Bad star rising…Hesiod on the dog days of summer

“But when the artichoke flowers, and the chirpy cicada sits in a tree and pours down his shrill song endlessly from under his wings in the season of wearisome heat, then goats are plumpest and wine the best ever; women are sluttiest but that does men no good, greatly weakened as they are in heads and knees from the Dog Star’s searing heat; for good measure their skin is wickedly dry.”

Hesiod, Works and Days, 582-88

ἦμος δὲ σκόλυμός τ᾽ ἀνθεῖ καὶ ἠχέτα τέττιξ
δενδρέῳ ἐφεζόμενος λιγυρὴν καταχεύετ᾽ ἀοιδὴν
πυκνὸν ὑπὸ πτερύγων, θέρεος καματώδεος ὥρῃ,
585τῆμος πιόταταί τ᾽ αἶγες καὶ οἶνος ἄριστος,
μαχλόταται δὲ γυναῖκες, ἀφαυρότατοι δέ τοι ἄνδρες
εἰσίν, ἐπεὶ κεφαλὴν καὶ γούνατα Σείριος ἄζει,
αὐαλέος δέ τε χρὼς ὑπὸ καύματος….

We’re in the middle of that period folks; Sirius aka The Dog Star rose in Hesiod’s era on July 17 and had high nuisance value for about a month thereafter. The Romans had a very ancient festival of the augurium canarium in that time frame; it was one of the movable feasts (feriae conceptivae) whose fluctuating dater would be fixed yearly depending on the calendar. Canarium in the festival’s name refers to both Sirius, but also the sacrifice of a dog.

[very pedantic aside: my namesake Sextus Pompeius Festus, as usual, has information on this at p. 358 Lindsay. Never translated into English, although once into French. Don’t go there. Nothing good happens when you go there. Unless you make a living from this sort of thing]

Notice that Hesiod a serious attitude problem about women here and passim. And see my colleague’s post on misogyny.

The ancients, as usual, knew the story. The hottest I have ever been was August in the Roman Forum. But I wasn’t old enough to know about, or care about, the effect on women and men.

And about this post’s title…


Our Fearless Leader has requested the Festus passage. And so:

Red Dogs [Rutilae canes] that is, dogs not far from the actual color red. According to Ateius Capito they are sacrificed in the “sacrifice of the dog” in order to ward off the Dog Star’s ferocity from the crops.

Although USA people talk of red dogs or red cats, the actual color is more like ginger; in the UK they tend to be called “ginger” rather than “red”.

14 thoughts on “Bad star rising…Hesiod on the dog days of summer

  1. Thank you for posting this! I was just trying to explain to my children that it was just too damn hot to go swimming. They don’t understand this. I don’t really understand this. I just know that summer has been going on for too long. And, since I am in Texas, I can look forward to 90-100 through September.

    As for the untranslated Festus–why not give it to us!?

    1. I sort of know from weather like that; my grandmother lived in SW Missouri. And there were some days when it was indeed too hot for swimming, although the pool was in easy walk away. As requested, Festus is up.

      1. In Vermont they say “nine months of winter and three months of mighty cold weather.”

  2. PS.Thanks for the CCR. My late father was a big fan. And a friend of mine from years back (along with many others, I gather) grew upmisunderstading the lyrics as declaring “There’s a bathroom on the right…”

    1. Just played a hunch…when I saw Paula Abdul in one of the posts, decided “anything goes.”

      And I’m guilty of a worse name confusion. For the longest time I thought there was a song “Quick Ellie.” Until just last month my long-sufferibng spouse clued me in to Creeque Alley.

  3. Indeed, but we want to avoid which Timon of Philius said about scholars of The Library: Athen. 1.22D!

    And then there is/was the Stones’ “Satisfaction”… when it came out, my entire high school was arguing about the phrase was “trying to { } some girl” where the choices were “make” or “meet”. Now, of course, I know better.

      1. That’s the great thing about our profession; go after one thing and get…serendipity.

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