Bestial Sexual Morality. Or, 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.

The Nature of a Kind

Pindar, Olympian 11: For Hagêsidamos, Winner of Boy’s Boxing, 476BCE

“There is a season when people have the greatest need
For winds and there is a season for water from the sky,
The pouring offspring of clouds.
But if someone should ever find success through toil,
Then honey-sweet hymns form the foundation
For future tales and offer certain promise for great accomplishments.

The praise for Olympic victors is not limited
By envy. My tongue is ready to shepherd
These words. A man similarly prospers through wise thoughts
thanks to divine assistance.
Know this now, son of Arkhestratos,
Hagêsidamos: thanks to your boxing
I will sing a sweet-songed adornment
For your crown of golden olive,
Without neglecting the race of Western Lokrians.

Join us in the revel there—Muses, I pledge
That you will visit no country who rejects a guest
a people who are ignorant of noble things,
But you will find wise spearmen there.
For not even the fire-red fox nor the roaring lions
Could change the nature of their kind.”

Ἔστιν ἀνθρώποις ἀνέμων ὅτε πλείστα
χρῆσις· ἔστιν δ᾿ οὐρανίων ὑδάτων,
ὀμβρίων παίδων νεφέλας·
εἰ δὲ σὺν πόνῳ τις εὖ πράσσοι,
μελιγάρυες ὕμνοι
ὑστέρων ἀρχὰ λόγων
τέλλεται καὶ πιστὸν ὅρκιον μεγάλαις ἀρεταῖς.

ἀφθόνητος δ᾿ αἶνος Ὀλυμπιονίκαις
οὗτος ἄγκειται. τὰ μὲν ἁμετέρα
γλῶσσα ποιμαίνειν ἐθέλει,
ἐκ θεοῦ δ᾿ ἀνὴρ σοφαῖς ἀνθεῖ
πραπίδεσσιν ὁμοίως.
ἵσθι νῦν, Ἀρχεστράτου
παῖ, τεᾶς, Ἁγησίδαμε, πυγμαχίας ἕνεκεν
κόσμον ἐπὶ στεφάνῳ χρυσέας ἐλαίας
ἁδυμελῆ κελαδήσω,
Ζεφυρίων Λοκρῶν γενεὰν ἀλέγων.
ἔνθα συγκωμάξατ᾿· ἐγγυάσομαι
μή μιν, ὦ Μοῖσαι, φυγόξεινον στρατόν
μηδ᾿ ἀπείρατον καλῶν
ἀκρόσοφόν τε καὶ αἰχματὰν ἀφίξε-
σθαι. τὸ γὰρ ἐμφυὲς οὔτ᾿ αἴθων ἀλώπηξ
οὔτ᾿ ἐρίβρομοι λέοντες διαλλάξαιντο ἦθος.

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

Animal and Human Virtue

Aelian, History of Animals, Prologue 1

“There is likely no paradox in the fact that humans are wise and just and most solicitous of their own children, shows proper concern for those who raised them, secures food for themselves, and guards against attacks and all of those other gifts endowed by nature. For the human has been allotted speech, the most precious gift of all, and has been thought worthy of reason, a thing which is the greatest advantage and surpassingly useful. And humans also know how to revere and worship the gods.

What is a magnificent wonder, however, is that the unthinking animals should have some virtue too by nature and should even have many of the human possessions assigned to them.”

Ἄνθρωπον μὲν εἶναι σοφὸν καὶ δίκαιον καὶ τῶν οἰκείων παίδων προμηθέστατον, καὶ τῶν γειναμένων ποιεῖσθαι τὴν προσήκουσαν φροντίδα, καὶ τροφὴν ἑαυτῷ μαστεύειν καὶ ἐπιβουλὰς φυλάττεσθαι καὶ τὰ λοιπὰ ὅσα αὐτῷ σύνεστι δῶρα φύσεως, παράδοξον ἴσως οὐδέν· καὶ γὰρ λόγου μετείληχεν ἄνθρωπος τοῦ πάντων τιμιωτάτου, καὶ λογισμοῦ ἠξίωται, ὅσπερ οὖν ἐστι πολυαρκέστατός τε καὶ πολυωφελέστατος· ἀλλὰ καὶ θεοὺς αἰδεῖσθαι οἶδε καὶ σέβειν. τὸ δὲ καὶ τοῖς ἀλόγοις μετεῖναί τινος ἀρετῆς κατὰ φύσιν, καὶ πολλὰ τῶν ἀνθρωπίνων πλεονεκτημάτων καὶ θαυμαστὰ ἔχειν συγκεκληρωμένα, τοῦτο ἤδη μέγα.

