The Key to a Long Life: Magic (Or Maybe Climate and Diet)

Lucian, Octogenarians 3-5

“Homer claims that Nestor, obviously, the wisest of the Achaians, lived more than three generations, a man the poet explains to us was best trained in both mind and body. And the prophet Teiresis, well tragedy has him living through six generations. It might be credible that a man dedicated to the gods and who followed a reverent diet might live as long as possible.

It is recorded that whole clans of people are very long-lived thanks to their way of life—for example, the people of the Egyptians called holy-authors, the exegetes of myth in Assyria and Arabia, and the people the Indians call Brahmans, men who pursue philosophy with precision. There are also the people called the magoi, that prophetic clan dedicated to the gods among the Persians, Parthians, Bactrians, Khoasmians, Arians, Sacae, Medes, and among many other barbarian people. The magoi are strong and live many years because they learn to use magic and eat with considerable discipline.

There are, in addition, entire peoples who are long-lived: for example, some people record that the Sêres live up to 300 years. According to some authors, this is because of the weather; others claim that it is their soul or their diet that is responsible for the length of their lives—for, they claim that the whole nation drinks only water. It is reported that the people of Athos live 130 years or that the Chaldeans live over a hundred and that they rely on barley bread as a medicine to keep their vision sharp.”

Νέστορα μὲν οὖν τὸν σοφώτατον τῶν Ἀχαιῶν ἐπὶ τρεῖς παρατεῖναι γενεὰς Ὅμηρος λέγει, ὃν συνίστησιν ἡμῖν γεγυμνασμένον ἄριστα καὶ ψυχῇ καὶ σώματι. καὶ Τειρεσίαν δὲ τὸν μάντιν ἡ τραγῳδία μέχρις ἓξ γενεῶν παρατεῖναι λέγει. πιθανὸν δ᾿ ἂν εἴη ἄνδρα θεοῖς ἀνακείμενον καθαρωτέρᾳ διαίτῃ χρώμενον ἐπὶ μήκιστον βιῶναι. καὶ γένη δὲ ὅλα μακρόβια ἱστορεῖται διὰ τὴν δίαιταν, ὥσπερ Αἰγυπτίων οἱ καλούμενοι ἱερογραμματεῖς, Ἀσσυρίων δὲ καὶ Ἀράβων οἱ ἐξηγηταὶ τῶν μύθων, Ἰνδῶν δὲ οἱ καλούμενοι Βραχμᾶνες, ἄνδρες ἀκριβῶς φιλοσοφίᾳ σχολάζοντες, καὶ οἱ καλούμενοι δὲ μάγοι, γένος τοῦτο μαντικὸν καὶ θεοῖς ἀνακείμενον παρά τε Πέρσαις καὶ Πάρθοις καὶ Βάκτροις καὶ Χωρασμίοις καὶ Ἀρείοις καὶ Σάκαις καὶ Μήδοις καὶ παρὰ πολλοῖς ἄλλοις βαρβάροις, ἐρρωμένοι τέ εἰσι καὶ πολυχρόνιοι διὰ τὸ μαγεύειν διαιτώμενοι καὶ αὐτοὶ ἀκριβέστερον. ἤδη δὲ καὶ ἔθνη ὅλα μακροβιώτατα, ὥσπερ Σῆρας μὲν ἱστοροῦσι μέχρι τριακοσίων ζῆν ἐτῶν, οἱ μὲν τῷ ἀέρι, οἱ δὲ τῇ γῇ τὴν αἰτίαν τοῦ μακροῦ γήρως προστιθέντες, οἱ δὲ καὶ τῇ διαίτῃ· ὑδροποτεῖν γάρ φασι τὸ ἔθνος τοῦτο σύμπαν. καὶ Ἀθῴτας δὲ μέχρι τριάκοντα καὶ ἑκατὸν ἐτῶν βιοῦν ἱστορεῖται, καὶ τοὺς Χαλδαίους ὑπὲρ τὰ ἑκατὸν ἔτη βιοῦν λόγος, τούτους μὲν καὶ κριθίνῳ ἄρτῳ χρωμένους, ὡς ὀξυδορκίας τοῦτο φάρμακον·

