Dont Take It Lying Down: Life According to the Goddess
Now this Stratonice, when still married to her former husband, saw in a vision Hera exhorting her to rear a temple to this goddess at Hierapolis. Should she neglect to obey, she was menaced by the goddess with manifold evils. The queen began by disregarding the dream, but later, when seized by a dangerous illness, she told the vision to her husband, and appeased Hera, and undertook to raise the temple.
Hardly had she recovered when she was despatched by her husband to Hierapolis, and a large sum of money with her, and a large army too, partly to aid in the building operations and partly to ensure her safety. At the present moment I have need of all thy confidence, and thus I wish thee to accompany my wife, and to carry out my work, and to perform the sacrifices due, and to command my army.
On my return great honour shall fall to thee. Combabus begged and prayed not to be despatched, and not to be entrusted with matters far above his powers—moneys, the lady, the holy work: not merely so, but he feared lest in the future some jealousy might make itself felt as to his relations with Stratonice, as he was unaccompanied should he consent to escort her.
The king, however, refused to be moved; so Combabus prayed as an alternative that a respite of seven days might be granted him: after that interval he was willing to be despatched after attending to his immediate needs. Why this confidence in myself? To what end is this journey, whose results I already see?
I am young and the lady whom I escort is fair. This will prove a great and mighty disaster, unless I remove entirely the cause of the evil.
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Thus I must even perform a mighty deed which will heal all my fears. He sealed this vessel up with a ring which lie wore; and finally he proceeded to dress his wound. This my most precious treasure was stored up in my house, and I loved it well: but now that I am entering on a long journey, I will set it in thy keeping. Do thou keep it well: for it is dearer to me than gold and more precious to me than life. On my return I shall receive it again. So Combabus from this time forth continued his journey in peace.
Arrived at Hierapolis they built the temple with all diligence, and three years passed while they were at their task. Meantime the event came to pass which Combabus had feared. Stratonice began to love him who had been her companion for so long a time: her love passed into an overpowering passion. Those of Hierapolis affirm that Hera was the willing cause of this trouble: she knew full well that Combabus was an upright man, but she wished to wreak her wrath on Stratonice for her unwillingness to undertake the building of the temple.
The queen was at first coy and tried to hide her passion, but when her trouble left her no longer any repose, she openly displayed her irritation and wept the whole day long, and called out repeatedly for Combabus: Combabus was everything to her. At last, in despair at her impotency to master her passion, she sought a suitable occasion for supplicating his love. She was too cautious to admit her passion to a stranger, but her modesty prevented her from facing the situation.
Finally she hits on this plan; that she should confront him after she should have drunk deeply of wine; for courage rises after drinking and a repulse seems then less degrading, and actions performed under the influence of wine are set down to ignorance. Thus she acted as she thought best. After supper she entered the chamber in which Combabus dwelt, and besought him, embracing his knees, and she avowed her guilty love. He heard her words with disgust and rejected her advances, reproaching her with drunkenness.
She, however, threatened that she would bring on him a great calamity; on which he trembled, and he told her all his story and narrated all that he had done and finally disclosed to her the manifest proofs of his statement. When the queen witnessed this unexpected proof her passion indeed was quenched, but she never forgot her love, but in all her intercourse she cherished the solace of her unavailing affection.
The memory of this love is still alive at Hierapolis and is maintained in this way; the women still are enamoured of the Galli, and the Galli again love the women with passion; but there is no jealousy at all, and this love passes among them for a holy passion. The king was well informed by Stratonice as to her doings at Hierapolis, for many who came thence brought the tale of her doings. The monarch was deeply moved by the tidings, and before the work was finished summoned Combabus to his presence. Others narrate with respect to this a circumstance wholly untrue; that Stratonice finding her prayers repulsed wrote with her own hand to her husband and accused Combabus of making an attempt upon her modesty; and what the Greeks allege about their Stheneboea and about Phaedra the Cnosian the Assyrians tell in the same way about Stratonice.
For my part I do not believe that either Stheneboea nor Phaedra acted thus if Phaedra really loved Hippolytus. However, let the old version remain for what it is worth.
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When, however, the news was brought to Hierapolis, Combabus took count of the charge and departed in a spirit of full confidence, conscious that the visible proof necessary for his defence had been left in the city his home. On his arrival the king immediately put him in prison under strict guard. Then in the presence of the friends of the accused who had been present when Combabus was commissioned to depart, the king summoned him into open court and began to accuse him of adultery and evil lust; and deeply moved, recounting the confidence he had reposed in his favourite and his long friendship, he arraigned Combabus on three distinct charges: first, that he was an adulterer, secondly, that he had broken his trust, finally, that he had blasphemed the goddess by acting thus while engaged in her service.
Many of the bystanders bore witness against him, saying that they had seen the guilty pair embracing. It was finally agreed that Combabus was worthy of death as his evil deeds had merited. He had stood up to this point in silence, but as he was being led to his fate, he spoke out, and demanded the restoration of his pledge, affirming that he was to be killed not for rebellious conduct against his king, nor for any violation of the king's married life, but solely because of the king's eagerness to possess what he had deposited at the royal court at his departure.
The king thereon summoned his treasurer and bade him bring forth what he had committed to his custody. I obeyed my lord and master to mine own undoing. Such as I am, I stand accused of a crime which none but a man in every sense could have committed. What monstrous deed of ill hast thou, alone of men, wrought to thy sorrow?
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I cannot praise thee, rash spirit, for enduring to suffer this outrage; would that thou hadst never borne it; would that I had never seen its proofs! I needed not this thy defence. But since the deity bath willed it thus, I will grant thee, first and foremost, as thy revenge, the death of the informers: and next there shall follow a mighty gift, a store of silver and countless gold, and raiment of Assyria, and steeds from the royal stud.
Thou shalt enter freely to us unannounced and none shall withstand thee: none shall keep thee from my sight, even were I by my wife's side. No one 6f the Assyrians was deemed equal in wisdom and in fortune to Combabus. On his request that he might complete what was unfinished in the construction of the temple—for he had left it unfinished—he was despatched anew; and he completed the temple, and there he abode. To mark his sense of the virtue and good deeds of his architect, the king granted him a brazen statue of himself to stand in the temple of his construction. And even to the present day this brazen statue is seen standing in the temple, the work of Hermocles of Rhodes.
Its form is that of a woman, but the garments are those of a man. Others there are who bring gods into the story and affirm that Combabus was beloved by Hera; and that it was she who inspired many with the idea of castrating themselves, so that her lover should not be the only one to lament the loss of his virility. Meantime the custom once adopted remains even today, and many persons every year castrate themselves and lose their virile powers: whether it be out of sympathy with Combabus, or to find favour with Hera.
They certainly castrate themselves, and then cease to wear man's garb; they don women's raiment and perform women's tasks. I have heard the origin of this ascribed to Combabus as well, for the following event occurred to him. A certain foreign woman who had joined a sacred assembly, beholding a human form of extreme beauty and dressed in man's attire, became violently enamoured of him: after discovering that he was unsexed, she took away her life.
Combabus accordingly in despair at his incapacity for love, donned woman's attire, that no woman in future might be deceived in the same way. This is the reason of the female attire of the Galli. Enough of Combabus and his story: in the course of my story I shall make mention of the Galli, and of their castration, and of the methods employed to effect it, and of the burial rites wherewith they are buried, and the reasons why they have no ingress to the temple; but before this I am inclined to speak of the site of the temple and of its size: and so I will even speak.
The place whereon the temple is placed is a hill: it lies nearly in the centre of the city, and is surrounded by a double wall. Of the two walls the one is ancient; the other is not much older than our own times. The entrance to the temple faces the north; its size is about a hundred fathoms.
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In this entrance those phalli stand which Dionysus erected: they stand thirty fathoms high. Into one of these a man mounts twice every year, and he abides on the summit of the phallus for the space of seven days. The reason of this ascent is given as follows: The people believe that the man who is aloft holds converse with the gods, and prays for good fortune for the whole of Syria, and that the gods from their neighbourhood hear his prayers. Others allege that this takes place in memory of the great calamity of Deukalion's time, when men climbed up to mountain tops and to the highest trees, in terror of the mass of waters.
