XXXVIII. (154) The ancients called unmixed wine oinos, and also methy. At all events, this latter name is used in very many passages of poetry, so that if those names are accounted synonymous which are applied to one subject, then oinos and methysma, and other words derived from them will differ in nothing but sound, and the being overcome with wine (oinousthai), and the being drunk (methyein), are one and the same thing. (155) And both these words intimate a taking of too much wine, which nevertheless there may be many reasons for a good man not turning away from; and if he be overcome with wine he will also be drunk, being nevertheless not made in any respect the worse by his drunkenness, but remaining the same as if he had simply been well filled with wine. (156) We have now detailed one of the opinions concerning a wise man getting drunk: and the second is as follows–The men of the present day, with the exception of a small portion of them, do not choose in any way to resemble the men of old times; but both in mind and action they show that they are in no respect agreed with them, but that they differ from them widely. (157) For they have made such a revolution as to bring reasons which were sound and healthy into incurable decay and destruction. And in the place of a vigorous and athletic habit, they have brought almost every thing into a state of disease; and in the place of a full, and strong, and sinewy body, they have rendered it weak, inducing an unnatural, and swollen, and sickly habit, filling it up with empty wind alone, which soon bursts by reason of the want of any power to keep it together, when it is extended in the greatest degree. (158) And the actions of created beings, which are most worthy of attention, and which were, as one may say, masculine actions, those also they have made disgraceful feminine instead, and discreditable instead of honourable, so that there are very few persons found, either in deed or in words, inclined to an imitation of the ancient manners. (159) Therefore, the poets and historians who lived in their time, and all other men who devoted themselves to literary studies, did not confine themselves to soothing and tickling the ears with rhythmical sounds, but, if there was anything broken, so to say, and relaxed in the mind, they roused it up, and whatever there was in it suited to their purpose they improved by initiation into natural philosophy and virtue. But the cooks and confectioners of our time, and those persons who are only artists of superfluous luxury, in the arts of dyeing and making perfumes, are always building up the outward senses with some new colour, or shape, or scent, or flavour, so as utterly to destroy the most important part of us, the mind.
XXXIX. (160) And why do I mention these things? In order to show that the men of the present day do not use wine now as the ancients did. For now they drink eagerly without once taking breath, till the body and soul are both wholly relaxed, and they keep on bidding their cup-bearers to bring more wine, and are angry with them if they delay while they are cooling what is called by them the hot drink; and in a vile imitation of the gymnastic contests, they institute a contest among their fellow revellers as to who can drink most wine, in which they do many glorious things to one another, biting one another’s ears and noses, and the tips of the fingers of their hands, and any other parts of the body they can get at. (161) Now, these are the contests of revelry while in youth and vigour, and, as one may say, in its prime; but the others are the deeds of that ancient and more old-fashioned sort. For the men of old time began every good action with perfect sacrifices, thinking that in that way the result would be most favourable to them; and even if the occasion required especial promptitude in action, still they did not begin till they had offered prayers and sacrifices. But in all cases waited, thinking that haste was not in every case better than slowness. For speed, which is not accompanied with forethought, is injurious, but slowness, when founded on good hope, is advantageous. (162) Knowing, therefore, that the use and enjoyment of wine require much care, they did not drink unmixed wine either in great quantities or at all times, but only in moderation and on fitting occasions. For first, of all, they offered up prayers and instituted sacrifices, and then, having propitiated the deity, and having purified their bodies and souls, the former with baths, and the latter with the waters of laws and of right instruction, they then turned their cheerful and rejoicing countenances to more luxurious food, very often not returning home but, walking about in the temples in which they sacrificed, in order that, by keeping in mind their sacrifices, and having a due respect for the place, they might enjoy what should be really a most sacred feast, doing no wrong either in word or deed. (163) And this, indeed, is what they say the word methyein, to be drunk, derives its name from; because, meta to thyein (after sacrificing) it was the custom of the men of old to drink great quantities of wine. And to whom could the manner of using unmixed wine described above be more appropriate than to wise men to whom the work to be done before drinking, namely, sacrificing, is so appropriate? (164) For one may almost say that no bad man can really perform sacrifices, not even if he were to bring the altar ten thousand oxen every day without intermission; for his most important and indispensable offering, namely his mind, is polluted. And it is impious for polluted things to come near to the altar. (165) This, now, is the second point of view in which this question may be regarded, by which we have shown that it is not inconsistent with the character of the wise man to get drunk.