Saturday, February 25, 2023

Caeneus as the Stoic Ideal: Plutarch, Compendium Argumenti Stoicos quam poetas absuriora dicere 1057d

 It is important to note that, like Palaephatus, Plutarch rejects the incredulity of Caeneus' bulletproof skin, but not his gender.

ὁ Πινδάρου Καινεὺς εὔθυναν ὑπεῖχεν, ἀπιθάνως ἄρρηκτος σιδήρῳ καὶ ἀπαθὴς τὸ σῶμα πλασσόμενος, εἶτα καταδὺς ἄτρωτος ὑπὸ γῆν ‘σχίσας ὀρθῷ ποδὶ γᾶν:’ ὁ δὲ Στωικὸς Λαπίθης, ὥσπερ ἐξ ἀδαμαντίνης ὕλης ὑπ᾽ αὐτῶν τῆς ἀπαθείας κεχαλκευμένος, οὐκ ἄτρωτός ἐστιν οὐδ᾽ ἄνοσος οὐδ᾽ ἀναλγής, ἄφοβος δὲ μένει καὶ ἄλυπος καὶ ἀήττητος καὶ ἀβίαστος, τιτρωσκόμενος ἀλγῶν στρεβλούμενος, ἐν κατασκαφαῖς πατρίδος ἐν πάθεσιν, τοιούτοις.

Reprehensus fuit Pindarus, quod Caeneum parum probabiliter finxisset ferro inviolabilem, et corpore quod laedi non posset, terram subiise nullo accepto vulnere, cum "RECTO PEDE SCIDISSET SOLUM."

At Stoicorum iste Lapitha ex adamantina, vacuitatis omnium perpessionum conflatus materia, non vulnerum duntaxat, morborum, dolorum, fingitur expers, sed et metu et moestitia carere, insuperabilis manere, nulli cedere viribus, tum quidem, quando vulneratur, dolores patitur, torquetur, atque adeo etiam in patriae excidio, aliisque Caeneus duntaxat ictus nullo cum vulnere excipit. 

--Plutarch, Compendium Argumenti Stoicos absuriora poetis dicere, Translated into Latin by Daniel Wyttenbach, 1832.


Pindar’s portrayal of Caeneus is criticized because: 1)  he is unrealistically portrayed as being bulletproof, 2) he has an invincible body, as well as 3) he was swallowed whole by the earth without a wound, as he “rends the earth with his right foot.” [Pindar fragment 166f / 147f]

But the Stoic Lapith*, equally made of adamantium (a material impervious to detriment) supposedly is free of not only injury, illness, and grief, but also lacks fear and sorrow. He is completely invincible, never yielding to any by force, and if he is wounded, he never suffers pain. Even if he is tortured, even if his homeland is destroyed, this Caeneus never seems to be upset.

* Caeneus was a Lapith [name of a region in Thessaly]



Name:  Plutarch

Date:  46 – 119 CE

Works:  Parallel Lives







 Plutarch was a Greek author and Roman citizen who lived during the 1st century CE. He had minor governmental and religious administrative roles during his lifetime, but he is best known for his writings. He has numerous philosophical and historical works still extant, including the Parallel Lives, in which he compares the lives of a Roman and Greek statesman for moralistic purposes.


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