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NIHIL NOVUM SUB SOLE

1001 deeds, sayings, curiosities and anecdotes of the ancient world

Wine, sex and baths ruin our bodies, but… (Balnea vina Venus corrumpunt corpora, sed…)

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According to the moralist scheme of Roman historians and educators, the ancient inhabitants of Rome were austere farmers, who then became addicted to the pleasures and they were corrupted influenced by Greek and Asian luxury after the Punic Wars and the conquest of Greece and East.

Among the many pleasures to which they became accustomed certainly they include bathrooms, good food and love, ie the pleasures of the flesh. Of them by some extent, the word "bath" or "hot springs" (thermae) is almost synonymous with "Roman culture" because it is no city or urban or private group of some importance that does not have  good bathrooms supplied by spectacular aqueducts.

Numerous literary texts that sing these three pleasures as humans, to praise them or to criticize  their practice and amoral abuse, because it is very different from the "mores" or ancient customs. But the topic of "baths, wine and Venus, (ie, love or sex or women in a common sexist language today unacceptable and criticized), to which is sometimes added "the food ", spread to all social classes to become this popular, a popular version of the famous "carpe diem" of Horace. See: http://en.antiquitatem.com/carpe-diem-horace-poetry-epicureism

In the case of "pleasure of drinking," vina", remember the famous phrase "felices hispani,quibus vivere est bibere", which I already devoted an article. See: http://en.antiquitatem.com/felices-hispani-quibus-vivere-est-bibere

It is well known and cited one couplet of an epitaph appeared in Roma, referenced in the Corpus Inscriptionum Latinarum (CIL) with the number 15258, or in Carmina Latina Epigraphica (CLE) with the number 1499, or in Inscriptiones Latinae Selectae (ILS) 8157 = CLE 1499, that synthesizes this "hedonistic" proposal.

Note. Hedonism, from the Greek ἡδονισμός (hedonismos) from ἡδονή (hedone), pleasure, and the suffix -ισμός (-ismos) quality, doctrine, system.

This is an example of what some anthologies and literary precepts called "serpentine verse", in which the end of the verse or couplet is the same as the first, as the snake biting its own tail, like this one of Juvenal , 14, 139:

Crescit amor nummi quantum ipsa pecunia crevit.

"As money increases, so does love of money."

Some also speak in these compositions  as "chiasmus" or composition in "X", from the Greek χιασμός (chiasmos), the Greek name of the χ letter X, pronounced "chi, qui,".

The inscription above corresponds to a tombstone or epitaph appeared in first-century in Rome that  Merope dedicates to his partner Tiberius Claudius Secundus, who lived the not inconsiderable amount of 52 years, with the next really beautiful couplet:

“bathing, wine, sex ruin our bodies,
but bathing, wine and love make life worth living”.

“balnea vina Venus corrumpunt corpora nostra
Sed vitam faciunt b(alnea) v(ina) V(enus)

The full epitaph reads:

“He lived 52 years.
To the spirits
of the departed Tibrius Claudius Secundus.
Here he has everything with him.
“bathing, wine, sex ruin our bodies,
  but bathing, wine and love
make life worth living”.
Merope, freedwoman of Caesar
made this for her dear companion,
herself and their family and their descendents.”

V(ixit) an(nos) LII
d(is) M(anibus)
Ti(beri) Claudi Secundi
hic secum habet omnia
balnea vina Venus
corrumpunt corpora
nostra se<d=T> vitam faciunt
b(alnea) v(ina) V(enus)
karo contubernal(i)
fec(it) Merope Caes(aris)
et sibi et suis p(osterisque) e(orum)

Photograph of the text as appear in the Corpus Inscriptionum Latinarum.

It is certainly a well popular maxim in the ancient world. For example it also appears in a bilingual inscription of Gallipoli, now Turkey, on a spoon with the same hexameter: Carmina Latina Epigraphica (CLE) 1923; (CIL III 12274c); (In the edition of Carmina Latina Epigraphica, post Editam collectionem Buechelerianam in lucem prolate Conlegit Einar Engstrom, 1912 p.42, No. 148..):

“Baths, wine and sex make fate come faster”

balnea vina Venus faciunt properantia fata.

Another epitaph of the third century A.D., of Ostia, also includes the couplet with some variation that expresses self-satisfaction or perhaps complacency and boasting of whom has had a good life. Consider the fact that the deceased is often in the first person, who addresses the still alive, adds a sarcastic tone if not black humor.

