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This webpage reproduces a section of
The Deipnosophistae


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

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(Vol. III) Athenaeus

Book VII
(Part 2 of 6)

 p265  (282E) Apollodorus of Athens, in the third book of his treatise On Sophron (the book which deals with the Mimes of Men), after quoting the phrase "more lecherous than a wrasse,"1 says: "Certain fishes, the Alphestae,2 are as a whole of yellowish appearance, though tending to purplish tints in certain spots. It is said that they are caught in pairs, and that one appears over the other, following close at the tail. From this circumstance, then, that one follows at the tail of the other, some of the old poets call incontinent and lascivious men by their name."3 Aristotle, in his book On Animals,4 says that the wrasse has one prickly fin and is yellow. It is mentioned also by Numenius of Heracleia in The Art of Angling5 thus: "Wrasse and labrus-wrasse, and sculpin with red  p267 skin." And by Epicharmus in The Marriage of Hebe:6 "File-fish and wrasses and dark-gleaming crow-fishes." It is also mentioned by Mithaecus in his Cookery-Book.

The Anthias,7 or beauty-fish. — Epicharmus mentions this in The Marriage of Hebe:8 "and the sword-fish and the chromis,9 which Ananius says is the best of all fishes in springtime, though the anthias is better in written." Now Ananiusº says: "In spring the Chromius is best, in winter the anthias; but of all fine delicacies the shrimp served on a fig-leaf is best. Pleasant it is, in autumn, to eat the flesh of the she-goat and of the porker too, when men turn and tread (the grapes). That, too, is the season for the hounds, the hares, and the fox; the time of the sheep is when it is summer and the shrill cicadas chirp. And after that comes from the sea the tunny, no mean food, but distinguished above all other fish when mixed in the olio. The fatted ox, I think, is sweet in the mild watches of the night and in the daytime as well." I have quoted the verses of Ananius at length because I believe that he too has set forth these counsels as a caution to the lecherous. Aristotle,  p269 in the work On the Habits of Animals,10 says that "wherever the anthias is, no other creature is to be found; so the sponge- fishers use that as an indication of safety and plunge in, calling the fish sacred." Dorion mentions it also in his work On Fishes: "the anthias is by some called 'beauty-fish,' by others again 'beauteous- of‑name,' also 'elops.' " And Hicesius, in his work On Materials, says that some call it "wolf," others beauteous-of‑name"; its flesh is Cartilaginous, juicy, and easily eliminated, but not especially wholesome. Aristotle11 says that the beauty-fish, like the amias, has jagged teeth; it is carnivorous and gregarious. Epicharmus, in The Muses, includes "elops" (sturgeon) in his list, but says nothing of its being the same as the "beauty-fish" or the "beauteous-of‑name." Of the elops he has the following:12 "as for the highly prized elops (the same is worth its weight in bronze), Zeus took that also, but one only, and bade that it be put down13 for himself; and for his consort a part of another." But Dorion, in his work On Fishes, says that the anthias and the beauty-fish are different, and so also are the beauteous-of‑name and the elops.

