Make A Seating Plan for Your Holiday Feast, Unless Simonides is Coming…

Ancient memory techniques go back to oratorical training in theory, but in practice probably much further back in human history. Philostratus records the reputation of Dionysius of Miletus and his “memory-men”. But one of the most easily abused and likely misunderstood method from the ancient world is the “memory palace” (or “method of loci“), made famous by Cicero, but credited to the lyric poet Simonides.

Cicero De Oratore 2.352–355

“But, so I may return to the matter”, he said, “I am not as smart as Themistocles was as to prefer the art of forgetting to the art of memory. And So I am thankful to that Simonides of Ceos who, as they say, first produced an art of memory. For they say that when Simonides was dining at the home of a wealthy aristocrate named Scopas in Thessaly and had performed that song which he wrote in his honor—in which there were many segments composed for Castor and Pollux elaborated in the way of poets. Then Scopas told him cruelly that he would pay him half as much as he had promised he would give for the song; if it seemed right to him, he could ask Tyndareus’ sons for the other half since he had praised them equally.

A little while later, as they tell the tale, it was announced that Simonides should go outside—there were two young men at the door who had been calling him insistently. He rose, exited, and sAW no one. Meanwhile, in the same space of time, the ceiling under which Scopas was having his feast collapsed: the man was crushed by the ruins and died with his relatives. When people wanted to bury them they could not recognize who was where because they were crushed. Simonides is said to have shown the place in which each man died from his memory for their individual burials.

From this experience, Simonides is said to have learned that it is order most of all that brings light to memory. And thus those who wish to practice this aspect of the skill must select specific places and shape in their mind the matters they wish to hold in their memory and locate these facts in those places. It will so turn out that the order of the places will safeguard the order of the matters, the reflections of the facts will remind of the facts themselves, and we may use the places like wax and the ideas like letters written upon it.”

Sed, ut ad rem redeam, non sum tanto ego, inquit, ingenio quanto Themistocles fuit, ut oblivionis artem quam memoriae malim; gratiamque habeo Simonidi illi Cio quem primum ferunt artem memoriae protulisse.  Dicunt enim cum cenaret Crannone in Thessalia Simonides apud Scopam fortunatum hominem et nobilem cecinissetque id carmen quod in eum scripsisset, in quo multa ornandi causa poetarum more in Castorem scripta et Pollucem fuissent, nimis illum sordide Simonidi dixisse se dimidium eius ei quod pactus esset pro illo carmine daturum: reliquum a suis Tyndaridis quos aeque laudasset peteret si ei videretur. Paulo post esse ferunt nuntiatum Simonidi ut prodiret: iuvenes stare ad ianuam duos quosdam qui eum magnopere evocarent; surrexisse illum, prodisse, vidisse neminem; hoc interim spatio conclave illud ubi epularetur Scopas concidisse; ea ruina ipsum cum cognatis oppressum suis interiisse; quos cum humare vellent sui neque possent obtritos internoscere ullo modo, Simonides dicitur ex eo quod meminisset quo eorum loco quisque cubuisset demonstrator uniuscuiusque sepeliendi fuisse; hac tum re admonitus invenisse fertur ordinem esse maxime qui memoriae lumen afferret. Itaque eis qui hanc partem ingeni exercerent locos esse capiendos et ea quae memoria tenere vellent effingenda animo atque in eis locis collocanda: sic fore ut ordinem rerum locorum ordo conservaret, res autem ipsas rerum effigies notaret, atque ut locis pro cera, simulacris pro litteris uteremur.

thanks to S. Raudnitz for reminding me of this passage too!

 

Image result for ancient greek memory palace medieval giulio camillo
This stuff is still popular: The Memory Theater of Guilio Camillo

A Simple Plan for Being the Perfect Dinner Guest

Aristophon, The Physician (fr. 5; Athenaeus, Deipnosophists 6.238c)

“I want to announce to him what kind of a man I am.
Whenever someone hosts a meal, I am there first—so much so
That I have been called “Broth-boy” for many years.
When we must carry someone out of the middle of the drinkers,
Know that I will look like an Argive grappler in the act.
If we must assault a house, I’m the ram. Storm it by the roof?
Call me Capaneus. I’m the anvil for enduring all blows.
I make fists like Telamon. I go at the handsome guys
Like smoke.”

βούλομαι δ’ αὐτῷ προειπεῖν οἷός εἰμι τοὺς τρόπους·
ἄν τις ἑστιᾷ, πάρειμι πρῶτος, ὥστ’ ἤδη πάλαι
…. ζωμὸς καλοῦμαι. δεῖ τιν’ ἄρασθαι μέσον
τῶν παροινούντων, παλαιστὴν νόμισον αὐταργειον
μ’ ὁρᾶν.
προσβαλεῖν πρὸς οἰκίαν δεῖ, κριός· ἀναβῆναί τι πρὸς
κλιμάκιον … Καπανεύς· ὑπομένειν πληγὰς ἄκμων·
κονδύλους πλάττειν δὲ Τελαμών· τοὺς καλοὺς πει-
ρᾶν καπνός.

