Sybaris

Aelian, Historical Miscellany 3.43
At Sybaris a cithara player was singing in the contest they held in honour of Hera, when the Sybarites began to riot on his account, taking up weapons against each other. They player was frightened and took refuge in full dress at the altar of Hera. But even here they did not spare him. Not long after it seemed that blood welled up in the temple of Hera, in the same way as a perpetual spring. The Sybarites sent a delegation to Delphoi and the Pythia responded, ‘Go away from my tripods, there is still blood on your hands, pouring down in quantity, to keep you from my threshold. I shall not deliver oracles to you; you who have killed a servant of the Mousai by the altars of Hera, without respect for the vengeance of the gods. For evildoers the fulfilment of justice is not long in coming, nor can it be put off, even if they should be descendants of Zeus. It hovers over their heads and among their children; misfortune after misfortune stalks their homes.’ Justice was not slow; for having taken up arms against the men of Kroton they were overwhelmed by them, and their city disappeared.

Aelian, On Animals 6.42
An Italian story, which records an event that occurred when affairs were at their prime in the city of Sybaris, has reached me and is worth relating. A mere boy, a goatherd by occupation, whose name was Krathis, under an erotic impulse lay with the prettiest of his goats, and took pleasure in the union, and whenever he wanted sexual pleasure he would go to her; and he kept her as his darling. Moreover the amorous goatherd would bring to his loved one aforesaid such gifts as he could procure, offering her sometimes the loveliest twigs of tree-medick, and often bindweed and mastic to eat, so making her mouth fragrant for him if he should want to kiss her. And he even prepared for her, as for a bride, a leafy bed ever so luxurious and soft to sleep in. But the he-goat, the leader of the flock, did not observe these proceedings with indifference, but was filled with jealousy. For a time however he dissembled his anger and watched for the boy to be seated and asleep; and there he was, his face dropped forward on his chest. So with all the force at his command the he-goat dashed his head against him and smashed the fore-part of his skull. The event reached the ears of the inhabitants, and it was no mean tomb that they erected for the boy; and they called their river ‘the Krathis’ after him. From his union with the she-goat a baby was born with the legs of a goat and the face of a man. The story goes that he was deified and was worshipped as a god of the woods and vales.

Scholiast on Aristophanes’ The Birds 521
Lampon was a sacrificer, a chresmologos and a mantis to whom some attribute also the Athenian colony of Sybaris, saying he was a leader with the other sacrificers. He took oath on the goose as a bird of divination and he also was granted maintenance in the Prytaneion.

Athenaios, Deipnosophistai 12.15c-18d
The tables of the Sicilians also are very notorious for their luxury. “And they say that even the sea in their region is sweet, delighting in the food which is procured from it,” as Clearchus says, in the fifth book of his Lives. And why need we mention the Sybarites, among whom bathing men and pourers of water were first introduced in fetters, in order to prevent their going too fast, and to prevent also their scalding the bathers in their haste? And the Sybarites were the first people to forbid those who practice noisy arts from dwelling in their city; such as blacksmiths, and carpenters, and men of similar trades; providing that their slumbers should always be undisturbed. And it used to be unlawful to rear a cock in their city.

And Timaeus relates concerning them, that a citizen of Sybaris once going into the country, seeing the farmers digging, said that he himself felt as if he had broken his bones by the sight; and some one who heard him replied, “I, when I heard you say this, felt as if I had a pain in my side.” And once, at Croton, some Sybarites were standing by some one of the athletes who was digging up dust for the palaestra, and said they marvelled that men who had such a city had no slaves to dig the palaestra for them. But another Sybarite, coming to Lacedaemon, and being invited to the pheiditium, sitting down on a wooden seat and eating with them, said that originally he had been surprised at hearing of the valour of the Lacedaemonians; but that now that he had seen it, he thought that they in no respect surpassed other men: for that the greatest coward on earth would rather die a thousand times than live and endure such a life as theirs.

And it is a custom among them that even their children, up to the age when they are ranked among the ephebes, should wear purple robes, and curls braided with gold. And it is a custom with them also to breed up in their houses little mannikins and dwarfs (as Timaeus says), who are called by some people στίλπωνες; and also little Maltese dogs, which follow them even to the gymnasia. And it was these men, and men like them, to whom Masinissa, king of Mauretania, made answer (as Ptolemaeus relates, in the eighth book of his Commentaries), when they were seeking to buy some monkeys: “Why,- do not your wives, my good friends, produce any offspring?” For Masinissa was very fond of children, and kept about him and brought up the children of his sons, and of his daughters equally, and he had a great many of them; and he brought them all up till they were three years old, and after that he sent them to their parents, having the younger ones to take their places. And Eubulus the comic writer has said the same thing in his Graces:-

For is it not, I pray you, better far
For one man, who can well afford such acts,
To rear a man, than a loud gaping goose,
Or sparrow, or ape – most mischievous of beasts?

And Athenodorus, in his treatise on Serious Studies and Amusements, says that “Archytas of Tarentum, who was both a statesman and a philosopher, having many slaves, was always delighted at his entertainments when any of their children came to his banquets. But the Sybarites delighted only in Maltese puppy dogs, and in men which were no men.”

The Sybarites used to wear also garments made of Milesian wool, from which there arose a great friendship between the two cities, as Timaeus relates. For of the inhabitants of Italy, the Sybarites gave the preference to the Etruscans, and of foreigners to the Ionians, because they were devoted to luxury. But the cavalry of the Sybarites, being in number more than five thousand, used to go in procession with saffron-coloured robes over their breastplates; and in the summer their younger men used to go away to the caves of the Nymphs of the river Lusias, and live there in all kinds of luxury. And whenever the rich men of that country left the city for the country, although they always travelled in chariots, still they used to consume three days in a day’s journey. And some of the roads which led to their villas in the country were covered with awnings all over; and a great many of them had cellars near the sea, into which their wine was brought by canals from the country, and some of it was then sold out of the district, but some was brought into the city in boats. They also celebrate in public numbers of feasts; and they honour those who display great magnificence on such occasions with golden crowns, and they proclaim their names at the public sacrifices and games; announcing not only their general goodwill towards the city, but also the great magnificence which they had displayed in the feasts. And on these occasions they even crown those cooks who have served up the most exquisite dishes. And among the Sybarites there were found baths in which, while they lay down, they were steamed with warm vapours. And they were the first people who introduced the custom of bringing chamber-pots to banquets. But laughing at those who left their countries to travel in foreign lands, they themselves used to boast that they had grown old without ever having crossed the bridges which led over their frontier rivers.

But it seems to me, that besides the fact of the riches of the Sybarites, the very natural character of their country,- since there are no harbours on their coasts, and since, in consequence, nearly all the produce of the land is consumed by the citizens themselves,- and to some extent also an oracle of the God, has excited them all to luxury, and has caused them to live in practices of most immoderate dissoluteness. But their city lies in a hollow, and in summer is liable to excess of cold both morning and evening, but in the middle of the day the heat is intolerable, so that the greater part of them believe that the rivers contribute a great deal to the health of the inhabitants; on which account it has been said, that “a man who, living at Sybaris, wishes not to die before his time, ought never to see the sun either rise or set.” And once they sent to the oracle to consult the God (and one of the ambassadors was named Amyris), and to ask how long their prosperity should last; and the priestess of Delphi answered them-

You shall be happy, Sybarite,- very happy,
And all your time in entertainments pass,
While you continue to the immortal gods
The worship due: but when you come, at length,
To honour mortal man beyond the gods,
Then foreign war and intestine sedition
Shall come upon you, and shall crush your city.

When they had heard this they thought the God had said to them that they should never have their luxury terminated; for that there was no chance of their ever honouring a man more than God. But in agreement with the oracle they experienced a change of fortune, when one of them flogging one of his slaves, continued to beat him after he had sought an asylum in a temple; but when at last he fled to the tomb of his father, he let him go, out of shame. But their whole revenues were dissipated by the way in which they rivalled one another in luxury. And the city also rivalled all other cities in luxury. And not long after this circumstance, when many omens of impending destruction, which it is not necessary to allude to further at present, had given them notice, they were destroyed.

Strabo, Geography 6.1.13
Next in order, at a distance of two hundred stadia, comes Sybaris, founded by the Achaeans; it is between two rivers, the Crathis and the Sybaris. Its founder was Is of Helice. In early times this city was so superior in its good fortune that it ruled over four tribes in the neighbourhood, had twenty-five subject cities, made the campaign against the Crotoniates with three hundred thousand men, and its inhabitants on the Crathis alone completely filled up a circuit of fifty stadia. However, by reason of luxury and insolence they were deprived of all their felicity by the Crotoniates within seventy days; for on taking the city these conducted the river over it and submerged it. Later on, the survivors, only a few, came together and were making it their home again, but in time these too were destroyed by Athenians and other Greeks, who, although they came there to live with them, conceived such a contempt for them that they not only slew them but removed the city to another place near by and named it Thurii, after a spring of that name. Now the Sybaris River makes the horses that drink from it timid, and therefore all herds are kept away from it; whereas the Crathis makes the hair of persons who bathe in it yellow or white, and besides it cures many afflictions.

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