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Headword: Ἐν Πυθίῳ κρεῖττον ἦν ἀποπατῆσαι
Adler number: epsilon,1428
Translated headword: it would have been better to relieve oneself in the Pythion
Vetting Status: high
i.e. to take a risk. For when certain people were so contemptuous of Apollo as to relieve themselves in his temple-precinct, Peisistratus[1] enacted a law, that anyone caught doing this would die. But when his notice [to this effect] was laughed at and still more were doing this, he stationed guards. An offender was caught, and Peisistratus ordered them to bind him and flog him by the roadside, while announcing 'after his punishment this man will die, because he despised the notice'. And when [the man] had been killed, the episode had such an impact on the Athenians that even now they refer to those who are in a bad way or suffering punishment because of some sin they have committed [by saying] 'it would have been better to relieve oneself in the Pythion.'
Greek Original:
Ἐν Πυθίῳ κρεῖττον ἦν ἀποπατῆσαι: οἷον κινδυνεῦσαι. καταφρονούντων γάρ τινων Ἀπόλλωνος καὶ ἐν τῷ τεμένει αὐτοῦ ἀποπατούντων Πεισίστρατος ἔγραψε νόμον, τὸν ἁλόντα ἐπὶ τούτῳ θνήσκειν. καταγελώντων δὲ τοῦ γράμματος καὶ πλειόνων μᾶλλον τοῦτο ποιούντων ἔστησε φύλακας. ληφθέντος δέ τινος ἐκέλευσε δήσαντας αὐτὸν παρὰ τὴν ὁδὸν μαστιγοῦν, κηρύσσοντας: ὅδ' ἁνὴρ κολασθεὶς ἀποθανεῖται, ὅτι ὀλιγωρεῖ τοῦ γράμματος. κτανθέντος δέ, οὕτω ἐνέδυ τὸ γενόμενον τοῖς Ἀθηναίοις, ὥστε ἔτι νῦν τοὺς κακοπαθοῦντας ἢ τιμωρίαις ἐνεχομένους διά τινα αὐτῶν πλημμέλειαν ἐπιλέγειν: ἐν Πυθίῳ κρεῖττον ἦν αὐτὸν ἀποπατῆσαι.
Appendix Proverbiorum 2.66.
For the polite tone of the verb ἀποπατῆσαι see J. Henderson, The Maculate Muse (New Haven 1975) 102; however, other versions (e.g. Hesychius and Photius) have the cruder χέσαι , 'to shit'.
[1] The sixth-century-BCE tyrant of Athens: pi 1474. For his Pythion see pi 3130.
Keywords: aetiology; biography; daily life; ethics; geography; history; law; medicine; proverbs; religion
Translated by: David Whitehead on 21 April 2003@10:28:13.
Vetted by:
Catharine Roth (modified translation) on 26 June 2003@00:33:24.
David Whitehead (modified headword and translation; added note and x-ref) on 26 June 2003@03:15:19.
David Whitehead (another keyword; cosmetics) on 17 January 2007@09:57:31.
David Whitehead on 29 August 2012@05:42:39.
David Whitehead on 13 January 2016@03:50:21.


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