Girl breastfeeding old man : Tectaphos & Eérié

J-L Trintignant & Jane Birkin - Le Mouton enragé

Story extracted from Dionysiaques from the Greek poet, born in Egypt, Nonnos of Panopolis. Imprisoned by Dériadès, Tectaphos, Indian prince, was locked in a dungeon and condemned to starve to death. Her daughter, who had just become a mother, asked the guards to let her enter the jail to make a last consolation. They let her go, and there, she gave his father the milk from her breast. Deriades, when he learnt the daughter's piety, decided to release his enemy. This topic is similar to the one of Roman Charity. Below is the English translation (by W.H.D ROUSE, Litt.D.)

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Tectaphos & Eérié

DIONYSIACA, XXVI. 99-127

Farshooter Tectaphos came to the war. Once he had been saved from fate by sucking the milk from a daughter's breast with starving lips — she devised this trick to nourish her father — Tectaphos, parched, with crumbling skin, a living corpse."

Deriades the monarch had carried out a heartless threat, and bound him fast with twisted ropes, and held him a prisoner behind lock and key in a mouldy pit, unfed, unwashed, worn out with famine, without his part in the sun or the rounded moon. There lay the man fettered in the depths of the earth, with no drink, no food, seeing no man, there in a cavern dug deep under the soil he lay in agony.

Long he was wasted by famine, breathing yet Uke those who breathe not, as the air passed weak and fluttering through his hungry Ups ; ugly whiffs came from his dry flesh as if he were a corpse. There was a band of jailers watching the imprisoned man, but his clever daughter outwitted them with delusive words, a young nursing mother, when she uttered a mournful appeal and shook her deceiving garments :

" Do not let me die, watchmen ! I have nothing here, I have brought no drink and no food for my father ! Tears, only tears I bring for him that begat me ! My empty hands tell you that ! If you do not believe me, if you do not believe, undo my innocent girdle, tear off my veil, shake my dress — I have brought no drink to save his life !"

To show she had nothing hidden from them. Here are the words used with the Roman customs officers :

DIONYSIACA, XXVI. 128-154 "

Throw me up too with my father in the deep pit. I am nothing for you to fear, nothing, even if the king hears of it. Who is angry with one who pities a corpse ? Who is angry with one dying a cruel death ? Who does not pity the dead ? I will close my father's sinking eyes. Shut me up there : who grudges death ? Let us die together, and let one tomb receive daughter and father ! "

By pleading won them. The girl ran into the den, bringing light for her father's darkness. In that pit, she let the milk of her breast flow into her father's mouth, to avert his destruction, and felt no fear. Deriades marvelled to hear the pious deed of Eerie. He set free the clever girl's father from his prison, like a ghost ; the fame of it was noised abroad, and the Indian people praised the girl's breast which had saved a life by its cunning.

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