An ox sanctuary

If you go round Greece today, you may see donkey sanctuaries. Until recently donkeys were extensively used but were often ill treated at least to English sensibilities and so often the sanctuaries were set up by English people. Well even in Ancient Greece, farmers had some respect for their working animals if this poem by Adaeus is anything to go by. It seems that this feeling was not only found in Ancient Greece but in ancient Egypt and India the labourer was forbidden to slaughter his ox when his working days were done and this act was punishable by death in Phyrgia.

When his working ox was worn down by the furrow and old age, Alcon did not take him to the bloody cleaver, showing proper respect for his labours, but he is enjoying himself somewhere in a deep meadow bellowing free from the plough.


αὔλακι καὶ γήρᾳ τετρυμένον ἐργατίνην βοῦν
Ἄλκων οὐ φονίην ἤγαγε πρὸς κοπίδα,
αἰδεσθεὶς ἔργων ὁ δέ που βαθέῃ ἐνὶ ποίῃ
μυκηθμοῖς ἀρότρου τέρπετ᾽ ἐλευθερίῃ.

Greek Anthology 6.228

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