The Killing Joke

chrysippus

Stoic AF

There are many bizarre deaths in Classical antiquity and, with a people that guzzled wine like water [1], it shouldn’t be all that surprising. There was Emperor Caracalla who decided to take a pee break off the side of a road and was stabbed mid-stream [2].  Philosopher Empedocles who hurled himself into a volcano thinking he’d survive it and become a god because that sounds legit [3]. Or rich bastard Roman General Crassus who forced down molten gold because he lost a battle with the Parthians and irony [4]. There was even Saint Lawrence who earned his martyrdom by sass for quipping “Turn me over–I’m done on this side!” [5] while being cooked up on a giant grill to be served during a persecution of Christians BBQ. But speaking of jokes, my favorite has to be the tale of Chrysippus, whose death you probably just had to be there to get.

Backing up a little bit, let’s lay the foundation for this set-up. Chrysippus was a famous Greek philosopher who was tearing up the streets of Athens a few hundred years after Socrates daintily sipped an aromatic cup of freshly brewed hemlock tea. He was a stoic, the guys confused in modern days with sociopathy and Commander Spock, but taught his students about the aether of the Universe and living a life in congruence with the will of Fate and aligning oneself with Nature. So more like a Jedi rather than someone who refuses to smile at puppies. He also tinkered around with math, created prepositional logic, and started some early ancient therapy sessions hoping to assist folks with unruly passions. Chrysippus was kind of a big deal, logical in thinking and focused entirely on formulating an impressive philosophical rapt sheet. So let’s fast-forward to a now 73 year-old man with this impressive a career to behold.

Invited by his pupils to a sacrificial feast which, in those days, was probably akin to a professor attending a wild on-campus keg party, Chrysippus downed copious amounts of wine as one is want to do. It was noted by Diogenes Laertius, a Classical biographer of the Greek philosophers, that this particular wine was undiluted–no water, just pure sweet straight up wine which was sure to get even the most stoic philosopher congruently drunk in accordance with Nature. Stumbling around in the throes of intoxication, Chrysippus was giddy in delight when a donkey escorted by an old woman happened by him and immediately started to consume the remaining figs Chrysippus must have been carrying around from the party. [6]

Struck with the genius of his own cleverness, Chrysippus seized upon the moment to hurl the greatest joke to which would ever be uttered in the history of hilarity:

Now give the ass a drink of pure wine to wash down the figs! [6]

Howling with laughter, Chrysippus was beside himself with his own joke, the old woman we can only assume, struggling to find the humor at all in this line. Delirious and overtaken with his own comedic timing, Chrysippus fell into such a violent fit of hysterical giggles about the prospect of giving a donkey wine or something, I don’t know, I don’t get you Chrysippus, that he promptly died on the spot–in the wake of his own comedy. [6]

The dude literally died laughing at his own joke.

And it wasn’t even that funny.

Fact Check it, yo!

[1] Wine and Rome. (n.d.). Retrieved April 25, 2017, from http://penelope.uchicago.edu/~grout/encyclopaedia_romana/wine/wine.html

[2] Goldsworthy, A. K. (2009). How Rome fell: death of a superpower. New Haven: Yale University Press. P. 74.

[3 & 6] Laertius, D. (1980). Diogenes Laertius: Lives of Eminent Philosophers. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

[4] Nuwer, R. (2014, June 10). Here’s What Actually Happens During an Execution by Molten Gold. Retrieved April 25, 2017, from http://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/heres-what-happened-people-who-were-executed-having-molten-gold-poured-down-their-throat-180951695/?no-ist

[5] Miller, O. F. (2017, March 06). Saint Lawrence. Retrieved April 25, 2017, from https://www.franciscanmedia.org/saint-lawrence/

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A Touch of Classical Wisdom VI

The fortunate man, in my opinion, is he to whom the gods have granted the power either to do something which is worth recording or to write what is worth reading, and most fortunate of all is the man who can do both.

-Pliny the Younger in a letter to Tacitus describing the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 AD and the death of his famous uncle Pliny the Elder. [1]

Rome in Transition

History Notes!

Emperor NOT Keanu Reeves

Emperor NOT Keanu Reeves

New Rome: Constantinople 324AD

  • Founded as Roman Capital in the East by Constantine.
  • Viable defendable capital.
  • Walls 30 feet above and under ground.
  • Best part of the Empire fo’sho!
  • Everything of old Rome, Constantinople emulates too!
  • (Grain Dole- Free food for Urban poor)

 

Barbarian Vs. Roman (Because we all saw this coming)

  • Generals- Barbarian. Barbarians have the army (Because that’s what happens when they are your soldiers), use puppets.
  • Stilicho (c. 359-408) vs. Aetius (c. 396-454)
  • Stilicho tells Honorius what to do.
  • So we don’t need Roman Emperor…
  • Stilicho’s father is barbarian, mother is Roman.
  • False Idea- Barbs taking over. Wanted citizenship.
  • 455- Vandals sacked Rome. “Vandalism”.
  • Bishop= Elite ministrator. Bishop would negotiate with Huns and Vandals.

