Fantastic Friday: Rivers of Wine and Prophetic Crows

Here is the first half of the Paradoxographus Palatinus: Admiranda. This collection is extremely difficult to date and may hail from Byzantine Greece. As with some of the other paradoxographoi these are new translations, so corrections or questions are welcome.

1 “After an eagle got sick he ate a tortoise and was healed. Then he drank the blood.”

Νοσήσας ἀετὸς χελώνην ἐσθίει καὶ ἰᾶται· αἷμα δὲ πίνει.

2 “Owls, because they wish to keep ants from their young, put the heart of a bat in a temple noticed that the ants would leave the young too if someone set out the heart of a bat for them”

Αἱ γλαῦκες τῶν ἰδίων νεοττῶν τοὺς μύρμηκας κωλύειν βουλόμεναι ἐν τῇ καλιᾷ καρδίαν νυκτερίδος τιθέασιν, ὡς τῶν μυρμήκων καὶ τοὺς φωλεοὺς ἀπολιπεῖν βουλομένων εἰ νυκτερίδος καρδίαν ἐπ’ αὐτοῖς τις θείη.

3 “One animal is named jaundice because of its skin. Which, if someone predisposed to this ailment sees this he reverts straightaway to the diseas.e”

῎Ικτερος ζῷον λέγεται ἀπὸ τῆς χροιᾶς· ὃν εἰ τῷ πάθει τούτῳ τις ἐνεχόμενος ἴδοι, φευξεῖται εὐθὺς τὴν νόσον. [the translation for this one is not good]

4 “Crows don’t have sex with the females of their species before they sing some song to them just like at weddings. And the lady crows, persuaded in this way, sleep with them”

Οὐ μίγνυνται οἱ κόρακες ταῖς θηλείαις πρίν τινα ᾠδὴν αὐταῖς παρακρώξαιεν ὥσπερ γαμήλια· αἱ δὲ πεισθεῖσαι οὕτω συνουσιάζουσι.

5“There is a spring in Kleitori which if someone drinks from he will reject and hate drinking wine.”

Τῆς ἐν Κλείτορι κρήνης ἄν τις πίῃ τοῦ ὕδατος, ἀποστρέφεται καὶ μισεῖ τὴν τοῦ οἴνου πόσιν.

6 “Among the Kannini pitchers are distributed with wet pitch. In the hot season, the morning dew is like pitch.”

᾿Εν Καννίνοις πίττης ὑγρᾶς κρατῆρες ἀναδίδονται· ἐν δὲ θερείᾳ ὥρᾳ ἡ ἑωθινὴ δρόσος πίσσῃ παρείκασται.

7 “In Naxos Aglaosthenês says that wine bubbles up on its own for the earth and when it goes into rivers it does not mix with water. The person who tastes it goes crazy”

Εν Νάξῳ φησὶν ᾿Αγλαοσθένης οἶνον ἐκ τῆς γῆς ἀναβλύζειν αὐτόματον καὶ διὰ ποταμοῦ φερόμενον μὴ συμμίσγεσθαι ὕδατι. τὸν δὲ γευσάμενον αὐτοῦ παραφρονεῖν.

8 “In Pernikos rocks are found when the earth is dug up which, when the sun warms them until they are like burning coals, cook meat and anything else which is placed on top of them.”

᾿Εν †Περνίκῳ† λίθοι εὑρίσκονται ὀρυσσομένης τῆς γῆς, οὓς ἐπειδὰν διαθερμάνῃ ὁ ἥλιος ἐξανθρακοῦνται, ὥσ<τε> καὶ κρέα ἕψειν καὶ ἄλλ’ ἅττα τοὺς ἐκεῖ χύτρας ἐπιτιθέντας.

9 “In the city Selasphoros a spring flows cold and clear, it has an olive oil-like appearance, but it makes bodies and hair smooth and stops headaches. If someone touches it with burning wax, the water catches on fire from it and throws off sparks until it nears different water. And it is also free of every scent of other waters.”

