Selections from Hammurabi’s Code of Laws (ca. 1780 BCE)1
The Code of Laws issued by Hammurabi, King of Babylon, in the 18th century BCE is the oldest surviving complete law code, but it was not the first ever written (parts of three others from before the time of Hammurabi survive). Its complexity hints at how developed the law had already become and much of what you read below probably evolved over several centuries in different cities of Mesopotamia. What do the laws indicate about what the ruler hopes to achieve with the law? What do they reveal about women and marriage in Mesopotamia? How do they seek to resolve disputes? What does the epilogue reveal about the gods and their role in the success of a state or ruler?
1. If a man brings an accusation against another man, charging him with murder, but cannot prove it, the accuser shall be put to death.
3. If anyone brings an accusation of any crime before the elders, and does not prove what he has charged, he shall, if it be a capital offense charged, be put to death.
6. If anyone steals the property of a temple or of the court, he shall be put to death, and also the one who receives the stolen thing from him shall be put to death.
21. If anyone breaks a hole into a house (break in to steal), he shall be put to death before that hole and be buried.
22. If anyone is committing a robbery and is caught, then he shall be put to death.
25. If fire break out in a house, and someone who comes to put it out cast his eye upon the property of the owner of the house, and take the property of the master of the house, he shall be thrown into that self-same fire.
45. If a man rents his field for tillage for a fixed rental, and receives the rent of his field, but bad weather comes and destroys the harvest, the injury falls upon the tiller of the soil.
46. If he does not receive a fixed rental for his field, but lets it on half or third shares of the harvest, the grain on the field shall be divided proportionately between the tiller and the owner.
53. If anyone is too lazy to keep his dam in proper condition, and does not so keep it; if then the dam breaks and all the fields are flooded, then shall he in whose dam the break occurred is to be sold for money, and the money shall replace the grain which he has caused to be ruined.
108. If a tavern-keeper (feminine) does not accept grain according to gross weight in payment of drink, but takes money, and the price of the drink is less than that of the grain, she shall be convicted and thrown into the water.
1 Full text available at http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/ancient/hamcode.asp. 3
109. If conspirators meet in the house of a tavern-keeper, and these conspirators are not captured and delivered to the court, the tavern-keeper shall be put to death.
115. If anyone has a claim for grain or money upon another and imprisons him; if the prisoner dies in prison a natural death, the case shall go no further.
116. If the prisoner dies in prison from blows or maltreatment, the master of the prisoner shall convict the merchant before the judge. If he was a free-born man, the son of the merchant shall be put to death; if it was a slave, he shall pay one-third of a mina of gold, and all that the master of the prisoner gave he shall forfeit.
127. If anyone slanders a priestess or the wife of any one and cannot prove it, this man shall be taken before the judges and his brow shall be marked (by cutting the skin, or perhaps hair.)
128. If a man takes a woman to wife, but does not intercourse with her, this woman is no wife to him.
129. If a man’s wife is surprised having intercourse with another man, both shall be tied and thrown into the water, but the husband may pardon his wife.
130. If a man violates the wife (or betrothed) of another man, who has never known a man, and still lives in her father’s house, and sleep with her and be surprised, this man shall be put to death, but the wife is blameless.
131. If a man bring a charge against one’s wife, but she is not surprised with another man, she must take an oath and then may return to her house.
137. If a man wishes to separate from a woman who has borne him children, or from his wife who has borne him children: then he shall give that wife her dowry, and a part of the usufruct of field, garden, and property, so that she can rear her children. When she has brought up her children, a portion of all that is given to the children, equal as that of one son, shall be given to her. She may then marry the man of her heart.
138. If a man wishes to separate from his wife who has borne him no children, he shall give her the amount of her dowry which she brought from her father’s house, and let her go.
141. If a man’s wife, who lives in his house, wishes to leave it, plunges into debt, tries to ruin her house, neglects her husband, and is judicially convicted: if her husband offers her release, she may go on her way, and he gives her nothing as a gift of release. If her husband does not wish to release her, and if he takes another wife, she shall remain as servant in her husband’s house.
142. If a woman quarrels with her husband, and says: “You are not congenial to me,” the reasons for her prejudice must be presented. If she is guiltless, and there is no fault on her part, but he leaves and neglects her, then no guilt attaches to this woman, she shall take her dowry and go back to her father’s house.
143. If she is not innocent, but leaves her husband, and ruins her house, neglecting her husband, this woman shall be cast into the water.
144. If a man takes a wife and this woman gives her husband a maid-servant, and she bears him children, but this man wishes to take another wife, this shall not be permitted to him; he shall not take a second wife.
145. If a man takes a wife, and she bears him no children, and he intends to take another wife: if he takes this second wife, and brings her into the house, this second wife shall not be allowed equality with his wife.
146. If a man takes a wife and she gives this man a maid-servant as wife and she bears him children, and then this maid assumes equality with the wife: because she has borne him children her master shall not sell her for money, but he may keep her as a slave, reckoning her among the maid-servants.
147. If she has not borne him children, then her mistress may sell her for money.
153. If the wife of one man on account of another man has their spouses (her husband and the other man’s wife) murdered, both of them shall be impaled.
154. If a man is guilty of incest with his daughter, he shall be driven from the place (exiled).
155. If a man betroths a girl to his son, and his son has intercourse with her, but he (the father) afterward defiles her, and is caught, then he shall be bound and cast into the water (drowned).
156. If a man betroths a girl to his son, but his son has not known her, and if then he defile her, he shall pay her half a gold mina, and compensate her for all that she brought out of her father’s house. She may marry the man of her heart.
157. If anyone is guilty of incest with his mother, both shall be burned.
177. If a widow, whose children are not grown, wishes to enter another house (remarry), she shall not enter it without the knowledge of the judge. If she enters another house the judge shall examine the state of the house of her first husband. Then the house of her first husband shall be entrusted to the second husband and the woman herself as managers. And a record must be made thereof. She shall keep the house in order, bring up the children, and not sell the house-hold utensils. He who buys the utensils of the children of a widow shall lose his money, and the goods shall return to their owners.
179. If a “sister of a god,” or a prostitute, receive a gift from her father, and a deed in which it has been explicitly stated that she may dispose of it as she pleases, and give her complete disposition thereof: if then her father dies, then she may leave her property to whomsoever she pleases. Her brothers can raise no claim against it.
185. If a man adopts a child and to his name as son, and rears him, this grown son cannot be demanded back again (by the birth parents).
186. If a man adopts a son, and if after he has taken him he injures his foster father and mother, then this adopted son shall be returned to his father’s house.
195. If a son strikes his father, his hands shall be hewn off.
196. If a man puts out the eye of another man, his eye shall be put out.
197. If he breaks another man’s bone, his bone shall be broken.
209. If a man strikes a free-born woman so that she lose her unborn child, he shall pay ten shekels for her loss.
210. If the woman dies, his daughter shall be put to death.
229 If a builder builds a house for someone, and does not construct it properly, and the house which he built falls in and kills its owner, then that builder shall be put to death.
230. If it kills the son of the owner, then the son of that builder shall be put to death. 231. If it kills a slave of the owner, then he shall pay slave for slave to the owner of the house.
Epilogue: …I am Hammurabi, the king of righteousness, on whom Shamash has conferred law. My words are well considered; my deeds are unequaled: to bring low those that were high, to humble the proud, and to expel insolence. If a later ruler considers my words, which I have written in this my inscription, and he does not annul my law, nor corrupt my words, nor change my monument, then may Shamash lengthen that king’s reign…. If this ruler does not esteem my words, which I have written in my inscription, if he despises my curses, and fears not the curse of God, if he destroys the law which I have given, corrupts my words, changes my monument, effaces my name, writes his name there, or on account of the curses commissions another to do so, that man, whether king or ruler or commoner, no matter what he be, may the great God (Anu), the Father of the gods, who has ordered my rule, withdraw from him the glory of royalty, break his scepter, curse his destiny.
May Bel, the lord who fixes destiny, whose command cannot be altered, who has made my kingdom great, order a rebellion which his hand cannot control; may he let the wind to overturn his house blow, may he ordain the years of his rule in groaning, years of scarcity, years of famine, darkness without light, death with seeing eyes be fated to him; may he (Bel) order with his potent mouth the destruction of his city, the dispersion of his subjects, the cutting off of his rule, the removal of his name and memory from the land.
May Belit, the great Mother, whose command is potent in E-Kur (the Babylonian Olympus, where the gods reside), the Mistress, who harkens graciously to my petitions, in the seat of judgment and decision (where Bel fixes destiny), turn his affairs evil before Bel, and put
the devastation of his land, the destruction of his subjects, the pouring out of his life like water into the mouth of King Bel.
May Ea, the great ruler, whose fated decrees come to pass, the thinker of the gods, the omniscient, who makes long the days of my life, withdraw understanding and wisdom from him, lead him to forgetfulness, shut up his rivers at their sources, and not allow grain or sustenance for man to grow in his land.
May Shamash, the great Judge of heaven and earth, who supports all means of livelihood, Lord of life-courage, shatter his dominion, annul his law, destroy his way, make vain the march of his troops, send him in his visions forecasts of the uprooting of the foundations of his throne and of the destruction of his land. May the condemnation of Shamash overtake him soon; may he be deprived of water above among the living, and his spirit below in the earth.
May Sin (the Moon-god), the Lord of Heaven, the divine father, whose crescent gives light among the gods, take away the crown and regal throne from him; may he put upon him heavy guilt, great decay, that nothing may be lower than he. May he destine him as fated, days, months and years of dominion filled with sighing and tears, increase of the burden of dominion, a life that is like unto death.
May Adad, the lord of fruitfulness, ruler of heaven and earth, my helper, withhold from him rain from heaven, and the flood of water from the springs, destroying his land by famine and want; may he rage mightily over his city, and make his land into flood-hills (heaps of ruined cities).
May Zamama, the great warrior, the first-born son of E-Kur, who goes at my right hand, shatter his weapons on the field of battle, turn day into night for him, and let his foe triumph over him.
May Ishtar, the goddess of fighting and war, who unfetters my weapons, my gracious protecting spirit, who loves my dominion, curse his kingdom in her angry heart; in her great wrath, change his grace into evil, and shatter his weapons on the place of fighting and war. May she create disorder and sedition for him, strike down his warriors so that the earth may drink their blood, and throw down the piles of corpses of his warriors on the field; may she not grant him a life of mercy, deliver him into the hands of his enemies, and imprison him in the land of his enemies.
May Nergal, the might among the gods, whose contest is irresistible, who grants me victory, in his great might burn up his subjects like a slender reedstalk, cut off his limbs with his mighty weapons, and shatter him like an earthen image.
May Nin-tu, the sublime mistress of the lands, the fruitful mother, deny him a son, vouchsafe him no name, give him no successor among men.
May Nin-karak, the daughter of Anu, who adjudges grace to me, cause to come upon his members high fever, severe wounds that cannot be healed, whose nature the physician does not understand, which he cannot treat with dressing, which, like the bite of death, cannot be removed, until they have sapped away his life.
Excerpt from the Enuma Elish1
The Enuma Elish is the Babylonian story of creation, likely dating from sometime shortly after the reign of Hammurabi. In this excerpt (the middle part of the story, from tablets 4, 5, and 6 of the seven that contain the account), we come in after the genealogy of the gods has been explained, as the great battle between two of the most powerful divine forces, Marduk (chief god of the Babylonians) and Tiamat, begins.
…Then joined issue Tiamat and Marduk, wisest of gods, They swayed in single combat, locked in battle. The lord (Marduk) spread out his net to enfold her, The Evil Wind, which followed behind, he let loose in her face. When Tiamat opened her mouth to consume him,
He drove the Evil Wind that she could not close her lips. As the fierce winds charged her belly, Her body was distended and her mouth was wide open. He released the arrow, it tore her belly,
It cut through her insides, splitting the heart. Having thus subdued her, he extinguished her life. He cast down her carcass to stand upon it… The lord trod on the legs of Tiamat, With his unsparing mace he crushed her skull. When the arteries of her blood he had severed, The North Wind bore (it) to places undisclosed. On seeing this, the others were joyful and jubilant, They brought gifts of homage, they to him. Then the lord paused to view her dead body, That he might divide the monster and do artful works. He split her like a shellfish into two parts: Half of her he set up and ceiled as sky, Pulled down the bar and posted guards. He bade them to allow not her waters to escape. He crossed the heavens and surveyed (its) regions. He squared Apsu’s quarter, the abode of Nudimmud,2 As the lord measured the dimensions of Apsu. The Great Abode, its likeness, he fixed as Esharra, The Great Abode, Esharra, which he made as the firmament. Anu, Enlil, and Ea he made occupy their places.
When Marduk hears the words of the gods, His heart prompts (him) to fashion artful works. Opening his mouth he addresses Ea To impart the plan he addresses Ea
1 Full text available at http://www.ancienttexts.org/library/mesopotamian/enuma.html 2 This and the next three lines describe the creation of the Babylonian constellations.
To impart the plan he had conceived in his heart: “Blood I will mass and cause bone to be. I will establish a savage, ‘man’ shall be his name. Yes, savage man I will create.
He shall be charged with the service of the gods That they might be at ease! The ways of the gods I will artfully alter. Though alike revered, into two (groups) they shall be divided.” Ea answered him, speaking a word to him. To relate to him a scheme for the relief of the gods: “Let but one of their brothers be handed over;” He alone shall perish that mankind may be fashioned. Let the great gods be here in Assembly, Let the guilty be handed over that they may endure.” Marduk summoned the great gods to Assembly; Presiding graciously, he issued instructions. This utterance the gods pay heed. The king addresses a word to the Anunnaki (the Fates): “If your former statement was true, Do (now) the truth on oath by me declare! Who was it that contrived the uprising, And made Tiamat rebel, and joined battle? Let him be handed over who contrived the uprising. His guilt I will make him bear that you may dwell in peace!” The Igigi, the great gods, replied to him, To Lugaldimmerankia, counsellor of the gods, their lord: “It was Kingu who contrived the uprising, And made Tiamat rebel, and joined battle.” They bound him, holding him before Ea. They imposed on him his guilt and severed his blood (vessels). Out of his blood they fashioned mankind. He imposed the service and let free the gods.
The Epic of Gilgamesh, selections1
The different episodes in the adventures of the mythical Gilgamesh, King of Uruk, survive on baked clay tablets (written in cuneiform) created over a 1500 year period. Originally a Sumerian story, it was translated, retained, and retold by subsequent Mesopotamian peoples. In its original form it is a poem, translated into prose here to be easier to follow.
I will proclaim to the world the deeds of Gilgamesh. This was the man to whom all things were known; this was the king who knew the countries of the world. He was wise, he saw mysteries and knew secret things, he brought us a tale of the days before the flood. He went on a long journey, was weary, worn-out with labor, returning he rested, he engraved on a stone the whole story.
When the gods created Gilgamesh they gave him a perfect body. Shamash, the glorious sun, endowed him with beauty, Adad, the god of the storm, endowed him with courage; the great gods made his beauty perfect, surpassing all others, terrifying like a great wild bull. Two thirds they made him god and one third man.
In Uruk he built walls, a great rampart, and the temple district for the god of the firmament Anu, and for Ishtar the goddess of love. Look at it still today: the outer wall where the cornice runs, it shines with the brilliance of copper; and the inner wall, it has no equal. Touch the threshold, it is ancient. Approach the dwelling of Ishtar, our lady of love and war, the like of which no latter-day king, no man alive can equal. Climb upon the wall of Uruk; walk along it, I say; regard the foundation terrace and examine the masonry: is it not burnt brick and good? The seven sages laid the foundations.
Gilgamesh went abroad in the world, but he met with none who could withstand his arms till be came to Uruk. But the men of Uruk muttered in their houses, ‘Gilgamesh sounds the tocsin (warning bell) for his amusement, his arrogance has no bounds by day or night. No son is left with his father, for Gilgamesh takes them all, even the children; yet the king should be a shepherd to his people. His lust leaves no virgin to her lover, neither the warrior’s daughter nor the wife of the noble; yet this is the shepherd of the city, wise, comely, and resolute.’ The gods heard their lament, the gods of heaven cried to the Lord of Uruk, to Anu the god of Uruk: ‘A goddess made him, strong as a savage bull, none can withstand his arms. No son is left with his father, for Gilgamesh takes them all; and is this the king, the shepherd of his people? His lust leaves no virgin to her lover, neither the warrior’s daughter nor the wife of the noble. When Anu had heard their lamentation the gods cried to Aruru, the goddess of creation, ‘You made him, O Aruru; now create his equal; let it be as like him as his own reflection, his second self; stormy heart for stormy heart. Let them contend together and leave Uruk in quiet.’
So the goddess conceived an image in her mind, and it was of the stuff of Anu of the firmament. She dipped her hands in water and pinched off clay, she let it fall in the wilderness, and noble Enkidu was created. There was virtue in him of the god of war, of Ninurta himself. His body was rough, he had long hair like a woman’s; it waved like the hair of Nisaba, the goddess of grain. His body was covered with matted hair like Samugan’s, the god of cattle. He was innocent of mankind; he knew nothing of the cultivated land.
Enkidu ate grass in the hills with the gazelle and lurked with wild beasts at the water- holes; he had joy of the water with the herds of wild game. But there was a trapper who met him
1 Full text available from the Assyrian International News Agency Books Online (www.aina.org). 10
one day face to face at the drinking-hole, for the wild game had entered his territory. On three days he met him face to face, and the trapper was frozen with fear. He went back to his house with the game that he had caught, and he was dumb, benumbed with terror. His face was altered like that of one who has made a long journey. With awe in his heart he spoke to his father: ‘Father, there is a man, unlike any other, who comes down from the hills. He is the strongest in the world, he is like an immortal from heaven. He ranges over the hills with wild beasts and eats grass; the ranges through your land and comes down to the wells. I am afraid and dare not go near him. He fills in the pits which I dig and tears up-my traps set for the game; he helps the beasts to escape and now they slip through my fingers.’
His father opened his mouth and said to the trapper, ‘My son, in Uruk lives Gilgamesh; no one has ever prevailed against him, he is strong as a star from heaven. Go to Uruk, find Gilgamesh, extoll the strength of this wild man. Ask him to give you a harlot, a prostitute from the temple of love; return with her, and let her woman’s power overpower this man. When next he comes down to drink at the wells she will be there, stripped naked; and when he sees her beckoning he will embrace her, and then the wild beasts will reject him.’
So the trapper set out on his journey to Uruk and addressed himself to Gilgamesh saying, ‘A man unlike any other is roaming now in the pastures; he is as strong as a star from heaven and I am afraid to approach him. He helps the wild game to escape; he fills in my pits and pulls up my traps.’ Gilgamesh said, ‘Trapper, go back, take with you a harlot, a child of pleasure. At the drinking hole she will strip, and when, he sees her beckoning he will embrace her and the game of the wilderness will surely reject him.’
Now the trapper returned, taking the harlot with him. After a three days’ journey they came to the drinking hole, and there they sat down; the harlot and the trapper sat facing one another and waited for the game to come. For the first day and for the second day the two sat waiting, but on the third day the herds came; they came down to drink and Enkidu was with them. The small wild creatures of the plains were glad of the water, and Enkidu with them, who ate grass with the gazelle and was born in the hills; and she saw him, the savage man, come from far-off in the hills. The trapper spoke to her: ‘There he is. Now, woman, make your breasts bare, have no shame, do not delay but welcome his love. Let him see you naked, let him possess your body. When he comes near uncover yourself and lie with him; teach him, the savage man, your woman’s art, for when he murmurs love to you the wild beasts that shared his life in the hills will reject him.’
She was not ashamed to take him, she made herself naked and welcomed his eagerness; as he lay on her murmuring love she taught him the woman’s art. For six days and seven nights they lay together, for Enkidu had forgotten his home in the hills; but when he was satisfied he went back to the wild beasts. Then, when the gazelle saw him, they bolted away; when the wild creatures saw him they fled. Enkidu would have followed, but his body was bound as though with a cord, his knees gave way when he started to run, his swiftness was gone. And now the wild creatures had all fled away; Enkidu was grown weak, for wisdom was in him, and the thoughts of a man were in his heart. So he returned and sat down at the woman’s feet, and listened intently to what she said. ‘You are wise, Enkidu, and now you have become like a god. Why do you want to run wild with the beasts in the hills? Come with me. I will take you to strong-walled Uruk, to the blessed temple of Ishtar and of Anu, of love and of heaven there Gilgamesh lives, who is very strong, and like a wild bull he lords it over men.’ When she had spoken Enkidu was pleased; he longed for a comrade, for one who would understand his heart. ‘Come, woman, and take me to that holy temple, to the house of Anu and of
Ishtar, and to the place where Gilgamesh lords it over the people. I will challenge him boldly, I will cry out aloud in Uruk, “I am the strongest here, I have come to change the old order, I am he who was born in the hills, I am he who is strongest of all.”‘
She said, ‘Let us go, and let him see your face. I know very well where Gilgamesh is in great Uruk. O Enkidu, there all the people are dressed in their gorgeous robes, every day is holiday, the young men and the girls are wonderful to see. How sweet they smell! All the great ones are roused from their beds. O Enkidu, you who love life, I will show you Gilgamesh, a man of many moods; you shall look at him well in his radiant manhood. His body is perfect in strength and maturity; he never rests by night or day. He is stronger than you, so leave your boasting. Shamash the glorious sun has given favors to Gilgamesh, and Anu of the heavens, and Enlil, and Ea the wise has given him deep understanding. I tell you, even before you have left the wilderness, Gilgamesh will know in his dreams that you are coming.’
…And now she said to Enkidu, ‘When I look at you you have become like a god. Why do you yearn to run wild again with the beasts in the hills? Get up from the ground, the bed of a shepherd.’ He listened to her words with care. It was good advice that she gave. She divided her clothing in two and with the one half she clothed him and with the other herself, and holding his hand she led him like a child to the sheepfolds, into the shepherds’ tents. There all the shepherds crowded round to see him, they put down bread in front of him, but Enkidu could only suck the milk of wild animals. He fumbled and gaped, at a loss what to do or how he should eat the bread and drink the strong wine. Then the woman said, ‘Enkidu, eat bread, it is the staff of life; drink the wine, it is the custom of the land.’ So he ate till he was full and drank strong wine, seven goblets. He became merry, his heart exulted and his face shone. He rubbed down the matted hair of his body and anointed himself with oil. Enkidu had become a man; but when he had put on man’s clothing he appeared like a bridegroom. He took arms to hunt the lion so that the shepherds could rest at night. He caught wolves and lions and the herdsmen lay down in peace; for Enkidu was their watchman, that strong man who had no rival.
He was merry living with the shepherds, till one day lifting his eyes he saw a man approaching. He said to the harlot, ‘Woman, fetch that man here. Why has he come? I wish to know his name.’ She went and called the man saying, ‘Sir, where are you going on this weary journey?’ The man answered, saying to Enkidu, ‘Gilgamesh has gone into the marriage-house and shut out the people. He does strange things in Uruk, the city of great streets. At the roll of the drum work begins for the men, and work for the women. Gilgamesh the king is about to celebrate marriage with the Queen of Love, and he still demands to be first with the bride, the king to be first and the husband to follow, for that was ordained by the gods from his birth, from the time the umbilical cord was cut. But now the drums roll for the choice of the bride and the city groans.’ At these words Enkidu turned white in the face. ‘I will go to the place where Gilgamesh lords it over the people, I will challenge him boldly, and I will cry aloud in Uruk, “I have come to change the old order, for I am the strongest here.”
Now Enkidu strode in front and the woman followed behind. He entered Uruk, that great market, and all the folk thronged round him where he stood in the street in strong-walled Uruk. The people jostled; speaking of him they said, ‘He is the spit of Gilgamesh. ‘He is shorter.’ ‘He is bigger of bone.’ This is the one who was reared on the milk of wild beasts. His is the greatest strength.’ The men rejoiced: ‘Now Gilgamesh has met his match. This great-one, this hero whose beauty is like a god, he is a match even for Gilgamesh.’
In Uruk the bridal bed was made, fit for the goddess of love. The bride waited for the bridegroom, but in the night Gilgamesh got up and came to the house. Then Enkidu stepped out,
he stood in the street and blocked the way. Mighty Gilgamesh came on and Enkidu met him at the gate. He put out his foot and prevented Gilgamesh from entering the house, so they grappled, holding each other like bulls. They broke the doorposts and the walls shook, they snorted like bulls locked together. They shattered the doorposts and the walls shook. Gilgamesh bent his knee with his foot planted on the ground and with a turn Enkidu was thrown. Then immediately his fury died. When Enkidu was thrown he said to Gilgamesh, ‘There is not another like you in the world. Ninsun, who is as strong as a wild ox in the byre, she was the mother who bore you, and now you are raised above all men, and Enlil has given you the kingship, for your strength sur- passes the strength of men.’ So Enkidu and Gilgamesh embraced and their friendship was sealed.
On other clay tablets, the next episode in the story of Gilgamesh and Enkidu covers their journey in the forest to kill the giant creature Humbaba (literally “Hugeness”), guardian of the forest (placed there by the god Enlil). Gilgamesh pushed Enkidu to go on this quest in order to do something no one else had ever done. They made sacrifices to gain Shamash’s favor and the god supplied them with the winds (which they used in a way similar to that described in the Enuma Elish, to kill the creature).
Gilgamesh washed out his long locks and cleaned his weapons; he flung back his hair from his shoulders; he threw off his stained clothes and changed them for new. He put on his royal robes and made them fast. When Gilgamesh had put on the crown, glorious Ishtar lifted her eyes, seeing the beauty of Gilgamesh. She said, ‘Come to me Gilgamesh, and be my bridegroom; grant me seed of your body, let me be your bride and you shall be my husband. I will harness for you a chariot of lapis lazuli and of gold, with wheels of gold and horns of copper; and you shall have mighty demons of the storm for draft mules. When you enter our house in the fragrance of cedar-wood, threshold and throne will kiss your feet. Kings, rulers, and princes will bow down before you; they shall bring you tribute from the mountains and the plain. Your ewes shall drop twins and your goats triplets; your pack-ass shall outrun mules; your oxen shall have no rivals, and your chariot horses shall be famous far-off for their swiftness.’
Gilgamesh opened his mouth and answered glorious Ishtar, ‘If I take you in marriage, what gifts can I give in return? What ointments and clothing for your body? I would gladly give you bread and all sorts of food fit for a god. I would give you wine to drink fit for a queen. I would pour out barley to stuff your granary; but as for making you my wife – that I will not. How would it go with me? Your lovers have found you like a brazier which smoulders in the cold, a backdoor which keeps out neither squall of wind nor storm, a castle which crushes the garrison, pitch that blackens the bearer, a water-skin that chafes the carrier, a stone which falls from the parapet, a battering-ram turned back from the enemy, a sandal that trips the wearer. Which of your lovers did you ever love forever? What shepherd of yours has pleased you for all time? Listen to me while I tell the tale of your lovers. There was Tammuz, the lover of your youth, for him you decreed wailing, year after year. You loved the many colored roller, but still you struck and broke his wing; now in the grove he sits and cries, “kappi, kappi, my wing, my wing.” You have loved the lion tremendous in strength: seven pits you dug for him, and seven. You have loved the stallion magnificent in battle, and for him you decreed whip and spur and a thong, to gallop seven leagues by force and to muddy the water before he drinks. You have loved the shepherd of the flock; he made meal-cake for you day after day, he killed kids for your sake. You struck and turned him into a wolf, now his own herd-boys chase him away, his own hounds worry his flanks. And did you not love Ishullanu, the gardener of your father’s palm grove? He
brought you baskets filled with dates without end; every day he loaded your table. Then you turned your eyes on him and said, “Dearest Ishullanu, come here to me, let us enjoy your manhood, come forward and take me, I am yours.’ Ishullanu answered, “What are you asking from me? My mother has baked and I have eaten; why should I come to such as you for food that is tainted and rotten? For when was a screen of rushes sufficient protection from frosts?” But when you had heard his answer you struck him. He was changed to a blind mole deep in the earth, one whose desire is always beyond his reach. And if you and I should be lovers, should not I be served in the same fashion as all these others whom you loved once?’
When Ishtar heard this she fell into a bitter rage, she went up to high heaven. Her tears poured down in front of her father Anu, and Antum her mother. She said, ‘My father, Gilgamesh has heaped insults on me, he has told over all my abominable behavior, my foul and hideous acts.’ Anu opened his mouth and said, ‘Are you a father of gods? Did not you quarrel with Gilgamesh the king, so now he has related your abominable behavior, your foul and hideous acts.’
Ishtar opened her mouth and said again, ‘My father, give me the Bull of Heaven to destroy Gilgamesh. Fill Gilgamesh, I say, with arrogance to his destruction; but if you refuse to give me the Bull of Heaven I will break in the doors of the underworld and smash the bolts; there will be confusion of people, those above with those from the lower depths. I shall bring up the dead to eat food like the living; and the hosts of dead will outnumber the living.’ Anusa said to great Ishtar, ‘If I do what you desire there will be seven years of drought throughout Uruk when corn will be seedless husks. Have you saved grain enough for the people and grass for the cattle? Ishtar replied. ‘I have saved grain for the people, grass for the cattle; for seven years of seedless husks, there is grain and there is grass enough.’
When Anu heard what Ishtar had said he gave her the Bull of Heaven to lead by the halter down to Uruk: When they reached the gates of Uruk the Bull went to the river; with his first snort cracks opened in the earth and, a hundred young men fell down to death. With his second snort cracks opened and two hundred fell down to death. With his third snort cracks opened, Enkidu doubled over but instantly recovered, he dodged aside and leapt on the Bull and seized it by the horns. The Bull of Heaven foamed in his face, it brushed him with the thick of its tail. Enkidu cried to Gilgamesh, ‘my friend, we boasted that we would leave enduring names behind us. Now thrust in your sword between the nape and the horns.’ So Gilgamesh followed the Bull, he seized the thick of its tail, he thrust the sword between the nape and the horns and slew the Bull. When they had killed the Bull of Heaven they cut out its heart and gave it to Shamash, and the brothers rested. But Ishtar rose tip and mounted the great wall of Uruk; she sprang on to the tower and uttered a curse: ‘Woe to Gilgamesh, for he has scorned me in killing the Bull of Heaven.’ When Enkidu heard these words he tore out the Bull’s right thigh and tossed it in her face saying, ‘If I could lay my hands on you, it is this I should do to you, and lash the entrails to your side.’ Then Ishtar called together her people, the dancing and singing girls, the prostitutes of the temple, the courtesans. Over the thigh of the Bull of Heaven she set up lamentation….
