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:

 

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Sing Me a Dinner! A Comic Fragment for an Epic Feast

Antiquity has bequeathed us many odd things. Among them, the Attic Dinner attributed to Matro of Pitane, a poet so obscure he does not merit his own wikipedia article. A student of Greek epic–even a rather poor one–should recognize the many allusions to Homer. (Of course, this poet is largely preserved by the gastronome Athenaeus).

“Dinners, tell me, Muse, of dinners, much nourishing and many.
Which Xenokles the orator ate at my house in Athens.
For I went there too, but a great hunger plagued me—
Where I saw the finest and largest loaves
Whiter than snow, tasting like wheat-cakes
The north-wind lusted after them as they baked.
Xenicles himself inspected the ranks of men
As he stopped while standing at the threshold; next to him was the parasite
Khairephoôn, a man like a starving sea-gull,
Hungry, and well-acquainted with other people’s feasts.”

δεῖπνα μοι ἔννεπε, Μοῦσα, πολύτροφα καὶ μάλα
πολλά ἃ Ξενοκλῆς ῥήτωρ ἐν ᾿Αθήναις δείπνισεν ἡμᾶς·
ἦλθον γὰρ κἀκεῖσε, πολὺς δέ μοι ἕσπετο λιμός.
οὗ δὴ καλλίστους ἄρτους ἴδον ἠδὲ μεγίστους,
λευκοτέρους χιόνος, ἔσθειν δ’ ἀμύλοισιν ὁμοίους
τάων καὶ Βορέης ἠράσσατο πεσσομενάων
αὐτὸς δὲ Ξενοκλῆς ἐπεπωλεῖτο στίχας ἀνδρῶν
στῆ δ’ ἄρ’ ἐπ’ οὐδὸν ἰών. σχεδόθεν δέ οἱ ἦν παράσιτος
Χαιρεφόων, πεινῶντι λάρῳ ὄρνιθι ἐοικώς,
νήστης, ἀλλοτρίων εὖ εἰδὼς δειπνοσυνάων.

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The first line quite obviously adapts the first line of the Odyssey:

“Of a man, tell me, Muse, a man of many ways who [suffered] many things…”

῎Ανδρα μοι ἔννεπε, Μοῦσα, πολύτροπον, ὃς μάλα πολλὰ

Want to Make Friends at Holiday Parties? Plutarch on Why Drinking is Useful

Plutarch, Moralia 644e: Table-Talk, On the Usefulness of Drinking for Getting to Know People

“When the Poet Simonides, my Sossios Senecios, saw a stranger at a drinking party sitting there in silence and talking to no one he said “Man, if you are a fool, you are doing something wise; but if you are wise, you are doing a foolish thing.” For, as Heraclitus says, “it is better to hide ignorance” and it is really hard to do this while drinking “which makes even a very wise man sing / and causes him to laugh gently and dance /and then to speak whatever word which was unsaid” [Hom. Od. 14.464-6).

In this, it seems to me, the poet demonstrates the differences between being a little tipsy and drunkenness. For song, merriment, dancing and dancing are coming to those who have drunk moderately. But talking too much and saying what is better kept silent is the work of too much wine, of being drunk. For this reason also, Plato believes that we can see the character of most men while drinking, as Homer said, “those two did not learn one another’s nature even at the table”.

It is clear that Homer knows the talkativeness of wine and how it creates much conversation. For it is not possible to know people who sit eating and drinking in silence. Drinking leads to chatting, and by chatting someone emerges and much that is otherwise hidden is disclosed—drinking together provides some way of getting to know each other.

For this reason, it is not wrong to chastise Aesop, “Why are you searching out these gateways, sir, through which different people can gaze upon the mindset of one another? This lays waste our well made modes of behavior, from the most basic custom by which we were trained, as if by a teacher.” This is why drinking is useful to both Aesop and Plato, and for anyone else looking for a method of inquiry.

