Telesilla: Argive Woman, Warrior Poet

From Pausanias,  2.20.8-10

“Beyond the theater is the shrine of Aphrodite. In front of the foundation is a stele on which Telesilla, a poet of lyric, is depicted. Her books are tossed near her feet while she looks at the helmet she holds in her hand as she is about to put it on her head. Telesilla was famous among women and especially honored for her poetry.

But a greater story about her comes from when the Argives were bested by Kleomenes the son of Alexandrides and the Lakedaimonians. Some Argives died during the battle itself and however many fled to the grove of Ares died there too—at first they left the grove under an armistice but they realized they were deceived and were burned with the rest in the grove. As a result, Kleomenes led the Spartans to an Argos bereft of men.

But Telesilla stationed on the wall of the city all the slaves who were unable to bear arms because of youth or old age and, after collecting however many weapons had been left in homes or in the shrines, she armed all the women at the strongest age and once she had armed herself they took up posts were the army was going to attack.

When the Spartans came near and the women were not awestruck by their battle-cry but waited and were fighting bravely, then the Spartans, because they reasoned that if they killed the women the victory would be ill-rumored even as their own defeat would come with great insult, yielded to the women.

The Pythian priestess had predicted this contest earlier in the prophecy relayed by Herodotus who may or may not have understood it (6.77):

But when the female conquers the male
And drives him away and wins glory for the Argives,
It will make many Argive women tear their cheeks.

These are the words of the oracle on the women’s accomplishment.”

ὑπὲρ δὲ τὸ θέατρον ᾿Αφροδίτης ἐστὶν ἱερόν, ἔμπροσθεν δὲ τοῦ ἕδους Τελέσιλλα ἡ ποιήσασα τὰ ᾄσματα ἐπείργασται στήλῃ· καὶ βιβλία μὲν ἐκεῖνα ἔρριπταί οἱ πρὸς τοῖς ποσίν, αὐτὴ δὲ ἐς κράνος ὁρᾷ κατέχουσα τῇ χειρὶ καὶ ἐπιτίθεσθαι τῇ κεφαλῇ μέλλουσα. ἦν δὲ ἡ Τελέσιλλα καὶ ἄλλως ἐν ταῖς γυναιξὶν εὐδόκιμος καὶ μᾶλλον ἐτιμᾶτο ἔτι ἐπὶ τῇ ποιήσει. συμβάντος δὲ ᾿Αργείοις ἀτυχῆσαι λόγου μειζόνως πρὸς Κλεομένην τὸν ᾿Αναξανδρίδου καὶ Λακεδαιμονίους, καὶ τῶν μὲν ἐν αὐτῇ πεπτωκότων τῇ μάχῃ, ὅσοι δὲ ἐς τὸ ἄλσος τοῦ ῎Αργου κατέφευγον διαφθαρέντων καὶ τούτων, τὰ μὲν πρῶτα ἐξιόντων κατὰ ὁμολογίαν, ὡς δὲ ἔγνωσαν ἀπατώμενοι συγκατακαυθέντων τῷ ἄλσει τῶν λοιπῶν, οὕτω τοὺς Λακεδαιμονίους Κλεομένης ἦγεν ἐπὶ ἔρημον ἀνδρῶν τὸ ῎Αργος. Τελέσιλλα δὲ οἰκέτας μὲν καὶ ὅσοι διὰ νεότητα ἢ γῆρας ὅπλα ἀδύνατοι φέρειν ἦσαν, τούτους μὲν πάντας ἀνεβίβασεν ἐπὶ τὸ τεῖχος, αὐτὴ δὲ ὁπόσα ἐν ταῖς οἰκίαις ὑπελείπετο καὶ τὰ ἐκ τῶν ἱερῶν ὅπλα ἀθροίσασα τὰς ἀκμαζούσας ἡλικίᾳ τῶν γυναικῶν ὥπλιζεν, ὁπλίσασα δὲ ἔτασσε κατὰ τοῦτο ᾗ τοὺς πολεμίους προσιόντας ἠπίστατο. ὡς δὲ <ἐγγὺς> ἐγίνοντο οἱ Λακεδαιμόνιοι καὶ αἱ γυναῖκες οὔτε τῷ ἀλαλαγμῷ  κατεπλάγησαν δεξάμεναί τε ἐμάχοντο ἐρρωμένως, ἐνταῦθα οἱ Λακεδαιμόνιοι, φρονήσαντες ὡς καὶ διαφθείρασί σφισι τὰς γυναῖκας ἐπιφθόνως τὸ κατόρθωμα ἕξει καὶ σφαλεῖσι μετὰ ὀνειδῶν γενήσοιτο ἡ συμφορά, ὑπείκουσι ταῖς γυναιξί. πρότερον δὲ ἔτι τὸν ἀγῶνα τοῦτον προεσήμηνεν ἡ Πυθία, καὶ τὸ λόγιον εἴτε ἄλλως εἴτε καὶ ὡς συνεὶς ἐδήλωσεν ῾Ηρόδοτος·

