Monday, December 03, 2018


Pything on the Pythion

All translations below come from John Patrick Lynch, "Hipparchos' Wall in the Academy at Athens: A Closer Look at the Tradition," in Studies Presented to Sterling Dow on His Eightieth Birthday (Durham: Duke University, 1984 = Greek, Roman, and Byzantine Monographs, 10), pp. 173-179 (at 177-179). I've expanded and in one case (Zenobius) updated references to the sources.

Zenobius, Proverbs 94, in Winfried Bühler, ed., Zenobii Athoi Proverbia, Vol. V (Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1999), pp. 499 ff.:
Better to have defecated in the Pythion: Peisistratos built the temple of Pythios, forcing the citizens to spend a lot. Therefore the Athenians, hating it, used to go to the temple constantly and urinate and defecate on it. As a result, Peisistratos had it guarded, and captured someone, whom he very severely punished. Hence the Athenians, if ever they saw someone suffering badly, used the proverb.
Suda E 1428 Adler:
Better to have defecated in the Pythion: That is, to run a risk. Since some people were scorning Apollo and were defecating in his sanctuary, Peisistratos passed a law that anyone caught at this be punished with death. Since they laughed at this legislation and even more people were doing this, he posted guards. When someone was caught, he ordered the guards to tie and whip him beside the road, with the following proclamation: "This man will be punished and will die for slighting the law." When he was killed, the event so affected the Athenians that even now they apply the proverb to those who suffer harm or are constrained by penalties because of some transgression: "He might as well have defecated in the Pythion."
Oxford, Bodleian Library, Auct. T. 2. 17, in Thomas Gaisford, ed., Ρaroemiographi Graeci (Oxford: E Typographico Academico, 1836), p. 46, no. 407 = E.L. von Leutsch and F.G. Schneidewin, edd., Corpus Paroemiographorum Graecorum, Vol. I (Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1839), pp. 406-407:
Better to have defecated in the Pythion: Peisistratos was building the temple in the Pythion. The Athenians used to pass by and feel hatred for the temple because of the ten-percent tax (for they all were paying ten percent of the income on their property); having no recourse, some used to urinate and leave piles near the enclosure to annoy the workmen. Peisistratos therefore passed a law that if anyone was caught relieving himself in Apollo's sanctuary, he would be punished. Since they did not stop but mocked the whole business by doing these things even more, he posted guards. When someone was caught (not one of the citizens but a metic) and bound, he ordered him whipped, with the proclamation, "Death to the one who slights the law." The Athenians therefore used to say this of those suffering harm because of some transgression, "They might as well have defecated in the Pythion."
Paris, Bibliothèque Nationale, Coislin 177, in Gaisford, op. cit., pp. 137-138, no. 190:
To soil or defecate in the Pythion: When Peisistratos was building the temple in the Pythia and people were hating him for his tyrannical rule, they used to defecate and urinate there, causing him to pass a law that "anyone who continues such unseemly behavior will be punished." When the law was scorned, he arrested a metic and had him whipped for many days in front of the temple. The proverb was applied to those who have to withstand great penalties or suffer harm.
Apostolius, Proverbs 7.17, in E.L. von Leutsch, ed., Corpus Paroemiographorum Graecorum, Vol. II (Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1851), p. 400:
To soil in Pythian Apollo's sanctuary: That is, to run a risk. For Peisistratos the tyrant, when he discovered a metic defecating on the temple he was building, had him arrested, for he passed a law forbidding such action.
Hesychios s.vv. ἐν Πυθίῳ χέσαι:
To soil in the Pythion: Peisistratos was building the temple in the Pythion. The Athenians used to pass by and hate it, but having no recourse, some used to urinate on the enclosure and leave piles near the construction to annoy the workmen.
Lynch also has all of the Greek. Here is the Suda passage:
Ἐν Πυθίῳ κρεῖττον ἦν ἀποπατῆσαι: οἷον κινδυνεῦσαι. καταφρονούντων γάρ τινων Ἀπόλλωνος καὶ ἐν τῷ τεμένει αὐτοῦ ἀποπατούντων Πεισίστρατος ἔγραψε νόμον, τὸν ἁλόντα ἐπὶ τούτῳ θνήσκειν. καταγελώντων δὲ τοῦ γράμματος καὶ πλειόνων μᾶλλον τοῦτο ποιούντων ἔστησε φύλακας. ληφθέντος δέ τινος ἐκέλευσε δήσαντας αὐτὸν παρὰ τὴν ὁδὸν μαστιγοῦν, κηρύσσοντας: ὅδ' ἁνὴρ κολασθεὶς ἀποθανεῖται, ὅτι ὀλιγωρεῖ τοῦ γράμματος. κτανθέντος δέ, οὕτω ἐνέδυ τὸ γενόμενον τοῖς Ἀθηναίοις, ὥστε ἔτι νῦν τοὺς κακοπαθοῦντας ἢ τιμωρίαις ἐνεχομένους διά τινα αὐτῶν πλημμέλειαν ἐπιλέγειν: ἐν Πυθίῳ κρεῖττον ἦν αὐτὸν ἀποπατῆσαι.
Related post: Commit No Nuisance.


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