To me all this seems highly improbable, and I think that they observe this custom in honour of Dionysus, and I conjecture this from the following fact, that all those who rear phalli to Dionysus take care to place mannikins of wood on the phalli; the reason of this I cannot say, but it seems to me that the ascent is made in imitation of the wooden mannikin.
To proceed, the ascent is made in this way; the man throws round himself and the phallus a small chain; afterwards he climbs up by means of pieces of wood attached to the phallus large enough to admit the end of his foot. As he mounts he jerks the chain up his own length, as a driver his reins. Those who have not seen this process, but who have seen those who have to climb palm trees in Arabia, or in Egypt, or any other place, will understand what I mean. When he has climbed to the top, he lets down a different chain, a long one, and drags up anything that he wants, such as wood, clothing, and vases; he binds these together and sits upon them, as it were, on a nest, and he remains there for the space of time that I have mentioned.
Many visitors bring him gold and silver, and some bring brass; then those who have brought these offerings leave them and depart, and each visitor gives his name. A bystander shouts the name up; and he on hearing the name utters a prayer for each donor; between the prayers he raises a sound on a brazen instrument which, on being shaken, gives forth a loud and grating noise. He never sleeps; for if at any time sleep surprises him, a scorpion creeps up and wakes him, and stings him severely; this is the penalty for wrongfully sleeping. This story about the scorpion is a sacred one, and one of the mysteries of religion; whether it is true I cannot say, but, as it seems to me, his wakefulness is in no small degree due to his fear of falling.
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So much then for the climbers of the phalli. As for the temple, it looks to the rising sun. In appearance, and in workmanship, it is like the temples which they build in Ionia, the foundation rises from the earth to the space of two fathoms, and on this rests the temple. The ascent to the temple is built of wood and not particularly wide; as you mount, even the great hall exhibits a wonderful spectacle and it is ornamented with golden doors. The temple within is ablaze with gold and the ceiling in its entirety is golden. There falls upon you also a divine fragrance such as is attributed to the region of Arabia, which breathes on you with a refreshing influence as you mount the long steps, and even when you have departed this fragrance clings to you; nay, your very raiment retains long that sweet odour, and it will ever remain in your memory.
But the temple within is not uniform. A special sacred shrine is reared within it; the ascent to this likewise is not steep, nor is it fitted with doors, but is entirely open as you approach it. The great temple is open to all; the sacred shrine to the priests alone and not to all even of these, but only to those who are deemed nearest to the gods and who have the charge of the entire administration of the sacred rites. In this shrine are placed the statues, one of which is Hera, the other Zeus, though they call him by another name.
Both of these are golden, both are sitting; Hera is supported by lions, Zeus is sitting on bulls. The effigy of Zeus recalls Zeus in all its details—his head, his robes, his throne; nor even if you wished it could you take him for another deity. Hera, however, as you look at her will recall to you a variety of forms.
Speaking generally she is undoubtedly Hera, but she has something of the attributes of Athene, and of Aphrodite, and of Selene, and of Rhea, and of Artemis, and of Nemesis, and of The Fates. In one of her hands she holds a sceptre, in the other a distaff; on her head she bears rays and a tower and she has a girdle wherewith they adorn none but Aphrodite of the sky. And without she is gilt with gold, and gems of great price adorn her, some white, some sea-green, others wine-dark, others flashing like fire. Besides these there are many onyxes from Sardinia and the jacinth and emeralds, the offerings of the Egyptians and of the Indians, Ethiopians, Medes, Armenians, and Babylonians.
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But the greatest wonder of all I will proceed to tell: she bears a gem on her head called a Lychnis; it takes its name from its attribute. From this stone flashes a great light in the night-time, so that the whole temple gleams brightly as by the light of myriads of candles, but in the daytime the brightness grows faint; the gem has the likeness of a bright fire. There is also another marvel in this image: if you stand over against it, it looks you in the face, and as you pass it the gaze still follows you, and if another approaching from a different quarter looks at it, he is similarly affected.