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Greek Gods and Goddess: Silenus

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Habitually drunk Silenus was a personification of wine, and alcohol in general, he was said to be the guardian and teacher of Dionysus, for some reason considered wise, and his depictions are often that of an old man ravished by years of hardened drinking, he was apparently captured or waylaid by King Midas at one point, who entertained him for five days and nights, but much wine makes good company, and a drunkard, often thinks themselves wise and all-knowing, but his story is neither long or enthralling, for

‘De sot homme on n’en peut
faire vn bon conte’.
A sot’s whole life
affords not one good tale.

Yet, it seems king Midas wished to find out one thing from Silenus, for it was said that when he was drunk, he possessed special powers of prophecy, it reminded me of the wisdom of Solomon, and perhaps a question all ask sooner or later, if they are lucky enough to live long enough, basically what is the meaning of life? I am generally loathed to quote, but there is quote by Aristotle recorded by Plutarch,

You, most blessed and happiest among humans, may well consider those blessed and happiest who have departed this life before you, and thus you may consider it unlawful, indeed blasphemous, to speak anything ill or false of them, since they now have been transformed into a better and more refined nature. This thought is indeed so old that the one who first uttered it is no longer known; it has been passed down to us from eternity, and hence doubtless it is true. Moreover, you know what is so often said and passes for a trite expression. What is that, he asked? He answered: It is best not to be born at all; and next to that, it is better to die than to live; and this is confirmed even by divine testimony. Pertinently to this they say that Midas, after hunting, asked his captive Silenus somewhat urgently, what was the most desirable thing among humankind. At first, he could offer no response, and was obstinately silent. At length, when Midas would not stop plaguing him, he erupted with these words, though very unwillingly: ‘you, seed of an evil genius and precarious offspring of hard fortune, whose life is but for a day, why do you compel me to tell you those things of which it is better you should remain ignorant? For he lives with the least worry who knows not his misfortune; but for humans, the best for them is not to be born at all, not to partake of nature’s excellence; not to be is best, for both sexes. This should be our choice, if choice we have; and the next to this is, when we are born, to die as soon as we can.’ It is plain therefore, that he declared the condition of the dead to be better than that of the living.

Drink, drink, order just one more,
before last orders are called,
for tomorrow may never come for you
and there will be no more.


  1. Randle Cotgraves: A Dictionarie of the French and English Tongues
  2. Aristotle, Eudemus (354 BCE), surviving fragment quoted in Plutarch, Moralia, Consolatio ad Apollonium, sec. xxvii (1st century CE) (S.H. transl.) Plutarch (1878). "Consolation to Apollonius". The Morals, vol. 1. Online Library of Liberty. Retrieved 6 October 2009. (See section 27.)