“Posidonios of Apamea records the story of [Athenion] which I am going to lay out even though it is rather long, so that we may examine carefully all men who claim to be philosophers, and not merely trust in their shabby robes and unkempt beards. For, as Agathon says (fr. 12):
If I tell the truth, I won’t make you happy.
But if I am to make you happy, I will say nothing true.
Since the truth, they say, is dear to us, I will tell the whole story about this man.”
“Once I add a few more things, I will complete my proposals. Beyond all other things, it is necessary that fathers, by avoiding transgressions and doing everything that is required, offer themselves as a clear example to their children, so that when looking at their father’s life as if in a mirror they may turn away from shameful deeds and words.
Whoever makes the same mistakes as those for which they punish their sons become their own accusers under their sons’ names without realizing it . Men who live life poorly in every way do not possess the right to criticize their slaves, much less their sons. In addition, they could become their sons’ advisors and teachers of crime. For whenever old men behave shamefully, it is by necessity that their young are the most shameless.”
“And you yourself, bestie Geminus, were clear in holding the same opinion about the man in your letter in which you write verbatim: “in other types of composition it is easy to fall somewhere between praise and blame—but in ornament, what does not succeed, fails completely. For this reason, it seems right to me not to interrogate these men for their few failures but for the greater number of their successes.”
And later after this you say these things an addition: “Even though I am able to mount a defense for all of these passages or most of them, I do not dare to speak against you. But I do take this one point hard—that it is not possible to succeed impressively in every way unless you take these kind of risks and enter those situations in which it is necessary to stumble”.
We don’t diverge from one another—for you agree that it is necessary that one who has great aims sometimes stumbles while I say that Plato in reaching for sublime, magnificent, and surprising phrases did not succeed all the time, but that his mistakes occupy only a small portion of his total attempts. I also add that this is one way in which Plato is less than Demosthenes—for his heightened style at times slips into emptiness and unpleasantry; for Demosthenes this happens never or rarely at all. That’s enough about Plato.”
“Generally, then, if one wants to examine it carefully, you will find Odysseus’ wandering to be an allegory. Homer has positioned Odysseus as some kind of an instrument of every kind of virtue and he has used him to philosophize, since he hated the wickedness which governs human life.
The land of the Lotus-eaters, a farm of exotic temptation, represents the temptation of pleasure through which Odysseus sailed in perfect control. He snuffs out the savage anger of each of us with the advice from his words as if cauterizing it. This anger is named the Cyclops, the one who steals away [hypoklôpôn] our faculties of reason.
What of this—does it not seem that Odysseus who ‘overcame the winds’ was the first to anticipate fair sailing through his knowledge of the stars? And he was superior to Kirkê’s drugs because he discovered a cure for addictive delicacies thanks to his deep wisdom.
And his intelligence extends even to Hades so that nothing in the underworld might go unexplored. Who listens to the Sirens and learns a diverse history of all time? Charybdis is an obvious name for luxury and endless drinking. Homer has allegorized manifold shamelessness in Skylla, which is why she would logically have a belt of dogs, guardians for her rapacity, daring, and pugnacity. The cattle of the sun are about controlling your eating—for he would not even allow starvation to be a compulsion to do injustice.
These stories were told mythically for their audiences, if someone delves into the allegorized wisdom, it will be the most useful to those who apprehend it.”
Plutarch, On Stoic Self-Contradiction [Moralia 1033d]
In this passage, Plutarch is criticizing stoics for talking about the importance of government and ruling even though most of them dedicated themselves to the private lives of reading, writing and lecturing.
“Chrysippus himself, at least in the fourth book of Concerning Ways of Life, thinks that there is no difference because the scholarly life and one of pleasure. I shill quote his very words: “All those who think that the scholarly life is of special importance for philosophers seem to me to go astray from the beginning because they believe that it is right to do this kind of thing for the sake of [having some] job or some other reason like this, [that it is right] to drag out an entire life this way.
This is, if it is examined clearly, [a life devoted to] pleasure. We must not overlook the core meaning of the many people who say this kind of thing clearly, nor the few who try to obscure it.” Who grew old in this scholarly life other than Chrysippos, Kleanthês, Diogenês, Zenô, and Antipater?”
Dio recounts how the philosopher proposed dealing with, um, animal urges.
Dio Chrysostom, The Sixth Oration: On Diogenes or Tyranny (16-20)
“On behalf of that very thing which men make the most effort and waste the most money—through which many cities have been overturned and for whose sake many people have perished pitiably—for [Diogenes] this was the easiest and cheapest thing. For he didn’t have to go anywhere for sexual satisfaction, since, as he used to joke, Aphrodite was near him everywhere, and for free. He used to say that the poets slandered the goddess because of their own lack of control when they called her “all golden”. Since many did not believe this, he proved it out in the open while everyone was watching. And he used to say that if people did this, then Troy would not have fallen, nor would have Priam, the Phrygian king of the line of Zeus, bled out on Zeus’ altar.
He added that the Achaeans were so witless as to imagine that even corpses needed women and so slaughtered Polyxena on the tomb of Achilles. So he used to explain that fish proved themselves to be almost more prudent than men—for whenever they needed to expel their seed, the went out and rubbed up against something with friction. Diogenes was amazed at the unwillingness of men to spend money to have their foot, hand, or any other part of the body rubbed, and how the very rich would not waste even a drachma on this. But they [all] lavished many a talent on that single member often and that some even still endangered their lives too.
He used to joke that this kind of intercourse was Pan’s discovery: when he was lusting after Echo but couldn’t overtake her, he was wondering in the mountains night and day until that point when Hermes taught him how to do this, because he pitied his helplessness and he was his son. And, after he learned this, he got a break from his great suffering. Apparently, shepherds learned this from him.”
While entertaining banter about Socrates’ ugliness and his two wives, I got a bit interested in the assertion in Diogenes Laertius that the Athenians had passed a law permitting bigamy to increase the population and cope with the “lack of men”. As an aside, I learned a new word during this leipandria (“lack of men”; and not humans, but males specifically).
[Euripides] is reported to have hated women in a rather serious way, either because he despised the company of women by nature or because he had two wives at the same time (which was the law made by Athenian decree) and was worn down by his marriages. Aristophanes also memorializes his hatred in the first version of the Thesmophoriazusae:
Now, then, I address and advise all women
To punish this man for many reasons:
He has accosted us with bitter evils,
This man raised on a garden’s bitter harvest.
And Alexander the Aitolian composed these lines about Euripides:
The strident student of strong Anaxagoras, the mirth-hater,
Addressed me and never got used to making jokes while drinking.
But what he wrote, honey or a Siren could have made.”
6 Mulieres fere omnes in maiorem modum exosus fuisse dicitur, sive quod natura abhorruit a mulierum coetu sive quod duas simul uxores habuerat, cum id decreto ab Atheniensibus facto ius esset, quarum matrimonii pertaedebat. 7 Eius odii in mulieres Aristophanes quoque meminit en tais proterais Thesmophoriazousais in his versibus:
Valerius Maximus, Memorable Sayings and Deeds 7.6 ext 1b-c
“[Socrates] used to say that those who act as so that they become as they would wish to seem finish short and well-known roads to glory. With this saying he was clearly warning that humans should drink virtue itself rather than follow its shadow.
Socrates also, when asked by a certain young man whether he should take a wife or abstain from matrimony altogether, said that whichever he did he would regret it. “From second option, you will experience loneliness, childlessness, the end of your family, and a foreign heir; from the other option, you will have perpetual annoyance, a weaving of complaints, questions about the dowry, the down-turned brows of inlaws, a talkative mother-in-law, a hunter for other people’s marriages, and the uncertain bearing of children.’ He would not endure that the youth believe he was making a choice of happy material in the context of harsh matters.”
Idem expedita et compendiaria via eos ad gloriam pervenire dicebat qui id agerent ut quales videri vellent, tales etiam essent. qua quidem praedicatione aperte monebat ut homines ipsam potius virtutem haurirent quam umbram eius consectarentur.
Idem, ab adulescentulo quodam consultus utrum uxorem duceret an se omni matrimonio abstineret, respondit utrum eorum fecisset, acturum paenitentiam. ‘hinc te’ inquit ‘solitudo, hinc orbitas, hinc generis interitus, hinc heres alienus excipiet, illinc perpetua sollicitudo, contextus querellarum, dotis exprobratio, adfinium grave supercilium, garrula socrus lingua, subsessor alieni matrimonii, incertus liberorum eventus.’ non passus est iuvenem in contextu rerum asperarum quasi laetae materiae facere dilectum.
“Some people who know a lot about fishing claim that the stomach of a sea-horse—if someone dissolves it in wine after boiling it and gives it to someone to drink—is an extraordinary potion combined with wine, when compared to other medicines. For, at first, the most severe retching overcomes anyone who drinks it and then a dry coughing fit takes over even though he vomits nothing at all, and then: the upper part of his stomach grows and swells; warm spells roll over his head; and, finally, snot pours from his nose and releases a fishy smell. Then his eyes turn blood-red and heated while his eye-lids swell up.
They claim that a desire to vomit overwhelms him but that he can bring nothing up. If nature wins, then he evades death and slips away into forgetfulness and insanity. But if the wine permeates his lower stomach, there is nothing to be done, and the individual dies eventually. Those who do survive, once they have wandered into insanity, are gripped by a great desire for water: they thirst to sea water and hear it splashing. And this, at least, soothes them and makes them sleep. Then they like to spend their time either by endlessly flowing rivers or near seashores or next to streams or some lakes. And even though they don’t want to drink, they love to swim, to put their feet in the water, and to wash their hands.”
“Since we have come to this point in the argument: what is more profitable to life than art? Fire exposed every art and preserves them. This is the reason poets have made Hephaistos the first craftsman. Since humans have been given only a little bit of life and—as Ariston puts it—sleep claims half of life like a tax-collector, I would say that darkness is important: even if it were possible to stay awake through the night, this vigil would be useless if fire did not provide the advantages of day to us and strip away the difference between day and night.
If there is nothing more important to people than life and fire increases life considerably, how could fire not be the most beneficial thing of all?”
It is especially important to train and practice children’s memory: memory is the warehouse of learning. This is why we used to mythologize Memory as the mother of the Muses, making it clear through allegory that nothing creates and nourishes the way memory does. This should be trained in both cases, whether children have a good memory from the beginning or are naturally forgetful. For we may strengthen the inborn ability and supplement the deficiency. The first group will be better than others; but the second will be better than themselves. This is why the Hesiodic line rings true: “If you add a little by little, and you keep doing it, soon you can have something great.”
Parents should also not forget that a skill of memory contributes its great worth not only to education but to life’s actions in general. For the memory of past events becomes an example of good planning for future actions.”