Saturday, May 19, 2007


Table Dogs

Reading Xenophon's Anabasis, I was struck by the expression "looking towards someone's table" at 7.2.33 (tr. Carleton L. Brownson):
When I became a young man, however, I could not endure to live with my eyes turned toward another's table [εἰς ἀλλοτρίαν τράπεζαν ἀποβλέπων]; so I sat myself down on the same seat with Medocus as a suppliant and besought him to give me as many men as he could, in order that I might inflict whatever harm I could upon those who drove us out, and might live without turning my eyes toward his table [εἰς τὴν ἐκείνου τράπεζαν ἀποβλέπων].
I don't have a commentary, but according to John T. White's school edition of Anabasis book 7 (London: Longmans, Green and Co., 1882), in the vocabulary s.v. ἀποβλέπω, "the metaphor is taken from a dog looking for food from his master's table, thus conveying the notion of dependence."

Liddell & Scott define ἀπομαγδαλία as "the crumb or inside of the loaf, on which the Greeks wiped their hands at dinner, and then threw it to the dogs: hence, dog's meat, Ar.Eq.415, Alciphr.3.44, Plu.Lyc.12."

The expression "table dogs" (κύνες τραπεζῆες) occurs in Homer (Iliad 22.69 and 23.173, Odyssey 17.309). Cf. German Tischhund.

In the Gospels, we find:Cf. also Philostratus, Life of Apollonius 1.19 (tr. F.C. Conybeare):
It was a lazy fellow and malignant who tried to pick holes in him, and remarked that he recorded well enough a lot of things, for example, the opinions and ideas of his hero, but that in collecting such trifles as these he reminded him of dogs who pick up and eat the fragments which fall from a feast. Damis replied thus: "If banquets there be of gods, and gods take food, surely they must have attendants whose business it is that not even the parcels of ambrosia that fall to the ground should be lost."
At Phaedrus 4.19.1-4 the dogs complained to Jove about their fare:
Once upon a time, the dogs sent ambassadors to Jove, to beg him to make the conditions of their life better and to rescue them from the insults of men, because men gave the dogs bread sprinkled with bran.

Canes legatos olim misere ad Iovem
meliora vitae tempora oratum suae,
ut sese eriperet hominum contumeliis,
furfuribus sibi consparsum quod panem darent.

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