Water and Dirt: A Curse

Homer, Iliad 7.97-100 [Menelaos speaking to the Achaeans]

“This is going to be a truly awful disgrace
unless some Greek goes against Hektor now.
But I wish you would all turn into water and dirt
Each of you sitting there, similarly feckless, fameless.”

ἦ μὲν δὴ λώβη τάδε γ’ ἔσσεται αἰνόθεν αἰνῶς
εἰ μή τις Δαναῶν νῦν ῞Εκτορος ἀντίος εἶσιν.
ἀλλ’ ὑμεῖς μὲν πάντες ὕδωρ καὶ γαῖα γένοισθε
ἥμενοι αὖθι ἕκαστοι ἀκήριοι ἀκλεὲς αὔτως·

Schol. bT+T ad Il.7.99

“I hope you become water and dirt”. Water and earth are elements that don’t move by their nature, but other things move through them. So, he is rebuking them in this way for their paralysis.

Or, this means that they are made of these substances and he is praying they will dissolve back into them. So Xenophanes says: “we are all made of dirt and water / and everything from earth returns to earth again.”

Or, he says this because water destroys souls.”

ὕδωρ καὶ γαῖα γένοισθε: τῶν στοιχείων ὕδωρ καὶ γῆ κατὰ φύσιν ἀκίνητα, τὰ δὲ ἄλλα κινητὰ δι’ ἑαυτῶν. ταῦτα οὖν φησι τὴν ἀκινησίαν ὀνειδίζων·

ἢ ἐξ ὧν συνεστήκασιν, εἰς ταῦτα αὐτοὺς ἀναλυθῆναι εὔχεται καὶ Ξενοφάνης πάντες γὰρ γαίης τε καὶ ὕδατος ἐκγενόμε<σ>θα· / ἐκ γῆς γὰρ †πάντα καὶ εἰς γῆν πάντα τελευτᾷ.”

ἢ ὅτι τὸ ὕδωρ τὰς ψυχὰς διαφθείρει.

A photograph of a tan colored mountain in the background with a blue lake in the foreground
Placid water on Lake Powell

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