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Pollution of Homicide in Ancient Greece

By 晃司 平山


この論文は国立情報学研究所の学術雑誌公開支援事業により電子化されました。One of the striking differences between Homer and early Attic tragedy is that the former lacks fear of pollution, while it is repeatedly emphasised in the latter. Some scholars have argued that this difference is caused by compositional necessity, that is, the epic poets chose to exclude from the world they depicted what the tragic poets exploited for dramatic effect. As far as pollution of homicide is concerned, however, this view is unacceptable. Rather, the difference in attitude between epic and tragedy should be viewed as reflecting an actual change in social attitudes. It is because pollution was believed to be infectious that it was feared. There is no trace of such a belief in Homer, but the germ of it does exist. It is the idea that when the order of the whole community is marred by an offence of one member of it, the pollution incurred by the offence contaminates the whole community. On the basis of this idea, it can be said that as the prerequisite for the belief that pollution of homicide is infectious, homicide must be regarded as an evil deed that mars the order of the whole community, and this is far from the case in the society depicted in Homer. Therefore the belief in infectious pollution brought about by bloodshed did not exist in the society whose conditions were reflected in "the World of Odysseus." In the Greek society of very ancient times, some aspects of which we can see in the Homeric epics, there was the practice of blood vengeance, and the murderer, in order to escape being killed by the victim's family, had to pay blood money (wergild) to them or flee to another country. But in somewhat later times this practice was restricted by the community and, as the polis developed and the power was concentrated, this restriction was reinforced and the practice of blood vengeance gradually declined. What caused this change was the tendency to regard homicide as a great menace to peace and order in society, and as this tendency grew, the belief that pollution of homicide is infectious was shaped little by little. This belief functioned as a maintainer of order in early polis society. Murderers were banished because of their pollution. The banishment of a murderer was a "purification, " or a ritual for restoring the order of society that had been marred by the act of homicide, rather than a form of punishment. When the social structure of the polis became complex as a result of its further development, the belief in pollution of homicide contaminating the whole society ceased to function properly, and the judicial system emerged to take the place of it. Thereafter murderers were judged and punished in accordance with the law. Nevertheless, the belief did not entirely lose its function ; it continued to play the role of religious sanction as, so to speak, a parasite on the law. A good example of this is given in Athenian homicide law. There were provisions whose aim was to protect the polis from being contaminated by the pollution of a murderer : if a murderer was found in places where he was forbidden to go, or within Attic territory after he had been sentenced to exile, he might be arrested or even killed with impunity by anyone who wished. Such provisions became a mere name when the judicial system was fully established ; but their existence was still significant for the family of the deceased, for they enabled them to take revenge upon the murderer with their own hands. All this reveals that the system of Athenian homicide litigation was not so much a maintainer of social order as a means for the bereaved to avenge the dead without marring the order of society

Topics: 902.03
Publisher: 京都大学西洋古典研究会
Year: 1998
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