Herd immunity

As the UK’s ‘herd immunity’ approach to the coronavirus crisis has proven to be somewhat of a debacle, I would like to share how the farmer Sagaris protected his herd during an epidemic.

His story is recorded in a Greek verse inscription from Apollonia Mordiaion, datable to A. D. 162, i. e. around, or just before, the period of the so-called Antonine plague.

The text reads as follows (SGO 12/62/01):

ἔτους ζμσ’
γειαρότας δοιοὺς τούσδ’ ἐθέμην Σάγαρις
ἀντὶ βοῶν ζώντων τοὺς Δοκιμεῖς ἀρότας,
οὓς ἐσάωσε θεὸς ὅτε βούβρωστις κατὰ γαῖαν
σαρκοβόρος δεινή τε φόνον βρείθουσα ἄλυκτ[ον]
κόσμον ἐπέσχετο πάντα· ἐμοὶ φύγον έ(κ) καμάτ[οιο]
ἐργατιναί καλοὶ ξανθοί γαίης ἀροτήρες·
καὶ βόας ἐρρύσω ψυχὰς δὲ βροτῶν ἐσάωσ[ας]
καὶ Γαλατῶν γαίης ἤγαγες ες πατρίδα,
υὗά τ’ ἐμὸν κύδηνας ἐνὶ Τρόκμοις ζαθέοισι·
τούνεκεν οὐ μέγα δῶρον ἐγὼ τὸν βωμὸν ἔθηκα·
τίς γὰρ δῶρον ἄνακτι θεῶν ἀντάξιον εὕροι;

In translation:

In the year 247 (of the Sullan era, i. e. A. D. 162).
I, Sagaris, have placed these two soil-ploughers, ploughers made of Docimene marble, instead of the live oxen, that God (= Zeus) saved when a terrible, flesh-destroying adversity that brought inescapable, heavy murder with it, held the entire world in its grip. But my blonde workers, the soil-ploughers, escaped the suffering; you (sc. God) have saved the oxen, saved the souls of mortals, and have led them to their homes, the land of the Galatians. You gave honour to my son with the sacred Trocmi. That is why I erected this altar, a humble gift: for who could find a gift worthy enough of the ruler of gods?

Stay safe, people. Learn from Sagaris. Distancing and self-isolation help to tackle the crisis. #WWSD (What Would Sagaris Do!)

And if you would like to read more about epidemic diseases in the Roman verse inscriptions, have a look at my recent MAPPOLA project post.

About Peter Kruschwitz

Berliner. Classicist. Scatterbrain.
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