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Stigma: Tattooing and Branding in Graeco-Roman Antiquity*

  • C. P. Jones (a1)
Extract

One of the best episodes in Petronius' Satyrica involves the presence of the narrator, Encolpius, his lover Giton, and the rogue-poet Eumolpus, on board a ship owned by Lichas, of which another passenger is the flighty matron, Tryphaena. In an earlier episode of the novel, Lichas seems to have been the lover of Encolpius and Tryphaena of Giton, though both affairs had ended in enmity. There ensues a comic deliberation between Encolpius and Giton about ways of escape. One of them involves the ink which Eumolpus has brought aboard as a man of literature. Encolpius suggests that he and Giton dye themselves with it from head to foot and pretend to be Eumolpus' Ethiopian (that is, African) slaves. Giton contemptuously dismisses the idea, and proposes suicide. Eumolpus intervenes with what he considers a better idea. His manservant, who is a barber, will shave the heads and eyebrows of Encolpius and Giton, and then he himself 'will mark your faces with an elaborate inscription to give the impression that you have been punished with a mark. That way the same letters will both allay the suspicions of your pursuers and hide your faces with the appearance of punishment' ('sequar ego frontes notans inscriptione sollerti, ut uideamini stigmate esse puniti. ita eaedem litterae et suspicionem declinabunt quaerentium et uultus umbra supplicii tegent'). This is agreed to, and 'Eumolpus filled the foreheads of us both with huge letters, and with generous hand covered our whole faces with the wellknown inscription of runaway slaves' ('impleuit Eumolpus frontes utriusque ingentibus litteris et notum fugitiuorum epigramma per totam faciem liberali manu duxit').

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1 Petr. 103. 1–5, 105. 11–106. 1. I follow the latest text of K. Müller (1978); his editorial decisions do not affect the present question. I begin with this passage since it was while teaching it that I was led into the present investigation; I am grateful to Christopher Brown and Bruce Speyer for lively discussion.

2 Thus ‘la flétrissure du fer’, Ernout in the Budé, ‘Brandmal’, Ehlers in the Heimeran.

3 Ov., Am. 1. 14. 25, referring to Corinna's hair, ‘quam se praebuerunt ferro patienter et igni’, might be compared; ‘ferrum et ignis’ (‘fire and the sword’) are usually the instruments of devastation, cf. OLD s.v. ferrum, but playing the indignant lover Ovid applies them to his mistress's curling-irons. It may be noted that P. Burmann in his commentary (second edition, Amsterdam 1743) 2. 197 col. i (‘litteris notisque per totam faciem puncti’) and 201 col. ii, where he cites Scribonius Largus 231 on the removal of stigmata, seems to have understood Petronius to be talking about tattooing.

4 Herod. 5. 657ndash; 7, 77–9. So understood by one of the first exegetes of Herodas: Crusius, O., Untersuchungen zu … Herondas (1892), 111–12. The commentary of Headlam-Knox, though full of valuable material, is confused, taking 1. 66 to refer to tattooing, 1. 79 to refer to branding, and 1. 67 apparently to both processes. I. C. Cunningham's notes ad locc. (Herodas, Mimiambi (1971)), however, are correct and consistent.

5 The New Catholic Encyclopaedia 13 (1967), 711.

6 Quoted by Perdrizet (1911), 113. On de Thévenot, who is also supposed to have introduced the use of coffee into France, Encyclopaedia Britannica (Eleventh Edition), s.v. Scutt and Gotch (1974), 27, cite a very similar account by the Prussian Otto Friedrich von der Gröben, who visited Jerusalem in 1675.

7 For modern practice the most helpful discussion I have seen is that of Scutt and Gotch (1974).

8 Oxford English Dictionary, s.v. Tattoo sb 2

9 Perdrizet (1911), 64.

10 Petr. 102. 15. Cf. Snowden, Frank M. Jr., Blacks in Antiquity (1970), 22–3, though his own fig. 3 shows that it is wrong to interpret Petronius' frontes as ‘foreheads’.

11 Luc, Nigr. 27. Andrew J. Clark of the Metropolitan Museum, New York, has drawn to my attention a number of Attic black-figure vases, all by painters in the Leagrus group, in which male figures are shown with incised marks (e.g. London B 497, Beazley, ABV 377 no. 243); perhaps these should be interpreted as a badge of ‘machoism’.

