Oops!

The Role of Women in Thucydides would be — perhaps is — a very short book, but there are a few interesting appearances. This passage in particular caught my eye:

καὶ ὁ νεὼς τῆς Ἥρας τοῦ αὐτοῦ θέρους ἐν Ἀργει κατεκαύθη, Χρυσίδος τῆς ἱερείας λύχνον τινὰ θείσης ἡμμένον πρὸς τὰ στέμματα καὶ ἐπικαταδαρθούσης, ὥστε ἔλαθεν ἁφθέντα πάντα καὶ καταφλεχθέντα. καὶ ἡ Χρυσὶς μὲν εὐθὺς τῆς νυκτὸς δείσασα τοὺς Ἀργείους ἐς Φλειοῦντα φεύγει· οἱ δὲ ἄλλην ἱέρειαν ἐκ τοῦ νόμου τοῦ προκειμένου κατεστήσαντο Φαεινίδα ὄνομα. ἔτη δὲ ἡ Χρυσὶς τοῦ πολέμου τοῦδε ἐπέλαβεν ὀκτὼ καὶ ἔνατον ἐκ μέσου, ὅτε ἀπέφυγεν.

The same summer [423] also the temple of Hera at Argos was burnt down, through Chrysis, the priestess, placing a lighted torch near the garlands and then falling asleep, so that they all caught fire and were in a blaze before she observed it. Chrysis that very night fled to Phlius for fear of the Argives, who, following the law in such a case, appointed another priestess named Phaeinis. Chrysis at the time of her flight had been priestess for eight years of the present war and half the ninth.

(Thucydides 4.133.2-3, with Crawley’s translation)

As Gomme remarks ad loc., “she had been priestess for 56 1/2 years (ii. 2. 1), so she was presumably a very old lady”. I take it that priestesses normally served until they died, and “the law in such a case” provided for replacement of a living priestess who abandoned her post. Gomme refers to Pausanias 2.17.7 and 3.5.6 for more on Chrysis and also notes: “The shrine of Athena Alea was of especial sanctity, where illustrious persons, such as Leotychidas and Pausanias kings of Sparta, took refuge, and no state would demand extradition. Pausanias also tells us that the Argives did not destroy the statue of Chrysis in the Heraion.” Phlius was only the first stop in Chrysis’ flight to the shrine of Athena Alea in Tegea: I wonder if the roundabout journey through Phlius to Stymphalus “and thence by a very steep route to Arcadian Orchomenus” was a sly trick to evade her pursuers. If the Argives could guess that she would head for the temple in Tegea, taking the direct route would have been foolish, and a long and (in part) very steep route would have seemed unlikely for a very old lady. Then again, perhaps she hitched a ride in the first carriage or wagon she found heading out of town and only planned her next move when she got to Phlius.

In the thirty years I’ve owned the volume, I’d never noticed until now that a dozen pages of my copy of Gomme III were bound in more or less random order. I suppose it’s too late to get my money back — all $23.00 of it.

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