 

Christianities

  • Settle an issue, another issue comes up!
  • Ecumenical Council, all Bishops of world get together and argue until they can agree. Establishes correct belief.
  • But can be overturned by later Councils so a lot of good that did…
  • If Jesus is equal to god, is he human? Christiological; about Christ’s Nature.
  • Nestorius, doesn’t like calling Mary “Mother of God”.
  • One Nature believers; Monophysites
  • Two Nature believers; Duophysites
  • God dammit…COUNCIL CALLED!

*Council of Chalcedon*

An Ecumenical council summoned to determine Christ’s nature. One or two? 5th century, Late Roman Empire. 451AD.

WHY it is important:

  • We believe Jesus has two natures.
  • Monophysites DO NOT ACCEPT THIS CRAZY TALK. (Egypt and Syria; Eastern)
  • EAST VS WEST. Soon to be Catholics vs Orthodox!
  • Patriarchies. City where Bishop is given higher authority than others.
  • Rome (WEST)
  • Constantinople (EAST)
  • Jerusalem (EAST)
  • Antioch (EAST)
  • Alexandria (EAST)
  • …See what is happening here?

 

The Henoticon (482)

  • Crap! Can’t piss off Egypt, they feed us. = Statement of Faith to make Monophysites happy without overturning council decision.
  • Acacius (Constantinople Bishop) gives this statement to Patriarchs. Rome Bishop gives resounding GTFO in the form of EXCOMMUNICATION.
  • Acacian Schism. 483.
  • LOL shunned. West and East.

History Notes! Society and Culture of Rome (3rd-4th Century)

"Don't worry, friends! The lion has come to join us in prayer!"

“Don’t worry, friends! The lion has come to join us in prayer!”

 

Elite Men: Triumph of Otium (Leisure, remember?)

  • Senate has no status, cities suck. Elite Men run to the countryside and neglect responsibilities.
  • Someone else must pick up the burden….*Cough* Middle Class *Cough* Sound familiar?

 

Elite Women: Triumph of Christianity

  • Earlier, had role of Wife and Mother.
  • Christianity now gives the role of “Virgin”.

-Higher calling than Wife or Mother.

-Celibacy elevated to a new ideal.

  • They could act like men! Manly virgins!
  • Patronize shrines of martyrs. (Cult of the Leader. Christians wouldn’t participate so Diocletion starts offing them during The Great Persecution)
  • Martyrs get survivor remorse. They essentially become heroes of Christianity, like super Christians.
  • Build shrines around the tomb!

Curicale Class and the Urban Plight

A) Curiale Class, lowest class of the Elite. Barely made the cut-off! (Middle Class)

  • Stuck with the bill. Cannot afford it, obviously. Cannot join the army either. Lulz ensue.
  • Also can’t become priests. CAN’T LEAVE THE CITY.

B) Bishop (Leader of church community)

  • Makes sure to take care of his people.
  • Good administrators, not good Christians…
  • Move into position of maintaining cities.

AD 312- Christianity Becomes Legal.

A) Multiple Christian groups competing with each other over correct belief.

B) Constantine: “All Christians believe same thing!! NOW!” because that’s realistic given these problems:

  • Issue of Forgiveness: If you survive persecution, are you still Christian?

-NO! Sin, against teachings. DENOUNCE DENOUNCE!

-OF COURSE, God forgivessss.

  • Relationship of the Trinity: (God the father, God the Son, Holy Spirit) What is the status?

-Father, OBVIOUSLY!

-They were equal, The Word was ‘Jesus’.

C) So. Correct belief?

  • ALWAYS determined through argument and compromise.
  • If not….then HERETIC!

D) *Theodosian Decrees* (391-392)

  • All people living in Roman Empire are now Christian! (Paganism outlawed)
  • WHY Is this important: For most of history, Rome was an incorporator. Major reversal of this practice! Didn’t want to offend, kept everyone happy, now though…safety comes from making sure everyone believes in one single idea to create uniformity! (Encourage stability and stop the fireeesssss)

 

History Notes! Restoring Order in Rome

The beginning of a beautiful relationship between Barbarians and Rome...

The beginning of a beautiful relationship between Barbarians and Rome…

 

The Dominate =”Late Empire”

a) 284AD- Diocletian “Dominus” =Lord and Master (Make status sacred because that’s never been done before ever…)

  • Problems:

-Size

-Army (In the business of “Emperor Making”. Also not big enough to do the job. That’s what she said.)

-Economy and Urban Decline (INFLATION! Moved out of cities due to epidemics and high inflation)

  • Solutions:

-Augusti and Caesars. Appoints co-ruler. Establishes the Tetrarchy. (Rule by 4.)

-2 Senior Emperors (East and West)

-Emperor didn’t live in Rome

-Also a “Caesar” or junior partner in East and West.

-Was trying to stabilize by putting Emperor in trouble spots

-Augustus would step down after 20 years and the Caesar would be promoted.

  • Soooooo did it work?

-Call Failblog.

b) 284-5th century. Emperor in East and West.

c) Constantine!

  • Comitatus and Mercenaries

-Cavalry Unit! Instead of foot soldiers, make forts and send our cavalry when there is trouble!

