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A Feast of Lapithae | Symposium

SOURCE:
The Works of Lucian of Samosata. Translated by Fowler, H W and F G. Oxford: The Clarendon Press. 1905.

It has frequently been observed, by both ancients and moderns, that, to the reproach of Human Nature, wise men are sometimes as foolish as other people. Lucian, to convince his readers of this truth, gives us an account of a feasts where the philosophers, who were invited to it, got drunk, abused, and beat one another: a feast which might very probably happen, and which Lucian here describes with infinite humor. The parties concerned were, we may suppose, pretty well known; and this relation of their behaviour must have afforded no small entertainment to the public. The Lapithae, a People of Thessalia, at a great feast, made on the marriage of Pirithous, their King, quarrelled with the Centaurs, fought, and routed them: in Allusion to this, Lucian humorously calls his Philosophers' Feast, the Lapithae.

Philo. Lycinus

1

Phi. Ah, Lycinus, I hear you had a very varied entertainment dining with Aristaenetus last night; a philosophicdebate followed by a sharp difference of opinion, I understand; if Charinus's information was correct, it went as far asblows, and the conference had a bloody end.

Ly. Charinus? he was not there; what can he know about it?

Phi. Dionicus the doctor had told him, he said; he was one of you, was he not?

Ly. Yes, but only later on; he came when the fray was already a promising one, though no blows had yet beenstruck. I doubt whether he could have any intelligible account to give, as he had not followed the beginning of the rivalrythat was to end in bloodshed.

Lucian's symposium gets out of control as philosophers get more and more drunk on their ideas

2

Phi. Just so; Charinus told me to apply to you, if I wanted a true description of all the details. Dionicus hadmentioned that he had not been there all through, but said you knew the whole of the facts, and would remember the argumentstoo, as you are a real student and take more than an outside interest in that sort of thing. So no more ceremony, please,but spread me this most tempting of banquets; its attractions are enhanced by the fact that we shall enjoy it soberly,quietly, without bloodshed or danger, whatever regrettable words or deeds the old men's weak heads or the young men's vinousexaltation may have led them into.

3

Ly. What an indiscreet demand, Philo! What, make the story public? give a full description of what men do intheir cups? A veil should be drawn over such things; they should be ascribed to Dionysus; I am not at all sure that he willpardon the man who holds aloof from his mystic influence. I should like to be sure that it does not betray an evil nature ifyou dwell too curiously on what you should forget as you leave the dining-room. 'Babble wet, But dry forget,' goes therhyme. It was not right of Dionicus to blab to Charinus, bespattering great philosophers with stale wine-rinsings. No, getthee behind me; my lips are sealed.

4

Phi. Coquette! and you have mistaken your man too; I am quite aware that you are more eager to tell than I tohear: I believe, if you had no one to listen, you would find a pillar or statue and out with the whole tale to it in onetorrent. If I try to make off now, you will never let me go till I have done my listening; you willhold on to me and pursue me and solicit me. Then it will be my turn to coquet. Oh, very well; do not trouble to tell me;good-bye; I will get it out of some one else.

Ly. Oh, you needn't be so hasty. I will tell you, if you are so set upon it; only don't repeat it toeverybody.

Phi. If I know anything whatever of you, you will take good care of that; you will not leave me many to repeatit to.

5

Now begin with telling me what Aristaenetus was giving the banquet for; was it his boy Zeno's wedding?

Ly. No, his girl Cleanthis's--to the son of Eucritus the banker, a student of philosophy.

Phi. I know; a fine lad; only a lad, though; old enough to marry?

Ly. Well, he was the most suitable to be had, I suppose. He is a well-behaved youngster, has taken upphilosophy, and is sole heir to a rich father; so he was the selected bridegroom.

Phi. Ah, no doubt Eucritus's money is a consideration. Well, and who were the guests?

6

Ly. Why, I need not give you the whole list; what you want is the philosophers and men of letters. There was theold Stoic Zenothemis, and with him 'Labyrinth' Diphilus; Aristaenetus's son Zeno is his pupil. The Peripatetics wererepresented by Cleodemus--the ready, argumentative person--you know him; 'Sword,' and 'Cleaver,' his disciples call him. Andthen there was Hermon the Epicurean; directly he came in, there were queer looks and edgings away in the Stoic contingent;he might have been a parricide or an outlaw, by the way they treated him. These had been asked as Aristaenetus's personalfriends and intimates, under which head come also Histiaeus the literary man and Dionysodorus the rhetorician.

7

Then Chaereas (that is the bridegroom's name) was responsible for his tutor Ion the Platonic--agrave reverend man remarkable for the composure of his expression. He is generally spoken of as 'The Standard,' soinfallible is his judgement. As he walked up the room, everybody got out of his way and saluted him like some higher being;the great Ion's presence is like an angel's visit.

8

When nearly all the guests had arrived, and we were to take our places, the ladies occupied the whole of the table to theright of the entrance; there were a good many of them, surrounding the closely veiled bride. The table at the far endaccommodated the general company, in due precedence.

9

At the one opposite the ladies, Eucritus had the first place, with Aristaenetus next him. Then a doubt arose whether thenext was Zenothemis the Stoic's, in virtue of his years, or Hermon the Epicurean's, who is priest of the TwinGods, and also of the noblest blood in the land. Zenothemis found the solution. 'Aristaenetus,' he said, 'if you place me below this Epicurean (I need not use worse language thanthat), I at once leave the room'; and calling his servant he made as if to depart. 'Have your way, Zenothemis,'said Hermon, 'though, whatever your contempt for Epicurus, eti quette would have suggested your giving way to my priesthood,if I had no other claims.' 'Priest and Epicurean! that is a good joke,' retorted Zenothemis, and took the place, with Hermonnext him, however. Then came Cleodemus the Peripatetic, Ion with the bridegroom, myself, Diphilus and his pupil Zeno, thenDionysodorus the rhetorician and Histiaeus the literary man.

10

Phi. Upon my word, a very temple of the Muses, peopled mainly with the learned! I congratulate Aristaenetus onchoosing for his guests on so auspicious an occasion these patterns of wisdom; he skimmed the cream off every sect in a mostcatholic spirit.

Ly. Oh, yes, he is not one's idea of the rich man at all; he cares for culture, and gives most of his time tothose who have it.

11

Well, we fell to, quietly at first, on the ample and varied fare. But you do not want a catalogue of soups and pastry andsauces; there was plenty of everything. At this stage Cleodemus bent down to Ion, and said: 'Do you see how the old man'(this was Zenothemis; I could overhear their talk) 'is stuffing down the good things--his dress gets a good deal of thegravy--and what a lot he hands back to his servant? he thinks we cannot see him, and does not care whether there will beenough to go round. Just call Lycinus's attention to him.' This was quite unnecessary, as I had had an excellent view of itfor some time.

12

Just after Cleodemus had said this, in burst Alcidamas the cynic. He had not been asked, but put a good face upon it withthe usual 'No summons Menelaus waits.' The general opinion clearly was that he was an impudent rogue, and various peoplestruck in with what came to hand: 'What, Menelaus, art distraught?' or, 'It liked not Agamemnon, Atreus’ son,' and otherneat tags suited to the occasion; but these were all asides; no one ventured to make them audible to him. Alcidamas is a manuncommonly 'good at the war-cry'; he will bark you louder than any dog of them all, literal or metaphorical; my gentlemenall knew he was their better, and lay low.

13

Aristaenetus told him he was quite right to come; would he take a chair and sit behind Histiaeus and Dionysodorus?'Stuff!' he said; 'a soft womanish trick, to sit on a chair or a stool! one might as well loll at one's food half on one'sback, like all of you on this soft couch with purple cushions under you. As for me, I will take my dinner standing andwalking about the room. If I get tired, I will lay my old cloak on the ground and prop myself on my elbow like Heracles inthe pictures.' 'Just as you please,' said Aristaenetus; and after that Alcidamas fed walking round,shifting his quarters like the Scythians according to where pasturage was richest, and following the servants up as theycarried the dishes.

14

However, he did not let feeding interrupt his energetic expositions of virtue and vice, and his scoffs at gold andsilver. What was the good of this multitude of wonderful cups, he wanted to know, when earthenware would serve the purpose?Aristaenetus got rid of his obtrusiveness for the moment by signing to his servant to hand the cynic a huge goblet of potentliquor. It seemed a happy thought; but he little knew the woes that were to flow from that goblet. When Alcidamas got it, hewas quiet for a while, throwing himself on the ground in dishabille as he had threatened, with his elbow planted vertically,just in the attitude of the painters' Heracles with Pholus.

15

By this time the wine was flowing pretty freely everywhere; healths were drunk, conversation was general, and the lightshad come in. I now noticed the boy standing near Cleodemus--a good-looking cup-bearer--to have an odd smile on. I suppose Iam to give you all the by-play of the dinner, especially any tender incidents. Well, so I was trying to get at the reasonfor the smile. In a little while he came to take Cleodemus's cup from him; he gave the boy's fingers a pinch, and handed himup a couple of shillings, I think it was, with the cup. The smile appeared again in response to the pinch, but I imagine hefailed to notice the coins; he did not get hold of them; they went ringing on the floor, and there were two blushing facesto be seen. Those round, however, could not tell whose the money was, the boy saying he had not dropped it, and Cleodemus,at whose place it had been heard to fall, not confessing to the loss. So the matter was soon done with; hardly any one hadgrasped the situation--only Aristaenetus, as far as I could gather. He shifted the boy soon after, effecting the transfer without any fuss, and assigned Cleodemus a strong grown-up fellow who might be a mule or horsegroom. So much for that business; it would have seriously compromised Cleodemus if it had attracted general attention; butit was smothered forthwith by Aristaenetus's tactful handling of the offence.

16

Alcidamas the cynic, who had now emptied his goblet, after finding out the bride's name, called for silence; he thenfaced the ladies, and cried out in a loud voice: 'Cleanthis, I drink to you in the name of my patron Heracles.' There was ageneral laugh; upon which, 'You vile scum,' says he, 'you laugh, do you, because I invoke our God Heracles as I toast thebride? Let me tell you that, if she will not pledge me, she shall never bear a son as brave of spirit, as free of judgement,as strong of body, as myself.' And he proceeded to show us more of the said body, till it was scarcely decent. The companyirritated him by laughing again; he stood there with a wandering wrathful eye, and looked as if he were going to maketrouble. He would probably have brought down his stick on somebody's head, but for the timely arrival of an enormous cake,the sight of which mollified him; he quieted down, and accompanied its progress, eating hard.

17

The rest were mostly flushed with wine by this time, and the room was full of clamour. Dionysodorus the rhetorician wasalternately delivering speeches of his own composition and receiving the plaudits of the servants behind. Histiaeus, theliterary man below him, was making an eclectic mixture of Pindar, Hesiod, and Anacreon, whose collaboration produced a mostremarkable ode, some of it really prophetic of what was soon to come--'Then hide met stubborn hide,' for instance, and'Uprose the wailings and the prayers of men.' Zenothemis too had taken a scroll in small writing from his servant, which hewas reading aloud.

18

Now came one of the usual slight breaks in the procession of dishes; and Aristaenetus, to avoid the embarrassment of ablank, told his jester to come in and talk or perform, by way of putting the company still more at their ease. So in came anugly fellow with a shaven head--just a few hairs standing upright on the crown. He danced with dislocations and contortions,which made him still more absurd, then improvised and delivered some anapaests in an Egyptian accent, and wound up withwitticisms on the guests.

19

Most of them took these in good part; but when it came to Alcidamas's turn, and he called him a Maltesepoodle. Alcidamas, who had shown signs of jealousy for some timeand did not at all like the way he was holding every one's attention, lost his temper. He threw off his cloak and challengedthe fellow to a bout of pancratium; otherwise he would let him feel his stick. So poor Satyrion, as the jester was called,had to accept the challenge and stand up. A charming spectacle--the philosopher sparring and exchanging blows with abuffoon! Some of us were scandalized and some amused, till Alcidamas found he had his bellyful, being no match for the toughlittle fellow. They gave us a good laugh.

