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This webpage reproduces the essay
Septem Sapientium Convivium

by
Plutarch

as published in Vol. II
of the Loeb Classical Library edition, 1928

The text is in the public domain.

This page has been carefully proofread
and I believe it to be free of errors.
If you find a mistake though,
please let me know!

(Vol. II) Plutarch, Moralia

p345 The Dinner of the Seven Wise Men

Copyright

The work appears in pp345‑449 of Vol. II of the Loeb Classical Library's edition of the Moralia, first published in 1928. It is now in the public domain pursuant to the 1978 revision of the U. S. Copyright Code, since the copyright expired in 1956 and was not renewed at the appropriate time, which would have been that year or the year before. (Details here on the copyright law involved.)

Loeb Edition Introduction

p346 Plutarch's account of the dinner of the seven wise men is a literary tour de force. Both Plato and Xenophon had composed similar accounts of such gatherings in their own time, and Plutarch himself has recorded in detail in his Symposiacs (or Table Talks) much of the conversation which was heard at such gatherings in his day. This is comparatively an easy task, but in the account of the dinner of the seven wise men Plutarch, who lived several centuries after Plato and Xenophon, deliberately set himself to compose an account of a meeting of people who lived a couple of centuries before Plato and Xenophon — at the dawn, almost, of authentic Greek history. There was a tradition, recorded by Plato in the Protagoras (p343A) and by other writers, that the seven wise men had met at Delphi in connexion with the dedication of the two famous inscriptions on the temple of Apollo there, and there was an added tradition that they had later been entertained by Periander at Corinth. Besides this, many sayings of the wise men were traditionally current. With this material at hand, Plutarch composed his imaginative account of the dinner, adding other characters such as Neiloxenus and Aesop, and giving it a more intimate touch by introducing the feminine element in the persons of Melissa and p347Eumetis; and at the end, for good measure, he added an elaboration of the familiar story of Arion's rescue by dolphins, already well known from the account of Herodotus (I.24) and of other writers; and this is capped by a few more dolphins.

The title (Συμπόσιον τῶν ἑπτὰ σοφῶν) stands as No. 110 in the catalogue of Lamprias, and the essay is occasionally quoted or referred to by later Greek writers.

Plutarch names, as the seven wise men, Thales, Bias, Pittacus, Solon, Chilon, Cleobulus, and Anacharsis. Plato (Protagoras, 343A) puts Myson in place of Anacharsis, and in other lists Periander is found in his stead. Pherecydes, Epimenides, and Peisistratus are the other candidates for a place in the list.

p349 (146b)It seems fairly certain, Nicarchus, that the lapse of time will bring about much obscurity and complete uncertainty regarding actual events, if at the present time, in the case of events so fresh and recent, false accounts that have been concocted obtain credence. For, in the first place, Cthe dinner was not a dinner of the Seven alone, as you and your friends have been told, but of more than twice that number, including myself; for I was on intimate terms with Periander by virtue of my profession,1 and I was also the host of Thales, for he stayed at my house by command of Periander. In the second place, your informant, whoever he was, did not report the conversation correctly; apparently he was not one of those at the dinner. However, since there is nothing that demands my attention just now, and old age is too untrustworthy to warrant postponing the narration, I will begin at the beginning, and tell you, without any omissions, the story which you all seem eager to hear.

2 1 DPeriander had arranged for the entertainment, not in the city but in the dining-hall in the vicinity of Lechaeum, close by the shrine of Aphrodite, in whose honour the sacrifice was offered that day. For Periander, ever since his mother's love-affair which p351 had led to her self-destruction,2 had offered no sacrifice to Aphrodite, but now, for the first time, owing to certain dreams of Melissa's, he had set about honouring and conciliating the goddess.

For each of the invited guests a carriage and pair, fashionably caparisoned, was brought to the door; for it was summer-time, and the whole length of the street even to the water's edge was one mass of dust and confusion by reason of the great crowd of vehicles and people. Thales, however, when he saw the equipage at the door, smiled and dismissed it. EAnd so we set out on foot, leaving the road and going through the fields in a leisurely fashion, and with us two was Neiloxenus of Naucratis, an able man, who had been on terms of intimacy with Solon and Thales and their group in Egypt. He, as it happened, had been sent a second time on a mission to Bias, the reason for which he did not know, save only that he suspected that he was bringing for Bias a second problem sealed up in a packet. His instructions were, that if Bias should give up trying to solve it, he should show the packet to the wisest among the Greeks.

"It is a piece of good fortune for me," said Neiloxenus, F"to have found you all together here, and, as you see, I am bringing the packet with me to the dinner"; and at the same time he showed it to us.

Thales began to laugh, and said, "If it is anything bad, go to Priene3 again! For Bias will have a solution for this, just as he had his own solution of the first problem."

"What," said I, "was the first problem?"

"The king," said he, "sent to Bias an animal for p353sacrifice, with instructions to take out and send back to him the worst and best portion of the meat. And our friend's neat and clever solution was, to take out the tongue and send it to him,4 with the result that he is now manifestly in high repute and esteem."

147"Not for this alone," said Neiloxenus, "but he does not try to avoid, as the rest of you do, being a friend of kings and being called such. In your case, for instance, the king finds much to admire in you, and in particular he was immensely pleased with your method of measuring the pyramid, because, without making any ado or asking for any instrument, you simply set your walking-stick upright at the edge of the shadow which the pyramid cast, and, two triangles being formed by the intercepting of the sun's rays, you demonstrated that the height of the pyramid bore the same relation to the length of the stick as the one shadow to the other.5 But, as I said, you have been unjustly accused of having an animosity against kings, Band certain offensive pronouncements of yours regarding despots have been reported to him. For example, he was told that, when you were asked by Molpagoras the Ionian what was the most paradoxical thing you had ever seen, you replied, 'A despot that lived to be old.'6 And again he was told that on a certain convivial occasion there was a discussion about animals, and you maintained that of the wild animals the worst was the despot, and of the tame the flatterer.7 Now kings, although they would make out that they are altogether different from despots, do not take kindly to such remarks."

"But the fact is," said Thales, "that Pittacus is responsible for that statement, which was once made in jest with reference to Myrsilus. CBut, as for myself, p355I should be amazed to see," he continued, "not a despot but a pilot that lived to be old. However, so far as concerns transferring this from the one to the other, my feeling is exactly that of the young man who threw a stone at his dog, but hit his stepmother, whereupon he exclaimed, 'Not so bad after all!'8 This is the reason why I regarded Solon as very wise in refusing to accept the position of despot.9 And as for your friend Pittacus, if he had never addressed himself to the task of ruling single-handed, he would not have said that 'it is hard to be good.'10 But Periander, apparently, in spite of his being afflicted with despotism as with an inherited disease, is making fair progress towards recovery11 by keeping wholesome company — at least up to the present time — and by bringing about conferences with men of sense, Dand by refusing to entertain the suggestions offered by my fellow-citizen Thrasybulus about lopping off the topmost.12 Indeed, a despot who desires to rule slaves rather than men is not unlike a farmer who is willing to gather in a harvest of darnel and rest-harrow rather than of wheat and barley. For the exercise of dominion possesses one advantage to set against its many disadvantages, and this is the honour and glory of it, if rulers rule over good men by being better than they, and are thought to surpass their subjects in greatness. But rulers that are content with safety without honour ought to rule over a lot of sheep, horses, and cattle, and not over men. But enough of this," he continued, E"for our visitor here has precipitated us into a conversation that is quite inappropriate, since p357he has not been careful to bring up topics and questions suitable for persons on their way to dinner. Do you not honestly believe that, as some preparation is necessary on the part of the man who is to be host, there should also be some preparation on the part of him who is to be a guest at dinner? People in Sybaris, as it appears, have their invitations to women presented a year in advance so as to afford them plenty of time to provide themselves with clothes and jewellery to wear when they come to dinner;13 but I am of the opinion that the generous preparation on the part of the man who is to be the right kind of guest at dinner requires even a longer time, inasmuch as it is more difficult to discover the fitting adornment for character than the superfluous and useless adornment for the body. FIn fact, the man of sense who comes to dinner does not betake himself there just to fill himself up as though he were a sort of pot, but to take some part, be it serious or humorous, and to listen and to talk regarding this or that topic as the occasion suggests it to the company, if their association together is to be pleasant.14 Now an unsavoury dish can be declined, and, if the wine be poor, one may find refuge with the water-sprites; but a guest at dinner who gives the others a headache, and is churlish and uncivil, ruins and spoils the enjoyment of any wines and viands or of any girl's music; nor is there any ready means by which one can spew out this sort of unsavouriness, 148but with some persons their mutual dislike lasts for their entire lifetime — stale dregs, as it were, of some insult or fit of temper which was called into being over wine. Wherefore Chilon showed most excellent judgement when he received his invitation yesterday, p359 in not agreeing to come until he had learned the name of every person invited. For he said that men must put up with an inconsiderate companion on shipboard or under the same tent, if necessity compels them to travel or to serve in the army, but that to trust to luck regarding the people one is to be associated with at table is not the mark of a man of sense.15 Now the skeleton which in Egypt they are wont, with fair reason, to bring in and expose at their parties, urging the guests Bto remember that what it is now, they soon shall be, although it is an ungracious and unseasonable companion to be introduced at a merry-making, yet has a certain timeliness, even if it does not incline the guests to drinking and enjoyment, but rather to a mutual friendliness and affection, and if it urges upon them that life, which is short in point of time, should not be made long by evil conduct.

