Symposion I
  Coordinated by: Gn. Dionysius Draco
PARS I | PARS II | PARS III

Participants:
  1. Quintus Aurelius Orcus, Stoic
  2. Quintus Claudius Locatus, Cynic
  3. Gnus Dionysius Draco, Sophist, symposiarch
  4. Sokrates Eleutherius Callistus, Aristotelean
  5. Marcus Horatius Piscinus, Cyrenaic
  6. Quintus Pomponius Atticus, Epicurean
Topics and conversation:

Draco: The first topic will be: Death. I invite Quintus Claudius Locatus to speak first. Ubi es, O Locate?

Locatus: Death. Well what is death? The stop of one's life. No more, no less. Nothing to be scared of, or to be fussy about. We all got our life somehow. It also will end somehow. Like every other animal, there will be a day on which we will be useless and die. This death should not be celebrated, as it is now, with a burial or some (far too expensive) meals, statues etc. We all will be dead one day, so it is a common fact. Like having a good meal. The only difference is that dying only happens once. Good, because our society would be very poor if they had to spend every time we should die such a fortune as they do now...

As I mentioned, death is something that is inherent in nature. And as we have to live as close as we can to nature, death is just an ordinary fact. The best would be if our body should be left alone, to be eaten by nature's "cleaners" such there are wolves etc. Why should we make anything special of it when it's a very common thing. All right, I could understand if you bury a body for hygienic reasons. But that's it. Nothing less, nothing more.

Atticus: Our Epicurean school could well agree with what its Cynical opponent just said, namely "Well, what is death? The stop of one's life. No more, no less. Nothing to be scared of, or to be fussy about".

However, the Philosophers of the Garden, as we like to call ourselves, do not simply scoff at the idea of death in a macho-like gesture of independence, but instead, based on the rational study of natural physics, we provide clear and convincing arguments (though closed-minded and vain people baselessly reject them, based on their foolish prejudices) -why- we should not fear death.

Based on proofs I cannot all expound in this first monologue without straying too much from the topic, we believe--as modern science too demonstrates--that the Universe as a whole is built of atoms (eternal, indestructible, elementary particles), without any intervention of a supernatural Creator or principle, like the vaguely defined, imperceptible and thus unverifiable (and often fantastic) concepts other schools want to make us believe: the logos spermatikos of the Stoics, the "unmoved mover" of Aristotle or Plato's demiourgos. The phrase "Why do we need the supernatural, the natural is super enough?" could've been coined by a philosopher of our flock.

And just like the Universe as a whole, man too has, after a long process of natural evolution, originated from this primary matter. Or more correctly, man is matter, for what else could there be, or how could it have originated without having originated itself from this primary matter as well?

Thus, we discard the absurd notion of an immortal soul, believing it an utterly baseless concept, invented only by the vanity of man to secure the cosy thought of a personal afterlife, or for childishly failing to acknowledge man too is an animal species. But I am straying too far from the topic in my zeal to refute other school's opinions and show you all the true, lighting path to everlasting happiness .

Death, as said, does not concern us, since all good and all evil is in sensation, and since death is only the privation of sensation. Do you feel miserable when you sleep? Have you felt miserable before you were born? Then why do you feel anxious about death, when it is known to be no more than an everlasting sleep? The elements that have composed your body, and countless bodies, stars, trees etc. will simply dissolve and spread in the ecosystem, providing the matter for later life forms. There is nothing terrible in this natural cycle, and one can even appreciate its beauty and wholesomeness, when contemplating it in a detached and philosophical mood.

This self-evident and agreeable theory makes the mortality of life pleasant to us, inasmuch as it sets forth no illimitable time, but relieves us of the longing for immortality. With a clear knowledge of what we are up to, and without any fear for an unexisting afterlife, we quietly enjoy our stay in this world, as long as it lasts. Dum vivimus, vivamus.

Piscinus: Salvete mi amici, philosophi, et alii. Draco, you treacherous knave! Did you seek to bring me here that I might comment on Death? De lana caprina rixari.

