previous next

But those men do not act wisely who represent and describe Bacchus in their statues or pictures, and who also lead him through the middle of the market-place on a waggon, as if he were drunk; for, by so doing, they show the beholders that wine is stronger than the god. And I do not think that even a good and wise man could stand this. And if they have represented him in this state because he first showed us the use of wine, it is plain that for the same reason they should always represent Ceres as reaping corn or eating bread. And I should say that Aeschylus himself erred in this particular; for he was the first person (and not Euripides, as some people say,) who introduced the appearance of drunken people into a tragedy. For in his Cabiri he introduces Jason drunk. But the fact is, that the practices which the tragedian himself used to indulge in, he attributed to his heroes: at all events he used to write his tragedies when he was drunk; on which account Sophocles used to reproach him, and say to him, “O Aeschylus,1 [p. 677] even if you do what you ought, at all events you do so without knowing it;” as Chamæleon tells us, in his treatise on Aeschylus. And they are ignorant people who say that Epiharmus was the first person who introduced a drunken man on the stage, and after him Crates, in his Neighbours. And Alcæus the lyric poet, and Aristophanes the comic poet, used o write their poems when they were drunk. And many other men have fought with great gallantry in war when they were drunk. But among the Epizephyrian Locrians, if any one drank untempered wine, except by the express command of his physician for the sake of his health, he was liable to be punished with death, in accordance with a law to that effect passed by Zalericus.

And among the people of Massilia there was a law that the women should drink water only. And Theophrastus says, that to this day that is the law at Miletus. And among the Romans no slave ever drank wine, nor any free woman, nor any youth born of free parents till he was thirty years of age. And Anacreon is very ridiculous for having referred all his poems to the subject of drunkenness; for, owing to this, he is found fault with as having in his poems wholly abandoned himself to effeminacy and luxury, as the multitude are not aware that while he wrote he was a sober and virtuous man, who pretended to be a drunkard, when there was no necessity at all for his doing so.

1 Schlegel gives a very different interpretation to this story. He says—“In Aeschylus the tragic style is as yet imperfect, and not unfrequently runs into either unmixed epic or lyric. It is often abrupt, irregular, and harsh. To compose more regular and skilful tragedies than those of Aeschylus was by no means difficult; but in the more than mortal grandeur which he displayed, it was impossible that he should ever be surpassed, and even Sophocles, his younger and more fortunate rival, did not in this respect equal him. The latter, in speaking of Aeschylus, gave a proof that he was himself a thoughtful artist;— Aeschylus does what is right, without knowing it.' These few simple words, exhaust the whole of what we understand by the phrase, powerful genius working unconsciously.” This is the comment of a man of real sense, learning, taste, and judgment.—Dramatic Literature, p. 95. (Bohn's Standard Library.)

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 (Kaibel)
load focus Greek (Charles Burton Gulick, 1927)
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: