Lepidissimus liber est M. Varronis ex Satiris Menippeis, qui inscribitur Nescis Quid Vesper Serus Vehat, in quo disserit de apto convivarum numero deque ipsius convivii habitu cultuque. dicit autem, convivarum numerum incipere oportere a Gratiarum numero et progredi ad Musarum, [id est proficisci a tribus et consistere in novem], ut, cum paucissimi convivae sunt, non pauciores sint quam tres, cum plurimi, non plures quam novem (fr. 333). “Nam multos,” inquit, “esse non convenit, quod turba plerumque est turbulenta et Romae quidem stat, sedet Athenis, nusquam autem cubat (fr. 334). ipsum deinde convivium constat,” inquit, “ex rebus quattuor et tum denique omnibus suis numeris absolutum est, si belli homunculi collecti sunt, si electus locus, si tempus lectum, si apparatus non neglectus (fr. 335). nec loquaces autem,” inquit, “convivas nec mutos legere oportet, quia eloquentia in foro et apud subsellia, silentium vero non in convivio, sed in cubiculo esse debet (fr. 336).”
(Aulus Gellius, Noctes Atticae 13.11.1-3)

That is a very charming book of Marcus Varro’s, one of his Menippean Satires, entitled You know not what the Late Evening may Bring, in which he descants upon the proper number of guests at a dinner, and about the order and arrangement of the entertainment itself. Now he says that the number of the guests ought to begin with that of the Graces and end with that of the Muses; [that is, it should begin with three and stop at nine], so that when the guests are fewest, they should not be less than three, when they are most numerous, not more than nine. “For it is disagreeable to have a great number, since a crowd is generally disorderly, and at Rome it stands, at Athens it sits, but nowhere does it recline. Now, the banquet itself,” he continues, “has four features, and then only is it complete in all its parts: if a nice little group has been got together, if the place is well chosen, the time fit, and due preparation not neglected. Moreover, one should not,” he says, “invite either too talkative or too silent guests, since eloquence is appropriate to the Forum and the courts, but silence to the bed-chamber and not to a dinner.” (tr. John C. Rolfe)



Igneus aetherias iam sol penetrarat in arces
candidaque aurato quatiebat lumina curru,
crinibus et roseis tenebras Aurora fugarat:
propulit e stabulis ad pabula laeta capellas
pastor et excelsi montis iuga summa petivit,
rorida qua patulos velabant gramina colles.
iam silvis dumisque vagae, iam vallibus abdunt
corpora, iamque omni celeres e parte vagantes
tondebant tenero viridantia gramina morsu.
scrupea desertis errabant ad cava ripis,
pendula proiectis carpuntur et arbuta ramis
densaque virgultis avide labrusca petuntur.
haec suspensa rapit carpente cacumina morsu
vel salicis lentae vel quae nova nascitur alnus,
haec teneras fruticum sentis rimatur, at illa
imminet in rivi, praestantis imaginis, undam.
(Pseudo-Vergil, Culex 42-57)

The fiery sun had now penetrated into the heights of the upper sky, and from gilded car was scattering his brilliant rays, and Dawn with roseate locks had routed darkness, when a shepherd drove forth his goats to the happy pastures, and sought a mountain’s highest ridges, where dewy grasses clothed the widespread slopes. As they roam, they hide themselves now in the woods and thickets, now in the valleys, and now, wandering swiftly to and fro, they cropped the rich grasses with nibbling bite. Leaving the banks, they strayed toward rocky hollows, the overhanging arbutes are shorn of their outstretched branches, and the wild vines’ thick shoots are eagerly assailed. One, poised aloft, snatches with eager bite the tips, it may be of the pliant willow, or of fresh growing alder; this gropes amid the thickets’ tender briars, while that hangs over the water of the stream, its wondrous mirror. (tr. Henry Rushton Fairclough, revised by George Patrick Goold)



