Wednesday, January 10, 2007

A Further Note on Beastiality and the Hittites

In August 2006 I wrote about Hittite Laws on Sexuality, including some curious attitudes toward beastiality, which was a summary of Trevor Bryce's discussion from 2002. On page 24 of his book, Indo-European Language and Culture, Benjamin Fortson discusses a relationship between the consecration of kingship and horse rituals in the Indic, Roman, Irish, and (indirectly) Anatolian traditions.

We know most about the Indic ritual, according to Fortson, called asvamedha, where a stallion was sacrificed, specifially "one that excelled on the right-hand side of the yoke", the ritual copulation by the queen with the dead horse, and distribution of the dissected remains. There is some evidence for a Roman ritual called October Equus, which was a sacrifice to Mars of the horse from the right-hand side of a winning chariot team. Its head was severed and fought over by two groups of people, and its tail was pinned to the wall of the royal palace. There is also an Irish ritual, described by Giraldus Cambrensis in the 12th century book Topography of Ireland, that involves copulation between a king and a mare, which is then killed and cut up and boiled, and served to the people to be eaten. Fortson conjectures that this points to an older Proto-Indo-European ritual, although he thinks the choice of a horse from the right-hand side of the yoke is probably a later innovation, since paired draft-horses don't appear in the archaeological record until the middle of the 3rd millennium.

In my earlier post, I mentioned that, although the Hittites punished beastiality with capital punishment, which was otherwise rare, even in most cases of murder, they had specific exemptions in their law code for sexual interaction with horses and mules. On the kingship ritual in Anatolia, Fortson says: "we have some traces of ritual royal copulation, but without horses; interestingly, though, in Hittite law, copulation with animals was a punishable offense except copulation with horses or mules."

2 Comments:

Blogger Wm Annis said...

Not meaning to inspire more booklust, but Watkins' How to Kill a Dragon has an entire chapter on the aśvamedha.

6:40 PM  
Blogger Nicholas said...

Thanks Will, that could mean yet another update. Unlike Fortson's book, Watkins' Dragon book is available in one of my local libraries.

11:33 PM  

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