Sunday, November 11, 2012


A Greek Historian and a Japanese Painting

Herodotus 2.162.3 (tr. A.D. Godley):
When Apries heard of it, he sent against Amasis an esteemed Egyptian named Patarbemis, one of his own court, instructing him to take the rebel alive and bring him into his presence. When Patarbemis came and summoned Amasis, Amasis (who was on horseback) rose up and farted, telling the messenger to take that back to Apries.

πυθόμενος δὲ ταῦτα ὁ Ἀπρίης ἔπεμπε ἐπ᾽ Ἄμασιν ἄνδρα δόκιμον τῶν περὶ ἑωυτὸν Αἰγυπτίων, τῷ οὔνομα ἦν Πατάρβημις, ἐντειλάμενος αὐτῷ ζῶντα Ἄμασιν ἀγαγεῖν παρ᾽ ἑωυτόν. ὡς δὲ ἀπικόμενος τὸν Ἄμασιν ἐκάλεε ὁ Πατάρβημις, ὁ Ἄμασις, ἔτυχε γὰρ ἐπ᾽ ἵππου κατήμενος, ἐπαείρας ἀπεματάισε, καὶ τοῦτό μιν ἐκέλευε Ἀπρίῃ ἀπάγειν.
Compare this image from a Japanese painting (Edo period, now at Waseda University):

On the painting, see Kenneth Henshall, A History of Japan: From Stone Age to Superpower, 3rd ed. (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2012), p. 72 (footnote omitted):
In any event, the rule of the shōguns, which had lasted for almost 700 years, was at an end. The foreign devils were back, and did not look like leaving. When these devils had first appeared, a popular cartoon, based on the Japanese tradition of 'farting contests' (he-gassen), had shown Westerners being blasted away by Japanese farts. But such a scenario was, so to speak, just so much hot air. The foreign devils were not blown away. On the contrary, it was the foreigners who, metaphorically speaking, had finally blown open the doors of the closed country. Western fart power had prevailed.


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