“After Oksulos, Laias, his son, held power, but I have learned that his descendants did not rule as kings. I am going to pass over them even though I know who they are, since I do not want my story to descend to talking about private citizens.
Later on, Iphitos, who was a descendant of Oksulos and around the same age as Lukourgos who wrong the laws for the Spartans, he organized the contests at Olympia and re-organized the Olympic festival and the truce from the beginning, since the games had been neglected for some amount of time. I explain this in the parts of my record which discuss the region of Olympia.
It was Iphitos’ responsibility to ask the god in Delphi for a relief from suffering since Greece was at that time especially suffering destruction from civil strife and epidemic disease. The story is that the Pythia commanded that Iphitos himself had to renew the Olympic Games along with the Eleians. Iphitos persuaded the Eleians to sacrifice to Herakles too, even though that had previously believed that Herakles was their enemy.
The inscription at Olympia claims that Iphitos was the child of Haimon. But most Greeks say that he was the son of Praksônides, not Haimôn. But the Eleians’ ancient writings attribute Iphitos to a father of the same name.”
“What else besides? Nothing really except for this. Athens has been a delight to me, when it comes to the city and its decoration and the love that its people show you, a certain kind of goodwill they have for us. But many things have been changed and philosophy is disordered this way and that. If there is anything left, it is Aristos’ and I am staying with him.
I left your, or rather ‘our’, friend Zeno to Quintus even though he is close enough that we are together the whole day. I wish that you will write me of your plans as soon as you can so I may know what you are doing and where you will be at which time and, especially, when you will be in Rome.
Quid est praeterea? nihil sane nisi illud: valde me Athenae delectarunt, urbe dumtaxat et urbis ornamento et hominum amore in te, in nos quadam benevolentia; sed mu<tata mu>lta.6 philosophia sursum deorsum. si quid est, est in Aristo, apud quem eram; nam Xenonem tuum vel nostrum potius Quinto concesseram, et tamen propter vicinitatem totos dies simul eramus. tu velim cum primum poteris tua consilia ad me scribas, ut sciam quid agas, ubi quoque tempore, maxime quando Romae futurus sis.
Cicero, de Fato 7-8 [discussing ideas of Chrysippus and Posidonius]
“We observe how much of a difference there is between the characters of various places: some are healthy, others are unhealthy; we see that people in some places are phlegmatic and like people who have too much moisture while others are dried out and thirsty. There are many other significant differences between different places.
Athens has a rare climate from which the residents of Attica are considered to be smarter than others; it is humid at Thebes, and so the Thebans are thick and strong. Nevertheless, that sterling Athenian environments will not ensure that anyone listens to Zeno or Arcesilas or Theophrastus any more than the thick Theban air will prepare someone better to win at Nemea than in Corinth.”
Inter locorum naturas quantum intersit videmus: alios esse salubres, alios pestilentes, in aliis esse pituitosos et quasi redundantes, in aliis exsiccatos atque aridos; multaque sunt alia quae inter locum et locum plurimum differant. Athenis tenue caelum, ex quo etiamacutiores putantur Attici, crassum Thebis, itaque pingues Thebani et valentes. Tamen neque illud tenue caelum efficiet ut aut Zenonem quis aut Arcesilam aut Theophrastum audiat, neque crassum ut Nemea
Valerius Maximus, 8 ext 5: Democritus Unknown in Athens
“Democritus could have been esteemed for his wealth which was so immense that his father was able to provide a feast to all of Xerxes’ army with ease. In order that he might focus a free mind on the study of literature, he donated his wealth to his country keeping only a very small part for himself.
Even though he stayed in Athens for many years and dedicated himself to gathering and using knowledge, he lived unknown in the city, which he attests too in a certain book. My mind is awestruck with admiration of such a work ethic. And now it moves to something else.”
Democritus, cum divitiis censeri posset, quae tantae fuerunt ut pater eius Xerxis exercitui epulum dare ex facili potuerit, quo magis vacuo animo studiis litterarum esset operatus, parva admodum summa retenta patrimonium suum patriae donavit. Athenis autem compluribus annis moratus, omnia temporum momenta ad percipiendam et exercendam doctrinam conferens, ignotus illi urbi vixit, quod ipse quodam volumine testatur. stupet mens admiratione tantae industriae et iam transit alio.
“Greece is the witness to this because it was set aflame with a desire for eloquence and has surpassed in it and exceeded other places But Greece also has greater antiquity in all arts which it not only discovered but perfected because the power and abundance of speaking was developed by the Greeks. When I consider Greece, Atticus, your Athens occurs to me especially and shines out like a lighthouse. It is here that an orator first showed himself and here that oratory began to be entrusted to monuments and writings.”
vii. Testis est Graecia, quae cum eloquentiae studio sit incensa iamdiuque excellat in ea praestetque ceteris, tamen omnis artis vetustiores habet et multo ante non inventas solum sed etiam perfectas, quam haec est a Graecis elaborata dicendi vis atque copia. In quam cum intueor, maxime mihi occurrunt, Attice, et quasi lucent Athenae tuae, qua in urbe primum se orator extulit primumque etiam monumentis et litteris oratio est coepta mandari.
“I wish you’d think about one thing also. I am hearing that Appius is building a gateway at Eleusis. Would we be fools if we made one at the Academia too? “I think so” you will answer. But, still, then—write this to me. I really do love Athens itself. I want there to be some memento in the city and I hate lying inscriptions on other’s statues. But do what pleases you. And let me know what day the Roman mysteries indicate and how the winter has been. Take care of yourself.”
