Friday, September 10, 2004


Scholarly Puzzles

In an email the Maverick Philosopher, Bill Vallicella, asked about the origin of the proverb "A long beard and a shabby cloak do not a philosopher make." I can't find an English source. The closest I can come is the Latin "Barba non facit philosophum, neque vile gerere pallium" (A beard doesn't make a philosopher, nor does wearing a shabby cloak), cited by Henerik Kocher, who gives the source as Bento Pereira, Florilégio dos modos de falar e adágios da língua portuguesa (Lisboa: Paulo Craesbeeck & Cia, 1655), p. 115. All of Epictetus 4.8 ("To those who hastily assume the guise of philosophers") is relevant, especially 4.8.15 (tr. W.A. Oldfather):
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.'

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.'
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:
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:Google doesn't disclose the source of the mystery quotation from St. Jerome. Academicians at universities have access to expensive tools (e.g. the digital Thesaurus Linguae Graecae, CDs containing all of Patrologia Latina, etc.) unavailable to us poor independent scholars. Maybe one of them could solve Rand's mystery with a few clicks of the mouse.

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.

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