The Secrets That You Keep

This has nothing to do with Treason.

Plutarch, On Talkativeness, 505a-b

“Some of the other faults and disorders we suffer are dangerous, hateful, or absurd; but talkativeness is all of these things. For chatterboxes are mocked for explaining common affairs, hated for trumpeting bad news, and they risk their lives because they can’t keep secrets.

For this reason, when Anacharsis had a feast at Solon’s home and was stretched out to sleep, he covered his genitals with his left hand and placed his right hand over his mouth:  he thought that the tongue demanded the stronger protection! And this is correct. For, one couldn’t easily make a list of how many men have been laid low because of uncontrolled lust any more than the number of cities and governments which a revealed secret has destroyed.”

Τῶν δ᾿ ἄλλων παθῶν καὶ νοσημάτων τὰ μέν ἐστιν ἐπικίνδυνα τὰ δὲ μισητὰ τὰ δὲ καταγέλαστα, τῇ δ᾿ ἀδολεσχίᾳ πάντα συμβέβηκε· χλευάζονται μὲν γὰρ ἐν ταῖς κοιναῖς διηγήσεσι, μισοῦνται δὲ διὰ τὰς τῶν κακῶν προσαγγελίας, κινδυνεύουσι δὲ τῶν ἀπορρήτων μὴ κρατοῦντες. ὅθεν Ἀνάχαρσις ἑστιαθεὶς παρὰ Σόλωνι καὶ κοιμώμενος ὤφθη τὴν μὲν ἀριστερὰν χεῖρα τοῖς μορίοις τὴν δὲ δεξιὰν τῷ στόματι προσκειμένην ἔχων· ἐγκρατεστέρου γὰρ ᾤετο χαλινοῦ δεῖσθαι τὴν γλῶτταν, ὀρθῶς οἰόμενος. οὐ γὰρ ἄν τις ἐξαριθμήσαιτο ῥᾳδίως ἄνδρας τοσούτους ἀφροδισίων ἀκρασίᾳ πεπτωκότας, ὅσας πόλεις καὶ ἡγεμονίας λόγος ἐξενεχθεὶς ἀπόρρητος ἀναστάτους ἐποίησε.

I hear the secrets that you keep, when you’re talking in your sleep

Some Greek Passages on Work for May 1st

Xenophon, Oeconomicus 4.15-16

“Critoboulos, Some say that whenever the great king gives gifts, he calls in first those who proved their excellence at war because there is no advantage to plowing many fields unless they defend them. After them, he rewards those who prepare and work the land best, because brave men cannot survive unless someone works the land.”

Φασὶ δέ τινες, ἔφη ὁ Σωκράτης, ὦ Κριτόβουλε, καὶ ὅταν δῶρα διδῷ ὁ βασιλεύς, πρῶτον μὲν εἰσκαλεῖν τοὺς πολέμῳ ἀγαθοὺς γεγονότας, ὅτι οὐδὲν ὄφελος πολλὰ ἀροῦν, εἰ μὴ εἶεν οἱ ἀρήξοντες· δεύτερον δὲ τοὺς κατασκευάζοντας τὰς χώρας ἄριστα καὶ ἐνεργοὺς ποιοῦντας λέγοντα, ὅτι οὐδ᾿ ἂν οἱ ἄλκιμοι δύναιντο ζῆν, εἰ μὴ εἶεν οἱ ἐργαζόμενοι. λέγεται δὲ καὶ Κῦρός ποτε, ὅσπερ εὐδοκιμώτατος δὴ βασιλεὺς γεγένηται, εἰπεῖν τοῖς ἐπὶ τὰ δῶρα κεκλημένοις, ὅτι αὐτὸς ἂν δικαίως τὰ ἀμφοτέρων δῶρα λαμβάνοι· κατασκευάζειν τε γὰρ ἄριστος εἶναι ἔφη χώραν καὶ ἀρήγειν τοῖς κατεσκευασμένοις.

Plutarch, fr. 43

“Let no one find fault with this line because wealth is made to be much praised ahead of virtue. Know that wealth here is the product workers get from their labors—it is a just portion gathered from their personal toil.”

