Saturday, November 30, 2019

The Courage of Leaena: Pliny, Nat. Hist. XXXIV.19.12

Tisicratis Leaena laudatur. [Paelex] haec lyrae cantu familiare Harmodio et Aristogitoni, consilia eorum de tyrannicidio, usque ad mortem excrutiata a tyraniis, non prodidit. Quamobrem Athenienses et honorem habere ei volentes, nec tamen [paelicem] celebrasse, animal nominis eius fecere: atque ut intelligeretur causa honoris, in opere linguam addi ab artifice vetuereunt. 

--Pliny the Elder, Nat. Hist. XXXIV.19.12

Many people praise Tisicrates' statue of Leaena. She was a courtesan and entertainer specializing in singing and the lyre who was close with Harmodius and Aristogeiton; she kept secret their plot to kill the tyrant, not betraying their plans even when tortured to the point of  death.  Because of her courage, the Athenians wanted to honor her. Not willing to celebrating her profession, they made a statue of an animal with her same name, i.e., a lioness. To further honor her courage, they made the artist make the statue lacking a tongue.*

* According to tradition, Leaena bit off her own tongue to thwart her interrogators.

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