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.

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

Fish-Snacks, Burning-Stones and Deadly Fruit: Another Wondrous Wednesday

Here is the second half of the Paradoxographus Palatinus: Admiranda. This collection is extremely difficult to date and may hail from Byzantine Greece. As with some of the other paradoxographoi these are new translations, so corrections or questions are welcome.

11 “Artemidoros says that among the Liparitanoi fish are found by digging and that the people there use the dug fish unsparingly for snacking.”

᾿Αρτεμίδωρός φησιν ἐν Λιπαριτανοῖς ἰχθύας ὀρυκτοὺς εὑρίσκεσθαι, καὶ τῷ ὀρυκτῷ ἰχθύι ἀφθόνως τοὺς ἐκεῖ ὡς ἐπὶ τραγήματα χρῆσθαι.

12 “Andronikos says that in Hispania in some place pebbles are found strewn about with many angles, grown on their own—some are white and others are wax-colored; they give birth to pebbles like them.

I also used to have one of these for testing which was produced at my home which showed that the story was not a lie. He also says that there is a certain spring in Hispania which has water which is sweet and potable. If someone puts his hands in the water and holds them their for a short time he will find white salt embedded around his hands.”

᾿Ανδρόνικός φησιν ἐν ᾿Ισπανίᾳ ἔν τινι τόπῳ λιθάρια εὑρίσκεσθαι περιερριμμένα πολύγωνα αὐτοφυῆ, ἃ μὲν λευκά, ἃ δὲ κηροειδῆ, ἃ καὶ κύει ὅμοια ἑαυτοῖς λιθάρια· τούτων δὴ καὶ ἐγὼ ἒν πείρας ἕνεκα ἔσχον, ὃ δὴ ἔτεκε παρ’ ἐμοί, ὥστε τὸ ῥῆμα μὴ εἶναι ψεῦδος. εἶναι δὲ καὶ πηγήν τινα ἐν ῾Ισπανίᾳ, ἣν γλυκὺ ἔχειν ὕδωρ καὶ πότιμον· εἰ δέ τις ἐμβάλοι εἰς τὸ ὕδωρ τὰς χεῖρας καὶ μικρὸν χρόνον ἐάσειε, ἅλας εὑρίσκειν λευκὸν περιπεπηγὸς ταῖς χερσί.

13 “Timaios says that the Krathis river in Italy lightens the hair of those who bathe in it.”

Τίμαιός φησι τὸν κατὰ τὴν ᾿Ιταλίαν ποταμὸν τὸν Κρᾶθιν τῶν ἐν αὐτῷ λουομένων ξανθίζειν τὰς τρίχας.

14 “In Selasphoros an herb is found which when people use it in the spring there they rid themselves of yellow bile, but in the spring black bile, and phlegm if they use it in the winter. It leads out the portion of those which is unmixed of every other. [?]”

᾿Εν Σελασφόρῳ βοτάνη εὑρίσκεται, ᾗ χρώμενοι οἱ ἐκεῖ ἔαρος μὲν κένωσιν ξανθῆς χολῆς ποιοῦνται, φθινοπώρου δὲ μελαίνης χολῆς, ἐν δὲ χειμῶνι φλέγματος· ἐξάγει δὲ τὸ καθὲν τούτων ἀμιγὲς παντὸς ἑτέρου.

15 “Kallimachus says that in Thrace there are two rivers named Keron and Neleus. He adds that flocks who are there for grazing turn white from the Neleus, but those who take from both waters become multi-colored.”

Καλλίμαχός φησιν ἐν Θρᾴκῃ δύο ποταμοὺς εἶναι Κέρωνα καὶ Νηλέα ὀνομαζομένους· τῶν δὲ προβάτων περὶ τὸ συλλαμβάνειν ὄντων τὰ μὲν ἀπὸ τοῦ Νηλέως λευκούς, τὰ δὲ ἀπ’ ἀμφοτέρων τῶν ὑδάτων ποικίλους.

16 “Polykleitos says that there is a river Liparis among the Soloi which oils up those who bathe in it so that they don’t need anointing.”

Πολύκλειτός φησιν ἐν Σόλοις ποταμὸν Λίπαριν εἶναι, ὃν δὴ λιπαίνειν τοὺς λουομένους, ὥστε χρίσματος μὴ δεῖσθαι.

17 “The same author claims that the river Mouabis in Pamphylia turns a bush that dips into it to stone.”

῾Ο αὐτός φησι τὸν ἐν Παμφυλίᾳ ποταμὸν Μούαβιν ἀπολιθοῦν τὴν ἐμβληθεῖσαν στοιβήν.

18 “Athenaios says that there is a tree among the Persians which bears some kind of deadly fruit, which the Persians, when Kambyses led his army against Egypt, took to Egypt and planted in many places so that the Egyptians died when they encountered the fruit. The tree transforms the earth to endure the fruit unharmed and they call it Persaia because it was planted by the Persians”

᾿Αθήναιός φησιν ἐν Πέρσαις εἶναι δένδρον τι θανάσιμον τὸν καρπὸν φέρον, ὃ τοὺς πέρσας, ὅτε Καμβύσης ἐπ’ Αἴγυπτον ἐστράτευσε, κομίσαι εἰς Αἴγυπτον καὶ ἐν πολλοῖς φυτεῦσαι τόποις, ὅπως οἱ Αἰγύπτιοι τὸν καρπὸν προσφερόμενοι διαφθαρῶσι· τὸ δὲ δένδρον μεταβαλὸν τὴν γῆν ἀπαθῆ τὸν καρπὸν ἐξενεγκεῖν, καὶ περσαίαν τ’ ὀνομάζεσθαι διὰ τὸ ὑπὸ Περσῶν φυτευθῆναι.

