Fantastic Friday: Talking Severed Heads and Prophecies of Doom (Part 2)

In the first half of this tale, a young politician died after getting married and his wife gave birth to a hermaphrodite. When the townspeople considered burning the mother and child, the husband rose from the dead and warned the people to listen to him. They dithered, so he ate the child.

Phlegon of Tralles, On Marvels 2 (Part 2)

There was a great cry and stones were thrown at him and they tried to make him turn him back. But he was not frightened off by the stones and he destroyed all of the child’s body except for the head and immediately disappeared.

While they were upset by the events and had fallen into confusion because of failing to capture him and were planning to go to Delphi, the head of the child spoke where it was sitting on the ground and provided a prophecy of what would happen:

Numberless people who inhabit a much-sung land
Do not go to the precinct of Phoibos and his smokey temple.
For your hands stand unclean in the air because of blood.
The path laid before your feet is corrupted.
Learn from me the journey the oracle foretells.
On this very day after the passing of a year
Death is fated for all of you, but the souls
Of Lokrians and Aitolians will live mixed together by Athena’s plans.
There will be no break from evil, not even a short one.
For already there is murderous blood pouring over your heads.
Night now hides everything as a dark sky races over us.
Immediately dark night overshadows the whole land.
All the widoes at home are resting their limbs on the ground.
No woman will be ever feel grief, nor will the children
Now in the homes mourn, as they cling to dear fathers.
For this sort of wave will wash over the whole land.
Oh, Oh, I always groan for my country suffering terrible things,
And my most wretched mother, who weeps last while still alive.
All the gods will make the race nameless
Of Lokrians and Aitolians whatever kind of seed is left.
Because death left my dear head and did not make
All of my mixed up limbs disappear, but left me on the earth.
But come and show my head to the sun as it rises.
Do not cover it below the shadowed earth.
You—leave this land after this is done
And go to another land and the people of Athena
If you choose to avoid death by fate’s decree.

After the Aitolians heard this oracle, they sent away their wives, children and elderly wherever each was able. But many remained to await what would happen. In the next year it happened that there was a war between the Aitolians and the Acarnanians and there was a great destruction of both peoples.

τοῦ δὲ ὄχλου συνδραμόντος καὶ ἔριν περὶ [τὴν ἄρσιν] τοῦ τέρατος ἔχοντος, ἐπιλαβόμενος τοῦ παιδίου καὶ τοὺς πλείστους αὐτῶν ἀνείρξας ἰταμώτερον διέσπασέ τε αὐτὸ καὶ ἤσθιε.

κραυγῆς δὲ γενομένης καὶ λίθων ἐπ’ αὐτὸν ἐκριπτομένων ὑπελάμβανον τροπὴν αὐτοῦ ποιήσασθαι. ὁ δὲ ἄπληκτος ὢν ὑπὸ τῶν λίθων τὸ σῶμα πᾶν παιδίου κατανάλωσε πλὴν τῆς κεφαλῆς καὶ αὐτίκα ἀφανὴς ἐγένετο. δυσφορούντων δ’ αὐτῶν ἐπὶ τοῖς γενομένοις καὶ ἐν ἀπορίᾳ καθεστηκότων οὐ τῇ τυχούσῃ, βουλομένων τε ἀποστεῖλαι εἰς Δελφούς, φθέγγεται ἡ κεφαλὴ τοῦ παιδίου ἐπὶ τοῦ ἐδάφους κειμένη καὶ λέγει χρησμῷ τὰ ἀποβησόμενα·

ὦ πολυύμνητον ναίων χθόνα λαὸς ἀπείρων,
μὴ στεῖχ’ ἐς Φοίβου τέμενος ναόν τε θυώδη·
οὐ γάρ σοι καθαραὶ χέρες αἵματος αἰθέρ’ ἔχουσιν,
ἀλλὰ μύσος προπάροιθε ποδῶν ἔντοσθε κελεύθου.
φράζεο δ’ ἐξ ἐμέθεν, τρίποδος δ’ ἀπόειπε κέλευθον·
μαντοσύνης πᾶσαν γὰρ ἐφετμήν σοι καταλέξω.
ἤματι γὰρ τούτῳ περιτελλομένου ἐνιαυτοῦ
ὥρισται πᾶσιν θάνατος, ψυχαὶ δὲ βίονται
Λοκρῶν Αἰτωλῶν τ’ ἀναμὶξ βουλῇσιν ᾿Αθήνης.
οὐδ’ ἀναπαύλησις κακοῦ ἔσσεται οὐδ’ ἠβαιόν·
ἤδη γὰρ ψακάδες φόνιαι κατὰ κρᾶτα κέχυνται,
νὺξ δ’ ἐπὶ πάντα κέκευθε, μέλας δ’ ἐπιδέδρομεν αἴθρη.
αὐτίκα νὺξ δ’ ἔρεβος πᾶσαν κατὰ γαῖαν ὄρωρεν,
χῆροι δ’ οἴκοι πάντες ἐπ’ οὔδεϊ γυῖα κλινοῦσιν,
οὐδὲ γυνὴ πένθος ποτὲ λείψεται, οὐδέ νυ παῖδες
ἃν μεγάροις γοόωσι, φίλους πατέρας περιφύντες·

τοῖον γὰρ τόδε κῦμα κατέδραμε πᾶσι κατ’ ἄκρης.
αἲ αἲ πατρίδ’ ἐμὴν αἰεὶ στένω αἰνὰ παθοῦσαν
μητέρα τ’ αἰνοτάτην, ἣν ὕστερον ἔκλυσεν αἰών.
νώνυμνόν τε θεοὶ γένεσιν θήσουσιν ἅπαντες
Λοκρῶν τ’ Αἰτωλῶν θ’ ὅ τί που καὶ σπέρμα λίποιτο,
οὕνεκ’ ἐμὴν κεφαλὴν λίποι αἰών, οὐδέ νυ πάντα
σώματος ἠφάνικεν μέλε’ ἄκριτα, λεῖπε δὲ γαῖαν.
ἀλλ’ ἄγ’ ἐμὴν κεφαλὴν θέμεν’ ἠοῖ φαινομένῃφι,
μηδέ θ’ ὑπὸ ζοφερὴν γαῖαν κατακρυπτέμεν ἔνδον·
αὐτοὺς δὲ προλιπόντας ἑὸν χῶρον μετόπισθεν
στείχειν εἰς ἄλλον χῶρον καὶ λαὸν ᾿Αθήνης,
εἴ τινά που θανάτοιο λύσιν κατὰ μοῖραν ἕλησθε.

ἀκούσαντες δὲ οἱ Αἰτωλοὶ τοῦ χρησμοῦ, γυναῖκας μὲν καὶ τὰ νήπια τέκνα τούς τε ὑπεργήρως ὑπεξέθεντο οὗ ἕκαστος ἐδύνατο, αὐτοὶ δὲ ἔμενον καραδοκοῦντες τὸ ἀποβησόμενον. καὶ συνέβη τῷ ἑξῆς ἔτει Αἰτωλοῖς καὶ ᾿Ακαρνᾶσι συστῆναι πόλεμον καὶ φθορὰν πολλὴν ἑκατέρων γενέσθαι.

Image result for medieval manuscript severed head

Psalter, MS M.79 fol. 111v

2 responses

  1. Pingback: Fantastic Friday: Politics, Deaths, Omens and Infanticide, The Worst Story You’ll Read Today (Part 1) « SENTENTIAE ANTIQUAE

  2. Pingback: A Greek Horror Story to Make You Wish For the Summer « SENTENTIAE ANTIQUAE

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