Philosophical Support for A Resolution: Plutarch on Overeating

Plutarch’s Moralia, “Advice about Keeping Well”, 10

“But, just as flowers’ scents are on their own weak but when mixed with oil they gain strength and tone, so too does an initial mass of food provide substance and body, so to speak, to the causes and origins of afflictions from outside the body. Deprived of this, none of these can be severe, but instead they wither away and decrease on their own, when simple blood and clean breath meet their entry. But in a mass and excess of food, it is just like some kind of churning mud which makes everything unclear, and dirty and hard to pass when it is stirred up.

We should not, then, be just like those praised ship captains who allow a massive cargo because of greed and are for this reason always occupied baling and pouring the sea out of their ship—no, we must not stuff our body and then apply medicine to make us purge it all, but instead we should keep our bodies slim so that if ever we are depressed, our body will rise up again because of its lightness, like a cork.”

ἀλλ᾿ ὥσπερ αἱ τῶν ἀνθέων ὀσμαὶ καθ᾿ ἑαυτὰς ἀσθενεῖς εἰσι, μιχθεῖσαι δὲ τῷ ἐλαίῳ ῥώμην ἴσχουσι καὶ τόνον, οὕτω ταῖς ἔξωθεν αἰτίαις καὶ ἀρχαῖς οἷον οὐσίαν καὶ σῶμα παρέχει τὸ πλῆθος ὑποκείμενον. ἄνευ δὲ τούτου, τούτων χαλεπὸν οὐδέν, ἀλλ᾿ ἐξαμαυροῦνται καὶ διαχέονται ῥᾳδίως, αἵματος λεπτοῦ καὶ πνεύματος καθαροῦ δεχομένου τὴν κίνησιν· ἐν δὲ πλήθει καὶ περιττώματι οἷον ἰλὺς ἀναταραττομένη μιαρὰ ποιεῖ πάντα καὶ δυσχερῆ καὶ δυσαπάλλακτα. διὸ δεῖ μὴ καθάπερ οἱ ἀγαστοὶ ναύκληροι πολλὰ δι᾿ ἀπληστίαν ἐμβαλόμενοι, τοὐντεῦθεν ἤδη διατελοῦσιν ἀντλοῦντες καὶ ὑπεξερῶντες3 τὴν θάλατταν, οὕτως ἐμπλήσαντας τὸ σῶμα καὶ βαρύναντας ὑποκαθαίρειν αὖθις καὶ ὑποκλύζειν, ἀλλὰ διατηρεῖν εὐσταλές, ὅπως, κἂν πιεσθῇ ποτε, φελλοῦ δίκην ὑπὸ κουφότητος ἀναφέρηται.

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Gift-Giving is Like Getting Drunk: Fronto with Seasonal Advice

Cornelius Fronto, To Appian from Fronto 7

“The person who sends rather weighty gifts causes no less grief than the one who throws the ball too hard to his teammate or offers a big cup to his fellow drinker in toast. For the latter seems to toast not for pleasure but for getting drunk. Just as in wise drinking parties we see that the wine is mixed with a little pure alcohol and a lot of water, so too are gifts mixed best with a lot of thought and a little expenditure.

For who should we say gets the benefit from expensive gifts? Is it the poor? They are not capable of giving them. The rich? They don’t need to get them. In addition, it is not possible to constantly give expensive gifts—there will be a failure of resources if someone should often send out immense gifts. It is possible, however, to give small gifts endlessly and without regret—since someone owes only small thanks to the one who gave a small gift.”

  1. Ὁ δὲ τὰ βαρύτερα δῶρα πέμπων οὐχ ἧττον λυπεῖ τοῦ βαρεῖαν πέμποντος ἐπὶ τὸν συσφαιρίζοντα ἢ μεγάλην κύλην προπίνοντος τῷ συμπότῃ・ εἰς γὰρ μέθην οὐκ εἰς ἡδονὴν προπίνειν ἔοικεν. ὥσπερ δὲ τὸν οἶνον ἐν τοῖς σώφροσιν συμποσίοις ὁρῶμεν κιρνάμενον ἀκράτῳ μὲν πάνυ ὀλίγῳ, πλείστῳ δὲ τῷ ὕδατι, οὕτω δὴ καὶ τὰ δῶρα κιρνάναι προσῆκεν πολλῇ μὲν φιλοφροσύνῃ, ἐλαχίστῳ δὲ ἀναλώματι. τίσιν γὰp ἂν Φαίημεν ἁρμόττειν τὰ πολυτελῆ δῶρα; ἆρά γε τοῖς πένησιν; ἀλλὰ πέμπειν οὐ δύνανται・ ἢ τοῖς πλουσίοις; ἀλλά λαμβάνειν οὐ δέονται. τοῖς μὲν οὖν μεγάλοις δώροις τὸ συνεχὲς οὐ πρόσεστιν, ἢ ἐκπεσεῖν ἀναγκὴ τῶν ὑπαρχόντων, εἴ τις μεγάλα τε πέμποι καὶ πολλάκις. τοῖς δὲ μικροῖς δώροις τό τε συνεχὲς πρόσεστιν καί τὸ ἀμεταγνωστόν, εἰ <καὶ μικρὰ δεῖ τε>λέσαι μικρὰ πέμψαντι.†

 

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Hermit at work on a manuscript, from the Estoire del Saint Graal, France

A Measure of Wine for Madness or Pain

Two fragments from Euenus

Anth. Pal. 11.49 Εὐήνου 

“The best measure of Bacchus is not too much
Nor too little
For this he is the cause of pain or madness.
He is happy to be mixed fourth with three Nymphs—
Then he is most prepared for the bedroom.
But if he puffs too much, he turns away from loves
And dips into sleep, the next-door neighbor of death.”

