I will come to dinner, but I am making request beforehand: it must be quick and sparse and it should only overflow in Socratic discussions. Let this be moderate too. There will be visitors early tomorrow, people not even Cato would be allowed to reject, even though Caesar praised him as much as he criticized him. For he describes the people Cato met were flushed with embarrassment when they realized who was drunk: “you would have imagined they were caught by Cato not that Cato was caught by them!”
Is it possible to pay a better tribute to Cato than to say he was still so venerable when drunk? But our meal needs a limit for preparation and cost as well as time. We are certainly not the types of people our enemies can’t fail to blame without praising us too!
Plinius Catilio Severo Suo S.
Veniam ad cenam, sed iam nunc paciscor, sit expedita sit parca, Socraticis tantum sermonibus abundet, in his quoque teneat modum. Erunt officia antelucana, in quae incidere impune ne Catoni quidem licuit, quem tamen C. Caesar ita reprehendit ut laudet. Describit enim eos, quibus obvius fuerit,
cum caput ebrii retexissent, erubuisse; deinde adicit: “Putares non ab illis Catonem, sed illos a Catone deprehensos.” Potuitne plus auctoritatis tribui Catoni, quam si ebrius quoque tam venerabilis erat? 4Nostrae tamen cenae, ut adparatus et impendii, sic temporis modus constet. Neque enim ii sumus quos vituperare ne inimici quidem possint, nisi ut simul laudent. Vale.
“Therefore, weren’t we saying this long before that the mind, whenever it uses the body for examining anything—either through seeing or hearing or any other kind of perception, since examining a thing through the body is to examine it through the senses—at that moment the mind is dragged down by body towards things that never exist in the same way and it wanders and is troubled and gets dizzy as if it’s drunk, since it has been contaminated by those sorts of things.”
“Wine without children”: there are two proverbs, one is wine and truth and the other is “wine and true children”. This is applied to those who are being direct and telling the truth. The Interpretation of Dreams from Nikêphoros the Patriarch: “wine, when emptied from containers, stops grief. Bad wine accentuates much pain. Expect terrible battles if you take part in wine.”
“Wine and True Children”: This proverb is applied to people who are being direct and speaking the truth. Euandros says that among the Persians they don’t interrogate people using torture but instead while they are drunk.”
“Where in the world is Crassus? Did he slink back to Alexandria because he was tired of his home? Is he cleaning his walls? Or, more likely, is the drunk suffering from a hangover?”
Crassus ipse ubi gentium est? An Alexandriam taedio domus remeavit? An parietes suos detergit? An, quod verius est, ex crapula helluo attemptatur?
From the Suda:
“Kraipalê: The pounding that comes from drinking too much wine. We also have the participle “carousing” which is when someone acts poorly because of drinking, or just being drunk. It derives from the word “head” (kara) and “pound” (pallein). Or, it could also come from screwing up (sphallesthai) timely matters (kairiôn)
Kraipalôdês: “Prone to drunkenness”: The ancients knew well the weaknesses of the spirit, weather it was a person who was prone to excessive drinking or a love-seeker who has his brain in his genitals.”
“Those who are suffering bodily from drinking and being hungover can find relief from sleeping immediately, warmed with a cover. On the next day, they can be restored with a bath, a massage, and whatever food does not cause agitation but restores the warmth dispelled and lost from the body by wine.”
“Wine (being of a wet nature) stretches those who are slow and makes them quick, but it tends to restrain those who are quick already. On that account, some who are melancholic by nature become entirely dissipated in drunken stupors (kraipalais). Just as a bath can make those who are all bound up and stiff more readily able to move, so does it check those who are already movable and loose, so too does wine, which is like a bath for your innards, accomplish this same thing.
Why then does cabbage prevent drunkenness (kraipale)? Either because it has a sweet and purgative juice (and for this reason doctors use it to clean out the intestines), even though it is itself of a cold nature. Here is a proof: doctors use it against exceptionally bad cases of diarrhea, after preparing it by cooking it, removing the fiber, and freezing it. It happens in the case of those suffering from the effects of drunkenness (kraipalonton) that the cabbage juice draws the wet elements, which are full of wine and still undigested, down to their stomachs, while the body chills the rest which remains in the upper part of the stomach. Once it has been chilled, the rest of the moist element can be drawn into the bladder. Thus, when each of the wet elements has been separated through the body and chilled, people are likely to be relieved of their drunkenness (akraipaloi). For wine is wet and warm.”
