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The Complete Works Volume 3: Essays and Miscellanies by Plutarch

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reflection near at hand, but, holding the book a good way off,
mix and weaken it by the intervening air, as wine by water?

Some answered, that they did not remove the book to lesson the
light, but to receive more rays, and let all the space between the
letters and their eyes be filled with lightsome air. Others agreed
with those that imagine the rays of vision mix with one another;
for since there is a cone stretched between each eye and the
object, whose point is in the eye and whose basis is the object, it
is probable that for some way each cone extends apart and by
itself; but, when the distance increases, they mix and make but one
common light; and therefore every object appears single and not
two, though it is seen by both eyes at once; for the conjunction of
the cones makes these two appearances but one. These things
supposed, when old men hold the letters close to their eyes, the
cones not being joined, but each apart and by itself, their sight
is weak; but when they remove it farther, the two lights being
mingled and increased, see better, as a man with both hands can
hold that for which either singly is too weak.

But my brother Lamprias, though unacquainted with Hieronymus's
notions, gave us another reason. We see, said he, some species
that come from the object to the eye, which at their first rise are
thick and great; and therefore when near disturb old men, whose
eyes are stiff and not easily penetrated; but when they are
separated and diffused into the air, the thick obstructing parts
are easily removed, and the subtile remainders coming to the eye
gently and easily slide into the pores; and so the disturbance
being less, the sight is more vigorous and clear. Thus a rose
smells most fragrant at a distance; but if you bring it near the
nose, it is not so pure and delightful; and the reason is this,--
many earthy disturbing particles are carried with the smell, and
spoil the fragrancy when near, but in a longer passage those are
lost, and the pure brisk odor, by reason of its subtility, reaches
and acts upon the sense.

But we, according to Plato's opinion, assert that a bright spirit
darted from the eye mixes with the light about the object, and
those two are perfectly blended into one similar body; now these
must be joined in due proportion one to another; for one part ought
not wholly to prevail on the other, but both, being proportionally
and amicably joined, should agree in one third common power.
Now this (whether flux, illuminated spirit, or ray) in old men
being very weak, there can be no combination, no mixture with the
light about the object; but it must be wholly consumed, unless, by
removing the letters from their eyes, they lessen the brightness of
the light, so that it comes to the sight not too strong or unmixed,
but well proportioned and blended with the other. And this
explains that common affection of creatures seeing in the dark;
for their eyesight being weak is overcome and darkened by the
splendor of the day; because the little light that flows from their
eyes cannot be proportionably mixed with the stronger and more
numerous beams; but it is proportionable and sufficient for the
feeble splendor of the stars, and so can join with it, and
cooperate to move the sense.




Theon the grammarian, when Metrius Florus gave us an entertainment,
asked Themistocles the Stoic, why Chrysippus, though he frequently
mentioned some strange phenomena in nature (as that salt meat
soaked in salt water grows fresher than before; fleeces of wool are
more easily separated by a gentle than a quick and violent force,
and men that are fasting eat slower than those who took a
breakfast), yet never gave any reason for the appearance.
And Themistocles replied, that Chrysippus only proposed such things
by the by, as instances to correct us, who easily assent and
without any reason to what seems likely, and disbelieve everything
that seems unlikely at the first sight. But why, sir, are you
concerned at this? For if you are speculative and would inquire
into the causes of things you need not want subjects in your own
profession; but pray tell me why Homer makes Nausicaa wash in the
river rather than the sea, though it was near, and in all
likelihood hotter, clearer, and fitter to wash with than that?

And Theon replied: Aristotle hath already given an account for this from the grossness of the sea water; for in this an abundance of rough earthy particles is mixed, and those make it salt; and upon this account swimmers or any other weights sink not so much in sea water as in fresh for the latter, being thin and weak, yields to every pressure and is easily divided, because it is pure and unmixed and by reason of this subtility of parts it penetrates better than salt water, and so looseneth from the clothes the sticking particles of the spot. And is not this discourse of Aristotle very probable?

Probable indeed, I replied, but not true; for I have observed that
with ashes, gravel, or, if these are not to be gotten, with dust
itself they usually thicken the water, as if the earthy particles
being rough would scour better than fair water, whose thinness
makes it weak and ineffectual. And therefore he is mistaken when
he says the thickness of the sea water hinders the effect, since
the sharpness of the mixed particles very much conduces to make it
cleansing; for that open the pores, and draws out the stain.
But since all oily matter is most difficult to be washed out and
spots a cloth, and the sea is oily, that is the reason why it doth
not scour as well as fresh and that it is oily, even Aristotle
himself asserts, for salt in his opinion hath some oil in it, and
therefore makes candles, when sprinkled on them, burn the better
and clearer than before. And sea water sprinkled on a flame
increaseth it, and it more easily kindled than any other; in my
opinion, makes it hotter than the fresh. And besides, I may urge
another cause; for the end of washing is drying, and that seems
cleanest which is driest; and the moisture that scours (as
hellebore, with the humors that it purges) ought to fly away
quickly together with the stain. The sun quickly draws out the
fresh water, because it is so light but the salt water being rough
lodges in the pores, and therefore is not easily dried.

And Theon replied: You say just nothing, sir; for Aristotle in the
same book affirms that those that wash in the sea, if they stand in
sun, are sooner dried than those that wash in the fresh streams.
If it is true, I am answered, he says so; but I hope that Homer
asserting the contrary will, by you especially, be more easily
believed; for Ulysses (as he writes) after his shipwreck
meeting Nausicaa,

A frightful sight, and with the salt besmeared

said to her maidens,

Retire a while, till I have washed my skin,

And when he had leaped into the river,

He from his head did scour the foaming sea.
(See "Odyssey," vi. 137, 218, 226.)

The poet knew very well what happens in such a case; for when
those that come wet out of the sea stand in the sun, the subtilest
and lightest parts suddenly exhale, but the salt and rough
particles stick upon the body in a crust, till they are washed
away by the fresh water of a spring.




When we were feasting at Serapion's, who gave an entertainment
after the tribe Leontis under his order and direction had won the
prize (for we were citizens and free of that tribe), a very
pertinent discourse, and proper to the then occasion, happened.
It had been a very notable trial of skill, the king Philopappus
being very generous and magnificent in his rewards, and defraying
the expenses of all the tribes. He was at the same feast with us
and being a very good-humored man and eager for instruction, he
would now and then freely discourse of ancient customs, and as
freely hear.

Marcus the grammarian began thus: Neanthes the Cyzicenian, in his
book called the "Fabulous Narrations of the City," affirms that it
was a privilege of the tribe Aeantis that their chorus should never
be determined to be the last. It is true, he brings some stories
for confirmation of what he says; but if he falsifies, the matter
is open, and let us all inquire after the reason of the thing.
But, says Milo, suppose it be a mere tale. It is no strange thing
replied Philopappus, if in our disquisitions after truth we meet
now and then with such a thing as Democritus the philosopher did;
for he one day eating a cucumber, and finding it of a honey taste,
asked his maid where she bought it; and she telling him in such a
garden, he rose from table and bade her direct him to the place.
The maid surprised asked him what he meant; and he replied, I must
search after the cause of the sweetness of the fruit, and shall
find it the sooner if I see the place. The maid with a smile
replied, Sit still, pray, sir, for I unwittingly put it into a
honey barrel. And he, as it were discontented, cried out, Shame
take thee, yet I will pursue my purpose, and seek after the cause,
as if this sweetness were a taste natural and proper to the fruit.
Therefore neither will we admit Neanthes's credulity and
inadvertency in some stories as an excuse and a good reason for
avoiding this disquisition; for we shall exercise our thoughts by
it, though no other advantage rises from that inquiry.

Presently every one poured out something in commendation of that
tribe, mentioning every matter that made for its credit and
reputation. Marathon was brought in as belonging to it, and
Harmodius with his associates, by birth Aphidneans, were also
produced as glorious members of that tribe. The orator Glaucias
proved that that tribe made up the right wing in the battle at
Marathon, from the elegies of Aeschylus, who had himself fought
valiantly in the same encounter; and farther evinced that
Callimachus the field marshal was of that tribe, who behaved
himself very bravely, and was the principal cause next to
Miltiades, with whose opinion he concurred, that that battle was
fought. To this discourse of Glaucias I added, that the edict
which impowered Miltiades to lead forth the Athenians, was made
when the tribe Aeantis was chief of the assembly, and that in the
battle of Plataea the same tribe won the greatest glory; and upon
that account, as the oracle directed, that tribe offered a
sacrifice for this victory to the nymphs Sphragitides, the city
providing a victim and all other necessaries belonging to it.
But you may observe (I continued) that other tribes likewise have
their peculiar glories; and you know that mine, the tribe Leontids,
yields to none in any point of reputation. Besides, consider
whether it is not more probable that this was granted out of a
particular respect, and to please Ajax, from whom this tribe
received its name; for we know he could not endure to be outdone,
but was easily hurried on to the greatest enormities by his
contentious and passionate humor; and therefore to comply with him
and afford him some comfort in his disasters, they secured him from
the most vexing grievance that follows the misfortune of the
conquered, by ordering that his tribe should never be determined to
be last.


Of the several things that are provided for an entertainment, some,
my Sossius Senecio, are absolutely necessary; such are wine, bread,
meat, lounges, and tables. Others are brought in, not for
necessity, but pleasure; such are songs, shows, mimics, and
buffoons; which, when present, delight indeed, but when absent, are
not eagerly desired; nor is the entertainment looked upon as mean
because such things are wanting. Just so of discourses; some the
sober men admit as necessary to a banquet, and others for their
pretty nice speculations, as more profitable and agreeable than the
fiddle and the pipe. My former book gives you examples of both
sorts. Of the first are these, Whether we should philosophize at
table?--Whether the entertainer should appoint proper seats, or
leave the guests to agree upon there own? Of the second, Why lovers
are inclined to poetry? And the question about the tribe of
Aeantis. The former I call properly [Greek omitted] but both
together I comprehend under the general name of Symposiacs.
They are promiscuously set down, not in the exact method, but as
each singly occurred to memory. And let not my readers wonder that
I dedicate these collections to you, which I have received from
others or your own mouth; for if all learning is not bare
remembrance, yet to learn and to remember are very commonly one and
the same.




Now each book being divided into ten questions, that shall make the
first in this, which Socratial Xenophon hath as it were proposed;
for he tells that, Gobryas banqueting with Cyrus, amongst other
things he found admirable in the Persians, was surprised to hear
them ask one another such questions that it was more pleasant to be
interrogated than to be let alone, and pass such jests on one
another that it was more pleasant to be jested on than not. For if
some, even whilst they praise, offend, why should not their polite
and neat facetiousness be admired, whose very raillery is
delightful and pleasant to him that is the subject of it? Once you
said: I wish I could learn what kind of questions those are; for to
be skilled in and make right use of apposite questions and pleasant
raillery, I think is no small part of conversation.

