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Cannibal Mary

Cannibal Mary

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Published by JOHN HUDSON
Cannibal Mary is a figure in Josephus' account of the Roman Jewish War. She is linked to the accounts in the Gospels of the Last Supper,and is parodied in several Shakespearean plays.
Cannibal Mary is a figure in Josephus' account of the Roman Jewish War. She is linked to the accounts in the Gospels of the Last Supper,and is parodied in several Shakespearean plays.

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Published by: JOHN HUDSON on Feb 09, 2011
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11/25/2012

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THESTORYOFCANNIBALMARY
ThestoryofMary’scannibalismoccursinBook6,rightattheclimaxofJosephus’accountoftheRomansiegeofJerusalemin70C.E.,anditservesdramaticallyasthecatalystforthedestructionoftheJewishTemple.InthestoryitisPassover,thetimewhenJewscometogethertoeatthe
PassoverLamb
.Whatmakesthisspeechremarkable,isthatitcomesdirectlyfromthemouthofawoman;itismoreunusualstillinthatitisaddressedtoababy.Onthepracticallevelwithinthestory,thebabywillserveas“food”toalleviatethemother’shunger.Onthethematiclevel,thebabywillplaythetragicroleofa“Fury”afteritsdeath(likethoseinAeschylus’s
Oresteia
),houndingtherebelsforthecrimestheyhavecommitted.Finally,thelabelof“myth”elevatesthebabytoaroleinatragedy.
Josephus,JewishWarsoftheJews(6.199‐219)
“TherewasacertainwomanthatdweltbeyondJordan,hernamewasMary;herfatherwas
Eleazar,
ofthevillageBethezob,whichsignifiesthe
houseofHyssop
.
Shewaseminentforherfamilyandherwealth,andhadfledawaytoJerusalemwiththerestofthemultitude,andwaswiththembesiegedthereinatthistime.Theothereffectsofthiswomanhadbeenalreadyseizedupon,suchImeanasshehadbroughtwithheroutofPerea,andremovedtothecity.Whatshehadtreasuredupbesides,asalsowhatfoodshehadcontrivedtosave,hadbeenalsocarriedoffbytherapaciousguards,whocameeverydayrunningintoherhouseforthatpurpose.Thisputthepoorwomanintoaverygreatpassion,andbythefrequentreproachesandimprecationsshecastattheserapaciousvillains,shehadprovokedthemtoangeragainsther;butnoneofthem,eitheroutoftheindignationshehadraisedagainstherself,oroutofcommiserationofhercase,wouldtakeawayherlife;andifshefoundanyfood,sheperceivedherlaborswereforothers,andnotforherself;anditwasnowbecomeimpossibleforheranywaytofindanymorefood,whilethefaminepiercedthroughhervery
bowels
andmarrow,
 
whenalsoherpassionwasfiredtoadegreebeyondthefamineitself;nordidsheconsultwithanythingbutwithherpassionandthenecessityshewasin.Shethenattemptedamostunnaturalthing;andsnatchingupherson,whowasachildsuckingatherbreast,shesaid,“Othoumiserableinfant!forwhomshallIpreservetheeinthiswar,thisfamine,andthissedition?AstothewarwiththeRomans,iftheypreserveourlives,wemustbeslaves.Thisfaminealsowilldestroyus,evenbeforethatslaverycomesuponus.Yetaretheseseditiousroguesmoreterriblethanboththeother.Comeon;bethoumyfood,andbethoua
Fury
totheseseditiousrebels,and
amythtotheworld
,whichisallthatisnowwantingto
completethecalamitiesofusJews
.Assoonasshehadsaidthis,sheslewherson,andthenroastedhim,andatetheonehalfofhim,andkepttheotherhalfbyherconcealed.Uponthistheseditiouscameinpresently,andsmellingthehorridscentofthisfood,theythreatenedherthattheywouldcutherthroatimmediatelyifshedidnotshowthemwhatfoodshehadgottenready.Sherepliedthatshehadsavedaveryfineportionofitforthem,andwithaluncoveredwhatwasleftofherson.Hereupontheywereseizedwithahorrorandamazementofmind,andstoodastonishedatthesight,whenshesaidtothem,
Thischildismyown,andthedeedismine.Eat,
forI,too,haveeaten.Don’tbeweakerthanawomanormorecompassionatethanamother.Ifyouarepiousandturnawayfrommysacrifice,thenIhaveeatenforyou,andlettheleft‐oversremainforme.’Afterwhichthosemenwentouttrembling,beingneversomuchafrightedatanythingastheywereatthis,andwithsomedifficultytheylefttherestofthatmeattothemother.”
inthepassageJosephusdescribedMary’ssonasa“mythos”or‘mythfortheworld’(BJ6.207).Hegoesontostatethatthekillingofthemythfortheworldwillbeseenasa“mysos”(BJ6,212)or‘atrocity’,thatwillberespondedtobytheRomanswith“misos”(BJ6.214)or‘bitterhatred’.Thetermforbowelshasconnotationsofbeingasacrifice,andtheideaofbowelsbeingpiercedreappearswhenMary’sbowels/heartarepiercedintheGospelofLukeinanequivalenttext(2;35).AlsoinMary’sspeechtheuseof“this”withthefirstpersonpossessiveadjectiveandherinvitationtotherebelstoeatthischildpartlyresemblesthewordsattributedtoJesusattheLastSupper,amealtimedintheChristiantextswithPassover.Theselinksbetweenthetwotextsissignificant.Thereisonlyoneindividualwhocanbeseenasa‘mythfortheworld’,whowasasonofMaryandahumanPassoverlamb,andwhosekillingwasan‘atrocity’andwhoservedasaFurycreating‘bitterhatred’oftheJews…..namelythefigureofJesusChrist,whoisdescribedasdyinglikeaPassoverLamb

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