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Plutarch, Plutarch’s Morals, vol. 3 [1878]

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Plutarch, Plutarch’s Morals. Translated from the Greek by Several Hands. Corrected and Revised by William W. Goodwin, with an Introduction by Ralph Waldo Emerson. 5 Volumes. (Boston: Little, Brown, and Co., 1878). Vol. 3.

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About this Title:

Vol. 3 of a massive 5 volume work in which Plutarch muses on all manner of topics ranging from virtue and vice, friendship, flattery, the nature of love, stoic philosophy, fate, to the nature of government.

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The text is in the public domain.

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This material is put online to further the educational goals of Liberty Fund, Inc. Unless otherwise stated in the Copyright Information section above, this material may be used freely for educational and academic purposes. It may not be used in any way for profit.

Table of Contents:

Edition: current; Page: [i]
CORRECTED AND REVISED BY WILLIAM W. GOODWIN, Ph. D., professor of greek literature in harvard university.
Vol. III.
Edition: current; Page: [ii]

Entered according to Act of Congress, in the year 1870, by

little, brown, and company,

In the Office of the Librarian of Congress at Washington


press of john wilson and son.

Edition: current; Page: [iii]



    • He who said this had no mind to live concealed, 3.
    • Such men strive hard to be known, 3.
    • Even a bad man ought not to withdraw from the notice of others, 4.
    • It is a loss to the world, if virtuous men live concealed, 5.
    • If brave and good men become known, they are examples to others, 6.
    • Virtue by use grows bright; but human abilities, unemployed, go to decay, 7.
    • Our life and all our faculties were given to be used, and to make us known, 8.
    • Only a vicious, useless life should be forgotten, 10.

    • Aristophanes suits low and vulgar persons; Menander the men of culture; the style of Aristophanes lacks fitness and propriety; it is harsh, coarse, and obscene; Menander charms us by his elegance and refinement, 11.

    • Afflicted persons need to have their grief lightened, not increased, 15.
    • Banishment may not be an evil of itself, but only as the mind makes it such, 16.
    • If it be an evil, philosophy may help a man to bear it, 17.
    • If it be an evil, let us consider how much good remains to balance it, 18.
    • By nature, we have no country, we are citizens of the world, 18, 19.
    • In whatever part of the world we are, we may make ourselves at home, 20.
    • It is folly to suppose that we cannot enjoy life but where we were born, 20.
    • A man of skill and ability can thrive anywhere, 21.
    • Custom makes every thing and every place pleasant, 22.
    • Change of scene may afford relief, 23.
    • Happiness is not limited to place, 24.
    • The Cyclades are places of exile, yet great men have lived there, 24.
    • Homer commends islands as places of abode, 25.
    • An island may be a place of much quiet and enjoyment, 25, 26.
    • Few of the prudent and wise were buried in their own country, 27.
    • Instances of the fact, 28.
    • Some of the finest human compositions were written in exile, 29.
    • Instances of this, 29.
    • It is not ignominious to be banished, 29, 30.
    • Instances Edition: current; Page: [iv] produced, 30, 33.
    • Banishment does not deprive us of our liberty, 31.
    • We are all strangers and pilgrims on earth; the soul being of heavenly origin, 34.

    • Address to two brothers, 36.
    • Nature, by forming some of our most useful members in pairs, gives a hint of the need of harmony between brothers, 37.
    • Nature admonishes us to prefer a brother to a stranger, 38.
    • The author’s experience at Rome, 39.
    • To our parents, next to the gods, is due the highest veneration, 40.
    • Parents are happy in the union of brothers, and sad at their disagreement, 41.
    • Love between brothers indicates love to parents, 42.
    • Disaffection between brothers indicates great wrong somewhere, 43.
    • Brothers, once alienated, can scarce become true friends again, 44.
    • Brothers must bear with one another’s failings; they should not expect perfection, 45.
    • If your brother has given offence to your father, intercede in his behalf, 47.
    • If the father be dead, let justice preside in the division of his property, 48, 49.
    • An unequal division produces lasting hatred and envy among brothers, 50, 51.
    • If one brother excel another in talent or learning, let him treat the other with condescension and kindness, 52.
    • And let not the other indulge envy, 53.
    • Be not jealous of a brother’s prosperity, 53.
    • Brothers should assist one another, 54.
    • The elder brother should lead, but not be exacting and overbearing, 56.
    • The younger should treat the elder with respect and deference, 56, 57.
    • Avoid disagreements about little things, 57.
    • Yield your wishes for peace’ sake, 58.
    • Beautiful instance of fraternal concord from the history of Persia, 59.
    • Another from the history of Syria, 60.
    • When a brother has wronged a brother, let him confess it, 61.
    • Kindness of Attalus to his brother Eumenes, 62.
    • If brothers disagree, let each avoid a correspondence with the other’s enemies, 63.
    • Cherish your brother’s friends, his wife and children, 64-68.

    • A walk in Delphi, 69.
    • The statues there; the color of the brass admired, 70.
    • The Corinthian brass, whence its extraordinary lustre and beauty, 70, 71.
    • The atmosphere of Delphi, its effect on the brass of the statues, 72.
    • The ancient oracles of Delphi, whence their rudeness and coarseness, 73.
    • Could verses so devoid of neatness and elegance proceed from Apollo? 73.
    • The ideas were supplied by Apollo: the words came from the priestess, 75.
    • The statue of Hiero at Delphi: prodigy connected with it, 76.
    • Other similar prodigies, 76.
    • But these were mere accidents, 77.
    • Strange and unlooked-for events may happen from natural causes, 78.
    • Even though predicted, it was not from any foreknowledge of the prophet but only from plausible conjecture, 78.
    • Conjectures are sometimes verified, 79.
    • Yet there may be real predictions and actual prophetic inspiration, 80.
    • Instances given, 80.
    • Frogs and water-snakes: what relation have they to Apollo? 80-82;
    • and why are they represented in the Corinthian Hall at Delphi? 80-82.
    • Why does the Corinthian Hall bear that Edition: current; Page: [v] name? 82.
    • The statue of Phryne the courtesan, 83.
    • It was no worse to place such a statue in the temple of Apollo than to fill it with spoils taken in war, 84.
    • Yet statues and offerings are sometimes placed there in token of gratitude, 85.
    • But why does the Pythian priestess no longer deliver her oracles in verse? 86.
    • In ancient times philosophers sometimes spoke in verse, while oracles were sometimes delivered in prose, 87, 88.
    • Instances given, 88, 89.
    • Some oracles are now uttered in verse, 90.
    • A singular anecdote, 90.
    • As the soul acts through the body as its servant and instrument, so the Deity uses the soul, 91.
    • As the moon reflects the light of the sun, yet in diminished force, so the Pythia imperfectly yet really conveys the energy of the Deity, 92.
    • The Deity uses men according to their ability, 93.
    • The Pythian priestess, having had a slender education, cannot speak the language of culture and refinement, 93, 94.
    • The times are much altered from what they once were. History and philosophy do not now take a poetical form, 95, 96.
    • Poetry has lost its ancient credit, 98.
    • This may account for the disuse of verse in the Delphic utterances, 98.
    • The ambiguity of the ancient oracles accounted for, 99.
    • In these times of public tranquillity there is no need of oracles, 100.
    • Yet let us not blame the oracle, 103.

    • Book I. A threefold division of Philosophy, 104.
    • Natural Philosophy: what is Nature? 105.
    • Difference between a principle and an element? 106.
    • What are principles? 106.
    • Opinions of Thales, Anaximander, Anaxagoras, Pythagoras, Heraclitus, Epicurus, Empedocles, Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, Zeno, and others, concerning the origin of things, 107-113.
    • How was the world brought into its present order and condition? 113.
    • Whether the universe is one? 114.
    • Whence the knowledge of a Deity? 115.
    • Different orders and classes of Deities, 117.
    • What is God? is he perfect? is he eternal? does he interfere with human affairs? Opinions of Pythagoras, of Socrates, Aristotle, Epicurus, 118-122.
    • Of geniuses and heroes, 122.
    • Of matter: different opinions, 123.
    • Of ideas, 123.
    • Of causes, 123.
    • Of bodies, 124.
    • Of least things in nature, 125.
    • Of figures, 125.
    • Of colors, 125.
    • Of the division of bodies, 126.
    • Of the mixture of the elements, 126.
    • Of a vacuum, 126.
    • Of place, 127.
    • Of space, 127.
    • Of time, 127.
    • Of the essence and nature of time, 128.
    • Of motion, 128.
    • Of generation and corruption, 128.
    • Of necessity, 129.
    • Of the nature of necessity, 129.
    • Of destiny or fate, 130.
    • Of the nature of fate, 130.
    • Of fortune, 131.
    • Of nature, 131.
    • Book II. Of the world, κοσμός, 132.
    • Of the figure of the world, 133.
    • Whether the world be an animal, 133.
    • Whether the world be eternal and incorruptible, 133.
    • Whence does the world receive nutriment? 134.
    • From what element did God begin to raise the fabric of the world? 134.
    • In what form and order was the world composed? 135.
    • What is the cause of the world’s inclination? 136.
    • Of that thing which is beyond the world, and whether it be a vacuum or not, 136.
    • What parts of the world are on the right hand and what parts are on the left? 137.
    • Of heaven, its nature and essence, 137.
    • Into how many circles is the heaven distinguished? the division of heaven, 137.
    • What are the stars made of? 138.
    • Of what figure are the stars? 139.
    • Of the order and place of the stars, 139.
    • Of the motion and circulation of the stars, 140.
    • Whence do the stars receive their light? 140.
    • What are the stars called Dioscuri, or Edition: current; Page: [vi] Castor and Pollux? 141.
    • How stars prognosticate: what is the cause of winter and summer? 141.
    • Of the essence of the sun, 141, 142.
    • Of the magnitude of the sun, 142.
    • Of the figure or shape of the sun, 143.
    • Of the turning and returning of the sun, or the summer and winter solstice, 143.
    • Of the eclipses of the sun, 144.
    • Of the essence of the moon, 145.
    • Of the moon’s magnitude and figure, 145.
    • Whence does the moon receive her light? 145.
    • Of eclipses of the moon, 146.
    • Of the phases or aspects of the moon, 147.
    • Of the distance of the moon from the sun, 147.
    • Of the year and the length of the year in the different planets; of the great year, 147.
    • Book III. Of the galaxy, or milky way, 148.
    • Of comets and shooting fires, 149.
    • Of lightning, thunder, hurricanes, and whirlwinds, 150.
    • Of clouds rain, snow, and hail, 151.
    • Of the rainbow, 152.
    • Of meteors which resemble rods, 153.
    • Of winds, 154.
    • Of winter and summer, 154.
    • Of the earth, its nature and magnitude, 154.
    • Of the figure of the earth, 155.
    • Of the site and position of the earth, 155.
    • Of the inclination of the earth, 155.
    • Of the motion of the earth, 156.
    • Of the zones of the earth, 156.
    • Of earthquakes and their cause, 157.
    • Of the sea, of what it is composed, and why it has a bitter taste, 158.
    • Of the ebbing and flowing of the sea, 159.
    • Of the halo, or circle round a star, 160.
    • Book IV. Of the overflowing of the Nile, 160.
    • Of the soul, 161.
    • Whether the soul be a body, and what is its nature and essence, 162.
    • Of the parts of the soul, 162.
    • What is the principal part of the soul, and in what part of the body does it reside? 163.
    • Of the motion of the soul, 163.
    • Of the soul’s immortality, 164.
    • Of the senses, and their objects, 164.
    • Whether what appears to our senses and imaginations be realities, 165.
    • How many senses are there? 165.
    • How the conceptions of the mind are received from the senses, 166.
    • What is the difference between imagination (ϕαντασία), imaginable (ϕανταστόν), fancy (ϕανταστικόν), and phantom (ϕάντασμα)? 167.
    • Of our sight, and by what means we see, 168.
    • Of the images presented to the eye in mirrors, 169.
    • Can darkness be visible to us? 169.
    • Of hearing, 170.
    • Of smelling, 170.
    • Of taste, 170.
    • Of the voice, 171.
    • Whether the voice is incorporeal? what is it that gives the echo? 172.
    • By what means the soul is sensible, 173.
    • Of respiration or breathing, 173.
    • Of the passions of the body, and whether the soul sympathizes? 175.
    • Book V. Of divination, 176.
    • Whence do dreams arise? 176.
    • Of the nature of generative seed, 177.
    • Whether the sperm be a body, 177.
    • Whether women give a spermatic emission, 177.
    • How conception is effected, 178.
    • After what manner males and females are generated, 178.
    • Of the causes of monstrous conceptions, 179.
    • How it comes to pass that a woman’s too frequent conversation with a man hinders conception, 179.
    • Whence it is that one birth may give two or three children, 180.
    • Whence arises the similitude of children to their parents? 180.
    • How it sometimes happens that children resemble strangers and not their parents, 181.
    • Whence arises barrenness in women, and impotency in men? 181.
    • Why mules are barren, 182.
    • Whether an unborn infant is an animal, 183.
    • How the unborn child is nourished, 183.
    • What part of the body is first formed in the womb? 184.
    • Whence is it that infants born in the seventh month are born alive? 184.
    • Of the generation of animals, 186.
    • How many species of animals there are, and whether all animals have sense and reason, 187.
    • What time is required to shape the parts of animals in the womb? 188.
    • Of what elements is each of our members composed? 188.
    • What causes sleep and death? 188.
    • When is the perfection of a man dated? 189.
    • Does the soul sleep or die with the body? 189.
    • How plants grow, and whether they are animals, 190.
    • Of nourishment and growth, 191.
    • Whence is it that animals have Edition: current; Page: [vii] appetites and pleasures? 191.
    • What is the cause of a fever? 192.
    • Of health, sickness, and old age? 192.

    • Their philosophy leads to greater delusions than the fictions of the poets; it is more inconsistent with real life and with possible events, 194-196.

    • Book I.
      • Question 1. At a feast is it allowable to talk learnedly and philosophize? 198.
      • Long and tedious discourses would be out of place: but there must be conversation: let it be on useful subjects, 198-200.
      • There are topics fit to be discussed at table, 200.
      • Easy and pleasant discourse fits the occasion, 201.
      • Disputation and pedantry are out of place, 202.
      • 2. Whether the entertainer should seat the guests, or let every man take his own place, 203.
      • The order and respect due to age, station, and relationship, may be observed without offence to any: the best man should have the best place, 204-206.
      • Custom and decency should guide, 206-208.
      • 3. Upon what account is the place at the table, called Consular, esteemed honorable? 210-212.
      • Three reasons assigned, 211.
      • 4. What qualifications should the steward of a feast possess? 212-216.
      • He must be able to bear wine, have good nature, and suit his ministrations to the wants and tastes of all, 213-215.
      • He must keep the company in good humor, and exclude every thing unpleasant, 216.
      • 5. Why is it said that Love makes a man a poet? 217, 218.
      • Poetry is the language of strong passion, 218.
      • 6. Whether Alexander was a great drinker, 219-221.
      • 7. Why old men love pure wine, 221.
      • 8. Why old men read best at a distance, 222-224.
      • 9. Why fresh water washes clothes better than salt, 224-226.
      • 10. Why, at Athens, was it the privilege of the tribe Aeantis, that their chorus should never be determined to be the last? 226-228.
    • Book II.
      • Question. 1. What are the most agreeable questions and most pleasant raillery at an entertainment? 229-240.
      • Questions are agreeable when they give a man opportunity to display his knowledge, to relate his own exploits, or to describe his own prosperity, 230-232.
      • Raillery is pleasant when it refers to faults of which we are known to be innocent; when it implies gratitude for a favor bestowed; and when it proceeds from evident good humor, 233-240.
      • 2. Why in autumn are men’s stomachs better than in other seasons of the year, 240, 241.
      • 3. Which was first, the bird or the egg? 242-246.
      • The perfect must come before the imperfect, 244.
      • 4. Is wrestling the oldest exercise? 246, 247.
      • 5. Why, in reckoning up different kinds of exercises, does Homer put them in this order, — Cuffing, Wrestling, Racing? 248, 249.
      • 6. Why cannot Fir-trees, Pine-trees, and the like be grafted upon? 250, 251.
      • 7. About the fish called Remora or Echeneis, 252.
      • Why the horses called λυκοσπάδες are very mettlesome, 253.
      • 9. Why the flesh of sheep bitten by wolves is sweeter than that of others, and the wool more apt to breed lice, 254.
      • 10. Whether the ancients who provided for every one his mess did better than we who set many to the same dish, 255-258.
    Edition: current; Page: [viii]
    • Book III. Wine reveals men’s secret thoughts, 259.
      • Question 1. Whether it is becoming to wear chaplets of flowers at table, 260-265.
      • Flowers were designed for our pleasure, 262.
      • They have a good medicinal effect, 264.
      • 2. Whether Ivy is of a hot or cold nature, 265-267.
      • 3. Why women are hardly, old men easily, intoxicated, 268-270.
      • 4. Whether the temper of women is colder or hotter than that of men, 270-272.
      • 5. Whether wine is potentially cold, 272-274.
      • 6. Which is the fittest time for a man to know his wife? 274-279.
      • In the evening, not in the daytime, 276-278.
      • 7. Why new wine does not intoxicate, 279, 280.
      • 8. Why persons thoroughly drunk appear better than those only halfdrunk, 281.
      • 9. What means the saying, Drink either five or three, but not four? 282, 283.
      • 10. Why flesh stinks sooner when exposed to the moon than to the sun, 284-287.
    • Book IV. A feast should be used for the cultivation of friendship, 288.
      • Question 1. Whether different sorts of food or one single dish, fed upon at once, be more easily digested, 289-295.
      • 2. Why mushrooms are thought to be produced by thunder, and why it is believed that men asleep are never thunderstruck, 295-300.
      • 3. Why men usually invite many guests to a wedding supper, 300, 301.
      • 4. Whether sea or land affords better food, 302-306.
      • 5. Whether the Jews abstain from swine’s flesh because they worship that creature, or because they have an antipathy against it, 307-310.
      • 6. What God is worshiped by the Jews? Bacchus, 310-312.
    • Book V. The soul has pleasures peculiar to itself and distinct from the body, 313.
      • Question 1. Why do we take pleasure in a representation of human suffering, while we are shocked at the reality? 314-316.
      • 2. That the prize for poets at the games was ancient, 316-318.
      • 3. Why was the Pine counted sacred to Neptune and Bacchus, and why at first was the conqueror in the Isthmian Games crowned with a garland of Pine, afterwards with Parsley, and now again with Pine? 318-321.
      • 4. Meaning of that expression in Homer, ζωρότερον δὲ κέραιε, “mix the wine stronger,” 321, 322.
      • 5. Concerning those that invite many to a supper, 323-326.
      • 6. Why does a room which at the beginning of a supper seems too narrow for the guests appear wide enough afterwards? 326.
      • 7. Concerning those that are said to bewitch, 327-332.
      • 8. Why does Homer call the apple-tree ἀγλαόκαρπον, and Empedocles call the apples ύπέρϕλοια? 333, 334.
      • 9. Why does the fig-tree, having itself a sharp and bitter taste, bear sweet fruit? 335.
      • 10. What are those that are said to be περὶ ἁλα καὶ κύμινον, and why does Homer call salt divine? 336, 337.
    • Book VI. The memory of a useful discourse gives pleasure long afterwards, 338, 339.
      • Question 1. Why are those that are fasting more inclined to drink than to eat? 339, 340.
      • 2. Whether hunger and thirst are caused by want of nourishment or by a change in the pores or passages of the body, 341-344.
      • 3. Why is hunger allayed by drinking, but thirst increased by eating? 345, 346.
      • 4. Why is a bucket of water drawn out of a well, and left to stand all night in the air that is in the well, colder next morning than the rest of the water? 347, 348.
      • 5. Why do pebble-stones and leaden bullets, thrown into the water, make it more cold? 348, 349.
      • 6. What is the reason that snow is preserved by covering it with chaff and cloths? 350, 351.
      • 7. Ought wine to be strained? 351-354.
      • 8. What is the cause of Bulimy, or the greedy disease? 355-358.
      • 9. Why does Homer appropriate to each particular liquid a special epithet, and use none when speaking of oil? 359, 360.
      • 10. Why is the flesh of sacrificed animals, after being awhile upon a fig-tree, more tender than before? 361, 362.
    Edition: current; Page: [ix]
    • Book VII.
      • Question 1. Plato defended for saying that drink passeth throught the lungs, 363-367.
      • 2. What humored man is he whom Plato calls κερασβόλος, and why do seeds that fall on oxen’s horns become ἀτεράμονα? 368-370.
      • 3. Why is the middle of wine, the top of oil, and the bottom of honey the best? 370, 371.
      • 4. Why did the ancient Romans remove the table before all the meat was eaten, and why not extinguish the lamp? 372-375.
      • To leave something for the servants, 374.
      • “Leave something for the Medes”: a proverb in Boeotia, 375.
      • 5. That we ought carefully to preserve ourselves from pleasures arising from bad music; and how it may be done, 376-380.
      • Bad music, the loose ode, enervates and debauches the mind. Have recourse to that which is pure and good, ib.
      • 6. Concerning those guests that are called shadows, whether being invited by some of the invited guests, but not by the entertainer, they ought to go to the house; and if so, in what cases? 381-387.
      • Such a person is placed at a disadvantage on joining the company, and why, 382.
      • But an invited guest, who has liberty to invite others may do so, yet with due caution and discretion; and the others may go, 385, 386.
      • 7. Whether flute-girls may be admitted to a feast, 387, 388.
      • 8. What sort of music is fittest for an entertainment? 389-394.
      • Not tragedy, it is too grave and dignified, 390.
      • But the New Comedy, as that of Menander, or a song with pipe or harp, 391, 392.
      • 9. That the Greeks, as well as the Persians, were accustomed to debate state affairs at their entertainments, 394.
      • 10. Was that a good custom? 395-398.
      • Are men wise over their wine? 396.
      • Men may drink freely, and yet not lose their wit, 397.
    • Book VIII. In our entertainments we may and should use learned and philosophical discourse, 399.
      • Question 1. On the birthdays of famous men, and the generation of the Gods, 400, 401.
      • 2. What is Plato’s meaning when he says that God all ways plays the geometer? 402-406.
      • 3. Why sounds seem louder in the night than in the day, 406-410.
      • 4. In the Sacred Games one sort of garland was given in one, and another in another: why was the Palm common to all? and why call the great dates Νικόλαοι? 411-414.
      • 5. Why do those who sail upon the Nile take up the water they are to use before day? 415, 416.
      • 6. Concerning those who come late to an entertainment, and the derivation of the words ἀκράτισμα, ἄριστον, and δεῖπνον, 417-419.
      • The Latin terms compared, 418.
      • 7. Concerning the Symbols of Pythagoras: Receive not a swallow into your house; as soon as you are risen ruffle the bedclothes; and some other precepts: what is their meaning? 419-421.
      • 8. Why the Pythagoreans do not eat fish, 422-426.
      • 9. Whether there can be new diseases, and how caused, 426-432.
      • On the negative, it is said the course of Nature is invariable, 427.
      • The affirmative alleges that the causes of disease may vary, become intense and complicated, 430.
      • Alterations in diet may raise new diseases, 432.
      • 10. Why we give least credit to dreams in Autumn, 432-435.
    • Book IX.
      • Question 1. Concerning verses fitly applied, and the reverse, 436-438.
      • 2, 3. Why is Alpha placed first in the alphabet? and what is the proportion between the number of vowels and semi-vowels? 438-441.
      • 4. Which of the hands of Venus did Diomedes wound? 441.
      • 5. Why Plato says that the soul of Ajax came to draw her lot in the twentieth place in hell, 442, 443.
      • 6. What is meant by the fable about the defeat of Neptune? and why do the Athenians omit the second day of the month Boëdromion? 444, 445.
      • 12. Is it probable that the number of the stars is even or odd? 446.
      • 13. A moot-point from the third book of the Iliad, 446-450.
      • 14. Observations about the number of the Muses, and their relation to human affairs, 450-456.
      • 15. That there are three parts in Edition: current; Page: [x] dancing, motion, gesture, and representation: what each part is, and what is common to both poetry and dancing, 457-460.

    • Plan of the Essay, 461.
    • Opinions of philosophers: of Menedemus, Ariston, Zeno, Chrysippus, 462.
    • Opinion of Plato, 464;
    • of Aristotle, 465.
    • The soul has a twofold nature, 463.
    • It is composed of intellect or reason, and the passions, 465.
    • The reason and an intelligent judgment must govern, 466.
    • The passions by long training becoming subject to the reason, the result is moral virtue, 468.
    • Science and Prudence, what, and their objects, 469.
    • How science and prudence differ, 469, 470.
    • Prudence has need of deliberation, 470.
    • It corrects the excesses and defects of passion, 470.
    • Moral virtue is the mean between excess and defect, 471.
    • Yet it needs the ministry of the passions, 471.
    • Mean and mediocrity not the same thing, 471.
    • The idea further illustrated, 472.
    • Continence distinguished from temperance, 473.
    • Incontinence and intemperance, 474.
    • Illustrations, 475, 476.
    • Moral virtue is firm and immovable, 478.
    • The passions are subject to frequent and sudden changes, 478.
    • When reason is overborne by passion, there is a sense of guilt, 479.
    • Reason is not at variance with itself, 480.
    • The soul is at peace, where passion does not interpose, 480.
    • Reason tends to what is true and just, 480.
    • Reason, left to itself, embraces the truth, 481.
    • It is often hindered by passion, 481.
    • Reason and passion often divide the soul, 482.
    • They often harmonize and concur, 483.
    • Some philosophers affirm that reason and passion do not materially differ, 478.
    • Their opinions controverted, 479, et seq.
    • Their improper use of terms, 484.
    • The passions differ with their occasions, 486.
    • Men may mistake in their judgments, 487.
    • The passions, deriving their strength from the body, are powerful in the young, 489.
    • The state of the body corresponds with the state of the passions, 490.
    • We should not seek to exterminate the passions, but to regulate and control them, 490.
    • The passions have their proper use, 491.
    • These considerations are of importance in the government of States, and in the education of the young, 493, 494.

    • 1. What is the reason that sea-water nourishes not trees? 495.
    • 2. Why do trees and seeds thrive better with rain than with watering? 496.
    • 3. Why do herdsmen place salt before cattle? 497.
    • 4. Why is the water of thunder-showers fitter to water seeds? 498.
    • 5. How comes it to pass that, since there are eight kinds of tastes, we find salt in no kind of fruit? 498, 499.
    • 6. Why, if a man frequently pass along dewy trees are those limbs that touch the wood seized with leprosy? 500.
    • 7. Why in winter is the sailing of ships more slow in rivers than in the sea? 500.
    • 8. Why, since all other liquors upon moving and stirring about grow cold, does the sea by being tossed in waves grow hot? 501.
    • 9. Why in winter is the saltness of the sea diminished? 501.
    • 10. Why do men pour sea-water into wine, and in defect thereof cast in some Zacynthian earth? 502.
    • 11. What is the cause of sea-sickness? 502.
    • 12. Why does pouring oil on the sea calm its waves? 503.
    • 13. Why do fishermen’s nets decay more in winter than in summer? 503.
    • 14. Why do the Dorians pray for bad making of their hay? 504.
    • 15. Why Edition: current; Page: [xi] is a rich soil fruitful of wheat, and a thin soil of barley? 504.
    • 16. Why is it said, Sow wheat in clay and barley in dust? 505.
    • 17. Why is the hair of horses, rather than of mares, used for fishing-lines? 505.
    • 18. Why is the sight of a cuttle-fish the sign of a great storm? 505.
    • 19. Why does the polypus change color? 506.
    • 20. Why are the tears of wild boars sweet, and the tears of the hart salt and hurtful? 507.
    • 21. Why do tame sows farrow often, some at one time, and some at other times; and the wild but once a year, and all about the same time? 508.
    • 22. Why are the paws of bears the sweetest and pleasantest food? 509.
    • 23. Why are the tracks of wild beasts found with so much difficulty in spring? 509.
    • 24. Why are their tracks worse scented about the full moon? 509.
    • 25. Why does frost make hunting difficult? 510.
    • 26. Why do brutes, when sick, seek appropriate remedies? 510.
    • 27. Why does must, if the vessel stand in the cold, long continue sweet? 511.
    • 28. Why, of all wild beasts, does not the boar bite the toil, though wolves and foxes do this? 512.
    • 29. Why do we admire natural hot baths, and not cold? 512.
    • 30. Why are vines which are rank of leaves, but otherwise fruitless, said τραγᾶν? 513.
    • 31. Why does the vine irrigated with wine, especially its own wine, perish? 513.
    • 32. Why, of all trees, does the palm alone bend upward when a weight is laid on it? 514.
    • 33. Why is pit-water less nutritive than that which comes from springs, or from the clouds? 514.
    • 34. Why is the west wind commonly held to be the swiftest? 515.
    • 35. Why cannot bees abide smoke? 515.
    • 36. Why will bees sooner sting persons who have lately committed whoredom? 516.
    • 37. Why do dogs follow after a stone thrown at them and bite it, letting alone the man who flung it? 516.
    • 38. Why at a certain time of the year do all she-wolves bring forth whelps within the compass of twelve days? 517.
    • 39. How comes it that water, apparently white at the top, is black at the bottom? 518.
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1. It is sure, he that said it had no mind to live concealed, for he spoke it out of a design of being taken notice of for his very saying it, as if he saw deeper into things than every vulgar eye, and of purchasing to himself a reputation, how unjustly soever, by inveigling others into obscurity and retirement. But the poet says right:

  • I hate the man who makes pretence to wit,
  • Yet in his own concerns waives using it.*

For they tell us of one Philoxenus the son of Eryxis, and Gnatho the Sicilian, who were so over greedy after any dainties set before them, that they would blow their nose in the dish, whereby, turning the stomachs of the other guests, they themselves went away fuller crammed with the rarities. Thus fares it with all those whose appetite is always lusting and insatiate after glory. They bespatter the repute of others, as their rivals in honor, that they themselves may advance smoothly to it and without a rub. They do like watermen, who look astern while they row the boat ahead, still so managing the strokes of the oar that the vessel may make on to its port. So these men who recommend to us such kind of precepts row hard after glory, but with their face another way. To what purpose else need this have been said? — why committed to writing and handed down to posterity? Edition: current; Page: [4] Would he live incognito to his contemporaries, who is so eager to be known to succeeding ages?

2. But besides, doth not the thing itself sound ill, to bid you keep all your lifetime out of the world’s eye, as if you had rifled the sepulchres of the dead, or done such like detestable villany which you should hide for? What! is it grown a crime to live, unless you can keep all others from knowing you do so? For my part, I should pronounce that even an ill-liver ought not to withdraw himself from the converse of others. No; let him be known, let him be reclaimed, let him repent; so that, if you have any stock of virtue, let it not lie unemployed, or if you have been viciously bent, do not by flying the means continue unreclaimed and uncured. Point me out therefore and distinguish me the man to whom you adopt this admonition. If to one devoid of sense, goodness, or wit, it is like one that should caution a person under a fever or raving madness not to let it be known where he is, for fear the physicians should find him, but rather to skulk in some dark corner, where he and his diseases may escape discovery. So you who labor under that pernicious, that scarce curable disease, wickedness, are by parity of reason bid to conceal your vices, your envyings, your superstitions, like some disorderly or feverous pulse, for fear of falling into the hands of them who might prescribe well to you and set you to rights again. Whereas, alas! in the days of remote antiquity, men exhibited the sick to public view, when every charitable passenger who had labored himself under the like malady, or had experienced a remedy on them that did, communicated to the diseased all the receipts he knew; thus, say they, skill in physic was patched up by multiplied experiments, and grew to a mighty art. At the same rate ought all the infirmities of a dissolute life, all the irregular passions of the soul, to be laid open to the view of all, and undergo the touch of every skilful hand, Edition: current; Page: [5] that all who examine into the temper may be able to prescribe accordingly. For instance, doth anger transport you? The advice in that case is, Shun the occasions of it. Doth jealousy torment you? Take this or that course. Art thou love-sick? It hath been my own case and infirmity to be so too; but I saw the folly of it, I repented, I grew wiser. But for those that lie, denying, hiding, mincing, and palliating their vices, it makes them but take the deeper dye, it rivets their faults into them.

3. Again, if on the other hand this advice be calculated for the owners of worth and virtue, if they must be condemned to privacy and live unknown to the world, you do in effect bid Epaminondas lay down his arms, you bid Lycurgus rescind his laws, you bid Thrasybulus spare the tyrants, in a word, you bid Pythagoras forbear his instructions, and Socrates his reasonings and discourses; nay, you lay injunctions chiefly upon yourself, Epicurus, not to maintain that epistolary correspondence with your Asiatic friends, not to entertain your Egyptian visitants, not to be tutor to the youth of Lampsacus, not to present and send about your books to women as well as men, out of an ostentation of some wisdom in yourself more than vulgar, not to leave such particular directions about your funeral. And in fine, to what purpose, Epicurus, did you keep a public table? Why that concourse of friends, that resort of fair young men, at your doors? Why so many thousand lines so elaborately composed and writ upon Metrodorus, Aristobulus, and Chaeredemus, that death itself might not rob us of them; if virtue must be doomed to oblivion, art to idleness and inactivity, philosophy to silence, and all a man’s happiness must be forgotten?

4. But if indeed, in the state of life we are under, you will needs seclude us from all knowledge and acquaintance with the world (as men shut light from their entertainments and drinking-bouts, for which they set the night apart), let Edition: current; Page: [6] it be only such who make it the whole business of life to heap pleasure upon pleasure; let such live recluses all their days. Were I, in truth, to wanton away my days in the arms of your miss Hedeia, or spend them with Leontium, another dear of yours, — were I to bid defiance to virtue, or to place all that’s good in the gratification of the flesh or the ticklings of a sensual pleasure, — these accursed actions and rites would need darkness and an eternal night to veil them; and may they ever be doomed to oblivion and obscurity. But what should they hide their heads for, who with regard to the works of nature own and magnify a God, who celebrate his justice and providence, who in point of morality are due observers of the law, promoters of society and community among all men, and lovers of the public-weal, and who in the administration thereof prefer the common good before private advantage? Why should such men cloister up themselves, and live recluses from the world? For would you have them out of the way, for fear they should set a good example, and allure others to virtue out of emulation of the precedent? If Themistocles’s valor had been unknown at Athens, Greece had never given Xerxes that repulse. Had not Camillus shown himself in defence of the Romans, their city Rome had no longer stood. Sicily had not recovered her liberty, had Plato been a stranger to Dion. Truly (in my mind) to be known to the world under some eminent character not only carries a reputation with it, but makes the virtues in us become practical like light, which renders us not only visible but useful to others. Epaminondas, during the first forty years of his life, in which no notice was taken of him, was an useless citizen to Thebes; but afterwards, when he had once gained credit and the government amongst the Thebans, he both rescued them from present destruction, and freed even Greece herself from imminent slavery, exhibiting (like light, which is in its own nature glorious, and Edition: current; Page: [7] to others beneficial at the same time) a valor seasonably active and serviceable to his country, yet interwoven with his own laurels. For

Virtue, like finest brass, by use grows bright.*

And not our houses alone, when (as Sophocles has it) they stand long untenanted, run the faster to ruin; but men’s natural parts, lying unemployed for lack of acquaintance with the world, contract a kind of filth or rust and craziness thereby. For sottish ease, and a life wholly sedentary and given up to idleness, spoil and debilitate not only the body but the soul too. And as close waters shadowed over by bordering trees, and stagnated in default of springs to supply current and motion to them, become foul and corrupt; so, methinks, is it with the innate faculties of a dull unstirring soul, — whatever usefulness, whatever seeds of good she may have latent in her, yet when she puts not these powers into action, when once they stagnate, they lose their vigor and run to decay.

5. See you not how on night’s approach a sluggish drowsiness oft-times seizes the body, and sloth and inactiveness surprise the soul, and she finds herself heavy and quite unfit for action? Have you not then observed how a man’s reason (like fire scarce visible and just going out) retires into itself, and how by reason of its inactivity and dulness it is gently agitated by divers fantastical imaginations, so that nothing remains but some obscure indications that the man is alive.

  • But when the orient sun brings back the day,
  • It chases night and dreamy sleep away.

It doth, as it were, bring the world together again, and with his returned light call up and excite all mankind to thought and action; and, as Democritus tells us, men setting themselves every new-spring day to endeavors of Edition: current; Page: [8] mutual beneficence and service one towards another, as if they were fastened in the straitest tie together, do all of them, some from one, some from another quarter of the world, rouse up and awake to action.

6. For my own part, I am fully persuaded that life itself, and our being born at the rate we are, and the origin we share in common with all mankind, were vouchsafed us by God to the intent we should be known to one another. It is true, whilst man, in that little part of him, his soul, lies struggling and scattered in the vast womb of the universe, he is an obscure and unknown being; but, when once he gets hither into this world and puts a body on, he grows illustrious, and from an obscure becomes a conspicuous being; from an hidden, an apparent one. For knowledge does not lead to essence (or being), as some maintain; but the essence of things rather conducts us into the knowledge and understanding thereof. For the birth or generation of individuals gives not any being to them which they had not before, but brings that individual into view; as also the corruption or death of any creature is not its annihilation or reduction into mere nothing, but rather a sending the dissolved being into an invisible state. Hence is it that many persons (conformably to their ancient country laws), taking the Sun to be Apollo, gave him the names of Delius and Pythius (that is, conspicuous and known). But for him, be he either God or Daemon, who hath dominion over the opposite portion, the infernal regions, they call him Hades (that is, invisible),

Emperor of gloomy night and lazy sleep,

for that at our death and dissolution we pass into a state of invisibility and beyond the reach of mortal eyes. I am indeed of opinion, that the ancients called man Phos (that is, light), because from the affinity of their natures strong desires are bred in mankind of continually seeing and Edition: current; Page: [9] being seen to each other. Nay, some philosophers hold the soul itself to be essentially light; which they would prove by this among other arguments, that nothing is so insupportable to the mind of man as ignorance and obscurity. Whatever is destitute of light she avoids, and darkness, the harbor of fears and suspicions, is uneasy to her; whereas, on the other hand, light is so delicious, so desirable a thing, that without that, and wrapped in darkness, none of the delectables in nature are pleasing to her. This makes all our very pleasures, all our diversions and enjoyments, charming and grateful to us, like some universal relishing ingredients mixed with the others to make them palatable. But he that casts himself into obscure retirements, he that sits surrounded in darkness and buries himself alive, seems, in my mind, to repine at his own birth and grudge he ever had a being.

7. And yet it is certain, in the regions prepared for pious souls, they conserve not only an existence in (or agreeable to) nature, but are encircled with glory.

  • There the sun with glorious ray,
  • Chasing shady night away,
  • Makes an everlasting day;
  • Where souls in fields of purple roses play;
  • Others in verdant plains disport,
  • Crowned with trees of every sort,
  • Trees that never fruit do bear,
  • But always in the blossom are.*

The rivers there without rude murmurs gently glide, and there they meet and bear each other company, passing away their time in commemorating and running over things past and present.

A third state there is of them who have led vicious and wicked lives, which precipitates souls into a kind of hell and miserable abyss,

  • Where sluggish streams of sable night
  • Spout floods of darkness infinite.*

This is the receptacle of the tormented; here lie they hid Edition: current; Page: [10] under the veils of eternal ignorance and oblivion. For vultures do not everlastingly gorge themselves upon the liver of a wicked man, exposed by angry Gods upon the earth, as poets fondly feign of Prometheus. For either rottenness or the funeral pile hath consumed that long ago. Nor do the bodies of the tormented undergo (as Sisyphus is fabled to do) the toil and pressure of weighty burdens;

For strength no longer flesh and bone sustains.*

There are no reliques of the body in dead men which stripes and tortures can make impressions on; but in very truth the sole punishment of ill-livers is an inglorious obscurity, or a final abolition, which through oblivion hurls and plunges them into deplorable rivers, bottomless seas, and a dark abyss, involving all in uselessness and inactivity, absolute ignorance and obscurity, as their last and eternal doom.

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1. To speak in sum and in general, he prefers Menander by far; and as to particulars, he adds what here ensues. Aristophanes, he saith, is importune, theatric, and sordid in his expression; but Menander not so at all. For the rude and vulgar person is taken with the things the former speaketh; but the well-bred man will be quite out of humor with them. I mean, his opposed terms, his words of one cadence, and his derivatives. For the one makes use of these with due observance and but seldom, and bestows care upon them; but the other frequently, unseasonably, and frigidly. “For he is much commended,” said he, “for ducking the chamberlains, they being indeed not chamberlains (ταμίαι) but bugbears (Λαμίαι).” And again, — “This rascal breathes out nothing but roguery and affidavitry;” and “Beat him well in his belly with the entrails and the guts;” and, “I shall laugh till I go to Laughington (Γέλαν);” and, “Thou poor sharded ostracized pot, what shall I do with thee?” and, “To you women surely he is a mad plague, for he grew up himself among these mad worts;” — and, “Look here, how the moths have eaten away my crest;” and, “Bring me hither the gorgon-backed circle of my shield;” “Give me the round-backed circle of a cheese-cake;” — and much more of such like stuff.* There is then in the structure of his words something Edition: current; Page: [12] tragic and something comic, something blustering and something prosaic, an obscurity, a vulgarness, a turgidness, and a strutting, with a nauseous prattling and fooling. And as his style has so great varieties and dissonances in it, so neither doth he give to his persons what is fitting and proper to each, — as state (for instance) to a prince, force to an orator, innocence to a woman, meanness of language to a poor man, and sauciness to a tradesman, — but he deals out to every person, as it were by lot, such words as come next to his hand, and you would scarce discern whether he that is talking be a son, a father, a peasant, a God, an old woman, or a hero.

2. But now Menander’s phrase is so well turned and contempered with itself, and so everywhere conspiring, that, while it traverses many passions and humors and is accommodated to all sorts of persons, it still shows the same, and even retains its semblance in trite, familiar, and every-day expressions. And if his master do now and then require something of rant and noise, he doth but (like a skilful flutist) set open all the holes of his pipe, and then presently stop them again with good decorum and restore the tune to its natural state. And though there be a great number of excellent artists of all professions, yet never did any shoemaker make the same sort of shoe, or tireman the same sort of visor, or tailor the same sort of garment, to fit a man, a woman, a child, and old man, and a slave. But Menander hath so addressed his style, as to proportion it to every sex, condition, and age; and this, though he took the business in hand when he was very young, and died in the vigor of his composition and action, when, as Aristotle tells us, authors receive most and greatest improvement in their styles. If a man shall then compare the middle and last with the first of Menander’s plays, he will by them easily conceive what others he would have added to them, had he had but longer life.

