Sunday, November 05, 2006

ἰπούμενος and the Authorship of Prometheus Bound

Prometheus Bound 363-365:
καὶ νῦν ἀχρεῖον καὶ παράορον δέμας
κεῖται στενωποῦ πλησίον θαλασσίου
ἰπούμενος ῥίζαισιν Αἰτναίαις ὕπο.

[And now a helpless and sprawling form, he lies near the straights of the sea, being crushed by the foundations of Aetna.]

The helpless form is Typhos, whose imprisonment beneath Mt. Aetna by Zeus was supposed to explain the volcano's eruptions. In the 470s an eruption destroyed the city of Catana in Sicily, which was rebuilt and renamed after the volcano by Hieron, the leader of Syracuse. He threw a large celebration for the new city late in the decade, where Pindar's Pythian 1 was performed (and maybe the Persians of Aeschylus, according to Griffith). This passage of Prometheus Bound (363-372) has often been thought to echo Pindar's song, which describes the eruption.

Griffith also draws our attention to Pindar's Olympian 4, lines 7-8:
ἀλλ᾽, ὦ Κρόνου παῖ, ὃς Αἴτναν ἔχεις,
ἶπον ἀνεμόεσσαν ἑκατογκεφάλα Τυφῶνος ὀβρίμου,

[But, O son of Kronos, you who hold Aetna, the windy weight on the mighty, hundred-headed Typhos...]

In addition to the subject matter, he points out the word ἶπον, which refers to the piece of wood in a mousetrap that falls to catch the mouse, and so of a crushing weight, such as a fruit press (Griffith). Recall line 365 of Prometheus Bound above, where the derived ἰπούμενος is used of the same weight confining Typhos. The word is rare enough, says Griffith, that one of the passages probably depends on the other. If we claim that the Prometheus poet is following Pindar's Olympian 4 here (as is suspected about Pythian 1), and not the other way around, then this would support the case against Aeschylean authorship of Prometheus Bound, since that poet's death is usually placed in the year 456, while, by Bowra's chronology (1964), Olympian 4 was composed in 452.


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