Μηδεὶς λοιδορείτω τὸν στίχον εἰς τὸν πολυάρατον πλοῦτον ὁρῶν τὸν πόρρω τῆς ἀρετῆς ἐσκηνημένον, ἀλλὰ πλοῦτον οἰέσθω νῦν λέγεσθαι τὴν ἀπὸ τῶν ἔργων πορισθεῖσαν ἀφθονίαν τοῖς ἐργαζομένοις δικαίαν οὖσαν καὶ ἀπὸ τῶν οἰκείων πόνων ἠθροισμένην.

Plutarch, Perikles 1.4 5-6

“Often and quite contrarily, we look down on a laborer while delighting in his work”

πολλάκις δὲ καὶ τοὐναντίον χαίροντες τῷ ἔργῳ τοῦ δημιουργοῦ καταφρονοῦμεν

Hesiod, Works and Days, 289-90

“The gods made sweat the price for virtue.”

τῆς δ’ ἀρετῆς ἱδρῶτα θεοὶ προπάροιθεν ἔθηκαν
ἀθάνατοι·

 

Pindar, Isthmian 1. 47

“People find different payment sweet for different work.”

μισθὸς γὰρ ἄλλοις ἄλλος ἐπ’ ἔργμασιν ἀνθρώποις
γλυκύς

 

Hesiod, Works and Days, 303

“Gods and men alike dislike a lazy man.”

τῷ δὲ θεοὶ νεμεσῶσι καὶ ἀνέρες ὅς κεν ἀεργὸς.

Image result for Ancient Greek sisyphus vase

When an aristocrat co-opts the language of the proletariat…

Odyssey 15.321-324

“No mortal could rival me in work:
No one could best me at building a fire or dry wood,
At serving at the table, cooking meat or serving wine–
All those tasks lesser men complete for their betters.”

δρηστοσύνῃ οὐκ ἄν μοι ἐρίσσειε βροτὸς ἄλλος,
πῦρ τ’ εὖ νηῆσαι διά τε ξύλα δανὰ κεάσσαι,
δαιτρεῦσαί τε καὶ ὀπτῆσαι καὶ οἰνοχοῆσαι,
οἷά τε τοῖς ἀγαθοῖσι παραδρώωσι χέρηες.”

Odyssey, 18.366-383

“Eurymachus: I wish the two of us could have a labor-contest
In the height of spring when the days are drawing longer,
In the thickening grass. I would grip the curved scythe
And you could hold the same thing, so we could test each other
At work, fasting right up to dusk where the grass was thick.
And then the next day we could drive the oxen, the strongest ones,
Bright and large, both stuffed full with their food,
A pair of the same age, equally burdened, their strength unwavering.
I’d wish for a four-acre parcel to put under the plow.
Then you’d see me, how I would cut a furrow straight from end to end.
Or if, instead, Kronos’ son would send me a war today,
And I would have a shield and two spears
Matched with a bronze helmet well-fit to my temples.
Then you’d see me mixing it up in the front lines
And you wouldn’t bawl about, belittling my hungry stomach.”

“Εὐρύμαχ’, εἰ γὰρ νῶϊν ἔρις ἔργοιο γένοιτο
ὥρῃ ἐν εἰαρινῇ, ὅτε τ’ ἤματα μακρὰ πέλονται,
ἐν ποίῃ, δρέπανον μὲν ἐγὼν εὐκαμπὲς ἔχοιμι,
καὶ δὲ σὺ τοῖον ἔχοις, ἵνα πειρησαίμεθα ἔργου
νήστιες ἄχρι μάλα κνέφαος, ποίη δὲ παρείη·
εἰ δ’ αὖ καὶ βόες εἶεν ἐλαυνέμεν, οἵ περ ἄριστοι,
αἴθωνες μεγάλοι, ἄμφω κεκορηότε ποίης,
ἥλικες ἰσοφόροι, τῶν τε σθένος οὐκ ἀλαπαδνόν,
τετράγυον δ’ εἴη, εἴκοι δ’ ὑπὸ βῶλος ἀρότρῳ·
τῶ κέ μ’ ἴδοις, εἰ ὦλκα διηνεκέα προταμοίμην.
εἰ δ’ αὖ καὶ πόλεμόν ποθεν ὁρμήσειε Κρονίων
σήμερον, αὐτὰρ ἐμοὶ σάκος εἴη καὶ δύο δοῦρε
καὶ κυνέη πάγχαλκος ἐπὶ κροτάφοισ’ ἀραρυῖα,
τῶ κέ μ’ ἴδοις πρώτοισιν ἐνὶ προμάχοισι μιγέντα,
οὐδ’ ἄν μοι τὴν γαστέρ’ ὀνειδίζων ἀγορεύοις.

