A Typology of Fear for a Spooky Time of Year

Here are some passages to go with Seneca’s ruminations on the fear of death.)

Stobaeus 2.7.10c [=Diogenes Laertius 7.113]

“Hesitation is fear of future action. Agony is fear of failure and otherwise fear of worse outcomes. Shock is fear of an uncustomary surprise. Shame is fear of a bad reputation. A ruckus is fear pressing down with sound. Divine fright is fear of gods or divine power. Terror is fear of a terrible thing. A fright is fear that comes from a story.”

     ῎Οκνος δὲ φόβος μελλούσης ἐνεργείας· ἀγωνία δὲ φόβος διαπτώσεως καὶ ἑτέρως φόβος ἥττης· ἔκπληξις δὲ φόβος ἐξ ἀσυνήθους φαντασίας· αἰσχύνη δὲ φόβος ἀδοξίας· θόρυβος δὲ φόβος μετὰ φωνῆς κατεπείγων· δει-σιδαιμονία δὲ φόβος θεῶν ἢ δαιμόνων· δέος δὲ φόβος δεινοῦ· δεῖμα δὲ φόβος ἐκ λόγου.

Suda

“Fear: flight or cowardice. Fear is expecting evil. These emotions are categorized as fear: terror, hesitation, shame, shock, commotion, anxiety. Terror is fear that brings dread. Hesitation is fear about future action. Shame is fear about a bad reputation. Shock is fear from an unusual thing. Commotion is fear from a striking sound. Anxiety is fear of an uncertain matter.”

Φόβος: φυγή. καὶ ἡ δειλία. Φόβος δέ ἐστι προσδοκία κακοῦ. εἰς δὲ τὸν φόβον ἀνάγεται ταῦτα· δεῖμα, ὄκνος, αἰσχύνη, ἔκπληξις, θόρυβος, ἀγωνία. δεῖμα μὲν οὖν ἐστι φόβος δέος ἐμποιῶν, ὄκνος δὲ φόβος μελλούσης ἐνεργείας, αἰσχύνη δὲ φόβος ἀδοξίας, ἔκπληξις δὲ φόβος ἐκ φαντασίας ἀσυνήθους πράγματος, θόρυβος δὲ φόβος μετὰ κατεπείξεως φωνῆς· ἀγωνία δὲ φόβος ἀδήλου πράγματος.

Image result for Ancient Greek monster vase

The Distinguished Antiquity of the Mushroom as a Membrum Virile

μύκης, μύκητος: “mushroom”…2. membrum virile

mushroom

Herodian. Anecd. Ox. iii.231.5 = Archilochus 252

“Mushroom: can also mean a man’s genitals—which is what Archilochus says when he presents it with the same number of syllables: “The tendons of my ‘mushroom’ were ruptured.”

(μύκης) σημαίνει δὲ καὶ τὸ αἰδοῖον τοῦ ἀνθρώπου, ὅπερ καὶ ἰσοσυλλάβως ἔκλινεν Ἀρχίλοχος εἰπὼν

ἀλλ᾿ ἀπερρώγασι μύκεω τένοντες.

Henderson, The Maculate Muse 1991: 20

mushroom henderson

Beekes, Etymological Dictionary of Ancient Greek 2010

beekes mush 1

beekes mush 2

Dio Cassius, Rom. Hist. Ep. 41

“Nero has also left for us a saying worth remembering. For he used to say that mushrooms were food of the gods because [Claudius] became a god thanks to a mushroom”

Καὶ ὁ Νέρων δὲ οὐκ ἀπάξιον μνήμης ἔπος κατέλιπε· τοὺς γὰρ μύκητας θεῶν βρῶμα ἔλεγεν εἶναι, ὅτι καὶ ἐκεῖνος διὰ τοῦ μύκητος θεὸς ἐγεγόνει.

Hippocrates of Cos, Epidemics 7.102

“The young daughter of Pausanias ate a raw mushroom and felt nausea, choking, and stomach pain. Drinking warm melicrêt and puking relieved her along with a warm bath. She puked up the mushroom in the bath and she sweated while she was getting better”

Τῇ Παυσανίου κούρῃ μύκητα ὠμὸν φαγούσῃ ἄση, πνιγμός, ὀδύνη γαστρός. μελίκρητον θερμὸν πίνειν καὶ ἐμεῖν ξυνήνεγκε, καὶ λουτρὸν θερμόν· ἐν τῷ λουτρῷ ἐξήμεσε τὸν μύκητα, καὶ ἐπεὶ λήξεινἔμελλεν ἐξίδρωσεν.

Shaking Us Down

Latin Trag. Adesp. = Ps-Cicero, Ad. Herenn. 2.26

“I cannot think…or figure out any reason why
I might impeach him. What would let you accuse someone
Who is honorable, if he is good? And if he is not honorable
What would let you impeach him if he thinks it is but a
Minor thing?”

