What is the joke? (Aelianus De Natura Animalium)

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anphph
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What is the joke? (Aelianus De Natura Animalium)

Post by anphph » Thu Nov 29, 2018 1:37 am

Aelianus De natura animalium 12.21
Ἴδιον δὲ τῶν ζῴων καὶ ἡ φιλανθρωπία. ἀετὸς γοῦν ἔθρεψε βρέφος. καὶ εἰπεῖν τὸν πάντα λόγον ἐθέλω, ὡς ἂν γένηται μάρτυς ὧν προεθέμην. Βαβυλωνίων βασιλεύοντος Σευηχόρου Χαλδαῖοι λέγουσι τὸν γενόμενον ἐκ τῆς ἐκείνου θυγατρὸς τὴν βασιλείαν ἀφαιρήσεσθαι τὸν πάππον. τοῦτο ἐκεῖνος πέφρικε, καὶ ἵνα εἴπω τι καὶ ὑποπαίσας Ἀκρίσιος γίνεται ἐς τὴν παῖδα· ἐφρούρει γὰρ πικρότατα. λάθρᾳ δὲ ἡ παῖς (ἦν γὰρ τοῦ Βαβυλωνίου σοφώτερον τὸ χρεών) τίκτει ὑποπλησθεῖσα ἔκ τινος ἀνδρὸς ἀφανοῦς. τοῦτο οὖν οἱ φυλάττοντες δέει τοῦ βασιλέως ἔρριψαν ἐκ τῆς ἀκροπόλεως· ἦν γὰρ ἐνταῦθα ἀφειργμένη ἡ προειρημένη. οὐκοῦν ἀετὸς τὴν ἔτι τοῦ παιδὸς καταφορὰν ὀξύτατα ἰδών, πρὶν ἢ τῇ γῇ προσαραχθῆναι τὸ βρέφος, ὑπῆλθεν αὐτὸ καὶ τὰ νῶτα ὑπέβαλε, καὶ κομίζει ἐς κῆπόν τινα, καὶ τίθησι πεφεισμένως εὖ μάλα. ὁ τοίνυν τοῦ χώρου μελεδωνὸς τὸ καλὸν παιδίον θεασάμενος ἐρᾷ αὐτοῦ καὶ τρέφει· καὶ καλεῖται Γίλγαμος, καὶ βασιλεύει Βαβυλωνίων. εἰ δέ τῳ δοκεῖ μῦθος τοῦτο, σύμφημι πειρώμενος ἐς ἰσχὺν κατεγνωκέναι αὐτόν· Ἀχαιμένη γε μὴν τὸν Πέρσην, ἀφ' οὗ καὶ κάτεισιν ἡ τῶν Περσῶν εὐγένεια, ἀετοῦ τρόφιμον ἀκούω γενέσθαι.

I found this passage because of the reference to Gilgamesh.

τοῦτο ἐκεῖνος πέφρικε, καὶ ἵνα εἴπω τι καὶ ὑποπαίσας Ἀκρίσιος γίνεται ἐς τὴν παῖδα· ἐφρούρει γὰρ πικρότατα.
He was afraid of this, and, if you allow me the joke, he turned Ἀκρίσιος/Acrisius to his daughter, and put her under the most severe of watches.

Is anyone willing to engage in the worst of social anathemas and -- just explain to me what the joke is supposed to be? Is it a pun of some sort that I am missing, or is just a bad-taste comment remarking on the fact that he behaved towards his daughter in more or less the same fashion as Danae's father Acrisius did to his?

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Re: What is the joke? (Aelianus De Natura Animalium)

Post by mwh » Thu Nov 29, 2018 3:05 am

It’s certainly not much of a joke. I guess he’s just excusing his flippancy in pointing out the analogy with the famous myth.

Gilgamesh as Perseus. Hmm…

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Re: What is the joke? (Aelianus De Natura Animalium)

Post by Hylander » Thu Nov 29, 2018 3:06 am

"Joke" is probably not quite the right word. He's just being less than wholly serious.

"He became an Acrisius to his daughter." The Greek Acrisius-Danae-Perseus myth bears a resemblance to the Seuchorus-Gilgamos story: an oracle tells a king (Seuchorus/Acrisius) that his daughter's son (Gilgamos/Perseus) will displace him from the kingdom; he guards the daughter carefully to prevent her from getting pregnant, but pregnant she gets nonetheless and gives birth to a son; measures are taken to kill the son, but he is rescued and eventually displaces his grandfather. (Of course variations on this pattern occur again and again in the mythologies of many peoples--Oedipus, for example).

In Gilgamos' case, the baby boy was rescued by an eagle who carried him off when he was thrown from the citadel and raised him as her own. Aelian apparently relates this story as an example of "philanthropy" -- love of a human -- by an animal.

But he tells it somewhat humorously ("the oracle was smarter than the Babylonian king"), and he wryly adds that if anyone thinks this is just a myth, he agrees: he hasn't been able to verify it. So he's telling this whole story tongue in cheek. Perhaps when he brings in the analogy to Acrisius, a myth that probably no one likely to read Aelian really believed in his day, he's signaling that he's not really serious.

To be honest, though I knew the Perseus myth, I have to confess I didn't know who Acrisius was -- father of Danaë and grandfather of Perseus -- until I looked him up in Wikipedia:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Acrisius

EDIT: Cross-posted with mwh.

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Re: What is the joke? (Aelianus De Natura Animalium)

Post by jeidsath » Thu Nov 29, 2018 8:46 am

Maybe it shows my low humor, but I thought that it was (mildly) funny way to say that these are really the same myth with the names changed. It's the basic tenet of comparative mythology. He became (acted like) Acrisius to his daughter. And as the stories changed time and place, he really did become Acrisius.
Joel Eidsath -- jeidsath@gmail.com

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Re: What is the joke? (Aelianus De Natura Animalium)

Post by mwh » Sat Dec 01, 2018 3:42 am

Hylander: Hor.Od.3.16 Inclusam Danaen … | si non Acrisium …!

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