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This webpage reproduces a section of
The Deipnosophistae


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

The text is in the public domain.

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(Vol. II) Athenaeus

Book V
(Part 2 of 5)

 p319  (185) Now, since we, Timocrates, have exhausted in what has gone before so much talk on the subject of symposia, though we have omitted the most useful elements of them, I mean those things which the divine Homer introduced by the way, I will now bring to mind also what was said on these matters by the most excellent Masurius. For to adopt the words of the noble Agathon,1 "Thus do we render our avocation a vocation, Bbut contrive to make our vocation an avocation." Be that as it may, the poet, speaking of Menelaus, says:2 "him they found giving a marriage-feast to many kinsmen in his hall for his son and his blameless daughter;" since it is the established custom to hold symposia in connexion with the wedding ceremony, partly to honour the gods of marriage, and partly to serve as a kind of public witness to the union. As for the symposium which is tendered to strangers, the king of Lycia teaches what the nature of it will be Cwhen he gives munificent welcome to Bellerophon:3 "Nine  p321 days he received him as his guest, and nine oxen did he butcher."

For wine seems to possess a power which draws to friendship, by lightly warming and fusing the soul. Hence they did not even ask their guests too soon who they were, but postponed that until later, as though they honoured the mere act of hospitality, and not the individual and personal in us. The old lawgivers, providing for the modern dinners, and over and above these the dinners of the sacred bands, 186 the brotherhood dinners, and again those which are called "orgeonic."4 Anyway, there are in the city5 meetings of many philosophic sects — Diogenists, Antipatrists, so‑called, and Panaetiasts. Theophrastus even bequeathed money for a meeting of this character, not — Heaven forbid! — that they should indulge in intemperance when they came together, but that they might carry out with decency and refinement the practices which accord with the idea of the symposium. And every day the presiding magistrates used to assemble parties for the dinner which were decent and salutary for the state. At any rate, it was to a symposium of this kind, Demosthenes says,6 that report came of the capture of Elateia: "For it was evening, Band someone came to the prytanes with the report that Elateia had been captured." And the philosophers also made it their business to gather young men together and dine in their company with due regard to some fixed standard.  p323 At any rate, there were Symposium Laws7 by Xenocrates of the Academy, and again by Aristotle. The messes at Sparta, and the men's halls among the Cretans, are conducted by the States with all possible care. Wherefore someone has said,8 not badly: "Friendly comrades should not abstain too long from the symposium; Cfor that is the most delightful way to remember each other." The philosopher Antipater once held a symposium at which he required all who came to discuss some disputed question of the sophists. — He9 says that Arcesilaus was invited to a symposium, and having been assigned to a couch with a person who ate voraciously, he was unable to enjoy anything himself; and when one of the company handed food across to him, he said, "Thanks to you, sir; but to Telephus — what I have in mind!"10 It so happened that the man who ate so greedily was named Telephus. — And Zeno, when one of the gourmands in his company snatched away the upper part of the fish at the very moment when it was set before them, Dwith a sudden twist snatched it away again himself, while he accompanied the action with the quotation:11 "But Ino, for her part, finished the work on the other side." And Socrates, seeing a man helping himself immoderately to the relish,12 said, "Fellow-guests, who is it among you that treats bread like a relish, but a relish like bread?"

