Symposiacs, by Plutarch

Book V.

What is your opinion at present, Sossius Senecio, of the pleasures of mind and body, is not evident to me;

Because us two a thousand things divide,
Vast shady hills, and the rough ocean’s tide.
(“Iliad” i. 156)

But formerly, I am sure, you did not lean to nor like their opinion, who will not allow the soul to have any proper agreeable pleasure, which without respect to the body she desires for herself; but define that she lives as a form assistant to the body, is directed by the passions of it, and, as that is affected, is either pleased or grieved, or, like a looking-glass, only receives the images of those sensible impressions made upon the body. This sordid and debasing opinion is especially confuted as follows; for at a feast, the genteel well-bred men after supper fall upon some topic or another as second course, and cheer one another by their pleasant talk. Now the body hath very little or no share in this; which evidently proves that this is a particular banquet for the soul, and that those pleasures are peculiar to her, and different from those which pass to her through the body and are vitiated thereby. Now, as nurses, when they feed children, taste a little of their pap, and have but little pleasure therefrom, but when the infants are satisfied, leave crying, and go to sleep, then being at their own disposal, they take such meat and drink as is agreeable to their own bodies; thus the soul partakes of the pleasures that arise from eating and drinking, like a nurse, being subservient to the appetites of the body, kindly yielding to its necessities and wants, and calming its desires; but when that is satisfied and at rest, then being free from her business and servile employment, she seeks her own proper pleasures, revels on discourse, problems, stories, curious questions, or subtle resolutions. Nay, what shall a man say, when he sees the dull unlearned fellows after supper minding such pleasures as have not the least relation to the body? They tell tales, propose riddles, or set one another a-guessing at names, comprised and hid under such and such numbers. Thus mimics, drolls, Menander and his actors were admitted into banquets, not because they can free the eye from any pain, or raise any tickling motion in the flesh; but because the soul, being naturally philosophical and a lover of instruction, covets its own proper pleasure and satisfaction, when it is free from the trouble of looking after the body.


Why We Take Delight in Hearing Those that Represent the Passions of Men Angry or Sorrowful, and Yet Cannot Without Concern Behold Those Who are Really So Affected?


Of this we discoursed in your company at Athens, when Strato the comedian (for he was a man of great credit) flourished. For being entertained at supper by Boethus the Epicurean, with a great many more of the sect, as it usually happens when learned and inquisitive men meet together, the remembrance of the comedy led us to this inquiry — Why we are disturbed at the real voices of men, either angry, pensive, or afraid, and yet are delighted to hear others represent them, and imitate their gestures, speeches, and exclamations. Every one in the company gave almost the same reason. For they said, he that only represents excels him that really feels, inasmuch as he doth not suffer the misfortunes; which we knowing are pleased and delighted on that account.

But I, though it was not properly my talent, said that we, being by nature rational and lovers of ingenuity, are delighted with and admire everything that is artificially and ingeniously contrived. For as a bee, naturally loving sweet things, seeks after and flies to anything that has any mixture of honey in it; so man, naturally loving ingenuity and elegancy, is very much inclined to accept and highly approve every word or action that is seasoned with wit and judgement. Thus, if any one offers a child a piece of bread, and at the same time, a little dog or ox made in paste, we shall see the boy run eagerly to the latter; so likewise if anyone, offers silver in the lump, and another a beast or a cup of the same metal, he will rather choose that in which he sees a mixture of art and reason. Upon the same account it is that a child is much in love with riddles, and such fooleries as are difficult and intricate; for whatever is curious and subtle doth attract and allure mankind, as antecedently to all instruction agreeable and proper to it. And therefore, because he that is really affected with grief or anger presents us with nothing but the common bare passion, but in the imitation some dexterity and persuasiveness appears, we are naturally inclined to be disturbed at the former, whilst the latter delights us. It is unpleasant to see a sick man, or one at his last gasp; yet with content we can look upon the picture of Philoctetes, or the statue of Jocasta, in whose face it is commonly said that the workmen mixed silver, so that the brass might depict the face and color of one ready to faint and expire. And this, said I, the Cyrenaics may use as a strong argument against you Epicureans, that all the sense of pleasure which arises from the working of any object on the ear or eye is not in those organs, but in the intellect itself. Thus the continual cackling of a hen or cawing of a crow is very ungrateful and disturbing; yet he that imitates those noises well pleases the hearers. Thus to behold a consumptive man is no delightful spectacle; yet with pleasure we can view the pictures and statues of such persons, because the very imitating hath something in it very agreeable to the mind, which allures and captivates its faculties. For upon what other account, for God’s sake, from what external impression upon our organs, should men be moved to admire Parmeno’s sow so much as to pass it into a proverb? Yet it is reported, that Parmeno being very famous for imitating the grunting of a pig, some endeavoured to rival and outdo him. And when the hearers, being prejudiced, cried out, Very well indeed, but nothing comparable to Parmeno’s sow; one took a pig under his arm and came upon the stage. And when, though they heard the very pig, they still continued, This is nothing comparable to Parmeno’s sow; he threw his pig amongst them, to show that they judged according to opinion and not truth. And hence it is very evident, that like motions of the sense do not always raise like affections in the mind, when there is not an opinion that the thing done was not neatly and ingeniously performed.


That the Prize for Poets at the Games Was Ancient.

At the solemnity of the Pythian names, there was a consult about taking away all such sports as had lately crept in and were not of ancient institution. For after they had taken in the tragedy in addition to the three ancient, which were as old as the solemnity itself, the Pythian piper, the harper, and the singer to the harp, as if a large gate were opened, they could not keep out an infinite crowd of plays and musical entertainments of all sorts that rushed in after him. Which indeed made no unpleasant variety, and increased the company, but yet impaired the gravity and neatness of the solemnity. Besides it must create a great deal of trouble to the umpires, and considerable dissatisfaction to very many, since but few could obtain the prize. It was chiefly agreed upon, that the orators and poets should be removed; and this determination did not proceed from any hatred to learning, but forasmuch as such contenders are the most noted and worthiest men of all, therefore they reverence them, and were troubled that, when they must judge every one very deserving, they could not bestow the prize equally upon all. I, being present at this consult, dissuaded those who were for removing things from their present settled order, and who thought this variety as unsuitable to the solemnity as many strings and many notes to an instrument. And when at supper, Petraeus the president and director of the sports entertaining us, the same subject was discoursed on, I defended music, and maintained that poetry was no upstart intruder, but that it was time out of mind admitted into the sacred games, and crowns were given to the best performer. Some straight imagined that I intended to produce some old musty stories, like the funeral solemnities of Oeolycus the Thessalian or of Amphidamas the Chalcidean, in which they say Homer and Hesiod contended for the prize. But passing by these instances as the common theme of every grammarian, as likewise their criticisms who, in the description of Patroclus’s obsequies in Homer, read [Greek omitted] ORATORS, and not [Greek omitted], DARTERS, (“Iliad,” xxiii, 886.) as if Achilles had proposed a prize for the best speaker — omitting all these, I said that Acastus at his father Pelias’s funeral set a prize for contending poets, and Sibylla won it. At this, a great many demanding some authority for this unlikely and incredible relation, I happily recollecting myself produced Acesander, who in his description of Africa hath this relation; but I must confess this is no common book. But Polemo the Athenian’s “Commentary of the Treasures of the City Delphi” I suppose most of you have diligently perused, he being a very learned man in the Greek Antiquities. In him you shall find that in the Sicyonian treasure there was a golden book dedicated to the god, with this inscription: Aristomache, the poetess of Erythraea, dedicated this after she had got the prize at the Isthmian games. Nor is there any reason, I continued, why we should so admire and reverence the Olympic games, as if, like Fate, they were unalterable, and never admitted any change since the first institution. For the Pythian, it is true, hath had three or four musical prizes added; but all the exercises of the body were for the most part the same from the beginning. But in the 0lympian all beside racing are late additions. They instituted some, and abolished them again; such were the races of mules, either rode or in a chariot as likewise the crown appointed for boys that were victor’s in the five contests. And, in short, a thousand things in those games are mere novelties. At Pisa they had a single combat, where he that yielded or was overcome was killed upon the place. But pray for the future require no author for my story, lest I may appear ridiculous if amidst my cups I should forget the name.


Why Was the Pine Counted Sacred to Neptune and Bacchus? And Why at First the Conqueror in the Isthmian Games Was Crowned With a Garland of Pine, Afterwards with Parsley, and Now Again with Pine.


This question was started, why the Isthmian garland was made of pine. We were then at supper in Corinth, in the time of the Isthmian games, with Lucanius the chief priest. Praxiteles the commentator brought this fable for a reason; it is said that the body of Melicertes was found fixed to a pine-tree by the sea; and not far from Megara, there is a place called the Race of a Fair Lady, through which the Megarians say that Ino, with her son Melicertes in her arms, ran to the sea. And when many put forth the common opinion, that the pine-tree garland peculiarly belongs to Neptune, Lucanius added that it is sacred to Bacchus too, but yet, for all that, it might also be appropriated to the honor of Melicertes; this started the question, why the ancients dedicated the pine to Neptune and Bacchus. As for my part, it did not seem incongruous to me, for both the gods seem to preside over the moist and generative principle; and almost all the Greeks sacrifice to Neptune the nourisher of plants, and to Bacchus the preserver of trees. Besides, it may be said that the pine peculiarly agrees to Neptune, not, as Apollodorus thinks, because it grows by the seaside, or because it loves a bleak place (for some give this reason), but because it is used in building ships; for it together with the like trees, as fir and cypress, affords the best and the lightest timber, and likewise pitch and rosin, without which the compacted planks would be altogether unserviceable at sea. To Bacchus they dedicate the pine, because it seasons wine, for among the pines they say the sweetest and most delicious grapes grow. The cause of this Theophrastus thinks to be the heat of the soil; for pines grow most in chalky grounds. Now chalk is hot, and therefore must very much conduce to the concoction of the wine; as a chalky spring affords the lightest and sweetest water; and if chalk is mixed with corn, by its heat it makes the grains swell, and considerably increases the heap. Besides, it is probable that the vine itself is bettered by the pine, for that contains several things which are good to preserve wine. All cover the insides of wine casks with rosin, and many mix rosin with wine, as the Euboeans in Greece, and in Italy those that live about the river Po. From the parts of Gaul about Vienna there is a sort of pitched wine brought, which the Romans value very much; for such things mixed with it do not only give it a good flavor, but make the wine generous, taking away by their gentle heat all the crude, watery, and undigested particles. When I had said thus much, a rhetorician in the company, a man well read in all sorts of polite learning, cried out: Good Gods! was it not but the other day that the Isthmian garland began to be made of pine? And was not the crown anciently of twined parsley? I am sure in a certain comedy a covetous man is brought in speaking thus:—

The Isthmian garland I will sell as cheap
As common wreaths of parsley may be sold.

And Timaeus the historian says that, when the Corinthians were marching to fight the Carthaginians in the defence of Sicily, some persons carrying parsley met them, and when several looked upon this as a bad omen — because parsley is accounted unlucky, and those that are dangerously sick we usually say have need of parsley — Timoleon encouraged them by putting them in mind of the Isthmian parsley garland with which the Corinthians used to crown the conquerors. And besides, the admiral-ship of Antigonus’s navy, having by chance some parsley growing on its poop, was called Isthmia. Besides, a certain obscure epigram upon an earthen vessel stopped with parsley intimates the same thing. It runs thus:—

The Grecian earth, now hardened by the flame,
Holds in its hollow belly Bacchus blood;
And hath its mouth with Isthmian branches stopped.

Sure, he continued, they never read these authors, who cry up the pine as anciently wreathed in the Isthmian garlands, and would not have it some upstart intruder. The young men yielded presently to him, as being a man of various reading and very learned.

But Lucanius, with a smile looking upon me, cried out: Good God! here’s a deal of learning. But others have taken advantage of our ignorance and unacquaintedness with such matters, and, on the contrary, persuaded us that the pine was the first garland, and that afterwards in honor of Hercules the parsley was received from the Nemean games, which in a little time prevailing, thrust out the pine, as if it were its right to be the wreath; but a little while after the pine recovered its ancient honor, and now flourishes in its glory. I was satisfied, and upon consideration found that I had run across a great many authorities for it. Thus Euphorion writes of Melicertes,

They mourned the youth, and him on pine boughs laid
Of which the Isthmian victors’ crowns are made.
Fate had not yet seized beauteous Mene’s son
By smooth Asopus; since whose fall the crown
Of parsley wreathed did grace the victor’s brow.

And Callimachus is plainer and more express, when he makes Hercules speak thus of parsley,

This at Isthmian sports
To Neptune’s glory now shall be the crown;
The pine shall be disused, which heretofore
In Corinth’s fields successful victors wore.

And besides, if I am not mistaken, in Procles’s history of the Isthmian games I met with this passage; at first a pine garland crowned the conqueror, but when this game began to be reckoned amongst the sacred, then from the Nemean solemnity the parsley was received. And this Procles was one of Xenocrates’s fellow-students at the Academy.


Concerning that Expression in Homer, [Greek Omitted] (“Iliad,” ix. 203.)


Some at the table were of opinion that Achilles talked nonsense when he bade Patroclus “mix the wine stronger,” adding this reason,

For now I entertain my dearest friends.

But Niceratus a Macedonian, my particular acquaintance, maintained that [Greek omitted] did not signify pure but hot wine; as if it were derived from [Greek omitted] and [Greek omitted] (LIFE-GIVING and BOILING), and it were requisite at the coming of his friends to temper a fresh bowl, as every one of us in his offering at the altar pours out fresh wine. But Sosicles the poet, remembering a saying of Empedocles, that in the great universal change those things which before were [Greek omitted], UNMIXED, should then be [Greek omitted], affirmed that [Greek omitted] there signified [Greek omitted], WELL-TEMPERED, and that Achilles might with a great deal of reason bid Patroclus provide well-tempered wine for the entertainment of his friends; and it was absurd (he said) to use [Greek omitted] for [Greek omitted] any more than [Greek omitted] for [Greek omitted], or [Greek omitted] for [Greek omitted], for the comparatives are very properly put for the positives. My friend Antipater said that years were anciently called [Greek omitted], and that the particle [Greek omitted] in composition signified greatness; and therefore old wine, that had been kept for many years, was called by Achilles [Greek omitted].

I put them in mind that some imagine that [Greek omitted], hot, is signified by [Greek omitted], and that hotter means really faster, as when we command servants to move themselves more hotly or in hotter haste. But I must confess, your dispute is frivolous, since it is raised upon this supposition that if [Greek omitted], signifies more pure wine, Achilles’s command would be absurd, as Zoilus of Amphipolis imagined. For first he did not consider that Achilles saw Phoenix and Ulysses to be old men, who are not pleased with diluted wine, and upon that account forbade any mixture. Besides, he having been Chiron’s scholar, and from him having learned the rules of diet, he considered that weaker and more diluted liquors were fittest for those bodies that lay at ease, and were not employed in their customary exercise or labor. Thus with the other provender he gave his horses smallage, and this upon very good reason; for horses that lie still grow sore in their feet, and smallage is the best remedy in the world against that. And you will not find smallage or anything of the same nature given to any other horses in the whole “Iliad.” Thus Achilles, being experienced in physic, provided suitable provender for his horses, and used the lightest diet himself, as the fittest whilst he lay at ease. But those that had been wearied all day in fight he did not think convenient to treat like those that had lain at ease, but commanded more pure and stronger wine to be prepared. Besides, Achilles doth not appear to be naturally addicted to drinking, but he was of a haughty, inexorable temper.

No pleasant humor, no, soft mind he bore,
But was all fire and rage.
(“Iliad,” xx. 467.)

And in another place very plainly Homer says, that

Many a sleepless night he knew.
(“Iliad,” ix. 325.)

Now little sleep cannot content those that drink strong liquors; and in his railing at Agamemnon, the first ill name he gives him is drunkard, proposing his great drinking as the chiefest of his faults. And for these reasons it is likely that, when they came, he thought his usual mixture too weak and not convenient for them.


Concerning Those that Invite Many to a Supper.


At my return from Alexandria all my friends by turns treated me, inviting all such too as were any way acquainted, so that our meetings were usually tumultuous and suddenly dissolved; which disorders gave occasion to discourses concerning the inconveniences that attend such crowded entertainments. But when Onesicrates the physician in his turn invited only the most familiar acquaintance, and men of the most agreeable temper, I thought that what Plato says concerning the increase of cities might be applied to entertainments. For there is a certain number which an entertainment may receive, and still be an entertainment; but if it exceeds that, so that by reason of the number there cannot be a mutual conversation amongst all, if they cannot know one another nor partake of the same jollity, it ceaseth to be such. For we should not want messengers there, as in a camp, or boatswains, as in a galley; but we ourselves should immediately converse with one another. As in a dance, so in an entertainment, the last man should be placed within hearing of the first.

As I was speaking, my grandfather Lamprias cried out: Then it seems there is need of temperance not only in our feasts, but also in our invitations. For methinks there is even an excess in kindness, when we pass by none of our friends, but draw them all in, as to see a sight or hear a play. And I think, it is not so great a disgrace for the entertainer not to have bread or wine enough for his, guests, as not to have room enough, with which he ought always to be provided, not only for invited guests, strangers and chance visitants. For suppose he hath not wine and bread enough, it may be imputed either to the carelessness or dishonesty of his servants; but the want of room must be imputed to the imprudence of the inviter. Hesiod is very much admired for beginning thus,

A vast chaos first was made.
(Hesiod, “Theogony,” 116.)

For it was necessary that there should be first a place and room provided for the beings that were afterward to be produced; and not as was seen yesterday at my son’s entertainment, according to Anaxagoras’s saying,

All lay jumbled together.

But suppose a man hath room and provision enough, yet a large company itself is to be avoided for its own sake, as hindering all familiarity and conversation; and it is more tolerable to let the company have no wine, than to exclude all converse from a feast. And therefore Theophrastus jocularly called the barbers’ shops feasts without wine; because those that sit there usually prattle and discourse. But those that invite a crowd at once deprive all of free communication of discourse, or rather make them divide into cabals, so that two or three privately talk together, and neither know nor look on those that sit, as it were, half a mile distant.

Some took this way to valiant Ajax’s tent,
And some the other to Achilles’ went.
(“Iliad,” xi. 7.)

And therefore some rich men are foolishly profuse, who build rooms big enough for thirty tables or more at once; for such a preparation certainly is for unsociable and unfriendly entertainments, and such as are fit for a panegyriarch rather than a symposiarch to preside over. But this may be pardoned in those; for wealth would not he wealth, it would be really blind and imprisoned, unless it had witnesses, as tragedies would be devoid of spectators. Let us entertain few and often, and make that a remedy against having a crowd at once. For those that invite but seldom are forced to have all their friends, and all that upon any account they are acquainted with together; but those that invite frequently, and but three or four, render their entertainments like little barks, light and nimble. Besides, the very reason why we ask friends teaches us to select some out of the number. For as when we are in want we do not call all together, but only those that can best afford, help in that particular case — when we would be advised, the wiser part; and when we are to have a trial, the best pleaders; and when we are to go a journey, those that can live pleasantly and are at leisure — thus to our entertainments we should only call those that are at the present agreeable. Agreeable, for instance, to a prince’s entertainment will be the magistrates, if they are his friends, or chiefest of the city; to marriage or birthday feasts, all their kindred, and such as are under the protection of the same Jupiter the guardian of consanguinity; and to such feasts and merry-makings as this those are to be invited whose tempers are most suitable to the occasion. When we offer sacrifice to one god, we do not worship all the others that belong to the same temple and altar at the same time; but suppose we have three bowls, out of the first we pour oblations to some, out of the second to others and out of the third to the rest, and none of the gods take distaste. And in this a company of friends may be likened to the company of gods; none takes distaste at the order of the invitation, if it be prudently managed and every one allowed a turn.


What is the Reason that the Same Room Which at the Beginning of a Supper Seems Too Narrow Appears Wide Enough Afterwards.

After this it was presently asked, why the room which at the beginning of supper seems too narrow for the guest is afterwards wide enough; when the contrary is most likely, after they are filled with the supper. Some said the posture of our sitting was the cause; for they sit when they eat, with their full breadth to the table, that they may command it with their right hand; but after they have supped, they sit more sideways, and make an acute figure with their bodies, and do not touch the place according to the superficies, if I may so say, but the line. Now as cockal bones do not take up as much room when they fall upon one end as when they fall flat, so every one of us at the beginning sitting broadwise, and with a full face to the table, afterwards changes the figure, and turns his depth, not his breadth, to the board. Some attribute it to the beds whereon we sat, for those when pressed stretch; as strait shoes after a little wearing have their pores widened, and grow fit for — sometimes too big for — the foot. An old man in the company merrily said, that the same feast had two very different presidents and directors; in the beginning, Hunger, that is not in the least skilled in ordering and disposing, but afterward Bacchus, whom all acknowledge to be the best orderer of an army in the world. As therefore Epaminondas, when the unskilful captains had led their forces into narrow disadvantageous straits, relieved the phalanx that was fallen foul on itself and all in disorder, and brought it into good rank and file again; thus we in the beginning, being like greedy hounds confused and disordered by hunger, the god (hence named the looser and the dancesetter) settles us in a friendly and agreeable order.


Concerning Those that are Said to Bewitch.


A discourse happening at supper concerning those that are said to bewitch or have a bewitching eye, most of the company looked upon it as a whim, and laughed at it. But Metrius Florus, who then gave us a supper, said that the strange events wonderfully confirmed the report; and because we cannot give a reason for the thing, therefore to disbelieve the relation was absurd, since there are a thousand things which evidently are, the reasons of which we cannot readily assign. And, in short, he that requires everything should be probable destroys all wonder and admiration; and where the cause is not obvious, there we begin to doubt, that is, to philosophize. So that they who disbelieve all wonderful relations do in some measure take away all philosophy. The cause why anything is so, reason must find out; but that a thing is so, testimony is a sufficient evidence; and we have a thousand instances of this sort attested. We know that some men by looking upon young children hurt them very much, their weak and soft temperature being wrought upon and perverted, whilst those that are strong and firm are not so liable to be wrought upon. And Phylarchus tells us that the Thibians, the old inhabitants about Pontus, were destructive not only to little children, but to some also of riper years; for those upon whom they looked or breathed, or to whom they spake, would languish and grow sick. And this, likely, those of other countries perceived who bought slaves there. But perhaps this is not so much to be wondered at, for in touching and handling there is some apparent principle and cause of the effect. And as when you mix other birds’ wings with the eagles’, the plumes waste and suddenly consume; so there is no reason to the contrary, but that one man’s touch may be good and advantageous, and another’s hurtful and destructive. But that some, by being barely looked upon, are extremely prejudiced is certain; though the stories are disbelieved, because the reason is hard to be given.

