pretio emat. 8 Tarquinius ore iam serio atque attentiore animo fit, eam constantiam confidentiamque non insuper habendam intellegit, libros tris reliquos mercatur nihilo minore pretio, quam quod erat petitum pro omnibus. 9 Sed eam mulierem tunc a Tarquinio digressam postea nusquam loci visam constitit. 10 Libri tres in sacrarium conditi “Sibyllini” appellati; 11 ad eos quasi ad oraculum quindecimviri adeunt, cum di immortales publice consulendi sunt.

The Sibylline books had 15 priestly interpreters by the time of Cicero.  Why? Maybe because they were in Greek!

Image result for medieval manuscript sibylline books

The Difference Between A Philosopher and a Sophist: Swagger

Philostratus, Lives of the Sophists 1.480-481: 

“It is necessary to consider the ancient sophistic art as a kind of rhetoric. For it presents discourses on the same things philosophers cover, but where the philosophers, in setting forth questions and in making small advances on their objects of investigations, assert that they still do not know anything, the ancient sophist claims that he does know the things he describes. At least, he recites as a beginning of his discourse phrases like “I know”, “I recognize”, and “I have noticed for some time,” or “Nothing is certain for man”. This species of introduction furnishes a sense of nobility and certainty to a speech along with implying a clear sense of what is real.”

Τὴν ἀρχαίαν σοφιστικὴν ῥητορικὴν ἡγεῖσθαι χρὴ φιλοσοφοῦσαν• διαλέγεται μὲν γὰρ ὑπὲρ ὧν οἱ φιλοσοφοῦντες, ἃ δὲ ἐκεῖνοι τὰς ἐρωτήσεις ὑποκαθήμενοι καὶ τὰ σμικρὰ τῶν ζητουμένων προβιβάζοντες οὔπω φασὶ γιγνώσκειν, ταῦτα ὁ παλαιὸς σοφιστὴς ὡς εἰδὼς λέγει. προοίμια γοῦν ποιεῖται τῶν λόγων τὸ „οἶδα” καὶ τὸ „γιγνώσκω” καὶ „πάλαι διέσκεμμαι” καὶ „βέβαιον ἀνθρώπῳ οὐδέν”. ἡ δὲ τοιαύτη ἰδέα τῶν προοιμίων εὐγένειάν τε προηχεῖ τῶν λόγων καὶ φρόνημα καὶ κατάληψιν
σαφῆ τοῦ ὄντος.

Healing Music: Pythagoras’ Therapeutic Songs

Porphyry, On the Life of Pythagoras

30. “[Pythagoras] healed psychic and bodily sufferings with rhythm, songs, and incantations. He adapted these treatments to his companions, while he himself heard the harmony of everything because he could understand the unity of the spheres and the harmonies of the stars moving with them. It is not our nature to hear this in the least.”

30. κατεκήλει δὲ ῥυθμοῖς καὶ μέλεσι καὶ ἐπῳδαῖς τὰ ψυχικὰ πάθη καὶ τὰ σωματικά. καὶ τοῖς μὲν ἑταίροις ἡρμόζετο ταῦτα, αὐτὸς δὲ τῆς τοῦ παντὸς ἁρμονίας ἠκροᾶτο συνιεὶς τῆς καθολικῆς τῶν σφαιρῶν καὶ τῶν κατ’ αὐτὰς κινουμένων ἀστέρων ἁρμονίας, ἧς ἡμᾶς μὴ ἀκούειν διὰ σμικρότητα τῆς φύσεως.

32. “Diogenes says that Pythagoras encouraged all men to avoid ambition and lust for fame, because they especially inculcate envy, and also to stay away from large crowds. He used to convene gatherings at his house at dawn himself, accompanying his singing to the lyre and singing some ancient songs of Thales. And he also sang the songs of Hesiod and Homer, as many as appeared to calm his spirit. He would also dance some dances which he believed brought good mobility and health to the body. He used to take walks himself but not with a crowd, taking only two or three companions to shrines or groves, finding the most peaceful and beautiful places.”

