Posted by: aediculaantinoi | October 1, 2013

An Interesting Ancient Source on the UPG Question…

Here we are, nearly at the end of the first day of what is for the Ekklesía Antínoou, and for many practitioners of Antinoan devotion, the holiest month of the year. Loads of other things are going on (and going wrong) in the world meanwhile, though…

I had hoped to do the post which follows here more than two months ago, but I’m somewhat glad that circumstances prevented it (or superseded it) and that I’m having the opportunity to do it now, because certain aspects of it make more sense to be speaking about now than they would have in the last week of July.

This post in my blog back in July, as well as this one by Sam Webster around the same time, is what got me remembering what follows here, and doing a bit more research on the matter when I’ve had time meanwhile. I hope you find what follows here as intriguing as I did, and do.

Unfortunately, the above photo of an Asklepios and Hygeia votive dedication isn’t among the actual inscriptions I’ll be discussing below, but I wasn’t able to find photos of those inscriptions on the internet at present (drat). Oh well…it’s the content of the inscriptions that’s most important, in any case.

Here is an inscription from Epidaurus, from around the year 160 CE.

In the priesthood of Poplius Aelius Antiochus

I, Marcus Julius Apellas, an Idrian from Mylasa, was sent for by the god, for I was often falling into sickness and was suffering from dyspepsia. In the course of my journey, in Aegina, the god told me not to be so irritable. When I arrived at the temple, he told me for two days to keep my head covered, and for these two days it rained; to eat cheese and bread, celery with lettuce, to wash myself without help, to practice running, to take lemonpeels, to soak them in water, near the spot of the akoai in the bath to press against the wall, to take a walk in the upper portico, to take some passive exercise, to sprinkle myself with sand, to walk around barefoot, in the bathroom, before plunging into the hot water, to pour wine over myself, to bathe without help and to give an Attic drachma to the bath attendant, in common to offer sacrifice to Asklepios, Epione and the Eleusinian Goddesses, to take milk with honey. When one day I had drunk milk alone he said, “Put honey in the milk so that it can get through.” When I asked of the god to relieve me more quickly I thought I walked out of the abaton near the spot of the akoai being anointed all over with mustard and salt, while a small boy was leading me holding a smoking censer, and the priest said: “You are cured but you must pay up the thank-offerings.” And I did what I had seen, and when I anointed myself with the salts and the moistened mustard I felt pains, but when I bathed I had no pain. That happened within nine days after I had come. He touched my right hand and also my breast. The following day as I was offering sacrifice the flame leapt up and scorched my hand, so that blisters appeared. Yet after a little the hand got well. As I stayed on he said I should use dill along with olive oil against my headaches. I usually did not suffer from headaches. But it happened that after I had studied, my head was congested. After I used the olive oil I got rid of the headache. To gargle with a cold gargle for the uvula–since about that too I had consulted the god–and the same also for the tonsils. He made me also inscribe this. Full of gratitude I departed well.

So, that’s fascinating enough on its own, right? But what is even more fascinating is the series of further inscriptions–more crude, evidently from various other hands at a later date–which are on and around the slab where the above is inscribed. More roughly translated, these read:

Apellas, you are not my overseer [episkopos].

Apellas, you should have read Aelius Aristides–clearly, the great orator does not attest to any such cures, therefore you are lying.

Apellas, what does your “relationship” with the god have to do with me? Keep such revelations to yourself in the future, they don’t concern me or anyone else.

The god does not give directions that specific to people–everyone knows that.

The god is only a metaphor, and your auditions wishful thinking. Work on your discernment, Apellas.

There are a few more, which the scholars who have studied this inscription refuse to translate because they are so full of profanity and abuse as to not be useful or edifying to anyone. While it’s unusual for later twentieth-century scholars to use another language to “give the nasty bits” for only the most educated eyes to see by translating them into another language (usually Latin or Greek), in this case, they couldn’t do that, so one clever scholar instead used Sanskrit to do so; my Sanksrit isn’t that good, but lingam and mahalingam comes up several times in the phrasing, so we can guess where that glossator’s comments were heading.

And, from the same site, but of a later date (in the early fifth century CE) is the following further inscription:

I, Ioannes Benér, Head of the Boule of the Athenians, have decreed that the Care of Asklepios (given the epithet “Obamma” after a dream was received, in which the cry of surprise [“O”] at the suggestion of cures by dipping [“bamma”] inflicted members into different liquids was suggested as treatment for all illnesses) be suspended for at least a year, or else I will not allow any Imperial Legates, Tax Collectors, Governors, or other officials of the Roman People to execute their duties nor receive their salaries, for it is God that compels me to do this.

It appears that the late antique Greeks of Epidaurus, thus, not only had to deal with nay-saying critics, but also douche-bag politicians as well.



  1. ….You had me going there.

    October 1 is the new April 1?

    • Not exactly…though now that you mention it, the Ophidia is coming up later this month, and I’ll thus have to think of something for that, too! Hmm!

      I just wanted to clear out all of my current post drafts, really (and I usually use those for “ideas” rather than drafts properly speaking), and saw an opportunity not only to do a riff on the whole UPG mess that is modern paganism and polytheism, but also to take a stab at the dumb shits who are paid to run this country, who aren’t running this country, aren’t allowing others to run this country or be paid for it, and are yet still getting paid to not do their jobs. Given Asklepios’ main associations, and the fact that “O + bamma” actually does have an amusing meaning in Greek as I outlined above, I just couldn’t resist it any longer. I tend to get my anger out in humor much better than anything else, even if it is such obscure and limited-in-appeal humor…oh well. 😉

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