A Seven Day Plague and Tragic Fever

Lucian, How to Write History 1

‘They say, dear Philo, that in the time of King Lysimakhos a different kind of plague afflicted the people of Abdera. First, the pandemic struck everyone with a fever which was intense and persistent from the beginning. It broke after about seven days and was followed in some by severe nosebleeds and sweats in others.

But the next symptom put them in a ridiculous state: everyone starting turning to tragedy and they were sounding out iambic lines while shouting. They seemed especially to sing songs from Euripides’ Andromeda, working through Perseus’ speech in song. The city was just full of these pale and drawn seventh-day tragedians, singing “Desire, you tyrant of gods and men”

They sang the rest too in a bellowing voice on and on until winter and deep cold weather stopped their nonsense. I think that Arkhelaos the actor was the cause of this—he was popular then and had performed the Andromeda in the middle of a hot summer and then many of them left the theater with a fever, returning home to relapse into tragic song since the Andromeda was lurking in their memory and Perseus was flitting around everyone’s thoughts with Medousa’s head in his hands.”

Museo Nazionale Napoli Perseus And Andromeda

Αβδηρίταις φασὶ Λυσιμάχου ἤδη βασιλεύοντος ἐμπεσεῖν τι νόσημα, ὦ καλὲ Φίλων, τοιοῦτο· πυρέττειν μὲν γὰρ τὰ πρῶτα πανδημεὶ ἅπαντας ἀπὸ τῆς πρώτης εὐθὺς ἐρρωμένως καὶ λιπαρεῖ τῷ πυρετῷ, περὶ δὲ τὴν ἑβδόμην τοῖς μὲν αἷμα πολὺ ἐκ ῥινῶν ῥυέν, τοῖς δ᾿ ἱδρὼς ἐπιγενόμενος, πολὺς καὶ οὗτος, ἔλυσεν τὸν πυρετόν. ἐς γελοῖον δέ τι πάθος περιίστα τὰς γνώμας αὐτῶν· ἅπαντες γὰρ ἐς τραγῳδίαν παρεκίνουν καὶ ἰαμβεῖα ἐφθέγγοντο καὶ μέγα ἐβόων· μάλιστα δὲ τὴν Εὐριπίδου Ἀνδρομέδαν ἐμονῴδουν καὶ τὴν τοῦ Περσέως ῥῆσιν ἐν μέλει διεξῄεσαν, καὶ μεστὴ ἦν ἡ πόλις ὠχρῶν ἁπάντων καὶ λεπτῶν τῶν ἑβδομαίων ἐκείνων τραγῳδῶν,

σὺ δ᾿ ὦ θεῶν τύραννε κἀνθρώπων Ἔρως,

καὶ τὰ ἄλλα μεγάλῃ τῇ φωνῇ ἀναβοώντων καὶ τοῦτο ἐπὶ πολύ, ἄχρι δὴ χειμὼν καὶ κρύος δὲ μέγα γενόμενον ἔπαυσε ληροῦντας αὐτούς. αἰτίαν δέ μοι δοκεῖ τοῦ τοιούτου παρασχεῖν Ἀρχέλαος ὁ τραγῳδός, εὐδοκιμῶν τότε, μεσοῦντος θέρους ἐν πολλῷ τῷ φλογμῷ τραγῳδήσας αὐτοῖς τὴν Ἀνδρομέδαν, ὡς πυρέξαι τε ἀπὸ τοῦ θεάτρου τοὺς πολλοὺς καὶ ἀναστάντας ὕστερον ἐς τὴν τραγῳδίαν παρολισθαίνεινἐπὶ πολὺ ἐμφιλοχωρούσης τῆς ᾿Ανδρομέδας τῇ μνήμῃ αὐτῶν καὶ τοῦ Περσέως ἔτι σὺν τῇ Μεδούσῃ τὴν ἑκάστου γνώμην περιπετομένου ἐπὶ πολὺ ἐμφιλοχωρούσης τῆς ᾿Ανδρομέδας τῇ μνήμῃ αὐτῶν καὶ τοῦ Περσέως ἔτι σὺν τῇ Μεδούσῃ τὴν ἑκάστου γνώμην περιπετομένου.

Love in the time of fevers….

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