32. Διογένης φησὶν ὡς ἅπασι μὲν παρηγγύα φιλοτιμίαν φεύγειν καὶ φιλοδοξίαν, ὥπερ μάλιστα φθόνον ἐργάζεσθαι, ἐκτρέπεσθαι δὲ τὰς μετὰ τῶν πολλῶν ὁμιλίας. τὰς γοῦν διατριβὰς καὶ αὐτὸς ἕωθεν μὲν ἐπὶ τῆς οἰκίας ἐποιεῖτο, ἁρμοζόμενος πρὸς λύραν τὴν ἑαυτοῦ φωνὴν καὶ ᾄδων παιᾶνας ἀρχαίους τινὰς τῶν Θάλητος. καὶ ἐπῇδε τῶν ῾Ομήρου καὶ ῾Ησιόδου ὅσα καθημεροῦν τὴν ψυχὴν ἐδόξαζε. καὶ ὀρχήσεις δέ τινας ὑπωρχεῖτο ὁπόσας εὐκινησίαν καὶ ὑγείαν τῷ σώματι παρασκευάζειν ᾤετο. τοὺς δὲ περιπάτους οὐδ’ αὐτὸς ἐπιφθόνως μετὰ πολλῶν ἐποιεῖτο, ἀλλὰ δεύτερος ἢ τρίτος ἐν ἱεροῖς ἢ ἄλσεσιν, ἐπιλεγόμενος τῶν χωρίων τὰ ἡσυχαίτατα καὶ περικαλλέστατα.

33. “He loved his friends overmuch and was the first to declare that friends possessions are common and that a friend is another self. When they were healthy, he always talked to them; when they were sick, he took care of their bodies. If they were mentally ill, he consoled them, as we said before, some with incantations and spells, others by music. He had songs and paeans for physical ailments: when he sang them, he relieved fatigue. He also could cause forgetfulness of grief, calming of anger, and redirection of desire.”

33.τοὺς δὲ φίλους ὑπερηγάπα, κοινὰ μὲν τὰ τῶν φίλων εἶναι πρῶτος ἀποφηνάμενος, τὸν δὲ φίλον ἄλλον ἑαυτόν. καὶ ὑγιαίνουσι μὲν αὐτοῖς ἀεὶ συνδιέτριβεν, κάμνοντας δὲ τὰ σώματα ἐθεράπευεν, καὶ τὰς ψυχὰς δὲ νοσοῦντας παρεμυθεῖτο, καθάπερ ἔφαμεν, τοὺς μὲν ἐπῳδαῖς καὶ μαγείαις τοὺς δὲ μουσικῇ. ἦν γὰρ αὐτῷ μέλη καὶ πρὸς νόσους σωμάτων παιώνια, ἃ ἐπᾴδων ἀνίστη τοὺς κάμνοντας. ἦν <δ’> ἃ καὶ λύπης λήθην εἰργάζετο καὶ ὀργὰς ἐπράυνε καὶ ἐπιθυμίας ἀτόπους ἐξῄρει.


Image result for ancient greek pythagoras

Iamblichus, Life of Pythagoras 111–112

“Pythagoras believed that music produced great benefits for health, should someone apply it in the appropriate manner. For he was known to use this kind of cleansing and not carelessly. And he also called the healing from music that very thing, a purification. And he used a melody as follows during the spring season. He sat in the middle someone who could play the lyre and settled around him in a circle people who could sing. They would sing certain paeans as he played and through this they seemed to become happy, unified, and directed.

At another time they used music in the place of medicine, and there were certain songs composed against sufferings of the mind, especially despair and bitterness—songs which were created as the greatest aids. He also composed others against rage, desires, and every type of wandering of the soul. There was also another kind of performance he discovered for troubles: he also used dancing.

He used the lyre as an instrument since he considered flutes to induce arrogance as a dramatic sound which had no type of freeing resonance. He also used selected words from Homer and Hesiod for the correction of the soul.”