The epitaph is the corresponding CIL XIV, 914 (or 01318 CLE)

“To the spirit of the departed C.Domitius Primus. I, the well-known Primus, am in this tomb.  I lived on Lucrine oysters; I often drank Falernian wine. Baths, wine, and  love aged with me through the years. If I managed this, may the earth be light on me. Yet among the spirits, the phoenix, which hastens to renew itself along with me, saves me on the altar. Space granted  for the burial of C.Domitius Primus by the three Messii –Hermeros, Pia y Pius.”

D(is) M(anibus)
C(aius) Domiti Primi
hoc ego su(m) in tumulo Primus notissi
mus ille vixi Lucrinis pota<v=B>i saepe Fa
lernum baln<e=I>a vina Venus mecum
senuere per annos hec(!) ego si potui
sit mihi terra lebis(!) et tamen ad Ma
nes foenix(!) me serbat(!) in ara qui me
cum properat se reparare sibi
l(ocus) d(atus) funeri C(ai) Domiti Primi a tribus Messis Hermerote Pia et Pio

Transcription of the text and photo in the CIL

A note: J.M. Stowasser suggests judiciously several emendations reading  some words for better understanding of the epitaph: "illex" for "ille", "tenuere" for "senuere", "seposui" for "si posui", and "arca" for "ara", in "Über ein paar anapästische lateinische Inschriften," in Dreißigster Jahresbericht über das k. k. Franz Joseph-Gymnasium in Wien, Schuljahr 1903/1904 (Wien: Selbstverlag des Gymnasiums, 1904),

Robert L. quotes  in  "Aphrodisias," Hellenica 13 (1965): 189) other text with a similar sentiment:

“The flower is dear to travelers: bathe, drink, eat, fuck, for you bring none of these below (to Hades)”

The fact that this maxim appears in epitaphs gives added value because we can interpret it as an objective statement of a bon viveur or epicurean, not without black humor.

These latest inscriptions added to the pleasures of bathing, drinking and enjoying the love of eating, some way implicit in that of "drinking". There are also many examples where the pleasure of eating and general invitation to the good life is highlighted. All this is certainly prolonged and increased during the Middle Ages and then by the rigidity of Christianity, which seeks to impose fasting and abstinence. The popular, skeptical, epicurean or hedonistic answer is "let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we come to die." But this requires a separate article, which at some point I will, because the examples of inscriptions referred to it are numerous.

Actually this maxim and similar are rooted in the anonymous Greek epigram of the Anthologia Palatina, 10,112 (collection of Greek poems, usually brief, from classical times to the Byzantine).

Wine and baths and venerean indulgence make the road to Hades more precipitous

Note: the word "anthology" derives from the Greek ἄνθος, anthos, 'flower' and λέγω 'to select',  and it means  "flower selection" just like the Latin "florilegium", posy.

As I said, the sentence continues in the Middle Ages to the present day. Interestingly, it seems that since the Middle Ages has diminished if not disappeared fondness for baths and  hygiene in general; this pleasure  does not seem to recover well to contemporary times with the proliferation of SPAs. See:

But if it disappears reference to the baths, numerous variations, which in many cases show a clear condemnation and a moralizing proposal,  usually are present. I will cite just one example in Spanish of a compendium of the eighteenth century:

FLORILEGIUM LATINUM, SÍVE HORTUS PROVERBIORUM, Phrasium, et Syntaxeosque Chrysolitus amoenissimus. NON MODO LATINITATIS PERFECTAE Intelligentiae candidatis perutile, & accommodátum , verum etiam quám maxime necessarium.
PER D. JOANNEM DE LAMA, QUARTA IMPRESSION. Con las Licencias necesarias .
En Madrid : En la Imprenta de Miguel Escribano.  Año de 1769.

In the section EEGANTIAE SIVE  CATONIANA carmina memoria perpetuo tenenda, which begins on page 320, there are since page 329 entitled In peccatorem (for the sinner). Well, at p. 330 he devotes a few couplets to the sins of love and wine; among others:

The bathrooms, wine, Venus (sex) are the true poisons of virtue.
To that virtue this strong, flee wine and Venus

Balnea , vina , Venus virtütis vera venena:
Ut virtus vigeat : vadite , vina Venus.

Or

The bathroom, wine, Venus, corrupt our bodies:
But our bodies are healed by the bathroom, wine, Venus

Balnea , vina , Venus , corrumpunt corpora nostra:
corpora noftra sanant balnea , vina , Venus.

But eliminated the component bathing or hygiene by water, the conjunction of “vina” and Venus, wine and love (wine and women in their most popular and sexist version) has potent remained until today, since the frequency of occurrence in numerous operas, to use less artistic in folk songs.

I will cite just the famous toast of the Traviata:


Toast (Let's Drink From The Joyful Chalices)

[Alfredo]

Let's drink, drink from the joyful chalices
since the beautiness is blossoming.
And might the fleeting hour get inebriated at will
Let's drink among (those) sweet quivers
that Love makes arise,
since that eye goes to (his) almighty heart.
Let's drink, (my) love, (so that) love among the chalices
will get hotter kisses

[Chorus] Ah! Let's drink, (so that) love, among the chalices, will get hotter kisses

[Violetta]

With you, with you, I'll be able to share
my cheerful time;
Everything is crazy, crazy in the world
what is not pleasure
Let's enjoy (the pleasures), fleeting and fast
is the joy in love,
it's a flower that blossoms and dies,
neither it can be enjoyed longer
Let's enjoy, it's calling us, it's calling us an ardent
flattering accent
.

[Chorus]

Let's enjoy, the cup* and the canticle,
the lovely night and the smiles;

might the new day find them (still) in this paradise

[Violetta] Life is in (its) jubilation

[Alfredo] When (people) aren't in love yet...

[Violetta] Don't say it to those who don't know it,

[Alfredo] So it's my destiny

[Tutti]

Let's enjoy, the cup* and the canticle,
the lovely night and the smiles;
might the new day find them (still) in this paradise.

(Translated by http://lyricstranslate.com/es/brindisi-libiamo-ne039lieti-calici-toast-lets-drink-joyful-chalices.html#ixzz44ma62HlW)

Alfredo
Libiamo, libiamo ne’lieti calici
Che la belleza inflora.
E la fuggevol, fuggevol ora
S’inebri a voluttà.
Libiami ne’dolce fremiti
Che suscita l’amore,
Poiché quell’occhio
Al core omnipotente va.
Libiamo,amore,
Amor fra i calici
Piu caldi baci avrá.
Coro
Ah! Libiam,amor,
Fra’calici
Piu caldi baci avrà.
Violetta
Tra voi, tra voi
Saprò dividere
Il tempo mio giocondo;
Tutto è follia, follia nel mondo
Ciò che non è piacer
Godiam, fugace e rapido è il Gaudio dell’amore,
È un flor che nasce e muore,
Ne più si può goder
Godiamo, c’invita.
C’invit un férvido accento lusinghier.
Coro
Godamo, la tazza,
La tazza e il cantico,
La notte abella e il riso;
In questo, in questo paradiso
ne scopra il nuovo di.
Violetta
La vita è nel tripudio
Alfredo
Quando non s’ami ancora
Violetta
Nol dite a chil’ignora.
Alfredo
È il mio destin così…
Tutti
Godiamo, la tazza,
La tazza e il cantico,
La notte abbella e il riso;
In questo, in questo
Paradiso ne scopra il nuovo di.

I will also reference, by contrast, the very sexist and insufferable Spanish pasodoble of Manolo Escobar,  of remarkable success in Spain at the time, entitled "Women and Wine", whose chorus, related to the content of the article, I would play (I find it impossible to quote the rest of the lyrics of this pasodoble, even to reject it as absurd and of infamous literary quality.):

Note: "infamous" is a word derived from Greek φημί, (to talk), in-femi (ie, no-talking), which therefore means etymologically "unspeakable, unpronounceable, unworthy to be said,", because  the noble sentiments, such as patriotism, must be proclaimed but in the right way and in the right context, because if not their dignity is undermined.

Women and Wine

Long live wine and women!
and the roses that heat our sun!
Long live wine and women
for they are the gifts of the Lord!
And long live every corner of my homeland.
Long may they live together as one!
Forming our flag
and the armour of my Spain.

(Translated by http://lyricstranslate.com/es/mujeres-y-vino-women-and-wine.html#ixzz44mZRzQM7)

Viva el vino y las mujeres
y las rosas que calienta nuestro sol.
Viva el vino y las mujeres,
que por algo son regalo del Señor.
Y vivan
los cuatro puntos
cardinales de mi patria.
Que vivan los cuatro juntos,
que forman nuestra bandera
y el escudo de mi España.

   
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