Heard And Seen: Disagreeing With Thucydides About Women

Plutarch, On the Virtues of Women 1

“Klea, I do not have the same opinion as Thucydides concerning the virtue of women. For he claims that the best woman is the one who has the slimmest reputation among those outside her home, critical or positive—since he believes that the name of a good woman ought to be locked up and kept indoors just like her body.  Gorgias, in fact, is more appealing to me, since he insists that the fame rather than the form of a woman should be known to many. Indeed, the Roman practice seems best: granting praise to women in public after their death just as for men.

So, when Leontis, one of the best women died, you and I had a rather long conversation which did not lack philosophical solace; and now, just as you have asked, I have written down for you the rest of the things one can say supporting the assertion that the virtue of a man and woman are the same thing. This [composition] is historical and is not arranged for pleasurable hearing. But if some pleasure is possible in a persuasive piece thanks to the nature of its example, then the argument itself does not avoid some charm—that aid to explanation—nor is it reluctant to “mix the Graces in with the Muses, a most noble pairing”, in the words of Euripides, basing its credibility on the love of beauty which is a special province of the soul.”

Περὶ ἀρετῆς, ὦ Κλέα, γυναικῶν οὐ τὴν αὐτὴν τῷ Θουκυδίδῃ γνώμην ἔχομεν. ὁ μὲν γάρ, ἧς ἂν ἐλάχιστος ᾖ παρὰ τοῖς ἐκτὸς ψόγου πέρι ἢ ἐπαίνου λόγος, ἀρίστην ἀποφαίνεται, καθάπερ τὸ σῶμα καὶ τοὔνομα τῆς ἀγαθῆς γυναικὸς οἰόμενος δεῖν κατάκλειστον εἶναι καὶ ἀνέξοδον. ἡμῖν δὲ κομψότερος μὲν ὁ Γοργίας φαίνεται, κελεύων μὴ τὸ εἶδος ἀλλὰ τὴν δόξαν εἶναι πολλοῖς γνώριμον τῆς γυναικός· ἄριστα δ᾿ ὁ Ῥωμαίων δοκεῖ νόμος ἔχειν, ὥσπερ ἀνδράσι καὶ γυναιξὶ δημοσίᾳ μετὰ τὴν τελευτὴν τοὺς προσήκοντας ἀποδιδοὺς ἐπαίνους. διὸ καὶ Λεοντίδος τῆς ἀρίστης ἀποθανούσης, εὐθύς τε μετὰ σοῦ τότε πολὺν λόγον εἴχομεν οὐκ ἀμοιροῦντα παραμυθίας φιλοσόφου, καὶ νῦν, ὡς ἐβουλήθης, τὰ ὑπόλοιπα τῶν λεγομένων εἰς τὸ μίαν εἶναι καὶ τὴν αὐτὴν ἀνδρὸς καὶ γυναικὸς ἀρετὴν προσανέγραψά σοι, τὸ ἱστορικὸν ἀποδεικτικὸν ἔχοντα καὶ πρὸς ἡδονὴν μὲν ἀκοῆς οὐ συντεταγμένα. εἰ δὲ τῷ πείθοντι καὶ τὸ τέρπον ἔνεστι φύσει τοῦ παραδείγματος, τὸ ἱστορικὸν ἀποδεικτικὸν ἔχοντα καὶ πρὸς ἡδονὴν μὲν ἀκοῆς οὐ συντεταγμένα· εἰ δὲ τῷ πείθοντι καὶ τὸ τέρπον ἔνεστι φύσει τοῦ παραδείγματος, οὐ φεύγει χάριν ἀποδείξεως συνεργὸν ὁ λόγος οὐδ᾿ αἰσχύνεται

ταῖς Μούσαις
τὰς Χάριτας συγκαταμιγνὺς
καλλίσταν συζυγίαν,

ὡς Εὐριπίδης φησίν, ἐκ τοῦ φιλοκάλου μάλιστα τῆς ψυχῆς ἀναδούμενος τὴν πίστιν.