῎Ισως δή, εἶπον, παρὰ τὸ ἔθος γελοῖα ἂν φαίνοιτο πολλὰ περὶ τὰ νῦν λεγόμενα, εἰ πράξεται ᾗ λέγεται.
καὶ μάλα, ἔφη.
τί, ἦν δ’ ἐγώ, γελοιότατον αὐτῶν ὁρᾷς; ἢ δῆλα δὴ ὅτι γυμνὰς τὰς γυναῖκας ἐν ταῖς παλαίστραις γυμναζομένας μετὰ τῶν ἀνδρῶν, οὐ μόνον τὰς νέας, ἀλλὰ καὶ ἤδη τὰς πρεσβυτέρας, ὥσπερ τοὺς γέροντας ἐν τοῖς γυμνασίοις, ὅταν ῥυσοὶ καὶ μὴ ἡδεῖς τὴν ὄψιν ὅμως φιλογυμναστῶσιν;
νὴ τὸν Δία, ἔφη· γελοῖον γὰρ ἄν, ὥς γε ἐν τῷ παρεστῶτι, φανείη.
οὐκοῦν, ἦν δ’ ἐγώ, ἐπείπερ ὡρμήσαμεν λέγειν, οὐ φοβητέον τὰ τῶν χαριέντων σκώμματα, ὅσα καὶ οἷα ἂν εἴποιεν εἰς τὴν τοιαύτην μεταβολὴν γενομένην καὶ περὶ τὰ γυμνάσια καὶ περὶ μουσικὴν καὶ οὐκ ἐλάχιστα περὶ τὴν τῶν ὅπλων σχέσιν καὶ ἵππων ὀχήσεις.
ὀρθῶς, ἔφη, λέγεις.
ἀλλ’ ἐπείπερ λέγειν ἠρξάμεθα, πορευτέον πρὸς τὸ τραχὺ τοῦ νόμου, δεηθεῖσίν τε τούτων μὴ τὰ αὑτῶν πράττειν ἀλλὰ σπουδάζειν, καὶ ὑπομνήσασιν ὅτι οὐ πολὺς χρόνος ἐξ οὗ τοῖς ῞Ελλησιν ἐδόκει αἰσχρὰ εἶναι καὶ γελοῖα ἅπερ νῦν τοῖς πολλοῖς τῶν βαρβάρων, γυμνοὺς ἄνδρας ὁρᾶσθαι, καὶ ὅτε ἤρχοντο τῶν γυμνασίων πρῶτοι μὲν Κρῆτες, ἔπειτα Λακεδαιμόνιοι, ἐξῆν τοῖς τότε ἀστείοις πάντα ταῦτα κωμῳδεῖν. ἢ οὐκ οἴει;
ἀλλ’ ἐπειδὴ, οἶμαι, χρωμένοις ἄμεινον τὸ ἀποδύεσθαι τοῦ συγκαλύπτειν πάντα τὰ τοιαῦτα ἐφάνη, καὶ τὸ ἐν τοῖς ὀφθαλμοῖς δὴ γελοῖον ἐξερρύη ὑπὸ τοῦ ἐν τοῖς λόγοις μηνυθέντος ἀρίστου, καὶ τοῦτο ἐνεδείξατο, ὅτι μάταιος ὃς γελοῖον ἄλλο τι ἡγεῖται ἢ τὸ κακόν, καὶ ὁ γελωτοποιεῖν ἐπιχειρῶν πρὸς ἄλλην τινὰ ὄψιν ἀποβλέπων ὡς γελοίου ἢ τὴν τοῦ ἄφρονός τε καὶ κακοῦ, καὶ καλοῦ αὖ σπουδάζει πρὸς ἄλλον τινὰ σκοπὸν στησάμενος ἢ τὸν τοῦ ἀγαθοῦ.
παντάπασι μὲν οὖν, ἔφη.
(Plato, Politeia 452a-e)

I should rather expect, I said, that several of our proposals, if they are carried out, being unusual, may appear ridiculous.
No doubt of it.
Yes, and the most ridiculous thing of all will be the sight of women naked in the palaestra, exercising with the men, especially when they are no longer young; they certainly will not be a vision of beauty, any more than the enthusiastic old men who, in spite of wrinkles and ugliness, continue to frequent the gymnasia.
Yes, indeed, he said: according to present notions the proposal would be thought ridiculous.
But then, I said, as we have determined to speak our minds, we must not fear the jests of the wits which will be directed against this sort of innovation; how they will talk of women’s attainments, both in music and gymnastics, and above all about their wearing armor and riding upon horseback!
Very true, he replied. Yet, having begun, we must go forward to the rough places of the law; at the same time begging of these gentlemen for once in their life to be serious. Not long ago, as we shall remind them, the Hellenes were of the opinion, which is still generally received among the barbarians, that the sight of a naked man was ridiculous and improper; and when first the Cretans, and then the Lacedaemonians, introduced the custom, the wits of that day might equally have ridiculed the innovation.
No doubt.
But when experience showed that to let all things be uncovered was far better than to cover them up, and the ludicrous effect to the outward eye had vanished before the better principle which reason asserted, then the man was perceived to be a fool who directs the shafts of his ridicule at any other sight but that of folly and vice, or seriously inclines to weigh the beautiful by any other standard but that of the good.
Very true, he replied.
(tr. Benjamin Jowett)



