The Death Of Zeno of Elea

What danger could mere thinkers pose? According to several ancient sources, the philosopher Zeno of Elea put up quite the fight:

Greek Anthology 7. 129 [From Diogenes Laertius]

“You were wishing, dear Zeno, to kill a tyrant, a good wish
And to free Elea from slavery with his death.
But you were killed when the tyrant caught you and beat
You to dust. Why do I say this? It was your body, not you”

῎Ηθελες, ὦ Ζήνων, (καλὸν ἤθελες) ἄνδρα τύραννον
κτείνας ἐκλῦσαι δουλοσύνης ᾿Ελέαν.
ἀλλ’ ἐδάμης· δὴ γάρ σε λαβὼν ὁ τύραννος ἐν ὅλμῳ
κόψε. τί τοῦτο λέγω; σῶμα γάρ, οὐχὶ δὲ σέ.

From the Suda

“Zeno, the son of Teleutagoros, Elean, one of the philosophers who lived in the same time as Pythagoras and Democritus during the 78th Olympiad. He was a student of Xenophanes or Parmenides. He wrote Disagreements, and Explanation of Empedokles and Against the Philosophers on Nature. They say that he invented dialectic, and that Empedokles invented rhetoric. Some say that he was caught trying to kill the tyrant Nearkhos—although some say it was Diomedon. When he was being questioned by him, he bit down on his own tongue, cut it off, and spat it at the Tyrant. Then he was thrown into a mortar and ground down into a mush.”

Ζήνων, Τελευταγόρου, Ἐλεάτης, φιλόσοφος τῶν ἐγγιζόντων Πυθαγόρᾳ καὶ Δημοκρίτῳ κατὰ τοὺς χρόνους, ἦν γὰρ ἐπὶ τῆς οη# Ὀλυμπιάδος, μαθητὴς Ξενοφάνους ἢ Παρμενίδου. ἔγραψεν Ἔριδας, Ἐξήγησιν τῶν Ἐμπεδοκλέους, Πρὸς τοὺς φιλοσόφους περὶ φύσεως. τοῦτόν φασιν εὑρετὴν εἶναι τῆς διαλεκτικῆς, ὡς Ἐμπεδοκλέα τῆς ῥητορικῆς. καθελεῖν δὲ θελήσας Νέαρχον, οἱ δὲ Διομέδοντα, τὸν Ἐλέας τύραννον, ἑάλω. καὶ ἐρωτώμενος ὑπ’ αὐτοῦ τὴν γλῶτταν αὑτοῦ ἐνδακὼν καὶ ἀποτεμὼν προσέπτυσε τῷ τυράννῳ. καὶ ἐν ὅλμῳ βληθεὶς συνετρίβη πτισσόμενος.

Diogenes’ account of this is a little different:

zeno

Diogenes Laertius, Lives of the Philosophers 9.26

“When he was interrogated about his conspirators and the arms he was bringing to Liparas, he informed on all the friends of the tyrant because he wished to isolate that man. Then, telling him that he could tell him something about these things to his ear only, he bit down on [Nearchus’] ear and would not let go until he was stabbed to death, suffering the same fate as the tyrannocide Aristogeiton.”

ὅτε καὶ ἐξεταζόμενος τοὺς συνειδότας καὶ περὶ τῶν ὅπλων ὧν ἦγεν εἰς Λιπάραν, πάντας ἐμήνυσεν αὐτοῦ τοὺς φίλους, βουλόμενος αὐτὸν ἔρημον καταστῆσαι· εἶτα περί τινων εἰπεῖν ἔχειν  τινα <ἔφη> αὐτῷ πρὸς τὸ οὖς καὶ δακὼν οὐκ ἀνῆκεν ἕως ἀπεκεντήθη, ταὐτὸν ᾿Αριστογείτονι τῷ τυραννοκτόνῳ παθών.

