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Headword: Ζέρκων
Adler number: zeta,29
Translated headword: Zerkon
Vetting Status: high
[Zerkon,] a Scythian so named, a Moor by race.[1] On account of the deformity of his body and the laughter that came from his lisping voice and his appearance—[for he was a short man, hunched, and had deformed legs; and he displayed his nose and nostrils because he was exceedingly snub-nosed]—he had been given to Aspar son of Ardabur, [2] while he was in Libya. Later he was captured when the barbarians made an incursion into the land of the Thracians and was taken to the royal Scythians.[3] And Attila[4] could not even bear his appearance, but Bleda[5] quite enjoyed not only when he spoke things worthy of laughter but also when he walked and moved his body strangely. And he was with him when he feasted and went on campaign, and he would put on a full suit of armor made to make him look even more ridiculous on the march. Therefore, after he ran away with the Roman captives, Bleda, since he considered him very much a favorite, disregarded the rest of them but ordered that he be sought out with the utmost care. When they caught Zerkon and brought him in chains to Bleda, he laughed as soon as he saw him; and, dismissing his anger, he asked the reason for his flight and why he thought the Roman [court] was better than his own. Then he answered that his flight was wrong, and he had an explanation for his wrong action, namely that he had not been given a wife. Then Bleda, even more carried away in his laughter, gave him a wife from the well-born women, who had been one of the queen's ladies-in-waiting, but on account of some strange action[6] was no longer going to her [as a companion]. So then he continued to live perpetually with Bleda. But after his death Attila gave Zerkon as a gift to Aetius[7] the general of the Western Romans, who sent him back to Aspar.
Greek Original:
Ζέρκων, Σκύθης οὕτω καλούμενος, Μαυρούσιος τὸ γένος. διὰ δὲ κακοφυί̈αν σώματος καὶ τὸ γέλωτα ἐκ τῆς τραυλότητος τῆς φωνῆς καὶ ὄψεως παρέχειν [βραχὺς γάρ τις ἦν, κυρτός, διάστροφος τοῖς ποσί, τὴν ῥῖνα τοῖς μυκτῆρσι παραφαίνων διὰ σιμότητος ὑπερβολήν], Ἄσπαρι τῷ Ἀρδαβουρίῳ ἐδεδώρητο, καθ' ὃν ἐν Λιβύῃ διέτριβε χρόνον. ἥλω δὲ τῶν βαρβάρων ἐς τὴν Θρᾳκῶν ἐμβαλόντων καὶ παρὰ τοὺς βασιλείους ἤχθη Σκύθας. καὶ Ἀττήλας μὲν οὐδὲ τὴν αὐτοῦ ἤνεγκεν ὄψιν: ὁ δὲ Βλήδας ἥσθη τε λίαν αὐτῷ φθεγγομένῳ οὐ μόνον γέλωτος ἄξια, εἰ μή γε καὶ βαδίζοντι καὶ περιττῶς κινοῦντι τὸ σῶμα. συνῆν δὲ αὐτῷ εὐωχουμένῳ καὶ ἐκστρατεύοντι, πεποιημένην πρὸς τὸ γελοιότερον ἀναλαμβάνων ἐν ταῖς ἐξόδοις πανοπλίαν. διὸ δὴ περισπούδαστον αὐτὸν ὁ Βλήδας ποιούμενος μετὰ αἰχμαλώτων ἀποδράντα Ῥωμαίων, τῶν μὲν ἄλλων κατωλιγώρησεν, αὐτὸν δὲ μετὰ πάσης φροντίδος ἀναζητεῖσθαι προσέταξεν. καὶ ἁλόντα καὶ παρ' αὐτὸν ἀχθέντα ἐν δεσμοῖς ἰδὼν ἐγέλασεν. καὶ καθυφεὶς τῆς ὀργῆς ἐπυνθάνετο τὴν αἰτίαν τῆς φυγῆς, καὶ ὅτου χάριν νομίζοι τὰ Ῥωμαίων τῶν παρὰ σφίσιν ἀμείνονα. ὁ δὲ ἀπεκρίνατο, ἁμάρτημα μὲν τὴν φυγὴν εἶναι, ἔχειν δὲ τοῦ ἁμαρτήματος λόγον, τὸ μὴ γαμετὴν αὐτῷ δεδόσθαι. τῷ δὲ γέλωτι μᾶλλον ὁ Βλήδας ὑπαχθεὶς δίδωσιν αὐτῷ γυναῖκα τῶν μὲν εὖ γεγονότων καὶ τῇ βασιλίδι διακονησαμένων, ἀτόπου δέ τινος πράξεως ἕνεκα οὐκέτι παρ' ἐκείνην φοιτῶσαν. καὶ οὕτω διετέλει ἅπαντα τὸν χρόνον τῷ Βλήδᾳ συνών. μετὰ δὲ τὴν αὐτοῦ τελευτὴν Ἀττήλας Ἀετίῳ τῷ στρατηγῷ τῶν Ἑσπερίων Ῥωμαίων δῶρον τὸν Ζέρκωνα δίδωσιν, ὃς αὐτὸν παρὰ τὸν Ἄσπαρα ἀπέπεμψεν.
This entry is Priscus fr.11 FHG (4.96), still 11 Bornmann. See Blockley (vol. 2, 287, 289) for another translation of the passage
[1] The author of this entry seems to have misunderstood the narrative given at Constantine VII, De legationibus 145, where Zerkon enters the scene just after "Σκύθης τις ." Blockley has a note on this confusion (vol. 2, 388 n. 81).
[2] cf. alpha 3803 and alpha 4201.
[3] Blockley (vol. 1, 168 n. 48) points out that this detail proves that Hunnish attacks before Bleda's death in 445 had reached far east, perhaps including the sacks of Naissus and Serdica, which are sometimes dated later.
[4] cf. alpha 4351 kappa 2123, and mu 405. See article at web address 1.
[5] Bleda was Attila's brother, whom he had killed in 445; cf. beta 334.
[6] Blockley (I, 287, 289) translates "because of some misdemeanour" but this seems to overly legalize the offense, which may have been some social faux pas.
[7] See web address 2.
Blockley, R.C. The Fragmentary Classicising Historians of the Later Roman Empire. Eunapius, Olympiodorus, Priscus and Malchus. Vol. 1. Liverpool: Francis Cairns, 1981
Blockley, R.C. The Fragmentary Classicising Historians of the Later Roman Empire. Eunapius, Olympiodorus, Priscus and Malchus. Vol. 2. Liverpool: Francis Cairns, 1983
Associated internet addresses:
Web address 1,
Web address 2
Keywords: biography; clothing; comedy; definition; ethics; food; geography; historiography; history; medicine; military affairs; women
Translated by: Abram Ring on 30 May 2005@13:32:55.
Vetted by:
Antonella Ippolito (modified a point of translation; set status) on 30 May 2005@21:13:00.
Catharine Roth (cosmetics) on 30 May 2005@22:27:45.
David Whitehead (more keywords; cosmetics) on 31 May 2005@03:39:34.
David Whitehead (more keywords; cosmetics) on 29 November 2012@04:18:19.
David Whitehead (updated a ref) on 31 January 2015@09:54:41.
David Whitehead (coding) on 24 March 2016@05:09:54.
Catharine Roth (tweaked translation) on 20 May 2018@23:25:33.


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