Our Bodies Are Punishment for Murder

Plutarch’s Moralia, The eating of Flesh 996a-C

“This is the third day since I made mention of that comment by Xenocrates in a discussion, that the Athenians rendered a judgment against the man who flayed a ram while it was still alive. But I think that someone who tortures something while it still lives is not worse than the one who kills it. Rather, as it seems to me, we are more sensitive to things that are against common practice than those against nature.

I am also saying these things in a more common way here. But this great, mysterious, and unbelievable matter, as Plato says, is something I am reluctant to frame with the principle of my belief with clever people who are mulling over mortal affairs, just as a captain in a storm pauses before moving his ship or a poet hesitates at raising the machine during the performance of a play.

But it may not be worse also to set the tune and anticipate the theme by using Empedocles’ words. For he allegorizes souls in his lines, suggesting that humans are imprisoned in bodies in order to pay the price for murder, eating flesh, and being cannibals. This belief has an older appearance, however. For there are stories told of the sufferings of Dionysus when he was dismembered and the outrages the Titans committed, how they were punished and struck by lightning after they tasted his blood. This myth is an occult tale about rebirth.”

ἐμνήσθην δὲ τρίτην ἡμέραν διαλεγόμενος τὸ τοῦ Ξενοκράτους ὅτι Ἀθηναῖοι τῷ ζῶντα τὸν κριὸν ἐκδείραντι δίκην ἐπέθηκαν· οὐκ ἔστι δ᾿, οἶμαι, χείρων ὁ ζῶντα βασανίζων τοῦ παραιρουμένου τὸ ζῆν καὶ φονεύοντος· ἀλλὰ μᾶλλον, ὡς ἔοικε, τῶν παρὰ συνήθειαν ἢ τῶν παρὰ φύσιν αἰσθανόμεθα. καὶ ταῦτα μὲν ἐκεῖ κοινότερον ἔλεγον· τὴν δὲ μεγάλην καὶ μυστηριώδη καὶ ἄπιστον ἀνδράσι δεινοῖς, ᾗ φησιν ὁ Πλάτων, καὶ θνητὰ φρονοῦσιν ἀρχὴν τοῦ δόγματος ὀκνῶ μὲν ἔτι τῷ λόγῳ κινεῖν, ὥσπερ ναῦν ἐν χειμῶνι ναύκληρος ἢ μηχανὴν αἴρειν ποιητικὸς ἀνὴρ ἐν θεάτρῳ σκηνῆς περιφερομένης. οὐ χεῖρον δ᾿ ἴσως καὶ προανακρούσασθαι καὶ προαναφωνῆσαι τὰ τοῦ Ἐμπεδοκλέους· . . . ἀλληγορεῖ γὰρ ἐνταῦθα τὰς ψυχάς, ὅτι φόνων καὶ βρώσεως σαρκῶν καὶ ἀλληλοφαγίας δίκην τίνουσαι σώμασι θνητοῖς ἐνδέδενται. καίτοι δοκεῖ παλαιότερος οὗτος ὁ λόγος εἶναι· τὰ γὰρ δὴ περὶ τὸν Διόνυσον μεμυθευμένα πάθη τοῦ διαμελισμοῦ καὶ τὰ Τιτάνων ἐπ᾿ αὐτὸν τολμήματα, κολάσεις τε τούτων καὶ κεραυνώσεις γευσαμένων τοῦ φόνου, ᾐνιγμένος ἐστὶ μῦθος εἰς τὴν παλιγγενεσίαν·

Image result for ancient greek sacrifice image
From here

Some Advice for Dinner Companions: Philosophize Appropriately

Macrobius, Saturnalia 16

“For, just as those who believe it a type of exercise when they dance in the middle of feasts will chase away companions who dare them to footrace or box because it is better exercise, in the same way when at the table a fool is given some space by the alacrity of his companion, it is permitted that one can philosophize at dinner but in the appropriate manner, since you temper the bowl which is mixed for happiness not just with the Nymphs but with the Muses too.”

nam sicut inter illos qui exercitii genus habent in mediis saltare conviviis, si quis ut se amplius exerceat vel ad cursum vel ad pugilatum sodales lacessiverit, quasi ineptus relegabitur ab alacritate consortii, sic apud mensam quando licet aptis philosophandum est, ut crateri liquoris ad laetitiam nati adhibeatur non modo Nympharum sed Musarum quoque admixtione temperies.

peculum humanae salvationis, London, 1485-1509; British Library, Harley MS 2838, f.45r.

