Our Ghosts Are Mirrors of What We Were

From Porphyry’s on Styx [Fragments preserved in Stobaeus 1.49.50]

“The notion explored is that the souls [of the dead] are like images which appear in mirrors or those on the surface of water which appear to resemble us completely and imitate our movements but have no solid matter for grasping or touching. This is why he calls them “images of exhausted men” (11.476).”

῾Υποτίθεται γὰρ τὰς ψυχὰς τοῖς εἰδώλοις τοῖς ἐν τοῖς κατόπτροις φαινομένοις ὁμοίας καὶ τοῖς διὰ τῶν ὑδάτων συνισταμένοις, ἃ καθάπαξ ἡμῖν ἐξείκασται καὶ τὰς κινήσεις μιμεῖται, στερεμνιώδη δ’ ὑπόστασιν οὐδεμίαν ἔχει εἰς ἀντίληψιν καὶ ἁφήν· ὅθεν αὐτὰς ‘βροτῶν εἴδωλα καμόντων’ (λ 476) λέγει.”

From Porphyry’s comments on Kirkê and the transformation of the soul (Stobaeus, 1.49.60.48):

“These things are no longer myth and poetry, but the truth and an account of nature.”

Καὶ οὐκέτι ταῦτα μῦθος οὐδὲ ποίησις, ἀλλὰ ἀλήθεια καὶ φυσικὸς λόγος.

This makes me think of stories as ghosts of deeds:

Euripides, fr. 532

“Do good while people are alive; when each man dies
He is earth and shadow. What is nothing changes nothing.”

τοὺς ζῶντας εὖ δρᾶν· κατθανὼν δὲ πᾶς ἀνὴρ
γῆ καὶ σκιά· τὸ μηδὲν εἰς οὐδὲν ῥέπει.

fr. 509

“What else? An old man is voice and shadow.”

τί δ’ ἄλλο; φωνὴ καὶ σκιὰ γέρων ἀνήρ.

Tragic Adesp. Fr. 95

“I want to advise all mortals
To live our temporary life sweetly. For after you die,
You are nothing more than a shadow over the earth.”

πᾶσιν δὲ θνητοῖς βούλομαι παραινέσαι
τοὐφήμερον ζῆν ἡδέως· ὁ γὰρ θανὼν
τὸ μηδέν ἐστι καὶ σκιὰ κατὰ χθονός·

This connects to a repeated idea from classical Greek poetry:

Aeschylus, fr. 399.1-2

“Humanity thinks only about temporary seeds,
Its pledge is nothing more than the shadow of smoke”

τὸ γὰρ βρότειον σπέρμ’ ἐφήμερα φρονεῖ,
καὶ πιστὸν οὐδὲν μᾶλλον ἢ καπνοῦ σκιά

Sophocles, fr. 13.

“Man is only breath and shadow.”

ἄνθρωπός ἐστι πνεῦμα καὶ σκιὰ μόνον

Pindar, Pythian 8.95

“Alive for a day: What is a person? What is not a person? Man is a dream of a shadow”

ἐπάμεροι· τί δέ τις; τί δ’ οὔ τις; σκιᾶς ὄναρ

 

Democritus, fr. B145

“A story is the shadow of the deed”

λόγος ἔργου σκιή

 

Arsenius, 6.33a

“The shadow of Doiduks”: A proverb applied to nothing.”

Δοίδυκος σκιά: ἐπὶ τοῦ μηδενός.

 

Michael Apostolios, 5.74

“Shadow instead of a body”: A Proverb applied to those who seem strong but have no power.”

Σκιὰ ἀντὶ τοῦ σώματος: ἐπὶ τῶν δοκούντων κρα-
τεῖν τι, οὐδὲν δ’ ὅμως κρατούντων.

Image result for Ancient Greek burial sites

 

What’s Special about the Number Seven?

Theodoros of Samothrace, fr. 1 (FGrH 62; Photius, Bibl. 190, 152b26)

“In the seventh book [Ptolemy Chennos reports that] Theodôros of Samothrace says that after Zeus was born he laughed without stopping for seven days. This is why the number seven is thought to be “final” [or whole, complete”]

ἐν δὲ τῶι ζ̄ περιέχεται ὡς Θεόδωρος ὁ Σαμοθρὰιξ τὸν Δία φησὶ γεννηθέντα ἐπὶ ἑπτὰ ἡμέρας ἀκατάπαυστον γελάσαι· καὶ διὰ τοῦτο τέλειος ἐνομίσθη ὁ ἑπτὰ ἀριθμός.

