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”

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”

Should Drinking Buddies Forget?

Plutarch composed several books of “Table-Talk” which are ‘records’ of philosophical conversations held at symposia, banquets and the like. The content of each book is organized around questions (e.g. “Should we talk about philosophy while drinking?”). The following is the introduction to the collection, troubling the very notion of the practice itself…

Table-Talk, Book 1.1 (Moralia 612)

Some claim  that the Saying, my dear Sossios Senekios, “I hate the drinking buddy who does not forget”, was addressed to the masters of the party who were annoying and inappropriate once the drinking started. For, they say, in Sicily The Dorians call the master of ceremonies the “rememberer”

Others think that the proverb calls for an amnesty for all that is said and done while drinking. This is why that our ancient stories dedicate both forgetfulness and the wand to the god, so that one should remember none of the infelicities which occur during drinking except for those needing only a light or joking remark. Since it also seems right to you that forgetfulness of mistakes is a wise thing, in Euripides’ words, is it not the case that forgetting everything which happens at a drinking party is not only the opposite of making friends at the table but also has as an opponent the most well known of the philosophers, Plato, Xenophon, Aristotle, Speussippus, Epircouris, Prytanis, Hieronymos, and Dio of the Academy, who took some stock in recording conversations that happened around the table?

You even think that it is right that I record the conversations I have read among you often in Rome or at home in Greece when the table and the cup are in our hands! Well, I have send you now three books I have gathered of the ten questions we have discussed at these meals. I will send you the rest shortly, if these do not seem to be completely charmless or un-Dionysian.”

Τὸ “μισέω μνάμονα συμπόταν,” ὦ Σόσσιε Σενεκίων, ἔνιοι πρὸς τοὺς ἐπιστάθμους εἰρῆσθαι λέγουσιν, φορτικοὺς ἐπιεικῶς καὶ ἀναγώγους ἐν τῷ πίνειν ὄντας· οἱ γὰρ ἐν Σικελίᾳ Δωριεῖς ὡς ἔοικε τὸν ἐπίσταθμον “μνάμονα” προσηγόρευον.ἔνιοι δὲ τὴν παροιμίαν οἴονται τοῖς παρὰ πότον λεγομένοις καὶ πραττομένοις ἀμνηστίαν ἐπάγειν· διὸ τήν τε λήθην οἱ πάτριοι λόγοι καὶ τὸν νάρθηκα τῷ θεῷ συγκαθιεροῦσιν, ὡς ἢ μηδενὸς δέον μνημονεύειν τῶν ἐν οἴνῳ πλημμεληθέντων ἢ παντελῶς  ἐλαφρᾶς καὶ παιδικῆς νουθεσίας δεομένων. ἐπεὶ δὲ καὶ σοὶ δοκεῖ τῶν μὲν ἀτόπων ἡ λήθη τῷ ὄντι σοφὴ κατ᾿ Εὐριπίδην εἶναι, τὸ δ᾿ ὅλως ἀμνημονεῖν τῶν ἐν οἴνῳ μὴ μόνον τῷ φιλοποιῷ λεγομένῳ μάχεσθαι τῆς τραπέζης, ἀλλὰ καὶ τῶν φιλοσόφων τοὺς ἐλλογιμωτάτους ἀντιμαρτυροῦντας ἔχειν, Πλάτωνα καὶ Ξενοφῶντα καὶ Ἀριστοτέλη1 καὶ Σπεύσιππον Ἐπίκουρόν τε καὶ Πρύτανιν καὶ Ἱερώνυμον καὶ Δίωνα τὸν ἐξ Ἀκαδημίας, ὡς ἄξιόν τινος σπουδῆς πεποιημένους ἔργον ἀναγράψασθαι λόγους παρὰ πότον γενομένους, ᾠήθης τε δεῖν ἡμᾶς τῶν σποράδην πολλάκις ἔν τε Ῥώμῃ μεθ᾿ ὑμῶν καὶ παρ᾿ ἡμῖν ἐν τῇ Ἑλλάδι παρούσης ἅμα τραπέζης καὶ κύλικος φιλολογηθέντων συναγαγεῖν τὰ ἐπιτήδεια, πρὸς τοῦτο γενόμενος τρία μὲν ἤδη σοι πέπομφα τῶν βιβλίων, ἑκάστου δέκα προβλήματα περιέχοντος, πέμψω δὲ καὶ τὰ λοιπὰ ταχέως, ἂν ταῦτα δόξῃ μὴ παντελῶς ἄμουσα μηδ᾿ ἀπροσδιόνυσ᾿ εἶναι.

