A Comic’s Lament: Tragedy is So Easy

From Athenaeus, Deipnosophists 6.222c-e

“Since, friend Timocrates, you are always asking about the things said among the learned dinnermates, because you think that I am making up crazy things, let me remind you of what Antiphanes says in his play Poetry, in this way:

Tragedy is the luckiest art form
of all. First, the stories
Are already known by the audience
Before anyone even speaks—the poet only needs
To remind: “Oedipus I say…”
And they know the rest: father Laios,
mother Iocasta, some daughters, some sons,
what he will suffer, and what he has. And, again,
If someone says “Alkmaeon”, he’s just as good
as mentioned all his kids and that
he went crazy and killed his mother, and that
Adrastus will get angry and return.
Then when they can’t say anything else
And they have fallen down in exhaustion
they raise up their crane like little finger
and they have a happy audience!
But it isn’t like that for us, we a have to make up
everything, new names and….
then the events that happened
previously, currently, and at the end,
As well as an introduction!
If some Chremes or Pheidon
Misses even one of these things
They boo and hiss him off the stage.
But you can get away with this with Peleus and Teucer.”

᾿Επειδὴ ἀπαιτεῖς συνεχῶς ἀπαντῶν, ἑταῖρε Τιμόκρατες, τὰ παρὰ τοῖς δειπνοσοφισταῖς λεγόμενα, καινά τινα νομίζων ἡμᾶς εὑρίσκειν, ὑπομνήσομέν σε τὰ παρὰ ᾿Αντιφάνει λεγόμενα ἐν Ποιήσει (II 90 K) τόνδε τὸν τρόπον·

μακάριόν ἐστιν ἡ τραγῳδία
ποίημα κατὰ πάντ’, εἴ γε πρῶτον οἱ λόγοι
ὑπὸ τῶν θεατῶν εἰσιν ἐγνωρισμένοι,
πρὶν καί τιν’ εἰπεῖν· ὥσθ’ ὑπομνῆσαι μόνον
δεῖ τὸν ποιητήν. Οἰδίπουν γὰρ φῶ ……
τὰ δ’ ἄλλα πάντ’ ἴσασιν· ὁ πατὴρ Λάιος,
μήτηρ ᾿Ιοκάστη, θυγατέρες, παῖδες τίνες,
τί πείσεθ’ οὗτος, τί πεποίηκεν. ἂν πάλιν
εἴπῃ τις ᾿Αλκμέωνα, καὶ τὰ παιδία
πάντ’ εὐθὺς εἴρηχ’, ὅτι μανεὶς ἀπέκτονε
τὴν μητέρ’, ἀγανακτῶν δ’ ῎Αδραστος εὐθέως
ἥξει πάλιν τ’ ἄπεισι …………..
ἔπειθ’ ὅταν μηθὲν δύνωντ’ εἰπεῖν ἔτι,
κομιδῇ δ’ ἀπειρήκωσιν ἐν τοῖς δράμασιν,
αἴρουσιν ὥσπερ δάκτυλον τὴν μηχανήν,
καὶ τοῖς θεωμένοισιν ἀποχρώντως ἔχει.
ἡμῖν δὲ ταῦτ’ οὐκ ἔστιν, ἀλλὰ πάντα δεῖ
εὑρεῖν, ὀνόματα καινά, …………
………… κἄπειτα τὰ διῳκημένα
πρότερον, τὰ νῦν παρόντα, τὴν καταστροφήν,
τὴν εἰσβολήν. ἂν ἕν τι τούτων παραλίπῃ
Χρέμης τις ἢ Φείδων τις, ἐκσυρίττεται·
Πηλεῖ δὲ ταῦτ’ ἔξεστι καὶ Τεύκρῳ ποιεῖν.

The Same Joke Three Times

Athenaeus’ Deipnosophists, book 6.48

“Pausimachus used to remark about the parasite who was supported by an old woman that their intercourse produced an opposite effect: he was always getting something in his stomach. Makhon writes something similar about this:

People say that when Moschion the water-drinker
Saw with friends a parasite in the Lyceium
Who was fed well by a wealthy old lady, he said
“You terror, you are accomplishing the impossible,
Since this hag is always filling up your stomach!”

When the same man heard that a young man was being fed by an old lady and having sex with her every day, he said: “These days, anything can happen. She never gets pregnant, and he fills his gut every day!”

τὸν ὑπὸ τῆς γραὸς τρεφόμενον παράσιτον Παυσίμαχος ἔλεγεν τοὐναντίον πάσχειν τῇ γραίᾳ συνόντα· αὐτὸν γὰρ ἐν γαστρὶ λαμβάνειν ἀεί. περὶ τούτου καὶ

Μάχων γράφει οὕτως·
τὸν ὑδροπότην … Μοσχίωνα λεγόμενον
ἰδόντα φασὶν ἐν Λυκείῳ μετά τινων
παράσιτον ὑπὸ γραὸς τρεφόμενον πλουσίας
‘ὁ δεῖνα, παράδοξόν γε ποιεῖς πρᾶγμ’, ὅτι
ἡ γραῦς ποιεῖ σ’ ἐν γαστρὶ λαμβάνειν ἀεί.’
ὁ δὲ αὐτὸς παράσιτον ἀκούσας ὑπὸ γραίας τρεφόμενονσυγγινόμενόν τε αὐτῇ ἑκάστης ἡμέρας· νῦν πάντα, φασί, γίνεθ’· ἡ μὲν οὐ κύει, ἐν γαστρὶ δ’ οὗτος λαμβάνει καθ’ ἡμέραν.

Socrates at the Table: Moderation in Condiments

Athenaeus, Deipnosophists 5.186d

“When Socrates observed that someone was using a condiment excessively, he said “Guests, who is using relish like bread and bread like a relish?”

Σωκράτης δ’ ἰδών τινα ἀμέτρως τῇ ἐποψήσει χρώμενον ‘ὦ παρόντες, ἔφη, τίς ὑμῶν τῷ μὲν ἄρτῳ ὡς ὄψῳ χρῆται, τῷ δ’ ὄψῳ ὡς ἄρτῳ.’

Missed Your Target But Hit Your Step-Mother? That’s Not So Bad: Plutarch on Adapting to Chance

Plutarch, On The Tranquility of Mind, 467 C-D

“Thoughtful men–just as bees find honey in thyme, the most bitter and driest plants–extract something fitting and useful to themselves even from the most adverse situations.

It is necessary that we practice and take care of this first, like the man who missed a dog with a stone but struck his step-mother instead and said “That’s not so bad”. For it is possible to change our reception of chance from undesired outcomes. Diogenes was sent into exile? “That’s not so bad!” For he began to become a philosopher after his exile.”

οἱ δὲ φρόνιμοι, καθάπερ ταῖς μελίτταις μέλι φέρει τὸ δριμύτατον καὶ ξηρότατον ὁ θύμος, οὕτως ἀπὸ τῶν δυσχερεστάτων πολλάκις πραγμάτων οἰκεῖόν τι καὶ χρήσιμον αὑτοῖς λαμβάνουσι.

Τοῦτ’ οὖν δεῖ πρῶτον ἀσκεῖν καὶ μελετᾶν, ὥσπερ ὁ τῆς κυνὸς ἁμαρτὼν τῷ λίθῳ καὶ τὴν μητρυιὰν πατάξας ‘οὐδ’ οὕτως’ ἔφη ‘κακῶς•’ ἔξεστι γὰρ μεθιστάναι τὴν τύχην ἐκ τῶν ἀβουλήτων. ἐφυγαδεύθη Διογένης• ‘οὐδ’ οὕτως κακῶς’• ἤρξατο γὰρ φιλοσοφεῖν μετὰ τὴν φυγήν.

How To Be a Real Toady: Cleisophos and Philip

Athenaeus, Deipnosophists 6.248f-249A

“Satyrus writes in his Life of Philip: “When Philip lost his eye, Cleisophos followed him with the same eyed bandaged. And later, when Philip’s leg was wounded, Cleisophos accompanied the king, limping. And if Philip should ever find any food bitter, Cleisophos would squeeze his face together as if he were eating too!” In the land of Arabia, they used to do this sort of thing not for sake of flattery but according to polite custom: if one of the king’s limbs were wounded, they would act as if they suffered the same malady, although they also thought it was ridiculous to be eager to be buried with him when he died, they did not hold the same belief for emulating his suffering when he was wounded.”