A considerable one, I replied; but pray observe whether Xenophon
himself, in his descriptions of Socrates's and the Persian
entertainments, hath not sufficiently explained them. But if you
would have my thoughts, first, men are pleased to be asked those
questions to which they have an answer ready; such are those in
which the persons asked have some skill and competent knowledge;
for when the inquiry is above their reach, those that can return
nothing are troubled, as if requested to give something beyond
their power; and those that do answer, producing some crude and
insufficient demonstration, must needs be very much concerned, and
apt to blunder on the wrong. Now, if the answer not only is easy
but hath something not common, it is more pleasing to them that
make it; and this happens, when their knowledge is greater than
that of the vulgar, as suppose they are well skilled in points of
astrology or logic. For not only in action and serious matters,
but also in discourse, every one hath a natural disposition to be
pleased (as Euripides hath it)

To seem far to outdo himself.

And all are delighted when men put such questions as they
understand, and would have others know that they are acquainted
with; and therefore travellers and merchants are most satisfied
when their company is inquisitive about other countries, the
unknown ocean, and the laws and manners of the barbarians; they are
very ready to inform them, and describe the countries and the
creeks, imagining this to be some recompense for their toil, some
comfort for the dangers they have passed. In short, whatever
though unrequested, we are wont to discourse of, we are desirous to
be asked; because then we seem to gratify those whom otherwise our
prattle would disturb and force from our conversation. And this is
the common disease of travellers. But more genteel and modest men
love to be asked about those things which they have bravely and
successfully performed, and which modesty will not permit to be
spoken by themselves before company; and therefore Nestor did well
when, being acquainted with Ulysses's desire of reputation,
he said,

Tell, brave Ulysses, glory of the Greeks,
How you the horses seized.
("Iliad," x. 544.)

For man cannot endure the insolence of those who praise themselves
and repeat their own exploits, unless the company desires it and
they are forced to a relation; therefore it tickles them to be
asked about their embassies and administrations of the
commonwealth, if they have done anything notable in either.
And upon this account the envious and ill-natured start very few
questions of that they sort; that thwart and hinder all such kind
of motions, being very unwilling to give any occasion or
opportunity for that discourse which shall tend to the advantage of
the relater. In short, we please those to whom we put them, when
we start questions about those matters which their enemies hate
to hear.

Ulysses says to Alcinous,

You bid me tell what various ills I bore,
That the sad tale might make me grieve the more.
(Sophocles, "Oedipus at Colonus," 510.)

And Oedipus says to the chorus,

'Tis pain to raise again a buried grief.
("Odyssey," ix. 12.)

But Euripides on the contrary,

How sweet it is, when we are lulled in ease,
To think of toils!--when well, of a disease!
(Euripides, "Andromeda," Frag. 131.)

True indeed, but not to those that are still tossed, still under a
misfortune. Therefore be sure never ask a man about his own
calamities; it is irksome to relate his losses of children or
estate, or any unprosperous adventure by sea or land; but ask a man
how he carried the cause, how he was caressed by the king, how he
escaped such a storm, such an assault, thieves, and the like;
this pleaseth him, he seems to enjoy it over again in his relation,
and is never weary of the topic. Besides, men love to be asked
about their happy friends, or children that have made good progress
in philosophy or the law, or are great at court; as also about the
disgrace and open conviction of their enemies; or of such matters
they are most eager to discourse, yet are cautious of beginning it
themselves, lest they should seem to insult over and rejoice at the
misery of others. You please a hunter if you ask him about dogs, a
wrestler about exercise, and an amorous man about beauties;
the ceremonious and superstitious man discourses about dreams, and
what success he hath had by following the directions of omens or
sacrifices, and by the kindness of the gods; and some questions
concerning those things will extremely please him. He that
inquires anything of an old man, though the story doth not at all
concern him, wins his heart, and urges one that is very willing
to discourse:--

Nelides Nestor, faithfully relate
How great Atrides died, what sort of fate;
And where was Menelaus largely tell?
Did Argos hold him when the hero fell?
("Odyssey," iii. 247.)

Here is a multitude of questions and variety of subjects; which is
much better than to confine and cramp his answers, and so deprive
the old man of the most pleasant enjoyment he can have. In short,
they that had rather please than distaste will still propose such
questions, the answers to which shall rather get the praise and
good-will than the contempt and hatred of the hearers. And so
much of questions.

As for raillery, those that cannot use it cautiously with art, and
time it well, should never venture at it. For as in a slippery
place, if you but just touch a man as you pass by, you throw him
down; so when we are in drink, we are in danger of tripping at
every little word that is not spoken with due address. And we are
more apt to be offended with a joke than a plain and scurrilous
abuse; for we see the latter often slip from a man unwittingly in
passion, but consider the former as a thing voluntary, proceeding
from malice and ill-nature; and therefore we are generally more
offended at a sharp jeerer than a whistling snarler. Such a jest
has indeed something designedly malicious about it, and often seems
to be an insult skilfully devised and prepared. For instance, he
that calls thee salt-fish monger plainly and openly abuseth; but he
that says, I remember when you wiped your nose upon your sleeve,
maliciously jeers. Such was Cicero's to Octavius, who was thought
to be descended from an African slave; for when Cicero spoke
something, and Octavius said he did not hear him, Cicero rejoined,
Remarkable, for you have a hole through your ear. And Melanthius,
when he was ridiculed by a comedian, said, You pay me now something
that you do not owe me. And upon this account jeers vex more;
for like bearded arrows they stick a long while, and gall the
wounded sufferer. Their smartness is pleasant, and delights the
company; and those that are pleased with the saving seem to believe
the detracting speaker. For according to Theophrastus, a jeer is a
figurative reproach for some fault or misdemeanor; and therefore he
that hears it supplies the concealed part, as if he knew and gave
credit to the thing. For he that laughs and is tickled at what
Theocritus said to one whom he suspected of a design upon his
clothes, and who asked him if he went to supper at such a place,--
Yes, he replied, I go, but shall likewise lodge there all night,--
doth, as it were, confirm the accusation, and believe the fellow
was a thief. And therefore an impertinent jeerer makes the whole
company seem ill-natured and abusive, as being pleased with and
consenting to the scurrility of the jeer. It was one of the
excellent laws in Sparta, that none should be bitter in their
jests, and the jeered should patiently endure; but if he took
offence, the other was to forbear, and pursue the frolic no
farther. How is it possible therefore to determine such raillery
as shall delight and please the person that is jested on, when to
be smart without offence is no mean piece of cunning and address?

First then, such as will vex and gall the conscious must please
those that are clean, innocent, and not suspected of the matter.
Such a joke is Xenophon's, when he pleasantly brings in a very ugly
ill-looking fellow, and is smart upon him for being Sambaulas's
minion. Such was that of Aufidius Modestus, who, when our friend
Quinitus in an ague complained his hands were cold, replied, Sir,
you brought them warm from your province; for this made Quintius
laugh, and extremely pleased him; yet it had been a reproach and
abuse to a covetous and oppressing governor. Thus Socrates,
pretending to compare faces with the beauteous Critobulus, rallied
only, and not abused. And Alcibiades again was smart on Socrates,
as his rival in Agatho's affection. Kings are pleased when jests
are put upon them as if they were private and poor men. Such was
the flatterer's to Philip, who chided him: Sir, don't I keep you?
For those that mention faults of which the persons are not really
guilty intimate those virtues with which they are really adorned.
But then it is requisite that those virtues should be evident and
certainly belong to them; otherwise the discourse will breed
disturbance and suspicion. He that tells a very rich man that he
will procure him a sum of money,--a temperate sober man, and one
that drinks water only, that he is foxed, or hath taken a cup too
much,--a hospitable, generous, good-humored man, that he is a
niggard and pinch-penny,--or threatens an excellent lawyer to meet
him at the bar,--must make the persons smile and please the
company. Thus Cyrus was very obliging and complaisant, when he
challenged his playfellows at those sports in which he was sure to
be overcome. And Ismenias piping at a sacrifice, when no good
omens appeared, the man that hired him snatched the pipe, and
played very ridiculously himself; and when all found fault, he
said: To play satisfactorily is the gift of Heaven. And Ismenias
with a smile replied: Whilst I played, the gods were so well
pleased that they were careless of the sacrifice; but to be rid of
thy noise they presently received it.

But more, those that jocosely put scandalous names upon things
commendable, if it be opportunely done, please more than he that
plainly and openly commends; for those that cover a reproach
under fair and respectful words (as he that calls an unjust man
Aristides, a coward Achilles) gall more than those that openly
abuse. Such is that of Oedipus, in Sophocles,--

The faithful Creon, my most constant friend.
(Sophocles, "Oedipus Tyrannus," 385.)

The familiar irony in commendations answers to this on the other
side. Such Socrates used, when he called the kind endeavor and
industry of Antisthenes to make men friends pimping, bawds-craft,
and allurement; and others that called Crates the philosopher,
who wherever he went was caressed and honored, the door-opener.

Again, a complaint that implies thankfulness for a received favor
is pleasant raillery. Thus Diogenes of his master Antisthenes:--

That man that made me leave my precious ore,
Clothed me with rags, and forced me to be poor;
That man that made me wander, beg my bread,
And scorn to have a house to hide my head.

For it had not been half so pleasant to have said, that man that
made me wise, content, and happy. And a Spartan, making as if he
would find fault with the master of the exercises for giving him
wood that would not smoke, said, He will not permit us even to shed
a tear. And he calls a hospitable man, and one that treats often,
a kidnapper, and a tyrant who for a long time would not permit him
to see his own table; and he whom the king hath raised and
enriched, that says he had a design upon him and robbed him of his
sleep and quiet. So if he that hath an excellent vintage should
complain of Aeschlus's Cabeiri for making him want vinegar, as they
haul jocosely threatened. For such as these have a pungent
pleasantness, so that the praised are not offended nor take it ill.

Besides, he that would be civilly facetious must know the
difference between a vice and a commendable study or recreation;
for instance, between the love of money or contention and of music
or hunting; for men are grieved if twitted with the former, but
take it very well if they are laughed at for the latter.
Thus Demosthenes the Mitylenean was pleasant enough when, knocking
at a man's door that was much given to singing and playing on the
harp, and being bid come in, he said, I will, if you will tie up
your harp. But the flatterer of Lysimachus was offensive; for
being frighted at a wooden scorpion that the king threw into his
lap, and leaping out of his seat, he said after he knew the humor,
And I'll fright your majesty too; give me a talent.

