Infiationem Magnam: Breaking Wind in Latin and Greek

Cicero, de Divinatione 1.30

“Plato therefore encourages people to go to sleep with their bodies thus disposed that there be nothing which could introduce any wandering from or disturbance of sleep. From which it is thought that the Pythagoreans prohibited the consumption of beans, because that food causes a great flatulence which is contrary to the tranquility of a mind seeking the truth.”

Iubet igitur Plato sic ad somnum proficisci corporibus adfectis, ut nihil sit, quod errorem animis perturbationemque adferat. Ex quo etiam Pythagoreis interdictum putatur, ne faba vescerentur, quod habet infiationem magnam is cibus tranquillitati mentis quaerenti vera contrariam.

 

 

Suetonius, DIvus Claudius 32

“He is even said to have considered passing an edict, by which he would give license to farting at dinner, because he had heard of a man who had nearly killed himself by holding it in for shame.”

Dicitur etiam meditatus edictum, quo veniam daret flatum crepitumque ventris in convivio emittendi, cum periclitatum qvendam prae pudore ex continentia repperisset.

Illuminated MSS

The Greek verb for farting, perdesthai, is cognate with Latin podex (“anus”) and the English verb fart. Greek has several synonyms on a sliding scale of politeness. This restores my faith in the expressive range of Ancient Greek so shaken by the absence of words for “sleep-walking” or “sleep-talking”.

Bdennusthai: This means to evacuate one’s stomach, not to fart. This is also used locally in our time, for we say “he farts” (bdei)

Βδέννυσθαι: ἐκκενοῦσθαι τὴν κοιλίαν σημαίνει, οὐ τὸ πέρδεσθαι. ὃ καὶ ἐπιχωριάζει μέχρι τοῦ νῦν: βδέει γὰρ λέγομεν.

 

Skordinâsthai: This means to stretch ones limbs beyond the limits of nature nwhile yawning from weariness. Aristophanes says in the Acharnians: “I groan, I yawn, I stretch, I fart.” Some people use this verb for people waking from sleep, when they yawn and stretch their limbs. This is also used of people who twist their timbs and test them in every direction”

Σκορδινᾶσθαι: τὸ παρὰ φύσιν ἀποτείνειν τὰ μέλη μετὰ τοῦ χασμᾶσθαι διακλώμενον. Ἀριστοφάνης Ἀχαρνεῦσι: στένω, κέχηνα, σκορδινῶμαι, πέρδομαι. τινὲς δὲ περὶ τοὺς ἐγειρομένους ἐξ ὕπνου, ὅταν χασμώδεις ὄντες ἐκτείνουσι τὰ μέλη: ὅπερ συμβαίνει καὶ περὶ τοὺς ἄλλως πως βασανιζομένους καὶ διαστρεφομένους τὰ μέλη.

Apopnein and diapnein: “breathing out” and “releasing air”. These words mean to fart, but they are more polite than apopsophein (“breaking wind”).

Ἀποπνέω: γενικῇ. Ἀποπνεῖν καὶ διαπνεῖν τὸ πέρδεσθαι, εὐσχημονέστερον τοῦ ἀποψοφεῖν.

Apopsophiein: This means “to fart”, but it is more respectable. Even more polite are the words diapnein and apopnein.

᾿Αποψοφιεῖν: τὸ πέρδεσθαι, εὐσχήμως λέγων. εὐσχημονέστερον δὲ διαπνεῖν καὶ ἀποπνεῖν.

3 thoughts on “Infiationem Magnam: Breaking Wind in Latin and Greek

  1. I LOVE these posts and share many with my Latin list: MILLE GRATIAS!! There’s a typo you may wish to correct in both the title & text of your first item, INFLATIONEM not INFIATIONEM (as in FLATulence).

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    Anonymous: Sumus qui fimus et omnes qui umquam fuimus.
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  2. «Κυάμων απέχεσθε» [Kyamon Apechesthe] – abstain from eating kyamos
    This Pythagorean counsel refers not to just any ordinary beans, but to the green Broad Beans (Vicia faba) and this for many reasons, among which were:
    1. they were deemed portents of death
    2. they were thought to symbolise rebirth or soul transmigration.
    3. they were truly dangerous if eaten in large quantities due to their toxic contents (alkaloids vicine and convicine) which can cause “favism” in some susceptible individuals.

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