F.A.R.T: A Panfarticon of Classical Topoi for Current Events

A good suggestion for a better title:

A draft bill to leave the World Trade Organization is being called the F.air A.nd R.eciprocal T.rade Act. Here’s an aggregation of Classical passages which may or may not lend support to such esteemed and properly named legislation.

Suetonius, Divus Claudius 32

“He is even said to have considered passing an edict, by which he would give license to farting at dinner, because he had heard of a man who had nearly killed himself by holding it in for shame.”

Dicitur etiam meditatus edictum, quo veniam daret flatum crepitumque ventris in convivio emittendi, cum periclitatum qvendam prae pudore ex continentia repperisset.

Aristophanes, Clouds, 293

“I revere you, men of much honor, and I want to fart in reply”

καὶ σέβομαί γ’, ὦ πολυτίμητοι, καὶ βούλομαι ἀνταποπαρδεῖν

Erasmus, Adagia 3.4.2:

Everyone enjoys the smell of their own farts.’ Suus cuique crepitus bene olet

Ἕχαστος αὑτοῦ τὸ βδέμα μήλου γλύκιον ἡγεἶται ‘Each person thinks that the smell of his own fart is sweeter than an apple,’ This is to say: there is no one who doesn’t consider his own faults to be something more like virtues. Aristotle, in the ninth book of his Nichomachean Ethics, writes, ‘In many cases, those who have a thing and those who simply wish to have a thing do not value it equally. One’s own possessions, and those which he gives to others, appear to be far more valuable.’ This passage corresponds well to the famous proverb, ‘One’s own thing is beautiful to him,’ but that page has escaped my hands. I actually suspect that Apostolius drew this proverb about farting from the shit you hear among the common crowd, because I have never met anyone who enjoyed the smell of his own farts. Yet, it is true that people tend to feel more violently repulsed by someone else’s shit and farts than by the smell of their own.”

Suus cuique crepitus bene olet

Ἕχαστος αὑτοῦ τὸ βδέμα μήλου γλύκιον ἡγεἶται, id est Unusquisque suum ipsius crepitum malo suaviorem existimat. Hoc est: Nemo est, cui sua mala non videantur vel optima. Aristoteles Moralium Nicomachiorum nono: Σὰ πολλὰ γὰρ οὐ τὸ ἴσον τιμῶσιν οἱ ἔχοντες καὶ οἱ βουλόμενοι λαβεἶν. Σὰ γὰρ οἰκεἶα καὶ ἃ διδόασιν ἑκάστοις φαίνεται πολλοῦ ἄξια, id est Pleraque enim non eodem pretio aestimantur ab his qui habent et ab his qui cupiunt accipere. Nam sua cuique et quae dat videntur esse multi pretii. Hic locus magis congruebat proverbio Suum cuique pulchrum, sed ea pagina jam exierat manus meas. Proverbium de crepitu suspicor ab Apostolio e vulgi fece haustum ; nondum enim quemquam reperi, cui suus crepitus bene oleret. Illud verum est homines vehementius abhorrere ab alienis excrementis et crepitu quam a suis.

Aristophanes, Peace 335

“I am in joy, and I am delighted! and I fart and I laugh…”

ἥδομαι γὰρ καὶ γέγηθα καὶ πέπορδα καὶ γελῶ

Cicero, de Divinatione 1.30

“Plato therefore encourages people to go to sleep with their bodies thus disposed that there be nothing which could introduce any wandering from or disturbance of sleep. From which it is thought that the Pythagoreans prohibited the consumption of beans, because that food causes a great flatulence which is contrary to the tranquility of a mind seeking the truth.”

Iubet igitur Plato sic ad somnum proficisci corporibus adfectis, ut nihil sit, quod errorem animis perturbationemque adferat. Ex quo etiam Pythagoreis interdictum putatur, ne faba vescerentur, quod habet infiationem magnam is cibus tranquillitati mentis quaerenti vera contrariam.

Nicarchus, Greek Anth. 395

“A fart with nowhere to go kills many men
a fart even saves when its hisses as it sings.
If, then, a fart can save or kill again,
a fart has power the equal of kings.”

Πορδὴ ἀποκτέννει πολλοὺς ἀδιέξοδος οὖσα·
πορδὴ καὶ σώζει τραυλὸν ἱεῖσα μέλος.
οὐκοῦν εἰ σώζει, καὶ ἀποκτέννει πάλι πορδή,
τοῖς βασιλεῦσιν ἴσην πορδὴ ἔχει δύναμιν.

Illuminated MSS

Athenaeus, 3 (102 F = Damoxenus, fr. 2)

“take each thing and fart on it in turn”

….λαβὼν / ἕκαστον αὐτῶν κατὰ μέρος προσπαρδέτ᾿.

Martial, Epigrams 40.3

“You fart, I ignore it….”

pedis: dissimulo….

Popular Mime, Fr. 6

“Throw a fart”

πορδὴν βάλε

The Greek verb for farting, perdesthai, is cognate with Latin podex (“anus”) and the English verb fart. Greek has several synonyms on a sliding scale of politeness. This restores my faith in the expressive range of Ancient Greek so shaken by the absence of words for “sleep-walking” or “sleep-talking”.

Bdennusthai: This means to evacuate one’s stomach, not to fart. This is also used locally in our time, for we say “he farts” (bdei)

Βδέννυσθαι: ἐκκενοῦσθαι τὴν κοιλίαν σημαίνει, οὐ τὸ πέρδεσθαι. ὃ καὶ ἐπιχωριάζει μέχρι τοῦ νῦν: βδέει γὰρ λέγομεν.

Skordinâsthai: This means to stretch ones limbs beyond the limits of nature nwhile yawning from weariness. Aristophanes says in the Acharnians: “I groan, I yawn, I stretch, I fart.” Some people use this verb for people waking from sleep, when they yawn and stretch their limbs. This is also used of people who twist their timbs and test them in every direction”

Σκορδινᾶσθαι: τὸ παρὰ φύσιν ἀποτείνειν τὰ μέλη μετὰ τοῦ χασμᾶσθαι διακλώμενον. Ἀριστοφάνης Ἀχαρνεῦσι: στένω, κέχηνα, σκορδινῶμαι, πέρδομαι. τινὲς δὲ περὶ τοὺς ἐγειρομένους ἐξ ὕπνου, ὅταν χασμώδεις ὄντες ἐκτείνουσι τὰ μέλη: ὅπερ συμβαίνει καὶ περὶ τοὺς ἄλλως πως βασανιζομένους καὶ διαστρεφομένους τὰ μέλη.

Apopnein and diapnein: “breathing out” and “releasing air”. These words mean to fart, but they are more polite than apopsophein (“breaking wind”).

Ἀποπνέω: γενικῇ. Ἀποπνεῖν καὶ διαπνεῖν τὸ πέρδεσθαι, εὐσχημονέστερον τοῦ ἀποψοφεῖν.

Apopsophiein: This means “to fart”, but it is more respectable. Even more polite are the words diapnein and apopnein.

᾿Αποψοφιεῖν: τὸ πέρδεσθαι, εὐσχήμως λέγων. εὐσχημονέστερον δὲ διαπνεῖν καὶ ἀποπνεῖν.

Petronius, Satyricon 47

“Pardon me, friends. My stomach has not been well for days, and the doctors don’t know what they’re about. Yet, pomegranate and pine with vinegar have done me good. Yet, I hope that my bowels will resume their old sense of shame. Otherwise, my stomach will sound so loud that you’d think it was a bull! So, if any of you wish to attend to personal business, don’t feel ashamed. No one of us is solidly born, and I think that there is no greater torment than to hold it in. Farting is the one thing which even Jupiter cannot forbid. I see you laughing, Fortunata, but you often wake me up at night with your blasts. So, I don’t forbid anyone in the dining room to do what will come as a relief, and doctors urge us not to hold it in. And, if anything more than just a fart should come upon you, everything is ready outside: water, some pots, and other accessories. Believe me, if a vapor wafts up into your brain, it will make a wave in your entire body. I know that many have died because they did not wish to speak the truth.”

“Ignoscite mihi, inquit, amici, multis iam diebus venter mihi non respondit. Nec medici se inveniunt. Profuit mihi tamen maleicorium et taeda ex aceto. Spero tamen, iam veterem pudorem sibi imponet. Alioquin circa stomachum mihi sonat, putes taurum. Itaque si quis vestrum voluerit sua re causa facere, non est quod illum pudeatur. Nemo nostrum solide natus est. Ego nullum puto tam magnum tormentum esse quam continere. Hoc solum vetare ne Iovis potest. Rides, Fortunata, quae soles me nocte desomnem facere? Nec tamen in triclinio ullum vetuo facere quod se iuvet, et medici vetant continere. Vel si quid plus venit, omnia foras parata sunt: aqua, lasani et cetera minutalia. Credite mihi, anathymiasis si in cerebrum it, et in toto corpore fluctum facit. Multos scio periisse, dum nolunt sibi verum dicere.”