Friday, July 27, 2012


Senicide, Part IV

Strabo 10.5.6 (on Ceos; tr. W. Falconer):
There was an ancient law among these people, mentioned by Menander.

"Phanias, that is a good law of the Ceans; who cannot live comfortably (or well), let him not live miserably (or ill)."'

For the law, it seems, ordained that those above sixty years old should be compelled to drink hemlock, in order that there might be sufficient food for the rest. It is said that once when they were besieged by the Athenians, a decree was passed to the effect that the oldest persons, fixing the age, should be put to death, and that the besiegers retired in consequence.

παρὰ τούτοις δὲ δοκεῖ τεθῆναί ποτε νόμος, οὗ μέμνηται καὶ Μένανδρος
Καλὸν τὸ Κείων νόμιμόν ἐστι, Φανία:
ὁ μὴ δυνάμενος ζῆν καλῶς οὐ ζῇ κακῶς.
προσέταττε γάρ, ὡς ἔοικεν, ὁ νόμος τοὺς ὑπὲρ ἑξήκοντα ἔτη γεγονότας κωνειάζεσθαι καὶ τοῦ διαρκεῖν τοῖς ἄλλοις τὴν τροφήν: καὶ πολιορκουμένους δέ ποτε ὑπ' Ἀθηναίων ψηφίσασθαί φασι τοὺς πρεσβυτάτους ἐξ αὐτῶν ἀποθανεῖν, ὁρισθέντος πλήθους ἐτῶν, τοὺς δὲ παύσασθαι πολιορκοῦντας.
Aelian, Varia Historia 3.37 (tr. N.G. Wilson):
There is a law at Ceos that those who are extremely elderly invite each as if going to a party or to a festival with sacrifices, meet, put on garlands and drink hemlock. This they do when they become aware that they are incapable of performing tasks useful to their country, and that their judgment is by now rather feeble owing to the passing of time.

Νόμος ἐστὶ Κείων, οἱ πάνυ παρ᾽ αὐτοῖς γεγηρακότες, ὥσπερ ἐπὶ ξένια παρακαλοῦντες ἑαυτοὺς ἢ επί τινα ἑορταστικὴν θυσίαν, συνελθόντες καὶ στεφανωσάμενοι πίνουσι κώνειον, ὅταν ἑαυτοῖς συνειδῶσιν ὅτι πρὸς τὰ ἔργα τὰ τῇ πατρίδι λυσιτελοῦντα ἄχρηστοί εἰσιν, ὑποληρούσης ἤδη τι αὐτοῖς καὶ τῆς γνώμης διὰ τὸν χρόνον.
Aelian, Varia Historia 4.1 (tr. N.G. Wilson):
It was a custom in Sardinia that the children of aged parents beat them to death with clubs and buried them, in the belief that it was wrong for the excessively old to continue living, since the body, suffering through age, had many failings....The Derbiccae kill those who are seventy years of age. They sacrifice the men and strangle the women.

Νόμος ἐστὶ Σαρδῷος, τοὺς ἤδη γεγηρακότας τῶν πατέρων οἱ παῖδες ῥοπάλοις τύπτοντες ἀνῄρουν καὶ ἔθαπτον, αἰσχρὸν ἡγούμενοι τὸν λίαν ὑπέργηρων ὄντα ζῆν ἔτι, ὡς πολλὰ ἁμαρτάνοντος τοῦ σώματος τοῦ διὰ τὸ γῆρας πεπονηκότος.....Δερβίκκαι τοὺς ὑπὲρ ἑβδομήκοντα ἔτη βεβιωκότας ἀποκτείνουσι, τοὺς μὲν ἄνδρας καταθύοντες, ἀπάγχοντες δὲ τὰς γυναῖκας.
Erasistratus, fragment 3 Garofalo = Stobaeus 3.5.57 (my translation):
Erasistratus of Cos [sic], being already old and having an incurable sore on his foot, said, "It's good that I remember my native land." And he drank hemlock to the last drop.

Ἐρασίστρατος ὁ Κῷος ἤδη γεραιὸς ὢν ἕλκος ἐπὶ τοῦ ποδὸς δυσίατον ἔχων "εὖ γε" εἶπεν "ὅτι τῆς πατρίδος ὑπομιμνήσκομαι," καὶ κώνειον πιὼν κατέστρεψεν.
Stephanus of Byzantium, Ethnica, s.v. Ioulis (a city on Ceos; vol. I, p. 335, lines 8-13 Meineke; my translation):
Among them a law was established, as Menander [says]:
Good is the custom of the Ceans, Phanias,
He who is unable to live well, will not live badly.
For it ordered those over sixty years of age to be given hemlock, so that there would be enough food for the others.

παρ' οἷς νόμος ἐτέθη, ὡς Μένανδρος
καλὸν τὸ Κείων νόμιμόν ἐστι, Φανία,
ὁ μὴ δυνάμενος ζῆν καλῶς οὐ ζῇ κακῶς.
προσέταττε γὰρ τοὺς ὑπὲρ ἑξήκοντα ἔτη κωνειάζεσθαι, τοῦ διαρκεῖν τοῖς ἄλλοις τὴν τροφήν.
Meleager, in Greek Anthology 7.470 (tr. W.R. Paton):
A. "Tell him who enquires, who and whose son thou art." B. "Philaulus son of Eucratides." A. "And from whence dost thou say?" B. "..." A. "What livelihood didst thou choose when alive?" B. "Not that from the plough nor that from ships, but that which is gained in the society of sages." A. "Didst thou depart this life from old age or from sickness?" B. "Of my own will I came to Hades, having drunk of the Cean cup." A. "Wast thou old?" B. "Yea, very old." A. "May the earth that rests on thee be light, for the life thou didst lead was in accordance with wisdom and reason."

α. Εἶπον ἀνειρομένῳ τίς καὶ τίνος ἐσσί. β. φίλαυλος
  Εὐκρατίδεω. α. Ποδαπὸς δ᾽ εὔχεαι ...
α. Ἔζησας δὲ τίνα στέργων βίον; β. Οὐ τὸν ἀρότρου,
  οὐδὲ τὸν ἐκ νηῶν, τὸν δὲ σοφοῖς ἕταρον.
α. Γήραϊ δ᾽ ἢ νηῶν βίον ἔλλιπες; β. Ἤλυθον ᾍδαν
  αὐτοθελεί, Κείων γευσάμενος κυλίκων.
α. Ἠ πρέσβυς; β. Καὶ κάρτα. α. Λάχοι νύ σε βῶλος ἐλαφρὴ
  σύμφωνον πινυτῷ σχόντα λόγῳ βίοτον.
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