A Few Dirty Poems from the Greek Anthology

The fifth book of the Greek Anthology is filled with ‘Erotic’ poems. Most are tame; some are funny; and a few are just dreadful.  Today, a few using  a fine Greek verb βινεῖν (binein).

5.29 Killaktoros

“Screwing is sweet: who claims otherwise? But when it costs
Money, it is bitterer than hellebore.”

῾Αδὺ τὸ βινεῖν ἐστι. τίς οὐ λέγει; ἀλλ’ ὅταν αἰτῇ
χαλκόν, πικρότερον γίνεται ἐλλεβόρου.

5.126 Philodemus

“He gives her five talents for one turn
and fucks her while shaking—and, dear god, she isn’t pretty.
I give Lysianassa five drachmas for twelve turns—
I fuck a better woman and do it openly.
Either I am completely insane, or all that remains
is to lop off his twin balls with an axe.”

Πέντε δίδωσιν ἑνὸς τῇ δεῖνα ὁ δεῖνα τάλαντα,
καὶ βινεῖ φρίσσων καί, μὰ τόν, οὐδὲ καλήν·
πέντε δ’ ἐγὼ δραχμὰς τῶν δώδεκα Λυσιανάσσῃ,
καὶ βινῶ πρὸς τῷ κρείσσονα καὶ φανερῶς.
πάντως ἤτοι ἐγὼ φρένας οὐκ ἔχω, ἢ τό γε λοιπὸν
τοὺς κείνου πελέκει δεῖ διδύμους ἀφελεῖν.

Our gentle readers will probably note the variation in the translation of βινεῖν.  It is a rather ancient verb, it appears in a fragment of Archilochus ( fr. 152.2L γυναῖ]κα βινέων[) and, of course, Aristophanes drops some b-bombs from time to time as in the Frogs (740):

“For how isn’t he noble, when he knows only how to drink and screw?”

ΞΑ. Πῶς γὰρ οὐχὶ γεννάδας,
ὅστις γε πίνειν οἶδε καὶ βινεῖν μόνον;

But if no one told you that βινεῖν is the equivalent of “fucking”, you’d have to look at the LSJ (which uses Latin “inire, coire of illicit intercourse.”), or an ancient Lexicographer who cites Solon (Hesychius):

βινεῖν:”In Solon, to have sex by force—to conjugate against custom”

βινεῖν· παρὰ Σόλωνι τὸ βίᾳ μίγνυσθαι. τὸ δὲ κατὰ νόμον ὀπύειν

But my favorite entry comes from the Byzantine Encyclopedia, the Suda.

Suda: “Binein: to have intercourse; or to chirp like a bird. It occurs in epigrams.”

Βινεῖν: τὸ συνουσιάζειν· ἢ τὸ πιπίζειν. ἐν ᾿Επιγράμμασι·

Does anyone want to take a stab at some broader etymologies for the verb?


5 thoughts on “A Few Dirty Poems from the Greek Anthology

  1. Charles de Lamberterie (Revue Philologique 65 (1991) 149-160) connects it to a root βεν- < *gwen-, the full grade of the IE for "woman, wife", and explains the long iota as influenced by κινέω ("shake, move") and more distantly, βιάομαι ("do violence"). There's a graffito from Pompeii "binet."

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