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The Witch of Endor, by the Master of Otto van Moerdrecht, 15th century

Desire, Pleasure, and Sophocles

Athenaeus, Deipnosophists 12 510d-c

“Enjoying something, certainly, requires a desire first and then comes the pleasure. The poet Sophocles, as a matter of fact, was one of those people who enjoy life, in order that he might not criticize old age, blamed his inability to get pleasure from sex on wisdom, pretending that he had happily been freed from those desires as if from some cruel master.

But I insist that the “Judgment of Paris was depicted by the more ancient poets as a contest between virtue and pleasure. When Aphrodite was selected—and she represented pleasure—everything went to shit. It also seems likely to me that Xenophon made up his story about Herakles and virtue for the same reason.”

Ἡ γὰρ ἀπόλαυσις δήπου μετ᾿ ἐπιθυμίας πρῶτον, ἔπειτα μεθ᾿ ἡδονῆς. καίτοι Σοφοκλῆς γ᾿ ὁ ποιητής, τῶν ἀπολαυστικῶν γε εἷς ὤν, ἵνα μὴ κατηγορῇ τοῦ γήρως, εἰς σωφροσύνην ἔθετο τὴν ἀσθένειαν αὐτοῦ τὴν περὶ τὰς τῶν ἀφροδισίων ἀπολαύσεις, φήσας ἀσμένως ἀπηλλάχθαι αὐτῶν ὥσπερ τινὸς δεσπότου. ἐγὼ δέ φημι καὶ τὴν τοῦ Πάριδος κρίσιν ὑπὸ τῶν παλαιοτέρων πεποιῆσθαι ἡδονῆς πρὸς ἀρετὴν οὖσαν σύγκρισιν· προκριθείσης γοῦν τῆς Ἀφροδίτης, αὕτη δ᾿ ἐστὶν ἡ ἡδονή, πάντα συνεταράχθη. καί μοι δοκεῖ καὶ ὁ καλὸς ἡμῶν Ξενοφῶν τὸν περὶ τὸν Ἡρακλέα καὶ τὴν Ἀρετὴν μῦθον ἐντεῦθεν πεπλακέναι.

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Just in Time for the Weekend: Spartan Puppy Sacrifices

I promise, I am not becoming obsessed with this topic...

Pausanias, 15.14 [In Laconia]

“On each of the bridges there is a sculpture: one has Herakles, the other an image of Lykourgos. Lykourgos established laws for the rest of the state and also for the fighting of youths. There are other things done by the Spartan youths too. They sacrifice in the temple to Apollo before battle. The Phoibaion is outside the city and not too far from Therapne. There, each group of young men sacrifice a puppy to Enyalios, because they believe that the bravest of the tame animals is a sacrifice to the liking of the bravest of the gods.

I don’t know any other Greeks who are in the habit of sacrificing puppies except for the Colophonians. They sacrifice a black female pup to the Goddess of the Wayside. This sacrifice and that of the Spartan youths are performed at night. During the sacrifice, the youths have trained boars fight one another. Whichever group’s boar wins, that group ends up winning the battle when they fight with strength in the Plane-tree Grove. These are the things they do in the Phobaion.”

