Wednesday, November 19, 2014


Threefold Blight

Sophocles, Oedipus the King 22-27 (tr. R.C. Jebb):
For the city, as you yourself see, is now sorely vexed, and can no longer lift her head from beneath the angry waves of death. A blight has fallen on the fruitful blossoms of the land, the herds among the pastures, the barren pangs of women.

πόλις γάρ, ὥσπερ καὐτὸς εἰσορᾷς, ἄγαν
ἤδη σαλεύει κἀνακουφίσαι κάρα
βυθῶν ἔτ᾽ οὐχ οἵα τε φοινίου σάλου,
φθίνουσα μὲν κάλυξιν ἐγκάρποις χθονός,
φθίνουσα δ᾽ ἀγέλαις βουνόμοις τόκοισί τε
ἀγόνοις γυναικῶν.
There are parallels for the threefold blight on crops, livestock, and offspring.

Herodotus 3.65.7 (tr. A.D. Godley):
And if you do this, may your land bring forth fruit, and your women and your flocks and herds be blessed with offspring, remaining free for all time; but if you do not get the kingdom back or attempt to get it back, then I pray things turn out the opposite for you.

καὶ ταῦτα μὲν ποιεῦσι ὑμῖν γῆ τε καρπὸν ἐκφέροι καὶ γυναῖκές τε καὶ ποῖμναι τίκτοιεν, ἐοῦσι ἐς τὸν ἅπαντα χρόνον ἐλευθέροισι· μὴ δὲ ἀνασωσαμένοισι τὴν ἀρχὴν μηδ᾽ ἐπιχειρήσασι ἀνασώζειν τὰ ἐναντία τούτοισι ἀρῶμαι ὑμῖν γενέσθαι.
Herodotus 6.139.1 (tr. A.D. Godley):
But when the Pelasgians had murdered their own sons and women, their land brought forth no fruit, nor did their wives and their flocks and herds bear offspring as before.

ἀποκτείνασι δὲ τοῖσι Πελασγοῖσι τοὺς σφετέρους παῖδάς τε καὶ γυναῖκας οὔτε γῆ καρπὸν ἔφερε οὔτε γυναῖκές τε καὶ ποῖμναι ὁμοίως ἔτικτον καὶ πρὸ τοῦ.
Aeschines, Against Ctesiphon 111 (tr. Charles Darwin Adams):
The curse goes on: That their land bear no fruit; that their wives bear children not like those who begat them, but monsters; that their flocks yield not their natural increase...

καὶ ἐπεύχεται αὐτοῖς μήτε γῆν καρποὺς φέρειν, μήτε γυναῖκας τέκνα τίκτειν γονεῦσιν ἐοικότα, ἀλλὰ τέρατα, μήτε βοσκήματα κατὰ φύσιν γονὰς ποιεῖσθαι...
Philostratus, Life of Apollonius of Tyana 3.20 (tr. F.C. Conybeare):
Well, at that time of which I speak, the Ethiopians lived here, and were subject to King Ganges, and the land was sufficient for their sustenance, and the gods watched over them; but when they slew this king, neither did the rest of the Indians regard them as pure, nor did the land permit them to remain upon it; for it spoiled the seed which they sowed in it before it came into ear, and it inflicted miscarriages on their women, and it gave a miserable feed to their flocks...

ὃν μὲν δὴ χρόνον ᾤκουν ἐνταῦθα οἱ Αἰθίοπες ὑποκείμενοι βασιλεῖ Γάγγῃ, ἥ τε γῆ αὐτοὺς ἱκανῶς ἔφερβε καὶ οἱ θεοὶ σφῶν ἐπεμελοῦντο, ἐπεὶ δὲ ἀπέκτειναν τὸν βασιλέα τοῦτον, οὔτε τοῖς ἄλλοις Ἰνδοῖς καθαροὶ ἔδοξαν, οὔτε ἡ γῆ ξυνεχώρει αὐτοῖς ἵστασθαι, τήν τε γὰρ σποράν, ἣν ἐς αὐτὴν ἐποιοῦντο, πρὶν ἐς κάλυκα ἥκειν, ἔφθειρε τούς τε τῶν γυναικῶν τόκους ἀτελεῖς ἐποίει καὶ τὰς ἀγέλας πονήρως ἔβοσκε...
Deuteronomy 28.17-18:
Cursed shall be the fruit of thy body, and the fruit of thy land, the increase of thy kine, and the flocks of thy sheep.
I owe most of the parallels to Bernard M.W. Knox, "The Date of the Oedipus Tyrannus of Sophocles," American Journal of Philology 77 (1956) 133-147 (at 135-136), although his citation of Philostratus at p. 136, n. 17, is faulty—for "Vita Apollodori, III, 20" read "Vita Apollonii, III, 20".


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