Menander Rhetor, Treatise 1

LCL 539: 40-41




1. Περὶ τοίνυν τῶν φυσικῶν ἐφεξῆς ἂν εἴη, ὥσπερ προεθέμεθα, λέγειν. πρῶτον τοίνυν τόδε περὶ αὐτῶν ῥητέον, ὅτι ἐλάχιστα μὲν τοῖς ἀφελεστέροις1 τὸ εἶδος ἁρμόττει, μάλιστα δὲ τοῖς ἐμψυχοτέροις2 καὶ μεγαλονουστέροις, ἔπειτα ὅτι ποιηταῖς μᾶλλον ἢ συγγραφεῦσιν ἢ 337λογογράφοις ἢ πολιτικοῖς ἁρμόττουσιν. 2. εἰσὶ δὲ τοιοῦτοι, ὅταν Ἀπόλλωνος ὕμνον λέγοντες ἥλιον αὐτὸν εἶναι φάσκωμεν, καὶ περὶ τοῦ ἡλίου τῆς φύσεως διαλεγώμεθα, καὶ περὶ Ἥρας ὅτι ἀήρ, καὶ Ζεὺς τὸ θερμόν· οἱ γὰρ τοιοῦτοι ὕμνοι φυσιολογικοί. καὶ χρῶνται δὲ τῷ τοιούτῳ τρόπῳ Παρμενίδης τε καὶ Ἐμπεδοκλῆς ἀκριβῶς, κέχρηται δὲ καὶ ὁ Πλάτων· ἐν τῷ Φαίδρῳ γὰρ φυσιολογῶν ὅτι πάθος ἐστὶ τῆς ψυχῆς ὁ Ἔρως, ἀναπτεροποιεῖ αὐτόν.

3. Αὐτῶν δὲ τῶν φυσικῶν οἱ μὲν ἐξηγητικοί, οἱ δὲ ἐν βραχεῖ προαγόμενοι· πλεῖστον γὰρ διαφέρει, ὡς εἰδότα ἀναμιμνήσκειν συμμέτρως, ἢ ὅλως ἀγνοοῦντα διδάσκειν. Παρμενίδης μὲν γὰρ καὶ Ἐμπεδοκλῆς ἐξηγοῦνται, Πλάτων δὲ ἐν βραχυτάτοις ἀναμιμνήσκει.3 ἔτι δὲ οἱ μὲν κατ’ αἰνίγματα, οἱ δὲ ἐκ τοῦ φανεροῦ




1. Next, according to our outline, comes a discussion of philosophical hymns (physikoi). The first thing that needs to be said about them is that this genre is least appropriate for simpler writers, but most fitting for those with more animated and elevated natures. Secondly, they suit poets rather than prose writers, historians, or speech writers. 2. Examples occur when, in a hymn to Apollo, we say that he is the sun and discuss the nature1 of the sun, and that Hera is air, and that Zeus is heat—such are examples of philosophical hymns. Parmenides and Empedocles employ this type in the strict sense, but Plato uses it too, for in the Phaedrus, while explaining the nature of Eros as a sensation in the soul, he gives him wings.2

3. Some philosophical hymns offer explanations, others merely make brief statements. For there is a great difference between succinctly reminding one already knowledgeable and instructing one who is completely ignorant. Parmenides and Empedocles offer explanations, whereas Plato provides very brief reminders. Furthermore, some hymns make their case in riddles, others straightforwardly.

DOI: 10.4159/DLCL.menander_rhetor-treatise_1.2019