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Σιμωνίδης ὁ ποιητής, ὦ Σόσσιε Σενεκίων, ἔν τινι πότῳ ξένον ἰδὼν κατακείμενον σιωπῇ καὶ μηδενὶ διαλεγόμενον, “ὦ ἄνθρωπ᾿,” εἶπεν, “εἰ μὲν ἠλίθιος εἶ, σοφὸν πρᾶγμα ποιεῖς· εἰ δὲ σοφός, ἠλίθιον.” “ἀμαθίην γὰρ ἄμεινον,” ὥς φησιν Ἡράκλειτος, “κρύπτειν,” ἔργον δ᾿ ἐν ἀνέσει καὶ παρ᾿ οἶνον

ὅστ᾿ ἐφέηκε πολύφρονά περ μάλ᾿ ἀεῖσαι,
καί θ᾿ ἁπαλὸν γελάσαι καί τ᾿ ὀρχήσασθαι ἀνῆκεν,
καί τι ἔπος προέηκεν, ὅπερ τ᾿ ἄρρητον ἄμεινον·

οἰνώσεως ἐνταῦθα τοῦ ποιητοῦ καὶ μέθης, ὡς ἐμοὶ δοκεῖ, διαφορὰν ὑποδεικνύντος. ᾠδὴ μὲν γὰρ καὶ γέλως καὶ ὄρχησις οἰνουμένοις μετρίως ἔπεισι· τὸ δὲ λαλεῖν καὶ λέγειν, ἃ βέλτιον ἦν σιωπᾶν, παροινίας ἤδη καὶ μέθης ἔργον ἐστίν. διὸ καὶ Πλάτων ἐν οἴνῳ μάλιστα καθορᾶσθαι τὰ ἤθη τῶν πολλῶν νομίζει, καὶ Ὅμηρος εἰπὼν

οὐδὲ τραπέζῃ / γνώτην ἀλλήλων

δῆλός ἐστιν εἰδὼς τὸ πολύφωνον τοῦ οἴνου καὶ λόγων πολλῶν γόνιμον. οὐ γὰρ ἔστι τρωγόντων σιωπῇ καὶ πινόντων γνῶσις· ἀλλ᾿ ὅτι τὸ πίνειν εἰς τὸ λαλεῖν προάγεται, τῷ δὲ λαλεῖν ἐμφαίνεται καὶ τὸ ἀπογυμνοῦσθαι πολλὰ τῶν ἄλλως λανθανόντων, παρέχει τινὰ τὸ συμπίνειν κατανόησιν ἀλλήλων· ὥστε μὴ φαύλως ἂν ἐπιτιμῆσαι τῷ Αἰσώπῳ· “τί τὰς θυρίδας, ὦ μακάριε, ζητεῖς ἐκείνας, δι᾿ ὧν ἄλλος ἄλλου κατόψεται τὴν διάνοιαν; ὁ γὰρ οἶνος ἡμᾶς ἀνοίγει καὶ δείκνυσιν οὐκ ἐῶν ἡσυχίαν ἄγειν, ἀλλ᾿ ἀφαιρῶν τὸ πλάσμα καὶ τὸν σχηματισμόν, ἀπωτάτω τοῦ νόμου καθάπερ παιδαγωγοῦ γεγονότων.” Αἰσώπῳ μὲν οὖν καὶ Πλάτωνι, καὶ εἴ τις ἄλλος ἐξετάσεως τρόπου δεῖται, πρὸς τοῦτο χρήσιμον ὁ ἄκρατος·

 

A Crucial Conversational Debate Before The Holidays

In his “Table-Talk”, Plutarch provides a series of conversations on specific topics. Here’s the first. Win over new friends and impress your family by bringing these topics to holiday meals!

Table Talk, Moralia 612-613: Question 1:

“It is right to practice philosophy while drinking?”

The question of philosophizing while drinking has been put first of all—for you must remember that in Athens once there was a discussion after dinner whether it is right and what the limit is for having philosophical conversations while drinking. Ariston, one of those present, said “Dear Gods! Are there really people who don’t provide room for philosophers while drinking?”

I responded “Really, there are, my friend, and they say very seriously by way of explanation that philosophy has no more right to speak over wine than the lady of the house does. Indeed, they also claim that the Persians act rightly in drinking and dancing not with their wives but their mistresses instead.

They believe it is right that we introduce these things to our drinking party—acting, and music—and that we should not touch philosophy. For they also believe that it is not appropriate to play games with philosophy and that in these situations we are not in earnest moods. They claim, moreover, that Isocrates the sophist submitted to pleas to speak during wine only to say “I am skilled at matters not right for the present time; in matters right for the present time, I am not skilled.”

