Athenaeus: The Deipnosophists

BOOK 8 (excerpts)

Translated by C.D.Yonge (1854). A few words and spellings have been changed.

See key to translations for an explanation of the format. The page numbers in the Greek text are shown in red. The chapter numbers in the translation are shown in green.

  * * * * *

[6.] G   [332] Moreover, Clearchus says this also more plainly than Philostephanus the Cyrenaean, whom I have previously mentioned. "There are some fish which, though they have no throats, can utter a sound. Such are those which are found near Cleitor, in Arcadia, in the river called Ladon. For they have a voice, and utter a very audible sound." And Nicolaus of Damascus, in the hundred and fourth book of his History, says- "In the country around Apameia, in Phrygia, at the time of the Mithridatic wars, there were some earthquakes, after which there appeared in that district some lakes which previously had no existence, and rivers, and other springs which had been opened by the earthquake. Many also which had previously existed disappeared. And such a quantity of additional water, which was brackish and of a sea-green colour, burst up in that district, though it is at a very great distance from the sea, [333] that all the neighbouring country was filled with oysters and fish, and all other products of the sea." I know also that it has very often rained fishes. At all events, Phoenias, in the second book of his Eresian Magistrates, says that in the Chersonesus it once rained fish uninterruptedly for three days; and Phylarchus, in his fourth book [ Fr_4 ], says that people had often seen it raining fish, and often also raining wheat, and that the same thing has happened with respect to frogs. At all events, Heracleides Lembus, in the twenty-first book of his History, says- "In Paeonia and Dardania it has, they say, before now rained frogs; and so great has been the number of these frogs that the houses and the roads have been full of them; and at first, for some days, the inhabitants, endeavouring to kill them, and shutting up their houses, endured the pest; but when they did no good, but found that all their vessels were filled with them, and the frogs were found to be boiled up and roasted with everything they ate, and when besides all this, they could not make use of any water, nor put their feet on the ground for the heaps of frogs that were everywhere, and were annoyed also by the smell of those that died, they fled the country."

[7.] G   I am aware, too, that Poseidonius the Stoic makes this statement about the abundance of the fish [ Fr_29 ]:- "When Tryphon of Apameia, who seized upon the kingdom of Syria, was attacked by Sarpedon, the general of Demetrius, near the city of Ptolemais, and when Sarpedon, being defeated, retired into the inland parts of the country with his own troops, but the army of Tryphon, having been victorious in the battle, were marching along the shore, suddenly a wave of the sea, rising to a great height, came over the land, and overwhelmed them all, and destroyed them beneath the waters, and the retreating wave also left an immense heap of fish with the corpses. And Sarpedon and his army hearing of what had happened, came up, and were delighted at the sight of the corpses of their enemies, and carried away an enormous quantity of fish, and made a sacrifice to Poseidon who puts armies to flight, near the suburbs of the city."

[8.] G   Nor will I pass over in silence the men who prophesy from fish in Lycia, concerning whom Polycharmus speaks, in the second book of his Affairs of Lycia; writing in this manner- "For when they have come to the sea, at a place where there is on the shore a grove sacred to Apollo, and where there is an eddy on the sand, the persons who are consulting the oracle come, bringing with them two wooden spits, having each of them ten pieces of roast meat on them. And the priest sits down by the side of the grove in silence; but he who is consulting the oracle throws the spits into the eddy, and looks on to see what happens. And after he has put the spits in, then the eddy becomes full of salt water, and there comes up such an enormous quantity of fish of such a description that he is amazed at the sight, and is even, as it were, alarmed at the magnitude of it. And when the prophet enumerates the different species of fish, the person who is consulting the oracle in this manner receives the prophecy from the priest respecting the matters about which he has prayed for information. And there appear in the eddy orphi, and sea-grayling, and sometimes some sorts of whales, such as the phalaena, or pristis, and a great many other fish which are rarely seen, and strange to the sight." And Artemidorus, in the tenth book of his Geography, says that- "It is said by the natives that a fountain springs up in that place of sweet water, which causes these eddies to exist there; and that very large fish are produced in that eddying place. And those who are sacrificing throw to these fish the first-fruits of what they offer, piercing them through with wooden spits, being pieces of meat, roasted and boiled, and cakes of barley and loaves. [334] And both the harbour and the place is called Dinus ['whirl']."

