Saturday, June 30, 2007


Banishing Evil

I'm always on the lookout for illustrations of the ancient idea that evil cannot be destroyed but, at best, moved from one place to another. I just found a good example in a 2nd century A.D. inscription from Pergamum, most accessible on the Web in Georg Kaibel, Epigrammata Graeca ex lapidibus conlecta (Berlin: Reimer, 1878), no. 1035, on pp. 450-452. The idea occurs in lines 26-29 of the metrical part of the inscription (p. 451):
                                                    λοί[β]ῃ [δ]’ ἐφ’ ἑκάστῃ
σπένδοντες [λοιμο]ῖο παρ’ ἀθανάτων ἄκος ἐσθλὸν
αἰτέετε, [ὡ]ς τηλουρὸν ἐς ἐχ[θ]ο[δ]α[π]ῶν χθόνα φωτῶν
ἐκτόπιος προνέοιτ[ο].
I can't find a translation, so here's my own attempt:
With each drink-offering, as you pour the libation, request from the immortals a good remedy against plague, that it go forth away from this place to a distant land of foreign men.
The inscription is a response by the oracle of Apollo at Claros to a question about how to get rid of a plague.

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