To Poseidon (Homeric Hymn XXII)

Ἀμφὶ Ποσειδάωνα, μέγαν θεόν, ἄρχομ᾽ ἀείδειν,
γαίης κινητῆρα καὶ ἀτρυγέτοιο θαλάσσης,
πόντιον, ὅσθ᾽ Ἑλικῶνα καὶ εὐρείας ἔχει Αἰγάς.
διχθά τοι, Ἐννοσίγαιε, θεοὶ τιμὴν ἐδάσαντο,
ἵππων τε δμητῆρ᾽ ἔμεναι σωτῆρά τε νηῶν. 5
χαῖρε, Ποσείδαον γαιήοχε, κυανοχαῖτα,
καί, μάκαρ, εὐμενὲς ἦτορ ἔχων πλώουσιν ἄρηγε.

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The Great Seal

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.
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An ominous sneeze (Od. 17.534–547)

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 an omen inserts itself into everyday life and you have no choice but to remark on it. In Book 17 of the Odyssey, when the eponymous wanderer has returned to Ithaca but been disguised by Athena as an old man (called “the stranger” ξεῖνος—ironic, as his connection to Ithaca is more profound than anybody else’s), his wife Penelope is ranting about all the terrible things she wishes would happen to the many men (μνηστῆρες ‘suitors’) who are trying to woo her in her husband’s seemingly interminable absence.

“οἱ δ᾽ εἰς ἡμέτερον πωλεύμενοι ἤματα πάντα,
βοῦς ἱερεύοντες καὶ ὄϊς καὶ πίονας αἶγας, 535
εἰλαπινάζουσιν πίνουσί τε αἴθοπα οἶνον,
μαψιδίως· τὰ δὲ πολλὰ κατάνεται. οὐ γὰρ ἔπ᾽ ἀνήρ,
οἷος Ὀδυσσεὺς ἔσκεν, ἀρὴν ἀπὸ οἴκου ἀμῦναι.
εἰ δ᾽ Ὀδυσεὺς ἔλθοι καὶ ἵκοιτ᾽ ἐς πατρίδα γαῖαν,
αἶψά κε σὺν ᾧ παιδὶ βίας ἀποτίσεται ἀνδρῶν.” 540

Right in the middle of her raving, her son Telemachus lets out a powerful sneeze.

ὣς φάτο, Τηλέμαχος δὲ μέγ᾽ ἔπταρεν, ἀμφὶ δὲ δῶμα
σμερδαλέον κονάβησε· γέλασσε δὲ Πηνελόπεια,
αἶψα δ᾽ ἄρ᾽ Εὔμαιον ἔπεα πτερόεντα προσηύδα·

Penelope sees the aptly timed sneeze as a prophetic confirmation that what she has been saying will come to pass. She asks Eumaeus— the faithful swineherd of the estate—to finally bring the elderly stranger into her presence.

“ἔρχεό μοι, τὸν ξεῖνον ἐναντίον ὧδε κάλεσσον.
οὐχ ὁράᾳς ὅ μοι υἱὸς ἐπέπταρε πᾶσιν ἔπεσσι; 545
τῷ κε καὶ οὐκ ἀτελὴς θάνατος μνηστῆρσι γένοιτο
πᾶσι μάλ᾽, οὐδέ κέ τις θάνατον καὶ κῆρας ἀλύξει.” (Od. 17.534–547)

534   ἡμέτερον sc. οἶκον ‘home’ from a few lines earlier—πωλεύμενοι = πωλεόμενοι ‘coming and going; visiting frequently’

535   ἱερεύοντες ἱερεύω ‘sacrifice’; cf. ἱερεύς ‘priest’—βοῦς … καὶ ὄϊς καὶ πίονας αἶγας ‘bulls … and sheep and fat goats’ exemplifies what is in comparative poetics called an augmented triad, where in a list of three items only the last has an attributive adjective or otherwise resists syntactic parallelism with the first two.

536   εἰλαπινάζουσιν εἰλαπινάζω ‘revel in large company, party’; cf. εἰλαπίνη ‘feast, banquet’—αἴθοπα αἶθ-οψ lit. ‘fiery-looking,’ a common epithet for wine; cf. αἴθω ‘burn, ignite’ (PIE *h2eydh-); note the hiatus τε αἴθοπα, which is sometimes allowed between the fourth and fifth feet, the so-called Bucolic dieresis.