20

It was now, not long after this match, that Dionicus the doctor came in. He had been detained, he said, by a brain-fevercase; the patient was Polyprepon the piper, and thereby hung a tale. He had no sooner entered the room, not knowing how fargone the man was, when he jumped up, secured the door, drew a dagger, and handed him the pipes, with an order to play them;and when Dionicus could not, he took a strap and inflicted chastisement on the palms of his hands. To escape from thisperilous position, Dionicus proposed a match, with a scale of forfeits to be exacted with the strap. He played firsthimself, and then handed over the pipes, receiving in exchange the strap and dagger. These he lostno time in sending out of window into the open court, after which it was safe to grapple with him and shout for help; theneighbours broke open the door and rescued him. He showed us his wealed hands and some scratches on his face. His story hadas distinguished a success as the jester before; he then squeezed himself in by Histiaeus and dined on what was left. Hiscoming was providential, and he most useful in the sequel.

21

There now appeared a messenger who said he brought a communication from Hetoemocles the Stoic, which his master haddirected him to read publicly, and then return. With Aristaenetus's permission he took it to the lamp, and beganreading.

Phi. The usual thing, I suppose--a panegyric on the bride, or an epithalamium?

Ly. Just what we took it for; however, it was quite another story. Here are the contents:

22

HETOEMOCLES THE PHILOSOPHER TO ARISTAENETUS, GREETING.

My views on dining are easily deducible from my whole past life; though daily importuned by far richer men than youto join them, I invariably refuse; I know too well the tumults and follies that attend the wine-cup. But if there is onewhose neglect I may fairly resent, it is yourself; the fruit of my long and unremitting attentions to you is to find myselfnot on the roll of your friends; I, your next-door neighbour, am singled out for exclusion. The sting of it is in thepersonal ingratitude; happiness for me is not found in a plate of wild boar or hare or pastry; these I get in abundance atthe houses of people who understand the proprieties; this very day I might have dined (and well, by all accounts) with mypupil Pammenes; but he pressed me to no purpose; I was reserving myself, poor fool, for you.

23

But you pass me by, and feast others. I ought not to be surprised; you have not acquired the power ofdistinguishing merit; you have no apprehensive imagination. I know whence the blow comes; it is from your preciousphilosophers, Zenothemis and The Labyrinth, whose mouths (though I would not boast) I could stop with a single syllogism.Let either of them tell me, What is Philosophy? or, not to go beyond the merest elements, how does condition differ fromconstitution? for I will not resort to real puzzles, as the Horns the Sorites, or theReaper. Well, I wish you joy of their company. As for me,holding as I do that nothing is good but what is right, I shall get over a slight like this.

24

You will be kind enough not to resort later to the well-worn excuse of having forgotten in the bustle ofyour engagements; I have spoken to you twice to-day, in the morning at your house, and later when you were sacrificing atthe Anaceum. This is to let your guests know the rights of the case.

25

If you think it is the dinner I care about, reflect upon the story of Oeneus; you will observe that, when heomitted Artemis alone from the Gods to whom he offered sacrifice, she resented it. Homer's account of it states thathe

Forgot or ne’er bethought him--woeful blindness!

Euripides's begins,

This land of Calydon, across the gulf
From Pelops' land, with all its fertile plains--;

and Sophocles's,

Upon the tilth of Oeneus Leto's child,
Far-darting Goddess, loosed a monstrous boar.

26

I quote you but these few of the many passages upon the incident, just to suggest the qualities of him whomyou have passed over, to entertain, and to have your son taught by, Diphilus! natural 

enough; of course, the lad fancies him, and finds him an agreeable master! If tale-telling were not beneath me, Iwould add a piece of information that, if you choose, you can get confirmed by the boy's attendant Zopyrus. But a wedding isnot a time for unpleasantness or denunciations, especially of offences so vile. Diphilus deserves it richly at my hands,indeed--two pupils he has stolen from me--; but for the good name of Philosophy I will hold my hand.

27

My man has instructions, if you should offer him a portion of wild boar or venison or sesame cake to bring me in lieuof my dinner, to refuse it. I would not have you find the motive of my letter in such desires.

