Epic of Ishtar and Izdubar: Fall of Erech (Col-2); Assyrian

O Moon-god, [1] hear my cry! With thy pure light
Oh, take my spirit through that awful night
That hovers o’er the long-forgotten years,
To sing Accadia’s songs and weep her tears!
‘Twas thus I prayed, when lo! my spirit rose
On fleecy clouds, enwrapt in soft repose;
And I beheld beneath me nations glide
In swift succession by, in all their pride:
The earth was filled with cities of mankind,
And empires fell beneath a summer wind.
The soil and clay walked forth upon the plains
In forms of life, and every atom gains
A place in man or breathes in animals;
And flesh and blood and bones become the walls
Of palaces and cities, which soon fall
To unknown dust beneath some ancient wall.
All this I saw while guided by the stroke
Of unseen pinions: Then amid the smoke
That rose o’er burning cities, I beheld
White Khar-sak-kur-ra’s[2] brow arise that held
The secrets of the gods–that felt the prose
Of Khasisadra’s ark; I heard the roar
Of battling elements, and saw the waves
That tossed above mankind’s commingled graves.
The mighty mountain as some sentinel
Stood on the plains alone; and o’er it fell
A halo, bright, divine; its summit crowned
With sunbeams, shining on the earth around
And o’er the wide expanse of plains;–below
Lay Khar-sak-kal-ama[3] with light aglow,
And nestling far away within my view
Stood Erech, Nipur, Marad, Eridu,
And Babylon, the tower-city old,
In her own splendor shone like burnished gold.
And lo! grand Erech in her glorious days
Lies at my feet. I see a wondrous maze
Of vistas, groups, and clustering columns round,
Within, without the palace;–from the ground
Of outer staircases, massive, grand,
Stretch to the portals where the pillars stand.
A thousand carved columns reaching high
To silver rafters in an azure sky,
And palaces and temples round it rise
With lofty turrets glowing to the skies,
And massive walls far spreading o’er the plains,
Here live and move Accadia’s courtly trains,
And see! the “pit-u-dal-ti”[4] at the gates,
And “masari”[5] patrol and guard the streets!
And yonder comes a “kis-ib”, nobleman,
With a young prince; and see! a caravan
Winds through the gates! With men the streets are filled!
And chariots, a people wise and skilled
In things terrestrial, what science, art,
Here reign! With laden ships from every mart
The docks are filled, and foreign fabrics bring
From peoples, lands, where many an empire, king,
Have lived and passed away, and naught have left
In history or song. Dread Time hath cleft
Us far apart; their kings and kingdoms, priests
And bards are gone, and o’er them sweep the mists
Of darkness backward spreading through all time,
Their records swept away in every clime.

Those alabaster stairs let us ascend,
And through this lofty portal we will wend.
See! richest Sumir rugs amassed, subdue
The tiled pavement with its varied hue,
Upon the turquoise ceiling sprinkled stars
Of gold and silver crescents in bright pairs!
And gold-fringed scarlet curtains grace each door,
And from the inlaid columns reach the floor:
From golden rods extending round the halls,
Bright silken hangings drape the sculptured walls.

But part those scarlet hangings at the door
Of yon grand chamber! Tread the antique floor!
Behold the sovereign on her throne of bronze,
While crouching at her feet a lion fawns;
The glittering court with gold and gems ablaze
With ancient splendor of the glorious days
Of Accad’s sovereignty. Behold the ring
Of dancing beauties circling while they sing
With amorous forms in moving melody,
The measure keep to music’s harmony.
Hear! how the music swells from silver lute
And golden-stringed lyres and softest flute
And harps and tinkling cymbals, measured drums,
While a soft echo from the chamber comes.

But see! the sovereign lifts her jeweled hand,
The music ceases at the Queen’s command;
And lo! Two chiefs in warrior’s array,
With golden helmets plumed with colors gay,
And golden shields, and silver coats of mail,
Obeisance make to her with faces pale,
Prostrate themselves before their sovereign’s throne
In silence brief remain with faces prone,
Till Ellat-gula [6] speaks: “My chiefs, arise!
What word have ye for me? What new surprise?”
Tur-tau-u, [7] rising, says, “O Dannat [8] Queen!
Thine enemy, Khum-baba[9] with Rim-siu[10]
With clanging shields, appears upon the hills,
And Elam’s host the land of Sumir fills.”
“Away, ye chiefs! Sound loud the “nappa-khu”! [11]
Send to their post each warrior “bar-ru”!”[12]
The gray embattlements rose in the light
That lingered yet from Samas’ [13] rays, ere Night
Her sable folds had spread across the sky.
Thus Erech stood, where in her infancy
The huts of wandering Accads had been built
Of soil, and rudely roofed by woolly pelt
O’er laid upon the shepherd’s worn-out staves,
And yonder lay their fathers’ unmarked graves.
Their chieftains in those early days oft meet
Upon the mountains where they Samas greet,
With their rude sacrifice upon a tree
High-raised that their sun-god may shining see
Their offering divine; invoking pray
For aid, protection, blessing through the day.
Beneath these walls and palaces abode
The spirit of their country–each man trod
As if his soul to Erech’s weal belonged,
And heeded not the enemy which thronged
Before the gates, that now were closed with bars
Of bronze thrice fastened.

See the thousand cars
And chariots arrayed across the plains!
The marching hosts of Elam’s armed trains,
The archers, slingers in advance amassed,
With black battalions in the centre placed,
With chariots before them drawn in line,
Bedecked with brightest trappings iridine,
While gorgeous plumes of Elam’s horses nod
Beneath the awful sign of Elam’s god.
On either side the mounted spearsmen far
Extend; and all the enginery of war
Are brought around the walls with fiercest shouts,
And from behind their shields each archer shoots.

Thus Erech is besieged by her dread foes,
And she at last must feel Accadia’s woes,
And feed the vanity of conquerors,
Who boast o’er victories in all their wars.
Great Subartu [14] has fallen by Sutu [15]
And Kassi, [16] Goim [17] fell with Lul-lu-bu, [18]
Thus Khar-sak-kal-a-ma [19] all Eridu [20]
O’erran with Larsa’s allies; Subartu
With Duran [21] thus was conquered by these sons
Of mighty Shem and strewn was Accad’s bones
Throughout her plains, and mountains, valleys fair,
Unburied lay in many a wolf’s lair.
Oh, where is Accad’s chieftain Izdubar,
Her mightiest unrivalled prince of war?

The turrets on the battlemented walls
Swarm with skilled bowmen, archers–from them falls
A cloud of winged missiles on their foes,
Who swift reply with shouts and twanging bows;
And now amidst the raining death appears
The scaling ladder, lined with glistening spears,
But see! the ponderous catapults now crush
The ladder, spearsmen, with their mighty rush
Of rocks and beams, nor in their fury slacked
As if a toppling wall came down intact
Upon the maddened mass of men below.
But other ladders rise, and up them flow
The tides of armed spearsmen with their shields;
From others bowmen shoot, and each man wields
A weapon, never yielding to his foe,
For death alone he aims with furious blow.
At last upon the wall two soldiers spring,
A score of spears their corses backward fling.
But others take their place, and man to man,
And spear to spear, and sword to sword, till ran
The walls with slippery gore; but Erech’s men
Are brave and hurl them from their walls again.
And now the battering-rams with swinging power
Commence their thunders, shaking every tower;
And miners work beneath the crumbling walls,
Alas! before her foemen Erech falls.
Vain are suspended chains against the blows
Of dire assaulting engines.

Ho! there goes
The eastern wall with Erech’s strongest tower!
And through the breach her furious foemen pour:
A wall of steel withstands the onset fierce,
But thronging Elam’s spears the lines soon pierce,
A band of chosen men there fight to die,
Before their enemies disdain to fly;
The “masari”[22] within the breach thus died,
And with their dying shout the foe defied.
The foes swarm through the breach and o’er the walls,
And Erech in extremity loud calls
Upon the gods for aid, but prays for naught,
While Elam’s soldiers, to a frenzy wrought,
Pursue and slay, and sack the city old
With fiendish shouts for blood and yellow gold.
Each man that falls the foe decapitates,
And bears the reeking death to Erech’s gates.
The gates are hidden ‘neath the pile of heads
That climbs above the walls, and outward spreads
A heap of ghastly plunder bathed in blood.
Beside them calm scribes of the victors stood,
And careful note the butcher’s name, and check
The list; and for each head a price they make.
Thus pitiless the sword of Elam gleams
And the best blood of Erech flows in streams.
From Erech’s walls some fugitives escape,
And others in Euphrates wildly leap,
And hide beneath its rushes on the bank
And many ‘neath the yellow waters sank.

The harper of the Queen, an aged man,
Stands lone upon the bank, while he doth scan
The horizon with anxious, careworn face,
Lest ears profane of Elam’s hated race
Should hear his strains of mournful melody:
Now leaning on his harp in memory
Enwrapt, while fitful breezes lift his locks
Of snow, he sadly kneels upon the rocks
And sighing deeply clasps his hands in woe,
While the dread past before his mind doth flow.
A score and eight of years have slowly passed
Since Rim-a-gu, with Elam’s host amassed,
Kardunia’s ancient capital had stormed.
The glorious walls and turrets are transformed
To a vast heap of ruins, weird, forlorn,
And Elam’s spears gleam through the coming morn.
From the sad sight his eyes he turns away,
His soul breathes through his harp while he doth play
With bended head his aged hands thus woke
The woes of Erech with a measured stroke:

O Erech! dear Erech, my beautiful home,
Accadia’s pride, O bright land of the bard,
Come back to my vision, dear Erech, oh, come!
Fair land of my birth, how thy beauty is marred!
The horsemen of Elam, her spearsmen and bows,
Thy treasures have ravished, thy towers thrown down,
And Accad is fallen, trod down by her foes.
Oh, where are thy temples of ancient renown?

Gone are her brave heroes beneath the red tide,
Gone are her white vessels that rode o’er the main,
No more on the river her pennon shall ride,
Gargan-na is fallen, her people are slain.
Wild asses[23] shall gallop across thy grand floors,
And wild bulls shall paw them and hurl the dust high
Upon the wild cattle that flee through her doors,
And doves shall continue her mournful slave’s cry.

Oh, where are the gods of our Erech so proud,
As flies they are swarming away from her halls,
The Sedu [24] of Erech are gone as a cloud,
As wild fowl are flying away from her walls.
Three years did she suffer, besieged by her foes,
Her gates were thrown down and defiled by the feet
Who brought to poor Erech her tears and her woes,
In vain to our Ishtar with prayers we entreat.

To Ishtar bowed down doth our Bel thus reply,
“Come, Ishtar, my queenly one, hide all thy tears,
Our hero, Tar-u-man-i izzu Sar-ri, [25]
In Kipur is fortified with his strong spears.
The hope of Kardunia, [26] land of my delight,
Shall come to thy rescue, upheld by my hands,
Deliverer of peoples, whose heart is a right,
Protector of temples, shall lead his brave bands.”

Awake then, brave Accad, to welcome the day!
Behold thy bright banners yet flaming on high,
Triumphant are streaming on land and the sea!
Arise, then, O Accad! behold the Sami![27]
Arranged in their glory the mighty gods come
In purple and gold the grand Tam-u[8] doth shine
Over Erech, mine Erech, my beautiful home,
Above thy dear ashes, behold thy god’s sign!

[Footnote 1: “O Moon-god, hear my cry!” (“Siu lici unnini!”) the name of the author of the Izdubar epic upon which our poem is based.]—-[Footnote 2: “Khar-sak-kur-ra,” the Deluge mountain on which the ark of Khasisadra (the Accadian Noah) rested.]—-[Footnote 3: “Khar-sak-kal-ama” is a city mentioned in the Izdubar epic, and was probably situated at the base of Khar-sak-kur-ra, now called Mount Elwend. The same mountain is sometimes called the “Mountain of the World” in the inscriptions, where the gods were supposed to sometimes reside.]—-[Footnote 4: “Pit-u-dal-ti,” openers of the gates.]—-[Footnote 5: “Masari,” guards of the great gates of the city, etc.]—-[Footnote 6: “Ellat-gula,” the queen of Erech, the capital of Babylonia.]—-[Footnote 7: “Tur-tan-u” was the army officer or general who in the absence of the sovereign took the supreme command of the army, and held the highest rank next to the queen or king.]—-[Footnote 8: “Dannat” (the “Powerful Lady”) was a title applied to the Queen, the mother of Izdubar (Sayce’s ed. Smith’s “Chal. Acc. of Gen.,” p. 184). We have here identified her with Ellat-gula, the Queen of Babylon, who preceded Ham-murabi or Nammurabi, whom the inscriptions indicate was an Accadian. The latter we have identified with Nimrod, following the suggestion of Mr. George Smith.]—-[Footnote 9: “Khumbaba” was the giant Elamitic king whom Izdubar overthrew. We identify him with the King of the Elamites who, allied with Rimsin or Rimagu, was overthrown by Nammurabi or Izdubar.]—-[Footnote 10: “Rim-siu,” above referred to, who overthrew Uruk, or Karrak, or Erech. He was King of Larsa, immediately south of Erech.]—-[Footnote 11: “Nap-pa-khu,” war-trumpet.]—-[Footnote 12: “Bar-ru,” army officer.]—-[Footnote 13: “Samas,” the sun-god.]—-[Footnote 14: “Subartu” is derived from the Accadian “subar” (“high”), applied by the Accadians to the highlands of Aram or Syria. It is probable that all these countries, viz., Subartu, Goim, Lullubu, Kharsak-kalama, Eridu, and Duran, were at one time inhabited by the Accadians, until driven out by the Semites.]—-[Footnote 15: “Sutu” is supposed to refer to the Arabians.]—-[Footnote 16: “Kassi,” the Kassites or Elamites. The Kassi inhabited the northern part of Elam.]—-[Footnote 17: “Goim,” or “Gutium,” supposed by Sir Henry Rawlinson to be the Goyim of Gen. xiv, ruled by Tidal or Turgal (“the Great Son”).]—-[Footnote 18: “Lul-lu-bu,” a country northward of Mesopotamia and Nizir.]—-[Footnote 19: “Kharsak-kala-ma,” the city supposed to lie at the base of Kharsak-kurra, or Mount Nizir, or Mount Elwend. The same city was afterward called Echatana.]—-[Footnote 20: “Eridu,” the land of Ur, or Erech.]—-[Footnote 21: “Duran,” Babylonia.]—-[Footnote 22: “Masari,” guards of the palace, etc.]—-[Footnote 23: See Sayce’s translation in the “Chal. Acc. of Gen.,” by Smith, p. 193.]—-[Footnote 24: “Sedu,” spirits of prosperity.]—-[Footnote 25: “Tar-u-mani izzu Sarri,” son of the faith, the fire of kings, or fire-king.]—-[Footnote 26: “Kardunia,” the ancient name of Babylon.]—-[Footnote 27: “Sami,” heavens (plural).]—-[Footnote 28: “Tamu,” dawn or sunrise, day.]

