A Not So Tawdry Recipe For Your, Um, Growing Problem

Athenaeus, Deipnosophists Book 7, 326f

“If you immerse a red mullet in wine while it is still alive and a man drinks this, he will be impotent, as Terpsikles records in his work On Sexual Matters. If a woman drinks the same mixture, she will not get pregnant. The same thing does not happen with a chicken.”

ἐὰν δ᾿ ἐναποπνιγῇ τρίγλη ζῶσα ἐν οἴνῳ καὶ τοῦτο ἀνὴρ πίῃ, ἀφροδισιάζειν οὐ δυνήσεται, ὡς Τερψικλῆς ἱστορεῖ ἐν τῷ Περὶ Ἀφροδισίων· κἂν γυνὴ δὲ πίῃ τοῦ αὐτοῦ οἴνου, οὐ κυΐσκεται. ὁμοίως δὲ οὐδὲ ὄρνις.

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Spot the (extra)potence cure.

Victual Healing: Plutarch on the Curative Powers of Food

Plutarch, Table Talk 662 c-d

“For we can use pain as an instrument in healing only briefly since it is extremely violent. No one would be able to expel pleasure from the rest of the approaches, even if he wanted too—for this is present in eating, sleeping and also in baths, massages, and relaxation, and they help someone who is sick by wearing away what is foreign to the body with what is familiar and natural.

What kind of pain, what deprivation, or what toxin as easily and directly addresses a disease as when a bath happens at the right time or when wine is given to those who need it? Even food when it has arrived with pleasure immediately resolves all difficulties and sets everything right as when a clear day develops from 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

 

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Fish-Eaters, Meat-Eaters and Bread: A Strange Scholion and Dehumanizing Structures in the Odyssey

Homer, Odyssey 8.221-222

“I say that I am much better than the rest,
However so many mortals now eat bread on the earth.”

τῶν δ’ ἄλλων ἐμέ φημι πολὺ προφερέστερον εἶναι,
ὅσσοι νῦν βροτοί εἰσιν ἐπὶ χθονὶ σῖτον ἔδοντες.

Schol. B ad Od. 8.222 ex

“Who eat bread…” He says this because there are some races who don’t eat bread. Indeed, some are called locust eaters and fish-easters, like the Skythian race and the Massagetae are called meat-eaters. Some of the locust-eaters, after seeing bread, used to believe it was shit.”

σῖτον ἔδοντες] εἶπε τοῦτο διά τινα γένη, οἵτινες οὐκ ἤσθιον σῖτον. διὸ καὶ ἀκριδοφάγοι τινὲς καὶ ἰχθυοφάγοι ἐκαλοῦντο, ὡς καὶ τὸ Σκυθικὸν καὶ Μασσαγετικὸν κρεοφάγοι καλοῦνται. τινὲς γὰρ τῶν ἀκριδοφάγων ἰδόντες ἄρτον κόπρον εἶναι ἐνόμιζον. B.

Eusth. Comm. I Ad Hom. Od. 1.293

“Those who eat grain/bread.” This is perhaps said regarding the difference of other mortals who are not these kind of people—the kind of sort the story claims that the long-lived Aethiopians are too. These people, after they saw bread, compared it to shit. There were also those who lived from eating locusts and others who lived off fish. For this reason they are called locust-eaters and fish eaters. The Skythian race and the Masssegetic people who live primarily off meat do not wish to eat grain.”

Τὸ δὲ σῖτον ἔδοντες, πρὸς διαστολὴν ἴσως ἐῤῥέθη ἑτέρων βροτῶν μὴ τοιούτων. ὁποίους καὶ τοὺς μακροβίους Αἰθίοπας ἡ ἱστορία φησίν. οἳ ἄρτον ἰδόντες κόπρῳ αὐτὸν εἴκασαν. ἦσαν δὲ καὶ οἱ ἐξ ἀκρίδων ζῶντες καὶ οἱ ἐξ ἰχθύων. οἳ καὶ ἀκριδοφάγοι διατοῦτο καὶ ἰχθυοφάγοι ἐκαλοῦντο. τὸ δὲ Σκυθικὸν φῦλον καὶ τὸ Μασσαγετικὸν κρέασι διοικονομούμενον οὐδ’ αὐτὸ ἐθέλει σιτοφαγεῖν.

Strabo, Geographica 16.4.12

“In a close land to [the Aethiopians] are people darker-skinned than the rest and shorter and the shortest-lived, the locust-eaters. They rarely see more than forty years because their flesh is rife with parasites. They live on locusts who arrive in the spring carried by the strong winds that blow into these places. After throwing burning logs into trenches and kindling them a little, they overshadow the locusts with smoke and they call. They pound them together with salt and use them as cakes for their food.”

Πλησιόχωροι δὲ τούτοις εἰσὶ μελανώτεροί τε τῶν ἄλλων καὶ βραχύτεροι καὶ βραχυβιώτατοι ἀκριδοφάγοι· τὰ γὰρ τετταράκοντα ἔτη σπανίως ὑπερτιθέασιν, ἀπο-
θηριουμένης αὐτῶν τῆς σαρκός· ζῶσι δ’ ἀπὸ ἀκρίδων, ἃς οἱ ἐαρινοὶ λίβες καὶ ζέφυροι πνέοντες μεγάλοι συνελαύνουσιν εἰς τοὺς τόπους τούτους· ἐν ταῖς χα-ράδραις δὲ ἐμβαλόντες ὕλην καπνώδη καὶ ὑφάψαντες μικρὸν … ὑπερπετάμεναι γὰρ τὸν καπνὸν σκοτοῦνται καὶ πίπτουσι· συγκόψαντες δ’ αὐτὰς μεθ’ ἁλμυρίδος μάζας ποιοῦνται καὶ χρῶνται.

Strabo’s passage is, from a modern perspective, fairly racist (and more so even than the Eustathius). I don’t believe that the Odyssey’s formulaic line carries the same force, however. For Homer, people who eat bread are those who cultivate the earth and have to work (they don’t live easy lives like the gods). People who don’t eat the fruit of the earth are marauders and monsters.

The Odyssey’s ethnographic frame develops structures that insist to be fully human, one must (1) live in a city and (2) have recognizable laws and institutions, and (3) cultivate the earth. Creatures who don’t do these things are marginalized and dehumanized either through their behavior (the suitors and sailors) or through actual deformity (the Cyclopes, Kikones, and, well, pretty much most of the women in the poem). So, while the epic itself is not clearly racist in the modern sense, it supplies and deploys frameworks by which other human beings may be marginalized and dehumanized.

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Feasts in the East: Greeks on Indian Rice

In the Odyssey and in Greek culture in general we find an ethnography of eating habits, essentially, you are what you eat. In Homer, people eat cultivated food; monsters eat people. Even today we identify other cultures with what they eat. Most of our cultural awareness, for better or worse, derives from restaurant menus. Athenaeus provides a tour of the world, based on its peoples eating habits. His stop in South Asia rings true today.

Athenaeus, Deipnosophists 4, 153 (=Megasthenes fr. 38)

 

“In his second book of Indika, Megasthenes says that during dinnertime among the Indians each person receives a table of his own that is most like a tripod. On this is placed a golden serving-bowl into which thy first place rice, cooked the way someone might boil barley, and to which they add many delicacies prepared in Indian fashion.”

Μεγασθένης ἐν τῇ δευτέρᾳ τῶν ᾿Ινδικῶν τοῖς ᾿Ινδοῖς φησιν ἐν τῷ δείπνῳ παρατίθεσθαι ἑκάστῳ τράπεζαν, ταύτην δ’ εἶναι ὁμοίαν ταῖς ἐγγυθήκαις· καὶ ἐπιτίθεσθαι ἐπ’ αὐτῇ τρυβλίον χρυσοῦν, εἰς ὃ ἐμβαλεῖν αὐτοὺς πρῶτον μὲν τὴν ὄρυζαν ἑφθὴν, ὡς ἄν τις ἑψήσειε χόνδρον, ἔπειτα ὄψα πολλὰ κεχειρουργημένα ταῖς ᾿Ινδικαῖς σκευασίαις.

Rice

Rice is a relatively late arrival in the Greek lexicon. It often appears in conjunction with the east (as is the case with Diodorus Siculus, 2.3-4; and Strabo, especially Book XV C690). Aelian connects it with India too in Animalia 16.10

“People claim that among the Prasii in India there is a race of monkeys with human understanding. They look about as large as Hyrcanian hounds and they appear to have a natural front lock of hair. People who don’t know what they are talking about say these are artificial. They have beards like satyrs; and their tail is the length of lions’. They are white in the rest of their body except for their heads and the end of he tail where they are red.

These primates are prudent and naturally tame. They are forest dwellers and they eat the plants that grow wild. They frequent the villages around the city of Latege in large groups and eat the boiled rice which is set out by the king for them. This meal is prepared well for them every day. After they are full they return to their forest homes in an orderly fashion and they don’t ruin anything with their feet.”

10. Ἐν Πρασίοις δὲ τοῖς Ἰνδικοῖς εἶναι γένος πιθήκων φασὶν ἀνθρωπόνουν, ἰδεῖν δέ εἰσι κατὰ τοὺς Ὑρκανοὺς κύνας τὸ μέγεθος, προκομία τε αὐτῶν ὁρᾶται συμφυής· εἴποι δ᾿ ἂν ὁ μὴ τὸ ἀληθὲς εἰδὼς ἀσκητὰς εἶναι αὐτάς. γένειον δὲ αὐτοῖς ὑποπέφυκε σατυρῶδες, ἡ δὲ οὐρὰ κατὰ τὴν τῶν λεόντων ἀλκαίαν ἐστί. καὶ τὸ μὲν ἄλλο πᾶν σῶμα πεφύκασι λευκοί, τὴν δὲ κεφαλὴν καὶ τὴν οὐρὰν ἄκραν εἰσὶ πυρροί.

σώφρονες δὲ καὶ φύσει τιθασοί· εἰσὶ δὲ ὑλαῖοι τὴν δίαιταν, καὶ σιτοῦνται τῶν ὡραίων τὰ ἄγρια. φοιτῶσι δὲ ἀθρόοι ἐς τὰ τῆς Λατάγης προάστεια (πόλις δέ ἐστιν Ἰνδῶν ἡ Λατάγη), καὶ τὴν προτεθειμένην αὐτοῖς ἐκ βασιλέως ἑφθὴν ὄρυζαν σιτοῦνται· ἀνὰ πᾶσαν δὲ ἡμέραν ἥδε ἡ δαὶς αὐτοῖς εὐτρεπὴς πρόκειται. ἐμφορηθέντας δὲ ἄρα αὐτοὺς ἀναχωρεῖν αὖθις ἐς <τὰ> ἤθη τὰ ὑλαῖά φασι σὺν κόσμῳ, καὶ σίνεσθαι τῶν ἐν ποσὶν οὐδὲ ἕν.

 

Dinners: Invitations and Guest-Lists for the Feasts

Matro  of Pitane

“Dinners, Muse, tell me of dinners much-nourishing and so very / many”

δεῖπνα μοι ἔννεπε, Μοῦσα, πολύτροφα καὶ μάλα / πολλά

 

P. Oxy. 1485.

“The Exegete would love for you to dine today, the ninth day, at the temple of Demeter at the seventh hour”

Ἐρωτᾷ σαι διπν[ῆ-]σαι ὁ ἐξηγητὴ[ς] ἐν τῷ Δημητρίῳ σήμερον ἥτις ἐσ-τὶν θ ἀπὸ ὥρ(ας) ζ.

A few weeks ago we played around with a twitter hastag #deadclassics, unintentionally anticipating the holiday season by a few weeks. This year we have been stringing together thematically linked posts, recently a flurry of animal noises and werewolves. Why should we stop now when we can keep indulging? (A thematic comment if any can be to anticipate the banquets to come). So, from now through the holidays we will be posting often–though not exclusively–about ancient banquets, parties, and feasts. And drinking, of course. You know, just in case you need any more holiday stress.

Here’ the beginning of Plutarch’s The Dinner of the Seven Wise Men to make you reconsider your guest-list for thanksgiving.

Moralia 146: Dinner of the Seven Wise Men

“Nikarkhos, I guess that as time passes by it will impose a great darkness over events and total obscurity if even false accounts of what has just happened have belief. For, there was not a dinner of only seven men as you have heard, but there were more than twice as many—among whom I was present, since I was Periander’s friend thanks to my profession and a guest-friend of Thales who stayed at my home after Periander told him to. Whoever it was who informed you of the events did not recall the speeches correctly—it is likely he was not one of the guests. But since I have a lot of free time and old age is too uncertain a thing to justify putting off the tale, I will tell you the entire story from the beginning which you are so eager to hear.”

