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Athenaeus: The Deipnosophists

BOOK 1 (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.


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[11.] G   [6] Phaenias says that Philoxenus of Cythera, a poet, who was exceedingly fond of eating, once when he was dining with Dionysius, and saw a large mullet put before him and a small one before himself, took his up in his hands and put it to his ear; and, when Dionysius asked him why he did so, Philoxenus said that he was writing Galateia, and so he wished to ask the fish for some of the news in the kingdom of Nereus; and that the fish which he was asking said that he knew nothing about it, as he had been caught young; but that the one which was set before Dionysius was older, and was well acquainted with everything which he wished to know. On which Dionysius laughed, and sent him the mullet which had been set before himself. And Dionysius was very fond of drinking with Philoxenus; but when Philoxenus was detected in trying to seduce the king's mistress Galateia, he threw him into the stone quarries. [7] While there he wrote the Cyclops, constructing the fable with reference to what had happened to himself; representing Dionysius as the Cyclops, and the flute-player as Galateia, and himself as Odysseus.

[12.] G   About the time of Tiberius there lived a man named Apicius, very rich and luxurious; from whom several kinds of cheesecakes are called Apician. He spent countless sums on his belly, living chiefly at Minturnae, a city of Campania, eating very expensive crawfish, which are found in that place superior in size to those of Smyrna, or even to the crabs of Alexandria. Hearing too that they were very large in Africa, he sailed thither, without waiting a single day, and suffered exceedingly on his voyage. But when he came near the place, before he disembarked from the ship, (for his the news of his arrival had spread amongst the Africans,) the fishermen came alongside in their boats and brought him some very fine crawfish; and he, when he saw them, asked if they had any finer; and when they said that there were none finer than those which they brought, he, recollecting those at Minturnae, ordered the master of the ship to sail back the same way into Italy, without going near the land. But Aristoxenus, the philosopher of Cyrene, a real devotee of the philosophy of his country (from whom, hams cured in a particular way are called Aristoxeni), out of his prodigious luxury used to syringe the lettuces which grew in his garden with mead in the evening, and then, when he picked them in the morning, he would say that he, was eating green cheesecakes, which were sent up to him by the Earth.

[13.] G   When the emperor Trajanus was in Parthia, at a distance of many days’ journey from the sea, Apicius sent him fresh oysters, which he had kept so by a clever contrivance of his own; real oysters, not like the sham anchovies which the cook of Nicomedes, king of the Bithynians, made in imitation of the real fish, and set before the king, when he expressed a wish for anchovies, (and he too at the time was a long way from the sea.) And in Euphron, the comic writer, a cook says:-
  A. I am a pupil of Soterides,
  Who, when his king was distant from the sea
  Full twelve days’ journey, and in winter’s depth,
  Fed him with rich anchovies to his wish,
  And made the guests to marvel.
  B. How was that?
  A. He took a female turnip, shred it fine
  Into the figure of the delicate fish;
  Then did he pour on oil and savoury salt
  With careful hand in due proportion.
  On that he strewed twelve grains of poppy seed,
  Food which the Scythians love; then boiled it all.
  And when the turnip touched the royal lips,
  Thus spake the king to the admiring guests:
  "A cook is quite as useful as a poet,
  And quite as wise, and these anchovies show it."

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[25.] G   [14] The dances spoken of in Homer are partly those of tumblers and partly those of ball-players; the invention of which last kind Agallis, the Corcyraean authoress, who wrote on grammar, attributes to Nausicaa, paying a compliment to her own countrywoman; but Dicaearchus attributes it to the Sicyonians. But Hippasus gives the credit of both this and gymnastic exercises to the Lacedaemonians. However, Nausicaa is the only one of his heroines whom Homer introduces playing at ball. Demoteles, the brother of Theocritus the Chian sophist was eminent for his skill in this game; and a man of the name of Chaerephanes, who once kept following a debauched young man, and did not speak to him, but prevented him from misbehaving. And when he said, "Chaerephanes, you may make your own terms with me, if you will only desist from following me;" "Do you think," said he, "that I want to speak to you?" "If you do not," said he, "why do you follow me?" "I like to look at you," he replied, "but I do not approve of your conduct." The thing called φούλλικλον, which appears to have been a kind of small ball, was invented by Atticus of Neapolis, the tutor in gymnastics of the great Pompeius. And in the game of ball the variation called ἁρπιστὸν used to be called φαινίνδα ( phaininda ), and I think that the best of all the games of ball.

[26.] G   There is a great deal of exertion and labour in a game of ball, and it causes great straining of the neck and shoulders. Antiphanes says:
  Wretch that I am, my neck’s so stiff,
and again Antiphanes describes the phaininda thus:-
  [15] And so he gladly took the ball,
  While dodging the other player;
  He pushed it out of someone's way,
  While raising another to his feet,
  And all around the cries rang out:
  "Out of bounds," "too far", "right by him",
  "Over his head," "down below," "up in the air,"
  "Too short", or "pass back to the scrummage."

And it was called from the rapid motion of those who played, or else because its inventor, as Juba the Mauretanian says, was Phaenestius, a master of gymnastics. And Antiphanes says,
  To play phaininda at Phaenestius’ school.

And those who played phaininda paid great attention to elegance of motion and attitude; and accordingly Damoxenus says:-
  A youth I saw was playing ball,
  Seventeen years of age and tall;
  From Cos he came, and well I know
  The Gods look kindly on that spot.
  For when he took the, ball or threw it,
  So pleased were all of us to view it,
  We all cried out; so great his grace,
  Such frank good humour in his face,
  That every time he spoke or moved,
  All felt as if that youth they loved.
  Sure never before had these eyes seen,
  Nor ever since, so fair a mien
  Had I stayed long most sad my plight
  Had been to lose my wits outright,
  And even now the recollection
  Disturbs my senses’ calm reflection.

Ctesibius also of Chalcis, a philosopher, was no bad player. And there were many of the friends of Antigonus the king who used to take their coats off and play ball with him. Timocrates, too, the Lacedaemonian, wrote a book on playing ball.

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[32.] G   [18] And lately baths too have been introduced; things which formerly men would not have permitted to exist inside a city. And Antiphanes points out their injurious character;
  Plague take the bath! just see the plight
  In which the thing has left me;
  It seems to have boiled me up, and quite
  Of strength and nerve bereft me.
  Don’t touch me, curst was he who taught a
  Man to soak in boiling water.

And Hermippus says,
  As to mischievous habits, if you ask my vote,
  I say there are two common kinds of self-slaughter,
  One, constantly pouring strong wine down your throat,
  The other plunging in up to your throat in hot water.

But now the refinements of cooks and perfumers have increased so much, that Alexis says that even if a man could bathe in a bath of perfume he would not be content. And all the manufactories of sweetmeats are in great vigour, and such plans are devised for intercourse between people, that some have proposed even to stuff the sofas and chairs with sponge, as on the idea that that will make the occupiers more amorous. And Theophrastus says that some contrivances are of wondrous efficacy in such matters; and Phylarchus confirms him [ Fr_35 ], by reference to some of the presents which Sandrocottus, the king of the Indians, sent to Seleucus; which were to act like charms in producing a wonderful degree of affection, while some, on the contrary, were to banish love. Music, too, has been cultivated now, in a way which is a great perversion of its legitimate use: and extravagance has descended even to our clothes and shoes.

[33.] G   But Homer, though he was well acquainted with the nature of perfume, has never introduced any of his heroes as perfumed except Paris; when he says [ Il_3'392 ], “glittering with beauty,” as in another place he says [ Od_18'192 ] that Aphrodite -
  With every beauty every feature arms,
  Bids her cheeks glow, and lights up all her charms.

Nor does he ever represent them as wearing crowns, although by some of his similes and metaphors he shows that he knew of garlands. At all events he speaks of [ Od_10'195 ]
  That lovely isle crowned by the foaming waves,

And again he says [ Il_13'736 ] -
  For all around the crown of battle swells.

We must remark, too, that in the Odyssey he represents his characters as washing their hands before they partake of food. But in the Iliad there is no trace of such a custom. For the life described in the Odyssey is that of men living easily and luxuriously owing to the peace; on which account the men of that time indulged their bodies with baths and washings. [19] And that is the reason why in that state of things they play at dice, and dance, and play ball. But Herodotus is mistaken when he says [ 1.94 ] that those sports were invented in the time of Atys to amuse the people during the famine. For the heroic times are older than Atys. And the men living in the time of the Iliad are almost constantly crying out [ quoting from Pindarus ] -
  Raise the battle cry so clear,
  Prelude to the warlike spear.

[34.] G   Now to go back to what we were saying before. The Athenians made Aristonicus the Carystian, who used to play at ball with Alexander the king, a freeman of their city on account of his skill, and they erected a statue to him. And even in later times the Greeks considered all handicraft trades of much less importance than inventions which had any reference to amusement. And the people of Histiaea, and of Oreus, erected in their theatre a brazen statue holding a die in its hand to Theodorus the juggler. And on the same principle the Milesians erected one to Archelaus the harp-player. But at Thebes there is no statue to Pindarus, though there is one to Cleon the singer, on which there is the inscription-
  Here does Cleon of Thebes, Pytheas’ tuneful son,
  While living oft with victory’s garlands crowned,
  Sweet linger, though on earth his race is run,
  Even the high heavens with his name resound.

Polemon relates that when Alexander razed Thebes to the ground, one man who escaped hid some gold in the garments of this statue, as they were hollow; and then when the city was restored he returned and recovered his money after a lapse of thirty years. But Herodotus, the reciter of mimes, and Archelaus the dancer, according to Hegesander, were more honoured by Antiochus the king than any others of his friends. And Antiochus his father made the sons of Sostratus the flute-player his body-guards.

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[51.] G   [28] The Persian king used to drink no other wine but that called the Chalybonian, which Poseidonius says is made in Damascus of Syria, from vines which were planted there by the Persians; and at Issa, which is an island in the Adriatic, Agatharchides says that wine is made which is superior to every other wine whatever. The Chian and Thasian wines are mentioned by Epilycus, who says that "the Chian and the Thasian wine must be strained." And Antidotus says,-
  For all the ills that men endure,
  Thasian is a certain cure;
  For any head or stomach ache,
  Thasian wine I always take,
  A present, as I can't help feeling,
  From Asclepius, the God of healing.

Clearchus speaks of,-
  Lesbian wine,
  Which Maron himself appears to me to have been the maker of.

And Alexis says,-
  All wise men think
  The Lesbian is the nicest wine to drink.

And again he says-
  His whole thoughts every day incline
  To drink what rich and rosy wine
  From Thasos and from Lesbos comes,
  And dainty cakes and sugarplums.

And again-
  Hail, O Bromius, ever dear,
  Who from Lesbos brings to here
  Without charge the rosy wine;
  He who would give one glass away,
  Too vile on cheerful earth to stay,
  Shall be no friend of mine.

And Ephippus says-
  Oh how luscious, oh how fine
  Is the Pramnian Lesbian wine!
  All who are brave, and all who are wise,
  Much the wine of Lesbos prize.

And Antiphanes-
  There is good meat, and plenteous dainty cheer;
  And Thasian wine, perfumes, and garlands here;
  Aphrodite loves comfort; where folks are poor,
  The merry goddess ever shuns their door.

And Eubulus-
  In Thasian wine or Chian soak your throttle,
  Or take of Lesbian an old cobwebbed bottle.

He speaks too of Psithian wine-
  He gave me Psithian nectar, rich and neat,
  To cool my thirst, and beat me on the chest.

And Anaxandrides mentions "a jar full of Psithian wine".

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