Saturday, January 05, 2019


Lope of a Wolf

Euripides, Bacchae. Iphigenia at Aulis. Rhesus. Edited and Translated by David Kovacs (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2002 = Loeb Classical Library, 495), p. 379 (translation of Rhesus, lines 208-215):
On my back I shall wrap the pelt of a wolf, with the beast's gaping jaws about my head: fitting its forelegs to my arms and its hindlegs to my feet I shall imitate the four-footed gate of a wolf, hard for enemies to detect as I approach the moat and the ships' fortifications. When I reach deserted ground, I will walk on two feet. That is how my deceit is concocted.
Image of the text from the book:

For gate read gait. The misprint persists in the Digital Loeb Classical Library version. I'm aware that gate is an archaic spelling of gait, but the modern spelling occurs on the top of p. 383 ("the gait of a four-footed beast").

The Greek:
λύκειον ἀμφὶ νῶτ᾿ ἐνάψομαι δορὰν
καὶ χάσμα θηρὸς ἀμφ᾿ ἐμῷ θήσω κάρᾳ,
βάσιν τε χερσὶ προσθίαν καθαρμόσας        210
καὶ κῶλα κώλοις, τετράπουν μιμήσομαι
λύκου κέλευθον πολεμίοις δυσεύρετον,
τάφροις πελάζων καὶ νεῶν προβλήμασιν.
ὅταν δ᾿ ἔρημον χῶρον ἐμβαίνω ποδί,
δίβαμος εἶμι· τῇδε σύγκειται δόλος.        215
W.H. Porter, The Rhesus of Euripides (Cambridge: At the University Press, 1916), pp. 55-56:
Dolon's equipment has been much ridiculed by critics from the scholiast down. Musgrave, however, quotes Josephus Bell. Jud. III.7.14, for the use of this stratagem in actual warfare. Josephus there describes how, when besieged by Vespasian in Jotopata, he communicated with friends outside and obtained provisions through messengers who were instructed ἕρπειν τὰ πολλὰ παρὰ τὰς φυλακὰς κελεύσας τοῖς ἐξιοῦσιν καὶ τὰ νῶτα καλύπτειν νάκεσιν, ὡς εἰ καὶ κατίδοι τις αὐτοὺς νύκτωρ φαντασίαν παρέχοιεν κυνῶν. F.W. Newman mentions the same device as in use among the American Indians: "This trick of barbarous warfare came to the knowledge of the English Government from their American colonists. In their war with the natives several English sentinels were killed, no one knew how; until every sentinel was ordered to fire on whatever approached him. One fired and killed a native warrior who was crawling up to him on all fours, in aspect like a large hog."
See also G.W. Elderkin, "Dolon's Disguise in the Rhesus," Classical Philology 30.4 (October, 1935) 349-350.

Lekythos (Paris, Musée du Louvre, accession number CA 1802)

Related post: Wolf-Hame.


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