Tuesday, May 31, 2016
As among the Arabs still, belching was considered a politeness, justified by philosophers who thought the highest wisdom was to follow the dictates of nature.161Gilbert Highet, "Petronius the Moralist," Transactions and Proceedings of the American Philological Association 72 (1941) 176-194 (at 178, n. 14), rpt. in his Classical Papers (New York: Columbia University Press, 1983), pp. 191-209 (at 193-194), criticizing Carcopino:
161. Cicero, Ad Fam. X [sic, read IX] 22, 5; Juvenal, 3, 107; Martial, X 48, 10; Pliny, Panegyricus 49.
The same savant informs us (p. 271) that belching at table was good manners in Rome. He supports this remarkable assertion by quoting Cic. Fam. 9.22.5, Juv. 3.107, and Plin. Paneg. 49, which prove the exact opposite.Cicero, Letters to Friends 9.22.5 (to L. Papirius Paetus; tr. D.R. Shackleton Bailey, with his note):
So there you have a Stoic lecture: 'The Sage will call a spade a spade.' What a multitude of words out of one of yours, to be sure! I like you to have no inhibitions when you are addressing me. For myself, I adhere (and shall so continue, since it is my habit) to the modesty of Plato. That is why I have written to you in guarded language on a theme which the Stoics handle with complete freedom. But they also say that we ought to break wind and belch with equal unconstraint. So let us respect the Kalends of March!15Juvenal 3.104-108 (tr. Susanna Morton Braund):
15 The date of the Matronalia, the festival of married women, on which husbands and lovers gave presents to their ladies.
habes scholam Stoicam: ὁ σοφὸς εὐθυρρημονήσει. quam multa ex uno verbo tuo! te adversus me omnia audere gratum est; ego servo et servabo (sic enim adsuevi) Platonis verecundiam. itaque tectis verbis ea ad te scripsi, quae apertissimis agunt Stoici ; sed illi etiam crepitus aiunt aeque liberos ac ructus esse oportere. honorem igitur Kalendis Martiis.
So we are not on a par. He's always ahead because, day or night, he can take his expression from someone else's face: he's ready to throw up his hands and cheer if his friend belches nicely or pisses straight or if the golden cup gives a fart when it's turned upside-down.Martial 10.48.7-10 (tr. D.R. Shackleton Bailey):
non sumus ergo pares: melior, qui semper et omni
nocte dieque potest aliena sumere vultum
a facie, iactare manus laudare paratus,
si bene ructavit, si rectum minxit amicus,
si trulla inverso crepitum dedit aurea fundo.
The bailiff's wife has brought me mallows to relieve the stomach and the garden's various wealth. There is sessile lettuce and clipped leeks, belching mint is not to seek, nor the salacious herb.Pliny, Panegyric 49.6 (tr. Betty Radice):
exoneraturas ventrem mihi vilica malvas
attulit et varias quas habet hortus opes,
in quibus est lactuca sedens et tonsile porrum,
nec deest ructatrix mentha nec herba salax.
You do not arrive already gorged with a solitary feast before midday, to sit menacingly over your guests, watching and marking all they do, nor when they are fasting and hungry do you belch from a full stomach and present or rather throw at them the food you disdain to touch, and after a pretence at enduring this insulting mockery of a banquet take yourself back to secret gluttony and private excesses.
non enim ante medium diem distentus solitaria cena, spectator adnotatorque convivis tuis immines, nec ieiunis et inanibus plenus ipse et eructans non tam adponis quam obicis cibos quos dedigneris attingere, aegreque perpessus superbam illam convictus simulationem, rursus te ad clandestinam ganeam occultumque luxum refers.
Jonathan Swift (1667-1745), A Tale of a Tub, Sect. VIII:
In consequence of this, their next principle was, that man brings with him into the world, a peculiar portion or grain of wind, which may be called a quinta essentia, extracted from the other four. This quintessence is of a catholic use upon all emergencies of life, is improveable into all arts and sciences, and may be wonderfully refined, as well as enlarged, by certain methods in education. This, when blown up to its perfection, ought not to be covetously hoarded up, stifled, or hid under a bushel, but freely communicated to mankind. Upon these reasons, and others of equal weight, the wise Æolists affirm the gift of BELCHING to be the noblest act of a rational creature. To cultivate which art, and render it more serviceable to mankind, they made use of several methods. At certain seasons of the year, you might behold the priests among them, in vast numbers, with their mouths gaping wide enough against a storm. At other times were to be seen several hundreds linked together in a circular chain, with every man a pair of bellows applied to his neighbour's breech, by which they blew up each other to the shape and size of a tun; and for that reason, with great propriety of speech, did usually call their bodies, their vessels. When, by these and the like performances, they were grown sufficiently replete, they would immediately depart, and disembogue, for the public good, a plentiful share of their acquirements, into their disciples' chaps.