Nameless Altars and Human Sacrifice

Diogenes Laertius, Vitae philosophorum 1.110 [Epimenides]

“Epimenides was known among the Greeks and was thought to be extremely beloved to the gods. For this reason, when the Athenians were once afflicted by a plague and the Pythian oracle prophesied that they should cleanse their city, they sent a ship along with Nikias the son of Nikêratos, summoning Epimenides.

He made it to Athens at the time of the 46th Olympiad [c. 596 BCE] and cleansed the city. He stopped it in the following manner. After obtaining white and black sheep, he led them to the Areopagos and then allowed them to go wherever they wanted there. He ordered the people following them to sacrifice the sheep to whichever god was proper to the place where each sheep laid down.

This is how the plague stopped. For this reason it is still even today possible to find altars without names in certain Athenian neighborhoods as a commemoration of that ancient cleansing. Some people report that Epimenides indicated the pollution from the Kylon scandal as the cause of the plague along with a resolution for it. For this reason, they killed two youths, Kratinos and Ktêsibios and the suffering was relieved.”

(110) γνωσθεὶς δὲ παρὰ τοῖς ῞Ελλησι θεοφιλέστατος εἶναι ὑπελήφθη. ὅθεν καὶ Ἀθηναίοις ποτὲ λοιμῶι κατεχομένοις ἔχρησεν ἡ Πυθία καθῆραι τὴν πόλιν, οἱ δὲ πέμπουσι ναῦν τε καὶ Νικίαν τὸν Νικηράτου εἰς Κρήτην, καλοῦντες τὸν Ἐπιμενίδην. καὶ ὃς ἐλθὼν ὀλυμπιάδι τεσσαρακοστῆι ἕκτηι ἐκάθηρεν αὐτῶν τὴν πόλιν, καὶ ἔπαυσε τὸν λοιμὸν τοῦτον τὸν τρόπον· λαβὼν πρόβατα μέλανά τε καὶ λευκά, ἤγαγεν πρὸς τὸν ῎Αρειον πάγον, κἀκεῖθεν εἴασεν ἰέναι οἷ βούλοιντο, προστάξας τοῖς ἀκολούθοις, ἔνθα ἂν κατακλινῆι αὐτῶν ἕκαστον, θύειν τῶι προσήκοντι θεῶι· καὶ οὕτω λῆξαι τὸ κακόν· ὅθεν ἔτι καὶ νῦν ἔστιν εὺρεῖν κατὰ τοὺς δήμους τῶν Ἀθηναίων βωμοὺς ἀνωνύμους, ὑπόμνημα τῆς τότε γενομενης ἐξιλάσεως. οἱ δὲ τὴν αἰτίαν εἰπεῖν τοῦ λοιμοῦ τὸ Κυλώνειον ἄγος σημαίνειν τε τὴν ἀπαλλαγήν· καὶ διὰ τοῦτο ἀποθανεῖν δύο νεανίας Κρατῖνον καὶ Κτησίβιον, καὶ λυθῆναι τὴν συμφοράν

File:3217 - Athens - Sto… of Attalus Museum - Kylix - Photo by ...
 Kylix showing an armored youth offering a sacrifice. Ancient Agora Museum in Athens, around 480 BC

Little Sparks of Virtue

Cicero, De Finibus 5. 43

“There is certainly seems to be natural power for humans for attaining every kind of virtue and for these reasons small children are motivated by the attraction of virtues whose seeds they possess without teaching. These are surely the fundamental aspects of human nature which increase and grow as if planted. This is because we are made in such a way at birth that we already possess the basic impulses of doing something, of loving some people, and with qualities of liberality, and giving things. We also receive spirits which reach toward knowledge, wisdom, and bravery, already disinclined toward the opposites.

It is not without reason that we see those things I have mentioned in children like little sparks of virtue from which the philosopher’s reason must be kindled—the child must find their way to nature’s end by following their divine guide. As I have often said in the early period when our minds are still weak, we see nature’s power as if through fog. But once the mind progresses and gets stronger, it recognizes the power of its nature, that it may still proceed further and has become only half-finished on its own.”

