Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Simonides and Horace

The line of Simonides, ὁ δ' αὖ θάνατος κίχε καὶ τὸν φυγόμαχον, was translated by Horace (3.2.14) as: mors et fugacem persequitur uirum. Oates 1939 argues further that this poem was based upon a poem of Simonides.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

On the etymology of the word νίκη

Ἀπολλώνιος δὲ ὁ τοῦ Ἀρχιβίου φησὶν ὃ ἑνὶ εἴκει, τουτέστιν ἑνὶ ὑποχωρεῖ. γέγονε δὲ κατ' ἀφαίρεσιν τοῦ ε καὶ συγκοπῇ τοῦ ει διφθόγγου. ὁ γοῦν Σιμωνίδης παρετυμολογεῖ αὐτό, φησὶ γάρ· ἑνὶ δ' οἴῳ εἴκει θεὰ μέγαν ἐς δίφρον.

This etymology of the word νίκη from the Cyril-lexicon is, of course, nonsense, and it is even doubtful to me whether Simonides had this in mind, but I find ancient etymologies fascinating nonetheless. According to the author, the word νίκη comes from the phrase ὃ ἑνὶ εἴκει, "that which yields to one", with the first epsilon dropped and the syncope of the ει diphthong. He cites Simonides: "for one man only the goddess yields in her great chariot." The goddess Victory is commonly described as bringing the victor in her chariot (ἅρμα or δίφρος).

Incidentally, I think I've only just noticed this word τουτέστιν, which seems to be the equivalent of "i.e." (i.e., id est) or "that is".

Patron of the Arts

ἦσαν δὲ κύριοι μὲν τῶν πραγμάτων διὰ τὰ ἀξιώματα καὶ καὶ τὰς ἡλικίας Ἵππαρχος καὶ Ἱππίας, πρεσβύτερος δὲ ὢν ὁ Ἱππίας καὶ τῇ φύσει πολιτικὸς καὶ ἔμφρων ἐπεστάται τῆς ἀρχῆς. ὁ δὲ Ἵππαρχος παιδιώδης καὶ ἐρωτικὸς καὶ φιλόμουσος ἦν καὶ τοὺς περὶ Ἀνακρέοντα καὶ Σιμωνίδην καὶ τοὺς ἄλλους ποιητὰς οὗτος ἦν ὁ μεταπεμπόμενος...

This is from Aristotle's Athenian Constitution (18.1), in which he says that Hippias, as the older and more prudent (ἔμφρων) brother, was in charge of the government, while Hipparchos, the playful, amorous, and art loving one (παιδιώδης καὶ ἐρωτικὸς καὶ φιλόμουσος), sought out poets.

Ancient da Vinci?

καὶ τὴν μνημονικὴν δὲ τέχνην εὗρεν οὗτος· προσεξεῦρε δὲ καὶ τὰ μακρὰ τῶν στοιχείων καὶ διπλᾶ καὶ τῇ λύρᾳ τὸν τρίτον φθόγγον

According to the Suda, Simonides invented mnemonics, long vowels, double consonants, and the third note on the lyre.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Gildersleeve on Aelian

"Cobet is perfectly safe in sneering at his Atticism, and yet the unprejudiced modern must admit that he is not a bad story-teller. But many of the post-classic people are good story-tellers, perhaps because they have the bad taste to be so much like us..."

I adore Gildersleeve. Pick up a copy of his work in the library, and look at the photograph on the inside, and I'm willing to bet that, unlike so many other 19th c. scholars, he is smiling.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Girls, dolls, and pupils

ἐννενόηκας οὖν ὅτι τοῦ ἐμβλέποντος εἰς τὸν ὀφθαλμὸν τὸ πρόσωπον ἐμφαίνεται ἐν τῇ τοῦ καταντικρὺ ὄψει ὥσπερ ἐν κατόπτρῳ, ὃ δὴ καὶ κόρην καλοῦμεν, εἴδωλον ὄν τι τοῦ ἐμβλέποντος;

I have enjoyed very much explaining the Greek and Latin roots of medical terminology this semester, and was delighted to learn a new bit of Greek vocabulary this week. I thought it was curious that the word κόρη appeared in medical terminology for the "pupil" of the eye. There is no lack of strange usage in this field, but I couldn't make the connection no matter how hard I stretched. The textbook only informed us that this particular root for "pupil" comes from the Greek word for "girl", without any sort of explanation. One of my students made the clever, but incorrect, suggestion that it was the "core" of the eye.

The answer was spelled out clearly for me in the third LSJ entry: "pupil of the eye, because a little image appears therein". This usage must derive from the previous entry, in which we learn that the word was also used of "dolls" and "small votive images". The most informative passage is the one I've cited above, placed in the mouth of Socrates by Plato in Alcibiades.1.133a, in which he says: "Have you considered that the face of someone observing the eye appears in the eyeball of the one opposite him just as in a mirror, and which we call a pupil, an image of the observer?" Socrates goes on to claim that, just as the eye must look into the eye to see itself, so must the soul look into the soul if it wishes to see itself, and other things like that.

The word κόρη is also used of: "the long sleeve reaching over the hand" (I'm not sure what this means yet, see X.HG.2.1.8); "the Attic drachma", because it had the head of Athena on it; as a synonym for ὑπέρεικον, or St. John's Wort (beats me: see Hp.ap.Gal.19.113); and, finally, in architectural language for "female figures as supports", or Caryatids.

The word pupil itself seems to come through Old French from Latin pupilla, a diminutive form of pupa, "girl", although according to Lewis's dictionary, it was the form pupula that was used in Latin for the pupil of the eye. (I don't have the OLD at hand.) I imagine that this Latin usage is based on a Greek analogy.

For an English curiosity, see the obsolete term "baby" in OED for "small image of oneself in another's pupil", which manifested itself in a 17th c. expression "to look babies", meaning to stare lovingly into another's eyes. Fun.