“This misery and fear have easily relieved me of my hangover.”
miseria haec et metus crapulam facile excusserunt
If you have read this far, you’re probably not that hungover
Plautus, Rudens 585-590
“But why am I standing here, a sweating fool?
Maybe I should leave here for Venus’ temple to sleep off this hangover
I got because I drank more than I intended?
Neptune soaked us with the sea as if we were Greek wines
And he hoped to relieve us with salty-beverages.
Shit. What good are words?”
sed quid ego hic asto infelix uuidus?
quin abeo huc in Veneris fanum, ut edormiscam hanc crapulam,
quam potaui praeter animi quam lubuit sententiam?
quasi uinis Graecis Neptunus nobis suffudit mare,
itaque aluom prodi sperauit nobis salsis poculis;
quid opust uerbis?
Plautus, Stichus 226-230
“I am selling Greek moisturizers
And other ointments, hangover-cures
Little jokes, blandishments
And a sycophant’s confabulations.
I’ve got a rusting strigil, a reddish flask,
And a hollowed out follower to hide your trash in.”
uel unctiones Graecas sudatorias
uendo uel alias malacas, crapularias;
ac periuratiunculas parasiticas;
robiginosam strigilim, ampullam rubidam,
parasitum inanem quo recondas reliquias.
Plutarch, Moralia 653: Table-Talk Book 3, Question 8
Why are those who are actually drunk, less messed up than those we call tipsy?
“Since we have hassled Aristotle,” my father said, “Shouldn’t we also try to say something particular about those who are called “tipsy”. For even though he was the sharpest in these kinds of explorations, he seems to me to have insufficiently examined the cause of this. For he says, I think, that it is possible for a sober man to make a judgment well and in line with reality while one who is pretty drunk is too wrecked to have control over his perception even as one who is only tipsy remains strong in imagination but has compromised logic. For this reason, he makes judgments and does it badly because he following imaginary things. What do you think about these things?” He said.
“When I was reading this,” I said, “the argument was fine regarding the cause. But if you want me to work up some contribution of my own, look first at whether we should credit the difference you have mentioned to the body. For, the tipsy mind alone is messed up, the body is still capable of serving impulses because it is not yet completely permeated. But when the body is overcome and soaked, it betrays its movements and ignores them and it does not move on to actual deeds. Those who have a body that still responds to them are reproved not by their lack of logical thought but by their greater strength.”
Then I said, “And, if we were to consider it from another principle, nothing stops the strength of wine from being variable and from changing alongside its amount. In the same way, fire, if it is measured, gives strength and hardness to pottery; but if it strikes it too much, it melts it and makes it liquid. In another way, spring revives and increases fevers as it begins while the heat of summer settles them and makes them desist.
Therefore, what prevents the mind, once it is moved by wine naturally, when it has been disturbed and excited, from calming and settling down as drinking increases? Hellebore has at its onset of purging pain for the body. But if less then the right amount is given, it disturbs but does not cleanse. And some people are made a little manic when they have a smaller does of sleeping medicine, but sleep once they take more.”
“Curved, well-turned, with a single ear on a long neck,
Slim-throated, speaking through lips close-kept,
You happy server of Bacchus, the Muses, and Aphrodite,
Our party’s delightful mistress, laughing sweetly.
Why are you drunk when I’m sober, but when I’m trashed,
You’re sober? You break the rules of the drinker’s pact.”
Very soon we will be eating too much for like a month straight. This is the start of occasional posts for the duration on feasting, over-indulgence, and, of course, drinking.
Telegony, fr. 1
“He consumed the endless meat and sweet wine greedily”
ἤσθιεν ἁρπαλέως κρέα τ’ ἄσπετα καὶ μέθυ ἡδύ.
Some phage compounds and their explanations.
Adêphagia: “Endless-eating”: This means insatiable. We also find the adjective adêphagos (“eating constantly”), polyphagos (“eating everything”) and gastrimargos (gourmand).
