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[7]

After that Peleus, with Jason and the Dioscuri, laid waste Iolcus; and he slaughtered Astydamia, wife of Acastus, and, having divided her limb from limb, he led the army through her into the city.1


1 As to the wicked behaviour of Astydamia to Peleus, see above, Apollod. 3.13.3. But it is probable that the cutting of the bad woman in pieces and marching between the pieces into the city was more than a simple act of vengeance; it may have been a solemn sacrifice or purification designed to ensure the safety of the army in the midst of a hostile people. In Boeotia a form of public purification was to cut a dog in two and pass between the pieces. See Plut. Quaest. Rom. 111. A similar rite was observed at purifying a Macedonian army. A dog was cut in two: the head and fore part were placed on the right, the hinder part, with the entrails, was placed on the left, and the troops in arms marched between the pieces. See Livy xli.6; Quintus Curtius, De gestis Alexandri Magni x.9.28. For more examples of similar rites, and an attempt to explain them, see Folk-Lore in the Old Testament, i.391ff. To the instances there cited may be added another. When the Algerine pirates were at sea and in extreme danger, it was their custom to sacrifice a sheep, cut off its head, extract its entrails, and then throw them, together with the head, overboard; afterwards “with all the speed they can (without skinning) they cut the body in two parts by the middle, and then throw one part over the right side of the ship, and the other over the left, into the sea, as a kind of propitiation.” See Joseph Pitts, A true and faithful Account of the Religion and Manners of the Mohammetans (Exon. 1704), p. 14. As to the capture of Iolcus by Peleus, see Pind. N. 3.34(59); Pind. N. 4.54(89)ff. In the former of these passages Pindar says that Peleus captured Iolcus single-handed; but the Scholiast on the passage affirms, on the authority of Pherecydes, that he was accompanied by Jason and the Tyndarids (Castor and Pollux). As this statement tallies with the account given by Apollodorus, we may surmise that here, as often elsewhere, our author followed Pherecydes. According to the Scholiast on Ap. Rhod., Argon. i.224, Peleus on his return to Iolcus put to death Acastus himself as well as his wicked wife.

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