Girl breastfeeding old man : Tectaphos & Eérié
Screenshot from Le Mouton enragé, 1974 movie from Michel Deville (J-L Trintignant & Jane Birkin).
Story extracted from Dionysiaques from the Greek poet, born in Egypt, Nonnos of Panopolis.
Imprisoned by Dériadès, Tectaphos, Indian prince, was locked in a dungeon and condemned to starve to death.
Her daughter, who had just become a mother, asked the guards to let her enter the jail to make a last consolation.
They let her go, and there, she gave his father the milk from her breast.
Deriades, when he learnt the daughter's piety, decided to release his enemy.
This topic is similar to the one of Roman Charity (please see related contents at the bottom of this article).
Below is the English translation (by W.H.D ROUSE, Litt.D.)
Tectaphos & Eérié
DIONYSIACA, XXVI. 99-127
Farshooter Tectaphos came to the war. Once
he had been saved from fate by sucking the milk
from a daughter's breast with starving lips — she
devised this trick to nourish her father — Tectaphos,
parched, with crumbling skin, a living corpse."
Deriades the monarch had carried out a heartless
threat, and bound him fast with twisted ropes, and
held him a prisoner behind lock and key in a mouldy
pit, unfed, unwashed, worn out with famine, without
his part in the sun or the rounded moon. There lay
the man fettered in the depths of the earth, with no
drink, no food, seeing no man, there in a cavern
dug deep under the soil he lay in agony. Long he
was wasted by famine, breathing yet Uke those who
breathe not, as the air passed weak and fluttering
through his hungry Ups ; ugly whiffs came from his
dry flesh as if he were a corpse. There was a band
of jailers watching the imprisoned man, but his clever
daughter outwitted them with delusive words, a
young nursing mother, when she uttered a mournful
appeal and shook ^ her deceiving garments :
" Do not let me die, watchmen ! I have
nothing here, I have brought no drink and no food
for my father ! Tears, only tears I bring for him
that begat me ! My empty hands tell you that ! If
you do not believe me, if you do not believe, undo my
innocent girdle, tear off my veil, shake my dress — I
have brought no drink to save his life !"
To show she had nothing hidden from them. Here are
the words used with the Roman customs officers :
DIONYSIACA, XXVI. 128-154
"Throw me up too with my father in the deep pit. I am
nothing for you to fear, nothing, even if the king
hears of it. Who is angry with one who pities a
corpse ? Who is angry with one dying a cruel death ?
Who does not pity the dead ? I will close my father's
sinking eyes. Shut me up there : who grudges
death ? Let us die together, and let one tomb
receive daughter and father ! "
By pleading won them. The girl ran into
the den, bringing light for her father's darkness. In
that pit, she let the milk of her breast flow into her
father's mouth, to avert his destruction, and felt no
Deriades marvelled to hear the pious deed of
Eerie. He set free the clever girl's father from his
prison, like a ghost ; the fame of it was noised
abroad, and the Indian people praised the girl's
breast which had saved a life by its cunning.