Philosophers, Spectators at the Game of Life?

Diogenes Laertius, Pythagoras 8.3

“Sôsikrates, in his Successions, says that when Pythagoras was asked by Leon, the tyrant of the Phliasians, who he was, he said, “a philosopher,” and that he said life was like the Great Games. Some people go there to compete, others go to make money, and the best people go to watch. For in life, some people have a slavish nature and they hunt for glory or profit, while philosophers search for the truth.”

Σωσικράτης δ᾿ ἐν Διαδοχαῖς φησιν αὐτὸν ἐρωτηθέντα ὑπὸ Λέοντος τοῦ Φλιασίων τυράννου τίς εἴη, φιλόσοφος, εἰπεῖν. καὶ τὸν βίον ἐοικέναι πανηγύρει· ὡς οὖν εἰς ταύτην οἱ μὲν ἀγωνιούμενοι, οἱ δὲ κατ᾿ ἐμπορίαν, οἱ δέ γε βέλτιστοι ἔρχονται θεαταί, οὕτως ἐν τῷ βίῳ οἱ μὲν ἀνδραποδώδεις, ἔφη, φύονται δόξης καὶ πλεονεξίας θηραταί, οἱ δὲ φιλόσοφοι τῆς ἀληθείας.

Plato compares life to a game too, just a different one….

Plutarch, De Tranquilitate Animi 467b

“Plato likened life to a dice-game in which we need both to throw what is advantageous and to use the dice well after we’ve thrown them. And when we are subject to chance, if we take good advice, this is our task: though we cannot control the toss, we can accept the outcome luck gives us properly and allot to each event a place in which what is good for us helps the most and what was unplanned aggrieves the least.”

Κυβείᾳ γὰρ ὁ Πλάτων (Resp. 604c) τὸν βίον ἀπείκασεν, ἐν ᾧ καὶ βάλλειν δεῖ τὰ πρόσφορα, καὶ βαλόντα χρῆσθαι καλῶς τοῖς πεσοῦσι. τούτων δὲ τὸ μὲν βάλλειν οὐκ ἐφ’ ἡμῖν, τὸ δὲ προσηκόντως δέχεσθαι τὰ γινόμενα παρὰ τῆς τύχης καὶ νέμειν ἑκάστῳ τόπον, ἐν ᾧ καὶ τὸ οἰκεῖον ὠφελήσει μάλιστα καὶ τὸ ἀβούλητον ἥκιστα λυπήσει τοὺς ἐπιτυγχάνοντας, ἡμέτερον ἔργον ἐστίν, ἂν εὖ φρονῶμεν.

And here is the passage Plutarch is drawing on from the tenth book of the Republic (Plato, Republic 604c-d)

“The best way to deliberate about what has happened is just as we might in the fall of dice: to order our affairs in reference to how the dice have fallen where reason dictates the best place would be, and not to stumble forward like children shocked at the outcome wasting time with crying. Instead, we should always prepare our mind towards addressing what has happened as quickly as possible and to redress what has fallen and what ails, erasing lament [lit. threnody] with treatment*.”

Τῷ βουλεύεσθαι, ἦν δ’ ἐγώ, περὶ τὸ γεγονὸς καὶ ὥσπερ ἐν πτώσει κύβων πρὸς τὰ πεπτωκότα τίθεσθαι τὰ αὑτοῦ πράγματα, ὅπῃ ὁ λόγος αἱρεῖ βέλτιστ’ ἂν ἔχειν, ἀλλὰ μὴ προσπταίσαντας καθάπερ παῖδας ἐχομένους τοῦ πληγέντος ἐν τῷ βοᾶν διατρίβειν, ἀλλ’ ἀεὶ ἐθίζειν τὴν ψυχὴν ὅτι τάχιστα γίγνεσθαι πρὸς τὸ ἰᾶσθαί τε καὶ ἐπανορθοῦν τὸ πεσόν τε καὶ νοσῆσαν, ἰατρικῇ θρηνῳδίαν ἀφανίζοντα.

*ἰατρικῇ: lit. “art of medicine”; some translations use “therapy”.

Image from Wikipedia

A Student Debt Proposal: Collect The Balance In Hell

Valerius Maximus, Wonndrous Deeds and Sayings 2.6.10

“This ancient custom of the Gauls returns to my mind as I leave their walls: The story goes that they used to loan money which was scheduled to be repaid in the underworld, because they considered human souls to be immortal. I would call them fools if they didn’t believe the same thing wearing pants as Pythagoras did wrapped in his cloak.”

Horum moenia egresso vetus ille mos Gallorum occurrit,quo[s] memoria proditum est pecunias mutuas, quae iis apud inferos redderentur, da<ri soli>tas,  quia persuasum habuerint animas hominum immortales esse. dicerem stultos, nisi idem bracati sensissent quod palliatus Pythagoras credidit.

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Gellius, Totally Understanding Oral Traditions

Gellius, Attic Nights, 3.11.2-5

“Some report that Homer was older by birth than Hesiod—among this number are Philochorus and Xenophanes. But others say he was younger, including the poet Lucius Accius and Ephorus the historian. In the first book of On Images, however, Marcus Varro says that there is little agreement about which was born first, but that what is not in bout is that they lived at the same time. Evidence from this comes from the inscription on the tripod which was allegedly put on Mt. Helikon.

Accius, still, in book one of the Didasalica uses somewhat superficial arguments…he continues ‘since Homer, when he recounts at the start of his poem that Achilles is the son of Peleus and does not add who Peleus is—which is something he would have added if he had not seen it already explained by Hesiod (Fr. 211). Similarly, when it comes to the Cyclops’ Accius says, ‘Homer would have highlighted the fact that he was one-eyed and would not have passed over such a marvelous detail if it had not already been popularized in the older poems of Hesiod.”

(2) alii Homerum quam Hesiodum maiorem natu fuisse scripserunt, in quis Philochorus et Xenophanes; alii minorem, in quis L. Accius poeta et Ephorus historiae scriptor. (3) M. autem Varro in primo De imaginibus, uter prior sit natus, parum constare dicit, sed non esse dubium, quin aliquo tempore eodem vixerint; idque ex epigrammate ostendi, quod in tripode scriptum est, qui in monte Helikone ab Hesiodo positus traditur. (4) Accius autem in primo didascalico levibus admodum argumentis utitur … (5) quod Homerus, inquit, cum in principio carminis Achillem esse filium Pelei diceret, quis esset Peleus, non addidit; quam rem procul, inquit, dubio dixisset, nisi ab Hesiodo iam dictum videret. de Cyclope itidem, inquit, vel maxime quod unoculus fuit, rem tam insignem non praeterisset, nisi aeque prioris Hesiodi carminibus involgatum esset.

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This is a mood.

Flammable Bones and Renewable Eyes: Some Amazing Animal Facts

Paradoxographus Vaticanus, 4-8

4 “Aristotle says in his work On Animals that all land animals have respiration—as many as have lungs—except for the wasp and bee which do not breathe. However many animals have a bladder also have bowels. But not all animals who have bowels also have a bladder.”

᾿Αριστοτέλης φησὶν ἐν τοῖς περὶ ζῴων τὰ χερσαῖα πάντα ἀναπνεῖν, ὅσα πνεύμονας ἔχει, σφῆκαν δὲ καὶ μέλισσαν οὐκ ἀναπνεῖν. ὅσα τε κύστιν ἔχει, πάντα καὶ κοιλίαν· οὐχ ὅσα δὲ κοιλίαν καὶ κύστιν.

5 “Many of the animals are bloodless, and and, in general they are animals who have more than four feet.”

῎Αναιμα πολλὰ τῶν ζῴων, καθόλου δὲ ὅσα πλείους πόδας ἔχουσι τῶν τεσσάρων.

6 “Fish do not have a throat[?]. For this reason, if a smaller fish is pursued by a bigger one, it pushes the stomach under the mouth [?]”

Οἱ ἰχθύες οὐκ ἔχουσι στόμαχον· διό, ἐὰν διώκηται ὁ ἐλάττων ὑπὸ μείζονος, ἄγει τὴν κοιλίαν ὑπὸ τὸ στόμα.

7 “Snakes have thirty ribs, and their eyes, if anyone strikes them, grow back again. The swallow’s qualities are similar.”

Οἱ ὄφεις πλευρὰς ἔχουσι τριάκοντα. καὶ τὰ ὄμματα αὐτῶν, ἐάν τις ἐκκεντήσῃ, πάλιν γίνονται, καθὰ καὶ τὰ τῶν χελιδόνων.

8 “The bones of a lion are so stiff that when they are struck often they burst into fire.”

Τοῦ λέοντος τὰ ὀστᾶ οὕτως εἰσὶ στερεά, ὥστε πολλάκις κοπτόμενα πῦρ ἐκλάμπειν.

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British Library, Royal MS 12 C. xix, Folio 6r. Lion

For the Love of…A Goose?

Everyone has heard about Leda and the swan. But have you heard about Amphilokhos and his gift-giving goose?

Aelian, De Natura Animalium 5.29

“In Aigion, in Akhaia, a goose was in love with a handsome boy, an Ôlenian named Amphilokhos. Theophrastus tells this story. The boy was under guard with the Olenian exiles in Aigion—there, the goose used to bring him gifts. In Khios, too, there was an especially beautiful woman named Glaukê, a harp player, and many men lusted after her—which is nothing big. But a ram and a goose loved her too, as I have heard.”

Ἐν Αἰγίῳ τῆς Ἀχαίας ὡραίου παιδός, Ὠλενίου τὸ γένος, ὄνομα Ἀμφιλόχου, ἤρα χήν. Θεόφραστος λέγει τοῦτο. σὺν τοῖς Ὠλενίων δὲ φυγάσιν ἐφρουρεῖτο ἐν Αἰγίῳ ὁ παῖς. οὐκοῦν ὁ χὴν αὐτῷ δῶρα ἔφερε. καὶ ἐν Χίῳ Γλαύκης τῆς κιθαρῳδοῦ ὡραιοτάτης οὔσης εἰ μὲν ἤρων ἄνθρωποι, μέγα οὐδέπω· ἠράσθησαν δὲ καὶ κριὸς καὶ χήν, ὡς ἀκούω, τῆς αὐτῆς.

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An Elephant’s Love for a Child

 

Athenaeus, Deipnosophistae, 13.85, 606F–607A [BNJ 81 F36]

“The same Phylarkhos also reports in his twentieth book how great a love an elephant once had for a child. He writes this: “There was a female elephant which was tended with that elephant, and they used to call her Nikaia. When the wife of the Indian who cared for her was dying, she handed her child who was 30 days old to her.

After she died, the animal’s love for the child was striking. It could not endure the child being separated from her; and whenever she did not see the child, she despaired. When the nurse fed the child milk, she put it in a cradle in the middle of the animal’s feet. If she failed to do this, the elephant would refuse to eat. After this, all day long the elephant would take reeds from the nearby grasses and chase away flies while the child was sleeping. Whenever the child cried, the elephant would move the cradle with her trunk and help him sleep. The male elephant often did the same thing.”

ὁ δὲ αὐτὸς ἱστορεῖ Φύλαρχος διὰ τῆς εἰκοστῆς ὅσην ἐλέφας τὸ ζῶιον φιλοστοργίαν ἔσχεν εἰς παιδίον. γράφει δὲ οὕτως· «τούτωι δὲ τῶι ἐλέφαντι συνετρέφετο θήλεια ἐλέφας, ἣν Νίκαιαν ἐκάλουν· ἧι τελευτῶσα ἡ τοῦ τρέφοντος ᾽Ινδοῦ γυνὴ παιδίον αὑτῆς τριακοσταῖον παρακατέθετο. ἀποθανούσης δὲ τῆς ἀνθρώπου δεινή τις φιλοστοργία γέγονε τοῦ θηρίου πρὸς τὸ παιδίον· οὐτε γὰρ ἀπ᾽ αὐτοῦ χωριζόμενον τὸ βρέφος ὑπέμενεν, τὸ δὲ εἰ μὴ βλέποι τὸ παιδίον ἤσχαλλεν. ὅτ᾽ οὖν ἡ τροφὸς ἐμπλήσειεν αὐτὸ τοῦ γάλακτος, ἀνὰ μέσον τῶν ποδῶν τοῦ θηρίου ἐτίθει αὐτὸ ἐν σκάφηι. εἰ δὲ μὴ τοῦτο πεποιήκοι, τροφὴν οὐκ ἐλάμβανεν ἡ ἐλέφας. καὶ μετὰ ταῦτα δι᾽ ὅλης τῆς ἡμέρας [τοὺς] καλάμους λαμβάνων ἐκ τῶν παρατιθεμένων χορτασμάτων καθεύδοντος τοῦ βρέφους τὰς μυίας ἀπεσόβει· ὅτε δὲ κλαίοι, τῆι προβοσκίδι τὴν σκάφην ἐκίνει καὶ κατεκοίμιζεν αὐτό. τὸ δ᾽ αὐτὸ ἐποίει καὶ ὁ ἄρρην ἐλέφας πολλάκις.»

Red elephant outline at the Jain temple of Sravanabelagola.

Out of the Smoke, Into the Fire: Some Proverbs

Diogenianus, 8.45

“When I fled the smoke, I fell into the fire”:  [this proverb is applied] to those who flee rather minor troubles only to fall upon greater ones.

Τὸν καπνὸν φεύγων, εἰς τὸ πῦρ ἐνέπεσον: ἐπὶ τῶν τὰ μικρὰ τῶν δεινῶν φευγόντων, καὶ εἰς μείζονα δεινὰ ἐμπιπτόντων.

 

Arsenius 4.23f

“It is strange that one who pursues honors avoids the hard work honors come from”

῎Ατοπόν ἐστι διώκοντα τὰς τιμὰς φεύγειν τοὺς πόνους, δι’ ὧν αἱ τιμαί.

 

Michael Apostolios, 11.15

“You ate some lotus”: [this proverb is applied to those] who are forgetful of things in the household and are slow in matters of hospitality. It is based on the lotus which imbues one who eats it with forgetfulness.”

Λωτοῦ ἔφαγες: ἐπὶ τῶν σχόντων λήθην τῶν οἴκοι, καὶ βραδυνόντων ἐπὶ ξένης. ἔστι δὲ πόα τὸ λωτὸν, λήθην ἐμποιοῦν τῷ φαγόντι.

 

Arsenius 3.19a

“The man who flees will also fight again”: [this proverb is applied] to those who face a doubtful victory.

᾿Ανὴρ ὁ φεύγων καὶ πάλιν μαχήσεται: ἐπὶ τῶν ἑτεραλκεῖ νίκῃ χρωμένων ταχθείη.

 

Michael Apostolios 1.26

“Agamemnon’s sacrifice”: [a proverb] applied to the difficult to persuade and the stubborn. For when Agamemnon was making a sacrifice, the bull was scarcely caught after it fled.” Or, it is because Agamemnon wanted to sacrifice his daughter. And she fled.”

᾿Αγαμέμνονος θυσία: ἐπὶ τῶν δυσπειθῶν καὶ σκληρῶν. θύοντος γὰρ ᾿Αγαμέμνονος ὁ βοῦς φυγὼν μόλις ἐλήφθη. ῍Η ὅτι τὴν ἑαυτοῦ ἐβούλετο ᾿Αγαμέμνων θυσιάσαι θυγατέρα· ἣ δ’ ἔφυγε.

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Illuminated Manuscript – The Hague, KB, 76 F 13, f. 12v, XIV cent., France

Long Term Effects of Anger and Hate

Valerius Maximus, Memorable Words and Deeds 9.3. Praef.

“Anger, also, or hatred may inspire great waves of emotion in human hearts. The onset of the first is faster, but the second is more lasting in the desire to cause harm. Either feeling is full of turbulence and is never violent without some self-torture because it suffers pain when it wants to cause it, anxious from its bitter obsession that it might not win vengeance.

But there are the most clear examples of the particular property of these emotions which the gods themselves have desired be evident in famous individuals through something said or done rather rashly. Think of how great Hamilcar’s hate for the Roman people was! When he was gazing at his four sons when they were boys, he used to say that he was raising lion cubs of that number for the ruin of our empire! Instead, they converted their upbringing to the destruction of their own country, as it turned out.

That is how great the hate was in a boy’s heart, but it was equally fierce in a woman’s too. For the Queen of the Assyrians, Semiramis, when it was announced to her that Babylon was in rebellion as she was having her hair done, went out right away to put down the revolt with part of her hair still undone and she did not put her hair back in order before she regained power over the city. This is why there is a statue of her in Babylon where she is shown reaching for vengeance in wild haste.”

Ira quoque aut odium in pectoribus humanis magnos fluctus excitant, procursu celerior illa, nocendi cupidine hoc pertinacius, uterque consternationis plenus adfectus ac numquam sine tormento sui violentus, quia dolorem, cum inferre vult, patitur, amara sollicitudine ne non contingat ultio anxius. sed proprietatis eorum certissimae sunt imagines, quas <di> ipsi in claris personis aut dicto aliquo aut facto vehementiore conspici voluerunt.

Quam vehemens deinde adversus populum Romanum Hamilcaris odium! quattuor enim puerilis aetatis filios intuens, eiusdem numeri catulos leoninos in perniciem imperii nostri alere se praedicabat. digna nutrimenta quae in exitium patriae suae, ut evenit, <se> converterent!

ext. In puerili pectore tantum vis odii potuit, sed in muliebri quoque aeque multum valuit: namque Samiramis, Assyriorum regina, cum ei circa cultum capitis sui occupatae nuntiatum esset Babylona defecisse, altera parte crinium adhuc soluta protinus ad eam expugnandam cucurrit, nec prius decorem capillorum in ordinem quam urbem in potestatem suam redegit. quocirca statua eius Babylone posita est, illo habitu quo ad ultionem exigendam celeritate praecipiti tetendit.

Félix Édouard Vallotton, “La Haine,” 1908.

More Disappointment in Life: Theophrastus’ Farewell Speech

Diogenes Laertius, Lives of the Philosophers 5.2: Theophrastus 41-42

“[Theophrastus] died an old man, eighty-five years old, when he had recently retired. And this is my epigram about him:

This saying was never uttered to any mortal untrue:
Wisdom’s bow breaks when it is left unused
As long as he worked, Theophrastus was well
But once he relaxed, he immediately fell.

People report that when Theophrastus was asked by his students if he had anything to advise them, he said, “I can’t advise anything other than this: Life makes many pleasures seem real through their reputation. At the moment when we begin to live, we die! There’s nothing as useless as the love of glory.

Goodbye and may you be lucky. Give up my way of life because it requires great toil or stand to it well, for great reputation will be yours. There’s more disappointment in life than profit. But since I can’t advise you any longer, make it your business to investigate what is right to do.”

He said these things, allegedly, and then died.”

Ἐτελεύτα δὴ γηραιός, βιοὺς ἔτη πέντε καὶ ὀγδοήκοντα, ἐπειδήπερ ὀλίγον ἀνῆκε τῶν πόνων. καὶ ἔστιν ἡμῶν εἰς αὐτόν·

οὐκ ἄρα τοῦτο μάταιον ἔπος μερόπων τινὶ λέχθη,
ῥήγνυσθαι σοφίης τόξον ἀνιέμενον·
δὴ γὰρ καὶ Θεόφραστος ἕως ἐπόνει μὲν ἄπηρος
ἦν δέμας, εἶτ᾿ ἀνεθεὶς κάτθανε πηρομελής.

Φασὶ δ᾿ αὐτὸν ἐρωτηθέντα ὑπὸ τῶν μαθητῶν εἴ τι ἐπισκήπτει, εἰπεῖν, “ἐπισκήπτειν μὲν ἔχειν οὐδέν, πλὴν ὅτι πολλὰ τῶν ἡδέων ὁ βίος διὰ τὴν δόξαν καταλαζονεύεται. ἡμεῖς γὰρ ὁπότ᾿ ἀρχόμεθα ζῆν, τότ᾿ ἀποθνήσκομεν. οὐδὲν οὖν ἀλυσιτελέστερόν ἐστι φιλοδοξίας. ἀλλ᾿ εὐτυχεῖτε καὶ ἤτοι τὸν λόγον ἄφετε—πολὺς γὰρ ὁ πόνος—ἢ καλῶς αὐτοῦ πρόστητε· μεγάλη γὰρ ἡ δόξα. τὸ δὲ κενὸν τοῦ βίου πλέον τοῦ συμφέροντος. ἀλλ᾿ ἐμοὶ μὲν οὐκέτ᾿ ἐκποιεῖ βουλεύεσθαι τί πρακτέον, ὑμεῖς δ᾿ ἐπισκέψασθε τί ποιητέον.” ταῦτα, φασίν, εἰπὼν ἀπέπνευσε·

Depiction of Theophrastus on the facade of the historical building of the University of Athens. Painted in the 19th century by the Bavarian painter Karl Ral and the Polish Edward Lebietski.
Date 22 May 2022, 17:01:54

The Gods Don’t Hate Those Who Suffer…

Macrobius, Saturnalia, 1. 45-46

“You can understand from the two popular lines which Epictetus wrote about himself that the gods do not completely hate those who suffer because of a range of miseries in this life, but that there are some secret causes which the curiosity of a few may be able to sense:

“I, Epictetus, was born a slave with a crippled body
both an Irus in poverty and dear to the gods.

You have, I believe, sufficient argument why the name “servant” should not be despised or taboo, since concern for a slave affected Jupiter and because it turns out that many of them are faithful, intelligent, brave, and even philosophers!”

45. cuius etiam de se scripti duo versus feruntur, ex quibus illud latenter intellegas, non omni modo dis exosos esse qui in hac vita cum aerumnarum varietate luctantur, sed esse arcanas causas ad quas paucorum potuit pervenire curiositas:

δοῦλος Ἐπίκτητος γενόμην καὶ σῶμ᾿ ἀνάπηρος,
καὶ πενίην Ἶρος καὶ φίλος ἀθανάτοις.

46. habes, ut opinor, adsertum non esse fastidio despiciendum servile nomen, cum et Iovem tetigerit cura de servo et multos ex his fideles providos fortes, philosophos etiam extitisse constiterit.

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