Sickness and Knowledge

Sophocles, Trachiniae 1120-1121

“Say what you need to and leave! I am sick
And I can’t understand any of your ancient subtleties”

εἰπὼν ὃ χρῄζεις λῆξον· ὡς ἐγὼ νοσῶν
οὐδὲν ξυνίημ᾿ ὧν σὺ ποικίλλεις πάλαι.

 

Euripides, Orestes, 229-230

“Look, when someone is sick, their bed is dear.
It may be an annoying thing, but it’s still what they need.”

ἰδού. φίλον τοι τῷ νοσοῦντι δέμνια,
ἀνιαρὸν ὄντα κτῆμ᾿, ἀναγκαῖον δ᾿ ὅμως.

314-315

“Even if someone isn’t sick, but thinks they are,
They are struck by exhaustion and helplessness.”

κἂν μὴ νοσῇ γάρ, ἀλλὰ δοξάζῃ νοσεῖν,
κάματος βροτοῖσιν ἀπορία τε γίγνεται.

395-396

[Menelaos] “What thing do you suffer? What disease destroys you?
[Orestes]: “Understanding—that I know the terrible things I have done.”

ΜΕΝΕΛΑΟΣ τί χρῆμα πάσχεις; τίς σ᾿ ἀπόλλυσιν νόσος;
ΟΡΕΣΤΗΣ ἡ σύνεσις, ὅτι σύνοιδα δείν᾿ εἰργασμένος.

Hans Sebald Beham, The Death of Herakles

Just Think Your Way Out of Sickness!

For more on plagues and leadership, see this post.

Aelian, Varia Historia 13.27

“Remember that Socrates’ body was thought to be orderly and in control of wisdom for this reason too. When the Athenians were suffering a pandemic and some were dying and others were near death, Socrates was the only one who was not sick. What mind do we think shared space with such a body?”

Ὅτι τὸ Σωκράτους σῶμα πεπίστευτο κόσμιον καὶ σωφροσύνης ἐγκρατὲς γεγονέναι καὶ ταύτῃ. ἐνόσουν Ἀθηναῖοι πανδημεί, καὶ οἱ μὲν ἀπέθνῃσκον, οἱ δὲ ἐπιθανατίως εἶχον, Σωκράτης δὲ μόνος οὐκ ἐνόσησε τὴν ἀρχήν. ὁ τοίνυν τοιούτῳ συνὼν σώματι τίνα ἡγούμεθα ἐσχηκέναι ψυχήν;

Apollonius of Tyana, 8.28

“Do these practices merely make a refinement of the senses or establish power over the greatest and most amazing forces? You need to see what I mean from different things, not the least of which were done during that epidemic in Ephesus.

When the disease was in the shape of an old beggar, I saw it and once I saw it I tackled it. I did not stop the disease but instead I destroyed it. The one I prayed to is clear as day in the temple which I built in thanks. It was for Herakles the Defender, the one I chose as a helper—because he is wise and brave, he once cleansed Elis of a plague and wiped away the waves of filth which the earth released when Augeas was tyrant.”

“Ἆρ᾿ οὖν τὸ οὕτως διαιτᾶσθαι λεπτότητα μόνον ἐργάζεται τῶν αἰσθήσεων ἢ ἰσχὺν ἐπὶ τὰ μέγιστά τε καὶ θαυμασιώτατα; θεωρεῖν δ᾿ ἔξεστιν ὃ λέγω καὶ ἀπ᾿ ἄλλων μέν, οὐχ ἥκιστα δὲ κἀκ τῶν ἐν Ἐφέσῳ περὶ τὴν νόσον ἐκείνην πραχθέντων· τὸ γὰρ τοῦ λοιμοῦ εἶδος, πτωχῷ δὲ γέροντι εἴκαστο, καὶ εἶδον καὶ ἰδὼν εἷλον, οὐ παύσας νόσον, ἀλλ᾿ ἐξελών, ὅτῳ δ᾿ εὐξάμενος, δηλοῖ τὸ ἱερόν, ὃ ἐν Ἐφέσῳ ὑπὲρ τούτου ἱδρυσάμην, Ἡρακλέους μὲν γὰρ Ἀποτροπαίου ἐστί, ξυνεργὸν δ᾿ αὐτὸν εἱλόμην, ἐπειδὴ σοφός τε καὶ ἀνδρεῖος ὢν ἐκάθηρέ ποτε λοιμοῦ τὴν Ἦλιν, τὰς ἀναθυμιάσεις ἀποκλύσας, ἃς παρεῖχεν ἡ γῆ κατ᾿ Αὐγέαν τυραννεύοντα.

