Sidelined from Writing by Pain

Fronto to Praecilius Pompeianus [Ad Amicos, i. 15 (Naber, p. 184).]

“In the intervening period, the neuritis overtook me even more powerful than usual, and it has lasted longer and been harder to bear than is typical. I am not able to pay any attention to letters that need to be written and read when my limbs hurt so much. And I have not as yet dared to expect so much from myself.

When those magnificent specimens of philosophers make the claim that the wise man would still be happy even if he were trapped in the Bull of Phalaris, it is easier for me to believe that he could be happy than he would be able to think carefully about some introduction or turn a pithy phrase all while roasting within the brass.”

Interea nervorum dolor solito vehementior me invasit, et diutius ac molestius solito remoratus est. Nec possum ego membris cruciantibus operam ullam litteris scribendis legendisque impendere; nec umquam istuc a me postulare ausus sum. Philosophis etiam mirificis hominibus dicentibus, sapientem virum etiam in Phalaridis tauro inclusum beatum nihilominus fore, facilius crediderim beatum eum fore quam posse tantisper amburenti in aheno prohoemium meditari aut epigrammata scribere.

What’s up with the bull? Check out the story here.

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Being Happy Takes Practice!

Diogenes Laertius, Diogenes 71

“He used to say, however, that there was no success in life at all without practice and that this can conquer everything. For this reason, people must choose the types of practice nature demands to live well instead of useless toils—and to live unhappily is a type of madness.

For even despising pleasure is extremely pleasurable, when it has been practiced; and just as those who are used to pleasure feel discomfort when they try to opposite, so too do those who have practiced the opposite get more pleasure from hating pleasure than from pleasure itself.

These were the things Diogenes talked about and clearly did—for he debased the currency and gave no rule authority unless it was natural. He used to say that he lived the same kind of life Herakles did and valued nothing more than freedom.”

Οὐδέν γε μὴν ἔλεγε τὸ παράπαν ἐν τῷ βίῳ χωρὶς ἀσκήσεως κατορθοῦσθαι, δυνατὴν δὲ ταύτην πᾶν ἐκνικῆσαι. δέον οὖν ἀντὶ τῶν ἀχρήστων πόνων τοὺς κατὰ φύσιν ἑλομένους ζῆν εὐδαιμόνως, παρὰ τὴν ἄνοιαν κακοδαιμονοῦσι. καὶ γὰρ αὐτὴ τῆς ἡδονῆς ἡ καταφρόνησις ἡδυτάτη προμελετηθεῖσα, καὶ ὥσπερ οἱ συνεθισθέντες ἡδέως ζῆν, ἀηδῶς ἐπὶ τοὐναντίον μετίασιν, οὕτως οἱ τοὐναντίον ἀσκηθέντες ἥδιον αὐτῶν τῶν ἡδονῶν καταφρονοῦσι. τοιαῦτα διελέγετο καὶ ποιῶν ἐφαίνετο, ὄντως νόμισμα παραχαράττων, μηδὲν οὕτω τοῖς κατὰ νόμον ὡς τοῖς κατὰ φύσιν διδούς· τὸν αὐτὸν χαρακτῆρα τοῦ βίου λέγων διεξάγειν ὅνπερ καὶ Ἡρακλῆς, μηδὲν ἐλευθερίας προκρίνων.

This reminded me of the saying attributed to Democritus:

Democritus, fr. 200

‘Those who live without enjoying life are fools.’

ἀνοήμονες βιοῦσιν οὐ τερπόμενοι βιοτῆι. #Democritus

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Happiness and Fortune

As Prolific as Chrysippus?

Diogenes Laertius, Lives of the Philosophers 7.7 180 Chrysippus

“He was so famous for his dialectic that the majority of people supposed that if the gods had dialectic if would be no different from Chrysippus’. While he had plenty of material, he was not much mistaken in his phrasing too.

He was the hardest working philosopher of them all, as is clear from the mere list of his publications: for their count is beyond 705. But he did advance their number by writing often on the same matter and writing down everything he thought of and correcting it often while also using and abundance of citations. This was so severe that in one of his publications he set out nearly every part of Euripides’ Medea. When someone picked up the book and asked him what he was reading, he said “Chrysippus’ Medea.”

