Snow in Words, Battle and, In season, On the Ground–Ancient Words for Modern Snow

This is a re-post for all of our friends in the Northeast. Stay safe and warm!

(And if you have any favorite ancient lines about snow or storms, add them to the mix…)

Homer Il. 3.222-3

“Yet, then a great voice came from his chest And [Odysseus’] words were like snowy storms”

ἀλλ’ ὅτε δὴ ὄπα τε μεγάλην ἐκ στήθεος εἵη καὶ ἔπεα νιφάδεσσιν ἐοικότα χειμερίῃσιν,

Homer, Il. 13.754
“And then Hector surged up like a snowy mountain”

῏Η ῥα, καὶ ὁρμήθη ὄρεϊ νιφόεντι ἐοικὼς

Cicero, in Catilinam 2.23

“How will they bear the Appenines covered in frosts and snow? Maybe they think that they can tolerate the cold, because they learned to dance naked at dinner parties.”

Quo autem pacto illi Appeninum atque illas pruinas ac nivis perferent? Nisi idcirco se facilius hiemem toleraturos putant, quod nudi in conviviis saltare didicerunt.

Solon, fr.9 1-4: Causation–Lightning comes from Thunder?

“The fury of snow and hail comes from a cloud
and thunder comes from bright lightning.
A city is destroyed by great men and the people fall
into the slavery of monarchy thanks to ignorance.”

ἐκ νεφέλης πέλεται χιόνος μένος ἠδὲ χαλάζης,
βροντὴ δ’ ἐκ λαμπρῆς γίγνεται ἀστεροπῆς·
ἀνδρῶν δ’ ἐκ μεγάλων πόλις ὄλλυται, ἐς δὲ μονάρχου
δῆμος ἀϊδρίηι δουλοσύνην ἔπεσεν.


From a commenter named Luke:

Xenophon. 4.4.11:

νυκτερευόντων δ’ αὐτῶν ἐνταῦθα ἐπιπίπτει χιὼν ἄπλετος, ὥστε ἀπέκρυψε καὶ τὰ ὅπλα καὶ τοὺς ἀνθρώπους κατακειμένους· καὶ τὰ ὑποζύγια συνεπόδισεν ἡ χιών· καὶ πολὺς ὄκνος ἦν ἀνίστασθαι· κατακειμένων γὰρ ἀλεεινὸν ἦν ἡ χιὼν ἐπιπεπτωκυῖα ὅτῳ μὴ παραρρυείη.

But there came such a tremendous fall of snow while they were bivouacked there that it completely covered both the arms and the men as they slept, besides hampering the baggage animals; and everybody was very reluctant to get up, for as the men lay there the snow that had fallen upon them–in case it did not slip off–was a source of warmth.

From Palaiophron::

iam satis terris nivis atque dirae grandinis misit pater? -Horace

From PlatoSparks:

Daphnis and Chloe by Longus.

Γίνεται δὲ χειμὼν Δάφνιδι καὶ Χλόῃ τοῦ πολέμου πικρότερος: ἐξαίφνης γὰρ περιπεσοῦσα χιὼν πολλὴ πάσας μὲν ἀπέκλεισε τὰς ὁδούς, πάντας δὲ κατέκλεισε τοὺς γεωργούς.

Winter came more bitter than the war to Daphnis and Chloe. For a large amount snow falling suddenly blocked off all the roads and shut all the farmers indoors.

Longus 3.3.1

One thought on “Snow in Words, Battle and, In season, On the Ground–Ancient Words for Modern Snow

  1. There is one from the Iliad.

    As when the snowflakes fall thick on a winter’s day when the counsellor Zeus is moved to snow showing men his darts. When he has sent the winds to sleep he pours down steadily until he covers the peaks of the high mountains and the high headlands and the grassy plains and the rich fields of men. And the snow is poured on the harbours and shores of the grey sea. The wave where it comes near keeps it off but everything else is covered from above when the storm of Zeus falls.

    ὥς τε νιφάδες χιόνος πίπτωσι θαμειαὶ
    ἤματι χειμερίῳ, ὅτε τ᾽ ὤρετο μητίετα Ζεὺς
    νιφέμεν ἀνθρώποισι πιφαυσκόμενος τὰ ἃ κῆλα:
    κοιμήσας δ᾽ ἀνέμους χέει ἔμπεδον, ὄφρα καλύψῃ
    ὑψηλῶν ὀρέων κορυφὰς καὶ πρώονας ἄκρους
    καὶ πεδία λωτοῦντα καὶ ἀνδρῶν πίονα ἔργα,
    καί τ᾽ ἐφ᾽ ἁλὸς πολιῆς κέχυται λιμέσιν τε καὶ ἀκταῖς,
    κῦμα δέ μιν προσπλάζον ἐρύκεται: ἄλλά τε πάντα
    εἴλυται καθύπερθ᾽, ὅτ᾽ ἐπιβρίσῃ Διὸς ὄμβρος

    Iliad 12.278

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