537   μαψιδίως ‘recklessly, thoughtlessly’—κατάνεται κατ-άνομαι ‘be used up, wasted’—οὐ γὰρ ἔπ’ ἀνήρ: ἔπι here is adverbial (note the accentuation), with the semantics of ἔπ-ειμι ‘be left, remain’; thus = ‘for there [is] no man left’

538   ἀρήν ἀρή acc sg ‘ruin, destruction’—ἀμῦναι ἀμύνω aor act inf: to be taken with l. 537 ἀνήρ ‘a man to ward off’ i.e. ‘a man who can/will ward off

539   βίας βίη acc pl ‘act of violence’—ἀποτίσεται ἀπο-τίνομαι ‘exact payment for, avenge’

541   ἔπταρεν πταίρω 3 sg aor ‘sneeze’; a hapax legomenon in Homer (not counting l. 545 ἐπέπταρε); the word, beginning with πτ-, is an obvious onomatopoeia (cf. English ptui, imitative of spitting)

542   σμερδαλέον σμερδαλέος ‘fearful, terrible’; here as an adverb qualifying ἔπταρεν—κονάβησε κοναβέω ‘resound, echo’—γέλασσε γελάω ‘laugh’ 3 sg aor

543   πτερόεντα πτερό-εις ‘winged,’ lit. ‘feather-having’; ἔπεα πτερόεντα προσηύδα ‘spoke winged words to’ is a very frequent collocation in Homer; note also the phonetic similarity between l. 541 ἔπταρεν ‘sneezed’ and πτερόεντα (where respective ἔπταρ– and -[ἔπε]α πτερ– even occupy the same position in the verse)—προσηύδα προσ-αυδάω ‘speak to, address’

544   μοι is the ethical dative, signifying basically “Please do this for me.”—τὸν ξεῖνον = Odysseus, disguised as an old beggar—ἐναντίον ἐν-αντίος ‘opposite’ i.e. ‘into [my] presence’—ὧδε ‘thus, in this way,’ but here = ‘in this direction, hither’—κάλεσσον καλέω 2 sg aor imp

545   ὁράᾳς ὁράω 2 sg pres act ind with assimilation of ε in ὁράεις to the preceding vowel— = ὅτι conj ‘that’—μοι dative of possession with υἱός—ἐπέπταρε ἐπι-πταίρω ‘sneeze at’; cf. l. 541 ἔπταρεν

546   τῷ ‘therefore, for that reason’—ἀτελἠς ‘without completion, unaccomplished’; thus οὐκ ἀτελής = ‘completed, fulfilled’—μνηστῆρσι μνηστήρ ‘suitor, wooer’; cf. μνάομαι ‘woo, court’

547   This line basically rephrases the preceding line.—θάνατον καὶ κῆρας lit. ‘Death and the Kēres (spirits of violent death)’ = ‘death’; a frequent hendiadys in Homer—ἀλύξει ἀλύσκω 3 sg fut ind ‘avoid, escape’

“They—coming and going in our home all of the days,
sacrificing bulls and sheep and fat goats— 535
revel and drink the flashing wine,
thoughtlessly; and everything is used up. For there is no man left,
the likes of how Odysseus was, to ward off ruin from the house.
If Odysseus came and arrived at his homeland,
he’d at once, with his son, take vengeance on the mens’ violent acts.” 540

She spoke thus, and Telemachus sneezed greatly, and around the house
it resounded terribly; Penelope laughed,
and at once addressed winged words to Eumaeus:

“Go now, and call that stranger hither to my presence.
Don’t you see that my son has sneezed at all my words? 545
Therefore death to all the suitors will not go unfulfilled,
nor will any man escape Death and the Kēres.” (Od. 17.534–547)

The “Shiva Sutras”

In his most famous work, Aṣṭādhyāyī (“Eight Chapters”), the ancient Indian grammarian Pāṇini laid out his analysis of Sanskrit grammar in a comprehensive and impressively compact manner, outlining rules for everything from noun compounding to accentuation to sandhi.

In sections dealing with individual sounds, the author is able to refer to whole groups of specific vowels and/or consonants in a concise way by making recourse to a handy set of fourteen sutras, which feature all of the phonemes of the Classical Sanskrit language, arranged into logical groups. Each sutra ends with an anubandha (“affix”), a “dummy letter,” whose purpose I will clarify below.

https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/originals/29/77/ee/2977ee03f8c36bf71f0e4acc22738c7d.jpg

The exact provenance of the sutras is obscure; it is not a guarantee that Pāṇini himself was the first to use them. Since one tradition held that the grammarian was endowed with these mystical verses by the god Shiva directly, the lines became known as the Śivasūtrāṇi (“Shiva Sutras”):

1. a i u
2. ṛ ḷ k
3. e o
4. ai au c
5. ha ya va ra
6. la
7. ña ma a a na m
8. jha bha ñ
9. gha ḍha dha
10. ja ba ga ḍa da ś
11. kha pha cha ṭha tha ca a ta v
12. ka pa y
13. śa a sa r
14. ha l

Note that with only a few exceptions (in particular, rows 2 and 13–14) the Shiva Sutras basically present a sonority hierarchy; going down the list, the sounds become less sonorous or vowel-like—and more consonant-like. The linguist Paul Kiparsky has reflected on the phonological arrangement of the sutras. His 1992 paper Economy and the Construction of the Śivasūtras can be found here.

The sutras allow the user to fashion a pratyāhāra, a noun that refers to a whole sequence of consecutively listed sounds. Take the sound (purple) you wish to start with from the table above and then add the anubandha (blue), one of the dummy letters, at which the sequence will stop.

For example, to refer to all vowels collectively (say, including diphthongs in line 4), begin with a

1. a i u
2. ṛ ḷ k
3. e o
4. ai au c

—and then proceed as far as the anubandha c

1. a i u
2. ṛ ḷ k
3. e o
4. ai au c

Thus we construct the word ac. This resulting pratyāhāra is taken to be the nominative form of a noun, which means “all sounds between a and the anubandha c,” i.e. “any of the set {a, i, u, ,, e, o, ai, au}.” This noun, of course, can be inflected; the locative aci has the meaning “before {a, i, …}”; the genitive aca has the meaning “instead of {a, i, …}.”

Knowing this, we are prepared to make sense of the following very concisely worded rule from Pāṇini’s Aṣṭādhyāyī, which concerns a basic principle of sandhi that will (after some untangling) be familiar to the beginning Sanskrit student:

इको यणचि । (6.1.77)
ikaya aci
“Instead of ik, ya before ac.”
“Instead of {i, u, , }, it is {y, v, r, l} that come before {a, i, u, , , e, o, ai, au}.”

This beautifully compact utterance captures the fact the short vowels {i, u, , } are realized as their non-syllabic allophones {y, v, r, l} whenever they directly precede any vowel. (E.g. *api avagacchasi “Do you understand?” must become apyavagacchasi अप्यवगच्छसि)

Let’s tackle the next one as well.

एचो ऽयवायावः । (6.1.78)
ecaḥ ay:av:āy:āvaḥ (sc. aci from the previous line)
“Instead of ec, ay-av-āy-āvaḥ before ac.”
“Instead of {e, o, ai, au}, it is {ay, av, āy, āv} that come before {a, i, u, , , e, o, ai, au}.”

Note that the nominative plural form ayavāyāvaḥ is a straightforward, if bizarre-looking, dvandva compound of the speech-sounds {ay, av, āy, āv}; it does not make reference of the Shiva Sutras.

This rule logically follows on the previous one. Whereas in 6.1.77 we are told that certain short vowels must become their non-syllabic counterparts when directly before a vowel, line 78 states that diphthongs {e, o, ai, au}—historically {ai, au, āi, āu}—must be decomposed into a (or ā) with semivowel when they immediately precede a vowel. (E.g. *vane aśvo ‘sti “The horse is in the forest,” must become vanayaśvo ‘sti.)

Pāṇini’s entire Aṣṭādhyāyī can be browsed online here, courtesy of the Heinrich-Heine-Universität Düsseldorf. What other examples of the sutras in action can you find?

An ancient word for ‘earthling’?

