Dienstag, 16. Februar 2010

Women on the rooftop

These women, have they made din enough, I wonder, with their tambourines? bewept Adonis enough upon their terraces? I was listening to the speeches last assembly day, and Demostratus, whom heaven confound! was saying we must all go over to Sicily-and lo! his wife was dancing round repeating: "Alas! alas! Adonis, woe is me for Adonis!" Demostratus was saying we must levy hoplites at Zacynthus-and there was his wife, more than half drunk, screaming on the house-roof: "Weep, weep for Adonis!"-while that infamous Mad Ox was bellowing away on his side.-Do you not blush, you women, for your wild and uproarious doings?

(Aristophanes, "Lysistrata", ~311 BC, v. 376-385, anonymous translator)


Encore un de ces dévergondages des femmes, à grand renfort de tambourins, kyrielles de litanies et ululements hystériques, sur les toits ? J’entendais ça un jour que j’étais à l’assemblée. Pendant que Démostrate parlait en faveur de l’expédition de Sicile, sa femme scandait du talon: “Las, hélas, Adonis!”; pendant que Démostrate parlait de lever l’infanterie à Zante, sa femme, éméchée, criait du haut de sont toit: "Deuil ! Deuil sur Adonis !" Et lui de se démener, ce fichu maudit salaud de Colérostrate ! Les voilà bien les dêbordements don’t elles sont capables.

(Trad. Victor-Henry Debidour)


Also ist alles wieder aufgeflackert, die Ausschweifungen der Frauen, ihr Getrommel, das unaufhörliche “Sabazios”-Schreien und die Adonisfeste auf den Dächern, die ich einst hörte, als ich in der Volksversammlung war: Da sagte Demostratos – zum Henker mit ihm! – wir sollten nach Sizilien segeln, und da tanzt diese Frau und ruft "O weh, Adonis!" Dann sagte Demostratos, wir sollten Schwerbewaffnete in Zakynthos anwerben, und die Frau auf dem Dach, schon ziemlich betrunken, ruft "Klagt um Adonis !" Er aber bestand auf dem Vorschlag, der gottverdammte, hirnverbrannte Buzyger! Solche Zügellosigkeiten kommen von ihnen.

(Übers. Niklas Holzberg)


Sabazios is the nomadic horseman and sky father god of the Thracians and Phrygians. Sometimes he is identified with Dionysos, in honour of which in ancient Athens particularly the women and the slaves celebrated ritual orgiastic parties. Because the women of Athens, as it is reported here, in the course of a similarly orgiastic party held their ecstatic lamentation for the death of Adonis (originally a West Semitic, Syro-Phoenician deity, the annually-renewed, ever-youthful vegetation god) during the mentioned Assembly (consisting only of the male citizens), the decision taken there was considered ill-omened. The Sicilian expedition (315-313 BC) effectively ended up in a disastrous defeat. (With the commentary of Holzberg)

See also Plutarch, Life of Nikias, ch. 12/13:

"Not a few were troubled because the days on which the fleet set sail happened to be the time when the women celebrated the death of Adonis; there being everywhere then exposed to view images of dead men, carried about with mourning and lamentation, and women beating their breasts. So that such as laid any stress on these matters were extremely troubled, and feared lest that all this warlike preparation, so splendid and so glorious, should suddenly, in a little time, be blasted in its very prime of magnificence, and come to nothing."

(Nikias was an Athenian general opposed to the Sicilian expedition, but finally he was chosen as one of its leaders. - Moses I. Finley (Democracy Ancient and Modern, 2nd ed. 1985) has several good developments about this event of Greek history (p.ex. 38ff). About the political rituals of lamentation in Antiquity, see Nicole Loraux, Les mères en deuil, Paris 1990, with a short mention of "Lysistrata" (24f). The comedy is more largely analysed in N. Loraux, Les enfants d'Athéna. Idées athéniennes sur la citoyenneté et la division des sexes, Paris 1981, 157-196. But neither of the three books is focusing precisely on this episode).

Photo: Pietro Masturzo, Tehran Rooftop Protest: Women shouting "Allahu Akbar"(God is great), 24th June 2009 (Winner of the World Press Photo Award 2009)

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