4 Years of Presidential Memories: Perjury and Punishment in Early Greek Poetry

ἡ ἐπιορκία, hê epiorkía: “perjury
ἐπιορκεῖν, epiorkeîn; ψευδορκεῖν, pseudorkeîn: “to make a false oath; to commit perjury”

Hesiod, Works and Days 282-284

“Whoever lies when he has sworn a false oath in his witness
Outrages justice and falls into an incurable ruin,
His family is left harried and weakened afterwards.”

ὃς δέ κε μαρτυρίῃσιν ἑκὼν ἐπίορκον ὀμόσσας
ψεύσεται, ἐν δὲ δίκην βλάψας νήκεστον ἀασθῇ,
τοῦ δέ τ’ ἀμαυροτέρη γενεὴ μετόπισθε λέλειπται·

Homer, Iliad 19.158-260

“Now may Zeus know this, the highest and the best of the gods,
Along with Earth, the Sun and the Furies, those who punish men
Under the earth, whenever someone perjures himself.”

ἴστω νῦν Ζεὺς πρῶτα θεῶν ὕπατος καὶ ἄριστος
Γῆ τε καὶ ᾿Ηέλιος καὶ ᾿Ερινύες, αἵ θ’ ὑπὸ γαῖαν
ἀνθρώπους τίνυνται, ὅτις κ’ ἐπίορκον ὀμόσσῃ,

Aristophanes, Clouds 399-400

“If lightning strikes perjurers, how hasn’t it lit afire Simon
Kleonymos, or Theoros?—these are the biggest perjurers of all!”

“εἴπερ βάλλει τοὺς ἐπιόρκους [ὁ κεραυνός], πῶς δῆτα οὐχὶ Σίμων’ ἐνέπρησεν
οὐδὲ Κλεώνυμον οὐδὲ Θέωρον· καίτοι σφόδρα γ’ εἰσ’ ἐπίορκοι;”

Image result for ancient greek oathbreaker vase

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