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3. He adds further, that of dramatic exhibitors, some address themselves to the crowd and populace, and others again to a few; but it is a hard matter to say which of them all knew what was befitting in both the kinds. But Aristophanes is neither grateful to the vulgar, nor tolerable to the wise; but it fares with his poesy as it doth with a courtesan who, when she finds she is now stricken and past her prime, counterfeits a sober matron, and then the vulgar cannot endure her affectation, and the better sort abominate her lewdness and wicked nature. But Menander hath with his charms shown himself every way sufficient for satisfaction, being the sole lecture, argument, and dispute at theatres, schools, and at tables; hereby rendering his poesy the most universal ornament that was ever produced by Greece, and showing what and how extraordinary his ability in language was, while he passes every way with an irresistible persuasion, and wins every man’s ear and understanding who has knowledge of the Greek tongue. And for what other reason in truth should a man of parts and erudition be at the pains to frequent the theatre, but for the sake of Menander only? And when are the play-houses better filled with men of letters, than when his comic mask is exhibited? And at private entertainments among friends, for whom doth the table more justly make room or Bacchus give place than for Menander? To philosophers also and hard students (as painters are wont, when they have tired out their eyes at their work, to divert them to certain florid and green colors) Menander is a repose from their auditors and intense thinkings and entertains their minds with gay shady meadows refreshed with cool and gentle breezes.

4. He adds, moreover, that though this city breeds at this time very many and excellent representers of comedy, Menander’s plays participate of a plenteous and divine salt, as if they were made of the very sea out of which Venus herself Edition: current; Page: [14] sprang. But that of Aristophanes is harsh and coarse, and hath in it an angry and biting sharpness. And for my part I cannot tell where his so much boasted ability lies, whether in his style or persons. The parts he acts I am sure are quite over-acted and depraved. His knave (for instance) is not fine, but dirty; his peasant is not assured, but stupid; his droll is not jocose, but ridiculous; and his lover is not gay, but lewd. So that to me the man seems not to have written his poesy for any temperate person, but to have intended his smut and obscenity for the debauched and lewd, his invective and satire for the malicious and ill-humored.

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1. One may say of discourses what they use to say of friends, that they are the best and firmest that afford their useful presence and help in calamities. Many indeed present themselves and discourse with those that are fallen into misfortunes, who yet do them more harm than good. Like men that attempt to succor drowning persons and have themselves no skill in diving under water, they entangle one another, and sink together to the bottom. The discourses of friends, such as would help an afflicted person, ought to be directed to the consolation, and not to the patronage of his sorrows. For we have no need in our distresses of such as may bear us company in weeping and howling, like a chorus in a tragedy, but of such as will deal freely with us, and will convince us that, — as it is in all cases vain and foolish and to no purpose to grieve and cast down one’s self, — so, when the things themselves that afflict us, after a rational examination and discovery of what they are, give a man leave to say to himself thus,

  • Thou feel’st but little pain and smart,
  • Unless thou’lt feign and act a part,

it would be extremely ridiculous for him not to put the question to his body, and ask it what it has suffered, nor to his soul, and ask how much worse it is become by this accident, but only to make use of those teachers of grief from abroad, who come to bear a part with him in his sorrow, or to express indignation at what has happened.

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2. Let us therefore, when we are alone, question with ourselves concerning the things that have befallen us, considering them as heavy loads. The body, we know, is under pressure by a burden lying upon it; but the soul oft-times adds a further weight of her own to things. A stone is hard and ice is cold by nature, not by any thing from without happening to make such qualities and impressions upon them. But as for banishment and disgraces and loss of honors (and so for their contraries, crowns, chief rule, and precedency of place), our opinion prescribing the measure of our joys or sorrows and not the nature of the things themselves, every man makes them to himself light or heavy, easy to be borne or grievous. You may hear Polynices’s answer to this question,

  • But say, is’t so deplorable a case
  • To live in exile from one’s native place?
  • It’s sad indeed; and whatsoe’er you guess,
  • ’Tis worse to endure than any can express.*

But you may hear Alcman in quite another strain, as the epigrammatist has brought him in saying:

  • Sardis, my ancient fatherland,
  • Hadst thou, by Fate’s supreme command,
  • My helpless childhood nourished,
  • I must have begg’d my daily bread,
  • Or else, a beardless priest become,
  • Have toss’d Cybele frantic down.
  • Now Alcman I am call’d — a name
  • Inscribed in Sparta’s lists of fame,
  • Whose many tripods record bear
  • Of solemn wreaths and tripods rare,
  • Achieved in worship at the shrine
  • Of Heliconian maids divine,
  • By whose great aid I’m mounted higher
  • Than Gyges or his wealthy sire.

Thus one man’s opinion makes the same thing commodious, like current money, and another man’s unserviceable and hurtful.

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3. But let us grant (as many say and sing) that it is a grievous thing to be banished. So there are also many things that we eat, of a bitter, sharp, and biting taste, which yet by a mixture of other things more mild and sweet have all their unpleasantness taken off. There are also some colors troublesome to look upon, which bear so hard and strike so piercingly upon the sight, that they confound and dazzle it; if now by mixing shadows with them, or by turning our eyes upon some green and pleasant color, we remedy this inconvenience, thou mayst also do the same to the afflictions that befall thee, considering them with a mixture of those advantages and benefits thou still enjoyest, as wealth, friends, vacancy from business, and a supply of all things necessary to human life. For I think there are few Sardians but would desire to be in your condition, though banished, and would choose to live as you may do, though in a strange country, rather than — like snails that grow to their shells — enjoy no other good, saving only what they have at home without trouble.

4. As he therefore in the comedy that advised his unfortunate friend to take heart and to revenge himself of Fortune, being asked which way, answered, By the help of philosophy; so we also may be revenged of her, by acting worthily like philosophers. For what course do we take when it is rainy weather, or a cold north wind blows? We creep to the fireside, or go into a bath, put on more clothes, or go into a dry house; and do not sit still in a shower and cry. It is in thy power above most men’s to revive and cherish that part of thy life which seems to be chill and benumbed, not needing any other helps, but only according to thy best judgment and prudence making use of the things that thou possessest. The cupping-glasses physicians use, by drawing the worst humors out of the body, alleviate and preserve the rest; but they that are prone to grieve and make sad complaints, by mustering together Edition: current; Page: [18] alway the worst of their afflictive circumstances, by debating these things over and over, being fastened (as it were) to their troubles, make the most advantageous things to be wholly useless to themselves, and especially when their case requires most help and assistance. As for those two hogsheads, my friend, which Homer says lie in heaven, full, the one of the good, the other of the ill fates of men, — it is not Jupiter that sits to draw out and transmit to some a moderate share of evils mixed with good, but to others only unqualified streams of evil; but it is we ourselves who do it. Those of us that are wise, drawing out of the good to temper with our evils, make our lives pleasant and potable; but the greater part (which are fools) are like sieves, which let the best pass through, but the worst and the very dregs of misfortune stick to them and remain behind.

5. Wherefore, if we fall into any real evil or calamity, we must bring in what is pleasant and delightful of the remaining good things in our possession, and thus, by what we enjoy at home, mitigate the sense of those evils that befall us from abroad. But where there is no evil in the nature of the things, but the whole of that which afflicts us is framed by imagination and false opinion, in this case we must do just as we deal with children that are apt to be frighted with false faces and vizards; by bringing them nearer, and making them handle and turn them on every side, they are brought at last to despise them; so we, by a nearer touching and fixing our consideration upon our feigned evils, may be able to detect and discover the weakness and vanity of what we fear and so tragically deplore.

Such is your present condition of being banished out of that which you account your country; for nature has given us no country, as it has given us no house or field, no smith’s or apothecary’s shop, as Ariston said; but every one of them is always made or rather called such a man’s by his dwelling in it or making use of it. For man (as Plato says) Edition: current; Page: [19] is not an earthly and unmovable, but a heavenly plant, the head raising the body erect as from a root, and directed upwards toward heaven.* Hence is that saying of Hercules:

  • Am I of Thebes or Argos? Whether
  • You please, for I’m content with either;
  • But to determine one, ’tis pity,
  • In Greece my country’s every city.

But Socrates expressed it better, when he said, he was not an Athenian or a Greek, but a citizen of the world (just as a man calls himself a citizen of Rhodes or Corinth), because he did not enclose himself within the limits of Sunium, Taenarum, or the Ceraunian mountains.

  • Behold how yonder azure sky,
  • Extending vastly wide and high
  • To infinitely distant spaces,
  • In her soft arms our earth embraces.

These are the boundaries of our country, and no man is an exile or a stranger or foreigner in these, where there is the same fire, water, air, the same rulers, administrators, and presidents, the same sun, moon, and daystar; where there are the same laws to all, and where, under one orderly disposition and government, are the summer and winter solstices, the equinoxes, Pleiades, Arcturus, times of sowing and planting; where there is one king and supreme ruler, which is God, who comprehends the beginning, the middle, and end of the universe; who passes through all things in a straight course, compassing all things according to nature: justice follows him to take vengeance on those that transgress the divine law, which justice we naturally all make use of towards all men, as being citizens of the same community.

6. But for thee to complain that thou dost not dwell at Sardis is no objection; for all the Athenians do not inhabit Collytus, nor do all the men of Corinth live in the Cranium, nor all of Lacedaemon in Pitane.

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Do you look upon those Athenians as strangers and banished persons who removed from Melite to Diomea, — whence they called the month Metageitnion, and the sacrifices they offered in memory of their removal Metageitnia, being pleased with and cheerfully accepting this new neighborhood to another people? Surely you will not say so. What parts of the inhabited earth or of the whole earth can be said to be far distant one from another, when mathematicians demonstrate that the whole earth is to be accounted as an indivisible point, compared with the heavens? But we, like pismires or bees, when we are cast out of one ant-hill or hive, are in great anxiety, and take on as if we were strangers and undone, not knowing how to make and account all things our own, as indeed they are. We shall certainly laugh at his folly who shall affirm there was a better moon at Athens than at Corinth; and yet we in a sort commit the same error, when being in a strange country we look upon the earth, the sea, the air, the heavens doubtfully, as if they were not the same, but quite different from those we have been accustomed to. Nature in our first production sent us out free and loose; we bind and straiten and pin up ourselves in houses, and reduce ourselves into a scant and little room.

Moreover, we laugh at the kings of Persia, who (if the story be true) will drink only the water of the River Choaspes, by this means making the rest of the habitable world to be without water, as to themselves; but we, when we remove to other countries, and retain our longings after Cephissus and Eurotas, and are pleased with nothing so much as the hills Taygetus and Parnassus, we make the whole earth unhabitable to ourselves, and are without a house or city where we can dwell.

7. When certain Egyptians, not enduring the anger and hard usage of their king, went to dwell in Ethiopia, and some earnestly entreated them to return to their wives Edition: current; Page: [21] and children they had left behind them, they very impudently showed them their privy parts, saying they should never want wives or children whilst they carried those about them. But it is more grave and becoming to say that whosoever happens to be provided with a competency of the necessaries to life, wheresoever he is, is not without a city or a dwelling, nor need reckon himself a stranger there; only he ought to have besides these prudence and consideration, like a governing anchor, that he may be able to make advantage of any port at which he arrives. It is not easy indeed for him that has lost his wealth quickly to gather it up again; but every city becomes presently that man’s country who has the skill to use it, and who has those roots which can live and thrive, cling and grow to every place. Such had Themistocles, and such had Demetrius Phalareus; for this last named, after his banishment, being the prime friend of King Ptolemy in Alexandria, not only was abundantly provided for himself, but also sent presents to the Athenians. As for Themistocles, he was maintained by an allowance suitable to his quality at the King’s charge, and is reported to have said to his wife and children, We had been undone, if we had not been undone. Diogenes the Cynic also, when one told him, The Sinopians have condemned thee to fly from Pontus, replied, And I have condemned them to stay in Pontus,

  • Close prisoners there to be,
  • At th’ utmost shore of the fierce Euxine Sea.*

Stratonicus enquiring of his host in the isle of Seriphus what crime among them was punished with banishment, and being told forgery was so punished, he asked him why he did not commit that crime that he might be removed out of that strait place; and yet there, as the comedian expresses it, they reap down their figs with slings, and that island is provided with all things that it wants.

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8. For if you consider the truth of things, setting aside vain fancy and opinion, he that has got an agreeable city to dwell in is a stranger and foreigner to all the rest, for it seems not reasonable and just, that leaving his own he should go to dwell in another city. As the proverb is, “Sparta is the province fallen to your lot, adorn it,” though it should be in no credit or prove unhealthful, though disturbed with seditions, and its affairs in distemper and out of order. But as for him whom Fortune has deprived of his own habitation, it gives him leave to go and dwell where he pleases. That good precept of the Pythagoreans, “Make choice of the best life you can, and custom will make it pleasant,” is here also wise and useful. Choose the best and pleasantest place to live in, and time will make it thy country, and such a country as will not encumber and distract thee, not laying on thee such commands as these, — Bring in so much money; Go on such an embassy to Rome; Entertain such a governor; Bear such a public office. If a prudent person and no way conceited, calls these things to mind, he will choose to live in exile in such a sorry island as Gyarus, or in Cynarus that is “so hard and barren and unfit for plantation,” and do this without reluctancy, not making such sorrowful complaints as the women do in the poet Simonides:

  • The troubled sea’s dark waves surround me,
  • And with their horrid noise confound me;

but will rather remind himself of that saying of King Philip, who receiving a fall in a place of wrestling, when he turned himself in rising and saw the print of his body in the dust, exclaimed, Good God! what a small portion of earth has Nature assigned us, and yet we covet the whole world.

9. I presume you have seen the island of Naxos, or at least the town of Hyria here hard by; in the former of which Ephialtes and Otus made their abode, and in the Edition: current; Page: [23] latter Orion dwelt. Alcmaeon’s seat was on the newly hardened mud which the river Achelous had cast up, — when he fled from the Furies, as the poets tell us, — but I guess it was when he fled from the rulers of the state and from seditions, and to avoid those furies, the sycophants and informers, that he chose that little spot of ground to dwell on, where he was free from business and lived in ease and quiet. Tiberius Caesar passed the last seven years of his life in the island of Capreae; and that sacred governing spirit that swayed the whole world, and was enclosed as it were in his breast, yet for so long time never removed nor changed place. And yet the thoughts and cares of the empire, that were poured in upon him and invaded him on every side, made that island’s repose and retirement to be less pure and undisturbed to him. But he that by retreating to a small island can free himself from great evils is a miserable man, if he does not often say and sing those verses of Pindar to himself, —

  • Where slender cypress grows I’d have a seat,
  • But care not for the shady woods of Crete!
  • I’ve little land and so not many trees,
  • But free from sorrow I enjoy much ease, —

not being disquieted with seditions or the edicts of princes, nor with administering affairs when the public is in straits, nor undergoing officers that are hard to be put by and denied.

10. For if that be a good saying of Callimachus, that we ought not to measure wisdom by a Persian cord, much less should we measure happiness by cords of furlongs, or, if we chance to inhabit an island of two hundred furlongs and not (like Sicily) of four days’ sail in compass, think that we ought to disquiet ourselves and lament as if we were very miserable and unfortunate. For what does a place of large extent contribute to the tranquillity of one’s life? Do you not hear Tantalus saying in the tragedy:

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  • I sow the Berecyntian ground,
  • A field of twelve days’ journey round?

But he says a little after:

  • My mind, that used to mount the skies,
  • Fallen to the earth dejected lies,
  • And now this friendly counsel brings, —
  • Less to admire all earthly things.*

Nausithous, forsaking the spacious country of Hyperia because the Cyclops bordered upon it, and removing to an island far distant from all other people, chose there,

  • Remote from all commerce t’ abide,
  • By sea’s surrounding waves denied;

and yet he procured a very pleasant way of living to his own citizens.

The Cyclades islands were formerly inhabited by the children of Minos, and afterwards by the children of Codrus and Neleus; in which now fools that are banished thither think they are punished. And indeed, what island is there to which men are wont to be banished that is not larger than the land that lies about Scillus, in which Xenophon after his military expedition passed delicately his old age? The Academy near Athens, that was purchased for three thousand drachmas, was the place where Plato, Xenocrates, and Polemo dwelt; there they held their schools, and there they lived all their lifetime, except one day every year, when Xenocrates came into the city at the time of the Bacchanals and the new tragedies, to grace the feast, as they say. Theocritus of Chios reproached Aristotle, who affected a court-life with Philip and Alexander, that he chose instead of the Academy rather to dwell at the mouth of Borborus. For there is a river by Pella, which the Macedonians call by that name.

But as for islands, Homer sets himself as it were studiously to commend them in these verses:

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  • He comes to the isle of Lemnos, and the town
  • Where divine Thoas dwelt, of great renown;


  • As much as fruitful Lesbos does contain,
  • A seat which Gods above do not disdain;


  • When he to th’ lofty hills of Scyros came,
  • And took the town that boasts Enyeus’s name;


  • These from Dulichium and th’ Echinades,
  • Blest isles, that lie ’gainst Elis, o’er the seas*

And among the famous men that dwelt in islands they reckon Aeolus, a great favorite of the Gods, the most prudent Ulysses, the most valiant Ajax, and Alcinous, the most courteous entertainer of strangers.

11. When Zeno was told that the only ship he had remaining was cast away at sea with all her lading, he replied: Well done Fortune, that hast reduced me to the habit and life of a philosopher. And, indeed, a man that is not puffed up with conceit nor madly in love with a crowd will not, I suppose, have any reason to accuse Fortune for constraining him to live in an island, but will rather commend her for removing so much anxiety and agitation of his mind, for putting a stop to his rambles in foreign countries, to his dangers at sea, and the noise and tumult of the exchange, and for giving him a fixed, vacant, undisturbed life, such a life as he may truly call his own, describing as it were a circle about him, in which is contained the use of all things necessary. For what island is there that has not a horse, a walk, and a bath in it; that has not fishes and hares for such as delight in hunting and angling and such like sports? But the chiefest of all is, that the quiet which others thirst so much after thou commonly mayst have here without seeking. For those that are gamesters at dice, shutting up themselves at home, there are sycophants and busy spies that hunt them out, and prosecute them from their houses of pleasure and Edition: current; Page: [26] gardens in the suburbs, and hale them by violence before the judges or the court. But none sails to an island to give a man any disturbance, no petitioner, no borrower, no urger to suretyship, no one that comes to beg his voice when he stands candidate for an office; only the best friends and familiars, out of good-will and desire to see him, may come over thither; and the rest of his life is safe and inviolable to him, if he has the will and the skill to live at ease. But he that cries up the happiness of those that run about in other countries, or spend the most of their life in inns and passage-boats, is no wiser than he is that thinks the planets in a better estate than the fixed stars. And yet every planet rolling about in its proper sphere, as in an island, keeps its order. For the sun never transgresses its limited measures, as Heraclitus says; if it did do so, the Furies, which are the attendants of Justice, would find it out and punish it.

12. These things, my friend, and such like we say and sing to those who, by being banished into an island, have no correspondence or commerce with other people,

  • Hindered by waves of the surrounding deep.
  • Which many ’gainst their mind close prisoners keep.*

But as for thee, who art not assigned to one place only, but forbidden only to live in one, the prohibiting thee one is the giving thee leave to dwell anywhere else besides. If on one hand it is urged thus against you: You are in no office, you are not of the senate, nor preside as moderator at the public games, you may oppose on the other hand thus: We head no factions, we make no expensive treats, nor give long attendance at the governor’s gates; we care not at all who is chosen into our province, though he be choleric or unsufferably vexatious.

But just as Archilochus disparaged the island of Thasos because of its asperity and inequality in some places, Edition: current; Page: [27] overlooking its fruitful fields and vineyards, saying thus of it,

  • Like ridge of ass’s back it stood,
  • Full of wild plants, for nothing good;

so we, whilst we pore upon one part of banishment which is ignominious, overlook its vacancy from business, and that leisure and freedom it affords us.

Men admired the happiness of the Persian kings, that passed their winter in Babylon, their summer in Media, and the pleasant spring-time at Susa. And he that is an exile may, if he pleases, when the mysteries of Ceres are celebrated, go and live at Eleusis; and he may keep the feasts of Bacchus at Argos; at the time of the Pythian games, he may pass over to Delphi, and of the Isthmian, to Corinth, if public spectacles and shows are the things he admires; if not, then he may be idle, or walk, or read, or sleep quietly; and you may add that privilege Diogenes bragged of when he said, “Aristotle dines when it seems good to King Philip, but Diogenes when he himself pleases,” having no business, no magistrate, no prefect to interrupt and disturb his customary way of living.

13. For this reason, you will find that very few of the most prudent and wise men were buried in their own country, but the most of them, when none forced them to it, weighed anchor and steered their course to live in another port, removing some to Athens, and others from it.

Who ever gave a greater encomium of his own country than Euripides in the following verses?

  • We are all of this country’s native race,
  • Not brought-in strangers from another place,
  • As some, like dice hither and thither thrown,
  • Remove in haste from this to t’other town.
  • And, if a woman may have leave to boast,
  • A temperate air breathes here in every coast;
  • We neither curse summer’s immoderate heat,
  • Nor yet complain the winter’s cold’s too great.
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  • If aught there be that noble Greece doth yield,
  • Or Asia rich, by river or by field,
  • We seek it out and bring it to our doors.

And yet he that wrote all this went himself into Macedonia, and passed the rest of his days in the court of Archelaus. I suppose you have also heard of this short epigram:

  • Here lieth buried Aeschylus, the son
  • Of the Athenian Euphorion;
  • In Sicily his latest breath did yield,
  • And buried lies by Gela’s fruitful field.

For both he and Simonides before him went into Sicily. And whereas we meet with this title, “This publication of the History of Herodotus of Halicarnassus,” many have changed it into Herodotus of Thurii, for he dwelt at Thurii, and was a member of that colony. And that sacred and divine poet Homer, that adorned the Trojan war, — why was he a controversy to so many cities (every one pleading he was theirs) but because he did not cry up any one of them to the disparagement of the rest? Many also and great are the honors that are paid to Jupiter Hospitalis.

14. If any one object, that these men hunted ambitiously after glory and honor, let him go to the philosophers and the schools and nurseries of wisdom at Athens, those in the Lyceum, the Academy, the Stoa, the Palladium, the Odeum. If he admires and prefers the Peripatetic philosophy before the rest, Aristotle was a native of Stagira, Theophrastus of Ephesus, Straton of Lampsacus, Glycon of Troas, Ariston of Ceus, Critolaus of Phaselis. If thou art for the Stoic philosophy, Zeno was of Citium, Cleanthes of Assus, Chrysippus of Soli, Diogenes of Babylon, Antipater of Tarsus, and Archedemus who was of Athens went over to the Parthians, and left a succession of Stoic philosophers in Babylon. And who, I pray, persecuted and chased these men out of their country? Edition: current; Page: [29] Nobody at all; but they pursued their own quiet, which men cannot easily enjoy at home that are in any reputation or have any power; other things they taught us by what they said, but this by what they did. For even now the most approved and excellent persons live abroad out of their own country, not being transported, but departing voluntarily, not being driven thence, but flying from business and from the disquiets and molestations which they are sure to meet with at home.

It seems to me that the Muses helped the ancient writers to finish their choicest and most approved compositions, by calling in, as it were, banishment to their assistance. Thucydides the Athenian wrote the Peloponnesian and Athenian War in Thrace, hard by the forest of Scapte; Xenophon wrote his history in Scillus belonging to Elis; Philistus in Epirus, Timaeus of Tauromenum at Athens, Androtion the Athenian in Megara, Bacchylides the poet in Peloponnesus. These and many more, after they had lost their country, did not lose all hope nor were dejected in their minds, but took occasion thereupon to express the vivacity of their spirit and the dexterity of their wit, receiving their banishment at the hands of Fortune as a viaticum that she had sent them; whereby they became renowned everywhere after death, whereas there is no remaining mention of those factious persons that expelled them.

15. He therefore is ridiculous that looks upon it as an ignominious thing to be banished. For what is it that thou sayest? Was Diogenes ignominious, when Alexander, who saw him sitting and sunning himself, came and asked him whether he wanted any thing, and he answered him, that he lacked nothing but that he would go a little aside and not stand in his light? The king, admiring the presence of his mind, turned to his followers and said: If I were not Alexander, I would be Diogenes. Was Camillus Edition: current; Page: [30] inglorious because he was expelled Rome, considering he has got the reputation of being its second founder? Neither did Themistocles by his banishment lose any of the renown he had gained in Greece, but added to it that which he had acquired among the barbarians; neither is there any so without all sense of honor, or of such an abject mind, that had not rather be Themistocles the banished, than Leobates that indicted him; or be Cicero that had the same fate, than Clodius that expelled him Rome; or be Timotheus that abandoned his country, than Aristophon that was his accuser.

16. But because the words of Euripides move many, who seems to frame a heavy charge against banishment and to urge it home, let us see what he says more particularly in his questions and answers about it.

  • But is’t so sad one’s country to forego,
  • And live in exile? Pray, son, let me know.
  • Some ills when told are great, when tried are less;
  • But this is saddest felt, though sad t’ express.
  • What is’t, I pray, afflicts the banished most?
  • That liberty to speak one’s mind is lost.
  • He is indeed a slave that dares not utter
  • His thoughts, nor ’gainst his cruel masters mutter.
  • But all their insolencies must o’erpass,
  • And bear their follies tamely like an ass.*

These assertions of his are neither good nor true. For first, not to speak what one thinks is not a piece of slavery; but it is the part of a prudent man to hold one’s peace and be silent when time and the circumstances of affairs require it; as he himself says better elsewhere, that a wise man knows

  • Both when it’s best no tongue to find,
  • And when it’s safe to speak his mind.

Again, as for the rudeness and insolency of such as have power in their hands, they that stay in their country are no less forced to bear and endure it than those that are driven out of it; nay, commonly the former stand more in Edition: current; Page: [31] fear of false informations and the violence of unjust rulers in cities than the latter. But his greatest mistake and absurdity is his taking away all freedom of speech from exiles. It is wonderful indeed if Theodorus had no freedom of this kind, who, — when King Lysimachus said to him: Thou being such a criminal, the country cast thee forth, did it not? — replied: Yes, not being able to bear me; just as Semele cast out Bacchus, when she could bear him no longer. And when the king showed him Telesphorus in an iron cage, with his eyes digged out of their holes, his nose and ears and tongue cut off, and said: So I deal with those that injure me, he was not abashed. What! did not Diogenes retain his wonted freedom of speaking, who coming into King Philip’s camp, when he was going to give the Grecians battle, was brought before him for a spy; and confessed that he was so, but that he came to take a view of his unsatiable greediness of empire and of his madness and folly who was going in the short time of a fight to throw a die for his crown and life?

And what say you to Hannibal the Carthaginian? Did not he use a convenient freedom towards Antiochus (he at that time an exile, and the other a king), when upon an advantageous occasion he advised him to give his enemies battle? He, when he had sacrificed, told him the entrails forbade it. Hannibal sharply rebuked him thus: You are for doing what the flesh of a beast, not what the reason of a wise man, adviseth.

Neither does banishment deprive geometricians or mathematicians of the liberty of discoursing freely concerning matters they know and have skill in; and why should any worthy or good man be denied it? But meanness of thought obstructs and hinders the voice, strangles the power of speech, and makes a man a mute. But let us see what follows from Euripides:

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  • Upon good hopes exiles can thrive, they say.
  • Hopes have fine looks, but kill one with delay.*

This is also an accusation of men’s folly rather than of banishment; for it is not the well instructed and those that know how to use what they have aright, but such as depend upon what is to come and desire what they have not, that are carried and tossed up and down by hopes, as in a floating vessel, though they have scarce ever stirred beyond the gates of their own city. But to go on:

  • Did not your father’s friends aid your distress?
  • Take care to thrive; for if you once are poor,
  • Those you call friends will know you then no more.
  • Did not your high birth stand you in some stead?
  • It’s sad to want, for honor buys no bread.

These also are ungrateful speeches of Polynices, who accuses banishment as casting disparagement upon noble birth and leaving a man without friends, who yet because of his high birth was thought worthy, though an exile, to have a king’s daughter given him in marriage, and also by the powerful assistance of his friends gathered such an army as to make war against his own country, as he confesses himself a little after:

  • Many a famous Grecian peer
  • And captain from Mycenae here
  • In readiness t’ assist me tarry;
  • Sad service ’tis, but necessary.

Neither are the words of his lamenting mother any wiser:

  • No nuptial torch at all I lighted have
  • To thee, as doth a wedding-feast beseem;
  • No marriage-song was sung; nor thee to lave
  • Was water brought from fair Ismenus’ stream.

She ought to have been well pleased and rejoiced when she heard that her son dwelt in such kingly palaces; but, whilst she laments that the nuptial torch was not lighted, and the want of waters from Ismenus’s river for him to Edition: current; Page: [33] have bathed in (as if people at Argos were destitute both of fire and water at their weddings), she makes those evils, which her own conceit and folly produced, to be the effects of banishment.

17. But is it not then an ignominious thing to be an exile? Yes, it is among fools, with whom it is a reproach to be poor, to be bald, or of low stature, and (with as much reason) to be a stranger or a pilgrim. But they that do not fall into these mistakes admire good men, though they happen to be poor or strangers or in exile. Do not we see the temple of Theseus venerated by all men, as well as the Parthenon and Eleusinium? And yet Theseus was banished from Athens, by whose means it is at this time inhabited; and lost his abode in that city, which he did not hold as a tenant, but himself built. And what remarkable thing is there remaining in Eleusis, if we are ashamed of Eumolpus, who coming thither from Thrace initiated the Greeks, and still does so, in the mysteries of religion? And whose son was Codrus, that reigned at Athens, but of that Melanthus who was banished from Messene? Will you not commend that speech of Antisthenes, who, when one said to him, Phrygia is thy mother, replied, She was also the mother of the Gods? And if any one reproach thee with thy banishment, why canst not thou answer, that the father of the great conqueror Hercules was an exile? And so was Cadmus the grandfather of Bacchus, who, being sent abroad in search for Europa, did return no more:

  • Sprung from Phoenicia, to Thebes he came;
  • Thebes to his grandson Bacchus lays a claim,
  • Who there inspires with rage the female rout,
  • That worship him by running mad about.*

As for those things which Aeschylus obscurely insinuates in that expression of his,

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And of Apollo, chaste God, banished heaven,

I’ll favor my tongue, as Herodotus phrases it, and say nothing.

Empedocles, when he prefaces to his philosophy thus, —

  • This old decree of fate unchanged stands, —
  • Whoso with horrid crimes defiles his hands,
  • To long-lived Daemons this commission’s given
  • To chase him many ages out of heaven.
  • Into this sad condition I am hurled,
  • Banished from God to wander through the world, —

does not here only point at himself; but in what he says of himself he shows the condition of us all, that we are pilgrims and strangers and exiles here in this world. For know, says he, O men, that it is not blood nor a spirit tempered with it that gave being and beginning to the soul, but it is your terrestrial and mortal body that is made up of these. And by the soft name of pilgrimage, he insinuates the origin of the soul, that comes hither from another place. And the truth is, she flies and wanders up and down, being driven by the divine decrees and laws; and afterwards, as in an island surrounded with a great sea, as Plato speaks, she is tied and linked to the body, just like an oyster to its shell, and because she is not able to remember nor relate,

  • From what a vast and high degree
  • Of honor and felicity

she has removed, — not from Sardis to Athens, not from Corinth to Lemnos or Scyros, but having changed heaven and the moon for earth and an earthly life, — if she is forced to make little removes here from place to place, the soul hereupon is ill at ease and troubled at her new and strange state, and hangs her head like a decaying plant. And indeed some one country is found to be more agreeable to a plant than another, in which it thrives and flourishes better; but no place can deprive a man of his happiness, unless he pleases, no more than of his virtue and Edition: current; Page: [35] prudence. For Anaxagoras wrote his book of the Squaring of a Circle in prison; and Socrates, just when he was going to drink the poison that killed him, discoursed of philosophy, and exhorted his friends to the study of it; who then admired him as a happy man. But Phaëton and Tantalus, though they mounted up to heaven, yet, the poets tell us, through their folly fell into the extremest calamities.

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1. The ancient statues of Castor and Pollux are called by the Spartans Docana; and they are two pieces of wood one over against the other joined with two other cross ends, and the community and undividedness of this consecrated representation seems to resemble the fraternal love of these two Gods. In like manner do I devote this discourse of Brotherly Love to you, Nigrinus and Quintus, as a gift in common betwixt you both, who well deserve it. For as to the things it advises to, you will, while you already practise them, seem rather to give your testimonies to them than to be exhorted by them. And the satisfaction you have from well-doing will give the more firm durance to your judgment, when you shall find yourselves approved by wise and judicious spectators. Aristarchus the father of Theodectes said indeed once, by way of flout of the Sophists, that formerly there were scarce seven Sophists to be found, but that in his time there could hardly be found so many who were not Sophists. But I see brotherly love is as scarce in our days as brotherly hatred was in ancient times, the instances of which have been publicly exposed in tragedies and public shows for their strangeness. But all in our times, when they have fortuned to have good brothers, do no less admire them than the famed Molionidae, that are supposed to have been born with their bodies joined with each other. And to enjoy in common their fathers’ wealth, friends, and slaves Edition: current; Page: [37] is looked upon as incredible and prodigious, as if one soul should make use of the hands, feet, and eyes of two bodies.

2. And Nature hath given us very near examples of the use of brothers, by contriving most of the necessary parts of our bodies double, as it were, brothers and twins, — as hands, feet, eyes, ears, nostrils, — thereby telling us that all these were thus distinguished for mutual benefit and assistance, and not for variance and discord. And when she parted the very hands into many and unequal fingers, she made them thereby the most curious and artificial of all our members; insomuch that the ancient philosopher Anaxagoras assigned the hands for the reason of all human knowledge and discretion. But the contrary to this seems the truth. For it is not man’s having hands that makes him the wisest animal, but his being naturally reasonable and capable of art was the reason why such organs were conferred upon him. And this also is most manifest to every one, that the reason why Nature out of one seed and source formed two, three, and more brethren was not for difference and opposition, but that their being apart might render them the more capable of assisting one another. For those that were treble-bodied and hundred-handed, if any such there were, while they had all their members joined to each other, could do nothing without them or apart, as brothers can who can live together and travel, undertake public employments and practise husbandry, by one another’s help, if they preserve but that principle of benevolence and concord that Nature hath bestowed upon them. But if they do not, they will not at all differ in my opinion from feet that trip up one another, and fingers that are unnaturally writhen and distorted by one another. Yea, rather, as things moist and dry, cold and hot, partake of one nature in the same body, and by their consent and agreement engender the best Edition: current; Page: [38] and most pleasant temperament and harmony, — without which (they say) there is neither satisfaction nor benefit in either riches or kingship itself, which renders man equal to Gods, — but if excess and discord befall them, they miserably ruinate and confourd the animal; so, where there is an unanimous accordance amongst brothers, the family thrives and flourishes, and friends and acquaintance, like a well furnished choir, in all their actions, words, and thoughts maintain a delightful harmony.

But jarring feuds advance the worst of men,

such as a vile ill-tongued slave at home, an insinuating parasite abroad, or some other envious person. For as diseases in bodies nauseating their ordinary diet incline the appetite to every improper and noxious thing; so calumny freely entertained against relations, and through prejudging credulity enhanced into suspicion, occasions an adopting the pernicious acquaintance of such as are ready enough to crowd into the room of their betters.

3. The Arcadian prophet in Herodotus was forced to supply the loss of one of his feet with an artificial one made of wood. But he who in a difference throws off his brother, and out of places of common resort takes a stranger for his comrade, seems to do no less than wilfully to mangle off a part of himself, attempting to repair the barbarous breach by the unnatural application of an extraneous member. For the ordinary inclinations and desires of men, being after some sort of society or other, sufficiently admonish them to set the highest value upon relations, to pay them all becoming respects, and to have a tender regard for their persons, nothing being more irksome to nature than to live in that destitution and solitude that denies them the happiness of a friend and the privilege of communication. Well therefore was that of Menander:

  • ’Tis not o’ th’ store of sprightly wine,
  • Nor plenty of delicious meats,
  • Edition: current; Page: [39]
  • Though generous Nature should design
  • T’ oblige us with perpetual treats;
  • ’Tis not on these we for content depend,
  • So much as on the shadow of a friend.

For a great deal of friendship in the world is really no better and no more than the mere imitation and resemblance of that first affection that Nature wrought in parents towards their children, and in their children towards one another. And whoever has not a particular esteem and regard for this kind of friendship, I know no reason any one has to credit his kindest pretensions. For what shall we make of that man who in his complaisance, either in company or in his letters, salutes his friend by the name of brother, and yet scorns the company of that very brother whose name was so serviceable to him in his compliment? For, as it is the part of a madman to adorn and set out the effigies of his brother, and in the mean time to abuse, beat, and maim his person; so, to value and honor the name in others but to hate and shun the brother himself is likewise an action of one that is not so well in his wits as he should be, and that never yet considered that Nature is a most sacred thing.

4. I remember, when I was at Rome, I undertook an umpirage between two brothers. The one pretended to the study of philosophy, but (as it appeared by the event) with as little reason as to the relation of a brother. For, when I advised him that now was the time for him to show his philosophy, in the prudent managery and government of himself, whilst he was to treat with so dear a relation as a brother, and such a one especially as wanted those advantages of knowledge and education that he had; Your counsel, replied my philosopher, may do well with some illiterate novice or other; but, for my part, I see no such great matter in that which you so gravely allege, our being the issue of the same parents. True, I answered, you declare evidently enough that you make no account of your Edition: current; Page: [40] affinity. But, by your favor, Mr. Philosopher, all of your profession that I ever was acquainted with, whatever their private opinions were, affirm both in their prose and poetry that, next to the Gods and the laws, her conservators and guardians, Nature had assigned to parents the highest honor and veneration. And there is nothing that men can perform more grateful to the Gods, than freely and constantly to pay their utmost acknowledgments and thanks to their parents, and those from whom they received their nurture and education; as, on the other hand, there is no greater argument of a profane and impious spirit than a contemptuous and surly behavior towards them. We are therefore enjoined to take heed of doing any one wrong. But he that demeans not himself with that exactness before his parents that all his actions may afford them a pleasure and satisfaction, though he give them no other distaste, is sure to undergo a very hard censure. Now what can more effectually express the gratitude of children to their parents, or what actions or dispositions in their children can be more delightful and rejoicing, than firm love and amity amongst them?

5. And this may be understood by lesser instances. For, if parents will be displeased when an old servant that has been favored by them shall be reproached and flouted at by the children, or if the plants and the fields wherein they took pleasure be neglected, if the forgetting a dog or a beloved horse fret their humorsome age (that is very apt to be jealous of the love and obedience of their children), if, lastly, when they disaffect and despise those recreations that are pleasing to the eye and ear, or those juvenile exercises and games which they themselves formerly delighted in, — if at any of all these things the parents will be angry and offended, — how will they endure such discord as inflames their children with mutual malice and hatred, fills their mouths with opprobrious and execrating language, Edition: current; Page: [41] and works them into such an inveteracy that the contrary and spiteful method of their actions declares a drift and design of ruining one another? If, I say, those smaller matters provoke their anger, how will all the rest be resented? Who can resolve me? But, on the other hand, where the love of brothers is such that they make up that distance Nature has placed them at (in respect of their different bodies) by united affections, insomuch that their studies and recreations, their earnest and their jest, keep true time and agree exactly together, such a pleasing consort amongst their children proves a nursing melody to the decayed parents to preserve and maintain their quiet and peace in their old (though tender) age. For never was any father so intent upon oratory, ambitious of honor, or craving after riches, as fond of his children. Wherefore neither is it so great a satisfaction to hear them speak well, find them grow wealthy, or see them honored with the power of magistracy, as to be endeared to each other in mutual affection. Wherefore it is reported of Apollonis of Cyzicum, mother of King Eumenes and three other sons, Attalus, Philetaerus, and Athenaeus, that she always accounted herself happy and gave the Gods thanks, not so much for wealth or empire, as because she saw her three sons guarding the eldest, and him reigning securely among his armed brothers. And on the contrary, Artaxerxes, understanding that his son Ochus had laid a plot against his brothers, died with sorrow at the surprise. For the quarrels of brothers are pernicious, saith Euripides, but most of all to the parents themselves. For he that hates and plagues his brother can hardly forbear blaming the father who begot and the mother who bare him.

6. Wherefore Pisistratus, being about to marry again, his sons being grown up to a mature age, gave them their deserved character of praise, together with the reason of his designs for a second marriage, — that he might be the Edition: current; Page: [42] happy father of more such children. Now those who are truly ingenious do not only love one another the more entirely for the sake of their common parents, but they love their very parents for the sake of one another; always owning themselves bound to their parents especially for the mutual happiness that they enjoy in each other, and looking upon their brethren as the dearest and the most valuable treasure they could have received from their parents. And thus Homer elegantly expresses Telemachus bewailing the want of a brother:

  • Stern Jove has in some angry mood
  • Condemned our race to solitude.*

But I like not Hesiod’s judgment so well, who is all for a single son’s inheriting. Not so well (I say) from Hesiod, a pupil of the Muses, who being endeared sisters kept always together, and therefore from that inseparate union (ὁμοῦ οὖσαι) were called Muses. To parents therefore the love of brothers is a plain argument of their children’s love to themselves. And to the children of the brothers themselves it is the best of precedents, and that which affords the most effectual advice that can be thought of; as again, they will be forward enough in following the worst of their parents’ humors and inheriting their animosities. But for one who has led his relations a contentious life, and quarrelled himself up into wrinkles and gray hairs, — for such a one to begin a lecture of love to his children is just like him

  • Who boldly takes the fees,
  • To cure in others what’s his own disease.

In a word, his own actions weaken and confute all the arguments of his best counsel. Take Eteocles of Thebes reflecting upon his brother and flying out after this manner:

  • I’d mount the Heavens, I’d strive to meet the sun
  • In’s setting forth, I’d travel with him down
  • Edition: current; Page: [43]
  • Beneath the earth, I’d balk no enterprise,
  • To gain Jove’s mighty power and tyrannize.*

Suppose, I say, out of this rage, he had presently fallen into the softer strain of good advice to his children, charging them thus:

  • Prize gentle amity that vies
  • With none for grandeur; concord prize
  • That joins together friends and states,
  • And keeps them long confederates.
  • Equality! — whatever else deceives
  • Our trust, ’tis this our very selves outlives;

who is there that would not have despised him? Or what would you have thought of Atreus, after he had treated his brother at a barbarous supper, to hear him afterwards thus instructing his children:

  • Such love as doth become related friends
  • Alone, when ills betide, its succor lends?

