Thursday, February 25, 2016


Pious Brothers

Lycurgus, Against Leocrates 95-96 (tr. J.O. Burtt):
There is a story that in Sicily,—the tale, though half a legend, will, for the younger ones among you, be well worth the hearing,—a stream of fire burst forth from Etna. This stream, so the story goes, flowing over the countryside, drew near a certain city of the Sicilians. Most men, thinking of their own safety, took to flight; but one of the youths, seeing that his father, now advanced in years, could not escape and was being overtaken by the fire, lifted him up and carried him. Hindered no doubt by the additional weight of his burden, he too was overtaken. And now let us observe the mercy shown by God towards good men. For we are told that the fire spread round that spot in a ring and only those two men were saved, so that the place is still called the Place of the Pious, while those who had fled in haste, leaving their parents to their fate, were all consumed.
Conon, Narratives 43 = Fragmente der griechischen Historiker 26 F 1 (tr. Malcolm Kenneth Brown):
The fiery craters of Aitna once gushed forth flames like a river upon the land, and the Katanians (Katane is a Greek town in Sicily) thought this would be the complete destruction of their town; and while fleeing it as fast as they could some carried gold, others silver, and others whatever they wished to aid their flight. But Anapias and Amphinomos instead of all their possessions lifted their aged parents onto their shoulders and fled. And the flames overtook and destroyed the others, but around them the fire was split and all the area about them became like an island in the flames. For this reason the Sicilians call the place the 'Ground of the Pious Ones' and set up within it stone images of the men, a memorial of deeds at once divine and human.
Strabo 6.2.3 (tr. Horace Leonard Jones):
Now the city of Aetna is situated in the interior about over Catana, and shares most in the devastation caused by the action of the craters; in fact the streams of lava rush down very nearly as far as the territory of Catana; and here is the scene of the act of filial piety, so often recounted, of Amphinomus and Anapias, who lifted their parents on their shoulders and saved them from the doom that was rushing upon them.
Pausanias 10.28.4 (tr. W.H.S. Jones):
For the men of old held their parents in the greatest respect, as we may infer, among other instances, from those in Catana called the Pious, who, when the fire flowed down on Catana from Etna, held of no account gold or silver, but when they fled took up, one his mother and another his father. As they struggled on, the fire rushed up and caught them in the flames. Not even so would they put down their parents, and it is said that the stream of lava divided itself in two, and the fire passed on, doing no hurt to either young men or their parents.
Aetna 625-646 (tr. J. Wight Duff and Arnold M. Duff):
Two noble sons, Amphinomus and his brother, gallantly facing an equal task, when fire now roared in homes hard by, saw how their lame father and their mother had sunk down (alas!) in the weariness of age upon the threshold. a Forbear, ye avaricious throng, to lift the spoils ye love! For them a mother and a father are the only wealth: this is the spoil they will snatch from the burning. They hasten to escape through the heart of the fire, which grants safe-conduct unasked. O sense of loving duty, greatest of all goods, justly deemed the surest salvation for man among the virtues! The flames held it shame to touch those duteous youths and retired wherever they turned their steps. Blessed is that day: guiltless is that land. Cruel burnings reign to right and left. Flames slant aside as Amphinomus rushes among them and with him his brother in triumph: both hold out safely under the burden which affection laid on them. There—round the couple—the greedy fire restrains itself. Unhurt they go free at last, taking with them their gods in safety. To them the lays of bards do homage: to them under an illustrious name has Ditis allotted a place apart. No mean destiny touches the sacred youths: their lot is a dwelling free from care, and the rightful rewards of the faithful.
Valerius Maximus 5.4 ext 4 (tr. D.R. Shackleton Bailey):
Better known pairs of brothers are Cleobis and Biton, Amphinomus and Anapius: the first because they carried their mother to perform the rites of Juno, the second because they bore their father and mother on their shoulders through the midst of flames. But neither intended to expire for the sake of their parents' breath.
Seneca, On Benefits 3.37.2 (John W. Basore):
Those young Sicilians won the victory; for, when Aetna, aroused to unusual fury, poured forth its fire upon cities, upon fields, upon a great part of the island, they conveyed their parents to safety. The fires parted, so it was believed, and, as the flames retired on either side, a path was opened up for the passage of the youths, who greatly deserved to perform their heroic tasks in safety.
Silius Italicus 14.196-197 (tr. J.D. Duff):
... and Catana, too close to the fire of Typhoeus, and famous for the pair of dutiful sons whom she bore long ago...
Hyginus, Fables 254 (tr. Mary Grant):
In Sicily when Mount Aetna first began to burn, Damon rescued his mother from the fire, and Phintias his father, too.
Solinus 5.15 (my translation):
Between Catania and Syracuse there is a quarrel about the account of the famous brothers, whose names each side selects for itself. If we heed Catania, they were Anapius and Amphinomus; if Syracuse chooses, we'll think they were Emantias and Crito. However, it was the district of Catania that provided the background for the deed. When Aetna poured forth its fires on Catania, two youths, unharmed by the flames, lifted up their parents and carried them away. Posterity has honored their memory, so that their burial place is called the Field of the Pious Ones.
Claudian, Minor Poems 17 (tr. Maurice Platnauer):
See these two brothers toiling beneath a burden piety bade them bear. They deserve the tribute of divine honours at the hands of all men: at the sight of them the respectful flames ceased their ravages and Etna in admiration restrained his flooding lava. Seizing their parents they set them upon their shoulders and, with eyes raised to heaven, hasten their steps. The aged parents, thus carried aloft by their two sons, impede their flight, but dear to the children is that very delay. See, the old man points to the cruel flames; the aged mother’s trembling lips call upon the gods for help. Fear has set their hair on end, the bronze is terror-stricken and a pale shiver runs over all the metal. In the countenances of the sons is seen courage in face of danger, and, if fear, then fear for their burdens, none for themselves. The wind has blown back their cloaks. One raises his right hand; his left is enough to sustain his aged sire. But the other needs must clasp his burden with both arms, taking greater care for that it is his mother, one of the weaker sex, that he bears. This, too, as thou passest by, leave not unnoted, for well the craftsman's dumb hands deserve such regard; both he has moulded with a likeness such as brothers bear, yet the one resembles rather his mother, the other his father. The artist's cunning has succeeded in expressing a difference of age in their faces, though a likeness to either parent is apparent in the features of both the sons; while, to ensure a further dissimilarity in that resemblance, he has varied the tenderness that either countenance expresses.

