Tis the Season to Get Your Cheese On

Homer, Odyssey, 20.68–69

“…And glorious Aphrodite cared for them
With cheese and sweet honey and pleasing wine.”

…..κόμισσε δὲ δῖ᾿ Ἀφροδίτη
τυρῷ καὶ μέλιτι γλυκερῷ καὶ ἡδέι οἴνῳ·

Xenophanes, fr. 1.9-10

“…and fine tables
Heaped up with cheese and thick honey.”

…γεραρή τε τράπεζα
τυροῦ καὶ μέλιτος πίονος ἀχθομένη·

Literary Papyri, fr. 59 [LCL 360] Anonymous

“There was some cheese. I took it”

….τυρὸς ἦν τις· ἔσπασα

Teleclides, fr. 27

“…to sip honey sweet wine
From a fragrant cup
While snacking on cheese.”

καὶ μελιχρὸν οἶνον ἕλκειν
ξ ἡδύπνου λεπαστῆς,
τυρίον ἐπεσθίοντα.

Still Life with Sausage, Ham and Cheese. Stillleben mit Würsten, Schinken, Käse. Norditalienischer Maler des 17. Jahrhunderts (nordvenezianische Schule, in stilistischer Nähe zur Bassano-Malerfamilie). Öl auf Leinwand. 71 x 91 cm.

Euripides, Cyclops, 226

“My buckets of cheese are all mixed up!”

τεύχη τε τυρῶν συμμιγῆ…

Cratinus, fr. 136

“Once I laid down alongside cheese and mint and olive oil…”

τυρῷ καὶ μίνθῃ παραλεξάμενος καὶ ἐλαίῳ.

Antiphanes, fr. 51

“Do you get it? I am talking about cheese”

 μανθάνεις; / τυρὸν λέγω.

Aristophanes, Wasps 956

“What’s the use, then, if he eats the cheese?”

τί οὖν ὄφελος, τὸν τυρὸν εἰ κατεσθίει;

Eupolis, fr. 361

“Oh, my cheese is hollowed out and gone….”

ὡς οἴχεται μὲν τυρὸς ἐξεγλυμμένος.

Floris van Schooten, Still-Life with Glass, Cheese, Butter and Cake, c. 1580

Hippocrates of Cos, On Ancient Medicine, 20.48

“It is not enough to consider only whether cheese is a bad food, since it provides pain to someone who has eating too much of it. Instead, we need to figure out what the pain is, what causes it, and what part of a person is harmed. There are many other harmful foods and wicked drinks that impact a person in different ways. I would summarize it in this way: “Unmixed wine, when consumed too much, creates a specific effect.” Everyone knows that this is an aspect of wine and that wine is to blame intrinsically and we know what parts of a person’s body are susceptible to these effects.

I wish to bring this kind of truth to light about other things too. Cheese, to use my current example, doesn’t affect all people the same. Some people can gorge themselves on it with no pain and those people gain amazing strength from it. Others don’t do so well. So, the constitutions of these people are different and the difference resides in the part of the body that is inimical to cheese and is irritated and compelled to act upon its appearance. Those who have this humor in their body in greater amounts and with greater influence over their body will naturally suffer more. Yet if cheese were a bad food for the human body universally, then it would hurt everyone. Whoever knows these things true, will not suffer the rest.”

καὶ μὴ ἁπλῶς οὕτως· πονηρόν ἐστιν βρῶμα τυρός. πόνον γὰρ παρέχει τῷ πληρωθέντι αὐτοῦ, ἀλλὰ τίνα τε πόνον καὶ διὰ τί καὶ τίνι τῶν ἐν τῷ ἀνθρώπῳ ἐνεόντων ἀνεπιτήδειον. ἔστι γὰρ καὶ ἄλλα πολλὰ βρώματα καὶ πόματα πονηρά, ἃ διατίθησι τὸν ἄνθρωπον οὐ τὸν αὐτὸν τρόπον. οὕτως οὖν μοι ἔστω οἷον· οἶνος ἄκρητος πολλὸς ποθεὶς διατίθησί πως τὸν ἄνθρωπον· καὶ πάντες ἂν οἱ εἰδότες τοῦτο γνοίησαν, ὅτι †αὕτη δύναμις οἴνου καὶ αὐτὸς αἴτιος·† καὶ οἷσί γε τῶν ἐν τῷ ἀνθρώπῳ τοῦτο δύναται μάλιστα, οἴδαμεν. τοιαύτην δὴ βούλομαι ἀληθείην καὶ περὶ τῶν ἄλλων φανῆναι.

