Athenaeus: The Deipnosophists

BOOK 7 (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.

[1.] G   [275] And when the banquet was now finished, the cynics, thinking that the festival of the Phagesia {"eating festival"} was being celebrated, were delighted above all things, and Cynulcus said, - While we are supping, O Ulpianus, since it is on words that you are feasting us, I propose to you this question, - In what author do you find any mention of the festivals called Phagesia, and Phagesiposia? And he, hesitating, and bidding the slaves desist from carrying the dishes round, though it was now evening, said, - I do not recollect, you very wise man, so that you may tell us yourself, in order that you may sup more abundantly and more pleasantly. And he replied, - If you will promise to thank me when I have told you, I will tell you. And as he agreed to thank him, he continued, - Clearchus, a pupil of Aristotle and a native of Soli, in the first book of his treatise on Pictures (for I recollect his very expressions, because I took a great fancy to them), speaks as follows :- "Phagesia - but some call the festival Phagesiposia - but this festival has ceased, as also has that of the rhapsodists, which they celebrated about the time of the Dionysia, in which everyone as they passed by sang a hymn to the god by way of doing him honour." This is what Clearchus wrote. [276] And if you doubt it, my friend, I, who have got the book, will not mind lending it to you. And you may learn a good deal from it, and get a great many questions to ask us out of it. For he relates that Callias the Athenian composed a Grammatical Tragedy, from which Euripides in his Medea, and Sophocles in his Oedipus, derived their choruses and the arrangement of their plot,

[2.] G   And when all the guests marvelled at the literary accomplishments of Cynulcus, Plutarchus said, - In like manner there used to be celebrated in my own Alexandria a Flagon-bearing festival, which is mentioned by Eratosthenes in his treatise entitled Arsinoē. And he speaks as follows: - "When Ptolemy was instituting a festival and all kinds of sacrifices, and especially those which relate to Dionysus, Arsinoē asked the man who bore the branches, what day he was celebrating now, and what festival it was. And when he replied, 'It is called the Lagynophoria ; and the guests lie down on beds and so eat all that they have brought with them, and everyone drinks out of his own flagon which he has brought from home;' and when he had departed, she, looking towards us, said, 'It seems a very dirty kind of party ; for it is quite evident that it must be an assembly of a mixed multitude, all putting down stale food and such as is altogether unseasonable and unbecoming.' But if the kind of feast had pleased her, then the queen would not have objected to preparing the very same things herself, as is done at the festival called Choes {"pitchers"}. For there everyone feasts separately, and the inviter only supplies the materials for the feast."

[3.] G   But one of the grammarians who were present, looking on the preparation of the feast, said, - In the next place, how shall we ever be able to eat so large a supper? Perhaps we are to go on "during the night," as that witty writer Aristophanes says in his Aeolosicon, where however his expression is "during the whole night." And, indeed, Homer uses the preposition διὰ in the same way, for he says { Od_9'298 } -
  He lay within the cave stretched over the sheep ;
where διὰ μήλων means "over all the sheep," indicating the size of the giant. And Daphnus the physician answered him, - Meals taken late at night, my friend, are more advantageous for everybody. For the influence of the moon is well adapted to promote the digestion of food, since the moon has putrefying properties ; and digestion depends upon putrefaction. Accordingly victims slain at night are more digestible; and wood which is cut down by moonlight decays more rapidly. And also the greater proportion of fruits ripen by moonlight.

[4.] G   But since there were great many sorts of fish, and those very different both as to size and beauty, which had been served up and which were still being constantly served up for the guests, Myrtilus said, - Although all the different dishes which we eat, besides the regular meal, are properly called by one generic name, ὄψον , still it is very deservedly that on account of its delicious taste fish has prevailed over everything else, and has appropriated the name to itself; because men are so exceedingly enamoured of this kind of food. Accordingly we speak of men as ὀψοφάγοι, not meaning people who eat beef (such as Heracles was, who ate beef and green figs mixed together); nor do we mean by such a term a man who is fond of figs; as was Plato the philosopher, according to the account given of him by Phanocritus in his treatise On Eudoxus : and he tells us in the same book that Arcesilas was fond of grapes : but we mean by the term only those people who haunt the fish-market. And Philippus of Macedon was fond of apples, and so was his son Alexander, as Dorotheus tells us in the sixth book of his History of the Life and Actions of Alexander. [277] But Chares of Mitylene relates that Alexander, having found the finest apples which he had ever seen in the country around Babylon, filled boats with them, and had a battle of apples from the vessels, so as to present a most beautiful spectacle. And I am not ignorant that, properly speaking, whatever is prepared for being eaten by the agency of fire is called ὄψον . For indeed the word is either identical with ἐψὸν, or else perhaps it is derived from ὀπτάω {"to roast"}.

