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Arrian – eat, drink, and… play

January 3, 2015

In Book II of his biography of Alexander the Great, Arrian describes a visit to the city of Anchialus, which was supposed to have been built by Sardanapalus the Assyrian:

“Close to the walls was the tomb of Sardanapalus, supporting a statue of him in the attitude of a man clapping his hands, with an inscription in the Assyrian character. According to the Assyrians the inscription was in verse, but, whether verse or not, the general sense of it was this:

‘Sardanapalus, son of Anakyndaraxes, built in one day Tarsus and Anchialus. O stranger, eat, drink, and play, for everything else in the life of a man is not worth this’

– and by ‘this’ was to be understood a clap of the hands. They also said that ‘play’ was something of a euphemism for the original Assyrian word.”

(from Arrian’s Life of Alexander the Great [c. 150], translated by Aubrey de Sélincourt)

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