A Homeric Simile and Puppy Sacrifice

Odyssey 9.287-293

“So I was speaking, but [the Kyklops] did not answer me because of his pitiless heart.
But then he leapt up, shot out his hands at my companions,
Grabbed two together, and struck them against the ground
Like puppies. Brains were flowing out from them and they dyed the ground.
After tearing them limb from limb, he prepared himself a meal.
He ate them like a mountain-born lion and left nothing behind,
The innards, the meat, and the marrow-filled bones.”

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ὣς ἐφάμην, ὁ δέ μ’ οὐδὲν ἀμείβετο νηλέϊ θυμῷ,
ἀλλ’ ὅ γ’ ἀναΐξας ἑτάροισ’ ἐπὶ χεῖρας ἴαλλε,
σὺν δὲ δύω μάρψας ὥς τε σκύλακας ποτὶ γαίῃ
κόπτ’· ἐκ δ’ ἐγκέφαλος χαμάδις ῥέε, δεῦε δὲ γαῖαν.
τοὺς δὲ διὰ μελεϊστὶ ταμὼν ὁπλίσσατο δόρπον·
ἤσθιε δ’ ὥς τε λέων ὀρεσίτροφος, οὐδ’ ἀπέλειπεν,
ἔγκατά τε σάρκας τε καὶ ὀστέα μυελόεντα.

I asked a question about this passage a few days ago on twitter and got some great responses. One found a later passage that deals with puppies and has some interesting thematic resonance with Odysseus’ development:

Several mentioned that this is a typical way to deal with unwanted puppies:

And several respondents also made nice points about the helplessness of the puppies in the image.

I think that all of these ideas are essential to a full interpretation of this passage. But, I do wonder if, in addition, we should consider ancient Greek practices of puppy sacrifice. I know that the following accounts are later, but what if we imagine the simile used here as evoking ideas of purification through sacrifice?

Plutarch, Roman Questions 280 c

“Nearly all the Greeks made use of the dog in sacrifice and some still do today, for cleansing rituals. They also bring puppies for Hekate along with other purification materials; and they rub down people who need cleansing with the puppies.”

τῷ δὲ κυνὶ πάντες ὡς ἔπος εἰπεῖν Ἕλληνες ἐχρῶντο καὶ χρῶνταί γε μέχρι νῦν ἔνιοι σφαγίῳ πρὸς τοὺς καθαρμούς· καὶ τῇ Ἑκάτῃ σκυλάκια μετὰ τῶν ἄλλων καθαρσίων ἐκφέρουσι καὶ περιμάττουσι σκυλακίοις τοὺς ἁγνισμοῦ δεομένους 

Plutarch, Romulus 21.10

“The Greeks in their purification bring out the puppies and in many places use them in the practice called periulakismos [‘carrying puppies around’]”

καὶ γὰρ ῞Ελληνες ἔν τε τοῖς καθαρσίοις σκύλακας ἐκφέρουσι καὶ πολλαχοῦ χρῶνται τοῖς λεγομένοις περισκυλακισμοῖς·

Pausanias, Laconica 15

“Here, each of these groups of youths sacrifice a puppy to Enyalius, god of war, because they believe that it is best to make this most valiant of the domesticated animals to the bravest of the gods. I don’t know any other Greeks who believe it is right to sacrifice puppies to the gods except for the Kolophonians. For the Kolophonians sacrifice a black female puppy to the goddess of the Crossroad. The sacrifices of both the Kolophonians and the Spartan youths take place at night.”

ἐνταῦθα ἑκατέρα μοῖρα τῶν ἐφήβων σκύλακα κυνὸς τῷ Ἐνυαλίῳ θύουσι, θεῶν τῷ ἀλκιμωτάτῳ κρίνοντες ἱερεῖον κατὰ γνώμην εἶναι τὸ ἀλκιμώτατον ζῷον τῶν ἡμέρων. κυνὸς δὲ σκύλακας οὐδένας ἄλλους οἶδα Ἑλλήνων νομίζοντας θύειν ὅτι μὴ Κολοφωνίους· θύουσι γὰρ καὶ Κολοφώνιοι μέλαιναν τῇ Ἐνοδίῳ σκύλακα. νυκτεριναὶ δὲ ἥ τε Κολοφωνίων θυσία καὶ τῶν ἐν Λακεδαίμονι ἐφήβων καθεστήκασιν.

