Saturday, March 20, 2010


The Punishment of Neoptolemus

Pausanias 4.17.4 (tr. W.H.S. Jones):
However in course of time the punishment of Neoptolemus, as it is called, came upon the Lacedaemonians themselves in their turn. Now it was the fate of Neoptolemus the son of Achilles, after killing Priam on the altar of Zeus Herkeios (Of the Courtyard), himself to be slain by the altar of Apollo in Delphi. Thenceforward to suffer what a man has himself done to another is called the Punishment of Neoptolemus.

περιῆλθε μέντοι καὶ αὐτοὺς Λακεδαιμονίους ἀνὰ χρόνον ἡ Νεοπτολέμειος καλουμένη τίσις. Νεοπτολέμῳ γὰρ τῷ Ἀχιλλέως, ἀποκτείναντι Πρίαμον ἐπὶ τῇ ἐσχάρᾳ τοῦ Ἑρκείου, συνέπεσε καὶ αὐτὸν ἐν Δελφοῖς πρὸς τῷ βωμῷ τοῦ Ἀπόλλωνος ἀποσφαγῆναι· καὶ ἀπὸ τούτου τὸ παθεῖν ὁποῖόν τις καὶ ἔδρασε Νεοπτολέμειον τίσιν ὀνομάζουσι.
Frazer in his commentary on Pausanias has no note on this passage, and no classical parallels come immediately to my mind.

We find in Psalms the idea that it is fitting for a man to suffer the same pain he intends to inflict on others:

He made a pit, and digged it, and is fallen into the ditch which he made. His mischief shall return upon his own head, and his violent dealing shall come down upon his own pate.
The heathen are sunk down in the pit that they made: in the net which they hid is their own foot taken.
For without cause have they hid for me their net in a pit, which without cause they have digged for my soul. Let destruction come upon him at unawares; and let his net that he hath hid catch himself: into that very destruction let him fall.

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