Hard To Stomach: Some Needful Words

A proverb

“A fat stomach does not bear a subtle mind”

Γαστὴρ παχεῖα λεπτὸν οὐ τίκτει νόον.  (Arsenius, 5.22a1)

Od. 18.54-56

“Friends, it is in no way good for an old man
In the clutches of sorrow to fight a younger man.
But my no-good stomach compels me, that I might fall beneath his blows.”

“ὦ φίλοι, οὔ πως ἔστι νεωτέρῳ ἀνδρὶ μάχεσθαι
ἄνδρα γέροντα δύῃ ἀρημένον· ἀλλά με γαστὴρ
ὀτρύνει κακοεργός, ἵνα πληγῇσι δαμείω.

γαστήρ, ἡ: “stomach”

γαστραία: A type of turnip

γαστρίδουλος: “slave to one’s stomach”

γαστρίον: “sausage”

γαστρίζω: “to punch someone in the belly”

γραστριμαργία: “gluttony”

γαστροβαρής: “stomach-heavy”, i.e. “heavy with child”

γαστροκνημία: lit. “shin-stomach”, so “calf”

γαστρολογία: An almanac for gourmands, so “foodie-book”

γαστρομαντεύομαι: “to divine by the stomach”

γαστροπίων: “a fat-bellied fellow”

γαστρορραφία: “sewing a stomach wound”

γαστρόρροια: “diarrhea”

γαστροτόμος: “stomach cutting”

Image result for ancient greek comic vase

γαστροχάρυβδις: “having a gaping maw of a belly”

γαστρόχειρ: lit. “stomach-hand”, so “living by hand” or “hand to mouth”

γαστρώδης: “pot pellied”

Arrogant, Lawless and Abnormal: Judging Homer’s Kyklôpes

Earlier we posted about the ancient debate of whether or not the Kyklôpes only had a single eye. Here is a longer post about Homer’s depiction of their character and customs.

Homer, Odyssey 105–115

“From there we went on sailing, even though our hearts were pained,
To the land of the overbearing, lawless Kyklôpes
Who especially rely on the immortal gods
And do not grow plants or plow the land
But everything grows for them, unplanted and unplowed:
The grain, barley and vines which bear
Thick wine, and Zeus’ rain makes them grow.
They don’t have council-bringing assemblies nor laws,
But they inhabit the peaks of high mountains
In their hollow caves, and each governs his
Children and wives—they do not care for one another.”

ἔνθεν δὲ προτέρω πλέομεν ἀκαχήμενοι ἦτορ.
Κυκλώπων δ’ ἐς γαῖαν ὑπερφιάλων ἀθεμίστων
ἱκόμεθ’, οἵ ῥα θεοῖσι πεποιθότες ἀθανάτοισιν
οὔτε φυτεύουσιν χερσὶν φυτὸν οὔτ’ ἀρόωσιν,
ἀλλὰ τά γ’ ἄσπαρτα καὶ ἀνήροτα πάντα φύονται,
πυροὶ καὶ κριθαὶ ἠδ’ ἄμπελοι, αἵ τε φέρουσιν
οἶνον ἐριστάφυλον, καί σφιν Διὸς ὄμβρος ἀέξει.
τοῖσιν δ’ οὔτ’ ἀγοραὶ βουληφόροι οὔτε θέμιστες,
ἀλλ’ οἵ γ’ ὑψηλῶν ὀρέων ναίουσι κάρηνα
ἐν σπέεσι γλαφυροῖσι, θεμιστεύει δὲ ἕκαστος
παίδων ἠδ’ ἀλόχων, οὐδ’ ἀλλήλων ἀλέγουσι.

