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This webpage reproduces a section of
The Deipnosophistae


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

The text is in the public domain.

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(Vol. IV) Athenaeus

(Part 1 of 5)

 p3  (330e)My good friend Timocrates: Discussing the wealth of Lusitania, which is a country in Iberia, now called by the Romans Spain, Polybius of Megalopolis, in the thirty-fourth book of his Histories, 331says1 that in that region, because of the temperate quality of the air, animals and human beings alike are very prolific, and the fruits of the country never fail. "For the roses in that country, the wall-flowers, the asparagus shoots, and similar plants leave off bearing not more than three months, while sea-food, in point of abundance, excellence, and beauty, far exceeds that found in our sea. The Sicilian medimnos2 (measure) of barley costs only a shilling, of wheat, eighteen-pence, Alexandrian currency. BWine costs a shilling for ten gallons, a kid of moderate size, twopence, as also a hare. The price of lambs is six or  p5 eight pence, a fat pig weighing a hundred pounds is five shillings, a sheep two; sixty pounds of figs may be bought for sixpence, a calf for five shillings, a yoke ox for ten. The meat of wild animals was hardly deemed to be worth any price; on the contrary, they trade it off as a bonus for goodwill." Likewise to us the noble Larensis turns Rome into Lusitania on every occasion, filling us daily with all kinds of good things, and exerting himself pleasurably and generously for our benefit, though we bring nothing from home except dissertations.

The long discussion on the subject of fish was evidently irksome to Cynulcus. But the good Democritus anticipated his mood and said: "Nay then, Gentlemen Fish (to quote Archippus),3 since we to must needs add something to the menu, you have omitted to mention the so‑called 'dug out'4 fish which occur in Heracleia and near Tium in Pontus, the castle of Miletus. Theophrastus gives an account of them.5 This same scholar has also told of the fish frozen in the winter's ice, which have no feeling and cannot move until they are put into the saucepans and cooked. But as compared with these, a very singular thing occurs in connexion with the so‑called 'dug out' fish of Paphlagonia; for when places there which receive no water from rivers or visible springs are excavated to a considerable depth, live fishes are found in them.6