Philip_II_of_Macedon

Σάτυρος δ’ ἐν τῷ Φιλίππου βίῳ (FHG III 161) ‘ὅτε, φησί, Φίλιππος τὸν ὀφθαλμὸν ἐξεκόπη συμπροῆλθεν αὐτῷ καὶ ὁ Κλείσοφος τελαμωνισθεὶς τὸν αὐτὸν ὀφθαλμόν. καὶ πάλιν ὅτε τὸ σκέλος ἐπηρώθη, σκάζων συνεξώδευε τῷ βασιλεῖ. καὶ εἴ ποτε δριμὺ προσφέροιτο τῶν ἐδεσμάτων ὁ Φίλιππος, αὐτὸς συνέστρεφε τὴν ὄψιν ὡς συνδαινύμενος’. ἐν δὲ τῇ ᾿Αράβων χώρᾳ οὐχ ὡς ἐν κολακείᾳ τοῦτ’ ἐποίουν, ἀλλὰ κατά τι νόμιμον, βασιλέως πηρωθέντος τι τῶν μελῶν συνυποκρίνεσθαι τὸ ὅμοιον πάθος, ἐπεὶ καὶ γέλοιον νομίζουσιν ἀποθανόντι μὲν αὐτῷ σπουδάζειν συγκατορύττεσθαι, πηρωθέντι δὲ μὴ χαρίζεσθαι τὴν ἴσην δόξαν τοῦ πάθους. Νικόλαος δ’ ὁ Δαμασκηνὸς

 

Fat Knights, Censorious Censors,  and Cato the Elder

Aulus Gellius, Attic Nights 6.22

“The censors used to remove a man who was out of shape and too fat from his horse because they thought that a man of such weight was less than fit for performing the duties of a knight. This was not as much a punishment as one might think: the duty’s burden was removed without the shame of losing office. Nevertheless, Cato, in the speech which he wrote concerning the neglect of sacrifice, objects that this matter is more criminal, that it was possible to be seen as a matter of public disgrace. If you accept his argument, it must be assumed that a man was not wholly free of being blamed for lethargy, since he had spoiled and plumped his body to such an immoderate size.”

1 Nimis pingui homini et corpulento censores equum adimere solitos scilicet minus idoneum ratos esse cum tanti corporis pondere ad faciendum equitis munus. 2 Non enim poena id fuit, ut quidam existimant, sed munus sine ignominia remittebatur. 3 Tamen Cato in oratione, quam de sacrificio commisso scripsit, obicit hanc rem criminosius, uti magis videri possit cum ignominia fuisse. 4 Quod si ita accipias, id profecto existimandum est non omnino inculpatum neque indesidem visum esse, cuius corpus in tam inmodicum modum luxuriasset exuberassetque.

Aulus Gellius kept a collection of passages for his son.

The Power of the Cold

Some sophistic considerations from Plutarch

On The Principle of Cold (Moralia 945)

“Is there truly some power of the cold, Favorinus, a principle and substantial thing, just as fire is the principle power of heat, by the presence of and through sharing of which each thing becomes cold? Or is coldness the subtraction of warmth just as people say that darkness is bereavement of life and stillness the absence of movement? Cold does seem to be still while warm has movement while the cooling of higher temperatures occurs by no presence of a force but instead thanks to the separation of heat. For heat appears to leave at the very same time that the rest of a substance cools. And steam, which water emits as it boils, escapes with the passing of the warmth. For this reason the larger amount loses mass when it cools as it loses the heat and nothing else replaces it.

As a starting point, shouldn’t someone be suspicious of this argument that it denies many types of forces by defining them not as characteristics or aspects but instead as the opposite of aspects and characteristics—for example, weight is the negation of lightness, hardness the absence of softness, black the opposite of whiteness, bitter of sweet, and of these rest of matters each develops an opposite force rather than mere negation….”

  1. Ἔστι τις ἄρα τοῦ ψυχροῦ δύναμις, ὦ Φαβωρῖνε, πρώτη καὶ οὐσία, καθάπερ τοῦ θερμοῦ τὸ πῦρ, ἧς παρουσίᾳ τινὶ καὶ μετοχῇ γίνεται τῶν ἄλλων ἕκαστον ψυχρόν· ἢ μᾶλλον ἡ ψυχρότης στέρησίς ἐστι θερμότητος, ὥσπερ τοῦ φωτὸς τὸ σκότος λέγουσι καὶ τῆς κινήσεως τὴν στάσιν; ἐπεὶ καὶ τὸ ψυχρὸν ἔοικε στάσιμον εἶναι, κινητικὸν δὲ τὸ θερμόν· αἵ τε τῶν θερμῶν καταψύξεις οὐδεμιᾶς παρουσίᾳ γίνονται δυνάμεως, ἀλλ᾿ ἐκστάσει θερμότητος· ἅμα γὰρ ἀπιοῦσ᾿ ὅλη2φαίνεται καὶ ψύχεται τὸ ὑπολειπόμενον· ὁ γὰρ ἀτμός, ὃν τὰ ζέοντα τῶν ὑδάτων μεθίησιν, ἀπιόντι τῷ θερμῷ συνεκπίπτει· διὸ καὶ μειοῖ τὸ πλῆθος ἡ περίψυξις ἐκκρίνουσα τὸ θερμόν, ἑτέρου μηδενὸς ἐπεισιόντος.
  2. Ἤ πρῶτον μὲν ἄν τις ὑπίδοιτο τοῦ λόγου τούτου τὸ πολλὰς τῶν ἐμφανῶν ἀναιρεῖν δυνάμεων, ὡς οὐ ποιότητας οὐδ᾿ ἕξεις, ἕξεων δὲ καὶ ποιοτήτων στερήσεις οὔσας,3βαρύτητα μὲν κουφότητος καὶ σκληρότητα μαλακότητος, τὸ μέλαν δὲ τοῦ λευκοῦ καὶ τὸ πικρὸν τοῦ γλυκέος, καὶ ὧν ἕκαστον ἑκάστῳ πέφυκεν ἀντικεῖσθαι κατὰ δύναμιν, οὐχ ὡς ἕξει στέρησις·

    Image result for ancient greek and roman cold
    Not dressed for this weather

Writing Biography is Like Being In Love

Eunapius, Live of the Philosophers 2.2.4

“Even though I have recorded these things faithfully, I do recognize that some things have probably escaped me. And if, although I have applied great thought and effort trying to compose a continuous and clear history of the lives of the best philosophers and rhetoricians, I did not obtain my goal, I have suffered much the same kind of thing as those who love madly and obsessively. For they, when they see the one they love and witness her overwhelming beauty in real life, they look down, too weak and dazed to gaze upon the one they desire.”

Καὶ ταῦτά γε εἰς μνήμην ἐγὼ τίθεμαι, τοῦτο συνορῶν, ὅτι τὰ μὲν ἔλαθεν ἴσως ἡμᾶς, τὰ δὲ οὐκ ἔλαθεν. ἐκείνου δὲ καίπερ πολλὴν ποιούμενος φροντίδα καὶ σπουδήν, τοῦ συνεχῆ καὶ περιγεγραμμένην εἰς ἀκρίβειαν ἱστορίαν τινὰ λαβεῖν τοῦ φιλοσόφου καὶ ῥητορικοῦ βίου τῶν ἀρίστων ἀνδρῶν, εἶτα οὐ τυγχάνων τῆς ἐπιθυμίας, ταὐτόν τι τοῖς ἐρῶσιν ἐμμανῶς καὶ περιφλέκτως ἔπαθον. καὶ γὰρ ἐκεῖνοι, τὴν μὲν ἐρωμένην αὐτὴν ὁρῶντες καὶ τὸ περίψυκτον ἐν τῷ φαινομένῳ κάλλος, κάτω νεύουσιν, ὃ ζητοῦσιν ἰδεῖν ἐξασθενοῦντες, καὶ περιλαμπόμενοι•

Eunapius? A 5th century (CE) intellectual who wrote about sophists, picking up from Philostratus.

Image result for ancient greek and roman love

A Tunic of Flesh and Kirke as an Allegory

Plutarch’s Moralia Fr. 200

“Our fated nature is identified by Empedocles as the force behind this remaking, “wrapping [us] in a tunic of strange flesh” and transferring souls to a new place. Homer has called this circular revolution and the return of rebirth by the name Kirke, a child of Helios, the one who unites every destruction with birth and destruction again, binding it endlessly.