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 (dat. pl.)’ < *dʰɡ́ʰem-el-o-

This underlying root is also well-attested with its original meaning.

  • Albanian dhe ‘earth’ < *dʰɡ́ʰom-
  • Celtic *gdon- (Old Irish , don ‘place’) < *dʰɡ́ʰom-
  • Greek χθών, -νός ‘earth’ (an English derivative of which is chthonic) < *dʰɡ́ʰom-; χαμαί ‘on the ground,’ χαμᾶζε ‘earthwards,’ χθαμαλός ‘near the ground’ < *dʰɡ́ʰem-el-o-
  • Latin humus ‘ground’ < *dʰɡ́ʰom-o-, humilis ‘near the ground’ < *dʰɡ́ʰem-el-i-
  • Sanskrit क्ष kṣa ‘field’ < *dʰɡ́ʰm̥-
  • Slavic *zemja (Polish ziemia; Bulgarian земя, Russian земля) < *dʰɡ́ʰem-yh̥2

Although Greek derives no explicit word for ‘person’ from this, ἐπιχθόνιος ‘on (ἐπί) the earth (χθών)’ is an occasional epithet of humans in Homeric verse:

“οὔ τινα γὰρ τίεσκον ἐπιχθονίων ἀνθρώπων,
οὐ κακὸν οὐδὲ μὲν ἐσθλόν, ὅτις σφέας εἰσαφίκοιτο” 415
“Not one of the people on earth did they respect—
not wicked and not noble—whoever came to them.” (Od. 22.414–415)

Sometimes it even occurs on its own, without ἄνθρωποι ‘people’ or βροτοί ‘mortals,’ and we are expected to fill that meaning in ourselves:

“εἰ μὲν γάρ τίς μ᾽ ἄλλος ἐπιχθονίων ἐκέλευεν, 220
ἢ οἳ μάντιές εἰσι θυοσκόοι ἢ ἱερῆες,
ψεῦδός κεν φαῖμεν καὶ νοσφιζοίμεθα μᾶλλον.”
“For if some other one of those on the earth had told me,
either those who are diviners or priests who make sacrifices,
we would rather call it a falsehood and distance ourselves from it.” (Il. 24.220–222)

The derived meaning of ‘person’ from ‘earth’ is not exclusive to these Indo-European examples. Hebrew, too, seems to derive אָדָם ɔādām ‘man, Adam‘ from אֲדָמָה ɔădāmâ
‘ground.’ (The underlying root ɔdm means ‘red.’)

Why these languages would have derived words for ‘human being’ from a word meaning ‘earth’ is an interesting question. I see several possibilities:

  1. the sense of earth-denizen is in opposition to sky-denizens, or the gods;
  2. there is a common myth in the Indo-European and Semitic mythologies (and elsewhere?) that humans were created out of clay or dirt;
  3. humans called themselves earthling to differentiate themselves from otherworldly visitors.

Seriously considering #1 and #2, I am inclined to think that #1 is the likeliest. To be sure, the notion that humankind was created from clay is a common belief across many world mythologies. On the Semitic side of things, in Genesis (2:7), Adam is created from the “dust of the ground”—just like in the Enûma Eliš—while the Qurɔān (55.14–15) mentions that God also created the jinn from smokeless fire. Thus the connection between ɔādām ‘man, Adam’ and ɔădāmâ ‘ground’ fits this theory very nicely.

Elohim Creating Adam 1795-c. 1805 by William Blake 1757-1827
And Elohim Created Adam by William Blake

But in these many Indo-European derivations from *dʰéɡ́ʰom- ‘earth,’ a parallel creation story wherein humans are wrought out of clay seems too good to be true; it would certainly be asking a lot of comparative mythology. For this reason I prefer #1. The Greek ἐπιχθόνιος ‘[living] on the earth’—as opposed to something like *ἐκχθόνιος ‘[sprung] from the earth’—in particular suggests that the noteworthy aspect of humankind’s relationship with *dʰéɡ́ʰom- is that it is our home. Whether or not it is also the ur-material of our bodily composition is not the central issue.

