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THE Isthmian games being celebrated, when Sospis was the second time director of the solemnity, we avoided other entertainments,—he treating a great many strangers, and often all his fellow-citizens,—but once, when he entertained his nearest and most learned friends at his own house, I was one of the company. After the first course, one coming to Herodes the rhetorician brought a palm and a wreathed crown, which one of his acquaintance, who had won the prize for an encomiastic exercise, sent him. This Herodes received very kindly, and sent it back again, but added that he could not tell the reason why, since each of the games gave a particular garland, yet all of them bestowed the palm. For those do not satisfy me (said he) who say that the equality of the leaves is the reason, which growing out one against another seem to resemble some striving for the prize, and that victory is called νίκη from μὴ εἴκειν, not to yield. For a great many other trees, which almost by measure and weight divide the nourishment to their leaves growing opposite to one another, show a decent order and wonderful equality. They seem to speak more probably who say the ancients were pleased with the beauty and figure of the tree. Thus Homer compares Nausicaa to a palm-branch. For you all know very well, that some threw roses at the victors, and some pomegranates and apples, to honor and reward them. But now the palm hath nothing evidently more taking than many other things, [p. 412] since here in Greece it bears no fruit that is good to eat, it not ripening and growing mature enough. But if, as in Syria and Egypt, it bore a fruit that is the most pleasant to the eyes of any thing in the world, and the sweetest to the taste, then I must confess nothing could compare with it, And the Persian monarch (as the story goes), being extremely taken with Nicolaus the Peripatetic philosopher, who was a very sweet-humored man, tall and slender, and of a ruddy complexion, called the greatest and fairest dates Nicolai.
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