Thursday, September 21, 2006


Last fall Rudolf Wachter offered a new etymology of Persephone's name. It is available in full here, along with comments by other scholars. It is usually agreed, according to Wachter, that the most authentic version of P.'s name was that used in Attica, where the archaic sanctuary was located. He points out that the most numerous version is not P(h)errephatta, but rather P(h)errophatta, and explains that we should therefore look for a word *perso-, which, in fact, he finds in the hapax legomenon Skt parsha-, m., "sheaf," occuring at Rig Veda 10.48.7. Furthermore, it is used in this context of beating sheaves, or threshing, where the word for "I beat" is hanmi, which comes from a well-attested Indo-European root: Skt hanti : ghnanti = Hittite kuenzi : kunanzi, and also Grk theino, phonos, etc. Wachter postulates that it was this root, *gwhen : *gwhon, that the Greek poets correctly understood as the second part of P.'s name, -phatta, when they adopted a newer form -phoneia or -phone in order to suit the hexameter. Based on historical linguistics, and the fact that no other trace of *perso- exists, Wachter thinks it very likely that the name Persóphatta, sheaf-beater, was formed in the second millennium, and that we now understand what function Persephone (or Kore) originally performed.


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