But do I know of such things, what can any man truly know? I can scarcely even say whether I exist, let alone that I should truly know anything else. Cogito, ergo sum, as they say. But beyond that, beyond some vague self-awareness, I can know only that there is an "external world" to myself as may, perchance, come into my grasp. [Horatius reaches down to ensure himself of the reality of the ancillae beneath him.] All knowledge is subjective, and what "affection" may be gained of the presence of another is by means of touch, or taste. Objective knowledge is otherwise unattainable. Thus if I cannot know with any certainty what is possessed in this life, how can I comment on the next? Mehercule, timor conturbat me.

I can certainly agree with Atticus, Dum vivimus, vivamus. But then he joins with Locatus in regarding the flesh as nothing more than Hypatia's soiled rag to be discarded when spent. How so lost such a good opportunity as this, the passing of another, than to regard it so and not give cause for another day's celebration? Stoicus noster, Marcus Aurelius, inquit: "If objects of sense are easily changed and never stand still, and the organs of perception are dull and easily receive false impressions, and the poor soul itself is an exhalation from blood, but to have good repute amid such a world as this is an empty thing. Why then do you not wait in tranquility for your end, whether it is extinction or removal to another state?" Well now, I can agree with his first assumption of uncertainty that must be wrought by perceptions deceived, but how does that necessarily lead to his conclusion of a need to live in tranquility? Tranquility, you advise? As though all that pleasure meant was an absence of pain, a freedom from troubles. And you say, "Fear not death, for it is only an endless sleep, without troubles, without pain." If that is so then why not relieve your suffering and throw yourselves on your swords? And then you say that your opinions are based on the observance of Nature. What tree in distant parched land ever sought to end its woes by tossing itself onto a fire? What starving fawn ever sought out the lion to end its hunger pains?

Oh, you Epicurians are a boring lot, so fearful of spending the next morning with a dry mouth and aching head that you shun the night's nectar. And you Stoics are no better, protecting your dignity and reputation through moderation. As though concern over the future or the past could bring you any less uncertainty and thus cause any less anxiety. But I say that the only true good is that of pleasure. Pleasure is that which can only be exhibited by the "smooth motion of the flesh." It is not an absence of pain or a freedom from troubles and woes, a lack of anxiety alone. No, indeed not. Rather it is a fulfillment of one's desires and thus must be sought, the moment siezed, carpe diem! As Aristippus said, "The art of life lies in taking pleasures as they pass, and the keenest pleasure are not intellectual, nor are they always moral." And so I will raise my glass along with that other Stoic, Seneca, in saying "Bibere humanum, ergo bibamus!"

But if it is Death that you are so inclined to discuss, my answer is still taken from Seneca, "Bibamus, moriendum est." Now I am no Epicurean pissing down his leg to keep warm. Nor am I some Stoic shuddering in fear over losing his good name, as though to be remembered would somehow prolong a life you fear to live to the fullest. Nor am I a Catullus begging the gods to ease his lovelorn suffering with death, or a Plautus, "Take me into your bosom, O sweet Death, you who art friendly and benevolent to me." But this I know, that in life there are but two states, either you are well or else ill. If healthy then all is well, and if ill there are only two possibilities, that you will improve or else worsen. Now if you improve then all will be well once more, but if not and you worsen there are only two possibilities, that you continue to live or that you should die. If you live then all is well, and if on the other hand you should die, then there are but two possibilities, either "extinction or removal to another state."

If indeed extinction then what care should I have of it, what should matter of anything in this life if it is only going to end in extinction anyway? There will not even be regret over the end of my quest for life's pleasures. So why should I waste time contemplating on what I might lose in an uncertain future when my time could be better spent in an immediate moment of pleasure?

And if not, if removed to some other state, what then? Please, dear gods, let not that other place be filled with dull Epicureans and sour Stoics. Di istis meient. But you ask, if I am so uncertain of that which I perceive, how can I call upon the imperceptible gods? Expedit esse deos et, ut expedit. And likewise with that "other state," if expediency so inclines, then let us assume it. Bot not long will I tarry there with any Platonist either, sitting on some rainbow in intellectual contemplation of his past deeds. Did Aristippus care about past deeds or his reputation? When upbraided for sleeping with a courtesan, did he not ask whether it made any difference when taking a house whether it had been lived in by many or none; whether when sailing, to board a ship which had ventured often and proven its reliability or one never to have sailed at all? Then let it be that I am placed with the Pythagoreans, and lend me to lead the head of their line, that my soul may transmigrate into yet another body as easily as I might slip into another man's wife, so once again I may taste life's pleasures. Vivamus et ameus! Bring me wine, women, and song, or as Cheech Marin would have it, "Drugs and Sex and Rock-n-Roll" for these are laid before us by the gods, and the gods also graciously gave us senses by which to partake in such pleasures. And what purpose do we have, what duty to the gods do we owe, except to use our senses to delight in the pleasures of life they provide? No, think not so unkindly of the gods, less they turn you towards the ramblings of a Stoic, or worse still turn you into an Epicurean.

Alas, mi amice, but it is a mean host who has provided us with no meat or drink, and not a single supple dancer to delight us with her motion. Thus elsewhere must I lend myself to pass, a molli candida diva to find for this night's pleasure.

Orcus: I will defend Stoicism and give an insight into how Stoicists see death. Even though I'm not a Stoic sage, I will do my best to defend it.

As we look at the universe, we might see it as a divine being that created the universe, like the Gods can be all one god. So is death. Death is a force of nature which has had many names given to it over the years, like Thanatos, Mors, Grim Reaper, etc.. Without death, there can't be life, according to the physical laws of nature; but this doesn't include, at least I think so, the metaphysical laws, which might be there or not since nothing is known about them, just as is there not much known about death.

Death to me is a force of nature, existing along with nature, since first life was born into this world. Every creature experiences death differently or it comes in a different way. A metaphysical being might be attached to this force to guide the souls to the other side. From the moment we are born into this world, we want to escape death, but the grim reality is that there is no escaping from it.

Death is not an enemy who can be warded off from your home. It sneaks into the darkness to get you when you least expect it, because I believe that your death is a fact from the moment when you are born, made a fact by the Goddesses of Fate: Moirae/Parces. Even the way someone dies might be already a fact; but because we don't know when we are going to die, we are left in a bliss, to believe that we have always another day. Ever since Man settled down, civilized, he has been obsessed, in a way, with defeating death at every turn he's capable of doing so. He has written stories of people becoming immortal, cheated death, defeated it; but without the blessing from the Gods themselves, I think no one of us will ever be capable of becoming immortal, and even the ones who already are will never come forward, because they know what to expect from their fellow man.

Draco: [Draco rises, holding a cup of wine in one hand, leaning with his other arm on the side of a small column, on which a small statue of Priapus is positioned, to testify of the master's good cheer. He is wearing a deep purple chiton, and begins to speak after carelessly emptying his cup, and silence has settled in the room.]

I must say that I find most theories and visions on death I've heard so far both entertaining and amusing. Allow me, mi amici, to make a few critical remarks on what has been said thus far. In order not to make someone feel discriminated against, I will randomly comment on everyone. As the order of this discussion has been fixed, I cannot comment on Sokrates' speech, which is yet to come, but I'm awaiting his words with curiosity. By all means, amici, don't answer when a Sokrates begins to ask questions. Wasn't meant as mockery, though. Do have some more wine, everyone!

[Talks while having his cup refilled by one of the servants, who daren't go in the neighbourhood of Marcus Horatius anymore.]

There is absolutely no reason to believe that after I'm dead, a part of me lives on in another place. Such Stoic lullabies not only have a horrible connotation, as you spend your whole life waiting to die, but also establish a false feeling of immortal justice. All too easily, what cannot be attributed to men or doesn't fit into the Stoic vision, is attributed to the gods. What gods? And what afterlife? No one has ever returned from the underwordly realm to tell us what it's like, and frankly, I don't think I'd appreciate it. If one has strength and force in character, philosophies such as Stoicism are unnecessary, as it serves to hold back excesses which one cannot control without lies, and soothes the feared mind, afraid to die. Truly? I will return to this later.

Of course, an equally false assumption would be to claim the above and be satisfied with that conclusion. There is namely no evidence to assume that we don't go to Hades' Realm, or that a part of us lives on in an ethereal sphere. The false comfort of the so-called "knowledge" that death is the end, drives the Epicurean into his garden, and the Cynic into the gutter, the former in fear, the latter embittered, but also waiting for the day that death releases them from their earthly confines. At least, the Cyrenaic is consequent: having attained a mindless state of nihilism, the maximal bodily pleasures are sought. Appealing as it may be, the quest for pleasure robs the Cyrenaic of the very pleasure he is seeking: the limits are constantly being pushed, until the search for the absolute becomes a painful habit that eventually means his own grave.

