Sacred Texts  Classics  Plutarch  Index  Previous 
Buy this Book at
Buy this Book on Kindle

The Roman and Greek Questions, by Plutarch, tr. Frank Cole Babbitt, [1936], at


50. Why is it that the Argives drive their sheep to the precinct of Agenor when they wish to mate them?

Is it because Agenor took most excellent care of his sheep and acquired more flocks than any other king?


51. Why is it that Argive children in a certain festival call themselves, in jest, "Pear-throwers "?

Is it because the first men that were led down by Inachus from the mountains to the plain lived, as they say, on wild pears? They also say that wild pears were first discovered by the Greeks in the Peloponnesus at a time when that country was still called Apia, a wherefore wild pears were named apioi.


52. What is the reason why the Eleans lead their mares outside the boundaries of their country to mate them with asses? b

Is it because of all kings Oenomaüs was the most fond of horses, and, since he particularly loved

p. 240 p. 241

this animal, he laid many terrible curses upon any that should thus mate horses in Elis; and it is in fear of that curse that they endeavour to keep clear of it?


53. Why was it the custom among the Cnossians for those who borrowed money to snatch it?

Was it that if they defaulted they might be liable to the charge of violence, and so be punished the more?


54. What is the reason why in Samos they invoke the Aphroditê of Dexicreon?

Is it because a sorcerer Dexicreon, making use of a rite of purification, freed the women of Samos from the unbridled licentiousness in which they indulged because of their great luxury and wantonness?

Or is it because Dexicreon was a shipmaster and sailed to Cyprus on a trading voyage, and, when he was about to freight his ship, Aphroditê bade him put into it water and nothing else, and set sail as quickly as possible? He obeyed and, putting much water aboard the ship, sailed away; after a time the wind died down and the ship was becalmed in the open sea. To the other merchants and shipmasters, who were athirst, he sold the water and amassed much money. Wherefore he fashioned an image of the goddess and called it by his own name. If this is really true, it appears that the goddess wished not to make one man rich, but to save the lives of many through one man.


55. Why is it that whenever the Samians are engaged in sacrificing to Hermes the Giver of Joy they allow whoever so desires to steal from them and filch their clothes?

p. 242 p. 243

Because in obedience to an oracle they changed their abode from Samos to Mycalê and supported themselves by piracy there for ten years; and after this they sailed again to Samos and overcame their enemies.


56. From what does the place Panhaema on the island of Samos derive its name?

Is it because the Amazons sailed from the country of the Ephesians a across to Samos when they were endeavouring to escape from Dionysus? But he built boats and crossed over and, joining battle, slew many of them near this place, which the spectators in amazement called Panhaema b because of the vast quantity of blood shed there. And of the elephants c some are said to have been slain near Phloeum, and their bones are pointed out there; but some relate that Phloeum also was cleft by them as they uttered a loud and piercing cry.


57. For what reason is the great hall in Samos called the Hall of Fetters?

After the murder of Demoteles and the dissolution of his monarchic government the Land-owners d controlled the State, and at this time the Megarians made an expedition against the Perinthians, who were colonists of the Samians; as it is related, they brought with them fetters for their captives. When the Land-owners learned of this, they dispatched aid to the Perinthians with all speed, appointing nine

p. 244 p. 245

generals and manning thirty ships. Two of these ships, as they were sailing out, were destroyed by a thunderbolt in front of the harbour; but the generals kept on with the others, defeated the Megarians, and took six hundred of them alive. Elated by their victory, they conceived the project of overthrowing the oligarchy of the Land-owners at home. Now the officials in charge of the government had provided an occasion for undertaking this, by writing to the generals to bring back the captive Megarians bound in their own fetters. The generals, accordingly, took the letter, and secretly showed it to certain of the Megarians and persuaded them to join with themselves and free the city. When they took counsel together concerning the deed, they decided to knock loose the rings that fastened the fetters, and in this condition to put them on the legs of the Megarians, holding them up with thongs to their girdles, so that the fetters might not slip down and fall off when their legs became relaxed in walking. Having thus equipped the men and given a sword to each, they sailed back to Samos and disembarked, and there they led the Megarians through the market-place to the council-chamber, where practically all the Land-owners were sitting together. Then, at a given signal, the Megarians fell upon them and slew them. When the city had thus been freed, they made citizens of those Megarians who so desired; and they constructed a great building and dedicated the fetters there; and from this the building was called the Hall of Fetters.


58. Why is it that among the Coans the priest of Heracles at Antimacheia dons a woman's garb, and

p. 246 p. 247

fastens upon his head a woman's head-dress before he begins the sacrifice?

Heracles, putting out with his six ships from Troy, encountered a storm; and when his other ships had been destroyed, with the only one remaining he was driven by the gale to Cos. He was cast ashore upon the Laceter, as the place is called, with nothing salvaged save his arms and his men. Now he happened upon some sheep and asked for one ram from the shepherd. This man, whose name was Antagoras, was in the prime of bodily strength, and bade Heracles wrestle with him; if Heracles could throw him, he might carry off the ram. And when Heracles grappled with him, the Meropes came to the aid of Antagoras, and the Greeks to help Heracles, and they were soon engaged in a mighty battle. In the struggle it is said that Heracles, being exhausted by the multitude of his adversaries, fled to the house of a Thracian woman; there, disguising himself in feminine garb, he managed to escape detection. But later, when he had overcome the Meropes in another encounter, and had been purified, he married Chalciopê and assumed a gay-coloured raiment. Wherefore the priest sacrifices on the spot where it came about that the battle was fought, and bridegrooms wear feminine raiment when they welcome their brides.


59. Whence came the clan of "Wagon-rollers" among the Megarians?

In the time of the unbridled democracy which brought about both the return-interest a and the temple sacrilege, a sacred mission of Peloponnesians passed through the Megarid, on its way to Delphi and

p. 248 p. 249

had encamped, as chance dictated, in their wagons, with their wives and children, in Aegeiri beside the lake. But the boldest spirits among the Megarians, inflamed with wine, in their insolence and savagery rolled back the wagons and pushed them into the lake, so that many members of the mission were drowned. Now because of the unsettled state of their government the Megarians took no notice of the crime; but the Amphictyonic Assembly, since the mission was sacred, took cognizance of the matter and punished some of the guilty men with banishment and others with death. The descendants of these men were called "Wagon-rollers."





239:a Cf. Pausanias, ii. 5. 7; Aelian, Varia Historia, iii. 39.

239:b Cf. Herodotus, iv. 30; Pausanias, v. 5. 2; 9. 2; mules were not bred in Elis because of a curse, and this, seemingly, should be the meaning here; but the corruption in the text of one word, which should have designated asses, has made the mules somewhat dubious.

243:a p. 242 Cf. Pausanias, vii. 2. 7.

243:b "Allblood."

243:c p. 243 Wilamowitz and Halliday emend to ἐλεφάντων. This has, at first view, some plausibility, but completely lacks corroborative evidence. Nonnus, Dionysiaca, xxvi. 326 ff. is not by any means parallel.

243:d Thucydides, viii. 21, recounts the later struggles of the Land-owners and the People.

247:a Cf. 295 C–D, supra.