Part 3 out of 17
The instruments of sense are intelligent exhalations, which from
the said commanding part extend unto all the organs of the body.
Epicurus, 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
external 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 image falling upon us.
WHETHER WHAT APPEARS TO OUR SENSES AND IMAGINATIONS BE
TRUE OR NOT.
The Stoics say that what the senses represent is true; what the
imagination, is partly false, partly true. Epicurus that every
impression of the sense or imagination is true, but of those
things that fall under the head of opinion, some are true, some
false: sense gives us a false presentation of those things only
which are the objects of our understanding; but the imagination
gives us a double error, both of things sensible and things
intellectual. Empedocles and Heraclides, that the senses act by
a just accommodation of the pores in every case; everything that
is perceived by the sense being congruously adapted to its
HOW MANY SENSES ARE THERE?
The Stoics say that there are five senses properly so called,
seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting. and touching. 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 divers
species of senses, which appertain to beings destitute of reason,
to the gods, and to wise men.
HOW THE ACTIONS OF THE SENSES, THE CONCEPTIONS OF OUR MINDS, AND
THE HABIT OF OUR REASON ARE FORMED.
The Stoics affirm that every man, as soon as he is born, has a
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 more than 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 justly 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 the mind [Greek omitted] from [Greek
omitted]. Therefore these visions are not to be found in any other
animals; they only are appropriated 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 simply pence and
staters; but if you give them as a price for a naval voyage, they
are called not merely pence, etc., but your freight.
WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN IMAGINATION [GREEK OMITTED], THE
IMAGINABLE [GREEK OMITTED], FANCY [GREEK OMITTED], AND PHANTOM
Chrysippus affirms, these four are different one from another.
Imagination is that passion raised in the soul which discovers
itself and that which was the efficient of it; to use 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 with touching and smelling Phantasy or
imagination is denominated from [Greek omitted] 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 anything that is white, or anything that is cold,
or everything that may make an impression upon the imagination.
Fancy is a vain impulse upon the mind of man, proceeding from
nothing which is really conceivable; this is experienced in those
that whirl about their idle hand 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 brought 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
Mother, these maids with horror me affright;
Oh bring 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:
0 wretched man, securely sleep in bed;
Nothing thou seest, thy fancy's vainly led.
(Euripides, "Orestes", 255.)
After the same manner Theoclymenus in Homer.
OF OUR SIGHT, AND BY WHAT MEANS WE SEE.
Democritus and Epicurus suppose that sight is caused by the
insertion of little images into the visive organ, and by the
reception of certain rays which return to the eye after meeting 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 cognate air, and there is likewise a light shed
from bodies, which meets and joins with the fiery visual light in
the intermediate air (which is liquid and mutable); and the union
of these rays gives the sense of seeing. This is Plato's
corradiancy, or splendor of united rays.
OF THOSE IMAGES WHICH ARE PRESENTED TO OUR EYES IN MIRRORS.
Empedocles says that these images are caused by certain effluxes
which, meeting together and resting upon the superficies of the
mirror, are perfected by that fiery element emitted by the said
mirror, which transforms withal the air that surrounds it.
Democritus and Epicurus, that the specular appearances are made by
the subsistence of the images which flow from our eyes; these fall
upon the mirror and remain, while the light returns 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 forced back,
and caused to return upon itself: the same takes place in the
hand, when it is stretched out and then brought back again to the
shoulder. Any one may use these instances to explain the manner
WHETHER DARKNESS CAN BE VISIBLE TO US.
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, extend
conically on the surrounding air, where this is homogeneous in
quality. For from the eyes those rays are poured forth which are
neither black nor cloudy. Upon this. account darkness is visible
Empedocles says that hearing is formed by the insidency of the air
upon the cochlea, 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 exists 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 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.
OF THE VOICE.
Plato thus defines a voice,--that it is a breath drawn by the mind
through the mouth, and a blow impressed on 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 [Greek omitted] is an articulate
sound, which illustrates [Greek omitted] 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 kind. 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
seashore, 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 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 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 air, it is
infinitely moved in waves and in right circles, until it fill that
air which surrounds 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.
WHETHER THE VOICE IS INCORPOREAL.
WHAT IS IT THAT THE GIVES ECHO?
Pythagoras, Plato, and Aristotle declare that the voice is
incorporeal; for it is not the air that causes 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. It is true that it move with the body but itself it
hath no body; as we observe 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 everything 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. Besides, everything that creates a delight or injury
is a body; harmonious music affects with delight, but discord is
tiresome. And everything that 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 Egyptian pyramids is so broken, that it gives four or
BY WHAT MEANS THE SOUL IS SENSIBLE, AND WHAT IS THE PRINCIPAL AND
COMMANDING PART OF IT.
The Stoics say that the highest part of the soul is the commanding
part of it: this is the cause of sense, fancy, 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 of the eyes; hearing is that spirit which
from the principle reacheth to the ears; smelling a spirit drawn
from the principal to the nostrils; tasting a spirit extended from
the principle 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
OF RESPIRATION OR BREATHING.
Empedocles thinks, that the first breath the first animal drew was
when the moisture in the embryo was separated, 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 a respiration.
The respiration that now is arises when the blood is borne to the
exterior surface, and by this movement 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 explain 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 funnel,
and 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
of the pipe in the neck; for these are at our command.
Herophilus attributes a moving faculty to the nerves, arteries, and
muscles, but thinks 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 of
it upon the lungs, whereby it is then sent forth in 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 processes two
are dilatations, one when the lungs attract the 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.
OF THE PASSIONS OF THE BODY, AND WHETHER THE SOUL HATH A
SYMPATHETICAL CONDOLENCY WITH IT.
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 place patience takes its residence, and this is
apparent in terrible and dolorous things, as also in timorous and
Plato and the Stoics introduce divination as a godlike enthusiasm,
the soul itself being of a divine constitution, and this prophetic
faculty being inspiration, or an illapse of the divine knowledge
into man; and so likewise they account for interpretation by
dreams. And these same allow 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.
WHENCE DREAMS DO ARISE.
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
OF THE NATURE OF GENERATIVE SEED.
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 of the blood and marrow of our bodies. Alcmaeon, that it is 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 tissues and muscles.
WHETHER THE SPERM BE A BODY.
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
essential power is a body; for it is like spirit.
WHETHER WOMEN DO GIVE A SPERMATIC EMISSION AS MEN DO.
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 women have a seminal emission, but not after the mode
of men; it contributes nothing to generation, for it falls outside
of the matrix; and therefore some women without coition, especially
widows, give the seed. They also assert that from men the bones,
from women the flesh proceed.