γεφυρῶν δὲ ἐφ᾿ ἑκατέρᾳ τῇ μέν ἐστιν ἄγαλμα Ἡρακλέους, τῇ δὲ εἰκὼν Λυκούργου. νόμους δὲ ἔς τε τὴν ἄλλην πολιτείαν καὶ ἐς τὴν μάχην τῶν ἐφήβων ἔθηκεν ὁ Λυκοῦργος. καὶ τάδε ἄλλα τοῖς ἐφήβοις δρώμενά ἐστι· θύουσι πρὸ τῆς μάχης ἐν τῷ Φοιβαίῳ· τὸ δὲ Φοιβαῖόν ἐστιν ἐκτὸς τῆς πόλεως, Θεράπνης οὐ πολὺ ἀφεστηκός. ἐνταῦθα ἑκατέρα μοῖρα τῶν ἐφήβων σκύλακα κυνὸς τῷ Ἐνυαλίῳ θύουσι, θεῶν τῷ ἀλκιμωτάτῳ κρίνοντες ἱερεῖον κατὰ γνώμην εἶναι τὸ ἀλκιμώτατον ζῷον τῶν ἡμέρων. κυνὸς δὲ σκύλακας οὐδένας ἄλλους οἶδα Ἑλλήνων νομίζοντας θύειν ὅτι μὴ Κολοφωνίους· θύουσι γὰρ καὶ Κολοφώνιοι μέλαιναν τῇ Ἐνοδίῳ σκύλακα. νυκτεριναὶ δὲ ἥ τε Κολοφωνίων θυσία καὶ τῶν ἐν Λακεδαίμονι ἐφήβων καθεστήκασιν. ἐπὶ δὲ τῇ θυσίᾳ κάπρους ἠθάδας οἱ ἔφηβοι συμβάλλουσι μαχουμένους· ὁποτέρων δ᾿ ἂν ὁ κάπρος τύχῃ νικῶν, ἐν τῷ Πλατανιστᾷ κρατῆσαι τούτους ὡς τὰ πλείω συμβαίνει. τοσάδε μὲν δρῶσιν ἐν τῷ Φοιβαίῳ·

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Playing puppies. ÖNB, 1885

A Happy Side of Madness

I love this story. It fills me with hope and envy.

Aristotle, On Amazing Things Heard 832b

“The story goes that in Abydos there was a man who was afflicted with madness. He went into the theater and watched for many days as if there were actually people acting and applauded. When he had a respite from his affliction, he said that this was the most enjoyable time of his life.”

Λέγεται δέ τινα ἐν Ἀβύδῳ παρακόψαντα τῇ διανοίᾳ καὶ εἰς τὸ θέατρον ἐρχόμενον ἐπὶ πολλὰς ἡμέρας θεωρεῖν, ὡς ὑποκρινομένων τινῶν, καὶ ἐπισημαίνεσθαι· καὶ ὡς κατέστη τῆς παρακοπῆς, ἔφησεν ἐκεῖνον αὑτῷ τὸν χρόνον ἥδιστα βεβιῶσθαι.

This made me think of Thrasyllos again.

Aelian, 4.25

“Thrasyllos from the deme Aiksône endured an incredible and novel madness. For he left the city and went to the Peiraia and stayed there. He believed that all the ships that sailed in were his and he wrote down their names, checked the list when they left and rejoiced when they returned safely to the harbor again. He spent many years living with this sickness.

When his brother returned from Sicily, he took him to a doctor for treatment and he freed him from that sickness. But he often remembered the avocation of his sickness and used to say that he was never as happy as when he took pleasure at the sight of ships that weren’t his returning safely.”

Θράσυλλος ὁ Αἰξωνεὺς παράδοξον καὶ καινὴν ἐνόσησε μανίαν. ἀπολιπὼν γὰρ τὸ ἄστυ καὶ κατελθὼν ἐς τὸν Πειραιᾶ καὶ ἐνταῦθα οἰκῶν τὰ πλοῖα τὰ καταίροντα ἐν αὐτῷ πάντα ἑαυτοῦ ἐνόμιζεν εἶναι, καὶ ἀπεγράφετο αὐτὰ καὶ αὖ πάλιν ἐξέπεμπε καὶ τοῖς περισωζομένοις καὶ ἐσιοῦσιν ἐς τὸν λιμένα ὑπερέχαιρε· χρόνους δὲ διετέλεσε πολλοὺς συνοικῶν τῷ ἀρρωστήματι τούτῳ. ἐκ Σικελίας δὲ ἀναχθεὶς ὁ ἀδελφὸς αὐτοῦ παρέδωκεν αὐτὸν ἰατρῷ ἰάσασθαι, καὶ ἔπαυσεν αὐτὸν τῆς νόσου οὗτος. ἐμέμνητο δὲ πολλάκις τῆς ἐν μανίᾳ διατριβῆς, καὶ ἔλεγε μηδέποτε ἡσθῆναι τοσοῦτον, ὅσον τότε ἥδετο ἐπὶ ταῖς μηδὲν αὐτῷ προσηκούσαις ναυσὶν