3 1 Engaging in such discourse as this along the way, we arrived at the house. Thales did not care to bathe, for we had already had a rub-down. So he visited and inspected the race-tracks, the training-quarters of the athletes, and the beautifully kept park along the shore; not that he was ever greatly impressed by anything of the sort, Cbut so that he should not seem to show disdain or contempt for Periander's ambitious designs. As for the other guests, each one, after enjoying a rub-down or a bath, was conducted by the servants to the dining-room through the open colonnade.

Anacharsis was seated in the colonnade, and in front of him stood a girl who was parting his hair with her hands. This girl ran to Thales in a most open-hearted way, whereupon he kissed her p361 and said laughingly, "Go on and make our visitor beautiful, so that we may not find him terrifying and savage in his looks, when he is, in reality, most civilized."

When I inquired about the girl and asked who she was, Dhe replied, "Have you not heard of the wise and far-famed Eumetis? Really, though, that is only her father's name for her, and most people call her Cleobulina after her father."

"I am sure," said Neiloxenus, "that when you speak so highly of the maiden you must have reference to the cleverness and skill that she shows in her riddles; for it is a fact that some of her conundrums have even found their way to Egypt."

"No indeed," said Thales, "for these she uses like dice as a means of occasional amusement, and risks an encounter with all comers. But she is also possessed of wonderful sense, a statesman's mind, and an amiable character, and she has influence with her father so that his government of the citizens Ehas become milder and more popular."

"Yes, said Neiloxenus, "that must be apparent to anybody who observes her simplicity and lack of affectation. But what is the reason for her loving attentions to Anacharsis?"

"Because," replied Thales, "he is a man of sound sense and great learning, and he has generously and readily imparted to her the system of diet and purging which the Scythians employ in treating their sick. And I venture to think that at this very moment, while she is bestowing this affectionate attention on the man, she is gaining some knowledge through further conversation with him."

We were already near the dining-room when p363Alexidemus of Miletus met us. He was a son of the despot Thrasybulus, but born out of wedlock. He was coming out in a state of great agitation, Fangrily talking to himself, but saying nothing that was intelligible to us. When he saw Thales he recovered himself a little, stopped, and exclaimed, "What an insult! To think that Periander should behave so toward us! Why, he would not hear of my going away when I was bent on going, but begged me to stay over for the dinner; and then when I came he assigned to me an ignominious place, setting Aeolians, and men from the islands, and what not, above Thrasybulus. For it is plain that in my person he wishes to offer insult to Thrasybulus, who delegated me to come, and to put him low down to show that he purposely ignores him."

149"So then," said Thales, "as the Egyptians say of the stars, when they gain or lose altitude in their courses, that they are growing better or worse than they were before, do you fear that obscuration and degradation affecting you because of your place at table will be brought about in a similar way? And you will be contemptible when compared with the Spartan16 who in a chorus was put by the director in the very last place, whereupon he exclaimed, 'Good! You have found out how this may be made a place of honour.' When we have taken our places," continued Thales, "we ought not to try to discover who has been placed above us, but rather how we may be thoroughly agreeable to those placed with us, by trying at once to discover in them something that may serve to initiate and keep up friendship, Band, better yet, by harbouring no discontent but an open satisfaction in being placed next to such persons as p365 these. For, in every case, a man that objects to his place at table is objecting to his neighbour rather than to his host, and he makes himself hateful to both."

"All this," said Alexidemus, "is merely talk that means nothing. As a matter of fact, I observe that all you wise men too make it your aim in life to have honour shown you"; and with that he passed by us and departed.

Thales, in answer to our look of astonishment at the man's extraordinary conduct, said, "A crazy fellow, and uncouth by nature; as an instance, when he was still a boy, some especially fine perfume was brought to Thrasybulus, and this the youngster emptied into a big wine-cooler, Cand on top of it poured strong wine, and drank it off, thus creating enmity instead of friendship for Thrasybulus."

Just then a servant made his way to us and said, "Periander bids you, and Thales too, to take your friend here with you and inspect something which has just now been brought to him, to determine whether its birth is of no import whatever, or whether it is a sign and portent; at any rate, he himself seemed to be greatly agitated, feeling that it was a pollution and blot upon his solemn festival." With these words he conducted us to one of the rooms off the garden. Here as a youth, a herdsman apparently, beardless as yet, and not bad-looking withal, unfolded a piece of leather, and showed us a newly-born creature which he asserted was the offspring of a mare. Its upper parts as far as the neck and arms were of human form, and the sound of its crying was just like that of newly-born infants, Dbut the rest of its body was that of a horse. Neiloxenus merely exclaimed, "God save us," and turned his face away; p367 but Thales fixed his gaze upon the youth for a long time, and then, with a smile (for he was in the habit of joking with me about my profession), said, "No doubt, Diocles, you are minded to set in operation your ritual of atonement, and to trouble the gods who deliver us from evil, since you must feel that something terrible and momentous has befallen?"

"Why not?" said I, "since this thing is a sign of strife and discord, Thales, and I fear that it may go so far as to affect even marriage and offspring, because, even before we have made full atonement for the first fault that moved the goddess to wrath, she plainly shows us, as you see, that there is a second."

ETo all this Thales made no answer, but withdrew, laughing all the while. Periander met us at the door, and inquired about what we had seen; whereupon Thales left me and took his hand, saying, "Whatever Diocles bids you do you will carry out at your own convenience, but my recommendation to you is that you should not employ such young men as keepers of horses, or else that you should provide wives for them."17

It seemed to me that Periander, on hearing his words, was mightily pleased, for he burst out laughing and embraced Thales most affectionately. "I think, Diocles," said Thales, "that the sign has already had its fulfilment, Ffor you see what a bad thing has happened to us in that Alexidemus would not dine with us!"

4 1 When we had entered the dining-room, Thales, in a louder voice than usual, said, "Where is the place at table to which the man objected?" And when its position was pointed out to him he made his way to it, and placed himself and us there, at the same p369time remarking, "Why, I would have given money to share the same table with Ardalus." This Ardalus was from Troezene, a flute-player and a priest of the Ardalian Muses, 150whose worship his forefather, Ardalus of Troezene, had established.18

Aesop too, as it happened, having been sent by Croesus only a short time before on a mission both to Periander and to the god at Delphi, was present at the dinner, seated on a low chair next to Solon, who occupied the place just above. Aesop said:19 "A Lydian mule caught sight of his own image reflected in a river, and, suddenly struck with admiration at the beauty and great size of his body, tossed his mane and started to run like a horse, but then, recalling that his sire was an ass, he soon stopped his running, Band gave up his pride and animation."

Whereupon Chilon, dropping into Laconian dialect, remarked, "It's slow ye are, and ye're running on like the mule."

Just then Melissa came in took her place on the couch next to Periander, but Eumetis sat during the dinner. Then Thales, addressing himself to me (my place was just above that of Bias), said, "Diocles, why do you not tell Bias at once that our guest from Naucratis has again come to him with a king's problems, so that he may hear them stated while he is sober and circumspect?"

"Hear that!" said Bias; "this man has been trying for a long time to terrify me with such adjurations; Cbut I know that Dionysus, besides being clever in other ways, is called the 'solver' by virtue of wisdom, so I have no fears that if I become p371filled with his spirit20 I shall compete with less courage."

In such repartee as this did those men indulge while dining; but to me, as I was noticing that the dinner was plainer than usual, there came the thought that the entertainment and invitation of wise and good men involves no expense, but rather curtails expense, since it does away with over-elaborate viands and imported perfumes and sweetmeats and the serving of costly wines, all of which were in fairly free use every day Dwith Periander in his royal position and wealth and circumstance. But on this occasion he tried to make an impression on the men by simplicity and restraint in expenditure. Nor was this limited to these other matters, but he also made his wife put aside and out of sight her usual elaborate attire, and present herself inexpensively and modestly attired.

5 1 After the tables had been cleared away, and garlands distributed by Melissa, and we had poured libations, and the flute-girl, after playing a brief accompaniment for our libations, had withdrawn, then Ardalus, addressing Anacharsis, inquired if there were flute-girls among the Scythians.

EHe answered on the spur of the moment, "No, nor grape-vines either."

When Ardalus again said, "But the Scythians must have gods," he replied, "Certainly, they have gods who understand the language of men; they are not like the Greeks, who, although they think they converse better than the Scythians, yet believe that the gods have more pleasure in listening to the sound produced by bits of bone and wood."

Thereupon Aesop said, "I would have you know, p373my friend, that the modern flute-makers have given up the use of bones from fawns, and use bones from asses, asserting that the latter have a better sound. This fact underlies the riddle21 which Cleobulina made in regard to the Phrygian flute:

FFull on my ear with a horn-bearing shin did a dead donkey smite me.

So we may well be astonished that the ass, which otherwise is most gross and unmelodious, yet provides us with a bone which is most fine and melodious."

"That, without question," said Neiloxenus, "is the reason for the complaint which the people of Busiris make against us of Naucratis; for we are already using asses' bones for our flutes. But for them even to hear a trumpet is a sin, because they think it sounds like the bray of an ass; and you know, of course, that an ass is treated with contumely by the Egyptians on account of Typhon."22

6 1 There was a pause in the conversation, and Periander, noticing that Neiloxenus wanted to begin his remarks, but was hesitating, said, 151"I am inclined to commend both states and rulers that take up the business of strangers first and of their own citizens afterwards; and now it seems to me that we should for a few minutes put a check on our own words, which are, as it were, in their own land where they are well known, and grant audience, as in a legislative sitting, to the royal communication from Egypt, which our excellent friend Neiloxenus has p375 come to bring to Bias, and which Bias wishes to consider with all of us together."

