[image ALT: Much of my site will be useless to you if you've got the images turned off!]
Bill Thayer

[image ALT: Click here for the text in ancient Greek.]

[image ALT: Cliccare qui per una pagina di aiuto in Italiano.]

[Link to a series of help pages]
[Link to the next level up]
[Link to my homepage]

[image ALT: link to previous section]

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.

This page has not been proofread.
If you find a mistake though,
please let me know!


[image ALT: link to next section]

(Vol. IV) Athenaeus

(Part 3 of 5)

 p73  (347c)Then cynulcus cried out: "What big inquiry — not big fish! would Ulpian here comprehend?  p75 He is always picking out the prickly spines​1 of hepseti,​2 and smelts, and any other little fish that may be more damnable than they, passing over the big cuts. It reminds me of what Eubulus says in Ixion:​3 'At fashionable dinners, though cakes of finest meal are served, they always eat only dill or parsley or cress or other silly stuff dressed for them.' In like manner, I think, our 'cauldron devotee' Ulpian, to quote my compatriot Cercidas of Megalopolis,​4 refuses to eat anything that becomes a man, ebut watches the diners to see if they have skipped a spine or gristle or cartilage in the viands served, laying not to heart the saying of the noble and glorious Aeschylus, who declared that his tragedies were large cuts taken from Homer's mighty dinners. And Aeschylus was one of the great philosophers; for once, when he was defeated unfairly, as Theophrastus or Chamaeleon says​5 in the work On Pleasure, he declared that his tragedies were dedicate days to Time, and he knew that he should receive his fitting reward.

"How, moreover, can Ulpian understand what the harp-player Stratonicus said of the harp-singer Propis of Rhodes? For Clearchus says in his work On Proverbs6 that Stratonicus attended a performance by Propis, who, though large of stature, was poor in his art, which fell short of his bodily size; and when people asked Stratonicus who the performer was, he replied 'A poor nobody makes a large fish,'  p77 implying that he was first of all a nobody, then poor, and moreover, though large, he was a fish in his lack of voice. But Theophrastus, in the treatise On the Ridiculous,​7 while acknowledging that the saying came from Stratonicus, declares that it referred to the actor Simycas​8 by a distortion of the proverb, 'No rotten fish is large.' Aristotle gives the following account of this proverb in The Constitution of Naxos:​9 'The majority of the well-to‑do in Naxos used to live in town, while the rest were scattered among the villages. Now in one of these villages, the name of which was Leïstadae, dwelt Telestagoras. He was very rich and famous, and honoured by the people in all other ways, but especially by gifts sent to him daily. And whenever they came down to the village from town and tried to beat down the price of any goods offered for sale, the shopkeepers were in the habit of saying that they would prefer to make a present of their goods to Telestagoras rather than to sell at so small a price. So some young sparks tried to purchase a large fish, and when the fisherman repeated the same old story, they got angry at hearing it so often, and being rather tipsy, they went rioting to the house of Telestagoras. But though he welcomed them kindly, the young men assaulted him and his two daughters, who were of marriageable age. At this the Naxians in great indignation took up arms and attacked the young men, and a serious civil war began, the Naxian being led by Lygdamis, who, as a result of this military leader­ship, rose to be tyrant of his native land. . . .'