19 “Theopompos says that in the land of the Agrioi of Thrace there is a river called Pontos which carries burning stones. When these are lit they do not burn as they are turned under the rapids but when they appear from under the water they reignite. Nothing that moves can endure the smell of these stones.”

Θεόπομπός φησιν ἐν τῇ τῶν ᾿Αγριέων Θρᾳκῶν χώρᾳ ποταμὸν εἶναι ὀνομαζόμενον Πόντον, ὃν καταφέρειν λίθους ἀνθρακώδεις· τούτους δὲ ἀναφθέντας ὑπὸ μὲν τῶν ῥιπιδίων ῥιπιζομένους <οὐ> καίεσθαι, ὑπὸ δὲ ὕδατος ῥαινομένους ἀνα-λάμπειν. οὐδὲν δὲ ἑρπετὸν τὴν ὀσμὴν αὐτῶν ὑπομένειν.

20 “Antigonos says [of sheep intestines] that those of rams are voiceless, but those from females can sing. This fact has not escaped the poet, for he says “He stretching the seven strings from female sheep.”

Επὶ τῶν <ἐντέρων τῶν> προβάτων φησὶν ᾿Αντίγονος τὰ μὲν τῶν κριῶν ἄφωνα εἶναι, τὰ δὲ τῶν θηλέων ἔμφωνα· οὐ λεληθέναι δὲ τοῦτο τὸν ποιητήν. φησὶ γάρ·
ἑπτὰ δὲ θηλυτέρων οἴων ἐτανύσσατο χορδάς.

This last line is a variant for the Homeric Hymn to Hermes 51

“He stretched out seven symphonious sheep-gut strings”
ἑπτὰ δὲ συμφώνους ὀΐων ἐτανύσσατο χορδάς.

21 “Katôn says that Ktisis, there are white birds in the Alpeioi, mice 12-liters in size, boars with single-lips, hairy dogs, and hornless bulls.”

Κάτων φησίν, ἐν ταῖς Κτίσεσιν, ἐπὶ τῶν ῎Αλπεων λευκοὺς μὲν λαγωοὺς γίνεσθαι, μῦς δ’ ἐνδεκαλίτρους, ὗς δὲ μονοχήλους καὶ κύνας δασεῖς καὶ βόας ἀκεράτους.

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Koninklijke Bibliotheek, KB, KA 16, Folio 45v (From the Medieval Bestiary)

Fantastic Friday: Diets of Salt and A Tortoise without a Heart

Apollonios the Paradoxographer is credited with a text of 51 anecdotes usually dated to the 3rd or 2nd century BCE. Some of these translations are pretty rough. Here I am pretty uncertain about number 22

Apollonius, Historiae Mirabiles 21-27

21 “Of those observed animals there is the fact that cloven-hoofed creatures alone of the animals have backward-facing ankles. In his Natural Problems, Aristotle explains that the reason for this is in the hind-legs and not the front legs. For nature has made nothing in vain.”

21 Τῶν παρατετηρημένων δ’ ἐστὶ τὸ τὰ δίχηλα μόνα τῶν ζῴων εἰς τοὺς ὀπισθίους πόδας ἀστραγάλους ἔχειν. ἀποδέδωκεν τὴν αἰτίαν ᾿Αριστοτέλης ἐν τοῖς φυσικοῖς προβλήμασιν, διὰ τί ἐν τοῖς ὀπισθίοις καὶ οὐκ ἐμπροσθίοις· οὐδὲν γὰρ μάτην ἡ φύσις ἐποίησεν.

22 “It has also been observed in life that none of the horn-bearing animals make noises. Aristotle gives the explanation for this in his Problems.”

22 Συνῶπται δ’ ἐν τῷ βίῳ καὶ τὸ μηδὲν τῶν κερασφόρων ζῴων ἀποψοφεῖν· ἀποδέδωκεν δὲ καὶ τούτων τὴν αἰτίαν ᾿Αριστοτέλης ἐν τοῖς προβλήμασιν.

23“It is especially wondrous how the sun shines upon us—that it is not holy fire, and the adamant does not warm when it is inflamed; and also marvelous is the fact that the magnet stone attracts when it is day and at night it attracts less or not completely” [?]

23 Θαυμαστὸν δὲ καὶ τὸν ἥλιον ἐπικαίειν ἡμᾶς, τὸ δὲ πῦρ μηδ’ ὅλως, καὶ τὸ τὸν ἀδάμαντα μὴ θερμαίνεσθαι πυρούμενον, καὶ μάγνητα λίθον ἡμέρας μὲν οὔσης ἕλκειν, νυκτὸς δὲ ἧττον ἢ οὐδὲ ὅλως ἕλκειν.

24“Eudoxos the Rhodian says that there is a certain tribe near Keltikê which does not see the day but does see the night”

24 Εὔδοξος ὁ ῾Ρόδιος περὶ τὴν Κελτικὴν εἶναί τι ἔθνος φησίν, ὃ τὴν ἡμέραν οὐ βλέπειν, τὴν δὲ νύκτα ὁρᾶν.

25 “Aristotle says in his work On Drunkenness that Andrôn the Argive ate many salty things through his entire life and died without thirst and without drinking. While he was going to Ammon for a second time on a road without water and dining on dry grain, he brought no liquid. He did this for his entire life.”

25᾿Αριστοτέλης ἐν τῷ περὶ μέθης· ῎Ανδρων, φησίν, ᾿Αργεῖος ἐσθίων πολλὰ καὶ ἁλμυρὰ καὶ ξηρὰ δι’ ὅλου τοῦ βίου ἄδιψος καὶ ἄποτος διετέλεσεν.  ἔτι δὶς πορευθεὶς εἰς ῎Αμμωνα διὰ τῆς ἀνύδρου [ὁδοῦ] ἄλφιτα ξηρὰ σιτούμενος οὐ προσηνέγκατο ὑγρόν. τοῦτο δὲ ἐποίησεν δι’ ὅλου τοῦ βίου.