7. It is therefore very needful to throw off those ill dispositions, as being very grievous and troublesome to their parents, and more destructive to children in respect of the ill example. Besides, it occasions many strange censures and much obloquy amongst men. For they will not be apt to imagine that so near and intimate relations as brothers, that have eaten of the same bread and all along participated of the same common maintenance, and who have conversed so familiarly together, should break out into contention, except they were conscious to themselves of a great deal of naughtiness. For it must be some great matter that violates the bonds of natural affection; whence it is that such breaches are so hardly healed up again. For, as those things which are joined together by art, being parted, may by the same art be compacted again, but if there be a fracture in a natural body, there is much difficulty in setting and uniting the broken parts; so, if friendships that through a long tract of time have been firmly and closely Edition: current; Page: [44] contracted come once to be violated, no endeavors will bring them together any more. And brothers, when they have once broke natural affection, are hardly made true friends again; or, if there be some kind of peace made betwixt them, it is like to prove but superficial only, and such as carries a filthy festering scar along with it. Now all enmity between man and man which is attended with these perturbations of quarrelsomeness, passion, envy, recording of an injury, must needs be troublesome and vexatious; but that which is harbored against a brother, with whom they communicate in sacrifices and other religious rites of their parents, with whom they have the same common charnel-house and the same or a near habitation, is much more to be lamented, — especially if we reflect upon the horrid madness of some brothers, in being so prejudiced against their own flesh and blood, that his face and person once so welcome and familiar, his voice all along from his childhood as well beloved as known, should on a sudden become so very detestable. How loudly does this reproach their ill-nature and savage dispositions, that, whilst they behold other brethren lovingly conversing in the same house and dieting together at the same table, managing the same estate and attended by the same servants, they alone divide friends, choose contrary acquaintance, resolving to abandon every thing that their brother may approve of? Now it is obvious to any to understand, that new friends and companions may be compassed and new kindred may come in when the old, like decayed weapons and worn-out utensils, are lost and gone. But there is no more regaining of a lost brother, than of a hand that is cut off or an eye that is beaten out. The Persian woman therefore spake truth, when she preferred the saving her brother’s life before her very children’s, alleging that she was in a possibility of having more children if she should be deprived of those she had, but, her parents Edition: current; Page: [45] being dead, she could hope for no more brothers after him.*

8. You will ask me then, What shall a man do with an untoward brother? I answer, every kind and degree of friendship is subject to abuse from the persons, and in that respect has its taint, according to that of Sophocles:

  • Who into human things makes scrutinies,
  • He may on most his censures exercise.

For, if you examine the love of relations, the love of associates, or the more sensual passion of fond lovers, you will find none of them all clear, pure, and free from all faults. Wherefore the Spartan, when he married a little wife, said that of evils he had to choose the least. But brothers would do well to bear with one another’s familiar failings, rather than to adventure upon the trial of strangers. For as the former is blameless because it is necessary, so the other is blameworthy because it is voluntary. For it is not to be expected that a sociable guest or a wild crony should be bound by the same

Chains of respect, forged by no human hand,

as one who was nourished from the same breast and carries the same blood in his veins. And therefore it would become a virtuous mind to make a favorable construction of his brother’s miscarriages, and to bespeak him with this candor:

  • I cannot leave you thus under a cloud
  • Of infelicities,

whether debauched with vice or eclipsed with ignorance, for fear my inadvertency to some failing that naturally descends upon you from one of our parents should make me too severe against you. For, as Theophrastus said, as to strangers, judgment must rule affection rather than affection prescribe to judgment; but where nature denies judgment this prerogative, and will not wait for the bushel of Edition: current; Page: [46] salt (as the proverb has it) to be eaten, but has already infused and begun in us the principle of love, there we should not be too rigid and exact in the examining of faults. Now what would you think of men when they can easily dispense with and smile at the sociable vices of their acquaintance, and in the mean time be so implacably incensed with the irregularities of a brother? Or when fierce dogs, horses, wolves, cats, apes, lions, are so much their favorites that they feed and delight in them, and yet cannot stomach only their brother’s passion, ignorance, or ambition? Or of others who have made away their houses and lands to harlots, and quarrelled with their brothers only about the floor or corner of the house? Nay, further, such a prejudice have they to them, that they justify the hating them from the rule of hating every ill thing, maliciously accounting them as such; and they go up and down cursing and reproaching their brothers for their vices, while they are never offended or discontented therewith in others, but are willing enough daily to frequent and haunt their company.

9. And this may serve for the beginning of my discourse. I shall enter upon my instructions not as others do, with the distribution of the parents’ goods, but with advice rather to avoid envious strifes and emulation whilst the parents are living. Agesilaus was punished with a mulct by the Lacedaemonian council for sending every one of the ancient men an ox as a reward of his fortitude; the reason they gave for their distaste was, that by this means he won too much upon the people, and made the commonalty become wholly serviceable to his own private interest. Now I would persuade the son to show all possible honor and reverence to his parents, but not with that greedy design of engrossing all their love to himself, — of which too many have been guilty, working their brethren out of favor, on purpose to make way for their own interest, — a fault which Edition: current; Page: [47] they are apt to palliate with specious, but unjust pretences. For they deprive and cheat their brethren out of the greatest and most valuable good they are capable of receiving from their parents, viz., their kindness and affection, whilst they slyly and disingenuously steal in upon them in their business, and surprise them in their errors, demeaning themselves with all imaginable observance to their parents, and especially with the greatest care and preciseness in those things wherein they see their brethren have been faulty or suspected to be so. But a kind brother, and one that truly deserves the name, will make his brother’s condition his own, freely take upon himself a share of his sufferings, particularly in the anger of his parents, and be ready to do any thing that may conduce to the restoring him into favor; but if he has neglected some opportunity or something which ought to have been done by him, to excuse it upon his nature, as being more ready and seriously disposed for other things. That of Agamemnon therefore was well spoken in the behalf of his brother:

  • Nor sloth, nor silly humor makes him stay;
  • I am the only cause. All his delay
  • Waits my attempts:*

and he says that this charge was delivered him by his brother. Fathers willingly allow of the changing of names and have an inclination to believe their children when they make the best interpretation of their brother’s failings, — as when they call carelessness simple honesty, or stupidity goodness, or, if he be quarrelsome, term him a smart-spirited youth and one that will not endure to be trampled on. By this means it comes to pass, that he who makes his brother’s peace and ingratiates him with his offended father at the same time fairly advances his own interest, and grows deservedly the more in favor.

10. But when the storm is once over, it is necessary to Edition: current; Page: [48] be serious with him, to reprehend him sharply for his crime, discovering to him with all freedom wherein he has been wanting in his duty. For as such guilty brothers are not to be allowed in their faults, neither are they to be insulted with raillery. For to do the latter were to rejoice and find advantage in their failings, and to do the former were to take part in them. Therefore ought they so to manage their severities that they may show a solicitude and concernedness for their brethren and much discomposure and trouble at their follies. Now he is the fittest person to school his brother smartly who has been a ready and earnest advocate in his behalf. But suppose the brother wrongfully charged, it is fitting he should be obsequious to his parents in all other things whatsoever, and to bear with their angry humors; but a defence made before them for a brother that suffers by slander and false accusation is unreprovable and very good. In all such there is no need to fear that check in Sophocles,

Curst son! who with thy father durst contend;*

for there is allowed a liberty of vindicating a traduced brother. And where the parents are convinced of their injury, in cases of this kind defeat is more pleasant to them than victory.

11. But when the father is dead, it is fitting brothers should close the nearer in affection; immediately in their sadness and sorrow communicating their mutual love, and, in the next place, rejecting the suspicious stories and suggestions of servants, discountenancing their sly methods and subtle applications, and amongst other stories, adverting to the fable of Jupiter’s sons, Castor and Pollux, whose love to one another was such that Pollux, when one was whispering to him somewhat against his brother, killed him with a blow of his fist. And when they come to dividing their parents’ goods, let them take Edition: current; Page: [49] heed that they come not with prejudice and contentious resolutions, giving defiance and shouting the warcry, as so many do. But let them observe with caution that day above all others, as it may be to them the beginning either of mortal enmity or of friendship and concord. And then, either amongst themselves, or, if need be, in the presence of some common and indifferent friend, let them deal fairly and openly, allowing Justice (as Plato says) to draw the lot, giving and receiving what may consist with love and friendship. Thus they will appear to be sharers only in the care and disposal of these things, whilst the propriety and enjoyment is free and common to them all. But they that take an advantage in the controversy, and seize from one another nurses and children who have been fostered and brought up with them, prevailing by their eagerness, may perhaps go away with the gain of a single slave, but they have forfeited in the stead of it the best legacy their parents could have left them, the love and confidence of their brothers. I have known some brothers, without the instigation of lucre, and merely out of a savage disposition, fly upon the goods of their deceased parents with as much ravine and fierceness as they would upon the spoil of an enemy. Such were the actions of Charicles and Antiochus the Opuntians, who divided a silver cup and a garment in two pieces, as though by some tragical imprecation they had been set on

To share the patrimony with a sword.*

Others I have known proclaiming the success of their subtle methods of fierce and eager and sometimes sly and fallacious reasonings, by which means they have compassed larger proportion from their deluded brethren. Whereas their just actions and their kind and humble carriage had less reproached their pride, but raised the esteem of their persons. Wherefore that action of Athenodorus is very Edition: current; Page: [50] memorable, and indeed generally remembered by our countrymen. His elder brother Xeno in the time of his guardianship had wasted a great part of his substance, and at last was condemned for a rape, and all that was left was confiscated. Athenodorus was then but a youth; but when his share of the estate was given to him, he had that regard to his brother, that he brought all his own proportion and freely exposed it to a new division with him. And though in the dividing it he suffered great abuse from him, he resented it not so much as to repent of what he had done, but endured with most remarkable meekness and unconcerned ease his brother’s outrage, that was become notorious throughout all Greece.

12. Solon discoursing about the commonwealth approved of equality, as being that which would occasion no tumult or faction. But this opinion appeared too popular; for by this arithmetical method he would have set up democracy in the room of a far happier government, consisting with a more suitable (viz., a geometrical) proportion. But he that advises brethren in the dividing of an estate should give them Plato’s counsel to the citizens, that they would lay aside self-interest, or, if they cannot be persuaded to that, to be satisfied with an equal division. And this is the way to lay a good and lasting foundation of love and peace betwixt them. Besides that, he may have the advantage of naming eminent instances. Such was that of Pittacus, who, being asked of the Lydian king whether he had any estate, replied that he had twice as much as he wanted, his brother being dead. But since that not only in the affluence or want of riches he that has a less share is liable to hostility with him that has more, but generally, as Plato says, in all inequality there is inquietude and disturbance, and in the contrary a during confidence; so a disparity among brethren tends dangerously to discord. But for them to be equal in all respects, I grant, is impossible. Edition: current; Page: [51] For what through the difference that nature made immediately betwixt them at the first, and what through the following contingencies of their lives, it comes to pass that they contract an envy and hatred against one another, and such abominable humors as render them the plagues not only of their private families but even of commonwealths. And this indeed is a disease which it were well to prevent, or to cure when it is engendered. I would persuade that brother therefore that excels his fellows in any accomplishments, in those very things to communicate and impart to them the utmost he can, that they may shine in his honor, and flourish with his interest. For instance, if he be a good orator, to endeavor to make that faculty theirs, accounting it never the less for being imparted. And care ought to be taken that all this kindness be not followed with a fastidious pride, but rather with such a becoming condescension and familiarity as may secure his worth from envy, and by his own equanimity and sweet disposition, as far as is possible, make up the inequality of their fortunes. Lucullus refused the honor of magistracy on purpose to give way to his younger brother, contentedly waiting for the expiration of his year. Pollux chose rather to be half a deity with his brother than a deity by himself, and therefore to debase himself into a share of mortality, that he might raise his brother as much above it. You then are a happy man, one would think, that can oblige your brother at a cheaper rate, illustrate him with the honor of your virtues, and make him great like yourself, without any damage or derogation. Thus Plato made his brothers famous by mentioning them in the choicest of his books, — Glauco and Adimantus in that concerning the Commonwealth, and Antipho his youngest brother in his Parmenides.

13. Besides, as there is difference in the natures and fortunes of brothers, so neither is it possible that the one Edition: current; Page: [52] should excel the other in every particular thing. The elements exist out of one common matter, yet they are qualified with quite contrary faculties. No one ever saw two brothers by the same father and mother so strangely distinguished that, whereas the one was a Stoic and withal a wise man, — a comely, pleasant, liberal, eminent, wealthy, eloquent, studious, courteous man, — the other was quite contrary to all these. But, however, the vilest, the most despicable things have some proportion of good, or natural disposition to it.

  • Thus amongst hated thorns and prickly briers
  • The fragrant violet retires.

Now therefore, he who has the eminency in other things, if he yet do not hinder nor stifle the credit of what is laudable in his brother, like an ambitious antagonist that grasps at all the applause, but if he rather yield to him, and declare that in many things he excels him, by this means takes away all occasion of envy, which being like fire without fuel, must needs die without it. Or rather he prevents the very beginnings of envy, and suffers it not so much as to kindle betwixt them. But he who, where he knows himself far superior to his brother, calls for his help and advice, whether it be in the business of a rhetorician, a magistrate, or a friend, — in a word, he that neglects or leaves him out in no honorable employment or concern, but joins him with himself in all his noble and worthy actions, employs him when present, waits for him when absent, and makes the world take notice that he is as fit for business as himself, but of a more modest and yielding disposition, — all this while has done himself no wrong, and has bravely advanced his brother.

14. And this is the advice one would offer to the excelling brother. The other should consider that, as his brother excels him in wealth, learning, esteem, he must expect to come behind not him only but millions more,

Who live o’ th’ offsprings of the spacious earth.

Edition: current; Page: [53]

But if he envies all that are so happy, or is the only one in the world that repines at his own brother’s felicity, his malicious temper speaks him one of the most wretched creatures in the world. Wherefore, as Metellus’s opinion was, that the Romans were bound to thank the Gods that Scipio, being such a brave man, was not born in another city; so he who aspires after great things, if he miss of his designs for himself, can do no less than entitle his brother to his best wishes. But some are so unlucky in estimating of virtuous and worthy actions that, whereas they are overjoyed to see their friends grow in esteem, and are not a little proud of entertaining persons of honor or great opulency, their brother’s worth and eminency is in the mean time looked upon with a jealous eye, as though it threatened to cloud and eclipse the splendor of their condition. How do they exalt themselves at the memory of some prosperous exploits of their father, or the wise conduct of their great-grandfather, by all which they are nothing advantaged? But again, how are they daunted and dispirited to see a brother preferred to inheritances, dignities, or honorable marriage? But we should not envy any one; but if this cannot be, we ought at least to turn our malice and rancor out of the family against worse objects, in imitation of those who ease the city of sedition by turning the same upon their enemies without. We may say, as Diomedes said to Glaucus:

  • Trojans I have and friends; you, what I hate, —
  • Grecians to envy and to emulate*

15. Brothers should not be like the scales of a balance, the one rising upon the other’s sinking; but rather like numbers in arithmetic, the lesser and greater mutually helping and improving each other. For that finger which is not active in writing or touching musical instruments is not inferior to those that can do both; but they all move and Edition: current; Page: [54] act, one as well as another, and are assistant to each other, which makes the inequality among them seem designed by Nature, when the greatest cannot be without the help of the least that is placed in opposition to it. Thus Craterus and Perilaus, brothers to kings Antigonus and Cassander, betook themselves, the one to managing of military, the other of his domestic affairs. On the other hand, the men like Antiochus, Seleucus, Grypus, and Cyzicenus, disdaining any meaner things than purple and diadems, brought a great deal of trouble and mischief upon one another, and made Greece itself miserable with their quarrels. But in regard that men of ambitious inclinations will be apt to envy those who have got the start of them in honor, I judge it most convenient for brothers to take different methods in pursuit of it, rather than to vex and emulate one another in the same way. Those beasts fight and war one with another who feed in one pasture, and wrestlers are antagonists when they strive in the same game. But those that pretend to different games are the greatest friends, and ready to take one another’s parts with the utmost of their skill and power. So the two sons of Tyndarus, Castor and Pollux, carried the day, — Pollux at cuffs, and Castor at racing. Thus Homer brings in Teucer as expert in the bow, whom his brother Ajax, who was best in close fight,

Protected over with a glittering shield.*

And amongst those who are concerned in the Common wealth a general of an army does not much envy the leaders of the people, nor among those that profess rhetoric do the lawyers envy the sophisters, nor amongst the physicians do those who prescribe rules for diet envy the chirurgeon; but they mutually aid and assert the credit of one another. But for brothers to study to be eminent in the same art and faculty is all the same, amongst ill men, as Edition: current; Page: [55] if rival lovers, courting one and the same mistress, should both strive to gain the greatest interest in her affections. Those indeed that travel different ways can probably do one another but little good; but those who carry on quite different designs, and take several methods in their conversations, avoid envy, and many times do one another a kindness. As Demosthenes and Chares, and again Aeschines and Eubulus, Hyperides and Leosthenes, the one treating the people with their discourses and writings, the others assisting them by action and conduct. Therefore, where the disposition of brothers is such that they cannot agree in prosecuting the same methods of becoming great, it is convenient that one of them should so command himself as to assume the most different inclinations and designs from his brother; that, if they both aim at honor, they may serve their ambition by different means, and that they may cheerfully congratulate each other on the success of their designs, and so enjoy at once their honor and themselves.

16. But, besides this, they must beware of the suggestions of kindred, servants, or even wives, that may work much in a vain-glorious mind. Your brother, say they, is the great man of action, whom the people honor and admire; but nobody comes near or regards you. Now a man that well understood himself would answer, I have indeed a brother that is a plausible man in the world, and the greatest part of his honor I have a right to. For Socrates said that he would rather have Darius for his friend than a Daric. But to a prudent and ingenious brother, it would be as great a satisfaction to see his brother an excellent orator, a person of great wealth or authority, as if he had been any or all these himself. And thus especially may that trouble and discontent, that arises from the great odds that are betwixt brethren, be mitigated. But there are other differences that happen amongst ill-constructed brothers Edition: current; Page: [56] in respect of their age. For, whilst the elder justly claim the privilege of pre-eminence and authority over the younger, they become troublesome and uneasy to them; and the younger, growing pert and refractory, begin to slight and contemn the elder. Hence it is that the younger, looking upon themselves as hated and curbed, decline and stomach their admonitions. The elder again, being fond of superiority, are jealous of their brothers’ advancement, as though it tended to lessen them. Therefore, as we judge of a kindness that it ought to be valued more by the party obliged than by him who bestows it, so, if the elder would be persuaded to set less by his seniority and the younger to esteem it more, there would be no supercilious slighting and contemptuous carriage betwixt them. But, seeing it is fitting the elder should take care of them, lead, and instruct them, and the younger respect, observe, and follow them; it is likewise convenient that the elder’s care should carry more of familiarity in it, and that he should act more by persuasion than command, being readier to express much satisfaction and to applaud his brother when he does well than to reprove and chastise him for his faults. Now the younger’s imitation should be free from such a thing as angry striving. For unprejudiced endeavors in following another speak the esteem of a friend and admirer, the other the envy of an antagonist. Whence it is that those who, out of love to virtue, desire to be like their brother are beloved; but those again who, out of a stomaching ambition, contend to be equal with them meet with answerable usage. But above all other respects due from the younger to the elder, that of observance is most commendable, and occasions the return of a strong affection and equal regard. Such was the obsequious behavior of Cato to his elder brother Caepio all along from their childhood, that, when they came to be men, he had so much overcome him with his humble and excellent disposition, and his Edition: current; Page: [57] meek silence and attentive obedience had begot in him such a reverence towards him, that Caepio neither spake nor did any thing material without him. It is recorded that, when Caepio had sealed some writing of depositions, and his brother coming in was against it, he called for the writing and took off his seal, without so much as asking Cato why he did suspect the testimony. The reverence that Epicurus’s brothers showed him was likewise remarkable, and well merited by his good will and affectionate care for them. They were so especially influenced by him in the way of his philosophy, that they began betimes to entertain a high opinion of his accomplishments, and to declare that there was never a wiser man heard of than Epicurus. If they erred, yet we may here observe the obliging behavior of Epicurus, and the return of their passionate respects to him. And amongst later philosophers, Apollonius the Peripatetic convinced him who said honor was incommunicable, by raising his younger brother Sotion to a higher degree of eminence than himself. Amongst all the good things I am bound to Fortune for, I have that of a kind and affectionate brother Timon, which cannot be unknown to any who have conversed with me, and especially those of my own family.

17. There are yet other disturbances that brothers near the same age ought to be warned of; they are but small indeed at present, but they are frequent and leave a lasting grudge, such as makes them ready upon all occasions to fret and exasperate one another, and conclude at last in implacable hatred and malice. For, having once begun to fall out in their sports, and to differ about little things, like the feeding and fighting of cocks and other fowl, the exercises of children, the hunting of dogs, the racing of horses, it comes to pass that they have no government of themselves in greater matters, nor the power to restrain a proud and contentious humor. So the great men among the Edition: current; Page: [58] Grecians in our time, disagreeing first about players and musicians, afterward about the bath in Aedepsus, and again about rooms of entertainment, from contending and opposing one another about places, and from cutting and turning water-courses, they were grown so fierce and mad against one another, that they were dispossessed of all their goods by a tyrant, reduced to extreme poverty, and put to very hard shifts. In a word, so miserably were they altered from themselves, that there was nothing of the same but their inveterate hatred remaining in them. Wherefore there is no small care to be taken by brothers in subduing their passions and preventing quarrels about small matters, yielding rather for peace’s sake, and taking greater pleasure in indulging than crossing and conquering one another’s humors. For the ancients accounted the Cadmean victory to be no other than that between the brothers at Thebes, esteeming that the worst and basest of victories. But you will say, Are there not some things wherein men of mild and quiet dispositions may have occasion to dissent from others? There are, doubtless; but then they must take care that the main difference be betwixt the things themselves, and that their passions be not too much concerned. But they must rather have a regard to justice, and as soon as they have referred the controversy to arbitrament, immediately discharge their thoughts of it, for fear too much ruminating leave a deep impression of it in the mind, and render it hard to be forgotten. The Pythagoreans were imitable for this, that, though no nearer related than by mere common discipline and education, if at any time in a passion they broke out into opprobrious language, before the sun set they gave one another their hands, and with them a discharge from all injuries, and so with a mutual salutation concluded friends. For as a fever attending an inflamed sore threatens no great danger to the body, but, if the Edition: current; Page: [59] sore being healed the fever stays, it appears then to be a distemper and to have some deeper cause; so, when among brothers upon the ending of a difference all discord ceases betwixt them, it is an argument that the cause lay in the matter of difference only, but, if the discord survive the decision of the controversy, it is plain that the pretended matter served only for a false scar, drawn over on purpose to hide the cause of an incurable wound.

18. It is worth the while at present to hear an account of a dispute between two foreign brothers, not concerning a little patch of land, nor a few servants or cattle, but no less than the kingdom of Persia. When Darius was dead, some were for Ariamenes’s succeeding to the crown as being eldest son; others were for Xerxes, who was born to Darius of Atossa, the daughter of Cyrus, in the time of his reign over Persia. Ariamenes therefore came from Media in no hostile posture, but very peaceably, to hear the matter determined. Xerxes being there used the majesty and power of a king. But when his brother was come, he laid down his crown and other royal ornaments, went and meeting greeted him. And sending him presents, he gave a charge to his servants to deliver them with these words: With these presents your brother Xerxes expresses the honor he has for you; and, if by the judgment and suffrage of the Persians I be declared king, I place you next to myself. Ariamenes replied: I accept your gifts, but presume the kingdom of Persia to be my right. Yet for all my younger brethren I shall have an honor, but for Xerxes in the first place. The day of determining who should reign being come, the Persians made Artabanus brother to Darius judge. Xerxes excepting against him, confiding most in the multitude, his mother Atossa reproved him, saying: Why, son, are you so shy of Artabanus, your uncle, and one of the best men amongst the Persians? And why should you dread the trial, where the worst you Edition: current; Page: [60] can fear is to be next the throne, and to be called the king of Persia’s brother? Xerxes at length submitting, after some debate Artabanus adjudged the kingdom to Xerxes. Ariamenes presently started up, and went and showed obeisance to his brother, and taking him by the hand, placed him in the throne. And from that time, being placed himself by Xerxes next in the kingdom, he continued the same affection to him, insomuch that, for his brother’s honor engaging himself in the naval fight at Salamis, he was killed there. And this may serve for a clear and unquestionable instance of true kindness and greatness of mind.

Antiochus’s restless ambition after a crown was as much to be condemned; but still we may admire this in him, that it did not totally extinguish natural affection and destroy the love of a brother. He went to war with his brother Seleucus for the kingdom, himself being the younger brother, and having the assistance of his mother. In the durance of which war Seleucus joins battle with the Galatians and is defeated; being not heard of for a time, he is supposed to be slain and his whole army to be slaughtered by the enemy. Antiochus, understanding it, put off his purple, went into mourning, caused his palace to be shut up, and retired to lament the death of his brother. But, within a short time after, hearing that his brother was safe and raising new forces, he went and offered sacrifices for joy, and commanded his subjects to do the like and to crown themselves with garlands. But the Athenians, though they made a ridiculous story about a falling out amongst the Deities, compensated for the absurdity pretty well in striking out the second day of their month Boedromion, because upon that day Neptune and Minerva were at variance. And why should not we cancel out of our memories, as an unhappy day and no more to be spoken of, that wherein we have differed with any of our family or relations? But rather, far be it from us that the Edition: current; Page: [61] feuds of that day should bury the memory of all that happier time wherein we were educated and conversed together. For, except nature has bestowed those virtues of meekness and patience upon us in vain and to no purpose, we have certainly the greatest reason to exercise them towards our intimate friends and kindred. Now the acknowledgments of the offender and the begging pardon for the crime express a kind and amicable nature no less than the remitting of it. Wherefore it is not for us to slight the anger of those whom we have incensed through our folly, neither should they be so implacable as to refuse an humble submission; but rather, where we have done the wrong, we should endeavor to prevent a distaste by the earliest and humblest acknowledgments and impetrations of pardon, and where we have received any, to be as ready and free in the forgiving of it. Euclides, Socrates’s auditor, was famous in the schools for his mild return to his raving brother, whom he heard bellow out threats against him after this manner: Let me perish, if I be not revenged on you. He answered: And let me perish, if I do not prevail with you to desist from this passion, and to let us be as good friends as ever we were. This Euclides spake; but what king Eumenes did was an act of meekness seldom to be paralleled, and never yet outdone. For Perseus king of Macedon, being his great enemy, had engaged some persons to attempt the killing him. In order to which barbarous act they lay in wait for him at Delphi, and, when they perceived him going from the sea toward the Oracle, came behind him and set upon him with great stones, wounding him in the head and neck, till reeling with his hurt he fell down and was supposed dead. The rumor of this action dispersed every way, and some friends and servants of his coming to Pergamus, who were the amazed spectators of the supposed murder, brought the news. Whereupon Attalus, Eumenes’s Edition: current; Page: [62] eldest brother, a well-tempered man and one that had showed the greatest affection and respect to his brother, was proclaimed king, and not only assumed the crown, but married his deceased brother’s queen, Stratonica. But intelligence coming a while after that Eumenes was alive and coming home, he presently laid aside the crown, and putting on his usual habiliments, went with the rest of the guard to meet and attend him. Eumenes received him with the most affectionate embrace, and saluted the queen with honorable respect and much endearment. And not long after, at his death, he was so free from passion or jealousy against his brother, that he bequeathed to him both his crown and his queen. The return of Attalus to his brother’s kindness was ingenuous and very remarkable. For after his brother’s death he took no care to advance his own children, though he had many, but provided especially for the education of Eumenes’s son, and when he came to age, placed the crown upon his head, and saluted him with the title of king. But Cambyses, being disturbed only with a dream that his brother was like to reign over Asia, without any enquiry after farther evidence or ground for his jealousy, caused him to be put to death. Whereupon the succession went out of Cyrus’s family into the line of Darius, a prince who understood how to share the management of his affairs and even his regal authority not merely with his brothers, but also with his friends.

19. Again, this rule is to be observed, that, whenever any difference happens betwixt brothers, during the time of strangeness especially they hold a correspondence with one another’s friends, but by all means avoid their enemies. The Cretans are herein very observable; who, being accustomed to frequent skirmishes and fights, nevertheless, as soon as they were attacked by a foreign enemy, were reconciled and went together. And that was it which they commonly called Syncretism. For there are some Edition: current; Page: [63] who, like waters running among loose and chinky grounds, overthrow all familiarity and friendship; enemies to both parties, but especially bent upon the ruining of him whose weakness exposes him most to danger. For every sincere substantial friend joins in affection with one that approves himself such to him. And you shall observe, on the other hand, that the most inveterate and peruicious enemy contributes the poison of his ill-nature to heighten the passion of an angry brother. Therefore as the cat, in Aesop, out of pretended kindness asked the sick hen how she did, and she answered, The better if you were further off; after the same manner one would answer an incendiary that throws in words to breed discord, and to that end pries into things that are not to be spoken of, saying: I have no controversy with my brother nor he with me, if neither of us shall hearken to such sycophants as you are. I cannot understand why — seeing it is commonly held convenient for those who have tender eyes and a weak sight to shun those objects that are apt to make a strong reflection — the rule should not hold good in morals, and why those whom we would imagine sick of the trouble of fraternal quarrels and contentions should rather seem to take pleasure in them, and even seek the company of those who will only excite them the more and make all worse. How much more prudential a course would they take in avoiding the enemies of their offended brethren, and rather conversing with their relations and friends or even with their wives, and discovering their grievances to them frankly and with plainness of speech! But some are of that scrupulous opinion, that brothers walking together must not suffer a stone to lie in the way betwixt them, and are very much concerned if a dog happen to run betwixt them; and many such things, being looked upon as ominous, discompose and terrify them. Whereas none of them all any way tends to the breaking of friendship or Edition: current; Page: [64] the causing of dissension; but they are not in the least aware that men of snarling dispositions, base detractors, and instigators of mischief, whom they improvidently admit into their society, are the things that do them the greatest hurt.

20. Therefore (this discourse suggesting one thing after another) Theophrastus said well: If there ought to be all things common amongst friends, why should not the best of those things, their friends themselves, be communicated? And this is advice that cannot be too soon tendered to brethren, for their separate acquaintance and conversation conduce to the estranging them from one another. For those who affect divers friends will be apt to delight in them so much as to emulate them, and will therefore be easily drawn and persuaded by them; for friendships have their distinctive marks and manners, and there is no greater argument of a different genius and disposition than the choice of different friends. Wherefore neither the common table nor the common recreations nor any other sort of intimacy comprehends so much of amity betwixt brothers, as to be united in their interest and to have the same common friends and enemies; for ordinary friendship suffers neither calumnies nor clashings, but if there be any anger or discontent, honest and impartial friends make an end of it. For as tin unites and solders up broken brass, being put to the ends and attempered to the nature of the broken pieces; so it is the part of a friend betwixt two brothers, to suit and accommodate himself to the humors of both, that he may confirm and secure their friendship. But those of different and uncomplying tempers are like improper notes in music, that serve only to spoil the consort, and offend the ear with a harsh noise. It is a question therefore whether Hesiod was in the right or not when he said:

Let not thy friend become thy brother’s peer.*

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For one of an even behavior, that freely communicates himself between both, may by his interest in both contract a firm and happy tie and engagement of love between brothers. But Hesiod, it seems, spoke of those he suspected, — the greatest part and the worst sort of friends, — men of envious and selfish designs. He is wise who avoids such friends; and if in the mean time he divide his kindness equally between a true friend and a brother, let him do it with this reserve always, that the brother have the preference in magistracy and the management of public affairs, that he have the greater respect shown him in invitations and in contracting acquaintance with great persons, and in any thing that looks honorable and great in the eyes of the people, that the pre-eminence be given to Nature; for in these instances to prefer a friend does him not so much credit as that base and unworthy action of lessening and slighting a brother does the vilifying brother disgrace. But several have given their opinions in this thing. That of Menander is very well,

No one who loves will bear to be contemned.

This may remind brothers to preserve a tender regard to one another, and not to presume that Nature will overcome all their slights and disdain. A horse naturally loves a man, and a dog his master; but, if they are neglected in what is fitting and necessary for them, they will grow strange and unmanageable. The body, that is so intimately united to the soul, if the soul suspend a careful influence from it, will not be forward to assist it in its operations; it may rather spoil and cross them.

21. Now as the kind regards of brother to brother are highly commendable, so may they be expressed to the greater advantage, when he confines them not wholly to his person, but pays them, as occasion serves, rather by reflection to his kindred and such as retain to him; when he maintains a kind and complaisant humor amidst all Edition: current; Page: [66] contingencies, when he obliges the servile part of the family with a courteous and affable carriage, when he is grateful to the physician and good friends for the safe recovery of his brother, and is ready to go upon any expedition or service for him. Again, it is highly commendable in him to have the highest esteem and honor for his brother’s wife, reputing and honoring her as the most sacred of all his brother’s sacred treasures, and thus to do honor to him; condoling with her when she is neglected, and appeasing her when she is angered; if she have a little offended, to intercede and sue for her peace; if there have been any private difference between himself and his brother, to make his complaint before her in order to a reconcilement. But especially let him be much troubled at his brother’s single state; or, if he be married, at his want of children. If not married, let him follow him with arguments and persuasions, to teaze him with rebukes and reproaches, and to do every thing that may incline him to enter into a conjugal state. When he has children, let him express his affection and respects to both parents with the greater ardency. Let him love the children equally with his own, but be more favorable and indulgent to them, that, if it chance that they commit some of their youthful faults, they may not run away and hide themselves among naughty acquaintances through fear of their parents’ anger, but may have in their uncle a recourse and refuge, where they will be admonished lovingly and will find an intercessor to make their excuse and get their pardon. So Plato reclaimed his nephew Speusippus, that was far gone in idleness and debauchery; the young man, impatient of his parents’ reprehensions, ran away from them, who were more impatient of his extravagancies. His uncle expressed nothing of disturbance at all this, but continued calm and free from passion; whereupon Speusippus was seized with an extraordinary shame, and Edition: current; Page: [67] from that time became an admirer of both his uncle and his philosophy. Many of Plato’s friends blamed him that he had not instructed the youth; he made answer, that he instructed him by his life and conversation, from which he might learn, if he pleased, the difference betwixt ill and virtuous actions. The father of Aleuas the Thessalian, looking upon his son as of a fierce and injurious nature, kept him under with a great deal of severity, but his uncle received him with as great kindness. When therefore the Thessalians sent some lots to the oracle at Delphi, to enquire by them who should be their king, his uncle stole in one lot privately in the name of Aleuas; the priestess answered from the oracle, that Aleuas should be king. His father being surprised averred that there was never a lot thrown in for Aleuas that he knew of; at last all concluded that some mistake was committed in putting down the names, whereupon they sent again to enquire of the oracle. The priestess, confirming her first words, answered:

  • I mean the youth with reddish hair,
  • Whom dame Archedice did bear.

Thus Aleuas was by the oracle, through his uncle’s kind policy, declared king; by which means he surmounted all his ancestors, and advanced his family into a splendid condition. For it is prudence in a brother, when he beholds with joy the brave and worthy actions of his nephews growing great and honorable by their own deserts, to prompt and encourage them on by congratulation and applause. For to praise his own son may be absurd and offensive, but to commend the good actions of a brother’s son, is an excellent thing, and one which proceeds from no self-interest, nor any other principle but a true veneration for virtue. Now the very name of uncle (θεῖος) intimates that mutual beneficence and friendship that ought to be between him and his nephews. Besides this, we have a precedent from Edition: current; Page: [68] those that are of a sublimer make and nature than ourselves. Hercules, who was the father of sixty-eight sons, had a brother’s son that was as dear to him as any of his own; and even to this time Hercules and his nephew Iolaus have in many places one common altar betwixt them, and share in the same adorations. He is called literally Hercules’s assistant. And when his brother Iphicles was slain in a battle at Lacedaemon, in his exceeding grief he left the whole of Peloponnesus. Also Leucothea, her sister being dead, took her infant, nursed him up, and consecrated him with herself among the deities; from whence the Roman matrons, upon the festivals of Leucothea (whom they call also Matuta) have a custom of nursing their sisters’ children instead of their own, during the time of the festival.

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I. basilocles, philinus.

II. philinus, diogenianus, theo, serapio, boethus, interpreters.

1. Basilocles.

You have spun out the time, Philinus, till it is late in the evening, in giving the strangers a full sight of all the consecrated rarities; so that I am quite tired with waiting longer for your society.


Therefore we walked slowly along, talking and discoursing, O Basilocles, sowing and reaping by the way such sharp and hot disputes as offered themselves, which sprung up anew and grew about us as we walked, like the armed men from the Dragon’s teeth of Cadmus.


Shall we then call some of those that were present; or wilt thou be so kind as to tell us what were the discourses and who were the disputants?


That, Basilocles, it must be my business to do. For thou wilt hardly meet with any one else in the city able to serve thee; for we saw most of the rest ascending with the stranger up to the Corycian cave and to Lycorea.


This same stranger is not only covetous of seeing what may be seen, but wonderfully civil and genteel.


He is besides a great lover of science, and studious to learn. But these are not the only exercises which are to be admired in him. He is a person modest, yet facetious, smart and prudent in dispute, void of all passion and contumacies in his answers; in short, you will say of him at first sight that he is the son of a virtuous father. Edition: current; Page: [70] For dost thou not know Diogenianus, a most excellent person?


I have not seen him, Philinus, but many report several things of the young gentleman, much like what you say. But, pray now, what was the beginning of these discourses? Upon what occasion did they arise?

2. Philinus.

The interpreters of the sacred mysteries acted without any regard to us, who desired them to contract their relation into as few words as might be, and to pass by the most part of the inscriptions. But the stranger was but indifferently taken with the form and workmanship of the statues, being one, as it appeared, who had already been a spectator of many rare pieces of curiosity. He admired the beautiful color of the brass, not foul and rusty, but shining with a tincture of blue. What, said he, was it any certain mixture and composition of the ancient artists in brass, like the famous art of giving a keen edge to swords, without which brass could not be used in war? For Corinthian brass received its lustre not from art, but by chance, when a fire had devoured some house wherein there was both gold and silver, but of brass the greater plenty; which, being intermixed and melted into one mass, derives its name from the brass, of which there was the greater quantity. Then Theo interposing said: But we have heard another more remarkable reason than this; how an artist in brass at Corinth, happening upon a chest full of gold, and fearing to have it divulged, cut the gold into small pieces, and mixed it by degrees with the brass, till he found the more noble metal gave a more than usual lustre to the baser, and so transformed it that he sold at a great rate the unknown mixture, that was highly admired for its beauty and color. But I believe both the one and the other to be fabulous; for by all likelihood this Corinthian brass was a certain mixture and temperature of metals, prepared by art; just as at this day artisans temper Edition: current; Page: [71] gold and silver together, and make a peculiar and wonderful pale yellow metal; howbeit, in my eye it is of a sickly color and a corrupt hue, without any beauty in the world.

3. What then, said Diogenianus, do you believe to be the cause of this extraordinary color in the brass? And Theo replied: Seeing that of those first and most natural elements, which are and ever will be, — that is to say, fire, air, earth, and water, — there is none that approaches so near to brass or that so closely environs it as air alone, we have most reason to believe that the air occasions it, and that from thence proceeds the difference which brass displays from other metals. Or did you know this even “before Theognis was born,” as the comic poet intimates; but would you know by what natural quality or by what virtual power this same air thus colors the brass, being touched and surrounded by it? Yes, said Diogenianus; and so would I, dear son, replied the worthy Theo. First then let us endeavor, altogether with submission to your good pleasure, said the first propounder, to find out the reason wherefore of all moistures oil covers brass with rust. For it cannot be imagined that oil of itself causes that defilement, if when first laid on it is clean and pure. By no means, said the young gentleman, in regard the effect seems to proceed from another cause; for the rust appears through the oil, which is thin, pure, and transparent, whereas it is clouded by other more thick and muddy liquors, and so is not able to show itself. It is well said, son, replied the other, and truly; but hear, however, and then consider the reason which Aristotle produces. I am ready, returned the young gentleman. He says then, answered the other, that the rust insensibly penetrates and dilates itself through other liquids, as being of parts unequal, and of a thin substance; but that it grows to a consistency, and is, as it were, incorporated by the more dense substance of the oil. Now if Edition: current; Page: [72] we could but suppose how this might be done, we should not want a charm to lull this doubt asleep.

4. When we had made our acknowledgment that he had spoken truth, and besought him to proceed, he told us that the air of the city of Delphi is heavy, compacted, thick, and forcible, by reason of the reflection and resistency of the adjacent mountains, and besides that, is sharp and cutting (as appears by the eager stomachs and swift digestion of the inhabitants); and that this air, entering and penetrating the brass by its keenness, fetches forth from the body of the brass much rust and earthy matter, which afterwards it stops and coagulates by its own density, ere it can get forth; by which means the rust abounding in quantity gives that peculiar grain and lustre to the superficies. When we approved this argument, the stranger declared his opinion, that it needed no more than one of those suppositions to clear the doubt; for, said he, that tenuity or subtilty seems to be in some measure contrary to that thickness supposed to be in the air, and therefore there is no reason to suppose it; for the brass, as it grows old, of itself exhales and sends forth that rust, which afterwards, being stopped and fixed by the thickness of the air, becomes apparent by reason of its quantity. Then Theo replied: and what hinders but that the same thing may be thick and thin both together, like the woofs of silk or fine linen? — of which Homer says:

  • Thin was the stuff,
  • Yet liquid oil ran o’er the tissued woof,*

intimating the extreme fineness of the texture, yet so close woven that it could not suffer oil to pass through it. In like manner may we make use of the subtilty of the air, not only to scour the brass and fetch the rust out of it, but also to render the color more pleasing and more azure-like, by intermixing light and splendor amidst the blue.

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5. This said, after short silence, the guides began again to cite certain words of an ancient oracle in verse, which, as it seemed to me, pointed at the sovereignty of Aegon king of Argos. I have often wondered, said Diogenianus, at the meanness and ill-contrived hobbling of the verses which conveyed the ancient oracles into the world. And yet Apollo is called the chief of the Muses; whom it therefore behooved to take no less care of elegancy and beauty in style and language, than of the voice and manner of singing. Besides, he must needs be thought to surpass in a high degree either Homer or Hesiod in poetic skill. Nevertheless we find several of the oracles lame and erroneous, as well in reference to the measure as to the words. Upon which the poet Serapio, newly come from Athens, being then in company, said: If we believe that those verses were composed by Apollo, can we acknowledge what you allege, that they come short of the beauty and elegancy which adorn the writings of Homer and Hesiod; and shall we not make use of them as examples of neatness and curiosity, correcting our judgment anticipated and forestalled by evil custom? To whom Boethus the geometer (the person who you know has lately gone over to the camp of Epicurus) said: Have you not heard the story of Pauson the painter? Not I, replied Serapio. It is worth your attention, answered Boethus. He, having contracted to paint a horse wallowing upon his back, drew the horse galloping at full speed; at which when the person that had agreed with him seemed to be not a little displeased, Pauson fell a laughing, and turned the picture upside downward; by which means the posture was quite altered, and the horse that seemed to run before lay tumbling now upon the ground. This (as Bion says) frequently happens to propositions, when they are once inverted; for some will deny the oracles to be elegant, because they come from Apollo; others will deny Apollo Edition: current; Page: [74] to be the author, because of their rude and shapeless composure. For the one is dubious and uncertain; but this is manifest, that the verses wherein the oracles are generally delivered are no way laboriously studied. Nor can I appeal to a better judge than yourself, whose compositions and poems are not only written so gravely and philosophically, but, for invention and elegancy, more like to those of Homer and Hesiod than the homely Pythian raptures.