HOW IT IS THAT CONCEPTIONS ARE MADE.
Aristotle says, that conception takes place when the womb is drawn
down by the natural purgation, and the monthly terms attract from
the whole mass part of the purest blood, and this is met by the
seed of man. On the contrary, there is a failure by the impurity
and inflation of the womb, by fear and grief, by the weakness of
women, or the decline of strength in men.
AFTER WHAT MANNER MALES AND FEMALES ARE GENERATED.
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 originated from the earth in the
eastern and southern parts, and the first females in the northern
parts. 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 the man into the left side of the womb; there is an alteration
in this course of nature when 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 common to both sexes are engendered indifferently; but the
peculiar parts by the one that is more powerful. Hippo, that if
the spermatic faculty be more effectual, the male, if the nutritive
aliment, the female is generated.
BY WHAT MEANS IT IS THAT MONSTROUS BIRTHS ARE EFFECTED.
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 disturbance in the motion, or
else that there is an error by a lapse into an unsuitable
receptacle; and thus he presumes he hath given all the causes of
monstrous conceptions. Strato, that it comes through 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.
HOW IT COMES TO PASS THAT A WOMAN'S TOO FREQUENT CONVERSATION
WITH A MAN HINDERS CONCEPTION.
Diocles the physician says that either no genital sperm is
projected, or, if there be, it is in a less quantity than 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 have a capacity to receive. Erasistratus
assigns it to the womb's being more callous or more carneous,
thinner or smaller, than nature does require.
WHENCE IT IS THAT ONE BIRTH GIVES TWO OR THREE CHILDREN.
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 can 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
WHENCE IT IS THAT CHILDREN REPRESENT THEIR PARENTS AND PROGENITORS.
Empedocles says, that the similitude of children to their parents
proceeds from the vigorous prevalency of the generating sperm;
the dissimilitude from the evaporation of the natural heat it
contains. Parmenides, that when the sperm falls on 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 likenesses in the characters and faces of the children,
as a painter in his copy imitates the colors in a picture before
him. Women have a concurrent emission of seed; if the feminine
seed have the predominancy, the child resembles the mother; if the
masculine, the father.
HOW IT COMES TO PASS THAT CHILDREN HAVE A GREATER SIMILITUDE WITH
STRANGERS THAN WITH THEIR PARENTS.
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 in conception
impresses a shape upon the infant; for women have been enamoured
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, through the insertion of
effluvias and rays, not of images or pictures.
WHENCE ARISETH BARRENNESS IN WOMEN, AND IMPOTENCY IN MEN?
The physicians maintain, that sterility in women can arise from the
womb; for if it be after any ways thus affected, there will be a
barrenness,--if it be more condensed, or more thin, or more
hardened, or more callous, or more carneous; or it may be from
languor, or from an atrophy or vicious condition of body;
or, lastly, it may arise from a twisted or distorted position.
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.
HOW IT ARISES THAT MULES ARE BARREN.
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, because the 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 ejaculated 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.
WHETHER THE INFANT IN THE MOTHER'S WOMB BE AN ANIMAL.
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; 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 nurtured in
the matrix inanimate, yet they have a natural heat; but presently,
when the infant is cast into the open air, its heat brings air into
the lungs, and so it becomes an animal. Herophilus acknowledgeth
that a natural, but not an animal 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.
HOW EMBRYOS ARE NOURISHED, OR HOW THE INFANT IN THE BELLY
RECEIVES ITS ALIMENT.
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 Stoics, that by the secundines and navel they partake of
aliment, and therefore the midwife instantly after their birth ties
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
WHAT PART OF THE BODY IS FIRST FORMED IN THE WOMB.
The Stoics believe that the whole 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.
WHENCE IS IT THAT INFANTS BORN IN THE SEVENTH MONTH ARE BORN ALIVE.
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 stoppage of the menstruas; and so it may
generally pass for seven months when really there are not seven;
for it sometimes occurs that even after conception a woman is
purged to some extent. 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 wish to
Aristotle and Hippocrates, that if the womb is full in seven
months, then the child falls from the mother and is born alive, but
if it falls from her but is not nourished, the navel being weak on
account of the weight of the infant, then it doth not thrive;
but if the infant continues nine months in the womb, and then comes
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 over plus 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 wrenched; 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
final is reckoned the eighth from the first, as the first and the
eighth, the second and the ninth, etc; 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
OF THE GENERATION OF ANIMALS, HOW ANIMALS ARE BEGOTTEN, AND
WHETHER THEY ARE OBNOXIOUS TO CORRUPTION.
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
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 only 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
and 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 like elements (as earth and water), but a union of
animals among themselves,--in some the nourishment being made
dense, in others female beauty provoking a desire 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 live in the air those that are heavier incline to the
earth; but those animals whose parts are of a just temperament are
fitted equally for all places.
HOW MANY SPECIES OF ANIMALS THERE ARE, AND WHETHER ALL ANIMALS
HAVE THE ENDOWMENTS OF SENSE AND REASON.
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 too animals, yea,
and God himself he posits to be an animal gifted with reason and
immortal. Democritus and Epicurus consider 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 conduct themselves rationally.
This is manifested in apes and dogs, which have inarticulate 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 neither
enjoy understanding nor sense; but they are affected as madmen are,
the commanding rational part being defectuous and injured.
WHAT TIME IS REQUIRED TO SHAPE THE PARTS OF ANIMALS IN THE WOMB.
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.
OF WHAT ELEMENTS EACH OF THE MEMBERS OF US MEN IS COMPOSED.
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 nerves; but when it happens
that the nerves are refrigerated where they come in contact with
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, mixed together; sweat and tears flow from
liquefaction of bodies.
WHAT ARE THE CAUSES OF SLEEP AND DEATH?
Alcmaeon says, that sleep is caused when the blood retreats to the
concourse of the veins, but when the blood 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 everything 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 relaxing 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 relaxing of the sensitive
spirit, death ensues.
WHEN AND FROM WHENCE THE PERFECTION OF A MAN COMMENCES.
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.
WHETHER SLEEP OR DEATH APPERTAINS TO THE SOUL OR BODY.
Aristotle's opinion is, that both the soul and body sleep; and this
proceeds from the evaporation in the breast, which doth steam and
arise into the head, and from the aliment in the stomach, whose
proper heat is cooled in the heart. Death is the perfect
refrigeration of all heat in 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 excessive
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.
HOW PLANTS INCREASE.
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
carry 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 act 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 motion enriched the
world, and before day and night 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
lack water, when this is dried up by the heat of summer, shed their
leaves; whereas they that have plenty thereof keep their leaves on,
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.
OF NUTRITION AND GROWTH.
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 only a mere infancy.
WHENCE IT IS THAT IN ANIMALS THERE ARE APPETITES AND PLEASURES.
Empedocles says that the want of those elements which compose
animals gives to them appetite, and pleasures spring from
humidity. As to the motions of dangers and such like things as
perturbations, etc. ...
WHAT IS THE CAUSE OF A FEVER, OR WHETHER IT IS AN AFFECTION OF
THE BODY ANNEXED TO A PRIMARY PASSION
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, the seat of 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,
OF HEALTH, SICKNESS, AND OLD AGE.
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 direct cause of disease is the excess of heat or
cold, the formal cause is excess 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 nourishment, 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 keep the fiery element within their bodies;
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 are condensed and robust, and by consequence are more
END OF THREE---------
ABSTRACT OF A DISCOURSE SHOWING THAT THE STOICS SPEAK GREATER
IMPROBABILITIES THAN THE POETS.
Pinder's Caeneus hath been taken to task by several, for 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
Euripides's Iolaus of a feeble, superannuated old man, by means of
a certain prayer, became on a sudden youthful 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, godlike, and beauteous person.
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)
humpbacked, 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
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,
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 everything, though
they have not one drachm of silver in the house.
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.
The king of Ithaca begs with a design that none may know who he
is, and makes himself
As like a dirty sorry beggar
("Odyssey," xvi. 273.)
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.
END OF FOUR---------------
Some, my dear Sossius Senecio imagine that this sentence, [Greek
omitted] was principally designed against the stewards of a feast,
who are usually troublesome and press liquor too much upon the
guests. For the Dorians in Sicily (as I am informed) called the
steward, [Greek omitted] a REMEMBRANCER. Others think that this
proverb admonisheth the guests to forget everything that is spoken
or done in company; and agreeably to this, the ancients used to
consecrate forgetfulness with a ferula to Bacchus, thereby
intimating that we should either not remember any irregularity
committed in mirth and company, or apply a gentle and childish
correction to the faults. But because you are of opinion (as
Euripides says) that to forget absurdities is indeed a piece of
wisdom, but to deliver over to oblivion all sort of discourse that
merry meetings do usually produce is not only repugnant to that
endearing quality that most allow to an entertainment, but against
the known practice of the greatest philosophers (for Plato,
Xenophon, Aristotle, Speusippus, Epicurus, Prytanis, Hieronymus,
Dion the Academic, have thought it a worthy and noble employment to
deliver down to us those discourses they had at table), and since
it is your pleasure that I should gather up the chiefest of those
scattered topics which both at Rome and Greece amidst our cups and
feasting we have disputed on, in obedience to your commands I have
sent three books, each containing ten problems; and the rest shall
quickly follow, if these find good acceptance and do not seem
altogether foolish and impertinent.
WHETHER AT TABLE IT IS ALLOWABLE TO PHILOSOPHIZE?
SOSSIUS, SENECIO, ARISTO, PLUTARCH, CRATO, AND OTHERS.
The first question is, Whether at table it is allowable to
philosophize? For I remember at a supper at Athens this doubt was
started, whether at a merry meeting it was fit to use philosophical
discourse, and how far it might be used? And Aristo presently
cried out: What then, for heaven's sake, are there any that banish
philosophy from company and wine? And I replied: Yes, sir, there
are, and such as with a grave scoff tell us that philosophy, like
the matron of the house, should never be heard at a merry
entertainment; and commend the custom of the Persians, who never
let their wives appear, but drink, dance, and wanton with their
whores. This they propose for us to imitate; they permit us to
have mimics and music at our feasts, but forbid philosophy;
she, forsooth, being very unfit to be wanton with us, and we in a
bad condition to be serious. Isocrates the rhetorician, when at a
drinking bout some begged him to make a speech, only returned:
With those things in which I have skill the time doth not suit;
and in those things with which the time suits I have no skill.
And Crato cried out: By Bacchus, he was right to forswear talk, if
he designed to make such long-winded discourses as would have
spoiled all mirth and conversation; but I do not think there is the
same reason to forbid philosophy as to take away rhetoric from our
feasts. For philosophy is quite of another nature; it is an art of
living, and therefore must be admitted into every part of our
conversation, into all our gay humors and our pleasures, to
regulate and adjust them, to proportion the time, and keep them
from excess; unless, perchance, upon the same scoffing pretence of
gravity, they would banish temperance, justice, and moderation.
It is true, were we to feast before a court, as those that
entertained Orestes, and were silence enjoined by law, that might
prove no mean cloak of our ignorance; but if Bacchus is really
[Greek omitted] (A LOOSER of everything), and chiefly takes off all
restraints and bridles from the tongue, and gives the voice the
greatest freedom, I think it is foolish and absurd to deprive that
time in which we are usually most talkative of the most useful and
profitable discourse; and in our schools to dispute of the offices
of company, in what consists the excellence of a guest, how mirth,
feasting, and wine are to be used and yet deny philosophy a place
in these feasts, as if not able to confirm by practice what by
precepts it instructs.
And when you affirmed that none ought to oppose what Crato said,
but determine what sorts of philosophical topics were to be
admitted as fit companions at a feast, and so avoid that just
and pleasant taunt put upon the wrangling disputers of the age,
Come now to supper, that we may contend;
and when you seemed concerned and urged us to speak to that head, I
first replied: Sir, we must consider what company we have; for if
the greater part of the guests are learned men,--as for instance,
at Agatho's entertainment, characters like Socrates, Phaedrus,
Pausanias, Euryximachus; or at Callias's board, Charmides,
Antisthenes, Hermogenes, and the like,--we will permit them to
philosohize, and to mix Bacchus with the Muses as well as with the
Nymphs; for the latter make him wholesome and gentle to the body,
and the other pleasant and agreeable to the soul. And if there are
some few illiterate persons present, they, as consonants with
vowels, in the midst of the other learned, will participate not
altogether inarticulately and insignificantly. But if the greater
part consists of such who can better endure the noise of any bird,
fiddle-string, or piece of wood than the voice of a philosopher,
Pisistratus hath shown us what to do; for being at difference with
his sons, when he heard his enemies rejoiced at it, in a full
assembly he declared that he had endeavored to persuade his sons to
submit to him, but since he found them obstinate, he was resolved
to yield and submit to their humors. So a philosopher, midst those
companions that slight his excellent discourse, will lay aside his
gravity, follow them, and comply with their humor as far as decency
will permit; knowing very well that men cannot exercise their
rhetoric unless they speak, but may their philosophy even whilst
they are silent or jest merrily, nay, whilst they are piqued upon
or repartee. For it is not only (as Plato says) the highest degree
of injustice not to be just and yet seem so; but it is the top of
wisdom to philosophize, yet not appear to do it; and in mirth to do
the same with those that are serious, and still seem in earnest.
