Taming the Elephant’s Heart

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.

More on the Pharmacology of Language

Gorgias, Defense of Helen 13-14

“The persuasion intrinsic to speech also shapes the mind as it pleases. We must first consider the narratives of astronomers who, by undermining one idea and developing another one, alter beliefs and make the incredible and invisible manifest to the eyes of belief. In turn, consider the necessary struggles in which one argument delights and persuades a great crowd when it has been written skillfully, even if it is spoken falsely. Finally, consider the rivalrous claims of philosophers which feature as well the speed of opinion that engenders volatility in the fidelity of a belief.”

 (13) ὅτι δ’ ἡ πειθὼ προσιοῦσα τῶι λόγωι καὶ τὴν ψυχὴν ἐτυπώσατο ὅπως ἐβούλετο, χρὴ μαθεῖν πρῶτον μὲν τοὺς τῶν μετεωρολόγων λόγους, οἵτινες δόξαν ἀντὶ δόξης τὴν μὲν ἀφελόμενοι τὴν δ’ ἐνεργασάμενοι τὰ ἄπιστα καὶ ἄδηλα φαίνεσθαι τοῖς τῆς δόξης ὄμμασιν ἐποίησαν· δεύτερον δὲ τοὺς ἀναγκαίους διὰ λόγων ἀγῶνας, ἐν οἷς εἷς λόγος πολὺν ὄχλον ἔτερψε καὶ ἔπεισε τέχνηι γραφείς, οὐκ ἀληθείαι λεχθείς· τρίτον <δὲ> φιλοσόφων λόγων ἁμίλλας, ἐν αἷς δείκνυται καὶ γνώμης τάχος ὡς εὐμετάβολον ποιοῦν τὴν τῆς δόξης πίστιν.

“The power of speech has the same logic regarding the disposition of the soul as that of the application of drugs to the natural function of bodies. For, just as certain drugs dispel certain afflictions from the body, and some end disease while others end life, so too are there stories that create grief and others that cause pleasure; some send us running, others make their audiences bold. Others still intoxicate and deceive the soul though some evil persuasion.”

 (14) τὸν αὐτὸν δὲ λόγον ἔχει ἥ τε τοῦ λόγου δύναμις πρὸς τὴν τῆς ψυχῆς τάξιν ἥ τε τῶν φαρμάκων τάξις πρὸς τὴν τῶν σωμάτων φύσιν. ὥσπερ γὰρ τῶν φαρμάκων ἄλλους ἄλλα χυμοὺς ἐκ τοῦ σώματος ἐξάγει, καὶ τὰ μὲν νόσου τὰ δὲ βίου παύει, οὕτω καὶ τῶν  λόγων οἱ μὲν ἐλύπησαν, οἱ δὲ ἔτερψαν, οἱ δὲ ἐφόβησαν, οἱ δὲ εἰς θάρσος κατέστησαν τοὺς ἀκούοντας, οἱ δὲ πειθοῖ τινι κακῆι τὴν ψυχὴν ἐφαρμάκευσαν καὶ ἐξεγοήτευσαν.




Biting the Snake that Bites You: Pythagoras as Prophet

Apollonios Paradoxographer, Wonder 6

“Pythagoras the son of Mnêsarkhos was present among these men, and first he was toiling over learning and arithmetic and later he did not condemn the omen reading of Pherecydes.

For also in Metapontios when a ship was approaching carrying a cargo and there were people nearby praying for it to arrive safe because of its cargo, he stood and said this, “this ship will appear to you, like a corpse carrying a body”

And again in Kaulônia, as Aristotle says when he is writing about this, he says many other things, and in Turrênia, he says he bit the deadly snake who was biting him and killed him. He also foretold the strife that occurred among the Pythagoreans. For this reason he went to Metapontios and was seen by no one.

And after crossing the river near Kosa with others he heard a great voice beyond human ability: “Hello, Pythagoras.” And those present became very frightened. He also once appeared both in Kroton and Metapontios in the same day and hour.

While he was seated once in the theater, he stretched out and showed to those who were seated that his own thigh was gold. There are other impossible stories about him too. But we should stop the account about him because we don’t want to write only about him.”