Nequeo . . .
qua causa accusem hunc exputando evolvere.
Nam si veretur quid eum accuses qui est probus?
Sin inverecundum animi ingenium possidet,
quid autem accuses qui id parvi auditum
aestimet? . . .

Aristophanes fr 228 = Suda sigma 290

“Shaking-down”: Blackmail, this is a metaphor from people who shake trees: “I was shaking them down, I demanded money, I was threatening them and was extorting them again and again.”

σεῖσαι· τὸ συκοφαντῆσαι, ἀπὸ τῶν τὰ ἀκρόδρυα σειόντων· ἔσειον, ᾔτουν χρήματ᾿, ἠπείλουν, ἐσυκοφάντουν πάλιν

Mycenaean Goat and Tree Vase at the British Museum

Which Season is Sweetest?

Bion, fr. 2 (preserved in Stobaeus 1.8.39)

Kleodamos

Myrsôn, what do you find sweet in the spring,
The winter, fall, or summer? Which do you pray for the most?
Is it summer when everything we have worked for is done,
Or is fall sweeter, when hunger is light for men,
Or is it winter, bad for work, when because of the season
Many warm themselves delighting in laziness and relaxation—
Or, surely, is it noble spring which pleases you more?
Tell me what’s on your mind, since leisure has allowed us to chat.

Myrsos

It is not right for mortals to judge divine deeds—
For all these things are sacred and sweet. But for you, Kleodamos,
I will confess what seems sweeter to me than the rest.
I do not wish for the summer, since the sun cooks me then.
I do not wish for the Fall, since that season brings disease.
The Winter brings ruinous snow—and I have chilling fear.
I long for  Spring three times as much for the whole year,
When neither the cold nor the heat weigh upon me.
Everything is pregnant in the spring, everything grows sweet in springtime
When humans have nights and days as equal, nearly the same.”

ΚΛΕΟΔΑΜΟΣ
Εἴαρος, ὦ Μύρσων, ἢ χείματος ἢ φθινοπώρω
ἢ θέρεος τί τοι ἁδύ; τί δὲ πλέον εὔχεαι ἐλθεῖν;
ἦ θέρος, ἁνίκα πάντα τελείεται ὅσσα μογεῦμες,
ἢ γλυκερὸν φθινόπωρον, ὅκ’ ἀνδράσι λιμὸς ἐλαφρά,
ἢ καὶ χεῖμα δύσεργον—ἐπεὶ καὶ χείματι πολλοί
θαλπόμενοι θέλγονται ἀεργίᾳ τε καὶ ὄκνῳ—
ἤ τοι καλὸν ἔαρ πλέον εὔαδεν; εἰπὲ τί τοι φρήν
αἱρεῖται, λαλέειν γὰρ ἐπέτραπεν ἁ σχολὰ ἄμμιν.

ΜΥΡΣΩΝ
κρίνειν οὐκ ἐπέοικε θεήια ἔργα βροτοῖσι,
πάντα γὰρ ἱερὰ ταῦτα καὶ ἁδέα· σεῦ δὲ ἕκατι
ἐξερέω, Κλεόδαμε, τό μοι πέλεν ἅδιον ἄλλων.
οὐκ ἐθέλω θέρος ἦμεν, ἐπεὶ τόκα μ’ ἅλιος ὀπτῇ·
οὐκ ἐθέλω φθινόπωρον, ἐπεὶ νόσον ὥρια τίκτει.
οὖλον χεῖμα φέρει νιφετόν, κρυμὼς δὲ φοβεῦμαι.
εἶαρ ἐμοὶ τριπόθητον ὅλῳ λυκάβαντι παρείη,
ἁνίκα μήτε κρύος μήθ’ ἅλιος ἄμμε βαρύνει.
εἴαρι πάντα κύει, πάντ’ εἴαρος ἁδέα βλαστεῖ,
χἀ νὺξ ἀνθρώποισιν ἴσα καὶ ὁμοίιος ἀώς.

Season Words

Spring: ἔαρ, τὸ: from IE *ves-r, cf. vernal.

Summer: θέρος, τὸ: from a root meaning “warm, heat”

Winter: χεῖμα, τὸ (ancient word for winter)

Fall: φθινόπωρον, τό:  from φθιν (φθίω “decay, waste, dwindle”)+ ὀπώρα (“end of summer, harvest”)

Ecclesiastes, 3 Latin Vulgate

omnia tempus habent et suis spatiis transeunt universa sub caelo
tempus nascendi et tempus moriendi tempus plantandi
et tempus evellendi quod plantatum est

 

London, British Library, MS Sloane 2435, f. 23r.

