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Top. XXI. The object of this topic is (says Brandis, u. s., p. 20) to weaken the force of arguments from probability. “In incredibilibus provocatur ad effectum, qui si conspicuus sit, resisti non potest quin, quod incredibile videbatur, iam probabile quoque esse fateamur.” Schrader. ‘Another (class of arguments) is derived from things which are believed to come to pass (γίγνεσθαι, actually to take place or happen) but (still) are beyond (ordinary) belief, (you argue, namely) that they would not have been believed at all, had they not actually been or nearly so’: i. e. either been in existence, or come so near to it, made so near an approach to it, as to enable us by a slight stretch of imagination to realize it so as to be convinced of its existence. Any case of very close analogy, for instance, to the thing in question might produce this conviction. ἢ ἐγγύς is a saving clause; ‘fact or nearly so’. Rhetorical argument does not aim at absolute truth and certainty: it is content with a near approach to it within the sphere of the probable, which is enough for complete persuasion. ‘Nay even more’, (we may further argue that these at first sight incredible things are even more likely to be true than those that are at first sight probable. Supply δοκοῦντά ἐστι for the constr. and (μᾶλλον) ἀληθῆ or ὄντα ἐστί τῶν εἰκότων καὶ πιθανῶν for the sense): ‘because men believe in (suppose, assume the existence of,) things either actual, real or probable: if then it (the thing in question) be incredible and not probable, it must be true; because its probability and plausibility are not the ground of our belief in it’. The argument of the last clause is an exemplification of Topic IX, § 10, supra, see note there. It is an inference ἐκ διαιρέσεως, ‘from division’; a disjunctive judgment. All belief is directed to the true or the probable: there is no other alternative. All that is believed—and this is believed—must therefore be either true or probable: this is not probable; therefore it must be true. ἀληθές more antiquae philosophiae identifies truth and being: ἀληθές here = ὄν. In other words, the antecedent improbability of anything may furnish a still stronger argument for its reality than its probability. Anything absolutely incredible is denied at once, unless there be some unusually strong evidence of its being a fact, however paradoxical. That the belief of it is actually entertained is the strongest proof that it is a fact: for since no one would have supposed it to be true without the strongest evidence, the evidence of it, of whatever kind, must be unusually strong. The instance given is an exemplification of the topic in its first and simplest form. ‘As Androcles of Pitthus’ (or Pithus, whence ὁ Πιθεύς; an Attic deme, of the tribe Cecropis) ‘replied in the charge he brought against the law, to the clamour with which he was assailed by them’ (the assembly, before which he was arraigning the existing state of the law) ‘for saying “the laws require a law to correct them and set them right” which they thought highly improbable—“why so do fish require salt (to keep them from corruption), though it is neither probable nor plausible that bred as they are in brine (the salt sea) they should require salt: and so does oil-cake’ (στέμφυλα, the cake or mass of olives remaining after the oil has been pressed out) ‘require oil (for the same reason), though it is highly improbable that the very thing that produces oil should require oil itself’. Here we have an improbable statement which is shewn by two close analogies to be after all very near (ἐγγύς) the truth. Of Androcles, and the time and circumstances of his proposed alteration of the laws, nothing is known but what appears in our text. The names of three Androcleses occur in the Orators, (Sauppe, Ind. Nom. p. 13, Or. Att. III) of which the first, mentioned by Andocides περὶ μυστηρίων § 27, may possibly be the speaker here referred to. The Androcles of Thuc. VIII 65, (comp. Grote, H. G. VIII 43 [c. LXII], Plut. Alcib. c. 19,) the accuser and opponent of Alcibiades, assassinated in 411 B. C. by the agents of Pisander and the oligarchical party, is most likely identical with Andocides; the time of the events referred to in both authors being nearly the same. I think upon the whole that it is not improbable that Thucydides, Andocides and Aristotle may mean the same person1. στέμφυλα] Ar. Nub. 45, Equit. 806, was a common article of food in Attica. It denoted not only the cake of pressed olives, but also of grapes from which the juice had been squeezed. Phrynichus, s. v., has οἱ μὲν πολλοὶ τὰ τῶν βοτρύων ἐκπιέσματα ἀμαθῶς: οἱ δ᾽ Ἀττικοί στέμφυλα ἐλαῶν. Suidas, on the other hand, τὸ ἔκδυμα τῆς σταφυλῆς ἢ τῶν ἐλαῶν, οἷς ἀντὶ ὄψων ἐχρῶντο, and to the same effect, Hesychius. Also Galen, ap. Lobeck, note. Lobeck settles the matter by quoting Geoponic. VI 12. 435, εἰδέναι χρὴ ὅτι στέμφυλα οὐχ, ὥς τινες νομίζουσι, τῶν ἐλαιῶν μόνον ἐστὶ πυρῆνες, ἀλλὰ καὶ τὰ τῶν σταφυλῶν γίγαρτα. (πυρῆνες must surely be a mistake; no amount of pressing could ever convert grape-stones or olive-kernels into an ὄψον, a dainty or relish, and moreover what is here said, that the oil proceeds from the στέμφυλα, shews that the cake is made of the olives themselves, and not of the mere stones.) The word occurs frequently, as might be expected, in the fragments of the Comic writers: see the Index to Meineke's Collection.
1 The writer of the Article Androcles, in Smith's Biogr. Dict., has no doubt upon this point. He says on this passage, “Ar. has preserved a sentence from one of Androcles' speeches, in which he used an incorrect figure!”.
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