τυρὸς γάρ, ἐπειδὴ τούτῳ σημείῳ ἐχρησάμην, οὐ πάντας ἀνθρώπους ὁμοίως λυμαίνεται, ἀλλ᾿ εἰσὶν οἵτινες αὐτοῦ πληρούμενοι οὐδ᾿ ὁτιοῦν βλάπτονται, ἀλλὰ καὶ ἰσχύν, οἷσιν ἂν συμφέρῃ, θαυμασίως παρέχεται. εἰσὶ δ᾿ οἳ χαλεπῶς ἀπαλλάσσουσι. διαφέρουσιν οὖν τούτων αἱ φύσιες. διαφέρουσιν δὲ κατὰ τοῦτο, ὅπερ ἐν τῷ σώματι ἔνεστι πολέμιον τυρῷ καὶ ὑπὸ τούτου ἐγείρεταί τε καὶ κινεῖται· οἷς ὁ τοιοῦτος χυμὸς τυγχάνει πλείων ἐνεὼν καὶ μᾶλλον ἐνδυναστεύων ἐν τῷ σώματι, τούτους μᾶλλον καὶ κακοπαθεῖν εἰκός. εἰ δὲ πάσῃ τῇ ἀνθρωπίνῃ φύσει ἦν κακόν, πάντας ἂν ἐλυμήνατο. ταῦτα δὲ εἴ τις εἰδείη, οὐκ ἂν πάσχοι τάδε.

File:Paestum Museum (6120214225).jpg
Carved fruit. Paestum. “Red paint dishes with fruit (pomegranates, grapes, almonds), sweets and cheese”

Epicurus, according to Diogenes Laertius, Epicurus 11

“Send me a little bowl of cheese so that I can fill my belly whenever I like.”

πέμψον μοι τυροῦ,” φησί, “κυθριδίου, ἵν᾿ ὅταν βούλωμαι πολυτελεύσασθαι δύνωμαι.”

Coming Together to Feast

Homer Iliad 1.458-476

When they had prayed and scattered barley,
first they pulled back the oxen’s heads,
then they cut their throats and flayed them.
They cut out the thigh bones,
wrapped them in folds of fat,
and put raw flesh on them.
The old man then burnt them on strips of wood
while pouring the libation, red wine, on them.

The young men at his side held five-pronged forks.
When the thigh bones were burnt up,
and they had eaten the innards,
they cut up the rest, put the pieces on spits,
roasted them with care, then pulled them off the spits.

Now their work was done.
They laid a feast and each man had his fill.
Then, freed from hunger for food and drink,
the young men filled the mixing bowls with wine.
They shared the wine with all, pouring in each cup
what’s needed for libations.

And all day long they appeased the god with song—
Achaeans singing the lovely paean,
singing and dancing for Apollo.
He heard them and was glad.

When at last the sun went down and night came on,
they laid down by their ship’s stern-cables and slept.

