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”
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’
Penelope is lamenting the continued absence of her husband to an elderly beggar (who happens to be her husband in disguise). She has just related to him a bizarre dream she had, in which an eagle violently destroys a gaggle of geese to which she is attending. The eagle, telling her she has nothing to … Continue reading Penelope and the Two Dream-Gates (Odyssey 19.560–569)