What’s Special about the Number Seven?

Theodoros of Samothrace, fr. 1 (FGrH 62; Photius, Bibl. 190, 152b26)

“In the seventh book [Ptolemy Chennos reports that] Theodôros of Samothrace says that after Zeus was born he laughed without stopping for seven days. This is why the number seven is thought to be “final” [or whole, complete”]

ἐν δὲ τῶι ζ̄ περιέχεται ὡς Θεόδωρος ὁ Σαμοθρὰιξ τὸν Δία φησὶ γεννηθέντα ἐπὶ ἑπτὰ ἡμέρας ἀκατάπαυστον γελάσαι· καὶ διὰ τοῦτο τέλειος ἐνομίσθη ὁ ἑπτὰ ἀριθμός.

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Alexander of Aphrodisias, Probl. 2.47:

“The number seven, as Pythagoras insists, is complete in nature. The mathematicians and musicians agree too. But eight is incomplete.”

ὁ ἑπτὰ ἀριθμὸς τέλειός ἐστι τῇ φύσει, ὡς μαρτυρεῖ Πυθαγόρας καὶ οἱ ἀριθμητικοὶ καὶ οἱ μουσικοί• ὁ δὲ ὀκτὼ ἀτελής

 

These references come from Ken Dowden’s entry in Brill’s New Jacoby (62 F1). The following does not:

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.

Weary Wednesday: Two Scenes of Post-Coital Remorse

Ovid, Remedia Amoris, 413–424

“But as soon as pleasure, spent, comes to its goal
And bodies lie thoroughly exhausted with the mind
When it gets annoying and you prefer to have touched no girl
And you seem unlikely to touch one again for a while,
Then gather in your mind whatever faults are in her flesh
And hold each of her imperfections in your eyes.
Perhaps someone else will consider them small—as they are,
But what is no advantage alone aids in numbers.
A viper slays a giant bull will a small bite;
A boar is often held by a hound of no great size.
Make sure you fight with such a number: collect your judgments,
A mountain will grow from so much sand.”

At simul ad metas venit finita voluptas,
Lassaque cum tota corpora mente iacent,
Dum piget, et malis nullam tetigisse puellam,
Tacturusque tibi non videare diu,
Tunc animo signa, quaecumque in corpore menda est,
Luminaque in vitiis illius usque tene.
Forsitan haec aliquis (nam sunt quoque) parva vocabit,
Sed, quae non prosunt singula, multa iuvant.
Parva necat morsu spatiosum vipera taurum:
A cane non magno saepe tenetur aper.
Tu tantum numero pugna, praeceptaque in unum
Contrahe: de multis grandis acervus erit.

Homeric Hymn to Aphrodite, 168–176

“But when the shepherds gather back to the fold
Their cattle and strong sheep from the blooming meadows,
Then over Anchises she was pouring sweet sleep
Gently and she wrapped her shining cloths around her.
Once clothed well over her entire body, the shining goddess
Stood near the bed, and her head touched the well-made roof,
And the immortal beauty shone from her cheeks
As it does from well-crowned Kytherea.
And she woke him from sleep and spoke his name:
“Get up, Dardanian. Why do you still stretch out in deep sleep?…”

῏Ημος δ’ ἂψ εἰς αὖλιν ἀποκλίνουσι νομῆες
βοῦς τε καὶ ἴφια μῆλα νομῶν ἐξ ἀνθεμοέντων,
τῆμος ἄρ’ ᾿Αγχίσῃ μὲν ἐπὶ γλυκὺν ὕπνον ἔχευε
νήδυμον, αὐτὴ δὲ χροῒ ἕννυτο εἵματα καλά.
ἑσσαμένη δ’ εὖ πάντα περὶ χροῒ δῖα θεάων
ἔστη ἄρα κλισίῃ, εὐποιήτοιο μελάθρου
κῦρε κάρη, κάλλος δὲ παρειάων ἀπέλαμπεν
ἄμβροτον, οἷόν τ’ ἐστὶν ἐϋστεφάνου Κυθερείης.
ἐξ ὕπνου τ’ ἀνέγειρεν, ἔπος τ’ ἔφατ’ ἔκ τ’ ὀνόμαζεν·
῎Ορσεο Δαρδανίδη· τί νυ νήγρετον ὕπνον ἰαύεις;

Aeneas Bearing Anchises from Troy, by Carle van Loo, 1729 (Louvre).

The Death of Phaethon: An Aetiology for an Eclipse

Ovid, Metamorphoses 2.381-93

“All along, Phaethon’s father, filthy and bereft
Of his own light, the way he is when the sun is eclipsed,
He hates the light and himself and the day
And he dedicates his soul to sorrow and adds rage
To his mourning as he refuses his duty to the world.

‘I’m done. From the beginning my lot has been restless.
My job without end, without honor for my work, has embittered me.
Let some other, anyone, drive the chariot carrying the light.
If there is no one and all the gods claim they cannot do it,
Let the father himself drive it so that, at some point, as he controls the reins,
And he puts down the bolts that make fathers barren,
Then he will understand, once he knows the strength of the fire-footed stallions,
That he did not earn death just because he did not rule them well.’ ”

Squalidus interea genitor Phaethontis et expers
ipse sui decoris, qualis, cum deficit orbem,
esse solet, lucemque odit seque ipse diemque
datque animum in luctus et luctibus adicit iram
officiumque negat mundo. “satis” inquit “ab aevi
sors mea principiis fuit inrequieta, pigetque
actorum sine fine mihi, sine honore laborum!
quilibet alter agat portantes lumina currus!
si nemo est omnesque dei non posse fatentur,
ipse agat ut saltem, dum nostras temptat habenas,
orbatura patres aliquando fulmina ponat!
tum sciet ignipedum vires expertus equorum
non meruisse necem, qui non bene rexerit illos.”

 

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What’s Special about the Number Seven?

Theodoros of Samothrace, fr. 1 (FGrH 62; Photius, Bibl. 190, 152b26)

“In the seventh book [Ptolemy Chennos reports that] Theodôros of Samothrace says that after Zeus was born he laughed without stopping for seven days. This is why the number seven is thought to be “final” [or whole, complete”]

ἐν δὲ τῶι ζ̄ περιέχεται ὡς Θεόδωρος ὁ Σαμοθρὰιξ τὸν Δία φησὶ γεννηθέντα ἐπὶ ἑπτὰ ἡμέρας ἀκατάπαυστον γελάσαι· καὶ διὰ τοῦτο τέλειος ἐνομίσθη ὁ ἑπτὰ ἀριθμός.

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Alexander of Aphrodisias, Probl. 2.47:

“The number seven, as Pythagoras insists, is complete in nature. The mathematicians and musicians agree too. But eight is incomplete.”

ὁ ἑπτὰ ἀριθμὸς τέλειός ἐστι τῇ φύσει, ὡς μαρτυρεῖ Πυθαγόρας καὶ οἱ ἀριθμητικοὶ καὶ οἱ μουσικοί• ὁ δὲ ὀκτὼ ἀτελής

 

These references come from Ken Dowden’s entry in Brill’s New Jacoby (62 F1). The following does not:

Where Did the Lacus Curtius Come From? Varro, On the Latin Language, 148

“In the forum one finds the Lacus Curtius (“Pool of Curtius”), which opinion holds was named for Curtius. But the story about why has three forms: Procilus does not report the same thing which Piso does and Cornelius doesn’t follow it either. Proclius reports that in this place the earth opened wide and this fact was referred by senatorial decree to the haruspices: they responded that the gods of the dead asked for completion of a vow that had been forgotten: a promise to send down the bravest citizen. At that time, a certain Curtius, a brave man, armed, climbed atop his horse, and, after he turned from the temple of Concord, threw himself into the hole with his horse. When that deed was done, the place close and entombed his body divinely: it created a monument to his family.

In his Annales, Piso writes that during the Sabine war that occurred between Romulus and Tatius, a most stout Sabine named Mettius Curtius, at the moment when Romuus brought his men on a charge from higher ground, escaped into a marshy spot which was then what the Forum was because the sewers were built and then retreated to his own men on the Capitoline. Well, Piso records this is how the place got its name.

Cornelius and Lutatius write instead that the place was struck by lightning and as a result was fenced in by a senatorial decree. This was done under the leadership of a Consul named Curtius who was a colleague of Marcus Genucius. For this reason, it was named Lacus Curtius.”

 

Cornelius et Lutatius scribunt eum locum esse fulguritum et ex S. C. septum esse: id quod factum esset a Curtio consule, cui M. Genucius fuit collega, Curtium appellatum.

In Foro Lacum Curtium a Curtio dictum constat, et de eo triceps historia: nam et Procilius non idem prodidit quod Piso, nec quod is Cornelius secutus. A Procilio relatum in eo loco dehisse terram et id ex S.C. ad haruspices relatum esse; responsum deum Manium postilionem postulare, id est civem fortissimum eo demitti. Tum quendam Curtium virum fortem armatum ascendisse in equum et a Concordia versum cum eo praecipitatum; eo facto locum coisse atque eius corpus divinitus humasse ac reliquisse genti suae monumentum.

Piso in Annalibus scribit Sabino bello, quod fuit Romulo et Tatio, virum fortissimum Mettium Curtium Sabinum, cum Romulus cum suis ex superiore parte impressionem fecisset, in locum palustrem, qui tum fuit in Foro antequam cloacae sunt factae, secessisse atque ad suos in Capitolium recepisse; ab eo lacum Curtium invenisse nomen.

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