Plutarch, Roman Questions 290 d

“Indeed, the ancients did not consider this animal to be clean either: it was never sacrificed to one of the Olympian goes, but when it is given to Hekate at the cross-roads, it functions as part of the sacrifices that turn away and cleanse evil. In Sparta, they sacrifice dogs to the bloodiest of the gods, Enyalios. In Boiotia, it is the public cleansing ritual to walk between the parts of a dog that has been cut in half. The Romans themselves during the Wolf-Festival which they call the Lupercallia, they sacrifice a dog in the month of purification.”

Οὐ μὴν οὐδὲ καθαρεύειν ᾤοντο παντάπασιν οἱ παλαιοὶ τὸ ζῷον· καὶ γὰρ Ὀλυμπίων μὲν οὐδενὶ θεῶν καθιέρωται, χθονίᾳ δὲ δεῖπνον Ἑκάτῃ πεμπόμενος εἰς τριόδους ἀποτροπαίων καὶ καθαρσίων ἐπέχει μοῖραν. ἐν δὲ Λακεδαίμονι τῷ φονικωτάτῳ θεῶν Ἐνυαλίῳ σκύλακας ἐντέμνουσι· Βοιωτοῖς δὲ δημοσίᾳ καθαρμός ἐστι κυνὸς διχοτομηθέντος τῶν μερῶν διεξελθεῖν· αὐτοὶ δὲ Ῥωμαῖοι τοῖς Λυκαίοις, ἃ Λουπερκάλια καλοῦσιν, ἐν τῷ καθαρσίῳ μηνὶ κύνα θύουσιν. ὅθεν οὐκ ἀπὸ τρόπου τοῖς τὸν ὑπέρτατον καὶ καθαρώτατον εἰληφόσι θεραπεύειν

Writing for What Audience? Cicero on the Middle(brow?)

[Marcus Varro is the speaker in this excerpt]

Cicero, Academica 1.4

“Because I recognized that philosophy had been most expertly explored in the Greek language, I believed that anyone from Rome who was inclined toward the subject would prefer to read it in Greek, if they were educated in Greek doctrines. If they shuddered at Greek arts and learning, they would not be interested in those very matters which could not be understood without Greek. So, I did not want to write what the unlearned could not understand or what the learned would not care to.”

Nam cum philosophiam viderem diligentissime Graecis litteris explicatam, existimavi si qui de nostris eius studio tenerentur, si essent Graecis doctrinis eruditi, Graeca potius quam nostra lecturos; sin a Graecorum artibus et disciplinis abhorrerent, ne haec quidem curaturos quae sine eruditione Graeca intellegi non possunt; itaque ea nolui scribere quae nec indocti intellegere possent nec docti legere curarent.

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How Much of Life Is Truly Lived?

Seneca Moral Epistles 99.10-12

“Consider the vastness of time’s expanse; include the universe too; and then compare what we call human life with this endlessness. You will see how small what we desire to lengthen is. How most of this time weeping and anxiety occupy! How much we pray for death, strength, fear before death comes! How much of life is spent ignorant or inexperienced! Half of it is spent in sleep. Add to this our work, grief, dangers and then you will know that even in the longest life the part that is truly lived is the least. But who would concede for himself that a man does not do better who is permitted to return quickly, who completes his journey before he is tired? Life is neither good nor bad, but it is where good and evil happen”

Propone temporis profundi vastitatem et universum complectere, deinde hoc, quod aetatem vocamus humanam, conpara immenso; videbis, quam exiguum sit, quod optamus, quod extendimus. Ex hoc quantum lacrimae, quantum sollicitudines occupant! Quantum mors, antequam veniat, optata, quantum valitudo, quantum timor! Quantum tenent aut rudes aut inutiles anni! Dimidium ex hoc edormitur. Adice labores, luctus, pericula, et intelleges etiam in longissima vita minimum esse, quod vivitur. Sed quis tibi concedet non melius se habere eum, cui cito reverti licet, cui ante lassitudinem peractum est iter? Vita nec bonum nec malum est; boni ac mali locus est.