6 Τούτοις δὲ ἐπιγενόμενος Πυθαγόρας, Μνησάρχου υἱός, τὸ μὲν πρῶτον διεπονεῖτο περὶ τὰ μαθήματα καὶ τοὺς ἀριθμούς, ὕστερον δέ ποτε καὶ τῆς Φερεκύδου τερατοποιίας οὐκ ἀπέστη.

 καὶ γὰρ ἐν Μεταποντίῳ πλοίου εἰσερχομένου φορτίον ἔχοντος καὶ τῶν παρατυχόντων εὐχομένων σωστὸν ἐκεῖνο κατελθεῖν διὰ τὸν φόρτον, ἑστῶτα τοῦτον εἰπεῖν «νεκρὸν τοίνυν φανήσεται ὑμῖν σῶμα ἄγον τὸ πλοῖον τοῦτο.»

πάλιν δ’ ἐν Καυλωνίᾳ, ὥς φησιν ᾿Αριστοτέλης <…..> γράφων περὶ αὐτοῦ πολλὰ μὲν καὶ ἄλλα λέγει, καὶ τὸν ἐν Τυρρηνίᾳ, φησίν, δάκνοντα θανάσιμον ὄφιν αὐτὸς δάκνων ἀπέκτεινεν. καὶ τὴν γινομένην δὲ στάσιν τοῖς Πυθαγορείοις προειπεῖν. διὸ καὶ εἰς Μεταπόντιον ἀπῇρεν ὑπὸ μηδενὸς θεωρηθείς.

καὶ ὑπὸ τοῦ κατὰ Κόσαν ποταμοῦ διαβαίνων σὺν ἄλλοις ἤκουσε φωνὴν μεγάλην ὑπὲρ ἄνθρωπον «Πυθαγόρα, χαῖρε.» τοὺς δὲ παρόντας περιδεεῖς γενέσθαι.  ἐφάνη δέ ποτε καὶ ἐν Κρότωνι καὶ ἐν Μεταποντίῳ τῇ αὐτῇ ἡμέρᾳ καὶ ὥρᾳ.

ἐν θεάτρῳ δὲ καθήμενός ποτε ἐξανίστατο, ὥς φησιν ᾿Αριστοτέλης, καὶ τὸν ἴδιον μηρὸν παρέφηνε τοῖς καθημένοις ὡς χρυσοῦν. λέγεται δὲ περὶ αὐτοῦ καὶ ἄλλα τινὰ παράδοξα. ἡμεῖς δὲ μὴ βουλόμενοι μεταγραφέων ἔργον ποιεῖν αὐτοῦ τὸν λόγον καταπαύσομεν.


Image result for ancient greek pythagoras and snake


An Athenian Soap Opera: He Married the Girl And Then Impregnated Her Mother

Andocides, On the Mysteries, 124-125

But look at the way that his child—whom he thought better to have assigned to the daughter of Epilykos—was born and how he [Kallias] fathered him. For this is really worth hearing, men.  First, he married the daughter of Isomakhos. After living with her for not even a year, he took her mother as a lover and this most wicked of all men lived with mother and daughter—he was priest for both mother and daughter and he had them both in his home.

And this man was not ashamed enough to fear the god. But Isomakhos’ daughter, when she understood what was happening, decided to die rather than live. She was rescued in the middle of hanging herself and when she survived, she left, kicked out of his house: the mother drove out the daughter!  But when he had his fill of her, he drove the mother out too! But she claimed she was pregnant by him. And he swore that the child did not come from him.”

᾿Αλλὰ γὰρ τὸν υἱὸν αὐτοῦ τοῦτον, ᾧ λαχεῖν ἠξίωσε τῆς ᾿Επιλύκου θυγατρός, σκέψασθε πῶς γέγονε, καὶ πῶς ἐποιήσατ’ αὐτόν· ταῦτα γὰρ καὶ ἄξιον ἀκοῦσαι, ὦ ἄνδρες. Γαμεῖ μὲν ᾿Ισχομάχου θυγατέρα· ταύτῃ δὲ συνοικήσας οὐδ’ ἐνιαυτὸν τὴν μητέρα αὐτῆς ἔλαβε, καὶ συνῴκει ὁ πάντων σχετλιώτατος ἀνθρώπων τῇ μητρὶ καὶ τῇ θυγατρί, ἱερεὺς ὢν τῆς μητρὸς καὶ τῆς θυγατρός, καὶ εἶχεν ἐν τῇ οἰκίᾳ ἀμφοτέρας.