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“And so philosophers, whenever they engage in subtle and dialogic problems while drinking, annoy most people who cannot follow them. These guests in turn commit to singing any kind of song, nonsense stories, and talk of business and the market. The aim of the shared space of the party goes out the window and Dioynsus himself is offended. In the same way, when Phrynichus and Aeschylus added myths to tragedy and suffering, people asked “What has this to do with Dionysus?”

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Εἰ δεῖ φιλοσοφεῖν παρὰ πότον

Πρῶτον δὲ πάντων τέτακται τὸ περὶ τοῦ φιλοσοφεῖν παρὰ πότον. μέμνησαι γὰρ ὅτι, ζητήσεως Ἀθήνησι μετὰ δεῖπνον γενομένης εἰ χρηστέον ἐν οἴνῳ φιλοσόφοις λόγοις καὶ τί μέτρον ἔστι χρωμένοις, Ἀρίστων παρών, “εἰσὶν γάρ,” ἔφησε, “πρὸς τῶν θεῶν οἱ φιλοσόφοις χώραν ἐπ᾿ οἴνῳ μὴ διδόντες;”

Ἐγὼ δ᾿ εἶπον, “ἀλλὰ γὰρ εἰσίν, ὦ ἑταῖρε, καὶ πάνυ γε σεμνῶς κατειρωνευόμενοι λέγουσι μὴ δεῖν ὥσπερ οἰκοδέσποιναν ἐν οἴνῳ φθέγγεσθαι φιλοσοφίαν, καὶ τοὺς Πέρσας ὀρθῶς φασι μὴ ταῖς γαμεταῖς ἀλλὰ ταῖς παλλακίσι συμμεθύσκεσθαι καὶ συνορχεῖσθαι· ταὐτὸ δὴ καὶ ἡμᾶς ἀξιοῦσι ποιεῖν εἰς τὰ συμπόσια τὴν μουσικὴν καὶ τὴν ὑποκριτικὴν ἐπεισάγοντας φιλοσοφίαν δὲ μὴ κινοῦντας, ὡς οὔτε συμπαίζειν ἐκείνην ἐπιτήδειον οὖσαν οὔθ᾿ ἡμᾶς τηνικαῦτα σπουδαστικῶς ἔχοντας· οὐδὲ γὰρ Ἰσοκράτη τὸν σοφιστὴν ὑπομεῖναι δεομένων εἰπεῖν τι παρ᾿ οἶνον ἀλλ᾿ ἢ τοσοῦτον· ‘ἐν οἷς μὲν ἐγὼ δεινός, οὐχ ὁ νῦν καιρός· ἐν οἷς δ᾿ ὁ νῦν καιρός, οὐκ ἐγὼ δεινός.’”

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οὕτω τοίνυν, ὅταν οἱ φιλόσοφοι παρὰ πότον εἰς λεπτὰ καὶ διαλεκτικὰ προβλήματα καταδύντες ἐνοχλῶσι τοῖς πολλοῖς ἕπεσθαι μὴ δυναμένοις, ἐκεῖνοι δὲ πάλιν ἐπ᾿ ᾠδάς τινας καὶ διηγήματα φλυαρώδη καὶ λόγους βαναύσους καὶ ἀγοραίους ἐμβάλωσιν ἑαυτούς, οἴχεται τῆς συμποτικῆς κοινωνίας τὸ τέλος καὶ καθύβρισται ὁ Διόνυσος. ὥσπερ οὖν, Φρυνίχου καὶ Αἰσχύλου τὴν τραγῳδίαν εἰς μύθους καὶ πάθη προαγόντων, ἐλέχθη τὸ ‘τί ταῦτα πρὸς τὸν Διόνυσον;’

A Banquet of Learning; A Dinner No-Show

Cicero Topica V

“But because I have welcomed someone eager for a feast of learning, I shall prepare it so well that there will be some leftovers rather than allow you to leave still hungry for more….”

Sed quoniam avidum hominem ad has discendi epulas recepi, sic accipiam, ut reliquiarum sit potius aliquid quam te hinc patiar non satiatum discedere.