When the daylight came Enkidu got up and cried to Gilgamesh, ‘O my brother, such a dream I had last night. Anu, Enlil, Ea and heavenly Shamash took counsel together, and Anu said to Enlil, “Because they have killed the Bull of Heaven, and because they have killed Humbaba who guarded the Cedar Mountain one of the two must die.” Then glorious Shamash answered the hero Enlil, “It was by your command they killed the Bull of Heaven, and killed Humbaba, and must Enkidu die although innocent?” Enlil flung round in rage at glorious Shamash, “You dare to say this, you who went about with them every day like one of themselves!”
So Enkidu lay stretched out before Gilgamesh; his tears ran down in streams and he said to Gilgamesh, ‘ O my brother, so dear as you are to me, brother, yet they will take me from you.’ Again he said, ‘I must sit down on the threshold of the dead and never again will I see my dear brother with my eyes.’
…With the first brightening of dawn Enkidu raised his head and wept before the Sun God, in the brilliance of the sunlight his tears streamed down. ‘Sun God, I beseech you, about that vile Trapper, that Trapper of nothing because of whom I was to catch less than my comrade; let him catch least, make his game scarce, make him feeble, taking the smaller of every share, let his quarry escape from his nets.’
When he had cursed the Trapper to his heart’s content he turned on the harlot. He was roused to curse her also. ‘As for you, woman, with a great curse I curse you! I will promise you a destiny to all eternity. My curse shall come on you soon and sudden. You shall be without a roof for your commerce, for you shall not keep house with other girls in the tavern, but do your business in places fouled by the vomit of the drunkard. Your hire will be potter’s earth, your thievings will be flung into the hovel, you will sit at the cross-roads in the dust of the potter’s quarter, you will make your bed on the dunghill at night, and by day take your stand in the wall’s shadow. Brambles and thorns will tear your feet, the drunk and the dry will strike your cheek and your mouth will ache. Let you be stripped of your purple dyes, for I too once in the wilderness with my wife had all the treasure I wished.’
When Shamash heard the words of Enkidu he called to him from heaven: ‘Enkidu, why are you cursing the woman, the mistress who taught you to eat bread fit for gods and drink wine of kings? She who put upon you a ‘magnificent garment, did she not give you glorious Gilgamesh for your companion, and has not Gilgamesh, your own brother, made you rest on a ‘royal bed and recline on a couch at his left hand? He has made the princes of the earth kiss your feet, and now all the people of Uruk lament and wail over you. When you are dead he will let his hair grow long for your sake, he will wear a lion’s pelt and wander through the desert.’
When Enkidu heard glorious Shamash his angry heart grew quiet, he called back the curse and said, ‘Woman, I promise you another destiny. The mouth which cursed you shall bless you! Kings, princes and nobles shall adore you. On your account a man though twelve miles off will clap his hand to his thigh and his hair will twitch. For you he will undo his belt and open his treasure and you shall have your desire; lapis lazuli, gold and’ carnelian from the heap in the treasury. A ring for your hand and a robe shall be yours. The priest will lead you into the presence of the gods. On your account a wife, a mother of seven, was forsaken.’
As Enkidu slept alone in his sickness, in bitterness of spirit he poured out his heart to his friend. ‘It was I who cut down the cedar, I who leveled the forest, I who slew Humbaba and now see what has become of me. Listen, my friend, this is the dream I dreamed last night. The heavens roared, and earth rumbled back an answer; between them stood I before an awful being, the somber-faced man-bird; he had directed on me his purpose. His was a vampire face, his foot was a lion’s foot, his hand was an eagle’s talon. He fell on me and his claws were in my hair, he held me fast and I smothered; then he transformed me so that my arms became wings covered with feathers. He turned his stare towards me, and he led me away to the palace of Irkalla, the Queen of Darkness, to the house from which none who enters ever returns, down the road from which there is no coming back.
‘There is the house whose people sit in darkness; dust is their food and clay their meat. They are clothed like birds with wings for covering, they see no light, they sit in darkness. I entered the house of dust and I saw the kings of the earth, their crowns put away forever; rulers
and princes, all those who once wore kingly crowns and ruled the world in the days of old. They who had stood in the place of the gods like Ann and Enlil stood now like servants to fetch baked meats in the house of dust, to carry cooked meat and cold water from the water-skin. In the house of dust which I entered were high priests and acolytes, priests of the incantation and of ecstasy; there were servers of the temple, and there was Etana, that king of Dish whom the eagle carried to heaven in the days of old. I saw also Samuqan, god of cattle, and there was Ereshkigal the Queen of the Underworld; and Befit-Sheri squatted in front of her, she who is recorder of the gods and keeps the book of death. She held a tablet from which she read. She raised her head, she saw me and spoke:” Who has brought this one here?” Then I awoke like a man drained of blood who wanders alone in a waste of rashes; like one whom the bailiff has seized and his heart pounds with terror.’
Gilgamesh, distraught at his friend’s death and suddenly concerned for his own mortality, abandons his search for fame and becomes obsessed with finding immortality. To find it, he goes looking for the only man ever to become immortal, Utnapishtim, who lived in the far away land of Dilmun. To get there, Gilgamesh travels through the land where it was dark while the sun was up in Mesopotamia (i.e. the other side of the world) to reach Dilmun. There he meets Siduri, the wine-maker of the gods, and explains to her his quest.
‘My friend who was very dear to me and who endured dangers beside me, Enkidu my brother, whom I loved, the end of mortality has overtaken him. I wept for him seven days and nights till the worm fastened on him. Because of my brother I am afraid of death, because of my brother I stray through the wilderness and cannot rest. But now, young woman, maker of wine, since I have seen your face do not let me see the face of death which I dread so much.’
She answered, ‘Gilgamesh, where are you hurrying to? You will never find that life for which you are looking. When the gods created man they allotted to him death, but life they retained in their own keeping. As for you, Gilgamesh, fill your belly with good things; day and night, night and day, dance and be merry, feast and rejoice. Let your clothes be fresh, bathe yourself in water, cherish the little child that holds your hand, and make your wife happy in your embrace; for this too is the lot of man.’
But Gilgamesh said to Siduri, the young woman, ‘How can I be silent, how can I rest, when Enkidu whom I love is dust, and I too shall die and be laid in the earth. You live by the sea-shore and look into the heart of it; young woman, tell me now, which is the way to Utnapishtim?
Gilgamesh then proceeds to cross the waters of death with the help of the divine ferryman. There Gilgamesh meets Utnapishtim and his wife. Utnapishtim then explains the origin of his immortality.
‘You know the city Shurrupak, it stands on the banks of Euphrates? That city grew old and the gods that were in it were old. There was Anu,-lord of the firmament, their father, and warrior Enlil their counsellor, Ninurta the helper, and Ennugi watcher over canals; and with them also was Ea. In those days the world teemed, the people multiplied, the world bellowed like a wild bull, and the great god was aroused by the clamor. Enlil heard the clamor and he said to the gods in council, “The uproar of mankind is intolerable and sleep is no longer possible by reason of the babel.” So the gods agreed to exterminate mankind. Enlil did this, but Ea because of his
oath warned me in a dream. He whispered their words to my house of reeds, “Reed-house, reed- house! Wall, O wall, hearken reed-house, wall reflect; O man of Shurrupak, son of Ubara-Tutu; tear down your house and build a boat, abandon possessions and look for life, despise worldly goods and save your soul alive. Tear down your house, I say, and build a boat. These are the measurements as you shall build her: let hex beam equal her length, let her deck be roofed like the vault that covers the abyss; then take up into the boat the seed of all living creatures.”
‘When I had understood I said to my lord, “Behold, what you have commanded I will honor and perform, but how shall I answer the people, the city, the elders?” Then Ea opened his mouth and said to me, his servant, “Tell them this: I have learnt that Enlil is wrathful against me, I dare no longer walk in his land nor live in his city; I will go down to the Gulf to dwell with Ea my lord. But on you he will rain down abundance, rare fish and shy wild-fowl, a rich harvest- tide. In the evening the rider of the storm will bring you wheat in torrents.”
‘In the first light of dawn all my household gathered round me, the children brought pitch and the men whatever was necessary. On the fifth day I laid the keel and the ribs, then I made fast the planking. The ground-space was one acre, each side of the deck measured one hundred and twenty cubits, making a square. I built six decks below, seven in all, I divided them into nine sections with bulkheads between. I drove in wedges where needed, I saw to the punt poles, and laid in supplies. The carriers brought oil in baskets, I poured pitch into the furnace and asphalt and oil; more oil was consumed in caulking, and more again the master of the boat took into his stores. I slaughtered bullocks for the people and every day I killed sheep. I gave the shipwrights wine to drink as though it were river water, raw wine and red wine and oil and white wine. There was feasting then as there is at the time of the New Year’s festival; I myself anointed my head. On the seventh day the boat was complete.
‘Then was the launching full of difficulty; there was shifting of ballast above and below till two thirds was submerged. I loaded into her all that 1 had of gold and of living things, my family, my kin, the beast of the field both wild and tame, and all the craftsmen. I sent them on board, for the time that Shamash had ordained was already fulfilled when he said, “in the evening, when the rider of the storm sends down the destroying rain, enter the boat and batten her down.” The time was fulfilled, the evening came, the rider of the storm sent down the rain. I looked out at the weather and it was terrible, so I too boarded the boat and battened her down. All was now complete, the battening and the caulking; so I handed the tiller to Puzur-Amurri the steersman, with the navigation and the care of the whole boat. ‘With the first light of dawn a black cloud came from the horizon; it thundered within where Adad, lord of the storm was riding. In front over hill and plain Shullat and Hanish, heralds of the storm, led on. Then the gods of the abyss rose up; Nergal pulled out the dams of the nether waters, Ninurta the war-lord threw down the dykes, and the seven judges of hell, the Annunaki, raised their torches, lighting the land with their livid flame. A stupor of despair went up to heaven when the god of the storm turned daylight to darkness, when he smashed the land like a cup. One whole day the tempest raged, gathering fury as it went, it poured over the people like the tides of battle; a man could not see his brother nor could the people be seen from heaven. Even the gods were terrified at the flood, they fled to the highest heaven, the firmament of Anu; they crouched against the walls, cowering like curs. Then Ishtar the sweet-voiced Queen of Heaven cried out like a woman in travail: “Alas the days of old are turned to dust because I commanded evil; why did I command thus evil in the council of all the gods? I commanded wars to destroy the people, but are they not my people, for I brought them forth? Now like the spawn of fish they float in the ocean.” The great gods of heaven and of hell wept, they covered their mouths.
‘For six days and six nights the winds blew, torrent and tempest and flood overwhelmed the world, tempest and flood raged together like warring hosts. When the seventh day dawned the storm from the south subsided, the sea grew calm, the, flood was stilled; I looked at the face of the world and there was silence, all mankind was turned to clay. The surface of the sea stretched as flat as a roof-top; I opened a hatch and the light fell on my face. Then I bowed low, I sat down and I wept, the tears streamed down my face, for on every side was the waste of water. I looked for land in vain, but fourteen leagues distant there appeared a mountain, and there the boat grounded; on the mountain of Nisir the boat held fast, she held fast and did not budge. One day she held, and a second day on the mountain of Nisir she held fast and did not budge. A third day, and a fourth day she held fast on the mountain and did not budge; a fifth day and a sixth day she held fast on the mountain. When the seventh day dawned I loosed a dove and let her go. She flew away, but finding no resting-place she returned. Then I loosed a swallow, and she flew away but finding no resting-place she returned. I loosed a raven, she saw that the waters had retreated, she ate, she flew around, she cawed, and she did not come back. Then I threw everything open to the four winds, I made a sacrifice and poured out a libation on the mountain top. Seven and again seven cauldrons I set up on their stands, I heaped up wood and cane and cedar and myrtle. When the gods smelled the sweet savor, they gathered like flies over the sacrifice. Then, at last, Ishtar also came, she lifted her necklace with the jewels of heaven that once Anu had made to please her. “O you gods here present, by the lapis lazuli round my neck I shall remember these days as I remember the jewels of my throat; these last days I shall not forget. Let all the gods gather round the sacrifice, except Enlil. He shall not approach this offering, for without reflection he brought the flood; he consigned my people to destruction.” ‘When Enlil had come, when he saw the boat, he was wrath and swelled with anger at the gods, the host of heaven, “Has any of these mortals escaped? Not one was to have survived the destruction.” Then the god of the wells and canals Ninurta opened his mouth and said to the warrior Enlil, “Who is there of the gods that can devise without Ea? It is Ea alone who knows all things.” Then Ea opened his mouth and spoke to warrior Enlil, “Wisest of gods, hero Enlil, how could you so senselessly bring down the flood? Lay upon the sinner his sin, Lay upon the transgressor his transgression, Punish him a little when he breaks loose, Do not drive him too hard or he perishes, Would that a lion had ravaged mankind Rather than the flood, Would that a wolf had ravaged mankind Rather than the flood, Would that famine had wasted the world Rather than the flood, Would that pestilence had wasted mankind Rather than the flood. It was not I that revealed the secret of the gods; the wise man learned it in a dream. Now take your counsel what shall be done with him.”
‘Then Enlil went up into the boat, he took me by the hand and my wife and made us enter the boat and kneel down on either side, he standing between us. He touched our foreheads to bless us saying, “In time past Utnapishtim was a mortal man; henceforth he and his wife shall
live in the distance at the mouth of the rivers.” Thus it was that the gods took me and placed me here to live in the distance, at the mouth of the rivers.’
Utnapistim said, “As for you, Gilgamesh, who will assemble the gods for your sake, so that you may find that life for which you are searching? But if you wish, come and put it to the test: only prevail against sleep for six days and seven nights.” But while Gilgamesh sat there resting on his haunches, a mist of sleep like soft wool teased from the fleece drifted over him, and Utnapishtim said to his wife, “Look at him now, the strong man who would have everlasting life, even now the mists of sleep are drifting over him.” His wife replied, “Touch the man to wake him, so that he may return to his own land in peace, going back through the gate by which he came.” Utnapishtim said to his wife, “All men are deceivers, even you he will attempt to deceive; therefore bake loaves of bread, each day one loaf, and put it beside his head; and make a mark on the wall to number the days he has slept.”
So she baked loaves of bread, each day one loaf, and put it beside his head, and she marked on the wall the days that he slept; and there came a day when the first loaf was hard, the second loaf was like leather, the third was soggy, the crust of the fourth had mold, the fifth was mildewed, the sixth was fresh, and the seventh was still on the embers. Then Utnapishtim touched him and he woke. Gilgamesh said to Utnapishtim the Faraway, ‘I hardly slept when you touched and roused me.’ But Utnapishtim said, ‘Count these loaves and learn how many days you slept, for your first is hard, your second like leather, your third is soggy, the crust of your fourth has mold, your fifth is mildewed, your sixth is fresh and your seventh was still over the glowing embers when I touched and woke you.’ Gilgamesh said, ‘What shall I do, O Utnapishtim, where shall I go? Already the thief in the night has hold of my limbs, death inhabits my room; wherever my foot rests, there I find death.’
…Then Gilgamesh and Urshanabi (the ferryman) launched the boat on to the water and boarded it, and they made ready to sail away; but the wife of Utnapishtim the Faraway said to him, “Gilgamesh came here wearied out, he is worn out; what will you give him to carry him back to his own country?” So Utnapishtim spoke, and Gilgamesh took a pole and brought the boat in to the bank. “Gilgamesh, you came here a man wearied out, you have worn yourself out; what shall I give you to carry you back to your own country? Gilgamesh, I shall reveal a secret thing, it is a mystery of the gods that I am telling you. There is a plant that grows under the water, it has a prickle like a thorn, like a rose; it will wound your hands, but if you succeed in taking it, then your hands will hold that which restores his lost youth to a man”
When Gilgamesh heard this he opened the sluices so that a sweet water current might carry him out to the deepest channel; he tied heavy stones to his feet and they dragged him down to the water-bed. There he saw the plant growing. Although it pricked him he took it in his hands; then he cut the heavy stones from his feet, and the sea carried him and threw him on to the shore. Gilgamesh said to Urshanabi the ferryman, “Come here, and see this marvelous plant. By its virtue a man may win back all his former strength. I will take it to Uruk of the strong walls; there I will give it to the old men to eat. Its name shall be ‘The Old Men Are Young Again’; and at last I shall eat it myself and have back all my lost youth.” So Gilgamesh returned by the gate through which he had come, Gilgamesh and Urshanabi went together. They travelled their twenty leagues and then they broke their fast; after thirty leagues they stopped for the night.
Gilgamesh saw a well of cool water and he went down and bathed; but deep in the pool there was lying a serpent, and the serpent sensed the sweetness of the flower. It rose out of the water and snatched it away, and immediately it sloughed its skin and returned to the well. Then Gilgamesh sat down and wept, the tears ran down his face, and he took the hand of Urshanabi;
‘O Urshanabi, was it for this that I toiled with my hands, is it for this I have wrung out my heart’s blood? For myself I have gained nothing; not I, but the beast of the earth has joy of it now. Already the stream has carried it twenty leagues back to the channels where I found it. I found a sign and now I have lost it. Let us leave the boat on the bank and go.’
After twenty leagues they broke their fast, after thirty leagues they stopped for the night; in three days they had walked as much as a journey of a month and fifteen days. When the journey was accomplished they arrived at Uruk, the strong-walled city. Gilgamesh spoke to him, to Urshanabi the ferryman, “Urshanabi, climb up on to the wall of Uruk, inspect its foundation terrace, and examine well the brickwork; see if it is not of burnt bricks; and did not the seven wise men lay these foundations? One third of the whole is city, one third is garden, and one third is field, with the precinct of the goddess Ishtar. These parts and the precinct are all Uruk.” This too was the work of Gilgamesh, the king, who knew the countries of the world. He was wise he saw mysteries and knew secret things, he brought us a tale of the days before the flood. He went a long journey, was weary, worn out with labor, and returning engraved on a stone the whole story.
The later versions of the Epic concluded with a short section on the death of Gilgamesh, emphasizing that immortality was not his destiny.
Herodotus, “On Mummification” from The Histories1
Herodotus was a Greek living in the 5th century BCE who traveled extensively around the eastern Mediterranean. In his discussion of Egypt he leaves us the best description we have of the Egyptian process of mummification, which had been in use for at least 2000 years before Herodotus recorded this.
The mode of embalming, according to the most perfect process, is the following: They take first a crooked piece of iron, and with it draw out the brain through the nostrils, thus getting rid of a portion, while the skull is cleared of the rest by rinsing with drugs; next they make a cut along the flank with a sharp Ethiopian stone, and take out the whole contents of the abdomen, which they then cleanse, washing it thoroughly with palm wine, and again frequently with an infusion of pounded aromatics. After this they fill the cavity with the purest bruised myrrh, with cassia, and every other sort of spice except frankincense, and sew up the opening. Then the body is placed in natrum2 for seventy days, and covered entirely over. After the expiration of that space of time, which must not be exceeded, the body is washed, and wrapped round, from head to foot, with bandages of fine linen cloth, smeared over with gum, which is used generally by the Egyptians in the place of glue, and in this state it is given back to the relations, who enclose it in a wooden case which they have had made for the purpose, shaped into the figure of a man. Then fastening the case, they place it in a sepulchral chamber, upright against the wall. Such is the most costly way of embalming the dead.
If persons wish to avoid expense, and choose the second process, the following is the method pursued: Syringes are filled with oil made from the cedar-tree, which is then, without any incision or disembowelling, injected into the abdomen. The passage by which it might be likely to return is stopped, and the body laid in natrum the prescribed number of days. At the end of the time the cedar-oil is allowed to make its escape; and such is its power that it brings with it the whole stomach and intestines in a liquid state. The natrum meanwhile has dissolved the flesh, and so nothing is left of the dead body but the skin and the bones. It is returned in this condition to the relatives, without any further trouble being bestowed upon it.
The third method of embalming, which is practiced in the case of the poorer classes, is to clear out the intestines through the anus, and let the body lie in natrum the seventy days, after which it is at once given to those who come to fetch it away.
1 Text available at http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/ancient/herodotus-mummies.asp 2 Natrum was a locally mined mineral salt containing mostly sodium bicarbonate, soda ash, and sodium chloride. It was essential in drying out and preserving the body. Natrum, also called Natron, became the Latin word for sodium and is the basis for the Na symbol on the periodic table for sodium.
The Book of the Dead: “The Judgment of the Dead”1
The Book of the Dead, or rather Books, since there was not just one version, was a guidebook to help the dead in the afterlife. It contained spells, charms, directions and answers to necessary questions. Text from the Book of the Dead, was placed in the tomb as a papyrus scroll or inscribed on the walls of the tomb, and even inside of sarcophagi from around 2400 BCE all the way into the first centuries of the Common Era. This section on the judgment of the dead was among the most frequently used parts of the book. It instructed the dead what to do and say when they entered the Hall of Two Truths. Here they stood before a jury of gods, while their life’s deeds were read out and their heart was weighed (literally) on a scale against the feather of truth. If the heart was too weighed down by guilt, the dead would be devoured by the demon Ammit, who had the body parts of a lion, hippopotamus and crocodile. This is illustrated in a Book of the Dead from ca. 1375 BCE (The Papyrus of the scribe Hunefer, in the British Museum).
[The dead will say:] Homage to you, Great God, the Lord of the double Maat (Truth)!2 I have come to you, my Lord, I have brought myself here to behold your beauty. I know you, and I know your name, And I know the names of the forty-two gods, Who live with you in the Hall of the Two Truths Who imprison the evildoers, and feed upon their blood, On the day when the lives of men are judged in the presence of Osiris.3 In truth, you are “The Twin Sisters with Two Eyes [of Maat],” and “The Daughters of the Two Truths.”
1 The full text is available at http://public.wsu.edu/~dee/EGYPT/BOD125.HTM. 2 This word, Truth, is the Egyptian word maat (here it is doubled: maat maat). It means more than just truth; among other meanings are “justice,” “purity,” “balance,” and “order.” All these senses apply here and in every other use of the word. The translation does not translate this word when it occurs. Probably the best translation for “The Two Truths” is “Truth and Righteousness.” All the meaning of maat are personified by the goddess Maat. 3 One of the chief Egyptian gods, Osiris was the god of the dead and of immortality.
In truth, I now come to you, and I have brought Maat to you, And I have destroyed wickedness for you. I have committed no evil upon men. I have not oppressed the members of my family.
I have not wrought evil in the place of right and truth. I have had no knowledge of what should not be known. I have brought about no evil. I did not rise in the morning and expect more than was due to me. I have not brought my name forward to be praised. I have not oppressed servants. I have not scorned any god. I have not defrauded the poor of their property. I have not done what the gods abhor. I have not caused harm to be done to a servant by his master. I have not caused pain. I have caused no man to hunger. I have made no one weep. I have not killed. I have not given the order to kill. I have not inflicted pain on anyone. I have not stolen the drink left for the gods in the temples. I have not stolen the cakes left for the gods in the temples. I have not stolen the cakes left for the dead in the temples. I have not fornicated. I have not polluted myself. I have not diminished the bushel when I’ve sold it. I have not added to or stolen land. I have not encroached on the land of others. I have not added weights to the scales to cheat buyers. I have not misread the scales to cheat buyers. I have not stolen milk from the mouths of children. I have not driven cattle from their pastures. I have not captured the birds of the preserves of the gods. I have not caught fish in their ponds. I have not held back the water when it should flow. I have not diverted the running water in a canal. I have not put out a fire when it should burn. I have not violated the times when meat should be offered to the gods. I have not driven off the cattle from the property of the gods. I have not stopped a god in his procession through the temple.4 I am pure, I am pure, I am pure, I am pure! *** Therefore, let no evil befall me in this land
4 Images of the gods would “process” through the temples, around the outside of a temple, and even the streets. The gods were thought to be present in these statues. During these processions, worshippers would ask questions of the god as it passed. It would then answer those questions by leaning in one direction or the other.
In this Hall of the Two Truths, Because I know the names of all the gods within it, And all the followers of the great God.
Hail, Long-Strider who comes from Heliopolis, I have not done iniquity. Hail, Embraced-by Fire who comes from Kher-aha, I have not robbed with violence. Hail, Divine-Nose who comes from Khemmenu, I have not done violence to another man. Hail, Shade-Eater who comes from the caverns which produce the Nile, I have not committed theft. Hail, Neha-hau who comes from Re-stau, I have not killed man or woman. Hail, double Lion God who comes from heaven, I have not lightened the bushel. Hail, Flint-Eyes who comes from Sekhem, I have not acted deceitfully. Hail, Flame who comes backwards, I have not stolen what belongs to the gods. Hail, Bone-Crusher who comes from Heracleopolis, I have not lied. Hail, Flame-Grower who comes from Memphis, I have not carried away food. Hail, Qerti5 who comes from the west, I have not uttered evil words. Hail, Shining-Tooth who comes from Ta-She, I have attacked no man. Hail, Blood-Consumer who comes from the house of slaughter, I have not slaughtered sacred cattle. Hail, Entrail-Consumer who comes from the mabet chamber, I have not cheated. Hail, God of Maat who comes from the city of the twin Maati, I have not laid waste lands which have been ploughed. Hail, Backward-Walker who comes from Bubastis, I have not pried mischievously into others’ affairs. Hail, Aati who comes from Heliopolis, I have not foolishly set my mouth in motion against another man. Hail, doubly evil who comes from Ati, I have not given way to wrath without cause. Hail, serpent Amenti who comes from the house of slaughter, I have not defiled the wife of another man. Hail, you who look at what is brought to you who comes from the Temple of Amsu, I have not pollluted myself. Hail, Chief of the Princes who comes from Nehatu, I have not terrified any man. Hail, Destroyer who comes from the Lake of Kaui, I have not trespassed sacred grounds. Hail, Speech-Orderer who comes from the Urit, I have not been angry. Hail, Child who comes from the Lake of Heqat, I have not made myself deaf to Maat. Hail, Disposer-of-Speech who comes from Unes, I have not stirred up strife. Hail, Basti who comes from the Secret City, I have made no one to weep. Hail, Backwards-Face who comes from the Dwelling, I have committed no acts of impurity nor have I had sexual intercourse with a man. Hail, Leg-of-Fire who comes from the Akheku, I have not lost my temper [literally “I have not eaten my heart”]. Hail, Kenemti who comes from Kenemet, I have not abused anyone. Hail, Offering-Bringer who comes from Sais, I have not acted with violence. Hail, Lord-of-Faces who comes from Tchefet, I have not judged hastily. Hail, Giver-of-Knowledge who comes from Unth, I have not taken vengeance on a god.
5 The caverns that were thought to be the source of the Nile at the time. 24
Hail, Lord-of-Two-Horns who comes from Satiu, I have not spoken too much. Hail, Nefer-Tem who comes from Memphis, I have not acted with deceit nor have I performed wickedness. Hail, Tem-Sep who comes from Tattu, I have not cursed the king. Hail, Heart-Laborer who comes from Tebti, I have not polluted the water. Hail, Ahi-of-the-water who comes from Nu, I have not been haughty. Hail, Man-Commander, who comes from Sau, I have not cursed the god. Hail, Neheb-nefert who comes from the Lake of Nefer, I have not been insolent. Hail, Neheb-kau who comes from your city, I have not sought distinctions. Hail, Holy-Head who comes from your dwelling, I have not increased my wealth, except with such things as were mine. Hail, Arm-Bringer who comes from the Underworld, I have not scorned the god of my city.
Hail, gods, who dwell in the house of the Two Truths. I know you and I know your names. Let me not fall under your slaughter-knives, And do not bring my wickedness to Osiris, the god you serve. Let no evil come to me from you.
Declare me right and true in the presence of Osiris, Because I have done what is right and true in Egypt. I have not cursed a god. I have not suffered evil through the king who ruled my day.
Hail, gods who dwell in the Hall of the Two Truths, Who have no evil in your bodies, who live upon maat , Who feed upon maat in the presence of Horus, Who lives within his divine disk [the sun]. Deliver me from the god Baba, Who lives on the entrails of the mighty ones on the day of the great judgment. Grant that I may come to you, For I have committed no faults, I have not sinned, I have not done evil, I have not lied, Therefore let nothing evil happen to me. I live on maat , and I feed on maat, I have performed what has been asked of me and the things pleasing to the gods, I have made the god to be at peace with me, I have acted according to his will. I have given bread to the hungry man, and water to the thirsty man, And clothes to the naked man, and a boat to the boatless. I have made holy offerings to the gods, and meals for the dead. Deliver me, protect me, accuse me not in the presence of Osiris. I am pure of mouth and pure of hands, Therefore, let all who see me welcome me,
For I have heard the mighty word which the spiritual bodies spoke to the Cat, In the House of Hapt-Re, the Open-Mouthed; I gave testimony before the god Hra-f-ha-f, the Backwards-Face, I have the branching out of the ished-tree in Re-stau.6
I have offered prayers to the gods and I know their persons. I have come and I have advanced to declare maat, And to set the balance upon what supports it in the Underworld. Hail, you who are exalted upon your standard, Lord of the Atefu crown, Whose name is “God of Breath” [Osiris], deliver me from your divine messengers, Who cause fearful deeds, and calamities,
Who are without coverings for their faces, For I have done maat for the Lord of maat. I have purified myself and my breast, my lower parts, with the things which make clean. My inner parts have been in the Pool of maat. I have been purified in the Pool of the south, And I have rested in the northern city which is in the Field of the Grasshoppers,7 Where the sacred sailors of Ra bathe at the second hour of the night and third hour of the day. And the hearts of the gods are pleased after they have passed through it, Whether by day or by night.
