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The World’s Wit and Humor: An Encyclopedia in 15 Volumes. 1906.

Lucian (c. 125–after 180)

A Question of Precedence

From “Dialogues of the Gods”


Zeus.Do, Æsculapius and Heracles, stop your wrangling, in which you indulge as if you were a couple of mortals; for this sort of behavior is unseemly, and quite strange to the banquets of the gods.

Heracles.But, Zeus, would you have that quack drug-dealer there take his place at table above me?

Æsculapius.By Zeus, yes, for I am certainly the better man.

Heracles.How, you thunderstruck fellow, is it, pray, because Zeus knocked you on the head with his bolt for your unlawful actions, and because now, out of mere pity, by way of compensation, you have got a share of immortality?

Æsculapius.What! have you, for your part, Heracles, altogether forgotten your having been burned to ashes on Mount Œta, that you throw in my teeth this fire you talk of?

Heracles.We have not lived at all an equal or similar sort of life—I, who am the son of Zeus, and have undergone so many and great labors, purifying human life, contending against and conquering wild beasts, and punishing insolent and injurious men; whereas you are a paltry herb-doctor and mountebank, skilful, possibly, in palming off your miserable drugs upon sick fools, but who have never given proof of any noble, manly disposition.

Æsculapius.You say well, seeing I healed your burns when you came up but now half-burned, with your body all marred and destroyed by the double cause of your death—the poisoned shirt, and afterward the fire. Now I, if I have done nothing else, at least have neither worked like a slave, as you have, nor have I carded wool in Lydia, dressed in a fine purple gown; nor have I been beaten by that Omphale of yours, with her golden slipper. No, nor did I, in a mad fit, kill my children and my wife!

Heracles.If you don’t stop your ribald abuse of me at once, you shall very speedily learn your immortality will not avail you much; for I will take and pitch you head first out of heaven, so that not even the wonderful Pæon himself shall cure you and your broken skull.

Zeus.Have done, I say, and don’t disturb the harmony of the company, or I will pack both of you off from the supper-room; although, to speak the truth, Heracles, it is fair and reasonable Æsculapius should have precedence of you at table, inasmuch as he even took precedence of you in death.