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BEASTS ARE RATIONAL (BRUTA ANIMALIA RATIONE UTI)[p. 489] Many will find this little jeu d'esprit as pleasant reading as anything in Plutarch. In part, this may be due to its (perhaps accidental) brevity ; but its originality and freshness are undeniable. These qualities have, to be sure, puzzled a number of scholars who are still disputing whether the sources are principally Epicurean or Peripatetic or Cynic. Nothing quite like it is known elsewhere,1 which sad lack baffles the Quellenforscher. So, rather than allow a touch of spontaneous imagination to Plutarch, it has been confidently asserted that the dialogue must come from the school of Menippus, or be an attempt to turn the tables on Polystratus, and so on. Everything must have a source (if only the author's ingenuity) and the source here, so far as it can be predicated with any certainty, is the tenth book of the Odyssey seen through the humorous eyes of a young Boeotian.2 We have here, then, a Boeotian [p. 490] pig instructing the favourite of Athena.3 It was once fashionable to assert, or imply, that since Plutarch was once a young Boeotian himself, matters could not be so simple, nor could he be the author. But the climate of scholarship is, perhaps, changing. There are few of Plutarch's admirers who will not claim this lively work for one of his more admirable achievements, written, perhaps, when he was quite young. Even if the authorship is accepted without hesitation, there is little else that is certain except that the Stoics are constantly under attack, though rather less directly than in the preceding dialogue. There is grave doubt about the title : is it no. 127 or no. 135 in the Lamprias Catalogue ? Or, as it has become popular to call it, is it really the Gryllus?4 There are a number of troublesome lacunae ; the work, as it stands, ends suddenly with a gay witticism instead of being continued to a more conventional termination.5 It is only too likely that the more mature Plutarch would have gone on and on ; but what would the clever young man who concocted this conceit have done?6 For once, there is a good translation, or paraphrase, the German one of Bruno Snell in his Plutarch [p. 491] (Zürich, 1948), though this version gives almost too exciting an impression of vivacity and wit by omitting the more tiresome sections. Those interested in Gryllus' remarks on the indecent ways in which men pervert animals to their taste will find a sympathetic exposition in E. G. Boulenger's Animal Mysteries (London, 1927).
1 But talking animals were not new (Hirzel, Der Dialog, i, p. 338 f.).
2 So the sensible Hirzel (op. cit. ii, p. 131); see also Hartman, De Plutarcho, p. 576. Stylometry, however, does not encourage the view that this is an early work (Sandbach, Class. Quart. xxxiii, p. 196).
3 Plutarch actually quotes the proverb in his Life of Demosthenes, xi. 5 (851 b) and Mor. 803 d, but does not seem to realize its possible application here. See the note on 995 f infra.
4 Ziegler (RE, s.v. ‘Plutarchos,’ 743) says that Gryllus is impossible in spite of the Platonic examples, but appears to admit Ammonius (no. 84 in the Lamprias Catalogue).
5 See the last note on 992 e infra.
6 Curiously enough, Xenophon is the most famous son of the historical Gryllus and he is said to have been once a prisoner in Boeotia (Philostratus, Vit. Soph. 12).