Deep Thoughts with Aristotle

Aristotle, Problems 885b

“Why does sitting make some people fat while it makes others thin?”

Διὰ τί ἡ καθέδρα τοὺς μὲν παχύνει τῶν ἀνθρώπων, τοὺς δὲ ἰσχναίνει

886a

“Why do people yawn when they see others yawn? Is it because they desire something if they are reminded of it, especially with things that are easily encouraged, like urination?”

Διὰ τί τοῖς χασμωμένοις ἀντιχασμῶνται ὡς ἐπὶ τὸ | πολύ; ἢ διότι, ἐὰν ἀναμνησθῶσιν ὀργῶντες, ἐνεργοῦσιν, μάλιστα δὲ τὰ εὐκίνητα, οἷον οὐροῦσιν;

[…]

“is it because every voice and sound is actually breath?”

ἢ διότι φωνὴ μὲν πᾶσα καὶ ψόφος πνεῦμά ἐστιν;

887a

“Why when we see someone being cut or burned or harmed or suffering any other terror do we feel grief in our minds?”

Διὰ τί, ἐπειδὰν τεμνόμενόν τινα ἴδωμεν ἢ καιόμενον ἢ στρεβλούμενον ἢ ἄλλο τι τῶν δεινῶν πάσχοντα, συναλγοῦμεν τῇ διανοίᾳ;

888b

“Why do we shiver after we’ve finished peeing?”

Διὰ τί ἐν τῇ τελευταίᾳ προέσει τοῦ οὔρου φρίττομεν;

889a

“Why don’t angry people feel the cold?”

Διὰ τί οἱ ὀργιζόμενοι οὐ ῥιγῶσιν;

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On Drinking and Sex

872b

“Why can’t drunk people have sex?”

Διὰ τί οἱ μεθύοντες ἀφροδισιάζειν ἀδύνατοί εἰσιν;

874b

“Why are the drunk more prone to tears?”

Διὰ τί οἱ μεθύοντες ἀριδάκρυοι μᾶλλον;

“Why is it hard to sleep when you’re drunk?”

Διὰ τί τοῖς μεθύουσιν οὐκ ἐγγίνεται ὕπνος

 

“Why does someone who is buzzed act more inebriated than either the drunk or the sober?”

Διὰ τί ὁ ἀκροθώραξ μᾶλλον παροινεῖ τοῦ μᾶλλον μεθύοντος καὶ τοῦ νήφοντος;

 

876b

“Why does a drinker’s tongue stumble?”

Διὰ τί τῶν μεθυόντων ἡ γλῶττα πταίει;

877a

“Why is being barefoot not an advantage for sex?”

Διὰ τί ἡ ἀνυποδησία οὐ συμφέρει πρὸς ἀφροδισιασμούς;

“Why does sex wear humans out more than other animals?”

Διὰ τί ἐκλύεται μάλιστα τῶν ζῴων ἀφροδισιάσας ἄνθρωπος;

877b

“Why do people fasting have sex so quickly?”

Διὰ τί νήστεις θᾶττον ἀφροδισιάζουσιν;

878a

“Why is it harder for people for have sex in water?”

Διὰ τί ἐν τῷ ὕδατι ἧττον δύνανται ἀφροδισιάζειν οἱ ἄνθρωποι;

880b

“Why does a person’s eyes weaken if they have sex?”

Διὰ τί, ἐὰν ἀφροδισιάζῃ ὁ ἄνθρωπος, οἱ ὀφθαλμοὶ ἀσθενοῦσι μάλιστα;

882b

“Why do people fall more while running than walking?”

Διὰ τί μᾶλλον θέοντες ἢ βαδίζοντες πίπτουσιν;

883b

“Why does the road seem longer when we don’t know how far we are walking than when we do, even if everything else is the same?”

Διὰ τί πλείων δοκεῖ ἡ ὁδὸς εἶναι, ὅταν μὴ εἰδότες βαδίζωμεν πόση τις, ἢ ὅταν εἰδότες, ἐὰν τἆλλα ὁμοίως | ἔχοντες τύχωμεν;

883b

“Why is running harder than walking?”