ἀλλ’ ὅταν ἡ θήλεια τὸν ἄρρενα νικήσασα
ἐξελάσῃ καὶ κῦδος ἐν ᾿Αργείοισιν ἄρηται,
πολλὰς ᾿Αργείων ἀμφιδρυφέας τότε θήσει.

τὰ μὲν ἐς τὸ ἔργον τῶν γυναικῶν ἔχοντα τοῦ χρησμοῦ ταῦτα ἦν·

Telesilla

Plutarch, On the Virtues of Women 245d-f6 reports a version of this tale; the Suda (s.v. Telesilla) likely takes its account from Pausanias.

“Telesilla, a poetess. On a stele her books are tossed around and she has placed a helmet on her head. And When the Lakedaimonians slaughtered the Argives who had fled to a shrine and were heading to the city to sack it, then Telesilla armed the women of the right age and set them against where they were marching. When the Lakedaimonians saw this, they turned back because they believed it shameful to fight against women whom it would be inglorious to conquer but a great reproached to be defeated by….” [the oracle is listed next”

Τελέσιλλα, ποιήτρια. ἐπὶ στήλης τὰ μὲν βιβλία ἀπέρριπτε, κράνος δὲ τῇ κεφαλῇ περιέθηκε. καὶ γὰρ ὅτε Λακεδαιμόνιοι τοὺς ἐν τῷ ἱερῷ τοῦ ῎Αργους καταφυγόντας διέφθειρον καὶ πρὸς τὴν πόλιν ᾔεσαν ὡς αἱρήσοντες, τότε Τελέσιλλα τὰς ἐν ἡλικίᾳ γυναῖκας ὁπλίσασα ὑπήντησεν οἷ προσῄεσαν. ὅπερ ἰδόντες οἱ Λακεδαιμόνιοι ἐς τοὐπίσω ὑπέστρεψαν, αἰσχρὸν νομίσαντες γυναιξὶ πολεμεῖν, ἃς καὶ τὸ νικᾶν ἄδοξον καὶ ἡττᾶσθαι μέγα ὄνειδος. ἐς τοῦτο καὶ ὁ χρησμὸς πεπλήρωτο, ᾿Αργείοις λέγων· ἀλλ’ ὅταν ἡ θήλεια τὸν ἄρρενα νικήσασα ἐξελάσῃ καὶ κῦδος ᾿Αργείοισιν ἄρηται, πολλὰς ᾿Αργείων ἀμφιδρυφέας τότε θήσει.

The extant fragments of Telesilla are not much to work with (each line is a separate fragment:

ἁ δ’ ῎Αρτεμις, ὦ κόραι,

φεύγοισα τὸν ᾿Αλφεόν

φιληλιάς,

†βελτιώτας

δῖνον.

οὐλοκίκιννε

〚ποιητριαν〛

〚Τελεσ̣ι̣λ̣λα̣ν̣〛

Val Max on Indian and Phoenician Women

Valerius Maximus, Memorable Words and Deeds 2.6.14-15

“But why must I praise the bravest men in this category? Take, for example, the women of the Indians, who by national custom are typically married to the same man. When that man has died they submit to a contest and judgment about who of them he loved the most. The winner, as she celebrates with joy and is led by her friends who have happy faces, casts herself upon the flames of her husband and is cremated with him as if the happiest women.

Those who lost persist in a saddened life of grief. Compare Cimbrian daring, add to it the Celtiberian loyalty, insert the Tracian spirit, and even weave in the cleverly developed Lycian method of rejecting grief, you will still find nothing superior to the Indian pyre, which the wifely devotion climbs onto as if it were merely a marriage bed.

To this glory, let’s compare the dishonor of the Punic women, so it may be more clearly foul. At Sicca there is a temple of Venus into which married women used to meet. They used to leave there for business, earning ‘dowries’ by bringing insult to their bodies, trying to arrange a clean marriage with so unclean a chain.”

Verum quid ego fortissimos hoc in genere prudentiae viros laudem? respiciantur Indorum feminae, quae, cum more patrio complures eidem nuptae esse soleant, mortuo marito in certamen iudiciumque veniunt quam ex iis maxime dilexerit. victrix gaudio exsultans, deductaque a necessariis laetum praeferentibus vultum, coniugis se flammis superiacit et cum eo tamquam felicissima crematur; superatae cum tristitia et maerore in vita remanent. protrahe in medium Cimbricam audaciam, adice Celtibericam fidem, iunge animosam Thraciae [potentiam]46 sapientiam, adnecte Lyciorum in luctibus abiciendis callide quaesitam rationem, Indico tamen rogo nihil eorum praeferes, quem uxor<ia>47 pietas in modum genialis tori propinquae mortis secura conscendit.

Cuius gloriae Punicarum feminarum, ut ex comparatione turpius appareat, dedecus subnectam: Siccae enim fanum est Veneris, in quod se matronae conferebant atque inde procedentes ad quaestum dotes corporis iniuria contrahebant, honesta nimirum tam inhonesto vinculo coniugia iuncturae.

willigula:“ A Hindu girl throws herself on the funeral pyre of her betrothed, from the poem Sūz va gudāz (Burning and Melting) by Nawʿī Khabūshānī, illuminated by Muḥammad ʿAlī Mashhadī, Iran, 1657 ”
 Sūz va gudāz (Burning and Melting) by Nawʿī Khabūshānī, illuminated by Muḥammad ʿAlī Mashhadī, Iran, 1657

Tacitus on Germanic Standards for Women and Child-Rearing

Some of the rhetoric here seems a bit familiar…

Tacitus, Germania 19-20

In that country, no one finds vice amusing; nor is seducing or being seduced celebrated as a sign of the times. Even better are those communities where only virgins marry and a promise is made with the hope and vow of a wife. And so, they have only one husband just as each has one body and one life so that there may be no additional thought of it, no lingering desire, that they may not love the man so much as they love the marriage. It is considered a sin to limit the number of children or to eliminate the later born. There good customs are stronger than good laws.

There are children there naked and dirty in every house growing into the size of limbs and body at which we wonder. Each mother nourishes each child with her own breasts; they are not passed around to maids and nurses.”

nemo enim illic vitia ridet, nec corrumpere et corrumpi saeculum vocatur. melius quidem adhuc eae civitates, in quibus tantum virgines nubunt et cum spe votoque uxoris semel transigitur. sic unum accipiunt maritum quo modo unum corpus unamque vitam, ne ulla cogitatio ultra, ne longior cupiditas, ne tamquam maritum, sed tamquam matrimonium ament. numerum liberorum finire aut quemquam ex agnatis necare flagitium habetur, plusque ibi boni mores valent quam alibi bonae leges.In omni domo nudi ac sordidi in hos artus, in haec corpora, quae miramur, excrescunt. sua quemque mater uberibus alit, nec ancillis aut nutricibus delegantur.

Image result for medieval manuscript Tacitus germania

Festivals for Women and Different Marriage Customs

Paradoxographus Vaticanus, 25-28, 45

25 “Among the Iberians there is a tribe [and] and in a certain festival they honor women with gifts, however so many demonstrate at that time that they can weave the most numerous and beautiful cloaks.”

Παρὰ τοῖς ῎Ιβηρσιν ἔθνος ἐστὶ ἐν ἑορτῇ τινι τὰς γυναῖκας τιμῶν δώροις, ὅσαι ἂν πλεῖστα καὶ κάλλιστα ἱμάτια ὑφήνασαι τότε ἐπιδείξωσιν.

26 “Among the Krobuzoi it is the custom to mourn when an infant is born and consider the one who dies lucky”

Παρὰ Κροβύζοις ἔθος ἐστὶ τὸ μὲν γεννώμενον βρέφος θρηνεῖν, τὸν δὲ θανόντα εὐδαιμονίζειν.

27 “Among the Nasamoi in Libya it is the custom that on the first day a woman is married that she has sex with everyone who is present and then take gifts from them. After that, she has sex only with the one who marries her.”

Παρὰ Νασαμῶσι τοῖς ἐν Λιβύῃ νόμος ἐστὶ τὴν γαμουμένην τῇ πρώτῃ ἡμέρᾳ συγγίνεσθαι πᾶσι τοῖς παροῦσι καὶ παρ’ αὐτῶν δῶρα λαμβάνειν καὶ μετὰ τοῦτο τῷ γήμαντι μόνῳ μίγνυσθαι.

28 “The women of the Sauromatoi do not get married unless they kill an enemy man.”

Αἱ τῶν Σαυροματῶν γυναῖκες οὐ πρότερον γαμοῦνται, ἂν μὴ ἄνδρα κτάνωσι πολέμιον.

45 “The Liburnians have shared wives and they raise their children in common for five years. When they make it to the eighth year, they compare the children for their similarity to the men and they distribute to each one who is similar. And that one keeps him as a son.”

Λιβύρνιοι κοινὰς τὰς γυναῖκας ἔχουσι καὶ τὰ τέκνα ἐν κοινῷ τρέφουσι μέχρι ἐτῶν πέντε· εἶτα τῷ ἔκτῳ συνενέγκαντες ἅπαντα τὰ παιδία τὰς ὁμοιότητας πρὸς τοὺς ἄνδρας εἰκάζουσι, καὶ ἑκάστῳ τὸν ὅμοιον ἀποδιδόασι, καὶ λοιπὸν ἐκεῖνος ὡς υἱὸν ἔχει.

51 “The Assyrians sell their daughters in the marketplace to whoever wants to settle down with them. First the most well-born and most beautiful and then the rest in order. Whenever they get to the least attractive, they announce how much someone is willing to take to live with them and they add this consolation price from the fee charged for the desirable girls to these [last ones].”

᾿Ασσύριοι τὰς παρθένους ἐν ἀγορᾷ πωλοῦσι τοῖς θέλουσι συνοικεῖν, πρῶτον μὲν τὰς εὐγενεστάτας καὶ καλλίστας, εἶτα τὰς λοιπὰς ἐφεξῆς· ὅταν δὲ ἔλθωσι ἐπὶ τὰς φαυλοτάτας, κηρύττουσι πόσον τις θέλει προσλαβὼν ταύταις συνοικεῖν, καὶ τὸ συναχθὲν ἐκ τῆς τῶν εὐπρεπῶν τιμῆς ταύταις προστίθενται [ταῖς παρθένοις].

Image result for ancient greek wedding

Fish-Eaters, Meat-Eaters and Bread: Dehumanizing Structures in the Odyssey

Homer, Odyssey 8.221-222

“I say that I am much better than the rest,
However so many mortals now eat bread on the earth.”

τῶν δ’ ἄλλων ἐμέ φημι πολὺ προφερέστερον εἶναι,
ὅσσοι νῦν βροτοί εἰσιν ἐπὶ χθονὶ σῖτον ἔδοντες.

Schol. B ad Od. 8.222 ex

“Who eat bread…” He says this because there are some races who don’t eat bread. Indeed, some are called locust eaters and fish-easters, like the Skythian race and the Massagetae are called meat-eaters. Some of the locust-eaters, after seeing bread, used to believe it was shit.”

σῖτον ἔδοντες] εἶπε τοῦτο διά τινα γένη, οἵτινες οὐκ ἤσθιον σῖτον. διὸ καὶ ἀκριδοφάγοι τινὲς καὶ ἰχθυοφάγοι ἐκαλοῦντο, ὡς καὶ τὸ Σκυθικὸν καὶ Μασσαγετικὸν κρεοφάγοι καλοῦνται. τινὲς γὰρ τῶν ἀκριδοφάγων ἰδόντες ἄρτον κόπρον εἶναι ἐνόμιζον. B.

Cf. Schol. T ad 16.784

“The poet also does not show heroes eating fish or birds, but still Odysseus’ companions do try to under compulsion. Generally, the poet avoids this kind of habit because of its triviality, but he has [heroes] eat roasted meat.”

οὐδὲ γὰρ ἰχθύσι χρωμένους εἰσήγαγεν ἢ ὄρνισιν, ἀλλ’ ὅμως δι’ ἀνάγκην καὶ τοῖς τοιούτοις ἐπεχείρουν οἱ ᾿Οδυσσέως ἑταῖροι (cf. δ 368. μ 331)· καθόλου γὰρ τὴν τοιαύτην χρῆσιν διὰ τὸ μικροπρεπὲς παρῃτήσατο, κρέασι δὲ ὀπτοῖς χρῆσθαι αὐτούς φησιν.