File:Philosopher probably Apollonius of Tyana Heraklion museum original.jpg
Statue of a philosopher, probably Apollonius of Tyana. Late 2nd – 3rd century AD.

A Mind Devouring Sickness

Sophocles, Ajax, 621–635 (go here for the full text on the Scaife viewer)

“His mother, old age’s roommate
And pale in old age
When she hears he is afflicted with a mind-devouring sickness
Will not hold back her mourning,
Her mourning nor the pitiful lament of the nightingale
But she will wail the sharp funereal tones.
Strikes will sound as they fall on her breasts
And she will rip out her white hair.

Anyone who is pointlessly sick is better off
When he lies down with Hades.”

ἦ που παλαιᾷ μὲν σύντροφος ἁμέρᾳ,
λευκῷ τε γήρᾳ μάτηρ νιν ὅταν νοσοῦν-
τα φρενοβόρως ἀκούσῃ,
αἴλινον αἴλινον
οὐδ᾿ οἰκτρᾶς γόον ὄρνιθος ἀηδοῦς
σχήσει δύσμορος, ἀλλ᾿ ὀξυτόνους μὲν ᾠδὰς
θρηνήσει, χερόπληκτοι δ᾿
ἐν στέρνοισι πεσοῦνται
δοῦποι καὶ πολιᾶς ἄμυγμα χαίτας.
κρείσσων γὰρ Ἅιδᾳ κεύθων ὁ νοσῶν
μάταν

640-645

“Someone who is pointlessly sick
Is better when lying in Hades.
Look—one who came from one of the best lines
Of the much suffering Achaeans
Is no longer secure
In his childhood’s mind.
He wanders outside of it.
Miserable parent, what kind of a fate
remains for you to learn of your child,
the kind of life no other the descendants of Aiakos
faced before now.”

κρείσσων γὰρ Ἅιδᾳ κεύθων ὁ νοσῶν
μάταν,
ὃς εἷς πατρῴας ἥκων γενεᾶς ἄρι-
στα πολυπόνων Ἀχαιῶν,
οὐκέτι συντρόφοις
ὀργαῖς ἔμπεδος, ἀλλ᾿ ἐκτὸς ὁμιλεῖ.
ὦ τλᾶμον πάτερ, οἵαν σε μένει πυθέσθαι
παιδὸς δύσφορον ἄταν,
ἃν οὔπω τις ἔθρεψεν
αἰὼν Αἰακιδᾶν ἄτερθε τοῦδε.

Aelian Varia Historia, 9. 6-7

“Perikles, when he lost his sons in the plague, took their deaths most bravely and persuaded the Athenians to endure the deaths of their closest friends more graciously.

Xanthippe was in the habit of saying that even through endless troubles had afflicted Athens and themselves, she always saw the same expression on Socrates’ face when he left the home and returned. He kept a level response to all things and was always pleasant in attitude, above any kind of grief, and entirely stronger than fear.”

Ὅτι Περικλῆς ἐν τῷ λοιμῷ τοὺς παῖδας ἀποβαλὼν ἀνδρειότατα τὸν θάνατον αὐτῶν ἤνεγκε καὶ πάντας Ἀθηναίους εὐθυμότερον ἔπεισε τοὺς τῶν φιλτάτων θανάτους φέρειν.