There are plenty of ancient Indo-European sources that drive home the opposition between earth-dwelling mortals and sky-dwelling immortals. Here is one of my favorite examples:

A monument (2nd cent. BC) with a dual-language inscription sums up in more concise Gaulish a dedication that has already been written in Latin:

dewogdonion

AKISIOS·ARKATOKO{K}
MATEREKOS·TOŠO
KOTE·ATOM·TEUOX
TONION·EV

Akisios Argantomaterecus gave the area (?) for gods-and-humans.

This TEUOX/TONION—for which David Stifter reconstructs the pronunciation dēwoγdoniyon—is the Gaulish equivalent of deis et hominibus ‘for gods and humans’ in the Latin text. The word is apparently a dvandva compound (which are not common in Celtic) that breaks down into dēwo– ‘god’ and γdoniyo– ‘human,’ with a plural inflectional ending. The first half is from Indo-European *deywó- ‘god’ (cf. the Germanic god *Tīwaz), which is probably an ablaut-variant of *dyew- ‘sky, day,’ and therefore related to *dyēw- ‘sky god’ (frequently with the epithet “Father”; cf. Ζεὺς Πάτηρ, Iuppiter, Dyauṣ Pitā, etc.). The second half of the compound, γdoniyo-, is our old friend *dʰɡ́ʰom-yo- ‘earthian, earthling,’ and therefore exactly cognate with Irish duine ‘person.’

Therefore this single word TEUOXTONION dēwoγdoniyon ‘for gods and humans’ perfectly encapsulates the opposition between sky-dwelling immortals and earthbound mortals. For these reasons it makes the most sense to me that, at least for the Indo-European terms, the original sense must have been ‘earth-dwelling’ (and not, say, ‘made from earth/dirt’). But perhaps the answer does not have to be one or the other.

And option #3 is always available.

Etymology: cyclops

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’:

*kʷékʷlh3ōkʷ-s = *kʷékʷlo– + *h3ō

*kʷékʷlo– ‘circle, ring’ (cf. κύκλος; English wheel)

*h3ōkʷ– ‘face, eye’ (cf. ὄψομαι ‘see (fut.)’)

In more recent years another, perhaps better, etymology has sprung up, with the original meaning ‘cattle-thief’:

*pḱúḱlōp-s = *pḱu– + *ḱlōp

*pḱu– ‘cattle’ (zero-grade of Indo-European *peḱu ‘cattle’; cf. Latin pecu, Old English feoh, German Vieh, Sanskrit paśu)

*ḱlōp– ‘thief’ (agent noun from *ḱlep- ‘steal’; cf. verbs κλέπτω < *ḱlep-yō, Gothic hlifan)

This option implies a simplification of an initial *pḱ- cluster to k-. For another initial cluster simplification like this, cf. Andrew Sihler’s proposed etymology of Homeric τρυφάλεια (a kind of helmet) as literally ‘with four (reading τρυ- as reflecting the combining zero-grade form *kʷtru- of *kʷetwór- ‘four’) phaloi (φάλος, a part of the helmet)’ (Sihler 1995 §389.4a).

Comparative Indo-European mythology is rife with monsters and enemies on a mission to steal livestock—to name just a few, Queen Medb plays this role in the Táin Bó Cúailnge, as does the monster Grendel in Beowulf, and Odysseus’s own men slaughter the Cattle of the Sun in the Odyssey (with this sin precipitating their demise). It seems likely that the myth of the cyclops evolved with a similar function.

Homeric Greek πέλωρ ‘monster’

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):

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“τοὺς ἀκέων συνέεργον ἐυστρεφέεσσι λύγοισιν,
τῇς ἔπι Κύκλωψ εὗδε πέλωρ, ἀθεμίστια εἰδώς,
σύντρεις αἰνύμενος”

“Without speaking, I fastened [the rams] together with well-twisted osier-twigs,
on which the Cyclops—the monster, expert in lawlessness—slept,
taking them three at a time” (Od. 9.427–429)

The other occurrence is of a creature no less deserving:

Scylla attacking Olysseus's ship

“ἔνθα δ᾽ ἐνὶ Σκύλλη ναίει δεινὸν λελακυῖα. 85
τῆς ἦ τοι φωνὴ μὲν ὅση σκύλακος νεογιλῆς
γίγνεται, αὐτὴ δ᾽ αὖτε πέλωρ κακόν· οὐδέ κέ τίς μιν
γηθήσειεν ἰδών, οὐδ᾽ εἰ θεὸς ἀντιάσειεν.”