Eusth. Comm. I Ad Hom. Od. 1.293

“Those who eat grain/bread.” This is perhaps said regarding the difference of other mortals who are not these kind of people—the kind of sort the story claims that the long-lived Aethiopians are too. These people, after they saw bread, compared it to shit. There were also those who lived from eating locusts and others who lived off fish. For this reason they are called locust-eaters and fish eaters. The Skythian race and the Masssegetic people who live primarily off meat do not wish to eat grain.”

Τὸ δὲ σῖτον ἔδοντες, πρὸς διαστολὴν ἴσως ἐῤῥέθη ἑτέρων βροτῶν μὴ τοιούτων. ὁποίους καὶ τοὺς μακροβίους Αἰθίοπας ἡ ἱστορία φησίν. οἳ ἄρτον ἰδόντες κόπρῳ αὐτὸν εἴκασαν. ἦσαν δὲ καὶ οἱ ἐξ ἀκρίδων ζῶντες καὶ οἱ ἐξ ἰχθύων. οἳ καὶ ἀκριδοφάγοι διατοῦτο καὶ ἰχθυοφάγοι ἐκαλοῦντο. τὸ δὲ Σκυθικὸν φῦλον καὶ τὸ Μασσαγετικὸν κρέασι διοικονομούμενον οὐδ’ αὐτὸ ἐθέλει σιτοφαγεῖν.

Strabo, Geographica 16.4.12

“In a close land to [the Aethiopians] are people darker-skinned than the rest and shorter and the shortest-lived, the locust-eaters. They rarely see more than forty years because their flesh is rife with parasites. They live on locusts who arrive in the spring carried by the strong winds that blow into these places. After throwing burning logs into trenches and kindling them a little, they overshadow the locusts with smoke and they call. They pound them together with salt and use them as cakes for their food.”

Πλησιόχωροι δὲ τούτοις εἰσὶ μελανώτεροί τε τῶν ἄλλων καὶ βραχύτεροι καὶ βραχυβιώτατοι ἀκριδοφάγοι· τὰ γὰρ τετταράκοντα ἔτη σπανίως ὑπερτιθέασιν, ἀπο-
θηριουμένης αὐτῶν τῆς σαρκός· ζῶσι δ’ ἀπὸ ἀκρίδων, ἃς οἱ ἐαρινοὶ λίβες καὶ ζέφυροι πνέοντες μεγάλοι συνελαύνουσιν εἰς τοὺς τόπους τούτους· ἐν ταῖς χα-ράδραις δὲ ἐμβαλόντες ὕλην καπνώδη καὶ ὑφάψαντες μικρὸν … ὑπερπετάμεναι γὰρ τὸν καπνὸν σκοτοῦνται καὶ πίπτουσι· συγκόψαντες δ’ αὐτὰς μεθ’ ἁλμυρίδος μάζας ποιοῦνται καὶ χρῶνται.

Strabo’s passage is, from a modern perspective, fairly racist (and more so even than the Eustathius). I don’t believe that the Odyssey’s formulaic line carries the same force, however. For Homer, people who eat bread are those who cultivate the earth and have to work (they don’t live easy lives like the gods). People who don’t eat the fruit of the earth are marauders and monsters.

The Odyssey’s ethnographic frame develops structures that insist to be fully human, one must (1) live in a city and (2) have recognizable laws and institutions, and (3) cultivate the earth. Creatures who don’t do these things are marginalized and dehumanized either through their behavior (the suitors and sailors) or through actual deformity (the Cyclopes, Kikones, and, well, pretty much most of the women in the poem). So, while the epic itself is not clearly racist in the modern sense, it supplies and deploys frameworks by which other human beings may be marginalized and dehumanized.

Image result for Ancient Vase Odyssey odysseus

Turtle-eaters and Their Homes

Strabo 16

“The Khelônophagoi live underneath turtle shells that are big enough to sail in too. Some of them, because a lot of seaweed is cast onto the shore and makes piles as high as hills, dig into them and live inside. They dispose of corpses as food for fish by allowing them to be drawn away in the high tides.

Three islands are situated in a row: they are named Turtle Island, Seal Island, and Hawk Island. The whole shoreline has palm-trees, olive trees, and laurels and this is not just in the straits but on the outside too. There is a certain Philip’s island, facing which, above the coastline, is a hunting preserve for elephants which is called Pythangelos’ Hunting Ground.

Next to this is Arsinoê which has a city and harbor and beyond these, to Deirê above which is another hunting preserve for elephants. The land right above Deirê is rich in aromatics: the first part part produces myrrh—and it is the land of the Fish-Eaters and Meat-Eaters—and it also produces persea and the Egyptian sykamin. Beyond this land is Likha, another hunting ground for elephants. Frequently there are pools of rain water in the region and when these dry, the elephants dig with their tusks and teeth and uncover water.

On that coast, there are two enormous lakes extending up as far as the Pytholaian headland. One of them has salt water and they call it a sea; the other is fresh and contains both hippopotamuses and crocodiles. It also has papyrus on its shores. People also find the Ibis around this lake. Starting near the Pytholaus, the people who live there have unblemished bodies….”

  1. Οἱ δὲ Χελωνοφάγοι τοῖς ὀστράκοις αὐτῶν σκεπάζονται μεγάλοις οὖσιν, ὥστε καὶ πλεῖσθαι ἐν αὐτοῖς· ἔνιοι δὲ τοῦ φύκους ἀποβεβλημένου πολλοῦ καὶ θῖνας ὑψηλὰς καὶ λοφώδεις ποιοῦντος, ὑπορύττοντες ταύτας ὑποικοῦσι. τοὺς δὲ νεκροὺς ῥίπτουσι τροφὴν τοῖς ἰχθύσιν, ἀναλαμβανομένους ὑπὸ τῶν πλημμυρίδων. τῶν δὲ νήσων τινὲς τρεῖς ἐφεξῆς κεῖνται, ἡ μὲν Χελωνῶν, ἡ δὲ Φωκῶν, ἡ δ᾿ Ἱεράκων λεγομένη· πᾶσα δ᾿ ἡ παραλία φοίνικάς τε ἔχει καὶ ἐλαιῶνας καὶ δαφνῶνας, οὐχ ἡ ἐντὸς τῶν στενῶν μόνον, ἀλλὰ καὶ τῆς ἐκτὸς πολλή. ἔστι δέ τις καὶ Φιλίππου νῆσος, καθ᾿ ἣν ὑπέρκειται τὸ Πυθαγγέλου καλούμενον τῶν ἐλεφάντων κυνήγιον· εἶτ᾿ Ἀρσινόη πόλις καὶ λιμήν, καὶ μετὰ ταῦτα ἡ Δειρή· καὶ τούτων ὑπέρκειται θήρα τῶν ἐλεφάντων. ἀπὸ δὲ τῆς Δειρῆς ἡ ἐφεξῆς ἐστιν ἀρωματοφόρος, πρώτη μὲν ἡ τὴν σμύρναν φέρουσα (καὶ αὕτη μὲν Ἰχθυοφάγων καὶ Κρεοφάγων), φύει δὲ καὶ περσέαν καὶ συκάμινον Αἰγύπτιον· ὑπέρκειται δὲ ἡ Λίχα θήρα τῶν ἐλεφάντων· πολλαχοῦ δ᾿ εἰσὶ συστάδες τῶν ὀμβρίων ὑδάτων, ὧν ἀναξηρανθεισῶν οἱ ἐλέφαντες ταῖς προβοσκίσι καὶ τοῖς ὀδοῦσι φρεωρυχοῦσι καὶ ἀνευρίσκουσιν ὕδωρ. ἐν δὲ τῇ παραλίᾳ ταύτῃ μέχρι τοῦ Πυθολάου ἀκρωτηρίου δύο λίμναι εἰσὶν εὐμεγέθεις· ἡ μὲν ἁλμυροῦ ὕδατος, ἣν καλοῦσι θάλατταν, ἡ δὲ γλυκέος, ἣ τρέφει καὶ ἵππους ποταμίους καὶ κροκοδείλους, περὶ τὰ χείλη δὲ πάπυρον· ὁρῶνται δὲ καὶ ἴβεις περὶ τὸν τόπον. ἤδη δὲ καὶ οἱ πλησίον τῆς ἄκρας τῆς Πυθολάουτὰ σώματα ὁλόκληροί
Related image
Silver Turtle Stater from Aigina

The Last Mythic Hero

Pausanias, 6.9.6-9

“In the Olympiad before that one they say that Kleomêdês the Astupalaian killed the Epidaurian Hippos while boxing him. When he was charged by the referees with cheating and was deprived of the victory, he went out of his mind with grief and returned to Astupalaia.

There, he attacked a school there which held as many as sixty children and knocked down the pillar which supported the roof. After the roof fell on the children, the citizens threw stones at Kleomêdês and he fled into the Temple of Athena. Inside, he climbed into a chest and closed the lid over him.

The Astupalaians wore themselves out trying to open or break the chest. When they finally broke open the chest and did not find Kleomêdês there dead or alive, they send representatives to Delphi to ask what kind of thing had happened with Kleomêdês. The Pythia is said to have given the oracle that:

Kleomêdês the Astupalaian was the last of the heroes—
Honor him with sacrifices since he is no longer mortal.”

For this reason the Astupalaians have honored Kleomêdês as a hero since that time.

τῇ δὲ Ὀλυμπιάδι τῇ πρὸ ταύτης Κλεομήδην φασὶν Ἀστυπαλαιέα ὡς Ἴκκῳ πυκτεύων ἀνδρὶ Ἐπιδαυρίῳ τὸν Ἴκκον ἀποκτείνειεν ἐν τῇ μάχῃ, καταγνωσθεὶς δὲ ὑπὸ τῶν Ἑλλανοδικῶν ἄδικα εἰργάσθαι καὶ ἀφῃρημένος τὴν νίκην ἔκφρων ἐγένετο ὑπὸ τῆς λύπης καὶ ἀνέστρεψε μὲν ἐς Ἀστυπάλαιαν, διδασκαλείῳ δ᾽ ἐπιστὰς ἐνταῦθα ὅσον ἑξήκοντα ἀριθμὸν παίδων ἀνατρέπει τὸν κίονα ὃς τὸν ὄροφον ἀνεῖχεν. ἐμπεσόντος δὲ τοῦ ὀρόφου τοῖς παισί, καταλιθούμενος ὑπὸ τῶν ἀστῶν κατέφυγεν ἐς Ἀθηνᾶς ἱερόν: ἐσβάντος δὲ ἐς κιβωτὸν κειμένην ἐν τῷ ἱερῷ καὶ ἐφελκυσαμένου τὸ ἐπίθημα, κάματον ἐς ἀνωφελὲς οἱ Ἀστυπαλαιεῖς ἔκαμνον ἀνοίγειν τὴν κιβωτὸν πειρώμενοι: τέλος δὲ τὰ ξύλα τῆς κιβωτοῦ καταρρήξαντες, ὡς οὔτε ζῶντα Κλεομήδην οὔτε τεθνεῶτα εὕρισκον, ἀποστέλλουσιν ἄνδρας ἐς Δελφοὺς ἐρησομένους ὁποῖα ἐς Κλεομήδην τὰ συμβάντα ἦν.  τούτοις χρῆσαι τὴν Πυθίαν φασίν:“

ὕστατος ἡρώων Κλεομήδης Ἀστυπαλαιεύς,
ὃν θυσίαις τιμᾶθ᾽ ἅτε μηκέτι θνητὸν ἐόντα.

”Κλεομήδει μὲν οὖν Ἀστυπαλαιεῖς ἀπὸ τούτου τιμὰς ὡς ἥρωι νέμουσι:

Plutarch, Life of Romulus 4-7

“This is, then, similar to those stories told by the Greeks about Aristeas of Prokonnesos and Kleomêdês of Astupalaia. For they claim that Aristeas died in a fuller’s shop and his body disappeared when his friends came to get it. Soon after, people who were returning from abroad said that they met Aristeas travling towards Croton.

Then there was Kleomêdês who had extreme strength and size but was easily enraged and like a crazy person. They claim he did many violent things and then finally went into a school for children and punched the pillar which supported the roof and broke it in the middle which made the roof collapse. Because the children were killed, he was pursued and he hid in a giant chest. He closed the lid and held himself inside so that many people struggling together were not able to lift it. After they broke the chest apart they found no one alive or dead inside. In their shock, they sent people to consult the Delphic oracle. The Pythia responded: “Kleomêdês the Astupalaian is the last of the heroes.”

