A ghost story (from Phlegon): Bouplagos stood up from among the dead (Bou!)

Citation with stable link: Philip A. Harland, 'A ghost story (from Phlegon): Bouplagos stood up from among the dead (Bou!),' Ethnic Relations and Migration in the Ancient World, last modified February 11, 2023, https://philipharland.com/Blog/?p=26.

Earlier I have discussed paradoxography and the second century author Phlegon, who wrote a Book of Marvels (see other entries in the ethnography sub-category ). What better day to share one of his ghost stories — with a message from beyond the grave — than today (in between giving out candy to little ghouls):

“There was a certain Bouplagos, a cavalry commander from Syria who had been held in high esteem by King Antiochos and had fallen after fighting nobly. At midday while the Romans were gathering all the enemy’s arms, Bouplagos stood up from among the dead, though he had twelve wounds, and went to the Roman camp where he proclaimed in a soft voice the following verses:

‘Stop despoiling an army gone to the land of Hades,
For already Zeus Kronides is angry beholding your ill deeds,
Wrothful at the slaughter of an army and at your doings, and
Will send a bold-hearted tribe against your land
That will put an end to your rule, and you will pay for what you have wrought’

Shaken by this utterance the [Roman] generals quickly convened the multitude and deliberated about the ghost. They decided to cremate and bury Bouplagos (who had expired immediately after his utterance), purify the camp, perform a sacrifice to Zeus Apotropaios and send a delegation to [the oracle at] Delphi to ask the god what they should do.”

Apollo’s oracle at Delphi, it is said, replied as follows:

“Restrain yourself now, Roman, and let justice abide with you,
Lest Pallas [Athena] stir up a much greater Ares [god of war] against you,
And make desolate your market-places, and you, fool, for all your effort,
Lose much wealth before reaching your land”
(Book of Marvels 3.4-6; trans. by Hansen, pp.32-33, as cited in full here).

For a medieval story appropriate to the season (about a demon), go here.

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