Tuesday, August 13, 2013
Punishment for Arboricide: St. Hyacinth of Amastris
§ 4, on the inhabitants of Amastris (PG cols. 421-424 = AS p. 223):
They turned their attention to a certain one of the trees in their vicinity, called "lotos," naturally beautiful to look at and flourishing in its condition. Enchanted beyond measure in their silly minds and overcome by its beauty, they considered it a god and thought it should be propitiated with priests and sacrifices.§ 9, Hyacinth addressing the inhabitants of Amastris (PG cols. 427-428 = AS p. 225):
δένδρῳ δέ τινι τῶν παρ᾽ αὐτοῖς, λωτῷ μὲν καλουμένῳ, ὡραίῳ δὲ τὴν θέαν, ὡς εἰκὸς, καὶ εὐθαλεῖ τὴν κατασκευὴν προσχόντες, καὶ τὸν ἀνόητον νοῦν ἀμέτρως καταθελχθέντες, καὶ ἡττηθένθες τῆς αὐτοῦ καλλονῆς, τοῦτο Θεὸν νενομήκασιν· ἱερεῦσί τε καὶ θυσίαις ἐξιλάσκεσθαι ᾤοντο δεῖν.
This is full of much foolishness and excessive obtuseness, to devote oneself to a little, weak, absolutely senseless tree and to offer worship to it as to God.§ 10, Hyacinth addressing the inhabitants of Amastris (PG cols. 427-428 = AS p. 225):
πολλῆς τοῦτο γέμει ἀλογίας, ὑπερβαλλούσης ἀναισθησίας βραχεῖ καὶ ὑποσάθρῳ ξύλῳ, καὶ ἀνονήτῳ πάντα προσανέχειν τε καὶ λατρεύειν ὡς Θεῷ.
Therefore, if you place any trust in me, citizens, if you care at all about your own salvation, cut down this tree and throw it into the fire...§ 12 (PG cols. 429-430 = AS p. 227):
εἴ τι οὖν ἐμοὶ πείθεσθε, ὦ ἄνδρες πολῖται, εἴ τι μέλει τῆς οἰκείας σωτηρίας ὑμῖν, τὸ μὲν δένδρον τοῦτο ἐκκόψατε, καὶ εἰς πῦρ βάλλετε...
Previously, as has been said, he persisted with his words, but when he could not restrain them from this error, next he shows the power that lies in deeds. Girding the loins of his mind and drawing power from Jesus Christ in prayer, he takes a sharp axe in his hand and, at noon in summer, unseen by anyone, he chops the tree of error down root and branch.§ 13 (PG cols. 431-432 = AS p. 227):
ἀλλὰ τοῖς λόγοις, ὡς εἴρηται, πρότερον ἐγκείμενος, ἐπεὶ μὴ οἷός τ᾽ ἦν ἐν τούτοις τῆς πλάνης ἐκείνης ἐπισχεῖν, ἑπομένως λοιπὸν τὴν ἐπὶ τῶν ἔργων δύναμιν ἐκδείκνυται, καὶ τὰς τῆς διανοίας ὀσφῦς ἀναζωσάμενος, καὶ τὴν ἀπὸ τοῦ Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ τῇ προσευχῇ δύναμιν ἐπισπασάμενος, εἶτα πέλεκυν ὀξὺν λαβὼν τῇ χειρὶ, καὶ θερινῆς μεσημβρίας πάντας διαλαθὼν, πρόῤῥιζον ἐκκόπτει τὸ τῆς πλάνης φυτόν.
The priests came to make their customary sacrifice to the tree. When they saw that it had been cut down and was shamefully broken to pieces down to the ground, they were at first stunned, naturally overcome by great amazement.§ 14 (PG cols. 431-432 = AS p. 227):
ἐπεὶ γὰρ ἧκον οἱ ἱερεῖς τὴν νενομισμένην τῷ δένδρῳ θυσίαν ἀποδώσοντες, ἐκκοπὲν δὲ τοῦτο, καὶ κατὰ γῆς ἀτίμως εἶδον καταῤῥαγὲν, πρῶτον μὲν ἀπηνεοῦντο, θάμβει πολλῷ, κατὰ τὸ εἰκὸς, περιεχόμενοι.
First they considered who could be responsible for this disaster. Then they gradually called to mind the admonitions of Hyacinth. They understood that the deed could be attributed to no one else except the one who loathed the communal sacrifice as accursed and who repeatedly criticized and tried to hinder those who offered it. With one impulse they attacked him....Leaping on him with kicks and punches, they dragged him by the hair; they pulled him this way and that on the ground, striking him with sticks and pelting him with stones. Having tortured him thus in all kinds of ways, they brought him before the leader of the city.§ 17 (PG cols. 433-436 = AS p. 228):
πρῶτον μὲν τὸν αἴτιον αὐτοῖς ταύτης ἀνεσκοποῦντο τῆς συμφορᾶς· ἔπειτα τῶν Ὑακίνθου κατὰ μικρὸν εἰς ἀνάμνησιν ἥκοντες νουθεσιῶν· καὶ κατανενοηκότες ὡς οὐδενὸς ἂν εἴη ἄλλου τὸ ἔργον, ἢ τοῦ καὶ τῶν θυσιῶν τὴν μετάληψιν ὡς ἐναγῆ μυσαττομένου, καὶ τοῖς θυσιάζουσιν ἐπιτιμῶντος ἢ προσωχθηκότος, ὁρμῶσι μὲν ὁμόσε κατ᾽ αὐτοῦ πάντες....καὶ τοῖς ποσὶ μὲν λὰξ, ταῖς χερσὶ δὲ πὺξ ἐναλλόμενοι, εἷλκον τῶν τριχῶν· ἐσπάρασσον κατὰ γῆς, τοῖς ξύλοις παίοντες, τοῖς λίθοις βάλλοντες, καὶ οὕτω παντοδαπῶς αὐτὸν αἰκισάμενοι, τῷ τῆς πόλεως ἡγεμόνι παρεστήσαντο.
When the leader heard these words, first he ordered Hyacinth to be stretched out on the ground and beaten with rods. For a long time his flesh was mangled and his bones were pounded. He moistened the ground with his blood. He uttered no sound. In silence he was transported to Lord Jesus. Praying to Him with soundless pleas and supplications, he easily endured the torture. The crowd kept shouting, "Leader, call the executioner, call the one who'll pull his teeth out. In the same way that he cut down our god, let his teeth be cut out, let them be dug out by the roots with iron pincers." As this deadly sentence was carried out on him, the maddened crowds still didn't let go of their insanity. They shouted at him as he was bound again like a bundle of faggots*, rent asunder, pulled along the ground, and dragged out of the city to be stabbed with sharp reeds and pelted with rocks. When all the murderous attack on him and punishment had reached its end, and they had tortured him so pitilessly, they dragged him up to the top of a mountain. Having made him a single wound from head to foot and having put him to death, as evening had already arrived, they left his body as food for wild beasts.* I translated τρόπον δένδρου κοπίντος as "like a bundle of faggots," but perhaps the phrase refers to a rope around a felled tree.
Ἐπεὶ τούτων ἀκοῦσαι τὸν ἡγεμόνα τῶν ῥημάτων, πρῶτον μὲν κατὰ γῆς αὐτὸν ἐκταθέντα, ξύλοις ἀγρίοις μαστιγοῦσθαι διετάξατο. Ἐπὶ πολὺ δὲ τὰς σάρκας ξαινομένου, καὶ τὰ ὀστᾶ θλωμένου, καὶ τῷ αἵματι βάπτοντος τὴν γῆν· οὐδεμίαν δὲ φωνὴν ἀφιέντος· ἡσυχῆ δὲ πρὸς τὸν Κύριον ἐξεστῶτος Ἰησοῦν, καὶ ἀνεκλαλήτοις αὐτῷ προσευχαῖς ἐντυγχάνοντος· καὶ εὐμαρῶς τὰς αἰκίας ὑποφέροντος, ὁ δῆμος ἐπεφώνει· Κάλει τὸν δήμιον, ὦ ἡγεμὸν, κάλει τὸν τοὺς ὀδόντας ἐκριζώσοντα· ὥσπερ οὗτος ἐξεκοψε τὸν ἡμέτερον Θεὸν, οὔτως αὐτοῦ οἱ ὀδόντες ἐκκοπτέσθωσαν, σιδηρᾷ λαβίδι ῥιζόθεν ὀρυττέσθωσαν· καὶ ταύτης ἐπ᾽ αὐτῷ πέρας τῆς ἀποφάσεως λαβούσης, οὐδ᾽ οὕτως οἱ ἐμβρόντητοι δῆμοι τῆς μανίας καθυφίεσαν· αὖθις δὲ τοῦτον δεσμούμενον, τρόπον δένδρου κοπεντος, σπαράσσεσθαί τε καὶ σύρεσθαι κατὰ τῆς γῆς ἐβόων· ἐξελκόμενόν τε τῆς πόλεως, ἐκκεντᾶσθαι καλάμοις ὀξέσι, καὶ λίθοις καταλεύεσθαι. Ἐπεὶ δὲ πᾶσα τέλος ἐπ᾽ αὐτῷ ἡ μιαιφόνος εἴληφεν ὁρμὴ καὶ βουλὴ, τὸν μὲν οὕτως ἀνηλεῶς καταικίσαντες, καὶ ἄχρις ὀφρύος τοῦ ὄρους ἐξελκύσαντες, ἀπὸ κεφαλῆς δὲ μέχρι ποδῶν ἓν τραῦμα τοῦτον ἀποδείξαντες καὶ θανατώσαντες, ἑσπέρας ἤδη φθασάσης, θηρσὶ τὸ σῶμα κατέλιπον βοράν.
Obverse of a lead seal of Michael Stryphnos, grand doux and husband of Theodora, sister of the Empress Euphrosyne Doukaina, wife of Alexios III Angelos (1195-1203), Dumbarton Oaks Collection 33.1.3651:
The seal is described as follows by Nicolas Oikonomides, A Collection of Dated Byzantine Lead Seals (Washington: Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection, 1986), pp. 119-120 (seal no. 126):
St. Theodore (at left) and St. Hyakinthos standing. St. Theodore holds an inclined spear (right hand) and a shield, both resting on the ground. In the center there is an (elm) tree. St. Hyakinthos, beardless, swings an ax with both hands to fell the tree....This image seems to have a Paphlagonian source of inspiration since it depicts St. Theodore and, especially, St. Hyakinthos of Amastris, who is not a very commonly represented saint and who suffered martyrdom for cutting down an elm tree venerated by the pagans (18 July).I'm not sure what basis there is for Oikonomides' identification of the tree as an elm. The tree most associated with the neighborhood of Amastris is the box. See e.g. Catullus (4.13: Amastri Pontica et Cytore buxifer = "Pontic Amastris and box-wood-bearing Cytorus"), Pliny the Elder (Natural History 16.28.71: buxus Pyrenaeis ac Cytoriis montibus plurima et Berecyntio tractu = "the box abounds in the Pyrenees and the Kidros mountains and in the Berecyntus district," tr. H. Rackham), and Strabo (12.3.10: πλείστη δὲ καὶ ἀρίστη πύξος φύεται κατὰ τὴν Ἀμαστριανήν, καὶ μάλιστα περὶ τὸ Κύτωρον = "The most and the best box‑wood grows in the territory of Amastris, and particularly round Cytorum," tr. H.L. Jones).
St. Hyacinth lived in the fourth century, his encomiast Nicetas Paphlagon in the ninth.
I haven't seen François Halkin, ed., "Martyre de saint Hyacinthe," Hagiographica Inedita Decem (Turnhout: Brepols, 1989 = Corpus Christianorum, Series Graeca, 21).
Hat tip: Eric Thomson.