Readings for reflection: Erigone

Aelian, On Animals 7.28
When Ikarios was slain by the relatives of those who, after drinking wine for the first time fell asleep (for as yet they did not know that what had happened was not death but a drunken stupor) the people of Attika suffered from disease, Dionysos thereby (as I think) avenging the first and the most elderly man who cultivated his plants. At any rate the Pythian oracle declared that if they wanted to be restored to health they must offer sacrifice to Ikarios and to Erigone his daughter and to her hound which was celebrated for having in its excessive love for its mistress declined to outlive her.

Apollodoros, Bibliotheca 2.192
It was during the reign of Pandion that Demeter and Dionysos came to Attika. Keleus welcomed Demeter to Eleusis, and Ikarios received Dionysos, who gave him a vine-cutting and taught him the art of making wine. Ikarios was eager to share the god’s kindness with mankind, so he went to some shepherds, who, when they had tasted the drink and then delightedly and recklessly gulped it down undiluted, thought they had been poisoned and slew Ikarios. But in the daylight they regained their senses and buried him. As his daughter was looking for him, a dog named Maira, who had been Ikarios’ faithful companion, unearthed the corpse; and Erigone, in the act of mourning her father, hanged herself.

Etymologicum genuinum, s.v. auroschas
The vine: used by Parthenius in his Herakles: The vinecluster of the daughter of Ikarios.

Etymologicum Magnum 42.4
Aiora: A festival for the Athenians, which they call a feast offered to departed souls. For they say that Erigone, daughter of Aigisthos and Klytmenestra came with her grandfather Tyndareus to Athens to prosecute Orestes. When he was acquitted, she hung herself and became a cause of pollution for the Athenians. In accordance with an oracle, the festival is performed for her.

Etymologicum Magnum 62.9
Aletis: Some say that she is Erigone, the daughter of Ikarios, since she wandered everywhere seeking her father. Others say she is the daughter of Aigisthos and Klytemnestra. Still others say she is the daughter of Maleotos the Tyrrhenian; others that she is Medea, since, having wandered after the murder of her children, she escaped to Aigeus. Others say that she is Persephone, wherefore those grinding the wheat offer some cakes to her.

Hermesianax of Colophon, as quoted in Athenaios’ Deipnosophistai 597a
How, too, Sophokles the Attic bee left Colone of the many hillocks, and sang with choruses marshalled in tragedy – sang of Bakchos and of his passion for Theoris and for Erigone.

Hesiod, Works and Days ll. 770-779
But the twelfth is much better than the eleventh, for on it the airy-swinging spider spins its web in full day.

Hyginus, Astronomica 2.2
The constellation Bootes. The Bear Watcher. Some have said that he is Icarus, father of Erigone, to whom, on account of his justice and piety, Father Liber gave wine, the vine, and the grape, so that he could show men how to plant the vine, what would grow from it, and how to use what was produced. When he had planted the vine, and by careful tending with a pruning-knife had made it flourish, a goat is said to have broken into the vineyard, and nibbled the tenderest leaves he saw there. Icarus, angered by this, took him and killed him and from his skin made a sack, and blowing it up, bound it tight, and cast it among his friends, directing them to dance around it. And so Eratosthenes says : `Around the goat of Icarus they first danced.’

Others say that Icarus, when he had received the wine from Father Liber, straightway put full wineskins on a wagon. For this he was called Boötes. When he showed it to the shepherds on going round through the Attic country, some of them, greedy and attracted by the new kind of drink, became stupefied, and sprawling here and there, as if half-dead, kept uttering unseemly things. The others, thinking poison had been given the shepherds by Icarus, so that he could drive their flocks into his own territory, killed him, and threw him into a well, or, as others say, buried him near a certain tree. However, when those who had fallen asleep, woke up, saying that hey had never rested better, and kept asking for Icarus in order to reward him, his murderers, stirred by conscience, at once took to flight and came to the island of the Ceans. Received there as guests, they established homes for themselves.

