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Tiresias: The Ancient Mediterranean Religions Source Database



9613
Plutarch, Dinner Of The Seven Wise Men, 149a3, -b


nanEngaging 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 trainingquarters of the athletes, and the beautifully kept park along the shore; not that he was ever greatly impressed by anything of the sort, but 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 diningroom 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 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, he 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 has 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 Alexidemus 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, angrily 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 simply 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. 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 the 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 Spartan A remark to like effect is assigned to Agesilaus in Moralia, 208 D, and to Damonidas in Moralia, 219 E. The idea is also credited to Aristippus by Diogenes Laertius, ii. 73. 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, and, better yet, by harbouring no discontent but an open satisfaction in being placed next to such persons as 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, and 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 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, but the rest of its body was that of a horse. Neiloxenus merely exclaimed, God save us, and turned his face away; 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. To 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. Cf. Phaedrus, Fabulae iii. 3. 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, for you see what a bad thing has happened to us in that Alexidemus would not dine with us!


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ascetics, excessive König, Saints and Symposiasts: The Literature of Food and the Symposium in Greco-Roman and Early Christian Culture (2012) 328
ascetics, growth of in the fourth century ce König, Saints and Symposiasts: The Literature of Food and the Symposium in Greco-Roman and Early Christian Culture (2012) 328
basil of caesarea, asketikon König, Saints and Symposiasts: The Literature of Food and the Symposium in Greco-Roman and Early Christian Culture (2012) 328
gluttony König, Saints and Symposiasts: The Literature of Food and the Symposium in Greco-Roman and Early Christian Culture (2012) 328
hagiography König, Saints and Symposiasts: The Literature of Food and the Symposium in Greco-Roman and Early Christian Culture (2012) 328
pachomian monasticism, pachomius rules König, Saints and Symposiasts: The Literature of Food and the Symposium in Greco-Roman and Early Christian Culture (2012) 328
plutarch, symposium of the seven sages König, Saints and Symposiasts: The Literature of Food and the Symposium in Greco-Roman and Early Christian Culture (2012) 62
plutarch, sympotic questions König, Saints and Symposiasts: The Literature of Food and the Symposium in Greco-Roman and Early Christian Culture (2012) 62
rules, monastic' König, Saints and Symposiasts: The Literature of Food and the Symposium in Greco-Roman and Early Christian Culture (2012) 328