Tawdry Tuesday: A Poem to a Rear-End and Some Etymologies

 

Greek Anthology, 12.38, attributed to Rhianos

“The Seasons and the Graces have poured sweet oil on you,
Butt. And you do not allow even old men to nap.
Tell me, whose sweetheart are you and which boy
Do you decorate? The Butt said “Menecrates’ “

Ὧραί σοι Χάριτές τε κατὰ γλυκὺ χεῦαν ἔλαιον,
ὦ πυγά· κνώσσειν δ᾿ οὐδὲ γέροντας ἐᾷς.
λέξον μοι τίνος ἐσσὶ μάκαιρα τύ, καὶ τίνα παίδων
κοσμεῖς; ἁ πυγὰ δ᾿ εἶπε· “Μενεκράτεος.”

Words not to confuse:

πυγαλγίας, ὁ: “having ass-pain”
πύγαργος, ὁ: “white-assed”
πυγή, ἡ: “buttocks, rump, rear-end, ass”
πυγίδιον: “small-rumped”
πυγίζω: “to penetrate anally”

πυγμαχία, ἡ: “fist fight”
πυγμάχος, ὁ: “boxer”
πυγμή: “fist, fist-fight”
πυγοσύνη: “science of boxing”

πυγοστόλος: “ass-adorning”
δωσίπυγος: “ass-giving”
δασύπυγος: “hairy-assed”
καλλίπυγος: “with beautiful buttocks”
λεπτόπυγος: “fine-assed”
λισπόπυγος: “smooth-assed”

πυγή: Beekes writes that this “has no convincing etymology” (Chantraine: “Pas d’étymologie assurée…”)

πυγμή: Cf. Latin pugnare, pugna. *pug-[Beekes is uncertain]. Chantraine presents the interseting suggestion from Van Brock that in the ancient background of πύξ might lurk the combination of πᾶς (“all”) and the numeral πέντε (“five”) to signal “fist”.

Image result for aphrodite kallipygos

Tawdry Tuesday: Proctological Proverb Edition

Arsenius, 34a1

“May you fall into Hades’ asshole”: [a curse]: may you die.

῞Αιδου πρωκτῷ περιπέσῃς: ἤγουν τελευτήσῃς.

Note: Even though Ancient Greek prôktos can merely mean “rear end” (as in butt), it most often means ‘anus’ in comedy and insults. Also, I wanted to use something profane and given the British/American divide on arse/ass, I decided just to go with “asshole” because it is funnier.

Diogenianus (v.1 e cod. Marz. 2.42)

“I wish you’d fall into Hades’ asshole”: this is clear

῞Αιδου πρωκτῷ περιπέσοις: δῆλον.

Diogenianus (v.2 e cod. Vindob. 133, 1.97 )

“I wish you’d fall into Hades’ asshole”: Used for cursing someone

Αἵδου πρωκτῷ περιπέσοις: ἐπὶ τῶν καταρωμένων τινί.

Diogenianus, 3.58

“The asshole survives the bath” [or, “Ass surpasses the bath”]. Whenever someone is not able to wash himself, but his bowels still assail him. This is a proverb used for things done uselessly.

Πρωκτὸς λουτροῦ περιγίνεται: ὅταν τις μὴ δύνηται ἀπονίψασθαι, ἀλλ’ ἡ κοιλία αὐτῷ ἐπιφέρηται. λέγεται ἡ παροιμία ἐπὶ τῶν ἀνωφελῶς πραττομένων.

Michael Apostolius, 14.78

“The asshole survives the bath”: This proverb is used for things done uselessly and done for show. For people with thick asses and potbellies are not able to wash themselves off easily.”

Πρωκτὸς λουτροῦ περιγίνεται: ἐπὶ τῶν ἀνωφελῶν καὶ εἰκῇ πραττομένων ἐλέγετο· οἱ γὰρ παχύπρωκτοι καὶ προγάστορες οὐ δύνανται ἑαυτοὺς ἀπονίψασθαι εὐπετῶς.

Zenobius, Vulg. 1.52

“It was cured by Akesias”: this is a proverb for when things are healed for the worse. Aristotle provides the proverb in tetrameters: “Akesias healed his asshole.”

Ἀκεσίας ἰάσατο· ἐπὶ τῶν ἐπὶ τὸ χεῖρον ἰωμένων. ὅλην δὲ Ἀριστοφάνης ἐν τετραμέτροις τὴν παροιμίαν ἐκφέρει, λέγων· Ἀκεσίας τὸν πρωκτὸν ἰάσατο.

Suda, s.v. Ἀφευθεὶς

“Singed around the asshole:” Aristophanes has this instead of being “all burned up”

Ἀφευθεὶς τὸν πρωκτόν: Ἀριστοφάνης ἀντὶ τοῦ φλογισθείς.

Balneum Tripergulae – particolare da miniatura del Codice Angelico del “De Balneis Puteolanis� di Pietro da Eboli.

Bonus: Suda on defecation (And there is more of this)

Apopatêma: this is the same as ‘dung’ Eupolis has in his Golden Age: “What is that man? Shit of a fox.” And Kratinus has in Runaway Slaves: I knocked Kerkyon out at dawn when I found him shitting in the vegetables.” We also find the participle apopatêsomenoi (“they are about to shit”) which means they are going to evacuate the feces from their bodies. But patos also means path.

Aristophanes writes “No one sacrifices the old way any more or even enters the temple except for the more than ten thousand who want to shit. So, apopatos is really the voiding of the bowels. Aristophanes also says about Kleonymous: “He went off to shit after he got he army and shat for ten months in the golden mountains? For how long was he closing his asshole? A whole turn of the moon?”

Ἀποπάτημα: αὐτὸ τὸ σκύβαλον. Εὔπολις Χρυσῷ γένει: τί γάρ ἐστ’ ἐκεῖνος; ἀποπάτημ’ ἀλώπεκος. Κρατῖνος Δραπέτισι: τὸν Κερκύονά τε ἕωθεν ἀποπατοῦντ’ ἐπὶ τοῖς λαχάνοις εὑρὼν ἀπέπνιξα. καὶ Ἀποπατησόμενοι, τὴν κόπρον κενώσοντες. πάτος δὲ ἡ ὁδός. Ἀριστοφάνης: οὐδεὶς θύει τοπαράπαν οὐδ’ εἰσέρχεται, πλὴν ἀποπατησόμενοί γε πλεῖν ἢ μύριοι. Ἀπόπατος γὰρ ἡ κένωσις τῆς γαστρός. καὶ Ἀριστοφάνης περὶ Κλεωνύμου φησίν: εἰς ἀπόπατον ᾤχετο στρατιὰν λαβὼν κἄχεζεν ὀκτὼ μῆνας ἐπὶ χρυσῶν ὄρων. πόσου δὲ τὸν πρωκτὸν χρόνου ξυνήγαγε; τῇ πανσελήνῳ.

From Henderson’s Maculate Muse

proktos

Gender, Smell and Lemnos: More Misogyny from Greek Myth

A proverb from the Suda

“By a Lemnian Hand: [meaning] cruelly and lawlessly. This is from a story: for they say that the women in Lemnos allegedly killed their husbands because they weren’t having sex with them”

Λημνίᾳ χειρί: ὠμῇ καὶ παρανόμῳ. ἀπὸ τῆς ἱστορίας· φασὶ γὰρ τὰς ἐν Λήμνῳ γυναῖκας τοὺς ἄνδρας αὐτῶν ἀνελεῖν αἰτιωμένας, ὅτι αὐταῖς οὐκ ἐμίγνυντο.

A few years ago I was looking up some odd word or another in the work of the lexicographer Hesychius (ok, to be honest, I was looking up words for feces and was looking at κοκκιλόνδις· παιδὸς ἀφόδευμα; kokkilondis: “a child’s excrement”). I found the following words which are pretty much absent from all modern lexica.

Kikkasos: the sweat flowing from between the thighs

κίκκασος· ὁ ἐκ τῶν παραμηρίων ἱδρὼς ῥέων.

Kikkê: Sex. Or the bad smell [that comes] from genitals

κίκκη· συνουσία. ἡ ἀπὸ τῶν αἰδοίων δυσοσμία

Obviously, the specificity of these two lexical items is amusing. But their very existence perplexed me a bit. Where did they come from? How were they used? (They don’t actually appear anywhere but in Hesychius.) After some contemplation and a little restraint, I can only conclude that the words emerge from a generally misogynistic context which also considered sex in some way unclean.

The story that I kept thinking of was that of the Lemnian women—it is one of the few connections I could make between sex and bad smells. It is also one of my least favorite myths because it echoes modern misogynistic taboos which marginalize and alienate female bodies. So, I almost didn’t write this post. But I do think that it is worth making these connections, however uncomfortable they are.

Here are two versions of the Lemnian women tale.

Apollodorus, 1.114

“Jason was the captain of the ship as they disembarked and neared Lemnos. The island then happened to be bereft of men and was ruled by Hypsipyle, Thoas’ daughter, for the following reason. The Lemnian women used not to honor Aphrodite. She cast a terrible smell upon them and, for this reason, their husbands acquired spear-won women from Thrace and slept with them.

Because they were dishonored, the Lemnian women slaughtered their fathers and husbands. Hypsipyle alone spared her father Thoas by hiding him. After they landed on the women-controlled island, they slept with the women. Hypsipyle gave birth to sons after sleeping with Jason: Eunêos and Nebrophonos.”

οὗτοι ναυαρχοῦντος ᾿Ιάσονος ἀναχθέντες προσίσχουσι Λήμνῳ. ἔτυχε δὲ ἡ Λῆμνος ἀνδρῶν τότε οὖσα ἔρημος, βασιλευομένη δὲ ὑπὸ ῾Υψιπύλης τῆς Θόαντος δι’ αἰτίαν τήνδε. αἱ Λήμνιαι τὴν ᾿Αφροδίτην οὐκ ἐτίμων· ἡ δὲ αὐταῖς ἐμβάλλει δυσοσμίαν, καὶ διὰ τοῦτο οἱ γήμαντες αὐτὰς ἐκ τῆς πλησίον Θρᾴκης λαβόντες αἰχμαλωτίδας συνευνάζοντο αὐταῖς. ἀτιμαζόμεναι δὲ αἱ Λήμνιαι τούς τε πατέρας καὶ τοὺς ἄνδρας φονεύουσι· μόνη δὲ ἔσωσεν ῾Υψιπύλη τὸν ἑαυτῆς πατέρα κρύψασα
Θόαντα. προσσχόντες οὖν τότε γυναικοκρατουμένῃ τῇ Λήμνῳ μίσγονται ταῖς γυναιξίν. ῾Υψιπύλη δὲ ᾿Ιάσονι συνευνάζεται, καὶ γεννᾷ παῖδας Εὔνηον καὶ Νεβρο-φόνον.

Image result for Jason argonauts greek vase

Schol ad. Pind. P4 88b

“The story goes like this: Because the Lemnian women had carried out the honors for Aphrodite improperly, the goddess inflicted a bad smell upon them: for this reason, men turned them away. They all worked together and killed their husbands in a plot. Then the Argonauts, as they were travelling to Skythia, arrived in in Lemnos; when they found that the island was bereft of men, they slept with the women and then left. The sons who were born from them went to Sparta in search of their fathers and, once they were accepted among the Lakonians, they became citizens there and settled in Sparta.

ἱστορία τοιαύτη· ταῖς Λημνίαις γυναιξὶν ἀσεβῶς διακειμέναις περὶ τὰς τῆς ᾿Αφροδίτης τιμὰς ἡ θεὸς δυσοσμίαν προσέπεμψε, καὶ οὕτως αὐτὰς οἱ ἄνδρες ἀπεστράφησαν· αἱ δὲ συνθέμεναι πρὸς ἑαυτὰς ἐξ ἐπιβουλῆς τοὺς ἄνδρας ἀνεῖλον. τηνικαῦτα δὲ οἱ ᾿Αργοναῦται τὸν εἰς Σκυθίαν στελλόμενοι πλοῦν προσωρμίσθησαν τῇ Λήμνῳ, καὶ εὑρόντες ἔρημον ἀρσένων τὴν νῆσον συνελθόντες ταῖς γυναιξὶν ἀπηλλάγησαν. οἱ δὲ φύντες ἐξ αὐτῶν ἦλθον εἰς Λακεδαίμονα κατὰ ζήτησιν τῶν πατέρων, καὶ προσδεχθέντες παρὰ Λάκωσι καὶ πολιτευσάμενοι συνέθεντο ἐπιθέσθαι τῇ Σπάρτῃ…

This tale seems to combine with a larger treatment of Lemnos as clear from the proverb above and this one:

A proverb from Zenobius (4.91)

“A Lemnian evil”: A proverb which they say comes from the lawless acts committed against husbands by the women of Lemnos. Or it derives from the story of the women who were abducted from Attica by the Pelasgians and settled in Lemnos. Once they gave birth, they taught their sons the ways and the language of the Athenians. They honored each other and ruled over those who descended from Thracians. Then the Pelasgians, because they were angry over this, killed them and their mothers. Or the proverb derives from the bad smell of the Lemnian women.”

Λήμνιον κακόν: παροιμία, ἣν διαδοθῆναι φασὶν ἀπὸ τῶν παρανομηθέντων εἰς τοὺς ἄνδρας ἐν Λήμνῳ ὑπὸ τῶν γυναικῶν. ῍Η διὰ τὸ τὰς ἁρπαγείσας ὑπὸ Πελασγῶν ἐκ τῆς ᾿Αττικῆς γυναῖκας εἰς Λῆμνον ἀπαχθῆναι· ἃς ἀποτεκούσας τρόπους τε τῶν ᾿Αθηναίων διδάξαι τοὺς παῖδας καὶ γλῶτταν· τούτους δὲ τιμωρεῖν ἀλλήλοις καὶ τῶν ἐκ τῶν Θρᾳσσῶν γεγενημένων ἐπικρατεῖν· τοὺς δὲ Πελασγοὺς ἐπὶ τούτῳ ἀχθομένους κτεῖναι αὐτοὺς καὶ τὰς μητέρας αὐτῶν. ῍Η διὰ τὴν δυσωδίαν τῶν Λημνιάδων γυναικῶν τὴν παροιμίαν διαδοθῆναι.

The story of the Lemnian crimes (Lêmnia Erga) is told by Herodotus (6.137-138): the Pelasgians were driven out of Attic and took Lemnos; then they got their revenge by abducting Athenian women during a festival. When the sons of these women grew up, they frightened the native Pelasgians and they were all killed.

In the major tales, it is clear that the women are not completely at fault, but they are the ones who seem to suffer the most. Within the broader narrative of the Argonaut tale, especially, we can see how women are defined by their bodies as loci of sexual interest or disinterest, the ability to produce children, and anxiety that they might not remain subordinate to male desire. The casual detail of the Pelasgian tale is especially harrowing.

Giving The Finger in Ancient Greek

Since we have a short time left to salute a certain someone…

In Aristophanes’ Peace a rude hand gesture is mentioned (549):

Καὶ τὸν δορυξὸν οἷον ἐσκιμάλισεν.

Perseus’ translation (“this sickle-maker is thumbing his nose at the spear-maker?” ) may not do justice to the gesture or its meaning. Ancient commentary glosses this in a slightly different way. (See this site for a reference to the digitus impudicus in the Clouds)

Schol ad Ar. Pax. 549

Eskimálisen: “instead of he stuck his finger up” for to skimalísai is properly to shove a finger into a bird’s anus. But when people wish to insult someone, they extend their middle finger, retract the rest, and show it.”

ἐσκιμάλισεν: ἀντὶ τοῦ “κατεδακτύλισεν”· σκιμαλίσαι γάρ ἐστι κυρίως τὸ τὸν δάκτυλον εἰς τὸν πρωκτὸν τοῦ ὀρνέου βαλεῖν. οὐ μόνον δὲ τοῦτο, ἀλλὰ καὶ ὅταν βουλόμενοι ἐφυβρίσαι τινὰ τὸν μέσον δάκτυλον ἐντείνοντες καὶ τοὺς λοιποὺς συνάγοντες δείξωσιν αὐτόν.

Apart from loving this passage’s instructions about how to give a middle finger, I am intrigued by the fact that Greeks gave the middle finger at all and by the chance that the reference to a bird’s anus might provide an amusing folk etymology for why we call it the “bird”. But, first and foremost, we can learn why the Greeks gave the finger.

A popular article in Slate claims that the middle finger is offensive because it is phallic, so sticking it up is like rudely showing someone a penis. Wikipedia says it is all about sexual intercourse. The Greek evidence, however, indicates that while phallic meaning is operative, what one does with the threatened phallus is truly insulting (at hubris levels even!). So, let’s go through some of the extant evidence.

We have some confirmation of the synonymy the scholion indicates between giving the middle finger and sticking a finger in an anus:

Phrynichus, 83.15

Katadaktulizein: “to wantonly touch through the rectum with a finger. Attic Greeks use the term skimalizein.

καταδακτυλίζειν: τὸ ἀσελγῶς τῷ δακτύλῳ τῆς τοῦ πέλας ἕδρας ἅπτεσθαι. τοῦτο καὶ σκιμαλίζειν οἱ ᾿Αττικοὶ λέγουσιν.

The Suda provides a gloss on an adjective related to this verb:

Katadaktulikos: a phrase for wanting to penetrate the anus’s sphincter.

Καταδακτυλικός: ἀντὶ τοῦ συνουσιαστικὸς κατὰ τοῦ δακτυλίου τοῦ πρωκτοῦ.

There is also a proverb recorded that repeats much of the same material as we find in the scholion.

Michal. Apostol. Parom. 7.98

“You should get fingered” : [This is a proverb applied] for those worthy of insult. For skimalísai means when someone wants to insult someone, people raise their middle finger, retract the rest, and show it. Properly, this indicates shoving a finger into a bird’s anus.”

     ᾿Εσκιμαλίχθαι σε χρή: ἐπὶ τῶν ἀξίων ὕβρεως· σκιμαλίσαι δὲ λέγεται, ὅταν βουλόμενος ἐνυβρίσαι τινὰ τὸν μέσον δάκτυλον ἐντείναντες καὶ τοὺς λοιποὺς συνάγοντες ἐνδείξωσιν αὐτῷ· κυρίως δὲ λέγεται τὸ τὸν δάκτυλον εἰς τὸν πρωκτὸν τοῦ ὀρνέου βαλεῖν.

Picture
Image from thefinger.org

The Suda pretty much provides the same information but with an opening alternative:

Eskimalisen: [This is when] one insults by joining thumb and middle finger and striking them. Or, instead it means to give the finger [katedaktulise]: for “to finger” is, properly, to place your middle finger into a bird’s anus. But it is not only this: whenever people want to insult someone, they stretch out their middle finger, withdraw the rest, and show it. So Aristophanes says: “[see] how he fingered the spear-maker.”