Ἔοικε μὲν οὖν ταῦτα τοῖς ὑφ᾿ Ἑλλήνων περί τε Ἀριστέου τοῦ Προκοννησίου καὶ Κλεομήδους τοῦ Ἀστυπαλαιέως μυθολογουμένοις. Ἀριστέαν μὲν γὰρ ἔν τινι κναφείῳ τελευτῆσαί φασι, καὶ τὸ σῶμα μετιόντων αὐτοῦ τῶν φίλων ἀφανὲς οἴχεσθαι· λέγειν δέ τινας εὐθὺς ἐξ ἀποδημίας ἥκοντας ἐντυχεῖν Ἀριστέᾳ τὴν ἐπὶ Κρότωνος πορευομένῳ· Κλεομήδη δέ, ῥώμῃ καὶ μεγέθει σώματος ὑπερφυᾶ γενόμενον ἔμπληκτόν τε τῷ τρόπῳ καὶ μανικὸν ὄντα, πολλὰ δρᾶν βίαια, καὶ τέλος ἔν τινι διδασκαλείῳ παίδων τὸν ὑπερείδοντα τὴν ὀροφὴν κίονα πατάξαντα τῇ χειρὶ κλάσαι μέσον καὶ τὴν στέγην καταβαλεῖν. ἀπολομένων δὲ τῶν παίδων διωκόμενον εἰς κιβωτὸν καταφυγεῖν μεγάλην, καὶ τὸ πῶμα κατακλείσαντα συνέχειν ἐντός, ὥστε ἀποσπάσαι μὴ δύνασθαι πολλοὺς ὁμοῦ βιαζομένους· κατασχίσαντας δὲ τὴν κιβωτὸν οὔτε ζῶντα τὸν ἄνθρωπον εὑρεῖν οὔτε νεκρόν. ἐκπλαγέντας οὖν ἀποστεῖλαι θεοπρόπους εἰς Δελφούς, οἷς τὴν Πυθίαν εἰπεῖν·

Ἔσχατος ἡρώων Κλεομήδης Ἀστυπαλαιεύς.

λέγεται δὲ καὶ τὸν Ἀλκμήνης ἐκκομιζομένης νεκρὸν ἄδηλον γενέσθαι, λίθον δὲ φανῆναι κείμενον ἐπὶ τῆς κλίνης. καὶ ὅλως πολλὰ τοιαῦτα μυθολογοῦσι, παρὰ τὸ εἰκὸς ἐκθειάζοντες τὰ θνητὰ τῆς φύσεως ἅμα τοῖς θείοις.

Plutarch’s account does not specify the lost boxing match or mention the temple of Athena. While some of the diction is shared with Pausanias’ account, most of the common words are nouns for specific objects. The only real echo may be οὔτε ζῶντα τὸν ἄνθρωπον εὑρεῖν οὔτε νεκρόν for ὡς οὔτε ζῶντα Κλεομήδην οὔτε τεθνεῶτα εὕρισκον

The Suda’s version has many of the same phrases and is likely drawn from Pausanias. The comparison of the three makes me think that while Plutarch and Pausanias are drawing on the same story, they are not likely drawing on the same textual tradition.

Suda, Kappa 1725

“Kleomêdês, an Astupalaian, he killed the Epidaurian Kikkos in a boxing match. But when he was stripped of the victory, he went out of his mind because of grief and returned to Astupalaia. He fell upon a school there which held 80 students and he knocked down the pillar which was supporting the roof. After the roof collapsed and killed everyone, he was pelted with stones by the citizens and fled to a temple where he put himself into a chest and made hard work for the Astupalaians by holding down the lid. After they finally broken the wood of the chest, they found no one there.”

Κλεομήδης, ᾿Αστυπαλαιεύς, Κίκκον τὸν ᾿Επιδαύριον ἀπέκτεινεν ἐν τῇ πυγμῇ καὶ ἀφῃρημένος τὴν νίκην ἔκφρων ἐγένετο ὑπὸ τῆς λύπης καὶ ἀνέστρεψεν εἰς ᾿Αστυπάλαιαν. διδασκαλείῳ δὲ ἐπιστάς, ἐν ᾧ παῖδες ἦσαν ξ′, ἀνατρέπει τὸν κίονα, ὃς τὸν ὄροφον εἶχεν. ἐμπεσόντος δὲ τοῦ ὀρόφου καὶ πάντας ἀποκτείναντος, καταλιθούμενος ὑπὸ τῶν ἀστῶν κατέφυγεν ἐς ἱερὸν καὶ ἐμβὰς ἐς κιβωτὸν καὶ τὸ ἐπίθεμα ἐφελκυσάμενος κάματον τοῖς ᾿Αστυπαλαιεῦσι παρεῖχε. τέλος τὰ ξύλα τῆς κιβωτοῦ καταρρήξαντες οὐδένα εὗρον.

Thanks to Aislinn Melchior for bringing this story to my attention.

Orestes Delphi BM GR1917.12-10.1.jpg
Orestes at Delphi. Paestan red-figured bell-krater, ca. 330 BC.