You are here

Chapter IX: The Phrygian Dirge

Chapter IX: The Phrygian Dirge
Vehement mourning in the Oriental style has been an obligatory rite in the Anatolian burial ceremonies throughout all time. The accompaniment varies in musical and linguistic execution but is fundamentally the same in type to-day and in the Roman period and doubtless in the early Anatolian period.

I. At the present day the mourning takes place in the court of the house within closed outer gates. No one is admitted except mourning women and the family: all others are hustled out (as we have seen). On the plateau I was once admitted in 1884 (when my wife was with me and we were allowed to remain as guests of the village). From this experience I judge and from what I have heard otherwise. No musical accompaniment nowadays takes place because the art of music has been lost. The proceedings were briet: not more than two hours elapsed between the death of “Big Hassan” (who was reaping in the fields on a very hot day and fell down— perhaps only in a fainting fit) and his interment in a shallow grave. The bearing of the corpse from the field to the house and from the house to the grave was public and there was loud mourning in a semi-rhythmic fashion during these processions. The men joined in this part of the mourning; and any sound uttered on the march naturally tends to assume a certain rhythmic character: it is like the anapæsts which accompany the entrance of the chorus on the stage in a Greek Tragedy. The mourning of the women in the house was so vehement that it was sometimes interrupted by hysterical fits of laughter on the part of the mourners. The men did not utter any sound in the court: they were occupied in preparing the body for the grave. Everything was done very decorously. The women were in the open gallery of the house from which steps lead down to the court. The body was laid out in the court. In most places there is a large flat stone near the cemetery on which the body is laid: it is called (if I recollect rightly) Mushalem-Tash; and I have sometimes been embarrassed when there is found an ancient inscription on this stone. No religious ceremony took place at the house or in the courtyard.

As to the loss of the art of music there are some exceptions. The music of the Mevlevi Dervishes (dancing Korubantes) when we heard it once in its full splendour at a special performance in Afiom-Kara-Hissar seemed to be the old music used in the worship of Cybele with flutes and cymbals: but it has much degenerated in my lifetime.1 Also the shepherd plays little tunes to his sheep to direct their movements. Turkish song-tunes used to be a caterwauling. Recently European music has been introduced especially in the National Anthem which the school children sing.
II. As regards the dirge in the Roman period we gather the details from inscriptions of the Roman period. Strange to say the best of these belong to the fourth century and the age when Christianity was dominant but not yet so powerful as to be tyrannous. Earlier than that time probably the art of writing was little used in the villages where old customs lasted longest. Flute music accompanied the dirge: the court of the house was the scene. There is evident in some epitaphs the first stage of drama2 because there is a variation between the first person and the second and the third. Sometimes the dead man speaks sometimes he is addressed sometimes the mourners (especially the chief mourner) speak in the first and third persons. Even conversation between mourners and the dead occurs. Dramatic action was developed in Athens out of the dithyramb or funeral mourning round the altar of Dionysos. Now the dead man is always identified with the god in the old Anatolian funeral rites3 and the grave is his “house” his “altar” his “door” or his “temple”; and at the grave sepulchral feasts and ceremonies took place annually so long as memory and money bequeathed for the purpose of the feast lasted.4 All these names for the grave together with many others are used in Roman epitaphs. Sometimes the sepulchral monument was large and contained an upper chamber over the grave proper where the annual feast could be held. Sometimes the single word “door” engraved on a simple stele or on an altar stone took the place of a more elaborate monument. The word indicated that here below was the door from the world of life to the world of the dead. Generally the grave-stone had the form of an altar or of a miniature temple-house (i.e. a sarcophagus curiously carved to represent a small dwelling).5
There was also a different class of epitaph expressed as a registration of property according to law executed in duplicate; and a copy of the deed was usually deposited in the archives of the city. This semi-legal or even fully legal class of epitaph which has nothing of the character of a dirge is a sort of will (testamentum); the maker of the tomb states his ownership of the grave-property specifies those if any whose corpses may be admitted and excludes either expressly or by implication all others. A penalty in money is specified for intrusion of a corpse unlawfully and a reward promised to the successful prosecutor whether a private individual or a public body or the State itself. A good example of this legal class from the pre-Roman period in South Galatia is published in J.H.S. 1922 p. 181 where the Thracian part of the Apolloniate population is admitted to the annual festival and by implication the Lycian part is excluded: there is however no penalty for violation or unlawful intrusion. The local custom hardened into law during the Seleucid period and the Roman law in the country equally recognised such custom as legally binding. Cases however occur of unlawful intrusion of a corpse; and the old epitaph was even sometimes erased and a new epitaph incised; or in other rare cases a new epitaph was engraved alongside of the old. As has been stated in the Phrygo-Lycaonian plains especially north of Boz-Dagh where neither Seleucid law nor Roman law ever acquired much hold6 the epitaph was very frequently during Roman times even in Christian times about A.D. 330–3607 a sort of metrical or semi-metrical expression of the mourning dirge; and there is hardly ever (except in Graeco-Asiatic cities) any reference to ownership and legal right. I add two examples of the dirge-epitaph in illustration: in these I have been helped by Buckler and by Calder as they are faint lightly engraved originally and made fainter by lapse of time; sometimes part is illegible or the stone is broken. Two are selected that are practically complete.