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Alexander of Aphrodisias, Probl. 2.47:

“The number seven, as Pythagoras insists, is complete in nature. The mathematicians and musicians agree too. But eight is incomplete.”

ὁ ἑπτὰ ἀριθμὸς τέλειός ἐστι τῇ φύσει, ὡς μαρτυρεῖ Πυθαγόρας καὶ οἱ ἀριθμητικοὶ καὶ οἱ μουσικοί• ὁ δὲ ὀκτὼ ἀτελής

 

These references come from Ken Dowden’s entry in Brill’s New Jacoby (62 F1). The following does not:

Banning Even the Freedom of the Eyes: The Moral Tale of the Tyrant of Troezen

Aelian Varia Historia 14.22

“There’s a story of the tyrant of Troezen. Because he wanted to get rid of any plots and conspiracies against him, he ordered that no one could talk to anyone else in public or private. This was an impossible and harsh matter. But the people circumvented the tyrant’s command: they were nodding to each other and using hand gestures too. They also used angry, calm, or bright facial expressions. Each person was clear to all in his emotions, showing the suffering in his spirit on his face by grimacing at bad news or implacable conditions.

These actions caused the tyrant annoyance too—for he was believing that even silence accompanied by plentiful gestures was contriving something bad for him. So, he stopped this too.

One of those who was burdened and troubled by this absurdity was longing to end the monarchy. A group rose up with him and stood together sharing their tears. A report came to the tyrant that no one was using gestures any longer, because, instead, they were trafficking in tears. Because he was eager to stop this, he was proclaiming not only slavery of the tongue and gestures, but he was even trying to ban the freedom of the eyes we get from nature. So he went there without delay with his bodyguards to stop the tears. But as soon as the people saw him they took away his bodyguards’ weapons and killed the tyrant.”

Ὅτι Τροιζήνιός τις τύραννος βουλόμενος ἐξελεῖν τὰς συνωμοσίας καὶ τὰς κατ᾿ αὐτοῦ ἐπιβουλὰς ἔταξε τοῖς ἐπιχωρίοις μηδένα μηδενὶ διαλέγεσθαι μήτε κοινῇ μήτε ἰδίᾳ. καὶ ἦν τὸ πρᾶγμα ἀμήχανον καὶ χαλεπόν. ἐσοφίσαντο οὖν τὸ τοῦ τυράννου πρόσταγμα, καὶ ἀλλήλοις ἔνευον καὶ ἐχειρονόμουν πρὸς ἀλλήλους, καὶ ἐνεώρων δριμὺ καὶ αὖ πάλιν γαληναῖον καὶ βλέμμα φαιδρόν· καὶ ἐπὶ τοῖς σκυθρωποῖς καὶ ἀνηκέστοις ἕκαστος αὐτῶν συνωφρυωμένος ἦν δῆλος, τὸ τῆς ψυχῆς πάθος ἐκ τοῦ προσώπου τῷ πλησίον διαδεικνύς. ἐλύπει τὸν τύραννον καὶ ταῦτα, καὶ ἐπίστευε τέξεσθαί τι αὐτῷ πάντως κακὸν καὶ τὴν σιωπὴν διὰ τὸ τῶν σχημάτων ποικίλον. ἀλλ᾿ οὖν ἐκεῖνος καὶ τοῦτο κατέπαυσε. τῶν τις οὖν ἀχθομένων τῇ ἀμηχανίᾳ καὶ δυσφορούντων καὶ τὴν μοναρχίαν καταλῦσαι διψώντων. περιέστησαν οὖν αὐτὸν καὶ περιῆλθον τὸ πλῆθος καὶ ὀδυρμῷ κἀκεῖνοι συνείχοντο. ἧκεν ἀγγελία παρὰ τὸν τύραννον ὡς οὐδεὶς αὐτῶν χρῆται νεύματι οὐκέτι, δάκρυα δὲ αὐτοῖς ἐπιχωριάζει. ὁ δὲ ἐπειγόμενος καὶ τοῦτο παῦσαι, μὴ μόνον τῆς γλώττης καταγινώσκων δουλείαν μηδὲ μόνον τῶν νευμάτων ἀλλ᾿ ἤδη καὶ τοῖς ὀφθαλμοῖς τὴν ἐκ φύσεως ἀποκλείων ἐλευθερίαν, ᾗ ποδῶν εἶχεν ἀφίκετο σὺν τοῖς δορυφόροις, ἵνα ἀναστείλῃ τὰ δάκρυα. οἱ δὲ οὐκ ἔφθασαν ἰδόντες αὐτὸν καὶ τὰ ὅπλα τῶν δορυφόρων ἁρπάσαντες τὸν τύραννον ἀπέκτειναν.