True, said I, but methinks there is some small track to the cause of this effect, if you come to the effluvia of bodies. For smell, voice, breath, and the like, are effluvia from animal bodies, and material parts that move the senses, which are wrought upon by their impulse. Now it is very likely that such effluvia must continually part from animals, by reason of their heat and motion; for by that the spirits are agitated, and the body, being struck by those, must continually send forth effluvia. And it is probable that these pass chiefly through the eye. For the sight, being very vigorous and active, together with the spirit upon which it depends, sends forth a strange fiery power; so that by it men act and suffer very much, and are always proportionably pleased or displeased, according as the visible objects are agreeable or not. Love, that greatest and most violent passion of the soul, takes its beginning from the eye; so that a lover, when he looks upon the fair, flows out as it were, and seems to mix with her. And therefore why should any one, that believes men can be affected and prejudiced by the sight, imagine that they cannot act and hurt is well? For the mutual looks of mature beauties, and that which comes from the eye, whether light or a stream of spirits, melt and dissolve the lovers with a pleasing pain, which they call the bittersweet of love. For neither by touching or hearing the voice of their beloved are they so much wounded and wrought upon, as by looking and being looked upon again. There is such a communication, such a flame raised by one glance, that those must be altogether unacquainted with love that wonder at the Median naphtha, that takes fire at a distance from the flame. For the glances of a fair one, though at a great distance, quickly kindle a fire in the lover’s breast. Besides every body knows the remedy for the jaundice; if they look upon the bird called charadrios they are cured. For that animal seems to be of that temperature and nature as to receive and draw away the disease, that like a stream flows out through the eyes; so that the charadrios will not look on one that hath the jaundice; he cannot endure it, but turns away his head and shuts his eyes, not envying (as some imagine) the cure he performs, but being really hurt by the effluvia of the patient. And of all diseases, soreness of the eyes is the most infectious; so strong and vigorous is the sight, and so easily does it cause infirmities in another.

Very right, said Patrocles, and you reason well as to changes wrought upon the body; but as to the soul, which in some measure exercises the power of witchcraft, how can this cause any disturbance by the eye? Sir, I replied, do not you consider that the soul, when affected, works upon the body? Ideas of love excite lust, and rage often blinds dogs as they fight with wild beasts. Sorrow, covetousness, or jealousy makes us change color, and destroys the habit of the body; and envy more than any passion, when fixed in the soul, fills the body full of ill humors, and makes it pale and ugly; which deformities good painters in their pictures of envy endeavor to represent. Now, when men thus perverted by envy fix their eyes upon another, and these, being nearest to the soul, easily draw the venom from it, and send out as it were poisoned darts, it is no wonder, in my mind, if he that is looked upon is hurt. Thus the biting of a dog when mad is most dangerous; and then the seed of a man is most prolific, when he embraces one that he loves; and in general the affections of the mind strengthen and invigorate the powers of the body. And therefore people imagine that those amulets that are preservative against witchcraft are likewise good and efficacious against envy; the sight by the strangeness of the spectacle being diverted, so that it cannot make so strong an impression upon the patient. This, Florus, is what I can say; and pray sir, accept it as my club for this entertainment.

Well, said Soclarus, but let us try whether the money be all good or no; for, in my mind some of it seems brass. But if we admit the general report about these matters to be true, you know very well that it is commonly supposed that some have friends, acquaintance, and even fathers, that have such evil eyes; so that the mothers will not show their children to them, nor for a long time suffer them to be looked upon by such; and how can the effects wrought by these proceed from envy? But what, for God’s sake, wilt thou say to those that are reported to bewitch themselves? — for I am sure you have heard of such, or at least read these lines:—

Curls once on Eutel’s head in order stood;
But when he viewed his figure in a flood,
He overlooked himself, and now they fall . . .

For they say that this Eutelidas, appearing very delicate and beauteous to himself, was affected with that sight and grew sick upon it, and lost his beauty and his health. Now, pray sir, what reason can you find for these wonderful effects?

At any other time, I replied, I question not but I shall give you full satisfaction. But now, sir, after such a large pot as you have seen me take, I boldly affirm, that all passions which have been fixed in the soul a long time raise ill humors in the body, which by continuance growing strong enough to be, as it were, a new nature, being excited by any intervening accident, force men, though unwilling, to their accustomed passions. Consider the timorous, they are afraid even of those things that preserve them. Consider the pettish, they are angry with their best and dearest friends. Consider the amorous and lascivious, in the height of their fury they dare violate a Vestal. For custom is very powerful to draw the temper of the body to anything that is suitable to it; and he that is apt to fall will stumble at everything that lies in his way. So it is no wonder that those that have raised in themselves an envious and bewitching habit, if according to the peculiarity of their passion they are carried on to suitable effects; for when they are once moved, they do that which the nature of the thing, not which their will, leads them to. For as a sphere must necessarily move spherically, and a cylinder cylindrically, according to the difference of their figures; thus his disposition makes an envious man move enviously to all things; and it is likely they should chiefly hurt their most familiar acquaintance and best beloved. And that fine fellow Eutelidas you mentioned, and the rest that are said to overlook themselves, may be easily and upon good rational grounds accounted for; for, according to Hippocrates, a good habit of body, when at height, is easily perverted, and bodies come to their full maturity do not stand at a stay there, but fall and waste down to the contrary extreme. And therefore when they are in very good plight, and see themselves look much better than they expected, they gaze and wonder; but then their body being nigh to change, and their habit declining into a worse condition, they overlook themselves. And this is done when the effluvia are stopped and reflected by the water rather than by any other reflecting body; for this exhales upon them whilst they look upon it, so that the very same particles which would hurt others must hurt themselves. And this perchance often happens to young children, and the cause of their diseases is falsely attributed to those that look upon them.

When I had done, Caius, Florus’s son-inlaw, said: Then it seems you make no more reckoning or account of Democritus’s images, than of those of Aegium or Megara; for he delivers that the envious send out images which are not altogether void of sense or force, but full of the disturbing and poisonous qualities of those from whom they come. Now these being mixed with such qualities, and remaining with and abiding in those persons that injure them both in mind and body; for this, I think, is the meaning of that philosopher, a man in his opinion and expressions admirable and divine. Very true, said I, and I wonder that you did not observe that I took nothing from those effluvia and images but life and will; lest you should imagine that, now it is almost midnight, I brought in spectres and wise and understanding images to terrify and fright you; but in the morning, if you please, we will talk of those things.


Why Homer Calls the Apple-Tree [Greek Omitted], And Empedocles Calls Apples [GREEK OMITTED].


As we were at supper in Chaeronea, and had all sorts of fruit at the table, one of the company chanced to speak these verses,

The fig-trees sweet, the apple-trees that bear
Fair fruit, and olives green through all the year.
(“Odyssey,” vii. 115.)

Upon this there arose a question, why the poet calls apple-trees particularly [Greek omitted], BEARING FAIR FRUIT. Trypho the physician said that this epithet was given comparatively in respect of the tree, because, it being small and no goodly tree to look upon, bears fair and large fruit. Somebody else said, that the particular excellencies scattered amongst all other fruits are united in this alone. As to the touch, it is smooth and polished, so that it makes the hand that toucheth it odorous without defiling it; it is sweet to the taste, and to the smell and sight very pleasing; and therefore there is reason that it should be duly praised, as being that which congregates and allures all the senses together.

This discourse pleased us indifferently well. But whereas Empedocles has thus written,

Why pomegranates so late do thrive,
And apples give a lovely show [Greek omitted];

I guess the epithet to be given to pomegranates, because that at the end of autumn, and when the heats begin to decrease, they ripen the fruit; for the sun will not suffer the weak and thin moisture to thicken into a consistence until the air begins to wax colder; therefore, says Theophrastus, this only tree ripens its fruit best and soonest in the shade. But in what sense the philosopher gives the epithet [Greek omitted], to apples, I much question, since it is not his custom to try to adorn his verses with varieties of epithets, as with gay and florid colors. But in every verse he gives some description of the substance and virtue of the subject which he treats; as when he calls the body encircling the soul the mortal-surrounding earth; as also when he calls the air cloud-gathering, and the liver much blooded.

When now I had said these things myself, certain grammarians affirmed, that those apples were called [Greek omitted] by reason of their vigor and florid manner of growing; for to blossom and flourish after an extraordinary manner is by the poets expressed by the word [Greek omitted]. In this sense, Antimachus calls the city of Cadmeans flourishing with fruit; and Aratus, speaking of the dog-star Sirius, says that he

To some gave strength, but others did ruin,
Their bloom;

calling the greenness of the trees and the blossoming of the fruit by the name of [Greek omitted]. Nay, there are some of the Greeks also who sacrifice to Bacchus surnamed [Greek omitted]. And therefore, seeing the verdure and floridness chiefly recommend this fruit, philosophers call it [Greek omitted]. But Lamprias our grandfather used to say that the word [Greek omitted] did not only denote excess and vehemency, but external and supernal; thus we call the upper frame of a door [Greek omitted], and the upper portion of the house [Greek omitted]; and the poet calls the outward parts of the victim the upper-flesh, as he calls the entrails the inner-flesh. Let us see therefore, says he, whether Empedocles did not make use of this epithet in this sense, seeing that other fruits are encompassed with an outward rind and with certain coatings and membranes, but the only cortex rind that the apple has is a glutinous and smooth tunic (or core) containing the seed, so that the part which can be eaten, and lies without, was properly called [Greek omitted], that IS OVER or OUTSIDE OF THE HUSK.


What is the Reason that the Fig-Tree, Being Itself of a Very Sharp and Bitter Taste, Bears So Sweet Fruit?


This discourse ended, the next question was about fig-trees, how so luscious and sweet fruit should come from so bitter a tree. For the leaf from its roughness is called [Greek omitted]. The wood of it is full of sap, and as it burns sends forth a very biting smoke; and the ashes of it thoroughly burnt are so acrimonious, that they make a lye extremely detersive. And, which is very strange, all other trees that bud and bear fruit put forth blossoms too; but the fig-tree never blossoms. And if (as some say) it is never thunderstruck, that likewise may be attributed to the sharp juices and bad temper of the stock; for such things are as secure from thunder as the skin of a sea calf or hyena. Then said the old man: It is no wonder that when all the sweetness is separated and employed in making the fruit, that which is left should be bitter and unsavory. For as the liver, all the gall being gathered in its proper place, is itself very sweet; so the fig-tree having parted with its oil and sweet particles to the fruit, reserves no portion for itself. For that this tree hath some good juice, I gather from what they say of rue, which growing under a fig-tree is sweeter than usual, and hath a sweeter and more palatable juice, as if it drew some sweet particles from the tree which mollified its offensive and corroding qualities; unless perhaps, on the contrary, the fig-tree robbing it of its nourishment draws likewise some of its sharpness and bitterness away.


What are Those that are Said to Be [Greek Omitted], And Why Homer Calls Salt Divine?


Florus, when we were entertained at his house, put this question, What are those in the proverb who are said to be about the salt and cummin? Apollophanes the grammarian presently satisfied him, saying, by that proverb were meant intimate acquaintance, who could sup together on salt and cummin. Thence we proceeded to inquire how salt should come to be so much honored as it is; for Homer plainly says,

And after that he strewed his salt divine
(“Iliad,” ix. 214.)

and Plato delivers that by man’s laws salt is to be accounted most sacred. And this difficulty was increased by the customs of the Egyptian priests, who professing chastity eat no salt, no, not so much as in their bread. For if it be divine and holy, why should they avoid it?

Florus bade us not mind the Egyptians, but speak according to the Grecian custom on the present subject. But I replied: The Egyptians are not contrary to the Greeks in this matter; for the profession of purity and chastity forbids getting children, laughter, wine, and many other very commendable and lawful things; and perhaps these priests avoid salt, as being, according to some men’s opinions, by its heat provocative and apt to raise lust. Or they refuse it as the most pleasant of all sauces, for indeed salt may be called the sauce of all sauces; and therefore some call salt [Greek omitted]; because it makes food, which is necessary for life, to be relishing and pleasant.

What then, said Florus, shall we say that salt is termed divine for that reason? Indeed that is very considerable, for men for the most part deify those common things that are exceeding useful to their necessities and wants, as water, light, the seasons of the year; and the earth they do not only think to be divine, but a very god. Now salt is as useful as either of these, protecting in a way the food as it comes into the body, and making it palatable and agreeable to the appetite. But consider farther, whether its power of preserving dead bodies from rotting a long time be not a divine property, and opposite to death; since it preserves part, and will not suffer that which is mortal wholly to be destroyed. But as the soul, which is our diviner part, connects the limbs of animals, and keeps the composure from dissolution; thus salt applied to dead bodies, and imitating the work of the soul, stops those parts that were falling to corruption, binds and confines them, and so makes them keep their union and agreement with one another. And therefore some of the Stoics say, that swine’s flesh then deserves the name of a body, when the soul like salt spreads through it and keeps the parts from dissolution. Besides, you know that we account lightning to be sacred and divine, because the bodies that are thunderstruck do not rot for a long time; what wonder is it then, that the ancients called salt as well as lightning divine, since it hath the same property and power?

I making no reply, Philinus subjoined: Do you not think that that which is generative is to be esteemed divine, seeing God is the principle of all things? And I assenting, he continued: Salt, in the opinion of some men, for instance the Egyptians you mentioned, is very operative that way; and those that breed dogs, when they find their bitches not apt to be hot, give them salt and seasoned flesh, to excite and arouse their sleeping lechery and vigor. Besides, the ships that carry salt breed abundance of mice; the females, as some imagine, conceiving without the help of the males, only by licking the salt. But it is most probable that the salt raiseth an itching in animals, and so makes them salacious and eager to couple. And perhaps for the same reason they call a surprising and bewitching beauty, such as is apt to move and entice, [Greek omitted], SALTISH. And I think the poets had a respect to this generative power of salt in their fable of Venus springing from the sea. And it may be farther observed, that they make all the sea gods very fruitful, and give them large families. And besides, there are no land animals so fruitful as the sea ones; agreeable to which observation is that verse of Empedocles,

Leading the foolish race of fruitful fish.

Last updated Thursday, March 6, 2014 at 16:24