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SOURCE: Babylonian and Assyrian Literature (1901); Translated by Leonidas Le Cenci Hamilton, M.A.
CONTRIBUTOR: John Hague

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Epic of Ishtar And Izdubar: Invocation (1); Assyrian

The great nation which dwelt in the seventh century before our era on the banks of Tigris and Euphrates flourished in literature as well as in the plastic arts, and had an alphabet of its own. The Assyrians sometimes wrote with a sharp reed, for a pen, upon skins, wooden tablets, or papyrus brought from Egypt. In this case they used cursive letters of a Phoenician character. But when they wished to preserve their written documents, they employed clay tablets, and a stylus whose beveled point made an impression like a narrow elongated wedge, or arrow-head. By a combination of these wedges, letters and words were formed by the skilled and practiced scribe, who would thus rapidly turn off a vast amount of “copy.”

All works of history, poetry, and law were thus written in the cuneiform or old Chaldean characters, and on a substance which could withstand the ravages of time, fire, or water. Hence we have authentic monuments of Assyrian literature in their original form, un-glossed, unaltered, and un-garbled, and in this respect Chaldean records are actually superior to those of the Greeks, the Hebrews, or the Romans.

The literature of the Chaldeans is very varied in its forms. The hymns to the gods form an important department, and were doubtless employed in public worship. They are by no means lacking in sublimity of expression, and while quite un-metrical they are proportioned and emphasized, like Hebrew poetry, by means of parallelism. In other respects they resemble the productions of Jewish psalmists, and yet they date as far back as the third millennium before Christ. They seem to have been transcribed in the shape in which we at present have them in the reign of Assurbanipal, who was a great patron of letters, and in whose reign libraries were formed in the principal cities. The Assyrian renaissance of the seventeenth century B.C. witnessed great activity among scribes and book collectors: modern scholars are deeply indebted to this golden age of letters in Babylonia for many precious and imperishable monuments. It is, however, only within recent years that these works of hoar antiquity have passed from the secluded cell of the specialist and have come within reach of the general reader, or even of the student of literature. For many centuries the cuneiform writing was literally a dead letter to the learned world. The clue to the understanding of this alphabet was originally discovered in 1850 by Colonel Rawlinson, and described by him in a paper read before the Royal Society. Hence the knowledge of Assyrian literature is, so far as Europe is concerned, scarcely more than half a century old.

Among the most valuable of historic records to be found among the monuments of any nation are inscriptions, set up on public buildings, in palaces, and in temples. The Greek and Latin inscriptions discovered at various points on the shores of the Mediterranean have been of priceless value in determining certain questions of philology, as well as in throwing new light on the events of history. Many secrets of language have been revealed, many perplexities of history disentangled, by the words engraven on stone or metal, which the scholar discovers amid the dust of ruined temples, or on the “cippus” of a tomb. The form of one Greek letter, perhaps even its existence, would never have been guessed but for its discovery in an inscription. If inscriptions are of the highest critical importance and historic interest, in languages which are represented by a voluminous and familiar literature, how much more precious must they be when they record what happened in the remotest dawn of history, surviving among the ruins of a vast empire whose people have vanished from the face of the earth?

Hence the cuneiform inscriptions are of the utmost interest and value, and present the greatest possible attractions to the curious and intelligent reader. They record the deeds and conquests of mighty kings, the Napoleons and Hannibal’s of primeval time. They throw a vivid light on the splendid sculptures of Nineveh; they give a new interest to the pictures and carvings that describe the building of cities, the marching to war, the battle, by sea and land, of great monarchs whose horse and foot were as multitudinous as the locusts that in Eastern literature are compared to them. Lovers of the Bible will find in the Assyrian inscriptions many confirmations of Scripture history, as well as many parallels to the account of the primitive world in Genesis, and none can give even a cursory glance at these famous remains without feeling his mental horizon widened. We are carried by this writing on the walls of Assyrian towns far beyond the little world of the recent centuries; we pass, as almost modern, the day when Julius Caesar struggled in the surf of Kent against the painted savages of Britain. Nay, the birth of Romulus and Remus is a recent event in comparison with records of incidents in Assyrian national life, which occurred not only before Moses lay cradled on the waters of an Egyptian canal, but before Egypt had a single temple or pyramid, three millenniums before the very dawn of history in the valley of the Nile.

But the interest of Assyrian Literature is not confined to hymns, or even to inscriptions. A nameless poet has left in the imperishable tablets of a Babylonian library an epic poem of great power and beauty. This is the Epic of Izdubar. At Dur-Sargina, the city where stood the palace of Assyrian monarchs three thousand years ago, were two gigantic human figures, standing between the winged bulls, carved in high relief, at the entrance of the royal residence. These human figures are exactly alike, and represent the same personage–a Colossus with swelling hews, and dressed in a robe of dignity. He strangles a lion by pressing it with brawny arm against his side, as if it were no more than a cat. This figure is that of Izdubar, or Gisdubar, the great central character of Assyrian poetry and sculpture, the theme of minstrels, the typical hero of his land, the favored of the gods. What is called the Epic of Izdubar relates the exploits of this hero, who was born the son of a king in Ourouk of Chaldea. His father was dethroned by the Elamites, and Izdubar was driven into the wilderness and became a mighty hunter. In the half-peopled earth, so lately created, wild beasts had multiplied and threatened the extermination of mankind. The hunter found himself at war with monsters more formidable than even the lion or the wild bull. There were half-human scorpions, bulls with the head of man, fierce satyrs and winged griffins. Deadly war did Izdubar wage with them, till as his period of exile drew near to a close he said to his mother, “I have dreamed a dream; the stars rained from heaven upon me; then a creature, fierce-faced and taloned like a lion, rose up against me, and I smote and slew him.”

The dream was long in being fulfilled, but at last Izdubar was told of a monstrous jinn, whose name was Heabani; his head was human but horned; and he had the legs and tail of a bull, yet was he wisest of all upon earth. Enticing him from his cave by sending two fair women to the entrance, Izdubar took him captive and led him to Ourouk, where the jinn married oneof the women whose charms had allured him, and became henceforth the well-loved servant of Izdubar. Then Izdubar slew the Elamite who had dethroned his father, and put the royal diadem on his own head. And behold the goddess Ishtar (Ashtaroth) cast her eyes upon the hero and wished to be his wife, but he rejected her with scorn, reminding her of the fate of Tammuz, and of Alala the Eagle, and of the shepherd Taboulon–all her husbands, and all dead before their time. Thus, as the wrath of Juno pursued Paris, so the hatred of this slighted goddess attends Izdubar through many adventures. The last plague that torments him is leprosy, of which he is to be cured by Khasisadra, son of Oubaratonton, last of the ten primeval kings of Chaldea. Khasisadra, while still living, had been transported to Paradise, where he yet abides. Here he is found by Izdubar, who listens to his account of the Deluge, and learns from him the remedy for his disease. The afflicted hero is destined, after being cured, to pass, without death, into the company of the gods, and there to enjoy immortality. With this promise the work concludes.

The great poem of Izdubar has but recently been known to European scholars, having been discovered in 1871 by the eminent Assyriologist, Mr. George Smith. It was probably written about 2000 B.C., though the extant edition, which came from the library of King Assurbanipal in the palace at Dur-Sargina, must bear the date of 600 B.C. The hero is supposed to be a solar personification, and the epic is interesting to modern writers not only on account of its description of the Deluge, but also for the pomp and dignity of its style, and for its noble delineation of heroic character.

[BY: Epiphanius Wilson]

INVOCATION
O love, my queen and goddess, come to me;
My soul shall never cease to worship thee;
Come pillow here thy head upon my breast,
And whisper in my lyre thy softest, best.
And sweetest melodies of bright “Sami”,[1]
Our Happy Fields[2] above dear “Subartu”;[3]
Come nestle closely with those lips of love
And balmy breath, and I with thee shall rove
Through “Sari”[4] past ere life on earth was known,
And Time unconscious sped not, nor had flown.
Thou art our all in this impassioned life:
How sweetly comes thy presence ending strife,
Thou god of peace and Heaven’s undying joy,
Oh, hast thou ever left one pain or cloy
Upon this beauteous world to us so dear?
To all mankind thou art their goddess here.
To thee we sing, our holiest, fairest god,
The One who in that awful chaos trod
And woke the Elements by Law of Love
To teeming worlds in harmony to move.
From chaos thou hast led us by thy hand,
[5]Thus spoke to man upon that budding land:
“The Queen of Heaven, of the dawn am I,
The goddess of all wide immensity,
For thee I open wide the golden gate
Of happiness, and for thee love create
To glorify the heavens and fill with joy
The earth, its children with sweet love employ.”
Thou gavest then the noblest melody
And highest bliss–grand nature’s harmony.
With love the finest particle is rife,
And deftly woven in the woof of life,
In throbbing dust or clasping grains of sand,
In globes of glistening dew that shining stand
On each pure petal, Love’s own legacies
Of flowering verdure, Earth’s sweet panoplies;
By love those atoms sip their sweets and pass
To other atoms, join and keep the mass
With mighty forces moving through all space,
Tis thus on earth all life has found its place.
Through Kisar,[6] Love came formless through the air
In countless forms behold her everywhere!
Oh, could we hear those whispering roses sweet,
Three beauties bending till their petals meet,
And blushing, mingling their sweet fragrance there
In language yet unknown to mortal ear.
Their whisperings of love from morn till night
Would teach us tenderly to love the right.

O Love, here stay! Let chaos not return!
With hate each atom would its lover spurn
In air above, on land, or in the sea,
O World, undone and lost that loseth thee!
For love we briefly come, and pass away
For other men and maids; thus bring the day
Of love continuous through this glorious life.
Oh, hurl away those weapons fierce of strife!
We here a moment, point of time but live,
Too short is life for throbbing hearts to grieve.
Thrice holy is that form that love hath kissed,
And happy is that man with heart thus blessed.
Oh, let not curses fall upon that head
Whom love hath cradled on the welcome bed
Of bliss, the bosom of our fairest god,
Or hand of love e’er grasp the venging rod.

Oh, come, dear Zir-ri,[7] tune your lyres and lutes,
And sing of love with chastest, sweetest notes,
Of Accad’s goddess Ishtar, Queen of Love,
And Izdubar, with softest measure move;
Great Samas'[8] son, of him dear Zir-ri sing!
Of him whom goddess Ishtar warmly wooed,
Of him whose breast with virtue was imbued.
He as a giant towered, lofty grown,
As Babil’s[9] great “pa-te-si”[10] was he known,
His armed fleet commanded on the seas
And erstwhile travelled on the foreign leas;
His mother Ellat-gula[11] on the throne
From Erech all Kardunia[12] ruled alone.

[Footnote 1: “Samu,” heaven.]–[Footnote 2: “Happy Fields,” celestial gardens, heaven.]—[Footnote 3: “Subartu,” Syria.]–[Footnote 4: “Sari,” plural form of “saros,” a cycle or measurement of time used by the Babylonians, 3,600 years.]–[Footnote 5: From the “Accadian Hymn to Ishtar,” terra-cotta tablet numbered “S, 954,” one of the oldest hymns of a very remote date, deposited in the British Museum by Mr. Smith. It comes from Erech, one of the oldest, if not the oldest, city of Babylonia. We have inserted a portion of it in its most appropriate place in the epic. See translation in “Records of the Past,” vol. v. p. 157.]–[Footnote 6: “Kisar,” the consort or queen of Sar, father of all the gods.]–[Footnote 7: “Zir-ri” (pronounced “zeer-ree”), short form of “Zi-aria,” spirits of the running rivers–naiads or water-nymphs.]–[Footnote 8: “Samas,” the sun-god.]–[Footnote 9: Babil, Babylon; the Accadian name was “Diu-tir,” or “Duran.”]–[Footnote 10: “Pa-te-si,” prince.]–[Footnote 11: “Ellat-gula,” one of the queens or sovereigns of Erech, supposed to have preceded Nammurabi or Nimrod on the throne. We have identified Izdubar herein with Nimrod.]–[Footnote 12: “Kardunia,” the ancient name of Babylonia.]

