Tales From Herodotus VII. Story of Euenius

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Translated from Greek

a) He neglects the sacred sheep of Apollonia, and is punished with blindness by his fellow citizens.

There are sheep in Apollonia sacred to the sun, which feed along a certain river during the day, and at night chosen men guard them, those of the townsmen most highly-placed with respect to wealth and birth; for truly, the Apollonians value these sheep highly, due to a certain prophecy; and they camp out in a cave far away from the city. And so, at this time, Euenius was chosen to guard them.

One time, after Euenius went to sleep, wolves came into the cave and killed about sixty of the sheep. When he discovered this, he kept silent and told no one, for he had in mind to substitute others that he would purchase. But these events did not escape the notice of the Apollonians, and when they learned of it, they brought him to trial at the courthouse, and they condemned him to be deprived of his sight.

b) The gods declare that the punishment is excessive, and that Euenius must be given whatever compensation he chooses to claim.

When they had blinded Euenius, immediately thereupon, neither did the sheep bear them any young, nor likewise did the earth bear fruit. And to those who inquired, both at Dodona* and at Delphi, the gods explained the cause of the present misfortune as follows, “Unjustly was Euenius, the guard of the sacred sheep, deprived of his sight. For we ourselves incited the wolves, and only when you give the compensation which he chooses and considers just shall we cease taking vengeance for that man, and no sooner. And once this is done, we ourselves shall give Euenius a gift of the sort which many men will consider him blessed for possessing.”

c) The Apolloniates trick Euenius into making only a moderate demand. The gods bestow in addition the gift of prophecy.

The Apollonians kept these oracles a secret, and assigned them to certain townsmen to be carried out; and they accomplished this for them as follows: they came upon Euenius sitting down and they sat next to him, and they pondered over other matters until finally coming ’round to sympathizing with his plight. Leading him on in this way, they asked him what compensation he might choose, should the Apollonians undertake to give compensation for what they did. He had not heard the prophecy, and so he said that if certain fields were given to him, those being the finest of any in Apollonia, and in addition to them, a house which he knew to be the finest of any in the city, he would no longer bear resentment, and this compensation would be sufficient. He said these things, and those sitting beside him replied, saying, “Euenius, for blinding you, the Apollonians will pay this compensation, in accordance with the prophecy that was given.”

He was indignant in response to this, after he learned the whole story, that he had been cheated; but they gave him what he had chosen. But immediately after that, he possessed an innate gift of prophesy, and so he became famous.

* Dodona, “a town in the mountains of Epirus in northwest Greece. It was famous as the seat of an ancient and venerable oracle of Zeus.” — Farnell & Goff, pg. 153

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