12 See below, at n. 94.

13 Hes., Sc. 166.

14 Thus Suda Σ 1104, i Στίγματα. πληγαί, τραύματα. ἠποικίλματα.

15 Aet. 8. 12 (Corpus Medicorum Graecorum 8. 2, ed. Olivieri, A. (1950), pp. 417–18).

16 I give Greek examples only; it should be noted that the Latin frons is ambiguous, since it can mean both ‘face’ and ‘forehead’ (cf. e.g. Petr. 103. 2 and 103. 4). Face: Bion Borysth., fr. 1 A Kindstrand (Diog. Laert. 4. 46). Forehead (a selection only): IG IV2 1. 121. 48 (Syll. 3 1168), Plut., Per. 26. 4, Nic. 29. 2, Porph., V. Pyth. 15. Top of the head: Hdt. 5. 35. 3, PSorb. 2254. 4 (κορυφΟι); I notice in ‘Tattoos: the picture changes’, Toronto Globe & Mail, 29 March 1984, ‘Where is the most unusual spot Mr. Glover has ever placed a tattoo? “Right on top of the head. It was a Canadian flag and this guy was the classic skinhead”.

17 Cod. Theod. 9. 40. 2 = Cod. Iust. 9. 47. 17 (arms also in Call. fr. 203. 56 Pfeiffer); Cod. Theod. 10. 22. 4; Luc, Syr. D. 59.

18 Herod. 4. 51. A reference to branding is preferred by Headlam-Knox and Cunningham.

19 Hermog., Stat. p. 90 Rabe, p. 67 Kowalski.

20 Aet., ibid, (above, n. 15).

21 Dsc., Mat. Med. 2. 175. 2, Pliny, NH 25. 173, Galen, De Simpl. 6. 2. 5 (XI 849 K., where Kühn'stranslation is in error). Other remedies in Dsc., De Simpl. 110 (116), Scr. Largus, Comp. 231, Pliny, NH 25. 175, 26. 22, Galen, De Rem. parabil. 2. 5. 13 (XIV 420 K.).

22 Scr. Largus, Comp. 231. Cf. Mart. 6. 64. 26(‘stigmata nec uafra delebit Cinnamus arte’); 10. 56. 6(‘tristia seruorum stigmata delet Eros’).

23 IG IV2 1. 121. 48–54, 54–68 (SIG 3 1168). For discussion, O. Weinreich, Antike Heilungswunder, Religionsgesch. Vers. u. Vorarb. 8. 1 (1909), 90, 96 n. 2; Perdrizet (1911).

24 Porph., V. Pyth. 15; cf. Mart. 2. 29. 9–10, a poseur who used plasters (splenia) to conceal his stigmata (though this may refer to the after-effects of a surgical operation). Hair over brow: Diphilus fr. 66. 7–8 K., Liban. 25. 21 (2. 546 F.).

25 Bianchi, Richard S. in Lexikon der Ägyptologie 6(1985), 145–6. Cf. de Thévenot's reference to a ‘littlestick with two needles’, above, at n. 6.

26 Lev. 19. 28; I am grateful to Glen Bowersock for information about the Hebrew, and to Ranon Katzoff for help with this and related texts. For the Rabbinic interpretation, Encyclopaedia Judaica, s.v. Tattoo. Cf. Dölger (1929), 197–201; Betz (1964), 660–1.

27 Isaiah 44. 5.

28 Hdt. 2. 113. 1. Thus understood by Headlam-Knox on Herod. 5. 66; see especially Dölger (1932), 257–8.

29 PPar. 10. 8–9; Wilcken, UPZ 121, establishing the reading δυσίν and giving this explanation.

30 Luc, Syr. D. 59.

31 Perdrizet (1911), 109.

32 The credit for adducing the evidence of vases is due to Wolters (1903), esp. 268; like other early students of the subject, however, he took the word stigma when applied to Greeks to refer to branding. On the vases the fundamental study is now Zimmermann (1980).

33 A superb plate in Graef, B. et al. , Die Antiken Vasenvon der Akropolis zu Athen 2. 1 (1929), pl. 36; Zimmermann (1980), 177 with pl. 13.

34 Powell, Coll. Alex. Phanocles fr. 1. 25–9: Powell adduces Plut., De sera num. vind. 557D, οὐδὲ γὰρ θρᾷκας έπαιυῦμευ, δτι στίζουσιυ ἄχρι νῦν τὰς ἑαυτῶν γυναῖκας.