But what is the fish called sacred? The writer of the Telchinian Story, whether it is Epimenides of Crete, or Telecleides, or someone else, says14 that dolphins and pompilos, pilot-fish,15 are sacred. The pompilo is an erotic animal, being sprung from the  p271 blood of Uranus at the same time with Aphrodite. Nicander, in the second book of Scenes from Mount Oeta,16 says: "The pompilo, which shows the path to anguished sailors in love, and even though voiceless defends them." nnnAlexander of Aetolia, in Crica17 (if the poem is genuine): "at the end of the rudder the pompilo rested, holding the reins behind the barque — the fish sent by the goddess to guide ships." Pancrates of Arcadia, in Occupations at Sea, as it is entitled, prefacing with the line, "The pompilo, which voyagers of the deep call the sacred fish," relates that the pompilo is held in honour not only by Poseidon, but also by the gods who preside over Samothrace. An old fisherman, at any rate, underwent punishment because of this fish in the days when the Golden Age still prevailed on earth. His name was epopeus, and he came from the island of Icarus. Well, he went fishing with his son, and not having any luck in the catch with other fish than pompilos, he did not refrain from eating them, but in company with his son feasted on them altogether. And after a little while he paid the penalty of his impiety; for a sea-monster attacked his ship and swallow Epopeus before his son's eyes. Pancrates also records that the pompilo is an enemy of the dolphin, and that even the dolphin does not escape unpunished if he eats a bit of pompilo. At any rate, he becomes helpless and struggles impotently whenever  p273 he eats it, washed up on shore, he becomes the prey of sea-mews and gulls; sometimes he is lawlessly devoured by men as well, when they are out to catch large fish. Timachidas of Rhodes also mentions pompilos in the ninth book of his Banquet: "gobies of the sea, and pompilos, sacred fish." DErinna also, or whoever composed the poem commonly ascribed to her, says:18 "Thou pompilo, fish that followest folk faring over the fair main, follow in pomp at the poor my sweet love."

Apollonia of Rhodes or Naucratis, in The Founding of Naucratis,19 says that Pompilus had once been a man who was changed into a fish because of a love after for of Apollo's. Ebeside the city of the Samians flowed the Imbrasus river: "To whom, clasped in the arms of love, once on a time Chesias, daughter of a noble sire, had borne the nymph Ocroë, a lovely maiden; upon her the Seasons bestowed infinite beauty." Apollo, then, fell in love with her and tried to carry her off. But she crossed the channel to Miletus during a festival to Artemis, and when on the point of being seized, she in her fear entreated one Pompilus, who was a seafaring man and an old friend of her father, to take her safely across to her native land, saying these words:20 "thou who didst bless the sympathetic heart of my father, thy friend, Pompilus, and who knowest the swift depths of the dismal-sounding sea, save me." So he led her safely to the shore and  p275 ferried her across. But Apollo appeared, and seizing the girl he turned the ship into stone, and changed Pompilus into the like-named fish, and made him nnn"the pompilo, persistent warder of the ways for swift-faring ships."21 Theocritus of Syracuse, in the poem entitled Berenice,22 calls sacred the fish named white-fish in these lines: "And if haply a man pray for good luck in fishing, and abundance, and his livelihood is won from the sea, and his nets are his ploughs, and at nightfall he sacrifices to this goddess the sacred fish which they call white-fish (for that is most sacred, above all others), then will his nets be taut, and he will draw them teeming from the sea." And Dionysius, surnamed Iambus, writes as follows in the work On Dialects: "We have heard, at any rate, an Eretrian fisherman, and indeed many other fishermen, calling the pompilo a sacred fish. It inhabits the deep sea and often appears beside a ship, looking like a young tunny, and speckled. Anyway, it is this fish which a man in the Poet23 hauls in: 'Seated on a jutting crag, he hauls in a sacred fish,' unless there is some other fish denominated sacred in the same way." But Callimachus in Galateia24 terms the gilt-head so: "Or rather the sacred fish, which is golden over its eyes, or the perch, or whatever other creatures the boundless depths of the salt sea bring forth." And in the  p277 Epigrams25 the same poet says: "Sacred, ay sacred, is the hyces."26 Others understand the term sacred fish (hieron) to be the same as consecrated;27 still others say it means great, like "the sacred might of Alcinoüs";28 some, again, explain the word (hieron) as meaning that which rushes (hiemenon) up stream (roun). Cleitarchus, in the seventh book of his Glossary, says that sailors call the pompilo a sacred fish because it escorts ships from the high seas into the haven; hence it is called pompilo,29 being really a gilt-head. And Eratosthenes in Hermes30 says: "They left a portion of their catch — wrasses still alive, or a barbed mullet, or the hawk-wrasse, or the swift-coursing sacred fish which is golden over its eyes." In the light of our dissertation on fish, let the noble Ulpian ask what Archestratus, in his excellent Counsels,31 means when he says of the smoked fish of the Bosporus:32 "Of Bosporus the whitest that sail forth; but let nothing be added thereto of the tough flesh of the t fish which grows in the Maeotic lake — the fish which may not be mentioned in verse."33 Now what is that fish which, he says, it is impossible to mention in verse?

