Plutarch (AD 46–after 119), was a Greek Middle Platonist philosopher, biographer, essayist, and priest at the Temple of Apollo. He also served his last thirty years a priest in Delphi. As in, the oracle in Delphi. The Eleusinian Mysteries for the cult of Demeter and Persephone based at Eleusis in ancient Greece. They are the “most famous of the secret religious rites of ancient Greece”. So a man of the spirits, to say the least.
He is known primarily for his Parallel Lives, however. In this, we can read the biographies of famous men. An although it is mostly about vices and virtues and about philosophy about moral, he managed to put in a couple of ghost stories here and there as well.
One of the ghost stories we find in the biography is about Cimon (510-450 BC). It tells the story about Damon Peripoltas, an orphan boy, living in Chareroneia. At this time, the city was ravaged by war and poverty, making it a breading ground for violence. This is a history of sex and crimes, and the tragedy that follows dangerous desires.
He was said to be a beautiful boy, more so than the rest. He was a descendant of Peripoltas, the ancient seer that led his people to Boeotia, were the city lies. The descendants of the seer were held in high esteem. That was until this happened though. Centuries after, Damon walks in the tracks of his ancestors. But because of his harsh disposition, he was somewhat of a dangerous beauty as well.
In Chareroneia at that time, a Roman commander was wintering there. One day, the young Damon, just past his childhood, caught the commander’s eyes and he wanted him. He claimed he fell in love with him and made a pass. He tried to shower him in presents and gifts, but Damon refused and was offended This made the commander angry, and he threatened with violence and to make Damon into obscurity and poverty.
Damon got afraid, fearing exactly this, as he had seen what poverty could do to a man, Damon plotted against the man, and gathered sixteen of his friends. They smeared their face with soot one night, drunk on wine. Just before the break of dawn they attacked the roman as he was sacrificing to his gods in the market place. They killed him then and there, and together with his friends, he left the city.
According to Roman law, this was punished by death, and this was the sentence the counsel of Chareroneia gave them. So, as the council sat to supper in the evening, Damon and his men broke into the town-hall were they were dining and slew them all. And yet again, they flew the city.
An investigation was done and they asked Damon to return, noticing the city also had been wrong. Damon was ravaging and pillaging the country side, having fallen to poverty as he desperately didn’t want to. He was even making threats to the city that had cast him out. They lured him back by appointing him gymnasiarch, a high honor as an official, that would lead to respect and riches. He couldn’t refuse.
But when he came, he was having a vapor bath in the bathhouse and was slain right then and there. But they would never silence him. His ghost roamed the bathhouse and the phantom of him appeared in it, sighing, groaning. So the citizens walled the bathhouse shut, trying to keep him inside, trying to put a lid on the past and their deeds. And it was said that still in Plutarch’s time, neighbors could still hear him inside, trying to get out again, to flew the city once more.
Damon’s family still lived at that time, near Stiris in Phocis. They are called Asbolomeni, or Besooted because of how Damon smeared himself with soot before committing his crime.
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