Symposiacs, by Plutarch

Book VII.

The Romans, Sossius Senecio, remember a pretty saying of a pleasant man and good companion, who supping alone said that he had eaten today, but not supped; as if a supper always wanted company and agreement to make it palatable and pleasing. Evenus said that fire was the sweetest of all sauces in the world. And Homer calls salt [Greek omitted], divine; and most call it [Greek omitted], graces, because, mixed with most part of our food, it makes it palatable and agreeable to the taste. Now indeed the best and most divine sauce that can be at an entertainment or a supper is a familiar and pleasant friend; not because he eats and drinks with a man, but because he participates of and communicates discourse, especially if the talk be profitable, pertinent, and instructive. For commonly loose talk over a glass of wine raiseth passions and spoils company, and therefore it is fit that we should be as critical in examining what discourses as what friends are fit to be admitted to a supper; not following either the saying or opinion of the Spartans, who, when they entertained any young man or a stranger in their public halls, showed him the door, with these words, “No discourse goes out this way.” What we use to talk of may be freely disclosed to everybody, because we have nothing in our discourses that tends to looseness, debauchery, debasing of ourselves, or back-biting others. Judge by the examples, of which this seventh book contains ten.


Against Those Who Find Fault with Plato for Saying that Drink Passeth Through the Lungs.


At a summer entertainment, one of the company pronounced that common verse,

Now drench thy lungs with wine, the Dog appears.

And Nicias of Nicopolis, a physician, presently subjoined: It is no wonder that Alcaeus, a poet, should be ignorant of that of which Plato the philosopher was. Though Alcaeus may be defended; for it is probable that the lungs, lying near the stomach, may participate of the steam of the liquor, and be drenched with it. But the philosopher, expressly delivering that most part of our drink passeth through the lungs, hath precluded all ways of excuse to those that would be willing to defend him. For it is a very great and complicated ignorance; for first, it being necessary that our liquid and dry food should be mixed, it is very probable that the stomach is the vessel for them both, which throws out the dry food after it is grown soft and moist into the guts. Besides, the lungs being a dense and compacted body, how is it possible that, when we sup gruel or the like, the thicker parts should pass through them? And this was the objection which Erasistratus rationally made against Plato. Besides, when he considered for what end every part of the body was made, and what use Nature designed in their contrivance, it was easy to perceive that the epiglottis was framed on purpose that when we drink the windpipe should be shut, and nothing be suffered to fall upon the lungs. For if anything by chance gets down that way, we are troubled with retching and coughing till it is thrown up again. And this epiglottis being framed so that it may fall on either side, whilst we speak it shuts the weasand, but when we eat or drink it falls upon the windpipe, and so secures the passage for our breath. Besides, we know that those who drink by little and little are looser than those who drink greedily and large draughts; for in the latter the very force drives it into their bladders, but in the former it stays, and by its stay is mixed with and moistens the meat thoroughly. Now this could not be, if in the very drinking the liquid was separated from the dry food; but the effect follows, because we mix and convey them both together, using (as Erasistratus phraseth it) the liquid as a vehicle for the dry.

Nicias having done, Protogenes the grammarian subjoined, that Homer was the first that observed the stomach was the vessel of the food, and the windpipe (which the ancients called [Greek omitted] of the breath, and upon the same account they called those who had loud voices [Greek omitted]. And when he describes how Achilles killed Hector, he says,

He pierced his weasand, where death enters soon;

and adds,

But not his windpipe, so that he could speak,
(“Iliad,” xxii. 325–329.)

taking the windpipe for the proper passage of the speech and breath. . . .

Upon this, all being silent, Florus began thus: What, shall we tamely suffer Plato to be run down? By no means, said I, for if we desert him, Homer must be in the same condition, for he is so far from denying the windpipe to be the passage for our drink, that the dry food, in his opinion, goes the same way. For these are his words:—

From his gullet [Greek omitted] flowed
The clotted wine and undigested flesh.
(“Odyssey,” ix. 373.)

Unless perchance you will say that the Cyclops, as he had but one eye, so had but one passage for his food and voice; or would have [Greek omitted] to signify weasand, not windpipe, as both all the ancients and moderns use it. I produce this because it is really his meaning, not because I want other testimonies, for Plato hath store of learned and sufficient men to join with him. For not to mention Eupolis, who in his play called the “Flatterers” says,

Protagoras bids us drink a lusty bowl,
That when the Dog appears our lungs may still be moist;

or elegant Eratosthenes, who says,

And having drenched his lungs with purest wine;

even Euripides, somewhere expressly saying,

The wine passed through the hollows of the lungs,

shows that he saw better and clearer than Erasistratus. For he saw that the lungs have cavities and pores, through which the liquids pass. For the breath in expiration hath no need of pores, but that the liquids and those things which pass with them might go through, it is made like a strainer and full of pores. Besides, sir, as to the example of gruel which you proposed, the lungs can discharge themselves of the thicker parts together with the thin, as well as the stomach. For our stomach is not, as some fancy, smooth and slippery, but full of asperities, in which it is probable that the thin and small particles are lodged, and so not taken quite down. But neither this nor the other can we positively affirm; for the curious contrivance of Nature in her operation is too hard to be explained; nor can we be particularly exact upon those instruments (I mean the spirit and the heat) which she makes use of in her works. But besides those we have mentioned to confirm Plato’s opinion, let us produce Philistion of Locri, very ancient and very famous physician, and Hippocrates too, with his disciple Dioxippus; for they thought of no other passage but that which Plato mentions. Dioxippus knew very well that precious talk of the epiglottis, but says, that when we feed, the moist parts are about that separated from the dry, and the first are carried down the windpipe, the other down the weasand; and that the windpipe receives no parts of the food, but the stomach, together with the dry parts, receives some portion of the liquids. And this is probable, for the epiglottis lies over the windpipe, as a fence and strainer, that the drink may get in by little and little, lest descending in a large full stream, it stop the breath and endanger the life. And therefore birds have no epiglottis, because they do not sup or lap when they drink, but take up a little in their beak, and let it run gently down their windpipe.

These testimonies I think are enough; and reason confirms Plato’s opinion by arguments drawn first from sense. For when the windpipe is wounded, no drink will go down; but as if the pipe were broken it runs out, though the weasand be whole and unhurt. And all know that in the inflammation of the lungs the patient is troubled with extreme thirst; the heat or dryness or some other cause, together with the inflammation, making the appetite intense. But a stronger evidence than all these follows. Those creatures that have very small lungs, or none at all, neither want nor desire drink, because to some parts there belongs a natural appetite to drink, and those that want those parts have no need to drink, nor any appetite to be supplied by it. But more, the bladder would seem unnecessary; for, if the weasand receives both meat and drink and conveys it to the belly, the superfluous parts of the liquids would not want a proper passage, one common one would suffice as a canal for both that were conveyed to the same vessel by the same passage. But now the bladder is distinct from the guts, because the drink goes from the lungs, and the meat from the stomach; they being separated as we take them down. And this is the reason that in our water nothing can be found that either in smell or color resembles dry food. But if the drink were mixed with the dry meat in the belly, it must be impregnant with its qualities, and not come forth so simple and untinged. Besides, a stone is never found in the stomach, though it is likely that the moisture should be coagulated there as well as in the bladder, if all the liquor were conveyed through the weasand then into the belly. But it is probable at the weasand robs the windpipe of a sufficient quantity of liquor as it is going down, and useth it to soften and concoct the meat. And therefore its excrement is never purely liquid; and the lungs, disposing of the moisture, as of the breath, to all of the parts that want it, deposit the superfluous portion in the bladder. And I am sure that this is a much more probable opinion than the other. But which is the truth cannot perhaps be discovered, and therefore it is not fit so peremptorily to find fault with the most acute and most famed philosopher, especially when the matter is so obscure, and the Platonists can produce such considerable reasons for their position.


What Humored Man is He that Plato Calls [Greek omitted]? And Why Do Those Seeds that Fall on the Oxen’s Horns Become [Greek omitted]?


We had always some difficulty started about [Greek omitted] and [Greek omitted], not what humor those words signified (for it is certain that some, thinking that those seeds which fall on the oxen’s horns bear fruit which is very hard, did by a metaphor call a stiff untractable fellow by these names), but what was the cause that seeds falling on the oxen’s horns should bear hard fruit. I had often desired my friends to search no farther, most of all fearing the passage of Theophrastus, in which he has collected many things whose causes we cannot discover. Such are the hen’s using a straw to purify herself with after she has laid, the seal’s consuming her rennet when she is caught, the deer’s burying his horns, and the goat’s stopping the whole herd by holding a branch of sea-holly in his mouth; and among the rest he reckoned this is a thing of which we are certain, but whose cause it is very difficult to find. But once at supper at Delphi, some of my companions — as if we were not only better counsellors when our bellies are full (as one hath it), but wine would make us brisker in our inquiries and bolder in our resolutions desired me to speak somewhat to that problem.

I refused, though I had some excellent men on my side, namely, Euthydemus my fellow-priest, and Patrocles my relative, who brought several the like instances, which they had gathered both from husbandry and hunting; for instance, that those officers that are appointed to watch the coming of the hail avert the storm by offering a mole’s blood or a woman’s cloths; that a wild fig being bound to a garden fig-tree will keep the fruit from falling and promote their ripening; that deer when they are taken shed salt tears, and boars sweet. But if you have a mind to such questions, Euthydemus will presently desire you to give an account of smallage and cummin; one of the which, if trodden down as it springs, will grow the better, and the other men curse and blaspheme whilst they sow it.

This last Florus thought to be an idle foolery; but he said, that we should not forbear to search into the causes of the other things as if they were incomprehensible. I have found, said I, your design to draw me on to this discourse, that you yourself may afterward give us a solution of the other proposed difficulties.

In my opinion it is cold that causes this hardness in corn and pulse, by contracting and constipating their parts till the substance becomes close and extremely rigid; while heat is a dissolving and softening quality. And therefore those that cite this verse against Homer,

The season, not the field, bears fruit,

do not justly reprehend him. For fields that are warm by nature, the air being likewise temperate, bear more mellow fruit than others. And therefore those seeds that fall immediately on the earth out of the sower’s hand, and are covered presently, and cherished by being covered, partake more of the moisture and heat that is in the earth. But those that strike against the oxen’s horns do not enjoy what Hesiod names the best position, but seem to be scattered rather than sown; and therefore the cold either destroys them quite, or else, lighting upon them as they lie naked, condenseth their moisture, and makes them hard and woody. Thus stones that lie under ground and, plant-animals have softer parts than those that lie above; and therefore stone-cutters bury the stones they would work, as if they designed to have them prepared and softened by the heat; but those that lie above ground are by the cold made hard, rigid, and very hurtful to the tools. And if corn lies long upon the floor, the grains become much harder than that which is presently carried away. And sometimes too a cold wind blowing whilst they winnow spoils the corn, as it hath happened at Philippi in Macedonia; and the chaff secures the grains whilst on the floor. For is it any wonder that as husband-men affirm, one ridge will bear soft and fruitful, and the very next to it hard and unfruitful corn or — which is stranger — that in the same bean-cod some beans are of this sort, some of the other, as more or less wind and moisture falls upon this or that?


Why the Middle of Wine, the Top of Oil, and the Bottom of Honey is Best.


My father-inlaw Alexion laughed at Hesiod, for advising us to drink freely when the barrel is newly broached or almost out, but moderately when it is about the middle, since there is the best wine. For who, said he, doth not know, that the middle of wine, the top of oil, and the bottom of honey is the best? Yet he bids us spare the middle, and stay till worse wine runs, when the barrel is almost out. This said, the company minded Hesiod no more, but began to inquire into the cause of this difference. We were not at all puzzled about the honey, everybody almost knowing that that which is lightest is so because it is rare, and that the heaviest parts are dense and compact, and by reason of their weight settle below the others. So, if you turn the vessel, each in a little time will recover its proper place, the heavier subsiding, and the lighter rising above the rest. And as for the wine, probable solutions presently appeared; for its strength consisting in heat, it is reasonable that it should be contained chiefly in the middle, and there best preserved; for the lower parts the lees spoil, and the upper are impaired by the neighboring air. For that the air will impair wine no man doubts, and therefore we usually bury or cover our barrels, that as little air as can be might come near them. And besides (which is an evident sign) a barrel when full is not spoiled so soon as when it is half empty; because a great deal of air getting into the empty space troubles and disturbs the liquor, whereas the wine that is in the unemptied cask is preserved and defended by itself, not admitting much of the external air, which is apt to injure and corrupt it.

But the oil gave us the most difficulty. One thought that the bottom of the oil was affected, because it was foul and troubled with the lees; and that the top was not really better than the rest, but only seemed so, because it was farthest removed from those corrupting particles. Others thought the thickness of the liquor to be the reason, which thickness keeps it from mixing with other humids, unless blended together and shaken violently; and therefore it will not mix with air, but keeps it off by its smoothness and close contexture, so that it hath no power to corrupt it. But Aristotle seems to be against this opinion, who hath observed that oil grows sweeter by being kept in vessels not exactly filled, and afterwards ascribes this melioration to the air; for more air, and therefore more powerful to produce the effect, flows into a vessel not well filled.

Well then! said I, the same quality in the air may spoil wine, and better oil. For long keeping improves wine, but spoils oil. Now the air keeps oil from growing old; for that which is cooled continues fresh and new, but that which is kept close up, having no way to exhale its corrupting parts, presently decays, and grows old. Therefore it is probable that the air coming upon the superficies of the oil keepeth it fresh and new. And this is the reason that the top of wine is worst, and of oil best; because age betters the one, and spoils the other.


What Was, the Reason of that Custom of the Ancient Romans to Remove the Table Before All the Meat Was Eaten, and Not to Put Out the Lamp?


Florus, who observed the ancient manners, would not let the table be removed quite empty, but always left some meat upon it; declaring likewise that his father and grandfather were not only curious in this matter, but would never suffer the lamp after supper to be put out — a thing about which the ancient Romans were very careful — while those of today put it out immediately after supper, that they may lose no oil. Eustrophus the Athenian being present said: What could they get by that, unless they knew the cunning trick of our Polycharmus, who, after long deliberation how to find out a way to prevent the servants’ stealing of the oil, at last with a great deal of difficulty happened upon this: As soon as you have put out the lamp, fill it up, and the next morning look carefully whether it remains full. Then Florus with a smile replied: Well, since we are agreed about that, let us inquire for what reason the ancients were so careful about their tables and their lamps.

First, about the lamps. And his son-inlaw Caesernius was of opinion that the ancients abominated all extinction of fire, because of the relation that it had to the sacred and eternal flame. Fire, like man, may be destroyed two ways, either when it is violently quenched, or when it naturally decays. The sacred fire was secured against both ways, being always watched and continually supplied; but the common fire they permitted to go out of itself, not forcing or violently extinguishing it, but not supplying it with nourishment, like a useless beast, that they might not feed it to no purpose.

Lucius, Florus’s son, subjoined, that all the rest of the discourse was very good, but that they did not reverence and take care of this holy fire because they thought it better or more venerable than other fire; but, as amongst the Egyptians some worship the whole species of dogs, wolves, or crocodiles, yet keep but one wolf, dog, or crocodile (for all could not be kept), so the particular care which the ancients took of the sacred fire was only a sign of the respect they had for all fires. For nothing bears such a resemblance to an animal as fire. It is moved and nourished by itself, and by its brightness, like the soul, discovers and makes everything apparent; but in its quenching it principally shows some power that seems to proceed from our vital principle, for it makes a noise and resists, like an animal dying or violently slaughtered. And can you (looking upon me) offer any better reason?

I can find fault, replied I, with no part of the discourse, yet I would subjoin, that this custom is an instruction for kindness and good-will. For it is not lawful for any one that hath eaten sufficiently to destroy the remainder of the food; nor for him that hath supplied his necessities from the fountain to stop it up; nor for him that hath made use of any marks, either by sea or land, to ruin or deface them; but every one ought to leave those things that may be useful to those persons that afterwards may have need of them. Therefore it is not fit, out of a saving covetous humor, to put out a lamp as soon as we need it not; but we ought to preserve and let it burn for the use of those that perhaps want its light. Thus, it would be very generous to lend our ears and eyes, nay, if possible, our reason and understanding, to others, whilst we are idle or asleep. Besides, consider whether to stir up men to gratitude these minute observances were practised. The ancients did not act absurdly when they highly reverenced an oak. The Athenians called one fig-tree sacred, and forbade any one to cut down an olive. For such observances do not (as some fancy) make men prone to superstition, but persuade us to be communicative and grateful to one another, by being accustomed to pay this respect to these senseless and inanimate creatures. Upon the same reason Hesiod, methinks, adviseth well, who would not have any meat or broth set on the table out of those pots out of which there had been no portion offered, but ordered the first-fruits to be given to the fire, as a reward for the service it did in preparing it. And the Romans, dealing well with the lamps, did not take away the nourishment they had once given, but permitted them to live and shine by it.

When I had said thus, Eustrophus subjoined: This gives us some light into that query about the table; for they thought that they ought to leave some portion of the supper for the servants and waiters, for those are not so well pleased with a supper provided for them apart, as with the relics of their master’s table. And upon this account, they say, the Persian king did not only send portions from his own table to his friends, captains, and gentlemen of his bed-chamber, but had always what was provided for his servants and his dogs served up to his own table; that as far as possible all those creatures whose service was useful might seem to be his guests and companions. For, by such feeding in common and participation, the wildest of beasts might be made tame and gentle.

Then I with a smile said: But, sir, that fish there, that according to the proverb is laid up, why do not we bring out into play together with Pythagoras’s choenix, which he forbids any man to sit upon, thereby teaching us that we ought to leave something of what we have before us for another time, and on the present day be mindful of the morrow? We Boeotians use to have that saying frequently in our mouths, “Leave something for the Medes,” ever since the Medes overran and spoiled Phocis and the marches of Boeotia; but still, and upon all occasions, we ought to have that ready, “Leave something for the guests that may come.” And therefore I must needs find fault with that always empty and starving table of Achilles; for, when Ajax and Ulysses came ambassadors to him, he had nothing ready, but was forced out of hand to dress a fresh supper. And when he would entertain Priam, he again bestirs himself, kills a white ewe, joints and dresses it, and in that work spent a great part of the night. But Eumaeus (a wise scholar of a wise master) had no trouble upon him when Telemachus came home, but presently desired him to sit down, and feasted him, setting before him dishes of boiled meat,

The cleanly reliques of the last night’s feast.

But if this seems trifling, and a small matter, I am sure it is no small matter to command and restrain appetite while there are dainties before you to satisfy and please it. For those that are used to abstain from what is present are not so eager for absent things as others are.

Lucius subjoining said, that he had heard his grandmother say, that the table was sacred, and nothing that is sacred ought to be empty. Besides, continued he, in my opinion, the table hath some resemblance of the earth; for, besides nourishing us, it is round and stable, and is fitly called by some Vesta [Greek omitted] from [Greek omitted]. Therefore as we desire that the earth should always have and bear something that is useful for us, so we think that we should not let the table be altogether empty and void of all provision.


That We Ought Carefully to Preserve Ourselves From Pleasures Arising From Bad Music and How It May Be Done.


At the Pythian games Callistratus, procurator of the Amphictyons, forbade a piper, his citizen and friend, who did not give in his name in due time, to appear in the solemnity, according to the law. But afterwards entertaining us, he brought him into the room with the chorus, finely dressed in his robes and with chaplets on his head, as if he was to contend for the prize. And at first indeed he played a very fine tune; but afterwards, having tickled and sounded the humor of the whole company, and found that most were inclined to pleasure and would suffer him to play what effeminate and lascivious tunes he pleased, throwing aside all modesty, he showed that music was more intoxicating than wine to those that wantonly and unskilfully use it. For they were not content to sit still and applaud and clap, but many at last leaped from their seats, danced lasciviously, and made such gentle steps as became such effeminate and mollifying tunes. But after they had done, and the company, as it were recovered of its madness, began to come to itself again, Lamprias would have spoken to and severely chid the young men; but as fearing he would be too harsh and give offence, Callistratus gave him a hint, and drew him on by this discourse:—

For my part, I absolve all lovers of shows and music from intemperance; yet I cannot altogether agree with Aristoxenus, who says that those pleasures alone deserve the approbation “fine.” For we call viands and ointments fine; and we say we have finely dined, when we have been splendidly entertained. Nor, in my opinion, doth Aristotle free those complacencies we take in shows and songs upon good reason from the charge of excess, saying, that those belong peculiarly to man, and of other pleasures beasts have a share. For I am certain that a great many irrational creatures are delighted with music, as deer with pipes; and to mares, whilst they are horsing, they play a tune called [Greek omitted]. And Pindar says, that his songs make him move,

As brisk as Dolphins, whom a charming tune
Hath raised from th’ bottom of the quiet flood.

And certain fish are taken by means of dancing; for as the dance goes on they lift up their heads above water, being much pleased and delighted with the sight, and twisting their backs this way and that way, in imitation of the dancers. Therefore I see nothing peculiar in those pleasures, that they should be accounted proper to the mind, and all others to belong to the body, so far as to end there. But music, rhythm, dancing, song, passing through the sense, fix a pleasure and titilation in the sportive part of the soul and therefore none of these pleasures is enjoyed in secret, nor wants darkness nor walls about it, according to the women’s phrase; but circuses and theatres are built for them. And to frequent shows and music-meetings with company is both more delightful and more genteel; because we take a great many witnesses, not of a luxurious and intemperate, but of a pleasant and respectable, manner of passing away our time.

Upon this discourse of Callistratus, my father Lamprias, seeing the musicians grow bolder, said: That is not the reason, sir, and, in my opinion, the ancients were much out when they named Bacchus the son of Forgetfulness. They ought to have called him his father; for it seems he hath made you forget that of those faults which are committed about pleasures some proceed from a loose intemperate inclination, and others from heedlessness or ignorance. Where the ill effect is very plain, there intemperate inclination captivates reason, and forces men to sin; but where the just reward of intemperance is not directly and presently inflicted, there ignorance of the danger and heedlessness make men easily wrought oil and secure. Therefore those that are vicious, either in eating, drinking, or venery, which diseases, wasting of estates, and evil reports usually attend, we call intemperate. For instance, Theodectes, who having sore eyes, when his mistress came to see him, said,

All hail, delightful light;

or Anaxarchus the Abderite,

A wretch who knew what evils wait on sin,
Yet love of pleasure drove him back again.
Once almost free, he sank again to vice,
That terror and disturber of the wise.

Now those that take all care possible to secure themselves from all those pleasures that assault them either at the smelling, touch, or taste, are often surprised by those that make their treacherous approaches either at the eye or ear. But such, though as much led away as the others, we do not in like manner call incontinent and intemperate, since they are ruined through ignorance and want of experience. For they imagine they are far from being slaves to pleasures, if they can stay all day in the theatre without meat or drink; as if a pot forsooth should be mighty proud that a man cannot take it up by the bottom or the belly and carry it away, though he can easily do it by the ears. And therefore Agesilaus said, it was all one whether a man were a CINOEDUS before or behind. We ought principally to dread those softening delights that please and tickle through the eyes and ears, and not think that city not taken which hath all its other gates secured by bars, portcullises, and chains, if the enemies are already entered through one and have taken possession; or fancy ourselves invincible against the assaults of pleasure, because stews will not provoke us, when the music-meeting or theatre prevails. For we in one case as much as the other resign up our souls to the impetuousness of pleasures, which pouring in those potions of songs, cadences, and tunes, more powerful and bewitching than the best mixtures of the most skilful cook or perfumer, conquer and corrupt us; and in the meantime, by our own confession as it were, the fault is chiefly ours. Now, as Pindar saith, nothing that the earth and sea hath provided for our tables can be justly blamed; but neither our meat nor broth, nor this excellent wine which we drink, hath raised such a noisy tumultous pleasure as those songs and tunes did, which not only filled the house with clapping and shouting, but perhaps the whole town. Therefore we ought principally to secure ourselves against such delights, because they are more powerful than others; as not being terminated in the body, like those which allure the touch, taste, or smelling, but affecting the very intellectual and judging faculties. Besides, from most other delights, though reason doth not free us, yet other passions very commonly divert us. Sparing niggardliness will keep a glutton from dainty fish, and covetousness will confine a lecher from a costly whore. As in one of Menander’s plays, where every one of the company was to be enticed by the bawd who brought out a surprising whore, but each of them, though all boon companions,

Sat sullenly, and fed upon his cates.

For to pay interest for money is a severe punishment that follows intemperance, and to open our purses is no easy matter. But these pleasures that are called genteel, and solicit the ears or eyes of those that are frantic after shows and music, may be had without any charge at all, in every place almost, and upon every occasion; they may be enjoyed at the prizes, in the theatre, or at entertainments, at others cost. And therefore those that have not their reason to assist and guide them may be easily spoiled.

Silence following upon this, What application, said I, shall reason make, or how shall it assist? For I do not think it will apply those ear-covers of Xenocrates, or force us to rise from the table as soon as we hear a harp struck or a pipe blown. No indeed, replied Lamprias, but as soon as we meet with the foresaid intoxications, we ought to make our application to the Muses, and fly to the Helicon of the ancients. To him that loves a costly strumpet, we cannot bring a Panthea or Penelope for cure; but one that delights in mimics and buffoons, loose odes, or debauched songs, we can bring to Euripides, Pindar, and Menander, that he might wash (as Plato phraseth it) his salt hearing with fresh reason. As the exorcists command the possessed to read over and pronounce Ephesian letters, so we in those possessions, during the madness of music and the dance, when

We toss our hands with noise, and madly shout,

remembering those venerable and sacred writings, and comparing with them those odes, poems, and vain empty compositions, shall not be altogether cheated by them, or permit ourselves to be carried away sidelong, as by a smooth and undisturbed stream.


Concerning Those Guests that are Called Shadows, and Whether Being Invited by Some to Go to Another’s House, They Ought To Go; and When, and to Whom.


Homer makes Menelaus come uninvited to his brother Agamemnon’s treat, when he feasted the commanders;

For well he knew great cares his brother vexed.
(“Iliad,” ii. 409.)

He did not take notice of the plain and evident omission of his brother, or show his resentments by not coming, as some surly testy persons usually do upon such oversights of their best friends; yet they had rather be overlooked than particularly invited, that they may have some color for their pettish anger. But about the introduced guests (which we call shadows) who are not invited by the entertainer, but by some others of the guests, a question was started, from whom that custom began. Some thought from Socrates, who persuaded Aristodemus, who was not invited, to go along with him to Agatho’s, where there happened a pretty jest. For Socrates by chance staying somewhat behind, Aristodemus went in first; and this seemed very appropriate, for, the sun shining on their backs, the shadow ought to go before the body. Afterwards it was thought necessary at all entertainments, especially of great men, when the inviter did not know their favorites and acquaintance, to desire the invited to bring his company, appointing such a set number, lest they should be put to the same shifts which he was put to who invited King Philip to his country-house. The king came with a numerous attendance, but the provision was not equal to the company. Therefore, seeing his entertainer much cast down, he sent some about to tell his friends privately, that they should keep one corner of their bellies for a large cake that was to come. And they, expecting this, fed sparingly on the meat that was set before them, so that the provision seemed sufficient for them all.

When I had talked thus waggishly to the company Florus had a mind to talk gravely concerning these shadows, and have it discussed whether it was fit for those that were so invited to go, or no. His son-inlaw Caesernius was positively against it. We should, says he, following Hesiod’s advice,

Invite a friend to feast,
(“Works and Days,” 342.)

or at least we should have our acquaintance and familiars to participate of our entertainments, mirth, and discourse over a glass of wine; but now, as ferry-men permit their passengers to bring in what fardel they please, so we permit others to fill our entertainments with any persons, let them be good companions or not. And I should wonder that any man of breeding being so (that is, not at all) invited, should go; since, for the most part, he must be unacquainted with the entertainer, or if he was acquainted, was not thought worthy to be bidden. Nay, he should be more ashamed to go to such a one, if he considers that it will look like an upbraiding of his unkindness, and yet a rude intruding into his company against his will. Besides, to go before or after the guest that invites him must look unhandsomely, nor is it creditable to go and stand in need of witnesses to assure the guests that he doth not come as a principally invited person, but such a one’s shadow. Besides, to attend others bathing or anointing, to observe his hour, whether he goes early or late, is servile and gnathonical (for there never was such an excellent fellow as Gnatho to feed at another man’s table). Besides, if there is no more proper time and place to say,

Speak, tongue, if thou wilt utter jovial things,

than at a feast, and freedom and raillery is mixed with everything that is either done or said over a glass of wine, how should he behave himself, who is not a true principally invited guest, but as it were a bastard and supposititious intruder? For whether he is free or not, he lies open to the exception of the company. Besides, the very meanness and vileness of the name is no small evil to those who do not resent it but can quietly endure to be called and answer to the name of shadows. For, by enduring such base names, men are insensibly accustomed and drawn on to base actions. Therefore, when I make an invitation, for it is hard to break the custom of a place, I give my guests leave to bring shadows; but when I myself am invited as a shadow, I assure you I refuse to go.

A short silence followed this discourse; then Florus began thus: This last thing you mentioned, sir, is a greater difficulty than the other. For it is necessary when we invite our friends to give them liberty to choose their own shadows, as was before hinted; for to entertain them without their friends is not very obliging, nor is it very easy to know whom the person we invite would be most pleased with. Then said I to him: Consider therefore whether those that give their friends this license to invite do not at the same time give the invited license to accept the invitation and come to the entertainment. For it is not fit either to allow or to desire another to do that which is not decent to be done, or to urge and persuade to that which no one ought to be persuaded or to consent to do. When we entertain a great man or stranger, there we cannot invite or choose his company, but must receive those that come along with him. But when we feast a friend, it will be more acceptable if we ourselves invite all, as knowing his acquaintance and familiars; for it tickles him extremely to see that others take notice that he hath chiefly a respect for such and such, loves their company most, and is well pleased when they are honored and invited as well as he. Yet sometimes we must deal with our friend as petitioners do when they make addresses to a god; they offer vows to all that belong to the same altar and the same shrine, though they make no particular mention of their names. For no dainties, wine, or ointment can incline a man to merriment, as much as a pleasant agreeable companion. For as it is rude and ungenteel to inquire and ask what sort of meat, wine, or ointment the person whom we are to entertain loves best; so it is neither disobliging nor absurd to desire him who hath a great many acquaintance to bring those along with him whose company he likes most, and in whose conversation he can take the greatest pleasure. For it is not so irksome and tedious to sail in the same ship, to dwell in the same house, or be a judge upon the same bench, with a person whom we do not like, as to be at the same table with him; and the contrary is fully as pleasant. An entertainment is a communion of serious or merry discourse or actions; and therefore, to make a merry company, we should not pick up any person at a venture, but take only such as are known to one another and sociable. Cooks, it is true, mix sour and sweet juices, rough and oily, to make their sauces; but there never was an agreeable table or pleasant entertainment where the guests were not all of a piece, and all of the same humor. Now, as the Peripatetics say, the first mover in nature moves only and is not moved, and the last moved is moved only but does not move, and between these there is that which moves and is moved by others; so there is the same analogy between those three sorts of persons that make up a company — there is the simple inviter, the simple invited and the invited that invites another. We have spoken already concerning the inviter, and it will not be improper, in my opinion, to deliver my sentiments about the other two. He that is invited and invites others, should, in my opinion, be sparing in the number that he brings. He should not, as if he were to forage in an enemy’s country, carry all he can with him; or, like those who go to possess a new-found land, by the excessive number of his own friends, incommode or exclude the friends of the inviter, so that the inviter must be in the same case with those that set forth suppers to Hecate and the gods who turn away evil, of which neither they nor any of their family partake, except of the smoke and trouble. It is true they only speak in waggery that say,

He that at Delphi offers sacrifice
Must after meat for his own dinner buy.

But the same thing really happens to him who entertains ill-bred guests or acquaintances, who with a great many shadows, as it were harpies, tear and devour his provision. Besides, he should not take anybody that he may come upon along with him to another’s entertainment, but chiefly the entertainer’s acquaintance, as it were contending with him and preceding him in the invitation. But if that cannot be effected, let him carry such of his own friends as the entertainer would choose himself; to a civil modest man, some of complaisant humor; to a learned man, ingenuous persons; to a man that hath borne office, some of the same rank; and, in short, such whose acquaintance he hath formerly sought and would be now glad of. For it will be extremely pleasing and obliging to bring such into company together; but one who brings to a feast men who have no likeness at all with the feast-maker, but who are entire aliens and strangers to him — as hard drinkers to a sober man — gluttons and sumptuous persons to a temperate thrifty entertainer — or to a young, merry, boon companion, grave old philosophers solemnly speaking in their beards — will be very disobliging, and turn all the intended mirth into an unpleasant sourness. The entertained should be as obliging to the entertainer as the entertainer to the entertained; and then he will be most obliging, when not only he himself, but all those that come by his means, are pleasant and agreeable.

The last of the three which remains to be spoken of is he that is invited by one man to another’s feast. Now he that disdains and is so much offended at the name of a shadow will appear to be afraid of a mere shadow. But in this matter there is need of a great deal of caution, for it is not creditable readily to go along with every one and to everybody. But first you must consider who it is that invites; for if he is not a very familiar friend, but a rich or great man, such who, as if upon a stage, wants a large or splendid retinue, or such who thinks that he puts a great obligation upon you and does you a great deal of honor by this invitation, you must presently deny. But if he is your friend and particular acquaintance, you must not yield upon the first motion: but if there seems a necessity for some conversation which cannot be put off till another time, or if he is lately come from a journey or designs to go on one, and out of mere good-will and affection seems desirous of your company, and doth not desire to carry a great many, or strangers, but only some few friends along with him; or, besides all this, if he designs to bring you thus invited acquainted with the principal inviter, who is very worthy of your acquaintance, then consent and go. For as to ill-humored persons, the more they seize and take hold of us like thorns, we should endeavor to free ourselves from them or leap over them the more. If he that invites is a civil and well-bred person, yet doth not design to carry you to one of the same temper, you must refuse, lest you should take poison in honey, that is, get the acquaintance of a bad man by an honest friend. It is absurd to go to one you do not know, and with whom you never had any familiarity, unless, as I said before, the person be an extraordinary man, and, by a civil waiting, upon him at another man’s invitation, you design to begin an acquaintance with him. And those friends you should chiefly go to as shadows, who would come to you again in the same quality. To Philip the jester, indeed, he seemed more ridiculous that came to a feast of his own accord than he that was invited; but to well-bred and civil friends it is more obliging for men of the same temper to come at the nick of time with other friends, when uninvited and unexpected; at once pleasing both to those that invite and those that entertain. But chiefly you must avoid going to rulers, rich or great men, lest you incur the deserved censure of being impudent, saucy, rude, and unseasonably ambitious.


Whether Flute-Girls are to Be Allowed at a Feast?


At Chaeronea, Diogenianus the Pertamenian being present, we had a long discourse once at an entertainment about music; and we had a great deal of trouble to hold out against a great bearded sophister of the Stoic sect, who quoted Plato as blaming a company that admitted flute-girls and were not able to entertain one another with discourse. And Philip the Prusian, of the same sect, said: Those guests of Agatho, whose discourse was more sweet than the sound of any pipe in the world, were no good authority in this case; for it was no wonder that in their company the flute-girl was not regarded; but it is strange that, in the midst of the entertainment, the extreme pleasantness of the discourse had not made them forget their meat and drink. Yet Xenophon thought it not indecent to bring in to Socrates, Antisthenes, and the like the jester Philip; as Homer doth an onion to make the wine relish. And Plato brought in Aristophanes’s discourse of love, as a comedy, into his entertainment; and at the last, as it were drawing all the curtains, he shows a scene of the greatest variety imaginable — Alcibiades drunk, frolicking, and crowned. Then follows that pleasant raillery between him and Socrates concerning Agatho, and the encomium of Socrates; and when such discourse was going on, good gods! Had it not been allowable, if Apollo himself had come in with his harp ready to desire the god to forbear till the argument was out? These men, having such a pleasant way of discoursing, used these arts and insinuating methods, and graced their entertainment’s by such facetious raillery. But shall we, being mixed with tradesmen and merchants, and some (as it now and then happens) ignorants and rustics, banish out of our entertainments this ravishing delight, or fly the musicians, as if they were Sirens, as soon as we see them coming? Clitomachus the wrestler, rising and getting away when any one talked of love, was much wondered at; and should not a philosopher that banisheth music from a feast, and is afraid of a musician, and bids his link boy presently light his link and be gone, be laughed at, since he seems to abominate the most innocent pleasures, as beetles do ointment? For, if at any time, certainly over a glass of wine, music should be permitted, and then chiefly the harmonious god should have the direction of our souls; so that Euripides, though I like him very well in other things, shall never persuade me that music, as he would have it, should be applied to melancholy and grief. For there sober and serious reason, like a physician, should take care of the diseased men; but those pleasures should be mixed with Bacchus, and serve to increase our mirth and frolic. Therefore it was a pleasant saying of that Spartan at Athens, who, when some new tragedians were to contend for the prize, seeing the preparations of the masters of the dances, the hurry and busy diligence of the instructors, said, the city was certainly mad which sported with so much pains. He that designs to sport should sport, and not buy his case and pleasure with great expense, or the loss of that time which might be useful to other things; but whilst he is feasting and free from business, those should be enjoyed. And it is advisable to try amidst our mirth, whether any profit is to be gotten from our delights.


What Sort of Music is Fittest for an Entertainment?


When Philip had ended, I hindered the sophister from returning an answer to the discourse, and said: Let us rather inquire, Diogenianus, since there are a great many sorts of music, which is fittest for an entertainment. And let us beg this learned man’s judgment in this case; for since he is not prejudiced or apt to be biased by any sort, there is no danger that he should prefer that which is pleasantest before that which is best. Diogenianus joining with me in this request, he presently began. All other sorts I banish to the theatre and playhouse, and can only allow that which hath been lately admitted into the entertainments at Rome, and with which everybody is not yet acquainted. You know, continued he, that some of Plato’s dialogues are purely narrative, and some dramatic. The easiest of this latter sort they teach their children to speak by heart; making them to imitate the actions of those persons they represent, and to form their voice and affections to be agreeable to the words. This all the grave and well-bred men exceedingly admire; but soft and effeminate fellows, whose ears ignorance and ill-breeding hath corrupted, and who, as Aristoxenus phraseth it, are ready to vomit when they hear excellent harmony, reject it; and no wonder, when effeminacy prevails.

Philip, perceiving some of the company uneasy at this discourse, said: Pray spare us, sir, and be not so severe upon us; for we were the first that found fault with that custom when it first began to be countenanced in Rome, and reprehended those who thought Plato fit to entertain us whilst we were making merry, and who would hear his dialogues whilst they were eating cates and scattering perfumes. When Sappho’s songs or Anaereon’s verses are recited, I protest I think it decent to set aside my cup. But should I proceed, perhaps you would think me much in earnest, and designing to oppose you, and therefore, together with this cup which I present my friend, I leave it to him to wash your salt ear with fresh discourse.

Then Diogenianus, taking the cup, said: Methinks this is very sober discourse, which makes me believe that the wine doth not please you, since I see no effect of it; so that I fear I ought to be corrected. Indeed, many sorts of music are not to be rejected; first, tragedy, as having nothing familiar enough for an entertainment, and being a representation of actions attended with grief and extremity of passion. I reject the sort of dancing which is called Pyladean from Pylades, because it is full of pomp, very pathetical, and requires a great many persons; but if we would admit any of those sorts that deserve those encomiums which Socrates mentions in his discourse about dancing, I like that sort called Bathyllean, which requires not so high a motion, but hath something of the character of the Cordax, and resembles the motion of an Echo, a Pan, or a Satyr frolicking with love. Old comedy is not fit for men that are making merry, by reason of the excuses that appear in it; for that vehemency which they use in the parabasis is loud and indecent, and the liberty they take to scoff and abuse is very surfeiting, too open, and full of filthy words and lewd expressions. Besides, as at great men’s tables every man hath a servant waiting at his elbow, so each of his guests would need a grammarian to sit by him, and explain who is Laespodias in Eupolis, Cinesias in Plato, and Lampo in Cratinus, and who is each person that is jeered in the play. Concerning new comedy there is no need of any long discourse. It is so fitted, so interwoven with entertainments, that it is easier to have a regular feast without wine, than without Menander. Its phrase is sweet and familiar, the Humor innocent and easy, so that there is nothing for men whilst sober to despise, or when merry to be troubled at. The sentiments are so natural and unstudied, that midst wine, as it were in fire, they soften and bend the rigidest temper to be pliable and easy. And the mixture of gravity and jests seems to be contrived for nothing so aptly as for the pleasure and profit of those that are frolicking and making merry. The love-scenes in Menander are convenient for those who have already drunk their cups, and who in a short time must retire home to their wives; for in all his plays there is no love of boys mentioned, and all rapes committed on virgins and decently in marriages at last. As for misses, if they are impudent and jilting, they are bobbed, the young gallants turning sober, and repenting of their lewd courses. But if they are kind and constant, either their true parents are discovered, or a time is determined for intrigue, which brings them at last to obliging modesty and civil kindness. These things to men busied about other matters may seem scarce worth taking notice of; but whilst they are making merry, it is no wonder that the pleasantness and smoothness of the parts should work a neat conformity and distinction in the hearers and make their manners like the pattern they have from those genteel characters.

Diogenianus, either designedly or for want of breath ended thus. And when the sophister attacked him again, and contended that some of Aristophanes’s verses should be read, Philip speaking to me said: Diogenianus hath had his wish in praising his beloved Menander, and seems not to care for any of the rest. There are a great many sorts which we have not at all considered, concerning which I should be very glad to have your opinion; and the prize for the carvers we will set up tomorrow, when we are sober, if Diogenianus and this stranger think fit. Of representations, said I, some are allegorical, and some are farces; neither of these are fit for an entertainment; the first by reason of their length and cost, and the latter being so full of filthy discourse and lewd actions, that they are not fit to be seen by the foot-boys that wait on civil masters. Yet the rabble, even with their wives and young sons, sit quietly to be spectators of such representations as are apt to disturb the soul more than the greatest debauch in drink. The harp ever since Homer’s time was well acquainted with feasts and entertainments, and therefore it is not fitting to dissolve such an ancient friendship and acquaintance; but we should only desire the harpers to forbear their sad notes and melancholy tunes, and play only those that are delighting, and fit for such as are making merry. The pipe, if we would, we cannot reject, for the libation in the beginning of the entertainment requires that as well as the garland. Then it insinuates and passeth through the ears, spreading even to the very soul a pleasant sound, which produceth serenity and calmness; so that, if the wine hath not quite dissolved or driven away all vexing solicitous anxiety this, by the softness and delightful agreeableness of its sound, smooths and calms the spirits, if so be that it keeps within due bounds, and doth not elevate too much, and, by its numerous surprising divisions, raise an ecstasy in the soul which wine hath weakened and made easy to be perverted. For as brutes do not understand a rational discourse, yet lie down or rise up at the sound of a shell or whistle, or of a chirp or clap; so the brutish part of the soul, which is either incapable of understanding or obeying reason, men conquer by songs and tunes, and by music reduce it to tolerable order. But to speak freely what I think, no pipe nor harp simply played upon, and without a song with it, can be very fit for an entertainment. For we should still accustom ourselves to take our chiefest pleasure from discourse, and spend our leisure time in profitable talk, and use tunes and airs as a sauce for the discourse, and not singly by themselves, to please the unreasonable delicacy of our palate. For as nobody is against pleasure that ariseth from sauce or wine going in with our necessary food, but Socrates flouts and refuseth to admit that superfluous and vain pleasure which we take in perfumes and odors at a feast; thus the sound of a pipe or harp, when singly applied to our ears, we utterly reject, but if it accompanies words, and together with an ode feasts and delights our reason, we gladly introduce it. And we believe the famed Marsyas was punished by Apollo for pretending, when he had nothing but his single pipe, and his muzzle to apply to his lips, to contend with the harp and song of the god. Let us only take care that, when we have such guests as are able to cheer one another with philosophy and good discourse we do not introduce anything that may rather prove an uneasy hindrance to the conversation than promote it. For not only those are fools, who, as Euripides says, having safety at home and in their own power, yet would hire some from abroad; but those too who, having pleasantness enough within, are eager after some external pastimes to comfort and delight them. That extraordinary piece of honor which the Persian king showed Antalcidas the Spartan seemed rude and uncivil, when he dipped a garland composed of crocus and roses in ointment, and sent it him to wear, by that dipping putting a slight upon and spoiling the natural sweetness and beauty of the flowers. He doth as bad, who having a Muse in his own breast, and all the pleasantness that would fit an entertainment, will have pipes and harps play, and by that external adventitious noise destroy all the sweetness that was proper and his own. But in short, all ear-delights are fittest then, when the company begins to be disturbed, to fall out, and quarrel, for then they may prevent raillery and reproach, and stop the dispute that is running on to sophistical and unpleasant wrangling, and bridle all babbling declamatory altercations, so that the company may be freed of noise and quietly composed.


That It Was the Custom of the Greeks As Well As Persians to Debate of State Affairs at Their Entertainments.


At Nicostratus’s table we discoursed of those matters which the Athenians were to debate of in their next assembly. And one of the company saying, It is the Persian fashion, sir, to debate midst your cups; And why, said Glaucias rejoining, not the Grecian fashion? For it was a Greek that said,

After your belly’s full, your counsel’s best.

And they were Greeks who with Agamemnon besieged Troy, to whom, whilst they were eating and drinking,

Old Nestor first began a grave debate;
(“Iliad,” vii. 324.)

and he himself advised the king before to call the commanders together for the same purpose:—

For the commanders, sir, a feast prepare,
And see who counsels best, and follow him.
(Ibid, ix. 70 and 74.)

Therefore Greece, having a great many excellent institutions, and zealously following the customs of the ancients, hath laid the foundations of her polities in wine. For the assemblies in Crete called Andria, those in Sparta called Phiditia, were secret consultations and aristocratical assemblies; such, I suppose, as the Prytaneum and Thesmothesium here at Athens. And not different from these is that night-meeting, which Plato mentions, of the best and most polite men, to which the greatest, the most considerable and puzzling matters are assigned. And those

Who, when they do design to seek their rest,
To Mercury their just libations pour,
(“Odyssey,” vii. 138.)

do they not join reason and wine together, since, when they are about to retire, they make their vows to the wisest god, as if he was present and particularly president over their actions? But the ancients indeed call Bacchus the good counsellor, as if he had no need of Mercury; and for his sake they named the night [Greek omitted] as it were, GOOD ADVISER.


Whether They Did Well Who Deliberated Midst Their Cups.


Whilst Glaucias was discoursing thus, the former tumultuous talk seemed to be pretty well lulled; and that it might be quite forgotten, Nicostratus started another question, saying, he never valued the matter before, whilst he thought it a Persian custom, but since it was discovered to be the Greek fashion too, it wanted (he thought) some reason to excuse or defend its seeming absurdity. For our reason (said he), like our eye, whilst it floats in too much moisture, is hard to be moved, and unable to perform its operations. And all sorts of troubles and discontents, like insects to the sun, creeping forth, and being agitated by a glass of wine, make the mind irresolute and inconstant. Therefore as a bed is more convenient for a man whilst making merry than a chair, because it contains the whole body and keeps it from all disturbing motion, so it is best to have the soul perfectly at quiet; or, if that cannot be, we must give it, as to children that will be doing, not a sword or spear, but a rattle or a ball — in this following the example of the god himself, who puts into the hands of those that are making merry a ferula, the lightest and softest of all weapons, that, when they are most apt to strike, they may hurt least. Over a glass of wine men should make only ridiculous slips, and not such as may prove tragical, lamentable, or of any considerable concern. Besides, in serious debates, it is chiefly to be considered, that persons of mean understanding and unacquainted with business should be guided by the wise and experienced; but wine destroys this order. Insomuch that Plato says, wine is called [Greek omitted] because it makes those that drink it [Greek omitted] think that they have wit; for none over a glass of wine thinks himself so noble, beauteous, or rich (though he fancies himself all these), as wise; and therefore wine is babbling, full of talk, and of a dictating humor; so that we are rather for being heard than hearing, for leading than being led. But a thousand such objections may be raised, for they are very obvious. But let us hear which of the company, either old or young, can allege anything for the contrary opinion.

Then said my brother cunningly: And do you imagine that any, upon a sudden, can produce any probable reasons? And Nicostratus replying, Yes, no doubt, there being so many learned men and good drinkers in company; he with a smile continued: Do you think, sir, you are fit to treat of these matters, when wine hath disabled you to discourse of politics and state affairs? Or is not this all the same as to think that a man in his liquor doth not see very well nor understand those that talk and discourse with him, yet hears the music and the pipers very well? For as it is likely that useful and profitable things draw and affect the sense more than fine and gaudy; so likewise they do the mind too. And I shall not wonder that the nice philosophical speculation should escape a man who hath drunk freely; but yet, I think, if he were called to political debates, his wisdom would become more strong and vigorous. Thus Philip at Chaeronea, being well heated, talked very foolishly, and was the sport of the whole company; but as soon as they began to discourse of a truce and peace, he composed his countenance, contracted his brows, and dismissing all vain, empty and dissolute thoughts, he gave an excellent, wise, and sober answer to the Athenians. To drink freely is different from being drunk, and those that drink till they grow foolish ought to retire to bed. But as for those that drink freely and are otherwise men of sense, why should we fear that they will fail in their understanding or lose their skill, when we see that musicians play as well at a feast as in a theatre? For when skill and art are found in the soul, they make the body correct and proper in its operations, and obedient to the motions of the spirit. Besides, wine inspirits some men, and raises a confidence and assurance in them, but not such as is haughty and odious, but pleasing and agreeable. Thus they say that Aeschylus composed his tragedies over a bottle, and that all his plays (though Gorgias thought that one of them, the “Seven against Thebes,” was full of Mars) were Bacchus’s. For wine (according to Plato), heating the soul together with the body, makes the body pliable, quick, and active, and opens the passages; while the fancies draw in discourse with boldness, and daring.

For some have a good natural invention, yet whilst they are sober are too diffident and too close, but midst their wine, like frankincense, exhale and open at the heat. Besides, wine expels all fear, which is the greatest hindrance to all consultations, and quencheth many other degenerate and lazy passions; it opens the rancor and malice, as it were, the two-leaved doors of the soul, and displays the whole disposition and qualities of any person in his discourse. Freedom of speech, and, through that, truth it principally produceth; which it once wanting, neither quickness of wit nor experience availeth anything; and many proposing that which comes next rather hit the matter, than if they warily and designedly conceal their present sentiments. Therefore there is no reason to fear that wine will stir up our affections; for it never stirs up the bad, unless in the worst men, whose judgment is never sober. But as Theophrastus used to call the barbers’ shops wineless entertainments; so there is a kind of an uncouth wineless drunkenness always excited either by anger, malice, emulation, or clownishness in the souls of the unlearned. Now wine, blunting rather than sharpening many of these passions, doth not make them sots and foolish, but simple and ingenuous; not negligent of what is profitable, but desirous of what is good and honest. Now those that think craft to be cunning, and vanity or closeness to be wisdom, have reason to think those that over a glass of wine plainly and ingenuously deliver their opinions to be fools. But, on the contrary, the ancients called the god the Freer and Loosener, and thought him considerable in divination; not, as Euripides says, because he makes men raging mad, but because he looseth and frees the soul from all base distrustful fear, and puts them in a condition to speak truth freely to one another.

Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 11:59