The gods then say, “Come forward. They say, “Who are you,” They say, “What is your name?” “I am the he who is equipped under the flowers, the-dweller-in-the-moringa is my name.”8 They say, “Where have you passed?”
“I have passed by the town north of the moringa.” They say, “What did you see there?” “The Leg and the Thigh.” They say, “What then did you say to them?”
“Let me see rejoicings in the lands of the Fenkhu.”9 “What did they give you?” “A flame of fire and a tablet of crystal.” “What did you do with them?”
“I buried them by the furrow of Maaty as things for the night.” “What did you find there by the furrow of Maaty?” “A scepter of flint, the name of which is “Giver of Breath.'” “What did you do to the flame of fire and the tablet of crystal after you buried them?”
6 These are all religious mysteries which reveal the knowledge of the gods to living humans. 7 These are parts of the journey to the underworld the dead had already completed. 8 Another name for Osiris. The dead man is here identifying himself with the chief god and the chief god of judgment. The purpose of the examinations here is to pass by first the forty-two gods and demons by telling them the itinerary of the dead man’s journey after death. Identifying himself with Osiris indicates that he is not to be judged by the forty-two gods at this juncture. The later examinations are conducted by the parts of the doorway and the hall itself, and finally, by Thoth, who records all the deeds of humans and gods. 9 The Fenkhu were a people living on the north-east frontier of Egypt.
“I uttered words over them in the furrow, and I dug them up; I extinguished the fire, and I broke the tablet, and I threw it in the pool of Maaty.” “Come, then, and enter in the door of this Hall of the Two Truths, for you know us.”
“We will not let you enter in through us,” says the bolts of the door, “unless you tell us our names.” “‘Tongue-of-the-Balance-of-the-Place-of-Truth’ is your name.” “I will not let you enter in by me,” says the right side of this door, “unless you tell me my name.” “‘Valance-of-the-Support-of-Maat’ is your name.”
“I will not let you enter in by me,” says the left side of the door, “unless you tell me my name.” “‘Balance-of-Wine’ is your name.” “I will not let you pass over me,” says the threshold of this door, “unless you tell me my name.” “‘Ox-of-God-Seb’ is your name.”
“I will not open for you,” says the fastening of this door, “unless you tell me my name.” “‘Flesh-of-his-Mother’ is your name.” “I will not open for you,” says the socket of the fastening of this door, “unless you tell me my name.” “‘Living-Eye-of-the-Crocodile-God-Lord-of-Bakhau’ is your name.” “I will not open for you, and I will not let you enter in by me,” says the guardian of this door, “unless you tell me my name.” “‘Elbow-of-the-God-Shu-that-protecs-Osiris’ is your name.” “We will not let you enter in by us,” say the posts of this door, “unless you tell us our name.” “‘Children-of-the-Cobra-Goddess’ is your name.” “You know us, therefore, pass by us.”
“I will not let you tread upon me,” says the floor of this hall of the Two Truths, “Because I am silent and I am holy and do not know the names of your two feet, Therefore, tell me their names.” “‘Traveller-of-the-God-Khas’ is the name of my right foot, “‘Staff-of-the-Goddess-Hathor’ is the name of my left foot.”
“You know me, therefore pass over me.” “I will not announce you,” says the guardian of this door of this Hall of the Two Truths, “unless you tell me my name.” “‘Discerner-of-Hearts and Searcher-of-the-Reins’ is your name.” “Now I will announce you, but who is the god that dwells in this hour?” “The-Keeper-of-the-Record-of-the-Two-Lands.” “Who then is The-Keeper-of-the-Record-of-the-Two-Lands?” “It is Thoth.”10
10 The God of Writing, inventor of hieroglyphics, Thoth, who records the deeds of humans and their judgement. The Two Lands are the land of the living and the land of the dead.
“Come,” says Thoth, “why have you come?” “I have come and I press forward so that I may be announced.” “What now is your condition?” “I am purified from evil things, I am protected from the evil deeds of those who live in their days: I am not among them.” “Now I will announce you. But who is he whose heaven is fire, whose walls are cobras, and whose floor is a stream of water? Who is he, I say?” “He is Osiris.” “Come forward, then, you will be announced to him. Your cakes will come from the Eye of Ra,11 your beer from the Eye, your meals of the dead from the Eye. This has been decreed for the Osiris the overseer of the house of the overseer of the seal, Nu, triumphant.”
This shall be said by the deceased after he has been cleaned and purified, and when he is arrayed in apparel, and is shod with white leather sandals, and his eyes have been painted with antimony, and his body has been anointed with oil, and when he offers oxen, and birds, and incense, and cakes, and beer, and garden herbs. Behold, you will draw a representation of this in color upon a new tile molded from earth upon which neither a pig nor other animals have stepped. And if you do this book on it, the deceased shall flourish, and his children shall flourish, and his name shall never fall into oblivion, and he shall be as one who fills the heart of the king and his princes. And bread, and cakes, and sweetmeats, and wine, and pieces of flesh shall be given to him upon the altar of the great god; and he shall not be turned back at any door in the Underworld, and he shall be brought in along with the kings of Upper and Lower Egypt, and he shall be in the train of Osiris, continually and forever.
Effective a million times.
11 The Eye of Horus or Ra, which represents knowledge of things human and divine, as well as knowledge of maat. 28
The Book of Genesisa
The Torah (often called the Pentateuch) is the name given to five books that make up the Law (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy). These books both outline God’s commands and tell the history of his relationship with the Hebrews through the death of Moses (though starting with his relationship to all things and all people). These accounts began to be written down during the period of the Kings, ca. 950 BCE. Several parts, however, reflect much older oral traditions (particularly in the case of Genesis, where we find two differing traditions of creation placed side-by-side in Genesis 1 and 2).
1In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. 2The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.
3And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. 4And God saw that the light was good. And God separated the light from the darkness. 5God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, the first day.
6And God said, “Let there be an expanse [or canopy] in the midst of the waters, and let it separate the waters from the waters.” 7And God made the expanse and separated the waters that were under the expanse from the waters that were above the expanse. And it was so. 8And God called the expanse Heaven [or sky]. And there was evening and there was morning, the second day.
9And God said, “Let the waters under the heavens be gathered together into one place, and let the dry land appear.” And it was so. 10God called the dry land Earth, and the waters that were gathered together he called Seas. And God saw that it was good.
11And God said, “Let the earth sprout vegetation, small plants yielding seed, and fruit trees bearing fruit in which is their seed, each according to its kind, on the earth.” And it was so. 12The earth brought forth vegetation, plants yielding seed according to their own kinds, and trees bearing fruit in which is their seed, each according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. 13And there was evening and there was morning, the third day.
14And God said, “Let there be lights in the expanse of the heavens to separate the day from the night. And let them be for signs and for seasons, and for days and years, 15and let them be lights in the expanse of the heavens to give light upon the earth.” And it was so. 16And God made the two great lights—the greater light to rule the day and the lesser light to rule the night—and the stars. 17And God set them in the expanse of the heavens to give light on the earth, 18to rule over
a The translations here are taken from the English Standard Version. This and many other translations are available at http://www.biblegateway.com. Possible alternate translations of certain words are indicated in brackets and italicized.
the day and over the night, and to separate the light from the darkness. And God saw that it was good. 19And there was evening and there was morning, the fourth day.
20And God said, “Let the waters swarm with swarms of living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the expanse of the heavens.” 21So God created the great sea creatures and every living creature that moves, with which the waters swarm, according to their kinds, and every winged bird according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. 22And God blessed them, saying, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the waters in the seas, and let birds multiply on the earth.” 23And there was evening and there was morning, the fifth day.
24And God said, “Let the earth bring forth living creatures according to their kinds—livestock and creeping things and beasts of the earth according to their kinds.” And it was so. 25And God made the beasts of the earth according to their kinds and the livestock according to their kinds, and everything that creeps on the ground according to its kind. And God saw that it was good.
26Then God said, “Let us make manb in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”
27So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.
28And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” 29And God said, “Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit. You shall have them for food. 30And to every beast of the earth and to every bird of the heavens and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has the breath of life, I have given every green plant for food.” And it was so. 31 And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day.
1Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them. 2And on the seventh day God finished his work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work that he had done. 3So God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it God rested from all his work that he had done in creation.
4 These are the generations of the heavens and the earth when they were created in the day that the LORD God made the earth and the heavens.
5When no bush of the field was yet in the land and no small plant of the field had yet sprung up—for the LORD God had not caused it to rain on the land, and there was no man to work the ground, 6and a mist was going up from the land and was watering the whole face of the ground— 7then the LORD God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the
b The Hebrew word for man (adam) is the generic term for mankind and becomes the proper name Adam. 30
breath of life, and the man became a living creature. 8And the LORD God planted a garden in Eden, in the east, and there he put the man whom he had formed. 9And out of the ground the LORD God made to spring up every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food. The tree of life was in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.
10A river flowed out of Eden to water the garden, and there it divided and became four rivers. 11The name of the first is the Pishon. It is the one that flowed around the whole land of Havilah, where there is gold. 12And the gold of that land is good; bdellium and onyx stone are there. 13The name of the second river is the Gihon. It is the one that flowed around the whole land of Cush. 14And the name of the third river is the Tigris, which flows east of Assyria. And the fourth river is the Euphrates.
15The LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it. 16And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, 17but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.”
18Then the LORD God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.” 19 Now out of the ground the LORD God had formed every beast of the field and every bird of the heavens and brought them to the man to see what he would call them. And whatever the man called every living creature, that was its name. 20The man gave names to all livestock and to the birds of the heavens and to every beast of the field. But for Adam there was not found a helper fit for him. 21So the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and while he slept took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh. 22And the rib that the LORD God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man. 23Then the man said,
“This at last is bone of my bones
and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman,
because she was taken out of Man.”c
24 Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. 25And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed.
1Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the LORD God had made.
He said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” 2And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, 3but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.'” 4 But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. 5For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good
c The Hebrew words for woman (ishshah) and man (ish) sound alike. 31
and evil.” 6So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise [or give insight], she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate. 7 Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths.
8And they heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God among the trees of the garden. 9But the LORD God called to the man and said to him, “Where are you?” 10And he said, “I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked, and I hid myself.” 11He said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten of the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?” 12The man said, “The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit of the tree, and I ate.” 13Then the LORD God said to the woman, “What is this that you have done?” The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.”
14The LORD God said to the serpent,
“Because you have done this, cursed are you above all livestock and above all beasts of the field;
on your belly you shall go, and dust you shall eat all the days of your life.
15I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring;
he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.”
16To the woman he said,
“I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children.
Your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you.”
17And to Adam he said,
“Because you have listened to the voice of your wife
and have eaten of the tree of which I commanded you,
‘You shall not eat of it,’ cursed is the ground because of you;
in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life; 18thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you;
and you shall eat the plants of the field. 19By the sweat of your face
you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground,
for out of it you were taken; for you are dust,
and to dust you shall return.”
20The man called his wife’s name Eve, because she was the mother of all living.d 21And the LORD God made for Adam and for his wife garments of skins and clothed them.
22Then the LORD God said, “Behold, the man has become like one of us in knowing good and evil. Now, lest he reach out his hand and take also of the tree of life and eat, and live forever—” 23therefore the LORD God sent him out from the garden of Eden to work the ground from which he was taken. 24He drove out the man, and at the east of the garden of Eden he placed the cherubim and a flaming sword that turned every way to guard the way to the tree of life.
*** Genesis 5
1This is the book of the generations of Adam. When God created man, he made him in the likeness of God. 2Male and female he created them, and he blessed them and named them Man when they were created. 3When Adam had lived 130 years, he fathered a son in his own likeness, after his image, and named him Seth. 4 The days of Adam after he fathered Seth were 800 years; and he had other sons and daughters. 5Thus all the days that Adam lived were 930 years, and he died.
6When Seth had lived 105 years, he fathered Enosh. 7Seth lived after he fathered Enosh 807 years and had other sons and daughters. 8Thus all the days of Seth were 912 years, and he died.
9When Enosh had lived 90 years, he fathered Kenan. 10Enosh lived after he fathered Kenan 815 years and had other sons and daughters. 11Thus all the days of Enosh were 905 years, and he died.
12When Kenan had lived 70 years, he fathered Mahalalel. 13Kenan lived after he fathered Mahalalel 840 years and had other sons and daughters. 14Thus all the days of Kenan were 910 years, and he died.
15When Mahalalel had lived 65 years, he fathered Jared. 16Mahalalel lived after he fathered Jared 830 years and had other sons and daughters. 17Thus all the days of Mahalalel were 895 years, and he died.
18When Jared had lived 162 years he fathered Enoch. 19Jared lived after he fathered Enoch 800 years and had other sons and daughters. 20Thus all the days of Jared were 962 years, and he died.
d Eve sounds like the Hebrew for life-giver and resembles the word for living. 33
21When Enoch had lived 65 years, he fathered Methuselah. 22Enoch walked with God after he fathered Methuselah 300 years and had other sons and daughters. 23Thus all the days of Enoch were 365 years. 24Enoch walked with God, and he was not, for God took him.
25When Methuselah had lived 187 years, he fathered Lamech. 26Methuselah lived after he fathered Lamech 782 years and had other sons and daughters. 27Thus all the days of Methuselah were 969 years, and he died.
28When Lamech had lived 182 years, he fathered a son 29and called his name Noah, saying, “Out of the ground that the LORD has cursed this one shall bring us reliefe from our work and from the painful toil of our hands.” 30Lamech lived after he fathered Noah 595 years and had other sons and daughters. 31Thus all the days of Lamech were 777 years, and he died.
32After Noah was 500 years old, Noah fathered Shem, Ham, and Japheth.
1When man began to multiply on the face of the land and daughters were born to them, 2the sons of God saw that the daughters of man were attractive. And they took as their wives any they chose. 3Then the LORD said, “My Spirit shall not abide in man forever, for he is flesh: his days shall be 120 years.” 4The Nephilim [giants] were on the earth in those days, and also afterward, when the sons of God came in to the daughters of man and they bore children to them. These were the mighty men who were of old, the men of renown.
5 The LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. 6And the LORD was sorry that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart. 7So the LORD said, “I will blot out man whom I have created from the face of the land, man and animals and creeping things and birds of the heavens, for I am sorry that I have made them.” 8But Noah found favor in the eyes of the LORD.
9These are the generations of Noah. Noah was a righteous man, blameless in his generation. Noah walked with God. 10And Noah had three sons, Shem, Ham, and Japheth.
11Now the earth was corrupt in God’s sight, and the earth was filled with violence. 12And God saw the earth, and behold, it was corrupt, for all flesh had corrupted their way on the earth. 13And God said to Noah, “I have determined to make an end of all flesh, for the earth is filled with violence through them. Behold, I will destroy them with the earth. 14Make yourself an ark of gopher wood. Make rooms in the ark, and cover it inside and out with pitch. 15This is how you are to make it: the length of the ark 300 cubits,f its breadth 50 cubits, and its height 30 cubits. 16Make a roof for the ark, and finish it to a cubit above, and set the door of the ark in its side. Make it with lower, second, and third decks. 17 For behold, I will bring a flood of waters upon the earth to destroy all flesh in which is the breath of life under heaven. Everything that is on the earth shall die. 18But I will establish my covenant with you, and you shall come into the ark, you, your sons, your wife, and your sons’ wives with you. 19And of every living thing of all flesh, you
e Noah sounds like the Hebrew for rest. f A cubit is about 18 inches.
shall bring two of every sort into the ark to keep them alive with you. They shall be male and female. 20Of the birds according to their kinds, and of the animals according to their kinds, of every creeping thing of the ground, according to its kind, two of every sort shall come in to you to keep them alive. 21Also take with you every sort of food that is eaten, and store it up. It shall serve as food for you and for them.” 22 Noah did this; he did all that God commanded him.
1Then the LORD said to Noah, “Go into the ark, you and all your household, for I have seen that you are righteous before me in this generation. 2Take with you seven pairs of all clean animals, the male and his mate, and a pair of the animals that are not clean, the male and his mate, 3and seven pairs of the birds of the heavens also, male and female, to keep their offspring alive on the face of all the earth. 4For in seven days I will send rain on the earth forty days and forty nights, and every living thing that I have made I will blot out from the face of the ground.” 5 And Noah did all that the LORD had commanded him.
6Noah was six hundred years old when the flood of waters came upon the earth. 7And Noah and his sons and his wife and his sons’ wives with him went into the ark to escape the waters of the flood. 8Of clean animals, and of animals that are not clean, and of birds, and of everything that creeps on the ground, 9two and two, male and female, went into the ark with Noah, as God had commanded Noah. 10And after seven days the waters of the flood came upon the earth.
11In the six hundredth year of Noah’s life, in the second month, on the seventeenth day of the month, on that day all the fountains of the great deep burst forth, and the windows of the heavens were opened. 12And rain fell upon the earth forty days and forty nights. 13On the very same day Noah and his sons, Shem and Ham and Japheth, and Noah’s wife and the three wives of his sons with them entered the ark, 14they and every beast, according to its kind, and all the livestock according to their kinds, and every creeping thing that creeps on the earth, according to its kind, and every bird, according to its kind, every winged creature. 15They went into the ark with Noah, two and two of all flesh in which there was the breath of life. 16And those that entered, male and female of all flesh, went in as God had commanded him. And the LORD shut him in.
17The flood continued forty days on the earth. The waters increased and bore up the ark, and it rose high above the earth. 18The waters prevailed and increased greatly on the earth, and the ark floated on the face of the waters. 19And the waters prevailed so mightily on the earth that all the high mountains under the whole heaven were covered. 20The waters prevailed above the mountains, covering them fifteen cubits deep. 21And all flesh died that moved on the earth, birds, livestock, beasts, all swarming creatures that swarm on the earth, and all mankind. 22Everything on the dry land in whose nostrils was the breath of life died. 23He blotted out every living thing that was on the face of the ground, man and animals and creeping things and birds of the heavens. They were blotted out from the earth. Only Noah was left, and those who were with him in the ark. 24And the waters prevailed on the earth 150 days.
1But God remembered Noah and all the beasts and all the livestock that were with him in the ark. And God made a wind blow over the earth, and the waters subsided. 2 The fountains of the deep and the windows of the heavens were closed, the rain from the heavens was restrained, 3and the waters receded from the earth continually. At the end of 150 days the waters had abated, 4and in the seventh month, on the seventeenth day of the month, the ark came to rest on the mountains of Ararat. 5And the waters continued to abate until the tenth month; in the tenth month, on the first day of the month, the tops of the mountains were seen.
6At the end of forty days Noah opened the window of the ark that he had made 7and sent forth a raven. It went to and fro until the waters were dried up from the earth. 8Then he sent forth a dove from him, to see if the waters had subsided from the face of the ground. 9But the dove found no place to set her foot, and she returned to him to the ark, for the waters were still on the face of the whole earth. So he put out his hand and took her and brought her into the ark with him. 10He waited another seven days, and again he sent forth the dove out of the ark. 11And the dove came back to him in the evening, and behold, in her mouth was a freshly plucked olive leaf. So Noah knew that the waters had subsided from the earth. 12Then he waited another seven days and sent forth the dove, and she did not return to him anymore.
13In the six hundred and first year, in the first month, the first day of the month, the waters were dried from off the earth. And Noah removed the covering of the ark and looked, and behold, the face of the ground was dry. 14In the second month, on the twenty-seventh day of the month, the earth had dried out. 15Then God said to Noah, 16″Go out from the ark, you and your wife, and your sons and your sons’ wives with you. 17Bring out with you every living thing that is with you of all flesh—birds and animals and every creeping thing that creeps on the earth—that they may swarm on the earth, and be fruitful and multiply on the earth.” 18So Noah went out, and his sons and his wife and his sons’ wives with him. 19Every beast, every creeping thing, and every bird, everything that moves on the earth, went out by families from the ark.
20Then Noah built an altar to the LORD and took some of every clean animal and some of every clean bird and offered burnt offerings on the altar. 21And when the LORD smelled the pleasing aroma, the LORD said in his heart, “I will never again curse the ground because of man, for the intention of man’s heart is evil from his youth. Neither will I ever again strike down every living creature as I have done. 22 While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night, shall not cease.”
1And God blessed Noah and his sons and said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth. 2 The fear of you and the dread of you shall be upon every beast of the earth and upon every bird of the heavens, upon everything that creeps on the ground and all the fish of the sea. Into your hand they are delivered. 3 Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you. And as I gave you the green plants, I give you everything. 4But you shall not eat flesh with its life, that is, its blood. 5And for your lifeblood I will require a reckoning: from every beast I will require it and from man. From his fellow man I will require a reckoning for the life of man.
6 “Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed,
for God made man in his own image.
7And you, be fruitful and multiply, teem on the earth and multiply in it.”
8Then God said to Noah and to his sons with him, 9″Behold, I establish my covenant with you and your offspring after you, 10and with every living creature that is with you, the birds, the livestock, and every beast of the earth with you, as many as came out of the ark; it is for every beast of the earth. 11 I establish my covenant with you, that never again shall all flesh be cut off by the waters of the flood, and never again shall there be a flood to destroy the earth.” 12And God said, “This is the sign of the covenant that I make between me and you and every living creature that is with you, for all future generations: 13I have set my bow in the cloud, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and the earth. 14When I bring clouds over the earth and the bow is seen in the clouds, 15 I will remember my covenant that is between me and you and every living creature of all flesh. And the waters shall never again become a flood to destroy all flesh. 16When the bow is in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is on the earth.” 17God said to Noah, “This is the sign of the covenant that I have established between me and all flesh that is on the earth.”
1 When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the LORD appeared to him and said, “I am God Almighty; walk before me faithfully and be blameless. 2 Then I will make my covenant between me and you and will greatly increase your numbers.”
3 Abram fell facedown, and God said to him, 4 “As for me, this is my covenant with you: You will be the father of many nations. 5 No longer will you be called Abram; your name will be Abraham, for I have made you a father of many nations. 6 I will make you very fruitful; I will make nations of you, and kings will come from you. 7 I will establish my covenant as an everlasting covenant between me and you and your descendants after you for the generations to come, to be your God and the God of your descendants after you. 8 The whole land of Canaan, where you now reside as a foreigner, I will give as an everlasting possession to you and your descendants after you; and I will be their God.”
9 Then God said to Abraham, “As for you, you must keep my covenant, you and your descendants after you for the generations to come. 10 This is my covenant with you and your descendants after you, the covenant you are to keep: Every male among you shall be circumcised. 11 You are to undergo circumcision, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and you. 12 For the generations to come every male among you who is eight days old must be circumcised, including those born in your household or bought with money from a foreigner— those who are not your offspring. 13 Whether born in your household or bought with your money, they must be circumcised. My covenant in your flesh is to be an everlasting covenant. 14 Any uncircumcised male, who has not been circumcised in the flesh, will be cut off from his people; he has broken my covenant.”
The Book of Exodusa
Exodus describes the Hebrews’ escape from slavery in Egypt and the beginning of the wandering in the desert before reaching the promised land of Canaan (which the rest of the Pentateuch completes). It is here that the basic laws that appear in Genesis are expanded in great detail. This section follows Moses’ ascent up Mount Sinai. There is no corresponding Egyptian evidence for these events, so the dating of them is widely debated. Differing lines of evidence make the most likely period for the events 1350-1200 BCE. The version of Exodus that survives was composed and edited from the 10th century BCE into possibly as late as the 5th century BCE by the priests who were arguing for strict monotheism.
1 And God spoke all these words, saying,
2 “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.
3 “You shall have no other gods before [or besides] me.
4 “You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. 5 You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the LORD your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me, 6but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments.
7 “You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain, for the LORD will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain.
8 “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. 9 Six days you shall labor, and do all your work, 10but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, your male servant, or your female servant, or your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates. 11For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.
12 “Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land that the LORD your God is giving you.
13 “You shall not murder.b
a The translations here are taken from the English Standard Version. This and many other translations are available at http://www.biblegateway.com. Possible alternate translations of certain words are indicated in brackets and italicized. b The Hebrew word also covers causing human death through carelessness or negligence.
14 “You shall not commit adultery. 15 “You shall not steal. 16 “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.
17 “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male servant, or his female servant, or his ox, or his donkey, or anything that is your neighbor’s.”…
1″Now these are the rules that you shall set before them. 2 When you buy a Hebrew slave, he shall serve six years, and in the seventh he shall go out free, for nothing. 3If he comes in single, he shall go out single; if he comes in married, then his wife shall go out with him. 4If his master gives him a wife and she bears him sons or daughters, the wife and her children shall be her master’s, and he shall go out alone. 5But if the slave plainly says, ‘I love my master, my wife, and my children; I will not go out free,’ 6then his master shall bring him to God, and he shall bring him to the door or the doorpost. And his master shall bore his ear through with an awl, and he shall be his slave forever.
7″When a man sells his daughter as a slave, she shall not go out as the male slaves do. 8If she does not please her master, so that he has not designated her for himself, then he shall let her be redeemed. He shall have no right to sell her to a foreign people, since he has broken faith with her. 9If he designates her for his son, he shall deal with her as with a daughter. 10If he takes another wife to himself, he shall not diminish her food, her clothing, or her marital rights. 11And if he does not do these three things for her, she shall go out for nothing, without payment of money.
12 “Whoever strikes a man so that he dies shall be put to death. 13 But if he did not lie in wait for him, but God let him fall into his hand, then I will appoint for you a place to which he may flee. 14But if a man willfully attacks another to kill him by cunning, you shall take him from my altar, that he may die.
15″Whoever strikes his father or his mother shall be put to death.
16 “Whoever steals a man and sells him, and anyone found in possession of him, shall be put to death.
17 “Whoever curses [or dishonors] his father or his mother shall be put to death.
18″When men quarrel and one strikes the other with a stone or with his fist and the man does not die but takes to his bed, 19then if the man rises again and walks outdoors with his staff, he who struck him shall be clear; only he shall pay for the loss of his time, and shall have him thoroughly healed.
20″When a man strikes his slave, male or female, with a rod and the slave dies under his hand, he shall be avenged. 21But if the slave survives a day or two, he is not to be avenged, for the slave is his money.
22″When men strive together and hit a pregnant woman, so that her children come out, but there is no harm, the one who hit her shall surely be fined, as the woman’s husband shall impose on him, and he shall pay as the judges determine. 23But if there is harm, then you shall pay life for life, 24 eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, 25burn for burn, wound for wound, stripe for stripe.
26″When a man strikes the eye of his slave, male or female, and destroys it, he shall let the slave go free because of his eye. 27If he knocks out the tooth of his slave, male or female, he shall let the slave go free because of his tooth…
1″If a man steals an ox or a sheep, and kills it or sells it, he shall repay five oxen for an ox, and four sheep for a sheep. 2If a thief is found breaking in and is struck so that he dies, there shall be no bloodguilt for him, 3but if the sun has risen on him, there shall be bloodguilt for him. He shall surely pay. If he has nothing, then he shall be sold for his theft. 4If the stolen beast is found alive in his possession, whether it is an ox or a donkey or a sheep, he shall pay double…
16 “If a man seduces a virgin [or woman of marriageable age] who is not betrothed and lies with her, he shall give the bride-price for her and make her his wife. 17If her father utterly refuses to give her to him, he shall pay money equal to the bride-price for virgins.
18 “You shall not permit a sorceress to live. 19 “Whoever lies with an animal shall be put to death. 20 “Whoever sacrifices to any god, other than the LORD alone, shall be devoted to destruction.
21 “You shall not wrong a sojourner or oppress him, for you were sojourners in the land of Egypt. 22 You shall not mistreat any widow or fatherless child. 23If you do mistreat them, and they cry out to me, I will surely hear their cry, 24and my wrath will burn, and I will kill you with the sword, and your wives shall become widows and your children fatherless…
1 “You shall not spread a false report. You shall not join hands with a wicked man to be a malicious witness. 2You shall not fall in with the many to do evil, nor shall you bear witness in a lawsuit, siding with the many, so as to pervert justice, 3 nor shall you be partial to a poor man in his lawsuit.
4 “If you meet your enemy’s ox or his donkey going astray, you shall bring it back to him. 5If you see the donkey of one who hates you lying down under its burden, you shall refrain from leaving him with it; you shall rescue it with him.
6 “You shall not pervert the justice due to your poor in his lawsuit. 7 Keep far from a false charge, and do not kill the innocent and righteous, for I will not acquit the wicked. 8 And you shall take no bribe, for a bribe blinds the clear-sighted and subverts the cause of those who are in the right…
10 “For six years you shall sow your land and gather in its yield, 11but the seventh year you shall let it rest and lie fallow, that the poor of your people may eat; and what they leave the beasts of the field may eat. You shall do likewise with your vineyard, and with your olive orchard…
18 “You shall not offer the blood of my sacrifice with anything leavened, or let the fat of my feast remain until the morning.
19″The best of the first fruits of your ground you shall bring into the house of the LORD your God. You shall not boil a young goat in its mother’s milk.
20 “Behold, I send an angel before you to guard you on the way and to bring you to the place that I have prepared. 21Pay careful attention to him and obey his voice; do not rebel against him, for he will not pardon your transgression, for my name is in him. 22But if you carefully obey his voice and do all that I say, then I will be an enemy to your enemies and an adversary to your adversaries. 23 When my angel goes before you and brings you to the Amorites and the Hittites and the Perizzites and the Canaanites, the Hivites and the Jebusites, and I blot them out, 24you shall not bow down to their gods nor serve them, nor do as they do, but you shall utterly overthrow them and break their pillars in pieces. 25You shall serve the LORD your God, and he will bless your bread and your water, and I will take sickness away from among you. 26 None shall miscarry or be barren in your land; I will fulfill the number of your days. 27I will send my terror before you and will throw into confusion all the people against whom you shall come, and I will make all your enemies turn their backs to you. 28And I will send hornets before you, which shall drive out the Hivites, the Canaanites, and the Hittites from before you. 29 I will not drive them out from before you in one year, lest the land become desolate and the wild beasts multiply against you. 30Little by little I will drive them out from before you, until you have increased and possess the land. 31 And I will set your border from the Red Sea to the Sea of the Philistines, and from the wilderness to the Euphrates, for I will give the inhabitants of the land into your hand, and you shall drive them out before you. 32 You shall make no covenant with them and their gods. 33They shall not dwell in your land, lest they make you sin against me; for if you serve their gods, it will surely be a snare to you.”