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Bodleian 264

Aristotle’s Defense for Going to That Superbowl Party

Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics IX

“…so, friends properly desire spending time with one another. And whatever it is that is truly living for each and what they think makes life worth living, they want to share that with their friends. This is why some people drink together, others play dice together, some exercise together, or hunt, or study philosophy.

Each group of people spend their time together doing what they delight in most in life—because they want to share their lives with their friends, they join them and share in their pursuits as much as possible.”

ὥστ᾿ εἰκότως τούτου  ἐφίενται. καὶ ὅ τι ποτ᾿ ἐστὶν ἑκάστοις τὸ εἶναι ἢ οὗ χάριν αἱροῦνται τὸ ζῆν, ἐν τούτῳ μετὰ τῶν φίλων βούλονται διάγειν· διάπερ οἱ μὲν συμπίνουσιν, οἱ δὲ συγκυβεύουσιν, ἄλλοι δὲ συγγυμνάζονται καὶ συγκυνηγοῦσιν ἢ συμφιλοσοφοῦσιν, ἕκαστοι ἐν τούτῳ συνημερεύοντες ὅ τί περ μάλιστα ἀγαπῶσι τῶν ἐν τῷ βίῳ· συζῆν γὰρ βουλόμενοι μετὰ τῶν φίλων, ταῦτα ποιοῦσι καὶ τούτων κοινωνοῦσιν ὡς οἷόν τε [συζῆν].

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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.

Sex and Death of Vipers: An Allegory?

Aelian, On the Nature of Animals  1.24

“The male viper has sex with the female after he wraps himself around her. She tolerates her husband and doesn’t feel one bit of grief about it. But when they are at the end of their sexual activity, the bride repays her mate with devious affection for this intercourse: for, as she lays astride his neck, she bites it off with his head.

So, while he dies from sex, she gets pregnant. But instead of bearing eggs, she has live offspring and they immediately exhibit the worst part of their nature. They eventually eat through their mother’s womb and emerge, avenging the death of their father. What, oh dear tragedians, are your Oresteses and Alkmaiones in comparison to this?”

24. Ὁ ἔχις περιπλακεὶς τῇ θηλείᾳ μίγνυται· ἡ δὲ ἀνέχεται τοῦ νυμφίου καὶ λυπεῖ οὐδὲ ἕν. ὅταν δὲ πρὸς τῷ τέλει τῶν ἀφροδισίων ὦσι, πονηρὰν ὑπὲρ τῆς ὁμιλίας τὴν φιλοφροσύνην ἐκτίνει ἡ νύμφη τῷ γαμέτῃ· ἐμφῦσα γὰρ αὐτοῦ τῷ τραχήλῳ, διακόπτει αὐτὸν αὐτῇ κεφαλῇ· καὶ ὁ μὲν τέθνηκεν, ἡ δὲ ἔγκαρπον ἔχει τὴν μίξιν καὶ κύει. τίκτει δὲ οὐκ ᾠά, ἀλλὰ βρέφη, καὶ ἔστιν ἐνεργὰ ἤδη <κατὰ>τὴν αὑτῶν φύσιν τὴν κακίστην. διεσθίει γοῦν τὴν μητρῴαν νηδύν, καὶ πρόεισι πάραυτατιμωροῦντα τῷ πατρί. τί οὖν οἱ Ὀρέσται καὶ οἱ Ἀλκμαίωνες πρὸς ταῦτα, ὦ τραγῳδοὶ φίλοι;

Bibliothèque Nationale de France, lat. 3630, Folio 93r