 Est enim natura sic generata vis hominis ut ad omnem virtutem percipiendam facta videatur, ob eamque causam parvi virtutum simulacris quarum in se habent semina sine doctrina moventur; sunt enim prima elementa naturae, quibus auctis virtutis quasi germen efficitur. Nam cum ita nati factique simus ut et agendi aliquid et diligendi aliquos et liberalitatis et referendae gratiae principia in nobis contineremus atque ad scientiam, prudentiam, fortitudinem aptos animos haberemus a contrariisque rebus alienos, non sine causa eas quas dixi in pueris virtutum quasi scintillas videmus, e quibus accendi philosophi ratio debet, ut eam quasi deum ducem subsequens ad naturae perveniat extremum. Nam ut saepe iam dixi in infirma aetate imbecillaque mente vis naturae quasi per caliginem cernitur; cum autem progrediens confirmatur animus, agnoscit ille quidem naturae vim, sed ita ut progredi possit longius, per se sit tantum inchoata.

 

Sarcophagus, Roma, Musei Vaticani, Museo Chiaramont

Plato Says It’s Like We’re Drunk All The Time

Plato Phadeo 79c2-c8

“Therefore, weren’t we saying this long before that the mind, whenever it uses the body for examining anything—either through seeing or hearing or any other kind of perception, since examining a thing through the body is to examine it through the senses—at that moment the mind is dragged down by body towards things that never exist in the same way and it wanders and is troubled and gets dizzy as if it’s drunk, since it has been contaminated by those sorts of things.”

Οὐκοῦν καὶ τόδε πάλαι ἐλέγομεν, ὅτι ἡ ψυχή, ὅταν μὲν τῷ σώματι προσχρῆται εἰς τὸ σκοπεῖν τι ἢ διὰ τοῦ ὁρᾶν ἢ διὰ τοῦ ἀκούειν ἢ δι’ ἄλλης τινὸς αἰσθήσεως—τοῦτο γάρ ἐστιν τὸ διὰ τοῦ σώματος, τὸ δι’ αἰσθήσεως σκοπεῖν τι—τότε μὲν ἕλκεται ὑπὸ τοῦ σώματος εἰς τὰ οὐδέποτε κατὰ ταὐτὰ ἔχοντα, καὶ αὐτὴ πλανᾶται καὶ ταράττεται καὶ εἰλιγγιᾷ ὥσπερ μεθύουσα, ἅτε τοιούτων ἐφαπτομένη;

Illumination from AM 147 4to of two intoxicated 15th century Icelanders

Gendered Knowledge and the Impossibility of Love?

Plato, Alcibiades 127a-c

Socrates: Hey, Alcibiades, do you think that a man can agree with a woman about wool-working when he doesn’t know anything about it and she does?

Alcibiades: Not. At. All.

Soc. Yeah, that’s not right at all. For that’s a woman’s kind of learning.

Alc. Yup.

Soc. What about this: Can a woman agree with a man about being a soldier when she hasn’t learned anything about it?

Alc. Not. At. All.

Soc. So, perhaps you would say that that is a masculine kind a knowledge.

Alc. Yes I would.

Soc. So according to your argument there are women’s types of knowledge and men’s kinds of knowledge?

Alc. How wouldn’t there be?

Soc. So in these matters, then, there’s no agreement between women and men?

Alc. Nope.

Soc. And there’s no love, if love is truly agreement?

Alc. It does not seem so.

Soc. So, because they do their own thing, women are not loved by men?

Alk. I guess not.

Soc. And men aren’t loved by women, because they do their own thing?

Alk. Nope.

 

ΣΩ. Οἴει ἂν οὖν, ὦ Ἀλκιβιάδη, ἄνδρα γυναικὶ περὶ ταλασιουργίας δύνασθαι ὁμονοεῖν, τὸν μὴ ἐπιστάμενον τῇ ἐπισταμένῃ;

ΑΛΚ. Οὐ δῆτα.

