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This webpage reproduces a section of
The Deipnosophistae


published in Vol. IV
of the Loeb Classical Library edition,

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(Vol. IV) Athenaeus

Book X
(Part 5 of 5)

p531 (448B)While Ulpian was on the point of adding something to these remarks, Aemilianus said: "It is time, my friends, that we make some inquiry into the subject of riddles; that will give us a brief interval, at least, away from our cups,1 though we shall not follow the method of the Grammarian's Tragedy, as it is entitled, by Callias of Athens. Let us, then, first ask what is the definition of the riddle (griphos); but (we will not consider) what it was that Cleobulina of Lindus propounded in her riddles (ainigmata) — for our old friend Diotimus of Olympenê has discussed them adequately; rather, how the comic poets make mention of them, and what penalty those who failed to solve them had to undergo." And Larensis answered: "Clearchus of Soli gives this definition:2 'A riddle (griphos) is a problem3 put in jest, requiring, by searching the mind, the answer to the problem to be given for a prize or forfeit.' And again in the treatise On Riddles, Clearchus says there are seven kinds of riddles.4 'Depending on a letter, as when we are to tell, for example, the name of a fish or a plant beginning with a; similarly, when the propounder requires a word which contains or does not contain a certain letter, like the riddles called the s‑less; whence even Pindar composed an ode against the letter s,5 putting forth, as it were, a kind of riddle p533 in lyric poetry. Then there are riddles depending on a syllable, where, for example, we are to name something measured that begins with ba, like basileus (king),6 or that ends in -nax, like Callianax, or that has the lion for its leader,7 like Leonides, or contrariwise at the end, like Thrasyleon.8 Or riddles involving a whole noun, where, for example, we must give either simple or compound nouns of two syllables, wherein the form has a pompous or, conversely, a low implication; or names which are godless,9 like Cleonymus,10 or have a god in them, like Dionysius;11 in this case the noun may be made up from the name of either one or several gods, like Hermaphroditus; or a noun beginning with Zeus,12 like Diocles, or with Hermes, like Hermodorus; or one ending, perhaps, in -nicus.13 Those who failed to answer as required had to drink the cup.'14 This, then, is the definition given by Clearchus. Now try to find out, my good what the cup here mentioned is.

"On the subject of riddles Antiphanes says, in The Man from Cnoethe or Pot-belly:15 F'Before this I used to think that people who required us to tell riddles during a drinking-bout were plainly drivelling and talking nonsense; whenever a man enjoined us to guess in succession16 what somebody brought which he did not bring, I used to laugh, thinking he was p535talking drivel of a thing which could never by any possibility happen, just to catch us. nnnBut to‑day I have come to realize that it is true after all; for we are ten men contributing to a club,17 and yet not one of us contributes any contribution of these viands. Plainly, then, what somebody brings which he does not bring is this, and that riddle applies to us here. And this,18 to be sure, may possibly be excused; but what excuses are offered by those who fail to pay the money!19 They are earnest as Philip's,20 who was indeed a lucky beggar, Heaven knows!' And in Amorous:21 'A. When I want to say pot to you, am I to say pot, or the hollow-bodied bee formed by the whirl of the wheel, fashioned of clay, baked in another house of Mother Earth,22 and bearing in its womb the tender-fleshed forms, milk-nursed and stewing, of the new-born flock?23 B. Heavens! You'll be the death of me, surely, if you don't say to me, quite intelligibly, a pot of meat! A. Good suggestion! Shall I say, then, the creamy flood that flows from bleating she-goats, mingled with fountains from the tawny bee, p537and nested in a flat covering of the maiden daughter of chaste Demeter,24 luxuriating in countless delicately-compounded wrappings,25 or shall I say plainly to you, a flat-cake? B. I prefer flat-cake. A. And shall I say the sweat from the Bromiad spring? B. Cut it short ands army wine. A. The dewy stream of the nymphs? B. Omit that and say water. A. Or the redolent breath of cassia coursing through the air? B. Just say myrrh for short. A. Nor anything else like that? B. Don't keep asking questions again in your talk, because it seems to me a superfluous task, as is the speech of some, never to say the thing itself, but to twist together in a thick mass other things beside the point.'

