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Elegiac Poems


“‘But if I too,’ said Democritus, ‘may quote the Brazen poet and orator Dionysius —called the Brazen or bronze, by the way, because he advised the Athenians to adopt a bronze coinage, and the speech in which he did so is included by Callimachus in his List of Orations —I in my turn will recite something from his Elegiac Poems :

Receive, O Theodorus,1 this toast I drink you of my poetry; to you first of the guests about the board I hand the Graces I have mingled with leaves of paper,2 and do you take this gift, and pledge me songs back, to the adornment of our feast and the enhancing of your own happiness.

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Athenaeus Doctors at Dinner

“Hereupon Cynulcus, always up in arms against the Syrian and never content to let their quarrel rest, cried amid the tumult which had arisen round the table, ‘What is this troop of rowdies: I too will recall and recite you some of these lines (of Dionysius), or Ulpian will be giving himself airs for having been the only one to draw on his secret store of poems, like the Homeridae, for cottabus-lore:

Come hither and hear good news; cease the strife of cups, win sense of me, and learn what I have to say;

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and that is, something relevant to our present enquiry.’

Athenaeus Doctors at Dinner

“Mention is made both of the cottabus and the λάταγες or wine-drops thrown in that game by Dionysius called the Brazen, in his Elegiac Poems, thus:

Here we love-lorn swains add for you to the school of Bromius, to take its place as a third kind of cottabus,3 the bag; and all you guests must twist your fingers into the handles of your cups;4 and before you throw at it you should pace the air over the couch with your eye, to reckon how far the drops are to extend.

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Hereupon Ulpian asked for a drink in a great cup, adding to his request the following lines from the same Elegiacs:5

... to pour out the wine of hymns in turn about the board to Thee6 and to us; and Thy ancient and far-come friend we will dispatch with oarage of the tongue unto great praise at this our feast;7 Wit sendeth Phaeacian8 oarsmen to the benches of the Muses' ship.9

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Athenaeus Doctors at Dinner

“Pontianus here remarked that all these terrors were colonists of one city, Wine, the originator of Intoxication, Frenzy, and Drunken Outrage, whose devotees Dionysius, surnamed the Brazen, not ineptly calls in his Elegiacs ‘oarsmen of cups’:

and certain sailors of the feast and oarsmen of cups, bringing wine in the rowing of Dionysus10 ... about this11; for that which is dear is not lost.

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Athenaeus Doctors at Dinner
“These things, dear Timocrates, are not, in the words of Plato,12 the mere games or jests of a Socrates still young and handsome, but the serious disputations of the Doctors at Dinner; for, to quote Dionysius the Brazen,

Whether you are at the beginning or the ending, what is better than what you most desire?

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Athenaeus Doctors at Dinner :[ (end of the book)

“A fault may be also made in syllables, namely if they do not represent a pleasant sound, as for instance Dionysius the Brazen in his Elegiacs calls poetry

the screech of Calliope

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because both poetry and that screech are sounds;13 but the metaphor is a poor one because of the unpleasant sounds.14

Aristotle Rhetoric

1 Ath. adds in parenthesis, adapting his citation, ‘For this is your proper name’ ( i.e. gift of God)

2 i.e. his book of poems, as wine mingled with water before drinking; but the reading is doubtful

3 all the varieties of this after-dinner game involved the throwing of wine-drops at a mark, which, like the game itself, was called cottabus as here

4 to judge by the vase-pictures, this must be the meaning of σφαίρας ; the player about to throw the wine-drops held his cup pointing inwards so as to increase the ‘swing’; this called for a peculiar ‘hold,’ cf. Antiph. Com. 2. 180 Mein.

5 a line appears to have been lost

6 Dionysus

7 i.e. sing the praises of wine

8 i.e. expert

9 or sends to the benches the Phaeacian oarsmen of the Muses

10 meaning uncertain; perh. rowing-boat of D., cf. navigium

11 the verb is lost

12 Epistle 2. 314c

13 i.e. and is so far correct in using this metaphor

14 reading and translation doubtful

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