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Homeric Ἐρινύς, word and figure alike, is enigmatic: its etymology is puzzling (cf. á¼”ρα? á¼”ρις? á½€ρίνω?); its appearance in Linear B tablets mysterious (e-ri-nu; e.g., KN Fp 1.8); its most common Homeric epithet á¼ εροφοá¿–τις obscure (Il. 9.571, 19.87). But perhaps there is a key among this epithet’s variae lectiones in the Homeric MSS. and scholia. In this paper I argue for the importance of these alternative epithets in reconstructing the Indo-European background of the Erinys. More specifically, I show that the scholia preserve dialect variants of a tabu epithet that is almost certainly older than the usual paradosis, and that this tabu epithet closely links our Greek Erinys to a figure in the Vedic hymns. By means of this Vedic comparandum my analysis seeks both to endorse the Homeric scholia on this point and to reverse the prevailing view that the ‘Aeschylean’ depiction of the Erinys is post-Homeric (e.g., Heubeck 1986: 160–161, Sommerstein 1989: 8).

I begin from the status of the Erinys’ epithet á¼ εροφοá¿–τις (‘roaming in darkness’, ‘coming unseen’, ‘roaming the air’) in the Homeric MSS., and then turn to the other transmitted readings with a focus on one particular epithet recorded in the scholia: εá¼°αροπῶτις, ‘blood-drinking’ (Σ bT ad 19.87b). I show that this obscure word is unlikely to have been formed first within the Archaic Greek language: both the constituent parts (εἶαρ alongside, e.g., Hitt. Ä“šá¸«ar) and the formation of this compound word (built on πῶτις rather than πÏŒτης) are undoubtedly old. This linguistic evidence permits a comparative perspective, and I shall focus in this paper on presenting new Vedic comparanda. A perfect cognate for εá¼°αροπῶτις exists in the adjective ásá¹›kpā́van, which is found in the Atharvaveda (AVÅš 2.25.3). More compelling still, this epithet is there applied to a female demon, or arāya, in a charm against miscarriage. I briefly expand the scope of my investigation to include associated figures and their epithets in the Ṛgveda; with this I am able to illustrate even more clearly the tabu-motivated remodeling of the epithet in Greek, from εá¼°αροπῶτις to á¼ εροφοá¿–τις.

Having made my case on the linguistic level, I turn to other features shared by the Greek Erinys and the arāya of the Atharvaveda. We may observe, for example, that in the Eumenides Aeschylus notably depicts his chorus of Erinyes as both blood-thirsty and responsible for infertility and miscarriage—not at all unlike the avenging arāyas of AVÅš 2.25. Adducing such parallels, I argue that in the characterization of Aeschylus’ Erinyes we see less innovation than preservation of the ancient features confirmed by Vedic comparanda. Likewise, I contend that, while our Iliad suppresses tabu aspects of the Erinys, the variant readings recorded in the Homeric scholia point decisively to archaic versions of the Iliad in which the Erinys is far more menacing. I conclude by reevaluating previously proposed etymologies of the word Ἐρινύς (e.g., Hirt 1900; Frisk 1960; Neumann 1986), seeking to advance a formal connection to the Vedic arāya even on this level.


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