"Indeed," said Bias, "in what place or company would a man more readily take the risk, if he must, of answering such questions, especially since the king has given instructions to begin with me, Band after that the matter is to come round to all the rest of you?"

As he said this Neiloxenus offered him the packet, but Bias bade him by all means to open it and read it aloud. The contents of the letter were to this effect:

"Amasis, king of the Egyptians, to Bias, wisest of the Greeks.

"The king of the Ethiopians is engaged in a contest in wisdom against me. Repeatedly vanquished in all else, he has crowned his efforts by framing an extraordinary and awful demand, bidding me to drink up the ocean. My reward, if I find a solution, is to have many villages and cities of his, Cand if I do not, I am to withdraw from the towns lying about Elephantine. I beg therefore that you will consider the question, and send back Neiloxenus without delay. And whatever is right for your friends or citizens to receive from us shall meet with no let or hindrance on my part."

After this had been read Bias did not wait long, but, after a few minutes of abstraction and a few words with Cleobulus, whose place was near his, he said, "What is this, my friend from Naucratis? Do you mean to say that Amasis, who is king of so many people and possessed of such an excellent great country, will be willing, for the consideration of some insignificant and miserable villages, to drink up the ocean?"

p377 Neiloxenus answered with a laugh, "Assume that he is willing, and consider what is possible for him to do."

D"Well, then," said Bias, "let him tell the Ethiopian to stop the rivers which are now emptying into the ocean depths, while he himself is engaged in drinking up the ocean that now is; for this is the ocean with which the demand is concerned, and not the one which is to be."

As soon as Bias had said these words, Neiloxenus, for very joy, hastened to embrace and kiss him. The rest of the company also commended the answer, and expressed their satisfaction with it, and then Chilon said with a laugh, "My friend, before the ocean disappears entirely in consequence of being drunk up, I beg that you sail back to your home in Naucratis and take word to Amasis not to be trying to find out how to make way with so much bitter brine, but rather how to render his government potable and sweet to his subjects; Efor in these matters Bias is most adept and a most competent instructor, and if Amasis will only learn them from him, he will have no further need of his golden foot-tub to impress the Egyptians,23 but they will all show regard and affection for him if he is good, even though he be shown to be in his birth ten thousand times more lowly than at present."

"Yes, indeed," said Periander, "it surely is right and proper that we all contribute an offering of this sort to the king, 'each man in his turn,' as Homer24 has said. For to him these extra items would be more valuable than the burden of his mission, and as profitable for ourselves as anything could be."

7 1 Chilon thereupon said that it was only right that p379Solon should take the lead in speaking on this subject, Fnot merely because he was most advanced in years and was occupying the place of honour, but because he held the greatest and most perfect position as a ruler by getting the Athenians to accept his laws. Thereupon Neiloxenus quietly remarked to me, "It is certain, Diocles, that a good many things come to be believed quite contrary to fact, and most people take delight in fabricating out of their own minds unwarranted tales about wise men, and in readily accepting such tales from others. Such, for instance, was the report, which was brought to us in Egypt, in regard to Chilon, to the effect that he had broken off his friendship and his hospitable relations with Solon 152because Solon asserted that laws are subject to revision."25

"The story is ridiculous," said I; "for in such case Chilon ought first to renounce Lycurgus and all his laws, for Lycurgus revised completely the Spartan connect."

Solon then, after a moment's delay, said, "In my opinion either a king, or a despot, would best gain repute if out of a monarchy he should organize a democracy for his people."

Next Bias said, "If he should be the very first to conform to his country's laws."

Following him Thales said that he accounted it happiness for a ruler to reach old age and die a natural death.

p381 Fourth, Anacharsis said, "If only he have sound sense."

Fifth, Cleobulus, "If he trust none of his associates."

BSixth, Pittacus, "If the ruler should manage to make his subjects fear, not him, but for him."26

Chilon followed by saying that a ruler's thoughts should never be the thoughts of a mortal, but of an immortal always.

When these sentiments had been expressed, we insisted that Periander himself should also say something. And he, not very cheerful, but with a hard set face, said, "Well, I may add my view, that the opinions expressed, taken as a whole, practically divorce any man possessed of sense from being a ruler."

Whereupon Aesop, as though taking us to task, said, "You ought, then, to have carried out this discussion by yourselves, and not, while professing to be counsellors and friends, to have made yourselves complainants against rulers."

Solon then, laying his hand on Aesop's head and smiling the while, said, "Don't you think that anyone could make a ruler more moderate and a despot more reasonable Cif he could persuade them that it is better not to rule than to rule?"

"Who," he replied, "would believe you in this matter in preference to the god who said, according to the oracle referring to you,

p383 Blessed the city that hears the command of one herald only?"

"Yet it is a fact," said Solon, "that even now the Athenians hearken to one herald and ruler only, Dand that one, the law, under their democratic constitution. You are clever in understanding ravens and jackdaws, but you have no true ear for the voice of equality, but think that, according to the god, the city which hearkens to one man fares the best, whereas in a social gathering you regard it as a virtue to have everybody talk and on every sort of subject."

"Yes," said Aesop, "that is because you have not yet written a law that slaves27 shall not get drunk, which would be a similar law to fit this case, as at Athens you wrote a law that slaves shall not have any love-affair and shall not rub down like athletes."28

Solon laughed at this and Cleodorus the physician said, "Nevertheless rubbing down dry is similar to talking when soaked with wine in that it is most agreeable."

EAnd Chilon, interrupting, said, "The more reason then for refraining from it."

"I could swear," said Aesop, speaking again, "that Thales appeared to bid a man to grow old as fast as possible."29

8 1 Periander at this burst out laughing, and said, "We are fittingly punished, Aesop, for becoming involved in other subjects before introducing all of those from Amasis, to which we gave precedence. I beg, Neiloxenus, that you will look at the rest of p385 the letter and take advantage of the fact that the men are all here together."

"Well, in truth," said Neiloxenus, "the demand of the Ethiopian can hardly be called anything but a 'depressing cryptic dispatch,'30 to borrow a phrase from Archilochus, Fbut your friend Amasis is more civilized and cultivated in proposing such questions; for he bade the king name the oldest thing, the most beautiful, the greatest, the wisest, the most common, and besides these, as I can attest, to name also the most helpful thing and the most harmful, and strongest and the easiest."

"Did the Ethiopian king give an answer and a solution for each of these questions?"

"Yes, in his way," said Neiloxenus, "but you must judge for yourselves when you hear his answers. For my king holds it to be a very important matter 153not to be caught impugning the answers falsely; and likewise, if the respondent is making any slip in these, he would not have this pass unquestioned. I will read the answers of the Ethiopian as he gave them:

(a) 'What is the oldest thing?' 'Time.'

(b) 'What is the greatest?' 'The universe.'

(c) 'What is the wisest?' 'Truth.'

(d) 'What is the most beautiful?' 'Light.'

(e) 'What is most common?' 'Death.'

(f) 'What is most helpful?' 'God.'

(g) 'What is most harmful?' 'An evil spirit.'

p387 (h) 'What is strongest?' 'Fortune.'

(i) 'What is easiest?' 'Pleasure.'

9 1 After this second reading, there was silence for a time, and then Thales asked Neiloxenus if Amasis had approved the answers. When Neiloxenus replied that Amasis had accepted some, but was much dissatisfied with others, BThales said, "As a matter of fact there is not a thing in them that cannot be impugned, but they all contain gross errors and evidences of ignorance. For instance, in the very first one, how can time be the oldest thing if a part of it is past, a part present, and a part future?31 For the time which is to come would clearly be younger than events and persons that now are. And to hold that truth is wisdom seems to me no different from declaring that light is the eye. If he thought the light beautiful, as it really is, how did he come to overlook the sun itself? Among the others the answer about gods and evil spirits evinces boldness and daring, but the one about Fortune contains much bad logic; Cfor Fortune would not be so fickle about abiding with one if it were the mightiest and strongest thing in existence. Nor is death, in fact, the most common thing; for it does not affect the living.32 But, to avoid giving the impression of merely passing judgement upon the statements of others, let us compare answers of our own with his. And I offer myself as the first, if Neiloxenus so desires, to be questioned on each topic; and taking the questions p389in the order given,33 I will repeat them, together with my answers:34

(a) 'What is the oldest thing?' 'God,' : said Thales, "for God is something that has no beginning.'

(b) 'What is the greatest?' 'Space; for while the universe contains within it all else, Dthis contains the universe.'

(c) 'What is the most beautiful?' 'The Universe; for everything that is ordered as it should be is a part of it.'

(d) 'What is the wisest?' 'Time; for it has discovered some things already, and shall discover all the rest.'

(e) 'What is most common?' 'Hope; for those who have nothing else have that ever with them.'

(f) 'What is most helpful?' 'Virtue; for it makes everything else helpful by putting it to a good use.'

(g) 'What is most harmful?' 'Vice; for it harms the greatest number of things by its presence.'

(h) 'What is strongest?' 'Necessity; for that alone is insuperable.'

(i) 'What is easiest?' 'To follow Nature's course; because people often weary of pleasures.' "

10 1 EWhen all had expressed their satisfaction with Thales, Cleodorus said, "Asking and answering such questions is all right for kings. But the barbarian who would have Amasis drink up the ocean to do him honour needed the terse retort which Pittacus used to Alyattes, when the latter wrote and sent an overbearing command to the Lesbians. The only answer p391he made was to tell Alyattes to eat onions and hot bread."35

Periander now entered into the conversation, and said, "Nevertheless it is a fact, Cleodorus, that the ancient Greeks also had a habit of propounding such perplexing questions to one another. FFor we have the story that the most famous poets among the wise men of that time gathered at Chalcis to attend the funeral of Amphidamas. Now Amphidamas was a warrior who had given much trouble to the Eretrians, and had fallen in one of the battles for the possession of the Lelantine plain. But since the verses composed by the poets made the decision a difficult and troublesome matter because they were so evenly matched, and since the repute of the contestants, Homer and Hesiod, caused the judges much perplexity as well as embarrassment, 154the poets resorted to questionings of this sort, and Homer, as Lesches asserts,36 propounded this:

Tell me, O Muse, of events which never have happened aforetime,

Nor in the future shall ever betide,

and Hesiod answered quite off-hand:

When round Zeus in his tomb rush the steeds with galloping hoof-beats,

Crashing car against car, as they eagerly run for a trophy.

And for this it is said that he gained the greatest admiration and won the tripod."37

"But what difference is there," said Cleodorus, "between things like this and Eumetis's riddles? p393BPerhaps it is not unbecoming for her to amuse herself and to weave these as other girls weave girdles and hair-nets, and to propound them to women, but the idea that men of sense should take them at all seriously is ridiculous."

Eumetis, to judge by her appearance, would have liked to give him an answer, but restrained herself with all modesty, and her face was covered with blushes. But Aesop, as though he would take her part, said, "Is it not then even more ridiculous not to be able to solve these? Take, for instance, the one which she propounded to us a few minutes before dinner:

Sooth I have seen a man with fire fasten bronze on another.38

Could you tell me what this is?"

C"No," said Cleodorus, "and I don't want to be told, either."

"Yet it is a fact," said Aesop, "that nobody knows this more perfectly than you, or does it better, either; and if you deny this, I have cupping-glasses to testify to it."

At this Cleodorus laughed; for of all the physicians of his time he was most given to the use of cupping-glasses, and it was largely owing to him that this form of treatment has come to have such repute.

11 1 Mnesiphilus the Athenian,39 a warm friend and admirer of Solon's, said, "I think it is no more than fair, Periander, that the conversation, like the wine, should not be apportioned on the basis of wealth or rank, Dbut equally to all, as in a democracy, and that p395 it should be general. Now in what has just been said dealing with dominion and kingdom, we who live under a popular government have no part. Therefore I think that at this time each of you ought to contribute an opinion on the subject of republican government, beginning again with Solon."

It was accordingly agreed to do this, and Solon began by saying, "But you, Mnesiphilus, as well as all the rest of the Athenians, have heard the opinion which I hold regarding government. However, if you wish to hear it again now, I think that a State succeeds best, and most effectively perpetuates democracy, Ein which persons uninjured by a crime, no less than the injured person, prosecute the criminal and get him punished."

Second was Bias, who said that the most excellent democracy was that in which the people stood in as much fear of the law as of a despot.

Following him Thales said that it was the one having citizens neither too rich nor too poor.

After him Anacharsis said that it was the one in which, all else being held in equal esteem, what is better is determined by virtue and what is worse by vice.

Fifth, Cleobulus said that a people was most righteous whose public men dreaded censure more than they dreaded the law.

Sixth, Pittacus said that it was where bad men are not allowed to hold office, and good men are not allowed to refuse it.

FChilon, turning to the other side,40 declared that the p397best government is that which gives greatest heed to laws and least heed to those who talk about them.

Finally, Periander once more concluded the discussion with the decisive remark, that they all seemed to him to approve a democracy which was most like an aristocracy.

12 1 When this discussion had come to an end, I said that it seemed to me to be only fair that these men should tell us how a house should be managed. "For," said I, "but few persons are in control of kingdoms and states, whereas we all have to do with a hearth and home."

Aesop laughed and said, "Not all, if you include also Anacharsis in our number; 155for not only has he no home, but he takes an immense pride in being homeless and in using a wagon, after the manner in which they say the sun makes his rounds in a chariot, occupying now one place and now another in the heavens."

"And that, I would have you know," said Anacharsis, "is precisely the reason why he solely or pre-eminently of all the gods is free and independent, and rules over all and is ruled by none, but is king, and holds the reins. Only you seem to have no conception of his chariot, how surpassing it is in beauty, and wondrous in size; Belse you would not, even in jest, have humorously compared it to ours. It seems to me, Aesop, that your idea of a home is limited to these protective coverings made of mortar, wood, and tiles, just as you were to regard a snail's shell, and not the creature itself, as a snail. Quite naturally, then, Solon gave you occasion to laugh, because, when he had looked over Croesus's house with its costly furnishings, he did not instantly p399 declare that the owner led a happy and blessed existence therein, for the good reason that he wished to have a look at the good within Croesus rather than at his good surroundings.41 But you, apparently, do not remember your own fox.42 For the fox, having entered into a contest with the leopard to determine which was the more ingeniously coloured, insisted it was but fair that the judge should note carefully what was within her, for there she said she should show herself more ingenious. CBut you go about, inspecting the works of carpenters and stone-masons, and regarding them as a home, and not the inward and personal possessions of each man, his children, his partner in marriage, his friends, and servants; and though it be in an ant-hill or a bird's nest, yet if these are possessed of sense and discretion, and the head of the family shares with them all his worldly goods, he dwells in a goodly and a happy home. This then," said he, "is my answer to Aesop' insinuation, and my contribution to Diocles. And now it is but right that each of the others should disclose his own opinion."

Thereupon Solon said that the best home seemed to him to be where no injustice is attached to the acquisition of property, Dno distrust to keeping it, and no repentance to spending it.

Bias said, "It is the home in which the head of the household, because of his own self, maintains the same character that he maintains outside of it because of the law."

Thales said, "The home in which it is possible for the head of the household to have the greatest leisure."

p401 Cleobulus said, "If the head of the household have more who love him than fear him."

Pittacus said that the best home is that which needs nothing superfluous, and lacks nothing necessary.

Chilon said that the home ought to be most like to a State ruled by a king; and then he added that Lycurgus said to the man who urged him to establish a democracy in the State, E"Do you first create a democracy in your own house."43

13 1 When this discussion had come to its end, Eumetis withdrew, accompanied by Melissa. Then Periander drank to Chilon in a big beaker, and Chilon did the same to Bias, whereupon Ardalus arose, and addressing himself to Aesop, said, "Won't you send the cup over here to us, seeing that these people are sending it to and fro to one another as though it were the beaker of Bathycles,44 and are not giving anybody else a chance at it?"

FAnd Aesop said, "But this cup is not democratic either, since it has been resting all the time by Solon only."

Thereupon Pittacus, addressing Mnesiphilus, asked why Solon did not drink, but by his testimony was discrediting the verses in which he had written45

p403 Give me the tasks of the Cyprus-born goddess and Lord Dionysus,

Yea, and the Muses besides; tasks which bring cheer among men.

Before the other could reply Anacharsis hastened to say, "He is afraid of you, Pittacus, and that harsh law of yours in which you have decreed, 'If any man commit any offence when drunk, his penalty shall be double that prescribed for the sober.' "46

And Pittacus said, "But you at any rate showed such insolent disregard for the law, that last year, at the house of Alcaeus's brother, you were the first to get drunk and you demanded as a prize a wreath of victory."47

156"And why not?" said Anacharsis. "Prizes were offered for the man who drank the most, and I was the first to get drunk; why should I not have demanded the reward of my victory? Else do you instruct me as to what is the aim in drinking much strong wine other than to get drunk."

When Pittacus laughed at this, Aesop told the following story: "A wolf seeing some shepherds in a shelter eating a sheep, came near to them and said, 'What an uproar you would make if I were doing that!' "

"Aesop," said Chilon, "has very properly defended himself, for a few moments ago48 he had his mouth stopped by us, and now, later, he sees that others have taken the words out of Mnesiphilus's mouth; for it was Mnesiphilus who was asked for a rejoinder in defence of Solon."

B"And I speak," said Mnesiphilus, "with full p405knowledge that it is Solon's opinion that the task of every art and faculty, both human and divine, is the thing that is produced rather than the means employed in its production, and the end itself rather than the means that contribute to that end. For a weaver, I imagine, would hold that his task was a cloak or a mantle rather than the arrangement of shuttle-rods or the hanging of loom weights; and so a smith would regard the welding of iron or the tempering of an axe rather than any one of the things that have to be done for this purpose, such as blowing up the fire or getting ready a flux. Even more would an architect find fault with us, if we should declare that his task is not a temple or a house, Cbut to bore timbers and mix mortar. And the Muses would most assuredly feel aggrieved, if we should regard as their task a lyre or flutes, and not the development of the characters and the soothing of the emotions of those who make use of songs and melodies. And so again the task of Aphrodite is not carnal intercourse, nor is that of Dionysus strong drink and wine, but rather the friendly feeling, the longing, the association, and the intimacy, one with one another, which they create in us through these agencies. These are what Solon calls 'tasks divine,' and these he says he loves and pursues above all else, now that he has become an old man. DAnd Aphrodite is the artisan who creates concord and friendship between men and women, for through their bodies, under the influence of pleasure, she at the same time unites and welds together their souls.49 And in the case of the majority of people, who are not altogether intimate or too well known to one another, Dionysus softens and relaxes their characters with wine, as in p407a fire, and so provides some means for beginning a union and friendship with one another. However, when such men as you, whom Periander has invited here, come together, I think there is nothing for the wine-cup or ladle to accomplish, but the Muses set discourse in the midst before all, a non-intoxicating bowl as it were, containing a maximum of pleasure in jest and seriousness combined; and with this they awaken and foster and dispense friendliness, Eallowing the 'ladle,' for the most part, to lie untouched 'atop of the bowl' — a thing which Hesiod50 would prohibit in a company of men better able to drink than to converse. As a matter of fact," he continued, "as nearly as I can make out, among the men of olden time the practice of drinking healths was not in vogue, since each man drank one 'goblet,' as Homer51 has said, that is a measured quantity, and later, like Ajax,52 shared a portion with his neighbour."

