On The Razor’s Edge

Erasmus, Adagia 1.1.18:

 

“That old saying, which was taken from Homer and made into a famous adage by the greatest authors, is hardly dissimilar to the ones previously mentioned: Ἐπὶ ξυροῦ ἀκμῆς, that is, on the razor’s edge or on the point of the knife, which is to say, at the most decisive point. Thus Nestor puts it in the tenth book of the Iliad:

Νῦν γὰρ δὴ πάντεσσιν ἐπὶ ξυροῦ ἵσταται ἀκμῆς

Ἢ μάλα λυγρὸς ὄλεθρον Ἀχαιοῖς ἠὲ βιῶναι,

That is,

‘Now the matter stands on the edge of the knife:

Whether the Achaeans life, or whether they be consumed by a sad fate.’

Sophocles, in Antigone, writes:

‘Consider carefully, now that you have stepped upon the razor’s edge.’

There are also the words of the seer Tiresias as he warns Creon to be wise, since he is set amidst the greatest danger.

Again, in the Epigrams:

Εὐρώπης Ἀσίης τε δορυσθενέες βασιλῆες,

Ὑμῖν ἀμφοτέροισιν ἐπὶ ξυροῦ ἵσταται ἀκμή,

That is,

‘Kings of Europe and Asia, powerful in war, now both of your fortunes are set upon the razor’s edge.’

About Menelaus and Paris, fighting in single combat to determine which would take hold of Helen, Theocritus writes in his Dioscuri:

Ἀνθρώπων σωτῆρας ἐπὶ ξυροῦ ἤδη ἐόντων,

That is,

‘The certain salvation of humans standing on the point of the sword.’

This seems to be taken from the street swindlers, who walk upon the edges of swords, or from those who handle blades with their hands (as the published scholia suggest for this author).”

Image result for erasmi adagia

In acie novaculae.xviii

Nec abhorret a superioribus illud, quod ab Homero sumptum maximisque celebratum auctoribus in adagionem abiit : Ἐπὶ ξυροῦ ἀκμῆς, id est In novaculae cuspide sive acie, pro eo, quod est : in summo discrimine. Sic enim in Iliadis decimo loquitur Nestor :

Νῦν γὰρ δὴ πάντεσσιν ἐπὶ ξυροῦ ἵσταται ἀκμῆς

Ἢ μάλα λυγρὸς ὄλεθρον Ἀχαιοῖς ἠὲ βιῶναι,

id est

Nunc etenim cunctis sita res in cuspide ferri est,

Vivantne an tristi exitio absumantur Achivi.

Sophocles in Antigone :

Φρόνει, βεβὼς αὖ νῦν ἐπὶ ξυροῦ τύχης

Sunt etiam Tiresiae vatis verba Creontem admonentis, ut sapiat in tanto constitutus periculo. Rursus in Epigrammatibus :

Εὐρώπης Ἀσίης τε δορυσθενέες βασιλῆες,

Ὑμῖν ἀμφοτέροισιν ἐπὶ ξυροῦ ἵσταται ἀκμή,

id est

Europae atque Asiae reges Mavorte potentes,

Nunc vobis utrisque novaclae in acumine est.

De Menelao ac Paride singulari certamine decernentibus, uter Helena potiretur. Theocritus in Dioscuris :

Ἀνθρώπων σωτῆρας ἐπὶ ξυροῦ ἤδη ἐόντων,

id est

Certa salus hominum jam ferri in cuspide stantum.

Sumptum videtur a circulatoribus, qui in cuspide gladiorum ingrediuntur, aut ab iis, qui ferrum manu contrectant, ut admonent in hunc auctorem aedita scholia.

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