For his part, Naumachius of Epirus,2 who lived at the time of my grandparents, recounts the following: Polycritus of Aetolia, one of the most distinguished of the Aetolians and who had been appointed Aetolarch, died, then returned to life nine months after his death and attended the federal assembly of the Aetolians, where he made very wise recommendations relating to the affairs under deliberation. Hiero of Ephesus and other observers witnessed this event and wrote to tell King Antigonus3 and other friends of theirs, who had not been present at the event.4Phlegon of Tralles,5 who also claimed a mysterious Hiero (of Alexandria or Ephesus)6 as his source, produced a full version of the story. It possesses a dramatic intensity as powerful as any fantastical tale, whether modern or contemporary:
Hiero of Alexandria or of Ephesus also relates that a ghost also appeared in Aetolia. One of the citizens, a certain Polycritus, was voted Aetolarch for a term of three years by the people, who deemed him worthy among the citizens because of his and his ancestors' nobility. While in office, he took a Locrian woman as wife, lived with her for three days, and departed from life on the fourth night. The woman remained at home as a widow. When the time for childbirth came she delivered a child with two sets of genitals, male and female, which constituted an extraordinary deviation from nature. The upper portion of the genitals was hard and manly, whereas the part around the thighs was womanish and softer.By situating his tale, which he too claimed to have learned from Hiero of Ephesus, in a very specific historical and geographical context, Phlegon hoped to win his readers' trust.9
Struck with astonishment, the child's relatives took it to the agora where they called an assembly, summoned sacrificers and diviners and deliberated about the child. Of these, some declared that a breach would come about between the Aetolians and the Locrians, for the infant was different from its mother, who was Locrian, and also from its father, an Aetolian. Others thought that they should take the child and the mother away to the countryside beyond the frontiers, and burn them.
As they were deliberating, Polycritus, the man who had previously died, appeared in the assembly near the child and wearing black clothing. The citizens were stricken with amazement at the apparition and many had begun to flee, when he called on them to take courage and not be thrown into confusion at the presence of a ghost.
After he had put a stop to most of the commotion and confusion, he spoke in a weak voice, as follows: "Citizens, my body is dead, but in the goodwill and kindness I feel towards you, I am alive. I am here with you now for your benefit, having appealed to those who are masters of things beneath the earth. And so I call on you now, since you are fellow citizens, not to be frightened or repulsed by the unexpected presence of a ghost. I beg all of you, praying by the salvation of each one of you, to hand over to me the child I begot, in order that no violence take place as a result of your reaching some other decision and that your hostility towards me not be the beginning of difficult and harsh troubles. For it is not permitted to me to let the child be burnt by you, just because of the madness of the seers who have made proclamations to you.
"Now, I excuse you because as you behold so strange a sight you are at a loss as to what is the right course of action for you to take. If, moreover, you will obey me without fear, you will be released from your present fear as well as the impending catastrophe. But if you come to some other opinion, I fear that because of your distrust of me you will fall into an irremediable calamity. Now because of the goodwill I had when I was alive, I have also now in this my present unexpected appearance foretold what is beneficial to you. So I ask you not to put me off any longer but to deliberate correctly and, obeying what I have said, to give me the child in an auspicious manner. For it is not permitted to me to linger long on account of those who rule beneath the earth."
After saying this he was quiet for a while, expectantly awaiting whatever resolution they would bring forth concerning his request. Now, some thought they should hand over the child and make atonement for both the prodigy and the supernatural being that was standing by, but most disagreed, saying that they ought not to deliberate rashly, since the matter was of great importance and the problem was not an ordinary one.
Seeing that they were not heeding him, but instead were hindering his desire, he spoke again: "At all events, citizens, if trouble befalls you on account of your irresolution, blame not me but the fate that thus leads you down the wrong path, a fate that, opposing me also, forces me to act unlawfully against my own child."
The people had clustered together and were arguing about the portent when the ghost took hold of the child, forced back most of the men, hastily tore the child limb from limb, and began to devour him. People began to shout and throw stones at him in an attempt to drive him away. Unharmed by the stones, he consumed the entire body of the child except his head, and then suddenly disappeared.
The people, vexed at these happenings and in a state of extraordinary perplexity, wanted to send a delegation to Delphi, but the head of the child that was lying on the ground began to speak, foretelling the future in an oracle.
"O countless folk inhabiting a land famed in song,When the Aetolians heard the oracle they brought their wives, infant children, and the very elderly to such places of safety as each man was able to arrange. They themselves remained behind, awaiting what would occur, and it happened in the following year that the Aetolians and Acarnanians joined battle, with great destruction on both sides.8
Do not go to the sanctuary of Phoebus, to the temple with its incense,7
For the hands you hold in the air are unclean from blood,
The journey before your feet is defiled.
Renounce the journey to the tripod, and consider instead what I say,
For I will recount the entire behest of the oracle.
On this day in the course of a year
Death has been ordained for all, but by the will of Athena
The souls of Locrians and Aetolians shall live mixed together.
Nor will there be respite from evil, not even briefly,
For a bloody drizzle is poured on your heads,
Night keeps everything hidden, and a dark sky has spread over it.
At once night causes a darkness to move over the entire earth,
At home all the bereaved move their limbs at the threshold,
The women will not leave off grieving, and the children
Shall no longer grow in the houses where their fathers are mourned.
Such has been the scourge that has crashed down upon everyone from above.
Alas, alas, without cease I bewail the terrible sufferings of my land,
And my most dread mother, whom death eventually carried away.
All the gods will render inglorious the birth
Of whatever there remains of Aetolian and Locrian seed,
Because death has not touched my head, nor has it done away
With all the indistinguishable limbs of my body, but has left me on the earth.
Come and expose my head to the rising dawn, and
Do not hide it below within the dusky earth.
As for you yourselves, abandon the land and
Go to another land, to a people of Athena,
If you choose an escape from death in accordance withfate.
After he had uttered this he fell silent, and proceeding outside the camp, he climbed up a certain oak tree. The crowd followed and he called to them: "Romans and other soldiers, it falls to me to die and be devoured by a huge red wolf on this very day, but as for you, you know that everything I have said is going to happen to you: take the imminent appearance of the beast and my own destruction as proof that I have spoken by divine intimation." Saying this, he told them to stand aside and not to prevent the approach of the beast, saying that it would not be to their benefit to drive it away. The crowd followed his bidding, and presently the wolf came. When Publius saw it, he came down from the oak tree and fell upon his back, whereupon the wolf ripped him open and devoured him while everyone looked on. Having consumed his body except for the head, it turned away to the mountain. When the crowd now approached, wishing to take up the remains and give them proper burial, the head, which lay on the ground, proclaimed these verses:Polycritus seems to have behaved toward his child just as the wolf did toward Publius. By devouring his child, he made it a part of his own body in order to convey it to the world of the dead. The violence that he was forced to commit then rebounded onto the heads of the Aetolians whose fault it all was, just as the head of Polycritus's child announced in an oracle in verse.
Touch not my head. For it is not rightWhen they heard this, they were extremely upset. After constructing a temple to Apollo Lykios and an altar at the place where the head lay, they embarked on their ships, and each person sailed to his own land. Everything foretold by Publius came to pass.29
For those in whose hearts Athena has placed wild anger
To take hold of a sacred head. But stop
And listen to the prophecy by means of which I shall declare the truth to you.
To this land will come a great and powerful Ares,
Who will dispatch the armed folk to Hades in the darkness below and
Shatter the stone towers and the long walls.
Seizing our wealth, our infant children, and our wives,
He will bring them to Asia, crossing over the waves.
These sure truths Phoebus Apollo has spoken to you,
The Pythian, who sent his powerful servant and
Led me to the abode of the blessed and of Persephone.
[The tales they tell] of how a man's head speaks after it is cut off! Sometimes they cite Homer in support, who (so they say) was referring to this when he wrote: "As it spake, his head was mingled with the dust" (not "As he spake . . ."). And in [Caria] this kind of thing was once so firmly believed that one of the inhabitants was actually brought into court on the strength of it. The priest of Zeus hoplismios [armed like a hoplite] had been killed, but no one knew who had done it. Certain persons, however, affirmed that they had heard the man's head, after it had been cut off, repeating the following line several times: "Twas Kerkidas did slaughter man on man." So they set to work and found someone in the district who bore this name and brought him to trial. Of course, speech is impossible once the windpipe has been severed and no motion is forthcoming from the lung. And among barbarians, where they cut heads off with expedition, nothing of this sort has taken place so far. (Aristotle, Parts of Animals III 10, 673a19 f.)36Pliny the Elder, for his part, relates:
In the Sicilian war37 the bravest man in Caesar's navies, Gabienus, was taken prisoner by Sextus Pompeius, by whose order his throat was cut and almost severed, and so he lay a whole day on the shore. Then, on the arrival of the evening, a crowd having been gathered to the spot by his groans and entreaties, he besought that Pompey should come to him or send one of his personal staff, as he had come back from the lower world and had some news to tell him. Pompey sent several of his friends, who were told by Gabienus that the gods below approved Pompey's cause and the righteous party, so that the issue would be what Pompey desired; that he had orders to bring this news, and a proof of its truth would be that as soon as his errand was accomplished he would expire. And this so happened. (Pliny the Elder, Natural History VII 178-179)38In all the above cases, a violent death occurs, and at least three of them (Orpheus, Polycritus's child, and Publius) involve an opposition to Apollo. But let us return to the story of Polycritus.
1. A collection of money to offer to DemeterThe second oracle, the beginning of which is missing (as is the end of the first oracle), recommends a number of other expiatory ceremonies:
2. The sacrifice of 3 x 9 bulls (possibly for Zeus)
3. The sacrifice of white cows by 3 x 9 girls and prayers to be said by the same girls, according to a Greek rite in honor of Hera Basilissa ( = Juno the Queen)
4. An offering made by matrons (a daily libation)
5. An offering of torches for Demeter
6. Another offering by matrons, with a triple libation for Demeter
7. A similar offering for Persephone, with prayers recited by girls
8. A collection of money for an offering.
1. An offering of garments for PersephoneIn nine cases out of sixteen, the expiatory ceremonies occasioned by the discovery of an androgyne consisted of a hymn sung by 3 x 9 girls, in honor of Juno the Queen. As Livy declares explicitly in the text cited below, Juno the Queen was the patron of matrons, married mothers who gave birth to children. In six of those cases the ceremony was completed by other rites. Finally, in two cases prayers and sacrifices are mentioned in very general terms.
2. A gift of whatever is most beautiful and best in the world for Persephone
3. A prayer to Demeter and Persephone
4. The sacrifice of a black ox for Hades-Pluto; a sacrificial procession in which festive clothing is worn
5. A sacrifice of white goats to Apollo
6. Prayers to Apollo, whose head is crowned
7. The sacrifice of a white cow to Hera Basilissa ( = Juno the Queen)
8. A hymn sung by girls
9. The consecration of a xoanon (a statue of cypress wood) to Hera
10. A libation and daily offerings to Hera
11. A sacrifice of lambs to the chthonic gods.
Relieved of their religious scruples, men were troubled again by the report that at Frasino there had been born a child as large as a four year old, and not so much a wonder for size as because, just as at Sinussa two years before, it was uncertain whether male or female. In fact, the soothsayers summoned from Etruria said it was a terrible and loathsome portent; it must be removed from Roman territory, far from contact with the earth, and drowned in the sea. They put it alive in a chest, carried it out to sea and threw it overboard. The pontiffs likewise decreed that thrice nine maidens should sing a hymn as they marched through the city. While they were in the temple of Jupiter Stator, learning that hymn, composed by Livius the poet, the Temple of Juno the Queen on the Aventine was struck by lightning. That this portent concerned the matrons was the opinion given by the soothsayers, and that the goddess must be appeased by a gift; whereupon the matrons domiciled in the city of Rome or within ten miles of it were summoned by an edict of the curule aediles to the Capitol. And from their own number they themselves chose twenty-five, to whom they should bring a contribution from their dowries. Out of that a golden basin was made as a gift and carried to the Aventine, and the matrons after due purification offered sacrifice. At once a day was appointed by the decemvirs for another sacrifice to the same goddess; and the order of procedure was as follows: from the Temple of Apollo two white cows were led through the Porta Carmentalis into the city; behind them were carried two statues of Juno the Queen in cypress wood. Then the seven and twenty maidens in long robes marched, singing their hymn in honour of Juno the Queen, a song which to the untrained minds of that time may have deserved praise but now, if repeated, would be repellent and uncouth. Behind the company of maidens followed the decemvirs wearing laurel garlands and purple-bordered togas. From the gate they proceeded along the Vicus Iugarius into the Forum. In the Forum the procession halted, and passing a rope from hand to hand the maidens advanced, accompanying the sound of the voice by beating time with their feet. Then by way of the Vicus Tuscus and the Velabrum, through the Forum Boarium they made their way to the Clivus Publicus and the Temple of Juno the Queen. There the two victims were sacrificed by the decemvirs and the cypress statues borne into the temple. (Livy, Roman History XXVII 37, 5 f.)49This text provides an excellent synthesis, complete with details, of all that has been said above concerning the purifications and the expiatory ceremonies occasioned by the discovery of an androgyne. We are bound to conclude that in the sixteen cases mentioned above, no violence was done to the androgyne, who was disposed of by being exposed beyond the frontiers, and neither buried in the earth nor consigned to fire. Seen in this perspective, the diviners' recommendation that Polycritus's child be burned seems aberrant, for it assimilates a human being to a dangerous animal.50
Likewise in Naples and a good many other places, sudden changes of this sort are said to have occurred. . . . At the outset of the Marsian War52 at any rate, there was, so it is reported,53 an Italian living not far from Rome who had married an hermaphrodite similar to those described above. He laid information before the senate, which in an access of superstitious terror and in obedience to the Etruscan diviners ordered the creature to be burned alive.54 Thus did one whose nature was like ours and who was not, in reality, a monster, meet an unsuitable end through misunderstanding of his malady. Shortly afterwards there was another such case at Athens and again, through misunderstanding of the affliction, the person was burned alive. (Diodorus Siculus, XXXII 12, 1-2, according to Photius, Library, codex 244, 379a)55The story that follows, also recounted by Diodorus Siculus, involves far less serious consequences for the human being who "changes sex," even if the abnormal situations that result from the discovery of the androgyne's state provoke dramatic reactions from those close to him/her.
It would be a mistake to omit the strange occurrence that took place before the death of Alexander,56 even though it is a thing so marvellous that it will not, perhaps, be credited. A short while before the time of our present narrative, as King Alexander was consulting an oracle in Cilicia (where there is said to be a sanctuary of Apollo Sarpedonius), the god, we are told, replied to him that he should beware of the place that bore the "two-formed one." At the time the oracle seemed enigmatic, but later, after the king's death, its sense was learnt through the following causes. There was dwelling at Abae in Arabia57 a certain man named Diophantus, a Macedonian by descent. He married an Arabian woman of that region and begot a son, named for himself, and a daughter named Herais. Now the son he saw dead before his prime, but when the daughter was of an age to be married he gave her a dowry and bestowed her upon a man named Samiades. He, after living in wedlock with his wife for the space of a year, went off on a long journey. Herais, it is said, fell ill of a strange and altogether incredible infirmity. A severe tumour appeared at the base of her abdomen, and as the region became more and more swollen and high fevers supervened, her physicians suspected that an ulceration had taken place at the mouth of the uterus. They applied such remedies as they thought would reduce the inflammation, but notwithstanding, on the seventh day, the surface of the tumour burst, and projecting from her groin there appeared a male genital organ with testicles attached. Now when the rupture occurred, with its sequel, neither her physician nor any other visitors were present, but only her mother and two maidservants. Dumfounded at this extraordinary event, they tended Herais as best they could, and said nothing of what had occurred. She, on recovering from her illness, wore feminine attire and continued to conduct herself as a homebody and as one subject to a husband. It was assumed, however, by those who were privy to the strange secret that she was a hermaphrodite, and as to her past life with her husband, since natural intercourse did not fit their theory, she was thought to have consorted with him homosexually.58 Now while her condition was still undisclosed, Samiades returned and, as was fitting, sought the company of his wife. And when she, for very shame, could not bear to appear in his presence, he, they say, grew angry. As he continually pressed the point and claimed his wife, her father meanwhile denying his plea but feeling too embarrassed to disclose the reason, their disagreement soon grew into a quarrel. As a result, Samiades brought suit for his own wife against her father, for Fortune did in real life what she commonly does in plays and made the strange altercation lead to an accusation. After the judges took their seats and all the arguments had been presented, the person in dispute appeared before the tribunal, and the jurors debated whether the husband should have jurisdiction over his wife or the father over his daughter. When, however, the court found that it was the wife's duty to attend upon her husband, she at last revealed the truth. Screwing up her courage, she unloosed the dress that disguised her, displayed her masculinity to them all, and burst out in bitter protest that anyone should require a man to cohabit with a man. All present were overcome with astonishment and exclaimed with surprise at this marvel (paradoxon). Herais, now that her shame had been publicly disclosed, exchanged her woman's apparel for the garb of a young man.59 And the physicians, on being shown the evidence, concluded that her male organ had been concealed in an egg-shaped portion of the female organ, and that since a membrane had abnormally encased the organ, an aperture had formed through which excretions were discharged. In consequence they found it necessary to scarify the perforated area and induce cicatrization: having thus brought the male organ into decent shape, they gained credit for applying such treatment as the case allowed.One of the correctors of the manuscripts in Photius's Library, where this story was preserved,63 a thirteenth-century Byzantine by the name of Theodore Skutariotes, noted in the margin of the manuscript that an androgyne had also been born in his lifetime and had had sexual relations: "A monster of this kind appeared in our own times. He was believed to possess both sexes at the same time, and to play now an active, now a passive role in sexual relations. What is more, it is said, he could not prevent himself from making love, even when he was playing the passive role, not of his own volition, but as a result of the force of things."64 This testimony is particularly valuable as it is totally unexpected. It tells us of reactions to the appearance and behavior of an androgyne more than a thousand years after Diodorus Siculus, and in an exclusively Christian context.