Faithful were ye to Nature's law, bright example of divine justice, model for youth, fond hope of age! Wealth ye despised, and dashed into the flames to rescue nought save your venerable parents. Not undeservedly, methinks, did such piety quench the fires in Enceladus' jaws. Vulcan himself checked the flow of molten lava from Etna that it should not harm those patterns of filial duty. The very elements were influenced thereby: father air and mother earth did their best to lighten the burden.

If signal piety raised Castor and Pollux to the skies, if Aeneas won immortality by rescuing his sire from burning Troy, if ancient story has rendered famous the names of those Argive brothers, Cleobis and Biton, who harnessed themselves to their mother's car, why does not Sicily dedicate a temple to the ageless memory of Amphinomos and Anapius? Though the three-cornered isle has many titles to fame, let her be sure that she has never given birth to a nobler deed. Let her not weep the destruction wrought by the spreading flames nor lament the houses burned down by the fire's fury. The flames abating had never put affection to the proof; the great disaster purchased immortal fame.
In a fifth century A.D. Greek inscription (Inscriptiones Graecae XIV 502; dedication to Zosymianeides Severus), Catania is called εὐσεβέων κλυτὸν ἄστυ (the famous city of the pious ones).

L'Année épigraphique 1956, number 259 (Catania, fifth or sixth century A.D., statue base, tr. E. Courtney):
The brothers who escaped the flames, a great reward for their filial devotion, were carried off by the enemy, but recovered by Merulus, uir clarissimus et spectabilis, consular governor of the province of Sicily.

Recent discussions include:
Coins from Catania representing the story (Perassi, p. 61; click to enlarge):

Denarius of M. Herennius (late second to early first century B.C.):

Denarius of Pompey (mid first century B.C.):

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