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The Story of Evolution, Spring 2005
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Excavation Report for Leira, Devon County, England

Ariel Singer

A recent discovery has been made in southern England. Excavation has been done on the ruined remains of a villa that is believed to have dated to the early first century AD. This villa is attributed to Lucanus Quinterius, an envoy and tribune of the praetorian cohort under the rule of Augustus. Although there is evidence that the villa was occupied after the death of Lucanus, there are no records as to who may have been master of the house, nor what the position of this person may have been. The excavation revealed little beyond the dimensions of the house and one very extraordinary set of three earthenware jars containing a few rolls of papyrus. The only other artifacts from this time found in the vicinity included a grouping of broken potsherds and a large quantities of grain husks. A few metalwork vessels were found directly outside of the remains, yet these clearly date to a much later date than the ruins, perhaps even as late as the early Renaissance period.

The layout of the ruins is a standard pattern for the time and area in which the building is believed to have been built and used. The earthenware pots, however, are exceptionally rare, and their contents may very well change views of Roman literature from this period.

The jars themselves range in size. The largest (FRW 325) is 24.6 cm in diameter at its widest, 10.3 cm at its neck (the narrowest area) and 32.1 cm tall; the overall shape consists of a spherical base, with a neck that is narrow at its base and widens near its mouth. The two remaining vessels (FRW 326 and 327) are almost exactly the same size, and clearly the same style. The size of each is 12.7 cm in diameter and 36.2 cm tall; the shape is cylindrical, with no variance in diameter. Both have two handles that begin 2 cm from the top and continue downward for 7 cm. The shape of the handles is a shallow s-curve, with a bit of a flare at the bottom. All three jars were very plainly decorated, made of clay, dark beige in color. that is commonly found in southern England. The decoration found on FRW 325 was a set of four parallel lines around the neck, below the final line was a ring of tiny dots, also parallel to the lines. Both the lines and the dots were painted in a dark brown paint, although the exact composition is unknown at this point. The two smaller vessels, FRW 326 and 327, had nearly-identical decorative designs and were ornamented in a pattern not usually found. There was a spiral that appears to be a double helix in shape which was painted on to the vessels, running both around the circumference of each jar and the entire length of each. This was painted in a dark green paint, very commonly used in this area at this time. All vessels were also sealed with crude but strong clay lids. All three jars were found together, buried far below the probable lowest level of occupation in this villa, this would seem to indicate that they had been buried, but no conclusions can yet be drawn.

Contained within the largest jar were two papyrus scrolls, still is very good condition. Sadly, but unavoidably, upon their transferal to the British Museum lab, and subsequent unrolling some of the papyrus bulk was lost to crumbling, thankfully, no text was lost. The two scrolls found in this vessel had inscribed upon them a single copy of the story of Hermaphroditus, which appears to be from the work of Ovid; it matches almost exactly to another early copy of this document. The story was split onto the two papyri, although it looks as if at one point they would have been bound together and aging has simply crumbled the bottom of the first roll. The remaining two jars also held copies of what can hopefully be concluded to be some of the earliest examples of the Metamorphoses we have. In jar 326 there were two stories, that of Tereus, Procne, and Philomela, and the tale of Tireseus. Yet it is jar 327 that has the most potential value, the first scroll was found to contain the story of Apollo and Daphne and the second is engraved with a story that can perhaps be termed Philara and Sarianis. This last story is one never having been found before, yet given the beginning and end can be easily fit in between the stories of Pyramus and Thisbe and the tale of Venus and Mars in book two of the Metamorphoses. At first glance all these manuscripts appear to be authentic, although more tests will succeed this report. Here follows the newly discovered tale of metamorphosis:

Philara and Sarianis

Another tale of star-crossed lovers is perhaps less know to all:
Philara, daughter of king Perecleus, was yet a maiden,
When she happened upon a young lass resting
By her favorite wading pool, "Beautiful girl, pray
Tell, what is your name?" begged Philara.
The young maid leapt to her feet to ask pardon,
Replying that she was called Sarianis, daughter of
King Tiranius of Crete, that much-august land. Philara,
Oft alone with no bevy of companions, entreated Sarianis not flee
But to stay and join her in her entertainment, for she was wearied,
Always enjoying her favored lyre player in solitude.
So Sarianis willingly accompanied the gladdened girl,
For she herself was much forgotten by her family,
Indeed her elder sister was preferred and her mother,
A beautiful and conniving woman, was at present moment
Planning the marriage of the beloved daughter, indeed,
To no less a grandly prince than the bother of Philara.
Sarianis resided many a day with Philara, playing and
Relating their most loved stories, each to the other,
They would often wander out to the lazy-flowing river,
Or to that same fateful previous pool, all as still as a mirror.

Finally the day arrived, much heralded by both families,
And after the union between the brother and sister of each,
The families were to part, Sarianis returning to Crete,
Born away from her dear friend her nigh-winged ship.
Both girls mourned their farewell, each weeping for the other,
"Why should the gods split so dear a pair?"
Their cries rent the air. For they would grieve the lost
Company more than e'er was such a loss before lamented,
For a fateful situation: In which hearts love had previous
Never gained admittance, now it had a strong and
Much cherished nest, as a gull might build, protected,
At the tope of some hitherto-unreached cliff, safe and unseen.
How should two such friends be ripped from devoted breasts?
The girls vowed that this should never be, yet what was the choice,
For these two never should be married, both knew the customs,
Their love was forbidden and as such they little wished to live,
Yet neither wished to die, for even then there was no assurance
The one would find the other when separated by demise.