26 “In his work On Life and Death, Aristotle says that a tortoise lives when deprived of a heart.  But he nevertheless does not specify what kind of tortoise, whether it is a land animal or one who lives in the sea.”

26 ᾿Αριστοτέλης δ’ ἐν τῷ περὶ [τῆς] ζωῆς καὶ θανάτου φησὶν τὴν χελώνην στερισκομένην τῆς καρδίας ζῆν· οὐκ ἔτι δὲ διώρισεν ποίαν αὐτῶν, ἢ τὴν χερσαίαν ἢ τὴν ἔνυδρον.

27 “Aristotle, in his works on Animal Matters—for he has two publications, one On Animals and another, On Animal Matters—says that lice do not die on heads because of disease in long lives, but when they are about to die while they are suffering, they are find their way to the base of the head and leave it.”

27 ᾿Αριστοτέλης ἐν τοῖς ζωϊκοῖς—δύο γάρ εἰσιν αὐτῷ πραγματεῖαι, ἡ μὲν περὶ ζῴων, ἡ δὲ περὶ τῶν ζωϊκῶν—· οἱ φθεῖρες, φησίν, ἐν τῇ κεφαλῇ ἐν ταῖς μακραῖς οὐ φθίνουσιν νόσοις, μελλόντων τελευτᾶν τῶν πασχόντων, ἀλλ’ ἐπὶ τὰ προσκεφάλαια εὑρίσκονται προλελοιπότες τὴν κεφαλήν.

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Compendium Salernitanum, M.873 fol. 87v, from the Morgan Library and Museum

Music Heals the Suffering of the Soul

Apollonius Paradoxographus, Historiae Mirabiles 49

“These things are worth knowing. Theophrastos has explained them in is work On Enthusiasm. For he says that music heals when suffering afflicts the soul and the body such as desperation, phobias, and the madnesses of belief which are more serious. For instrumental flute music, he continues, heals both hip pain and epilepsy.

Similarly is the power attributed to Aristoxenos the musician when he came—for he was getting a prophecy from the prophet of his sister Pasiphilê—for resuscitated a person in Thebes who was bewitched by the sound of a trumpet. For when he heard it he yelled out so much that he behaved indecently. If someone at any point even in war should blow the trumpet, then he should suffer much worse in his madness. So, he exposed him bit by bit to the flute—and, as one might say, he used this as an introduction for him to endure the trumpet as well.

The flute heals even if some part of the body is in pain. When the body is subject to flute music, let the instrumental music persist for five days at least. The toil will be surprisingly less on the first day and the second. This application of the flute treatment is common even elsewhere, but especially so in Thebes up to this day.”

49 ῎Αξια δ’ ἐστὶν ἐπιστάσεως [τὰ εἰρημένα.] <ἃ> Θεόφραστος ἐν τῷ περὶ ἐνθουσιασμοῦ ἐξεῖπεν. φησὶ γὰρ ἐκεῖνος τὴν μουσικὴν πολλὰ τῶν ἐπὶ ψυχὴν καὶ τὸ σῶμα γιγνομένων παθῶν ἰατρεύειν, καθάπερ λιποθυμίαν, φόβους καὶ τὰἐπὶ μακρὸν γιγνομένας τῆς διανοίας ἐκστάσεις. ἰᾶται γάρ, φησίν, ἡ καταύλησις καὶ ἰσχιάδα καὶ ἐπιληψίαν·

καθάπερ πρὸς ᾿Αριστόξενον τὸν μουσικὸν ἐλθόντα—χρήσασθαι αὐτὸν† τοῦ μαντίου τοῦ τῆς Πασιφίλης δαμωτι ἀδελφῆς † —λέγεται [τὸν μουσικὸν] καταστῆναί τινα ἐξιστάμενον ἐν Θήβαις ὑπὸ τὴν τῆς σάλπιγγος φωνήν· ἐπὶ τοσοῦτον γὰρ ἐβόησεν ἀκούων, ὥστε ἀσχημονεῖν· εἰ δέ ποτε καὶ πολεμικὸν σαλπίσειέ τις, πολὺ χεῖρον πάσχειν μαινόμενον. τοῦτον οὖν κατὰ μικρὸν  τῷ αὐλῷ προσάγειν, καὶ ὡς ἄν τις εἴποι ἐκ προσαγωγῆς ἐποίησεν καὶ τὴν σάλπιγγος φωνὴν ὑπομένειν.

θεραπεύει δὲ ἡ καταύλησις καὶ ἐάν τι μέρος τοῦ σώματος ἐν ἀλγήματι ὑπάρχῃ· καταυλουμένου τοῦ σώματος καταύλησις γιγνέσθω ἡμέρας ε′ ὡς ἐλάχιστα, καὶ εὐθέως τῇ πρώτῃ ἡμέρᾳ ἐλάττων ὁ πόνος γενήσεται καὶ τῇ δευτέρᾳ. τὸ δὲ γιγνόμενον διὰ τῆς καταυλήσεως ἐπιχωριάζει καὶ ἀλλαχῇ, μάλιστα δὲ ἐνΘήβαις μέχρι τῶν νῦν χρόνων.

There are similar accounts from Pythagorean Traditions

Porphyry, On the Life of Pythagoras

30. “[Pythagoras] healed psychic and bodily sufferings with rhythm, songs, and incantations. He adapted these treatments to his companions, while he himself heard the harmony of everything because he could understand the unity of the spheres and the harmonies of the stars moving with them. It is not our nature to hear this in the least.”