Διὰ τί χαλεπώτερον θεῖν ἢ βαδίζειν;

884a

“Why do short walks wear us out?”

Διὰ τί κοπώδεις οἱ βραχεῖς τῶν περιπάτων;

885b

“Why do those on horses fall less frequently? Is it because they are more afraid?”

Διὰ τί οἱ ἀφ᾿ ἵππων ἧττον πίπτουσιν; ἢ διὰ τὸ φοβεῖσθαι φυλάττονται μᾶλλον;

 

“Why do some of us feel numb?”

Διὰ τί ναρκῶσιν;

Women Going Where They Shouldn’t? Earthquakes. Droughts. Portents!

Plutarch, Greek Questions 40

“Who was the hero Eunostos in Tanagra and why is entering his grove forbidden to women? Eunostos was the son of Kêphisos and Skias, but they say that his name comes from the nymph Eunosta who raised him. He was good-looking and just and no less wise and austere. They claim that one of the daughters of Kolônos, Okhna, who was Eunostos’ cousin, was in love with him. Eunostos, however, refused her when she approached him and, after insulting her, went to tell her brothers all about it.

The girl got there first and and pleaded with her brothers Ekhemos, Leôn, and Boukolos to kill Eunostos because he had raped her. They caught him by surprised and killed him and then Elieius imprisoned them. Then, Okhna changed her mind and was mourning terribly because she simultaneously wanted to be free of the pain from her love and she pitied her brothers.

So, she told Elieus the whole truth and he told Kolônos. By his judgment, the brothers were exiled and Ekhna threw herself from a cliff, as Myrtis the lyric poet from Anthedon records. This is why it is forbidden for women to enter or to even approach the shrine and grove of Eunostos—and why when there were often earthquakes, droughts, or different signs the people of Tanagra investigated and made a big deal of a woman nearing that place in secret.”

τίς Εὔνοστος ἥρως ἐν Τανάγρᾳ καὶ διὰ τίνα αἰτίαν τὸ ἄλσος αὐτοῦ γυναιξὶν ἀνέμβατόν ἐστιν; Ἐλιέως τοῦ Κηφισοῦ καὶ Σκιάδος Εὔνοστος ἦν υἱός, ᾧ φασιν ὑπὸ νύμφης Εὐνόστας ἐκτραφέντι τοῦτο γενέσθαι τοὔνομα. καλὸς δ᾿ ὢν καὶ δίκαιος οὐχ ἧττον ἦν σώφρων καὶ αὐστηρός. ἐρασθῆναι δ᾿ αὐτοῦ λέγουσιν Ὄχναν, μίαν τῶν Κολωνοῦ θυγατέρων ἀνεψιὰν οὖσαν. ἐπεὶ δὲ πειρῶσαν ὁ Εὔνοστος ἀπετρέψατο καὶ λοιδορήσας ἀπῆλθεν εἰς τοὺς ἀδελφοὺς κατηγορήσων, ἔφθασεν ἡ παρθένος τοῦτο πράξασα κατ᾿ ἐκείνου καὶ παρώξυνε τοὺς ἀδελφοὺς Ἔχεμον καὶ Λέοντα καὶ Βουκόλον ἀποκτεῖναι τὸν Εὔνοστον ὡς πρὸς βίαν αὐτῇ συγγεγενημένον. ἐκεῖνοι μὲν οὖν ἐνεδρεύσαντες ἀπέκτειναν τὸν νεανίσκον, ὁ δ᾿ Ἐλιεὺς ἐκείνους ἔδησεν. ἡ δ᾿ Ὄχνη μεταμελομένη καὶ γέμουσα ταραχῆς, ἅμα μὲν αὑτὴν ἀπαλλάξαι θέλουσα τῆς διὰ τὸν ἔρωτα λύπης, ἅμα δ᾿ οἰκτείρουσα τοὺς ἀδελφούς, ἐξήγγειλε πρὸς τὸν Ἐλιέα πᾶσαν τὴν ἀλήθειαν, ἐκεῖνος δὲ Κολωνῷ. Κολωνοῦ δὲ δικάσαντος οἱ μὲν ἀδελφοὶ τῆς Ὄχνης ἔφυγον, αὐτὴ δὲ κατεκρήμνισεν ἑαυτήν, ὡς Μυρτὶς ἡ Ἀνθηδονία ποιήτρια μελῶν ἱστόρηκε. τοῦ δ᾿ Εὐνόστου τὸ ἡρῷον καὶ τὸ ἄλσος οὕτως ἀνέμβατον ἐτηρεῖτο καὶ ἀπροσπέλαστον γυναιξίν, ὥστε πολλάκις σεισμῶν ἢ αὐχμῶν ἢ διοσημιῶν ἄλλων γενομένων ἀναζητεῖν καὶ πολυπραγμονεῖν ἐπιμελῶς τοὺς Ταναγραίους μὴ λέληθε γυνὴ τῷ τόπῳ πλησιάσασα.

Woman with mirror, Louvre CA587
Woman with mirror, Louvre CA587

“The Mother City of Problems”

Athenaeus, Deipnosophists  10.443d

“Pontianus said that wine is the mother city of all these problems and, because of it, drunkenness and madness and drunken violence happen. Dionysius the Bronze does not badly describe those who take part in wine excessively as “rowers of cups”: “and some carrying wine in the oarlocks for Dionysus, sympotic sailors and rowers of the cups/ …over this—for what is dear does not die.”

ὁ Ποντιανὸς ἔφη πάντων τούτων εἶναι τῶν δεινῶν μητρόπολιν τὸν οἶνον, δι᾿ ὃν καὶ τὰς μέθας καὶ τὰς μανίας, ἔτι δὲ καὶ τὰς παροινίας γίνεσθαι· οὗ τοὺς ἐκπαθῶς μεταλαμβάνοντας οὐ κακῶς ὁ Χαλκοῦς ἐπικαλούμενος Διονύσιος ἐν τοῖς ἐλεγείοις “κυλίκων ἐρέτας” ἔφη·

καί τινες οἶνον ἄγοντες ἐν εἰρεσίᾳ Διονύσου,συμποσίου ναῦται καὶ κυλίκων ἐρέται, < > περὶ τοῦδε· τὸ γὰρ φίλον οὐκἀπόλωλε.

From Pinterest

Where is Zeus Shouting From? Scholia Create and Solve A Problem

Iliad 16.666-676

“And then cloud-gathering Zeus addressed Apollo:
‘Come now, dear Phoebus, cleanse the dark blood
From the wounds, once you get to Sarpedon, and then
Bring him out and wash him much in the river’s flows
And anoint him with ambrosia and put ambrosial clothes around him.
Send him to be carried by those quick heralds,
The twins sleep and death, and have them swiftly
Place him in the rich land of wide Lykia.
There his relatives and friends will bury him
With a mound and a stele. This is the rightful possession of the dead.”
So he said and Apollo did not disobey his father.”

καὶ τότ’ ᾿Απόλλωνα προσέφη νεφεληγερέτα Ζεύς·
εἰ δ’ ἄγε νῦν φίλε Φοῖβε, κελαινεφὲς αἷμα κάθηρον
ἐλθὼν ἐκ βελέων Σαρπηδόνα, καί μιν ἔπειτα
πολλὸν ἀπὸ πρὸ φέρων λοῦσον ποταμοῖο ῥοῇσι
χρῖσόν τ’ ἀμβροσίῃ, περὶ δ’ ἄμβροτα εἵματα ἕσσον·
πέμπε δέ μιν πομποῖσιν ἅμα κραιπνοῖσι φέρεσθαι
ὕπνῳ καὶ θανάτῳ διδυμάοσιν, οἵ ῥά μιν ὦκα
θήσουσ’ ἐν Λυκίης εὐρείης πίονι δήμῳ,
ἔνθά ἑ ταρχύσουσι κασίγνητοί τε ἔται τε
τύμβῳ τε στήλῃ τε· τὸ γὰρ γέρας ἐστὶ θανόντων.
῝Ως ἔφατ’, οὐδ’ ἄρα πατρὸς ἀνηκούστησεν ᾿Απόλλων.