Ἡ Ξανθίππη ἔφη μυρίων μεταβολῶν τὴν πόλιν <καὶ αὐτοὺς> κατασχουσῶν ἐν πάσαις ὅμοιον τὸ Σωκράτους πρόσωπον καὶ προϊόντος ἐκ τῆς οἰκίας καὶ ἐπανιόντος ἀεὶ θεᾶσθαι·ἥρμοστο γὰρ πρὸς πάντα ἐπιεικῶς, καὶ ἦν ἵλεως ἀεὶ τὴν διάνοιαν καὶ λύπης ὑπεράνω πάσης καὶ φόβου κρείττων παντὸς ὤν.

The Poor are Always Sick

Sophocles, fr. 354 [perhaps from the Creusa]

“Don’t be at all surprised that I hold on to my money,
Lord, Even mortals who have immense wealth
Still clutch to profits when humans put everything
In second place after money.
Some people envy the person who isn’t sick.
But no poor person seems healthy to me—the poor are always sick.”

καὶ μή τι θαυμάσῃς με τοῦ κέρδους, ἄναξ,
ὧδ᾿ ἀντέχεσθαι. καὶ γὰρ οἳ πλοῦτον μακρὸν
θνητῶν ἔχουσι, τοῦ γε κερδαίνειν ὅμως
ἀπρὶξ ἔχονται, κἄστι πρὸς τὰ χρήματα
θνητοῖσι τἆλλα δεύτερ᾿. εἰσὶ δ᾿ οἵτινες
αἰνοῦσιν ἄνοσον ἄνδρ᾿· ἐμοὶ δ᾿ οὐδεὶς δοκεῖ
εἶναι πένης ὢν ἄνοσος, ἀλλ᾿ ἀεὶ νοσεῖν.

Fr. 256

“The most noble thing is to be just.
The best thing is to live without sickness.
But the most pleasurable is to have the power
To take what you want every day.”

κάλλιστόν ἐστι τοὔνδικον πεφυκέναι,
λῷστον δὲ τὸ ζῆν ἄνοσον, ἥδιστον δ᾿ ὅτῳ
πάρεστι λῆψις ὧν ἐρᾷ καθ᾿ ἡμέραν

Asclepius arrives in Kos, Greeted by Hippocrates

Instructors of Evil

Euripides, Andromache 940-951

“I had great wealth and I was ruling my home.
I would have had noble children some day
And she would only give birth to half-slave bastards for them.
But never and I say it over and over, never
Should anyone who has any sense at all and a wife
Allow other women to come to visit them!

These women are instructors of evils.
One ruins a marriage because she hopes to gain something,
While another who’s afflicted wants someone to be sick with.
Many more act because of native vice—and this is how
The homes of men grow diseased.”

πολὺς μὲν ὄλβος, δωμάτων δ᾿ ἠνάσσομεν,
παῖδας δ᾿ ἐγὼ μὲν γνησίους ἔτικτον ἄν,
ἡ δ᾿ ἡμιδούλους τοῖς ἐμοῖς νοθαγενεῖς.
ἀλλ᾿ οὔποτ᾿ οὔποτ᾿ (οὐ γὰρ εἰσάπαξ ἐρῶ)
χρὴ τούς γε νοῦν ἔχοντας, οἷς ἔστιν γυνή,
πρὸς τὴν ἐν οἴκοις ἄλοχον ἐσφοιτᾶν ἐᾶν
γυναῖκας· αὗται γὰρ διδάσκαλοι κακῶν·
ἡ μέν τι κερδαίνουσα συμφθείρει λέχος,
ἡ δ᾿ ἀμπλακοῦσα συννοσεῖν αὑτῇ θέλει,
πολλαὶ δὲ μαργότητι· κἀντεῦθεν δόμοι
νοσοῦσιν ἀνδρῶν. …

954-6

“You’ve laid into your kindred with your tongue too much!
Such things are forgivable for you now, but still
Women must work to cover up women’s afflictions!”