Βάκχου μέτρον ἄριστον ὃ μὴ πολὺ μηδ᾿
ἐλάχιστον·
ἔστι γὰρ ἢ λύπης αἴτιος ἢ μανίης.
χαίρει κιρνάμενος δὲ τρισὶν Νύμφαισι τέταρτος·
τῆμος καὶ θαλάμοις ἐστὶν ἑτοιμότατος.
εἰ δὲ πολὺς πνεύσειεν, ἀπέστραπται μὲν ἔρωτας,
βαπτίζει δ᾿ ὕπνῳ, γείτονι τοῦ θανάτου.

5 Stob. 3.20.2 Εὐήνου

“Anger often eclipses humans’ hidden mind.
This is much worse than madness.”

πολλάκις ἀνθρώπων ὀργὴ νόον ἐξεκάλυψεν
κρυπτόμενον· μανίης πουλὺ χερειότερον.

Nouvelle acquisition latine 1673, fol. 76v, Marchand de vin. Tacuinum sanitatis, Milano or Pavie (Italy), 1390-1400.

How Gift-Giving is Like Getting Drunk: Fronto with Seasonal Advice

Cornelius Fronto, To Appian from Fronto 7

“The person who sends rather weighty gifts causes no less grief than the one who throws the ball too hard to his teammate or offers a big cup to his fellow drinker in toast. For the latter seems to toast not for pleasure but for getting drunk. Just as in wise drinking parties we see that the wine is mixed with a little pure alcohol and a lot of water, so too are gifts mixed best with a lot of thought and a little expenditure.

For who should we say gets the benefit from expensive gifts? Is it the poor? They are not capable of giving them. The rich? They don’t need to get them. In addition, it is not possible to constantly give expensive gifts—there will be a failure of resources if someone should often send out immense gifts. It is possible, however, to give small gifts endlessly and without regret—since someone owes only small thanks to the one who gave a small gift.”

  1. Ὁ δὲ τὰ βαρύτερα δῶρα πέμπων οὐχ ἧττον λυπεῖ τοῦ βαρεῖαν πέμποντος ἐπὶ τὸν συσφαιρίζοντα ἢ μεγάλην κύλην προπίνοντος τῷ συμπότῃ・ εἰς γὰρ μέθην οὐκ εἰς ἡδονὴν προπίνειν ἔοικεν. ὥσπερ δὲ τὸν οἶνον ἐν τοῖς σώφροσιν συμποσίοις ὁρῶμεν κιρνάμενον ἀκράτῳ μὲν πάνυ ὀλίγῳ, πλείστῳ δὲ τῷ ὕδατι, οὕτω δὴ καὶ τὰ δῶρα κιρνάναι προσῆκεν πολλῇ μὲν φιλοφροσύνῃ, ἐλαχίστῳ δὲ ἀναλώματι. τίσιν γὰp ἂν Φαίημεν ἁρμόττειν τὰ πολυτελῆ δῶρα; ἆρά γε τοῖς πένησιν; ἀλλὰ πέμπειν οὐ δύνανται・ ἢ τοῖς πλουσίοις; ἀλλά λαμβάνειν οὐ δέονται. τοῖς μὲν οὖν μεγάλοις δώροις τὸ συνεχὲς οὐ πρόσεστιν, ἢ ἐκπεσεῖν ἀναγκὴ τῶν ὑπαρχόντων, εἴ τις μεγάλα τε πέμποι καὶ πολλάκις. τοῖς δὲ μικροῖς δώροις τό τε συνεχὲς πρόσεστιν καί τὸ ἀμεταγνωστόν, εἰ <καὶ μικρὰ δεῖ τε>λέσαι μικρὰ πέμψαντι.†

 

Image result for Fronto medieval manuscript

Hermit at work on a manuscript, from the Estoire del Saint Graal, France 

Abstemious Romulus Drank What He Wanted (Aulus Gellius, Attic Nights xi.14)

The most noble and chaste response of King Romulus on the use of wine

Lucius Piso Frugi displays the simplest elegance of phrase and style in the first book of his Annales when he writes concerning the lifestyle and diet of King Romulus. These are the words who he has written: “They say that when Romulus was invited to dinner he didn’t drink much because he had business the next day. His fellow dinners remarked, “Romulus, if all men acted like you, wine would be cheaper.” And Romulus replied, “No, it would be more dear: if each man drank as he much as he desired: for I drank what I wanted.”

Sobria et pulcherrima Romuli regis responsio circa vini usum.

1 Simplicissima suavitate et rei et orationis L. Piso Frugi usus est in primo annali, cum de Romuli regis vita atque victu scriberet. 2 Ea verba, quae scripsit, haec sunt: “Eundem Romulum dicunt ad cenam vocatum ibi non multum bibisse, quia postridie negotium haberet. Ei dicunt: “Romule, si istuc omnes homines faciant, vinum vilius sit”. His respondit: “immo vero carum, si, quantum quisque volet, bibat; nam ego bibi quantum volui”.

Herodotus, 1 32.5

“Many super-wealthy people are unhappy while many who have less are fortunate in the end.”

πολλοὶ μὲν γὰρ ζάπλουτοι ἀνθρώπων ἀνόλβιοι εἰσί, πολλοὶ δὲ μετρίως ἔχοντες βίου εὐτυχέες.

(I know, I know. I added a bit to the end to echo the rest of the passage. And students love to debate the varied meanings of bios in Herodotus.)

Judge it for yourself, here: The Full Text.

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