Tuesday, December 11, 2007


The Father of Paraebius

In Greek mythology Erysichthon was punished for cutting down trees. The unnamed father of Paraebius committed the same sin, and his son suffered the consequences. Apollonius of Rhodes, 2.468-489 (tr. E.V. Rieu), puts the story in the mouth of the seer Phineus:
You see, my friends, that not everyone is graceless or forgetful of benefits received. I am thinking of Paraebius, who came here just now to have his fortune told. There was a time in that man's life when the more he toiled the harder he found it to keep body and soul together. He sank lower day by day, and there was no respite from his labours.

He was paying in misery for a sin committed by his father, who had refused to listen for a Hamadryad's prayers when he was felling trees one day, alone in the mountains. She wished him to spare the stump of an oak which was as old as she and had been her only home for many a long year. She wept and pleaded with him piteously. But in the headstrong arrogance of youth he cut it down; and in revenge the nymph laid a curse on him and his children.

When Paraebius consulted me, I realized the nature of the sin and told him to build an altar to the Thynian nymph and there make an offering in atonement, with prayers for release from his father's doom. Thus he escaped the wrath of Heaven, and never since that day has he forgotten or neglected me. Indeed, he is so determined to stand by me in my troubles that I find it hard to make him leave the house.

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