Saturday, February 17, 2007
God is dead. God remains dead. And we have killed him.Don't blame us. A doctor named Marcus killed the king of the gods, according to an epigram by Nicharchus in the Greek Anthology (11.113, tr. W.R. Paton):
The physician Marcus laid his hand yesterday on the stone Zeus, and though he is of stone and Zeus he is to be buried to-day.This is one of a series of jokes making fun of doctors in book 11 of the Greek Anthology (poems 112-126).
Τοῦ λιθίνου Διὸς ἐχθὲς ὁ κλινικὸς ἣψατο Μάρκος·
καὶ λίθος ὢν καὶ Ζεύς, σήμερον ἐκφέρεται.
On the custom of touching a statue of a god, cf. Lucretius 1.316-318 (tr. Martin Ferguson Smith):
Again, bronze statues set by gateways display the right hands thinned away by the frequent touch of greeting from those who pass by.Smith ad loc. cites Cicero, Against Verres 4.43.94 (tr. C.D. Yonge):
tum portas propter aena
signa manus dextras ostendunt adtenuari
saepe salutantum tactu praeterque meantum.
There is a temple of Hercules at Agrigentum, not far from the forum, considered very holy and greatly reverenced among the citizens. In it there is a brazen image of Hercules himself, than which I cannot easily tell where I have seen anything finer; (although I am not very much of a judge of those matters, though I have seen plenty of specimens;) so greatly venerated among them, O judges, that his mouth and his chin are a little worn away, because men in addressing their prayers and congratulations to him, are accustomed not only to worship the statue, but even to kiss it.In Minucius Felix, Octavius 2.4, it is not clear if a statue was actually touched or not. Gerald H. Rendall and W.C. Ker translate the passage thus:
Herculis templum est apud Agrigentinos non longe a foro, sane sanctum apud illos et religiosum. ibi est ex aere simulacrum ipsius Herculis, quo non facile dixerim quicquam me vidisse pulchrius--tametsi non tam multum in istis rebus intellego quam multa vidi--usque eo, iudices, ut rictum eius ac mentum paulo sit attritius, quod in precibus et gratulationibus non solum id venerari verum etiam osculari solent.
Caecilius noticed an image of Serapis, and -- as is the superstitious habit of the vulgar -- put his hand to his mouth and blew it a kiss.But "blew it a kiss" isn't in the Latin. Alexander Roberts and James Donaldson translate as follows:
Caecilius, observing an image of Serapis, raised his hand to his mouth, as is the custom of the superstitious common people, and pressed a kiss on it with his lips."On it" refers to Caecilius' hand, as the Latin makes clear:
Caecilius simulacro Serapidis denotato, ut vulgus superstitiosus solet, manum ori admovens osculum labiis pressit.