 

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Ignorance vs. Intentional Stupidity

Hugo of St. Victor, Didascalion

On the Study of Reading – Preface (Part I)

“There are many whom nature has left so destitute of intellect that they are unable to grasp even those things which are easiest to understand; of these people, there seem to be two types. There are certain people who, granting that they are not ignorant of their own dullness, eagerly strive for knowledge with whatever effort they can, and apply themselves to the task with unremitting zeal; though they achieve little from the realization of the work, they seem to deserve something for their efforts. But there are other people who understand that they will never be able to understand the highest things, so they neglect even the smallest ones, and resting secure in their own indolence, we find that the more they waste the light of truth in the most important things, the more they flee from learning the smallest things, which they are actually able to understand. For this reason, the Psalm has it, ‘They did not wish to understand how they could do well.’ Not knowing is, indeed, a far different thing from not wanting to know. Indeed, ignorance is a kind of weakness, but the detestation of knowledge is the sign of a depraved will.

There is, however, yet another group of people whom nature has so enriched that she has offered them a clear approach to the truth. For these people, even if the strength of their mind is not equal to the task, there is not the same virtue or will for cultivating the senses through exercise and natural instruction. For, there are many people who, wrapped up in the business and concerns of this age more than is really necessary, are entirely given to the vices and pleasures of the body, and they bury the treasure of God in the ground; they neither seek the fruit of wisdom, nor the use of good work – these people are on the whole rather detestable. Again, for some people, family poverty or their slender means diminishes the opportunity of learning. Yet, I think that these people can hardly be excused on this account, since we see so many people laboring under famine, thirst, and even want of clothes, who yet attain the fruit of knowledge. Indeed, it is one thing when you are not able (or, I should say, are not easily able) to learn, and it is an entirely different thing when you are able to learn but unwilling to do so. Just as it is more glorious to attain wisdom by virtue alone, when no other opportunities rush to assist you, so too it is much more shameful to have a vigorous intellect and to overflow with wealth while wasting away in idleness.”

 

DE STUDIO LEGENDI

Praefatio

 

[770C] Multi sunt quos ipsa adeo natura ingenio destitutos reliquit ut ea etiam quae facilia sunt intellectu vix capere possint, et horum duo genera mihi esse videntur. [770D] nam sunt quidam, qui, licet suam hebetudinem non ignorent, eo tamen quo valent conamine ad scientiam anhelant, et indesinenter studio insistentes, quod minus habent effectu operis, obtinere merentur effectu voluntatis. ast alii quoniam summa se comprehendere nequaquam posse sentiunt, minima etiam negligunt, et quasi in suo torpore securi quiescentes eo amplius in maximis lumen veritatis perdunt, quo minima quae intelligere possent discere fugiunt. unde psalmista: Noluerunt, inquit, intelligere ut bene agerent. longe enim aliud est nescire atque aliud nolle scire. nescire siquidem infirmitatis est, scientiam vero detestari, pravae voluntatis. est aliud hominum genus quos admodum natura ingenio ditavit et facilem ad veritatem veniendi aditum praestitit, quibus, [771A] etsi impar sit valitudo ingenii, non eadem tamen omnibus virtus aut voluntas est per exercitia et doctrinam naturalem sensum excolendi. nam sunt plerique qui negotiis huius saeculi et curis super quam necesse sit impliciti aut vitiis et voluptatibus corporis dediti, talentum Dei terra obruunt, et ex eo nec fructum sapientiae, nec usuram boni operis quaerunt, qui profecto valde detestabiles sunt. rursus aliis rei familiaris inopia et tenuis census discendi facultatem minuit. quos tamen plene per hoc excusari minime posse credimus, cum plerosque fame siti nuditate laborantes ad scientiae fructum pertingere videamus. [771B] et tamen aliud est cum non possis, aut ut verius dicam, facile non possis discere, atque aliud posse et nolle scire. sicut enim gloriosius est, cum nullae suppetant facultates, sola virtute sapientiam apprehendere, sic profecto turpius est vigere ingenio, divitiis affluere, et torpere otio.