[Puts the cup down.]

No, my friends. The search for the Gods, the search for absolutes; both of them are human cravings, but one cannot be taken without its moderating opposite. I don't know if the Gods exist; ergo, I don't care whether They do or not, because if They do exist, and They need me or my sacrifices, there's nothing that prevents Them from asking me directly. Priests and other such holy acolytes make me utterly suspicious. After all, the measure of everything is human, of that what is human. And, if everyone agrees that life implies death, then pleasure implies pain. Striving for absolutes is the work of self-destructive madmen.

But about death now. We can't know it until we've experienced it. It is, so to speak, the great unknown. It can be anything at all, or nothing. This conclusion inspires me to get the maximum out of my life, without recklessness, and to try to get a hold of those means that can make my stay here both pleasant and fearless, during the time in which the great unknown and I are seperated from one another. I'll cross that bridge when I'll come to it.

[Draco sinks to the bench again, and invites the next speaker, Sokrates Eleutherius, to speak freely, whilst eating some grapes.]

Sokrates Eleutherius: [Sokrates rises from his couch, swaying a bit.]

Philoi, the Stagirite did not discuss Death to a great degree, as he did not consider it a matter of great importance.

However, he did discuss its causes. As is typical he considers the natural causes of death. Death is common to all animals. Death comes from both natural and unnatural causes, the latter mostly due to violence of some kind.

All of us have a natural source of vital heat, that is maintained from our nutritive nature, from eating. This heat is found in the heart, and it causes the heart's palpitations. The heat is moderated by the air drawn into the lungs when we respire, and the excess is expelled as we expire. The heat is drawn off from the blood infusing the small vessels in the lungs.

As we age, the lungs become harder and less mobile and so do not expand and contract as much as before which inhibits the internal heat or fire in the body. This weakening of the internal fire is the cause of senility and the lesser levels of energy and activity as one ages. The older we become, the weaker the internal flame is, and like any small flame a disturbance can cause it to go out. Eventually the internal heat is exhausted and we die.

Younger people can also die when tumors or excessive fevers harden the lungs and also impair breathing. When the breathing gives out, the life ends. Violent death causes the extinguishing of this internal heat. Strangulation ends the respiration and suffocates the internal heat, causing death.

Regarding the immortality of the soul, our souls are the entelechy or form shaping the body, but is also divided into three parts: nutritive, sensational and intellectual soul or mind. The nutritive soul is shared by all living creatures and controls nutrition and the digestion of our food. The sensational soul is part of the soul that senses the world, that registers the impressions being brought to the individual by various media, whether that be the skin, by touch, or the air for smells and sound and sight. Taste is a form of touch.

Finally, we have the mind. The passive intellect is able to receive the concepts. It receives the concepts from the active intellect which brings the potentiality of knowledge into actuality. The actual knowledge is the same as its object, and the mind is never not knowing and knowing, once something is known it is always known, being knowledge of universals.

When we die, the nutritive and sensational souls, which are tied to and part of our bodies dies. So to dies the passive intellect. However the active intellect, knowing the immortal and eternal truths is also immortal. Since the active soul is also shared by all men, it does not die when the individual dies. It continues.

I do not believe that this indicates a personal survival however, as this active mind is shared by all. However, that part of us does survive.

[Takes another sip from his kotyle] Now if you will excuse me [grabs a dancing girl.]

Draco: I thank Sokrates for his philosophical-scientific explanation of his views on death. If Quintus Claudius has any closing remarks to make on this topic in order to defend himself, he may do it now. Otherwise, we will move on to our next topic.

Locatus: I have a small remark: You are all looking too far. Death is death, and dead is dead. You all should get a little more realistic!

Draco: I introduce our next topic: politics. What does your ideal state look like? Mi Attice, you are invited to speak first.

Atticus: [Slightly grumbling at our symposiarch's rather rash impatience, Atticus - who has suffered from a headache on his deadline-day (yesterday) and suffers from loads of work daily with exams approaching composedly pours himself a poculum of 'blue label' Chios, slowly consumes three olives and reclines on his seat. After a placid pull, he addresses his contemplative companions once again.]

