This article examines a series of Greek myths which establish a structural equivalence between two motifs, stoning and blinding; the two penalties either substitute for one another in alternative versions of a single story, or appear in sequence as repayments in kind. After reviewing other theories concerning the motives behind blinding and lapidation, I argue that both punishments-together with petrifaction and live imprisonment, which frequently figure alongside the other motifs-are directed against individuals whose crimes generate pollution. This miasma affects not only the perpetrator of the deed, but risks spreading to the community at large, and prompts measures aimed at containing the source of the disease. Both blinding and lapidation are designed to cordon off the contaminant by removing him from all visual and tactile contact with other men. But it is not only the nature of the crimes that explains the kinship between the two penalties. I further argue that the attributes Greek thinking assigned to stones, repeatedly characterized as unseeing, mute, immobile, and dry, and symbolic of the condition of the dead, elucidate the connections and clarify the antagonism that myth suggests between lapidation and sight. Stoning, blinding, imprisonment, and petrifaction all consign the criminal to an existence exactly parallel to that of the stone, stripping him of the properties that distinguish the living from the dead, and making him both unseeing and unseen. Three examples drawn from archaic and classical literature provide examples of these interactions between stones, blindness, invisibility, and death: the snake portent sent by Zeus in Book 2 of the Iliad, the Perseus myth, and Hermes' activity in both the Homeric Hymn to Hermes and Aeschylus' Choephoroe.
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