Tawdry Tuesday: Suetonius and His Defamatory Words

Antiquity has bequeathed to us On Defamatory Words and Where they Come from (ΠΕΡΙ ΒΛΑΣΦΗΜΙΩΝ ΚΑΙ ΠΟΘΕΝ ΕΚΑΣΤΗ) attributed to Gaius Suetonius Tranquillus. Yes, that Suetonius. It seems rather fragmentary, but it produces some gems. A large section include insults about women, but here’s a nice one for a man:

nôthouros: I guess is one who has a bastard ‘tail’ for intercourse. For they use this in respect to male genitals. The kind of man described this way is also called impotent [astutos] and his household is called impotent. For example in Xenarkhos, “the impotent house of the Pelopides”. And there is also “fruitless” [akarpos] and “childless” [agonos] “the house perishes because it experiences the flaccid fates of its masters”.

Νώθουρος, <ἤγουν ὁ νωθὴν ἔχων τὴν οὐρὰν ἐν τῷ συγγίνεσθαι·οὕτω γὰρ ἔλεγον τὸ κατ’ ἄνδρας αἰδοῖον. ῾Ο δὲ τοιοῦτος ἀνὴρ καὶ ἄστυτος ἐλέγετο, καθὰ καὶ οἶκος ἄστυτος>—<οἷον παρὰ Ξενάρχῳ (fr. 1 Kock)·«Πελοπιδῶν ἄστυτος οἶκος», ἤγουν ἄκαρπος, ἄγονος, καί (id. ibid.)· «φθίνει δόμος ἀστύτοισι δεσποτῶν κεχρημένος τύχαις«>—

Astutus, literally “without an erection”. I covered this last week….

Hesychius agrees with the definition

Nôthouros: one who is incapable of having intercourse. Or a donkey.

νώθουρος· ὁ ἀδύνατος συγγίνεσθαι (Com. ad. 1367). ἢ ὄνος

note: συγγιγνώσκω means “agree with”: συγγίγνομαι can mean “talk with” or “communicate with” but also to “have sex with”. Don’t confuse them.

LSJ is just too precious on this:


I think that nôthouros might be the equivalent of “limp-dick”, although I would like to suggest “fake-dick” or “counterfeit-cock” vel sim. (but that comes from a fake etymology with the short vowel omicron for “bastard” (νόθος). This, of course, is impossible. Tell me, Beekes:


Image result for Ancient Greek Sculpture penis


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