Symposiacs, by Plutarch

Book VIII.

Those, my Sossius Senecio, who throw philosophy out of entertainments do worse than those who take away a light. For the candle being removed, the temperate and sober guests will not become worse than they were before, being more concerned to reverence than to see one another. But if dulness and disregard to good learning wait upon the wine, Minerva’s golden lamp itself could not make the entertainment pleasing and agreeable. For a company to sit silent and only cram themselves is, in good truth, swinish and almost impossible. But he that permits men to talk, yet doth not allow set and profitable discourses, is much more ridiculous than he who thinks that his guests should eat and drink, yet gives them foul wine, unsavory and nastily prepared meat. For no meat nor drink which is not prepared as it ought to be is so hurtful and unpleasant as discourse which is carried round in company insignificantly and out of season. The philosophers, when they would give drunkenness a vile name, call it doting by wine. Now doting is to use vain and trifling discourse; and when such babbling is accompanied by wine, it usually ends in most disagreeable and rude contumely and reproach. It is a good custom therefore of our women, who in their feasts called Agrionia seek after Bacchus as if he were run away, but in a little time give over the search, and cry that he is fled to the Muses and lurks with them; and some time after, when supper is done, put riddles and hard questions to one another. For this mystery teaches us, that midst our entertainments we should use learned and philosophical discourse, and such as hath a Muse in it; and that such discourse being applied to drunkenness, everything that is brutish and outrageous in it is concealed, being pleasingly restrained by the Muses.

This book, being the eighth of my Symposiacs, begins with that discourse in which about a year ago, on Plato’s birthday, I was concerned.

QUESTION I.

Concerning Those Days in Which Some Famous Men Were Born; and Also Concerning the Generation of the Gods.

DIOGENIANUS, PLUTARCH, FLORUS, TYNDARES.

On the sixth day of May we celebrated Socrates’s birthday, and on the seventh Plato’s; and that first prompted us to such discourse as was suitable to the meeting, which Diogenianus the Pergamenian began thus: Ion, said he, was happy in his expression, when he said that Fortune, though much unlike Wisdom, yet did many things very much like her; and that she seemed to have some order and design, not only in placing the nativities of these two philosophers so near together, but in setting the birthday of the most famous of the two first, who was also the master of the other. I had a great deal to say to the company concerning some notable things that fell out on the same day, as concerning the time of Euripides’s birth and death; for he was born the same day that the Greeks beat Xerxes by sea at Salamis, and died the same day that Dionysius the elder, the Sicilian tyrant, was born — Fortune (as Timaeus hath it) at the same time taking out of the world a representer, and bringing into it a real actor, of tragedies. Besides, we remembered that Alexander the king and Diogenes the Cynic died upon the same day. And all agreed that Attalus the king died on his own birthday. And some said, that Pompey the great was killed in Egypt on his birthday, or, as others will have it, a day before. We remember Pindar also, who, being born at the time of the Pythian games, made afterwards a great many excellent hymns in honor of Apollo.

To this Florus subjoined: Now we are celebrating Plato’s nativity, why should we not mention Carneades, the most famous of the whole Academy, since both of them were born on Apollo’s feast; Plato, whilst they were celebrating the Thargelia at Athens, Carneades, whilst the Cyrenians kept their Carnea; and both these feasts are, upon the same day. Nay, the god himself you (he continued), his priests and prophets, call Hebdomagenes, as if he were born on the seventh day. And therefore those who make Apollo Plato’s father do not, in my opinion, dishonor the god; since by Socrates’s as by another Chiron’s instructions he is become a physician for the diseases of the mind. And together with this, he mentioned that vision and voice which forbade Aristo, Plato’s father, to come near or lie with his wife for ten months.

To this Tyndares the Spartan subjoined: It is very fit we should apply that to Plato,

He seemed not sprung from mortal man, but God.
(“Iliad,” xxiv. 258.)

But, for my part, I am afraid to beget, as well as to be begotten, is repugnant to the incorruptibility of the deity. For that implies a change and passion; as Alexander imagined, when he said that he knew himself to be mortal as often as he lay with a woman or slept. For sleep is a relaxation of the body, occasioned by the weakness of our nature; and all generation is a corruptive parting with some of our own substance. But yet I take heart again, when I hear Plato call the eternal and unbegotten deity the father and maker of the world and all other begotten things; not as if he parted with any seed, but as if by his power he implanted a generative principle in matter, which acts upon, forms, and fashions it. Winds passing through a hen will on occasions impregnate her; and it seems no incredible thing, that the deity, though not after the fashion of a man, but by some other certain communication, fills a mortal creature with some divine conception. Nor is this my sense; but the Egyptians who say Apis was conceived by the influence of the moon, and make no question but that an immortal god may have communication with a mortal woman. But on the contrary, they think that no mortal can beget anything on a goddess, because they believe the goddesses are made of thin air, and subtle heat and moisture.

QUESTION II.

What is Plato’s Meaning, When He Says that God Always Plays the Geometer?

DIOGENIANUS, TYNDARES, FLORUS, AUTOBULUS.

Silence following this discourse, Diogenianus began again and said: Since our discourse is about the gods, shall we, especially on his own birthday, admit Plato to the conference, and inquire upon what account he says (supposing it to be his sentence) that God always plays the geometer? I said that this sentence was not plainly set down in any of his books; yet there are good arguments that it is his, and it is very much like his expression. Tyndares presently subjoining said: Perhaps, Diogenianus, you imagine that this sentence intimates some curious and difficult speculation, and not that which he hath so often mentioned, when he praiseth geometry as a science that takes off men from sensible objects, and makes them apply themselves to the intelligible and eternal Nature, the contemplation of which is the end of philosophy, as the view of the initiatory mysteries into holy rites. For the nail of pain and pleasure, that fastens the soul to the body, seems to do us the greatest mischief, by making sensible things more powerful over us than intelligible, and by forcing the understanding to determine the rather according to passion than reason. For this faculty, being accustomed by the vehemency of pain or pleasure to be intent on the mutable and uncertain body, as if it really and truly were, grows blind as to that which really is, and loses that instrument and light of the soul, which is worth a thousand bodies, and by which alone the deity can be discovered. Now in all sciences, as in plain and smooth mirrors, some marks and images of the truth of intelligible objects appear, but in geometry chiefly; which, according to Philo, is the chief and principal of all, and doth bring back and turn the understanding, as it were, purged and gently loosened from sense. And therefore Plato himself dislikes Eudoxus, Archytas, and Menaechmus for endeavoring to bring down the doubling the cube to mechanical operations; for by this means all that was good in geometry would be lost and corrupted, it falling back again to sensible things, and not rising upward and considering immaterial and immortal images, in which God being versed is always God.

After Tyndares, Florus, a companion of his, and who always jocosely pretended to be his admirer, said thus: Sir, we are obliged to you for making your discourse not proper to yourself, but common to us all; for you have made it possible to disprove it by demonstrating that geometry is not necessary to the gods, but to us. Now the deity doth not stand in need of science, as an instrument to withdraw his intellect from things created and to turn it to the real things; for these are all in him, with him, and about him. But pray consider whether Plato, though you do not apprehend it, doth not intimate something that is proper and peculiar to you, mixing Lycurgus with Socrates, as much as Dicaearchus thought he did Pythagoras. For Lycurgus, I suppose you know, banished out of Sparta all arithmetical proportion, as being democratical and favoring the crowd; but introduced the geometrical, as agreeable to an oligarchy and kingly government that rules by law; for the former gives an equal share to every one according to number, but the other gives according to the proportion of the deserts. It doth not huddle all things together, but in it there is a fair discretion of good and bad, every one having what is fit for him, not by lot or weight, but according as he is virtuous or vicious. The same proportion, my dear Tyndares, God introduceth, which is called [Greek omitted] and [Greek omitted], and which teacheth us to account that which is just equal, and not that which is equal just. For that equality which many affect, being often the greatest injustice, God, as much as possible, takes away; and useth that proportion which respects every man’s deserts, geometrically defining it according to law and reason.

This exposition we applauded; and Tyndares, saying he envied him, desired Autobulus to engage Florus and confute his discourse. That he refused to do, but produced another opinion of his own. Geometry, said he, considers nothing else but the accidents and properties of the extremities of bodies; neither did God make the world any other way than by terminating matter, which was infinite before. Not that matter was actually without limits as to either magnitude or multitude; but the ancients used to call that infinite which by reason of its confusion and disorder is undetermined and unconfined. Now the terms of everything that is formed or figured are the form and figure of that thing, and without which the thing would be formless and unfigured. Now numbers and proportions being applied to matter, it is circumscribed and as it were bound up by lines, and through lines by surfaces and solids; and so were settled the first types and differences of bodies, as foundations from which to create the four elements, fire, air, water, and earth. For it was impossible that, out of an unsteady and confused matter, the equality of the sides, the likeness of the angles, and the exact proportion of octahedrons, icosahedrons, pyramids, and cubes should be deduced, unless by some power that terminated and shaped every particle of matter. Therefore, terms being fixed to that which was undetermined or infinite before, the whole became and still continues agreeable in all parts, and excellently terminated and mixed; the matter indeed always affecting an indeterminate state, and flying all geometrical confinement, but proportion terminating and circumscribing it, and dividing it into several differences and forms, out of which all things that arise are generated and subsist.

When he had said this, he desired me to contribute something to the discourse; and I applauded their conceits as their own devices, and very probable. But lest you despise yourselves (I continued) and altogether look for some external explication, attend to an exposition upon this sentence, which your masters very much approve. Amongst the most geometrical theorems, or rather problems, this is one: Two figures being given, to describe a third, which shall be equal to one and similar to the other. And it is reported that Pythagoras, upon the discovery of this problem, offered a sacrifice to the gods; for this is a much more exquisite theorem than that which lays down, that the square of the hypothenuse in a right-angled triangle is equal to the squares of the two sides. Right, said Diogenianus, but what is this to the present question? You will easily understand, I replied, if you call to mind how Timaeus divides that which gave the world its beginning into three parts. One of which is justly called God, the other matter, and the third form. That which is called matter is the most confused subject, the form the most beautiful pattern, and God the best of causes. Now this cause, as far as possible, would leave nothing infinite and indeterminate, but adorn Nature with number, measure, and proportion making one thing of all the subjects together, equal to the matter, and similar to the form. Therefore proposing to himself this problem, he made and still makes a third, and always preserves it equal to the matter, and like the form; and that is the world. And this world, being in constant changes and alterations because of the natural necessity of body, is helped and preserved by the father and maker of all things, who by proportion terminates the substance according to the pattern.

QUESTION III.

Why Noises are Better Heard in the Night Than the Day.

AMMONIUS, BOETHUS, PLUTARCH, THRASYLLUS, ARISTODEMUS.

When we supped with Ammonius at Athens, who was then the third time captain of the city-bands, there was a great noise about the house, some without doors calling, Captain! Captain! After he had sent his officers to quiet the tumult, and had dispersed the crowd, we began to inquire what was the reason that those that are within doors hear those that are without, but those that are without cannot hear those that are within as well. And Ammonius said, that Aristotle had given a reason for that already; for the sound of those within, being carried without into a large tract of air, grows weaker presently and is lost; but that which comes in from without is not subject to the like casualty, but is kept close, and is therefore more easy to be heard. But that seemed a more difficult question, Why sounds seem greater in the night than in the day, and yet altogether as clear. For my own part (continued he) I think Providence hath very wisely contrived that our hearing should be quickest when our sight can do us very little or no service; for the air of the “blind and solitary Night,” as Empedocles calls it, being dark, supplies in the ears that defect of sense which it makes in the eyes. But since of natural effects we should endeavor to find the causes, and to discover what are the material and mechanical principles of things is the proper task of a natural philosopher, who shall first give us a rational account hereof?

Boethus began, and said: When I was a novice in letters, I then made use of geometrical postulates, and assumed as undoubted truths some undemonstrated suppositions; and now I shall make use of some propositions which Epicurus hath demonstrated already. Bodies move in a vacuum, and there are a great many spaces interspersed among the atoms of the air. Now when the air being rarefied is more extended, so as to fill the vacant space, there are only a few vacuities scattered and interspersed among the particles of matter; but when the atoms of air are condensed and laid close together, they leave a vast empty space, convenient and sufficient for other bodies to pass through. Now the coldness of the night makes such a constipation. Heat opens and separates parts of condensed bodies, and therefore bodies that boil, grow soft, or melt, require a greater space than before; but, on the contrary, the parts of the body that are condensed or freeze are contracted closer to one another, and leave those vessels and places from which they retired partly empty. Now the sound, meeting and striking against a great many bodies in its way, is either altogether lost or scattered, and very much and very frequently hindered in its passage; but when it hath a plain and smooth way through an empty space, and comes to the ear uninterrupted, the passage is so sudden, that it preserves its articulate distinctness, as well as the words it carries. You may observe that empty vessels, when knocked, answer presently, send out a noise to a great distance, and oftentimes the sound whirled round in the hollow breaks out with a considerable force; whilst a vessel that is filled either with a liquid or a solid body will not answer to a stroke, because the sound hath no room or passage to come through. And among solid bodies themselves, gold and stone, because they want pores, can hardly be made to sound; and when a noise is made by a stroke upon them, it is very flat, and presently lost. But brass is sounding, it being a porous, rare, and light metal, not consisting of parts tightly compacted, but being mixed with a yielding and uncompacted substance, which gives free passage to other motions, and kindly receiving the sound sends it forward; till some touching the instrument do, as it were, seize on it in the way, and stop the hollow; for then, by reason of the hindering force, it stops and goes no further. And this, in my opinion, is the reason why the night is more sonorous, and the day less; since in the day, the heat rarefying the air makes the empty spaces between the particles to be very little. But, pray, let none argue against the suppositions I assumed.

And I (Ammonius bidding me oppose him) said: Sir, your suppositions which demand a vacuum to be granted I shall admit; but you err in supposing that a vacuum is conducive either to the preservation or conveyance of sound. For that which cannot be touched, acted upon, or struck is peculiarly favorable to silence. But sound is a stroke of a sounding body; and a sounding body is that which has homogeneousness and uniformity, and is easy to be moved, light, smooth, and, by reason of its tenseness and continuity, it is obedient to the stroke; and such is the air. Water, earth, and fire are of themselves soundless; but each of them makes a noise when air falls upon or gets into it. And brass hath no vacuum; but being mixed with a smooth and gentle air it answers to a stroke, and is sounding. If the eye may be judge, iron must be reckoned to have a great many vacuities, and to be porous like a honey-comb, yet it is the dullest, and sounds worse than any other metal.

Therefore there is no need to trouble the night to contract and condense its air, that in other parts we may leave vacuities and wide spaces; as if the air would hinder and corrupt the substance of the sounds, whose very substance, form, and power itself is. Besides, if your reason held, misty and extreme cold nights would be more sonorous than those which are temperate and clear, because then the atoms in our atmosphere are constipated, and the spaces which they left remain empty; and, what is more obvious, a cold day should be more sonorous than a warm summer’s night; neither of which is true. Therefore, laying aside that explication, I produce Anaxagoras, who teacheth that the sun makes a tremulous motion in the air, as is evident from those little motes which are seen tossed up and down and flying in the sunbeams. These (says he), being in the day-time whisked about by the heat, and making a humming noise, lessen or drown other sounds; but at night their motion, and consequently their noise, ceaseth.

When I had thus said, Ammonius began: Perhaps it will look like a ridiculous attempt in us, to endeavor to confute Democritus and correct Anaxagoras. Yet we must not allow that humming noise to Anaxagoras’s little motes, for it is neither probable nor necessary. But their tremulous and whirling motion in the sunbeams is oftentimes sufficient to disturb and break a sound. For the air (as hath been already said), being itself the body and substance of sound, if it be quiet and undisturbed, makes a straight, easy, and continuous way to the particles or the motions which make the sound. Thus sounds are best heard in calm still weather; and the contrary is seen in stormy weather, as Simonides hath it:—

No tearing tempests rattled through the skies,
Which hinder sweet discourse from mortal ears.

For often the disturbed air hinders the articulateness of a discourse from coming to the ears, though it may convey something of the loudness and length of it. Now the night, simply considered in itself, hath nothing that may disturb the air; though the day hath — namely the sun, according to the opinion of Anaxagoras.

To this Thrasyllus, Ammonius’s son, subjoining said: What is the matter, for God’s sake, that we endeavor to solve this difficulty by the unintelligible fancied motion of the air, and neglect the tossing and divulsion thereof, which are evident? For Jupiter, the great ruler above, doth not covertly and silently move the little particles of air; but as soon as he appears, he stirs up and moves everything.

He sends forth lucky signs,
And stirs up nations to their proper work,

And they obey; and (as Democritus saith) with fresh thoughts for each new day, as if newly born again, they fall to their worldly concerns with noisy and effectual contrivances. And upon this account, Ibycus oppositely calls the dawning [Greek omitted] (from [Greek omitted], TO HEAR), because then men first begin to hear and speak. Now at night, all things being at rest, the air being quiet and undisturbed must therefore probably transmit the voice better, and convey it whole and unbroken to our ears.

Aristodemus the Cyprian, being then in the company, said: But consider, sir, whether battles or the marches of great armies by night do not confute your reason; for the noise they make seems as loud as otherwise, though then the air is broken and very much disturbed. But the reason is partly in ourselves; for our voice at night is usually vehement, we either commanding others to do something or asking short questions with heat and concern. For that, at the same time when Nature requires rest, we should stir to do or speak anything, there must be some great and urgent necessity for it; and thence our voices become more vehement and loud.

QUESTION IV.

Why, When in the Sacred Games One Sort of Garland Was Given in One, and Another in Another, the Palm Was Common to All. And Why They Call the Great Dates [Greek omitted].

SOSPIS, HERODES, PROTOGENES, PRAXITELES, CAPHISUS.

The Isthmian games being celebrated, when Sospis was the second time director of the solemnity, we avoided other entertainments — he treating a great many strangers and often all his fellow-citizens — but once, when he entertained his nearest and most learned friends at his own house, I was one of the company. After the first course, one coming to Herodes the rhetorician brought a palm and a wreathed crown, which one of his acquaintance, who had won the prize for an encomiastic exercise, sent him. This Herodes received very kindly, and sent it back again, but added that he could not tell the reason why, since each of the games gave a particular garland, yet all of them bestowed the palm. For those do not satisfy me (said he) who say that the equality of the leaves is the reason, which growing out one against another seem to resemble some striving for the prize, and that victory is called [Greek omitted] from [Greek omitted], not to yield. For a great many other trees, almost by measure and weight dividing the nourishment to their leaves growing opposite to one another, show a decent order and wonderful equality. They seem to speak more probably who say the ancients were pleased with the beauty and figure of the tree. Thus Homer compares Nausicaa to a palm-branch. For you all know very well, that some threw roses at the victors, and others pomegranates and apples, to honor and reward them. But now the palm hath nothing evidently more taking than many other things, since here in Greece it bears no fruit that is good to eat, it not ripening and growing mature enough. But if, as in Syria and Egypt, it bore a fruit that is the most pleasant to the eyes of anything in the world, and the sweetest to the taste, then I must confess nothing could compare with it. And the Persian monarch (as the story goes), being extremely taken with Nicolaus the Peripatetic philosopher, who was a very sweet-humored man, tall and slender, and of a ruddy complexion, called the greatest and fairest dates Nicolai.

This discourse of Herodes seemed to give occasion for a query about Nicolaus, which would be as pleasant as the former. Therefore, said Sospis, let every one carefully give his sentiments of the matter before us. I begin, and think that, as far as possible, the honor of the victor should remain fresh and immortal. Now a palm-tree is the longest lived of any, as this line of Orpheus testifies:—

They lived like branches of a leafy palm.

And this almost alone has the privilege (though it is said to belong to many besides) of having always fresh and the same leaves. For neither the laurel nor the olive nor the myrtle, nor any other of those trees named evergreen, is always to be seen with the very same leaves; but as the old fall, new ones grow. So cities continue the same, where new parts succeed those that decay. But the palm, never shedding a leaf, is continually adorned with the same green. And this power of the tree, I believe, men think agreeable to, and fit to represent, the strength of victory.

When Sospis had done, Protogenes the grammarian, calling Praxiteles the commentator by his name, said. What then, shall we suffer those rhetoricians to be thought to have hit the mark when they bring arguments only from probabilities and conjectures? And can we produce nothing from history to club to this discourse? Lately, I remember, reading in the Attic annals, I found that Theseus first instituted games in Delos, and tore off a branch from the sacred palm-tree, which was called spadix (from [Greek omitted] TO TEAR).

And Praxiteles said: This is not certain; but perhaps some will demand of Theseus himself, upon what account when he instituted the game, he broke off a branch of palm rather than of laurel or of olive. But consider whether this be not a prize proper to the Pythian games, as appropriate to Amphictyon. For there they first, in honor of the god, crowned the victors with laurel and palm, as consecrating to the god, not the laurel or olive, but the palm. So Nicias did, who defrayed the charges of the solemnity in the name of the Athenians at Delos the Athenians themselves at Delphi; and before these, Cypselus the Corinthian. For this god is a lover of games, and delights in contending for the prize at harping, singing, and throwing the bar, and, as some say, at cuffing; and assists men when contending, as Homer witnesseth, by making Achilles speak thus,

Let two come forth in cuffing stout, and try
To which Apollo gives the victory.
(“Iliad,” xxiii. 659.)

And amongst the archers, he that made his address to Apollo made the best shot, and he that forgot to pray to him missed the mark. And besides, it is not likely that the Athenians would rashly, and upon no grounds, dedicate their place of exercise to Apollo. But they thought that the god which bestows health gives likewise a vigorous constitution, and strength for the encounter. And since some of the encounters are light and easy, others laborious and difficult, the Delphians offered sacrifices to Apollo the cuffer; the Cretans and Spartans to Apollo the racer; and the dedication of spoils taken in the wars and trophies to Apollo Pythias show that he is of great power to give victory in war.

Whilst he was speaking, Caphisus, Theon’s son, interrupted him, and said: This discourse smells neither of history nor comment, but is taken out of the common topics of the Peripatetics, and endeavors to persuade; besides, you should, like the tragedians, raise your machine, and fright all that contradict you with the god. But the god, as indeed it is requisite he should be, is equally benevolent to all. Now let us, following Sospis (for he fairly leads the way), keep close to our subject, the palm-tree, which affords us sufficient scope for our discourse. The Babylonians celebrate this tree, as being useful to them three hundred and sixty several ways. But to us Greeks it is of very little use, but its lack of fruit makes it appropriate for contenders in the games. For being the fairest, greatest, and best proportioned of all sorts of trees, it bears no fruit amongst us; but by reason of its strong nature it exhausts all its nourishment (like an athlete) upon its body, and so has very little, and that very bad, left for seed. Besides all this, it hath something peculiar, which cannot be attributed to any other tree. The branch of a palm, if you put a weight upon it, doth not yield and bend downwards, but turns the contrary way as if it resisted the pressing force. The like is to be observed in these exercises. For those who, through weakness or cowardice, yield to them, their adversaries oppress; but those who stoutly endure the encounter have not only their bodies, but their minds too, strengthened and increased.

QUESTION V.

Why Those that Sail Upon the Nile Take Up the Water They are to Use Before Day.

One demanded a reason why the sailors take up the water for their occasions out of the river Nile by night, and not by day. Some thought they feared the sun, which heating the liquid would make it more liable to putrefaction. For everything that is warmed becomes more easy to be changed, having already suffered when its natural quality was remitted. And cold constipating the parts seems to preserve everything in its natural state, and water especially. For that the cold of water is naturally constringent is evident from snow, which keeps flesh from corrupting a long time. And heat, as it destroys the proper quality of other things, so of honey, for it being boiled is itself corrupted, though when raw it preserves other bodies from corruption. And that this is the cause, I have a very considerable evidence from standing pools; for in winter they are as wholesome as other water, but in summer they grow bad and noxious. Therefore the night seeming in some measure to resemble the winter, and the day the summer, they think the water that is taken up at night is less subject to be vitiated and changed.

To these seemingly probable reasons another was added, which confirmed the ingenuity of the sailors by a very strong proof. For some said that they took up their water by night because then it was clear and undisturbed; but at day-time, when a great many fetched water together, and many boats were sailing and many beasts swimming upon the Nile, it grew thick and muddy, and in that condition it was more subject to corruption. For mixed bodies are more easily corrupted than simple and unmixed; for from mixture proceeds disagreement of the parts, from that disagreement a change, and corruption is nothing else but a certain change; and therefore painters call the mixing of their colors [Greek omitted], corrupting; and Homer expresseth dyeing by [Greek omitted] (TO STAIN OR CONTAMINATE). Commonly we call anything that is simple and unmixed incorruptible and immortal. Now earth being mixed with water soonest corrupts its proper qualities, and makes it unfit for drinking; and therefore standing water stinks soonest, being continually filled with particles of earth, whilst running waters preserve themselves by either leaving behind or throwing off the earth that falls into them. And Hesiod justly commends

The water of a pure and constant spring.

For that water is wholesome which is not corrupted, and that is not corrupted which is pure and unmixed. And this opinion is very much confirmed from the difference of earths; for those springs that run through a mountainous, rocky ground are stronger than those which are cut through plains or marshes, because they do not take off much earth. Now the Nile running through a soft country, like the blood mingled with the flesh, is filled with sweet juices that are strong and very nourishing; yet it is thick and muddy, and becomes more so if disturbed. For motion mixeth the earthly particles with the liquid, which, because they are heavier, fall to the bottom as soon as the water is still and undisturbed. Therefore the sailors take up the water they are to use at night, by that means likewise preventing the sun, which always exhales and consumes the subtler and lighter particles of the liquid.

QUESTION VI.

Concerning Those Who Come Late to an Entertainment; and From Whence These Words, [Greek omitted] and, [Greek omitted] are Derived.

PLUTARCH’S SONS, THEON’S SONS, THEON, PLUTARCH, SOCLARUS.

My younger sons staying too long at the plays, and coming in too late to supper, Theon’s sons waggishly and jocosely called them supper hinderers, night-suppers, and the like; and they in reply called their runners-to-supper. And one of the old men in the company said [Greek omitted] signified one that was too late for supper; because, when he found himself tardy, he mended his pace, and made more than common haste. And he told us a jest of Battus, Caesar’s jester, who called those that came late supper-lovers, because out of their love to entertainments, though they had business, they would not desire to be excused.

And I said, that Polycharmus, a leading orator at Athens, in his apology for his way of living before the assembly, said: Besides a great many things which I could mention, fellow-citizens, when I was invited to supper, I never came the last man. For this is more democratical; and on the contrary, those that are forced to stay for others that come late are offended at them as uncivil and of an oligarchical temper.

But Soclarus, in defence of my sons, said: Alcaeus (as the story goes) did not call Pittacus a night-supper for supping late, but for delighting in base and scandalous company. Heretofore to eat early was accounted scandalous, and such a meal was called [Greek omitted], from [Greek omitted] INTEMPERANCE.

Then Theon interrupting him said: Not at all, if we must trust those who have delivered down to us the ancients way of living. For they say that those being used to work, and very temperate in a morning, ate a bit of bread dipped in wine, and nothing else, and that they called that meal [Greek omitted] from the [Greek omitted] (WINE). Their supper they called [Greek omitted], because returning from their business they took it [Greek omitted] (LATE). Upon this we began to inquire whence those two meals [Greek omitted] and [Greek omitted] took their names. In Homer [Greek omitted] and [Greek omitted] seem to be the same meal. For he says that Eumaeus provided [Greek omitted] by the break of day; and it is probable that [Greek omitted] was so called from [Greek omitted], because provided in the morning; and [Greek omitted] was so named from [Greek omitted], EASING FROM THEIR LABOR. For men used to take their [Greek omitted] after they had finished their business, or whilst they were about it. And this may be gathered from Homer, when he says,

Then when the woodman doth his supper dress.
(“Iliad,” xi. 86.)

But some perhaps will derive [Greek omitted] from [Greek omitted], EASIEST PROVIDED, because that meal is usually made upon what is ready and at hand; and [Greek omitted] from [Greek omitted], LABORED, because of the pains used in dressing it.

My brother Lamprias, being of a scoffing, jeering nature, said: Since we are in a trifling humor, I can show that the Latin names of these meals are a thousand times more proper than the Greek; [Greek omitted] SUPPER, they call coena ([Greek omitted]) from community; because they took their [Greek omitted] by themselves, but their coena with their friends. [Greek omitted] DINNER, they call prandium, from the time of the dry; for [Greek omitted] signifies NOON-TIDE, and to rest after dinner is expressed by [Greek omitted]; or else by prandium they denote a bit taken in the morning, [Greek omitted], Before THEY HAVE NEED OF ANY. And not to mention stragula, from [Greek Omitted], vinum from [Greek omitted], oleum from [Greek omitted], mel from [Greek omitted], gustare from [Greek omitted], propinare from [Greek omitted], and a great many more words which they have plainly borrowed from the Greeks — who can deny but that they have taken their comessatio, BANQUETING, from our [Greek omitted] and miscere, TO MINGLE, from the Greeks too? Thus in Homer,

She in a bowl herself mixt ([Greek omitted]) generous wine.
(“Odyssey,” x. 356.)

They call a table mensam, from [Greek omitted], PLACING IT IN THE MIDDLE; bread, panem, from satisfying [Greek omitted], HUNGER; a garland, coronam, from [Greek omitted], THE HEAD; — and Homer somewhat likens [Greek omitted], a HEAD-PIECE, to a garland; — caedere, TO BEAT, from [Greek omitted]; and dentes, TEETH, from [Greek omitted]; lips they call labra, from [Greek omitted], TAKING OUR VICTUALS WITH THEM. Therefore we must either listen to such fooleries as these without laughing, or not give them so ready entrance by means of words. . . .

QUESTION VII.

Concerning Pythagoras’s Symbols, in Which He Forbids Us to Receive a Swallow Into Our House, and Bids Us As Soon As We are Risen to Ruffle the Bedclothes.

SYLLA, LUCIUS, PLUTARCH, PHILINUS.

Sylla the Carthaginian, upon my return to Rome after a long absence, gave me a welcoming supper, as the Romans call it, and invited some few other friends, and among the rest, one Lucius an Etrurian, the scholar of Moderatus the Pythagorean. He seeing my friend Philinus ate no flesh, began (as the opportunity was fair) to talk of Pythagoras; and affirmed that he was a Tuscan, not because his father, as others have said, was one, but because he himself was born, bred, and taught in Tuscany. To confirm this, he brought considerable arguments from such symbols as these:— As soon as you are risen, ruffle the bedclothes; leave not the print of the pot in the ashes; receive not a swallow into your house; never step over a besom; nor keep in your house creatures that have hooked claws. For these precepts of the Pythagoreans the Tuscans only, as he said, carefully observe.

Lucius, having thus said, that precept about the swallow seemed to be most unaccountable, it being a harmless and kind animal; and therefore it seemed strange that that should be forbid the house, as well as the hooked-clawed animals, which are ravenous, wild, and bloody. Nor did Lucius himself approve that only interpretation of the ancients, who say, this symbol aims directly at backbiters and tale-bearing whisperers. For the swallow whispers not at all; it chatters indeed, and is noisy, but not more than a pie, a partridge, or a hen. What then, said Sylla, is it upon the old fabulous account of killing her son, that they deny the swallow entertainment, by that means showing their dislike to those passions which (as the story goes) made Tereus and Procne and Philomel both act and suffer such wicked and abominable things? And even to this day they call the birds Daulides. And Gorgias the sophister, when a swallow muted upon him, looked upon her and said, Philomel, this was not well done. Or perhaps this is all without foundation; for the nightingale, though concerned in the same tragedy, we willingly receive.

Perhaps, sir, said I, what you have alleged may be some reason; but pray consider whether first they do not hate the swallow upon the same account that they abhor hook-clawed animals. For the swallow feeds on flesh; and grasshoppers, which are sacred and musical, they chiefly devour and prey upon. And, as Aristotle observes, they fly near the surface of the earth to pick up the little animals. Besides, that alone of all house-animals makes no return for her entertainment. The stork, though she is neither covered, fed, nor defended by us, yet pays for the place where she builds, going about and killing the efts, snakes, and other venomous creatures. But the swallow, though she receives all those several kindnesses from us, yet, as soon as her young are fledged, flies away faithless and ungrateful; and (which is the worst of all) of all house-animals, the fly and the swallow only never grow tame, suffer a man to touch them, keep company with or learn of him. And the fly is so shy because often hurt and driven away; but the swallow naturally hates man, suspects, and dares not trust any that would tame her. And therefore — if we must not look on the outside of these things, but opening them view the representations of some things in others — Pythagoras, setting the swallow for an example of a wandering, unthankful man, adviseth us not to take those who come to us for their own need and upon occasion into our familiarity, and let them partake of the most sacred things, our house and fire.

This discourse of mine gave the company encouragement to proceed, so they attempted other symbols, and gave moral interpretations of them. For Philinus said, that the precept of blotting out the print of the pot instructed us not to leave any plain mark of anger, but, as soon as ever the passion hath done boiling, to lay aside all thoughts of malice and revenge. That symbol which adviseth us to ruffle the bedclothes seemed to some to have no secret meaning, but to be in itself very evident; for it is not decent that the mark and (as it were) stamped image should remain to be seen by others, in the place where a man hath lain with his wife. But Sylla thought the symbol was rather intended to prevent men’s sleeping in the day-time, all the conveniences for sleeping being taken away in the morning as soon as we are up. For night is the time for sleep, and in the day we should rise and follow our affairs, and not suffer so much as the print of our body in the bed, since a man asleep is of no more use than one dead. And this interpretation seems to be confirmed by that other precept, in which the Pythagoreans advise their followers not to take off any man’s burthen from him, but to lay on more, as not countenancing sloth and laziness in any.

QUESTION VIII.

Why the Pythagoreans Command Fish Not to Be Eaten, More Strictly Than Other Animals.

EMPEDOCLES, SYLLA, LUCIUS, TYNDARES, NESTOR.

Our former discourse Lucius neither reprehended nor approved, but, sitting silent and musing, gave us the hearing. Then Empedocles addressing his discourse to Sylla, said: If our friend Lucius is displeased with the discourse, it is time for us to leave off; but if these are some of their mysteries which ought to be concealed, yet I think this may be lawfully divulged, that they more cautiously abstain from fish than from other animals. For this is said of the ancient Pythagoreans; and even now I have met with Alexicrates’s scholars, who will eat and kill and even sacrifice some of the other animals, but will never taste fish. Tyndares the Spartan said, they spared fish because they had so great a regard for silence, and they called fish [Greek omitted], because they had their voice SHUT UP ([Greek omitted]); and my namesake Empedocles advised one who had been expelled from the school of Pythagoras to shut up his mind like a fish, and they thought silence to be divine, since the gods without any voice reveal their meaning to the wise by their works.

Then Lucius gravely and composedly saying, that perhaps the true reason was obscure and not to be divulged, yet they had liberty to venture upon probable conjectures, Theon the grammarian began thus: To demonstrate that Pythagoras was a Tuscan is a great and no easy task. But it is confessed that he conversed a long time with the wise men of Egypt, and imitated a great many of the rites and institutions of the priests, for instance, that about beans. For Herodotus delivers, that the Egyptians neither set nor eat beans, nay, cannot endure to see them; and we all know, that even now the priests eat no fish; and the stricter sort eat no salt, and refuse all meat that is seasoned with it. Various reasons are offered for this; but the only true reason is hatred to the sea, as being a disagreeable, or rather naturally a destructive element to man. For they do not imagine that the gods, as the Stoics did that the stars, were nourished by it. But, on the contrary, they think that the father and preserver of their country, whom they call the deflux of Osiris, is lost in it; and when they bewail him as born on the left hand, and destroyed in the right-hand parts, they intimate to us the ending and corruption of their Nile by the sea, and therefore they do not believe that its water is wholesome, or that any creature produced or nourished in it can be clean or wholesome food for man, since it breathes not the common air, and feeds not on the same food with him. And the air that nourisheth and preserves all other things is destructive to them, as if their production and life were unnecessary and against Nature; nor should we wonder that they think animals bred in the sea to be disagreeable to their bodies, and not fit to mix with their blood and spirits, since when they meet a pilot they will not speak to him, because he gets his living by the sea.

Sylla commended this discourse, and added concerning the Pythagoreans, that they then chiefly tasted flesh when they sacrificed to the gods. Now no fish is ever offered in sacrifice. I, after they had done, said that many, both philosophers and unlearned, considering with how many good things it furnisheth and makes our life more comfortable, take the sea’s part against the Egyptians. But that the Pythagoreans should abstain from fish because they are not of the same kind, is ridiculous and absurd; nay, to butcher and feed on other animals, because they bear a nearer relation to us, would be a most inhuman and Cyclopean return. And they say that Pythagoras bought a draught of fishes, and presently commanded the fishers to let them all out of the net; and this shows that, he did not hate or not mind fishes, as things of another kind and destructive to man, but that they were his dearly beloved creatures, since he paid a ransom for their freedom.

Therefore the tenderness and humanity of those philosophers suggest a quite contrary reason, and I am apt to believe that they spare fishes to instruct men, or to accustom themselves to acts of justice; for other creatures generally give men cause to afflict them, but fishes neither do nor are capable of doing us any harm. And it is easy to show, both from the writings and religion of the ancients, that they thought it a great sin not only to eat but to kill an animal that did them no harm. But afterwards, being necessitated by the spreading multitude of men, and commanded (as they say) by the Delphic oracle to prevent the total decay of corn and fruit, they began to sacrifice, yet they were so disturbed and concerned at the action, that they called it [Greek omitted] and [Greek omitted] (TO DO), as if they did some strange thing in killing an animal; and they are very careful not to kill the beast before the wine has been cast upon his head and he nods in token of consent. So very cautious are they of injustice. And not to mention other considerations, were no chickens (for instance) or hares killed, in a short time they would so increase that there could be no living. And now it would be a very hard matter to put down the eating of flesh, which necessity first introduced, since pleasure and luxury hath espoused it. But the water-animals neither consuming any part of our air or water, or devouring the fruit, but as it were encompassed by another world, and having their own proper bounds, which it is death for them to pass, they afford our belly no pretence at all for their destruction; and therefore to catch or be greedy after fish is plain deliciousness and luxury, which upon no just reason unsettle the sea and dive into the deep. For we cannot call the mullet corn-destroying, the trout grape-eating, nor the barbel or seapike seed-gathering, as we do some land-animals, signifying their hurtfulness by these epithets. Nay, those little mischiefs which we complain of in these house-creatures, a weasel or fly, none can justly lay upon the greatest fish. Therefore the Pythagoreans, confining themselves not only by the law which forbids them to injure men, but also by Nature, which commands them to do violence to nothing, fed on fish very little, or rather not at all. But suppose there were no injustice in this case, yet to delight in fish would argue daintiness and luxury; because they are such costly and unnecessary diet. Therefore Homer doth not only make the Greeks whilst encamped near the Hellespont, eat no fish, but he mentions not any sea-provision that the dissolute Phaeacians or luxurious wooers had, though both islanders. And Ulysses’s mates, though they sailed over so much sea, as long as they had any provision left, never let down a hook or net.

But when the victuals of their ship was spent,
(“Odyssey,” xii. 329–332.)

a little before they fell upon the oxen of the Sun, they caught fish, not to please their wanton appetite, but to satisfy their hunger —

With crooked hooks, for cruel hunger gnawed.

The same necessity therefore forced them to catch fish and devour the oxen of the Sun. Therefore not only among the Egyptian and Syrians but Greeks too, to abstain from fish was a piece of sanctity, they avoiding (as I think), a superfluous curiosity in diet, as well as being just.

To this Nestor subjoining said: But sir, of my citizens as of the Megarians in the proverb, you make no account; although you have heard me often say that our priests of Neptune (whom we call Hieromnemons) never eat fish. For Neptune himself is called the Breeder. And the race of Hellen sacrificed to Neptune as the first father, imagining, as likewise the Syrians did, that man rose from a liquid substance. And therefore they worship a fish as of the same production and breeding with themselves, in this matter being more happy in their philosophy than Anaximander; for he says that fish and men were not produced in the same substances, but that men were first produced in fishes, and, when they were grown up and able to help themselves, were thrown out, and so lived upon the land. Therefore, as the fire devours its parents, that is, the matter out of which it was first kindled, so Anaximander, asserting that fish were our common parents, condemneth our feeding on them.

QUESTION IX.

Whether There Can Be New Diseases, and How Caused.

PHILO, DIOGENIANUS, PLUTARCH.

Philo the physician stoutly affirmed that the elephantiasis was a disease but lately known; since none of the ancient physicians speak one word of it, though they oftentimes enlarge upon little, frivolous and obscure trifles. And I, to confirm it, cited Athenodorus the philosopher, who in his first book of Epidemical Diseases says, that not only that disease, but also the hydrophobia or water-dread (occasioned by the biting of a mad dog), were first discovered in the time of Asclepiades. At this the whole company were amazed, thinking it very strange that such diseases should begin then, and yet as strange that they should not be taken notice of in so long a time; yet most of them leaned to this last opinion, as being most agreeable to man, not in the least daring to imagine that Nature affected novelties, or would in the body of man, as in a city, create new disturbances and tumults.

And Diogenianus added, that even the passions and diseases of the mind go on in the same old road that formerly they did; and yet the viciousness of our inclination is exceedingly prone to variety, and our mind is mistress of itself, and can, if it please, easily change and alter. Yet all her inordinate motions have some sort of order, and the soul hath bounds to her passions, as the sea to her overflowings. And there is no sort of vice now among us which was not practised by the ancients. There are a thousand differences of appetites and various motions of fear; the schemes of grief and pleasure are innumerable.

Yet are not they of late or now produced,
And none can tell from whence they first arose.
(Sophocles, “Antigone,” 456.)

How then should the body be subject to new diseases, since it hath not, like the soul, the principle of its own alteration in itself, but by common causes is joined to Nature, and receives a temperature whose infinite variety of alterations is confined to certain bounds, like a ship moving and tossing in a circle about its anchor. Now there can be no disease without some cause, it being against the laws of Nature that anything should be without a cause. Now it will be very hard to find a new cause, unless we fancy some strange air, water, or food never tasted by the ancients, should out of other worlds or intermundane spaces descend to us. For we contract diseases from those very things which preserve our life; since there are no peculiar seeds of diseases, but the disagreement of their juices to our bodies, or our excess in using them, disturbs Nature. These disturbances have still the very same differences, though now and then called by new names. For names depend on custom, but the passions on Nature; and these being constant and those variable, this error has arisen. As, in the parts of a speech and the syntax of the words, some new sort of barbarism or solecism can suddenly arise; so the temperature of the body hath certain deviations and corruptions into which it may fall, those things which are against and hurtful to Nature being in some sort existent in Nature herself. The mythographers are in this particular very ingenious, for they say that monstrous uncouth animals were produced in the time of the Giants war, the moon being out of its course, and not rising where it used to do. And those who think Nature produces new diseases like monsters, and yet give neither likely nor unlikely reasons of the change, err, as I imagine, my dear Philo, in taking a less or a greater degree of the same disease to be a different disease. The intension or increase of a thing makes it more or greater, but does not make the subject of another kind. Thus the elephantiasis, being an intense scabbiness, is not a new kind; nor is the water-dread distinguished from other melancholic and stomachical affections but only by the degree. And I wonder we did not observe that Homer was acquainted with this disease, for it is evident that he calls a dog rabid from the very same rage with which when men are possessed they are said to be mad.

Against this discourse of Diogenianus Philo himself made some objections, and desired me to be the old physicians’ patron; who must be branded with inadvertency and ignorance, unless it appears that those diseases began since their time. First then Diogenianus, methinks, very precariously desires us to think that the intenseness or remissness of degrees is not a real difference, and does not alter the kind. For, were this true, then we should hold that downright vinegar is not different from pricked wine, nor a bitter from a rough taste, darnel from wheat, nor garden-mint from wild mint. For it is evident that these differences are only the several degrees of the same qualities, in some being more intense, in some more remiss. So we should not venture to affirm that flame is different from a white spirit, sunshine from flame, hoarfrost from dew, or hail from rain; but that the former have only more intense qualities than the latter. Besides, we should say that blindness is of the same kind with short-sightedness, violent vomiting (or cholera) with weakness of the stomach, and that they differ only in degree. Though what they say is nothing to the purpose; for if they allow the increase in intensity and strength, but assert that this came but now of late — the novelty showing itself in the quantity rather than the quality — the same difficulties which they urged against the other opinion oppress them. Sophocles says very well concerning those things which are not believed to be now, because they were not heretofore —

Once at the first all things their being had.

And it is probable that not all diseases, as in a race, the barrier being let down, started together; but that one rising after another, at some certain time, had its beginning and showed itself. It is rational to conclude (continued I) that all the diseases that rise from want, heat, or cold bear the same date with our bodies; but afterwards overeating, luxury, and surfeiting, encouraged by ease and plenty, raised bad and superfluous juices, and those brought various new diseases, and their perpetual complications and mixtures still create more new. Whatever is natural is determined and in order; for Nature is order, or the work of order. Disorder, like Pindar’s sand, cannot be comprised by number, and that which is beside Nature is straight called indeterminate and infinite. Thus truth is simple, and but one; but falsities innumerable. The exactness of motions and harmony are definite, but the errors either in playing upon the harp, singing, or dancing, who can comprehend? Indeed Phrynichus the tragedian says of himself,

As many figures dancing doth propose
As waves roll on the sea when tempests toss.

And Chrysippus says that the various complications of ten single axioms amount to 1,000,000. But Hipparchus hath confuted that account, showing that the affirmative contains 101,049 complicated propositions, and the negative 310,952. And Xenocrates says, the number of syllables which the letters will make is 100,200,000. How then is it strange that the body, having so many different powers in itself, and getting new qualities every day from its meat and drink, and using those motions and alterations which are not always in the same time nor in the same order, should upon the various complications of all these be affected with new diseases? Such was the plague at Athens described by Thucydides, who conjectures that it was new because that birds and beasts of prey would not touch the dead carcasses. Those that fell sick about the Red Sea, if we believe Agatharcides, besides other strange and unheard diseases, had little serpents in their legs and arms, which did eat their way out, but when touched shrunk in again, and raised intolerable inflammations in the muscles; and yet this kind of plague, as likewise many others, never afflicted any beside, either before or since. One, after a long stoppage of urine, voided a knotty barley straw. And we know that Ephebus, with whom we lodged at Athens, threw out, together with a great deal of seed, a little hairy, many-footed, nimble animal. And Aristotle tells us, that Timon’s nurse in Cilicia every year for two months lay in a cave, without any vital operation besides breathing. And in the Menonian books it is delivered as a symptom of a diseased liver carefully to observe and hunt after mice and rats, which we see now nowhere practised.

Therefore let us not wonder if something happens which never was before, or if something doth not appear among us with which the ancients were acquainted; for the cause of those accidents is the nature of our body, whose temperature is subject to be changed. Therefore, if Diogenianus will not introduce a new kind of water or air, we, having no need of it, are very well content. Yet we know some of Democritus’s scholars affirm that, other worlds being dissolved, some strange effluvia fall into ours, and are the principle of new plagues and uncommon diseases. But let us not now take notice of the corruption of some parts of this world by earthquake, droughts, and floods, by which both the vapors and fountains rising out of the earth must be necessarily corrupted. Yet we must not pass by that change which must be wrought in the body by our meat, drink, and other exercises in our course of life. For many things which the ancients did not feed on are now accounted dainties; for instance, mead and swine’s belly. Heretofore too, as I have heard, they hated the brain of animals so much, that they detested the very name of it; as when Homer says, “I esteem him at a brain’s worth.” And even now we know some old men, not bearing to taste cucumber, melon, orange, or pepper. Now by these meats and drinks it is probable that the juices of our bodies are much altered, and their temperature changed, new qualities arising from this new sort of diet. And the change of order in our feeding having a great influence on the alteration of our bodies, the cold courses, as they were called formerly, consisting of oysters, polyps, salads, and the like, being (in Plato’s phrase) transferred “from tail to mouth,” now make the first course, whereas they were formerly the last. Besides, the glass which we usually take before supper is very considerable in this case; for the ancients never drank so much as water before they ate, but now we drink freely before we sit down, and fall to our meat with a full and heated body, using sharp sauces and pickles to provoke appetite, and then we fall greedily on the other meat. But nothing conduceth more to alterations and new diseases in the body than our different baths; for here the flesh, like iron in the fire, grows soft and loose, and is presently constipated and hardened by the cold. For, in my opinion, if any of the last age had looked into our baths, he might have justly said,

There burning Phlegethon meets Acheron.

For they used such mild gentle baths, that Alexander the Great being feverish slept in one. And the Gauls’ wives carry their pots of pulse to eat with their children whilst they are in the bath. But our baths now inflame, vellicate, and distress; and the air which we draw is a mixture of air and water, disturbs the whole body, tosses and displaces every atom, till we quench the fiery particles and allay their heat. Therefore, Diogenianus, you see that this account requires no new strange causes, no intermundane spaces; but the single alteration of our diet is enough to raise new diseases and abolish old.

QUESTION X.

Why We Give Least Credit to Dreams in Autumn.

FLORUS, PLUTARCH, PLUTARCH’S SONS, FAVORINUS.

Florus reading Aristotle’s physical problems, which were brought to him to Thermopylae, was himself (as philosophical wits used to be) filled with a great many doubts, and communicated them to others; thereby confirming Aristotle’s saying, that much learning raises many doubts. Other topics made our walks every day very pleasant, but the common saying concerning dreams — that those in autumn are the vainest — I know not how, whilst Favorinus was engaged in other matters, was started after supper. Your friends and my sons thought Aristotle had given sufficient satisfaction in this point, and that no other cause was to be sought after or allowed but that which he mentions, the fruit. For the fruit, being new and flatulent, raises many disturbing vapors in the body; for it is not likely that only wine ferments, or new oil only makes a noise in the lamp, the heat agitating its vapor; but new corn and all sorts of fruit are plump and distended, till the unconcocted flatulent vapor is broke away. And that some sorts of food disturb dreams they said, was evident from beans and the polypus’s head, from which those who would divine by their dreams are commanded to abstain.

But Favorinus himself, though in all other things he admires Aristotle exceedingly and thinks the Peripatetic philosophy to be most probable, yet in this case resolved to scour up an old musty opinion of Democritus. He first laid down that known principle of his, that images pass through the pores into the inmost parts of the body, and being carried upward cause dreams; and that these images fly from everything, vessels, garments, plants, but especially from animals, because of their heat and the motion of their spirits; and that these images not only carry the outward shape and likeness of the bodies (as Epicurus thinks, following Democritus so far and no farther), but the very designs, motions, and passions of the soul; and with those entering into the bodies, as if they were living things, discover to those that receive them the thoughts and inclinations of the persons from whom they come, if so be that they preserve their frame and order entire. And that is especially preserved when the air is calm and clear, their passage then being quick and undisturbed. Now the autumnal air, when trees shed their leaves, being very uneven and disturbed, ruffles and disorders the images, and, hindering them in their passage, makes them weak and ineffectual; when, on the contrary, if they rise from warm and vigorous subjects, and are presently applied, the notices which they give and the impressions they make are clear and evident.

Then with a smile looking upon Autobulus, he continued: But, sir, I perceive you design to have an airy skirmish with these images, and try the excellence of this old opinion, as you would a picture, by your nail. And Autobulus replied: Pray, sir, do not endeavor to cheat us any longer; for we know very well that you, designing to make Aristotle’s opinion appear the better, have used this of Democritus only as its shade. Therefore I shall pass by that, and impugn Aristotle’s opinion, which unjustly lays the blame on the new fruit. For both the summer and the early autumn witness in its favor, when, as Antimachus says, the fruit is most fresh and juicy; for then, though we eat the new fruit, yet our dreams are not so vain as at other times. And the months when the leaves fall, being next to winter, so concoct the corn and remaining fruit, that they grow shrivelled and less, and lose all their brisk agitating spirit. As for new wine, those that drink it soonest forbear till February, which is after winter; and the day on which we begin we call the day of the Good Genius, and the Athenians the day of cask-opening. For whilst wine is working, we see that even common, laborers will not venture on it. Therefore no more accusing the gifts of the gods, let us seek after another cause of vain dreams, to which the name of the season will direct us. For it is called LEAF-SHEDDING, because the leaves then fall off by reason of their dryness and coldness; except the leaves of hot and oily trees, as of the olive, the laurel, or the palm; or of the moist, as of the myrtle and the ivy. But the temperature of these preserves them, though not others; because in others the vicious humor that holds the leaves is constipated by the cold, or being weak and little is dried up. Now moisture and heat are necessary for the growth and preservation of plants, but especially of animals; and on the contrary, coldness and dryness are very noxious to both. And therefore Homer elegantly calls men moist and juicy: to rejoice he calls to be warmed; and anything that is grievous and frightful he calls cold and icy. Besides, the words [Greek omitted] and [Greek omitted] are applied to the dead, those names intimating their extreme dryness. But more, our blood, the principal thing in our whole body, is moist and hot. And old age hath neither of those two qualities. Now the autumn seems to be as it were the old age of the decaying year; for the moisture doth not yet fall, and the heat decays. And its inclining the body to diseases is an evident sign of its cold and dryness. Now it is necessary that the souls should be indisposed with the bodies and that, the subtile spirit being condensed, the divining faculty of the soul, like a glass that is breathed upon, should be sullied; and therefore it cannot represent anything plain, distinct, and clear, as long as it remains thick, dark, and condensed.

http://ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/p/plutarch/symposiacs/chapter8.html

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