The Key to a Long Life: Magic (Or Maybe Climate and Diet)

Lucian, Octogenarians 3-5

“Homer claims that Nestor, obviously, the wisest of the Achaians, lived more than three generations, a man the poet explains to us was best trained in both mind and body. And the prophet Teiresis, well tragedy has him living through six generations. It might be credible that a man dedicated to the gods and who followed a reverent diet might live as long as possible.

It is recorded that whole clans of people are very long-lived thanks to their way of life—for example, the people of the Egyptians called holy-authors, the exegetes of myth in Assyria and Arabia, and the people the Indians call Brahmans, men who pursue philosophy with precision. There are also the people called the magoi, that prophetic clan dedicated to the gods among the Persians, Parthians, Bactrians, Khoasmians, Arians, Sacae, Medes, and among many other barbarian people. The magoi are strong and live many years because they learn to use magic and eat with considerable discipline.

There are, in addition, entire peoples who are long-lived: for example, some people record that the Sêres live up to 300 years. According to some authors, this is because of the weather; others claim that it is their soul or their diet that is responsible for the length of their lives—for, they claim that the whole nation drinks only water. It is reported that the people of Athos live 130 years or that the Chaldeans live over a hundred and that they rely on barley bread as a medicine to keep their vision sharp.”

Νέστορα μὲν οὖν τὸν σοφώτατον τῶν Ἀχαιῶν ἐπὶ τρεῖς παρατεῖναι γενεὰς Ὅμηρος λέγει, ὃν συνίστησιν ἡμῖν γεγυμνασμένον ἄριστα καὶ ψυχῇ καὶ σώματι. καὶ Τειρεσίαν δὲ τὸν μάντιν ἡ τραγῳδία μέχρις ἓξ γενεῶν παρατεῖναι λέγει. πιθανὸν δ᾿ ἂν εἴη ἄνδρα θεοῖς ἀνακείμενον καθαρωτέρᾳ διαίτῃ χρώμενον ἐπὶ μήκιστον βιῶναι. καὶ γένη δὲ ὅλα μακρόβια ἱστορεῖται διὰ τὴν δίαιταν, ὥσπερ Αἰγυπτίων οἱ καλούμενοι ἱερογραμματεῖς, Ἀσσυρίων δὲ καὶ Ἀράβων οἱ ἐξηγηταὶ τῶν μύθων, Ἰνδῶν δὲ οἱ καλούμενοι Βραχμᾶνες, ἄνδρες ἀκριβῶς φιλοσοφίᾳ σχολάζοντες, καὶ οἱ καλούμενοι δὲ μάγοι, γένος τοῦτο μαντικὸν καὶ θεοῖς ἀνακείμενον παρά τε Πέρσαις καὶ Πάρθοις καὶ Βάκτροις καὶ Χωρασμίοις καὶ Ἀρείοις καὶ Σάκαις καὶ Μήδοις καὶ παρὰ πολλοῖς ἄλλοις βαρβάροις, ἐρρωμένοι τέ εἰσι καὶ πολυχρόνιοι διὰ τὸ μαγεύειν διαιτώμενοι καὶ αὐτοὶ ἀκριβέστερον. ἤδη δὲ καὶ ἔθνη ὅλα μακροβιώτατα, ὥσπερ Σῆρας μὲν ἱστοροῦσι μέχρι τριακοσίων ζῆν ἐτῶν, οἱ μὲν τῷ ἀέρι, οἱ δὲ τῇ γῇ τὴν αἰτίαν τοῦ μακροῦ γήρως προστιθέντες, οἱ δὲ καὶ τῇ διαίτῃ· ὑδροποτεῖν γάρ φασι τὸ ἔθνος τοῦτο σύμπαν. καὶ Ἀθῴτας δὲ μέχρι τριάκοντα καὶ ἑκατὸν ἐτῶν βιοῦν ἱστορεῖται, καὶ τοὺς Χαλδαίους ὑπὲρ τὰ ἑκατὸν ἔτη βιοῦν λόγος, τούτους μὲν καὶ κριθίνῳ ἄρτῳ χρωμένους, ὡς ὀξυδορκίας τοῦτο φάρμακον·

Image result for medieval manuscript tiresias
The Witch of Endor, by the Master of Otto van Moerdrecht, 15th century

Science This! Some Ancient Theories on Eclipses

N.B. This selection is by no means exhaustive.