6. To whom Serapio: We labor, Boethus, said he, under the distempered senses both of sight and hearing, being accustomed through niceness and delicacy to esteem and call that elegant which most delights; and perhaps we may find fault with the Pythian priestess because she does not warble so charmingly as the fair lyric songstress Glauca, or else because she does not perfume herself with precious odors or appear in rich and gaudy habit. And some may mislike her because she burns for incense rather barley-meal and laurel than frankincense, ladanon, and cinnamon. Do you not see, some one will say, what a grace there is in Sappho’s measures, and how they delight and tickle the ears and fancies of the hearers? Whereas the Sibyl with her frantic grimaces, as Heraclitus says, uttering sentences altogether thoughtful and serious, neither bespiced nor perfumed, continues her voice a thousand years by the favor of the Deity that speaks within her. Pindar therefore tells us that Cadmus heard from heaven a sort of music that was neither lofty nor soft, nor shattered into trills and divisions; for severe holiness will not admit the allurements of pleasure, that was for the most part thrown into the world and flowed (as it appears) into the ears of men at the same time with the Goddess of mischief.

7. Serapio thus concluding, Theo with a smile proceeded. Serapio, said he, has not forgot his wonted custom of taking an opportunity to discourse of pleasure. But we, Edition: current; Page: [75] Boethus, believe not these prophetic verses to be the compositions of Apollo, if they are worse than Homer’s; but we believe that he supplied the principle of motion, and that every one of the prophetesses was disposed to receive his inspiration. For if the oracles were to be set down in writing, not verbally to be pronounced, surely we should not find fault with the hand, taking it to be Apollo’s, because the letters were not so fairly written as in the epistles of kings. For neither the voice, nor the sound, nor the word, nor the metre proceeds from the God, but from the woman. God only presents the visions, and kindles in the soul a light to discover future events; which is called divine inspiration. But in short, I find it is a hard matter to escape the hands of Epicurus’s priests (of which number I perceive you are), since you reprove the ancient priestesses for making bad verses, and the modern prophetesses for delivering the oracles in prose and vulgar language, which they do that they may escape being by you called to an account for their lame and mistaken verses. But then, Diogenianus, I beseech you, said he, in the name of all the Gods, be serious with us; unriddle this question, and explain this mystery unto us, which is now grown almost epidemical. For indeed there is hardly any person that does not with an extreme curiosity search after the reason wherefore the Pythian oracle has ceased to make use of numbers and verse. Hold, son, said Theo, we shall disoblige our historical directors by taking their province out of their hands. First suffer them to make an end, and then at leisure we will go on with what you please.

8. Thus walking along, we were by this time got as far as the statue of Hiero the tyrant, while the stranger, although a most learned historian, yet out of his complaisant and affable disposition, attentively leaned to the present relations. But then, among other things, hearing how that one of the brazen pillars that supported the said statue Edition: current; Page: [76] of Hiero fell of itself the same day that the tyrant died at Syracuse, he began to admire the accident. Thereupon at the same time I called to mind several other examples of the like nature: as that of Hiero the Spartan, the eyes of whose statue fell out of its head just before he was slain at the battle of Leuctra; — how the two stars vanished which Lysander offered and consecrated to the Gods after the naval engagement near Aegos Potami, and how there sprung of a sudden from his statue of stone such a multitude of thorny bushes and weeds as covered all his face; — how, when those calamities and misfortunes befell the Athenians in Sicily, the golden dates dropped from the palm-tree, and the ravens with their beaks pecked holes in the shield of Pallas; — how the crown of the Cnidians which Philomelus, the tyrant of the Phocians, gave Pharsalia, a female dancer, was the occasion of her death; for, passing out of Greece into Italy, one day as she was playing and dancing in the temple of Apollo in the city of Metapontum, having that crown upon her head, the young men of the place falling upon her, and fighting one among another for lucre of the gold, tore the damsel in pieces. Now, though Aristotle was wont to say that only Homer composed names and terms that had motion, by reason of the vigor and vivacity of his expressions, for my part I am apt to believe that the offerings made in this city of statues and consecrated presents sympathize with Divine Providence, and move themselves jointly therewith to foretell and signify future events; and that no part of all those sacred donatives is void of sense, but that every part is full of the Deity.

It is very probable, answered Boethus; for, to tell you truth, we do not think it sufficient to enclose the Divinity every month in a mortal body, unless we incorporate him with every stone and lump of brass; as if Fortune and Chance were not sufficient artists to bring about such accidents Edition: current; Page: [77] and events. Say ye so then? said I. Seems it to you that these things happen accidentally and by hap-hazard; and is it likely that your atoms never separate, never move or incline this or that way either before or after, but just in that nick of time when some one of those who have made these offerings is to fare either better or worse? Shall Epicurus avail thee by his writings and his sayings, which he wrote and uttered above three hundred years ago, and shall the Deity, unless he crowd himself into all substances and blend himself with all things, not be allowed to be a competent author of the principles of motion and affection?

9. This was the reply I made Boethus, and the same answer I gave him touching the Sibyl’s verses; for when we drew near that part of the rock which joins to the senate-house, which by common fame was the seat of the first Sibyl that came to Delphi from Helicon, where she was bred by the Muses (though others affirm that she fixed herself at Maleo, and that she was the daughter of Lamia, the daughter of Neptune), Serapio made mention of certain verses of hers, wherein she had extolled herself as one that should never cease to prophesy even after her death; for that after her decease she should make her abode in the orb of the moon, being metamorphosed into the face of that planet; that her voice and prognostications should be always heard in the air, intermixed with the winds and by them driven about from place to place; and that from her body should spring various plants, herbs, and fruits to feed the sacred victims, which should have sundry forms and qualities in their entrails, whereby men would be able to foretell all manner of events to come. At this Boethus laughed outright; but the stranger replied that, though the Sibyl’s vain-glory seemed altogether fabulous, yet the subversions of several Grecian cities, transmigrations of the inhabitants, several invasions of barbarian armies, the destructions of kingdoms and principalities, Edition: current; Page: [78] testified the truth of ancient prophecies and predictions. And were not those accidents that fell out not many years ago in our memories at Cumae and Puteoli, said he, long before that time the predictions and promises of the Sibyl, which Time, as a debtor, afterwards discharged and paid? Such were the breaking forth of kindled fire from the sulphuric wombs of mountains, boiling of the sea, cities so swallowed up as not to leave behind the least footsteps of the ruins where they stood; things hard to be believed, much harder to be foretold, unless by Divine foresight.

10. Then Boethus said: I would fain know what accidents fall out which time does not owe at length to Nature. What so prodigious or unlooked for, either by land or sea, either in respect of cities or men, which, if it be foretold, may not naturally come to pass at one season or other, in process of time? So that such a prophecy, to speak properly, cannot be called a prediction, but a bare speech or report, or rather a scattering or sowing of words in boundless infinity that have no probability or foundation; which, as they rove and wander in the air, Fortune accidentally meets, and musters together by chance, to correspond and agree with some event. For, in my opinion, there is a great difference between the coming to pass of what has been said and the saying of what shall happen. For the discourse of things that are not, being already in itself erroneous and faulty, cannot, in justice, claim the honor of after-credit from a fortuitous accident. Nor is it a true sign that the prophet foretells of his certain knowledge, because what he spoke happened to come to pass; in regard there are an infinite number of accidents, that fall in the course of nature, suitable to all events. He therefore that conjectures best, and whom the common proverb avers to be the exactest diviner, is he who finds out what shall happen hereafter, by tracing the footsteps of future probabilities. Edition: current; Page: [79] Whereas these Sibyls and enthusiastic wizards have only thrown into the capacious abyss of time, as into a vast and boundless ocean, whole heaps of words and sentences, comprehending all sorts of accidents and events, which, though some perchance may come to pass, were yet false when uttered, though afterwards by chance they may happen to be true.

11. Boethus having thus discoursed, Serapio replied, that Boethus had rightly and judiciously argued in reference to cursory predictions uttered not determinately and without good ground. One fairly guessed that such a captain should get the victory, and he won the field; another cried that such things portended the subversion of such a city, and it was laid in ashes. But when the person does not only foretell the event, but how and when, by what means, and by whom it shall come to pass, this is no hazardous conjecture, but an absolute demonstration, and pre-inspired discovery of what shall come to pass hereafter, and that too by the determined decree of fate, long before it comes to pass. For example, to instance the halting of Agesilaus,

  • Sparta, beware, though thou art fierce and proud,
  • Lest a lame king thy ancient glories cloud;
  • For then ’twill be thy fate to undergo
  • Tedious turmoils of war, and sudden woe;

together with what was prophesied concerning the island which the sea threw up right against Thera and Therasia; as also the prediction of the war between King Philip and the Romans,

  • When Trojan race shall tame Phoenicians bold,
  • Prodigious wonders shall the world behold;
  • From burning seas shall flames immense ascend;
  • Lightning and whirlwinds hideous rocks shall rend
  • From their foundations, and an island rear,
  • Dreadful to sight and terrible to hear.
  • In vain shall greater strength and valor then
  • Withstand the contemned force of weaker men.
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Soon after this island shot up out of the ocean, surrounded with flames and boiling surges; and then it was that Hannibal was overthrown, and the Carthaginians were subdued by the distressed and almost ruined Romans, and that the Aetolians, assisted by the Romans, vanquished Philip King of Macedon. So that it is never to be imagined that these things were the effects of negligent and careless chance; besides, the series and train of events ensuing the prodigy clearly demonstrate the foreknowledge of a prophetic spirit. The same may be said of the prophecy made five hundred years beforehand to the Romans of the time when they should be engaged in war with all the world at once; which happened when their own slaves made war upon their masters. In all this there was nothing of conjecture, nothing of blind uncertainty, nor is there any occasion to grope into the vast obscurity of chance for the reason of these events; but we have many pledges of experience, that plainly demonstrate the beaten path by which destiny proceeds. For certainly there is no man who will believe that ever those events answered accidentally the several circumstances of the prediction; otherwise we may as well say that Epicurus himself never wrote his book of dogmatic precepts, but that the work was perfected by the accidental meeting and interchange of the letters, one among another.

12. Thus discoursing, we kept on our walk; but when we came into the Corinthian Hall and observed the brazen palm-tree, the only remainder left of all the consecrated donatives, Diogenianus wondered to observe several figures of frogs and water-snakes, all in cast work about the root of the tree. Nor were we less at a stand, well knowing the palm to be no tree that grows by the water or delights in moist or fenny places; neither do frogs at all concern or belong to the Corinthians, either by way of emblem or religious ceremony, or as the city arms; as the Edition: current; Page: [81] Selinuntines formerly offered to their Gods parsley or smallage (selinon) of goldsmith’s work and of the choicest yellow metal; and the inhabitants of Tenedos always kept in their temple a consecrated axe, a fancy taken from their esteem of the crab-fish that breed in that island near the promontory of Asterium, they being the only crabs that carry the figure of an axe upon the upper part of their shells. For as for Apollo, we were of opinion that crows, swans, wolves, sparrow-hawks, or any other sort of creature, would be more acceptable to him than despicable animals. To this Serapio replied, that sure the workman thereby designed to show that the Sun was nourished by moisture and exhalations; whether it was that he thought at that time of that verse in Homer,

  • The rising Sun then causing day to break,
  • Quits the cool pleasure of the oozy lake,*

or whether he had seen how the Egyptians, to represent sunrise, paint a little boy sitting upon a lotus. Thereupon, not able to refrain laughing, What, said I, are you going about to obtrude your stoicisms again upon us; or do you think to slide insensibly into our discourse your exhalations and fiery prodigies? What is this but, like the Thessalian women, to call down the Sun and Moon by enchantments from the skies, while you derive their original from the earth and water?

Therefore Plato will have a man to be a heavenly tree, growing with his root, which is his head, upward. But you deride Empedocles for affirming that the Sun, being illumined by the reflection of the celestial light, with an intrepid countenance casts a radiant lustre back upon the convex of heaven; while you yourselves make the Sun to be a mere terrestrial animal or water plant, confining him to ponds, lakes, and such like regions of frogs. But let us refer these things to the tragical monstrosity of Stoical Edition: current; Page: [82] opinions, and now make some particular reflections touching the extravagant pieces of certain artificers, who, as they are ingenious and elegant in some things, so are no less weakly curious and ambitious in others of their inventions; like him who, designing to signify the dawn of day-light or the hours of sunrise, painted a cock upon the hand of Apollo. And thus may these frogs be thought to have been designed by the artist to denote the spring, when the Sun begins to exercise his power in the air and to dissolve the winter congealments; at least, if we may believe, as you yourselves affirm, that Apollo and the Sun are both one God, and not two distinct Deities. Why, said Serapio, do you think the Sun and Apollo differ the one from the other? Yes, said I, as the Moon differs from the Sun. Nay, the difference is somewhat greater. For the Moon neither very often nor from all the world conceals the Sun; but the Sun is the cause that all men are ignorant of Apollo, by sense withdrawing the rational intellect from that which is to that which appears.

13. After this, Serapio put the question to the Historical Directors, why that same hall did not bear the name of Cypselus, who was both the founder and the consecrator, but was called the Corinthians’ Hall? When all the rest were silent, because perhaps they knew not what to say; How can we imagine, said I with a smile, that these people should either know or remember the reason, having been so amused and thunderstruck by your high-flown discourses of prodigies altogether supernatural? However we have heard it reported, when the monarchical government of Corinth was dissolved by the ruin of Cypselus, the Corinthians claimed the honor to own both the golden statue at Pisa, and the treasure that lay in that place; which was also by the Delphians decreed to be their just right. This glory being envied them by the Eleans, they were by a decree of the Corinthians utterly Edition: current; Page: [83] excluded from the solemnities of the Isthmian games. This is the true reason, that never since any person of the country of Elis was admitted to any trial of skill at those festivals. For as for that murder of the Molionidae, slain by Hercules near Cleonae, that was not the reason where fore Eleans were excluded, as some have vainly alleged; for on the contrary it had been more proper for the Eleans themselves to have excluded the Corinthians from the Olympic games, had they any animosity against them on this account. And this is all that I have to say in reference to this matter.

14. But when we came into the treasury of the Acanthians and Brasidas, the director showed us the place where formerly stood the obelisks dedicated to the memory of the courtesan Rhodopis. Then Diogenianus in a kind of passion said: It was no less ignominy for this city to allow Rhodopis a place wherein to deposit the tenth of her gains got by the prostitution of her body, than to put Aesop her fellow-servant to death. But why should you be offended at this, said Serapio, when you have but to cast up your eye, and you may yonder behold the golden statue of Mnesarete standing between kings and emperors, which Crates averred to be a trophy of the Grecian intemperance? The young man observed the statue, and said: But it was Phryne of whom Crates uttered that expression. That is very true, replied Serapio; for her proper name was Mnesarete; but Phryne was a nickname, given her by reason of the yellowness of her complexion, like the color of a toad that lies among moist and overgrown bushes, called in Greek φϱύνη. For many times it happens that nicknames eclipse and drown the proper names both of men and women. Thus the mother of Alexander, whose true name was Polyxena, was afterwards called Myrtale, then Olympias, and Stratonice; Eumetis the Corinthian was afterwards called from her father’s name Edition: current; Page: [84] Cleobule; and Herophyle of the city of Erythraea, skilful in divination, was called Sibylla. And the grammarians will tell you that Leda herself was first called Mnesionoe, and Orestes Achaeus. But how, said he, looking upon Theo, can you answer this complaint concerning Phryne, for being placed in so much state above her quality?

15. In the same manner, and as easily, replied Serapio, as I may charge and accuse yourself for reproaching the slightest faults among the Greeks. For as Socrates reprehended Callias for being always at enmity with perfumes and precious odors, while yet he could endure to see boys and girls dance and tumble together, and to be a spectator of the lascivious gestures of wanton mummers and merryandrews; so, in my opinion, it is with you that envy the standing of a woman’s statue in the temple, because she made ill use of her beauty. Yet, though you see Apollo surrounded with the first-fruits and tenths of murders, wars, and plunder, and all the temple full of spoils and pillage taken from the Greeks, these things never move your indignation; you never commiserate your countrymen, when you read engraved upon these gaudy donatives such doleful inscriptions as these, — Brasidas and the Acanthians dedicate these spoils taken from Athenians, — the Athenians these from the Corinthians, — the Phocians these from the Thessalians, — the Orneatae these from the Sicyonians, — the Amphictyons these from the Phocians. Now if it is true that Praxiteles offended Crates by erecting a statue in honor of his mistress, in my opinion Crates rather ought to have commended him for placing among the golden monuments of kings and princes the statue of a courtesan, thereby showing a contempt and scorn of riches, to which there is nothing of grandeur or veneration due; for it becomes princes and kings to consecrate to the God the lasting monuments of justice, temperance, magnanimity, not of golden and superfluous opulency, Edition: current; Page: [85] which are as frequently erected to the most flagitious of men.

16. But you forgot, said one of the directors, that Croesus honored the woman that baked his bread with a golden statue, which he caused to be set up in this place, not to make a show of royal superfluity, but upon a just and honest occasion of gratitude, which happened thus. It is reported that Alyattes, the father of Croesus, married a second wife, by whom he had other children. This same step-dame, therefore, designing to remove Croesus out of the way, gave the woman-baker a dose of poison, with a strict charge to put it in the bread which she made for the young prince. Of this the woman privately informed Croesus, and gave the poisoned bread to the queen’s children. By which means Croesus quietly succeeded his father; when he did no less than acknowledge the fidelity of the woman by making even the God himself a testimony of his gratitude, wherein he did like a worthy and virtuous prince. And therefore it is but fitting that we should extol, admire, and honor the magnificent presents and offerings consecrated by several cities upon such occasions, like that of the Opuntines. For when the tyrants of Phocis had broken to pieces, melted down, and coined into money the most precious of their sacred donatives, which they spent as profusely in the neighboring parts, the Opuntines made it their business to buy up all the plundered metal, wherever they could meet with it; and putting it up into a vessel made on purpose, they sent it as an offering to Apollo. And, for my part, I cannot but highly applaud the inhabitants of Myrina and Apollonia, who sent hither the first-fruits of their harvests in sheaves of gold; but much more the Eretrians and Magnesians, who dedicated to our God the first-fruits of their men, not only acknowledging that from him all the fruits of the earth proceeded, but that he was also the giver of children, as being the Edition: current; Page: [86] author of generation and a lover of mankind. But I blame the Megarians, for that they alone erected here a statue of our God holding a spear in his hand, in memory of the battle which they won from the Athenians, whom they vanquished after the defeat of the Medes, and expelled their city, of which they were masters before. However, afterwards they presented a golden plectrum to Apollo, remembering perhaps those verses of Scythinus, who thus wrote of the harp:

  • This was the harp which Jove’s most beauteous son
  • Framed by celestial skill to play upon;
  • And for his plectrum the Sun’s beams he used,
  • To strike those cords that mortal ears amused.

17. Now as Serapio was about to have added something of the same nature, the stranger, taking the words out of his mouth, said: I am wonderfully pleased to hear discourses upon such subjects as these; but I am constrained to claim your first promise, to tell me the reason wherefore now the Pythian prophetess no longer delivers her oracles in poetic numbers and measures. And therefore, if you please, we will surcease the remaining sight of these curiosities, choosing rather to sit a while and discourse the matter among ourselves. For it seems to be an assertion strangely repugnant to the belief and credit of the oracle, in regard that of necessity one of these two things must be true, either that the Pythian prophetess does not approach the place where the deity makes his abode, or that the sacred vapor that inspired her is utterly extinct, and its efficacy lost. Walking therefore to the south side of the temple, we took our seats within the portico, over against the temple of Tellus, having from thence a prospect of the Castalian fountain; insomuch that Boethus presently told us that the very place itself favored the stranger’s question. For formerly there stood a temple dedicated to the Muses, close by the source of the rivulet, Edition: current; Page: [87] whence they drew their water for the sacrifices, according to that of Simonides:

  • There flows the spring, whose limpid stream supplies
  • The fair-haired Muses water for their hands,
  • Before they touch the hallowed sacrifice.

And the said Simonides a little lower calls Clio somewhat more curiously

  • The chaste inspectress of those sacred wells,
  • Whose fragrant water all her cisterns fills;
  • Water, through dark ambrosial nooks conveyed,
  • By which Castalian rivulets are fed.

And therefore Eudoxus erroneously gave credit to those that gave the epithet of Stygian to this water, near which the wiser sort placed the temple of the Muses, as guardians of the springs and assistants to prophecy; as also the temple of Tellus, to which the oracle appertained, and where the answers were delivered in verses and songs. And here it was, as some report, that first a certain heroic verse was heard to this effect:

  • Ye birds, bring hither all your plumes;
  • Ye bees, bring all your wax;

which related to the time that the oracle, forsaken by the Deity, lost its veneration.

18. These things, then said Serapio, seem to belong of right to the Muses, as being their particular province; for it becomes us not to fight against the gods, nor with divination to abolish providence and divinity, but to search for convincement to refel repugnant arguments; and, in the mean time, not to abandon that religious belief and persuasion which has been so long propagated among us, from father to son, for so many generations.

You say very right, said I, Serapio; for we do not as yet despair of philosophy or give it over for lost, because, although formerly the ancient philosophers published their precepts and sentences in verse, — as did Orpheus, Hesiod, Parmenides, Xenophanes, Empedocles, and Thales, — yet Edition: current; Page: [88] that custom has been lately laid aside by all others except yourself. For you indeed once more have arrayed philosophy in poetic numbers, on purpose to render it more sprightly, more charming, and delightful to youth. Nor is astrology as yet become more ignoble or less valued, because Aristarchus, Timochares, Aristillus, and Hipparchus have written in prose, though formerly Eudoxus, Hesiod, and Thales wrote of that science in verse; at least if that astrology was the legitimate offspring of Thales which goes under his name. Pindar also acknowledges his dissatisfaction touching the manner of melody neglected in this time, and wonders why it should be so despised. Neither is it a thing that looks like hurtful or absurd, to enquire into the causes of these alterations. But to destroy the arts and faculties themselves because they have undergone some certain mutations, is neither just nor rational.

19. Upon which Theo interposing said: It cannot be denied but that there have been great changes and innovations in reference to poetry and the sciences; yet is it as certain, that from all antiquity oracles have been delivered in prose. For we find in Thucydides, that the Lacedaemonians, desirous to know the issue of the war then entered into against the Athenians, were answered in prose, that they should become potent and victorious, and that the Deity would assist them, whether invoked or not invoked; and again, that unless they recalled Pausanias, they would plough with a silver ploughshare.* To the Athenians consulting the oracle concerning their expedition into Sicily, he gave order to send for the priestess of Minerva from the city of Erythrae; which priestess went by the name of Hesychia, or repose. And when Dinomenes the Sicilian enquired what should become of his children, the oracle returned for answer, that they should all three Edition: current; Page: [89] be lords and princes. And when Dinomenes replied, But then, most powerful Apollo, let it be to their confusion; the God made answer, That also I both grant and promise. The consequence of which was, that Gelo was troubled with the dropsy during his reign, Hiero was afflicted with the stone, and the third, Thrasybulus, surrounded with war and sedition, was in a short time expelled his dominions. Procles also, the tyrant of Epidaurus, after he had cruelly and tyrannically murdered several others, put Timarchus likewise to death, who fled to him for protection from Athens with a great sum of money, — after he had pledged him his faith and received him at his first arrival with large demonstrations of kindness and affection, — and then threw his carcass into the sea, enclosed in a pannier. All this he did by the persuasion of one Cleander of Aegina, no other of his courtiers being privy to it. After which, meeting with no small trouble and misfortune in all his affairs, he sent to the oracle his brother Cleotimus, with orders to enquire whether he should provide for his safety by flight, or retire to some other place. Apollo made answer, that he advised Procles to fly where he had directed his Aeginetan guest to dispose of the pannier, or where the hart had cast his horns. Upon which the tyrant, understanding that the oracle commanded him either to throw himself into the sea or to bury himself in the earth (in regard that a stag, when he sheds his antlers, scrapes a hole in the ground and hides his ignominy), demurred a while; but at length, seeing the condition of his affairs grew every day worse and worse, he resolved to save himself by flight; at which time the friends of Timarchus, having seized upon his person, slew him and threw his body into the sea. But what is more than all this, the oracular answers according to which Lycurgus composed the form of the Lacedaemonian commonwealth were given in prose. Besides, Alyrius, Herodotus, Edition: current; Page: [90] Philochorus and Ister, than whom no men have been more diligent to collect the answers of the oracles, among the many which they cite in verse, quote several also in prose. And Theopompus, the most diligent that ever made scrutiny into oracular history, sharply reprehends those who believed the Pythian oracles were not delivered in verse at that time; and yet, when he labors to prove his assertion, he is able to produce but very few, because doubtless the rest even then were uttered in prose.

20. Yet there are some that now at this day run in verse; one of which has become notorious above the rest. There is in Phocis a temple consecrated to Hercules the woman-hater, the chief priest of which is forbid by the law and custom of the place to have private familiarity with his wife during the year that he officiates; for which reason they most commonly make choice of old men to perform that function. Nevertheless, some time since a young man, no way vicious and covetous of honor, yet doting upon a new married wife, took upon him the dignity. At first he was very chaste and temperate, and abstained from the woman; but soon after, the young lady coming to give him a visit as he was laid down to rest himself after a brisk dancing and drinking bout, he could not resist the charming temptation. But then, coming to himself and remembering what he had done, perplexed and terrified, he fled to the oracle to consult Apollo upon the crime which he had committed; who returned him this answer,

All things necessary God permitteth.

But should we grant that in our age no oracles are delivered in verse, we should be still doubtful about the ancient times, when the oracles were delivered sometime in verse sometime in prose. Though, whether it be in prose or verse, the oracle is never a whit the falser or the more miraculous, so that we have but a true and religious opinion Edition: current; Page: [91] of the Deity; not irreverently conceiting that formerly he composed a stock of verses to be now repeated by the prophetess, as if he spoke through masks and visors.

21. But these things require a more prolix discourse and a stricter examination, to be deferred till another time. For the present, therefore, let us only call to mind thus much, that the body makes use of several instruments, and the soul employs the body and its members; the soul being the organ of God. Now the perfection of the organ is to imitate the thing that makes use of it, so far as it is capable, and to exhibit the operation of its thought, according to the best of its own power; since it cannot show it as it is in the divine operator himself, — neat, without any affection, fault, or error whatsoever, — but imperfect and mixed. For of itself, the thing is to us altogether unknown, till it is infused by another and appears to us as fully partaking of the nature of that other. I forbear to mention gold or silver, brass or wax, or whatever other substances are capable to receive the form of an imprinted resemblance. For true it is, they all admit the impression; but still one adds one distinction, another another, to the imitation arising from their presentation itself; as we may readily perceive in mirrors, both plane, concave, and convex, infinite varieties of representations and faces from one and the same original; there being no end of that diversity.

But there is no mirror that more exactly represents any shape or form, nor any instrument that yields more obsequiously to the use of Nature, than the Moon herself. And yet she, receiving from the Sun his masculine splendor and fiery light, does not transmit the same to us; but when it intermixes with her pellucid substance, it changes color and loses its power. For warmth and heat abandon the pale planet, and her light grows dim before it can reach our sight. And this is that which, in my opinion, Heraclitus seems to have meant, when he said that the prince Edition: current; Page: [92] who rules the oracle of Delphi neither speaks out nor conceals, but signifies. Add then to these things thus rightly spoken this farther consideration, that the Deity makes use of the Pythian prophetess, so far as concerns her sight and hearing, as the Sun makes use of the Moon; for he makes use of a mortal body and an immortal soul as the organs of prediction. Now the body lies dull and immovable of itself; but the soul being restless, when once the soul begins to be in motion, the body likewise stirs, not able to resist the violent agitation of the nimbler spirit, while it is shaken and tossed as in a stormy sea by the tempestuous passions that ruffle within it. For as the whirling of bodies that merely move circularly is nothing violent, but when they move round by force and tend downward by nature, there results from both a confused and irregular circumrotation; thus that divine rapture which is called enthusiasm is a commixture of two motions, wherewith the soul is agitated, the one extrinsic, as by inspiration, the other by nature. For, seeing that as to inanimate bodies, which always remain in the same condition, it is impossible by preternatural violence to offer a force which is contrary to their nature and intended use, as to move a cylinder spherically or cubically, or to make a lyre sound like a flute, or a trumpet like a harp; how is it possible to manage an animate body, that moves of itself, that is indued with reason, will, and inclination, otherwise than according to its pre-existent reason, power, or nature; as (for example) to incline to music a person altogether ignorant and an utter enemy to music, or to make a grammarian of one that never knew his letters, or to make him speak like a learned man that never understood the least tittle of any science in the world?

22. For proof of this I may call Homer for my witness, who affirms that there is nothing done or brought to perfection of which God is not the cause, supposing that God Edition: current; Page: [93] makes use not of all men for all things alike, but of every man according to his ability either of art or nature. Thus, dost thou not find it to be true, friend Diogenianus, that when Minerva would persuade the Greeks to undertake any enterprise, she brings Ulysses upon the stage? — when she designs to break the truce, she finds out Pandarus? — when she designs a rout of the Trojans, she addresses herself to Diomede? For the one was stout of body and valiant; the other was a good archer, but without brains; the other a shrewd politician and eloquent. For Homer was not of the same opinion with Pindar, at least if it was Pindar that made the following verses:

  • Were it the will of Heaven, an ozier bough
  • Were vessel safe enough the seas to plough.*

For he well knew that there were different abilities and natures designed for different effects, every one of which is qualified with different motions, though there be but one moving cause that gives motion to all. So that the same virtual power which moves the creature that goes upon all four cannot cause it to fly, no more than he that stammers can speak fluently and eloquently, or he that has a feeble squeaking voice can give a loud hollow. Therefore in my opinion it was that Battus, when he consulted the oracle, was sent into Africa, there to build a new city, as being a person who, although he lisped and stammered, had nevertheless endowments truly royal, which rendered him fit for sovereign government. In like manner it is impossible the Pythian priestess should learn to speak learnedly and elegantly; for, though it cannot be denied but that her parentage was virtuous and honest, and that she always lived a sober and a chaste life, yet her education was among poor laboring people; so that she was advanced to the oracular seat rude and unpolished, void of all the advantages of art or experience. For as it is the opinion of Xenophon, that Edition: current; Page: [94] a virgin ready to be espoused ought to be carried to the bridegroom’s house when she has seen and heard as little as possible; so the Pythian priestess ought to converse with Apollo, illiterate and ignorant almost of every thing, still approaching his presence with a truly and pure virgin soul.

But it is a strange fancy of men; they believe that the God makes use of herons, wrens, and crows to signify future events, expressing himself according to their vulgar notes, but do not expect of these birds, although they are the messengers and ambassadors of the God, to deliver their predictions in words clear and intelligible; but they will not allow the Pythian priestess to pronounce her answers in plain, sincere, and natural expressions, but they demand that she shall speak in the poetical magnificence of high and stately verses, like those of a tragic chorus, with metaphors and figurative phrases, accompanied with the delightful sounds of flutes and hautboys.

23. What then shall we say of the ancients? Not one, but many things. First then, as hath been said already, that the ancient Pythian priestesses pronounced most of their oracles in prose. Secondly, that those ages produced complexions and tempers of body much more prone and inclined to poetry, with which immediately were associated those other ardent desires, affections, and preparations of the mind, which wanted only something of a beginning and a diversion of the fancy from more serious studies, not only to draw to their purpose (according to the saying of Philinus) astrologers and philosophers, but also in the heat of wine and pathetic affections, either of sudden compassion or surprising joy, to slide insensibly into voices melodiously tuned, and to fill banquets with charming odes or love songs, and whole volumes with amorous canzonets and mirthful inventions. Therefore, though Euripides tells us,

Love makes men poets who before no music knew,

Edition: current; Page: [95]

he does not mean that love infuses music and poetry into men that were not already inclined to those accomplishments, but that it warms and awakens that disposition which lay unactive and drowsy before. Otherwise we might say that now there were no lovers in the world, but that Cupid himself was vanished and gone, because that now-a-days there is not one

  • Who now, true archer-like,
  • Lets his poetic raptures fly
  • To praise his mistress’s lip or eye,

as Pindar said. But this were absurd to affirm. For amorous impatiencies torment and agitate the minds of many men not addicted either to music or poetry, that know not how to handle a flute or touch a harp, and yet are no less talkative and inflamed with desire than the ancients. And I believe there is no person who would be so unkind to himself as to say that the Academy or the quires of Socrates and Plato were void of love, with whose discourses and conferences touching that passion we frequently meet, though they have not left any of their poems behind. And would it not be the same thing to say, there never was any woman that studied courtship but Sappho, nor ever any that were endued with the gift of prophecy but Sibylla and Aristonica and those that delivered their oracles and sacred raptures in verse? For wine, as saith Chaeremon, soaks and infuses itself into the manners and customs of them that drink it. Now poetic rapture, like the raptures of love, makes use of the ability of its subject, and moves every one that receives it, according to its proper qualification.

24. Nevertheless, if we do but make a right reflection upon God and his Providence, we shall find the alteration to be much for the better. For the use of speech seems to be like the exchange of money; that which is good and lawful is commonly current and known, and goes Edition: current; Page: [96] sometimes at a higher, sometimes at a lower value. Thus there was once a time when the stamp and coin of language was approved and passed current in verses, songs, and sonnets; for then all histories, all philosophical learning, all affections and subjects that required grave and solid discussion, were written in poetry and fitted for musical composition. For what now but a few will scarce vouchsafe to hear, then all men listened to,

The shepherd, ploughman, and bird-catcher too,*

as it is in Pindar; all delighted in songs and verses. For such was the inclination of that age and their readiness to versify, that they fitted their very precepts and admonitions to vocal and instrumental music. If they were to teach, they did it in songs fitted to the harp. If they were to exhort, reprove, or persuade, they made use of fables and allegories. And then for their praises of the Gods, their vows, and paeans after victory, they were all composed in verse; by some, as being naturally airy and flowing in their invention; by others, as habituated by custom. And therefore it is not that Apollo envies this ornament and elegancy to the science of divination; nor was it his design to banish from the Tripos his beloved Muse, but rather to introduce her when rejected by others, being rather a lover and kindler of poetic rapture in others, and choosing rather to furnish laboring fancies with imaginations, and to assist them to bring forth the lofty and learned kind of language, as most becoming and most to be admired.

But afterwards, when the conversation of men and custom of living altered with the change of their fortunes and dispositions, consuetude expelling and discarding all manner of superfluity rejected also golden top-knots, and silken vestments loosely flowing in careless folds, clipped their long dishevelled locks, and, laying aside their embroidered Edition: current; Page: [97] buskin, taught men to glory in sobriety and frugality in opposition to wantonness and superfluity, and to place true honor in simplicity and modesty, not in pomp and vain curiosity. And then it was that, the manner of writing being quite altered, history alighted from versifying, as it were from riding in chariots, and on foot distinguished truth from fable; and philosophy, in a clear and plain style, familiar and proper to instruct rather than to astonish the world with metaphors and figures, began to dispute and enquire after truth in common and vulgar terms. And then it was, that Apollo caused the Pythian priestess to surcease calling her fellow-citizens fire-inflaming, the Spartans serpent-devourers, men by the name of Oreanes, and rivers by the name of mountain-drainers; and discarding verses, uncouth words, circumlocutions, and obscurity, taught the oracles to speak as the laws discourse to cities, and as princes speak to their people and their subjects, or as masters teach their scholars, appropriating their manner of speech to good sense and persuasive grace.

25. For, as Sophocles tells us, we are to believe the Deity to be

  • Easy to wise men, who can truth discern;
  • The fool’s bad teacher, who will never learn.

And ever since belief and perspicuity thus associated together, it came to pass by alteration of circumstances that, whereas formerly the vulgar looked with a high veneration upon whatever was extraordinary and extravagant, and conceived a more than common sanctity to lie concealed under the veil of obscurity, afterwards men desirous to understand things clearly and easily, without flowers of circumlocutions and disguisements of dark words, not only began to find fault with oracles enveloped with poetry, as repugnant to the easy understanding of the real meaning, and overshadowing the sentence with mist and darkness, but also suspected the truth of the very prophecy itself Edition: current; Page: [98] which was muffled up in so many metaphors, riddles, and ambiguities, which seemed no better than holes to creep out at and evasions of censure, should the event prove contrary to what had been foretold. And some there were who reported that there were several extempore poets entertained about the Tripos, who were to receive the words as they dropped roughly from the oracle, and presently by virtue of their extempore fancy to model them into verses and measures, that served (as it were) instead of hampers and baskets to convey the answers from place to place. I forbear to tell how far those treacherous deceivers like Onomacritus, Herodotus (?), and Cyneso, have contributed to dishonor the sacred oracles, by their interlarding of bombast expressions and high-flown phrases, where there was no necessity of any such alteration. It is also as certain, that those mountebanks, jugglers, impostors, gipsies, and all that altar-licking tribe of vagabonds that set up their throats at the festivals and sacrifices to Cybele and Serapis, have highly undervalued poesy; some of them extempore, and others by lottery from certain little books, composing vain predictions, which they may sell to servants and silly women, that easily suffer themselves to be deluded by the overawing charms of serious ambiguity couched in strained and uncouth ballatry. Whence it comes to pass, that poetry, seeming to prostitute itself among cheats and deluders of the people, among mercenary gipsies and mumping charlatans, has lost its ancient credit, and is therefore thought unworthy the honor of the Tripos.

26. And therefore I do not wonder that the ancients stood in need of double meaning, of circumlocution, and obscurity. For certainly never any private person consulted the oracle when he went to buy a slave or hire workmen; but potent cities, kings and princes, whose undertakings and concernments were of vast and high Edition: current; Page: [99] concernment, and whom it was not expedient for those that had the charge of the oracle to disoblige or incense by the return of answers ungrateful to their ears. For the deity is not bound to observe that law of Euripides, where he says,

  • Phoebus alone, and none but he,
  • Should unto men the prophet be.

Therefore, when he makes use of mortal prophets and agents, of whom it behooves him to take a more especial care that they be not destroyed in his service, he does not altogether go about to suppress the truth, but only eclipses the manifestation of it, like a light divided into sundry reflections, rendering it by the means of poetic umbrage less severe and ungrateful in the delivery. For it is not convenient that princes or their enemies should presently know what is by Fate decreed to their disadvantage. Therefore he so envelops his answers with doubts and ambiguities as to conceal from others the true understanding of what was answered; though to them that came to the oracle themselves, and gave due attention to the deliverer, the meaning of the answer is transparently obvious. Most impertinent therefore are they who, considering the present alteration of things, accuse and exclaim against the Deity for not assisting in the same manner as before.

27. And this may be farther said, that poetry brings no other advantage to the answer than this, that the sentence being comprised and confined within a certain number of words and syllables bounded by poetic measure is more easily carried away and retained in memory. Therefore it behooved those that formerly lived to have extraordinary memories, to retain the marks of places, the times of such and such transactions, the ceremonies of deities beyond the sea, the hidden monuments of heroes, hard to be found in countries far from Greece. For in those expeditions of Phalanthus and several other admirals of Edition: current; Page: [100] great navies, how many signs were they forced to observe, how many conjectures to make, ere they could find the seat of rest allotted by the oracle! In the observance of which there were some nevertheless that failed, as Battus among others. For he said that he failed because he had not landed in the right place to which he was sent; and therefore returning back he complained to the oracle. But Apollo answered:

  • As well as I thou knowest, who ne’er hast been
  • In Libya covered o’er with sheep and kine;
  • If this is true, thy wisdom I admire:

and so sent him back again. Lysander also, ignorant of the hillock Archelides, also called Alopecus, and the river Hoplites, nor apprehensive of what was meant by

The earth-born dragon, treacherous foe behind,

being overthrown in battle, was there slain by Neochorus the Haliartian, who bare for his device a dragon painted upon his shield. But it is needless to recite any more of these ancient examples of oracles, difficult to be retained in memory, especially to you that are so well read.

28. And now, God be praised, there is an end of all those questions which were the grounds of consulting the oracle. For now we repose altogether in the soft slumbers of peace; all our wars are at an end. There are now no tumults, no civil seditions, no tyrannies, no pestilences nor calamities depopulating Greece, no epidemic diseases needing powerful and choice drugs and medicines. Now, when there is nothing of variety, nothing of mystery, nothing dangerous, but only bare and ordinary questions about small trifles and vulgar things, as whether a man may marry, whether take a voyage by sea, or lend his money safely at interest, — and when the most important enquiries of cities are concerning the next harvest, the increase of their cattle, or the health of the inhabitants, — there to make use of verses, ambiguous words, and confounding obscurities, Edition: current; Page: [101] where the questions require short and easy answers, causes us to suspect that the sacred minister studies only cramp expressions, like some ambitious sophister, to wrest admiration from the ignorant. But the Pythian priestess is naturally of a more generous disposition; and therefore, when she is busy with the Deity, she has more need of truth than of satisfying her vain-glory, or of minding either the commendations or the dispraise of men.

29. And well it were, that we ourselves should be so affected. But on the contrary, being in a quandary and jealousy lest the oracle should lose the reputation it has had for these three thousand years, and lest people should forsake it and forbear going to it, we frame excuses to ourselves, and feign causes and reasons of things which we do not know, and which it is not convenient for us to know; out of a fond design to persuade the persons thus oddly dissatisfied, whom it became us rather to let alone. For certainly the mistake must redound to ourselves,* when we shall have such an opinion of our Deity as to approve and esteem those ancient and pithy proverbs of wise men, written at the entrance into the temple, “Know thyself,” “Nothing to excess,” as containing in few words a full and close compacted sentence, and yet find fault with the modern oracle for delivering answers concise and plain. Whereas those apophthegms are like waters crowded and pent up in a narrow room or running between contracted banks, where we can no more discern the bottom of the water than we can the depth and meaning of the sentence. And yet, if we consider what has been written and said concerning those sentences by such as have dived into their signification with an intent to clear their abstruseness, we shall hardly find disputes more prolix than those are. But the language of the Pythian priestess is such as the mathematicians define a right line to be, that is to say, the Edition: current; Page: [102] shortest that may be drawn betwixt two points. So likewise doth she avoid all winding and circles, all double meanings and abstruse ambiguities, and proceed directly to the truth. And though she has been obnoxious to strict examination, yet is she not to be misconstrued without danger, nor could ever any person to this very day convict her of falsehood; but on the other side, she has filled the temple with presents, gifts, and offerings, not only of the Greeks but barbarians, and adorned the seat of the oracle with the magnificent structures and fabrics of the Amphictyons. And we find many additions of new buildings, many reparations of the old ones that were fallen down or decayed by time. And as we see from trees overgrown with shade and verdant boughs other lesser shoots sprout up; thus has the Delphian concourse afforded growth and grandeur to the assembly of the Amphictyons, which is fed and maintained by the abundance and affluence arising from thence, and has the form and show of magnificent temples, stately meetings, and sacred waters; which, but for the ceremonies of the altar, would not have been brought to perfection in a thousand years. And to what other cause can we attribute the fertility of the Galaxian Plains in Boeotia but to their vicinity to this oracle, and to their being blessed with the neighboring influences of the Deity, where from the well-nourished udders of the bleating ewes milk flows in copious streams, like water from so many fountain-heads?

  • Their pails run o’er, and larger vessels still
  • With rich abundance all their dairies fill.

To us appear yet more clear and remarkable signs of the Deity’s liberality, while we behold the glory of far-famed store and plenty overflowing former penury and barrenness. And I cannot but think much the better of myself for having in some measure contributed to these things with Polycrates and Petraeus. Nor can I less admire the Edition: current; Page: [103] first author and promoter of this good order and management. And yet it is not to be thought that such and so great change should come to pass in so small a time by human industry, without the favor of the Deity assisting and blessing his oracle.