"Mnaseas of Patrae, in The Voyage, asserts7 that  p7 the fish in the Cleitor river can utter sounds, although Aristotle declares8 that the parrot-fish and the river-pig are the only fish which can make a sound. And Philostephanus, a native of Cyrene and disciple of Callimachus, says, in his book On Strange Rivers,9 that in the Aornus river, which flows through Pheneus, there are fishes which make sounds like the note of the thrush; they are called speckle-fish.10 Nymphodorus of Syracuse, in his Voyages, says11 that in the Helorus river there are bass and large eels so tame that you will take bread from the hands of persons who offer it to them. For myself I have seen in Arethusa, near Chalcis — and perhaps most of you have also — mullets which were quite tame, and eels wearing silver and gold ear-rings, receiving food from those who offered it, bits of entrails from sacrificial victims, and pieces of green cheese. Semus, in the sixth book of his History of Delos, says:12 'When the Athenians were sacrificing at Delos, the attendant dipped up the lustral water and brought it to them; but in the vessel which he emptied over their hands were fish as well as water. The diviners at Delos, therefore, told the Athenians that they would have dominion over the sea.' 332Polybius, in the thirty-fourth book of the Histories, says13 that a plain extends from the Pyrenees as far as the Narbo river, through which run rivers, the Illeberis and the Rhoscynus, flowing past like-named cities inhabited by the Celts. In this plain, then, are the fish called "dug out." The plain has a thin soil  p9 and considerable grass grows there. Under the sandy soil beneath the grass, at a depth of two or three cubits, flows water which strays from these rivers. With the water fish follow its outlets and swim under the soil to get food, since they like the roots of grass, and so have filled the entire plain with underground fish which the inhabitants catch by digging them up. In India, Theophrastus says14 fish come out on land from the rivers and leap back again exactly like frogs, being similar in appearance to the fish called maxeini.15 And I have not forgotten, either, what the Peripatetic Clearchus has to say about the fish called 'out-lying,' in the book entitled Water Animals.16 He says (I think I can remember his statement, which is as follows): 'The out-lying fish (called by some adonis) has this name because it often takes its siestas out of water. It is rather reddish, and extending from the gills, on each side of the body as far as the tail, it has a single white stripe. It is round, but since it is not broad, it has the same size as the smaller mullets found near the shore, which are eight inches, at most, in length. In general appearance it is most like the so‑called buck fish, except for the black spot under the gullet, which they call the buck's beard. The out-lying belongs to the hand of rock fishes, living as it does near rocky shoals. When it is calm, the fish leaps out with the surf and lies a long time on the pebbles,  p11 sleeping on dry land and turned toward the sun. When it has had all the sleep it wants, it rolls close to the water, until once more the surf catches it up and carries it with the reflux back into the sea. When it happens to be awake on land, it guards itself against the birds called fair-weather-fowl, such as the halcyon, sandpiper, and that heron which resembles the landrail. These birds, feeding in calm weather along the shore, often encounter the fish, but when it sees them in time it jumps and struggles until finally it escapes by diving back into the water.' Moreover, Clearchus has this also to say, more plainly than Philostephanus of Cyrene, whom I cited before:17 'For some fishes, although they have no windpipe, utter sounds. Such are the fishes near Cleitor, in Arcadia, in the river called the Ladon. For they can utter sounds, and in fact they make considerable noise.' Nicolas of Damascus, in the one hundred and fourth book of his Histories, says18 that 'near the Phrygian Apameia,19 during the Mithridatic wars, earthquakes occurred which brought to light in the Apameian country lakes never existent before; rivers also and springs besides were opened by the upheaval, while many, again, disappeared; and such a quantity of other water, of a brackish and blue sort, gushed forth in their land, that in spite of its being a great distance from the sea, the neighbouring region was filled with shellfish and all the other fishes which the sea nurtures.' I know, too, that it has rained fishes in many places. Phaenias, for  p13 example, says in the second book of The Rulers of Eresus20 that in Chersonesus it rained fishes for three whole days. And Phylarchus in his fourth book says21 that certain persons have in many places seen it rain fishes, and the same thing often happens with tadpoles. Heracleides Lembus, for example, says in the twenty-first book of his Histories:22 'In Paeonia and Dardania it rained frogs, and so great was their number that they filled the houses and streets.23 BWell, during the first days the people killed them and shut up their houses and made the best of it. But soon they could do nothing to stop it; their vessels were filled with frogs, which were found boiled or baked with their food. Besides, they could not use the water, nor could they set foot on the ground amidst the heaps of frogs piled up, and being overcome also with disgust at the smell of the dead creatures, they fled the country.' I know also that Poseidonius the Stoic speaks of a great quantity of fishes in these words:24 'When Tryphon of Apameia, who had seized the kingdom of Syria, was attacked near the city of Ptolemais by Sarpedon, Demetrius's25 general, the latter was defeated and forced to retreat into the interior with his troops. Tryphon's army were marching along the coast after their victory in the battle, when suddenly a wave from the ocean lifted itself to an extraordinary height and dashed upon the shore, engulfing all the men and drowning them beneath  p15 the waters. And when the wave receded it left behind a huge pile of fishes among the dead bodies. The followers of Sarpedon, hearing of this disaster, came up and gloated over the bodies of their enemies, while they also carried away an abundance of fish and offered sacrifice to Poseidon, god of the rout, near the suburbs of the city.'