Herais, changing her name to Diophantus,60 was enrolled in the cavalry and after fighting in the king's forces accompanied him in his withdrawal to Abae. Thus it was that the oracle, which previously had not been understood, now became clear when the king was assassinated at Abae, the birthplace of the "two-formed one."61 As for Samiades, they say that he, still in thrall to his love and its old associations, but constrained by shame for his unnatural marriage, designated Diophantus in his will as heir to his property, and made his departure from life. Thus she who was born a woman took on a man's courage and renown, while the man proved to be less strong-minded than a woman. (Diodorus Siculus, XXXII 10.2 [ = Photius, Library, codex 244, 377b])62
A change of sex under similar conditions occurred thirty years later65 in the city of Epidaurus.66 There was an Epidaurian child, named Callo, orphaned of both her parents, who was supposed to be a girl. Now the orifice with which women are naturally provided had in her case no opening, but beside the so-called pecten [pubis] she had from birth a perforation through which she excreted the liquid residues. On reaching maturity she became the wife of a fellow-citizen. For two years she lived with him, and since she was incapable of intercourse as a woman, she was obliged to submit to unnatural embraces.67 Later a tumour appeared on her genitals and because it gave rise to great pain a number of physicians were called in. None of the others would take the responsibility for treating her, but a certain apothecary, who offered to cure her, cut into the swollen area, whereupon a man's privates were protruded, namely testicles and an imperforate penis. While all the others stood amazed at the extraordinary event, the apothecary took steps to remedy the remaining deficiencies. First of all, cutting into the glans, he made a passage into the urethra, and inserting a silver catheter drew off the liquid residues. Then, by scarifying the perforated area, he brought the parts together. After achieving a cure in this manner he demanded double fees, saying that he had received a female invalid and made her into a healthy young man.68 Callo laid aside her loom-shuttles and all other instruments of woman's work, and taking in their stead the garb and status of a man, changed her name (by adding a single letter, N, at the end) to Callon. It is stated by some that before changing to man's form she had been a priestess of Demeter,69 and that because she had witnessed things not to be seen by a man, she was brought for trial for impiety. (Diodorus Siculus, XXXII 11 [ = Photius, Library, codex 244, 378b])Diodorus found a strategy for undermining the superstition that surrounded the appearance of androgynous beings. On the basis of the cases of Herais and Callo, he showed that androgyny is a natural phenomenon that can be resolved by means of surgery and that it is possible for the being who changes sex following such an intervention to find a place in society again, although that is not a foregone conclusion. Diodorus Siculus was well aware of all that was at stake, and declared:
Not that the male and female natures have been united to form a truly bisexual type, for that is impossible, but that Nature, to mankind's consternation and mystification, has through the bodily parts given this impression. And this is the reason why we have considered these shifts of sex worthy of record, not for the entertainment, but for the improvement of our readers. For many men, thinking such things to be portents, fall into superstition, and not merely isolated individuals, but even nations and cities. (Diodorus Siculus, XXXII 12, 1 [ = Photius, Library, codex 244, 378b-379a])He could hardly have been more explicit.
In a few women there is a curious resemblance to the male organ, as there is in hermaphrodites of either sex, a thing that I believe first occurred with the class of quadrupeds, also in the principate of Nero; at all events Nero used to show off a team of hermaphrodite mares that he had found in the Trier district in Gaul, harnessed to his chariot, apparently deeming it a very remarkable spectacle to see the Emperor of the world riding in a miraculous carriage. (Pliny the Elder, Natural History XI 262)At any rate, it seems that the apparition of a dual-sexed being no longer provoked superstitious panic.
Transformation of females into males is not an idle story (non est fabulosum).73 We find in the Annals that in the consulship of Publius Licinius Crassus and Gaius Cassius Longinus74 a girl at Casinum75 was changed into a boy, under the observation of the parents, and at the order of the augurs was conveyed away to a desert island. Licinius Mucianus76 has recorded that he personally saw at Argos a man named Arescon who had been given the name Arescusa and had actually married a husband, and then had grown a beard and developed masculine attributes and had taken a wife; and that he had also seen a boy with the same record at Smyrna. I myself saw in Africa a person who had turned into a male on the day of marriage to a husband; this was Lucius Constitius, a citizen of Thysdritum. . . . [He is still living as I write this]. (Pliny the Elder, Natural History VII 36)77Pliny's reaction is certainly in line with the trend toward combating religious superstition and the cruelest of its effects.
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