Καὶ οὗτος μὲν οὐκ ᾐσχύνθη οὐδ’ ἔδεισε τὼ θεώ· ἡ δὲ τοῦ ᾿Ισχομάχου θυγάτηρ τεθνάναι νομίσασα λυσιτελεῖν ἢ ζῆν ὁρῶσα τὰ γιγνόμενα, ἀπαγχομένη μεταξὺ κατεκωλύθη, καὶ ἐπειδὴ ἀνεβίω, ἀποδρᾶσα ἐκ τῆς οἰκίας ᾤχετο, καὶ ἐξήλασεν ἡ μήτηρ τὴν θυγατέρα. Ταύτης δ’ αὖ διαπεπλησμένος ἐξέβαλε καὶ ταύτην. ῾Η δ’ ἔφη κυεῖν ἐξ αὐτοῦ· καὶ ἐπειδὴ ἔτεκεν υἱόν, ἔξαρνος ἦν μὴ εἶναι ἐξ αὑτοῦ τὸ παιδίον.


mother vase.jpg
Is there an Ancient Greek word for “mother-in-law-f*cker”?

Speech and Its Corresponding Meaning

Sextus Empiricus, Against the Professors 36-38

“Next, let’s consider the way we learn, since learning happens wither through experience or through speech. But of these two approaches, experience comes from this which are demonstrable, the demonstrable is clear, and the clear—because it is obvious—is available to all in common. Such perception which is available to all in common is unteachable. Hence, anything apprehended through experience is not teachable.

Speech either corresponds to some meaning or it does not. If it corresponds to no meaning at all, then it teaches nothing. When it does correspond to some meaning it does it either by intrinsic nature or by established convention. It cannot, in truth correspond to meaning by intrinsic nature since not all people understand the same meaning when they hear it (as when the Greeks listen to barbarians or the barbarians listen to Greeks).

If speech signals meaning by convention, it is clear that people who have absorbed before the meanings to which these words correspond will also comprehend them now, and not because they have learned from them something which was not known—it is more like they are resuscitating what they knew before, while those who lack learning of what they don’t know will not do the same.”

τὸ μετὰ τοῦτο ἀπαιτῶμεν τὸν τρόπον τῆς μαθήσεως. ἢ γὰρ ἐναργείᾳ γίνεται ἢ λόγῳ τὰ τῆς διδασκαλίας. ἀλλὰ τούτων ἡ μὲν ἐνάργεια τῶν δεικτῶν ἐστί, τὸ δὲ δεικτὸν φαινόμενον, τὸ δὲ φαινόμενον, ᾗ φαίνεται, κοινῶς πᾶσι ληπτόν, τὸ δὲ κοινῶς πᾶσι ληπτὸν ἀδίδακτον· οὐκ ἄρα τὸ ἐναργείᾳ δεικτὸν διδακτόν. ὁ δὲ λόγος ἤτοι σημαίνει τι ἢ οὐ σημαίνει. καὶ μηδὲν μὲν σημαίνων οὐδὲ διδάσκαλός τινὸς ἐστι, σημαίνων δὲ ἤτοι φύσει σημαίνει τι ἢ θέσει. καὶ φύσει μὲν οὐ σημαίνει διὰ τὸ μὴ πάντας πάντων ἀκούειν, Ἕλληνας βαρβάρων καὶ βαρβάρους Ἑλλήνων ἢ Ἕλληνας Ἑλλήνων ἢ βαρβάρους βαρβάρων· θέσει δὲ εἴπερ σημαίνει, δῆλον ὡς οἱ μὲν προκατειληφότες τὰ καθ᾿ ὧν αἱ λέξεις κεῖνται καὶ ἀντιλήψονται τούτων, οὐ τὸ ἀγνοούμενον ἐξ αὐτῶν διδασκόμενοι, τὸ δ᾿ ὅπερ ᾔδεισαν ἀνανεούμενοι, οἱ δὲ χρῄζοντες τῆς τῶν ἀγνοουμένων μαθήσεως οὐκέτι.