"And I will not pass over in silence, either, the fish-diviners of Lycia, an account of whom is given by Polycharmus in the second book of his History of Lycia. He writes as follows:26 'Near the shore of the sea is the sacred grove of Apollo, in which there is a pool on the borders of the sand. Whenever they pass through to it, those who would consult the oracle come with two wooden rods, on each of which are pieces of roasted meat, ten in number. The priest seats himself in silence near the grove, while the man in quest of a sign puts the rods into the pool and watches the result. After the rods are put in, the pool is filled with sea-water, and there coms a quantity of fishes, so great and so extraordinary, that one is astounded by the unheard-of spectacle, while he is also rendered cautious by the size of such creatures. And when the spokesman reports the kinds of fish, the oracle-seeker gets from the priest the prophecy of those things which concern his prayer. There appear sea-perch, grey-fish, sometimes even whales or pristes,27 and also fishes never before seen, and strange to the eye.' Artemidorus, in the tenth book of his Geography, says: 'The inhabitants  p17 assert that a spring of fresh water bubbles up which produces eddies, and that large fish appear in the whirling space. To them the sacrificers let down first-fruits of offerings on wooden rods, on which are fixed boiled and roasted meats, barley-cakes, and pieces of bread. The name of this harbour and place is Dinus.'28 I know that Phylarchus also speaks29 somewhere of large fish, and green figs sent with them, by Patroclus, Ptolemy's general, to King Antigonus by way of hinting what would happen to him, just as the Scythians did to Darius when he was invading their country. For the Scythians, Herodotus tells us,30 sent a bird, an arrow, and a frog; Patroclus, however, as Phylarchus says in the third book of his Histories, sent the aforesaid figs and fishes. Now it happened that the king was then drinking deeply, and when all the company were puzzled at these gifts, Antigonus burst out laughing and declared to his friends that he understood what the friendly offerings meant: 'Either,' says Patroclus, 'we must be masters of the sea, or else we must eat figs.'

"And I do not forget that all fish are given the generic name camasenes by Empedocles, the physical philosopher, in this line:31 'How also the tall trees and the camasenes (fishes) in the sea came into being.' And I know that the author of the epic Cypria, whether it is a Cyprian, or Stasinus, or however he likes to be called, represents Nemesis pursued by Zeus and changed into a fish in these  p19 lines:32 'Helen then she bore, the third after these, the wonder of mortals; whom fair-haired Nemesis, wrapped in the arms of love, once bore to Zeus king of the gods, under harsh constraint. For she sought to fly, and consented not to join in love with Father Zeus, son of Cronus. For her heart was torn with shame and wrath. Beneath the earth, beneath the unharvested black waters she fled, while Zeus pursued. Eagerly he yearned in his heart to grasp her as she appeared at one time like a fish in the surge of the loud-sounding sea, which excites the vasty deep, at another time along Ocean's stream and the ends or earth, at another still, along the rich-loamed mainland, ever she became all the dread creatures which the mainland nurtures, that she might escape him.'

E"I know, too, of the 'broiler,' as it is called, in Lake Bolbê, concerning which Hegesander says in his Commentaries:33 'Round Apollonia, in the Chalcidic peninsula, flow two rivers, the Sandy and the Olynthiac. Both empty into Lake Bolbê. On the Olynthiac is a monument to Olynthus, the son of Heracles and Bolbê. In the months Anthesterion and Elaphebolion, so say the inhabitants, Bolbê sends the broiler to Olynthus, and at this time a limitless quantity of fish go up from the lake into the Olynthiac river. Now it is a stream so shallow that it hardly covers the ankle, nevertheless such a quantity of fish comes that all the inhabitants round  p21 about can put up preserved fish sufficient for their needs. The strange part of it is that the fish do not pass beyond the monument of Olynthus. They say, to be sure, that in earlier times the people of Apollonia brought the customary offerings to the dead in the month of Elaphebolion; but to‑day they bring them in Anthesterion. For this reason, therefore, the fish make the ascent only in these months, being those in which people are in the habit of honouring the dead.'

