Sunday, March 08, 2020


To Find the Mind's Construction in the Face

Petronius, Satyricon 126 (tr. Michael Heseltine):
Look at me; I know nothing of omens, and I never attend to the astrologer's sky, but I read character in a man's face, and when I see him walk I know his thoughts.

vides me: nec auguria novi nec mathematicorum caelum curare soleo, ex vultibus tamen hominum mores colligo, et cum spatiantem vidi, quid cogitet scio.
Gareth Schmeling, A Commentary on the Satyrica of Petronius (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011), p. 474:
The art of metoposcopy seems to have taken its place with other means of fortune-telling popular in the Empire: Suetonius Tit. 2 aiunt metoposcopum a Narcisso Claudi liberto adhibitum, ut Britannicum inspiceret, constantissime affirmasse illum quidem nullo modo ... imperaturum; Pliny NH 35.88 quendam a facie hominum divinantem, quos metoposcopos vocant, ex iis dixisse aut futurae mortis annos aut praeteritae vitae; Plautus Pseud. 750 ubi te aspexerit, narrabit ultro quid sese velis. On ancient beliefs in physiognomy as a science, which were codified in Aristotle's time, see Förster (1893-4) passim; J. Schmidt, RE s.v. 'Physiognomik', 1064-75, for contemporary Roman beliefs; see E. C. Evans (1950) on Seneca; ead. (1969) for a masterful study on physiognomy in the ancient world (excellent index); see now Swain (2007).
A note is also needed concerning the analysis of a man's character from his gait. Start with Simon Goldhill, Who Needs Greek? Contests in the Cultural History of Hellenism (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002; rpt. 2003), p. 83:
How you walk is a repeated topic of commentary by Lucian. You should hope to 'walk like a man' (which is linked to a body bronzed by the sun, a masculine glint in the eye, an alert appearance).82 You don't want to walk 'with an unsteady shimmy' (which is linked to a floppy neck, a woman's glance, a soft voice, the smell of perfume, scratching your head with one finger, and carefully coiffed curls).83 The figure of Blame in one of Lucian's divine comedies attacks even the god Dionysus for his 'walk': 'you all know how female and girly he is in his nature ... '84 In particular, however, it is philosophers who seem to have a specially noticeable style of walking (which you may think harder to spot these days around the university or on the street). Thrasycles' walk is 'orderly' (eye-brows high, fierce gaze, elegant turn out);85 Diogenes' walk matches his intense expression.86 The uncultured book-buyer is mocked for imitating the walk of a philosopher;87 and a string of philosophers are immediately distinctive because of their gait. The longest description of what 'the walk' should be like is this:
I saw them walking in an orderly fashion, decently dressed, always in thought, masculine, mostly with close-cropped hair nothing degenerate, none of that hyper-indifference which marks the simply mad Cynic, but of middling constitution, which everyone says is best.88
82 41.9.
83 41.11.
84 52.4.
85 25.54.
86 27.10.
87 31.21.
88 70.18.

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