"Alexis, in Sleep, propounds such riddles as these:26 'A. It is not mortal nor yet immortal; rather, it has a nature so mixed that its life is neither in man's estate nor in a god's, but its substance ever grows fresh and then dies again; it may not be seen by the eye, yet it is known of all. B. You always delight, woman, in puzzling me with riddles. A. Yes, but what I say is simple and plain to understand. B. What child, then, can have such a nature as that? A. Sleep, my daughter, the bringer of release from mortal woes.' Eubulus in Sphinx-Cario propounds these, solving them himself:27 'A. It has no tongue, yet it talks, p539its name is the same for male or female, steward of its own winds, hairy, or sometimes hairless; saying things unintelligible to them that understand,28 drawing out one melody after another; one thing it is, yet many, and if one wound it, it is unwounded.29 Tell me, what is it? Why are you puzzled? B. It's Callistratus! A. No, it's the rump. B. You keep talking drivel. A. No, really; this it is, one and the same, that tongueless speaks; it has one name though belonging to many; wounded it is unwounded; it is hairy and hairless. What would you? Guardian of many gales . . . .' — 'Locust-eyed, no front-snout,30 double-headed, a warrior that destroys the seed of young unborn.' This is the Egyptian weasel; for 'it takes the eggs of crocodiles, before the seed is formed into the likeness of the animal, breaks them up and then destroys them. And since it is double-mouthed, it can sting from behind and bite with its lips. . . .' — 'I know one that is heavy when he is young, and when he becomes old, though wingless, he lightly flies and leaves the land invisible.' This is down31 from a thistle. For it 'stands firmly in the seed when it is young, but when it has cast that off it is light and takes to flight, being blown about, you see, by little boys.' — 'There is an image32 which stands p541on top, its lower parts gaping, bored sharply clear through from head to foot; it gives birth to men at the tail, each one in his turn, and some of them obtain the right to live, while others must wander forth, each bearing his own fate in his own person, but calling out 'Beware!" ' You can decide for yourselves that this signifies the allotment-urn, for I don't want to cite all that Eubulus says. Antiphanes in The Riddle says:33 'A. A man who expected to wrap his net round many fish pulled in a single perch at great expense; disappointed in her, the grey mullet34 brought him another like her. For a perch willingly follows a black-tail.35 B. Grey mullet, man, black-tail! I don't know what you mean. You are really talking nonsense. A. Well, I'll tell you plainly. Many a man who gives his goods knows not that he has given them, to whom he has given them, nor even that he now has what he did not want at all. B. What? Someone gave what he did not give, and has what he does not have I can't make head or tail of that. A. Well, that's what the riddle said. All that you know, you don't know at this moment, nor all that you have given, nor all that you have in place of it. It meant something like that. B. Well then, I should like in my turn to put a riddle to you. A. Go ahead. B. A Pinna and a mullet, two fishes with voices, were p543talking a lot, but concerning what and to whom they thought they were saying something, they talked not at all. For the one addressed couldn't understand a word, so that, while their talk was addressed to him, they were talking a lot to themselves, and may Demeter destroy them both!' In Sappho, again, Antiphanes represents the poet as propounding riddles in the following manner, while somebody solves them thus. Sappho says:36 'There is a feminine being which keeps its babes safe beneath its bosom; they, though voiceless, raise a cry sonorous over the waves of the sea and across all the dry land, reaching what Mr. Ls they desire, and they may hear even when they are not there; but their sense of hearing is dull.' Someone solves this by saying: 'That being of which high speak is the state, the babes she nourishes within her are the politicians These, by their bawling, draw hither receipts across the sea from Asia and from Thrace. The people, meanwhile, sit near them while they feed and brawl continuously, neither hearing nor seeing anything. SAPPHO. You talk nonsense always. For how, father, could a politician be voiceless? B. If he is convicted three times of unconstitutional measures!37 So there! I thought I understood what you were talking about. However, tell me yourself.' Then Antiphanes represents Sappho as p545solving the riddle thus: 'The feminine being, then, is an epistle,38 the babes within her are the letters it carries round; they, though voiceless, talk to whom they desire far away; yet if another happen to be standing near when it is read, he will not hear.'

"Diphilus, in Theseus, says39 three Samian girls were once propounding riddles while drinking40 at the festival of Adonis; and one put to them the riddle, what is the strongest thing in the world? One of them answered, Iron, and produced the proof of this, saying, because men dig and cut everything with it and use it for every purpose. After she was applauded the second girl proceeded and said that the blacksmith possessed much greater strength, for he, in doing his job, bends the iron, no matter how strong, softens it, and does anything he pleases with it. But the third declared penem esse validissimum omnium; nam hoc, she explained, etiam fabri gementis anum perforari. Achaeus of Eretria, though a poet elegant in his style, sometimes darkens his diction and produces much that is enigmatical, as in Iris, a satyric drama. For he says:41 'The flask made of litharge,42 full of unguent, was suspended on the inscribed pillar of Sparta by a double peg.' Now though he merely p547wished to speak of the white strap on which the silvery oil-flask hung, he called it an 'inscribed pillar of Sparta' instead of a 'Spartan writing-staff.' That the Spartans wrote what they wanted to say on a white strap which they under round the 'writing-staff' is sufficiently explained by Apollonia of Rhodes in his treatise On Archilochus.43 stesichorus, also in Helen, spoke of 'a litharge foot-basin.'44 Ion, in Phoenix or Caeneus, called mistletoe the 'sweat of the oak' in these lines:45 'I am nurtured by the sweat of the oak, and by the staff cut from the tall bush, and by the mantle spun from Egyptian flax, the fetter which catches the wild beast.' Theodectas of Phaselis, Hermippus says in his work  On the Disciples of Isocrates,46 was very competent to discover the answer to a riddle put to him, and cleverly propounded riddles to others himself, like the one about the shadow. For he said there was something which in its nature was largest at its creation and at its decline, but was smallest at its prime. He puts it thus:47 'What thing is that which is not among all the things that Earth, the nurse, brings forth, nor the sea, nor has any growth in its limbs like that of things mortal, yet in the time of its earliest bargain generation is largest, but at its midmost height is small, and at old age itself is again largest in shape and size?' And p549in his td of Oedipus he speaks of the night and the day in enigmatic language:48 'There be two sisters, of whom the one gives birth to the other, whole she herself, after giving birth, is brought forth by the other.' There is a riddle related also by Callisthenes in his  History of Greece:49 'When the Arcadians were besieging Cromnus (this is a small town situated near Megalopolis), Hippodamus the Spartan, one of the men under siege, made clear by a riddle to the herald who had come to them from the Spartans the state of affairs among the besieged, and exhorted him to report to their mother that the woman imprisoned in the temple of Apollo must be liberated within ten days, since she would no longer be capable of liberation after these days had passed. By this contrivance he plainly revealed the thing to be reported. For this "woman" is in the temple of Apollo beside Apollo's throne, being a painted representation of Famine in the likeness of a woman. And so it became clear to all the Spartans that the men in the besieged town were able to hold out only ten days on account of famine. The Spartans, therefore, understood the report and came in force to the rescue of the men in Cromna.'

"Many riddles also are of a kind similar to the following: 'I saw a man gluing with fire bronze upon another man so closely as to make them of one blood.' This means the application of a cupping-glass. And then there is the similar kind of riddle by Panarces, p551as Clearchus says in his work On Riddles,50 to the effect that 'a man that was not a man hit a bird that was not a bird, perched on wood that was not wood, with a stone that was not stone.' The answer to these things is, severally, eunuch, bat, fennel, and pumice. Plato, also, mentions it in the fifth book of the Laws;51 Dhe said that the philosophers who have deserted their little trades52 are like people who propound ambiguous questions at dinner-parties, and like the children's riddle about the eunuch and his throwing at the bat, and what it was that they hint he threw at it, and upon what it was sitting. The riddles of Pythagoras, again, are of such a kind as the following, as Demetrius of Byzantium says in the fourth book On Poetry: 'Eat not thy heart,' instead of 'Cultivate apathy to pain.' 'Poke not the fire with a knife,' instead of 'Wrangle not with an angry man'; for anger is fire, and wrangling is a knife. 'Step not over the beam of the balance,' instead of 'Avoid and hate all mean advantage, and seek for equality.' E'Walk not on the main-travelled roads'53 instead of 'Follow not the opinion of the many'; for every man answers too rashly, as it happens to please him; but one should go the straight road, using reason as his guide. 'Sit not over a quart-measure,' instead of 'Consider not merely the things of to‑day, but be ready for the day to come.' 'When on a journey turn not back at the boundaries'; for the bounds p553and limit of life is death; death, then, he forbids us to approach with pain and worry. Like Theodectas, according to Clearchus, Dromeas of Cos and Aristonymus the harp-virtuoso54 used to play at riddles; also Cleon, nicknamed the mime-actor, who was the best actor of Italian mimes without making up his face;55 he even excelled Nymphodorus in the kind of mime just mentioned. But Ischomachus the herald also emulated him, the one who used to render his imitations before groups of people standing about; and when he became famous, he changed and began to act mimes among the jugglers.56 The riddles that they composed were of the following nature: for example, a certain countryman had stuffed himself too full and was sick; when the physician asked him if he had not eaten to the point of vomiting he replied: 'Not I! I ate to the end of my belly.' A beggar-woman had a pain in her stomach, and when the doctor asked if she were not pregnant57 she said, 'How could I be, when I have not eaten for three days?' Many of the riddles of Aristonymus, also, were made up of stories with double meanings.58 And the poet Sosiphanes, reviling the actor Cephisocles for his lechery, said, 'I would have thrown a stone into your haunches if I had not been likely to splash the bystanders.' BA very ancient kind of riddle, and one that is most closely related to the true nature of p555the riddle, has to do with logical concepts: 'What is it that we all teach but do not know?' 'What is it that is the same nowhere and everywhere?' And besides these: 'What is Transylvania in the sky, on earth, and in the sea?' This involves the use of equivocal words;59 for the bear,60 the serpent,61 the eagle,62 and the dog63 are found in the sky, on earth, and in the sea. The riddle before this one signifies 'time'; for time is the same simultaneously everywhere, and yet it is nowhere, because it is of such a nature as not to exist in any one place. The riddle with which we began concerns the possession of souls;64 for though none of us understands the soul, yet we teach it to our neighbour.

"Callias Athens, about whom we inquired before,65 and who flourished a little before the time of Strattis, composed the so‑called Alphabet-Revue on the following plan. Its prologue is composed of the letters of the alphabet, and it is to be read in such a manner as to divide the letters according to the punctuation and bring the conclusion, in the manner of a tragic dénouement, back to the letter alpha, thus: 'Alpha, beta, gamma, delta, ei (which is the god's letter),66 zeta, eta, theta, iota, kappa, p557labda,º my, ny, xei, o,67a, pei, rho, sigma, tau, y, phei and chei next to psei, and coming down to ô.'68a The chorus of women is composed by him with the collocation of letters in pairs, set to metre and accompanied by tunes in the following manner: 'Beta alpha ba, beta ei69 be, beta eta Bê, beta iota bi, beta o67b bo, beta y by, beta ô68b bô'; and again, in the answering strophe of song and of metre: 'Gamma alpha,70, gamma ei, gamma eta, gamma iota, gamma o, gamma y, gama ô,' and so for the remaining syllables in each case alike; they all have the same metre and lyric form in the answering strophes. Hence it may not only be suspected that Euripides composed the entire Medea in imitation of this, but it is also evident that he borrowed the lyric form as well. As for Sophocles, they say that when he heard Callias's work he boldly ventured to cut the sense of his verse by the metre, and hence wrote this verse in Oedipus:71 'I will pain neither myself nor thee. Why vainly ask these things?' Thus it was from Callias, it appears, that all the other pes adopted the antistrophic structure in their tragedies. After the chorus, he again introduces a speech by the vowels, which one must read, as in the case of the foregoing, in such a manner as to divide them p559according to the punctuation; in that way the method of declaiming intended by the author and be maintained according to its own peculiar force; thus:72 'A. Alpha by itself, and secondly ei by itself, you ut pronounce, my ladies. CHORUS. Yes, and the third vowel you will say you itself. A. Then I will say eta. CHORUS. Say iota fourth in its turn alone, fifth ou, the sixth y, all alone. A. But the last remaining vowel of the seven, the omega, I will pronounce for you to sound, then the seven in staves by themselves. After you have pronounced that, then say it to yourself.'

