At Leg. 666b7, Burnet's emendation of the transmitted λήθην to λήθῃ has been widely accepted. Newly discovered support for this emendation comes from an Arabic version or adaptation of Plato's Laws, most likely Galen's Synopsis, quoted by the polymath Abū-Rayḥān al-Bīrūnī (a.d. 973–1048) as Kitāb al-Nawāmīs li-Aflāṭun in his ethnographic work on India. I transliterate and translate the passage below, proposing two incidental emendations to the Arabic:
wa-qāla l-aṯīniyyu fī l-maqālati l-tāniyati mina l-kitābi: lammā raḥima [sic pro raḥimati] l-ālihatu ǧinsa l-bašari min aǧli annahū maṭbūʿun ʿalā l-taʿabi hayyaʾū lahum aʿyādan li-l-ālihati wa-li-l-sakīnāti wa-li-ʾf-w-l-l-n mudabbiri l-sakīnāti wa-li-d-y-w-n-w-s-y-s māniḥi l-bašari l-ḫamrata dawāʾan lahum min ʿufūṣati l-šayḫūḫati li-yaʿūdū fityānan bi-l-duhūli ʿani l-kābati wa-ntiqāli ḫulqi l-nafsi [wa-yantaqila ḫulqu l-nafsi perhaps to be read] mina l-šiddati ilā l-salāmati [al-salāsati probably to be read].
The Athenian said in the second book of the work [sc. the Laws]: The gods, taking pity on the human race since it was born for toil, established for them feast-days (dedicated) to the gods and to the Muses and to Apollo, overseer of the Muses, and to Dionysus, who gave human beings wine as a remedy for them against the bitterness of old age, so that they might be rejuvenated by forgetting sorrow and (by) the character of the soul changing [and (so that) the character of the soul might change perhaps to be read] from severity into soundness [into tractability probably to be read].
The source of the latter part of the passage, that is, the description of Dionysus’ gift and its effect (māniḥi l-bašari…l-salāmati
), has until now remained unidentified. In the notes to his translation, Sachau, followed by Gabrieli, correctly identified part of Leg
. 653c–d (θεοὶ … ἔδοσαν) as the origin of much of the passage (see n. 4). No previous scholarship, however, has noted that the latter part translates a passage in Leg.
666b–c (τοῖς ἀνθρώποις … τὸ τῆς ψυχῆς ἦθος), here joined to the earlier passage (presumably by Bīrūnī’s source, that is, most likely Galen) on the hinge of their shared mention of Dionysus.