ἄγαν ἐφῆκας γλῶσσαν ἐς τὸ σύμφυτον.
συγγνωστὰ μέν νυν σοὶ τάδ᾿, ἀλλ᾿ ὅμως χρεὼν
κοσμεῖν γυναῖκας τὰς γυναικείας νόσους.

Frederic Leighton, “Captive Andromache”

and here’s a performance of sections of this play from Reading Greek Tragedy Online:

 

The Sickness of the Soul: Cicero on Irrational Hate

Cicero, Tusculan Disputations 5.25-6 (Full text on the Scaife viewer)

“Furthermore, for these things it is believed that their opposites are born from fear, just as in hatred of women as in the Misogunos of Atilius or that against the whole race of humankind which we have heard that Timon who is called the Misanthrope felt or even being inhospitable.

All these diseases of the soul develop from a special fear of those things which people fear and then hate. They define a disease of the soul, moreover, as a vehement belief about a thing which is not desired even though it is anticipated powerfully, a belief which is constant and deeply held.”

Quae autem sunt his contraria, ea nasci putantur a metu, ut odium mulierum, quale in Μισογύνῳ Atilii1 est, ut in hominum universum genus, quod accepimus de Timone, qui μισάνθρωπος appellatur, ut inhospitalitas est: quae omnes aegrotationes animi ex quodam metu nascuntur earum rerum, quas fugiunt et oderunt. Definiunt autem animi aegrotationem opinationem vehementem de re non expetenda, tamquam valde expetenda sit, inhaerentem et penitus insitam.

Royal 15 D V   f. 107v
2nd half of the 15th century, Royal MS 15 D V, f. 107v

Taking the Cure in Isolation

Apuleius, Metamorphoses 4.1

“Around noon, when the sun’s flame was already hot, we turned off in some village to the home of some old men known well to the thieves. This was easy to understand for even a donkey thanks to the prolonged conversation and shared kisses. They also gave some gifts to them which I had carried on my back and seemed to relate that they were obtained through theft with secret whispers. Once we were unburdened of every bag, they left us to amble and eat in a field next to the home.

But I was not really drawn to a pastoral communion with either the ass or my old horse and I was also not quite used to eating grass. I could see a garden on the other side of the stable, so I broke into it, already wracked by hunger. I filled my stomach immediately with those vegetables, even though they were raw, and I was saying a little prayer to all the gods as I looked around the place, hoping I might find the light of rose bushes in the nearby gardens.

This isolation was providing me confidence I did not have before, if once I was away from the road and hidden by bushes, I could eat the medicine and rise from the curved-hoof of four-footed pack animal to stand straight like a man, while no one was looking.”

Diem ferme circa medium, cum iam flagrantia solis caleretur, in pago quodam apud notos ac familiares latronibus senes devertimus. Sic enim primus aditus et sermo prolixus et oscula mutua quamvis asino sentire praestabant. Nam et rebus eos quibusdam dorso meo depromptis munerabantur, et secretis gannitibus quod essent latrocinio partae videbantur indicare. Iamque nos omni sarcina levatos in pratum proximum passim libero pastui tradidere. Nec me cum asino vel equo meo compascuus coetus attinere potuit, adhuc insolitum alioquin prandere faenum; sed plane pone stabulum prospectum hortulum iam fame perditus fidenter invado, et quamvis crudis holeribus affatim tamen ventrem sagino, deosque comprecatus omnes cuncta prospectabam loca, sicubi forte conterminis in hortulis candens reperirem rosarium. Nam et ipsa solitudo iam mihi bonam fiduciam tribuebat, si devius et frutectis absconditus, sumpto remedio, de iumenti quadripedis incurvo gradu rursum erectus in hominem inspectante nullo resurgerem.

Nicolai Abildgaard – Fotis sees her Lover Lucius Transformed into an Ass. Motif from Apeleius’ The Golden Ass

A Mind Devouring Sickness

Sophocles, Ajax, 621–635 (go here for the full text on the Scaife viewer)

“His mother, old age’s roommate
And pale in old age
When she hears he is afflicted with a mind-devouring sickness
Will not hold back her mourning,
Her mourning nor the pitiful lament of the nightingale
But she will wail the sharp funereal tones.
Strikes will sound as they fall on her breasts
And she will rip out her white hair.

Anyone who is pointlessly sick is better off
When he lies down with Hades.”

ἦ που παλαιᾷ μὲν σύντροφος ἁμέρᾳ,
λευκῷ τε γήρᾳ μάτηρ νιν ὅταν νοσοῦν-
τα φρενοβόρως ἀκούσῃ,
αἴλινον αἴλινον
οὐδ᾿ οἰκτρᾶς γόον ὄρνιθος ἀηδοῦς
σχήσει δύσμορος, ἀλλ᾿ ὀξυτόνους μὲν ᾠδὰς
θρηνήσει, χερόπληκτοι δ᾿
ἐν στέρνοισι πεσοῦνται
δοῦποι καὶ πολιᾶς ἄμυγμα χαίτας.
κρείσσων γὰρ Ἅιδᾳ κεύθων ὁ νοσῶν
μάταν

640-645

“Someone who is pointlessly sick
Is better when lying in Hades.
Look—one who came from one of the best lines
Of the much suffering Achaeans
Is no longer secure
In his childhood’s mind.
He wanders outside of it.
Miserable parent, what kind of a fate
remains for you to learn of your child,
the kind of life no other the descendants of Aiakos
faced before now.”

κρείσσων γὰρ Ἅιδᾳ κεύθων ὁ νοσῶν
μάταν,
ὃς εἷς πατρῴας ἥκων γενεᾶς ἄρι-
στα πολυπόνων Ἀχαιῶν,
οὐκέτι συντρόφοις
ὀργαῖς ἔμπεδος, ἀλλ᾿ ἐκτὸς ὁμιλεῖ.
ὦ τλᾶμον πάτερ, οἵαν σε μένει πυθέσθαι
παιδὸς δύσφορον ἄταν,
ἃν οὔπω τις ἔθρεψεν
αἰὼν Αἰακιδᾶν ἄτερθε τοῦδε.

Aelian Varia Historia, 9. 6-7

“Perikles, when he lost his sons in the plague, took their deaths most bravely and persuaded the Athenians to endure the deaths of their closest friends more graciously.

Xanthippe was in the habit of saying that even through endless troubles had afflicted Athens and themselves, she always saw the same expression on Socrates’ face when he left the home and returned. He kept a level response to all things and was always pleasant in attitude, above any kind of grief, and entirely stronger than fear.”

Ὅτι Περικλῆς ἐν τῷ λοιμῷ τοὺς παῖδας ἀποβαλὼν ἀνδρειότατα τὸν θάνατον αὐτῶν ἤνεγκε καὶ πάντας Ἀθηναίους εὐθυμότερον ἔπεισε τοὺς τῶν φιλτάτων θανάτους φέρειν.

Ἡ Ξανθίππη ἔφη μυρίων μεταβολῶν τὴν πόλιν <καὶ αὐτοὺς> κατασχουσῶν ἐν πάσαις ὅμοιον τὸ Σωκράτους πρόσωπον καὶ προϊόντος ἐκ τῆς οἰκίας καὶ ἐπανιόντος ἀεὶ θεᾶσθαι·ἥρμοστο γὰρ πρὸς πάντα ἐπιεικῶς, καὶ ἦν ἵλεως ἀεὶ τὴν διάνοιαν καὶ λύπης ὑπεράνω πάσης καὶ φόβου κρείττων παντὸς ὤν.

Peoples of Much Suffering: Look

Euripides, Orestes 1-3

“There is nothing so terrible, as the saying goes,
No suffering or affliction sent by the gods
No burden that a human cannot naturally endure.”