᾿Εν τῇ πόλει τῇ Σελασφόρῳ πηγὴ ἀναδίδοται ψυχρὰ καὶ διειδής, ἐλαιώδη τὴν ἐπιφάνειαν ἔχουσα, λεῖα τὰ σώματα καὶ τὰς τρίχας ποιοῦσα καὶ κεφαλῆς ἀλγηδόνα παύουσα. ταύτῃ εἰ προσαγάγοι τις κηρὸν ἡμμένον, ὑφάπτεται τὸ ὕδωρ ἐκ τούτου καὶ σπινθῆρας ἀφίησι, ἄχρις ἂν πελάσῃ ἑτέρῳ ὕδατι. ἔστι δὲ τῶν ἄλλων ὑδάτων διειδέστερον τὸ ὕδωρ ἐκεῖνο
ὀδμῆς τε πάσης ἐλεύθερον.

10 “Aristotle says that in Keltikê two crows always appear which prophesy to the people there in this way. When the people are differing about some meaning they come to a preordained place and after making bread they place it on perches. The crows break up the bread of the wrong-doing person with their feet and they eat the bread of the one who acts justly.”

᾿Αριστοτέλης φησὶν ἐν τῇ Κελτικῇ δύο κόρακας ἀεὶ φαίνεσθαι, οὓς δὴ καὶ τοῖς ἀνθρώποις μαντεύεσθαι τόνδε <τὸν> τρόπον· τοὺς διαφερομένους περί τινος συμβολαίου ἔρχεσθαι ἐπὶ τὸν εἰρημένον τόπον καὶ μάζας ποιήσαντας ἐπί τινων πεταύρων τιθέναι· τοὺς δὲ κόρακας τὴν μὲν τοῦ ἀδικοπραγοῦντος μάζαν τοῖς ποσὶ συντρίβειν, τὴν δὲ τοῦ δικαιοπραγοῦντας ἐσθίειν.

Bartholomaeus Anglicus  Livre des proprietes des choses (Le)  1447  Corbeaux nourrissant ses petits

Bartholomaeus Anglicus Livre des proprietes des choses (Le) 1447 Corbeaux nourrissant ses petits


The pictures were sent by my mother-in-law who is visiting Morocco. They made me long for a Greek compound for “tree-goats”. There is not one. But here are some goatwords.

αἴξ, αἴγος: goat, usually female

αἰγοκέφαλος: “goat-headed”, for a type of owl

αἰγόλεθρος: “goat’s bane”

αἰγομελής: “goat-limbed”

αἰγονόμιον: “herd of goats”

αἰγοπίθηκος: “goat ape”

αἰγόπλαστος: “goat-shaped”

αἰγοπόδης: “goat-footed”

αἰγοτριχέω: “to have goat hair”

αἰγοφάγος: “goat-eater”

The Root aiks is unclear, but might have to do with jumping


τράγος, ὁ: “he-goat”

τραγίζειν: “to be a he-goat”

τραγέλαφος: “goat-stag”

τραγοβάμων: “goat-walking”

τραγόκτονος: “goat slaughter”

τραγομάσχαλος: “smelling like goat in the armpits”

τραγοπρόσωπος: “goat-faced”

τραγοπτισάνη: “a goat gruel

τραγοπώγων: “goat-bearded”

Trag- is probably derived from what goats are known to do: they eat everything







Mouse Meets Frog: Both Die Terribly

Aesop, Fabula 302

“There was a time when all the animals spoke the same language. A mouse who was on friendly terms with a frog, invited him to dinner and led him into a storehouse of his wealth where he kept his bread, cheese, honey, dried figs and all of his precious things. And he said “Eat whatever you wish, Frog.” Then the Frog responded: “When you come visit me, you too will have your fill of fine things. But I don’t want you to be nervous, so I will fasten your foot to my foot.” After the Frog bound his foot to the mouse’s and dragging him in this way, he pulled the tied-up mouse into the pond. While he drowned, he said “I am being mortified by you, but I will be avenged by someone still alive!” A bird who saw the mouse afloat flew down and seized him. The Frog went aloft with him too and thus, the bird slaughtered them both.