Ἐσκιμάλισεν: τῷ μέσῳ δακτύλῳ συναρμόσας τὸν μέγαν καὶ πλήξας ἐφυβρίζει. ἢ ἀντὶ τοῦ κατεδακτύλισε: σκιμαλίσαι γάρ ἐστι κυρίως τὸ μέσον τὸν δάκτυλον εἰς τὸν πρωκτὸν τοῦ ὀρνέου ἐμβαλεῖν. οὐ μόνον δὲ τοῦτο, ἀλλὰ καὶ ὅταν βουλόμενοι ἐνυβρίσαι τινά, τὸν μέσον δάκτυλον ἐντείνοντες καὶ τοὺς λοιποὺς συνάγοντες δείξωσιν αὐτῷ. Ἀριστοφάνης: καὶ τὸν δορυξὸν οἷον ἐσκιμάλισεν.

In another entry we find a more abstract use of the verb with several options for translation. (There is also an explanation about why people are sticking fingers in birds.) Don’t sleep on the Suda: the entry combines agricultural information with an anecdote from philosophy:

Skimalisô: “I treat as nothing; I mock; I grab with a little finger as I would a woman’s ass”. Skimalizein means to examine with a little finger, to see if chickens are about to lay eggs.

When two men were resting above at one of Zeno’s drinking parties, and the one below him was sticking his foot in the other’s ass, and Zeno was doing the same thing to him with his knee, he turned around and said, “what kind of pain do you think you were causing the man below you?”

Σκιμαλίσω: ἐξουδενώσω, χλευάσω, τῷ μικρῷ δακτύλῳ ὡς τῶν γυναικείων πυγῶν ἅψομαι. λέγεται δὲ σκιμαλίζειν κυρίως τὸ τῷ μικρῷ δακτύλῳ ἀποπειρᾶσθαι, εἰ ᾠοτοκοῦσιν αἱ ἀλεκτορίδες. δυοῖν ὑπερανακειμένοιν ἐν πότῳ τοῦ Ζήνωνος, καὶ τοῦ ὑπ’ αὐτὸν τὸν ὑφ’ ἑαυτὸν σκιμαλίζοντος τῷ ποδί, αὐτὸς ἐκεῖνον τῷ γόνατι. ἐπιστραφέντος δέ, τί οὖν, οἴει, τὸν ὑποκάτω σου πάσχειν ὑπὸ σοῦ;

The entries from the Suda are pretty far removed from the time of Aristophanes’ Peace (only 1500 years or so). Although the steady tradition from the scholia through the lexicographers indicates some consistency, we still need a little more to help flesh this out.

So, a final piece of evidence to wrap this all up. One of the words for the middle finger in Attic Greek is καταπύγων (a meaning attested by both Photius and Hesychius: Καταπύγων: ὁ μέσος δάκτυλος).  This word, when not referring to fingers, generally indicates someone “given to unnatural lust” (LSJ) or one who is lecherous, derived from the preposition kata and the noun pugê (buttocks, ass). The point, if I may, is that the middle finger in this colloquialism is directly associated with something that goes deep in the buttocks.

To stay with the assertion in Slate, as the largest finger, the middle finger raised does seem to have a phallic association, but in the Greek usage at least the showing of such a phallic symbol is a threat of its use. Based on the association of the gesture and the word for the middle finger with “wantonness”, the gesture threatens deep anal penetration, a threat like Catullus’ pedicabo (“I will sexually violate your ass”). Google searches will find this answer, but without the pleasant lexical tour!

Image result for ancient greek chicken vase
A FALISCAN BLACK-GLAZED ASKOS | CIRCA 4TH CENTURY B.C. | Ancient Art & Antiquities Auction | Ancient Art & Antiquities, vases | Christie’s from Pinterest

But lest you fear that the gesture is now too base and vulgar to be used, no less a luminary than the philosopher Diogenes employed it:

Diogenes Flips off Demosthenes (Diogenes Laertius, 6.34 and 35)

Once, when some foreigners wanted to see Demosthenes, he put up his middle finger, and said, “this is the Athenian demagogue!”

ξένων δέ ποτε θεάσασθαι θελόντων Δημοσθένην, τὸν μέσον δάκτυλον ἐκτείνας, “οὗτος ὑμῖν,” ἔφη, “ἐστὶν ὁ ᾿Αθηναίων δημαγωγός.”

 “[Diogenes] used to say that most people were a single finger away from insanity. If someone walks around holding out his middle finger, he seems nuts. But if he is holding his index, he doesn’t.”