᾿Αδηφαγία: ἡ ἀπληστία. καὶ ᾿Αδηφάγος, ἀθρόως ἐσθίων, πολυφάγος, γαστρίμαργος. ᾿
Αἰγοφάγος· aigophagos, “goat-eater”. An epithet of Hera in Sparta
αὐτοφάγος: autophagos, “self-feeder” (not someone who eats himself)
βουφάγος: bouphagos, “cow-eater”
κοπροφάγος: koprophagos, “dung-eater”
Σκατοφάγος: skatophagos, “dung-eater”. For this, Hesychius comments “but skatophagos is especially mean” (᾿Αλλὰ σκατοφάγος ἐστι καὶ λίαν πικρός). Why? Skatos is the genitive of skôr (σκῶρ), which has a closer resonance with human excrement.
ὀψοφάγος: opsophagos, “delicacy eater”, i.e. foodie
λαθροφάγος: lathrophagos “secret-eater” (eating in secret)
θυμβροφάγος: thumbrofagos, “eating the herb savory”, a metaphor for having a bitter expression. Compare to δριμυφάγος “bitter-eating”, cf. the expression, “leaves a bad taste in the mouth”
ἰχθυοφάγος, ikhthuophagos, “fish-eater”. This is an insult, the Suda explains that Theôros was maligned as a “seducer, fish-eater, and rogue” (ὡς μοιχὸς καὶ ἰχθυοφάγος καὶ πονηρός). Fish-eating seems to be an indication of a dedication to luxury and excess.
Καπροφάγος: kaprophagos, “boar-eater”, an epithet of Artemis in Samos
καταφαγᾶς: kataphagas, “one who eats bent over”, i.e. birds and gourmands
κραδοφάγος: kradophagos, “twig-eater”, a derogatory epithet for a country-dweller
συκοφάγος: sukophagos, “fig eater,” a derogatory epithet for a country-dweller
ἰσχαδοφάγος: iskhadophagos, “fig-eater”, a derogatory epithet for a country-dweller
κριοφάγος: kriophagos, “fat-eater”, an epithet for a god receiving a sacrifice
“The person who sends rather weighty gifts causes no less grief than the one who throws the ball too hard to his teammate or offers a big cup to his fellow drinker in toast. For the latter seems to toast not for pleasure but for getting drunk. Just as in wise drinking parties we see that the wine is mixed with a little pure alcohol and a lot of water, so too are gifts mixed best with a lot of thought and a little expenditure.
For who should we say gets the benefit from expensive gifts? Is it the poor? They are not capable of giving them. The rich? They don’t need to get them. In addition, it is not possible to constantly give expensive gifts—there will be a failure of resources if someone should often send out immense gifts. It is possible, however, to give small gifts endlessly and without regret—since someone owes only small thanks to the one who gave a small gift.”
If you experience any lulls in conversation during your holiday meals and gatherings, here’s another topic ready-to-hand.
Plutarch, “Table-Talk”, Moralia 624: Why Do Old Men Prefer Strong Wine?
“Next was examined the issue of old men, in particular why they enjoy drinking stronger wine. Some were supposing that their core, which is rather cold and difficult to warm, appearsto accord well with a stronger proof. This was not at all sufficient, in the light of cause nor in that they said anything true. For, in respect to the rest of the senses, the same thing happens: old men are hard to move, hard to change in regards to experiences of this sort, unless they fall on him with full strength and no subtlety. The reason for this is the decline of his constitution. Because it is weakened and dulled, it prefers to be struck hard.
Therefore stronger flavors are more to the taste of old men. Their sense of smell undergoes similar alterations regarding odors—for it is moved to pleasure by those that are really pure and pressing. Their sense of touch is harmed by scars and while they suffer wounds from time to time, they don’t really feel them. Similar too is their sense of hearing—musicians as they grow old play more sharply and loudly as if trying to wake up their senses with the clash of sound. The treatment that gives steel an edge provides the body’s perception with breath. When this begins to surrender and is weak, the senses are left dull and muddy and needing some shaking—this is what need strong wine fills.”
If I were in this conversation I would add: the older man also needs to urinate more frequently. A stronger drink means less liquid consumed for the desired result. And, therefore, fewer trips to the bathroom.