30. κατεκήλει δὲ ῥυθμοῖς καὶ μέλεσι καὶ ἐπῳδαῖς τὰ ψυχικὰ πάθη καὶ τὰ σωματικά. καὶ τοῖς μὲν ἑταίροις ἡρμόζετο ταῦτα, αὐτὸς δὲ τῆς τοῦ παντὸς ἁρμονίας ἠκροᾶτο συνιεὶς τῆς καθολικῆς τῶν σφαιρῶν καὶ τῶν κατ’ αὐτὰς κινουμένων ἀστέρων ἁρμονίας, ἧς ἡμᾶς μὴ ἀκούειν διὰ σμικρότητα τῆς φύσεως.

32. “Diogenes says that Pythagoras encouraged all men to avoid ambition and lust for fame, because they especially inculcate envy, and also to stay away from large crowds. He used to convene gatherings at his house at dawn himself, accompanying his singing to the lyre and singing some ancient songs of Thales. And he also sang the songs of Hesiod and Homer, as many as appeared to calm his spirit. He would also dance some dances which he believed brought good mobility and health to the body. He used to take walks himself but not with a crowd, taking only two or three companions to shrines or groves, finding the most peaceful and beautiful places.”

32. Διογένης φησὶν ὡς ἅπασι μὲν παρηγγύα φιλοτιμίαν φεύγειν καὶ φιλοδοξίαν, ὥπερ μάλιστα φθόνον ἐργάζεσθαι, ἐκτρέπεσθαι δὲ τὰς μετὰ τῶν πολλῶν ὁμιλίας. τὰς γοῦν διατριβὰς καὶ αὐτὸς ἕωθεν μὲν ἐπὶ τῆς οἰκίας ἐποιεῖτο, ἁρμοζόμενος πρὸς λύραν τὴν ἑαυτοῦ φωνὴν καὶ ᾄδων παιᾶνας ἀρχαίους τινὰς τῶν Θάλητος. καὶ ἐπῇδε τῶν ῾Ομήρου καὶ ῾Ησιόδου ὅσα καθημεροῦν τὴν ψυχὴν ἐδόξαζε. καὶ ὀρχήσεις δέ τινας ὑπωρχεῖτο ὁπόσας εὐκινησίαν καὶ ὑγείαν τῷ σώματι παρασκευάζειν ᾤετο. τοὺς δὲ περιπάτους οὐδ’ αὐτὸς ἐπιφθόνως μετὰ πολλῶν ἐποιεῖτο, ἀλλὰ δεύτερος ἢ τρίτος ἐν ἱεροῖς ἢ ἄλσεσιν, ἐπιλεγόμενος τῶν χωρίων τὰ ἡσυχαίτατα καὶ περικαλλέστατα.

33. “He loved his friends overmuch and was the first to declare that friends possessions are common and that a friend is another self. When they were healthy, he always talked to them; when they were sick, he took care of their bodies. If they were mentally ill, he consoled them, as we said before, some with incantations and spells, others by music. He had songs and paeans for physical ailments: when he sang them, he relieved fatigue. He also could cause forgetfulness of grief, calming of anger, and redirection of desire.”

33.τοὺς δὲ φίλους ὑπερηγάπα, κοινὰ μὲν τὰ τῶν φίλων εἶναι πρῶτος ἀποφηνάμενος, τὸν δὲ φίλον ἄλλον ἑαυτόν. καὶ ὑγιαίνουσι μὲν αὐτοῖς ἀεὶ συνδιέτριβεν, κάμνοντας δὲ τὰ σώματα ἐθεράπευεν, καὶ τὰς ψυχὰς δὲ νοσοῦντας παρεμυθεῖτο, καθάπερ ἔφαμεν, τοὺς μὲν ἐπῳδαῖς καὶ μαγείαις τοὺς δὲ μουσικῇ. ἦν γὰρ αὐτῷ μέλη καὶ πρὸς νόσους σωμάτων παιώνια, ἃ ἐπᾴδων ἀνίστη τοὺς κάμνοντας. ἦν <δ’> ἃ καὶ λύπης λήθην εἰργάζετο καὶ ὀργὰς ἐπράυνε καὶ ἐπιθυμίας ἀτόπους ἐξῄρει.


Iamblichus, Life of Pythagoras 111–112

“Pythagoras believed that music produced great benefits for health, should someone apply it in the appropriate manner. For he was known to use this kind of cleansing and not carelessly. And he also called the healing from music that very thing, a purification. And he used a melody as follows during the spring season. He sat in the middle someone who could play the lyre and settled around him in a circle people who could sing. They would sing certain paeans as he played and through this they seemed to become happy, unified, and directed.

At another time they used music in the place of medicine, and there were certain songs composed against sufferings of the mind, especially despair and bitterness—songs which were created as the greatest aids. He also composed others against rage, desires, and every type of wandering of the soul. There was also another kind of performance he discovered for troubles: he also used dancing.

He used the lyre as an instrument since he considered flutes to induce arrogance as a dramatic sound which had no type of freeing resonance. He also used selected words from Homer and Hesiod for the correction of the soul.”

