The First Hexameter Song and the Fragments of Boio

Boiô [Boeo] is a woman poet from, well, Boeotia

Pausanias 5.7-9

“They claim that after some time Themis was given by Gaia whatever he share was and then that Apollo received that as a gift from Themis. They say that Apollo gave to Poseidon the portion of land called Kalauria which is near Troizen as an exchange-gift for the oracle. I have also heard that men who were shepherding their flocks chanced upon the oracle and were inspired by the mist and then acted as prophets of Apollo. The account with the most adherents is the story of Phêmonoê, that she was the first prophet of the god and the first person who sang hexameters.

Boiô, a local woman who created a Hymn for the Delphians, used to say that people who visited from the Hyperboreans along with others and Olên created the oracle for the god and that he, Olên, was the first to give prophecies and to sing a hexameter.

Boiô composed these verses: “Here in fact, they built the oracle of good memory / the children of the Hyperboreans, Pagasos and shining Aguieus.”

Once she has named other Hyperboreans, near the end of the hymn she mentioned Olên: “And Olên who was the first prophet of Phoibos / and the first to make the song of ancient epic verses.” There is in common memory no mention of him at all; all that is left is the prophecy of women only.”

χρόνῳ δὲ ὕστερον, ὅσον τῇ Γῇ μετῆν, δοθῆναι Θέμιδι ὑπ᾿ αὐτῆς λέγουσιν, Ἀπόλλωνα δὲ παρὰ Θέμιδος λαβεῖν δωρεάν· Ποσειδῶνι δὲ ἀντὶ τοῦ μαντείου Καλαύρειαν ἀντιδοῦναί φασιν αὐτὸν τὴν πρὸ Τροιζῆνος. ἤκουσα δὲ καὶ ὡς ἄνδρες ποιμαίνοντες ἐπιτύχοιεν τῷ μαντείῳ, καὶ ἔνθεοί τε ἐγένοντο ὑπὸ τοῦ ἀτμοῦ καὶ ἐμαντεύσαντο ἐξ Ἀπόλλωνος. μεγίστη δὲ καὶ παρὰ πλείστων ἐς Φημονόην δόξα ἐστίν, ὡς πρόμαντις γένοιτο ἡ Φημονόη τοῦ θεοῦ πρώτη καὶ πρώτη τὸ ἑξάμετρον ᾖσεν. Βοιὼ δὲ ἐπιχωρία γυνὴ ποιήσασα ὕμνον Δελφοῖς ἔφη κατασκευάσασθαι τὸ μαντεῖον τῷ θεῷ τοὺς ἀφικομένους ἐξ Ὑπερβορέων τούς τε ἄλλους καὶ Ὠλῆνα· τοῦτον δὲ καὶ μαντεύσασθαι πρῶτον καὶ ᾄσαι πρῶτον τὸ ἑξάμετρον. πεποίηκε δὲ ἡ Βοιὼ τοιάδε·

ἔνθα τοι εὔμνηστον χρηστήριον ἐκτελέσαντο

παῖδες Ὑπερβορέων Παγασὸς καὶ δῖος Ἀγυιεύς.

ἐπαριθμοῦσα δὲ καὶ ἄλλους τῶν Ὑπερβορέων, ἐπὶ τελευτῇ τοῦ ὕμνου τὸν Ὠλῆνα ὠνόμασεν·

Ὠλήν θ᾿ ὃς γένετο πρῶτος Φοίβοιο προφάτας

πρῶτος δ᾿ ἀρχαίων ἐπέων τεκτάνατ᾿ ἀοιδάν.

οὐ μέντοι τά γε ἥκοντα ἐς μνήμην ἐς ἄλλον τινά, ἐς δὲ γυναικῶν μαντείαν ἀνήκει μόνων.

Image result for delphic oracle

Ah, A Talking Head (Prophetic Zombie Corpses)

Phlegon of Tralles, On Marvels 3

“Antisthenes, the peripatetic philosopher, also records that the consul Acilius Glabrio with the ambassadors Porcius Cato and Lucius Valerius Flaccus was stationed in war against Antiochus at Thermopylae and, after fighting well, compelled those on Antiochus’ side to throw down their weapons and the man himself to flee to Elataia with five hundred hypastists. From there, they compelled him to turn again to Thessaly. Acilius then sent Cato to Rome so he might announce the victory while he led the army himself against the Aitolians in Herakleia, which he took with ease.

In the action against Antiochus at Thermopylae, the Romans witnessed some shocking signs. After Antiochus turned and fled, on the next day the Romans turned to the gathering of those who died on the battle and a selection of weapons, war-spoils, and prisoners.

There was some man from the Syrian cavalry, named Bouplagos, who was honored by Antiochus but fell in battle even as he fought nobly. While the Romans were gathering up all the arms at midday, Bouplagos rose from the corpses even though he had twelve wounds. As he appeared to the army, he spoke the following verses in a soft voice:

Stop gathering booty from an army which has marched to Hades’ land—
For Kronos’ Son Zeus already feels anger as he watches your deeds.
He is raging at the murder of the army and your acts,
And he will send a bold-hearted race into your country
Who will end your empire and make you pay for what you’ve done.