Xenophanes, fr.  D34

“Xenophanes [says eclipses] come from flames going out and that a different one happens again in the east. He reports in addition that there was an eclipse for an entire month and also a total eclipse that made the day seem like night.”

D34 (A41) Aët. 2.24.4 (Ps.-Plut.) [περὶ ἐκλείψεως ἡλίου]

Ξενοφάνης κατὰ σβέσιν· ἕτερον δὲ πάλιν πρὸς ταῖς ἀνατολαῖς γίνεσθαι· παριστόρηκε δὲ καὶ ἔκλειψιν ἡλίου ἐφ᾽ ὅλον μῆνα καὶ πάλιν ἔκλειψιν ἐντελῆ, ὥστε τὴν ἡμέραν νύκτα φανῆναι.

Xenophanes fr. D35

“Xenophanes says that there are many suns and moons arrayed along the earth’s latitudes, segments and zones. At certain times, he says, the disk falls out of the sky to some uninhabited place of the earth and an eclipse appears because it left empty space.”

D35 =(Stob.; cf. Ps.-Plut.) [περὶ ἐκλείψεως ἡλίου]

Ξενοφάνης· πολλοὺς εἶναι ἡλίους καὶ σελήνας κατὰ τὰ κλίματα τῆς γῆς καὶ ἀποτομὰς καὶ ζώνας. κατὰ δέ τινα καιρὸν ἐκπίπτειν τὸν δίσκον εἴς τινα ἀποτομὴν τῆς γῆς οὐκ οἰκουμένην ὑφ’ ἡμῶν καὶ οὕτως ὡσπερεὶ κενεμβατοῦντα ἔκλειψιν ὑποφαίνειν [. . . = D31].

Anaximander, Fr. 26

“Anaximander says that the [moon] is a wheel nineteen times larger than the earth, like the wheel of a chariot it has a hollow rim filled with fire similar to that of the sun, situated at an angle, like that one. It has a single exhalation point like the mouth of bellows. An eclipse happens when the wheel turns.”

Aët. 2.25.1 (Stob., cf. Ps.-Plut.)

Ἀναξίμανδρος κύκλον εἶναι ἐννεακαιδεκαπλασίονα τῆς γῆς, ὅμοιον ἁρματείῳ τροχῷ κοίλην ἔχοντι τὴν ἁψῖδα καὶ πυρὸς πλήρη καθάπερ τὸν τοῦ ἡλίου, κείμενον λοξόν, ὡς κἀκεῖνον, ἔχοντα μίαν ἐκπνοὴν οἷον πρηστῆρος αὐλόν. ἐκλείπειν δὲ κατὰ τὰς ἐπιστροφὰς τοῦ τροχοῦ.

Heraclitus Fr. 20 (=Stob)

“Herakleitos and Hekateios say that the sun is a burning specter from the sea and that it is bowl-shaped and curved on one-side. They say an eclipse happens because of the turn of the bowl shape so that the hollow side turns up and the curved side turns down to our vision.”

     ῾Ηράκλειτος καὶ ῾Εκαταῖος ἄναμμα νοερὸν τὸ ἐκ θαλάττης εἶναι τὸν ἥλιον. —Σκαφοειδῆ δ’ εἶναι, ὑπόκυρτον. —Γίνεσθαι δὲ τὴν ἔκλειψιν κατὰ τὴν τοῦ σκαφοειδοῦς στροφήν, ὥστε τὸ μὲν κοῖλον ἄνω γίγνεσθαι, τὸ δὲ κυρτὸν κάτω πρὸς τὴν ἡμετέραν ὄψιν.