It may be added that the simple lament for the virtues of the deceased a natural outpouring of deep emotion was gradually transformed in Rome into the stately and public funeral oration (laudatio funebris). That Anatolian custom in religion coming through Etruria exercised much influence on Rome is now well established and accepted. Nothing could better illustrate the difference of racial character than this transformation.
On the other hand the Greeks modified the old dirge into such poetry as the Lament for Bion. Much bucolic poetry is of the same class. Both hexameters and elegiacs are used in the late Phrygian dirges; also a mixture; and Greek elegiac poetry is a higher development of it. The Attic tragedy has already been mentioned.
It is best to give the original spelling as this represents a stage in the development of Anatolian Greek: the reader will understand that ἔνος is ἔρνος (the soft semi-vocalised P of Anatolia disappearing as often in local and personal Anatolian names caught by Greek ears or expressed in the Greek alphabet). The representation of vowel sounds in Greek as spoken on the plateau varies widely from the spelling of classical Greek. H for Al was common chiefly in northern Phrygia and represented a local variety of Greek pronunciation; final N of accusative was often omitted sometimes final sigma of nominative; a final N was often added in the accusative of the third declension e.g. βασιλῆαν and ἐμέν. A single letter often plays the part of two. This is commonly the case where the last letter of a word and the first letter of the next are the same.8
Comparison of similar dirges over Anatolia shows that there were many stock phrases which were used and modified as convenient. But these stock phrases are not to be taken as mere empty metrical unmeaning verbiage; they express the deep feeling of the survivors. We cannot expect to find a real poem or a real poet in the villages but we do find real feeling in the mourning. This vehemence of mourning satisfied the mind and the loss was quickly forgotten.
(I) At Kolu-Kissa (where Kissa is probably the ancient gissa stone the Roman imperial property Giza or Gisza)9 this inscription was copied by me in 1906 during a very hurried drive of a distance reckoned twelve hours to catch a forenoon train. A deep cut runs down through the inscription and destroys one to three letters in every line. There are many stock phrases used in this epitaph; but even stock phrases expressed real deep emotion and were passed on among village poets like Homeric and epic phrases in an older time.
ἐξ ἀγαθῆς ῥίζης ἔνος κλυτὸν ἐξε[ϕ]αάνθη.
Μ ένανδρος πανάριστος ἐπὶ με[γά]λ᾿ οὔνο(μα) ἔσχε
Π ρεσβ. γέγονε[ν] πανυπέρτατο[ς] ἠδὲ δίκαιος
4 Ο ὗ δὴ λίψανα κτ ὑπὸ χθόνα που[λ]υβοτίρην 4
Ψ υχὴ δ᾿ αὐτοῖο ἵν᾿ ἀθάνατος [Θ]εὸς ἔστιν·
βραμ οἰς κόλποις ἀναπαύσ[ετ]ε ὡς μακάρων τις·
ν πάτρη ὑμενεῖ᾿ ἐπευϕη[με]ῖ δὲ ἔλημος.