-Hire Mercenaries! Why not have barbarians fighting barbarians? Doesn’t this sound like the most spectacular idea ever? /sarcasm.

-Army becomes barbarian! Whoohoo! Offer status and citizenship to join! That’ll keep the barbarians out of Rome! …er…wait.

  • Tax Reformation

-Caput (head); That’s right! A Head tax! Pay it in coin, beetches.

-Iugum (Land tax); taxed by how much your land could produce. A “Tax in kind”

-These were all designed to pay the army…the barbarian army. Will contribute to decline of cities, without Army consumers–demand falls; economy falls.

 

 

History Notes! Society and Culture During the Principate

(Short and sweet history TL;DR! Previous–>The Principate)

"Why don't you go read a book, WOMAN."

“Why don’t you go read a book, WOMAN.”

 

 A) Elite  Men: “Paideia” (Greek word for education); Read Greek works.

  • Greek Rhetoric, the art of crafting an argument. Hey-o, Aristotle!

-Elite men took up the role of Patron of someone who was of lesser status.

-They would help them out, obligated, argue on behalf of.

  • Negotium (work)-  Job of being a Patron. Expected of all Elite Men, all men should be useful.
  • Otium (Leisure; Not at work;)- Life of leisure, doing what you want.

-LOL Vomitorium? Nah, that’s just an amphitheatre passage, bro.

 

B) Elite Women: Educated, almost as well as a man.

  • Never citizens, never adults. (Britany Spears song insert) Legal minor. Cannot make legal decisions on their own.

-Always needed a legal guardian. (Typically husband or father)

-When they could CHOOSE their guardian, however, NEVER the husband or father. Someone with less authority, obviously.

  • “Fiction” of not being in charge but, ladies were sooooo in control of their guardians. The neck moves the head, afterall.
  • Uncommon not to be married.

-Had responsibility to discuss politics with their husband. Give advice.

-Manipulate the system like we doooo, naturally.

 

C) Lower Class: Clients

  • Soldiers. People would cut off their toes to avoid this.
  • Merchants. Oh how the tides have turned.
  • Freedmen (Former Slaves): Always at bottom of social status because reasons.

 

D) Culture:

  • Literature: Virgil, anything before Octavian. Homer, Greek philosophy.
  • Art: Fresco (Wall paintings), Hellenistic style (anatomically correct)
  • Science: High understanding. Incredible architecture. Indoor plumbing. (Take that, Middle Ages)
  • Medicine: Galen (Physician in gladiatorial arena). Dissection, stitching. Generally decent understanding of the human body and the foundation of medical knowledge but then there was…

-Humoral Theory; Four Fluids: Blood (Heat), Phlgem (Cold), Green Bile, Black Bile

  • Geocentric: Ptolemy.
  • Philosophy and Religion: Stoicism.
  • Mystery Religions: Because why the hell not? Concerned with Salvation. Agape= “Unconditional Love”.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

History Notes! The Principate (31BC-AD235)

(These are short and sweet collections of notes I’ve taken. TL;DR version of history!)

 

It's easy to call "Time Out!" when you already have everything.

It’s easy to call “Time Out!” when you already have everything.

1. (Octavian) Augustus Caesar (31BC-AD14): FIRST!

2. Princeps (Speaker of the House; “First Among Equal’s”), Imperator (Commander of an Army), and Senate

 

  • i. -Civic vs. Military Authority. (The entire army backed them= Authority. Unless under control, it was a very unstable system.)
  • ii. Pax Romana

1. “Roman Peace” (Elimination of most war)

2. Army needed to know someone in authority; serves their best interests.

*Constitutio Antoniniana* (AD 212)
-Piece of legislature passed by Caracalla.

  • a) Every ‘Free Born Male’ is now a Roman Citizen.
  • b) Represents incorporation of Pax Romana. You are one of us. In demonstration of.
  • c) Caracalla was motivated to pass this because as the Roman Empire got bigger, you must defend more borders which means you need more men to serve in the Legion…who must be Roman in order to serve, you get me?

3. Crisis of the Third Century (AD 235-285)

  •  Began with the assassination of Emperor Alexander Severus by his own troops.

i. Increased pressure from barbarians. Needs STRONG leader.
ii. Plague passed through. Like it do.
iii. Natural disasters.
iv. RISE IN INFLATION.

  • -Soldiers on fixed incomes, asked for raise. Empire would start minting more coins. Too small, devalue!!! MORE PLZ! F this, let’s declare our general Emperor, yeah? He’ll give us the moneys.

a) Senate vs. Emperor

  • i. Eventually, Senate does what the Emperor says.
  • ii. Army starts to take steps to ensure who they wanted becomes new Emperor.

b) Succession vs. Acclimation (People have a say)

  • i. After death of Nero (An embarrassing show of attempted suicide), Vespasian rules and then his sons follow.
  • ii. When an Emperor is acclaimed by the army, he gives Donative to army.

-Sooooo corruption?

  • iii. Impose high degree of authority over Empire.

-Same language, currency, cultural moral. Cultural uniformity (Especially at elite level)