Plutarch has Erotic Stories: They’re Not What You’d Think

A terrible love story for Women’s History Month

Plutarch, Erotic Stories, Moralia 771

“In Haliartos in Boiotia, there was a certain girl of surpassing beauty whose name was Aristokleia. She was the Daughter of Theophanes. Stratôn the Orkhomenian and Kallisthenes the Haliartian were both wooing her.

Stratôn was wealthier and was somewhat more taken with the virgin. For he happened to see her once when she was bathing in the fountain Herkunêin Lebadeia. For she was making reading to carry a basket for Zeus the king. But Kallisthenes was closer to winning her, for he was related to her.

Theophanes was at a loss in the matter—for he was fearing Stratôn he stood apart from nearly all the Boiotians because of his family and wealth. He was planning on getting advice about the choice from Trophonios. Stratôn, however, was convinced by the girl’s servants that she was leaning towards him, so he considered it best to have the girl to be married make the choice. But when Theophanes asked his daughter in front of everyone, she chose Kallisthenes. It was clear that Stratôn took the dishonor badly.

After a period of two days, he approached Theophanes and Kallisthenes, saying he wanted to preserve their friendship, even if he had been denied the marriage by some envious god. They praised what he said and asked him to come to the feast for the wedding. But he, once he had gathered a mob of his friends and no small a retinue of servants which were distributed among the attendees unnoticed, waited until the girl wen to the Spring Kissoessa to make the customary sacrifice to the local nymphs. There, all the men who were in ambush rushed out and grabbed her. Stratos had gained a hold of the virgin. Kallisthenes, as one might expect, grabbed her in turn and those with him were helping. They all pulled on her until she died without them knowing, stretched to death in their hands.

Kallisthenes was out of sight immediately, either because he killed himself or left Boiotia as an exile. No one is able to say what happened to him. But Stratôn killed himself openty over the maiden.”

Ἐν Ἁλιάρτῳ τῆς Βοιωτίας κόρη τις γίνεται κάλλει διαπρέπουσα ὄνομα Ἀριστόκλεια· θυγάτηρ δ᾿ ἦν Θεοφάνους. ταύτην μνῶνται Στράτων Ὀρχομένιος καὶ Καλλισθένης Ἁλιάρτιος. πλουσιώτερος δ᾿ ἦν Στράτων καὶ μᾶλλόν τι τῆς παρθένου ἡττημένος· ἐτύγχανε γὰρ ἰδὼν αὐτὴν ἐν Λεβαδείᾳ λουομένην ἐπὶ τῇ κρήνῃ τῇ Ἑρκύνῃ· ἔμελλε γὰρ τῷ Διὶ τῷ βασιλεῖ κανηφορεῖν. ἀλλ᾿ ὁ Καλλισθένης γε πλέον ἐφέρετο· ἦν γὰρ καὶ γένει προσήκων τῇ κόρῃ. ἀπορῶν δὲ τῷ πράγματι ὁ Θεοφάνης, ἐδεδίει γὰρ τὸν Στράτων πλούτῳ τε καὶ γένει σχεδὸν ἁπάντων διαφέροντα τῶν Βοιωτῶν, τὴν αἵρεσιν ἐβούλετο τῷ Τροφωνίῳ ἐπιτρέψαι· καὶ ὁ Στράτων, ἀνεπέπειστο γὰρ ὑπὸ τῶν τῆς παρθένου οἰκετῶν, ὡς πρὸς αὐτὸν μᾶλλον ἐκείνη ῥέποι, ἠξίου ἐπ᾿ αὐτῇ ποιεῖσθαι τῇ γαμουμένῃ τὴν ἐκλογήν. ὡς δὲ τῆς παιδὸς ὁ Θεοφάνης ἐπυνθάνετο ἐν ὄψει πάντων, ἡ δὲ τὸν Καλλισθένην προύκρινεν, εὐθὺς μὲν ὁ Στράτων δῆλος ἦν βαρέως φέρων τὴν ἀτιμίαν· ἡμέρας δὲ διαλιπὼν δύο προσῆλθε τῷ Θεοφάνει καὶ τῷ Καλλισθένει, ἀξιῶν τὴν φιλίαν αὐτῷ πρὸς αὐτοὺς διαφυλάττεσθαι, εἰ καὶ τοῦ γάμου ἐφθονήθη ὑπὸ δαιμονίου τινός. οἱ δ᾿ ἐπῄνουν τὰ λεγόμενα, ὥστε καὶ ἐπὶ τὴν ἑστίασιν τῶν γάμων παρεκάλουν αὐτόν. ὁ δὲ παρεσκευασμένος ἑταίρων ὄχλον, καὶ πλῆθος οὐκ ὀλίγον θεραπόντων, διεσπαρμένους παρὰ τούτοις καὶ λανθάνοντας, ἕως ἡ κόρη κατὰ τὰ πάτρια ἐπὶ τὴν Κισσόεσσαν καλουμένην κρήνην κατῄει ταῖς Νύμφαις τὰ προτέλειαCθύσουσα, τότε δὴ συνδραμόντες πάντες οἱ λοχῶντες ἐκείνῳ συνελάμβανον αὐτήν. καὶ ὁ Στράτων γ᾿ εἴχετο τῆς παρθένου· ἀντελαμβάνετο δ᾿ ὡς εἰκὸς ὁ Καλλισθένης ἐν μέρει καὶ οἱ σὺν αὐτῷ, ἕως ἔλαθεν ἡ παῖς ἐν χερσὶ τῶν ἀνθελκόντων διαφθαρεῖσα. ὁ Καλλισθένης μὲν οὖν παραχρῆμα ἀφανὴς ἐγένετο, εἴτε διαχρησάμενος ἑαυτὸν εἴτε φυγὰς ἀπελθὼν ἐκ τῆς Βοιωτίας· οὐκ εἶχε δ᾿ οὖν τις εἰπεῖν ὅ τι καὶ πεπόνθοι. ὁ δὲ Στράτων φανερῶς ἐπικατέσφαξεν ἑαυτὸν τῇ παρθένῳ.