"Callias is the first to describe a letter in iambic verse, a letter vulgar in meaning, and phrased in this way: "For I am pregnant, ladies. Yet through modesty, my dears, I will tell you the name of the babe by means of letters. There is a long, straight stroke; at the middle of it, on each side, stands a small reclining stroke. Next comes a circle having two short feet. . . .'73 Following this example, as one may suspect, the historian Maeandrus, diverging a little from exact imitation in his method of expression, composed one of his Precepts74 even more vulgarly than the one just quoted, while Euripides, too, seems to have composed that speech in his Theseus in which letters of the alphabet are described. In that play there is an illiterate herdsman who plainly describes the name of Theseus as it is inscribed, p561thus:75 'Though I am not skilled in letters, yet will I tell the clear witness of their shapes. There is a circle, as it were measured off by compasses; this has in its centre a plain mark. The second letter has first two strokes, and these are kept asunder by another in their middle. The third is like a curl turned hither and thither, while the fourth, again, has one rising stroke, and three cross-lines are propped against it. The fifth is not easy to describe; for there are two lines standing apart, and these run together into one support. The last letter is like the third.' The tragic poet Agathon did the same thing in his Telephus.76 For there also an illiterate man discloses the written form of the name Theseus thus: 'The first part of the writing was a circle with a navel in the centre; then two upright rules yoked together, while the third was like a Scythian bow. After that lay adjacent a trident on its side; then mounted on one rule were two slanting lines. And as was the third, so also was the last again.' So Theodectas of Phaselis introduces an illiterate rustic who also clearly describes the name of Theseus:77 'The first part of the writing was a circle with an eye in the middle. Next, two rules of quite equal measure; a crosswise rule binds these together clear athwart. p563The third is like a twisted curl. The next looked like a trident on its side, and two rods of equal measure on top makes the fifth, and these extend together into one support. The sixth was as I described before, a curl.' Sophocles, also, wrote78 something similar to this in the satyric play Amphiaraus, introducing there one who danced the forms of the letters.

"Neoptolemus of Parium, in his book On Epigrams, says that on the tomb of the sophist Thrasymachus in Chalcedona is inscribed the following epigram:79 'My name is theta, rho, alpha, san,80 y, my, alpha, chei, o, san; my native city Chalcedon, Wisdom.' The poem of Castorion of Soli addressed to Pan, as Clearchus says, is of this sort; each one of the measures81 consists entirely of words so arranged therein that all its feet alike may either lead or follow; for example:82 'Thee, beast-knowing Pan, who dwell est in the abode made wintry by the smiting of snow-darts, Arcadian land, will I praise in this clever style, composing for thee, O prince, verses all-glorious but hard to understand for one not wise to hear — thou, music-loving creature that pourest forth soothing melody from moulded wax,'83 — and so forth, p565in the same manner. Now, no matter in what order you arrange each one of these measures, it will give the same rhythm, thus: 'Dweller in lands made wintry when the snow-darts smite'; or, 'When the snow-darts smite the wintry lands wherein thou dwell'st.' Observe also that each measure contains eleven letters.84 In fact it is possible to compose a verse not only in this manner but in other ways, so that from one verse you may have several, according as you desire to use them, saying, for example: 'Tell me the measure of the feet taking the measure'; or, 'Taking the measure of the feet tell me the measure.' 'Nay, I will not take the measure of the feet'; or, 'To take the measure of the feet — that will I not.'

"In reference to the style of poem composed without an s in it, Pindar, to quote Clearchus again, wrote the following, putting as it were a kind of riddle in lyric form, since many had taken offence at him because he was unable to abstain from the letter s and they did not approve of it:85 'Erstwhile there flowed from the lips86 of men the long-drawn‑out lay, and the letter san (s) was counterfeit.'87 One may make a note of this in answer too those who reject as spurious the song of Lasus of Hermione, entitled The Centaurs, in which no s occurs. So, too, the hymn to the Demeter of Hermione, composed by Lasus, has no s, p567as Heracleidae of Pontus declares in the third book of his work On Music; it begins thus:88 'I celebrate Demeter and Korê, wedded wife of Pluto.'89

"There is a large store of other riddles as well:90 'I was born in the open, and the salt waters hold my country in embrace; my mother is the daughter of number.' Now, 'in the open' means 'in Delos,'91 which is surrounded by the sea; the mother is Leto, who is the daughter of Koios, and Macedonians call number koios.92 Again, of barley-gruel (ptisane):93 'Knead hulled barley (in water) and drink its juice.' The word ptisane is made up of the verbs ptissein (peel) and anein (peel). And of the snail; this is found in Teucer's Definitions: 'A creature footless, spineless, boneless, shellbacked, its elongated eyes popping out and popping in.' Antiphanes says, in In Love with Himself:94 'Moulded curds with flaxen95 flesh. Do you take me? I mean cheese.' Anaxandrides in The Ugly Duckling:96 'He has just now cut up the meat, and "the sliced portions of the carcass are overpowered in their fire-wrought shelter"; thus, gentlemen, Timotheus once spoke, meaning, I p569fancy, the kettle.' Timocles in Heroes:97 'A. And when they had taken away the nurse of life, the foe of hunger, the guardian of friendship, the physician of famine now broken — the table — B. You take a lot of trouble, by Heaven! You might have said "table " concisely.' Plato, in Adonis, says that an oracle was given to Cinyras concerning his son Adonis which read:98 'O Cinyras, king of the Cyprians, those men with hairy rumps, the son that is born to thee is fairest and most admirable of all men, yet two divinities shall destroy him, the goddess driven with secret oars, the god driving.' He means Aphrodite and Dionysus; for both were in love with Adonis. As for the riddle of the Sphinx, Asclepiades, in Stories from Tragedy, says that it ran like this:99 'There walks on land a creature of two feet, of four feet, and of three; it has one voice, but, sole among the animals that grow on land or in the sky or beneath the sea, it change its nature; nay, when it walks propped on most feet, then is the speed in its limbs less than it has ever been before.'

