Monday, November 14, 2011


A Savior Goddess?

R.W. Daniel, "Laughing Stones: Literary Parallels to ΠΕΡΔΕ in the New Acclamations from Aphrodisias," Zeitschrift für Papyrologie und Epigraphik 61 (1985) 127-130 (at 130):
It seems that a fart was also apotropaic. In this connection, note that in the Charition mime, P. Oxy. III 413, πορδή is personified and elevated to the rank of a savior goddess. Cf. also Crusius' restoration of Col. I, lines 1-3 of this mime (Herondae Mimiambi Novis Fragmentis Adiectis, p. 101f.):

              ἵνα μὴ τρ]ωθῇς, πορδήν βάλε
                                                     ]. Β. πορδήν;
ἰσχυρόταται γὰρ αὖτ]αι δοκοῦσι ἀποτροπαί.
I translate Otto Crusius' restoration as follows:
              Lest you be wound]ed, let a fart.
                                                     ] B. A fart?
For most powerful these] averters of evil seem.
In the first line, where Crusius supplied ἵνα μὴ τρ]ωθῇς ("lest you be wounded"), Tadeusz Zieliński conjectured ἵνα σ]ωθῇς and Georg Knoke ἵνα διασ]ωθῇς, i.e. "in order that you might be saved (or preserved)."

The Greek feminine noun πορδή (pordē) means fart, and R.W. Daniel thinks that Pordē is here personified as a savior goddess. John J. Winkler, Auctor & Actor: A Narratological Reading of Apuleius' Golden Ass (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1985), p. 290, amusingly suggests the name "Fartemis" for such a goddess.

The adjective ἀποτρόπαιος (apotropaios = averting evil) is often an epithet of gods.

On the salvific power of breaking wind, cf. the Greek Anthology 11.395 (Nicarchus, tr. W.R. Paton):
A fart which cannot find an outlet kills many a man; a fart also saves, sending forth its lisping music. Therefore if a fart saves, and on the other hand kills, a fart has the same power as kings.

Πορδὴ ἀποκτέννει πολλοὺς ἀδιέξοδος οὖσα·
  πορδὴ καὶ σώζει τραυλὸν ἱεῖσα µέλος.
οὐκοῦν εἰ σώζει, καὶ ἀποκτέννει πάλι πορδή,
  τοῖς βασιλεῦσιν ἴσην πορδὴ ἔχει δύναµιν.
The action of the Charition mime takes place in India. I don't know whether anyone has ever compared the putative goddess Pordē in the Charition mime with reports of an ancient Egyptian god of flatulence, attested in the following sources.

Theophilus, To Autolycus 1.10.1 (tr. Marcus Dods):
Why should I further recount the multitude of animals worshipped by the Egyptians, both reptiles, and cattle, and wild beasts, and birds and river-fishes; and even wash-pots and disgraceful noises?

Τί μοι λοιπὸν καταλέγειν τὸ πλῆθος ὧν σέβονται ζώων Αἰγύπτιοι, ἑρπετῶν τε καὶ κτηνῶν καὶ θηρίων καὶ πετεινῶν καὶ ἐνύδρων νηκτῶν, ἔτι δὲ καὶ ποδόνιπτρα καὶ ἤχους αἰσχύνης;
Minucius Felix, Octavius 28.10 (tr. R.E. Wallis):
These same Egyptians, together with very many of you, are not more afraid of Isis than they are of the pungency of onions, nor of Serapis more than they tremble at the basest noises produced by the foulness of their bodies.

Idem Aegyptii cum plerisque vobis non magis Isidem quam ceparum acrimonias metuunt, nec Serapidem magis quam strepitus per pudenda corporis expressos contremescunt.
Pseudo-Clement, Homilies 10.16.2 (tr. M.B. Riddle):
For some of them taught the worship of an ox called Apis, some that of a he-goat, some of a cat, some of a serpent; yea, even of a fish, and of onions, and rumblings in the stomach, and common sewers, and members of irrational animals, and to myriads of other base abominations they gave the name of god.

οἱ μὲν γὰρ αὐτῶν παρέδοσαν βοῦν τὸν λεγόμενον Ἄπιν σέβειν, οἱ δὲ τράγον, οἱ δὲ αἴλουρον, οἱ δὲ ὄφιν, ἀλλὰ καὶ ἰχθὺν καὶ κρόμμυα καὶ γαστρῶν πνεύματα καὶ ὀχετοὺς καὶ ἀλόγων ζῴων μέλη <σὺν> καὶ ἄλλοις μυρίοις πάνυ αἰσχροῖς ἀτοπήμασιν.
Pseudo-Clement, Recognitions 5.20.3 (tr. Thomas Smith):
For some taught that their ox, which is called Apis, ought to be worshipped; others taught that the he-goat, others that cats, the ibis, a fish also, a serpent, onions, drains, crepitus ventris [farts], ought to be regarded as deities, and innumerable other things, which I am ashamed even to mention.

nam alii eorum bovem, qui Apis dicitur, colendum tradidere, alii hircum, alii cattas, nonnulli ibim, quidam serpentem, piscem quoque et caepas et cloacas, crepitus ventris pro numinibus habendos esse docuerunt et alia innumerabilia quae pudet etiam nominare.
St. Jerome, Commentary on Isaiah 13.46 (my translation):
For also several of their cities take their names from wild beasts and livestock, Kynopolis from the dog, Leontopolis from the lion, Thmouis from the goat in the Egyptian language, Lykopolis from the wolf, not to mention the dreadful and terrible onion and the noise of a swollen belly, which is an object of veneration in Pelusium.

nam et pleraque oppida eorum ex bestiis et iumentis habent nomina, κυνῶν a cane, λέων a leone, lingua Aegyptia θμοῦϊς ab hirco, λύκων a lupo, ut taceam de formidoloso et horribili coepe, et crepitu ventris inflati, quae Pelusiaca religio est.
It should be noted that some scholars think that occurrences of the word πορδή in the Charition mime don't refer to a goddess, but are rather stage directions, i.e. instructions to actor(s) to make farting noises. D.L. Page, ed., Select Papyri, Vol. III: Literary Papyri. Poetry (1941; rpt. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1970), p. 339, opines:
The word πορδ(ή), once associated with the remarks of the Clown, is surely a stage direction: it may have played an integral part in the action of the farce (Winter, p. 45: artillery to repel the approach of the barbarians, cf. vv. 45-46).
Unfortunately I don't have access to recent editions and discussions of this mime, such as Jeffrey Rusten and I. C. Cunningham, edd., Theophrastus: Characters; Herodas: Mimes; Sophron and Other Mime Fragments (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2002), and Stefania Santelia, Charition Liberata (P. Oxy. 413) (Bari: Levante, 1991). A demand for user name and password blocks me when I try to look at an image of P. Oxy. 413 at the Oxyrhynchus Online database.

Related posts:Hat tip: Ian Jackson, who sent me a copy of R.W. Daniel's article.


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