Because they were troubled by these verses, the generals swiftly gathered the army in assembly and discussed the meaning of the omen. They thought it best to cremate and bury Bouplagos who had died right after he uttered these words. Then they performed a cleansing of the camp, made sacrifices to Zeus Apotropaios and sent a group to Delphi to ask the god what they should do.”

῾Ιστορεῖ δὲ καὶ ᾿Αντισθένης, ὁ περιπατητικὸς φιλόσοφος, ᾿Ακείλιον Γλαβρίωνα τὸν ὕπατον μετὰ πρεσβευτῶν Πορκίου Κάτωνος καὶ Λουκίου Οὐαλερίου Φλάκκου παραταξάμενον ᾿Αντιόχῳ ἐν Θερμοπύλαις γενναίως τε ἀγωνισάμενον βιάσασθαι ῥίψαι μὲν τὰ ὅπλα τοὺς μετ’ ᾿Αντιόχου, αὐτὸν δὲ τὰ μὲν πρῶτα εἰς ᾿Ελάτειαν μετὰ πεντακοσίων ὑπασπιστῶν φυγεῖν, ἐκεῖθεν δὲ πάλιν εἰς ῎Εφεσον ἀναγκάσαι ὑπεξελθεῖν. ὁ δὲ ᾿Ακείλιος Κάτωνα μὲν εἰς ῾Ρώμην ἀπέστειλεν ἀπαγγελοῦντα τὴν νίκην, αὐτὸς δὲ ἐπ’ Αἰτωλοὺς καθ’ ῾Ηράκλειαν ἐστράτευσεν, ἣν ἐξ εὐμαροῦς ἔλαβεν.

ἐν δὲ τῇ παρατάξει τῇ γενομένῃ πρὸς ᾿Αντίοχον ἐν Θερμοπύλαις ἐπιφανέστατα σημεῖα ἐγένετο ῾Ρωμαίοις. ἀποσφαλέντος γὰρ ᾿Αντιόχου καὶ φυγόντος τῇ ἐπιούσῃ ἡμέρᾳ ἐγίνοντο οἱ ῾Ρωμαῖοι περὶ ἀναίρεσιν τῶν ἐκ τῆς σφετέρας δυνάμεως πεπτωκότων καὶ περὶ συλλογὴν λαφύρων τε καὶ σκύλων καὶ αἰχμαλώτων.

Βούπλαγος δέ τις, τῶν ἀπὸ Συρίας ἱππάρχης, τιμώμενος παρὰ τῷ βασιλεῖ ᾿Αντιόχῳ, ἔπεσε καὶ αὐτὸς γενναίως ἀγωνισάμενος. ἀναιρουμένων δὲ τῶν ῾Ρωμαίων πάντα τὰ σκῦλα καὶ μεσούσης τῆς ἡμέρας ἀνέστη ὁ Βούπλαγος ἐκ τῶν νεκρῶν, ἔχων τραύματα δέκα δύο, καὶ παραγενόμενος εἰς τὸ στρατόπεδον αὐτῶν ἀνεῖπε λεπτῇ τῇ φωνῇ τούσδε τοὺς στίχους·

παῦσαι σκυλεύων στρατὸν ῎Αιδος εἰς χθόνα βάντα·
ἤδη γὰρ Κρονίδης νεμεσᾷ Ζεὺς μέρμερα λεύσσων,
μηνίει δὲ φόνῳ στρατιᾶς καὶ σοῖσιν ἐπ’ ἔργοις,
καὶ πέμψει φῦλον θρασυκάρδιον εἰς χθόνα τὴν σήν,
οἵ σ’ ἀρχῆς παύσουσιν, ἀμείψῃ δ’ οἷά γ’ ἔρεξας.

ταραχθέντες δὲ οἱ στρατηγοὶ ἐπὶ τοῖς ῥηθεῖσιν διὰ ταχέων συνήγαγον τὸ πλῆθος εἰς ἐκκλησίαν καὶ ἐβουλεύοντο περὶ τοῦ γεγονότος φάσματος. ἔδοξεν οὖν τὸν μὲν Βούπλαγον παραχρῆμα μετὰ τὰ λεχθέντα ἔπη ἀποπνεύσαντα κατακαύ-σαντας θάψαι, καθαρμὸν δὲ ποιήσαντας τοῦ στρατοπέδου θῦσαι Διὶ ᾿Αποτροπαίῳ καὶ πέμψαι εἰς Δελφοὺς ἐρωτήσοντας τὸν θεόν τί χρὴ ποιεῖν.

The story continues and only gets stranger. Part 2.

Walking corpses, from a marginalia depiction of ‘The Three Living and the Three Dead’. The Taymouth Hours (C14th), British Library, Yates Thompson MS 13, fol. 180r.
 The Taymouth Hours (C14th), British Library, Yates Thompson MS 13, fol. 180r.

Publius’ Severed Head Speaks! The Third Act of a Fantastic Friday

In two earlier posts, we have the story of a victorious Roman army beset by tragic prophecies provided by a zombie opponent, the oracle at Delphi, and a suddenly mad general. Here, the general prophesies, dies, and speaks again. Oh, there’s a red wolf involved too.