Οὕτω δ᾿ ἐπίδοξος ἐν τοῖς διαλεκτικοῖς ἐγένετο, ὥστε δοκεῖν τοὺς πλείους ὅτι εἰ παρὰ θεοῖς ἦν [ἡ] διαλεκτική, οὐκ ἂν ἄλλη ἦν ἢ ἡ Χρυσίππειος. πλεονάσας δὲ τοῖς πράγμασι τὴν λέξιν οὐ κατώρθωσε. πονικώτατός τε παρ᾿ ὁντινοῦν γέγονεν, ὡς δῆλον ἐκ τῶν συγγραμμάτων αὐτοῦ· τὸν ἀριθμὸν γὰρ ὑπὲρ πέντε καὶ ἑπτακόσιά ἐστιν. ἐπλήθυνε δ᾿ αὐτὰ πολλάκις ὑπὲρ τοῦ αὐτοῦ δόγματος ἐπιχειρῶν καὶ πᾶν τὸ ὑποπεσὸν γράφων καὶ διορθούμενος πλεονάκις πλείστῃ τε τῶν μαρτυριῶν παραθέσει χρώμενος· ὥστε καὶ ἐπειδή ποτ᾿ ἔν τινι τῶν συγγραμμάτων παρ᾿ ὀλίγον τὴν Εὐριπίδου Μήδειαν ὅλην παρετίθετο καί τις μετὰ χεῖρας εἶχε τὸ βιβλίον, πρὸς τὸν πυθόμενον τί ἄρα ἔχοι, ἔφη, “Χρυσίππου Μήδειαν.”

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Souls of (in)Equal Worth?

Diogenes Laertius, Lives of the Philosophers 2.8 Aristippos 71

“Once, when [Aristippos] was sailing to Corinth and there was a storm, he got pretty upset. When someone said to him, “We simple people are not afraid, but you philosophers are cowards now?”, he responded, “We are not each worrying about souls of equal worth.”

When someone else thought highly of himself for his great learning, Aristippos said, “Just as those who eat the most and exercise the most are not healthier than those who take what they need, so too the serious people are not those who read many books but useful ones.”

Εἰς Κόρινθον αὐτῷ πλέοντί ποτε καὶ χειμαζομένῳ συνέβη ταραχθῆναι. πρὸς οὖν τὸν εἰπόντα, “ἡμεῖς μὲν οἱ ἰδιῶται οὐ δεδοίκαμεν, ὑμεῖς δ᾿ οἱ φιλόσοφοι δειλιᾶτε,” “οὐ γὰρ περὶ ὁμοίας,” ἔφη, “ψυχῆς ἀγωνιῶμεν ἑκάτεροι.” σεμνυνομένου τινὸς ἐπὶ πολυμαθείᾳ ἔφη, “ὥσπερ οὐχ οἱ τὰ πλεῖστα ἐσθίοντες [καὶ γυμναζόμενοι] ὑγιαίνουσι μᾶλλον τῶν τὰ δέοντα προσφερομένων, οὕτως οὐδὲ οἱ πολλὰ ἀλλ᾿ οἱ χρήσιμα ἀναγινώσκοντές εἰσι σπουδαῖοι.”

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Genius or Madness? An Epistle on Democritus

Hippocrates, Letter 10

A man of ours takes the greatest risks in the city now, Hippocrates, who both in the present moment and in the future has been a hope for fame for the city. May this, by the all the gods, never be a source of envy! When he has become so sick because of the great wisdom which possesses him that as a result he was afraid he might not obtain it—well, that’s how Democritus himself lost hits mind, and then abandoned our city of Abdera.

When he forgot everything, even himself before, he was awake both night and day and was laughing at everything great and small and believing that he would accomplish nothing at all for his whole life. Someone marries, another goes into business, another is a public speaker, another serves in office, he is old, he votes, he votes against things, he is sick, he is wounded, he dies. He laughs at everything, even when he sees the downcast and angry or even those who are happy.

The man is researching into the matters of Hades and he is writing these things and he says that the air is full of ghosts and he heeds the voices of birds. He often gets up alone at night and seems to be singing songs in the silence. And he claims that he often travels into the boundlessness and says that there are an endless number of Democriteis like himself. He lives with his skin ruined as ruined judgment. We fear these things, Hippocrates, and we are anxious about them: so save us, and come home quickly and help our country, do not put us off.”

     Κινδυνεύεται τὰ μέγιστα τῇ πόλει νῦν, ῾Ιππόκρατες, ἀνὴρ τῶν ἡμετέρων, ὃς καὶ τῷ παρόντι χρόνῳ καὶ τῷ μέλλοντι αἰεὶ κλέος ἠλπίζετο τῇ πόλει· μηδὲ νῦν ὅδε, πάντες θεοὶ, φθονηθείη· οὕτως ὑπὸ πολλῆς τῆς κατεχούσης αὐτὸν σοφίης νενόσηκεν, ὥστε φόβος οὐχ ὁ τυχὼν, ἂν φθαρῇ τὸν λογισμὸν Δημόκριτος, ὄντως δὴ τὴν πόλιν ἡμῶν ᾿Αβδηριτῶν καταλειφθήσεσθαι. ᾿Εκλαθόμενος γὰρ ἁπάντων καὶ ἑωυτοῦ πρότερον, ἐγρηγορὼς καὶ νύκτα καὶ ἡμέρην, γελῶν ἕκαστα μικρὰ καὶ μεγάλα, καὶ μηδὲν οἰόμενος εἶναι τὸν βίον ὅλον διατελεῖ. Γαμεῖ τις, ὁ δὲ ἐμπορεύεται, ὁ δὲ δημηγορεῖ, ἄλλος ἄρχει, πρεσβεύει, χειροτονεῖται, ἀποχειροτονεῖται, νοσεῖ, τιτρώσκεται,  τέθνηκεν, ὁ δὲ γελᾷ πάντα, τοὺς μὲν κατηφεῖς τε καὶ σκυθρωποὺς, τοὺς δὲ χαίροντας ὁρῶν. Ζητεῖ δὲ ὁ ἀνὴρ καὶ περὶ τῶν ἐν Αδου,

Ζητεῖ δὲ ὁ ἀνὴρ καὶ περὶ τῶν ἐν Αδου, καὶ γράφει ταῦτα, καὶ εἰδώλων φησὶ πλήρη τὸν ἠέρα εἶναι, καὶ ὀρνέων φωνὰς ὠτακουστεῖ, καὶ πολλάκις νύκτωρ ἐξαναστὰς μοῦνος ἡσυχῇ ᾠδὰς ᾄδοντι ἔοικε, καὶ ἀποδημεῖν ἐνίοτε λέγει ἐς τὴν ἀπειρίην, καὶ Δημοκρίτους εἶναι ὁμοίους ἑωυτῷ ἀναριθμήτους, καὶ συνδιεφθορὼς τῇ γνώμῃ τὸ χρῶμα ζῇ. Ταῦτα φοβούμεθα, ῾Ιππόκρατες, ταῦτα ταραττόμεθα, ἀλλὰ σῶζε, καὶ ταχὺς ἐλθὼν νουθέτησον τὴν ἡμῶν πατρίδα, μηδὲ ἡμᾶς ἀποβάλῃς·

Suda s.v. γλουτῶν

“Democritus of Abdera was called the “Laugher” because he laughed at the useless seriousness of human beings”

ὅτι ὁ Δημόκριτος ὁ ᾿Αβδηρίτης ἐπεκλήθη Γελασῖνος διὰ τὸ γελᾶν πρὸς τὸ κενόσπουδον τῶν ἀνθρώπων.

 

More on Democritus:

Robert Burton’s Sketch

Aulus Gellius with Laberius’ Play on Democritus’ Blinding

From ‘The Book of Macharius on the eye’, late 14th-century. BL, Sloane MS 981, f.68.

Debate like Pyrrho, Believe like Nausiphanes

If you want to hear a little more about ancient philosophers, we wrote a thing about them for Eidolon.

Diogenes Laertius 9.11 Pyrrho

“When he was caught talking to himself one time and was asked why he was doing it, [Pyrrho] said that he was practicing being good. He was dismissed by no one when it came to debating since he could easily speak at length and in response to questioning.

This is why he caught the attention of Nausiphanes when he was a young man. For he used to say, at least, that we should be like Pyrrho in debate, but himself in beliefs. And he was in the habit of saying often that even Epicurus used to ask him all the time for information about Pyrrho since he was so amazed by him.

He also said that he was so honored by his home cited that they made him the chief of the priests and voted that all philosophers should be free of taxes.”

Καταληφθεὶς δέ ποτε καὶ αὑτῷ λαλῶν καὶ ἐρωτηθεὶς τὴν αἰτίαν ἔφη μελετᾶν χρηστὸς εἶναι. ἔν τε ταῖς ζητήσεσιν ὑπ᾿ οὐδενὸς κατεφρονεῖτο διὰ τὸ <καὶ δι>εξοδικῶς λέγειν καὶ πρὸς ἐρώτησιν· ὅθεν καὶ Ναυσιφάνην ἤδη νεανίσκον ὄντα θηραθῆναι. ἔφασκε γοῦν γίνεσθαι δεῖν τῆς μὲν διαθέσεως τῆς Πυρρωνείου, τῶν δὲ λόγων τῶν ἑαυτοῦ. ἔλεγέ τε πολλάκις καὶ Ἐπίκουρον θαυμάζοντα τὴν Πύρρωνος ἀναστροφὴν συνεχὲς αὐτοῦ πυνθάνεσθαι περὶ αὐτοῦ. οὕτω δ᾿ αὐτὸν ὑπὸ τῆς πατρίδος τιμηθῆναι ὥστε καὶ ἀρχιερέα καταστῆσαι αὐτὸν καὶ δι᾿ ἐκεῖνον πᾶσι τοῖς φιλοσόφοις ἀτέλειαν ψηφίσασθαι.

Pyrrho’s beliefs.   On Nausiphanes.

Diogenes Laertius, 10.8

“[Epicurus] used to call Nausiphanes an illiterate jellyfish, a cheat and a whore. He used to refer to Plato’s followers as the Dionysius-flatterer and Plato himself ‘golden boy’; he called Aristotle a waste who, after he spent his inheritance, fought as a mercenary and sold drugs. He maligned Protagoras as a bellboy, and called Protagoras Democritus’ secretary and a teacher from the sticks. He called Heraclitus mudman, Democritus  Lerocritus [nonsense lord].

Antidorus he called Sannidôros [servile-gifter]. He named the Cynics “Greece’s enemies”; he called the dialecticians Destructionists and, according to him, Pyrrho was unlearned and unteachable.”

πλεύμονά τε αὐτὸν ἐκάλει καὶ ἀγράμματον καὶ ἀπατεῶνα καὶ πόρνην: τούς τε περὶ Πλάτωνα Διονυσοκόλακας καὶ αὐτὸν Πλάτωνα χρυσοῦν, καὶ Ἀριστοτέλη ἄσωτον, <ὃν> καταφαγόντα τὴν πατρῴαν οὐσίαν στρατεύεσθαι καὶ φαρμακοπωλεῖν: φορμοφόρον τε Πρωταγόραν καὶ γραφέα Δημοκρίτου καὶ ἐν κώμαις γράμματα διδάσκειν: Ἡράκλειτόν τε κυκητὴν καὶ Δημόκριτον Ληρόκριτον καὶ Ἀντίδωρον Σαννίδωρον: τούς τε Κυνικοὺς ἐχθροὺς τῆς Ἑλλάδος: καὶ τοὺς διαλεκτικοὺς πολυφθόρους, Πύρρωνα δ᾽ ἀμαθῆ καὶ ἀπαίδευτον.

Pyrrho
Pyrrho

Plato’s Father Was (Probably) A Rapist

Diogenes Laertius, Lives of the Philosophers 3.1

“Plato was the son of Aristôn, an Athenian, and Periktionê, or Pôtônê, who alleged her heritage went back to Solon. For he had a brother named Drôpides who was the father of Kritias, the father of Kallaiskhros, the father of Kritias, who was one of the Thirty. He was also the father of Glaukôn, the father of Kharmides and Perictionê. Plato, then, as the son of Aristôn and that Perictionê, was the sixth generation after Solon. And Solon claimed his family descended from Neleus and Poseidon. They also claim that his father descends from Kodros the son of Melanthos and, they are said to descend from Poseidon, according to Thrasylos.

In his work named “The Feast for Plato” Speusippus writes, as Klearkhos claims in his Praise to Plato and Anaaxlaides records in his second book of On Philosopgers, that there was a story in Athens that Aristôn raped Perictionê when she was an adolescent girl and failed to get her [as a wife?]. When he stopped assaulting her, Apollo came to him in a dream. For this reason, he left her untouched of marriage until she gave birth.”

Πλάτων, Ἀρίστωνος καὶ Περικτιόνης—ἢ Πωτώνης,—Ἀθηναῖος, ἥτις τὸ γένος ἀνέφερεν εἰς Σόλωνα. τούτου γὰρ ἦν ἀδελφὸς Δρωπίδης, οὗ Κριτίας, οὗ Κάλλαισχρος, οὗ Κριτίας ὁ τῶν τριάκοντα καὶ Γλαύκων, οὗ Χαρμίδης καὶ Περικτιόνη, ἧς καὶ Ἀρίστωνος Πλάτων, ἕκτος ἀπὸ Σόλωνος. ὁ δὲ Σόλων εἰς Νηλέα καὶ Ποσειδῶνα ἀνέφερε τὸ γένος. φασὶ δὲ καὶ τὸν πατέρα αὐτοῦ ἀνάγειν εἰς Κόδρον τὸν Μελάνθου, οἵτινες ἀπὸ Ποσειδῶνος ἱστοροῦνται κατὰ Θρασύλον.

Σπεύσιππος δ᾿ ἐν τῷ ἐπιγραφομένῳ Πλάτωνος περιδείπνῳ καὶ Κλέαρχος ἐν τῷ Πλάτωνος ἐγκωμίῳ καὶ Ἀναξιλαΐδης ἐν τῷ δευτέρῳ Περὶ φιλοσόφων φασίν, ὡς Ἀθήνησιν ἦν λόγος, ὡραίαν οὖσαν τὴν Περικτιόνην βιάζεσθαι τὸν Ἀρίστωνα καὶ μὴ τυγχάνειν· παυόμενόν τε τῆς βίας ἰδεῖν τὴν τοῦ Ἀπόλλωνος ὄψιν· ὅθεν καθαρὰν γάμου φυλάξαι ἕως τῆς ἀποκυήσεως.

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