ΣΩ. Οὐδέ γε δεῖ οὐδέν· γυναικεῖον γὰρ τοῦτό γε μάθημα.

ΑΛΚ. Ναί.

ΣΩ. Τί δέ; γυνὴ ἀνδρὶ περὶ ὁπλιτικῆς δύναιτ᾿ ἂν ὁμονοεῖν μὴ μαθοῦσα;

ΑΛΚ. Οὐ δῆτα.

ΣΩ. Ἀνδρεῖον γὰρ τοῦτο γε ἴσως αὖ φαίης ἂν εἶναι.

ΑΛΚ. Ἔγωγε.

ΣΩ. Ἔστιν ἄρα τὰ μὲν γυναικεῖα, τὰ δὲ ἀνδρεῖα μαθήματα κατὰ τὸν σὸν λόγον.

ΑΛΚ. Πῶς δ᾿ οὔ;

ΣΩ. Οὐκ ἄρα ἔν γε τούτοις ἐστὶν ὁμόνοια γυναιξὶ πρὸς ἄνδρας.

ΑΛΚ. Οὔ.

ΣΩ. Οὐδ᾿ ἄρα φιλία, εἴπερ ἡ φιλία ὁμόνοια ἦν.

ΑΛΚ. Οὐ φαίνεται.

ΣΩ. Ἧι ἄρα αἱ γυναῖκες τὰ αὑτῶν πράττουσιν, οὐ φιλοῦνται ὑπὸ τῶν ἀνδρῶν.

ΑΛΚ. Οὐκ ἔοικεν.

ΣΩ. Οὐδ᾿ ἄρα οἱ ἄνδρες ὑπὸ τῶν γυναικῶν, ᾗ τὰ αὑτῶν.

ΑΛΚ. Οὔ.

Women working with wool, scenes on an Attic black-figure lekythos of the third quarter of the VI century B.C. in the Metropolitan Museum, New York. Right, spinning; left, folding woven cloth. F. Chamoux, La civilisation grecque, Paris, 1963, fig. 143.
Black figure Lekythos, MET

Theano: Philosopher, Author, Wit

These sayings are drawn from the Gnomologium Vaticanum. For other testimonia see below.

“Theano used to say “It is shameful to be silent on matters about which it is noble to speak and noble to be silent on those shameful to mention”

Θεανὼ ἔφη· ” περὶ ὧν λέγειν καλὸν περὶ τούτων σιωπᾶν αἰσχρὸν καὶ περὶ ὧν αἰσχρὸν λέγειν περὶ τούτων σιωπᾶν καλόν.”

“Theano the Pythagorean philosopher was asked how a man and woman might live together and said ‘if they learn to bear each other’s moods’.”

Θεανὼ ἡ πυθαγορικὴ φιλόσοφος ἐρωτηθεῖσα πῶς ἂν δύναιτο γυνὴ καὶ ἀνὴρ συμπεριφέρεσθαι ἀλλήλοις εἶπεν· ” ἐὰν μάθωσι τὰς ἀλλήλων ὀργὰς φέρειν.”

“Theano suggested that a woman coming to her husband should strip off her shame along with her clothes and put them all back on again when she left.”

Θεανὼ παρεκελεύσατο ἅμα τοῖς ἱματίοις καὶ τὴν αἰσχύνην ἀποτίθεσθαι τὴν πρὸς τὸν ἄνδρα βαδίζουσα<ν>, περιβαλλομένην δὲ πάλιν κομίζεσθαι.

“Theano, when asked what number of days a woman was clean from her husband and is was right for her to go to the temple, said ” ‘on the same day from her own husband, but never from another.’ “

Θεανὼ ἐρωτηθεῖσα ποσταία ἡ γυνὴ ἀπὸ ἀνδρὸς καθαρεύει καὶ εἰς ἱερὸν ἰέναι δεῖ αὐτὴν ἔφη· ” ἀπὸ μὲν τοῦ ἰδίου αὐθημερόν, ἀπὸ δὲ τοῦ ἀλλοτρίου οὐδέποτε.”

