Women Going Where They Shouldn’t? Earthquakes. Droughts. Portents!

Plutarch, Greek Questions 40

“Who was the hero Eunostos in Tanagra and why is entering his grove forbidden to women? Eunostos was the son of Kêphisos and Skias, but they say that his name comes from the nymph Eunosta who raised him. He was good-looking and just and no less wise and austere. They claim that one of the daughters of Kolônos, Okhna, who was Eunostos’ cousin, was in love with him. Eunostos, however, refused her when she approached him and, after insulting her, went to tell her brothers all about it.

The girl got there first and and pleaded with her brothers Ekhemos, Leôn, and Boukolos to kill Eunostos because he had raped her. They caught him by surprised and killed him and then Elieius imprisoned them. Then, Okhna changed her mind and was mourning terribly because she simultaneously wanted to be free of the pain from her love and she pitied her brothers.

So, she told Elieus the whole truth and he told Kolônos. By his judgment, the brothers were exiled and Ekhna threw herself from a cliff, as Myrtis the lyric poet from Anthedon records. This is why it is forbidden for women to enter or to even approach the shrine and grove of Eunostos—and why when there were often earthquakes, droughts, or different signs the people of Tanagra investigated and made a big deal of a woman nearing that place in secret.”

τίς Εὔνοστος ἥρως ἐν Τανάγρᾳ καὶ διὰ τίνα αἰτίαν τὸ ἄλσος αὐτοῦ γυναιξὶν ἀνέμβατόν ἐστιν; Ἐλιέως τοῦ Κηφισοῦ καὶ Σκιάδος Εὔνοστος ἦν υἱός, ᾧ φασιν ὑπὸ νύμφης Εὐνόστας ἐκτραφέντι τοῦτο γενέσθαι τοὔνομα. καλὸς δ᾿ ὢν καὶ δίκαιος οὐχ ἧττον ἦν σώφρων καὶ αὐστηρός. ἐρασθῆναι δ᾿ αὐτοῦ λέγουσιν Ὄχναν, μίαν τῶν Κολωνοῦ θυγατέρων ἀνεψιὰν οὖσαν. ἐπεὶ δὲ πειρῶσαν ὁ Εὔνοστος ἀπετρέψατο καὶ λοιδορήσας ἀπῆλθεν εἰς τοὺς ἀδελφοὺς κατηγορήσων, ἔφθασεν ἡ παρθένος τοῦτο πράξασα κατ᾿ ἐκείνου καὶ παρώξυνε τοὺς ἀδελφοὺς Ἔχεμον καὶ Λέοντα καὶ Βουκόλον ἀποκτεῖναι τὸν Εὔνοστον ὡς πρὸς βίαν αὐτῇ συγγεγενημένον. ἐκεῖνοι μὲν οὖν ἐνεδρεύσαντες ἀπέκτειναν τὸν νεανίσκον, ὁ δ᾿ Ἐλιεὺς ἐκείνους ἔδησεν. ἡ δ᾿ Ὄχνη μεταμελομένη καὶ γέμουσα ταραχῆς, ἅμα μὲν αὑτὴν ἀπαλλάξαι θέλουσα τῆς διὰ τὸν ἔρωτα λύπης, ἅμα δ᾿ οἰκτείρουσα τοὺς ἀδελφούς, ἐξήγγειλε πρὸς τὸν Ἐλιέα πᾶσαν τὴν ἀλήθειαν, ἐκεῖνος δὲ Κολωνῷ. Κολωνοῦ δὲ δικάσαντος οἱ μὲν ἀδελφοὶ τῆς Ὄχνης ἔφυγον, αὐτὴ δὲ κατεκρήμνισεν ἑαυτήν, ὡς Μυρτὶς ἡ Ἀνθηδονία ποιήτρια μελῶν ἱστόρηκε. τοῦ δ᾿ Εὐνόστου τὸ ἡρῷον καὶ τὸ ἄλσος οὕτως ἀνέμβατον ἐτηρεῖτο καὶ ἀπροσπέλαστον γυναιξίν, ὥστε πολλάκις σεισμῶν ἢ αὐχμῶν ἢ διοσημιῶν ἄλλων γενομένων ἀναζητεῖν καὶ πολυπραγμονεῖν ἐπιμελῶς τοὺς Ταναγραίους μὴ λέληθε γυνὴ τῷ τόπῳ πλησιάσασα.

Woman with mirror, Louvre CA587
Woman with mirror, Louvre CA587

One thought on “Women Going Where They Shouldn’t? Earthquakes. Droughts. Portents!

  1. This myth is a perfect example of why you shouldn’t expect dead people to be “enlightened” just because they are dead people. One time I had an argument with a couple of guys who insisted that we invoke Jesus during a ritual in honor of Hypatia of Alexandria. I refused to do so feeling that it would be in bad taste but they kept on insisting that Hypatia “knows” that Jesus is a “cool guy”. Umm no. No, there is no guarantee that she feels that way. Especially not after how she died! And even if she was cool with it, wouldn’t you think that a ritual in honor of someone who was kidnapped out of her carriage, thrown into the street, taken to a building to be flayed alive, chopped up, and then dragged in pieces through the streets should not include an invocation of the guy in whose name she was murdered in? That’d be like having a lecture on Anne Frank with a slide talking about the boost in the German economy under Hitler’s regime. It’s just tasteless at best and wrong at worst

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