Archilochus’ death and some interesting theological elements

In this post we present and discuss an excerpt from the Suda Lexicon.

Greek: “ὅτι τῶν σπουδαίων οὐδὲ θανόντων οἱ θεοὶ λήθην τίθενται. Ἀρχίλοχον γοῦν ποιητὴν γενναῖον τἄλλα, εἴ τις αὐτοῦ τὸ αἰσχροεπὲς καὶ τὸ κακορρῆμον ἀφέλοι, καὶ οἱονεὶ κηλίδα ἀπορρύψαι, ὁ Πύθιος ἠλέει τεθνεῶτα καὶ ταῦτα ἐν τῶι πολέμωι, ἔνθα δήπου ξυνὸς Ἐνυάλιος. καὶ ὅτε ἧκεν ὁ ἀποκτείνας αὐτὸν, Καλώνδας μὲν ὄνομα, Κόραξ δὲ ἐπώνυμον, τοῦ θεοῦ δεόμενος ὑπὲρ ὧν ἐδεῖτο, οὐ προσήκατο αὐτὸν ἡ Πυθία ὡς ἐναγῆ, ἀλλὰ ταῦτα δήπου τὰ θρυλούμενα ἀνεῖπεν. ὁ δὲ ἄρα προεβάλλετο τὰς τοῦ πολέμου τύχας καὶ ἔλεγεν, ὡς ἧκεν ἐς ἀμφίβολον ἢ δρᾶσαι ἢ παθεῖν, ὅσα ἔπραξε, καὶ ἠξίου μὴ ἀπεχθάνεσθαι τῶι θεῶι εἰ τῶι ἑαυτοῦ δαίμονι ζῆι, καὶ ἐπηρᾶτο, ὅτι μὴ τέθνηκε μᾶλλον ἢ ἀπέκτεινε. καὶ ταῦτα ὁ θεὸς οἰκτείρει καὶ αὐτὸν κελεύει ἐλθεῖν εἰς Ταίναρον, ἔνθα Τέττιξ τέθαπται, καὶ μειλίξασθαι τὴν τοῦ Τελεσικλείου παιδὸς ψυχὴν καὶ πραΰναι χοαῖς. οἷς ἐπείσθη, καὶ τῆς μήνιδος τῆς ἐκ τοῦ θεοῦ ἐξάντης ἐγένετο.”

English: “The gods never forget the important people even after they die. Archilochus at any rate was a noble poet in most respects, if one overlooks his shameful speech and his foul utterances, just as one might wash away a stain. The Pythian god took pity on him even when he was dead, and even though [he died] in war, where supposedly Enyalios was even-handed. When the one who had killed him, Kalondas by name, but nicknamed Crow [Korax], came [to Delphi] to ask the god about what he needed, the Pythia would not approach him, as he was accursed, but instead pronounced, allegedly, those frequently-quoted verses. He, however, put forward an argument about the fortunes of war and said that what he did came at a turning point between taking action or being acted upon. He asked that the god not be hostile to him if he lived by his own spirit, and he swore that it was more a case of him not dying than of killing anyone. And at this the god took pity on him and bade him go to Tainaron, where Tettix was buried, and to appease the soul of the son of Telesikles and conciliate him with libations. He followed these instructions and gained freedom from the wrath of the god.”

The English translation comes from here.

On the same story we also read similar references from: Plutarch, Galenus, Dio Chrysostom, Aelius Aristides.

NovoScriptorium: Let’s see what we can learn from this excerpt.

-The Divine (here ‘the gods‘) cares for the mortals not only while they are alive, but also after the death of their body.

-The Divine shows a ‘special care’ for the ‘important people’. Hence, there appears to exist some short of ‘discrimination’ between Men based on their good or bad deeds, which affects not only the earthly life, but also the eternal one.

-Anyone who kills another, even if it is a ‘mandatory or necessary kill’ (e.g. in war) is considered ἐναγής (derives from ἐν + ἄγος). The translation of the word as “accursed” could be misleading without further explanation. Analytically, it means (always with the help of Liddell & Scott Lexicon)  “guilty of sacrilege”, “profane”, “hideous” and also “accursed”. What must be understood is that the word is always used with reference to unholy or sacrilegious deeds.

-As it seems, any murderer was considered ἐναγής for the prophetess of Apollo (Pythia). Obviously, this directly implies that the act of murdering  was also not accepted by the Divine.

-The murderer is deprived of the Divine help; but if he trully repents for his crime, then the Divine forgives him. 

-The murderer was asked to “appease the soul of the son of Telesikles* and conciliate him with libations. He followed these instructions and gained freedom from the wrath of the god“. From this part of the excerpt we receive important information.

*(the son of Telesikles = Archilochus)

-The act of murder does not only remove Divine help and blessing, but also causes Divine wrath! 

-The souls in Hades (i.e. in Eternity, as Hades means “the eternal place”, deriving from the word “ἀΐδιος“:

[ᾱῐδ], ον, also η, ον, Orph.H.10.21, al., (ἀεί):—

A everlasting, eternal, h.Hom.29.3, Hes.Sc.310; freq. in Prose, χρόνος Antipho 1.21; ἔχθρα Th.4.20; οἴκησις, of a tomb, X.Ages.11.16; ἡ ἀ. οὐσία eternity, Pl.Ti.37e; ἀ. στρατηγία, ἀρχή, βασιλεία, perpetual… Arist. Pol.1285a7, 1317b41, 1301b27; ἀ. βασιλεῖς, γέροντες, ib.1284b33, 1306a17; τὰ ἀ., opp. τὰ γενητά and φθαρτά, Id.Metaph.1069a32, EN 1139b23, al.; ἐς ἀΐδιον for ever, Th.4.63; ad infinitum, Arist.PA 640a6; ἐξ ἀϊδίου Plot.2.1.3: Comp. -ώτερος Arist.Cael.284a17:—ἀ. is dist. fr. αἰώνιος as everlasting from timeless, Olymp.in Mete.146.16; but dist. fr. ἀείζωος as eternal (without beginning or end) from everliving, Corp.Herm.8.2. Adv. -ίως Sm.Mi.7.18, Iamb.Comm.Math. 1, Hierocl.in CA1p.419M.),

need to be appeased; they require libations from the living. This directly proves a solid belief in the ever-existence of the soul. Indirectly it also proves a solid belief in the uniqueness of one’s soul (exactly like Homer and the older authors believed – in contrast to a number of later ones who held reincarnational views). Praying for the dead was always very important among the Greeks.

-In order to forgive the sin of murder, the Divine asks not just words of repentance from the mouth of the murderer, but specific deeds from his part. Here, the murderer is asked to appease the soul of the murdered through χοές. The word “χοή” means:

“ἡ, (from the verb “χέω“)

A pouring out of liquid, drink-offering, esp. made to the dead or over their graves (opp. λοιβή, σπονδή made to the gods), χοὴν χεῖσθαι νεκύεσσιν (where it is mixed with milk), of honey, wine, and water, poured out in succession, Od.10.518, cf. 11.26, Arist.Mu.400b22: freq. in Trag., always in pl. (as also Hdt.7.43), χέουσα κηδείους χοάς A.Ch.87; χοὰς φέρειν τινί Id.Pers.609, Ch.15, etc.; χ. γῇ τε καὶ φθιτοῖς χέασθαι Id.Pers.219 (troch.), cf. S.OC477; κεχυμένων χοᾶν A.Ch.156 (lyr.); σπεῖσαι, κατασπείσειν, ἐπισπένδειν, E.Or.1322,1187, A.Ch.149; πέμπειν Id.Pers.624 (anap.); δοῦναι S.Ant.902, etc.; πατρὶ τυμβεῦσαι χ. Id.El. 406; αἴρειν, στάξαι, E.Hec.529, Heracl.1040; χοαῖσι στέφειν τὸν νέκυν S.Ant.431; ἱλάσκεσθαι γῆν X.Cyr.3.3.22.

2 rarely of libations in general, S.OC469, 1599.
II generally, stream, Ἀχέροντος ἄρσενας χοάς Id.Fr.523.—Mostly poet.”

As we see, not only prayers are required, but also some special rituals accompanied by specific offerings for the souls of the dead.

Archilochus

Concluding our short analysis, let’s summarize what we’ ve learned:

-The Divine not only exists but it is also interventional.

The Divine judges Men not only from their intentions but also from their deeds. 

-The souls are eternal and unique.

-The souls of the dead need the prayers and rituals of the living for them.

-Man’s bad deeds bring the wrath of the Divine upon him.

-Man’s good deeds bring the help of the Divine upon him, not only for the earthly life but, more importantly, for Eternity

-The Divine wishes for the repentance of every Man. And helps every sincere repentant to clean from the burden of evilness and sin.

Research-Analysis for NovoScriptorium: Isidoros Aggelos

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