“Theano said ‘It is better to trust oneself to an unbridled horse than an illogical woman.’ “

Θεανὼ εἶπε· “κρεῖττόν ἐστιν ἵππῳ ἀχαλινώτῳ ἑαυτὸν πιστεύειν ἢ γυναικὶ ἀλογίστῳ.”

“While Theano was walking she showed her forearm and some youth when he saw it said “Nice skin”. She responded, “it’s not communal”.

Θεανὼ πορευομένη ἔξω εἶχε τὸν βραχίονα· νεανίσκος δέ τις ἰδὼν εἶπε· ” καλὸν τὸ δέμας·” ἡ δὲ ἀπεκρίνατο· ” ἀλλ’ οὐ κοινόν.”

“When Theano the Pythagorean philosopher was asked what eros is, she said ‘the passion of a soul with spare time.’ “

Θεανὼ ἡ πυθαγορικὴ φιλόσοφος ἐρωτηθεῖσα τί ἐστιν ἔρως ἔφη· ” πάθος ψυχῆς σχολαζούσης.”

Suda s.v. Theano (theta 83)

“Theano: from Metapontum or Thurii. A Pythagorean, daughter of Leôphrôn, wife of Karustos of Krotôn, or Brôtinos the Pythagorean. She wrote On Pythagoras, On Virtue to Hippodamos of Thurii, Advice for Woman, and Sayings of the Pythagoreans.”

Θεανώ, Μεταποντίνη ἢ Θουρία, Πυθαγορεία, θυγάτηρ Λεώφρονος, γαμετὴ δὲ Καρύστου ἢ Κρότωνος ἢ Βρωτίνου τοῦ Πυθαγορείου. αὕτη ἔγραψε περὶ Πυθαγόρου, Περὶ ἀρετῆς ῾Ιπποδάμῳ Θουρίῳ,  Παραινέσεις γυναικείας καὶ ᾿Αποφθέγματα Πυθαγορείων.

Diogenes Laertius, 8.42

“Pythagoras also had a wife, named Theanô, the daughter of Brontinus of Kroton. Others say she was Brontinus’ wife and Pyhtagoras’ student.”

[42] Ἦν δὲ τῷ Πυθαγόρᾳ καὶ γυνή, Θεανὼ ὄνομα, Βροντίνου τοῦ Κροτωνιάτου θυγάτηρ: οἱ δέ, γυναῖκα μὲν εἶναι Βροντίνου, μαθήτριαν δὲ Πυθαγόρου…

Image result for ancient greek Theano

It Is Good For Women to Exercise Too! (But for Predictable, Instrumental Reasons)

Philostratus, Gymnasticus 27

“And there is also a notion older than this which seemed right to Lykourgos for Sparta. Because he meant to provide warrior-athletes for Sparta, he said, “Let the girls exercise and permit them to run in public. Certainly this strengthening of their bodies was for the sake of good childbearing and that they would have better offspring.

For one who comes from this training to her husband’s home will not hesitate to carry water or to mill grain because she has prepared from her youth. And if she is joined together with a youth who has joined her in rigorous exercise, she will provide better offspring—for they will be tall, strong and rarely sick. Sparta became so preeminent in war once her marriages were prepared in this way.”

Καίτοι καὶ πρεσβύτερον τούτου, ὃ καὶ Λυκούργῳ ἐδόκει τῷ Σπαρτιάτῃ· παριστάμενος γὰρ τῇ Λακεδαίμονι πολεμικοὺς ἀθλητὰς, “γυμναζέσθων,” φησὶν, “αἱ κόραι καὶ ἀνείσθων δημοσίᾳ τρέχειν.” ὑπὲρ εὐπαιδίας δήπου καὶ τοῦ τὰ ἔκγονα βελτίω τίκτειν ὑπὸ τοῦ ἐρρῶσθαι τὸ σῶμα· ἀφικομένη γὰρ ἐς ἀνδρὸς ὑδροφορεῖν οὐκ ὀκνήσει οὐδὲ ἀλεῖν διὰ τὸ ἠσκῆσθαι ἐκ νέας· εἰ δὲ καὶ νέῳ καὶ συγγυμναζομένῳ συζυγείη, βελτίω τὰ ἔκγονα ἀποδώσει, καὶ γὰρ εὐμήκη καὶ ἰσχυρὰ καὶ ἄνοσα. καὶ ἐγένετο ἡ Λακεδαίμων τοσαύτη κατὰ πόλεμον, ἐπειδὴ τὰ γαμικὰ αὐτοῖς ὧδε ἐπράττετο.

