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[6arg] Of what kind are the things which have the appearance of learning, but are neither entertaining nor useful; and also of changes in the names of several cities and regions.

A FRIEND of mine, a man not without fame as a student of literature, who had passed a great part of his life among books, said to me: “I should like to aid and adorn your Nights,” at the same time presenting me with a book of great bulk, overflowing, as he himself put it, with learning of every kind. He said that he had compiled it as the result of wide, varied and abstruse reading, and he invited me to take from it as much as I liked and thought worthy of record. I took the book eagerly and gladly, as if I had got possession of the horn of plenty, and shut myself up in order to read it without interruption. But what was written there was, by Jove! merely a list of curiosities: the name of the man who was first called a “grammarian”; the number of famous men named Pythagoras and Hippocrates; Homer's [p. 45] description 1 of the λαυρή, or “narrow passage,” in the house of Ulysses; why Telemachus did not touch Pisistratus, who was lying beside him, with his hand, but awakened him by a kick; 2 with what kind of bolt Euryclia shut in Telemachus; 3 and why the same poet did not know the rose, but did know oil made from roses. 4 It also contained the names of the companions of Ulysses who were seized and torn to pieces by Scylla; 5 whether the wanderings of Ulysses were in the inner sea, as Aristarchus believed, 6 or in the outer sea, according to Crates. There was also a list of the isopsephic verses in Homer; 7 what names in the same writer are given in the form of an acrostic; what verse it is in which each word is a syllable longer than the preceding word; 8 by what rule each head of cattle produces three offspring each year; 9 of the five layers with which the shield of Achilles was strengthened, whether the one made of gold was on top or in the middle; 10 and besides what regions and cities had had a change of name, as Boeotia was formerly called Aonia, Egypt Aeria, Crete by the same name Aeria, Attica Acte, Corinth Ephyre, Macedonia Emathia, Thessaly Haemonia, Tyre Sarra, Thrace Sithonia, Paestum Poseidonia. 11 These things and many others of the same kind were included in that book. Hastening to return it to him at once, I said: “I [p. 47] congratulate you, most learned sir, on this display of encyclopaedic erudition; but take back this precious volume, which does not have the slightest connection with my humble writings. For my Nights, which you wish to assist and adorn, base their inquiries especially on that one verse of Homer which Socrates said was above all other things always dear to him 12 Whate'er of good and ill has come to you at home.” 13

1 Odyss. xxii. 128, 137.

2 Odyss. xv. 44.

3 Odyss. i. 441.

4 Iliad xxiii. 186.

5 Odyss. xii. 245.

6 p. 244, Lehrs.

7 That is, those whose letters, treated as figures, amounted to the same sum, thus Iliad vii. 264 and 265 = 3498. See Suet. Nero xxxix. 2 and note a (L.C.L.).

8 An example is Iliad iii. 182, μάκαρ ᾿ατρείδη μοιρηγενὲς ὀλιβιοδαίμων.

9 Odyss. iv. 86.

10 Iliad xx. 269.

11 The original name was ποσειδωνία; ποσειδώνιον was in Pallene. Gellius seems to have made a slip. ποσειδώνίον means a temple of Poseidon.

12 Odyss. iv. 392.

13 The emphasis is on the last two words. Socrates thought that the chief value of the study of philosophy was its effect on the student's own life and character. Gellius apparently means that he is collecting materials for home consumption; see Praef. i, ut liberis meis partae istiusmodi remissiones essent.

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  • Cross-references to this page (5):
    • A Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities (1890), CORNU CO´PIAE
    • A Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities (1890), SENATUSCONSULTUM
    • Dictionary of Greek and Roman Geography (1854), A´ONES
    • Dictionary of Greek and Roman Geography (1854), THRA´CIA
    • Dictionary of Greek and Roman Geography (1854), TYRUS
  • Cross-references in general dictionaries to this page (3):
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