File:Pyxis01 pushkin.jpg
Wedding Preparation Vase, Wikimedia Commons

Telesilla: Argive Woman, Warrior Poet

From Pausanias,  2.20.8-10

“Beyond the theater is the shrine of Aphrodite. In front of the foundation is a stele on which Telesilla, a poet of lyric, is depicted. Her books are tossed near her feet while she looks at the helmet she holds in her hand as she is about to put it on her head. Telesilla was famous among women and especially honored for her poetry.

But a greater story about her comes from when the Argives were bested by Kleomenes the son of Alexandrides and the Lakedaimonians. Some Argives died during the battle itself and however many fled to the grove of Ares died there too—at first they left the grove under an armistice but they realized they were deceived and were burned with the rest in the grove. As a result, Kleomenes led the Spartans to an Argos bereft of men.

But Telesilla stationed on the wall of the city all the slaves who were unable to bear arms because of youth or old age and, after collecting however many weapons had been left in homes or in the shrines, she armed all the women at the strongest age and once she had armed herself they took up posts were the army was going to attack.

When the Spartans came near and the women were not awestruck by their battle-cry but waited and were fighting bravely, then the Spartans, because they reasoned that if they killed the women the victory would be ill-rumored even as their own defeat would come with great insult, yielded to the women.

The Pythian priestess had predicted this contest earlier in the prophecy relayed by Herodotus who may or may not have understood it (6.77):

But when the female conquers the male
And drives him away and wins glory for the Argives,
It will make many Argive women tear their cheeks.

These are the words of the oracle on the women’s accomplishment.”

ὑπὲρ δὲ τὸ θέατρον ᾿Αφροδίτης ἐστὶν ἱερόν, ἔμπροσθεν δὲ τοῦ ἕδους Τελέσιλλα ἡ ποιήσασα τὰ ᾄσματα ἐπείργασται στήλῃ· καὶ βιβλία μὲν ἐκεῖνα ἔρριπταί οἱ πρὸς τοῖς ποσίν, αὐτὴ δὲ ἐς κράνος ὁρᾷ κατέχουσα τῇ χειρὶ καὶ ἐπιτίθεσθαι τῇ κεφαλῇ μέλλουσα. ἦν δὲ ἡ Τελέσιλλα καὶ ἄλλως ἐν ταῖς γυναιξὶν εὐδόκιμος καὶ μᾶλλον ἐτιμᾶτο ἔτι ἐπὶ τῇ ποιήσει. συμβάντος δὲ ᾿Αργείοις ἀτυχῆσαι λόγου μειζόνως πρὸς Κλεομένην τὸν ᾿Αναξανδρίδου καὶ Λακεδαιμονίους, καὶ τῶν μὲν ἐν αὐτῇ πεπτωκότων τῇ μάχῃ, ὅσοι δὲ ἐς τὸ ἄλσος τοῦ ῎Αργου κατέφευγον διαφθαρέντων καὶ τούτων, τὰ μὲν πρῶτα ἐξιόντων κατὰ ὁμολογίαν, ὡς δὲ ἔγνωσαν ἀπατώμενοι συγκατακαυθέντων τῷ ἄλσει τῶν λοιπῶν, οὕτω τοὺς Λακεδαιμονίους Κλεομένης ἦγεν ἐπὶ ἔρημον ἀνδρῶν τὸ ῎Αργος. Τελέσιλλα δὲ οἰκέτας μὲν καὶ ὅσοι διὰ νεότητα ἢ γῆρας ὅπλα ἀδύνατοι φέρειν ἦσαν, τούτους μὲν πάντας ἀνεβίβασεν ἐπὶ τὸ τεῖχος, αὐτὴ δὲ ὁπόσα ἐν ταῖς οἰκίαις ὑπελείπετο καὶ τὰ ἐκ τῶν ἱερῶν ὅπλα ἀθροίσασα τὰς ἀκμαζούσας ἡλικίᾳ τῶν γυναικῶν ὥπλιζεν, ὁπλίσασα δὲ ἔτασσε κατὰ τοῦτο ᾗ τοὺς πολεμίους προσιόντας ἠπίστατο. ὡς δὲ <ἐγγὺς> ἐγίνοντο οἱ Λακεδαιμόνιοι καὶ αἱ γυναῖκες οὔτε τῷ ἀλαλαγμῷ  κατεπλάγησαν δεξάμεναί τε ἐμάχοντο ἐρρωμένως, ἐνταῦθα οἱ Λακεδαιμόνιοι, φρονήσαντες ὡς καὶ διαφθείρασί σφισι τὰς γυναῖκας ἐπιφθόνως τὸ κατόρθωμα ἕξει καὶ σφαλεῖσι μετὰ ὀνειδῶν γενήσοιτο ἡ συμφορά, ὑπείκουσι ταῖς γυναιξί. πρότερον δὲ ἔτι τὸν ἀγῶνα τοῦτον προεσήμηνεν ἡ Πυθία, καὶ τὸ λόγιον εἴτε ἄλλως εἴτε καὶ ὡς συνεὶς ἐδήλωσεν ῾Ηρόδοτος·

ἀλλ’ ὅταν ἡ θήλεια τὸν ἄρρενα νικήσασα
ἐξελάσῃ καὶ κῦδος ἐν ᾿Αργείοισιν ἄρηται,
πολλὰς ᾿Αργείων ἀμφιδρυφέας τότε θήσει.

τὰ μὲν ἐς τὸ ἔργον τῶν γυναικῶν ἔχοντα τοῦ χρησμοῦ ταῦτα ἦν·

Telesilla

Plutarch, On the Virtues of Women 245d-f6 reports a version of this tale; the Suda (s.v. Telesilla) likely takes its account from Pausanias.

“Telesilla, a poetess. On a stele her books are tossed around and she has placed a helmet on her head. And When the Lakedaimonians slaughtered the Argives who had fled to a shrine and were heading to the city to sack it, then Telesilla armed the women of the right age and set them against where they were marching. When the Lakedaimonians saw this, they turned back because they believed it shameful to fight against women whom it would be inglorious to conquer but a great reproached to be defeated by….” [the oracle is listed next”

Τελέσιλλα, ποιήτρια. ἐπὶ στήλης τὰ μὲν βιβλία ἀπέρριπτε, κράνος δὲ τῇ κεφαλῇ περιέθηκε. καὶ γὰρ ὅτε Λακεδαιμόνιοι τοὺς ἐν τῷ ἱερῷ τοῦ ῎Αργους καταφυγόντας διέφθειρον καὶ πρὸς τὴν πόλιν ᾔεσαν ὡς αἱρήσοντες, τότε Τελέσιλλα τὰς ἐν ἡλικίᾳ γυναῖκας ὁπλίσασα ὑπήντησεν οἷ προσῄεσαν. ὅπερ ἰδόντες οἱ Λακεδαιμόνιοι ἐς τοὐπίσω ὑπέστρεψαν, αἰσχρὸν νομίσαντες γυναιξὶ πολεμεῖν, ἃς καὶ τὸ νικᾶν ἄδοξον καὶ ἡττᾶσθαι μέγα ὄνειδος. ἐς τοῦτο καὶ ὁ χρησμὸς πεπλήρωτο, ᾿Αργείοις λέγων· ἀλλ’ ὅταν ἡ θήλεια τὸν ἄρρενα νικήσασα ἐξελάσῃ καὶ κῦδος ᾿Αργείοισιν ἄρηται, πολλὰς ᾿Αργείων ἀμφιδρυφέας τότε θήσει.

The extant fragments of Telesilla are not much to work with (each line is a separate fragment:

ἁ δ’ ῎Αρτεμις, ὦ κόραι,

φεύγοισα τὸν ᾿Αλφεόν

φιληλιάς,

†βελτιώτας

δῖνον.

οὐλοκίκιννε

〚ποιητριαν〛

〚Τελεσ̣ι̣λ̣λα̣ν̣〛

Women Going Where They Shouldn’t? Earthquakes. Droughts. Portents!

Plutarch, Greek Questions 40

“Who was the hero Eunostos in Tanagra and why is entering his grove forbidden to women? Eunostos was the son of Kêphisos and Skias, but they say that his name comes from the nymph Eunosta who raised him. He was good-looking and just and no less wise and austere. They claim that one of the daughters of Kolônos, Okhna, who was Eunostos’ cousin, was in love with him. Eunostos, however, refused her when she approached him and, after insulting her, went to tell her brothers all about it.

The girl got there first and and pleaded with her brothers Ekhemos, Leôn, and Boukolos to kill Eunostos because he had raped her. They caught him by surprised and killed him and then Elieius imprisoned them. Then, Okhna changed her mind and was mourning terribly because she simultaneously wanted to be free of the pain from her love and she pitied her brothers.

So, she told Elieus the whole truth and he told Kolônos. By his judgment, the brothers were exiled and Ekhna threw herself from a cliff, as Myrtis the lyric poet from Anthedon records. This is why it is forbidden for women to enter or to even approach the shrine and grove of Eunostos—and why when there were often earthquakes, droughts, or different signs the people of Tanagra investigated and made a big deal of a woman nearing that place in secret.”

τίς Εὔνοστος ἥρως ἐν Τανάγρᾳ καὶ διὰ τίνα αἰτίαν τὸ ἄλσος αὐτοῦ γυναιξὶν ἀνέμβατόν ἐστιν; Ἐλιέως τοῦ Κηφισοῦ καὶ Σκιάδος Εὔνοστος ἦν υἱός, ᾧ φασιν ὑπὸ νύμφης Εὐνόστας ἐκτραφέντι τοῦτο γενέσθαι τοὔνομα. καλὸς δ᾿ ὢν καὶ δίκαιος οὐχ ἧττον ἦν σώφρων καὶ αὐστηρός. ἐρασθῆναι δ᾿ αὐτοῦ λέγουσιν Ὄχναν, μίαν τῶν Κολωνοῦ θυγατέρων ἀνεψιὰν οὖσαν. ἐπεὶ δὲ πειρῶσαν ὁ Εὔνοστος ἀπετρέψατο καὶ λοιδορήσας ἀπῆλθεν εἰς τοὺς ἀδελφοὺς κατηγορήσων, ἔφθασεν ἡ παρθένος τοῦτο πράξασα κατ᾿ ἐκείνου καὶ παρώξυνε τοὺς ἀδελφοὺς Ἔχεμον καὶ Λέοντα καὶ Βουκόλον ἀποκτεῖναι τὸν Εὔνοστον ὡς πρὸς βίαν αὐτῇ συγγεγενημένον. ἐκεῖνοι μὲν οὖν ἐνεδρεύσαντες ἀπέκτειναν τὸν νεανίσκον, ὁ δ᾿ Ἐλιεὺς ἐκείνους ἔδησεν. ἡ δ᾿ Ὄχνη μεταμελομένη καὶ γέμουσα ταραχῆς, ἅμα μὲν αὑτὴν ἀπαλλάξαι θέλουσα τῆς διὰ τὸν ἔρωτα λύπης, ἅμα δ᾿ οἰκτείρουσα τοὺς ἀδελφούς, ἐξήγγειλε πρὸς τὸν Ἐλιέα πᾶσαν τὴν ἀλήθειαν, ἐκεῖνος δὲ Κολωνῷ. Κολωνοῦ δὲ δικάσαντος οἱ μὲν ἀδελφοὶ τῆς Ὄχνης ἔφυγον, αὐτὴ δὲ κατεκρήμνισεν ἑαυτήν, ὡς Μυρτὶς ἡ Ἀνθηδονία ποιήτρια μελῶν ἱστόρηκε. τοῦ δ᾿ Εὐνόστου τὸ ἡρῷον καὶ τὸ ἄλσος οὕτως ἀνέμβατον ἐτηρεῖτο καὶ ἀπροσπέλαστον γυναιξίν, ὥστε πολλάκις σεισμῶν ἢ αὐχμῶν ἢ διοσημιῶν ἄλλων γενομένων ἀναζητεῖν καὶ πολυπραγμονεῖν ἐπιμελῶς τοὺς Ταναγραίους μὴ λέληθε γυνὴ τῷ τόπῳ πλησιάσασα.

Woman with mirror, Louvre CA587
Woman with mirror, Louvre CA587

The Difference between Retirement and Vacations

Dio Chrysostom, 20th Discourse, on Retirement

“What then do we call retirement and what people is it right to call retired? Should we call those people retiring who have stepped away from their appropriate work and actions? For example, if someone is Athenian and it is necessary that he join the army to defend the country when the Spartans are invading Attica or because Philip or other enemies are coming but he leaves for Megara or Aigina because he does not want to join the army or risk his life—should this person be called retired?

Or if someone who has acquired great wealth leaves the city in order to avoid paying taxes? Or what if someone who is capable of healing the sick, when his friends and neighbors are ill, leaves them and goes to some other country so that he might avoid getting ill and having the work of assisting them?

Or, if some other person, when it is necessary that he perform a duty for the city, to govern, or help the governors, or to act as a guard, does not want to lose sleep but, so that he will be exempt from all of them and no one will rebuke him or stop him from drinking and sleeping and taking it easy, he goes somewhere else too. Should this person be called retired? No, it is clear that these people are fleeing and running, and there is no excuse or forgiveness for this kind of leisure and vacation.

Instead, then, perhaps we must call “retiring” those who leave unprofitable matters or wastes of time which are not their concern and who provide themselves some kind of leisure from annoying frivolity. And yet, were that the case, the person who moves from one city to another or from one place to another should to be said to “retire”. For wherever this person goes there will be many obstacles which prevent proper accomplishment.

The truth is that being around someone too much either drinking or playing games or wasting time in the kinds of harmful and disadvantageous pastimes people find everywhere are these kinds of things—hanging around every person you meet chatting on and listening to worthless ideas, blathering on about the emperor’s concerns or those of that terrible person whoever he is. For the fool is not in control of his own mind, but he is bounced and led easily around by any random excuse or meeting.”