A wicked plot between friends is thus a danger to them both”

ὅτε ἦν ὁμόφωνα τὰ ζῷα, μῦς βατράχῳ φιλιωθεὶς ἐκάλεσεν αὐτὸν εἰς δεῖπνον καὶ ἀπήγαγεν αὐτὸν εἰς ταμιεῖον πλουσίου, ὅπου ἦν ἄρτος, τυρός, μέλι, ἰσχάδες καὶ ὅσα
ἀγαθά, καί φησιν „ἔσθιε, βάτραχε, ἐξ ὧν βούλει.” ὁ δὲ βάτραχος ἔλεγε• „ἐλθὼν οὖν καὶ σὺ πρὸς ἐμὲ ἐμπλήσθητι τῶν ἀγαθῶν μου. ἀλλ’ ἵνα μὴ ὄκνος σοι γένηται, προσαρτήσω τὸν πόδα σου τῷ ποδί μου.” δήσας οὖν ὁ βάτραχος τὸν πόδα τοῦ μυὸς τῷ ἑαυτοῦ ποδὶ ἥλατο εἰς τὴν λίμνην ἕλκων καὶ τὸν μῦν δέσμιον. ὁ δὲ πνιγόμενος ἔλεγεν• „ἐγὼ μὲν ὑπό σου νεκρωθήσομαι, ἐκδικήσομαι δὲ ὑπὸ ζῶντος.” λούππης δὲ θεασάμενος τὸν μῦν πλέοντα καταπτὰς ἥρπα-σεν. ἐφέλκετο οὖν σὺν αὐτῷ καὶ ὁ βάτραχος καὶ οὕτως ἀμφοτέρους διεσπάραξεν.
ὅτι ἡ τῶν φίλων πονηρὰ συμβουλὴ καὶ ἑαυτοῖς κίνδυνος γίνεται.

Note 1: ὁμόφωνα τὰ ζῷα, “common animal language”: It is unclear whether, in these halcyon days before the fall from linguistic harmony, a Frog would squeak or a Mouse would croak when in the other’s company.

Note 2: ἐμπλήσθητι τῶν ἀγαθῶν :”you will have your fill of good things”. If the Mouse knew his Pindar (῎Αριστον μὲν ὕδωρ, 1.1), he would suspect that the Frog will do what in fact does, which is to fill his lungs with water. This illustrates that good things are in fact relative. A Mouse and Frog will hold different things dear.

This fabula (and more!) appears in our book on the Homeric Battle of the Frogs and Mice. This is a periodic reminder that it exists: Here is Bloomsbury’s Homepage for the book.


Zooglossia 4: Sheep Go “Baa” and an Absurd Etymology

My new ‘serious academic obsession’ has been Greek representations of animal sounds. So far, we have had goats, donkeys, and pigs. Now, sheep.

Aristophanes, fr. 642

“He is about to sacrifice me and he is telling me to say “baa”.”

θύειν <με> μέλλει καὶ κελεύει βῆ λέγειν.


Aelian, On Animals, 16.16

τῶν δὲ οἰῶν βληχή, “The bleating of sheep”


Hermippus, fr. 19



Suda, s.v. Βή (beta, 240)

Baa: This is the imitation of the sound of sheep—since Attic speakers do not say bai. Cratinus in his Dionysalexandros says “the last one walks forward saying “baa baa” like a sheep.”

Βή τὸ μιμητικὸν τῆς τῶν προβάτων φωνῆς, οὐχὶ βαὶ λέγουσιν Ἀττικοί. Κρατῖνος Διονυσαλεξάνδρῳ: ὁ δὴ λοίσθιος ὥσπερ πρόβατον βὴ βὴ λέγων βαδίζει.

Image result for Ancient Greek sheep


Perhaps one of the reasons the metonymic name probata stuck for sheep is that they “baa” in front (probata means to “walk in front”, from bainô).


Here’s Beekes on baaing and bleating:




Zooglossia 2: What’s With the Donkey’s Bray?

This is a second entry in a totally unnecessary series of posts about the representation of animal sounds in Ancient Greek.