35 Anth. Pal. 7. 10. 1–3.

36 Athen. 12. 524D-E = Clearchus fr. 46 Wehrli (Schule des Aristoteles 32 (1969)).

37 Lys. 13. 19; for this interpretation, Crusius (1903) and Wolters (1903), both arguing against Dittenberger, W., Hermes 37 (1902), 298301, who took Lysias to refer to branding; other evidence for the tattooing of Thracian males in Wolters, 273.

38 Hdt. 5. 6. 2.

39 Diels, Vors. 6 2. 408, Robinson, p. 108.

40 Plut., De sera num. vind. 557D (above, n. 34); Dio Chrys. 14. 19; Artemid. 1. 8; cf. Sext. Emp., Pyrrh. 3. 202 (Sarmatians and Egyptians).

41 Xen., Anab. 5. 4. 32; Str. 7. 5. 4 (C 315); Hdn. 3.14. 7.

42 Hdt. 5. 35. For tattooing in this place, see above, n. 16.

43 Polyaen., Str. 1. 24; Niceph. Our. 116; note also A. Gell. 17. 9. 22, ‘caput eius leue in litterarum formascompungit’. On all this, see the excellent discussion of J.-A. de Foucault, REG 80 (1967), 182–6.

44 Hdt. 7. 35; Suda Σ 1103 (below, at. n. 108); Macan, R. W., Herodotus: The Seventh, Eighth and Nin the Books 1. 1 (1908), 49. Branding is understood by How and Wells, and also in the Loeb and Budé translations.

45 Hdt. 7. 233. 2; Macan (previous n.), 342, citing Plut., Per. 26. 4, Nic. 29. 2, De Her. malig. 866F–867B; on the first two see below, at nn. 66 and 69, and throughout the third Plutarch uses ΣΤιζω and ΣΤιγμΑΤΑ in discussing the present passage of Herodotus.

46 Asius: Athen. 3. 125D (West, , Iambi et Elegi Graeci 2. 46; Gentili-Prato, Poetae Elegiaci 1. 129); for Asiuson Samian luxury, Athen. 12. 525F (Kinkel, Ep. Gr.Fr. 206 fr. 13). I am grateful to Christopher Brown for advice about this poet.

47 Vienna 3722; Beazley, ARV 2 11 no. 3; CVA öster-reich, Wien, p. 51; J. Frel, γΕρΑΣ: Studies presented to George Thomson, Graecolatina Pragensia 2 (1963), 95–8 with pl. I; Enc. dell' Arte Antica 1. 66, pl. 101. On the chest of Cypselus, Paus. 5. 18. 2 (cf. H. Stuart-Jones, JHS 14 (1894), 69).

48 Eup. 259 K. So interpreted by Headlam-Knox on Herod. 5. 67.

49 Ar., Av. 760–1.

50 Ar., Ran. 1508–14. Cf. Plut., De cohib. Ira 463 B, calling ΣΤῖγμΑΤΑ and φέδΑι marks of a master's harshness.

51 Men., Sam. 321–4 (106–9), cf. 654–7 (309–12).

52 Ar., Vesp. 1296, with the discussion of Gomme and Sandbach on Men., Sam. 323.

53 Ar. fr. 71 Kassel-Austin; Pl, Cas. 401; on both passages see below.

54 PLille 29 i 13–14, ii 33–6, with improvements and discussion in Mitteis, Chrestomathie, pp. 277–9 and no. 369, P. Meyer, Juristische Papyri (1920), no. 71; on this document see also Pavlovskaya, A. I. in Blavatskaya, T. V.. et al., Die Sklaverei in hellenistischen Staaten im 3–1. Jh. v. Chr. (1972), 185–99.

55 For criminals, however, it is first attested in Plato: see below, at n. 58.

56 D.L. 4. 46; cf. ‘totam faciem’ in Petr. 103. 4. In favour of branding, Kindstrand, J. F., Bion of Borysthenes (1976), 179–80.

57 Σ Aesch. 2. 83.

58 Pl., Leg. 854D.

59 Suet., Cal. 27. 3. For nota of tattoo-marks cf. Cic., Off. 2. 25, ‘compunctum Thraciis notis’.

60 Cod. Theod. 9. 40. 2 = Cod. Iust. 9. 47. 17. On this constitution, and for tattooing as the correct interpretation, F. Millar, PBSR 52 (1984), 128.

61 Zon. 3. 409 Dind.; Perdrizet (1911), 82 n. 1, 83 n. 1.

62 Burroughs, P., English Historical Review 100 (1985), 570.

63 Petr. 105. 11; Scr. Larg. 231; Quint. 7. 4. 14.

64 Veg. 1. 8; 2. 5.

65 Cod. Theod. 10. 22. 4.

66 Plut., Per. 26. 4. For the other sources (especially Phot., Lex. s.v. Σαμίων ὁ δῆμος = Douris, FgrHist 76 F 66) see Kassel and Austin, PCG 3. 2 (Aristophanes) fr. 71.

67 Hesych. s.v.ΣΑμίων ὁδΟμος. Cf. Apuleius' description of slaves or convicts in a mill (Met. 9. 12. 4),‘frontes litterati et capillum semirasi et pedes anulati’.

68 This was the conclusion of Crusius (1903), 127(though in n. 7 he refers to branding); branding is assumed by Wolters (1903), 265–6.

69 Plut., Nic. 29. 2.

70 Vitr. 2. 8. 15, cf. Perdrizet (1911), 72 n. 2. On the problem of this story's authenticity, see now Hornblower, S., Mausolus (1982), 129.

71 Arist. 47. 9.

72 Psorb. 2254: see now Lloyd-Jones, H. and Parsons, P. J., Supplementum Hellenisticum, Texte und Kommentare II (1983), 478–81 no. 970. I am very grateful to Hugh Lloyd-Jones for drawing this passage to my attention and discussing both it and Callimachus(next n.) with me.

73 Call., Iamb. XIII, fr. 203. 55−6 Pfeiffer.

74 Suet., Iul. 73; Socr., Hist. Eccl. 3. 17 (Migne, PG 67. 425B).

75 Arist. 3. 651 (p. 507. 6–8 Behr): cf. 3. 392 (p. 428.10 Behr), where Pericles addresses Plato: ‘take us and tattoo us (στίξον λαβώνν) and be a Dionysius to us rather than a Plato’ the implication is that Dionysius tattooed Plato during his notorious captivity, though this does not seem otherwise attested.

76 Gal. 6. 17, with the discussion of Betz (1964),662−3; the New English Bible translates ‘the marks of Jesus branded on my body’.

77 Rev. 17. 5.

78 Eggebrecht, A., Lexikon der Agyptologie 1 (1975), 850–1.

79 Oxen or sheep may be meant in a law of Ios referring to the branding (κΑῦΣΑι) of sacred animals, Sokolowski, F., Lois Sacrées des cités grecques (1969), no. 105. 3.

80 K. Braun, MDAI(A) 85 (1970), 260 with PI. 92. 1.

81 Braun (previous n.), 256–67, with a very full discussion of brand-marks in art; Kroll, J. H., Hesperia 46 (1977), 83140; J.and L. Robert, Bull, épigr. 1978. 162, 163.

82 This point is clearly brought out by Dölger (1932),25–61; among the authors he cites are Str. 5. 1. 9 (C 215) and Plut., Degen. Socr. 593B. For the evolution of the word χΑρΑκΤήρ in its ethical sense, Körte, A., Hermes 64 (1929), 6886.

83 Dio Chrys. 14. 18–24. For the association of tattooing with fetters and the mill, see above, n. 67.

84 Sammelbuch 6. 9640; other references in Dölger(1932), 28−9. Betz (1964), 658. 10, cites BGU 2. 469.3–7 for stigma applied to a brand: but the document concerns a camel stamped (κεχαραγμένον) with a σῖμμα or σῖγμα, that is, the letter sigma.

85 Phot., Lex. s.v. See below, at nn. 107–9.

86 Driver, G. R. and Miles, G. C., The Babylonian Laws (1968) 1. 306–9.

87 J. Cerný in Phibeh 2, p. 99; Helck, W., Lexikon der Ägyptologie 3 (1977), 786–8.

88 Phibeh 2 no. 198. 86–7, with the excellent discussion of M.-T. Lenger; L. Casson, TAPA 97 (1966),40–1, argues that these are not slaves but conscripts.

