Epic poetry is everywhere. The Great Seal of the United States, found (among other places) on the back of the one-dollar bill, contains two Latin mottoes on its reverse, which is on the left side of the bill. The seal was officially adopted by the U.S. government in 1782. I had never looked into these … Continue reading The Great Seal
People of all walks of life in Ancient Greek civilization(s) were fond of predicting the future by any means necessary. Sometimes this was a structured, purposeful process where a knowledgeable seer would set up an experiment, as it were, and use animal entrails or the flights of birds or random lines of literature. But sometimes … Continue reading An ominous sneeze (Od. 17.534–547)
Many Indo-European languages exhibit a word for 'human being' that is built off of PIE *dʰéɡ́ʰom- 'earth, ground.' Celtic *gdonyo- (Irish duine 'person,' Welsh dyn 'man') < *dʰɡ́ʰom-yo- Germanic *guman- 'man' (Old English guma 'man,' English [bride]groom; Old High German gomo 'man,' German [Bräuti]gam) < *dʰɡ́ʰm̥-mon- Latin homō, -minis 'person' < *dʰɡ́ʰm-on- (whence also hūmānus) Phrygian ζεμελως 'man … Continue reading An ancient word for ‘earthling’?
As the defining characteristic of this creature is its single eye, for a long time it was taken for granted that cyclops—Greek κύκλωψ—was an old compound meaning 'round-eye': *kʷékʷl-h3ōkʷ-s = *kʷékʷlo- + *h3ōkʷ- *kʷékʷlo- 'circle, ring' (cf. κύκλος; English wheel) *h3ōkʷ- 'face, eye' (cf. ὄψομαι 'see (fut.)') In more recent years another, perhaps better, etymology … Continue reading Etymology: cyclops
A curious idiom that shows up a number of times in both the Iliad and the Odyssey means literally "take the ground with one's teeth"; figuratively, it means "die." The idiom bite the dust, or something like it, is found in a handful of modern European languages: Dutch: in het zand/gras bijten 'bite into the … Continue reading Another “One Bites the Dust”
I stumbled across this line in the Iliad that I think is noteworthy from a poetic perspective. Agamemnon is making a list of all the gifts (mostly furniture and servants) he will offer Achilles to entice him to return to the battlefront, and concludes it thus: "τὰς μέν οἱ δώσω, μετὰ δ᾽ ἔσσεται ἣν τότ᾽ ἀπηύρων … Continue reading A Rhyming Line in Iliad 9
One of my favorite words is τὸ πέλωρ. The first of its two occurrences in the Odyssey is in apposition to Κύκλωψ 'Cyclops' (referring to Polyphemus, the only such creature with which Odysseus comes into contact): "τοὺς ἀκέων συνέεργον ἐυστρεφέεσσι λύγοισιν, τῇς ἔπι Κύκλωψ εὗδε πέλωρ, ἀθεμίστια εἰδώς, σύντρεις αἰνύμενος" "Without speaking, I fastened [the … Continue reading Homeric Greek πέλωρ ‘monster’