     ῾Υπελάμβανε δὲ καὶ τὴν μουσικὴν μεγάλα συμβάλλεσθαι πρὸς ὑγείαν, ἄν τις αὐτῇ χρῆται κατὰ τοὺς προσήκοντας τρόπους. εἰώθει γὰρ οὐ παρέργως τῇ τοιαύτῃ χρῆσθαι καθάρσει· τοῦτο γὰρ δὴ καὶ προσηγόρευε τὴν διὰ τῆς μουσικῆς ἰατρείαν. ἥπτετο δὲ περὶ τὴν ἐαρινὴν ὥραν τῆς  τοιαύτης μελῳδίας· ἐκάθιζε γὰρ ἐν μέσῳ τινὰ λύρας ἐφαπτόμενον, καὶ κύκλῳ ἐκαθέζοντο οἱ μελῳδεῖν δυνατοί, καὶ οὕτως ἐκείνου κρούοντος συνῇδον παιῶνάς τινας, δι’ ὧν εὐφραίνεσθαι καὶ ἐμμελεῖς καὶ ἔνρυθμοι γίνεσθαι ἐδόκουν. χρῆσθαι δ’ αὐτοὺς καὶ κατὰ τὸν ἄλλον χρόνον τῇ μουσικῇ ἐν ἰατρείας τάξει, καὶ εἶναί τινα μέλη πρὸς τὰ ψυχῆς πεποιημένα πάθη, πρός τε ἀθυμίας καὶ δηγμούς, ἃ δὴ βοηθητικώτατα ἐπινενόητο, καὶ πάλιν αὖ ἕτερα πρός τε τὰς ὀργὰς καὶ πρὸς τοὺς θυμοὺς καὶ πρὸς πᾶσαν παραλλαγὴν τῆς τοιαύτης ψυχῆς, εἶναι δὲ καὶ πρὸς τὰς ἐπιθυμίας ἄλλο γένος μελοποιίας ἐξευρημένον. χρῆσθαι δὲ καὶ ὀρχήσεσιν. ὀργάνῳ δὲ χρῆσθαι λύρᾳ· τοὺς γὰρ αὐλοὺς ὑπε-λάμβανεν ὑβριστικόν τε καὶ πανηγυρικὸν καὶ οὐδαμῶς ἐλευθέριον τὸν ἦχον ἔχειν. χρῆσθαι δὲ καὶ ῾Ομήρου καὶ ῾Ησιόδου λέξεσιν ἐξειλεγμέναις πρὸς ἐπανόρθωσιν ψυχῆς.


Next Time You Feel Self-Conscious at the Gym, Remember This

Diogenes Laertius, 6.92

“Zeno of Citium writes in his Anecdotes that after Kratês unthinkingly sewed a sheepskin to his cloak, he looked absurd and was laughed at when he exercised. He was in the habit of raising his hands and saying “Be bold, Kratês, for your eyes and your body. Someday you will see these men who laughing at you worn out by sickness and envying you, criticizing their own laziness.

He used to say that we should pursue philosophy until generals seemed to be donkey-drivers. He also claimed that those who lived with flatterers were as exposed as calves among wolves—For there is no one to protect these or those, but only those who contrive against them. When he perceived he was dying, he sang to himself, saying “you are going to Hades’ home, dear hunchback”. [For he was a hunchback because of old age.”

Ζήνων δ’ ὁ Κιτιεὺς ἐν ταῖς Χρείαις καὶ κῴδιον αὐτόν φησί ποτε προσράψαι τῷ τρίβωνι ἀνεπιστρεπτοῦντα. ἦν δὲ καὶ τὴν ὄψιν αἰσχρὸς καὶ γυμναζόμενος ἐγελᾶτο. εἰώθει δὲ λέγειν ἐπαίρων τὰς χεῖρας, “θάρρει, Κράτης, ὑπὲρ ὀφθαλμῶν καὶ τοῦ λοιποῦ σώματος· τούτους δ’ ὄψει τοὺς καταγελῶντας, ἤδη καὶ συνεσπασμένους ὑπὸ νόσου καί σε μακαρίζοντας, αὑτοὺς δὲ καταμεμφομένους ἐπὶ τῇ ἀργίᾳ.” ἔλεγε δὲ μέχρι τούτου δεῖν φιλοσοφεῖν, μέχρι ἂν δόξωσιν οἱ στρατηγοὶ εἶναι ὀνηλάται. ἐρήμους ἔλεγε τοὺς μετὰ κολάκων ὄντας ὥσπερ τοὺς μόσχους ἐπειδὰν μετὰ λύκων ὦσιν· οὔτε γὰρ ἐκείνοις τοὺς προσήκοντας οὔτε τούτοις συνεῖναι, ἀλλὰτοὺς ἐπιβουλεύοντας. συναισθανόμενος ὅτι ἀποθνήσκει, ἐπῇδε πρὸς ἑαυτὸν λέγων (PPF 10 B 9),