Image result for Ancient Greek sculpture Cyclops

Schol. ad Od. 9.106 31-58 (Some of which is attributed to Porphyry)

Overbearing, lawless: The phrase has double significance: the great size of their bodies and the lawlessness of not following customs. For they say that “Each one governs his own children and wives”. For if they were lawless instead of unjust, how would he add “they rely on the gods”? But, then, someone might add how Polyphemos says “the Kyklôpes don’t care about aegis-bearing Zeus”. We should, of course, consider the proposal that it comes from Polyphemos, the flesh-eating, beast.  Hesiod also says “[Zeus] made it right for fish, beast and birds to eat one another because they do not have justice. Justice he gave to men” [see below]. Thus he depicts only Polyphemos as arrogant and unjust, while the rest of the other Kyklôpes are righteous, just people who obey the gods. This is why the earth gives them crops of its own accord.”

ὑπερφιάλων ἀθεμίστων] ἢ τῶν μεγαλοφυῶν τῷ σώματι, τῶν δισήμων γὰρ ἡ λέξις, ἀθεμίστων δὲ τῶν νόμοις μὴ χρωμένων· φησὶ γὰρ “θεμιστεύει δὲ ἕκαστος παίδων ἠδ’ ἀλόχων.” εἰ γὰρ ἦν ἀθεμίστων ἀντὶ τοῦ ἀδίκων, πῶς λέγει “οἵ ῥα θεοῖσι πεποιθότες;” εἰ δ’ εἴπῃ τις, καὶ πῶς ὁ Πολύφημός φησιν “οὐ Κύκλωπες Διὸς αἰγιόχου ἀλέγουσι,” (275.) σκοπείτω τὸ πρόσωπον, ὅτι Πολυφήμου ἐστὶ  τοῦ ὠμοφάγου καὶ θηριώδους. καὶ ῾Ησίοδος “ἰχθύσι μὲν καὶ θηρσὶ καὶ οἰωνοῖσι πετεινοῖς ἔσθειν ἀλλήλους, ἐπεὶ οὐ δίκη ἐστὶν ἐν αὐτοῖς, ἀνθρώποισι δ’ ἔδωκε δίκην.” ὥστε Πολύφημον μόνον λέγει ὑπερήφανον καὶ ἄδικον, τοὺς δὲ λοιποὺς πάντας Κύκλωπας εὐσεβεῖς καὶ δικαίους καὶ πεποιθότας τοῖς θεοῖς, ὅθεν καὶ ἀνῆκεν αὐτοῖς αὐτομάτως ἡ γῆ τοὺς καρπούς. H.

“When he claims that the Kyklôpes are arrogant, lawless and abnormal, how can [the poet] claim that they have good things from the gods freely? We must concede that they are “overbearing” because of the excessive size of their bodies, that they are “lawless”, because that do now use an established law but govern through their individual private interest: “each governs his own children and wife”, which is a sign of lawlessness. And Antisthenes says that only Polyphemos is unjust. For this one is even dismissive of Zeus. Therefore, the rest are just. For this reason, the earth provides to them everything of its own accord. And it is their just task not to work it. But they face violence violently, for “they attacked them” just as the giants.” “and who ruled as king of the arrogant giants” and, the fact that Phaeacians were forced to move because they were harmed by them.”

