Loyal Hounds for the Charcoal Man

Aelian, History of Animals 1.8

“A certain man named Nikias once went too far in front of his hunting party without knowing it and fell into a charcoal-burner’s furnace. His hounds who witnessed this event did not abandon him but first they lingered there whining around the kiln and howling.

Eventually, they dragged some people who were passing near to the accident by gently and bravely biting the edge of their clothes as if the dogs were summoning the people to be their master’s rescuers. One person, who witnessed what was happening, suspected the accident and followed them. He discovered Nikias burned completely in the furnace and figured out what had happened from his remains.”

Νικίας τις τῶν συγκυνηγετούντων ἀπροόπτως παραφερόμενος ἐς ἀνθρακευτῶν κάμινον κατηνέχθη, οἱ δὲ κύνες οἱ σὺν αὐτῷ τοῦτο ἰδόντες οὐκ ἀπέστησαν, ἀλλὰ τὰ μὲν πρῶτα κνυζώμενοι περὶ τὴν κάμινον καὶ ὠρυόμενοι διέτριβον, τὰ δὲ τελευταῖα μονονουχὶ τοὺς παριόντας ἠρέμα καὶ πεφεισμένως κατὰ τῶν ἱματίων δάκνοντες εἶτα εἷλκον ἐπὶ τὸ πάθος, οἷον ἐπικούρους τῷ δεσπότῃ παρακαλοῦντες τοὺς ἀνθρώπους οἱ κύνες. καὶ γοῦν εἷς ὁρῶν τὸ γινόμενον ὑπώπτευσε τὸ συμβάν, καὶ ἠκολούθησε καὶ εὗρε τὸν Νικίαν ἐν τῇ καμίνῳ καταφλεχθέντα, ἐκ τῶν λειψάνων συμβαλὼν τὸ γενόμενον.

Kongelige Bibliotek, Gl. kgl. S. 1633 4º, Folio 18r

The Dog and His Treasure: A Fable about Priorities

Phaedrus, 1.27

“This tale has something to say to the greedy
And those who want to be  rich, though born needy.

A dog was digging up human bones when he found
A treasure and, because he offended the gods in the ground,
He was struck by a love of riches he couldn’t forget
To pay sacred religion back this debt.

And so, the dog thought not of food as he guarded his gold
And he died from hunger, and as a vulture took hold
he reportedly said, “Dog, you deserve it—
To lie there when you wanted royal wealth
After you were born in a gutter and raised on shit!”

dog

I.27. Canis et Thesaurus

Haec res avaris esse conveniens potest,
et qui, humiles nati, dici locupletes student.
Humana effodiens ossa thesaurum canis
invenit, et, violarat quia Manes deos,
iniecta est illi divitiarum cupiditas,
poenas ut sanctae religioni penderet.
Itaque, aurum dum custodit oblitus cibi,
fame est consumptus. Quem stans vulturius super
fertur locutus “O canis, merito iaces,
qui concupisti subito regales opes,
trivio conceptus, educatus stercore”.

The Origin of the Term “Swan Song”

Aelian, History of Animals 2.32

“The Swan, which the poets and many prose authors make an attendant to Apollo, has some other relationship to music and song I do not understand. But it was believed by those before us that the swan died after he sang what was called its “swan-song”. Nature truly honors it more than noble and good men and for good reason: for while others praise and morn people, the swans take care of themselves, if you will.”

Κύκνος δέ, ὅνπερ οὖν καὶ θεράποντα Ἀπόλλωνι ἔδοσαν ποιηταὶ καὶ λόγοι μέτρων ἀφειμένοι πολλοί, τὰ μὲν ἄλλα ὅπως μούσης τε καὶ ᾠδῆς ἔχει εἰπεῖν οὐκ οἶδα· πεπίστευται δὲ ὑπὸ τῶν ἄνω τοῦ χρόνου ὅτι τὸ κύκνειον οὕτω καλούμενον ᾄσας εἶτα ἀποθνήσκει. τιμᾷ δὲ ἄρα αὐτὸν ἡ φύσις καὶ τῶν καλῶν καὶ ἀγαθῶν ἀνθρώπων μᾶλλον, καὶ εἰκότως· εἴ γε τούτους μὲν καὶ ἐπαινοῦσι καὶ θρηνοῦσιν ἄλλοι, ἐκεῖνοι δὲ εἴτε τοῦτο ἐθέλοις εἴτε ἐκεῖνο, ἑαυτοῖς νέμουσιν.