30. But although there were some formerly who blamed the ambiguity and obscurity of the oracle, and others who at this day find fault with its modern plainness and perspicuity, yet are they both alike unjust and foolish in their passion; for, like children better pleased with the sight of rainbows, comets, and those halos that encircle the sun and moon, than to see the sun and moon themselves in their splendor, they are taken with riddles, abstruse words, and figurative speeches, which are but the reflections of oracular divination to the apprehension of our mortal understanding. And because they are not able to make a satisfactory judgment of this change, they find fault with the God himself, not considering that neither we nor they are able by discourse of reason to reach unto the hidden counsels and designs of the Deity.

Edition: current; Page: [104]



It being our determination to discourse of Natural Philosophy, we judge it necessary, in the first place and chiefly, to divide the body of philosophy into its proper members, that we may know what is that which is called philosophy, and what part of it is physical, or the explanation of natural things. The Stoics affirm that wisdom is the knowledge of things human and divine; that philosophy is the exercise of that art which is expedient to this knowledge; that virtue is the sole and sovereign art which is thus expedient; and this distributes itself into three general parts, — natural, moral, and logical. By which just reason (they say) philosophy is tripartite; of which one is natural, the other moral, the third logical. The natural is when our enquiries are concerning the world and all things contained in it; the ethical is the employment of our minds in those things which concern the manners of man’s life; the logical (which they also call dialectical) regulates our conversation with others in speaking. Aristotle, Theophrastus, and after them almost all the Peripatetics give the following division of philosophy. It is absolutely requisite that the complete person be contemplator of things which have a being, and the practiser of those things which are decent; and this easily appears by the following instances. If the question be proposed, whether the sun, which is so conspicuous to us, be informed with a soul or inanimate, Edition: current; Page: [105] he that makes this disquisition is the thinking man; for he proceeds no farther than to consider the nature of that thing which is proposed. Likewise, if the question be proposed, whether the world be infinite, or whether beyond the system of this world there is any real being, all these things are the objects about which the understanding of man is conversant. But if these be the questions, — what measures must be taken to compose the well or dered life of man, what are the best methods to govern and educate children, or what are the exact rules whereby sovereigns may command and establish laws, — all these queries are proposed for the sole end of action, and the man conversant therein is the moral and practical man.


Since we have undertaken to make a diligent search into Nature, I cannot but conclude it necessary to declare what Nature is. It is very absurd to attempt a discourse of the essence of natural things, and not to understand what is the power and sphere of Nature. If Aristotle be credited, Nature is the principle of motion and rest, in that thing in which it exists principally and not by accident. For all things that are conspicuous to our eyes, which are neither fortuitous nor necessary, nor have a divine original, nor acknowledge any such like cause, are called natural and enjoy their proper nature. Of this sort are earth, fire, water, air, plants, animals; to these may be added all things produced from them, such as showers, hail, thunders, hurricanes, and winds. All these confess they had a beginning, none of these were from eternity, but had something as the origin of them; and likewise animals and plants have a principle whence they are produced. Edition: current; Page: [106] But Nature, which in all these things hath the priority, is the principle not only of motion but of repose; whatsoever enjoys the principle of motion, the same has a possibility to find a dissolution. Therefore on this account it is that Nature is the principle of motion and rest.


The followers of Aristotle and Plato conclude that the elements are discriminated from a principle. Thales the Milesian supposeth that a principle and the elements are one and the same thing, but it is evident that they vastly differ one from another. For the elements are things compounded; but we do pronounce that principles admit not of a composition, nor are the effects of any other being. Those which we call elements are earth, water, air, and fire. But we term those principles which have nothing precedent to them out of which they are produced; for otherwise not these themselves, but rather those things whereof they are produced, would be the principles. Now there are some things which have a pre-existence to earth and water, from which they are begotten; to wit, matter, which is without form or shape; then form, which we call ἐντελέχεια (actuality); and lastly, privation. Thales therefore is very peccant, by affirming that water is both an element and a principle.


Thales the Milesian doth affirm that water is the principle whence all things in the universe spring. This Edition: current; Page: [107] person appears to be the first of philosophers; from him the Ionic sect took its denomination, for there are many families and successions amongst philosophers. After he had professed philosophy in Egypt, when he was very old, he returned to Miletus. He pronounced, that all things had their original from water, and into water all things are resolved. His first reason was, that whatsoever was the prolific seed of all animals was a principle, and that is moist; so that it is probable that all things receive their original from humidity. His second reason was, that all plants are nourished and fructified by that thing which is moist, of which being deprived they wither away. Thirdly, that that fire of which the sun and stars are made is nourished by watery exhalations, — yea, and the world itself; which moved Homer to sing that the generation of it was from water: —

  • The ocean is
  • Of all things the kind genesis.*

Anaximander, who himself was a Milesian, assigns the principle of all things to the Infinite, from whence all things flow, and into the same are corrupted; hence it is that infinite worlds are framed, and those vanish again into that whence they have their original. And thus he farther proceeds, For what other reason is there of an Infinite but this, that there may be nothing deficient as to the generation or subsistence of what is in nature? There is his error, that he doth not acquaint us what this Infinite is, whether it be air, or water, or earth, or any other such like body. Besides he is peccant, in that, giving us the material cause, he is silent as to the efficient cause of beings; for this thing which he makes his Infinite can be nothing but matter; but operation cannot take place in the sphere of matter, except an efficient cause be annexed.

Anaximenes his fellow-citizen pronounceth, that air is the Edition: current; Page: [108] principle of all beings; from it all receive their original, and into it all return. He affirms that our soul is nothing but air; it is that which constitutes and preserves; the whole world is invested with spirit and air. For spirit and air are synonymous. This person is in this deficient, that he concludes that of pure air, which is a simple body and is made of one only form, all animals are composed. It is not possible to think that a single principle should be the matter of all things, from whence they receive their subsistence; besides this there must be an operating cause. Silver (for example) is not of itself sufficient to frame a drinking cup; an operator also is required, which is the silversmith. The like may be applied to vessels made of wood, brass, or any other material.

Anaxagoras the Clazomenian asserted Homoeomeries (or parts similar or homogeneous) to be the original cause of all beings; it seemed to him impossible that any thing could arise of nothing or be resolved into nothing. Let us therefore instance in nourishment, which appears simple and uniform, such as bread which we owe to Ceres, and water which we drink. Of this very nutriment, our hair, our veins, our arteries, nerves, bones, and all our other parts are nourished. These things thus being performed, it must be granted that the nourishment which is received by us contains all those things by which these parts of us are increased. In it there are those particles which are producers of blood, bones, nerves, and all other parts; which particles (as he thought) reason discovers for us. For it is not necessary that we should reduce all things under the objects of sense; for bread and water are fitted to the senses, yet in them there are those particles latent which are discoverable only by reason. It being therefore evident that there are particles in the nourishment similar to what is produced thereby, he terms these homogeneous parts, averring that they are the principles Edition: current; Page: [109] of beings. Matter is according to him these similar parts, and the efficient cause is a Mind, which orders all things that have an existence. Thus he begins his discourse: “All things were confused one among another; but Mind divided and reduced them to order.” In this he is to be commended, that he yokes together matter and an intellectual agent.

Archelaus the son of Apollodorus, the Athenian, pronounceth, that the principles of all things have their original from an infinite air rarefied or condensed. Air rarefied is fire, condensed is water.

These philosophers, the followers of Thales, succeeding one another, made up that sect which takes to itself the denomination of the Ionic.

Pythagoras the Samian, the son of Mnesarchus, from another origin deduces the principles of all things; it was he who first gave philosophy its name. He assigns the first principles to be numbers, and those symmetries resulting from them which he styles harmonies; and the result of both combined he terms elements, called geometrical. Again, he enumerates unity and the indefinite binary number amongst the principles. One of these principles tends to an efficient and forming cause, which is Mind, and that is God; the other to the passive and material part, and that is the visible world. Moreover the nature of number (he saith) consists in the ten; for all people, whether Grecians or barbarians, reckon from one to ten, and thence return to one again. Farther he avers the virtue of ten consists in the quaternion; the reason whereof is this, — if any person reckon from one, and by addition place his numbers so as to take in the quaternary, he shall complete the number ten; if he exceed the four, he shall go beyond the ten; for one, two, three, and four being cast up together make up ten. The nature of numbers, therefore, if we regard Edition: current; Page: [110] the units, resteth in the ten; but if we regard its power, in the four. Therefore the Pythagoreans say that their most sacred oath is by that God who delivered to them the quaternary.

  • By th’ founder of the sacred number four,
  • Eternal Nature’s font and root, they swore.

Of this number the soul of man is composed; for mind, knowledge, opinion, and sense are the four that complete the soul, from which all sciences, all arts, all rational faculties derive themselves. For what our mind perceives, it perceives after the manner of a thing that is one, the soul itself being a unity; as for instance, a multitude of persons are not the object of our sense nor are comprehended by us, for they are infinite; our understanding gives the general notion of a man, in which all individuals agree. The number of individuals is infinite; the generic or specific nature of all being is a unit, or to be apprehended as one only thing; from this one conception we give the genuine measures of all existence, and therefore we affirm that a certain class of beings are rational and discoursive beings. But when we come to give the nature of a horse, it is that animal which neighs; and this being common to all horses, it is manifest that the understanding, which hath such like conceptions, is in its nature unity. The number which is called the infinite binary must needs be science; in every demonstration or belief belonging to science, and in every syllogism, we draw that conclusion which is the question doubted of, from those propositions which are by all granted, by which means another proposition is demonstrated. The comprehension of these we call knowledge; for which reason science is the binary number. But opinion is the ternary; for that rationally follows from comprehension. The objects of opinion are many things, and the ternary number denotes a multitude, as “Thrice happy Grecians;” for which reason Pythagoras admits the ternary. Edition: current; Page: [111] This sect of philosophers is called the Italic, by reason Pythagoras opened his school in Italy; his hatred of the tyranny of Polycrates enforced him to leave his native country Samos.

Heraclitus and Hippasus of Metapontum suppose that fire gives the origination to all beings, that they all flow from fire, and in fire they all conclude; for of fire when first quenched the world was constituted. The first part of the world, being most condensed and contracted within itself, made the earth; but part of that earth being loosened and made thin by fire, water was produced; afterwards this water being exhaled and rarefied into vapors became air; after all this the world itself, and all other corporeal beings, shall be dissolved by fire in the universal conflagration. By them therefore it appears that fire is what gives beginning to all things, and is that in which all things receive their period.

Epicurus the son of Neocles, the Athenian, his philosophical sentiments being the same with those of Democritus, affirms that the principles of all being are bodies which are perceptible only by reason; they admit not of a vacuity, nor of any original, but being of a self-existence are eternal and incorruptible; they are not liable to any diminution, they are indestructible, nor is it possible for them to receive any transformation of parts, or admit of any alterations; of these reason only is the discoverer; they are in a perpetual motion in vacuity, and by means of the empty space; for the vacuum itself is infinite, and the bodies that move in it are infinite. Those bodies acknowledge these three accidents, figure, magnitude, and gravity. Democritus acknowledged but two, magnitude and figure. Epicurus added the third, to wit, gravity; for he pronounced that it is necessary that bodies receive their motion from that impression which springs from gravity, otherwise they could not be moved. The figures of atoms Edition: current; Page: [112] cannot be apprehended by our senses, but they are not infinite. These figures are neither hooked nor trident-shaped nor ring-shaped, such figures as these being easily broken; but the atoms are impassible, impenetrable; they have indeed figures proper to themselves, which are discovered only by reason. It is called an atom, by reason not of its smallness but of its indivisibility; in it no vacuity, no passible affection is to be found. And that there is an atom is perfectly clear; for there are elements which have a perpetual duration, and there are animals which admit of a vacuity, and there is a unity.

Empedocles the Agrigentine, the son of Meton, affirms that there are four elements, fire, air, earth, and water, and two powers which bear the greatest command in nature, concord and discord, of which one is the union, the other the division of beings. Thus he sings,

  • Mark the four roots of all created things: —
  • Bright shining Jove, Juno that giveth life,
  • Pluto beneath the earth, and Nestis who
  • Doth with her tears supply the mortal fount.

By Jupiter he means fire and aether, by Juno that gives life he means the air, by Pluto the earth, by Nestis and the fountain of all mortals (as it were) seed and water.

Socrates the son of Sophroniscus, and Plato son of Ariston, both natives of Athens, entertain the same opinion concerning the universe; for they suppose three principles, God, matter, and the idea. God is the universal understanding; matter is that which is the first substratum, accommodated for the generation and corruption of beings; the idea is an incorporeal essence, existing in the cogitations and apprehensions of God; for God is the soul and mind of the world.

Aristotle the son of Nichomachus, the Stagirite, constitutes three principles; Entelecheia (which is the same with form), matter, and privation. He acknowledges four elements, Edition: current; Page: [113] and adds a certain fifth body, which is ethereal and not obnoxious to mutation.

Zeno son of Mnaseas, the native of Citium, avers these principles to be God and matter, the first of which is the efficient cause, the other the passible and receptive. Four elements he likewise confesses.


The world being broken and confused, after this manner it was reduced into figure and composure as now it is. The insectible bodies or atoms, by a wild and fortuitous motion, without any governing power, incessantly and swiftly were hurried one amongst another, many bodies being jumbled together; upon this account they have a diversity in the figures and magnitude. These therefore being so jumbled together, those bodies which were the greatest and heaviest sank into the lowest place; they that were of a lesser magnitude, being round, smooth, and slippery, meeting with those heavier bodies were easily broken into pieces, and were carried into higher places. But when that force whereby these variously figured particles fought with and struck one another, and forced the lighter upwards, did cease, and there was no farther power left to drive them into superior regions, yet they were wholly hindered from descending downwards, and were compelled to reside in those places capable to receive them; and these were the heavenly spaces, unto which a multitude of these little bodies were whirled, and these being thus shivered fell into coherence and mutual embraces, and by this means the heaven was produced. Then a various and great multitude of atoms enjoying the same nature, as it is before asserted, Edition: current; Page: [114] being hurried aloft, did form the stars. The multitude of these exhaled bodies, having struck and broke the air in shivers, forced a passage through it; this being converted into wind invested the stars, as it moved, and whirled them about, by which means to this present time that circulary motion which these stars have in the heavens is maintained. Much after the same manner the earth was made; for by those little particles whose gravity made them to reside in the lower places the earth was formed. The heaven, fire, and air were constituted of those particles which were carried aloft. But a great deal of matter remaining in the earth, this being condensed by the forcible driving of the winds and the breathings from the stars, every little part and form of it was broken in pieces, which produced the element of water; but this being fluidly disposed did run into those places which were hollow, and these places were those that were capable to receive and protect it; or else the water, subsisting by itself, did make the lower places hollow. After this manner the principal parts of the world were constituted.


The Stoics pronounce that the world is one thing, and this they say is the universe and is corporeal.

Empedocles’s opinion is, that the world is one; yet by no means the system of this world must be styled the universe, but that it is a small part of it, and the remainder is idle matter.

What to Plato seems the truest he thus declares, that there is one world, and that world is the universe; and this he endeavors to evince by three arguments. First, that the world could not be complete and perfect, if it did Edition: current; Page: [115] not within itself include all beings. Secondly, nor could it give the true resemblance of its original and exemplar, if it were not the one only begotten thing. Thirdly, it could not be incorruptible, if there were any being out of its compass to whose power it might be obnoxious. But to Plato it may be thus returned. First, that the world is not complete and perfect, nor doth it contain all things within itself. And if man is a perfect being, yet he doth not encompass all things. Secondly, that there are many exemplars and originals of statues, houses, and pictures. Thirdly, how is the world perfect, if any thing beyond it is possible to be moved about it? But the world is not incorruptible, nor can it be so conceived, because it had an original.

To Metrodorus it seems absurd, that in a large field one only stalk should grow, and in an infinite space one only world exist; and that this universe is infinite is manifest by this, that there are causes infinite. Now if this world were finite and the causes which produced it infinite, it is necessary that the worlds likewise be infinite; for where all causes do concur, there the effects also must appear, let the causes be what they will, either atoms or elements.


The Stoics thus define the essence of a God. It is a spirit intellectual and fiery, which acknowledges no shape, but is continually changed into what it pleases, and assimilates itself to all things. The knowledge of this Deity they first received from the pulchritude of those things which so visibly appeared to us; for they concluded that nothing beauteous could casually or fortuitously be formed, but that it was framed from the art of a great understanding Edition: current; Page: [116] that produced the world. That the world is very resplendent is made perspicuous from the figure, the color, the magnitude of it, and likewise from the wonderful variety of those stars which adorn this world. The world is spherical; the orbicular hath the pre-eminence above all other figures, for being round itself it hath its parts likewise round. (On this account, according to Plato, the understanding, which is the most sacred part of man, is in the head.) The color of it is most beauteous; for it is painted with blue; which, though little blacker than purple, yet hath such a shining quality, that by reason of the vehement efficacy of its color it cuts through such an interval of air; whence it is that at so great a distance the heavens are to be contemplated. And in this very greatness of the world the beauty of it appears. View all things: that which contains the rest carries a beauty with it, as an animal or a tree. Also all things which are visible to us accomplish the beauty of the world. The oblique circle called the Zodiac in the heaven is with different images painted and distinguished:

  • There’s Cancer, Leo, Virgo, and the Claws;
  • Scorpio, Arcitenens, and Capricorn;
  • Amphora, Pisces, then the Ram, and Bull;
  • The lovely pair of Brothers next succeed.*

There are a thousand others that give us the suitable reflections of the beauty of the world. Thus Euripides:

  • The starry splendor of the skies,
  • The wondrous work of that most wise
  • Creator, Time.

From this the knowledge of a God is conveyed to man; that the sun, the moon, and the rest of the stars, being carried under the earth, rise again in their proper color, magnitude, place, and times. Therefore they who by tradition Edition: current; Page: [117] delivered to us the knowledge and veneration of the Gods did it by these three manner of ways: — first, from Nature; secondly, from fables; thirdly, from the testimony given by the laws of commonwealths. Philosophers taught the natural way; poets, the fabulous; and the political way is received from the constitutions of each commonwealth. All sorts of this learning are distinguished into these seven parts. The first is from things that are conspicuous, and the observation of those bodies which are in places superior to us. To men the heavenly bodies that are so visible did give the knowledge of the Deity; when they contemplated that they are the causes of so great an harmony, that they regulate day and night, winter and summer, by their rising and setting, and likewise considered those things which by their influences in the earth do receive a being and do likewise fructify. It was manifest to men that the Heaven was the father of those things, and the Earth the mother; that the Heaven was the father is clear, since from the heavens there is the pouring down of waters, which have their spermatic faculty; the Earth the mother, because she receives them and brings forth. Likewise men considering that the stars are running (θέοντες) in a perpetual motion, that the sun and moon give us the power to view and contemplate (θεωϱεῖν), they call them all Gods (θεούς).

In the second and third place, they thus distinguished the Deities into those which are beneficial and those that are injurious to mankind. Those which are beneficial they call Jupiter, Juno, Mercury, Ceres; those who are mischievous the Dirae, Furies, and Mars. These, which threaten dangers and violence, men endeavor to appease and conciliate by sacred rites. The fourth and the fifth order of Gods they assign to things and passions; to passions, Love, Venus, and Desire; the Deities that preside over things, Hope, Justice, and Eunomia.

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The sixth order of deities are those made by the poets; Hesiod, willing to find out a father for those Gods that acknowledge an original, invented their progenitors,

  • Hyperion, Coeus, and Iapetus,
  • With Creius:*

upon which account this is called the fabulous. The seventh rank of the deities added to the rest are those which, by their beneficence to mankind, were honored with a divine worship, though they were born of mortal race; of this sort were Hercules, Castor and Pollux, and Bacchus. These are reputed to be of a human species; for of all beings that which is divine is most excellent, and man amongst all animals is adorned with the greatest beauty, and is also the best, being distinguished by virtue above the rest because of his intellect: therefore it was thought that those who were admirable for goodness should resemble that which is the best and most beautiful.


Some of the philosophers, such as Diagoras the Melian, Theodorus the Cyrenean, and Euemerus the Tegeatan, did unanimously deny there were any Gods; and Callimachus the Cyrenean discovered his mind touching Euemerus in these Iambic verses, thus writing:

  • To th’ ante-mural temple flock apace,
  • Where he that long ago composed of brass
  • Great Jupiter, Thrasonic old bald pate,
  • Now writes his impious books, — a boastful ass!

meaning books which denote there are no Gods. Euripides the tragedian durst not openly declare his sentiment; Edition: current; Page: [119] the court of Areopagus terrified him. Yet he sufficiently manifested his thoughts by this method. He presented in his tragedy Sisyphus, the first and great patron of this opinion, and introduced himself as one agreeing with him:

  • Disorder in those days did domineer,
  • And brutal power kept the world in fear.

Afterwards by the sanction of laws wickedness was suppressed; but by reason that laws could prohibit only public villanies, yet could not hinder many persons from acting secret impieties, some wise persons gave this advice, that we ought to blind truth with lying disguises, and to persuade men that there is a God:

  • There’s an eternal God does hear and see
  • And understand every impiety;
  • Though it in dark recess or thought committed be.

But this poetical fable ought to be rejected, he thought, together with Callimachus, who thus saith:

  • If you believe a God, it must be meant
  • That you conceive this God omnipotent.

But God cannot do every thing; for, if it were so, then God could make snow black, and the fire cold, and him that is in a posture of sitting to be upright, and so on the contrary. The brave-speaking Plato pronounceth that God formed the world after his own image; but this smells rank of the old dotages, old comic poets would say; for how did God, casting his eye upon himself, frame this universe? Or how can God be spherical, and not be inferior to man?

Anaxagoras avers that bodies did consist from all eternity, but the divine intellect did reduce them into their proper orders, and effected the origination of all beings. Plato did not suppose that the primary bodies had their consistence and repose, but that they were moved confusedly and in disorder; but God, knowing that order was Edition: current; Page: [120] better than confusion, did digest them into the best methods. Both these were equally peccant; for both suppose God to be the great moderator of human affairs, and for that cause to have formed this present world; when it is apparent that an immortal and blessed being, replenished with all his glorious excellencies, and not at all obnoxious to any sort of evil, but being wholly occupied with his own felicity and immortality, would not employ himself with the concerns of men; for certainly miserable is the being which, like a laborer or artificer, is molested by the troubles and cares which the forming and governing of this world must give him. Add to this, that the God whom these men profess was either not at all existing previous to this present world (when bodies were either reposed or in a disordered motion), or that then God did either sleep, or else was in a perpetual watchfulness, or that he did neither of these. Now neither the first nor the second can be entertained, because they suppose God to be eternal; if God from eternity was in a continual sleep, he was in an eternal death, — and what is death but an eternal sleep? — but no sleep can affect a Deity, for the immortality of God and alliance to death are vastly different. But if God was in a continual vigilance, either there was something wanting to make him happy, or else his beatitude was perfectly complete; but according to neither of these can God be said to be blessed; not according to the first, for if there be any deficiency there is no perfect bliss; not according to the second, for, if there be nothing wanting to the felicity of God, it must be a useless enterprise for him to busy himself in human affairs. And how can it be supposed that God administers by his own providence human concerns, when to vain and trifling persons prosperous things happen, to great and high adverse? Agamemnon was both

A virtuous prince, for warlike acts renowned,*

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and by an adulterer and adulteress was vanquished and perfidiously slain. Hercules, after he had freed the life of man from many things that were pernicious to it, perished by the witchcraft and poison of Deianira.

Thales said that the intelligence of the world was God.

Anaximander concluded that the stars were heavenly Deities.

Democritus said that God, being a globe of fire, is intelligence and the soul of the world.

Pythagoras says that, of his principles, unity is God; and the perfect good, which is indeed the nature of a unity, is mind itself; but the binary number, which is infinite, is a devil, and in its own nature evil, — about which the multitude of material beings, and this world which is the object of our eyes, are conversant.

Socrates and Plato agree that God is that which is one, hath its original from its own self, is of a singular subsistence, is one only being perfectly good; all these various names signifying goodness do all centre in mind; hence God is to be understood as that mind and intellect, which is a separate idea, that is to say, pure and unmixed of all matter, and not twisted with any thing obnoxious to passions.

Aristotle’s sentiment is, that God hath his residence in superior regions, and hath placed his throne in the sphere of the universe, and is a separate idea; which sphere is an ethereal body, which is by him styled the fifth essence or quintessence. For there is a division of the universe into spheres, which are contiguous by their nature but appear to reason to be separated; and he concludes that each of the spheres is an animal, composed of a body and soul; the body of them is ethereal, moved orbicularly, the soul is the rational form, which is unmoved, and yet is the cause that the sphere is actually in motion.

The Stoics affirm that God is a thing more common and Edition: current; Page: [122] obvious, and is a mechanic fire which every way spreads itself to produce the world; it contains in itself all seminal virtues, and by this means all things by a fatal necessity were produced. This spirit, passing through the whole world, received various names from the mutations in the matter through which it ran in its journey. God therefore is the world, the stars, the earth, and (highest of all) the supreme mind in the heavens.

In the judgment of Epicurus all the Gods are anthropomorphites, or have the shape of men; but they are perceptible only by reason, for their nature admits of no other manner of being apprehended, their parts being so small and fine that they give no corporeal representations. The same Epicurus asserts that there are four other natural beings which are immortal: of this sort are atoms, the vacuum, the infinite, and the similar parts; and these last are called Homoeomeries and likewise elements.


Having treated of the essence of the deities in a just order, it follows that we discourse of daemons and heroes. Thales, Pythagoras, Plato, and the Stoics do conclude that daemons are essences which are endowed with souls; that the heroes are the souls separated from their bodies, some are good, some are bad; the good are those whose souls are good, the evil those whose souls are wicked. All this is rejected by Epicurus.


Matter is that first being which is substrate for generation, corruption, and all other alterations.

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The disciples of Thales and Pythagoras, with the Stoics, are of opinion that matter is changeable, mutable, convertible, and sliding through all things.

The followers of Democritus aver that the vacuum, the atom, and the incorporeal substance are the first beings, and not obnoxious to passions.

Aristotle and Plato affirm that matter is of that species which is corporeal, void of any form, species, figure, and quality, but apt to receive all forms, that she may be the nurse, the mother, and origin of all other beings. But they that do say that water, earth, air, and fire are matter do likewise say that matter cannot be without form, but conclude it is a body; but they that say that individual particles and atoms are matter do say that matter is without form.


An idea is a being incorporeal, which has no subsistence by itself, but gives figure and form unto shapeless matter, and becomes the cause of its manifestation.

Socrates and Plato conjecture that these ideas are essences separate from matter, having their existence in the understanding and fancy of the Deity, that is, of mind.

Aristotle objected not to forms and ideas; but he doth not believe them separated from matter, or patterns of what God has made.

Those Stoics, that are of the school of Zeno, profess that ideas are nothing else but the conceptions of our own mind.


A cause is that by which any thing is produced, or by which any thing is effected.

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Plato gives this triple division of causes, — the material, the efficient, and the final cause; the principal cause he judges to be the efficient, which is the mind and intellect.

Pythagoras and Aristotle judge the first causes are incorporeal beings, but those that are causes by accident or participation become corporeal substances; by this means the world is corporeal.

The Stoics grant that all causes are corporeal, inasmuch as they are breath.


A body is that being which hath these three dimensions, breadth, depth, and length; — or a bulk which makes a sensible resistance; — or whatsoever of its own nature possesseth a place.

Plato saith that it is neither heavy nor light in its own nature, when it exists in its own place; but being in the place where another should be, then it has an inclination by which it tends to gravity or levity.

Aristotle saith that, if we simply consider things in their own nature, the earth only is to be judged heavy, and fire light; but air and water are sometimes heavy and sometimes light.

The Stoics think that of the four elements two are light, fire and air; two ponderous, earth and water; that which is naturally light doth by its own nature, not by any inclination, recede from its own centre; but that which is heavy doth by its own nature tend to its centre; for the centre is not a heavy thing of itself.

Epicurus thinks that bodies are not to be limited; but the first bodies, which are simple bodies, and all those composed of them, all acknowledge gravity; that all atoms Edition: current; Page: [125] are moved, some perpendicularly, some obliquely; some are carried aloft either by direct impulse or with vibrations.


Empedocles, precedent to the four elements, introduceth the most minute bodies which resemble elements; but they did exist before the elements, having similar parts and orbicular.

Heraclitus brings in the smallest fragments, and those indivisible.


A figure is the exterior appearance, the circumscription, and the boundary of a body.

The Pythagoreans say that the bodies of the four elements are spherical, fire being in the supremest place only excepted, whose figure is conical.


Color is the visible quality of a body.

The Pythagoreans called color the outward appearance of a body. Empedocles, that which is consentaneous to the passages of the eye. Plato, that they are fires emitted from bodies, which have parts harmonious for the sight. Zeno the Stoic, that colors are the first figurations of matter. The Pythagoreans, that colors are of four sorts, white and black, red and pale; and they derive the variety Edition: current; Page: [126] of colors from the diversity of the elements, and that seen in animals also from the variety of food and the air in which they live and are bred.


The disciples of Thales and Pythagoras grant that all bodies are passible and divisible unto infinity. Others hold that atoms and indivisible parts are there fixed, and admit not of a division into infinity. Aristotle, that all bodies are potentially but not actually divisible into infinity.


The ancient philosophers held that the mixture of elements proceeded from the alteration of qualities; but the disciples of Anaxagoras and Democritus say it is done by apposition. Empedocles composes the elements of still smaller bulks, those which are the most minute and may be termed the elements of elements. Plato assigns three bodies (but he will not allow these to be elements, nor properly so called), air, fire, and water, which are mutable into one another; but the earth is mutable into none of these.


All the natural philosophers from Thales to Plato rejected a vacuum. Empedocles says that there is nothing of a vacuity in nature, nor any thing superabundant. Leucippus, Edition: current; Page: [127] Democritus, Demetrius, Metrodorus, Epicurus, that the atoms are infinite in number; and that a vacuum is infinite in magnitude. The Stoics, that within the compass of the world there is no vacuum, but beyond it the vacuum is infinite. Aristotle,* that the vacuum beyond the world is so great that the heaven has liberty to breathe into it, for the heaven is fiery.


Plato, to define place, calls it that thing which in its own bosom receives forms and ideas; by which metaphor he signifies matter, being (as it were) a nurse or receptacle of beings. Aristotle, that it is the ultimate superficies of the circumambient body, contiguous to that which it doth encompass.


The Stoics and Epicureans make a place, a vacuum, and a space to differ. A vacuum is that which is void of any thing that may be called a body; place is that which is possessed by a body; a space that which is partly filled with a body, as a cask with wine.


In the sense of Pythagoras, time is that sphere which encompasses the world. Plato says that it is a movable Edition: current; Page: [128] image of eternity, or the interval of the world’s motion. Eratosthenes, that it is the solar motion.


Plato says that the heavenly motion is time. Most of the Stoics affirm that motion itself is time. Most philosophers think that time had no beginning; Plato, that time had only an ideal beginning.


Plato and Pythagoras say that motion is a change and alteration in matter. Aristotle, that it is the actual operation of that which may be moved. Democritus, that there is but one sort of motion, and it is that which is vibratory. Epicurus, that there are two species of motion, one perpendicular, and the other oblique. Herophilus, that one species of motion is obvious only to reason, the other to sense. Heraclitus utterly denies that there is any thing of quiet or repose in nature; for that is the state of the dead; one sort of motion is eternal, which he assigns to beings eternal, the other perishable, to those things which are perishable.


Parmenides, Melissus, and Zeno deny that there are any such things as generation and corruption, for they suppose that the universe is unmovable. Empedocles, Epicurus, and Edition: current; Page: [129] other philosophers that combine in this, that the world is framed of small corporeal particles meeting together, affirm that corruption and generation are not so properly to be accepted; but there are conjunctions and separations, which do not consist in any alteration according to their qualities, but are made according to quantity by coalition or disjunction. Pythagoras, and all those who take for granted that matter is subject to mutation, say that generation and corruption are to be accepted in their proper sense, and that they are accomplished by the alteration, mutation, and dissolution of elements.


Thales says that necessity is omnipotent, and that it exerciseth an empire over every thing. Pythagoras, that the world is invested by necessity. Parmenides and Democritus, that there is nothing in the world but what is necessarily, and that this same necessity is otherwise called fate, justice, providence, and the architect of the world.


Plato distinguisheth and refers some things to Providence, others to necessity. Empedocles makes the nature of necessity to be that cause which employs principles and elements. Democritus makes it to be a resistance, impulse, and force of matter. Plato sometimes says that necessity is matter; at other times, that it is the habitude or respect of the efficient cause towards matter.

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Heraclitus, who attributes all things to fate, makes necessity to be the same thing with it. Plato admits of a necessity in the minds and the actions of men, but yet he introduceth a cause which flows from ourselves. The Stoics, in this agreeing with Plato, say that necessity is a cause invincible and violent; that fate is the ordered complication of causes, in which there is an intexture of those things which proceed from our own determination, so that some things are to be attributed to fate, others not.


According to Heraclitus, the essence of fate is a certain reason which penetrates the substance of all being; and this is an ethereal body, containing in itself that seminal faculty which gives an original to every being in the universe. Plato declares that it is the eternal reason and the eternal law of the nature of the universe. Chrysippus, that it is a spiritual faculty, which in due order doth manage and rule the universe. Again, in his book styled the Definitions, that fate is the reason of the world, or that it is that law whereby Providence rules and administers every thing that is in the world; or it is that reason by which all things past have been, all things present are, and all things future will be. The Stoics say that it is a chain of causes, that is, it is an order and connection of causes which cannot be resisted. Posidonius, that it is a being the third in degree from Jupiter; the first of beings is Jupiter, the second nature, and the third fate.

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Plato says, that it is an accidental cause and a casual consequence in things which proceed from the election and counsel of men. Aristotle, that it is an accidental cause in those things which are done by an impulse to a certain end; and this cause is uncertain and unstable: there is a great deal of difference betwixt that which flows from chance and that which falls out by Fortune; for that which is fortuitous admits also of chance, and belongs to things practical; but what is by chance cannot be also by Fortune, for it belongs to things without action: Fortune, moreover, belongs to rational beings, but chance to rational and irrational beings alike, and even to inanimate things. Epicurus, that it is a cause not always consistent, but various as to persons, times, and manners. Anaxagoras and the Stoics, that it is that cause which human reason cannot comprehend; for there are some things which proceed from necessity, some things from Fate, some from choice and free-will, some from Fortune, some from chance.


Empedocles believes that Nature is nothing else but the mixture and separation of the elements; for thus he writes in the first book of his natural philosophy:

  • Nature gives neither life nor death,
  • Mutation makes us die or breathe.
  • The elements first are mixed, then all
  • Do separate: this mortals Nature call.
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Anaxagoras is of the same opinion, that Nature is coalition and separation, that is, generation and corruption.


Having finished my dissertation concerning principles and elements and those things which chiefly appertain to them, I will turn my pen to discourse of those things which are produced by them, and will take my beginning from the world, which contains and encompasseth all beings.


Pythagoras was the first philosopher that gave the name of ϰόσμος to the world, from the order and beauty of it; for so that word signifies. Thales and his followers say the world is one. Democritus, Epicurus, and their scholar Metrodorus affirm that there are infinite worlds in an infinite space, for that infinite vacuum in its whole extent contains them. Empedocles, that the circle which the sun makes in its motion circumscribes the world, and that circle is the utmost bound of the world. Seleucus, that the world knows no limits. Diogenes, that the universe is infinite, but this world is finite. The Stoics make a difference between that which is called the universe, and that which is called the whole world; — the universe is the infinite space considered with the vacuum, the vacuity being removed gives the right conception of the world; so that the universe and the world are not the same thing.

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The Stoics say that the figure of the world is spherical, others that it is conical, others oval. Epicurus, that the figure of the world may be globular, or that it may admit of other shapes.


Democritus, Epicurus, and those philosophers who introduced atoms and a vacuum, affirm that the world is not an animal, nor governed by any wise Providence, but that it is managed by a nature which is void of reason. All the other philosophers affirm that the world is informed with a soul, and governed by reason and Providence. Aristotle is excepted, who is somewhat different; he is of opinion, that the whole world is not acted by a soul in every part of it, nor hath it any sensitive, rational, or intellectual faculties, nor is it guided by reason and Providence in every part of it; of all which the heavenly bodies are made partakers, for the circumambient spheres are animated and are living beings; but those things which are about the earth are void of those endowments; and though those terrestrial bodies are of an orderly disposition, yet that is casual and not primogenial.


Pythagoras [and Plato], with the Stoics, affirm that the world was framed by God, and being corporeal is obvious Edition: current; Page: [134] to the senses, and in its own nature is obnoxious to destruction; but it shall never perish, it being preserved by the providence of God. Epicurus, that the world had a beginning, and so shall have an end, as plants and animals have. Xenophanes, that the world never had a beginning, is eternal and incorruptible. Aristotle, that the part of the world which is sublunary is obnoxious to change, and there terrestrial beings find a decay.


Aristotle says that, if the world be nourished, it will likewise be dissolved; but it requires no aliment, and will therefore be eternal. Plato, that this very world prepares for itself a nutriment, by the alteration of those things which are corruptible in it. Philolaus believes that a destruction happens to the world in two ways; either by fire falling from heaven, or by the lunary water being poured down through the whirling of the air; and the exhalations proceeding from thence are the aliment of the world.


The natural philosophers pronounce that the forming of this world took its original from the earth, it being its centre, for the centre is the principal part of the globe. Pythagoras, from the fire and the fifth element. Empedocles determines, that the first and principal element separated from the rest was the ether, then fire, after that the earth, which earth being strongly compacted by the Edition: current; Page: [135] force of a violent revolution, water springs from it, the exhalations of which water produce the air; the heaven took its origin from the ether, and fire gave a being to the sun; those things that belong to the earth are condensed from the remainders. Plato, that the visible world was framed after the exemplar of the intellectual world; the soul of the visible world was first produced, then the corporeal figure, first that which came from fire and earth, afterwards that which came from air and water. Pythagoras, that the world was formed of five solid figures which are called mathematical; the earth was produced by the cube, the fire by the pyramid, the air by the octahedron, the water by the icosahedron, and the globe of the universe by the dodecahedron. In all these Plato hath the same sentiments with Pythagoras.


Parmenides believes that there are small coronets alternately twisted one within another, some made up of a thin, others of a condensed matter; and there are others between them mixed mutually together of light and of darkness, and about them all there is a solid substance, which like a firm wall surrounds these coronets. Leucippus and Democritus wrap the world round about, as with a garment and membrane. Epicurus says that that which bounds some worlds is thin, and that which limits others is gross and condensed; and of these worlds some are in motion, others are fixed. Plato, that fire takes the first place in the world, the second the ether, after that the air, under that the water; the last place the earth possesseth: sometimes he puts the ether and the fire in the same place. Aristotle gives the first place to the ether, as Edition: current; Page: [136] that which is impassible, it being a kind of fifth body; after which he placeth those that are passible, fire, air, and water, and last of all the earth. To those bodies that are accounted celestial he assigns a motion that is circular, but to those that are seated under them, if they be light bodies, an ascending, if heavy, a descending motion. Empedocles, that the places of the elements are not always fixed and determined, but they all succeed one another in their respective stations.


Diogenes and Anaxagoras affirm that, after the world was composed and the earth had produced living creatures, the world out of its own propensity made an inclination towards the south. Perhaps this may be attributed to a wise Providence (they say), that thereby some parts of the world may be habitable, others uninhabitable, according as the various climates are affected with a rigorous cold, or a scorching heat, or a just temperament of cold and heat. Empedocles, that the air yielding to the impetuous force of the solar rays, the pole received an inclination; whereby the northern parts were exalted and the southern depressed, by which means the whole world received its inclination.


Pythagoras and his followers say that beyond the world there is a vacuum, into which and out of which the world hath its respiration. The Stoics, that there is a vacuum into which the infinite world by a conflagration shall be Edition: current; Page: [137] dissolved. Posidonius, not an infinite vacuum, but as much as suffices for the dissolution of the world; and this he asserts in his first book concerning the Vacuum. Aristotle affirms, that there is no vacuum. Plato concludes that neither within nor without the world there is any vacuum.


Pythagoras, Plato, and Aristotle say that the eastern parts of the world, from whence motion commences, are of the right, those of the western are of the left-hand of the world. Empedocles, that those that are of the right-hand are towards the summer solstice, those of the left towards the winter solstice.


Anaximenes declares that the circumference of heaven is the limit of the earth’s revolution. Empedocles, that the heaven is a solid substance, and hath the form and hardness of crystal, it being composed of the air compacted by fire, and that in both hemispheres it invests the elements of air and fire. Aristotle, that it is formed by the fifth body, and by the mixture of extreme heat and cold.


Thales, Pythagoras, and the followers of Pythagoras do distribute the universal globe of heaven into five circles, Edition: current; Page: [138] which they denominate zones; one of which is called the arctic circle, which is always conspicuous to us, another is the summer tropic, another is the equinoctial, another is the winter tropic, another is the antarctic circle, which is always invisible. The circle called the zodiac is placed under the three that are in the midst, and lies obliquely, gently touching them all. Likewise, they are all cut in right angles by the meridian, which runs from pole to pole. It is supposed that Pythagoras made the first discovery of the obliquity of the zodiac, but one Oenopides of Chios challenges to himself the invention of it.


Thales believes that they are globes of earth set on fire. Empedocles, that they are fiery bodies arising from that fire which the ether embraced within itself, and did shatter in pieces when the elements were first separated one from another. Anaxagoras, that the circumambient ether is of a fiery substance, which, by a vehement force in its whirling about, did tear stones from the earth, and by its own power set them on fire, and establish them as stars in the heavens. Diogenes thinks they resemble pumice stones, and that they are the breathings of the world; again he supposeth that there are some invisible stones, which sometimes fall from heaven upon the earth, and are there quenched; as it happened at Aegos-potami, where a stony star resembling fire did fall. Empedocles, that the fixed stars are fastened to the crystal, but the planets are loosened. Plato, that the stars for the most part are of a fiery nature, but they are made partakers of another element, with which they are mixed after the resemblance of glue. Xenophanes, that they are composed of inflamed Edition: current; Page: [139] clouds, which in the daytime are quenched, and in the night are kindled again. The like we see in coals; for the rising and setting of the stars is nothing else but the quenching and kindling of them. Heraclides and the Pythagoreans, that every star is a world in an infinite ether, and itself encompasseth air, earth, and ether; this opinion is current among the followers of Orpheus, for they suppose that each of the stars does make a world. Epicurus condemns none of these opinions, for he embraces any thing that is possible.


The Stoics say that the stars are of a circular form, like the sun, the moon, and the world. Cleanthes, that they are of a conical figure. Anaximenes, that they are fastened as nails in the crystalline firmament; some others, that they are fiery plates of gold, resembling pictures.


Xenocrates says that the stars are moved in one and the same superficies. The other Stoics say that they are moved in various superficies, some being superior, others inferior. Democritus, that the fixed stars are in the highest place; after those the planets; after which the sun, Venus, and the moon, in their order. Plato, that the first after the fixed stars that makes its appearance is Phaenon, the star of Saturn; the second Phaëton, the star of Jupiter; the third the fiery, which is the star of Mars; the fourth the morning star, which is the star of Venus; Edition: current; Page: [140] the fifth the shining star, and that is the star of Mercury; in the sixth place is the sun, in the seventh the moon. Plato and some of the mathematicians conspire in the same opinion; others place the sun as the centre of the planets. Anaximander, Metrodorus of Chios, and Crates assign to the sun the superior place, after him they place the moon, after them the fixed stars and planets.


Anaxagoras, Democritus, and Cleanthes say that all the stars have their motion from east to west. Alcmaeon and the mathematicians, that the planets have a contrary motion to the fixed stars, and in opposition to them are carried from the west to the east. Anaximander, that they are moved by those circles and spheres on which they are placed. Anaximenes, that they are turned under and about the earth. Plato and the mathematicians, that the sun, Venus, and Mercury have equal measures in their motions.


Metrodorus says that all the fixed stars derive their light from the sun. Heraclitus and the Stoics, that earthly exhalations are those by which the stars are nourished. Aristotle, that the heavenly bodies require no nutriment, for they being eternal cannot be obnoxious to corruption. Plato and the Stoics, that the whole world and the stars are fed by the same things.

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CHAPTER XVIII.: What are those stars which are called the dioscuri, the twins, or castor and pollux?

Xenophanes says that those which appear as stars in the tops of ships are little clouds shining by their peculiar motion. Metrodorus, that the eyes of frighted and astonished people emit those lights which are called the Twins.


Plato says that the summer and winter indications proceed from the rising and setting of the stars, that is, from the rising and setting of the sun, the moon, and the fixed stars. Anaximenes, that the others in this are not at all concerned, but that it is wholly performed by the sun. Eudoxus and Aratus assign it in common to all the stars, for thus Aratus sings:

  • Thund’ring Jove stars in heaven hath fixed,
  • And them in such beauteous order mixed,
  • Which yearly future things predict.


Anaximander says, that the sun is a circle eight and twenty times bigger than the earth, and has a circumference which very much resembles that of a chariot-wheel, which is hollow and full of fire; the fire of which appears to us through its mouth, as by a hole in a pipe; and this is the sun. Xenophanes, that the sun is constituted of small bodies of fire compact together and raised from a Edition: current; Page: [142] moist exhalation, which collected together make the body of the sun; or that it is a cloud enfired. The Stoics, that it is an intelligent flame proceeding from the sea. Plato, that it is composed of abundance of fire. Anaxagoras, Democritus, and Metrodorus, that it is an enfired stone, or a burning mass. Aristotle, that it is a sphere formed out of the fifth body. Philolaus the Pythagorean, that the sun shines as crystal, which receives its splendor from the fire of the world and so reflecteth its light upon us; so that first, the body of fire which is celestial belongs to the sun; and secondly, the fiery reflection that proceeds from it, in the form of a mirror; and lastly, the light which is spread upon us by way of reflection from that mirror; and this last we call the sun, which is (as it were) an image of an image. Empedocles, that there are two suns; the one the prototype, which is a fire placed in the other hemisphere, which it totally fills, and is always ordered in a direct opposition to the reflection of its own light; and the sun which is visible to us, formed by the reflection of that splendor in the other hemisphere (which is filled with air mixed with heat), the light reflected from the circular sun in the opposite hemisphere falling upon the crystalline sun; and this reflection is carried round with the motion of the fiery sun. To give briefly the full sense, the sun is nothing else but the light and brightness of that fire which encompasseth the earth. Epicurus, that it is an earthy bulk well compacted, with hollow passages like a pumice-stone or a sponge, which is kindled by fire.


Anaximander says, that the sun itself in greatness is equal to the earth, but that the circle from whence it Edition: current; Page: [143] receives its respiration and in which it is moved is seven and twenty times larger than the earth. Anaxagoras, that it is far greater than Peloponnesus. Heraclitus, that it is no broader than a man’s foot. Epicurus, that he equally embraceth all the foresaid opinions, — that the sun may be of magnitude as it appears, or it may be somewhat greater or somewhat less.


Anaximenes affirms that in its dilatation it resembles a leaf. Heraclitus, that it hath the shape of a boat, and is somewhat crooked. The Stoics, that it is spherical, and it is of the same figure with the world and the stars. Epicurus, that the recited dogmas may be defended.


Anaximenes thinks that the stars are forced by a condensed and resisting air. Anaxagoras, by the repelling force of the northern air, which is violently pushed on by the sun, and thus rendered more condensed and powerful. Empedocles, that the sun is hindered from a continual direct course by its spherical vehicle and by the two circular tropics. Diogenes, that the sun, when it comes to its utmost declination, is extinguished, a rigorous cold damping the heat. The Stoics, that the sun maintains its course only through that space in which its aliment is seated, let it be the ocean or the earth; by the exhalations proceeding from these it is nourished. Plato, Pythagoras, and Aristotle, that Edition: current; Page: [144] the sun receives a transverse motion from the obliquity of the zodiac, which is guarded by the tropics; all these the globe clearly manifests.


Thales was the first who affirmed that the eclipse of the sun was caused by the moon’s running in a perpendicular line between it and the earth; for the moon in its own nature is terrestrial. And by mirrors it is made perspicuous that, when the sun is eclipsed, the moon is in a direct line below it. Anaximander, that the sun is eclipsed when the fiery mouth of it is stopped and hindered from expiration. Heraclitus, that it is after the manner of the turning of a boat, when the concave appears uppermost to our sight, and the convex nethermost. Xenophanes, that the sun is eclipsed when it is extinguished; and that a new sun is created to rise in the east. He gives a farther account of an eclipse of the sun which remained for a whole month, and again of a total eclipse which changed the day into night. Some say that the cause of an eclipse is the invisible concourse of condensed clouds which cover the orb of the sun. Aristarchus placeth the sun amongst the fixed stars, and believeth that the earth [the moon?] is moved about the sun, and that by its inclination and vergency it intercepts its light and shadows its orb. Xenophanes, that there are many suns and many moons, according as the earth is distinguished by climates, circles, and zones. At some certain times the orb of the sun, falling upon some part of the world which is uninhabited, wanders in a vacuum and becomes eclipsed. The same person affirms that the sun, proceeding in its motion in the infinite space, appears to us to move orbicularly, receiving that representation from its infinite distance from us.

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Anaximander affirms that the circle of the moon is nineteen times bigger than the earth, and resembles the sun, its orb being full of fire; and it suffers an eclipse when the wheel turneth, — which he describes by the divers turnings of a chariot-wheel, in the midst of it there being a hollow replenished with fire, which hath but one way of expiration. Xenophanes, that it is a condensed cloud. The Stoics, that it is mixed of fire and air. Plato, that it is a body of the greatest part earthy. Anaxagoras and Democritus, that it is a solid, condensed, and fiery body, in which there are champaign countries, mountains, and valleys. Heraclitus, that it is an earth covered with a cloud. Pythagoras, that the body of the moon was of a nature like a mirror.


The Stoics declare, that in magnitude it exceeds the earth, as the sun itself doth. Parmenides, that it is equal to the sun, from whom it receives its light.


The Stoics believe that it is of the same figure with the sun, spherical. Empedocles, that the figure of it resembles a quoit. Heraclitus, a boat. Others, a cylinder.


Anaximander thinks that she gives light to herself, but Edition: current; Page: [146] it is very slender and faint. Antiphon, that the moon shines by its own proper light; but when it absconds itself, the solar beams darting on it obscure it. Thus it naturally happens, that a more vehement light puts out a weaker; the same is seen in other stars. Thales and his followers, that the moon borrows all her light of the sun. Heraclitus, that the sun and moon are after the same manner affected; in their configurations both are shaped like boats, and are made conspicuous to us, receiving their light from moist exhalations. The sun appears to us more refulgent, by reason it is moved in a clearer and purer air; the moon appears more duskish, it being carried in an air more troubled and gross.


Anaximenes believes that the mouth of the hollow wheel, about which the moon is turned, being stopped is the cause of an eclipse. Berosus, that it proceeds from the turning of the dark side of the lunar orb towards us. Heraclitus, that it is performed just after the manner of a boat turned upside downwards. Some of the Pythagoreans say, that the splendor arises from the earth, its obstruction from the Antichthon (or counter-earth). Some of the later philosophers, that there is such a distribution of the lunar flame, that it gradually and in a just order burns until it be full moon; in like manner, that this fire decays by degrees, until its conjunction with the sun totally extinguisheth it. Plato, Aristotle, the Stoics, and all the mathematicians agree in this, that the obscurity with which the moon is every month affected ariseth from a conjunction with the sun, by whose more resplendent beams she is darkened; and the moon is then eclipsed when she falls upon the shadow of the earth, the earth interposing between the sun Edition: current; Page: [147] and moon, or (to speak more properly) the earth intercepting the light of the moon.


The Pythagoreans say, that the moon appears to us terraneous, by reason it is inhabited as our earth is, and in it there are animals of a larger size and plants of a rarer beauty than our globe affords; that the animals in their virtue and energy are fifteen degrees superior to ours; that they emit nothing excrementitious; and that the days are fifteen times longer. Anaxagoras, that the reason of the inequality ariseth from the commixture of things earthy and cold; and that fiery and caliginous matter is jumbled together, whereby the moon is said to be a star of a counterfeit aspect. The Stoics, that by reason of the diversity of her substance the composition of her body is subject to corruption.


Empedocles affirms, that the distance of the moon from the sun is double her remoteness from the earth. The mathematicians, that her distance from the sun is eighteen times her distance from the earth. Eratosthenes, that the sun is remote from the earth seven hundred and eighty thousand furlongs.


The year of Saturn is completed when he has had his circulation in the space of thirty solar years; of Jupiter Edition: current; Page: [148] in twelve; of Mars in two, of the sun in twelve months; in so many Mercury and Venus, the spaces of their circulation being equal; of the moon in thirty days, in which time her course from her prime to her conjunction is finished. As to the great year, some make it to consist of eight years solar, some of nineteen, others of fifty-nine. Heraclitus, of eighteen thousand. Diogenes, of three hundred and sixty-five such years as Heraclitus assigns. Others there are who lengthen it to seven thousand seven hundred and seventy-seven years.


In my two precedent treatises having in due order taken a compendious view and given an account of the celestial bodies, and of the moon which divides between them and the terrestrial, I must now convert my pen to discourse in this third book of Meteors, which are beings above the earth and below the moon, and are extended to the site and position of the earth, which is supposed to be the centre of the sphere of this world; and from thence will I take my beginning.


It is a cloudy circle, which continually appears in the air, and by reason of the whiteness of its colors is called the galaxy, or the milky way. Some of the Pythagoreans say that, when Phaëton set the world on fire, a star falling from its own place in its circular passage through the region caused an inflammation. Others say that originally it was the first course of the sun; others, that it is an Edition: current; Page: [149] image as in a looking-glass, occasioned by the sun’s reflecting its beams towards the heavens, and this appears in the clouds and in the rainbow. Metrodorus, that it is merely the solar course, or the motion of the sun in its own circle. Parmenides, that the mixture of a thick and thin substance gives it a color which resembles milk. Anaxagoras, that the sun moving under the earth and not being able to enlighten every place, the shadow of the earth, being cast upon the part of the heavens, makes the galaxy. Democritus, that it is the splendor which ariseth from the coalition of many small bodies, which, being firmly united amongst themselves, do mutually enlighten one another. Aristotle, that it is the inflammation of dry, copious, and coherent exhalations, by which the fiery train, whose seat is beneath the ether and the planets, is produced. Posidonius, that it is a combination of fire, of rarer substance than the stars, but denser than light.


Some of the Pythagoreans say, that a comet is one of those stars which do not always appear, but after they have run through their determined course, they then rise and are visible to us. Others, that it is the reflection of our sight upon the sun, which gives the resemblance of comets much after the same manner as images are reflected in mirrors. Anaxagoras and Democritus, that two or more stars being in conjunction by their united light make a comet. Aristotle, that it is a fiery coalition of dry exhalations. Strato, that it is the light of the star darting through a thick cloud that hath invested it; this is seen in light shining through lanterns. Heraclides, native of Pontus, Edition: current; Page: [150] that it is a lofty cloud inflamed by a sublime fire. The like causes he assigns to the bearded comet, to those circles that are seen about the sun or stars, or those meteors which resemble pillars or beams, and all others which are of this kind. This way unanimously go all the Peripatetics, believing that these meteors, being formed by the clouds, do differ according to their various configurations. Epigenes, that a comet arises from an elevation of spirit or wind, mixed with an earthy substance and set on fire. Boëthus, that it is a phantasy presented to us by inflamed air. Diogenes, that comets are stars. Anaxagoras, that those styled shooting stars fall down from the ether like sparks, and therefore are soon extinguished. Metrodorus, that it is a forcible illapse of the sun upon clouds which makes them to sparkle as fire. Xenophanes, that all such fiery meteors are nothing else but the conglomeration of the enfired clouds, and the flashing motions of them.


Anaximander affirms that all these are produced by the wind after this manner: the wind being enclosed by condensed clouds, by reason of its minuteness and lightness it violently endeavors to make its passage; and in breaking through the cloud it gives the noise; and the rending the cloud, because of the blackness of it, gives a resplendent flame. Metrodorus, that when the wind falls upon a cloud whose densing firmly compacts it, by breaking the cloud it causeth a great noise, and by striking and rending the cloud it gives the flame; and in the swiftness of its motion, the sun imparting heat to it, it throws out the thunderbolt. The weak declining of the thunderbolt ends in a violent tempest. Edition: current; Page: [151] Anaxagoras, that when heat and cold meet and are mixed together (that is, ethereal parts with airy), thereby a great noise of thunder is produced, and the color seen against the blackness of the cloud causes the flashing of fire; the full and great splendor is lightning, the more enlarged and embodied fire becomes a whirlwind, the cloudiness of it gives the hurricane. The Stoics, that thunder is the clashing of clouds one upon another, the flash of lightning is their fiery inflammation; their more rapid splendor is the thunderbolt, the faint and weak the whirlwind. Aristotle, that all these proceed from dry exhalations, which, if they meet with moist vapors, force their passage, and the breaking of them gives the noise of thunder; they, being very dry, take fire and make lightning; tempests and hurricanes arise from the plenitude of matter which each draw to themselves, the hotter parts attracted make the whirlwinds, the duller the tempests.


Anaximenes thinks that by the air being very much condensed clouds are formed; this air being more compacted, rain is compressed through it; when water in its falling down freezeth, then snow is generated; when it is encompassed with a moist air, it is hail. Metrodorus, that a cloud is composed of a watery exhalation carried into a higher place. Epicurus, that they are made of vapors; and that hail and rain are formed in a round figure, being in their long descent pressed upon by the circumambient air.


Those things which affect the air in the superior places of it are of two sorts. Some have a real subsistence, such Edition: current; Page: [152] are rain and hail; others not. Those which enjoy not a proper subsistence are only in appearance; of this sort is the rainbow. Thus the continent to us that sail seems to be in motion.

Plato says, that men admiring it feigned that it took origination from one Thaumas, which word signifies admiration. Homer says:

  • Jove paints the rainbow with a purple dye,
  • Alluring man to cast his wandering eye.*

Others therefore fabled that the bow hath a head like a bull, by which it swallows up rivers.

But what is the cause of the rainbow? It is evident that what apparent things we see come to our eyes in right or in crooked lines, or by reflection: these last are incorporeal and to sense obscure, but to reason they are obvious. Those which are seen in right lines are those which we see through the air or horn or transparent stones, for all the parts of these things are very fine and tenuious; but those which appear in crooked lines are in water, the thickness of the water presenting them bended to our sight. This is the reason that oars in themselves straight, when put into the sea, appear to us crooked. The third manner of our seeing is by reflection, and this is perspicuous by mirrors. After this third sort the rainbow is affected. We conceive it is a moist exhalation converted into a cloud, and in a short space it is dissolved into small and moist drops. The sun declining towards the west, it will necessarily follow that the whole bow is seen opposite to the sun; for the eye being directed to those drops receives a reflection, and by this means the bow is formed. The eye doth not consider the figure and form, but the color of these drops; the first of which colors is a shining red, the second a purple, the third is blue and green. Let us consider whether the reason of this shining red color be the splendor Edition: current; Page: [153] of the sun falling upon these small drops, the whole body of light being reflected, by which this bright red color is produced; the second part being troubled, and the light languishing in the drops, the color becomes purple (for the purple is the faint red); but the third part, being more and more troubled, is changed into the green color. And this is proved by other effects of Nature; if any one shall put water in his mouth and spit it out so opposite to the sun that its rays may be reflected on the drops, he shall see the resemblance of a rainbow; the same appears to men that are blear-eyed, when they fix their watery eyes upon a candle.

Anaximenes thinks the bow is thus formed; the sun casting its splendor upon a thick, black, and gross cloud, and the rays not being in a capacity to penetrate beyond the superficies. Anaxagoras, that, the solar rays being reflected from a condensed cloud, the sun being placed directly opposite to it forms the bow after the mode of the repercussion of a mirror; after the same manner he assigns the natural cause of the Parhelia or mock-suns, which are often seen in Pontus. Metrodorus, that when the sun casts its splendor through a cloud, the cloud gives itself a blue, and the light a red color.


These rods and the mock-suns are constituted of a double nature, a real subsistence, and a mere appearance; — of a real subsistence, because the clouds are the object of our eyes; of a mere appearance, for their proper color is not seen, but that which is adventitious. The like affections, natural and adventitious, in all such things do happen.

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Anaximander believes that wind is a fluid air, the sun putting into motion or melting the moist subtle parts of it. The Stoics, that all winds are a flowing air, and from the diversity of the regions whence they have their origin receive their denomination; as, from darkness and the west the western wind; from the sun and its rising the eastern; from the north the northern, and from the south the southern winds. Metrodorus, that moist vapors heated by the sun are the cause of the impetuousness of violent winds. The Etesian, or those winds which annually commence about the rising of the Little Dog, the air about the northern pole being more compacted, blow vehemently following the sun when he returns from the summer solstice.


Empedocles and the Stoics believe that winter is caused by the thickness of the air prevailing and mounting upwards; and summer by fire, it falling downwards.

This description being given by me of Meteors, or those things that are above us, I must pass to those things which are terrestrial.


Thales and his followers say that there is but one earth. Hicetes the Pythagorean, that there are two earths, this Edition: current; Page: [155] and the Antichthon, or the earth opposite to it. The Stoics, that this earth is one, and that finite and limited. Xenophanes, that the earth, being compacted of fire and air, in its lowest parts hath laid a foundation in an infinite depth. Metrodorus, that the earth is mere sediment and dregs of water, as the sun is of the air.


Thales, the Stoics, and their followers say that the earth is globular. Anaximander, that it resembles a smooth stony pillar. Anaximenes, that it hath the shape of a table. Leucippus, of a drum. Democritus, that it is like a quoit in its surface, and hollow in the middle.


The disciples of Thales say that the earth is the centre of the universe. Xenophanes, that it is first, being rooted in the infinite space. Philolaus the Pythagorean gives to fire the middle place, and this is the hearth-fire of the universe; the second place to the Antichthon; the third to that earth which we inhabit, which is seated in opposition unto and whirled about the opposite, — which is the reason that those which inhabit that earth cannot be seen by us. Parmenides was the first that confined the habitable world to the two solstitial (or temperate) zones.


Leucippus affirms that the earth vergeth towards the southern parts, by reason of the thinness and fineness that Edition: current; Page: [156] is in the south; the northern parts are more compacted, they being congealed by a rigorous cold, but those parts of the world that are opposite are enfired. Democritus, because, the southern parts of the atmosphere being the weaker, the earth as it enlarges bends towards the south; the northern parts are of an unequal, the southern of an equal temperament; and this is the reason that the earth bends towards those parts where the earth is laden with fruits and its own increase.


Most of the philosophers say that the earth remains fixed in the same place. Philolaus the Pythagorean, that it is moved about the element of fire, in an oblique circle, after the same manner of motion that the sun and moon have. Heraclides of Pontus and Ecphantus the Pythagorean assign a motion to the earth, but not progressive, but after the manner of a wheel being carried on its own axis; thus the earth (they say) turns itself upon its own centre from west to east. Democritus, that when the earth was first formed it had a motion, the parts of it being small and light; but in process of time the parts of it were condensed, so that by its own weight it was poised and fixed.


Pythagoras says that, as the celestial sphere is distributed into five zones, into the same number is the terrestrial; which zones are the arctic and antarctic, the summer and winter tropics (or temperate zones), and Edition: current; Page: [157] the equinoctial; the middle of which zones equally divides the earth and constitutes the torrid zone; but that part which is in the middle of the summer and winter tropics is habitable, by reason the air is there temperate.


Thales and Democritus assign the cause of earthquakes to water. The Stoics say that it is a moist vapor contained in the earth, making an irruption into the air, that makes the earthquake. Anaximenes, that the dryness and rarety of the earth are the cause of earthquakes, the one of which is produced by extreme drought, the other by immoderate showers. Anaxagoras, that the air endeavoring to make a passage out of the earth, meeting with a thick superficies, is not able to force its way, and so shakes the circumambient earth with a trembling. Aristotle, that a cold vapor encompassing every part of the earth prohibits the evacuation of vapors; for those which are hot, being in themselves light, endeavor to force a passage upwards, by which means the dry exhalations, being left in the earth, use their utmost endeavor to make a passage out, and being wedged in, they suffer various circumvolutions and shake the earth. Metrodorus, that whatsoever is in its own place is incapable of motion, except it be pressed upon or drawn by the operation of another body; the earth being so seated cannot naturally be removed, yet divers parts and places of the earth may move one upon another. Parmenides and Democritus, that the earth being so equally poised hath no sufficient cause why it should incline rather to one side than to the other; so that it may be shaken, but cannot be removed. Anaximenes, that the earth by reason of its latitude is borne Edition: current; Page: [158] upon the air which presseth upon it. Others opine that the earth swims upon the waters, as boards and broad planks, and by that reason is moved. Plato, that motion is by six manner of ways, upwards, downwards, on the right-hand and on the left, behind and before; therefore it is not possible that the earth should be moved in any of these modes, for it is altogether seated in the lowest place; it therefore cannot receive a motion, since there is nothing about it so peculiar as to make it incline any way; but some parts of it are so rare and thin that they are capable of motion. Epicurus, that the possibility of the earth’s motion ariseth from a thick and aqueous air beneath the earth, which may, by moving or pushing it, be capable of its quaking; or that being so compassed, and having many passages, it is shaken by the wind which is dispersed through the hollow dens of it.


Anaximander affirms that the sea is the remainder of the primogenial humidity, the greatest part of which being dried up by the fire, the influence of the great heat altered its quality. Anaxagoras, that in the beginning water did not flow, but was as a standing pool; and that it was burnt by the motion of the sun about it, by which the oily part of the water being exhaled, the residue became salt and bitter. Empedocles, that the sea is the sweat of the earth burnt by the sun. Antiphon, that the sweat of that which was hot was separated from the other parts which were moist; these by seething and boiling became bitter, as happens in all sweats. Metrodorus, that the sea was strained through the earth, and retained some part of the Edition: current; Page: [159] density thereof; the same is observed in all those things which are strained through ashes. The schools of Plato, that the element of water being compacted by the rigor of the air became sweet, but that part which was exhaled from the earth, being enfired, became of a brackish taste.


Aristotle and Heraclides say, they proceed from the sun, which moves and whirls about the winds; and these falling with a violence upon the Atlantic, it is pressed and swells by them, by which means the sea flows; and their impression ceasing, the sea retracts, hence they ebb. Pytheas the Massilian, that the fulness of the moon gives the flow, the wane the ebb. Plato attributes it all to a certain oscillation of the sea, which by means of a mouth or orifice causes the alternate ebb and flow; and by this means the seas do rise and flow contrarily. Timaeus believes that those rivers which fall from the mountains of the Celtic Gaul into the Atlantic produce a tide. For upon their entering upon that sea, they violently press upon it, and so cause the flow; but they disemboguing themselves, there is a cessation of the impetuousness, by which means the ebb is produced. Seleucus the mathematician attributes a motion to the earth; and thus he pronounceth that the moon in its circumlation meets and repels the earth in its motion; between these two, the earth and the moon, there is a vehement wind raised and intercepted, which rushes upon the Atlantic Ocean, and gives us a probable argument that it is the cause the sea is troubled and moved.

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The halo or circle is thus formed. A thick and dark air intervening between the moon or any other star and our eye, by which means our sight is dilated and reflected, when now our sight is incident upon the outward circumference of the orb of that star, there presently seems a circle to appear. This circle thus appearing is called the ἅλως or halo; and there is constantly such a circle seen by us, when such a density of sight happens.


Having taken a survey of the general parts of the world, I will take a view of the particular members of it.


Thales conjectures that the Etesian or anniversary northern winds blowing strongly against Egypt heighten the swelling of the Nile, the mouth of that river being obstructed by the force of the sea rushing into it. Euthymenes the Massilian concludes that the Nile is filled by the ocean and that sea which is outward from it, this being naturally sweet. Anaxagoras, that the snow in Ethiopia which is frozen in winter is melted in summer, and this makes the inundation. Democritus, that the snows which are in the northern climates when the sun enters the summer solstice are dissolved and diffused; from those vapors clouds are compacted, and these are forcibly driven by the Edition: current; Page: [161] Etesian winds into the southern parts and into Egypt, from whence violent showers are poured; and by this means the fens of Egypt are filled with water, and the river Nile hath its inundation. Herodotus the historian, that the waters of the Nile receive from their fountain an equal portion of water in winter and in summer; but in winter the water appears less, because the sun, making its approach nearer to Egypt, draws up the rivers of that country into exhalations. Ephorus the historiographer, that in summer all Egypt seems to be melted and sweats itself into water, to which the thin and sandy soils of Arabia and Lybia contribute. Eudoxus relates that the Egyptian priests affirm that, when it is summer to us who dwell under the northern tropic, it is winter with them that inhabit under the southern tropic; by this means there is a various contrariety and opposition of the seasons in the year, which cause such showers to fall as make the water to overflow the banks of the Nile and diffuse itself throughout all Egypt.


Thales first pronounced that the soul is that being which is in a perpetual motion, or that whose motion proceeds from itself. Pythagoras, that it is a number moving itself; he takes a number to be the same thing with a mind. Plato, that it is an intellectual substance moving itself, and that motion is in a numerical harmony. Aristotle, that it is the first actuality (ἐντελέχεια) of a natural organical body which has life potentially; and this actuality must be understood to be the same thing with energy or operation. Dicaearchus, that it is the harmony of the four elements. Asclepiades the physician, that it is the concurrent exercitation of the senses.

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All those that have been named by me do affirm that the soul itself is incorporeal, and by its own nature is in a perpetual motion, and in its own essence is an intelligent substance, and the actuality of a natural organical body which has life. The followers of Anaxagoras, that it is airy and a body. The Stoics, that it is a hot breath. Democritus, that it is a fiery composition of things which are perceptible by reason, the same having their forms spherical and without an inflaming faculty; and it is a body. Epicurus, that it is constituted of four qualities, of a fiery quality, of an aerial quality, a pneumatical, and of a fourth quality which hath no name, but it contains the virtue of the sense. Heraclitus, that the soul of the world is the exhalation which proceeds from the moist parts of it; but the soul of animals, arising from exhalations that are exterior and from those that are within them, is homogeneous to it.


Plato and Pythagoras, according to their former account distribute the soul into two parts, the rational and irrational. By a more accurate and strict account the soul is branched into three parts; they divide the unreasonable part into the concupiscible and the irascible. The Stoics say the soul is constituted of eight parts; five of which are the senses, hearing, seeing, tasting, touching, smelling, the sixth is the faculty of speaking, the seventh of generating, the eighth of commanding; this is the principal of all, by which all the other are guided and ordered in their Edition: current; Page: [163] proper organs, as we see the arms of a polypus aptly disposed. Democritus and Epicurus divide the soul into two parts, the rational, which hath its residence in the breast, and the irrational, which is diffused through the whole structure of the body. Democritus, that the quality of the soul is communicated to every thing, yea, to the dead corpses; for they are partakers of heat and some sense, when the most of both is expired out of them.


Plato and Democritus place its residence in the whole head. Strato, in that part of the forehead where the eyebrows are separated. Erasistratus, in the Epikranis, or membrane which involves the brain. Herophilus, in that sinus of the brain which is the basis of it. Parmenides, in the whole breast; which opinion is embraced by Epicurus. The Stoics are generally of this opinion, that the seat of the soul is throughout the heart, or in the spirit which is about it. Diogenes, in the arterial ventricle of the heart, which is also filled with vital spirit. Empedocles, in the mass of the blood. There are that say it is in the neck of the heart, others in the pericardium, others in the midriff. Certain of the Neoterics, that the seat of the soul is extended from the head to the diaphragm. Pythagoras, that the animal part of the soul resides in the heart, the intellectual in the head.


Plato believes that the soul is in perpetual motion, but that the mind is immovable with respect to motion from Edition: current; Page: [164] place to place. Aristotle, that the soul is not naturally moved, but its motion is accidental, resembling that which is in the forms of bodies.


Plato and Pythagoras say that the soul is immortal; when it departs out of the body, it retreats to the soul of the world, which is a being of the same nature with it. The Stoics, when the souls leave the bodies, they are carried to divers places; the souls of the unlearned and ignorant descend to the coagmentation of earthly things, but the learned and vigorous endure till the general fire. Epicurus and Democritus, the soul is mortal, and it perisheth with the body. Plato and Pythagoras, that part of the soul of man which is rational is eternal; for though it be not God, yet it is the product of an eternal Deity; but that part of the soul which is divested of reason dies.


The Stoics give this definition of sense: Sense is the apprehension or comprehension of an object by means of an organ. There are several ways of expressing what sense is; it is either a habit, a faculty, an operation, or an imagination which apprehends by means of an organ of sense, — and also the eighth principal thing, from whence the senses are derived. The instruments of sense are intelligent spirits, which from the said commanding part reach unto all the organs of the body. Epicurus, Edition: current; Page: [165] that sense is a faculty, and that which is perceived by the sense is the product of it; so that sense hath a double acceptation, — sense which is the faculty, and the thing received by the sense, which is the effect. Plato, that sense is that commerce which the soul and body have with those things that are exterior to them; the power of which is from the soul, the organ by which is from the body; but both of them apprehend exterior objects by means of the imagination. Leucippus and Democritus, that sense and intelligence arise from external images; so neither of them can operate without the assistance of an image falling upon us.


The Stoics say that what the senses represent is true, what the imagination, is partly false, partly true. Epicurus, that every impression which either the sense or fancy gives us is true, but of those things that fall under the account of opinion, some are true, some false: sense gives us a false representation of those things only which are the objects of our understanding; but the fancy gives us a double error, both of things sensible and things intellectual. Empedocles and Heraclides, that the senses perceive by a just accommodation of the pores in every case; every thing that is perceived by the sense being congruously adapted to its proper organ.


The Stoics say that there are five senses properly so called, seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting, and touching. Edition: current; Page: [166] Aristotle indeed doth not add a sixth sense; but he assigns a common sense, which is the judge of all compounded species; into this each sense casts its proper representation, in which is discovered a transition of one thing into another, like as we see in figure and motion where there is a change of one into another. Democritus, that there are several species of senses, which appertain to beings destitute of reason, to the Gods, and to wise men.


The Stoics affirm that every man, as soon as he is born, has the principal and commanding part of his soul, which is in him like a sheet of writing-paper, to which he commits all his notions. The first manner of his inscribing is by denoting those notions which flow from the senses. Suppose it be of a thing that is white; when the present sense of it is vanished, there is yet retained the remembrance; when many memorative notions of the same similitude do concur, then he is said to have an experience; for experience is nothing else but the abundance of notions that are of the same form met together. Some of these notions are naturally begotten according to the aforesaid manner, without the assistance of art; the others are produced by discipline, learning, and industry; these only are properly called notions, the others are prenotions. But reason, which gives us the denomination of rational, is completed by prenotions in the first seven years. The conception of the mind is the vision that the intelligence of a rational animal hath received; when that vision falls upon the rational soul, then it is called the conception of the mind, for it hath derived its name from Edition: current; Page: [167] the mind (ἐννόημα from νοῦς). Therefore these visions are not to be found in any other animals; they are appropriated only to Gods and to us men. If these we consider generally, they are phantasms; if specifically, they are notions. As pence or staters, if you consider them according to their own value, are merely pence and staters; but if you give them as a price for a naval voyage, they are called not merely pence, &c., but your fraught.


Chrysippus affirms, these four are different one from another. Imagination (he says) is that passion raised in the soul which discovers itself and that which was the efficient of it; for example, after the eye hath looked upon a thing that is white, the sight of which produceth in the mind a certain impression, this gives us reason to conclude that the object of this impression is white, which affecteth us. So is it with touching and smelling.

Phantasy or imagination is denominated from φῶς, which denotes light; for as light discovers itself and all other things which it illuminates, so this imagination discovers itself and that which is the cause of it. The imaginable is the efficient cause of imagination; as any thing that is white, or any thing that is cold, or every thing that may make an impression upon the imagination. Fancy is a vain impulse upon the mind of man, proceeding from nothing which is really imaginable; this is experienced in those that whirl about their idle hands and fight with shadows; for to the imagination there is always some real imaginable thing presented, which is the efficient cause of it; but to the fancy nothing. A phantom is that to which we are Edition: current; Page: [168] led by such a fanciful and vain attraction; this is to be seen in melancholy and distracted persons. Of this sort was Orestes in the tragedy, pronouncing these words:

  • Mother, these maids with horror me affright;
  • Oh hurl them not, I pray, into my sight!
  • They’re smeared with blood, and cruel, dragon-like,
  • Skipping about with deadly fury strike.

These rave as frantic persons, they see nothing, and yet imagine they see. Thence Electra thus returns to him:

  • O wretched man, securely sleep in bed;
  • Nothing thou seest, thy fancy’s vainly led.*

After the same manner Theoclymenus in Homer.


Democritus and Epicurus suppose that sight is caused by the insinuation of little images into the visive organ, and by the entrance of certain rays which return to the eye after striking upon the object. Empedocles supposes that images are mixed with the rays of the eye; these he styles the rays of images. Hipparchus, that the visual rays extend from both the eyes to the superficies of bodies, and give to the sight the apprehension of those same bodies, after the same manner in which the hand touching the extremity of bodies gives the sense of feeling. Plato, that the sight is the splendor of united rays; there is a light which reaches some distance from the eyes into a congruous air, and there is likewise a light emitted from bodies, which meets and is joined with the fiery visual light in the intermediate air (which is liquid and mutable); and the conjunction of these rays gives the sense of seeing. This is Plato’s corradiancy, or splendor of united rays.

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Empedocles says that these images are caused by certain effluvias which, meeting together and insisting upon the superficies of the mirror, are perfected by that fiery quality emitted by the said mirror, which transmutes withal the air that surrounds it. Democritus and Epicurus, that the specular appearances are formed by the subsistence of the images which flow from our eyes; these fall upon the mirror and remain, while the light rebounds to the eye. The followers of Pythagoras explain it by the reflection of the sight; for our sight being extended (as it were) to the brass, and meeting with the smooth dense surface thereof it is struck back, and caused to return upon itself: the same appears in the hand, when it is stretched out and then brought back again to the shoulder. Any one may apply these instances to explain the manner of seeing.


The Stoics say that darkness is seen by us, for out of our eyes there issues out some light into it; and our eyes do not impose upon us, for they really perceive there is darkness. Chrysippus says that we see darkness by the striking of the intermediate air; for the visual spirits which proceed from the principal part of the soul and reach to the ball of the eye pierce this air, which, after they have made those strokes upon it, presses conically on the surrounding air, where this is homogeneous. For from the eyes those rays are poured forth which are neither black nor cloudy. Upon this account darkness is visible to us.

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Empedocles says that hearing is formed by the insidency of the air upon the spiral, which it is said hangs within the ear as a bell, and is beat upon by the air. Alcmaeon, that the vacuity that is within the ear makes us to have the sense of hearing, for the air forcing a vacuum gives the sound; every inanity affords a ringing. Diogenes, the air which is in the head, being struck upon by the voice, gives the hearing. Plato and his followers, the air which exists in the head being struck upon, is reflected to the principal part of the soul, and this causeth the sense of hearing.


Alcmaeon believes that the principal part of the soul, residing in the brain, draws to itself odors by respiration. Empedocles, that scents insert themselves into the breathing of the lungs; for, when there is a great difficulty in breathing, odors are not perceived by reason of the sharpness; and this we experience in those who have the defluxion of rheum.


Alcmaeon says that a moist warmth in the tongue, joined with the softness of it, gives the difference of taste. Diogenes, that by the softness and sponginess of the tongue, and because the veins of the body are joined in it, tastes Edition: current; Page: [171] are diffused by the tongue; for they are attracted from it to that sense and to the commanding part of the soul, as from a sponge.


Plato thus defines a voice, — that it is a breath drawn by the mind through the mouth, and a blow given to the air and through the ear, brain, and blood transmitted to the soul. Voice is abusively attributed to irrational and inanimate beings; thus we improperly call the neighing of horses or any other sound by the name of voice. But properly a voice (φωνή) is an articulate sound, which illustrates (φωτίζει) the understanding of man. Epicurus says that it is an efflux emitted from things that are vocal, or that give sounds or great noises; this is broken into those fragments which are after the same configuration. Like figures are round figures with round, and irregular and triangular with those of the same nature. These falling upon the ears produce the sense of hearing. This is seen in leaking vessels, and in fullers when they fan or blow their cloths.

Democritus, that the air is broken into bodies of similar configuration, and these are rolled up and down with the fragments of the voice; as it is proverbially said, One daw lights with another, or, God always brings like to like. Thus we see upon the shore, that stones like to one another are found in the same place, in one place the long-shaped, in another the round are seen. So in sieves, things that are of the same form meet together, but those that are different are divided; as pulse and beans falling from the same sieve are separated one from another. To this it may be objected: How can some fragments of air fill a theatre in Edition: current; Page: [172] which there is an infinite company of persons? The Stoics, that the air is not composed of small fragments, but is a continued body and nowhere admits a vacuum; and being struck with the breath, it is infinitely moved in waves and in right circles, until it fill that air which invests it; as we see in a fish-pool which we smite by a falling stone cast upon it; yet the air is moved spherically, the water orbicularly. Anaxagoras says a voice is then formed, when upon a solid air the breath is incident, which being repercussed is carried to the ears; after the same manner the echo is produced.


Pythagoras, Plato, and Aristotle say that the voice is incorporeal; for it is not the air that makes the voice, but the figure which compasseth the air and its superficies, having received a stroke, give the voice. But every superficies of itself is incorporeal. True it is that it moveth with the body, but of itself it hath no body; as we perceive in a staff that is bended, the matter only admits of an inflection, while the superficies doth not. According to the Stoics, a voice is corporeal, since every thing that is an agent or operates is a body; a voice acts and operates, for we hear it and are sensible of it; for it falls and makes an impression on the ear, as a seal of a ring gives its similitude upon the wax. Moreover, every thing that creates a delight or molestation is a body; harmonious music affects with delight, but discord is tiresome. And every thing that is moved is a body; and the voice moves, and having its illapse upon smooth places is reflected, as when a ball is cast against a wall it rebounds. A voice spoken in the Edition: current; Page: [173] Egyptian pyramids is so broken, that it gives four or five echoes.


The Stoics say that the highest part of the soul is the commanding part of it: this is the cause of sense, imagination, consents, and desires; and this we call the rational part. From this principal and commander there are produced seven parts of the soul, which are spread through the body, as the seven arms in a polypus. Of these seven parts, five are assigned to the senses, seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting, touching. Sight is a spirit which is extended from the commanding part to the eyes; hearing is that spirit which from the principal reacheth to the ears; smelling a spirit drawn from the principal to the nostrils; tasting a spirit extended from the principal to the tongue; touching is a spirit which from the principal is drawn to the extremity of those bodies which are obnoxious to a sensible touch. Of the rest, the one called the spermatical is a spirit which reacheth from the principal to the generating vessels; the other, which is the vocal and termed the voice, is a spirit extended from the principal to the throat, tongue, and other proper organs of speaking. And this principal part itself hath that place in our spherical head which God hath in the world.


Empedocles thinks, that the first breath the first animal drew was when the moisture in unborn infants was separated, Edition: current; Page: [174] and by that means an entrance was given to the external air into the gaping vessels, the moisture in them being evacuated. After this the natural heat, in a violent force pressing upon the external air for a passage, begets an expiration; but this heat returning to the inward parts, and the air giving way to it, causeth an inspiration. The respiration that now is arises when the blood is carried to the exterior surface, and by this fluxion drives the airy substance through the nostrils; thus in its recess it causeth expiration, but the air being again forced into those places which are emptied of blood, it causeth an inspiration. To evince which, he proposeth the instance of a water-clock, which gives the account of time by the running of water.

Asclepiades supposeth the lungs to be in the manner of a tunnel, and maketh the cause of breathing to be the fineness of the inward parts of the breast; for thither the outward air which is more gross hastens, but is forced backward, the breast not being capable either to receive or want it. But there being always some of the more tenuous parts of the air left, so that all of it is not exploded, to that which there remains the more ponderous external air with equal violence is forced; and this he compares to cupping-glasses. All spontaneous breathings are formed by the contracting of the smaller pores of the lungs, and to the closing up of the pipes in the neck; for these are at our command.

Herophilus attributes a moving faculty to the nerves, arteries, and muscles, but believes that the lungs are affected only with a natural desire of enlarging and contracting themselves. Farther, there is the first operation of the lungs by attraction of the outward air, which is drawn in because of the abundance of the external air. Next to this, there is a second natural appetite of the lungs; the breast, pouring in upon itself the breath, and being filled, is no longer able to make an attraction, and throws the superfluity Edition: current; Page: [175] of it upon the lungs, whereby it is in turn sent forth by way of expiration; the parts of the body mutually concurring to this function by the alternate participation of fulness and emptiness. So that to lungs pertain four motions; — first, when the lungs receive the outward air; secondly, when the outward air thus entertained is transmitted to the breast; thirdly, when the lungs again receive that air which they imparted to the breast; fourthly, when this air then received from the breast is thrown outwards. Of these four motions two are dilatations, one when the lungs attract the external air, another when the breast dischargeth itself of it upon the lungs; two are contractions, one when the breast draws into itself the air, the second when it expels this which was insinuated into it. The breast admits only of two motions; — of dilatation, when it draws from the lungs the breath, and of contraction, when it returns what it did receive.


The Stoics say that all the passions are seated in those parts of the body which are affected, the senses have their residence in the commanding part of the soul. Epicurus, that all the passions and all the senses are in those parts which are affected, but the commanding part is subject to no passion. Strato, that all the passions and senses of the soul are in the rational or commanding part of it, and are not fixed in those places which are affected; for in this part patience takes its residence, and this is apparent in terrible and dolorous things, as also in timorous and valiant persons.

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Plato and the Stoics introduce divination as a divine enthusiasm, the soul itself being of a divine constitution, and this prophetic faculty being an inspiration, or an illapse of the divine knowledge into man; and so likewise they explain interpretation by dreams. And these same admit many divisions of the art of divination. Xenophanes and Epicurus utterly refuse any such art of foretelling future contingencies. Pythagoras rejects all manner of divination which is by sacrifices. Aristotle and Dicaearchus admit only these two kinds of it, a fury by a divine inspiration, and dreams; they deny the immortality of the soul, yet they affirm that the mind of man hath a participation of something that is divine.


Democritus says that dreams are formed by the illapse of adventitious representations. Strato, that the irrational part of the soul in sleep becoming more sensible is moved by the rational part of it. Herophilus, that dreams which are caused by divine instinct have a necessary cause; but dreams which have their origin from a natural cause arise from the soul’s forming within itself the images of those things which are convenient for it, and which will happen; those dreams which are of a constitution mixed of both these have their origin from the fortuitous appulse of images, as when we see those things which please us; thus it happens many times to those persons who in their sleep imagine they embrace their mistresses.

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Aristotle says, that seed is that thing which contains in itself a power of moving, whereby it is enabled to produce a being like unto that from whence it was emitted. Pythagoras, that seed is the sediment of that which nourisheth us, the froth of the purest blood, of the same nature as the blood and marrow of our bodies. Alcmaeon, that it is a part of the brain. Plato, that it is the deflux of the spinal marrow. Epicurus, that it is a fragment torn from the body and soul. Democritus, that it proceeds from all the parts of the body, and chiefly from the principal parts, as the flesh and muscles.


Leucippus and Zeno say, that it is a body and a fragment of the soul. Pythagoras, Plato, and Aristotle, that the spermatic faculty is incorporeal, as the mind is which moves the body; but the effused matter is corporeal. Strato and Democritus, that the very power is a body; for it is like spirit.


Pythagoras, Epicurus, and Democritus say, that women have a seminal projection, but their spermatic vessels are inverted; and it is this that makes them have a venereal appetite. Aristotle and Plato, that they emit a material moisture, as sweat we see produced by exercise and labor; but that moisture has no spermatic power. Hippo, that Edition: current; Page: [178] women have a seminal emission, but not after the mode of men; it contributes nothing to generation, for it falls without the matrix; and therefore some women without coition, especially widows, give the seed. The same also asserts that from men the bones, from women the flesh proceeds.


Aristotle says, that conception takes place when the womb is drawn forward by the natural purgation, and the monthly terms attract from the whole bulk part of the purest blood, and this is met by the genital seed of man. On the contrary, there is a failure by the impurity and inflation of the womb, by the passions of fear and grief, by the weakness of women, or the decay of strength in men.


Empedocles affirms, that heat and cold give the difference in the generation of males and females. Hence is it, as histories acquaint us, that the first men had their original from the earth in the eastern and southern parts, and the first females in the northern parts thereof. Parmenides is of opinion perfectly contrariant. He affirms that men first sprouted out of the northern earth, for their bodies are more dense; women out of the southern, for theirs are more rare and fine. Hippo, that the more compacted and strong sperm, and the more fluid and weak, discriminate the sexes. Anaxagoras and Parmenides, that the seed of the man is naturally cast from his right side into the right side of the womb, or from the left side of Edition: current; Page: [179] the man into the left side of the womb; when there is an alteration in this course of nature, females are generated. Cleophanes, whom Aristotle makes mention of, assigns the generation of men to the right testicle, of women to the left. Leucippus gives the reason of it to the alteration or diversity of parts, according to which the man hath a yard, the female the matrix; as to any other reason he is silent. Democritus, that the parts which are common to both sexes are engendered indifferently by one or the other; but the peculiar parts by the one that is more prevalent. Hippo, that if the spermatic faculty be more effectual, the male, if the nutritive aliment, the female is generated.


Empedocles believes that monsters receive their origination from the abundance or defect of seed, or from its division into parts which are superabundant, or from some perturbation in the motion, or else that there is an error by a lapse into an improper receptacle; and thus he presumes he hath given all the causes of monstrous conceptions. Strato, that it comes from addition, subtraction, or transposition of the seed, or the distension or inflation of the matrix. And some physicians say that the matrix suffers distortion, being distended with wind.


Diocles the physician says that either no genital sperm is projected, or, if there be, it is in a less quantity than Edition: current; Page: [180] nature requires, or there is no prolific faculty in it; or there is a deficiency of a due proportion of heat, cold, moisture, and dryness; or there is a resolution of the generative parts. The Stoics attribute sterility to the obliquity of the yard, by which means it is not able to ejaculate in a due manner, or to the unproportionable magnitude of the parts, the matrix being so contracted as not to be in a capacity to receive. Erasistratus assigns it to the womb’s being more callous or more carneous, thinner or smaller, than nature does require.


Empedocles affirms, that the superabundance of sperm and the division of it causes the bringing forth of two or three infants. Asclepiades, that it is performed from the excellent quality of the sperm, after the manner that from the root of one barleycorn two or three stalks do grow; sperm that is of this quality is the most prolific. Erasistratus, that superfetation may happen to women as to irrational creatures; for, if the womb be well purged and very clean, then there may be divers births. The Stoics, that it ariseth from the various receptacles that are in the womb: when the seed illapses into the first and second of them at once, then there are conceptions upon conception; and so two or three infants are born.


Empedocles says, that the similitude of children to their parents proceeds from the vigorous prevalency of the Edition: current; Page: [181] generating sperm; the dissimilitude from the evaporation of the natural heat contained in the same. Parmenides, that when the sperm descends from the right side of the womb, then the infant gives the resemblance of the father; if from the left, it is stamped with the similitude of the mother. The Stoics, that the whole body and soul give the sperm; and hence arise the resemblances in the characters and figures of the children, as a painter in his copy imitates the colors which are in the picture before him. Women have a concurrent emission of seed; if the feminine seed have the predominancy, then the child resembles the mother; if the masculine, the father.


The greatest part of physicians affirm, that this happens casually and fortuitously; for, when the sperm of the man and woman is too much refrigerated, then children carry a dissimilitude to their parents. Empedocles, that a woman’s imagination when she conceives impresses a shape upon the infant; for women have been enamored with images and statues, and the children which were born of them gave their similitudes. The Stoics, that the resemblances flow from the sympathy and consent of minds, by the insertion of effluvias and rays, not of images or pictures.


The physicians maintain, that sterility in women may arise from the womb; for if it be after any ways thus Edition: current; Page: [182] affected, there will be barrenness, — if it be more condensed, or more spongy, or more hardened, or more callous, or more carneous; or it may be from low spirits, or from an atrophy or vicious distemper of body; or, lastly, it may arise from a twisted or distorted configuration. Diocles holds that the sterility in men ariseth from some of these causes, — either that they cannot at all ejaculate any sperm, or if they do, it is less than nature doth require, or else there is no generative faculty in the sperm, or the genital members are flagging; or from the obliquity of the yard. The Stoics attribute the cause of sterility to the contrariant qualities and dispositions of those who lie with one another; but if it chance that these persons are separated, and there happen a conjunction of those who are of a suitable temperament, then there is a commixture according to nature, and by this means an infant is formed.


Alcmaeon says, that the barrenness of the male mules ariseth from the thinness of the genital sperm, that is, the seed is too chill; the female mules are barren, for their womb does not open its mouth (as he expresses it). Empedocles, the matrix of the mule is so small, so depressed, so narrow, so invertedly growing to the belly, that the sperm cannot be regularly cast into it, and if it could, there would be no capacity to receive it. Diocles concurs in this opinion with him; for, saith he, in our anatomical dissection of mules we have seen that their matrices are of such configurations; and it is possible that there may be the same reason why some women are barren.

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Plato says, that the embryo is an animal; for, being contained in the mother’s womb, motion and aliment are imparted to it. The Stoics say that it is not an animal, but to be accounted part of the mother’s belly; like as we see the fruit of trees is esteemed part of the trees, until it be full ripe; then it falls and ceaseth to belong to the tree; and thus it is with the embryo. Empedocles, that the embryo is not an animal, yet whilst it remains in the belly it breathes. The first breath that it draws as an animal is when the infant is newly born; then the child having its moisture separated, the extraneous air making an entrance into the empty places, a respiration is caused in the infant by the empty vessels receiving of it. Diogenes, that infants are bred in the matrix inanimate, yet they have a natural heat; but presently, when the infant is cast into the open air, its heat draws air into the lungs, and so it becomes an animal. Herophilus acknowledgeth that infants have a natural, but not a respiratory motion, and that the nerves are the cause of that motion; that then they become animals, when being first born they suck in something of the air.


Democritus and Epicurus say, that the embryos in the womb receive their aliment by the mouth, for we perceive, as soon as ever the infant is born, it applies its mouth to the breast; in the wombs of women (our understanding concludes) there are little dugs, and the embryos have small mouths by which they receive their nutriment. The Edition: current; Page: [184] Stoics, that by the secundines and navel they partake of aliment, and therefore the midwife instantly after their birth binds the navel, and opens the infant’s mouth, that it may receive another sort of aliment. Alcmaeon, that they receive their nourishment from every part of the body; as a sponge sucks in water.


The Stoics believe that the greater part is formed at the same time. Aristotle, as the keel of a ship is first made, so the first part that is formed is the loins. Alcmaeon, the head, for that is the commanding and the principal part of the body. The physicians, the heart, in which are the veins and arteries. Some think the great toe is first formed; others affirm the navel.


Empedocles says, that when the human race took first its original from the earth, the sun was so slow in its motion that then one day in its length was equal to ten months, as now they are; in process of time one day became as long as seven months are; and there is the reason that those infants which are born at the end of seven months or ten months are born alive, the course of nature so disposing that the infant shall be brought to maturity in one day after that night in which it is begotten. Timaeus says, that we count not ten months but nine, by reason that we reckon the first conception from the retention Edition: current; Page: [185] of the menstruas; and so it may generally pass for seven months when really there are not seven; for it sometimes happens that even after conception a woman is purged in some degree. Polybus, Diocles, and the Empirics acknowledge that the eighth month gives a vital birth to the infant, though the life of it is more faint and languid; many therefore we see born in that month die out of mere weakness. Though we see many born in that month arrive at the state of man, yet (they affirm) if children be born in that month, none are willing to rear them.

Aristotle and Hippocrates, that if the womb is grown full in seven months, then the child falls from the mother and is born alive; but if it falls from her but is not properly nourished, the navel being weak on account of the heavy burden of the infant, then it doth not thrive; but if the infant continues nine months in the womb, and then breaks forth from the woman, it is entire and perfect. Polybus, that a hundred and eighty-two days and a half suffice for the bringing forth of a living child; that is, six months, in which space of time the sun moves from one tropic to the other; and this is called seven months, for the days which are overplus in the sixth are accounted to give the seventh month. Those children which are born in the eighth month cannot live, for, the infant then falling from the womb, the navel, which is the cause of nourishment, is thereby too much stretched; and is the reason that the infant languishes and hath an atrophy. The astrologers, that eight months are enemies to every birth, seven are friends and kind to it. The signs of the zodiac are then enemies, when they fall upon those stars which are lords of houses; whatever infant is then born will have a life short and unfortunate. Those signs of the zodiac which are malevolent and injurious to generation are those pairs of which the last is reckoned the eighth from the first, as the first and the eighth, the second Edition: current; Page: [186] and the ninth, &c.; so is the Ram unsociable with Scorpio, the Bull with Sagittarius, the Twins with the Goat, the Crab with Aquarius, the Lion with Pisces, the Virgin with the Ram. Upon this reason those infants that are born in the seventh or tenth months are like to live, but those in the eighth month will die.


Those philosophers who entertain the opinion that the world had an original do likewise assert that all animals are generated and corruptible. The followers of Epicurus, who gives an eternity to the world, affirm the generation of animals ariseth from the various permutation of parts mutually among themselves, for they are parts of this world. With them Anaxagoras and Euripides concur:

  • For nothing dies,
  • But different changes give their various forms.

Anaximander’s opinion is, that the first animals were generated in moisture, and were enclosed in bark on which thorns grew; but in process of time they came upon dry land, and this thorny bark with which they were covered being broken, they lived for a short space of time. Empedocles says, that the first generation of animals and plants was by no means completed, for the parts were disjoined and would not admit of a union; the second preparation for their being generated was when their parts were united and appeared in the form of images; the third preparation for generation was when their parts mutually amongst themselves gave a being to one another; the fourth, when there was no longer a mixture of similar elements (like earth and water), but a union of animals among themselves, — in some the nourishment being made Edition: current; Page: [187] dense, in others female beauty provoking a lust of spermatic motion. All sorts of animals are discriminated by their proper temperament and constitution; some are carried by a proper appetite and inclination to water; some, which partake of a more fiery quality, to breathe in the air; those that are heavier incline to the earth; but those animals whose parts are of a just and equal temperament are fitted equally for all places.


There is a certain treatise of Aristotle, in which animals are distributed into four kinds, terrestrial, aqueous, fowl, and heavenly; and he calls the stars and the world also animals, yea, and God himself he defines to be an animal endowed with reason and immortal. Democritus and Epicurus esteem all animals rational which have their residence in the heavens. Anaxagoras says that animals have only that reason which is operative, but not that which is passive, which is justly styled the interpreter of the mind, and is like the mind itself. Pythagoras and Plato, that the souls of all those who are styled brutes are rational; but by the evil constitution of their bodies, and because they have a want of a discoursive faculty, they do not act rationally. This is manifested in apes and dogs, which have voice but not speech. Diogenes, that this sort of animals are partakers of intelligence and air, but by reason of the density in some parts of them, and by the superfluity of moisture in others, they enjoy neither understanding nor sense; but they are affected as madmen are, the commanding rational part being defectuous and impeached.

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Empedocles believes, that the joints of men begin to be formed from the thirty-sixth day, and their shape is completed in the nine and fortieth. Asclepiades, that male embryos, by reason of a greater natural heat, have their joints begun to be formed in the twenty-sixth day, — many even sooner, — and that they are completed in all their parts on the fiftieth day; the parts of the females are articulated in two months, but by the defect of heat are not consummated till the fourth; but the members of brutes are completed at various times, according to the commixture of the elements of which they consist.


Empedocles says, that the fleshy parts of us are constituted by the contemperation of the four elements in us; earth and fire mixed with a double proportion of water make the nerves; but when it happens that the nerves are refrigerated where they meet the air, then the nails are made; the bones are produced by two parts of water and the same of air, with four parts of fire and the same of earth, duly mixed together; sweat and tears flow from the liquefaction of these bodies of ours.


Alcmaeon says, that sleep is caused when the blood retreats to the concourse of the veins, but when the blood Edition: current; Page: [189] diffuses itself, then we awake; and when there is a total retirement of the blood, then men die. Empedocles, that a moderate cooling of the blood causeth sleep, but a total remotion of heat from blood causeth death. Diogenes, that when all the blood is so diffused as that it fills all the veins, and forces the air contained in them to the back and to the belly that is below it, the breast being thereby more heated, thence sleep arises; but if every thing that is airy in the breast forsakes the veins, then death succeeds. Plato and the Stoics, that sleep ariseth from the relaxation of the sensitive spirit, it not receiving such total remission as if it fell to the earth, but so that that spirit is carried about the intestine parts of the eyebrows, in which the principal part has its residence; but when there is a total remission of the sensitive spirit, then death ensues.


Heraclitus and the Stoics say, that men begin their completeness when the second septenary of years begins, about which time the seminal serum is emitted. Trees first begin their perfection when they give their seeds; till then they are immature, imperfect, and unfruitful. After the same manner a man is completed in the second septenary of years, and is capable of learning what is good and evil, and of discipline therein.


Aristotle’s opinion is, that both the soul and body sleep; and this proceeds from the moisture in the breast, which doth steam and arise in the manner of a vapor into the Edition: current; Page: [190] head, and from the aliment in the stomach, whose natural heat is cooled in the heart. Death is the perfect refrigeration of all heat in the body; but death is only of the body, and not of the soul, for the soul is immortal. Anaxagoras thinks, that sleep makes the operations of the body to cease; it is a corporeal passion and affects not the soul. Death is the separation of the soul from the body. Leucippus, that sleep is only of the body; but when the smaller particles cause immoderate evaporation from the soul’s heat, this makes death; but these affections of death and sleep are of the body, not of the soul. Empedocles, that death is nothing else but separation of those fiery parts by which man is composed, and according to this sentiment both body and soul die; but sleep is only a smaller separation of the fiery qualities.


Plato and Empedocles believe, that plants are animals, and are informed with a soul; of this there are clear arguments, for they have tossing and shaking, and their branches are extended; when the woodmen bend them they yield, but they return to their former straightness and strength again when they are let loose, and even draw up weights that are laid upon them. Aristotle doth grant that they live, but not that they are animals; for animals are affected with appetite, sense, and reason. The Stoics and Epicureans deny that they are informed with a soul; by reason that all sorts of animals have either sense, appetite, or reason; but plants move fortuitously, and not by means of any soul. Empedocles, that the first of all animals were trees, and they sprang from the earth before the sun in its glory enriched the world, and before day and night Edition: current; Page: [191] were distinguished; but by the harmony which is in their constitution they partake of a masculine and feminine nature; and they increase by that heat which is exalted out of the earth, so that they are parts belonging to it, as embryos in the womb are parts of the womb. Fruits in plants are excrescences proceeding from water and fire; but the plants which have a deficiency of water, when this is dried up by the heat of summer, lose their leaves; whereas they that have plenty thereof keep their leaves on still, as the olive, laurel, and palm. The differences of their moisture and juice arise from the difference of particles and various other causes, and they are discriminated by the various particles that feed them. And this is apparent in vines; for the excellence of wine flows not from the difference in the vines, but from the soil from whence they receive their nutriment.


Empedocles believes, that animals are nourished by the remaining in them of that which is proper to their own nature; they are augmented by the application of heat; and the subtraction of either of these makes them to languish and decay. The stature of men in this present age, if compared with the magnitude of those men which were first produced, is no other than a mere infancy.


Empedocles says that the want of those elements which compose animals gives to them appetite, and pleasures Edition: current; Page: [192] spring from humidity. As to the motions of dangers and such like things, as perturbations, &c. . . .


Erasistratus gives this definition of a fever: A fever is a quick motion of blood, not produced by our consent, which enters into the vessels proper unto the vital spirits. This we see in the sea; it is in a serene calm when nothing disturbs it, but is in motion when a violent preternatural wind blows upon it, and then it rageth and is circled with waves. After this manner it is in the body of man; when the blood is in a nimble agitation, then it falls upon those vessels in which the spirits are, and there being in an extraordinary heat, it fires the whole body. The opinion that a fever is an appendix to a preceding affection pleaseth him. Diocles proceeds after this manner: Those things which are internal and latent are manifested by those which externally break forth and appear; and it is clear to us that a fever is annexed to certain outward affections, for example, to wounds, inflaming tumors, inguinary abscesses.


Alcmaeon says that the preserver of health is an equal proportion of the qualities of heat, moisture, cold, dryness, bitterness, sweetness, and the other qualities; on the contrary, the prevailing empire of one above the rest is the cause of diseases and author of destruction. The efficient Edition: current; Page: [193] cause of disease is the excess of heat or cold, the material cause is superabundance or defect, the place is the blood or brain. But health is the harmonious commixture of the elements. Diocles, that sickness for the most part proceeds from the irregular disposition of the elements in the body, for that makes an ill habit or constitution of it. Erasistratus, that sickness is caused by the excess of food, indigestion, and corruptions; on the contrary, health is the moderation of the diet, and the taking that which is convenient and sufficient for us. It is the unanimous opinion of the Stoics that the want of heat brings old age, for (they say) those persons in whom heat more abounds live the longer. Asclepiades, that the Ethiopians soon grow old, and at thirty years of age are ancient men, their bodies being excessively heated and scorched by the sun; in Britain persons live a hundred and twenty years, on account of the coldness of the country, and because the people contain the fiery element within their bodies; for the bodies of the Ethiopians are more fine and thin, because they are relaxed by the sun’s heat, while they who live in northern countries have a contrary state of their bodies, for they are condensed and robust, and by consequence live the longer.

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1. Pindar’s Caeneus hath been taken to task by several, being improbably feigned, impenetrable by steel and impassible in his body, and so

  • Descending into hell without a wound,
  • And with sound foot parting in two the ground.

But the Stoics’ Lapithes, as if they had carved him out of the very adamantine matter of impassibility itself, though he is not invulnerable, nor exempt from either sickness or pain, yet remains fearless, regretless, invincible, and unconstrainable in the midst of wounds, dolors, and torments, and in the very subversions of the walls of his native city, and other such like great calamities. Again, Pindar’s Caeneus is not wounded when struck; but the Stoics’ wise man is not detained when shut up in a prison, suffers no compulsion by being thrown down a precipice, is not tortured when on the rack, takes no hurt by being maimed, and when he catches a fall in wrestling he is still unconquered; when he is encompassed with a rampire, he is not besieged; and when sold by his enemies, he is still not made a prisoner. The wonderful man is like to those ships that have inscribed upon them a prosperous voyage, or protecting providence, or a preservative against dangers, and yet for all that endure storms, and are miserably shattered and overturned.

2. Euripides’s Iolaus of a feeble, superannuated old man, by means of a certain prayer, became on a sudden youthful Edition: current; Page: [195] and strong for battle; but the Stoics’ wise man was yesterday most detestable and the worst of villains, but today is changed on a sudden into a state of virtue, and is become of a wrinkled, pale fellow, and, as Aeschylus speaks,

  • Of an old sickly wretch with stitch in’s back,
  • Distent with rending pains as on a rack,

a gallant, god-like, and beauteous person.

3. The Goddess Minerva took from Ulysses his wrinkles, baldness, and deformity, to make him appear a handsome man. But these men’s wise man, though old age quits not his body, but contrariwise still lays on and heaps more upon it, though he remains (for instance) hump-backed, toothless, one-eyed, is yet neither deformed, disfigured, nor ill-favored. For as beetles are said to relinquish perfumes and to pursue after ill scents; so Stoical love, having used itself to the most foul and deformed persons, if by means of philosophy they change into good form and comeliness, becomes presently disgusted.

4. He that in the Stoics’ account was in the forenoon (for example) the worst man in the world is in the afternoon the best of men; and he that falls asleep a very sot, dunce, miscreant, and brute, nay, by Jove, a slave and a beggar to boot, rises up the same day a prince, a rich and a happy man, and (which is yet more) a continent, just, determined, and unprepossessed person; — not by shooting forth out of a young and tender body a downy beard or the sprouting tokens of mature youth, but by having in a feeble, soft, unmanful, and undetermined mind, a perfect intellect, a consummate prudence, a godlike disposition, an unprejudiced science, and an unalterable habit. All this time his viciousness gives not the least ground in order to it, but he becomes in an instant, I had almost said, of the vilest brute, a sort of hero, genius, or God. For he that receives his virtue from the Stoics’ portico may say,

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Ask what thou wilt, it shall be granted thee.*

It brings wealth along with it, it contains kingship in it, it confers fortune; it renders men prosperous, and makes them to want nothing and to have a sufficiency of every thing, though they have not one drachm of silver in the house.

5. The fabular relations of the poets are so careful of decorum, that they never leave a Hercules destitute of necessaries; but those still spring, as out of some fountain, as well for him as for his companions. But he that hath received of the Stoics Amalthaea becomes indeed a rich man, but he begs his victuals of other men; he is a king, but resolves syllogisms for hire; he is the only man that hath all things, but yet he pays rent for the house he lives in, and oftentimes buys bread with borrowed money, or else begs it of those that have nothing themselves.

6. The king of Ithaca begs with a design that none may know who he is, and makes himself

As like a dirty sorry beggar

as he can. But he that is of the Portico, while he bawls and cries out, It is I only that am a king, It is I only that am a rich man, is yet many times seen at other people’s doors saying:

  • On poor Hipponax, pray, some pity take,
  • Bestow an old cast coat for heaven’s sake;
  • I’m well nigh dead with cold, and all o’er quake.
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Some, my dear Sossius Senecio, imagine that this sentence, μισέω μνάμονα συμπόταν, 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 μνάμονα, a remembrancer. Others think that this proverb admonisheth the guests to forget every thing 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 that to forget absurdities is indeed (as Euripides says) 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 Edition: current; Page: [198] 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.

QUESTION I.: Whether midst our Cups it is fit to talk Learnedly and Philosophize?


1. 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.

2. And Crato cried out: By Bacchus, he was right in forswearing 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, Edition: current; Page: [199] 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 in a court-room, as those that entertained Orestes, and were silence enjoined by law, that might prove a not unlucky cloak of our ignorance; but if Bacchus is really λύσιος (a looser of every thing), 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.

3. 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, men like Socrates, Phaedrus, Pausanias, Euryximachus; or at Callias’s board, Charmides, Antisthenes, Hermogenes, and the like, — we will permit them to philosophize, and to mix Bacchus with the Muses as well as with the Nymphs; for the latter make him wholesome Edition: current; Page: [200] 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 mute consonants with vowels, in the midst of the other learned, will participate in a voice not altogether inarticulate and insignificant. 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 yet 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 and correct in some sort those that are not altogether insensible.

4. 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 Edition: current; Page: [201] 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 to 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 round from 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.*

For that, in my opinion, was the Nepenthe, the care-dissolving medicament, — 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 with persuasive and smooth arguments, rather 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 prepare himself for the contest (as he is wont) like a wrestler, that he may take the faster hold of his adversary and be sure of giving him the trip; but he draws men on by more soft and pliable attacks, by pleasant fictions and pat examples.

5. Besides, the questions should be easy, the problems known, the interrogations plain and familiar, 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 pitch 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 contentious Edition: current; Page: [202] 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 flat stone, 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, which she could conveniently thrust her bill into, 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 fables 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 σϰολιά (crooked or obscure); this is not fit nor agreeable to a feast. Though some say these σϰολιά 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 αἴσαϰον because he Edition: current; Page: [203] that received it was obliged to sing (ᾄδειν); 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 σϰολιόν, because it was 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 σϰολιόν, crooked.

QUESTION II.: Whether the Entertainer should seat the Guests, or let every Man take his own Place.


1. 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 walked 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.

2. 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; Edition: current; Page: [204] 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.*

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. Homer often calls the stoutest and the greatest princes ϰοσμήτοϱας λαῶν, 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 every thing 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 that the same order should not be Edition: current; Page: [205] 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.

3. 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 for him to distinguish; for some claim respect by reason of their age, others from their familiarity and acquaintance; and, like those that make declamations consisting of comparisons, he must have Aristotle’s τόποι and Thrasymachus’s ὑπεϱβάλλοντες (books that furnish him with heads of argument) at his fingers’ end; 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 we endeavor to remit all other passions, to intend 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 may 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 Edition: current; Page: [206] invited, we should make them flame anew, and kindle them again by emulation, by thus debasing 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.

4. 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,*

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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;*

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,

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.

And Pindar plainly says,

She sits just next the thunder-breathing flames.

Indeed Timon urges, we ought not to rob many to honor one. Now it seems to me that he does this very thing himself, even more than others; for he robs that makes something that is proper common; and suitable honor to his worth is each man’s property. And he gives that preeminence to running fast and making haste, which is due 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 Edition: current; Page: [208] 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, or with his 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-in-law, 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 horserace, 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.

5. 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 seats in a theatre or the Amphictyonic Council, so that pride and arrogance must be admitted even into our mirth and entertainments? In seating our guests we should not have 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 does a painter give Edition: current; Page: [209] the most costly color the chiefest place; nor a shipwright the Corinthian fir or Cretan cypress; but they so distribute them as 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, murets of the sea, and shell-fish every one,
  • With massy coat, the tortoise eke, with crust as hard as stone,
  • And vaulted back, which archwise he aloft doth hollow rear,
  • Show all that heavy earth they do above their bodies bear;

the earth 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 every thing 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.

6. We all agreed that he 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 Edition: current; Page: [210] 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 into the other empty one. A sophister I will forbid to sit by a sophister, and one poet by another;

For beggars beggars, poets poets, envy.*

I separate the clamorous scoffers and the testy, by putting some good-nature between them, that they may not justle so roughly on one another; but 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.

QUESTION III.: Upon what Account is the Place at the Table called Consular esteemed honorable.


This raised a dispute about the dignity of places, for the same place is not accounted honorable amongst all nations; Edition: current; Page: [211] 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, as 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 for any well-defined reason, as if it were 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 was, that the consuls, having dissolved the monarchy, and reduced every thing 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 was, that, two beds being appointed for the invited guests, the third — and the first place in this — is most convenient for the master of the feast, whence, like a coachman or a pilot, he can guide and order every thing, and readily overlook the management of the whole affair. Besides, he is not so far removed but that he may 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 this place to be most convenient for the despatch of any sudden business; for the Roman consul is not such a one as Archias the governor of Thebes, so as to say, when letters of importance are brought to him at dinner, “serious things to-morrow,” 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)

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Each throw doth make the skilful 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, guardsman, or a messenger from the army might approach, deliver the message, and receive commands; and the consul, having room enough to speak or use his hand, neither troubles any one, nor is hindered by any of the guests.

QUESTION IV.: What Manner of Man should a Steward of a Feast be?


1. Crato a relative of ours, 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, and command the rest of you 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.

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2. 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 first 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 alternation 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 the water bears various proportions to different sorts of wine (which kings’ cup-bearers understanding sometimes pour in more, sometimes less), Edition: current; Page: [214] 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 sooner than he that is silent or sits still, the thoughtful and melancholy sooner 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.

3. 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 place Edition: current; Page: [215] 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 pleasant recreation at the table with a glass of wine, aiming to contract friendship through mutual good-will.

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 who shall 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 the shore. 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 commends the blushing rose.

But against vain and empty humors, that wantonly break in upon our feasts, like henbane mixed with the wine, he must caution 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. So the company once abused Edition: current; Page: [216] 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 forfeit; and he, when it was his turn to command, enjoined the company to follow his example and 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 entertainment, propose some pleasant reward for any one that introduceth inoffensive merriment, profitable delight and laughter, such as attends not scoffs and abusive jests, but kindness, pleasant humor, and good-will; 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.

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QUESTION V.: Why it is commonly said that Love makes a Man a Poet.


1. One day when Sossius entertained us, after 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 every thing; 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 every thing, so more especially in commendation; for lovers themselves believe, and would have all others think, that the object of their Edition: current; Page: [218] 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, and majestic, as verse usually appears.

2. 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 Edition: current; Page: [219] 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.*

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.

QUESTION VI.: Whether Alexander was a Great Drinker.


1. 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 cup, to stand in need of Aesculapius’s. And thus much of Alexander’s drinking.

2. Story tells us, that Mithridates, the famous enemy of the Romans, among other trials of skill that he instituted, proposed rewards to the greatest eater and to the stoutest Edition: current; Page: [220] drinker in his kingdom. He won both the prizes himself; he out-drank every man living, and for his excellency that way he 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 bed-chamber, 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.

3. 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.

4. Amongst the retainers to Drusus, the Emperor Tiberius’s son, there 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, Edition: current; Page: [221] 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.*

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.

QUESTION VII.: Why Old Men Love pure Wine.


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 obvious, and besides, neither a sufficient nor a true reason; for the like happens to all their other senses. 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 Edition: current; Page: [222] 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.

QUESTION VIII.: Why Old Men Read best at a Distance.


1. 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. 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?

2. Some answered, that they did not remove the book to lessen the light, but to receive more rays, and let all the space between the letters and their eyes be filled with Edition: current; Page: [223] 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 near 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, they see better, as a man with both hands can hold that for which either singly is too weak.

3. But my brother Lamprias, though unacquainted with Hieronymus’s notions, gave us the same 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 slide gently and easily 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.

4. But we, according to Plato’s opinion, assert that a bright spirit darted from the eye mixes with the light Edition: current; Page: [224] 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 eye-sight 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 co-operate to move the sense.

QUESTION IX.: Why Fresh Water Washes Clothes better than Salt.


1. 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 fish 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 and without any reason assent to what seems likely, Edition: current; Page: [225] and disbelieve every thing that seems unlikely at the first sight. But why, sir, are you concerned at this? For if you are speculative and would enquire 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?

2. 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?

3. 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. 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 opens 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 is more easily kindled than any other; and this, in my opinion, makes it Edition: current; Page: [226] hotter than the fresh. 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.

4. 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 the fresh sun, are sooner dried than those that wash in the fresh streams. It is true, I 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.*

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.

QUESTION X.: Why at Athens the Chorus of the Tribe Aeantis was never determined to be the Last.


1. When we were feasting at Serapion’s, who gave an entertainment after the chorus of the tribe Leontis under Edition: current; Page: [227] 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.

2. 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 enquire 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 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 enquiry.

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3. 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 acquired 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.

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Of the several things that are provided for an entertainment, some, my Sossius Senecio, are absolutely necessary; such are wine, bread, meat, couches, and tables. Others are brought in, not for necessity, but pleasure; such are songs, shows, mimics, and buffoons (like Philip who came from the house of Callias); which, when present, delight indeed, but when absent, are not eagerly desired; nor is the entertainment looked upon as mean because such are wanting. Just so of discourses; some the sober men admit as necessary to a banquet, and others for their pretty speculations, as more profitable and agreeable than a fiddle and a 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 their own? Of the second, Why lovers are inclined to poetry? and the question about the tribe Aeantis. The former I call properly συμποτιϰά, table-talk, but both together I comprehend under the general name of Symposiacs. They are promiscuously set down, not in any 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 thing.

QUESTION I.: What, as Xenophon intimates, are the Most Agreeable Questions and Most Pleasant Raillery at an Entertainment?


1. Now each book being divided into ten questions, that shall make the first in this, which Socratical Xenophon Edition: current; Page: [230] hath as it were proposed; for he tells us that, Gobryas banqueting with Cyrus, amongst other things that he found admirable in the Persians, he was surprised to hear them ask one another such questions that it was more delightful 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 when you were entertaining us at Patrae, 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.

2. 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 enquiry 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.*

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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 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 we are wont to discourse of though unrequested, 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 navigators. 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.*

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 any thing notable in either. And upon this account the envious and ill-natured start very few questions of that sort; they 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 relator. In short, we please those to whom we put them, when we start questions about those matters which their enemies hate to hear.

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3. Ulysses says to Alcinous,

  • You bid me tell what various ills I bore,*
  • That the sad tale might make me grieve the more.

And Oedipus says to the chorus,

’Tis pain to raise again a buried grief.

But Euripides on the contrary,

  • How sweet it is, when we are lulled in ease,
  • To think of toils! — when well, of a disease!

True indeed, but not to those that are still tossed, still under a misfortune. Therefore be sure never to 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; for 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 questions concerning those things will extremely please him. He that enquires any thing 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:

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  • 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?*

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.

4. 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 sometimes more 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 jeer has indeed something artfully malicious about it, and often seems to be an insult devised and thought of beforehand. 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; for when Cicero spoke something, and Octavius said he did not hear him, Cicero rejoined, Strange, 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 Edition: current; Page: [234] 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 saying 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 purse, 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. 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 rules 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?

5. 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 Smabaulas’s minion. Such was that of Aufidius Modestus, who, when our friend Quintius 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. Edition: current; Page: [235] 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 play-fellows 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.

6. 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.*

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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.

7. 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 thus 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. So he that 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 Aeschylus’s Cabeiri for making him want vinegar, as they had jocosely threatened. For such as these have a pungent pleasantness, so that the praised are not offended nor take it ill.

8. 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 Mitylenæan was pleasant enough when, knocking at a man’s door Edition: current; Page: [237] 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.

9. 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 sing, since your nose is so near 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 (πϱοεστάναι) but bowed down before it (πϱοϰεϰυφέναι). 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 Edition: current; Page: [238] 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.

10. 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.

11. 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 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 Edition: current; Page: [239] carefulness and thrift; or in the presence of his wife, for being cold to his companions and doating 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.

12. 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 check 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. 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 bald-pate; and Cratinus in his play Pytine upon drunkenness and excess.

13. Besides, you must be very careful that the jest Edition: current; Page: [240] 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 debates among themselves at table while they are in the midst of their cups, but if any stranger should come in and offer abuse to any of the guests, 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 when thou bringest home this vomiting woman,”* — saying τήνδ’ ἐμοῦσαν (this vomiting woman), when the poet had written τήνδε Μοῦσαν (this Muse); and also his question to Athenodorus the philosopher, — Is the 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 delight in jests like 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.

QUESTION II.: Why in Autumn Men have better Stomachs than in other Seasons of the Year.


In Eleusis, after the solemn celebration of the sacred mysteries, Glaucias the orator entertained us at a feast; Edition: current; Page: [241] 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 essence 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 in autumn it unites again and gathers strength, being shut in by the ambient cold and contraction of the pores. 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.

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QUESTION III.: Which was First, the Bird or the Egg?


1. When upon a dream I had forborne eggs a long time, on purpose that in an egg (as in a Carian*) 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 covertly meant eggs by the word ϰύαμοι (beans), deriving it from ϰύω or ϰυέω (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 excellently learned.

2. 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 question (whether the world had a beginning), declared his dislike of such problems. 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 Edition: current; Page: [243] 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 every thing with its proper form; and it was for this reason that the statuary Polycletus said, Then our work is most difficult, when the clay comes to be fashioned by the nail. 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 any thing that is 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 (as Herodotus would say), we shall now pass by; but let us look upon the various kinds of Edition: current; Page: [244] 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 every thing in itself.

3. 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 saying is) 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. 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 Edition: current; Page: [245] 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 follow 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 Edition: current; Page: [246] 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-clothes, and the like; yet who says that the nest is before the egg, or the swaddling-clothes 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.

QUESTION IV.: Whether or no Wrestling is the Oldest Exercise.


Sosicles of Coronea having at the Pythian games won the prize from all the poets, we gave him 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 Edition: current; Page: [247] transferred to them; thus tuning a pipe is called fitting it, and playing on it is called striking; both these being transferred to it from the harp. Thus all places of exercise they call wrestling schools, wrestling being the oldest exercise, and therefore denominating the newer sorts. That, said I, is no good argument, for these palaestras or wrestling schools are called so from wrestling (πάλη), not because it is the most ancient exercise, but because it is the only sort in which they use clay (πηλός), dust, and oil; for in these there is neither racing nor cuffing, but wrestling only, and that part 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, πάλη, wrestling, is derived from παλέυειν, i. e. to throw down by sleight and artifice. And Philinus said, it seems to me to be derived from παλαιστή, the palm of the hand, for wrestlers use that part most, as cuffers do the πυγμή, fist; and hence both these sorts of exercises have their proper names, the one πάλη, the other πυγμή. Besides, since the poets use the word παλύνειν for ϰαταπάσσειν and συμπάσσειν, to sprinkle, and this action is most frequent amongst wrestlers, this exercise πάλη 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 close breast to breast, and clasp one another round the waist, and most of their turnings, liftings, lockings, bring them very close. It is probable therefore that this exercise Edition: current; Page: [248] is called πάλη from πλησιάζειν or πέλας γίγνεσθαι, to come up close or to be near together.

QUESTION V.: Why, in reckoning up different kinds of Exercises, Homer puts Cuffing first, Wrestling next, and Racing last.


1. 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.*

And again he brings in Ulysses challenging the Phaeacians

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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.*

So that he doth not carelessly confound the order, and, according to the 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.

2. 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, 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 aim. And the privilege granted to the conquerors — 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 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 Edition: current; Page: [250] the Spartans at the battle of Leuctra. 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, or 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; and the third, of flying a victorious, or pursuing a routed enemy.

QUESTION VI.: Why Fir-trees, Pine-trees, and the like will not be Grafted upon.


1. 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 mastic, a pomegranate 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 enquire 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.

2. 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 Edition: current; Page: [251] die. Now these trees are of a fat and oily nature, insomuch that they weep pitch and rosin; and, if you cut them 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.

3. 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 Edition: current; Page: [252] not nourish another’s fruit, when they are so very sparing to their own.

QUESTION VII.: About the Fish called Remora or Echeneis.


1. 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; 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 garlic. Now all these, as to matter of fact, are very evident; but it is hard, if not altogether impossible, to find the cause.

2. 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 Edition: current; Page: [253] is the cause and not an accident consequential to an internal 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 glides lightly, 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 scrape the sides of 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.

QUESTION VIII.: Why they say those Horses called λυϰοσπάδες are very Mettlesome.


Some say the horses called λυϰοσπάδες received that name from the fashion of their bridles (called λύϰοι), 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 λυϰοσπάδες. Many agreeing to what he said, it began to be enquired 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 every thing, their motions became more Edition: current; Page: [254] 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 he escaped by being wise before.

QUESTION IX.: Why the Flesh of Sheep bitten by Wolves is sweeter than that of others, and the Wool more apt to breed Lice.


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. Our relation 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 it seemed that this power proceeded from the bite of the 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 Edition: current; Page: [255] 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;*

for those that fell not by a disease or old age, but by a violent death, leave us tough and strong hides; but when they are bitten by wild beasts, their hoofs grow black, their hair falls, their skins putrefy and are good for nothing.

QUESTION X.: Whether the Ancients, who provided every one his Mess, did better than we, who set many to the same Dish.


1. 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 market, 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 Edition: current; Page: [256] those that treated Orestes were) obliged to be silent and not discourse. Besides, to show that all the guests should have a share in every thing, we may draw an argument from hence; — the same discourse is common to us all, the same songstress sings, 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 portion 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 we should rather imitate the good friendship of the ancients, who, to show what reverence they had for all kinds of societies, not only honored 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 Edition: current; Page: [257] could exactly reckon up how many glasses each man drank at his table. 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 this modern custom 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.

2. 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 trencher-man) he had no larger mess than others; for in a fish eaten in common, Democritus says, there are no bones. But that very thing is especially apt to bring us a 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;*

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 sailer. 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) kept an equality in feasts, nothing uncivil or disorderly appeared, and they called the feasts δαῖτες, distributions, the entertained Edition: current; Page: [258] δαιτυμόνες, and the carvers δαιτϱοί, 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. 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 bounds of propriety, receive their name from their office, being a power distributing equality 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 sweet heart or a minstrel-wench, they must be common to him and his friends, that all things may be huddled together in one mass, 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 disgracing distributions or the lot, the son of Fortune (as Euripides hath it), which hath no respect either to riches or honor, but which in its inconsiderate wheel now and then raiseth Edition: current; Page: [259] 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 a 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 left unsaid.*

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 a merry cup; but to prattle, and speak what had been better left unsaid, argues a man to be quite gone. Therefore Plato thinks that wine is the most ingenious discoverer of men’s humors; and Homer, when he says,

At feasts they had not known each other’s minds,

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 on to 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 Edition: current; Page: [260] 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 to you this third dedication of table discourses, the first of which is about chaplets made of flowers.

QUESTION I.: Whether it is Becoming to wear Chaplets of Flowers at Table.


1. 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, and that, while he Edition: current; Page: [261] 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.

2. 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 tastes Edition: current; Page: [262] Nature gives us, 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 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, 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 the leaves 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 according to neither 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 Edition: current; Page: [263] crown that belongs to the Muses; Sappho mentions it in a copy of verses to a woman unlearned and unacquainted with the Muses:

  • Dead thou shalt lie forgotten in thy tomb,
  • Since not for thee Pierian roses bloom.*

But if Trypho can produce any thing to our advantage from physic, pray let us have it.