28

My dear fellow, I went all hot and cold as this was read; I was praying that the earth might swallow me up when I saweverybody laughing at the different points; the most amused were those who knew Hetoemocles and his white hair and reverendlooks; it was such a surprise to find the reality behind that imposing beard and serious countenance. I felt sureAristaenetus had passed him over not in neglect, but because he supposed he would never accept an invitation or haveanything to do with festivities; he had thought it out of the question, and not worth trying.

29

As soon as the man stopped reading, all eyes were turned on Zeno and Diphilus, who were pale with apprehension, andconfirmed by their embarrassment the insinuations of Hetoemocles. Aristaenetus was uneasy and disturbed, but urged us todrink, and tried to smooth the matter over with an attempt at a smile; he told the man he would see to it, and dismissedhim. Zeno disappeared shortly after; his attendant had signed to him, as from his father, to retire.

30

Cleodemus had been on the look-out for an opportunity; he was spoiling for a fight with the Stoics, and chafing over thedifficulty of starting the subject: but the letter had struck the right key, and off he went. 'Nowwe see the productions of your fine Chrysippus, your glorious Zeno, your Cleanthes--a few poor catch-words, some fruitlessposers, a philosophic exterior, and a large supply of--Hetoemocleses. What ripe wisdom does this letter reveal, with itsconclusion that Aristaenetus is an Oeneus, and Hetoemocles an Artemis! How auspicious, how suitable to the occasion, itstone '

31

To be sure,' chimed in Hermon, his left-hand neighbour; he had no doubt heard that Aristaenetus had bespoken a wild boar,and thought the introduction of the one at Calydon appropriate. Aristaenetus, I adjure you by the domestic altar, let hinttaste the victim, or we shall have the old man starving, and withering away like his Meleager. Though indeed it would not beso very hard on him; such a fate is one of Chrysippus's things indifferent.'

32

Here Zenothemis woke up and thundered out: 'Chrysippus? you name that name? because a pretender like Hetoemocles comesshort of his profession, you argue from him to the real sages, to Cleanthes and Zeno? And who are the men, pray, who holdsuch language? Why, Hermon, who shore the curls, the solid golden curls, of the Dioscuri, and who will yet receive hisbarber's fee from the executioner. And Cleodemus, who was caught in adultery with his pupil Sostratus's wife, and paid theshameful penalty. Silence would better become the owners of such consciences.' 'Who trades in his own wife's favours? 'retorted Cleodemus; 'I do not do that, and I do not undertake to keep my foreign pupil's purse and then swear by Polias thedeposit was never made; I do not lend money at fifty per cent, and I do not hale my pupils into court if fees are not paidto the day.' 'You will hardly deny, though,' said Zenothemis, 'that you supplied Crito with the poison for his father.'

33

And therewith, his cup being in his hand, about half full of wine, he emptied it over the pair; and Ion, whose worstguilt was being their neighbour, came in for a good deal of it. Hermon bent forward, dried his head,and entered a protest. Cleodemus, having no wine to reply with, leant over and spat at Zenothemis; at the same time heclutched the old man's beard with his left hand, and was aiming a blow which would have killed him, when Aristaenetusarrested it, stepped over Zenothemis, and lay down between the two, making himself a buffer in the interests of peace.

34

All this time, Philo, my thoughts were busy enough with the old commonplace, that after all it is no use having alltheory at your finger's ends, if you do not conform your conduct to the right. Here were these masters of precept makingthemselves perfectly ridiculous in practice. Then it was borne in upon me that possibly the vulgar notion is right, andculture only misleads the people who are too much wrapt up in books and bookish ideas. Of all that philosophic company therewas not a man--not so much as an accidental exception--who could pass muster; if his conduct did not condemn him, his wordsdid yet more fatally. I could not make the wine responsible, either; the author of that letter was fasting and sober.

35

Things seemed to go by contraries; you might see the ordinary people behaving quite properly at table; no rioting anddisorder there; the most they did was to laugh at and, no doubt, censure the others, whom they had been accustomed torespect and to credit with the qualities their appearance suggested. It was the wise men who made beasts of themselves,abused each other, over-fed, shouted and came to blows. I thought one could find no better illustration for our dinner thanthe poets' story of Eris. When she was not invited to Peleus's nuptials, she threw that apple on the table which broughtabout the great Trojan war. Hetoemocles's letter was just such an apple, woeful Iliad and all.