Empedocles, Fr. D133

“Empedocles says that an eclipse happens when the moon moves under the sun”

D133 = Aët. 2.24.7 (Stob.) [περὶ ἐκλείψεως ἡλίου]

ἔκλειψιν δὲ γίνεσθαι σελήνης αὐτὸν ὑπερχομένης.

Antiphon fr. D21 and D24

 “Antiphon says that [the sun] is made of fire that feeds on the wet mist around the earth and that its rising and setting come from it leaving air that has been consumed as it attaches to air with moisture.”

     ᾿Αντιφῶν πῦρ ἐπινεμόμενον μὲν τὸν περὶ τὴν γῆν ὑγρὸν ἀέρα, ἀνατολὰς δὲ καὶ δύσεις ποιούμενον, τῷ τὸν  μὲν ἐπικαιόμενον αἰεὶ προλείπειν, τοῦ δ’ ὑπονοτιζομένου πάλιν ἀντέχεσθαι.

 “And Antiphon says [lunar eclipses] happen because of the turn of the bowl-like celestial body and its angles.”

 Ἀντιφῶν κατὰ τὴν τοῦ σκαφοειδοῦς στροφὴν καὶ τὰς περικλίσεις

Anaxagoras, fr. D4.7

“Anaxagoras says that the moon eclipses when the earth is in the way and sometimes because of the celestial bodies below the moon; the sun eclipses because the moon gets in the way during its new phase.”

D4 (< A42) Ps.-Hippolytus, Refutation of All Heresies

ἐκλείπειν δὲ τὴν σελήνην γῆς ἀντιφραττούσης, ἐνίοτε δὲ καὶ τῶν ὑποκάτω τῆς σελήνης, τὸν δὲ ἥλιον ταῖς νουμηνίαις σελήνης ἀντιφραττούσης.

Aristotle, Posterior Analytics, II 90a (On Lunar Eclipses)

“What is an eclipse? The stealing of light from the moon by the superposition of the earth. Saying “what is an eclipse” is the same thing as saying “why does the moon eclipse”. Because the light of the sun leaves it when the earth gets in the way.”

τί ἐστιν ἔκλειψις; στέρησις φωτὸς ἀπὸ σελήνης ὑπὸ γῆς ἀντιφράξεως. διὰ τί ἔστιν ἔκλειψις, ἢ διὰ τί ἐκλείπει ἡ σελήνη; διὰ τὸ ἀπολείπειν τὸ φῶς ἀντιφραττούσης τῆς γῆς.

Seneca the Younger, Natural Questions 7

“The sun has no audience unless it starts to disappear. No one looks at the moon unless it is eclipsing. Then, cities scream together and everyone makes a ruckus because of silly superstition.”

Sol spectatorem, nisi deficit, non habet. Nemo observat lunam nisi laborantem; tunc urbes conclamant, tunc pro se quisque superstitione vana strepitat.

Image result for ancient greek astronomy

Hippocrates: Unmarried Women are Sad Because of Periods

Hippocrates of Cos, On Girls [Peri Parthenôn] 1

“Let’s talk first concerning the disease which is called sacred and paralyzed people and the many anxieties which frighten people seriously enough that they lose their minds and believe that they see evil spirits by night or even at times by die or sometimes on all hours. Many have hanged themselves before because of this kind of vision, more often women than men.

For a woman’s nature is more depressed and sorrowful. And young women, when they are at the age of marriage and without a husband, suffer terribly at the time of their menstruation, which they did not suffer earlier in life. For blood collects later in their uterus so that it may flow out. When, then, the mouth of the exit does not create an opening, the blood pools up more because of food and the body’s growth. When the blood has nowhere to flow, it rises up toward the heart and the diaphragm. When these organs are filled, the heart is desensitized and from this transformation it becomes numb. Madness overtakes women because of this numbness.”

Πρῶτον περὶ τῆς ἱερῆς νούσου καλεομένης, καὶ περὶ τῶν ἀποπληκτικῶν, καὶ περὶ τῶν δειμάτων, ὁκόσα φοβεῦνται ἰσχυρῶς ἄνθρωποι, ὥστε παραφρονέειν καὶ ὁρῆν δοκέειν δαίμονάς τινας ἐφ᾿ ἑωυτῶν δυσμενέας, ὁκότε μὲν νυκτός, ὁκότε δὲ ἡμέρης, ὁκότε δὲ ἀμφοτέρῃσι τῇσιν ὥρῃσιν. ἔπειτα ἀπὸ τῆς τοιαύτης ὄψιος πολλοὶ ἤδη ἀπηγχονίσθησαν, πλέονες δὲ γυναῖκες ἢ ἄνδρες· ἀθυμοτέρη γὰρ καὶ λυπηροτέρη ἡ φύσις ἡ γυναικείη. αἱ δὲ παρθένοι, ὁκόσῃσιν ὥρη γάμου, παρανδρούμεναι, τοῦτο μᾶλλον πάσχουσιν ἅμα τῇ καθόδῳ τῶν ἐπιμηνίων, πρότερον οὐ μάλα ταῦτα κακοπαθέουσαι. ὕστερον γὰρ τὸ αἷμα ξυλλείβεται ἐς τὰς μήτρας, ὡς ἀπορρευσόμενον· ὁκόταν οὖν τὸ στόμα τῆς ἐξόδου μὴ ᾖ ἀνεστομωμένον, τὸ δὲ αἷμα πλέον ἐπιρρέῃ διά τε σιτία καὶ τὴν αὔξησιν τοῦ σώματος, τηνικαῦτα οὐκ ἔχον τὸ αἷμα ἔκρουν ἀναΐσσει ὑπὸ πλήθους ἐς τὴν καρδίην καὶ ἐς τὴν διάφραξιν. ὁκόταν οὖν ταῦτα πληρωθέωσιν, ἐμωρώθη ἡ καρδίη, εἶτ᾿ ἐκ τῆς μωρώσιος νάρκη, εἶτ᾿ ἐκ τῆς νάρκης παράνοια ἔλαβεν.

Hippocrates should have consulted a woman physician like Trotula

A Healthy Mind in A Healthy Body, but Greek

Xenophon, Memorabilia 3.12

“For all of the uses of the body it makes a big difference to keep it in as good a condition as possible. Even for thinking, in which the use of the body seems least important, who does not know that many things fail in its practice because the body is not healthy? Forgetfulness, depression, ill temper and madness often strike the mind so badly because of bodily afflictions that it drives out understanding.

There is great stability for those who have strong bodies and there is, at least, no danger from suffering something like this because of physical affliction. No, it is likely that the useful help will develop as the opposite to those things that happen from affliction. And, indeed, what wouldn’t someone who has some sense try to forestall the opposite to those things I have mentioned?”

πάσαις δὲ ταῖς τοῦ σώματος χρείαις πολὺ διαφέρει ὡς βέλτιστα τὸ σῶμα ἔχειν· 6ἐπεὶ καὶ ἐν ᾧ δοκεῖς ἐλαχίστην σώματος χρείαν εἶναι, ἐν τῷ διανοεῖσθαι, τίς οὐκ οἶδεν, ὅτι καὶ ἐν τούτῳ πολλοὶ μεγάλα σφάλλονται διὰ τὸ μὴ ὑγιαίνειν τὸ σῶμα; καὶ λήθη δὲ καὶ ἀθυμία καὶ δυσκολία καὶ μανία πολλάκις πολλοῖς διὰ τὴν τοῦ σώματος καχεξίαν εἰς τὴν διάνοιαν ἐμπίπτουσιν οὕτως, ὥστε καὶ τὰς ἐπιστήμας ἐκβάλλειν. 7τοῖς δὲ τὰ σώματα εὖ ἔχουσι πολλὴ ἀσφάλεια καὶ οὐδεὶς κίνδυνος διά γε τὴν τοῦ σώματος καχεξίαν τοιοῦτόν τι παθεῖν, εἰκὸς δὲ μᾶλλον πρὸς τὰ ἐναντία τῶν διὰ τὴν καχεξίαν γιγνομένων τὴν εὐεξίαν χρήσιμον εἶναι. καίτοι τῶν γε τοῖς εἰρημένοις ἐναντίων ἕνεκα τί οὐκ ἄν τις νοῦν ἔχων ὑπομείνειεν;

 

Xenophon elaborates on some of this earlier

Xenophon, Memorabilia 3.5

“Certainly it is necessary—since the city does not provide public expenses for war—not to overlook it privately, nor otherwise to care for yourself less. Know well that you be no worse off in any other struggle or action because you have put your body in better shape. For the body is useful in everything people do. In all functions of the body it makes a big difference that the body is as healthy as possible. Even in something you might think the body is of little use—thinking—who doesn’t know that great errors come from having a sick body?

Forgetfulness, loss of spirit, ill-temper and madness often impinge upon perception because of the weakness of the body so badly that all knowledge is expelled. But for those who are healthy in body it is a great protection and they suffer no suffer no such risk of suffering this kind of thing because of the weakness of their body. It is probably that for those who have a healthy condition they will have the opposite experience. And, certainly, won’t anyone with some sense endure anything for the opposite of these things that have been mentioned?”

Anyway, is it not shameful to grow old because of carelessness before seeing how beautiful and strong a person you might be thanks to your body? It is not possible to witness this for someone who doesn’t make an effort. For it is not willing to develop on its own.”

Οὔτοι χρὴ ὅτι ἡ πόλις οὐκ ἀσκεῖ δημοσίᾳ τὰ πρὸς τὸν πόλεμον, διὰ τοῦτο καὶ ἰδίᾳ ἀμελεῖν, ἀλλὰ μηδὲν ἧττον ἐπιμελεῖσθαι. εὖ γὰρ ἴσθι, ὅτι οὐδὲ ἐν ἄλλῳ οὐδενὶ ἀγῶνι οὐδὲ ἐν πράξει οὐδεμιᾷ μεῖον ἕξεις διὰ τὸ βέλτιον τὸ σῶμα παρεσκευάσθαι· πρὸς πάντα γάρ, ὅσα πράττουσιν ἄνθρωποι, χρήσιμον τὸ σῶμά ἐστιν· ἐν πάσαις δὲ ταῖς τοῦ σώματος χρείαις πολὺ διαφέρει ὡς βέλτιστα τὸ σῶμα ἔχειν· ἐπεὶ καὶ ἐν ᾧ δοκεῖς ἐλαχίστην σώματος χρείαν εἶναι, ἐν τῷ διανοεῖσθαι, τίς οὐκ οἶδεν, ὅτι καὶ ἐν τούτῳ πολλοὶ μεγάλα σφάλλονται διὰ τὸ μὴ ὑγιαίνειν τὸ σῶμα; καὶ λήθη δὲ καὶ ἀθυμία καὶ δυσκολία καὶ μανία πολλάκις πολλοῖς διὰ τὴν τοῦ σώματος καχεξίαν εἰς τὴν διάνοιαν ἐμπίπτουσιν οὕτως, ὥστε καὶ τὰς ἐπιστήμας ἐκβάλλειν. τοῖς δὲ τὰ σώματα εὖ ἔχουσι πολλὴ ἀσφάλεια καὶ οὐδεὶς κίνδυνος διά γε τὴν τοῦ σώματος καχεξίαν τοιοῦτόν τι παθεῖν, εἰκὸς δὲ μᾶλλον πρὸς τὰ ἐναντία τῶν διὰ τὴν καχεξίαν γιγνομένων τὴν εὐεξίαν χρήσιμον εἶναι. καίτοι τῶν γε τοῖς εἰρημένοις ἐναντίων ἕνεκα τί οὐκ ἄν τις νοῦν ἔχων ὑπομείνειεν;

Αἰσχρὸν δὲ καὶ τὸ διὰ τὴν ἀμέλειαν γηρᾶναι, πρὶν ἰδεῖν ἑαυτὸν ποῖος ἂν κάλλιστος καὶ κράτιστος τῷ σώματι γένοιτο. ταῦτα δὲ οὐκ ἔστιν ἰδεῖν ἀμελοῦντα· οὐ γὰρ ἐθέλει αὐτόματα γίγνεσθαι.