Ὡς δὲ ὁ Γύγης ἀπίκετο, ἔλεγε ἡ γυνὴ τάδε. “νῦν τοι δυῶν ὁδῶν παρεουσέων, Γύγη, δίδωμι αἵρεσιν, ὁκοτέρην βούλεαι τραπέσθαι. ἢ γὰρ Κανδαύλεα ἀποκτείνας ἐμέ τε καὶ τὴν βασιληΐην ἔχε τὴν Λυδῶν, ἢ αὐτόν σε αὐτίκα οὕτω ἀποθνῄσκειν δεῖ, ὡς ἂν μὴ πάντα πειθόμενος Κανδαύλῃ τοῦ λοιποῦ ἴδῃς τὰ μὴ σε δεῖ. ἀλλ’ ἤτοι κεῖνόν γε τὸν ταῦτα βουλεύσαντα δεῖ ἀπόλλυσθαι, ἢ σε τὸν ἐμὲ γυμνήν θεησάμενον καὶ ποιήσαντα οὐ νομιζόμενα.” ὁ δὲ Γύγης τέως μὲν ἀπεθώμαζε τὰ λεγόμενα, μετὰ δὲ ἱκέτευε μή μιν ἀναγκαίῃ ἐνδέειν διακρῖναι τοιαύτην αἵρεσιν. οὐκ ὦν δὴ ἔπειθε, ἀλλ’ ὥρα ἀναγκαίην ἀληθέως προκειμένην ἢ τὸν δεσπότεα ἀπολλύναι ἢ αὐτὸν ὑπ’ ἄλλων ἀπόλλυσθαι· αἱρέεται αὐτὸς περιεῖναι. ἐπειρώτα δὴ λέγων τάδε. “ἐπεί με ἀναγκάζεις δεσπότεα τὸν ἐμὸν κτείνειν οὐκ ἐθέλοντα, φέρε ἀκούσω τέῳ καὶ τρόπῳ ἐπιχειρήσομεν αὐτῷ.” ἣ δὲ ὑπολαβοῦσα ἔφη “ἐκ τοῦ αὐτοῦ μὲν χωρίου ἡ ὁρμὴ ἔσται ὅθεν περ καὶ ἐκεῖνος ἐμέ ἐπεδέξατο γυμνήν, ὑπνωμένῳ δὲ ἡ ἐπιχείρησις ἔσται.”
(Herodotus, Hist. 1.11.2-5)

When he arrived she said to him: ‘Gyges, there are now two paths before you: I leave it up to you which one you choose to take. Either you can kill Candaules and have me and the kingdom of Lydia for your own, or you must die yourself right now, so that you will never again do exactly what Candaules wants you to do and see what you should not see. Yes, either he or you must die—either the one whose idea this was or the one who saw me naked when he had no right to do so.” At first, Gyges was too astonished to reply, but then he begged her not to force him to make such a choice. She could not be moved, however. He saw that he really was faced with choosing between killing his master or being killed himself by others—and he chose to survive. So he had a question for her. ‘It’s not as if I want to kill my own master,’ he said, ‘but since you’re forcing me to do so, please tell me how we’re going to attack him.’ ‘The place from where he showed me to you naked’, she replied, ‘will be the place from which to launch the attack against him. The attack will happen when he’s asleep. (tr. Robin Waterfield)



(…) gratiamque habeo Simonidi illi Cio, quem primum ferunt artem memoriae protulisse. dicunt enim, cum cenaret Crannone in Thessalia Simonides apud Scopam fortunatum hominem et nobilem cecinissetque id carmen, quod in eum scripsisset, in quo multa ornandi causa poetarum more in Castorem scripta et Pollucem fuissent, nimis illum sordide Simonidi dixisse se dimidium eius ei, quod pactus esset, pro illo carmine daturum; reliquum a suis Tyndaridis, quos aeque laudasset, peteret, si ei videretur. paulo post esse ferunt nuntiatum Simonidi ut prodiret; iuvenes stare ad ianuam duo quosdam, qui eum magno opere evocarent; surrexisse illum, prodisse, vidisse neminem: hoc interim spatio conclave illud, ubi epularetur Scopas, concidisse; ea ruina ipsum cum cognatis oppressum suis interisse: quos cum humare vellent sui neque possent obtritos internoscere ullo modo, Simonides dicitur ex eo, quod meminisset quo eorum loco quisque cubuisset, demonstrator unius cuiusque sepeliendi fuisse; hac tum re admonitus invenisse fertur ordinem esse maxime, qui memoriae lumen adferret. itaque eis, qui hanc partem ingeni exercerent, locos esse capiendos et ea, quae memoria tenere vellent, effingenda animo atque in eis locis collocanda; sic fore ut ordinem rerum locorum ordo conservaret, res autem ipsas rerum effigies notaret atque ut locis pro cera, simulacris pro litteris uteremur.
(Cicero, De Oratore 2.351-354)

