Ὑδροποτεῖν in Xenophon

For readers unaware, this post is a follow up on my SBL paper abstract examining the semantics of ὑδροποτέω/ὑδροπότης. It might be worthwhile to quickly read through it in order to understand my thesis for this paper.

The following here is my very rather free translation of Xenophon Cyropaedia 6.2.25-29 This is Xenophon’s more or less fictional biography of Cyrus the Great (even back them, people just loved historical fiction). 

In this short section, Cyrus is giving a speech to his army with advice about how they will be able to make their journey to war against the enemy. The difficulty is that both sides in the war have pillaged and raided the land that is between them. There isn’t much left to survive on. And that means they need to bring their own food and, more importantly for the Persians, they need to bring their own alcohol. Apparently Xenophon imagined these guys as particularly heavy drinkers. The 15-day march without wine would only result in an army with delirium tremens: alcohol withdrawal. That isn’t a pleasant experience according to Wikipedia:

The main symptoms of delirium tremens are nightmares, agitation, global confusion, disorientation, visual and auditory hallucinations, tactile hallucinations, fever, high blood pressure, heavy sweating, and other signs of autonomic hyperactivity (fast heart rate and high blood pressure). These symptoms may appear suddenly, but typically develop two to three days after the stopping of heavy drinking, being worst on the fourth or fifth day. Also, these “symptoms are characteristically worse at night”.

But never fear for this intrepid force. Good King Cyrus has a plan.

Friends and allies, our bodies and spirits as well as the weaponry, that we will be obliged to put to use, are fully prepared And now for the march, we must gather together twenty days’ worth of provisions for ourselves and our animals. For in organizing our expedition, I find there will be over fifteen days in the journey where we will not be able to find any provisions at all: everything has been made away with. The enemy took all they could, then we took what was left. So we must pack up plenty of food for ourselves. Otherwise, we will not be able live, much less fight.

Now as for wine: each person should only bring as much as necessary to drink until we become ὑδροποτεῖν. The majority of the march will involve regions without wine. So all the wine we could possibly carry wouldn’t be enough, even if we brought the greatest possible quantity. This means that when we finally run out of wine, if we do not want to fall delirious, this is what we must do. Let is now start drinking water (note: πίνειν ὕδωρ, not ὑδροποτεῖν) at our meals immediately, so that by doing so we will not need to dramatically change our lifestyle. A person eating barley cakes, eats a meal of ready-pressed cakes then moistened with water and whoever eats wheat, mixes the food with water. And any boiled food is liberally prepared with plenty of water. So then, after a meal of grain, were we to drink wine, our spirits would still be content even not having as much. But as time went on, we would need to also gradually reduce the amount we have after dinner such that we do not realize that we have become ὑδροπόται. A slow transition will help anyone’s natural tendencies to bear with the changes. God, even, teaches that by leading us gradually out of the winter in order to endure the burning heat of summer and then from the heat of summer to the rigor of winter. We should imitate him and achieve the state we would have attained had we changed our drinking behavior well before this.

ἄνδρες σύμμαχοι, αἱ μὲν ψυχαὶ καὶ τὰ σώματα καὶ τὰ ὅπλα οἷς δεήσει χρῆσθαι ἐκ πολλοῦ ἡμῖν σὺν θεῷ παρεσκεύασται· νῦν δὲ τὰ ἐπιτήδεια δεῖ εἰς τὴν ὁδὸν συσκευάζεσθαι αὐτοῖς τε ἡμῖν καὶ ὁπόσοις τετράποσι χρώμεθα μὴ μεῖον ἢ εἴκοσιν ἡμερῶν. ἐγὼ γὰρ λογιζόμενος εὑρίσκω πλέον ἢ πεντεκαίδεκα ἡμερῶν ἐσομένην ὁδόν, ἐν ᾗ οὐδὲν εὑρήσομεν τῶν ἐπιτηδείων· ἀνεσκεύασται γὰρ τὰ μὲν ὑφʼ ἡμῶν, τὰ δʼ ὑπὸ τῶν πολεμίων ὅσα ἐδύναντο. [26] συσκευάζεσθαι οὖν χρὴ σῖτον μὲν ἱκανόν· ἄνευ γὰρ τούτου οὔτε μάχεσθαι οὔτε ζῆν δυναίμεθʼ ἄν·

οἶνον δὲ τοσοῦτον ἕκαστον ἔχειν χρὴ ὅσος ἱκανὸς ἔσται ἐθίσαι ἡμᾶς αὐτοὺς ὑδροποτεῖν· πολλὴ γὰρ ἔσται τῆς ὁδοῦ ἄοινος, εἰς ἣν οὐδʼ ἂν πάνυ πολὺν οἶνον συσκευασώμεθα, διαρκέσει. [27] ὡς οὖν μὴ ἐξαπίνης ἄοινοι γενόμενοι νοσήμασι περιπίπτωμεν, ὧδε χρὴ ποιεῖν· ἐπὶ μὲν τῷ σίτῳ νῦν εὐθὺς ἀρχώμεθα πίνειν ὕδωρ· τοῦτο γὰρ ἤδη ποιοῦντες ουʼ πολὺ μεταβαλοῦμεν. [28] καὶ γὰρ ὅστις ἀλφιτοσιτεῖ, ὕδατι μεμαγμένην ἀεὶ τὴν μᾶζαν ἐσθίει, καὶ ὅστις ἀρτοσιτεῖ, ὕδατι δεδευμένον τὸν ἄρτον, καὶ τὰ ἑφθὰ δὲ πάντα μεθʼ ὕδατος τοῦ πλείστου ἐσκεύασται. μετὰ δὲ τὸν σῖτον ἐὰν οἶνον ἐπιπίνωμεν, οὐδὲν μεῖον ἔχουσα ἡ ψυχὴ ἀναπαύσεται. [29] ἔπειτα δὲ καὶ τοῦ μετὰ δεῖπνον ἀφαιρεῖν χρή, ἔστʼ ἂν λάθωμεν ὑδροπόται γενόμενοι. ἡ γὰρ κατὰ μικρὸν παράλλαξις πᾶσαν ποιεῖ φύσιν ὑποφέρειν τὰς μεταβολάς· διδάσκει δὲ καὶ ὁ θεός, ἀπάγων ἡμᾶς κατὰ μικρὸν ἔκ τε τοῦ χειμῶνος εἰς τὸ ἀνέχεσθαι ἰσχυρὰ θάλπη ἔκ τε τοῦ θάλπους εἰς τὸν ἰσχυρὸν χειμῶνα· ὃν χρὴ μιμουμένους εἰς ὃ δεῖ ἐλθεῖν προειθισμένους ἡμᾶς ἀφικνεῖσθαι.

Now, perhaps ὑδροποτεῖν and ὑδροπότης mean ‘drink water’ and ‘waterdrinker’. But this passage has clear contrastive examples between ὑδροποτεῖν and πίνειν ὕδωρ. Moreover, the larger context implies a much more complex college of socio-cultural knowledge, and it all revolves around alcohol and abstinence.

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