Image result for ancient greek female athletes

Just Think Your Way Out of Sickness!

For more on plagues and leadership, see this recent post.

Aelian, Varia Historia 13.27

“Remember that Socrates’ body was thought to be orderly and in control of wisdom for this reason too. When the Athenians were suffering a pandemic and some were dying and others were near death, Socrates was the only one who was not sick. What mind do we think shared space with such a body?”

Ὅτι τὸ Σωκράτους σῶμα πεπίστευτο κόσμιον καὶ σωφροσύνης ἐγκρατὲς γεγονέναι καὶ ταύτῃ. ἐνόσουν Ἀθηναῖοι πανδημεί, καὶ οἱ μὲν ἀπέθνῃσκον, οἱ δὲ ἐπιθανατίως εἶχον, Σωκράτης δὲ μόνος οὐκ ἐνόσησε τὴν ἀρχήν. ὁ τοίνυν τοιούτῳ συνὼν σώματι τίνα ἡγούμεθα ἐσχηκέναι ψυχήν;

Apollonius of Tyana, 8.28

“Do these practices merely make a refinement of the senses or establish power over the greatest and most amazing forces? You need to see what I mean from different things, not the least of which were done during that epidemic in Ephesus.

When the disease was in the shape of an old beggar, I saw it and once I saw it I tackled it. I did not stop the disease but instead I destroyed it. The one I prayed to is clear as day in the temple which I built in thanks. It was for Herakles the Defender, the one I chose as a helper—because he is wise and brave, he once cleansed Elis of a plague and wiped away the waves of filth which the earth released when Augeas was tyrant.”

“Ἆρ᾿ οὖν τὸ οὕτως διαιτᾶσθαι λεπτότητα μόνον ἐργάζεται τῶν αἰσθήσεων ἢ ἰσχὺν ἐπὶ τὰ μέγιστά τε καὶ θαυμασιώτατα; θεωρεῖν δ᾿ ἔξεστιν ὃ λέγω καὶ ἀπ᾿ ἄλλων μέν, οὐχ ἥκιστα δὲ κἀκ τῶν ἐν Ἐφέσῳ περὶ τὴν νόσον ἐκείνην πραχθέντων· τὸ γὰρ τοῦ λοιμοῦ εἶδος, πτωχῷ δὲ γέροντι εἴκαστο, καὶ εἶδον καὶ ἰδὼν εἷλον, οὐ παύσας νόσον, ἀλλ᾿ ἐξελών, ὅτῳ δ᾿ εὐξάμενος, δηλοῖ τὸ ἱερόν, ὃ ἐν Ἐφέσῳ ὑπὲρ τούτου ἱδρυσάμην, Ἡρακλέους μὲν γὰρ Ἀποτροπαίου ἐστί, ξυνεργὸν δ᾿ αὐτὸν εἱλόμην, ἐπειδὴ σοφός τε καὶ ἀνδρεῖος ὢν ἐκάθηρέ ποτε λοιμοῦ τὴν Ἦλιν, τὰς ἀναθυμιάσεις ἀποκλύσας, ἃς παρεῖχεν ἡ γῆ κατ᾿ Αὐγέαν τυραννεύοντα.

File:Philosopher probably Apollonius of Tyana Heraklion museum original.jpg
Statue of a philosopher, probably Apollonius of Tyana. Late 2nd – 3rd century AD.