Friday, May 25, 2018


What Each Man Did, He Suffers

Plutarch, Life of Theseus 11 (tr. Bernadotte Perrin):
In Eleusis, moreover, he out-wrestled Cercyon the Arcadian and killed him; and going on a little farther, at Erineüs, he killed Damastes, surnamed Procrustes, by compelling him to make his own body fit his bed, as he had been wont to do with those of strangers. And he did this in imitation of Heracles. For that hero punished those who offered him violence in the manner in which they had plotted to serve him, and therefore sacrificed Busiris, wrestled Antaeus to death, slew Cycnus in single combat, and killed Termerus by dashing in his skull.

It is from him, indeed, as they say, that the name "Termerian mischief" comes, for Termerus, as it would seem, used to kill those who encountered him by dashing his head against theirs. Thus Theseus also went on his way chastising the wicked, who were visited with the same violence from him which they were visiting upon others, and suffered justice after the manner of their own injustice.

Ἐν δὲ Ἐλευσῖνι Κερκύονα τὸν ἐξ Ἀρκαδίας καταπαλαίσας ἀνεῖλε· καὶ μικρὸν προελθὼν Δαμάστην ἐν Ἐρινεῷ1 τὸν Προκρούστην, ἀναγκάσας αὑτὸν ἀπισοῦν τοῖς κλιντῆρσιν ὥσπερ τοὺς ξένους ἐκεῖνος. ἔπραττε δὲ ταῦτα μιμούμενος τὸν Ἡρακλέα. καὶ γὰρ ἐκεῖνος οἷς ἐπεβουλεύετο τρόποις ἀμυνόμενος τοὺς προεπιχειροῦντας, ἔθυσε τὸν Βούσιριν καὶ κατεπάλαισε τὸν Ἀνταῖον καὶ τὸν Κύκνον κατεμονομάχησε καὶ τὸν Τέρμερον συρρήξας τὴν κεφαλὴν ἀπέκτεινεν.

ἀφ᾿ οὗ δὴ καὶ τὸ Τερμέρειον κακὸν ὀνομασθῆναι λέγουσι· παίων γάρ, ὡς ἔοικε, τῇ κεφαλῇ τοὺς ἐντυγχάνοντας ὁ Τέρμερος ἀπώλλυεν. οὕτω δὴ καὶ Θησεὺς κολάζων τοὺς πονηροὺς ἐπεξῆλθεν, οἷς μὲν ἐβιάζοντο τοὺς ἄλλους, ὑπ᾿ ἐκείνου καταβιαζομένους, ἐν δὲ τοῖς τρόποις τῆς ἑαυτῶν ἀδικίας τὰ δίκαια πάσχοντας.
It's curious that in Seneca, Hercules Furens 735-736 (tr. John G. Fitch), after Theseus escapes from the underworld, he says about the punishments there:
What each man did, he suffers: the crime recoils on its perpetrator, and the criminal is plagued by the precedent he set.

quod quisque fecit, patitur; auctorem scelus
repetit, suoque premitur exemplo nocens.
Related post: The Punishment of Neoptolemus.

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