Diogenes Laertius, 1.37.2

“When someone asked who is lucky, [Thales said] “whoever has a healthy body, a sophisticated mind, and teachable nature.”

τίς εὐδαίμων, “ὁ τὸ μὲν σῶμα ὑγιής, τὴν δὲ ψυχὴν εὔπορος, τὴν δὲ φύσιν εὐπαίδευτος.”

Juvenal, Satire 10.356

“We must beg for a healthy mind in a healthy body”

orandum est ut sit mens sana in corpore sano

Zuordnung der Tierkreiszeichen zu den Körperteilen; Homo signorum, Heinrich von Laufenberg, Regimen, ca. 1450/60

The Curative Powers of Iron

Pliny the Elder, Natural History 34.151

“There are other medicinal applications of iron beyond surgery. For when a circle is drawn around both adults and infants—or of they carry a sharp iron weapon with them—it is useful against poisonous drugs. Iron nails which have been taken out of tombs are useful protections against nightmares if they are hammered down before a threshold.

A small penetration with an iron weapon which has wounded a man is effective against sudden side and chest pains. Some afflictions are treated by cauterization, especially true for the bite of a rabid dog, since even when the disease has advanced and those afflicted are starting to exhibit fear of water, they experience relief at cauterization. The drinking of water which has been heated with burning iron is good for many symptoms, but especially for dysentery.”

XLIV. Medicina e ferro est et alia quam secandi. namque et circumscribi circulo terve circumlato mucrone et adultis et infantibus prodest contra noxia medicamenta, et praefixisse in limine evulsos sepulchris clavos adversus nocturnas lymphationes, pungique leviter mucrone, quo percussus homo sit, contra dolores laterum pectorumque subitos, qui punctionem adferant. quaedam ustione sanantur, privatim vero canis rabidi morsus, quippe etiam praevalente morbo expaventesque potum usta plaga ilico liberantur. calfit etiam ferro candente potus in multis vitiis, privatim vero dysentericis.

Bodleian Library, MS. Ashmole 1462, Folio 16r

On (the many) Signs of Rain

In Massachusetts, April has seen a record 21 days of rain. It is raining today in Boston.

Theophrastus, Concerning Weather Signs 13

“Many shooting stars [are indications of] rain or wind and the wind or rain will originate from their directions. If the rays of the sun are thick together at sunrise or sunset, it might be a sign of rain.

It is also a sign when during sunrise the raise have the color of an eclipse. And also when there are clouds that are similar to the hair of wool—that’s a sign of rain. Many bubbles rising on the surface of rivers are signs of rain. And, generally speaking, when a rainbow appears around or through the light of the lamp, it means rain from south.”

Ἀστέρες πολλοὶ διᾴττοντες ὕδατος ἢ πνεύματος, καὶ ὅθεν ἂν διᾴττωσιν ἐντεῦθεν τὸ πνεῦμα ἢ τὸ ὕδωρ. καὶ ἐὰν ἀκτῖνες ἀθρόαι ἀνίσχωσιν ἀνιόντος ἢ δύνοντος, σημεῖον <ὕδατος>. καὶ ὅταν ἀνίσχοντος τοῦ ἡλίου αἱ αὐγαὶ οἷον ἐκλείποντος χρῶμα ἴσχωσιν, ὕδατος σημεῖον. καὶ ὅταν νεφέλαι πόκοις ἐρίων ὅμοιαι ὦσιν, ὕδωρ σημαίνει. [ὑετοῦ δὲ σημεῖα] πομφόλυγες ἀνιστάμεναι πλείους ἐπὶ τῶν ποταμῶν ὕδωρ σημαίνουσι πολύ. ὡς δ᾿ ἐπὶ τὸ πολὺ ἶρις περὶ λύχνον ἢ διὰ λύχνου διαφαινομένη νότια σημαίνει ὕδατα.

