Medically Mad or Just Thinking Bad? Early Greek on Being Crazy

An ancient distinction between mental maladies with absolutely no relevance to the modern day.

Assemblywomen, 248-253

[First Woman]: But what if Kephalos attacks you with abuse—
How will you response to him in the assembly?

[Praksagora]: I will say he’s out of his mind [paraphronein]

[First Woman]: but everyone knows this!

[Praksagora]: then I will also call him psychopathic [lit. ‘black-biled’=melancholic].

[First Woman]: They know this too.

[Praksagora]: But I will add that he produces terrible ceramics and will then do a fine job of doing the same to the city.

ἀτὰρ ἢν Κέφαλός σοι λοιδορῆται προσφθαρείς,
πῶς ἀντερεῖς πρὸς αὐτὸν ἐν τἠκκλησίᾳ;
ΠΡΑΞΑΓΟΡΑ φήσω παραφρονεῖν αὐτόν.
ΓΥΝΗ Α …ἀλλὰ τοῦτό γε
ἴσασι πάντες.
ΠΡΑΞΑΓΟΡΑ ἀλλὰ καὶ μελαγχολᾶν.
ΓΥΝΗ Α καὶ τοῦτ᾿ ἴσασιν.
ΠΡΑΞΑΓΟΡΑἀλλὰ καὶ τὰ τρύβλια
κακῶς κεραμεύειν, τὴν δὲ πόλιν εὖ καὶ καλῶς.

Melancholy here contrasts with “thinking -wrongly” (paraphronein). A scholion to another play by Aristophanes glosses the realms of these types of mental maladies (Schol. ad Plut. 11a ex 20-28)

“He seems to say this because he harmed or helped his master through his own virtue more—and while he disturbed him through prophecy, he made him crazy [melankholan] through medicine and took away his ability to think [phronein] through wisdom, which is the art of thinking. The servant lies. For he does not speak the truth….”

…τοῦτο οὖν
ἔοικε λέγειν, ὅτι διὰ τῶν ἑαυτοῦ
μᾶλλον ἀρετῶν ἔβλαψε τὸν δεσπότην
ἤπερ ὠφέλησε, καὶ διὰ μὲν τῆς
μαντείας ἐτάραξε, διὰ δὲ τῆς ἰατρι-
κῆς μελαγχολᾶν ἐποίησε, διὰ δὲ
τῆς σοφίας, ὅ ἐστι τῆς φρονήσεως,
τοῦ φρονεῖν αὐτὸν ἀφείλατο. ψεύδεται
ὁ δοῦλος· οὐ γὰρ ἀλήθειαν λέγει

Where melancholy denotes a physical ailment [i.e. biologically caused and treated], paraphrosunê indicates parafunctionality which may be treated without medicine.

μελαγχολάω: to be atrabilious, melancholy-mad.

μελαγχολία: atrabiliousness, melancholy, a disease [atual LSJ definition]

παραφροσύνη, ἡ:  wandering of mind, derangment, delirium

παραφρονέω: to be beside oneself, be deranged, or mad.

Lyrica Adespota, fr. 3.9-10

“Lust–that magician–takes me. It descends upon my mind
And makes me crazy!”

῎Ερως μ’ ἔλα]β’ ὁ γόης· εἰς τὴν ψυχήν μου εἰσπε-
σὼν [ποιεῖ μ]ε παραφρονεῖν.

Aristotle, Metaphysics 4.1009b

“In the same way, ‘truth’ concerning the way things appear has come to some people from their senses. They believe that it is right that truth should be judged neither by the multitude or the scarcity [of those who believe it]; and they believe that the same thing seems sweet to some who taste it and bitter to others with the result that if all men were sick or if they were all insane and two or three were healthy or in their right mind, wouldn’t it seem that these few were sick and crazy and not the rest?”

