Text derived from The complete works of Plutarch: essays and miscellanies, New York: Crowell, 1909. Vol.III.
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Some, my dear Sossius Senecio imagine that this sentence, [Greek omitted] was principally designed against the stewards of a feast, who are usually troublesome and press liquor too much upon the guests. For the Dorians in Sicily (as I am informed) called the steward, [Greek omitted] a REMEMBRANCER. Others think that this proverb admonisheth the guests to forget everything that is spoken or done in company; and agreeably to this, the ancients used to consecrate forgetfulness with a ferula to Bacchus, thereby intimating that we should either not remember any irregularity committed in mirth and company, or apply a gentle and childish correction to the faults. But because you are of opinion (as Euripides says) that to forget absurdities is indeed a piece of wisdom, but to deliver over to oblivion all sort of discourse that merry meetings do usually produce is not only repugnant to that endearing quality that most allow to an entertainment, but against the known practice of the greatest philosophers (for Plato, Xenophon, Aristotle, Speusippus, Epicurus, Prytanis, Hieronymus, Dion the Academic, have thought it a worthy and noble employment to deliver down to us those discourses they had at table), and since it is your pleasure that I should gather up the chiefest of those scattered topics which both at Rome and Greece amidst our cups and feasting we have disputed on, in obedience to your commands I have sent three books, each containing ten problems; and the rest shall quickly follow, if these find good acceptance and do not seem altogether foolish and impertinent.
The first question is, Whether at table it is allowable to philosophize? For I remember at a supper at Athens this doubt was started, whether at a merry meeting it was fit to use philosophical discourse, and how far it might be used? And Aristo presently cried out: What then, for heaven’s sake, are there any that banish philosophy from company and wine? And I replied: Yes, sir, there are, and such as with a grave scoff tell us that philosophy, like the matron of the house, should never be heard at a merry entertainment; and commend the custom of the Persians, who never let their wives appear, but drink, dance, and wanton with their whores. This they propose for us to imitate; they permit us to have mimics and music at our feasts, but forbid philosophy; she, forsooth, being very unfit to be wanton with us, and we in a bad condition to be serious. Isocrates the rhetorician, when at a drinking bout some begged him to make a speech, only returned: With those things in which I have skill the time doth not suit; and in those things with which the time suits I have no skill.
And Crato cried out: By Bacchus, he was right to forswear talk, if he designed to make such long-winded discourses as would have spoiled all mirth and conversation; but I do not think there is the same reason to forbid philosophy as to take away rhetoric from our feasts. For philosophy is quite of another nature; it is an art of living, and therefore must be admitted into every part of our conversation, into all our gay humors and our pleasures, to regulate and adjust them, to proportion the time, and keep them from excess; unless, perchance, upon the same scoffing pretence of gravity, they would banish temperance, justice, and moderation. It is true, were we to feast before a court, as those that entertained Orestes, and were silence enjoined by law, that might prove no mean cloak of our ignorance; but if Bacchus is really [Greek omitted] (A LOOSER of everything), and chiefly takes off all restraints and bridles from the tongue, and gives the voice the greatest freedom, I think it is foolish and absurd to deprive that time in which we are usually most talkative of the most useful and profitable discourse; and in our schools to dispute of the offices of company, in what consists the excellence of a guest, how mirth, feasting, and wine are to be used and yet deny philosophy a place in these feasts, as if not able to confirm by practice what by precepts it instructs.
And when you affirmed that none ought to oppose what Crato said, but determine what sorts of philosophical topics were to be admitted as fit companions at a feast, and so avoid that just and pleasant taunt put upon the wrangling disputers of the age,
Come now to supper, that we may contend;
and when you seemed concerned and urged us to speak to that head, I first replied: Sir, we must consider what company we have; for if the greater part of the guests are learned men — as for instance, at Agatho’s entertainment, characters like Socrates, Phaedrus, Pausanias, Euryximachus; or at Callias’s board, Charmides, Antisthenes, Hermogenes, and the like — we will permit them to philosohize, and to mix Bacchus with the Muses as well as with the Nymphs; for the latter make him wholesome and gentle to the body, and the other pleasant and agreeable to the soul. And if there are some few illiterate persons present, they, as consonants with vowels, in the midst of the other learned, will participate not altogether inarticulately and insignificantly. But if the greater part consists of such who can better endure the noise of any bird, fiddle-string, or piece of wood than the voice of a philosopher, Pisistratus hath shown us what to do; for being at difference with his sons, when he heard his enemies rejoiced at it, in a full assembly he declared that he had endeavored to persuade his sons to submit to him, but since he found them obstinate, he was resolved to yield and submit to their humors. So a philosopher, midst those companions that slight his excellent discourse, will lay aside his gravity, follow them, and comply with their humor as far as decency will permit; knowing very well that men cannot exercise their rhetoric unless they speak, but may their philosophy even whilst they are silent or jest merrily, nay, whilst they are piqued upon or repartee. For it is not only (as Plato says) the highest degree of injustice not to be just and yet seem so; but it is the top of wisdom to philosophize, yet not appear to do it; and in mirth to do the same with those that are serious, and still seem in earnest. For as in Euripides, the Bacchae, though unprovided of iron weapons and unarmed, wounded their invaders with their boughs, thus the very jests and merry talk of true philosophers move those that are not altogether insensible.
I think there are topics fit to be used at table, some of which reading and study give us, others the present occasion; some to incite to study, others to piety and great and noble actions, others to make us rivals of the bountiful and kind; which if a man cunningly and without any apparent design inserts for the instruction of the rest, he will free these entertainments from many of those considerable evils which usually attend them. Some that put borage into the wine, or sprinkle the floor with water in which verbena and maiden-hair have been steeped, as good raise mirth and jollity in the guests (in imitation of Homer’s Helen, who with some medicament diluted the pure wine she had prepared), do not understand that that fable, coming from round Egypt, after a long way ends at last in easy and fit discourse. For whilst they were drinking Helen relates the story of Ulysses,
How Fortune’s spite the hero did control,
And bore his troubles with a manly soul.
(“Odyssey,” iv. 242.)
For that, in my opinion, was the Nepenthe, the care-dissolving medicament, viz, that story exactly fitted to the then disasters and juncture of affairs. The pleasing men, though they designedly and apparently instruct, draw on their maxims rather with persuasive and smooth arguments, than the violent force of demonstrations. You see that even Plato in his Symposium, where he disputes of the chief end, the chief good, and is altogether on subjects theological, doth not lay down strong and close demonstrations; he doth not make himself ready for the contest (as he is wont) like a wrestler, that he may take the firmer hold of his adversary and be sure of giving him the trip; but draws men on by more soft and pliable attacks, by pleasant fictions and pat examples.
Besides the questions should be easy, the problems known, the interrogations plain, familiar, and not intricate and dark that they might neither vex the unlearned, nor fright them from the disquisition. For — as it is allowable to dissolve our entertainment into a dance, but if we force our guests to toss quoits or play at cudgels, we shall not only make our feast unpleasant, but hurtful and unnatural — thus light and easy disquisitions do pleasantly and profitably excite us, but we must forbear all contentions and (to use Democritus’s word) wrangling disputes, which perplex the proposers with intricate and inexplicable doubts, and trouble all the others that are present. Our discourse should be like our wine, common to all, and of which every one may equally partake; and they that propose hard problems seem no better fitted for society than Aesop’s fox and crane. For the fox vexed the crane with thin broth poured out upon a plain table, and laughed at her when he saw her, by reason of the narrowness of her bill and the thinness of the broth, incapable of partaking what he had prepared; and the crane, in requital, inviting the fox to supper, brought forth her dainties in a pot with a long and narrow neck, into which she could conveniently thrust her bill, whilst the fox could not reach one bit. Just so, when philosophers midst their cups dive into minute and logical disputes, they are very troublesome to those that cannot follow them through the same depths; and those that bring in idle songs, trifling disquisitions, common talk, and mechanical discourse destroy the very end of conversation and merry entertainments, and abuse Bacchus. Therefore, as when Phrynichus and Aeschylus brought tragedy to discourse of fictions and misfortunes, it was asked, What is this to Bacchus? — so methinks, when I hear some pedantically drawing a syllogism into table-talk, I have reason to cry out, Sir, what is this to Bacchus? Perchance one, the great bowl standing in the midst, and the chaplets given round, which the god in token of the liberty he bestows sets on every head, sings one of those songs called [Greek omitted] (CROOKED OR OBSCURE); this is not fit nor agreeable to a feast. Though some say these songs were not dark and intricate composures; but that the guests sang the first song all together, praising Bacchus and describing the power of the god; and the second each man sang singly in his turn, a myrtle bough being delivered to every one in order, which they call an [Greek omitted] because he that received it was obliged [Greek omitted] to sing; and after this a harp being carried round the company, the skilful took it, and fitted the music to the song; this when the unskilful could not perform, the song was called [Greek omitted] because hard to them, and one in which they could not bear a part. Others say this myrtle bough was not delivered in order, but from bed to bed; and when the uppermost of the first table had sung, he sent it to the uppermost of the second, and he to the uppermost of the third; and so the second in like manner to the second; and from these many windings and this circuit it was called [Greek omitted] CROOKED.
My brother Timon, making a great entertainment, desired the guests as they came to seat themselves; for he had invited strangers and citizens, neighbors and acquaintance, and all sorts of persons to the feast. A great many being already come, a certain stranger at last appeared, dressed as fine as hands could make him, his clothes rich, and an unseemly train of foot-boys at his heels; he walking up to the parlor-door, and, staring round upon those that were already seated, turned his back and scornfully retired; and when a great many stepped after him and begged him to return, he said, I see no fit place left for me. At that, the other guests (for the glasses had gone round) laughed abundantly, and desired his room rather than his company.
But after supper, my father addressing himself to me, who sat at another quarter of the table — Timon, said he, and I have a dispute, and you are to be judge, for I have been upon his skirts already about that stranger; for if according to my directions he had seated every man in his proper place, we had never been thought unskilful in this matter, by one
Whose art is great in ordering horse and foot.
(“Iliad,” ii 554.)
And story says that Paulus Aemilius, after he had conquered Perseus the king of Macedon, making an entertainment besides his costly furniture and extraordinary provision, was very critical in the order of his feast; saying, It is the same man’s task to order a terrible battle and a pleasing, entertainment, for both of them require skill in the art of disposing right, and Homer often calls the stoutest and the greatest princes [Greek omitted] disposers of the people; and you use to say that the great Creator, by this art of disposing, turned disorder into beauty, and neither taking away nor adding any new being, but setting everything in its proper place, out of the most uncomely figure and confused chaos produced this beauteous, this surprising face of nature that appears. In these great and noble doctrines indeed you instruct us; but our own observation sufficiently assures us, that the greatest profuseness in a feast appears neither delightful nor genteel, unless beautified by order. And therefore it is absurd that cooks and waiters should be solicitous what dish must be brought first, what next, what placed in the middle, and what last; and that the garlands, and ointment, and music (if they have any) should have a proper place and order assigned, and yet that the guests should be seated promiscuously, and no respect be had to age, honor, or the like; no distinguishing order by which the man in dignity might be honored, the inferior learn to give place, and the disposer be exercised in distinguishing what is proper and convenient. For it is not rational that, when we walk or sit down to discourse, the best man should have the best place, and not the same order be observed at table; or that the entertainer should in civility drink to one before another, and yet make no difference in their seats, at the first dash making the whole company one Myconus (as they say), a hodge-podge and confusion. This my father brought for his opinion.
And my brother said: I am not so much wiser than Bias, that, since he refused to be arbitrator between two only of his friends, I should pretend to be a judge between so many strangers and acquaintance; especially since it is not a money matter, but about precedence and dignity, as if I invited my friends not to treat them kindly, but to abuse them. Menelaus is accounted absurd and passed into a proverb, for pretending to advise when unasked; and sure he would be more ridiculous that instead of an entertainer should set up for a judge, when nobody requests him or submits to his determination which is the best and which the worst man in the company; for the guests do not come to contend about precedency, but to feast and be merry. Besides, it is no easy task to distinguish for some claim respect by reason of their age, others — from their familiarity and acquaintance; and, as those that make declamations consisting of comparisons, he must have Aristotle’s [Greek omitted] and Thrasymachus’s [Greek omitted] (books that furnish him with heads of argument) at his fingers’ ends; and all this to no good purpose or profitable effect but to bring vanity from the bar and the theatre into our feasts and entertainments, and, whilst by good fellowship endeavor to remit all other passions, especially pride and arrogance, from which, in my opinion we should be more careful to cleanse our souls than to wash our feet from dirt, that our conversation be free, simple, and full of mirth. And while by such meetings we strive to end all differences that have at any time risen amongst the invited, we should make them flame anew, and kindle them again by emulation, by thus humbling some and puffing up others. And if, according as we seat them, we should drink oftener and discourse more with some than others and set daintier dishes before them, instead of being friendly we should be lordly in our feasts. And if in other things we treat them all equally, why should we not begin at the first part, and bring it into fashion for all to take their seats promiscuously, without ceremony or pride, and to let them see, as soon as they enter, that they are invited to a dinner whose order is free and democratical, and not, as particular chosen men to the government of a city where aristocracy is the form; since the richest and the poorest sit promiscuously together.
When this had been offered on both sides, and all present required my determination, I said: Being an arbitrator and not a judge, I shall close strictly with neither side, but go indifferently in the middle between both. If a man invites young men, citizens, or acquaintance, they should (as Timon says) be accustomed to be content with any place, without ceremony or concernment; and this good nature and unconcernedness would be an excellent means to preserve and increase friendship. But if we use the same method to strangers, magistrates, or old men, I have just reason to fear that, whilst we seem to thrust our pride at the fore-door, we bring it in again at the back, together with a great deal of indifferency and disrespect. But in this, custom and the established rules of decency must guide; or else let us abolish all those modes of respect expressed by drinking to or saluting first; which we do not use promiscuously to all the company but according to their worth we honor every one
With better places, meat, and larger cups,
(“Iliad,” xii. 311.)
as Agamemnon says, naming the place first, as the chiefest sign of honor. And we commend Alcinous for placing his guest next himself:—
He stout Laomedon his son removed,
Who sat next him, for him he dearly loved;
(“Iliad,” xx. 15.)
for to place a suppliant stranger in the seat of his beloved son was wonderful kind, and extreme courteous. Nay even amongst the gods themselves this distinction is observed; for Neptune, though he came last into the assembly,
sat in the middle seat,
(“Odyssey,” vii. 170.)
as if that was his proper place. And Minerva seems to have that assigned her which is next Jupiter himself; and this the poet intimates, when speaking of Thetis he says,
She sat next Jove, Minerva giving Place.
(Ibid. xxiv. 100.)
And Pindar plainly says,
She sits just next the thunder-breathing flames.
Indeed Timon urges, we ought not to rob many to honor one, which he seems to do himself, even more than others; for he robs that which makes something that is individual common; and suitable honor to his worth is each man’s possession. And he gives that preeminence to running fast and making haste, which belongs to virtue, kindred, magistracies, and such other qualities; and whilst he endeavors not to affront his guests, he necessarily falls into that very inconvenience; for he must affront every one by defrauding them of their proper honor. Besides, in my opinion it is no hard matter to make this distinction, and seat our guests according to their quality; for first, it very seldom happens that many of equal honor are invited to the same banquet; and then, since there are many honorable places, you have room enough to dispose them according to content, if you can but guess that this man must be seated uppermost, that in the middle, another next to yourself, friend, acquaintance, tutor, or the like, appointing every one some place of honor; and as for the rest, I would supply their want of honor with some little presents, affability, and kind discourse. But if their qualities are not easy to be distinguished, and the men themselves hard to be pleased, see what device I have in that case; for I seat in the most honorable place my father, if invited; if not my grandfather, father-inlaw, uncle, or somebody whom the entertainer hath a more particular reason to esteem. And this is one of the many rules of decency that we have from Homer; for in his poem, when Achilles saw Menelaus and Antilochus contending about the second prize of the horse-race, fearing that their strife and fury would increase, he gave the prize to another, under pretence of comforting and honoring Eumelus, but indeed to take away the cause of their contention.
When I had said this, Lamprias, sitting (as he always doth) upon a low bed, cried out: Sirs, will you give me leave to correct this sottish judge? And the company bidding him speak freely and tell me roundly of my faults, and not spare, he said: And who can forbear that philosopher who disposes of places at a feast according to the birth, wealth, or offices of the guests, as if they were in a theatre or the Council House, so that pride and arrogance must be admitted even into our mirth and entertainments? In seating our guests we should not have any respect to honor, but mirth and conversation; not look after every man’s quality, but their agreement and harmony with one another, as those do that join several different things in one composure. Thus a mason doth not set an Athenian or a Spartan stone, because formed in a more noble country, before an Asian or a Spanish; nor a painter give the most costly color the chiefest place; nor a shipwright the Corinthian fir or Cretan cypress; but so distribute them as they will best serve to the common end, and make the whole composure strong, beautiful, and fit for use. Nay, you see even the deity himself (by our Pindar named the most skilful artificer) doth not everywhere place the fire above and the earth below; but, as Empedocles hath it,
The Oysters Coverings do directly prove,
That heavy Earth is sometimes rais’d above;
not having that place that Nature appoints, but that which is necessary to compound bodies and serviceable to the common end, the preservation of the whole. Disorder is in everything an evil; but then its badness is principally discovered, when it is amongst men whilst they are making merry; for then it breeds contentions and a thousand unspeakable mischiefs, which to foresee and hinder shows a man well skilled in good order and disposing right.
We all agreed that he had said well, but asked him why he would not instruct us how to order things aright, and communicate his skill. I am content, says he, to instruct you, if you will permit me to change the present order of the feast, and will yield as ready obedience to me as the Thebans to Epaminondas when he altered the order of their battle. We gave him full power; and he, having turned all the servants out, looked round upon every one, and said: Hear (for I will tell you first) how I design to order you together. In my mind, the Theban Pammenes justly taxeth Homer as unskilful in love matters, for setting together, in his description of an army, tribe and tribe, family and family; for he should have joined the lover and the beloved, so that the whole body being united in their minds might perfectly agree. This rule will I follow, not set one rich man by another, a youth by a youth, a magistrate by a magistrate, and a friend by a friend; for such an order is of no force, either to beget or increase friendship and good-will. But fitting that which wants with something that is able to supply it, next one that is willing to instruct I will place one that is as desirous to be instructed; next a morose, one good-natured; next a talkative old man a youth patient and eager for a story; next a boaster, a jeering smooth companion; and next an angry man, a quiet one. If I see a wealthy fellow bountiful and kind, I will take some poor honest man from his obscure place, and set him next, that something may run out of that full vessel to the other empty one. A sophister I will forbid to sit by a sophister, and one poet by another;
For beggars beggars, poets envy poets.
(Hesiod, “Work and Days,” 26)
I separate the clamorous scoffers and the testy, by putting some good-nature between them, so they cannot jostle so roughly on one another; wrestlers, hunters, and farmers I put in one company. For some of the same nature, when put together, fight as cocks; others are very sociable as daws. Drinkers and lovers I set together, not only those who (as Sophocles says) feel the sting of masculine love, but those that are mad after virgins or married women; for they being warmed with the like fire, as two pieces of iron to be joined, will more readily agree; unless perhaps they both fancy the same person.
This raised a dispute about the dignity of places, for the same seat is not accounted honorable amongst all nations; in Persia the midst, for that is the place proper to the king himself; in Greece the uppermost; at Rome the lowermost of the middle bed, and this is called the consular; the Greeks about Pontus, and those of Heraclea, reckon the uppermost of the middle bed to be the chief. But we were most puzzled about the place called consular; for though it is esteemed most honorable, yet it is not because it is either the first or the midst; and its other circumstances are either not proper to that alone, or very frivolous. Though I confess three of the reasons alleged seemed to have something in them. The first, that the consuls, having dissolved the monarchy and reduced everything to a more equal level and popular estate, left the middle, the kingly place, and sat in a lower seat; that by this means their power and authority might be less subject to envy, and not so grievous to their fellow-citizens. The second, that, two beds being appointed for the invited guests, the third — and the first place in it — is most convenient for the master of the feast, from whence like a pilot, he can guide and order everything, and readily overlook the management of the whole affair. Besides, he is not so far removed that he can easily discourse, talk to, and compliment his guests; for next below him his wife and children usually are placed; next above him the most honorable of the invited, that being the most proper place, as near the master of the feast. The third reason was, that it is peculiar to the this place to be most convenient for the despatch of any sudden business; for the Roman consul will not as Archias, the governor of Thebes, say, when letters of importance are brought to him at dinner, “serious things tomorrow” and then throw aside the packet and take the great bowl; but he will be careful, circumspect, and mind it at that very instant. For not only (as the common saying hath it)
Each throw doth make the dicer fear,
but even midst his feasting and his pleasure a magistrate should be intent on intervening business; and he hath this place appointed, as the most convenient for him to receive any message, answer it, or sign a bill; for there the second bed joining with the third, the turning at the corner leaves a vacant space, so that a notary, servant, guard, or a messenger from the army might approach, deliver the message, and receive orders; and the consul, having room enough to speak or use his hand, neither troubles any one, nor is hindered by any the guests.
Crato my relative, and Theon my acquaintance, at a certain banquet, where the glasses had gone round freely, and a little stir arose but was suddenly appeased, began to discourse of the office of the steward of a feast; declaring that it was my duty to wear the chaplet, assert the decaying privilege, and restore that office which should take care for the decency and good order of the banquet. This proposal pleased every one, and they were all an end begging me to do it. Well then, said I, since you will have it so, I make myself steward and director of you all, command the rest to drink every one what he will but Crato and Theon, the first proposers and authors of this decree, I enjoin to declare in short what qualifications fit a man for this office, what he should principally aim at and how behave himself towards those under his command. This is the subject, and let them agree amongst themselves which head each shall manage.
They made some slight excuse at first; but the whole company urging them to obey, Crato began thus. A captain of a watch (as Plato says) ought to be most watchful and diligent himself, and the director of merry companions ought to be the best. And such a one he is, that will not be easily overtaken or apt to refuse a glass; but as Cyrus in his epistle to the Spartans says, that in many other things he was more fit than his brother to be a king, and chiefly because he could bear abundance of wine. For one that is drunk must have an ill carriage and be apt to affront; and he that is perfectly sober must be unpleasant, and fitter to be a governor of a school than of a feast. Pericles as often as he was chosen general, when he put on his cloak, used to say to himself, as it were to refresh his memory, Take heed, Pericles, thou dost govern freemen, thou dost govern Greeks, thou dost govern Athenians. So let our director say privately to himself, Thou art a governor over friends, that he may remember to neither suffer them to be debauched nor stint their mirth. Besides he ought to have some skill in the serious studies of the guests and not be altogether ignorant of mirth and humor yet I would have him (as pleasant wine ought to be) a little severe and rough, for the liquor will soften and smooth him, and make his temper pleasant and agreeable. For as Xenophon says, that Clearchus’s rustic and morose humor in a battle, by reason of his bravery and heat, seemed pleasant and surprising; thus one that is not of a very sour nature, but grave and severe, being softened by a chirping cup becomes more pleasant and complaisant. But chiefly he should be acquainted with every one of the guests’ humors, what alteration the liquor makes in him, what passion he is most subject to, and what quantity he can bear; for it is not to be supposed different sorts of water bear various proportions to different sorts of wine (which kings’ cup-bearers understanding sometimes pour in more, sometimes less), and that man hath no such relation to them. This our director ought to know, and knowing, punctually observe; so that like a good musician, screwing up one and letting down another, he may make between these different natures a pleasing harmony and agreement; so that he shall not proportion his wine by measure, but give every one what was proper and agreeable, according to the present circumstances of time and strength of body. But if this is too difficult a task, yet it is necessary that a steward should know the common accidents of age and nature, such as these — that an old man will be sooner overtaken than a youth, one that leaps about or talks than he that is silent or sits still, the thoughtful and melancholy than the cheerful and the brisk. And he that understands these things is much more able to preserve quietness and order, than one that is perfectly ignorant and unskilful. Besides, I think none will doubt but that the steward ought to be a friend, and have no pique at any of the guests; for otherwise in his injunctions he will be intolerable, in his distributions unequal, in his jests apt to scoff and give offence. Such a figure, Theon, as out of wax, hath my discourse framed for the steward of a feast; and now I deliver him to you.
And Theon replied: He is welcome — a very well-shaped gentleman, and fitted for the office; but whether I shall not spoil him in my particular application, I cannot tell. In my opinion he seems such a one as will keep an entertainment to its primitive institution, and not suffer it to be changed, sometimes into a mooting hall, sometimes a school of rhetoric, now and then a dicing room, a playhouse, or a stage. For do not you observe some making fine orations and putting cases at a supper, others declaiming or reading some of their own compositions, and others proposing prizes to dancers and mimics? Alcibiades and Theodorus turned Polition’s banquet into a temple of initiation, representing there the sacred procession and mysteries of Ceres; now such things as these, in my opinion, ought not to be suffered by a steward, but he must permit such discourse only, such shows, such merriment, as promote the particular end and design of such entertainments; and that is, by pleasant conversation either to beget or maintain friendship and good-will among the guests; for an entertainment is only a pastime table with a glass of wine, ending in friendship through mutual goodwill.
But now because things pure and unmixed are usually surfeiting and odious, and the very mixture itself, unless the simples be well proportioned and opportunely put together, spoils the sweetness and goodness of the composition; it is evident that there ought to be a director to take care that the mirth and jollity of the guests be exactly and opportunely tempered. It is a common saying that a voyage near the land and a walk near the sea are the best recreation. Thus our steward should place seriousness and gravity next jollity and humor; that when they are merry, they should be on the very borders of gravity itself, and when grave and serious, they might be refreshed as sea-sick persons having an easy and short prospect to the mirth and jollity on land. For mirth may be exceeding useful, and make our grave discourses smooth and pleasant —
As near the bramble oft the lily grows,
And neighboring rue commands the blushing rose.
But against vain and empty tempers, that wantonly break in upon our feasts, like henbane mixed with the wine, he must advise the guests, lest scoffing and affronts creep in under these, lest in their questions or commands they grow scurrilous and abuse, as for instance by enjoining stutterers to sing, bald-pates to comb their heads, or a cripple to rise and dance. As the company abused Agapestor the Academic, one of whose legs was lame and withered, when in a ridiculing frolic they ordained that every man should stand upon his right leg and take off his glass, or pay a fine; and he, when it was his turn to command, enjoined the company to follow his example drink as he did, and having a narrow earthen pitcher brought in, he put his withered leg into it, and drank his glass and every one in the company, after a fruitless endeavor to imitate, paid his forfeit. It was a good humor of Agapestor’s and thus every little merry abuse must be as merrily revenged. Besides he must give such commands as will both please and profit, putting such as are familiar and easy to the person, and when performed will be for his credit and reputation. A songster must be enjoined to sing, an orator to speak, a philosopher to solve a problem, and a poet to make a song; for every one very readily and willingly undertakes that
In which he may outdo himself.
An Assyrian king by public proclamation promised a reward to him that would find out any new sort of luxury and pleasure. And let the governor, the king of an entertainments propose some pleasant reward for any one that introduceth inoffensive merriment, profitable delight and laughter, not such as attends scoffs and abusive jests, but kindness, pleasant humor, and goodwill; for these matters not being well looked after and observed spoil and ruin most of our entertainments. It is the office of a prudent man to hinder all sort of anger and contention; in the exchange, that which springs from covetousness; in the fencing and wrestling schools, from emulation; in offices and state affairs, from ambition; and in a feast or entertainment, from pleasantness and joke.
One day when Sossius entertained us, upon singing some Sapphic verses, this question was started, how it could be true
That love in all doth vigorous thoughts inspire,
And teaches ignorants to tune the lyre?
Since Philoxenus, on the contrary, asserts, that the Cyclops
With sweet-tongued Muses cured his love.
Some said that love was bold and daring, venturing at new contrivances, and eager to accomplish, upon which account Plato calls it the enterpriser of everything; for it makes the reserved man talkative, the modest complimental, the negligent and sluggish industrious and observant; and, what is the greatest wonder, a close, hard, and covetous fellow, if he happens to be in love, as iron in fire, becomes pliable and soft, easy, good-natured, and very pleasant; as if there were something in that common jest. A lover’s purse is tied with the blade of a leek. Others said that love was like drunkenness; it makes men warm, merry, and dilated; and, when in that condition, they naturally slide down to songs and words in measure; and it is reported of Aeschylus, that he wrote tragedies after he was heated with a glass of wine; and my grandfather Lamprias in his cups seemed to outdo himself in starting questions and smart disputing, and usually said that, like frankincense, he exhaled more freely after he was warmed. And as lovers are extremely pleased with the sight of their beloved, so they praise with as much satisfaction as they behold; and as love is talkative in everything, so more especially in commendation; for lovers themselves believe, and would have all others think, that the object of their passion is pleasing and excellent; and this made Candaules the Lydian force Gyges into his chamber to behold the beauty of his naked wife. For they delight in the testimony of others, and therefore in all composures upon the lovely they adorn them with songs and verses, as we dress images with gold, that more may hear of them and that they may be remembered the more. For if they present a cock, horse, or any other thing to the beloved, it is neatly trimmed and set off with all the ornaments of art; and therefore, when they would present a compliment, they would have it curious, pleasing, as verse usually appears.
Sossius applauding these discourses added: Perhaps we may make a probable conjecture from Theophrastus’s discourse of Music, for I have lately read the book. Theophrastus lays down three causes of music — grief, pleasure and enthusiasm; for each of these changes the usual tone, and makes the voice slide into a cadence; for deep sorrow has something tunable in its groans, and therefore we perceive our orators in their conclusions, and actors in their complaints, are somewhat melodious, and insensibly fall into a tune. Excess of joy provokes the more airy men to frisk and dance and keep their steps, though unskilful in the art; and, as Pindar hath it,
They shout, and roar, and wildly toss their heads.
But the graver sort are excited only to sing, raise their voice, and tune their words into a sonnet. But enthusiasm quite changes the body and the voice, and makes it far different from its usual constitution. Hence the very Bacchae use measure, and the inspired give their oracles in measure. And we shall see very few madmen but are frantic in rhyme and rave in verse. This being certain, if you will but anatomize love a little, and look narrowly into it, it will appear that no passion in the world is attended with more violent grief, more excessive joy, or greater ecstasies and fury; a lover’s soul looks like Sophocles’s city:—
At once ’tis full of sacrifice,
Of joyful songs, of groans and cries.’
(Sophocles, “Oedipus Tyrannus,” 4.)
And therefore it is no wonder, that since love contains all the causes of music — grief, pleasure, and enthusiasm — and is besides industrious and talkative, it should incline us more than any other passion to poetry and songs.
Some said that Alexander did not drink much, but sat long in company, discoursing with his friends; but Philinus showed this to be an error from the king’s diary, where it was very often registered that such a day, and sometimes two days together, the king slept after a debauch; and this course of life made him cold in love, but passionate and angry, which argues a hot constitution. And some report his sweat was fragrant and perfumed his clothes; which is another argument of heat, as we see the hottest and driest climates bear frankincense and cassia; for a fragrant smell, as Theophrastus thinks, proceeds from a due concoction of the humors, when the noxious moisture is conquered by the heat. And it is thought probable, that he took a pique at Calisthenes for avoiding his table because of the hard drinking, and refusing the great bowl called Alexander’s in his turn, adding, I will not drink of Alexander’s bowl, to stand in need of Aesculapius’s. And thus much of Alexander’s drinking.
Story tells us, that Mithridates, the famous enemy of the Romans, among other trials of skill that he instituted, proposed a reward to the greatest eater and the stoutest drinker in his kingdom. He won both the prizes himself; he outdrank every man living, and for his excellency that way was called Bacchus. But this reason for his surname is a vain fancy and an idle story; for whilst he was an infant a flash of lightning burnt his cradle, but did his body no harm, and only left a little mark on his forehead, which his hair covered when he was grown a boy; and after he came to be a man, another flash broke into his bedchambers, and burnt the arrows in a quiver that was hanging under him; from whence his diviners presaged, that archers and light-armed men should win him considerable victories in his wars; and the vulgar gave him this name, because in those many dangers by lightning he bore some resemblance to the Theban Bacchus.
From hence great drinkers were the subject of our discourse; and the wrestler Heraclides (or, as the Alexandrians mince it, Heraclus), who lived but in the last age, was accounted one. He, when he could get none to hold out with him, invited some to take their morning’s draught, others to dinner, to supper others, and others after, to take a merry glass of wine; so that as the first went off, the second came, and the third and fourth company and he all the while without any intermission took his glass round, and outsat all the four companies.
Amongst the retainers to Drusus, the Emperor Tiberus’s son, was a physician that drank down all the court; he, before he sat down, would usually take five or six bitter almonds to prevent the operation of the wine; but whenever he was forbidden that, he knocked under presently, and a single glass dozed him. Some think these almonds have a penetrating, abstersive quality, are able to cleanse the face, and clear it from the common freckles; and therefore, when they are eaten, by their bitterness vellicate and fret the pores, and by that means draw down the ascending vapors from the head. But, in my opinion, a bitter quality is a drier, and consumes moisture; and therefore a bitter taste is the most unpleasant. For, as Plato says, dryness, being an enemy to moisture, unnaturally contracts the spongy and tender nerves of the tongue. And green ulcers are usually drained by bitter injections. Thus Homer:—
He squeezed his herbs, and bitter juice applied;
And straight the blood was stanched, the sore was dried.
(“Iliad,” xi. 846.)
And he guesses well, that what is bitter to the taste is a drier. Besides, the powders women use to dry up their sweat are bitter, and by reason of that quality astringent. This then being certain, it is no wonder that the bitterness of the almonds hinders the operation of the wine, since it dries the inside of the body and keeps the veins from being overcharged; for from their distention and disturbance they say drunkenness proceeds. And this conjecture is much confirmed from that which usually happens to a fox; for if he eats bitter almonds without drinking, his moisture suddenly fails, and it is present death.
It was debated why old men loved the strongest liquors. Some, fancying that their natural heat decayed and their constitution grew cold, said such liquors were most necessary and agreeable to their age; but this was mean and the obvious, and besides, neither a sufficient nor a true reason; for the like happens to all their other senses. For they are not easily moved or wrought on by any qualities, unless they are in intense degrees and make a vigorous impression; but the reason is the laxity of the habit of their body, for that, being grown lax and weak, loves a smart stroke. Thus their taste is pleased most with strong sapors, their smelling with brisk odors; for strong and unalloyed qualities make a more pleasing impression on the sense. Their touch is almost senseless to a sore, and a wound generally raises no sharp pain. The like also in their hearing may be observed; for old musicians play louder and sharper than others, that they may move their own dull tympanum with the sound. For what steel is to the edge in a knife, that spirit is to the sense in the body; and therefore, when the spirits fail, the sense grows dull and stupid, and cannot be raised, unless by something, such as strong wine, that makes a vigorous impression.
To my discourse in the former problem some objection may be drawn from the sense of seeing in old men; for, if they hold a book at a distance, they will read pretty well, nearer they cannot see a letter and this Aeschylus means by these verses:—
Behold from far; for near thou canst not see;
A good old scribe thou mayst much sooner be.
And Sophocles more plainly:—
Old men are slow in talk, they hardly hear;
Far off they see; but all are blind when near.
And therefore, if old men’s organs are more obedient to strong and intense qualities, why, when they read, do they not take the reflection near at hand, but, holding the book a good way off, mix and weaken it by the intervening air, as wine by water?
Some answered, that they did not remove the book to lesson the light, but to receive more rays, and let all the space between the letters and their eyes be filled with lightsome air. Others agreed with those that imagine the rays of vision mix with one another; for since there is a cone stretched between each eye and the object, whose point is in the eye and whose basis is the object, it is probable that for some way each cone extends apart and by itself; but, when the distance increases, they mix and make but one common light; and therefore every object appears single and not two, though it is seen by both eyes at once; for the conjunction of the cones makes these two appearances but one. These things supposed, when old men hold the letters close to their eyes, the cones not being joined, but each apart and by itself, their sight is weak; but when they remove it farther, the two lights being mingled and increased, see better, as a man with both hands can hold that for which either singly is too weak.
But my brother Lamprias, though unacquainted with Hieronymus’s notions, gave us another reason. We see, said he, some species that come from the object to the eye, which at their first rise are thick and great; and therefore when near disturb old men, whose eyes are stiff and not easily penetrated; but when they are separated and diffused into the air, the thick obstructing parts are easily removed, and the subtile remainders coming to the eye gently and easily slide into the pores; and so the disturbance being less, the sight is more vigorous and clear. Thus a rose smells most fragrant at a distance; but if you bring it near the nose, it is not so pure and delightful; and the reason is this — many earthy disturbing particles are carried with the smell, and spoil the fragrancy when near, but in a longer passage those are lost, and the pure brisk odor, by reason of its subtility, reaches and acts upon the sense.
But we, according to Plato’s opinion, assert that a bright spirit darted from the eye mixes with the light about the object, and those two are perfectly blended into one similar body; now these must be joined in due proportion one to another; for one part ought not wholly to prevail on the other, but both, being proportionally and amicably joined, should agree in one third common power. Now this (whether flux, illuminated spirit, or ray) in old men being very weak, there can be no combination, no mixture with the light about the object; but it must be wholly consumed, unless, by removing the letters from their eyes, they lessen the brightness of the light, so that it comes to the sight not too strong or unmixed, but well proportioned and blended with the other. And this explains that common affection of creatures seeing in the dark; for their eyesight being weak is overcome and darkened by the splendor of the day; because the little light that flows from their eyes cannot be proportionably mixed with the stronger and more numerous beams; but it is proportionable and sufficient for the feeble splendor of the stars, and so can join with it, and cooperate to move the sense.
Theon the grammarian, when Metrius Florus gave us an entertainment, asked Themistocles the Stoic, why Chrysippus, though he frequently mentioned some strange phenomena in nature (as that salt meat soaked in salt water grows fresher than before; fleeces of wool are more easily separated by a gentle than a quick and violent force, and men that are fasting eat slower than those who took a breakfast), yet never gave any reason for the appearance. And Themistocles replied, that Chrysippus only proposed such things by the by, as instances to correct us, who easily assent and without any reason to what seems likely, and disbelieve everything that seems unlikely at the first sight. But why, sir, are you concerned at this? For if you are speculative and would inquire into the causes of things you need not want subjects in your own profession; but pray tell me why Homer makes Nausicaa wash in the river rather than the sea, though it was near, and in all likelihood hotter, clearer, and fitter to wash with than that? And Theon replied: Aristotle hath already given an account for this from the grossness of the sea water; for in this an abundance of rough earthy particles is mixed, and those make it salt; and upon this account swimmers or any other weights sink not so much in sea water as in fresh for the latter, being thin and weak, yields to every pressure and is easily divided, because it is pure and unmixed and by reason of this subtility of parts it penetrates better than salt water, and so looseneth from the clothes the sticking particles of the spot. And is not this discourse of Aristotle very probable?