British Library, Sloane MS 278, Folio 47r

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.

Unicorns: Where they Come From, What They’re Good For

Aelian, On The Nature of Animals 3.41

“India gives birth to single-horned horses, people say, and the same land feeds single-horned asses too. They get drinking cups from these horns. And if anyone puts fatal poison inside of them, when someone drinks from them, the conspiracy won’t hurt him at all. It seems that the horn of both the horse and the ass is a ward against evil.”

Ἵππους μονόκερως γῆ Ἰνδικὴ τίκτει, φασί, καὶ ὄνους μονόκερως ἡ αὐτὴ τρέφει, καὶ γίνεταί γε ἐκ τῶν κεράτων τῶνδε ἐκπώματα. καὶ εἴ τις ἐς αὐτὰ ἐμβάλοι φάρμακον θανατηφόρον, ὁ πιών, οὐδὲν ἡ ἐπιβουλὴ λυπήσει αὐτόν· ἔοικε γὰρ ἀμυντήριον τοῦ κακοῦ τὸ κέρας καὶ τοῦ ἵππου καὶ τοῦ ὄνου εἶναι.

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.

Just a Story of a Man and A Horse

This story got in my head today somehow.

Aelian On the Nature of Animals, 4.8

“Eudêmos tells the story of how a groom lusted after a young mare, one who was the best of the whole herd, as if she was in fact a beautiful girl, even among the most attractive of all those in the land. In the beginning, he controlled himself; but eventually he dared to enter the foreign bed and have intercourse with her.

But that mare had a foal and it was noble. It was upset when it saw what was happening, as if his mother was being ruled terribly by a despot, and he jumped on the man and killed him. After that, it watched where he was buried, went there, dug him up, and desecrated the corpse, injuring it with every kind of injury.”

 Λέγει Εὔδημος ἵππου νέας καὶ τῶν νεμομένων τῆς ἀρίστης ἐρασθῆναι τὸν ἱπποκόμον, ὥσπερ οὖν καλῆς μείρακος καὶ τῶν ἐν τῷ χωρίῳ ὡρικωτέρας πασῶν· καὶ τὰ μὲν πρῶτα ἐγκαρτερεῖν, τελευτῶντα δὲ ἐπιτολμῆσαι τῷ λέχει τῷ ξένῳ καὶ ὁμιλεῖν αὐτῇ. τῇ δὲ εἶναι πῶλον καὶ τοῦτον καλόν, θεασάμενόν γε μὴν τὸ πραττόμενον ἀλγῆσαι, ὥσπερ οὖν τυραννουμένης τῆς μητρὸς ὑπὸ τοῦ δεσπότου, καὶ ἐμπηδῆσαι καὶ ἀποκτεῖναι τὸν ἄνδρα, εἶτα μέντοι καὶ φυλάξαι ἔνθα ἐτάφη, καὶ φοιτῶντα ἀνορύττειν αὐτόν, καὶ ἐνυβρίζειν τῷ νεκρῷ καὶ λυμαίνεσθαι λύμην ποικίλην.

This story may not be entirely fantastic. In the US, an Oklahoma man was arrested for having sex with a pony in August  (h/t to @donnacarrwest for this detail). A bit of detail: “Walton said it appeared Schlosser was a utility worker. Schlosser allegedly blamed his actions on medication. The sheriff added that, fortunately, his agency rarely encounters bestiality cases.”

Image result for ancient greek horse vase

Fragment of a red figure vase, c. 350 BCE. On sale on line without provenance.

