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or on the shelled and sand-ribbed margin of the ocean.
On some occasions a slight dramatic scene was represented. Clearing the centre of the banqueting hall, the guests ranged themselves in order as at the theatre. A throne was then set up in the open space, and a female actor, representing Ariadne, entering, took her seat upon it, decked and habited like a bride, and supposed to be in her Thalamos at Naxos. Dionysos, who has been dining with Zeus, comes flushed with Olympian nectar into the harem to the sound of the Bacchic flute, while the nymph who has heard his approaching footsteps makes it manifest by her behaviour that her soul is filled with joy, though she neither advances nor rises to meet him, but restrains her feelings with difficulty, and remains apparently tranquil. The god, drawing near with impassioned looks, and dancing all the while, now seats himself, and places the fair one on his knee. Then, in imitation of mortal lovers, he embraces and kisses her, nothing loth; for, though she hangs down her head, and would wish to appear out of countenance, her arms find their way round his neck and return his embrace. At this the company, we may be sure, clapped and shouted. The god, encouraged by their plaudits, then stood up with his bride, and going through the whole pantomime of courtship, not coldly and insipidly, but as one whose heart was touched, at length demanded of Ariadne if in truth she loved him. Sometimes the mimic scene concealed beneath it all the reality of passion. From personating enamoured characters, the youthful actor and his partner learned in reality to love; and what was amusement to others contained a deep and serious meaning for them. This, Xenophon says, was the case with the youth and maiden who enlivened the banquet of Callias. Absorbed in the earnestness of their
1 Plat. de Legg. vii. t. viii. p. 55. Bekk. Xen. Conv, vii. 5.
feelings, they seem to have forgotten the presence of spectators, and instead of a stage representation, gave them a scene from real life, where every impassionell look and gesture were genuine, and every fiery glance was kindled at the heart.
Tliis, however, may be considered a serious amusement, and something like broad farce was necessary to awaken the guests from the reverie into which the love scene had plunged them. Jesters were, therefore, put in requisition ; and, as even they sometimes failed to raise a laugh, their more humorous brethren the wits and jesters of the forests, or, in the language of mortals, monkeys were called upon to clissipate the clouds of seriousness. These were the favourite buffoons of the Scythian Anacharsis, — not the Abbé Barthélemy's, — who said, he could laugh at a monkey's tricks, because bis tricks were natural, but that he found no amusement in a man who made a trade of it." Nor could Euripides at all relish punsters and manufacturers of jokes, whom he considered, with some reason, as a species of animal distinct from mankind.
Many there be who exercise their wits
But if Euripides found nothing desirable in laughter, there were those who had a clean contrary creed, and lamented nothing so much as the loss of their risible faculties. On this subject Semos las a story quite à propos. Parmeniscos, the Metapontine, baving descended, he says, into the cave of Trophonios, became so extremely grave, that with all the ap
Xen. Conviv. ix. 1-7.
* Eurip. Fragm. Melanipp. 20.
pliances, and means to boot, furnished by wealth, and they were not a few, he thereafter found himself quite unable to screw up his muscles into a smile; which taking much to heart, as was natural, he made a pilgrimage to Delphi, to inquire by what means he might rid himself of the blue devils. Somewhat puzzled at the strangeness of the inquiry, the Pythoness replied, —
Poor mortal unmerry, who seekest to know
Upon this, Parmeniscos hastened homeward, hoping soon to enjoy a good laugh as the reward of his industry; but, finding his features remain fixed as cast-iron, he began to suspect the oracle had deceived him. Some time after, being at Delos, he beheld with admiration the several wonders of the island, and, lastly, proceeded to the temple of Leto, expecting to find in the mother of Apollo something worthy of so great a divinity. But, on entering and perceiving, instead, a grotesque and smoky old figure in wood, he burst into an immoderate fit of laughter, whereupon the response of the oracle recurred to his mind, and he understood it; and, being thus delivered from his infirmity, he ever after held the goddess in extremest reverence.
Even from this story, therefore, it will be seen how highly “broad grins” were estimated in antiquity, particularly at Athens, where there was a regular “ Wits' Club,” consisting of threescore members, who assembled during the Diomeia, in the temple of Heracles. The names of several of these jovial mortals have come down to us; Mandrogenes, for example, and Strato, Callimedon, who, for some particular quality of mind or body, ob
tained the sobriquet of the Lobster, Deinias, Mnasigeiton, and Menachmos. The reputation of these gentlemen spread rapidly through the city, and, when a good thing had a run among the small wits, it was remarked, that “the Sixty had said that." Or, if a man of talent were asked, whence he came, he would answer, “ From the Sixty.” This was in the time of Demosthenes, when, unhappily, jesters were in more request in Athens than soldiers; and Philip of Macedon, himself no mean buffoon, learning the excellent quality of their bon mots, sent them a present of a talent of gold, with a request that, as public business prevented his joining the sittings of the club, they would make for his use a collection in writing of all their smart sayings, which was, probably, the first step towards those repositories for stray wit, called “Joe Millers,” that form so indispensable a portion of a bon vivant's library,
But we are all this while detaining the company from their wine, and those other recreations which the fertile genius of the Greeks invented to make the wheels of life move smoothly. Though the tables, according to the fashion of the times, were removed with the solid viands, others were brought in to replace them, on which the censers, the goblets, the silver or golden ladles for filling the smaller cups, were arranged in order. The chairman, or, as he was then called, the king of the feast, enjoyed absolute power over his subjects, and could determine better than their own palates, how much and how often each man should drink. This important functionary was not always identical with the entertainer, but sometimes his substitute, sometimes 1 Athen. xiv. 3.
son were governed by a code of ? Among the Etruscans these laws, the making and reformation ladles were of bronze, and of ex- of which employed the wits of no tremely elegant form, the point less personages than Xenophanes, ending in a swan's or duck's Spensippos, and Aristotle. Athen. head.
The proceedings of this per
a person chosen by lot. Capacious bowls of wine, mingled with water, were placed on a sideboard, whence cup-bearers, sometimes of one, sometimes of the other sex, but always selected for their youth and beauty, filled, with ladles, the goblets of the guests, which, when the froth rose above the brim, were, by an obvious metaphor, said to be crowned.* Among the Doric Greeks, female cup-bearers seem to have been always preferred; the Ptolemies of Egypt cherished the same taste; and the people of Tarentum, themselves of Doric race, passing successively through every stage of luxury, came, at length, to be served at table by beautiful young women without a vestige of clothing. In most cases, these maidens were slaves, but, in some countries, and everywhere, in remoter ages, the performance of such offices was not regarded as any way derogatory to persons of noble or princely blood. But, whatever might be their birth, beauty of form and countenance constituted their chief recommendation. For there is a language in looks and gestures, there is a fountain of joy and delight concealed deep in the physical structure, and its waters laugh to the eye of intellect, and reflect into the hearts of those who behold it a sunniness and exhilaration greater than we derive from gazing on the summer sea. Hence, Hebe and Ganymede were chosen to minister at the tables of the gods, even Zeus himselfs not disdaining to taste of the pleasures to be derived from basking in the irradiations of beauty.
When the goblets were all crowned with the
1 Horat. Od. ii. 7. 25.
2 Schol. Aristoph. Eq. 1183. Vesp. 1005.
3 Eustath. ad Iliad. y. p. 333. Schol. Aristoph. Vesp. 855.A specimen of these ladles (dpútaivae) occurs in Mus. Chiaramont. pl. 2.
- Virgil actually wreaths the
bowls with garlands. — Æneid. iii. 525. – Homer, however, crowns his bowls only with wine.-11. £. 471.
5 Homer. Iliad. 8. 2. y. 232. B. 813. Odyss. 0. 327. Juven. Sat. v. 60. Cf. Philo. Jud. de Vit. Contempl. t. ii. p. 479. Mangey.