Probable indeed, I replied, but not true; for I have observed that with ashes, gravel, or, if these are not to be gotten, with dust itself they usually thicken the water, as if the earthy particles being rough would scour better than fair water, whose thinness makes it weak and ineffectual. And therefore he is mistaken when he says the thickness of the sea water hinders the effect, since the sharpness of the mixed particles very much conduces to make it cleansing; for that open the pores, and draws out the stain. But since all oily matter is most difficult to be washed out and spots a cloth, and the sea is oily, that is the reason why it doth not scour as well as fresh and that it is oily, even Aristotle himself asserts, for salt in his opinion hath some oil in it, and therefore makes candles, when sprinkled on them, burn the better and clearer than before. And sea water sprinkled on a flame increaseth it, and it more easily kindled than any other; in my opinion, makes it hotter than the fresh. And besides, I may urge another cause; for the end of washing is drying, and that seems cleanest which is driest; and the moisture that scours (as hellebore, with the humors that it purges) ought to fly away quickly together with the stain. The sun quickly draws out the fresh water, because it is so light but the salt water being rough lodges in the pores, and therefore is not easily dried.
And Theon replied: You say just nothing, sir; for Aristotle in the same book affirms that those that wash in the sea, if they stand in sun, are sooner dried than those that wash in the fresh streams. If it is true, I am answered, he says so; but I hope that Homer asserting the contrary will, by you especially, be more easily believed; for Ulysses (as he writes) after his shipwreck meeting Nausicaa,
A frightful sight, and with the salt besmeared
said to her maidens,
Retire a while, till I have washed my skin,
And when he had leaped into the river,
He from his head did scour the foaming sea.
(See “Odyssey,” vi. 137, 218, 226.)
The poet knew very well what happens in such a case; for when those that come wet out of the sea stand in the sun, the subtilest and lightest parts suddenly exhale, but the salt and rough particles stick upon the body in a crust, till they are washed away by the fresh water of a spring.
When we were feasting at Serapion’s, who gave an entertainment after the tribe Leontis under his order and direction had won the prize (for we were citizens and free of that tribe), a very pertinent discourse, and proper to the then occasion, happened. It had been a very notable trial of skill, the king Philopappus being very generous and magnificent in his rewards, and defraying the expenses of all the tribes. He was at the same feast with us and being a very good-humored man and eager for instruction, he would now and then freely discourse of ancient customs, and as freely hear.
Marcus the grammarian began thus: Neanthes the Cyzicenian, in his book called the “Fabulous Narrations of the City,” affirms that it was a privilege of the tribe Aeantis that their chorus should never be determined to be the last. It is true, he brings some stories for confirmation of what he says; but if he falsifies, the matter is open, and let us all inquire after the reason of the thing. But, says Milo, suppose it be a mere tale. It is no strange thing replied Philopappus, if in our disquisitions after truth we meet now and then with such a thing as Democritus the philosopher did; for he one day eating a cucumber, and finding it of a honey taste, asked his maid where she bought it; and she telling him in such a garden, he rose from table and bade her direct him to the place. The maid surprised asked him what he meant; and he replied, I must search after the cause of the sweetness of the fruit, and shall find it the sooner if I see the place. The maid with a smile replied, Sit still, pray, sir, for I unwittingly put it into a honey barrel. And he, as it were discontented, cried out, Shame take thee, yet I will pursue my purpose, and seek after the cause, as if this sweetness were a taste natural and proper to the fruit. Therefore neither will we admit Neanthes’s credulity and inadvertency in some stories as an excuse and a good reason for avoiding this disquisition; for we shall exercise our thoughts by it, though no other advantage rises from that inquiry.
Presently every one poured out something in commendation of that tribe, mentioning every matter that made for its credit and reputation. Marathon was brought in as belonging to it, and Harmodius with his associates, by birth Aphidneans, were also produced as glorious members of that tribe. The orator Glaucias proved that that tribe made up the right wing in the battle at Marathon, from the elegies of Aeschylus, who had himself fought valiantly in the same encounter; and farther evinced that Callimachus the field marshal was of that tribe, who behaved himself very bravely, and was the principal cause next to Miltiades, with whose opinion he concurred, that that battle was fought. To this discourse of Glaucias I added, that the edict which impowered Miltiades to lead forth the Athenians, was made when the tribe Aeantis was chief of the assembly, and that in the battle of Plataea the same tribe won the greatest glory; and upon that account, as the oracle directed, that tribe offered a sacrifice for this victory to the nymphs Sphragitides, the city providing a victim and all other necessaries belonging to it. But you may observe (I continued) that other tribes likewise have their peculiar glories; and you know that mine, the tribe Leontids, yields to none in any point of reputation. Besides, consider whether it is not more probable that this was granted out of a particular respect, and to please Ajax, from whom this tribe received its name; for we know he could not endure to be outdone, but was easily hurried on to the greatest enormities by his contentious and passionate humor; and therefore to comply with him and afford him some comfort in his disasters, they secured him from the most vexing grievance that follows the misfortune of the conquered, by ordering that his tribe should never be determined to be last.
Of the several things that are provided for an entertainment, some, my Sossius Senecio, are absolutely necessary; such are wine, bread, meat, lounges, and tables. Others are brought in, not for necessity, but pleasure; such are songs, shows, mimics, and buffoons; which, when present, delight indeed, but when absent, are not eagerly desired; nor is the entertainment looked upon as mean because such things are wanting. Just so of discourses; some the sober men admit as necessary to a banquet, and others for their pretty nice speculations, as more profitable and agreeable than the fiddle and the pipe. My former book gives you examples of both sorts. Of the first are these, Whether we should philosophize at table? — Whether the entertainer should appoint proper seats, or leave the guests to agree upon there own? Of the second, Why lovers are inclined to poetry? And the question about the tribe of Aeantis. The former I call properly [Greek omitted] but both together I comprehend under the general name of Symposiacs. They are promiscuously set down, not in the exact method, but as each singly occurred to memory. And let not my readers wonder that I dedicate these collections to you, which I have received from others or your own mouth; for if all learning is not bare remembrance, yet to learn and to remember are very commonly one and the same.
Now each book being divided into ten questions, that shall make the first in this, which Socratial Xenophon hath as it were proposed; for he tells that, Gobryas banqueting with Cyrus, amongst other things he found admirable in the Persians, was surprised to hear them ask one another such questions that it was more pleasant to be interrogated than to be let alone, and pass such jests on one another that it was more pleasant to be jested on than not. For if some, even whilst they praise, offend, why should not their polite and neat facetiousness be admired, whose very raillery is delightful and pleasant to him that is the subject of it? Once you said: I wish I could learn what kind of questions those are; for to be skilled in and make right use of apposite questions and pleasant raillery, I think is no small part of conversation.
A considerable one, I replied; but pray observe whether Xenophon himself, in his descriptions of Socrates’s and the Persian entertainments, hath not sufficiently explained them. But if you would have my thoughts, first, men are pleased to be asked those questions to which they have an answer ready; such are those in which the persons asked have some skill and competent knowledge; for when the inquiry is above their reach, those that can return nothing are troubled, as if requested to give something beyond their power; and those that do answer, producing some crude and insufficient demonstration, must needs be very much concerned, and apt to blunder on the wrong. Now, if the answer not only is easy but hath something not common, it is more pleasing to them that make it; and this happens, when their knowledge is greater than that of the vulgar, as suppose they are well skilled in points of astrology or logic. For not only in action and serious matters, but also in discourse, every one hath a natural disposition to be pleased (as Euripides hath it)
To seem far to outdo himself.
And all are delighted when men put such questions as they understand, and would have others know that they are acquainted with; and therefore travellers and merchants are most satisfied when their company is inquisitive about other countries, the unknown ocean, and the laws and manners of the barbarians; they are very ready to inform them, and describe the countries and the creeks, imagining this to be some recompense for their toil, some comfort for the dangers they have passed. In short, whatever though unrequested, we are wont to discourse of, we are desirous to be asked; because then we seem to gratify those whom otherwise our prattle would disturb and force from our conversation. And this is the common disease of travellers. But more genteel and modest men love to be asked about those things which they have bravely and successfully performed, and which modesty will not permit to be spoken by themselves before company; and therefore Nestor did well when, being acquainted with Ulysses’s desire of reputation, he said,
Tell, brave Ulysses, glory of the Greeks,
How you the horses seized.
(“Iliad,” x. 544.)
For man cannot endure the insolence of those who praise themselves and repeat their own exploits, unless the company desires it and they are forced to a relation; therefore it tickles them to be asked about their embassies and administrations of the commonwealth, if they have done anything notable in either. And upon this account the envious and ill-natured start very few questions of that they sort; that thwart and hinder all such kind of motions, being very unwilling to give any occasion or opportunity for that discourse which shall tend to the advantage of the relater. In short, we please those to whom we put them, when we start questions about those matters which their enemies hate to hear.
Ulysses says to Alcinous,
You bid me tell what various ills I bore,
That the sad tale might make me grieve the more.
(Sophocles, “Oedipus at Colonus,” 510.)
And Oedipus says to the chorus,
’Tis pain to raise again a buried grief.
(“Odyssey,” ix. 12.)
But Euripides on the contrary,
How sweet it is, when we are lulled in ease,
To think of toils! — when well, of a disease!
(Euripides, “Andromeda,” Frag. 131.)
True indeed, but not to those that are still tossed, still under a misfortune. Therefore be sure never ask a man about his own calamities; it is irksome to relate his losses of children or estate, or any unprosperous adventure by sea or land; but ask a man how he carried the cause, how he was caressed by the king, how he escaped such a storm, such an assault, thieves, and the like; this pleaseth him, he seems to enjoy it over again in his relation, and is never weary of the topic. Besides, men love to be asked about their happy friends, or children that have made good progress in philosophy or the law, or are great at court; as also about the disgrace and open conviction of their enemies; or of such matters they are most eager to discourse, yet are cautious of beginning it themselves, lest they should seem to insult over and rejoice at the misery of others. You please a hunter if you ask him about dogs, a wrestler about exercise, and an amorous man about beauties; the ceremonious and superstitious man discourses about dreams, and what success he hath had by following the directions of omens or sacrifices, and by the kindness of the gods; and some questions concerning those things will extremely please him. He that inquires anything of an old man, though the story doth not at all concern him, wins his heart, and urges one that is very willing to discourse:—
Nelides Nestor, faithfully relate
How great Atrides died, what sort of fate;
And where was Menelaus largely tell?
Did Argos hold him when the hero fell?
(“Odyssey,” iii. 247.)
Here is a multitude of questions and variety of subjects; which is much better than to confine and cramp his answers, and so deprive the old man of the most pleasant enjoyment he can have. In short, they that had rather please than distaste will still propose such questions, the answers to which shall rather get the praise and good-will than the contempt and hatred of the hearers. And so much of questions.
As for raillery, those that cannot use it cautiously with art, and time it well, should never venture at it. For as in a slippery place, if you but just touch a man as you pass by, you throw him down; so when we are in drink, we are in danger of tripping at every little word that is not spoken with due address. And we are more apt to be offended with a joke than a plain and scurrilous abuse; for we see the latter often slip from a man unwittingly in passion, but consider the former as a thing voluntary, proceeding from malice and ill-nature; and therefore we are generally more offended at a sharp jeerer than a whistling snarler. Such a jest has indeed something designedly malicious about it, and often seems to be an insult skilfully devised and prepared. For instance, he that calls thee salt-fish monger plainly and openly abuseth; but he that says, I remember when you wiped your nose upon your sleeve, maliciously jeers. Such was Cicero’s to Octavius, who was thought to be descended from an African slave; for when Cicero spoke something, and Octavius said he did not hear him, Cicero rejoined, Remarkable, for you have a hole through your ear. And Melanthius, when he was ridiculed by a comedian, said, You pay me now something that you do not owe me. And upon this account jeers vex more; for like bearded arrows they stick a long while, and gall the wounded sufferer. Their smartness is pleasant, and delights the company; and those that are pleased with the saving seem to believe the detracting speaker. For according to Theophrastus, a jeer is a figurative reproach for some fault or misdemeanor; and therefore he that hears it supplies the concealed part, as if he knew and gave credit to the thing. For he that laughs and is tickled at what Theocritus said to one whom he suspected of a design upon his clothes, and who asked him if he went to supper at such a place — Yes, he replied, I go, but shall likewise lodge there all night — doth, as it were, confirm the accusation, and believe the fellow was a thief. And therefore an impertinent jeerer makes the whole company seem ill-natured and abusive, as being pleased with and consenting to the scurrility of the jeer. It was one of the excellent laws in Sparta, that none should be bitter in their jests, and the jeered should patiently endure; but if he took offence, the other was to forbear, and pursue the frolic no farther. How is it possible therefore to determine such raillery as shall delight and please the person that is jested on, when to be smart without offence is no mean piece of cunning and address?
First then, such as will vex and gall the conscious must please those that are clean, innocent, and not suspected of the matter. Such a joke is Xenophon’s, when he pleasantly brings in a very ugly ill-looking fellow, and is smart upon him for being Sambaulas’s minion. Such was that of Aufidius Modestus, who, when our friend Quinitus in an ague complained his hands were cold, replied, Sir, you brought them warm from your province; for this made Quintius laugh, and extremely pleased him; yet it had been a reproach and abuse to a covetous and oppressing governor. Thus Socrates, pretending to compare faces with the beauteous Critobulus, rallied only, and not abused. And Alcibiades again was smart on Socrates, as his rival in Agatho’s affection. Kings are pleased when jests are put upon them as if they were private and poor men. Such was the flatterer’s to Philip, who chided him: Sir, don’t I keep you? For those that mention faults of which the persons are not really guilty intimate those virtues with which they are really adorned. But then it is requisite that those virtues should be evident and certainly belong to them; otherwise the discourse will breed disturbance and suspicion. He that tells a very rich man that he will procure him a sum of money — a temperate sober man, and one that drinks water only, that he is foxed, or hath taken a cup too much — a hospitable, generous, good-humored man, that he is a niggard and pinch-penny — or threatens an excellent lawyer to meet him at the bar — must make the persons smile and please the company. Thus Cyrus was very obliging and complaisant, when he challenged his playfellows at those sports in which he was sure to be overcome. And Ismenias piping at a sacrifice, when no good omens appeared, the man that hired him snatched the pipe, and played very ridiculously himself; and when all found fault, he said: To play satisfactorily is the gift of Heaven. And Ismenias with a smile replied: Whilst I played, the gods were so well pleased that they were careless of the sacrifice; but to be rid of thy noise they presently received it.
But more, those that jocosely put scandalous names upon things commendable, if it be opportunely done, please more than he that plainly and openly commends; for those that cover a reproach under fair and respectful words (as he that calls an unjust man Aristides, a coward Achilles) gall more than those that openly abuse. Such is that of Oedipus, in Sophocles —
The faithful Creon, my most constant friend.
(Sophocles, “Oedipus Tyrannus,” 385.)
The familiar irony in commendations answers to this on the other side. Such Socrates used, when he called the kind endeavor and industry of Antisthenes to make men friends pimping, bawds-craft, and allurement; and others that called Crates the philosopher, who wherever he went was caressed and honored, the door-opener.
Again, a complaint that implies thankfulness for a received favor is pleasant raillery. Thus Diogenes of his master Antisthenes:—
That man that made me leave my precious ore,
Clothed me with rags, and forced me to be poor;
That man that made me wander, beg my bread,
And scorn to have a house to hide my head.
For it had not been half so pleasant to have said, that man that made me wise, content, and happy. And a Spartan, making as if he would find fault with the master of the exercises for giving him wood that would not smoke, said, He will not permit us even to shed a tear. And he calls a hospitable man, and one that treats often, a kidnapper, and a tyrant who for a long time would not permit him to see his own table; and he whom the king hath raised and enriched, that says he had a design upon him and robbed him of his sleep and quiet. So if he that hath an excellent vintage should complain of Aeschlus’s Cabeiri for making him want vinegar, as they haul jocosely threatened. For such as these have a pungent pleasantness, so that the praised are not offended nor take it ill.
Besides, he that would be civilly facetious must know the difference between a vice and a commendable study or recreation; for instance, between the love of money or contention and of music or hunting; for men are grieved if twitted with the former, but take it very well if they are laughed at for the latter. Thus Demosthenes the Mitylenean was pleasant enough when, knocking at a man’s door that was much given to singing and playing on the harp, and being bid come in, he said, I will, if you will tie up your harp. But the flatterer of Lysimachus was offensive; for being frighted at a wooden scorpion that the king threw into his lap, and leaping out of his seat, he said after he knew the humor, And I’ll fright your majesty too; give me a talent.
In several things about the body too the like caution is to be observed. Thus he that is jested on for a flat or hooked nose usually laughs at the jest. Thus Cassander’s friend was not at all displeased when Theophrastus said to him, ’Tis strange, sir, that your eyes don’t play, since your nose is so near and so well fitted for a pipe to give them the tune; and Cyrus commanded a long hawk-nosed fellow to marry a flat-nosed girl, for then they would very well agree. But a jest on any for his stinking breath or filthy nose is irksome; for baldness it may be borne, but for blindness or infirmity in the eyes it is intolerable. It is true, Antigonus would joke upon himself, and once, receiving a petition written in great letters, he said, This a man may read if he were stark blind. But he killed Theocritus the Chian for saying — when one told him that as soon as he appeared before the king’s eyes he would be pardoned — Sir, then it is impossible for me to be saved. And the Byzantine to Pasiades saying, Sir, your eyes are weak, replied, You upbraid me with this infirmity, not considering that thy son carries the vengeance of Heaven on his back: now Pasiades’s son was hunch-backed. And Archippus the popular Athenian was much displeased with Melanthius for being smart on his crooked back; for Melanthius had said that he did not stand at the head of the state but bowed down before it. It is true, some are not much concerned at such jeers. Thus Antigonus’s friend, when he had begged a talent and was denied, desired a guard, lest somebody should rob him of that talent he was now to carry home. Different tempers make men differently affected, and that which troubles one is not regarded by another. Epaminondas feasting with his fellow-magistrates drank vinegar; and some asking if it was good for his health, he replied, I cannot tell that, but I know it makes me remember what I drink at home. Therefore it becomes every man that would rally, to look into the humors of his company, and take heed to converse without offence.
Love, as in most things else, so in this matter causes different effects; for some lovers are pleased and some displeased at a merry jest. Therefore in this case a fit time must be accurately observed; for as a blast of wind puffs out a fire whilst it is weak and little, but when thoroughly kindled strengthens and increaseth it; so love, before it is evident and confessed, is displeased at a discoverer, but when it breaks forth and blazes in everybody’s eyes, then it is delighted and gathers strength by the frequent blasts of joke and raillery. When their beloved is present it will gratify them most to pass a jest upon their passion, but to fall on any other subject will be counted an abuse. If they are remarkably loving to their own wives, or entertain a generous affection for a hopeful youth, then are they proud, then tickled when jeered for such a love. And therefore Arcesilaus, when an amorous man in his school laid down this proposition, in my opinion one thing cannot touch another, replied, Sir you touch this person, pointing to a lovely boy that sat near him.
Besides, the company must be considered; for what a man will only laugh at when mentioned amongst his friends and familiar acquaintance, he will not endure to be told of before his wife, father, or his tutor, unless perhaps it be something that will please those too; as for instance, if before a philosopher one should jeer a man for going barefoot or studying all night; or before his father, for carefulness and thrift; or in the presence of his wife, for being cold to his companions and doting upon her. Thus Tigranes, when Cyrus asked him, What will your wife say when she hears that you are put to servile offices? replied, Sir, she will not hear it, but be present herself and see it.
Again, those jokes are accounted less affronting which reflect somewhat also on the man that makes them; as when one poor man, base-born fellow, or lover jokes upon another. For whatever comes from one in the same circumstances looks more like a piece of mirth than a designed affront; but otherwise it must needs be irksome and distasteful. Upon this account, when a slave whom the king had lately freed and enriched behaved himself very impertinently in the company of some philosophers, asking them, how it came to pass that the broth of beans whether white or black, was always green, Aridices putting another question, why, let the whips be white or not, the wales and marks they made were still red, displeased him extremely, and made him rise from the table in a great rage and discontent. But Amphias the Tarsian, who was supposed to be sprung from a gardener, joking upon the governor’s friend for his obscure and mean birth, and presently subjoining, But ’tis true, I sprung from the same seed, caused much mirth and laughter. And the harper very facetiously put a cheek to Philip’s ignorance and impertinence; for when Philip pretended to correct him, he cried out, God forbid, sir, that ever you should be brought so low as to understand these things better than I. For by this seeming joke he instructed him without giving any offence. And therefore some of the comedians seem to lay aside their bitterness in every jest that may reflect upon themselves; as Aristophanes, when he is merry upon a baldpate; and Cratinus in his play “Pytine” upon drunkenness and excess.
Besides, you must be very careful that the jest should seem to be extempore, taken from some present question or merry humor; not far-fetched, as if premeditate and designed. For as men are not much concerned at the anger and disputes among themselves at table while they are drinking, but if any stranger should come in and offer abuse, they would hate and look upon him as an enemy; so they will easily pardon and indulge a jest if undesignedly taken from any present circumstance; but if it is nothing to the matter in hand but fetched from another thing, it must look like a design and be resented as an affront. Such was that of Timagenes to the husband of a woman that often vomited — “Thou beginnest thy troubles by bringing home this vomiting woman,” saying [Greek omitted] (this vomiting woman), when the poet had written [Greek omitted] (this Muse); and also his question to Athenodorus the philosopher — Is affection to our children natural? For when the raillery is not founded on some present circumstance, it is an argument of ill-nature and a mischievous temper; and such as these do often for a mere word, the lightest thing in the world (as Plato says), suffer the heaviest punishment. But those that know how to time and apply a jest confirm Plato’s opinion, that to rally pleasantly and facetiously is the business of a scholar and a wit.
In Eleusis, after the solemn celebration of the sacred mysteries, Glaucias the orator entertained us at a feast; where after the rest had done, Xenocles of Delphi, as his humor is, began to be smart upon my brother Lamprias for his good Boeotian stomach. I in his defence opposing Xenocles, who was an Epicurean, said, Pray, sir, do not all place the very substance of pleasure in privation of pain and suffering? But Lamprias, who prefers the Lyceum before the Garden, ought by his practice to confirm Aristotle’s doctrine; for he affirms that every man hath a better stomach in the autumn than in other seasons of the year, and gives the reason, which I cannot remember at present. So much the better (says Glaucias), for when supper is done, we will endeavor to discover it ourselves. That being over, Glaucias and Xenocles drew various reasons from the autumnal fruit. One said that it scoured the body, and by this evacuation continually raised new appetites. Xenocles affirmed, that ripe fruit had usually a pleasing, vellicating sapor, and thereby provoked the appetite better than sauces or sweetmeats; for sick men of a vitiated stomach usually recover it by eating fruit. But Lamprias said, that our natural heat, the principal instrument of nutrition, in the midst of summer is scattered and becomes rare and weak, but when autumn comes it unites again and gathers strength, being shut in by the ambient cold and contraction of the pores, and I for my part said: In summer we are more thirsty and use more moisture than in other seasons; and therefore Nature, observing the same method in all her operations, at this change of seasons employs the contrary and makes us hungry; and to maintain an equal temper in the body, she gives us dry food to countervail the moisture taken in the summer. Yet none can deny but that the food itself is a partial cause; for not only new fruit, bread, or corn, but flesh of the same year, is better tasted than that of the former, more forcibly provokes the guests, and enticeth them to eat on.
When upon a dream I had forborne eggs a long time, on purpose that in an egg (as in a heart) I might make experiment of a notable vision that often troubled me; some at Sossius Senecio’s table suspected that I was tainted with Orpheus’s or Pythagoras’s opinions, and refused to eat an egg (as some do the heart and brain) imagining it to be the principle of generation. And Alexander the Epicurean ridiculingly repeated,
To feed on beans and parents’ heads
Is equal sin;
As if the Pythagoreans meant eggs by the word [Greek omitted] (BEANS), deriving it from [Greek omitted](TO CONCEIVE), and thought it as unlawful to feed on eggs as on the animals that lay them. Now to pretend a dream for the cause of my abstaining, to an Epicurean, had been a defence more irrational than the cause itself; and therefore I suffered jocose Alexander to enjoy his opinion, for he was a pleasant man and an excellent scholar.
Soon after he proposed that perplexed question, that plague of the inquisitive, Which was first, the bird or the egg? And my friend Sylla, saying that with this little question, as with an engine, we shook the great and weighty problem (whether the world had a beginning), declared his dislike of such questions. But Alexander deriding the question as slight and impertinent, my relation Firmus said:. Well, sir, at present your atoms will do me some service; for if we suppose that small things must be the principles of greater, it is likely that the egg was before the bird; for an egg amongst sensible things is very simple, and the bird is more mixed, and contains a greater variety of parts. It is universally true that a principle is before that whose principle it is; now the seed is a principle, and the egg is somewhat more than the seed and less than the bird for as a disposition or a progress in goodness is something between a tractable mind and a habit of virtue, so an egg is as it were a progress of Nature tending from the seed to a perfect animal. And as in an animal they say the veins and arteries are formed first, upon the same account the egg should be before the bird, as the thing containing before the thing contained. Thus art first makes rude and ill-shapen figures and afterwards perfects everything with its proper form; and it was for this that the statuary Polycletus said, Then our work is most difficult, when the clay comes to be fashioned by the fingers. So it is probable that matter, not readily obeying the slow motions of contriving Nature, at first frames rude and indefinite masses, as the egg, and of these moulded anew, and joined in better order, the animal afterward is formed. As the canker is first, and then growing dry and cleaving lets forth a winged animal, called psyche; so the egg is first as it were the subject-matter of the generation. For it is certain that, in every change, that out of which the thing changes must be before the thing changing. Observe how worms and caterpillars are bred in trees from the moisture corrupted or concocted; now none can say but that the engendering moisture is naturally before all these. For (as Plato says) matter is as a mother or nurse in respect of the bodies that are formed, and we call that matter out of which anything that is made. And with a smile continued he, I speak to those that are acquainted with the mystical and sacred discourse of Orpheus, who not only affirms the egg to be before the bird, but makes it the first being in the whole world. The other parts, because deep mysteries, we shall now pass by; but let us look upon the various kinds of animals, and we shall find almost every one beginning from an egg — fowls and fishes; land animals, as lizards; amphibious, as crocodiles; some with two legs, as a cock; some without any, as a snake; and some with many, as a locust. And therefore in the solemn feast of Bacchus it is very well done to dedicate an egg, as the emblem of that which begets and contains everything in itself.
To this discourse of Firmus, Senecio replied: Sir, your last similitude contradicts your first, and you have unwittingly opened the world (instead of the door, as the proverb goes) against yourself. For the world was before all, being the most perfect; and it is rational that the perfect in Nature should be before the imperfect, as the sound before the maimed, and the whole before the part. For it is absurd that there should be a part when there is nothing whose part it is; and therefore nobody says the seed’s man or egg’s hen, but the man’s seed and hen’s egg; because those being after these and formed in them, pay as it were a debt to Nature, by bringing forth another. For they are not in themselves perfect, and therefore have a natural appetite to produce such a thing as that out of which they were first formed; and therefore seed is defined as a thing produced that is to be perfected by another production. Now nothing can be perfected by or want that which as yet is not. Everybody sees that eggs have the nature of a concretion or consistence in some animal or other, but want those organs, veins, and muscles which animals enjoy. And therefore no story delivers that ever any egg was formed immediately from earth; and the poets themselves tell us, that the egg out of which came the Tyndaridae fell down from heaven. But even till this time the earth produceth some perfect and organized animals, as mice in Egypt, and snakes, frogs, and grasshoppers almost everywhere, some external and invigorating principle assisting in the production. And in Sicily, where in the servile war much blood was shed, and many carcasses rotted on the ground, whole swarms of locusts were produced, and spoiled the corn over the whole isle. Such spring from and are nourished by the earth; and seed being formed in them, pleasure and titillation provoke them to mix, upon which some lay eggs, and some bring forth their young alive; and this evidently proves that animals first sprang from earth, and afterwards by copulation, after different ways, propagated their several kinds. In short, it is the same thing as if you said the womb was before the woman; for as the womb is to the egg, the egg is to the chick that is formed in it; so that he that inquires how birds should be when there were no eggs, might ask as well how men and women could be before any organs of generation were formed. Parts generally have their subsistence together with the whole; particular powers follow particular members, and operations those Powers, and effects those operations. Now the effect of the generative power is the seed and egg; so that these must be after the formation of the whole. Therefore consider, as there can be no digestion of food before the animal is formed, so there can be no seed nor egg; for those, it is likely, are made by some digestion and alterations; nor can it be that, before the animal is, the superfluous parts of the food of the animal should have a being. Besides, though seed may perhaps pretend to be a principle, the egg cannot; for it doth not subsist first, nor hath it the nature of a whole, for it is imperfect. Therefore we do not affirm that the animal is produced without a principle of its being; but we call the principle that power which changes, mixes, and tempers the matter, so that a living creature is regularly produced; but the egg is an after-production, as the blood or milk of an animal after the taking in and digestion of the food. For we never see an egg formed immediately of mud, for it is produced in the bodies of animals alone; but a thousand living creatures rise from the mud. What need of many instances? None ever found the spawn or egg of an eel; yet if you empty a pit and take out all the mud, as soon as other water settles in it, eels likewise are presently produced. Now that must exist first which hath no need of any other thing that it may exist, and that after, which cannot be without the concurrence of another thing. And of this priority is our present discourse. Besides, birds build nests before they lay their eggs; and women provide cradles, swaddling cloths and the like; yet who says that the nest is before the egg, or the swaddling cloths before the infant. For the earth (as Plato says doth not imitate a woman, but a woman, and so likewise all other females, the earth. Moreover, it is probable that the first production out of the earth, which was then vigorous and perfect, was self-sufficient and entire, nor stood in need of those secundines, membranes, and vessels, which now Nature forms to help the weakness and supply the defects of breeders.
Sosicles of Coronea having at the Pythian games won the prize from all the poets, gave us an entertainment. And the time for running, cuffing, wrestling, and the like drawing on, there was a great talk of the wrestlers; for there were many and very famous men, who came to try their skill. Lysimachus, one of the company, a procurator of the Amphictyons, said he heard a grammarian lately affirm that wrestling was the most ancient exercise of all, as even the very name witnessed; for some modern things have the names of more ancient transferred to them; thus to tune a pipe is called fitting it, and playing on it is called striking; both these names being transferred to it from the harp. Thus all places of exercise they call wrestling schools, wrestling being the oldest exercise, and therefore giving its name to the newer sorts. That, said I, is no good argument, for these palaestras or wrestling schools are called so from wrestling [Greek omitted] not because it is the most ancient exercise, but because it is the only sort in which they use clay [Greek omitted] dust, and oil; for in these there is neither racing nor cuffing, but wrestling only, and that feature of the pancratium in which they struggle on the ground — for the pancratium comprises both wrestling and cuffing. Besides, it is unlikely that wrestling, being more artificial and methodical than any other sort of exercise, should likewise be the most ancient; for mere want or necessity putting us upon new inventions, produces simple and inartificial things first, and such as have more of force in them than sleight and skill. This ended, Sosicles said: You speak right, and I will confirm your discourse from the very name; for, in my opinion, [Greek omitted] wrestling, is derived from [Greek omitted] i.e. to throw down by sleight and artifice. And Philinus said, it seems to me to be derived from [Greek omitted] the palm of the hand, for wrestlers use that part most, as cuffers do the [Greek omitted] fist; and hence both these sorts of exercises have their proper names, the one [Greek omitted] the other [Greek omitted]. Besides, since the poets use the word [Greek omitted] for [Greek omitted] and [Greek omitted], to sprinkle, and this action is most frequent amongst wrestlers, this exercise [Greek omitted] may receive its name from that word. But more, consider that racers strive to be distant from one another; cuffers, by the judges of the field, are not permitted to take hold; and none but wrestlers come up breast to breast, and clasp one another round the waist, and most of their turnings, liftings, lockings bring them very close. It is probable that this exercise is called [Greek omitted] from [Greek omitted] or [Greek omitted] to come up close or to be near together.
This discourse being ended, and Philinus hummed, Lysimachus began again, What sort of exercise then shall we imagine to be first? Racing, as at the Olympian games? For here in the Pythian, as every exercise comes on, all the contenders are brought in, the boy wrestlers first, then the men, and the same method is observed when the cuffers and fencers are to exercise; but there the boys perform all first, and then the men. But, says Timon interposing, pray consider whether Homer hath not determined this matter; for in his poems cuffing is always put in the first place, wrestling next, and racing last. At this Menecrates the Thessalian surprised cried out, Good God, what things we skip over! But, pray sir, if you remember any of his verses to that purpose, do us the favor to repeat them. And Timon replied: That the funeral solemnities of Patroclus had this order I think every one hath heard; but the poet, all along observing the same order, brings in Achilles speaking to Nestor thus:
With this reward I Nestor freely grace,
Unfit for cuffing, wrestling, or the race.
And in his answer he makes the old man impertinently brag:—
I cuffing conquered Oinop’s famous son,
With Anceus wrestled, and the garland won,
And outran Iphiclus.
(“Iliad,” xxiii. 620 and 634.)
And again he brings in Ulysses challenging the Phaeacians
To cuff, to wrestle, or to run the race;
and Alcinous answers:
Neither in cuffing nor in wrestling strong
But swift of foot are we.
(“Odyssey” viii. 206 and 246.)
So that he doth not carelessly confound the order, and, according to the present occasion, now place one sort first and now another; but he follows the then custom and practice and is constant in the same. And this was so as long as the ancient order was observed.
To this discourse of my brother’s I subjoined, that I liked what he said, but could not see the reason of this order. And some of the company, thinking it unlikely that cuffing or wrestling should be a more ancient exercise than racing, they desired me to search farther into the matter; and thus I spake upon the sudden. All these exercises seem to me to be representations of feats of arms and training therein; for after all, a man armed at all points is brought in to show that that is the end at which all these exercises and trainings end. And the privilege granted to the conquerors, viz., as they rode into the city, to throw down some part of the wall — hath this meaning; that walls are but a small advantage to that city which hath men able to fight and overcome. In Sparta those that were victors in any of the crowned games had an honorable place in the army and were to fight near the king’s person. Of all other creatures a horse only can have a part in these games and win the crown, for that alone is designed by nature to be trained to war, and to prove assisting in a battle. If these things seem probable, let us consider farther, that it is the first work of a fighter to strike his enemy and ward the other’s blows; the second, when they come up close and lay hold of one another, to trip and overturn him; and in this, they say, our countrymen being better wrestlers very much distressed the Spartans at the battle of Leuctra. And Aeschylus describes a warrior thus —
One stout, and skilled to wrestle in his arms;
and Sophocles somewhere says of the Trojans —
They rid the horse, they could the bow command
And wrestle with a rattling shield in hand.
But it is the third and last, either when conquered to fly, when conquerors to pursue. And therefore it is likely that cuffing is set first, wrestling next, and racing last; for the first bears the resemblance of charging or warding the blows; the second, of close fighting and repelling; the third, of flying a victorious, or pursuing a routed enemy.
Soclarus entertaining us in his gardens, round which the river Cephissus runs, showed us several trees strangely varied by the different grafts upon their stocks. We saw an olive upon a juniper, a peach upon a myrtle, pear grafts on an oak, apple upon a plane, a mulberry on a fig and a great many such like, which were grown strong enough to bear. Some joked on Soclarus as nourishing stranger kinds of things than the poets’ Sphinxes or Chimaeras, but Crato set us to inquire why those stocks only that are of an oily nature will not admit such mixtures for we never see a pine, fir, or cypress bear a graft of another kind.
And Philo subjoined: There is, Crato, a reason for this amongst the philosophers, which the gardeners confirm and strengthen. For they say, oil is very hurtful to all plants, and any plant dipped in it like a bee, will soon die. Now these trees are of a fat and oily nature, insomuch that they weep pitch and rosin; and, if you cut then gore (as it were) appears presently in the wound. Besides, a torch made of them sends forth an oily smoke, and the brightness of the flame shows it to be fat; and upon this account these trees are as great enemies to all other kinds of grafts as oil itself. To this Crato added, that the bark was a partial cause; for that, being rare and dry, could not afford either convenient room or sufficient nourishment to the grafts; but when the bark is moist, it quickly joins with those grafts that are let into the body of the tree.
Then Soclarus added: This too ought to be considered, that that which receives a graft of another kind ought to be easy to be changed, that the graft may prevail, and make the sap in the stock fit and natural to itself. Thus we break up the ground and soften it, that being thus broken it may more easily be wrought upon, and applied to what we plant in it; for things that are hard and rigid cannot be so quickly wrought upon nor so easily changed. Now those trees, being of very light wood, do not mix well with the grafts, because they are very hard either to be changed or overcome. But more, it is manifest that the stock which receives the graft should be instead of a soil to it, and a soil should have a breeding faculty; and therefore we choose the most fruitful stocks to graft on, as women that are full of milk, when we would put out a child to nurse. But everybody knows that the fir, cypress, and the like are no great bearers. For as men very fat have few children (for, the whole nourishment being employed in the body, there remains no overplus to make seed), so these trees, spending all their sap in their own stock, flourish indeed and grow great; but as for fruit, some bear none at all, some very little, and that too slowly ripens; therefore it is no wonder that they will not nourish another’s fruit, when they are so very sparing to their own.
Chaeremonianus the Trallian, when we were at a very noble fish dinner, pointing to a little, long, sharp-headed fish, said the echeneis (ship-stopper) was like that, for he had often seen it as he sailed in the Sicilian sea, and wondered at its strange force; for it stopped the ship when under full sail, till one of the seamen perceived it sticking to the outside of the ship, and took it off. Some laughed at Chaeremonianus for believing such an incredible and unlikely story. Others on this occasion talked very much of antipathies, and produced a thousand instances of such strange effects; for example, the sight of a ram quiets an enraged elephant; a viper lies stock-still, if touched with a beechen leaf; a wild bull grows tame, if bound with the twigs of a fig-tree; and amber draws all light things to it, except basil and such as are dipped in oil; and a loadstone will not draw a piece of iron that is rubbed with onion. Now all these, as to matter of fact, are very evident; but it is hard, if not altogether impossible, to find the cause.
Then said I: This is a mere shift and avoiding of the question, rather than a declaration of the cause; but if we please to consider, we shall find a great many accidents that are only consequents of the effect to be unjustly esteemed the causes of it; as for instance, if we should fancy that by the blossoming of the chaste-tree the fruit of the vine is ripened; because this is a common saying —
The chaste-tree blossoms, and the grapes grow ripe;
Or that the little protuberances in the candle-snuff thicken the air and make it cloudy; or the hookedness of the nails is the cause and not an accident consequential to an ulcer. Therefore as those things mentioned are but consequents to the effect, though proceeding from one and the same cause, so one and the same cause stops the ship, and joins the echeneis to it; for the ship continuing dry, not yet made heavy by the moisture soaking into the wood, it is probable that it lightly glides, and as long as it is clean, easily cuts the waves; but when it is thoroughly soaked, when weeds, ooze, and filth stick upon its sides, the stroke of the ship is more obtuse and weak; and the water, coming upon this clammy matter, doth not so easily part from it; and this is the reason why they usually calk their ships. Now it is likely that the echeneis in this case, sticking upon the clammy matter, is not thought an accidental consequent to this cause, but the very cause itself.
Some say the horses called [Greek omitted] received that name from the fashion of their bridles (called [Greek omitted]), that had prickles like the teeth on the wolf’s jaw; for being fiery and hard-mouthed, the riders used such to tame them. But my father, who seldom speaks but on good reason, and breeds excellent horses, said, those that were set upon by wolves when colts, if they escaped, grew swift and mettlesome, and were called [Greek omitted] Many agreeing to what he said, it began to be inquired why such an accident as that should make them more mettlesome and fierce; and many of the company thought that, from such an assault, fear and not courage was produced; and that thence growing fearful and apt to start at everything, their motions became more quick and vigorous, as they are in wild beasts when entangled in a net. But, said I, it ought to be considered whether the contrary be not more probable; for the colts do not become more swift by escaping the assault of a wild beast, but they had never escaped unless they had been swift and mettlesome before. As Ulysses was not made wise by escaping from the Cyclops, but by being wise before he escaped.
After the former discourse, mention was made of those sheep that wolves have bitten; for it is commonly said of them, that their flesh is very sweet, and their wool breeds lice. My relative Patroclias seemed to be pretty happy in his reasoning upon the first part, saying, that the beast by biting it did mollify the flesh; for wolves’ spirits are so hot and fiery, that they soften and digest the hardest bones and for the same reason things bitten by wolves rot sooner than others. But concerning the wool we could not agree, being not fully resolved whether it breeds those lice, or only opens a passage for them, separating the flesh by its fretting roughness or proper warmth; and appeared that this power proceeded from the bite of wolf, which alters even the very hair of the creature that it kills. And this some particular instances seem to confirm; for we know some huntsmen and cooks will kill a beast with one stroke, so that it never breathes after, whilst others repeat their blows, and scarce do it with a great deal of trouble. But (what is more strange) some, as they kill it, infuse such a quality that the flesh rots presently and cannot be kept sweet above a day; yet others that despatch it as soon find no such alteration, but the flesh will keep sweet a long while. And that by the manner of killing a great alteration is made even in the skins, nails, and hair of a beast, Homer seems to witness, when, speaking of a good hide, he says —
An ox’s hide that fell by violent blows;
(“Iliad,” iii. 375.)
for not those that fell by a disease or old age, but by a violent death, leave us tough and strong hides; but after they are bitten by wild beasts, their hoofs grow black, their hair falls, their skins putrefy and are good for nothing.
When I was chief magistrate, most of the suppers consisted of distinct messes, where every particular guest had his portion of the sacrifice allowed him. Some were wonderfully well pleased with this order; others blamed it as unsociable and ungenteel, and were of the opinion that, as soon as I was out of my office, the manner of entertainments ought to be reformed; for, says Hagias, we invite one another not barely to eat and drink, but to eat and drink together. Now this division into messes takes away all society, makes many suppers, and many eaters, but no one sups with another; but every man takes his pound of beef, as from the meat shop, sets it before himself, and falls on. And is it not the same thing to provide a different cup and different table for every guest (as the Demophontidae treated Orestes), as now to set each man his loaf of bread and mess of meat, and feed him, as it were, out of his own proper manger? Only, it is true, we are not (as those that treated Orestes were) obliged to be silent and not discourse. Besides, that all the guests should have a share in everything, we may draw an argument from hence; — the same discourse is common to us all, the same songstress sings, and the same musician plays to all. So, when the same cup is set in the midst, not appropriated to any, it is a large spring of good fellowship, and each man may take as much as his appetite requires; not like this most unjust distribution of bread and meat, which prides itself forsooth in being equal to all, though unequal, stomachs; for the same share to a man of a small appetite is too much; to one of a greater, too little. And, sir, as he that administers the very same dose of physic to all sorts of patients must be very ridiculous; so likewise must that entertainer who, inviting a great many guests that can neither eat nor drink alike, sets before every one an equal mess, and measures what is just and fit by an arithmetical not geometrical proportion. When we go to a shop to buy, we all use, it is true, one and the same public measure; but to an entertainment each man brings his own belly, which is satisfied with a portion, not because it is equal to that which others have, but because it is sufficient for itself. Those entertainments where every one had his single mess Homer mentions amongst soldiers and in the camp, which we ought not to bring into fashion amongst us; but rather imitate the good friendship of the ancients, who, to show what reverence they had for all kinds of societies, not only respected those that lived with them or under the same roof, but also those that drank out of the same cup or ate out of the same dish. Let us never mind Homer’s entertainments; they were good for nothing but to starve a man, and the makers of them were kings more stingy and observant than the Italian cooks; insomuch that in the midst of a battle, whilst they were at handy-blows with their enemies, they could exactly reckon up how many glasses each man drank at his table. But those that Pindar describes are much better —
Where heroes mixed sat round the noble board,
because they maintained society and good fellowship; for the latter truly mixed and joined friends, but our modern system divides and asperses them as persons who, though seemingly very good friends, cannot so much as eat with one another out of the same dish.
To this polite discourse of Hagias they urged me to reply. And I said: Hagias, it is true, hath reason to be troubled at this unusual disappointment, because having so great a belly (for he was an excellent trencherman) he had no larger mess than others; for in a fish eaten together Democritus says, there are no bones. But that very thing is likely to increase our share beyond our own proper allowance. For it is equality, as the old woman in Euripides hath it,
That fastens towns to towns, and friends to friends;
(Euripides, “Phoenissae,” 536.)
and entertainments chiefly stand in need of this. The necessity is from nature as well as custom, and is not lately introduced or founded only on opinion. For when the same dish lies in common before all, the man that is slow and eats little must be offended at the other that is too quick for him, as a slow ship at the swift sailor. Besides, snatching, contention, shoving, and the like, are not, in my mind, neighborly beginnings of mirth and jollity; but they are absurd, doggish, and often end in anger or reproaches, not only against one another, but also against the entertainer himself or the carvers of the feast. But as long as Moera and Lachesis (DIVISION and DISTRIBUTION) maintained equality in feasts, nothing uncivil or disorderly was seen, and they called the feasts [Greek omitted], DISTRIBUTIONS, the entertained [Greek omitted], and the carvers [Greek omitted], DISTRIBUTERS, from dividing and distributing to every man his proper mess. The Lacedaemonians had officers called distributers of the flesh, no mean men, but the chief of the city; for Lysander himself by king Agesilaus was constituted one of these in Asia. But when luxury crept into our feasts, distributing was thrown out; for I suppose they had not leisure to divide these numerous tarts, cheese-cakes, pies, and other delicate varieties; but, surprised with the pleasantness of the taste and tired with the variety, they left off cutting it into portions, and left all in common. And this is confirmed from the present practice; for in our religious or public feasts, where the food is simple and inartificial, each man hath his mess assigned him; so that he that endeavors to retrieve the ancient custom will likewise recover thrift and almost lost frugality again. But, you object, where only property is, community is lost. True indeed, where equality is not; for not the possession of what is proper and our own, but the taking away of another’s and coveting that which is common, is the cause of all injury and contention; and the laws, restraining and confining these within the proper bounds, receive their name from their office, being a power distributing equally to every one in order to the common good. Thus every one is not to be honored by the entertainer with the garland or the chiefest place; but if any one brings with him his sweetheart or a singing girl, they must be common to him and his friends, that all possessions may be brought together, as Anaxagoras would have it. Now if propriety in these things doth not in the least hinder but that things of greater moment, and the only considerable, as discourse and civility, may be still common, let us leave off abasing distributions or the lot, the son of Fortune (as Euripides hath it), which hath no respect either to riches or honor, but in its inconsiderate wheel now and then raiseth up the humble and the poor, and makes him master of himself, and, by accustoming the great and rich to endure and not be offended at equality, pleasingly instructs.
Simonides the poet, my Sossius Senecio, seeing one of the company sit silent and discourse nobody, said: Sir, if you are fool, it is wisely done; if a wise man, very foolishly. It is good to conceal a man’s folly (but as Heraclitus says) it is very hard to do it over a glass of wine —
Which doth the gravest men to mirth advance,
And let them loose to sing, to laugh, and dance,
And speak what had been better unsaid.
(“Odyssey,” xiv. 464.)
In which lines the poet in my mind shows the difference between being a little heated and downright drunk; for to sing, laugh, and dance may agree very well with those that have gone no farther than the merry cup; but to prattle, and speak what had been better left unsaid, argues a man to be quite gone. And therefore Plato thinks that wine is the must ingenious discoverer of men’s humors; and Homer, when he says —
At feasts they had not known each other’s minds,
(Ibid. xxi. 35.)
evidently shows that he knew wine was powerful to open men’s thoughts, and was full of new discoveries. It is true from the bare eating and drinking, if they say nothing we can give no guess at the tempers of the men; but because drinking leads them into discourse, and discourse lays a great many things open and naked which were secret and hid before, therefore to sport a glass of wine together lets us into one another’s humors. And therefore a man may reasonably fall foul on Aesop: Why sir, would you have a window in every man’s breast, through which we may look in upon his thoughts? Wine opens and exposes all, it will not suffer us to be silent, but takes off all mask and visor, and makes us regardless of the severe precepts of decency and custom. Thus Aesop or Plato, or any other that designs to look into a man, may have his desires satisfied by the assistance of a bottle; but those that are not solicitous to pump one another, but to be sociable and pleasant, discourse of such matters and handle such questions as make no discovery of the bad parts of the soul, but such as comfort the good, and, by the help of neat and polite learning, lead the intelligent part into an agreeable pasture and garden of delight This made me collect and dedicate the first to you this third dedication of table discourses, the first of which is about chaplets made of flowers.
At Athens Erato the musician keeping a solemn feast to the Muses, and inviting a great many to the treat, the company was full of talk, and the subject of the discourse garlands. For after supper many of all sorts of flowers being presented to the guests, Ammonius began to jeer me for choosing a rose chaplet before a laurel, saying that those made of flowers were effeminate, and fitted toyish girls and women more than grave philosophers and men of music. And I admire that our friend Erato, that abominates all flourishing in songs, and blames good Agatho, who first in his tragedy of the Mysians ventured to introduce the chromatic airs, should himself fill his entertainment with such various and such florid colors; yet, while he shuts out all the soft delights that through the ears can enter to the soul, he should introduce others through the eyes and through the nose, and make these garlands, instead of signs of piety, to be instruments of pleasure. For it must be confessed that this ointment gives a better smell than those trifling flowers, which wither even in the hands of those that wreathe them. Besides, all pleasure must be banished the company of philosophers, unless it is of some use or desired by natural appetite; for as those that are carried to a banquet by some of their invited friends (as, for instance, Socrates carried Aristodemus to Agatho’s table) are as civilly entertained as the bidden guests, but he that goes on his own account is shut out of doors; thus the pleasures of eating and drinking, being invited by natural appetite, should have admission; but all the others which come on no account and have only luxury to introduce them, ought in reason to be denied.
At this some young men, not thoroughly acquainted with Ammonius’s humor, being abashed, privately tore their chaplets; but I, perceiving that Ammonius proposed this only for discourse and disputation’s sake, applying myself to Trypho the physician, said: Sir, you must put off that sparkling rosy chaplet as well as we, or declare, as I have often heard you, what excellent preservatives these flowery garlands are against the strength of liquor. But here Erato putting in said: What, is it decreed that no pleasure must be admitted without profit? And must we be angry with our delight, unless hired to endure it? Perhaps we may have reason to be ashamed of ointments and purple vests, because so costly and expensive, and to look upon them as (in the barbarian’s phrase) treacherous garments and deceitful odors; but these natural smells and colors are pure and simple as fruits themselves, and without expense or the curiosity of art. And I appeal to any one, whether it is not absurd to receive the pleasant savors Nature gives us, and enjoy and reject those smells and colors that the seasons afford us, because forsooth they blossom with delight, if they have no other external profit or advantage. Besides, we have an axiom against you, for if (as you affirm) Nature makes nothing in vain, those things that have no other use were designed on purpose to please and to delight. Besides, observe that to thriving trees Nature hath given leaves, both for the preservation of the fruit and of the stock itself; for those sometimes warming, sometimes cooling it, the seasons creep on by degrees, and do not assault it with all their violence at once. But now the flower, whilst it is on the plant, is of no profit at all, unless we use it to delight our nose with the admirable smell, and to please our eyes when it opens that inimitable variety of colors. And therefore, when the leaves are plucked off, the plants as it were suffer injury and grief. There is a kind of an ulcer raised, and an unbecoming nakedness attends them; and we must not only (as Empedocles says)
By all means spare the leaves that grace the palm,
but likewise of all other trees, and not injuriously against Nature robbing them of their leaves, bring deformity on them to adorn ourselves. But to pluck the flowers doth no injury at all. It is like gathering of grapes at the time of vintage; unless plucked when ripe, they wither of themselves and fall. And therefore, like the barbarians who clothe themselves with the skins more commonly than with the wool of sheep, those that wreathe leaves rather than flowers into garlands seem to me to use the plants neither according to the dictates of reason nor the design of Nature. And thus much I say in defence of those who sell chaplets of flowers; for I am not grammarian enough to remember those poems which tell us that the old conquerors in the sacred games were crowned with flowers. Yet, now I think of it, there is a story of a rosy crown that belongs to the Muses; Sappho mentions it in a copy of verses to a woman unlearned and unacquainted with the Muses:—
Thou shalt unregarded lie
Cause ne’er acquainted with the Muses’ Rose.
(From Sappho, Frag. 68.)
But if Trypho can produce anything to our advantage from physic, pray let us have it.
Then Trypho taking the discourse said: The ancients were very curious and well acquainted with all these things, because plants were the chief ingredients of their physic. And of this some signs remain till now; for the Tyrians offer to Agenor, and the Magnesians to Chiron, the first supposed practitioners of physic, as the first fruits, the roots of those plants which have been successful on a patient. And Bacchus was not only counted a physician for finding wine, the most pleasing and most potent remedy, but for bringing ivy, the greatest opposite imaginable to wine, into reputation, and for teaching his drunken followers to wear garlands of it, that by that means they might be secured against the violence of a debauch, the heat of the liquor being remitted by the coldness of the ivy. Besides, the names of several plants sufficiently evidence the ancients curiosity in this matter; for they named the walnut-tree [Greek omitted], because it sends forth a heavy and [Greek omitted] drowsy spirit, which affects their heads who sleep beneath it; and the daffodil, [Greek omitted], because it benumbs the nerves and causes a stupid narcotic heaviness in the limbs, and therefore Sophocles calls it the ancient garland flower of the great (that is, the earthy) gods. And some say rue was called [Greek omitted] from its astringent quality; for, by its dryness preceding from its heat, it fixes [Greek omitted] or dries the seed, and is very hurtful to great-bellied women. But those that imagine the herb amethyst [Greek omitted], and the precious stone of the same name, are called so because powerful against the force of wine are much mistaken; for both receive there names from their color; for its leaf is not of the color of strong wine, but resembles that of weak diluted liquor. And indeed I could mention a great many which have their names from their proper virtues. But the care and the experience of the ancients sufficiently appears in those of which they made their garlands when they designed to be merry and frolic over a glass of wine; for wine, especially when it seizes on the head, and weakens the body just at the very spring and origin of the sense, disturbs the whole man. Now the effluvia of flowers are an admirable preservative against this, they secure the brain, as it were a citadel, against the effects of drunkenness; for those that are hot upon the pores and give the fumes free passage to exhale, and those moderately cold repel and keep down the ascending vapors. Such are the violet and rose; for the odors of both these are prevalent against any ache and heaviness in the head. The flowers of the privet and crocus bring those that have drunk freely into a gentle sleep; for they send forth a smooth and gentle effluvia, which softly takes off all asperities that arise in the body of the drunken; and so all things being quiet and composed, the violence on the noxious humor is abated and thrown off. The smells of some flowers being received into the brain cleanse the organs and instruments of sense, and gently by their heat, without any violence or force, dissolve the humors, and warm and cherish the brain itself, which is naturally cold. And upon this account, they call those little posies they hang about their necks [Greek omitted], and anointed their breasts with the oils that were squeezed from them; and of this Alcaeus is a witness, when he bids his friends,
Pour ointments o’er his laboring temples, pressed
With various cares, and o’er his aged breast.
For the warm odors shoot upward into the very brain, being drawn up by the nostrils. For they did not call those garlands hung about the neck [Greek omitted] because they thought the heart was the seat and citadel of the mind [Greek omitted], for on that account they should rather have called them [Greek omitted], but, as I said before, from their vapor and exhalation. Besides, it is no strange thing that these smells of garlands should be of so considerable a virtue; for some tell us that the shadow of the yew, especially when it blossoms, kills those that sleep under it; and a subtle spirit ariseth from pressed poppy, which suddenly overcomes the unwary squeezers. And there is an herb called alyssus, which to some that take it in their hands, to others that do but look on it, is found a present remedy against the hiccough; and some affirm that planted near the stalls it preserves sheep and goats from the rot and mange. And the rose is called [Greek omitted], probably because it sends forth a stream [Greek omitted] of odors; and for that reason it withers presently. It is a cooler, yet fiery to look upon; and no wonder, for upon the surface a subtile heat, being driven out by the inward heat, looks vivid and appears.
Upon this discourse, when we all hummed Trypho, Ammonius with a smile said: It is not decent by any contradiction to pull in pieces, like a chaplet, this various and florid discourse of Trypho’s. Yet methinks the ivy is a little oddly interwoven, and unjustly said by its cold powers to temper the heat of strong wine; for it is rather fiery and hot, and its berries steeped in wine make the liquor more apt to inebriate and inflame. And from this cause, as in sticks warped by the fire, proceeds the crookedness of the boughs. And snow, that for many days will lie on other trees, presently melts from the branches of the ivy, and wastes all around, as far as the warmth reaches. But the greatest evidence is this. Theophrastus tells us, that when Alexander commanded Harpalus to plant some Grecian trees in the Babylonian gardens, and — because the climate is very hot and the sun violent — such as were leafy, thick, and fit to make a shade, the ivy only would not grow; though all art and diligence possible were used, it withered and died. For being hot itself, it could not agree with the fiery nature of the soil; for excess in similar qualities is destructive, and therefore we see everything as it were affects its contrary; a cold plant flourishes in a hot ground, and a hot plant is delighted with a cold. Upon which account it is that bleak mountains, exposed to cold winds and snow, bear firs, pines, and the like, full of pitch, fiery, and excellent to make a torch. But besides, Trypho, trees of a cold nature, their little feeble heat not being able to diffuse itself but retiring to the heart, shed their leaves; but their natural oiliness and warmth preserve the laurel, olive, and cypress always green; and the like too in the ivy may be observed. And therefore it is not likely our dear friend Bacchus, who called wine [Greek omitted] intoxicating and himself [Greek omitted], should bring ivy into reputation for being a preservative against drunkenness and an enemy to wine. But in my opinion, as lovers of wine, when they have not any juice of the grape ready, drink ale, mead, cider, or the like; thus he that in winter would have a vine-garland on his head, and finding the vine naked and without leaves, used the ivy that is like it; for its boughs are twisted and irregular, its leaves moist and disorderly confused, but chiefly the berries, like ripening clusters, make an exact representation of the vine. But grant the ivy to be a preservative against drunkenness — that to please you, Trypho, we may name Bachus a physician — still I affirm that power to proceed from its heat, which either opens the pores or helps to digest the wine.
Upon this Trypho sat silent, studying for an answer. Erato addressing himself to us youths, said: Trypho wants your assistance; help him in this dispute about the garlands, or be content to sit without any. Ammonius too bade us not be afraid, for he would not reply to any of our discourses; and Trypho likewise urging me to propose something, I said: To demonstrate that the ivy is cold is not so proper a task for me as Trypho, for he often useth coolers and binders; but that proposition, that wine in which ivy berries have been is more inebriating, is not true; for that disturbance which it raiseth in those that drink it is not so properly called drunkenness as alienation of mind or madness, such as hyoscyamus and a thousand other things that set men beside themselves usually produce. The crookedness of the bough is no argument at all, for such violent and unnatural effects cannot be supposed to proceed from any natural quality or power. Now sticks are bent by the fire, because that draws the moisture, and so the crookedness is a violent distortion; but the natural heat nourishes and preserves the body. Consider, therefore, whether it is not the weakness and coldness of the body that makes it wind, bend, and creep upon the ground; for those qualities check its rise, and depress it in its ascent, and render it like a weak traveller, that often sits down and then goes on again. And therefore the ivy requires something to twine about, and needs a prop; for it is not able to sustain and direct its own branches, because it wants heat, which naturally tends upward. The snow is melted by the wetness of the leaf, for water destroys it easily, passing through the thin contexture, it being nothing but a congeries of small bubbles; and therefore in very cold but moist places the snow melts as soon as in hot. That it is continually green doth not proceed from its heat, for to shed its leaves doth not argue the coldness of a tree. Thus the myrtle and well fern, though not hot, but confessedly cold, are green all the year. Some imagine this comes from the equal and duly proportioned mixture of the qualities in the leaf, to which Empedocles hath added a certain aptness of pores, through which the nourishing juice is orderly transmitted, so that there is still supply sufficient. But now it is otherwise in trees whose leaves fall, by reason of the wideness of their higher and narrowness of their lower pores; for the latter do not send juice enough, nor do the former keep it, but as soon as a small stock is received pour it out. This may be illustrated from the usual watering of our gardens; for when the distribution is unequal, the plants that are always watered have nourishment enough, seldom wither, and look always green. But you further argue, that being planted in Babylon it would not grow. It was well done of the plant, methinks, being a particular friend and familiar of the Boeotian god, to scorn to live amongst the barbarians, or imitate Alexander in following the manners of those nations; but it was not its heat but cold that was the cause of this aversion, for that could not agree with the contrary quality. For one similar quality doth not destroy but cherish another. Thus dry ground bears thyme, though it is naturally hot. Now at Babylon they say the air is so suffocating, so intolerably hot, that many of the more prosperous sleep upon skins full of water, that they may lie cool.
Florus thought it strange that Aristotle in his discourse of Drunkenness, affirming that old men are easily, women hardly, overtaken, did not assign the cause, since he seldom failed on such occasions. Therefore he proposed it to us (we were a great many acquaintance met at supper) as a fit subject for our inquiry. Sylla began: One part will conduce to the discovery of the other; and if we rightly hit the cause in relation to the women, the difficulty, as it concerns the old men, will be easily despatched; for their two natures are quite contrary. Moistness, smoothness, and softness belong to the one; and dryness, roughness, and hardness are the accidents of the other. As for women, I think the principal cause is the moistness of their temper; this produceth a softness in the flesh, a shining smoothness, and their usual purgations. Now when wine is mixed with a great deal of weak liquor, it is overpowered by that, loses its strength, and becomes flat and waterish. Some reason likewise may be drawn from Aristotle himself; for he affirms that those that drink fast, and take a large draught without drawing breath, are seldom overtaken, because the wine doth not stay long in their bodies, but having acquired an impetus by this greedy drinking, suddenly runs through; and women are generally observed to drink after that manner. Besides, it is probable that their bodies, by reason of the continual deduction of the moisture in order to their usual purgations, are very porous, and divided as it were into many little pipes and conduits; into which when the wine falls, it is quickly conveyed away, and doth not lie and fret the principal parts, from whose disturbance drunkenness proceeds. But that old men want the natural moisture, even the name [Greek omitted], in my opinion, intimates; for that name was given them not as stooping to the earth [Greek omitted] but as being in the habit of their body [Greek omitted] and [Greek omitted], earthlike and earthy. Besides, the stiffness and roughness prove the dryness of their nature. Therefore it is probable that, when they drink, their body, being grown spongy by the dryness of its nature, soaks up the wine, and that lying in the vessels it affects the senses and prevents the natural motions. For as floods of water glide over the close grounds, nor make them slabby, but quickly sink into the open and chapped fields; thus wine, being sucked in by the dry parts, lies and works in the bodies of old men. But besides, it is easy to observe, that age of itself hath all the symptoms of drunkenness. These symptoms everybody knows; viz., shaking of the joints, faltering of the tongue, babbling, passion, forgetfulness, and distraction of the mind; many of which being incident to old men, even whilst they are well and in perfect health, are heightened by any little irregularity and accidental debauch. So that drunkenness doth not beget in old men any new and proper symptoms, but only intend and increase the common ones. And an evident sign of this is, that nothing is so like an old man as a young man drunk.
Thus Sylla said, and Apollonides the marshal subjoined: Sir, what you discoursed of old men I willingly admit; but in my opinion you have omitted a considerable reason in relation to the women, viz., the coldness of their temper, which quencheth the heat of the strongest wine, and makes it lose all its destructive force and fire. This reflection seeming reasonable, Athryilatus the Thasian, a physician, kept us from a hasty conclusion in this matter, by saying that some supposed the female sex was not cold, but hotter than the male; and others thought wine rather cold than hot.
When Florus seemed surprised at this discourse, Athryilatus continued: Sir, what I mention about wine I shall leave to this man to make out (pointing to me, for a few days before we had handled the same matter). But that women are of a hot constitution, some suppose, may be proved, first, from their smoothness, for their heat wastes all the superfluous nourishment which breeds hair; secondly from their abundance of blood, which seems to be the fountain and source of all the heat that is in the body; — now this abounds so much in females, that they would be all on fire, unless relieved by frequent and sudden evacuations. Thirdly, from a usual practice of the sextons in burning the bodies of the dead, it is evident that females are hotter than males; for the bedsmen are wont to put one female body with ten males upon the same pile, for that contains some inflammable and oily parts, and serves for fuel to the rest. Besides, if that that is soonest fit for generation is hottest, and a maid begins to be furious sooner than a boy, this is a strong proof of the hotness of the female sex. But a more convincing proof follows: women endure cold better than men, they are not so sensible of the sharpness of the weather, and are contented with a few clothes.
And Florus replied: Methinks, sir, from the same topics I could draw conclusions against your assertion. For, first, they endure cold better, because one similar quality doth not so readily act upon another; and then again, their seed is not active in generation, but passive matter and nourishment to that which the male injects. But more, women grow effete sooner than men; that they burn better than the males proceeds from their fat, which is the coldest part of the body; and young men, or such as use exercise, have but little fat. Their monthly purgations do not prove the abundance, but the corruption and badness, of their blood; for being the superfluous and undigested part, and having no convenient vessel in the body it flows out, and appears languid and feculent, by reason of the weakness of its heat. And the shivering that seizes them at the time of their purgations sufficiently proves that which flows from them is cold and undigested. And who will believe their smoothness to be an effect of heat rather than cold, when everybody knows that the hottest parts of a body are the most hairy? For all such excrements are thrust out by the heat, which opens and makes passages through the skin; but smoothness is a consequent of that closeness of the superficies which proceeds from condensing cold. And that the flesh of women is closer than that of men, you may be informed by those that lie with women that have anointed themselves with oil or other perfumes; for though they do not touch the women, yet they find themselves perfumed, their bodies by reason of their heat and rarity drawing the odor to them. But I think we have disputed plausibly and sufficiently of this matter. . . .
But now I would fain know upon what account you can imagine that wine is cold. Then, said I, do you believe this to be my opinion? Yes, said he, whose else? And I replied: I remember a good while ago I met with a discourse of Aristotle’s upon this very question. And Epicurus, in his Banquet, hath a long discourse, the sum of which is that wine of itself is not hot, but that it contains some atoms that cause heat, and others that cause cold; now, when it is taken into the body, it loses one sort of particles and takes the other out of the body itself, as it agrees with one’s nature and constitution; so that some when they are drunk are very hot, and others very cold.
This way of talking, said Florus, leads us by Protagoras directly to Pyrrho; for it is evident that, suppose we were to discourse of oil, milk, honey, or the like, we shall avoid all inquiry into their particular natures by saying that things are so and so by their mutual mixture with one another. But how do you prove that wine is cold? And I, being forced to speak extempore, replied: By two arguments. The first I draw from the practice of physicians, for when their patients’ stomachs grow very weak, they prescribe no hot things, and yet give them wine as an excellent remedy. Besides, they stop looseness and immoderate sweating by wine; and this shows that they think it more binding and constipating than snow itself. Now if it were potentially hot, I should think it as wise a thing to apply fire to snow as wine to the stomach.
Again, most teach that sleep proceeds from the coolness of the parts; and most of the narcotic medicines, as mandrake and opium, are coolers. Those indeed work violently, and forcibly condense, but wine cools by degrees; it gently stops the motion, according as it hath more or less of such narcotic qualities. Besides, heat has a generative power; for owing to heat the fluid flows easily and the vital spirit gets vigor and a stimulating force. Now the great drinkers are very dull, inactive fellows, no women’s men at all; they eject nothing strong, vigorous, and fit for generation, but are weak and unperforming, by reason of the bad digestion and coldness of their seed. And it is farther observable that the effects of cold and drunkenness upon men’s bodies are the same — trembling, heaviness, paleness, shivering, faltering of tongue, numbness, and cramps. In many, a debauch ends in a dead palsy, when the wine stupefies and extinguisheth all the heat. And the physicians use this method in curing the qualms and diseases gotten by debauch; at night they cover them well and keep them warm; and at day they annoint and bathe, and give them such food as shall not disturb, but by degrees recover the heat which the wine hath scattered and driven out of the body. Thus, I added, in these appearances we trace obscure qualities and powers; but as for drunkenness, it is easily known what it is. For, in my opinion, as I hinted before, those that are drunk are very much like old men; and therefore great drinkers grow old soonest, and they are commonly bald and gray before their time; and all these accidents certainly proceed from want of heat. But mere vinegar is of a vinous nature, and nothing quenches fire so soon as that; its extreme coldness overcomes and kills the flame presently. And of all fruits physicians use the vinous as the greatest coolers, as pomegranates and apples. Besides, do they not make wine by mixing honey with rain-water or snow; for the cold, because those two qualities are near akin, if it prevails, changes the luscious into a poignant taste? And did not the ancients of all the creeping beasts consecrate the snake to Bacchus, and of all the plants the ivy, because they were of a cold and frozen nature? Now, lest any one should think this is a proof of its heat, that if a man takes juice of hemlock, a large dose of wine cures him, I shall, on the contrary affirm that wine and hemlock juice mixed is an incurable poison, and kills him that drinks it presently. So that we can no more conclude it to be hot because it resists, than to be cold because it assists, the poison. For cold is the only quality by which hemlock juice works and kills.
Some young students, that had not gone far in the learning of the ancients, inveighed against Epicurus for bringing in, in his Svmposium, an impertinent and unseemly discourse, about what time was best to lie with a woman; for an old man at supper in the company of youths to talk of such a subject, and dispute whether after or before supper was the most convenient time, argued him to be a very loose and debauched man. To this some said that Xenophon, after his entertainment was ended, sent all his guests home on horseback, to lie with their wives. But Zopyrus the physician, a man very well read in Epicurus, said, that they had not duly weighed that piece; for he did not propose that question first, and then discuss that matter on purpose; but after supper he desired the young men to take a walk, and he then discoursed on it, that he might persuade them to continence, and to abate their desires and restrain their appetites; showing them that it was very dangerous at all times, but especially after they had been eating or making merry. But suppose he had proposed this as the chief topic for discourse, doth it never become a philosopher to inquire which is the convenient and proper time? Ought we not to time it well, and direct our embrace by reason? Or may such discourse be otherwise allowed, and must they be thought unseemly problems to be proposed at table? Indeed I am of another mind. It is true, I should blame a philosopher that in the middle of the day, in the schools, before all sorts of men, should discourse of such a subject; but over a glass of wine between friends and acquaintance, when it is necessary to propose something beside dull, serious discourse, why should it be a fault to hear or speak anything that may inform our judgments or direct our practice in such matters? And I protest I had rather that Zeno had inserted his loose topics in some merry discourses and agreeable table-talk, than in such a grave, serious piece as his politics.
The youth, startled at this free declaration, sat silent; and the rest of the company desired Zopyrus to deliver Epicurus’s sentiment. He said: The particulars I cannot remember; but I believe he feared the violent agitations of such exercises, because the bodies employed in them are so violently disturbed. For it is certain that wine is a very great disturber, and puts the body out of its usual temper; and therefore, when thus disquieted, if quiet and sleep do not compose it but other agitations seize it, it is likely that those parts which knit and join the members may be loosened, and the whole frame be as it were unsettled from its foundation and overthrown. For then likewise the seed cannot freely pass, but is confusedly and forcibly thrown out, because the liquor hath filled the vessels of the body, and stopped its way. Therefore, says Epicurus, we must use those sports when the body is at quiet, when the meat hath been thoroughly digested, carried about and applied to several parts of the body, so that we begin to want a fresh supply of food. To this of Epicurus we might join an argument taken from physic. At day-time, while our digestion is performing, we are not so lusty nor eager to embrace; and presently after supper to endeavor it is dangerous, for the crudity of the stomach, the food being yet undigested, may be disorderly motion upon this crudity, and so the mischief be double. Olympicus, continuing the discourse, said: I very much like what Clinias the Pythagorean delivers. For the story goes that, being asked when a man should lie with a woman, he replied, when he hath a mind to receive the greatest mischief that he can. For Zopyrus’s discourse seems rational, and other times as well as those he mentions have their peculiar inconveniences. And therefore — as Thales the philosopher, to free himself from the pressing solicitations of his mother who advised him to marry, said at first, ’tis not yet time; and when, now he was growing old, she repeated her admonition, replied, nor is it now time — so it is best for every man to have the same mind in relation to those sports of Venus; when he goes to bed, let him say, ’tis not yet time; and when he rises, ’tis not now time.
What you say, Olympicus, said Soclarus interposing, befits wrestlers indeed; it smells, methinks, of their meals of flesh and casks of wine, but is not suitable to the resent company, for there are some young married men here,
Whose duty ’tis to follow Venus’ sports.
Nay, we ourselves seem to have some relation to Venus still, when in our hymns to the gods we pray thus to her,
Fair Venus, keep off feeble age.
But waiving this, let us inquire (if you think fit) whether Epicurus does well, when contrary to all right and equity he separates Venus and the Night, though Menander, a man well skilled in love matters, says that she likes her company better than that of any of the gods. For, in my opinion, night is a very convenient veil, spread over those that give themselves to that kind of pleasure; for it is not fit that day should be the time, lest modesty should be banished from our eyes, effeminacy grow bold, and such vigorous impressions on our memories be left, as might still possess us with the same fancies and raise new inclinations. For the sight (according to Plato) receives a more vigorous impression than any other bodily organ, and joining with the imagination, that lies near it, works presently upon the soul, and ever causes fresh desires by those images of pleasure which it brings. But the night, hiding many and the most furious of the actions, quiets and lulls nature, and doth not suffer it to be carried to intemperance by the eye. But besides this, how absurd is it, that a man returning from an entertainment merry perhaps and jocund, crowned and perfumed, should cover himself up, turn his back to his wife, and go to sleep; and then at day-time, in the midst of his business, send for her out of her apartment to serve his pleasure or in the morning, as a cock treads his hens. No, sir the evening is the end of our labor, and the morning the beginning. Bacchus the Loosener and Terpsichore and Thalia preside over the former; and the latter raiseth us up betimes to attend on Minerva the Work-mistress, and Mercury the merchandiser. And therefore songs, dances, and epithalamiums, merry-meetings, with balls and feasts, and sounds of pipes and flutes, are the entertainment of the one; but in the other, nothing but the noise of hammers and anvils, the scratching of saws, the city cries, citations to court or to attend this or that prince and magistrate are heard.
Then all the sports of pleasure disappear,
Then Venus, then gay youth removes:
No Thyrsus then which Bacchus loves;
But all is clouded and o’erspread with care.
Besides, Homer makes not one of the heroes lie with his wife or mistress in the day-time, but only Paris, who, having shamefully fled from the battle, sneaked into the embraces of his wife; intimating that such lasciviousness by day did not befit the sober temper of a man, but the mad lust of an adulterer. But, moreover, the body will not (as Epicurus fancies) be injured more after supper than at any other time, unless a man be drunk or overcharged — for in those cases, no doubt, it is very dangerous and hurtful. But if a man is only raised and cheered, not overpowered by liquor, if his body is pliable, his mind agreeing, and then he sports, he need not fear any disturbance from the load he has within him; he need not fear catching cold, or too great a transportation of atoms, which Epicurus makes the cause of all the ensuing harm. For if he lies quiet he will quickly fill again, and new spirits will supply the vessels that are emptied.
But this is to be especially taken care of, that, the body being then in a ferment and disturbed, no cares of the soul, no business about necessary affairs, no labor, should distract and seize it, lest they should corrupt and sour its humors, Nature not having had time enough for settling what has been disturbed. For, sir, all men have not the command of that happy ease and tranquillity which Epicurus’s philosophy procured him; for many great incumbrances seize almost upon every one every day, or at least some disquiets; and it is not safe to trust the body with any of these, when it is in such a condition and disturbance, presently after the fury and heat of the embrace is over. Let, according to his opinion, the happy and immortal deity sit at ease and never mind us; but if we regard the laws of our country, we must not dare to enter into the temple and offer sacrifice, if but a little before we have done any such thing. It is fit therefore to let night and sleep intervene, and after there is a sufficient space of time past between, to rise as it were pure and new, and (as Democritus was wont to say) “with new thoughts upon the new day.”
At Athens on the eleventh day of February (thence called [Greek omitted] THE BARREL-OPENING), they began to taste their new wine; and in old times (as it appears), before they drank, they offered some to the gods, and prayed that that cordial liquor might prove good and wholesome. By us Thebans the month is named [Greek omitted], and it is our custom upon the sixth day to sacrifice to our good Genius and then taste our new wine, after the zephyr has done blowing; for that wind makes wine ferment more than any other, and the liquor that can bear this fermentation is of a strong body and will keep well. My father offered the usual sacrifice, and when after supper the young men, my fellow-students, commended the wine, he started this question: Why does not new wine inebriate as soon as other? This seemed a paradox and incredible to most of us; but Hagias said, that luscious things were cloying and would presently satiate, and therefore few could drink enough to make them drunk; for when once the thirst is allayed, the appetite would be quickly palled by that unpleasant liquor; for that a luscious is different from a sweet taste, even the poet intimates, when he says,
With luscious wine, and with sweet milk and cheese.
(“Odyssey, xx. 69.)
Wine at first is sweet; afterward, as it grows old, it ferments and begins to be pricked a little; then it gets a sweet taste.
Aristaenetus the Nicaean said, that he remembered he had read somewhere that sweet things mixed with wine make it less heady, and that some physicians prescribe to one that hath drunk freely, before he goes to bed, a crust of bread dipped in honey. And therefore, if sweet mixtures weaken strong wine, it is reasonable that wine should not be heady till it hath lost its sweetness.
We admired the acuteness of the young philosophers, and were well pleased to see them propose something out of the common road and give us their own sentiments on this matter. Now the common and obvious reason is the heaviness of new wine — which (as Aristotle says) violently presseth the stomach — or the abundance of airy and watery parts that lie in it; the former of which, as soon as they are pressed, fly out; and the watery parts are naturally fit to weaken the spirituous liquor. Now, when it grows old, the juice is improved, and though by the separation of the watery parts it loses in quantity, it gets in strength.
Well then, said my father, since we have fallen upon Aristotle, I will endeavor to propose something of my own concerning those that are half drunk; for, in my mind, though he was a very acute man, he is not accurate enough in such matters. They usually say, I think, that a sober man’s understanding apprehends things right and judges well; the sense of one quite drunk is weak and enfeebled; but of him that is half drunk the fancy is vigorous and the understanding weakened, and therefore, following their own fancies, they judge, but judge ill. But pray, sirs, what is your opinion in these matters?
This reason, I replied, would satisfy me upon a private disquisition; but if you will have my own sentiments, let us first consider, whether this difference doth not proceed from the different temper of the body. For of those that are only half drunk, the mind alone is disturbed, but the body not being quite overwhelmed is yet able to obey its motions; but when it is too much oppressed and the wine has overpowered it, it betrays and frustrates the motions of the mind, for men in such a condition never go so far as action. But those that are half drunk, having a body serviceable to the absurd motions of the mind, are rather to be thought to have greater ability to comply with those they have, than to have worse inclinations than the others. Now if, proceeding on another principle, we consider the strength of the wine itself, nothing hinders but that this may be different and changeable, according to the quantity that is drunk. As fire, when moderate, hardens a piece of clay, but if very strong, makes it brittle and crumble into pieces; and the heat of the spring fires our blood with fevers but as the summer comes on, the disease usually abates; what hinders then but that the mind, being naturally raised by the power of the wine, when it is come to a pitch, should by pouring on more be weakened again and its force abated? Thus hellebore, before it purges, disturbs the body; but if too small a dose be given, disturbs only and purges not at all; and some taking too little of an opiate are more restless than before; and some taking too much sleep well. Besides, it is probable that this disturbance into which those that are half drunk are put, when it comes to a pitch, leads to that decay. For a great quantity being taken inflames the body and consumes the frenzy of the mind; as a mournful song and melancholy music at a funeral raises grief at first and forces tears, but as it continues, by little and little it takes away all dismal apprehensions and consumes our sorrows. Thus wine, after it hath heated and disturbed, calms the mind again and quiets the frenzy; and when men are dead drunk, their passions are at rest.
When I had said these things Aristo, as his habit was, cried out: A return has been decreed in banquets to a very popular and just standard, which, because it was driven away by unseasonable temperance as if by the act of a tyrant, has long remained in exile. For just as those trained in the canons of the lyre declare the sesquialter proportion produces the symphony diapente, the double proportion the diapason, the sesquiterte the diatessaron, the slowest of all, so the specialists in Bacchic harmonies have detected three accords between wine and water — Diapente, Diatrion, Diatessaron. For so they speak and sing, “drink five or three, but not four.” For five have the sesquialter proportion, three cups of water being mixed in two of wine; three, the double proportion, two being mixed with one; four, the sesquiterce, three cups of water to one of wine, which is the epitrite proportion for those exercising their minds in the council-chamber or frowning over dialectics, when changes of speeches are expected — a sober and mild mixture. But in regard to those proportions of two to one, that mixture gives the strength by which we are confused and made half drunk, “Exciting the chords of the soul never moved before.” For it does not admit of sobriety, nor does it induce the senselessness of pure wine. The most harmonious is the proportion of two to three, provoking sleep, generating the forgetfulness of cares, and like that cornfield of Hesiod,” which mildly pacifieth children and heals injuries.” It composes in us the harsh and irregular motions of the soul and secures deep peace for it. Against these sayings of Aristo no one had anything to offer in reply, since it was quite evident he was jesting. I suggested to him to take a cup and treat it as a lyre, tuning it to the harmony and order he praised. At the same time a slave came offering him pure wine. But he refused it, saying with a laugh that he was discussing logical not organic music. To what had been said before my father added that Jove seemed to have taken, according to the ancients, two nurses, Ite and Adrastea; Juno one, Euboea; Apollo also two, Truth and Corythalea; but Bacchus several, because he needed several measures of water to make him manageable, trained, milder, and more prudent.
Euthydemus of Sunium gave us at an entertainment a very large boar. The guests wondering at the bigness of the beast, he said that he had one a great deal larger, but in the carriage the moon had made it stink; he could not imagine how this should happen, for it was probable that the sun, being much hotter than the moon, should make it stink sooner. But, said Satyrus, this is not so strange as the common practice of the hunters; for, when they send a boar or a doe to a city some miles distant, they drive a brazen nail into it to keep it from stinking.
After supper Euthydemus bringing the question into play again, Moschio the physician said, that putrefaction was a colliquation of the flesh, and that everything that putrefied grew moister than before, and that all heat, if gentle, did stir the humors, though not force them out, but if strong, dry the flesh; and that from these considerations an answer to the question might be easily deduced. For the moon gently warming makes the body moist; but the sun by his violent beams dries rather, and draws all moisture from them. Thus Archilochus spoke like a naturalist,
I hope hot Sirius’s beams will many drain,
And Homer more plainly concerning Hector, over whose body Apollo spread a thick cloud,
Lest the hot sun should scorch his naked limbs.
(Iliad, xxiii, 190.)
Now the moon’s rays are weaker; for, as Ion says,
They do not ripen well the clustered grapes.
When he had done, I said: The rest of the discourse I like very well, but I cannot consent when you ascribe this effect to the strength and degree of heat, and chiefly in the hot seasons; for in winter every one knows that the sun warms little, yet in summer it putrefies most. Now the contrary should happen, if the gentleness of the heat were the cause of putrefaction. And besides, the hotter the season is, so much the sooner meat stinks; and therefore this effect is not to be ascribed to the want of heat in the moon, but to some particular proper quality in her beams. For heat is not different only by degrees; but in fires there are some proper qualities very much unlike one another, as a thousand obvious instances will prove. Goldsmiths heat their gold in chaff fires; physicians use fires of vine-twigs in their distillations; and tamarisk is the best fuel for a glass-house. Olive-boughs in a chimney warm very well, but hurt other baths: they spoil the plastering, and weaken the foundation; and therefore the most skilful of the public officers forbid those that rent the baths to burn olive-tree wood, or throw darnel seed into the fire, because the fumes of it dizzy and bring the headache to those that bathe. Therefore it is no wonder that the moon differs in her qualities from the sun; and that the sun should shed some drying, and the moon some dissolving, influence upon flesh. And upon this account it is that nurses are very cautious of exposing their infants to the beams of the moon; for they being full of moisture, as green plants, are easily wrested and distorted. And everybody knows that those that sleep abroad under the beams of the moon are not easily waked, but seem stupid and senseless; for the moisture that the moon sheds upon them oppresses their faculty and disables their bodies. Besides, it is commonly said, that women brought to bed when the moon is a fortnight old, have easy labors; and for this reason I believe that Diana, which was the same with the moon, was called the goddess of childbirth. And Timotheus appositely says,
By the blue heaven that wheels the stars,
And by the moon that eases women’s pains.
Even in inanimate bodies the power of the moon is very evident. For trees that are cut in the full of the moon carpenters refuse, as being soft, and, by reason of their moistness, subject to corruption; and in its wane farmers usually thresh their wheat, that being dry it may better endure the flail; for the corn in the full of the moon is moist, and commonly bruised in threshing. Besides, they say dough will be leavened sooner in the full, for then, though the leaven is scarce proportioned to the meal, yet it rarefies and leavens the whole lump. Now when flesh putrefies, the combining spirit is only changed into a moist consistence, and the parts of the body separate and dissolve. And this is evident in the very air itself, for when the moon is full, most dew falls; and this Alcman the poet intimates, when he somewhere calls dew the air’s and moon’s daughter, saying,
See how the daughter of the Moon and Air
Does nourish all things.
Thus a thousand instances do prove that the light of the moon is moist, and carries with it a softening and corrupting quality. Now the brazen nail that is driven through the flesh, if, as they say, it keeps the flesh from putrefying, doth it by an astringent quality proper to the brass. The rust of brass physicians use in astringent medicines, and they say those that dig brass ore have been cured of a rheum in their eyes, and that the hair upon their eyelids hath grown again; for the particles rising from the ore, being insensibly applied to the eyes, stops the rheum and dries up the humor, and upon this account, perhaps; Homer calls brass [Greek omitted] and [Greek omitted], and Aristotle says, that wounds made by a brazen dart or a brazen sword are less painful and sooner cured than those that are made of iron weapons, because brass hath something medicinal in itself, which in the very instant is applied to the wound. Now it is manifest that astringents are contrary to putrefying, and healing to corrupting qualities. Some perhaps may say, that the nail being driven through draws all the moisture to itself, for the humor still flows to the part that is hurt; and therefore it is said that by the nail there always appears some speck and tumor; and therefore it is rational that the other parts should remain sound, when all the corruption gathers about that.
Polybius, my Sossius Senecio, advised Scipio Africanus never to return from the Forum, where he was conversant about the affairs of the city, before he had gained one new friend. Where I suppose the word friend is not to be taken too nicely, to signify a lasting and unchangeable acquaintance; but, as it vulgarly means, a well-wisher, and as Dicearchus takes it, when he says that we should endeavor to make all men well-wishers, but only good men friends. For friendship is to be acquired by time and virtue; but good-will is produced by a familiar intercourse, or by mirth and trifling amongst civil and genteel men, especially if opportunity assists their natural inclinations to good-nature. But consider whether this advice may not be accommodated to an entertainment as well as the Forum; so that we should not break up the meeting before we had gained one of the company to be a well-wisher and a friend. Other occasions draw men into the Forum, but men of sense come to an entertainment as well to get new friends as to make their old ones merry; indeed, to carry away anything else is sordid and uncivil, but to depart with one friend more than we had is pleasing and commendable. And so, on the contrary, he that doth not aim at this renders the meeting useless and unpleasant to himself, and departs at last, having been a partaker of an entertainment with his belly but not with his mind. For he that makes one at a feast doth not come only to enjoy the meat and drink, but likewise the discourse, mirth, and genteel humor which ends at last in friendship and good-will. The wrestlers, that they may hold fast and lock better, use dust; and so wine mixed with discourse is of extraordinary use to make us hold fast of, and fasten upon, a friend. For wine tempered with discourse carries gentle and kind affections out of the body into the mind; otherwise, it is scattered through the limbs, and serves only to swell and disturb. Thus as a marble, by cooling red hot iron, takes away its softness and makes it hard, fit to be wrought and receive impression; thus discourse at an entertainment doth not permit the men that are engaged to become altogether liquid by the wine, but confines and makes their jocund and obliging tempers very fit to receive an impression from the seal of friendship if dexterously applied.
The first question of my fourth decade of Table Discourses shall be concerning different sorts of food eaten at one meal. When we came to Hyampolis at the feast called Elaphebolia, Philo the physician gave us a very sumptuous entertainment; and seeing a boy who came with Philinus feeding upon dry bread and calling for nothing else, he cried out, O Hercules, well I see the proverb is verified,
They fought midst stones, but could not take up one,
and presently went out to fetch him some agreeable food. He stayed some time, and at last brought them dried figs and cheese; upon which I said: It is usually seen that those that provide costly and superfluous dainties neglect, or are not well furnished with, useful and necessary things. I protest, said Philo, I did not mind that Philinus designs to breed us a young Sosastrus, who (they say) never all his lifetime drank or ate anything beside milk, although it is probable that it was some change in his constitution that made him use this sort of diet; but our Chiron here — quite contrary to the old one that bred Achilles from his very birth — feeding his son with unbloody food, gives people reason to suspect that like a grasshopper he keeps him on dew and air. Indeed, said Philinus, I did not know that we were to meet with a supper of a hundred beasts, such as Aristomenes made for his friends; otherwise I had come with some poor and wholesome food about me, as a specific against such costly and unwholesome entertainments. For I have often heard that simple diet is not only more easily provided, but likewise more easily digested, than such variety. At this Marcion said to Philo: Philinus hath spoiled your whole provision by deterring guests from eating; but, if you desire it, I will be surety for you, that such variety is more easily digested than simple food, so that without fear or distrust they may feed heartily. Philo desired him to do so.
When after supper we begged Philinus to discover what he had to urge against variety of food, he thus began: I am not the author of this opinion, but our friend Philo here is ever now and then telling us, first, that wild beasts, feeding on one sort only and simple diet, are much more healthy than men are; and that those which are kept in pens are much more subject to diseases and crudities, by reason of the prepared variety we usually give them. Secondly, no physician is so daring, so venturous at new experiments, as to give a feverish patient different sorts of food at once. No, simple food, and without sauce, as more easy to be digested, is the only diet they allow. Now food must be wrought on and altered by our natural powers; in dyeing, cloth of the most simple color takes the tincture soonest; the most inodorous oil is soonest by perfumes changed into an essence; and simple diet is soonest changed, and soonest yields to the digesting power. For many and different qualities, having some contrariety, when they meet disagree and corrupt one another; as in a city, a mixed rout are not easily reduced into one body, nor brought to follow the same concerns; for each works according to its own nature, and is very hardly brought to side with another’s quality. Now this is evident in wine; mixed wine inebriates very soon, and drunkenness is much like a crudity rising from undigested wine; and therefore the drinkers hate mixed liquors, and those that do mix them do it privately, as afraid to have their design upon the company discovered. Every change is disturbing and injurious, and therefore musicians are very careful how they strike many strings at once; though the mixture and variety of the notes would be the only harm that would follow. This I dare say, that belief and assent can be sooner procured by disagreeing arguments, than concoction by various and different qualities. But lest I should seem jocose, waiving this, I will return to Philo’s observations again. We have often heard him declare that it is the quality that makes meat hard to be digested; that to mix many things together is hurtful, and begets unnatural qualities; and that every man should take that which by experience he finds most agreeable to his temper.
Now if nothing is by its own nature hard to be digested, but it is the quantity that disturbs and corrupts, I think we have still greater reason to forbear that variety with which Philo’s cook, as it were in opposition to his master’s practice, would draw us on to surfeits and diseases. For by the different sorts of food and new ways of dressing, he still keeps up the unwearied appetite, and leads it from one dish to another, till tasting of everything we take more than is sufficient and enough; as Hypsipyle’s foster-son,
Who, in a garden placed, plucked up the flowers,
One after one, and spent delightful hours;
But still his greedy appetite goes on,
And still he plucked till all the flowers were gone.
(From the “Hypsipyle” of Euripides, Frag. 754.)
But more, methinks, Socrates is here to be remembered, who adviseth us to forbear those junkets which provoke those that are not hungry to eat; as if by this he cautioned us to fly variety of meats. For it is variety that in everything draws us on to use more than bare necessity requires. This is manifest in all sorts of pleasures, either of the eye, ear, or touch; for it still proposeth new provocatives; but in simple pleasures, and such as are confined to one sort, the temptation never carries us beyond nature’s wants. In short, in my opinion, we should more patiently endure to hear a musician praise a disagreeing variety of notes, or a perfumer mixed ointments, than a physician commend the variety of dishes; for certainly such changes and turnings as must necessarily ensue will force us out of the right way of health.
Philinus having ended his discourse, Marcion said: In my opinion, not only those that separate profit from honesty are obnoxious to Socrates’s curse, but those also that separate pleasure from health, as if it were its enemy and opposite, and not its great friend and promoter. Pain we use but seldom and unwillingly, as the most violent instrument. But from all things else, none, though he would willingly, can remove pleasure. It still attends when we eat, sleep, bathe, or anoint, and takes care of and nurses the diseased; dissipating all that is hurtful and disagreeable, by applying that which is proper, pleasing, and natural. For what pain, what want, what poison so quickly and so easily cures a disease as seasonable bathing? A glass of wine, when a man wants it, or a dish of palatable meat, presently frees us from all disturbing particles, and settles nature in its proper state, there being as it were a calm and serenity spread over the troubled humors. But those remedies that are painful do hardly and by little and little only promote the cure, every difficulty pushing on and forcing Nature. And therefore let not Philinus blame us, if we do not make all the sail we can to fly from pleasure, but more diligently endeavor to make pleasure and health, than other philosophers do to make pleasure and honesty, agree. Now, in my opinion, Philinus, you seem to be out in your first argument, where you suppose the beasts use more simple food and are more healthy than men; neither of which is true. The first the goats in Eupolis confute, for they extol their pasture as full of variety and all sorts of herbs, in this manner,
We feed almost on every kind of trees,
Young firs, the ilex, and the oak we crop:
Sweet trefoil fragrant juniper, and yew,
Wild olives, thyme — all freely yield their store.
These that I have mentioned are very different in taste, smell, and other qualities, and he reckons more sorts which I have omitted. The second Homer skilfully refutes, when he tells us that the plague first began amongst the beasts. Besides, the shortness of their lives proves that they are very subject to diseases; for there is scarce any irrational creature long lived, besides the crow and the chough; and those two every one knows do not confine themselves to simple food, but eat anything. Besides, you take no good rule to judge what is easy and what is hard of digestion from the diet of those that are sick; for labor and exercise, and even to chew our meat well, contribute very much to digestion, neither of which can agree with a man in a fever. Again, that the variety of meats, by reason of the different qualities of the particulars, should disagree and spoil one another, you have no reason to fear. For if Nature takes from dissimilar bodies what is fit and agreeable, the diverse nourishment forces many and sundry qualities into the mass and bulk of the body, applying to every part that which is meet and fit; so that, as Empedocles words it,
The sweet runs to the sweet, the sour combines
With sour, the sharp with sharp, the salt with salt;
and after being mixed it is spread through the mass by the heat, the proper parts are separated and applied to the proper members. Indeed, it is very probable that such bodies as ours, consisting of parts of different natures, should be nourished and built up rather of various than of simple matter. But if by concoction there is an alteration made in the food, this will be more easily performed when there are different sorts of meat, than when there is only one, in the stomach; for similars cannot work upon similars and the very contrariety in the mixture considerably promotes the alteration of the weakened qualities. But if, Philinus, you are against all mixture, do not chide Philo only for the variety of his dishes and sauces, but also for using mixture in his sovereign antidotes, which Erasistratus calls the gods’ hands. Convince him of absurdity and vanity, when he mixes herbs, metals, and animals, and things from sea and land, in one potion; and recommend him to neglect these, and to confine all physic to barley-broth, gourds, and oil mixed with water. But you urge farther, that variety enticeth the appetite that hath no command over itself. That is, good sir, cleanly, wholesome, sweet, palatable, pleasing diet makes us eat and drink more than ordinary. Why then, instead of fine flour, do not we thicken our broth with coarse bran? And instead of asparagus, why do we not dress nettle-tops and thistles; and leaving this fragrant and pleasant wine, drink sour, harsh liquor that gnats have been buzzing about a long while? Because, perhaps you may reply, wholesome feeding doth not consist in a perfect avoiding of all that is pleasing, but in moderating the appetite in that respect, and making it prefer profit before pleasure. But, sir, as a mariner has a thousand ways to avoid a stiff gale of wind, but when it is clear down and a perfect calm, cannot raise it again; thus to correct and restrain our extravagant appetite is no hard matter, but when it grows weak and faint, when it fails as to its proper objects, then to raise it and make it vigorous and active again is, sir, a very difficult and hard task. And therefore variety of viands is as much better than simple food, which is apt to satisfy by being but of one sort, as it is easier to stop Nature when she makes too much speed than to force her on when languishing and faint. Besides, what some say, that fullness is more to be avoided than emptiness, is not true; but, on the contrary, fullness then only hurts when it ends in a surfeit or disease; but emptiness, though it doth no other mischief, is of itself unnatural. And let this suffice as an answer to what you proposed. But you sparing men have forgot, that variety is sweeter and more desired by the appetite, unless too sweet. For, the sight preparing the way, it is soon assimilated to the eager receiving body; but that which is not desirable Nature either throws off again, or keeps it in for mere want. But pray observe this, that I do not plead for variety in tarts, cakes, or custards; — those are vain, insignificant, and superfluous things; — but even Plato allowed variety to those fine citizens of his, setting before them onions, olives, leeks, cheese, and all sorts of meat and fish, and besides these, allowed them some comfits.
At a supper in Elis, Agemachus set before us very large mushrooms. And when all admired at them, one with a smile said, These are worthy the late thunder, as it were deriding those who imagine mushrooms are produced by thunder. Some said that thunder did split the earth, using the air as a wedge for that purpose, and that by those chinks those that sought after mushrooms were directed where to find them; and thence it grew a common opinion, that thunder engenders mushrooms, and not only makes them a passage to appear; as if one should imagine that a shower of rain breeds snails, and not rather makes them creep forth and be seen abroad. Agemachus stood up stiffly for the received opinion, and told us, we should not disbelieve it only because it was strange, for there are a thousand other effects of thunder and lightning and a thousand omens deduced from them, whose causes it is very hard, if not impossible, to discover; for this laughed-at, this proverbial mushroom doth not escape the thunder because it is so little, but because it hath some antipathetical qualities that preserve it from blasting; as likewise a fig-tree, the skin of a sea-calf (as they say), and that of the hyena, with which sailors cover the ends of their sails. And husbandmen call thunder-showers nourishing, and think them to be so. Indeed, it is absurd to wonder at these things, when we see the most incredible things imaginable in thunder, as flame rising out of moist vapors, and from soft clouds such astonishing noises. Thus, he continued, I prattle, exhorting you to inquire after the cause; and I shall accept this as your club for these mushrooms.
Then I began: Agemachus himself helps us exceedingly towards this discovery; for nothing at the present seems more probable than that, together with the thunder, oftentimes generative waters fall, which take that quality from the heat mixed with them. For the piercing pure parts of the fire break away in lightning; but the grosser windy part, being wrapped up in cloud, changes it, taking away the coldness and heating the moisture, altering and being altered with it, affects it so that it is made fit to enter the pores of plants, and is easily assimilated to them. Besides, such rain gives those things which it waters a peculiar temperature and difference of juice. Thus dew makes the grass sweeter to the sheep, and the clouds from which a rainbow is reflected make those trees on which they fall fragrant. And our priests, distinguishing it by this, call the wood of those trees Iris-struck, fancying that Iris, or the rainbow, hath rested on them. Now it is probable that when these thunder and lightning showers with a great deal of warmth and spirit descend forcibly into the caverns of the earth, these are rolled around, and knobs and tumors are formed like those produced by heat and noxious humors in our bodies, which we call wens or kernels. For a mushroom is not like a plant, neither is it produced without rain; it hath no root nor sprouts, it depends on nothing, but is a being by itself, having its substance of the earth, a little changed and altered. If this discourse seems frivolous, I assure you that such are most of the effects of thunder and lightning which we see; and upon that account men think them to be immediately directed by Heaven, and not depending on natural causes.
Dorotheus the rhetorician, one of our company, said: You speak right, sir, for not only the vulgar and illiterate, but even some of the philosophers, have been of that opinion. I remember here in this town lightning broke into a house and did a great many strange things. It let the wine out of a vessel, though the earthen vessel remained whole; and falling upon a man asleep, it neither hurt him nor blasted his clothes, but melted certain pieces of silver that he had in his pocket, defaced them quite, and made them run into a lump. Upon this he went to a philosopher, a Pythagorean, that sojourned in the town, and asked the reason; the philosopher directed him to some expiating rites, and advised him to consider seriously with himself and go to prayers. And I have been told, upon a sentinel at Rome, as he stood to guard the temple, burned the latchet of his shoe, and did no other harm; and several silver candlesticks lying in wooden boxes, the silver was melted while the boxes lay untouched. These stories you may believe or not as you please. But that which is most wonderful, and which everybody knows, is this — the bodies of those that are killed by thunderbolt never putrefy. For many neither burn nor bury such bodies, but let them lie above ground with a fence about them, so that every one may see the they remain uncorrupted, confuted by this Euripides’s Clymene, who says thus of Phaeton,
My best beloved, but now he lies
And putrefies in some dark vale.
And I believe brimstone is called [Greek omitted] (DIVINE), because its smell is like that fiery offensive scent which rises from bodies that are thunderstruck. And I suppose that, because of this scent, dogs and birds will not prey on such carcasses. Thus far have I gone; let him proceed, since he hath been applauded for his discourse of mushrooms, lest the same jest might be put upon us that was upon Androcydes the painter. For when in his landscape of Scylla he painted fish the best and most to the life of anything in the whole draught, he was said to use his appetite more than his art, for he naturally loved fish. So some may say that we philosophize about mushrooms, the cause of whose production is confessedly doubtful, for the pleasure we take in eating them. . . .
And when I put in my suggestion, saying that it was as seasonable to dispute about thunder and lightning amidst our banquets as it would be in a comedy to bring in machines to throw out lightning, the company agreed to omit all other questions relating to the subject, and desired me only to proceed on this head, Why men asleep are never struck with lightning. And I, though I knew I should get no great credit by proposing a cause whose reason was common to other things, said thus: Lightning is wonderfully piercing and subtile, partly because it rises from a very pure substance, and partly because by the swiftness of its motion it purges itself and throws off all gross earthy particles that are mixed with it. Nothing, says Democritus, is blasted with lightning, that cannot resist and stop the motion of the pure flame. Thus the close bodies, as brass, silver, and the like, which stop it, feel its force and are melted, because they resist; whilst rare, thin bodies, and such as are full of pores, are passed through and are not hurted, as clothes or dry wood. It blasts green wood or grass, the moisture within them being seized and kindled by the flame. Now if it is true that men asleep are never killed by lightning, from what we have proposed, and not from anything else, we must endeavor to draw the cause. Now the bodies of those that are awake are stiffer and more apt to resist, all the parts being full of spirits; which as it were in a harp, distending and screwing up the organs of sense, makes the body of the animal firm, close, and compacted. But when men are asleep, the organs are let down, and the body becomes rare, lax, and loose; and the spirits failing, it hath abundance of pores, through which small sounds and smells do flow insensibly. For in that case, there is nothing that can resist and by this resistance receive any sensible impression from any objects that are presented, much less from such as are so subtile and move so swiftly as lightning. Things that are weak Nature shields from harm, fencing them about with some hard, thick covering; but those things that cannot be resisted do less harm to the bodies that yield than to those that oppose their force. Besides, those that are asleep are not startled at the thunder; they have no consternation upon them, which kills a great many that are no otherwise hurt, and we know that thousands die with the very fear of being killed. Even shepherds teach their sheep to run together when it thunders, for whilst they lie scattered they die with fear; and we see thousands fall, which have no marks of any stroke or fire about them, their souls (as it seems), like birds, flying out of their bodies at the fright. For many, as Euripides says,
A clap hath killed, yet ne’er drew drop of blood.
For certainly the hearing is a sense that is soonest and most vigorously wrought upon, and the fear that is caused by an astonishing noise raiseth the greatest commotion and disturbance in the body; from all which men asleep, because insensible, are secure. But those that are awake are oftentimes killed with fear before they are touched; the fear contracts and condenses the body, so that the stroke must be strong, because there is so considerable a resistance.
At my son Autobulus’s marriage, Sossius Senecio from Chaeronea and a great many other noble persons were present at the same feast; which gave occasion to this question (Senecio proposed it), why to a marriage feast more guests are usually invited than to any other. Nay even those law-givers that chiefly opposed luxury and profuseness have particularly confined marriage feasts to a set number. Indeed, in my opinion, he continued, Hecataeus the Abderite, one of the old philosophers, hath said nothing to the purpose in this matter, when he tells us that those that marry wives invite a great many to the entertainment, that many may see and be witnesses that they being born free take to themselves wives of the same condition. For, on the contrary, the comedians reflect on those who revel at their marriages, who make a great ado and are pompous in their feasts, as such who are taking wives with not much confidence and courage. Thus, in Menander, one replies to a bridegroom that bade him beset the house with dishes, . . .
Your words are great, but what’s this to your bride?
But lest I should seem to find fault with those reasons others give, only because I have none of my own to produce, continued he, I will begin by declaring that there is no such evident or public notice given of any feast as there is of one at a marriage. For when we sacrifice to the gods, when we take leave of or receive a friend, a great many of our acquaintance need not know it. But a marriage dinner is proclaimed by the loud sound of the wedding song, by the torches and the music, which as Homer expresseth it,
The women stand before the doors to see and hear.
(Iliad, xviii. 495.)
And therefore when everybody knows it, the persons are ashamed to omit the formality of an invitation, and therefore entertain their friends and kindred, and every one that they are anyway acquainted with.
This being generally approved, Well, said Theo, speaking next, let it be so, for it looks like truth; but let this be added, if you please, that such entertainments are not only friendly, but also kindredly, the persons beginning to have a new relation to another family. But there is something more considerable, and that is this; since by this marriage two families join in one, the man thinks it his duty to be civil and obliging to the woman’s friends, and the woman’s friends think themselves obliged to return the same to him and his; and upon this account the company is doubled. And besides, since most of the little ceremonies belonging to the wedding are performed by women, it is necessary that, where they are entertained, their husbands should be likewise present.
Aedepsus in Euboea, where the baths are, is a place by nature every way fitted for free and gentle pleasures, and withal so beautified with stately edifices and dining rooms, that one would take it for no other than the common place of repast for all Greece. Here, though the earth and air yield plenty of creatures for the service of men, the sea no less furnisheth the table with variety of dishes, nourishing a store of delicious fish in its deep and clear waters. This place is especially frequented in the spring; for hither at this time of year abundance of people resort, solacing themselves in the mutual enjoyment of all those pleasures the place affords, and at spare hours pass away the time in many useful and edifying discourses. When Callistratus the Sophist lived here, it was a hard matter to dine at any place besides his house; for he was so extremely courteous and obliging, that no man whom he invited to dinner could have the face to say him nay. One of his best humors was to pick up all the pleasant fellows he could meet with, and put them in the same room. Sometimes he did, as Cimon one of the ancients used to do, and satisfactorily treated men of all sorts and fashions. But he always (so to speak) followed Celeus, who was the first man, it is said, that assembled daily a number of honorable persons of distinction, and called the place where they met the Prytaneum.
Several times at these public meetings divers agreeable discourses were raised; and it fell out that once a very splendid treat, adorned with all variety of dainties, gave occasion for inquiries concerning food, whether the land or sea yielded better. Here when a great part of the company were highly commanding the land, as abounding with many choice, nay, an infinite variety of all sorts of creatures, Polycrates calling to Symmachus, said to him: But you, sir, being an animal bred between two seas, and brought up among so many which surround your sacred Nicopolis, will not you stand up for Neptune? Yes, I will, replied Symmachus, and therefore command you to stand by me, who enjoy the most pleasant part of all the Achaean Sea. Well, says Polycrates, the beginning of my discourse shall be grounded upon custom; for as of a great number of poets we usually give one, who far excels the rest, the famous name of poet; so though there be many sorts of dainties, yet custom has so prevailed that the fish alone, or above all the rest, is called [Greek omitted], because it is more excellent than all others. For we do not call those gluttonous and great eaters who love beef as Hercules, who after flesh used to eat green figs; nor those that love figs, as Plato; nor lastly, those that are for grapes, as Arcesilaus; but those who frequent the fish-market, and soonest hear the market-bell. Thus when Demosthenes had told Philocrates that the gold he got by treachery was spent upon whores and fish, he upbraids him as a gluttonous and lascivious fellow. And Ctesiphon said pat enough, when a certain glutton cried aloud in company that he should burst asunder: No, by no means let us be baits for your fish! And what did he mean, do you think, who made this verse,
You capers gnaw, when you may sturgeon eat?
And what, for God’s sake, do those men mean who, inviting one another to sumptuous collations, usually say: To-day we will dine upon the shore? Is it not that they suppose, what is certainly true, that a dinner upon the shore is of all others most delicious? Not by reason of the waves and stones in that place — for who upon the sea-coast would be content to feed upon a pulse or a caper? — but because their table is furnished with plenty of fresh fish. Add to this, that sea-food is dearer than any other. Wherefore Cato inveighing against the luxury of the city, did not exceed the bounds of truth, when he said that at Rome a fish was sold for more than an ox. For they sell a small pot of fish for as much as a hecatomb of sheep and all the accessories of sacrifice. Besides, as the physician is the best judge of physic, and the musician of songs; so he is able to give the best account of the goodness of meat who is the greatest lover of it. For I will not make Pythagoras and Xenocrates arbitrators in this case; but Antagoras the poet, and Philoxenus the son of Eryxis, and Androcydes the painter, of whom it was reported that, when he drew a landscape of Scylla, he drew fish in a lively manner swimming round her, because he was a great lover of them. So Antigonus the king, surprising Antagoras the poet in the habit of a cook, broiling congers in his tent, said to him: Dost thou think that Homer was dressing congers when he writ Agamemnon’s famous exploits? And he as smartly replied: Do you think that Agamemnon did so many famous exploits when he was inquiring who dressed congers in the camp? These arguments, says Polycrates, I have urged in behalf of fishmongers, drawing them from testimony and custom.
But, says Symmachus, I will go more seriously to work, and more like a logician. For if that may truly be said to be a relish which gives meat the best relish, it will evidently follow, that that is the best sort of relish which gets men the best stomach to their meat. Therefore, as those philosophers who were called Elpistics (from the Greek word signifying hope, which above all others they cried up) averred that there was nothing in the world which concurred more to the preservation of life than hope, without whose gracious influence life would be a burden and altogether intolerable; in the like manner that of all other things may be said to get us a stomach to our meat without which all meat would be unpalatable and nauseous. And among all those things the earth yields, we find no such things as salt, which we can only have from the sea. First of all, without salt, there would be nothing eatable which mixed with flour seasons bread also. Neptune and Ceres had both the same temple. Besides, salt is the most pleasant of all condiments. For those heroes who like athletes used themselves to a spare diet, banishing from their tables all vain and superfluous delicacies, to such a degree that when they encamped by the Hellespont they abstained from fish, yet for all this could not eat flesh without salt; which is a sufficient evidence that salt is the most desirable of all relishes. For as colors need light, so tastes require salt, that they may affect the sense, unless you would have them very nauseous and unpleasant. For, as Heraclitus used to say, a carcass is more abominable than dung. Now all flesh is dead and part of a lifeless carcass; but the virtue of salt, being added to it, like a soul, gives it a pleasing relish and a poignancy. Hence it comes to pass that before meat men use to take sharp things, and such as have much salt in them; for these beguile us into an appetite. And whoever has his stomach sharpened with these sets cheerfully and freshly upon all other sorts of meat. But if he begin with any other kind of food, all on a sudden his stomach grows dull and languid. And therefore salt doth not only make meat but drink palatable. For Homer’s onion, which, he tells us, they were used to eat before they drank, was fitter for seamen and boatmen than kings. Things moderately salt, by being pleasing to the mouth, make all sorts of wine mild and palateable, and water itself of a pleasing taste. Besides, salt creates none of those troubles which an onion does, but digests all other kinds of meat, making them tender and fitter for concoction; so that at the same time it is sauce to the palate and physic to the body. But all other seafood, besides this pleasantness, is also very innocent for though it be fleshly, yet it does not load the stomach as all other flesh does, but is easily concocted and digested. This Zeno will avouch for me, and Crato too, who confine sick persons to a fish diet, as of all others the lightest sort of meat. And it stands with reason, that the sea should produce the most nourishing and wholesome food, seeing it yields us the most refined, the purest and therefore the most agreeable air.
You say right, says Lamprias, but let us think of something else to confirm what you have spoken. I remember my old grandfather was used to say in derision of the Jews, that they abstained from most lawful flesh; but we will say that that is the most lawful meat which comes from the sea. For we can claim no great right over land creatures, which are nourished with the same food, draw the same air, wash in and drink the same water, that we do ourselves; and when they are slaughtered, they make us ashamed of what we are doing, with their hideous cries; and then again, by living amongst us, they arrive at some degree of familiarity and intimacy with us. But sea creatures are altogether strangers to us, and are born and brought up as it were in another world; neither does their voice, look, or any service they have done us plead for their life. For this kind of creatures are of no use at all to us, nor is there any necessity that we should love them. But that place which we inhabit is hell to them, and as soon as ever they enter upon it they die.
After these things were spoken, and some in the company were minded to say something in defence of the contrary opinion, Callistratus interrupted their discourse and said: Sirs, what do you think of that which was spoken against the Jews, that they abstain from the most lawful flesh? Very well said, quoth Polycrates, for that is a thing I very much question, whether it was that the Jews abstained from swine’s flesh because they conferred divine honor upon that creature, or because they had a natural aversion to it. For whatever we find in their own writings seems to be altogether fabulous, except they have some more solid reasons which they have no mind to discover.
Hence it is, says Callistratus, that I am of an opinion that this nation has that creature in some veneration; and though it be granted that the hog is an ugly and filthy creature, yet it is not quite so vile nor naturally stupid as a beetle, griffin, crocodile, or cat, most of which are worshipped as the most sacred things by some priests amongst the Egyptians. But the reason why the hog is had in so much honor and veneration amongst them is, because as the report goes, that creature breaking up the earth with its snout showed the way to tillage, and taught them how to use the ploughshare, which instrument for that very reason, as some say, was called HYNIS from [Greek omitted], A SWINE. Now the Egyptians inhabiting a country situated low and whose soil is naturally soft, have no need of the plough; but after the river Nile hath retired from the grounds it overflowed, they presently let in all their hogs into the fields, and they with their feet and snout break up the ground, and cover the sown seed. Nor ought this to seem strange to anyone, that there are in the world those that abstain from swine’s flesh on such an account as this; when it is evident that in barbarous nations there are other animals had in greater honor and veneration for lesser reasons, if not altogether ridiculous. For the field-mouse only for its blindness was worshipped as a god among the Egyptians, because they were of an opinion that darkness was before light and that the latter had its birth from mice about the fifth generation at the new moon; and moreover that the liver of this creature diminishes in the wane of the moon. But they consecrate the lion to the sun, because the lioness alone, of all clawed four-footed beasts, brings forth her young with their eyesight; for they sleep in a moment, and when they are asleep their eyes sparkle. Besides, they place gaping lions’ heads for the spouts of their fountains, because Nilus overflows the Egyptian fields when the sign is Leo: they give it out that their bird ibis, as soon as hatched, weighs two drachms, which are of the same weight with the heart of a newborn infant; and that its legs being spread with the bill an exact equilateral triangle. And yet who can find fault with the Egyptians for these trifles, when it is left upon record that the Pythagoreans worshipped a white cock, and of sea creatures abstained especially from mullet and urtic. The Magi that descended from Zoroaster adored the land hedgehog above other creatures but had a deadly spite against water-rats, and thought that man was dear in the eyes of the gods who destroyed most of them. But I should think that if the Jews had such an antipathy against a hog, they would kill it as the magicians do mice; when, on the contrary, they are by their religion as much prohibited to kill as to eat it. And perhaps there may be some reason given for this; for as the ass is worshipped by them as the first discoverer of fountains, so perhaps the hog may be had in like veneration, which first taught them to sow and plough. Nay, some say that the Jews also abstain from hares, as abominable and unclean creatures.
They have reason for that, said Lamprias, because a hare is so like an ass which they detest; for in its color, ears, and the sparkling of its eyes, it is so like an ass, that I do not know any little creature that represents a great one so much as a hare doth an ass; except in this likewise imitating the Egyptians, they suppose that there is something of divinity in the swiftness of this creature, as also in its quickness of sense; for the eyes of hares are so unwearied that they sleep with them open. Besides, they seem to excel all other creatures in quickness of hearing; whence it was that the Egyptians painted a hare’s ear amongst their other hieroglyphics, as an emblem of hearing. But the Jews do hate swine’s flesh, because all the barbarians are naturally fearful of a scab and leprosy, which they presume comes by eating such kind of flesh. For we may observe that all pigs under the belly are overspread with a leprosy and scab; which may be supposed to proceed from an ill disposition of body and corruption within, which breaks out through the skin. Besides, swine’s feeding is commonly so nasty and filthy, that it must of necessity cause corruptions and vicious humors; for, setting aside those creatures that are bred from and live upon dung, there is no other creature that takes so much delight to wallow in the mire and in other unclean and stinking places. Hogs’ eyes are said to be so flattened and fixed upon the ground, that they see nothing above them, nor ever look up to the sky, except when turned upon their back they turn their eyes upwards contrary to nature. Therefore this creature, at other times most clamorous’ when laid upon his back, is still, as astonished at the unusual sight of the heavens; while the greatness of the fear he is in (as it is supposed) is the cause of his silence. And if it be lawful to intermix our discourse with fables, it is said that Adonis was slain by a boar. Now Adonis is supposed to be the same with Bacchus; and there are a great many rites in both their sacrifices which confirm this opinion. Others will have Adonis to be Bacchus’s paramour; and Phanocles an amorous love-poet writes thus,
Bacchus on hills the fair Adonis saw,
And ravished him, and reaped a wondrous joy.
Here Symmachus, greatly wondering at what was spoken, says: What, Lamprias, will you permit our tutelar god, called Evius, the inciter of women, famous for the honors he has conferred upon him by madmen, to be inscribed and enrolled in the mysteries of the Jews? Or is there any solid reason that can be given to prove Adonis to be the same with Bacchus? Here Moeragenes interposing, said: Do not be so fierce upon him, for I who am an Athenian answer you, and tell you, in short, that these two are the very same. And no man is able or fit to bring the chief confirmation of this truth, but those amongst us who are initiated and skilled in the triennial [Greek omitted] or chief mysteries of the god. But what no religion forbids to speak of among friends, especially over wine, the gift of Bacchus, I am ready at the command of these gentlemen to disclose.
When all the company requested and earnestly begged it of him; first of all (says he), the time and manner of the greatest and most holy solemnity of the Jews is exactly agreeable to the holy rites of Bacchus; for that which they call the Fast they celebrate in the midst of the vintage, furnishing their tables with all sorts of fruits while they sit under tabernacles made of vines and ivy; and the day which immediately goes before this they call the day of Tabernacles. Within a few days after they celebrate another feast, not darkly but openly, dedicated to Bacchus, for they have a feast amongst them called Kradephoria, from carrying palm-trees, and Thyrsophoria, when they enter into the temple carrying thyrsi. What they do within I know not; but it is very probable that they perform the rites of Bacchus. First they have little trumpets, such as the Grecians used to have at their Bacchanalia to call upon their gods withal. Others go before them playing upon harps, which they call Levites, whether so named from Lusius or Evius — either word agrees with Bacchus. And I suppose that their Sabbaths have some relation to Bacchus; for even now many call the Bacchi by the name of Sabbi, and they make use of that word at the celebration of Bacchus’s orgies. And this may be discovered out of Demosthenes and Menander. Nor would it be out of place, were any one to say that the name Sabbath was given to this feast from the agitation and excitement [Greek omitted] which the priests of Bacchus display. The Jews themselves witness no less; for when they keep the Sabbath, they invite one another to drink till they are drunk; or if they chance to be hindered by some more weighty business, it is the fashion at least to taste the wine. Some perhaps may surmise that these are mere conjectures. But there are other arguments which will clearly evince the truth of what I assert. The first may be drawn from their High-priest, who on holidays enters their temple with his mitre on, arrayed in a skin of a hind embroidered with gold, wearing buskins, and a coat hanging down to his ankles; besides, he has a great many little bells depending from his garment which make a noise as he walks. So in the nocturnal ceremonies of Bacchus (as the fashion is amongst us), they make use of music, and call the god’s nurses [Greek omitted]. High up on the wall of their temple is a representation of the thyrsus and timbrels, which surely suits no other god than Bacchus. Moreover, they are forbidden the use of honey in their sacrifices, because they suppose that a mixture of honey corrupts and deads the wine. And honey was used for a libation in former days and with it the ancients were wont to make themselves drunk, before the vine was known. And at this day barbarous people who want wine drink metheglin, allaying the sweetness of the honey by bitter roots, much of the taste of our wine. The Greeks offered to their gods these temperate offerings or honey-offerings, as they called them, because that honey was of a nature quite contrary to wine. But this is no inconsiderable argument that Bacchus was worshipped by the Jews, in that, amongst other kinds of punishment, that was most remarkably odious by which malefactors were forbid the use of wine for so long a time as the judge thought fit to prescribe. Those thus punished. . . .
(The remainder of the Fourth Book is wanting.)
What is your opinion at present, Sossius Senecio, of the pleasures of mind and body, is not evident to me;
Because us two a thousand things divide,
Vast shady hills, and the rough ocean’s tide.
(“Iliad” i. 156)
But formerly, I am sure, you did not lean to nor like their opinion, who will not allow the soul to have any proper agreeable pleasure, which without respect to the body she desires for herself; but define that she lives as a form assistant to the body, is directed by the passions of it, and, as that is affected, is either pleased or grieved, or, like a looking-glass, only receives the images of those sensible impressions made upon the body. This sordid and debasing opinion is especially confuted as follows; for at a feast, the genteel well-bred men after supper fall upon some topic or another as second course, and cheer one another by their pleasant talk. Now the body hath very little or no share in this; which evidently proves that this is a particular banquet for the soul, and that those pleasures are peculiar to her, and different from those which pass to her through the body and are vitiated thereby. Now, as nurses, when they feed children, taste a little of their pap, and have but little pleasure therefrom, but when the infants are satisfied, leave crying, and go to sleep, then being at their own disposal, they take such meat and drink as is agreeable to their own bodies; thus the soul partakes of the pleasures that arise from eating and drinking, like a nurse, being subservient to the appetites of the body, kindly yielding to its necessities and wants, and calming its desires; but when that is satisfied and at rest, then being free from her business and servile employment, she seeks her own proper pleasures, revels on discourse, problems, stories, curious questions, or subtle resolutions. Nay, what shall a man say, when he sees the dull unlearned fellows after supper minding such pleasures as have not the least relation to the body? They tell tales, propose riddles, or set one another a-guessing at names, comprised and hid under such and such numbers. Thus mimics, drolls, Menander and his actors were admitted into banquets, not because they can free the eye from any pain, or raise any tickling motion in the flesh; but because the soul, being naturally philosophical and a lover of instruction, covets its own proper pleasure and satisfaction, when it is free from the trouble of looking after the body.
Of this we discoursed in your company at Athens, when Strato the comedian (for he was a man of great credit) flourished. For being entertained at supper by Boethus the Epicurean, with a great many more of the sect, as it usually happens when learned and inquisitive men meet together, the remembrance of the comedy led us to this inquiry — Why we are disturbed at the real voices of men, either angry, pensive, or afraid, and yet are delighted to hear others represent them, and imitate their gestures, speeches, and exclamations. Every one in the company gave almost the same reason. For they said, he that only represents excels him that really feels, inasmuch as he doth not suffer the misfortunes; which we knowing are pleased and delighted on that account.
But I, though it was not properly my talent, said that we, being by nature rational and lovers of ingenuity, are delighted with and admire everything that is artificially and ingeniously contrived. For as a bee, naturally loving sweet things, seeks after and flies to anything that has any mixture of honey in it; so man, naturally loving ingenuity and elegancy, is very much inclined to accept and highly approve every word or action that is seasoned with wit and judgement. Thus, if any one offers a child a piece of bread, and at the same time, a little dog or ox made in paste, we shall see the boy run eagerly to the latter; so likewise if anyone, offers silver in the lump, and another a beast or a cup of the same metal, he will rather choose that in which he sees a mixture of art and reason. Upon the same account it is that a child is much in love with riddles, and such fooleries as are difficult and intricate; for whatever is curious and subtle doth attract and allure mankind, as antecedently to all instruction agreeable and proper to it. And therefore, because he that is really affected with grief or anger presents us with nothing but the common bare passion, but in the imitation some dexterity and persuasiveness appears, we are naturally inclined to be disturbed at the former, whilst the latter delights us. It is unpleasant to see a sick man, or one at his last gasp; yet with content we can look upon the picture of Philoctetes, or the statue of Jocasta, in whose face it is commonly said that the workmen mixed silver, so that the brass might depict the face and color of one ready to faint and expire. And this, said I, the Cyrenaics may use as a strong argument against you Epicureans, that all the sense of pleasure which arises from the working of any object on the ear or eye is not in those organs, but in the intellect itself. Thus the continual cackling of a hen or cawing of a crow is very ungrateful and disturbing; yet he that imitates those noises well pleases the hearers. Thus to behold a consumptive man is no delightful spectacle; yet with pleasure we can view the pictures and statues of such persons, because the very imitating hath something in it very agreeable to the mind, which allures and captivates its faculties. For upon what other account, for God’s sake, from what external impression upon our organs, should men be moved to admire Parmeno’s sow so much as to pass it into a proverb? Yet it is reported, that Parmeno being very famous for imitating the grunting of a pig, some endeavoured to rival and outdo him. And when the hearers, being prejudiced, cried out, Very well indeed, but nothing comparable to Parmeno’s sow; one took a pig under his arm and came upon the stage. And when, though they heard the very pig, they still continued, This is nothing comparable to Parmeno’s sow; he threw his pig amongst them, to show that they judged according to opinion and not truth. And hence it is very evident, that like motions of the sense do not always raise like affections in the mind, when there is not an opinion that the thing done was not neatly and ingeniously performed.
At the solemnity of the Pythian names, there was a consult about taking away all such sports as had lately crept in and were not of ancient institution. For after they had taken in the tragedy in addition to the three ancient, which were as old as the solemnity itself, the Pythian piper, the harper, and the singer to the harp, as if a large gate were opened, they could not keep out an infinite crowd of plays and musical entertainments of all sorts that rushed in after him. Which indeed made no unpleasant variety, and increased the company, but yet impaired the gravity and neatness of the solemnity. Besides it must create a great deal of trouble to the umpires, and considerable dissatisfaction to very many, since but few could obtain the prize. It was chiefly agreed upon, that the orators and poets should be removed; and this determination did not proceed from any hatred to learning, but forasmuch as such contenders are the most noted and worthiest men of all, therefore they reverence them, and were troubled that, when they must judge every one very deserving, they could not bestow the prize equally upon all. I, being present at this consult, dissuaded those who were for removing things from their present settled order, and who thought this variety as unsuitable to the solemnity as many strings and many notes to an instrument. And when at supper, Petraeus the president and director of the sports entertaining us, the same subject was discoursed on, I defended music, and maintained that poetry was no upstart intruder, but that it was time out of mind admitted into the sacred games, and crowns were given to the best performer. Some straight imagined that I intended to produce some old musty stories, like the funeral solemnities of Oeolycus the Thessalian or of Amphidamas the Chalcidean, in which they say Homer and Hesiod contended for the prize. But passing by these instances as the common theme of every grammarian, as likewise their criticisms who, in the description of Patroclus’s obsequies in Homer, read [Greek omitted] ORATORS, and not [Greek omitted], DARTERS, (“Iliad,” xxiii, 886.) as if Achilles had proposed a prize for the best speaker — omitting all these, I said that Acastus at his father Pelias’s funeral set a prize for contending poets, and Sibylla won it. At this, a great many demanding some authority for this unlikely and incredible relation, I happily recollecting myself produced Acesander, who in his description of Africa hath this relation; but I must confess this is no common book. But Polemo the Athenian’s “Commentary of the Treasures of the City Delphi” I suppose most of you have diligently perused, he being a very learned man in the Greek Antiquities. In him you shall find that in the Sicyonian treasure there was a golden book dedicated to the god, with this inscription: Aristomache, the poetess of Erythraea, dedicated this after she had got the prize at the Isthmian games. Nor is there any reason, I continued, why we should so admire and reverence the Olympic games, as if, like Fate, they were unalterable, and never admitted any change since the first institution. For the Pythian, it is true, hath had three or four musical prizes added; but all the exercises of the body were for the most part the same from the beginning. But in the 0lympian all beside racing are late additions. They instituted some, and abolished them again; such were the races of mules, either rode or in a chariot as likewise the crown appointed for boys that were victor’s in the five contests. And, in short, a thousand things in those games are mere novelties. At Pisa they had a single combat, where he that yielded or was overcome was killed upon the place. But pray for the future require no author for my story, lest I may appear ridiculous if amidst my cups I should forget the name.
This question was started, why the Isthmian garland was made of pine. We were then at supper in Corinth, in the time of the Isthmian games, with Lucanius the chief priest. Praxiteles the commentator brought this fable for a reason; it is said that the body of Melicertes was found fixed to a pine-tree by the sea; and not far from Megara, there is a place called the Race of a Fair Lady, through which the Megarians say that Ino, with her son Melicertes in her arms, ran to the sea. And when many put forth the common opinion, that the pine-tree garland peculiarly belongs to Neptune, Lucanius added that it is sacred to Bacchus too, but yet, for all that, it might also be appropriated to the honor of Melicertes; this started the question, why the ancients dedicated the pine to Neptune and Bacchus. As for my part, it did not seem incongruous to me, for both the gods seem to preside over the moist and generative principle; and almost all the Greeks sacrifice to Neptune the nourisher of plants, and to Bacchus the preserver of trees. Besides, it may be said that the pine peculiarly agrees to Neptune, not, as Apollodorus thinks, because it grows by the seaside, or because it loves a bleak place (for some give this reason), but because it is used in building ships; for it together with the like trees, as fir and cypress, affords the best and the lightest timber, and likewise pitch and rosin, without which the compacted planks would be altogether unserviceable at sea. To Bacchus they dedicate the pine, because it seasons wine, for among the pines they say the sweetest and most delicious grapes grow. The cause of this Theophrastus thinks to be the heat of the soil; for pines grow most in chalky grounds. Now chalk is hot, and therefore must very much conduce to the concoction of the wine; as a chalky spring affords the lightest and sweetest water; and if chalk is mixed with corn, by its heat it makes the grains swell, and considerably increases the heap. Besides, it is probable that the vine itself is bettered by the pine, for that contains several things which are good to preserve wine. All cover the insides of wine casks with rosin, and many mix rosin with wine, as the Euboeans in Greece, and in Italy those that live about the river Po. From the parts of Gaul about Vienna there is a sort of pitched wine brought, which the Romans value very much; for such things mixed with it do not only give it a good flavor, but make the wine generous, taking away by their gentle heat all the crude, watery, and undigested particles. When I had said thus much, a rhetorician in the company, a man well read in all sorts of polite learning, cried out: Good Gods! was it not but the other day that the Isthmian garland began to be made of pine? And was not the crown anciently of twined parsley? I am sure in a certain comedy a covetous man is brought in speaking thus:—
The Isthmian garland I will sell as cheap
As common wreaths of parsley may be sold.
And Timaeus the historian says that, when the Corinthians were marching to fight the Carthaginians in the defence of Sicily, some persons carrying parsley met them, and when several looked upon this as a bad omen — because parsley is accounted unlucky, and those that are dangerously sick we usually say have need of parsley — Timoleon encouraged them by putting them in mind of the Isthmian parsley garland with which the Corinthians used to crown the conquerors. And besides, the admiral-ship of Antigonus’s navy, having by chance some parsley growing on its poop, was called Isthmia. Besides, a certain obscure epigram upon an earthen vessel stopped with parsley intimates the same thing. It runs thus:—
The Grecian earth, now hardened by the flame,
Holds in its hollow belly Bacchus blood;
And hath its mouth with Isthmian branches stopped.
Sure, he continued, they never read these authors, who cry up the pine as anciently wreathed in the Isthmian garlands, and would not have it some upstart intruder. The young men yielded presently to him, as being a man of various reading and very learned.
But Lucanius, with a smile looking upon me, cried out: Good God! here’s a deal of learning. But others have taken advantage of our ignorance and unacquaintedness with such matters, and, on the contrary, persuaded us that the pine was the first garland, and that afterwards in honor of Hercules the parsley was received from the Nemean games, which in a little time prevailing, thrust out the pine, as if it were its right to be the wreath; but a little while after the pine recovered its ancient honor, and now flourishes in its glory. I was satisfied, and upon consideration found that I had run across a great many authorities for it. Thus Euphorion writes of Melicertes,
They mourned the youth, and him on pine boughs laid
Of which the Isthmian victors’ crowns are made.
Fate had not yet seized beauteous Mene’s son
By smooth Asopus; since whose fall the crown
Of parsley wreathed did grace the victor’s brow.
And Callimachus is plainer and more express, when he makes Hercules speak thus of parsley,
This at Isthmian sports
To Neptune’s glory now shall be the crown;
The pine shall be disused, which heretofore
In Corinth’s fields successful victors wore.
And besides, if I am not mistaken, in Procles’s history of the Isthmian games I met with this passage; at first a pine garland crowned the conqueror, but when this game began to be reckoned amongst the sacred, then from the Nemean solemnity the parsley was received. And this Procles was one of Xenocrates’s fellow-students at the Academy.
Some at the table were of opinion that Achilles talked nonsense when he bade Patroclus “mix the wine stronger,” adding this reason,
For now I entertain my dearest friends.
But Niceratus a Macedonian, my particular acquaintance, maintained that [Greek omitted] did not signify pure but hot wine; as if it were derived from [Greek omitted] and [Greek omitted] (LIFE-GIVING and BOILING), and it were requisite at the coming of his friends to temper a fresh bowl, as every one of us in his offering at the altar pours out fresh wine. But Sosicles the poet, remembering a saying of Empedocles, that in the great universal change those things which before were [Greek omitted], UNMIXED, should then be [Greek omitted], affirmed that [Greek omitted] there signified [Greek omitted], WELL-TEMPERED, and that Achilles might with a great deal of reason bid Patroclus provide well-tempered wine for the entertainment of his friends; and it was absurd (he said) to use [Greek omitted] for [Greek omitted] any more than [Greek omitted] for [Greek omitted], or [Greek omitted] for [Greek omitted], for the comparatives are very properly put for the positives. My friend Antipater said that years were anciently called [Greek omitted], and that the particle [Greek omitted] in composition signified greatness; and therefore old wine, that had been kept for many years, was called by Achilles [Greek omitted].
I put them in mind that some imagine that [Greek omitted], hot, is signified by [Greek omitted], and that hotter means really faster, as when we command servants to move themselves more hotly or in hotter haste. But I must confess, your dispute is frivolous, since it is raised upon this supposition that if [Greek omitted], signifies more pure wine, Achilles’s command would be absurd, as Zoilus of Amphipolis imagined. For first he did not consider that Achilles saw Phoenix and Ulysses to be old men, who are not pleased with diluted wine, and upon that account forbade any mixture. Besides, he having been Chiron’s scholar, and from him having learned the rules of diet, he considered that weaker and more diluted liquors were fittest for those bodies that lay at ease, and were not employed in their customary exercise or labor. Thus with the other provender he gave his horses smallage, and this upon very good reason; for horses that lie still grow sore in their feet, and smallage is the best remedy in the world against that. And you will not find smallage or anything of the same nature given to any other horses in the whole “Iliad.” Thus Achilles, being experienced in physic, provided suitable provender for his horses, and used the lightest diet himself, as the fittest whilst he lay at ease. But those that had been wearied all day in fight he did not think convenient to treat like those that had lain at ease, but commanded more pure and stronger wine to be prepared. Besides, Achilles doth not appear to be naturally addicted to drinking, but he was of a haughty, inexorable temper.
No pleasant humor, no, soft mind he bore,
But was all fire and rage.
(“Iliad,” xx. 467.)
And in another place very plainly Homer says, that
Many a sleepless night he knew.
(“Iliad,” ix. 325.)
Now little sleep cannot content those that drink strong liquors; and in his railing at Agamemnon, the first ill name he gives him is drunkard, proposing his great drinking as the chiefest of his faults. And for these reasons it is likely that, when they came, he thought his usual mixture too weak and not convenient for them.
At my return from Alexandria all my friends by turns treated me, inviting all such too as were any way acquainted, so that our meetings were usually tumultuous and suddenly dissolved; which disorders gave occasion to discourses concerning the inconveniences that attend such crowded entertainments. But when Onesicrates the physician in his turn invited only the most familiar acquaintance, and men of the most agreeable temper, I thought that what Plato says concerning the increase of cities might be applied to entertainments. For there is a certain number which an entertainment may receive, and still be an entertainment; but if it exceeds that, so that by reason of the number there cannot be a mutual conversation amongst all, if they cannot know one another nor partake of the same jollity, it ceaseth to be such. For we should not want messengers there, as in a camp, or boatswains, as in a galley; but we ourselves should immediately converse with one another. As in a dance, so in an entertainment, the last man should be placed within hearing of the first.
As I was speaking, my grandfather Lamprias cried out: Then it seems there is need of temperance not only in our feasts, but also in our invitations. For methinks there is even an excess in kindness, when we pass by none of our friends, but draw them all in, as to see a sight or hear a play. And I think, it is not so great a disgrace for the entertainer not to have bread or wine enough for his, guests, as not to have room enough, with which he ought always to be provided, not only for invited guests, strangers and chance visitants. For suppose he hath not wine and bread enough, it may be imputed either to the carelessness or dishonesty of his servants; but the want of room must be imputed to the imprudence of the inviter. Hesiod is very much admired for beginning thus,
A vast chaos first was made.
(Hesiod, “Theogony,” 116.)
For it was necessary that there should be first a place and room provided for the beings that were afterward to be produced; and not as was seen yesterday at my son’s entertainment, according to Anaxagoras’s saying,
All lay jumbled together.
But suppose a man hath room and provision enough, yet a large company itself is to be avoided for its own sake, as hindering all familiarity and conversation; and it is more tolerable to let the company have no wine, than to exclude all converse from a feast. And therefore Theophrastus jocularly called the barbers’ shops feasts without wine; because those that sit there usually prattle and discourse. But those that invite a crowd at once deprive all of free communication of discourse, or rather make them divide into cabals, so that two or three privately talk together, and neither know nor look on those that sit, as it were, half a mile distant.
Some took this way to valiant Ajax’s tent,
And some the other to Achilles’ went.
(“Iliad,” xi. 7.)
And therefore some rich men are foolishly profuse, who build rooms big enough for thirty tables or more at once; for such a preparation certainly is for unsociable and unfriendly entertainments, and such as are fit for a panegyriarch rather than a symposiarch to preside over. But this may be pardoned in those; for wealth would not he wealth, it would be really blind and imprisoned, unless it had witnesses, as tragedies would be devoid of spectators. Let us entertain few and often, and make that a remedy against having a crowd at once. For those that invite but seldom are forced to have all their friends, and all that upon any account they are acquainted with together; but those that invite frequently, and but three or four, render their entertainments like little barks, light and nimble. Besides, the very reason why we ask friends teaches us to select some out of the number. For as when we are in want we do not call all together, but only those that can best afford, help in that particular case — when we would be advised, the wiser part; and when we are to have a trial, the best pleaders; and when we are to go a journey, those that can live pleasantly and are at leisure — thus to our entertainments we should only call those that are at the present agreeable. Agreeable, for instance, to a prince’s entertainment will be the magistrates, if they are his friends, or chiefest of the city; to marriage or birthday feasts, all their kindred, and such as are under the protection of the same Jupiter the guardian of consanguinity; and to such feasts and merry-makings as this those are to be invited whose tempers are most suitable to the occasion. When we offer sacrifice to one god, we do not worship all the others that belong to the same temple and altar at the same time; but suppose we have three bowls, out of the first we pour oblations to some, out of the second to others and out of the third to the rest, and none of the gods take distaste. And in this a company of friends may be likened to the company of gods; none takes distaste at the order of the invitation, if it be prudently managed and every one allowed a turn.
After this it was presently asked, why the room which at the beginning of supper seems too narrow for the guest is afterwards wide enough; when the contrary is most likely, after they are filled with the supper. Some said the posture of our sitting was the cause; for they sit when they eat, with their full breadth to the table, that they may command it with their right hand; but after they have supped, they sit more sideways, and make an acute figure with their bodies, and do not touch the place according to the superficies, if I may so say, but the line. Now as cockal bones do not take up as much room when they fall upon one end as when they fall flat, so every one of us at the beginning sitting broadwise, and with a full face to the table, afterwards changes the figure, and turns his depth, not his breadth, to the board. Some attribute it to the beds whereon we sat, for those when pressed stretch; as strait shoes after a little wearing have their pores widened, and grow fit for — sometimes too big for — the foot. An old man in the company merrily said, that the same feast had two very different presidents and directors; in the beginning, Hunger, that is not in the least skilled in ordering and disposing, but afterward Bacchus, whom all acknowledge to be the best orderer of an army in the world. As therefore Epaminondas, when the unskilful captains had led their forces into narrow disadvantageous straits, relieved the phalanx that was fallen foul on itself and all in disorder, and brought it into good rank and file again; thus we in the beginning, being like greedy hounds confused and disordered by hunger, the god (hence named the looser and the dancesetter) settles us in a friendly and agreeable order.
A discourse happening at supper concerning those that are said to bewitch or have a bewitching eye, most of the company looked upon it as a whim, and laughed at it. But Metrius Florus, who then gave us a supper, said that the strange events wonderfully confirmed the report; and because we cannot give a reason for the thing, therefore to disbelieve the relation was absurd, since there are a thousand things which evidently are, the reasons of which we cannot readily assign. And, in short, he that requires everything should be probable destroys all wonder and admiration; and where the cause is not obvious, there we begin to doubt, that is, to philosophize. So that they who disbelieve all wonderful relations do in some measure take away all philosophy. The cause why anything is so, reason must find out; but that a thing is so, testimony is a sufficient evidence; and we have a thousand instances of this sort attested. We know that some men by looking upon young children hurt them very much, their weak and soft temperature being wrought upon and perverted, whilst those that are strong and firm are not so liable to be wrought upon. And Phylarchus tells us that the Thibians, the old inhabitants about Pontus, were destructive not only to little children, but to some also of riper years; for those upon whom they looked or breathed, or to whom they spake, would languish and grow sick. And this, likely, those of other countries perceived who bought slaves there. But perhaps this is not so much to be wondered at, for in touching and handling there is some apparent principle and cause of the effect. And as when you mix other birds’ wings with the eagles’, the plumes waste and suddenly consume; so there is no reason to the contrary, but that one man’s touch may be good and advantageous, and another’s hurtful and destructive. But that some, by being barely looked upon, are extremely prejudiced is certain; though the stories are disbelieved, because the reason is hard to be given.
True, said I, but methinks there is some small track to the cause of this effect, if you come to the effluvia of bodies. For smell, voice, breath, and the like, are effluvia from animal bodies, and material parts that move the senses, which are wrought upon by their impulse. Now it is very likely that such effluvia must continually part from animals, by reason of their heat and motion; for by that the spirits are agitated, and the body, being struck by those, must continually send forth effluvia. And it is probable that these pass chiefly through the eye. For the sight, being very vigorous and active, together with the spirit upon which it depends, sends forth a strange fiery power; so that by it men act and suffer very much, and are always proportionably pleased or displeased, according as the visible objects are agreeable or not. Love, that greatest and most violent passion of the soul, takes its beginning from the eye; so that a lover, when he looks upon the fair, flows out as it were, and seems to mix with her. And therefore why should any one, that believes men can be affected and prejudiced by the sight, imagine that they cannot act and hurt is well? For the mutual looks of mature beauties, and that which comes from the eye, whether light or a stream of spirits, melt and dissolve the lovers with a pleasing pain, which they call the bittersweet of love. For neither by touching or hearing the voice of their beloved are they so much wounded and wrought upon, as by looking and being looked upon again. There is such a communication, such a flame raised by one glance, that those must be altogether unacquainted with love that wonder at the Median naphtha, that takes fire at a distance from the flame. For the glances of a fair one, though at a great distance, quickly kindle a fire in the lover’s breast. Besides every body knows the remedy for the jaundice; if they look upon the bird called charadrios they are cured. For that animal seems to be of that temperature and nature as to receive and draw away the disease, that like a stream flows out through the eyes; so that the charadrios will not look on one that hath the jaundice; he cannot endure it, but turns away his head and shuts his eyes, not envying (as some imagine) the cure he performs, but being really hurt by the effluvia of the patient. And of all diseases, soreness of the eyes is the most infectious; so strong and vigorous is the sight, and so easily does it cause infirmities in another.
Very right, said Patrocles, and you reason well as to changes wrought upon the body; but as to the soul, which in some measure exercises the power of witchcraft, how can this cause any disturbance by the eye? Sir, I replied, do not you consider that the soul, when affected, works upon the body? Ideas of love excite lust, and rage often blinds dogs as they fight with wild beasts. Sorrow, covetousness, or jealousy makes us change color, and destroys the habit of the body; and envy more than any passion, when fixed in the soul, fills the body full of ill humors, and makes it pale and ugly; which deformities good painters in their pictures of envy endeavor to represent. Now, when men thus perverted by envy fix their eyes upon another, and these, being nearest to the soul, easily draw the venom from it, and send out as it were poisoned darts, it is no wonder, in my mind, if he that is looked upon is hurt. Thus the biting of a dog when mad is most dangerous; and then the seed of a man is most prolific, when he embraces one that he loves; and in general the affections of the mind strengthen and invigorate the powers of the body. And therefore people imagine that those amulets that are preservative against witchcraft are likewise good and efficacious against envy; the sight by the strangeness of the spectacle being diverted, so that it cannot make so strong an impression upon the patient. This, Florus, is what I can say; and pray sir, accept it as my club for this entertainment.
Well, said Soclarus, but let us try whether the money be all good or no; for, in my mind some of it seems brass. But if we admit the general report about these matters to be true, you know very well that it is commonly supposed that some have friends, acquaintance, and even fathers, that have such evil eyes; so that the mothers will not show their children to them, nor for a long time suffer them to be looked upon by such; and how can the effects wrought by these proceed from envy? But what, for God’s sake, wilt thou say to those that are reported to bewitch themselves? — for I am sure you have heard of such, or at least read these lines:—
Curls once on Eutel’s head in order stood;
But when he viewed his figure in a flood,
He overlooked himself, and now they fall . . .
For they say that this Eutelidas, appearing very delicate and beauteous to himself, was affected with that sight and grew sick upon it, and lost his beauty and his health. Now, pray sir, what reason can you find for these wonderful effects?
At any other time, I replied, I question not but I shall give you full satisfaction. But now, sir, after such a large pot as you have seen me take, I boldly affirm, that all passions which have been fixed in the soul a long time raise ill humors in the body, which by continuance growing strong enough to be, as it were, a new nature, being excited by any intervening accident, force men, though unwilling, to their accustomed passions. Consider the timorous, they are afraid even of those things that preserve them. Consider the pettish, they are angry with their best and dearest friends. Consider the amorous and lascivious, in the height of their fury they dare violate a Vestal. For custom is very powerful to draw the temper of the body to anything that is suitable to it; and he that is apt to fall will stumble at everything that lies in his way. So it is no wonder that those that have raised in themselves an envious and bewitching habit, if according to the peculiarity of their passion they are carried on to suitable effects; for when they are once moved, they do that which the nature of the thing, not which their will, leads them to. For as a sphere must necessarily move spherically, and a cylinder cylindrically, according to the difference of their figures; thus his disposition makes an envious man move enviously to all things; and it is likely they should chiefly hurt their most familiar acquaintance and best beloved. And that fine fellow Eutelidas you mentioned, and the rest that are said to overlook themselves, may be easily and upon good rational grounds accounted for; for, according to Hippocrates, a good habit of body, when at height, is easily perverted, and bodies come to their full maturity do not stand at a stay there, but fall and waste down to the contrary extreme. And therefore when they are in very good plight, and see themselves look much better than they expected, they gaze and wonder; but then their body being nigh to change, and their habit declining into a worse condition, they overlook themselves. And this is done when the effluvia are stopped and reflected by the water rather than by any other reflecting body; for this exhales upon them whilst they look upon it, so that the very same particles which would hurt others must hurt themselves. And this perchance often happens to young children, and the cause of their diseases is falsely attributed to those that look upon them.
When I had done, Caius, Florus’s son-inlaw, said: Then it seems you make no more reckoning or account of Democritus’s images, than of those of Aegium or Megara; for he delivers that the envious send out images which are not altogether void of sense or force, but full of the disturbing and poisonous qualities of those from whom they come. Now these being mixed with such qualities, and remaining with and abiding in those persons that injure them both in mind and body; for this, I think, is the meaning of that philosopher, a man in his opinion and expressions admirable and divine. Very true, said I, and I wonder that you did not observe that I took nothing from those effluvia and images but life and will; lest you should imagine that, now it is almost midnight, I brought in spectres and wise and understanding images to terrify and fright you; but in the morning, if you please, we will talk of those things.
As we were at supper in Chaeronea, and had all sorts of fruit at the table, one of the company chanced to speak these verses,
The fig-trees sweet, the apple-trees that bear
Fair fruit, and olives green through all the year.
(“Odyssey,” vii. 115.)
Upon this there arose a question, why the poet calls apple-trees particularly [Greek omitted], BEARING FAIR FRUIT. Trypho the physician said that this epithet was given comparatively in respect of the tree, because, it being small and no goodly tree to look upon, bears fair and large fruit. Somebody else said, that the particular excellencies scattered amongst all other fruits are united in this alone. As to the touch, it is smooth and polished, so that it makes the hand that toucheth it odorous without defiling it; it is sweet to the taste, and to the smell and sight very pleasing; and therefore there is reason that it should be duly praised, as being that which congregates and allures all the senses together.
This discourse pleased us indifferently well. But whereas Empedocles has thus written,
Why pomegranates so late do thrive,
And apples give a lovely show [Greek omitted];
I guess the epithet to be given to pomegranates, because that at the end of autumn, and when the heats begin to decrease, they ripen the fruit; for the sun will not suffer the weak and thin moisture to thicken into a consistence until the air begins to wax colder; therefore, says Theophrastus, this only tree ripens its fruit best and soonest in the shade. But in what sense the philosopher gives the epithet [Greek omitted], to apples, I much question, since it is not his custom to try to adorn his verses with varieties of epithets, as with gay and florid colors. But in every verse he gives some description of the substance and virtue of the subject which he treats; as when he calls the body encircling the soul the mortal-surrounding earth; as also when he calls the air cloud-gathering, and the liver much blooded.
When now I had said these things myself, certain grammarians affirmed, that those apples were called [Greek omitted] by reason of their vigor and florid manner of growing; for to blossom and flourish after an extraordinary manner is by the poets expressed by the word [Greek omitted]. In this sense, Antimachus calls the city of Cadmeans flourishing with fruit; and Aratus, speaking of the dog-star Sirius, says that he
To some gave strength, but others did ruin,
calling the greenness of the trees and the blossoming of the fruit by the name of [Greek omitted]. Nay, there are some of the Greeks also who sacrifice to Bacchus surnamed [Greek omitted]. And therefore, seeing the verdure and floridness chiefly recommend this fruit, philosophers call it [Greek omitted]. But Lamprias our grandfather used to say that the word [Greek omitted] did not only denote excess and vehemency, but external and supernal; thus we call the upper frame of a door [Greek omitted], and the upper portion of the house [Greek omitted]; and the poet calls the outward parts of the victim the upper-flesh, as he calls the entrails the inner-flesh. Let us see therefore, says he, whether Empedocles did not make use of this epithet in this sense, seeing that other fruits are encompassed with an outward rind and with certain coatings and membranes, but the only cortex rind that the apple has is a glutinous and smooth tunic (or core) containing the seed, so that the part which can be eaten, and lies without, was properly called [Greek omitted], that IS OVER or OUTSIDE OF THE HUSK.
This discourse ended, the next question was about fig-trees, how so luscious and sweet fruit should come from so bitter a tree. For the leaf from its roughness is called [Greek omitted]. The wood of it is full of sap, and as it burns sends forth a very biting smoke; and the ashes of it thoroughly burnt are so acrimonious, that they make a lye extremely detersive. And, which is very strange, all other trees that bud and bear fruit put forth blossoms too; but the fig-tree never blossoms. And if (as some say) it is never thunderstruck, that likewise may be attributed to the sharp juices and bad temper of the stock; for such things are as secure from thunder as the skin of a sea calf or hyena. Then said the old man: It is no wonder that when all the sweetness is separated and employed in making the fruit, that which is left should be bitter and unsavory. For as the liver, all the gall being gathered in its proper place, is itself very sweet; so the fig-tree having parted with its oil and sweet particles to the fruit, reserves no portion for itself. For that this tree hath some good juice, I gather from what they say of rue, which growing under a fig-tree is sweeter than usual, and hath a sweeter and more palatable juice, as if it drew some sweet particles from the tree which mollified its offensive and corroding qualities; unless perhaps, on the contrary, the fig-tree robbing it of its nourishment draws likewise some of its sharpness and bitterness away.
Florus, when we were entertained at his house, put this question, What are those in the proverb who are said to be about the salt and cummin? Apollophanes the grammarian presently satisfied him, saying, by that proverb were meant intimate acquaintance, who could sup together on salt and cummin. Thence we proceeded to inquire how salt should come to be so much honored as it is; for Homer plainly says,
And after that he strewed his salt divine
(“Iliad,” ix. 214.)
and Plato delivers that by man’s laws salt is to be accounted most sacred. And this difficulty was increased by the customs of the Egyptian priests, who professing chastity eat no salt, no, not so much as in their bread. For if it be divine and holy, why should they avoid it?
Florus bade us not mind the Egyptians, but speak according to the Grecian custom on the present subject. But I replied: The Egyptians are not contrary to the Greeks in this matter; for the profession of purity and chastity forbids getting children, laughter, wine, and many other very commendable and lawful things; and perhaps these priests avoid salt, as being, according to some men’s opinions, by its heat provocative and apt to raise lust. Or they refuse it as the most pleasant of all sauces, for indeed salt may be called the sauce of all sauces; and therefore some call salt [Greek omitted]; because it makes food, which is necessary for life, to be relishing and pleasant.
What then, said Florus, shall we say that salt is termed divine for that reason? Indeed that is very considerable, for men for the most part deify those common things that are exceeding useful to their necessities and wants, as water, light, the seasons of the year; and the earth they do not only think to be divine, but a very god. Now salt is as useful as either of these, protecting in a way the food as it comes into the body, and making it palatable and agreeable to the appetite. But consider farther, whether its power of preserving dead bodies from rotting a long time be not a divine property, and opposite to death; since it preserves part, and will not suffer that which is mortal wholly to be destroyed. But as the soul, which is our diviner part, connects the limbs of animals, and keeps the composure from dissolution; thus salt applied to dead bodies, and imitating the work of the soul, stops those parts that were falling to corruption, binds and confines them, and so makes them keep their union and agreement with one another. And therefore some of the Stoics say, that swine’s flesh then deserves the name of a body, when the soul like salt spreads through it and keeps the parts from dissolution. Besides, you know that we account lightning to be sacred and divine, because the bodies that are thunderstruck do not rot for a long time; what wonder is it then, that the ancients called salt as well as lightning divine, since it hath the same property and power?
I making no reply, Philinus subjoined: Do you not think that that which is generative is to be esteemed divine, seeing God is the principle of all things? And I assenting, he continued: Salt, in the opinion of some men, for instance the Egyptians you mentioned, is very operative that way; and those that breed dogs, when they find their bitches not apt to be hot, give them salt and seasoned flesh, to excite and arouse their sleeping lechery and vigor. Besides, the ships that carry salt breed abundance of mice; the females, as some imagine, conceiving without the help of the males, only by licking the salt. But it is most probable that the salt raiseth an itching in animals, and so makes them salacious and eager to couple. And perhaps for the same reason they call a surprising and bewitching beauty, such as is apt to move and entice, [Greek omitted], SALTISH. And I think the poets had a respect to this generative power of salt in their fable of Venus springing from the sea. And it may be farther observed, that they make all the sea gods very fruitful, and give them large families. And besides, there are no land animals so fruitful as the sea ones; agreeable to which observation is that verse of Empedocles,
Leading the foolish race of fruitful fish.
Timotheus the son of Conon, Sossius Senecio, after a full enjoyment of luxurious campaign diet, being entertained by Plato in his Academy, at a neat, homely, and (as Ion says) no surfeiting feast (such an one as is constantly attended by sound sleep, and by reason of the calm and pleasant state the body enjoys, rarely interrupted with dreams and apparitions), the next day, being sensible of the difference, said that those that supped with Plato were well treated, even the day after the feast. For such a temper of a body not overcharged, but expedite and fitted for the ready execution of all its enterprises, is without all doubt a great help for the more comfortable passing away of the day. But there is another benefit not inferior to the former, which does usually accrue to those that sup with Plato, namely, the recollection of those points that were debated at the table. For the remembrance of those pleasures which arise from meat and drink is ungenteel, and short-lived withal, and nothing but the remains of yesterday’s smell. But the subjects of philosophical queries and discourses, being always fresh after they are imparted, are equally relished by all, as well by those that were absent as by those that were present at them; insomuch that learned men even now are as much partakers of Socrates’s feasts as those who really supped with him. But if things pertaining to the body had afforded any pleasure, Xenophon and Plato should have left us an account not of the discourse, but of the great variety of dishes, sauces, and other costly compositions that were prepared in the houses of Callias and Agatho. Yet there is not the least mention made of any such things, though questionless they were as sumptuous as possible; but whatever things were treated of and learnedly discussed by their guests were left upon record and transmitted to posterity as precedents, not only for discoursing at table, but also for remembering the things that were handled at such meetings.
I present you with this Sixth Book of Table Discourses, wherein the first thing that cometh to be discussed is an inquiry into the reason why those that are fasting are more inclinable to drink than to eat. For the assertion carries in it a repugnancy to the standing rules of reason; forasmuch as the decayed stock of dry nourishment seems more naturally to call for its proper supplies. Whereupon I told the company, that of those things whereof our bodies are composed, heat only — or, however, above all the rest — stands in continual need of such accessions; for the truth of which this may be urged as a convincing argument: neither air, water, nor earth requires any matter to feed upon, or devours whatsoever lies next it; but fire alone doth. Hence it comes to pass that young men, by reason of their greater share of natural heat, have commonly greater stomachs than old men; whereas on the contrary, old men can endure fasting much better, for this only reason, because their natural heat is grown weaker and decayed. Just so we see it fares with bloodless animals, which by reason of the want of heat require very little nourishment. Besides, every one of us finds by experience, that bodily exercises, clamors, and whatever other actions by violent motion occasion heat, commonly sharpen our stomachs and get us a better appetite. Now, as I take it, the most natural and principal nourishment of heat is moisture, as it evidently appears from flames, which increase by the pouring in of oil, and from ashes, which are of the driest things in nature; for after the humidity is consumed by the fire, the terrene and grosser parts remain without any moisture at all. Add to these, that fire separates and dissolves bodies by extracting that moisture which should keep them close and compact. Therefore, when we are fasting, the heat first of all forces the moisture out of the relics of the nourishment that remain in the body, and then, pursuing the other humid parts, preys upon the natural moisture of the flesh itself. Hence the body like clay becoming dry, wants drink more than meat; till the heat, receiving strength and vigor by our drinking, excites an appetite for more substantial food.
After these things were spoke, Philo the physician started the first question, asserting that thirst did not arise from the want of nourishment, but from the different transfiguration of certain passages. For, says he, this may be made evident, partly from what we see happens to those that thirst in the night, who, if sleep chance to steal upon them, though they did not drink before, are yet rid of their thirst; partly from persons in a fever, who, as soon as the disease abates or is removed, thirst no more. Nay, a great many men, after they have bathed or vomited, perceive presently that their thirst is gone; yet none of these add anything to their former moisture, but only the transfiguration of the pores causeth a new order and disposition. And this is more evident in hunger; for many sick persons, at the same time when they have the greatest need of meat, have no stomach. Others, after they have filled their bellies, have the same stomachs, and their appetites are rather increased than abated. There are a great many besides who loathe all sorts of diet, yet by taking of a pickled olive or caper recover and confirm their lost appetites. This doth clearly evince, that hunger proceeds from some change in the pores, and not from any want of sustenance, forasmuch as such kind of food lessens the defect by adding food, but increases the hunger; and the pleasing relish and poignancy of such pickles, by binding and straitening the mouth of the ventricle, and again by opening and loosening of it, beget in it a convenient disposition to receive meat, which we call by the name of appetite.
I must confess this discourse seemed to carry in it some shadow of reason and probability; but in the main it is directly repugnant to the chief end of nature, to which appetite directs every animal. For that makes it desire a supply of what they stand in need of, and avoid a defect of their proper food. For to deny what especially makes a living creature differ from an inanimate object as given to us for our preservation and conservation (being as it were the receiver of what supplements and agrees with the nature of our body) is the argument of one who takes no account of natural law, especially when he would add that the characteristic proceeds from the great or small size of the pores. Besides, it is absurd to think that a body through the want of natural heat should be chilled, and should not in like manner hunger and thirst through the want of natural moisture and nourishment. And yet this is more absurd, that Nature when overcharged should desire to disburden herself, and yet should not require to be supplied on account of emptiness, but on account of some condition or other, I know not what. Moreover, these needs and supplies in relation to animals have some resemblance to those we see in husbandry. There are a great many like qualities and like provisions on both sides. For in a drought we water our grounds, and in case of excessive heat, we frequently make use of moderate coolers; and when our fruits are too cold, we endeavor to preserve and cherish them, by covering and making fences about them. And for such things as are out of the reach of human power, we implore the assistance of the gods, that is, to send us softening dews, and sunshines qualified with moderate winds; that so Nature, being always desirous of a due mixture, may have her wants supplied. And for this reason I presume it was that nourishment is called [Greek omitted] (from [Greek omitted]), because it observes and preserves Nature. Now Nature is preserved in plants, which are destitute of sense, by the favorable influence of the circumambient air (as Empedocles says), moistening them in such a measure as is most agreeable to their nature. But as for us men, our appetites prompt us on to the chase and pursuance of whatsoever is wanting to our natural temperament.
But now let us pass to the examination of the truth of the arguments that seem to favor the contrary opinion. And for the first, I suppose that those meats that are palatable and of a quick and sharp taste do not beget in us an appetite, but rather bite and fret those parts that receive the nourishment, as we find that scratching the skin causes itching. And supposing we should grant that this affection or disposition is the very thing which we call the appetite, it is probable that, by the operation of such kind of food as this, the nourishment may be made small, and so much of it as is convenient for Nature severed from the rest, so that the indigency proceeds not from the transmutation, but from the evacuation and purgation of the passages. For sharp, tart, and salt things grate the inward matter, and by dispersing of it cause digestion, so that by the concoctions of the old there may arise an appetite for new. Nor does the cessation of thirst after bathing spring from the different position of the passages, but from a new supply of moisture received into the flesh, and conveyed from thence to them also. And vomiting, by throwing off whatever is disagreeable to Nature, puts her in a capacity of enjoying what is most suitable for her. For thirst does not call for a superfluity of moisture, but only for so much as sufficeth Nature; and therefore, though a man had plenty of disagreeable and unnatural moisture, yet he wants still, for that stops the course of the natural, which Nature is desirous of, and hinders a due mixture and temperament, till it be cast out and the pores receive what is most proper and convenient for them. Moreover, a fever forces all the moisture downward; and the middle parts being in combustion, it all retires thither, and there is shut up and forcibly detained. And therefore it is usual with a great many to vomit, by reason of the density of the inward parts squeezing out the moisture, and likewise to thirst, by reason of the poor and dry state the rest of the body is in. But after the violence of the distemper is once abated, and the raging heat hath left the middle parts, the moisture begins to disperse itself again; and according to its natural motion, by a speedy conveyance into all the parts, it refreshes the entrails, softens and makes tender the dry and parched flesh. Very often also it causes sweat, and then the defect which occasioned thirst ceases; for the moisture leaving that part of the body wherein it was forcibly detained, and out of which it hardly made an escape, retires to the place where it is wanted. For as it fares with a garden wherein there is a large well — if nobody draw thereof and water it, the herbs must needs wither and die — so it fares with a body; if all the moisture be contracted into one part, it is no wonder if the rest be in want and dry, till it is diffused again over the other limbs. Just so it happens to persons in a fever, after the heat of the disease is over, and likewise to those who go to sleep thirsty. For in these, sleep draws the moisture to the middle parts, and equally distributes it amongst the rest, satisfying them all. But, I pray, what kind of transfiguration of the passages is this which causes hunger and thirst? For my part, I know no other distinction of the pores but in respect of their number or that some of them are shut, others open. As for those that are shut, they can neither receive meat nor drink; and as for those that are open, they make an empty space, which is nothing but a want of that which Nature requires. Thus, sir, when men dye cloth, the liquor in which they dip it hath very sharp and abstersive particles; which, consuming and scouring off all the matter that filled the pores, make the cloth more apt to receive the dye, because its pores are empty and want something to fill them up.
After we had gone thus far, the master of the feast told the company that the former points were reasonably well discussed; and waiving at present the discourse concerning the evacuation and repletion of the pores, he requested us to fall upon another question, that is, how it comes to pass that hunger is stayed by drinking, when, on the contrary, thirst is more violent after eating. Those who assign the reason to be in the pores seem with a great deal of ease and probability, though not with so much truth, to explain the thing. For seeing the pores in all bodies are of different sorts and sizes, the more capacious receive both dry and humid nourishment, the lesser take in drink, not meat; but the vacuity of the former causes hunger, of the latter thirst. Hence it is that men that thirst are never better after they have eaten, the pores by reason of their straitness denying admittance to grosser nourishment, and the want of suitable supply still remaining. But after hungry men have drunk, the moisture enters the greater pores, fills the empty spaces, and in part assuages the violence of the hunger.
Of this effect, said I, I do not in the least doubt, but I do not approve of the reason they give for it. For if any one should admit these pores (which some are so unreasonably fond of) to be in the flesh, he must needs make it a very soft, loose, flabby substance; and that the same parts do not receive the meat and drink, but that they run through different canals and strainers in them, seems to me to be a very strange and unaccountable opinion. For the moisture mixes with the dry food, and by the assistance of the natural heat and spirits cuts the nourishment far smaller than any cleaver or chopping-knife, to the end that every part of it may be exactly fitted to each part of the body, not applied, as they would have it, to little vessels and pores, but united and incorporated with the whole substance. And unless the thing were explained after this manner, the hardest knot in the question would still remain unsolved. For a man that has a thirst upon him, supposing he eats and doth not drink, is so far from quenching, that he does highly increase it. This point is yet undiscussed. But mark, said I, whether the positions on my side be clear and evident or not. In the first place, we take it for granted that moisture is wasted and destroyed by heat, that the drier parts of the nourishment qualified and softened by moisture, are diffused and fly away in vapors. Secondly, we must by no means suppose that all hunger is a total privation of dry, and thirst of humid nutriment, but only a moderate one, and such as is sufficient to cause the one or the other; for whoever are wholly deprived of either of these, they neither hunger nor thirst, but die instantly. These things being laid down as a foundation, it will be no hard matter to find out the cause. For thirst is increased by eating for this reason, because that meat by its natural siccity contracts and destroys all that small quantity of moisture which remained scattered here and there through the body; just as happens in things obvious to our senses; we see the earth, dust, and the like presently suck in the moisture that is mixed with them. Now, on the contrary, drink must of necessity assuage hunger; for the moisture watering and diffusing itself through the dry and parched relics of the meat we ate last, by turning them into thin juices, conveys them through the whole body, and succors the indigent parts. And therefore with very good reason Erasistratus called moisture the vehicle of the meat; for as soon as this is mixed with things which by reason of their dryness, or some other quality, are slow and heavy, it raises them up and carries them aloft. Moreover, several men, when they have drunk nothing at all, but only washed themselves, all on a sudden are freed from a very violent hunger, because the extrinsic moisture entering the pores makes the meat within more succulent and of a more nourishing nature, so that the heat and fury of the hunger declines and abates; and therefore a great many of those who have a mind to starve themselves to death live a long time only by drinking water; that is, as long as the siccity does not quite consume whatever may be united to and nourish the body.
One of the strangers at the the table, who took wonderful great delight in drinking of cold water, had some brought to him by the servants, cooled after this manner; they had hung in the well a bucket full of the same water, so that it could not touch the sides of the well, and there let it remain, all night: the next day, when it was brought to table, it was colder than the water that was newdrawn. Now this gentleman was an indifferent good scholar, and therefore told the company that he had learned this from Aristotle, who gives the reason of it. The reason which he assigned was this. All water, when it hath been once hot, is afterwards more cold; as that which is prepared for kings, when it hath boiled a good while upon the fire, is afterwards put into a vessel set round with snow, and so made colder; just as we find our bodies more cool after we have bathed, because the body, after a short relaxation from heat, is rarefied and more porous, and therefore so much the more fitted to receive a larger quantity of air, which causes the alteration. Therefore the water, when it is drawn out of the well, being first warmed in the air, grows presently cold.
Whereupon we began to commend the man very highly for his happy memory; but we called in question the pretended reason. For if the air wherein the vessel hangs be cold, how, I pray, does it heat the water? If hot, how does it afterwards make it cold? For it is absurd to say, that the same thing is affected by the same thing with contrary qualities, no difference at all intervening. While the gentleman held his peace, as not knowing what to say; there is no cause, said I, that we should raise any scruple concerning the nature of the air, forasmuch as we are ascertained by sense that it is cold, especially in the bottom of a well; and therefore we can never imagine that it should make the water hot. But I should rather judge this to be the reason: the cold air, though it cannot cool the great quantity of water which is in the well, yet can easily cool each part of it, separate from the whole.
I suppose you may remember that what Aristotle says in his problems, of little stones and pieces of iron, how it hath been observed by some that being thrown into the water they temper and cool it. This is no more than barely asserted by him; but we will go farther and inquire into the reason of it, the discovery of which will be a matter of difficulty. Yes, says I, it will so, and it is much if we hit upon it; for do but consider, first of all, do not you suppose that the air which comes in from without cools the water? But now air has a great deal more power and force, when it beats against stones and pieces of iron. For they do not, like brazen and earthen vessels, suffer it to pass through; but, by reason of their solid bulk, beat it back and reflect it into the water, so that upon all parts the cold works very strongly. And hence it comes to pass that rivers in the winter are colder than the sea, because the cold air has a power over them, which by reason of its depth it has not over the sea, where it is scattered without any reflection. But it is probable that for another reason thinner waters may be made colder by the air than thicker, because they are not so strong to resist its force. Now whetstones and pebbles make the water thinner by drawing to them all the mud and other grosser substances that be mixed with it, that so by taking the strength from it may the more easily be wrought upon by the cold. But besides, lead is naturally cold, as that which, being dissolved in vinegar, makes the coldest of all poisons, called white-lead; and stones, by reason of their density, raise cold in the bottom of the water. For every stone is nothing else but a congealed lump of frozen earth, though some more or less than others; and therefore it is no absurdity to say that stones and lead, by reflecting the air, increase the coldness of the water.
Then the stranger, after he had made a little pause, said: Men in love are ambitious to be in company with their sweethearts; when that is denied them, they desire at least to talk of them. This is my case in relation to snow; and, because I cannot have it at present, I am desirous to learn the reason why it is commonly preserved by the hottest things. For, when covered with chaff and cloth that has never been at the fuller’s, it is preserved a long time. Now it is strange that the coldest things should be preserved by the hottest.
Yes, said I, it is a very strange thing, if true. But it is not so; and we cozen ourselves by presently concluding a thing to be hot if it have a faculty of causing heat, when as yet we see that the same garment causes heat in winter, and cold in summer. Thus the nurse in the tragedy,
In garments thin doth Niobe’s children fold,
And sometimes heats and sometimes cools the babes.
The Germans indeed make use of clothes only against the cold, the Ethiopians only against the heat; but they are useful to us upon both accounts. Why therefore should we rather say the clothes are hot, because they cause heat, than cold, because they cause cold? Nay, if we must be tried by sense, it will be found that they are more cold than hot. For at the first putting on of a coat it is cold, and so is our bed when we lie down; but afterwards they grow hot with the heat of our bodies, because they both keep in the heat and keep out the cold. Indeed, feverish persons and others that have a violent heat upon them often change their clothes, because they perceive that fresh ones at the first putting on are much colder; but within a very little time their bodies make them as hot as the others. In like manner, as a garment heated makes us hot, so a covering cooled keeps snow cold. Now that which causes this cold is the continual emanations of a subtile spirit the snow has in it, which spirit, as long as it remains in the snow, keeps it compact and close; but, after once it is gone, the snow melts and dissolves into water, and instantly loses its whiteness, occasioned by a mixture of this spirit with a frothy moisture. Therefore at the same time, by the help of these clothes, the cold is kept in, and the external air is shut out, lest it should thaw the concrete body of the snow. The reason why they make use of cloth that has not yet been at the fuller’s is this, because that in such cloth the hair and coarse flocks keep it off from pressing too hard upon the snow, and bruising it. So chaff lying lightly upon it does not dissolve the body of the snow, besides the chaff lies close and shuts out the warm air, and keeps in the natural cold of the snow. Now that snow melts by the evaporating of this spirit, we are ascertained by sense; for when snow melts it raises a vapor.
Niger, a citizen of ours, was lately come from school, after he had spent some time under the discipline of a celebrated philosopher, but had absorbed nothing but those faults by which his master was odious to others, especially his custom of reproving and of carping at whatever upon any occasion chanced to be discussed in company. And therefore, when we were at supper one time at Aristio’s, not content to assume to himself a liberty to rail at all the rest of the preparations as too profuse and extravagant, he had a pique at the wine too, and said that it ought not to be brought to table strained, but that, observing Hesiod’s rule, we ought to drink it new out of the vessel. Moreover, he added that this way of purging wine takes the strength from it, and robs it of its natural heat, which, when wine is poured out of one vessel into another, evaporates and dies. Besides he would needs persuade us that it showed too much of a vain curiosity, effeminacy, and luxury, to convert what is wholesome into that which is palatable. For as the riotous, not the temperate, use to cut cocks and geld pigs, to make their flesh tender and delicious, even against Nature; just so (if we may use a metaphor, says he) those that strain wine geld and emasculate it, whilst their squeamish stomachs will neither suffer them to drink pure wine, nor their intemperance to drink moderately. Therefore they make use of this expedient, to the end that it may render the desire they have of drinking plentifully more excusable. So they take all the strength from the wine, leaving the palatableness still: as we use to deal with those with whose constitution cold water does not agree, to boil it for them. For they certainly take off all the strength from the wine, by straining of it. And this is a great argument, that the wine deads, grows flat, and loses its virtue, when it is separated from the lees, as from its root and stock; for the ancients for very good reason called wine lees, as we use to signify a man by his head or soul, as the principal part of him. So in Greek, grape-gatherers are said [Greek omitted], the word being derived from [Greek omitted], which signifies lees; and Homer in one place calls the fruit of the wine [Greek omitted], and the wine itself high-colored and red — not pale and yellow, such as Aristio gives us to supper, after all the goodness is purged out of it.
Then Aristio smiling presently replied: Sir, the wine I bring to table does not look so pale and lifeless as you would have it: but it appears only in the cup to be mild and well qualified. But for your part, you would glut yourself with night wine, which raises melancholy vapors; and upon this account you cry out against purgation, which, by carrying off whatever might cause melancholy or load men’s stomachs, and make them drunk or sick, makes it mild and pleasant to those that drink it, such as heroes (as Homer tells us) were formerly wont to drink. And it was not dark wine which he called [Greek omitted], but clear and transparent; for otherwise he would never have named brass [Greek omitted], after characterizing it as man-exalting and resplendent. Therefore as the wise Anacharsis, discommending some things that the Grecians enjoined, commended their coals, because they leave the smoke without doors, and bring the fire into the house; so you judicious men might blame me for some other reason than this. But what hurt, I pray, have I done to the wine, by taking from it a turbulent and noisome quality, and giving it a better taste, though a paler color? Nor have I brought you wine to the table which, like a sword, hath lost its edge and vigorous relish, but such as is only purged of its dregs and filth. But you will say that wine not strained hath a great deal more strength. Why so, my friend? One that is frantic and distracted has more strength than a man in his wits; but when, by the help of hellebore or some other fit diet, he is come to himself, that rage and frenzy leave him and quite vanish, and the true use of his reason and health of body presently comes into its place. In like manner, purging of wine takes from it all the strength that inflames and enrages the mind, and gives it instead thereof a mild and wholesome temper; and I think there is a great deal of difference between gaudiness and cleanliness. For women, while they paint, perfume, and adorn themselves with jewels and purple robes, are accounted gaudy and profuse; yet nobody will find fault with them for washing their faces, anointing themselves, or platting their hair. Homer very neatly expresses the difference of these two habits, where he brings in Juno dressing herself:—
With sweet ambrosia first she washed her skin,
And after did anoint herself with oil.
(“Iliad,” xiv. 170.)
So much was allowable, being no more than a careful cleanliness. But when she comes to call for her golden buttons, her curiously wrought earrings, and last of all puts on her bewitching girdle, this appears to be an extravagant and idle curiosity, and betrays too much of wantonness, which by no means becomes a married woman. Just so they that sophisticate wine by mixing it with aloes, cinnamon, or saffron bring it to the table like a gorgeous-apparelled woman, and there prostitute it. But those that only take from it what is nasty and no way profitable do only purge it and improve it by their labor. Otherwise you may find fault with all things whatsoever as vain and extravagant, beginning at the house you live in. As first, you may say, why is it plastered? Why does it open especially on that side where it may have the best convenience for receiving the purest air, and the benefit of the evening sun? What is the reason that our cups are washed and made so clean that they shine and look bright? Now if a cup ought to have nothing that is nasty or loathsome in it, ought that which is drunk out of the cup to be full of dregs and filth? What need is there for mentioning anything else? The making corn into bread is a continual cleansing; and yet what a great ado there is before it is effected! There is not only threshing, winnowing, sifting, and separating the bran, but there must be kneading the dough to soften all parts alike, and a continual cleansing and working of the mass till all the parts become edible alike. What absurdity is it then by straining to separate the lees, as it were the filth of the wine, especially since the cleansing is no chargeable or painful operation?
There is a certain sacrifice of very ancient institution, which the chief magistrate or archon performs always in the common-hall, and every private person in his own house. ’Tis called the driving out of bulimy; for they whip out of doors some one of their servants with a bunch of willow rods, repeating these words, Get out of doors, bulimy; and enter riches and health. Therefore in my year there was a great concourse of people present at the sacrifice; and, after all the rites and ceremonies of the sacrifice were over, when we had seated ourselves again at the table, there was an inquiry made first of all into the signification of the word bulimy, then into the meaning of the words which are repeated when the servant is turned out of doors. But the principal dispute was concerning the nature of it, and all its circumstances. First, as for the word bulimy, it was agreed upon by all to denote a great and public famine, especially among us who use the Aeolic dialect, putting [Greek omitted] for [Greek omitted]. For it was not called by the ancients [Greek omitted] but [Greek omitted], that is, [Greek omitted], much hunger. We concluded that it was not the same with the disease called Bubrostis, by an argument fetched out of Metrodorus’s Ionics. For the said Metrodorus informs us that the Smyrnaeans, who were once Aeolians, sacrificed to Bubrostis a black bull cut into pieces with the skin on, and so burnt it. Now, forasmuch as every species of hunger resembles a disease, but more particularly Bulimy, which is occasioned by an unnatural disposition of the body, these two differ as riches and poverty, health and sickness. But as the word NAUSEATE [Greek omitted] first took its name from men who were sea-sick in a ship, and afterwards custom prevailed so far that the word was applied to all persons that were any way in like sort affected; so the word BULIMY, rising at first from hence, was at last extended to a more large and comprehensive signification. What has been hitherto said was a general club of the opinions of all those who were at table.
But after we began to inquire after the cause of this disease, the first thing that puzzled us was to find out the reason why bulimy seizes upon those that travel in the snow. As Brutus, one time marching from Dyrrachium to Apollonia in a deep snow, was endangered of his life by bulimy, whilst none of those that carried the provisions for the army followed him; just when the man was ready to faint and die, some of his soldiers were forced to run to the walls of the enemies’ city, and beg a piece of bread of the sentinels, by the eating of which he was presently refreshed; for which cause, after Brutus had made himself master of the city, he treated all the inhabitants very mercifully. Asses and horses are frequently troubled with bulimy, especially when they are laden with dry figs and apples; and, which is yet more strange, of all things that are eaten, bread chiefly refreshes not only men but beasts; so that, by taking a little quantity of bread, they regain their strength and go forward on their journey.
After all were silent, I (who had observed that dull fellows and those of a less piercing judgment were satisfied with and did acquiesce in the reasons the ancients gave for bulimy, but to men of ingenuity and industry they only pointed out the way to a more clear discovery of the truth of the business) mentioned Aristotle’s opinion, who says, that extreme cold without causes extreme heat and consumption within; which, if it fall into the legs, makes them lazy and heavy, but if it come to the fountain of motion and respiration, occasions faintings and weakness. When I had said that, some of the company opposed it, others held with me.
At length says Soclarus: I like the beginning of this reason very well, for the bodies of travellers in a great snow must of necessity be surrounded and condensed with cold; but that from the heat within there should arise such a consumption as invades the principle of respiration, I can no way imagine. I rather think, says he, that abundance of heat penned up in the body consumes the nourishment, and that failing, the fire as it were goes out. Here it comes to pass, that men troubled with this bulimy, when they are ready to starve with hunger, if they eat never so little meat, are presently refreshed. The reason is, because meat digested is like fuel for the heat to feed upon.
But Cleomenes the physician would have the word [Greek omitted] (which signifies hunger) to be added to the making up of the word [Greek omitted] without sufficient reason; as [Greek omitted], to drink, is added to [Greek omitted], to swallow; and [Greek omitted] to incline, into [Greek omitted] to raise the head. Nor is bulimy, as it seems, a kind of hunger, but an affection in the stomach causing a faintness on account of the concourse of heat. Therefore as things that have a good smell recall the spirits of those that are faint, so bread affects those that are almost overcome with a bulimy; not that they have any need of food (for the least piece of it restores them their strength), but the bread calls back their vigor and languishing spirits. Now that bulimy is not hunger but a faintness, is manifest from all laboring beasts, which are seized with it very often through the smell of dry figs and apples; for a smell does not cause any want of food, but rather a pain and agitation in the stomach.
These things seemed to be reasonably well urged; and yet it seemed that much might be said for the contrary opinion, and that it was possible enough to maintain that bulimy ariseth not from condensation but rarefication of the stomach. For the spirit which flows from the snow is nothing but the aether and finest fragment of the frozen substance, endued with a virtue of cutting and dividing not only the flesh, but also silver and brazen vessels; for we see that these are not able to keep in the snow, for it dissolves and evaporates, and glazes over the outmost superficies of the vessels with a thin dew, not unlike to ice, which this spirit leaves as it secretly passes through the pores. Therefore this piercing spirit, like a flame, seizing upon those that travel in the snow, seems to burn their outsides, and like fire to enter and penetrate the flesh. Hence it is that the flesh is more rarefied, and the heat is extinguished by the cold spirit that lies upon the superficies of the body; therefore the body evaporates a dewy thin sweat, which melts away and decays the strength. Now if a man should sit still at such a time, there would not much heat fly out of his body. But when the motion of the body doth quickly heat the nourishment, and that heat bursts through the thin skin, there must necessarily be a great loss of strength. Now we know by experience, that cold hath a virtue not only to condense but also to loosen bodies; for in extreme cold winters pieces of lead are found to sweat. And when we see that a bulimy happens where there is no hunger, we may conclude that at that time the body is rather in a fluid than condensed state. The reason that bodies are rarefied in winter is because of the subtility of the spirit; especially when the moving and tiring of the body stir the heat, which, as soon as it is subtilized and agitated, flies apace, and spreads itself through the whole body. Lastly, it is very possible that apples and dry figs exhale some such thing as this, which rarefies and attenuates the heat of the beasts; for some things have a natural tendency as well to weaken as to refresh different creatures.
It was the subject once of a discourse, why, when there are several sorts of liquids, the poet should give every one of them a peculiar epithet, calling milk white, honey yellow, wine red, and yet for all this bestow no other upon oil but what it hath in common with all other liquids. To this it was answered that, as that is said to be most sweet which is perfectly sweet, and to be most white which is perfectly white (I mean here by perfectly that which hath nothing of a contrary quality mixed with it), so that ought to be called perfectly humid whereof never a part is dry; and this is proper to oil.
For first of all, its smoothness shows the evenness of its parts; for touch it where you please, it is all alike. Besides, you may see your face in it as perfectly as in a mirror; for there is nothing rough in it to hinder the reflection, but by reason of its humidity it reflects to the eye the least particle of light from every portion. As, on the contrary, milk, of all other liquids, does not return our images, because it hath too many terrene and gross parts mixed with it; again, oil of all other liquids makes the least noise when moved, for it is perfectly humid. When other liquids are moved or poured out, their hard and grosser parts fall and dash one against another, and so make a noise by reason of their roughness. Moreover, oil only is pure and unmixed; for it is of all other liquids most compact, nor has it any empty spaces and pores between the dry and earthy parts to receive what chances to fall upon it. Besides, because of the similitude of its parts, it is closely joined together, and unfit to be joined to anything else. When oil froths, it does not let any wind in, by reason of the contiguity and subtility of its parts; and this is also the cause why fire is nourished by it. For fire feeds upon nothing but what is moist, for nothing is combustible but what is so; for when the fire is kindled, the air turns to smoke, and the terrene and grosser parts remain in the ashes. Fire only preys upon the moisture, which is its natural nourishment. Indeed, water, wine, and other liquors, having abundance of earthy and heavy parts in them, by falling into fire part it, and by their roughness and weight smother and extinguish it. But oil, because purely liquid, by reason of its subtility, is overcome by the fire, and so changed into flame.
It is the greatest argument that can be of its humidity, that the least quantity of it spreads itself a great way; for so small a drop of honey, water, or any other liquid does not extend itself so far, but very often, by reason of the dry mixed parts, is presently wasted. Because oil is ductile and soft, men are wont to make use of it for anointing their bodies; for it runs along and spreads itself through all the parts, and sticks so firmly to them that it is not easily washed off. We find by experience, that a garment wet with water is presently dried again; but it is no easy matter to wash out the spots and stain of oil, for it enters deep, because of its most subtile and humid nature. Hence it is that Aristotle says, that the drops of diluted wine are the hardest to be got out of clothes, because they are most subtile, and run farther into the pores of the cloth.
At supper we were commanding Aristio’s cook, who, amongst other dishes that he had dressed very curiously, brought a cock to table just killed as a sacrifice to Hercules, as tender as though it had been killed a day or two before. When Aristio told us that this was no wonder — seeing such a thing might very easily be done, if the cock, as soon as he was killed, was hung upon a fig-tree — we began to inquire into the reason of what he asserted. Indeed, I must confess, our eye assures us that a fig-tree sends out a fierce and strong spirit; which is yet more evident, from what we have heard said of bulls. That is, a bull, after he is tied to a fig-tree, though never so mad before, grows presently tame, and will suffer you to touch him, and on a sudden all his rage and fury cool and die. But the chiefest cause that works this change is the sharp acrimonious quality of the tree. For this tree is the fullest of sap, and so are its figs, wood, and bark; and hence it comes to pass, that the smoke of fig-wood is most offensive to the eyes; and when it is burned, its ashes make the best lye to scour withal. But all these effects proceed from heat. Now there are some that say, when the sap of this tree thrown into milk curds it, that this effect does not arise from the irregular figures of the parts of the milk, which the sap joins and (as it were) sticks together, the smooth and globose parts being squeezed out, but that by its heat it loosens the unstable and watery parts of the liquid body. And we may use as a proof the unprofitableness of the sap of this tree, which, though it is very sweet, yet makes the worst liquor in the world. For it is not the inequality in the parts that affects the smooth part, but what is cold and raw is stopped by heat. And salt help to do this; for it is hot, and works contrary to the uniting of the parts just mentioned, causing rather a dissolution; for to it, above all other things, Nature has given a dissolving faculty. Therefore the fig-tree sends forth a hot and sharp spirit, which cuts and boils the flesh of the bird. The very same thing may be effected by placing the flesh upon a heap of corn, or near nitre; the heat will produce the same that the fig-tree did. Now it may be made manifest that wheat is naturally hot, in that wine, put into a hogshead and placed among wheat, is presently consumed.
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.
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;
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Those, my Sossius Senecio, who throw philosophy out of entertainments do worse than those who take away a light. For the candle being removed, the temperate and sober guests will not become worse than they were before, being more concerned to reverence than to see one another. But if dulness and disregard to good learning wait upon the wine, Minerva’s golden lamp itself could not make the entertainment pleasing and agreeable. For a company to sit silent and only cram themselves is, in good truth, swinish and almost impossible. But he that permits men to talk, yet doth not allow set and profitable discourses, is much more ridiculous than he who thinks that his guests should eat and drink, yet gives them foul wine, unsavory and nastily prepared meat. For no meat nor drink which is not prepared as it ought to be is so hurtful and unpleasant as discourse which is carried round in company insignificantly and out of season. The philosophers, when they would give drunkenness a vile name, call it doting by wine. Now doting is to use vain and trifling discourse; and when such babbling is accompanied by wine, it usually ends in most disagreeable and rude contumely and reproach. It is a good custom therefore of our women, who in their feasts called Agrionia seek after Bacchus as if he were run away, but in a little time give over the search, and cry that he is fled to the Muses and lurks with them; and some time after, when supper is done, put riddles and hard questions to one another. For this mystery teaches us, that midst our entertainments we should use learned and philosophical discourse, and such as hath a Muse in it; and that such discourse being applied to drunkenness, everything that is brutish and outrageous in it is concealed, being pleasingly restrained by the Muses.
This book, being the eighth of my Symposiacs, begins with that discourse in which about a year ago, on Plato’s birthday, I was concerned.
On the sixth day of May we celebrated Socrates’s birthday, and on the seventh Plato’s; and that first prompted us to such discourse as was suitable to the meeting, which Diogenianus the Pergamenian began thus: Ion, said he, was happy in his expression, when he said that Fortune, though much unlike Wisdom, yet did many things very much like her; and that she seemed to have some order and design, not only in placing the nativities of these two philosophers so near together, but in setting the birthday of the most famous of the two first, who was also the master of the other. I had a great deal to say to the company concerning some notable things that fell out on the same day, as concerning the time of Euripides’s birth and death; for he was born the same day that the Greeks beat Xerxes by sea at Salamis, and died the same day that Dionysius the elder, the Sicilian tyrant, was born — Fortune (as Timaeus hath it) at the same time taking out of the world a representer, and bringing into it a real actor, of tragedies. Besides, we remembered that Alexander the king and Diogenes the Cynic died upon the same day. And all agreed that Attalus the king died on his own birthday. And some said, that Pompey the great was killed in Egypt on his birthday, or, as others will have it, a day before. We remember Pindar also, who, being born at the time of the Pythian games, made afterwards a great many excellent hymns in honor of Apollo.
To this Florus subjoined: Now we are celebrating Plato’s nativity, why should we not mention Carneades, the most famous of the whole Academy, since both of them were born on Apollo’s feast; Plato, whilst they were celebrating the Thargelia at Athens, Carneades, whilst the Cyrenians kept their Carnea; and both these feasts are, upon the same day. Nay, the god himself you (he continued), his priests and prophets, call Hebdomagenes, as if he were born on the seventh day. And therefore those who make Apollo Plato’s father do not, in my opinion, dishonor the god; since by Socrates’s as by another Chiron’s instructions he is become a physician for the diseases of the mind. And together with this, he mentioned that vision and voice which forbade Aristo, Plato’s father, to come near or lie with his wife for ten months.
To this Tyndares the Spartan subjoined: It is very fit we should apply that to Plato,
He seemed not sprung from mortal man, but God.
(“Iliad,” xxiv. 258.)
But, for my part, I am afraid to beget, as well as to be begotten, is repugnant to the incorruptibility of the deity. For that implies a change and passion; as Alexander imagined, when he said that he knew himself to be mortal as often as he lay with a woman or slept. For sleep is a relaxation of the body, occasioned by the weakness of our nature; and all generation is a corruptive parting with some of our own substance. But yet I take heart again, when I hear Plato call the eternal and unbegotten deity the father and maker of the world and all other begotten things; not as if he parted with any seed, but as if by his power he implanted a generative principle in matter, which acts upon, forms, and fashions it. Winds passing through a hen will on occasions impregnate her; and it seems no incredible thing, that the deity, though not after the fashion of a man, but by some other certain communication, fills a mortal creature with some divine conception. Nor is this my sense; but the Egyptians who say Apis was conceived by the influence of the moon, and make no question but that an immortal god may have communication with a mortal woman. But on the contrary, they think that no mortal can beget anything on a goddess, because they believe the goddesses are made of thin air, and subtle heat and moisture.
Silence following this discourse, Diogenianus began again and said: Since our discourse is about the gods, shall we, especially on his own birthday, admit Plato to the conference, and inquire upon what account he says (supposing it to be his sentence) that God always plays the geometer? I said that this sentence was not plainly set down in any of his books; yet there are good arguments that it is his, and it is very much like his expression. Tyndares presently subjoining said: Perhaps, Diogenianus, you imagine that this sentence intimates some curious and difficult speculation, and not that which he hath so often mentioned, when he praiseth geometry as a science that takes off men from sensible objects, and makes them apply themselves to the intelligible and eternal Nature, the contemplation of which is the end of philosophy, as the view of the initiatory mysteries into holy rites. For the nail of pain and pleasure, that fastens the soul to the body, seems to do us the greatest mischief, by making sensible things more powerful over us than intelligible, and by forcing the understanding to determine the rather according to passion than reason. For this faculty, being accustomed by the vehemency of pain or pleasure to be intent on the mutable and uncertain body, as if it really and truly were, grows blind as to that which really is, and loses that instrument and light of the soul, which is worth a thousand bodies, and by which alone the deity can be discovered. Now in all sciences, as in plain and smooth mirrors, some marks and images of the truth of intelligible objects appear, but in geometry chiefly; which, according to Philo, is the chief and principal of all, and doth bring back and turn the understanding, as it were, purged and gently loosened from sense. And therefore Plato himself dislikes Eudoxus, Archytas, and Menaechmus for endeavoring to bring down the doubling the cube to mechanical operations; for by this means all that was good in geometry would be lost and corrupted, it falling back again to sensible things, and not rising upward and considering immaterial and immortal images, in which God being versed is always God.
After Tyndares, Florus, a companion of his, and who always jocosely pretended to be his admirer, said thus: Sir, we are obliged to you for making your discourse not proper to yourself, but common to us all; for you have made it possible to disprove it by demonstrating that geometry is not necessary to the gods, but to us. Now the deity doth not stand in need of science, as an instrument to withdraw his intellect from things created and to turn it to the real things; for these are all in him, with him, and about him. But pray consider whether Plato, though you do not apprehend it, doth not intimate something that is proper and peculiar to you, mixing Lycurgus with Socrates, as much as Dicaearchus thought he did Pythagoras. For Lycurgus, I suppose you know, banished out of Sparta all arithmetical proportion, as being democratical and favoring the crowd; but introduced the geometrical, as agreeable to an oligarchy and kingly government that rules by law; for the former gives an equal share to every one according to number, but the other gives according to the proportion of the deserts. It doth not huddle all things together, but in it there is a fair discretion of good and bad, every one having what is fit for him, not by lot or weight, but according as he is virtuous or vicious. The same proportion, my dear Tyndares, God introduceth, which is called [Greek omitted] and [Greek omitted], and which teacheth us to account that which is just equal, and not that which is equal just. For that equality which many affect, being often the greatest injustice, God, as much as possible, takes away; and useth that proportion which respects every man’s deserts, geometrically defining it according to law and reason.
This exposition we applauded; and Tyndares, saying he envied him, desired Autobulus to engage Florus and confute his discourse. That he refused to do, but produced another opinion of his own. Geometry, said he, considers nothing else but the accidents and properties of the extremities of bodies; neither did God make the world any other way than by terminating matter, which was infinite before. Not that matter was actually without limits as to either magnitude or multitude; but the ancients used to call that infinite which by reason of its confusion and disorder is undetermined and unconfined. Now the terms of everything that is formed or figured are the form and figure of that thing, and without which the thing would be formless and unfigured. Now numbers and proportions being applied to matter, it is circumscribed and as it were bound up by lines, and through lines by surfaces and solids; and so were settled the first types and differences of bodies, as foundations from which to create the four elements, fire, air, water, and earth. For it was impossible that, out of an unsteady and confused matter, the equality of the sides, the likeness of the angles, and the exact proportion of octahedrons, icosahedrons, pyramids, and cubes should be deduced, unless by some power that terminated and shaped every particle of matter. Therefore, terms being fixed to that which was undetermined or infinite before, the whole became and still continues agreeable in all parts, and excellently terminated and mixed; the matter indeed always affecting an indeterminate state, and flying all geometrical confinement, but proportion terminating and circumscribing it, and dividing it into several differences and forms, out of which all things that arise are generated and subsist.
When he had said this, he desired me to contribute something to the discourse; and I applauded their conceits as their own devices, and very probable. But lest you despise yourselves (I continued) and altogether look for some external explication, attend to an exposition upon this sentence, which your masters very much approve. Amongst the most geometrical theorems, or rather problems, this is one: Two figures being given, to describe a third, which shall be equal to one and similar to the other. And it is reported that Pythagoras, upon the discovery of this problem, offered a sacrifice to the gods; for this is a much more exquisite theorem than that which lays down, that the square of the hypothenuse in a right-angled triangle is equal to the squares of the two sides. Right, said Diogenianus, but what is this to the present question? You will easily understand, I replied, if you call to mind how Timaeus divides that which gave the world its beginning into three parts. One of which is justly called God, the other matter, and the third form. That which is called matter is the most confused subject, the form the most beautiful pattern, and God the best of causes. Now this cause, as far as possible, would leave nothing infinite and indeterminate, but adorn Nature with number, measure, and proportion making one thing of all the subjects together, equal to the matter, and similar to the form. Therefore proposing to himself this problem, he made and still makes a third, and always preserves it equal to the matter, and like the form; and that is the world. And this world, being in constant changes and alterations because of the natural necessity of body, is helped and preserved by the father and maker of all things, who by proportion terminates the substance according to the pattern.
When we supped with Ammonius at Athens, who was then the third time captain of the city-bands, there was a great noise about the house, some without doors calling, Captain! Captain! After he had sent his officers to quiet the tumult, and had dispersed the crowd, we began to inquire what was the reason that those that are within doors hear those that are without, but those that are without cannot hear those that are within as well. And Ammonius said, that Aristotle had given a reason for that already; for the sound of those within, being carried without into a large tract of air, grows weaker presently and is lost; but that which comes in from without is not subject to the like casualty, but is kept close, and is therefore more easy to be heard. But that seemed a more difficult question, Why sounds seem greater in the night than in the day, and yet altogether as clear. For my own part (continued he) I think Providence hath very wisely contrived that our hearing should be quickest when our sight can do us very little or no service; for the air of the “blind and solitary Night,” as Empedocles calls it, being dark, supplies in the ears that defect of sense which it makes in the eyes. But since of natural effects we should endeavor to find the causes, and to discover what are the material and mechanical principles of things is the proper task of a natural philosopher, who shall first give us a rational account hereof?
Boethus began, and said: When I was a novice in letters, I then made use of geometrical postulates, and assumed as undoubted truths some undemonstrated suppositions; and now I shall make use of some propositions which Epicurus hath demonstrated already. Bodies move in a vacuum, and there are a great many spaces interspersed among the atoms of the air. Now when the air being rarefied is more extended, so as to fill the vacant space, there are only a few vacuities scattered and interspersed among the particles of matter; but when the atoms of air are condensed and laid close together, they leave a vast empty space, convenient and sufficient for other bodies to pass through. Now the coldness of the night makes such a constipation. Heat opens and separates parts of condensed bodies, and therefore bodies that boil, grow soft, or melt, require a greater space than before; but, on the contrary, the parts of the body that are condensed or freeze are contracted closer to one another, and leave those vessels and places from which they retired partly empty. Now the sound, meeting and striking against a great many bodies in its way, is either altogether lost or scattered, and very much and very frequently hindered in its passage; but when it hath a plain and smooth way through an empty space, and comes to the ear uninterrupted, the passage is so sudden, that it preserves its articulate distinctness, as well as the words it carries. You may observe that empty vessels, when knocked, answer presently, send out a noise to a great distance, and oftentimes the sound whirled round in the hollow breaks out with a considerable force; whilst a vessel that is filled either with a liquid or a solid body will not answer to a stroke, because the sound hath no room or passage to come through. And among solid bodies themselves, gold and stone, because they want pores, can hardly be made to sound; and when a noise is made by a stroke upon them, it is very flat, and presently lost. But brass is sounding, it being a porous, rare, and light metal, not consisting of parts tightly compacted, but being mixed with a yielding and uncompacted substance, which gives free passage to other motions, and kindly receiving the sound sends it forward; till some touching the instrument do, as it were, seize on it in the way, and stop the hollow; for then, by reason of the hindering force, it stops and goes no further. And this, in my opinion, is the reason why the night is more sonorous, and the day less; since in the day, the heat rarefying the air makes the empty spaces between the particles to be very little. But, pray, let none argue against the suppositions I assumed.
And I (Ammonius bidding me oppose him) said: Sir, your suppositions which demand a vacuum to be granted I shall admit; but you err in supposing that a vacuum is conducive either to the preservation or conveyance of sound. For that which cannot be touched, acted upon, or struck is peculiarly favorable to silence. But sound is a stroke of a sounding body; and a sounding body is that which has homogeneousness and uniformity, and is easy to be moved, light, smooth, and, by reason of its tenseness and continuity, it is obedient to the stroke; and such is the air. Water, earth, and fire are of themselves soundless; but each of them makes a noise when air falls upon or gets into it. And brass hath no vacuum; but being mixed with a smooth and gentle air it answers to a stroke, and is sounding. If the eye may be judge, iron must be reckoned to have a great many vacuities, and to be porous like a honey-comb, yet it is the dullest, and sounds worse than any other metal.
Therefore there is no need to trouble the night to contract and condense its air, that in other parts we may leave vacuities and wide spaces; as if the air would hinder and corrupt the substance of the sounds, whose very substance, form, and power itself is. Besides, if your reason held, misty and extreme cold nights would be more sonorous than those which are temperate and clear, because then the atoms in our atmosphere are constipated, and the spaces which they left remain empty; and, what is more obvious, a cold day should be more sonorous than a warm summer’s night; neither of which is true. Therefore, laying aside that explication, I produce Anaxagoras, who teacheth that the sun makes a tremulous motion in the air, as is evident from those little motes which are seen tossed up and down and flying in the sunbeams. These (says he), being in the day-time whisked about by the heat, and making a humming noise, lessen or drown other sounds; but at night their motion, and consequently their noise, ceaseth.
When I had thus said, Ammonius began: Perhaps it will look like a ridiculous attempt in us, to endeavor to confute Democritus and correct Anaxagoras. Yet we must not allow that humming noise to Anaxagoras’s little motes, for it is neither probable nor necessary. But their tremulous and whirling motion in the sunbeams is oftentimes sufficient to disturb and break a sound. For the air (as hath been already said), being itself the body and substance of sound, if it be quiet and undisturbed, makes a straight, easy, and continuous way to the particles or the motions which make the sound. Thus sounds are best heard in calm still weather; and the contrary is seen in stormy weather, as Simonides hath it:—
No tearing tempests rattled through the skies,
Which hinder sweet discourse from mortal ears.
For often the disturbed air hinders the articulateness of a discourse from coming to the ears, though it may convey something of the loudness and length of it. Now the night, simply considered in itself, hath nothing that may disturb the air; though the day hath — namely the sun, according to the opinion of Anaxagoras.
To this Thrasyllus, Ammonius’s son, subjoining said: What is the matter, for God’s sake, that we endeavor to solve this difficulty by the unintelligible fancied motion of the air, and neglect the tossing and divulsion thereof, which are evident? For Jupiter, the great ruler above, doth not covertly and silently move the little particles of air; but as soon as he appears, he stirs up and moves everything.
He sends forth lucky signs,
And stirs up nations to their proper work,
And they obey; and (as Democritus saith) with fresh thoughts for each new day, as if newly born again, they fall to their worldly concerns with noisy and effectual contrivances. And upon this account, Ibycus oppositely calls the dawning [Greek omitted] (from [Greek omitted], TO HEAR), because then men first begin to hear and speak. Now at night, all things being at rest, the air being quiet and undisturbed must therefore probably transmit the voice better, and convey it whole and unbroken to our ears.
Aristodemus the Cyprian, being then in the company, said: But consider, sir, whether battles or the marches of great armies by night do not confute your reason; for the noise they make seems as loud as otherwise, though then the air is broken and very much disturbed. But the reason is partly in ourselves; for our voice at night is usually vehement, we either commanding others to do something or asking short questions with heat and concern. For that, at the same time when Nature requires rest, we should stir to do or speak anything, there must be some great and urgent necessity for it; and thence our voices become more vehement and loud.
The Isthmian games being celebrated, when Sospis was the second time director of the solemnity, we avoided other entertainments — he treating a great many strangers and often all his fellow-citizens — but once, when he entertained his nearest and most learned friends at his own house, I was one of the company. After the first course, one coming to Herodes the rhetorician brought a palm and a wreathed crown, which one of his acquaintance, who had won the prize for an encomiastic exercise, sent him. This Herodes received very kindly, and sent it back again, but added that he could not tell the reason why, since each of the games gave a particular garland, yet all of them bestowed the palm. For those do not satisfy me (said he) who say that the equality of the leaves is the reason, which growing out one against another seem to resemble some striving for the prize, and that victory is called [Greek omitted] from [Greek omitted], not to yield. For a great many other trees, almost by measure and weight dividing the nourishment to their leaves growing opposite to one another, show a decent order and wonderful equality. They seem to speak more probably who say the ancients were pleased with the beauty and figure of the tree. Thus Homer compares Nausicaa to a palm-branch. For you all know very well, that some threw roses at the victors, and others pomegranates and apples, to honor and reward them. But now the palm hath nothing evidently more taking than many other things, since here in Greece it bears no fruit that is good to eat, it not ripening and growing mature enough. But if, as in Syria and Egypt, it bore a fruit that is the most pleasant to the eyes of anything in the world, and the sweetest to the taste, then I must confess nothing could compare with it. And the Persian monarch (as the story goes), being extremely taken with Nicolaus the Peripatetic philosopher, who was a very sweet-humored man, tall and slender, and of a ruddy complexion, called the greatest and fairest dates Nicolai.
This discourse of Herodes seemed to give occasion for a query about Nicolaus, which would be as pleasant as the former. Therefore, said Sospis, let every one carefully give his sentiments of the matter before us. I begin, and think that, as far as possible, the honor of the victor should remain fresh and immortal. Now a palm-tree is the longest lived of any, as this line of Orpheus testifies:—
They lived like branches of a leafy palm.
And this almost alone has the privilege (though it is said to belong to many besides) of having always fresh and the same leaves. For neither the laurel nor the olive nor the myrtle, nor any other of those trees named evergreen, is always to be seen with the very same leaves; but as the old fall, new ones grow. So cities continue the same, where new parts succeed those that decay. But the palm, never shedding a leaf, is continually adorned with the same green. And this power of the tree, I believe, men think agreeable to, and fit to represent, the strength of victory.
When Sospis had done, Protogenes the grammarian, calling Praxiteles the commentator by his name, said. What then, shall we suffer those rhetoricians to be thought to have hit the mark when they bring arguments only from probabilities and conjectures? And can we produce nothing from history to club to this discourse? Lately, I remember, reading in the Attic annals, I found that Theseus first instituted games in Delos, and tore off a branch from the sacred palm-tree, which was called spadix (from [Greek omitted] TO TEAR).
And Praxiteles said: This is not certain; but perhaps some will demand of Theseus himself, upon what account when he instituted the game, he broke off a branch of palm rather than of laurel or of olive. But consider whether this be not a prize proper to the Pythian games, as appropriate to Amphictyon. For there they first, in honor of the god, crowned the victors with laurel and palm, as consecrating to the god, not the laurel or olive, but the palm. So Nicias did, who defrayed the charges of the solemnity in the name of the Athenians at Delos the Athenians themselves at Delphi; and before these, Cypselus the Corinthian. For this god is a lover of games, and delights in contending for the prize at harping, singing, and throwing the bar, and, as some say, at cuffing; and assists men when contending, as Homer witnesseth, by making Achilles speak thus,
Let two come forth in cuffing stout, and try
To which Apollo gives the victory.
(“Iliad,” xxiii. 659.)
And amongst the archers, he that made his address to Apollo made the best shot, and he that forgot to pray to him missed the mark. And besides, it is not likely that the Athenians would rashly, and upon no grounds, dedicate their place of exercise to Apollo. But they thought that the god which bestows health gives likewise a vigorous constitution, and strength for the encounter. And since some of the encounters are light and easy, others laborious and difficult, the Delphians offered sacrifices to Apollo the cuffer; the Cretans and Spartans to Apollo the racer; and the dedication of spoils taken in the wars and trophies to Apollo Pythias show that he is of great power to give victory in war.
Whilst he was speaking, Caphisus, Theon’s son, interrupted him, and said: This discourse smells neither of history nor comment, but is taken out of the common topics of the Peripatetics, and endeavors to persuade; besides, you should, like the tragedians, raise your machine, and fright all that contradict you with the god. But the god, as indeed it is requisite he should be, is equally benevolent to all. Now let us, following Sospis (for he fairly leads the way), keep close to our subject, the palm-tree, which affords us sufficient scope for our discourse. The Babylonians celebrate this tree, as being useful to them three hundred and sixty several ways. But to us Greeks it is of very little use, but its lack of fruit makes it appropriate for contenders in the games. For being the fairest, greatest, and best proportioned of all sorts of trees, it bears no fruit amongst us; but by reason of its strong nature it exhausts all its nourishment (like an athlete) upon its body, and so has very little, and that very bad, left for seed. Besides all this, it hath something peculiar, which cannot be attributed to any other tree. The branch of a palm, if you put a weight upon it, doth not yield and bend downwards, but turns the contrary way as if it resisted the pressing force. The like is to be observed in these exercises. For those who, through weakness or cowardice, yield to them, their adversaries oppress; but those who stoutly endure the encounter have not only their bodies, but their minds too, strengthened and increased.
One demanded a reason why the sailors take up the water for their occasions out of the river Nile by night, and not by day. Some thought they feared the sun, which heating the liquid would make it more liable to putrefaction. For everything that is warmed becomes more easy to be changed, having already suffered when its natural quality was remitted. And cold constipating the parts seems to preserve everything in its natural state, and water especially. For that the cold of water is naturally constringent is evident from snow, which keeps flesh from corrupting a long time. And heat, as it destroys the proper quality of other things, so of honey, for it being boiled is itself corrupted, though when raw it preserves other bodies from corruption. And that this is the cause, I have a very considerable evidence from standing pools; for in winter they are as wholesome as other water, but in summer they grow bad and noxious. Therefore the night seeming in some measure to resemble the winter, and the day the summer, they think the water that is taken up at night is less subject to be vitiated and changed.
To these seemingly probable reasons another was added, which confirmed the ingenuity of the sailors by a very strong proof. For some said that they took up their water by night because then it was clear and undisturbed; but at day-time, when a great many fetched water together, and many boats were sailing and many beasts swimming upon the Nile, it grew thick and muddy, and in that condition it was more subject to corruption. For mixed bodies are more easily corrupted than simple and unmixed; for from mixture proceeds disagreement of the parts, from that disagreement a change, and corruption is nothing else but a certain change; and therefore painters call the mixing of their colors [Greek omitted], corrupting; and Homer expresseth dyeing by [Greek omitted] (TO STAIN OR CONTAMINATE). Commonly we call anything that is simple and unmixed incorruptible and immortal. Now earth being mixed with water soonest corrupts its proper qualities, and makes it unfit for drinking; and therefore standing water stinks soonest, being continually filled with particles of earth, whilst running waters preserve themselves by either leaving behind or throwing off the earth that falls into them. And Hesiod justly commends
The water of a pure and constant spring.
For that water is wholesome which is not corrupted, and that is not corrupted which is pure and unmixed. And this opinion is very much confirmed from the difference of earths; for those springs that run through a mountainous, rocky ground are stronger than those which are cut through plains or marshes, because they do not take off much earth. Now the Nile running through a soft country, like the blood mingled with the flesh, is filled with sweet juices that are strong and very nourishing; yet it is thick and muddy, and becomes more so if disturbed. For motion mixeth the earthly particles with the liquid, which, because they are heavier, fall to the bottom as soon as the water is still and undisturbed. Therefore the sailors take up the water they are to use at night, by that means likewise preventing the sun, which always exhales and consumes the subtler and lighter particles of the liquid.
My younger sons staying too long at the plays, and coming in too late to supper, Theon’s sons waggishly and jocosely called them supper hinderers, night-suppers, and the like; and they in reply called their runners-to-supper. And one of the old men in the company said [Greek omitted] signified one that was too late for supper; because, when he found himself tardy, he mended his pace, and made more than common haste. And he told us a jest of Battus, Caesar’s jester, who called those that came late supper-lovers, because out of their love to entertainments, though they had business, they would not desire to be excused.
And I said, that Polycharmus, a leading orator at Athens, in his apology for his way of living before the assembly, said: Besides a great many things which I could mention, fellow-citizens, when I was invited to supper, I never came the last man. For this is more democratical; and on the contrary, those that are forced to stay for others that come late are offended at them as uncivil and of an oligarchical temper.
But Soclarus, in defence of my sons, said: Alcaeus (as the story goes) did not call Pittacus a night-supper for supping late, but for delighting in base and scandalous company. Heretofore to eat early was accounted scandalous, and such a meal was called [Greek omitted], from [Greek omitted] INTEMPERANCE.
Then Theon interrupting him said: Not at all, if we must trust those who have delivered down to us the ancients way of living. For they say that those being used to work, and very temperate in a morning, ate a bit of bread dipped in wine, and nothing else, and that they called that meal [Greek omitted] from the [Greek omitted] (WINE). Their supper they called [Greek omitted], because returning from their business they took it [Greek omitted] (LATE). Upon this we began to inquire whence those two meals [Greek omitted] and [Greek omitted] took their names. In Homer [Greek omitted] and [Greek omitted] seem to be the same meal. For he says that Eumaeus provided [Greek omitted] by the break of day; and it is probable that [Greek omitted] was so called from [Greek omitted], because provided in the morning; and [Greek omitted] was so named from [Greek omitted], EASING FROM THEIR LABOR. For men used to take their [Greek omitted] after they had finished their business, or whilst they were about it. And this may be gathered from Homer, when he says,
Then when the woodman doth his supper dress.
(“Iliad,” xi. 86.)
But some perhaps will derive [Greek omitted] from [Greek omitted], EASIEST PROVIDED, because that meal is usually made upon what is ready and at hand; and [Greek omitted] from [Greek omitted], LABORED, because of the pains used in dressing it.
My brother Lamprias, being of a scoffing, jeering nature, said: Since we are in a trifling humor, I can show that the Latin names of these meals are a thousand times more proper than the Greek; [Greek omitted] SUPPER, they call coena ([Greek omitted]) from community; because they took their [Greek omitted] by themselves, but their coena with their friends. [Greek omitted] DINNER, they call prandium, from the time of the dry; for [Greek omitted] signifies NOON-TIDE, and to rest after dinner is expressed by [Greek omitted]; or else by prandium they denote a bit taken in the morning, [Greek omitted], Before THEY HAVE NEED OF ANY. And not to mention stragula, from [Greek Omitted], vinum from [Greek omitted], oleum from [Greek omitted], mel from [Greek omitted], gustare from [Greek omitted], propinare from [Greek omitted], and a great many more words which they have plainly borrowed from the Greeks — who can deny but that they have taken their comessatio, BANQUETING, from our [Greek omitted] and miscere, TO MINGLE, from the Greeks too? Thus in Homer,
She in a bowl herself mixt ([Greek omitted]) generous wine.
(“Odyssey,” x. 356.)
They call a table mensam, from [Greek omitted], PLACING IT IN THE MIDDLE; bread, panem, from satisfying [Greek omitted], HUNGER; a garland, coronam, from [Greek omitted], THE HEAD; — and Homer somewhat likens [Greek omitted], a HEAD-PIECE, to a garland; — caedere, TO BEAT, from [Greek omitted]; and dentes, TEETH, from [Greek omitted]; lips they call labra, from [Greek omitted], TAKING OUR VICTUALS WITH THEM. Therefore we must either listen to such fooleries as these without laughing, or not give them so ready entrance by means of words. . . .
Sylla the Carthaginian, upon my return to Rome after a long absence, gave me a welcoming supper, as the Romans call it, and invited some few other friends, and among the rest, one Lucius an Etrurian, the scholar of Moderatus the Pythagorean. He seeing my friend Philinus ate no flesh, began (as the opportunity was fair) to talk of Pythagoras; and affirmed that he was a Tuscan, not because his father, as others have said, was one, but because he himself was born, bred, and taught in Tuscany. To confirm this, he brought considerable arguments from such symbols as these:— As soon as you are risen, ruffle the bedclothes; leave not the print of the pot in the ashes; receive not a swallow into your house; never step over a besom; nor keep in your house creatures that have hooked claws. For these precepts of the Pythagoreans the Tuscans only, as he said, carefully observe.
Lucius, having thus said, that precept about the swallow seemed to be most unaccountable, it being a harmless and kind animal; and therefore it seemed strange that that should be forbid the house, as well as the hooked-clawed animals, which are ravenous, wild, and bloody. Nor did Lucius himself approve that only interpretation of the ancients, who say, this symbol aims directly at backbiters and tale-bearing whisperers. For the swallow whispers not at all; it chatters indeed, and is noisy, but not more than a pie, a partridge, or a hen. What then, said Sylla, is it upon the old fabulous account of killing her son, that they deny the swallow entertainment, by that means showing their dislike to those passions which (as the story goes) made Tereus and Procne and Philomel both act and suffer such wicked and abominable things? And even to this day they call the birds Daulides. And Gorgias the sophister, when a swallow muted upon him, looked upon her and said, Philomel, this was not well done. Or perhaps this is all without foundation; for the nightingale, though concerned in the same tragedy, we willingly receive.
Perhaps, sir, said I, what you have alleged may be some reason; but pray consider whether first they do not hate the swallow upon the same account that they abhor hook-clawed animals. For the swallow feeds on flesh; and grasshoppers, which are sacred and musical, they chiefly devour and prey upon. And, as Aristotle observes, they fly near the surface of the earth to pick up the little animals. Besides, that alone of all house-animals makes no return for her entertainment. The stork, though she is neither covered, fed, nor defended by us, yet pays for the place where she builds, going about and killing the efts, snakes, and other venomous creatures. But the swallow, though she receives all those several kindnesses from us, yet, as soon as her young are fledged, flies away faithless and ungrateful; and (which is the worst of all) of all house-animals, the fly and the swallow only never grow tame, suffer a man to touch them, keep company with or learn of him. And the fly is so shy because often hurt and driven away; but the swallow naturally hates man, suspects, and dares not trust any that would tame her. And therefore — if we must not look on the outside of these things, but opening them view the representations of some things in others — Pythagoras, setting the swallow for an example of a wandering, unthankful man, adviseth us not to take those who come to us for their own need and upon occasion into our familiarity, and let them partake of the most sacred things, our house and fire.
This discourse of mine gave the company encouragement to proceed, so they attempted other symbols, and gave moral interpretations of them. For Philinus said, that the precept of blotting out the print of the pot instructed us not to leave any plain mark of anger, but, as soon as ever the passion hath done boiling, to lay aside all thoughts of malice and revenge. That symbol which adviseth us to ruffle the bedclothes seemed to some to have no secret meaning, but to be in itself very evident; for it is not decent that the mark and (as it were) stamped image should remain to be seen by others, in the place where a man hath lain with his wife. But Sylla thought the symbol was rather intended to prevent men’s sleeping in the day-time, all the conveniences for sleeping being taken away in the morning as soon as we are up. For night is the time for sleep, and in the day we should rise and follow our affairs, and not suffer so much as the print of our body in the bed, since a man asleep is of no more use than one dead. And this interpretation seems to be confirmed by that other precept, in which the Pythagoreans advise their followers not to take off any man’s burthen from him, but to lay on more, as not countenancing sloth and laziness in any.
Our former discourse Lucius neither reprehended nor approved, but, sitting silent and musing, gave us the hearing. Then Empedocles addressing his discourse to Sylla, said: If our friend Lucius is displeased with the discourse, it is time for us to leave off; but if these are some of their mysteries which ought to be concealed, yet I think this may be lawfully divulged, that they more cautiously abstain from fish than from other animals. For this is said of the ancient Pythagoreans; and even now I have met with Alexicrates’s scholars, who will eat and kill and even sacrifice some of the other animals, but will never taste fish. Tyndares the Spartan said, they spared fish because they had so great a regard for silence, and they called fish [Greek omitted], because they had their voice SHUT UP ([Greek omitted]); and my namesake Empedocles advised one who had been expelled from the school of Pythagoras to shut up his mind like a fish, and they thought silence to be divine, since the gods without any voice reveal their meaning to the wise by their works.
Then Lucius gravely and composedly saying, that perhaps the true reason was obscure and not to be divulged, yet they had liberty to venture upon probable conjectures, Theon the grammarian began thus: To demonstrate that Pythagoras was a Tuscan is a great and no easy task. But it is confessed that he conversed a long time with the wise men of Egypt, and imitated a great many of the rites and institutions of the priests, for instance, that about beans. For Herodotus delivers, that the Egyptians neither set nor eat beans, nay, cannot endure to see them; and we all know, that even now the priests eat no fish; and the stricter sort eat no salt, and refuse all meat that is seasoned with it. Various reasons are offered for this; but the only true reason is hatred to the sea, as being a disagreeable, or rather naturally a destructive element to man. For they do not imagine that the gods, as the Stoics did that the stars, were nourished by it. But, on the contrary, they think that the father and preserver of their country, whom they call the deflux of Osiris, is lost in it; and when they bewail him as born on the left hand, and destroyed in the right-hand parts, they intimate to us the ending and corruption of their Nile by the sea, and therefore they do not believe that its water is wholesome, or that any creature produced or nourished in it can be clean or wholesome food for man, since it breathes not the common air, and feeds not on the same food with him. And the air that nourisheth and preserves all other things is destructive to them, as if their production and life were unnecessary and against Nature; nor should we wonder that they think animals bred in the sea to be disagreeable to their bodies, and not fit to mix with their blood and spirits, since when they meet a pilot they will not speak to him, because he gets his living by the sea.
Sylla commended this discourse, and added concerning the Pythagoreans, that they then chiefly tasted flesh when they sacrificed to the gods. Now no fish is ever offered in sacrifice. I, after they had done, said that many, both philosophers and unlearned, considering with how many good things it furnisheth and makes our life more comfortable, take the sea’s part against the Egyptians. But that the Pythagoreans should abstain from fish because they are not of the same kind, is ridiculous and absurd; nay, to butcher and feed on other animals, because they bear a nearer relation to us, would be a most inhuman and Cyclopean return. And they say that Pythagoras bought a draught of fishes, and presently commanded the fishers to let them all out of the net; and this shows that, he did not hate or not mind fishes, as things of another kind and destructive to man, but that they were his dearly beloved creatures, since he paid a ransom for their freedom.
Therefore the tenderness and humanity of those philosophers suggest a quite contrary reason, and I am apt to believe that they spare fishes to instruct men, or to accustom themselves to acts of justice; for other creatures generally give men cause to afflict them, but fishes neither do nor are capable of doing us any harm. And it is easy to show, both from the writings and religion of the ancients, that they thought it a great sin not only to eat but to kill an animal that did them no harm. But afterwards, being necessitated by the spreading multitude of men, and commanded (as they say) by the Delphic oracle to prevent the total decay of corn and fruit, they began to sacrifice, yet they were so disturbed and concerned at the action, that they called it [Greek omitted] and [Greek omitted] (TO DO), as if they did some strange thing in killing an animal; and they are very careful not to kill the beast before the wine has been cast upon his head and he nods in token of consent. So very cautious are they of injustice. And not to mention other considerations, were no chickens (for instance) or hares killed, in a short time they would so increase that there could be no living. And now it would be a very hard matter to put down the eating of flesh, which necessity first introduced, since pleasure and luxury hath espoused it. But the water-animals neither consuming any part of our air or water, or devouring the fruit, but as it were encompassed by another world, and having their own proper bounds, which it is death for them to pass, they afford our belly no pretence at all for their destruction; and therefore to catch or be greedy after fish is plain deliciousness and luxury, which upon no just reason unsettle the sea and dive into the deep. For we cannot call the mullet corn-destroying, the trout grape-eating, nor the barbel or seapike seed-gathering, as we do some land-animals, signifying their hurtfulness by these epithets. Nay, those little mischiefs which we complain of in these house-creatures, a weasel or fly, none can justly lay upon the greatest fish. Therefore the Pythagoreans, confining themselves not only by the law which forbids them to injure men, but also by Nature, which commands them to do violence to nothing, fed on fish very little, or rather not at all. But suppose there were no injustice in this case, yet to delight in fish would argue daintiness and luxury; because they are such costly and unnecessary diet. Therefore Homer doth not only make the Greeks whilst encamped near the Hellespont, eat no fish, but he mentions not any sea-provision that the dissolute Phaeacians or luxurious wooers had, though both islanders. And Ulysses’s mates, though they sailed over so much sea, as long as they had any provision left, never let down a hook or net.
But when the victuals of their ship was spent,
(“Odyssey,” xii. 329–332.)
a little before they fell upon the oxen of the Sun, they caught fish, not to please their wanton appetite, but to satisfy their hunger —
With crooked hooks, for cruel hunger gnawed.
The same necessity therefore forced them to catch fish and devour the oxen of the Sun. Therefore not only among the Egyptian and Syrians but Greeks too, to abstain from fish was a piece of sanctity, they avoiding (as I think), a superfluous curiosity in diet, as well as being just.
To this Nestor subjoining said: But sir, of my citizens as of the Megarians in the proverb, you make no account; although you have heard me often say that our priests of Neptune (whom we call Hieromnemons) never eat fish. For Neptune himself is called the Breeder. And the race of Hellen sacrificed to Neptune as the first father, imagining, as likewise the Syrians did, that man rose from a liquid substance. And therefore they worship a fish as of the same production and breeding with themselves, in this matter being more happy in their philosophy than Anaximander; for he says that fish and men were not produced in the same substances, but that men were first produced in fishes, and, when they were grown up and able to help themselves, were thrown out, and so lived upon the land. Therefore, as the fire devours its parents, that is, the matter out of which it was first kindled, so Anaximander, asserting that fish were our common parents, condemneth our feeding on them.
Philo the physician stoutly affirmed that the elephantiasis was a disease but lately known; since none of the ancient physicians speak one word of it, though they oftentimes enlarge upon little, frivolous and obscure trifles. And I, to confirm it, cited Athenodorus the philosopher, who in his first book of Epidemical Diseases says, that not only that disease, but also the hydrophobia or water-dread (occasioned by the biting of a mad dog), were first discovered in the time of Asclepiades. At this the whole company were amazed, thinking it very strange that such diseases should begin then, and yet as strange that they should not be taken notice of in so long a time; yet most of them leaned to this last opinion, as being most agreeable to man, not in the least daring to imagine that Nature affected novelties, or would in the body of man, as in a city, create new disturbances and tumults.
And Diogenianus added, that even the passions and diseases of the mind go on in the same old road that formerly they did; and yet the viciousness of our inclination is exceedingly prone to variety, and our mind is mistress of itself, and can, if it please, easily change and alter. Yet all her inordinate motions have some sort of order, and the soul hath bounds to her passions, as the sea to her overflowings. And there is no sort of vice now among us which was not practised by the ancients. There are a thousand differences of appetites and various motions of fear; the schemes of grief and pleasure are innumerable.
Yet are not they of late or now produced,
And none can tell from whence they first arose.
(Sophocles, “Antigone,” 456.)
How then should the body be subject to new diseases, since it hath not, like the soul, the principle of its own alteration in itself, but by common causes is joined to Nature, and receives a temperature whose infinite variety of alterations is confined to certain bounds, like a ship moving and tossing in a circle about its anchor. Now there can be no disease without some cause, it being against the laws of Nature that anything should be without a cause. Now it will be very hard to find a new cause, unless we fancy some strange air, water, or food never tasted by the ancients, should out of other worlds or intermundane spaces descend to us. For we contract diseases from those very things which preserve our life; since there are no peculiar seeds of diseases, but the disagreement of their juices to our bodies, or our excess in using them, disturbs Nature. These disturbances have still the very same differences, though now and then called by new names. For names depend on custom, but the passions on Nature; and these being constant and those variable, this error has arisen. As, in the parts of a speech and the syntax of the words, some new sort of barbarism or solecism can suddenly arise; so the temperature of the body hath certain deviations and corruptions into which it may fall, those things which are against and hurtful to Nature being in some sort existent in Nature herself. The mythographers are in this particular very ingenious, for they say that monstrous uncouth animals were produced in the time of the Giants war, the moon being out of its course, and not rising where it used to do. And those who think Nature produces new diseases like monsters, and yet give neither likely nor unlikely reasons of the change, err, as I imagine, my dear Philo, in taking a less or a greater degree of the same disease to be a different disease. The intension or increase of a thing makes it more or greater, but does not make the subject of another kind. Thus the elephantiasis, being an intense scabbiness, is not a new kind; nor is the water-dread distinguished from other melancholic and stomachical affections but only by the degree. And I wonder we did not observe that Homer was acquainted with this disease, for it is evident that he calls a dog rabid from the very same rage with which when men are possessed they are said to be mad.
Against this discourse of Diogenianus Philo himself made some objections, and desired me to be the old physicians’ patron; who must be branded with inadvertency and ignorance, unless it appears that those diseases began since their time. First then Diogenianus, methinks, very precariously desires us to think that the intenseness or remissness of degrees is not a real difference, and does not alter the kind. For, were this true, then we should hold that downright vinegar is not different from pricked wine, nor a bitter from a rough taste, darnel from wheat, nor garden-mint from wild mint. For it is evident that these differences are only the several degrees of the same qualities, in some being more intense, in some more remiss. So we should not venture to affirm that flame is different from a white spirit, sunshine from flame, hoarfrost from dew, or hail from rain; but that the former have only more intense qualities than the latter. Besides, we should say that blindness is of the same kind with short-sightedness, violent vomiting (or cholera) with weakness of the stomach, and that they differ only in degree. Though what they say is nothing to the purpose; for if they allow the increase in intensity and strength, but assert that this came but now of late — the novelty showing itself in the quantity rather than the quality — the same difficulties which they urged against the other opinion oppress them. Sophocles says very well concerning those things which are not believed to be now, because they were not heretofore —
Once at the first all things their being had.
And it is probable that not all diseases, as in a race, the barrier being let down, started together; but that one rising after another, at some certain time, had its beginning and showed itself. It is rational to conclude (continued I) that all the diseases that rise from want, heat, or cold bear the same date with our bodies; but afterwards overeating, luxury, and surfeiting, encouraged by ease and plenty, raised bad and superfluous juices, and those brought various new diseases, and their perpetual complications and mixtures still create more new. Whatever is natural is determined and in order; for Nature is order, or the work of order. Disorder, like Pindar’s sand, cannot be comprised by number, and that which is beside Nature is straight called indeterminate and infinite. Thus truth is simple, and but one; but falsities innumerable. The exactness of motions and harmony are definite, but the errors either in playing upon the harp, singing, or dancing, who can comprehend? Indeed Phrynichus the tragedian says of himself,
As many figures dancing doth propose
As waves roll on the sea when tempests toss.
And Chrysippus says that the various complications of ten single axioms amount to 1,000,000. But Hipparchus hath confuted that account, showing that the affirmative contains 101,049 complicated propositions, and the negative 310,952. And Xenocrates says, the number of syllables which the letters will make is 100,200,000. How then is it strange that the body, having so many different powers in itself, and getting new qualities every day from its meat and drink, and using those motions and alterations which are not always in the same time nor in the same order, should upon the various complications of all these be affected with new diseases? Such was the plague at Athens described by Thucydides, who conjectures that it was new because that birds and beasts of prey would not touch the dead carcasses. Those that fell sick about the Red Sea, if we believe Agatharcides, besides other strange and unheard diseases, had little serpents in their legs and arms, which did eat their way out, but when touched shrunk in again, and raised intolerable inflammations in the muscles; and yet this kind of plague, as likewise many others, never afflicted any beside, either before or since. One, after a long stoppage of urine, voided a knotty barley straw. And we know that Ephebus, with whom we lodged at Athens, threw out, together with a great deal of seed, a little hairy, many-footed, nimble animal. And Aristotle tells us, that Timon’s nurse in Cilicia every year for two months lay in a cave, without any vital operation besides breathing. And in the Menonian books it is delivered as a symptom of a diseased liver carefully to observe and hunt after mice and rats, which we see now nowhere practised.
Therefore let us not wonder if something happens which never was before, or if something doth not appear among us with which the ancients were acquainted; for the cause of those accidents is the nature of our body, whose temperature is subject to be changed. Therefore, if Diogenianus will not introduce a new kind of water or air, we, having no need of it, are very well content. Yet we know some of Democritus’s scholars affirm that, other worlds being dissolved, some strange effluvia fall into ours, and are the principle of new plagues and uncommon diseases. But let us not now take notice of the corruption of some parts of this world by earthquake, droughts, and floods, by which both the vapors and fountains rising out of the earth must be necessarily corrupted. Yet we must not pass by that change which must be wrought in the body by our meat, drink, and other exercises in our course of life. For many things which the ancients did not feed on are now accounted dainties; for instance, mead and swine’s belly. Heretofore too, as I have heard, they hated the brain of animals so much, that they detested the very name of it; as when Homer says, “I esteem him at a brain’s worth.” And even now we know some old men, not bearing to taste cucumber, melon, orange, or pepper. Now by these meats and drinks it is probable that the juices of our bodies are much altered, and their temperature changed, new qualities arising from this new sort of diet. And the change of order in our feeding having a great influence on the alteration of our bodies, the cold courses, as they were called formerly, consisting of oysters, polyps, salads, and the like, being (in Plato’s phrase) transferred “from tail to mouth,” now make the first course, whereas they were formerly the last. Besides, the glass which we usually take before supper is very considerable in this case; for the ancients never drank so much as water before they ate, but now we drink freely before we sit down, and fall to our meat with a full and heated body, using sharp sauces and pickles to provoke appetite, and then we fall greedily on the other meat. But nothing conduceth more to alterations and new diseases in the body than our different baths; for here the flesh, like iron in the fire, grows soft and loose, and is presently constipated and hardened by the cold. For, in my opinion, if any of the last age had looked into our baths, he might have justly said,
There burning Phlegethon meets Acheron.
For they used such mild gentle baths, that Alexander the Great being feverish slept in one. And the Gauls’ wives carry their pots of pulse to eat with their children whilst they are in the bath. But our baths now inflame, vellicate, and distress; and the air which we draw is a mixture of air and water, disturbs the whole body, tosses and displaces every atom, till we quench the fiery particles and allay their heat. Therefore, Diogenianus, you see that this account requires no new strange causes, no intermundane spaces; but the single alteration of our diet is enough to raise new diseases and abolish old.
Florus reading Aristotle’s physical problems, which were brought to him to Thermopylae, was himself (as philosophical wits used to be) filled with a great many doubts, and communicated them to others; thereby confirming Aristotle’s saying, that much learning raises many doubts. Other topics made our walks every day very pleasant, but the common saying concerning dreams — that those in autumn are the vainest — I know not how, whilst Favorinus was engaged in other matters, was started after supper. Your friends and my sons thought Aristotle had given sufficient satisfaction in this point, and that no other cause was to be sought after or allowed but that which he mentions, the fruit. For the fruit, being new and flatulent, raises many disturbing vapors in the body; for it is not likely that only wine ferments, or new oil only makes a noise in the lamp, the heat agitating its vapor; but new corn and all sorts of fruit are plump and distended, till the unconcocted flatulent vapor is broke away. And that some sorts of food disturb dreams they said, was evident from beans and the polypus’s head, from which those who would divine by their dreams are commanded to abstain.
But Favorinus himself, though in all other things he admires Aristotle exceedingly and thinks the Peripatetic philosophy to be most probable, yet in this case resolved to scour up an old musty opinion of Democritus. He first laid down that known principle of his, that images pass through the pores into the inmost parts of the body, and being carried upward cause dreams; and that these images fly from everything, vessels, garments, plants, but especially from animals, because of their heat and the motion of their spirits; and that these images not only carry the outward shape and likeness of the bodies (as Epicurus thinks, following Democritus so far and no farther), but the very designs, motions, and passions of the soul; and with those entering into the bodies, as if they were living things, discover to those that receive them the thoughts and inclinations of the persons from whom they come, if so be that they preserve their frame and order entire. And that is especially preserved when the air is calm and clear, their passage then being quick and undisturbed. Now the autumnal air, when trees shed their leaves, being very uneven and disturbed, ruffles and disorders the images, and, hindering them in their passage, makes them weak and ineffectual; when, on the contrary, if they rise from warm and vigorous subjects, and are presently applied, the notices which they give and the impressions they make are clear and evident.
Then with a smile looking upon Autobulus, he continued: But, sir, I perceive you design to have an airy skirmish with these images, and try the excellence of this old opinion, as you would a picture, by your nail. And Autobulus replied: Pray, sir, do not endeavor to cheat us any longer; for we know very well that you, designing to make Aristotle’s opinion appear the better, have used this of Democritus only as its shade. Therefore I shall pass by that, and impugn Aristotle’s opinion, which unjustly lays the blame on the new fruit. For both the summer and the early autumn witness in its favor, when, as Antimachus says, the fruit is most fresh and juicy; for then, though we eat the new fruit, yet our dreams are not so vain as at other times. And the months when the leaves fall, being next to winter, so concoct the corn and remaining fruit, that they grow shrivelled and less, and lose all their brisk agitating spirit. As for new wine, those that drink it soonest forbear till February, which is after winter; and the day on which we begin we call the day of the Good Genius, and the Athenians the day of cask-opening. For whilst wine is working, we see that even common, laborers will not venture on it. Therefore no more accusing the gifts of the gods, let us seek after another cause of vain dreams, to which the name of the season will direct us. For it is called LEAF-SHEDDING, because the leaves then fall off by reason of their dryness and coldness; except the leaves of hot and oily trees, as of the olive, the laurel, or the palm; or of the moist, as of the myrtle and the ivy. But the temperature of these preserves them, though not others; because in others the vicious humor that holds the leaves is constipated by the cold, or being weak and little is dried up. Now moisture and heat are necessary for the growth and preservation of plants, but especially of animals; and on the contrary, coldness and dryness are very noxious to both. And therefore Homer elegantly calls men moist and juicy: to rejoice he calls to be warmed; and anything that is grievous and frightful he calls cold and icy. Besides, the words [Greek omitted] and [Greek omitted] are applied to the dead, those names intimating their extreme dryness. But more, our blood, the principal thing in our whole body, is moist and hot. And old age hath neither of those two qualities. Now the autumn seems to be as it were the old age of the decaying year; for the moisture doth not yet fall, and the heat decays. And its inclining the body to diseases is an evident sign of its cold and dryness. Now it is necessary that the souls should be indisposed with the bodies and that, the subtile spirit being condensed, the divining faculty of the soul, like a glass that is breathed upon, should be sullied; and therefore it cannot represent anything plain, distinct, and clear, as long as it remains thick, dark, and condensed.
This ninth book, Sossius Senecio, contains the discourses we held at Athens at the Muses feast, for this number nine is agreeable to the number of the Muses. Nor must you wonder when you find more than ten questions (which number I have observed in my other books) in it; for we ought to give the Muses all that belongs to them, and be as careful of robbing them as of a temple, since we owe them much more and much better things than these.
Ammonius, captain of the militia at Athens, would show Diogenianus the proficiency of those youths that learned grammar, geometry, rhetoric, and music; and invited the chief masters of the town to supper. There were a great many scholars at the feast, and almost all his acquaintance. Achilles invited only the single combatants to his feast, intending (as the story goes) that, if in the heat of the encounter they had conceived any anger or ill-will against one another, they might then lay it aside, being made partakers of one common entertainment. But the contrary happened to Ammonius, for the contentions of the masters increased and grew more sharp midst their cups and merriment; and all was disorder and confused babbling.
Therefore Ammonius commanded Erato to sing to his harp, and he sang some part of Hesiod’s Works beginning thus,
Contention to one sort is not confined;
(“Works and Days,” 11.)
and I commended him for choosing so apposite a song. Then he began to discourse about the seasonable use of verse, that it was not only pleasant but profitable. And straight every one’s mouth was full of that poet who began Ptolemy’s epithalamium (when he married his sister, a wicked and abominable match) thus,
Jove Juno called his sister and his wife;
(“Iliad,” xviii. 356.)
and another, who refused to sing after supper to Demetrius the king, but after he sent him his young son Philip to be educated sang thus,
Breed thou the boy as doth become
Both Hercules’s race and us;
and Anaxarchus who, being pelted with apples by Alexander at supper, rose up and said,
Some god shall wounded be by mortal hand.
(Euripides, “Orestes,” 271.)
But that Corinthian captive boy excelled all, who, when the city was destroyed, and Mummius, taking a survey of all the free-born children that understood letters, commanded each to write a verse, wrote thus:—
Thrice, four times blest, the happy Greeks that fell.
(“Odyssey,” v. 306.)
For they say that Mummius was affected with it, wept and gave all the free-born children that were allied to the boy their liberty. And some mentioned the wife of Theodorus the tragedian, who refused his embraces a little before he contended for the prize; but, when he was conqueror and came in unto her, clasped him and said,
Now, Agamemnon’s son, you freely may
(Sophocles “Electra,” 2.)
After this a great many sayings were mentioned as unseasonably spoken, it being fit that we should know such and avoid them; — as that to Pompey the Great, to whom, upon his return from a dangerous war, the schoolmaster brought his little daughter, and, to show him what a proficient she was, called for a book, and bade her begin at this line,
Returned from war; but hadst thou there been slain,
My wish had been complete;
(“Iliad,” iii. 428.)
and that to Cassius Longinus, to whom a flying report of his son’s dying abroad being brought, and he no ways appearing either to know the certain truth or to clear the doubt, an old senator came and said: Longinus, will you not despise the flying uncertain rumor, as if you did not know nor had read this line,
For no report is wholly false?
(Hesiod, “Works and Days,” 763.)
And he that at Rhodes, to a grammarian demanding a line upon which he might show his skill in the theatre, proposed this,
Fly from the island, worst of all mankind,
(“Odyssey,” x. 72.)
either slyly put a trick upon him, or unwittingly blundered. And this discourse quieted the tumult.
It being the custom of the Muses’ feast to draw lots, and those that were matched to propose curious questions to one another, Ammonius, fearing that two of the same profession might be matched together, ordered, without drawing lots, a geometrician to propose questions to a grammarian, and a master of music to a rhetorician.
First, therefore, Hermeas the geometrician demanded of Protogenes the grammarian a reason why Alpha was the first letter of the alphabet. And he returned the common answer of the schools, that it was fit the vowels should be set before the mutes and semi-vowels. And of the vowels, some being long, some short, some both long and short, it is just that the latter should be most esteemed. And of these that are long and short, that is to be set first which is usually placed before the other two, but never after either; and that is Alpha. For that put after either Iota or Upsilon will not be pronounced, will not make one syllable with them, but as it were resenting the affront and angry at the position, seeks the first as its proper place. But if you place Alpha before either of those, they are obedient, and quietly join in one syllable, as in these words, [Greek omitted] and a thousand others. In these three respects therefore, as the conquerors in all the five exercises, it claims the precedence — that of most other letters by being a vowel, that of other vowels by being dichronous, and lastly, that of these double-timed vowels themselves because it is its nature to go before and never after them.
Protogenes making a pause, Ammonius, speaking to me, said: What! have you, being a Boeotian, nothing to say for Cadmus, who (as the story goes) placed Alpha the first in order, because a cow is called Alpha by the Phoenicians, and they account it not the second or third (as Hesiod doth) but the first of their necessary things? Nothing at all, I replied, for it is just that, to the best of my power, I should rather assist my own than Bacchus’s grandfather. For Lamprias my grandfather said, that the first articulate sound that is made is Alpha; for the air in the mouth is formed and fashioned by the motion of the lips; now as soon as those are opened, that sound breaks forth, being very plain and simple, not requiring or depending upon the motion of the tongue, but gently breathed forth whilst that lies still. And therefore that is the first sound that children make. Thus [Greek omitted], TO HEAR, [Greek omitted], TO SING, [Greek omitted], TO PIPE, [Greek omitted], TO HOLLOW, begin with the letter Alpha; and I think that [Greek omitted], TO LIFT UP, and [Greek omitted], TO OPEN, were fitly taken from that opening and lifting up of the lips when his voice is uttered. Thus all the names of the mutes besides one have an Alpha, as it were a light to assist their blindness; for Pi alone wants it, and Phi and Chi are only Pi and Kappa with an aspirate.
Hermeas saying that he approved both reasons, why then (continued I) do not you explain the proportion, if there be any, of the number of the letters; for, in my opinion, there is; and I think so, because the number of mutes and semi-vowels, compared between themselves or with the vowels, doth not seem casual and undesigned, but to be according to the first proportion which you call arithmetical. For their number being nine, eight, and seven, the middle exceeds the last as much as it wants of the first. And the first number being compared with the last, hath the same proportion that the Muses have to Apollo; for nine is appropriated to them, and seven to him. And these two numbers tied together double the middle; and not without reason, since the semi-vowels partake the power of both.
And Hermeas replied: It is said that Mercury was the first god that discovered letters in Egypt; and therefore the Egyptians make the figure of an Ibis, a bird dedicated to Mercury, for the first letter. But it is not fit, in my opinion, to place an animal that makes no noise at the head of the letters. Amongst all the numbers the fourth is peculiarly dedicated to Mercury, because, as some say, the god was born on the fourth day of the month. And the first letters called Phoenician from Cadmus are four times four, or sixteen; and of those that were afterward added, Palamedes found four, and Simonides four more. Now amongst numbers, three is the first perfect, as consisting of a first, a middle, and a last; and after that six, as being equal the sum of its own divisors (1+2+3). Of these, six multiplied by four makes twenty-four; and also the first perfect number, three, multiplied by the first cube, eight, make the same.
Whilst he was discoursing thus, Zopyrion the grammarian sneered and muttered between his teeth; and, as soon as he had done, cried out that he most egregiously trifled; for it was mere chance, and not design, that gave such a number and order to the letters, as it was mere chance that the first and last verses of Homer’s Iliads have just as many syllables as the first and last of his Odysseys.
Hermeas would have replied to Zopyrion, but we desired him to hold; and Maximus the rhetorician proposed to him this far-fetched question out of Homer, Which of Venus’s hands Diomedes wounded. And Zopyrion presently asking him again, of which leg was Philip lame? — Maximus replied, It is a different case, for Demosthenes hath left us no foundation upon which we may build our conjecture. But if you confess your ignorance in this matter, others will show how the poet sufficiently intimates to an understanding man which hand it was. Zopyrion being at a stand, we all, since he made no reply, desired Maximus to tell us.
And he began: The verses running thus
Then Diomedes raised his mighty spear,
And leaping towards her just did graze her hand;
(“Iliad,” v. 335. It is evident from what follows that
Plutarch interprets [Greek omitted] in this passage HAVING
LEAPED TO ONE SIDE. (G.))
it is evident that, if he designed to wound her left hand, there had been no need of leaping, since her left hand was opposite to his right. Besides, it is probable that he would endeavor to wound the strongest hand, and that with which she drew away Aeneas; and which being wounded, it was likely she would let him go. But more, after she returned to Heaven, Minerva jeeringly said,
No doubt fair Venus won a Grecian dame,
To follow her beloved Trojan youths,
And as she gently stroked her with her hand,
Her golden buckler scratched this petty wound.
(“Iliad”, v. 422.)
And I suppose, you sir, when you stroke any of your scholars, you use your right hand, and not your left; and it is likely that Venus, the most skilful of all the goddesses, soothed the heroines after the same manner.
These discourses made all the other company merry; but Sospis the rhetorician, seeing Hylas the grammarian sit silent and discomposed (for he had not been very happy in his exercises), cried out,
But Ajax’s soul stood far apart;
and raising his voice repeated the rest to him,
But sit, draw near, and patiently attend,
Hear what I say, and tame, your violent rage.
To this Hylas, unable to contain, returned a scurvy answer saying that Ajax’s soul, taking her lot in the twentieth place in hell, changed her nature, according to Plato, for a lion’s; but, for his part, he could not but often think upon the saying of the old comedian,
’Tis better far to be an ass than see
Unworthwhile men in greater honor shine
At this Sospis, laughing heartily, said: But in the meantime, before we have the pack-saddles on, if you have any regard for Plato, tell us why he makes Ajax’s soul, after the lots drawn, to have the twentieth choice. Hylas, with great indignation, refused, thinking that this was a jeering reflection on his former miscarriage. And therefore my brother began thus: What, was not Ajax counted the second for beauty, strength, and courage, and the next to Achilles in the Grecian army? And twenty is the second ten, and ten is the chiefest of numbers, as Achilles of the Greeks. We laughing at this, Ammonius said: Well, Lamprias, let this suffice for a joke upon Hylas; but since you have voluntarily taken upon you to give an account of this matter, leave off jesting, and seriously proceed.
This startled Lamprias a little, but, after a short pause, he continued thus: Plato often tells merry stories under borrowed names, but when he puts any fable into a discourse concerning the soul, he hath some considerable meaning in it. The intelligent nature of the heavens he calls a flying chariot, intimating the harmonious whirl of the world. And here he introduceth one Er, the son of Harmonius, a Pamphylian, to tell what he had seen in hell; intimating that our souls are begotten according to harmony, and are agreeably united to our bodies, and that, when they are separated, they are from all parts carried together into the air, and from thence return to second generations. And what hinders but that [Greek omitted] twentieth should intimate that this was not a true story, but only probable and fictitious [Greek omitted], and that the lot fell casually [Greek omitted]. For Plato always toucheth upon three causes, he being the first and chiefest philosopher that knew how fate accords with fortune, and how our free-will is mixed and complicated with both. And now he hath admirably discovered what influence each hath upon our affairs. The choice of our life he hath left to our free-will, for virtue and vice are free. But that those who have made a good choice should live religiously, and those who have made an ill choice should lead a contrary life, he leaves to the necessity of fate. But the chances of lots thrown at a venture introduce fortune into the several conditions of life in which we are brought up, and which pre-occupates and perverts our own choice. Now consider whether it is not irrational to inquire after a cause of those things that are done by chance. For if the lot seems to be disposed of by design, it ceaseth to be chance and fortune, and becomes fate and providence.
Whilst Lamprias was speaking, Marcus the grammarian seemed to be counting to himself, and when he had done, he began thus: Amongst the souls which Homer mentions in his [Greek omitted], Elpenor’s is not to be reckoned as mixed with those in hell, but, his body being not buried, as wandering about the banks of the river Styx. Nor is it fit that we should reckon Tiresias’s soul amongst the rest —
On whom alone, when deep in hell beneath,
Wisdom Proserpina conferred,
to discourse and converse with the living even before he drank the sacrifice’s blood. Therefore, Lamprias, if you subtract these two, you will find that Ajax was the twentieth that Ulysses saw, and Plato merrily alludes to that place in Homer’s [Greek omitted].
While all were making a disturbance, Menephylus, a Peripatetic philosopher, addressing Hylas: You see, he said, how this investigation is no foolery nor insolence. But leave now, my dear fellow, that obstinate Ajax, whose name is ill-omened, as Sophocles says, and side with Poseidon, whom you yourself are wont to tell has often been overcome, once by Athene here, in Delphi by Apollo, in Argos by Here, in Aegina by Zeus, in Naxos by Bacchus, yet in his misfortunes has always been mild and amiable. Here at least he shares a temple in common with Athene, in which there is an altar dedicated to Lethe. And Hylas, as if he had become better tempered: One thing has escaped you, Menephylus, that we have given up the second day of September, not on account of the moon, but because on that day the gods seemed to have contended for the country. By all means, said Lamprias, by as much as Poseidon was more civilized than Thrasybulus, since not like him a winner but a loser. . . .
(The rest of this book to Question XIII is lost; with the exception of the titles that follow, and the fragment of Question XII.)
Men must be cheated by oaths. And Glaucias said: I have heard this saying used against Polycrates the tyrant; probably too it was said against others: but why do you ask these questions? Because, by Zeus, said Sospis, I see the children playing odd and even with jackstones and the Academics with words. For such tempers as these differ in no way from those who ask whether they hold clutched in their hands odd or even. Then Protogenes stood up and called me by name: What is the matter with us that we allow these rhetoricians to he so conceited, and to laugh down others while they are asked nothing, and contribute nothing in the way of argument — unless they swear that they have no part in the wine as admirers and disciples of Demosthenes, a man who in his whole life never drank wine. That is not the cause of this, said I; but we have never asked them anything. But unless you have something more useful, I think I can put before them from Homer’s poetry a case of antinomy in rhetorical theses.
What question will you put them, said Protogenes? I will tell you, continued I, and let them carefully attend. Paris makes his challenge in these express words:—
Let me and valiant Menelaus fight
For Helen, and for all the goods she brought;
And he that shall o’ercome, let him enjoy
The goods and woman; let them be his own.
And Hector afterwards publicly proclaiming this challenge in these plain words:—
He bids the Trojans and the valiant Greeks
To fix their arms upon the fruitful ground;
Let Menelaus and stout Paris fight
For all the goods; and he that beats have all.
Menelaus accepted the challenge, and the conditions were sworn to, Agamemnon dictating thus:—
If Paris valiant Menelaus kills,
Let him have Helen, and the goods possess;
If youthful Menelaus Paris kills,
The woman and the goods shall all be his.
(See “Iliad,” iii. 68, 88, 255, and 281.)
Now since Menelaus only overcame but did not kill Paris, each party hath somewhat to say for itself, and against the other. The one may demand restitution, because Paris was overcome; the other deny it, because he was not killed. Now how to determine this case and clear the seeming repugnancies doth not belong to philosophers or grammarians, but to rhetoricians, that are well skilled both in grammar and philosophy.
Then Sospis said: The challenger’s word decides; for the challenger proposed the conditions, and when they were accepted, the opposite party had no power to make additions. Now the condition proposed in this challenge was not killing, but overcoming; and there was reason that it should be so, for Helen ought to be the wife of the bravest. Now the bravest is he that overcomes; for it often happens that an excellent soldier might be killed by a coward, as is evident in what happened afterward, when Achilles was shot by Paris. For I do not believe that you will affirm, that Achilles was not so brave a man as Paris because he was killed by him, and that it should be called the victory, and not rather the unjust good fortune, of him that shot him. But Hector was overcome before he was killed by Achilles, because he would not stand, but trembled and fled at his approach. For he that refuseth the combat or flies cannot palliate his defeat, and plainly grants that his adversary is the better man. And therefore Iris tells Helen beforehand,
In single combat they shall fight for you,
And you shall be the glorious victor’s wife.
(2 Ibid. iii. 137.)
And Jupiter afterwards adjudges the victory to Menelaus in these words:
The conquest leans to Menelaus’s side.
(3 Ibid. iv. 13.)
For it would be ridiculous to call Menelaus a conqueror when he shot Podes, a man at a great distance, before he thought of or could provide against his danger, and yet not allow him the reward of conquest over him whom he made fly and sneak into the embraces of his wife, and whom he spoiled of his arms whilst he was yet alive, and who had himself offered the challenge, by the articles of which Menelaus now appeared to be the conqueror.
Glaucias subjoined: in all laws, decrees, contracts, and promises, those latest made are always accounted more valid than the former. Now the later contract was Agamemnon’s, the condition of which was killing, and not only overcoming. Besides the former was mere words, the latter confirmed by oath; and, by the consent of all, those were cursed that broke them; so that this latter was properly the contract, and the other a bare challenge. And this Priam at his going away, after he had sworn to the conditions, confirms by these words:—
But Jove and other gods alone do know,
Which is designed to see the shades below;
(“Iliad,” iii. 308.)
for he understood that to be the condition of the contract. And therefore a little after Hector says,
But Jove hath undetermined left our oaths,
(Ibid. vii. 69.)
for the combat had not its designed and indisputable determination, since neither of them fell. Therefore this question doth not seem to me to contain any contrariety of law, since the former contract is comprised and overruled by the latter; for he that kills certainly overcomes, but he that overcomes doth not always kill. But, in short, Agamemnon did not annul, but only explain the challenge proposed by Hector. He did not change anything, but only added the most principal part, placing victory in killing; for that is a complete conquest, but all others may be evaded or disputed, as this of Menelaus, who neither wounded nor pursued his adversary. Now as, where there are laws really contrary, the judges take that side which is plain and indisputable, and mind not that which is obscure; so in this case, let us admit that contract to be most valid which contained killing, as a known and undeniable evidence of victory. But (which is the greatest argument) he that seems to have had the victory, not being quiet, but running up and down the army, and searching all about,
To find neat Paris in the busy throng,
(Ibid. iii. 450.)
sufficiently testifies that he himself did not imagine that the conquest was perfect and complete. For when Paris had escaped he did not forget his own words:—
And which of us black fate and death design,
Let him be lost; the others cease from war.
(Iliad, iii. 101,)
Therefore it was necessary for him to seek after Paris, that he might kill him and complete the combat; but since he neither killed nor took him, he had no right to the prize. For he did not conquer him, if we may guess by what he said when he expostulated with Jove and bewailed his unsuccessful attempt:—
Jove, Heaven holds no more spiteful god than thou.
Now would I punish Paris for his crimes;
But oh! my sword is broke, my mighty spear,
Stretched out in vain, flies idly from my hand!
(Ibid. iii, 365.)
For in these words he confessed that it was to no purpose to pierce the shield or take the head-piece of his adversary, unless he likewise wounded or killed him.
This discourse ended, we poured out our offerings to the Muses, and together with a hymn in honor of Apollo, the patron of the Muses, we sung with Erato, who played upon the harp, the generation of the Muses out of Hesiod. After the song was done, Herod the rhetorician said: Pray, sirs, hearken. Those that will not admit Calliope to be ours say that she keeps company with kings, not such, I suppose, as are busied in resolving syllogisms or disputing, but such who do those things that belong to rhetoricians and statesmen. But of the rest of the Muses, Clio abets encomiums, for praises are called [Greek omitted]; and Polymnia history, for her name signifies the remembrance of many things; and it is said that all the Muses were somewhere called Remembrances. And for my part, I think Euterpe hath some relation to us too, if (as Chrysippus says) her lot be agreeableness in discourse and pleasantness in conversation. For it belongs to an orator to converse, as well as plead or give advice; since it is his part to gain the favor of his auditors, and to defend or excuse his client. To praise or dispraise is the commonest theme; and if we manage this artfully, it will turn to considerable account; if unskilfully, we are lost. For that saying,
Gods! how he is honored and beloved by all,
(“Odyssey,” x. 38.)
chiefly, in my opinion, belongs to those men who have a pleasing and persuasive faculty in discourse.
Then said Ammonius to Herod: We have no reason to be angry with you for grasping all the Muses, since the goods that friends have are common, and Jove hath begotten a great many Muses, that every man may be plentifully supplied; for we do not all need skill in hunting, military arts, navigation, or any mechanical trades; but learning and instruction is necessary for every one that
Consumes the fruits of the spacious earth.
And therefore Jove made but one Minerva, one Diana, one Vulcan, but many Muses. But why there should be nine, and no more nor less, pray acquaint us; for you, so great a lover of, and so well acquainted with, the Muses, must certainly have considered this matter. What difficulty is there in that? replied Herod. The number nine is in everybody’s mouth, as being the first square of the first odd number; and as doubly odd, since it may be divided into three equal odd numbers. Ammonius with a smile subjoined: Boldly said; and pray add, that this number is composed of the two first cubes, one and eight, and according to another composition of two triangles, three and six, each of which is itself perfect. But why should this belong to the Muses more than any other of the gods? For we have nine Muses, but not nine Cereses, nine Minervas or Dianas. For I do not believe that you take it for a good argument, that the Muses must be so many, because their mother’s name (Mnemosyne) consists of just so many letters. Herod smiling, and everybody being silent, Ammonius desired our opinions.
My brother said, that the ancients celebrated but three Muses, and that to bring proofs for this assertion would be pedantic and uncivil in such a company. The reason of this number was (not as some say) the three different sorts of music, the diatonic, the chromatic, and harmonic, nor those stops that make the intervals nete, mese, and hypate, though the Delphians gave the Muses this name erroneously, in my opinion, appropriating it to one science, or rather to a part of one single science, the harmoniac part of music. But, as I think, the ancients, reducing all arts and sciences which are executed and performed by reason or discourse to three heads, philosophy, rhetoric, and mathematics, accounted them the gifts of three gods, and named them the Muses. Afterwards, about Hesiod’s time, the sciences being better and more thoroughly looked into, and men subdividing them found that each science contained three different parts. In mathematics are comprehended music, arithmetic, and geometry; in philosophy are logic, ethics, and physics. In rhetoric, they say the first part was demonstrative or encomiastic, the second deliberative, the third judicial. None of all which they believed to be without a god or a Muse or some superior power for its patron, and did not, it is probable, make the Muses equal in number to these divisions, but found them to be so. Now, as you may divide nine into three threes, and each three into as many units; so there is but one rectitude of reason, which is employed about the highest truth, and which belongs to the whole in common, while each of the three kinds of science is assigned three Muses, and each of these has her distinct faculty assigned to her, which she disposes and orders. And I do not think the poets and astrologers will find fault with us for passing over their professions in silence, since they know, as well as we, that astrology is comprehended in geometry, and poetry in music.
As soon as he had said this, Trypho the physician subjoined: How hath our art offended you, that you have shut the Museum against us? And Dionysius of Melite added: Sir, you have a great many that will side with you in the accusation; for we farmers think Thalia to be ours, assigning her the care of springing and budding seeds and plants. But I interposing said: Your accusation is not just; for you have bountiful Ceres, and Bacchus who (as Pindar phraseth it) increaseth the trees, the chaste beauty of the fruits; and we know that Aesculapius is the patron of the Physicians, and they make their address to Apollo as Paean, but never as the Muses’ leader. All men (as Homer says) stand in need of the gods, but all stand not in need of all. But I wonder Lamprias did not mind what the Delphians say in this matter; for they affirm that the Muses amongst them were not named so either from the strings or sounds in music; but the universe being divided into three parts, the first portion was of the fixed stars, the second of the planets, the third of those things that are under the concave of the moon; and all these are ordered according to harmonical proportions, and of each portion a Muse takes care; Hypate of the first, Nete of the last, and Mese in the middle, combining as much as possible, and turning about mortal things with the gods and earthly with heavenly. And Plato intimates the same thing under the names of the Fates, calling one Atropos, the other Lachesis, and the other Clotho. For he hath committed the revolutions of the eight spheres to so many Sirens, and not Muses.
Then Menephylus the Peripatetic subjoined: The Delphians’ opinion hath indeed somewhat of probability in it; but Plato is absurd in committing the eternal and divine revolutions not to the Muses but to the Sirens, Daemons that neither love nor are benevolent to mankind, wholly passing by the Muses, or calling them by the names of the Fates, the daughters of Necessity. For Necessity is averse to the Muses; but Persuasion being more agreeable and better acquainted with them, in my opinion, than the grace of Empedocles,
Intolerable Necessity abhors.
No doubt, said Ammonius, as it is in us a violent and involuntary cause; but in the gods Necessity is not intolerable, uncontrollable, or violent, unless it be to the wicked; as the law in a commonwealth to the best man is its best gift, not to be violated or transgressed, not because they have no power, but because they have no will, to change it. And Homer’s Sirens give us no just reason to be afraid; for he in that fable rightly intimates the power of their music not to be hurtful to man, but delightfully charming, and detaining the souls which pass from hence thither and wander after death; working in them a love for heavenly and divine things, and a forgetfulness of everything on earth; and they extremely pleased follow and attend them. And from thence some imperfect sound, and as it were echo of that music, coming to us by the means of reason and good precepts, rouseth our souls, and restores the notice of those things to our minds, the greatest part of which lie encumbered with and entangled in disturbances of the flesh and distracting passions. But the generous soul hears and remembers, and her affection for those pleasures riseth up to the most ardent passion, whilst she eagerly desires but is not able to free herself from the body.
It is true, I do not approve what he says; but Plato seems to me, as he hath strangely and unaccountably called the axes spindles and distaffs, and the stars whirls, so to have named the Muses Sirens, as delivering divine things to the ghosts below, as Ulysses in Sophocles says of the Sirens,
I next to Phorcus’s daughters came,
Who fix the sullen laws below.
Eight of the Muses take care of the spheres, and one of all about the earth. The eight who govern the motions of the spheres maintain the agreement of the planets with the fixed stars and one another. But that one who looks after the place betwixt the earth and moon and takes care of mortal things, by means of discourse and song introduceth persuasion, aiding our natural consent to community and agreement, and giveth men as much harmony, grace, and order as is possible for them to take; introducing this persuasion to appease and quiet our disturbances, and as it were to recall our wandering desires out of the wrong way, and to set us in the right path. But, as Pindar says,
Whom Jove abhors, he starts to hear
The Muses sounding in his ear.
(Pindar, “Pythian,” i. 25.)
To this discourse Ammonius, as he used to do, subjoined that verse of Xenophanes,
This fine discourse seems near allied to truth,
and desired every one to deliver his opinion. And I after a short silence, said: As Plato thinks by the name, as it were by tracks, to discover the powers of the gods, so let us place in heaven and over heavenly things one of the Muses, Urania. And it is likely that those require no distracting variety of cares to govern them, since they have the same single nature for the cause of all their motions. But where are a great many irregularities and disorders, there we must place the eight Muses, that we may have one to correct each particular irregularity and miscarriage. There are two parts in a man’s life, the serious and the merry; and each must be regulated and methodized. The serious role, which instructs us in the knowledge and contemplation of the gods, Calliope, Clio, and Thalia appear chiefly to look after and direct. The other Muses govern our weak part, which changes presently into wantonness and folly; they do not neglect our brutish and violent passions and let them run their own course, but by appropriate dancing, music, song, and orderly motion mixed with reason, bring them down to a moderate temper and condition. For my part, since Plato admits two principles of every action, viz, the natural desire after pleasure, and acquired opinion which covets and wishes for the best, and calls one reason and the other passion, and since each of these is manifold, I think that each requires a considerable and, to speak the truth, a divine direction. For instance, one faculty of our reason is said to be political or imperial, over which Hesiod says Calliope presides; Clio’s province is the noble and aspiring; and Polymnia’s that faculty of the soul which inclines to attain and keep knowledge (and therefore the Sicyonians call one of their three Muses Polymathia); to Euterpe everybody allows the searches into nature and physical speculations, there being no greater, no sincerer pleasure belonging to any other sort of speculation in the world. The natural desire to meat and drink Thalia reduceth from brutish and uncivil to be sociable and friendly; and therefore we say [Greek omitted] of those that are friendly, merry, and sociable over their cups, and not of those that are quarrelsome and mad. Erato, together with Persuasion, that brings along with it reason and opportunity, presides over marriages; she takes away and extinguisheth all the violent fury of pleasure, and makes it tend to friendship, mutual confidence, and endearment, and not to effeminacy, lust, or discontent. The delight which the eye or ear receives is a sort of pleasure, either appropriate to reason or to passion, or common to them both. This the two other Muses, Terpsichore and Melpomene, so moderate, that the one may only tickle and not charm, the other only please and not bewitch.
After this, a match of dancing was proposed, and a cake was the prize. The judges were Meniscus the dancing-master, and my brother Lamprias; for he danced the Pyrrhic very well, and in the Palaestra none could match him for the graceful motion of his hands and arms in dancing. Now a great many dancing with more heat than art, some desired two of the company who seemed to be best skilled and took most care to observe their steps, to dance in the kind called [Greek omitted]. Upon this Thrasybulus, the son of Ammonius, demanded what [Greek omitted] signified, and gave Ammonius occasion to run over most of the parts of dancing.
He said they were three — [Greek omitted], [Greek omitted] and [Greek omitted]. For dancing is made up of motion and manner [Greek omitted] as a song of sounds and stops; stops are the ends of motion. Now the motions they call [Greek omitted], and the gestures and likeness to which the motions tend, and in which they end, they call [Greek omitted]: as, for instance, when by their own motions they represent the figure of Apollo, Pan, or any of the raging Bacchae. The third is [Greek omitted]; which is not an imitation, but a plain downright indication of the things represented. For as the poets, when they would speak of Achilles, Ulysses, the earth, or heaven, use their proper names, and such as the vulgar usually understand. But for the more lively representation, they use such words as by their very sound express some eminent quality in the thing, or metaphors; as when they say that streams do “babble and flash”; that arrows fly “desirous the flesh to wound”; or when they describe an equal battle by saying “the fight had equal heads.” They have likewise a great many significative compositions in their verses. Thus Euripides of Perseus,
He that Medusa slew, and flies in air;
and Pindar of a horse,
When by the smooth Alpheus’s banks
He ran the race, and never felt the spur;
and Homer of a race,
The chariots, overlaid with tin and brass,
By fiery horses drawn ran swiftly on.
(Euripedes, Frag. 975; Pindar, “Olympian,” i. 31;
“Iliad,” xxiii. 503.)
So in dancing, the [Greek omitted] represents the shape and figure, the [Greek omitted] shows some action, passion, or power; but by the [Greek omitted] are properly and significatively shown the things themselves, for instance, the heaven, earth, or the company. Which, being done in a certain order and method, resembles the proper names used in poetry, decently clothed and attended with suitable epithets. As in these lines,
Themis the venerable and admired,
And Venus beauteous with her bending brows,
Fair Dione, and June crowned with gold.
(Hesiod, “Theogony,” 16.)
And in these,
From Hellen kings renowned for giving laws,
Great Dorus and the mighty Xuthus sprang,
And Aeolus, whose chief delight was horse.
For if poets did not take this liberty, how mean, how grovelling and flat, would be their verse! As suppose they wrote thus,
From this sprung Hercules, from the other Iphitus.
Her father, husband, and her son were kings,
Her brother and forefathers were the same;
And she in Greece Olympias was called.
The same faults may be committed in that sort of dancing called [Greek omitted] unless the representation be lively and graceful, decent and unaffected. And, in short, we may aptly transfer what Simonides said of painting to dancing, and call dancing mute poetry, and poetry speaking dancing; for poesy doth not properly belong to painting, nor painting to poesy, neither do they any way make use of one another. But poesy and dancing share much in common especially in that type of song called Hyporchema, in which is the most lively representation imaginable, dancing doing it by gesture, and poesy by words. So that poesy may bear some resemblance to the colors in painting, while dancing is like the lines which mark out the features. And therefore he who was the most famous writer of Hyporchemes, who here even surpassed himself, sufficiently proveth that these two arts stand in need of one another he shows what tendency poetry hath to dancing; whilst the sound excites the hands and feet, or rather as it were by some cords distends and raiseth every member of the whole body; so that, whilst such songs are recited or sung, they cannot be quiet. But nowadays no sort of exercise hath such bad depraved music applied to it as dancing; and so it suffers that which Ibyeus as to his own concerns was fearful of, as appears by these lines,
I fear lest, losing fame amongst the gods,
I shall receive respect from men alone.
For having associated to itself a mean paltry sort of music, and falling from that divine sort of poetry with which it was formerly acquainted, it rules now and domineers amongst foolish and inconsiderate spectators, like a tyrant, it hath subjected nearly all music, but hath lost all its honor with excellent and wise men.
These, my Sossius Senecio, were almost the last discourses which we had at Ammonius’s house during the festival of the Muses.
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