Crazy Love: Xerxes Fell in Love with a Tree (Aelian, Varia Historia 9.39)

“How could someone deny that the following types of love affairs are ridiculous and incredible? They say that Xerxes fell in love with a plane tree. An Athenian youth from a noble family was in love with a statue of Good fortune that stood near the Prytany. He used to show his affection by putting embracing the statue and then, out of mind and struck by desire, he went to the council-chamber and pleaded that he was prepared to spend however much money was needed to buy the statue. When he could not persuade them, he decorated the statue with crowns and garlands and he made a sacrifice, wrapped even more decoration around it, and then ended his own life after weeping endlessly. Some men say that a dog loved Glaukê the Kithara-player; others say it was a ram or a goose. Among the Soloi in Kilikia, a dog was loved by a boy named Xenophon; and at Sparta, a crow fell in love with a good-looking boy.”

Πῶς δὲ οὐκ ἂν φαίη τις γελοίους ἅμα καὶ παραδόξους τούσδε τοὺς ἔρωτας; τὸν μὲν Ξέρξου, ὅτι πλατάνου ἠράσθη. νεανίσκος δὲ ᾿Αθήνησι τῶν εὖ γεγονότων πρὸς τῷ πρυτανείῳ ἀνδριάντος ἑστῶτος τῆς ᾿Αγαθῆς Τύχης θερμότατα ἠράσθη. κατεφίλει γοῦν τὸν ἀνδριάντα περιβάλλων, εἶτα ἐκμανεὶς καὶ οἰστρηθεὶς ὑπὸ τοῦ πόθου, παρελθὼν ἐς τὴν βουλὴν καὶ λιτανεύσας ἕτοιμος ἦν πλείστων χρημάτων τὸ ἄγαλμα πρίασθαι. ἐπεὶ δὲ οὐκ ἔπειθεν, ἀναδήσας πολλαῖς ταινίαις καὶ στεφανώσας τὸ ἄγαλμα καὶ θύσας καὶ κόσμον αὐτῷ περιβαλὼν πολυτελῆ εἶτα ἑαυτὸν ἀπέκτεινε, μυρία προκλαύσας. Γλαύκης δὲ τῆς κιθαρῳδοῦ οἳ μέν φασιν ἐρασθῆναι κύνα, οἳ δὲ κριόν, οἳ δὲ χῆνα. καὶ ἐν Σόλοις δὲ τῆς Κιλικίας παιδὸς Ξενοφῶντος ἠράσθη κύων, ἄλλου δὲ ὡραίου μειρακίου ἐν Σπάρτῃ κολοιός.

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