Michael Apostolios, Proverbs 10.18

“Singing the swan song”: [this proverb] is applied to those who are near death. For swans sing as they die and they know then the end of life is coming upon them and so, in this way, they face that arrival bravely. But human beings fear what they do not know and think that it is the greatest evil. But swans sing out at death the kind of song sung at a funeral…”

     Κύκνειον ᾆσμα: ἐπὶ τῶν ἐγγὺς θανάτου ὄντων. οἱ γὰρ κύκνοι θνήσκοντες ᾄδουσι Καὶ ἴσασιν ὁπότε τοῦ βίου τὸ τέρμα ἀφικνεῖται αὐτοῖς, καὶ μέντοι καὶ εὐθύμως φέρουσιν αὐτὸ προσιόν. ἄνθρωποι δὲ ὑπὲρ οὗ οὐκ ἴσασι δεδοίκασι καὶ ἡγοῦνται μέγιστον εἶναι κακὸν αὐτό. ἀναγηρύονται δὲ ἐπὶ τῇ τελευτῇ οἷον ἐπικήδειόν τι μέλος…

Athenaeus, Deipnosophists 14 (616b)

“Chrysippos was writing about something like this again in the same work. When someone who loved to make fun of people was about to be killed by the executioner, he said that he wanted one thing, to die after singing his ‘swan-song’. After the executioner agreed, the man made fun of him.”

περὶ δὲ τοιούτου τινὸς πάλιν ὁ Χρύσιππος ἐν τῷ αὐτῷ γράφει· φιλοσκώπτης τις μέλλων ὑπὸ τοῦ δημίου σφάττεσθαι ἔτι ἕν τι ἔφη θέλειν ὥσπερ τὸ κύκνειον ᾄσας ἀποθανεῖν. ἐπιτρέψαντος δ᾿ ἐκείνου ἔσκωψεν

Bibliothèque Nationale de France, fr. 1951, Folio 3r

How A Camel is Superior to Oedipus

Aelian, History of Animals 4.47

“For the sake of Zeus, allow me to interrogate the tragedians and the storytellers who came before them as to what they had in mind when they pour so great an ignorance on Laios’ son who joined that terrible journey with his mother and on Telephos who, although he did not pursue sex, also laid next to the one who bore him and would have done the same things if a serpent had not interrupted him by divine command. How can these things happen when nature even allows the mindless animals to recognize the nature of this union from simple touch—they do not need special signs or anything from the man who exposed Oedipus on Mt. Cithairon.

The camel, indeed, would certainly never have sex with its own mother. There was a herdsman, who tried to force this, and, by covering up a female as much as possible and hiding all of her except for her genitals, drove the child to its mother. The ignorant animal, thanks to its excitement for sex, did the deed and then understood it. While biting and trampling the man who was responsible for this unnatural union, it killed him terribly by kneeling on top of him. Then it threw him off a cliff.

In this, Oedipus was ignorant in failing to kill himself and just putting out is eyes: for, he did not know that it was possible to escape his troubles by getting rid of himself and not curing his home and family, and as such to try to cure evils which had passed with an incurable evil.”

47. Δότε μοι τοὺς τραγῳδοὺς πρὸς τοῦ πατρῴου Διὸς καὶ πρό γε ἐκείνων τοὺς μυθοποιοὺς ἐρέσθαι τί βουλόμενοι τοσαύτην ἄγνοιαν τοῦ παιδὸς τοῦ Λαΐου καταχέουσι τοῦ συνελθόντος τῇ μητρὶ τὴν δυστυχῆ σύνοδον, καὶ τοῦ Τηλέφου τοῦ μὴ πειραθέντος μὲν τῆς ὁμιλίας, συγκατακλινέντος δὲ τῇ γειναμένῃ καὶ πράξαντος ἂν τὰ αὐτά, εἰ μὴ θείᾳ πομπῇ διεῖρξεν ὁ δράκων· εἴ γε ἡ φύσις τοῖς ἀλόγοις ζῴοις τὴν τοιαύτην μίξιν καὶ ἐκ τοῦ χρωτὸς δίδωσι κατανοῆσαι, καὶ οὐ δεῖται γνωρισμάτων οὐδὲ τοῦ ἐκθέντος ἐς τὸν Κιθαιρῶνα. οὐκ ἂν γοῦν ποτε τῇ τεκούσῃ ὁμιλήσειε κάμηλος. ὁ δέ τοι νομεὺς τῆς ἀγέλης κατακαλύψας τὸν θῆλυν ὡς οἷόν τε ἦν καὶ ἀποκρύψας πάντα πλὴν τῶν ἄρθρων, τὸν παῖδα ἐπάγει τῇ μητρί, καὶ ἐκεῖνος λάθριος ὑπὸ ὁρμῆς τῆς πρὸς μίξιν ἔδρασε τὸ ἔργον καὶ συνῆκε. καὶ τὸν μὲν αἴτιον τῆς ὁμιλίας οἱ τῆς ἐκθέσμου δάκνων καὶ πατῶν καὶ τοῖς γόνασι παίων ἀπέκτεινεν ἀλγεινότατα, ἑαυτὸν δὲ κατεκρήμνισεν. ἀμαθὴς δὲ καὶ κατὰ τοῦτο Οἰδίπους, οὐκ ἀποκτείνας, ἀλλὰ πηρώσας τὴν ὄψιν, καὶ τὴν τῶν κακῶν λύσιν μὴ γνοὺς ἐξὸν ἀπηλλάχθαι καὶ μὴ τῷ οἴκῳ καὶ τῷ γένει καταρώμενον εἶτα μέντοι κακῷ ἀνηκέστῳ ἰᾶσθαι κακὰ τὰ ἤδη παρελθόντα.

Bibliothèque Nationale de France, lat. 6838B, Folio 15v

Where Do Snakes Come From? A Spine-Tingling Explanation

Past mid-October, it is about time things start to get a bit creepy…

Aelian, On the Nature of Animals 1.51

“People say that the spine of a human corpse turns into a snake as the marrow decomposes. As the beast slips out, so the most savage creature is born from the mildest. In this way the remains of men who were once fine and noble rest and they have peace as their prize just as the soul too does of these kinds of men according to what is sung and hymned by the wise.

But the spines of evil men bring forth these kinds of things after life too. Well, the truth is that the story is either completely a myth or if these things prove trustworthy, then it seems to me that the evil man’s corpse has earned this reward of becoming the serpent’s father.”

Ῥάχις ἀνθρώπου νεκροῦ φασιν ὑποσηπόμενον τὸν μυελὸν ἤδη τρέπει ἐς ὄφιν· καὶ ἐκπίπτει τὸ θηρίον, καὶ ἕρπει τὸἀγριώτατον ἐκ τοῦ ἡμερωτάτου· καὶ τῶν μὲν καλῶν καὶ ἀγαθῶν τὰ λείψανα ἀναπαύεται, καὶ ἔχει ἆθλον ἡσυχίαν, ὥσπερ οὖν καὶ ἡ ψυχὴ τῶν τοιούτων τὰ ᾀδόμενά τε καὶ ὑμνούμενα ἐκ τῶν σοφῶν· πονηρῶν δὲ ἀνθρώπων ῥάχεις τοιαῦτα τίκτουσι καὶ μετὰ τὸν βίον. ἢ τοίνυν τὸ πᾶν μῦθός ἐστιν, ἤ, εἰ ταῦτα οὑτωσὶπεπίστευται, πονηροῦ νεκρός, ὡς κρίνειν ἐμέ, ὄφεως γενέσθαι πατὴρ τοῦ τρόπου μισθὸν ἠνέγκατο.

Kongelige Bibliotek, Gl. kgl. S. 1633 4º, Folio 57r

The Gift of the Briefest of Lives

Aelian, On the Nature of Animals 2.4

“Some animals are called Ephemera and they take their name from the length of their life. For they are born in wine and when the container is opened they fly out, they see the light, and they die. Therefore, nature has granted that they come into life but it has also rescued them from the evils in life, since they neither experience any suffering of their own and they know nothing of others’ misfortunes.”

Ζῷα ἐφήμερα οὕτω κέκληται, λαβόντα τὸ ὄνομα ἐκ τοῦ μέτρου τοῦ κατὰ τὸν βίον· τίκτεται γὰρ5ἐν τῷ οἴνῳ, καὶ ἀνοιχθέντος τοῦ σκεύους τὰ δὲ ἐξέπτη καὶ εἶδε τὸ φῶς καὶ τέθνηκεν. οὐκοῦν παρελθεῖν μὲν αὐτοῖς ἐς τὸν βίον ἔδωκεν ἡ φύσις, τῶν δὲ ἐν αὐτῷ κακῶν ἐρρύσατο τὴν ταχίστην, μήτε τι τῶν ἰδίων συμφορῶν ᾐσθημένοις μήτε μήν τινος τῶν ἀλλοτρίων μάρτυσι γεγενημένοις.