8 Τ ῷ δ᾿ ἄλοχος Κλέουσα προγενί[σε]τε μυρομένη περ 8
“Π ῶς μούνη μ᾿ ἔλιπες καὶ [πῶς(?)κακ]ὰ πήματα πάσχω
Π ιρωθεὶς αὐτὴν ἀπαμίβε[τ᾿ ]ὸς πόσις ἐσθλός·
“Ἦ μοι ἐμὴ ἄλοχος μὴ [δά]κρυ̣ε̣ μήδ᾿ ὀρόθυνε
12 Ψ υχὰς κασιγνήτων ἐπὶ πόθεον με<[> καὶ αὐτοί 12
Τ ερπόμενοι ζίοντι Θεῶν ὅτ[ι] οἱ εὔαδεν οὕτω
Ε ὐχωλὰς δὲ Θεῷ ἀποτίνυ[ω ὥ]ς κέ σε θᾶσσον
15 ρύσετ᾿ ἐξ ἀ[θ]έων καί μοι κ[αλὸν] οὔνομα λίποις.” 15
“From a good stock a famous branch has blossomed. Excellent Menander because he won great reputation became a Presbyter supreme and just (4) whose remains now lie under earth the nourisher of all; but his soul is where immortal God (dwells). In the bosom of Abram he will rest as one of the blessed. Him his fatherland praises in song and the flute responds. (8) His spouse Kleousa will stand forth as leading mourner: ‘How hast thou left me solitary? and how do I suffer torments dire?’ Deprived of her her noble husband responds: ‘In truth do not weep my spouse nor vex (12) the souls of my brothers since they also desired me setting their happiness in the living God that His will and pleasure is thus. And I render prayers to God that he may rescue thee also quickly from the impious (persecutors) and that thou mayst leave me a fair reputation.’”
In line 15 Calder would restore [χ]έων instead of [θ]έων. Then the conversation concludes on the part of the wife who prays for her husband's release from the torments of hell or purgatory. This may be right and may (as he claims) furnish an early example of prayers for the dead:10 but the end is hardly suitable. The wife as chief mourner is hardly likely to pray that her husband may be released from Hell and leave her a good reputation. The husband as still living in his divine form (pagan custom)11 may pray that she may leave to him her good reputation on earth. Moreover I distrust such an overt example of praying for the dead and for his relief from purgatory at such an early time. A parallel is rare. The passage is of the old pagan type Christianised slightly.
Line 2. Calder suggests μέγα οὔνο[μα] ἔσχε. This is a common tag; but in the text A is clear suggesting that μεγάλο was the local form as in modern Anatolian Greek not μέγα: μα is omitted by a scribal error.
Line 4. κτ apparently for κῖτε i.e. κεῖται: the text seemed to be simply κτ much blurred but the meaning was clear to me as I copied.
Line 7. ὑμενεῖ(ε) from ὑμεναιόω thy country sings thy marriage-song: death constitutes marriage to thy country. In pagan thought this would mean “unites thee merged in the god and living as a god to thy country whose god thou now art.” In Christian thought” thy true country is heaven and thou art now married to it.” Possibly something of both ideas survives in this striking phrase.
Line 6. οἰς is either error (of engraver?) for εἰς or more probably οἰς means ὐς bad spelling for ἰς. I noted the strange form in copying as ‘Αβραμ is the invariable name. εἰς and ἐν are interchangeable in Byzantine time. A friend prefers an adjectival form Αβραμοις “in the Abramic bosom.”
Line 7. Death and marriage are different forms of the same ceremony: hence the flute and the procession. This is a very important idea which runs through much Anatolian and Greek literature.
Line 8. προγενήσεται “shall take a front place” (Homeric). The personal name as usual is non-metrical. The composer often imitates Homer showing where his teaching lay at school. See p. 104.
Line 9. The second πῶς was omitted by engraver: there is no room. μούνη(ν) as often shows loss of N in accusative.
Lines 8–15. The dramatic form is marked here: the wife “stands forth.”
Line 1. This line forms one of a group of scraps (Le Bas No. 1188) which Waddington numbers as a single inscription. They were obtained from the notebook of a travelling Greek at Konia (to which they are classed). From what I saw of the earlier notebooks of Dr. Diamantides12 an old man in 1901 (murdered in the winter of 1901—2 by assassins) I think that he was the unremembered and unnamed authority for that weird collection. On his medical rounds of inspection he jotted down the first line of an inscription whole or fragmentary. He had been at Kozlu as I observed from other inscriptions. The pages of his notebooks often contained many such scraps of different inscriptions. Except Arundell and the elder Mordtmann he was the worst professed copyist of inscriptions whose work I have known; but he was liberal and generous and interested in archaeology. We hired his house for four months in 1901; and when he returned to it he was murdered for the money he was believed to have in the house.13 His many notebooks he showed first to my late friend Professor Sterrett in 1883 and afterwards in 1886 and 1901 to me when they were much more numerous. Peace be to his memory.
