Tuesday, October 09, 2012
Senicide, Part V
What, then, is my counsel? To do what our forefathers did in the war, in no wise equal to this, with the Cimbri and Teutones. They shut themselves into the towns, and under stress of a like scarcity sustained life on the bodies of those whose age showed them useless for war, and delivered not themselves to the enemy. And if we had not had a precedent for this, I should still have judged it a most glorious thing for the sake of liberty to set such a one and to hand it down to posterity.Procopius, Gothic War 2.14.2-5 (on the Eruli or Heruli, tr. H.B. Dewing):
quid ergo mei consili est? facere quod nostri maiores nequaquam pari bello Cimbrorum Teutonumque fecerunt; qui in oppida compulsi ac simili inopia subacti eorum corporibus qui aetate ad bellum inutiles videbantur vitam toleraverunt neque sc hostibus tradiderunt. cuius rei si exemplum non haberemus, tamen libertatis causa institui et posteris prodi pulcherrimum iudicarem.
 And they observed many customs which were not in accord with those of other men. For they were not permitted to live either when they grew old or when they fell sick, but as soon as one of them was overtaken by old age or by sickness, it became necessary for him to ask his relatives to remove him from the world as quickly as possible.  And these relatives would pile up a quantity of wood to a great height and lay the man on top of the wood, and then they would send one of the Eruli, but not a relative of the man, to his side with a dagger;  for it was not lawful for a kinsman to be his slayer. And when the slayer of their relative had returned, they would straightway burn the whole pile of wood, beginning at the edges.  And after the fire had ceased, they would immediately collect the bones and bury them in the earth.Paradoxographus Vaticanus 65 Keller (Rerum Naturalium Scriptores Graeci Minores, vol. I, p. 115) = 59 Giannini (Paradoxographorum Graecorum Reliquiae, p. ?), tr. Jacob Stern in Stephan Heilen, ed., In Pursuit of Wissenschaft: Festschrift für William M. Calder III zum 75. Geburtstag (Hildesheim: Georg Olms Verlag, 2008), pp. 437-466 (at 450):
 νόμοις δὲ πολλοῖς οὐ κατὰ ταὐτὰ τοῖς ἀνθρώπων ἑτέροις ἐχρῶντο. οὔτε γὰρ γηράσκουσιν οὔτε νοσοῦσιν αὐτοῖς βιοτεύειν ἐξῆν, ἀλλ' ἐπειδάν τις αὐτῶν ἢ γήρᾳ ἢ νόσῳ ἁλῴη, ἐπάναγκές οἱ ἐγίνετο τοὺς ξυγγενεῖς αἰτεῖσθαι ὅτι τάχιστα ἐξ ἀνθρώπων αὐτὸν ἀφανίζειν.  οἱ δὲ ξύλα πολλὰ ἐς μέγα τι ὕψος ξυννήσαντες καθίσαντές τε τὸν ἄνθρωπον ἐν τῇ τῶν ξύλων ὑπερβολῇ, τῶν τινα Ἐρούλων, ἀλλότριον μέντοι, ξὺν ξιφιδίῳ παρ' αὐτὸν ἔπεμπον·  ξυγγενῆ γὰρ αὐτῷ τὸν φονέα εἶναι οὐ θέμις. Ἐπειδὰν δὲ αὐτοῖς ὁ τοῦ ξυγγενοῦς φονεὺς ἐπανῄει, ξύμπαντα ἔκαιον αὐτίκα τὰ ξύλα, ἐκ τῶν ἐσχάτων ἀρξάμενοι.  παυσαμένης τε αὐτοῖς τῆς φλογὸς ξυλλέξαντες τὰ ὀστᾶ ἐν τῷ παραυτίκα τῇ γῇ ἔκρυπτον.
When their parents are no longer useful because of their old age, the Ligurians throw them off a cliff.I owe these references to Tim G. Parkin, Old Age in the Roman World: A Cultural and Social History (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2003), p. 261, with n. 109 on p. 431.
Λίγυες τοὺς γονεῖς, ὅταν μηκέτι ὦσι διὰ γῆρας χρήσιμοι, κατακρημνίζουσιν.