Questions about Drinking and Sex: More Deep Thoughts with Aristotle

From Aristotle’s Problems:


“Why can’t drunk people have sex?”

Διὰ τί οἱ μεθύοντες ἀφροδισιάζειν ἀδύνατοί εἰσιν;


“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;



“Why does a drinker’s tongue stumble?”

Διὰ τί τῶν μεθυόντων ἡ γλῶττα πταίει;



“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;


“Why do people fasting have sex so quickly?”

Διὰ τί νήστεις θᾶττον ἀφροδισιάζουσιν;



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

Διὰ τί ἐν τῷ ὕδατι ἧττον δύνανται ἀφροδισιάζειν οἱ ἄνθρωποι;



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

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


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The Design of Penelope’s Web

In the Iliad, Helen appears weaving a pharos that depicts “The many struggles of the horse-taming Trojans and the bronze-girded Achaeans / All the things they had suffered for her at Ares’ hands.” Τρώων θ’ ἱπποδάμων καὶ ᾿Αχαιῶν χαλκοχιτώνων, οὕς ἑθεν εἵνεκ’ ἔπασχον ὑπ’ ῎Αρηος παλαμάων, 3.121-128). And elsewhere she seems keenly aware that her story will be the subject of future songs (ὡς καὶ ὀπίσσω / ἀνθρώποισι πελώμεθ’ ἀοίδιμοι ἐσσομένοισι, 6.537-538).

Andromache, too, in the Iliad, weaves a garment whose imagery is described, even if briefly (22.437-441):

“So she spoke in mourning—but Hektor’s wife did not yet know anything.
For no one had come to her as a trusty messenger
To announce that her husband remained outside of the gates.
But she was weaving in the innermost part of her high-roofed home,
A double-folded raiment, on which she embroidered delicate flowers.”

῝Ως ἔφατο κλαίουσ’, ἄλοχος δ’ οὔ πώ τι πέπυστο
῞Εκτορος· οὐ γάρ οἵ τις ἐτήτυμος ἄγγελος ἐλθὼν
ἤγγειλ’ ὅττί ῥά οἱ πόσις ἔκτοθι μίμνε πυλάων,
ἀλλ’ ἥ γ’ ἱστὸν ὕφαινε μυχῷ δόμου ὑψηλοῖο
δίπλακα πορφυρέην, ἐν δὲ θρόνα ποικίλ’ ἔπασσε.

There is weaving throughout the Odyssey. Helen gives Telemachus a garment to give to his future wife (Od. 15.123-130). Calypso (5.62) and Circe (10.222) also weave while singing (what songs might they sing?). Nausicaa leaves a robe for Odysseus (6.214) which Arete recognizes because she made it (7.234-235). We even hear that the Naiads who live on the shore in Ithaca weave “sea-purple garments, wondrous to see” (φάρε’ ὑφαίνουσιν ἁλιπόρφυρα, θαῦμα ἰδέσθαι, 13.108).

But nowhere in the Odyssey is the imagery on any of these garments described. This might be less confounding if the works were not so prized, if those in the Iliad were not clearly described as bearing decoration and if an ancient scholar had not recognized in Helen’s weaving an embedded metaphor for Homer’s own art, which he calls “a worthy archetype for his own poetry” (ἀξιόχρεων ἀρχέτυπον ἀνέπλασεν ὁ ποιητὴς τῆς ἰδίας ποιήσεως, Schol. bT ad Il. 3.126-127)

The most famous woven garment in the Odyssey is Penelope’s delaying trick which she weaves and unweaves over nearly four years to avoid committing to a marriage. The famous stratagem is mentioned three times. At no time is any image on the cloth mentioned—in its final appearance, it is described as “shining like the sun or the moon”, but that is likely because it has just been cleaned. Here are the three passages:

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