For as in Euripides, the Bacchae, though unprovided of iron weapons
and unarmed, wounded their invaders with their boughs, thus the
very jests and merry talk of true philosophers move those that are
not altogether insensible.
I think there are topics fit to be used at table, some of which
reading and study give us, others the present occasion; some to
incite to study, others to piety and great and noble actions,
others to make us rivals of the bountiful and kind; which if a man
cunningly and without any apparent design inserts for the
instruction of the rest, he will free these entertainments from
many of those considerable evils which usually attend them.
Some that put borage into the wine, or sprinkle the floor with
water in which verbena and maiden-hair have been steeped, as good
raise mirth and jollity in the guests (in imitation of Homer's
Helen, who with some medicament diluted the pure wine she had
prepared), do not understand that that fable, coming from round
Egypt, after a long way ends at last in easy and fit discourse.
For whilst they were drinking Helen relates the story of Ulysses,
How Fortune's spite the hero did control,
And bore his troubles with a manly soul.
("Odyssey," iv. 242.)
For that, in my opinion, was the Nepenthe, the care-dissolving
medicament, viz, that story exactly fitted to the then disasters
and juncture of affairs. The pleasing men, though they designedly
and apparently instruct, draw on their maxims rather with
persuasive and smooth arguments, than the violent force of
demonstrations. You see that even Plato in his Symposium, where he
disputes of the chief end, the chief good, and is altogether on
subjects theological, doth not lay down strong and close
demonstrations; he doth not make himself ready for the contest (as
he is wont) like a wrestler, that he may take the firmer hold of
his adversary and be sure of giving him the trip; but draws men on
by more soft and pliable attacks, by pleasant fictions and
Besides the questions should be easy, the problems known, the
interrogations plain, familiar, and not intricate and dark that
they might neither vex the unlearned, nor fright them from the
disquisition. For--as it is allowable to dissolve our
entertainment into a dance, but if we force our guests to toss
quoits or play at cudgels, we shall not only make our feast
unpleasant, but hurtful and unnatural--thus light and easy
disquisitions do pleasantly and profitably excite us, but we must
forbear all contentions and (to use Democritus's word) wrangling
disputes, which perplex the proposers with intricate and
inexplicable doubts, and trouble all the others that are present.
Our discourse should be like our wine, common to all, and of which
every one may equally partake; and they that propose hard problems
seem no better fitted for society than Aesop's fox and crane.
For the fox vexed the crane with thin broth poured out upon a plain
table, and laughed at her when he saw her, by reason of the
narrowness of her bill and the thinness of the broth, incapable of
partaking what he had prepared; and the crane, in requital,
inviting the fox to supper, brought forth her dainties in a pot
with a long and narrow neck, into which she could conveniently
thrust her bill, whilst the fox could not reach one bit. Just so,
when philosophers midst their cups dive into minute and logical
disputes, they are very troublesome to those that cannot follow
them through the same depths; and those that bring in idle songs,
trifling disquisitions, common talk, and mechanical discourse
destroy the very end of conversation and merry entertainments, and
abuse Bacchus. Therefore, as when Phrynichus and Aeschylus brought
tragedy to discourse of fictions and misfortunes, it was asked,
What is this to Bacchus?--so methinks, when I hear some
pedantically drawing a syllogism into table-talk, I have reason to
cry out, Sir, what is this to Bacchus? Perchance one, the great
bowl standing in the midst, and the chaplets given round, which the
god in token of the liberty he bestows sets on every head, sings
one of those songs called [Greek omitted] (CROOKED OR OBSCURE);
this is not fit nor agreeable to a feast. Though some say these
songs were not dark and intricate composures; but that the guests
sang the first song all together, praising Bacchus and describing
the power of the god; and the second each man sang singly in his
turn, a myrtle bough being delivered to every one in order, which
they call an [Greek omitted] because he that received it was
obliged [Greek omitted] to sing; and after this a harp being
carried round the company, the skilful took it, and fitted the
music to the song; this when the unskilful could not perform, the
song was called [Greek omitted] because hard to them, and one in
which they could not bear a part. Others say this myrtle bough was
not delivered in order, but from bed to bed; and when the uppermost
of the first table had sung, he sent it to the uppermost of the
second, and he to the uppermost of the third; and so the second in
like manner to the second; and from these many windings and this
circuit it was called [Greek omitted] CROOKED.
WHETHER THE ENTERTAINER SHOULD SEAT THE GUESTS, OR LET EVERY MAN
TAKE HIS OWN PLACE.
TIMON, A GUEST, PLUTARCH, PLUTARCH'S FATHER, LAMPRIAS, AND OTHERS.
My brother Timon, making a great entertainment, desired the guests
as they came to seat themselves; for he had invited strangers and
citizens, neighbors and acquaintance, and all sorts of persons to
the feast. A great many being already come, a certain stranger at
last appeared, dressed as fine as hands could make him, his clothes
rich, and an unseemly train of foot-boys at his heels; he walking
up to the parlor-door, and, staring round upon those that were
already seated, turned his back and scornfully retired; and when a
great many stepped after him and begged him to return, he said, I
see no fit place left for me. At that, the other guests (for the
glasses had gone round) laughed abundantly, and desired his room
rather than his company.
But after supper, my father addressing himself to me, who sat at
another quarter of the table,--Timon, said he, and I have a
dispute, and you are to be judge, for I have been upon his skirts
already about that stranger; for if according to my directions he
had seated every man in his proper place, we had never been thought
unskilful in this matter, by one
Whose art is great in ordering horse and foot.
("Iliad," ii 554.)
And story says that Paulus Aemilius, after he had conquered Perseus
the king of Macedon, making an entertainment besides his costly
furniture and extraordinary provision, was very critical in the
order of his feast; saying, It is the same man's task to order a
terrible battle and a pleasing, entertainment, for both of them
require skill in the art of disposing right, and Homer often calls
the stoutest and the greatest princes [Greek omitted] disposers of
the people; and you use to say that the great Creator, by this art
of disposing, turned disorder into beauty, and neither taking away
nor adding any new being, but setting everything in its proper
place, out of the most uncomely figure and confused chaos produced
this beauteous, this surprising face of nature that appears.