"So much, then, for that, my Fish Masters. For you have got together all manner of lore, and thrown us as food to the fishes,34 not the fishes to us, talking at such length as not even Ichthyas,35a the Megarian philosopher, and not even Ichtyon,35b ever indulged in. This also is a proper name, which Telecleides mentions in The Amphictyons.36 Because of what you have done, I shall command the slave in the words of Pherecrates's Ant-Men:37 'Never serve me with a fish, Deucalion, never, not even if I ask for it.' And I have a further reason. For in Delos, says Semus of Delos in the second book of his History of Delos,38 'when they sacrifice to Brizo (who is the interpreter of dreams, and by brizein the ancients meant "to go to sleep,' as in39 "there, in sound sleep, we waited for the divine dawn"), — as I was saying, when the women of Delos offer sacrifices to Brizo, they bring her bowls filled with all good things excepting fish, because they pray to her for everything, and especially for the safety of their ships.'

"And now, my friends, I admit Chrysippus, the  p23 leader of the Porch, for many reasons, but I commend him still more for putting Archestratus, so famous for his Discourse on Cookery, on the same level always with Philaenis. To her is ascribed the authorship of the scandalous treaty on love which Aeschrion of Samos, the iambic poet, says the Sophist Polycrates forged to defame the woman, though she was most chaste. Aeschrion's iambics go as follows:40 'I, Philaenis, decried of all men, lie here in long-abiding old age. Do not, vain sailor, as you round the headland, make of me a mockery and laughter and insult. For, I swear it by Zeus and by his Sons41 in the world below, never was I lewd or common toward men. Polycrates it was, by birth Athenian, sly in words, an evil tongue, who wrote what he wrote. I know naught of it.' But however that may be, the admirable Chrysippus says, in the fifth book of the treaty On Pleasure and the Good: 'Then there are the books by Philaenis, and the Gastronomy by Archestratus, and powerful stimulants to love and sexual intercourse; similarly slave-girls, skilled in such motions and postures, and ever intent on the practice of these things.' And again: 'That is the kind of thing they learn by heart, and they buy what has been written by Philaenis and Archestratus and the authors of similar trash.' And in the seventh book he says: 'Just as one may not learn by heart the writings of Philaenis or the Gastronomy of Archestratus with the idea that they can contribute anything to better living.' Now you, in quoting  p25 so often this Archestratus, have filled our symposium with scandal. What, I ask, has this noble epic poet omitted, that is calculated to ruin one's morals? He is the only man who has emulated the life of Sardanapalus, the son of Anacyndaraxes, who, as Aristotle said,42 was sillier even than you would expect from his father's name. On his tomb, says Chrysippus, are inscribed these words: 336'Though knowing full well that thou art but mortal, indulge thy desire, find joy in thy feasts. Dead, though shalt have no delight. Yes, I am dust, though I was king of mighty Nineveh. I have only what I have eaten, what wantonness I have committed, what joys I received through passion; but my many rich possessions are now utterly dissolved. This is a wise counsel for living, and I shall forget it never. Let him who wants it, acquire gold without end.' Of the Phaeacians, also, the Poet has said:43 'And ever to us is the feast dear, and the harp, and dancers, and changes of raiment, warm baths, and sleep.' Another writer's words we have, who was like Sardanapalus, and who also gave this advice to the foolish:44 'All mortals I fain would counsel to live this fleeting life in pleasure. For he that has died is nothingness, only a shade in the world below. Life is short, and while you live it behooves you to enjoy it.' And the comic poet Amphis says in The  p27 Wail from Asia:45 'Whosoever is mortal-born and seeks not to add any pleasure to his life, letting all else go, is a fool before the bar of my judgement and that of all wise men; the gods have damned him.' Also, in Government by Women, as its title runs, he has similar advice:46 'Drink! play! Life is mortal, short is our time on earth. Death is deathless, once one is dead.' And a man named Bacchidas, who also lived a life like Sardanapalus, has inscribed on his tomb, now that he is dead: 'Drink, eat, indulge in all things the heart's desire. For lo! I stand here, a stone to represent Bacchias.'