Schol. Ad Il. 16.666a-b

“The fact is that Zenodotus has at this place changed the line, writing instead “and then Zeus addressed his dear son from Ida” so that he addresses his son from Ida in the meadow. For it would be ridiculous if Zeus shouted from Ida. For he did not recognize that it was necessary to accept that these kinds of details happened without being mentioned, just as in those scenes about Hera below.”

Ariston. ὅτι Ζηνόδοτος καὶ ἐνταῦθα διεσκεύακε γράφων „καὶ τότ’ ἄρ’ ἐξ ῎Ιδης προσέφη Ζεὺς ὃν φίλον υἱόν”, ἵν’ ἐκ τῆς ῎Ιδης προσφωνῇ τὸν ἐν τῷ πεδίῳ ᾿Απόλλωνα. γελοῖον δὲ τὸ κραυγάζειν ἀπὸ τῆς ῎Ιδης τὸν Δία. οὐ νενόηκεν οὖν ὅτι τὰ τοιαῦτα κατὰ τὸ σιωπώμενον ἐνεργούμενα δεῖ παραδέχεσθαι, καθάπερ καὶ ἐν τοῖς ἐπάνω περὶ τῆς ῞Ηρας (cf. Π 432). A ἄλλως· καὶ τότ’ ᾿Απόλλωνα <προσέφη νεφεληγε-ρέτα Ζεύς>: Ζηνόδοτος „καὶ τότ’ ἄρ’ ἐξ ῎Ιδης προσέφη Ζεὺς ὃν φίλον υἱόν”. T

Zenodotus is like…

ICE

Running, Sitting, Feeling Cold: Deep Thoughts with Aristotle

Aristotle, Problems

882b

“Why do people fall more while running than walking?”

Διὰ τί μᾶλλον θέοντες ἢ βαδίζοντες πίπτουσιν;

883b

“Why does the road seem longer when we don’t know how far we are walking than when we do, even if everything else is the same?”

Διὰ τί πλείων δοκεῖ ἡ ὁδὸς εἶναι, ὅταν μὴ εἰδότες βαδίζωμεν πόση τις, ἢ ὅταν εἰδότες, ἐὰν τἆλλα ὁμοίως | ἔχοντες τύχωμεν;

883b

“Why is running harder than walking?”

Διὰ τί χαλεπώτερον θεῖν ἢ βαδίζειν;

884a

“Why do short walks wear us out?”

Διὰ τί κοπώδεις οἱ βραχεῖς τῶν περιπάτων;

 

885b

“Why does sitting make some people fat while it makes others thin?”

Διὰ τί ἡ καθέδρα τοὺς μὲν παχύνει τῶν ἀνθρώπων, τοὺς δὲ ἰσχναίνει

886a

“Why do people yawn when they see others yawn? Is it because they desire something if they are reminded of it, especially with things that are easily encouraged, like urination?”

Διὰ τί τοῖς χασμωμένοις ἀντιχασμῶνται ὡς ἐπὶ τὸ | πολύ; ἢ διότι, ἐὰν ἀναμνησθῶσιν ὀργῶντες, ἐνεργοῦσιν, μάλιστα δὲ τὰ εὐκίνητα, οἷον οὐροῦσιν;

[…]

“is it because every voice and sound is actually breath?”

ἢ διότι φωνὴ μὲν πᾶσα καὶ ψόφος πνεῦμά ἐστιν;

887a

“Why when we see someone being cut or burned or harmed or suffering any other terror do we feel grief in our minds?”

Διὰ τί, ἐπειδὰν τεμνόμενόν τινα ἴδωμεν ἢ καιόμενον ἢ στρεβλούμενον ἢ ἄλλο τι τῶν δεινῶν πάσχοντα, συναλγοῦμεν τῇ διανοίᾳ;

888b

“Why do we shiver after we’ve finished peeing?”

Διὰ τί ἐν τῇ τελευταίᾳ προέσει τοῦ οὔρου φρίττομεν;

889a

“Why don’t angry people feel the cold?”

Διὰ τί οἱ ὀργιζόμενοι οὐ ῥιγῶσιν;

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Don’t Sleep on Plutarch: Sourcing a Mysterious Hexameter

Plutarch, Life of Lucullus 499

“After he was brought to the Troad, he set up camp in the shrine of Aphrodite. Once he fell asleep at night, he dreamed he say that goddess standing over him and speaking: “Why are you sleeping, great-hearted lion? The fawns are near [for you]”.

After he woke up and called his friends, he explained the dream while it was still night. And then there were some men from Troy who were announcing that thirteen of the king’s ships had been seen sailing near the harbor of the Achaeans going toward Lemnos. Lucuss then went out immediately and captured them and killed their general Isodorus, and then he was sailing after the other captains.

εἰς δὲ Τρῳάδα καταχθεὶς ἐσκήνωσε μὲν ἐν τῷ ἱερῷ τῆς Ἀφροδίτης, κατακοιμηθεὶς δὲ νύκτωρ ἐδόκει τὴν θεὰν ὁρᾶν ἐφεστῶσαν αὐτῷ καὶ λέγουσαν·

Τί κνώσσεις, μεγάθυμε λέον; νεβροὶ δε τοι ἐγγύς.

ἐξαναστὰς δὲ καὶ τοὺς φίλους καλέσας διηγεῖτο τὴν ὄψιν ἔτι νυκτὸς οὔσης. καὶ παρῆσαν ἐξ Ἰλίου τινὲς ἀπαγγέλλοντες ὦφθαι περὶ τὸν Ἀχαιῶν λιμένα τρισκαίδεκα πεντήρεις τῶν βασιλικῶν ἐπὶ Λῆμνον πλεούσας. εὐθὺς οὖν ἀναχθεὶς τούτους μὲν εἷλε καὶ τὸν στρατηγὸν αὐτῶν Ἰσίδωρον ἀπέκτεινεν, ἐπὶ δὲ τοὺς ἄλλους ἔπλει πρῳρέας.

I received an email about this passage from a friend (Aaron Beek) who was wondering where this line came from. Plutarch is famous for his quotation of other ancient others. His Lives are filled with figures who quote constantly; his own essays in the Moralia sometimes seem to be mere thin pretext for the assemblage of ancient sententiae. So, it is more than reasonable to imagine that when he places Lucullus near Troy and has that Trojan-loving Aphrodite speak in a dream, she might speak a line from a Trojan tale of Old.

The problem Aaron and I face that this line seems to have no attestation beyond this scene. The Suda lists this line twice (s.v. Κνώσσω and Λούκουλλος) and it appears in the Oracular Appendix of the Greek Anthology (231). All three appearances undoubtedly have Plutarch as the source. But what was Plutarch’s source? Rather than keeping this question to ourselves, we are bringing it to the world….

Others may contemplate the content of this line and how it might pertain to some moment in the Trojan War narrative (Aaron has suggested that it might work as something said by Aphrodite to Hektor when the Greeks first appear which would be a cool intertext). Since I am a Homeric philologist by training, I need to start by looking at the language.

The thing the strikes me first about this is the epithet. It shows up twice in the Iliad when Glaukos and Asteropaios respond to Diomedes and Achilles (respectively: 6.145, 21.153). Indeed, the epithet is rather popular after Homer too. Here are the lines with the vocative:

Τυδεΐδη μεγάθυμε τί ἢ γενεὴν ἐρεείνεις; Il. 6.145
Πηλεΐδη μεγάθυμε τί ἦ γενεὴν ἐρεείνεις; Il. 21.153

Κοιαντίς, μεγάθυμε, πολυλλίστη βασίλεια, Orph. Hym. 35 (To Leto)
Αἴγυπτε μεγάθυμε· ἀτὰρ πάλι ταῦτα βοήσω, Orac. Sib. 11.119 (2nd BCE=4th CE)
«Πριαμίδη μεγάθυμε, δέμας μακάρεσσιν ἐοικώς, Q.S 6.309
«Κλῦθι, θεὰ μεγάθυμε, σάου δ’ ἐμὲ καὶ τεὸν ἵππον.», Q.S. 12.153
Σεῖο βίβλους μεγάθυμε Κομητὰς ῞Ομηρε δύ’ ἄρδην, Anth. Gr. 15.37
ῥηιδίως, μεγάθυμε, καὶ ἐσσύμενον κατερύκων, Anth. Gr. 16.65

There are other aspects of this line, however, which make me doubt an Archaic or even classical origin. The first is the meter. Here’s how to get six feet (Unless I have missed something here)* Τί κνώ / σσεις ‖ μεγά / θυμε λέ /ον; νεβ / ροὶ δε τοι / ἐγγύς. The adverb ἐγγύς can end the line in Homer, but the combination δε τοι as part of the fifth foot is just dreadful. We do have this combination, however much I hate it. (e.g. Il. 7.48Q ἦ ῥά νύ μοί τι πίθοιο, κασίγνητος δέ τοί εἰμι·cf. 8.104: ἠπεδανὸς δέ νύ τοι θεράπων, βραδέες δέ τοι ἵπποι.)

A second problem for me is the verb κνώσσω, which is highly defective and does not seem to appear much in hexameter (although it appears twice in Pindar [κνώσσοντί, Ol. 13.72; κνώσσων, Pyth. 1.9] and once in Epic. Adesp.[ 2.34: εὖτε νέους κνώσσοντας̣ [ἐποτρύνειε κατ’ αὖλιν]]).

Here’s Beekes on the verb:

knosso

Other brief observations: heroes are called lion-hearted in early poetry (in the Iliad: Agenor, Hektor, Achilles and Epeios):, but lions are not really called “great hearted”. To me, this looks like later “paint-by-number” versification: so, the work of a literate writer imitating oral composition rather than a genuinely early line. To add to this–the address “great-hearted lion, there are fawns…” is the use of a metaphor in a way we don’t really find in early epic. There are lots of antecedents in similes etc, but this device seems more Hellenistic. I don’t think I would claim that Plutarch composed this–the fact that he does not provide a source implies that (1) it is so well known that he does not need to or (2) there isn’t one and Plutarch is presenting this as the oracular content of a dream (or it is in fact part of a tradition handed down in the annals of Lucullus).

So, just to recap: to me, this line seems post-classical because of its meter, its address of the figure as a lion, and its diction. That said: my sense is based on privileging the Homeric epics we have (which are Ionian and then standardized a bit to Attic). Other localized traditions might have slightly different vocabulary and conventions. So, if for example, this line did come from the Cypria, it might indeed exhibit different qualities.

Any other ideas?

Some responses from twitter below. My impression of this being post-classical is, as I suspected, a bit warped by my strict focus to Homer. The passage might be typical of oracle speech. In this case, it might not then hail from a Trojan War narrative, unless of course it comes from a section of the narrative that draws on oracular language

Image result for medieval manuscript lion and fawns
Detail of a miniature of a manticore from the Rochester Bestiary, England (Rochester?), c. 1230, Royal MS 12 F XIII, f. 24v

Heroes, Isolation, and Madness

The notion of the depressive and insane artist (etc.) is an ancient one. In this passage it is also related to the stories of heroes. The different symptoms of madness Aristotle offers here are interesting. For instance, Bellerophon’s avoidance of other humans is seen as a symptom rather than a cause of his madness.

Aristotle, Problems 30

“What reason is it that all those men who are preeminent in philosophy or politics or poetry or the other arts are clearly melancholic and are so much so that they are also overcome by the afflictions from the black bile, as is implied in the tales of Herakles of the heroes? For that figure seems to be of this nature and because of this the ancients called the illnesses of epilepsy a sacred disease after him. And his madness toward his children and the outbreak of open sores before he vanished on Mt. Oitê make this clear. For this comes to many because of the black bile. These sores developed on the Spartan Lysander before his death.