36

For buffer-Aristaenetus had proved ineffectual, and the quarrel between Zenothemis and Cleodemus was proceeding.

For the present,' said the latter, 'I am satisfied with exposing your ignorance; to-morrow I will give you your desertsmore adequately. Pray explain, Zenothemis, or the reputable Diphilus for you, how it is that you Stoics class theacquisition of wealth l among the things indifferent, and then concentrate your whole efforts upon it, hang perpetuallyabout the rich to that end, lend money, screw out your usury, and take pay for your teaching. Or again, if you hate pleasureand condemn the Epicureans, how comes it that you will do and endure the meanest things for it? you resent it if you are notasked out; and when you are, you eat so much, and convey so much more to your servant's keeping'--and he interrupted himselfto make a grab at the napkin that Zenothemis's boy was holding, full of all sorts of provender; he meant to get it away andempty the contents on the floor; but the boy held on too tight.

37

'Quite right, Cleodemus,' said Hermon; 'let them tell us why they condemn pleasure, and yet expect more of it than anyone else.' 'No, no,' says Zenothemis; 'you give us your grounds, Cleodemus, for saying wealth is not athing indifferent.' 'No, I tell you; let us have your case.' So the see-saw went on, till Ion came out of hisretirement and called a truce: 'I will give you,' he said, 'a theme worthy of the occasion; and you shall speak and listenwithout trying for personal triumphs; take a leaf from our Plato this time.' 'Hear, hear,' from the company, especially fromAristaenetus and Eucritus, who hailed this escape from unpleasantness. The former now went back to his own place, confidentof peace.

38

The 'repast,' as they call it, had just made its appearance; each guest was served with a bird, a slice of wild boar, aportion of hare, a fried fish, some sesame cakes and sweet-meats--all these to be taken home if the guest chose. Every manhad not a separate dish, however; Aristaenetus and Eucritus shared one little table, from which eachwas to take what belonged to him; so Zenothemis the Stoic and Hermon the Epicurean; Cleodemus and Ion had the third table,the bridegroom and I the next; Diphilus had a double portion, by the absence of Zeno. Remember these details, Philo; youwill find they bear on the story.

Phi. Trust me.

39

Ly. Ion proceeded: 'I will start, then, if you wish it.' He reflected a moment, and then: 'With so much talentin the room, no less a subject might seem indicated than Ideas 1,Incorporeals, and the Immortality of the Soul. On the other hand our divergent views might make that too controversial; so Iwill take the question of marriage, and say what seems appropriate. The counsel of perfection here would be to dispense withit, and be satisfied, according to the prescription of Plato and Socrates, with contemplating male beauty. So, and only so,is absolute virtue to be attained. But if marriage is admitted as a practical necessity, then we should adopt the Platonicsystem of holding our wives in common, thus obviating rivality.'

40

The unseasonableness of these remarks raised a laugh. And Dionysodorus had another criticism: 'Spare us theseprovincialisms,' he said; 'or give us your authority for "rivality."' 'Such carpings are beneath contempt,' was the politereply. Dionysodorus was about to return the compliment with interest, when our good man of letters intervened: 'Stop,' saidHistiaeus, 'and let me read you an epithalamium.'

41

He at once went off at score; and I think I can reproduce the effusion:

Or like, in Aristaenetus's hall,
  Cleanthis, softly nurtured bright princess,
Surpassing other beauties virginal,
  Cythera's Queen, or Helen's loveliness.

Bridegroom, the best of your contemporaries,
  Nireus's and Achilles' peer, rejoice!
While we in hymeneal voluntaries
  Over the pair keep lifting up our voice.

42

By the time the laughter that not unnaturally followed had subsided, it was time to pack up our 'repasts'; Aristaenetusand Eucritus took each his intended portion; Chaereas and I, Ion and Cleodemus, did likewise. But as Zeno was not there,Diphilus expected to come in for his share too. He said everything on that table was his, and disputed possession with theservants. There was a tug of war between them just like that over the body of Patroclus; at last he was worsted and had tolet go, to the huge amusement of all, which he heightened by taking the thing as a most serious wrong.

43

As I told you, Hermon and Zenothemis were neighbours, the latter having the upper place. Their portions were equal enoughexcept in one respect, and the division was peaceful until that was reached. But the bird on Hermon's side was--by chance,no doubt--the fatter. The moment came for them to take their respective birds. At this point--now attend carefully, please,Philo; here is the kernel of the whole affair--at this point Zenothemis let his own bird lie, and took the fatter one beforeHermon. But Hermon was not going to be put upon; he laid hold of it too. Then their voices were lifted up, they closed,belaboured each other's faces with the birds, clutched each other's beards, and called for assistance, Hermon appealing toCleodemus, Zenothemis to Alcidamas and Diphilus. The allies took their sides, Ion alone preserving neutrality.

44

The hosts engaged. Zenothemis lifted a goblet from the table where it stood before Aristaenetus, and hurled it atHermon;

And him it missed, but found another mark,

laying open the bridegroom's skull with a sound deep gash. This opened the lips of the ladies;most of them indeed jumped down into the battle's interspace, led by the young man's mother, as soon as she saw his bloodflowing; the bride too was startled from her place by terror for him. Meanwhile Alcidamas was in his glory maintaining thecause of Zenothemis; down came his stick on Cleodemus's skull, he injured Hermon's jaw, and severely wounded several of theservants who tried to protect them. The other side were not beaten, however; Cleodemus with levelled finger was gouging outZenothemis's eye, not to mention fastening on his nose and biting a piece off it; and when Diphilus came to Zenothemis'srescue, Hermon pitched him head first from the couch.

45

Histiaeus too was wounded in trying to part the pair; it was a kick in the teeth, I think, from Cleodemus, who took himfor Diphilus. So the poor man of letters lay 'disgorging blood,' as his own Homer describes it. It was a scene of tumult andtears. The women were hanging over Chaereas and wailing, the other men trying to restore peace. The great centre ofdestruction was Alcidamas, who after routing the forces immediately opposed to him was striking at whatever presenteditself. Many a man had fallen there, be sure, had he not broken his stick. I was standing close up to the wall watching theproceedings in which I took no part; Histiaeus's fate had taught me the dangers of intervention. It was a sight to recallthe Lapithae and Centaurs--tables upside down, blood in streams, bowls hurtling in the air.

46

At last Alcidamas upset the lamp, there was a great darkness, and confusion was worse confounded. It was not so easy toprocure another light, and many a horrid deed was done in the dark. When some one came at last with a lamp, Alcidamas wasdiscovered stripping and applying compulsion to the flute-girl, and Dionysodorus proved to have been as incongruouslyengaged; as he stood up, a goblet rolled out of his bosom. His account of the matter was that Ionhad picked it up in the confusion, and given it him to save it from damage! for which piece of carefulness Ion was willingto receive credit.

47

So the party came to an end, tears being resold in the laughter at Alcidamas, Dionysodorus and Ion. The wounded wereborne off in sad case, especially old Zenothemis, holding one hand on his nose and the other on his eye, and bellowing outthat the agony was more than he could bear. Hermon was in poor condition himself, having lost a couple of teeth; but hecould not let this piece of evidence go; 'Bear in mind, Zenothemis,' he called out, 'that you do not consider paina thing indifferent.' The bridegroom, who had been seen to by Dionicus, was also taken off with his head in bandages--in thecarriage in which he was to have taken his bride home. It had been a sorry wedding-feast for him, poor fellow. Dionicus haddone what he could for the rest, they were taken home to bed, and very ill most of them were on the way. Alcidamas stayedwhere he was; it was impossible to get rid of him, as he had thrown himself down anyhow across a couch and fallenasleep.

48

And now you know all about the banquet, my dear Philo; a tragedy epilogue seems called for:

Hidden power sways each hour:
Men propose, the Gods dispose:
Fail surmises, come surprises.

It was the unexpected that came to pass here, at any rate. Well, live and learn; I know now that a quiet man had betterkeep clear of these feasts of reason.