89 See below, at n. 101.

90 Eup. 318 K. On the scene in Lucian see below, at n. 103.

91 III Macc. 2. 29, Plut., De adul. et amico 56E, Et. Magn. s.v.γάλλος, with the discussion of Dölger (1930), 103−4.

92 Philo, De spec. leg. 1. 58 (vol. 24, p. 44 of the Budé ed., in which Dölger's discussion is not noticed); Dölger (1930), 101 n. 2, pointing to Mitteis, Chrestomathie, nos. 267–72.

93 Luc, Peregr. 28, with the discussion of Dölger(1929), 70.

94 Carpocratians: sources in Dölger (1929), 73–8.Worshippers of Cybele: Prud., Perist. 10. 1076–90, on which see Dölger (1929), 66–72.

95 Pl., Aul. 325−6 (the three letters are obviously FVR), Cos. 397, 401.

96 Cic, Rose. Amer. 57. For the usual explanation, G. Humbert, Daremberg-Saglio s.v. Calumnia, 1. 853 with n. 18; cf. Perdrizet (1911), 89.

97 Juv. 14. 24, Apul., Met. 9. 12. 4 (above, n. 67).

98 OLD, inuro 3; Cic., Fam. 1.9. 15, with Shackleton Bailey's discussion.

99 Burroughs, loc. cit. (above, n. 62).

100 Val. Max. 6. 8. 7; Mart. 3. 21; Cass. Dio 47. 10.4–5; Macr., Sat. 1. 11. 19–20.

101 Curt. Ruf. 5.5.6.

102 D.S. 34/35. 2. 1, 2. 27, 2. 32, 2. 36.

103 Luc., Pise. 46, cf. 47, 52. For the possibility of a scene of farcical branding in Eupolis, above, at n. 90.

104 Luc., Catapl. 24–8; the inspiration for this passage is of course Pl., Gorg. 524E. In a similar imitation of it, Plutarch talks of a person in the underworld ‘full of marks and scars (στιγμάτων καὶ οὐλῶν μεστόν)’, De sera num. uind. 566E.

105 I discount Diodorus and, for a different reason, Lucian.

106 Robert, L., Les Gladiateurs dans l'Orient grec (1940), 239–63.

107 Above, at nn. 26, 43, 57.

108 Suda Σ. 1103, 1104.

109 Corp. Gloss, Lat. 7. 294 s.v. Stigma.

110 Thus Johnson's Dictionary s.v.: ‘1. A brand; a mark with a hot iron. 2. A mark of infamy’; the OED: ‘I. A mark made upon the skin by burning with a hot iron (rarely, by cutting or pricking), as a token of infamy or subjection; a brand. 2. fig. A mark of disgrace or infamy’.

* I am grateful to many people for their help, comments and references, especially to those who heard a version of this paper given at Columbia University (as a University Seminar on Classical Civilization), at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and at the University of Toronto, to the Editorial Committee of the Journal, and to Glen Bowersock for general encouragement and advice; some particular debts are acknowledged in the notes below. For translations of the Bible I use The New Oxford Annotated Bible (Revised Standard Version) (New York, 1977). In translating I have used ‘mark’ as the equivalent of στίγμα where there seems genuine uncertainty, but otherwise ‘tattoo’. For abbreviations I follow the practice of Liddell-Scott-Jones and the Oxford Latin Dictionary, but I have also used the following special ones: Crusius (1903) = O. Crusius, ‘Kleinigkeiten zur alten Sprach- und Kulturgeschichte 1: ΕΛΑΦΟΣΤΙΚΤΟΣ. ΛΑΓΟΒΙΟΣ’, Philologus 62 (1903), 125–32 Wolters (1903) = P. Wolters, ‘έλαφόοτικτοσ’, Hermes 38 (1903), 265–73 Perdrizet (1911) = P. Perdrizet, ‘La miraculeuse his-toire de Pandare et d'Echédore, suivie de recherches sur la marque dans l'Antiquité’, Archiv für Religionswissenschaft 14 (1911), 54–129

Dölger (1919), (1930), (1932) = F.-J. Dölger, Antike und Christentum 12 (1929), 2 (1930), 3 (1932) Betz (1964) = 0. Betz, art. στίγμα, in Theologisches Wörterbuch zum Neuen Testament 7. 657–64 Scutt and Gotch (1974) = R. Scutt and C. Gotch, Skin Deep: The Mystery of Tattooing (1974) Zimmermann (1980) = K. Zimmermann, ‘Tätowierte Thrakerinnen auf griechischen Vasenbildern’, JDAI 95 (1980), 163–96.

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