Desire, Pleasure, and Sophocles

Athenaeus, Deipnosophists 12 510d-c

“Enjoying something, certainly, requires a desire first and then comes the pleasure. The poet Sophocles, as a matter of fact, was one of those people who enjoy life, in order that he might not criticize old age, blamed his inability to get pleasure from sex on wisdom, pretending that he had happily been freed from those desires as if from some cruel master.

But I insist that the “Judgment of Paris was depicted by the more ancient poets as a contest between virtue and pleasure. When Aphrodite was selected—and she represented pleasure—everything went to shit. It also seems likely to me that Xenophon made up his story about Herakles and virtue for the same reason.”

Ἡ γὰρ ἀπόλαυσις δήπου μετ᾿ ἐπιθυμίας πρῶτον, ἔπειτα μεθ᾿ ἡδονῆς. καίτοι Σοφοκλῆς γ᾿ ὁ ποιητής, τῶν ἀπολαυστικῶν γε εἷς ὤν, ἵνα μὴ κατηγορῇ τοῦ γήρως, εἰς σωφροσύνην ἔθετο τὴν ἀσθένειαν αὐτοῦ τὴν περὶ τὰς τῶν ἀφροδισίων ἀπολαύσεις, φήσας ἀσμένως ἀπηλλάχθαι αὐτῶν ὥσπερ τινὸς δεσπότου. ἐγὼ δέ φημι καὶ τὴν τοῦ Πάριδος κρίσιν ὑπὸ τῶν παλαιοτέρων πεποιῆσθαι ἡδονῆς πρὸς ἀρετὴν οὖσαν σύγκρισιν· προκριθείσης γοῦν τῆς Ἀφροδίτης, αὕτη δ᾿ ἐστὶν ἡ ἡδονή, πάντα συνεταράχθη. καί μοι δοκεῖ καὶ ὁ καλὸς ἡμῶν Ξενοφῶν τὸν περὶ τὸν Ἡρακλέα καὶ τὴν Ἀρετὴν μῦθον ἐντεῦθεν πεπλακέναι.

Image result for sophocles

It’s Ok: Tyrants Don’t Get Real Pleasure from Sex

Xenophon, Hiero 1.29-30

“In his sexual relationships with boyfriends, much more even  than those activities for having children, a tyrant falls short of happiness. Certainly, we all understand that sexual pleasures are much increased under the influence of desire. But desire is certainly least willing to arise in a tyrant.

For lust does not take pleasure in aiming for things ready at hand, but instead for those things that are only hoped for. For this reason, a man who knows nothing of thirst gets no pleasure from drinking; and the man untested by desire is inexperienced of the sweetest sexual delights”

Ἐν δὲ τοῖς παιδικοῖς ἀφροδισίοις ἔτι αὖ πολὺ μᾶλλον ἢ ἐν τοῖς τεκνοποιοῖς μειονεκτεῖ τῶν εὐφροσυνῶν ὁ τύραννος. ὅτι μὲν γὰρ τὰ μετ᾿ ἔρωτος ἀφροδίσια πολὺ διαφερόντως εὐφραίνει, πάντες δήπου ἐπιστάμεθα. ὁ δὲ ἔρως πολὺ αὖ ἐθέλει ἥκιστα τῷ τυράννῳ ἐγγίγνεσθαι. οὐ γὰρ τῶν ἑτοίμων ἥδεται ὁ ἔρως ἐφιέμενος, ἀλλὰ τῶν ἐλπιζομένων. ὥσπερ οὖν οὐκ ἄν τις ἄπειρος ὢν δίψους τοῦ πιεῖν ἀπολαύοι, οὕτω καὶ ὁ ἄπειρος ὢν ἔρωτος ἄπειρός ἐστι τῶν ἡδίστων ἀφροδισίων.

Image from here

The Abbreviated Plans of Humans and Gods: A Fragment for Valentine’s Day

Sophocles, fr. 941 [=Stobaeus 4, 20.6]

“Children, the Cyprian is certainly not only the Cyprian
But she is a being of many names.
She is Hades. She is immortal life.
She is mad insanity. She is desire undiluted.
She is lamentation. In her is everything
Earnest, peaceful, all that leads to violence
She seeps into the organs of everything
In which life resides. Who is ever sated by the goddess?
She enters into the fishes’ swimming race,
She is in the four-limbed tribe on the land
And guides her wing among the birds.

Among beasts, mortals, among the gods above.
Whom of the gods has she not thrown three times?
If it is right for me—if it is right to speak the truth,
She rules Zeus’ chest without a spear or iron
The Cyprian certainly cuts short
All the best plans of humans and gods.”

ὦ παῖδες, ἥ τοι Κύπρις οὐ Κύπρις μόνον,
ἀλλ᾿ ἐστὶ πολλῶν ὀνομάτων ἐπώνυμος.
ἔστιν μὲν Ἅιδης, ἔστι δ᾿ ἄφθιτος βίος,
ἔστιν δὲ λύσσα μανιάς, ἔστι δ᾿ ἵμερος
ἄκρατος, ἔστ᾿ οἰμωγμός. ἐν κείνῃ τὸ πᾶν
σπουδαῖον, ἡσυχαῖον, ἐς βίαν ἄγον.
ἐντήκεται γάρ †πλευμόνων† ὅσοις ἔνι
ψυχή· τίς οὐχὶ τῆσδε τῆς θεοῦ βορός;
εἰσέρχεται μὲν ἰχθύων πλωτῷ γένει,
χέρσου δ᾿ ἔνεστιν ἐν τετρασκελεῖ γονῇ,
νωμᾷ δ᾿ ἐν οἰωνοῖσι τοὐκείνης πτερόν.
* * *
ἐν θηρσίν, ἐν βροτοῖσιν, ἐν θεοῖς ἄνω.
τίν᾿ οὐ παλαίουσ᾿ ἐς τρὶς ἐκβάλλει θεῶν;
εἴ μοι θέμις—θέμις δὲ—τἀληθῆ λέγειν,
Διὸς τυραννεῖ πλευμόνων ἄνευ δορός,
ἄνευ σιδήρου· πάντα τοι συντέμνεται
Κύπρις τὰ θνητῶν καὶ θεῶν βουλεύματα.

Image result for Ancient Greek Aphrodite vase
Birth of Aphrodite, Metropolitan Museum of Art

Before Redbull, Eros Gave You Wings: Alcaeus, Plato and Homer

According to a Hellenistic collection, the poet Alcaeus complained of the onslaught of the erotic god:

Greek Anthology, 5. 10 (Attributed to Alcaeus of Messene)

“I hate Love [Eros]. Why doesn’t the overwhelming god attack
wild beasts instead of shooting arrows at my heart?
What good is it for a god to burn out a man? What is the rite
that has him pin me and take a prize from my head?”

᾿Εχθαίρω τὸν ῎Ερωτα. τί γὰρ βαρὺς οὐκ ἐπὶ θῆρας
ὄρνυται, ἀλλ’ ἐπ’ ἐμὴν ἰοβολεῖ κραδίην;
τί πλέον, εἰ θεὸς ἄνδρα καταφλέγει; ἢ τί τὸ σεμνὸν
δῃώσας ἀπ’ ἐμῆς ἆθλον ἔχει κεφαλῆς;

From theoi.com
From theoi.com

 Eros’ wings seem to have rather ancient provenance–the arrows may come in later:

Plato, Phaedrus 242b (= Fr. 1 of Homeric Epikikhlides?)

“I believe that some of the Homeridai quote from their epic repositories two lines concerning Eros—one of which is very offensive and not especially metrical. For they sing thus:

“The mortals call Eros the flying one and the gods
call him Pteros [Winged] because he makes you grow wings.”

It is just as easy to believe them as it is not….”

λέγουσι δὲ οἶμαί τινες ῾Ομηριδῶν ἐκ τῶν ἀποθέτων ἐπῶν δύο ἔπη εἰς τὸν ῎Ερωτα, ὧν τὸ ἕτερον ὑβριστικὸν πάνυ καὶ οὐ σφόδρα τι ἔμμετρον· ὑμνοῦσι δὲ ὧδε—

τὸν δ’ ἤτοι θνητοὶ μὲν ῎Ερωτα καλοῦσι ποτηνόν,
ἀθάνατοι δὲ Πτέρωτα, διὰ πτεροφύτορ’ ἀνάγκην.
τούτοις δὴ ἔξεστι μὲν πείθεσθαι, ἔξεστιν δὲ μή·

[The Epikikhlides is a hexameter poem attributed to Homer by Athenaeus 65a, 639a. The Pseudo-Herodotean Life of Homer numbers the Epikikhlides among Homer’s ‘playful’ poems (ta paignia)].

Pindar, Olympian 10. 7-8

 

 

“What was to be the future attacked from afar and shamed my deep need.”

 

ἕκαθεν γὰρ ἐπελθὼν ὁ μέλλων χρόνος

ἐμὸν καταίσχυνε βαθὺ χρέος.

 

 

(“The time about to be” (ὁ μέλλων χρόνος) in past tense? Thank you, Pindar)