A Penetrating Inquiry – The Suda on Kinaidia (NSFW!)

When I was an undergraduate reading Petronius’ Satyricon, I remember being struck by the word cinaedus (the Latinized form of the Greek kinaidos) in the phrase Intrat cinaedus (Satyricon 28).

My professor at the time gleefully shared his preferred translation:

“In walked a fucker…”

The word is somewhat difficult to translate because we have no clear English equivalent, and as delightful as the simple “fucker” may sound, it is not perfect. Most dictionaries try to shroud the meaning somewhat with a veil of circumlocution. (Liddell and Scott give us “a lewd fellow,” and translate kinaidia as “lust.”) This memory occurred to me this afternoon, so I decided to spend a bit of time with that most learned of tracts, the Suda, and see what sort of clarification I could find.

cinaedus2
“Hermadion is a kinaidos.”

Continue reading “A Penetrating Inquiry – The Suda on Kinaidia (NSFW!)”

Happy Halloween: Learning about Werewolves from Ancient Texts

This week I went full speed down a lykanthropic rabbit-hole. (Well, maybe I should call it a wolf-hole or something?).  Having the time to pursue sudden and intense interests is one of the nice things about having tenure.  The ability to do so with some speed and knowledge is the nice thing of so many years flipping through dictionaries and sneezing in libraries.

One of the many reasons we started this site (in addition to combating all the false and unattributed quotations online, bringing lesser known material to wider audiences, and entertaining ourselves) is that we wanted the impetus and opportunity to explore material only tangentially connected to our work inside and outside the classroom. More often than not, these boundaries blur–sometimes the classroom spills over here.  Other times, our ‘discoveries’ and fleeting obsessions start here and end up back in the classroom.

Did the Wolf Win or Lose this FIght?
Did the Wolf Win or Lose this Fight?

This interest in ancient werewolves started on a Monday morning.  I wanted to do something thematic for Halloween.  I ended up devoting a week to it.  Here are the sources I’ve gathered in rough chronological order. Most of the material is mentioned in the Oxford Classical Dictionary, although the entry says nothing about the medical texts.

  1. Herodotus’ Histories: A Description of the Neuri, a tribe near the Skythians who could turn into wolves and back.
  2. Plato’s Republic: Lycanthropy is used as a metaphor for the compulsive behavior of tyrants.
  3. Pliny the Elder’s Natural History: Pliny describes the origins of ideas about lycanthropy and blames the traditions on the credulity of the Greeks!
  4. Petronius’ Satyricon: A character tells the story of a companion transforming into a wolf at night and back at day.
  5. Pausanias’ Geography of Greece: Like Pliny, Pausanias tells the story of the human sacrifice performed by Lykaon as an origin of lycanthropic narratives.
  6. Greek Medical Treatises on the Treatment of Lycanthropy: Medical authors from the time of Marcus Aurelius to the fall of Byzantium treat lycanthropy as a mental illness.
  7. Augustine of Hippo, City of God:  St. Augustine (5th Century CE) gives an account similar to Pliny’s, but attributes it to Varro.
  8. Michael Psellus, Poemata 9.841:An 11th century CE monk wrote a book of didactic poems about medicine. His description of lycanthropy is clearly influenced by the Greek medical treatises.

What I have learned from these texts:

  1. The early Greek tradition is harmonious with some structural aspects of Greek myth.  Lycanthropy is related to sacrilegious eating–in a system where what you eat communicates who you are, human flesh is taboo (monsters eat it).  In the Greek lycanthropic tradition, this is non mono-directional. Werewolves who abstain from human flesh can turn back again.
  2. The later ‘folkloric’ tradition (e.g. Petronius) is separate from this structural logic. in the earlier tradition, men transform for 9-10 years (in something of a purificatory period). The other tradition has shorter periods (nightly) that don’t correlate with sacrilege: Petronius’ werewolf doesn’t eat human flesh (that we know of).
  3. The moon-association may be a later accretion on the tradition. All of the medical texts associate werewolves with the night; the Roman texts agree. The lunar cycle may be implied in the Petronius tale (where the transformation happens when the light is almost as bright as day) or in the later medical texts vis a vis the connection with menstrual cycles.
  4. There is one hint of a dog-bite being associated with lycanthropy, but no foundational notion that you contract lycanthropy from a werewolf.  In addition, there are no specific suggestions or methods for how to kill a werewolf.

