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μύδρους, lumps of red-hot iron. “μύδρος”=a molten mass, from rt “μυδ”, whence “μύδος”, ‘moisture,’ “μυδάω”, etc. Cyril Adv. Iulian. 359 quotes this verse, after referring to a Chaldean custom of making an oath more solemn by causing those who took it to pass between the severed portions of a victim (“διὰ μέσων... διχοτομημάτων”). It is probably the oldest trace in Greek of ordeals analogous to the medieval ‘judgments of God.’ The word “μύδρος” occurs elsewhere in connection with a solemn sanction for an oath. In Her. 1.165 the Phocaeans “μύδρον σιδήρεον κατεπόντωσαν”, swearing not to return till it should float. Aristid. 25 “ δ᾽ Ἀριστείδης ὥρκισε μὲν τοὺς Ἕλληνας καὶ ὤμοσεν ὑπὲρ τῶν Ἀθηναίων” (to observe the defensive league against Persia, 479 B.C., Grote 5. 257), “μύδρους ἐμβαλὼν ἐπὶ ταῖς ἀραῖς” (in sanction of the curses on traitors) “εἰς τὴν θάλατταν”. I conceive that in these passages, as elsewhere, “μύδρος” has its proper sense,

a red-hot mass of metal, and that the custom was symbolical of an older use of the “μύδρος” in ordeals by fire. This would explain how the Alexandrian poets of the 3rd cent. B.C. (Lycophron, Callimachus) came to use the word “μύδρος”, in defiance of its etymology, as simply ‘a lump’ (or even ‘a stone’). They supposed that the “μύδροι” had been cold masses.


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    • Herodotus, Histories, 1.165
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