 

Image result for Ancient Roman Women

Telesilla: Argive Woman, Warrior Poet

From Pausanias,  2.20.8-10

“Beyond the theater is the shrine of Aphrodite. In front of the foundation is a stele on which Telesilla, a poet of lyric, is depicted. Her books are tossed near her feet while she looks at the helmet she holds in her hand as she is about to put it on her head. Telesilla was famous among women and especially honored for her poetry.

But a greater story about her comes from when the Argives were bested by Kleomenes the son of Alexandrides and the Lakedaimonians. Some Argives died during the battle itself and however many fled to the grove of Ares died there too—at first they left the grove under an armistice but they realized they were deceived and were burned with the rest in the grove. As a result, Kleomenes led the Spartans to an Argos bereft of men.

But Telesilla stationed on the wall of the city all the slaves who were unable to bear arms because of youth or old age and, after collecting however many weapons had been left in homes or in the shrines, she armed all the women at the strongest age and once she had armed herself they took up posts were the army was going to attack.

When the Spartans came near and the women were not awestruck by their battle-cry but waited and were fighting bravely, then the Spartans, because they reasoned that if they killed the women the victory would be ill-rumored even as their own defeat would come with great insult, yielded to the women.

The Pythian priestess had predicted this contest earlier in the prophecy relayed by Herodotus who may or may not have understood it (6.77):

But when the female conquers the male
And drives him away and wins glory for the Argives,
It will make many Argive women tear their cheeks.

These are the words of the oracle on the women’s accomplishment.”

ὑπὲρ δὲ τὸ θέατρον ᾿Αφροδίτης ἐστὶν ἱερόν, ἔμπροσθεν δὲ τοῦ ἕδους Τελέσιλλα ἡ ποιήσασα τὰ ᾄσματα ἐπείργασται στήλῃ· καὶ βιβλία μὲν ἐκεῖνα ἔρριπταί οἱ πρὸς τοῖς ποσίν, αὐτὴ δὲ ἐς κράνος ὁρᾷ κατέχουσα τῇ χειρὶ καὶ ἐπιτίθεσθαι τῇ κεφαλῇ μέλλουσα. ἦν δὲ ἡ Τελέσιλλα καὶ ἄλλως ἐν ταῖς γυναιξὶν εὐδόκιμος καὶ μᾶλλον ἐτιμᾶτο ἔτι ἐπὶ τῇ ποιήσει. συμβάντος δὲ ᾿Αργείοις ἀτυχῆσαι λόγου μειζόνως πρὸς Κλεομένην τὸν ᾿Αναξανδρίδου καὶ Λακεδαιμονίους, καὶ τῶν μὲν ἐν αὐτῇ πεπτωκότων τῇ μάχῃ, ὅσοι δὲ ἐς τὸ ἄλσος τοῦ ῎Αργου κατέφευγον διαφθαρέντων καὶ τούτων, τὰ μὲν πρῶτα ἐξιόντων κατὰ ὁμολογίαν, ὡς δὲ ἔγνωσαν ἀπατώμενοι συγκατακαυθέντων τῷ ἄλσει τῶν λοιπῶν, οὕτω τοὺς Λακεδαιμονίους Κλεομένης ἦγεν ἐπὶ ἔρημον ἀνδρῶν τὸ ῎Αργος. Τελέσιλλα δὲ οἰκέτας μὲν καὶ ὅσοι διὰ νεότητα ἢ γῆρας ὅπλα ἀδύνατοι φέρειν ἦσαν, τούτους μὲν πάντας ἀνεβίβασεν ἐπὶ τὸ τεῖχος, αὐτὴ δὲ ὁπόσα ἐν ταῖς οἰκίαις ὑπελείπετο καὶ τὰ ἐκ τῶν ἱερῶν ὅπλα ἀθροίσασα τὰς ἀκμαζούσας ἡλικίᾳ τῶν γυναικῶν ὥπλιζεν, ὁπλίσασα δὲ ἔτασσε κατὰ τοῦτο ᾗ τοὺς πολεμίους προσιόντας ἠπίστατο. ὡς δὲ <ἐγγὺς> ἐγίνοντο οἱ Λακεδαιμόνιοι καὶ αἱ γυναῖκες οὔτε τῷ ἀλαλαγμῷ  κατεπλάγησαν δεξάμεναί τε ἐμάχοντο ἐρρωμένως, ἐνταῦθα οἱ Λακεδαιμόνιοι, φρονήσαντες ὡς καὶ διαφθείρασί σφισι τὰς γυναῖκας ἐπιφθόνως τὸ κατόρθωμα ἕξει καὶ σφαλεῖσι μετὰ ὀνειδῶν γενήσοιτο ἡ συμφορά, ὑπείκουσι ταῖς γυναιξί. πρότερον δὲ ἔτι τὸν ἀγῶνα τοῦτον προεσήμηνεν ἡ Πυθία, καὶ τὸ λόγιον εἴτε ἄλλως εἴτε καὶ ὡς συνεὶς ἐδήλωσεν ῾Ηρόδοτος·