In these great and noble doctrines indeed you instruct us; but our
own observation sufficiently assures us, that the greatest
profuseness in a feast appears neither delightful nor genteel,
unless beautified by order. And therefore it is absurd that cooks
and waiters should be solicitous what dish must be brought first,
what next, what placed in the middle, and what last; and that the
garlands, and ointment, and music (if they have any) should have a
proper place and order assigned, and yet that the guests should be
seated promiscuously, and no respect be had to age, honor, or the
like; no distinguishing order by which the man in dignity might be
honored, the inferior learn to give place, and the disposer be
exercised in distinguishing what is proper and convenient. For it
is not rational that, when we walk or sit down to discourse, the
best man should have the best place, and not the same order be
observed at table; or that the entertainer should in civility drink
to one before another, and yet make no difference in their seats,
at the first dash making the whole company one Myconus (as they
say), a hodge-podge and confusion. This my father brought for
And my brother said: I am not so much wiser than Bias, that, since
he refused to be arbitrator between two only of his friends, I
should pretend to be a judge between so many strangers and
acquaintance; especially since it is not a money matter, but about
precedence and dignity, as if I invited my friends not to treat
them kindly, but to abuse them. Menelaus is accounted absurd and
passed into a proverb, for pretending to advise when unasked;
and sure he would be more ridiculous that instead of an entertainer
should set up for a judge, when nobody requests him or submits to
his determination which is the best and which the worst man in the
company; for the guests do not come to contend about precedency,
but to feast and be merry. Besides, it is no easy task to
distinguish for some claim respect by reason of their age, others--
from their familiarity and acquaintance; and, as those that make
declamations consisting of comparisons, he must have Aristotle's
[Greek omitted] and Thrasymachus's [Greek omitted] (books that
furnish him with heads of argument) at his fingers' ends; and all
this to no good purpose or profitable effect but to bring vanity
from the bar and the theatre into our feasts and entertainments,
and, whilst by good fellowship endeavor to remit all other
passions, especially pride and arrogance, from which, in my opinion
we should be more careful to cleanse our souls than to wash our
feet from dirt, that our conversation be free, simple, and full of
mirth. And while by such meetings we strive to end all differences
that have at any time risen amongst the invited, we should make
them flame anew, and kindle them again by emulation, by thus
humbling some and puffing up others. And if, according as we seat
them, we should drink oftener and discourse more with some than
others and set daintier dishes before them, instead of being
friendly we should be lordly in our feasts. And if in other things
we treat them all equally, why should we not begin at the first
part, and bring it into fashion for all to take their seats
promiscuously, without ceremony or pride, and to let them see, as
soon as they enter, that they are invited to a dinner whose order
is free and democratical, and not, as particular chosen men to the
government of a city where aristocracy is the form; since the
richest and the poorest sit promiscuously together.
When this had been offered on both sides, and all present required
my determination, I said: Being an arbitrator and not a judge, I
shall close strictly with neither side, but go indifferently in the
middle between both. If a man invites young men, citizens, or
acquaintance, they should (as Timon says) be accustomed to be
content with any place, without ceremony or concernment; and this
good nature and unconcernedness would be an excellent means to
preserve and increase friendship. But if we use the same method to
strangers, magistrates, or old men, I have just reason to fear
that, whilst we seem to thrust our pride at the fore-door, we bring
it in again at the back, together with a great deal of indifferency
and disrespect. But in this, custom and the established rules of
decency must guide; or else let us abolish all those modes of
respect expressed by drinking to or saluting first; which we do not
use promiscuously to all the company but according to their worth
we honor every one
With better places, meat, and larger cups,
("Iliad," xii. 311.)
as Agamemnon says, naming the place first, as the chiefest sign
of honor. And we commend Alcinous for placing his guest
He stout Laomedon his son removed,
Who sat next him, for him he dearly loved;
("Iliad," xx. 15.)
for to place a suppliant stranger in the seat of his beloved son
was wonderful kind, and extreme courteous. Nay even amongst the
gods themselves this distinction is observed; for Neptune, though
he came last into the assembly,
sat in the middle seat,
("Odyssey," vii. 170.)
as if that was his proper place. And Minerva seems to have that
assigned her which is next Jupiter himself; and this the poet
intimates, when speaking of Thetis he says,
She sat next Jove, Minerva giving Place.
(Ibid. xxiv. 100.)
And Pindar plainly says,
She sits just next the thunder-breathing flames.
Indeed Timon urges, we ought not to rob many to honor one, which he
seems to do himself, even more than others; for he robs that which
makes something that is individual common; and suitable honor to
his worth is each man's possession. And he gives that preeminence
to running fast and making haste, which belongs to virtue, kindred,
magistracies, and such other qualities; and whilst he endeavors not
to affront his guests, he necessarily falls into that very
inconvenience; for he must affront every one by defrauding them of
their proper honor. Besides, in my opinion it is no hard matter to
make this distinction, and seat our guests according to their
quality; for first, it very seldom happens that many of equal honor
are invited to the same banquet; and then, since there are many
honorable places, you have room enough to dispose them according to
content, if you can but guess that this man must be seated
uppermost, that in the middle, another next to yourself, friend,
acquaintance, tutor, or the like, appointing every one some place
of honor; and as for the rest, I would supply their want of honor
with some little presents, affability, and kind discourse. But if
their qualities are not easy to be distinguished, and the men
themselves hard to be pleased, see what device I have in that case;
for I seat in the most honorable place my father, if invited;
if not my grandfather, father-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 horse-race, fearing that their strife
and fury would increase, he gave the prize to another, under
pretence of comforting and honoring Eumelus, but indeed to take
away the cause of their contention.
When I had said this, Lamprias, sitting (as he always doth) upon a
low bed, cried out: Sirs, will you give me leave to correct this
sottish judge? And the company bidding him speak freely and tell
me roundly of my faults, and not spare, he said: And who can
forbear that philosopher who disposes of places at a feast
according to the birth, wealth, or offices of the guests, as if
they were in a theatre or the Council House, so that pride and
arrogance must be admitted even into our mirth and entertainments?
In seating our guests we should not have any respect to honor, but
mirth and conversation; not look after every man's quality, but
their agreement and harmony with one another, as those do that join
several different things in one composure. Thus a mason doth not
set an Athenian or a Spartan stone, because formed in a more noble
country, before an Asian or a Spanish; nor a painter give the most
costly color the chiefest place; nor a shipwright the Corinthian
fir or Cretan cypress; but so distribute them as they will best
serve to the common end, and make the whole composure strong,
beautiful, and fit for use. Nay, you see even the deity himself
(by our Pindar named the most skilful artificer) doth not
everywhere place the fire above and the earth below; but, as
Empedocles hath it,
The Oysters Coverings do directly prove,
That heavy Earth is sometimes rais'd above;
not having that place that Nature appoints, but that which is
necessary to compound bodies and serviceable to the common end, the
preservation of the whole. Disorder is in everything an evil;
but then its badness is principally discovered, when it is amongst
men whilst they are making merry; for then it breeds contentions
and a thousand unspeakable mischiefs, which to foresee and hinder
shows a man well skilled in good order and disposing right.
