Friday, September 10, 2004
But even those who are styled philosophers pursue their calling with means which are sometimes good and sometimes bad. For example, when they have taken a rough cloak and let their beards grow, they say, "I am a philosopher."Also relevant is Aulus Gellius 9.2.1-4:
While we were present a certain fellow, dressed in a cloak with long hair and a beard extending all the way to his waist, approached Herodes Atticus, who was a gentlemen of consular rank, well-known for his pleasing character and eloquence in Greek. The fellow asked him for money for food. Then Herodes asked him what his profession was. With a quarrelsome look and tone of voice the fellow said that he was a philosopher and added that he was surprised why Herodes thought the question needed to be asked, since he could see with his own eyes. Herodes said, 'I see a beard and a cloak, but I don't yet see a philosopher.'E.K. Rand, in Founders of the Middle Ages (1928; rpt. New York: Dover Publications, 1957), posed another puzzle about philosophers and beards. On page 115 he quoted St. Jerome:
ad Herodem Atticum, consularem virum ingenioque amoeno et Graeca facundia celebrem, adiit nobis praesentibus palliatus quispiam et crinitus barbaque prope ad pubem usque porrecta ac petit aes sibi dari eis artous. tum Herodes interrogat, quisnam esset. atque ille vultu sonituque vocis obiurgatorio philosophum sese esse dicit et mirari quoque addit, cur quaerendum putasset, quod videret. 'video' inquit Herodes 'barbam et pallium, philosophum nondum video.'
If there is any holiness in a beard, nobody is more holy than a goat. (si ulla in barba sanctitas est, nullus sanctior est hirco.)But in a footnote (21) on page 306 he confessed:
After having had this bon mot of St. Jerome's in my notes for years, I cannot now find it in his writings (nor, what is more, can President A.S. Pease).Rand went on to cite:
- St. Jerome, Letters 22.28.1: But lest I seem to talk about women only, also avoid those men whom you see carrying chains, who have effeminate hair contrary to the apostle [1 Cor. 11:14], the beard of goats, a black cloak, and bare feet to withstand the cold. (sed ne tantum videar disputare de feminis, viros quoque fuge, quos videris catenatos, quibus feminei contra apostolum crines, hircorum barba, nigrum pallium, et nudi in patientiam frigoris pedes.)
- Erasmus, Praise of Folly 11: A beard, the symbol of philosophy, even though it's a symbol shared with goats (barba, insigne sapientiae, etiamsi cum hircis commune).
Since writing about Barbarians and Beards, I've discovered that the article on beards by Alexander Allen in William Smith, A Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities (London: John Murray, 1875), pp. 196‑198, is available online. It contains many references I missed.
Over at Hypotyposeis you can read about another scholarly conundrum, the source of the so-called sausage factoid, that is, the claim that:
Both the early Church and the emperor Constantine banned sausages because they were employed -- in both obvious and more creative ways -- in the pagan celebration of Lupercalia.Stephen C. Carlson tracked the factoid back to Charles Panati, Panati's Extraordinary Origins of Everyday Things (New York: Perennial Library, 1989), p. 396, but no further, since Panati eschewed documentation.
None of these little puzzles has even the slightest practical value. For me, that is an essential part of their attraction.