 p279  Aphyae.34 This word is also used in the singular (aphyê). Thus Aristonymus in Shivering Helios:35 "It's come to such a pass that there simply isn't a minnow left any more." Of the Aphyê there are several kinds. There is first the kind called foam-fish, which, according to Aristotle,36 is not hatched from spawn, but from the foam on the surface of the sea, whenever it forms thickly after severe showers of rain. A second kind is that called gudgeon; this comes from the small and paltry gobies which live in the sand, and from precisely this small fry others are generated which are called encrasicholi.37 Another kind of small fry are the young fish hatched from sprats, another from the anchovy, and still another from the small grey mullets which grow in the sand and slime. Of all these kinds the foam-fish is the best. Dorion, in his work On Fishes, speaks of a hepsetus38 made of gudgeons, as also of smelts; for smelt is the name of a small fish. He also says that the triglitis39 is a kind of small fry. Epicharmus, in The Marriage of Hebe,40 enumerates with anchovies and lobsters the different kinds of small fry, distinguishing what is called gonos. Hicesius says: "Among small fry there is the white, very tenuous and foam-like, which some call gudgeon; another, which is less translucent than this, and thicker; the translucent and thin is superior." And Archestratus, the inventive genius of  p281 cookery says:41 "Count all small fry as abomination,42 except the Athenian; I mean gonos, which Ionians call foam; and accept it only when it is caught fresh in the sacred arm of Phalerum's beautiful bay. That which is found in ocean-washed Rhodes is good, if it be native. And if you desire to taste it, you should at the same time get at the market some nettles — sea-anemones crowned with leafy tentacles. Mixing them with it, bake it in a pan, after you have made a sauce of the fragrant tops of choice greens mixed in oil."

Clearchus the Peripatetic, in his work On Proverbs,43 says of small fry: "Because of the small amount of heat required in the pan, the disciples of Archestratus direct44 that small fry be put into a hot pan and taken off sizzling; no sooner does it catch the heat than it sizzles immediately, like oil. Hence the saying, 'The small fry have seen the fire.' "45 And the philosopher Chrysippus, in the tract On Things to be chosen for their own Sake,46 says: "In Athens they despise small fry on account of their abundance, and declare that they are beggars' food; but in other cities people like small fry extravagantly, though much inferior to the Athenian. Again (he continues), people here take great pains to grow Adriatic fowls, though they are less useful because they are much smaller than those in our own country. Contrariwise, the people up there import the fowls  p283 bred here." 'Small fry' is used as a collective singular by Hermippus in Demesmen:47 "But to‑day, it seems, you can't even stir up small fry." Callias in The Cyclopes:48 "in the name of sweetest small fry!" Aristonymus in Shivering Helios:49 "It's come to such a pass that there simply isn't a minnow left any more." The diminutive aphydia is found in Aristophanes's Masters of the Frying-Pan:50 "Not even these tiny little Phaleric small fry." But Lynceus of Samos, in his  Letter to Diagoras, praises Rhodian small fry, and contrasting many products of Athens with those of Rhodes he says: "With Phaleric anchovies she can match the anchovies which hail from Aenus; with the sea-lizard, her sturgeon and sea-perch; and over against the Eleusinian sole, or the mackerel, or any other fish of the Athenians, she rises superior to the glory of Cecrops by producing instead the thresher shark. As to this the author of High Living recommends that anyone unable to achieve his desire by paying the price should get it dishonestly."51 Lynceus means the epicure Archestratus,52 who in his celebrated poem says this of the dog-fish: "In Rhodes there is the dog-fish, or thresher shark. And even if you must die for it, if they won't sell it to you, take it by force.  p285 The Syracusans call it fat dog.53 Once you have got it, submit patiently to whatever doom is decreed for you."

BSea Bass. — Callias in The Cyclopes:54 "Here are baked turbot, a ray, and the head of a tunny; eels and crawfish, and mullet, and this sea-bass."

