Sacred Texts  Classics  Plutarch  Index  Previous  Next 
Buy this Book at
Buy this Book on Kindle

The Roman and Greek Questions, by Plutarch, tr. Frank Cole Babbitt, [1936], at


10. What is the "sheep-escaper"?

It is one of the small plants that grow close to the

p. 184 p. 185

ground, whose shoots the grazing animals attack, cutting off the tops and injuring them and so spoiling the growth. But when these plants grow up and gain some size and escape injury from the flocks which graze upon them, then they are called "sheep-escapers." The evidence for this is Aeschylus. a


11. Who are the "Men repulsed by slings"?

Men from Eretria used to inhabit the island of Corcyra. But Charicrates sailed thither from Corinth with an army and defeated them in war; so the Eretrians embarked in their ships and sailed back home. Their fellow-citizens, however, having learned of the matter before their arrival, barred their return to the country and prevented them from disembarking by showering upon them missiles from slings. Since the exiles were unable either to persuade or to overcome their fellow-citizens, who were numerous and inexorable, they sailed to Thrace and occupied a territory in which, according to tradition, Methon, the ancestor of Orpheus, had formerly lived. So the Eretrians named their city Methonê, but they were also named by their neighbours the "Men repulsed by slings."


12. Who was "Charilla" among the Delphians?

The Delphians celebrate three festivals one after the other which occur every eight b years, the first of which they call Septerion, the second Heroïs, and the third Charilla.

Now the Septerion seems to be a representation of Apollo's fight with the Python and the flight to Tempê and pursuit that followed the battle. b Some indeed

p. 186 p. 187

affirm that Apollo fled because he desired purification as a consequence of the slaughter he had done, others that he was following the wounded Python as he fled along the road which we now call the Sacred Way, and was only a little late for the monster's death; for he overtook him when he had just died from the effects of the wound and had been buried by his son, whose name, as they say, was Aix. The Septerion, then, is a representation of these matters or certain matters of a similar nature. a

The greater part of the Heroïs has a secret import which the Thyiads b know; but from the portions of the rites that are performed in public one might conjecture that it represents the evocation of Semelê.

The story of Charilla which they relate is somewhat as follows: A famine following a drought oppressed the Delphians, and they came to the palace of their king with their wives and children and made supplication. The king gave portions of barley and legumes to the more notable citizens, for there was not enough for all. But when an orphaned girl, who was still but a small child, approached him and importuned him, he struck her with his sandal and cast the sandal in her face. But, although the girl was poverty-stricken and without protectors, she was not ignoble in character; and when she had withdrawn, she took off her girdle and hanged herself. As the famine increased and diseases also were added thereto, the prophetic priestess gave an oracle to the king that he must appease Charilla, the maiden who had slain herself. Accordingly, when they had discovered with some difficulty that this was the name of the child who had been struck, they performed a certain sacrificial rite combined with purification,

p. 188 p. 189

which even now they continue to perform every eight years. For the king sits in state and gives a portion of barley-meal and legumes to everyone, alien and citizen alike, and a doll-like image of Charilla is brought thither. When, accordingly, all have received a portion, the king strikes the image with his sandal. The leader of the Thyiads picks up the image and bears it to a certain place which is full of chasms; there they tie a rope round the neck of the image and bury it in the place where they buried Charilla after she had hanged herself.


13. What is the "beggar's meat" among the Aenianians?

There have been several migrations of the Aenianians. For first, when they inhabited the region about the Dotian plain, they were expelled by the Lapiths to Aethicia. a From there they proceeded to take possession of the region of Molossia about the river Auas, from which they received the name Parauaei. After this they took possession of Cirrha. There, when they had stoned to death Oenoclus, a their king, at the command of the god, they descended to the country about the Inachus, which was inhabited by Inachians and Achaeans. Since an oracle had declared that if the Inachians gave away any part of their country, they should lose it all, and that if the Aenianians received any part of the land from willing givers, they should gain possession of it, Temon, a notable man among the Aenianians, donned rags and wallet and came to the Inachians in the guise of a beggar. In scorn and mockery their king gave him a clod of earth, which Temon accepted,

p. 190 p. 191

placed within his wallet, and was evidently satisfied with the gift; for he straightway withdrew without asking for anything more. The Inachian elders were astonished, but, recalling the oracle, they went to the king and told him not to make light of the fellow nor to let him get away. Temon, then, perceiving their intent, hastened his flight and made his escape after vowing a hecatomb to Apollo.

After this affair the two kings engaged in single combat, and Phemius, king of the Aenianians, observing the Inachian king, Hyperochus, advancing to meet him accompanied by a dog, said that Hyperochus was acting unfairly in bringing on a second combatant. But while Hyperochus was driving off the dog and had his back turned, Phemius hit him with a stone and killed him. The Aenianians gained possession of the country, driving out the Inachians together with the Achaeans, and they revere that stone as sacred, and sacrifice to it and cover it round about with the fat of the sacrificial victim; and whenever they pay the hecatomb to Apollo, they sacrifice a bull to Zeus; and they set aside a select portion of the flesh for the descendants of Temon, and this they call the "beggar's meat."


14. Who are the "Coliadae" among the inhabitants of Ithaca and what is the phagilos?

After the slaughter of the suitors the relatives of the dead men rose up against Odysseus; but Neoptolemus was sent for by both parties to act as arbiter. a He adjudged that Odysseus should depart from the country and be exiled for homicide from Cephallenia, Zacynthus, and Ithaca; and that the

p. 192 p. 193

companions and the relatives of the suitors should recompense Odysseus each year for the injuries which they had done to his estate. Odysseus accordingly departed to Italy; but the recompense he formally transferred to his son, and ordered the inhabitants of Ithaca to pay it to him. The recompense consisted of barley, wine, honeycombs, olive-oil, salt, and beasts for sacrifice that were older than phagiloi; according to Aristotle's a statement, a lamb is a phagilos. Now Telemachus bestowed freedom upon Eumaeus and his associates, and incorporated them among the citizens; and the clan of the Coliadae is descended from Eumaeus, and that of the Bucolidae from Philoetius. b


15. What is "the wooden dog" among the Locrians?

Locrus was the son of Physcius, the son of Amphictyon. The son of Locrus and Cabyê was Opus. His father quarrelled with Opus and taking many of the citizens with him he went to seek an oracle concerning a colony. The god told him to found a city where he should chance to be bitten by a wooden dog, and, as he was crossing to the other sea, he trod upon a dog-brier. c Greatly troubled by the wound, he spent several days there, during which he explored the country and founded the cities Physcus and Oeantheia and the other cities which the so-called Ozolian Locrians inhabited.

Some say that the Locrians are called Ozolian because of Nessus; others say that it is because of the serpent Python, since their bodies were washed up

p. 194 p. 195

by the sea and rotted away in the country of the Locrians. But some say that these men wear fleeces and goatskins and for the most part spend their time with herds of goats, and thus became evil-smelling. a But some, on the contrary, assert that, since the country has many flowers, it acquired its name from sweet odour. Among these is also Archytas b of Amphissa, for he has written thus:

Lovely Macyna, wreathed with clusters of grapes and fragrant with perfume.


16. What is it that the Megarians call aphabroma?

When Nisus, from whom Nisaea acquired its name, was king, he took a wife from Boeotia, Habrotê, daughter of Onchestus, the sister of Megareus, a woman who, as it appears, was both exceptionally intelligent and remarkably discreet. When she died, the Megarians mourned her with one accord, and Nisus, wishing that her memory and her repute should be established everlastingly, ordered the women of the city to wear the garment that she used to wear; and because of her he called the garment aphabroma. Even the god seems to have furthered the repute of this woman, for often, when the Megarian women wished to make a change in their raiment, he prevented them by an oracle.


17. What is the "spear-friend"?

In days of old the Megarid used to be settled in village communities with the citizens divided into five groups. They were called Heraeïs, Piraeïs,

p. 196 p. 197

[paragraph continues] Megareis, Cynosureis, and Tripodiscioi. Although the Corinthians brought about a civil war among them, for the Corinthians were ever plotting to get Megara under their control, none the less, because of their fair-mindedness, they conducted their wars in a civilized and a kinsmanly way. For no one did any harm at all to the men working in the fields, and when anyone was captured, he but needed to pay a certain specified ransom; this his captors received after they had set him free, and did not collect it earlier; but he who took a prisoner conducted the man to his house and, after sharing with him salt and food, sent him home. He, accordingly, who brought his ransom, was highly regarded and continued thenceforward to be a friend of his captor; and, as a consequence of his capture by the spear, he was now called "spear-friend." But anyone who failed to pay the ransom was held in disrepute as dishonest and faithless, not only among his enemies, but also among his fellow-citizens.


18. What is "return-interest"? a

When the Megarians had expelled Theagenes, b their despot, for a short time they were sober and sensible in their government. But later when the popular leaders poured a full and heady draught of freedom for them, as Plato c says, they were completely corrupted and, among their shocking acts of misconduct toward the wealthy, the poor would enter their homes and insist upon being entertained and banqueted sumptuously. But if they did not receive what they demanded, they would treat all the household with violence and insult. Finally they enacted a decree whereby they received back again the

p. 198 p. 199

interest which they chanced to have paid to their creditors, calling the measure "return-interest."


19. Which is the Anthedon to which the utterance of the prophetic priestess refers:

Drink wine turbid with lees, since thou dwellest not in Anthedon,

for Anthedon in Boeotia is not rich in wine?

In days of old they used to call Calaureia by the name of Eirenê, from the woman Eirenê who, as legend has it, was born of Poseidon and Melantheia, the daughter of the Alpheius. But later, when the companions of Anthus and Hypera settled there, they called the island Anthedonia and Hypereia. According to Aristotle a the oracle ran as follows:

Drink wine turbid with lees, since thou dwellest not in Anthedon,
No, nor in Hypera holy; for wine without lees thou didst drink there.

[paragraph continues] This, then, is Aristotle's version. But Mnasigeiton says that Anthus, the brother of Hypera, disappeared from home while he was still a child, and that Hypera, while she was wandering about in search of him, came to Pherae to the house of Acastus, where it chanced that Anthus was the slave appointed to be cupbearer. While they were feasting the boy recognized his sister, as he was bearing her cup to her, and said to her softly

Drink wine turbid with lees, since thou dwellest not in Anthedon.


185:a Nauck, Trag. Graec. Frag. p. 123, Aeschylus, Frag. 447.

185:b Cf. Moralia, 421 C.

187:a p. 186 Cf. Moralia, 418 A–B; Aelian, Varia Historia, iii. 1, for this festival.

187:b Cf. Moralia, 219 E–F.

189:a Cf. 297 B–C, infra.

191:a Cf. Apollodorus, Epitome, vii. 40.

193:a Frag. 507 (ed. V. Rose).

193:b Eumaeus was the swineherd and Philoetius the cowherd of Odysseus.

193:c Cf. Athenaeus, 70 C–D.

195:a Cf. Pausanias, x. 38.

195:b "Powell, Collectanea Alexandrina, p. 23.

197:a p. 196 Cf. 304 E, infra.

197:b Cf. Thucydides, i. 126.

197:c Cf. Plato, Republic, 562 D.

199:a Frag. 597 (ed. V. Rose); cf. Frag. 596 and Athenaeus, 31 B–C.

Next: 20-29.