 p325  We will now talk about the Homeric symposia. In these, namely, the poet distinguishes times, persons, and occasions. EThis feature Xenophon and Plato rightly copied, for at the beginning of their treatises they explain the occasion of the symposium, and who are present. But Epicurus specifies no place, no time; he has no introduction whatever. One has to guess, therefore, how it comes about that a man with cup in hand suddenly propounds questions as though he were discoursing before a class. (Aristotle says that it is unseemly13 to arrive at a symposium unbathed and covered with dust.) Then, too, Homer clearly teaches who are to be invited, Fshowing that it is our duty to bid the best men and those who are held in esteem, when he says:14 "And he summoned the old men, the noble lords of all the Achaeans." This is not the way which Hesiod prescribes; for he requires that we invite our neighbours too: "Above all summon him who dwells nigh thee."15 But really this is the kind of symposium appropriate to Boeotian insensibility,16 and chimes well with that most man-hating of the proverbs, 187 "Friends who dwell afar are not friends."17 For must it not be absurd that friendship should be determined by position and not by disposition?18 Well, as I was saying, in Homer,19 after the drinking "For them the old man, the very first of all, began to weave his counsel;" whereas  p327 among those who do not conduct symposia discreetly, "For them the flatterer, the very first of all, began to weave his mockery."20 And further, Homer introduces guests who differ in their ages and views of life — BNestor, Ajax, Odysseus — all of whom, speaking generally, strive after excellence, but have set out in specifically diverse paths to find it. Epicurus, on the other hand, introduced none but prophets of atoms,21 although he had before him these as his models, I mean, the variety of symposia in the Poet, and the charm of Plato and Xenophon as well. Of the last Twelve Tables Plato introduced as disputants the physician Eryximachus, then the poet Aristophanes, 177 then, one after another, men who followed different professions in life; Xenophon, for his part, also interspersed some who followed no profession. BHomer, therefore, has done much better22 in that he sets before us different symposia; for every symposium can be better understood by comparison and contrary with others. For example, in the case of the suitors we find in him the kind of symposium which would take place when lusty young men are given over to carousals and love affairs; while in the case of the Phaeacians, we have something more sedate than that of these young men, and yet full of delight. To this again, he has placed in contrast the symposia which belong to army life, over against those which were conducted more after the manner of civil life, in a sober way. Still again, by contrast, he has distinguished those which have the character of a public feature, from those which represent a gathering of intimate friends. But Epicurus has portrayed  p329 solely a symposium of philosophers. CHomer has also taught us who need not be invited, but may come of their own accord, by the example of one relative fittingly pointing out the presence of others similarly connected:23 "Of his own accord came to him24 Menelaus, good at the cry."25 For it is plain that neither a brother, nor parents, nor wife need be invited, nor anyone else whom one holds in equal esteem with these; otherwise it would be cold and unfriendly. And yet some authorities have added a verse which further explains the reason:26 "For he knew in his heart that his brother was troubled" — as though it were necessary to tell the reason why a brother might come to dinner of his own accord, Dwhen the reason which we now give is the probable one. Can he,27 for example, assert that Menelaus did not know that his brother was giving a feast? Would that not be ridiculous, when the slaughtering of the oxen was in plain singular and known to all? Why then would he have come if he had not known that? Or does he mean — of all things under Heaven! — that Menelaus, knowing that his brother was distracted, excused the omission of the invita, and, adapting himself to the circumstances, came of his own accord? That would be as if he meant that he had come, though uninvited, in order that they might not look at each other the next morning with suspicion, the one with shame, the other with reproach! On the contrary, it would have been absurd that Agamemnon should forget his brother, Eespecially when it was for his sake that  p331 he was at the moment offering sacrifice, and had assumed the conduct of the war as well, and moreover had invited those who were not related to him by birth nor associated with his country. Athenocles of Cyzicus, with a better understanding of the Homeric poetry than Aristarchus, explains to us with greater refinement that Homer passed Menelaus over without mention because he was more closely related in kinship to Agamemnon. And Demetrius of Phalerum declared that the inclusion of the verse, "for he knew in his heart that his brother was troubled," Fis awkward and foreign to the poet's style, and imputes meanness to the characters. "For," says he, "I think that every man of refinement has someone, 178 either relative or friend, to whom he can go when a feast is on without waiting for an invitation." And Plato, in The Symposium,28 has this to say on the same subject: "That we," he says, "may, by an alteration, render null and void the proverb to the effect that 'good men go of their own accord to the feast of good men.' For Homer, indeed, may not only have rendered it null and void, but actually outraged it; for he represented Agamemnon as brave in matters of war, but Menelaus as a slack warrior; Byet, when Agamemnon was holding a sacrificial feast, he represented the inferior man as going uninvited to the dinner of the better man." Bacchylides,29 telling of how Heracles went to the house of Ceÿx, says: "He halted at the  p333 stone threshold, and they were making ready a feast, and thus spake he: 'Of their own accord just mean approach the feasts, heaped high, of good men.' " Now of the proverbs, one says, "Of their own accord brave men go to the feasts of brave men," the other, "of their own accord brave men go to the feasts of cowards." But it is without a warrant, at any rate, that Plato thought Menelaus a coward, Csince Homer calls him "dear to Ares," and says that he was the only one who performed feats of valour in behalf of Patroclus,30 and above all others was eager to fight in single combat against Hector,31 although he was inferior to him in physical strength. And of all who were in the army he was the only one of whom the poet said:32 "And among them he himself moved, confident in his zeal." Now if his enemy, who reviled him, called him a "slack warrior,"33 and Plato on that account assumes that he was really slack, he could not be too quick in ranking Agamemnon also among the poltroons (although Plato himself says that he was brave), seeing that this verse Dis said of Agamemnon:34 "Heavy with wine, with the eyes of a dog and the heart of a deer." The truth is that if a thing is said in Homer, it is not always Homer who says it. How, in fact, could Menelaus be a coward — he the only one to keep Hector away from the body of Patroclus, killing euphorbus and spoiling him of his arms in the very midst of the  p335 Trojans? EThat Plato has not even given thorough attention to the verse which he reprehended is a curious fact; in it Menelaus is called "good at the cry." For Homer habitually uses this epithet of the bravest, since the ancients called the battle a "cry."35

Being exact in all matters, Homer has not omitted this small detail — the necessity of caring for the body and bathing before going to dinner. In the case of Odysseus, at any rate, he says, just before the feast among the Phaeacians:36 "Straightway the housekeeper bade him bathe." FAnd of the men in the retinue of Telemachus:37 "Then went they to the well-polished tubs and bathed." "For it was unseemly," says Aristotle, "to arrive at the symposium covered with sweat and dust."38 For the man of refinement must not be slovenly, or dirty, or have pleasure in filth, according to Heracleitus.39 Also, the one who arrives first at another's house for dinner must not rush forthwith to the symposium to fill his belly, 179 but he should previously accord something to the aesthetic sense, and take notice of the host's house. In fact, Homer40 has not omitted this point either: "They themselves went into the wondrous house; and they, having gazed upon it, admired exceedingly the hall of the king fostered by Zeus, for it was as the shining of the sun or the moon in the high-roofed hall of glorious Menelaus." And Aristophanes, in the Wasps,41 shows the harsh and  p337 litigious old man in process of being converted to a gentle mode of life Bby his son: "Cease! But come now, this way; lay yourself down and learn also how to be a man of conviviality and sociability." And after instructing him how he is to recline he says:42 "Now, speak approvingly of one of the vessels, gaze at the ceiling, admire the tapestries in the court."

Again, Homer tells us what we are to do before we beg to eat, namely, we are to offer as first-fruits some of the food to the gods. At any rate, the men in the company of Odysseus, Ceven when they were in the Cyclops's cave:43 'Therefore" (they say) "we lighted a fire and offered sacrifice, and then we took ourselves and ate of the cheeses." And Achilles, although the envoys had come in haste in the mid-watches of the night, none the less44 "bade Patroclus, his companion, to offer sacrifice to the gods; and he lad first-offerings on the fire." Homer also shows us the feasters at least offering libations:45 "Young men filled the mixing-bowls to the brim with wine, Dand then measured it out to all, after they had poured the drink-offering into the cups. Then, when they had made libation. . . ." All of which Plato also retains in his symposium. For after the eating was over, he says46 that they offered libation and thanksgiving to the god with the customary honours. Similarly also Xenophon. But  p339 with Epicurus there is no libation, no preliminary offering to the gods; on the contrary, it is like what Simonides47 says of the lawless woman: "Ofttimes she eats up the offerings before they are consecrated."