[1] —ὅμοιως δὲ καὶ ἡ περὶ τὰ φαινόμενα ἀλήθεια ἐνίοις ἐκ τῶν αἰσθητῶν ἐλήλυθεν. τὸ μὲν γὰρ ἀληθὲς οὐ πλήθει κρίνεσθαι οἴονται προσήκειν οὐδὲ ὀλιγότητι, τὸ δ᾽ αὐτὸ τοῖς μὲν γλυκὺ γευομένοις δοκεῖν εἶναι τοῖς δὲ πικρόν, ὥστ᾽ εἰ πάντες ἔκαμνον [5] ἢ πάντες παρεφρόνουν, δύο δ᾽ ἢ τρεῖς ὑγίαινον ἢ νοῦν εἶχον, δοκεῖν ἂν τούτους κάμνειν καὶ παραφρονεῖν τοὺς δ᾽ ἄλλους οὔ:

Image result for ancient greek comedy vase

Ancient Greek Viagra: Medicine, Magic, and Erections

I apologize to the world for this. But a tweet directed me to learn some new words. Also, I don’t advise trying the following formulas. Here we go…

I added the Greek, someone responded:

https://twitter.com/FDR68UK/status/918904043602313216

The full passage also has a prescription for sexual performance

Magical Papyri, 7.185

“To be able to fuck a lot: mix fifty [pine nuts] with two measures of honey and seeds of pepper and drink it. To have an erection whenever you want: mix pepper with honey and rub it on your thing.”

Πολλὰ βι[ν]εῖν δύνασθαι· στροβίλια πεντήκοντα μετὰ δύο κυά[θ]ων γλυκέος καὶ κόκκους πεπέρεως τρίψας πίε. Στ[ύ]ειν, ὅτε θέλεις· πέπερι μετὰ μέλιτος τρίψας χρῖέ σου τὸ πρᾶ̣γ̣μ̣α.

  1. Complications: this might just be a metaphor. στροβίλια can be phallic; κόκκος can mean “testicles” or female genitals. Also, seeds are, well, seminal. So there is some affiliative magic going on here.

2. I was a little unsure about στροβίλια, but I checked Galen (De Simp. Medic. 12.55.7) and it seems to be a pine nut (Κώνου ὁ καρπὸς, ὃν δὴ καὶ κόκαλον ὀνομάζουσι καὶ στρόβιλον). I am happy for a botanist’s help.

3. τὸ πρᾶ̣γ̣μ̣α: There is a variant attributed to Democritus τὸ π[έλ]μα, which looks like we could treat as a diminutive of τὸ πέος (“penis”) if we wanted to. So, you know, “spread pepper and honey on your little prick”)

Enhancements

For the verb βι[ν]εῖν, see this earlier post. For masturbation in ancient Greek, go here.

Etymologicum Magnum

Anaphlân: to rub genitals with your hand. Some, instead, say stuein.

     ᾿Αναφλᾶν: Χειροτρίβειν τὸ αἰδοῖον. Οἱ δὲ, στύειν.

Aristophanes, Birds 1255-56

“Iris herself—so you’ll be surprised how erect I am
Even though I am an old man, three times as good as a ship’s ram!”

τὴν ῏Ιριν αὐτήν, ὥστε θαυμάζειν ὅπως
οὕτω γέρων ὢν στύομαι τριέμβολον.

Suda, for the gloss

“Triembolon: able to strike a lot. Aristophanes”

Τριέμβολον: πολλάκις ἐμβάλλεσθαι δυνάμενον. ᾿Αριστοφάνης·

 

Aristophanes, Acharnians 1220

“I want to sleep. And I am erect.
And I will fuck in the dark.”

Κἀγὼ καθεύδειν βούλομαι καὶ στύομαι
καὶ σκοτοβινιῶ.

According to J. Henderson (The Maculate Muse 1991: 112) this verb is the vulgar way to talk about erections:

stuein

Image result for Ancient Greek Phallic vase

Zooglossia 6: A Dog Goes Βαὺ Ϝαύ

This is yet another entry in the search for Greek animal sounds. You can find earlier notes on goats, pigs, sheep, donkeys and cows.

Aristophanes Wasps, 902-3

Ph.“Where is the plaintiff, the Kudathênaian dog?

Dog: Ow, Ow!

ποῦ δ’ ὅ γε διώκων, ὁ Κυδαθηναιεὺς κύων;

ΚΥΩΝ   αὖ αὖ.

When I was in graduate school I had a few table lecterns built by my late father who used to spend time under the influence working in the woodshop in his later years. He made a series of unfinished lecterns that worked to various degrees. One of them had some of my favorite lines from Greek scrawled on them—as I worked my way through the PhD reading list, I would throw fragments on it when they entertained me. (This practice, if any, represents the extreme origin of this blog and the twitter feed).

The dog’s comment above from the Wasps was one of a dozen on it. For years, I thought of ancient Greek dogs as saying au au until, last week, in a fit of fancy over animal noises, I posted this on twitter and was corrected. Ancient Greek dogs don’t say au au. They probably spoke the same language our dogs do and said Βαὺ Ϝαύ.

There was a lively twitter conversation about this.

As usual, the Suda would have helped explain the confusion. According to it (and a comment repeated in the scholion to Aristophanes’ Wasps), “au au is the imitation of the howling of dogs” (αὖ αὖν: μίμημα ὑλακῆς κυνῶν). The verb   ὑλακτεῖν—a secondary formation from the onomatopoetic ὑλάω—is, as any student of Athenaze would know, used at times to mean “bark”, but it more properly means to howl. From Beekes:

Ulaw

Aristonicus, De Signis Iliadis ad 21.575

“The howl is the special sound of dogs.”

ὁ γὰρ ὑλαγμὸς ἴδιος κυνῶν.

Zonaras, beta 379

“Barking: ulaktôn: In Aristophanes [Thesm. 173] “Barking, for I was like this….”

Βαΰζων. ὑλακτῶν. ᾿Αριστοφάνης· βαΰζων γὰρ καὶ ἐγὼ τοιοῦτος ἦν.

That Greek dogs likely said bau wau like our own is confirmed by a few fragments and the existence of another onomatopoetic verb, βαΰζειν. The loss of the digamma in Greek obscures the similarity, but, as we have seen from other Greek words for animal sounds, there is a tendency to represents them through reduplication. There is probably something interesting to say about this and Greek phonetic representations of linguistic otherness, as in the reduplicated bar-bar-os.

BauFCG Anonymous Fragments, Fr. 195 (=IEG fr. 50)

“Bau, bau—you also utter the sound of a dog!”

Βαὺ βαὺ καὶ κυνὸς φωνὴν ἱείς.

Pseudo-Herodian, De prosida Catholica 3.1.495

“The bau is accented in imitation of a dog….from this too comes the word “to bark”

καὶ τὸ βαύ κατὰ μίμησιν κυνὸς ὀξύνεται «βαὺ βαὺ καὶ κυνὸς φωνὴν ἱείς». ἐξ οὗ καὶ τὸ βαύζω ῥῆμα.

Aristophanes, Thesmo. 173-4

“Stop barking at him. I was also the like this
When I was that age, when I was beginning to compose.”

ΕΥ.                Παῦσαι βαΰζων· καὶ γὰρ ἐγὼ τοιοῦτος ἦν
ὢν τηλικοῦτος, ἡνίκ’ ἠρχόμην ποεῖν.

Zooglossia 4: Sheep Go “Baa” and an Absurd Etymology

My new ‘serious academic obsession’ has been Greek representations of animal sounds. So far, we have had goats, donkeys, and pigs. Now, sheep.

Aristophanes, fr. 642

“He is about to sacrifice me and he is telling me to say “baa”.”

θύειν <με> μέλλει καὶ κελεύει βῆ λέγειν.

 

Aelian, On Animals, 16.16

τῶν δὲ οἰῶν βληχή, “The bleating of sheep”

 

Hermippus, fr. 19

“Baa”
[βᾶ]

 

Suda, s.v. Βή (beta, 240)

Baa: This is the imitation of the sound of sheep—since Attic speakers do not say bai. Cratinus in his Dionysalexandros says “the last one walks forward saying “baa baa” like a sheep.”

