Surrounded by the Halloween spirit because I have small children and I like trashy television, I got interested (again) in continuities between ancient monsters and modern storytelling. Inadvertently, this week has become werewolf week. I started with a reference to turning into wolves in Plato. Then, led by the Oxford Classical Dictionary, I delighted in the werewolf tale from Petronius. This led of course to Pliny the Elder.
But the werewolf hunt does not end there. I have some Pausanias (that shares some aspects with Pliny and Plato) for later in the week. Along the way, I have found a trove of late antique and Byzantine medical treatises on Lycanthropy. (Those are coming tomorrow). I could not wait to force this upon the world: a Byzantine didactic poem based on those medical treatises!
The poem is from a collection of didactic verses attributed to Michael Psellos of Constantinople who lived and worked in the 11th century CE. The text comes from the Teubner edition of his poems edited by L. G. Westernik (1982).
“One kind of melancholy is lykanthropy.
And it is clearly a type of misanthropy.
Mark thus a man who rushes from the day
When you see him at night running round graves,
With a pale face, dumb dry eyes, not a care in his rage.”
Μελάγχολόν τι πρᾶγμα λυκανθρωπία·
ἔστι γὰρ αὐτόχρημα μισανθρωπία,
καὶ γνωριεῖς ἄνθρωπον εἰσπεπτωκότα
ὁρῶν περιτρέχοντα νυκτὸς τοὺς τάφους,
ὠχρόν, κατηφῆ, ξηρόν, ἠμελημένον.