Pliny the Younger to Septimius Clarus (Letter 15)

“Who do you think you are?! You agree to come do dinner…but you don’t come? The judgment is passed: You must pay my cost to a penny, and this is not moderate. All was set out: a lettuce for each, three snails, two eggs, wine with honey chilled with snow—for you should include this too among the highest expense since it dissolves on the plate—and there were olives, beets, pickles, onions and countless other things no less neat.

You would have heard a comedy or a reader or a singer of all of them, given my generosity. But you went where I don’t know, preferring oysters, a sow’s belly, sea-urchins, and Spanish dancers. You will suffer for this, somehow, believe me. You did something bad to one of us, certainly to me, but perhaps to yourself too. How much we played, laughed, and studied! You might eat better food at many homes, but nowhere will you eat so enjoyably, simply, and freely. In sum: try me: and if later you don’t excuse yourself from another’s meal, you can always lie to me again. Goodbye!”

Plinius Septicio Claro Suo S.

Heus tu! promittis ad cenam, nec venis? Dicitur ius: ad assem impendium reddes, nec id modicum. Paratae erant lactucae singulae, cochleae ternae, ova bina, halica cum mulso et nive (nam hanc quoque computabis, immo hanc in primis quae perit in ferculo), olivae betacei cucurbitae bulbi, alia mille non minus lauta. Audisses comoedos vel lectorem vel lyristen vel (quae mea liberalitas) omnes. At tu apud nescio quem ostrea vulvas echinos Gaditanas maluisti. Dabis poenas, non dico quas. Dure fecisti: invidisti, nescio an tibi, certe mihi, sed tamen et tibi. Quantum nos lusissemus risissemus studuissemus! Potes adparatius cenare apud multos, nusquam hilarius simplicius incautius. In summa experire, et nisi postea te aliis potius excusaveris, mihi semper excusa. Vale.

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Fresco from Pompeii

The Incestuous Feast: Fronto’s Religious Slander

Fronto Ex Octavio Minucii Felicis, ix. 8

This is known to us concerning the banquet; everyone is talking about this here and there. The speech of our countryman of Cirta attests to it too:

“They gather together for a meal each good day with all their children, sisters, mothers, and people of every sex and every age. Then, after much eating, when the meal has warmed and a fever of incestuous lust and drunkenness has taken fire, a dog which is tied to a candelabra is enticed by the toss of a little cake to rush and jump beyond the strain of the line to which its bound. Thus, when the light has been thrown down and put out, under shadows with no shame they turn to embraces of sick desire in chance meetings and everyone, if not by certainty, are still somewhat liable for incest since whatever can happen in the act of an individual is sought by universal desire.”

Et de convivio notum est: passim omnes loquuntur: id etiam Cirtensis nostri testatur oratio:—

“Ad epulas solemni die coeunt cum omnibus liberis sororibus matribus sexus omnis homines et omnis aetatis. Illic post multas epulas, ubi convivium caluit et incestae libidinis, ebrietatis fervor exarsit, canis qui candelabro nexus est, iactu offulae ultra spatium lineae, qua vinctus est, ad impetum et saltum provocatur: sic everso et extincto conscio lumine impudentibus tenebris nexus infandae cupiditatis involvunt per incertum sortis, et si non omnes opera, conscientia tamen pariter incesti, quoniam voto universorum adpetitur quidquid accidere potest in actu singulorum.”

Tertullian addresses this type of slander (Apology 7)

“We are said to be the most illicit people thanks to our rite of baby-killing and the baby-eating and the incest that follows the banquet where dogs overturn lamps like pimps of the shadows and purchase some respectability for our sinful lust. This is how we are always talked about. You don’t try at all to eradicate what has been said for so long. So, then, either expose the crime if you believe it, or stop believing it if you do not prove it.”

VII. Dicimur sceleratissimi de sacramento infanticidii et pabulo inde, et post convivium incesto, quod eversores luminum canes, lenones scilicet tenebrarum, libidinum impiarum in verecundiam procurent. Dicimur tamen semper, nec vos quod tam diu dicimur eruere curatis. Ergo aut eruite, si creditis, aut nolite credere, qui non eruistis.

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Banquet Fresco from Herculaneum

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.

 

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