In several things about the body too the like caution is to be
observed. Thus he that is jested on for a flat or hooked nose
usually laughs at the jest. Thus Cassander's friend was not at all
displeased when Theophrastus said to him, 'Tis strange, sir, that
your eyes don't play, since your nose is so near and so well fitted
for a pipe to give them the tune; and Cyrus commanded a long hawk-
nosed fellow to marry a flat-nosed girl, for then they would very
well agree. But a jest on any for his stinking breath or filthy
nose is irksome; for baldness it may be borne, but for blindness or
infirmity in the eyes it is intolerable. It is true, Antigonus
would joke upon himself, and once, receiving a petition written in
great letters, he said, This a man may read if he were stark blind.
But he killed Theocritus the Chian for saying,--when one told him
that as soon as he appeared before the king's eyes he would be
pardoned,--Sir, then it is impossible for me to be saved. And the
Byzantine to Pasiades saying, Sir, your eyes are weak, replied, You
upbraid me with this infirmity, not considering that thy son
carries the vengeance of Heaven on his back: now Pasiades's son was
hunch-backed. And Archippus the popular Athenian was much
displeased with Melanthius for being smart on his crooked back;
for Melanthius had said that he did not stand at the head of the
state but bowed down before it. It is true, some are not much
concerned at such jeers. Thus Antigonus's friend, when he had
begged a talent and was denied, desired a guard, lest somebody
should rob him of that talent he was now to carry home.
Different tempers make men differently affected, and that which
troubles one is not regarded by another. Epaminondas feasting with
his fellow-magistrates drank vinegar; and some asking if it was
good for his health, he replied, I cannot tell that, but I know it
makes me remember what I drink at home. Therefore it becomes every
man that would rally, to look into the humors of his company, and
take heed to converse without offence.

Love, as in most things else, so in this matter causes different
effects; for some lovers are pleased and some displeased at a merry
jest. Therefore in this case a fit time must be accurately
observed; for as a blast of wind puffs out a fire whilst it is weak
and little, but when thoroughly kindled strengthens and increaseth
it; so love, before it is evident and confessed, is displeased at a
discoverer, but when it breaks forth and blazes in everybody's
eyes, then it is delighted and gathers strength by the frequent
blasts of joke and raillery. When their beloved is present it will
gratify them most to pass a jest upon their passion, but to fall on
any other subject will be counted an abuse. If they are remarkably
loving to their own wives, or entertain a generous affection for a
hopeful youth, then are they proud, then tickled when jeered for
such a love. And therefore Arcesilaus, when an amorous man in his
school laid down this proposition, in my opinion one thing cannot
touch another, replied, Sir you touch this person, pointing to a
lovely boy that sat near him.

Besides, the company must be considered; for what a man will only
laugh at when mentioned amongst his friends and familiar
acquaintance, he will not endure to be told of before his wife,
father, or his tutor, unless perhaps it be something that will
please those too; as for instance, if before a philosopher one
should jeer a man for going barefoot or studying all night;
or before his father, for carefulness and thrift; or in the
presence of his wife, for being cold to his companions and doting
upon her. Thus Tigranes, when Cyrus asked him, What will your wife
say when she hears that you are put to servile offices? replied,
Sir, she will not hear it, but be present herself and see it.

Again, those jokes are accounted less affronting which reflect
somewhat also on the man that makes them; as when one poor man,
base-born fellow, or lover jokes upon another. For whatever comes
from one in the same circumstances looks more like a piece of mirth
than a designed affront; but otherwise it must needs be irksome and
distasteful. Upon this account, when a slave whom the king had
lately freed and enriched behaved himself very impertinently in the
company of some philosophers, asking them, how it came to pass that
the broth of beans whether white or black, was always green,
Aridices putting another question, why, let the whips be white or
not, the wales and marks they made were still red, displeased him
extremely, and made him rise from the table in a great rage and
discontent. But Amphias the Tarsian, who was supposed to be sprung
from a gardener, joking upon the governor's friend for his obscure
and mean birth, and presently subjoining, But 'tis true, I sprung
from the same seed, caused much mirth and laughter. And the harper
very facetiously put a cheek to Philip's ignorance and
impertinence; for when Philip pretended to correct him, he cried
out, God forbid, sir, that ever you should be brought so low as to
understand these things better than I. For by this seeming joke he
instructed him without giving any offence. And therefore some of
the comedians seem to lay aside their bitterness in every jest that
may reflect upon themselves; as Aristophanes, when he is merry upon
a baldpate; and Cratinus in his play "Pytine" upon drunkenness
and excess.

Besides, you must be very careful that the jest should seem to be
extempore, taken from some present question or merry humor;
not far-fetched, as if premeditate and designed. For as men are
not much concerned at the anger and disputes among themselves at
table while they are drinking, but if any stranger should come in
and offer abuse, they would hate and look upon him as an enemy;
so they will easily pardon and indulge a jest if undesignedly taken
from any present circumstance; but if it is nothing to the matter
in hand but fetched from another thing, it must look like a design
and be resented as an affront. Such was that of Timagenes to the
husband of a woman that often vomited,--"Thou beginnest thy
troubles by bringing home this vomiting woman," saying [Greek
omitted] (this vomiting woman), when the poet had written [Greek
omitted] (this Muse); and also his question to Athenodorus the
philosopher,--Is affection to our children natural? For when the
raillery is not founded on some present circumstance, it is an
argument of ill-nature and a mischievous temper; and such as these
do often for a mere word, the lightest thing in the world (as Plato
says), suffer the heaviest punishment. But those that know how to
time and apply a jest confirm Plato's opinion, that to rally
pleasantly and facetiously is the business of a scholar and a wit.




In Eleusis, after the solemn celebration of the sacred mysteries,
Glaucias the orator entertained us at a feast; where after the rest
had done, Xenocles of Delphi, as his humor is, began to be smart
upon my brother Lamprias for his good Boeotian stomach. I in his
defence opposing Xenocles, who was an Epicurean, said, Pray, sir,
do not all place the very substance of pleasure in privation of
pain and suffering? But Lamprias, who prefers the Lyceum before
the Garden, ought by his practice to confirm Aristotle's doctrine;
for he affirms that every man hath a better stomach in the autumn
than in other seasons of the year, and gives the reason, which I
cannot remember at present. So much the better (says Glaucias),
for when supper is done, we will endeavor to discover it ourselves.
That being over, Glaucias and Xenocles drew various reasons from
the autumnal fruit. One said that it scoured the body, and by this
evacuation continually raised new appetites. Xenocles affirmed,
that ripe fruit had usually a pleasing, vellicating sapor, and
thereby provoked the appetite better than sauces or sweetmeats;
for sick men of a vitiated stomach usually recover it by eating
fruit. But Lamprias said, that our natural heat, the principal
instrument of nutrition, in the midst of summer is scattered and
becomes rare and weak, but when autumn comes it unites again and
gathers strength, being shut in by the ambient cold and contraction
of the pores, and I for my part said: In summer we are more thirsty
and use more moisture than in other seasons; and therefore Nature,
observing the same method in all her operations, at this change of
seasons employs the contrary and makes us hungry; and to maintain
an equal temper in the body, she gives us dry food to countervail
the moisture taken in the summer. Yet none can deny but that the
food itself is a partial cause; for not only new fruit, bread, or
corn, but flesh of the same year, is better tasted than that of the
former, more forcibly provokes the guests, and enticeth them to
eat on.




When upon a dream I had forborne eggs a long time, on purpose
that in an egg (as in a heart) I might make experiment of a
notable vision that often troubled me; some at Sossius Senecio's
table suspected that I was tainted with Orpheus's or Pythagoras's
opinions, and refused to eat an egg (as some do the heart and
brain) imagining it to be the principle of generation.
And Alexander the Epicurean ridiculingly repeated,

To feed on beans and parents' heads
Is equal sin;

As if the Pythagoreans meant eggs by the word [Greek omitted]
(BEANS), deriving it from [Greek omitted](TO CONCEIVE), and
thought it as unlawful to feed on eggs as on the animals that lay
them. Now to pretend a dream for the cause of my abstaining, to an
Epicurean, had been a defence more irrational than the cause
itself; and therefore I suffered jocose Alexander to enjoy his
opinion, for he was a pleasant man and an excellent scholar.

Soon after he proposed that perplexed question, that plague of the
inquisitive, Which was first, the bird or the egg? And my friend
Sylla, saying that with this little question, as with an engine, we
shook the great and weighty problem (whether the world had a
beginning), declared his dislike of such questions. But Alexander
deriding the question as slight and impertinent, my relation Firmus
said:. Well, sir, at present your atoms will do me some service;
for if we suppose that small things must be the principles of
greater, it is likely that the egg was before the bird; for an egg
amongst sensible things is very simple, and the bird is more mixed,
and contains a greater variety of parts. It is universally true
that a principle is before that whose principle it is; now the seed
is a principle, and the egg is somewhat more than the seed and less
than the bird for as a disposition or a progress in goodness is
something between a tractable mind and a habit of virtue, so an egg
is as it were a progress of Nature tending from the seed to a
perfect animal. And as in an animal they say the veins and
arteries are formed first, upon the same account the egg should be
before the bird, as the thing containing before the thing
contained. Thus art first makes rude and ill-shapen figures and
afterwards perfects everything with its proper form; and it was for
this that the statuary Polycletus said, Then our work is most
difficult, when the clay comes to be fashioned by the fingers. So
it is probable that matter, not readily obeying the slow motions of
contriving Nature, at first frames rude and indefinite masses, as
the egg, and of these moulded anew, and joined in better order, the
animal afterward is formed. As the canker is first, and then
growing dry and cleaving lets forth a winged animal, called psyche;
so the egg is first as it were the subject-matter of the
generation. For it is certain that, in every change, that out of
which the thing changes must be before the thing changing.
Observe how worms and caterpillars are bred in trees from the
moisture corrupted or concocted; now none can say but that the
engendering moisture is naturally before all these. For (as Plato
says) matter is as a mother or nurse in respect of the bodies that
are formed, and we call that matter out of which anything that is
made. And with a smile continued he, I speak to those that are
acquainted with the mystical and sacred discourse of Orpheus, who
not only affirms the egg to be before the bird, but makes it the
first being in the whole world. The other parts, because deep
mysteries, we shall now pass by; but let us look upon the various
kinds of animals, and we shall find almost every one beginning from
an egg,--fowls and fishes; land animals, as lizards; amphibious, as
crocodiles; some with two legs, as a cock; some without any, as a
snake; and some with many, as a locust. And therefore in the
solemn feast of Bacchus it is very well done to dedicate an egg, as
the emblem of that which begets and contains everything in itself.