Βή τὸ μιμητικὸν τῆς τῶν προβάτων φωνῆς, οὐχὶ βαὶ λέγουσιν Ἀττικοί. Κρατῖνος Διονυσαλεξάνδρῳ: ὁ δὴ λοίσθιος ὥσπερ πρόβατον βὴ βὴ λέγων βαδίζει.

Image result for Ancient Greek sheep

 

Perhaps one of the reasons the metonymic name probata stuck for sheep is that they “baa” in front (probata means to “walk in front”, from bainô).

 

Here’s Beekes on baaing and bleating:

Baa

 

Bleat

Messing With Socrates

Eupolis, Fr. 356

“I hate Socrates too,
that prattling panhandler
who figured out everything
except where he can get something to eat.”

μισῶ δὲ καὶ Σωκράτην
τὸν πτωχὸν ἀδολέσχην,
ὃς τἆλλα μὲν πεφρόντικεν,
ὁπόθεν δὲ καταφαγεῖν ἔχοι
τούτου κατημέληκεν

Ameipsias, fr. 7

“Socrates, the best of men when there are few and the most foolish among the many:
You have come to see us too? You are brave. Where would you get a cloak?
Your appearance is an embarrassment to cobblers everywhere.”

Σώκρατες ἀνδρῶν βέλτιστ᾿ ὀλίγων, πολλῶν δὲ ματαιοταθ᾿, ἥκεις
καὶ σὺ πρὸς ἡμᾶς; καρτερικὸς γ᾿ εἶ. πόθεν ἄν σοι χλαῖνα γένοιτο;
τουτὶ τὸ κακὸν τῶν σκυτότομων κατ᾿ ἐπήρειαν γεγένηται

Aristophanes, Clouds 392-393 (Socrates speaking to Strepsiades)

Think about what kind of farts come from your stomach.
Is it not normal that this air, which has no bounds, thunders so much?

 σκέψαι τοίνυν ἀπὸ γαστριδίου τυννουτουὶ οἷα πέπορδας·
τὸν δ᾽ ἀέρα τόνδ᾽ ὄντ᾽ ἀπέραντον πῶς οὐκ εἰκὸς μέγα βροντᾶν;

Image result for Ancient GReek Socrates

Want more words for flatulence in Ancient Greek? We can help with that...

“If Wine Could Tell A Story”

Plautus, Truculentus 829-833

“This is no good. You are blaming the silent who cannot speak.
If wine could tell a story it would defend itself.
Wine doesn’t control men—men usually control wine!
Well, that’s how it is when men are fit for anything—certain fools
When they drink a little or not at all remain fools by nature.”

Callicles

non placet: in mutum culpam confers quit loqui.
nam uinum si fabulari possit se defenderet.
non uinum moderari, sed uiri uino solent,
qui quidem probi sunt; uerum qui improbust si quasi Bibit
siue adeo caret temeto, tamen ab ingenio improbust.

 

Image result for Ancient Roman Drinking

A Greek Compound, A Gift of a Useful Concept

[Thanks to a thread from Facebook for letting me know about this one]

Suetonius Tranquillus, Peri Blasphemon 11.12

“According to Hipponax [fr. 114c] the “messêgudorpoxéstês” is one who often relieves himself during a meal so that he may fill himself up again”

<Κατὰ δὲ ῾Ιππώνακτα (fr. 114 c Masson), καὶ ὁ> μεσσηγυδορποχέστης, ὁ μεσοῦντος τοῦ δείπνου πολλάκις ἀποπατῶν, ὅπως πάλιν ἐμπίπληται ὁ αὐτός.

For the word-builders: messêgu (“in the middle of”) + dorpos (“dinner, meal”)+ khestês (a nomina agentis—agentive noun—from the Greek verb χέζω, “to shit”).

This is a real vase at the Museum of Fine Arts

 

And another from the Walters Art Museum:

 

pl9_482050_detc_bw_t90

%d bloggers like this: