Friday, April 17, 2009


Caco, Ergo Sum

Peter Green, "On the Thanatos Trail," a review of Emily Vermeule, Aspects of Death in Early Greek Art and Poetry (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1979), in Classical Bearings: Interpreting Ancient History and Culture (New York: Thames and Hudson, 1989; rpt. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1998), pp. 63-76 (at 69):
An early Greek was certainly more concerned with his kleos among future generations than with that 'intact survival of both body and mind', complete with food, sex and work, which drove the Egyptians, those obsessional industrialists of the hereafter (cf. below, pp. 83-4, 88-9), not only to mummify their corpses but to credit them, hopefully, in their future existence with the grossest of physical functions. 'I eat with my mouth,' one such is made to proclaim, 'I have motion in my behind.' Caco, ergo sum. Homer's dead do not eat, much less shit; rather, says Professor Vermeule, with characteristic wry amusement, 'they wander loose in an ill-defined countryside . . . and . . . discuss . . . the brilliance of their funerals . . . like patients in a hospital solarium telling each other about details of [their] operations . . .'.
Green is probably referring to the Papyrus of Ani, aka Book of the Dead (tr. Raymond Faulkner):
I eat with my mouth, I defecate with my hinder-parts, for I am a god, lord of the Duat.

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