Ray, Fishing-frog, Skate.55 — The ray and the fishing-frog are mentioned by Aristotle in his work On Animals,56 who enumerates them among the selachian57 fishes. Eupolis says in The Flatterers:58 "There is much merry-making in the house of our friend Callias here; for in it are crawfish and rays, sea hare stone ladies with rolling gait." And Epicharmus in The Marriage of Hebe:59 "There were torpedoes, rays, and there were hammer-heads, raw-fish, bonitos, skates, and rough-skinned monk-fish." Also in The Woman from Megara:60 "Sides like the ray thou hast, Theagenes, tailpiece stiff as the skate's, head of bones like the stag, not the ray, and may a sea sculpin sting thy flank!" Sannyrion in Laughter:61 "O ye ryas! O thou sweet grey-fish!" Aristotle, in the fifth book of Parts of Animals,62 says that the selachian fishes are the skate, sting-ray, horned ray, shark, eagle-ray, electric ray, fishing-frog,  p287 and the entire shark family. DSophron in Mimes of Men63 calls a certain fish botis in these words: "Spet-fish gulping down a botis." And maybe he means some kind of plant. With regard to the fishing-frog, the learned Archestratus64 gives the following advice amid his general counsels: "Wherever thou seest a fishing-frog, buy it . . . and dress the belly-piece." And of the ray he says:65 "Eat a boiled ray in the season of mid-winter, with cheese and silphium on it. And so, whatever offspring of the ocean have a flesh that is not too fat should be dressed in this way. I tell you this again for the second time." The comic poet Ephippus, in the play Philyra66 (Philyra is the name of a courtesan), says: "A. Shall I cut the ray in slices and boil it? What say you? Or shall I bake it in Sicilian fashion? B. That's it, in Sicilian fashion."

The Box.67 — Aristotle, in the work entitled Pertaining to Animals, or On Fishes,68 says: "Those with dorsal markings are called box, those with oblique markings, colias."69 Epicharmus, in The Marriage of Hebe:70 "And added to these, again, were box, picarels, small fry, crayfish." Numenius in The Art of Angling71 has the plural form boeces in this line:  p289 "Or a white dentex, boeces too, and Trinci."72 But Speusippus and all the other Attic writers have boaces. Aristophanes, in Women who get the best Places:73 "However, with my belly full of boaces, I went back home." The box got its name from its grunt. Hence the fish is said to be sacred to Hermes,74 just as the turbot75 is sacred to Apollo. Pherecrates in Ant-men76 says: "Yet, they say, a fish hasn't any voice at all." He then goes on: "By the two goddesses,77 there is no other fish but Grunter." Aristophanes of Byzantium says78 that it is wrong for us to call the fish box, its real name being boöps; for though it is small, it has large eyes. It must be then, that the boöps has ox-eyes. In answer to him it may be said that if we are wrong in giving it the name of box, why do we say coracinus (crow-fish) instead of corocinus? For this got its name from the motion of its eyes.79 Again, why do we not say seiurus instead of silurus (sheat-fish)? For that too got its name from the constant shaking (seio) of its tail (ouros).