D"But I do not think it untimely, now that I have  p79 mentioned the harp-player Stratonicus, to add something myself to what has been said about his cleverness in repartee. Being a teacher of harp-players, he had in his studio nine statues of the Muses, one of Apollo, and just two pupils; and when somebody asked him how many pupils he had, he replied, 'With the assistance of the gods,​10 a round dozen.' Once he journeyed to Mylasa, where he saw many temples but very few people. So he took his place in the middle of the market and called, 'Oyez, oyez, ye temples!'​11 And Machon records these reminiscences of him: 'Once on a time Stratonicus journeyed to Pella, having previously heard from several sources that the baths there usually made people splenetic. Well, observing several lads exercising in the bath beside the fire, all of them with bodies and complexions at the top of their form, he said that his informants had made a mistake. But when he came out again, he noticed a man who had a spleen twice as large as his belly. (He remarked:) "The door-keeper who sits here and receives the cloaks of patrons as they enter must plainly have an eye on their spleens as well, to make sure immediately that the people inside are not crowded." A wretched harper was once entertaining Stratonicus, and while the wine flowed he began to display his art to him. The appointments of the dinner were gorgeous and pretentious; and Stratonicus, having enough of the music, and no one  p81 else to talk to, smashed his cup. He then asked for a larger one, and receiving many cups he pledged them in turn to the Sun, alternately drinking and dozing, trusting the rest to fate. By chance, so it appeared, a revel band of acquaintances burst in upon the singer, and Stratonicus immediately became quite drunk. When they asked him further why he had been continually drinking much wine and had made himself drunk so soon, he answered: "This crafty and abominable harper has given me a dinner and then slain me like an ox at the manger."​12 Once Stratonicus travelled to Abdera to attend the spectacle which was to be given there, and he saw that every citizen had a personal herald who proclaimed separately, whenever he desired, the coming New Moon; and seeing that the heralds in that region were, one might say, far too many, in proportion to the common folk, he walked carefully on the tips of his toe-nails in the town, his eyes intent upon the ground beneath. When a stranger there asked him what had suddenly happened to his feet, he replied, "I'm all right, stranger, in all my limbs, and I can run much faster to a dinner than any parasite. But I am torn with anxiety and utterly afraid that I may tread on a herald​13 and impale my foot on him." When a poor piper was on the point of playing his pipes at a sacrifice Stratonicus said "Hush, until we've poured a libation and prayed to the gods!"  p83 Cleon was a harp-singer, nicknamed Ox, who sang terribly off pitch, shamefully abusing his harp. Having heard him to the end, Stratonicus remarked: "We used to have a proverb about Ass and the Lyre,​14 but now it's the Ox and the Lyre." Stratonicus the harp-singer once sailed to Pontus to visit its king, Berisades. After a long stay there, he wanted to return to Greece. But when it appeared that Berisades would not allow it, they say that Stratonicus answered him thus: "What! you don't intend to stay here yourself, do you?" Again, Stratonicus the harp-singer once found himself, a stranger, in Corinth. There an old hag kept looking at him and would not desist, no matter where he went. And he: "In the gods' name, granny, tell me what you want, and why you keep gazing at me?" "I wondered, she said, "that your mother could carry you for ten months and hold you within her womb, when our city smarts with the pain of keeping you a single day." Axiothea, Nicocreon's wife, attended by her pretty maid, went to a dinner and broke wind, and then on an almond with her Sicyonian slipper and cracked it. When Stratonicus heard it he said, "Not the same sound!" But when night came on, because of that saying he paid for his frank speech in the waters of sea.​15 A poor harp-singer in Ephesus, it appears, once exhibited his pupil to his friends.  p85 Stratonicus, who happened to be present, said: "The man who cannot teach himself to play because he is so bad, is seen at his worst when he tries to teach others." '

"Clearchus, in the second book of his work On Friendship, says:​16 'The harp-player Stratonicus, whenever he started for bed, would tell his slaves to bring him a drink. 'Not so much because I am thirsty," he said, "as because I don't want to be thirsty." In Byzantium a harp-singer sang his prelude beautifully, but made a mess of the songs that followed. Stratonicus got up and made proclamation: "Whoever will reveal the hiding-place of the harp-singer who sang the prelude will receive a thousand drachmas." When he was asked by someone who were the most god-forsaken people, he said that of the Pamphylians, the Phaselites were the most so, but of the inhabited world, the people of Sidê were the most god-forsaken.'​17 And again, Hegesander says,​18 when he was asked whether the Boeotians were perhaps more uncivilized than the Thessalians he replied, 'the Elians.' And once he set up a trophy in his schoolroom with this inscription, 'In protest against all bad harpers.' Asked by someone which boats were safer, the fast galleys or the round-bottomed merchantmen, he answered, 'Those which are safely mooed.' Giving a recital in Rhodes and receiving no applaud, he left the theatre remarking, 'If you won't give that which cost you nothing, how can I expect to receive any contribution from you?' He used to say: 'Let Elians manage athletic contests, Corinthians musical contests, and Athenians dramatic contests. If, however, any of them makes a mistake, let the Lacedaemonians be flogged for it.' Thus he  p87 satirized the flagellations held in Lacedaemon, as charicles says​19 in the first book of his work On the City Contest. When King Ptolemy was discussing with him, rather too contentiously, the art of harp-playing, he said, 'O King, a sceptre is one thing, a plectrum is another.' This is told by the epic poet Capito in the fourth book of his Notes addressed to Philopappus. And having been invited on one occasion to hear a harp-singer, after the recital he quoted:​20 'And the Father granted one part to him, but denied him the other.' When someone asked, "Which part" he answered: 'He granted the power to play badly, but denied the power to sing beautifully.' And once a beam (dokos) collapsed and killed a bad man. He said: 'Gentlemen, meseems (dokô) there are gods; if not, there are beams (dokoi).'

