The Difference between Being Tipsy and Being Drunk, A Critical Holiday Debate

N.B. ὁ νήφων, “sober”

ὁ ἀκροθώραξ, “tipsy”

ὁ μεθύων, “drunk”

ὁ δὲ παντάπασι μεθύων, “shit-faced”

Plutarch, Moralia 653: Table-Talk Book 3, Question 8

Why are those who are actually drunk, less messed up than those we call tipsy?

“Since we have hassled Aristotle,” my father said, “Shouldn’t we also try to say something particular about those who are called “tipsy”. For even though he was the sharpest in these kinds of explorations, he seems to me to have insufficiently examined the cause of this. For he says, I think, that it is possible for a sober man to make a judgment well and in line with reality while one who is pretty drunk is too wrecked to have control over his perception even as one who is only tipsy remains strong in imagination but has compromised logic. For this reason, he makes judgments and does it badly because he following imaginary things. What do you think about these things?” He said.

“When I was reading this,” I said, “the argument was fine regarding the cause. But if you want me to work up some contribution of my own, look first at whether we should credit the difference you have mentioned to the body. For, the tipsy mind alone is messed up, the body is still capable of serving impulses because it is not yet completely permeated. But when the body is overcome and soaked, it betrays its movements and ignores them and it does not move on to actual deeds. Those who have a body that still responds to them are reproved not by their lack of logical thought but by their greater strength.”

Then I said, “And, if we were to consider it from another principle, nothing stops the strength of wine from being variable and from changing alongside its amount. In the same way, fire, if it is measured, gives strength and hardness to pottery; but if it strikes it too much, it melts it and makes it liquid. In another way, spring revives and increases fevers as it begins while the heat of summer settles them and makes them desist.

Therefore, what prevents the mind, once it is moved by wine naturally, when it has been disturbed and excited, from calming and settling down as drinking increases? Hellebore has at its onset of purging pain for the body. But if less then the right amount is given, it disturbs but does not cleanse. And some people are made a little manic when they have a smaller does of sleeping medicine, but sleep once they take more.”

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Διὰ τί τῶν ἀκροθωράκων λεγομένων οἱ σφόδρα μεθύοντες ἧττον παρακινητικοί εἰσιν

 “Οὐκοῦν,” εἶπεν ὁ πατήρ, “ἐπεὶ παρακεκινήκαμεν τὸν Ἀριστοτέλη, καὶ περὶ τῶν ἀκροθωράκων τι καλουμένων ἴδιον ἐπιχειρήσομεν εἰπεῖν; οὐ γὰρ ἱκανῶς μοι δοκεῖ, καίπερ ὀξύτατος ὢν ἐν τοῖς τοιούτοις ζητήμασι, διηκριβωκέναι τὴν αἰτίαν. φησὶ γὰρ οἶμαι τοῦ μὲν νήφοντος εὖ καὶ κατὰ τὰ ὄντα κρίνειν τὸν λογισμόν, τοῦ δ᾿ ἄγαν μεθύοντος ἐκλελυμένην κατέχεσθαι τὴν αἴσθησιν, τοῦ δ᾿ ἀκροθώρακος ἔτι μὲν ἰσχύειν τὸ φανταστικὸν ἤδη δὲ τεταράχθαι τὸ λογιστικόν· διὸ καὶ κρίνειν καὶ κακῶς κρίνειν ἐπακολουθοῦντα7 ταῖς φαντασίαις. ἀλλὰ πῶς,” εἶπεν, “ὑμῖν δοκεῖ περὶ τούτων;”

 “Ἐμοὶ μέν,” ἔφην, “ἐπισκοποῦντι κατ᾿ ἐμαυτὸν ἀποχρῶν οὗτος ἦν πρὸς τὴν αἰτίαν ὁ λόγος· εἰ δὲ κελεύεις ἴδιόν τι κινεῖν, ὅρα πρῶτον εἰ τὴν εἰρημένην διαφορὰν ἐπὶ τὸ σῶμα μετοιστέον ἐστίν. τῶν γὰρ ἀκροθωράκων ἡ διάνοια μόνον τετάρακται, τὸ δὲ σῶμα ταῖς ὁρμαῖς ἐξυπηρετεῖν δύναται, μήπω βεβαπτισμένον· ὅταν δὲ κατασεισθῇ καὶ πιεσθῇ, προδίδωσι τὰς ὁρμὰς καὶ παρεῖται, μέχρι γὰρ ἔργων οὐ πρόεισιν· ἐκεῖνοι δὲ τὸ σῶμα συνεξαμαρτάνον ἔχοντες οὐ τῷ μᾶλλον ἀλογιστεῖν ἀλλὰ τῷ μᾶλλον ἰσχύειν ἐλέγχονται. ἀπ᾿ ἄλλης δ᾿,” εἶπον, “ἀρχῆς σκοποῦντι τοῦ οἴνου τὴν δύναμιν οὐδὲν κωλύει ποικίλην εἶναι καὶ τῇ ποσότητι συμμεταβάλλουσαν· ὥσπερ τὸ πῦρ τὸν κέραμον, ἂν μὲν ᾖ μέτριον, συγκρατύνει καὶ πήγνυσιν, ἂν δ᾿ ὑπερβολῇ πλήξῃ, συνέτηξε καὶ ῥεῖν ἐποίησεν· ἀνάπαλιν δ᾿ ἡ ὥρα τοὺς πυρετοὺς ἀρχομένη μὲν ἀνακινεῖ καὶ ἐκκαίει, προϊούσης δὲ μᾶλλον καθίστανται καὶ ἀπολήγουσιν. τί οὖν κωλύει καὶ τὴν διάνοιαν ὑπὸ τοῦ οἴνου φυσικῶς κινουμένην, ὅταν ταραχθῇ καὶ παροξυνθῇ, πάλιν ἀνίεσθαι καὶ καθίστασθαι πλεονάζοντος; ὁ γοῦν ἑλλέβορος ἀρχὴν τοῦ καθαίρειν ἔχει τὸ ταράττειν τὸν ὄγκον· ἂν οὖν ἐλάτων τοῦ μετρίου δοθῇ, ταράττει μὲν οὐδὲν δὲ καθαίρει. καὶ τῶν ὑπνωτικῶν ἔνιοι λαβόντες ἐνδοτέρω τοῦ μετρίου θορυβωδέστερον διατίθενται, πλέον δὲ λαβόντες καθεύδουσιν.

Tis the Season to Drink With Reason: Put a Philosopher in Charge!

In Plutarch’s “Table-Talk” we find three books of ten ‘conversation prompts’ followed by an imagined conversation based on them. Below is just the beginning of the discussion about what kind of a man should be named the symposiarch–a office tasked with setting the conversation, number of drinks, and strength of the wine during the symposium.

Table-Talk: Moralia 620: What kind of man should be in charge of drinking?

My brother-in-law Kratôn and my friend Theôn were at a drinking party when everyone was beginning to get tipsy but then calmed down and they began to speak about the symposiarch, because they were of the opinion that I should take up the duty and not allow an ancient custom to be abandoned by everyone. No, they thought I should renew it and reestablish the position’s authority over drinking parties and their rules. This seemed right to the other guests as well to the extent that they raised a shout and called on me to do the job.

Then I said, “Since this is agreed upon by all of you, I select myself as the symposiarch and I order the rest of you to drink as you would want to for the present, but Kratôn and Theôn—the men who introduced this idea and carried it, they must elaborate in brief outline what kind of many should be selected as symposiarch, and what goal he will make the priority of his office, and how he will apply the customs of the symposium. I entrust to them to choose their order of speaking.

They tried a little to deny what they were asked, but when everyone was insisting that they obey the leader and do what he asked. Kratôn first said that it is necessary that the chief of the guards be the most guardianly among them, as Plato says, and therefore the chief symposiast must be the most sympotic. And he explained “He is this kind of a man should he be neither easily overcome by drunkenness nor disinclined to drink, as Kuros used to say when he wrote to the Lakedaimonians that he was more kingly than his brother and could handle a lot of unmixed wine well. For a drunk is arrogant and rude but someone who doesn’t drink at all is a buzzkill and better suited to watching the children than running a drinking party.”

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Ποῖόν τινα δεῖ τὸν συμποσίαρχον εἶναι;

Κράτων ὁ γαμβρὸς ἡμῶν καὶ Θέων ὁ ἑταῖρος ἔν τινι πότῳ παροινίας ἀρχὴν λαβούσης εἶτα παυσαμένης λόγον ἐποιήσαντο περὶ τῆς συμποσιαρχίας, οἰόμενοί με δεῖν στεφανηφοροῦντα μὴ περιιδεῖν παλαιὸν ἔθος ἐκλειφθὲν παντάπασιν, ἀλλ᾿ ἀνακαλεῖν καὶ καταστῆσαι πάλιν τῆς ἀρχῆς τὴν νενομισμένην ἐπιστασίαν περὶ τὰ συμπόσια καὶ διακόσμησιν. ἐδόκει δὲ ταῦτα καὶ τοῖς ἄλλοις, ὥστε θόρυβον ἐκ πάντων καὶ παράκλησιν γενέσθαι.

“Ἐπεὶ τοίνυν,” ἔφην ἐγώ, “δοκεῖ ταῦτα πᾶσιν, ἐμαυτὸν αἱροῦμαι συμποσίαρχον ὑμῶν καὶ κελεύω τοὺς μὲν ἄλλους ὡς βούλονται πίνειν ἐν τῷ παρόντι, Κράτωνα δὲ καὶ Θέωνα, τοὺς εἰσηγητὰς καὶ νομοθέτας τοῦ δόγματος, ἔν τινι τύπῳ βραχέως διελθεῖν, ὁποῖον ὄντα δεῖ τὸν συμποσίαρχον αἱρεῖσθαι καὶ τί ποιούμενος τέλος ὁ αἱρεθεὶς ἄρξει καὶ πῶς χρήσεται τοῖς κατὰ τὸ συμπόσιον· διελέσθαι δὲ τὸν λόγον ἐφεξῆς αὐτοῖς ἐπιτρέπω.”. Μικρὰ μὲν οὖν ἠκκίσαντο παραιτούμενοι· κελευόντων δὲ πάντων πείθεσθαι τῷ ἄρχοντι καὶ ποιεῖν τὸ προσταττόμενον, ἔφη πρότερος ὁ Κράτων ὅτι δεῖ τὸν μὲν φυλάκων ἄρχοντα φυλακικώτατον, ὥς φησιν ὁ Πλάτων, εἶναι, τὸν δὲ συμποτῶν συμποτικώτατον. “ἔστι δὲ τοιοῦτος ἂν μήτε τῷ μεθύειν εὐάλωτος ᾖ μήτε πρὸς τὸ πίνειν ἀπρόθυμος, ἀλλ᾿ ὡς ὁ Κῦρος ἔλεγεν πρὸς Λακεδαιμονίους γράφων ὅτι τά τ᾿ ἄλλα τοῦ ἀδελφοῦ βασιλικώτερος εἴη καὶ φέροι καλῶς πολὺν ἄκρατον· ὅ τε γὰρ παροινῶν ὑβριστὴς καὶ ἀσχήμων, ὅ τ᾿ αὖ παντάπασι νήφων ἀηδὴς καὶ παιδαγωγεῖν μᾶλλον ἢ συμποσιαρχεῖν ἐπιτήδειος.

Dinner Conversation Prompts from Plutarch: Old Men and Strong Wine

If you experience any lulls in conversation during your holiday meals and gatherings, here’s another topic ready-to-hand.

Plutarch, “Table-Talk”, Moralia 624: Why Do Old Men Prefer Strong Wine?

“Next was examined the issue of old men, in particular why they enjoy drinking stronger wine. Some were supposing that their core, which is rather cold and difficult to warm, appearsto accord well with a stronger proof. This was not at all sufficient, in the light of cause nor in that they said anything true. For, in respect to the rest of the senses, the same thing happens: old men are hard to move, hard to change in regards to experiences of this sort, unless they fall on him with full strength and no subtlety. The reason for this is the decline of his constitution. Because it is weakened and dulled, it prefers to be struck hard.

Therefore stronger flavors are more to the taste of old men. Their sense of smell undergoes similar alterations regarding odors—for it is moved to pleasure by those that are really pure and pressing. Their sense of touch is harmed by scars and while they suffer wounds from time to time, they don’t really feel them. Similar too is their sense of hearing—musicians as they grow old play more sharply and loudly as if trying to wake up their senses with the clash  of sound. The treatment that gives steel an edge provides the body’s perception with breath. When this begins to surrender and is weak, the senses are left dull and muddy and needing some shaking—this is what need strong wine fills.”

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Διὰ τί μᾶλλον ἀκράτῳ χαίρουσιν οἱ γέροντες

Ἐζητεῖτο περὶ τῶν γερόντων, διὰ τί μᾶλλον ἀκρατοτέρῳ τῷ ποτῷ χαίρουσιν. οἱ μὲν οὖν κατεψυγμένην τὴν ἕξιν αὐτῶν καὶ δυσεκθέρμαντον οὖσαν οἰόμενοι διὰ τοῦτο τῇ σφοδρότητι τῆς κράσεως ἐναρμόττειν ἐφαίνοντο κοινόν τι καὶ πρόχειρον οὐχ ἱκανὸν δὲ πρὸς τὴν αἰτίαν οὐδ᾿ ἀληθὲς λέγοντες· καὶ γὰρ ἐπὶ τῶν ἄλλων αἰσθήσεων τὸ αὐτὸ συμβέβηκεν· δυσκίνητοι γάρ εἰσι καὶ δυσμετάβλητοι πρὸς τὰς ἀντιλήψεις τῶν ποιοτήτων, ἂν μὴ κατάκοροι καὶ σφοδραὶ προσπέσωσιν. αἰτία δ᾿ ἡ τῆς ἕξεως ἄνεσις· ἐκλυομένη γὰρ καὶ ἀτονοῦσα πλήττεσθαι φιλεῖ. διὸ τῇ τε γεύσει μάλιστα τοὺς δηκτικοὺς προσίενται χυμούς, ἥ τ᾿ ὄσφρησις αὐτῶν ὅμοια πέπονθε πρὸς τὰς ὀσμάς, κινεῖται γὰρ ὑπὸ τῶν ἀκράτων καὶ σφοδρῶν ἥδιον· ἡ δ᾿ ἁφὴ πρὸς τὰ ἕλκη δυσπαθής, τραύματα γὰρ ἐνίοτε λαμβάνοντες οὐ μάλα πονοῦσιν· ὁμοιότατον δὲ γίγνεται τὸ τῆς ἀκοῆς, οἱ γὰρ μουσικοὶ γηρῶντες ὀξύτερον ἁρμόζονται καὶ σκληρότερον οἷον ὑπὸ πληγῆς τῆς συντόνου φωνῆς ἐγείροντες τὸ αἰσθητήριον. ὅ τι γὰρ σιδήρῳ πρὸς ἀκμὴν στόμωμα, τοῦτο σώματι πνεῦμα παρέχει πρὸς αἴσθησιν· ἐνδόντος δὲ τούτου καὶ χαλάσαντος, ἀργὸν ἀπολείπεται καὶ γεῶδες τὸ αἰσθητήριον καὶ σφοδροῦ τοῦ νύττοντος, οἷον ὁ ἄκρατός ἐστι δεόμενον.

If I were in this conversation I would add: the older man also needs to urinate more frequently. A stronger drink means less liquid consumed for the desired result. And, therefore, fewer trips to the bathroom.

A Medical Justification for Taking Part in a Feast

Some helpful advice for all our friends taking part in feasts this week

Plutarch, Table Talk 662 c–d

“He said, ‘We only unwillingly and rarely use pain as a tool for treatment because it is the most violent. No one could expel pleasure from all the other medical interventions even if he wanted to—for pleasure accompanies food, sleep, baths, massages, and relaxation, all of which help to revive a sick person by wearing away foreign elements with a great abundance of what is natural.

What pain, what deprivation, what kind of poisonous substance could so easily and quickly resolve a disease that it, once it is cleansed at the right time, wine may also be given to those who want it? Food, when it is delivered with pleasure, resolves every kind of malady and returns us to our natural state, just as a clear sky returning after a storm.’”

“σμικρὰ γάρ,” ἔφη, “καὶ ἄκοντες ὡς βιαιοτάτῳ τῶν ὀργάνων ἀλγηδόνι προσχρώμεθα· τῶν δ᾿ ἄλλων οὐδεὶς ἂν οὐδὲ βουλόμενος ἀπώσαιτο τὴν ἡδονήν, ἀλλὰ καὶ τροφαῖς καὶ ὕπνοις καὶ περὶ λουτρὰ καὶ ἀλείμματα καὶ κατακλίσεις ἀεὶ πάρεστιν καὶ συνεκδέχεται καὶ συνεκτιθηνεῖται τὸν κάμνοντα, πολλῷ τῷ οἰκείῳ καὶ κατὰ φύσιν ἐξαμαυροῦσα τὸ ἀλλότριον. ποία γὰρ ἀλγηδών, τίς ἔνδεια, ποῖον δηλητήριον οὕτω ῥᾳδίως καὶ ἀφελῶς νόσον ἔλυσεν, ὡς λουτρὸν ἐν καιρῷ γενόμενον καὶ οἶνος δοθεὶς δεομένοις; καὶ τροφὴ παρελθοῦσα μεθ᾿ ἡδονῆς εὐθὺς ἔλυσε τὰ δυσχερῆ πάντα καὶ κατέστησεν εἰς τὸ οἰκεῖον τὴν φύσιν, ὥσπερ εὐδίας καὶ γαλήνης γενομένης.

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Le Banquet des Vœux du Paon, Jean Wauquelin, Les faits et conquêtes d’Alexandre le Grand, Flandre, atelier de Mons, 1448-1449, Paris, BnF

The Best Time For Sex? A Holiday Dinner Conversation Prompt

Plutarch, Moralia 653: Table-Talk—Book 3, Question 8: Concerning the Right Time for Sex

“Some young men who had not spent much time in classical literature were criticizing Epicurus, that it was not noble or necessary that he included a discussion about the right time for sex in his Symposium. For, they claimed that it was the worst kind of impropriety for an older man to talk about sexual matters during dinner when youths were present and to work through whether it was better after dinner or before dinner.

To this, some guests added that Xenophon used to take his dinner companions home after dinner not by foot but by horse to have sex with their wives. Zopyros the doctor—a man very familiar with Epicurus’ arguments, said that they has not read Epicurus’ Symposium very carefully. For, he did not put forth the problem as one based on a certain rule or established practice,  and then provide his arguments in its favor. Instead, he roused the youths after dinner for a walk and talked for the reason of instruction, to curb them from their desires, because sex is always a matter which might bring harm and which afflicts those worst who engage after food and drink.

He said, “If, indeed, this discussion were earnestly about sex, would it seem right not to examine the better opportunity and hour for doing these kinds of things? Would it be otherwise right for him to look look for another moment more opportune except at the symposium and the dinner table?”

 

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Περὶ καιροῦ συνουσίας

Νεανίσκοι τινὲς οὐ πάλαι τοῖς παλαιοῖς λόγοις προσπεφοιτηκότες ἐσπάραττον τὸν Ἐπίκουρον, ὡς οὐ καλὸν οὐδ᾿ ἀναγκαῖον ἐμβεβληκότα λόγον περὶ καιροῦ συνουσίας εἰς τὸ Συμπόσιον· μιμνήσκεσθαι γὰρ ἀφροδισίων ἄνδρα πρεσβύτερον ἐν δείπνῳ μειρακίων παρόντων καὶ διαπορεῖν, πότερον μετὰ δεῖπνον ἢ πρὸ δείπνου χρηστέον, ἐσχάτης ἀκολασίας εἶναι. πρὸς ταῦθ᾿ οἱ μὲν τὸν Ξενοφῶντα παρέλαβον ὡς ἀπάγοντα τοὺς συμπότας μετὰ δεῖπνον οὐχὶ βάδην ἀλλ᾿ ἐφ᾿ ἵππων ἐπὶ συνουσίας πρὸς τὰς γυναῖκας. Ζώπυρος δ᾿ ὁ ἰατρός, εὖ μάλα τοῖς Ἐπικούρου λόγοις ἐνωμιληχώς, οὐκ ἔφη προσέχοντας αὐτοὺς ἀνεγνωκέναι τὸ Ἐπικούρου Συμπόσιον· οὐ γὰρ ὥσπερ ἐξ ἀρχῆς τινος καὶ καταστάσεως τοῦτο πρόβλημα ποιησάμενον εἶτα λόγους ἐπ᾿ αὐτῷ περαίνειν, ἀλλὰ τοὺς νέους ἀνιστάντα μετὰ δεῖπνον εἰς περίπατον ἐπὶ σωφρονισμῷ διαλέγεσθαι καὶ ἀνακρούειν ἀπὸ τῶν ἐπιθυμιῶν, ὡς ἀεὶ μὲν ἐπισφαλοῦς εἰς βλάβην τοῦ πράγματος ὄντος, κάκιστα δὲ τοὺς περὶ πότον καὶ ἐδωδὴν χρωμένους αὐτῷ διατιθέντος. “εἰ δὲ δὴ καὶ προηγουμένως,” εἶπεν, “ἐζητεῖτο περὶ τούτου, πότερον οὐδ᾿ ὅλως ἐσκέφθαι καλῶς εἶχε τὸν βέλτιον μὲν ἐν καιρῷ καὶ μετὰ λογισμοῦ τὰ τοιαῦτα πράττειν, τὸν δὲ καιρὸν ἄλλως μὲν ἐπισκοπεῖν οὐκ ἄωρον ἐν δὲ συμποσίῳ καὶ περὶ τράπεζαν αἰσχρόν;

No Politics and Religion at Dinner? Try Love Instead

In one topics for “Table-Talk”, Plutarch suggests the effects of love on a poet as a starting point…Of course, if you want debates about Love, the Symposia of Plato and Xenophon are good inspirations too…

Plutarch: “Table-Talk” Moralia 622 Why Do We Say that Eros Teaches a Poet?

“The question “how it can be said truthful that “Love teaches the poet” even though he was songless before, was considered at Sossius’ house after some Sapphic verses were performed. Philoxenos claims that the Kyklops “cured love with well-voiced songs.”

Love is said to be clever at every kind of audacity and at furnishing ingenuity, just as Plato calls love “speedy” and “prepared for everything”. Indeed, love makes a quiet man talkative and the withdrawn man solicitous; it makes the carefree and easygoing person serious and sedulous. And what is especially wondrous, a cheap and miserly man, after he falls in love, becomes soft, compliant, and persuadable just as iron in fire.  Thus what seems like a joke is not completely absurd in the proverb “a lover’s purse is locked by an onion leaf”.

It has also been said that being in love is like being drunk. For it makes people hot, happy, and troubled–after they come into this state, they fall into speech that sounds like songs or verse. People claim Aeschylus wrote his tragedies while drinking, even completely drunk. My grandfather Lamprias was himself most innovative and insightful when he was drinking. He was in the habit of saying that just as with incense, he too was activated by warmth.

 In addition, people see the ones they want most sweetly—and are no less moved to praise them than to see them. In praise, love, voluble in everything, is the most effusive. When people are in love they want to persuade everyone how beautiful and good are the ones they love, because they believe it themselves.”