"Enigmatic in character are these lines composed by Simonides, as quoted by Chamaeleon of Heracleia in his work On Simonides:100 'The father of the promiscuously-feeding kid and a reckless fish have p571pressed their heads together closely; but when their eyes catch sight of the child of night, they refuse to nurse the ox-slaying servant of prince Dionysus.' Now some say this is inscribed on an ancient votive offering in Chalcis,101 and that a he-goat and a dolphin are represented on it, this verse being descriptive of them. But others declare that the dolphin and he-goat figured thereon have reference to a harper's tuning-key, and that the ox-slayer, the servant of Dionysus, is the dithyramb. Others, again, say that in Iulis102 the ox sacrificed to Dionysus is struck with an axe by one of the young men. When the festival was near, the axe had been taken to a blacksmith's shop; when he was still a young man Simonides, therefore, went to the smith to get it. But when he saw that the smith was asleep, and that his bellows103 and his tongs104 were lying about in disorder with their front parts opposite each other, he then returned and told to his companions the aforesaid riddle. For the father of the kid is the bellows, while the reckless fish is the tongs; sleep is the child of night, and the axe is the ox-slayer and servant of Dionysus. Simonides105 also composed another epigram which occasions some difficulty to those who are not versed in history: 'I assert that he who refuses to bear away the prize of a cicada will give a big dinner to Epeius the son of panopeus.' It is said that he trained choruses while staying in Carthaea. p573Now the training-school was on a hill next the temple of Apollo, not far from the sea. Accordingly, all the men, including also Simonides' friends, drew water at the foot of the hill, where the spring was. The water was carried up for them you a donkey which they called Epeius, because the story was told that Epeius rendered that service, and in the temple of Apollo is recorded the Trojan story, wherein Epeius draws water for the sons of Atreus, as stesichorus also says:106 'For the daughter of Zeus had pity on him, as ever and anon he carried water for the chieftains.' The circumstances being so, they say that any member of the chorus who failed to appear at the appointed time was required to furnish a quart of barley for the donkey. So this is the meaning of the verses, and the one who is unwilling to sing is the one who does not bear away the prize of a cicada; the donkey is the son of panopeus, and the quart of barley is the big dinner. Sir also is the couplet of the poet Theognis:107 'For already the corpse from the sea summons me home, which, though dead it be, speaks with living tongue.' This signifies a cockle-shell.108 Similar also is the practice of saying words which resemble men's names, for example:109 'Winning in battle the might of "Glorious Victory." ' Also the well-known verses: 'Five men in ten ships disembarked in one place; there they battled among p575stones, but could not pick up a stone; they died of thirst, yet the water came over their chins.110

"What penalty did they suffer in Athens if they failed to solve the riddle put to them, seeing that they drank a cup mixed with brine, as Clearchus said early in giving his definition?111 In the first book of his work On Proverbs he writes:112 'The solution of riddles is not alien to philosophy, and the ancients used to make a display of their knowledge by means of them. For in propounding riddles in their drinking-bouts they were not like the people of to‑day who ask one another, what is the most delightful form of sexual commerce, or what fish has the best flavour or is at the height of excellence at that season, or what fish is to be eaten chiefly after the rising of Arcturus or of the Pleiades or of the Dog-star.113 Besides this, they arrange, as prizes for the winners, kisses which are loathsome to men of independent feelings, while the penalty imposed upon those who are beaten is to drink unmixed wine, which they do more gladly than they would the cup of health. In fact all this is precisely the mark of one who has made himself thorough at home in the writings of philaenis and of Archestratus, or has taken up eagerly the reading of the so‑called Gastrologies; no, the ancients preferred such problems as these: answering the first guest who recited p577an epic or iambic line, each one in turn capped it with the next verse; or, if one recited the gist of a passage, another answered with one from some other poet to show that he had spoken to the same effect; further, each in turn would recite an iambic verse. In addition to each would recite a metrical line containing as many syllables as were prescribed, or as many as kept to the correct theory of letters and syllables. Similarly to what has been described, they would tell the name of each leader against Troy, or of each leader among the Trojans, or tell the name of a city in Asia — all beginning with a given letter; then the next man and all the rest would take turns in telling the name of a city in Europe, whether Greek or barbarian, as prescribed. Thus their very play, being not unreflective, became a revelation of the friendly terms with culture on which each guest stood; and as a reward for success they set up a crown and bestowed applause, by which, more than anything else, mutual friendship is rendered sweet.'