We all agreed that he had said well, but asked him why he would not
instruct us how to order things aright, and communicate his skill.
I am content, says he, to instruct you, if you will permit me to
change the present order of the feast, and will yield as ready
obedience to me as the Thebans to Epaminondas when he altered the
order of their battle. We gave him full power; and he, having
turned all the servants out, looked round upon every one, and said:
Hear (for I will tell you first) how I design to order you
together. In my mind, the Theban Pammenes justly taxeth Homer as
unskilful in love matters, for setting together, in his description
of an army, tribe and tribe, family and family; for he should have
joined the lover and the beloved, so that the whole body being
united in their minds might perfectly agree. This rule will I
follow, not set one rich man by another, a youth by a youth, a
magistrate by a magistrate, and a friend by a friend; for such an
order is of no force, either to beget or increase friendship and
good-will. But fitting that which wants with something that is
able to supply it, next one that is willing to instruct I will
place one that is as desirous to be instructed; next a morose, one
good-natured; next a talkative old man a youth patient and eager
for a story; next a boaster, a jeering smooth companion; and next
an angry man, a quiet one. If I see a wealthy fellow bountiful and
kind, I will take some poor honest man from his obscure place, and
set him next, that something may run out of that full vessel to the
other empty one. A sophister I will forbid to sit by a sophister,
and one poet by another;
For beggars beggars, poets envy poets.
(Hesiod, "Work and Days," 26)
I separate the clamorous scoffers and the testy, by putting some
good-nature between them, so they cannot jostle so roughly on one
another; wrestlers, hunters, and farmers I put in one company.
For some of the same nature, when put together, fight as cocks;
others are very sociable as daws. Drinkers and lovers I set
together, not only those who (as Sophocles says) feel the sting of
masculine love, but those that are mad after virgins or married
women; for they being warmed with the like fire, as two pieces of
iron to be joined, will more readily agree; unless perhaps they
both fancy the same person.
UPON WHAT ACCOUNT IS THE PLACE AT THE TABLE CALLED CONSULAR
This raised a dispute about the dignity of places, for the same
seat is not accounted honorable amongst all nations; in Persia the
midst, for that is the place proper to the king himself; in Greece
the uppermost; at Rome the lowermost of the middle bed, and this is
called the consular; the Greeks about Pontus, and those of
Heraclea, reckon the uppermost of the middle bed to be the chief.
But we were most puzzled about the place called consular;
for though it is esteemed most honorable, yet it is not because it
is either the first or the midst; and its other circumstances are
either not proper to that alone, or very frivolous. Though I
confess three of the reasons alleged seemed to have something in
them. The first, that the consuls, having dissolved the monarchy
and reduced everything to a more equal level and popular estate,
left the middle, the kingly place, and sat in a lower seat; that by
this means their power and authority might be less subject to envy,
and not so grievous to their fellow-citizens. The second, that,
two beds being appointed for the invited guests, the third--and the
first place in it--is most convenient for the master of the feast,
from whence like a pilot, he can guide and order everything, and
readily overlook the management of the whole affair. Besides, he
is not so far removed that he can easily discourse, talk to, and
compliment his guests; for next below him his wife and children
usually are placed; next above him the most honorable of the
invited, that being the most proper place, as near the master of
the feast. The third reason was, that it is peculiar to the this
place to be most convenient for the despatch of any sudden
business; for the Roman consul will not as Archias, the governor of
Thebes, say, when letters of importance are brought to him at
dinner, "serious things 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
Each throw doth make the dicer fear,
but even midst his feasting and his pleasure a magistrate should be
intent on intervening business; and he hath this place appointed,
as the most convenient for him to receive any message, answer it,
or sign a bill; for there the second bed joining with the third,
the turning at the corner leaves a vacant space, so that a notary,
servant, guard, or a messenger from the army might approach,
deliver the message, and receive orders; and the consul, having
room enough to speak or use his hand, neither troubles any one, nor
is hindered by any the guests.
WHAT MANNER OF MAN SHOULD A DIRECTOR OF A FEAST BE?
CRATO, THEON, PLUTARCH, AND OTHERS.
Crato my relative, and Theon my acquaintance, at a certain banquet,
where the glasses had gone round freely, and a little stir arose
but was suddenly appeased, began to discourse of the office of the
steward of a feast; declaring that it was my duty to wear the
chaplet, assert the decaying privilege, and restore that office
which should take care for the decency and good order of the
banquet. This proposal pleased every one, and they were all an end
begging me to do it. Well then, said I, since you will have it so,
I make myself steward and director of you all, command the rest to
drink every one what he will but Crato and Theon, the first
proposers and authors of this decree, I enjoin to declare in short
what qualifications fit a man for this office, what he should
principally aim at and how behave himself towards those under his
command. This is the subject, and let them agree amongst
themselves which head each shall manage.
They made some slight excuse at first; but the whole company urging
them to obey, Crato began thus. A captain of a watch (as Plato
says) ought to be most watchful and diligent himself, and the
director of merry companions ought to be the best. And such a one
he is, that will not be easily overtaken or apt to refuse a glass;
but as Cyrus in his epistle to the Spartans says, that in many
other things he was more fit than his brother to be a king, and
chiefly because he could bear abundance of wine. For one that is
drunk must have an ill carriage and be apt to affront; and he that
is perfectly sober must be unpleasant, and fitter to be a governor
of a school than of a feast. Pericles as often as he was chosen
general, when he put on his cloak, used to say to himself, as it
were to refresh his memory, Take heed, Pericles, thou dost govern
freemen, thou dost govern Greeks, thou dost govern Athenians.