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John Lydgate, Life of St Edmund and St Fremund, England (Bury St Edmunds?), 1461-c. 1475, Yates Thompson MS 47, f. 54r

And now for the audience participation part of the show:

An inspiration for a limerick:

or

But the reigning monarch of this game is Andrea:

But this is good:

other proposed lines:

Rebirth From the Fire

Philo, The Eternity of the World 85-86 (504)

“And this is also not unworthy of consideration: what will be the way of rebirth when everything has been destroyed by fire? For, when substance is completely burned up, then it is necessary that the fire burns out because it no longer has anything to feed it.

If the fire remains, then the essential logic of an orderly creation is preserved; but if fire is removed, then that disappears too. This is a double sacrifice and sacrilege—not only to ask for the destruction of the world but also to eradicate rebirth as if god took joy in disorder, lethargy, and all kinds of error.”

Ἐκεῖνο δ᾿ οὐκ ἀνάξιον διαπορῆσαι, τίνα τρόπον ἔσται παλιγγενεσία, πάντων εἰς πῦρ ἀναλυθέντων· ἐξαναλωθείσης γὰρ τῆς οὐσίας ὑπὸ πυρός, ἀνάγκη καὶ τὸ πῦρ οὐκέτ᾿ ἔχον τροφὴν ἀποσβεσθῆναι. μένοντος μὲν οὖν, ὁ σπερματικὸς τῆς διακοσμήσεως ἐσῴζετ᾿ <ἂν> λόγος, ἀναιρεθέντος δὲ συνανῄρηται. τὸ δ᾿ ἐστὶν ἔκθεσμον καὶ ἀσέβημα ἤδη διπλοῦν, μὴ μόνον φθορὰν τοῦ κόσμου κατηγορεῖν ἀλλὰ καὶ παλιγγενεσίαν ἀναιρεῖν, ὥσπερ ἐν ἀκοσμίᾳ καὶ ἀπραξίᾳ καὶ τοῖς πλημμελέσι πᾶσι χαίροντος θεοῦ.

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Medieval Wheel of Fortune

The Fates: What Was, What is, What Will Be

Hesiod, Theogony 904-906

“Klôthô, Lakhesis, and Atropos, who grant to mortals
Their share of both evil and good.”

Κλωθώ τε Λάχεσίν τε καὶ ῎Ατροπον, αἵ τε διδοῦσι
θνητοῖς ἀνθρώποισιν ἔχειν ἀγαθόν τε κακόν τε.

Plato, Republic 617a

“There were another three who sat equally apart in a circle, each on her own seat, the Fates, those daughters of necessity, dressed in white clothes with fillets on their heads: Lachesis, Klotho, and Atropos, all joining the hymn with the chorus of Sirens. Lachesis sings what was; Klotho sings what is, and Atropos sings what will be.”

ἄλλας δὲ καθημένας πέριξ δι᾽ ἴσου τρεῖς, ἐν θρόνῳ ἑκάστην, θυγατέρας τῆς ἀνάγκης, Μοίρας, λευχειμονούσας, στέμματα ἐπὶ τῶν κεφαλῶν ἐχούσας, Λάχεσίν τε καὶ Κλωθὼ καὶ Ἄτροπον, ὑμνεῖν πρὸς τὴν τῶν Σειρήνων ἁρμονίαν, Λάχεσιν μὲν τὰ γεγονότα, Κλωθὼ δὲ τὰ ὄντα, Ἄτροπον δὲ τὰ μέλλοντα.

Aristotle assigns the Moirai to different stages

Aristotle, On the Universe, 401b16-23

“There are three Fates—one allotted to different times—and part of the wool of their spindle is already spun, some still needs to be, and some is currently being worked. One of the Moirai is for the past—Atropos—because all things which are behind us cannot be altered (atrepta); the future, then, is Lakhesis, because that which is allotted [lêksis] by nature awaits everything; and the present belongs to Klôthô who decides what is proper for each as she spins (klôthein). That’s how the myth ends and not improperly.”

τρεῖς μὲν γὰρ αἱ Μοῖραι, κατὰ τοὺς χρόνους μεμερισμέναι, νῆμα δὲ ἀτράκτου τὸ μὲν ἐξειργασμένον, τὸ δὲ μέλλον, τὸ δὲ περιστρεφόμενον· τέτακται δὲ κατὰ μὲν τὸ γεγονὸς μία τῶν Μοιρῶν, Ἄτροπος, ἐπεὶ τὰ παρελθόντα πάντα ἄτρεπτά ἐστι, κατὰ δὲ τὸ μέλλον Λάχεσις—[εἰς] πάντα γὰρ ἡ κατὰ φύσιν μένει λῆξις—κατὰ δὲ τὸ ἐνεστὸς Κλωθώ, συμπεραίνουσά τε καὶ κλώθουσα ἑκάστῳ τὰ οἰκεῖα. περαίνεται δὲ καὶ ὁ μῦθος οὐκ ἀτάκτως.

Inspired by this tweet

Moirai

Herakles’ Choice? More Tiring than Tawdry for a Tuesday

This toxic brew is one part myth, one part moral philosophy and at two parts misogyny mixed up with some delightful Xenophontic prose. It is as if Robert Frost wrote about the path less taken but in moralizing prose capitalizing on hateful stereotypes. Ok, so, it is not really like Robert Frost at all. Happy Tuesday!

Xenophon, Memorabilia 2.1.21-29

“Wise Prodikos in his composition on Herakles (which he performs for many people) also expresses similar views about virtue, he says this much, as far as I can remember. For he says:

“Herakles, when he was moving from childhood into adolescence, that time when the young take control of their lives and demonstrate whether they will turn onto the path of virtue or vice, went out to sit down in a quiet place because he was uncertain which road to take.

While he was there, two giant women appeared and approached him. The first was fine to look at and naturally free—her body was dressed in purity, her eyes with shame, her bearing with wisdom, and her clothing was white.

The other woman was fed too much and was thick and soft; her skin was all decorated so that she seemed whiter and pinker than she really was, and her bearing made her look taller than she was naturally. Her eyes were opened-wide; her clothing showed off how everything was especially “in season”; and she was looking over herself all the time, trying to spot if anyone else was looking at her. She often was peeking at her own shadow.

When they approached Herakles, that first woman went in the manner which was mentioned, but the second ran up to Herakles because she was eager to to defeat her. She said. “Herakles, I see that you are unsure what path to follow in your life. If you make me your friend, I will take you on the most pleasing and easy journey. You will not miss out on any of life’s pleasures, and you will live without experience of sufferings.”

[…]

Then, after Herakles listened to this, he asked “Woman, what is your name”. And she said, “My friends call me Happiness, the haters call me Vice.”

“Meanwhile, the other woman approached and said, “I have also come to you, Herakles, someone who knows your parents and I have learned your nature as you were educated. This is why I hope that, if you choose the path I am offering, you will become a great doer of noble and solemn acts and that I will seem more honorable and famous for the good things I bring. I will not lie to you with an introduction of pleasures: I will tell you the truth, how the gods have made the world for you.”

[21] καὶ Πρόδικος δὲ ὁ σοφὸς ἐν τῷ συγγράμματι τῷ περὶ Ἡρακλέους, ὅπερ δὴ καὶ πλείστοις ἐπιδείκνυται, ὡσαύτως περὶ τῆς ἀρετῆς ἀποφαίνεται, ὧδέ πως λέγων, ὅσα ἐγὼ μέμνημαι. φησὶ γὰρ Ἡρακλέα, ἐπεὶ ἐκ παίδων εἰς ἥβην ὡρμᾶτο, ἐν ᾗ οἱ νέοι ἤδη αὐτοκράτορες γιγνόμενοι δηλοῦσιν εἴτε τὴν δι᾽ ἀρετῆς ὁδὸν τρέψονται ἐπὶ τὸν βίον εἴτε τὴν διὰ κακίας, ἐξελθόντα εἰς ἡσυχίαν καθῆσθαι ἀποροῦντα ποτέραν τῶν ὁδῶν τράπηται:

[22] καὶ φανῆναι αὐτῷ δύο γυναῖκας προσιέναι μεγάλας, τὴν μὲν ἑτέραν εὐπρεπῆ τε ἰδεῖν καὶ ἐλευθέριον φύσει, κεκοσμημένην τὸ μὲν σῶμα καθαρότητι, τὰ δὲ ὄμματα αἰδοῖ, τὸ δὲ σχῆμα σωφροσύνῃ, ἐσθῆτι δὲ λευκῇ, τὴν δ᾽ ἑτέραν τεθραμμένην μὲν εἰς πολυσαρκίαν τε καὶ ἁπαλότητα, κεκαλλωπισμένην δὲ τὸ μὲν χρῶμα ὥστε λευκοτέραν τε καὶ ἐρυθροτέραν τοῦ ὄντος δοκεῖν φαίνεσθαι, τὸ δὲ σχῆμα ὥστε δοκεῖν ὀρθοτέραν τῆς φύσεως εἶναι, τὰ δὲ ὄμματα ἔχειν ἀναπεπταμένα, ἐσθῆτα δὲ ἐξ ἧς ἂν μάλιστα ὥρα διαλάμποι: κατασκοπεῖσθαι δὲ θαμὰ ἑαυτήν, ἐπισκοπεῖν δὲ καὶ εἴ τις ἄλλος αὐτὴν θεᾶται, πολλάκις δὲ καὶ εἰς τὴν ἑαυτῆς σκιὰν ἀποβλέπειν.

[23] ὡς δ᾽ ἐγένοντο πλησιαίτερον τοῦ Ἡρακλέους, τὴν μὲν πρόσθεν ῥηθεῖσαν ἰέναι τὸν αὐτὸν τρόπον, τὴν δ᾽ ἑτέραν φθάσαι βουλομένην προσδραμεῖν τῷ Ἡρακλεῖ καὶ εἰπεῖν: ὁρῶ σε, ὦ Ἡράκλεις, ἀποροῦντα ποίαν ὁδὸν ἐπὶ τὸν βίον τράπῃ. ἐὰν οὖν ἐμὲ φίλην ποιησάμενος, ἐπὶ τὴν ἡδίστην τε καὶ ῥᾴστην ὁδὸν ἄξω σε, καὶ τῶν μὲν τερπνῶν οὐδενὸς ἄγευστος ἔσει, τῶν δὲ χαλεπῶν ἄπειρος διαβιώσῃ.

[26]καὶ ὁ Ἡρακλῆς ἀκούσας ταῦτα, ὦ γύναι, ἔφη, ὄνομα δέ σοι τί ἐστιν; ἡ δέ, οἱ μὲν ἐμοὶ φίλοι, ἔφη, καλοῦσί με Εὐδαιμονίαν, οἱ δὲ μισοῦντές με ὑποκοριζόμενοι ὀνομάζουσι Κακίαν.

[27] καὶ ἐν τούτῳ ἡ ἑτέρα γυνὴ προσελθοῦσα εἶπε: καὶ ἐγὼ ἥκω πρὸς σέ, ὦ Ἡράκλεις, εἰδυῖα τοὺς γεννήσαντάς σε καὶ τὴν φύσιν τὴν σὴν ἐν τῇ παιδείᾳ καταμαθοῦσα, ἐξ ὧν ἐλπίζω, εἰ τὴν πρὸς ἐμὲ ὁδὸν τράποιο, σφόδρ᾽ ἄν σε τῶν καλῶν καὶ σεμνῶν ἀγαθὸν ἐργάτην γενέσθαι καὶ ἐμὲ ἔτι πολὺ ἐντιμοτέραν καὶ ἐπ᾽ ἀγαθοῖς διαπρεπεστέραν φανῆναι. οὐκ ἐξαπατήσω δέ σε προοιμίοις ἡδονῆς, ἀλλ᾽ ᾗπερ οἱ θεοὶ διέθεσαν τὰ ὄντα διηγήσομαι μετ᾽ ἀληθείας.

