Drinking Beer from the Skulls of the Dead

Aeschylus fr. 124 from Lykourgos (from Athenaeus 10.447c)

“He used to drink beer from these [heads] once he dried them
And then boast proudly about it in his man-cave.”

κἀκ τῶνδ᾿ ἔπινε βρῦτον ἰσχναίνων χρόνῳ
κἀσεμνοκόμπει τοῦτ᾿ ἐν ἀνδρείᾳ στέγῃ

The note from the Loeb attributes an understanding of this fragment to Hermann who compares it to Nonnos, Dionysiaca, 20.149–153, 166–181

Nonnos, Dion. 20.149-153

“The was a certain murderous man living there, of Ares’s line
Who was a mimic of his father’s wretched customs.
The criminal would drag faultless strangers to their doom,
That dread maniac Lykourgos, and then when he cut off
Their mortal heads with steel he hung them in his doorway…”

ἔνθα τις, ῎Αρεος αἷμα, μιαιφόνος ᾤκεεν ἀνήρ,
ἤθεσι ῥιγεδανοῖσιν ἔχων μίμημα τοκῆος,
ὀθνείους ἀθέμιστος ἀμεμφέας εἰς μόρον ἕλκων,
αἰνομανὴς Λυκόοργος· ἀποκταμένων δὲ σιδήρῳ
ἔστεφεν ἀνδρομέοισιν ἑὸν πυλεῶνα καρήνοις

The Hands of the Child-Killing Man

Iliad 24.503-6

“Achilles, respect the gods and take pity,
Once you think of your own father. I am even more pitiable,
Since I endure what no other mortal person ever has,
To reach my hands to the lips of the man who slaughtered my child.”

ἀλλ’ αἰδεῖο θεοὺς ᾿Αχιλεῦ, αὐτόν τ’ ἐλέησον
μνησάμενος σοῦ πατρός· ἐγὼ δ’ ἐλεεινότερός περ,
ἔτλην δ’ οἷ’ οὔ πώ τις ἐπιχθόνιος βροτὸς ἄλλος,
ἀνδρὸς παιδοφόνοιο ποτὶ στόμα χεῖρ’ ὀρέγεσθαι.

CHildkilling

Image result for Achilles and priam greek vase

A Curse from Teos: Woe for the Drug-Makers!

SGDI 15632 (Teos, c. 475 BCE; from Buck, Greek Dialects: Ionic Inscriptions, 3)

“Who ever should make deadly drugs for the Teian community or for an individual, destroy him and his family. Whoever stops the importation of grain into the Teian land or repels it as it is being imported either with skill or device and on sea or on land, destroy him and his family.”

Tean

Aristotle (On Plants) and Galen (varia) define deleterious medicines (δηλητήρια φάρμακα) as those that are fatal to human beings, such as poisonous venom or substances coming from hemlock (or concentrations of opium, henbane etc.). Of course, such things are weaponized fairly early in human history as this threatening inscription above from Teos illustrates.

Scholia bT ad Il. 1.594

“[The Sintian men}: Philokhoros says that because they were Pelasgians they were called this because after they sailed to Brauron they kidnapped the women who were carrying baskets. For they call “harming” [to blaptein] sinesthai.

But Eratosthenes says that they have this name because they are wizards who discovered deadly drugs. Porphyry says that they were the first people to make weapons, the things which bring harm to men. Or, because they were the first to discover piracy.”

Σίντιες ἄνδρες] Φιλόχορός φησι Πελασγοὺς αὐτοὺς ὄντας οὕτω προσαγορευθῆναι, ἐπεὶ πλεύσαντες εἰς Βραυρῶνα κανηφόρους παρθένους ἥρπασαν· σίνεσθαι δὲ τὸ βλάπτειν λέγουσιν. ᾽Ερατοσθένης δέ, ἐπεὶ γόητες ὄντες εὗρον δηλητήρια φάρμακα. ὁ δὲ Πορφύριος, ἐπεὶ πρῶτοι τὰ πολεμιστήρια ἐδημιούργησαν ὅπλα, ἃ πρὸς βλάβην ἀνθρώπων συντελεῖ· ἢ ἐπεὶ πρῶτοι ληιστήρια ἐξεῦρον.

Herodian, 3. 5

“He also gave them some deadly drugs to give to him in secret if they were able to persuade some of the cooks or waiters, even though [Albinus’] friends were suspicious and advising him to safeguard himself against a deceptively clever adversary.”

ἔδωκε δὲ αὐτοῖς καὶ δηλητήρια φάρμακα, ὅπως τινὰς πείσαιεν, εἰ δυνηθεῖεν, ἢ τῶν ὀψοποιῶν ἢ τῶν πρὸς ταῖς κύλιξι, λαθεῖν καὶ ἐπιδοῦναι αὐτῷ <καίτοι> ὑποπτευόντων τῶν περὶ αὐτὸν φίλων καὶ4 συμβουλευόντων αὐτῷ φυλάττεσθαι ἄνδρα 6ἀπατεῶνα σοφόν τε πρὸς ἐπιβουλήν·

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A coin from Teos

Preferring Death to Fear on the Ideas of March

Velleius Paterculus, History of Rome 2.57

“The advice of Pansa and Hirtius should be praised based on what happened. They always admonished Caesar that he should hold by means of weapons what he earned with weapons. But as he was always saying that he would prefer to die instead of feeling fear–because he was expecting the clemency which he had doled out–he was caught by surprise by people who did not feel such gratitude, despite the fact that the gods provided him with many signs and indications of future danger.

For the soothsayers gave him advanced warning that he should be especially careful of the Ids of March; his wife Calpurnia was terrified by a dream and was begging him to stay home; and there were also notes given to him informing of the conspiracy, which he did not take the time to read. But the power of fate is ultimately inescapable; it corrupts the plans of any one who decides to change their fortune.”

1LVII. Laudandum experientia consilium est Pansae atque Hirtii, qui semper praedixerant Caesari ut principatum armis quaesitum armis teneret. Ille dictitans mori se quam timere malle dum clementiam, quam praestiterat, expectat, incautus ab ingratis occupatus est, cum quidem plurima ei praesagia atque indicia dii immortales futuri obtulissent periculi. Nam et haruspices praemonuerant, ut diligentissime iduum Martiarum caveret diem, et uxor Calpurnia territa nocturno visu, ut ea die domi subsisteret, orabat, et libelli coniurationem nuntiantes dati neque protinus ab eo lecti erant. Sed profecto ineluctabilis fatorum vis, cuiuscumque fortunam mutare constituit, consilia corrumpit.

 

Suetonius, Divus Julius, 81-82

“For these reasons and because of his own health, Caesar dithered for a while on whether he should stay home and postpone what he had proposed to do in the senate; but then, because he was encouraged by Decimus Brutus that he should not fail to appear at a meeting which was full and already long-awaiting his arrival, he left home at nearly the fifth hour.

When a little message describing the conspiracy was handed to him along the way by some person, he added it to the other texts which he was holding with his left hand as if he were about to read them soon. Then, once many sacrifices had been made and he was not able to get a good reading, he went into the Senate house dismissing the signs and laughing at Spurinna, claiming he was a liar because the Ides of March had come upon him with no injury at all—even though he said that they certainly had come, but they had not yet passed.

As he was sitting down, the conspirators stood in a circle about her as a mark of her office. Then Tillius Cimber who had taken on the first part for himself, came closer as if he was going to ask something. When Caesar was trying to put him off with a gesture for another time, Cimber grabbed his toga by both shoulders. As one of the Cascas stabbed him from one side below the throat, he was shouting, “this is force!” Caesar grabbed Cascas’ arm and punctured it with his stylus, but when he tried to leap up, he was slowed by another wound. When he noticed that he was sought on all sides by drawn daggers, he drew his toga down from his head and pulled it down with its fold to his legs with his left hand so he might fall more decently once the lower half of his body was covered. In this way, he was stabbed 23 times even though he uttered no word but only a groan after the first strike. Some have recorded that when he saw Marcus Brutus rushing at him he said in Greek kai su teknon?”

Ob haec simul et ob infirmam valitudinem diu cunctatus an se contineret et quae apud senatum proposuerat agere differret, tandem Decimo Bruto adhortante, ne frequentis ac iam dudum opperientis destitueret, quinta fere hora progressus est libellumque insidiarum indicem ab obvio quodam porrectum libellis ceteris, quos sinistra manu tenebat, quasi mox lecturus commiscuit. Dein pluribus hostiis caesis, cum litare non posset, introiit curiam spreta religione Spurinnamque irridens et ut falsum arguens, quod sine ulla sua noxa Idus Martiae adessent; quanquam is venisse quidem eas diceret, sed non praeterisse.

LXXXII. Assidentem conspirati specie officii circumsteterunt, ilicoque Cimber Tillius, qui primas partes susceperat, quasi aliquid rogaturus propius accessit renuentique et gestu in aliud tempus differenti ab utroque umero togam adprehendit; deinde clamantem: “Ista quidem vis est!” alter Cascis aversumvulnerat paulum infra iugulum. Caesar Cascae brachium arreptum graphio traiecit conatusque prosilire alio vulnere tardatus est; utque animad­vertit undique se strictis pugionibus peti, toga caput obvolvit, simul sinistra manu sinum ad ima crura deduxit, quo honestius caderet etiam inferiore corporis parte velata. Atque ita tribus et viginti plagis confossus est uno modo ad primum ictum gemitu sine voce edito, etsi tradiderunt quidam Marco Bruto irruenti dixisse: καὶ σὺ τέκνον;

Image result for medieval manuscript ides of march

Avenging Vengeance: Murder, Exile, and ‘Justice’

When Telemachus slips their ambush, the suitors hold an assembly and reflect on the political consequences.

Homer, Odyssey 16.372–382

“…For I do not think
that our acts will come to good while [Telemachus] is alive.
For he is smart in plans and thought on his own,
and the people are no longer completely showing us favor.
Come, before he gathers the Achaians in assembly.
For I do not think that he will delay at all,
but he will be angry and he will rise and speak among everyone
because we were weaving sheer murder for him and we did not catch him.
They will not praise it when they hear these evil deeds,
but they will accomplish something terrible
and drive us from our land, and we will go to another’s country.

“…οὐ γὰρ ὀΐω
τούτου γε ζώοντος ἀνύσσεσθαι τάδε ἔργα.
αὐτὸς μὲν γὰρ ἐπιστήμων βουλῇ τε νόῳ τε,
λαοὶ δ’ οὐκέτι πάμπαν ἐφ’ ἡμῖν ἦρα φέρουσιν.
ἀλλ’ ἄγετε, πρὶν κεῖνον ὁμηγυρίσασθαι ᾿Αχαιοὺς
εἰς ἀγορήν· —οὐ γάρ τι μεθησέμεναί μιν ὀΐω,
ἀλλ’ ἀπομηνίσει, ἐρέει δ’ ἐν πᾶσιν ἀναστάς,
οὕνεκά οἱ φόνον αἰπὺν ἐράπτομεν οὐδ’ ἐκίχημεν·
οἱ δ’ οὐκ αἰνήσουσιν ἀκούοντες κακὰ ἔργα·
μή τι κακὸν ῥέξωσι καὶ ἥμεας ἐξελάσωσι
γαίης ἡμετέρης, ἄλλων δ’ ἀφικώμεθα δῆμον.”

After slaughtering the suitors, Odysseus tells Telemachus to think about what happens when someone murders someone else.

Odyssey 23.118–122:

“For whoever has killed only one man in his country,
one who does not leave many behind to avenge him,
flees, leaving his relatives and his paternal land.
And we have killed the bulwark of the city, the best by far
of the young men in Ithaca. I order you to think about these things.”

καὶ γάρ τίς θ’ ἕνα φῶτα κατακτείνας ἐνὶ δήμῳ,
ᾧ μὴ πολλοὶ ἔωσιν ἀοσσητῆρες ὀπίσσω,
φεύγει πηούς τε προλιπὼν καὶ πατρίδα γαῖαν·
ἡμεῖς δ’ ἕρμα πόληος ἀπέκταμεν, οἳ μέγ’ ἄριστοι
κούρων εἰν ᾿Ιθάκῃ· τὰ δέ σε φράζεσθαι ἄνωγα.”

Peter Ahrensdorf emphasizes that in times of civil war “human hopes, especially for immortality, tend to overwhelm human fears, even of violent death”  (2000, 579). It changes the threshold of expectation the way that epic tales of vengeance set a horizon of expectation for proper behavior and outcomes in narratives (587). In contemplating the Thucydidean claim that men “preferred to suffer injustice and then take revenge than not suffer injustice at all. They believed it was better to be wronged and to avenge that wrong than never to wrong at all”, he explains that “ the passion for vengeance is, from the viewpoint of one who seeks vengeance, a passion for justice, since it necessarily entails seeking to punish what is thought to be previous injustice.”

Peter. J. Ahrensdorf. “The Fear of Death and the Longing for Immortality: Hobbes and Thucydides on Human Nature and the Problem of Anarchy.” The American Political Science Review 94 (2000) 579-593.

Image result for Ancient greek vase odysseus suitors

Odyssey 22.11-14

“Murder wasn’t on his mind at all.
Who would think that one man alone among many dinner guests
Even a really strong one, could contrive a wicked death
And dark fate?”

… φόνος δέ οἱ οὐκ ἐνὶ θυμῷ
μέμβλετο. τίς κ’ οἴοιτο μετ’ ἀνδράσι δαιτυμόνεσσι
μοῦνον ἐνὶ πλεόνεσσι, καὶ εἰ μάλα καρτερὸς εἴη,
οἷ τεύξειν θάνατόν τε κακὸν καὶ κῆρα μέλαιναν;

Homer, Odyssey 22. 11-14

[Today the Almeida Theater in the UK is presenting a live reading of the Odyssey. Duly inspired, we are re-posting some of our favorite Odyssey themed posts]

“Murder wasn’t on his mind at all.
Who would think that one man alone among many dinner guests
Even a really strong one, could contrive a wicked death
And dark fate?”

 

… φόνος δέ οἱ οὐκ ἐνὶ θυμῷ

μέμβλετο. τίς κ’ οἴοιτο μετ’ ἀνδράσι δαιτυμόνεσσι

μοῦνον ἐνὶ πλεόνεσσι, καὶ εἰ μάλα καρτερὸς εἴη,

οἷ τεύξειν θάνατόν τε κακὸν καὶ κῆρα μέλαιναν;

Homer, Iliad 9.632-3

“There are some who accept payment for the murder of a relative or even a child struck-dead.”

 

… καὶ μέν τίς τε κασιγνήτοιο φονῆος

ποινὴν ἢ οὗ παιδὸς ἐδέξατο τεθνηῶτος·

 

Out of context, one can imagine that Ajax’ speech to Achilles falls on deaf ears…but does it?

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