Tawdry Tuesday (NSFW): Heavy-tongued Hipponax With a Word We Don’t Need

Hipponax 135 b

“opening of filth”

βορβορόπη

Eust. iv.835.13 in Hom. Il. 23.775

Here it is not inapt to say that a mouth spitting out thus might be called an orifice of shit and filth, just as according to ancient inquiry the heavy-tongued Hipponax made a compound when he insulted some woman as a “filth-opening”, when he was mocking her for her dirty child-rearing. He also tore down another women by calling her a “dick-shaker”, because, people claim, she makes a penis dance.”

ἐνταῦθα δὲ οὐκ ἄκαιρον εἰπεῖν καὶ ὅτι στόμα τὸ οὕτως ἀποπτύον ὄνθου λεχθείη ἂν καὶ βορβόρου ὀπή, ὅπερ κατὰ παλαιὰν ἱστορίαν συνθεὶς ὁ βαρύγλωσσος Ἱππῶναξ “βορβορόπην” ὕβρισε γυναῖκά τινα, σκώπτων ἐκείνην εἰς τὸ παιδογόνον ὡς ἀκάθαρτον. ὃς καὶ “ἀνασεισίφαλλον” ἄλλην τινὰ διέσυρεν, ὡς ἀνασείουσαν, φασί, τὸν φάλητα.

Suda 

“Hipponax calls the woman a “filth-opening” as if he is saying she is unclean, drawing on the word for ‘filth’ (barboros) and also he adds “flasher” from the verb anasuresthai, for “pulling up one’s clothes”.

Ἱππῶναξ δὲ “βορβορόπιν” ὡς ἀκάθαρτον ταύτην φησίν, ἀπὸ τοῦ βορβόρου, καὶ “ἀνασυρτό{πο}λιν” ἀπὸ τοῦ ἀνασύρεσθαι.

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Choosing a Captain on the Ship of Fools

Plato, Republic 6 488a7-89a2

[This was inspired by the “Ship of Fools” post at LitKicks]

Consider this how this could turn out on many ships or even just one: there is a captain of some size and strength beyond the rest of the men in the ship, but he is deaf and similarly limited at seeing, and he knows as much about sailing as these qualities might imply. So, the sailors are struggling with one another about steering the ship, because each one believes that he should be in charge, even though he has learned nothing of the craft nor can indicate who his teacher was nor when he had the time to learn. Some of them are even saying that it is not teachable, and that they are ready to cut down the man who says it can be taught.

They are always hanging all over the captain asking him and making a big deal of the fact that he should entrust the rudder to them. There are times when some of them do not persuade him, and some of them kill others or kick them off the ship, and once they have overcome the noble captain through a mandrake, or drugs, or something else and run the ship, using up its contents drinking, and partying, and sailing just as such sort of men might. In addition to this, they praise as a fit sailor, and call a captain and knowledgeable at shipcraft the man who is cunning at convincing or forcing the captain that they should be in charge. And they rebuke as useless anyone who is not like this.

Such men are unaware what a true helmsman is like, that he must be concerned about the time of year, the seasons, the sky, the stars, the wind and everything that is appropriate to the art, if he is going to be a leader of a ship in reality, how he might steer the ship even if some desire it or not, when they believe that it is not possible to obtain art or practice about how to do this, something like an art of ship-steering. When these types of conflicts are occurring on a ship, don’t you think the one who is a true helmsman would be called a star-gazer, a blabber, or useless to them by the sailors in the ships organized in this way?

 