This is not the same Zeno as Zeno of Citium, who is credited with founding stoicism. Zeno from Elea is known for paradoxes!

Guns on Campus? Here’s ‘Dildo’ in Ancient Greek

In a long-running response to guns on campus and after a federal judge denied faculty arguments to keep guns from classrooms, students at UT Austin today are protesting the recently enacted ‘Campus Carry’ law by carrying dildos strapped to their backpacks (because, according to obscenity laws, dildos are forbidden).

In support of these efforts in my former state, here’s how to say ‘dildo’ in Ancient Greek.

From the Suda

Olisbos: Genitals made from leather which the Milesian women used to use as tribades(!) and shameful people do. Widowed women also use them. Aristophanes writes “I did not see an eight-fingered dildo*/ which might be our leathered aid.”** This second part is drawn from the proverb “fig-wood aid” applied to weak people.

῎Ολισβος: αἰδοῖον δερμάτινον, ᾧ ἐχρῶντο αἱ Μιλήσιαι γυναῖκες, ὡς τριβάδες καὶ αἰσχρουργοί· ἐχρῶντο δὲ αὐτοῖς καὶ αἱ χῆραι γυναῖκες. ᾿Αριστοφάνης· οὐκ εἶδον οὐδ’ ὄλισβον ὀκταδάκτυλον, ὃς ἂν ἡμῖν σκυτίνη ‘πικουρία. παρὰ τὴν παροιμίαν, συκίνη ἐπικουρία. ἐπὶ τῶν ἀσθενῶν.

Another proverb from the Suda, s.v. misêtê:

“And Kratinus said somewhere: “hated women use dildoes.”

καὶ ὁ Κρατῖνός που τοῦτο ἔφη: μισῆται δὲ γυναῖκες ὀλίσβωσι χρήσονται

(!) tribades: see the Suda again s.v. Hetairistai:

“Courtesanizers: The women who are called ‘rubbers'” [or ‘grinders’? i.e. Lesbians] Ἑταιρίστριαι: αἱ καλούμεναι τριβάδες. See also Hesychius s.v. dietaristriai: “Women who rub themselves against girls in intercourse the way men do. For example, tribades.”

διεταρίστριαι· γυναῖκες αἱ τετραμμέναι πρὸς τὰς ἑταίρας ἐπὶ συνουσίᾳ, ὡς οἱ ἄνδρες. οἷον τριβάδες (Plat. conv. 191 e).

*this is not an eight-shafted instrument but may instead point to the instrument’s length. See the note on the Suda-online.

**Lysistrata 109-110.

Dildogarden

The Lexicographer Photius repeats only the following definition:

Olisboi: Leather dicks

῎Ολισβοι: δερμάτινα αἰδοῖα.

The Scholia to Aristophanes’ Lysistrata 109-110 basically presents the same information:

Olisbon: A leather penis. And that is for the Milesian women. He is joking that they use dildos. The next part, “leathery aid” plays upon the proverb “fig-tree aid”, used for the weak. He has changed it to “leathery” because dildos are made of leather. They are leather-made penises which widowed women use.”

ὄλισβον: Αἰδοῖον δερμάτινον. καὶ τοῦτο εἰς τὰς Μιλησίας. παίζει δὲ ὡς τοῖς ὀλίσβοις χρωμέναις. σκυτίνη ἐπικουρία: Παρὰ τὴν παροιμίαν, συκίνη ἐπικουρία, ἐπὶ τῶν ἀσθενῶν. ὁ δὲ εἰς τὴν σκυτίνην μετέβαλε. σκύτινοι γὰρ οἱ ὄλισβοι. εἰσὶ δὲ δερμάτινα αἰδοῖα, οἷς χρῶνται αἱ χῆραι γυναῖκες.

And, the chaste H. Liddell could do no better than give this a Latin name:

ὄλισβος , ὁ, A.penis coriaceus, Cratin.316, Ar.Lys.109, Fr.320.13.