Ongkêthmos: the cry of a donkey”

ὀγκηθμός· κραυγὴ ὄνου

Earlier today I tweeted about this

I have been thinking about the ‘reconstruction’ of animal noises from verbs that represent them–here ὀγκάομαι, like many alpha-contract verbs is denominative. So, I figured I could just reconstruct a ὀγκ- ὀγκ to represent donkey sounds based on the abstract noun above and the verb form. Beekes is not completely down with that:


I don’t know if I can resist believing that this verb is zoophonetic (based on the animal sound). Even if it does have another etymology, that does not mean that it was not adapted to this context because of a serendipitous similarity to the donkey’s bray…

There are some other details about donkey sounds that are, perhaps, worth knowing.


brômasthai: ongkasthai: this is used for donkey speech. Ongkasthai is also used, but that is more infrequent.”

Βρωμᾶσθαι. ὀγκᾶσθαι. ἐπὶ ὄνου δὲ λέγουσι τοῦτο. λέγεται καὶ ὀγκᾶσθαι ἐπὶ ὄνου, ἀλλὰ σπάνιον τοῦτο.

LSJ lists βρωμάομαι, “to bray” (cf. Lat. Rudere) as onomatopoetic

Photius distinguishes between them

brômasthai: this is the braying of a hungry donkey. Also, brôma. This is the sound itself.”

Βρωμᾶσθαι· τὸ ὀγκᾶσθαι πεινῶντα ὄνον. καὶ βρῶμα· ἡ φωνὴ αὕτη.

Moeris asserts that the former is Attic and the latter is general Greek.

File:Kylix by Epiktetos showing an aroused Satyr mounting a donkey which is also aroused, ca. 510 BC, Museum of the Ancient Agora, Athens, Greece (14103090773).jpg

510 BCE, Museum of the Ancient Agora, Athens

Zooglossia 1: What Does a Goat Say?

Vita Aesop G = Fabula 302

“There was a time when all the animals spoke the same language”

ὅτε ἦν ὁμόφωνα τὰ ζῷα…

A few days ago I had been thinking about how every once in a while I tweet just part of Aristophanes refrain from the Frogs, “Βρεκεκὲξ…” and can always count on someone to respond with a “…κοὰξ κοάξ”. Sometimes twitter is filled with bile and horror (you know, our chief executive and nazis); other times it is filled with support, surprise and serendipity.

So, I got to thinking that an account I would definitely subscribe to would be one that was just made up of animal noises from different languages. You know, Arabic mice, French ducks, Tamil dogs, Mandarin elephants etc. It would be charming, interesting, and a welcome relief from everything else. Then, I tweeted about it:

As I have probably mentioned before,  I don’t really know any programming and I am not really the type to try to do this on my own. Also, there is a beautiful webpage @ajwyman sent to me which collects a lot of these sounds (but the flash player is a little messed up).

(If you are interested in the twitter thread, I storified it)

But the responses were fun and they got me thinking about animal noises in ancient Greek more. I am not at all the first to do this. There is a nice post from a decade ago on the topic. There are some great sources for Latin animal sounds, including a book in the public domain Patrick from @diyclassics tweeted about.  Michael Hendry also has a great worksheet for Latin. I should not have been surprised that the Latin Wikipedia has an entire page dedicated to Animalium soni. (And here is another post from a cultured medievalist)

I would be remiss in not mentioning some more academic takes on the subject, recognizing that the way we think about animals reflects on the way we think about ourselves and that studying this through time has its own value. Someone sent me a great post about animal sounds in the medieval period. And, informed by linguistics, anthropology, and Classics, the inimitable Maurizo Bettini has a book out on the subject of the representation of animal noises in human languages (it is in Italian, I ordered from ILL.)

All of this stuff is great. But, of course, it is not enough Greek and it does not satisfy the child in me: I want something of a pull-and-play that has only Ancient Greek versions of animal noises. This would fulfill no vital function in the world. So, instead, I am spending just a little time seeing what can be found on the topic. Here’s a nice thematic passage @Stevendsmith74 sent me.

Aelian Varia Historia 5.52

“Nature has produced animals which have the greatest range of voices and sounds, in the same way, in fact, as she has made people. Just as the Skythian speaks one way and the Indian speaks another, or the Aithiopian has his own language and the Sakai have theirs. And the language of Greece is different from Rome. Indeed, it is the same with animals who in various ways utter the a sound or an song native to their tongue. One roars, another moos, a neigh comes from another, a bray from one, a bleat or maaaa from another. A howl is dear to one; a bark to another; while some growl. There are those who scream, whistle, hoot, sing, croon and tweet. There are endless gifts proper to different animals by nature.”

