Tuesday, March 20, 2018


Ancestral Customs

Agatharchides of Cnidus, Fragmente der griechischen Historiker 86 F 5, from Athenaeus 7.50.297 d (tr. Charles Burton Gulick):
Agatharchides, at any rate, in the sixth book of his European History, says that the Boeotians sacrifice eels which are of surpassing size, putting wreaths on them, saying prayers over them, and casting barley-corns on them as on any other sacrificial victim; and to the foreigner who was utterly puzzled at the strangeness of this custom and asked the reason, the Boeotian declared that he knew only one answer, and he would reply that one should observe ancestral customs, and it was not his business to justify them to other men.

φησὶ γοῦν Ἀγαθαρχίδης ἐν ἕκτῃ Εὐρωπιακῶν τὰς ὑπερφυεῖς τῶν Κωπαΐδων ἐγχέλεων ἱερείων τρόπον στεφανοῦντας καὶ κατευχομένους οὐλάς τ᾿ ἐπιβάλλοντας θύειν τοῖς θεοῖς τοὺς Βοιωτούς· καὶ πρὸς τὸν ξένον τὸν διαποροῦντα τὸ τοῦ ἔθους παράδοξον καὶ πυνθανόμενον ἓν μόνον εἰδέναι φῆσαι τὸν Βοιωτὸν φάσκειν τε ὅτι δεῖ τηρεῖν τὰ προγονικὰ νόμιμα καὶ ὅτι μὴ καθήκει τοῖς ἄλλοις ὑπὲρ αὐτῶν ἀπολογίζεσθαι.
On eels see Andrew Dalby, Food in the Ancient World from A to Z (London: Routledge, 2003), pp. 125-126.

Related post: Fish Sacrifice.

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