Coming Together to Feast

Homer Iliad 1.458-476

When they had prayed and scattered barley,
first they pulled back the oxen’s heads,
then they cut their throats and flayed them.
They cut out the thigh bones,
wrapped them in folds of fat,
and put raw flesh on them.
The old man then burnt them on strips of wood
while pouring the libation, red wine, on them.

The young men at his side held five-pronged forks.
When the thigh bones were burnt up,
and they had eaten the innards,
they cut up the rest, put the pieces on spits,
roasted them with care, then pulled them off the spits.

Now their work was done.
They laid a feast and each man had his fill.
Then, freed from hunger for food and drink,
the young men filled the mixing bowls with wine.
They shared the wine with all, pouring in each cup
what’s needed for libations.

And all day long they appeased the god with song—
Achaeans singing the lovely paean,
singing and dancing for Apollo.
He heard them and was glad.

When at last the sun went down and night came on,
they laid down by their ship’s stern-cables and slept.

αὐέρυσαν μὲν πρῶτα καὶ ἔσφαξαν καὶ ἔδειραν,
μηρούς τʼ ἐξέταμον κατά τε κνίσῃ ἐκάλυψαν
δίπτυχα ποιήσαντες, ἐπʼ αὐτῶν δʼ ὠμοθέτησαν·
καῖε δʼ ἐπὶ σχίζῃς ὁ γέρων, ἐπὶ δʼ αἴθοπα οἶνον
λεῖβε· νέοι δὲ παρʼ αὐτὸν ἔχον πεμπώβολα χερσίν.
αὐτὰρ ἐπεὶ κατὰ μῆρε κάη καὶ σπλάγχνα πάσαντο,
μίστυλλόν τʼ ἄρα τἆλλα καὶ ἀμφʼ ὀβελοῖσιν ἔπειραν,
ὤπτησάν τε περιφραδέως, ἐρύσαντό τε πάντα.
αὐτὰρ ἐπεὶ παύσαντο πόνου τετύκοντό τε δαῖτα
δαίνυντʼ, οὐδέ τι θυμὸς ἐδεύετο δαιτὸς ἐΐσης.
αὐτὰρ ἐπεὶ πόσιος καὶ ἐδητύος ἐξ ἔρον ἕντο,
κοῦροι μὲν κρητῆρας ἐπεστέψαντο ποτοῖο,
νώμησαν δʼ ἄρα πᾶσιν ἐπαρξάμενοι δεπάεσσιν·
οἳ δὲ πανημέριοι μολπῇ θεὸν ἱλάσκοντο
καλὸν ἀείδοντες παιήονα κοῦροι Ἀχαιῶν
μέλποντες ἑκάεργον· ὃ δὲ φρένα τέρπετʼ ἀκούων.
ἦμος δʼ ἠέλιος κατέδυ καὶ ἐπὶ κνέφας ἦλθε,
δὴ τότε κοιμήσαντο παρὰ πρυμνήσια νηός·

Larry Benn has a B.A. in English Literature from Harvard College, an M.Phil in English Literature from Oxford University, and a J.D. from Yale Law School. Making amends for a working life misspent in finance, he’s now a hobbyist in ancient languages and blogs at featsofgreek.blogspot.com.

Appeasing the Rage of Medea’s Children

CW: Infanticide

Pausanias, Corinthians, 6.6

“Going along the other road from the marketplace in the direction of Sikyon, one can see on the right side a temple and a bronze statue of Apollo and then a bit farther there’s a well called Glauke’s Well. People say Glauke threw herself into the well because she believed that the water would heal Medea’s drugs.

Above the well there is a place called the Odeion next to which is the tomb of Medea’s children. Their names were Mermeros and Pheres and they were allegedly stoned by the Korinthians because of the gifts they carried to Glauke. Because their death was violent and unjust, the Korinthians’ small babies were killed by them until sacrifices and honors were established for Fear at the advice of an oracle. This practice remained into the modern day and a rather frightening icon of the woman was made. But when Korinth was overthrown by the Romans and the Korinthians of old were eliminated.”

Ἑτέραν δὲ ἐκ τῆς ἀγορᾶς τὴν ἐπὶ Σικυῶνα ἐρχομένοις ἔστιν ἰδεῖν ἐν δεξιᾷ τῆς ὁδοῦ ναὸς καὶ ἄγαλμα χαλκοῦν Ἀπόλλωνος καὶ ὀλίγον ἀπωτέρω κρήνη καλουμένη Γλαύκης· ἐς γὰρ ταύτην ἔρριψεν αὑτήν, ὡς λέγουσι, τῶν Μηδείας ἔσεσθαι φαρμάκων τὸ ὕδωρ νομίζουσα ἴαμα. ὑπὲρ ταύτην πεποίηται τὴν κρήνην καὶ τὸ καλούμενον Ὠιδεῖον, παρὰ δὲ αὐτὸ μνῆμά ἐστι τοῖς Μηδείας παισίν· ὀνόματα μέν σφισι Μέρμερος καὶ Φέρης, καταλιθωθῆναι δὲ ὑπὸ Κορινθίων λέγονται τῶν δώρων ἕνεκα ὧν τῇ Γλαύκῃ κομίσαι 

φασὶν αὐτούς· ἅτε δὲ τοῦ θανάτου βιαίου καὶ οὐ σὺν τῷ δικαίῳ γενομένου, τὰ τέκνα Κορινθίων τὰ νήπια ὑπ᾿ αὐτῶν ἐφθείρετο, πρὶν ἢ χρήσαντος τοῦ θεοῦ θυσίαι τε αὐτοῖς ἐπέτειοι κατέστησαν καὶ Δεῖμα ἐπεστάθη. τοῦτο μὲν δὴ καὶ ἐς ἡμᾶς ἔτι λείπεται, γυναικὸς ἐς τὸ φοβερώτερον εἰκὼν πεποιημένη· Κορίνθου δὲ ἀναστάτου γενομένης ὑπὸ Ῥωμαίων καὶ Κορινθίων τῶν ἀρχαίων ἀπολομένων…

Médée (1868) par Henri Klagmann (1842-1871), musée des Beaux-Arts de Nancy.

Our Bodies Are Punishment for Murder

Plutarch’s Moralia, The eating of Flesh 996a-C

“This is the third day since I made mention of that comment by Xenocrates in a discussion, that the Athenians rendered a judgment against the man who flayed a ram while it was still alive. But I think that someone who tortures something while it still lives is not worse than the one who kills it. Rather, as it seems to me, we are more sensitive to things that are against common practice than those against nature.

I am also saying these things in a more common way here. But this great, mysterious, and unbelievable matter, as Plato says, is something I am reluctant to frame with the principle of my belief with clever people who are mulling over mortal affairs, just as a captain in a storm pauses before moving his ship or a poet hesitates at raising the machine during the performance of a play.

But it may not be worse also to set the tune and anticipate the theme by using Empedocles’ words. For he allegorizes souls in his lines, suggesting that humans are imprisoned in bodies in order to pay the price for murder, eating flesh, and being cannibals. This belief has an older appearance, however. For there are stories told of the sufferings of Dionysus when he was dismembered and the outrages the Titans committed, how they were punished and struck by lightning after they tasted his blood. This myth is an occult tale about rebirth.”

ἐμνήσθην δὲ τρίτην ἡμέραν διαλεγόμενος τὸ τοῦ Ξενοκράτους ὅτι Ἀθηναῖοι τῷ ζῶντα τὸν κριὸν ἐκδείραντι δίκην ἐπέθηκαν· οὐκ ἔστι δ᾿, οἶμαι, χείρων ὁ ζῶντα βασανίζων τοῦ παραιρουμένου τὸ ζῆν καὶ φονεύοντος· ἀλλὰ μᾶλλον, ὡς ἔοικε, τῶν παρὰ συνήθειαν ἢ τῶν παρὰ φύσιν αἰσθανόμεθα. καὶ ταῦτα μὲν ἐκεῖ κοινότερον ἔλεγον· τὴν δὲ μεγάλην καὶ μυστηριώδη καὶ ἄπιστον ἀνδράσι δεινοῖς, ᾗ φησιν ὁ Πλάτων, καὶ θνητὰ φρονοῦσιν ἀρχὴν τοῦ δόγματος ὀκνῶ μὲν ἔτι τῷ λόγῳ κινεῖν, ὥσπερ ναῦν ἐν χειμῶνι ναύκληρος ἢ μηχανὴν αἴρειν ποιητικὸς ἀνὴρ ἐν θεάτρῳ σκηνῆς περιφερομένης. οὐ χεῖρον δ᾿ ἴσως καὶ προανακρούσασθαι καὶ προαναφωνῆσαι τὰ τοῦ Ἐμπεδοκλέους· . . . ἀλληγορεῖ γὰρ ἐνταῦθα τὰς ψυχάς, ὅτι φόνων καὶ βρώσεως σαρκῶν καὶ ἀλληλοφαγίας δίκην τίνουσαι σώμασι θνητοῖς ἐνδέδενται. καίτοι δοκεῖ παλαιότερος οὗτος ὁ λόγος εἶναι· τὰ γὰρ δὴ περὶ τὸν Διόνυσον μεμυθευμένα πάθη τοῦ διαμελισμοῦ καὶ τὰ Τιτάνων ἐπ᾿ αὐτὸν τολμήματα, κολάσεις τε τούτων καὶ κεραυνώσεις γευσαμένων τοῦ φόνου, ᾐνιγμένος ἐστὶ μῦθος εἰς τὴν παλιγγενεσίαν·

Image result for ancient greek sacrifice image
From here

Magical Monday: A Homeric Simile and Puppy Sacrifice

Odyssey 9.287-293

“So I was speaking, but [the Kyklops] did not answer me because of his pitiless heart.
But then he leapt up, shot out his hands at my companions,
Grabbed two together, and struck them against the ground
Like puppies. Brains were flowing out from them and they dyed the ground.
After tearing them limb from limb, he prepared himself a meal.
He ate them like a mountain-born lion and left nothing behind,
The innards, the meat, and the marrow-filled bones.”

Image result for Ancient Greek dog

ὣς ἐφάμην, ὁ δέ μ’ οὐδὲν ἀμείβετο νηλέϊ θυμῷ,
ἀλλ’ ὅ γ’ ἀναΐξας ἑτάροισ’ ἐπὶ χεῖρας ἴαλλε,
σὺν δὲ δύω μάρψας ὥς τε σκύλακας ποτὶ γαίῃ
κόπτ’· ἐκ δ’ ἐγκέφαλος χαμάδις ῥέε, δεῦε δὲ γαῖαν.
τοὺς δὲ διὰ μελεϊστὶ ταμὼν ὁπλίσσατο δόρπον·
ἤσθιε δ’ ὥς τε λέων ὀρεσίτροφος, οὐδ’ ἀπέλειπεν,
ἔγκατά τε σάρκας τε καὶ ὀστέα μυελόεντα.

My perplexity over this passage provides a good example of how Twitter can be used for good. Last year, I asked a question about killing puppies got some great responses. One found a later passage that deals with puppies and has some interesting thematic resonance with Odysseus’ development:

https://twitter.com/TCleveland4Real/status/856587459827838976

Several mentioned that this is a typical way to deal with unwanted puppies:

https://twitter.com/Jen_Dodgson/status/856583596416548864

And several respondents also made nice points about the helplessness of the puppies in the image.

I think that all of these ideas are essential to a full interpretation of this passage. But, I do wonder if, in addition, we should consider ancient Greek practices of puppy sacrifice. I know that the following accounts are later, but what if we imagine the simile used here as evoking ideas of purification through sacrifice?

Plutarch, Roman Questions 280 c

“Nearly all the Greeks made use of the dog in sacrifice and some still do today, for cleansing rituals. They also bring puppies for Hekate along with other purification materials; and they rub down people who need cleansing with the puppies.”

τῷ δὲ κυνὶ πάντες ὡς ἔπος εἰπεῖν Ἕλληνες ἐχρῶντο καὶ χρῶνταί γε μέχρι νῦν ἔνιοι σφαγίῳ πρὸς τοὺς καθαρμούς· καὶ τῇ Ἑκάτῃ σκυλάκια μετὰ τῶν ἄλλων καθαρσίων ἐκφέρουσι καὶ περιμάττουσι σκυλακίοις τοὺς ἁγνισμοῦ δεομένους 

Plutarch, Romulus 21.10

“The Greeks in their purification bring out the puppies and in many places use them in the practice called periskulakismos [‘carrying puppies around’]”

καὶ γὰρ ῞Ελληνες ἔν τε τοῖς καθαρσίοις σκύλακας ἐκφέρουσι καὶ πολλαχοῦ χρῶνται τοῖς λεγομένοις περισκυλακισμοῖς·

Pausanias, Laconica 15

“Here, each of these groups of youths sacrifice a puppy to Enyalius, god of war, because they believe that it is best to make this most valiant of the domesticated animals to the bravest of the gods. I don’t know any other Greeks who believe it is right to sacrifice puppies to the gods except for the Kolophonians. For the Kolophonians sacrifice a black female puppy to the goddess of the Crossroad. The sacrifices of both the Kolophonians and the Spartan youths take place at night.”

ἐνταῦθα ἑκατέρα μοῖρα τῶν ἐφήβων σκύλακα κυνὸς τῷ Ἐνυαλίῳ θύουσι, θεῶν τῷ ἀλκιμωτάτῳ κρίνοντες ἱερεῖον κατὰ γνώμην εἶναι τὸ ἀλκιμώτατον ζῷον τῶν ἡμέρων. κυνὸς δὲ σκύλακας οὐδένας ἄλλους οἶδα Ἑλλήνων νομίζοντας θύειν ὅτι μὴ Κολοφωνίους· θύουσι γὰρ καὶ Κολοφώνιοι μέλαιναν τῇ Ἐνοδίῳ σκύλακα. νυκτεριναὶ δὲ ἥ τε Κολοφωνίων θυσία καὶ τῶν ἐν Λακεδαίμονι ἐφήβων καθεστήκασιν.

Plutarch, Roman Questions 290 d

“Indeed, the ancients did not consider this animal to be clean either: it was never sacrificed to one of the Olympian goes, but when it is given to Hekate at the cross-roads, it functions as part of the sacrifices that turn away and cleanse evil. In Sparta, they sacrifice dogs to the bloodiest of the gods, Enyalios. In Boiotia, it is the public cleansing ritual to walk between the parts of a dog that has been cut in half. The Romans themselves, during the Wolf-Festival which they call the Lupercalia, they sacrifice a dog in the month of purification.”

Οὐ μὴν οὐδὲ καθαρεύειν ᾤοντο παντάπασιν οἱ παλαιοὶ τὸ ζῷον· καὶ γὰρ Ὀλυμπίων μὲν οὐδενὶ θεῶν καθιέρωται, χθονίᾳ δὲ δεῖπνον Ἑκάτῃ πεμπόμενος εἰς τριόδους ἀποτροπαίων καὶ καθαρσίων ἐπέχει μοῖραν. ἐν δὲ Λακεδαίμονι τῷ φονικωτάτῳ θεῶν Ἐνυαλίῳ σκύλακας ἐντέμνουσι· Βοιωτοῖς δὲ δημοσίᾳ καθαρμός ἐστι κυνὸς διχοτομηθέντος τῶν μερῶν διεξελθεῖν· αὐτοὶ δὲ Ῥωμαῖοι τοῖς Λυκαίοις, ἃ Λουπερκάλια καλοῦσιν, ἐν τῷ καθαρσίῳ μηνὶ κύνα θύουσιν.

Twitter brought another example from Festus

https://twitter.com/CorpusCynicum/status/1024017651788640256

https://twitter.com/CorpusCynicum/status/1024017739529302016

Our Bodies Are Punishment for Murder

Plutarch’s Moralia, The eating of Flesh 996a-C

“This is the third day since I made mention of that comment by Xenocrates in a discussion, that the Athenians rendered a judgment against the man who flayed a ram while it was still alive. But I think that someone who tortures something while it still lives is not worse than the one who kills it. Rather, as it seems to me, we are more sensitive to things that are against common practice than those against nature.

I am also saying these things in a more common way here. But this great, mysterious, and unbelievable matter, as Plato says, is something I am reluctant to frame with the principle of my belief with clever people who are mulling over mortal affairs, just as a captain in a storm pauses before moving his ship or a poet hesitates at raising the machine during the performance of a play.

But it may not be worse also to set the tune and anticipate the theme by using Empedocles’ words. For he allegorizes souls in his lines, suggesting that humans are imprisoned in bodies in order to pay the price for murder, eating flesh, and being cannibals. This belief has an older appearance, however. For there are stories told of the sufferings of Dionysus when he was dismembered and the outrages the Titans committed, how they were punished and struck by lightning after they tasted his blood. This myth is an occult tale about rebirth.”

ἐμνήσθην δὲ τρίτην ἡμέραν διαλεγόμενος τὸ τοῦ Ξενοκράτους ὅτι Ἀθηναῖοι τῷ ζῶντα τὸν κριὸν ἐκδείραντι δίκην ἐπέθηκαν· οὐκ ἔστι δ᾿, οἶμαι, χείρων ὁ ζῶντα βασανίζων τοῦ παραιρουμένου τὸ ζῆν καὶ φονεύοντος· ἀλλὰ μᾶλλον, ὡς ἔοικε, τῶν παρὰ συνήθειαν ἢ τῶν παρὰ φύσιν αἰσθανόμεθα. καὶ ταῦτα μὲν ἐκεῖ κοινότερον ἔλεγον· τὴν δὲ μεγάλην καὶ μυστηριώδη καὶ ἄπιστον ἀνδράσι δεινοῖς, ᾗ φησιν ὁ Πλάτων, καὶ θνητὰ φρονοῦσιν ἀρχὴν τοῦ δόγματος ὀκνῶ μὲν ἔτι τῷ λόγῳ κινεῖν, ὥσπερ ναῦν ἐν χειμῶνι ναύκληρος ἢ μηχανὴν αἴρειν ποιητικὸς ἀνὴρ ἐν θεάτρῳ σκηνῆς περιφερομένης. οὐ χεῖρον δ᾿ ἴσως καὶ προανακρούσασθαι καὶ προαναφωνῆσαι τὰ τοῦ Ἐμπεδοκλέους· . . . ἀλληγορεῖ γὰρ ἐνταῦθα τὰς ψυχάς, ὅτι φόνων καὶ βρώσεως σαρκῶν καὶ ἀλληλοφαγίας δίκην τίνουσαι σώμασι θνητοῖς ἐνδέδενται. καίτοι δοκεῖ παλαιότερος οὗτος ὁ λόγος εἶναι· τὰ γὰρ δὴ περὶ τὸν Διόνυσον μεμυθευμένα πάθη τοῦ διαμελισμοῦ καὶ τὰ Τιτάνων ἐπ᾿ αὐτὸν τολμήματα, κολάσεις τε τούτων καὶ κεραυνώσεις γευσαμένων τοῦ φόνου, ᾐνιγμένος ἐστὶ μῦθος εἰς τὴν παλιγγενεσίαν·

Image result for ancient greek sacrifice image
From here

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

Honoring the Dead with the Dead

Euripides, Hecuba 303-316

“I will not deny what I said to everyone:
Now that Troy has been taken we should give your child
To be sacrificed to the first man of the army when he asks it.

Here is where many cities start to stumble—
When there is some excellent and willing man
Who earns no greater than the lesser mob.
Achilles is worthy of our honor, Ma’am,
Because he died most nobly for Greece.

Wouldn’t it be shameful if we used him as a friend
When he was watching but stopped when he was dead?
What would someone say if there was some new reason
To gather an army and lead it against an enemy?
Will we fight or will we worry about our lives
Once we see that the dead are not honored?”

ἃ δ᾿ εἶπον εἰς ἅπαντας οὐκ ἀρνήσομαι,
Τροίας ἁλούσης ἀνδρὶ τῷ πρώτῳ στρατοῦ
σὴν παῖδα δοῦναι σφάγιον ἐξαιτουμένῳ.
ἐν τῷδε γὰρ κάμνουσιν αἱ πολλαὶ πόλεις,
ὅταν τις ἐσθλὸς καὶ πρόθυμος ὢν ἀνὴρ
μηδὲν φέρηται τῶν κακιόνων πλέον.
ἡμῖν δ᾿ Ἀχιλλεὺς ἄξιος τιμῆς, γύναι,
θανὼν ὑπὲρ γῆς Ἑλλάδος κάλλιστ᾿ ἀνήρ.
οὔκουν τόδ᾿ αἰσχρόν, εἰ βλέποντι μὲν φίλῳ
χρώμεσθ᾿, ἐπεὶ δ᾿ ὄλωλε μὴ χρώμεσθ᾿ ἔτι;
εἶἑν· τί δῆτ᾿ ἐρεῖ τις, ἤν τις αὖ φανῇ
στρατοῦ τ᾿ ἄθροισις πολεμίων τ᾿ ἀγωνία;
πότερα μαχούμεθ᾿ ἢ φιλοψυχήσομεν,
τὸν κατθανόνθ᾿ ὁρῶντες οὐ τιμώμενον;

Sebastiano Ricci (Belluno 1659-Venice 1734) – The Sacrifice of Polyxena –

Plagues and (Human) Sacrifice

 

Christie SacrificeClement, First Letter to the Corinthians 55

“Let’s offer some examples from other peoples as well. Many kings and people in charge, have given themselves to death after listening to an oracle, so that they might save their citizens with their own blood. And many private citizens have exiled themselves in order to decrease civil strife.”

Ἵνα δὲ καὶ ὑποδείγματα ἐθνῶν ἐνέγκωμεν· πολλοὶ βασιλεῖς καὶ ἡγούμενοι, λοιμικοῦ τινος ἐνστάντος καιροῦ χρησμοδοτηθέντες παρέδωκαν ἑαυτοὺς εἰς θάνατον, ἵνα ῥύσωνται διὰ τοῦ ἑαυτῶν αἵματος τοὺς πολίτας· πολλοὶ ἐξεχώρησαν ἰδίων πόλεων, ἵνα μὴ στασιάζωσιν ἐπὶ πλεῖον.

Stobaios, Florilegium  3.7.69

“When a plague was afflicting the Spartans because of the murder of the heralds sent by Xerxes—because he demanded earth and water as signs of servitude—they received an oracle that they would be saved if some Spartans would be selected to be killed by the king. Then Boulis and Sperkhis came forward to the king because they believed they were worthy to be sacrificed. Because he was impressed by their bravery he ordered them to go home.”

Τοῦ αὐτοῦ. λοιμοῦ κατασχόντος τὴν Λακεδαίμονα διὰ τὴν ἀναίρεσιν τῶν κηρύκων τῶν ἀπεσταλέντων παρὰ Ξέρξου αἰτοῦντος γῆν καὶ ὕδωρ ὥσπερ ἀπαρχὰς δουλείας, χρησμὸς ἐδόθη ἐπαλλαγήσεσθαι αὐτούς, εἴ γέ τινες ἕλοιντο Λακεδαιμονίων παρὰ τοῦ βασιλέως ἀναιρεθῆναι. τότε Βοῦλις καὶ Σπέρχις ἀφικόμενοι πρὸς βασιλέα ἠξίουν ἀναιρεθῆναι· ὁ δὲ θαυμάσας αὐτῶν τὴν ἀρετὴν ἐπανιέναι προσέταξεν.

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

Ps.-Plutarch, Parallela minora 19A, 310B-C

“Kuanippos, a Syracusan by birth, did not sacrifice to Dionysus alone. In rage over this, the god caused him to become drunk and then he raped his daughter Kuanê in some shadowy place. She took his ring and gave it to her nurse as to be proof of what had happened in the future.

When they were later struck by a plague and Pythian Apollo said that they had to sacrifice the impious person to the Gods-who-Protect, everyone else was uncertain about the oracle. Kuanê understood it. She grabbed her father by the hair and sacrificed herself over him once she’d butchered him on the altar.

That’s the story Dositheos tells in the third book of his Sicilian Tales.

Κυάνιππος γένει Συρακούσιος μόνωι Διονύσωι οὐκ ἔθυεν· ὁ δὲ θεὸς ὀργισθεὶς μέθην ἐνέσκηψε, καὶ ἐν τόπωι σκοτεινῶι τὴν θυγατέρα ἐβιάσατο Κυάνην· ἡ δὲ τὸν δακτύλιον περιελομένη ἔδωκε τῆι τροφῶι ἐσόμενον ἀναγνώρισμα. λοιμωξάντων δὲ, καὶ τοῦ Πυθίου εἰπόντος μὲν δεῖν τὸν ἀσεβῆ <᾽Απο>τροπαίοις θεοῖς σφαγιάσαι, τῶν δ᾽ ἄλλων ἀγνοούντων τὸν χρησμόν, γνοῦσα ἡ Κυάνη καὶ ἐπιλαβομένη τῶν τριχῶν εἷλκε, καὶ αὐτὴ κατασφάξασα τὸν πατέρα ἑαυτὴν ἐπέσφαξε, καθάπερ Δοσίθεος ἐν τῶι τρίτωι Σικελικῶν.

Plague of Athens - Wikipedia
The Plague of Athens, Michiel Sweerts, c. 1652–1654

Hesiod, Works and Days, 101-105

“The land is full of evils; the sea is full of evils.
Diseases come to humans at day and at night
they come on their own bringing evils to mortals in silence
Since devious Zeus took their voices away.”

πλείη μὲν γὰρ γαῖα κακῶν, πλείη δὲ θάλασσα·
νοῦσοι δ’ ἀνθρώποισιν ἐφ’ ἡμέρῃ, αἳ δ’ ἐπὶ νυκτὶ
αὐτόματοι φοιτῶσι κακὰ θνητοῖσι φέρουσαι
σιγῇ, ἐπεὶ φωνὴν ἐξείλετο μητίετα Ζεύς.
οὕτως οὔ τί πη ἔστι Διὸς νόον ἐξαλέασθαι.

Hesiod, Works and Days 240-247

“The whole state often suffers because of a wicked man
Who transgresses the gods and devises reckless deeds.
Kronos’ son rains down great pain on them from heaven:
Famine and plague and the people start to perish.
[Women don’t give birth and households waste away
Thanks to the vengeance of Olympian Zeus.] And at other times
Kronos’ son ruins their great army or their wall
Or he destroys their ships on the the sea.”

πολλάκι καὶ ξύμπασα πόλις κακοῦ ἀνδρὸς ἀπηύρα,
ὅστις ἀλιτραίνῃ καὶ ἀτάσθαλα μηχανάαται.
τοῖσιν δ’ οὐρανόθεν μέγ’ ἐπήγαγε πῆμα Κρονίων,
λιμὸν ὁμοῦ καὶ λοιμόν, ἀποφθινύθουσι δὲ λαοί·
[οὐδὲ γυναῖκες τίκτουσιν, μινύθουσι δὲ οἶκοι
Ζηνὸς φραδμοσύνῃσιν ᾿Ολυμπίου· ἄλλοτε δ’ αὖτε]
ἢ τῶν γε στρατὸν εὐρὺν ἀπώλεσεν ἢ ὅ γε τεῖχος
ἢ νέας ἐν πόντῳ Κρονίδης ἀποτείνυται αὐτῶν.

Sacrifice and Plagues

Clement, First Letter to the Corinthians 55

“Let’s offer some examples from other peoples as well. Many kings and people in charge, have given themselves to death after listening to an oracle, so that they might save their citizens with their own blood. And many private citizens have exiled themselves in order to decrease civil strife.”

Ἵνα δὲ καὶ ὑποδείγματα ἐθνῶν ἐνέγκωμεν· πολλοὶ βασιλεῖς καὶ ἡγούμενοι, λοιμικοῦ τινος ἐνστάντος καιροῦ χρησμοδοτηθέντες παρέδωκαν ἑαυτοὺς εἰς θάνατον, ἵνα ῥύσωνται διὰ τοῦ ἑαυτῶν αἵματος τοὺς πολίτας· πολλοὶ ἐξεχώρησαν ἰδίων πόλεων, ἵνα μὴ στασιάζωσιν ἐπὶ πλεῖον.

Stobaios, Florilegium  3.7.69

“When a plague was afflicting the Spartans because of the murder of the heralds sent by Xerxes—because he demanded earth and water as signs of servitude—they received an oracle that they would be saved if some Spartans would be selected to be killed by the king. Then Boulis and Sperkhis came forward to the king because they believed they were worthy to be sacrificed. Because he was impressed by their bravery he ordered them to go home.”

Τοῦ αὐτοῦ. λοιμοῦ κατασχόντος τὴν Λακεδαίμονα διὰ τὴν ἀναίρεσιν τῶν κηρύκων τῶν ἀπεσταλέντων παρὰ Ξέρξου αἰτοῦντος γῆν καὶ ὕδωρ ὥσπερ ἀπαρχὰς δουλείας, χρησμὸς ἐδόθη ἐπαλλαγήσεσθαι αὐτούς, εἴ γέ τινες ἕλοιντο Λακεδαιμονίων παρὰ τοῦ βασιλέως ἀναιρεθῆναι. τότε Βοῦλις καὶ Σπέρχις ἀφικόμενοι πρὸς βασιλέα ἠξίουν ἀναιρεθῆναι· ὁ δὲ θαυμάσας αὐτῶν τὴν ἀρετὴν ἐπανιέναι προσέταξεν.

Plague of Athens - Wikipedia
The Plague of Athens, Michiel Sweerts, c. 1652–1654

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