From Fortean Times 155 (February, 2002):

Some ancient meat to enrich the Romano-British cannibalism in FT 150:7.

"In some of the more cannibalistic regions [of China], sales of women and children were common. It is almost impossible for anybody to devour his own child. Parents exchanged children." Fort (Books, p757 - unindexed)

The Delphic Oracle prophesied the impious Phigalians would eat their own children -- Pausanias, Description of Greece, bk8 ch42 para6. During a Vandal siege in Roman Spain, "a woman ate all her four children, in each case pleading the survival of the remaining ones. When she hod eaten them all, the people stoned her to death." - Olympiodorus, History, fr29.

In Homer's Odyssey (bk9 vv2S7-98; hk10 vrl 14-6), sailors are consumed both by the Cyclops and the Laestrygonians, poeticisms reflecting audience appetites and folk-memories of cannihalism; cf. E. Vermeule, Aspects of Death in Early Greek Art and Poem (Univ. California, Berkeley LA, 1979).

Euripides dwells comically on the subject in his Cyclops play (vv383479). Subsequent fun with cannibalism was had by (e.g.) Petronius, Rabelais, Montaigne, Swift, Gillray, Byron, Max Beerhohm, Evelyn Waugh, and Tennessee Williams. "In the days of cannibalism a man arose who was no fool, the first to sacrifice and roast an animal. Since the meat was nicer than human flesh, men no longer chewed each other, but sheep" - a cook in Athenaeus, Learned Men at Dinner, bk 14 para660.

Herodotus (Histories, bk4 ch 106) dubs the Androphagi "the savagest (if men, the only people in this region [Scythia] to cat human flesh;" cf. Shakespeare's Anthropophagi (Othello 1.3.14}-5).

Craving a midnight snack, King Candaules of Lydia ate his own wife (Athenaus, hk 10 para415).

An old joke defines one-legged cannibals as victims of their own gluttony; for cases of mythical and real-life autophagy, see my column in FT 133:23.

Myth and reality dovetail. Atreus served up his brother Thyestes' children at a banquet; their grandfather Pelops had done the same. Similarly with Proche and Tereus (Ovid, Metamorphoses, hk6 vv424.674). In Herodotus (Bkl chsl17-9), King Astyages did it to his shepherd Harpagus. Shakespeare revived this gruesome motif in Titus Andronicus. Early Christians were accused of indulging in such 'Thyestean feasts' (Octavius, Minucius Felix, ch8 para3-ch9 para6; ch30 para2-ch31 para2).

Juvenal's 15th Satire describes an Egyptian village brawl (AD 127) that culminated in cannibalism. Flinders Petrie, Naqada & Ballas (London, 1895, pp30-3) found evidence of prehistoric cannibalism there. The Pharoahonic `Cannibal Hymn (Pyramid Texts, chs393-404) speaks for itself. Suetonius (Life of Nero, ch1 para2) mentions an Egyptian gourmand that "crunched raw flesh." The Jewish-Egyptian Philo (The Contemplative Life, ch5) confirms it for Juvenal's era, as do that land's cannibalistic peasant revolutionaries of AD 172-3 (Cassius Dio, Roman History, bk7l ch4 para1).

Juvenal contrasts his atrocity with cannibalism enforced by dire hunger in military sieges. Ancient writers record many such: Petronius, Satyricon, ch141 (Numantia, Petelia, Saguntum); Josephus, Jewish War, hk5 ch19 para449 (Jerusalem); Plutarch, Life of Lucullus, chll paral (Mithridates' army); Dio, bk68 ch32 paral (Cyrene); Olympiodorus, frl l (Rome, AD 410).

Tacitus (Agricola, ch28) records the "great and memorable crime" of some naval mutineers "so hungry that they ate each other." The London Observer (22 July 1984) exhumed several 19th-century cases, a common Victorian practice, the "conflict between the grim reality of life at sea anc parlour Victorian morality" (Brian Simpson, Cannibalism & The Lain, Univ. Chicago, 1984). Piers Paul Reed's The Survivors documents the case of 1960s Andes air-crash passengers; Canada had a cognate episode with stranded bush-pilot Martin Hartwell.

Barry Baldwin
(reprinted with permission of the Author; blame any typically graphic transcription errors on dm)