Why Does Telemachus Go to The Assembly with Two Dogs?

Odyssey 2.10-11

“He went to go to the assembly—he held a bronze spear in his hand
And he was not alone, two swift dogs were accompanying him.”

βῆ ῥ’ ἴμεν εἰς ἀγορήν, παλάμῃ δ’ ἔχε χάλκεον ἔγχος,
οὐκ οἶος, ἅμα τῷ γε δύω κύνες ἀργοὶ ἕποντο.

Scholia ad. Od. 2.11

[HMQ Scholia]“Two dogs [were accompanying him]”: Some think this signals the rustic life of the ancients; or that the animal follows because it loves to follow not by Telemachus’ choice.

[M Scholia]: “Or it was the custom for ancients for have a dog accompany them as a guard, as Hesiod claims. And Telemachus brings two because of his comparative weakness and the threat of his enemies.

ἅμα τῷγε δύω κύνες] τοῦτό τινες σημειοῦνται πρὸς τὸν ἄγροικον τῶν παλαιῶν βίον. ἢ ὡς φιλακόλουθον τὸ ζῷον ἕπεται οὐ κατὰ προαίρεσιν αὐτοῦ. E.M.Q.

ἢ ἔθος ἦν τοῖς ἀρχαίοις ἕνα κύνα κομεῖν πρὸς φυλακὴν, ὡς καὶ ῾Ησίοδος. ὁ δὲ Τηλέμαχος διὰ τὸ ἀσφαλέστερον καὶ τὴν ἐπήρειαν τῶν ἐχθρῶν δύο ἐκέκτητο. M.

Image result for Ancient Greek hunting dogs vase

Homer had a real concern for dogs as reflected in the epigram attributed to him by the pseudo-Herodotean Life of Homer:

Epigram 11

“Glaukos, overseer, I will place another saying in your thoughts:
Give the dogs dinner first near the courtyard’s gates.
This is better: for the dog hears first when a man
Approaches or if a wild beast dares near the fence.”

Γλαῦκε πέπων, ἐπιών τοι ἔπος τι ἐνὶ φρεσὶ θήσω•
πρῶτον μὲν κυσὶ δεῖπνον ἐπ’ αὐλείῃσι θύρῃσι
δοῦναι• ὣς γὰρ ἄμεινον• ὃ γὰρ καὶ πρῶτον ἀκούει
ἀνδρὸς ἐπερχομένου καὶ ἐς ἕρκεα θηρὸς ἰόντος.

Cicero Is Wrong About Puppies

My sister-in-law got a puppy this weekend. Of course, this means I went home and started looking at what Greeks and Romans say about puppies. (I have done this before, but, wait, there’s more!) Let me tell you, it starts objectionable and gets gruesome.

Cicero, De natura deorum, 2.13

“Therefore, it is that same Chrysippos, who, by furnishing images, teaches that everything is better in its perfect and mature form, that a horse is better than a foal, a dog better than a puppy, a man better than a boy, etc. He also shows that what is best in the whole world ought to be found in that same perfect and complete creature and that there is, moreover, nothing more perfect in the whole world, nothing better than virtue. Because of this, virtue is a fundamental element of the world. Now, the nature of a human being is not perfect, but virtue may still emerge in a person.”

Bene igitur idem Chrysippus, qui similitudines adiungens omnia in perfectis et maturis docet esse meliora, ut in equo quam in eculeo, in cane quam in catulo, in viro quam in puero; item quod in omni mundo optimum sit id in perfecto aliquo atque absoluto esse debere; est autem nihil mundo perfectius, nihil virtute melius; igitur mundi est propria virtus. Nec vero hominis natura perfecta est, et efficitur tamen in homine virtus

But, perhaps we should be forgiving of dear Tully’s inability to recognize the perfection of nature in a puppy’s cuteness. Roman approaches to dogs present some interesting challenges to modern readers:

Pliny, Natural History 29.14

“I have mentioned the glory earned by geese when the incursion of the Gauls onto the Capitoline hill was uncovered. For the very same reason, dogs hang in an annual punishment between the temple of Juventas and that of Summanus, crucified while still alive on a cross of elder wood.

The traditions of our ancestors demand that many things be said about this animal. They used to believe that puppies who were still nursing were such pure food for appeasing the gods that they even used to offer them in place of sacrificial victims. The divine rite of Genita Mana is performed with a puppy and at dinners for the gods even today puppy-meat is set out on the table.

The plays of Plautus provide a good indication that puppy meat was a proper dish in special banquets. It was also believed that nothing was a better remedy for poisonous arrows than puppy’s blood and this creature also seems to have shown human beings the use of emetics…”

XIV. De anserum honore quem meruere Gallorum in Capitolium ascensu deprehenso diximus. eadem de causa supplicia annua canes pendunt inter aedem Iuventatis et Summani vivi in furca sabucea armo fixi. sed plura de hoc animali dici cogunt priscorum mores. catulos lactentes adeo puros existimabant ad cibum ut etiam placandis numinibus hostiarum vice uterentur iis. Genitae Manae catulo res divina fit et in cenis deum etiamnunc ponitur catulina. aditialibus quidem epulis celebrem fuisse Plauti fabulae indicio sunt. sanguine canino contra toxica nihil praestantius putatur, vomitiones quoque hoc animal monstrasse homini videtur, et alios usus ex eo mire laudatos referemus suis locis. nunc ad statutum ordinem pergemus.

Image found here

An Epitaph for a Dog

Literary Papyri, 109.2

“A dog is interred beneath this marker—
Tauron who was not undone when faced with a killer.
For he encountered a boar in direct combat-
It could not be passed as it puffed out its jaw
And drove a furrow in his chest as it dripped with white foam.
But the dog struck two feet into its back
And grabbed the bristling beast in the middle of its chest
And drove it down into the ground—he made a gift
Of the beast to Hades and died himself, as is the custom for an Indian.
He saved the life of Zenon, the hunter he followed.
So he is buried here beneath this light dust.”

σκύλαξ ὁ τύμβωι τῶιδ᾿ ὕπ᾿ ἐκτερισμένος
Ταύρων, ἐπ᾿ αὐθένταισιν οὐκ ἀμήχανος·
κάπρωι γὰρ ὡς συνῆλθεν ἀντίαν ἔριν,
ὁ μέν τις ὡς ἄπλατος οἰδήσας γένυν
5στῆθος κατηλόκιζε λευκαίνων ἀφρῶι,
ὁ δ᾿ ἀμφὶ νώτωι δισσὸν ἐμβαλὼν ἴχνος
ἐδράξατο φρίσσοντος ἐκ στέρνων μέσων
καὶ γᾶι συνεσπείρασεν· Ἀίδαι δὲ δοὺς
τὸν αὐτόχειρ᾿ ἔθναισκεν, Ἰνδὸν ὡς νόμος.
σώιζων δὲ τὸν κυναγὸν ὧι παρείπετο
Ζήνων᾿ ἐλαφρᾶι τᾶιδ᾿ ὑπεστάλη κόνει.

From the Medieval Bestiary

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.

From Bestiary.ca

An Epitaph for a Dog

Literary Papyri, 109.2

“A dog is interred beneath this marker—
Tauron who was not undone when faced with a killer.
For he encountered a boar in direct combat-
It could not be passed as it puffed out its jaw
And drove a furrow in his chest as it dripped with white foam.
But the dog struck two feet into its back
And grabbed the bristling beast in the middle of its chest
And drove it down into the ground—he made a gift
Of the beast to Hades and died himself, as is the custom for an Indian.
He saved the life of Zenon, the hunter he followed.
So he is buried here beneath this light dust.”

σκύλαξ ὁ τύμβωι τῶιδ᾿ ὕπ᾿ ἐκτερισμένος
Ταύρων, ἐπ᾿ αὐθένταισιν οὐκ ἀμήχανος·
κάπρωι γὰρ ὡς συνῆλθεν ἀντίαν ἔριν,
ὁ μέν τις ὡς ἄπλατος οἰδήσας γένυν
5στῆθος κατηλόκιζε λευκαίνων ἀφρῶι,
ὁ δ᾿ ἀμφὶ νώτωι δισσὸν ἐμβαλὼν ἴχνος
ἐδράξατο φρίσσοντος ἐκ στέρνων μέσων
καὶ γᾶι συνεσπείρασεν· Ἀίδαι δὲ δοὺς
τὸν αὐτόχειρ᾿ ἔθναισκεν, Ἰνδὸν ὡς νόμος.
σώιζων δὲ τὸν κυναγὸν ὧι παρείπετο
Ζήνων᾿ ἐλαφρᾶι τᾶιδ᾿ ὑπεστάλη κόνει.

From the Medieval Bestiary

No, Internet, Kerberos is Probably Not “Spot”

A good friend (@professormortis) asked me yesterday if the internet rumors are right that the etymology of Kerberos (or the Latin Cerberus) indicates “spotted” because it is cognate with Sanskrit karbarah, sabalah “spotted, speckled;” and, therefore, that it is related to our pet name “Spot”.  This is a nice story, but like many nice stories, it is probably not true.

