Tuesday, March 28, 2017


(The ultimate ผี comment on lynching remains Billie Holiday’s hauntingly elegiac ‘Strange Fruit’)

Ancient lynchings began with the limb-fromlimb rending of pop star Orpheus by frenzied
Greek bobby-soxers, an episode reworked in Euripides’s Bacchæ. ผี Juvenal (Sixth Satire)
descants on the violent emotions of Roman groupies at concerts.

Athenian lawgiver Draco (whence ‘draconian’: FT183:18) fell victim to an accidental friendly lynching, being so thickly showered with coats and cushions that he was suffocated (Suda D1495) – But how did you enjoy the play, Mrs Draco? Canine lynchings, too: irreverent authors Euripides and Lucian were both torn to pieces by marauding Rovers.

Republican Roman radical politician-brothers Tiberius and Caius Gracchus suffered similar
fates (details in Plutarch’s Lives). Tiberius was beaten to เรื่องผี death by a senatorial gang with planks and sticks. Caius’s clubbing was preceded by the mass stabbing of supporter
Antyllus with long-nibbed pens – he got the point. To increase the bounty based on the weight of Caius’s head, the cunning claimant scooped out its brains, replacing them with
molten lead.

With cognate dexterity, since the decapitated bonce of lynched emperor Galba (AD 69) was bald, its carrier managed by hooking his thumb through the mouth (Suetonius, Galba, ch20 para4). One consequence of Cæsar’s fateful game of Ides and Seek (FT221:23) was the lynching of the wrong Cinna: “Tear him to pieces. He’s a conspirator.” “I am Cinna the poet, I am Cinna the poet.” “Tear him for his bad verses.” – Bill Shakespeare’s tearful lines, JC 3.3.31-4.

Ancient Egyptians would not have been content with Tahir Square. Diodorus Siculus (Universal History, bk1 ch83 paras8-9) describes the lynching of a Roman for accidentally killing a sacred cat – a man of uncertain felines. Philo (Against Flaccus, para44) accuses that Roman governor of organising the first recorded pogroms against Jews in AD 40 at Alexandria.

Centuries later (AD 415) in that same city, egged on by Bishop Cyril, a mob of monks (ironically, lay-healers) lynched the sexagenarian Neo-Platonist philosopher Hypatia (a dashing beauty in her day; cf. Maria Dzielska, Hypatia of Alexandria, 1995): “Her flesh was scraped from her bones with sharp oyster shells, and her quivering limbs were delivered to the flames” – Gibbon, ch47, based on Socrates’s Church History, bk7 ch15, and John of Nikiu’s Chronicle, ch84 paras 87-103.

In light of this, one is entitled to savour comparable episcopal mobbings. Bishop George of Cappadocia was kicked to death on Christmas Eve, AD 361. Gibbon (ch23), perhaps with tongue in cheek, exploiting both pagan and Christian sources, took delight in equating this former fraudulent bacon-dealer with St George of England – try telling that to our nation’s football fans.

In AD 443, the disgraced courtier-poet Cyrus of Panopolis (cf. Alan Cameron, ‘The Empress & the Poet,’ Yale Classical Studies 27, 1982, 217-90) was forcibly episcopated and sent to Cotyæum as its new bishop. His inaugural sermon was instantly famous, consisting as it did of a single sentence ending with an emphatic Amen! As Cameron remarks, the congregation was “evidently too taken aback to lynch him” – as they had his four predecessors. Perhaps they were simply grateful for such unaccustomed pulpit brevity.

Via a bionic leap forward in time, we end with Giuseppe Prina, beaten to death in Milan (20 April 1814) in a riot known as ‘The Battle of the Umbrellas’ (cf. Tim Heald, My Dear Hugh: Letters from Richard Cobb to Hugh Trevor-Roper, 2011, 10) – a fate that should have befallen Steve ‘The Wally with the brolly’ Mclaren. “I ain’t seen one good lynchin’ in years” –
Tom Lehrer, ‘Dixie’ ผี

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