ἀλλ’ ὅταν ἡ θήλεια τὸν ἄρρενα νικήσασα
ἐξελάσῃ καὶ κῦδος ἐν ᾿Αργείοισιν ἄρηται,
πολλὰς ᾿Αργείων ἀμφιδρυφέας τότε θήσει.

τὰ μὲν ἐς τὸ ἔργον τῶν γυναικῶν ἔχοντα τοῦ χρησμοῦ ταῦτα ἦν·

Telesilla

Plutarch, On the Virtues of Women 245d-f6 reports a version of this tale; the Suda (s.v. Telesilla) likely takes its account from Pausanias.

“Telesilla, a poetess. On a stele her books are tossed around and she has placed a helmet on her head. And When the Lakedaimonians slaughtered the Argives who had fled to a shrine and were heading to the city to sack it, then Telesilla armed the women of the right age and set them against where they were marching. When the Lakedaimonians saw this, they turned back because they believed it shameful to fight against women whom it would be inglorious to conquer but a great reproached to be defeated by….” [the oracle is listed next”

Τελέσιλλα, ποιήτρια. ἐπὶ στήλης τὰ μὲν βιβλία ἀπέρριπτε, κράνος δὲ τῇ κεφαλῇ περιέθηκε. καὶ γὰρ ὅτε Λακεδαιμόνιοι τοὺς ἐν τῷ ἱερῷ τοῦ ῎Αργους καταφυγόντας διέφθειρον καὶ πρὸς τὴν πόλιν ᾔεσαν ὡς αἱρήσοντες, τότε Τελέσιλλα τὰς ἐν ἡλικίᾳ γυναῖκας ὁπλίσασα ὑπήντησεν οἷ προσῄεσαν. ὅπερ ἰδόντες οἱ Λακεδαιμόνιοι ἐς τοὐπίσω ὑπέστρεψαν, αἰσχρὸν νομίσαντες γυναιξὶ πολεμεῖν, ἃς καὶ τὸ νικᾶν ἄδοξον καὶ ἡττᾶσθαι μέγα ὄνειδος. ἐς τοῦτο καὶ ὁ χρησμὸς πεπλήρωτο, ᾿Αργείοις λέγων· ἀλλ’ ὅταν ἡ θήλεια τὸν ἄρρενα νικήσασα ἐξελάσῃ καὶ κῦδος ᾿Αργείοισιν ἄρηται, πολλὰς ᾿Αργείων ἀμφιδρυφέας τότε θήσει.

The extant fragments of Telesilla are not much to work with (each line is a separate fragment:

ἁ δ’ ῎Αρτεμις, ὦ κόραι,

φεύγοισα τὸν ᾿Αλφεόν

φιληλιάς,

†βελτιώτας

δῖνον.

οὐλοκίκιννε

〚ποιητριαν〛

〚Τελεσ̣ι̣λ̣λα̣ν̣〛

The Difference between Being Tipsy and Being Drunk, A Critical Holiday Debate

N.B. ὁ νήφων, “sober”

ὁ ἀκροθώραξ, “tipsy”

ὁ μεθύων, “drunk”

ὁ δὲ παντάπασι μεθύων, “shit-faced”

Plutarch, Moralia 653: Table-Talk Book 3, Question 8

Why are those who are actually drunk, less messed up than those we call tipsy?

“Since we have hassled Aristotle,” my father said, “Shouldn’t we also try to say something particular about those who are called “tipsy”. For even though he was the sharpest in these kinds of explorations, he seems to me to have insufficiently examined the cause of this. For he says, I think, that it is possible for a sober man to make a judgment well and in line with reality while one who is pretty drunk is too wrecked to have control over his perception even as one who is only tipsy remains strong in imagination but has compromised logic. For this reason, he makes judgments and does it badly because he following imaginary things. What do you think about these things?” He said.