νόησον γὰρ τοιουτονὶ γενόμενον εἴτε πολλῶν νεῶν πέρι εἴτε μιᾶς· ναύκληρον μεγέθει μὲν καὶ ῥώμῃ ὑπὲρ τοὺς ἐν τῇ νηὶ πάντας, ὑπόκωφον δὲ καὶ ὁρῶντα ὡσαύτως βραχύ τι καὶ γιγνώσκοντα περὶ ναυτικῶν ἕτερα τοιαῦτα, τοὺς δὲ ναύτας στασιάζοντας πρὸς ἀλλήλους περὶ τῆς κυβερνήσεως, ἕκαστον οἰόμενον δεῖν κυβερνᾶν, μήτε μαθόντα πώποτε τὴν τέχνην μέτε ἔχοντα ἀποδεῖξαι διδάσκαλον ἑαυτοῦ μηδὲ χρόνον ἐν ᾧ ἐμάνθανεν, πρὸς δὲ τούτοις φάσκοντας μηδὲ διδακτὸν εἶναι, ἀλλὰ καὶ τὸν λέγοντα ὡς διδακτὸν ἑτοίμους κατατέμνειν, αὐτοὺς δὲ αὐτῷ ἀεὶ τῷ ναυκλήρῳ περικεχύσθαι δεομένους καὶ πάντα ποιοῦντας ὅπως ἂν σφίσι τὸ πηδάλιον ἐπιτρέψῃ, ἐνίοτε δ’ ἂν μὴ πείθωσιν ἀλλὰ ἄλλοι μᾶλλον, τοὺς μὲν ἄλλους ἢ ἀποκτεινύντας ἢ ἐκβάλλοντας ἐκ τῆς νεώς, τὸν δὲ γενναῖον ναύκληρον μανδραγόρᾳ ἢ μέθῃ ἤ τινι ἄλλῳ συμποδίσαντας τῆς νεὼς ἄρχειν χρωμένους τοῖς ἐνοῦσι, καὶ πίνοντάς τε καὶ εὐωχουμένους πλεῖν ὡς τὸ εἰκὸς τοὺς τοιούτους, πρὸς δὲ τούτοις ἐπαινοῦντας ναυτικὸν μὲν καλοῦντας καὶ κυβερνητικὸν καὶ ἐπιστάμενον τὰ κατὰ ναῦν, ὃς ἂν συλλαμβάνειν δεινὸς ᾖ ὅπως ἄρξουσιν ἢ πείθοντες ἢ βιαζόμενοι τὸν ναύκληρον, τὸν δὲ μὴ τοιοῦτον ψέγοντας ὡς ἄχρηστον, τοῦ δὲ ἀληθινοῦ κυβερνήτου πέρι μηδ’ ἐπαΐοντες, ὅτι ἀνάγκη αὐτῷ τὴν ἐπιμέλειαν ποιεῖσθαι ἐνιαυτοῦ καὶ ὡρῶν καὶ οὐρανοῦ καὶ ἄστρων καὶ πνευμάτων καὶ πάντων τῶν τῇ τέχνῃ προσηκόντων, εἰ μέλλει τῷ ὄντι νεὼς ἀρχικὸς ἔσεσθαι, ὅπως δὲ κυβερνήσει ἐάντε τινες βούλωνται ἐάντε μή, μήτε τέχνην τούτου μήτε μελέτην οἰόμενοι δυνατὸν εἶναι λαβεῖν ἅμα καὶ τὴν κυβερνητικήν. τοιούτων δὴ περὶ τὰς ναῦς γιγνομένων τὸν ὡς ἀληθῶς κυβερνητικὸν οὐχ ἡγῇ ἂν τῷ ὄντι μετεωροσκόπον τε καὶ ἀδολέσχην καὶ ἄχρηστόν σφισι καλεῖσθαι ὑπὸ τῶν ἐν ταῖς οὕτω κατεσκευασμέναις ναυσὶ πλωτήρων;

Don’t Read the Classics…

[Warning, the following is or at least purports to be satire]

Lucian, A professor of public speaking, 17

“Don’t you read the classics either, not the babbling Isocrates or the charmless Demosthenes, or that boor Plato. Read instead the speeches from a little before our time, the work people call “opinion-pieces”, so that you may draw on them when you need to, as if you were taking something from the pantry.”

ἀλλὰ καὶ ἀναγίγνωσκε τὰ παλαιὰ μὲν μὴ σύ γε, μηδὲ εἴ τι ὁ λῆρος Ἰσοκράτης ἢ ὁ χαρίτων ἄμοιρος Δημοσθένης ἢ ὁ ψυχρὸς Πλάτων, ἀλλὰ τοὺς τῶν ὀλίγον πρὸ ἡμῶν λόγους καὶ ἅς φασι ταύτας μελέτας, ὡς ἔχῃς ἀπ᾿ ἐκείνων ἐπισιτισάμενος ἐν καιρῷ καταχρῆσθαι καθάπερ ἐκ ταμιείου προαιρῶν.

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