When Mnesiphilus had said this, Chersias the poet53 F(having been already absolved from the charge against him, and recently reconciled with Periander at Chilon's solicitation) said, "Is it to be inferred, then, that Zeus used to pour out the drink for the gods also in measured quantity, as Agamemnon did for his nobles, when the gods, dining with Zeus, drank to one another?"

And Cleodorus said, "But, Chersias, if certain doves54 bring to Zeus his ambrosia, as you poets say, and with p409great difficulty hardly manage to fly over the 'clashing rocks,' do you not believe that his nectar is hard for him to get and scarce, 157so that he is sparing of it, and doles it out charily to each god?"

14 1 "Possibly," said Chersias, "but since talk of household management has come up again, who among you will tell us about what was omitted? The topic omitted was, I think, the acquisition of some measure of property which shall be sufficient in itself and adequate."

"But," said Cleobulus, "for the wise the law has given the measure, but with reference to those of the baser sort I will tell a story of my daughter's which she told to her brother. She said that the moon wanted her mother to weave for her a garment to fit her measure; Band the mother said, 'How can I weave it to fit your measure? For now I see you full and round, and at another time crescent-shaped, and at still another but little more than half your full size.' And in the same way you see, my dear Chersias, there is no measure of possessions that can be applied to a foolish and worthless man. Sometimes he is one man and sometimes another in his needs, which vary according to his desires and fortunes; he is like Aesop's dog, who, as our friend here says, in the winter-time curled up as closely as possible because he was so cold, and was minded to build himself a house, but when summer returned again, and he had stretched himself out to sleep, he appeared to himself so big that he thought it was neither a necessary nor a small task to construct a house large enough to contain him. Have you not often noticed also, Chersias," he continued, C"those detestable people who at one time restrict themselves to utterly small p411limits as though they purposed to live the simple Spartan life, and at another time they think that, unless they have everything possessed by all private persons and kings as well, they shall die of want?"

As Chersias lapsed into silence, Cleodorus took up the conversation and said, "But we see that the possessions which even you wise men have are distributed by unequal measure, if you be compared one with another."

And Cleobulus said, "Yes, for the law, my good sir, like a weaver, assigns to each one of us so much as is fitting, reasonable, and suitable. DAnd you, using reason as your law in prescribing diet, regimen, and drugs for the sick, do not apportion an equal amount to each one, but the proper amount in all cases."

Ardalus then joined in and said, "Well, then, is there some law which commands that comrade of all of you, Solon's foreign friend, Epimenides, to abstain from all other kinds of food, and by taking into his mouth a bit of the potent 'no-hunger,'55 which he himself compounds, to go all day without luncheon and dinner?"

This remark arrested the attention of the whole company, and Thales said jestingly that Epimenides showed good sense in not wishing to have the trouble of grinding his grain and cooking for himself like Pittacus. E"For," said he, "when I was at Eresus, I heard the woman at whose house I stayed singing at the mill:

Grind, mill, grind;

Yes, for Pittacus used to grind

King of great Mytilene."56

p413 Solon said that he was surprised at Ardalus if he had not read the regulations governing the manner of living of the man in question, which are given in writing in Hesiod's verses. For Hesiod is the one who first sowed in the mind of Epimenides the seeds of this form of nourishment, inasmuch as it was he who taught that one should seek to find

FHow in mallow and asphodel lies an immense advantage.57

"Do you really think," said Periander, "that Hesiod ever had any such idea in mind? Do you not rather think that, since he was always sounding the praises of frugality, he was also summoning us to the simplest of dishes as being the most pleasant? For the mallow is good eating, and the stalk of the asphodel is luscious; but these no-hunger and no-thirst drugs (for they are drugs rather than foods), I understand, include in their composition a sweet gum and a cheese found among barbarian peoples, and a great many seeds of a sort hard to procure. How, then, can we concede to Hesiod his

Rudder on high in the smoke58a

suspended, and

All the labours of oxen and stout-toiling mules be abolished,58b

if there is to be need of all this preparation? I am surprised at your friend from abroad, Solon, 158if, when he was recently carrying out his great purification for the people of Delos,59 he did not note the memorials and examples of the earliest forms of food being brought into the temple there, including, among other p415inexpensive and self-propagated foods, mallow and asphodel, whose plainness and simplicity it is most likely that Hesiod recommends to us."

"Not merely that," said Anacharsis, "but both are commended as herbs that contribute to health also in greatest measure."

"You are quite right," said Cleodorus; "for it is clear that Hesiod has knowledge of medicine, since there is no lack of attention or experience shown in what he has to say Babout the daily course of life,60 mixing wine,61 the great value of water,62 bathing,63 women,64 the proper time for intercourse,65 and the way in which infants should sit.66 But it seems to me that Aesop with better right than Epimenides can declare himself the pupil of Hesiod. For the words of the hawk to the nightingale67 first suggested to Aesop the idea of this beautiful and ingenious wisdom uttered by many different tongues. But I should be glad to listen to Solon; for it is likely that he, having been associated with Epimenides for a long time at Athens,68 has learned what experience of his or what sophistical argument induced him to resort to such a course of living."

15 1 Solon said, "What need was there to ask him this? CFor it is plain that the next best thing to the greatest and highest of all good is to require the minimum amount of food; or is it not the general opinion that the greatest good is to require no food at all?"69

"Not mine by any means," said Cleodorus, "if I must tell what lies in my mind, especially as a table p417stands here now, which they do away with when food is done away with, and it is an altar of the gods of friendship and hospitality. And as Thales says that, if the earth be done away with, confusion will possess the universe, so this is the dissolution of the household. For when the table is done away with, there go with it all these other things: the altar fire on the hearth, the hearth itself, wine-bowls, all entertainment and hospitality, — the most humane and the first acts of communion between man and man; rather is all real living abolished, Dif so be that living is a spending of time by man which involves carrying on a series of activities,70 most of which are called for by the need of food and its procurement. And a dreadful situation ensues, my friend, regarding agriculture itself. For let agriculture be destroyed, and it leaves us our earth again unsightly and unclean, filled with unfruitful forests and with streams sweeping on unchecked, all owing to man's inaction. And with the destruction of agriculture goes also the destruction of all arts and crafts which she initiates, and for which she supplies the basis and the material; and these all come to naught if she vanishes from the earth. EAbolished too are the honours paid to the gods, since men will have but little gratitude to the Sun, and still less to the Moon, for merely light and width. Where will there be an altar or where a sacrifice offered to Zeus who sends the rain, or to Demeter who initiates the ploughing, or to Poseidon who watches over the tender crops? How shall Dionysus be the giver of delights, if we shall require none of the gifts which he gives? What shall we offer as a sacrifice or libation, and what shall we dedicate as first-fruits? All this means the overturning p419and confusion of our highest concerns. To cling to every form of pleasure is utterly irrational, but to avoid every form of pleasure is utterly insensate. Let it be granted that there exist some other superior pleasures for the soul to enjoy, Fyet it is not possible to discover a way for the body to attain a pleasure more justifiable than that which comes from eating and drinking, and this is a fact which no man can have failed to observe; for this pleasure men put forward openly before all, and share together banquets and table, whereas their carnal delights they veil behind the screen of night and deep darkness, feeling that to share this pleasure openly is shameless and bestial, as it is also not to share the other."71

I took up the conversation as Cleodorus left off, and said, "But there is another point you do not mention, that we banish sleep along with food; and with no sleep there can be no dream, 159and our most ancient and respected form of divination is gone for ever. Life will have a monotonous sameness, and we might say that the encasement of the soul in the body will lack all purpose and effect. The most, and the most important, of the bodily organs, tongue, teeth, stomach, and liver, are provided as instruments of nutrition, no one of them is inactive, nor is it framed for any other form of usefulness. So he who has no need of food has no need of a body either; and that again would mean having no need of himself! For it is with a body that each one of us exists. This then," said I, "makes up the contributions which we offer to the belly; and if Solon or anybody else desires to impeach them in any way, we will listen."