We Epicureans, have never quite understood the fetishism of politics, "fight-for-the-right-movements", abstract utopian notions and their accompanying indefinite virtues that a number of other schools seem to to share. The Platonic proto-Stalinist politeia appears to us an abomination of human dignity, just as much as the Stoic Cosmopolitan Commonwealth looks - in our view - like an artless illusion.

In Epicurean philosophy, you will search in vain for pompous theories and home-brewed theoretical constructions of what the world should look like. Instead of choosing this easy way of cultivating sweet prejudice, we first have a look at the facts, being the governments and types of human behaviour that exist at present. A core aspect of this reflection is summed up in Principal Doctrine Number 31 : "The justice which arises from nature is a pledge of mutual advantage to restrain men from harming one another and to keep oneself from being harmed."

My rather idealistic colleagues will shiver, I'm afraid, at this unconcealed display of the world as it is. "Where is the fundament of morality in that vision?", I hear them objecting indignantly, "how would you prevent the world from going topsy-turvy when there is no longer a 'right' or a 'wrong'?

The answer lies in a rational analysis of political practice itself. I think many among you will agree that politics has not yet succeeded in establishing an ideal state anywhere or anytime. Yet still, under the veil of whatever philosophy or religion (whether or not idealistic), man has tried to do so for thousands of years. Christian conservatives, Imperialists, Liberals, Socialists, Communists, Fascists ... all have tried in vain to improve our world by imposing their theories on human society.

A conclusion spontaneously presents itself : what if everyone would just stop trying to improve the world ? What if we would just end this mad treadmill of revolution, counterrevolution, conquest, oppression, guerilla, (state) terrorism etc. etc. ? What if we would let "Friendship dance(s) through the world bidding us all to awaken to the recognition of happiness." (Sententiae Vaticanae, LII). I am quite confident the world would be a better place if everyone would peacefully look after himself, his relatives and his friends, hurt no one, show spontaneous solidarity to people in need and refrain from interfering with another's business.

I would like to end this little speech with a rather lengthy quote from our chief poet Lucretius, although I'm quite confident you will enjoy his winged words, in which he sums up his vision of politics (Liber V):
But if anyone were to conduct his life by reason,
he would find great riches in living a peaceful life
and being contented; one is never short of a little
but men want always to be powerful and famous
so that their fortune rests on a solid foundation
and they can spend a placid life in opulence.
There isn't a hope of it; to attain great honors
you have to struggle along a dangerous way
and even when you reach the top there is envy
which can strike you down like lightning into Tartarus.
For envy, like lightning, generally strikes at the top
or any point which sticks out from the ordinary level.
So it is better to submit and live in quiet
than to want to be the master of several kingdoms.
Let people wear themselves out, let them sweat blood,
struggling up the narrow road of ambition;
Since they know no more than they hear from the mouths of others
and go for what they have heard, not what they perceive;
That is how things are and have been and will be.
So the kings were killed and that was the end of thrones
in their pristine majesty, and of the pride of scepters:
The crowned head, covered in blood, was kicked around
by the feet of the mob and had cause for dusty tears:
It is pleasant to trample on something that we have feared.
Power then went to the lowest dregs of the mob,
everyone fancied that he should be the top man.
Then some men had the idea of setting up magistracies
and establishing codes so that people could live by law.
For the human race had grown tired of anarchy
with its hostilities and so more easily yielded
of its own free will to live under legal restrictions;
The vengeance which individuals exacted in anger
was worse than is now enjoined under regular laws
-one can understand why men were sick of anarchy.
After that fear of punishment spoiled the prizes.
Violence and wrong catch people in their own nets
and those who start such things are most often entangled.
It is not easy to pass a peaceful life
if you act in a way that disturbs the general peace.
Although you elude the gods and the human race
you still must wonder whether your secret will be kept forever.
Are there not many people who talk in their sleep?
Or might not some word escape you in a delirium?
Crimes long concealed have come to light that way before.
Locatus: Ideal state... hhhmmmmm......

Well, maybe the best would be the meritocracy, in which every member is given the right to vote equal to his value to society. With this election form, the terrible plebs wouldn't dominate our politics that much... but, as there would be a leader, he won't be able to fulfill our request, so a council would be better. A council? Some old gray masters telling me what to do! No way!