“When I was reading this,” I said, “the argument was fine regarding the cause. But if you want me to work up some contribution of my own, look first at whether we should credit the difference you have mentioned to the body. For, the tipsy mind alone is messed up, the body is still capable of serving impulses because it is not yet completely permeated. But when the body is overcome and soaked, it betrays its movements and ignores them and it does not move on to actual deeds. Those who have a body that still responds to them are reproved not by their lack of logical thought but by their greater strength.”

Then I said, “And, if we were to consider it from another principle, nothing stops the strength of wine from being variable and from changing alongside its amount. In the same way, fire, if it is measured, gives strength and hardness to pottery; but if it strikes it too much, it melts it and makes it liquid. In another way, spring revives and increases fevers as it begins while the heat of summer settles them and makes them desist.

Therefore, what prevents the mind, once it is moved by wine naturally, when it has been disturbed and excited, from calming and settling down as drinking increases? Hellebore has at its onset of purging pain for the body. But if less then the right amount is given, it disturbs but does not cleanse. And some people are made a little manic when they have a smaller does of sleeping medicine, but sleep once they take more.”

Image result for Ancient Greek drinking vessels

Διὰ τί τῶν ἀκροθωράκων λεγομένων οἱ σφόδρα μεθύοντες ἧττον παρακινητικοί εἰσιν

 “Οὐκοῦν,” εἶπεν ὁ πατήρ, “ἐπεὶ παρακεκινήκαμεν τὸν Ἀριστοτέλη, καὶ περὶ τῶν ἀκροθωράκων τι καλουμένων ἴδιον ἐπιχειρήσομεν εἰπεῖν; οὐ γὰρ ἱκανῶς μοι δοκεῖ, καίπερ ὀξύτατος ὢν ἐν τοῖς τοιούτοις ζητήμασι, διηκριβωκέναι τὴν αἰτίαν. φησὶ γὰρ οἶμαι τοῦ μὲν νήφοντος εὖ καὶ κατὰ τὰ ὄντα κρίνειν τὸν λογισμόν, τοῦ δ᾿ ἄγαν μεθύοντος ἐκλελυμένην κατέχεσθαι τὴν αἴσθησιν, τοῦ δ᾿ ἀκροθώρακος ἔτι μὲν ἰσχύειν τὸ φανταστικὸν ἤδη δὲ τεταράχθαι τὸ λογιστικόν· διὸ καὶ κρίνειν καὶ κακῶς κρίνειν ἐπακολουθοῦντα7 ταῖς φαντασίαις. ἀλλὰ πῶς,” εἶπεν, “ὑμῖν δοκεῖ περὶ τούτων;”

 “Ἐμοὶ μέν,” ἔφην, “ἐπισκοποῦντι κατ᾿ ἐμαυτὸν ἀποχρῶν οὗτος ἦν πρὸς τὴν αἰτίαν ὁ λόγος· εἰ δὲ κελεύεις ἴδιόν τι κινεῖν, ὅρα πρῶτον εἰ τὴν εἰρημένην διαφορὰν ἐπὶ τὸ σῶμα μετοιστέον ἐστίν. τῶν γὰρ ἀκροθωράκων ἡ διάνοια μόνον τετάρακται, τὸ δὲ σῶμα ταῖς ὁρμαῖς ἐξυπηρετεῖν δύναται, μήπω βεβαπτισμένον· ὅταν δὲ κατασεισθῇ καὶ πιεσθῇ, προδίδωσι τὰς ὁρμὰς καὶ παρεῖται, μέχρι γὰρ ἔργων οὐ πρόεισιν· ἐκεῖνοι δὲ τὸ σῶμα συνεξαμαρτάνον ἔχοντες οὐ τῷ μᾶλλον ἀλογιστεῖν ἀλλὰ τῷ μᾶλλον ἰσχύειν ἐλέγχονται. ἀπ᾿ ἄλλης δ᾿,” εἶπον, “ἀρχῆς σκοποῦντι τοῦ οἴνου τὴν δύναμιν οὐδὲν κωλύει ποικίλην εἶναι καὶ τῇ ποσότητι συμμεταβάλλουσαν· ὥσπερ τὸ πῦρ τὸν κέραμον, ἂν μὲν ᾖ μέτριον, συγκρατύνει καὶ πήγνυσιν, ἂν δ᾿ ὑπερβολῇ πλήξῃ, συνέτηξε καὶ ῥεῖν ἐποίησεν· ἀνάπαλιν δ᾿ ἡ ὥρα τοὺς πυρετοὺς ἀρχομένη μὲν ἀνακινεῖ καὶ ἐκκαίει, προϊούσης δὲ μᾶλλον καθίστανται καὶ ἀπολήγουσιν. τί οὖν κωλύει καὶ τὴν διάνοιαν ὑπὸ τοῦ οἴνου φυσικῶς κινουμένην, ὅταν ταραχθῇ καὶ παροξυνθῇ, πάλιν ἀνίεσθαι καὶ καθίστασθαι πλεονάζοντος; ὁ γοῦν ἑλλέβορος ἀρχὴν τοῦ καθαίρειν ἔχει τὸ ταράττειν τὸν ὄγκον· ἂν οὖν ἐλάτων τοῦ μετρίου δοθῇ, ταράττει μὲν οὐδὲν δὲ καθαίρει. καὶ τῶν ὑπνωτικῶν ἔνιοι λαβόντες ἐνδοτέρω τοῦ μετρίου θορυβωδέστερον διατίθενται, πλέον δὲ λαβόντες καθεύδουσιν.

Dinner Conversation Prompts from Plutarch: Old Men and Strong Wine

If you experience any lulls in conversation during your holiday meals and gatherings, here’s another topic ready-to-hand.

Plutarch, “Table-Talk”, Moralia 624: Why Do Old Men Prefer Strong Wine?

“Next was examined the issue of old men, in particular why they enjoy drinking stronger wine. Some were supposing that their core, which is rather cold and difficult to warm, appearsto accord well with a stronger proof. This was not at all sufficient, in the light of cause nor in that they said anything true. For, in respect to the rest of the senses, the same thing happens: old men are hard to move, hard to change in regards to experiences of this sort, unless they fall on him with full strength and no subtlety. The reason for this is the decline of his constitution. Because it is weakened and dulled, it prefers to be struck hard.

Therefore stronger flavors are more to the taste of old men. Their sense of smell undergoes similar alterations regarding odors—for it is moved to pleasure by those that are really pure and pressing. Their sense of touch is harmed by scars and while they suffer wounds from time to time, they don’t really feel them. Similar too is their sense of hearing—musicians as they grow old play more sharply and loudly as if trying to wake up their senses with the clash  of sound. The treatment that gives steel an edge provides the body’s perception with breath. When this begins to surrender and is weak, the senses are left dull and muddy and needing some shaking—this is what need strong wine fills.”

Image result for Ancient Greek old man drinking

Διὰ τί μᾶλλον ἀκράτῳ χαίρουσιν οἱ γέροντες

Ἐζητεῖτο περὶ τῶν γερόντων, διὰ τί μᾶλλον ἀκρατοτέρῳ τῷ ποτῷ χαίρουσιν. οἱ μὲν οὖν κατεψυγμένην τὴν ἕξιν αὐτῶν καὶ δυσεκθέρμαντον οὖσαν οἰόμενοι διὰ τοῦτο τῇ σφοδρότητι τῆς κράσεως ἐναρμόττειν ἐφαίνοντο κοινόν τι καὶ πρόχειρον οὐχ ἱκανὸν δὲ πρὸς τὴν αἰτίαν οὐδ᾿ ἀληθὲς λέγοντες· καὶ γὰρ ἐπὶ τῶν ἄλλων αἰσθήσεων τὸ αὐτὸ συμβέβηκεν· δυσκίνητοι γάρ εἰσι καὶ δυσμετάβλητοι πρὸς τὰς ἀντιλήψεις τῶν ποιοτήτων, ἂν μὴ κατάκοροι καὶ σφοδραὶ προσπέσωσιν. αἰτία δ᾿ ἡ τῆς ἕξεως ἄνεσις· ἐκλυομένη γὰρ καὶ ἀτονοῦσα πλήττεσθαι φιλεῖ. διὸ τῇ τε γεύσει μάλιστα τοὺς δηκτικοὺς προσίενται χυμούς, ἥ τ᾿ ὄσφρησις αὐτῶν ὅμοια πέπονθε πρὸς τὰς ὀσμάς, κινεῖται γὰρ ὑπὸ τῶν ἀκράτων καὶ σφοδρῶν ἥδιον· ἡ δ᾿ ἁφὴ πρὸς τὰ ἕλκη δυσπαθής, τραύματα γὰρ ἐνίοτε λαμβάνοντες οὐ μάλα πονοῦσιν· ὁμοιότατον δὲ γίγνεται τὸ τῆς ἀκοῆς, οἱ γὰρ μουσικοὶ γηρῶντες ὀξύτερον ἁρμόζονται καὶ σκληρότερον οἷον ὑπὸ πληγῆς τῆς συντόνου φωνῆς ἐγείροντες τὸ αἰσθητήριον. ὅ τι γὰρ σιδήρῳ πρὸς ἀκμὴν στόμωμα, τοῦτο σώματι πνεῦμα παρέχει πρὸς αἴσθησιν· ἐνδόντος δὲ τούτου καὶ χαλάσαντος, ἀργὸν ἀπολείπεται καὶ γεῶδες τὸ αἰσθητήριον καὶ σφοδροῦ τοῦ νύττοντος, οἷον ὁ ἄκρατός ἐστι δεόμενον.

If I were in this conversation I would add: the older man also needs to urinate more frequently. A stronger drink means less liquid consumed for the desired result. And, therefore, fewer trips to the bathroom.

Safe Dinner Topics from Antiquity: Chicken or Egg?

Plutarch, Moralia: Table-Talk, Question 3, Book 2—Whether the Bird or the Egg Came First

“I had been refraining from eggs for a very long time because of a certain dream. In this, I meant to test by an egg as a Carian would this dream which had come to me vividly and often. When I was dining at the home of Sossios Senecius, the guests developed some suspicion that I was done in by Orphic beliefs of Pythagorean notions and that I thought the egg should be sacred, like a heart or a brain, because it was the initial principle of creation. Alexander the Epicurean joked “Eating beans is like eating your parents’ heads”.

See, these call eggs ‘beans’, playing on the word for conception (kuêsis) and they believe that eating eggs is not at all different from dining on the creatures who gave birth to the eggs. To tell my dream to an Epicurean was probably a less logical as an explanation than the cause itself. Or this reason, I said nothing against their beliefs but messed with Alexander a little. For he was a charming man and a fine philologist.”

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Black Figure Eggs from Child’s Tomb, 5th Century BCE

Πότερον ἡ ὄρνις πρότερον ἢ τὸ ᾠὸν ἐγένετο

 Ἐξ ἐνυπνίου τινὸς ἀπειχόμην ᾠῶν πολὺν ἤδη χρόνον παρὰ τοῦτο ποιούμενος, ἐν ᾠ ῷ καθάπερ ἐν Καρὶ διάπειραν λαβεῖν τῆς ὄψεως ἐναργῶς μοι πολλάκις γενομένης· ὑπόνοιαν μέντοι παρέσχον, ἑστιῶντος ἡμᾶς Σοσσίου Σενεκίωνος, ἐνέχεσθαι δόγμασιν Ὀρφικοῖς ἢ Πυθαγορικοῖς καὶ τὸ ᾠόν, ὥσπερ ἔνιοι καρδίαν καὶ ἐγκέφαλον, ἀρχὴν ἡγούμενος γενέσεως ἀφοσιοῦσθαι· καὶ προὔφερεν Ἀλέξανδρος ὁ Ἐπικούρειος ἐπὶ γέλωτι τὸ

ἶσόν τοι κυάμους ἔσθειν κεφαλάς τε τοκήων,

ὡς δὴ κυάμους τὰ ᾠὰ διὰ τὴν κύησιν αἰνιττομένων τῶν ἀνδρῶν, διαφέρειν δὲ μηδὲν οἰομένων τὸ ἐσθίειν ᾠὰ τοῦ χρῆσθαι τοῖς τίκτουσι τὰ ᾠὰ ζῴοις. ἐγίγνετο δὴ τὸ τῆς αἰτίας ἀπολόγημα τῆς αἰτίας αὐτῆς ἀλογώτερον, Ἐπικουρείῳ λέγειν ἐνύπνιον. ὅθεν οὐ παρῃτούμην τὴν δόξαν ἅμα προσπαίζων τι τῷ Ἀλεξάνδρῳ· καὶ γὰρ ἦν χαρίεις καὶ φιλόλογος