3. 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 the son of 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 counted a physician not only 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 ϰαϱύα, because it sends forth a heavy and drowsy (ϰαϱωτιϰόν) spirit, which affects their heads who sleep beneath it; and the daffodil, νάϱϰισσος, 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 πήγανον from its astringent quality; for, by its dryness proceeding from its heat, it fixes (πήγνυσι) or coagulates the seed, and is very hurtful to great-bellied women. But those that imagine the herb amethyst (ἀμέθυστος), and the precious stone of the same name, are Edition: current; Page: [264] called so because powerful against the force of wine, are much mistaken; for both receive their 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 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 strains 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 efforts of drunkenness; for those that are hot open the pores and give the fumes free passage to exhale, and those that are moderately cold repel and keep down the ascending vapors. Of this last nature are the violet and rose; for the odors of both these are prevalent against any ache and heaviness in the head. The flowers of 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 of 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. Upon this account, they called those little posies they hung about their necks ὑποθύμιδες, 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 ointment o’er his laboring temples, pressed
  • With various cares, and o’er his aged breast.
Edition: current; Page: [265]

Hence the odors by means of the heat shoot upward into the very brain, being caught up by the nostrils. For they did not call those garlands hung about the neck ὑποθυμίδες because they thought the heart was the seat and citadel of the mind (θυμός), for on that account they should rather have called them ἐπιθυμίδες; 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 subtile 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 ϱ̔όδον, probably because it sends forth a stream (ϱ̔εῦμα) 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 cold, looks vivid and appears.

QUESTION II.: Whether Ivy is of a Hot or Cold Nature.


1. 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, Edition: current; Page: [266] 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 was 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 every thing 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 μέθυ (intoxicating) and himself μεθυμναῖος, 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, 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, Edition: current; Page: [267] we may call Bacchus a physician, — still I affirm that power to proceed from its heat, which either opens the pores or helps to digest the wine.

2. 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. 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 Edition: current; Page: [268] 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 maiden-hair, 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 pour it out as soon as a small stock is received. 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 merchants sleep upon skins full of water, that they may lie cool.

QUESTION III.: Why Women are hardly, Old Men easily, Foxed.


Florus thought it strange that Aristotle in his discourse of Drunkenness, affirming that old men are easily, women Edition: current; Page: [269] hardly, overtaken, did not assign the cause, since he seldom failed on such occasions. He therefore proposed it to us (we were a great many acquaintance met at supper) as a fit subject for our enquiry. 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 defluction 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 γέϱοντες, in my opinion, intimates; for that name was given them not as inclining to the earth (ϱ̔έοντες εἰς γῆν), but as being in the habit of their body γεώδεις and γεηϱοί, 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 Edition: current; Page: [270] 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 every body knows; 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.

QUESTION IV.: Whether the Temper of Women is Colder or Hotter than that of Men.


1. 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, 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.

2. When Florus seemed surprised at this discourse, Edition: current; Page: [271] Athryliatus 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 beds-men 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.

3. 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 Edition: current; Page: [272] 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 every body knows that the hottest parts of a man’s 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 rarety drawing the odor to them. But I think we have disputed plausibly and sufficiently of this matter. . . .

QUESTION V.: Whether Wine is potentially Cold.


1. 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, according to the person’s nature and constitution; so that some when they are drunk are very hot, and others very cold.

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2. 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 enquiry 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 is generative; for owing to heat the moisture flows easily, and the vital spirit gains intensity 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 Edition: current; Page: [274] anoint 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 discerned 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 strength, 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 an evidence of its heat, that if a man drinks juice of hemlock, a large dose of wine cures him, I shall on the contrary affirm that wine and hemlock juice mixed are an incurable poison, and kill 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.

QUESTION VI.: Which is the Fittest Time for a Man to Know his Wife?


1. Some young students, that had not gone far in the learning of the ancients, inveighed against Epicurus for bringing Edition: current; Page: [275] in, in his Symposium, an impertinent and unseemly discourse, about what time was best to lie with a woman; for (they said) 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 at first, and then discourse of that matter on purpose; but after supper he desired the young men to take a walk, and then discoursed upon it, that he might induce them to continence, and persuade them 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 enquire which is the convenient and proper time? Ought we not to time it well, and direct our embrace by reason? Or may such discourses 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 any thing 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.

2. The youth, startled at this free declaration, sat silent; Edition: current; Page: [276] 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, but before 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 increased by a disorderly motion upon this crudity, and so the mischief be double.

3. Olympicus, continuing the discourse, said: I very much like what Clinias the Pythagorean delivers. For 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, Edition: current; Page: [277] 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.

4. What you say, Olympicus, said Soclarus interposing, befits wrestlers indeed; it smells, methinks, of their cottabus, and their meals of flesh and casks of wine, but is not suitable to the present 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 waving this, let us enquire (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 imagination, that lies near it, works presently upon the soul, and ever raises a new and fresh desire 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, Edition: current; Page: [278] 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 come to him for such a matter; 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 morning cries of noisy taxgatherers, 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 daytime, 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, if he interposes some reasonable time between, 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 Edition: current; Page: [279] that are emptied. But this is especially to be 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 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.”

QUESTION VII.: Why New Wine doth not Inebriate as soon as Other.


1. At Athens on the eleventh day of February (thence called Πιθοίγια, (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 Πϱοστατήϱιος, and it is our custom upon the sixth day to sacrifice to our good Genius and taste our new wine, after the zephyr has done blowing; for that wind makes wine ferment more than any other, Edition: current; Page: [280] 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.*

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.

2. 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 new wine should not be heady till it hath lost its sweetness.

3. 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 Edition: current; Page: [281] separation of the watery parts it loses in quantity, it gets in strength.

QUESTION VIII.: Why those that are Stark Drunk seem not so much Debauched as those that are but Half Foxed.


1. 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 them that are 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?

2. 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 Edition: current; Page: [282] 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, it 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, conduces 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.

QUESTION IX.*: What is the Meaning of the saying: Drink either Five or Three, but not Four?


1. When I had said this, Aristo cried out aloud, as his manner was, and said: I see well now that there is opened a return again of measures unto feasts and banquets; which measures, although they are most just and democratical, Edition: current; Page: [283] have for a long time (I wot not by what sober reason) been banished from thence, as by a tyrant. For, as they who profess a canonical harmony in sounding of the harp do hold and say, that the sesquialteral proportion produceth the symphony diapente (διὰ πέντε), the double proportion the diapason (διὰ πασῶν), and that the accord called diatessaron (διὰ τεσσάϱων), which is of all most obscure and dull, consisteth in the epitrite proportion; even so they that make profession of skill in the harmonies of Bacchus have observed, that three symphonies or accords there are between wine and water, namely, diapente, diatrion (διὰ τϱιῶν), and diatessaron; and so they say and sing, — Drink either five or three, but not four. For the fifth has the sesquialteral proportion, three cups of water being mingled with two of wine; the third has the double proportion, two cups of water being put to one of wine; but the fourth answereth to the epitrite proportion of three parts of water poured into one of wine. Now this last proportion may be fit for some grave magistrates sitting in the council-hall, or for logicians who pull up their brows when they are busy in watching the unfolding of their arguments; for surely it is a mixture sober and weak enough. As for the other twain; that medley which carrieth the proportion of two for one bringeth in that turbulent tone of those who are half-drunk,

Which stirs the heart-strings never moved before;

for it suffereth a man neither to be fully sober, nor yet to drench himself so deep in wine as to be altogether witless and past his sense; but the other, standing upon the proportion of three to two, is of all the most musical accord, causing a man to sleep peaceably and forget all cares, and, like the corn-field which Hesiod speaks of,

  • Which doth from man all curses drive,
  • And children cause to rest and thrive,

stilling and appeasing all proud and disordered passions Edition: current; Page: [284] within the heart, and inducing instead of them a peaceable calm and tranquillity.

2. These speeches of Aristo no one there would contradict, for it was well known that he spoke in jest. But I willed him to take a cup, and, as if it were a harp, to set and tune it to that accord and harmony which he so highly praised. Then came a boy close unto him, and offered him strong wine; but he refused it, saying with laughter, that his music consisted in theory, and not in practice of the instrument. Then my father added to what had been said, that the ancient poets gave two nurses to Jupiter, namely, Ite and Adrastea; one to Juno, Euboea; two, moreover, to Apollo, Alethea and Corythalea; while they gave many more to Bacchus. For, as it seemed to him, Bacchus was nursed and suckled by many Nymphs, because he had need of many measures of water (νύμφαι), to make him more tame, gentle, witty, and wise.

QUESTION X.: Why Flesh Stinks sooner when Exposed to the Moon, than to the Sun.


1. 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.

2. After supper Euthydemus bringing the question into Edition: current; Page: [285] play again, Moschio the physician said, that putrefaction was a colliquation of the flesh, and that every thing 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 scoren his naked limbs.*

Now the moon’s rays are weaker; for, as Ion says,

They do not ripen well the clustered grapes.

3. 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 vapor-bath warm very well, but hurt other baths: they spoil the Edition: current; Page: [286] timbers, 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. 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 Edition: current; Page: [287] 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 Jove
  • 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 dust rising from the ore, being insensibly applied to the eyes, stops the rheum and dries up the humor. Upon this account, perhaps, Homer calls brass εὐήνωϱ and νῶϱοψ. 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 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.

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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 any thing 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 Edition: current; Page: [289] 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 oftness 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.

QUESTION I.: Whether Different Sorts of Food, or one Single Dish fed upon at once, is more easily Digested.


1. The first question of my fourth decade of Table Discourses shall be concerning different sorts of food eaten a one meal. When we came to Hyampolis at the feast called Elaphebolia, Philo the physician gave us a very sumptuous entertainment; and seeing some boys 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 them some agreeable food. He staid 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 any thing 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, — Edition: current; Page: [290] 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 the 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.

2. 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; Edition: current; Page: [291] 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, waving 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 every thing we take more than is sufficient and enough; as Hypsipyle’s foster-child,

  • 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.*
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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 every thing 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.

3. 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 only by little and little promote the cure, every difficulty pushing on and forcing Nature. And therefore let not Philinus blame us, Edition: current; Page: [293] 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 any thing. 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 chooses from dissimilar bodies what is fit and agree able, the diverse nourishment transmits 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 hot with hot;
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and after the mixture is spread through the mass by the heat which is in the spirit, 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 enfeebled 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 things vegetable, mineral, and animal, and things from sea and land, in one potion; and advise him to let these alone, 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 Edition: current; Page: [295] 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. Beside, what some say, that fulness is more to be avoided than emptiness, is not true; but, on the contrary, fulness 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 who stick to salt and cummin 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 sauces; — 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 dried fruits.

QUESTION II.: Why Mushrooms are thought to be Produced by Thunder, and why it is believed that Men Asleep are never Thunderstruck.


1. 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 Edition: current; Page: [296] 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 fertilizing, 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 enquire after the cause; and I shall accept this as your club for these mushrooms.

2. Then I began: Agemachus himself helps us exceedingly toward this discovery; for nothing at the present seems more probable than that, together with the thunder, oftentimes generative waters fall, which receive that quality from the heat mixed with them. For the piercing pure parts of the fire break away in lightning; but the grosser flatulent part, being wrapped up in the cloud, changes its nature, taking away the coldness and rendering the moisture mild and gentle, and altering and being altered Edition: current; Page: [297] with it, warms 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 rainbow-struck, imagining 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, the ground is moved thereby, 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 the consistence only of the earth, which hath been 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.

3. 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 money 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 Edition: current; Page: [298] rites, and advised him to consider seriously with himself, and go to prayers. And I have been told, that lightning falling 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 lightning 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 they remain uncorrupted, confuting by this Euripides’s Clymene, who says thus of Phaëton,

  • My best beloved, but now he lies
  • And putrefies in some dark vale.

And I believe brimstone is called ϑεῖον (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 any thing 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. . . .

4. And when I put in my advice, saying that it was as seasonable to discourse of thunder and lightning amidst our cups as it would be in a comedy to bring in engines to throw out lightning, the company agreed to set aside all other questions relating to the subject, and desired me only Edition: current; Page: [299] to proceed on this head, Why are men asleep never blasted 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 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 any thing 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 Edition: current; Page: [300] 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 into a flock 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 any 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; and fear contracts and condenses the body, so that the stroke must be strong, because there is so considerable a resistance.

QUESTION III.: Why Men usually Invite many Guests to a Wedding Supper.


1. 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 Edition: current; Page: [301] being free born 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 marrying with no great 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?

2. 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 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.*

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 any way acquainted with.

3. 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 Edition: current; Page: [302] 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 invited.

QUESTION IV.: Whether the Sea or Land affords better Food.


1. 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 daily assembled a number of honorable persons of good mark, and called the place where they met the Prytaneum.

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2. Several times at these public meetings divers agreeable discourses were raised; and it fell out that once a very splendid treat, adorned with variety of dainties, gave occasion for enquiries concerning food, whether the land or sea yielded better. Here when a great part of the company were highly commending 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 ὄψον, 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 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 the Senate that he should burst asunder: No, by no means let us be baits for your fish! And what was his meaning, 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 Edition: current; Page: [304] 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 a price which a hecatomb of sheep with an ox would hardly bring. 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 swim ming 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 enquiring who dressed congers in the camp? These arguments, says Polycrates, I have urged in behalf of fishmongers, drawing them from testimony and custom.

3. 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 dainty which gives meat the best relish, it will evidently follow, that that is the best sort of dainty which gets men the best stomach to their meat. Therefore, as those philosophers who were called Elpistics (from the Edition: current; Page: [305] 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 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 have only from the sea. First of all, there would be nothing eatable without salt, which mixed with flour seasons bread also. Hence it was that Neptune and Ceres had both the same temple. Besides, salt is the most pleasant of all relishes. For those heroes who, like champions, 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 need 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 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 Edition: current; Page: [306] moderately salt, by being agreeable to the mouth, make all sorts of wine mild and palatable, 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 sea-food, 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.

4. 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 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.

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QUESTION V.: Whether the Jews Abstained from Swine’s Flesh because they Worshipped that Creature, or because they had an Antipathy against it.


1. 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, of 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.

2. 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 ὗς, 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 all their hogs into the fields, Edition: current; Page: [308] and they with their feet and snouts break up the ground, and cover the sown seed. Nor ought this to seem strange to any one, that there are in the world those who abstain from swine’s flesh upon such an account as this; when it is evident that among barbarous nations there are other animals had in greater honor and veneration for lesser, if not altogether ridiculous, reasons. 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 quadrupeds, brings forth her young with their eyesight; for they sleep 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 new-born infant; and that its legs being spread with the bill make 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 the 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 Edition: current; Page: [309] 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.

3. 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; unless in this likewise they imitate the Egyptians, and 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 the ear of a hare 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 forced upon their back they turn their eyes to the sun against nature. Therefore this creature, at other times most clamorous, when laid upon his back, is still, as astonished at the Edition: current; Page: [310] 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.

QUESTION VI.: What God is Worshipped by the Jews.


1. 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 hear the chief confirmation of this truth, but those amongst us who are initiated and skilled in the triennial παντέλεια, or great 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.

2. 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 Edition: current; Page: [311] 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 at this day 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 made appear out of Demosthenes and Menander. Nor would it be absurd, were any one to say that the name Sabbath was imposed upon this feast from the agitation and excitement (σόβησις) which the priests of Bacchus indulged in. The Jews themselves testify 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 hanging at his garment which make a noise Edition: current; Page: [312] as he walks the streets. So in the nightly ceremonies of Bacchus (as the fashion is amongst us), they make use of musical instruments, and call the God’s nurses χαλϰοδϱυσταί. High up on the wall of their temple is a representation of the thyrsus and timbrels, which surely can belong to 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 sacrificing 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 sober 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 was pleased to prescribe. Those thus punished . . .

(The remainder of the Fourth Book is wanting.)

QUESTION VII.: Why the Days which bear the Names of the Planets are not Disposed according to the Order of the Planets, but the Contrary. There is added a Discourse touching the Position of the Sun.

QUESTION VIII.: Why Signet-rings are Worn especially on the Fourth Finger.

QUESTION IX.: Whether we ought to Carry in our Seal-rings the Images of Gods, or rather those of Wise Personages.

QUESTION X.: Why Women never Eat the Middle Part of a Lettuce

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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.*

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 in this way confuted; 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 small 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. Edition: current; Page: [314] 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.

QUESTION I.: Why take we Delight in Hearing those that represent the Passions of Men Angry or Sorrowful, and yet cannot without Concern behold those who are really so Affected?


1. 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 enquiry, — 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.

2. But I, though it was not properly my talent, said that we, being by nature rational and lovers of ingenuity, are Edition: current; Page: [315] delighted with and admire every thing that is artificially and ingeniously contrived. For as a bee, naturally loving sweet things, seeks after and flies to any thing that has any mixture of honey in it; so man, naturally loving ingenuity and elegancy, is very much inclined to embrace and highly approve every word or action that is seasoned with wit and judgment. 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 any one offers him 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 children are much in love with riddles, and such fooleries as are difficult and intricate; for whatever is curious and subtle doth attract and allure human nature, 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 that is 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 represent the face and color of one ready to faint and yield up the ghost. 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 Edition: current; Page: [316] 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 account, for God’s sake, from what external impression upon our organ, 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 endeavored 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.

QUESTION II.: That the Prize for Poets at the Games was Ancient.

At the solemnity of the Pythian Games, 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 tragedian 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 Edition: current; Page: [317] 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 reverenced them, and were troubled that, when they must judge every one 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 ϱ̔ήμονες, orators, and not ϱ̔’ ἥμονες, darters,* 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 Edition: current; Page: [318] very learned man, and diligent 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 Olympian 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 victorious in the five contests. And, in short, a thousand things in those games are mere novelties. And I fear to tell you how at Pisa they had a single combat, where he that yielded or was overcome was killed upon the place, lest again you may require an author for my story, and I may appear ridiculous if amidst my cups I should forget the name.

QUESTION III.: Why was the Pine counted Sacred to Neptune and Bacchus? And why at first was the Conqueror in the Isthmian Games Crowned with a Garland of Pine, afterwards with Parsley, and now again with Pine?


1. 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 Edition: current; Page: [319] 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 advanced the common opinion, that the pine-tree garland peculiarly belongs to Neptune, and 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 began 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. Beside, it may be said that the pine peculiarly agrees to Neptune, not, as Apollodorus thinks, because it grows by the sea-side, or because it loves a bleak place (for some give this reason), but because it is used in building ships; for the pine 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 gives a pleasant seasoning to wine, for amongst 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 pitch, 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 Edition: current; Page: [320] 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.

2. 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.

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3. 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 met with 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 games
  • To Neptune’s glory now shall be the crown;
  • The pine shall be disused, which heretofore
  • In Corinth’s plains successful victors wore.

And beside, 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.

QUESTION IV.: Concerning that Expression in Homer, ζωϱότεϱον δὲ ϰέϱαιε.*


1. Some at the table were of opinion that Achilles talked nonsense when he bade Patroclus “mix the wine stronger,” subjoining this reason,

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For now I entertain my dearest friends.

But Niceratus a Macedonian, my particular acquaintance, maintained that ζωϱόν did not signify pure but hot wine; as if it were derived from ζωτιϰός and ζέσις (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 Socicles the poet, remembering a saying of Empedocles, that in the great universal change those things which before were ἄϰϱατα, unmixed, should then be ζωϱά, affirmed that ζωϱόν there signified εὔϰϱατον, 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 not absurd (he said) to use ζωϱότεϱον for ζωϱόν, any more than δεξιτεϱόν for δεξιόν, or ϑηλύτεϱον for ϑη̑λυ, for the comparatives are very properly put for the positives. My friend Antipater said that years were anciently called ὠ̑ϱοι, and that the particle ζα in composition signified greatness; and therefore old wine, that had been kept for many years, was called by Achilles ζωϱόν.

2. I put them in mind that some imagine that ϑεϱμόν, hot, is signified by ζωϱότεϱον, and that hotter means simply faster, as when we command servants to bestir themselves more hotly or in hotter haste. But I must confess, your dispute is frivolous, since it is raised upon this supposition, that if ζωϱότεϱον 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, 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, Edition: current; Page: [323] 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 any thing of the same nature given to any other horses in the whole Iliad. Thus Achilles, being skilled 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.*

And in another place very plainly Homer says, that

Many a sleepless night he knew.

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.

QUESTION V.: Concerning those that Invite many to a Supper.


1. 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 Edition: current; Page: [324] 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 need 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.

2. 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, but 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.*

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 what was seen yesterday at my son’s entertainment, when, as Anaxagoras said,

All lay jumbled together.

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But suppose a man hath room and provision enough, yet a multitude 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’ tent,
  • And some the other to Achilles’ went.*

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 be wealth, it would be really blind and imprisoned, unless it had witnesses, as tragedies would be without 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 invite teaches us to select some out of the number of our many friends. 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 Edition: current; Page: [326] that can live pleasantly and are at leisure, — thus to our entertainments we should call only 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 birth-day 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.

QUESTION VI.: What is the Reason that the same Room which at the Beginning of a Supper seems too Narrow for the Guests appears Wide enough afterwards?

After this it was presently asked, why the room which at the beginning of supper seems too narrow for the guests 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 Edition: current; Page: [327] 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 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 dance-arranger) settles us in a friendly and agreeable order.

QUESTION VII.: Concerning those that are Said to Bewitch.


1. 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 every thing should be probable destroys all wonder and admiration; Edition: current; Page: [328] 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 philosophy. The cause why any thing 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.

2. 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 Edition: current; Page: [329] 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 be ginning from the eye; so that a lover, when he looks upon the fair, flows out, as it were, and seems to mix with them. And therefore why should any one, that believes men can be affected and prejudiced by the sight, imagine that they cannot act and hurt as 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 everybody 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 hurted 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.

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3. Very right, said Patrocles, and you reason well as to changes wrought upon the body; but as to the soul, which in some measure exerts the power of witchcraft, how can this give any disturbance by the eye? Sir, I replied, do not you consider, that the soul, when affected, works upon the body? Thoughts 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.

4. Well, said Soclarus, but let us try whether the money be all good or no; for, in my mind, some of it seems brass. For 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 Edition: current; Page: [331] 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 disease . . .

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?

5. 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 preserved 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 any thing that is suitable to it; and he that is apt to fall will stumble at every thing that lies in his way. So that we need not wonder at 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 Edition: current; Page: [332] 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 specular body; for this breathes 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.

6. When I had done, Gaius, Florus’s son-in-law, 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 are overlooked disturb and injure them both in mind and body; for this, I think, is the meaning of that philosopher, a man in his opinions 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 Edition: current; Page: [333] 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.

QUESTION VIII.: Why Homer calls the Apple-tree ἀγλαόϰαϱπον, and Empedocles calls Apples ὑπέϱφλοια.


1. 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.*

Upon this there arose a question, why the poet calls apple-trees particularly ἀγλαόϰαϱποι, bearing fair fruit. Trypho the physician said, that this epithet was given comparatively in respect of the tree, because, being small and no goodly tree to look upon, it bears fair and large fruit. Somebody else said, that the particular excellencies that are scattered amongst all other fruits are united in this alone. As to the touch, it is smooth and clean, 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.

2. This discourse we liked indifferently well. But whereas Empedocles has thus written,

  • Why pomegranates so late do grow,
  • And apples bear a lovely show (ὑπέρϕλοια);

I understand well (said I) the epithet given to pomegranates, because that at the end of autumn, and when the heats begin to decrease, they ripen the fruit; for the sun Edition: current; Page: [334] 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 ὑπέϱφλοια to apples, I much question, since it is not his custom to strive to adorn his verses with varieties of epithets, as with gay and florid colors. But in every verse he gives some dilucidation of the substance and virtue of the subject upon which he treats; as when he calls the body encircling the soul the mortal-encompassing earth; as also when he calls the air cloud-gathering, and the liver full of blood.

3. When now I had said these things myself, certain grammarians affirmed, that those apples were called ὑπέϱφλοια 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 φλοίειν. 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 consume,
  • Their bloom and verdure parching;

calling the greenness of the trees and the blossoming of the fruit by the name of φλόος. Nay, there are some of the Greeks also who sacrifice to Bacchus surnamed Φλοῖος. And therefore, seeing the verdure and floridness chiefly recommend this fruit, philosophers call it ὑπέϱφλοιον. But Lamprias our grandfather said that the word ὑπέϱ did not only denote excess and vehemency, but external and supernal; thus we call the lintel of a door ὑπέϱθυϱον, and the upper part of the house ὑπεϱῷον; 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 Edition: current; Page: [335] an outward rind and with certain skins and membranes, but the only husk that the apple has is a glutinous and smooth tunic (or core) containing the seed, so that the part which is fit to be eaten, and lies without, was properly called ὑπέϱφλοιον, that is over or outside of the husk.

QUESTION IX.: What is the Reason that the Fig-tree, being itself of a very Sharp and Bitter Taste, bears so Sweet Fruit?


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 ϑϱίον. 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 thunder-struck, 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 portions 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 Edition: current; Page: [336] contrary, the fig-tree robbing it of its nourishment draws likewise some of its sharpness and bitterness away.

QUESTION X.: What are those that are said to be πεϱὶ ἅλα ϰαὶ ϰύμινον, and why does Homer call Salt Divine?


1. 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 enquire how salt should come to be so much honored as it is; for Homer plainly says,

And after that he strewed his salt divine,*

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?

2. 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 such votaries 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 Edition: current; Page: [337] some call salt χάϱιτας; because it makes food, which is necessary for life, to be relishing and pleasant.

3. 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, being a sort of protector to 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 thunder-struck 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?

4. 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 Edition: current; Page: [338] bitches not apt to be hot, give them salt and seasoned flesh, to stir up and awaken 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, ἁλμυϱὸν ϰαὶ δϱιμύ, 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 beside, there are no land animals so fruitful as the sea animals; 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 followed 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 over-charged, 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 Edition: current; Page: [339] 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.

QUESTION I.: What is the Reason that those that are Fasting are more Thirsty than Hungry?


I present you with this Sixth Book of Table Discourses, wherein the first thing that cometh to be discussed is an enquiry 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 Edition: current; Page: [340] 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 grows dry, wants drink more than meat; till the heat, receiving strength and vigor by our drinking, excites an appetite for more substantial food.

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QUESTION II.: Whether Want of Nourishment causeth Hunger and Thirst, or the Change in the Figure of the Pores or Passages of the Body.


1. 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 any thing 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.

2. I must confess this discourse seemed to carry in it Edition: current; Page: [342] 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. Now to deny that this very thing, which principally distinguishes an animate creature from an inanimate, conduces to the preservation and duration of such a creature, being that which craves and receives those things which the body needs to supply its wants, and, on the contrary, to suppose that such an appetite arises from the transfiguration or the greater or lesser size of the pores, is an absurdity worthy only of such as have no regard at all for Nature. 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 filled on account of emptiness, but on account of some affection 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, 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 τϱοφή (from τηϱοῦν), because it watches and preserves Nature. Now Nature is preserved in plants, which are destitute of Edition: current; Page: [343] 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.

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 a bath 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 passages receive what is most proper and convenient for them. Moreover, a fever forces all the moisture downward; and the middle parts being Edition: current; Page: [344] in a flame, 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 out of 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 passages 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 Edition: current; Page: [345] cloth more apt to receive the dye, because its pores are empty and want something to fill them up.

QUESTION III.: What is the Reason that Hunger is Allayed by Drinking, but Thirst Increased by Eating?


1. 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 staid 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 the 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.

2. 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 Edition: current; Page: [346] 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 untouched. 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 dryness, 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. 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 it 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 Edition: current; Page: [347] 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 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.

QUESTION IV.: What is the Reason that a Bucket of Water drawn out of a Well, if it stands all Night in the Air that is in the Well, is more cold in the Morning than the rest of the Water?


1. One of the strangers at 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 new-drawn. Now this gentleman was an indifferent good scholar, and therefore told the company 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 Edition: current; Page: [348] 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 cooler; 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.

2. 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.

QUESTION V.: What is the Reason that Pebble Stones and Leaden Bullets thrown into the Water make it more Cold?


I suppose you may remember 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 Edition: current; Page: [349] they temper and cool it. This is no more than barely asserted by him; but we will go farther and enquire 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 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.

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QUESTION VI.: What is the Reason that Men Preserve Snow by Covering it with Chaff and Cloths?


1. 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.

2. 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 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 Edition: current; Page: [351] 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.

QUESTION VII.: Whether Wine ought to be Strained or not.


1. Niger, a citizen of ours, was lately come from school, after he had spent some time under the discipline of a renowned philosopher, but had learned nothing but those faults by which his master was offensive and odious to others, especially his habit of reproving and of carping at whatever upon any occasion chanced to be spoke in company. And therefore, when we were at supper one time at Aristio’s, not content to assume to himself a liberty to Edition: current; Page: [352] 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, while it has its natural strength and force. 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 τϱυγᾶν, the word being derived from τϱύξ, which signifies lees; and Homer in one place calls the fruit of the wine διατϱύγιον, and the wine itself high-colored and red, — not pale and yellow, such as Aristio gives us to supper, after all goodness is purged out of it.

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2. 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 at first sight 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-colored wine which he called αἶθοψ, but clear and transparent; for otherwise he would never have called brass αἶθοψ, after he had given it the epithets 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 Edition: current; Page: [354] 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.*

So much was allowable, being no more than a careful cleanliness. But when she comes to call for her golden buttons, her curiously wrought ear-rings, 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 any thing 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 Edition: current; Page: [355] 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?

QUESTION VIII.: What is the Cause of Bulimy, or the Greedy Disease?


1. 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 rights and ceremonies of the sacrifice were over, when we had seated ourselves again at the table, there was an enquiry 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 π for β. For it was not called by the ancients βούλιμος but πούλιμος, that is, πολὺς λιμός, 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 Edition: current; Page: [356] is occasioned by an unnatural disposition of the body, these two differ as riches and poverty, health and sickness. But as the word nauseate (ναυτιᾶν) first took its name from men who were stomach-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.

2. But after we began to enquire 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 loaden 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.

3. 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 Edition: current; Page: [357] 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, as was natural.

4. 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.

5. But Cleomenes the physician would have the word λιμός (which signifies hunger) to be added to the making up of the word βούλιμος without any reason at all; as πίνειν, to drink, has crept into ϰαταπίνειν, to swallow; and ϰύπτειν, to incline, into ἀναϰύπτειν to raise the head. Nor is bulimy, as it seems, a kind of hunger, but a fault in the stomach, which concurring with heat causes a faintness. 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.

6. These things seemed to be reasonably well urged; Edition: current; Page: [358] and yet we thought that much might be said in the defence of 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 sharp point and finest scale of the congealed 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 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 excites 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 Edition: current; Page: [359] beasts; for different things have a natural tendency as well to weaken as to refresh different creatures.

QUESTION IX.: Why does Homer appropriate a certain peculiar Epithet to each particular Liquid, and call Oil alone Liquid?*


1. 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.

2. 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 eyes the least particle of light from every part of it. 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 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 Edition: current; Page: [360] dry and earthy parts, to receive what chances to fall upon it. Besides, because of the similitude of parts, it is closely joined together, and unfit to be joined to any thing 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 preys only 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.

3. 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 stains of oil, for it enters deep, because of its most subtile and humid nature. Hence it is that Aristotle says, 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.

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QUESTION X.: What is the Reason that Flesh of Sacrificed Beasts, after it has hung a while upon a Fig-tree, is more tender than before?


At supper we were commending 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 be very easily done, if the cock, as soon as he was killed, was hung upon a fig-tree, — we began to enquire 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 of all trees this 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 unites and (as it were) glues into one body, 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 an argument the unprofitableness of the sap of this tree, which, though it is very sweet, yet makes the worst Edition: current; Page: [362] 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 contracted by heat. And salt helps to produce the same effect; for it is hot, and works in opposition 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 to-day, 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 ϑεῖον, divine; and most call it χάϱιτας, 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 Edition: current; Page: [363] 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.

QUESTION I.: Against those who find fault with Plato for saying that Drink passeth through the Lungs.


1. 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 Edition: current; Page: [364] 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 wind-pipe should be shut, and nothing be suffered to fall upon the lungs. For if any thing 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 wind-pipe, 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 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.

2. 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 ἀσφάϱαγον) of the breath, and upon the same account they called those who had loud voices ἐϱισφαϱάγους And when he describes how Achilles killed Hector, he says,

He pierced his weasand, where death enters soon;

and adds,

But not his windpipe, so that he could speak,*

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

3. 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 (ϕάρυγος) flowed
  • The clotted wine and undigested flesh.*

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 φάϱυγξ 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 influence 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, Edition: current; Page: [366] 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 operations 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, a very ancient and famous physician, and Hippocrates too, with his pupil 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, Edition: current; Page: [367] 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 into the belly. But it is probable that 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 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 opinion.

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QUESTION II.: What humored Man is he that Plato calls ϰεϱασβόλος? And why do those Seeds that fall on the oxen’s horns become ἀτεϱάμονα?


1. We had always some difficulty started about ϰεϱασβόλος and ἀτεϱάμων, 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 discourse of Theophrastus, in which he has collected many of those particulars whose causes we cannot discover. Such are the hen’s purifying herself with straw after she has laid, the seal’s swallowing her rennet when she is caught, the deer’s burying his cast 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 enquiries and bolder in our resolutions — desired me to speak somewhat to that problem.

2. I refused, though I had some excellent men on my side, namely, Euthydemus my fellow-priest, and Patrocles my relation, 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 Edition: current; Page: [369] blood or a woman’s rags; 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.

3. 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. 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 calls 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 Edition: current; Page: [370] 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 husbandmen 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?

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


1. My father-in-law 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 enquire into the cause of this difference.

2. 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 Edition: current; Page: [371] others. So, if you turn over 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. 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 full cask is preserved and defended by itself, not admitting much of the external air, which is apt to injure and corrupt it.

3. But the oil puzzled us most. One of the company thought that the bottom of the oil was worst, 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.

4. Well then! said I, the same quality in the air may spoil wine, and better oil. For long keeping improves Edition: current; Page: [372] 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.

QUESTION IV.: What was the Reason of that Custom of the Ancient Romans to Remove the Table before all the Meat was eaten, and not to put out the Lamp?


1. Florus, who loved the ancient customs, 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 precise, — while those of the present day extinguish it 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 enquire for what reason the ancients were so careful about their tables and their lamps.

2. First, about the lamps. And his son-in-law Caesernius was of opinion that the ancients abominated all extinction Edition: current; Page: [373] of fire, because of the relation 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.

3. 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 every thing 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?

4. 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 Edition: current; Page: [374] 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 fortitude, 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.

5. 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.

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6. 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.

7. 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 (Ἑστία, from ἵστημι). Therefore as we Edition: current; Page: [376] 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.

QUESTION V.: That we ought carefully to Preserve Ourselves from Pleasures arising from Bad Music. And how it may be done.


1. 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, which he did 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 he feared he should be too harsh and give offence, Callistratus gave him a hint, and drew him on by this discourse: —

2. 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 Edition: current; Page: [377] 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 upon good reason free those complacencies we take in shows and songs from the charge of intemperance, 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 ἱππόϑοϱος. 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 caught by means of dancing; for during the dance 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 loose and intemperate, but of a pleasant and genteel, manner of passing away our time.

3. 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 Edition: current; Page: [378] hath made you forget that some of those faults which are committed about pleasures 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 on 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 wratch who knew what mischiefs wait on sin,
  • Yet love of pleasure forced 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 loose and intemperate, since they are debauched 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. Therefore Agesilaus said, it was all one whether a man were a cinaedus 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 Edition: current; Page: [379] 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 in one case as much as the other we 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 skilful cook or perfumer, conquer and corrupt us; and in the mean time, 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, nor doth it change; but neither our meat nor broth, nor this excellent wine which we drink, hath raised such a noisy tumultuous 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, 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 Edition: current; Page: [380] 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.

4. 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, amid all the madness of music and dancing, 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.

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QUESTION VI.: Concerning those Guests that are called Shadows, and whether being invited by some to go to another’s House, they ought to go; and when, and to whom.


1. 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.*

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; although 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 accident staying somewhat behind, Aristodemus went in first; and this seemed very fitting, 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 Edition: current; Page: [382] they should keep one corner of their bellies for a great 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.

2. 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-in-law Caesernius was positively against it. We should, says he, following Hesiod’s advice,

Invite a friend to feast,*

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. Beside, 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,

Edition: current; Page: [383]

Speak, tongue, if thou wilt utter jovial things,

than at a feast, and freedom and raillery is mixed with every thing 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 but can quietly endure to be called and answer to the name of shadows. For, by enduring such base names, men are insensibly customed and drawn on to base actions. Therefore, when I make an invitation, since 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.

3. 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 permit or to desire another to do that which is not decent to be done, or to urge and persuade to that which no man 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 treat 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 Edition: current; Page: [384] 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 enquire and ask what sort of meat, wine, or ointment the person whom we are to entertain loves best; so it is never disobliging or 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 equally 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, 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 Edition: current; Page: [385] 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 avert 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 friends, who with a great many shadows, as it were harpies, tear and devour his provision. Besides, he should not take anybody that he may meet along with him to another’s entertainment, but chiefly the entertainer’s acquaintance, as it were contending with him and preventing 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, ingenious 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 conformity at all with the feast-maker, but who are perfect 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 talking through their beards, — will be very disobliging, and turn all the intended mirth into an unpleasant sourness. The entertained Edition: current; Page: [386] 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 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 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 Edition: current; Page: [387] 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.

QUESTION VII.: Whether Flute-girls are to be Admitted to a Feast?


At Chaeronea, Diogenianus the Pergamenian being present, we had a long discourse 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 Edition: current; Page: [388] 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 entertainments by 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 linkboy 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 allowed, 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 Edition: current; Page: [389] instructors, said, the city was certainly mad which sported with so much pains. He that designs to sport should sport, and not buy his ease 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.

QUESTION VIII.: What sort of Music is fittest for an Entertainment?


1. When Philip had ended, I hindered the sophister from returning an answer to the discourse, and said: Let us rather enquire, 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 biassed 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 play-house, 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; causing 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 approve; but soft and effeminate fellows, whose ears ignorance and ill-breeding hath corrupted, and who, as Aristoxenus phraseth it, are Edition: current; Page: [390] ready to vomit when they hear excellent harmony, reject it; and no wonder, when effeminacy prevails.

2. 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 Anacreon’s verses are pronounced, I protest I then 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.

3. 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 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 nature 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 irregularities that appear in it; for that vehemency which they use in the parabasis is loud and indecent, and the liberty they take to Edition: current; Page: [391] 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 taken 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 end 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 the 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 elegance in the hearers, and make their manners like the pattern they have from those genteel characters.

4. Diogenianus, either designedly or for want of breath, Edition: current; Page: [392] ended thus. And when the sophister came upon him again, and contended that some of Aristophanes’s verses should be recited, 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 carvers we will set up to-morrow, when we are sober, if Diogenianus and this stranger think fit. Of representations, said I, some are mythical, 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 Edition: current; Page: [393] 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 incapable either 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 secure 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 any thing that may rather prove an uneasy hindrance to the conversation than promote it. For not only are those 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 Edition: current; Page: [394] 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, 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.

QUESTION IX.: That it was the Custom of the Greeks as well as Persians to Debate of State Affairs at their Entertainments.


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

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

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

Old Nestor first began a grave debate;*

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.
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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 politic 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,*

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 εὐφϱόνη, as it were, well-minded.

QUESTION X.: Whether they did well who Deliberated midst their Cups.


1. 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 creeping forth, like insects to the sun, and being agitated Edition: current; Page: [396] 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 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 οἶνος, because it makes those that drink it think that they have wit (οἴεσθαι νοῦν ἔχειν); 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 any thing for the contrary opinion.

2. 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 politics and state affairs? Or is not this all the same as to think that a man in his liquor doth not see Edition: current; Page: [397] 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. 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, 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 in the soul, they make the body correct and proper in its operations, and obedient to the motions of the mind. 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 wrote 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, Edition: current; Page: [398] 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 once wanting, neither quickness of wit nor experience availeth any thing; 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 guileless; 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 fully and freely to one another.

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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, every thing that is brutish and outrageous in it is concealed, being pleasingly restrained by the Muses.

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This book, being the eighth of my Symposiacs, begins that discourse in which about a year ago, on Plato’s birthday, I was concerned.

QUESTION I.: Concerning those Days in which some Famous Men were Born; and also concerning the Generation of the Gods.


1. 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 first the birthday of the most famous of the two, who was also the teacher 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.

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2. 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 (he continued) you, 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 greater 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.

3. 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.

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 Edition: current; Page: [402] a hen will sometimes 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 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 any thing on a goddess, because they believe the goddesses are made of thin air, and subtle heat and moisture.

QUESTION II.: What is Plato’s Meaning, when he says that God always plays the Geometer?


1. Silence following this discourse, Diogenianus began and said: Since our discourse is about the Gods, shall we, especially on his own birthday, admit Plato to the conference, and enquire 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 a view of the mysteries of initiation 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 Edition: current; Page: [403] to determine rather according to passion than reason. For the understanding, 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.

2. After Tyndares, Florus, a companion of his, 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 refute 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 engendered 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 Edition: current; Page: [404] 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 δίϰη and νέμεσις, 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.

3. 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 or limits of bodies; neither did God make the world any other way than by terminating matter, which was infinite before. Not that matter was really infinite 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 every thing that is formed or figured are the form and figure of that thing, 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 profundities; and so were settled the first species and differences of bodies, as foundations from which to raise the four elements, fire, air, water, and earth. For it was impossible that, out of an unsteady and confused matter, the Edition: current; Page: [405] 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.

4. 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 construct 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, Edition: current; Page: [406] 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 continual 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. Wherefore in its measure and circuit this universal world is more beautiful than that which is merely similar to it. . . .

QUESTION III.: Why Noises are better Heard in the Night than the Day.


1. 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 enquire 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 Edition: current; Page: [407] 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 assist us with a rational account hereof?

2. 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 empty space, there are but 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 the parts of condensed bodies. 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 voice, 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 Edition: current; Page: [408] 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 closely 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 farther. 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 first assumed.

3. And I (Ammonius bidding me oppose him) said: Sir, your suppositions which require 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 is homogeneous and uniform, easy to be moved, light, smooth, and, by reason of its tenseness and continuity, 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 in it 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 Edition: current; Page: [409] 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.

4. 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, gives 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 tempestuous weather, as Simonides hath it: —

  • No tearing tempests rattled through the skies,
  • Which hinder sweet discourse from mortal ears.
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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.

5. 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 never consider the tossing and divulsion thereof, which are sensible and 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 every thing.

  • He sends forth lucky signs,
  • And stirs up nations to their proper work,

and they obey; and (as Democritus saith) with new 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 appositely calls the dawning ϰλυτόν (from ϰλύειν, 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.

6. Aristodemus the Cyprian, being then in 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 any thing, there must be some great Edition: current; Page: [411] and urgent necessity for it; and thence our voices become more vehement and loud.

QUESTION IV.: Why, when in the Sacred Games one sort of Garland was given in one, and another in another, the Palm was common to all. And why they call the great Dates Νιϰόλαοι.


1. 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 νίϰη from μὴ εἴϰειν, not to yield. For a great many other trees, which almost by measure and weight divide 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 some pomegranates and apples, to honor and reward them. But now the palm hath nothing evidently more taking than many other t