Archaeological Museum of Nikopolis, Nikopoli, Preveza, Greece.

How To Earn A Dinner Invitation: Some Roman Advice

Here are some techniques if you’re worried about where you are dining next week

Martial 9.35

“You will always earn a dinner with these skills, Philomusus:
Fabricate many tales, but relay them as if they are true.
You know what Pacorus is considering in his Arsacian abode;
You count the number of Rhenish and Sarmatian men,
You reveal the words consigned to paper by the Dacian chef,
And you see the victor’s crown before it arrives.
You know how many times Pharian rain dampens dark Syene
And the number of ships departing from Lybian shores
For whose head Julian olives are harvested,
And for whom the heavenly father has promised his wreaths.
Forget your skill! You will dine with me today
Under one rule: Philomusus, tell me nothing of the news.”

Artibus his semper cenam, Philomuse, mereris,
plurima dum fingis, sed quasi vera refers.
scis quid in Arsacia Pacorus deliberet aula,
Rhenanam numeras Sarmaticamque manum,
verba ducis Daci chartis mandata resignas, 5
victricem laurum quam venit ante vides,
scis quotiens Phario madeat Iove fusca Syene,
scis quota de Libyco litore puppis eat,
cuius Iuleae capiti nascantur olivae,
destinet aetherius cui sua serta pater. 10
Tolle tuas artes; hodie cenabis apud me
hac lege, ut narres nil, Philomuse, novi.

Image result for Ancient Roman Feasting

A Dinner Conversation Prompt: Why Are We Hungrier in the Fall?

Plutarch, Moralia 635—Table-Talk, Book 2 Problem 2: Why People are Hungrier in The Fall

“After the Mysteries in Eleusis when the entire festival was at its peak, we were having a feast at the house of Glaukias the rhetorician. When the rest had finished their dinner, Xenokles the Delphian began to mock my brother, as he usually does, about his “Boiotian gluttony”.

As I was defending him I used the words of Epicurus against Xenokles, and said “All men don’t make the avoidance of what hurts the boundary and the limit of pleasure. Lamprias honors the Peripatos and the Lukeion before the garden and therefore attests to Aristotle. For this man says that everyone is hungriest in the autumn. He also provided an explanation, which I do not recall.”

“This is better”, Glaukias added, “for we ourselves will try to find one when we have stopped dining, Once the meals were taken away, both Glaukias and Xenokles were claiming that it was autumn’s fruit which was to blame, but for different reason.

The first claimed that it cleansed the bowels and by emptying the body was preparing the appetites anew. The other said that the pleasant and delicate nature of the fruit incited the stomach to food much more than any relish or source. Indeed, the offering of some fruit to people who have been sick and have fasted incites the appetite.”

Image result for Ancient Greek Autumn feast

Διὰ τί βρωτικώτεροι γίγνονται περὶ τὸ μετόπωρον

Ἐν Ἐλευσῖνι μετὰ τὰ μυστήρια τῆς πανηγύρεως ἀκμαζούσης εἱστιώμεθα παρὰ Γλαυκίᾳ τῷ ῥήτορι. πεπαυμένων δὲ δειπνεῖν τῶν ἄλλων, Ξενοκλῆς ὁ Δελφὸς ὥσπερ εἰώθει τὸν ἀδελφὸν ἡμῶν Λαμπρίαν εἰς ἀδηφαγίαν Βοιώτιον ἐπέσκωπτεν. ἐγὼ δ᾿ ἀμυνόμενος ὑπὲρ αὐτοῦ τὸν Ξενοκλέα τοῖς Ἐπικούρου λόγοις χρώμενον, “οὐ γὰρ ἅπαντες,” εἶπον, “ὦ βέλτιστε, ποιοῦνται τὴν τοῦ ἀλγοῦντος ὑπεξαίρεσιν ὅρον ἡδονῆς καὶ πέρας· Λαμπρίᾳ δὲ καὶ ἀνάγκη, πρὸ τοῦ κήπου κυδαίνοντι τὸν περίπατον καὶ τὸ Λύκειον, ἔργῳ μαρτυρεῖν Ἀριστοτέλει· φησὶ γὰρ ὁ ἀνὴρ βρωτικώτατον ἕκαστον αὐτὸν αὑτοῦ περὶ τὸ φθινόπωρον εἶναι, καὶ τὴν αἰτίαν ἐπείρηκεν· ἐγὼ δ᾿ οὐ μνημονεύω.”