p421 16 1 B"Certainly," said Solon, "let us not show ourselves to be less discriminating than the Egyptians, who cut open the dead body and expose it to the sun, and then cast certain parts of it into the river, and perform their offices on the rest of the body, feeling that this part has now at last been made clean. For this, in truth, it is which constitutes the pollution of our flesh and its bowels of Hell, as it were, teeming with frightful streams and wind, intermingled with burning fire and corpses.72 For no living man feeds upon another living creature; nay, we put to death the animate creatures and destroy these things that grow in the ground, which also are partakers in life, in that they absorb food, and increase in size; and herein we do wrong. CFor anything that is changed from what it was by nature into something else is destroyed, and it undergoes utter corruption that it may become the food of another.73 But to refrain entirely from eating meat, as they record of Orpheus74 of old, is rather a quibble than a way of avoiding wrong in regard to food. The one way of avoidance and of keeping oneself pure, from the point of view of righteousness is to become sufficient unto oneself and to need nothing from any other source. But in the case of man or beast for whom God has made his own secure existence impossible without his doing injury to another, it may be said that in the nature which God has inflicted upon him lies the source of wrong. Would it not, then, be right and fair, my friend, in order to cut out injustice, to cut out also bowels and stomach and liver, which afford us no perception or craving for anything noble, Dbut are p423like cooking utensils, such as choppers and kettles, and, in another respect, like a baker's outfit, ovens and dough-containers and kneading-bowls? Indeed, in the case of most people, one can see that their soul is absolutely confined in the darkness of the body as in a mill, making its endless rounds in its concern over its need of food; just as we ourselves, only a few minutes ago, as a matter of course, neither saw nor listened to one another, but each one was bending down, enslaved to his need of food. But now that the tables have been removed, we have, as you see, been made free, and, with garlands on, we are spending our time in conversation and in the enjoyment of one another's society, and we have the leisure to do this now that we have come Eto require no more food for a time. Assuming, then, that the state in which we find ourselves at the present moment will persist without interruption throughout our whole life, shall we not always have leisure to enjoy one another's society, having no fear of poverty and no knowledge of what wealth is? For craving for the superfluous follows close upon the use of necessities, and soon becomes a settled habit.

"But Cleodorus imagines that there ought to be food, so that there may be tables and wine-bowls and sacrifices to Demeter and the Daughter. Then let the next man argue that it is but right and proper that there be battles and war, so that we may have fortifications and dockyards and arsenals, Fand may offer sacrifice to celebrate the slaying of an hundred foemen,75 as they say is the custom among the Messenians. Still another man, I imagine, may entertain p425a violent hatred against health; for it will be a terrible thing if nobody is ill, and there is no longer any use for a soft bed or couch, and we shall not offer sacrifice to Asclepius or the averting deities, and the profession of medicine together with its numerous instruments and remedies shall be consigned to inglorious desuetude and contempt. Yet, what difference is there between this sort of reasoning and the other? The fact is that food is taken as a remedy for hunger, and all who use food in a prescribed way are said to be giving themselves treatment, 160not with the thought they are doing something pleasant and grateful, but that this is necessary to comply with Nature's imperative demand. Indeed, it is possible to enumerate more pains than pleasures derived from food; or rather may it be said that the pleasure affects but a very limited area in the body, and lasts for no long time; but as for the ugly and painful experiences crowded upon us by the bother and discomfort which wait upon digestion, what need to tell their number? I think that Homer76 had their very number in view when, in the case of the gods, he finds an argument to prove that they do not die in the fact that they do not live by food:

Since they eat no bread and drink no wine brightly sparkling,

Therefore their bodies are bloodless, and they are called the Immortals.

BHe intimates by this that food is not only an element conducive to life, but that it is also conducive to death. For it is from this source that diseases come, thriving on the very same food as men's bodies,77 which find no less ill in fulness than in fasting. For oftentimes it is harder work to use up and again to p427distribute food, after it has been taken into the body, than it was to procure it and get it together in the first place. But just as the Danaids would be at a loss to know what kind of life and occupation they should follow if they should be relieved of the drudgery in trying to fill the great jar, so we are at a loss to know, Cif perchance we should have the opportunity to cease from heaping into this relentless flesh of ours all the multitudinous products of land and sea, what we shall do, since, owing to lack of acquaintance with noble things, we now content ourselves with the life conditioned on necessities. Just as men who have been slaves, when they are set free, do for themselves on their own account those very things which they used to do in service to their masters,78 so the soul now supports the body with much toil and trouble, but if it be relieved of its drudgery, it will quite naturally maintain itself in its new freedom and live with an eye to itself and the truth, since there will be nothing to distract or divert it."

This then, Nicarchus, is what was said on the subject of food.

17 1 While Solon was still speaking, Gorgus, Periander's brother, came in; for it happened that, in consequence of certain oracles, he had been sent to Taenarum, Din charge of a sacred mission to offer due sacrifice to Poseidon. After we had greeted him, and Periander had embraced and kissed him, Gorgus sat down beside his brother on the couch, and gave him a report intended apparently for him alone, and he, as he listened, seemed much affected at the story; for he appeared in some ways troubled, in some ways indignant, and oftentimes incredulous, p429and then again amazed. Finally with a laugh he said to us, "In the circumstances I should like to tell the news which I have just heard, but I hesitate, Esince I heard Thales say once that what is probable one should tell, but what is impossible one should shroud in silence."

Thereupon Bias, interrupting, said, "But Thales is responsible also for this sage remark, that one should not believe enemies even about things believable, and should believe friends even about things unbelievable; the name 'enemies' he assigned, I think, to the wicked and foolish, and 'friends' to the good and sensible. And so, Gorgus," he continued, "it should be told to all, or rather, to compete with those newly invented dithyrambs,79 there should be heard the stronger notes of the story which your arrival has brought to us."

18 1 Gorgus then told us that his offering of the sacrifice had taken three days, and on the last day there was a dance and merry-making, Flasting the whole night long, down by the shore. The moon was shining bright upon the sea; there was no wind, but a perfect calm and stillness, when, afar off, was seen a ripple coming towards land close by the promontory, attended by some foam and much noise from its rapid movement, so that they all ran down in amazement to the place where it was coming to shore. Before they could guess what was bearing down upon them so rapidly, dolphins were seen, some forming a dense encircling line, others leading the way to the smoothest part of the shore, and still others behind, forming, as it were, a rear-guard. 161In their midst, p431uplifted above the sea, was a mass like a man's body being borne along, but indistinct and ill-defined, until the dolphins drew near together, and with one accord came close to the shore, and deposited on land a human being, in whom was still the breath of life and power to move; then they themselves put forth again towards the promontory leaping even higher than before, and sporting and frolicking apparently for joy. "Many of us," continued Gorgus, "were panic-stricken, and fled from the sea-shore, but a few, including myself, grew bold enough to draw near, and they recognized Arion the harper, Bwho pronounced his own name himself, and was easily recognizable by his dress; for he happened to be clad in the ceremonial robes which he had worn when he played and snag.

"We accordingly conducted him to a tent, since there was really nothing the matter with him, save that he seemed somewhat unstrungº and wearied by the swiftness and rush of his ride, and we heard from him a story, incredible to all men except to us who with our own eyes had seen its conclusion. Arion said that some time ago he had resolved to leave Italy, and the receipt of a letter from Periander had only stimulated his desire the more, and when a Corinthian merchant-vessel appeared there, he had at once embarked and sailed away from that land. For three days they were favoured by a moderate breeze, and there came over Arion the feeling that the sailors were plotting to make away with him, Cand later he learned from the pilot, who secretly gave him the information, that they were resolved to do the deed that night. Helpless and at his wits' end, he put into execution an impulse, divinely inspired, to adorn p433his person, and to take for his shroud, while he was still living, the elaborate attire which he wore at competitions, and to sing a final song to life as he ended it, and not to prove himself in this respect less generous than the swans. Accordingly he made himself ready, and, first saying that he was possessed by a desire to sing through one of his songs — the ode to Pythian Apollo — as a supplication for the safety of himself and the ship and all on board, Dhe took his stand beside the bulwark at the stern, and, after a prelude invoking the gods of the sea, he began the ode. He had not even half finished it as the sun was sinking into the sea and the Peloponnesus becoming visible. The sailors therefore waited no longer for the night-time, but advanced to the murderous deed; whereupon Arion, seeing knives bared and the pilot already covering up his face, ran back and threw himself as far away from the ship as possible. But before his body was entirely submerged, dolphins swam beneath him, and he was borne upward, full of doubt and uncertainty and confusion at first. But when he began to feel at ease in being carried in this manner, and saw many dolphins gathering around him in a friendly way, Eand relieving one another as though such service in alternation were obligatory and incumbent upon all, and the sight of the ship left far behind gave a means to measure their speed, there came into his thoughts, as he said, not so much a feeling of fear in the face of death, or a desire to live, as a proud longing to be saved that he might be shown to be a man loved by the gods, and that he might gain a sure opinion regarding them. At the same time, observing that the sky was dotted with stars, and the moon was rising bright and clear, p435Fwhile the sea everywhere was without a wave as if a path were being opened for their course, he bethought himself that the eye of Justice is not a single eye only,80 but through all these eyes of hers God watches in every direction the deeds that are done here and there both on land and on the sea. By these reflections, he said, the weariness and heaviness which he was already beginning to feel in his body were relieved, and when at the last, as the jutting promontory, rugged and lofty, appeared in their path, they rounded it with great caution, and skirted close to the land as if they were bringing a boat safely into harbour, 162then he fully realized that his rescue had been guided by God's hand.

"When Arion had told all this," continued Gorgus, "I asked him where he thought the ship would make harbour; and he replied that it would surely come to Corinth, but its arrival would be much later; for he thought that after he had thrown himself overboard in the evening, he had been carried a distance of not less than fifty or more miles, and a calm had fallen immediately." Gorgus went on to say that he had ascertained the name of the captain and of the pilot, and the ship's emblem, and had sent out boats and soldiers to the landing-places to keep strict watch; Bmoreover, he had brought Arion with him, carefully concealed, so that the guilty ones might not gain any premature information of his rescue from death, and make good their escape; and in fact the whole affair seemed like an event divinely directed, for his men were here just as he arrived, and he learned that the ship had been seized, and the traders and sailors arrested.

p437 19 1 Accordingly Periander bade Gorgus to withdraw at once, and have these men put into prison where nobody should have access to them or tell them that Arion had been rescued.

