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Yea, doubtless, replies Solon, or we may be reputed more injudicious than the Egyptians. For when any person [p. 30] dies among them, they open him and show him so dissected to the sun; his guts they throw into the river, to the remaining parts they allow a decent burial, for they think the body now pure and clean; and to speak truly, they are the foulest parts of the body, and like that lower hell crammed with dead carcasses and at the same time flowing with offensive rivers, such as flame with fire and are disturbed with tempests. No live creature feeds upon another living creature, but we first take away their lives, and in that action we do them great wrong; forasmuch as whatsoever is transmuted and turned into another loseth the nature which it had before, and is corrupted that it may become nourishment to the others. Now the very plants have life in them,—that is clear and manifest, for we perceive they grow and spread. But to abstain from eating flesh (as they say Orpheus of old did) is more a pretence than a real avoiding of an injury proceeding from the just use of meat. One way there is, and but one way, whereby a man may avoid offence, namely by being contented with his own, not coveting what belongs to his neighbor. But if a man's circumstances be such and so hard that he cannot subsist without wronging another man, the fault is God's, not his. The case being such with some persons, I would fain learn if it be not advisable to destroy, at the same time with injustice, these instruments of injustice, the belly, stomach, and liver, which have no sense of justice or appetite to honesty, and therefore may be fitly compared to your cook's implements, his knives and his caldrons, or to a baker's chimney and bins and kneading-tubs. Verily one may observe the souls of some men confined to their bodies, as to a house of correction, barely to do the drudgery and to serve the necessities thereof. It was our own case but even now. While we minded our meat and our bellies, we had neither eyes to see nor ears to hear; but now the table is taken away, we [p. 31] are free to discourse among ourselves and to enjoy one another; and now our bellies are full, we have nothing else to do or care for. And if this condition and state wherein we at present are would last our whole life, we having no wants to fear nor riches to covet (for a desire of superfluities attends a desire of necessaries), would not our lives be much more comfortable and life itself much more desirable?

Yea, but Cleodemus stiffly maintains the necessity of eating and drinking, else we shall want tables and cups, and shall not be able to sacrifice to Ceres and Proserpina. By a parity of reason there is a necessity there should be contentions and wars, that men may have bulwarks and citadels and fortifications by land, fleets and navies abroad at sea, and that having slain hundreds, we may offer sacrifices (called Hecatomphonia) after the Messenian manner. By this reason we shall find men grudging their own health, for (they will say) there will be no need of down or feather beds unless they are sick; and so those healing Gods, and particularly Esculapius, will be vast sufferers, for they will infallibly lose so many fat and rich sacrifices yearly. Nay, the art of chirurgery will perish, and all those ingenious instruments that have been invented for the cure of man will lie by useless and insignificant. And what great difference is there between this and that? For meat is a medicine against hunger, and such as keep a regular diet are said to cure themselves,—I mean such as use meat not for wantonness but of necessity. For it is plain, the prejudices we receive by feeding far surmount the pleasures. And the pleasure of eating fills a very little place in our bodies and very little time. But why should I trouble you or myself with a catalogue of the many vexations which attend that man who is necessitated to provide for a family, and the many difficulties which distract him in his undertaking? For my part, I verily [p. 32] believe Homer had an eye to this very thing, when, to prove the immortality of the Gods, he made use of this very argument, that they were such because they used no victuals;

For not the bread of man their life sustains,
Nor wine's inflaming juice supplies their veins;

intimating meat to be the cause of death as well as the means of sustaining and supporting life. From hence proceed divers fatal distempers caused much more by fulness than by fasting; and to digest what we have eaten proves frequently a harder matter than to provide and procure what we eat. And when we solicitously enquire beforehand what we should do or how we should employ ourselves if we had not such care and business to take up our time, this is as if Danaus's daughters should trouble their heads to know what they should do if they had no sieves to fill with water. We drudge and toil for necessaries, for want of better and nobler business. As slaves then who have gained their freedom do now and then those drudgeries and discharge those servile employments and offices for their own benefit which they undertook heretofore for their masters' advantage, so the mind of man, which at present is enslaved to the body and the service thereof, when once it becomes free from this slavery, will take care of itself, and spend its time in contemplation of truth without distraction or disturbance. Such were our discourses upon this head, O Nicarchus.

1 Il. V. 341.

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