Plutarch’s Moralia


ἐδόκει καὶ λόγον ἔχειν τὸ μὴ δρόμῳ, καθάπερ ὕσπληγος μιᾶς πεσούσης, ἐκδραμεῖν1 τὰ πάθη πρὸς τὴν γένεσιν, ἄλλων δ᾿ ἄλλοις ἀεὶ κατόπιν ἐπιγινομένων ἕκαστον ἐν χρόνῳ τινὶ λαβεῖν τὴν πρώτην γένεσιν.

“Εἰκάσαι δ᾿ ἄν τις,” ἔφην ἐγώ, “τὰ μὲν ἀπ᾿ ἐνδείας ὅσα τε καῦμα προσπῖπτον ἢ ψῦχος ἐμποιεῖ, ταῦτα πρῶτον τοῖς σώμασι παραγενέσθαι, πλησμονὰς Eδὲ καὶ θρύψεις καὶ ἡδυπαθείας ὕστερον ἐπελθεῖν μετ᾿ ἀργίας καὶ σχολῆς δι᾿ ἀφθονίαν τῶν ἀναγκαίων πολὺ περίττωμα ποιούσας καὶ πονηρόν, ἐν ᾧ ποικίλα νοσημάτων εἴδη παντοδαπάς τε τούτων ἐπιπλοκὰς πρὸς ἀλλήλας καὶ μίξεις ἀεί τι νεωτερίζειν.

“Τὸ μὲν γὰρ κατὰ φύσιν τέτακται καὶ διώρισται, τάξις γὰρ ἢ τάξεως ἔργον ἡ φύσις· ἡ δ᾿ ἀταξία καθάπερ ἡ Πινδαρικὴ ψάμμος ‘ἀριθμὸν περιπέφευγεν,’ καὶ τὸ παρὰ τὴν φύσιν εὐθὺς ἀόριστον καὶ ἄπειρόν ἐστιν. ἀληθεύειν μὲν γὰρ ἁπλῶς ψεύδεσθαι δ᾿ ἀπειραχῶς παρέχει τὰ πράγματα· καὶ ῥυθμοὶ καὶ ἁρμονίαι λόγους ἔχουσιν, ἃ δὲ πλημμελοῦσιν ἄνθρωποι Fπερὶ λύραν καὶ ᾠδὴν καὶ ὄρχησιν, οὐκ ἄν τις περιλάβοι. καίτοι καὶ Φρύνιχος ὁ τῶν τραγῳδιῶν ποιητὴς περὶ αὑτοῦ φησιν ὅτι

σχήματα δ᾿ ὄρχησις τόσα μοι πόρεν, ὅσσ᾿ ἐνὶ πόντῳ κύματα ποιεῖται χείματι νὺξ ὀλοή.

“Καὶ Χρύσιππος τὰς ἐκ δέκα μόνων ἀξιωμάτων συμπλοκὰς πλήθει φησὶν ἑκατὸν μυριάδας


Table-Talk VIII.

we considered it probable that diseases did not rush into existence in a racing start, at the drop of one barrier, as it were, but that they kept arriving one after another, so that each individually, after an interval, came into being for the first time.

“One might conjecture,” I said, “that those which come as a result of a deficiency, and those which heat and cold produce, would assail the body first, and that those arising from surfeit and luxuries and over-indulgence would appear later, along with idleness and leisure, which come when primary wants are well provided for. The superfluities accumulate a vicious residue in the body and that is a breeding-ground for a medley of new diseases with ever new mutual complications and combinations.

“That which is according to nature is ordered and delimited, for nature is, precisely, order or else the handiwork of order, while disorder, like Pindar’s sand,’ has eluded number,’a and what is contrary to nature is simply what is unbounded and unlimited. The facts allow just one true statement, but an infinite number of false ones. Both rhythm and pitch go by formula, but no one could include in a formula the mistakes people make in playing the lyre or singing or dancing. And in fact Phrynichusb the tragic poet says of himself,

As many figures Dance gives me as baleful night Makes waves upon a stormy sea.

“Chrysippus says that the number of compound propositions that can be made from only ten simple

  • aOl. ii. 179.
  • bFrag. 3 Bergk.
DOI: 10.4159/DLCL.plutarch-moralia_table_talk.1961