The Erotic Madness That Has No Cure

Plutarch, Dialogue on Love Moralia 759 b-c

“When erotic madness grabs a hold of a person truly and sets him on fire, there’s no poetry, no magic spell, nor any change of place that can restore. So people lust when present and long when absent and pursue at day or prowl around outside doors at night. They invite pretty people over when sober and sing about them while drinking. Someone has also said that the poetic fantasies are waking dreams because of their intensity—but this is more true of the notions of lovers who speak with people as if they are present, embrace them, or even rebuke them.”

τὴν δ᾿ ἐρωτικὴν μανίαν τοῦ ἀνθρώπου καθαψαμένην ἀληθῶς καὶ διακαύσασαν οὐ μοῦσά τις οὐκ ἐπῳδὴ θελκτήριος οὐ τόπου μεταβολὴ καθίστησιν· ἀλλὰ καὶ παρόντες ἐρῶσι καὶ ἀπόντες ποθοῦσι καὶ μεθ᾿ ἡμέραν διώκουσι καὶ νύκτωρ θυραυλοῦσι, καὶ νήφοντες καλοῦσι τοὺς καλοὺς καὶ πίνοντες ᾄδουσι.

“Καὶ οὐχ ὥς τις εἶπεν αἱ ποιητικαὶ φαντασίαι διὰ τὴν ἐνάργειαν ἐγρηγορότων ἐνύπνιά εἰσιν, ἀλλὰ μᾶλλον αἱ τῶν ἐρώντων, διαλεγομένων ὡς πρὸς παρόντας, ἀσπαζομένων, ἐγκαλούντων.

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Harley 4431 f. 128

Indian Elephants: Taming a Wild Heart With Music

Aelian, N. A. 12.44 (= Megasthenes fr. 37)

“In India, if an adult elephant is caught it is difficult to tame—it gets murderous from longing for freedom. If you bind it in chains too, it gets even more agitated and will not tolerate its master. But Indians try to pacify it with food and to soften it with a variety of pleasing items, making an effort to fill its stomach and delight its heart. But it remains angry with them and ignores them. What then do they devise and do? They encourage it with their native music and sing to a certain instrument they use. It is called a skindapsos. The instrument strikes the ears and enchants the animal—his anger softens and his spirit yields and bit by bit it pays attention to its food. At this point it is released from its chains and it waits, enthralled by the music, and it eats eagerly, like a guest in love with a banquet. The elephant will no longer leave because of his love of music.”


Aelianus N. A. XII, 44: ᾿Εν ᾿Ινδοῖς ἂν ἁλῷ τέλειος ἐλέφας, ἡμερωθῆναι χαλεπός ἐστι, καὶ τὴν ἐλευθερίαν ποθῶν φονᾷ· ἐὰν δὲ αὐτὸν καὶ δεσμοῖς διαλάβῃς, ἔτι καὶ μᾶλλον ἐς τὸν θυμὸν ἐξάπτεται, καὶ δεσπότην οὐχ ὑπονέμει. ᾿Αλλ’ οἱ ᾿Ινδοὶ καὶ ταῖς τροφαῖς κολακεύουσιν αὐτὸν, καὶ ποικίλοις καὶ ἐφολκοῖς δελέασι πραΰνειν πειρῶνται, παρατιθέντες, ὡς πληροῦν τὴν γαστέρα καὶ θέλγειν τὸν θυμόν· ὁ δὲ ἄχθεται αὐτοῖς, καὶ ὑπερορᾷ· Τί οὖν ἐκεῖνοι κατασοφίζονται καὶ δρῶσι; Μοῦσαν αὐτοῖς προσάγουσιν ἐπιχώριον, καὶ κατᾴδουσιν αὐτοὺς ὀργάνῳ τινὶ καὶ τούτῳ συνήθει· καλεῖται δὲ σκινδαψὸς τὸ ὄργανον· ὁ δὲ ὑπέχει τὰ ὦτα καὶ θέλγεται, καὶ ἡ μὲν ὀργὴ πραΰνεται, ὁ δὲ θυμὸς ὑποστέλλεταί τε καὶ θόρνυται, κατὰ μικρὰ δὲ καὶ ἐς τὴν τροφὴν ὁρᾷ· εἶτα ἀφεῖται μὲν τῶν δεσμῶν, μένει δὲ τῇ μούσῃ δεδεμένος, καὶ δειπνεῖ προθύμως ἁβρὸς δαιτυμὼν καταδεδεμένος· πόθῳ γὰρ τοῦ μέλους οὐκ ἂν ἔτι ἀποσταίη.