EAs to the proper mixing of wine, they say48 indeed that the Athenians were taught this by their king Amphictyon, and for that reason they founded a shrine to "upright" Dionysus. For the god of wine is really upright and does not totter when he49 is drunk in just proportions and diluted. "For wine is silly in its commands; it impels even the very prudent to sing much, and rouses him even to laugh effeminately and to dance, Fand inspires a word which were better unspoken."50 Homer indeed does not call wine "silly" in the sense of foolish and causing foolish actions; he does not even bid us be of gloomy countenance, refusing to sing or laugh, or on occasion even indulging in proper measure in the dance. No, Homer is not so boorish or stiff; on the contrary, he understood the nice differences of quantity and quality in all of these actions. Hence he did not say that wine makes the very prudent "sing," but he says that it makes him "sing much," 180 that is, immoderately and so excessively as to be a nuisance besides; nor does he say, I am sure, that it makes men laugh and dance; but taking the word "effeminately" as belonging with both verbs, he tries to curb the unmanly propensity in that direction: "And rouses him even to laugh and to dance effeminately." But with Plato none of these amusements is kept within bounds; on the contrary, they drink so much  p341 that they cannot stand on their own feet. For just look at Alcibiades, who comes rioting in, and observe how disgracefully he behaves; all the others also drain the two-quart cooler,51 Bonce they had got the excuse that Alcibiades had dragged them into it. They behaved not as Homer's heroes: "But when they had made libation and drunk to their heart's content." We must then draw the line at some of these practices once for all; in others, however, we may indulge moderately, turning our regard upon them in only slight degree, and as it were treating them as a kind of ornament, as Homer says:52 "The song and the dance; for they are the ornaments of the feast."

In general, everything which verges on scenes such as these Homer has ascribed to the suitors or to the Phaeacians, but never to Nestor or Menelaus. CThe school of Aristarchus, not understanding this in the case of the wedding-feast,53 and not observing that the entertainment was continuous, the principal days — those on which the bride had been taken home by the groom — having already passed; nor observing that the wedding of Megapenthes was already over, and that Menelaus and Helen were eating quite alone; the understanding this, I say, but being misled by the first verse,54 "Him they found giving a marriage feast to many of his kinsmen," they have added the following verses:55 D"Thus did they feast in the large high-roofed hall, neighbours and kinsmen of glorious Menelaus, making merry; and among them the divine minstrel sang as he played the lyre, and two tumblers, leaders of the dance, whirled about by themselves in the  p343 midst of them." These verses they have taken over from The Making of the Arms,56 along with the very selfsame mistake in the use of words. For it was not the tumblers who were leaders of the dance, but they surely danced with the minstrel as leader. For "leading" properly belongs to the lyre. EHence Hesiod says in The Shield:57 "And the goddesses, the Muses of Pieria, led the song." And Archilochus:58 "I myself am leader in the Lesbian paean to the accompaniment of the flute." Stesichorus calls59 the Muse "leader of song," while Pindar calls60 preludes "leaders of the choral bands." Diodorus, of the school of Aristophanes, deleted the entire passage about the wedding, thinking that only the opening days of it were meant, and taking no account of the concluding portion of the festival or, again, of the aftermath61 of the party. Consequently Diodorus wishes to write: "Two tumblers among themselves "62 (with the rough breathing), thus forcing a solecism. For Homer's phrase means, "they whirled about by themselves, i.e. "separately," but to use the form heautous for that is a solecism.

As I was saying, however, the introduction of special entertainments into this sober kind of symposium is an intrusion which has made its way over from the Cretan chorus, about which the poet says, 181 in The Making of the Arms:63 "And upon it he, the  p345 halting one, of exceeding fame, skilfully wrought a choral band, like that which Daedalus once in wide Cnossus trained for Ariadne of the beautiful locks. In that band danced young men and maidens worth many cows, holding each others' hands at the wrist." For to these verses he adds:64 "And large was the throng that stood about the lovely chorus, making merry; Band among them the divine minstrel sang as he played the lyre, and two tumblers, leaders of the dance, whirled about but themselves in the midst of them." Not only, therefore, is dancing indigenous among the Cretans, but so also is tumbling. Hence one says to Meriones, who is a Cretan:65 "Meriones, dancer though thou art, soon had my spear put an end to thee for ever, if I had but hit thee." Whence lively dances are called Cretan:66 "Cretan they call the manner,67 but the instrument is Molossian." C"The so‑called 'Laconists,' " says Timaeus,68 "sang in rectangular choruses." Broadly speaking, the music of the Greeks varied; the Athenians held in special esteem the Dionysiac and circular choruses, the Syracusans affected the choral songs of the lampoon-writers, while others again had something different. Aristarchus, however, by interpolating in the symposium of Menelaus verses which did not belong there, has produced a symposium which is foreign to Laconian culture and to that king's sobriety, and what is more, Dhe has even removed the minstrel from the Cretan chorus by cutting down the verses in the following manner: "And large  p347 was the throng that stood about the lovely chorus, making merry; and two tumblers, leaders of the dance, whirled about by themselves in the midst of them."69 Consequently it becomes impossible to emend "leaders," since it is no longer possible to keep the reference to the minstrel.70