Phlegon of Tralles, On Marvels 3 (Part 3)

“After he said these things, he spoke in verse again:

When the shining gold-bedecked Nêsaian horses
Trod on the shining earth, after they leave behind their seat
The horses Daidalian Êetion once made in the city
Of the very wealthy Syracusans, building up a longed-for friendship.
He put a fire on the bronze and laid golden knots
On their halters and he fit all this too on the son of
Hyperion who shines with rays and light.
On that day, Roman, harsh griefs will occur for you.
A broad army will come and it will destroy your whole land,
It will desolate your marketplaces, and it will make your cities burned ash.
It will fill the rivers with blood; it will fill Hades,
And it will cast pitiful, hateful, terrible slavery upon you.
No wife will welcome her husband come from war
But darkly-dressed Hades who lives below will hold them
among the rotting places where he has stolen children from their mothers,
as this foreign Ares will craft his day of enslavement.

He was silent and then, after he left the camp, he climbed up a certain tree. Because the crowd followed him, he addressed them again and said: “Roman men and remaining soldiers, it is fated for me to be eaten by a red wolf after I die on the same day. But you must take to heart that everything which I have said will turn out well for you. Take the coming appearance of this beast and my death as a clear sign that I have spoken truly, inspired from a god.”

After he said these things, he ordered them to hold back and that no one should stop the beast from approaching, warning that it would not help them if they turned it away. When the mob did what was ordered, a wolf arrived before too long. When Publius say it, he came down from the tree and fell to his back. The wolf tore him apart and dined on him while everyone was walking. Once it had eaten up his body except for his head, he turned to the mountain. When the mob approached and was considering collecting what was left and burying him, the head spoke as it sat upon the earth and uttered these lines.

Don’t touch my head! For it is not right
For those upon whose thoughts Athena has set a savage rage
To touch a godly head. No, stop!
Heed the true prophecy which I will tell you.
For a great a powerful Ares will approach this land—
He will send a host in arms down to Hades’ gloom.
It will break the stone fortifications and long walls
And after that, once it has taken our wealth and wives and children
Will lead it all to Asia by crossing the waves.
Phoibos Apollo has uttered these truths to you
The Pythian one who sent me as his strong servant
And has led me now to the homes of Persephone and the blessed.

Once they heard these voices, they were extremely upset. Once they built a shrine to Lykian Apollo along which an altar in the very place where the head say, they embarked on their ships and everyone sailed to their own country. Everything promised by Publius happened in time.”

ταῦτα δὲ εἰπὼν ἔλεξεν αὖθις ἐν ἔπεσι τάδε·

ἡνίκα Νησαῖοι χρυσάμπυκες ἀργέται ἵπποι
βῶσιν ἐπὶ χθόνα δῖαν, ἑὴν προλιπόντες ἐφέδρην
—οὕς ποτ’ ἐν ἄστει τεῦξε Συρηκοσίων πολυόλβων
δαίδαλος ᾿Ηετίων, φιλίην πολυήρατον αὔξων,
δαῖτ’ ἐπὶ χαλκείῃ, δεσμοῖς δ’ ἐπὶ δεσμὸν ἴαλλεν
χρύσεον, ἐν δ’ αὐτὸν πᾶσιν ῾Υπερίονος υἱὸν
ἥρμοσεν ἀκτίνεσσι καὶ ὄμμασι μαρμαίροντα—
καὶ τότε σοί, ῾Ρώμη, χαλέπ’ ἄλγεα πάντα τελεῖται.
ἥξει γὰρ στρατὸς εὐρύς, ὅ σου χθόνα πᾶσαν ὀλέσσει,
χηρώσει δ’ ἀγοράς, ἄστη δέ τε πυρπόλα θήσει,
αἵματι δὲ πλήσει ποταμούς, πλήσει δὲ καὶ ῞Αιδην,
δουλοσύνην τ’ οἰκτρήν, στυγερήν, ἀτέκμαρτον ἐφήσει.
οὐδὲ γυνὴ πόσιν ὅν γ’ ὑποδέξεται ἐκ πολέμοιο
νοστήσαντ’, ᾿Αΐδης δὲ καταχθόνιος, μελανείμων
ἕξει ἐνὶ φθιμένοισιν ὁμοῦ τέκνα μητρὸς ἀπούρας,
῎Αρης δ’ ἀλλοδαπὸς περιθήσει δούλιον ἦμαρ.

