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Little Piggies Go to Market
In Response To: Serve No Swine, Until Its Time ()

I've been thinking some more about this Gospel story of the demoniac of Gadara. The subtlety and sophistication is remarkable. To the naive reader, Jesus is acting as a holy man within the Jewish tradition by casting demons out of an afflicted son of Jacob and sending those demons into animals that are unclean according to the Laws of Moses, and therefore don't belong in Israel anyway. However, for the Hellenistic reader, this story is mocking both Judaism and Jesus. Jesus is being equated to the mythological swineherd Eubulus, a servant of the Mother Goddess (Demeter). The story is also predicting (in retrospect) that the land of Israel was to be renewed by the slaughter of its inhabitants, including Jews.

One of the commentaries on this Biblical passage suggests that Gadara was a play on the Greek place name of Megara in Greece. Megara was a region ravaged by Athens in its war of independence. By association, the ravaging of Gadara and Israel is in general being blamed on Jewish revolutionaries. That is, accountability is being shifted from Rome (Vespatian and Titus) to the independence-minded Jews themselves.

Plutarch (Persia 28) wrote that in the days after the Athenian revolt against Persia, Pericles was upbraided by Elpinice sister of Cimon: "You have thrown away the lives of these brave citizens of ours, not in a war against the Persians or the Phoenicians, such as my brother Cimon fought, but in destroying a Greek city [referring to Samos] which is one of our allies."

In the play "The Acharnians" by Aristophanes, the destitution of Megara, another wasteland created by Athens, is a leading theme. In the play, a poor man from Megara travels to Athens in order to sell his two daughters rather than watch them starve to death in their war-torn homeland. It takes all of his country charm to essentially give them away (for a bunch of salt and garlic) at the newly reestablished Athenian marketplace. The father of the girls passes them off as piglets to be sacrificed to Aphrodite (rather than to Demeter).

The man who buys the young girls, Dicaeopolis ("righteous city"), is the leader of the anti-war movement and organizer of the "free market" in Athens. His principles do not restrain him from accepting the girls as his sex-slaves. He also drives off the Athenian official who tries to prevent the illegal/unethical transaction.

We see in this work much of the same ambivalence (by the ruling elite) toward human suffering that is found in the Gospel account of the demoniac of Gadara.

http://www.greektexts.com/library/Aristophanes/Acharnians/eng/14.html
http://classics.mit.edu/Aristophanes/acharnians.html
http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/cgi-bin/ptext?doc=Perseus%3Atext%3A1999.01.0240
http://www.theatrehistory.com/ancient/bates024.html

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