Τί γάρ ποτε τὸ τῆς ἀναχωρήσεώς ἐστι καὶ τίνας χρὴ τιθέναι τοὺς ἀναχωροῦντας; ἆρά γε τοὺς ἀπὸ τῶν προσηκόντων ἔργων αὐτοῖς καὶ πράξεων ἀφισταμένους, τούτους χρὴ φάσκειν ἀναχωρεῖν; οἷον εἴ τις Ἀθηναῖος ὤν, δέον αὐτὸν στρατεύεσθαι ὑπὲρ τῆς πατρίδος Λακεδαιμονίων εἰσβεβληκότων εἰς τὴν Ἀττικὴν ἢ Φιλίππου ἐπιόντος ἢ ἄλλων πολεμίων, ὁ δὲ ἀναχωρήσειεν εἰς Μέγαρα ἢ Αἴγιναν ἕνεκα τοῦ μὴ στρατεύεσθαι μηδὲ κινδυνεύειν, οὖτος ἂν ἀνακεχωρηκέναι λέγοιτο; ἢ εἴ τις συχνὴν οὐσίαν κεκτημένος ἕνεκα τοῦ διαφυγεῖν τὰς λειτουργίας ἀπέλθοι ἐκ τῆς πόλεως; ἢ εἴ τις ἰᾶσθαι τοὺς νοσοῦντας ἱκανὸς ὤν, καὶ φίλων δὴ καὶ ἐπιτηδείων αὐτῷ καμνόντων, ὅπως μὴ κακοπαθῇ καὶ πράγματα ἔχῃ τούτους θεραπεύων, ἀπολίποι τε αὐτοὺς καὶ ἀποδημήσειεν εἰς ἕτερον τόπον; ἢ εἴ τις ἄλλος, ἐν πόλει δέον ἐξετάζεσθαι καὶ αὐτόν, ἄρχειν καὶ ἀρχαῖς ὑπηρετεῖν καὶ φυλακάς τινας φυλάττειν, ἀγρυπνῶν μὴ βούλοιτο, ἀλλ᾿ ὅπως τούτων ἀπηλλαγμένος ἁπάντων ἔσται καὶ μηδὲ εἷς αὐτὸν ἐξελέγξει μηδὲ κωλύσει πίνοντα καὶ καθεύδοντα καὶ ῥᾳθυμοῦντα, ἑτέρωσε ἀποχωροῖ ποι—ἆρα τούτους ἀναχωρεῖν ῥητέον; ἀλλ᾿ οὗτοι μὲν δῆλον ὅτι φεύγουσί τε καὶ δραπετεύουσι, καὶ οὐκ ἂν εἴη πρόφασις αὐτοῖς οὐδὲ συγγνώμη τῆς τοιαύτης σχολῆς τε καὶ ἀποδράσεως.

Μὴ οὖν τοὺς ἀπὸ τῶν ἀνωφελῶν πραγμάτων καὶ τῶν οὐ προσηκουσῶν αὐτοῖς ἀσχολιῶν ἀπιόντας καὶ σχολήν τινα πορίζοντας αὑτοῖς ἀπὸ τῶν ἐνοχλούντων μάτην ῥητέον ὡς ἀναχωροῦντας. ἀλλ᾿ οὕτως μέν, οὐχ ὁ μεταβὰς ἐκ πόλεώς τινος εἰς ἑτέραν πόλιν ἢ ἐκ τόπου εἰς ἕτερον τόπον ἀναχωρεῖν λέγοιτ᾿ ἄν· ὅπου γὰρ ἂν ἀφίκηται, πολλὰ ἂν εἴη τὰ ἐμποδὼν αὐτῷ γιγνόμενα καὶ οὐκ ἐῶντα τὰ προσήκοντα ποιεῖν. καὶ γὰρ τὸ ἐπὶ πολύ τῳ ξυνεῖναι καὶ τὸ πίνοντα ἢ κυβεύοντα ἢ ἄλλο τι τῶν βλαβερῶν καὶ ἀσυμφόρων πράττοντα διατελεῖν, πανταχοῦ τοιαῦτά ἐστιν, καὶ τὸ συνδιατρίβειν ἀεὶ τῷ ἐντυχόντι ἀδολεσχοῦντα καὶ ἀκούοντα λόγων οὐδὲν χρησίμων ἢ περὶ τὰ βασιλέως πράγματα διατρίβειν ἢ τὰ τοῦ δεῖνος, ὡς ἔφη τις. οὐ γάρ ἐστιν ἀνόητος τῆς αὑτοῦ ψυχῆς κύριος, ἀλλὰ ῥεμβόμενός τε καὶ ἀγόμενος ῥᾳδίως ὑπὸ τῆς τυχούσης προφάσεως καὶ ὁμιλίας.

Image result for medieval manuscript holiday
Image from here

Make Up Words and Authorities Who Said Them!

Lucian, A Professor of Public Speaking, 17

“There are times when you yourself make up new and different words and decide to call one interpreter “fine-spoken”, another smart man “wise-brained”, or some dancer “hands-wise”. Let shamelessness be the one medicine you use if you offer a solecism or barbarism: immediately offer up the name of someone who doesn’t exist and never did—some poet or scholar—a wise man who was expertly precise in his language and condoned speaking in this way. But don’t read the classics at all, especially not the silly Isocrates, or the Demosthenes blessed with little skill, or the boring Plato. No! read only those speeches from those a little bit before our time and those things they call ‘practice-pieces” so you may have a supply of phrases you can use at the right time as if you were pulling something from a pantry.”

ἐνίοτε δὲ καὶ αὐτὸς ποίει καινὰ καὶ ἀλλόκοτα ὀνόματα καὶ νομοθέτει τὸν μὲν ἑρμηνεῦσαι δεινὸν “εὔλεξιν” καλεῖν, τὸν συνετὸν “σοφόνουν,” τὸν ὀρχηστὴν δὲ “χειρίσοφον.” ἂν σολοικίσῃς δὲ ἢ βαρβαρίσῃς, ἓν ἔστω φάρμακον ἡ ἀναισχυντία, καὶ πρόχειρον εὐθὺς ὄνομα οὔτε ὄντος τινὸς οὔτε γενομένου ποτέ, ἢ ποιητοῦ ἢ συγγραφέως, ὃς οὕτω λέγειν ἐδοκίμαζε σοφὸς ἀνὴρ καὶ τὴν φωνὴν εἰς τὸ ἀκρότατον ἀπηκριβωμένος. ἀλλὰ καὶ ἀναγίγνωσκε τὰ παλαιὰ μὲν μὴ σύ γε, μηδὲ εἴ τι ὁ λῆρος Ἰσοκράτης ἢ ὁ χαρίτων ἄμοιρος Δημοσθένης ἢ ὁ ψυχρὸς Πλάτων, ἀλλὰ τοὺς τῶν ὀλίγον πρὸ ἡμῶν λόγους καὶ ἅς φασι ταύτας μελέτας, ὡς ἔχῃς ἀπ᾿ ἐκείνων ἐπισιτισάμενος ἐν καιρῷ καταχρῆσθαι καθάπερ ἐκ ταμιείου προαιρῶν.

Illumination 1
Arrighi, Royal 12 C VIII f. 3v. Pandolfo Collenuccio of Pesaro (d. 1504), Lucian, Collenuccio’s Apologues

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

“[Drunk] Lips Sink Ships”: Plutarch on Why You Shouldn’t Drink Too Much Tonight

Plutarch, On Talkativeness 503e-f

“Every person who is orderly and proper, I believe, should take precautions against being drunk. For, while anger is insanity’s neighbor, according to some, drunkenness is his roommate. To put it differently, drunkenness is insanity but shorter-lived, but greater to blame, because there is some choice in the matter. And there is nothing which convicts being drunk as much as a lack of control and limit to speech. For, as the poet says, wine ‘makes a man sing, even if he is really wise and makes him laugh lightly and dance.’

And why is this very terrible? A song, a laugh, and a dance? None of these is so bad> But then ‘he lets out some word which would have been better unsaid.’ Now that is terrible and dangerous.”

Ἔτι τοίνυν τὸ μεθύειν πᾶς ἄνθρωπος αἰδήμων καὶ κόσμιος, οἶμαι, φυλάξαιτ᾿ ἄν· μανίᾳ γὰρ ὁμότοιχος μὲν ἡ ὀργὴ κατ᾿ ἐνίους, ἡ δὲ μέθη σύνοικος· μᾶλλον δὲ μανία τῷ μὲν χρόνῳ ἥττων, τῇ δ᾿ αἰτίᾳ μείζων, ὅτι τὸ αὐθαίρετον αὐτῇ πρόσεστι. τῆς δὲ μέθης οὐθὲν οὕτω κατηγοροῦσιν ὡς τὸ περὶ τοὺς λόγους ἀκρατὲς καὶ ἀόριστον· οἶνος γάρ, φησίν,3

ἐφέηκε πολύφρονά περ μάλ᾿ ἀεῖσαι,καί θ᾿ ἁπαλὸν γελάσαι καί τ᾿ ὀρχήσασθαι ἀνῆκε.

καὶ τί τὸ δεινότατον; ᾠδὴ καὶ γέλως καὶ ὄρχησις; οὐδὲν ἄχρι τούτων·

καί τι ἔπος προέηκεν, ὅπερ τ᾿ ἄρρητον ἄμεινον—τοῦτ᾿

ἤδη δεινὸν καὶ ἐπικίνδυνον.

Drinking Philosophy