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Πῶς εἴρηται τὸ “ποιητὴν δ᾿ ἄρα Ἔρως διδάσκει”

Πῶς εἴρηται τὸ ποιητὴν δ᾿ ἄραἜρως διδάσκει, κἂν ἄμουσος ᾖ τὸ πρίν ἐζητεῖτο παρὰ Σοσσίῳ Σαπφικῶν τινων ᾀσθέντων, ὅπου καὶ τὸν Κύκλωπα “μούσαις εὐφώνοις ἰᾶσθαι” φησὶ “τὸν ἔρωτα” Φιλόξενος. ἐλέχθη μὲν οὖν ὅτι πρὸς πάντα τόλμαν ὁ ἔρως καὶ καινοτομίαν συγχορηγῆσαι δεινός ἐστιν, ὥσπερ καὶ Πλάτων “ἴτην” αὐτὸν καὶ “παντὸς ἐπιχειρητὴν” ὠνόμασεν· καὶ γὰρ λάλον ποιεῖ τὸν σιωπηλὸν καὶ θεραπευτικὸν τὸν αἰσχυντηλόν, ἐπιμελῆ δὲ καὶ φιλόπονον τὸν ἀμελῆ καὶ ῥᾴθυμον· ὃ δ᾿ ἄν τις μάλιστα θαυμάσειεν, φειδωλὸς ἀνήρ τε καὶ μικρολόγος ἐμπεσὼν εἰς ἔρωτα καθάπερ εἰς πῦρ σίδηρος ἀνεθεὶς καὶ μαλαχθεὶς ἁπαλὸς καὶ ὑγρὸς καὶ ἡδίων, ὥστε τουτὶ τὸ παιζόμενον μὴ πάνυ φαίνεσθαι γελοῖον ὅτι “πράσου φύλλῳ τὸ τῶν ἐρώντων δέδεται βαλλάντιον.”

Ἐλέχθη δὲ καὶ ὅτι τῷ μεθύειν τὸ ἐρᾶν ὅμοιόν ἐστιν· ποιεῖ γὰρ θερμοὺς καὶ ἱλαροὺς καὶ διακεχυμένους, γενόμενοι δὲ τοιοῦτοι πρὸς τὰς ἐπῳδοὺς καὶ ἐμμέτρους μάλιστα φωνὰς ἐκφέρονται· καὶ τὸν Αἰσχύλον φασὶ τὰς τραγῳδίας πίνοντα ποιεῖν καὶ διαθερμαινόμενον. ἦν δὲ Λαμπρίας ὁ ἡμέτερος πάππος ἐν τῷ πίνειν εὑρετικώτατος αὐτὸς αὑτοῦ καὶ λογιώτατος· εἰώθει δὲ λέγειν ὅτι τῷ λιβανωτῷ παραπλησίως ὑπὸ θερμότητος ἀναθυμιᾶται. καὶ μὴν ἥδιστα τοὺς ἐρωμένους ὁρῶντες οὐχ ἧττον ἡδέως ἐγκωμιάζουσιν ἢ ὁρῶσιν, καὶ πρὸς πάντα λάλος ὢν ἔρως λαλίστατός ἐστιν ἐν τοῖς ἐπαίνοις. αὐτοί τε γὰρ οὕτως πεπεισμένοι τυγχάνουσιν καὶ βούλονται πεπεῖσθαι πάντας ὡς καλῶν καὶ ἀγαθῶν ἐρῶντες.

A Conversational Prompt for Awkward Silences at Holiday Meals

In his “Table-Talk”, Plutarch provides a series of conversations on specific topics. Here’s the first. Win over new friends and impress your family by bringing these topics to holiday meals!

Table Talk, Moralia 612-613: Question 1:

“It is right to practice philosophy while drinking?”

The question of philosophizing while drinking has been put first of all—for you must remember that in Athens once there was a discussion after dinner whether it is right and what the limit is for having philosophical conversations while drinking. Ariston, one of those present, said “Dear Gods! Are there really people who don’t provide room for philosophers while drinking?”

I responded “Really, there are, my friend, and they say very seriously by way of explanation that philosophy has no more right to speak over wine than the lady of the house does. Indeed, they also claim that the Persians act rightly in drinking and dancing not with their wives but their mistresses instead.

