Friday, February 4, 2011

Excerpt from Polybius

*Warning Trigger*

I recently acquired my very own copy of "The Celtic Heroic Age" and have been pouring over the continental material as they are the sources I am least familiar with. There are a number of interesting sources, but for some reason I found this particular excerpt stood out more than many of the others. It could be the aspect of justice entailed, it could be the presentation of the juxtaposed gender role of a woman protecting her own "virtue", or it could be what I would consider an almost "Celtic" humour. Such sardonic humour is found in many of the medieval Irish texts, and it is interesting that it pops up in a Greek "historic" source from the 2nd century BCE as well. The excerpt if from Histories: 21.38.1-6:

By chance, one of the prisoners captured when the Romans defeated the Asian Galatae at Olympus was Chiomara, wife of Ortiagon. The centurion in charge of her took advantage of his soldierly opportunity and raped her. He was indeed a slave to both lust and money, but eventually his love of money won out. With a large amount of gold being agreed on, he led her away to be ransomed. There was a river between the two camps, and the Galatae crossed it, paid the ransom, and received the woman. When this was accomplished, she ordered one of them to with a nod to kill the Roman as he was making a polite and affectionate farewell. The man obeyed and cut off the centurion's head. She picked it up and rode off with it wrapped in the folds of her dress. When she reached her husband, she threw it at his feet. He was astonished and said, 'Wife, faithfulness is a good thing.' 'Yes,' she said, 'but it is better that only one man alive would have lain with me.'