"Well! well!" said Aesop, "you all make fun of my jackdaws and crows if they talk with one another, and yet dolphins indulge in such pranks as this!"

"Let's change the subject, Aesop," said I to him; C"more than a thousand years have elapsed since this dolphin story has been believed and committed to writing in Greek lands, even from the days of Ino and Athamas."81

Solon here entered the conversation: "Well, Diocles, let it be granted that these things are near to the gods and far beyond us; but what happened to Hesiod is human and within our ken. Very likely you have heard the story."82

"No, I have not," said I.

"Well, it is really worth hearing, and so here it is. A man from Miletus, it seems, with whom Hesiod shared lodging and entertainment in Locris, Dhad secret relations with the daughter of the man who entertained them; and when he was detected, Hesiod fell under suspicion of having known about the misconduct from the outset, and of having helped to conceal it, although he was in nowise guilty, but only the innocent victim of a fit of anger and prejudice. For the girl's brothers killed him, lying in wait for him in the vicinity of the temple of Nemean Zeus in Locris, and with him they killed his servant whose name was Troïlus. The dead bodies were p439shoved out into the sea, and the body of Troïlus, borne out into the current of the river Daphnus, was caught on a wave-washed rock projecting a little above the sea-level; and even to this day the rock is called Troïlus. EThe body of Hesiod, as soon as it left the land, was taken up by a company of dolphins, who conveyed it to Rhium hard by Molycreia.83 It happened that the Locrians' periodic Rhian sacrifice and festal gathering was being held then, which even nowadays they celebrate in a noteworthy manner at that place. When the body was seen being carried towards them, they were naturally filled with astonishment, and ran down to the shore; recognizing the corpse, which was still fresh, they held all else to be of secondary importance in comparison with investigating the murder, on account of the repute of Hesiod. This they quickly accomplished, discovered the murderers, sank them alive in the sea, and razed their house to the ground. Hesiod was buried near the temple of Nemean Zeus; most foreigners do not know about his grave, but it has been kept concealed, because, as they say, it was sought for by the people of Orchomenos, Fwho wished, in accordance with an oracle, to recover the remains and bury them in their own land. If, therefore, dolphins show such a tender and humane interest in the dead, it is even more likely that they should give aid to the living, and especially if they are charmed by the sound of flutes or some songs or other. For we are all well aware of the fact that these creatures delight in music and follow after it, and swim along beside men who are rowing to the accompaniment of song and flute in a calm, and they enjoy travelling in this way.84 They take delight p441also in children's swimming, and vie with them in diving.85 163For this reason they profit also by an unwritten law of immunity; for nobody hunts them or injures them except when they get into the fishermen's nets, and do havoc with the catch, and then they are punished with a whipping like naughty children. I remember also hearing from some men of Lesbos that the rescue of a certain maiden from the sea was effected by a dolphin, but, as I am not sure of the various details, it is only right that Pittacus, who does know them, should relate the tale."

20 1 Pittacus thereupon said that it was a famous story,86 and one mentioned by many, to this effect. An oracle had been given to those who were setting out to found a colony in Lesbos that when their voyage should bring them to a reef Bwhich is called "Midland," then they should cast into the sea at that place a bull as an offering to Poseidon, and to Amphitrite and the Nymphs of the sea a living virgin. The commanders were seven in number, all kings, and the eighth was Echelaüs, designated by the oracle at Delphi to head the colony, although he was young and still unmarried. The seven, or as many as had unmarried daughters, cast lots, and the lot fell upon the daughter of Smintheus. Her they adorned with fine raiment and golden ornaments as they arrived opposite the spot, and purposed, as soon as they had offered prayer, to cast her into the sea. It happened that one of the company on board, a young man of no mean origin as it seems, was in love with her. CHis name, according to a tradition still preserved, was p443Enalus. He, conceiving a despairing desire to help the maiden in her present misfortune, at the critical moment hurriedly clasped her in his arms, and threw himself with her into the sea. Straightway a rumour spread, having no sure foundation, but nevertheless carrying conviction to many in the community, regarding their safety and rescue. Later, as they say, Enalus appeared in Lesbos, and told how they had been borne by dolphins through the sea, and put ashore unharmed on the mainland. Other things he related more miraculous than this, which astonished and fascinated the crowd, and he gave good grounds for believing them all by a deed which he did; Dfor when a towering wave precipitated itself on the shores of the island, and the people were in a state of terror, he, all by himself, went to meet the sea, and cuttle-fish followed him to the shrine of Poseidon, the biggest of which brought a stone87 with him, and this stone Enalus took and dedicated there, and this we call Enalus. "And in general," he continued, "if a man realizes a difference between the impossible and the unfamiliar, and between false reasoning and false opinion, such a man, Chilon, who would neither believe nor disbelieve at haphazard, would be most observant of the precept, 'Avoid extremes,' as you have enjoined."

21 1 Following him Anacharsis said that as Thales had set forth the excellent hypothesis that soul exists in all the most dominant Eand most important parts of the universe,88 there is no proper ground for wonder that the most excellent things are brought p445to pass by the will of God. "For the body," he continued, "is the soul's instrument, and the soul is God's instrument;89 and just as the body has many movements of its own, but the most, and most excellent, from the soul, so the soul performs some actions by its own instinct, but in others it yields itself to God's use for Him to direct it and turn it in whatsoever course He may desire, since it is the most adaptable of all instruments. For it is a dreadful mistake to assume that, on the one hand, fire is God's instrument, and wind and water also, and clouds and rain, Fby means of which He preserves and fosters many a thing, and ruins and destroys many another, but that, on the other hand, He never as yet makes any use whatever of living creatures to accomplish any one of His purposes. Nay, it is far more likely that the living, being dependent on God's power, serve Him and are responsive to His movements even more than bows are responsive to the Scythians or lyres and flutes to the Greeks."

Thereupon the poet Chersias cited, among the cases of persons who had been saved when their plight seemed hopeless, the case of Cypselus,90 the father of Periander, who, when he was a new-born babe, smiled at the men who had been sent to make away with him, and they turned away. And when again they changed their minds, they sought for him and found him not, for he had been put away in a chest by his mother. 164It was because of this that Cypselus constructed the building at Delphi, firmly believing that the god had at that time stopped his crying so that he might escape the notice of those who were searching for him.

And Pittacus, addressing Periander, said, "Chersias p447certainly did well to mention the building, for I have often desired, Periander, to ask you the reason for those frogs, and what is their significance, carved as they are in such numbers about the base of the palm-tree,91 and what relation they have to the god or to the dedicator."

Periander bade him ask Chersias, for Chersias, he said, knew and was present when Cypselus consecrated the building; Bbut Chersias said with a smile, "No, I will not tell until I learn from our friends here what significance they give to the precepts,92 'Avoid extremes' and 'Know thyself,' and, in particular, that one which has kept many from marrying, and many from trusting, and some even from speaking, and this is it: 'Give a pledge, and mischief attends.' "

"What need of us to tell you that?" said Pittacus; "since for this long time you have been praising the stories which Aesop has composed touching each of them, as it seems."

And Aesop said, "Only when Chersias is poking fun at me; but when he is serious he points to Homer as their inventor, and says that Hector 'knew himself' Cbecause he attacked all the others, but

Only with Ajax, Telamon's son, he avoided a conflict.93

And Odysseus, he says, gives praise to 'Avoid extremes' when he enjoins

p449 Son of Tydeus, praise me not too much nor chide me.94

And as for the pledge, other people think that Homer vilifies it as a worthless and futile thing when he says,

Worthless are pledges of worthless folk to accept at their pledging;95

but Chersias here asserts that Mischief was hurled from heaven by Zeus because she was present at the pledge Dwhich Zeus gave when he was befooled in regard to the birth of Heracles."96

Solon here put in his word: "Well, then, we should have faith in the very great wisdom of Homer who also says,97

Night-time advances apace; 'tis well to pay heed to the night-time.

So, if it please the company, let us offer a libation to the Muses and Poseidon and Amphitrite, and be going."

And thus, Nicarchus, the party came to an end.


The Editor's Notes:

1 He was apparently a seer versed in ritual purification; see infra149D.

2 Cf. Parthenius, Love-affairs, § 17.

3 The home of Bias.

4 The same story is told in Moralia, 38B; in 506C, and in Plutarch's Comment. on Hesiod, 71 (Works and Days, 719), the same story is told of Pittacus.

5 Cf. Pliny, Natural History, XXXVI.17 (82).

6 Specifically ascribed to Thales by Plutarch, Moralia, 578D; cf. also infra152A.

7 Ascribed to Bias by Plutarch, Moralia, 61C.

8 The same story is found in Moralia, 467C.

9 Cf. Plutarch, Life of Solon, chaps. xiv and xv (pp85D‑86B).

10 Cf. Plato, Protagoras, 339A; Bergk, Poet. Lyr. Gr. III p384 Simonides, No. 5.

11 The usual tradition (e.g. Herodotus, V.92) is that Periander grew worse rather than better.

12 The story is familiar in other connexions also; Roman tradition, for example, makes Tarquinius Superbus give this advice to his son (Livy, I.54).