 

Image result for Ancient Greek Drinking Party

Feast-Week: You Will Have a Happy Thanksgiving–If You Bring the Food, Drink and Company

Catullus 13

“You’ll dine well at my house, Fabullus
In a few days, if the gods favor you, and
If you bring a fine, large meal with you.
And don’t forget: a bright-eyed girl,
Wine, salt, and every kind of cheer.
If you bring these things I ask, fine friend,
You will dine well: for your Catullus’ wallet
Is full of nothing but spider webs.
In exchange, you’ll get unmixed love,
Or something even sweeter and more elegant:
I will give you a perfume which
Venuses and Cupids gave to my girl.
The kind of thing that when you smell it, Fabullus,
You’ll beg the gods to make you all nose.”

Cenabis bene, mi Fabulle, apud me
paucis, si tibi di favent, diebus,
si tecum attuleris bonam atque magnam
cenam, non sine candida puella
et vino et sale et omnibus cachinnis.
haec si, inquam, attuleris, venuste noster,
cenabis bene; nam tui Catulli
plenus sacculus est aranearum.
sed contra accipies meros amores
seu quid suavius elegantiusve est:
nam unguentum dabo, quod meae puellae
donarunt Veneres Cupidinesque,
quod tu cum olfacies, deos rogabis,

totum ut te faciant, Fabulle, nasum.

 

Image result for Papyrus Ancient Roman Dinner Invitation

Homer’s Golden Words: When Hesiod and Homer Throw Down, Meles’ Son Wins the First Round

From the Contest of Homer and Hesiod (lines 71-94), most likely a text from the Roman Imperial age drawing upon earlier material. The story has it that Hesiod eventually wins, but Homer takes the first round.

 

“Although both poets competed wonderfully, they report that Hesiod gained the trophy in the following way. After he entered the middle of the contest ground, he inquired from Homer certain questions, and Homer answered. Hesiod said:

“Son of Meles, Homer who knows the mysteries of the gods,
Tell me foremost what is best for mortals?”

Homer Answered:

“First, it is best for mortals to not be born.
If born, to pass through Hades’ gates as soon as possible.”

Hesiod asked a second question:

“Tell me this too, Homer so like the gods,
What do you think is the fairest thing for mortals?

And Homer answered:

“ When merriment overtakes the whole people
as they feast in the halls and listen to a singer,
sitting in order next to tables filled with
food and meat as a cup-bearer draws wine from a bowl
and carries it to pour in all their cups.
This seems to my thinking to be the fairest thing.”

And when these words were uttered, they say that everyone was so amazed at them that the Greeks called them “the golden words” and even to this day everyone pronounces them before feasts or libations.”

ἀμφοτέρων δὲ τῶν ποιητῶν θαυμαστῶς ἀγωνισαμένων νικῆσαί φασι τὸν ῾Ησίοδον τὸν τρόπον τοῦτον• προελθόντα γὰρ εἰς τὸ μέσον πυνθάνεσθαι τοῦ ῾Ομήρου καθ’ ἓν ἕκαστον, τὸν δὲ ῞Ομηρον ἀποκρίνασθαι. φησὶν οὖν ῾Ησίοδος•
υἱὲ Μέλητος ῞Ομηρε θεῶν ἄπο μήδεα εἰδὼς
εἴπ’ ἄγε μοι πάμπρωτα τί φέρτατόν ἐστι βροτοῖσιν;
῞Ομηρος•
ἀρχὴν μὲν μὴ φῦναι ἐπιχθονίοισιν ἄριστον,
φύντα δ’ ὅμως ὤκιστα πύλας ᾿Αίδαο περῆσαι.
῾Ησίοδος τὸ δεύτερον•
εἴπ’ ἄγε μοι καὶ τοῦτο θεοῖς ἐπιείκελ’ ῞Ομηρε,
τί θνητοῖς κάλλιστον ὀίεαι ἐν φρεσὶν εἶναι;
ὁ δέ•
ὁππότ’ ἂν εὐφροσύνη μὲν ἔχῃ κατὰ δῆμον ἅπαντα,
δαιτυμόνες δ’ ἀνὰ δώματ’ ἀκουάζωνται ἀοιδοῦ
ἥμενοι ἑξείης, παρὰ δὲ πλήθωσι τράπεζαι
σίτου καὶ κρειῶν, μέθυ δ’ ἐκ κρητῆρος ἀφύσσων
οἰνοχόος φορέῃσι καὶ ἐγχείῃ δεπάεσσιν.
τοῦτό τί μοι κάλλιστον ἐνὶ φρεσὶν εἴδεται εἶναι.

ῥηθέντων δὲ τούτων τῶν ἐπῶν, οὕτω σφοδρῶς φασι θαυμασθῆναι τοὺς στίχους ὑπὸ τῶν ῾Ελλήνων ὥστε χρυσοῦς αὐτοὺς προσαγορευθῆναι, καὶ ἔτι καὶ νῦν ἐν ταῖς κοιναῖς θυσίαις πρὸ τῶν δείπνων καὶ σπονδῶν προκατεύχεσθαι πάντας.