 

Magical Papyri, 4.2545

“Horse-faced goddess…”

ἱπποπρόσωπε θεά

(h/t to .@ for this one)

Some Actual Greek Horse-Compounds for no particular reason

ἱππόβινος: “horse-fucker”
ἱππόβοτος: “horse-eaten”
ἱπποθυτέω: “to sacrifice a horse”
ἱππομανέω: “to be horse-mad”, i.e. “lustful”
ἱππομαχία: “horse fight”
ἱπποποίητος: “horse-made”
ἱππόπορνος: “Excessive prostitute
ἱππότιλος: “horse diarrhea”
ἱπποτυφία: “horse-pride”
ἵππουρις: “horse-tail”
ἱπποφοβάς: “horse-fear” (a plant)

Sex and Death of Vipers: An Allegory?

Aelian, On the Nature of Animals  1.24

“The male viper has sex with the female after he wraps himself around her. She tolerates her husband and doesn’t feel one bit of grief about it. But when they are at the end of their sexual activity, the bride repays her mate with devious affection for this intercourse: for, as she lays astride his neck, she bites it off with his head.

So, while he dies from sex, she gets pregnant. But instead of bearing eggs, she has live offspring and they immediately exhibit the worst part of their nature. They eventually eat through their mother’s womb and emerge, avenging the death of their father. What, oh dear tragedians, are your Oresteses and Alkmaiones in comparison to this?”

24. Ὁ ἔχις περιπλακεὶς τῇ θηλείᾳ μίγνυται· ἡ δὲ ἀνέχεται τοῦ νυμφίου καὶ λυπεῖ οὐδὲ ἕν. ὅταν δὲ πρὸς τῷ τέλει τῶν ἀφροδισίων ὦσι, πονηρὰν ὑπὲρ τῆς ὁμιλίας τὴν φιλοφροσύνην ἐκτίνει ἡ νύμφη τῷ γαμέτῃ· ἐμφῦσα γὰρ αὐτοῦ τῷ τραχήλῳ, διακόπτει αὐτὸν αὐτῇ κεφαλῇ· καὶ ὁ μὲν τέθνηκεν, ἡ δὲ ἔγκαρπον ἔχει τὴν μίξιν καὶ κύει. τίκτει δὲ οὐκ ᾠά, ἀλλὰ βρέφη, καὶ ἔστιν ἐνεργὰ ἤδη <κατὰ>τὴν αὑτῶν φύσιν τὴν κακίστην. διεσθίει γοῦν τὴν μητρῴαν νηδύν, καὶ πρόεισι πάραυτατιμωροῦντα τῷ πατρί. τί οὖν οἱ Ὀρέσται καὶ οἱ Ἀλκμαίωνες πρὸς ταῦτα, ὦ τραγῳδοὶ φίλοι;

The Fat Dog and Its Collar: A Fable for Our times

Babrius, Fable 100

A super fat dog and a wolf once met
Who was asking him where he was fed
To become a dog so big and filled with grease.
“It is a rich man” he said, “who is feeding me”.
“But,” asked the wolf, “why is your neck so bare?”
“there’s an iron collar which wears my skin there,
A collar which my feeder forged and placed.”
The wolf laughed at him and said to his face:
“I say this kind of luxury can go to heck,
The kind of life where iron wears down my neck.”

Λύκῳ συνήντα πιμελὴς κύων λίην.
ὁ δ᾿ αὐτὸν ἐξήταζε, ποῦ τραφεὶς οὕτως
μέγας κύων ἐγένετο καὶ λίπους πλήρης.
“ἄνθρωπος” εἶπε “δαψιλής με σιτεύει.”
“ὁ δέ σοι τράχηλος” εἶπε “πῶς ἐλευκώθη;”
“κλοιῷ τέτριπται σάρκα τῷ σιδηρείῳ,
ὃν ὁ τροφεύς μοι περιτέθεικε χαλκεύσας.”
λύκος δ᾿ ἐπ᾿ αὐτῷ καγχάσας “ἐγὼ τοίνυν
χαίρειν κελεύω” φησί “τῇ τρυφῇ ταύτῃ,
δι᾿ ἣν σίδηρος τὸν ἐμὸν αὐχένα τρίψει.”

%d bloggers like this: