Fantastic Friday: Why Crows Are Banned from The Acropolis

We have posted about the strange story of Erikhthonios before, but this account not only contains an aetiological myth for the absence of crows but also has some strange details, like Athena trying to bring a mountain to Athens. Antigonus of Carystus allegedly compiled his collections of wonders in the 3rd Century BCE.

Antigonus Paradoxographus, Historiae Mirabiles 12

 “Amelêsagoras the Athenian, author of the Atthis, claims that the crow does not fly to the Akropolis and that no one can say he has seen it happen. He provides the cause of this as a myth.

For he says that when Athena was given to Hephaestos that she disappeared right after she laid down with him and Hephaistos ejaculated his seed on the ground. The earth later produced for Hephaestos Erikhthonios whom Athena cared for but then closed in a basket and handed over to the daughters of Kekrops, Agraulos, Pandrosos, and Hersê.  She told them not to open the basket until she returned.

When she left for Pellênê to bring back a mountain in order to make a defensive barrier before the city, two of Kekrops’ daughters—Agraulos and Pandrosos—opened the basket and saw two snakes around Erikhthonios.

[Amelêsagoras] claims that a crow went to Athena as she was carrying the mountain which is now called Lykabettos and told her that Erikhthonios was in the open. When she heard this, she threw the mountain to where it is now, said tat it would no longer right for the crow to go to the Akropolis because of his evil message.”

᾿Αμελησαγόρας δὲ ὁ ᾿Αθηναῖος, ὁ τὴν ᾿Ατθίδα συγγεγραφώς, οὔ φησι κορώνην προσίπτασθαι πρὸς τὴν ἀκρόπολιν, οὐδ’ ἔχοι ἂν εἰπεῖν ἑωρακὼς οὐδείς.  ἀποδίδωσιν δὲ τὴναἰτίαν μυθικῶς. φησὶν γάρ, ῾Ηφαίστῳ δοθείσης τῆς ᾿Αθηνᾶς, συγκατακλιθεῖσαν αὐτὴν ἀφανισθῆναι, τὸν δὲ ῞Ηφαιστον εἰς γῆν πεσόντα προΐεσθαι τὸ σπέρμα, τὴν δὲ γῆν ὕστερον αὐτῷ ἀναδοῦναι ᾿Εριχθόνιον, ὃν τρέφειν τὴν ᾿Αθηνᾶν καὶ εἰς κίστην καθεῖρξαι καὶ παραθέσθαι ταῖς Κέκροπος παισίν, ᾿Αγραύλῳ καὶ Πανδρόσῳ καὶ ῞Ερσῃ, καὶ ἐπιτάξαι μὴ ἀνοίγειν τὴν κίστην, ἕως ἂν αὐτὴ ἔλθῃ. ἀφικομένην δὲ εἰς Πελλήνην φέρειν ὄρος, ἵνα ἔρυμα πρὸ τῆς ἀκροπόλεως ποιήσῃ, τὰς δὲ Κέκροπος θυγατέρας τὰς δύο, ῎Αγραυλον καὶ Πάνδροσον, τὴν κίστην ἀνοῖξαι καὶ ἰδεῖν δράκοντας δύο περὶ τὸν ᾿Εριχθόνιον· τῇδὲ ᾿Αθηνᾷ φερούσῃ τὸ ὄρος, ὃ νῦν καλεῖται Λυκαβηττός, κορώνην φησὶν ἀπαντῆσαι καὶ εἰπεῖν ὅτι ᾿Εριχθόνιος ἐν φανερῷ, τὴν δὲ ἀκούσασαν ῥίψαι τὸ ὄρος ὅπου νῦν ἐστιν, τῇ δὲ κορώνῃ διὰ τὴν κακαγγελίαν εἰπεῖν ὡς εἰς ἀκρόπολιν οὐ θέμις αὐτῇ ἔσται ἀφικέσθαι.

Related image
Apollo with Crow (or Raven), 5th Century BCE

Tawdry Tuesday Classic: Archilochus in the Meadow (NSFW)

These are the final lines of the so-called Cologne Epode attributed to Archilochus (fr. 196a West=s478a). Here is a full version of the text with some commentary. Here is another short article about it.  And here is another great article about male sexuality and iconography. Scroll down to the bottom of the post for a seminal discussion of Greek vocabulary for ejaculation.

Archilochus Fr. 196a 27-35

“That was all I said. Then I lifted the girl
And laid her down in the blossoming flowers.
I covered her with a soft cloak
And placed my arms around her neck.
As she froze in fear like a fawn,
I lightly held her breasts in my hands
Where her skin exposed the newness of her youth.
And once I felt her fine body all around,
I shot off my white force, messing up her fair hair.

τοσ]αῦτ᾽ ἐφώνεον· παρθένον δ᾽ ἐν ἄνθε[σιν
τηλ]εθάεσσι λαβὼν ἔκλινα
….µαλθακῇ δ[έ µιν
χλαί]νῃ καλύψας, αὐχέν᾽ ἀγκάλῃς ἔχων
δεί]µ̣ατι παυ[σ]αµέ̣ν̣ην τὼς ὥστε νέβρ̣[ον εἱλόµην
µαζ]ῶν τε χ̣ερσὶν ἠπίως ἐφηψάµη̣ν
ᾗπε]ρ̣ ἔφην̣ε νέον ἥβης ἐπήλυ̣σις χρόα̣·
ἅπαν τ]ε̣ σῶµ̣α καλὸν ἀµφαφώµενος
λευκ]ὸν ἀφῆκα µένος, ξανθῆς ἐπιψαύ[ων τριχός.

Image result for ancient greek ejaculation vase

There is some debate about what exactly is going on in the sexual act at the end: is this extra-vaginal ejaculation (with the ξανθῆς…τριχός denoting pubic hair) or is this actually describing the poem’s narrator ejaculating on her hair? See the article mentioned above for a brief discussion.

Here’s another lyric fragment that discusses ejaculation. Note the different verbal vocabulary (ἐσβ[ά]λην instead of ἀφῆκα–both verbs can be used with weapons…):

Alcaeus, fr. 117. 27-8 

“Whatever someone gives to a prostitute he might as well spill  into the waves of the dark sea”

[     ]ται· πόρναι δ’ ὄ κέ τις δίδ[ωι
ἴ]σα κἀ[ς] πολίας κῦμ’ ἄλ[ο]ς ἐσβ[ά]λην.

The language of that poem makes me wonder if Sophocles is playing with language in the following lines from Antigone (648-649):

“Son, never lose your mind for the pleasure of a woman.”

μή νύν ποτ᾽, ὦ παῖ, τὰς φρένας ὑφ᾽ ἡδονῆς
γυναικὸς οὕνεκ᾽ ἐκβάλῃς

[More literally: “never shoot off your thoughts….”]

The descriptive language for ejaculation seems to be deficient in our evidence of Greek. Despite the two examples from Lyric I cite above, Henderson (Maculate Muse, 50) writes:

Henderson

Both of the roots discussed above show up elsewhere in Greek usage. Hippocrates of Cos uses ἵημι compounds for female ejaculation (Generation 4: μεθίει δὲ καὶ ἡ γυνὴ ἀπὸ τοῦ σώματος and again πρόσθεν τοῦ ἀνδρὸς ἀφίει) whereas there is a reflex of ball- in Lucian’s phrase “ejaculations of semen” (καταβολὰς σπερμάτων, Ps.-Luc. Amores 19). In Aristotle Generation of Animals 1 (718a) we find:

“Fish and serpents are in this group and they also ejaculate quickly. For, just as it is with people and all creatures of this kind, which have to hold their breath to release their seed, so too fish need to refrain from the sea-water.”

οἱ μὲν γὰρ ἰχθύες ὀχεύουσι παραπίπτοντες καὶ ἀπολύονται ταχέως. ὥσπερ γὰρ ἐπὶ τῶν ἀνθρώπων καὶ πάντων τῶν τοιούτων ἀνάγκη κατασχόντας τὸ πνεῦμα προΐεσθαι τοῦτο δ᾿ἐκείνοις συμβαίνει μὴ δεχομένοις τὴν θάλατταν.

For more ἵημι compounds see Athenaeus 389f (οἱ ὄρτυγες προΐενται… προΐενται τὸ σπέρμα). In Aelian we also find ἐκβάλλειν τὴν γονήν (On Animals 15).