Friday, July 28, 2017


Remedy for the Crabbedness of Old Age

Plato, Laws 2.666 A-C (tr. R.G. Bury):
Shall we not pass a law that, in the first place, no children under eighteen may touch wine at all, teaching that it is wrong to pour fire upon fire either in body or in soul, before they set about tackling their real work, and thus guarding against the excitable disposition of the young? And next, we shall rule that the young man under thirty may take wine in moderation, but that he must entirely abstain from intoxication and heavy drinking. But when a man has reached the age of forty, he may join in the convivial gatherings and invoke Dionysus, above all other gods, inviting his presence at the rite (which is also the recreation) of the elders, which he bestowed on mankind as a medicine potent against the crabbedness of old age, that thereby we men may renew our youth, and that, through forgetfulness of care, the temper of our souls may lose its hardness and become softer and more ductile, even as iron when it has been forged in the fire.

ἆρ᾿ οὐ νομοθετήσομεν πρῶτον μὲν τοὺς παῖδας μέχρι ἐτῶν ὀκτωκαίδεκα τὸ παράπαν οἴνου μὴ γεύεσθαι, διδάσκοντες ὡς οὐ χρὴ πῦρ ἐπὶ πῦρ ὀχετεύειν εἴς τε τὸ σῶμα καὶ τὴν ψυχήν, πρὶν ἐπὶ τοὺς πόνους ἐγχειρεῖν πορεύεσθαι, τὴν ἐμμανῆ εὐλαβούμενοι ἕξιν τῶν νέων· μετὰ δὲ τοῦτο οἴνου μὲν δὴ γεύεσθαι τοῦ μετρίου μέχρι τριάκοντα ἐτῶν, μέθης δὲ καὶ πολυοινίας τὸ παράπαν τὸν νέον ἀπέχεσθαι· τετταράκοντα δὲ ἐπιβαίνοντα ἐτῶν, ἐν τοῖς ξυσσιτίοις εὐωχηθέντα, καλεῖν τούς τε ἄλλους θεοὺς καὶ δὴ καὶ Διόνυσον παρακαλεῖν εἰς τὴν τῶν πρεσβυτῶν τελετὴν ἅμα καὶ παιδιάν, ἣν τοῖς ἀνθρώποις ἐπίκουρον τῆς τοῦ γήρως αὐστηρότητος ἐδωρήσατο [τὸν οἶνον] φάρμακον ὥστ᾿ ἀνηβᾷν ἡμᾶς, καὶ δυσθυμίας λήθῃ γίγνεσθαι μαλακώτερον ἐκ σκληροτέρου τὸ τῆς ψυχῆς ἦθος, καθάπερ εἰς πῦρ σίδηρον ἐντεθέντα τηκόμενον, καὶ οὕτως εὐπλαστότερον εἶναι;
Cf. Avicenna, Canon of Medicine § 810 (tr. O. Cameron Gruner):
To give wine to youths is like adding fire to a fire already prepared with matchwood. Young adults should take it in moderation. But elderly persons may take as much as they can tolerate.

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