Sunday, June 12, 2011

Appetitive: Homeric Vocabulary

I have a confession to make: I don't really like Homer. Gasp. Yes, I know, it seems very strange that a classicist is not a fan of Homer, but I just can't get into it. Back when I first read the Odyssey, I really liked it, but in the last few years I have tried to get through both the Iliad and the Odyssey and failed.

However, I finally started reading some of the Iliad in Greek with Propertius II and I am actually enjoying it. Although I know English is a spectacularly rich and wonderful language, there is something more expressive in the Greek-- partially, I think, because this type of epic is better designed for Greek than for English. While reading the short (22 lines) of Greek, I noticed that the richness of the definitions of the words were making me smile. I picked a couple of words that I really liked in context. I provide a basic form of the definitions I found in Richard John Cunliffe's A Lexicon of the Homeric Dialect:

αὔω-- This can be either to shout or to cry, but also to make the sound that armor makes when struck by a spear.
εἵλω-- hem up in a coop or drive prey together for slaughter. Homer uses this word to describe the way that Idomeneus covers himself with his shield as Deiphobus comes toward him in an attempt to avenge the death of Asios.
I also found the expression of a particular line that I liked.
"κρύφθη γὰρ ὑπ'ἀσπίδι πάντοσ' ἐΐσῃ" (XIII.405)-- "for he was hidden under his shield [which was] equal all directions" i.e. his shield was a circle. To me there is something both poetic and that reflects the culture in this phrasing. As Propertius II mentioned, Homer's poems show a fascination with geometry. Sadly, Lattimore renders it as "he was hidden beneath his shield's perfect circle" (Lattimore XIII.405)
I am also interested in Homer's many different words for shield. I will post what I find.

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