Sunday, March 23, 2014


A Gift of the Gods

To the Greek gods we owe the invention of many things that make life tolerable. Prometheus gave us fire, Dionysus wine, Hermes the lyre, Athena the olive, etc. Diogenes the Cynic attributed to Hermes and Pan another useful invention, according to Dio Chrysostom, Discourses 6.16-20 (tr. J.W. Cohoon):
[16] That for which men gave themselves the most trouble and spent the most money, which caused the razing of many cities and the pitiful destruction of many nations — this he found the least laborious and most inexpensive of all things to procure. [17] For he did not have to go anywhere for his sexual gratification but, as he humorously put it, he found Aphrodite everywhere, without expense; and the poets libelled the goddess, he maintained, on account of their own want of self-control, when they called her "the all-golden." And since many doubted this boast, he gave a public demonstration before the eyes of all, saying that if men were like himself, Troy would never have been taken, nor Priam, king of the Phrygians and a descendant of Zeus, been slain at the altar of Zeus. [18] But the Achaeans had been such fools as to believe that even dead men found women indispensable and so slew Polyxena at the tomb of Achilles. Fish showed themselves more sensible than men almost; for whenever they needed to eject their sperm, they went out of doors and rubbed themselves against something rough. [19] He marvelled that while men were unwilling to pay out money to have a leg or arm or any other part of their body rubbed, that while not even the very rich would spend a single drachma for this purpose, yet on that one member they spent many talents time and again and some had even risked their lives in the bargain. [20] In a joking way he would say that this sort of intercourse was a discovery made by Pan when he was in love with Echo and could not get hold of her, but roamed over the mountains night and day till Hermes in pity at his distress, since he was his son, taught him the trick. So Pan, when he had learned his lesson, was relieved of his great misery; and the shepherds learned the habit from him.

[16] ὑπὲρ οὗ δὲ πλεῖστα μὲν πράγματα ἔχουσιν ἄνθρωποι, πλεῖστα δὲ χρήματα ἀναλίσκουσι, πολλαὶ δὲ ἀνάστατοι πόλεις διὰ ταῦτα γεγόνασι, πολλὰ δὲ ἔθνη τούτων ἕνεκεν οἰκτρῶς ἀπόλωλεν, ἁπάντων ἐκείνῳ χρημάτων ἀπονώτατον ἦν καὶ ἀδαπανώτατον. [17] οὐ γὰρ ἔδει αὐτὸν οὐδαμόσε ἐλθεῖν ἀφροδισίων ἕνεκεν, ἀλλὰ παίζων ἔλεγεν ἁπανταχοῦ παρεῖναι αὐτῷ τὴν Ἀφροδίτην προῖκα· τοὺς δὲ ποιητὰς καταψεύδεσθαι τῆς θεοῦ διὰ τὴν αὑτῶν ἀκρασίαν, πολύχρυσον καλοῦντας. ἐπεὶ δὲ πολλοὶ τοῦτο ἠπίστουν, ἐν τῷ φανερῷ ἐχρῆτο καὶ πάντων ὁρώντων· καὶ ἔλεγεν ὡς εἴπερ οἱ ἄνθρωποι οὕτως εἶχον, οὐκ ἂν ἑάλω ποτὲ ἡ Τροία, οὐδ´ ἂν ὁ Πρίαμος ὁ Φρυγῶν βασιλεύς, ἀπὸ Διὸς γεγονώς, ἐπὶ τῷ βωμῷ τοῦ Διὸς ἐσφάγη. [18] τοὺς δὲ Ἀχαιοὺς οὕτως εἶναι ἄφρονας ὥστε καὶ τοὺς νεκροὺς νομίζειν προσδεῖσθαι γυναικῶν καὶ τὴν Πολυξένην σφάττειν ἐπὶ τῷ τάφῳ τοῦ Ἀχιλλέως. ἔφη δὲ τοὺς ἰχθύας σχεδόν τι φρονιμωτέρους φαίνεσθαι τῶν ἀνθρώπων· ὅταν γὰρ δέωνται τὸ σπέρμα ἀποβαλεῖν, ἰόντας ἔξω προσκνᾶσθαι πρὸς τὸ τραχύ. [19] θαυμάζειν δὲ τῶν ἀνθρώπων τὸ τὸν μὲν πόδα μὴ θέλειν ἀργυρίου κνᾶσθαι μηδὲ τὴν χεῖρα μηδὲ ἄλλο μηδὲν τοῦ σώματος, μηδὲ τοὺς πάνυ πλουσίους ἀναλῶσαι ἂν μηδεμίαν ὑπὲρ τούτου δραχμήν· ἓν δὲ ἐκεῖνο τὸ μέρος πολλάκις πολλῶν ταλάντων, τοὺς δέ τινας ἤδη καὶ τῇ ψυχῇ παραβαλλομένους. [20] ἔλεγε δὲ παίζων τὴν συνουσίαν ταύτην εὕρεμα εἶναι τοῦ Πανός, ὅτε τῆς Ἠχοῦς ἐρασθεὶς οὐκ ἐδύνατο λαβεῖν, ἀλλ´ ἐπλανᾶτο ἐν τοῖς ὄρεσι νύκτα καὶ ἡμέραν, τότε οὖν τὸν Ἑρμῆν διδάξαι αὐτόν, οἰκτείραντα τῆς ἀπορίας, ἅτε υἱὸν αὐτοῦ. καὶ τόν, ἐπεὶ ἔμαθε, παύσασθαι τῆς πολλῆς ταλαιπωρίας· ἀπ´ ἐκείνου δὲ τοὺς ποιμένας χρῆσθαι μαθόντας.
In speaking of the invention handed down by Hermes to Pan, and by Pan to the shepherds, Dio Chrysostom avoids naughty words such as:
For Diogenes the Cynic's "public demonstration" see the passages cited in Diogenes Laertius Expurgatus, and also Chrysippus, On the Commonwealth, paraphrased by Plutarch, On the Contradictions of the Stoics 21 = Moralia 1044b (tr. E. Smith):
And yet a little after this, going on, he commends Diogenes, who forced his nature to pass from himself in public, and said to those that were present: I wish I could in the same manner drive hunger also out of my belly.

εἶτα μικρὸν ἀπὸ τούτων προελθὼν ἐπαινεῖ τὸν Διογένη τὸ αἰδοῖον ἀποτριβόμενον ἐν φανερῷ καὶ λέγοντα πρὸς τοὺς παρόντας 'εἴθε καὶ τὸν λιμὸν οὕτως ἀποτρίψασθαι τῆς γαστρὸς ἠδυνάμην'.
Smith (whose translation William W. Goodwin adopts in his collection of the Moralia) is guilty of a euphemism here. I would modify the translation thus:
And yet a little after this, going on, he commends Diogenes, who rubbed his shameful part [i.e. membrum virile] in public, and said to those that were present: I wish I could in the same manner rub hunger also out of my belly.

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