τοὺς πλείστους ἔλεγε παρὰ δάκτυλον μαίνεσθαι· ἐὰν οὖν τις τὸν μέσον προτείνας πορεύηται, δόξει μαίνεσθαι, ἐὰν δὲ τὸν λιχανόν, οὐκέτι.

See also Jeffrey Henderson, The Maculate Muse (New Haven, 1975).

Thanks to Justin Arft and Matt Farmer for comments on an earlier version of this.

Suda Online, epsilon 3150; kappa 516; sigma 606

 

Thunderous-Mouth-Milling and Petty-Bragging: Some Words for a Thursday

The Suda has the following anecdote which seems to be taken and altered from Diogenes Laertius or something similar.

“thunderous-mouth-milling”: Eubulides says this “the eristic, asking his horn questions and discombobulating the orators with his falsely-intellectual arguments, taking with him the “thunderous-mouth-milling” of Demosthenes.

Ῥομβοστωμυλήθρα: Εὐβουλίδης φησίν: οὑριστικὸς κερατίνας ἐρωτῶν καὶ ψευδαλαζόσιν λόγοις τοὺς ῥήτορας κυλίων ἀπῆλθ’, ἔχων Δημοσθένους τὴν ῥομβοστωμυλήθραν.

ῥομβοστωμυλήθρη (lit. “thunderous-mouth-milling” (?) seems to be a misunderstanding or humorous take on ῥωποπερπερήθρη, usually translated as “braggadocio” but is more like “cheap/petty bragging”
From Diogenes Laertius, Lives of the Eminent Philosophers 2.10

“The eristic Euboulides, asking questions about horns
And discombobulating the speakers with his falsely-intellectual arguments
Has gone off, taking the petty self regard of Demosthenes with him

For it seems that Demosthenes was a student of Eubulides and was able to stop his problems with the letter ‘r’ because of it. Eubulides was also in conflict with Aristotle and undermined him a lot.

οὑριστικὸς δ᾿ Εὐβουλίδης κερατίνας ἐρωτῶν
καὶ ψευδαλαζόσιν λόγοις τοὺς ῥήτορας κυλίων
ἀπῆλθ᾿ ἔχων Δημοσθένους τὴν ῥωποπερπερήθραν.

ἐῴκει γὰρ αὐτοῦ καὶ Δημοσθένης ἀκηκοέναι καὶ ῥωβικώτερος ὢν παύσασθαι. ὁ δ᾿ Εὐβουλίδης καὶ πρὸς Ἀριστοτέλην διεφέρετο, καὶ πολλὰ αὐτὸν διαβέβληκε.

Eubulides is now known for some interesting paradoxes.

Image result for ancient greek eubulides
Demosthenes, no longer thunderous-mouth-milling.

Greek and Roman Words on Vomiting

Greek Puking

ἐξεμέω, ἐξερεύγομαι: “vomit”

κατεξεράω: “vomit upon”

κοπριήμετος: “shit-puking”

προεξεμέω: “to puke beforehand”

ἐμεσία: “pukey”; i.e., a disposition to vomit

ἔμεσμα: “puke”, i.e. “that which is vomited

ἐμετηρίζω: “to administer an emetic”

ἐμετικός: “something that causes vomiting; an emetic”

ἀκρητόχολος: “bilious vomiting”

δυσεμής: “Difficult to vomit”

εὐέμετος: “Vomiting easily”

χολημετέω: “to vomit bile”

Image result for Ancient greek vomit vase

Herodotus, 1.133

“They can’t puke or piss in front of another”

καί σφι οὐκ ἐμέσαι ἔξεστι, οὐκὶ οὐρῆσαι ἀντίον ἄλλου

Revelations, 3.16

“I’m going to puke you from my mouth.”

μέλλω σε ἐμέσαι ἐκ τοῦ στόματός μου

Cicero, For King Deiotauros 7.22

“When you said you wanted to puke after dinner, they began to lead you into the bathroom”

‘cum’ inquit ‘vomere post cenam te velle dixisses, in balneum te ducere coeperunt

Plautus, Rudens 27

“By the god, I wish too much that you’d puke up your lungs!”

Pulmoneum edepol nimis velim vomitum vomas.

From P. Chantraine, an etymology. Did someone choke on a digamma?

chantraine (2)

The Roman Side of Things

Vomax, “given to vomiting”

Vomer, “ploughshare”; “membrum virile

Vomica: “sore, boil”; “an evil”

Vomicosus: “full of sores or tumors”

Vomicus: “ulcerous”

Vomificus: “that which causes vomiting”

Vomifluus: “flowing with pus”

Vomitio: “a spewing”

Vomitor: “one who vomits”

Vomitorious: “that produces vomiting, emetic”

Vomitus: “a vomiting”

Vomo: “to puke”, cf. Greek ἐμέω, *ϝεμ-

Image result for Ancient Roman Vomiting