(…) and I am grateful to the famous Simonides of Ceos, who is said to have first invented the science of mnemonics. There is a story that Simonides was dining at the house of a wealthy nobleman named Scopas at Crannon in Thessaly, and chanted a lyric poem which he had composed in honor of his host, in which he followed the custom of the poets by including for decorative purposes a long passage referring to Castor and Pollux; whereupon Scopas with excessive meanness told him he would pay him half the fee agreed on for the poem, and if he liked he might apply for the balance to his sons of Tyndareus, as they had gone halves in the panegyric. The story runs that a little later a message was brought to Simonides to go outside, as two young men were standing at the door who earnestly requested him to come out; so he rose from his seat and went out, and could not see anybody; but in the interval of his absence the roof of the hall where Scopas was giving the banquet fell in, crushing Scopas himself and his relations underneath the ruins and killing them; and when their friends wanted to bury them but were altogether unable to know them apart as they had been completely crushed, the story goes that Simonides was enabled by his recollection of the place in which each of them had been reclining at table to identify them for separate interment; and that this circumstance suggested to him the discovery of the truth that the best aid to clearness of memory consists in orderly arrangement. He inferred that persons desiring to train this faculty must select localities and form mental images of the facts they wish to remember and store those images in the localities, with the result that the arrangement of the localities will preserve the order of the facts, and the images of the facts will designate the facts themselves, and we shall employ the localities and images respectively as a wax writing tablet and the letters written on it. (tr. Edward William Sutton)



Cum videris forum multitudine refertum et saepta concursu omnis frequentiae plena et illum circum in quo maximam sui partem populus ostendit, hoc scito, istic tantundem esse vitiorum quantum hominum. inter istos quos togatos vides nulla pax est: alter in alterius exitium levi compendio ducitur; nulli nisi ex alterius iniuria quaestus est; felicem oderunt, infelicem contemnunt; maiorem gravantur, minori graves sunt; diversis stimulantur cupiditatibus; omnia perdita ob levem voluptatem praedamque cupiunt. non alia quam in ludo gladiatorio vita est cum isdem viventium pugnantiumque. ferarum iste conventus est, nisi quod illae inter se placidae sunt morsuque similium abstinent, hi mutua laceratione satiantur. hoc uno ab animalibus mutis differunt, quod illa mansuescunt alentibus, horum rabies ipsos a quibus est nutrita depascitur.
(Seneca Minor, De Ira 2.8)

When you see the forum packed with a mob, and the polling place filled with a swarming crowd, and that circus where the greatest part of the populace is on display, be sure that there are just as many vices on hand as there are people. Those you see in civilian dress are constantly warring among themselves. One man’s led to destroy another for a small gain; no one profits save from another’s harm; they hate the prosperous and despise the poor, resent the greater man and afflict the lesser. Goaded by a host of desires, they lust to win some trivially pleasurable prize from any and every depravity. It’s a way of life no different from a gladiatorial school: living and fighting with the same people. It’s a gathering of wild beasts—except that beasts live peacefully among themselves and don’t bite their own, whereas these get their fill by tearing each other to pieces. In this one respect they differ from animals incapable of speech: the latter behave gently toward their keepers, these in their frenzy bite the hand that feeds them. (tr. Robert A. Kaster)



Iocabatur sane ita cum servis ut eos iuberet millena pondo sibi aranearum deferre proposito praemio, collegisseque dicitur decem milia pondo aranearum, dicens et hinc intellegendum quam magna esset Roma.
(Historia Augusta, Vita Heliogabali 26.6)

He used, too, to play jokes on his slaves, even ordering them to bring him a thousand pounds of spider-webs and offering them a prize; and he collected, it is said, ten thousand pounds, and then remarked that one could realize from that how great a city was Rome. (tr. David Magie)