Life of Cleomenes


After Cleomenese of Sparta had fled to Egypt and there died by his own orders, Ptolemy, fearing an insurrection, wished to dishonour the king’s body and ordered it to be impaled and hung up. A few days after, those who were guarding the impaled body saw a huge snake (drakonta) wound about the head and hiding the face so that no bird of prey should light on it. Thereupon a superstitious fear fell on the king and such a dread that it started the women on various purification ceremonies, inasmch as a man had been put to death who was dear to the gods and of more than mortal nature. The Alexandrians came thronging to the place and saluted Cleomenes as a hero and the child of the gods, till the learned men put a stop to it by explaining that as oxen when they putrefy breed bees, and horses wasps, and beetles come to life from decaying asses, so human carcasses when some of the juices about the marrow congeal and thicken substantially give rise to serpents. And it was because they knew this that the men of old time associated the snake more than any other animal with heroes. — 34


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