“Βέλτιον,” εἶπεν ὁ Γλαυκίας· “αὐτοὶ γὰρ ἐπιχειρήσομεν ζητεῖν, ὅταν παυσώμεθα δειπνοῦντες.” Ὡς οὖν ἀφῃρέθησαν αἱ τράπεζαι, Γλαυκίας μὲν καὶ Ξενοκλῆς ᾐτιάσαντο τὴν ὀπώραν διαφόρως, ὁ μὲν ὡς3 τὴν κοιλίαν ὑπεξάγουσαν καὶ τῷ κενοῦσθαι τὸ σῶμα νεαρὰς ὀρέξεις ἀεὶ παρασκευάζουσαν· ὁ δὲ Ξενοκλῆς ἔλεγεν εὔστομόν τι καὶ δηκτικὸν ἔχοντα τῶν ὡραίων τὰ πλεῖστα τὸν στόμαχον ἐπὶ τὴν βρῶσιν ἐκκαλεῖσθαι παντὸς μᾶλλον ὄψου καὶ ἡδύσματος· καὶ γὰρ τοῖς ἀποσίτοις τῶν ἀρρώστων ὀπώρας τι προσενεχθὲν ἀναλαμβάνει τὴν ὄρεξιν.

 

Athenians also allegedly called Boiotians “piggies” and “oak trees”

A Greek Compound To Save Your Life Today

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

Cf.

And another from the Walters Art Museum:

 

pl9_482050_detc_bw_t90

Why Are We Hungrier in the Fall? More Conversation Prompts from Plutarch

Plutarch, Moralia 635—Table-Talk, Book 2 Problem 2: Why People are Hungrier in The Fall

“After the Mysteries in Eleusis when the entire festival was at its peak, we were having a feast at the house of Glaukias the rhetorician. When the rest had finished their dinner, Xenokles the Delphian began to mock my brother, as he usually does, about his “Boiotian gluttony”.

As I was defending him I used the words of Epicurus against Xenokles, and said “All men don’t make the avoidance of what hurts the boundary and the limit of pleasure. Lamprias honors the Peripatos and the Lukeion before the garden and therefore attests to Aristotle. For this man says that everyone is hungriest in the autumn. He also provided an explanation, which I do not recall.”

“This is better”, Glaukias added, “for we ourselves will try to find one when we have stopped dining, Once the meals were taken away, both Glaukias and Xenokles were claiming that it was autumn’s fruit which was to blame, but for different reason.

The first claimed that it cleansed the bowels and by emptying the body was preparing the appetites anew. The other said that the pleasant and delicate nature of the fruit incited the stomach to food much more than any relish or source. Indeed, the offering of some fruit to people who have been sick and have fasted incites the appetite.”

Image result for Ancient Greek Autumn feast

Διὰ τί βρωτικώτεροι γίγνονται περὶ τὸ μετόπωρον

Ἐν Ἐλευσῖνι μετὰ τὰ μυστήρια τῆς πανηγύρεως ἀκμαζούσης εἱστιώμεθα παρὰ Γλαυκίᾳ τῷ ῥήτορι. πεπαυμένων δὲ δειπνεῖν τῶν ἄλλων, Ξενοκλῆς ὁ Δελφὸς ὥσπερ εἰώθει τὸν ἀδελφὸν ἡμῶν Λαμπρίαν εἰς ἀδηφαγίαν Βοιώτιον ἐπέσκωπτεν. ἐγὼ δ᾿ ἀμυνόμενος ὑπὲρ αὐτοῦ τὸν Ξενοκλέα τοῖς Ἐπικούρου λόγοις χρώμενον, “οὐ γὰρ ἅπαντες,” εἶπον, “ὦ βέλτιστε, ποιοῦνται τὴν τοῦ ἀλγοῦντος ὑπεξαίρεσιν ὅρον ἡδονῆς καὶ πέρας· Λαμπρίᾳ δὲ καὶ ἀνάγκη, πρὸ τοῦ κήπου κυδαίνοντι τὸν περίπατον καὶ τὸ Λύκειον, ἔργῳ μαρτυρεῖν Ἀριστοτέλει· φησὶ γὰρ ὁ ἀνὴρ βρωτικώτατον ἕκαστον αὐτὸν αὑτοῦ περὶ τὸ φθινόπωρον εἶναι, καὶ τὴν αἰτίαν ἐπείρηκεν· ἐγὼ δ᾿ οὐ μνημονεύω.”