αὐέρυσαν μὲν πρῶτα καὶ ἔσφαξαν καὶ ἔδειραν,
μηρούς τʼ ἐξέταμον κατά τε κνίσῃ ἐκάλυψαν
δίπτυχα ποιήσαντες, ἐπʼ αὐτῶν δʼ ὠμοθέτησαν·
καῖε δʼ ἐπὶ σχίζῃς ὁ γέρων, ἐπὶ δʼ αἴθοπα οἶνον
λεῖβε· νέοι δὲ παρʼ αὐτὸν ἔχον πεμπώβολα χερσίν.
αὐτὰρ ἐπεὶ κατὰ μῆρε κάη καὶ σπλάγχνα πάσαντο,
μίστυλλόν τʼ ἄρα τἆλλα καὶ ἀμφʼ ὀβελοῖσιν ἔπειραν,
ὤπτησάν τε περιφραδέως, ἐρύσαντό τε πάντα.
αὐτὰρ ἐπεὶ παύσαντο πόνου τετύκοντό τε δαῖτα
δαίνυντʼ, οὐδέ τι θυμὸς ἐδεύετο δαιτὸς ἐΐσης.
αὐτὰρ ἐπεὶ πόσιος καὶ ἐδητύος ἐξ ἔρον ἕντο,
κοῦροι μὲν κρητῆρας ἐπεστέψαντο ποτοῖο,
νώμησαν δʼ ἄρα πᾶσιν ἐπαρξάμενοι δεπάεσσιν·
οἳ δὲ πανημέριοι μολπῇ θεὸν ἱλάσκοντο
καλὸν ἀείδοντες παιήονα κοῦροι Ἀχαιῶν
μέλποντες ἑκάεργον· ὃ δὲ φρένα τέρπετʼ ἀκούων.
ἦμος δʼ ἠέλιος κατέδυ καὶ ἐπὶ κνέφας ἦλθε,
δὴ τότε κοιμήσαντο παρὰ πρυμνήσια νηός·

Larry Benn has a B.A. in English Literature from Harvard College, an M.Phil in English Literature from Oxford University, and a J.D. from Yale Law School. Making amends for a working life misspent in finance, he’s now a hobbyist in ancient languages and blogs at featsofgreek.blogspot.com.

Socrates at the Table: Moderation in Condiments

Athenaeus, Deipnosophists 5.186d

“When Socrates observed that someone was using a condiment excessively, he said “Guests, who is using relish like bread and bread like a relish?”

Σωκράτης δ’ ἰδών τινα ἀμέτρως τῇ ἐποψήσει χρώμενον ‘ὦ παρόντες, ἔφη, τίς ὑμῶν τῷ μὲν ἄρτῳ ὡς ὄψῳ χρῆται, τῷ δ’ ὄψῳ ὡς ἄρτῳ.’

Forget Pepto-Bismol. How about Some Post-Prandial Philology?

Plutarch, Advice on Keeping Well (Moralia 133)

This segment comes from Plutarch’s advice about how to support proper digestion. Apart from walking, moderate discussions of historical and poetic issues are encouraged.

“But many of the problems of science are airy and inviting and there are many digressions which possess ethical reflections and such “soul-fitting” character, as Homer calls it—and none of these topics are off-putting. Such time spent in historical and poetic investigations some men have called, not unsweetly, a “second table” for people who love literature (philologoi) and the arts (philomusoi). There are in addition painless tales and legends and it is less trouble to talk and listen to something about the flute and lyre than it is to listen to a flute or lyre actually being played. The right amount of time for this is as long as it takes for the digestion to become master of the food that was consumed and become generally more agreeable.”

ἀλλὰ πολλὰ μέν ἐστι τῶν φυσικῶν προβλημάτων ἐλαφρὰ καὶ πιθανά, πολλαὶ δὲ διηγήσεις ἠθικὰς  σκέψεις ἔχουσαι καὶ τοῦτο δὴ τὸ “μενοεικές,” ὡς Ὅμηρος ἔφη, καὶ μὴ ἀντίτυπον. τὰς δ᾿ ἐν ἱστορικαῖς καὶ ποιητικαῖς ζητήσεσι διατριβὰς οὐκ ἀηδῶς ἔνιοι δευτέρας τραπέζας ἀνδράσι φιλολόγοις καὶ φιλομούσοις προσεῖπον. εἰσὶ δὲ καὶ διηγήσεις ἄλυποι καὶ μυθολογίαι, καὶ τὸ περὶ αὐλοῦ τι καὶ λύρας ἀκοῦσαι καὶ εἰπεῖν ἐλαφρότερον ἢ λύρας αὐτῆς φθεγγομένης ἀκούειν καὶ αὐλοῦ. μέτρον δὲ τοῦ καιροῦ τὸ τῆς τροφῆς καθισταμένης ἀτρέμα καὶ συμπνεούσης τὴν πέψιν ἐγκρατῆ γενέσθαι καὶ ὑπερδέξιον.

File:Medieval wikisource.png
 Détail d’une enluminure du Canon medicinae d’Avicenne (Besançon – BM – ms. 0457 – f. 051).

It might just be the conversation that makes us feel better.

The Greek Compound You Never Knew You Needed

[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

Socrates at the Table: Moderation in Condiments

Athenaeus, Deipnosophists 5.186d

 

 

“When Socrates observed that someone was using a condiment excessively, he said “Guests, who is using relish like bread and bread like a relish?”

 

Σωκράτης δ’ ἰδών τινα ἀμέτρως τῇ ἐποψήσει χρώμενον ‘ὦ παρόντες, ἔφη, τίς ὑμῶν τῷ μὲν ἄρτῳ ὡς ὄψῳ χρῆται, τῷ δ’ ὄψῳ ὡς ἄρτῳ.’

Looking For Love During the Holidays? Don’t Eat Lettuce.

Deipnosophists 2.52f

“You walk like a donkey to a heap of treats.”

ὄνος βαδίζεις εἰς ἄχυρα τραγημάτων

The next few weeks present almost endless opportunities for gluttony and gastronomic delights. What author could offer us more in this season than Athenaeus? As might not surprise you, he has some eating advice for all occasions.

Deipnosophists 2.69b-d

“Nikandros of Kolophon says in the second book of his Glossary that lettuce (thridaks) is called brenthis among the Kyprians, for Adonis fled to lettuce when he was mortally wounded by the boar. Amphis writes in his Lamentations:

…in the worst, accursed lettuce,
If anyone eats it who is under sixty-years old
When he shares any space with a woman
He can twist the whole night without accomplishing
What he wants. Instead of getting any help,
He presses his hand on his necessary fate.

Kallimachus adds too that Aphrodite hid Adonis in a lettuce patch—a poet’s way of saying that men who continuously eat lettuce are weakened in their sexual ability. Euboulos in his Impotent Men:

Don’t serve me lettuce at the table,
Woman, or you will blame yourself.
The story goes that once Kypris placed Adonis
In this plant after he died—
Now it is food for corpses.

ADonis

Νίκανδρος δ’ ὁ Κολοφώνιος ἐν β′ Γλωσσῶν (fr. 120 Schn) βρένθιν λέγεσθαί φησι παρὰ Κυπρίοις θρίδακα, οὗ ὁ ῎Αδωνις καταφυγὼν ὑπὸ τοῦ  κάπρου διεφθάρη. ῎Αμφις τε ἐν ᾿Ιαλέμῳ φησίν

(II 241 K)·

ἐν ταῖς θριδακίναις ταῖς κάκιστ’ ἀπολουμέναις,

ἃς εἰ φάγοι τις ἐντὸς ἑξήκοντ’ ἐτῶν,

ὁπότε γυναικὸς λαμβάνοι κοινωνίαν,

στρέφοιθ’ ὅλην τὴν νύκτ’ ἂν οὐδὲ ἓν πλέον

ὧν βούλεται δρῶν, ἀντὶ τῆς ὑπουργίας

τῇ χειρὶ τρίβων τὴν ἀναγκαίαν τύχην.