στείχεις δή, φίλε κυρτών,

[βαίνεις] εἰς ᾿Αίδαο δόμους [κυφὸς ὥρην διὰ γῆρας].


Image result for Crates the philosopher

Happiness Might Kill You (Really, I Promise)

Aulus Gellius 3.15

Literature and popular memory holds that sudden, unhoped for joy has killed many, when the breath is stalled and incapable of enduring the force of a new, and large emotion.

The philosopher Aristotle reports that when Polycrita heard happy but unexpected news without warning, the noblewoman from the island of Naxos expired. Philippides as well, a comic poet of no mean talent, died of joy itself when he learned he was victorious in a poet’s competition at an advanced age.

The story of Diagoras of Rhodes is also well known. That Diagoras had three children, one was a boxer, the second was a mixed-martial artist, and the third a wrestler. He watched all three win victories and be crowned on one day at the Olympics. When the three embraced him there and kissed him as they placed their garlands on his head, even as the people were throwing flowers on him in congratulations, he wheezed out his soul in that same stadium amid the kisses and the embraces as the people watched.

I have read written in our annals  that when the Roman army was destroyed in the storm at Cannae, a messenger afflicted an elderly mother with grief and sorrow over the death of her son. But the messenger was wrong! The youth returned to the city from the battle not much later. When the old woman saw her son, she was so overcome by a confused, ruinous torrent of unhoped for joy that she immediately died.”

15 Exstare in litteris perque hominum memorias traditum, quod repente multis mortem attulit gaudium ingens insperatum interclusa anima et vim magni novique motus non sustinente.

1 Cognito repente insperato gaudio exspirasse animam refert Aristoteles philosophus Polycritam, nobilem feminam Naxo insula. 2 Philippides quoque, comoediarum poeta haut ignobilis, aetate iam edita, cum in certamine poetarum praeter spem vicisset et laetissime gauderet, inter illud gaudium repente mortuus est. 3 De Rhodio etiam Diagora celebrata historia est. Is Diagoras tris filios adulescentis habuit, unum pugilem, alterum pancratiasten, tertium luctatorem. Eos omnis vidit vincere coronarique Olympiae eodem die et, cum ibi cum tres adulescentes amplexi coronis suis in caput patris positis saviarentur, cum populus gratulabundus flores undique in eum iaceret, ibidem in stadio inspectante populo in osculis atque in manibus filiorum animam efflavit. 4 Praeterea in nostris annalibus scriptum legimus, qua tempestate apud Cannas exercitus populi Romani caesus est, anum matrem nuntio de morte filii adlato luctu atque maerore affectam esse; sed is nuntius non verus fuit, atque is adulescens non diu post ex ea pugna in urbem redit: anus repente filio viso copia atque turba et quasi ruina incidentis inopinati gaudii oppressa exanimataque est.

This almost killed me:

Awkward Correspondence on Paternity: Alexander and Olympias

Aulus Gellius, Attic Nights 13.iv

A transcript of a letter from Alexander to his mother Olympias; and what Olympias wrote back to him.

“In the majority of the records of the deeds of Alexander and rather recently in the book of Marcus Varro, which is called “Orestes” or “On Insanity”, we find that Olympias, the wife of Philipp, most cleverly replied to her son. For, when he wrote to his mother, “King Alexander, the son of Zeus Ammon, sends his greetings to his mother Olympias”, she said “My son, hush! lest you defame me or incriminate me before Juno! She will certainly allot me some great harm once you have confessed in your letters that I am her husband’s adultress.” This courtesy from a wise and prudent woman to a boastful son moderately and elegantly warned him that his puffed-up belief, which he had inflated from great victories, the charms of praise and from successes beyond belief–the idea that he was the offspring of Zeus–ought to be abandoned.”

Descripta Alexandri ad matrem Olympiadem epistula; et quid Olympias festive ei rescripserit.

In plerisque monumentis rerum ab Alexandro gestarum et paulo ante in libro M. Varronis, qui inscriptus est Orestes vel de insania, Olympiadem Philippi uxorem festivissime rescripsisse legimus Alexandro filio. 2 Nam cum is ad matrem ita scripsisset: “Rex Alexander Iovis Hammonis filius Olympiadi matri salutem dicit”, Olympias ei rescripsit ad hanc sententiam: “Amabo”, inquit “mi fili, quiescas neque deferas me neque criminere adversum Iunonem; malum mihi prorsum illa magnum dabit, cum tu me litteris tuis paelicem esse illi confiteris”. 3 Ea mulieris scitae atque prudentis erga ferocem filium comitas sensim et comiter admonuisse eum visa est deponendam esse opinionem vanam, quam ille ingentibus victoriis et adulantium blandimentis et rebus supra fidem prosperis inbiberat, genitum esse sese de Iove.

Do We Still Believe Anecdotes Reveal a Man’s True Nature?

Eunapius, Lives of the Philosophers and Sophists (Introduction, 453)

“Xenophon the philosopher, the only philosopher who blessed philosophy in both word and deed (in respect to words he still exists in letters and writes of moral excellence; and he was the best in deeds, and through his examples he fathered generals. Alexander, I suggest, would not have been great if not for Xenophon), Xenophon says that it is necessary to record the minor deeds of serious men.”

Ξενοφῶν ὁ φιλόσοφος, ἀνὴρ μόνος ἐξ ἁπάντων φιλοσόφων ἐν λόγοις τε καὶ ἔργοις φιλοσοφίαν κοσμήσας (τὰ μὲν ἐς λόγους ἔστι τε ἐν γράμμασι καὶ ἠθικὴν ἀρετὴν γράφει, τὰ δὲ ἐν πράξεσί τε ἦν ἄριστος, ἀλλὰ καὶ ἐγέννα στρατηγοὺς τοῖς ὑποδείγμασιν• ὁ γοῦν μέγας ᾿Αλέξανδρος οὐκ ἂν ἐγένετο μέγας, εἰ μὴ Ξενοφῶν) καὶ τὰ πάρεργά φησι δεῖν τῶν σπουδαίων ἀνδρῶν ἀναγράφειν.

Speaking of Alexander, the sentiment of this passage reminds me of what Plutarch says in his Life of Alexander.

Plutarch Life of Alexander 1. 2-3

“A brief deed or comment or even some joke often shows the imprint of a man’s character more than battles of a thousand corpses, the greatest campaigns or sieges of cities.”

ἀλλὰ πρᾶγμα βραχὺ πολλάκις καὶ ῥῆμα καὶ παιδιά τις ἔμφασιν ἤθους ἐποίησε μᾶλλον ἢ μάχαι μυριόνεκροι καὶ παρατάξεις αἱ μέγισται καὶ πολιορκίαι πόλεων.

Poisoned Husbands and Wives on Death Row

 Valerius Maximus, Memorable Words and Deeds 2.5.3

“The poisoning-court, once unknown to Roman customs and laws, was instituted after many Roman matrons had been implicated in the crime. After these women in question had poisoned their husbands in a secret plot, they were indicted based on the testimony of a single serving-girl. A number of one hundred and seventy were condemned to death by the court.”

Veneficii quaestio, et moribus et legibus Romanis ignota, complurium matronarum patefacto scelere orta est. quae, cum viros suos clandestinis insidiis veneno perimerent, unius ancillae indicio protractae, pars capitali iudicio damnatae centum et septuaginta numerum expleverunt.



