“Superstitions make many moderate sufferings deadly. That ancient Midas, as it seems, was so disturbed and troubled by some dreams that he became upset enough to kill himself by drinking the blood of a bull. And the king of the Messenian, Aristodêmos, in that war against the Spartans, when the dogs were howling like wolves, the grass began to grow up over his ancestral hearth and some of the seers were frightened by the signs, was completely disheartened and extinguished all hopes when he took his own life.
It might have been best for Nikias the general of the Athenians to free himself of his superstition following Midas and Aristodêmos. Since he was afraid of the shadow of a moon in eclipse, rather than to sit there while he was walled in by the enemy only to get captured by them with forty thousand men who were slaughtered or taken alive and then die in infamy.”
In the midst of a nearly endless discussion of fish in the 8th book of his Deipnosophistai, Athenaeus has his banqueters bandy about epigrammatic advice about the nature of human life. One of his speakers quotes Chrysippus who alleges that Sardanapallos (the Greek name for the Syrian king Ashurbanipal) had the following as an epitaph:
“Know well that you are mortal: fill your heart
By delighting in the feasts: nothing is useful to you when you’re dead.
I am ash, though I ruled great Ninevah as king.
I keep whatever I ate, the insults I made, and the joy
I took from sex. My wealth and many blessings are gone.
[This is wise advice for life: I will never forget it.
Let anyone who wants to accumulate limitless gold.]
The speakers critique the dead king’s sentiments and propose that the epitaph could be emended with more elevated aims.
“Know well that you are mortal: fill your heart
By delighting in words: nothing is useful once eaten.
For even I am now but rages though I ate and took as much pleasure as possible.
I keep whatever I learned and the thoughts I had and the fine things
I experienced with them. Everything else, however pleasing, is gone.”
“Next is Zephurion which has the same name as a place near Kalydnos. Nearby, not far from the sea, is Ankhialê, founded by Sardanapallos according to Aristoboulos. There he claims is a monument of Sardanapallos, a stone sculpture that shows the fingers of his right hand as if they are snapping. Beneath is an epigraph in Assyrian letters reading: “Sardanapallos the son of Anakundaraxes / founded Ankhialê and Tarsos in a single day. / Eat. Drink. Play, because no other things are worthy of this”, indicating the snapping fingers.
Khoirilos also mentions these things–and the following verses are known everywhere. “Everything I have eaten, the insults I have made, and the delights I have taken in love are mine. These numerous blessings I leave behind.”
“Kallisthenes claims in the second book of his Persian Histories that there were two men named Sardapapalos [Assurbanipal], one was active and well-born, but the other was a dandy. In Ninevah, his memorial bears the inscription
“The son of Anakundaraxes built Tarsos and Ankhialê in a single day.
Eat, drink, screw because other things are not worthy of this.”
That is, [worthy of] a snap of his fingers. For when he set up the statue in his memory it was made with its hands over its head, as if it were snapping its fingers. The same thing is inscribed in Ankhialê and Tarsos, which is called Zephurion now.
There is also a proverb: “May you grow older than Tithonos, wealthier than Kinyras, and more industrious than Sardanopalos. Then you can prove the proverb: Old men are children twice.” This is used for the very old, since Tithonos avoided aging with a prayer and became a cicada. Kinyras was a descendant of king Pharakes of the Cypriots and he was distinguished for his wealth. And Sardanapalos, king of the Assyrians, destroyed his own kingdom while he lived in luxury and immoderation. He was the son of Anakyndarakes, the king of Ninevah which falls within Persian lands. The story is that he founded Tarsos and Ankhilaê in a single day. And that, shamefully, he was too proud to be seen by his servants unless they were girls or eunuchs. He rotted himself with wine and was found after he died indoors.”
Diogenes Laertius, Lives of the Eminent Philosophers Anaxagoras 2.3
“There are different accounts about the trial of Anaxagoras. Sotion claims in his Succession of the Philosophers that he was taken to court for impiety because he claimed that the sun was molten metal. When his student Perikles made his defense, he was penalized five talents and sent into exile.
But Satyros in his Lives says that he was prosecuted by Thucydides who was working against Perikles and that in addition to impiety he was charged with treason with Persia. He was sentenced to death in absentia. When it was announced to him both that his sons were dead and he was sentenced, he said concerning the judgment that, “nature condemned me and my judges to death long ago” and on his sons, “well, I knew they they were born mortal.” But there are those who attribute this story to Solon while others say it was Xenophon.
Demetrius of Phalerum, in his On Old Age, says that Anaxagoras buried his sons with his own hands. Hermippos in his Lives says that he was locked up before he was about to die and that Perikles came forward and asked if they could accuse him of anything in his life. When they said nothing, he said, “Well, I am his student. Do not be overwhelmed by slanders and kill this person, but listen to me and let him go.” And he was freed. But because he could not endure the outrage, he killed himself.”
“Antisthenes, the peripatetic philosopher, also records that the consul Acilius Glabrio with the ambassadors Porcius Cato and Lucius Valerius Flaccus was stationed in war against Antiochus at Thermopylae and, after fighting well, compelled those on Antiochus’ side to throw down their weapons and the man himself to flee to Elataia with five hundred hypastists. From there, they compelled him to turn again to Thessaly. Acilius then sent Cato to Rome so he might announce the victory while he led the army himself against the Aitolians in Herakleia, which he took with ease.
In the action against Antiochus at Thermopylae, the Romans witnessed some shocking signs. After Antiochus turned and fled, on the next day the Romans turned to the gathering of those who died on the battle and a selection of weapons, war-spoils, and prisoners.
There was some man from the Syrian cavalry, named Bouplagos, who was honored by Antiochus but fell in battle even as he fought nobly. While the Romans were gathering up all the arms at midday, Bouplagos rose from the corpses even though he had twelve wounds. As he appeared to the army, he spoke the following verses in a soft voice:
Stop gathering booty from an army which has marched to Hades’ land—
For Kronos’ Son Zeus already feels anger as he watches your deeds.
He is raging at the murder of the army and your acts,
And he will send a bold-hearted race into your country
Who will end your empire and make you pay for what you’ve done.
Because they were troubled by these verses, the generals swiftly gathered the army in assembly and discussed the meaning of the omen. They thought it best to cremate and bury Bouplagos who had died right after he uttered these words. Then they performed a cleansing of the camp, made sacrifices to Zeus Apotropaios and sent a group to Delphi to ask the god what they should do.”
“Serious people are truly dedicated and on guard to make themselves better by preparing both to keep corrupting things away from them and trying to ensure that good things are near at hand. But they are also unaffected: they have peeled away adornments from their voice and their face.
They also have no concern for business since they abstain from doing anything which transgresses their duty. They do drink, but they do not get drunk. Indeed, they will also not go mad—even though the sometimes the same fantasies will still occur to them because of depression or delirium, but because of the logic of what they have selected but against nature.
And a wise person will never grieve because they understand that grief is an illogical closure of the soul, as Apollodorus says in his Ethics. These people are also godlike because they have some divine aspect in them; the scoundrel is godless.”
Aristokles, BNJ 831 F 3b (=Stobaios, Florides 4.20 b74)
“In the second book of his Wonders, Aristokles has this: A young man named Aristonymos, an Ephesian of a noble family, was Demostratos’ son, but in reality he was Ares’ son.
In the middle of the night, because he hated all women, he went to his father’s herd and had sex with a female donkey. She got pregnant and gave birth to the most beautiful girl, named Onoskelia, a nickname borrowed from the way she was born.”