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Salammb˘ (1862) - Gustave Flaubert

Related: 1862 - Gustave Flaubert - French literature

Salammb˘ mingling with the serpent, Hadyn Mackey, illustrator (Flaubert 1930 [1862]:179)
image sourced here.

"The Moloch Idol, with 7 chambers or chapels" (Lund 1704: Figure 564)
image sourced here.

Salammb˘ (1896) - Alphonse Mucha
image sourced here.


Salammbo, a sensationalist semi-historical novel about Carthage by Gustave Flaubert published in 1888 was extraordinarily successful. Flaubert imaginatively and not without reasonable scholarship, created his own version of the Carthaginian religion, including known Carthaginian gods such as BaĹal Hammon, Khamon, Melkarth and Tanith. But he also included the god Moloch, and made Moloch rather than Khamon to be the god to whom the Carthaginians offered children. Flaubert described this Moloch mostly according to the Rabbinic descriptions but with his own additions. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moloch#Flaubert.27s_conception [Jun 2005]

Salammbo is a fantasy 1862 novel by Gustave Flaubert. Flaubert's novel is set immediately before and during the revolt of its mercenary allies against Carthage in the third century BC.

The title character, a priestess and the daughter of Hamilcar, an aristocratic Carthaginian general, is the object of the obsessive lust of Matho, leader of the mercenaries.

Matho steals a sacred veil, the Zaimph, prompting Salammbo to enter the mercenaries' camp in an attempt to steal it back. The book is largely an exercise in sensual exoticism. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Salammb%F4_%28novel%29 [Jun 2005]


SOURCE: Dijkstra, Bram., Idols of Perversity. Fantasies of Feminine Evil in Fin-de-SiŔcle Culture, New York, 1986, pp 306-313 {BN 4ov 45820}

[p 306] Being a true daughter of Eve, the animal woman of the turn of the century thus had a special appreciation for the erotic abilities of the snake. She liked to be with serpents, use them in strange rituals, and generally become involved with them in the most dubious ways. As in so many instances, it was Flaubert who brought into focus this element of late nineteenth century lore. In Salammb˘ (1862) he described what is clearly an erotic encounter between Salammb˘ and her serpent, her partner in rituals she performs as a priestess of Baal, a god representing the male exterminating principal.

Salammb˘ undid her ear pendants, her necklace, her bracelets, her long white gown; she unfastened the band round her hair, and for a few minutes shook it over her shoulders, gently to refresh herself by loosening it. The music outside continued; there were three notes, always the same; headlong, frenzied; the strings grated, the flute boomed; Taanach kept time by clapping her hands; Salammb˘, her whole body swaying, chanted her prayers, and her clothes,one after another, fell around her.

The heavy tapestry shook, and above the cord holding it up the python's head appeared. It came down slowly, like a drop of water running along a wall, crawled up among the scattered garments, then, its tail stuck against the ground, reared up straight; and its eyes, more brilliant than carbuncles, fixed on Salammb˘.

Horror of the cold or perhaps a certain modesty at first made her hesitate. But she remembered Schahabarim's [sic] orders, came forward; the python fell back and putting the middle of its body round her neck, let its head and tail dangle, like a broken necklace with its two ends trailing on the ground. Salammb˘ wound it round her waist, under her arms, between her knees: then taking it by the jaw she brought its little triangular mouth to the edge of her teeth, and half closing her eyes, bent back under the moon's rays. The white light seemed to envelop her like a silver mint, her wet footprints glistened on the floor, stars shimmered in the depths of the water; it tightened round her its black coils striped with golden patches. Salammb˘ gasped beneath this weight, too heavy for her, her back bent, she felt she was dying; and with the tip of its tail it gently flicked her thigh; then as the music ceased, it dropped down again. {pp 174-5}(1)

Predictably the painters and scuptors rushed in to illustrate Salammb˘'s lascivious encounter. Gaston BussiŔre's "Scene of the Serpent" emphasized the python's approach, while Gabriel Ferrier concentrated on the lady's pleasure . The American Charles Allen Winter's "Fantaisie EgyptiŔnne", exhibited at the salon in 1898, was a free adaptation of Salammb˘'s passionate communion with her appreciative lover. In general structure it was much like the sculptor Jean-Antoine-Marie Idrac's version of Flaubert's heroine, which found a place of honor at the World's Columbian Exhibition of 1893 in Chicago . Idrac's sculpture was, in turn, closely related to Collier's painting of Lilith, thus demonstrating how easily the literally hundreds of painted versions of Lilith, Salammb˘, Lamia, and assorted other snake charmers came to blend as generic descriptions of woman, the eternal eve.

SOURCE: Dijkstra, Bram., Idols of Perversity. Fantasies of Feminine Evil in Fin-de-SiŔcle Culture, New York, 1986, pp 306-313 {BN 4ov 45820}

--http://www.lafayette.150m.com/salammbo.html [Jun 2005]

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