So the best state would be no state, as this is the natural way. No elections, no White Houses, no Air Force One, no idiots in power, no taxes and no supermarkets. A good idea, isn't it? No Palestinians should be killed by another state, etc. We all should go back to our home, hunting our prey, and taking care of our family. Remember: our prey shouldn't be necessarily animals...

I'm quite cynical about this symposion. It's obvious that I am right, isn't it?

Draco: [rises from the bed once more, leaning against the familiar column with the Priapus on it]

It is my turn to speak. Well, I find the argumentation presented hitherto relatively feeble. Quintus Pomponius has offered us a potpourri of Epicurean thought, which is as idealistic and unreal as the other ideas he criticises. Lucretius thinks we should conduct our lives by reason - but life in itself is irrational, irregular and as unpredictable as the weather. Epicureans settle "for the best life has to offer". To quote another author's reaction on that: "In other words, they cave in and give up". To a larger extent, this is true for cynics. Having become so disillusioned with their fellow human beings, they retreat into the gutter. The half-hearted sort of anarchism they practise will eventually lead to their own downfall due to their inherent laziness and passivity.

The ideal state cannot be realised without the perfect people, but that doesn't mean, of course, that I don't have political ideas or dream of a kind of political rulership that is better than it is now. First, I suppose everyone will agree with me that societies should not be too restrictive. Open totalitarianism will lead to frustration and revolution. Secret totalitarianism will lead to the same, but only later. Oligarchies dissolve because of internal tensions, or external pressure. Democracies decay to demagogueries, and ironically, a strong democracy always relies on strong personalities, whereas a good tyranny relies on gentle characters and kindness. The most important thing, is that people who wish to do so are able to think for themselves and communicate these thoughts with one another. If they destroy their own society - and race - because of that, it's because of their own stupidity. Blaming the system is often a weak excuse. [takes a sip from his wine, adjusts his purple chiton]

The true question does not come down on what the masses, who eventually compose a society, should be, but what the individual should do to gain the upper hand in this constant flux, without falling into superstition, or false hopes of an afterlife. Look at us, sophists: the elites despise us, but their children are sent to us for education, or come to us out of free will. What Plato writes about us is a mere sublimation of his own frustrations with us - I pity Sokrates for being abused like that! And the masses adore us. I don't care if my books are burnt after I die. If this were a different society, I would probably change my behaviour to attain a position high enough to do exactly as I please.

In closing, the way a society is - as long, of course, as it's not too extreme - has little effect on the individual's success. The strong and the lucky - still prevail over the weak and the unlucky. If the Gods exist, they certainly do play dice. Just be sure to buy one.

Orcus: I realise it's my time to talk about the Stoic point of view on the State so without further delay I will present it to you now.

The state, I think, must be democratic where there isn't any corruption at all, but we must realise that corruption is tied to the human nature when money is involved. So first we must destroy the devil that is called capitalism and return to the good old days when we lived in tribes and things seemed a lot easier. To me that is the perfect state. Monarchies, dyarchies, etc.. all failed. The republic might have succeeded; it should have been so, however, that several people had the power and not one. And they must be bribe-free. Meaning that they cannot be bribed or else they should be killed for treason. It's the only way to stop people from being bribed or to bribe. It's harsh but the rough way is the only way if one wants to create a ideal state.

An order like the Praetorians might be suited to control the Senators and keep the balance within. It's this way or going back thousands of years. Taxes are needed to build things or to pay people for their services. One other state that I prefer is the Spartan state. The Spartan state was the perfect one, but every state has its downsides like every human so trying to obtain that perfect state is wishful thinking because the politicians are too narrow-minded and self-centered to make something like this happen. Otherwise, I can't really say that any governement is that good like any state.

Piscinus: Once more I find my glass is empty and yet no ancilla present to moisten a dry throat. Nor a single glistening thigh offered as my whetstone on which to sharpen a tongue. All the ancillae safely locked away you say? You are a cruel tyrant, Draco, a vile knave deserving trial in the court of Orcus for your treachery. May Minerva herself then suckle me, and toss you upon her would-be lover e'er you to lean upon him stiff jointed.

What is this you ask of me, which the ideal state? There can only be one of two states I would find ideal, either inebriated or sated. For how else could one be when engaging in the intercourse of men?

