Philomaston

lion cub feeding

Ἔθρεψεν δὲ λέοντος ἶ-
νιν δόμοις ἀγάλακτον οὕ-
τως ἀνὴρ φιλόμαστον,
ἐν βιότου προτελείοις
ἅμερον, εὐφιλόπαιδα,
καὶ γεραροῖς ἐπίχαρτον·
πολέα δ’ ἔσκ’ ἐν ἀγκάλαις
νεοτρόφου τέκνου δίκαν,
φαιδρωπὸς ποτὶ χεῖρα σαί-
νων τε γαστρὸς ἀνάγκαις.

χρονισθεὶς δ’ ἀπέδειξεν ἦ-
θος τὸ πρὸς τοκέων· χάριν
γὰρ τροφεῦσιν ἀμείβων
μηλοφόνοισι σὺν ἄταις
δαῖτ’ ἀκέλευστος ἔτευξεν·
αἵματι δ’ οἶκος ἐφύρθη,
ἄμαχον ἄλγος οἰκέταις,
μέγα σίνος πολυκτόνον·
ἐκ θεοῦ δ’ ἱερεύς τις Ἄ-
τας δόμοις προσεθρέφθη.

(Aeschylus, Agamemnon 717-736)

Just so a man once
reared in his home an infant lion,
fond of the nipple but deprived of its milk,
in its undeveloped time of life
tame, well loved by children
and a delight to the old:
it was much in his arms
like a young suckling baby,
gazing bright-eyed at his hand*
and fawning when hunger pressed it.

But in time it displayed the character
inherited from its parents; it returned
thanks to its nurturers
by making, with destructive slaughter of sheep,
a feast, unbidden.
The house was steeped in blood,
and uncontrollable grief to the household,
a great calamity with much killing**.
What a god had caused to be reared as an inmate of the house
was a priest*** of ruin.

* “Which fed or might feed it” (Rose).
** These expressions are somewhat excessive if the only loss of life has been among sheep, and it is more likely that we are to understand that together with (σὺν) the slaughter of animals, the lion’s “unbidden feast” also included human flesh.
*** i.e. sacrificer, slaughterer.
(tr. Alan H. Sommerstein, with his notes)

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