Socrates’ Dream-Bird

From Diogenes Laertius’ Lives of the Philosophers 3.5-7

“[Plato] learned his basic grammar at Dionysius’ school, which he also recalls in his dialogue the Lovers. He exercised at the wrestling school of Ariston the Argive which is where he was nicknamed ‘Platôn’ because of his fine body. Before, he was called Aristokles after his grandfather, according to Alexandros in his Diadokhai. There are some who claim he was named this because of the breadth [platutêta] of his interpretive ability or that it was because of the width of his forehead, as Neanthes claims. There are also those who say that he wrestled at the Isthmus, according to Dikaiarkhos too in the first book of his Lives. He is also said to have pursued a passion for painting; he wrote poetry, first dithyrambs, then lyric, and tragedy.

Plato had a strong voice, they claim, as Timotheus attests too in his book on Lives. It is reported that Socrates had a dream of holding a swan chick in his lap: after it grew wings it immediately flew away, uttering a sweet cry. On the next day, Plato joined him; and Socrates said that he was the bird.

Plato began philosophizing in the Akademia and then moved into a garden at Colonos, as Alexander records in his Successions, according to Herakleitos. When he was going to compete in tragedy, once he had heard Socrates in front of the Dionysian theater, he burned all his poems, saying “Hephaestos, come here, Plato needs you now…”


Καὶ ἐπαιδεύθη μὲν γράμματα παρὰ Διονυσίῳ, οὗ καὶ μνημονεύει ἐν τοῖς ᾿Αντερασταῖς (Amat. 132a). ἐγυμνάσατο δὲ παρὰ ᾿Αρίστωνι τῷ ᾿Αργείῳ παλαιστῇ· ἀφ’ οὗ καὶ Πλάτων διὰ τὴν εὐεξίαν μετωνομάσθη, πρότερον ᾿Αριστοκλῆς ἀπὸ τοῦ πάππου καλούμενος [ὄνομα], καθά φησιν ᾿Αλέξανδρος ἐν Διαδοχαῖς (FGrH

273 F 88). ἔνιοι δὲ διὰ τὴν πλατύτητα τῆς ἑρμηνείας οὕτως ὀνομασθῆναι· ἢ ὅτι πλατὺς ἦν τὸ μέτωπον, ὥς φησι Νεάνθης (FGrH 84 F 21). εἰσὶ δ’ οἳ καὶ παλαῖσαί φασιν αὐτὸν ᾿Ισθμοῖ, καθὰ καὶ Δικαίαρχος ἐν πρώτῳ Περὶ βίων (Wehrli i, fg. 40), καὶ

γραφικῆς ἐπιμεληθῆναι καὶ ποιήματα γράψαι, πρῶτον μὲν διθυράμβους, ἔπειτα καὶ μέλη καὶ τραγῳδίας. ἰσχνόφωνός τε, φασίν, ἦν, ὡς καὶ Τιμόθεός φησιν ὁ ᾿Αθηναῖος ἐν τῷ Περὶ βίων (FHG iv. 523). λέγεται δ’ ὅτι Σωκράτης ὄναρ εἶδε κύκνου νεοττὸν ἐν

τοῖς γόνασιν ἔχειν, ὃν καὶ παραχρῆμα πτεροφυήσαντα ἀναπτῆναι ἡδὺ κλάγξαντα· καὶ μεθ’ ἡμέραν Πλάτωνα αὐτῷ συστῆναι, τὸν δὲ τοῦτον εἰπεῖν εἶναι τὸν ὄρνιν.

᾿Εφιλοσόφει δὲ τὴν ἀρχὴν ἐν ᾿Ακαδημείᾳ, εἶτα ἐν τῷ κήπῳ τῷ παρὰ τὸν Κολωνόν, ὥς φησιν ᾿Αλέξανδρος ἐν Διαδοχαῖς (FGrH 273 F 89), καθ’ ῾Ηράκλειτον. ἔπειτα μέντοι μέλλων ἀγωνιεῖσθαι τραγῳδίᾳ πρὸ τοῦ Διονυσιακοῦ θεάτρου Σωκράτους ἀκούσας κατέφλεξε τὰ ποιήματα εἰπών·

῞Ηφαιστε, πρόμολ’ ὧδε· Πλάτων νύ τι σεῖο χατίζει.

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