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Plutarch's Moralia

(996) διακείμενος καὶ πράως καὶ φιλανθρώπως; ἐμνήσθην δὲ τρίτην ἡμέραν διαλεγόμενος τὸ τοῦ Ξενοκράτους ὅτι1 Ἀθηναῖοι τῷ ζῶντα τὸν κριὸν ἐκδείραντι δίκην ἐπέθηκαν· οὐκ ἔστι δ᾿, οἶμαι, χείρων ὁ ζῶντα Bβασανίζων τοῦ παραιρουμένου τὸ ζῆν καὶ φονεύοντος· ἀλλὰ μᾶλλον, ὡς ἔοικε, τῶν παρὰ συνήθειαν ἢ τῶν παρὰ φύσιν αἰσθανόμεθα. καὶ ταῦτα μὲν ἐκεῖ κοινότερον ἔλεγον· τὴν δὲ μεγάλην καὶ μυστηριώδη καὶ ἄπιστον ἀνδράσι δεινοῖς,2 ᾗ φησιν ὁ Πλάτων, καὶ θνητὰ φρονοῦσιν ἀρχὴν τοῦ δόγματος ὀκνῶ μὲν ἔτι3 τῷ λόγῳ κινεῖν, ὥσπερ ναῦν ἐν χειμῶνι ναύκληρος ἢ μηχανὴν αἴρειν4 ποιητικὸς ἀνὴρ ἐν θεάτρῳ σκηνῆς περιφερομένης. οὐ χεῖρον δ᾿ ἴσως καὶ προανακρούσασθαι καὶ προαναφωνῆσαι τὰ τοῦ Ἐμπεδοκλέους· . . . ἀλληγορεῖ γὰρ ἐνταῦθα τὰς ψυχάς, ὅτι φόνων καὶ βρώσεως σαρκῶν καὶ ἀλληλοφαγίας Cδίκην τίνουσαι σώμασι θνητοῖς ἐνδέδενται. καίτοι δοκεῖ παλαιότερος οὗτος ὁ λόγος εἶναι· τὰ γὰρ δὴ περὶ τὸν Διόνυσον μεμυθευμένα πάθη τοῦ διαμελισμοῦ καὶ τὰ Τιτάνων ἐπ᾿ αὐτὸν τολμήματα, κολάσεις τε τούτων καὶ κεραυνώσεις γευσαμένων τοῦ φόνου, ᾐνιγμένος5 ἐστὶ μῦθος εἰς τὴν παλιγγενεσίαν·

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The Eating of Flesh I

toward other non-human creatures? Two days ago in a discussion I quoted the remark of Xenocrates,a that the Athenians punished the man who had flayed a ram while it was still alive; yet, as I think, he who tortures a living creature is no worse than he who slaughters it outright. But it seems that we are more observant of acts contrary to convention than of those that are contrary to nature. In that place, then, I made my remarks in a popular vein. I still hesitate, however, to attempt a discussion of the principle underlying my opinion, great as it is, and mysterious and incredible, as Platob says, with merely clever men of mortal opinions, just as a steersman hesitates to shift his coursec in the midst of a storm, or a playwright to raise his god from the machine in the midst of a play. Yet perhaps it is not unsuitable to set the pitch and announce the theme by quoting some verses of Empedocles.d . . . By these lines he means, though he does not say so directly, that human souls are imprisoned in mortal bodies as a punishment for murder, the eating of animal flesh, and cannibalism. This doctrine, however, seems to be even older, for the stories told about the sufferings and dismemberment of Dionysuse and the outrageous assaults of the Titans upon him, and their punishment and blasting by thunderbolt after they had tasted his blood—all this is a myth which in its inner meaning has to do with rebirth. For to

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DOI: 10.4159/DLCL.plutarch-eating_flesh.1957