The Island Aiaia is that place which revives the person who dies, a place where the souls first step when they are wandering and feel like strangers to themselves as they mourn and cannot figure out which direction is west nor where the “sun which brings life to people over the land / descends again into the earth.”

These souls long for their habits of pleasure and their life in the flesh and the way they lived with their flesh and they fall again into that mixture where birth swirls together and truly stirs into one the immortal and moral, the material of thought and experience, elements of heaven and earth. The souls are enchanted but also weakened by the pleasures that pull them to birth again. At that time, souls require a great amount of good luck and much wisdom to find some way to resist and depart from their worst characters and become bound to their most base parts or passions and take up a terrible and beastly life.”

Αὐτῆς γὰρ τῆς μετακοσμήσεως εἱμαρμένη καὶ φύσις ὑπὸ Ἐμπεδοκλέους δαίμων ἀνηγόρευται σαρκῶν ἀλλογνῶτι περιστέλλουσα χιτῶνι καὶ μεταμπίσχουσα τὰς ψυχάς, Ὅμηρος δὲ τὴν ἐν κύκλῳ περίοδον καὶ περιφορὰν παλιγγενεσίας Κίρκην προσηγόρευκεν, Ἡλίου παῖδα τοῦ πᾶσαν φθορὰν γενέσει καὶ γένεσιν αὖ πάλιν φθορᾷ συνάπτοντος ἀεὶ καὶ συνείροντος. Αἰαίη δὲ νῆσος ἡ δεχομένη τὸν ἀποθνήσκοντα μοῖρα καὶ χώρα τοῦ περιέχοντος, εἰς ἣν ἐμπεσοῦσαι πρῶτον αἱ ψυχαὶ πλανῶνται καὶ ξενοπαθοῦσι καὶ ὀλοφύρονται καὶ οὐκ ἴσασιν ὅπῃ ζόφος οὐδ᾿ ὅπῃ ἠέλιος φαεσίμβροτος εἶσ᾿ ὑπὸ γαῖαν,ποθοῦσαι δὲ καθ᾿ ἡδονὰς τὴν συνήθη καὶ σύντροφον ἐν σαρκὶ καὶ μετὰ σαρκὸς δίαιταν ἐμπίπτουσιν αὖθις εἰς τὸν κυκεῶνα, τῆς γενέσεως μιγνύσης εἰς ταὐτὸ καὶ κυκώσης ὡς ἀληθῶς ἀίδια καὶ θνητὰ καὶ φρόνιμα καὶ παθητὰ καὶ ὀλύμπια καὶ γηγενῆ, θελγόμεναι καὶ μαλασσόμεναι ταῖς ἀγούσαις αὖθις ἐπὶ τὴν γένεσιν ἡδοναῖς, ἐν ᾧ δὴ μάλιστα πολλῆς μὲν εὐτυχίας αἱ ψυχαὶ δέονται πολλῆς δὲ σωφροσύνης, ὅπως μὴ τοῖς κακίστοις ἐπισπόμεναι καὶ συνενδοῦσαι μέρεσιν ἢ πάθεσιν αὑτῶν κακοδαίμονα καὶ θηριώδη βίον ἀμείψωσιν.

Related image
Wright Barker (British, 1863-1941) – “Circe” c.1889

Want to Make Friends at Holiday Parties? Plutarch on Why Drinking is Useful

Plutarch, Moralia 644e: Table-Talk, On the Usefulness of Drinking for Getting to Know People

“When the Poet Simonides, my Sossios Senecios, saw a stranger at a drinking party sitting there in silence and talking to no one he said “Man, if you are a fool, you are doing something wise; but if you are wise, you are doing a foolish thing.” For, as Heraclitus says, “it is better to hide ignorance” and it is really hard to do this while drinking “which makes even a very wise man sing / and causes him to laugh gently and dance /and then to speak whatever word which was unsaid” [Hom. Od. 14.464-6).

In this, it seems to me, the poet demonstrates the differences between being a little tipsy and drunkenness. For song, merriment, dancing and dancing are coming to those who have drunk moderately. But talking too much and saying what is better kept silent is the work of too much wine, of being drunk. For this reason also, Plato believes that we can see the character of most men while drinking, as Homer said, “those two did not learn one another’s nature even at the table”.