Bembrades.80 — Phrynichus in The Tragedians:81 "O golden-headed anchovies of the sea!" Epicharmus calls them bambradones in The Marriage of Hebe:82  p291 "Bambradones and wrasses, sea-hares and valiant weevers." Sophron, too, in Mies of Men:83 "With a fat bambradon." Numenius, in The Art of Angling:84 "With a poor little shrimp — or an anchovy (bembras), it may be — may you go a-hunting for that kind of livelihood; see to it, then, that you have that bait." Dorion is his work On Fishes says: "If the bembras be rather well-grown, cut off the head, wash the fish in a little salt and water, and boil it in the same way you would a small red mullet." It is only from the bembras, he says, that the dressing called bembraphye is prepared. This is mentioned by Aristonymus in Shivering Helios:85 "That Sicilian, the one who walks like a crab, is exactly like a dish of membraphye."º Attic writers, however, say bembrades. Aristomenes in Quacks:86 "Fetching some bembrades for a penny." Aristonymus in Shivering Helios:87 "There simply isn't a minnow left any more, nor a damned bembras." Aristophanes in Old Age:88 "She was nursed on hoary-skinned bemberades." Plato in The Envoys:89 "Heracles, what bembrades!" But in The Goats of Eupolis one may find it spelt with m.90 So Antiphanes in The Man from Cnoethe:91 "A silly proclamation they  p293 are advertising in the fish-market. One man was just now loudly bawling that he had membrades to sell sweeter than honey. If that is so, there is nothing to prevent the honey-dealers in their turn from saying and shouting that the honey they have to sell is rottener than membrades." Alexis also, in The Service Lady,92 was the word with an m: "Why! All he could serve to the merry-makers93 for them to eat, the other day, was some pease-porridge, membrades, and pressed olive skins." And in The Premier Danseur:94 "A harder job, so help me Dionysus, I have never had since I became a parasite. I'd rather have a dish of membrades with somebody who can talk plain Attic. That would have brought some profit."

The Blenny.95 — This is mentioned by Sophron in the mime entitled Fisherman against Farmer:96 "With the suckling blenny." It is a fish similar in appearance to the goby. And Epicharmus, in The Marriage of Hebe,97 calls certain fishes baiones in this line: "So he brought some squirming mullets and disgusting baiones." There is also a proverb among the Athenians: "No baion for me! It's a poor fish."

 p295  The Ox-Tongue.98 — Archestratus,99 a veritable Pythagorean for frugality, says: "Then buy a large flounder, and the roughish ox-tongue; but this last only in summer, when it is good at Chalcis." Epicharmus in The Marriage of Hebe:100 "There were ox-tongues and a turbot among them." But different from the ox-tongues are the dog-tongues, of which also Epicharmus101 says: "Speckled-beauties and floaters, and dog-tongues, and maigres too, were in it." The Athenians call the ox-tongue psetta.

The Loeb Editor's Notes:

1 Kaibel 165.

2 Labrus cinaedus, a kind of wrasse.

3 Alphestae; cf. below and 305B (jjj).

4 p301 Rose.

5 Frag. 18 Birt; Athen. 313D, 319B, 320E.

6 Kaibel 99; Athen. 308E jjjBalistes Capriscus.

7 Said to be another labrus (Serranus Anthias); identified with the Aulopias Arist. H. A. 570 B20.

8 Kaibel 101; Athen. 328A.

9 No English equivalent exists for chromis (or chromius, also cremys, 305D). Chromidae is the term in modern ichthyology for a well-known family of Mediterranean fishes; but Aubert-Wimmer, Aristoteles Tierkunde 144, incline to place the chromis among the Sciaeniae, perhaps Sciaena Aquila or maigre, or Umbrina cirrosa.

10 Hist. An. 620 B33.

11 p307 Rose.

12 Kaibel 103; cf. Varro, Menipp. 549 "nec multinummus piscis ex salo captus helops," and below, 300D‑3.

13 i.e. pickled; but see crit. note.

14 Frag. ep. 233.

15 A Genus of fishes so named because they follow ships.

16 Frag. 16 Schneider.

17 Or Circe; p122 Powell.

18 P. L. G.4 III.143.

19 Page 6 Powell.

20 Ibid.

21 p6 Powell; see critical note.

22 p89 Wilamowitz. The fish mentioned may be white mullet.

23 Il. XVI.407.

24 Frag. 37 Schneider.

25 Frag. 72 Schneider, Athen. 327A.

26 See below, 100F, 327C, where it appears to be a kind of pagrus, or sea-bream.

27 The term jjj, or more commonly jjj, denoted an animal or a piece of ground that was set aside as consecrated or under a tabu; it could not be used or tilled.

28 i.e., the very mighty Alcinoüs, Od. VIII.385; the meaning great, imposing, vast, is probably the original in jjj.