ἀποφθεγξάμενος δὲ ταῦτα ἐσιώπησεν καὶ πορευθεὶς ἔξω τοῦ στρατοπέδου ἀνέβη ἐπί τινα δρῦν. ἐπακολουθήσαντος δὲ τοῦ ὄχλου προσεκαλέσατο αὐτοὺς καὶ εἶπε τάδε· «ἐμοὶ μέν, ὦ ἄνδρες ῾Ρωμαῖοι καὶ οἱ λοιποὶ στρατιῶται, καθήκει τελευτή-
σαντι ὑπὸ λύκου πυρροῦ εὐμεγέθους καταβρωθῆναι ἐν τῇ σήμερον ἡμέρᾳ, ὑμεῖς δὲ τὰ ῥηθέντα ὑπ’ ἐμοῦ γινώσκετε συμβησόμενα ὑμῖν πάντα, τεκμηρίοις χρώμενοι τῇ νῦν ἐσομένῃ ἐπιφανείᾳ τοῦ θηρίου τε καὶ τῇ ἐμῇ ἀναιρέσει, ὅτι ἀληθῆ εἴρηκα ἔκ τινος θείας ὑποδείξεως.» τοσαῦτα δὲ εἰπὼν ἐκέλευσεν αὐτοὺς ἀποστῆναι καὶ μηδένα κωλύσαι τὸ θηρίον προσελθεῖν φάσκων, ἐὰν ἀποστρέψωσιν, οὐ συνοίσειν αὐτοῖς.

ποιήσαντος δὲ τοῦ πλήθους τὸ προσταχθὲν οὐκ εἰς μακρὰν παραγίνεται ὁ λύκος. ἰδὼν δὲ αὐτὸν ὁ Πόπλιος κατέβη ἀπὸ τῆς δρυὸς καὶ ἔπεσεν ὕπτιος, ὁ δὲ λύκος ἀνασχίσας αὐτὸν κατεδαίνυτο πάντων ὁρώντων. ἀναλώσας δὲ τὸ σῶμα αὐτοῦ πλὴν τῆς κεφαλῆς ἐτράπετο εἰς τὸ ὄρος. προσελθόντος δὲ τοῦ ὄχλου καὶ βουλομένου ἀνελέσθαι τὰ ἀπολελειμμένα κτερίσαι τε αὐτὸν νομίμως, ἡ κεφαλὴ κειμένη ἐπὶ τῆς γῆς ἀνεῖπε τοὺς στίχους τοιούτους·

μὴ ψαῦ’ ἡμετέρης κεφαλῆς· οὐ γὰρ θέμις ἐστίν,
οἷσιν ᾿Αθηναίη χόλον ἄγριον ἐν φρεσὶ θῆκεν,
ἅπτεσθαι θείοιο καρήατος· ἀλλὰ πέπαυσο
μαντοσύνην τ’ ἐπάκουσον, ἀληθέα ᾗπερ ἐρῶ σοι.
ἥξει γὰρ χθόνα τήνδε πολὺς καὶ καρτερὸς ῎Αρης,
ὃς λαὸν μὲν ἔνοπλον ὑπὸ σκότον ᾿Αΐδι πέμψει,
ῥήξει δ’ αὖ λιθίνους πύργους καὶ τείχεα μακρά,
ὄλβον δ’ ἡμέτερον καὶ νήπια τέκν’ ἀλόχους τε
μάρψας εἰς ᾿Ασίην ἄξει διὰ κῦμα περήσας.
ταῦτά σοι εἴρηκεν νημερτέα Φοῖβος ᾿Απόλλων
Πύθιος, ὅς μοι ἑὸν κρατερὸν θεράποντ’ ἐπιπέμψας
ἤγαγεν εἰς μακάρων τε δόμους καὶ Περσεφονείης.

ἀκούσαντες δὲ τῶν ἐπῶν τούτων οὐ μετρίως ἐταράχθησαν, ἱδρυσάμενοί τε ναὸν ᾿Απόλλωνος Λυκίου καὶ βωμόν, οὗπερ ἔκειτο ἡ κεφαλή, ἐνέβησαν εἰς τὰς ναῦς καὶ ἀπέπλεον ἕκαστος ἐπὶ τὰς ἑαυτῶν πατρίδας. καὶ συνέβη ἅπαντα τὰ ὑπὸ τοῦ Ποπλίου ῥηθέντα γενέσθαι.

Prophetic Zombie Enemies: Another Fantastic Friday

Phlegon of Tralles, On Marvels 3

“Antisthenes, the peripatetic philosopher, also records that the consul Acilius Glabrio with the ambassadors Porcius Cato and Lucius Valerius Flaccus was stationed in war against Antiochus at Thermopylae and, after fighting well, compelled those on Antiochus’ side to throw down their weapons and the man himself to flee to Elataia with five hundred hypastists. From there, they compelled him to turn again to Thessaly. Acilius then sent Cato to Rome so he might announce the victory while he led the army himself against the Aitolians in Herakleia, which he took with ease.

In the action against Antiochus at Thermopylae, the Romans witnessed some shocking signs. After Antiochus turned and fled, on the next day the Romans turned to the gathering of those who died on the battle and a selection of weapons, war-spoils, and prisoners.

There was some man from the Syrian cavalry, named Bouplagos, who was honored by Antiochus but fell in battle even as he fought nobly. While the Romans were gathering up all the arms at midday, Bouplagos rose from the corpses even though he had twelve wounds. As he appeared to the army, he spoke the following verses in a soft voice:

Stop gathering booty from an army which has marched to Hades’ land—
For Kronos’ Son Zeus already feels anger as he watches your deeds.
He is raging at the murder of the army and your acts,
And he will send a bold-hearted race into your country
Who will end your empire and make you pay for what you’ve done.