To this discourse of Firmus, Senecio replied: Sir, your last
similitude contradicts your first, and you have unwittingly opened
the world (instead of the door, as the proverb goes) against
yourself. For the world was before all, being the most perfect;
and it is rational that the perfect in Nature should be before the
imperfect, as the sound before the maimed, and the whole before the
part. For it is absurd that there should be a part when there is
nothing whose part it is; and therefore nobody says the seed's man
or egg's hen, but the man's seed and hen's egg; because those being
after these and formed in them, pay as it were a debt to Nature, by
bringing forth another. For they are not in themselves perfect,
and therefore have a natural appetite to produce such a thing as
that out of which they were first formed; and therefore seed is
defined as a thing produced that is to be perfected by another
production. Now nothing can be perfected by or want that which as
yet is not. Everybody sees that eggs have the nature of a
concretion or consistence in some animal or other, but want those
organs, veins, and muscles which animals enjoy. And therefore no
story delivers that ever any egg was formed immediately from earth;
and the poets themselves tell us, that the egg out of which came
the Tyndaridae fell down from heaven. But even till this time the
earth produceth some perfect and organized animals, as mice in
Egypt, and snakes, frogs, and grasshoppers almost everywhere, some
external and invigorating principle assisting in the production.
And in Sicily, where in the servile war much blood was shed, and
many carcasses rotted on the ground, whole swarms of locusts were
produced, and spoiled the corn over the whole isle. Such spring
from and are nourished by the earth; and seed being formed in them,
pleasure and titillation provoke them to mix, upon which some lay
eggs, and some bring forth their young alive; and this evidently
proves that animals first sprang from earth, and afterwards by
copulation, after different ways, propagated their several kinds.
In short, it is the same thing as if you said the womb was before
the woman; for as the womb is to the egg, the egg is to the chick
that is formed in it; so that he that inquires how birds should be
when there were no eggs, might ask as well how men and women could
be before any organs of generation were formed. Parts generally
have their subsistence together with the whole; particular powers
follow particular members, and operations those Powers, and effects
those operations. Now the effect of the generative power is the
seed and egg; so that these must be after the formation of the
whole. Therefore consider, as there can be no digestion of food
before the animal is formed, so there can be no seed nor egg;
for those, it is likely, are made by some digestion and
alterations; nor can it be that, before the animal is, the
superfluous parts of the food of the animal should have a being.
Besides, though seed may perhaps pretend to be a principle, the egg
cannot; for it doth not subsist first, nor hath it the nature of a
whole, for it is imperfect. Therefore we do not affirm that the
animal is produced without a principle of its being; but we call
the principle that power which changes, mixes, and tempers the
matter, so that a living creature is regularly produced; but the
egg is an after-production, as the blood or milk of an animal after
the taking in and digestion of the food. For we never see an egg
formed immediately of mud, for it is produced in the bodies of
animals alone; but a thousand living creatures rise from the mud.
What need of many instances? None ever found the spawn or egg of
an eel; yet if you empty a pit and take out all the mud, as soon as
other water settles in it, eels likewise are presently produced.
Now that must exist first which hath no need of any other thing
that it may exist, and that after, which cannot be without the
concurrence of another thing. And of this priority is our present
discourse. Besides, birds build nests before they lay their eggs;
and women provide cradles, swaddling cloths and the like; yet who
says that the nest is before the egg, or the swaddling cloths
before the infant. For the earth (as Plato says doth not imitate a
woman, but a woman, and so likewise all other females, the earth.
Moreover, it is probable that the first production out of the
earth, which was then vigorous and perfect, was self-sufficient and
entire, nor stood in need of those secundines, membranes, and
vessels, which now Nature forms to help the weakness and supply the
defects of breeders.




Sosicles of Coronea having at the Pythian games won the prize from
all the poets, gave us an entertainment. And the time for running,
cuffing, wrestling, and the like drawing on, there was a great talk
of the wrestlers; for there were many and very famous men, who came
to try their skill. Lysimachus, one of the company, a procurator
of the Amphictyons, said he heard a grammarian lately affirm that
wrestling was the most ancient exercise of all, as even the very
name witnessed; for some modern things have the names of more
ancient transferred to them; thus to tune a pipe is called fitting
it, and playing on it is called striking; both these names being
transferred to it from the harp. Thus all places of exercise they
call wrestling schools, wrestling being the oldest exercise, and
therefore giving its name to the newer sorts. That, said I, is no
good argument, for these palaestras or wrestling schools are called
so from wrestling [Greek omitted] not because it is the most
ancient exercise, but because it is the only sort in which they use
clay [Greek omitted] dust, and oil; for in these there is neither
racing nor cuffing, but wrestling only, and that feature of the
pancratium in which they struggle on the ground,--for the
pancratium comprises both wrestling and cuffing. Besides, it is
unlikely that wrestling, being more artificial and methodical than
any other sort of exercise, should likewise be the most ancient;
for mere want or necessity putting us upon new inventions, produces
simple and inartificial things first, and such as have more of
force in them than sleight and skill. This ended, Sosicles said:
You speak right, and I will confirm your discourse from the very
name; for, in my opinion, [Greek omitted] wrestling, is derived
from [Greek omitted] i.e. to throw down by sleight and artifice.
And Philinus said, it seems to me to be derived from [Greek
omitted] the palm of the hand, for wrestlers use that part most, as
cuffers do the [Greek omitted] fist; and hence both these sorts of
exercises have their proper names, the one [Greek omitted] the
other [Greek omitted]. Besides, since the poets use the word
[Greek omitted] for [Greek omitted] and [Greek omitted], to
sprinkle, and this action is most frequent amongst wrestlers, this
exercise [Greek omitted] may receive its name from that word.
But more, consider that racers strive to be distant from one
another; cuffers, by the judges of the field, are not permitted to
take hold; and none but wrestlers come up breast to breast, and
clasp one another round the waist, and most of their turnings,
liftings, lockings bring them very close. It is probable that this
exercise is called [Greek omitted] from [Greek omitted] or [Greek
omitted] to come up close or to be near together.




This discourse being ended, and Philinus hummed, Lysimachus began
again, What sort of exercise then shall we imagine to be first?
Racing, as at the Olympian games? For here in the Pythian, as
every exercise comes on, all the contenders are brought in, the boy
wrestlers first, then the men, and the same method is observed when
the cuffers and fencers are to exercise; but there the boys perform
all first, and then the men. But, says Timon interposing, pray
consider whether Homer hath not determined this matter; for in his
poems cuffing is always put in the first place, wrestling next, and
racing last. At this Menecrates the Thessalian surprised cried
out, Good God, what things we skip over! But, pray sir, if you
remember any of his verses to that purpose, do us the favor to
repeat them. And Timon replied: That the funeral solemnities of
Patroclus had this order I think every one hath heard; but the
poet, all along observing the same order, brings in Achilles
speaking to Nestor thus:

With this reward I Nestor freely grace,
Unfit for cuffing, wrestling, or the race.

And in his answer he makes the old man impertinently brag:--

I cuffing conquered Oinop's famous son,
With Anceus wrestled, and the garland won,
And outran Iphiclus.
("Iliad," xxiii. 620 and 634.)

And again he brings in Ulysses challenging the Phaeacians

To cuff, to wrestle, or to run the race;

and Alcinous answers:

Neither in cuffing nor in wrestling strong
But swift of foot are we.
("Odyssey" viii. 206 and 246.)

So that he doth not carelessly confound the order, and, according
to the present occasion, now place one sort first and now
another; but he follows the then custom and practice and is
constant in the same. And this was so as long as the ancient
order was observed.

To this discourse of my brother's I subjoined, that I liked what he
said, but could not see the reason of this order. And some of the
company, thinking it unlikely that cuffing or wrestling should be a
more ancient exercise than racing, they desired me to search
farther into the matter; and thus I spake upon the sudden.
All these exercises seem to me to be representations of feats of
arms and training therein; for after all, a man armed at all points
is brought in to show that that is the end at which all these
exercises and trainings end. And the privilege granted to the
conquerors, viz., as they rode into the city, to throw down some
part of the wall--hath this meaning; that walls are but a small
advantage to that city which hath men able to fight and overcome.
In Sparta those that were victors in any of the crowned games had
an honorable place in the army and were to fight near the king's
person. Of all other creatures a horse only can have a part in
these games and win the crown, for that alone is designed by nature
to be trained to war, and to prove assisting in a battle. If these
things seem probable, let us consider farther, that it is the first
work of a fighter to strike his enemy and ward the other's blows;
the second, when they come up close and lay hold of one another, to
trip and overturn him; and in this, they say, our countrymen being
better wrestlers very much distressed the Spartans at the battle of
Leuctra. And Aeschylus describes a warrior thus,--

One stout, and skilled to wrestle in his arms;

and Sophocles somewhere says of the Trojans,--

They rid the horse, they could the bow command
And wrestle with a rattling shield in hand.

But it is the third and last, either when conquered to fly, when
conquerors to pursue. And therefore it is likely that cuffing is
set first, wrestling next, and racing last; for the first bears
the resemblance of charging or warding the blows; the second, of
close fighting and repelling; the third, of flying a victorious,
or pursuing a routed enemy.




Soclarus entertaining us in his gardens, round which the river
Cephissus runs, showed us several trees strangely varied by the
different grafts upon their stocks. We saw an olive upon a
juniper, a peach upon a myrtle, pear grafts on an oak, apple upon a
plane, a mulberry on a fig and a great many such like, which were
grown strong enough to bear. Some joked on Soclarus as nourishing
stranger kinds of things than the poets' Sphinxes or Chimaeras, but
Crato set us to inquire why those stocks only that are of an oily
nature will not admit such mixtures for we never see a pine, fir,
or cypress bear a graft of another kind.

And Philo subjoined: There is, Crato, a reason for this amongst the
philosophers, which the gardeners confirm and strengthen. For they
say, oil is very hurtful to all plants, and any plant dipped in it
like a bee, will soon die. Now these trees are of a fat and oily
nature, insomuch that they weep pitch and rosin; and, if you cut
then gore (as it were) appears presently in the wound. Besides, a
torch made of them sends forth an oily smoke, and the brightness of
the flame shows it to be fat; and upon this account these trees are
as great enemies to all other kinds of grafts as oil itself.
To this Crato added, that the bark was a partial cause; for that,
being rare and dry, could not afford either convenient room or
sufficient nourishment to the grafts; but when the bark is moist,
it quickly joins with those grafts that are let into the body of
the tree.

Then Soclarus added: This too ought to be considered, that that
which receives a graft of another kind ought to be easy to be
changed, that the graft may prevail, and make the sap in the stock
fit and natural to itself. Thus we break up the ground and soften
it, that being thus broken it may more easily be wrought upon, and
applied to what we plant in it; for things that are hard and rigid
cannot be so quickly wrought upon nor so easily changed. Now those
trees, being of very light wood, do not mix well with the grafts,
because they are very hard either to be changed or overcome.
But more, it is manifest that the stock which receives the graft
should be instead of a soil to it, and a soil should have a
breeding faculty; and therefore we choose the most fruitful stocks
to graft on, as women that are full of milk, when we would put out
a child to nurse. But everybody knows that the fir, cypress, and
the like are no great bearers. For as men very fat have few
children (for, the whole nourishment being employed in the body,
there remains no overplus to make seed), so these trees, spending
all their sap in their own stock, flourish indeed and grow great;
but as for fruit, some bear none at all, some very little, and that
too slowly ripens; therefore it is no wonder that they will not
nourish another's fruit, when they are so very sparing to
their own.




Chaeremonianus the Trallian, when we were at a very noble fish
dinner, pointing to a little, long, sharp-headed fish, said the
echeneis (ship-stopper) was like that, for he had often seen it as
he sailed in the Sicilian sea, and wondered at its strange force;
for it stopped the ship when under full sail, till one of the
seamen perceived it sticking to the outside of the ship, and took
it off. Some laughed at Chaeremonianus for believing such an
incredible and unlikely story. Others on this occasion talked very
much of antipathies, and produced a thousand instances of such
strange effects; for example, the sight of a ram quiets an enraged
elephant; a viper lies stock-still, if touched with a beechen leaf;
a wild bull grows tame, if bound with the twigs of a fig-tree;
and amber draws all light things to it, except basil and such as
are dipped in oil; and a loadstone will not draw a piece of iron
that is rubbed with onion. Now all these, as to matter of fact,
are very evident; but it is hard, if not altogether impossible, to
find the cause.