So let our director say privately to himself, Thou art a governor
over friends, that he may remember to neither suffer them to be
debauched nor stint their mirth. Besides he ought to have some
skill in the serious studies of the guests and not be altogether
ignorant of mirth and humor yet I would have him (as pleasant wine
ought to be) a little severe and rough, for the liquor will soften
and smooth him, and make his temper pleasant and agreeable. For as
Xenophon says, that Clearchus's rustic and morose humor in a
battle, by reason of his bravery and heat, seemed pleasant and
surprising; thus one that is not of a very sour nature, but grave
and severe, being softened by a chirping cup becomes more pleasant
and complaisant. But chiefly he should be acquainted with every
one of the guests' humors, what alteration the liquor makes in him,
what passion he is most subject to, and what quantity he can bear;
for it is not to be supposed different sorts of water bear various
proportions to different sorts of wine (which kings' cup-bearers
understanding sometimes pour in more, sometimes less), and that man
hath no such relation to them. This our director ought to know,
and knowing, punctually observe; so that like a good musician,
screwing up one and letting down another, he may make between these
different natures a pleasing harmony and agreement; so that he
shall not proportion his wine by measure, but give every one what
was proper and agreeable, according to the present circumstances of
time and strength of body. But if this is too difficult a task,
yet it is necessary that a steward should know the common accidents
of age and nature, such as these,--that an old man will be sooner
overtaken than a youth, one that leaps about or talks than he that
is silent or sits still, the thoughtful and melancholy than the
cheerful and the brisk. And he that understands these things is
much more able to preserve quietness and order, than one that is
perfectly ignorant and unskilful. Besides, I think none will doubt
but that the steward ought to be a friend, and have no pique at any
of the guests; for otherwise in his injunctions he will be
intolerable, in his distributions unequal, in his jests apt to
scoff and give offence. Such a figure, Theon, as out of wax, hath
my discourse framed for the steward of a feast; and now I deliver
him to you.
And Theon replied: He is welcome,--a very well-shaped gentleman,
and fitted for the office; but whether I shall not spoil him in my
particular application, I cannot tell. In my opinion he seems such
a one as will keep an entertainment to its primitive institution,
and not suffer it to be changed, sometimes into a mooting hall,
sometimes a school of rhetoric, now and then a dicing room, a
playhouse, or a stage. For do not you observe some making fine
orations and putting cases at a supper, others declaiming or
reading some of their own compositions, and others proposing prizes
to dancers and mimics? Alcibiades and Theodorus turned Polition's
banquet into a temple of initiation, representing there the sacred
procession and mysteries of Ceres; now such things as these, in my
opinion, ought not to be suffered by a steward, but he must permit
such discourse only, such shows, such merriment, as promote the
particular end and design of such entertainments; and that is, by
pleasant conversation either to beget or maintain friendship and
good-will among the guests; for an entertainment is only a pastime
table with a glass of wine, ending in friendship through
But now because things pure and unmixed are usually surfeiting and
odious, and the very mixture itself, unless the simples be well
proportioned and opportunely put together, spoils the sweetness and
goodness of the composition; it is evident that there ought to be a
director to take care that the mirth and jollity of the guests be
exactly and opportunely tempered. It is a common saying that a
voyage near the land and a walk near the sea are the best
recreation. Thus our steward should place seriousness and gravity
next jollity and humor; that when they are merry, they should be on
the very borders of gravity itself, and when grave and serious,
they might be refreshed as sea-sick persons having an easy and
short prospect to the mirth and jollity on land. For mirth may be
exceeding useful, and make our grave discourses smooth
As near the bramble oft the lily grows,
And neighboring rue commands the blushing rose.
But against vain and empty tempers, that wantonly break in upon our
feasts, like henbane mixed with the wine, he must advise the
guests, lest scoffing and affronts creep in under these, lest in
their questions or commands they grow scurrilous and abuse, as for
instance by enjoining stutterers to sing, bald-pates to comb their
heads, or a cripple to rise and dance. As the company abused
Agapestor the Academic, one of whose legs was lame and withered,
when in a ridiculing frolic they ordained that every man should
stand upon his right leg and take off his glass, or pay a fine;
and he, when it was his turn to command, enjoined the company to
follow his example drink as he did, and having a narrow earthen
pitcher brought in, he put his withered leg into it, and drank his
glass and every one in the company, after a fruitless endeavor to
imitate, paid his forfeit. It was a good humor of Agapestor's and
thus every little merry abuse must be as merrily revenged.
Besides he must give such commands as will both please and profit,
putting such as are familiar and easy to the person, and when
performed will be for his credit and reputation. A songster must
be enjoined to sing, an orator to speak, a philosopher to solve a
problem, and a poet to make a song; for every one very readily and
willingly undertakes that
In which he may outdo himself.
An Assyrian king by public proclamation promised a reward to him
that would find out any new sort of luxury and pleasure. And let
the governor, the king of an entertainments propose some pleasant
reward for any one that introduceth inoffensive merriment,
profitable delight and laughter, not such as attends scoffs and
abusive jests, but kindness, pleasant humor, and goodwill;
for these matters not being well looked after and observed spoil
and ruin most of our entertainments. It is the office of a prudent
man to hinder all sort of anger and contention; in the exchange,
that which springs from covetousness; in the fencing and wrestling
schools, from emulation; in offices and state affairs, from
ambition; and in a feast or entertainment, from pleasantness
WHY IT IS COMMONLY SAID THAT LOVE MAKES A MAN A POET.
SOSSIUS, PLUTARCH, AND OTHERS.
One day when Sossius entertained us, upon singing some Sapphic
verses, this question was started, how it could be true
That love in all doth vigorous thoughts inspire,
And teaches ignorants to tune the lyre?
Since Philoxenus, on the contrary, asserts, that the Cyclops
With sweet-tongued Muses cured his love.
Some said that love was bold and daring, venturing at new
contrivances, and eager to accomplish, upon which account Plato
calls it the enterpriser of everything; for it makes the reserved
man talkative, the modest complimental, the negligent and sluggish
industrious and observant; and, what is the greatest wonder, a
close, hard, and covetous fellow, if he happens to be in love, as
iron in fire, becomes pliable and soft, easy, good-natured, and
very pleasant; as if there were something in that common jest.
A lover's purse is tied with the blade of a leek. Others said that
love was like drunkenness; it makes men warm, merry, and dilated;
and, when in that condition, they naturally slide down to songs and
words in measure; and it is reported of Aeschylus, that he wrote
tragedies after he was heated with a glass of wine; and my
grandfather Lamprias in his cups seemed to outdo himself in
starting questions and smart disputing, and usually said that, like
frankincense, he exhaled more freely after he was warmed. And as
lovers are extremely pleased with the sight of their beloved, so
they praise with as much satisfaction as they behold; and as love
is talkative in everything, so more especially in commendation;
for lovers themselves believe, and would have all others think,
that the object of their passion is pleasing and excellent;
and this made Candaules the Lydian force Gyges into his chamber to
behold the beauty of his naked wife. For they delight in the
testimony of others, and therefore in all composures upon the
lovely they adorn them with songs and verses, as we dress images
with gold, that more may hear of them and that they may be
remembered the more. For if they present a cock, horse, or any
other thing to the beloved, it is neatly trimmed and set off with
all the ornaments of art; and therefore, when they would present a
compliment, they would have it curious, pleasing, as verse
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
They shout, and roar, and wildly toss their heads.
But the graver sort are excited only to sing, raise their voice,
and tune their words into a sonnet. But enthusiasm quite changes
the body and the voice, and makes it far different from its usual
constitution. Hence the very Bacchae use measure, and the inspired
give their oracles in measure. And we shall see very few madmen
but are frantic in rhyme and rave in verse. This being certain, if
you will but anatomize love a little, and look narrowly into it, it
will appear that no passion in the world is attended with more
violent grief, more excessive joy, or greater ecstasies and fury;
a lover's soul looks like Sophocles's city:--
At once 'tis full of sacrifice,
Of joyful songs, of groans and cries.'
(Sophocles, "Oedipus Tyrannus," 4.)
And therefore it is no wonder, that since love contains all the
causes of music,--grief, pleasure, and enthusiasm,--and is besides
industrious and talkative, it should incline us more than any other
passion to poetry and songs.
WHETHER ALEXANDER WAS A GREAT DRINKER.
PHILINUS, PLUTARCH, AND OTHERS.
Some said that Alexander did not drink much, but sat long in
company, discoursing with his friends; but Philinus showed this to
be an error from the king's diary, where it was very often
registered that such a day, and sometimes two days together, the
king slept after a debauch; and this course of life made him cold
in love, but passionate and angry, which argues a hot constitution.
And some report his sweat was fragrant and perfumed his clothes;
which is another argument of heat, as we see the hottest and driest
climates bear frankincense and cassia; for a fragrant smell, as
Theophrastus thinks, proceeds from a due concoction of the humors,
when the noxious moisture is conquered by the heat. And it is
thought probable, that he took a pique at Calisthenes for avoiding
his table because of the hard drinking, and refusing the great bowl
called Alexander's in his turn, adding, I will not drink of
Alexander's bowl, to stand in need of Aesculapius's. And thus much
of Alexander's drinking.
Story tells us, that Mithridates, the famous enemy of the Romans,
among other trials of skill that he instituted, proposed a reward
to the greatest eater and the stoutest drinker in his kingdom.
He won both the prizes himself; he outdrank every man living, and
for his excellency that way was called Bacchus. But this reason
for his surname is a vain fancy and an idle story; for whilst he
was an infant a flash of lightning burnt his cradle, but did his
body no harm, and only left a little mark on his forehead, which
his hair covered when he was grown a boy; and after he came to be a
man, another flash broke into his bedchambers, and burnt the arrows
in a quiver that was hanging under him; from whence his diviners
presaged, that archers and light-armed men should win him
considerable victories in his wars; and the vulgar gave him this
name, because in those many dangers by lightning he bore some
resemblance to the Theban Bacchus.
From hence great drinkers were the subject of our discourse;
and the wrestler Heraclides (or, as the Alexandrians mince it,
Heraclus), who lived but in the last age, was accounted one.
He, when he could get none to hold out with him, invited some to
take their morning's draught, others to dinner, to supper others,
and others after, to take a merry glass of wine; so that as the
first went off, the second came, and the third and fourth company
and he all the while without any intermission took his glass round,
and outsat all the four companies.
Amongst the retainers to Drusus, the Emperor Tiberus's son, was a physician that drank down all the court; he, before he sat down, would usually take five or six bitter almonds to prevent the operation of the wine; but whenever he was forbidden that, he knocked under presently, and a single glass dozed him. Some think these almonds have a penetrating, abstersive quality, are able to cleanse the face, and clear it from the common freckles;
and therefore, when they are eaten, by their bitterness vellicate and fret the pores, and by that means draw down the ascending vapors from the head. But, in my opinion, a bitter quality is a drier, and consumes moisture; and therefore a bitter taste is the most unpleasant. For, as Plato says, dryness, being an enemy to moisture, unnaturally contracts the spongy and tender nerves of the tongue. And green ulcers are usually drained by bitter injections. Thus Homer:--
He squeezed his herbs, and bitter juice applied;
And straight the blood was stanched, the sore was dried.
("Iliad," xi. 846.)
And he guesses well, that what is bitter to the taste is a drier.
Besides, the powders women use to dry up their sweat are bitter,
and by reason of that quality astringent. This then being certain,
it is no wonder that the bitterness of the almonds hinders the
operation of the wine, since it dries the inside of the body and
keeps the veins from being overcharged; for from their distention
and disturbance they say drunkenness proceeds. And this conjecture
is much confirmed from that which usually happens to a fox; for if
he eats bitter almonds without drinking, his moisture suddenly
fails, and it is present death.
WHY OLD MEN LOVE PURE WINE.
PLUTARCH AND OTHERS.
It was debated why old men loved the strongest liquors.
Some, fancying that their natural heat decayed and their
constitution grew cold, said such liquors were most necessary and
agreeable to their age; but this was mean and the obvious, and
besides, neither a sufficient nor a true reason; for the like
happens to all their other senses. For they are not easily moved or
wrought on by any qualities, unless they are in intense degrees and
make a vigorous impression; but the reason is the laxity of the
habit of their body, for that, being grown lax and weak, loves a
smart stroke. Thus their taste is pleased most with strong sapors,
their smelling with brisk odors; for strong and unalloyed qualities
make a more pleasing impression on the sense. Their touch is
almost senseless to a sore, and a wound generally raises no sharp
pain. The like also in their hearing may be observed; for old
musicians play louder and sharper than others, that they may move
their own dull tympanum with the sound. For what steel is to the
edge in a knife, that spirit is to the sense in the body;
and therefore, when the spirits fail, the sense grows dull and
stupid, and cannot be raised, unless by something, such as strong
wine, that makes a vigorous impression.
WHY OLD MEN READ BEST AT A DISTANCE.
PLUTARCH, LAMPRIAS, AND OTHERS.
To my discourse in the former problem some objection may be drawn
from the sense of seeing in old men; for, if they hold a book
at a distance, they will read pretty well, nearer they cannot
see a letter and this Aeschylus means by these verses:--
Behold from far; for near thou canst not see;
A good old scribe thou mayst much sooner be.
And Sophocles more plainly:--
Old men are slow in talk, they hardly hear;
Far off they see; but all are blind when near.
And therefore, if old men's organs are more obedient to strong
and intense qualities, why, when they read, do they not take the