51. Πολυφωνότατα δὲ τὰ ζῷα καὶ πολύφθογγα ὡς ἂν εἴποις ἡ φύσις ἀπέφηνεν, ὥσπερ οὖν καὶ τοὺς ἀνθρώπους. ὁ γοῦν Σκύθης ἄλλως φθέγγεται καὶ ὁ Ἰνδὸς ἄλλως, καὶ ὁ Αἰθίοψ ἔχει φωνὴν συμφυᾶ καὶ οἱ Σάκαι· φωνὴ δὲ Ἑλλὰς ἄλλη, καὶ Ῥωμαία ἄλλη. οὕτω τοι καὶ τὰ ζῷα ἄλλο ἄλλως προΐεται τὸν συγγενῆ τῆς γλώττης ἦχόν τε καὶ ψόφον· τὸ μὲν γὰρ βρυχᾶται, μυκᾶται δὲ ἄλλο, καὶ χρεμέτισμα ἄλλου καὶ ὄγκησις <ἄλλου>, ἄλλου βληχηθμός τε καὶ μηκασμός, καί τισι μὲν ὠρυγμός, τισὶ δὲ ὑλαγμὸς φίλον, καὶ ἄλλῳ ἀρράζειν· κλαγγαὶ δὲ καὶ ῥοῖζοι καὶ κριγμοὶ καὶ ᾠδαὶ καὶ μελῳδίαι καὶ τραυλισμοὶ καὶ μυρία ἕτερα δῶρα τῆς φύσεως ἴδια τῶν ζῴων ἄλλα ἄλλων.

Whether it is a good idea or not, I am going to be posting occasionally about animal noises. Some of them, as with the frog or dog mentioned in tweets above, are simple because we have animals “quoted”. Others can be ‘reconstructed’ based on nominal or verbal representations of the sounds–essentially zoophonetic onomatopoeia.

If you would like to join in, send me any passages that you find on this topic. I am especially interested in anything about the sounds of horses, donkeys, weasels, and cats.

What does the (ancient Greek) goat say? Maaaa, Maaaa. Μῆ μῆ

Photius, s.v Μηκάδες (cf. Suda mu 901)

“An epithet for goats; it comes from their species’ sound”

Μηκάδες: ἐπιθετικῶς αἱ αἶγες· ἀπὸ τοῦ ἰδιώματος τῆς φωνῆς.


File:Satyr goat Met L.2008.51.jpg

Metropolitan Museum of Art, L.2008.51


For the Love of…A Goose?

Everyone has heard about Leda and the swan. But have you heard about Amphilokhos and his gift-giving goose?

Aelian, De Natura Animalium 5.29

“In Aigion, in Akhaia, a goose was in love with a handsome boy, an Ôlenian named Amphilokhos. Theophrastus tells this story. The boy was under guard with the Olenian exiles in Aigion—there, the goose used to bring him gifts. In Khios, too, there was an especially beautiful woman named Glaukê, a harp player, and many men lusted after her—which is nothing big. But a ram and a goose loved her too, as I have heard.”

Ἐν Αἰγίῳ τῆς Ἀχαίας ὡραίου παιδός, Ὠλενίου τὸ γένος, ὄνομα Ἀμφιλόχου, ἤρα χήν. Θεόφραστος λέγει τοῦτο. σὺν τοῖς Ὠλενίων δὲ φυγάσιν ἐφρουρεῖτο ἐν Αἰγίῳ ὁ παῖς. οὐκοῦν ὁ χὴν αὐτῷ δῶρα ἔφερε. καὶ ἐν Χίῳ Γλαύκης τῆς κιθαρῳδοῦ ὡραιοτάτης οὔσης εἰ μὲν ἤρων ἄνθρωποι, μέγα οὐδέπω· ἠράσθησαν δὲ καὶ κριὸς καὶ χήν, ὡς ἀκούω, τῆς αὐτῆς.

File:Ammannati - Leda and the Swan.jpg

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