[29] καὶ ἡ Κακία ὑπολαβοῦσα εἶπεν, ὥς φησι Πρόδικος: ἐννοεῖς, ὦ Ἡράκλεις, ὡς χαλεπὴν καὶ μακρὰν ὁδὸν ἐπὶ τὰς εὐφροσύνας ἡ γυνή σοι αὕτη διηγεῖται; ἐγὼ δὲ ῥᾳδίαν καὶ βραχεῖαν ὁδὸν ἐπὶ τὴν εὐδαιμονίαν ἄξω σε.

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Annibale Carracci, “The Choice of Hercules”

A Tunic of Flesh and Kirke as an Allegory

Plutarch’s Moralia Fr. 200

“Our fated nature is identified by Empedocles as the force behind this remaking, “wrapping [us] in a tunic of strange flesh” and transferring souls to a new place. Homer has called this circular revolution and the return of rebirth by the name Kirke, a child of Helios, the one who unites every destruction with birth and destruction again, binding it endlessly.

The Island Aiaia is that place which revives the person who dies, a place where the souls first step when they are wandering and feel like strangers to themselves as they mourn and cannot figure out which direction is west nor where the “sun which brings life to people over the land / descends again into the earth.”

These souls long for their habits of pleasure and their life in the flesh and the way they lived with their flesh and they fall again into that mixture where birth swirls together and truly stirs into one the immortal and moral, the material of thought and experience, elements of heaven and earth. The souls are enchanted but also weakened by the pleasures that pull them to birth again. At that time, souls require a great amount of good luck and much wisdom to find some way to resist and depart from their worst characters and become bound to their most base parts or passions and take up a terrible and beastly life.”

Αὐτῆς γὰρ τῆς μετακοσμήσεως εἱμαρμένη καὶ φύσις ὑπὸ Ἐμπεδοκλέους δαίμων ἀνηγόρευται σαρκῶν ἀλλογνῶτι περιστέλλουσα χιτῶνι καὶ μεταμπίσχουσα τὰς ψυχάς, Ὅμηρος δὲ τὴν ἐν κύκλῳ περίοδον καὶ περιφορὰν παλιγγενεσίας Κίρκην προσηγόρευκεν, Ἡλίου παῖδα τοῦ πᾶσαν φθορὰν γενέσει καὶ γένεσιν αὖ πάλιν φθορᾷ συνάπτοντος ἀεὶ καὶ συνείροντος. Αἰαίη δὲ νῆσος ἡ δεχομένη τὸν ἀποθνήσκοντα μοῖρα καὶ χώρα τοῦ περιέχοντος, εἰς ἣν ἐμπεσοῦσαι πρῶτον αἱ ψυχαὶ πλανῶνται καὶ ξενοπαθοῦσι καὶ ὀλοφύρονται καὶ οὐκ ἴσασιν ὅπῃ ζόφος οὐδ᾿ ὅπῃ ἠέλιος φαεσίμβροτος εἶσ᾿ ὑπὸ γαῖαν,ποθοῦσαι δὲ καθ᾿ ἡδονὰς τὴν συνήθη καὶ σύντροφον ἐν σαρκὶ καὶ μετὰ σαρκὸς δίαιταν ἐμπίπτουσιν αὖθις εἰς τὸν κυκεῶνα, τῆς γενέσεως μιγνύσης εἰς ταὐτὸ καὶ κυκώσης ὡς ἀληθῶς ἀίδια καὶ θνητὰ καὶ φρόνιμα καὶ παθητὰ καὶ ὀλύμπια καὶ γηγενῆ, θελγόμεναι καὶ μαλασσόμεναι ταῖς ἀγούσαις αὖθις ἐπὶ τὴν γένεσιν ἡδοναῖς, ἐν ᾧ δὴ μάλιστα πολλῆς μὲν εὐτυχίας αἱ ψυχαὶ δέονται πολλῆς δὲ σωφροσύνης, ὅπως μὴ τοῖς κακίστοις ἐπισπόμεναι καὶ συνενδοῦσαι μέρεσιν ἢ πάθεσιν αὑτῶν κακοδαίμονα καὶ θηριώδη βίον ἀμείψωσιν.

Related image
Wright Barker (British, 1863-1941) – “Circe” c.1889