Because they were troubled by these verses, the generals swiftly gathered the army in assembly and discussed the meaning of the omen. They thought it best to cremate and bury Bouplagos who had died right after he uttered these words. Then they performed a cleansing of the camp, made sacrifices to Zeus Apotropaios and sent a group to Delphi to ask the god what they should do.”

῾Ιστορεῖ δὲ καὶ ᾿Αντισθένης, ὁ περιπατητικὸς φιλόσοφος, ᾿Ακείλιον Γλαβρίωνα τὸν ὕπατον μετὰ πρεσβευτῶν Πορκίου Κάτωνος καὶ Λουκίου Οὐαλερίου Φλάκκου παραταξάμενον ᾿Αντιόχῳ ἐν Θερμοπύλαις γενναίως τε ἀγωνισάμενον βιάσασθαι ῥίψαι μὲν τὰ ὅπλα τοὺς μετ’ ᾿Αντιόχου, αὐτὸν δὲ τὰ μὲν πρῶτα εἰς ᾿Ελάτειαν μετὰ πεντακοσίων ὑπασπιστῶν φυγεῖν, ἐκεῖθεν δὲ πάλιν εἰς ῎Εφεσον ἀναγκάσαι ὑπεξελθεῖν. ὁ δὲ ᾿Ακείλιος Κάτωνα μὲν εἰς ῾Ρώμην ἀπέστειλεν ἀπαγγελοῦντα τὴν νίκην, αὐτὸς δὲ ἐπ’ Αἰτωλοὺς καθ’ ῾Ηράκλειαν ἐστράτευσεν, ἣν ἐξ εὐμαροῦς ἔλαβεν.

ἐν δὲ τῇ παρατάξει τῇ γενομένῃ πρὸς ᾿Αντίοχον ἐν Θερμοπύλαις ἐπιφανέστατα σημεῖα ἐγένετο ῾Ρωμαίοις. ἀποσφαλέντος γὰρ ᾿Αντιόχου καὶ φυγόντος τῇ ἐπιούσῃ ἡμέρᾳ ἐγίνοντο οἱ ῾Ρωμαῖοι περὶ ἀναίρεσιν τῶν ἐκ τῆς σφετέρας δυνάμεως πεπτωκότων καὶ περὶ συλλογὴν λαφύρων τε καὶ σκύλων καὶ αἰχμαλώτων.

Βούπλαγος δέ τις, τῶν ἀπὸ Συρίας ἱππάρχης, τιμώμενος παρὰ τῷ βασιλεῖ ᾿Αντιόχῳ, ἔπεσε καὶ αὐτὸς γενναίως ἀγωνισάμενος. ἀναιρουμένων δὲ τῶν ῾Ρωμαίων πάντα τὰ σκῦλα καὶ μεσούσης τῆς ἡμέρας ἀνέστη ὁ Βούπλαγος ἐκ τῶν νεκρῶν, ἔχων τραύματα δέκα δύο, καὶ παραγενόμενος εἰς τὸ στρατόπεδον αὐτῶν ἀνεῖπε λεπτῇ τῇ φωνῇ τούσδε τοὺς στίχους·

παῦσαι σκυλεύων στρατὸν ῎Αιδος εἰς χθόνα βάντα·
ἤδη γὰρ Κρονίδης νεμεσᾷ Ζεὺς μέρμερα λεύσσων,
μηνίει δὲ φόνῳ στρατιᾶς καὶ σοῖσιν ἐπ’ ἔργοις,
καὶ πέμψει φῦλον θρασυκάρδιον εἰς χθόνα τὴν σήν,
οἵ σ’ ἀρχῆς παύσουσιν, ἀμείψῃ δ’ οἷά γ’ ἔρεξας.

ταραχθέντες δὲ οἱ στρατηγοὶ ἐπὶ τοῖς ῥηθεῖσιν διὰ ταχέων συνήγαγον τὸ πλῆθος εἰς ἐκκλησίαν καὶ ἐβουλεύοντο περὶ τοῦ γεγονότος φάσματος. ἔδοξεν οὖν τὸν μὲν Βούπλαγον παραχρῆμα μετὰ τὰ λεχθέντα ἔπη ἀποπνεύσαντα κατακαύ-σαντας θάψαι, καθαρμὸν δὲ ποιήσαντας τοῦ στρατοπέδου θῦσαι Διὶ ᾿Αποτροπαίῳ καὶ πέμψαι εἰς Δελφοὺς ἐρωτήσοντας τὸν θεόν τί χρὴ ποιεῖν.

Walking corpses, from a marginalia depiction of ‘The Three Living and the Three Dead’. The Taymouth Hours (C14th), British Library, Yates Thompson MS 13, fol. 180r.
 The Taymouth Hours (C14th), British Library, Yates Thompson MS 13, fol. 180r.

Fantastic Friday: Talking Severed Heads and Prophecies of Doom (Part 2)

In the first half of this tale, a young politician died after getting married and his wife gave birth to a hermaphrodite. When the townspeople considered burning the mother and child, the husband rose from the dead and warned the people to listen to him. They dithered, so he ate the child.