“Βέλτιον,” εἶπεν ὁ Γλαυκίας· “αὐτοὶ γὰρ ἐπιχειρήσομεν ζητεῖν, ὅταν παυσώμεθα δειπνοῦντες.” Ὡς οὖν ἀφῃρέθησαν αἱ τράπεζαι, Γλαυκίας μὲν καὶ Ξενοκλῆς ᾐτιάσαντο τὴν ὀπώραν διαφόρως, ὁ μὲν ὡς3 τὴν κοιλίαν ὑπεξάγουσαν καὶ τῷ κενοῦσθαι τὸ σῶμα νεαρὰς ὀρέξεις ἀεὶ παρασκευάζουσαν· ὁ δὲ Ξενοκλῆς ἔλεγεν εὔστομόν τι καὶ δηκτικὸν ἔχοντα τῶν ὡραίων τὰ πλεῖστα τὸν στόμαχον ἐπὶ τὴν βρῶσιν ἐκκαλεῖσθαι παντὸς μᾶλλον ὄψου καὶ ἡδύσματος· καὶ γὰρ τοῖς ἀποσίτοις τῶν ἀρρώστων ὀπώρας τι προσενεχθὲν ἀναλαμβάνει τὴν ὄρεξιν.

 

Athenians also allegedly called Boiotians “piggies” and “oak trees”

The Most Evil Pain: A Lot of Knowledge, But No Power

Herodotus, Histories 9.16

After dinner when they were drinking together, the Persian next to him asked [Thersander] in Greek what country was his and Thersander said Orkhomenos. Then he responded “Since you are my dinner companion and have had a drink with me I want to leave a memorial of my belief so that you may understand and be able to make some advantageous plans.

Do you see these Persians dining and the army we left in camp by the river? In a short time you will see that few of these men remain.” The Persian stopped saying these things and cried a lot.

After he was surprised at this confession, he responded, “Isn’t it right to tell these things to Mardonios and those noble Persians around him?”

Then he responded, “Friend, whatever a god decrees is impossible for humans to change: for they say that no one wants to believe what is true. Many of us Persians know this and follow because we are bound by necessity. This is most hateful pain for human beings: when someone knows a lot but has no power.”

I heard these things from Thersander of Orkhomnos and he also told me that he said them to people before the battle occurred at Plataea.”

2] ὡς δὲ ἀπὸ δείπνου ἦσαν, διαπινόντων τὸν Πέρσην τὸν ὁμόκλινον Ἑλλάδα γλῶσσαν ἱέντα εἰρέσθαι αὐτὸν ὁποδαπός ἐστι, αὐτὸς δὲ ὑποκρίνασθαι ὡς εἴη Ὀρχομένιος. τὸν δὲ εἰπεῖν ‘ἐπεὶ νῦν ὁμοτράπεζός τέ μοι καὶ ὁμόσπονδος ἐγένεο, μνημόσυνά τοι γνώμης τῆς ἐμῆς καταλιπέσθαι θέλω, ἵνα καὶ προειδὼς αὐτὸς περὶ σεωυτοῦ βουλεύεσθαι ἔχῃς τὰ συμφέροντα. ’

‘ [3] ὁρᾷς τούτους τοὺς δαινυμένους Πέρσας καὶ τὸν στρατὸν τὸν ἐλίπομεν ἐπὶ τῷ ποταμῷ στρατοπεδευόμενον: τούτων πάντων ὄψεαι ὀλίγου τινὸς χρόνου διελθόντος ὀλίγους τινὰς τοὺς περιγενομένους.’ ταῦτα ἅμα τε τὸν Πέρσην λέγειν καὶ μετιέναι πολλὰ τῶν δακρύων.

[4] αὐτὸς δὲ θωμάσας τὸν λόγον εἰπεῖν πρὸς αὐτὸν ‘οὐκῶν Μαρδονίῳ τε ταῦτα χρεόν ἐστι λέγειν καὶ τοῖσι μετ᾽ ἐκεῖνον ἐν αἴνῃ ἐοῦσι Περσέων;’ τὸν δὲ μετὰ ταῦτα εἰπεῖν ‘ξεῖνε, ὅ τι δεῖ γενέσθαι ἐκ τοῦ θεοῦ ἀμήχανον ἀποτρέψαι ἀνθρώπῳ: οὐδὲ γὰρ πιστὰ λέγουσι ἐθέλει πείθεσθαι οὐδείς. ’

‘ [5] ταῦτα δὲ Περσέων συχνοὶ ἐπιστάμενοι ἑπόμεθα ἀναγκαίῃ ἐνδεδεμένοι, ἐχθίστη δὲ ὀδύνη ἐστὶ τῶν ἐν ἀνθρώποισι αὕτη, πολλὰ φρονέοντα μηδενὸς κρατέειν.’ ταῦτα μὲν Ὀρχομενίου Θερσάνδρου ἤκουον, καὶ τάδε πρὸς τούτοισι, ὡς αὐτὸς αὐτίκα λέγοι ταῦτα πρὸς ἀνθρώπους πρότερον ἢ γενέσθαι ἐν Πλαταιῇσι τὴν μάχην.

 

Image result for Ancient Persian feast