Οὐκ ἔστιν οὐδὲν δεινόν, ὧδ᾿ εἰπεῖν ἔπος,
οὐδὲ πάθος οὐδὲ ξυμφορὰ θεήλατος,
ἧς οὐκ ἂν ἄραιτ᾿ ἄχθος ἀνθρώπου φύσις.

100

“You have spoken rightly, but you don’t speak kindly to me”

ὀρθῶς ἔλεξας· οὐ φίλως δέ μοι λέγεις.

200-207

“We are ruined, like corpses, we are dead.
This one goes among the dead and the greater share
Of my life goes there too
In weeping and mourning
And tears in the night
Unmarried without children I drag out
An unlivable life for the rest of my time.”

ὀλόμεθ᾿ ἰσονέκυες ὀλόμεθα.
ὅδε γὰρ ἐν νεκροῖς τό τ᾿ ἐμὸν οἴχεται
βίου τὸ πλέον μέρος· ἐν
στοναχαῖσι δὲ καὶ γόοισι
δάκρυσί τ᾿ ἐννυχίοις
ἄγαμος ἄτεκνος ἔτι <βίον ἀ>βίοτον ἁ
μέλεος ἐς τὸν αἰὲν ἕλκω χρόνον.

231-1

“Sit me up again. Turn my body around.
It is hard to make the sick feel better because of this helplessness.”

αὖθίς μ᾿ ἐς ὀρθὸν στῆσον, ἀνακύκλει δέμας·
δυσάρεστον οἱ νοσοῦντες ἀπορίας ὕπο.

418

“We are slaves of the gods, whatever it is that “gods” are.”

δουλεύομεν θεοῖς, ὅ τι ποτ᾿ εἰσὶν οἱ θεοί.

977-981

“Peoples of much suffering: look how fate
Tramples on your hopes.
Different pains visit different people
Over the span of time:
The whole expanse of mortal lives cannot be measured”

ἔθνη πολύπονα, λεύσσεθ᾿ ὡς παρ᾿ ἐλπίδας
μοῖρα βαίνει.
ἕτερα δ᾿ ἕτερον ἀμείβεται
πήματ᾿ ἐν χρόνῳ μακρῷ,
βροτῶν δ᾿ ὁ πᾶς ἀστάθμητος αἰών.

Death and the Miser, Hieronymus Bosch

Sickness and Knowledge

Sophocles, Trachiniae 1120-1121

“Say what you need to and leave! I am sick
And I can’t understand any of your ancient subtleties”

εἰπὼν ὃ χρῄζεις λῆξον· ὡς ἐγὼ νοσῶν
οὐδὲν ξυνίημ᾿ ὧν σὺ ποικίλλεις πάλαι.

 

Euripides, Orestes, 229-230

“Look, when someone is sick, their bed is dear.
It may be an annoying thing, but it’s still what they need.”

ἰδού. φίλον τοι τῷ νοσοῦντι δέμνια,
ἀνιαρὸν ὄντα κτῆμ᾿, ἀναγκαῖον δ᾿ ὅμως.

314-315

“Even if someone isn’t sick, but thinks they are,
They are struck by exhaustion and helplessness.”

κἂν μὴ νοσῇ γάρ, ἀλλὰ δοξάζῃ νοσεῖν,
κάματος βροτοῖσιν ἀπορία τε γίγνεται.

395-396

[Menelaos] “What thing do you suffer? What disease destroys you?
[Orestes]: “Understanding—that I know the terrible things I have done.”

ΜΕΝΕΛΑΟΣ τί χρῆμα πάσχεις; τίς σ᾿ ἀπόλλυσιν νόσος;
ΟΡΕΣΤΗΣ ἡ σύνεσις, ὅτι σύνοιδα δείν᾿ εἰργασμένος.

Hans Sebald Beham, The Death of Herakles