πῶς ὑπερφιάλους καὶ ἀθεμίστους καὶ παρανόμους εἰπὼν τοὺς Κύκλωπας ἄφθονα παρὰ θεῶν αὐτοῖς ὑπάρχειν λέγει τὰ ἀγαθά; ῥητέον οὖν ὅτι ὑπερφιάλους μὲν διὰ τὴν ὑπεροχὴν τοῦ σώματος, ἀθεμίστους δὲ τοὺς μὴ νόμῳ χρωμένους ἐγγράφῳ διὰ τὸ ἕκαστον ἴδιον ἄρχεσθαι· “θεμιστεύει δὲ ἕκαστος παίδων ἠδ’ ἀλόχου” (115), ὅπερ ἀνομίας σημεῖον. ᾿Αντισθένης δέ φησιν ὅτι μόνον τὸν Πολύφημον εἶναι ἄδικον· καὶ γὰρ οὗτος τοῦ Διὸς ὑπερόπτης ἐστίν.  οὐκοῦν οἱ λοιποὶ δίκαιοι· διὰ τοῦτο γὰρ καὶ τὴν γῆν αὐτοῖς τὰ πάντα ἀναδιδόναι αὐτόματον, καὶ τὸ μὴ ἐργάζεσθαι αὐτὴν δίκαιον ἔργον ἐστίν. ἀλλ’ ἔμπροσθεν βιαίως βιαίους, “οἵ σφεας σινέσκοντο” (Od. ζ, 6), ὥσπερ καὶ τοὺς Γίγαντας· “ὅσπερ ὑπερθύμοισι Γιγάντεσσιν βασίλευεν” (Od. η, 59), ὥσπερ καὶ τοὺς Φαίακας βλαπτομένους ὑπ’ αὐτῶν μεταναστῆναι. T.

“The Kyklôpes are just except for Polyphemos. The mention of their “overbearing” character is about their size; their “lawlessness” is due to the fact that they each privately govern their wives and children. How then did they also bring grief to the Phaeacians? It is because of the lawlessness of their state.”

δίκαιοι οὗτοι πλὴν Πολυφήμου. ὅθεν τὸ μὲν ὑπερφιάλων, νῦν μεγάλων, τὸ δὲ θεμίστων, μὴ ἐχόντων χρείαν νόμων διὰ τὸ θεμιστεύειν ἕκαστον παίδων ἠδ’ ἀλόχων. πῶς οὖν ἠδίκουν τοὺς Φαίακας καὶ ἐλύπουν (ζ, 5. 6.); διὰ τὸ ἀνόμοιον τῆς πολιτείας. V.

Hesiod, Works and Days 274-281

“Perses, put these thoughts in your mind
And heed justice, banish force altogether.
Kronos’ son assigned this right to human beings—
It is permitted for the fish, beasts and winged birds
To eat one another, since they don’t have justice.
But Kronos’ son gave humans, which is the best thing by far.
For if someone who understands argues cases publicly,
Wide-browed Zeus will grant him good fortune…”

῏Ω Πέρση, σὺ δὲ ταῦτα μετὰ φρεσὶ βάλλεο σῇσι
καί νυ δίκης ἐπάκουε, βίης δ’ ἐπιλήθεο πάμπαν.
τόνδε γὰρ ἀνθρώποισι νόμον διέταξε Κρονίων,
ἰχθύσι μὲν καὶ θηρσὶ καὶ οἰωνοῖς πετεηνοῖς
ἔσθειν ἀλλήλους, ἐπεὶ οὐ δίκη ἐστὶ μετ’ αὐτοῖς·
ἀνθρώποισι δ’ ἔδωκε δίκην, ἣ πολλὸν ἀρίστη
γίνεται· εἰ γάρ τίς κ’ ἐθέλῃ τὰ δίκαι’ ἀγορεῦσαι
γινώσκων, τῷ μέν τ’ ὄλβον διδοῖ εὐρύοπα Ζεύς·

A Medical Justification for Taking Part in a Feast

Some helpful advice for all our friends taking part in feasts this weekend.

Plutarch, Table Talk 662 c–d

“He said, ‘We only unwillingly and rarely use pain as a tool for treatment because it is the most violent. No one could expel pleasure from all the other medical interventions even if he wanted to—for pleasure accompanies food, sleep, baths, massages, and relaxation, all of which help to revive a sick person by wearing away foreign elements with a great abundance of what is natural.

What pain, what deprivation, what kind of poisonous substance could so easily and quickly resolve a disease that it, once it is cleansed at the right time, wine may also be given to those who want it? Food, when it is delivered with pleasure, resolves every kind of malady and returns us to our natural state, just as a clear sky returning after a storm.’”

“σμικρὰ γάρ,” ἔφη, “καὶ ἄκοντες ὡς βιαιοτάτῳ τῶν ὀργάνων ἀλγηδόνι προσχρώμεθα· τῶν δ᾿ ἄλλων οὐδεὶς ἂν οὐδὲ βουλόμενος ἀπώσαιτο τὴν ἡδονήν, ἀλλὰ καὶ τροφαῖς καὶ ὕπνοις καὶ περὶ λουτρὰ καὶ ἀλείμματα καὶ κατακλίσεις ἀεὶ πάρεστιν καὶ συνεκδέχεται καὶ συνεκτιθηνεῖται τὸν κάμνοντα, πολλῷ τῷ οἰκείῳ καὶ κατὰ φύσιν ἐξαμαυροῦσα τὸ ἀλλότριον. ποία γὰρ ἀλγηδών, τίς ἔνδεια, ποῖον δηλητήριον οὕτω ῥᾳδίως καὶ ἀφελῶς νόσον ἔλυσεν, ὡς λουτρὸν ἐν καιρῷ γενόμενον καὶ οἶνος δοθεὶς δεομένοις; καὶ τροφὴ παρελθοῦσα μεθ᾿ ἡδονῆς εὐθὺς ἔλυσε τὰ δυσχερῆ πάντα καὶ κατέστησεν εἰς τὸ οἰκεῖον τὴν φύσιν, ὥσπερ εὐδίας καὶ γαλήνης γενομένης.

Image result for medieval manuscript banquet
Le Banquet des Vœux du Paon, Jean Wauquelin, Les faits et conquêtes d’Alexandre le Grand, Flandre, atelier de Mons, 1448-1449, Paris, BnF

Hard To Stomach: Some Useful Words This Afternoon

A proverb

“A fat stomach does not bear a subtle mind”

Γαστὴρ παχεῖα λεπτὸν οὐ τίκτει νόον.  (Arsenius, 5.22a1)

Od. 18.54-56

“Friends, it is in no way good for an old man
In the clutches of sorrow to fight a younger man.
But my no-good stomach compels me, that I might fall beneath his blows.”

“ὦ φίλοι, οὔ πως ἔστι νεωτέρῳ ἀνδρὶ μάχεσθαι
ἄνδρα γέροντα δύῃ ἀρημένον· ἀλλά με γαστὴρ
ὀτρύνει κακοεργός, ἵνα πληγῇσι δαμείω.

γαστήρ, ἡ: “stomach”

γαστραία: A type of turnip

γαστρίδουλος: “slave to one’s stomach”

γαστρίον: “sausage”

γαστρίζω: “to punch someone in the belly”

γραστριμαργία: “gluttony”

γαστροβαρής: “stomach-heavy”, i.e. “heavy with child”

γαστροκνημία: lit. “shin-stomach”, so “calf”

γαστρολογία: An almanac for gourmands, so “foodie-book”

γαστρομαντεύομαι: “to divine by the stomach”

γαστροπίων: “a fat-bellied fellow”

γαστρορραφία: “sewing a stomach wound”

γαστρόρροια: “diarrhea”

γαστροτόμος: “stomach cutting”

Image result for ancient greek comic vase

γαστροχάρυβδις: “having a gaping maw of a belly”

γαστρόχειρ: lit. “stomach-hand”, so “living by hand” or “hand to mouth”

γαστρώδης: “pot pellied”

Some Phage Compounds to Get You in the Holiday Mood

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.

fish vase

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

Λωτοφάγος: lôtophagos, “lotus-eater”

μικροφάγος: mikrophagos, “small-eater”, someone who doesn’t eat much

παμφάγος: pamphagos, “all-eater”, someone who eats everything

ταυροφάγος: tauorophagos, “bull-eater”, an epithet of Dionysus