Ἦ που προϊὼν ὁ χρόνος, ὦ Νίκαρχε, πολὺ σκότος ἐπάξει τοῖς πράγμασι καὶ πᾶσαν ἀσάφειαν, εἰ νῦν ἐπὶ προσφάτοις οὕτω καὶ νεαροῖς λόγοι ψευδεῖς συντεθέντες ἔχουσι πίστιν. οὔτε γὰρ μόνων, ὡς ὑμεῖς ἀκηκόατε, τῶν ἑπτὰ γέγονε τὸ συμπόσιον, ἀλλὰ πλειόνων ἢ δὶς τοσούτων (ἐν οἷς καὶ αὐτὸς ἤμην, συνήθης μὲν ὢν Περιάνδρῳ διὰ τὴν τέχνην, ξένος δὲ Θάλεω· παρ᾿ ἐμοὶ γὰρ κατέλυσεν ὁ ἀνὴρ Περιάνδρου κελεύσαντος), οὔτε τοὺς λόγους ὀρθῶς ἀπεμνημόνευσεν ὅστις ἦν ὑμῖν ὁ διηγούμενος· ἦν δ᾿ ὡς ἔοικεν οὐδεὶς τῶν παραγεγονότων. ἀλλ᾿ ἐπεὶ σχολή τε πάρεστι πολλὴ καὶ τὸ γῆρας οὐκ ἀξιόπιστον ἐγγυήσασθαι τὴν ἀναβολὴν τοῦ λόγου, προθυμουμένοις ὑμῖν ἀπ᾿ ἀρχῆς ἅπαντα διηγήσομαι.

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Greeks Imagine an Indian Feast

Athenaeus Deipnosophists 4, 153 (=Megasthenes fr. 38)

 

“In his second book of Indika, Megasthenes says that during dinnertime among the Indians each person receives a table of his own that is most like a tripod. On this is placed a golden serving-bowl into which thy first place rice, cooked the way someone might boil barley, and to which they add many delicacies prepared in Indian fashion.”

Μεγασθένης ἐν τῇ δευτέρᾳ τῶν ᾿Ινδικῶν τοῖς ᾿Ινδοῖς φησιν ἐν τῷ δείπνῳ παρατίθεσθαι ἑκάστῳ τράπεζαν, ταύτην δ’ εἶναι ὁμοίαν ταῖς ἐγγυθήκαις· καὶ ἐπιτίθεσθαι ἐπ’ αὐτῇ τρυβλίον χρυσοῦν, εἰς ὃ ἐμβαλεῖν αὐτοὺς πρῶτον μὲν τὴν ὄρυζαν ἑφθὴν, ὡς ἄν τις ἑψήσειε χόνδρον, ἔπειτα ὄψα πολλὰ κεχειρουργημένα ταῖς ᾿Ινδικαῖς σκευασίαις.

Rice

Note: this is the first time I have encountered the Greek word for rice (oruza). In Strabo, it appears specifically in conjunction with India’s numerous rivers.

Has Your Cook Read Democritus and Epicurus? (Damoxenus, fr. 1)

This comic fragment is found in Athenaeus’ Deipnosophists. The comic poet Damoxenus is from the 4th century BCE–he is known mostly from Athenaeus and has no Wikipedia page.

A. You see that I am
a disciple of the wise man Epicurus—
in his house in under than two years and ten months
I ‘boiled off’ ten talents.

B. What does this mean? Tell me? A. I ‘dedicated’ them.
That man was a cook as well, dear earth and gods!
B. What kind of a cook? A. Nature is the origin point
Of every kind of craft. B. The ‘origin point’, you scoundrel?

A. ‘There is nothing wiser than work’–
Every task or pursuit is easier when
You keep that saying in mind. Many things come to you!
This is why if you ever meet an uneducated cook,
one who hasn’t read Democritus completely
along with Epicurus’ Canon, rub shit in his face
and kick him out as they do from the academies!
For this is what he needs to know….”

Greek philosophers
Gallery of Culinary Inspiration

᾿Επικούρου δέ με
ὁρᾷς μαθητὴν ὄντα τοῦ σοφοῦ, παρ’ ᾧ
ἐν δύ’ ἔτεσιν καὶ μησὶν οὐχ ὅλοις δέκα
τάλαντ’ ἐγώ σοι κατεπύκνωσα τέτταρα.
Β. τοῦτο δὲ τί ἐστιν; εἰπέ μοι. Α. καθήγισα.
μάγειρος ἦν κἀκεῖνος, ὦ γῆ καὶ θεοί.
Β. ποῖος μάγειρος; Α. ἡ φύσις πάσης τέχνης
ἀρχέγονόν ἐστ’. Β. ἀρχέγονον, ὦλιτήριε;
Α. οὐκ ἔστιν οὐδὲν τοῦ πονεῖν σοφώτερον,
πᾶν εὐχερές τε πρᾶγμα τοῦ λόγου τριβὴν
ἔχοντι τούτου· πολλὰ γὰρ συμβάλλεται.
διόπερ μάγειρον ὅταν ἴδῃς ἀγράμματον
μὴ Δημόκριτόν τε πάντα διανεγνωκότα,
καὶ τὸν ᾿Επικούρου κανόνα, μινθώσας ἄφες
ὡς ἐκ διατριβῆς. τοῦτο δεῖ γὰρ εἰδέναι…