No escape seemed possible for these two unlikely lovers,
They had no place hence to tread, no secure haven onto which
They might tie their steering ropes. Thus they were ripped apart.
Philara saw only one solution, unknown by her sweetheart,
She appealed to a goddess, the most fair and guiling Aphrodite,
That lady who beholds all devotions as her game and her domain.
At the knees of this radiant one the bereft maiden laid her plea:
Her one true desire, her only reason for this life, was to be joined,
Forever and for always to her one true love, her Sarianis.
In her despair and her desperation she begged
For the only solution she could possibly foresee: to be changed,
To take on the appearance, nay even the body, of a man,
That powerful and all-dominating breed of human.
Little thinking past her immediate plight, she threw herself,
Unheedingly into the path of greater destruction.

Aphrodite, always an accomplice in otherwise-doomed affairs,
Consented, she would grant the hasty and ill-planned prayer,
As a mistress of love she could do no less; oh, goddess,
Why did you not turn a deaf ear to this frantic plot,
Why could you not see the tragedy that would result!
Yet Aphrodite, blessed and beautiful lover of passion,
Gave a new shape to the beauty of Philara,
Now the fair lass was a fair lad, a bright son.
With the transformation complete there was no cause
For separation of the beloved ones, no reason for mourning.
Thus girded the lad, no longer Philara, now Philarus,
Set sail. Swiftly he reached the land of Sarianis, shinning Crete,
Thereupon he bounded from his ship and flew to the palace,
Here he set eyes upon his beloved, though she recognized him not,
He went first to her father, that most stately king, to beg
His permission to wed his younger daughter, the fair Sarianis,
Hardly without second thought, that grand king allowed it,
The ill-fated courtship, for what mistrust was there?
Indeed, He also failed to observe similarity to the once-maiden,
For who would believe that girl might be boy?

Now with full compliance of the father, the new Philarus,
A man full of love in his heart, was confident that his lover,
That most unsuspecting damsel, would share his joy.
Upon entering her chamber he professed his love,
Not thinking of his altered appearance, he informed her
Of their impending marriage and awaited with open arms
Her joyful reciprocation, an ever-unfulfilled hope.
To negate her obvious confusion, Philarus spoke:
"My fair lass, we are wed! That maiden that,
Once, you loved is forever gone, and in her place I here stand,
You must see, we two can live together, where as Philara,
That star-crossed maid, could never have been yours!"
Then bearing the shocked and mourning maiden into his arms,
Philarus laid his lips upon her sweet and trembling mouth.
Sarianis misconstrued his words, she believed only one thing,
That this strange and unknown man had slain her beloved,
And now she would be his bride, a betrayer of her dear love.
Her immoderate weeping was a cause of confusion
For the joyous groom, for he could not understand her grief,
Did not understand her dark and ill-formed thoughts,
Nor was there a chance for him to explain his confusion,
For, though Sarianis was only a girl, she was very much in love,
She was also very much in mourning and well beyond reason.

She belied her sex and her upbringing and committed a most tragic,
Indeed tragic and brave, deed. She drew the dagger resting near.
This very dagger, never intended for the hand of a wife,
She had just now dedicated as a sacrifice to Diana,
To who she swore she would give her loyalty and body ever more,
There would be no husband to Sarianis, thus she was so resolved.
Plucking this dagger from the clutches of the bedding,
Now unwillingly intended for the marriage bed, where it had rested
She drove it deep into her once-lover, now believed a murderer.
Although Aphrodite had lost interest in this most sad affair,
Diana, that most radiant and fierce one, forever a maiden herself,
Took pity on her new follower, and revealed to her, to her sorrow,
The catastrophe that was her recent deed: lad was lass,
Once again the maid resided in her own body, as it perished,
As the breath was drawn out of it, and the skin became pale.
The offending blade however, had not been impaled deeply,
Not savagely enough, into that sweet and pure flesh
Death was not instantaneous, Philara lingered on in her body,
Newly returned to her, for a short time, too brief and too lengthy.
Now linen, first for the virgin, then the wife, was for the corpse,
Stained deep red with the blood of a misunderstood love.

Sarianis, that twice-sorrowed girl clove desperately to her lover,
With life slipping quickly through her fingers.
Now she realized her grievous error, her unwitting loss.
She pled with the gods to return her fair paramour,
Back to her once healthy state, but no tears could return
A life that had been so stolen, so abruptly broken.
As Philara's life dimmed, as a veil stole over her eyes,
Her dear beloved begged her for forgiveness,
To pardon her haste and her love, for love had been her death.
Yet a feeble maiden, with only a few breaths left to her,
Philara, in return berating herself for her hastily words and deeds,
Bestowed absolution and beseeched such for herself,
A thing easily given, with much insistence on the dearth of need.
Poor, wretched Sarianis, having no desire of a loveless life,
Reclaimed her dagger, and with Philara reproving, she
Drove it through her own fluttering heart, alight with love,
Claiming she no longer had need of it, if she could not share it.
Now wrapped in the arms of the other this ill-fated pair,
Reaching the threshold of death, mingled their blood,
Never for them a happy bed, oh, cruel, uncaring fate!

But when no hope remained, brave Diana, fiery goddess,
Took pity, lamenting their tragic end, and offering recompense.
For she, that blessed immortal snatched up their souls,
Drawing them away from Hades and the eternal afterlife.
She bestowed upon them the greatest honor,
Their transformations were immediate, the transfer complete,
No longer did they wear the hide of men, no longer tread on two,
Now they ran, faster than the wind, now they bayed their love,
They would be together forever, immortal in their new shapes.
For Diana had remade them into hounds, to be for eternity,
Members of her illustrious pack of hunting dogs, never,
Though the winds of time would tear at mortals,
Would they be separated the one from the other, their unity was infinite.

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