The Roman and Greek Questions, by Plutarch, tr. Frank Cole Babbitt, , at sacred-texts.com
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20. What is it that is called in Prienê "the darkness by the Oak"?
When the Samians and the Prienians were at war with each other, on the other occasions they suffered injuries and inflicted injuries to a moderate degree only; but when a great battle took place, the people of Prienê slew one thousand Samians. Six years later they engaged the Milesians at a place called the Oak, and lost practically all the best and the foremost of their citizens. At this time also the sage Bias was sent on an embassy from Prienê to Samos and won high repute. For the women of Prienê this was a cruel experience and a pitiable calamity, and it became established as a curse and an oath in the most important matters to swear by "the darkness by the Oak," because of the fact that there their sons, their fathers, and their husbands had been slaughtered. a
21. Who are they that are called "burners" among the Cretans?
They relate that the Tyrrhenians who, at the time when they inhabited Lemnos and Imbros, carried off the daughters and wives of the Athenians from Brauron, later, when they had been expelled from there, came to Sparta and consorted with the women of the country even to the begetting of children. But again, as the result of suspicions and false accusations, they were forced to leave the Spartan country. With their children and wives they effected a landing in Crete with Pollis and Delphus as their leaders. b There, while they were fighting
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the possessors of the island, they suffered many of the men who had been slain in the battles to lie unburied, because at first they had no leisure to bury them because of the war and the danger, and later because they shrank from touching corpses that had been decomposed and putrefied by the lapse of time. Accordingly Pollis devised certain honours, privileges, and immunities, and some of these he bestowed on the priests of the gods, others upon them that buried the dead. These honours he put in the keeping of the spirits of the underworld in order that they might continue for ever irrevocable. The one class received the name of priests, and the other that of "burners."
Then Pollis made a division by lot with Delphus, and they governed separate and independent states; and, along with other humane provisions which they enjoyed, they had freedom from the injuries which the other Cretans are wont to inflict upon one another through stealthy plundering and pillaging. For to the Tyrrhenian communities they do no injury, nor do they steal anything from them or dispossess them of anything.
22. What is the "Children's Tomb" among the Chalcidians?
Cothus and Aeclus, the sons of Xuthus, came to Euboea to dwell at a time when the Aeolians possessed the greater part of the island. It had been prophesied to Cothus that he should have great success and get the better of his enemies if he bought the land. When he had landed on the island with a few men, he encountered little children playing by the sea. So he joined in their play, and in a kindly spirit showed them many playthings
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from foreign lands. But when he saw that the children were desirous of having them for their own, he refused to give them unless he too should receive some earth from the children. So they picked up some from the ground and gave it to Cothus, and then, taking the playthings, departed. But the Aeolians discovered what had happened, and, when their enemies sailed against them, they made away with the children under stress of anger and grief. The children were buried beside the road which leads from the city to the Euripus, and the place is called the Children's Tomb.
23. Who is the "Associate-founder" (mixarchagetas) at Argos, and who are the "Averters" (elasioi)?
They call Castor the Associate-founder, and think that he is buried in Argive territory, but Polydeuces they reverence as one of the Olympians. Persons who have the reputed ability to turn away attacks of epilepsy they call Averters, and these are thought to be of the descendants of Alexida, the daughter of Amphiaraüs.
24. What is that which is called an enknisma (a roast) among the Argives? a
It is the custom for those who have lost a relative or an intimate friend to sacrifice to Apollo b immediately after the mourning, and again thirty days later to Hermes. For they believe that, just as the earth receives the bodies of the dead, even so Hermes receives their souls. They give barley to the priest of Apollo and receive some meat of the sacrificial
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victim; and when they have put out their fire, since they believe it to be polluted, and have relighted it from the hearth of others, they proceed to roast this flesh which they call enknisma.
25. What is an alastor, an aliterios, a palamnaeos?
We certainly must not believe those who say that persons who, during a famine, set a watch upon the miller and plunder him are called aliterioi. a But he who has done unforgettable (alesta) things, b things that will be remembered for a long time, is called alastor; and he whom it were well to avoid (aleuasthai) and to guard against because of his wickedness is called aliterios. These things, according to the statement of Socrates, c they have written on tablets of bronze.
26. What is the intent of the custom by which the maidens who serve as an escort for the men who lead the bull from Aenis to Cassiopaea chant until they reach the boundary,
When the Aenianians had been driven out of their country by the Lapiths, e they dwelt first of all about Aethicia, and later about Molossia and Cassiopaea. But, since they had no benefit from the country, and, in addition, had to deal with ungentle peoples on their borders, they came to the Cirrhaean plain under the leadership of Oenoclus, their king. But great droughts befell them there, and, as it is related, in accordance with an oracle they stoned
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[paragraph continues] Oenoclus. a Then they wandered on and came to this country which they now possess, a goodly country, productive of all manner of crops; wherefore it is with good reason that they pray to the gods that they may not return again to their ancient fatherland, but may remain here in prosperity.
27. Why is it that among the Rhodians a herald does not enter the shrine of the hero Ocridion?
Is it because Ochimus affianced his daughter Cydippê to Ocridion? But Cercaphus, who was the brother of Ochimus, was in love with the maiden and persuaded the herald (for it used to be the custom to use heralds to fetch the brides), when he should receive Cydippê, to bring her to him. When this had been accomplished, Cercaphus fled with the maiden; but later, when Ochimus had grown old, Cercaphus returned to his home again. But the custom became established among the Rhodians that a herald should not approach the shrine of Ocridion because of the wrong that had been done.
28. Why is it that among the inhabitants of Tenedos a flute-player may not enter the shrine of Tenes, nor may anyone mention Achilles' name within the shrine?
Is it that, when Tenes’ stepmother b falsely accused him of wishing to lie with her, Molpus the flute-player bore false witness against him, and because of this it came about that Tenes had to flee to Tenedos with his sister? But as for Achilles, it is said that his mother Thetis straitly forbade him to kill Tenes, since
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[paragraph continues] Tenes was honoured by Apollo; and she commissioned one of the servants to be on guard, and to remind Achilles lest he should unwittingly slay Tenes. But when Achilles was overrunning Tenedos and was pursuing Tenes’ sister, who was a beautiful maiden, Tenes met him and defended his sister; and she escaped, though Tenes was slain. When he had fallen, Achilles recognized him, and slew the servant because he had, although present, not reminded him; and he buried Tenes where his shrine now stands and neither does a flute-player enter it nor is Achilles mentioned there by name.
29. Who is the "Seller" among the Epidamnians?
The Epidamnians were neighbours of the Illyrians and perceived that such of their citizens as associated with the Illyrians were becoming corrupted; and, since they feared a revolution, they used to select one of the most reputable of their fellow-citizens each year to conduct such commercial dealings and barters. This man visited the barbarians and provided them with a market and an opportunity for all the citizens to display what they had to sell: thus he was called the "Seller."
201:a p. 200 Cf. Aristotle, Frag. 576 (ed. V. Rose).
201:b Cf. Moralia, 247 A–F, and the note there (Vol. III. p. 496).
205:a p. 204 Cf. Müller, Frag. Hist. Graec. iv. p. 498.
205:b For "Apollo" Halliday suggests with some plausibility "Pluto"; but Apollo, as the god who cleanses from pollution (καθάρσιος), is almost a commonplace in Greek literature.
207:a p. 206 Cf. Moralia, 523 A–B.
207:b Ibid. 418 B.
207:c Socrates of Argos; cf. Müller, Frag. Hist. Graec. v. p. 498.
207:d Adapted from Homer, Od. xviii. 148 (= xix. 298).
207:e cf. 293 F–294 C, supra.
209:a Cf. 293 F–294 A, supra.
209:b Cf. Apollodorus, Epitome, iii. 23–26, with Frazer's notes (L.C.L. vol. ii. pp. 193 ff.).