Phi. Ah, Lycinus, I hear you had a very varied entertainment dining with Aristaenetus last night; a philosophic debate followed by a sharp difference of opinion, I understand; if Charinus’s information was correct, it went as far as blows, and the conference had a bloody end.
Ly. Charinus? he was not there; what can he know about it?
Phi. Dionicus the doctor had told him, he said; he was one of you, was he not?
Ly. Yes, but only later on; he came when the fray was already a promising one, though no blows had yet been struck. I doubt whether he could have any intelligible account to give, as he had not followed the beginning of the rivalry that was to end in bloodshed.
Phi. Just so; Charinus told me to apply to you, if I wanted a true description of all the details. Dionicus had mentioned that he had not been there all through, but said you knew the whole of the facts, and would remember the arguments too, as you are a real student and take more than an outside interest in that sort of thing. So no more ceremony, please, but spread me this most tempting of banquets; its attractions are enhanced by the fact that we shall enjoy it soberly, quietly, without bloodshed or danger, whatever regrettable words or deeds the old men’s weak heads or the young men’s vinous exaltation may have led them into.
Ly. What an indiscreet demand, Philo! What, make the story public? give a full description of what men do in their cups? A veil should be drawn over such things; they should be ascribed to Dionysus; I am not at all sure that he will pardon the man who holds aloof from his mystic influence. I should like to be sure that it does not betray an evil nature if you dwell too curiously on what you should forget as you leave the dining-room. ‘Babble wet, But dry forget,’ goes the rhyme. It was not right of Dionicus to blab to Charinus, bespattering great philosophers with stale wine-rinsings. No, get thee behind me; my lips are sealed.
Phi. Coquette! and you have mistaken your man too; I am quite aware that you are more eager to tell than I to hear: I believe, if you had no one to listen, you would find a pillar or statue and out with the whole tale to it in one torrent. If I try to make off now, you will never let me go till I have done my listening; you will hold on to me and pursue me and solicit me. Then it will be my turn to coquet. Oh, very well; do not trouble to tell me; good-bye; I will get it out of some one else.
Ly. Oh, you needn’t be so hasty. I will tell you, if you are so set upon it; only don’t repeat it to everybody.
Phi. If I know anything whatever of you, you will take good care of that; you will not leave me many to repeat it to.
Now begin with telling me what Aristaenetus was giving the banquet for; was it his boy Zeno’s wedding?
Ly. No, his girl Cleanthis’s — to the son of Eucritus the banker, a student of philosophy.
Phi. I know; a fine lad; only a lad, though; old enough to marry?
Ly. Well, he was the most suitable to be had, I suppose. He is a well-behaved youngster, has taken up philosophy, and is sole heir to a rich father; so he was the selected bridegroom.
Phi. Ah, no doubt Eucritus’s money is a consideration. Well, and who were the guests?
Ly. Why, I need not give you the whole list; what you want is the philosophers and men of letters. There was the old Stoic Zenothemis, and with him ‘Labyrinth’ Diphilus; Aristaenetus’s son Zeno is his pupil. The Peripatetics were represented by Cleodemus — the ready, argumentative person — you know him; ‘Sword,’ and ‘Cleaver,’ his disciples call him. And then there was Hermon the Epicurean; directly he came in, there were queer looks and edgings away in the Stoic contingent; he might have been a parricide or an outlaw, by the way they treated him. These had been asked as Aristaenetus’s personal friends and intimates, under which head come also Histiaeus the literary man and Dionysodorus the rhetorician.
Then Chaereas (that is the bridegroom’s name) was responsible for his tutor Ion the Platonic — a grave reverend man remarkable for the composure of his expression. He is generally spoken of as ‘The Standard,’ so infallible is his judgement. As he walked up the room, everybody got out of his way and saluted him like some higher being; the great Ion’s presence is like an angel’s visit.
When nearly all the guests had arrived, and we were to take our places, the ladies occupied the whole of the table to the right of the entrance; there were a good many of them, surrounding the closely veiled bride. The table at the far end accommodated the general company, in due precedence.
At the one opposite the ladies, Eucritus had the first place, with Aristaenetus next him. Then a doubt arose whether the next was Zenothemis the Stoic’s, in virtue of his years, or Hermon the Epicurean’s, who is priest of the Twin Gods 1, and also of the noblest blood in the land. Zenothemis found the solution. ‘Aristaenetus,’ he said, ‘if you place me below this Epicurean (I need not use worse language than that), I at once leave the room’; and calling his servant he made as if to depart. ‘Have your way, Zenothemis,’ said Hermon, ‘though, whatever your contempt for Epicurus, etiquette would have suggested your giving way to my priesthood, if I had no other claims.’ ‘Priest and Epicurean! that is a good joke,’ retorted Zenothemis, and took the place, with Hermon next him, however. Then came Cleodemus the Peripatetic, Ion with the bridegroom, myself, Diphilus and his pupil Zeno, then Dionysodorus the rhetorician and Histiaeus the literary man.
Phi. Upon my word, a very temple of the Muses, peopled mainly with the learned! I congratulate Aristaenetus on choosing for his guests on so auspicious an occasion these patterns of wisdom; he skimmed the cream off every sect in a most catholic spirit.
Ly. Oh, yes, he is not one’s idea of the rich man at all; he cares for culture, and gives most of his time to those who have it.
Well, we fell to, quietly at first, on the ample and varied fare. But you do not want a catalogue of soups and pastry and sauces; there was plenty of everything. At this stage Cleodemus bent down to Ion, and said: ‘Do you see how the old man’ (this was Zenothemis; I could overhear their talk) ‘is stuffing down the good things — his dress gets a good deal of the gravy — and what a lot he hands back to his servant? he thinks we cannot see him, and does not care whether there will be enough to go round. Just call Lycinus’s attention to him.’ This was quite unnecessary, as I had had an excellent view of it for some time.
Just after Cleodemus had said this, in burst Alcidamas the cynic. He had not been asked, but put a good face upon it with the usual ‘No summons Menelaus waits.’ The general opinion clearly was that he was an impudent rogue, and various people struck in with what came to hand: ‘What, Menelaus, art distraught?’ or, ‘It liked not Agamemnon, Atreus’ son,’ and other neat tags suited to the occasion; but these were all asides; no one ventured to make them audible to him. Alcidamas is a man uncommonly ‘good at the war-cry’; he will bark you louder than any dog of them all, literal or metaphorical; my gentlemen all knew he was their better, and lay low.
Aristaenetus told him he was quite right to come; would he take a chair and sit behind Histiaeus and Dionysodorus? ‘Stuff!’ he said; ‘a soft womanish trick, to sit on a chair or a stool! one might as well loll at one’s food half on one’s back, like all of you on this soft couch with purple cushions under you. As for me, I will take my dinner standing and walking about the room. If I get tired, I will lay my old cloak on the ground and prop myself on my elbow like Heracles in the pictures.’ ‘Just as you please,’ said Aristaenetus; and after that Alcidamas fed walking round, shifting his quarters like the Scythians according to where pasturage was richest, and following the servants up as they carried the dishes.
However, he did not let feeding interrupt his energetic expositions of virtue and vice, and his scoffs at gold and silver. What was the good of this multitude of wonderful cups, he wanted to know, when earthenware would serve the purpose? Aristaenetus got rid of his obtrusiveness for the moment by signing to his servant to hand the cynic a huge goblet of potent liquor. It seemed a happy thought; but he little knew the woes that were to flow from that goblet. When Alcidamas got it, he was quiet for a while, throwing himself on the ground in dishabille as he had threatened, with his elbow planted vertically, just in the attitude of the painters’ Heracles with Pholus.
By this time the wine was flowing pretty freely everywhere; healths were drunk, conversation was general, and the lights had come in. I now noticed the boy standing near Cleodemus — a good-looking cup-bearer — to have an odd smile on. I suppose I am to give you all the by-play of the dinner, especially any tender incidents. Well, so I was trying to get at the reason for the smile. In a little while he came to take Cleodemus’s cup from him; he gave the boy’s fingers a pinch, and handed him up a couple of shillings, I think it was, with the cup. The smile appeared again in response to the pinch, but I imagine he failed to notice the coins; he did not get hold of them; they went ringing on the floor, and there were two blushing faces to be seen. Those round, however, could not tell whose the money was, the boy saying he had not dropped it, and Cleodemus, at whose place it had been heard to fall, not confessing to the loss. So the matter was soon done with; hardly any one had grasped the situation — only Aristaenetus, as far as I could gather. He shifted the boy soon after, effecting the transfer without any fuss, and assigned Cleodemus a strong grown-up fellow who might be a mule or horse groom. So much for that business; it would have seriously compromised Cleodemus if it had attracted general attention; but it was smothered forthwith by Aristaenetus’s tactful handling of the offence.
Alcidamas the cynic, who had now emptied his goblet, after finding out the bride’s name, called for silence; he then faced the ladies, and cried out in a loud voice: ‘Cleanthis, I drink to you in the name of my patron Heracles.’ There was a general laugh; upon which, ‘You vile scum,’ says he, ‘you laugh, do you, because I invoke our God Heracles as I toast the bride? Let me tell you that, if she will not pledge me, she shall never bear a son as brave of spirit, as free of judgement, as strong of body, as myself.’ And he proceeded to show us more of the said body, till it was scarcely decent. The company irritated him by laughing again; he stood there with a wandering wrathful eye, and looked as if he were going to make trouble. He would probably have brought down his stick on somebody’s head, but for the timely arrival of an enormous cake, the sight of which mollified him; he quieted down, and accompanied its progress, eating hard.
The rest were mostly flushed with wine by this time, and the room was full of clamour. Dionysodorus the rhetorician was alternately delivering speeches of his own composition and receiving the plaudits of the servants behind. Histiaeus, the literary man below him, was making an eclectic mixture of Pindar, Hesiod, and Anacreon, whose collaboration produced a most remarkable ode, some of it really prophetic of what was soon to come —‘Then hide met stubborn hide,’ for instance, and ‘Uprose the wailings and the prayers of men.’ Zenothemis too had taken a scroll in small writing from his servant, which he was reading aloud.
Now came one of the usual slight breaks in the procession of dishes; and Aristaenetus, to avoid the embarrassment of a blank, told his jester to come in and talk or perform, by way of putting the company still more at their ease. So in came an ugly fellow with a shaven head — just a few hairs standing upright on the crown. He danced with dislocations and contortions, which made him still more absurd, then improvised and delivered some anapaests in an Egyptian accent, and wound up with witticisms on the guests.
Most of them took these in good part; but when it came to Alcidamas’s turn, and he called him a Maltese poodle 1, Alcidamas, who had shown signs of jealousy for some time and did not at all like the way he was holding every one’s attention, lost his temper. He threw off his cloak and challenged the fellow to a bout of pancratium; otherwise he would let him feel his stick. So poor Satyrion, as the jester was called, had to accept the challenge and stand up. A charming spectacle — the philosopher sparring and exchanging blows with a buffoon! Some of us were scandalized and some amused, till Alcidamas found he had his bellyful, being no match for the tough little fellow. They gave us a good laugh.
It was now, not long after this match, that Dionicus the doctor came in. He had been detained, he said, by a brain-fever case; the patient was Polyprepon the piper, and thereby hung a tale. He had no sooner entered the room, not knowing how far gone the man was, when he jumped up, secured the door, drew a dagger, and handed him the pipes, with an order to play them; and when Dionicus could not, he took a strap and inflicted chastisement on the palms of his hands. To escape from this perilous position, Dionicus proposed a match, with a scale of forfeits to be exacted with the strap. He played first himself, and then handed over the pipes, receiving in exchange the strap and dagger. These he lost no time in sending out of window into the open court, after which it was safe to grapple with him and shout for help; the neighbours broke open the door and rescued him. He showed us his wealed hands and some scratches on his face. His story had as distinguished a success as the jester before; he then squeezed himself in by Histiaeus and dined on what was left. His coming was providential, and he most useful in the sequel.
There now appeared a messenger who said he brought a communication from Hetoemocles the Stoic, which his master had directed him to read publicly, and then return. With Aristaenetus’s permission he took it to the lamp, and began reading.
Phi. The usual thing, I suppose — a panegyric on the bride, or an epithalamium?
Ly. Just what we took it for; however, it was quite another story. Here are the contents:
Hetoemocles the Philosopher to Aristaenetus, greeting.
My views on dining are easily deducible from my whole past life; though daily importuned by far richer men than you to join them, I invariably refuse; I know too well the tumults and follies that attend the wine-cup. But if there is one whose neglect I may fairly resent, it is yourself; the fruit of my long and unremitting attentions to you is to find myself not on the roll of your friends; I, your next-door neighbour, am singled out for exclusion. The sting of it is in the personal ingratitude; happiness for me is not found in a plate of wild boar or hare or pastry; these I get in abundance at the houses of people who understand the proprieties; this very day I might have dined (and well, by all accounts) with my pupil Pammenes; but he pressed me to no purpose; I was reserving myself, poor fool, for you.
But you pass me by, and feast others. I ought not to be surprised; you have not acquired the power of distinguishing merit; you have no apprehensive imagination. I know whence the blow comes; it is from your precious philosophers, Zenothemis and The Labyrinth, whose mouths (though I would not boast) I could stop with a single syllogism. Let either of them tell me, What is Philosophy? or, not to go beyond the merest elements, how does condition differ from constitution? for I will not resort to real puzzles, as the Horns 1 the Sorites 1, or the Reaper 1. Well, I wish you joy of their company. As for me, holding as I do that nothing is good but what is right, I shall get over a slight like this.
You will be kind enough not to resort later to the well-worn excuse of having forgotten in the bustle of your engagements; I have spoken to you twice to-day, in the morning at your house, and later when you were sacrificing at the Anaceum. This is to let your guests know the rights of the case.
If you think it is the dinner I care about, reflect upon the story of Oeneus; you will observe that, when he omitted Artemis alone from the Gods to whom he offered sacrifice, she resented it. Homer’s account of it states that he
Forgot or ne’er bethought him — woeful blindness!
This land of Calydon, across the gulf
From Pelops’ land, with all its fertile plains —;
Upon the tilth of Oeneus Leto’s child,
Far-darting Goddess, loosed a monstrous boar.
I quote you but these few of the many passages upon the incident, just to suggest the qualities of him whom you have passed over, to entertain, and to have your son taught by, Diphilus! natural enough; of course, the lad fancies him, and finds him an agreeable master! If tale-telling were not beneath me, I would add a piece of information that, if you choose, you can get confirmed by the boy’s attendant Zopyrus. But a wedding is not a time for unpleasantness or denunciations, especially of offences so vile. Diphilus deserves it richly at my hands, indeed — two pupils he has stolen from me —; but for the good name of Philosophy I will hold my hand.
My man has instructions, if you should offer him a portion of wild boar or venison or sesame cake to bring me in lieu of my dinner, to refuse it. I would not have you find the motive of my letter in such desires.
My dear fellow, I went all hot and cold as this was read; I was praying that the earth might swallow me up when I saw everybody laughing at the different points; the most amused were those who knew Hetoemocles and his white hair and reverend looks; it was such a surprise to find the reality behind that imposing beard and serious countenance. I felt sure Aristaenetus had passed him over not in neglect, but because he supposed he would never accept an invitation or have anything to do with festivities; he had thought it out of the question, and not worth trying.
As soon as the man stopped reading, all eyes were turned on Zeno and Diphilus, who were pale with apprehension, and confirmed by their embarrassment the insinuations of Hetoemocles. Aristaenetus was uneasy and disturbed, but urged us to drink, and tried to smooth the matter over with an attempt at a smile; he told the man he would see to it, and dismissed him. Zeno disappeared shortly after; his attendant had signed to him, as from his father, to retire.
Cleodemus had been on the look-out for an opportunity; he was spoiling for a fight with the Stoics, and chafing over the difficulty of starting the subject: but the letter had struck the right key, and off he went. ‘Now we see the productions of your fine Chrysippus, your glorious Zeno, your Cleanthes — a few poor catch-words, some fruitless posers, a philosophic exterior, and a large supply of — Hetoemocleses. What ripe wisdom does this letter reveal, with its conclusion that Aristaenetus is an Oeneus, and Hetoemocles an Artemis! How auspicious, how suitable to the occasion, its tone ’
To be sure,’ chimed in Hermon, his left-hand neighbour; he had no doubt heard that Aristaenetus had bespoken a wild boar, and thought the introduction of the one at Calydon appropriate. Aristaenetus, I adjure you by the domestic altar, let hint taste the victim, or we shall have the old man starving, and withering away like his Meleager. Though indeed it would not be so very hard on him; such a fate is one of Chrysippus’s things indifferent.’
Here Zenothemis woke up and thundered out: ‘Chrysippus? you name that name? because a pretender like Hetoemocles comes short of his profession, you argue from him to the real sages, to Cleanthes and Zeno? And who are the men, pray, who hold such language? Why, Hermon, who shore the curls, the solid golden curls, of the Dioscuri, and who will yet receive his barber’s fee from the executioner. And Cleodemus, who was caught in adultery with his pupil Sostratus’s wife, and paid the shameful penalty. Silence would better become the owners of such consciences.’ ‘Who trades in his own wife’s favours? ‘ retorted Cleodemus; ‘I do not do that, and I do not undertake to keep my foreign pupil’s purse and then swear by Polias the deposit was never made; I do not lend money at fifty per cent, and I do not hale my pupils into court if fees are not paid to the day.’ ‘You will hardly deny, though,’ said Zenothemis, ‘that you supplied Crito with the poison for his father.’
And therewith, his cup being in his hand, about half full of wine, he emptied it over the pair; and Ion, whose worst guilt was being their neighbour, came in for a good deal of it. Hermon bent forward, dried his head, and entered a protest. Cleodemus, having no wine to reply with, leant over and spat at Zenothemis; at the same time he clutched the old man’s beard with his left hand, and was aiming a blow which would have killed him, when Aristaenetus arrested it, stepped over Zenothemis, and lay down between the two, making himself a buffer in the interests of peace.
All this time, Philo, my thoughts were busy enough with the old commonplace, that after all it is no use having all theory at your finger’s ends, if you do not conform your conduct to the right. Here were these masters of precept making themselves perfectly ridiculous in practice. Then it was borne in upon me that possibly the vulgar notion is right, and culture only misleads the people who are too much wrapt up in books and bookish ideas. Of all that philosophic company there was not a man — not so much as an accidental exception — who could pass muster; if his conduct did not condemn him, his words did yet more fatally. I could not make the wine responsible, either; the author of that letter was fasting and sober.
Things seemed to go by contraries; you might see the ordinary people behaving quite properly at table; no rioting and disorder there; the most they did was to laugh at and, no doubt, censure the others, whom they had been accustomed to respect and to credit with the qualities their appearance suggested. It was the wise men who made beasts of themselves, abused each other, over-fed, shouted and came to blows. I thought one could find no better illustration for our dinner than the poets’ story of Eris. When she was not invited to Peleus’s nuptials, she threw that apple on the table which brought about the great Trojan war. Hetoemocles’s letter was just such an apple, woeful Iliad and all.
For buffer-Aristaenetus had proved ineffectual, and the quarrel between Zenothemis and Cleodemus was proceeding.
For the present,’ said the latter, ‘I am satisfied with exposing your ignorance; to-morrow I will give you your deserts more adequately. Pray explain, Zenothemis, or the reputable Diphilus for you, how it is that you Stoics class the acquisition of wealth l among the things indifferent, and then concentrate your whole efforts upon it, hang perpetually about the rich to that end, lend money, screw out your usury, and take pay for your teaching. Or again, if you hate pleasure and condemn the Epicureans, how comes it that you will do and endure the meanest things for it? you resent it if you are not asked out; and when you are, you eat so much, and convey so much more to your servant’s keeping’— and he interrupted himself to make a grab at the napkin that Zenothemis’s boy was holding, full of all sorts of provender; he meant to get it away and empty the contents on the floor; but the boy held on too tight.
‘Quite right, Cleodemus,’ said Hermon; ‘let them tell us why they condemn pleasure, and yet expect more of it than any one else.’ ‘No, no,’ says Zenothemis; ‘you give us your grounds, Cleodemus, for saying wealth is not a thing indifferent.’ ‘No, I tell you; let us have your case.’ So the see-saw went on, till Ion came out of his retirement and called a truce: ‘I will give you,’ he said, ‘a theme worthy of the occasion; and you shall speak and listen without trying for personal triumphs; take a leaf from our Plato this time.’ ‘Hear, hear,’ from the company, especially from Aristaenetus and Eucritus, who hailed this escape from unpleasantness. The former now went back to his own place, confident of peace.
The ‘repast,’ as they call it, had just made its appearance; each guest was served with a bird, a slice of wild boar, a portion of hare, a fried fish, some sesame cakes and sweet-meats — all these to be taken home if the guest chose. Every man had not a separate dish, however; Aristaenetus and Eucritus shared one little table, from which each was to take what belonged to him; so Zenothemis the Stoic and Hermon the Epicurean; Cleodemus and Ion had the third table, the bridegroom and I the next; Diphilus had a double portion, by the absence of Zeno. Remember these details, Philo; you will find they bear on the story.
Phi. Trust me.
Ly. Ion proceeded: ‘I will start, then, if you wish it.’ He reflected a moment, and then: ‘With so much talent in the room, no less a subject might seem indicated than Ideas 1, Incorporeals, and the Immortality of the Soul. On the other hand our divergent views might make that too controversial; so I will take the question of marriage, and say what seems appropriate. The counsel of perfection here would be to dispense with it, and be satisfied, according to the prescription of Plato and Socrates, with contemplating male beauty. So, and only so, is absolute virtue to be attained. But if marriage is admitted as a practical necessity, then we should adopt the Platonic system of holding our wives in common, thus obviating rivality.’
The unseasonableness of these remarks raised a laugh. And Dionysodorus had another criticism: ‘Spare us these provincialisms,’ he said; ‘or give us your authority for “rivality."’ ‘Such carpings are beneath contempt,’ was the polite reply. Dionysodorus was about to return the compliment with interest, when our good man of letters intervened: ‘Stop,’ said Histiaeus, ‘and let me read you an epithalamium.’
He at once went off at score; and I think I can reproduce the effusion:
Or like, in Aristaenetus’s hall,
Cleanthis, softly nurtured bright princess,
Surpassing other beauties virginal,
Cythera’s Queen, or Helen’s loveliness.
Bridegroom, the best of your contemporaries,
Nireus’s and Achilles’ peer, rejoice!
While we in hymeneal voluntaries
Over the pair keep lifting up our voice.
By the time the laughter that not unnaturally followed had subsided, it was time to pack up our ‘repasts’; Aristaenetus and Eucritus took each his intended portion; Chaereas and I, Ion and Cleodemus, did likewise. But as Zeno was not there, Diphilus expected to come in for his share too. He said everything on that table was his, and disputed possession with the servants. There was a tug of war between them just like that over the body of Patroclus; at last he was worsted and had to let go, to the huge amusement of all, which he heightened by taking the thing as a most serious wrong.
As I told you, Hermon and Zenothemis were neighbours, the latter having the upper place. Their portions were equal enough except in one respect, and the division was peaceful until that was reached. But the bird on Hermon’s side was — by chance, no doubt — the fatter. The moment came for them to take their respective birds. At this point — now attend carefully, please, Philo; here is the kernel of the whole affair — at this point Zenothemis let his own bird lie, and took the fatter one before Hermon. But Hermon was not going to be put upon; he laid hold of it too. Then their voices were lifted up, they closed, belaboured each other’s faces with the birds, clutched each other’s beards, and called for assistance, Hermon appealing to Cleodemus, Zenothemis to Alcidamas and Diphilus. The allies took their sides, Ion alone preserving neutrality.
The hosts engaged. Zenothemis lifted a goblet from the table where it stood before Aristaenetus, and hurled it at Hermon;
And him it missed, but found another mark,
laying open the bridegroom’s skull with a sound deep gash. This opened the lips of the ladies; most of them indeed jumped down into the battle’s interspace, led by the young man’s mother, as soon as she saw his blood flowing; the bride too was startled from her place by terror for him. Meanwhile Alcidamas was in his glory maintaining the cause of Zenothemis; down came his stick on Cleodemus’s skull, he injured Hermon’s jaw, and severely wounded several of the servants who tried to protect them. The other side were not beaten, however; Cleodemus with levelled finger was gouging out Zenothemis’s eye, not to mention fastening on his nose and biting a piece off it; and when Diphilus came to Zenothemis’s rescue, Hermon pitched him head first from the couch.
Histiaeus too was wounded in trying to part the pair; it was a kick in the teeth, I think, from Cleodemus, who took him for Diphilus. So the poor man of letters lay ‘disgorging blood,’ as his own Homer describes it. It was a scene of tumult and tears. The women were hanging over Chaereas and wailing, the other men trying to restore peace. The great centre of destruction was Alcidamas, who after routing the forces immediately opposed to him was striking at whatever presented itself. Many a man had fallen there, be sure, had he not broken his stick. I was standing close up to the wall watching the proceedings in which I took no part; Histiaeus’s fate had taught me the dangers of intervention. It was a sight to recall the Lapithae and Centaurs — tables upside down, blood in streams, bowls hurtling in the air.
At last Alcidamas upset the lamp, there was a great darkness, and confusion was worse confounded. It was not so easy to procure another light, and many a horrid deed was done in the dark. When some one came at last with a lamp, Alcidamas was discovered stripping and applying compulsion to the flute-girl, and Dionysodorus proved to have been as incongruously engaged; as he stood up, a goblet rolled out of his bosom. His account of the matter was that Ion had picked it up in the confusion, and given it him to save it from damage! for which piece of carefulness Ion was willing to receive credit.
So the party came to an end, tears being resold in the laughter at Alcidamas, Dionysodorus and Ion. The wounded were borne off in sad case, especially old Zenothemis, holding one hand on his nose and the other on his eye, and bellowing out that the agony was more than he could bear. Hermon was in poor condition himself, having lost a couple of teeth; but he could not let this piece of evidence go; ‘Bear in mind, Zenothemis,’ he called out, ‘that you do not consider pain a thing indifferent.’ The bridegroom, who had been seen to by Dionicus, was also taken off with his head in bandages — in the carriage in which he was to have taken his bride home. It had been a sorry wedding-feast for him, poor fellow. Dionicus had done what he could for the rest, they were taken home to bed, and very ill most of them were on the way. Alcidamas stayed where he was; it was impossible to get rid of him, as he had thrown himself down anyhow across a couch and fallen asleep.
And now you know all about the banquet, my dear Philo; a tragedy epilogue seems called for:
Hidden power sways each hour:
Men propose, the Gods dispose:
Fail surmises, come surprises.
It was the unexpected that came to pass here, at any rate. Well, live and learn; I know now that a quiet man had better keep clear of these feasts of reason.
130:1 Castor and Pollux.
134:1 Alcidamas being a cynic, or ‘dog.’
136:1 See Puzzles in Notes.
141:1 See Plato in Notes.
Last updated Monday, December 22, 2014 at 10:52