Continue reading “Happy Halloween: Learning about Werewolves from Ancient Texts”

Don’t Let a Wolf See You First! Pliny the Elder on Superstition and Lycanthropy

It seems that this week of Halloween is turning into Werewolf week for me. To be honest, while doing esoteric things like folding laundry, I have been watching the Netflix show Hemlock Grove (which has recently been described as “bad and strange”). Its werewolf has made me think back to lycanthropy in Greek and Roman myth. I started with Plato and Petronius yesterday.

Today, we have the rather famous account from Pliny the Elder’s Natural History 8.34) (for the full text: see Perseus). The Latin text on Perseus is incorrect, but fortunately Lacus Curtius is there to save the day.

Pliny, NH 8.34 80-83

“But it Italy they also believe that the gaze of a wolf is harmful—specifically that it will take the voice from any man they see first. Africa and Egypt have wolves that are slow and small, while the colder climates produce fierce and wild animals. We ought to believe with certainty that accounts of men turning into wolves and then back to themselves again are false; or we should be prepared  to believe all the tales that are fantastic from as many generations.

Nevertheless, since the tale is popular enough that it has earned the curse-term “versepellis”, I will explain its origin. Euanthes, not unknown among Greek authors, reports that the Arcadians hold that a member of a family of a certain Anthus is selected by lot, transported to a certain lake in the region, and, after he hangs his clothes on an oak tree, he crosses the lake and enters the desert where he turns into a wolf and joins with others of his kind for nine years.

If he keeps himself from humans for this period of time, he returns to the same lake and once he has crossed it regains his form, except that nine years of age have accumulated. Fabius adds to this tale that he also regains his clothing. It is amazing how far Greek gullibility will go! There is no lie so shameful that it will lack partisans.

Similarly, the author Apollas who wrote the Olympionics, claims that Demaenetus of Parrhasia, when they Arcadians were still performing human sacrifices to Jupiter Lycaeus, sampled the entrails of a child who had been sacrificed, and transformed into a wolf. That same man transformed back 10 years later, became an athlete, and returned to the Olympic games as a victor.

It is also believed that there is a thin tip of hair on the tail of this animal which acts as an aphrodisiac—when the animal is caught, it has no force unless it is plucked while the animal is still alive.

Sed in Italia quoque creditur luporum visus esse noxius vocemque homini, quem priores contemplentur, adimere ad praesens. inertes hos parvosque Africa et Aegyptus gignunt, asperos trucesque frigidior plaga. homines in lupos verti rursusque restitui sibi falsum esse confidenter existimare debemus aut credere omnia quae fabulosa tot saeculis conperimus. unde tamen ista vulgo infixa sit fama in tantum, ut in maledictis versipelles habeat, indicabitur.

Euanthes, inter auctores Graeciae non spretus, scribit Arcadas tradere ex gente Anthi cuiusdam sorte familiae lectum ad stagnum quoddam regionis eius duci vestituque in quercu suspenso tranare atque abire in deserta transfigurarique in lupum et cum ceteris eiusdem generis congregari per annos VIIII. quo in tempore si homine se abstinuerit, reverti ad idem stagnum et, cum tranaverit, effigiem recipere, ad pristinum habitum addito novem annorum senio. id quoque adicit, eandem recipere vestem.

mirum est quo procedat Graeca credulitas! nullum tam inpudens mendacium est, ut teste careat. item Apollas, qui Olympionicas scripsit, narrat Demaenetum Parrhasium in sacrificio, quod Arcades Iovi Lycaeo humana etiamtum hostia facebant, immolati pueri exta degustasse et in lupum se convertisse, eundem X anno restitutum athleticae se exercuisse in pugilatu victoremque Olympia reversum.

quin et caudae huius animalis creditur vulgo inesse amatorium virus exiguo in villo eumque, cum capiatur, abici nec idem pollere nisi viventi dereptum.

