Wednesday, October 03, 2012

Symmachus the Physician

Via Laudator Temporis Acti: Symmachus the Physician

Symmachus the Physician Martial 7.18.9-10 (tr. D.R. Shackleton Bailey): I had rather you farted; Symmachus says that is healthy, and besides it makes one laugh. pedere te mallem: namque hoc nec inutile dicit     Symmachus, et risum res movet ista simul.
Martial.
Martial. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Guillermo Galán Vioque, Martial, Book VII. A Commentary, tr. J.J. Zoltowski (Leiden: Brill, 2002), p. 150, ad loc.: Symmachus: a Greek name (Σύμμαχος), probably that of a doctor who wrote an Ars amatoria or book of advice on how to achieve greater pleasure from sex....The same name for a doctor is found in 5.9.2 and 3, 6.70.6. Symmachus the physician is unknown except for these references in Martial. There is no evidence whatsoever that he wrote a sex manual.
Rather, Martial 7.18.9-10 should be interpreted in the light of other passages from the 1st century A.D. which suggest that it is unhealthy, possibly even fatal, to hold back farts. Suetonius, Life of Claudius 32 (tr. J.C. Rolfe): He is even said to have thought of an edict allowing the privilege of breaking wind quietly or noisily at table, having learned of a man who ran some risk by restraining himself through modesty. dicitur etiam meditatus edictum, quo veniam daret flatum crepitumque ventris in convivio emittendi, cum periclitatum quendam prae pudore ex continentia repperisset. Petronius, Satyricon 47 (tr. Michael Heseltine): Gossip of this kind was in the air, when Trimalchio came in mopping his brow, and washed his hands in scent. After a short pause, he said, "You will excuse me, gentlemen? My bowels have not been working for several days. All the doctors are puzzled. Still, I found pomegranate rind useful, and pinewood boiled in vinegar. I hope now my stomach will learn to observe its old decencies.
Besides, I have such rumblings inside me you would think there was a bull there. So if any of you gentlemen wishes to retire there is no need to be shy about it. We were none of us born quite solid. I cannot imagine any torture like holding oneself in. The one thing Jupiter himself cannot forbid is that we should have relief. Why do you laugh, Fortunata; it is you who are always keeping me awake all night. Of course, as far as I am concerned, anyone may relieve himself in the dining-room. The doctors forbid retention. But if the matter is serious, everything is ready outside: water, towels, and all the other little comforts. Take my word for it, vapours go to the brain and make a disturbance throughout the body. I know many people have died this way, by refusing to admit the truth to themselves."
We thanked him for his generosity and kindness, and then tried to suppress our laughter by drinking hard and fast. eiusmodi tabulae vibrabant cum Trimalchio intravit et detersa fronte unguento manus lavit spatioque minimo interposito "ignoscite mihi," inquit, "amici, multis iam diebus venter mihi non respondit. nec medici se inveniunt. profuit mihi tamen maleicorium et taeda ex aceto. spero tamen, iam veterem pudorem sibi imponet. alioquin circa stomachum mihi sonat, putes taurum. itaque si quis vestrum voluerit sua re causa facere, non est quod illum pudeatur. nemo nostrum solide natus est. ego nullum puto tam magnum tormentum esse quam continere. hoc solum vetare ne Iovis potest. rides, Fortunata, quae soles me nocte desomnem facere? nec tamen in triclinio ullum vetuo facere quod se iuvet, et medici vetant continere. vel si quid plus venit, omnia foras parata sunt: aqua, lasani et cetera minutalia. credite mihi, anathymiasis si in cerebrum it, et in toto corpore fluctum facit. multos scio periisse, dum nolunt sibi verum dicere." gratias agimus liberalitati indulgentiaeque eius et subinde castigamus crebris potiunculis risum.
D.R. Shackleton Bailey, "On Petronius," American Journal of Philology 108 (1987) 458-464 (at 459-460) conjectured that magno cum crepitu pepedit vel sim. should be supplied before Trimalchio's ignoscite, i.e. eiusmodi tabulae vibrabant cum Trimalchio intravit et detersa fronte unguento manus lavit spatioque minimo interposito . "ignoscite mihi," inquit, "amici, multis iam diebus venter mihi non respondit..." Gossip of this kind was in the air, when Trimalchio came in mopping his brow, and washed his hands in scent, and after a short pause, . He said, "You will excuse me, gentlemen? My bowels have not been working for several days..." Nicharchus, Greek Anthology 11.395 (tr. W.R. Paton): A fart which cannot find an outlet kills many a man; a fart also saves, sending forth its lisping music.
Therefore if a fart saves, and on the other hand kills, a fart has the same power as kings. Πορδὴ ἀποκτέννει πολλοὺς ἀδιέξοδος οὖσα·   πορδὴ καὶ σώζει τραυλὸν ἱεῖσα µέλος. οὐκοῦν εἰ σώζει, καὶ ἀποκτέννει πάλι πορδή,   τοῖς βασιλεῦσιν ἴσην πορδὴ ἔχει δύναµιν.