"Alexis wrote a play called The Teacher of Profligacy, says Sotion of Alexandria in his book On Timon's Satires. I myself have not come across the play. Although I have read more than eight hundred plays of the so‑called Middle Comedy and have made excerpts from them, I have not found The Teacher of Profligacy, and I do not even know of anyone who thought it worth cataloguing. Certainly neither Callimachus nor Aristophanes47 has catalogued it, nor have even those who compiled the catalogues in Pergamum. Well, Sotion says that in this play a slave named Xanthias is represented as inciting his fellow-slaves to high living, and saying:48 'What's this nonsense you are talking, for ever babbling, this way and that, of the Lyceum, the Academy, and the  p29 Odeum gates — mere sophists' rubbish? There's no good in them. Let's drink, and drink our fill, my Sicon, Sicon! Let's have a good time while we may still keep the life in our bodies. Whoop it up, Manes! There's nothing nicer than the belly. That is your father, and again, your only mother. Ethics, embassies, army tactics — fine pretences that sound hollow, like dreams. You will have only what you eat and drink. All the rest is dust — Pericles, Codrus, Cimon.' It would have been better, says Chrysippus, if the inscription over Sardanapalus had been changed thus: 'Though knowing full well that thou art but mortal, indulge thy desire, find joy in discourse. Eating, though shalt have no delight. Yes, I am but a ragged remnant, although I have eaten and had pleasure to the utmost. I have only what I have learned, what I have pondered, what noble things I have experienced with their aid, and what is left is a legacy altogether sweet.' Timon, also, has said very rightly:49 'Foremost among all evils is desire.'

The Loeb Editor's Notes:

1 XXXIV.8.4 Hultsch.

2 About 1½ bushels. The commodities here mentioned cost from two to three times as much in Athens in the fourth century B.C.

3 Kock I.685. The fishes, like Aristophanes' birds, are actors in the play; cf. Athen. 329B‑C, and for the expression jjj 37d.

4 i.e. dug out of the sand.

5 Frag. 171 Wimmer.

6 See (Aristot.) Mirab. 74.

7 F. H. G. III.15.

8 Frag. 272 Rose.

9 F. H. G. III.32.

10 See Pausan. VIII.21.1.

11 F. H. G. II.376.

12 F. H. G. IV.494.

13 XXXIV.10 Hultsch.

14 Frag. 171 Wimmer.

15 Athen. 315f, where it is identified with the cod. See critical note.

16 F. H. G. II.325; Athen. 317c.

17 Above, 331d.

18 F. H. G. III.416.

19 Also called Apameia Cibotus.

20 F. H. G. II.294.

21 F. H. G. I.335.

22 F. H. G. III.168.

23 A similar report came from the Riviera in the winter of 1926‑1927.

24 F. H. G. III.254.

25 Demetrius II Nicator. The occasion is the same as that mentioned in 176B. Pauly-Wissowa, Real. Encyc. IV.2800.

26 F. H. G. IV.479.

27 "Spouters," perhaps a kind of whale.

28 Whirl.

29 F. H. G. I.334.

30 IV.131.

31 p134 Diels.

32 Frag. ep. 6 Kinkel.

33 F. H. G. IV.420.

34 Cf. 343c.

35a 35b Fish or Fisher, as proper names.

36 Kock I.212.

37 Ibid. 180.

38 F. H. G. IV.493.

39 Od. XII.7.

40 P. L. G.4 II.517, Anth. Palat. VII.345; really choliambics.

41 The Dioscuri, worshipped especially by sailors.

42 Frag. 67 Rose. On the proverbial riches of Sardanapalus cf. Aristot. Nic. Eth. 1095 B19‑22.

43 Od. VIII.248.

44 T. G. F.2 858. Porson thought the verses may have been by Euripides; cf. Alc. 788, Kock III.606.

45 Kock II.242.

46 Ibid. 238. Cf. Athen. 125B and note a.

47 Of Byzantium.

48 Kock II.306.

49 Page 24 Wachsmuth, 204 Diels.

Page updated: 29 Oct 12