Then said I: This is a mere shift and avoiding of the question,
rather than a declaration of the cause; but if we please to
consider, we shall find a great many accidents that are only
consequents of the effect to be unjustly esteemed the causes of
it; as for instance, if we should fancy that by the blossoming of
the chaste-tree the fruit of the vine is ripened; because this is
a common saying,--

The chaste-tree blossoms, and the grapes grow ripe;

Or that the little protuberances in the candle-snuff thicken the
air and make it cloudy; or the hookedness of the nails is the cause
and not an accident consequential to an ulcer. Therefore as those
things mentioned are but consequents to the effect, though
proceeding from one and the same cause, so one and the same cause
stops the ship, and joins the echeneis to it; for the ship
continuing dry, not yet made heavy by the moisture soaking into the
wood, it is probable that it lightly glides, and as long as it is
clean, easily cuts the waves; but when it is thoroughly soaked,
when weeds, ooze, and filth stick upon its sides, the stroke of the
ship is more obtuse and weak; and the water, coming upon this
clammy matter, doth not so easily part from it; and this is the
reason why they usually calk their ships. Now it is likely that
the echeneis in this case, sticking upon the clammy matter, is not
thought an accidental consequent to this cause, but the very
cause itself.




Some say the horses called [Greek omitted] received that name from
the fashion of their bridles (called [Greek omitted]), that had
prickles like the teeth on the wolf's jaw; for being fiery and
hard-mouthed, the riders used such to tame them. But my father,
who seldom speaks but on good reason, and breeds excellent horses,
said, those that were set upon by wolves when colts, if they
escaped, grew swift and mettlesome, and were called [Greek omitted]
Many agreeing to what he said, it began to be inquired why such an
accident as that should make them more mettlesome and fierce;
and many of the company thought that, from such an assault, fear
and not courage was produced; and that thence growing fearful and
apt to start at everything, their motions became more quick and
vigorous, as they are in wild beasts when entangled in a net.
But, said I, it ought to be considered whether the contrary be not
more probable; for the colts do not become more swift by escaping
the assault of a wild beast, but they had never escaped unless they
had been swift and mettlesome before. As Ulysses was not made wise
by escaping from the Cyclops, but by being wise before he escaped.




After the former discourse, mention was made of those sheep that
wolves have bitten; for it is commonly said of them, that their
flesh is very sweet, and their wool breeds lice. My relative
Patroclias seemed to be pretty happy in his reasoning upon the
first part, saying, that the beast by biting it did mollify the
flesh; for wolves' spirits are so hot and fiery, that they soften
and digest the hardest bones and for the same reason things bitten
by wolves rot sooner than others. But concerning the wool we could
not agree, being not fully resolved whether it breeds those lice,
or only opens a passage for them, separating the flesh by its
fretting roughness or proper warmth; and appeared that this power
proceeded from the bite of wolf, which alters even the very hair of
the creature that it kills. And this some particular instances
seem to confirm; for we know some huntsmen and cooks will kill a
beast with one stroke, so that it never breathes after, whilst
others repeat their blows, and scarce do it with a great deal of
trouble. But (what is more strange) some, as they kill it, infuse
such a quality that the flesh rots presently and cannot be kept
sweet above a day; yet others that despatch it as soon find no such
alteration, but the flesh will keep sweet a long while. And that
by the manner of killing a great alteration is made even in the
skins, nails, and hair of a beast, Homer seems to witness, when,
speaking of a good hide, he says,--

An ox's hide that fell by violent blows;
("Iliad," iii. 375.)

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




When I was chief magistrate, most of the suppers consisted of
distinct messes, where every particular guest had his portion of
the sacrifice allowed him. Some were wonderfully well pleased with
this order; others blamed it as unsociable and ungenteel, and were
of the opinion that, as soon as I was out of my office, the manner
of entertainments ought to be reformed; for, says Hagias, we invite
one another not barely to eat and drink, but to eat and drink
together. Now this division into messes takes away all society,
makes many suppers, and many eaters, but no one sups with another;
but every man takes his pound of beef, as from the meat shop, sets
it before himself, and falls on. And is it not the same thing to
provide a different cup and different table for every guest (as the
Demophontidae treated Orestes), as now to set each man his loaf of
bread and mess of meat, and feed him, as it were, out of his own
proper manger? Only, it is true, we are not (as those that treated
Orestes were) obliged to be silent and not discourse.
Besides, that all the guests should have a share in everything, we
may draw an argument from hence;--the same discourse is common to
us all, the same songstress sings, and the same musician plays to
all. So, when the same cup is set in the midst, not appropriated
to any, it is a large spring of good fellowship, and each man may
take as much as his appetite requires; not like this most unjust
distribution of bread and meat, which prides itself forsooth in
being equal to all, though unequal, stomachs; for the same share to
a man of a small appetite is too much; to one of a greater, too
little. And, sir, as he that administers the very same dose of
physic to all sorts of patients must be very ridiculous;
so likewise must that entertainer who, inviting a great many guests
that can neither eat nor drink alike, sets before every one an
equal mess, and measures what is just and fit by an arithmetical
not geometrical proportion. When we go to a shop to buy, we all
use, it is true, one and the same public measure; but to an
entertainment each man brings his own belly, which is satisfied
with a portion, not because it is equal to that which others have,
but because it is sufficient for itself. Those entertainments
where every one had his single mess Homer mentions amongst soldiers
and in the camp, which we ought not to bring into fashion amongst
us; but rather imitate the good friendship of the ancients, who, to
show what reverence they had for all kinds of societies, not only
respected those that lived with them or under the same roof, but
also those that drank out of the same cup or ate out of the same
dish. Let us never mind Homer's entertainments; they were good for
nothing but to starve a man, and the makers of them were kings more
stingy and observant than the Italian cooks; insomuch that in the
midst of a battle, whilst they were at handy-blows with their
enemies, they could exactly reckon up how many glasses each man
drank at his table. But those that Pindar describes are
much better,--

Where heroes mixed sat round the noble board,

because they maintained society and good fellowship; for the
latter truly mixed and joined friends, but our modern system
divides and asperses them as persons who, though seemingly very
good friends, cannot so much as eat with one another out of the
same dish.

To this polite discourse of Hagias they urged me to reply.
And I said: Hagias, it is true, hath reason to be troubled at this
unusual disappointment, because having so great a belly (for he
was an excellent trencherman) he had no larger mess than others;
for in a fish eaten together Democritus says, there are no bones.
But that very thing is likely to increase our share beyond our
own proper allowance. For it is equality, as the old woman
in Euripides hath it,

That fastens towns to towns, and friends to friends;
(Euripides, "Phoenissae," 536.)

and entertainments chiefly stand in need of this. The necessity is
from nature as well as custom, and is not lately introduced or
founded only on opinion. For when the same dish lies in common
before all, the man that is slow and eats little must be offended
at the other that is too quick for him, as a slow ship at the swift
sailor. Besides, snatching, contention, shoving, and the like, are
not, in my mind, neighborly beginnings of mirth and jollity;
but they are absurd, doggish, and often end in anger or reproaches,
not only against one another, but also against the entertainer
himself or the carvers of the feast. But as long as Moera and
Lachesis (DIVISION AND DISTRIBUTION) maintained equality in feasts,
nothing uncivil or disorderly was seen, and they called the feasts
[Greek omitted], DISTRIBUTIONS, the entertained [Greek omitted],
and the carvers [Greek omitted], DISTRIBUTERS, from dividing and
distributing to every man his proper mess. The Lacedaemonians had
officers called distributers of the flesh, no mean men, but the
chief of the city; for Lysander himself by king Agesilaus was
constituted one of these in Asia. But when luxury crept into our
feasts, distributing was thrown out; for I suppose they had not
leisure to divide these numerous tarts, cheese-cakes, pies, and
other delicate varieties; but, surprised with the pleasantness of
the taste and tired with the variety, they left off cutting it into
portions, and left all in common. And this is confirmed from the
present practice; for in our religious or public feasts, where the
food is simple and inartificial, each man hath his mess assigned
him; so that he that endeavors to retrieve the ancient custom will
likewise recover thrift and almost lost frugality again. But, you
object, where only property is, community is lost. True indeed,
where equality is not; for not the possession of what is proper and
our own, but the taking away of another's and coveting that which
is common, is the cause of all injury and contention; and the laws,
restraining and confining these within the proper bounds, receive
their name from their office, being a power distributing equally to
every one in order to the common good. Thus every one is not to be
honored by the entertainer with the garland or the chiefest place;
but if any one brings with him his sweetheart or a singing girl,
they must be common to him and his friends, that all possessions
may be brought together, as Anaxagoras would have it. Now if
propriety in these things doth not in the least hinder but that
things of greater moment, and the only considerable, as discourse
and civility, may be still common, let us leave off abasing
distributions or the lot, the son of Fortune (as Euripides hath
it), which hath no respect either to riches or honor, but in its
inconsiderate wheel now and then raiseth up the humble and the
poor, and makes him master of himself, and, by accustoming the
great and rich to endure and not be offended at equality,
pleasingly instructs.


Simonides the poet, my Sossius Senecio, seeing one of the company
sit silent and discourse nobody, said: Sir, if you are fool, it is
wisely done; if a wise man, very foolishly. It is good to conceal
a man's folly (but as Heraclitus says) it is very hard to do it
over a glass of wine,--

Which doth the gravest men to mirth advance,
And let them loose to sing, to laugh, and dance,
And speak what had been better unsaid.
("Odyssey," xiv. 464.)

In which lines the poet in my mind shows the difference between
being a little heated and downright drunk; for to sing, laugh,
and dance may agree very well with those that have gone no farther
than the merry cup; but to prattle, and speak what had been better
left unsaid, argues a man to be quite gone. And therefore Plato
thinks that wine is the must ingenious discoverer of men's humors;
and Homer, when he says,--

At feasts they had not known each other's minds,
(Ibid. xxi. 35.)

evidently shows that he knew wine was powerful to open men's
thoughts, and was full of new discoveries. It is true from the
bare eating and drinking, if they say nothing we can give no guess
at the tempers of the men; but because drinking leads them into
discourse, and discourse lays a great many things open and naked
which were secret and hid before, therefore to sport a glass of
wine together lets us into one another's humors. And therefore a
man may reasonably fall foul on Aesop: Why sir, would you have a
window in every man's breast, through which we may look in upon his
thoughts? Wine opens and exposes all, it will not suffer us to be
silent, but takes off all mask and visor, and makes us regardless
of the severe precepts of decency and custom. Thus Aesop or Plato,
or any other that designs to look into a man, may have his desires
satisfied by the assistance of a bottle; but those that are not
solicitous to pump one another, but to be sociable and pleasant,
discourse of such matters and handle such questions as make no
discovery of the bad parts of the soul, but such as comfort the
good, and, by the help of neat and polite learning, lead the
intelligent part into an agreeable pasture and garden of delight
This made me collect and dedicate the first to you this third
dedication of table discourses, the first of which is about
chaplets made of flowers.