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[10.] G   [279] But the Epicureans are not the only men who are addicted to pleasure; but so too are the Cyrenaic philosophers, and the [Thasians] who call themselves followers of Mnesistratus; for these men delight to live luxuriously . . . as Poseidonius [ Fr_106 ] tells us. And Speusippus did not much differ from them, though he was a pupil and a relation of Plato's. At all events, Dionysius the tyrant, in his letters to him, enumerating all the instances of his devotion to pleasure, and also of his covetousness, and reproaching him with having levied contributions on numbers of people, attacks him also on account of his love for Lastheneia, the Arcadian courtesan. And, at the end of all, he says this- "Whom do you charge with covetousness, when you yourself omit no opportunity of amassing base gain? For what is there that you have been ashamed to do? Are you not now attempting to collect contributions, after having paid yourself for Hermeias all that he owed?"

[11.] G   And about Epicurus, Timon, in the third book of his Silli, speaks as follows:-
  Seeking at all times to indulge his stomach,
  Than which there's no more greedy thing on earth.

For, on account of his stomach, and of the rest of his sensual pleasures, the man was always flattering Idomeneus and Metrodorus. And Metrodorus himself, not at all disguising this admirable principle of his, [280] says, somewhere or other, "The fact is, Timocrates, my natural philosopher, that every investigation which is guided by principles of nature, fixes its ultimate aim entirely on gratifying the stomach." For Epicurus was the tutor of all these men; who said, shouting it out, as I may say, "The fountain and root of every good is the pleasure of the stomach: and all wise rules, and all excellent rules, are measured alike by this standard." And in his treatise On the Chief Good, he speaks nearly as follows: "For, I am not able to understand what is good, if I leave out of consideration the pleasures which arise from delicately-flavoured food, and if I also leave out the pleasures which arise from love affairs; and if I also omit those which arise from music, and those, too, which are derived from the contemplation of beauty and the gratification of the eyesight." And, proceeding a little further, he says, "All that is beautiful is naturally to be honoured; and so is virtue, and everything of that sort, if it assists in producing or causing pleasure. But if it does not contribute to that end, then it may be disregarded."

[12.] G   And before Epicurus, Sophocles, the tragic poet, in his Antigone [ 1165 ], had uttered these sentiments respecting pleasure-
  For when men utterly forsake all pleasure,
  I reckon such a man no longer living,
  But look upon him as a breathing corpse.
  He may have, if you like, great wealth at home,
  And go in monarch's guise; but if his wealth
  And power bring no pleasure to his mind,
  I would not for a moment deem it all
  Worth the shadow of smoke, compared with pleasure.

And Philetaerus says, in his Huntress,
  For what, I pray you, should a mortal do,
  But seek for every way and means
  To make his life from day to day pass happily?
  This should be all our object and our aim,
  Reflecting on the chance of human life.
  And never let us think about to-morrow,
  Whether it will arrive at all or not.
  It is a foolish trouble to lay up
  Money which may become stale and useless.

And the same poet says, in his Oenopion,
  But every man who lives but sparingly,
  Having sufficient means, I call and think
  Of all men the most truly miserable.
  For when you're dead, you cannot then eat eels;
  They cook no wedding feasts in the underworld.

[13.] G   And Apollodorus of Carystus, in his Tablet-Maker, says-
  O men, whoe'er you are, why do you now
  Scorn pleasant living, and turn all your thoughts
  To do each other mischief in fierce war?
  In God's name, tell me, does some odious fate,
  Rude and unlettered, destitute of all
  That can be knowledge called, or education,
  Ignorant of what is bad and what is good,
  Guide all your destiny?- a fate which settles
  All your affairs at random by mere chance?
  I think it must be so: for else, what fate,
  Being truly Greek at heart, would ever choose
  To see Greeks by each other thus despoiled,
  And falling dead in ghastly heaps of corpses,
  When she might see them sportive, gay, and jesting,
  Drinking full cups, and singing to the flute?
  Tell me, my friend, I pray, and put to shame
  This most unpolished clownish fortune.

And then he proceeds to say-
  Does not a life, like this deserve the name
  Of godlike?- Think how far more pleasant all
  Affairs would be in our communities
  Than now they are, if we were but to change
  Our fashions, and our habits, and our principles
  One little bit. Why should we not proclaim,
  [281] "Every Athenian of less than thirty years of age,
  Let him come forth and drink. Let all the cavalry
  Go to a feast at Corinth, for ten days,
  Crowned with chaplets, and perfumed most sweetly.
  Let the Megarians sell and boil their cabbages.
  Bid all the allies now hasten to the bath,
  And mix in cups the rich Euboean wine."
  Sure this is real luxury and life,
  But we are slaves to a most clownish fortune.

[14.] G   The poets say that that ancient hero, Tantalus, was also greatly devoted to pleasure. At all events, the author of the book called The Return of the Atreidae says "that he, when he had arrived among the gods and had begun to live among them, had leave given him by Zeus to ask for whatever he wished; and that he, being a man quite insatiable in the gratification of his appetite, asked that it might be granted to him to indulge them to their full extent, and to live in the same manner as the gods. And that Zeus was indignant at this request, and, according to his promise, fulfilled his prayer; but still, that he might not enjoy what he had before him, but be everlastingly tormented, he hung a stone over his head, on account of which he should be unable to get at any of the things which he had before him." Some of the Stoics also were addicted to this kind of pleasure. At all events, Eratosthenes of Cyrene, who was a pupil of Ariston the Chian, who was one of the sect of the Stoics, in his treatise which is entitled Ariston, represents his master as subsequently being much addicted to luxury, speaking as follows: "And before now, I have at times discovered him breaking down, as it were, the partition wall between pleasure and virtue, and appearing on the side of pleasure." And Apollophanes (and he was an acquaintance of Ariston), in his Ariston (for he also wrote a book with that title), shows the way in which his master was addicted to pleasure.  # And why need we mention Dionysius of Heracleia? who openly discarded his covering of virtue, and put on a robe embroidered with flowers, and assumed the name of "The altered man" [Metathemenos]; and, although he was an old man, he apostatized from the doctrines of the Stoics, and passed over to the school of Epicurus; and, in consequence, Timon said of him, not without some point and felicity -
  When it is time to set [δύνειν], he now begins
  To sit at table [ἡδύνεσθαι]. But there is a time
  To love, a time to wed, a time to cease.

[15.] G   Apollodorus the Athenian, in the third book of his treatise on A Modest and Prudent Man, which is addressed to those whom he calls Male Buffoons, having first used the expression, "more libidinous than the very Inventors themselves [ἄλφησται]," says, there are some fish called alphestae, being all of a tawny colour, though they have a purple hue in some parts. And they say that they are usually caught in couples, and that one is always found following at the tail of the other; and therefore, from the fact of one following close on the tail of the other, some of the ancients call men who are intemperate and libidinous by the same name. But Aristotle, in his work on Animals, says that this fish, which he calls alphestikos, has but a single spine, and is of a tawny colour. [282] And Numenius of Heracleia mentions it, in his treatise on Fishing, speaking as follows:-
  The fish that lives in seaweed, the alphestes,
  The scorpion also with its rosy meat.

And Epicharmus, in his Marriage of Hebe, says-
  Mussels, alphestae, and the girl-like fish,
  The dainty coracinus.

Mithaecus also mentions it in his Culinary Art.

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[33.] G   [289] I swear by Athena that Menecrates the Syracusan himself would not have made such a boast as that, he who was nick-named Zeus - a man who gave himself airs as being, by his skill in medicine, the only person who could cause man to live. Accordingly he compelled all who came to be cured by him of what is called the sacred disease, to enter into a written agreement that if they recovered they would be his slaves. And they followed him one wearing the dress of Heracles, and being called Heracles, ( and the man who was so called was Nicostratus, an Argive, who had been cured of the sacred disease, and he is mentioned by Ephippus, in his Peltast, where he says -
  Did not Menecrates call himself a god,
  And Nicostratus of Argos a second Heracles? )
and another followed him in the dress of Hermes, having on a cloak and bearing a caduceus, and wings besides. As Nicagoras of Zeleia did, who also became afterwards the tyrant of his country, as Baton relates in the history of the Tyrants at Ephesus. And Hegesander says that he called Astycreon, who had been cured by him, Apollo. And another of those who had been cured by him, went about with him to his cost, wearing the dress of Asclepius. But Zeus Menecrates himself, clad in purple, and having a golden crown upon his head, and holding a sceptre, and being shod with slippers, went about with his chorus of gods. And once, writing to Philippus the king, he began his letter thus -

[34.] G   "Menecrates Zeus to Philippus greeting.
You, indeed, are king of Macedonia, but I am king of medicine; and you are able, when you please, to put men to death, who are in health; but I am able to save those who are sick, and to cause those who are in good health, if they only follow my advice, to live to old age without being attacked by disease. Therefore the Macedonians attend you as body-guards; but all who wish to live attend me; for I, Zeus, give them life."

And so Philippus wrote back to him as to a man out of his senses,- "Philippus wishes Menecrates soundness." And he wrote in similar style to Archidamus, the king of the Lacedaemonians, and to every one else to whom be wrote at all; never omitting to give himself the name of Zeus. And once Philippus invited him and all his gods to supper, and placed them all on the centre couch, which was adorned in the loftiest and most holy-looking and beautiful manner. And he had a table placed before them on which there was an altar and first-fruits of the different productions of the earth. And whenever eatables were placed before the other guests, the slaves placed incense before Menecrates, and poured libations in his honour. And at last, the new Zeus, with all his subordinate gods, being laughed at by every one, ran away and fled from the banquet, as Hegesander relates. And Alexis also makes mention of Menecrates in his Minos.

[35.] G   And Themison the Cyprian, the friend of Antiochus the king, as Pythermus the Ephesian relates in the eighth book of his History, not only used to have his name proclaimed in the public assemblies, "Themison, the Macedonian, [290] the Heracles of Antiochus the king;" but all the people of that country used to sacrifice to him, addressing him as Heracles Themison; and he himself would come when any of the nobles celebrated a sacrifice, and would sit down, having a couch to himself, and being clad in a lion's skin, and he used also to bear a Scythian bow, and in his hand, he carried a club.

Menecrates then himself, though he was such as we have said, never made such a preposterous boast as the cook we have been speaking of, -
  I am immortal, for I bring the dead,
  By the mere smell of my meat, to life again.

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