[9.] G   I know, too, that Phylarchus has spoken, somewhere or other, about large fish, and about fresh figs which were sent with them; saying that Patroclus, the general of Ptolemy, sent such a present to Antigonus the king, by way of a riddle, as the Scythians sent an enigmatical present to Dareius, when he was invading their country. For they sent (as Herodotus relates) a bird, and an arrow, and a frog. But Patroclus (as Phylarchus tells us, in the third book of his Histories [ Fr_1 ]) sent the before-mentioned fishes and figs; and the king, at the time that they arrived, happened to be drinking with his friends, and when all the party were perplexed at the meaning of the gifts, Antigonus laughed, and said to his friends that he knew what was the meaning of the present; "for," says he, "Patroclus means that we must either be masters of the sea, or else be content to eat figs."

  * * * * *

[17.] G   [337] But Clearchus, in his essay on Proverbs, says that Terpsion was the tutor of Archestratus, who was also the first person who wrote a book on Gastronomy; and he says that he gave precepts to his pupils as to what they ought to abstain from; and that Terpsion once extemporised the following line about a turtle:
  Eat now a turtle, or else leave it alone;
which, however, others read-
  Eat now a turtle's flesh, or leave it alone.

[18.] G   But whence is it, O you wisest of men, that Dorion, who wrote a list of fish, has been mentioned as if he were the writer of some valuable history? - a fellow who, I know, has been named a musician and a fish-devourer, but certainly not a historian. Accordingly Machon, the comic poet, speaks of him as a musician, saying-
  Dorion the musician once did come
  To Mylon, all in vain; for he could find
  No resting-place which he could hire at all;
  So on some sacred ground he sat him down,
  Which was by chance before the city gates,
  And there he saw the keeper of the temple
  Prepare a sacrifice. - "I pray thee, tell me,
  In chaste Athena's name, and all the gods',
  What deity is it that owns this temple?"
  The keeper thus replied: " This is, O stranger,
  Of Zeus-Poseidon the sacred shrine."
  "How then" said Dorion, "could any man
  Expect to find a lodging in a place
  Which in one temple crowds a pair of gods?"

And Lynceus the Samian, the pupil of Theophrastus, and the brother of Duris, who wrote the Histories, and made himself tyrant of his country, writes thus in his Apophthegms- "When a man once said to Dorion the flute-player, that the ray was a good fish, he said- 'Yes, about as good as if a man were to eat a boiled cloak.' And once, when some one else praised the entrails of tunny-fish, he said- 'You are quite right, but then a man must eat them as I eat them;' and when the man asked him how that was, he said- 'How? why willingly.' And he said that crawfish had three good qualities,- exercise, good food, and contemplation. And once, at Cyprus, when he was supping with Nicocreon, he praised a goblet that there was there; and Nicocreon said- 'Whatever there is here that you fancy, the artist will make you another like it.' 'Let him make that,' he replied, 'for you; but do you give me this one.'" And this was a clever speech of the flute-player; for there is an old saying that-
  'Tis not that God denies a flutist sense,
  But when he comes to blow it flies away.

[19.] G   And Hegesander, in his Commentaries, says this of him- "Dorion, the great fish-eater, once, when his slave had neglected to buy fish, scourged him, and ordered him to tell him the names of the best fish; [338] and when the boy had counted up the orphus, and the sea-grayling, and the conger, and others of this sort, he said- 'I desired you to tell me the names of fishes, and not of gods.'" The same Dorion, ridiculing the description of a tempest in the Nautilus of Timotheus, said that he had seen a more formidable storm in a boiling saucepan. And Aristodemus, in the second book of his Memorials of Laughable Circumstances and Sayings, says- "Dorion the musician was club-footed; and once, in some entertainment, he lost the slipper of his lame foot; on which he said, 'I will not wish anything more to the thief than that the slipper may fit him.'" But that this Dorion was notorious for his epicurism in fish, is plain from what Mnesimachus the comic poet says in his drama called Philippus -
  No, but all night Dorion the dish-piper
  Does stay in-doors with us.