(2) At a village Kuyulu–Zebir (Zebir where the water is derived from wells distinguished from Tcheshmeli–Zebir where the water is supplied by fountains) I copied in 1905 a quaint dirge of the Christian period dating about 340. Professor Calder again copied it in 1908: both of us in company copied it in 1910.14 In the Greek there is every fault of spelling and metre that is possible. The date is fixed by the emphasis laid on the maker of the tomb. It was a pagan custom to give prominence to the maker of the grave: for such was his bounden duty and he had in propriety to mention it emphatically. This pagan custom began to fall into disuse in Christian epitaphs about 340 to 350 for the feeling that prompted it was then growing weak. The inscription begins with a simple incised cross.
1 2 τιμῆς εὐστατίες μνεμῖον αὔτικε ἦρεν
2–4 σὸς πόσι σὲν ποθέων σὲ τίτλῳ ἐνιγράψατω τῷδε
4–6 σὰς ἀρετὰς σά τε ἔργα σαωϕρωσύνεν τε μεγίστη
7–8 ’᾿Ẹηελιανὸς ποθέων [μνή]μνς χορην ἐξετέλεσε[ν].
8–10 Μίκ[κο] τωὔνωμ ἔην Μετρωβίου ἀνδρὸς ἀρίτου
10–11 μητρὸς πιστωτάτες Λωυλιανῆς διακόνω
11–13 ἔκουσα κασίγνετον Μητρόβιων τὸν πανάριστον
13–14 ἠνορέῃ καλλίστη κὲ ἡλικίεν ἐρατ̣ινή.
14–16 ἤδε κὲ ἐμ μεγάρυς λίπε τέκνς πένθω [κ]ᾳὶ λύπ̣ε
16–17 ()β̣ίων ἐκτελέσασα ὐ[κῶ] πάνχυ σαόϕρων θανωῦσα.
“A memorial of firmly fixed honour immediately (after thy death) was raised by thy husband: longing for thee he inscribed thee in this epitaph: Aemilianus longing for thy virtues and thy household works and thy excellent prudence wrought (the memorial) in memory. She was named Mikke daughter of Metrobios best of men and of a mother most faithful Louliane a deacon and she had a brother Metrobios most excellent being (herself) most lovely in human beauty and charming of age. She too left in (our) mansion mourning and pain to her children completing her life and dying chaste and true to the household.”
In the dirges the beauty of the lost wife15 and her excellence as a housekeeper are always emphasised. ἔργα are the works of the household.16 Mikke was apparently more highly born than Aemilianus: her father mother a deaconess and brother are lauded but the husband's father is not named. Frequently and almost regularly the husband's father is mentioned but the wife's father is not given: often in a family the sons are named but not the daughters.
1. εὐστατίης for εὐσταθίης firmly fixed. The personal name Eustathios shows that there must have existed this variant as an adjective beside εὐσταθής. Calder detected the adjective here.
2. μνημῖον to the detriment of metre; –μίϊον could not be used in Greek writing αὔτικε for αὔτικα forthwith immediately after death: the haste of the burial is invariable and the tombstone was placed immediately.
2. ΠOCIC 3. CN: the lapicida omitted one of the successive letters CCEN: σεν for σε like ἐμέν for ἐμέ and many other cases.
3. τε for σε would perhaps make better construction and CE is perhaps an error of the scribe. A friend would correct CN to OC but I cannot follow this bold path of alteration.
6. N at the end of the line may be lost by wearing or by the common omission in accusative of first declension.
13. ἠνορέη is used of a woman like Nerienis wife of Mars: yet Nero is Umbrian ner vir.
16. Double H is written only once as often: λύπην has lost final N and the next H is at the beginning of the following hexameter though written in the same line on the stone.
It is only in the Roman period that examples of the natural human expression of rustic feeling can be quoted. A series of them might be added and would be useful; but these must suffice at present. These afford specimens of simple rustic emotion hardly educated except by a smattering of bad Greek. The schoolmaster's hand can be detected and the influence of Epic poetry. Out of such simple unpromising material Greek order and genius elicited real poetry.
III. The natives of the plateau of Anatolia in primitive time wrote nothing but they wailed for the dead in terms like these examples taken from the fourth century after Christ; and they wail still but less articulately.
The Old-English epic of Beowulf which enshrines a tale far more ancient than the solitary MS. (about A.D. 1000) illustrates our argument that the dirges of the Roman period and of modern custom among Anatolian tribes go back to very primitive ways of life. This epic ends with the funeral rites of the old warrior and the lamentation is led by the “aged lady” (probably his wife). This is an exact parallel to the ceremonial on p. 93 f. The leader of the mourning is the lady closest to the deceased his wife or his mother.