Bypassing Treatment for Sorrow

Libanius, 6 6. Ἀρισταινέτῳ

“When I heard that your wife was sick, I felt compassion as I thought about how you probably felt about her condition. Then, when I learned that she died, I moaned out loud, taking it badly that Aristainetos, a man so naturally suited to celebrations, was in grief.

I was going to try to comfort you with a speech, but I restrained myself because I worried that even though I think I know you well I might be caught ignorant. For those passages I was about to use to relieve you–the bits from Pindar and Simonides and all those we are in the habit of using from the tragedians as a treatment for sorrow–I imagine that you knew them long ago and spoke them to others yourself.

So I figured that if these were the kinds of things to comfort your despair, then you could minister to yourself or, if not, it would be useless for someone else to recite them to you. So, I stopped that project and I offer instead a summary of everything that has happened during the winter.”

  1. Καὶ ὅτε ἀσθενεῖν σοι τὴν γυναῖκα ἠκούομεν, συνηλγοῦμεν ἐννοοῦντες ὡς εἰκός σε διακεῖσθαι καμνούσης, καὶ ἐπειδὴ τὴν τελευτὴν ἐπυθόμην, ἀνῴμωξα δεινόν τι ποιούμενος Ἀρισταίνετον εἶναι ἐν πένθει, οὗ τῇ φύσει πανηγύρεις πρέπουσιν.
  2. ὁρμήσας δὲ παραμυθεῖσθαι λόγοις ἀνέσχον δείσας μὴ πάνυ σε δοκῶν εἰδέναι ἔπειτα ἁλοίην ἀγνοῶν. οἷς γὰρ ἔμελλόν σε κουφιεῖν, τούτοις δὴ τοῖς Πινδάρου καὶ Σιμωνίδου, καὶ ὅσα ἐκ τραγῳδιῶν εἰώθαμεν φάρμακα λύπῃ προσάγειν, πάντα ἐδόκεις μοι πάλαι τε εἰδέναι κἂν πρὸς ἄλλους εἰπεῖν.
  3. ἐλογιζόμην οὖν ὅτι, εἰ μὲν οἷά τε κατακοιμίζειν ἀθυμίαν, αὐτὸς ἰάσῃ σαυτόν, εἰ δ᾿ οὐχ οἷά τε, καὶ παρ᾿ ἄλλου μάτην ἂν λέγοιτο. διὰ ταῦτα τοῦ μὲν ἀφίσταμαι, τὴν διήγησιν δέ σοι τῶν πραγμάτων ἀποδίδωμι, ἃ τοῦ χειμῶνος συνέβη.
David Teniers The Younger “Man of Sorrow”