"The following sayings, appended to what have been quoted above, are recorded​21 in the Reminiscences of Stratonicus. When the father of Chrysogonus declared that he enjoyed the possession of every theatrical appurtenance in his own house, since he himself was a theatrical producer, while one of his sons would bring out plays, and the other would furnish the flute accompaniment, Stratonicus said to him: 'There is still one thing you need besides.' He asked, 'What?' Stratonicus replied, 'An audience in your own house.' When somebody asked him why he roamed all over Greece, instead of staying continuously in one city, he answered that he had received all Greeks as toll from the Muses, and he exacted pay from them  p89 for their ignorance of the Muses.​22 Of Phaon he used to say that he played not harmony,​23 but Cadmus, on his pipes. When Phaon pretended to be a proficient piper, and alleged that he possessed a chorus at Megara, he said: 'Nonsense! You don't possess anything there, you are yourself possessed.'​24 He said that he was particularly surprised at the mother of the sophist Satyrus because she had carried for ten months one whom no city could bear for ten days. Learning that Satyrus was staying in Troy to attend the Trojan games he said, 'Troy hath ever had misfortune!' When Mynnacus​25 disagreed with him on a question of music he said that he would pay no attention to him because he spoke over his ankle.​26 He said that a poor doctor could send his patients to Hades in a single day. Meeting an acquaintance whose shoes, he saw, had been nicely polished, he expressed sympathy for his poverty, believing that they could not have been so nicely polished if the man had not done it himself. In Teichiûs, near Miletus, lived a mixed population. When he observed that all the tombs belonged to foreigners he said: 'Let's get out of here, slave. For it appears that foreigners in this place die, but not a single citizen.' While the harper Zethus was lecturing on music​27 . . . he declared that Zethus was the last person who should talk on music, 'because' as he said, 'you have chosen the most unmusical of names, calling yourself Zethus instead of Amphion.'28  p91 While giving a lesson in harp-playing to a Helvetian pupil, he became enraged at the pupil's failure to do as he was told and cried out, 'To hell-vetia with you!'​29 Once he saw a richly decorated shrine beside a poor bath-house which supplied only cold water. When he came out, after an uncomfortable bath, he said: 'I don't wonder that there are so many votive tablets dedicated here; every man who takes a bath here makes an offering for having been rescued alive.' He said that in Aenus it was freezing for eight mights of the year and winter during the other four. 'The people of Pontus,'​30 he used to say, 'had come up out of the vasty deep,' meaning 'out of perdition.' He used to call the Rhodians 'Cyrenaeans with white skins' and 'a community of suitors';​31 Heracleia was 'Androcorinthus';​32 Byzantium was 'the armpit of Hellas'; the people of Leucas were 'Corinthian left-overs,' the Ambraciots were 'Membraciots.'​33 As he came out of the gates of Heracleia he looked carefully around, and when someone asked him why he was so careful he said he was ashamed of being seen, because it was like coming out of a bawdy-house. Seeing two men confine to the stocks he exclaimed, 'Small-town stuff that — not to be able to man the stocks completely!' To a student of music who had formerly been a gardener and who got into an argument with him on a question of music, he quoted, 'Every man should tend​34 the  p93 art he knows.' Drinking with some companions in Maroneia, he said he wanted to know in what part of the city he was, in t led him forth blindfolded. Afterwards, as they led him and asked him where he was, he replied, 'Opposite the public-house,' because Maroneia was reputed to be a collection of pubs. When Telephanes, who was lying on the couch beside him, began to blow his flute, Stratonicus said, 'Get up, as belchers should!' When the bath-tender in Cardia furnished a soap-powder of vile dust, and water which was brackish, he said that he was besieged by land and by sea. Victorious over his competitors in Sicyon, he dedicated in the Temple of Asclepius a trophy with the inscription: 'Dedicated by Stratonicus from the spoils of bad harp-players.' After a certain singer had finished his song he asked whose tune that was. Receiving the reply, 'It is by Carcinus,'​35 he said, 'Indeed it must be; no man could have written it.' He used to say that in Maroneia they never had summer, but simmer.​36 In Phaselis​37 the bath-tender got into a quarrel with Stratonicus's slave over the fee, it being the custom to charge foreigners a higher price for a bath. He said, 'You foul slave, you have nearly made me into a Phaselite by the turn of a paltry farthing.' To the man who praised him in the hope of getting something he said that he was a bigger pauper himself. While giving lessons in a small city he said, 'This is no city; it is a pity.'​38 Going up to a well in Pella he asked if the water was drinkable. When the drawers said, 'We, at least,  p95 drink it,' he answered, 'Then it can't be drinkable.' For it so happened that the men had jaundiced complexions. Listening to The Birth-pangs of Semelê, by Timotheus, he remarked: 'If she were bearing a theatrical manager instead of a god, what screeches she would be letting forth!' When Polyidus was boasting because his pupil Philotas had carried off the prize instead of Timotheus, Stratonicus said, 'I am surprised that you don't know that Philotas merely makes decrees, while Timotheus makes laws.'​39 To the harper Areius, who was boring him, he said, 'Sing yourself to the devil.'​40 In Sicyon he replied to a currier who had insulted him and called him a cur, 'You cur-rier!'​41 The same Stratonicus, observing that the Rhodians were lascivious and given to hot drinks, used to say that they were Cyrenaeans with white skins.​42 Rhodes, therefore, he called a city of suitors; for while he thought that the Rhodians differed in colour, but not in prodigality, from the Cyrenaeans, he also like ned their city to the suitors in its proneness to pleasure. In respect of these repartees Stratonicus tried to emulate the poet Simonides, according to Ephorus in the second book of his work On Inventions;​43 he says, too, that Philoxenus of Cythera had the same ambition. The Peripatetic Phaenias, in the second book of his treatise On Poets,​44 says: 'Stratonicus of Athens, it is agreed, was the first to introduce multiplicity of notes  p97 in simple​45 harp-playing; he was also the first to receive pupils in harmony, and to compile a table of musical intervals. Nor in the matter of humour did he fail to hit the mark.' In fact they say that his outspoken jesting cost him his life at the hands of Nicocles, king of Cyprus; he was compelled to drink poison for poking fun at the king's sons.46

The Loeb Editor's Notes:

1 i.e., "knotty problems," cf. 97d, 228c.

2 See 301A‑C.

3 Kock II.176; Ion at 169f, 300c, 417c.

4 P. L. G. II.515.

5 Frag. 35 Köpke.

6 F. H. G. II.319.

7 Frag. 130 Wimmer.

8 Demosth. De Corona 262.

9 Frag. 510 Rose.

10 jjj is the usual expression for "if the gods so will," deo volente.

11 The call to order by the herald at any assembly was jjj, "hear, ye people."

12 Od. IV.535; of Agamemnon slain by Aegisthus.

13 The word also means "whelk"; in America, "clam-shell."

14 "An ass listening to a lyre, a pig listening to a trumpet," said of one who had no ear for music.

15 See below, 352d.

16 F. H. G. II.313.

17 See 351f.

18 F. H. G. IV.415.

19 F. H. G. IV.360.

20 Il. XVI.250; of Achilles' prayer to Zeus.

21 By Callisthenes; see critical note.

22 i.e., for their lack of cultivation. Stratonicus alludes to the custom of assigning certain towns and villages for the support of favourites at court, Athen. 29f.

23 Harmonia was the wife of Cadmus.

24 Cf. Athen. 544d.

25 A shoemaker; see critical note.

26 i.e., beyond his proper scope; the Greek is more expressive than "talking through his hat."

27 See critical note.

28 On these two brothers, the musical Amphion and the martial Zethus, cf. Athen. 47B‑C.

29 Aristophanes, Ran. 85, was the first to perpetrate this joke, playing on Macedonia and Macarôn nesoi, "Islands of the Blest."

30 Pontus also means the sea; cf. Aesch. Pers. 433 jjj, "a sea of troubles." But the Greek also spoke of a "sea of blessings," cf. Athen. 530e.

31 i.e., loving luxury and wasteful extravagance, like Penelope's suitors and the people of Cyrene, who were dark-skinned; below, 352b.

32 Man-Corinth in allusion to Acro-Corinth, the high hill on the Isthmus. He implies that the men of Heracleia were as dissolute as the women of Corinth.

33 Chirping cicadas.

34 Literally, "water," so Pindar, O. V.23. Cf. Aristoph. Vesp. 1430 jjj, "every man work at the art he knows."

35 Or Crab.

36 Literally, "not spring, but hot weather." The liquids in jjj and jjj are enough alike to allow the pun.

37 On the wretched character of the inhabitants of Phaselis see 350a.

38 jjj, rhyming with jjj, literally means "barely," "hardly."

39 i.e., Philotas produces what is ephemeral, Timotheus produces lasting jjj, which means "lays" as well as "laws."

40 The usual expression was jjj, "fling yourself to the devil (lit. crows)."

41 jjj means a poor unfortunate; with it rhymes jjj (for jjj, "currier").

42 Above, 351c.

43 F. H. G. I.275.

44 F. H. G. II.299.

45 i.e., purely instrumental music, unaccompanied by singing or dancing (637f). Stratonicus introduced a kind of harmony (jjj), against which Plato protested, Rep. 399c, Laws 669d, 812d; the melody of voice and of instrument should be identical. This passage, of great importance for the history of music, is scarcely noticed in the text-books.

46 Cf. above, 349f.

Page updated: 27 Apr 20