13 Cf. Athenaeus, 521C.

14 A similar thought is found in Moralia, 660B.

15 Plutarch expands this thought in Moralia, 708D.

16 A remark to like effect is assigned to Agesilaus in Moralia, 208D, and to Damonidas in Moralia, 219E. The idea is also credited to Aristippus by Diogenes Laertius, II.73.

17 Cf. Phaedrus, Fabulae, III.3.

18 Cf.  Pausanias, II.31.3.

19 Cf. No. 140 in the collection of fables that passes under the name of Aesop.

20 Dionysus was the god of wine.

21 Bergk, Poet. Lyr. Graec. II p440, Cleobulina, No. 3. The restoration of Bernardakis here adopted is found in the editio minor.

22 The Egyptian god Set presumably, a malignant deity, who was sometimes represented with features of an ass. Cf., for example, O. Gruppe, Griechische Mythologie und Religionsgeschichte, pp102 and 409. Cf. also Plutarch, Moralia, 362F, where the present statements are slightly expanded.

23 The story of Amasis's low birth and his rise to power is told by Herodotus, II.172.

24 Odyssey, XIII.14.

25 The earlier Athenian laws, which Solon changed, as Lycurgus changed the laws of Sparta. Those who would emend the passage would make it refer to Solon's own laws, but it should be remembered that Solon only desired that the Athenians should try out his laws for a certain length of time, and it is inconceivable that Solon with his great practical wisdom should not realize that his own laws might later need revision.

26 Plutarch cites a concrete case in his Life of Aratus, chap. xxv (p1039A).

27 Aesop, now received as an equal among people of the highest standing, had been a slave in his earlier years, and does not hesitate to joke about the fact.

28 A reason for the prohibition is given in Plutarch's Life of Solon, chap. i (p79A).

29 So as to obtain happiness; Aesop twists Thales' remark made a few moments before (supra, 152A).

30 Cf. Bergk, Poet. Lyr. Graec. II p708, Archilochus, No. 89. The reference is to a well-known form of cipher message in use among the Spartans. A narrow leather thong was wrapped around a cylinder, and on the surface thus formed the message was written. When the thong was received it was applied to a duplicate cylinder kept by the recipient, and so the message was read.

31 Plutarch, Moralia, 1081C‑1082D, argues at some length about the Stoic conception of time.

32 Probably an adaptation of one of Epicurus's "leading principles," ὁ θάνατος οὐδὲν πρὸς ἡμᾶς, "death is nothing to us," who are alive. Cf. Diogenes Laertius, X.139, and Plutarch, Moralia, 37A.

33 Either Thales or a copyist has transposed (c) and (d).

34 Most of these sentiments are attributed to Thales in works of other authors, as well as in other places in the Moralia. It may suffice here to refer, for example, to Diogenes Laertius, I.35. The two numbered (f) and (g) are rather suggestive of the Stoic school of philosophy.

35 Ἴσον τῷ κλαίειν was the old explanation; that is, "weep," or "go hang."

36 Some MSS. make Lesches propound the question, and other tradition makes Hesiod the questioner, to whom Homer replies. Cf. note c below.

37 It is of interest to compare the long and variant account given in the Contest of Homer and Hesiod, a work of the second century A.D. which is usually included at the end of editions of Hesiod, also in the 5th vol. of the edition of Homer in the Oxford Classical Texts.

38 Bergk, Poet. Lyr. Graec. II p440, Cleobulina, No. 1.

39 Mnesiphilus, according to Plutarch, Life of Themistocles, chap. ii (p112D), handed down the political wisdom of Solon to Themistocles. At any rate Herodotus, VIII.57, represents Mnesiphilus as advising Themistocles against withdrawing the Greek fleet from Salamis. Cf. also Plutarch, Moralia, 869D‑E.

40 Chilon, a rather strict Spartan (cf. 152D supra), is impatient of opinions which suggest that the attitude of the people is more important than the law.

41 Herodotus, I.30. Plutarch, Life of Solon, chap. xxviii (p94C), represents Aesop as being present on this occasion.

42 No. 159 in the collection of fables that passes under the name of Aesop; repeated also by Plutarch, Moralia, 500C.

Thayer's Note: I've been unable to pinpoint any version of this fable that bears the number 159, but the substance of the fable, "The Leopard and the Fox", is given at MythFolklore.Net in an English translation by Gibbs (2002) and with links to the Latin poet Avianus' Fable 40 and Chambry's edition of a Greek source, numbered 37.

43 Repeated in Moralia, 189E, 228D, and Plutarch, Life of Lycurgus, chap. xix (p52A).

44 Bathycles in his will left his beaker to the most helpful of the wise men. It was given to Thales, and he passed it on to another of the wise men, who in turn gave it to another until finally it came back to Thales again, and he dedicated it to Apollo. Cf. Diogenes Laertius, I.28, and Plutarch, Life of Solon, chap. iv (p80E).

45 Plutarch quotes these lines also in Moralia, 751E, and Life of Solon, chap. xxxi (p96E); cf. Bergk, Poet. Lyr. Gr. II p430, Solon, No. 26.

46 Pittacus's law is often referred to; for example, Aristotle, Politics, II.12, 13; Nicomachean Ethics, III.5, 8.

47 Cf. Athenaeus, 437F.

48 Supra150B.

49 Cf. Moralia, 769A.

50 Works and Days, 744.

51 Homer, Il. IV.262.

52 Plutarch seems to have made a natural slip in referring this to Ajax, when, in fact, Homer records this of Odysseus (Od. VIII.475); Ajax, of course, was the great eater, as witness Il. VII.321, where Agamemnon favours Ajax with the sirloin and tenderloin entire. Cf. also Athenaeus, 14A.

53 From Orchomenos in Boeotia; he is known only from this essay and Pausanias, IX.38.9‑10, where two lines of his (?) are quoted.

54 Homer, Od. XII.62.

55 A recipe (probably forged) for making this compound may be found in Tzetzes' scholium on Hesiod, Works and Days, 41.

56 Bergk, Poet. Lyr. Graec. III p673.

57 Hesiod, Works and Days, 41.

58a 58b Hesiod, Works and Days, 45, 46; quoted also in Moralia, 527B. Cf. also Hesiod, Works and Days, 629.

59 Does Plutarch connect Epimenides with the purification of Delos by Peisistratus (Herodotus, I.67; Thucydides III.107)?

60 Hesiod, Works and Days, 405‑821.

61 Ibid., 368‑9; 744‑5 may be referred to.

62 Ibid., 595, 737‑741.

63 Ibid., 736‑741, 753.

64 Ibid., 373‑5, 699‑705.

65 Ibid. 735‑6, 812.

66 Ibid. 750‑2.

67 Ibid. 203.

68 Cf. Plutarch's Life of Solon, chap. xii (p84C).

69 Cf. Xenophon, Memorabilia, I.6.10.

70 A Stoic definition; cf. Porphyry quoted by Stobaeus, Eclogae ethicae, II p201 (272), vol. II p140 of Meineke's edition.

71 Cf. Moralia, 654D and 1089A.

72 This somewhat exaggerated description of the digestive tract is probably influenced by Homer, Od. X.513 and IX.157, and Il. I.52 and VIII.13.

73 Cf. Lucretius, De rerum natura, III.701 ff.

74 Orpheus is said to have abstained from animal food (Euripides, Hippolytus, 992; Plato, Laws, p782C).

75 The explanation may be found in Pausanias, IV.19; cf. also Plutarch, Moralia, 660F, and Life of Romulus, chap. xxv (p33D).º

76 Il. V.341.

77 Cf. Moralia, 731D, where the same idea is put in different words.

78 Cf. Porphyry, De Abstinentia, III.27.

79 Probably a covert reference to Arion as the inventor of the dithyramb (Herodotus, I.23).

80 Possibly a reference to a line of an unknown tragedian found in Moralia, 1124F.

81 Ino also threw herself into the sea when the crazed Athamas was about to kill her, and was metamorphosed into the sea-goddess Leucothea.

82 The story is referred to as early as Thucydides (III.96), and seems to have received some embellishments later. Of the many references to the story (which may be found in Wyttenbach's note on the passage) perhaps the most interesting is in the Contest of Homer and Hesiod, lines 215‑254 of Allen's edition (in the Oxford Classical Texts, 1912), which also assigns names to the persons concerned in it.

83 Cf. Moralia, 984D.

84 These were common beliefs in ancient times as is attested by many writers. It may suffice here to refer only to Plutarch, Moralia, 704F and 984A‑985C

85 See preceding note on page 438.

86 The story is briefly mentioned by Plutarch, Moralia, 984E, and is given in full with some variations by Athenaeus, 466C, who quotes as his authority Anticleides an Athenian.

87 Athenaeus (466C) says a golden cup was brought out of the sea by Enalus.

88 Cf. Diels, Fragmente der Vorsokratiker, vol. I p12 (A 22).

89 Cf. Moralia, 404B.

90 The story is found in Herodotus, V.92.

91 The frogs and the palm-tree are mentioned also in Moralia, 399F.

92 For information about these famous precepts reference may be made to Plato, Protagoras, p343B, and Charmides, p165A; Aristotle, Rhetoric, II.12.14; Pausanias, X.24.1; Plutarch, Moralia116C, 385D, and 511B, and De vita et poesi Homeri, 151.

93 Homer, Il. XI.542 (Moralia, 24C).

94 Homer, Il. X.249 (Moralia, 57E).

95 Homer, Od. VIII.351.

96 Homer, Il. XIX.91‑131.

97 Ibid. VII.282 and 293.


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