In addition to this there are tales about Ajax and Bellerophon. The first of them was completely mad; but the second pursued isolated places, which is how Homer depicts him as “when that man was hated by all the gods / then he wandered alone on the Alêian plain / consuming his heart and avoiding the path of other people.”

And many other heroes seem to have shared afflictions with these men. In later times, Empedocles, Plato, Socrates and many other famous people [suffered] too. In addition, most of those who worked at poetry [suffered]. In many people like this the diseases develop from a kind of mixture in the body while in others there is a clear nature predisposing them to these maladies. But all, to put it simply, as has been said, are this way somehow because of nature.”

1. Διὰ τί πάντες ὅσοι περιττοὶ γεγόνασιν ἄνδρες ἢ κατὰ φιλοσοφίαν ἢ πολιτικὴν ἢ ποίησιν ἢ τέχνας φαίνονται μελαγχολικοὶ ὄντες, καὶ οἱ μὲν οὕτως ὥστε καὶ λαμβάνεσθαι τοῖς ἀπὸ μελαίνης χολῆς ἀρρωστήμασιν, οἷον λέγεται τῶν [τε] ἡρωϊκῶν τὰ περὶ τὸν Ἡρακλέα; καὶ γὰρ ἐκεῖνος ἔοικε | γενέσθαι ταύτης τῆς φύσεως, διὸ καὶ τὰ ἀρρωστήματα τῶν ἐπιληπτικῶν ἀπ᾿ ἐκείνου προσηγόρευον οἱ ἀρχαῖοι ἱερὰν νόσον. καὶ ἡ περὶ τοὺς παῖδας ἔκστασις καὶ ἡ πρὸ τῆς ἀφανίσεως ἐν Οἴτῃ τῶν ἑλκῶν ἔκφυσις γενομένη τοῦτο δηλοῖ· καὶ γὰρ τοῦτο γίνεται πολλοῖς ἀπὸ μελαίνης χολῆς. συνέβη δὲ καὶ | Λυσάνδρῳ τῷ Λάκωνι πρὸ τῆς τελευτῆς γενέσθαι τὰ ἕλκη ταῦτα. ἔτι δὲ τὰ περὶ Αἴαντα καὶ Βελλεροφόντην, ὧν ὁ μὲν ἐκστατικὸς ἐγένετο παντελῶς, ὁ δὲ τὰς ἐρημίας ἐδίωκεν, διὸ οὕτως ἐποίησεν Ὅμηρος

αὐτὰρ ἐπεὶ καὶ κεῖνος ἀπήχθετο πᾶσι θεοῖσιν,
ἤτοι ὁ κὰπ πεδίον τὸ Ἀλήϊον οἶος ἀλᾶτο
ὃν | θυμὸν κατέδων, πάτον ἀνθρώπων ἀλεείνων.

καὶ ἄλλοι δὲ πολλοὶ τῶν ἡρώων ὁμοιοπαθεῖς φαίνονται τούτοις. τῶν δὲ ὕστερον Ἐμπεδοκλῆς καὶ Πλάτων καὶ Σωκράτης καὶ ἕτεροι συχνοὶ τῶν γνωρίμων. ἔτι δὲ τῶν περὶ τὴν ποίησιν οἱ πλεῖστοι. πολλοῖς μὲν γὰρ τῶν τοιούτων γίνεται νοσήματα ἀπὸ | τῆς τοιαύτης κράσεως τῷ σώματι, τοῖς δὲ ἡ φύσις δήλη ῥέπουσα πρὸς τὰ πάθη. πάντες δ᾿ οὖν ὡς εἰπεῖν ἁπλῶς εἰσί, καθάπερ ἐλέχθη, τοιοῦτοι τὴν φύσιν.

Another figure often seen as less than sane is Philoktetes who his described as (2.721)

“He lies there on the island suffering strong pains
In fertile Lemnos where the sons of the Achaeans left him
Suffering with an evil wound from a murderous watersnake.”

ἀλλ’ ὃ μὲν ἐν νήσῳ κεῖτο κρατέρ’ ἄλγεα πάσχων
Λήμνῳ ἐν ἠγαθέῃ, ὅθι μιν λίπον υἷες ᾿Αχαιῶν
ἕλκεϊ μοχθίζοντα κακῷ ὀλοόφρονος ὕδρου·

When Odysseus is described in book 5 of the Odyssey, his first line is identical with Philoktetes’ (Od. 5.13-15):

“He lies there on the island suffering strong pains
In the halls of Kalypso the nymph who holds him
By necessity. He is not able of returning to his paternal land.”

ἀλλ’ ὁ μὲν ἐν νήσῳ κεῖται κρατέρ’ ἄλγεα πάσχων,
νύμφης ἐν μεγάροισι Καλυψοῦς, ἥ μιν ἀνάγκῃ
ἴσχει· ὁ δ’ οὐ δύναται ἣν πατρίδα γαῖαν ἱκέσθαι·

If we can imagine an “abnormal mental state” for these figures, the implication is the inverse, perhaps, of what Aristotle indicates for Bellerophon. Their madness is caused by isolation rather than causing it. When commenting upon Odysseus’ first appearance in book 5, an ancient scholar records Aristonicus’ comment that the language is more fit (οἰκειότερον ἐν ᾿Ιλιάδι) for the Iliad at 2.721 where Philoktetes is described. He adds that it would be right for him instead to be “tortured in his heart” (νῦν δὲ ἔδει τετιημένος ἦτορ εἶναι, Schol. H ad Od. 5.13).

Psychologists have studied the emotional and physical effects of isolation over the past few generations. These studies reinforce important themes of the Odyssey, namely that individual identity is constitutive of social relationships without which we cease to be ourselves. Modern studies of isolated individuals have shown that limited social engagements have deleterious emotional effects including a rise in fear and paranoia and a decrease in self-esteem. Some have even argued that over time, the brain of an isolated person has fewer neural connections and a thinner cerebral cortex. Inmates have difficulties with memory, distorted perceptions of reality, and display a deterioration of language function. Isolation’s biological changes affect the very parts of the brain that facilitate social interaction, higher order analytical thinking, and the ability to plan and act in the world.

Image result for GReek vase Philoctetes

David T. Mitchell and Sharon L. Snyder. Narrative Prosthesis: Disability and the Dependency of Discourse. Ann Arbor. 2000.

39: “Beginning with ancient Greece, Thiher’s study demonstrates that literary stories of mental discordance have provided the foundation for scientific explanations of cognitive deviance. Rather than view this historical material as superficial and primitive, Thiher argues for a historical vision of madness as that which could productively give voice to the existence of disparate, and even antithetical, “realities”.

Some inspirations

Andersen, H. S., Sestoft, D. D., Lillebæk, T. T., Gabrielsen, G. G., Hemmingsen, R. R., & Kramp, P. P. (2000), ―”A Longitudinal Study of Prisoners on Remand: Psychiatric Prevalence, Incidence and Psychopathology in Solitary vs.Non-Solitary Confinement.‖ , 102(1), 19.

Betty Gilmore and Nanon M. Williams. The Darkest Hour: Shedding Light on the Impact of Isolation and Death Row in Texas Prisons. Dallas 2014.

Fatos Kaba, Andrea Lewis, Sarah Glowa-Kollisch, James Hadler, David Lee, Howard Alper, Daniel Selling, Ross MacDonald, Angela Solimo, Amanda Parsons, and Homer Venters.  “Solitary Confinement and Risk of Self-Harm Among Jail Inmates.” American Journal of Public Health: March 2014, Vol. 104, No. 3, pp. 442-447.

Shruti Ravindran. “Twilight in the Box.” Aeon 27 February 2014.

Thiher, Allen. 1999. Revels in Madness: Insanity in Medicine and Literature. Ann Arbor.