Scylla dwells in there, shrieking awfully. 85
Her voice is like that of a new-born puppy,
though she herself is an evil monster; nobody would laugh
upon seeing her, not if it were a god coming face-to-face with her.” (Od. 12.85–88)

But the sole use of πέλωρ in the Iliad makes a curious departure from the image of man-killing creatures who do not abide by the laws set by the gods.

rubens_-_vulcano_forjando_los_rayos_de_jc3bapiter

ἦ, καὶ ἀπ᾽ ἀκμοθέτοιο πέλωρ αἴητον ἀνέστη
χωλεύων· ὑπὸ δὲ κνῆμαι ῥώοντο ἀραιαί.

[Hephaestus] spoke, and the terrible monster rose from his anvil,
limping; his frail legs hastened underneath him. (Il. 18.10–11)

The god of the forge, Hephaestus, is rising to greet Thetis, the mother of Achilles, who will ask him to make a shield for her son. Hephaestus is famously lame in both feet, ever since an unfortunate event in his past. He limps everywhere, unable to walk in a normal manner, and is frequently the butt of the other gods’ jokes because of this. In these lines we get a cartoon-like portrayal of Hephaestus, with his legs (technically, his κνῆμαι ‘lower legs’; cf. κνημῖδες ‘greaves‘) fluttering about in frantic circuits only to convey him across the room at an unremarkable pace. Whether or not we are to understand πέλωρ αἴητον ‘terrible monster’ as being ironic for so unthreatening a character, it is worth asking whether it is Hephaestus’ disability, his deviation from what is considered normal physiology, that licenses this use of πέλωρ.

Beyond the noun, its derived adjectives πέλωρος and πελώριος are applied to creatures, gods (Hades, Ares), heroes (Ajax, Hector, and Achilles), and things that are inhuman or prodigious in some way, or deviate majorly from what is considered to be normal for a human.

A derived noun πελωρίᾱ yields the term ‘peloria‘ in modern botany, denoting an aberrant type of floral growth.

The word πέλωρ itself is, like a sizable minority of the Homeric vocabulary, taken from the Aeolic dialect. Evidencing this fact is an Attic-Ionic cognate τέλωρ that apparently existed as well. Just like the first sound in Aeolic πίσυρες ‘four’ (Ionic τέσσαρες and Attic τέτταρες), the first consonant of πέλωρ/τέλωρ goes back to Proto-Indo-European *kʷ-. (Aeolic lacks the Attic-Ionic exception where *kʷ becomes *t, not *p, before a front vowel.) The second consonant is the result of dissimilation from final ρ; the reconstructed form for Aeolic πέλωρ is therefore *kʷér-ōr-, built on the well-attested root *kʷer- ‘do, make, build.’

A second Greek word from this same root is τὸ τέρας ‘sign, portent’ < PIE *kʷér-h̥2s-. Whatever the connection between this term and the PIE sense of ‘make, do,’ it is worth pointing out that ‘portent, omen’ is a common first step in the semantic evolution of words meaning ‘monster’; cf. Latin monstro ‘show, point out’ and monstrum ‘sign, omen; monster, monstrosity’ (for the former semantics of monstrum cf. German Muster and Dutch monster, both ‘sample, template’; also English pass muster = “be deemed satisfactory according to a standard”); also, perhaps, δράκων ‘dragon, serpent’ from the zero-grade of the same root as δέρκομαι ‘see, behold.’

What is the semantic connection between *kʷer- ‘make’—whence Sanskrit कृणोति kṛṇoti ‘do,’ कर्म karma ‘deed’; Persian كردن kærdæn ‘do,’ كار kār ‘work’; Old Irish cruth ‘form, shape’—and πέλωρ, which so often is best translated ‘monster, prodigy’?  (*kʷer- is apparently also the root underlying such Balto-Slavic words as Lithuanian kẽras ‘sorcery,’ Polish czar ‘magic, spell,’ Russian чары ‘spells, charms.’) Perhaps the meaning of τέρας ‘portent’ was chronologically intermediate, following ‘something made (by a god?)’ but preceding ‘monster’?