"nnn"This, then, is what Clearchus said. And I think that the kind of things which they had to propound was this: they were to recite a verse from Homer beginning with a and ending in the same letter: 'And she stood near and spake winged words.'114 'Come, then, take thou the lash and shining reins.'115 'Their round shields and fluttering targets.'116 Again, there were iambic verses likewise beginning and ending in a:117 'A good man might he be called who brings good gifts.' 'And good would he be who p579bears evil nobly. BHomeric verses beginning with e and ending with e: 'She found Lycon's son, blameless and strong.'118 'In your city, since I was not to (return).'119 Similarly iambic lines:120 'Poverty, Dercylus, is despicable.' 'Weave your life with what materials you have.' Verses from Homer beginning with ê and ending with ê: 'So saying, bright-eyed Athena went her way.'121 But fair Aphrodite fell upon Dione's knees.'122 Iambic verses:123 'Let the faithfulness of your friends be surely determined.' Verses from Homer beginning with i and ending with i: 'Let them perish out of Ilios, uncared for and blotted out.'124 'Hippolochus begot me and from him, I say, I am sprung.'125 Beginning with s and ending with s: 'Of all the Danaans — not even if thou mean Agamemnon.'126 (Iambic:) 'Wise is he who bears what fate sends nobly.'127 Beginning with ô and ending in ô: 'As when from Olympus a cloud goes into the sky.'128 (Iambic:) 'I have a soul that stands erect to meet all things.'129 One may also propound verses having no s in them, as:130 'I will give all, and add yet more of my own.' Again, verses in Homer whereof the first and last syllables together reveal a proper name, as 'Ajax led twelve ships from p581Salamis.'131 E'Phyleides, whom the horseman phyleus, dear to Zeus, begot.'132 'Two noble healers, Podaleirius and Machaon,' Ion.133 Then there are other Homeric verses where of the first and last syllables together reveal names of utensils, as: 'The heart within the breast hath pity on the dying Danaans,'134 giving holmos (mortar). 'He speaks aright, and even as another would think,'135 giving mylos (mill). 'Pitiful as thou art — lest haply an evil even greater befall thee,'136 giving lyrê (lyre). Other verses there are, revealing some kind of edible at the beginning and the end: 'Silver-footed Thetis, daughter of the old man of the sea,'137 gives artos (bread). 'Do not thou ask of all these things nor make question,'138 gives mêla (sheep).

"Since we have digressed far enough on the several kinds of riddles, we must now tell139 also what penalty was suffered by those who failed to solve the riddle put to them. They drank brine mixed in their wine, and were obliged to take the cup without stopping to breathe, as Antiphanes shows in these lines from p583Ganymede:140 'SLAVE. Alas, you ask questions that are too perplexing.141 LAOMEDON. Then will I say plainly; if you know anything about the seizure of my boy, you must speak quickly before you are strung up.142 S. Is this a riddle, master, that you are putting for me to tell — whether I know anything about the seizure of the boy, or what do your words mean? L. Here, somebody! Bring out a strap, quickly! S. Some kind of riddle I didn't know, perhaps; yet in spite of that you give me this penalty? No, not so! You ought rather to hand me a cup of brine. L. Then do you know how you are to drink it up? S. Indeed I do, exactly. L. How? S. I must carry away the cup as a pledge from you —. L. No, you have got to put your hands behind your back143 and swig it without stopping to take your breath.' "

This long discussion by the Deipnosophists on the subject of riddles having ended,144 evening over to us while we were thinking over all that had been said; so let us postpone the discussion of drinking-cups until to-morrow.145 For, as Metagenes says in Fond of Sacrifices:146 "I vary my talk, episode for episode,147 that I may delight the audience with a feast of side-dishes new and many," — taking up the subject of drinking-cups in what follows.

The Editor's Notes:

1 This is Athenaeus's way of introducing a new topic; the "tragedy" will be discussed at 453C. The phrase "away from our cups" has a double meaning, referring to the methods of drinking just treated, and also to the discussion of drinking-cups in the next book.

2 F. H. G.2.321.

3 Problema, the word used in the Vulgate of Samson's riddle, Judges xiv.13. In the following pages I depend largely on Wolfgang Schultz, Rätsel, 1909. See below, p583 note b.

4 Only three of the seven are quoted.

5 P. L. G.4 frag. 79, cf. Athen. 455C, 467B.

6 After βα comes -σιλεύς, punning on σίλλος, satirical verse (-measure).

7 i.e. begins with the lion, Eng. Lionel, Leonard.

8 Bold-Lion.

9 Lacking the stem of theos, "god."

10 This might be cited as an example of the pompous, since it means "of glorious name." Chamaileon, Ground-lion, is the converse.

11 From the god Dionysus; hence French Denys or Denis, Eng. Dennis.

12 "To begin with Zeus" was a common phrase, cf. Theocr. XVII.1. The stem of the word Zeus, from which the compounds are formed, is Dio-.

13 Very common; e.g. Andronicus.

14 See 459B.

15 Kock II.60.

16 The guessing went round from left to right.

17 On the erano see Athen. 362e; the phrase, "bring (or contribute) an eranos" — one's share in the picnic — was used even when members were relieved of or evaded the contribution. The "ten" here are generals bribed by Philip.

18 Meaning the violation of the rules of the club.

19 Contributions to the eranos might be in money or in kind.

20 Cf. [Dem.] X.40 δεῖ γὰρ . . . τὸν ὡρισμένον . . . ἔρανον . . . δικαίως φέρειν. Philip had not kept his promises to restore the Thracian towns to Athens, but had proved very adroit in evading them.

21 Kock II.31; the first speaker uses high-flown language.

22 i.e. in the oven, also made of clay.

23 In plain terms, "lamb-stew."

24 i.e. flour, made into a kind of pie.

25 i.e. spices.

26 Kock II.385.

27 Ibid. 201.

28 A comic perversion of εὐξύνετα ξυνετοῖσι, "things well understood by those who understand"; cf. Eur. I. T. 1092.

29 i.e. si quis perforaverit, invulnerabilis est, sens. obsc., as in 451C.

30 Explained by the next word. The beast uses not merely its jaws, but also its tail. See crit. note 5.

31 The word for "down," πάππος, also means "grandfather." A similar pun occurs in Aristoph. Av. 765.

32 This riddle refers to the κημός, or funnel-shaped top of a voting-run (ὑδρία, καδίσκος). See crit. notes (p540) and Schultz, II.100.

33 Kock II.92; cf. Herod. I.141 ὡς δὲ ψευσεσθῆναι τῆς ἐλπίδος, λαβεῖν (Κῦρον) ἀμφίβληστρον καὶ περιβαλεῖν τε πλῆθος πολλὸν τῶν ἰχθύων. Apparently the reference is to a man who has set a trap for courtesans and caught only one. See critical note 6.

34 Perhaps referring to a pimp.

35 Athen. 319c and note f, 320E; here, of the πόρνη following the πόρνος.

36 Kock II.95.

37 Proposals in the Council or Assembly were often blocked by the charge that they were unconstitutional. A legal process (γραφὴ παρανόμων) was brought against the proposer. If a speaker were convicted in three such processes, he was debarred from speaking in the Assembly.

38 Of the feminine gender in Greek.

39 Kock II.557; the narrator in Diphilus uses Doric forms.

40 In the Greek παρὰ πότον, if pronounced with a lisp, παρὰ πόθον, suggests also "while arousing desire." So of the blacksmith below, στένοντα, "groaning," suggests σθένοντα, "strong" (Preisendanz ap. Schultz I.7, note 2).

41 T. G. F.2 751.

42 Protoxid of lead, formed in separating silver from lead, and used in making earthenware.

43 Frag. 22 Michaelis; see Athen. 85e (vol. I p368).

44 P. L. G.4 frag. 30.

45 T. G. F.2 740. The bird which feeds on the mistletoe is the rock-dove (Athen. 394e); but it also eats flax seed, hinted at in "the Egyptian mantle" (i.e. field of flax); and it is caught in a hemp-net. Further complexities in the riddle are involved in the fact that Caeneus, the hero in Ion's play, was son of Coronus (Raven), Apollod. I.9.16; Schultz, op. cit. II.53 ff.

46 F. H. G.3.51; the name Θεοδέκτας (see Capps, A. J. P., XXI.35) is consistently given as Θεοδέκτης in late writers.

47 T. G. F.2 807.

48 T. G. F.2 802.

49 P15 Müller.

50 F. H. G.2.322.

51 Plato, Rep. (not Laws), V.479B; but Plato is not yet discussing philosophers, the subject of the sixth book of the Republic, but relative or ambiguous terms like half, double, heavy, light, large, small, the reality of which is not absolute.

52 That is, the pretended philosophers, Rep. 495D‑E.

53 One of the favourite commonplaces of Greek literature: Hes. Opp. 287; Plato, Rep. 364C; Ev. Matt. vii.13; cf. Aristot. Eth. Nic. 1106 B35.

54 On ψιλὴ κιθάρισις, instrumental music, see p96, note a, and 637F.

55 He is called μίμαυλος (flute-mime), because his monologues were accompanied with pipes; αὐτοπρόσωπος means that he assumed in his own person all the characters in a mime without making up his face.

56 i.e. in the vaudeville entertainments that succeeded the classic drama.

57 ἐν γαστρί may mean both "in the stomach" and "in the womb"; the old woman takes it in the first sense. Cf. Athen. 246b‑c.

58 See critical note 2.

59 Homonyms, the same word or sound with different meanings. Cf. Eng. bear (noun), bear (verb), bare (adjective and verb).

60 Great and Little Bear, also the bear-crab (Athen. 105b). These riddles involving animals are very old; see Aristoph. Vesp. 21.

61 The constellation Serpens, also a kind of fish, Ophidium.

62 The constellation Aquila, also Myliobatis Aquila, a kind of ray.

63 Sirius, also dog-fish (Athen. 310a).

64 Or "the breath of life."

65 448B, 276A, where his Grammarian's, or Alphabetic, Tragedy is mentioned. This seems to have been a comedy, wherein the chorus of 24 women represented the 24 letters of the Greek alphabet.

66 The letter Ε, called ei (since mediaeval times epsilon), was inscribed on the temple of Apollo at Delphi; Plut. Mor. 384 ff.

67a 67b Called ou, not omicron.

68a 68b Omega.

69 See note h on preceding page.

70 Add ga, and so on throughout.

71 Oed. Tyr. 332, Teiresias to Oedipus; but how the verse illustrates or proves the alleged borrowing is unknown. Jebb, who does not refer to Athenaeus, says simply, "The rugged verse is perhaps designed to express zzzion." It may be noted that the verse contains all the vowels excepting η. The cruelty proves the absurdity of supposing that Sophocles imitated Callias. Callias won his first victory at the city Dionysia, 446 B.C. (Capps, A. J. P. XX.346); so began to exhibit in 468. Probably the whole passage is intended as a satire on Euripides' lyrics.

72 Meineke's division is here followed.

73 This gives ΨΩ, possibly a colloquial form of ψῶα, foetidus ventris crepitus (Dalechamp).

74 F. H. G.2.337, possibly derived from Clearchus's work on riddles.

75 T. G. F.2 477; the letters described are ΘΗΣΕΥΣ, from which it is clear that Euripides used the Ionic Η long before the official adoption of the Ionic alphabet in 403 B.C.