Phlegon of Tralles, On Marvels 2 (Part 2)

There was a great cry and stones were thrown at him and they tried to make him turn him back. But he was not frightened off by the stones and he destroyed all of the child’s body except for the head and immediately disappeared.

While they were upset by the events and had fallen into confusion because of failing to capture him and were planning to go to Delphi, the head of the child spoke where it was sitting on the ground and provided a prophecy of what would happen:

Numberless people who inhabit a much-sung land
Do not go to the precinct of Phoibos and his smokey temple.
For your hands stand unclean in the air because of blood.
The path laid before your feet is corrupted.
Learn from me the journey the oracle foretells.
On this very day after the passing of a year
Death is fated for all of you, but the souls
Of Lokrians and Aitolians will live mixed together by Athena’s plans.
There will be no break from evil, not even a short one.
For already there is murderous blood pouring over your heads.
Night now hides everything as a dark sky races over us.
Immediately dark night overshadows the whole land.
All the widoes at home are resting their limbs on the ground.
No woman will be ever feel grief, nor will the children
Now in the homes mourn, as they cling to dear fathers.
For this sort of wave will wash over the whole land.
Oh, Oh, I always groan for my country suffering terrible things,
And my most wretched mother, who weeps last while still alive.
All the gods will make the race nameless
Of Lokrians and Aitolians whatever kind of seed is left.
Because death left my dear head and did not make
All of my mixed up limbs disappear, but left me on the earth.
But come and show my head to the sun as it rises.
Do not cover it below the shadowed earth.
You—leave this land after this is done
And go to another land and the people of Athena
If you choose to avoid death by fate’s decree.

After the Aitolians heard this oracle, they sent away their wives, children and elderly wherever each was able. But many remained to await what would happen. In the next year it happened that there was a war between the Aitolians and the Acarnanians and there was a great destruction of both peoples.

τοῦ δὲ ὄχλου συνδραμόντος καὶ ἔριν περὶ [τὴν ἄρσιν] τοῦ τέρατος ἔχοντος, ἐπιλαβόμενος τοῦ παιδίου καὶ τοὺς πλείστους αὐτῶν ἀνείρξας ἰταμώτερον διέσπασέ τε αὐτὸ καὶ ἤσθιε.

κραυγῆς δὲ γενομένης καὶ λίθων ἐπ’ αὐτὸν ἐκριπτομένων ὑπελάμβανον τροπὴν αὐτοῦ ποιήσασθαι. ὁ δὲ ἄπληκτος ὢν ὑπὸ τῶν λίθων τὸ σῶμα πᾶν παιδίου κατανάλωσε πλὴν τῆς κεφαλῆς καὶ αὐτίκα ἀφανὴς ἐγένετο. δυσφορούντων δ’ αὐτῶν ἐπὶ τοῖς γενομένοις καὶ ἐν ἀπορίᾳ καθεστηκότων οὐ τῇ τυχούσῃ, βουλομένων τε ἀποστεῖλαι εἰς Δελφούς, φθέγγεται ἡ κεφαλὴ τοῦ παιδίου ἐπὶ τοῦ ἐδάφους κειμένη καὶ λέγει χρησμῷ τὰ ἀποβησόμενα·

ὦ πολυύμνητον ναίων χθόνα λαὸς ἀπείρων,
μὴ στεῖχ’ ἐς Φοίβου τέμενος ναόν τε θυώδη·
οὐ γάρ σοι καθαραὶ χέρες αἵματος αἰθέρ’ ἔχουσιν,
ἀλλὰ μύσος προπάροιθε ποδῶν ἔντοσθε κελεύθου.
φράζεο δ’ ἐξ ἐμέθεν, τρίποδος δ’ ἀπόειπε κέλευθον·
μαντοσύνης πᾶσαν γὰρ ἐφετμήν σοι καταλέξω.
ἤματι γὰρ τούτῳ περιτελλομένου ἐνιαυτοῦ
ὥρισται πᾶσιν θάνατος, ψυχαὶ δὲ βίονται
Λοκρῶν Αἰτωλῶν τ’ ἀναμὶξ βουλῇσιν ᾿Αθήνης.
οὐδ’ ἀναπαύλησις κακοῦ ἔσσεται οὐδ’ ἠβαιόν·
ἤδη γὰρ ψακάδες φόνιαι κατὰ κρᾶτα κέχυνται,
νὺξ δ’ ἐπὶ πάντα κέκευθε, μέλας δ’ ἐπιδέδρομεν αἴθρη.
αὐτίκα νὺξ δ’ ἔρεβος πᾶσαν κατὰ γαῖαν ὄρωρεν,
χῆροι δ’ οἴκοι πάντες ἐπ’ οὔδεϊ γυῖα κλινοῦσιν,
οὐδὲ γυνὴ πένθος ποτὲ λείψεται, οὐδέ νυ παῖδες
ἃν μεγάροις γοόωσι, φίλους πατέρας περιφύντες·

τοῖον γὰρ τόδε κῦμα κατέδραμε πᾶσι κατ’ ἄκρης.
αἲ αἲ πατρίδ’ ἐμὴν αἰεὶ στένω αἰνὰ παθοῦσαν
μητέρα τ’ αἰνοτάτην, ἣν ὕστερον ἔκλυσεν αἰών.
νώνυμνόν τε θεοὶ γένεσιν θήσουσιν ἅπαντες
Λοκρῶν τ’ Αἰτωλῶν θ’ ὅ τί που καὶ σπέρμα λίποιτο,
οὕνεκ’ ἐμὴν κεφαλὴν λίποι αἰών, οὐδέ νυ πάντα
σώματος ἠφάνικεν μέλε’ ἄκριτα, λεῖπε δὲ γαῖαν.
ἀλλ’ ἄγ’ ἐμὴν κεφαλὴν θέμεν’ ἠοῖ φαινομένῃφι,
μηδέ θ’ ὑπὸ ζοφερὴν γαῖαν κατακρυπτέμεν ἔνδον·
αὐτοὺς δὲ προλιπόντας ἑὸν χῶρον μετόπισθεν
στείχειν εἰς ἄλλον χῶρον καὶ λαὸν ᾿Αθήνης,
εἴ τινά που θανάτοιο λύσιν κατὰ μοῖραν ἕλησθε.

ἀκούσαντες δὲ οἱ Αἰτωλοὶ τοῦ χρησμοῦ, γυναῖκας μὲν καὶ τὰ νήπια τέκνα τούς τε ὑπεργήρως ὑπεξέθεντο οὗ ἕκαστος ἐδύνατο, αὐτοὶ δὲ ἔμενον καραδοκοῦντες τὸ ἀποβησόμενον. καὶ συνέβη τῷ ἑξῆς ἔτει Αἰτωλοῖς καὶ ᾿Ακαρνᾶσι συστῆναι πόλεμον καὶ φθορὰν πολλὴν ἑκατέρων γενέσθαι.

Image result for medieval manuscript severed head
Psalter, MS M.79 fol. 111v

Sacred Tree, Speak to Me

Appendix Proverbiana

“The oak’s pollution”: A riddle in Euripides’ Erekhtheus about the transgression of the Thebans against the oracle in Dodona. The proverb “Boiotian prophets” also comes from this.

Μίασμα δρυός: παρ’ Εὐριπίδῃ ἐν ᾿Ερεχθεῖ αἰνιττόμενον τὸ Θηβαίων παρανόμημα εἰς τὸ ἐν Δωδώνῃ μαντεῖον, ἀφ’ οὗ καὶ παροιμία Βοιωτοῖς μαντεύσαις.

Does anyone know what the Thebans did to Dodona? Herodotus talks about the oracle being founded by women abducted from Egyptian Thebes…

Suda, s.v. Δωδώνη

“Dodonê: A city in Pelasgian Thesprotia. An oak tree stood in it near which there was an oracle of women prophets. When people approached for prophecies, the oak tree moved, making sounds. Then the women intoned that “Zeus says these things”. A statue stood in a high place, holding up a staff. A cauldron stood near it too. The statue used to hit the cauldron and it would issue a melodious ring. But the voices of the demons are senseless.”

Δωδώνη: πόλις ἐν τῇ Θεσπρωτίδι Πελασγίᾳ. ἐν ᾗ ἵστατο δρῦς, ἐν ᾗ μαντεῖον ἦν γυναικῶν προφητίδων. καὶ εἰσιόντων τῶν μαντευομένων ἐκινεῖτο δῆθεν ἡ δρῦς ἠχοῦσα: αἱ δὲ ἐφθέγγοντο, ὅτι τάδε λέγει ὁ Ζεύς. καὶ ἀνδριὰς ἵστατο ἐν ὕψει ῥάβδον κατέχων, καὶ παρ’ αὐτὸν λέβης ἵστατο: καὶ ἔπαιεν ὁ ἀνδριὰς τὸν λέβητα, ἐξ οὗ ἦχός τις ἐναρμόνιος ἀπετελεῖτο. αἱ δὲ τῶν δαιμόνων φωναὶ ἄναρθροί εἰσιν.

The oracle is mentioned in the Iliad and the Odyssey 19.296-299:

“He was claiming that he went to Dodona so he might hear
The will of Zeus from the high-leafed divine tree
How he might making his homecoming to his dear paternal land
When he has been away for long already, either openly or secrely”

τὸν δ’ ἐς Δωδώνην φάτο βήμεναι, ὄφρα θεοῖο
ἐκ δρυὸς ὑψικόμοιο Διὸς βουλὴν ἐπακούσαι,
ὅππως νοστήσειε φίλην ἐς πατρίδα γαῖαν,
ἤδη δὴν ἀπεών, ἢ ἀμφαδὸν ἦε κρυφηδόν.

From Fritz Graf’s entry on Dodona in Brill’s New Pauly:

“Our literary sources only partly concur with this. Hom. Il. 16,233-235 is familiar with the Selli, barefooted and living on the ground, as guardians of the oracle, Od. 19,296-299 with the (talking) oak as the source of knowledge about Zeus’ will (similarly Hes. fr. 240,8; 319; Aesch. PV 832). The oak’s ability to speak is presupposed in the myth of the talking beam made of Dodonian oak which was part of the ship Argo (Apollod. 1,110). Soph. Trach. 171f. indicates two doves on the Sacred Oak as the source of the oracle; likewise, the myths of the sanctuary’s origins link the Sacred Oak with a (talking) dove (Proxenos FGrH 703 F 7; Philostr. Imag. 2,33; Schol. Il 16,234). Hdt. 2,54-57 on the other hand interprets the doves allegorically as priestesses, and in several later sources ‘dove’ (peleiás) is explained as a term for the priestesses of D.

If the early testimonies speak of oak and doves as the givers of signs, that tallies with the ancient view that D. gave oracles in signs and not in words (Str. 7 fr. 1 Chr.), but is not consistent with extant texts and other information on oracles in prose (Dem. Or. 21,53) or hexameters (Paus. 10,12,10). This suggests an originally very archaic and perhaps pre-Greek oracle (Zeus Pelasgikos: Hom. Il. 16,233; Pelasgians: Hdt. 2,54), that was cared for by a priesthood characterized by its particularly marginalized ritual and that expressed itself through natural signs (oak), later switched to priestesses (thus Str. 7,7,12) and provided answers in textual form, in keeping with Greek practice elsewhere.”

 

Image result for Sacred Oak at Dodona
There is an Oak in Dodona now. Probably not the original!

Three Accounts for the Prophetic Power of Helenos and Kassandra

Schol ad Il. 6.76a ex

“The story goes that Helenos was Kasandra’s twin and that after they were born they were left in the Thumbraion temple of Apollo and that serpents cleaned their ears. [They] got prophetic power from that.”

ex. Πριαμίδης ῞Ελενος: λέγεται τὸν ῞Ελενον δίδυμον εἶναι Κασάνδρας, τεχθέντα<ς> δὲ καταλειφθῆναι μόνους ἐν τῷ τοῦ Θυμβραίου ᾿Απόλλωνος ἱερῷ, καὶ δράκοντας ἀποψῆσαι τὴν ἀκοήν, καὶ τὴν μαντείαν ἐντεῦθεν λαβεῖν. T

Schol. bT ad Il. 7.44-45 ex

“They say that Helenos and Kasandra were twins and that they escaped from their parents one night and he slept in the temple of Thumbraion Apollo, while she slept in the temple of Artemis. At dawn they were discovered with clean ears.”

φασὶ δὲ ῞Ελενον καὶ Κασάνδραν διδύμους εἶναι, λαθόντας δὲ τοὺς γονεῖς ποτε νυκτὸς καταδραθεῖν τὸν μὲν εἰς τὸν τοῦ ᾿Απόλλωνος τοῦ Θυμβραίου ναόν, τὴν δὲ εἰς τὸν τῆς ᾿Αρτέμιδος, ἕωθεν δὲ εὑρεθῆναι †ἐκκαθαριζομένους† τὰς ἀκοάς.b(BCE3)T

Schol. D ad Il. 7.44

“The story goes that Helenos and Kasandra were twins born to Priam from Hecuba. When the infants had grown a little, it is said that they fell asleep in the temple of Thumbraian Apollo after playing there. Because they were drunk, they forgot about their children and went home. When they returned later to the temple they found their children’s senses being cleaned by the tongues of serpents. Because it seemed impossible, the women screamed. The serpents left and retreated into the laurel growing around, giving both children a share in prophetic power as they left. Antikleides tells this story.”

helenus_563

Τῶνδ’ ῞Ελενος Πριάμοιο φίλος παῖς.
Μυθεύεται, τῶν ἐξ ῾Εκάβης γεγονότων
Πριάμῳ παίδων ῞Ελενον καὶ Κασάνδραν
διδύμους γεγεννῆσθαι. Τῶν δὲ γενεθλίων
αὐτοῖς τελουμένων ἐν τῷ τοῦ Θυμβραίου
᾿Απόλλωνος ἱερῷ, λέγεται, τὸν ῞Ελενον
καὶ τὴν Κασάνδραν ἐν τῷ ναῷ παίζοντας
κατακοιμηθῆναι. ῾Υπὸ δὲ μέθης τῶν περὶ
τοὺς παίδας ἐκλαθομένων ἐκείνων, οἴκαδε
χωρισθῆναι. Τῇ δ’ ὑστεραίᾳ ἐλθόντας
εἰς τὸ ἱερὸν θεάσασθαι τοὺς παῖδας ταῖς
τῶν ὄφεων γλώτταις τοὺς πόρους τῶν
αἰσθητηρίων καθαιρομένους. ῾Ως οὖν διὰ
τὸ παράδοξον αἱ γυναῖκες ἀνέκραγον, συν-
έβη ἀπαλλαγῆναι τοὺς ὄφεις, καὶ κα-
ταδῦναι ἐν ταῖς παρακειμέναις δάφναις,
τοὺς δὲ παῖδας ἀμφοτέρους τῆς μαντικῆς
οὕτως μεταλαβεῖν. ῾Ιστορεῖ ᾿Αντικλεί-
δης.