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Headword: Ἐς κόρακας
Adler number: epsilon,3154
Translated headword: to the crows
Vetting Status: high
To the Boiotians who once dwelled in Arne it was prophesied by the god that they would be driven from their land when white crows appeared. One time some young men got drunk, captured some crows and dusted them with chalk as a joke, then let them fly free. When they saw them the Boiotians were frantic, since it seemed that the prophecy had been fulfilled. Fearing the backlash the youths fled and settled in a place which they called "Crows". Afterwards, the inhabitants of Boiotia started sending their criminals to this place.[1] Some, however, [attribute the saying] to the notion that the creature is shameless and ill-omened for mankind.[2] But Aristotle says that when a plague struck and crows gathered in abundance, people would catch them and purify them and them let them go free, telling the plague "begone to the crows!"[3] Aesop, though, tells a story about a big jackdaw who thought that he was the equal of the crows and went to see them. After taking a thrashing he crept back to the jackdaws, but they got angry at him and beat him, saying "begone to the crows!" Aristeides, however, proposes that it is because the birds make their nests in rough and rugged places that we say "begone to the crows!"
So, "to the crows" means "to darkness," "to destruction."[4]
Greek Original:
Ἐς κόρακας: Βοιωτοῖς Ἄρνην ποτὲ οἰκοῦσιν ἐρρήθη ὑπὸ τοῦ θεοῦ ἐκπεσεῖσθαι τῆς χώρας λευκῶν κοράκων φανέντων. νέοι δὲ μεθυσθέντες ποτέ, συλλαβόμενοι κόρακας ἐγύψωσαν κατὰ παίγνιον καὶ ἀπέστειλαν πωτᾶσθαι. ἰδόντες δὲ οἱ Βοιωτοὶ ἐταράχθησαν, ὡς τῆς μαντείας λαβούσης τέλος. καὶ φοβηθέντες οἱ νεανίσκοι τὸν θόρυβον ἔφυγον καὶ ᾤκησάν τινα τόπον, ὃν ἐκάλεσαν Κόρακας: εἰς ὃν μετὰ ταῦτα οἱ τὴν Βοιωτίαν οἰκοῦντες τοὺς ἁμαρτάνοντας ἔπεμπον. οἱ δὲ ὡς τοῦ ζῴου ἀναιδοῦς καὶ δυσοιωνιστικοῦ τῶν ἀνθρώπων ὄντος. Ἀριστοτέλης δέ φησιν, λοιμοῦ κατασχόντος καὶ κοράκων πολλῶν γενομένων, τοὺς ἀνθρώπους θηρεύοντας αὐτοὺς καὶ περικαθαίροντας ἐᾶν ζῶντας καὶ ἐπιλέγειν τῷ λοιμῷ, φεῦγ' ἐς κόρακας. ὁ δὲ Αἴσωπος μυθικῶς κολοιὸν μέγαν, νομίσαντα τοῖς κόραξιν ἴσον εἶναι, πρὸς αὐτοὺς πορευθῆναι: ἡττηθέντα δὲ πάλιν εἰς τοὺς κολοιοὺς ὑποστρέψαι: τοὺς δὲ ἀγανακτήσαντας παίειν αὐτὸν λέγοντας, φεῦγ' ἐς κόρακας. Ἀριστείδης δὲ ἀποδίδωσι, διὰ τὸ ἐν τραχέσι τόποις καὶ κρημνώδεσι νεοσσοποιεῖσθαι, λέγειν ἡμᾶς, φεῦγ' ἐς κόρακας. Ἐς κόρακας οὖν εἰς τὸ σκότος, εἰς ὄλεθρον.
See also epsilon 3155, and generally Tosi (cited under alpha 378) no.771.
[1] Eustathius, in his commentary to Homer, Odyssey 13.408, attributes to a Pausanias (not the topographer but the Attic lexicographer: his fr.183 Schwabe) a somewhat different version of the same story. In that version the Boeotians, driven out of their homes in post-heroic times by Thracians are told by an oracle to settle where they see white crows. The part about the young men chalking up some birds and letting them loose occurs in Eusthathius' version also. The same version is found in the Lexicon of Photius, s.v. ἐς κόρακας ). See generally J. Fontenrose, The Delphic Oracle (Berkeley & Los Angeles 1978) 383, L75 (= Parke/Wormell 309).
[2] The word translated here as "ill-omened" is literally "bad-bird-like" (δυσοιωνιστικοῦ ), referring to the use of birds for omens. Hence the connection with crows.
[3] Aristotle fr. 496 Rose, from the Constitution of the Thessalians. (The "fragment" consists of attributions of this material to Aristotle by Eustathius and Photius: see note 1 above.)
[4] Compare beta 71 and epsiloniota 285.
Keywords: aetiology; daily life; ethics; food; geography; law; medicine; proverbs; religion; zoology
Translated by: William Hutton on 4 April 1999@18:27:00.
Vetted by:
Catharine Roth (Added cross-reference and keywords, raised status.) on 15 November 2000@12:43:40.
David Whitehead (modified translation; augmented notes; cosmetics) on 16 August 2001@09:35:03.
Elizabeth Vandiver (Added italics) on 21 January 2006@17:20:15.
David Whitehead (augmented and modified keywords; cosmetics) on 22 January 2006@04:10:42.
David Whitehead (added primary note) on 15 August 2012@08:57:07.
David Whitehead on 31 October 2012@06:01:14.
Catharine Roth (coding) on 28 December 2017@01:20:50.


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