SOURCE: Babylonian and Assyrian Literature [1901]; Author: Anonymous; Translated by Leonidas Le Cenci Hamilton, M.A.
CONTRIBUTOR: John Hague

THE COMMENTARY GAZETTE®

Oracles of Sparta: Greek

THE COMMENTARY GAZETTE

Lycurges of Sparta was of a royal house and guardian regent for his nephew Labotas who was King, but too young to sit the throne without guidance. Few know that it was Lycurges who gave Sparta the strict laws which governed the city, as we know it. Before these he is said to have traveled to Delphi for an oracle, having entered and without speaking a word, the Pythoness is said to have exclaimed a loud: “Oh! Thou great Lycurges, that com’st to my beautiful dwelling, Dear to Jove, and to all who sit in the halls of Olympus, Whether to hail thee a god I know not, or only a mortal, But my hope is strong that a god thou wilt proves, Lycurges.” Some report that during this oracle the Pythoness delivered to Lycurges the system of laws which governed Sparta for centuries. 

Later on as Sparta began to grow and its population became numerous, they looked to expanding their domain, and Arcadia looked ripe, so they sent to Delphi to inquire how a war with the Arcadians would go. The reply came back as :Cravest thou Arcady? Bold is thy craving, I shall not content it, Many the men that in Arcady dwell, whose food is the acorn, They will never awe thee, It is not I that am niggard, I will give thee to dance in Tegea, with noisy foot fall And with measuring line mete out the glorious campaign 

Seeing this as a good omen, they left the rest of Arcadia a lone and marched upon the city of Tagae, but were defeated, bearing the worst in every engagement, they again sent to Delphi, asking what they should do to find victory. The reply came, find the bones of Orestes son of Agamemnon and return them to Sparta. Failure to find these, they again asking the oracle, where they would be found, and the Pythoness reply came as: “Level and smooth is the plain where Acadian Tegae standeth, There two winds are ever, by strong necessity, blowing, Counter stroke answers stroke, and evil lies upon evil, There all teeming Earth doth harbor the son of Atrides, Bring thou him to thy city, and then be Tagae’s master 

They continued to search, until a man named Lichas discovered it partly by his good luck and part by his wisdom. Traveling to Tegae he entered a workshop of a smith, and marveling at his work, the smith told him of having need for a well began to dig up the floor, and finding a burial under his shop. After viewing the bones he was sure this was these were Orestes remains. Putting the oracle together, he observed the smith had two bellows, these were the winds,  the hammer stroke against the anvil, were the counter stroke and stroke, and the iron being folded back on its self as the evil lies upon evil. Pressuring the smith to allow him to stay in the smith as a place of rest overnight, dug up the remains and returned them to Sparta, which became vicious over Tegae?

 REFERENCE: Various sources: CONTRIBUTOR: Callum McCormick

Magical Text and Spells: Egyptian

THE COMMENTARY GAZETTE

 

The magical and religious texts of the Egyptians of all periods contain spells intended to be used against serpents, scorpions, and noxious reptiles of all kinds, and their number, and the importance which was attached to them, suggest that Egypt must always have produced these pests in abundance, and that the Egyptians were always horribly afraid of them.  The text of Unas, which was written towards the close of the V Dynasty, contains many such spells, and in the Theban and Saite Books of the Dead several Chapters consist of nothing but spells and incantations, many of which are based on archaic texts, against crocodiles, serpents, and other deadly reptiles, and insects of all kinds.  All such creatures were regarded as incarnations of evil spirits, which attack the dead as well as the living, and therefore it was necessary for the well-being of the former that copies of spells against them should be written upon the walls of tombs, coffins, funerary amulets, etc.  The gods were just as open to the attacks of venomous reptiles as man, and Ra, himself, the king of the gods, nearly died from the poison of a snake-bite.  Now the gods were, as a rule, able to defend themselves against the attacks of Set and his fiends, and the poisonous snakes and insects which were their emissaries, by virtue of the fluid of life, which was the peculiar attribute of divinity, and the efforts of Egyptians were directed to the acquisition of a portion of this magical power, which would protect their souls and bodies and their houses and cattle, and other property, each day and each night throughout the year.  When a man cared for the protection of himself only he wore an amulet of some kind, in which the fluid of life was localized. When he wished to protect his house against invasion by venomous reptiles he placed statues containing the fluid of life in niches in the walls of various chambers, or in some place outside but near the house, or buried them in the earth with their faces turned in the direction from which he expected the attack to come.

Towards the close of the XXVI Dynasty, when superstition in its most exaggerated form was general in Egypt, it became the custom to make house talismans in the form of small stone stelae, with rounded tops, which rested on bases having convex fronts.  On the front of such a talisman was sculptured in relief a figure of Horus the Child (Harpokrates), standing on two crocodiles, holding in his hands figures of serpents, scorpions, a lion, and a horned animal, each of these being a symbol of an emissary or ally of Set, the god of Evil.  Above his head was the head of Bes, and on each side of him were: solar symbols, i.e., the lily of Nefer-Tem, figures of Ra and Harmakhis, the Eyes of Ra (the Sun and Moon), etc.  The reverse of the stele and the whole of the base were covered with magical texts and spells, and when a talisman of this kind was placed in a house, it was supposed to be directly under the protection of Horus and his companion gods, who had vanquished all the hosts of darkness and all the powers of physical and moral evil.  Many examples of this talisman are to be seen in the great Museums of Europe, and there are several fine specimens in the Third Egyptian Room in the British Museum.  They are usually called “Cippi of Horus.”  The largest and most important of all these “cippi” is that which is commonly known as the “Metternich Stele,” because it was given to Prince Metternich by Muhammad  Ali Pasha; it was dug up in 1828 during the building of a cistern in a Franciscan Monastery in Alexandria, and was first published, with a translation of a large part of the text, by Professor Golenischeff.[ See Metternichstele, Leipzig, 1877.  The Stele was made for Ankh-Psemthek, son of the lady Tent-Het-nub, prophet of Nebun, overseer of Temt and scribe of Het]   The importance of the stele is enhanced by the fact that it mentions the name of the king in whose reign it was made, viz., Nectanebus I., who reigned from B.C. 378 to B.C. 360.

The obverse, reverse, and two sides of the Metternich Stele have cut upon them nearly three hundred figures of gods and celestial beings. These include figures of the great gods of heaven, earth, and the Other World, figures of the gods of the planets and the Dekans, figures of the gods of the days of the week, of the weeks, and months, and seasons of the year, and of the year.  Besides these there are a number of figures of local forms of the gods which it is difficult to identify.

On the rounded portion of the obverse the place of honour is held by the solar disk, in which is seen a figure of Khnemu with four ram’s heads, which rests between a pair of arms, and is supported on a lake of celestial water; on each side of it are four of the spirits of the dawn, and on the right stands the symbol of the rising sun, Nefer-Temu, and on the left stands Thoth.  Below this are five rows of small figures of gods.  Below these is Harpokrates in relief, in the attitude already described.  He stands on two crocodiles under a kind of canopy, the sides of which are supported by Thoth and Isis, and holds Typhonic animals and reptiles.  Above the canopy are the two Eyes of Ra, each having a pair of human arms and hands.  On the right of Harpokrates are Seker and Horus, and on his left the symbol of Nefer-Temu.  On the left and right are the goddesses Nekhebet and Uatchet, who guard the South of Egypt and the North respectively.  On the reverse and sides are numerous small figures of gods.  This stele represented the power to protect man possessed by all the divine beings in the universe, and, however it was placed, it formed an impassable barrier to every spirit of evil and to every venomous reptile.  The spells, which are cut in hieroglyphics on all the parts of the stele not occupied by figures of gods, were of the most potent character, for they contained the actual words by which the gods vanquished the powers of darkness and evil. These spells form the texts which are printed on p. 142 ff., and may be thus summarized:

(1)The first spell is an incantation directed against reptiles and noxious creatures in general.  The chief of these was Apep, the great enemy of Ra, who took the form of a huge serpent that “resembled the intestines,” and the spell doomed him to decapitation, and burning and backing in pieces.  These things would be effected by Serqet, the Scorpion-goddess.  The second part of the spell was directed against the poison of Apep, and was to be recited over anyone who was bitten by a snake.  When uttered by Horus it made Apep to vomit, and when used by a magician properly qualified would make the bitten person to vomit, and so free his body from the poison.

(2)The next spell is directed to be said to the Cat, i.e., a symbol of the daughter of Ra, or Isis, who had the head of Ra, the eyes of the uraeus, the nose of Thoth, the ears of Neb-er-tcher, the mouth of Tem, the neck of Neheb-ka, the breast of Thoth, the heart of Ra, the hands of the gods, the belly of Osiris, the thighs of Menthu, the legs of Khensu, the feet of Amen-Horus, the haunches of Horus, the soles of the feet of Ra, and the bowels of Meh-urit.  Every member of the Cat contained a god or goddess, and she was able to destroy the poison of any serpent, or scorpion, or reptile, which might be injected into her body.  The spell opens with an address to Ra, who is entreated to come to his daughter, who has been stung by a scorpion on a lonely road, and to cause the poison to leave her body.  Thus it seems as if Isis, the great magician, was at some time stung by a scorpion.

(3)The next section is very difficult to understand.  Ra-Harmakhis is called upon to come to his daughter, and Shu to his wife, and Isis to her sister, who has been poisoned.  Then the Aged One, i.e., Ra, is asked to let Thoth turn back Neha-her, or Set.  “Osiris is in the water, but Horus is with him, and the Great Beetle overshadows him,” and every evil spirit which dwells in the water is adjured to allow Horus to proceed to Osiris.  Ra, Sekhet, Thoth, and Heka, this last-named being the spell personified, are the four great gods who protect Osiris, and who will blind and choke his enemies, and cut out their tongues.  The cry of the Cat is again referred to, and Ra is asked if he does not remember the cry which came from the bank of Netit.  The allusion here is to the cries which Isis uttered when she arrived at Netit near Abydos, and found lying there the dead body of her husband.

 At this point on the Stele the spells are interrupted by a long narrative put into the mouth of Isis, which supplies us with some account of the troubles that she suffered, and describes the death of Horus through the sting of a scorpion.  Isis, it seems, was shut up in some dwelling by Set after he murdered Osiris, probably with the intention of forcing her to marry him, and so assist him to legalize his seizure of the kingdom.  Isis, as we have already seen, had been made pregnant by her husband after his death, and Thoth now appeared to her, and advised her to hide herself with her unborn child, and to bring him forth in secret, and he promised her that her son should succeed in due course to his father’s throne.  With the help of Thoth she escaped from her captivity, and went forth accompanied by the Seven Scorpion-goddesses, who brought her to the town of Per-Sui, on the edge of the Reed Swamps.  She applied to a woman for a night’s shelter, but the woman shut her door in her face.  To punish her one of the Scorpion-goddesses forced her way into the woman’s house, and stung her child to death.  The grief of the woman was so bitter and sympathy-compelling that Isis laid her hands on the child, and, having uttered one of her most potent spells over him, the poison of the scorpion ran out of his body, and the child came to life again.  The words of the spell are cut on the Stele, and they were treasured by the Egyptians as an infallible remedy for scorpion stings.  When the woman saw that her son had been brought back to life by Isis, she was filled with joy and gratitude, and, as a mark of her repentance, she brought large quantities of things from her house as gifts for Isis, and they were so many that they filled the house of the kind, but poor, woman who had given Isis shelter.

Now soon after Isis had restored to life the son of the woman who had shown churlishness to her, a terrible calamity fell upon her, for her beloved son Horus was stung by a scorpion and died. The news of this event was conveyed to her by the gods, who cried out to her to come to see her son Horus, whom the terrible scorpion Uhat had killed. Isis, stabbed with pain at the news, as if a knife had been driven into her body, ran out distraught with grief.  It seems that she had gone to perform a religious ceremony in honour of Osiris in a temple near Hetep-hemt, leaving her child carefully concealed in Sekhet-An. During her absence the scorpion Uhat, which had been sent by Set, forced its way into the biding-place of Horus, and there stung him to death.  When Isis came and found the dead body, she burst forth in lamentations, the sound of which brought all the people from the neighbouring districts to her side.  As she related to them the history of her sufferings they endeavoured to console her, and when they found this to be impossible they lifted up their voices and wept with her. Then Isis placed her nose in the mouth of Horus so that she might discover if he still breathed, but there was no breath in his throat; and when she examined the wound in his body made by the fiend Aun-Ab she saw in it traces of poison.  No doubt about his death then remained in her mind, and clasping him in her arms she lifted him up, and in her transports of grief leaped about like fish when they are laid on red-hot coals. Then she uttered a series of heartbreaking laments, each of which begins with the words “Horus is bitten.”  The heir of heaven, the son of Un-Nefer, the child of the gods, he who was wholly fair, is bitten!  He for whose wants I provided, he who was to avenge his father, is bitten! He for whom I cared and suffered when he was being fashioned in my womb, is bitten!  He whom I tended so that I might gaze upon him, is bitten!  He whose life I prayed for is bitten!  Calamity hath overtaken the child, and he hath perished.

Whilst Isis was saying these and many similar words, her sister Nephthys, who had been weeping bitterly for her nephew Horus as she wandered about among the swamps, came, in company with the Scorpion- goddess Serqet, and advised Isis to pray to heaven for help. Pray that the sailors in the Boat of Ra may cease from rowing, for the Boat cannot travel onwards whilst Horus lies dead.  Then Isis cried out to heaven, and her voice reached the Boat of Millions of Years, and the Disk ceased to move onward, and came to a standstill.  From the Boat Thoth descended, being equipped with words of power and spells of all kinds, and bearing with him the “great command of maa-kheru,” i.e., the WORD, whose commands were performed, instantly and completely, by every god, spirit, fiend, human being and by everything, animate and inanimate, in heaven, earth, and the Other World.  Then he came to Isis and told her that no harm could possibly have happened to Horus, for he was under the protection of the Boat of Ra; but his words failed to comfort Isis, and though she acknowledged the greatness of his designs she complained that they savoured of delay.  “What is the good,” she asks, “of all thy spells, and incantations, and magical formulae, and the great command of maa-kheru, if Horus is to perish by the poison of a scorpion, and to lie here in the arms of Death?  Evil, evil is his destiny, for it hath entailed the deepest misery for him and death.”

In answer to these words Thoth, turning to Isis and Nephthys, bade them to fear not, and to have no anxiety about Horus, “For,” said he, “I have come from heaven to heal the child for his mother.”  He then pointed out that Horus was under protection as the Dweller in his Disk (Aten), the Great Dwarf, the Mighty Ram, the Great Hawk, the Holy Beetle, the Hidden Body, the Divine Bennu, etc., and proceeded to utter the great spell which restored Horus to life.  By his words of power Thoth transferred the fluid of life of Ra, and as soon as this came upon the child’s body the poison of the scorpion flowed out of him, and he once more breathed and lived. When this was done Thoth returned to the Boat of Ra, the gods who formed its crew resumed their rowing, and the Disk passed on its way to make its daily journey across the sky.

The gods in heaven, who were amazed and uttered cries of terror when they heard of the death of Horus, were made happy once more, and sang songs of joy over his recovery.  The happiness of Isis in her child’s restoration to life was very great for she could again hope that he would avenge his father’s murder, and occupy his throne. The final words of Thoth comforted her greatly, for he told her that he would take charge of the case of Horus in the Judgment Hall of Anu, wherein Osiris had been judged, and that as his advocate he would make any accusations which might be brought against Horus to recoil on him that brought them.  Furthermore, he would give Horus power to repulse any attacks which might be made upon him by beings in the heights above, or fiends in the depths below, and would ensure his succession to the Throne of the Two Lands, i.e., Egypt.  Thoth also promised Isis that Ra himself should act as the advocate of Horus, even as he had done for his father Osiris.  He was also careful to allude to the share which

Isis had taken in the restoration of Horus to life, saying, “It is the words of power of his mother which have lifted up his face, and they shall enable him to journey where so ever he pleaseth, and to put fear into the powers above.  I myself hasten [to obey them].”  Thus everything turned on the power of the spells of Isis, who made the sun to stand still, and caused the dead to be raised.

Such are the contents of the texts on the famous Metternich Stele. There appears to be some confusion in their arrangement, and some of them clearly are misplaced, and, in places, the text is manifestly corrupt. It is impossible to explain several passages, for we do not understand all the details of the system of magic which they represent. Still, the general meaning of the texts on the Stele is quite clear, and they record a legend of Isis and Horus which is not found so fully described on any other monument.

REFERENCE:

TITLE: Legends of the Gods (1912)

BY: E. A. Wallis Budge

CONTRIBUTOR: Cade Pomeraan

Warning Apparitions: Greco-Roman

THE COMMENTARY GAZETTE

 

As we should expect, there are a number of instances of warning apparitions in antiquity; and it is interesting to note that the majority of these are gigantic women endowed with a gift of prophecy.

Thus the younger Pliny [“Ep.” vii. 27] tells us how Quintus Curtius Rufus, who was on the staff of the Governor of Africa, was walking one day in a colonnade after sunset, when a gigantic woman appeared before him. She announced that she was Africa, and was able to predict the future, and told him that he would go to Rome, hold office there, return to the province with the highest authority, and there die. Her prophecy was fulfilled to the letter, and as he landed in Africa for the last time the same figure is reported to have met him.

So, again, at the time of the conspiracy of Callippus, Dion was meditating one evening before the porch of his house, when he turned round and saw a gigantic female figure, in the form of a Fury, at the end of the corridor, sweeping the floor with a broom. The vision terrified him, and soon afterwards his only son committed suicide and he himself was murdered by the conspirators. [Plutarch, “Dion” ii. 55]

A similar dramatic story is related of Drusus during his German campaigns. [Dio Cassius, 55. 1. Cp. Suet., “Claud.”, i] While engaged in operations against the Alemanni, he was preparing to cross the Elbe, when a gigantic woman barred the way, exclaiming, “Insatiate Drusus, whither wilt thou go? Thou art not fated to see all things. Depart hence, for the end of thy life and of thy deeds is at hand.” Drusus was much troubled by this warning, and instantly obeyed the words of the apparition; but he died before reaching the Rhine.

We meet with the same phenomenon again in Dio Cassius, among the prodigies preceding the death of Macrinus, when “a dreadful gigantic woman, seen of several, declared that all that had happened was as nothing compared with what they were soon to endure”–a prophecy which was amply fulfilled by the reign of Heliogabalus.

 But the most gigantic of all these gigantic women was, as we should only expect from his marvelous power of seeing ghosts, the one who appeared to Eucrates in the “Philopseudus”. [Lucian, “Philops.”, 20] Eucrates has seen over a thousand ghosts in his time, and is now quite used to them, though at first he found them rather upsetting; but he had been given a ring and a charm by an Arab, which enabled him to deal with anything supernatural that came in his way. The ring was made from the iron of a cross on which a criminal had been executed, and doubtless had the same value in Eucrates’ eyes that a piece of the rope with which a man has been hung possesses in the eyes of a gambler to-day. On this particular occasion he had left his men at work in the vineyard, and was resting quietly at midday, when his dog began to bark. At first he thought it was only a favourite boy of his indulging in a little hunting with some friends; but on looking up he saw in front of him a woman at least three hundred feet high, with a sword thirty feet long. Her lower extremities were like those of a dragon, and snakes were coiling round her neck and shoulders. Eucrates was not in the least alarmed, but turned the seal of his ring, when a vast chasm opened in the earth, into which she disappeared. This seems rather to have astonished Eucrates; but he plucked up courage, caught hold of a tree that stood near the edge, and looked over, when he saw all the lower world lying spread before him, including the mead of asphodel, where the shades of the blessed were reclining at ease with their friends and relations, arranged according to clans and tribes. Among these he recognized his own father, dressed in the clothes in which he was buried; and it must have been comforting to the son to have such good evidence that his parent was safely installed in the Elysian Fields. In a few moments the chasm closed.

Dio Cassius [68. 25] relates how Trajan was saved in the great earthquake that destroyed nearly the whole of Antioch by a phantom, which appeared to him suddenly, and warned him to leave his house by the window. A similar story is told of the poet Simonides, who was warned by a specter that his house was going to fall, and thus enabled to make his escape in time.

I will include here a couple of stories which, if they cannot exactly be classed as stories of warning apparitions, are interesting in themselves, and may at least be considered as ghost stories. Pliny the Younger [“Ep.” vii. 27. 12] tells us how a slave of his, named Marcus, imagined that he saw someone cutting his hair during the night. When he awoke, the vision proved to have been a true one, for his hair lay all round him. Soon afterwards the same thing happened again. His brother, who slept with him, saw nothing; but Marcus declared that two people came in by the windows, dressed in white, and, after cutting his hair, disappeared.

“Nothing astonishing happened,” adds Pliny, “except that I was not prosecuted, as I undoubtedly should have been, had Domitian lived; for this happened during his principate. Perhaps the cutting of my slave’s hair was a sign of my approaching doom, for accused people cut their hair,” as a sign of mourning. One may be allowed to wonder whether, after all, a fondness for practical joking is not even older than the age of the younger Pliny.

This story, like nearly every other that we have come across, has a parallel in the “Philopseudus”. Indeed, Lucian seems to have covered almost the whole field of the marvellous, as understood at that time, in his determination to turn it into ridicule in that amusing dialogue. In this case we are told of a little statue of Æsculapius, which stood in the house of the narrator of the story, and at the feet of which a number of pence had been placed as offerings, while other coins, some of them silver, were fastened to the thighs with wax. There were also silver plates which had been vowed or offered by those who had been cured of fever by the god. The offerings and tablets are just such as might be found in a Catholic church in the South of Europe to-day; but the coins, in our more practical modern world, would have found their way into the coffers of the church. One would like to know what was the ultimate destination of these particular coins–whether they were to be sent as contributions to one of the temples of Æsculapius, which were the center of the medical world at this period, and had elaborate hospitals attached to them, about which we learn so much from Aristides.

In this case they were merely a source of temptation to an unfortunate Libyan groom, who stole them one night, intending to make his escape. But he had not studied the habits of the statue, which, we are told, habitually got down from its pedestal every night; and in this case such was the power of the god that he kept the man wandering about all night, unable to leave the court, where he was found with the money in the morning, and soundly flogged. The god, however, considered that he had been let off much too easily; and he was mysteriously flogged every night, as the welt’s upon him showed, till he ultimately died of the punishment.

Ælian [Fragment, 84] has a charming story of Philemon, the comic poet. He was still, apparently, in the full vigour of his powers when he had a vision of nine maidens leaving his house in the Piraeus and bidding him farewell. When he awoke, he told his slave the story, and set to work to finish a play with which he was then busy. After completing it to his satisfaction, he wrapped himself in his cloak and lay down upon his bed. His slave came in, and, thinking he was asleep, went to wake him, when he found that he was dead. Ælian challenges the unbelieving Epicureans to deny that the nine maidens were the nine Muses, leaving a house which was so soon to be polluted by death.

Many stories naturally gather round the great struggle for the final mastery of the Roman world which ended in the overthrow of the Republic. Shakespeare has made us familiar with the fate of the poet Cinna, who was actually mistaken for one of the conspirators against Caesar and murdered by the crowd. He dreamt, on the night before he met his death that Caesar invited him to supper, and when he refused the invitation, took him by the hand and forced him down into a deep, dark abyss, which he entered with the utmost horror.

But there is a story connected with the crossing of the Rubicon by Caesar that certainly deserves to be better known than it is.[ “Julius” 32.] It is only fitting that an event fraught with such momentous consequences should have a supernatural setting of some kind; and Suetonius relates that while Caesar was still hesitating whether he should declare himself an enemy of his country by crossing the little river that bounded his province at the head of an army, a man of heroic size and beauty suddenly appeared, playing upon a reed-pipe. Some of the troops, several trumpeters among them, ran up to listen, when the man seized a trumpet, blew a loud blast upon it, and began to cross the Rubicon. Caesar at once decided to advance, and the men followed him with redoubled enthusiasm after what they had just seen.

It is to Plutarch that we owe the famous story of the apparition that visited Brutus in his tent the night before the battle of Philippi, and again during the battle. Shakespeare represents it to be Caesar’s ghost, but has otherwise strictly followed Plutarch. It would be absurd to give the scene in any other words than Shakespeare’s.[ “Julius Caesar” iv. 3]

  BRUTUS. How ill this taper burns! Ha! Who comes here? I think it is the weakness of mine eyes, that shapes this monstrous apparition. It comes upon me. Art thou anything? Art thou some god, some angel, or some devil, That mak’st my blood cold, and my hair to stare? Speak to me what thou art!

  GHOST. Thy evil spirit, Brutus.

  BRUTUS. Why com’st thou?

  GHOST. To tell thee thou shalt see me at Philippi.

  BRUTUS. Well; then I shall see thee again?

  GHOST.   Ay, at Philippi.

  BRUTUS. Why, I will see thee at Philippi, then. Now I have taken heart, thou vanishest: Ill spirit, I would hold more talk with thee. But it had already disappeared, only to meet Brutus again on the fatal day that followed.

TITLE: GREEK AND ROMAN GHOST STORIES (1922)

BY: Lacy Collison-Morley

CONTRIBUTOR: Cade Pomeraan

A Few Fairy Tales of Wales

THE COMMENTARY GAZETTE

THE OLD MAN AND THE FAIRIES.

Many years ago the Welsh mountains were full of fairies. People used to go by moonlight to see them dancing, for they knew where they would dance by seeing green rings in the grass. There was an old man living in those days who used to frequent the fairs that were held across the mountains. One day he was crossing the mountains to a fair, and when he got to a lonely valley he sat down, for he was tired, and he dropped off to sleep, and his bag fell down by his side. When he was sound asleep the fairies came and carried him off, bag and all, and took him under the earth, and when he awoke he found himself in a great palace of gold, full of fairies dancing and singing. And they took him and showed him everything, the splendid gold room and gardens, and they kept dancing round him until he fell asleep.

When he was asleep they carried him back to the same spot where they had found him, and when he awoke he thought he had been dreaming, so he looked for his bag, and got hold of it, but he could hardly lift it. When he opened it he found it was nearly filled with gold. He managed to pick it up, and turning round, he went home.

When he got home, his wife Kaddy said: “What’s to do, why haven’t  you been to the fair?” “I’ve got something here,” he said, and showed his wife the gold. “Why, where did you get that?” But he wouldn’t tell her. Since she was curious, like all women, she kept worrying him all night–for he’d put the money in a box under the bed–so he told her about the fairies.

Next morning, when he awoke, he thought he’d go to the fair and buy a lot of things, and he went to the box to get some of the gold, but found it full of cockle-shells.

TOMMY PRITCHARD.

Tommy Pritchard was going to school one day, and on his way he thought he heard somebody singing on the other side of a stone wall by the road, so he climbed up and looked over, and there underneath a stone he saw a sixpence, so he took it. Every morning after that, when he went to school, he used to look in the same place, and he always found a sixpence.

His father noticed he was always spending money in the sweet-shop, so he began to think Tommy was stealing from somebody, and one day he asked him where he got the money. Tommy wouldn’t tell at first, but his father threatened to beat him, so he told him where he got his sixpences.

Next morning he went to look in the same place for his sixpence, and he found nothing but a cockle-shell. And he never saw anything but a cockle-shell there afterwards.

KADDY’S LUCK.

There was a tall young woman whom the fairies used to visit, coming through the keyhole at night. She could hear them dancing and singing in her room, but in the morning they used to go the way they had come, only they always left her some money. When she got married she chose a tall husband like herself, and they had a fine big child.

One night they went to a fair, and they got to one side to hear the fairies; for some people could tell when the fairies were coming, for they made a noise like the wind. Whilst they were waiting she told her husband how the fairies used to leave her money at night.

When they got home they found their baby all right, and went to bed. But next morning the young mother found her child had been changed in the night, and there was a very little baby in the cradle. And the child never grew big, for the fairies had changed her child for spite.

THE STORY OF GELERT. (AS CURRENT IN ANGLESEA)

It was somewhere about 1200, Prince Llewellyn had a castle at Aber, just abreast of us here; indeed, parts of the towers remain to this day. His consort was the Princess Joan; she was King John’s daughter. Her coffin remains with us to this day. Llewellyn was a great hunter of wolves and foxes, for the hills of Carnarvonshire were infested with wolves in those days, after the young lambs.

Now the prince had several hunting-houses–sorts of farm houses, one of them was at the place now called Beth-Gelert, for the wolves were very thick there at this time. Now the prince used to travel from farm-house to farm-house with his family and friends, when going on these hunting parties.

One season they went hunting from Aber, and stopped at the house where Beth-Gelert is now-it’s about fourteen miles away. The prince had all his hounds with him, but his favourite was Gelert, a hound who had never let off a wolf for six years.

The prince loved the dog like a child, and at the sound of his horn Gelert was always the first to come bounding up. There was company at the house, and one day they went hunting, leaving his wife and the child, in a big wooden cradle, behind him at the farm-house.

The hunting party killed three or four wolves, and about two hours before the word passed for returning home, Llewellyn missed Gelert, and he asked his huntsmen: “Where’s Gelert? I don’t see him.” “Well, indeed, master, I’ve missed him this half-hour.” And Llewellyn blew his horn, but no Gelert came at the sound.

Indeed, Gelert had got on to a wolves’ track which led to the house. The prince sounded the return, and they went home, the prince lamenting Gelert. “He’s sure to have been slain–he’s sure to have been slain! since he did not answer the horn. Oh, my Gelert!” And they approached the house, and the prince went into the house, and saw Gelert lying by the overturned cradle, and blood all about the room. “What! hast thou slain my child?” said the prince, and ran his sword through the dog.

After that he lifted up the cradle to look for his child, and found the body of a big wolf underneath that Gelert had slain, and his child was safe. Gelert had capsized the cradle in the scuffle.

“Oh, Gelert! Oh, Gelert!” said the prince, “my favourite hound, my favourite hound! Thou hast been slain by thy master’s hand, and in death thou hast licked thy master’s hand!” He patted the dog, but it was too late, and poor Gelert died licking his master’s hand.

Next day they made a coffin, and had a regular funeral, the same as if it were a human being; all the servants in deep mourning, and everybody. They made him a grave, and the village was called after the dog, Beth-Gelert–Gelert’s Grave; and the prince planted a tree, and put a gravestone of slate, though it was before the days of quarries. And they are to be seen to this day.

THE CRAIG-Y-DON BLACKSMITH.

 Once upon a time an old blacksmith lived in an old forge at Craig-y-don, and he used to drink a great deal too much beer. One night he was coming home from an alehouse very tipsy, and as he got near a small stream a lot of little men suddenly sprang up from the rocks, and one of them, who seemed to be older than the rest, came up to him, and said, “If you don’t alter your ways of living you’ll die soon; but if you behave better and become a better man you’ll find it will be to your benefit,” and they all disappeared as quickly as they had come. The old blacksmith thought a good deal about what the fairies had told him, and he left off drinking, and became a sober, steady man.

One day, a few months after meeting the little people, a strange man brought a horse to be shod. Nobody knew either the horse or the man. The old blacksmith tied the horse to a hole in the lip of a cauldron (used for the purpose of cooling his hot iron) that he had built in some masonry.

When he had tied the horse up he went to shoe the off hind-leg, but directly he touched the horse the spirited animal started back with a bound, and dragged the cauldron from the masonry, and then it broke the halter and ran away out of the forge, and was never seen again: neither the horse nor its master. When the old blacksmith came to pull down the masonry to rebuild it, he found three brass kettles full of money.

REFERENCE:

Title: Welsh Fairy-Tales and Other Stories (1894) 

Author: Edited by P. H. Emerson

CONTRIBUTOR: Jenny Dunnaway

Apparitions of the Dead: Greco-Roman

THE COMMENTARY GAZETTE

Among the tall stories in Lucian’s “Philopseudus” [“Philops.” 27] is an amusing account of a man whose wife, whom he loved dearly, appeared to him after she had been dead for twenty days. He had given her a splendid funeral, and had burnt everything she possessed with her. One day, as he was sitting quietly reading the Phaedo, she suddenly appeared to him, to the terror of his son. As soon as he saw her he embraced her tearfully, a fact which seems to show that she was of a more substantial build than the large majority of ghosts of the ancient world; but she strictly forbade him to make any sound whatever. She then explained that she had come to upbraid the unfortunate man for having neglected to burn one of her golden slippers with her at the funeral. It had fallen behind the chest, she explained, and had been forgotten and not placed upon the pyre with the other. While they were talking, a confounded little Maltese puppy suddenly began to bark from under the bed, when she vanished. But the slipper was found exactly where she had described, and was duly burnt on the following day. The story is refreshingly human.

This question of dress seems to have been a not infrequent source of anxiety to deceased ladies in the ancient world. Periander, [ Herodotus, v. 92.] the tyrant of Corinth, on one occasion wished to consult his wife’s spirit upon a very important matter; but she replied, as she had doubtless often done when alive, that she would not answer his questions till she had some decent clothes to wear. Periander waited for a great festival; when he knew that all the women of Corinth would be assembled in their best, and then gave orders that they should one and all strip themselves. He burnt the clothes on a huge pyre in his wife’s honour; and one can imagine his satisfaction at feeling that he had at last settled the question for ever. He applied to his wife once more with a clear conscience, when she gave him an unmistakable sign that she was speaking the truth, and answered his questions as he desired.

That small household matters may weigh heavily upon a woman’s conscience, even nowadays, is shown by the following interesting story, which may well be compared with the foregoing.[“Human Personality” ii. 348] In July, 1838, a Catholic priest, who had gone to Perth to take charge of a mission, was called upon by a Presbyterian woman. For many weeks past, she explained, she had been anxious to see a priest. A woman, lately dead, whom she knew very slightly, had appeared to her during the night for several nights, urging her to go to a priest and ask him to pay three shillings and ten-pence to a person not specified.

The priest made inquiries, and learnt that the deceased had acted as washerwoman and followed the regiment. At last, after careful search, he found a grocer with whom she had dealt, and, on being asked whether a female of the name owed him anything, the grocer turned up his books and informed him that she owed him three shillings and ten-pence. He paid the sum. Subsequently the Presbyterian woman came to him, saying that she was no more troubled.

The spirits of the worst of the Roman Emperors were, as we should expect, especially restless. Pliny[“Ep.” v. 5.] tells us how Fannius, who was engaged upon a Life of Nero, was warned by him of his approaching death. He was lying on his couch at dead of night with a writing-desk in front of him, when Nero came and sat down by his side, took up the first book he had written on his evil deeds, and read it through to the end; and so on with the second and the third. Then he vanished. Fannius was terrified, for he thought the vision implied that he would never get beyond the third book of his work, and this actually proved to be the case.

Nero, in fact, had a romantic charm about him, in spite of, or perhaps because of, the wild recklessness of his life; and he possessed the redeeming feature of artistic taste. Like Francis I. of France, or our own Charles II., he was irresistible with the ladies, and must have been the darling of all the housemaids of Rome. People long refused to believe in his death, and for many years it was confidently affirmed that he would appear again. His ghost was long believed to walk in Rome, and the church of Santa Maria del Popolo is said to have been built as late as 1099 by Pope Paschalis II on the site of the tombs of the Domitii, where Nero was buried, near the modern Porta del Popolo, where the Via Flaminia entered the city, in order to lay his restless shade.

Caligula also appeared shortly after his death, and frequently disturbed the keepers of the Lamian Gardens, for his body had been hastily buried there without due ceremony. Not till his sisters, who really loved him, in spite of his many faults, had returned from exile were the funeral rites properly performed, after which his ghost gave no more trouble.[ Suet., “Gaius”, 59]

On the night of the day of Galba’s murder, the Emperor Otho was heard groaning in his room by his attendants. They rushed in, and found him lying in front of his bed, endeavouring to propitiate Galba’s ghost, by whom he declared that he saw himself being driven out and expelled.[ Suet., “Otho” 7] Otho was a strange mixture of superstition and skepticism, for when he started on his last fatal expedition he treated the unfavourable omens with contempt. By this time, however, he may have become desperate.

Moreover, irreligious people are notoriously superstitious, and at this period it would be very difficult to say just where religion ended and superstition began.

We have one or two ghost stories connected with early Greek mythology. Cillas, the charioteer of Pelops, though Troezenius gives his name as Sphaerus, died on the way to Pisa, and appeared to Pelops by night, begging that he might be duly buried. Pelops took pity on him and burnt [If that is the meaning of [Greek: exerruparou] in the Homeric Scholia of Theopompus] his body with all ceremony, raised a huge mound in his honour, and built a chapel to the Cillean Apollo near it. He also named a town after him. Strabo even says that there was a mound in Cillas’ honour at Crisa in the Troad. This dutiful attention did not go unrewarded. Cillas appeared to Pelops again, and thanked him for all he had done, and to Cillas also he is said to have owed the information by which he was able to overthrow Œnomaus in the famous chariot race which won him the hand of Hippodamia. Pelops’ shameless ingratitude to Œnomaus’s charioteer, Myrtilus, who had removed the pin of his master’s chariot, and thus caused his defeat and death in order to help Pelops, on the promise of the half of the kingdom, is hardly in accordance with his treatment of Cillas, though it is thoroughly Greek. However, on the theory that a man who betrays one master will probably betray another, especially if he is to be rewarded for his treachery with as much as half a kingdom, Pelops was right in considering that Myrtilus was best out of the way; and he can hardly have foreseen the curse that was to fall upon his family in consequence.

With this story we may compare the well-known tale of the poet Simonides, who found an unknown corpse on the shore, and honoured it with burial.[ Cic. “De Div.” i. 27, 56. Cp. Val. Max., i. 7; Libanius, iv. 1101] Soon afterwards he happened to be on the point of starting on a voyage, when the man whom he had buried appeared to him in a dream, and warned him on no account to go by the ship he had chosen, as it would undoubtedly be wrecked. Impressed by the vision, the poet remained behind, and the ship went down soon afterwards, with all on board. Simonides expressed his gratitude in a poem describing the event, and in several epigrams. Libanius even goes so far as to place the scene of the event at Tarentum, where he was preparing to take ship for Sicily.

The tale is probably mythical. It belongs to a group of stories of the grateful dead, which have been the subject of an interesting book recently published by the Folk-Lore Society. [“The Grateful Dead”, by G.H. Gerould.] Mr. Gerould doubts whether it really belongs to the cycle, as it is nearly two centuries earlier, even in Cicero’s version, than any other yet discovered; but it certainly inspired Chaucer in his Nun’s Priest’s Tale, and it may well have influenced other later versions. The Jewish version is closer to the Simonides story than any of the others, and I will quote it in Mr. Gerould’s words.[“The Grateful Dead” p. 27.]

