The Ancient Library
 

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ATHENAEUS.

"by the absurdity of collecting at it the produce of every season of the year. Long quotations and in­tricate discussions introduced apropos of some trifling incident, entirely destroy the form of the dialogue, so that before we have finished a speech we forget who was the speaker. And when in addition to this confusion we are suddenly brought back to the tiresome Timocrates, we are quite pro­voked at the clumsy way in which the book is put together. But as a work illustrative of ancient manners, as a collection of curious facts, names of authors and fragments, which, but for Athenaeus, would utterly have perished; in short, as a body of amusing antiquarian research, it would be diffi­cult to praise the Deipnosophistae too highly.

The work begins, somewhat absurdly, consider­ing the difference between a discussion on the Im­mortality of the Soul, and one on the Pleasures of the Stomach, with an exact imitation of the open­ing of Plato's Phaedo,—Athenaeus and Timocrates being substituted for Phaedo and Echecrates. The praises of Laurentius are then introduced, and the conversation of the savans begins. It would be impossible to give an account of the contents of the book ; a few specimens therefore must suffice. "VVe have anecdotes of gourmands, as of Apicius (the second of the three illustrious gluttons of that name), who is said to have spent many thousands on his stomach, and to have lived at Minturnae in the reign of Tiberius, whence he sailed to Africa, in search of good lobsters; but finding, as he ap­proached the shore, that they were no larger than those which he ate in Italy, he turned back with­out landing. Sometimes we have anecdotes to prove assertions in natural history, e. g. it is shewn that water is nutritious (1), by the statement that it nourishes the Terri|, and (2) because fluids ge­nerally are so, as milk and honey, by the latter of which Democritus of Abdera allowed himself to be kept alive over the Thesmophoria (though he had determined to starve himself), in order that the mourning for his death might not prevent his maid­servants from celebrating the festival. The story of the Pinna and Pinnoteer (irtvvo(f)i>\a£ or irivvo-rtjprjs] is told in the course of the disquisitions on shell-fish. The pinna is a bivalve shell-fish (ocrrpeoz/), the pinnoteer a small crab, who inhabits the pinna's shell. As soon as the small fish on which the pinna subsists have swum in, the pinno­teer bites the pinna as a signal to him to close his shell and secure them. Grammatical discussions are mixed up with gastronomic; e. g. the account of the d/LLvySd\7) begins with the laws of its accen­tuation ; of eggs, by an inquiry into the spelling of the word, whether woV, u'iov, weo*/, or oodpiov. Quotations are made in support of each, and we are told that tad was formerly the same as uTrepcpa, from which fact he deduces an explanation of the story of Helen's birth from an egg. This suggests to him a quotation from Eriphus, who says that Leda produced goose's eggs ; and so he wanders on through every variety of subject connected with eggs. This will give some notion of the discursive manner in which he extracts all kinds of facts from the vast stores of his erudition. Sometimes he connects different pieces of knowledge by a mere similarity of sounds. Cynulcus, one of the guests, calls for bread (crpros), " not however for Artus king of the Messapians;" and then we are led back from Artus the king to Artus the eatable, and from that to salted meats, which brings in a

ATHENAEUS. 401

grammatical discussion on the word rdptxos, whether it is masculine in Attic or not. Some­times antiquarian points are discussed, especially Homeric. Thus, he examines the times of day at which the Homeric meals took place, and the genuineness of some of the lines in the Iliad and Odyssey, as

rjSee yap Kara 8-vfJ.ov dSeA^eW, cos GKOvztro,

which he pronounces spurious, and only introduced to explain

ol

dyaOos

His etymological conjectures are in the usual style of ancient philology. In proving the reli­gious duty of drunkenness, as he considers it, he derives 6o'wr) from Oewv eveKa olvovvBai and peOveiv from fjierd to Qveiv. We often obtain from him curious pieces of information on subjects connected with ancient art, as that the kind of drinking-cup called pvrdv was first devised by Ptolemy Phila-delphus as an ornament for the statues of his queen, Arsinoe. [arsinoe, No. 2.] At the end of the work °is a collection of scolia and other songs, which the savans recite. One of these is a real curiosity, — a song by Aristotle in praise of dperrj.

Among the authors, whose works are now lost,, from whom Athenaeus gives extracts, are Alcaeus, Agathon the tragic poet, Antisthenes the philo­sopher, Archilochus the inventor of iambics, Me-nander and his contemporary Diphilus, Epime-nides of Crete, Empedocles of Agrigentum, Cra-tinus, Eupolis (Hor. Sat. i. 4.1), Alcman, Epicurus (whom he represents as a wasteful glutton), and many others whose names are well known. In all, he cites nearly. 800 authors and more than 1200 separate works. Athenaeus was also the author of a lost book irepi roov kv 2,voia /3«cnA.ei;cr-az/Tu>j', which probably, from the specimen of it in the Deipnosophists, and the obvious unfitness of Athenaeus to be a historian, was rather a collec­tion of anecdotes than a connected history.

Of the Deipnosophists the first two books, and parts of the third, eleventh, and fifteenth, exist only in an Epitome, whose date and author are unknown. The original work, however, was rare in the time of Eustathius (latter part of 12th cent.); for Bentley lias shewn, by examining nearly a hundred of his references to Athenaeus, that his only knowledge of him was through the Epitome. (PhalariS) p. 130, &c.) Perizonius (preface to Aelian quoted by Schweighauser) has proved that Aelian transferred large portions of the work to his Various Histories (middle of 3rd cent.), a rob­bery which must have been committed almost in the life-time of the pillaged author. The Deipno­sophists also furnished to Macrobius the idea and much of the matter of his Saturnalia (end of 4th cent.) ; but no one has availed himself so largely of Athenaeus's erudition as Eustathius.

Only one original MS. of Athenaeus now exists, called by Schweighauser the Codex Verieto-Parisi-ensis. From this all the others which we now possess are copies ; so that the text of the work, especially in the poetical parts, is in a very un­settled state. The MS. was brought from Greece by cardinal Bessarion, and after his death was placed in the library of St. Mark at Venice, whence it was taken to Paris by order of Napoleon, and there for the first time collated by Sch weigh auser's son. It is probably of the date of the 1 Oth cen-

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