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A Hydrophilic High: Aelian on the Effects of Medicinal Seahorse

Aelian, De Natura Animalium 14.20

“Some people who know a lot about fishing claim that the stomach of a sea-horse—if someone dissolves it in wine after boiling it and gives it to someone to drink—is an extraordinary potion combined with wine, when compared to other medicines. For, at first, the most severe retching overcomes anyone who drinks it and then a dry coughing fit takes over even though he vomits nothing at all, and then: the upper part of his stomach grows and swells; warm spells roll over his head; and, finally, snot pours from his nose and releases a fishy smell. Then his eyes turn blood-red and heated while his eye-lids swell up.

They claim that a desire to vomit overwhelms him but that he can bring nothing up. If nature wins, then he evades death and slips away into forgetfulness and insanity. But if the wine permeates his lower stomach, there is nothing to be done, and the individual dies eventually. Those who do survive, once they have wandered into insanity, are gripped by a great desire for water: they thirst to sea water and hear it splashing. And this, at least, soothes them and makes them sleep. Then they like to spend their time either by endlessly flowing rivers or near seashores or next to streams or some lakes. And even though they don’t want to drink, they love to swim, to put their feet in the water, and to wash their hands.”

  1. Λέγουσι δὲ ἄνδρες ἁλιείας ἐπιστήμονες, τὴν τοῦ ἱπποκάμπου γαστέρα εἴ τις ἐν οἴνῳ κατατήξειενἕψων καὶ τοῦτον δοίη τινὶ πιεῖν, φάρμακον εἶναι τὸν οἶνον ἄηθες ὡς πρὸς τὰ ἄλλα φάρμακα ἀντικρινόμενον· τὸν γάρ τοι πιόντα αὐτοῦ πρῶτον μὲν καταλαμβάνεσθαι λυγγὶ σφοδροτάτῃ, εἶτα βήττειν ξηρὰν βῆχα, καὶ στρεβλοῦσθαι μέν, ἀναπλεῖν δὲ αὐτῷ οὐδὲ ἕν, διογκοῦσθαι δὲ καὶ διοιδάνειν τὴν ἄνω γαστέρα, θερμά τε τῇ κεφαλῇ ἐπιπολάζειν ῥεύματα, καὶ διὰ τῆς ῥινὸς κατιέναι φλέγμα καὶ ἰχθυηρᾶς ὀσμῆς προσβάλλειν· τοὺς δὲ ὀφθαλμοὺς ὑφαίμους αὐτῷ γίνεσθαι καὶ πυρώδεις, τὰ βλέφαρα δὲ διογκοῦσθαι. ἐμέτων δὲ ἐπιθυμίαι ἐξάπτονταί φασιν, ἀναπλεῖ δὲ οὐδὲ ἕν. εἰ δὲ ἐκνικήσειεν ἡ φύσις, τὸν μὲν <τὸ> ἐς θάνατον σφαλερὸν παριέναι, ἐς λήθην δὲ ὑπολισθαίνειν καὶ παράνοιαν. ἐὰν δὲ ἐς τὴν κάτω γαστέρα διολίσθῃ, μηδὲν ἔτι εἶναι, πάντως δὲ ἀποθνήσκειν τὸν ἑαλωκότα. οἱ δὲ περιγενόμενοι ἐς παράνοια ἐξοκείλαντες ὕδατος ἱμέρῳ πολλῷ καταλαμβάνονται, καὶ ὁρᾶν διψῶσιν ὕδωρ καὶ ἀκούειν λειβομένου· καὶ τοῦτό γε αὐτοὺς καταβαυκαλᾷ καὶ κατευνάζει. καὶ διατρίβειν φιλοῦσιν ἢ παρὰ τοῖς ἀενάοις ποταμοῖς ἢ αἰγιαλῶν πλησίον ἢ παρὰ κρήναις ἢ λίμναις τισί, καὶ πιεῖν μὲν οὐ πάνυ <τι>7 γλίχονται, ἐρῶσι δὲ νήχεσθαι καὶ τέγγειν τὼ πόδε ἢ ἀπονίπτειν τὼ χεῖρε.


Phaenomena Italy, Naples, 1469 MS M.389 fol. 67v http://ica.themorgan.org/manuscript/page/34/112359


This is not a suggestion for experimentation drugs, as the Odyssey warns, might make you forget your homecoming

Send Us Someone Smart

Libanius Oration 33

“Free your cities of these kinds of troubles and send us a smart person eager for work, someone who will act more than they prattle, who will persuade more than force, and who will help the poor and not wear them down, someone who will understand what is possible and what is not along with the right time for abuse and the right time for threats.

