Again “Bad star rising…Hesiod on the dog days of summer”

Around this time in 2015 this post saw the light of day. Given the recent Heat Dome which has affected much of the US, it seemed appropriate to republish, and I thnak our Fearless Leader for his courteous acquiescence. I have made a few modest additions, and a well deserved screed in the next paragraph.

Hesiod was lucky. He didn’t have to deal with global warming and the human contribution to same. Just a few methane belching cows. Unlike a highway filled with gas guzzling SUVs or  coal fired electricity plants.

“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.

About this post’s title…

The Festus passage:

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.

This was one of the feriae conceptivae or movable feasts, set by the pontiffs in consultation with the augurs. Don’t know about movable feasts aside from Hemmingway? Consider Easter as a prime example.

This may be connected with the Dog Days of summer, which has a substantial presence in folklore. Dogs were reputed to have been especially frisky then. Whether connected with the classical information remains unclear. On this, and movable feasts, see the wonderful The Oxford Companion to the Year (Oxford, 1999).

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”.

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