They believe it is right that we introduce these things to our drinking party—acting, and music—and that we should not touch philosophy. For they also believe that it is not appropriate to play games with philosophy and that in these situations we are not in earnest moods. They claim, moreover, that Isocrates the sophist submitted to pleas to speak during wine only to say “I am skilled at matters not right for the present time; in matters right for the present time, I am not skilled.”

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“And so philosophers, whenever they engage in subtle and dialogic problems while drinking, annoy most people who cannot follow them. These guests in turn commit to singing any kind of song, nonsense stories, and talk of business and the market. The aim of the shared space of the party goes out the window and Dioynsus himself is offended. In the same way, when Phrynichus and Aeschylus added myths to tragedy and suffering, people asked “What has this to do with Dionysus?”

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Εἰ δεῖ φιλοσοφεῖν παρὰ πότον

Πρῶτον δὲ πάντων τέτακται τὸ περὶ τοῦ φιλοσοφεῖν παρὰ πότον. μέμνησαι γὰρ ὅτι, ζητήσεως Ἀθήνησι μετὰ δεῖπνον γενομένης εἰ χρηστέον ἐν οἴνῳ φιλοσόφοις λόγοις καὶ τί μέτρον ἔστι χρωμένοις, Ἀρίστων παρών, “εἰσὶν γάρ,” ἔφησε, “πρὸς τῶν θεῶν οἱ φιλοσόφοις χώραν ἐπ᾿ οἴνῳ μὴ διδόντες;”

Ἐγὼ δ᾿ εἶπον, “ἀλλὰ γὰρ εἰσίν, ὦ ἑταῖρε, καὶ πάνυ γε σεμνῶς κατειρωνευόμενοι λέγουσι μὴ δεῖν ὥσπερ οἰκοδέσποιναν ἐν οἴνῳ φθέγγεσθαι φιλοσοφίαν, καὶ τοὺς Πέρσας ὀρθῶς φασι μὴ ταῖς γαμεταῖς ἀλλὰ ταῖς παλλακίσι συμμεθύσκεσθαι καὶ συνορχεῖσθαι· ταὐτὸ δὴ καὶ ἡμᾶς ἀξιοῦσι ποιεῖν εἰς τὰ συμπόσια τὴν μουσικὴν καὶ τὴν ὑποκριτικὴν ἐπεισάγοντας φιλοσοφίαν δὲ μὴ κινοῦντας, ὡς οὔτε συμπαίζειν ἐκείνην ἐπιτήδειον οὖσαν οὔθ᾿ ἡμᾶς τηνικαῦτα σπουδαστικῶς ἔχοντας· οὐδὲ γὰρ Ἰσοκράτη τὸν σοφιστὴν ὑπομεῖναι δεομένων εἰπεῖν τι παρ᾿ οἶνον ἀλλ᾿ ἢ τοσοῦτον· ‘ἐν οἷς μὲν ἐγὼ δεινός, οὐχ ὁ νῦν καιρός· ἐν οἷς δ᾿ ὁ νῦν καιρός, οὐκ ἐγὼ δεινός.’”

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οὕτω τοίνυν, ὅταν οἱ φιλόσοφοι παρὰ πότον εἰς λεπτὰ καὶ διαλεκτικὰ προβλήματα καταδύντες ἐνοχλῶσι τοῖς πολλοῖς ἕπεσθαι μὴ δυναμένοις, ἐκεῖνοι δὲ πάλιν ἐπ᾿ ᾠδάς τινας καὶ διηγήματα φλυαρώδη καὶ λόγους βαναύσους καὶ ἀγοραίους ἐμβάλωσιν ἑαυτούς, οἴχεται τῆς συμποτικῆς κοινωνίας τὸ τέλος καὶ καθύβρισται ὁ Διόνυσος. ὥσπερ οὖν, Φρυνίχου καὶ Αἰσχύλου τὴν τραγῳδίαν εἰς μύθους καὶ πάθη προαγόντων, ἐλέχθη τὸ ‘τί ταῦτα πρὸς τὸν Διόνυσον;’