The Widow of Ephesus
From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
The Widow of Ephesus or The Matron of Ephesus is an Milesian tale of a woman, recently widowed who plans to starve herself to death in her husband's tomb, but who then is seduced by a soldier guarding crucified corpses. When one of these is stolen she offers the corpse of her husband as a replacement.
The story originated in the East and was featured in the Satyricon (told by Eumolpus), The Golden Ass, by Voltaire in Zadig, by La Fontaine and in Jeremy Taylor's The Rule And Exercises Of Holy Dying.
- "What can be wittier than the now trite 'Tale of the Ephesian Matron', whose dry humour is worthy of The Nights? No wonder that it has made the grand tour of the world. It is found in the neo-Phaedrus, the tales of Musaeus and in the Septem Sapientes as the 'Widow which was comforted'. As the 'Fabliau de la Femme qui se fist putain sur la fosse de son Mari,' it tempted Brantôme and La Fontaine; and Abel Rémusat shows in his Contes Chinois that it is well known to the Middle Kingdom. Mr. Walter K. Kelly remarks that the most singular place for such a tale is the Rule and Exercise of Holy Dying by Jeremy Taylor, who introduces it into his chapt. v - 'Of the Contingencies of Death and Treating our Dead.' But in those days divines were not mealy-mouthed."
Thematically it belongs to the category widows in (short-lived) mourning.
- Illustrations by Wenceslaus Hollar, published in 1666 by John Ogilby.
- Widow of Ephesus in the Satyricon