“The son of a rich merchant of Jerusalem sets off after his father’s death to see the world. At Stamboul he finds hanging in chains the body of a Jew, which the Sultan has commanded to be left there till his co-religionists, shall have repaid the sum that the man is suspected of having stolen from his royal master. The hero pays this sum, and has the corpse buried. Later, during a storm at sea he is saved by a stone, on which he is brought to land, whence he is carried by an eagle back to Jerusalem. There a white-clad man appears to him, explaining that he is the ghost of the dead, and that he has already appeared as stone and eagle. The spirit further promises the hero a reward for his good deed in the present and in the future life.”

This is one of the simplest forms in which the story appears. It is generally found compounded with some other similar tale; but the main facts are that a man buries a corpse found on the sea-shore from philanthropic motives. “Later he is met by the ghost of the dead man, who in many cases promises him help on condition of receiving, in return, half of whatever he gets. The hero obtains a wife (or some other reward), and, when called upon, is ready to fulfil his bargain as to sharing his possessions,”[“Ibid.” p. 10] not excepting the wife. Some of the characteristics of the tale are to be found in the story of Pelops and Cillas, related above, which Mr. Gerould does not mention.

Pausanias has a story of one of Ulysses’ crew. Ulysses’ ship was driven about by the winds from one city to another in Sicily and Italy, and in the course of these wanderings it touched at Tecmessa. Here one of the sailors got drunk and ravished a maiden, and was stoned to death in consequence by the indignant people of the town. Ulysses did not trouble about what had occurred, and sailed away. Soon, however, the ghost of the murdered man became a source of serious annoyance to the people of the place, killing the inhabitants of the town, regardless of age and sex. Finally, matters came to such a pass that the town was abandoned. But the Pythian priestess bade the people return to Tecmessa and appease the hero by building him a temple and precinct of his own, and giving him every year the fairest maiden of the town to wife. They took this advice, and there was no more trouble from the ghost. It chanced, however, that Euthymus came to Tecmessa just when the people were paying the dead sailor the annual honours. Learning how matters stood, he asked to be allowed to go into the temple and see the maiden.

At their meeting he was first touched with pity, and then immediately fell desperately in love with her. The girl swore to be his, if he would save her. Euthymus put on his armour and awaited the attack of the monster. He had the best of the fight, and the ghost, driven from its home, plunged into the sea. The wedding was, of course, celebrated with great splendour, and nothing more was heard of the spirit of the drunken sailor. The story is obviously to be classed with that of Ariadne.

The god-fearing Ælian seeks to show that Providence watches over a good man and brings his murderers to justice by a story taken from Chrysippus. [ Ælian, “Fragment” 82] A traveler put up at an inn in Megara, wearing a belt full of gold. The innkeeper discovered that he had the money about him, and murdered him at night, having arranged to carry his body outside the gates in a dung-cart. But meanwhile the murdered man appeared to a citizen of the town and told him what had happened. The man was impressed by the vision. Investigations were made, and the murderer was caught exactly where the ghost had indicated, and was duly punished.

This is one of the very few stories in which the apparition is seen at or near the moment of death, as is the case in the vast majority of the well-authenticated cases collected during recent years.

Aristeas of Proconesus, a man of high birth, died quite suddenly in a feasting establishment in his native town. [Herodotus iv. 14, 15.] The owner locked the building and went to inform his relatives, when a man from Cyzicus, hearing the news, denied it, saying that Aristeas had met him on the way thither and talked to him; and when the relatives came, prepared to remove the body, they found no Aristeas, either alive or dead. Altogether, he seems to have been a remarkable person. He disappeared for seven years, and then appeared in Proconesus and wrote an epic poem called “Arimispea”, which was well known in Herodotus’s day. Two hundred and forty years later he was seen again, this time at Metapontum, and bade the citizens build a shrine to Apollo, and near it erect a statue to himself, as Apollo would come to them alone of the Italian Greeks, and he would be seen following in the form of a raven. The townsmen were troubled at the apparition, and consulted the Delphic oracle, which confirmed all that Aristeas had said; and Apollo received his temple and Aristeas his statue in the market-place.

Apollonius [“Hist. Mir.” 11.] tells virtually the same story, except that in his version Aristeas was seen giving a lesson in literature by a number of persons in Sicily at the very hour he died in Proconesus. He says that Aristeas appeared at intervals for a number of years after his death. The elder Pliny [“N.H.” 7. 52. 174] also speaks of Aristeas, saying that at Proconesus his soul was seen to leave his body in the form of a raven, though he regards the tale as in all probability a fabrication.

The doctor in Lucian’s “Philopseudus” (c. 26) declares that he knew a man who rose from the dead twenty days after he was buried, and that he attended him after his resurrection. But when asked how it was the body did not decompose or the man die of hunger, he has no answer to give.

Dio Cassius [67. 16.] describes how, when Nero wished to cut a canal through the Isthmus of Corinth, blood spurted up in front of those who first touched the earth, groans and cries were heard, and a number of ghosts appeared. Not till Nero took a pickaxe and began to work himself, to encourage the men, was any real progress made.

Pliny [“N.H.” 7. 52. 174] quotes an interesting account, from Hermotimus of Clazomenae, of a man whose soul was in the habit of leaving his body and wandering abroad, as was proved by the fact that he would often describe events which had happened at a distance, and could only be known to an actual eyewitness. His body meanwhile lay like that of a man in a trance or half dead. One day, however, some enemies of his took the body while in this state and burnt it, thus, to use Pliny’s phrase, leaving the soul no sheath [Vagina] to which it could return.

No one can help being struck by the bald and meagre character of these stories as a whole. They possess few of the qualities we expect to find in a good modern ghost story. None of them can equal in pathetic beauty many of those to be found in Myers’s “Human Personality”. Take, for example, the story of the lady [“Human Personality” ii. 383] who was waked in the night by the sound of moaning and sobbing, as of someone in great distress of mind. Finding nothing in her room, she went and looked out of the landing window, “and there, on the grass, was a very beautiful young girl in a kneeling posture before a soldier, in a General’s uniform, clasping her hands together and entreating for pardon; but, alas! He only waived her away from him.”

The story proved to be true. The youngest daughter of the old and distinguished family to which the house had belonged had had an illegitimate child. Her parents and relations refused to have anything more to do with her, and she died broken-hearted. The lady who relates the story saw the features so clearly on this occasion that she afterwards recognized the soldier’s portrait some six months later, when calling at a friend’s house, and exclaimed: “Why, look! There is the General!” as soon as she noticed it.

One really beautiful ghost story has, however, come down to us.[Phlegon of Tralles, “De Rebus Mirabilibus”, “ad fin.”] Phlegon of Tralles was a freedman of the Emperor Hadrian. His work is not of great merit. The following is a favourable specimen of his stories. A monstrous child was born in Ætolia, after the death of its father, Polycrates. At a public meeting, where it was proposed to do away with it, the father suddenly appeared, and begged that the child might be given him. An attempt was made to seize the father, but he snatched up the child, tore it to pieces, and devoured all but the head. When it was proposed to consult the Delphic oracle on the matter, the head prophesied to the crowd from where it lay on the ground.

Then comes the following story. The early part is missing, but Erwin Rohde, in an interesting article,[ Mai, “Script. Vet. Nov. Coll.”  ii. 671] has cleared up all the essential details. Proclus’s treatises on Plato’s Republic are complete only in the Vatican manuscripts. Of these Mai only published fragments,[ Mai, “Script. Vet. Nov. Coll.”  ii. 671] but an English theologian, Alexander Morus, took notes from the manuscript when it was in Florence, and quoted from it in a commentary on the Epistle to the Hebrews.[ London, 1616] One of the treatises is called [Greek: pos dei noein eisienai kai exienai psuchen apo somatos]. The ending in Phlegon [103: [Greek: errho]] proves that the story was given in the form of a letter, and we learn that the scene was laid at Amphipolis, on the Strymon, and that the account was sent by Hipparchus in a letter to Arrhidaeus, half-brother of Alexander the Great, the events occurring during the reign of Philip II of Macedon. Proclus says that his information is derived from letters, “some written by Hipparchus, others by Arrhidaeus.”

Philinnion was the daughter of Demostratus and Charito. She had been married to Craterus, Alexander’s famous General, but had died six months after her marriage. As we learn that she was desperately in love with Machates, a foreign friend from Pella who had come to see Demostratus, the misery of her position may possibly have caused her death. But her love conquered death itself, and she returned to life again six months after she had died, and lived with Machates, visiting him for several nights. “One day an old nurse went to the guest-chamber, and as the lamp was burning, she saw a woman sitting by Machates. Scarcely able to contain herself at this extraordinary occurrence, she ran to the girl’s mother, calling: ‘Charito! Demostratus!’ and bade them get up and go with her to their daughter, for by the grace of the gods she had appeared alive, and was with the stranger in the guest-chamber.

“On hearing this extraordinary story, Charito was at first overcome by it and by the nurse’s excitement; but she soon recovered herself, and burst into tears at the mention of her daughter, telling the old woman she was out of her senses, and ordering her out of the room. The nurse was indignant at this treatment, and boldly declared that she was not out of her senses, but that Charito was unwilling to see her daughter because she was afraid. At last Charito consented to go to the door of the guest-chamber, but as it was now quite two hours since she had heard the news, she arrived too late, and found them both asleep. The mother bent over the woman’s figure, and thought she recognized her daughter’s features and clothes. Not feeling sure, as it was dark, she decided to keep quiet for the present, meaning to get up early and catch the woman. If she failed, she would ask Machates for a full explanation, as he would never tell her a lie in a case so important. So she left the room without saying anything.

“But early on the following morning, either because the gods so willed it or because she was moved by some divine impulse, the woman went away without being observed. When she came to him, Charito was angry with the young man in consequence, and clung to his knees, and conjured him to speak the truth and hide nothing from her. At first he was greatly distressed, and could hardly be brought to admit that the girl’s name was Philinnion. Then he described her first coming and the violence of her passion, and told how she had said that she was there without her parents’ knowledge. The better to establish the truth of his story, he opened a coffer and took out the things she had left behind her–a ring of gold which she had given him, and a belt which she had left on the previous night. When Charito beheld all these convincing proofs, she uttered a piercing cry, and rent her clothes and her cloak, and tore her coif from her head, and began to mourn for her daughter afresh in the midst of her friends. Machates was deeply distressed on seeing what had happened, and how they were all mourning, as if for her second funeral. He begged them to be comforted, and promised them that they should see her if she appeared. Charito yielded, but bade him be careful how he fulfilled his promise.

“When night fell and the hour drew near at which Philinnion usually appeared, they were on the watch for her. She came, as was her custom, and sat down upon the bed. Machates made no pretence, for he was genuinely anxious to sift the matter to the bottom, and secretly sent some slaves to call her parents. He himself could hardly believe that the woman who came to him so regularly at the same hour was really dead, and when she ate and drank with him, he began to suspect what had been suggested to him–namely, that some grave-robbers had violated the tomb and sold the clothes and the gold ornaments to her father.

“Demostratus and Charito hastened to come at once, and when they saw her, they were at first speechless with amazement. Then, with cries of joy, they threw themselves upon their daughter. But Philinnion remained cold. ‘Father and mother,’ she said, ‘cruel indeed have ye been in that ye grudged my living with the stranger for three days in my father’s house, for it brought harm to no one. But ye shall pay for your meddling with sorrow. I must return to the place appointed for me, though I came not hither without the will of Heaven.’ With these words she fell down dead, and her body lay stretched upon the bed. Her parents threw themselves upon her, and the house was filled with confusion and sorrow, for the blow was heavy indeed; but the event was strange, and soon became known throughout the town, and finally reached my ears.

“During the night I kept back the crowds that gathered round the house, taking care that there should be no disturbance as the news spread. At early dawn the theatre was full. After a long discussion it was decided that we should go and open the tomb, to see whether the body was still on the bier, or whether we should find the place empty, for the woman had hardly been dead six months. When we opened the vault where all her family was buried, the bodies were seen lying on the other biers; but on the one where Philinnion had been placed, we found only the iron ring which had belonged to her lover and the gilt drinking-cup Machates had given her on the first day. In utter amazement, we went straight to Demostratus’s house to see whether the body was still there. We beheld it lying on the ground, and then went in a large crowd to the place of assembly, for the whole event was of great importance and absolutely past belief. Great was the confusion, and no one could tell what to do, when Hyllus, who is not only considered the best diviner among us, but is also a great authority on the interpretation of the flight of birds, and is generally well versed in his art, got up and said that the woman must be buried outside the boundaries of the city, for it was unlawful that she should be laid to rest within them; and that Hermes Chthonius and the Eumenides should be propitiated, and that all pollution would thus be removed. He ordered the temples to be re-consecrated and the usual rites to be performed in honour of the gods below. As for the King, in this affair, he privately told me to sacrifice to Hermes, and to Zeus Xenius, and to Ares, and to perform these duties with the utmost care. We have done as he suggested.

“The stranger Machates, who was visited by the ghost, has committed suicide in despair. “Now, if you think it right that I should give the King an account of all this, let me know, and I will send some of those who gave me the various details.”

The story is particularly interesting, as the source of Goethe’s “Braut von Korinth”. In Goethe’s poem the girl is a Christian, while her lover is a pagan. Their parents are friends, and they have been betrothed in their youth. He comes to stay with her parents, knowing nothing of her death, when she appears to him. As in the Greek story, her body is material, though cold and bloodless, and he thinks her still alive. He takes her in his arms and kisses her back to life and love, breathing his own passion into her. Then the mother surprises them, and the daughter upbraids her for her cruelty, but begs that she and her lover may be buried together, as he must pay for the life he has given her with his own.

TITLE: GREEK AND ROMAN GHOST STORIES (1922)

BY: Lacy Collison-Morley

CONTRIBUTOR: Cade Pomeraan

Visions of the Dead in Sleep: Greco-Roman

THE COMMENTARY GAZETTE

In most of the Greek and Roman stories that survive, the wraiths of the dead are represented as revisiting their friends on earth in sleep. These instances I have not, as a rule, troubled to collect, for they cannot strictly be classed as ghost stories; but since the influence of the dead was generally considered to be exercised in this way, I shall give a few stories which seem particularly striking. That it was widely believed that the dead could return at night to those whom they loved is proved by the touching inscription in which a wife begs that her husband may sometimes be allowed to revisit her in sleep, and that she may soon join him.

The most interesting passage that has come down to us, dealing with the whole question of the power of the dead to appear to those whom they love in dreams, is undoubtedly Quintilian’s Tenth Declamation. The fact that the greatest teacher of rhetoric of his day actually chose it as a subject for one of his model speeches shows how important a part it must have played in the feelings of educated Romans of the time. The story is as follows.

A mother was plunged in grief at the loss of her favourite son, when, on the night of the funeral, which had been long delayed at her earnest request, the boy appeared to her in a vision, and remained with her all night, kissing her and fondling her as if he were alive. He did not leave her till daybreak. “All that survives of a son,” says Quintilian, “will remain in close communion with his mother when he dies.” In her unselfishness, she begs her son not to withhold the comfort which he has brought to her from his father. But the father, when he hears the story, does not at all relish the idea of a visit from his son’s ghost, and is, in fact, terrified at the prospect. He says nothing to the mother, who had moved the gods of the world above no less than those of the world below by the violence of her grief and the importunity of her prayers, but at once sends for a sorcerer. As soon as he arrives, the sorcerer is taken to the family tomb, which has its place in the city of the dead that stretches along the highway from the town gate. The magic spell is wound about the grave, and the urn is finally sealed with the dread words, until at last the hapless boy has become, in very truth, a lifeless shade. Finally, we are told, the sorcerer threw himself upon the urn itself and breathed his spells into the very bones and ashes.

This at least he admitted, as he looked up: “The spirit resists. Spells are not enough. We must close the grave completely and bind the stones together with iron.” His suggestions are carried out, and at last he declares that all has been accomplished successfully. “Now he is really dead. He cannot appear or come out. This night will prove the truth of my words.” The boy never afterwards appeared, either to his mother or to anyone else.

The mother is beside herself with grief. Her son’s spirit, which had successfully baffled the gods of the lower world in its desire to visit her, is now, thanks to these foreign spells, dashing itself against the top of the grave, unable to understand the weight that has been placed upon it to keep it from escaping. Not only do the spells shut the boy in–he might possibly have broken through these–but the iron bands and solid fastenings have once again brought him face to face with death. This very realistic, if rather material, picture of a human soul mewed up for ever in the grave gives us a clear idea of the popular belief in Rome about the future life, and enables us to realize the full meaning of the inscription, “Sit tibi terra levis” (May the earth press lightly upon thee), which is so common upon Roman tombs as often to be abbreviated to “S.T.T.L.”

The speech is supposed to be delivered in an action for cruelty [Malae tractationis] brought by the wife against her husband, and in the course of it the father is spoken of as a parricide for what he has done. He defends himself by saying that he took the steps which are the cause of the action for his wife’s peace of mind. To this plea it is answered that the ghost of a son could never frighten a mother, though other spirits, if unknown to her, might conceivably do so.

In the course of the speech we are told that the spirit, when freed from the body, bathes itself in fire and makes for its home among the stars, where other fates await it. Then it remembers the body in which it once dwelt. Hence the dead return to visit those who once were dear to them on earth, and become oracles, and give us timely warnings, and are conscious of the victims we offer them, and welcome the honours paid them at their tombs.

The Declamation ends, like most Roman speeches, with an appeal: in this case to the sorcerer and the husband to remove the spells; especially to the sorcerer, who has power to torture the gods above and the spirits of the dead; who, by the terror of his midnight cries, can move the deepest caves, can shake the very foundations of the earth. “You are able both to call up the spirits that serve you and to act as their cruel and ruthless gaoler. Listen for once to a mother’s prayers, and let them soften your heart.”

Then we have the story of Thrasyllus, as told by Apuleius,[ “Met.” viii. 4] which is thoroughly modern in its romantic tone. He was in love with the wife of his friend, Tlepolemus, whom he treacherously murdered while out hunting. His crime is not discovered, and he begins to press his suit for her hand to her parents almost immediately. The widow’s grief is heart-rending. She refuses food and altogether neglects herself, hoping that the gods will hear her prayer and allow her to rejoin her husband. At last, however, she is persuaded by her parents, at Thrasyllus’s instance, to give ordinary care to her own health. But she passes her days before the likeness of the deceased, which she has had made in the image of that of the god Liber, paying it divine honours and finding her one comfort in thus fomenting her own sufferings.

When she hears of Thrasyllus’s suit, she rejects it with scorn and horror; and then at night her dead husband appears to her and describes exactly what happened, and begs her to avenge him. She requires no urging, and almost immediately decides on the course that her vengeance shall take. She has Thrasyllus informed that she cannot come to any definite decision till her year of mourning is over. Meanwhile, however, she consents to receive his visits at night, and promises to arrange for her old nurse to let him in. Overjoyed at his success, Thrasyllus comes at the hour appointed, and is duly admitted by the old nurse. The house is in complete darkness, but he is given a cup of wine and left to himself. The wine has been drugged, however, and he sinks into a deep slumber. Then Tlepolemus’s widow comes and triumphs over her enemy, who has fallen so easily into her hands. She will not kill him as he killed her husband. “Neither the peace of death nor the joy of life shall be yours,” she exclaims. “You shall wander like a restless shade between Orcus and the light of day…. The blood of your eyes I shall offer up at the tomb of my beloved Tlepolemus, and with them I shall propitiate his blessed spirit.” At these words she takes a pin from her hair and blinds him. Then she rushes through the streets, with a sword in her hand to frighten anyone who might try to stop her, to her husband’s tomb, where, after telling all her story, she slays herself.

Thither Thrasyllus followed her, declaring that he dedicated himself to the Manes of his own free-will. He carefully shut the tomb upon himself, and starved himself to death.

This is by far the best of the stories in which we find a vision of the dead in sleep playing an important part; but there is also the well-known tale of the Byzantine maiden Cleonice.[ Plutarch, “Cimon” Chap. VI] She was of high birth, but had the misfortune to attract the attention of the Spartan Pausanias, who was in command of the united Greek fleet at the Hellespont after the battle of Plataea. Like many Spartans, when first brought into contact with real luxury after his frugal upbringing at home, he completely lost his mental balance, and grew intoxicated with the splendour of his position, endeavouring to imitate the Persians in their manners, and even aspiring, it is said, to become tyrant of the whole of Greece. Cleonice was brutally torn from her parents and brought to his room at night. He was asleep at the time, and being awakened by the noise, he imagined that someone had broken into his room with the object of murdering him, and snatched up a sword and killed her. After this her ghost appeared to him every night, bidding him “go to the fate which pride and lust prepare.” He is said to have visited a temple at Heraclea, where he had her spirit called up and implored her pardon. She duly appeared, and told him that “he would soon be delivered from all his troubles after his return to Sparta”–an ambiguous way of prophesying his death, which occurred soon afterwards. She was certainly avenged in the manner of it.

Before leaving these stories of visions of the dead, we must not omit to mention that charming poem of Virgil’s younger days, the “Culex” (The Gnat). Just as the first sketch of Macaulay’s famous character ofWilliam III is said to be contained in a Cambridge prize essay on the subject, so the “Culex” contains the first draft of some of the greatest passages in Virgil’s later works–the beautiful description of the charms of country life in the “Georgics”, for instance, and the account of Tartarus in the sixth book of the “Æneid”. The story is slight, as was usually the case in these little epics, where the purple patches are more important than the plot. A shepherd falls asleep in the shade by a cool fountain, just as he would do in Southern Italy to-day, for his rest after the midday meal. Suddenly a snake, the horrors of which are described with a vividness that is truly Virgilian, appears upon the scene and prepares to strike the shepherd. A passing gnat, the hero of the poem, sees the danger, and wakes the shepherd by stinging him in the eye. He springs up angrily, brushes it off with his hand, and dashes it lifeless to the ground. Then, to his horror, he sees the snake, and promptly kills it with the branch of a tree.

While he lies asleep that night, the ghost of the gnat appears to him in a dream, and bitterly reproaches him for the cruel death with which it has been rewarded for its heroic services. Charon has now claimed it for his own. It goes on to give a lurid description of the horrors of Tartarus, and contrasts its hard lot with that of the shepherd. When he wakes, the shepherd is filled with remorse for his conduct and is also, perhaps, afraid of being continually haunted by the ghost of his tiny benefactor. He therefore sets to work to raise a mound in honour of the gnat, facing it with marble. Round it he plants all kinds of flowers, especially violets and roses, the flowers usually offered to the dead, and cuts on a marble slab the following inscription: “Little gnat, the shepherd dedicates to thee thy need of a tomb in return for the life thou gavest him.”[“Parve culex, pecudum custos tibi tale merenti  Funeris officium vitae pro munere reddit.”]

There is also an interesting story of Pindar, told by Pausanias. In his old age the great poet dreamt that Persephone appeared to him and told him that she alone of all the goddesses had not been celebrated in song by him, but that he should pay the debt when he came to her. Shortly after this he died. There was, however, a relation of his, a woman then far advanced in years, who had practiced the singing of most of his hymns. To her Pindar appeared in a dream and sang the hymn to Proserpine, which she wrote down from memory when she awoke.

REFERENCE:

TITLE: GREEK AND ROMAN GHOST STORIES (1922)

BY: Lacy Collison-Morley

CONTRIBUTOR: Cade Pomeraan

FRITHIOF the Bold: Norse

THE COMMENTARY GAZETTE

 

 Frithiof was a Norwegian hero, grandson of Viking, who was the largest and strongest man of his time. Viking had sailed the sea in a dragon ship, meeting with many adventures, and Thorsten, Frithiof’s father, had likewise sailed abroad, capturing many priceless treasures and making a great name for himself.

Frithiof was entrusted to the care of Hilding, his foster father, and in his care, also, were Halfdan and Helge, King Bele’s sons, and, some years later, their little sister, Ingeborg. Frithiof and Ingeborg became firm friends, and as the lad increased in bravery and strength, the girl increased in beauty and loveliness of soul. Hilding, noticing how each day they became fonder of each other, called Frithiof to him and bade him remember that he was only a humble subject and could never hope to wed Ingeborg, the king’s only daughter, descended from the great god Odin. The warning, however, came too late, for Frithiof already loved the fair maiden, and vowed that he would have her for his bride at any cost.

Soon after this the king died, leaving his kingdom to his two sons and giving instructions that his funeral mound should be erected in sight of that of his dear friend Thorsten, so that their spirits might not be separated even in death. Then Ingeborg went to live with her brothers, the Kings of Sogn, while Frithiof retired to his own home at Framnas, closed in by the mountains and the sea. Frithiof was now one of the wealthiest and most envied of land-owners. His treasures were richer by far than those of any king.

In the spring he held a great celebration, which the kings of Sogn and their sister Ingeborg, among many other guests, attended. Frithiof and Ingeborg were much together, and Frithiof was very happy to learn that Ingeborg returned his affection.

Great was his grief when the time came for her to sail away. Not long had she been gone, however, when he vowed to Bjoern, his chief companion, that he would follow after her and ask for her hand. His ship was prepared and soon he touched the shore near the temple of the god Balder.

His request was not granted and Helge dismissed him contemptuously. In a rage at the insult Frithiof lifted his sword; but remembering that he stood on consecrated ground near Bele’s tomb, he spared the king, only cutting his heavy shield in two to show the strength of his blade.

Soon after his departure another suitor, the aged King Ring of Norway sought the hand of Ingeborg in marriage, and being refused, collected an army and prepared to make war on Helge and Halfdan.

Then the two brothers were glad to send a messenger after Frithiof, asking his aid. The hero, still angry, refused; but he hastened at once to Ingeborg. He found her in tears at the shrine of Balder, and although it was considered a sin for a man and woman to exchange words in the sacred temple, he spoke to her, again making known his love.

The kings, her brothers, were away at war, but Frithiof stayed near Ingeborg, and when they returned, promised to free them from the oppression of Sigurd Ring if in return they would promise him the hand of their sister. But the kings had heard of how Frithiof had spoken to Ingeborg in the temple, and although they feared Sigurd they would not grant the request. Instead he was condemned in punishment to sail away to the Orkney Islands to claim tribute from the king Angantyr.

Frithiof departed in his ship Ellida, and Ingeborg stayed behind, weeping bitterly. And as soon as the vessel was out of sight the brothers sent for two witches–Heid and Ham–bidding them stir up such a tempest on the sea that even the god-given ship Ellida could not withstand its fury.

But no tempest could frighten the brave Frithiof. Singing a cheery song he stood at the helm, caring nothing for the waves that raged about the ship. He comforted his crew, and then climbed the mast to keep a sharp lookout for danger.

From there he spied a huge whale, upon which the two witches were seated, delighted at the tempest they had stirred up. Speaking to his good ship, which could both hear and obey, he bade it run down the whale and the witches.

This Ellida did. Whale and witches sank; the sea grew red with their blood; the waves were calmed. Again the sun smiled over the hardy sailors. But many of the crew were worn out by the battle with the elements and had to be carried ashore by Frithiof and Bjoern when they reached the Orkney Islands.

Now the watchman at Angantyr’s castle had reported the ship and the gale, and Angantyr had declared that only Frithiof and Ellida could weather such a storm. One of his vassals, Atle, caught up his weapons and hurried forth to challenge the great hero. Frithiof had no weapons, but with a turn of his wrist he threw his opponent.

“Go and get your weapons,” Atle said, when he saw that Frithiof would have killed him. Knowing that Atle was a true soldier and would not run away, Frithiof left him in search of his sword; but when he returned and found his opponent calmly awaiting death, he was generous, and bade him rise and live.

Angantyr vowed that he owed no tribute to Helge, and would pay him none, but to Frithiof he gave a vast treasure, telling him that he might dispose of it as he would.

So Frithiof sailed back to the kings of Sogn, confident that he could win Ingeborg. What was his dismay, therefore, to learn that Helge and Halfdan had already given their sister in marriage to Sigurd Ring. In a rage he bade his men destroy all the vessels in the harbor, while he strode toward the temple of Balder where Helge and his wife were. He flung Angantyr’s purse of gold in Helge’s face, and seeing the ring he had given to Ingeborg on the hand of Helge’s wife snatched it roughly from her. In trying to get it back she dropped the image of the god, which she had just been anointing, into the fire. It was quickly consumed, while the rising flames set fire to the temple. Horror-stricken, Frithiof tried to stop the blaze, and when he could not, hurried away to his ship.

So Frithiof became an exile, and a wanderer on the face of the earth. For many years he lived the life of a pirate or viking, exacting tribute from other ships or sacking them if they would not pay tribute; for this occupation in the days of Frithiof was considered wholly respectable. It was followed again and again by the brave men of the North. But Frithiof was often homesick, and longed to enter a harbor, and lead again a life of peace.

 At last he decided to visit the court of Sigurd Ring and find out whether Ingeborg was really happy. Landing, he wrapped himself in an old cloak and approached the court. He found a seat on a bench near the door, as beggars usually did; but when one insulting courtier mocked him he lifted the offender in his mighty hand and swung him high over his head.

At this Sigurd Ring invited the old man to remove his mantle and take a seat near him. With surprise Sigurd and his courtiers saw step from the tattered mantle a handsome warrior, richly clad; but only Ingeborg knew who he was. “Who are you who comes to us thus?” asked Sigurd Ring. “I am Thiolf, a thief,” was the answer, “and I have grown to manhood in the Land of Sorrow.” Sigurd invited him to remain, and he soon became the almost constant companion of the king and queen.

One spring day Sigurd and Frithiof had ridden away on a hunting expedition, and the old king being tired from the chase lay down on the ground to rest, feigning sleep. The birds and beasts of the forest drew near and whispered to Frithiof that he should slay the king and have Ingeborg for his own wife. But Frithiof was too fine and loyal to listen to such suggestions. Awaking, Sigurd Ring called Frithiof to him. “You are Frithiof the Bold,” he said, “and from the first I knew you. Be patient now a little longer and you shall have Ingeborg, for my end is near.” Soon after this Sigurd died, commending his wife to the young hero’s loving care. And at his own request the funeral feast was closed by the public betrothal of Ingeborg and Frithiof.

The people, admiring his bravery, wanted to make Frithiof king, but he would not listen to their pleadings. Instead he lifted the little son of Sigurd upon his shield. “Behold your king,” he cried, “and until he is grown to manhood I will stand beside him.”

So Frithiof married his beloved Ingeborg, and later, so the story runs, he returned to his own country and built again the temple of Balder, more beautiful by far than any before.

TITLE: Myths and Legends of All Nations

EDITOR/TRANSLATOR: Logan Marshall

CONTRIBUTOR: Jenny Dunnaway

BEOWULF and the Fire-Dragon: Norse

THE COMMENTARY GAZETTE

 

After his return to the land of the Geats, Beowulf served Higelac faithfully till the day of the king’s death, which befell in an expedition that he made to Friesland. Beowulf was with him on that disastrous journey, and only with difficulty did he escape with his life. But when he returned as a poor solitary fugitive to his people, Hygd, Higelac’s wife, offered him the kingdom and the king’s treasures, for she feared that her young son Heardred was not strong enough to hold the throne of his fathers against invading foes.

Beowulf, however, would not accept the kingdom, but rather chose to uphold Heardred among the people, giving him friendly counsel and serving him faithfully and honorably. But before very long Heardred was killed in battle, and then at last Beowulf consented to become king of the Geats. For fifty years he ruled well and wisely and his people prospered. But at last trouble came in the ravages of a terrible dragon, and once more Beowulf was called forth to a terrific combat.

For three hundred years this dragon had kept watch over a hoard of treasure on a mountain by the seashore in the country of the Geats. The treasure had been hidden in a cave under the mountain by a band of sea-robbers; and when the last of them was dead the dragon took possession of the cave and of the treasure and kept fierce watch over them. 

But one day a poor man came to the spot while the dragon was fast asleep and carried off part of the treasure to his master. When the dragon awoke he soon discovered the man’s footprints, and on examining the cave he found that part of the gold and splendid jewels had disappeared. In wrathful and savage mood he sought all-round the mountain for the robber, but could find no one.

So when evening came he went forth eager for revenge, and throwing out flashes of fire in every direction, he began to set fire to all the land. Beowulf’s own princely manor-house was burnt down and terrible destruction was wrought on every hand, till day broke and the fire-dragon returned to his den.

Great was Beowulf’s grief at this dire misfortune, and eager was his desire for vengeance. He scorned to seek the foe with a great host behind him, nor did he dread the combat in any way, for he called to mind his many feats of war, and especially his fight with Grendel.

So he quickly had fashioned a mighty battle-shield, made entirely of iron, for he knew that the wooden one that he was wont to use would be burnt up by the flames of the fire-dragon. Then he chose out eleven of his earls, and together they set out for the mountain, led thither by the man who had stolen the treasure. When they came to the mouth of the cave Beowulf bade farewell to his companions, for he was resolved to fight single-handed against the foe.

“Many a fight have I fought in my youth,” he said, “and now once more will I, the guardian of my people, seek the combat. I would not bear any sword or other weapon against the dragon if I thought that I could grapple with him as I did with the monster Grendel. But I fear that I shall not be able to approach so close to this foe, for he will send forth hot, raging fire and venomous breath. Yet am I resolute in mood, fearless and resolved not to yield one foot’s-breadth to the monster.

“Tarry ye here on the hill, my warriors, and watch which of us two will survive the deadly combat, for this is no enterprise for you. I only can attempt it, because such great strength has been given to me. Therefore I will do battle alone and will either slay the dragon and win the treasure for my people or fall in the fight, as destiny shall appoint.”

When he had spoken thus Beowulf strode forward to the fight, armed with his iron shield, his sword and his dagger. A stone arch spanned the mouth of the cave, and on one side a boiling stream, hot as though with raging fires, rushed forth. Undaunted by it, Beowulf uttered a shout to summon the dragon to the fight. Immediately a burning breath from the monster came out of the rock, the earth rumbled and then the dragon rushed forth to meet his fate.

Standing with his huge shield held well before him, Beowulf received the attack and struck from beneath his shield at the monster’s side. But his blade failed him and turned aside, and the blow but served to enrage the dragon, so that he darted forth such blasting rays of deadly fire that Beowulf was well-nigh overwhelmed and the fight went hard with him.

Now his eleven chosen comrades could see the combat from where they stood; and one of them, Beowulf’s kinsman Wiglaf, was moved to great sorrow at the sight of his lord’s distress. At last he could bear it no longer, but grasped his wooden shield and his sword and cried to the other thanes: “Remember how we promised our lord in the banquet-hall, when he gave us our helmets and swords and battle-gear that we would one day repay him for his gifts. Now is the day come that our liege lord has need of the strength of good warriors. We must go help him, even though he thought to accomplish this mighty work alone, for we can never return to our homes if we have not slain the enemy and saved our king’s life. Rather than live when he is dead, I will perish with him in this deadly fire.”

 Then he rushed through the noisome smoke to his lord’s side, crying: “Dear Beowulf, take courage. Remember thy boast that thy valor shall never fail thee in thy lifetime, and defend thyself now with all thy might, and I will help thee.” But the other warriors were afraid to follow him, so that Beowulf and Wiglaf stood alone to face the dragon.

As soon as the monster advanced upon them, Wiglaf’s wooden shield was burnt away by the flames, so that he was forced to take refuge behind Beowulf’s iron shield; and this time when Beowulf struck with his sword, it was shivered to pieces. Then the dragon flung himself upon him and caught him up in his arms, crushing him till he lay senseless and covered with wounds.

But now Wiglaf showed his valor and strength, and smote the monster with such mighty blows that at last the fire coming forth from him began to abate somewhat. Then Beowulf came once more to his senses, and drawing his deadly knife, struck with it from beneath; and at last the force of the blows from the two noble kinsmen felled the fierce fire-dragon and he sank down dead beside them.

But Beowulf’s wounds were very great, and he knew that the joys of life were ended for him and that death was very near. So while Wiglaf with wonderful tenderness unfastened his helmet for him and refreshed him with water, he spoke, saying: “Though I am sick with mortal wounds, there is yet some comfort remaining for me. For I have governed my people for fifty winters and kept them safe from invading foes; yet have not sought out quarrels nor led my kinsmen to dire slaughter when there was no need. Therefore the Ruler of all men will not blame me when my life departs from my body. “And now go thou quickly, dear Wiglaf, to spy out the treasure within the cave, so that I may see what wealth I have won for my people before I die.”

So Wiglaf went into the cave and there he saw many precious jewels, old vessels, helmets, gold armlets and other treasures, which excelled in beauty and number any that mankind has ever known. Moreover, high above the treasure flapped a marvelous gilded standard, from which came a ray of light which lit up all the cave.

Then Wiglaf seized as much as he could carry of the precious spoils, and taking the standard also, hastened back to his lord, dreading lest he should find him already dead. Beowulf was very near his life’s end, but when Wiglaf had again revived him with water, he had strength to speak once more. “Glad am I,” he said, “that I have been able before my death to gain so much for my people. But now I may no longer abide here. Bid the gallant warriors burn my body on the headland here which juts into the sea, and afterwards raise a huge mound on the same spot, that the sailors who drive their vessels over the misty floods may call it Beowulf’s Mound.”

Then the dauntless prince undid the golden collar from his neck and gave it to Wiglaf with his helmet and coat of mail, saying: “Thou art the last of all our race, for Fate has swept away all my kindred save thee to their doom, and now I also must join them,” and with these words the aged king fell back dead. Now as Wiglaf sat by his lord, grieving sorely at his death, the other ten thanes who had shown themselves to be faithless and cowardly approached with shame to his side. Then Wiglaf turned to them, crying bitterly: “Truly our liege lord flung away utterly in vain the battle-gear that he gave ye. Little could he boast of his comrades when the hour of need came. I myself was able to give him some succor in the fight, but ye should have stood by him also to defend him. But now the giving of treasure shall cease for ye and ye will be shamed and will lose your land-right when the nobles learn of your inglorious deed. Death is better for every earl than ignominious life.”

After this Wiglaf summoned the other earls and told them of all that had happened and of the mound that Beowulf wished them to build. Then they gathered together at the mouth of the cave and gazed with tears upon their lifeless lord and looked with awe upon the huge dragon as it lay stiff in death beside its conqueror. Afterwards, led by Wiglaf, seven chosen earls entered the cave and brought forth all the treasure, while others busied themselves in preparing the funeral pyre.

When all was ready and the huge pile of wood had been hung with helmets, war-shields and bright coats of mail, as befitted the funeral pyre of a noble warrior, the earls brought their beloved lord’s body to the spot and laid it on the wood. Then they kindled the fire and stood by mourning and uttering sorrowful chants, while the smoke rose up and the fire roared and the body was consumed away. Afterwards they built a mound on the hill, making it high and broad so that it could be seen from very far away. Ten days they spent in building it; and because they desired to pay the highest of honors to Beowulf, they buried in it the whole of the treasure that the dragon had guarded, for no price was too heavy to pay as a token of their love for their lord. So the treasure even now remains in the earth, as useless as it was before.

When at last the mound was completed, the noble warriors gathered together and rode around it, lamenting their king and singing the praise of his valor and mighty deeds. Thus mourned the people of the Geats for the fall of Beowulf, who of all kings in the world was the mildest and kindest, the most gracious to his people, and the most eager to win their praise.

Title: Myths and Legends of All Nations

Editor/Translator: Logan Marshall

CONTRIBUTOR: Jenny Dunnaway