But the idea is not one of those internet age fantasies. It has actually appeared in the annals of historical linguistics–internet etymologies selected this one because it is cool and funny. But linguists have largely abandoned the idea.

Kerberos 1

Pierre Chantraine (Dictionnaire étymologique de la langue grecque, 1968) lists this as a “doubted for good reasons”.  (Here’s a link for a free download of the dictionary). Robert Beekes in his Etymological Dictionary of Greek (Brill: 2010) is much more certain that the Sanskrit word has no connection to the Greek word.

Kerberos 2

The article Beekes dismisses (Bruce Lincoln. 1977 “The Hellhound.” Journal of Indo-European Studies 7: 273-286.) suggests that the dog names in IE myth like Kerberos are derived from a PIE root *gher which has to do with growling.

Here’s a summary and an anticipation of what the rest of the post will cover.

Things Kerberos does not mean:

  1. Spotted or Spot
  2. Growling thing
  3. Flesh-eating
  4. Heavy-headed

New Proposals (from twitter, see below)

  1. From Proto-turkic: kara-boru  (“black-wolfhound”)
  2. Phoenician root *klb-‘rz (“hound of the earth”)

Trying to make sense of the dog’s name has good precedent in antiquity. There are etymological and allegorical interpretations to entertain us.

Etymologicum Gudianum (Byzantine Era)

Kerberos: From “karbaros” which is from having a heavy head. For the dog in Hades had three heads, as the story goes about the dog Kerberos.

Κέρβερος, παρὰ τὸ κάρβαρος, ἢ παρὰ τὸ τὴν κάραν βαρεῖν· τρικέφαλος γὰρ ἦν κύων ἐν ᾅδου, ὡς μυθεύεται κύωνος κέρβερος.

Cf. κάραβος (karabos) “horned beetle”

Also consider from Hesychius the Lexicographer:

Kerberioi: Weak-men. They also call the Kimmerians Kerberians. And some call their city Kerberia, but others call it Kimmeria. Others say that Kimmê is as place in Hades.

κερβέριοι· ἀσθενεῖς. φασὶ δὲ καὶ τοὺς Κιμμερίους Κερβερίους· καὶ τὴν πόλιν οἱ μὲν Κερβερίαν καλοῦσιν, οἱ δὲ Κιμμερίην· ἄλλοι δὲ †Κιμμη. ἔστι δὲ τόπος ἐν ᾅδου (λ 14).

Servius, Commentary to Vergil’s Aeneid 6.395

“For Cerberus is the earth, that means the consumer of all corpses. This is where Cerberus is also said to be from, just as kreoberos, that is “devouring flesh”: from here we also get “reclining over bones”, for the earth does not consume bones quickly”

nam Cerberus terra est, id est consumptrix omnium corporum. unde et Cerberus dictus est, quasi κρεοβόρος, id est carnem vorans: unde legitur “ossa super recubans” : nam non ossa citius terra consumit.

On the number of Kerberos’ heads

In a Pindaric fragment, Kerberos has one hundred heads! (Dith. Fr. 249 b Κέρβερος <> ἑκατογκεφάλας (vel ἑκατόγκρανος vel sim.). In vase images, he has two or three (typically). Lincoln and many others (see Daniel Ogden, Dragons, Serpents, and Slayers 2013: 96-106) note how his number of heads shift and that a vase image of him with two heads may indicate that he was once part of a pair of dogs (usually Orthos, matching pairs of dogs elsewhere in IE traditions).

In Hesiod, Kerberos and Orthos are children of Ekhidna with Typhaon. This Kerberos has 50 heads! (Theoi.com has a good selection of passages and images.)

Hesiod, Theogony 308-312

“After she was pregnant, she gave birth to powerful-minded children,
First, she gave birth to Orthos, Geryones’ hound.
Then she bore an impossible, unspeakable thing,
Kerberos raw flesh-eating, bronze-voiced hound of Hades,
With fifty heads, a creature shameless and strong.”

ἡ δ’ ὑποκυσαμένη τέκετο κρατερόφρονα τέκνα.
῎Ορθον μὲν πρῶτον κύνα γείνατο Γηρυονῆι·
δεύτερον αὖτις ἔτικτεν ἀμήχανον, οὔ τι φατειόν,
Κέρβερον ὠμηστήν, ᾿Αίδεω κύνα χαλκεόφωνον,
πεντηκοντακέφαλον, ἀναιδέα τε κρατερόν τε·

The number of heads seems to stick at three and various reasons are given to explain why or how this could be.

Heraclitus the Paradoxographer, On Incredible things 33

“Concerning Kerberos: This could be the same as with the Hydra. For that dog had two puppies, and he seemed to have three heads because the puppies were always walking alongside their father.”

Περὶ Κερβέρου.

     Τοῦτ’ ἂν εἴη ὃ καὶ περὶ τῆς ῞Υδρας. οὗτος γὰρ εἶχε δύο σκύμνους, ὧν ἀεὶ συμβαδιζόντων τῷ πατρὶ ἐφαίνετο εἶναι τρικέφαλος.

Palaephatus (39) argues that Kerberos had three heads because he was from the city Trikarênos (“Three-peaks”) and the name was misunderstood.

Porphyry, Peri Agalmatôn 8

“Kerberos is three-headed because of the three stages of the sun, rising, midday, and setting.”

     ῾Ο δὲ Κέρβερος τρικέφαλος μέν, ὅτι τρεῖς αἱ ἄνω χῶραι ἡλίου, ἀνατολή, μεσημβρία, δύσις.

Heraclitus, Allegories 33.9

“Kerberos himself is shown to be three-headed perhaps rightfully to hint at the three-shaped nature of philosophy: the parts we call logic, physics, and ethics.”

Αὐτός γε μὴν ὁ τρικέφαλος δειχθεὶς ἡλίῳ κέρβερος εἰκότως ἂν τὴν τριμερῆ φιλοσοφίαν ὑπαινίττοιτο· τὸ μὲν γὰρ αὐτῆς λογικόν, τὸ δὲ φυσικόν, τὸ δὲ ἠθικὸν ὀνομάζεται·

Zonaras Kappa 1186

“Kerberos: the three-headed dog: [this is because] the wretched demon is in three regions: the water, the earth and the air.”

†Κέρβερος. κύων τρικέφαλος, ὁ ἐν τοῖς τρισὶ στοιχείοις, ὕδατι, γῇ, ἀέρι, πονηρὸς δαίμων.†

Image result for Kerberos greek myth

A Twitter-sourced Etymology

A few years ago we witnessed the true beauty of twitter when we had a long discussion about this, yielding two new proposes which are really no worse than the Byzantine folk etymologies. One, suggests that it may be a borrowing from Asia Minor, related to Proto-turkic kara-boru  (“black-wolfhound”); the other posits a Phoenician root *klb-‘rz (“hound of the earth”).  I could describe how we got there, but I would rather just post all the tweets here. It is also instructive to post them again, because it is a reminder that social media can be used to build things up instead of burning them down

http://twitter.com/BhriguTheBard/status/697179265197068288

http://twitter.com/BhriguTheBard/status/697111976930050053

http://twitter.com/BhriguTheBard/status/697213559936258049

http://twitter.com/BhriguTheBard/status/697213559936258049

Magical Monday: A Homeric Simile and Puppy Sacrifice

Odyssey 9.287-293

“So I was speaking, but [the Kyklops] did not answer me because of his pitiless heart.
But then he leapt up, shot out his hands at my companions,
Grabbed two together, and struck them against the ground
Like puppies. Brains were flowing out from them and they dyed the ground.
After tearing them limb from limb, he prepared himself a meal.
He ate them like a mountain-born lion and left nothing behind,
The innards, the meat, and the marrow-filled bones.”

Image result for Ancient Greek dog

ὣς ἐφάμην, ὁ δέ μ’ οὐδὲν ἀμείβετο νηλέϊ θυμῷ,
ἀλλ’ ὅ γ’ ἀναΐξας ἑτάροισ’ ἐπὶ χεῖρας ἴαλλε,
σὺν δὲ δύω μάρψας ὥς τε σκύλακας ποτὶ γαίῃ
κόπτ’· ἐκ δ’ ἐγκέφαλος χαμάδις ῥέε, δεῦε δὲ γαῖαν.
τοὺς δὲ διὰ μελεϊστὶ ταμὼν ὁπλίσσατο δόρπον·
ἤσθιε δ’ ὥς τε λέων ὀρεσίτροφος, οὐδ’ ἀπέλειπεν,
ἔγκατά τε σάρκας τε καὶ ὀστέα μυελόεντα.

My perplexity over this passage provides a good example of how Twitter can be used for good. Last year, I asked a question about killing puppies got some great responses. One found a later passage that deals with puppies and has some interesting thematic resonance with Odysseus’ development:

Several mentioned that this is a typical way to deal with unwanted puppies:

And several respondents also made nice points about the helplessness of the puppies in the image.

I think that all of these ideas are essential to a full interpretation of this passage. But, I do wonder if, in addition, we should consider ancient Greek practices of puppy sacrifice. I know that the following accounts are later, but what if we imagine the simile used here as evoking ideas of purification through sacrifice?

Plutarch, Roman Questions 280 c

“Nearly all the Greeks made use of the dog in sacrifice and some still do today, for cleansing rituals. They also bring puppies for Hekate along with other purification materials; and they rub down people who need cleansing with the puppies.”

τῷ δὲ κυνὶ πάντες ὡς ἔπος εἰπεῖν Ἕλληνες ἐχρῶντο καὶ χρῶνταί γε μέχρι νῦν ἔνιοι σφαγίῳ πρὸς τοὺς καθαρμούς· καὶ τῇ Ἑκάτῃ σκυλάκια μετὰ τῶν ἄλλων καθαρσίων ἐκφέρουσι καὶ περιμάττουσι σκυλακίοις τοὺς ἁγνισμοῦ δεομένους 

Plutarch, Romulus 21.10

“The Greeks in their purification bring out the puppies and in many places use them in the practice called periskulakismos [‘carrying puppies around’]”

καὶ γὰρ ῞Ελληνες ἔν τε τοῖς καθαρσίοις σκύλακας ἐκφέρουσι καὶ πολλαχοῦ χρῶνται τοῖς λεγομένοις περισκυλακισμοῖς·

Pausanias, Laconica 15

“Here, each of these groups of youths sacrifice a puppy to Enyalius, god of war, because they believe that it is best to make this most valiant of the domesticated animals to the bravest of the gods. I don’t know any other Greeks who believe it is right to sacrifice puppies to the gods except for the Kolophonians. For the Kolophonians sacrifice a black female puppy to the goddess of the Crossroad. The sacrifices of both the Kolophonians and the Spartan youths take place at night.”

ἐνταῦθα ἑκατέρα μοῖρα τῶν ἐφήβων σκύλακα κυνὸς τῷ Ἐνυαλίῳ θύουσι, θεῶν τῷ ἀλκιμωτάτῳ κρίνοντες ἱερεῖον κατὰ γνώμην εἶναι τὸ ἀλκιμώτατον ζῷον τῶν ἡμέρων. κυνὸς δὲ σκύλακας οὐδένας ἄλλους οἶδα Ἑλλήνων νομίζοντας θύειν ὅτι μὴ Κολοφωνίους· θύουσι γὰρ καὶ Κολοφώνιοι μέλαιναν τῇ Ἐνοδίῳ σκύλακα. νυκτεριναὶ δὲ ἥ τε Κολοφωνίων θυσία καὶ τῶν ἐν Λακεδαίμονι ἐφήβων καθεστήκασιν.

Plutarch, Roman Questions 290 d

“Indeed, the ancients did not consider this animal to be clean either: it was never sacrificed to one of the Olympian goes, but when it is given to Hekate at the cross-roads, it functions as part of the sacrifices that turn away and cleanse evil. In Sparta, they sacrifice dogs to the bloodiest of the gods, Enyalios. In Boiotia, it is the public cleansing ritual to walk between the parts of a dog that has been cut in half. The Romans themselves, during the Wolf-Festival which they call the Lupercalia, they sacrifice a dog in the month of purification.”

Οὐ μὴν οὐδὲ καθαρεύειν ᾤοντο παντάπασιν οἱ παλαιοὶ τὸ ζῷον· καὶ γὰρ Ὀλυμπίων μὲν οὐδενὶ θεῶν καθιέρωται, χθονίᾳ δὲ δεῖπνον Ἑκάτῃ πεμπόμενος εἰς τριόδους ἀποτροπαίων καὶ καθαρσίων ἐπέχει μοῖραν. ἐν δὲ Λακεδαίμονι τῷ φονικωτάτῳ θεῶν Ἐνυαλίῳ σκύλακας ἐντέμνουσι· Βοιωτοῖς δὲ δημοσίᾳ καθαρμός ἐστι κυνὸς διχοτομηθέντος τῶν μερῶν διεξελθεῖν· αὐτοὶ δὲ Ῥωμαῖοι τοῖς Λυκαίοις, ἃ Λουπερκάλια καλοῦσιν, ἐν τῷ καθαρσίῳ μηνὶ κύνα θύουσιν.

Twitter brought another example from Festus

https://twitter.com/CorpusCynicum/status/1024017651788640256

https://twitter.com/CorpusCynicum/status/1024017739529302016