But when Erigone, the daughter of Icarus, moved by longing for her father, saw he did not return and was on the point of going out to hunt for him, the dog of Icarus, Maera by name, returned to her, howling as if lamenting the death of its master. It gave her no slight suspicion of murder, for the timid girl would naturally suspect her father had been killed since he had been gone so many months and days. But the dog, taking hold of her dress with its teeth, led her to the body. As soon as the girl saw it, abandoning hope, and overcome with loneliness and poverty, with many tearful lamentations she brought death on herself by hanging from the very tree beneath which her father was buried. And the dog made atonement for her death by its own life. Some say that it cast itself into the well, Anigrus by name. For this reason they repeat the story that no one afterward drank from that well. Jupiter, pitying their misfortune, represented their forms among the stars. And so many have called Icarus, Boötes, and Erigone, the Virgin, about whom we shall speak later. The dog, however, from its own name and likeness, they have called Canicula. It is called Procyon by the Greeks, because it rises before the greater Dog. Others say these were pictured among the stars by Father Liber.

In the meantime in the district of the Athenians many girls without cause committed suicide by hanging, because Erigone, in dying, had prayed that Athenian girls should meet the same kind of death she was to suffer if the Athenians did not investigate the death of Icarus and avenge it. And so when these things happened as described, Apollo gave oracular response to them when they consulted him, saying that they should appease Erigone if they wanted to be free from the affliction. So since she hanged herself, they instituted a practice of swinging themselves on ropes with bars of wood attached, so that the one hanging could be moved by the wind. They instituted this as a solemn ceremony, and they perform it both privately and publicly, and call it alétis, aptly terming her mendicant who, unknown and lonely, sought for her father with the god. The Greeks call such people alétides.

Hyginus, Fabulae 130
When Father Liber went out to visit men in order to demonstrate the sweetness and pleasantness of his fruit, he came to the generous hospitality of Icarius and Erigone. To them he gave a skin full of wine as a gift and bade them spread the use of it in all the other lands. Loading a wagon, Icarius with his daughter Erigone and a dog Maera came to shepherds in the land of Attica, and showed them the kind of sweetness wine had. The shepherds, made drunk by drinking immoderately, collapsed, and thinking that Icarius had given them some bad medicine, killed him with clubs. The dog Maera, howling over the body of the slain Icarius, showed Erigone where her father lay unburied. When she came there, she killed herself by hanging in a tree over the body of her father. Because of this, Father Liber afflicted the daughters of the Athenians with alike punishment. They asked an oracular response from Apollo concerning this, and he told them they had neglected he deaths of Icarius and Erigone. At this reply they exacted punishment from the shepherds, and in honour of Erigone instituted a festival day of swinging because of the affliction, decreeing that through the grape-harvest they should pour libations to Icarius and Erigone. By the will of the gods they were put among the stars. Erigone is the sign Virgo whom we call Justice; Icarius is called Arcturus among the stars, and the dog Maera is Canicula.

Kallimachos, Aitia 1.1
Nor did the morn of the Broaching of the Jars pass unheeded, nor that whereon the Pitchers of Orestes bring a white day for slaves. And when he kept the yearly festival of Ikarios’ child, thy day, Erigone, lady most sorrowful of Attic women, he invited to a banquet his familiars, and among them a stranger who was newly visiting Egypt, whither he had come on some private business.

Ovid, Fasti 4.901ff
On his right hand hung a napkin with a loose nap, and he had a bowl of wine and a casket of incense. The incense, and wine, and sheep’s guts, and the foul entrails of a filthy dog, he put upon the hearth–we saw him do it. Then to me he said, ‘Thou askest why an unwonted victim is assigned to these rites?’ Indeed, I had asked the question. ‘Learn the cause,’ the flamen said. ‘There is a Dog (they call it the Icarian dog), and when that constellation rises the earth is parched and dry, and the crop ripens too soon. So this dog is put on the altar instead of the starry dog.’

Ovid, Metamorphoses 6.127-130
And there was Bacchus, when he was disguised as a large cluster of fictitious grapes; deluding by that wile the beautiful Erigone;–and Saturnus, as a steed, begetter of the dual-natured Chiron. And then Arachne, to complete her work, wove all around the web a patterned edge of interlacing flowers and ivy leaves. Pallas could not find a fleck or flaw–even Envy can not censure perfect art–enraged because Arachne had such skill she ripped the web, and ruined all the scenes that showed those wicked actions of the gods.

Ovid, Metamorphoses 10.451
Black clouds cover the hiding stars and night has lost her fires. The first to hide were stars of Icarus and of Erigone, in hallowed love devoted to her father.

P. Oxy. VI 853
Anthesteria is for three days, the eleventh, twelfth and thirteenth – but the twelfth day is most special.

Parian Chronicle
From the trial on the Areopagus of Orestes, son of Agamemnon, and Erigone, daughter of Aegisthus, on behalf of Aegisthus and Clytaemnestra; which case Orestes won, since the votes were equal; 944 years, when Demophon was king of Athens.

