previous next

Philinus having ended his discourse, Marcion said: In my opinion, not only those that separate profit from honesty are obnoxious to Socrates's curse, but those also that separate pleasure from health, as if it were its enemy and opposite, and not its great friend and promoter. Pain we use but seldom and unwillingly, as the most violent instrument. But from all things else, none, though he would willingly, can remove pleasure. It still attends when we eat, sleep, bathe, or anoint, and takes care of and nurses the diseased; dissipating all that is hurtful and disagreeable, by applying that which is proper, pleasing, and natural. For what pain, what want, what poison so quickly and so easily cures a disease as seasonable bathing? A glass of wine, when a man wants it, or a dish of palatable meat, presently frees us from all disturbing particles, and settles nature in its proper state, there being as it were a calm and serenity spread over the troubled humors. But those remedies that are painful do hardly and only by little and little promote the cure, every difficulty pushing on and forcing Nature. And therefore let not Philinus blame us, [p. 293] if we do not make all the sail we can to fly from pleasure, but more diligently endeavor to make pleasure and health, than other philosophers do to make pleasure and honesty, agree. Now, in my opinion, Philinus, you seem to be out in your first argument, where you suppose the beasts use more simple food and are more healthy than men; neither of which is true. The first the goats in Eupolis confute, for they extol their pasture as full of variety and all sorts of herbs, in this manner,
We feed almost on every kind of trees,
Young firs, the ilex, and the oak we crop:
Sweet trefoil, fragrant juniper, and yew,
Wild olives, thyme,—all freely yield their store.

These that I have mentioned are very different in taste, smell, and other qualities, and he reckons more sorts which I have omitted. The second Homer skilfully refutes, when he tells us that the plague first began amongst the beasts. Besides, the shortness of their lives proves that they are very subject to diseases; for there is scarce any irrational creature long lived, besides the crow and the chough; and those two every one knows do not confine themselves to simple food, but eat any thing. Besides, you take no good rule to judge what is easy and what is hard of digestion from the diet of those that are sick; for labor and exercise, and even to chew our meat well, contribute very much to digestion, neither of which can agree with a man in a fever. Again, that the variety of meats, by reason of the different qualities of the particulars, should disagree and spoil one another, you have no reason to fear. For if Nature chooses from dissimilar bodies what is fit and agree able, the diverse nourishment transmits many and sundry qualities into the mass and bulk of the body, applying to every part that which is meet and fit; so that, as Empedocles words it,

The sweet runs to the sweet, the sour combines
With sour, the sharp with sharp, the hot with hot;

[p. 294] and after the mixture is spread through the mass by the heat which is in the spirit, the proper parts are separated and applied to the proper members. Indeed, it is very probable that such bodies as ours, consisting of parts of different natures, should be nourished and built up rather of various than of simple matter. But if by concoction there is an alteration made in the food, this will be more easily performed when there are different sorts of meat, than when there is only one, in the stomach; for similars cannot work upon similars, and the very contrariety in the mixture considerably promotes the alteration of the enfeebled qualities. But if, Philinus, you are against all mixture, do not chide Philo only for the variety of his dishes and sauces, but also for using mixture in his sovereign antidotes, which Erasistratus calls the Gods' hands. Convince him of absurdity and vanity, when he mixes things vegetable, mineral, and animal, and things from sea and land, in one potion; and advise him to let these alone, and to confine all physic to barley-broth, gourds, and oil mixed with water. But you urge farther, that variety enticeth the appetite that hath no command over itself. That is, good sir, cleanly, wholesome, sweet, palatable, pleasing diet makes us eat and drink more than ordinary. Why then, instead of fine flour, do not we thicken our broth with coarse bran? And instead of asparagus, why do we not dress nettle-tops and thistles; and leaving this fragrant and pleasant wine, drink sour harsh liquor that gnats have been buzzing about a long while? Because, perhaps you may reply, wholesome feeding doth not consist in a perfect avoiding of all that is pleasing, but in moderating the appetite in that respect, and making it prefer profit before pleasure. But, sir, as a mariner has a thousand ways to avoid a stiff gale of wind, but when it is clear down and a perfect calm, cannot raise it again; thus to correct and restrain our extravagant appetite is no hard [p. 295] matter, but when it grows weak and faint, when it fails as to its proper objects, then to raise it and make it vigorous and active again is, sir, a very difficult and hard task. And therefore variety of viands is as much better than simple food, which is apt to satisfy by being but of one sort, as it is easier to stop Nature when she makes too much speed, than to force her on when languishing and faint. Beside, what some say, that fulness is more to be avoided than emptiness, is not true; but, on the contrary, fulness then only hurts when it ends in a surfeit or disease; but emptiness, though it doth no other mischief, is of itself unnatural. And let this suffice as an answer to what you proposed. But you who stick to salt and cummin have forgot, that variety is sweeter and more desired by the appetite, unless too sweet. For, the sight preparing the way, it is soon assimilated to the eager receiving body; but that which is not desirable Nature either throws off again, or keeps it in for mere want. But pray observe this, that I do not plead for variety in tarts, cakes, or sauces;—those are vain, insignificant, and superfluous things;—but even Plato allowed variety to those fine citizens of his, setting before them onions, olives, leeks, cheese, and all sorts of meat and fish, and besides these, allowed them some dried fruits.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.

An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.

load focus Greek (Gregorius N. Bernardakis, 1892)
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: