“Dying is the Sweetest Thing”: The Gods Love Those Who Give The Most

This poem moves from praising the victory of Hiero’s horses at Olympos to the tale of Croesus’ reaction to the sacking of Sardis. In this version of the tale, he prepares to sacrifice his family on a pyre. The story is, well, a bit horrifying.

Bacchylides, Victory Odes 3.1-60

“Kleio, sweetness-giver, sing of Demeter
Who rules rich-grained Sicily, and also
Her purple-crowned daughter, and the swift
Olympic-racing horses of Hiero.

For they rushed with overwhelming Victory
And Glory alongside the broad-eddying
Alpheos where they made the blessed son of Deinomenes
A master of the crowns.

And the people shouted out:
“Oh, thrice-blessed man
Who obtained from Zeus
The widest-ruling power of all the Greeks
And knows not to hide his towered health
With black-cloaked shadow.

The temples overflow with sacrificial feasts
And the streets overflow with hospitality.
And god shines too in glancing light
From the tall-wrought tripods which were set up

In front of the temple where the Delphians
Take care of the greatest grove of Apollo
Alongside the waters of Kastalia—let someone
Glory in god, in god—this is the best of the blessings.

For once there was a time when
Even though the Sardians were sacked by the Persian army
Because Zeus had brought to an end
The judgment which was fated,
The leader of the horse-taming
Lydians, Kroisos, golden-sworded

Apollo protected. For Kroisos,
When he had come to that lamentable, unhoped for day
Was not about to wait for slavery any more. But he
Had a pyre built up in front of his bronze-walled yard.

There he climbed up with his dear wife
And his well-tressed daughters who were
Mourning uncontrollably. Then he raised his hands
Up to the high sky above

And he shouted: “Powerful god
Where is divine gratitude now?
Where is Leto’s son the lord?
Alyattes’ halls are falling down.
[what of the] myriad [gifts I gave you?]
[What trust can mortals give to gods?]

[Look now, the enemy has sacked my] city,
And the gold-eddying Paktôlos runs red
With blood and women are shamefully dragged away
From the well-built halls.

What was hated before is now dear. Dying is the sweetest thing.”
So much he said, and he ordered his light-stepping attendant
To Set fire to the wooden home. Then the girls were crying out
And they were throwing their hands to their

Mother. For mortals most hateful death
Is the one we see coming.
But as the shining strength
Of the terrible fire was leaping forth
Zeus sent over a dark-covering cloud
To extinguish the yellow flame.

Nothing is unbelievable when divine care
Makes it. Then Delian-born Apollo
Carried the old man to the Hyperboreans
And settled him there with his thin-ankled daughters

Because of his piety, because he sent to sacred Pytho
Gifts greatest of all the mortals.

᾿Αριστο[κ]άρπου Σικελίας κρέουσαν
Δ[ά]ματρα ἰοστέφανόν τε Κούραν
ὕμνει, γλυκύδωρε Κλεοῖ, θοάς τ’ ᾿Ο-
[λυμ]πιοδρόμους ῾Ιέρωνος ἵππ[ο]υς.

[Σεύον]το γὰρ σὺν ὑπερόχῳ τε Νίκᾳ
[σὺν ᾿Αγ]λαΐᾳ τε παρ’ εὐρυδίναν
[᾿Αλφεόν, τόθι] Δεινομένεος ἔθηκαν
ὄλβιον τ[έκος στεφάνω]ν κυρῆσαι·

θρόησε δὲ λ[αὸς ]
[] ἆ τρισευδαίμ[ων ἀνὴρ]
ὃς παρὰ Ζηνὸς λαχὼν πλείστ-
αρχον ῾Ελλάνων γέρας
οἶδε πυργωθέντα πλοῦτον μὴ μελαμ-
φαρέϊ κρύπτειν σκότῳ.

Βρύει μὲν ἱερὰ βουθύτοις ἑορταῖς,
βρύουσι φιλοξενίας ἀγυιαί·
λάμπει δ’ ὑπὸ μαρμαρυγαῖς ὁ χρυσός,
ὑψιδαιδάλτων τριπόδων σταθέντων

πάροιθε ναοῦ, τόθι μέγι[στ]ον ἄλσος
Φοίβου παρὰ Κασταλίας [ῥ]εέθροις
Δελφοὶ διέπουσι. Θεόν, θ[εό]ν τις
ἀγλαϊζέθὠ γὰρ ἄριστος [ὄ]λβων·

ἐπεί ποτε καὶ δαμασίπ-
[π]ου Λυδίας ἀρχαγέταν,
εὖτε τὰν πεπ[ρωμέναν] Ζη-
νὸς τελέ[σσαντος κρί]σιν
Σάρδιες Περσᾶ[ν ἁλίσκοντο στρ]ατῷ,
Κροῖσον ὁ χρυσά[ορος]

φύλαξ’ ᾿Απόλλων. [῾Ο δ’ ἐς] ἄελπτον ἆμαρ
μ[ο]λὼν πολυδ[άκρυο]ν οὐκ ἔμελλε
μίμνειν ἔτι δ[ουλοσύ]ναν, πυρὰν δὲ
χαλκ[ο]τειχέος π[ροπάροι]θεν αὐ[λᾶς]
ναήσατ’, ἔνθα σὺ[ν ἀλόχῳ] τε κεδ[νᾷ]
σὺν εὐπλοκάμοι[ς τ’] ἐπέβαιν’ ἄλα[στον]
[θ]υ[γ]ατράσι δυρομέναις· χέρας δ’ [ἐς]
[αἰ]πὺν αἰθέρα σ[φ]ετέρας ἀείρας

[γέ]γ[ω]νεν· «῾Υπέρ[βι]ε δαῖ-
μον, [πο]ῦ θεῶν ἐστι[ν] χάρις;
[πο]ῦ δὲ Λατοίδ[ας] ἄναξ; [ἔρ-]
[ρουσ]ιν ᾿Αλυά[τ]τα δόμοι

[] μυρίων
[]ν.
[]ν ἄστυ,
[ἐρεύθεται αἵματι χρυσο]δίνας
Πακτωλός, ἀ[ε]ικελίως γυνα[ῖ]κες
ἐξ ἐϋκτίτων μεγάρων ἄγονται·

τὰ πρόσθεν [ἐχ]θρὰ φίλα· θανεῖν γλύκιστον.»
Τόσ’ εἶπε, καὶ ἁβ[ρο]βάταν κ[έλε]υσεν
ἅπτειν ξύλινον δόμον. ῎Εκ[λα]γον δὲ
παρθένοι, φίλας τ’ ἀνὰ ματρὶ χεῖρας

ἔβαλλον· ὁ γὰρ προφανὴς
θνατοῖσιν ἔχθιστος φόνων·
ἀλλ’ ἐπεὶ δεινο[ῦ π]υρὸς λαμ-
πρὸν διάϊ[σσεν μέ]νος,
Ζεὺς ἐπιστάσας [μελαγκευ]θὲς νέφος
σβέννυεν ξανθὰ[ν φλόγα.]

῎Απιστον οὐδὲν ὅ τι θ[εῶν μέ]ριμνα
τεύχει· τότε Δαλογενὴ[ς ᾿Από]λλων
φέρων ἐς ῾Υπερβορέο[υς γ]έροντα
σὺν τανισφύροις κατ[έν]ασσε κούραις

δι’ εὐσέβειαν, ὅτι μέ[γιστα] θνατῶν
ἐς ἀγαθέαν <ἀν>έπεμψε Π[υθ]ώ.

 

Oil painting of decadently dressed early modern king pointing out his wealth to a Greek visitor
Nikolaus Knüpfer, “Solon Before Croesus” c 1650

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…

A woman, bare to the breast, looks down on two naked children playing at her feet. Oil painting, stylized reimagining of mythical Corinth. Medea and her children
Médée (1868) par Henri Klagmann (1842-1871), musée des Beaux-Arts de Nancy.

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

Happy #NationalPuppyDay: 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

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