The Book of Leviticus
Leviticus continues the narrative from Exodus and was edited and composed over the same long period as Exodus was. The excerpts below cover part of the laws on diet and on sexual practices.
1And the LORD spoke to Moses and Aaron, saying to them, 2″Speak to the people of Israel, saying, These are the living things that you may eat among all the animals that are on the earth. 3Whatever parts the hoof and is cloven-footed and chews the cud, among the animals, you may eat. 4Nevertheless, among those that chew the cud or part the hoof, you shall not eat these: The camel, because it chews the cud but does not part the hoof, is unclean to you. 5And the rock badger, because it chews the cud but does not part the hoof, is unclean to you. 6And the hare, because it chews the cud but does not part the hoof, is unclean to you. 7And the pig, because it parts the hoof and is cloven-footed but does not chew the cud, is unclean to you. 8You shall not eat any of their flesh, and you shall not touch their carcasses; they are unclean to you.
9″These you may eat, of all that are in the waters. Everything in the waters that has fins and scales, whether in the seas or in the rivers, you may eat. 10But anything in the seas or the rivers that has not fins and scales, of the swarming creatures in the waters and of the living creatures that are in the waters, is detestable to you. 11You shall regard them as detestable; you shall not eat any of their flesh, and you shall detest their carcasses. 12Everything in the waters that has not fins and scales is detestable to you…
1And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, 2″Speak to the people of Israel and say to them, I am the LORD your God. 3 You shall not do as they do in the land of Egypt, where you lived, and you shall not do as they do in the land of Canaan, to which I am bringing you. You shall not walk in their statutes. 4 You shall follow my rules and keep my statutes and walk in them. I am the LORD your God. 5 You shall therefore keep my statutes and my rules; if a person does them, he shall live by them: I am the LORD.
6″None of you shall approach any one of his close relatives to uncover nakedness.c I am the LORD. 7 You shall not uncover the nakedness of your father, which is the nakedness of your mother; she is your mother, you shall not uncover her nakedness. 8 You shall not uncover the nakedness of your father’s wife; it is your father’s nakedness. 9 You shall not uncover the nakedness of your sister, your father’s daughter or your mother’s daughter, whether brought up in the family or in another home. 10You shall not uncover the nakedness of your son’s daughter or of your daughter’s daughter, for their nakedness is your own nakedness. 11You shall not uncover the nakedness of your father’s wife’s daughter, brought up in your father’s family, since she is your sister. 12You shall not uncover the nakedness of your father’s sister; she is your father’s relative. 13You shall not uncover the nakedness of your mother’s sister, for she is your mother’s relative. 14You shall not uncover the nakedness of your father’s brother, that is, you
c “To uncover nakedness” is used here as a euphemism for sexual intercourse. 42
shall not approach his wife; she is your aunt. 15 You shall not uncover the nakedness of your daughter-in-law; she is your son’s wife, you shall not uncover her nakedness. 16 You shall not uncover the nakedness of your brother’s wife; it is your brother’s nakedness. 17You shall not uncover the nakedness of a woman and of her daughter, and you shall not take her son’s daughter or her daughter’s daughter to uncover her nakedness; they are relatives; it is depravity. 18And you shall not take a woman as a rival wife to her sister, uncovering her nakedness while her sister is still alive.
19 “You shall not approach a woman to uncover her nakedness while she is in her menstrual uncleanness. 20 And you shall not lie sexually with your neighbor’s wife and so make yourself unclean with her. 21You shall not give any of your children to offer them to Molech,d and so profane the name of your God: I am the LORD. 22 You shall not lie with a male as with a woman; it is an abomination. 23 And you shall not lie with any animal and so make yourself unclean with it, neither shall any woman give herself to an animal to lie with it: it is perversion.
24 “Do not make yourselves unclean by any of these things, for by all these the nations I am driving out before you have become unclean, 25and the land became unclean, so that I punished its iniquity, and the land vomited out its inhabitants. 26But you shall keep my statutes and my rules and do none of these abominations, either the native or the stranger who sojourns among you 27(for the people of the land, who were before you, did all of these abominations, so that the land became unclean), 28lest the land vomit you out when you make it unclean, as it vomited out the nation that was before you. 29For everyone who does any of these abominations, the persons who do them shall be cut off from among their people. 30 So keep my charge never to practice any of these abominable customs that were practiced before you, and never to make yourselves unclean by them: I am the LORD your God.”
The Book of Deuteronomy
Deuteronomy concludes the Torah and largely consists of the speeches of Moses to the Hebrews about how they should behave and live in Canaan. The text also retells parts of the previous books and at times expands in detail upon laws mentioned quickly elsewhere. Deuteronomy is widely thought to have been composed in the 7th century BCE, but again parts of it probably originate from much older texts.
13″If any man takes a wife and goes in to her and then hates her 14and accuses her of misconduct and brings a bad name upon her, saying, ‘I took this woman, and when I came near her, I did not find in her evidence of virginity,’ 15then the father of the young woman and her mother shall take and bring out the evidence of her virginity to the elders of the city in the gate. 16And the father of the young woman shall say to the elders, ‘I gave my daughter to this man to marry, and he hates her; 17and behold, he has accused her of misconduct, saying, “I did not find in your daughter evidence of virginity.” And yet this is the evidence of my daughter’s virginity.’ And they shall spread the cloak before the elders of the city. 18Then the elders of that city shall take the man and
d For human sacrifice.
whip him, 19and they shall fine him a hundred shekels of silver [about 40 oz.] and give them to the father of the young woman, because he has brought a bad name upon a virgin of Israel. And she shall be his wife. He may not divorce her all his days. 20But if the thing is true, that evidence of virginity was not found in the young woman, 21then they shall bring out the young woman to the door of her father’s house, and the men of her city shall stone her to death with stones, because she has done an outrageous thing in Israel by whoring in her father’s house. So you shall purge the evil from your midst.
22 “If a man is found lying with the wife of another man, both of them shall die, the man who lay with the woman, and the woman. So you shall purge the evil from Israel.
23″If there is a betrothed virgin, and a man meets her in the city and lies with her, 24then you shall bring them both out to the gate of that city, and you shall stone them to death with stones, the young woman because she did not cry for help though she was in the city, and the man because he violated his neighbor’s wife. So you shall purge the evil from your midst.
25″But if in the open country a man meets a young woman who is betrothed, and the man seizes her and lies with her, then only the man who lay with her shall die. 26But you shall do nothing to the young woman; she has committed no offense punishable by death. For this case is like that of a man attacking and murdering his neighbor, 27because he met her in the open country, and though the betrothed young woman cried for help there was no one to rescue her.
28 “If a man meets a virgin who is not betrothed, and seizes her and lies with her, and they are found, 29then the man who lay with her shall give to the father of the young woman fifty shekels of silver, and she shall be his wife, because he has violated her. He may not divorce her all his days…
17″None of the daughters of Israel shall be a cult prostitute, and none of the sons of Israel shall be a cult prostitute. 18You shall not bring the fee of a prostitute or the wages of a dog [or male prostitute] into the house of the LORD your God in payment for any vow, for both of these are an abomination to the LORD your God.
19 “You shall not charge interest on loans to your brother, interest on money, interest on food, interest on anything that is lent for interest. 20 You may charge a foreigner interest, but you may not charge your brother interest, that the LORD your God may bless you in all that you undertake in the land that you are entering to take possession of it…
The First Book of Kings
The Books of Kings continue the events from the books of Samuel, together creating a narrative account of the period from the Judges to the Exile (11th to 6th centuries BCE). In their current form the books were collected from earlier written sources (“The Book of the Acts of Solomon,” “the Book of the Chronicles of the Kings of Israel,” “the Book of the Chronicles of the Kings of Judah” and others are mentioned by name—possibly even archival sources were used) during the period after the defeat of the kingdom of Israel (certainly after 609 BCE) and then edited further around 550 BCE, after the fall of Judah and the destruction of the Temple.
1 Kings 3
Solomon Asks for Wisdom
1 Solomon made an alliance with Pharaoh king of Egypt and married his daughter. He brought her to the City of David until he finished building his palace and the temple of the LORD, and the wall around Jerusalem. 2 The people, however, were still sacrificing at the high places, because a temple had not yet been built for the Name of the LORD. 3 Solomon showed his love for the LORD by walking according to the statutes of his father David, except that he offered sacrifices and burned incense on the high places. 4 The king went to Gibeon to offer sacrifices, for that was the most important high place, and Solomon offered a thousand burnt offerings on that altar. 5 At Gibeon the LORD appeared to Solomon during the night in a dream, and God said, “Ask for whatever you want me to give you.” 6 Solomon answered, “You have shown great kindness to your servant, my father David, because he was faithful to you and righteous and upright in heart. You have continued this great kindness to him and have given him a son to sit on his throne this very day. 7 “Now, O LORD my God, you have made your servant king in place of my father David. But I am only a little child and do not know how to carry out my duties. 8 Your servant is here among the people you have chosen, a great people, too numerous to count or number. 9 So give your servant a discerning heart to govern your people and to distinguish between right and wrong. For who is able to govern this great people of yours?” 10 The LORD was pleased that Solomon had asked for this. 11 So God said to him, “Since you have asked for this and not for long life or wealth for yourself, nor have asked for the death of your enemies but for discernment in administering justice, 12 I will do what you have asked. I will give you a wise and discerning heart, so that there will never have been anyone like you, nor will there ever be. 13 Moreover, I will give you what you have not asked for–both riches and honor–so that in your lifetime you will have no equal among kings. 14 And if you walk in my ways and obey my statutes and commands as David your father did, I will give you a long life.” 15 Then Solomon awoke–and he realized it had been a dream. He returned to Jerusalem, stood before the ark of the LORD’s covenant and sacrificed burnt offerings and fellowship offerings. Then he gave a feast for all his court.
A Wise Ruling
16 Now two prostitutes came to the king and stood before him. 17 One of them said, “My lord, this woman and I live in the same house. I had a baby while she was there with me. 18 The third day after my child was born, this woman also had a baby. We were alone; there was no one in the house but the two of us. 19 “During the night this woman’s son died because she lay on him.
20 So she got up in the middle of the night and took my son from my side while I your servant was asleep. She put him by her breast and put her dead son by my breast. 21 The next morning, I got up to nurse my son–and he was dead! But when I looked at him closely in the morning light, I saw that it wasn’t the son I had borne.” 22 The other woman said, “No! The living one is my son; the dead one is yours.” But the first one insisted, “No! The dead one is yours; the living one is mine.” And so they argued before the king. 23 The king said, “This one says, ‘My son is alive and your son is dead,’ while that one says, ‘No! Your son is dead and mine is alive.’ ” 24 Then the king said, “Bring me a sword.” So they brought a sword for the king. 25 He then gave an order: “Cut the living child in two and give half to one and half to the other.” 26 The woman whose son was alive was filled with compassion for her son and said to the king, “Please, my lord, give her the living baby! Don’t kill him!” But the other said, “Neither I nor you shall have him. Cut him in two!” 27 Then the king gave his ruling: “Give the living baby to the first woman. Do not kill him; she is his mother.” 28 When all Israel heard the verdict the king had given, they held the king in awe, because they saw that he had wisdom from God to administer justice…
1 Kings 4
20 The people of Judah and Israel were as numerous as the sand on the seashore; they ate, they drank and they were happy. 21 And Solomon ruled over all the kingdoms from the River to the land of the Philistines, as far as the border of Egypt. These countries brought tribute and were Solomon’s subjects all his life. 22 Solomon’s daily provisions were thirty cors of fine flour and sixty cors of meal, 23 ten head of stall-fed cattle, twenty of pasture-fed cattle and a hundred sheep and goats, as well as deer, gazelles, roebucks and choice fowl. 24 For he ruled over all the kingdoms west of the River, from Tiphsah to Gaza, and had peace on all sides. 25 During Solomon’s lifetime Judah and Israel, from Dan to Beersheba, lived in safety, each man under his own vine and fig tree. 26 Solomon had four thousand stalls for chariot horses, and twelve thousand horses. 27 The district officers, each in his month, supplied provisions for King Solomon and all who came to the king’s table. They saw to it that nothing was lacking. 28 They also brought to the proper place their quotas of barley and straw for the chariot horses and the other horses…
1 Kings 6 Solomon Builds the Temple
[1 Kings 6, 7 and the first half of 8 recount the building of Solomon’s Temple and palace over 13 years, the elaborate gold and silver furnishings of the Temple and the placing of the ark of the Covenant in it. At the time this work was composed the Temple had recently been destroyed by the Babylonians, so the vast amount of detail was also meant to preserve the memory of the Temple’s grandeur.]
1 Kings 8
Solomon’s Prayer of Dedication
22 Then Solomon stood before the altar of the LORD in front of the whole assembly of Israel, spread out his hands toward heaven 23 and said: “O LORD, God of Israel, there is no God like you in heaven above or on earth below–you who keep your covenant of love with your servants who continue wholeheartedly in your way. 24 You have kept your promise to your servant David
my father; with your mouth you have promised and with your hand you have fulfilled it–as it is today. 25 “Now LORD, God of Israel, keep for your servant David my father the promises you made to him when you said, ‘You shall never fail to have a man to sit before me on the throne of Israel, if only your sons are careful in all they do to walk before me as you have done.’ 26 And now, O God of Israel, let your word that you promised your servant David my father come true. 27 “But will God really dwell on earth? The heavens, even the highest heaven, cannot contain you. How much less this temple I have built! 28 Yet give attention to your servant’s prayer and his plea for mercy, O LORD my God. Hear the cry and the prayer that your servant is praying in your presence this day. 29 May your eyes be open toward this temple night and day, this place of which you said, ‘My Name shall be there,’ so that you will hear the prayer your servant prays toward this place. 30 Hear the supplication of your servant and of your people Israel when they pray toward this place. Hear from heaven, your dwelling place, and when you hear, forgive. 31 “When a man wrongs his neighbor and is required to take an oath and he comes and swears the oath before your altar in this temple, 32 then hear from heaven and act. Judge between your servants, condemning the guilty and bringing down on his own head what he has done. Declare the innocent not guilty, and so establish his innocence. 33 “When your people Israel have been defeated by an enemy because they have sinned against you, and when they turn back to you and confess your name, praying and making supplication to you in this temple, 34 then hear from heaven and forgive the sin of your people Israel and bring them back to the land you gave to their fathers. 35 “When the heavens are shut up and there is no rain because your people have sinned against you, and when they pray toward this place and confess your name and turn from their sin because you have afflicted them, 36 then hear from heaven and forgive the sin of your servants, your people Israel. Teach them the right way to live, and send rain on the land you gave your people for an inheritance. 37 “When famine or plague comes to the land, or blight or mildew, locusts or grasshoppers, or when an enemy besieges them in any of their cities, whatever disaster or disease may come, 38 and when a prayer or plea is made by any of your people Israel- -each one aware of the afflictions of his own heart, and spreading out his hands toward this temple– 39 then hear from heaven, your dwelling place. Forgive and act; deal with each man according to all he does, since you know his heart (for you alone know the hearts of all men), 40 so that they will fear you all the time they live in the land you gave our fathers. 41 “As for the foreigner who does not belong to your people Israel but has come from a distant land because of your name– 42 for men will hear of your great name and your mighty hand and your outstretched arm–when he comes and prays toward this temple, 43 then hear from heaven, your dwelling place, and do whatever the foreigner asks of you, so that all the peoples of the earth may know your name and fear you, as do your own people Israel, and may know that this house I have built bears your Name. 44 “When your people go to war against their enemies, wherever you send them, and when they pray to the LORD toward the city you have chosen and the temple I have built for your Name, 45 then hear from heaven their prayer and their plea, and uphold their cause. 46 “When they sin against you–for there is no one who does not sin–and you become angry with them and give them over to the enemy, who takes them captive to his own land, far away or near; 47 and if they have a change of heart in the land where they are held captive, and repent and plead with you in the land of their conquerors and say, ‘We have sinned, we have done wrong, we have acted wickedly’; 48 and if they turn back to you with all their heart and soul in the land of their enemies who took them captive, and pray to you toward the land you gave their fathers, toward the city you have chosen and the temple I have built for your Name; 49 then from heaven, your dwelling place, hear their prayer and their plea, and uphold
their cause. 50 And forgive your people, who have sinned against you; forgive all the offenses they have committed against you, and cause their conquerors to show them mercy; 51 for they are your people and your inheritance, whom you brought out of Egypt, out of that iron-smelting furnace. 52 “May your eyes be open to your servant’s plea and to the plea of your people Israel, and may you listen to them whenever they cry out to you. 53 For you singled them out from all the nations of the world to be your own inheritance, just as you declared through your servant Moses when you, O Sovereign LORD, brought our fathers out of Egypt.” 54 When Solomon had finished all these prayers and supplications to the LORD, he rose from before the altar of the LORD, where he had been kneeling with his hands spread out toward heaven. 55 He stood and blessed the whole assembly of Israel in a loud voice, saying: 56 “Praise be to the LORD, who has given rest to his people Israel just as he promised. Not one word has failed of all the good promises he gave through his servant Moses. 57 May the LORD our God be with us as he was with our fathers; may he never leave us nor forsake us. 58 May he turn our hearts to him, to walk in all his ways and to keep the commands, decrees and regulations he gave our fathers. 59 And may these words of mine, which I have prayed before the LORD, be near to the LORD our God day and night, that he may uphold the cause of his servant and the cause of his people Israel according to each day’s need, 60 so that all the peoples of the earth may know that the LORD is God and that there is no other. 61 But your hearts must be fully committed to the LORD our God, to live by his decrees and obey his commands, as at this time.”
1 Kings 9: The LORD Appears to Solomon
1 When Solomon had finished building the temple of the LORD and the royal palace, and had achieved all he had desired to do, 2 the LORD appeared to him a second time, as he had appeared to him at Gibeon. 3 The LORD said to him: “I have heard the prayer and plea you have made before me; I have consecrated this temple, which you have built, by putting my Name there forever. My eyes and my heart will always be there. 4 “As for you, if you walk before me in integrity of heart and uprightness, as David your father did, and do all I command and observe my decrees and laws, 5 I will establish your royal throne over Israel forever, as I promised David your father when I said, ‘You shall never fail to have a man on the throne of Israel.’ 6 “But if you or your sons turn away from me and do not observe the commands and decrees I have given you and go off to serve other gods and worship them, 7 then I will cut off Israel from the land I have given them and will reject this temple I have consecrated for my Name. Israel will then become a byword and an object of ridicule among all peoples. 8 And though this temple is now imposing, all who pass by will be appalled and will scoff and say, ‘Why has the LORD done such a thing to this land and to this temple?’ 9 People will answer, ‘Because they have forsaken the LORD their God, who brought their fathers out of Egypt, and have embraced other gods, worshiping and serving them–that is why the LORD brought all this disaster on them.’ ”
1 Kings 11: Solomon’s Wives
1 King Solomon, however, loved many foreign women besides Pharaoh’s daughter–Moabites, Ammonites, Edomites, Sidonians and Hittites. 2 They were from nations about which the LORD had told the Israelites, “You must not intermarry with them, because they will surely turn your hearts after their gods.” Nevertheless, Solomon held fast to them in love. 3 He had seven hundred wives of royal birth and three hundred concubines, and his wives led him astray. 4 As Solomon grew old, his wives turned his heart after other gods, and his heart was not fully devoted to the LORD his God, as the heart of David his father had been. 5 He followed Ashtoreth the goddess
of the Sidonians, and Molech the detestable god of the Ammonites. 6 So Solomon did evil in the eyes of the LORD; he did not follow the LORD completely, as David his father had done. 7 On a hill east of Jerusalem, Solomon built a high place for Chemosh the detestable god of Moab, and for Molech the detestable god of the Ammonites. 8 He did the same for all his foreign wives, who burned incense and offered sacrifices to their gods. 9 The LORD became angry with Solomon because his heart had turned away from the LORD, the God of Israel, who had appeared to him twice. 10 Although he had forbidden Solomon to follow other gods, Solomon did not keep the LORD’s command. 11 So the LORD said to Solomon, “Since this is your attitude and you have not kept my covenant and my decrees, which I commanded you, I will most certainly tear the kingdom away from you and give it to one of your subordinates. 12 Nevertheless, for the sake of David your father, I will not do it during your lifetime. I will tear it out of the hand of your son. 13 Yet I will not tear the whole kingdom from him, but will give him one tribe for the sake of David my servant and for the sake of Jerusalem, which I have chosen.”
14 Then the LORD raised up against Solomon an adversary, Hadad the Edomite, from the royal line of Edom. 15 Earlier when David was fighting with Edom, Joab the commander of the army, who had gone up to bury the dead, had struck down all the men in Edom. 16 Joab and all the Israelites stayed there for six months, until they had destroyed all the men in Edom. 17 But Hadad, still only a boy, fled to Egypt with some Edomite officials who had served his father. 18 They set out from Midian and went to Paran. Then taking men from Paran with them, they went to Egypt, to Pharaoh king of Egypt, who gave Hadad a house and land and provided him with food. 19 Pharaoh was so pleased with Hadad that he gave him a sister of his own wife, Queen Tahpenes, in marriage. 20 The sister of Tahpenes bore him a son named Genubath, whom Tahpenes brought up in the royal palace. There Genubath lived with Pharaoh’s own children. 21 While he was in Egypt, Hadad heard that David rested with his fathers and that Joab the commander of the army was also dead. Then Hadad said to Pharaoh, “Let me go, that I may return to my own country.” 22 “What have you lacked here that you want to go back to your own country?” Pharaoh asked. “Nothing,” Hadad replied, “but do let me go!” 23 And God raised up against Solomon another adversary, Rezon son of Eliada, who had fled from his master, Hadadezer king of Zobah. 24 He gathered men around him and became the leader of a band of rebels when David destroyed the forces [of Zobah]; the rebels went to Damascus, where they settled and took control. 25 Rezon was Israel’s adversary as long as Solomon lived, adding to the trouble caused by Hadad. So Rezon ruled in Aram and was hostile toward Israel. 26 Also, Jeroboam son of Nebat rebelled against the king. He was one of Solomon’s officials, an Ephraimite from Zeredah, and his mother was a widow named Zeruah.
Xenophon, Constitution of the Lacedaemonians1
Xenophon, though he was an Athenian, spent many years of his adult life in Sparta. Considering how little writing survives from the Spartans [the Lacedaemonians], his view of Spartan life and education is extremely valuable.
I recall the astonishment with which I first noted the unique position of Sparta amongst the states of Hellas [Greece], the relatively sparse population, and at the same time the extraordinary power and prestige of the community. I was puzzled to account for the fact. It was only when I came to consider the peculiar institutions of the Spartans that my wonderment ceased. Or rather, it is transferred to the legislator who gave them those laws, obedience to which has been the secret of their prosperity. This legislator, Lycurgus, I must admire and hold him to have been one of the wisest of mankind. Certainly he was no servile imitator of other states. It was by a stroke of invention rather, and on a pattern much in opposition to the commonly-accepted one, that he brought his fatherland to this pinnacle of prosperity.
Take for example—and it is well to begin at the beginning—the whole topic of the begetting and rearing of children. Throughout the rest of the world the young girl, who will one day become a mother (and I speak of those who may be held to be well brought up), is nurtured on the plainest food attainable, with the scantiest addition of meat or other condiments and as to wine they train them either to total abstinence or to take it highly diluted with water. And in imitation, as it were, of the handicraft type, since the majority of artificers are sedentary, we, the rest of the Hellenes, are content that our girls should sit quietly and work wools. That is all we demand of them. But how are we to expect that women nurtured in this fashion should produce a splendid offspring?
Lycurgus pursued a different path. Clothes were things, he held, the furnishing of which might well enough be left to female slaves. And, believing that the highest function of a free woman was the bearing of children, in the first place he insisted on the training of the body as incumbent no less on the female than the male; and in pursuit of the same idea instituted rival contests in running and feats of strength for women as for men. His belief was that where both parents were strong their progeny would be found to be more vigorous.
And so again after marriage. In view of the fact that immoderate intercourse is elsewhere permitted during the earlier period of matrimony, he adopted a principle directly opposite. He laid it down as an ordinance that a man should be ashamed to be seen visiting the chamber of his wife, whether going in or coming out. When they did meet under such restraint the mutual longing of these lovers could not but be increased, and the offspring from such intercourse would tend to be more robust than if the couple were tired of each other. By a farther step in the same direction he refused to allow marriages to be contracted at any period of life according to the fancy of the parties concerned. Marriage, as he ordained it, must only take place in the prime of bodily vigor, this too being, as he believed, a condition conducive to the production of healthy offspring. Or again, to meet the case which might occur of an old man wedded to a young wife.
1 Source: Xenophon, The Polity of the Athenians and the Lacedaemonians, trans. H. G. Dakyns. Full text available at http://www.gutenberg.org/files/1178/1178-h/1178-h.htm
Considering the jealous watch which such husbands are apt to keep over their wives, he introduced a directly opposite custom; that is to say, he made it incumbent on the aged husband to introduce someone whose qualities, physical and moral, he admired, to play the husband’s part and to beget him children. Or again, in the case of a man who might not desire to live with a wife permanently, but yet might still be anxious to have children of his own worthy the name, the lawgiver laid down a law in his behalf. Such a one might select some woman, the wife of some man, well born herself and blessed with fair offspring, and, the sanction and consent of her husband first obtained, raise up children for himself through her.
These and many other adaptations of a like sort the lawgiver sanctioned. As, for instance, at Sparta a wife will not object to bear the burden of two households, or a husband to adopt sons as foster-brothers of his own children, with a full share in his family and position, but possessing no claim to his wealth and property.
So opposed to those of the rest of the world are the principles which Lycurgus devised in reference to the production of children. Whether they enabled him to provide Sparta with a race of men superior to all in size and strength I leave to the judgment of whomsoever it may concern.
Plutarch, Life of Lycurgus1
Plutarch, a Greek writing in the Roman Empire around 100 CE, wrote a series of parallel Lives. These were biographies of the great men of Classical Greece (already centuries in the past for him) to “recent” great Romans. The section below deals with a similar subject as the Xenophon selection above. In this case, Plutarch is exploring what made Lycurgus, the traditional founder and law-giver of Sparta, great. Plutarch, despite living 500 years after Sparta’s decline, is an important source since he relied on several histories now lost that were written during the Spartans’ heyday.
Selections from Books 14, 15 and 16
(14.1) In the matter of education, which he regarded as the greatest and noblest task of the lawgiver, he began at the very source, by carefully regulating marriages and births. For it is not true that, as Aristotle says, he tried to bring the women under proper restraint, but gave up because he could not overcome the great license and power which the women enjoyed on account of the many military expeditions in which their husbands were engaged. During these the men were indeed obliged to leave their wives in sole control at home, and for this reason paid them greater deference than was their due, and gave them the title of Mistress. But even to the women Lycurgus paid all possible attention.
(14.2) He made the maidens exercise their bodies in running, wrestling, casting the discus, and hurling the javelin, in order that the fruit of their wombs might have vigorous root in vigorous bodies and come to better maturity, and that they themselves might live long lives and struggle successfully and easily with the pangs of childbirth. He freed them from softness and delicacy and all effeminacy by accustoming the maidens no less than the youths to wear tunics only in processions, and at certain festivals to dance and sing when the young men were present as spectators.
(14.3) There they sometimes even mocked and railed good-naturedly at any young man who had misbehaved himself. They would likewise sing the praises of those who had shown themselves worthy, and so inspire the young men with great ambition and ardor. For he who was thus extolled for his valor and held in honor among the maidens, went away exalted by their praises; while the sting of their playful raillery was no less sharp than that of serious admonitions, especially as the kings and senators, together with the rest of the citizens, were all present at the spectacle.
(14.4) Nor was there anything disgraceful in this scant clothing of the maidens, for modesty attended them, and wantonness was banished; nay, rather, it produced in them habits of simplicity and an ardent desire for health and beauty of body. It gave also to woman-kind a taste of lofty sentiment, for they felt that they too had a place in the arena of bravery and ambition. Wherefore they were led to think and speak as Gorgo, the wife of Leonidas, is said to have done. When some foreign woman, as it would seem, said to her: “You Spartan women are the only ones who rule their men,” she answered: “Yes, we are the only ones that give birth to men.”
1 Source: Plutarch, The Parallel Lives (Loeb translation of 1914). Full text available at http://penelope.uchicago.edu/Thayer/E/Roman/Texts/Plutarch/Lives/Lycurgus*.html.
(15.1) Moreover, there were incentives to marriage in these things, — I mean such things as the appearance of the maidens without much clothing in processions and athletic contests where young men were looking on, for these were drawn on by necessity, “not geometrical, but the sort of necessity which lovers know,” as Plato says. Nor was this all; Lycurgus also put a kind of public stigma upon confirmed bachelors. They were excluded from the sight of the young men and maidens at their exercises, and in winter the magistrates ordered them to march round the market-place in their tunics only.
(15.3) For their marriages the women were carried off by force, not when they were small and unfit for wedlock, but when they were in their prime. After the woman was thus carried off, the bride’s-maid, so called, took her in charge, cut her hair off close to the head, put a man’s cloak and sandals on her, and laid her down on a pallet, on the floor, alone, in the dark. Then the groom, not flown with wine nor enfeebled by excesses, but composed and sober, after eating with his barracks-mates at the mess hall as usual, slipped stealthily into the room where the bride lay and “removed her belt.”2
(15.4) Then, after spending a short time with his bride, he went away composedly to his usual quarters, there to sleep with the other young men. And so he continued to do from that time on, spending his days with his comrades, and sleeping with them at night, but visiting his bride by stealth and with every precaution, full of dread and fear lest any of her household should be aware of his visits, his bride also contriving and conspiring with him that they might have stolen interviews as occasion offered.
(15.5) And this they did not for a short time only, but long enough for some of them to become fathers before they had looked upon their own wives by daylight. Such interviews not only brought into exercise self-restraint and moderation, but united husbands and wives when their bodies were full of creative energy and their affections new and fresh, not when they were satisfied and worn out by continual intercourse. And there was always left behind in their hearts some residual spark of longing and delight.
(16.1) Offspring was not reared at the will of the father, but was taken and carried by him to a place called Lesche,3 where the elders of the tribes officially examined the infant, and if it was well-built and sturdy, they ordered the father to rear it, and assigned it one of the nine thousand lots of land; but if it was ill-born and deformed, they sent it to the so-called Apothetae, a chasm- like place at the foot of Mount Taygetus, (16.2) on the grounds that it was not profitable for it to live, either for itself or the state, if it was not healthy and strong from the start. On the same principle, the women used to bathe their new-born babes not with water, but with wine, thus making a sort of test of their constitutions. For it is said that epileptic and sickly infants are thrown into convulsions by the strong wine and lose their senses, while the healthy ones are rather tempered by it, like steel, and given a firm habit of body.
2 Removing a woman’s belt was a Greek euphemism for sexual intercourse that went back at least as far as Homer. 3 A public meeting-hall, probably the tribe’s headquarters.
(16.3) Their nurses, too, exercised great care and skill; they reared infants without swaddling- bands, and thus left their limbs and figures free to develop; besides, they taught them to be contented and happy, not dainty about their food, nor fearful of the dark, nor afraid to be left alone, nor given to contemptible peevishness and whimpering. This is the reason why foreigners sometimes brought Spartan nurses for their children. Amycla, for instance, the nurse of the Athenian Alcibiades, is said to have been a Spartan.
(16.6) Of reading and writing, they learned only enough to serve their turn; all the rest of their training was calculated to make them obey commands well, endure hardships, and conquer in battle. Therefore, as they grew in age, their bodily exercise was increased; their heads were close-clipped, and they were accustomed to going bare-foot, and to playing for the most part without clothes. When they were twelve years old, they no longer had tunics to wear, received one cloak a year, had hard, dry flesh, and knew little of baths and ointments; only on certain days of the year, and few at that, did they indulge in such amenities.
Xenophon, Selection from Oikonomikos1
Xeonphon was an Athenian historian, soldier and philosopher who grew up in Athens at the end its golden age (though he spent a great number of his later years in Sparta). His Oikonomikos was an examination of the best methods of household management (the original meaning of economics). It is written as a dialogue discussing issues of farming, slaves, education, household religion, children, and marriage. In this brief excerpt below, the character of Socrates relates what a good upstanding farmer named Ischomachus told him about marriage and the ideal wife. Whether or not Xenophon meant this description to be old-fashioned and out-dated in his own time or not is debated by scholars, but whether he did or not, it illustrates a traditional view of an Athenian wife.
“She was not yet fifteen years old when she came to me, and up to that time she had lived under careful supervision, seeing, hearing and saying as little as possible. If when she came she knew no more than how, when given wool, to turn out a cloak, and had seen only how the spinning is given out to the maids, is not that as much as could be expected? But in control of her appetite, Socrates, she had been excellently trained, as is basic for both men’s and women’s education.”
“Tell me, what did you teach her first?” said Socrates.
“Well, Socrates, as soon as I found her docile and sufficiently domesticated to carry on conversation, I asked her: ‘Tell me, dear, have you realized why I took you and why your parents gave you to me? For it is obvious to you, I am sure, that we should have had no difficulty in finding someone else to share our beds. But I, for myself, and your parents, for you, considered who would be the best partner to make a good home and children. My choice fell on you, and your parents, it appears, chose me as the best they could find. Now if god grants us children, we will then think out how we shall best train them. For one of the blessings in which we shall share is the acquisition of the very best of allies and the very best of support in old age; but at present we share only in this our home. For I am paying into the common stock all that I have, and you have put in all that you brought with you. And we are not to reckon up which of us has actually contributed the greater amount, but we should know of a surety that the one who proves the better partner makes the more valuable contribution.’”
“My wife answered ‘But how can I help? What am I capable of doing? It is on you that everything depends. My duty, my mother said, was to be well-behaved.’”
“‘Oh by Zeus,’ I replied, ‘my father said the same thing to me. But the best behavior in a man and woman is that which will keep up their property and increase it as far as may be done honestly and legally.’”
1 From: William Stearns Davis, ed., Readings in Ancient History: Illustrative Extracts from the Sources, 2 Vols., (Boston: Allyn and Bacon, 1912-1913), I: 265-271. Available online at http://www.fordham.edu/HALSALL/ancient/xenophon-genderroles.html
“‘And do you see a way I can help in this?’ she asked.”
“God from the first adapted the woman’s nature, I think, to the indoor and man’s to the outdoor tasks and cares. For he made the man’s body and mind more capable of enduring cold and heat, and journeys and campaigns; and therefore imposed on him the outdoor tasks. To the woman, since he has made her body less capable of such endurance, I take it that God has assigned the indoor tasks. And knowing that he had created in the woman and had imposed on her the nourishment of the infants, he meted out to her a larger portion of affection for new-born babes than to the man. And since he imposed on the woman the protection of the stores also, knowing that for protection a fearful disposition is no disadvantage, God meted out a larger share of fear to the woman than to the man; and knowing that he who deals with the outdoor tasks will have to be their defender against any wrong-doer, he meted out to him again a larger share of courage. But because both must give and take, he granted to both impartially memory and attention; and so you could not distinguish whether the male or the female sex has the larger share of these. Thus, to be woman it is more honorable to stay indoors than to abide in the fields, but to the man it is unseemly rather to stay indoors than to attend to the work outside. Thus your duty will be to remain indoors and send out those servants and slaves whose work is outside, and superintend those who are to work indoors, and watch over so much as is to be kept in store, and take care that the budget laid by for a year be not spent in a month. And when wool is brought to you, you must see that cloaks are made for those that want them. You must see too that the dry corn is in good condition for making food…Many of your duties will give you pleasure. For instance if you teach a slave spinning and weaving, you double her usefulness to you.’ Then I took her around the house…I showed her the women’s quarters, which are separated from the men’s by a bolted door to prevent anything from being improperly removed and also to ensure that slaves do not have children without permission. For good slaves, once they have a family are usually even more devoted; but good-for-nothings, once they begin to cohabitate, have extra chances for mischief.”
Thucydides, “Pericles’ Funeral Oration” from the Peloponnesian War (Book 2.34-46)1
Thucydides (ca.460-399 BCE) was an Athenian General who was exiled from Athens early in the Peloponnesian War (against Sparta) because of his failure to relieve an important port before it surrendered. Whether he did anything wrong or simply ended up as the scapegoat for the loss is impossible to know. He used his exile, however, to write an account of the war as seen from both sides. He was the first writer to attempt a history that removed the gods as causes and focused on the consequences of human decisions and behavior. Being an exile let him travel freely through Spartan (Lacedaemonian) cities and his Athenian connections kept him appraised of events there, so he is generally held to be quite reliable. Like all ancient writers, the speeches put into his subjects’ mouths are not word-for-word transcriptions but either approximations or in many cases a summary of one side’s position rather than a recorded speech. The section given below is the speech given by the Athenian leader Pericles in the cemetery over the Athenian casualties after the first year of the Peloponnesian war.
In the same winter the Athenians gave a funeral at the public cost to those who had first fallen in this war. It was a custom of their ancestors, and the manner of it is as follows. Three days before the ceremony, the bones of the dead are laid out in a tent which has been erected and their friends bring to their relatives such offerings as they please. In the funeral procession cypress coffins are carried in wagons, one coffin for each tribe and the bones of the deceased being placed in the coffin of their tribe. Among these is carried one empty bier decked for the missing, that is, for those whose bodies could not be recovered. Any citizen or foreigner who pleases, joins in the procession and the female relatives are there to wail at the burial. The dead are laid in the public cemetery in the beautiful suburb of the city, in which those who fall in war are always buried; with the exception of those slain at Marathon,2 who for their singular and extraordinary valor were interred on the spot where they fell. After the bodies have been laid in the earth, a man chosen by the state, of approved wisdom and eminent reputation, pronounces over them an appropriate panegyric. Such is the manner of the burying; and throughout the whole of the war, whenever the occasion arose, the established custom was observed. Meanwhile these were the first that had fallen, and Pericles, son of Xanthippus, was chosen to pronounce their eulogium. When the proper time arrived, he advanced from the cemetery to an elevated platform in order to be heard by as many of the crowd as possible, and spoke as follows:
“Most of my predecessors in this place have commended the institution of this speech, telling us that it is an honor for those who fall in battle. For myself, I should have thought that the worth which had displayed itself in deeds would be sufficiently rewarded by honors also shown by deeds; such as you now see in this funeral prepared at the people’s cost. And I could have wished that the reputations of many brave men were not to be imperiled in the mouth of a single individual, to stand or fall according as he spoke well or ill. For it is hard to speak properly upon a subject where it is even difficult to convince your hearers that you are speaking the truth. On
1 Available at http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/ancient/pericles-funeralspeech.html. Text modernized here. 2Marathon was when a largely Athenian force defeated a much larger Persian force in 490 BCE, ending the first Persian invasion of Greece. The soldiers then ran approximately 26 miles back to Athens to protect it from the Persian navy.
the one hand, the friend who is familiar with every fact of the story may think that some point has not been set forth with that fullness which he wishes and knows it to deserve; on the other, he who is a stranger to the matter may be led by envy to suspect exaggeration if he hears anything above his own nature. For men can endure to hear others praised only so long as they can persuade themselves of their own ability to equal the actions recounted. When this point is passed, envy comes in and with it incredulity. However, since our ancestors have stamped this custom with their approval, it becomes my duty to obey the law and to try to satisfy your many wishes and opinions as best I may.
“I shall begin with our ancestors: it is both just and proper that they should have the honor of the first mention on an occasion like the present. They dwelt in the country without break in the succession from generation to generation, and handed it down free to the present time by their valor. And if our more remote ancestors deserve praise, much more do our own fathers, who added to their inheritance the empire which we now possess, and spared no pains to be able to leave their acquisitions to us of the present generation. Lastly, there are few parts of our dominions that have not been augmented by those of us here, who are still more or less in the vigor of life. The mother country has been furnished by us with everything that can enable her to depend on her own resources, whether for war or for peace. That part of our history which tells of the military achievements which gave us our several possessions, or of the ready valor with which either we or our fathers stemmed the tide of Hellenic [Greek] or foreign aggression, is a theme too familiar to my hearers for me to enlarge upon, and I shall therefore pass it by. But what was the road by which we reached our position, what the form of government under which our greatness grew, what the national habits out of which it sprang; these are questions which I may try to solve before I proceed to my panegyric upon these men, since I think this to be a subject upon which on the present occasion a speaker may properly dwell, and to which the whole assemblage, whether citizens or foreigners, may listen with advantage.
“Our constitution does not copy the laws of neighboring states; we are rather a pattern for others to copy than imitators ourselves. Our administration favors the many instead of the few; this is why it is called a democracy. If we look to the laws, they afford equal justice to all in their private differences; class considerations are not allowed to interfere with merit, so social advancement in public life falls to reputation for capacity; nor again does poverty bar the way, if a man is able to serve the state, he is not hindered by the obscurity of his condition. The freedom which we enjoy in our government extends also to our ordinary life. There, far from exercising a jealous surveillance over each other, we do not feel called upon to be angry with our neighbor for doing what he likes, or even to indulge in those injurious looks which still hurt people’s feelings, even if they do no real damage. But all this ease in our private relations does not make us lawless as citizens. Against this respect for the law is our chief safeguard, teaching us to obey the magistrates and the laws, particularly such as regard the protection of the injured, whether they are actually on the statute book, or belong to that code which, although unwritten, yet cannot be broken without acknowledged disgrace.
“Further, we provide plenty of means for the mind to refresh itself from business. We celebrate games and sacrifices all the year round, and the elegance of our private homes forms a daily source of pleasure and helps to banish our cares. Meanwhile the greatness of our city draws the
produce of the world into our harbor, so that to the Athenian the fruits of other countries are as familiar a luxury as those of his own.
“If we turn to our military policy, there also we differ from our enemies. We throw open our city to the world, and never by alien acts exclude foreigners from any opportunity of learning or observing, although the eyes of an enemy may occasionally profit by our liberality. This is because we trust not in some secret policy or weapon, but in the native spirit of our citizens. And in education, where our rivals seek after manliness from their very cradles by a painful discipline, at Athens we live exactly as we please, and yet are just as ready to encounter every legitimate danger. In proof of this it may be noticed that the Lacedaemonians [Spartans] do not invade our country alone, but bring with them all their allies; while we Athenians advance unsupported into the territory of a neighbor and, fighting upon a foreign soil, usually vanquish with ease men who are defending their homes. Our united force was never yet encountered by any enemy, because we have at once to attend to our navy and to dispatch our citizens by land upon a hundred different services. Whenever they engage with some such fraction of our strength, a success against a detachment is magnified into a victory over the nation, and a defeat into a reverse suffered at the hands of our entire people. There are advantages in meeting danger voluntarily out of courage instead of by hard training; we have the double advantage of escaping the experience of endless training in preparation for war and of facing danger in the hour of need as fearlessly as those who are never free from training.
“Nor are these the only points in which our city is worthy of admiration. We cultivate refinement without extravagance and knowledge without effeminacy. Wealth we employ more for use than for show, and place the real disgrace of poverty not in being poor but in declining the struggle to escape from it. Our public men have, besides politics, their private affairs to attend to, and our ordinary citizens, though occupied with the pursuits of business, are still fair judges of public matters; for, unlike any other nation, we regard a man who minds only his own business as having no business in the state. Instead of looking on discussion as a stumbling-block in the way of action, we think it an indispensable preliminary to any wise action at all. Again, in our enterprises we present the singular spectacle of daring and deliberation, each carried to its highest point, and both united in the same persons. The palm of courage will surely be granted most justly to those who best know the difference between hardship and pleasure and yet are never tempted to shrink from danger. In generosity we are equally singular, acquiring our friends by conferring favors, not by receiving them…And it is only the Athenians, who, fearless of consequences, confer their benefits not from calculations of expediency, but in the confidence of liberality.
“In short, I say that as a city we are the school of Hellas [Greece]. I doubt if the world can produce a man who on his own is equal to so many emergencies and graced by so happy a versatility as the Athenian. And that this is no mere boast thrown out for this occasion, but plain matter of fact, is proved by the power of the state built by such men. For Athens alone of her contemporaries is found when tested to be greater than her reputation. Athens alone gives no occasion to her assailants to blush at the opponent who beat them. Athens alone gives no occasion to the cities of her empire to question her title by merit to rule. Rather, the admiration of the present and future will be ours, since we have not left our power without witness, but have shown it by mighty proofs. And far from needing a Homer to praise us or other authors whose
verses might charm for the moment, only for the impression to melt at the touch of fact, we have forced every sea and land to be the highway of our daring, and everywhere, whether for evil or for good, have left imperishable monuments behind us. Such is the Athens for which these men, in the assertion of their resolve not to lose her, nobly fought and died; and well may every one of their survivors be ready to suffer in her cause.
“Indeed if I have dwelt at some length upon the character of our country, it has been to show that our stake in the struggle is not the same as those who have no such blessings to lose, and also that the praise of the men over whom I am now speaking might be by definite proofs established. That panegyric is now in a great measure complete; for the Athens that I have celebrated is only what the heroism of these and their like have made her, men whose fame, unlike that of most Hellenes, will be found to be only commensurate with their deserts. And if a test of worth be wanted, it is to be found in their closing scene. Some of them had their faults, but it is their defense of country that should be remembered first. For there is truth in the claim that courage in his country’s battles should be as a cloak to cover a man’s other imperfections, since the good action has blotted out the bad and his merit as a citizen more than outweighed his demerits as an individual. But none of these men allowed either wealth with its prospect of future enjoyment to unnerve his spirit, or poverty with its hope of a day of freedom and riches to tempt him to shrink from danger. No, taking vengeance upon their enemies was more to be desired than any personal blessings and, reckoning this to be the most glorious of hazards, they joyfully determined to accept the risk, to make sure of their vengeance, and to let their own hopes wait. And while committing to hope the uncertainty of final success, in the business before them they thought fit to act boldly and trust in themselves. Thus choosing to die resisting, rather than to live submitting, they fled only from dishonor, but met danger face to face, and in one brief moment, the summit of their lives, in a culmination of glory, not of fear, were taken away from us.
“So died these men as was proper for Athenians. You, their survivors, must determine to have as unfaltering a resolution in the field, though you may pray that it may have a happier result… You must yourselves realize the power of Athens and feed your eyes upon her every day until love of her fills your hearts. Then, when all her greatness shall break upon you, you must reflect that it was by courage, sense of duty, and a keen feeling of honor in action that men were enabled to win all this…and they laid their lives at her feet as the most glorious contribution that they could offer. For this collective offering of their lives they each received that renown which never grows old. And for a tomb, not so much that in which their bones have been deposited, but that noblest of shrines wherein their glory is laid up to be eternally remembered upon every occasion on which deed or story shall call for its commemoration. For heroes have the whole earth for their tomb; and in lands far from their own, where the column with its epitaph declares it, there is enshrined in every breast a record unwritten with no tablet to preserve it, except that of the heart. Take these men as your model and, judging happiness to be the fruit of freedom and freedom of valor, never decline the dangers of war…
“Comfort, therefore, not condolence, is what I have to offer to the parents of the dead who may be here. Numberless are the chances to which, as they know, the life of man is subject. But fortunate indeed are they who draw for their lot a death so glorious as that which has caused your mourning, and to whom life has been so exactly measured as to terminate in the happiness in which it has been passed. Still I know that this is a hard saying, especially when you will
constantly be reminded by seeing in the homes of others blessings of which once you also boasted. Grief is felt not so much for the want of what we have never known, as for the loss of that to which we have been long accustomed. Yet you who are still of an age to beget children must bear up in the hope of having others in their stead. Not only will they help you to forget those whom you have lost, but will be to the state at once a reinforcement and a security; for never can a fair or just policy be expected of the citizen who does not, like his fellows, bring to the decision the interests and apprehensions of a father. While those of you who have passed your prime must congratulate yourselves with the thought that the best part of your life was fortunate, and that the brief span that remains will be cheered by the fame of the departed. For it is only the love of honor that never grows old; and honor it is, not gain, as some would have it, that cheers the heart of age and helplessness.
“Turning to the sons or brothers of the dead, I see an arduous struggle before you. When a man is gone, all are wont to praise him, and should your merit be ever so transcendent, you will still find it difficult not merely to overtake, but even to approach their renown. The living have envy to contend with, while those who are no longer in our path are honored with a goodwill into which rivalry does not enter. On the other hand, if I must say anything on the subject of female excellence to those of you who will now be in widowhood, it will be all comprised in this brief exhortation. Great will be your glory in not falling short of your natural character; and greatest will be hers who is least talked of among the men, whether for good or for bad.
“My task is now finished. I have performed it to the best of my ability, and in word, at least, the requirements of the law are now satisfied. If deeds be in question, those who are here interred have received part of their honors already, and for the rest, their children will be brought up till manhood at the public expense: the state thus offers a valuable prize, as the garland of victory in this race of valor, for the reward both of those who have fallen and their survivors. And where the rewards for merit are greatest, there are found the best citizens.
“And now that you have brought to a close your lamentations for your relatives, you may depart.”
Sophocles’ Antigone was first performed between 442 and 438 BCE as part of a tragedy competition in Athens (which was also a religious festival to Dionysus). The major characters are relatives of Oedipus and Jocasta (Oedipus’ wife and mother), who are featured in two other Sophocles plays (though they were not constructed as a trilogy). All notes about movement of the actors and setting are in italics. Many notes also refer to the realities of the Greek stage, since Sophocles was allowed only three actors and a chorus, who were assigned to him.
Scene and Time: The area before the royal house of Thebes at the break of day.
O common one of the same womb, head of Ismene, do you know of any suffering of those from Oedipus that Zeus is yet to fulfill for us two yet living? Nothing painful, nothing †without ruin†,3 no disgrace, no dishonor exists that I have not seen among your evils and mine. And now, what is this proclamation they say the general just laid down for the whole city? Do you know, have you heard, or are you unaware that
1 Sophocles, Antigone, translated by Wm. Blake Tyrrell and Larry J. Bennett (1996). Available at http://www.stoa.org/diotima/anthology/ant/. Permission is granted to distribute for classroom use, provided that Larry J. Bennett, Wm. Blake Tyrrell, and Diotima are identified in any such use.
2 The actors were dressed in ankle-length robes brightly colored with patterns, soft boots of leather reaching to the calf, and a mask. The mask, constructed by a craftsman from linen, portrayed with realistic features the face and head of a young woman. The audience may have surmised that one of them is Antigone, since they knew the title of the play.
3 The daggers indicate that Greek text is corrupt and cannot be reconstructed. Translation of daggered words is approximate.
evils worthy of enemies are marching down on loved ones?
No word of love, Antigone, sweet or painful, has come to me since we two were deprived of our two brothers, each dead on one day by the other’s hand. Since the Argive army left last night, I know nothing further whether I am fortunate or ruined more.
I thought as much. That is why I kept calling you outside the courtyard gates so you would be alone when you heard.
What is it? Clearly, you are deeply blue over some word.
Why not? A tomb4–has not Creon honored one of our two brothers with one and dishonored the other without one? Eteocles, as they say, †with just use of justice† and custom, he has hidden beneath the earth, honored among the dead below.5 But as for the corpse of Polyneices who perished wretchedly, they say that proclamation has been sent forth to the citizens that no one cover it with a tomb or bewail it, but let it lie unmourned, unentombed, a sweet treasury for birds looking upon it for meat. Such proclamations they say the good Creon has decreed for you and me–me I say. He is
4 Taphos (tomb) also designates “funeral rites,” “funeral feast,” and “the act of performing funeral rites.” All of these meanings are present, with “tomb” being foremost because of the idea of “covering.” 5 After Oedipus’ death, Eteocles and Polyneices agree that they will each rule Thebes as its king in alternate years. During his time in exile, Polyneices marries Argeia, daughter of Adrastus, king of Argos. When after a year Eteocles refused to abdicate, Adrastus and Polyneices lead an army of Argives against Thebes. The brothers meet at the seventh of Thebes’ seven gates, Polyneices on the outside and Eteocles on the inside of the city; they slay one another.
coming here to proclaim this clearly to whoever does not know, and he considers it no small matter. For anyone who does any of these things, killing by public stoning in the city is ordained. Now, this is the way it is for you, and you will show quickly whether you are of noble birth or base born from good stock.
What can I do, wretched one, if things are in this state, by loosening or tightening the knot?6
See whether you will join in the toil and the deed with me.
What dangerous enterprise? Whatever are you thinking?
Whether you will lift the corpse with this hand?
What? Do you intend to perform rites for it, a thing forbidden the city?
For my brother, certainly, and yours, if you will not. I for one will not be caught betraying him.
Headstrong! When Creon has forbidden it?
6 Ismene’s question initiates the first stichomythia of the play. Stichomythia is an exchange between two actors of swiftly spoken, emotionally charged single lines that in tragedy often constitutes a contest for supremacy.
He has no part in keeping me from what is mine.
Ah me! think, sister, how father, died on the two of us, hated and disgraced, when driven by self-discovered offenses, he pierced both his eyes with a self-inflicting hand. Then his mother and wife–a twofold name- mistreated her life with twisted nooses. And thirdly, two brothers in one day, the wretched pair, worked a common fate by killing themselves with hands turned upon one another. Now in turn, we two left all alone, consider how badly we will perish, if in violence of the law we transgress the decree and power of absolute rulers. No, we two women must keep in mind we were born women whose purpose is not to battle against men. Then, because we are ruled by those who are stronger, we must hear and obey this and things yet more painful. As for me, begging those below for pardon, since I am being forced in this, I will yield to those in authority, for acting in excess has no sense.
And I would not ask you, and if you wish in the future, you would not gladly do anything with me. No, be whatever seems best to you. That one I shall give rites. It is noble for me to die doing this. I shall lie with him, loved one with loved one, after I have done anything and everything holy, since far longer is the time I must please those below than those here. I shall lie there forever. You, if you think it best, hold in dishonor the honored things of the gods.
I am doing them no dishonor, but I am incapable by my nature of acting in violence of the citizens.
You can make excuses, but I shall go heap up a mound for a most loved brother.7
Ah me! Unhappy one, how I fear for you.
Do not be afraid for me. Set straight the course of your own fate.
Please, do not tell anyone what you are doing. Keep it secret, and I will do the same.
Ah me! Tell everybody. You will be more hostile if you keep silent and do not proclaim this to everyone.
You have a hot heart for cold things.
No, I know I am pleasing those I should most please.
If you can, but no, you lust for what is beyond your means.
Well, when my strength fails, I shall cease once for all.
From the outset, to hunt for what is beyond your means is not fitting.
If you say this, you will be hated by me and justly be deemed an enemy to the one dead. No, let me and the foolish counsel I offer suffer something dreadful, but I shall not
7 The mound here refers to the mound of earth heaped over the burned corpse after a funeral pyre.
suffer anything that will keep me from dying nobly.
[Antigone is exiting by the gangway leading to the country. Ismene calls after her.]
If it seems best, go, but know this: you go without sense but truly love for your loved ones.
[Ismene exits into the house. Without significant delay, the sounds of a musical instrument were heard. Stirringly familiar, they must have sent chills traversing the spines of men in the audience. Similar sounds kept the beat for hoplites in full armor on their way across no man’s land to engage the enemy in battle. They came from an aulos, a clarinet- or oboe-like instrument consisting of a reed inserted into a cylindrical pipe pierced with holes. The number of holes determined its range. The aulos was usually played in pairs, both instruments held to the lips by a strap around the chin and over the head of the player. The latter was a splendidly garbed professional whose sounds kept time for the choristers. The choristers, representing Theban elders, as the gray hair of their masks would indicate were probably young men between the ages of eighteen and twenty. They were singing the following lines as they moved solemnly but naturally in a rectangular formation. They danced in rectangular or circular formations, three abreast and five deep, that stylized those of the hoplites they were in training to become. Sophocles put his best people on the left flank and his poorest in the middle line known as the “alley.” In the middle of the left line, occupying its third position, the Coryphaeus or chorus leader was marked by his more brightly decorated robes. He addressed the actors in dialogue on behalf of the others and joined the others in singing
Chorus of Theban Elders [ singing] Ray of the sun, the most beautiful light of lights ever to appear to Thebes of seven gates, you appeared at last, O eyelid of a golden day. Over Dirce’s8 streams you came, and the man shielded in white, come from Argos in full armor, you propelled into headlong flight with your bridle gleaming brightly.9
Coryphaeus [reciting] Stirred up against our land through Polyneices’ contentious quarrels,10 screaming shrilly, he flew into our land like an eagle, covered in snow-white wings amid weapons manifold and helmets crested with horse-hair.
Chorus of Theban Elders [singing] Arresting flight above our houses, threatening with blood thirsting spears in a circle the mouth of our seven gates, he departed before he sated his jaws with our blood, before Hephaestus’ pinewood blaze seized our corona of towers. Such was the din of Ares11 that strove against his back, a din hard for the dragon’s foe to subdue.
For Zeus exceedingly hates the boasts of a big mouth, and seeing them coming on with a mighty flow, in haughtiness of ringing gold, he hurls the brandished fire at him who was already rushing to scream victory at his finish line high on our battlements.
Coryphaeus [reciting] Swung outward, he fell on ground that repelled him, the fire-bringer who, ’till then,
8 The river Dirce was on the west side of Thebes. 9 Helios is imagined as the driver of his four-horse sun chariot in pursuit of the fleeing Argives. 10 “Quarrels” plays on the name Polyneices (He of Much Strife or Many Quarrels). 11 God of War in Greek mythology.
was reveling in frenzied bacchic onslaught and breathing the blasts of most hostile winds. But things went another way. Smiting heavily, he apportioned one doom for this one, another for that one, mighty Ares, our trace-horse on the right.12
Seven captains at seven gates, marshaled as equal against equal, left behind bronze homage for Zeus Turner,13 except the pair filled with hate who, born of one father and one mother, leveled mutually victorious spears against one another and gained, both of them, a share in a common death.
But since Victory has come, Victory who brings renown, who reflects back to chariot- rich Thebes its own joy, distanced from the recent wars, now clothe yourself in forgetfulness. Let us go to all the gods’ temples in all-night dancing. May earth- shaking Bacchus of Thebes be our leader.
[Enter Creon, attended by slaves]
Here the king of the domain, †Creon, son of Menoeceus† . . . new [ruler] in the new chances of the gods, is coming. What cleverness is he rowing that, by common proclamation, he has set forth this special assembly of old men for discussion.
12 In a four-horse racing team, the outer horses drew by ropes (traces), while the inner ones were harnessed to the yoke or collar. The chariot went down the right side of the course, turned around a post, and came back on the left. In the turn, the driver spurred the outer or right horse, at the same time slackening its reins. He then left it to the horse to resist centrifugal forces and pull the chariot around through the turn. The horse became a byword for a trusty helper in a time of need.
13 “Zeus Turner” is the god in his capacity as the maker of a “turning.” When one side or part of a side in the clash of lines could no longer withstand the pressure of the pushing, it could weakened and collapse into rout–the moment of “turning.”
Gentlemen, the gods who heaved and tossed the city on high seas have set its affairs straight again. You I have summoned by messengers apart from the rest because I know well that you always revered the power of Laius’ throne, and again when Oedipus righted the city ………………………… …………………………………………….. and when he was destroyed, you still continued with steadfast thoughts toward their children.14 Since they perished in a twofold fate in one day, striking and being struck with murderous pollution among kinsmen, I hold all the power and throne according to nearness of kin to the dead.
Now, there is no way to learn thoroughly the essence of the whole man as well as his thought and judgment until he has been seen engaged in ruling and making laws. For, in my opinion, whoever, in guiding a whole city, does not adhere to the best counsels, but from fear of something keeps his tongue locked, that man seems to me now and before this to be most evil. Whoever deems a loved one more important than his fatherland, this man I say is nowhere. I for one–may Zeus who always sees all know this– never would I keep silent on seeing ruin approaching the citizens instead of safety, neither would I ever regard as my loved one an enemy of the land, since I am aware that this land is the one who carries us safely and, while sailing upon her upright, we make our loved ones. By these laws do I enlarge the city.
Now, I have issued proclamations, brothers to these laws for the citizens concerning the children of Oedipus. Eteocles, who perished fighting for this city, fully proving his bravery in the spear battle, let them conceal him with a tomb and perform all the rites
14 That is, the grandsons of Laius and sons of Oedipus, Eteocles and Polyneices.
that go to the bravest dead below. The kindred blood of this man, Polyneices I mean, the exile who, on returning home, wanted to burn his fatherland and the temples of his family’s gods from top to bottom with flames, and wanted to taste common blood, and lead the rest into slavery, this person, it has been proclaimed to the city that no one honor with a tomb or lament with cries, but let him lie unburied, his body devoured by birds and by dogs and mangled for the seeing. Such is my thought. Never by me, at any rate, will evil men have precedence of honor over just men. But whoever is well-disposed to this city, dead and alive, equally will be honored by me at any rate.
These are what please you, son of Menoeceus, Creon, about the one hostile and the one friendly to this city. To use every law [and custom], I suppose, is within your power regarding the dead and us who are living.
Take care that you be watchers of my orders.
Set forth this task for a younger man to undertake.
No, men to watch over the corpse are ready.15
Then, what other things would you enjoin upon me?
15 The Greek implies a “protector” or “guardian” for the corpse as well as watchmen to be “lookouts” for anyone who invades the domain he has asserted over Polyneices’ corpse.
Do not yield to those disobeying these things.
There is no one so foolish that he lusts to die.
That is truly the wage. But profit with its hopes often destroys men.
[A man enters by the ramp from the country. Since Sophocles had only three actors at his disposal, the actor playing his role must be the same as the one who plays Ismene. He cannot be the actor who plays Creon or Antigone, since he appears on stage with them.]
Lord, I cannot say that I arrive breathless from quickly lifting nimble feet. In fact, I stopped many times to think, whirling around on the roads to turn back. My spirit kept talking to me and saying: “Poor fool, why are you going to a place where you will pay the penalty when you arrive? Wretch, are you dawdling along again? If Creon learns about this from someone else, how then will you not feel pain?”As I rolled around such thoughts, I was gradually and slowly completing the journey, and so a short road became a long one. At last, coming here to you won out. Even if I am saying nothing, I will say this anyway. I come here, clinging to the hope that I will suffer nothing except what is fated.
What has robbed you of your spirit?
First, I want to tell you this about me. I did not do the deed, and I do not know who was the doer, and it would not be right for
me to get into any evil.
You position yourself well in the ranks, drawing up fences around yourself against what is coming. Clearly you are going to mark something new and unheard of.
Yes, terrible things impose much hesitation.
Will you say it, and then be off with you?
Well, then, I’m telling you. The corpse– someone has performed funeral rites for it and is gone, having scattered thirsty dust upon its flesh and completed the necessary purifications.
What are you saying? What man was it who dared this?
I do not know, since there was no blow from a pickaxe, no dirt was dug up by a hoe. The ground was hard and dry, undisturbed and unscored by wagon wheels. The doer left no marks.
When the first watchman of the day showed us, a wonder hard to grasp came over all of us. You see, he had disappeared. He was not covered with a tomb, but a light dust was upon him as if from someone avoiding pollution. No marks appeared of a beast or dog that had come and torn him.
Bad words started howling at one another as guard reproached guard, and it would have ended in blows. No one was there to stop it. Each man was the one who did the deed, and none beyond doubt, and each was pleading, “I do not know.” We were even prepared to
take up hot ingots in our hands and walk through fire and swear an oath by the gods that we did not do the deed, or share in knowledge of it with the man who planned and accomplished it. At last, when nothing was left for us to look for, someone spoke out, and he turned every head to the ground in fear, for we could not answer him or see how, in doing so, we could prosper. His word was that this deed had to be reported to you and must not be hidden. This plan prevailed, and the lot condemned me, unlucky me, to take this good thing to you. I do not want to be here. Those here do not want me, I know. Nobody loves the messenger of bad news.
Lord, deep and anxious thoughts have long been counseling, might not this deed be one driven by the gods.
Stop, before your words fill me with rage, so you will not be discovered both senseless and old. You are saying what is intolerable when you say divinities have forethought for this corpse. While they were hiding him, were they honoring him as a benefactor, someone who came to fire their temples ringed with columns and offerings and to scatter their land and laws hither and yon? Or, do you see gods honoring evil men?
It cannot be. No, from the first men of the city, bearing these things with difficulty, have been howling at me in secret, shaking their heads and not keeping their necks rightly beneath the yoke so as to love and submit to me. Because of those men, I know well these men have done these things under the seduction of bribes. No base custom ever grew among men like silver. It sacks cities and uproots men from their homes. It teaches and perverts the useful minds of men so that they take up disgraceful
endeavors. It showed men how to practice wickedness and to know impiety in every deed. Men who execute these actions in the pay of another, sooner or later bring about their own punishment.
[To the Watchman.]
But, if Zeus yet enjoys respect from me, know this well–I am speaking now on my oath–unless all of you find the perpetrator of this rite and produce him before my eyes, Hades16 alone will not be enough for you until, hung up alive, you reveal this outrage. This way you can go on stealing in the future with the knowledge of where profits must be made, having learned that you must not be enamored with profits from everywhere. From disgraceful gains, more men you could see ruined than rescued.
Will you allow me to speak, or do I just turn around and go?
Do you not know, even now, how annoying you sound?
Are you stung in your ears or to your very essence?
Why do you score where I hurt?
The doer offends your mind, but I your ears.
My, but you are a babbler.
16 Hades is used for both the god and the place. 68
That may be so, but not the one who did this deed.
That too, while also forfeiting your very essence for silver.
Pah! It is terrible for one who supposes to suppose falsely.
Go ahead, play around with suppositions, but if you do not show me what men did this, you are going to admit that terrible are those profits that bring pain.
[Watchman is exiting to the country.]
I really hope they find him, but whether he is caught or not (luck will decide), there is no way you will see me come back here. Now, saved beyond hope and judgment, I owe the gods a big debt of gratitude.
Chorus of Theban Elders
Many things cause terror and wonder, yet nothing is more terrifying and wonderful than man. This thing goes across the gray sea on the blasts of winter storms, passing beneath waters towering ’round him. The Earth, eldest of the gods, unwithering and untiring, this thing wears down as his plows go back and forth year after year furrowing her with the issue of horses [i.e. mules].
This thing ensnares and carries off the tribe of light-minded birds, the companies of wild beasts, and the sea’s marine life with coils of woven meshes–this keenly skilled man. He has power through his ways over the beast who traverses the mountains and haunts the open sky [i.e. wild goats]. The shaggy- maned horse he tames with yoke, and the
untiring mountain bull.
Both language and thought swift as wind and impulses that govern cities, he has taught himself, as well as how to escape the shafts of rain while encamped beneath open skies. All resourceful, he approaches no future thing to come without resource. From Hades alone he will not contrive escape. Refuge from baffling diseases he has devised.
Possessing a means of invention, a skillfulness beyond expectation, now toward evil he moves, now toward good. By integrating the laws of the earth and justice under oath sworn to the gods, he is lofty of city. Citiless is the man with whom ignobility because of his daring dwells. May he never reside at my hearth or think like me, whoever does such things.
[The Watchman returns, leading Antigone and accompanied by at least one other watchman.]
Concerning this divine portent, I am of two minds. How, when I know her, will I deny that this is the girl Antigone? O unhappy one, child of unhappy father, Oedipus, what does this mean? Surely they are not bringing you who are in disobedience of royal laws after they caught you in folly?
Here she is, that one who did the deed. We caught her performing rites. But where is Creon?
Here he is, returning from the house just when we need him.
What is it? What is happening? What am I in time for?
Lord, mortals should never swear oaths against doing anything, for second thoughts belie their intention. I could have sworn I would be slow coming here after the tempest of your threats I weathered last time. But the joy one prays for and receives beyond his hopes seems to reach out like no other pleasure. I swore an oath not to come here, but here I am, leading this girl who was apprehended paying due rites. We did not cast lots this time. This is my windfall and nobody else’s. And now, lord, take her yourself, question and examine her as you wish. I am free and justly released from these evils.
How did you catch her, and where do you bring her from?
This one was performing rites for the man. You know all.
Do you really understand? Do you mean to say what you are saying?
Yes, I do, because I saw her performing rites for the corpse that you forbade. Is it not clear and plain what I am saying?
How is she seen? How was she caught and seized?
What happened was like this. When we got back, still threatened by those terrible threats from you, we swept all the dust away that concealed the corpse, stripping the oozing
body completely bare. We then sat on the hill tops, backs to the wind, delivered from being struck by the stench. Man was egging on man constantly with abusive taunts in case anyone might neglect this burden. So it went for some time, until the dazzling orb of the sun stood in the middle of the sky, and the heat was becoming intense. Then, suddenly, from the earth a whirlwind raised a column of dust, a pain from heaven. It filled the plain, mangling all the foliage of the trees on the plain. The great ether was full of dust. We closed our eyes and endured the divine sickness. When it let off after a long time, the girl is seen. She wails a bitter bird’s shrill sound as when it sees an empty bedding’s bed orphaned of nestlings. So, too, when she sees a bare corpse, she groaned and began wailing and cursing evil curses upon the ones who did the deed. Immediately she brings thirsty dust in her hands and from a well-wrought bronze pitcher held up high, she encircles the corpse with three poured offerings.
We saw her and rushed at her, and immediately we caught our quarry who was without fear or fright. We examined her about the previous and the present doings. She did not try to deny anything, happily for me and at the same time sadly. That I have escaped these evils is very pleasant, but bringing loved ones into evil is painful. But everything else matters less for me to get–it is only natural–than my own salvation.
You! you there, hanging your head to the ground, do you say you did these things, or do you deny them outright?
I say I acted. I do not deny acting.
You may remove yourself wherever you wish, free of a heavy charge.
[Exit Watchman. To Antigone.]
Now you, tell me, not at length but concisely, did you know that these were forbidden by proclamation?
Yes. Why would I not? It was public.
And you dared anyway to transgress these laws.
Yes, Zeus was not the one who issued these proclamations for me, nor did Justice, who dwells with the gods below, define such laws among mankind. I did not think your proclamations so strong that you, a mortal, could overstep gods’ unwritten and unshakable traditions. Not today or yesterday but always they live, and no one knows when they appeared. I was not about to pay the penalty before gods for neglecting them out of fear for a man’s thought. I knew very well that I would die (why not?), even if you had not issued your proclamations. But if I shall die before my time, I declare it a profit, for whoever lives beset, as I do, by many things evil, how does he not gain profit by dying?
Thus for me, at least, to meet with this destiny is no pain at all. But had I let the one from my mother, who was dead, go without rites, over that I would feel pain. Over this, I feel no pain. If I seem now to be acting foolishly to you, it may be that I am being accused of foolishness by a fool.
Clearly, the offspring is savage from the girl’s savage father. She does not know how
to yield to evils.
Even so, know that thoughts that are too rigid are most prone to fall. The strongest iron, baked very hard by the fire, you could often see shivered and shattered into bits and pieces. I know that spirited horses are brought to order by a tiny iron bit, since it is not allowed for someone who is the slave of those nearby to think big. This person knew how to commit outrage at that time by transgressing the laws that have been set forth. After she acted, this second outrage: she boasts about them and exults in having done them. In this case, I am not a man, but she is a man, if this victory will be hers without consequences.
Whether she may be a sister’s child and closer in blood to us than the whole of Zeus of the Boundary,17 she and her kin blood will not escape a very bad fate. I charge that other one of equally planning this rite.
[Creon to slave attendants]
Summon her. I saw her inside just now, possessed by frenzy and not in possession of her senses. The spirit of those devising crooked schemes in the dark usually convicts itself in advance of being a thief. I hate it when someone, caught in ugliness, afterwards wants to make it look pretty.
17 Zeus Herkeios (Zeus of the Fence) protected the boundary of every Greek household and the possessions enclosed within. His altar stood in the courtyard where the master of the house (kyrios) conducted sacrifice and the “rite of sprinkling” of family, slaves and guests with water, a ritual binding those present to one another. Creon may be imagined as having conducted this rite with Antigone and Ismene many times.
Do you want anything more than to seize me and kill me?
For myself, nothing. With this, I have everything.
Then, why are you waiting? As nothing in your words pleases me or could ever please me, so my words naturally displease you, too. And yet, where would I obtain a more renowned renown than by placing in a tomb one from the same womb? All these men here would agree with this, I would say, if fear were not locking up their tongues. But absolute rule is blest in many other ways, and, in particular, it has the power to do and say what it wishes.
You alone of these Cadmeians18 see it this way.
These men of yours see it this way, but their lips cower before you.
Are you not ashamed to think apart from these men?
No disgrace is involved in respecting your uterine kin.
Was not the one who died opposing him of the same blood?
Of the same blood from one mother and the same father.
18 Cadmus is the founder of Thebes, and so Thebans are also called Cadmeians.
How, when it is impious in his judgment, do you grant this kindness?
The dead corpse will not bear witness to that.
He would, if you honor him equally with the impious one.
He was not a slave but a brother who died.
Yes, while ravaging this land but the other while defending it.
Nevertheless, Hades longs for these traditional values.
No, the good man does not long to obtain the same allotment as the evil.
Who knows whether that is revered below.
Never is an enemy, not even when dead, a loved one.
It is not my nature to side with an enemy but with a loved one.
Go below now, and if you must be a lover, be lover to them. While I am alive, no woman will rule me.
Here is Ismene before the gates, shedding tears of sisterly love. A cloud above her
brows mars her flushed face, moistening her comely cheeks.
You sneaked about the house like a viper and sucked my blood when I was off guard. I did not realize I was feeding two ruins and subversions of my throne. Come, tell me, will you admit you shared in this rite, or will you swear you knew nothing about it?
I have done the deed, at least if she rows along with me. I both share in the charge and endure it with her.
No, justice will not allow you this, since you were not willing to do it, and I did not act in common with you.
But I am not ashamed amid your evils to make myself a fellow voyager in suffering.
To those whose deed this is, Hades and those below are witnesses. I do not cherish a loved one who is a loved one only in words.
Do not deprive me, sister, of dying with you and rendering the dead his due rites.
You, do not die a common death with me. What you did not touch, do try to make your own. I will be enough by dying–I myself.
And what life is happy for me bereft of you?
Go, ask Creon. It is he you care for.
Why do you cause me pain this way, when it does not help you?
Yes, I am in pain, if I am mocking you, when I mock you.
What help even now could I give you–I myself?
Save yourself. I do not begrudge your escaping out from under this.
O poor me, am I to fail in sharing your fate?
Yes, you chose to live, I to die.
But, at least, not without my words going unsaid.
Nobly you seemed to some, and I to others, to think.
And yet the error is the same for the both of us.
Gather your strength. You are living, while my life perished long ago so as that I could help the dead.
I say that both of these children seem senseless, the one just now and the other from when she was first born.
The sense that grows within, lord, does not remain with those who are doing badly, but it departs.
In your case, at any rate, when you chose to do bad things with bad people.
Of course I chose. What life is there for me, alone without this one?
This one–do not speak of her, for she is no longer.
But in that case you will kill your own son’s nuptial rites?
Yes, the fields of others are fit for the plow.
No, not in the way they have been fit together, this one to him.
I loathe evil wives for sons.
O most loved Haemon, how your father dishonors you.
You and your marriage bed cause too much grief.
Will you really deprive your own son of this one?
Hades will be the one to stop this marriage for me.
It is settled, so it seems, that this one dies.
Yes, for you and for me. No more delays. Take them inside, slave women. From now on they must be women and not let loose. Even bold men flee when they see Hades already near their lives.
[Exit Antigone, Ismene and Creon’s attendants. Creon remains on stage.]
Chorus of Theban Elders
Fortunate are they whose life has no taste of evils. For those whose house is shaken by the god, nothing of ruin is left out as it creeps over most of their lineage. As the nether darkness from ‘neath the sea, when it runs over the swell of the sea’s main before the storm-laden head winds of Thrace, rolls from the bottom dark sands, and headlands, pounded by bad winds, roar mournfully.
Ancient the pains of the house of Labdacus’19 sons I see piling onto the pains of the perished. Neither does a generation set the lineage free, but someone of the gods dashes it down, and it has no release. Now, above the last root a light had been stretched on Oedipus’ house. Again the bloody dust of nether gods mows it down, folly of words and Erinys of the mind.20
Thy might, Zeus, what trespass of men could compass? It neither sleep †that enfeebles all† seizes, nor the gods untiring months, but, master unaging with time, you possess the dazzling splendor of Olympus. For futures near and far and for the past as
19 That is, the lineage that includes, Oedipus, Creon, Antigone, Ismene, Haemon, Polynieces, etc. 20 An Erinys is a divine being who avenges serious wrongs, including murder and perjury. She enforces the order of nature, may embody a curse, and brings mental blindness and ruin upon the perpetrator of wrongdoing or a descendant.
well, shall suffice this law: nothing vast creeps upon the life of mortals free of ruin.
Far wandering hope, though a good fortune for many men, is for many others a deception of their flighty lusts. Upon the man who knows nothing it creeps up until he burns his foot on the hot fire. Wisely from someone a word of renown has been revealed. Evil seemeth at some time a good to one whose mind the god is leading to ruin. He acts for the briefest time outside ruin.
[Haemon enters from the city.21]
Here is Haemon, last born of your children. Does he come tormented over the fate of his betrothed Antigone, with whom he intended to marry, anguishing over the deception of his marriage bed?
We will quickly know better than seers could say. My boy, you are not here, are you, after hearing my fixed decree about your intended bride, in a rage at your father, or as far as you are concerned are we, whatever we do, loved ones?
Father, I am yours. You would guide me aright, if you have good judgments that I will follow. No marriage in my opinion will be worth winning more than you leading nobly.
21 The actor playing Haemon must also be playing either Antigone or Ismene. If Antigone, the similarity of voice marks the harmony Ismene claimed for her and Haemon, while the voice of the Ismene actor would bring back the voice that defended Haemon to appeal to Creon in the person of Haemon himself. The actor wears the unbearded mask of a youth of some eighteen years. By contrast, Creon wears the bearded mask of the mature man.
Yes, you should always be disposed this way in your breast, boy, to assume your post behind your father’s judgments in all things. For this reason, men pray to beget and have sons in their households who listen, that they may both repay an enemy with evils and honor the loved ones equally with the father. Whoever produces useless children, what could you say about him except that he begets hardship for himself and great mockery for his enemies.
Do not ever throw out good sense, boy, over pleasure for a woman’s sake, knowing that this proves to be a cold thing to embrace in your arms, a evil woman in your bed and in your house. What wound greater could there be than an evil beloved. No, spit the girl out like an enemy, and let someone in Hades’ house marry her. Since I caught her openly, alone out of the whole city, in disobedience, I will not make myself a liar to the city, but I shall kill her. Therefore, let her keep invoking Zeus of Kin Blood.22 If I nurture my natural kin to be disorderly, then surely I will do so to those outside the family.
Whoever is a good man among those within his house will also appear to be just in the city. But whoever transgresses the laws and does them violence or intends to issue orders to those in power, this man cannot possibly receive praise from me. Whomever the city may appoint, one should obey in small concerns and just, and in their opposites. For my part, I would encourage this man to rule nobly and to consent to be ruled well, and when assigned a post amid the spear storm, to remain there, a just and brave comrade beside his comrades.23
22 Zeus of the Fence oversees the sacredness of kin- blood and so may be referred to in this capacity as Zeus of Kin Blood. 23 Creon alludes to the oath of allegiance that every citizen ephebe took, which affirmed in part: “I will
There is no greater evil than lack of rule. This destroys cities, this renders houses desolate, this in the spear battle causes routs to break out. But among men who are prosperous, obedience to command saves many lives. Thus a defense must be mounted for the regulations. Defeat by a woman must never happen. It is better, if it is bound to happen, to be expelled by a man. We could not be called “defeated by women”–could not.
In our opinion, unless we are misled by our years, you seem to say thoughtfully what you are saying.
Father, the gods implant good sense in men which is the foremost of all their possessions. I . . . in what way you are mistaken in what you say, I neither could say, nor would I even know how to say. Yet, things may come out right in another way. Whatever, it is my nature to scout out for you everything that someone says or does or finds fault with, since your face is a terrifying thing for the townsmen because of words you are not pleased to hear. It is possible for me to hear things in the shadows, how the city mourns for this girl, that the most undeserving of all women is perishing in the foulest way for deeds most glorious. She did not allow one from the same womb, lying without rites amid the carnage, to be ravaged by raw-eating dogs or
not desert the “stand-beside” whomever I may stand beside.” In a formation of hoplites, the safety of all depended upon the cohesion of the line of men and shields. The straps on the hoplite’s shield were so arranged that half of the shield extended beyond the man’s left side, leaving his right side exposed. The man on his left used this part to defend his right side, while the man himself looked to the shield of the man on his right to protect his right side. Each man had to stand beside his fellow.
some one of the birds. Is she not worthy of receiving a golden meed of honor? Such dark talk is spreading secretly about. As far as I am concerned, there is no possession more valuable, father, than a father who is prospering in good fortune.
What greater pride and joy is there for children than a father flourishing in fame, or what for a father in children. Do not wear one and only one frame of mind in yourself, that what you say, and nothing else, is right. Whoever imagines that he and he alone has sense or has a tongue or an essence that no other has, these men, when unfolded, are seen to be empty. But for a man, even if he is wise, to go on learning many things and not to be drawn too taut is no shame. You see how along streams swollen from winter floods some trees yield and save their twigs, but others resist and perish, root and branch. Likewise, the man in command of a ship who draws the foot sheet24 taut and leaves no slack, capsizes and sails what is left with his decks upside down. Let go your anger, and grant a change, for if an opinion comes up from me, a younger person, I say it is by far best that a man be born filled with wisdom. If he is not, for the scale does not usually so incline, to learn from those speaking competently is a noble thing.
Lord, it is fair, if he says something to the point, for you to learn, and in turn for you from him. It has been well said well twice.
Are we at our age to be taught in exercising good sense by a man of his age?
Yes, in nothing that is not just. Even if I am young, you should not see my years more
24 The “foot sheet” was one of the two ropes attached to the lower corners of the sail.
than my deeds.
What deed is this–reverencing the disorderly?
I would not order you to act piously toward evil men.
Has she not been stricken by such a disease?
The people, all Thebes together, deny it.
The city will tell me what orders I should give?
Do you see how young you sounded saying that?
Should I rule the land for anyone other than myself?
There is no city that is one man’s.
Is not the city considered to belong to the ruling man?
Nobly you could rule an empty land, alone.
This one, it seems, battles as an ally25 of the woman.
25 “Ally” connotes an underling. Since the allies in the alliance led by Athenians, for the most, paid tribute to the Athenians, they were not considered as equals.
Yes, if you are a woman. For it is you I care for.
You most evil thing, by bringing your father to justice?
Yes, when I see you making an error that is not just.
Do I err by revering my own prerogatives?
You do not revere them by trampling upon the honor of the gods.
You abomination who trails after a woman.
You would not catch me defeated by what is shameful.
And yet, your every word now is for her.
And for you, and me, and the gods below.
This woman, it is not possible for you to marry her while she lives.
Then she will die, and by her dying, she will destroy someone.
Are you so bold as to threaten me?
What threat is it to tell you my opinions? 77
You will convey sense to me in tears since you are empty of sense yourself?
If you were not my father, I would say you were not making sense.
You slave to a woman, do not wheedle me.
Do you wish to speak, and after speaking, not hear anything?
Right! But, by Olympus, know this: you will not revile me with criticism and get away with it. [To his slaves.] Bring that hated thing so this instant before his eyes she may die next to her bridegroom.
No, not next to me. Do not ever suppose that. She will not die next to me, and you will never look upon my face again with your eyes. Rage on at any of your loved ones who are willing to let you.
[Exit Haemon for the country]
The man is gone, lord, quickened by wrath. The mind in pain takes things hard at his age.
Let him go. Let him act and think greater than what befits a man. But these two girls, he will not save them from death.
Do you truly intend to kill them both?
No, not the one who did not touch the deed. You are right.
By what death are you planning to kill the other?
By leading her where the path is deserted of people. I will hide her alive in a rocky cave, setting forth enough food to escape pollution so that the whole city may escape miasma. There begging Hades, whom alone of the gods she reveres, perchance she will not die, or she will come to realize, late but at last, that revering what is in Hades is excessive labor.
[Creon remains on stage.]
Chorus of Theban Elders
Eros, undefeated in battle, Eros, who falls upon possessions, who, in the soft cheeks of a young girl, stays the night vigil, who traverses over seas and among pastoral dwellings, you none of the immortals can escape, none of the day-long mortals, and he who has you is maddened.
You wrest the minds of even the just aside to injustice, to their destruction. You have incited this quarrel among blood kin. Desire radiant from the eyelids of a well-bedded bride prevails, companion in rule with the gods’ great ordinances. She against whom none may battle, the goddess Aphrodite, plays her games.
[Antigone enters from the house, escorted by Creon’s slaves.]
Now, by this time, even I myself am carried outside the ordinances of the gods at seeing this. I am no longer able to stanch the streams of tears, when I see Antigone here
approaching the bridal-chambers that give rest to all.
See me, citizens of my paternal land, walking my last road and beholding my last light of the sun– never again. But Hades, the all-provider of rest, leads me living to Acheron’s26 shore, without a share of wedding hymns. No song at my wedding sang out for me, but I shall wed Acheron.
Therefore, without renown and praise, you are departing for the recesses of the dead, neither struck by wasting diseases nor obtaining the wages of the sword. But under your own law, alive, alone and unique of mortals, you will descend to Hades.
I heard that she perished most sorrowfully, the Phrygian guest, daughter of Tantalus, on the peak of Mt. Sipylus, whom a rocky growth like tenacious ivy subdued.27 Rain and snow, it is the talk of men, never leave her as she pines away. Beneath her overhanging cliffs always weeping, she moistens her valleys. Very like her, the deity beds me.
No, she is a god begotten of god, and we are mortals born to die. And yet, it is a great
26 The name of one of the rivers in the underworld. 27 As a Phrygian or Lydian, Niobe is called a guest in the house of her Theban husband, Amphion. She boasted of having more children than the goddess Leto. The latter took affront, and her children Apollo and Artemis slew all or all but two of Niobe’s. Niobe returned to her father Tantalus at Sipylus in Lydia where, after praying to Zeus, she transformed into a stone. From the stone, tears flow night and day Niobe, usually considered a mortal woman, is treated by Sophocles as not merely of divine lineage but a goddess herself. In the image, overhanging cliffs allude to Niobe’s eyebrows and valleys to her throat or bosom.
thing for a dead woman to hear that she obtains a portion with the god-like while alive and, afterwards, while dead.
O me, I am mocked. Why, by the gods of our fathers, why do you abuse me, when I have not gone but am in plain sight before you? O city and its men of many possessions, iô, Dircaean springs
and precinct of Thebes rich in chariots,at least I possess thee as witnesses to how unwept by loved ones and by what laws am I going to the rock-entombed vault of my unprecedented mound. Iô, wretched me, a corpse among people and not among corpses, a metic,28 not among the living, and not among the dead.
Advancing to the limit of daring, you struck the high throne of Justice, child, hard. You are paying, perhaps, for your father’s prize.29
You have touched the most painful thoughts for me of my father’s thrice-plowed lament and of all our fate for the renowned children of Labdacus. Oh, maternal ruinous delusions of beds and the incestuous sleepings of my ill-fated mother with my father, from such people wretched me was born. To them, accursed and unmarried, here I am going, a metic. Iô, brother, by attaining ill-fated marriages, dead though you be, you slew me still alive.
28 A metic is an alien who has changed (met-) his residency (oik- “house’) and lives in Athens with a status above other foreigners but with military and financial obligations. As such, he is a citizen of neither his native polis nor that of the Athenians. 29 The prize that Oedipus won in the contest with the Sphinx is marriage with the dead King Laius’ wife, Jocasta, and the throne of Thebes as well as the “suffering” that accrued from his victory.
There is some piety in being pious, but power, for him who cares for power, proves nowhere to be transgressed. Your self- knowing temper destroyed you.
Without laments, without loved ones, without wedding hymns, I am led in misery along the road made ready. No longer for miserable me is it right to see the eye of this holy torch. My own destiny, unwept by tears, no one of kin laments.
Creon [To the slaves.] Do you not know that, instead of dying, not one person would stop pouring out songs and wailing, if allowed? Will you not lead her off as quickly as you can enfold her in a roofed tomb, as I have ordered. Leave her alone and deserted, whether she may die or be entombed in such an enclosure alive. The fact is that we are pure in the matter of this maiden. In any case, she will be deprived of her metic status up here.
O tomb, O wedding chamber, O hollowed abode ever guarding, where I am walking to my own, the greatest number of whom has perished, and Persephassa has received among the dead. Last of them, I, and by far in the most evil way, I am going down before my life’s measure has expired. In arriving there, I nourish the hope, of course, that I will come out of love to father and especially to you, mother, and to you, brother-head, since all of you in death with my own hand I washed and dressed, and gave liquid offerings at your tomb. Now, Polyneices, for laying out your body, I win such things as these. And yet, I honored you for those thinking rightly. Not even if I were the mother of children, not if my husband were dead and rotting on me, would I take up this task in violence of the citizens. For the sake of what law do I say this? A
husband dead, there would be another for me, and a child from another man, if I lost this one, but with mother and father both hidden in the house of Hades, there is no brother who would be produced, ever. I honored you before all by such a law, and to Creon this seems to be doing wrong and to be daring terrible things, O brother-head. Now he [Hades] takes me by the hand and is leading me away, unbedded, unhymned and ungraced by a share of bridal coupling and nurturing a child, but in this way deserted of kin and ill-fated. I am going alive into the hollowed abodes of the dead. Having transgressed what justice of deities? Why should I in such misery look further to the gods? What ally of those who are allies should I look to, seeing that, by acting piously, I have come to possess impiety? If this should be good and beautiful before the gods, then I would realize my mistake after suffering my doom. But if these men are doing wrong, may they suffer no more evils than they themselves do unjustly to me.
Still, the same blasts of the same winds of her essence are holding her fast.
For this reason, those who are leading her will be sorry for their slowness.
O me, this word has come very close to death.
I offer no consolation at all to take heart that these arrangements will not be executed as proposed.
O paternal city of the land of Thebes and ancestral gods, I am being led away. I delay no longer. Look, magnates of Thebes, at the
sole and last one of the royal line, at what I suffer from what sort of men, having piously rendered piety.
[Antigone is being led away by Creon’s slaves but must remain within earshot of the elders’ ode, since they address her directly. Creon remains on stage.]
Chorus of Theban Elders
Even Danaë’s beauty endured exchanging the light of the heavens for chambers bound in bronze.30 Hidden in a tomb-like chamber, she was bent to the yoke. And yet, honored in birth, O child, child, she became keeper for the gold-streaming seed of Zeus. But the power of fate (whatever it may be) is terrible and wonderful. Neither wealth nor Ares, no tower, no dark ships beaten by the sea can escape it.
Yoked was Dryas’ hot-headed son, King of Edonians, for his heart-stinging rage.31 Shut away at Dionysus’ command in a rocky bondage. Thus his madness’ flowering might, terrible and wonderful, trickles away. That one in madness touched the god with
30 When Acrisius asked the oracle about the birth of male children, the god said that his daughter, Danaë, would give birth to a son who would kill him. Fearing this, Acrisius built a bronze bridal chamber beneath the earth where he guarded her. Zeus, changed himself into gold and, flowing through the roof into Danaë’s womb, had intercourse with her.
31 Lycurgus acted with outrage (hybris) toward Dionysus and expelled him. Dionysus maddened Lycurgus, and the latter struck his son with an axe, imagining that he was pruning a vine branch, and killed him. After he had cut off his son’s extremities, he came to his senses. The land, however, remained barren. The god declared that the land would bear fruit if Lycurgus were killed. The Edonians led him to Mt. Pangeum and bound him, and there by the will of Dionysus, Lycurgus was torn apart by horses. Aeschylus’ Edonians, which was familiar to Sophocles’ audience implies that after Lycurgus’ madness has seeped away during his stay in the cave, he realizes his mistake in not admitting Dionysus as a god and becomes his servant and prophet.
heart-stinging tongues and came to know him. He would stop the women taken by god and the fire of the god’s holy Eu-oi-oi-oi-oi32 and anger the Muses who love the flute.
Beside the expanse of the twin seas’ Dark Rocks,33 lie the shores of the Bosphorus . . . and Thracian Salmydessus where its neighbor Ares saw upon the two sons of Phineus an accursed wound of blindness dealt by his savage wife, a wound inflicting blindness upon orbs appealing for vengeance from eyes pierced by bloody hands and pointed shuttles.34
Wretchedly wasting away, they weep their wretched suffering, having birth from a mother ill-wed. The queen is the seed of the sons of Erechtheus, an ancient lineage, and in far-off caves she was reared amid paternal storms, daughter of Boreas, swift with the horses across the steep hills, child of gods. But even over that one the long-lived Fates wielded power, child.
[An old man, led by a boy, enters by the gangway from the city.35]
32 This is part of the ritual chant to Dionysus. 33 The Dark Rocks are the islands which the Greeks called the Symplegades (Clashing Rocks) or the Wandering Rocks or the Blue Rocks. The city Salmydessus was on south-west shore of the Black Sea. Thrace was deemed a savage and warlike land, and so Ares is an appropriate god for its peoples. 34 Boreas, the North Wind, carried off Oreithyia, daughter of Erechtheus, king of Attica, and had children by her, among them, Cleopatra (not the Egyptian Queen). Phineus married Cleopatra and had sons, Plexippus and Pandion. After Cleopatra’s death, Phineus married Idaea, daughter of Dardanus. Idaeia alleges falsely that she was raped by Phineus’ sons, and Phineus, believing her, blinds both of them. Sophocles attributes the blinding to Idaea herself. 35 Tiresias may be wearing a netlike mesh of wool that would identify him as a prophet. The famous prophet of Thebes is played by either the actor playing Antigone and Haemon or by the one playing Ismene and Haemon. The choice seems to focus on
Lords of Thebes, we come by a common road, two seeing from one. For the blind, this way by a guide is usual.
What is new, aged Tiresias?
I shall inform you, and, for your part, obey the prophet.
I did not differ before from your purpose, did I?
No, and you steered the city on a straight course.
From experience I can bear witness to your aid.
Now that you have come onto the razor’s edge of chance, start thinking.
What is it? How I shudder at your voice.
You shall know when you have heard the marks of my craft. Sitting at the ancient seat for watching birds, where lies my sanctuary for every bird, I hear an unknown sound of birds shrieking with a gadfly36 sinister and barbarous. And that they were tearing one another apart with murderous claws, I came to realize, for the whirling of wings was not without its own mark. Frightened, I
whose voice Sophocles wanted to reinforce with the authority of the gods. 36 The gadfly, an tormenting insect and metaphor for frenzy, makes incomprehensible twittering sounds like those of barbarous, that is, non-Greek languages.
immediately tested the burnt offerings on altars set fully ablaze, but from the sacrifices Hephaestus did not shine forth, but onto the ashes the juices oozing from the thigh pieces were melting and smoking and sputtering, and the bladders were exploding gall into the air, and dripping thigh bones were exposed from their enveloping fat. Such things I learned from this boy, prophecies withering away from rites bearing no marks, for he is my guide as I am for others.
As for this situation, the city is sick from your thinking. Absolutely all our altars and braziers are filled by birds and dogs with the meat of the unfortunate fallen son of Oedipus. No longer do the gods accept prayers from us at sacrifices or the flames from our thigh pieces, nor do the birds scream cries that mark meaning clearly since they are glutted on the fat of a slain man’s blood.
Therefore, think about this, child. For men, all of them, it is common to make mistakes. Whenever he does make a mistake, that man is still not foolish or unhappy who, fallen into evil, applies a remedy and does not become immovable. Stubborn self-will incurs a charge of stupidity. No, yield to the dead, and do not goad the deceased. What valor this– to slay the dead again? I have thought this out well and speak for your good. Learning from someone speaking kindly is very pleasant, if he speaks to your profit.
Elder, all of you, like bowmen at their target, shoot arrows at this man. I am not without experience of that prophetic craft of yours. By the tribe of those of your ilk, I have been sold off like wares and loaded as cargo before. Pursue your profits, sell
electrum from Sardis,37 if you wish, and the gold of India. You will not hide that one with a tomb, not even if Zeus’s eagles want to seize him for meat and carry him to the thrones of Zeus. Not even fearing this pollution, will I give him up for burying, for well I know that none among men has the power to pollute gods. They fall shameful falls, old man Tiresias, those of mortals who are very clever, whenever they utter shameful words nobly for the sake of profit.
Pheu!38 does any man know, does he consider . . .
Just what? What old saw are you saying?
by how much the best of possessions is good counsel?
By as much, I suppose, as not to have sense is the greatest harm.
You certainly were full of this sickness.
I prefer not to speak evil of a prophet.
And yet, you do, when you say I prophecy falsely.
Yes, for the whole family of prophets is lovers of silver.
37 Electrum, gold mixed with twenty-percent or more of silver, was mined on Tmolus in Lydia, the mountain range south of Sardis. 38 “Pheu” was a Greek interjection of anger or grief.
And the family of absolute rulers holds disgraceful profits as its love.
Do you know what you are saying you say of sovereigns?
I do, since on my account you saved the city and have it now.
You are a skilled prophet but one who is kin to wrongdoing.
You will goad me to say in my breast that ought not be moved.
Move them. Only do not do so by speaking for profit.
Do I seem to you to speak that way?
Know that you are not going to sell my purpose.
Know this well: you will no longer finish many successive laps of the sun in which you yourself will have repaid one from your own loins, a corpse in return for corpses, because you have cast one of those up here down there, and while domiciling a living being in a tomb without honor, you have one of those belonging to the lower gods up here, a corpse without portion, without burial rites, without holiness. In those things, neither you nor the gods above have a share, but for this they are being violated by you. For this reason, mutilators whose destruction comes afterwards, lie in ambush for you, the Erinyes of Hades and the gods,
so that you may be caught in these same evils.
Consider whether I am saying this, silvered in bribes, for the wearing away of not a long time will reveal the laments for men, for women in your house. All the cities are thrown into disorder by hostility whose severed bodies either dogs have consecrated or beasts or some winged bird, carrying an unhallowed stench into the city of their hearths. Such bolts, for you rile me, like an archer I let loose in rage at your heart, sure bolts whose heat you will not run out from under. Boy, lead us home, so this one may vent his rage on younger men and learn to nourish a tongue calmer and a mind in his breast better than he now bears.
[Exit Tiresias, led by the boy.]
Lord, the man is gone after uttering terrible prophecies. We know, from the time I put on white hair from black, that he never cried out falsehood to a city.
I know this myself, and I shutter in my breast.For to yield is terrible, but to resist and smite my rage with ruin present a terrible alternative.
There is need, son of Menoeceus, to take good counsel.
What ought I to do, then? Tell me. I will obey.
Go, release the maiden from the cavernous room, and build a tomb for the one lying forth.
You advise this? It is best for me to yield?
As quickly as possible, lord, the gods’ swift- footed Harms cut short those who think badly.
Ah me! It is hard, but I abandon my heart to do it.A vain battle must not be waged against necessity.
Go, and do these things. Do not entrust them to others.
I should go just as I am. Come, come, servants, both those present and those not present. Take up axes, and rush to the place in plain sight. Since my opinion turns around in this direction, I bound her myself, and I will go there and release her. For I fear that it is best for one to end his life preserving the established customs.
Chorus of Theban Elders
Thou of Many Names,39 pride and joy of the Cadmeian bride, son of loud-thundering Zeus who haunt renowned Italy and hold sway in the folds of Eleusinian Deo that are open to all, O Bacchus, dwelling in the mother-city of the Bacchae beside the liquid stream of Ismenus and beside the seeding ground of the savage dragon.
Thee the light shimmering through smoky flames has seen about the twin peaks of rock where Corycian Nymphs, your Bacchae, wend. Thee, the stream of Castalia has seen. And thee, the ivied slopes of Nysean
39 The following references all relate to Dionysus (a.k.a. Bacchus) and sites and rituals associated with him.
mountains and shores green with grape clusters escort amid divine strains of Eu-oi- oi-oi-oi resounding as you visit the concourses of Thebes.
This city thou honorest as preeminent above all cities and thy mother taken by lightning. Now, when the city and its people are held fast under violent sickness, come with cleansing foot across the slopes of Parnassus’ or moaning straits.
O leader of the chorus of stars breathing fire, surveyor of voices in the night, boy son of Zeus, appear, O Lord, amidst thy Thyiads who accompany you, and in maddened frenzy, dance the night for you, dispenser of good Iacchos.
[A man enters from the country.]
Neighbors of the houses of Cadmus and Amphion [the founders of Thebes], no life among men exists that I would either praise or blame as fixed once for all. Chance sets upright, and chance dashes down the lucky and the unlucky, always. Mortals have no prophet at all for what is established. For Creon was enviable in my opinion, once. He saved this land of Cadmus from its enemies. He received sole rule omnipotent over the land and guided it straight, flourishing in the seed of children born. And now everything is lost.
Whenever men forfeit their pleasures, I do not regard such a man as alive, but I consider him a living corpse. Be very wealthy in your household, if you wish, and live the style of absolute rulers, but should the enjoyment of these depart, what is left, compared to pleasure, I would not buy from a man for a shadow of smoke.
What misery this for the kings do you come bringing?
They are dead. The living are responsible for them dying.
Who is the murderer? Who is laid forth? Tell us.
Haemon is dead, his blood drawn by a hand of his own . . .
his father’s or the hand of his own?
He himself by his own hand in anger at his father for the murder.
O prophet, how truly you fulfilled your word.
Since this is the situation, it remains to plan for the rest.
[A woman enters from the house.]
Here I see wretched Eurydice close by, wife of Creon.40 She comes from the house, because she has she heard about her son, or by chance.
All my townsmen, I heard your words as I was approaching the door to go and address
40 Eurydice can be played by the Antigone or Ismene actor. Her name means “Wide Justice.” The advantage of the Antigone actor would be that this casting in a small measure grants Antigone the revenge she seeks in her final words.
the goddess Pallas [Athena] with my prayers. I was just loosening the bolts of the door, when the sound of misfortune for my house struck my ears. I fell backward in fear into my servants’ arms and fainted. But say again what the report was, for I will listen as one not inexperienced in evils.
I will tell you, beloved lady. I was there. I will not omit any word of the truth. Why would I comfort you with words for which later I will be revealed a liar? The truth is always the right thing. I followed your husband as his guide to the edge of the plain where was lying, unpitied and rent by dogs Polyneices’ body, still. We asked the Goddess of the Road [Hecate] and Plouton [Hades] to maintain a kindly disposition. We bathed him with purifying bath and burned what was left on newly plucked branches.
A lofty crowned mound of his own earth, we heaped upon him, and, afterwards, we left for the maiden’s hollow bridal chamber of Hades with its bedding of stone. From afar someone hears high-pitched laments of a voice near the bride’s chamber unhallowed by funeral rites. He came and reported to his master. Senseless marks of a cry of suffering came over Creon as he drew nearer. Crying out, he sent forth a mournful word.
“O miserable me, am I a prophet? Am I going the most unfortunate road of those traveled before? My son’s voice touches me. But, servants, go quickly closer, and stand near the tomb, and look, entering at the gap torn in the rocks of the mound as far as the mouth itself, and see if I am hearing Haemon’s voice, or I am deceived by the gods.”
At the command of our despairing master, we began looking, and in the furthest part of the tomb, we saw her hanging by the neck, suspended by a noose of fine linen, and him
lying beside her, his arms about her waist, bewailing the destruction of his nuptial bed departed below, his father’s deeds, and wretched marriage bed. When Creon sees him, crying out dreadfully, he goes inside toward him, and wailing out loud, he calls out:
“Wretched one, what have you done? What were you thinking? By what disaster were you destroyed? Come out, my child, I beg you on my knees.”
With savage eyes descrying him, the boy, spitting at his face and offering no reply, draws his two-edged sword, but he fell short of his father bolting in flight. Then, doomed and furious with himself, just as he was, he stretched out and drove his sword half-way into his side. Still conscious, he enfolds the girl in his faint embrace. He was panting and streaming a swift flow of blood upon her white cheek. He lies, corpse around corpse. The wretched one received marriage rites in Hades’ house,
[At some point before the Messenger concludes his report, Eurydice withdraws into the house.]
having shown among men how much lack of counsel is the greatest evil that clings to a man.
What do you suppose about that? The woman is gone again, before she said a word, good or bad.
I, too, am surprised, but I feed on the hopes that, on hearing of her child’s pains, she does not think wailing before the city proper, but inside beneath her roof, she will set forth the grief of her own for her slaves to lament. She is not inexperienced in discretion so as
to make a mistake.
I do not know. To me too much silence seems as heavy as much vain shouting.
Well, we will know if, as we fear, she is concealing something, repressed secretly in her distraught heart, after I have entered the house. You are right. There is a heaviness even in too much silence.
[Exit Messenger. During his last lines, Creon enters silently, holding onto the body of his son Haemon which is carried by his servants.]
Here comes the lord himself, holding in his hands a remarkable memorial, if it is meet to say, not of another’s ruin but of a mistake that is all his own.
O the mistakes of thoughtless minds, stubborn, deadly mistakes; O, you who look upon kinsmen slayers and the slain. Ah me! the unhappy counsels among my counsels. O boy, new to life with a new kind of death, aiai,41 aiai, you died, and you have departed because of my bad counsels, not yours.
Ah me! How you seem to see justice late.
Ah me! I have learned in misery. Upon my head a god, at that time holding a heavy weight, struck me and hurled me in savage ways, Ah me! overturning and trampling my joy. Pheu! Pheu! the painful pains of
41 Like “pheu,” “aiai” is another Greek way of vocalizing grief.
[Enter the Messenger from the house.]
Master, you are holding evils, and you have others laid in store. Some you carry in your hands. Others inside the house you are about to come and see over there.
What worse evil is yet to come from evils?
The woman is dead, the all-mother of the corpse, the wretched one, just now by newly cut blows.
O haven of Hades hard to atone, why me, why are you destroying me? O you who have escorted to me the sufferings of ill- tidings, what word are you crying out? Aiai, you have done away with a dead man. What are you saying, boy? What news are telling me? Aiai, aiai, slaughter on top of destruction– a woman’s death besetting me on both sides?
You may see, for she is no longer in the inner recesses of the house.
[The central doors of the stage building move inward. A low, wooden platform mounted on wheels is pushed outward. On it is displayed the corpse of Eurydice lying next to an altar. A sword is visible piercing her side.]
Ah me! in my misery I am looking at a second evil. What, what fate still awaits me? I hold my child just now in my hands, wretched me, and I look further at the corpse before me. Pheu! Pheu! woeful mother,
†Around the sharply whetted knife at the altar,† …………………………….. she relaxes her eyebrows into darkness, after lamenting the empty bed of Megareus who died before42 and again the bed of this one and lastly, after conjuring evil doings for you, child-killer.
Aiai, aiai, I flutter with fear. Why has someone not struck me straight in the chest with a two-edged sword? I am miserable, aiai, and I am soaked in miserable woe.
Yes, you were denounced by the dead woman with responsibility for the deaths, that one and this one both.
In what way did she release herself in bloodshed?
By striking herself with her own hand down to the liver when she heard of the boy’s sharply lamented suffering.
Ah me! me, these things will never be fit upon another of mortals and be free of my responsibility. Yes, I killed, I killed you, O pitiable me, I, the report is true. Oh, servants, lead me away as quickly as you can, lead me from under foot, who exists no more than a nonentity.
42 Sophocles does not say how Megareus, other son of Creon and Eurydice, died, but he implies that Creon was involved. According to Apollodorus, Tiresias declared that the Thebans would be victorious over the Argives if Creon’s son offered himself as a sacrificial victim. When Megareus heard the prophecy, he slew himself before the city’s gates.
You give profitable advice, if any profit exists amid evils, for the evils at one’s feet are best when very brief.
Let it come. Let it come. Let the fairest of destinies appear, the one that brings to me my final day, the supreme destiny. Let it come. Let it come, that I no longer see another day.
These things lie in the future. It is necessary to do some of what lies before. What lies in the future is the care of those who ought to care.
No, what I lust for, I have prayed for.
Then, do not pray for anything. There is no escape for mortals from misfortune that is fated.
Please, lead a useless man out from under foot, who killed you, boy, not willingly, and you, too, this woman. O me, wretched me, I do not know toward which to look or where to lean for support. Everything in my hands is awry, while upon my head fate unbearable leaped.
[Creon is led into the house. The wheeled platform is drawn inside, and the messenger and the slaves carrying Haemon’s body enter the house.]
Chorus of Theban Elders
By far is having sense the first part of happiness. One must not act impiously toward what pertains to gods. Big words of boasting men, paid for by big blows, teach having sense in old age.
Plato, Selections from the Phaedo (ca.360 BCE)1
Plato wrote in the form of Dialogues, usually conversations between Socrates (Plato’s own teacher, who was executed in Athens in 399) and his students (Cebes and Simmias are the two in this reading who relate the conversation). It is impossible to know just how much of Plato’s writing is Socrates’ thought and how much Plato uses Socrates as a mouthpiece for his own ideas. The Phaedo (about 50 pages in its entirety) is set in the cell of Socrates after he has taken the poison Hemlock prescribed by the death sentence and is waiting for its effects to kick in and kill him. Thus, it is the perfect context in which to discuss life, death, the afterlife and the philosopher’s attitude regarding it all.
Why do you say, inquired Cebes, that a man ought not to take his own life, but that the philosopher will be ready to follow the dying?
Socrates replied: And have you, Cebes and Simmias, who are acquainted with Philolaus, never heard him speak of this?
I never understood him, Socrates. My words, too, are only an echo; but I am very willing to say what have heard: and indeed, as I am going to another place, I ought to be thinking and talking of the nature of the pilgrimage which I am about to make. What can I do better in the interval between this and the setting of the sun?
Then tell me, Socrates, why is suicide held not to be right, as I have certainly heard Philolaus affirm when he was staying with us at Thebes: and there are others who say the same, although none of them has ever made me understand him.
But do your best, replied Socrates, and the day may come when you will understand. I suppose that you wonder why, as most things which are evil may be accidentally good, this is to be the only exception (for may not death, too, be better than life in some cases?), and why, when a man is better dead, he is not permitted to be his own benefactor, but must wait for the hand of another.
By Zeus! yes, indeed, said Cebes, laughing, and speaking in his native Doric.
I admit the appearance of inconsistency, replied Socrates, but there may not be any real inconsistency after all in this. There is a doctrine uttered in secret that man is a prisoner who has no right to open the door of his prison and run away; this is a great mystery which I do not quite understand. Yet I, too, believe that the gods are our guardians, and that we are a possession of theirs. Do you not agree?
Yes, I agree to that, said Cebes.
1 Plato, Phaedo, translated by Benjamin Jowett in 1871. Parts of the text have been modernized. The full text is available at http://www.fordham.edu/HALSALL/ancient/plato-phaedo.txt
And if one of your own possessions, an ox or an ass, for example took the liberty of putting himself out of the way when you had given no intimation of your wish that he should die, would you not be angry with him, and would you not punish him if you could?
Certainly, replied Cebes. Then there may be reason in saying that a man should wait, and not take his own life until God summons him, as he is now summoning me.
[Socrates:] And now I will make answer to you, O my judges, and show that he who has lived as a true philosopher has reason to be of good cheer when he is about to die, and that after death he may hope to receive the greatest good in the other world. And how this may be, Simmias and Cebes, I will endeavor to explain. For I deem that the true disciple of philosophy is likely to be misunderstood by other men; they do not perceive that he is ever pursuing death and dying; and if this is true, why, having had the desire of death all his life long, should he repine at the arrival of that which he has been always pursuing and desiring?
Simmias laughed and said: Though not in a laughing humor, I swear that I cannot help laughing when I think what the wicked world will say when they hear this. They will say that this is very true, and our people at home will agree with them in saying that the life which philosophers desire is truly death, and that they have found them out to be deserving of the death which they desire.
And they are right, Simmias, in saying this, with the exception of the words “They have found them out”; for they have not found out what is the nature of this death which the true philosopher desires, or how he deserves or desires death. But let us leave them and have a word with ourselves: Do we believe that there is such a thing as death?
To be sure, replied Simmias.
And is this anything but the separation of soul and body? And being dead is the attainment of this separation; when the soul exists in herself [the Greek word for soul, psyche, is a feminine noun], and is parted from the body and the body is parted from the soul—that is death?
Exactly, that and nothing else, he replied.
And what do you say of another question, my friend, about which I should like to have your opinion, and the answer to which will probably throw light on our present inquiry: Do you think that the philosopher ought to care about the pleasures-if they are to be called pleasures-of eating and drinking?
Certainly not, answered Simmias. And what do you say of the pleasures of love-should he care about them?
By no means.
And will he think much of the other ways of indulging the body-for example, the acquisition of costly raiment, or sandals, or other adornments of the body? Instead of caring about them, does he not rather despise anything more than nature needs? What do you say?
I should say the true philosopher would despise them.
Would you not say that he is entirely concerned with the soul and not with the body? He would like, as far as he can, to be quit of the body and turn to the soul.
That is true.
In matters of this sort philosophers, above all other men, may be observed in every sort of way to sever the soul from the body.
That is true.
Whereas, Simmias, the rest of the world are of opinion that a life which has no bodily pleasures and no part in them is not worth having; but that he who thinks nothing of bodily pleasures is almost as though he were dead.
That is quite true.
What again shall we say of the actual acquirement of knowledge? Is the body, if invited to share in the inquiry, a hinderer or a helper? I mean to say, have sight and hearing any truth in them? Are they not, as the poets are always telling us, inaccurate witnesses? And yet, if even they are inaccurate and indistinct, what is to be said of the other senses?-for you will allow that they are the best of them?
Certainly, Simmias replied.
Then when does the soul attain truth?-for in attempting to consider anything in company with the body she is obviously deceived.
Yes, that is true. Then must not existence be revealed to her in thought, if at all? Yes.
And thought is best when the mind is gathered into herself and none of these things trouble her- neither sounds nor sights nor pain nor any pleasure-when she has as little as possible to do with the body, and has no bodily sense or feeling, but is aspiring after being?
That is true.
And in this the philosopher dishonors the body; his soul runs away from the body and desires to be alone and by herself?
That is true. Well, but there is another thing, Simmias: Is there or is there not an absolute justice? Assuredly there is. And an absolute beauty and absolute good? Of course. But did you ever behold any of them with your eyes? Certainly not.
Or did you ever reach them with any other bodily sense? (and I speak not of these alone, but of absolute greatness, and health, and strength, and of the essence or true nature of everything). Has the reality of them ever been perceived by you through the bodily organs? Or rather, is not the nearest approach to the knowledge of their several natures made by him who so orders his intellectual vision as to have the most exact conception of the essence of that which he considers?
And he attains to the knowledge of them in their highest purity who goes to each of them with the mind alone, not allowing when in the act of thought the intrusion or introduction of sight or any other sense in the company of reason, but with the very light of the mind in her clearness penetrates into the very fight of truth in each; he has got rid, as far as he can, of eyes and ears and of the whole body, which he conceives of only as a disturbing element, hindering the soul from the acquisition of knowledge when in company with her-is not this the sort of man who, if ever man did, is likely to attain the knowledge of existence?
There is admirable truth in that, Socrates, replied Simmias.
And when they consider all this, must not true philosophers make a reflection, of which they will speak to one another in such words as these: We have found, they will say, a path of speculation which seems to bring us and the argument to the conclusion that while we are in the body, and while the soul is mingled with this mass of evil, our desire will not be satisfied, and our desire is of the truth. For the body is a source of endless trouble to us by reason of the mere requirement of food; and also is liable to diseases which overtake and impede us in the search after truth: and by filling us so full of loves, and lusts, and fears, and fancies, and idols, and every sort of folly, prevents our ever having, as people say, so much as a thought. For where did wars, and quarrels and factions come from? Where but from the body and the lusts of the body? For wars are
occasioned by the love of money, and money has to be acquired for the sake and in the service of the body; and in consequence of all these things the time which ought to be given to philosophy is lost. Moreover, if there is time and an inclination toward philosophy, yet the body introduces a turmoil and confusion and fear into the course of speculation, and hinders us from seeing the truth. And all experience shows that if we would have pure knowledge of anything we must be quit of the body, and the soul in herself must behold all things in themselves. Then I suppose that we shall attain that which we desire, and of which we say that we are lovers, and that is wisdom, not while we live, but after death, as the argument shows; for if while in company with the body the soul cannot have pure knowledge, one of two things seems to follow-either knowledge is not to be attained at all, or, if at all, after death. For then, and not till then, the soul will be in herself alone and without the body. In this present life, I reckon that we make the nearest approach to knowledge when we have the least possible concern or interest in the body, and are not saturated with the bodily nature, but remain pure until the hour when God himself is pleased to release us. And then the foolishness of the body will be cleared away and we shall be pure and hold converse with other pure souls, and know of ourselves the clear light everywhere; and this is surely the light of truth. For no impure thing is allowed to approach the pure. These are the sort of words, Simmias, which the true lovers of wisdom cannot help saying to one another, and thinking. You will agree with me in that?
But if this is true, O my friend, then there is great hope that, going whither I go, I shall there be satisfied with that which has been the chief concern of you and me in our past lives. And now that the hour of departure is appointed to me, this is the hope with which I depart, and not I only, but every man who believes that he has his mind purified.
Certainly, replied Simmias.
And what is purification but the separation of the soul from the body, as I was saying before; the habit of the soul gathering and collecting herself into herself, out of all the courses of the body; the dwelling in her own place alone, as in another life, so also in this, as far as she can; the release of the soul from the chains of the body?
Very true, he said.
And what is that which is termed death, but this very separation and release of the soul from the body?
To be sure, Simmias said.
And the true philosophers, and they only, study and are eager to release the soul. Is not the separation and release of the soul from the body their especial study?
That is true.
And as I was saying at first, there would be a ridiculous contradiction in men studying to live as nearly as they can in a state of death, and yet recoiling when death comes.
Then, Simmias, as the true philosophers are ever studying death, to them, of all men, death is the least terrible.
That soul, I say, herself invisible, departs to the invisible world to the divine and immortal and rational. Arriving there, she lives in bliss and is released from the error and folly of men, their fears and wild passions and all other human ills, and forever dwells, as they say of the initiated, in company with the gods. Is not this true, Cebes?
Yes, said Cebes, beyond a doubt.
But the soul which has been polluted, and is impure at the time of her departure, and is the companion and servant of the body always, and is in love with and fascinated by the body and by the desires and pleasures of the body, until she is led to believe that the truth only exists in a bodily form, which a man may touch and see and taste and use for the purposes of his lusts-the soul, I mean, accustomed to hate and fear and avoid the intellectual principle, which to the bodily eye is dark and invisible, and can be attained only by philosophy-do you suppose that such a soul as this will depart pure and unalloyed?
That is impossible, he replied.
She is engrossed by the corporeal, which the continual association and constant care of the body have made natural to her.
And this, my friend, may be conceived to be that heavy, weighty, earthy element of sight by which such a soul is depressed and dragged down again into the visible world, because she is afraid of the invisible and of the world below-prowling about tombs and sepulchres, in the neighborhood of which, as they tell us, are seen certain ghostly apparitions of souls which have not departed pure, but are cloyed with sight and therefore visible.
That is very likely, Socrates.
Yes, that is very likely, Cebes; and these must be the souls, not of the good, but of the evil, who are compelled to wander about such places in payment of the penalty of their former evil way of life; and they continue to wander until the desire which haunts them is satisfied and they are imprisoned in another body. And they may be supposed to be fixed in the same natures which they had in their former life.
What natures do you mean, Socrates?
I mean to say that men who have followed after gluttony, and wantonness, and drunkenness, and have had no thought of avoiding them, would pass into asses and animals of that sort. What do you think?
I think that exceedingly probable.
And those who have chosen the portion of injustice, and tyranny, and violence, will pass into wolves, or into hawks and kites; whither else can we suppose them to go?
Yes, said Cebes; that is doubtless the place of natures such as theirs.
And there is no difficulty, Socrates said, in assigning to all of them places answering to their several natures and propensities?
There is not, Cebes said.
Even among them some are happier than others; and the happiest both in themselves and their place of abode are those who have practiced the civil and social virtues which are called temperance and justice, and are acquired by habit and attention without philosophy and mind.
Why are they the happiest?
Because they may be expected to pass into some gentle, social nature which is like their own, such as that of bees or ants, or even back again into the form of man, and just and moderate men spring from them.
That is not impossible.
But he who is a philosopher or lover of learning, and is entirely pure at departing, is alone permitted to reach the gods. And this is the reason, Simmias and Cebes, why the true votaries of philosophy abstain from all fleshly lusts, and endure and refuse to give themselves up to them- not because they fear poverty or the ruin of their families, like the lovers of money, and the world in general; nor like the lovers of power and honor, because they dread the dishonor or disgrace of evil deeds.
No, Socrates, that would not become them, said Cebes.
No, indeed, he replied; and therefore they who have a care of their souls, and do not merely live in the fashions of the body, say farewell to all this; they will not walk in the ways of the blind and when philosophy offers them purification and release from evil, they feel that they ought not to resist her influence, and to her they incline, and where she leads they follow.
What do you mean, Socrates?
I will tell you, he said. The lovers of knowledge are conscious that their souls, when philosophy receives them, are simply fastened and glued to their bodies. The soul is only able to view existence through the bars of a prison, and not in her own nature; she is wallowing in the mire of all ignorance; and philosophy, seeing the terrible nature of her confinement, and that the captive through desire is led to conspire in her own captivity (for the lovers of knowledge are aware that this was the original state of the soul, and that when she was in this state philosophy received and gently counseled her, and wanted to release her, pointing out to her that the eye is full of deceit, and also the ear and other senses, and persuading her to retire from them in all but the necessary use of them and to be gathered up and collected into herself, and to trust only to herself and her own intuitions of absolute existence, and mistrust that which comes to her through others and is subject to vicissitude)-philosophy shows her that this is visible and tangible, but that what she sees in her own nature is intellectual and invisible. And the soul of the true philosopher thinks that she ought not to resist this deliverance, and therefore abstains from pleasures and desires and pains and fears, as far as she is able…
Plato, selections from the Symposium
A symposium is a drinking party at which the participants discuss some philosophical topic. In the case of Plato’s Symposium (written ca. 385 BCE) the topic of discussion is the meaning of love. What were the different views of love put forward by the various participants? The excerpts below are taken from four of the speakers (condensed down), with the intervening dialogue removed.
Then, said Eryximachus, as you are all agreed that drinking is to be voluntary, and that there is to be no compulsion, I move, in the next place, that the flute-girl, who has just made her appearance, be told to go away and play to herself, or, if she likes, to the women who are within. Today let us have conversation instead; and, if you will allow me, I will tell you what sort of conversation.
…I think that at the present moment we who are here assembled cannot do better than honor the god Love. If you agree with me, there will be no lack of conversation; for I mean to propose that each of us in turn, going from left to right, shall make a speech in honor of Love. Let him give us the best which he can; and Phaedrus, because he is sitting first on the left hand, and because he [suggested the topic], shall begin.
Phaedrus: Numerous are the witnesses who acknowledge Love to be the eldest of the gods. And not only is he the eldest, he is also the source of the greatest benefits to us. For I know not any greater blessing to a young man who is beginning life than a virtuous lover or to the lover than a beloved youth. For the principle which ought to be the guide of men who would nobly live at principle, I say, neither kindred, nor honor, nor wealth, nor any other motive is able to implant so well as love. Of what am I speaking? Of the sense of honor and dishonor, without which neither states nor individuals ever do any good or great work. And I say that a lover who is detected in doing any dishonorable act, or submitting through cowardice when any dishonor is done to him by another, will be more pained at being detected by his beloved than at being seen by his father, or by his companions, or by anyone else. The beloved too, when he is found in any disgraceful situation, has the same feeling about his lover. And if there were only some way of contriving that a state or an army should be made up of lovers and their loves, they would be the very best governors of their own city, abstaining from all dishonor, and emulating one another in honor; and when fighting at each other’s side, although a mere handful, they would overcome the world. For what lover would not choose rather to be seen by all mankind than by his beloved, either when abandoning his post or throwing away his arms? He would be ready to die a thousand deaths rather than endure this. Or who would desert his beloved or fail him in the hour of danger? The biggest coward would become an inspired hero, equal to the bravest, at such a time; Love would inspire him. That courage which, as Homer says, the god breathes into the souls of some heroes, Love of his own nature infuses into the lover. Love will make men dare to die for their beloved-love alone; and women as well as men. …And greatly as the gods honor the virtue of love, still the return of love on the part of the beloved to the lover is more admired and valued and rewarded by them, for the lover is more divine; because he is inspired by God. These are my reasons for affirming that Love is the eldest and noblest and mightiest of the gods; and the chief author and giver of virtue in life, and of happiness after death.
Pausanias: If there were only one Love, then what you said would be well enough; but since there are more Loves than one, we should have begun by determining which of them was to be the theme of our praises. I will amend this defect; and first of all I would tell you which Love is deserving of praise, and then try to hymn the praiseworthy one in a manner worthy of him. For we all know that Love is inseparable from Aphrodite, and if there were only one Aphrodite there would be only one Love; but as there are two goddesses there must be two Loves.
And am I not right in asserting that there are two goddesses? The elder one, having no mother, who is called the heavenly Aphrodite, she is the daughter of Uranus; the younger, who is the daughter of Zeus and Dione, her we call common; and the Love who is her fellow-worker is rightly named common, as the other love is called heavenly. All the gods ought to have praise given to them, but not without distinction of their natures; and therefore I must try to distinguish the characters of the two Loves. Now actions vary according to the manner of their performance. Take, for example, that which we are now doing, drinking, singing and talking these actions are not in themselves either good or evil, but they turn out in this or that way according to the mode of performing them. And when done well they are good, and when wrongly done they are evil and in like manner not every love, but only that which has a noble purpose, is noble and worthy of praise. The Love who is the offspring of the common Aphrodite is essentially common, and has no discrimination, being such as the meaner sort of men feel, and is apt to be of women as well as of youths, and is of the body rather than of the soul-the most foolish beings are the objects of this love which desires only to gain an end, but never thinks of accomplishing the end nobly, and therefore does good and evil quite indiscriminately. The goddess who is his mother is far younger than the other, and she was born of the union of the male and female, and partakes of both.
But the offspring of the heavenly Aphrodite is derived from a mother in whose birth the female has no part,-she is from the male only; this is that love which is of youths, and the goddess being older, there is nothing of wantonness in her. Those who are inspired by this love turn to the male, and delight in him who is the more valiant and intelligent nature; any one may recognize the pure enthusiasts in the very character of their attachments. For they love not boys, but intelligent, beings whose reason is beginning to be developed, much about the time at which their beards begin to grow. And in choosing young men to be their companions, they mean to be faithful to them, and pass their whole life in company with them, not to take them in their inexperience, and deceive them, and play the fool with them, or run away from one to another of them. But the love of young boys should be forbidden by law, because their future is uncertain; they may turn out good or bad, either in body or soul, and much noble enthusiasm may be thrown away upon them; in this matter the good are a law to themselves, and the coarser sort of lovers ought to be restrained by force; as we restrain or attempt to restrain them from fixing their affections on women of free birth. These are the persons who bring a reproach on love; and some have been led to deny the lawfulness of such attachments because they see the impropriety and evil of them; for surely nothing that is decorously and lawfully done can justly be censured.
Evil is the vulgar lover who loves the body rather than the soul, inasmuch as he is not even stable, because he loves a thing which is in itself unstable, and therefore when the bloom of youth which he was desiring is over, he takes wing and flies away, in spite of all his words and promises; whereas the love of the noble disposition is life-long, for it becomes one with the everlasting.
Aristophanes: Mankind judging by their neglect of him, have never, as I think, at all understood the power of Love. For if they had understood him they would surely have built noble temples and altars, and offered solemn sacrifices in his honor; but this is not done, and most certainly ought to be done: since of all the gods he is the best friend of men, the helper and the healer of the ills which are the great impediment to the happiness of the race. I will try to describe his power to you, and you shall teach the rest of the world what I am teaching you. In the first place, let me treat of the nature of man and what has happened to it; for the original human nature was not like the present, but different. The sexes were not two as they are now, but originally three in number; there was man, woman, and the union of the two, having a name corresponding to this double nature, which had once a real existence, but is now lost, and the word “Androgynous” is only preserved as a term of reproach. In the second place, the primeval man was round, his back and sides forming a circle; and he had four hands and four feet, one head with two faces, looking opposite ways, set on a round neck and precisely alike; also four ears, two privy members, and the remainder to correspond. He could walk upright as men now do, backwards or forwards as he pleased, and he could also roll over and over at a great pace, turning on his four hands and four feet, eight in all, like tumblers going over and over with their legs in the air; this was when he wanted to run fast…Terrible was their might and strength, and the thoughts of their hearts were great, and they made an attack upon the gods; of them is told the tale of Otys and Ephialtes who dared to scale heaven, and would have laid hands upon the gods. Doubt reigned in the celestial councils. Should they kill them and annihilate the race with thunderbolts, as they had done the giants, then there would be an end of the sacrifices and worship which men offered to them; but, on the other hand, the gods could not suffer their insolence to be unrestrained.
At last, after a good deal of reflection, Zeus discovered a way. He said: “Methinks I have a plan which will humble their pride and improve their manners; men shall continue to exist, but I will cut them in two and then they will be diminished in strength and increased in numbers; this will have the advantage of making them more profitable to us. They shall walk upright on two legs, and if they continue insolent and will not be quiet, I will split them again and they shall hop about on a single leg.” He spoke and cut men in two, like a sorb-apple which is halved for pickling, or as you might divide an egg with a hair; and as he cut them one after another, he bade Apollo give the face and the half of the neck a turn in order that the man might contemplate the section of himself: he would thus learn a lesson of humility. Apollo was also asked to heal their wounds and compose their forms. So he gave a turn to the face and pulled the skin from the sides all over that which in our language is called the belly, like the purses which draw in, and he made one mouth at the center, which he fastened in a knot (the same which is called the navel); he also molded the breast and took out most of the wrinkles, much as a shoemaker might smooth leather upon a last; he left a few, however, in the region of the belly and navel, as a memorial of the primeval state. After the division the two parts of man, each desiring his other half, came together, and throwing their arms about one another, entwined in mutual embraces, longing to grow into one, they were on the point of dying from hunger and self-neglect, because they did not like to do anything apart; and when one of the halves died and the other survived, the survivor sought another mate, man or woman as we call them, being the sections of entire men or women, and clung to that. They were being destroyed, when Zeus in pity of them invented a new plan: he turned the parts of generation round to the front, for this had not been always their position and they sowed the seed no longer as hitherto like grasshoppers in the ground, but in one another; and after the transposition the male generated in the female in order that by the mutual embraces of man and woman they might breed, and the race might continue; or if man came to
man they might be satisfied, and rest, and go their ways to the business of life: so ancient is the desire of one another which is implanted in us, reuniting our original nature, making one of two, and healing the state of man.
Each of us when separated, having one side only, like a flat fish, is but the indenture of a man, and he is always looking for his other half. Men who are a section of that double nature which was once called Androgynous are lovers of women – adulterers are generally of this breed, and also adulterous women who lust after men. The women who are a section of the woman do not care for men, but have female attachments… But they who are a section of the male follow the male, and while they are young, being slices of the original man, they hang about men and embrace them, and they are themselves the best of boys and youths, because they have the most manly nature. Some indeed assert that they are shameless, but this is not true; for they do not act thus from any want of shame, but because they are valiant and manly, and have a manly countenance, and they embrace that which is like them. And these when they grow up become our statesmen, and these only, which is a great proof of the truth of what I am saving. When they reach manhood they are loves of youth, and are not naturally inclined to marry or beget children,-if at all, they do so only in obedience to the law; but they are satisfied if they may be allowed to live with one another unwedded and such a nature is prone to love and ready to return love, always embracing that which is akin to him. And when one of them meets with his other half, the actual half of himself, whether he be a lover of youth or a lover of another sort, the pair are lost in an amazement of love and friendship and intimacy, and would not be out of the other’s sight, as I may say, even for a moment: these are the people who pass their whole lives together; yet they could not explain what they desire of one another. For the intense yearning which each of them has towards the other does not appear to be the desire of lover’s intercourse, but of something else which the soul of either evidently desires and cannot tell, and of which she has only a dark and doubtful presentiment.
Socrates: And now, taking my leave of you, I would rehearse a tale of love which I heard from Diotima of Mantineia, a woman wise in this and in many other kinds of knowledge, who in the days of old, when the Athenians offered sacrifice before the coming of the plague, delayed the disease ten years. She was my instructress in the art of love, and I shall repeat to you what she said to me… “Love,” she said, “may be described generally as the love of the everlasting possession of the good?” “That is most true.” I agreed. “Then if this is the nature of love, can you tell me further,” she said, “what is the manner of the pursuit? What are they doing who show all this eagerness and heat which is called love? And what is the object which they have in view? Answer me.” “No, Diotima,” I replied, “if I had known, I should not have wondered at your wisdom, neither should I have come to learn from you about this very matter.” “Well,” she said, “I will teach you; The object which they have in view is birth in beauty, whether of body or, soul… and this is the reason why, when the hour of conception arrives, and the teeming nature is full, there is such a flutter and ecstasy about beauty whose approach is the alleviation of the pain of travail. For love, Socrates, is not, as you imagine, the love of the beautiful only.” “What then?” “The love of generation and of birth in beauty.” “Yes,” I said. “Yes, indeed,” she replied. “But why of generation?” “Because to the mortal creature, generation is a sort of eternity and immortality,” she replied; “and if, as has been already admitted, love is of the everlasting possession of the good, all men will necessarily desire immortality together with good: Wherefore love is of immortality.”
Aristotle, selections from the Politics1
Aristotle (384-322 BCE) is equal to Plato in his influence on later philosophy, theology and science. He spent twenty years studying and teaching at Plato’s Academy in Athens. While Aristotle’s writings span a wide variety of subjects, the excerpts here come from the Politics. While we know Aristotle wrote more polished works (and, like Plato, in dialogue format), what has survived are much closer to lecture notes or early drafts meant later to be turned into dialogues. In the excerpts below, he covers the purpose of the state, types of governments and the differences between rulers and subjects (which he begins with a discussion of differences within the household, the basic unit within Greek society).
It was out of the association formed by men with these two, women and slaves, that the first household was formed; and the poet Hesiod was right when he wrote “get first a house and a wife and an ox to draw the plough” (the ox is a poor man’s slave). This association of persons, established according to the law of nature and continuing day after day, is the household…
Property is a part of the household, and the art of acquiring property is a part of the art of managing the household; for no man can live well, or indeed live at all, unless he be provided with the necessities. And as in the arts which have a definite sphere the workers must have their own proper instruments for the accomplishment of their work, so it is in the management of a household. Now instruments are of various sorts; some are living, others lifeless; in the rudder, the pilot of a ship has a lifeless, in the look-out man, a living instrument; for in the arts the servant is a kind of instrument. Thus, too, a possession is an instrument for maintaining life. And so, in the arrangement of the family, a slave is a living possession, and property a number of such instruments; and the servant is himself an instrument which takes precedence of all other instruments.
It is clear that household management pertains more to men than to the acquisition of inanimate things, and to human excellence more than to the excellence of property which we call wealth, and to the virtue of freemen more than to the virtue of slaves. A question may indeed be raised, whether there is any excellence at all in a slave beyond and higher than merely bodily services- whether he can have the virtues of temperance, courage, justice, and the like; or whether slaves possess only bodily services. And, whichever way we answer the question, a difficulty arises; for, if they have virtue, in what will they differ from freemen? On the other hand, since they are men and share in rational principle, it seems absurd to say that they have no virtue. A similar question may be raised about women and children, whether they too have virtues: ought a woman to be temperate and brave and just, and is a child to be called temperate, and intemperate? So in general we may ask about the natural ruler, and the natural subject, whether they have the same or different virtues. For if a noble nature is equally required in both, why should one of them always rule, and the other always be ruled? Nor can we say that this is a
1 Aristotle, Politics, translated by Benjamin Jowett (d.1893). Complete text available at http://www.constitution.org/ari/polit_00.htm.
question of degree, for the difference between ruler and subject is a difference of kind, which the difference of more and less never is. Yet how strange is the supposition that the one ought, and that the other ought not, to have virtue! For if the ruler is intemperate and unjust, how can he rule well? If the subject, how can he obey well? If he be licentious and cowardly, he will certainly not do his duty. It is evident, therefore, that both of them must have a share of virtue, but varying as natural subjects also vary among themselves. Here the very constitution of the soul has shown us the way; in it one part naturally rules, and the other is subject, and the virtue of the ruler we maintain to be different from that of the subject; the one being the virtue of the rational, and the other of the irrational part. Now, it is obvious that the same principle applies generally and, therefore, almost all things rule and are ruled according to nature. But the kind of rule differs; the freeman rules over the slave after another manner from that in which the male rules over the female, or the man over the child; although the parts of the soul are present in an of them, they are present in different degrees. For the slave has no deliberative faculty at all; the woman has, but it is without authority, and the child has, but it is immature. So it must necessarily be supposed to be with the moral virtues also; all should partake of them, but only in such manner and degree as is required by each for the fulfillment of his duty. Hence the ruler ought to have moral virtue in perfection, for his function absolutely demands a master craftsman, and reason is such a craftsman; the subjects, on the other hand, require only that measure of virtue which is proper to each of them. Clearly, then, moral virtue belongs to all of them; but the temperance of a man and of a woman, or the courage and justice of a man and of a woman, are not, as Socrates maintained, the same; the courage of a man is shown in commanding, of a woman in obeying. And this holds of all other virtues, as will be more clearly seen if we look at them in detail, for those who say generally that virtue consists in a good disposition of the soul, or in doing rightly, or the like, only deceive themselves. Far better than such definitions is their mode of speaking, who, like Gorgias, enumerate the virtues. All classes must be deemed to have their special attributes; as the poet [Sophocles] says of women, “Silence is a woman’s glory,” but this is not equally the glory of man. The child is imperfect, and therefore obviously his virtue is not relative to himself alone, but to the perfect man and to his teacher, and in like manner the virtue of the slave is relative to a master. Now we determined that a slave is useful for the wants of life, and therefore he will obviously require only so much virtue as will prevent him from failing in his duty through cowardice or lack of self-control. Someone will ask whether, if what we are saying is true, virtue will not be required also in the artisans, for they often fail in their work through the lack of self-control? But is there not a great difference in the two cases? For the slave shares in his master’s life; the artisan is less closely connected with him, and only attains excellence in proportion as he becomes a slave. The meaner sort of mechanic has a special and separate slavery; and whereas the slave exists by nature, not so the shoemaker or other artisan. It is manifest, then, that the master ought to be the source of such excellence in the slave, and not a mere possessor of the art of mastership which trains the slave in his duties. Wherefore they are mistaken who forbid us to converse with slaves and say that we should employ command only, for slaves stand even more in need of admonition than children.
Our purpose is to consider what form of political community is best of all for those who are most able to realize their ideal of life. Three alternatives are conceivable: The members of a state must either have (1) all things or (2) nothing in common, or (3) some things in common and some not.
That they should have nothing in common is clearly impossible, for the constitution is a community, and must at any rate have a common place—one city will be in one place, and the citizens are those who share in that one city. But should a well ordered state have all things, as far as may be, in common, or some only and not others? For the citizens might conceivably have wives and children and property in common, as Socrates proposes in the Republic of Plato. Which is better, our present condition, or the proposed new order of society?
Property should be in a certain sense common, but, as a general rule, private; for, when everyone has a distinct interest, men will not complain of one another, and they will make more progress, because everyone will be attending to his own business. And yet by reason of goodness, and in respect of use, ‘Friends,’ as the proverb says, “will have all things common.” Even now there are traces. For, although every man has his own property, some things he will place at the disposal of his friends, while of others he shares the use with them. Again, how immeasurably greater is the pleasure, when a man feels a thing to be his own; for surely the love of self is a feeling implanted by nature and not given in vain, although selfishness is rightly censured. No one, when men have all things in common, will any longer set an example of liberality or do any liberal action; for liberality consists in the use which is made of property. Such legislation may have a specious appearance of benevolence; men readily listen to it, and are easily induced to believe that in some wonderful manner everybody will become everybody’s friend, especially when someone is heard denouncing the evils now existing in states, suits about contracts, convictions for perjury, flatteries of rich men and the like, which are said to arise out of the possession of private property. These evils, however, are due to a very different cause—the wickedness of human nature.
He who would inquire into the essence and attributes of various kinds of governments must first of all determine “What is a state?” A state is composite, like any other whole made up of many parts; these are the citizens, who compose it. It is evident, therefore, that we must begin by asking, who is the citizen, and what is the meaning of the term? For here again there may be a difference of opinion. He who is a citizen in a democracy will often not be a citizen in an oligarchy. Leaving out of consideration those who have been made citizens, or who have obtained the name of citizen any other accidental manner, we may say, first, that a citizen is not a citizen because he lives in a certain place, for resident aliens and slaves share in the place; nor is he a citizen who has no legal right except that of suing and being sued; for this right may be enjoyed under the provisions of a treaty. But the citizen whom we are seeking to define is a citizen in the strictest sense, against whom no such exception can be taken, and his special characteristic is that he shares in the administration of justice, and in offices. He who has the power to take part in the deliberative or judicial administration of any state is said by us to be a citizens of that state; and, speaking generally, a state is a body of citizens sufficing for the purposes of life.
Like the sailor, the citizen is a member of a community. Now, sailors have different functions, for one of them is a rower, another a pilot, and a third a look-out man…Similarly, one citizen differs from another, but the salvation of the community is the common business of them
all. This community is the constitution; the virtue of the citizen must therefore be relative to the constitution of which he is a member. A constitution is the arrangement of magistracies in a state, especially of the highest of all. The government is everywhere sovereign in the state, and the constitution is in fact the government. For example, in democracies the people are supreme, but in oligarchies, the few; and, therefore, we say that these two forms of government also are different: and so in other cases.
First, let us consider what is the purpose of a state, and how many forms of government there are by which human society is regulated. We have already said, in the first part of this treatise, when discussing household management and the rule of a master, that man is by nature a political animal. And therefore, men, even when they do not require one another’s help, desire to live together; not but that they are also brought together by their common interests in proportion as they severally attain to any measure of well-being. This is certainly the chief end, both of individuals and of states. And also for the sake of mere life (in which there is possibly some noble element so long as the evils of existence do not greatly overbalance the good) mankind meet together and maintain the political community….
The words constitution and government have the same meaning, and the government, which is the supreme authority in states, must be in the hands of one, or of a few, or of the many. The true forms of government, therefore, are those in which the one, or the few, or the many, govern with a view to the common interest; but governments which rule with a view to the private interest, whether of the one or of the few, or of the many, are perversions. Of forms of government in which one rules, we call that which regards the common interests, monarchy;2 that in which more than one, but not many, rule, aristocracy (and it is so called, either because the rulers are the best men, or because they have at heart the best interests of the state and of the citizens). But when the citizens at large administer the state for the common interest, the government is called a polity. And there is a reason for this use of language.
Of the above-mentioned forms, the perversions are as follows: of monarchy, tyranny; of aristocracy, oligarchy; of polity, democracy. For tyranny is a kind of monarchy which has in view the interest of the monarch only; oligarchy has in view the interest of the wealthy; democracy, of the needy: none of them the common good of all. Tyranny, as I was saying, is monarchy exercising the rule of a master over the political society; oligarchy is when men of property have the government in their hands; democracy, the opposite, when the indigent, and not the men of property, are the rulers….Then ought the good to rule and have supreme power? But in that case everybody else, being excluded from power, will be dishonored. For the offices of a state are posts of honor; and if one set of men always holds them, the rest must be deprived of them. Then will it be well that the one best man should rule? Nay, that is still more oligarchical, for the number of those who are dishonored is thereby increased….The discussion of the first question shows nothing so clearly as that laws, when good, should be supreme; and that the magistrate or magistrates should regulate those matters only on which the laws are unable to speak with precision owing to the difficulty of any general principle embracing all particulars.
2 The Aristotle’s definition of six types of government is linked to the Greek words on which they are based: mono = one; aristoi = the best; polis = the city-state and its citizens; tyrannos = one who seized power unjustly; oligoi = a few; and demos = the Athenian name for a political district and the commonly used term by the Greek upper class (the aristoi) to refer to the poor, all non-aristocrats.
Now it is evident that the form of government is best in which every man, whoever he is, can act best and live happily….If we are right in our view, and happiness is assumed to be virtuous activity, the active life will be the best, both for every city collectively, and for individuals. In what remains the first point to be considered is what should be the conditions of the ideal or perfect state; for the perfect state cannot exist without a due supply of the means of life…In size and extent it should be such as may enable the inhabitants to live at once temperately and liberally in the enjoyment of leisure. And so states require property, but property, even though living beings are included in it, is no part of a state; for a state is not a community of living beings only, but a community of equals, aiming at the best life possible.
Let us then enumerate the functions of a state, and we shall easily elicit what we want: First, there must be food; secondly, arts, for life requires many instruments; thirdly, there must be arms, for the members of a community have need of them, and in their own hands, too, in order to maintain authority both against disobedient subjects and against external assailants; fourthly, there must be a certain amount of revenue, both for internal needs, and for the purposes of war; fifthly, or rather first, there must be a care of religion which is commonly called worship; sixthly, and most necessary of all there must be a power of deciding what is for the public interest, and what is just in men’s dealings with one another. These are the services which every state may be said to need. For a state is not a mere aggregate of persons, but a union of them sufficing for the purposes of life; and if any of these things be wanting, it is as we maintain impossible that the community can be absolutely self-sufficing. A state then should be framed with a view to the fulfillment of these functions. There must be farmers to procure food, and artisans, and a warlike and a wealthy class, and priests, and judges to decide what is necessary and expedient.
Since every political society is composed of rulers and subjects let us consider whether the relations of one to the other should interchange or be permanent. For the education of the citizens will necessarily vary with the answer given to this question. Now, if some men excelled others in the same degree in which gods and heroes are supposed to excel mankind in general, so that the superiority of the governors was undisputed and patent to their subjects, it would clearly be better that the one class should rule and the other serve. But since this is unattainable, and kings have no marked superiority over their subjects…it is obviously necessary on many grounds that all the citizens alike should take their turn of governing and being governed. Equality consists in the same treatment of similar persons, and no government can stand which is not founded upon justice.
Since the legislator should begin by considering how the frames of the children whom he is rearing may be as good as possible, his first care will be about marriage—at what age should his citizens marry, and who are fit to marry? The union of male and female when too young is bad for the procreation of children; it also conduces to temperance not to marry too soon; for women who marry early are apt to be wanton; and in men too the bodily frame is stunted if they marry while the seed is growing (for there is a time when the growth of the seed, also, ceases, or continues to but a slight extent). Women should marry when they are about eighteen years of
age, and men at thirty-seven; then they are in the prime of life, and the decline in the powers of both will coincide. The constitution of an athlete is not suited to the life of a citizen, or to health, or to the procreation of children, any more than the valetudinarian or exhausted constitution, but one which is in a mean between them. A man’s constitution should be inured to labor, but not to labor which is excessive or of one sort only, such as is practiced by athletes; he should be capable of all the actions of a freeman. These remarks apply equally to both parents. Women who are with child should be careful of themselves; they should take exercise and have a nourishing diet. Their minds, however, unlike their bodies, they ought to keep quiet, for the offspring derive their natures from their mothers as plants do from the earth. As to adultery, let it be held disgraceful, in general, for any man or woman to be found in any way unfaithful when they are married, and called husband and wife.
As to the exposure and rearing of children, let there be a law that no deformed child shall live, but that on the ground of an excess in the number of children, if the established customs of the state forbid this (for in our state population has a limit), no child is to be exposed, but when couples have children in excess, let abortion be procured before sense and life have begun. The Directors of Education, as they are termed, should be careful what tales or stories the children hear, for all such things are designed to prepare the way for the business of later life, and should be for the most part imitations of the occupations which they will hereafter pursue in earnest. Indeed, there is nothing which the legislator should be more careful to drive away than indecency of speech; for the light utterance of shameful words leads soon to shameful actions. The young especially should never be allowed to repeat or hear anything of the sort. And since we do not allow improper language, clearly we should also banish pictures or speeches from the stage which are indecent. Let the rulers take care that there be no image or picture representing unseemly actions, except in the temples of those Gods at whose festivals the law permits even ribaldry, and whom the law also permits to be worshiped by persons of mature age on behalf of themselves, their children, and their wives. And therefore youth should be kept strangers to all that is bad, and especially to things which suggest vice or hate.
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