Close up of unconscious fruit fly lying on its back
Unconscious Drosophila melanogaster https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Unconscious_female_Drosophila_melanogaster.jpg

Turnabout’s Example and Fair Play

Phaedrus Fabulae 26, Fox and Stork

“You mustn’t harm anyone–but if you are to blame
This story warns that you will suffer the same.

The story goes that a fox invited a stork to dine
And offered her a thin soup on a marble table
Which the hungry story had no way to taste.

So the stork invited the fox to eat in turn
And served him a narrow jar stuff with food
And slipped her beak in to torture her guest
With hunger while she satisfied herself.

While the fox lapped at the jar’s neck in vain,
The bird–as we have heard–said to him, please
Everyone should suffer their own example in peace.”

Nulli nocendum; si quis vero laeserit,
multandum simili iure fabella admonet.
Ad cenam vulpes dicitur ciconiam
prior invitasse, et liquidam in patulo marmore
posuisse sorbitionem, quam nullo modo
gustare esuriens potuerit ciconia.
quae vulpem cum revocasset, intrito cibo
plenam lagonam posuit; huic rostrum inserens
satiatur ipsa et torquet convivam fame,
quae cum lagonae collum frustra lamberet,
peregrinam sic locutam volucrem accepimus:
“Sua quisque exempla debet aequo animo pati.”

Author: Colley, Thomas, fl. 1780-1783, printmaker.
Title: The fox and stork / T. Colley fecet [sic].
Published: [London] : Pubd. by W. Humphrey Jany. 14, 1783, No. 227 Strand, [14 Jan. 1783].

Lost Treasures Department: Mother with Baby Centaurs

Lucian, Zeuxis or Antiochus 4

“I want now to explain about this painter too. That Zeuxis was the best painter at the time and didn’t illustrate common and cliched things or did make heroes, gods, and wars as little as possible. Instead he was always trying to make something new and whenever he conceived of something different or odd, he demonstrated the brilliance of his skill in its execution. Among his many audacious images, that Zeuxis painted a female Hippocentaur and depicted her feeding twin Hippocentaur babies.

There’s a copy of that image precisely modeled on the original in Athens. The first copy, however, the general Sulla selected to send to Italy with other things, but I guess that the ship carrying it sank outside of Malea, destroying the painting and everything else.”

Ἐθέλω γοῦν ὑμῖν καὶ τὸ τοῦ γραφέως διηγήσασθαι. ὁ Ζεῦξις ἐκεῖνος ἄριστος γραφέων γενόμενος τὰ δημώδη καὶ τὰ κοινὰ ταῦτα οὐκ ἔγραφεν, ἢ ὅσα πάνυ ὀλίγα, ἥρωας ἢ θεοὺς ἢ πολέμους, ἀεὶ δὲ καινοποιεῖν ἐπειρᾶτο καί τι ἀλλόκοτον ἂν καὶ ξένον ἐπινοήσας ἐπ᾿ ἐκείνῳ τὴν ἀκρίβειαν τῆς τέχνης ἐπεδείκνυτο. ἐν δὲ τοῖς ἄλλοις τολμήμασι καὶ θήλειαν Ἱπποκένταυρον ὁ Ζεῦξις οὗτος ἐποίησεν, ἀνατρέφουσάν γε προσέτι παιδίω Ἱπποκενταύρω διδύμω κομιδῇ νηπίω. τῆς εἰκόνος ταύτης ἀντίγραφός ἐστι νῦν Ἀθήνησι πρὸς αὐτὴν ἐκείνην ἀκριβεῖ τῇ στάθμῃ μετενηνεγμένη. τὸ ἀρχέτυπον δὲ αὐτὸ Σύλλας ὁ Ῥωμαίων στρατηγὸς ἐλέγετο μετὰ τῶν ἄλλων εἰς Ἰταλίαν πεπομφέναι, εἶτα περὶ Μαλέαν οἶμαι καταδύσης τῆς ὁλκάδος ἀπολέσθαι ἅπαντα καὶ τὴν γραφήν.

A bare-chested centaur woman (long blond hair, motley brown hair on horse body) breastfeeding a centaur toddler (same coloring except for short hair) she holds to her human chest while a centaur man (short black hair and beard, grey hair on horse body) is sneaking under her and looking intently up at the two breasts on her horse hindquarters

For the Love of…A Goose?

Everyone has heard about Leda and the swan. But have you heard about Amphilokhos and his gift-giving goose?

Aelian, De Natura Animalium 5.29

“In Aigion, in Akhaia, a goose was in love with a handsome boy, an Ôlenian named Amphilokhos. Theophrastus tells this story. The boy was under guard with the Olenian exiles in Aigion—there, the goose used to bring him gifts. In Khios, too, there was an especially beautiful woman named Glaukê, a harp player, and many men lusted after her—which is nothing big. But a ram and a goose loved her too, as I have heard.”

Ἐν Αἰγίῳ τῆς Ἀχαίας ὡραίου παιδός, Ὠλενίου τὸ γένος, ὄνομα Ἀμφιλόχου, ἤρα χήν. Θεόφραστος λέγει τοῦτο. σὺν τοῖς Ὠλενίων δὲ φυγάσιν ἐφρουρεῖτο ἐν Αἰγίῳ ὁ παῖς. οὐκοῦν ὁ χὴν αὐτῷ δῶρα ἔφερε. καὶ ἐν Χίῳ Γλαύκης τῆς κιθαρῳδοῦ ὡραιοτάτης οὔσης εἰ μὲν ἤρων ἄνθρωποι, μέγα οὐδέπω· ἠράσθησαν δὲ καὶ κριὸς καὶ χήν, ὡς ἀκούω, τῆς αὐτῆς.

File:Ammannati - Leda and the Swan.jpg

An Elephant’s Love for a Child

 

Athenaeus, Deipnosophistae, 13.85, 606F–607A [BNJ 81 F36]

“The same Phylarkhos also reports in his twentieth book how great a love an elephant once had for a child. He writes this: “There was a female elephant which was tended with that elephant, and they used to call her Nikaia. When the wife of the Indian who cared for her was dying, she handed her child who was 30 days old to her.

After she died, the animal’s love for the child was striking. It could not endure the child being separated from her; and whenever she did not see the child, she despaired. When the nurse fed the child milk, she put it in a cradle in the middle of the animal’s feet. If she failed to do this, the elephant would refuse to eat. After this, all day long the elephant would take reeds from the nearby grasses and chase away flies while the child was sleeping. Whenever the child cried, the elephant would move the cradle with her trunk and help him sleep. The male elephant often did the same thing.”

ὁ δὲ αὐτὸς ἱστορεῖ Φύλαρχος διὰ τῆς εἰκοστῆς ὅσην ἐλέφας τὸ ζῶιον φιλοστοργίαν ἔσχεν εἰς παιδίον. γράφει δὲ οὕτως· «τούτωι δὲ τῶι ἐλέφαντι συνετρέφετο θήλεια ἐλέφας, ἣν Νίκαιαν ἐκάλουν· ἧι τελευτῶσα ἡ τοῦ τρέφοντος ᾽Ινδοῦ γυνὴ παιδίον αὑτῆς τριακοσταῖον παρακατέθετο. ἀποθανούσης δὲ τῆς ἀνθρώπου δεινή τις φιλοστοργία γέγονε τοῦ θηρίου πρὸς τὸ παιδίον· οὐτε γὰρ ἀπ᾽ αὐτοῦ χωριζόμενον τὸ βρέφος ὑπέμενεν, τὸ δὲ εἰ μὴ βλέποι τὸ παιδίον ἤσχαλλεν. ὅτ᾽ οὖν ἡ τροφὸς ἐμπλήσειεν αὐτὸ τοῦ γάλακτος, ἀνὰ μέσον τῶν ποδῶν τοῦ θηρίου ἐτίθει αὐτὸ ἐν σκάφηι. εἰ δὲ μὴ τοῦτο πεποιήκοι, τροφὴν οὐκ ἐλάμβανεν ἡ ἐλέφας. καὶ μετὰ ταῦτα δι᾽ ὅλης τῆς ἡμέρας [τοὺς] καλάμους λαμβάνων ἐκ τῶν παρατιθεμένων χορτασμάτων καθεύδοντος τοῦ βρέφους τὰς μυίας ἀπεσόβει· ὅτε δὲ κλαίοι, τῆι προβοσκίδι τὴν σκάφην ἐκίνει καὶ κατεκοίμιζεν αὐτό. τὸ δ᾽ αὐτὸ ἐποίει καὶ ὁ ἄρρην ἐλέφας πολλάκις.»

Red elephant outline at the Jain temple of Sravanabelagola.