That it is not likely that there was any such entertainment in the house of Menelaus is plain from the fact that the entire symposium is carried on by conversation held among the guests themselves; Ethere is no mention whatever of the name of the minstrel, nor even of the song which he sang; nor do Telemachus and his followers pay any attention to him, but rather, as if in a silence and quietness, observe the room; and yet it is not at least unlikely that the sons of the wisest men, Odysseus and Nestor, should be represented in the scene as boorish men, paying no attention, in the manner of rustics, to the entertainments provided for them? Odysseus, at any rate, is attentive to the song-massacres of the Phaeacians:71 "But Odysseus Fgazed at the twinkling of their feet, and marveled in his soul," although he had many things to distract him, and could say:72 "Cares there are in my heart, more than songs." Would not Telemachus, then, be stupid indefatigable, when a minstrel was present and a tumbler as well, he bent his head in a whisper to Peisistratus73 and conversed about the vessels before them?74 182 Homer, however, like the good artist that he is, perjuries  p349 Telemachus as in all things resembling his father. He has, at any rate, represented them both as being recognized by their tears, the one in the court of Alcinous,75 the other at the court of Menelaus.76

But in the symposium of Epicurus there is an assemblage of flatterers praising one another, while the symposium of Plato is full of men who turn their noses up in jeers at one another; for I pass over in silence what is said about Alcibiades.77 In Homer, on the other hand, only sober symposia are organized. And some sometimes one gives praise, saying to Menelaus that he dares not speak78 B"In thy presence, whose voice we twain delight in as in the voice of a god." And Homer reproved some of the things said or done not rightly:79 "And now, if it can in any wise be, yield to me; for I delight not in lamentation signal supping." And again he says:80 "Telemachus, what a word has escaped the barrier of thy teeth?" 187That, surely, is not the mark either of a flatterer or one who turns his nose up. Cº Again, Epicurus in his symposium puts questions about indigestion in order to get omens from it; following that he asks about fevers. What need is there even to speak of the lack of proportion which pervades his style? As for Plato — I pass over the man who was bothered by the hiccups and cured by gargles of water and still more by the insertion  p351 of a straw to tickle his nose and make him sneeze;81 for he wanted to introduce fun and mockery — Plato, I say, ridicules Agathon's balanced clauses and antitheses, and also brings on the scene Alcibiades, who avows that he is consumed with lust. DNevertheless, while writing that kind of stuff, they banish Homer from their states!82 But, as Demochares used to say,83 you cannot make a lance-head out of savoury, nor a good man of such talk. Plato ridicules not only Alcibiades but also Charmides and Euthydemus84 and many other young men. This is the characteristic of one who satirizes the city of Athens, the Museum85 of Hellas, which Pindar called86 the "prop of Hellas," and which Thucydides, in the epigram on Euripides,87 called "the Hellas of Hellas," while the Pythian god proclaimed it the "hearth and town-hall of the Hellenes."88 EThe reason why he has traduced the young men may be seen in Plato himself. In the case of Alcibiades, he says in the dialogue named from him that he did not begin to have converse with Socrates until he had passed out of his early bloom, when all who lusted for his body had deserted him. He tells us this at the beginning of the dialogue.89 The contradictory things which he says in the case of Charmides may be learned from the dialogue itself by anyone who wishes. For he represents him90 inconsistently Fas sometimes in a state of vertigo and intoxication for love of the lad, and beside  p353 himself, and as a fawn cowering before the strength of a lion;91 and then again he declares that he takes no thought of the lad's beauty.

Nevertheless, even the symposium described by Xenophon, although it is praised, admits occasions for censure not fewer than these. Callias, for example, gets the symposium together when his favourite Autolycus had been crowned victor in the pancratium at the Panathenaea. 188 And immediately the guests on the couches give their attention to the lad, even though his father is seated beside him. "For just as when a blaze of light, appearing at night, attracts the eyes of all, so also the beauty of Autolycus draws the gaze of all to itself. And so there was no ne present whose soul was not somehow affected by the lad; some, to be sure, lapsed into greater silence, but others began to assume different poses."92 Homer, on the other hand, has not undertaken to tell us anything of this sort even though he has Helen before him, of whose beauty one of those who sat opposite her uttered words like these, forced from him by the truth:93 B" 'Tis no cause for anger that Trojans and well-greaved Achaeans should suffer woes a long time for such a woman as she; for she is marvellously like the deathless goddesses in countenance." Yet later he says: "But even so, such though she be, let her go home in the ships." And then there are the young lads who pay a visit to Menelaus, Nestor's son and Telemachus; plied with wine, attending a wedding symposium, Cthey hold their peace in the presence of Helen, as is  p355 proper, struck completely dumb before her famous beauty. But Socrates! Why did he tolerate the flute-girls, the boy dancing and playing the lyre, and even the woman who indecently turns somersaults, and then decline the perfume?94 Nobody, indeed, could have borne his use of it without laughter if he had in mind these verses:95 "Those pale-faced men, those unshod beggars, you mean, of whom Socrates, poor devil, is one, and Chaerephon."

But what follows this is also inconsistent with the strictness of his life. DThat is to say, Critobulus, a witty lad, pokes fun at Socrates, who is an elderly man and his teacher, saying96 that he is much uglier than the Sileni. Socrates then matches his beauty, point by point, with that of Critobulus and having chosen as judges the boy and the dancing-girl, proposes as prizes for the winner the kisses of the judges. What young man, I ask, who comes upon this passage, will not be corrupted rather than stimulated to goodness?

In Homer's account of the symposium of Menelaus, on the other hand, they propound to each other questions as though they were in a company of learned men, and by civilized conversation they delight one another, and us as well. EMenelaus, for example, when Telemachus and his associates have returned from the bath and the Accompaniments of the meal have been placed before them, invites them to take their share in these words:97 "Help yourselves  p357 to the food and enjoy yourselves; later, when we have ceased from our dinner,98 we will ask who ye twain are." Thereupon, as a special mark of kindness, he gave them in addition some of the food that had been placed before himself:99 "Thus spake he, and took in his hands and placed before them the fat roasted chine of an ox, Fwhich they had set before him as his special portion." And after eating in silence, as becomes young men, they talk quietly with one another with heads bent together, not on the subject of food, he says,100 nor even about their host's maidservants, by whom they had been bathed, but rather about the rich possessions of him who had given them welcome: "Such verily, are the rich possessions that are stored in the house of Zeus."101 For in this way, Seleucus says, the verse is better written. But Aristarchus writes it not as it should be: 189"Such verily, is the courtyard of Olympian Zeus within." For it is not merely the beauty of the house that they admire; how, for example, could there have been amber and silver and ivory on the walls? On the contrary, while they do comment on the house, saying that it has "resounding halls" (such, of course, are halls which are high-roofed and spacious), it is about the vessels they speak in the line,102 "of gold and amber, yea, and silver and ivory"; after which comes naturally, B"Such, verily, are the rich possessions that are stored in the house of Zeus, so countless many are these; wonder holds me as I look upon them." But to  p359 the line, "Such, verily, is the courtyard of Olympian Zeus within," it is a non sequitur to add "so countless many are these," being a solecism by reason of the unusual character103 of the reading. Further, the word court-yard (aulê)104 does not even accord with the house. CFor the word used is of a place across which the air blows, and we speak of "letting a draught through," of a place which receives air from sides. Again there is the instrument called aulos, because the air goes through it, and any foregoing prolonged in a straight line we call aulos, like a stadium, or a gush of blood: "Forthwith a thick gush came from his nostrils;"105 or of the helmet when it extends straight up from the middle we say that it is "tube-like."106 At Athens there are certain "sacred hollows" (aulones), as they are called, which Philochorus mentions in the ninth book.107 The noun meaning "hollows is masculine, as in Thrace, Book IV,108 and all the historians who write in prose; but in the poets it is feminine. DCarcinus, in Achilles:109 "Into a deep hollow which surrounded the army." And Sophocles in The Scythians:110 "Crags and caves and hollows by the shore." We must therefore take the word as feminine also in Eratosthenes'  p361 Hermes,111 where we have "A deep112 hollow runs through it," bathys being for batheia, precisely like jthêlys eersê, "fresh" dew. Everything, then, of this nature113 is said to be an aulê ("court-yard") or an aulôn ("hollow"). EBut in the present instance, in speaking of the king's palace they say aulae ("courts"), as Menander114 does: "To worship courts and nabobs." And Diphilus:115 "To worship courts, as it seems to me, stamps one as an exile or a starveling or a rogue from the whipping-post." That is, they are called "courts" because the open spaces in front of the house are large, or because the king's bodyguard bivouac116 and lie beside the palace. But Homer always uses "court" (singular) of the open spaces, where the altar of Zeus, god of the enclosure, was placed. FPeleus, at least, is found117 "in the feeding-place of the court; and he held a gold goblet as he poured a libation of sparkling wine upon the blazing victims." And Priam:118 "In the feeding-places of the court was rolling in the filth." Doubt, too, commands Phemius and his companion: "Nay then, depart from the well-built halls 190 out of the slaughter into the court."119 But that Telemachus praised the rich possessions is made clear by Menelaus: "Dear children, no mortal man would Vie with Zeus; for his halls and rich possessions are deathless."120

 p363  But enough of this. We must return to the symposium, in which Homer has skilfully found occasion in his story to compare the possessions of one who was dear to him.121 For Menelaus does not propound it as a question for debate, but with charming insinuation, after he has listened to their praises, he at first does not deny that he is rich; but then, divesting his words of any invidiousness,122 Bhe says that he holds his possessions "after undergoing many sufferings." Nevertheless he does not presume to compare himself with the gods: "For his (Zeus's) halls and rich possessions are deathless." And after displaying his character, as one who loved his brother, and avowing that it was through fate123 that he was still alive and enjoying his wealth, he had, by way of contrast, introduced this word of loving friendship: "Would that I dwelt in my halls with but a third portion of this wealth, Cand that the heroes were safe and sound who perished at that time in wide Troy-land, far from argos, the pasture-ground of horses."124 Who, therefore, among the descendants of those who had died for such a man as that, would not regard the grief which they felt for their father's loss as recompensed by this grateful mention of their father? But in order that it might not seem that he cherished the same feeling for all those who had alike displayed good will towards him, he added: "For all these men I mourn not so much, grieved though I am, Das I mourn for him,125 the one who causes sleep and food to be loathsome to  p365 me."126 And that it may not appear that he forgets anyone related to him127 he has mentioned them by nickname: For him then, I ween, grieve the aged Laertes, and prudent Penelope, and Telemachus, whom he left a new-born child in his house."128 When Telemachus burst into tears at the mention, Menelaus notices him and at that moment . . .129 with the entrance of Helen; and she guessed who Telemachus was from family likeness. EFor women, because of their habit of keeping an eye on each other's honour, are very keen at detecting the points of resemblance which children have with their parents. There follows a speech interjected by Peisistratus, since he must not be in the scene as a mere bodyguard, and after he has talked becomingly about Telemachus's modesty, once more Menelaus makes mention of his love for Odysseus, saying that of all things he would have liked most to grow old in company with Odysseus alone. FNaturally they weep; but Helen, being a daughter of Zeus, and having learned many counsels from the wise men of Egypt, puts into the wine a drug which is veritably all-healing, and begins a narrative of her experiences with Odysseus while her case is engaged in spinning, a pursuit which she followed not for pleasure, but because she had formed the habit at home. 191 At any rate, Aphrodite comes before her after the duel,130 assuming a disguise: "She spake to her, likening herself to an aged crone who cards the wool, and who was wont to prepare for her the fine wool in populous Lacedaemon." And  p367 Helen's industry is made plain by no mere incident in these lines131 also: "For her also, at the same time, Adraste set a well-wrought stool; and Alcippe brought a rug of soft wool, BPhylo brought a silver wool-basket, which Alcandre, wife of Polybus, had given her." "This, then, her handmaid Phylo brought and placed beside her, overflowing with carded fibres; and in the lay her distaff, holding the violet-dark wool."132 And it is also likely that she herself was aware of her own skill in handiwork. At any rate, when she presents Telemachus with a robe she says:133 C"This present even I, dear child, offer you, as a memorial of Helen's handiwork, against the season of your longed-for marriage, and for your wife to wear." And this industry reveals the discreetness of her character; for she is not represented as a woman who exults and gives herself airs because of her beauty. She is discovered, at any rate, weaving at the loom and working in many designs: "Her he found in the hall; and she was weaving, at a tall loom, a glistening mantle of double folds; Dand many contests she patterned therein, of horse-taming Trojans and bronze-coated Achaeans, which they were encountering for her sake at the hands of Ares."134

