To my mind it is worth while to relate not only the serious acts of great and good men but also what they do in their lighter moods. I should like to narrate an experience of mine that gives me this conviction. [2]

It was on the occasion of the horse-races at the greater Panathenaic games; Callias, Hipponicus' son, was enamoured, as it happened, of the boy Autolycus, and in honour of his victory in the pancratium1 had brought him to see the spectacle. When the racing was over, Callias proceeded on his way to his house in the Peiraeus with Autolycus and the boy's father; Niceratus also was in his company. [3] But on catching sight of a group comprising Socrates, Critobulus, Hermogenes, Antisthenes, and Charmides, Callias bade one of his servants escort Autolycus and the others, and himself going over to Socrates and his companions, said, [4] “This is an opportune meeting, for I am about to give a dinner in honour of Autolycus and his father; and I think that my entertainment would present a great deal more brilliance if my dining-room were graced with the presence of men like you, whose hearts have undergone philosophy's purification, than it would with generals and cavalry commanders and office-seekers.” [5]

“You are always quizzing us,” replied Socrates; “for you have yourself paid a good deal of money for wisdom to Protagoras, Gorgias, Prodicus, and many others, while you see that we are what you might call amateurs in philosophy; and so you feel supercilious toward us.” [6]

“Yes,” said Callias, “so far, I admit, I have been keeping you ignorant of my ability at profound and lengthy discourse; but now, if you will favour me with your company, I will prove to you that I am a person of some consequence.” [7]

Now at first Socrates and his companions thanked him for the invitation, as might be expected, but would not promise to attend the banquet; when it became clear, however, that he was taking their refusal very much to heart, they went with him. And so his guests arrived, some having first taken their exercise and their rub-down, others with the addition of a bath. [8] Autolycus took a seat by his father's side; the others, of course, reclined.2

A person who took note of the course of events would have come at once to the conclusion that beauty is in its essence something regal, especially when, as in the present case of Autolycus, its possessor joins with it modesty and sobriety. [9] For in the first place, just as the sudden glow of a light at night draws all eyes to itself, so now the beauty of Autolycus compelled every one to look at him. And again, there was not one of the onlookers who did not feel his soul strangely stirred by the boy; some of them grew quieter than before, others even assumed some kind of a pose. [10] Now it is true that all who are under the influence of any of the gods seem well worth gazing at; but whereas those who are possessed of the other gods have a tendency to be sterner of countenance, more terrifying of voice, and more vehement, those who are inspired by chaste Love have a more tender look, subdue their voices to more gentle tones, and assume a supremely noble bearing. Such was the demeanour of Callias at this time under the influence of Love; and therefore he was an object well worth the gaze of those initiated into the worship of this god. [11]

The company, then, were feasting in silence, as though some one in authority had commanded them to do so, when Philip the buffoon knocked at the door and told the porter to announce who he was and that he desired to be admitted; he added that with regard to food he had come all prepared, in all varieties—to dine on some other person's,—and that his servant was in great distress with the load he carried of—nothing, and with having an empty stomach. Hearing this, Callias said, [12] “Well, gentlemen, we cannot decently begrudge him at the least the shelter of our roof; so let him come in.” With the words he cast a glance at Autolycus, obviously trying to make out what he had thought of the pleasantry. [13] But Philip, standing at the threshold of the men's hall where the banquet was served, announced:

“You all know that I am a jester; and so I have come here with a will, thinking it more of a joke to come to your dinner uninvited than to come by invitation.” “Well, then,” said Callias, “take a place; for the guests, though well fed, as you observe, on seriousness, are perhaps rather ill supplied with laughter.” [14]

No sooner were they engaged in their dinner than Philip attempted a witticism, with a view to rendering the service that secured him all his dinner engagements; but on finding that he did not excite any laughter, he showed himself, for the time, considerably vexed. A little later, however, he must try another jest; but when they would not laugh at him this time either, he stopped while the dinner was in full swing, covered his head with his cloak, and lay down on his couch. [15] “What does this mean, Philip?” Callias inquired. “Are you seized with a pain?” Philip replied with a groan, “Yes, Callias, by Heaven, with a severe one; for since laughter has perished from the world, my business is ruined. For in times past, the reason why I got invitations to dinner was that I might stir up laughter among the guests and make them merry; but now, what will induce any one to invite me? For I could no more turn serious than I could become immortal; and certainly no one will invite me in the hope of a return invitation, as every one knows that there is not a vestige of tradition of bringing dinner into my house.” As he said this, he wiped his nose, and to judge by the sound, he was evidently weeping. [16] All tried to comfort him with the promise that they would laugh next time, and urged him to eat; and Critobulus actually burst out into a guffaw at his lugubrious moaning. The moment Philip heard the laughter he uncovered his head, and exhorting his spirit to be of good courage, in view of approaching engagements,3 he fell to eating again.

1 The pancratium was a severe athletic contest involving a combination of boxing and wrestling, and requiring on the part of the contestants unusual physique and condition. There were separate events open to men and to boys.

2 Attic reliefs depicting banquet scenes show that it was customary for the men to recline at table, but for the women and children, if present, to sit.

3 Philip puns on the ambiguous συμβολαί, which means either hostile encounters or a banquet to which the viands are contributed by the guests. His exhortation to his spirit is quite Odyssean.

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  • Cross-references to this page (4):
    • Herbert Weir Smyth, A Greek Grammar for Colleges, THE PARTICIPLE
    • Herbert Weir Smyth, A Greek Grammar for Colleges, NEGATIVE SENTENCES
    • Raphael Kühner, Bernhard Gerth, Ausführliche Grammatik der griechischen Sprache, KG 3.pos=8.2
    • A Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities (1890), BA´LNEAE
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