Altogether, someone nothing like the plague here.”

Ἀπάλλαξον δὴ τὰς σαυτοῦ πόλεις τοιούτων κακῶν καὶ πέμψον ἄνδρα νοῦν τε ἔχοντα καὶ πόνων ἐπιθυμητὴν καὶ πλείω πράξοντα ἢ λαλήσοντα καὶ | πείσοντα μᾶλλον ἢ ἀναγκάσοντα καὶ βοηθήσοντα πένησιν, οὐκ ἐπιτρίψοντα, καὶ διαγνωσόμενον, τί μὲν δυνατόν, τί δὲ οὔ, καὶ καιρὸν μὲν πληγῶν, καιρὸν δὲ εἰσόμενον ἀπειλῆς, ὅλως οὐδὲν ἐοικότα τῷ λοιμῷ τούτῳ.

Profiles in Courage: Why Republicans May Ride the Trump Train Off ...

Changing Nature and Isolation’s End

Philo, On Rewards and Punishments 89-90

“At that time, it seems likely that bears, lions, panthers and those animals in India—elephants and tigers—and however many other creates have unconquerable valor and strength will shift from loneliness and isolation to a shared life. From imitating herd animals they will slowly become tame in the presence of human beings.

After this, they will no longer coil in anger as before, but some will be flabbergasted and behave humbly as if before a leader or natural master and others will get happily excited, showing domesticated affection and love just like those little dogs who signal their giddiness with wagging tails. Then, too, the races of scorpions and snakes and the other creepy critters will leave their venom unused.”

τότε μοι δοκοῦσιν ἄρκτοι καὶ λέοντες καὶ παρδάλεις καὶ τὰ παρ᾿ Ἰνδοῖς, ἐλέφαντές τε καὶ τίγρεις, καὶ ὅσα ἄλλα τὰς ἀλκὰς καὶ τὰς δυνάμεις ἀήττητα μεταβαλεῖν ἐκ τοῦ μονωτικοῦ τε καὶ μονοτρόπου πρὸς τὸ σύννομον· κἀκ τοῦ πρὸς ὀλίγον μιμήσει τῶν ἀγελαίων ἡμερωθήσεται πρὸς τὴν ἀνθρώπου φαντασίαν, μηκέτι ὡς πρότερον ἀνερεθισθέντα, καταπλαγέντα δ᾿ ὡς ἄρχοντα καὶ φύσει δεσπότην εὐλαβῶς ἕξει, ἔνια δὲ καὶ τοῦ χειροήθους ἅμα καὶ φιλοδεσπότου τῇ παραζηλώσει, καθάπερ τὰ Μελιταῖα τῶν κυνιδίων ταῖς κέρκοις μεθ᾿ ἱλαρωτέρας κινήσεως προσσαίνοντα. τότε καὶ τὰ σκορπίων γένη καὶ ὄφεων καὶ τῶν ἄλλων ἑρπετῶν ἄπρακτον ἕξει τὸν ἰόν·

British Library, Sloane MS 1975, Folio 13r

A Terrible Post for Mother’s Day: Phlegon of Tralles on Multiple Births

Antiquity has bequeathed to us a collection of works on ‘wonders’: some are mere lists of amazing things; others are rationalizing explanations of myths (for which the Hellenistic Palaephaetus is most famous). Here is on list from the mysterious Phlegon of Tralles

Phlegon of Trailes, On Amazing Things:  Multiple Births 28-32 

“Antigonos also records that in Alexandria one woman gave birth to twenty children in four labors and that she raised most of them

Another woman in the same city produced five children in a single birth; three were male and two were female. The emperor Trajan ordered for them to be raised on his own funds.

Another woman gave birth to three different children in one year.

Hippostratos says in his work On Minos, that Aiguptos fathered fifty sons from Eururroê, the daughter of the Nile.

Similarly, Danaus had fifty daughters from one wife, Eurôpê, the daughter of the Nile.

Krateros, the brother of Antigonos that king, says that he knew of a certain person who in a seven year period was a child, an adolescent, a man and an old man and that he died after getting married and having children.

Megasthenes claims that the women who live in Padaia give birth when they are seven years old.”

Καὶ ᾿Αντίγονος δὲ ἱστορεῖ ἐν ᾿Αλεξανδρείᾳ μίαν γυναῖκα ἐν τέτρασιν τοκετοῖς εἴκοσι τεκεῖν καὶ τὰ πλεῖστα τούτων ἐκτραφῆναι.

Καὶ ἑτέρα τις γυνὴ κατὰ τὴν αὐτὴν πόλιν πέντε ἐν ἑνὶ τοκετῷ ἀπεκύησεν παῖδας, τρεῖς μὲν ἄρρενας, δύο δὲ θηλείας, οὓς αὐτοκράτωρ Τραιανὸς ἐκέλευσεν ἐκ τῶν ἰδίων χρημάτων τρέφεσθαι.

 πάλιν δὲ μετ’ ἐνιαυτὸν ἄλλα τρία ἡ αὐτὴ γυνὴ ἔτεκεν.

 ῾Ιππόστρατος δέ φησιν, ἐν τῷ περὶ Μίνω, Αἴγυπτον ἐκ μιᾶς γυναικὸς Εὐρυρρόης τῆς Νείλου πεντήκοντα υἱοὺς γεννῆσαι.

Δαναός τε ὁμοίως ἐκ μιᾶς γυναικὸς τῆς Νείλου Εὐρώπης πεντήκοντα θυγατέρας ἕσχεν.

Κρατερὸς δέ φησιν, ὁ ᾿Αντιγόνου τοῦ βασιλέως ἀδελφός, γινώσκειν τινὰ ἄνθρωπον, ὃν ἐν ἑπτὰ ἔτεσιν παῖδα γενέσθαι καὶ μειράκιον καὶ ἄνδρα καὶ γέροντα καὶ γήμαντα καὶ παιδοποιησάμενον ἀποθανεῖν.

Μεγασθένης δέ φησιν τὰς ἐν Παδαίᾳ κατοικούσας γυναῖκας ἑξαετεῖς γενομένας τίκτειν.

Scene of childbirth in relief on an ivory plaque attached to one end of a papyrus winder (a roller for holding the papyrus while reading). The pregnant woman sits on a birthing chair. Behind her, a standing woman holds her steady as she lifts her left arm backwards to grasp the attendant. The midwife kneels in front of the mother with a sponge in her right hand. Behind her stands a veiled woman who extends her hands toward the mother. Roman. From Pompeii, Region I, Insula 2, first century…
Ivory Carving from Pompeii (Vroma.org)

Wednesday’s Wondrous Water

The Paradoxagraphus Florentinus: Mirabilia de aquis is a text of “amazing stories” about bodies of water. [Here’s a site that seems to have stalled out but whose aim was to translate the remaining paradoxes]. Little is known about its authorship or audience. There are 43 sections. Here are the first 11. Some of the language is odd and I made no effort to look up the place names. So, if you have any corrections or suggestions, please share them.

1 “There is a spring in Potnia near Thebes and when horses drink from it they go insane, as Isigonos claims in the second book of his On Unbelievable Things

Κρήνη ἐν Ποτνίαις περὶ Θήβας, ἐξ ἧς οἱ ἵπποι πίνοντες μαίνονται, ὡς ἱστορεῖ ᾿Ισίγονος ἐν δευτέρῳ ἀπίστων.

2 “In Clazomenae, as that aforementioned Isigonos records, there is a spring which changes the color of the hair of all the animals who drink of it.”

Κρήνη ἐν Κλαζομεναῖς, ἀφ’ ἧς τὰ θρέμματα πίνοντα τὴν ἐρέαν χρωματίνην ποιεῖ, ὡς ἱστορεῖ ὁ προειρημένος ᾿Ισίγονος.

3 “There is a spring in India which spits up anyone who swims into it onto the land as if from a machine, according to the historian Ktêsias.”

Κρήνη ἐν ᾿Ινδοῖς, ἣ τοὺς κολυμβῶντας ἐπὶ τὴν γῆν ἐκβάλλει ὡς ἀπ’ ὀργάνου, ὡς ἱστορεῖ Κτησίας.

4 “In Krete there is a channel for water and when people cross it even though it is raining they make it through without getting wet for the entire distance which the channel extends.”

᾿Εν Κρήτῃ ὀχετὸς ὕδατός ἐστιν, ὃν οἱ διαβαίνοντες ὕοντος τοῦ Διὸς ἄβροχοι διαβαίνουσιν, ἐφ’ ὅσον ἐν τῷ ὀχετῷ εἰσιν.

5 “Among the Persians they claim that a spring filled with olive oil appeared suddenly to Alexander.”

᾿Εν Πέρσαις φασὶν ᾿Αλεξάνδρῳ φανῆναι κρήνην ἐλαίου πληρουμένην αὐτομάτως.

6 “Near Kilikia there is a certain pooling of water in which birds and unthinking animals who are soaked in it and drowned come back to life again.”

Παρὰ Κιλικίᾳ φασὶν ὕδατος εἶναι σύστημά τι ἐν ᾧ τὰ πεπνιγμένα τῶν ὀρνέων καὶ τῶν ἀλόγων ζῴων ἐμβραχέντα ἀναζῆν.

7 “Along a road in Syracuse there is a stream which is neither large nor carries a lot of water; but when a great mob comes to the place and there is a great sound it provides endless water, as Aristotle says.”

᾿Εν τῇ ἐπὶ Συρακουσῶν ὁδῷ κρήνη ἐστὶν οὐ μεγάλη οὐδὲ ὕδωρ πολὺ ἔχουσα· ὄχλου δὲ ἐπελθόντος εἰς τὸν τόπον καὶ ψόφου γινομένου παρέχει ὕδωρ ἄφθονον, ὥς φησιν ᾿Αριστοτέλης.

8 “In Paliakoi there is a spring which hurls water up six cubits high, making an impression that it is about to wash over the bordering places. But on the whole it doesn’t splash over anything. The people who live there swear their greatest oaths on this spring, as Isigonos records in the second book of his On Unbelievable Things.”

Κρήνη ἐν Παλικοῖς, ἥτις εἰς ὕψος ἀναρρίπτει τὸ ὕδωρ πηχέων ἕξ, ἔμφασιν ποιοῦσα μέλλειν κατακλύζειν τοὺς ὑποκειμένους τόπους· καθόλου δὲ οὐχ ὑπερεκχεῖται οὐδέν. ἐπὶ ταύτης οἱ ἐπιχώριοι τοὺς ὑπὲρ τῶν μεγίστων ὅρκους ποιοῦνται, ὡς ἱστορεῖ ᾿Ισίγονος ἐν δευτέρῳ ἀπίστων.

9 “Around the Skotoussa in Thessaly there is a little thing of a spring which heals all the wounds of unthinking animals. If someone breaks wood a little and throws it in after splitting it, it will be repaired. Thus the water is like glue, as Isigonos claims.”

Περὶ Σκοτοῦσσαν τῆς Θεσσαλίας κρηνίδιόν ἐστι μικρόν, ὃ τὰ ἕλκη πάντα θεραπεύει καὶ τῶν ἀλόγων ζῴων· εἰς ὃ ἐάν τις ξύλον μὴ λίαν συντρίψας, ἀλλὰ σχίσας ἐμβάλῃ, ἀποκαθίσταται· οὕτως κολλῶδες ἔχει τὸ ὕδωρ, ὥς φησιν ᾿Ισίγονος.

10 “Among the Lousoi in Arkadia Aristotle says that there is a certain spring in which mice are indigenous and they make their life there by swimming in it.”

᾿Εν Λούσοις τῆς ᾿Αρκαδίας φησὶν ᾿Αριστοτέλης κρήνην τινὰ εἶναι, ἐν ᾗ μῦς χερσαίους γίνεσθαι, καὶ τούτους κολυμβᾶν ἐν ἐκείνῃ τὴν δίαιταν ποιουμένους.

11 “Isigonos claims that there is a spring in Athamia from which the water is cold but on its top is so hot that if someone were to pour it over kindling it would immediately catch on fire”

Φησὶν ᾿Ισίγονος ἐν ᾿Αθαμᾶσι κρήνην εἶναι, ἧς τὸ μὲν ὕδωρ ψυχρὸν ὑπάρχειν, τὸ δ’ ὑπὲρ αὐτὸ οὕτως θερμὸν ὑπάρχειν, ὥστε, ἄν τις ὑπερθῇ φρύγανα, παραχρῆμα ἐξάπτεσθαι.

Yates Thompson MS 10, f. 11r (detail), France (Paris), 1370-1390