Homer teaches us, too, that guests who have been invited to a banquet should request permission of their hosts to rise and depart. Telemachus says135 to Menelaus: E"But come, direct us now to our beds, that we may forthwith lie down and delight ourselves in sweet sleep." And Athena, who pretends to be Mentor, says to Nestor:136 "But come,  p369 cut out the tongues,137 and let the wine be mixed, that we may pour libations to Poseidon and the other immortals and bethink us of rest; for it is the season for it." At the festivals of the gods it is held to be not even pious to remain too long. At any rate Athena in Homer says sententiously:138 "For by this time the light has sunk beneath the west, and it is not seemly to sit long at the feast of the gods, but rather to go home." And so even to‑day it is customary to depart from some festivals before sunset. FAmong Egyptians, also, every kind of symposium was conducted with moderation in ancient times, as Apollonia, who has written on this subject, says. For they sat as they dined, making use of the simplest and most healthful food, and drinking only so much wine as would be sufficient to promote good cheer, which Pindar139 prays Zeus to send: "What shall I do that I may be dear in thy eyes, though of the mighty thunder, son of Cronus — dear to the Muses, too, and marked by the spirit of good cheer — for this I pray thee." 192 Plato's symposium is not a session or council-chamber, nor a debating-hall140 of philosophers. For Socrates does not even want to leave the symposium, though Eryximachus and phaedrus and some others have already gone, but stays awake with Agathon and Aristophanes and drinks out of a silver "well" — for someone141 has appropriately given this name to the larger cups —  p371 and he also drinks out of a shallow cup, in a round from left to right.142 He says further that after this the other two began to doze, but Aristophanes fell asleep first, while Agathon did not drop off until daylight began to show; Band then Socrates put them to bed, and rising up departed to the Lyceum, although, as Herodicus says, he might better have gone to Homer's Laestrygones,143 "where a sleepless man could have earned double wages."

Every gathering among the ancients to celebrate a symposium acknowledged the god as the occasion for it, and made use of chaplets appropriate to the gods as well as hymns and songs. And there was no slave to serve them, but young men, sons of free men, were the cup-bearers, as for example the son of Menelaus, who was cup-bearer, even though he was bridegroom, at the very wedding-feast itself. CAnd in the fair Sappho144 even Hermes is cup-bearer to the gods. In fact, free-born men made ready all other things needful for the diners, and those who had dined separated when it was daylight. In some Persian symposia there also occurred debates,145 as in Agamemnon's during the campaign. The symposium of Alcinous, to which the speech of Odysseus refers:146 "I say, for my part, that there is no issue more delightful Dthan when good cheer possesses the whole house, and feasters in the halls learn to the minstrel," admits the welcome to a stranger, since the Phaeacians were of themselves lovers of luxury. If now, one compares it with the  p373 symposia of the philosophers, he will find it more decorous, though it includes mirth and joking, but in good taste. For after the gymnastic contest the minstrel sings147 "of the amours of Ares," a story full of satire, while it gives hints to Odysseus for the slaughter of the suitors, Ein that even the Lame-footed148 could overcome in a contest the most valiant Ares.

The men of those days also sat when they dined. Homer, at any rate, says149 in many places, "They sat them down in order, upon chairs and thrones." Now the throne, taken by itself alone, is the chair of a man of high birth; it has a footstool, which they called thrênys, and they formed the word "throne" from the verb thrô, which they use of sitting down, as Philitas:150 "To sit (thrân) beneath the lush plane-tree." FThe chair (klismos), on the other hand, is provided more sumptuously with an inclined back. Poorer than either of these was the stool (diphros); in the case of Odysseus, anyway, coming in the guise of a beggar, the poet says151 that Telemachus "placed before him a mean stool and a small table."

