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Aulus Gellius 1.8

Translation copyright 2000 Neil W. Bernstein; all rights reserved.

The story found in the works of the philosopher Sotion (1) about the courtesan Lais (2) and the orator Demosthenes (3)

  1. Sotion was a famous adherent of the Peripatetic school of philosophy.(4) He wrote a book crammed with greatly varied learning and entitled it "The Horn of Amaltheia". (5)
  2. This phrase means about the same as "Cornucopia". (6)
  3. In this book there is the following story about the orator Demosthenes and the courtesan Lais. Sotion says, "Lais, a Corinthian woman, earned a large income from her elegance and attractive beauty. Rich men from all over Greece gathered frequently to see her. No-one was admitted unless he gave her what she had asked for, and she asked for an exorbitant amount."
  4. He says that this is the source of the familiar Greek proverb, "The journey to Corinth isn't for every man," because anyone who could not pay Lais what she asked for travelled to Corinth in vain.
  5. Sotion continues, "Demosthenes came to Lais secretly and asked her to give herself to him. Lais asked for ten thousand drachmas" (that is, ten thousand denarii in our money). (7)
  6. "Demosthenes was shocked and scared by the woman's great arrogance and the enormity of the cost. He turned away and left, saying 'I won't purchase regret at that price.'" But the Greek words that he is said to have spoken are wittier: "For ten thousand drachmas, I won't buy disappointment." (8)

Notes:

  1. Author of a lost collection of biographies of the ancient philosophers; cf. Diogenes Laertius 2.74.
  2. Born at Hykkara in Sicily and taken to mainland Greece by the Athenian general Nikias.
  3. 384-322 BC, Athenian orator. (Perseus entry.)
  4. Associated with Aristotle.
  5. The goat who suckled the infant god Zeus.
  6. "The horn of plenty".
  7. Greek and Roman coins respectively.
  8. Ancient and medieval authors such as Macrobius (Saturnalia 2.2.11), John of Salisbury (Policraticus 6.25), and Walter Map (De nugis curialium 4.3) retell this story and its moral; cf. Holford-Strevens 1988: 34 n.76.

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