καὶ Καλλίμαχος δέ φησιν (fr. 371 Schn.) ὅτι ἡ ᾿Αφροδίτη τὸν ῎Αδωνιν ἐν θριδακίνῃ κρύψειεν, ἀλληγορούντων τῶν ποιητῶν ὅτι ἀσθενεῖς εἰσι πρὸς ἀφροδίσια οἱ συνεχῶς χρώμενοι θρίδαξι. καὶ Εὔβουλος δ’ ἐν ᾿Αστύτοις φησί (II 169 K)·

μὴ παρατίθει <σύ> μοι θριδακίνας, ὦ γύναι,

ἐπὶ τὴν τράπεζαν, ἢ σεαυτὴν αἰτιῶ.

ἐν τῷ λαχάνῳ τούτῳ γάρ, ὡς λόγος, ποτὲ

τὸν ῎Αδωνιν ἀποθανόντα προὔθηκεν Κύπρις·

ὥστ’ ἐστὶ νεκύων βρῶμα.

 

“Honor Dionysus as a Doctor”: Living and Drinking

From Athenaeus’ Deipnosophists (1.41.16-36)

“Mnestheus of Athens also insists that the Pythia commanded the Athenians to honor Dionysus as a doctor. So Alcaeus the Mitylenaean poet says:

Wet your lungs with wine, for the dog-star is rising.
The season is rough: everything thirsts in this heat.

And elsewhere he says: “Let’s drink, for the dog star is rising.” Eupolis says that Callias is compelled to drink by Pythagoras so that “he may cleanse his lung before the dog star’s rise.” And it is not only the lung that gets dry, but the heart runs the same risk. That’s why Antiphanes says:

Tell me, why do we live?
I say that it is to drink.
See how many trees alongside rushing streams
Drink constantly throughout the day and night
And how big and beautiful they grow.
Those that abstain
Wilt from the root up.

drinking

καὶ Μνησίθεος δ’ ὁ ᾿Αθηναῖος Διόνυσον ἰατρόν φησι τὴν Πυθίαν χρῆσαι τιμᾶν ᾿Αθηναίοις. φησὶ δὲ καὶ ᾿Αλκαῖος ὁ Μιτυληναῖος ποιητής (fr. 39 B4)·

τέγγε πνεύμονα οἴνῳ· τὸ γὰρ ἄστρον περιτέλλεται·

ἡ δ’ ὥρη χαλεπή· πάντα δὲ δίψαισ’ ὑπὸ καύματος.

καὶ ἀλλαχοῦ (fr. 40)·

πίνωμεν, τὸ γὰρ ἄστρον περιτέλλεται.

Εὔπολίς τε τὸν Καλλίαν φησὶν ἀναγκάζεσθαι ὑπὸ Πρωταγόρου πίνειν, ἵνα (I 297 K)·

πρὸ τοῦ κυνὸς τὸν πνεύμον’ ἔκλυτον φορῇ. ἡμῖν δ’ οὐ μόνον ὁ πνεύμων ἀπεξήρανται, κινδυνεύει δὲ καὶ ἡ καρδία. καίτοι ᾿Αντιφάνης λέγει (II 112 K)·

 

τὸ δὲ ζῆν, εἰπέ μοι,

τί ἐστι; τὸ πίνειν φήμ’ ἐγώ.

ὁρᾷς παρὰ ῥείθροισι χειμάρροις ὅσα

δένδρων ἀεὶ τὴν νύκτα καὶ τὴν ἡμέραν

βρέχεται, μέγεθος καὶ κάλλος οἷα γίνεται,

τὰ δ’ ἀντιτείνοντ’ [οἱονεὶ δίψαν τινὰ

ἢ ξηρασίαν ἔχοντ’] αὐτόπρεμν’ ἀπόλλυται.

οὕτω τούτοις, φησί, κυνολογήσασιν ἐδόθη πιεῖν. εἴρηται δὲ τὸ βρέχειν καὶ ἐπὶ τοῦ πίνειν. ᾿Αντιφάνης

(II 126 K)·

δεῖ γὰρ φαγόντας δαψιλῶς βρέχειν.