Their mixing-bowls, as indeed the name implies, stood before them filled with diluted wine; from these the young men who served offered the drinking-cup, while in the case of the most highly honoured was always full; while to the others they distributed the wine in equal portions. Agamemnon, at any rate, says to Idomeneus:152 193 "But thy cup stands ever full, even as mine, to quaff whenever thy heart  p375 bids thee." They toasted one another not as we do — for our method in a toast is to drain to the dregs — but with the cup full:153 "And filling the cup with wine he pledged Achilles." How many times a day they took meals has already been explained;154 we said that there were three (and not four), because the same meal is sometimes called luncheon, sometimes dinner. Those who assert that they took four meals merely because the poet said:155 "come you now after taking the afternoon meal" are absurd; they do not observe that he means "after waiting through the afternoon." BNevertheless, nobody will ever point to an instance in Homer where anyone takes food three times in the day. Many indeed are mistaken when they place the following verses in sequence in the poet's text:156 "The grave housekeeper brought food and set it beside them, adding many viands which she lavished from her store. And the carver lifted and set beside them platters of meat." Now if the housekeeper set "viands" before them, it is plain that they must have been chance bits of meat left over, and there would be no need to introduce a carver. Hence the two verses are sufficient alone. When the diners had departed the tables were carried away, as in the case of the suitors and the Phaeacians, of whom the poet says:157 C"And the handmaids cleared away the implements (entea) of the feast," meaning the vessels. For all implements which afford a covering, like breastplates, greaves, and things similar to them, they call entea, being as it were vessels to  p377 hold inside them the corresponding parts of the body.158 The larger rooms in the dwellings of the heroes Homer calls megara,159 also dômata ("buildings") and klisiae ("huts");160 but men of to‑day call them "guest-rooms" and "men's halls."

The Loeb Editor's Notes:

1 T. G. F.2 766; the meaning is that we treat what is secondary as of chief importance, and vice versa.

2 Od. IV.3. The occasion was the visit of Telemachus and Peisistratus.

3 Il. VI.174.

4 i.e. "priestly." A citizen, called during his office orgeon, was chosen from each deme to offer sacrifice at certain stated times. The thiasos was a company, club, or fraternity, originally organized to carry on some religious cult. State dinners (σίτησις) were given in the Prytaneum in honour of foreign envoys, victorious generals or athletes, statesmen, and other men of prominence. Cf. Athen. 32B, 149D, 187D, 425A.

5 Athens.

6 De corona 169.

7 Probably the correct reading in 3F.

8 P. L. G.4 II.73.

9 Athenaeus. A remark of the excerptor.

10 Reminiscence of Aristoph. Ach. 446 εὐδαιμονοίης, Τηλέφῳ δ’ ἁγὼ φρονῶ, which in turn parodies a line of Euripides' Telephus, καλῶς ἔχει μοι· Τηλέφῳ δ’ ἁγὼ φρονῶ, "all's well with me; but may Telephus get — what I have in mind," T. G. F.2 584; Kock I.608.

11 Euripides, Bacchae, 1129. This story is told of Bion, 344A.

12 ἐπόψησις was a relish that could be spread on bread. For the point cf. "champagne flowed like water, and water flowed like champagne."

13 A word by which the Greek often approaches most closely the modern notion of "impolite." See critical note.

14 Il. II.404; of Agamemnon.

15 Op. 341.

16 The Boeotians were accused of boorish dullness and stupidity by their Athenian neighbours.

17 T. G. F.2 858.

18 Cf. Aeschines, Contra Ctes. 78 οὐ γὰρ τὸν τρόπον ἀλλὰ τὸν τόπον μετήλλαξεν.

19 Il. VII.324.

20 Wrongly ascribed to the parodist Matron by Meineke; see Brandt, p96.

21 i.e. all were adherents of the materialistic system of Democritus.

22 Than Plato, Xenophon, and Epicurus.

23 Il. II.408.

24 His brother Agamemnon; but the presence of women, even when closely related, might not be taken for granted in classical times, except at the family feasts celebrating a birth or marriage, or held in commemoration of the dead. The comment clearly points to an Alexandrian origin, as we should expect.

25 This famous epithet, βοὴν ἀγαθός, was much debated in antiquity. Cf. Schol. Il. II.408, Schol. Il. XVII.714. By "Cry" is meant the shout for help, the call to battle, hence "good at the cry" is = "good when the call comes."

26 Why Menelaus came; Il. II.409, adopted by all editors despite our critic.

27 Whoever added the verse.

28 174B; the proverb (see below, b) in question ran, "brave men go of their own accord (i.e. without waiting for an invitation) to the feast of cowards." Of course Homer has no proverb in mind in the passage discussed.

29 P. L. G.4 frag. 33.

30 Il. XVII.1.

31 Il. VII.94.

32 Il. II.588.

33 Il. XVII.588;; the speaker is Hector.

34 Il. I.225; Achilles speaks.

35 Cf. 177C, note e, and schol. Il. XVII.714 βοὴν λέγει (sc. Homer) τὴν μάχην ἀπὸ τοῦ ἀλαλαγμοῦ.

36 Od. VIII.449.

37 Od. IV.48.

38 See 186E, note.

39 Frag. 54 Bywater.

40 Od. IV.43 αὐτοὺς δ’ εἰσῆγον (sc. θεράποντες) θεῖον δόμον, "the servants led them into the wondrous house."

41 1208‑9; the son speaks.

42 1214.

43 Od. IX.231.

44 Il. IX.219.

45 Il. IX.175; the lines conclude, "when they had made libation and drunk to their heart's content they departed"; 180B. Cf. Athen. 13E.

46 Symp. 176A; the point of the unfinished quotation is that homage to the gods always preceded the drinking-bout.

47 Semonides of Amorgos, P. L. G.4 frag. 7.56.

48 Philochorus. See Athen. 38C.

49 The wine and the god are one.

50 Od. XIV.463.

51 Symp. 214A.

52 Od. I.152.

53 Od. IV.3 ff.

54 Od. IV.3.

55 Od. IV.15.

56 Il. XVIII.604; the argument is that in Il. XVIII.606 we should read (against Aristarchus) ἐξάρχοντος, not ἐξάρχοντες. The word "leading," he maintains, should refer to the minstrel, not to the tumblers. Cf. 145D, note b.

57 205.