At Athens Erato the musician keeping a solemn feast to the Muses,
and inviting a great many to the treat, the company was full of
talk, and the subject of the discourse garlands. For after supper
many of all sorts of flowers being presented to the guests,
Ammonius began to jeer me for choosing a rose chaplet before a
laurel, saying that those made of flowers were effeminate, and
fitted toyish girls and women more than grave philosophers and men
of music. And I admire that our friend Erato, that abominates all
flourishing in songs, and blames good Agatho, who first in his
tragedy of the Mysians ventured to introduce the chromatic airs,
should himself fill his entertainment with such various and such
florid colors; yet, while he shuts out all the soft delights that
through the ears can enter to the soul, he should introduce others
through the eyes and through the nose, and make these garlands,
instead of signs of piety, to be instruments of pleasure. For it
must be confessed that this ointment gives a better smell than
those trifling flowers, which wither even in the hands of those
that wreathe them. Besides, all pleasure must be banished the
company of philosophers, unless it is of some use or desired by
natural appetite; for as those that are carried to a banquet by
some of their invited friends (as, for instance, Socrates carried
Aristodemus to Agatho's table) are as civilly entertained as the
bidden guests, but he that goes on his own account is shut out of
doors; thus the pleasures of eating and drinking, being invited by
natural appetite, should have admission; but all the others which
come on no account and have only luxury to introduce them, ought in
reason to be denied.

At this some young men, not thoroughly acquainted with Ammonius's
humor, being abashed, privately tore their chaplets; but I,
perceiving that Ammonius proposed this only for discourse and
disputation's sake, applying myself to Trypho the physician, said:
Sir, you must put off that sparkling rosy chaplet as well as we, or
declare, as I have often heard you, what excellent preservatives
these flowery garlands are against the strength of liquor.
But here Erato putting in said: What, is it decreed that no
pleasure must be admitted without profit? And must we be angry
with our delight, unless hired to endure it? Perhaps we may have
reason to be ashamed of ointments and purple vests, because so
costly and expensive, and to look upon them as (in the barbarian's
phrase) treacherous garments and deceitful odors; but these natural
smells and colors are pure and simple as fruits themselves, and
without expense or the curiosity of art. And I appeal to any one,
whether it is not absurd to receive the pleasant savors Nature
gives us, and enjoy and reject those smells and colors that the
seasons afford us, because forsooth they blossom with delight, if
they have no other external profit or advantage. Besides, we have
an axiom against you, for if (as you affirm) Nature makes nothing
in vain, those things that have no other use were designed on
purpose to please and to delight. Besides, observe that to
thriving trees Nature hath given leaves, both for the preservation
of the fruit and of the stock itself; for those sometimes warming,
sometimes cooling it, the seasons creep on by degrees, and do not
assault it with all their violence at once. But now the flower,
whilst it is on the plant, is of no profit at all, unless we use it
to delight our nose with the admirable smell, and to please our
eyes when it opens that inimitable variety of colors.
And therefore, when the leaves are plucked off, the plants as it
were suffer injury and grief. There is a kind of an ulcer raised,
and an unbecoming nakedness attends them; and we must not only (as
Empedocles says)

By all means spare the leaves that grace the palm,

but likewise of all other trees, and not injuriously against Nature
robbing them of their leaves, bring deformity on them to adorn
ourselves. But to pluck the flowers doth no injury at all. It is
like gathering of grapes at the time of vintage; unless plucked
when ripe, they wither of themselves and fall. And therefore, like
the barbarians who clothe themselves with the skins more commonly
than with the wool of sheep, those that wreathe leaves rather than
flowers into garlands seem to me to use the plants neither
according to the dictates of reason nor the design of Nature.
And thus much I say in defence of those who sell chaplets of
flowers; for I am not grammarian enough to remember those poems
which tell us that the old conquerors in the sacred games were
crowned with flowers. Yet, now I think of it, there is a story of
a rosy crown that belongs to the Muses; Sappho mentions it in a
copy of verses to a woman unlearned and unacquainted with
the Muses:--

Thou shalt unregarded lie
Cause ne'er acquainted with the Muses' Rose.
(From Sappho, Frag. 68.)

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

Then Trypho taking the discourse said: The ancients were very
curious and well acquainted with all these things, because plants
were the chief ingredients of their physic. And of this some signs
remain till now; for the Tyrians offer to Agenor, and the
Magnesians to Chiron, the first supposed practitioners of physic,
as the first fruits, the roots of those plants which have been
successful on a patient. And Bacchus was not only counted a
physician for finding wine, the most pleasing and most potent
remedy, but for bringing ivy, the greatest opposite imaginable to
wine, into reputation, and for teaching his drunken followers to
wear garlands of it, that by that means they might be secured
against the violence of a debauch, the heat of the liquor being
remitted by the coldness of the ivy. Besides, the names of several
plants sufficiently evidence the ancients curiosity in this matter;
for they named the walnut-tree [Greek omitted], because it sends
forth a heavy and [Greek omitted] drowsy spirit, which affects
their heads who sleep beneath it; and the daffodil, [Greek
omitted], because it benumbs the nerves and causes a stupid
narcotic heaviness in the limbs, and therefore Sophocles calls it
the ancient garland flower of the great (that is, the earthy) gods.
And some say rue was called [Greek omitted] from its astringent
quality; for, by its dryness preceding from its heat, it fixes
[Greek omitted] or dries the seed, and is very hurtful to great-
bellied women. But those that imagine the herb amethyst [Greek
omitted], and the precious stone of the same name, are called so
because powerful against the force of wine are much mistaken;
for both receive there names from their color; for its leaf is not
of the color of strong wine, but resembles that of weak diluted
liquor. And indeed I could mention a great many which have their
names from their proper virtues. But the care and the experience
of the ancients sufficiently appears in those of which they made
their garlands when they designed to be merry and frolic over a
glass of wine; for wine, especially when it seizes on the head, and
weakens the body just at the very spring and origin of the sense,
disturbs the whole man. Now the effluvia of flowers are an
admirable preservative against this, they secure the brain, as it
were a citadel, against the effects of drunkenness; for those that
are hot upon the pores and give the fumes free passage to exhale,
and those moderately cold repel and keep down the ascending vapors.
Such are the violet and rose; for the odors of both these are
prevalent against any ache and heaviness in the head. The flowers
of the privet and crocus bring those that have drunk freely into a
gentle sleep; for they send forth a smooth and gentle effluvia,
which softly takes off all asperities that arise in the body of the
drunken; and so all things being quiet and composed, the violence
on the noxious humor is abated and thrown off. The smells of some
flowers being received into the brain cleanse the organs and
instruments of sense, and gently by their heat, without any
violence or force, dissolve the humors, and warm and cherish the
brain itself, which is naturally cold. And upon this account, they
call those little posies they hang about their necks [Greek
omitted], and anointed their breasts with the oils that were
squeezed from them; and of this Alcaeus is a witness, when he bids
his friends,

Pour ointments o'er his laboring temples, pressed
With various cares, and o'er his aged breast.

For the warm odors shoot upward into the very brain, being drawn up
by the nostrils. For they did not call those garlands hung about
the neck [Greek omitted] because they thought the heart was the
seat and citadel of the mind [Greek omitted], for on that account
they should rather have called them [Greek omitted], but, as I said
before, from their vapor and exhalation. Besides, it is no strange
thing that these smells of garlands should be of so considerable a
virtue; for some tell us that the shadow of the yew, especially
when it blossoms, kills those that sleep under it; and a subtle
spirit ariseth from pressed poppy, which suddenly overcomes the
unwary squeezers. And there is an herb called alyssus, which to
some that take it in their hands, to others that do but look on it,
is found a present remedy against the hiccough; and some affirm
that planted near the stalls it preserves sheep and goats from the
rot and mange. And the rose is called [Greek omitted], probably
because it sends forth a stream [Greek omitted] of odors; and for
that reason it withers presently. It is a cooler, yet fiery to
look upon; and no wonder, for upon the surface a subtile heat,
being driven out by the inward heat, looks vivid and appears.




Upon this discourse, when we all hummed Trypho, Ammonius with a
smile said: It is not decent by any contradiction to pull in
pieces, like a chaplet, this various and florid discourse of
Trypho's. Yet methinks the ivy is a little oddly interwoven, and
unjustly said by its cold powers to temper the heat of strong wine;
for it is rather fiery and hot, and its berries steeped in wine
make the liquor more apt to inebriate and inflame. And from this
cause, as in sticks warped by the fire, proceeds the crookedness of
the boughs. And snow, that for many days will lie on other trees,
presently melts from the branches of the ivy, and wastes all
around, as far as the warmth reaches. But the greatest evidence is
this. Theophrastus tells us, that when Alexander commanded
Harpalus to plant some Grecian trees in the Babylonian gardens,
and--because the climate is very hot and the sun violent--such as
were leafy, thick, and fit to make a shade, the ivy only would not
grow; though all art and diligence possible were used, it withered
and died. For being hot itself, it could not agree with the fiery
nature of the soil; for excess in similar qualities is destructive,
and therefore we see everything as it were affects its contrary;
a cold plant flourishes in a hot ground, and a hot plant is
delighted with a cold. Upon which account it is that bleak
mountains, exposed to cold winds and snow, bear firs, pines, and
the like, full of pitch, fiery, and excellent to make a torch.
But besides, Trypho, trees of a cold nature, their little feeble
heat not being able to diffuse itself but retiring to the heart,
shed their leaves; but their natural oiliness and warmth preserve
the laurel, olive, and cypress always green; and the like too in
the ivy may be observed. And therefore it is not likely our dear
friend Bacchus, who called wine [Greek omitted] intoxicating and
himself [Greek omitted], should bring ivy into reputation for being
a preservative against drunkenness and an enemy to wine. But in my
opinion, as lovers of wine, when they have not any juice of the
grape ready, drink ale, mead, cider, or the like; thus he that in
winter would have a vine-garland on his head, and finding the vine
naked and without leaves, used the ivy that is like it; for its
boughs are twisted and irregular, its leaves moist and disorderly
confused, but chiefly the berries, like ripening clusters, make an
exact representation of the vine. But grant the ivy to be a
preservative against drunkenness,--that to please you, Trypho, we
may name Bachus a physician,--still I affirm that power to proceed
from its heat, which either opens the pores or helps to digest
the wine.