[20.] G   I know, too, the sportive sayings which Lasus of Hermione has uttered about fishes; which Chamaeleon of Heracleia has recorded in writing, in his book on this very Lasus, where he says- "They say that Lasus called raw fish ὀπτὸς (which means roasted or visible); and when many people wondered why he did so, he thus began to prove what he had said; arguing thus: ' As whatever a person can hear (ἀκούσαι) is properly called ἀκουστὸν, and as whatever a person can understand by his intellect (νοῆσαι) is properly called νοητὸν, so whatever any one can see (ὄπτεσθαι) is clearly ὀπτόν; as therefore it was possible to see the fish, he evidently was ὀπτός.' And once, in a joke, he stole a fish from a fisherman, and having taken it, he gave it to one of the bystanders; and when the fisherman put him to his oath, he swore that he had not got it himself, and that he had not seen any one else take it; because, in fact, he himself had taken it, but some one else had got it. And then he prompted the other man, on the other hand, to swear that he had not taken it himself, and that he was not acquainted with any one else who had it; for, in fact, Lasus had taken it, and he himself had it." And Epicharmus jests in the same way; as, in his Logus and Logina,-
  (A)   Zeus it is who did invite me, giving
  A feast (γ' ἔρανον) to Pelops.
  (B)   'Tis a sorry food,
  That crane (γέρανος), to my mind.
  (A)   But I did not say
  A crane (γέρανον), but a feast (ἔρανόν γε), as you might well have heard.

[21.] G   And Alexis, in his Demetrius, ridicules, in his comic manner, a man of the name of Phayllus, as very fond of fish, in these lines:
  First of all, whether the wind blew north or south,
  As long as it blew hard, it was not possible
  For anybody to get fish to eat.
  But now, besides that pair of stormy winds,
  We've a third tempest risen in Phayllus;
  For when this last storm bursts upon the market,
  He buys up all the fish at all the stalls,
  And bears it off; so that we are reduced
  To squabble for the vegetables remaining.

And Antiphanes, in his Female Fisher, enumerating some people as exceedingly fond of fish, says-
  Give me some cuttle-fish first. O Heracles !
  They've dirtied every place with ink; here, take them
  And throw them back again into the sea,
  To wash them clean: or else they'll say, O Dorias,
  That you have caught some rotten cuttlefish:
  And put this crawfish back beside the sprats.
  He's a fine fish, by Zeus. O mighty Zeus,
  O you Callimedon, who now will eat you?
  No one who's not prepared to pay his share.
  I've given you your place here on the right,
  You mullets, food of great Callisthenes;
  Who eats his patrimony in one dish;
  [339] Next comes the mighty conger from Sinope,
  With his stout spines; the first who comes shall have him;
  For Misgolas has no great love for such.
  But here's a citharus, and if he sees him
  He never will keep off his hands from him;
  For he, indeed, does secretly adhere
  As close as wax to all the harp-plavers (κιθαρῳδοῖς).'
  I ought to send this best of fish, this tench
  Still all alive, and leaping in his dish,
  To the fair Pythionica, he's so fine:
  But still she will not taste him, as her heart
  Is wholly set on cured fish.- Here I place
  These thin anchovies and this dainty turtle
  Apart for Theano, to counterbalance her.

  * * * * *

[25.] G   [340] The following people, too, have all been great epicures about fish. Antagoras the poet would not allow his slave to touch his fish with oil, but made him wash it; as Hegesander tells us. And when in the army, he was once boiling a dish of congers, and had his clothes girt round him, Antigonus the king, who was standing by, said, " Tell me, Antagoras, do you think that, Homer, who celebrated the exploits of Agamemnon, ever boiled congers?" And it is said that he answered, not without wit, "And do you think that Agamemnon, who performed those exploits, ever busied himself about inquiring who was cooking congers in his army?" And once, when Antagoras was cooking a bird of some kind, he said that he would not go to the bath, because he was afraid that the slaves might come and suck up the gravy. And when Philocydes said that his mother would take care of that, "Shall I," said he, " entrust the gravy of game to my mother?" And Androcydes of Cyzicus, the painter, being very fond of fish, as Polemon relates, carried his luxury to such a pitch that he even painted with great care the fish which are around Scylla.

  * * * * *

[35.] G   [345] And Aristodemus, in his Catalogue of Laughable Sayings, says that Euphranor the epicure, having heard that another epicure in fish was dead from having eaten a hot slice of fish, cried out, "What a sacrilegious death!" And Cindon the fish-eater, and Demylus (and he also was an epicure in fish), when a sea-grayling was set before them, and nothing else, the former took one eye of the fish, and then Demylus seized hold of Cindon's eye, crying, " Let his eye go, and I will let your's go." And once at a feast, when a fine dish of fish was served up, Demylus, not being able to contrive any way by which he might get the whole of it to himself, spat upon it. And Zenon of Citium, the founder of the Stoic school, when he had lived a long time with a great epicure in fish, (as Antigonus of Carystus tells us, in his life of Zenon,) once, when a very large fish was by chance served up to them, and when no other food was provided, took the whole fish from the platter, pretending to be about to eat it all himself; and, when the other looked at him, said- "What do you think, then, that those who live with you must suffer every day, if you cannot endure my being a glutton for a single day?" And Ister says that Choerilus the poet used to receive four minae every day from Archelaus, and that he spent them all on fish, of which he was so exceedingly fond.

I am aware, also, that there have been boys who were great fish-eaters, who are mentioned by Clearchus, in his book on Sands which says that Psammetichus, king of Egypt, bred up some boys to eat nothing but fish, when he was anxious to discover the source of the Nile; and that he accustomed others to endure a great degree of thirst, who were to be employed in exploring the sands in Libya; of whom, however, very few escaped in safety. I know, too, that the oxen around Mosynus, in Thrace, eat fish, which are given to them in their cribs. And Phoenicides, having set fish before men who had brought their contribution for a banquet, said that the sea was common, but that the fish in it belonged to those who bought them.

  * * * * *

[40.] G   [347] But whence could Ulpianus know what Stratonicus the harp-player said about Propis the Rhodian harp-player? For Clearchus, in his book on Proverbs, says that Stratonicus, when he had seen Propis, who was a man of great size, but a very inferior artist, with a mind much less than his body, said to some one who asked him what sort of player he was,
  οὐδεὶς κακὸς μέγας ἰχθῦς
[348] speaking enigmatically, and saying, first of all, that he is οὐδεὶς, no one, or good for nothing; secondly, that he is κακὸς, bad; and, in addition to this, that he is μέγας, great; and, lastly, ἰχθῦς, a fish, as having no voice.

But Theophrastus, in his book on The Laughable, says that this was a proverb originating with Stratonicus, but applied to Simmychas the actor; for that he uttered the proverb, dividing the words distinctly-
  μέγας οὐδεὶς σαπρὸς ἰχθῦς

And Aristotle, in his Constitution of the Naxians, speaks thus of this proverb- "Of the rich men among the Naxians, the greater part lived in the city, but the remainder lived scattered about in the villages. Accordingly, in one of these villages, the name of which was Lestadae, Telestagoras lived, a man of great riches and of very high reputation, and greatly honoured by the people in other respects, and also with daily presents which they used to send him. And whenever people from the city, going down to the market, wanted to drive a hard bargain for anything they wished to purchase, the sellers would say that they would rather give it to Telestagoras than sell it for such a price as was offered. So some young men, buying a large fish, when the fisherman made this speech, being annoyed at hearing this so often, having already drunk a good deal, went to his house to sup, and Telestagoras received them in a very friendly and hospitable manner, but the young men insulted him, and his two marriageable daughters. At which the Naxians were very indignant, and took up arms and attacked the young men; and there was a great sedition, Lygdamis being the leader of the Naxians, who, having got the chief command in this sedition, became the tyrant of his country,"

[41.] G   And I do not think it untimely, since I have mentioned the harp-player Stratonicus, to say something also myself concerning his readiness in repartee. For when he was teaching people to play the harp, and as he had in his school nine statues of the nine Muses, and one of Apollo, and had also two pupils, when some one asked him how many pupils he had, he said, " Gods and all, twelve." And once when he had travelled to Mylasa, and saw there a great number of temples, but very few citizens, standing in the middle of the forum, he cried out-
  ἀκούετε ναοί ["Hear ye, O temples"]

And Machon has recorded some reminiscences of him in these lines:
  Once Stratonicus travelled down to Pella,
  And having heard from many men before
  That the baths of that city were accustomed
  To give the bathers spleen; and finding, too,
  That many of the youths did exercise
  Before the fire, who preserved their colour
  And vigour of their body unimpaired;
  He said that those who told him so were wrong.
  But finding afterwards, when he left the bath,
  A man whose spleen was twice his belly's size,-
  "This man," said he, "appears to me here now
  To sit and keep the garments of the men
  Who go to bathe, and all their spleens beside,
  That all the people may have room enough."
  A miserable singer once did give
  A feast to Stratonicus and his friends,
  And, while the cup was freely going round,
  Exhibited his art to all the company.
  And as the feast was rich and liberal,
  Poor Stratonicus, wearied with the song,
  And having no one near him he could speak to,
  [349] Knocked down his cup, and asked for a larger.
  And when he'd drunk full many a draught, he made
  A last libation to the glorious sun,
  And then composed himself to sleep, and left
  The rest to fortune. Presently more guests
  Came, as good luck would have it, to the singer,
  To feast with him; still Stratonicus slept,
  Heavy with wine; and when they asked him why
  A man so much accustomed to drink wine
  Had been so soon overcome by drink this day,
  "This treacherous, cursed singing man," said he,
  "Treated me like a bullock in a stall;
  For first he fed me up, and then he killed me."
  Once Stratonicus to Abdera went,
  To see some games which there were celebrated;
  And seeing every separate citizen
  Having a private crier to himself,
  And each of them proclaiming a new moon
  Whenever he pleased, so that the criers were
  Quite out of all proportion to the citizens,
  He walked about on tiptoes through the city,
  Looking intently on the ground beneath.
  And when some stranger asked him what had happened
  To his feet, to make him look so gravely at them
  He said, " I'm very well all over, friend,
  And can run faster to an entertainment
  Than any parasite; but I'm in fear
  Lest I should tread by hazard on some κῆρυξ,
  And pierce my foot with its spikes and lame myself."
  Once, when a wretched flute-player was preparing
  To play the flute at a sacred festival,
  "Let us have only sounds of omen good,"
  Said Stratonicus; "let us pour libations
  And pray devoutly to the mighty gods."
  There was a harper, and his name was Cleon,
  But he was nick-named Ox; he sang most vilely
  Without the accompaniment of the lyre.
  When Stratonicus heard him, then he said,
  "I've often heard of asses at the lyre,
  But now I see an ox in the same case."
  The harper Stratonicus once had sailed
  To Pontus, to see king Berisades.
  And when he'd stayed in Pontus long enough,
  He thought he would return again to Greece.
  But when the king refused to let him go,
  They say that Stratonicus said to him-
  "Why, do you mean to stay here long yourself?"
  The harper Stratonicus once was staying
  Some time at Corinth; when an aged woman
  One day stood looking at him a long time,
  And would not take her eyes off: then said he,
  "Tell me, I pray you, in God's name, good mother,
  What is it you wish, and why you look thus on me?"
  "I marvelled," said she, "how 'twas your mother
  Held you nine months, without her belly bursting,
  While this town can't endure you one whole day."
  Fair Biothea, Nicocreon's wife,
  Once at a party with a handmaid fair
  Made some strange noise; and after that, by chance,
  She trod upon a Sicyonian almond.
  Then Stratonicus said, "The noise is different."
  But when night came, for this heedless word,
  He washed out his free-speaking in the sea.
  Once, when at Ephesus, as rumour goes,
  A stupid harper was exhibiting
  One of his pupils to a band of friends;
  Stratonicus, who by chance was present, said,
  "He cannot make himself a harp-player,
  And yet he tries to teach the art to others."

[42.] G   And Clearchus, in the second book of his treatise on Friendship, says,- "Stratonicus the harp-player, whenever he wished to go to sleep, used to order a slave to bring him something to drink; 'not,' says he, 'because I am thirsty now, but that I may not be presently.'" [350] And once, at Byzantium, when a harp-player had played his prelude well, but had made a blunder of the rest of the performance, he got up and made proclamation, "That whoever would point out the harp-player who had played the prelude should receive a thousand drachmae." And when he was once asked by someone who were the wickedest people, he said, "That in Pamphylia, the people of Phaselis were the worst; but that the people of Side were the worst in the whole world." And when he was asked again, according to the account given by Hegesander, which were the greatest barbarians, the Boeotians or the Thessalians, he said, "The Eleans." And once he erected a trophy in his school, and put this inscription on it- "Over the bad harp-players." And once, being asked by someone which was the safer kind of vessel, the long one or the round one,- "Those," said he, "are the safest which are in dock." And once he made a display of his art at Rhodes, and no one applauded; on which he left the theatre, and when he had got outside he said, "When you fail to give what costs you nothing, how can I expect any solid pay from you?" "Let the Eleans," said he, "celebrate gymnastic contests, and let the Corinthians establish choral, and the Athenians theatrical exhibitions; and if any one of them does anything wrong, let the Lacedaemonians be scourged," - jesting upon the public scourgings exhibited in that city, as Charicles relates, in the first book of his treatise on the City Contests. And when Ptolemy the king was talking with him in an ambitious kind of way about harp-playing, "The sceptre," said he, "O king, is one thing, and the plectrum another;" as Capito the epic poet says in the fourth book of his Commentaries addressed to Philopappus. And once being invited to hear a flute-player, after he had heard him, he said-
  The father granted half his prayer,
  The other half denied.
And when some one asked him which half he granted, he said, "He granted to him to play very badly, and denied him the ability to sing well." And once, when a beam fell down and slew some wicked man, "O Men," said he, " I think (δοκῶ) there are gods; and if not, there are beams (δόκοι)."

[43.] G   Also, after the before-mentioned witticisms of Stratonicus, he put down besides a list of these things following.

Stratonicus said once to the father of Chrysogonus, when he was saying that he had everything at home in great abundance, for that he himself had undertaken the works, and that of his sons, one could teach and another play the flute; "You still," said Stratonicus, "lack one thing." And when the other asked him what that was, "You lack," said he, "a theatre in your house." And when some one asked him why he kept travelling over the whole of Greece, and did not remain in one city, he said- "That he had received from the Muses all the Greeks as his wages, from whom he was to levy a tax to atone for their ignorance." And he said that Phaon did not play harmony [Harmonia], but Cadmus. And when Phaon pretended to great skill on the flute, and said that he had a chorus at Megara, "You are joking," said he; "for you do not possess anything there, but you are possessed yourself." And he said- "That he marvelled above all things at the mother of Satyrus the Sophist, because she had borne for nine months a man whom no city in all Greece could bear for nine days." [351] And once, hearing that he had arrived in Ilium at the time of the Ilian games, "There are," said he, "always troubles in Ilium." And when Minnacus was disputing with him about music, he said- "That he was not attending to what he said because he had got in above his ankles." At another time he said of a bad physician- "That he made those who were treated by him go down to Hades the very day they came to him." And having met one of his acquaintances, when he saw his sandals carefully sponged, he pitied him as being badly off, pretending to think that he would never have had his sandals so well sponged if he had not sponged them himself. And as it was a very mixed race of people who lived at Teichius, a town in the Milesian territory, when he saw that all the tombs about were those of foreigners, "Let us be gone, O boy," said he; "for all the strangers, as it seems, die here, and none of the citizens." And when Zethus the harper was giving a lecture upon music, he said that he was the only person who was utterly unfit to discuss the subject of music, inasmuch as he had chosen the most unmusical of all names, and called himself Zethus instead of Amphion. And once, when he was teaching some Macedonian to play on the harp, being angry that he did nothing as he ought, he said, "Go to Macedonia."

[44.] G   And when he saw the shrine of some hero splendidly adorned, close to a cold and worthless bathing-house, when he came out, having had a very bad bath, "I do not wonder," said he, "that many tablets are dedicated here; for every one of the bathers naturally offers one, as having been saved from drowning." And at another time he said- "In Aenus there are eight months of cold and four of winter." At another time he said, "that the people of Pontus had come out of a great sea" - as though he had said (great) trouble. And he called the Rhodians White Cyrenaeans, and the city he called the City of Suitors; and Heracleia he called the Man-Corinth; and Byzantium he called the Arm-pit of Greece; and the Leucadians were Stale Corinthians; and the Ambraciots he called Membraciots. And when he had gone out of the gates of Heracleia, and was looking round him, when some one asked him what he was looking at, he said that "he was ashamed of being seen, as if he were coming out of a brothel." And once, seeing two men bound in the stocks, he said- "This is suited to the disposition of a very insignificant city, not to be able to fill such a place as this." And once he said to a man who professed to be a musician, but who had been a gardener before, and who was disputing with him about harmony,- Let each man sing the art in which he's skilled.

And once at Maroneia, when lie was drinking with some people, he said,- "That he could tell in what part of the city he was, if men led him through it blindfold;" and then when they did so lead him, and asked him where he was, "Near the eating-house," said he, because all Maroneia seemed a mere eating-house. And once, when he was sitting next to Telephanes, and he was beginning to blow the flute, he said, "Higher, like men who belch." And when the bathing-man in Cardia brought him some vile earth and salt water to cleanse himself with, he said that he was being besieged both by land and sea.

[45.] G   And when he had conquered his competitors at Sicyon, he set up a trophy in the temple of Asclepius, and wrote upon it, "Stratonicus, conqueror of those who played badly on the harp." And when some one had sung, he asked what tune he had been singing; and when he said that it was an air of Carcinus, "More like that," said he, "than the air of a man." He also said, on another occasion, that there was no spring at Maroneia, only heat. And once at Phaselis, when the bathing-man was wrangling with his boy about the money, (for the law was that foreigners should pay more for bathing than natives,) [352] "Oh, you wretched boy!" said he, "you have almost made me a citizen of Phaselis, to save a halfpenny." And once, when a person was praising him in hopes to get something by it, he said, "that he himself was a greater beggar." And once, when he was teaching in a small town, he said, " This is not a city (πόλις), but hardly one (μόλις)." And once, when he was at Pella, he came to a well, and asked whether it was fit to drink; and when those who were drawing water from it said, " At all events we drink it ;" " Then," said he, " I am sure it is not fit to drink:" for the men happened to be very sallow-looking. And when he had heard the poem of Timotheus, on the subject of Semele in Labour, he said, " But if she had brought forth an artisan, and not a god, what sounds would she have uttered!"

And when Polyidas was giving himself airs, because his pupil Philotas had beaten Timotheus, he said, " That he wondered at his being so ignorant as not to know that he makes decrees, and Timotheus laws." And he said to Areius the harp-player, who was annoying him, "Play to the crows." And once he was at Sicyon, when a leather-dresser was abusing him, and he said to the leather-dresser (νακοδέψης), "O you κακόδαιμον νακόδαιμον." And Stratonicus himself beholding the Rhodians dissolved in luxury, and drinking only warm drinks, said, "that there were white Cyrenaeans." And he called Rhodes itself the City of the Suitors, thinking that they were in no respect different from the Cyrenaeans in debauchery, but only in complexion; and also because of the devotion to pleasure of the inhabitants, he compared Rhodes itself to the city of the Suitors.

[46.] G   And Stratonicus was, in all these elaborate witticisms, an imitator of Simonides the poet, as Ephorus tells us in the second book of his treatise on Inventions; who says that Philoxenus of Cythera was also a great studier of the same pursuit. And Phoenias the Peripatetic, in the second book of his treatise on Poets, says- "Stratonicus the Athenian appears to have been the first person who introduced the system of playing chords into the simple harp-playing; and he was the first man who ever took pupils in music, and who ever composed tables of music. And he was also a man of no small brilliancy as a wit." He says also that he was eventually put to death by Nicocles, the King of the Cyprians, on account of the freedom of his witticisms, being compelled to drink poison, because he had turned the sons of the king into ridicule.

[47.] G   But I marvel at Aristotle, whom these wise men, my excellent Democritus, are so incessantly speaking of and praising, (and whose writings you also esteem highly, as you do those of the other philosophers and orators,) on account of his great accuracy: and I should like to know when he learnt, or from what Proteus or Nereus who came up from the depths he found out, what fish do, or how they go to sleep, or how they live: for all these things he has told us in his writings, so as to be, in the words of the comic poets, "a wonder to fools; " for he says that the ceryx, and indeed that the whole race of shell-fish, are propagated without copulation; and that the purple-fish and the ceryx are long-lived. For how could he know that the purple-fish lives six years? and how could he know that the viper takes a long time to propagate his species? or that of all its tribe the longest at that work is the pigeon, the next the oenas, and the quickest is the turtle-dove? And whence did he learn that the horse lives five-and-thirty years, but the mare more than forty? saying, too, that some have lived even seventy-five years. And he also states that from the copulation of lice there are born nits; and that from a worm, after its change, there is produced a caterpillar, from which comes the bumble-bee, and from that the larva of the silk-worm. And he also says that bees live to six years of age, and that some live even seven years; [353] and he says that neither bee nor wasp have ever been seen in the act of copulation, on which account no one can ever tell whether they are male or female. And from what did he learn that men are inferior to bees? for these latter always preserve an equal condition of life, being subject to no changes, but employing themselves without ceasing in the collection of honey, and doing that without having been taught by any one to do so: but men are inferior to bees, and as full of fancy as bees are of honey: how, then, has Aristotle observed all these things? And in his treatise on Long Life, he says that a fly has been seen which had lived fix or seven years. But what proof is there of this?

[48.] G   And where did he ever see ivy growing out of a stag's head? And again, owls and night-jars, he says, cannot see by day; on which account they hunt for their food by night, and they do this not during the whole night, but at the beginning of evening. And he says, too, that there are several different kinds of eyes, for some are blue, and some are black, and some are hazel. He says, too, that the eyes of men are of different characters, and that the differences of disposition may be judged of from the eyes; for that those men who have goats' eyes, are exceedingly sharp-sighted, and have the best dispositions. And of others, he says that some men have projecting eyes, and some have eyes deeply set, and some keep a mean between the two: and those whose eyes are deeply set, he says, have the sharpest sight, and those whose eyes project, must have the worst dispositions; and those who are moderate in these respects, are people, says he, of moderate dispositions. There are also some people whose eyes are always winking, and some who never wink at all, and some who do so in a moderate degree: and those who are always winking are shameless people, and those who never wink at all are unstable and fickle, and those who wink in a moderate degree have the best disposition.

He says also that man is the only animal which has its heart on the left side; and that all other animals have it in the middle of the body. And he says that males have more teeth than females; and he affirms that this has been noticed in the case of the sheep, and of the pig, and of the goat. And he says also that there is no fish which has testicles, and there is no fish which has a breast, and no bird either; but that the only fish which has no gall is the dolphin. There are, however, some, says he, which have no gall in their liver, but they have it near their bowels; as the sturgeon, the synagris, the lamprey, the sword-fish, and the sea-swallow. But the amia has its gall spread over the whole of its entrails: and the hawk and the kite have theirs spread both over their liver and their entrails; but the horned owl has his gall both in his liver and in his stomach: and the pigeon, and the quail, and the swallow have theirs, some in their entrails, and some in their stomach.

[49.] G   Moreover, he says that all the molluscous fish, and the shell-fish, and the cartilaginous fish, and all insects, spend a long time in copulation; but that the dolphin and some other fish copulate lying alongside the female. And he says that the dolphins are very slow, but fish in general very quick. Again he says that the lion has very solid bones, and that if they are struck, fire comes from them as from flint stones. And that the dolphin has bones, but no spine; but that cartilaginous fish have both gristle and spine. And of animals he says that some are terrestrial and some aquatic; and that some even live in the fire; and that there are some, which he calls ephemera, which live only one day: and that there are some which are amphibious, such as the river-horse, and the crocodile, and the otter. And that all animals in general have two forefeet, but that the crab has four; and that all the animals which have blood are either without feet at all, or are bipeds, or quadrupeds; and that all the animals which have more than four feet are destitute of blood: on which account every animal which moves, moves by what he calls four tokens,- man by two hands and two feet, a bird by two feet and two wings, an eel and a conger by two fins and two joints. [354] Moreover, some animals have hands, as a man has, and some appear to have hands, as a monkey does; for there is no brute beast which can really give and take, and it is for those things that hands are given to men as instruments. Again, some animals have limbs, as a man, an ox, an ass; and some have no limbs, as a serpent, an oyster, the pulmo marinus. There are also many animals which are not always visible, such as those which hide in holes; and those which do not hide in holes are still not always visible, as swallows and cranes.

[50.] G   And though I could repeat to you. now a great deal of nonsense which the medicine-seller talked, I forbear to do so, although I know that Epicurus, that most truthful of men, said of him in his letter about Institutions, that he devoted himself to a military life after having squandered his patrimony, in gluttony: and that, turning out an indifferent soldier, he then took to selling medicines. Then, when the school of Plato was opened, he says, he changed again, and applied himself to philosophical discussions, and as he was not a man destitute of ability, by little and little he became a speculative philosopher. I know, too, that Epicurus is the only person who ever said this of him; for neither did Eubulides nor Cephisodorus venture to say anything of the kind against the Stageirite, and that, too, though they did write books against him. But in that same letter Epicurus says that Protagoras also, who became a philosopher from having been a porter and a wood-carrier, was first promoted to be an amanuensis of Democritus; who, wondering at the admirable way in which he used to put the wood together, took him under his eye in consequence of this beginning; and then he began to teach the rudiments of learning in some village, and after that he proceeded on to the study of philosophy. And I now, O fellow feasters, after all this conversation, feel a great desire for something to eat. And when some one said that the cooks were already preparing something, and taking care that the dishes should not be served up cold, on account of the excessive length to which the "feast of words" had been carried, for that no one could eat cold dishes, Cynulcus said,- But I, like the Milcon of Alexis, the comic poet, can eat them even if they are not served up warm-
  For Plato teaches us that what is good,
  Is everywhere on all occasions good;
  Can you deny this? and that what is sweet
  Is always sweet, here, there, and everywhere.

And it was not without some cleverness that Sphaerus, who was a fellow-pupil with Chrysippus in the school of Cleanthes, when he had been summoned to Alexandria by king Ptolemy, when on one occasion birds made of wax were served up at a banquet, and he was putting out his hand to take some, but was stopped by the king, who told him that he was assenting to a sham; very appropriately answered,- "That he did not agree that they were birds at all, but only that it was probable that they might be birds; and that an opinion which could be confirmed by the perception, is superior to that which is merely probable; for that the one cannot be incorrect, but that what is probable may turn out contrary to what was expected." And so it could not be a bad thing if some waxen dishes were brought round to us too, according to our perceptive opinions, so that we might be beguiled at least by the sight of them, and so escape talking on for ever.

  * * * * *

Attalus' home page   |   27.02.18   |   Any comments?