Unum etiam velim cogites. audio Appium πρόπυλον Eleusine facere; num inepti fuerimus si nos quoque Aca<de>miae fecerimus? ‘puto’ inquies. ergo id ipsum scribes ad me. equidem valde ipsas Athenas amo; volo esse aliquod monumentum, odi falsas inscriptiones statuarum alienarum, sed ut tibi placebit, faciesque me in quem diem Romana incidant mysteria certiorem et quo modo hiemaris. cura ut valeas.
Idiôtai: Private individuals, used in place of citizens [politai]. This is how Thucydides uses it. But in the Frogs, Aristophanes calls idiots the people who are your own—“regarding strangers and idiots. It is derived from the word idios. And so idiôtês is what they call someone who is related to you by clan; but it is also an unlearned person. And in his Wealth, Aristophanes also uses idiôtikon as that which belongs to a person privately or idion as one’s own.
Idiôtês: someone who is illiterate. Damaskios writes about Isidore: “of all the idiots and all the philosophers of his time he was equally tight-lipped generally and he hid his thoughts. But he poured his mind out into the shared increase of virtue and the limit of vice.
ἰδιοποιέω: “to make separately” in the middle: “to appropriate to oneself”
ἰδιόσημος: “peculiar in signification”
ἰδιόστολος: “equipt at private expense”
ἰδιοσύγκριτος: “Peculiarly composed”
ἰδιόφωνος: “with one’s own voice”
ἰδιοφυής: “of peculiar nature”
ἰδιόχειρος: “written by one’s own hand”
ἰδίωμα: “a peculiarity”
Andocides, On His Return 2
“These men must be the dumbest of all people or they are the most inimical to the state. If they believe that it is also better for their private affairs when the state does well, then they are complete fools in pursuing something opposite to their own advantage right now. If they do not believe that they share common interests with you, then they must be enemies of the state”
ἰδιωτικός: “of or for a private person”; 2: “unprofessional, rude”
ἰδιωτισμός: “the way or fashion of a common person”
ἰδιωφελής: “privately profitable”
Epictetus, Encheiridion, 48
“The state and character of an ‘idiot’ is this: he never expects harm or help from himself, but he always looks elsewhere. This is the state and character of a philosopher: he expects all help and harm to come from himself
These are signs of someone making progress: he blames no one; praises no one; criticizes no one; impugns no one; and says nothing about himself as if he were someone or knew something. Whenever he meets an obstacle or is held back, he takes the blame. Whenever anyone praises him, he chuckles to himself while they praise. If someone criticizes him, he offers no defense. He proceeds just like the feeble, taking care not to disturb anything he is developing before it grows firm.
He has banished every desire from himself and he has admitted to disinclination only those aspects of nature which are under our control, He applies a disinterested impulse toward all things. Should he seem to be simple or unlearned, he doesn’t care. In sum, he guards against himself as if he were an enemy conspirator.”
For the past two weeks I have been traveling in India for a family wedding. It has been busy, but jetlag and odd hours didn’t keep me from reading about India in Greek sources. There is a surprising amount of material–most of it positioning India as ‘exotic’ and ‘mystic’ the way many Western stereotypes do. I barely touched the fragments of Megasthenes; I didn’t cite much from Strabo; and I didn’t even begin to introduce Roman sources (Pliny the Elder has a lot to say).
To be honest, there is a lot more material on India from the ancient world than I expected even without Roman accounts and the fantastic Alexander romance. I am surprised that there isn’t a monograph already published on the subject! But I suspect that other than being chock-full of titillating details, a monograph couldn’t say much more than India is the exotic other in the Greco-Roman mind: a binary, rather than polar, opposite, occupying a space between the fantasy and reality, between history and fiction. In a way, ‘India’ in the Greco-Roman mind might not be qualitatively different from ‘India’ in Western pop-culture today.
Here’s another dose:
Photius, Bilbiotheca, 72. 46b (=Ctesias of Cnidos)
“[Ctesias says that] in the middle of India there are black men who are called Pygmies and have the same language as other Indians, but they are really small. The tallest of them are only two cubits, but most of them only one and a half. They have extremely long hair, down to their knees and lower, and the largest beards of all men. When they grow their beards long, they don’t wear clothing anymore, but they wrap their hair around them from their head and fasten it below their knees and arrange their beard in the front down near their feet, essentially using their hair to cover their bodies instead of clothing.”
“Ctesias records these details and tells these stories and claims that he is writing the truest accounts, insisting that he saw some of the things himself and learned some of the them from others who witnessed them. He says that he left out many other more amazing details because those who had not witnessed them might consider the rest of what wrote incredible.”
“[Ctesias] spends much time on the justice of the Indians, their dedication to their king, and their contempt for death. He also says that there is a spring and when someone draws water from it, it becomes thick like cheese. If an amount of this ‘cheese’ as thick as three obols is crushed and mixed for drinking with water, whoever drinks it will announce everything he has ever done—for he will be out of his mind and crazy for an entire day. The king uses this mixture whenever he wishes to uncover the truth from accused men. If a man admits it, he is ordered to starve to death. If he reveals nothing, he is released.
He also says that no Indian has headaches, eye-disease, toothaches or ulcers in the mouth or anywhere on his body. Indians live 120, 130, 150 and even two hundred years.”
“In his second book of Indika, Megasthenes says that during dinnertime among the Indians each person receives a table of his own that is most like a tripod. On this is placed a golden serving-bowl into which thy first place rice, cooked the way someone might boil barley, and to which they add many delicacies prepared in Indian fashion.”