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:



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.


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.


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.