58 P. L. G.4 frag. 76.

59 Ibid frag. 77.

60 Pyth. I.4.

61 τὸ ἕωλον τῆς συμποσίας literally means "the stale of the left-over remnant from the drinking-bout," eaten on the succeeding days.

62 Instead of "by themselves" (i.e. apart from the rest of the company); he would delete the Od. passage, and alter the reading in the Il. by a rough breathing.

63 Il. XVIII.390, describing the design on the shield.

64 l. 603.

65 Il. XVI.617; the speaker is Aeneas.

66 Simonides, P. L. G.4 frag. 31.

67 sc. of the dance.

68 F. H. G. I.201.

69 i.e., he struck out the words, "and among them the divine minstrel sang as he played the lyre."

70 By changing it to the genitive singular; see 180D, note a.

71 Od. VIII.264.

72 ibid 154; but Homer has ἄεθλοι, "games," for ἀοιδαί, "songs."

73 Od. IV.70.

74 See crit. note.

75 Odysseus, Od. VIII.521.

76 Telemachus, Od. IV.113.

77 Or possibly, "the speech by Alcibiades," on Socrates, which is an encomium, and sufficiently refutes the writer's charge against Plato's symposium.

78 Od. IV.160; Peisistratus, Nestor's son, speaks.

79 ibid 193, with the same speaker.

80 Od. III.230; Athena reproves Telemachus.

81 Symp. 185DE.

82 Plato Rep. 595.

83 Cf. Athen. 215C.

84 Symp. 222B.

85 i.e. the abode of the Muses.

86 P. L. G.4 frag. 76.

87 Anthol. Pal. VII.45.

88 Cf. 254B. After the capture of Athens by Lysander, the Spartans were warned by the oracle τὴν κοινὴν ἑστίαν τῆς Ἑλλάδος μὴ κινεῖν, "disturb not the common hearth of Hellas," Aelian, Var. Hist. IV.6. The prytaneum was the residence of the prytanes, or City Fathers, in all cities. Cf. 186A, note a (p320).

89 Alcib. 103A.

90 Socrates.

91 Charm. 155D.

92 Xen. Symp. 1.9.

93 Il. III.156; the old men of Troy are watching Helen, and speak the words quoted. Cf. Aristot. Nic. Eth. 1109B, where we have a sermon on this text.

94 Xen. Symp. 2.3, where Socrates frankly enjoys the dinner and the amusements which follow, but refuses to accept Callias's offer of scents for ship beard. "For," he declares, "there is one odour appropriate to a woman, but another odour for a man."

95 Aristoph. Nub. 103.

96 Xen. Symp. 4.19.

97 Od. IV.60.

98 See critical note.

99 Od. IV.65.

100 Either Masurius (185A) or, as C. Schmidt (De Herodico Crateteo) thinks, Herodicus of Babylon, opponent of the Aristarcheans; cf. Athen. 192B, 222A.

101 Od. IV.74.

102 Od. IV.73.

103 See critical note.

104 The etymologists here proceed from the verb ἄημι, "to blow," and comprise the words aulê "court," διαυλωνίζειν, "to let a draught through," aulos "pipe," "flute," "tube," lit. "blower," aulon, "channel," "ravine," "trench."

105 Od. XXII.18.

106 αὐλῶπις, according to some, meant the socket for the plume.

107 F. H. G. I.409 (Attica).

108 ch. 103 (as a proper name).

109 T. G. F.2 798.

110 ibid 252.

111 Frag. 8 Hiller.

112 bathys, masculine, instead of batheia, feminine; so thêlys, masculine, for the feminine, thêlyia, Hesiod, Scut. 395.

113 i.e. where the wind may below through, resuming 189B.

114 Kock III.235.

115 Kock II.572.

116 παραυλίζεσθαι, "to sleep in the open," is another derivative from αὐλή.

117 Il. XI.774.

118 Il. XXIV.640.

119 Od. XXII.375.

120 Od. IV.78.

121 with those of Zeus.

122 lit. "envy," i.e. of the gods.

123 lit. "necessity." This, as Wilamowitz points out, seems to refer to a verse (Od. IV.93A) rejected by the scholiast as absurd: οὐδέ τι βουλόμενος, ἀλλὰ κρατερῆς ὑπ’ ἀνάγκης.

124 Od. IV.97.

125 Odysseus.

126 Od. IV.104.

127 Odysseus.

128 Od. IV.110.

129 The text is defective; perhaps, "he recovered himself."

130 Il. III.386.

131 Od. IV.123.

132 ibid 133 ff.

133 Od. XV.125.

134 Il. III.125.

135 Od. IV.294.

136 Od. III.332.

137 The final offering cut from the victim.

138 Od. III.335.

139 P. L. G.6 frag. 155.

140 λέσχη was properly a place to lie down or lounge in, such as a blacksmith's shop, where villagers assembled to gossip in winter. Later it meant "club."

141 Chamaeleon, in Athen. 461C.

142 Cf. 463F, 152D note a; Plat. Symp. 223C.

143 Od. X.84. On Herodicus see 188F, note c.

144 P. L. G.4 frag. 51, Athen. 425C.

145 The text is defective. Cf. 144A.

146 Od. IX.5.

147 Od. VIII.267.

148 Hephaestus.

149 Od. I.145.

150 Frag. 22 Diehl.

151 Od. XX.259.

152 Il. IV.262.

153 So that they sipped, but did not drain; Il. IX.224.

154 11B ff.

155 Od. XVII.599; the verb δειελιάω occurs only here. Some said it meant "take an afternoon meal"; others "wait till evening."

156 Od. IV.55.

157 Od. VII.232.

158 Apparently the etymologist connects ἔντεα, Homeric word for "arms," "implements," with ἐντός, "inside."

159 as though from μέγα, "large."

160 Cf. "lean‑to," of a cabin.

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