Pausanias, Description of Greece 1.2.5
Pegasos of Eleutherai introduced the god Dionysos to the Athenians. Herein he was helped by the oracle at Delphoi, which called to mind that the god once dwelt in Athens in the days of Ikarios.

Plato, Phaedrus 244de
Next, madness can provide relief from the greatest plagues of trouble that beset certain families because of their guilt for ancient crimes: it turns up among those who need a way out; it gives prophecies and takes refuge in prayers to the gods and in worship, discovering mystic rites and purifications that bring the man it touches through to safety for this and all time to come. So it is that the right sort of madness finds relief from present hardships for a man it has possessed.

Plutarch, Greek and Roman Parallel Stories 9
The story of Ikarios who entertained Dionysos is told by Eratosthenes in his Erigone. The Romans, however, say that Saturnus when once he was entertained by a farmer who had a fair daughter named Entoria, seduced her and begat Janus, Hymnus, Faustus, and Felix. He then taught Icarius the use of wine and viniculture, and told him that he should share his knowledge with his neighbours also. When the neighbours did so and drank more than is customary, they fell into an unusually deep sleep. Imagining that they had been poisoned, they pelted Icarius with stones and killed him; and his grandchildren in despair ended their lives by hanging themselves. When a plague had gained a wide hold among the Romans, Apollo gave an oracle that it would cease if they should appease the wrath of Saturnus and the spirits of those who had perished unlawfully. Lutatius Catulus, one of the nobles, built for the god the precinct which lies near the Tarpeian Rock. He made the upper altar with four faces, either because of Icarius’s grandchildren or because the year has four parts; and he designated a month January. Saturnus placed them all among the stars. The others are called harbingers of the vintage, but Janus rises before them. His star is to be seen just in front of the feet of Virgo. So Critolaus in the fourth book of his Phaenomena.

Servius, On Vergil’s Georgics 2.389
But after a certain time, a sickness afflicted the Athenians to such an extent that their maidens were driven by some kind of frenzy.

Statius, Thebaid 4. 684
When Bacchus sought to bring drought to the land of Argos he cried, ‘Ye rustic Nymphae, deities of the streams, no small portion of my train, fulfil the task that I now do set you. Stop fast with earth awhile the Argolic river-springs, I beg, and the pools and running brooks … The stars lend their strong influence to my design, and the heat-bringing hound of my Erigone is foaming. Go then of your goodwill, go into the hidden places of earth.

Statius, Thebaid 11.644
Sorrowful Erigone weeping in the Marathonian wood beside the body of her slain father, her plaints exhausted, began to untie the sad knot of her girdle and chose sturdy branches intent on death.

Suidas s.v. Ἠριγόνειος τάφος “Erigoneios taphos”
An Erigonian tomb.

The First Vatican Mythographer 19
Icarius’ dog returned to his daughter, Erigone; she followed his tracks and, when she found her father’s corpse, she ended her life with a noose. Through the mercy of the gods she was restored to life again among the constellations; men call her Virgo. That dog was also placed among the stars. But after some time such a sickness was sent upon the Athenians that their maidens were driven by a certain madness to hang themselves. The oracle responded that this pestilence could be stopped if the corpses of Erigone and Icarius were sought again. These were found nowhere after being sought for a long time. Then, to show their devotedness, and to appear to seek them in another element, the Athenians hung rope from trees. Holding on to this rope, the men were tossed here and there so that they seemed to seek the corpses in the air. But since most were falling from the trees, they decided to make shapes in the likeness of their own faces and hang these in place of themselves. Hence, little masks are called oscilla because in them faces oscillate, that is, move.

The Third Vatican Mythographer
When Icarius, a priest of Bacchus and King of Athens, and the best of hunters too, gave wine to the peasants to drink, they became inebriated. Thinking that they had taken poison, they killed him and, to conceal the crime, they threw him into a well. But a little dog that was with him returned home to Erigone, his daughter, and by its sorrow and whatever signs it could, the little dog led her to the well. When Erigone wept at the well for a long time, at last she was carried up into the sky with the little dog and became the sign called Virgo. The little dog became the principal constellation that is next to Virgo. When the sun is in this, the days called “dog days” are hot and hurtful, like a little dog. The sun is said to be in Virgo because, just as a virgin in barren, so when the sun courses through that sign, the earth is barren and dry, for it produces nothing because of the burning sun.

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