Wikipedia says, “Chrysippus of Soli was a Greek Stoic philosopher. He was a native of Soli, Cilicia, but moved to Athens as a young man, where he became a pupil of Cleanthes in the Stoic school. When Cleanthes died, around 230 BC, Chrysippus became the third head of the school. A prolific writer, Chrysippus expanded the fundamental doctrines of Zeno of Citium, the founder of the school, which earned him the title of Second Founder of Stoicism.”
Much has been said of Chryssipus of Soli.
That he was a drunkard, none could argue otherwise. At the naming of Europydus as head of the Academy’s guard, Chryssipus performed a headstand while his students of the school of Stoicism heaved above a cask of wine. He drained half the cask, performed a backflip, and relieved himself in the middle of the room, which was considered terribly rude when there sat an ornately polished vase in the corner clearly designated for such things.
That he was prolific, too, was fact. He’d filled page after page of logical script, perfecting a workflow in which he would dictate his thoughts to a scribe while a slavegirl sat atop him and pelted olives at his undercarriage. He claimed it stimulated the mind to thought to stimulate the junk to action, to which whomever he’d chosen to inflict his explanations upon replied, “Hey, whatever floats your boat, pal.”
That he was confident, none could deny. In the halls of academia, they regarded him as The Original Bad Boy of Stoicism, one of the pioneers of the archetype of The Guy Who Acts Like an Asshole Because He’s Talented, But Hey, At Least He’s Honest About It. Once at the weekly faculty meeting for the deans of the various schools of logic, he drank the entire allotment of Phoenician red, yet presented a proof detailing why he deserved it so ironclad that three of the deans resigned in disgrace and a fourth nearly died eating his toga out of shame.
Which is why there was some argument as to how to present his death to the ages. There was the story presented to acquaintances and professional relations, in which Chryssipus was offered a swig from a cask of undiluted wine which had been dispensed by use of hose, and having taken more than one could even generously decree a swig, was overcome by a dizziness which soon killed him. And then there was the story whispered between those who knew better, between those who could be trusted to keep a secret or to at least only tell other people who could also be trusted to keep a secret or in turn as well only tell people who could be trusted to keep a secret and so on and so forth.
In Greece, there were two extremes–the haves and havenots, the masters and slaves, the highbrow and lowbrow. Where there existed performances of plays of such tender thoughts and language as to make men weep and women do more weeping than usual, there also existed cruder forms of entertainment. And this was why Chryssipus arrived at the amphitheater just after dusk, to engage in that most foul of arts: goat talent showcases.
He told the ticket taker he was there to support his nephew Hyklomones, and the clerk struck a hammer and chisel against a great stone board where sat the boy’s name. If ten people said the same, the shepherd would be allowed to coax his chosen goat before the crowd and it would exhibit a given talent. Or it would faint, which was an equal part of the audience’s expectation and enjoyment. Oftentimes, watching a goat freeze and fall over was more enjoyable than watching it succeed. Either way, the jalapeno poppers still tasted greasy.
Hyklomones accomplished his task just barely, by promising a group of slaves their freedom if they claimed to be his friends. After the ticket taker chiseled the marks, Hyklomones ordered the slaves back to work. As they cleaned dung from the stable floors, most were glad they didn’t have to stay and watch the show.
And the performance began, a defeated-sounding older man introduced the goats one after the other. The beasts displayed their abilities with as much pride as can be said to possess any creature whose emotional range consists mostly of want for eating. One crouched low and urinated in the shape of the symbol for omega, to great applause. Another stood on its hind legs to middling response, but the audience appreciated what he was trying to do and sometimes that’s what’s most important. A female goat was introduced with, “It’s time for the estrus portion of the show.” A few goats suffered especially ill reactions from the crowd, and were forced down a shallow pit into which small explosives were thrown. Finally, Hyklomones’s goat shambled onto the stage.
The audience fell silent as the creature turned its gaze from left to right. Then, it nipped at a fig tree, and they erupted. A fruit fell from the branch and men slapped their knees in disbelief. The goat lifted its head and the remains of the fig fell from its jaws. The reaction was matched only thousands of years later in the famed halls of another great Greek production, Showtime at the Apollo. So overjoyed at the sight of his nephew’s success, Chryssipus rose to his feet, shouted, “Give that goat some wine, because I’ve brought the cheese!” and released a draft of gas from his buttocks. The amphitheatre erupted into riotous applause, and Chryssipus was lifted atop the shoulders of his fellow man in celebration of his crackerjack bowel timing.
However, a goat is nothing if not a jealous devil, and fearing that its own accomplishments had been overshadowed, ran at the revelers as they held Chryssipus aloft. The Stoic fell to the ground and slammed his head into the bare stone ground. As blood leaked from the man’s head, he pulled one of his students close. “Tell them,” he muttered, “Tell them all how awesome my fart joke was.”
And Chryssipus passed away, the victim of professional jealousy and his own flatulent success. His colleagues at the Academy attempted to censor accounts of his death, for fear the taint of his taint would as well taint their own legacies, yet the lesson of his death was forever remembered in the classic Greek phrase “Never fart before the fig-eating goat.” Look, it sounds better in the mother tongue.
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