For what is the true nature of politics? Surely not the Epicurian principle of mutual self interest. For each day the serpent must bargain for its right to squirm upon its belly in the dust without some eagle in lofty aerie fettering him in its talons. A day does not pass without some valley accusing a mountain of possessing altitude, or a mountain begrudging the valley of its shade tosses down sun-baked boulders as though every glen was just another place to heap up its garbage. The oak must beg the birch to lay its acorns, the birch must beg the willow for a sip from its stream, the willow weep to the cattail to hold firm the embankment lest it be washed away. And then in strides man with his shackled oxen to level every mountain, fill in every valley, cut down every tree and reed, just for the luxury of pissing into a river, and not giving a second thought to stepping on any serpent passing beneath his tread.

And when the day is done, the man heaves over his plow to enter the Sophist's bath, as though escape into refinement might lather a politic of sweet scents upon the stench of sweat. Let every man stand naked that he may be fairly judged of his attributes. As though a noble man does not posture with his chin thrust out to hide what lies shriveled between his legs. The low man cringes, his back bent in shame to hide what he's been sticking in any hole that might offer him promise. The soldier calls for a towel to shield what he had infected in distant lands, or else parades about showing his ghastly scars that no one might look elsewhere on his enfeebled paucity. The rhetor gives testimony of his swollen witness in flacid speech. The artisan crafts more fables about his prowess than any artifact he can produce. All of them standing about in the steaming baths to diguise what none of them find satisfyingly large enough, or utilized often enough, or endowing them with what they think deserving. And were we to cross through walls in those segregated rooms, it would be no different. Toss more water on the hot coals and raise the steam further to disguise what any woman would reveal of her nature. For what maiden has not feigned a chill in order to clasp her sides and push up herself into the appearance of a wetnurse, or a mother who has not crossed her legs so tightly, digging her knee into her thigh to change the appearance of her wanton hips? Each party waiting for that one festival each year when the curtain is drawn and women may enter the men's baths, only to find that day the rooms least full rather than allow themselves seen as they really are.

How then do we bring these two scenes together, man in nature and nature in man? Fill my glass once more that I might drink deeply and blur my vision, cross my eyes inebriated that I may bring each vision into one another. For only a drunken man could see clearly the heedless march through nature that is driven by man's fear of the inadequacy of his own nature. In what better setting should our governance be then than at some festival, organized no more than some toga party. For there the pompous make parade in whatever attire they desire, calling themselves Rex or Caesar, general or priest, a target worthy of our ridicule, to provide our entertainment. May the gods provide that they are never too efficient, nor too strict in their measure, but neither should they be too liberal as "hunger flavors the pot" and a stolen kiss is always sweeter than a wanton one. There too will the bold be silenced, the meek uninhibited, the overjoyed will weep in their beer and the downtrodden sing in celebration, so that each will be revealed in their true nature and bereft of their pretensions. Who but the drunkard will stand up for the rights of any tree or snake, and thus offer to voice the interests of others with whom we share our society? Where else may the gullible think themselves of some importance? How else may the powerful be made to stumble? What else may sate all our desires than some drunken orgy?

Government, in whatever form it may declare itself, is of no importance, serves only to entertain us with pretentious games. And should the Senate forget that, forget the times when the Plebeians left them uninvited to their own games, then on the Ides of March the poor widow leads the constituency out of the city to engage in their proper sport of drinking and balling, or else each night the women gather in their sanctuaries, the men hanging out beyond for their departure, for truly the only decision ever made is to submit to demands allowing entrance to someone else's bed, and the only thing that ever interests anyone is who is in what bed at any time. Thus when asked to which political party I would give my allegience, to what form of government I could possibly support, I join with John Belushi in recognition that there is really only one form of government, chanting to the gods in thanks for that highest form of an ideal society: TOGA, TOGA, TOGA, TOGA.....

Draco: A very interesting closing speech, mi Piscine. Atticus appears to have had his say, and thus I declare this symposion closed. It has been an enlightening evening: words have been molded and bent to serve the needs of their whimsical masters, and wine has been abundant. Well, perhaps not too abudant for some of us. From Cynic to Stoic, I thank all of you for joining this modest drinking festival, and sharing your thoughts with the rest of us. Now get those ancillae out of their hidings, and fetch us another amphora!
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