Some excerpts from following paragraphs

15

“When birds who do not live in the water bathe, it is a sign of rain or storm. It is also a sign when frogs sing louder or when a toad takes a bath.”

Ὄρνιθες λουόμενοι μὴ ἐν ὕδατι βιοῦντες ὕδωρ ἢ χειμῶνας σημαίνουσι. καὶ φρύνη λουομένη καὶ βάτραχοι μᾶλλον ᾄδοντες σημαίνουσιν ὕδωρ.

16

“When a crow places its head on a rock which is washed by waves it is a sign of rain. Also: when it frequently dives down and flies around near the water, it is a sign of rain.”

Κορώνη ἐπὶ πέτρας κορυσσομένη ἣν κῦμα κατακλύζει ὕδωρ σημαίνει· καὶ κολυμβῶσα πολλάκις καὶ περιπετομένη ὕδωρ σημαίνει.

17

“If a hawk sits on a tree and then flies straight in a search for bugs, it is a sign of  rain.”

Ἐὰν ἱέραξ ἐπὶ δένδρου καθεζόμενος καὶ εἴσω εἰσπετόμενος φθειρίζηται, ὕδωρ σημαίνει.

18

“If a domesticated duck goes under the eaves of a roof and flaps its wings, it is a sign of rain.”

Καὶ ἡ νῆττα ἥμερος <ἐὰν> ὑπιοῦσα ὑπὸ τὰ γεῖσα ἀποπτερυγίζηται

Image result for ancient greek weather vase

 

Also, Theophrastus is like….

 

But then later he says….

The Magic Words of Healing

Pliny the Elder, Natural History, 28.21-22

“It is not easy to explain whether foreign and unrepeatable words undermine our confidence more than uncommon Latin ones which our mind makes seem ridiculous since it is always casting about for something  huge and strong enough to move a god, that is, something to force the mind’s will on divine power.

Homer claims that Ulysses, when he was wounded in the thigh, stopped the flow of blood with a song; Theophrastus says there is a verse to heal sciatica; Cato has passed down a song to help dislocated limbs; Marcus Varro has one for gout. It is reported that the dictator Caesar, after a single severe accident to his vehicle, would, as soon as he took his seat, repeat three times a song for a safe journey—a thing which we know many people do now.”

neque est facile dictu externa verba atque ineffabilia abrogent fidem validius an Latina inopinata et quae inridicula videri cogit animus semper aliquid inmensum exspectans ac dignum deo movendo, immo vero quod numini imperet. dixit Homerus profluvium sanguinis vulnerato femine Ulixen inhibuisse carmine, Theophrastus ischiadicos sanari, Cato prodidit luxatis membris carmen auxiliare, M. Varro podagris. Caesarem dictatorem post unum ancipitem vehiculi casum ferunt semper ut primum consedisset, id quod plerosque nunc facere scimus, carmine ter repetito securitatem itinerum aucupari solitum.

 

 

This reminds me of the tradition that granted Pythagoras’ songs healing power:

Porphyry, On the Life of Pythagoras

30. “[Pythagoras] healed psychic and bodily sufferings with rhythm, songs, and incantations. He adapted these treatments to his companions, while he himself heard the harmony of everything because he could understand the unity of the spheres and the harmonies of the stars moving with them. It is not our nature to hear this in the least.”

30. κατεκήλει δὲ ῥυθμοῖς καὶ μέλεσι καὶ ἐπῳδαῖς τὰ ψυχικὰ πάθη καὶ τὰ σωματικά. καὶ τοῖς μὲν ἑταίροις ἡρμόζετο ταῦτα, αὐτὸς δὲ τῆς τοῦ παντὸς ἁρμονίας ἠκροᾶτο συνιεὶς τῆς καθολικῆς τῶν σφαιρῶν καὶ τῶν κατ’ αὐτὰς κινουμένων ἀστέρων ἁρμονίας, ἧς ἡμᾶς μὴ ἀκούειν διὰ σμικρότητα τῆς φύσεως.

32. “Diogenes says that Pythagoras encouraged all men to avoid ambition and lust for fame, because they especially inculcate envy, and also to stay away from large crowds. He used to convene gatherings at his house at dawn himself, accompanying his singing to the lyre and singing some ancient songs of Thales. And he also sang the songs of Hesiod and Homer, as many as appeared to calm his spirit. He would also dance some dances which he believed brought good mobility and health to the body. He used to take walks himself but not with a crowd, taking only two or three companions to shrines or groves, finding the most peaceful and beautiful places.”

32. Διογένης φησὶν ὡς ἅπασι μὲν παρηγγύα φιλοτιμίαν φεύγειν καὶ φιλοδοξίαν, ὥπερ μάλιστα φθόνον ἐργάζεσθαι, ἐκτρέπεσθαι δὲ τὰς μετὰ τῶν πολλῶν ὁμιλίας. τὰς γοῦν διατριβὰς καὶ αὐτὸς ἕωθεν μὲν ἐπὶ τῆς οἰκίας ἐποιεῖτο, ἁρμοζόμενος πρὸς λύραν τὴν ἑαυτοῦ φωνὴν καὶ ᾄδων παιᾶνας ἀρχαίους τινὰς τῶν Θάλητος. καὶ ἐπῇδε τῶν ῾Ομήρου καὶ ῾Ησιόδου ὅσα καθημεροῦν τὴν ψυχὴν ἐδόξαζε. καὶ ὀρχήσεις δέ τινας ὑπωρχεῖτο ὁπόσας εὐκινησίαν καὶ ὑγείαν τῷ σώματι παρασκευάζειν ᾤετο. τοὺς δὲ περιπάτους οὐδ’ αὐτὸς ἐπιφθόνως μετὰ πολλῶν ἐποιεῖτο, ἀλλὰ δεύτερος ἢ τρίτος ἐν ἱεροῖς ἢ ἄλσεσιν, ἐπιλεγόμενος τῶν χωρίων τὰ ἡσυχαίτατα καὶ περικαλλέστατα.

33. “He loved his friends overmuch and was the first to declare that friends possessions are common and that a friend is another self. When they were healthy, he always talked to them; when they were sick, he took care of their bodies. If they were mentally ill, he consoled them, as we said before, some with incantations and spells, others by music. He had songs and paeans for physical ailments: when he sang them, he relieved fatigue. He also could cause forgetfulness of grief, calming of anger, and redirection of desire.”

33.τοὺς δὲ φίλους ὑπερηγάπα, κοινὰ μὲν τὰ τῶν φίλων εἶναι πρῶτος ἀποφηνάμενος, τὸν δὲ φίλον ἄλλον ἑαυτόν. καὶ ὑγιαίνουσι μὲν αὐτοῖς ἀεὶ συνδιέτριβεν, κάμνοντας δὲ τὰ σώματα ἐθεράπευεν, καὶ τὰς ψυχὰς δὲ νοσοῦντας παρεμυθεῖτο, καθάπερ ἔφαμεν, τοὺς μὲν ἐπῳδαῖς καὶ μαγείαις τοὺς δὲ μουσικῇ. ἦν γὰρ αὐτῷ μέλη καὶ πρὸς νόσους σωμάτων παιώνια, ἃ ἐπᾴδων ἀνίστη τοὺς κάμνοντας. ἦν <δ’> ἃ καὶ λύπης λήθην εἰργάζετο καὶ ὀργὰς ἐπράυνε καὶ ἐπιθυμίας ἀτόπους ἐξῄρει.

British Library - Royal 6.E.vi,  f. 396v. - Detail of a historiated initial 'C'(onstellacio) of an astrologer observing the sky, and the devil in a circle.
Image from medievalists.net