Upon this Trypho sat silent, studying for an answer.
Erato addressing himself to us youths, said: Trypho wants your
assistance; help him in this dispute about the garlands, or be
content to sit without any. Ammonius too bade us not be afraid,
for he would not reply to any of our discourses; and Trypho
likewise urging me to propose something, I said: To demonstrate
that the ivy is cold is not so proper a task for me as Trypho, for
he often useth coolers and binders; but that proposition, that wine
in which ivy berries have been is more inebriating, is not true;
for that disturbance which it raiseth in those that drink it is not
so properly called drunkenness as alienation of mind or madness,
such as hyoscyamus and a thousand other things that set men beside
themselves usually produce. The crookedness of the bough is no
argument at all, for such violent and unnatural effects cannot be
supposed to proceed from any natural quality or power. Now sticks
are bent by the fire, because that draws the moisture, and so the
crookedness is a violent distortion; but the natural heat nourishes
and preserves the body. Consider, therefore, whether it is not the
weakness and coldness of the body that makes it wind, bend, and
creep upon the ground; for those qualities check its rise, and
depress it in its ascent, and render it like a weak traveller, that
often sits down and then goes on again. And therefore the ivy
requires something to twine about, and needs a prop; for it is not
able to sustain and direct its own branches, because it wants heat,
which naturally tends upward. The snow is melted by the wetness of
the leaf, for water destroys it easily, passing through the thin
contexture, it being nothing but a congeries of small bubbles;
and therefore in very cold but moist places the snow melts as soon
as in hot. That it is continually green doth not proceed from its
heat, for to shed its leaves doth not argue the coldness of a tree.
Thus the myrtle and well fern, though not hot, but confessedly
cold, are green all the year. Some imagine this comes from the
equal and duly proportioned mixture of the qualities in the leaf,
to which Empedocles hath added a certain aptness of pores, through
which the nourishing juice is orderly transmitted, so that there is
still supply sufficient. But now it is otherwise in trees whose
leaves fall, by reason of the wideness of their higher and
narrowness of their lower pores; for the latter do not send juice
enough, nor do the former keep it, but as soon as a small stock is
received pour it out. This may be illustrated from the usual
watering of our gardens; for when the distribution is unequal, the
plants that are always watered have nourishment enough, seldom
wither, and look always green. But you further argue, that being
planted in Babylon it would not grow. It was well done of the
plant, methinks, being a particular friend and familiar of the
Boeotian god, to scorn to live amongst the barbarians, or imitate
Alexander in following the manners of those nations; but it was not
its heat but cold that was the cause of this aversion, for that
could not agree with the contrary quality. For one similar quality
doth not destroy but cherish another. Thus dry ground bears thyme,
though it is naturally hot. Now at Babylon they say the air is so
suffocating, so intolerably hot, that many of the more prosperous
sleep upon skins full of water, that they may lie cool.




Florus thought it strange that Aristotle in his discourse of
Drunkenness, affirming that old men are easily, women hardly,
overtaken, did not assign the cause, since he seldom failed on such
occasions. Therefore he proposed it to us (we were a great many
acquaintance met at supper) as a fit subject for our inquiry.
Sylla began: One part will conduce to the discovery of the other;
and if we rightly hit the cause in relation to the women, the
difficulty, as it concerns the old men, will be easily despatched;
for their two natures are quite contrary. Moistness, smoothness,
and softness belong to the one; and dryness, roughness, and
hardness are the accidents of the other. As for women, I think the
principal cause is the moistness of their temper; this produceth a
softness in the flesh, a shining smoothness, and their usual
purgations. Now when wine is mixed with a great deal of weak
liquor, it is overpowered by that, loses its strength, and becomes
flat and waterish. Some reason likewise may be drawn from
Aristotle himself; for he affirms that those that drink fast, and
take a large draught without drawing breath, are seldom overtaken,
because the wine doth not stay long in their bodies, but having
acquired an impetus by this greedy drinking, suddenly runs through;
and women are generally observed to drink after that manner.
Besides, it is probable that their bodies, by reason of the
continual deduction of the moisture in order to their usual
purgations, are very porous, and divided as it were into many
little pipes and conduits; into which when the wine falls, it is
quickly conveyed away, and doth not lie and fret the principal
parts, from whose disturbance drunkenness proceeds. But that old
men want the natural moisture, even the name [Greek omitted], in my
opinion, intimates; for that name was given them not as stooping to
the earth [Greek omitted] but as being in the habit of their body
[Greek omitted] and [Greek omitted], earthlike and earthy.
Besides, the stiffness and roughness prove the dryness of their
nature. Therefore it is probable that, when they drink, their
body, being grown spongy by the dryness of its nature, soaks up the
wine, and that lying in the vessels it affects the senses and
prevents the natural motions. For as floods of water glide over
the close grounds, nor make them slabby, but quickly sink into the
open and chapped fields; thus wine, being sucked in by the dry
parts, lies and works in the bodies of old men. But besides, it is
easy to observe, that age of itself hath all the symptoms of
drunkenness. These symptoms everybody knows; viz., shaking of the
joints, faltering of the tongue, babbling, passion, forgetfulness,
and distraction of the mind; many of which being incident to old
men, even whilst they are well and in perfect health, are
heightened by any little irregularity and accidental debauch.
So that drunkenness doth not beget in old men any new and proper
symptoms, but only intend and increase the common ones. And an
evident sign of this is, that nothing is so like an old man as a
young man drunk.




Thus Sylla said, and Apollonides the marshal subjoined: Sir, what
you discoursed of old men I willingly admit; but in my opinion you
have omitted a considerable reason in relation to the women, viz.,
the coldness of their temper, which quencheth the heat of the
strongest wine, and makes it lose all its destructive force and
fire. This reflection seeming reasonable, Athryilatus the Thasian,
a physician, kept us from a hasty conclusion in this matter, by
saying that some supposed the female sex was not cold, but hotter
than the male; and others thought wine rather cold than hot.

When Florus seemed surprised at this discourse, Athryilatus
continued: Sir, what I mention about wine I shall leave to this man
to make out (pointing to me, for a few days before we had handled
the same matter). But that women are of a hot constitution, some
suppose, may be proved, first, from their smoothness, for their
heat wastes all the superfluous nourishment which breeds hair;
secondly from their abundance of blood, which seems to be the
fountain and source of all the heat that is in the body;--now this
abounds so much in females, that they would be all on fire, unless
relieved by frequent and sudden evacuations. Thirdly, from a usual
practice of the sextons in burning the bodies of the dead, it is
evident that females are hotter than males; for the bedsmen are
wont to put one female body with ten males upon the same pile, for
that contains some inflammable and oily parts, and serves for fuel
to the rest. Besides, if that that is soonest fit for generation
is hottest, and a maid begins to be furious sooner than a boy, this
is a strong proof of the hotness of the female sex. But a more
convincing proof follows: women endure cold better than men, they
are not so sensible of the sharpness of the weather, and are
contented with a few clothes.

And Florus replied: Methinks, sir, from the same topics I could
draw conclusions against your assertion. For, first, they endure
cold better, because one similar quality doth not so readily act
upon another; and then again, their seed is not active in
generation, but passive matter and nourishment to that which the
male injects. But more, women grow effete sooner than men;
that they burn better than the males proceeds from their fat, which
is the coldest part of the body; and young men, or such as use
exercise, have but little fat. Their monthly purgations do not
prove the abundance, but the corruption and badness, of their
blood; for being the superfluous and undigested part, and having no
convenient vessel in the body it flows out, and appears languid and
feculent, by reason of the weakness of its heat. And the shivering
that seizes them at the time of their purgations sufficiently
proves that which flows from them is cold and undigested. And who
will believe their smoothness to be an effect of heat rather than
cold, when everybody knows that the hottest parts of a body are the
most hairy? For all such excrements are thrust out by the heat,
which opens and makes passages through the skin; but smoothness is
a consequent of that closeness of the superficies which proceeds
from condensing cold. And that the flesh of women is closer than
that of men, you may be informed by those that lie with women that
have anointed themselves with oil or other perfumes; for though
they do not touch the women, yet they find themselves perfumed,
their bodies by reason of their heat and rarity drawing the odor to
them. But I think we have disputed plausibly and sufficiently of
this matter. ...




But now I would fain know upon what account you can imagine that
wine is cold. Then, said I, do you believe this to be my opinion?
Yes, said he, whose else? And I replied: I remember a good while
ago I met with a discourse of Aristotle's upon this very question.
And Epicurus, in his Banquet, hath a long discourse, the sum of
which is that wine of itself is not hot, but that it contains some
atoms that cause heat, and others that cause cold; now, when it is
taken into the body, it loses one sort of particles and takes the
other out of the body itself, as it agrees with one's nature and
constitution; so that some when they are drunk are very hot, and
others very cold.

This way of talking, said Florus, leads us by Protagoras directly
to Pyrrho; for it is evident that, suppose we were to discourse of
oil, milk, honey, or the like, we shall avoid all inquiry into
their particular natures by saying that things are so and so by
their mutual mixture with one another. But how do you prove that
wine is cold? And I, being forced to speak extempore, replied:
By two arguments. The first I draw from the practice of
physicians, for when their patients' stomachs grow very weak, they
prescribe no hot things, and yet give them wine as an excellent
remedy. Besides, they stop looseness and immoderate sweating by
wine; and this shows that they think it more binding and
constipating than snow itself. Now if it were potentially hot, I
should think it as wise a thing to apply fire to snow as wine to
the stomach.

Again, most teach that sleep proceeds from the coolness of the
parts; and most of the narcotic medicines, as mandrake and opium,
are coolers. Those indeed work violently, and forcibly condense,
but wine cools by degrees; it gently stops the motion, according as
it hath more or less of such narcotic qualities. Besides, heat has
a generative power; for owing to heat the fluid flows easily and
the vital spirit gets vigor and a stimulating force. Now the great
drinkers are very dull, inactive fellows, no women's men at all;
they eject nothing strong, vigorous, and fit for generation, but
are weak and unperforming, by reason of the bad digestion and
coldness of their seed. And it is farther observable that the
effects of cold and drunkenness upon men's bodies are the same,--
trembling, heaviness, paleness, shivering, faltering of tongue,
numbness, and cramps. In many, a debauch ends in a dead palsy,
when the wine stupefies and extinguisheth all the heat. And the
physicians use this method in curing the qualms and diseases gotten
by debauch; at night they cover them well and keep them warm;
and at day they annoint and bathe, and give them such food as shall
not disturb, but by degrees recover the heat which the wine hath
scattered and driven out of the body. Thus, I added, in these
appearances we trace obscure qualities and powers; but as for
drunkenness, it is easily known what it is. For, in my opinion, as
I hinted before, those that are drunk are very much like old men;
and therefore great drinkers grow old soonest, and they are
commonly bald and gray before their time; and all these accidents
certainly proceed from want of heat. But mere vinegar is of a
vinous nature, and nothing quenches fire so soon as that;
its extreme coldness overcomes and kills the flame presently.
And of all fruits physicians use the vinous as the greatest
coolers, as pomegranates and apples. Besides, do they not make
wine by mixing honey with rain-water or snow; for the cold, because
those two qualities are near akin, if it prevails, changes the
luscious into a poignant taste? And did not the ancients of all
the creeping beasts consecrate the snake to Bacchus, and of all the
plants the ivy, because they were of a cold and frozen nature?
Now, lest any one should think this is a proof of its heat, that if
a man takes juice of hemlock, a large dose of wine cures him, I
shall, on the contrary affirm that wine and hemlock juice mixed is
an incurable poison, and kills him that drinks it presently.
So that we can no more conclude it to be hot because it resists,
than to be cold because it assists, the poison. For cold is the
only quality by which hemlock juice works and kills.




Some young students, that had not gone far in the learning of the
ancients, inveighed against Epicurus for bringing in, in his
Svmposium, an impertinent and unseemly discourse, about what time
was best to lie with a woman; for an old man at supper in the
company of youths to talk of such a subject, and dispute whether
after or before supper was the most convenient time, argued him to
be a very loose and debauched man. To this some said that
Xenophon, after his entertainment was ended, sent all his guests
home on horseback, to lie with their wives. But Zopyrus the
physician, a man very well read in Epicurus, said, that they had
not duly weighed that piece; for he did not propose that question
first, and then discuss that matter on purpose; but after supper he
desired the young men to take a walk, and he then discoursed on it,
that he might persuade them to continence, and to abate their
desires and restrain their appetites; showing them that it was very
dangerous at all times, but especially after they had been eating
or making merry. But suppose he had proposed this as the chief
topic for discourse, doth it never become a philosopher to inquire
which is the convenient and proper time? Ought we not to time it
well, and direct our embrace by reason? Or may such discourse be
otherwise allowed, and must they be thought unseemly problems to be
proposed at table? Indeed I am of another mind. It is true, I
should blame a philosopher that in the middle of the day, in the
schools, before all sorts of men, should discourse of such a
subject; but over a glass of wine between friends and acquaintance,
when it is necessary to propose something beside dull, serious
discourse, why should it be a fault to hear or speak anything that
may inform our judgments or direct our practice in such matters?
And I protest I had rather that Zeno had inserted his loose topics
in some merry discourses and agreeable table-talk, than in such a
grave, serious piece as his politics.

The youth, startled at this free declaration, sat silent; and the rest of the company desired Zopyrus to deliver Epicurus's sentiment. He said: The particulars I cannot remember; but I believe he feared the violent agitations of such exercises, because the bodies employed in them are so violently disturbed. For it is certain that wine is a very great disturber, and puts the body out of its usual temper; and therefore, when thus disquieted, if quiet and sleep do not compose it but other agitations seize it, it is likely that those parts which knit and join the members may be loosened, and the whole frame be as it were unsettled from its foundation and overthrown. For then likewise the seed cannot freely pass, but is confusedly and forcibly thrown out, because the liquor hath filled the vessels of the body, and stopped its way. Therefore, says Epicurus, we must use those sports when the body is at quiet, when the meat hath been thoroughly digested, carried about and applied to several parts of the body, so that we begin to want a fresh supply of food. To this of Epicurus we might join an argument taken from physic. At day-time, while our digestion is performing, we are not so lusty nor eager to embrace; and presently after supper to endeavor it is dangerous, for the crudity of the stomach, the food being yet undigested, may be disorderly motion upon this crudity, and so the mischief be double.
Olympicus, continuing the discourse, said: I very much like what Clinias the Pythagorean delivers. For the story goes that, being asked when a man should lie with a woman, he replied, when he hath a mind to receive the greatest mischief that he can. For Zopyrus's discourse seems rational, and other times as well as those he mentions have their peculiar inconveniences. And therefore,--as Thales the philosopher, to free himself from the pressing solicitations of his mother who advised him to marry, said at first, 'tis not yet time; and when, now he was growing old, she repeated her admonition, replied, nor is it now time,--so it is best for every man to have the same mind in relation to those sports of Venus; when he goes to bed, let him say, 'tis not yet time; and when he rises, 'tis not now time.

What you say, Olympicus, said Soclarus interposing, befits
wrestlers indeed; it smells, methinks, of their meals of flesh and
casks of wine, but is not suitable to the resent company, for
there are some young married men here,

Whose duty 'tis to follow Venus' sports.

Nay, we ourselves seem to have some relation to Venus still, when
in our hymns to the gods we pray thus to her,

Fair Venus, keep off feeble age.

But waiving this, let us inquire (if you think fit) whether
Epicurus does well, when contrary to all right and equity he
separates Venus and the Night, though Menander, a man well skilled
in love matters, says that she likes her company better than that
of any of the gods. For, in my opinion, night is a very convenient
veil, spread over those that give themselves to that kind of
pleasure; for it is not fit that day should be the time, lest
modesty should be banished from our eyes, effeminacy grow bold, and
such vigorous impressions on our memories be left, as might still
possess us with the same fancies and raise new inclinations.
For the sight (according to Plato) receives a more vigorous
impression than any other bodily organ, and joining with the
imagination, that lies near it, works presently upon the soul, and
ever causes fresh desires by those images of pleasure which it
brings. But the night, hiding many and the most furious of the
actions, quiets and lulls nature, and doth not suffer it to be
carried to intemperance by the eye. But besides this, how absurd
is it, that a man returning from an entertainment merry perhaps and
jocund, crowned and perfumed, should cover himself up, turn his
back to his wife, and go to sleep; and then at day-time, in the
midst of his business, send for her out of her apartment to serve
his pleasure or in the morning, as a cock treads his hens. No, sir
the evening is the end of our labor, and the morning the beginning.
Bacchus the Loosener and Terpsichore and Thalia preside over the
former; and the latter raiseth us up betimes to attend on Minerva
the Work-mistress, and Mercury the merchandiser. And therefore
songs, dances, and epithalamiums, merry-meetings, with balls and
feasts, and sounds of pipes and flutes, are the entertainment of
the one; but in the other, nothing but the noise of hammers and
anvils, the scratching of saws, the city cries, citations to court
or to attend this or that prince and magistrate are heard.

Then all the sports of pleasure disappear,
Then Venus, then gay youth removes:
No Thyrsus then which Bacchus loves;
But all is clouded and o'erspread with care.

Besides, Homer makes not one of the heroes lie with his wife or
mistress in the day-time, but only Paris, who, having shamefully
fled from the battle, sneaked into the embraces of his wife;
intimating that such lasciviousness by day did not befit the sober
temper of a man, but the mad lust of an adulterer. But, moreover,
the body will not (as Epicurus fancies) be injured more after
supper than at any other time, unless a man be drunk or
overcharged,--for in those cases, no doubt, it is very dangerous
and hurtful. But if a man is only raised and cheered, not
overpowered by liquor, if his body is pliable, his mind agreeing,
and then he sports, he need not fear any disturbance from the load
he has within him; he need not fear catching cold, or too great a
transportation of atoms, which Epicurus makes the cause of all the
ensuing harm. For if he lies quiet he will quickly fill again, and
new spirits will supply the vessels that are emptied.

But this is to be especially taken care of, that, the body being
then in a ferment and disturbed, no cares of the soul, no business
about necessary affairs, no labor, should distract and seize it,
lest they should corrupt and sour its humors, Nature not having had
time enough for settling what has been disturbed. For, sir, all
men have not the command of that happy ease and tranquillity which
Epicurus's philosophy procured him; for many great incumbrances
seize almost upon every one every day, or at least some disquiets;
and it is not safe to trust the body with any of these, when it is
in such a condition and disturbance, presently after the fury and
heat of the embrace is over. Let, according to his opinion, the
happy and immortal deity sit at ease and never mind us; but if we
regard the laws of our country, we must not dare to enter into the
temple and offer sacrifice, if but a little before we have done any
such thing. It is fit therefore to let night and sleep intervene,
and after there is a sufficient space of time past between, to rise
as it were pure and new, and (as Democritus was wont to say) "with
new thoughts upon the new day."




At Athens on the eleventh day of February (thence called [Greek
omitted] THE BARREL-OPENING), they began to taste their new wine;
and in old times (as it appears), before they drank, they offered
some to the gods, and prayed that that cordial liquor might prove
good and wholesome. By us Thebans the month is named [Greek
omitted], and it is our custom upon the sixth day to sacrifice to
our good Genius and then taste our new wine, after the zephyr has
done blowing; for that wind makes wine ferment more than any other,
and the liquor that can bear this fermentation is of a strong body
and will keep well. My father offered the usual sacrifice, and
when after supper the young men, my fellow-students, commended the
wine, he started this question: Why does not new wine inebriate as
soon as other? This seemed a paradox and incredible to most of us;
but Hagias said, that luscious things were cloying and would
presently satiate, and therefore few could drink enough to make
them drunk; for when once the thirst is allayed, the appetite would
be quickly palled by that unpleasant liquor; for that a luscious is
different from a sweet taste, even the poet intimates, when
he says,

With luscious wine, and with sweet milk and cheese.
("Odyssey, xx. 69.)

Wine at first is sweet; afterward, as it grows old, it ferments
and begins to be pricked a little; then it gets a sweet taste.

Aristaenetus the Nicaean said, that he remembered he had read
somewhere that sweet things mixed with wine make it less heady, and
that some physicians prescribe to one that hath drunk freely,
before he goes to bed, a crust of bread dipped in honey.
And therefore, if sweet mixtures weaken strong wine, it is
reasonable that wine should not be heady till it hath lost its

We admired the acuteness of the young philosophers, and were well
pleased to see them propose something out of the common road and
give us their own sentiments on this matter. Now the common and
obvious reason is the heaviness of new wine,--which (as Aristotle
says) violently presseth the stomach,--or the abundance of airy and
watery parts that lie in it; the former of which, as soon as they
are pressed, fly out; and the watery parts are naturally fit to
weaken the spirituous liquor. Now, when it grows old, the juice is
improved, and though by the separation of the watery parts it loses
in quantity, it gets in strength.




Well then, said my father, since we have fallen upon Aristotle, I
will endeavor to propose something of my own concerning those that
are half drunk; for, in my mind, though he was a very acute man, he
is not accurate enough in such matters. They usually say, I think,
that a sober man's understanding apprehends things right and judges
well; the sense of one quite drunk is weak and enfeebled; but of
him that is half drunk the fancy is vigorous and the understanding
weakened, and therefore, following their own fancies, they judge,
but judge ill. But pray, sirs, what is your opinion in
these matters?

This reason, I replied, would satisfy me upon a private
disquisition; but if you will have my own sentiments, let us first
consider, whether this difference doth not proceed from the
different temper of the body. For of those that are only half
drunk, the mind alone is disturbed, but the body not being quite
overwhelmed is yet able to obey its motions; but when it is too
much oppressed and the wine has overpowered it, it betrays and
frustrates the motions of the mind, for men in such a condition
never go so far as action. But those that are half drunk, having a
body serviceable to the absurd motions of the mind, are rather to
be thought to have greater ability to comply with those they have,
than to have worse inclinations than the others. Now if,
proceeding on another principle, we consider the strength of the
wine itself, nothing hinders but that this may be different and
changeable, according to the quantity that is drunk. As fire, when
moderate, hardens a piece of clay, but if very strong, makes it
brittle and crumble into pieces; and the heat of the spring fires
our blood with fevers but as the summer comes on, the disease
usually abates; what hinders then but that the mind, being
naturally raised by the power of the wine, when it is come to a
pitch, should by pouring on more be weakened again and its force
abated? Thus hellebore, before it purges, disturbs the body;
but if too small a dose be given, disturbs only and purges not at
all; and some taking too little of an opiate are more restless than
before; and some taking too much sleep well. Besides, it is
probable that this disturbance into which those that are half drunk
are put, when it comes to a pitch, leads to that decay. For a
great quantity being taken inflames the body and consumes the
frenzy of the mind; as a mournful song and melancholy music at a
funeral raises grief at first and forces tears, but as it

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