29 The thought in this garbled quotation is: Sailors call the gilt-head a pompilo because it escorts (pempein) ships safely; it is therefore a sacred fish, not to be harmed by man. Cf. Coleridge's albatross: "we hail'd it in God's name."

30 Frag. 14 Hiller p138 Bernhardy.

31 Cf. Athen. 101F, 278E note d.

32 Frag. 48 Ribbeck 39 Brandt.

33 The jjj, sturgeon; its name will not fit into a six miles verse. The answer may have been lost at the end of the paragraph.

34 It has been convenient to render this word by "anchovies" when it ocrs in the plural, as it usually does in Attic (Hesych. s.v. jjj). It is, however, a collective term for all small fish.

35 Kock I.668; below, 287D.

36 p303 Rose.

37 See below, 300F.

38 i.e., boiled (in large quantities).

39 Resembling the jjj, red mullet; 325C.

40 Kaibel 101; Athen. 286F, 287B, 306C.

41 Frag. 10 Ribbeck 9 Brandt; Ath. 325B, cf. 108C.

42 Literally pro stercore habe.

43 F. H. G. II.319.

44 Frag. 11 Ribbeck 10 Brandt.

45 Like "as quick as lightning," Zenob. II.32, Eustath. 1150.40.

46 One of the threefold kinds of Goods, Plato, Rep. 357B.

47 Kock I.228.

48 Ibid. 695.

49 Ibid. 668; cf. Athen. 284F, 287D.

50 Kock I.522.

51 Cf. Athen. 295A.

52 Frag. 13 Ribbeck 21 Brandt; Athen. 4E, 294F‑295A.

53 Epicharmus, Athen. 328C.

54 Kock I.694 Athen. 306A.

55 Names of certain flat fish, but different from the sole or flounder.

56 p296 Rose.

57 Or cartilaginous.

58 Kock I.303.

59 Kaibel 101.

60 Kaibel 107, whose "non intellego" I repeat.

61 Kock I.793.

62 Hist. An. 540 B17.

63 Kaibel 165; Athen. 323A. If Sophron meant jjj of a fish, it is simply a dialectal form of jjj.

64 Frag. 12 Ribbeck 47 Brandt.

65 Frag. 49 Ribbeck 49 Brandt.

66 Kock II.262.

67 Or boax (jjj), so called from its grunt; the bogue.

68 p297 Rose.

69 The Spanish mackerel.

70 Kaibel 101; Athen. 306C.

71 Frag. 9 Birt; Athen. 322C.

72 Called tricci in the same fragment, 322C.

73 Kock I.514; a woman speaks. On the title see 169C, note c.

74 The god of eloquence, cf. 325A‑B.

75 Its name, jjj, suggested jjj or jjj, Apollo's lyre; cf. 306A, 325A‑B.

76 Kock I.178.

77 Demeter and Persephone.

78 Not in Nauck.

79 corae, literally "pupils of the eyes"; cf Athen. 309A.

80 A kind of anchovy.

81 Kock I.383.

82 Kaibel 101; below, 305C.

83 Kaibel 166, cf. 305C.

84 Frag. 3 Birt.

85 Kock I.668.

86 Ibid. 691.

87 Ibid. 668; cf. above, 284F, 285E.

88 Kock I.425.

89 Ibid. 633.

90 i.e. membrades; ibid. 264.

91 Kock II.61.

92 Kock II.391. The title seems to refer to a courtesan; cf. Athen. 577C.

93 Literally "celebrators of the fourth day of the month," cf. jjj, 298D and note a. The passage apparently refers to a stingy steward or host, cf. Athen. 659D.

94 Kock II.369.

95 If Blennius ocellaris is meant, it is the butterfly-fish.

96 Kaibel 162.

97 Kaibel 102: Athen. 324E; the baion is said to be the same as the blenny.

98 A sole. of sole.º

99 Frag. 51 Ribbeck 32 Brandt; Athen. 330A.

100 Kaibel 102; Athen. 326E, 330A.

101 Kaibel 99; Athen. 308E, 322F; cf. 304E.

Page updated: 27 Apr 20