     ῾Υπελάμβανε δὲ καὶ τὴν μουσικὴν μεγάλα συμβάλλεσθαι πρὸς ὑγείαν, ἄν τις αὐτῇ χρῆται κατὰ τοὺς προσήκοντας τρόπους. εἰώθει γὰρ οὐ παρέργως τῇ τοιαύτῃ χρῆσθαι καθάρσει· τοῦτο γὰρ δὴ καὶ προσηγόρευε τὴν διὰ τῆς μουσικῆς ἰατρείαν. ἥπτετο δὲ περὶ τὴν ἐαρινὴν ὥραν τῆς  τοιαύτης μελῳδίας· ἐκάθιζε γὰρ ἐν μέσῳ τινὰ λύρας ἐφαπτόμενον, καὶ κύκλῳ ἐκαθέζοντο οἱ μελῳδεῖν δυνατοί, καὶ οὕτως ἐκείνου κρούοντος συνῇδον παιῶνάς τινας, δι’ ὧν εὐφραίνεσθαι καὶ ἐμμελεῖς καὶ ἔνρυθμοι γίνεσθαι ἐδόκουν. χρῆσθαι δ’ αὐτοὺς καὶ κατὰ τὸν ἄλλον χρόνον τῇ μουσικῇ ἐν ἰατρείας τάξει, καὶ εἶναί τινα μέλη πρὸς τὰ ψυχῆς πεποιημένα πάθη, πρός τε ἀθυμίας καὶ δηγμούς, ἃ δὴ βοηθητικώτατα ἐπινενόητο, καὶ πάλιν αὖ ἕτερα πρός τε τὰς ὀργὰς καὶ πρὸς τοὺς θυμοὺς καὶ πρὸς πᾶσαν παραλλαγὴν τῆς τοιαύτης ψυχῆς, εἶναι δὲ καὶ πρὸς τὰς ἐπιθυμίας ἄλλο γένος μελοποιίας ἐξευρημένον. χρῆσθαι δὲ καὶ ὀρχήσεσιν. ὀργάνῳ δὲ χρῆσθαι λύρᾳ· τοὺς γὰρ αὐλοὺς ὑπε-λάμβανεν ὑβριστικόν τε καὶ πανηγυρικὸν καὶ οὐδαμῶς ἐλευθέριον τὸν ἦχον ἔχειν. χρῆσθαι δὲ καὶ ῾Ομήρου καὶ ῾Ησιόδου λέξεσιν ἐξειλεγμέναις πρὸς ἐπανόρθωσιν ψυχῆς.

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Cat playing a bagpipe in a Book of Hours, Paris, c. 1460



Biting the Snake that Bites You: Pythagoras as Prophet

Apollonios Paradoxographer, Wonder 6

“Pythagoras the son of Mnêsarkhos was present among these men, and first he was toiling over learning and arithmetic and later he did not condemn the omen reading of Pherecydes.

For also in Metapontios when a ship was approaching carrying a cargo and there were people nearby praying for it to arrive safe because of its cargo, he stood and said this, “this ship will appear to you, like a corpse carrying a body”

And again in Kaulônia, as Aristotle says when he is writing about this, he says many other things, and in Turrênia, he says he bit the deadly snake who was biting him and killed him. He also foretold the strife that occurred among the Pythagoreans. For this reason he went to Metapontios and was seen by no one.

And after crossing the river near Kosa with others he heard a great voice beyond human ability: “Hello, Pythagoras.” And those present became very frightened. He also once appeared both in Kroton and Metapontios in the same day and hour.

While he was seated once in the theater, he stretched out and showed to those who were seated that his own thigh was gold. There are other impossible stories about him too. But we should stop the account about him because we don’t want to write only about him.”

6 Τούτοις δὲ ἐπιγενόμενος Πυθαγόρας, Μνησάρχου υἱός, τὸ μὲν πρῶτον διεπονεῖτο περὶ τὰ μαθήματα καὶ τοὺς ἀριθμούς, ὕστερον δέ ποτε καὶ τῆς Φερεκύδου τερατοποιίας οὐκ ἀπέστη.

 καὶ γὰρ ἐν Μεταποντίῳ πλοίου εἰσερχομένου φορτίον ἔχοντος καὶ τῶν παρατυχόντων εὐχομένων σωστὸν ἐκεῖνο κατελθεῖν διὰ τὸν φόρτον, ἑστῶτα τοῦτον εἰπεῖν «νεκρὸν τοίνυν φανήσεται ὑμῖν σῶμα ἄγον τὸ πλοῖον τοῦτο.»

πάλιν δ’ ἐν Καυλωνίᾳ, ὥς φησιν ᾿Αριστοτέλης <…..> γράφων περὶ αὐτοῦ πολλὰ μὲν καὶ ἄλλα λέγει, καὶ τὸν ἐν Τυρρηνίᾳ, φησίν, δάκνοντα θανάσιμον ὄφιν αὐτὸς δάκνων ἀπέκτεινεν. καὶ τὴν γινομένην δὲ στάσιν τοῖς Πυθαγορείοις προειπεῖν. διὸ καὶ εἰς Μεταπόντιον ἀπῇρεν ὑπὸ μηδενὸς θεωρηθείς.

καὶ ὑπὸ τοῦ κατὰ Κόσαν ποταμοῦ διαβαίνων σὺν ἄλλοις ἤκουσε φωνὴν μεγάλην ὑπὲρ ἄνθρωπον «Πυθαγόρα, χαῖρε.» τοὺς δὲ παρόντας περιδεεῖς γενέσθαι.  ἐφάνη δέ ποτε καὶ ἐν Κρότωνι καὶ ἐν Μεταποντίῳ τῇ αὐτῇ ἡμέρᾳ καὶ ὥρᾳ.

ἐν θεάτρῳ δὲ καθήμενός ποτε ἐξανίστατο, ὥς φησιν ᾿Αριστοτέλης, καὶ τὸν ἴδιον μηρὸν παρέφηνε τοῖς καθημένοις ὡς χρυσοῦν. λέγεται δὲ περὶ αὐτοῦ καὶ ἄλλα τινὰ παράδοξα. ἡμεῖς δὲ μὴ βουλόμενοι μεταγραφέων ἔργον ποιεῖν αὐτοῦ τὸν λόγον καταπαύσομεν.