76 Ibid. 764; the title may have been Tlepolemus.

77 Ibid. 803.

78 T. G. F.2 156; Greek dancing included gesticulation.

79 Diels 674.

80 The same as sigma, s.

81 Lit. "feet," meaning a syzygy or measure of two feet each, zzz, there being three measures in a trimeter verse.

82 P. L. G.4 III.635, Diehl III.260. A translation cannot reproduce the metrical tricks here without departing from the meaning of the original. An English example would be, "The ploughman homeward plods his weary way," in which the words can be transposed in several ways without violating the metre.

83 The tubes of a Pan's-pipe were bound together with cords sealed with wax.

84 In the Greek, of course, and counting iota subscripts (in the third and fourth lines above) as independent letters, which they remained until the eleventh century, while the digraphs ph, ch, and th count as one letter each; thus:

se tón bolais | niphóktonois | dyscheímeron,


niphóktonois } se tón bolais | dyscheímeron.

85 P. L. G.4 frag. 79, Athen. 448D, 467A. Dionys. De comp. verb. 14, says that entire poems were sometimes written in which no s occurred.

86 Supplying ἀπὸ στομάτων from 467B.

87 i.e. accounted base, "discarded," Sandys (Pindar, Loeb Class. Library, p559). The voiceless sibilant is avoided by good singers to‑day.

88 P. L. G.4 III.376, Athen. 624e.

89 Clymenus, "the famed one."

90 P. L. G.4 III.666.

91 Delos was also an adjective, "clear," "evident."

92 The reference to Macedonia seems far-fetched, and Schultz (II.56 ff.) thinks that Orphic or Pythagorean theogony is involved here. Note the emphasis on a god of Number (Arithmos), who had a large progeny (Abel, Orphika, p211), among whom may have been Phanes (cf. φανερᾷ); cf. also the proverb ἄδηλα πάντα τὰ Δήλου. We need not follow Schultz further in his speculations on the World-Egg.

93 P. L. G.4 III.668.

94 Kock II.30.

95 Explained by Eustath. 1339.17 as light and soft; see critical note 4.

96 Kock II.137.

97 Kock II.457.

98 Ibid. I.601.

99 Anth. Pal. XIV.64. The answer given in Schol. eur. Phoen. 50 is man, in infancy creeping, in maturity erect, in old age walking feebly with a staff. See Schultz, I.34.

100 P. L. G.4 III.506.

101 See critical note 3.

102 Native city of Simonides.

103 The word ἀσκός also means wine-skin; being made of goat-skin, it is called below the father of the kid.

104 Also meaning crab.

105 P. L. G.3.507.

106 P. L. G.3.212.

107 l. 1229 Diehl.

108 Used as a horn.

109 T. G. F.2 85; "of glorious victory," or "supreme in victory," is the meaning of the proper name Aristonicus; cf. Siegbert, Siegfried, or Eng. Robert (which corresponds to Greek Lamprocles).

110 Diels, Bayer. Blätter 1918, 28, explains thus: the numbers five and ten are to be transposed, as in many puzzles; ten men fighting in five boats struck on the reefs, which of course they could not lift; the boats sank in the salt water. "Water, water everywhere, and not a drop to drink." This solution fits all the conditions better than that of Probst, Bayer. Blätter 1917, 294.

111 i.e. of the riddle, cf. 448C.

112 F. H. G.2.317.

113 This is another jibe at the epicure Archestratus; cf. Chrysippus, a fellow-townsman of Clearchus, in Athen. 335d‑e.

114 Il. IV.92; the first word is anchou (near), the last, prosêuda (spake).

115 Il. V.226, beginning with alla (hortatory), ending with sigaloenta (shining).

116 Ibid. 453; aspidas (shields), pteroenta (with wings or flaps).

117 Kock III.452.

118 Il. IV.89.

119 Il. V.686.

120 Kock III.452.

121 Il. V.133.

122 Ibid. 370.

123 Kock III.452.

124 Il. VI.60.

125 Ibid. 206.

126 Il. I.90.

127 Kock III.452.

128 Il. XVI.364.

129 Kock III.452.

130 Il. VII.364.

131 Il. II.557; the first syllable of Aias (Ajax) is combined with the last syllable of nêas (ships).

132 Ibid. 628; Phyleus.

133 Ibid. 732; the first syllable of iêtêre (healers), the last of Machaon.

134 Il. VIII.202; ollymenon (Dying) and thymos (heart), disregarding the rough breathing in holmos.

135 Od. XVII.582; mytheitai (speaks) and allos (other).

136 Od. XVIII.107; lygros (painful) and epaurêi (befall), disregarding iota, which was not pronounced.

137 Il. I.538; argyropea (silver-footed), gerontos (old man).

138 Il. I.550; (not) and metalla (question).

139 Resuming 457C.

140 Kock II.41; King Laomedon questions his slave about the disappearance of Ganymede.

141 The word περιπλοκαί, rendered "perplexing questions," means also the entangling folds and plaitings of a net; γρῖφος (riddle) also meant a fish-net. Cf. the English use of "catch."

142 To be flogged.

143 So that someone else holds the cup.

144 Larensis is the last speaker, 448C.

145 See vol. I p. xi.

146 Kock I.708.

147 Referring to the different parts of a comedy.

Thayer's Note:

a The life and works of Thrasymachus are detailed in Dobson's Greek Orators, chapter III.

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