Five Days Until Halloween: A Roman Werewolf from Petronius

Earlier today, we saw how Plato makes being a tyrant equivalent to a type of lycanthropy. To be honest, the Romans were also into that kind of thing. One of our oldest werewolf tales comes from Petronius’ Satyricon (61-62):

“Trimalchio turned to Niceros and said: “You used to be more pleasant company—I don’t know why you are now so quiet and subdued. If you want to make me happy, please tell us what happened to you.

Niceros, excited at his friend’s request, replied: “May all profit escape me, if I cannot deflate your joy—when I see how you are. Nevertheless, may happiness be ours, even if I am afraid that these scholars will laugh at me. Let them look on: I will tell the story nonetheless, what difference is it to me? It is better to tell a joke than be one.”

How Far From Suckling to Shapeshifting?
Roman Wolves: How Far From Suckling to Shapeshifting?

Once he had uttered these words, he began the following tale:

‘When I was a slave, we were living in a narrow street where the home of Gavus is now. There is was where the gods decided I would fall in love with the wife of Terence the Innkeeper. You do remember Melissa from Tarentum—that most beautiful little package? By god, I loved her less for her body and sexcapades than I did for her fine morals. She didn’t deny me anything I sought. She made a penny, I got half! I put everything I had into her lap, and I was never cheated.

Her husband passed away at the inn one day. As you can imagine, I risked Skylla and Charybdis so I could get to her: for, as they say, Friends are present in times of need.

By chance, my master was visiting Capua in pursuit of some business. I took my chance and compelled a guest to accompany me to the fifth milestone. He was a soldier and as strong as Orcus. We blundered off around the time of the cock’s crow while the moon was shining as bright as midday. We went among the graves and my friend went among the stones to defecate. I sat singing and counting gravemarkers. And then, as I looked for my companion, he appeared and placed all his clothes near the road.

My breath nearly jumped out my nose—I was standing like a corpse. But he pissed around his clothes and suddenly became a wolf! Don’t you dare imagine I am joking, that I am lying. I make up nothing for such an inheritance as this! But, back to what I started to say, after he turned into a wolf, he began to howl and fled into the forest. At first, I didn’t remember where I was: then I went to gather up his clothes, but they had transformed into stones! What could I do but die from fear?

I drew my sword and struck all the shadows before me until I made it to my girlfriend’s home. I entered as pale as a ghost with sweat rushing down to my groin, my eyes nearly dead. I could hardly regain myself. My Melissa was at first surprised because I had gone out so late. And then she said “I wish you had come earlier, you could have helped us: a wolf entered the house and loosed more blood from the ship than a butcher! He escaped, but he didn’t laugh: an older slave tore his throat with a spear.”

Once I heard these words, I could not sleep any longer. At first light I fled the home of Gaius like an angry landlord. But once I came to the place where his clothing had turned into stone, I found nothing but blood. Honestly, I went home and my soldier was lying like a bull on his bed as a doctor was tending to his neck. I knew that he was a shapeshifter* then, and I wouldn’t have been able to share a meal with him even if you threatened to kill me. Let these men believe what they want about this, but if I am lying, let the gods hate me.”

*”shapeshifter”: Latin, versipellis (lit. “pelt-changer”) is used several times for form-changing in Latin literature. Often, this example and that of Pliny EN 8.80 (cf. LSJ s.v.) are translated as “werewolf”. I chose the more general sense.

[LXI] … Trimalchio ad Nicerotem respexit et: “Solebas, inquit, suavius esse in convictu; nescio quid nunc taces nec muttis. Oro te, sic felicem me videas, narra illud quod tibi usu venit.” Niceros delectatus affabilitate amici: “Omne me, inquit, lucrum transeat, nisi iam dudum gaudimonio dissilio, quod te talem video. Itaque hilaria mera sint, etsi timeo istos scolasticos ne me rideant. Viderint: narrabo tamen, quid enim mihi aufert, qui ridet? satius est rideri quam derideri.”

Haec ubi dicta dedit talem fabulam exorsus est:

“Cum adhuc servirem, habitabamus in vico angusto; nunc Gavillae domus est. Ibi, quomodo dii volunt, amare coepi uxorem Terentii coponis: noveratis Melissam Tarentinam, pulcherrimum bacciballum. Sed ego non mehercules corporaliter aut propter res venerias curavi, sed magis quod benemoria fuit. Si quid ab illa petii, nunquam mihi negatum; fecit assem, semissem habui; in illius sinum demandavi, nec unquam fefellitus sum. Huius contubernalis ad villam supremum diem obiit. Itaque per scutum per ocream egi aginavi, quemadmodum ad illam pervenirem: nam, ut aiunt, in angustiis amici apparent.
[LXII] “Forte dominus Capuae exierat ad scruta scita expedienda. Nactus ego occasionem persuadeo hospitem nostrum, ut mecum ad quintum miliarium veniat. Erat autem miles, fortis tanquam Orcus. Apoculamus nos circa gallicinia; luna lucebat tanquam meridie. Venimus inter monimenta: homo meus coepit ad stelas facere; sedeo ego cantabundus et stelas numero. Deinde ut respexi ad comitem, ille exuit se et omnia vestimenta secundum viam posuit. Mihi anima in naso esse; stabam tanquam mortuus. At ille circumminxit vestimenta sua, et subito lupus factus est. Nolite me iocari putare; ut mentiar, nullius patrimonium tanti facio. Sed, quod coeperam dicere, postquam lupus factus est, ululare coepit et in silvas fugit. Ego primitus nesciebam ubi essem; deinde accessi, ut vestimenta eius tollerem: illa autem lapidea facta sunt. Qui mori timore nisi ego? Gladium tamen strinxi et umbras cecidi, donec ad villam amicae meae pervenirem. In larvam intravi, paene animam ebullivi, sudor mihi per bifurcum volabat, oculi mortui; vix unquam refectus sum. Melissa mea mirari coepit, quod tam sero ambularem, et: ‘Si ante, inquit, venisses, saltem nobis adiutasses; lupus enim villam intravit et omnia pecora tanquam lanius sanguinem illis misit. Nec tamen derisit, etiamsi fugit; senius enim noster lancea collum eius traiecit’. Haec ut audivi, operire oculos amplius non potui, sed luce clara Gai nostri domum fugi tanquam copo compilatus; et postquam veni in illum locum, in quo lapidea vestimenta erant facta, nihil inveni nisi sanguinem. Vt vero domum veni, iacebat miles meus in lecto tanquam bovis, et collum illius medicus curabat. Intellexi illum versipellem esse, nec postea cum illo panem gustare potui, non si me occidisses. Viderint quid de hoc alii exopinissent; ego si mentior, genios vestros iratos habeam.”

Petronius, Satyricon 1

“And therefore, I reckon that our young men are becoming total fools in our schools, because they neither hear nor see any of the things which we find useful, but rather pirates standing in shackles on the shore, and tyrants issuing decrees ordering that sons decapitate their fathers, and solutions to plagues which urge that three or even more virgins be burned, and those little honey-balls of words, and all things said or done as though sprinkled with poppy and sesame.”

 

Et ideo ego adulescentulos existimo in scholis stultissimos fieri, quia nihil ex his, quae in usu habemus, aut audiunt aut vident, sed piratas cum catenis in litore stantes, sed tyrannos edicta scribentes quibus imperent filiis ut patrum suorum capita praecidant, sed responsa in pestilentiam data, ut virgines tres aut plures immolentur, sed mellitos verborum globulos, et omnia dicta factaque quasi papavere et sesamo sparsa.

 

This may seem like nothing more than a rather disconnected list of preposterous subjects, but in fact these were popular subjects for exercises in the art of declamatio. It is perhaps difficult for a modern reader to appreciate the extent to which the Romans revered skillful rhetoricians. In the time of Petronius (27-66 A.D.), however, the chief aim of Roman education was to produce effective public speakers. To this end, young learners were provided with a topic (e.g. should Caesar cross the Rubicon?) on which they were expected to deliver a persuasive extempore oration. 

 

This passage is itself excerpted from a declamation delivered by the narrator Encolpius, which laments the decline of standards upheld by instructors of rhetoric, who assign to students trifling subjects for declamation dealing with pirates and the like. The Satyricon highlights numerous aspects of contemporary Roman excess, not the least of which was its apparently unsustainable rhetorical saturation. [For a similar sentiment, consult the first satire of Juvenal.] One tradition even holds that, after Petronius was ordered by Nero to end his own life, he held a lavish dinner party in which he opened his veins and bandaged them up; he then declaimed on various subjects, loosed his bandages, and died at the end of his discourse. 

Returning to the Classroom after Leave: Some Ancient Reminders

Is teaching like riding a bicycle? Let’s see what the ancients say…

 

Pindar, Olympian 8.59-60

  “Teaching is easier for someone who knows; not learning first is stupid. “    

τὸ διδάξασθαι δέ τοι εἰδότι ῥᾴτερον• ἄγνωμον δὲ τὸ μὴ προμαθεῖν•  

 

Plato, Protagoras, 338e-339a

 

“I consider facility with poetry the greatest part of a man’s education, that he should be able to understand what the poets have said correctly or incorrectly and to know how to analyze them and provide an explanation when questioned.”

ἡγοῦμαι, ἔφη, ὦ Σώκρατες, ἐγὼ ἀνδρὶ παιδείας μέγιστον μέρος εἶναι περὶ ἐπῶν δεινὸν εἶναι: ἔστιν δὲ τοῦτο τὰ ὑπὸ τῶν ποιητῶν λεγόμενα οἷόν τ᾽ εἶναι συνιέναι ἅ τε ὀρθῶς πεποίηται καὶ ἃ μή, καὶ ἐπίστασθαι διελεῖν τε καὶ ἐρωτώμενον λόγον δοῦναι.

 

Petronius, Satyricon 1

“And therefore, I reckon that our young men are becoming total fools in our schools, because they neither hear nor see any of the things which we find useful, but rather pirates standing in shackles on the shore, and tyrants issuing decrees ordering that sons decapitate their fathers, and solutions to plagues which urge that three or even more virgins be burned, and those little honey-balls of words, and all things said or done as though sprinkled with poppy and sesame.”

 

Et ideo ego adulescentulos existimo in scholis stultissimos fieri, quia nihil ex his, quae in usu habemus, aut audiunt aut vident, sed piratas cum catenis in litore stantes, sed tyrannos edicta scribentes quibus imperent filiis ut patrum suorum capita praecidant, sed responsa in pestilentiam data, ut virgines tres aut plures immolentur, sed mellitos verborum globulos, et omnia dicta factaque quasi papavere et sesamo sparsa.

 

Aristotle, Poetics 1448b5-6

“Imitation is natural in men from childhood and they differ in this from the other animals because it is the most representative and our first education comes from imitation.”

τό τε γὰρ μιμεῖσθαι σύμφυτον τοῖς ἀνθρώποις ἐκ παίδων ἐστὶ καὶ τούτῳ διαφέρουσι τῶν ἄλλων ζῴων ὅτι μιμητικώτατόν ἐστι καὶ τὰς μαθήσεις ποιεῖται διὰ μιμήσεως τὰς πρώτας…

 

Phocylides (Pseudo-Plutarch, On the Education of Children 5.3f)

 

 

“It is right to teach noble things to one who is still a child”

 

χρὴ παῖδ᾿ ἔτ᾿ ἐόντα / καλὰ διδάσκειν ἔργα

 

Horace, Ars Poetica 335

“Whatever you are teaching, be brief . . .” quidquid praecipies, esto brevis Quintus Horatius Flaccus