Image result for ancient greek pythagoras and snake


A Terrible Post for Mother’s Day: Phlegon of Tralles on Multiple Births

Antiquity has bequeathed to us a collection of works on ‘wonders’: some are mere lists of amazing things; others are rationalizing explanations of myths (for which the Hellenistic Palaephaetus is most famous). Here is on list from the mysterious Phlegon of Tralles

Phlegon of Trailes, On Amazing Things:  Multiple Births 28-32 

“Antigonos also records that in Alexandria one woman gave birth to twenty children in four labors and that she raised most of them

Another woman in the same city produced five children in a single birth; three were male and two were female. The emperor Trajan ordered for them to be raised on his own funds.

Another woman gave birth to three different children in one year.

Hippostratos says in his work On Minos, that Aiguptos fathered fifty sons from Eururroê, the daughter of the Nile.

Similarly, Danaus had fifty daughters from one wife, Eurôpê, the daughter of the Nile.

Krateros, the brother of Antigonos that king, says that he knew of a certain person who in a seven year period was a child, an adolescent, a man and an old man and that he died after getting married and having children.

Megasthenes claims that the women who live in Padaia give birth when they are seven years old.”

Καὶ ᾿Αντίγονος δὲ ἱστορεῖ ἐν ᾿Αλεξανδρείᾳ μίαν γυναῖκα ἐν τέτρασιν τοκετοῖς εἴκοσι τεκεῖν καὶ τὰ πλεῖστα τούτων ἐκτραφῆναι.

Καὶ ἑτέρα τις γυνὴ κατὰ τὴν αὐτὴν πόλιν πέντε ἐν ἑνὶ τοκετῷ ἀπεκύησεν παῖδας, τρεῖς μὲν ἄρρενας, δύο δὲ θηλείας, οὓς αὐτοκράτωρ Τραιανὸς ἐκέλευσεν ἐκ τῶν ἰδίων χρημάτων τρέφεσθαι.

 πάλιν δὲ μετ’ ἐνιαυτὸν ἄλλα τρία ἡ αὐτὴ γυνὴ ἔτεκεν.

 ῾Ιππόστρατος δέ φησιν, ἐν τῷ περὶ Μίνω, Αἴγυπτον ἐκ μιᾶς γυναικὸς Εὐρυρρόης τῆς Νείλου πεντήκοντα υἱοὺς γεννῆσαι.

Δαναός τε ὁμοίως ἐκ μιᾶς γυναικὸς τῆς Νείλου Εὐρώπης πεντήκοντα θυγατέρας ἕσχεν.

Κρατερὸς δέ φησιν, ὁ ᾿Αντιγόνου τοῦ βασιλέως ἀδελφός, γινώσκειν τινὰ ἄνθρωπον, ὃν ἐν ἑπτὰ ἔτεσιν παῖδα γενέσθαι καὶ μειράκιον καὶ ἄνδρα καὶ γέροντα καὶ γήμαντα καὶ παιδοποιησάμενον ἀποθανεῖν.

Μεγασθένης δέ φησιν τὰς ἐν Παδαίᾳ κατοικούσας γυναῖκας ἑξαετεῖς γενομένας τίκτειν.

Scene of childbirth in relief on an ivory plaque attached to one end of a papyrus winder (a roller for holding the papyrus while reading). The pregnant woman sits on a birthing chair. Behind her, a standing woman holds her steady as she lifts her left arm backwards to grasp the attendant. The midwife kneels in front of the mother with a sponge in her right hand. Behind her stands a veiled woman who extends her hands toward the mother. Roman. From Pompeii, Region I, Insula 2, first century…
Ivory Carving from Pompeii (

Fragmentary Friday: Heraclitus Explains Pasiphae, the Chimaera, and Circe

Among the paradoxographers there was a trend of referring to fantastic material and then rationalizing it in some way. Palaephatus is one of the best examples of this, but there was also Heraclitus the Paradoxographer, not to be confused with the pre-socratic Philosopher, the Homeric commentator, or even the Byzantine emperor of the same name.

From Heraclitus the Paradoxographer, 7 Concerning Pasiphae

“People claim that [Pasiphae] lusted after the Bull, not, as many believe, for an animal in a herd—for it would be ridiculous for a queen to desire such uncommon intercourse—instead she lusted for a certain local man whose name was Tauro [the bull]. She used as an accomplice for her desire Daidalos and she was impregnated. Then she gave birth to a son whom many used to call “Minos” but they would compare him to Tauro because of his similarity to him. So, he was nicknamed Mino-tauros from the combination.”

Περὶ Πασιφάης.

 Ταύτην φασὶν ἐρασθῆναι Ταύρου, οὐχ, ὡς πολλοὶ νομίζουσι, τοῦ κατὰ τὴν ἀγέλην ζῴου (γελοῖον γὰρ ἀκοινωνήτου συνουσίας ὠρέχθαι τὴν βασίλισσαν), ἑνὸς δέ τινος τῶν ἐντοπίων, ᾧ Ταῦρος ἦν ὄνομα. συνεργῷ δὲ χρησαμένη πρὸς τὴν ἐπιθυμίαν Δαιδάλῳ καὶ γεγονυῖα ἔγγυος, ἐγέννησε καθ’ ὁμοιότητα τοῦ Ταύρου<υἱόν>, ὃν οἱ πολλοὶ Μίνω μὲν ἐκάλουν, Ταύρῳ δὲ εἴκαζον· κατὰ δὲ σύνθεσιν Μινώταυρος ἐκλήθη.

From Heraclitus the Paradoxographer 15 On the Chimaera

“Homer provides an image of the Khimaira when he says that in the front she was a lion, in the rear a serpent and in the middle a goat. This sort of thing could be the truth. A woman who ruled over those places had two brothers who helped her named Leo and Drako. Because she was an oath-breaker and guest-killer, she was killed by Bellerophon.”

Περὶ Χιμαίρας.

     Ταύτην ῞Ομηρος εἰκονογραφῶν φησι πρόσθε λέων, ὄπιθεν δὲ δράκων, μέσση δὲ χίμαιρα. γένοιτο δ’ ἂν τὸ ἀληθὲς τοιοῦτον. γυνὴ τῶν τόπων  κρατοῦσα δύο πρὸς ὑπηρεσίαν ἀδελφοὺς εἶχεν ὀνόματι Λέοντα καὶ Δράκοντα. παράσπονδος δὲ οὖσα καὶ ξενοκτόνος ἀνῃρέθη ὑπὸ Βελλεροφόντου.

From Heraclitus the Paradoxographer 16 Concerning Circe

“Myth has handed down the idea that Kirkê transformed people with a drink. But she was a prostitute and by charming guests at first with every kind of delight she would mold them towards good will, and once they were in a state of passion, she would keep them there by means of their desires as long as they were carried away with pleasures. Odysseus bested even her.”

Περὶ Κίρκης.

     Ταύτην ὁ μῦθος παρ<αδ>έδωκε ποτῷ μεταμορφοῦσαν ἀνθρώπους. ἦν δὲ ἑταίρα, καὶ κατακηλοῦσα τοὺς ξένους τὸ πρῶτον ἀρεσκείᾳ παντοδαπῇ ἐπεσπᾶτο πρὸς εὔνοιαν, γενομένους δὲ ἐν προσπαθείᾳ κατεῖχε ταῖς ἐπιθυμίαις ἀλογίστως φερομένους πρὸς τὰς ἡδονάς. ἥττησε δὲ καὶ ταύτην ᾿Οδυσσεύς.

Image result for ancient greek Chimera
Pssssst: I am not real.

Thirsty Thursday: Wondrous Waters and Wine

Some more amazing tales for a Summer of Wonder. 

Paradoxagraphus Florentinus: Mirabilia de Aquis

12 “Among the Kleitorians [Isigonos] says there is a spring and whenever anyone drinks its water, he cannot bear the smell of wine.”

Παρὰ Κλειτορίοις ὁ αὐτός φησιν εἶναι κρήνην, ἧς ὅταν τις τοῦ ὕδατος πίῃ, τοῦ οἴνου τὴν ὀσμὴν οὐ φέρει.

14 “Similarly, near Kosê there is a spring which, if you place a container filled with wine in it until it covers the mouth, then it becomes more bitter than vinegar right away according to the same author.”

῾Ομοίως ἐγγὺς Κόσης ἔστι κρήνη, εἰς ἣν ἐὰν θῇς κεράμιον οἴνου γέμον, ὥστε ὑπερχεῖν τὸ στόμα, παντὸς ὄξους εἶναι δριμύτερον παραχρῆμα, ὡς ἱστορεῖ ὁ αὐτός.

20 “Theopompos says that in Lugkêstai there is a spring which tastes like vinegar but when people drink it they get drunk as if from wine.”

Θεόπομπος ἐν Λυγκήσταις φησὶ πηγὴν εἶναι τῇ μὲν γεύσει ὀξίζουσαν, τοὺς δὲ πίνοντας μεθύσκεσθαι ὡς ἀπὸ οἴνου.


Paradoxographus Palatinus: Admiranda

5“There is a spring among the Kleitori which if someone drinks from he will reject and hate drinking wine”

Τῆς ἐν Κλείτορι κρήνης ἄν τις πίῃ τοῦ ὕδατος, ἀποστρέφεται καὶ μισεῖ τὴν τοῦ οἴνου πόσιν.

7 “In Naxos Aglaosthenês says that wine bubbles up on its own for the earth and when it goes into rivers it does not mix with water. The person who tastes it goes crazy”

Εν Νάξῳ φησὶν ᾿Αγλαοσθένης οἶνον ἐκ τῆς γῆς ἀναβλύζειν αὐτόματον καὶ διὰ ποταμοῦ φερόμενον μὴ συμμίσγεσθαι ὕδατι. τὸν δὲ γευσάμενον αὐτοῦ παραφρονεῖν.

From Li Livres dou Santé by Aldobrandino of Siena (France, late 13th century).

More Wonder for A Wednesday: Whose Intestines Sing?

From the Paradoxagraphus Palatinus Admiranda 20

“Antigonos says [of sheep intestines] that those of rams are voiceless, but those from females can sing. This fact has not escaped the poet, for he says “He stretched the seven strings from female sheep.”

Επὶ τῶν <ἐντέρων τῶν> προβάτων φησὶν ᾿Αντίγονος τὰ μὲν τῶν κριῶν ἄφωνα εἶναι, τὰ δὲ τῶν θηλέων ἔμφωνα· οὐ λεληθέναι δὲ τοῦτο τὸν ποιητήν. φησὶ γάρ· ἑπτὰ δὲ θηλυτέρων οἴων ἐτανύσσατο χορδάς.

This last line is a variant for the Homeric Hymn to Hermes 51

“He stretched out seven symphonic sheep-gut strings”

ἑπτὰ δὲ συμφώνους ὀΐων ἐτανύσσατο χορδάς.

Zodiac Sign: Aries | Breviary | Belgium, Bruges | ca. 1500 | The Morgan Library & Museum
Breviary | Belgium, Bruges | ca. 1500 | The Morgan Library & Museum

Wednesday’s Wondrous Water

The Paradoxagraphus Florentinus: Mirabilia de aquis is a text of “amazing stories” about bodies of water. [Here’s a site that seems to have stalled out but whose aim was to translate the remaining paradoxes]. Little is known about its authorship or audience. There are 43 sections. Here are the first 11. Some of the language is odd and I made no effort to look up the place names. So, if you have any corrections or suggestions, please share them.

1 “There is a spring in Potnia near Thebes and when horses drink from it they go insane, as Isigonos claims in the second book of his On Unbelievable Things

Κρήνη ἐν Ποτνίαις περὶ Θήβας, ἐξ ἧς οἱ ἵπποι πίνοντες μαίνονται, ὡς ἱστορεῖ ᾿Ισίγονος ἐν δευτέρῳ ἀπίστων.

2 “In Clazomenae, as that aforementioned Isigonos records, there is a spring which changes the color of the hair of all the animals who drink of it.”

Κρήνη ἐν Κλαζομεναῖς, ἀφ’ ἧς τὰ θρέμματα πίνοντα τὴν ἐρέαν χρωματίνην ποιεῖ, ὡς ἱστορεῖ ὁ προειρημένος ᾿Ισίγονος.

3 “There is a spring in India which spits up anyone who swims into it onto the land as if from a machine, according to the historian Ktêsias.”

Κρήνη ἐν ᾿Ινδοῖς, ἣ τοὺς κολυμβῶντας ἐπὶ τὴν γῆν ἐκβάλλει ὡς ἀπ’ ὀργάνου, ὡς ἱστορεῖ Κτησίας.

4 “In Krete there is a channel for water and when people cross it even though it is raining they make it through without getting wet for the entire distance which the channel extends.”

᾿Εν Κρήτῃ ὀχετὸς ὕδατός ἐστιν, ὃν οἱ διαβαίνοντες ὕοντος τοῦ Διὸς ἄβροχοι διαβαίνουσιν, ἐφ’ ὅσον ἐν τῷ ὀχετῷ εἰσιν.

5 “Among the Persians they claim that a spring filled with olive oil appeared suddenly to Alexander.”

᾿Εν Πέρσαις φασὶν ᾿Αλεξάνδρῳ φανῆναι κρήνην ἐλαίου πληρουμένην αὐτομάτως.

6 “Near Kilikia there is a certain pooling of water in which birds and unthinking animals who are soaked in it and drowned come back to life again.”

Παρὰ Κιλικίᾳ φασὶν ὕδατος εἶναι σύστημά τι ἐν ᾧ τὰ πεπνιγμένα τῶν ὀρνέων καὶ τῶν ἀλόγων ζῴων ἐμβραχέντα ἀναζῆν.

7 “Along a road in Syracuse there is a stream which is neither large nor carries a lot of water; but when a great mob comes to the place and there is a great sound it provides endless water, as Aristotle says.”

᾿Εν τῇ ἐπὶ Συρακουσῶν ὁδῷ κρήνη ἐστὶν οὐ μεγάλη οὐδὲ ὕδωρ πολὺ ἔχουσα· ὄχλου δὲ ἐπελθόντος εἰς τὸν τόπον καὶ ψόφου γινομένου παρέχει ὕδωρ ἄφθονον, ὥς φησιν ᾿Αριστοτέλης.

8 “In Paliakoi there is a spring which hurls water up six cubits high, making an impression that it is about to wash over the bordering places. But on the whole it doesn’t splash over anything. The people who live there swear their greatest oaths on this spring, as Isigonos records in the second book of his On Unbelievable Things.”

Κρήνη ἐν Παλικοῖς, ἥτις εἰς ὕψος ἀναρρίπτει τὸ ὕδωρ πηχέων ἕξ, ἔμφασιν ποιοῦσα μέλλειν κατακλύζειν τοὺς ὑποκειμένους τόπους· καθόλου δὲ οὐχ ὑπερεκχεῖται οὐδέν. ἐπὶ ταύτης οἱ ἐπιχώριοι τοὺς ὑπὲρ τῶν μεγίστων ὅρκους ποιοῦνται, ὡς ἱστορεῖ ᾿Ισίγονος ἐν δευτέρῳ ἀπίστων.

9 “Around the Skotoussa in Thessaly there is a little thing of a spring which heals all the wounds of unthinking animals. If someone breaks wood a little and throws it in after splitting it, it will be repaired. Thus the water is like glue, as Isigonos claims.”

Περὶ Σκοτοῦσσαν τῆς Θεσσαλίας κρηνίδιόν ἐστι μικρόν, ὃ τὰ ἕλκη πάντα θεραπεύει καὶ τῶν ἀλόγων ζῴων· εἰς ὃ ἐάν τις ξύλον μὴ λίαν συντρίψας, ἀλλὰ σχίσας ἐμβάλῃ, ἀποκαθίσταται· οὕτως κολλῶδες ἔχει τὸ ὕδωρ, ὥς φησιν ᾿Ισίγονος.

10 “Among the Lousoi in Arkadia Aristotle says that there is a certain spring in which mice are indigenous and they make their life there by swimming in it.”

᾿Εν Λούσοις τῆς ᾿Αρκαδίας φησὶν ᾿Αριστοτέλης κρήνην τινὰ εἶναι, ἐν ᾗ μῦς χερσαίους γίνεσθαι, καὶ τούτους κολυμβᾶν ἐν ἐκείνῃ τὴν δίαιταν ποιουμένους.

11 “Isigonos claims that there is a spring in Athamia from which the water is cold but on its top is so hot that if someone were to pour it over kindling it would immediately catch on fire”

Φησὶν ᾿Ισίγονος ἐν ᾿Αθαμᾶσι κρήνην εἶναι, ἧς τὸ μὲν ὕδωρ ψυχρὸν ὑπάρχειν, τὸ δ’ ὑπὲρ αὐτὸ οὕτως θερμὸν ὑπάρχειν, ὥστε, ἄν τις ὑπερθῇ φρύγανα, παραχρῆμα ἐξάπτεσθαι.

Yates Thompson MS 10, f. 11r (detail), France (Paris), 1370-1390