It is clear that Homer knows the talkativeness of wine and how it creates much conversation. For it is not possible to know people who sit eating and drinking in silence. Drinking leads to chatting, and by chatting someone emerges and much that is otherwise hidden is disclosed—drinking together provides some way of getting to know each other.

For this reason, it is not wrong to chastise Aesop, “Why are you searching out these gateways, sir, through which different people can gaze upon the mindset of one another? This lays waste our well made modes of behavior, from the most basic custom by which we were trained, as if by a teacher.” This is why drinking is useful to both Aesop and Plato, and for anyone else looking for a method of inquiry.

Image result for Ancient Greek drinking party

Σιμωνίδης ὁ ποιητής, ὦ Σόσσιε Σενεκίων, ἔν τινι πότῳ ξένον ἰδὼν κατακείμενον σιωπῇ καὶ μηδενὶ διαλεγόμενον, “ὦ ἄνθρωπ᾿,” εἶπεν, “εἰ μὲν ἠλίθιος εἶ, σοφὸν πρᾶγμα ποιεῖς· εἰ δὲ σοφός, ἠλίθιον.” “ἀμαθίην γὰρ ἄμεινον,” ὥς φησιν Ἡράκλειτος, “κρύπτειν,” ἔργον δ᾿ ἐν ἀνέσει καὶ παρ᾿ οἶνον

ὅστ᾿ ἐφέηκε πολύφρονά περ μάλ᾿ ἀεῖσαι,
καί θ᾿ ἁπαλὸν γελάσαι καί τ᾿ ὀρχήσασθαι ἀνῆκεν,
καί τι ἔπος προέηκεν, ὅπερ τ᾿ ἄρρητον ἄμεινον·

οἰνώσεως ἐνταῦθα τοῦ ποιητοῦ καὶ μέθης, ὡς ἐμοὶ δοκεῖ, διαφορὰν ὑποδεικνύντος. ᾠδὴ μὲν γὰρ καὶ γέλως καὶ ὄρχησις οἰνουμένοις μετρίως ἔπεισι· τὸ δὲ λαλεῖν καὶ λέγειν, ἃ βέλτιον ἦν σιωπᾶν, παροινίας ἤδη καὶ μέθης ἔργον ἐστίν. διὸ καὶ Πλάτων ἐν οἴνῳ μάλιστα καθορᾶσθαι τὰ ἤθη τῶν πολλῶν νομίζει, καὶ Ὅμηρος εἰπὼν

οὐδὲ τραπέζῃ / γνώτην ἀλλήλων

δῆλός ἐστιν εἰδὼς τὸ πολύφωνον τοῦ οἴνου καὶ λόγων πολλῶν γόνιμον. οὐ γὰρ ἔστι τρωγόντων σιωπῇ καὶ πινόντων γνῶσις· ἀλλ᾿ ὅτι τὸ πίνειν εἰς τὸ λαλεῖν προάγεται, τῷ δὲ λαλεῖν ἐμφαίνεται καὶ τὸ ἀπογυμνοῦσθαι πολλὰ τῶν ἄλλως λανθανόντων, παρέχει τινὰ τὸ συμπίνειν κατανόησιν ἀλλήλων· ὥστε μὴ φαύλως ἂν ἐπιτιμῆσαι τῷ Αἰσώπῳ· “τί τὰς θυρίδας, ὦ μακάριε, ζητεῖς ἐκείνας, δι᾿ ὧν ἄλλος ἄλλου κατόψεται τὴν διάνοιαν; ὁ γὰρ οἶνος ἡμᾶς ἀνοίγει καὶ δείκνυσιν οὐκ ἐῶν ἡσυχίαν ἄγειν, ἀλλ᾿ ἀφαιρῶν τὸ πλάσμα καὶ τὸν σχηματισμόν, ἀπωτάτω τοῦ νόμου καθάπερ παιδαγωγοῦ γεγονότων.” Αἰσώπῳ μὲν οὖν καὶ Πλάτωνι, καὶ εἴ τις ἄλλος ἐξετάσεως τρόπου δεῖται, πρὸς τοῦτο χρήσιμον ὁ ἄκρατος·