Friday, November 18, 2011

Misplaced Thoughts

I must decide this suit by ruddle* and square, Cyrnus, and be fair to both parties, [on the one side ...] and on the other prophets and omens and burnt-offerings, or else I shall bear the foul reproach of wrong-doing.
- Theognis of Megara (543-546)

*A rope dripping with ruddle (red ochre), used to sweep in loiterers from the Agora.

Several means were used to force citizens to attend the assemblies; the shops were closed, circulation was only permitted in those streets which led to the Pnyx; finally a rope covered with vermilion was drawn around those who dallied in the Agora (marketplace), and late-comers, ear-marked by the imprint of the rope, were fined.

A body of whippers-in was literally necessary to bring the people up to the discharge of their legislative duties. It was the business of several officers, six in number, to furnish their servants with a rope, coloured with red ochre, and send them in amongst the knots of idlers, such as bore the marks of their scourge being subjected to a fine (not improbably the loss of their legislative gratuity).

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