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Tradition and Renewal in Pindaric Diction: Some Remarks on the IE Background of Pindar P. 2.52–6

Laura Massetti

University of Cologne and Harvard University Center for Hellenic Studies

As is well known, Pindar’s poetics exhibit reflexes of IE poetic inheritance at several levels, namely syntactic, phraseological and thematic (see Watkins 1995:448–59, 2002ab). This paper undertakes to make a short contribution to the field. It aims at gaining a deeper insight into some possible inherited IE conceptual patterns underlying two phraseological items of Pind. P. 2.52–6:

     [...] ἐμὲ δὲ χρεών

φεύγειν δάκος ἀδινὸν κακαγοριᾶν

εἶδον γὰρ ἑκὰς ἐὼν τὰ πόλλ᾽ ἐν ἀμαχανίᾳ

ψογερὸν Ἀρχίλοχον βαρυλόγοις ἔχθεσιν


‘But I must flee the persistent bite of censure, for standing at a far remove I have seen Archilochus the blamer often in straits as he fed on dire words of hatred.’ (Race 1997)

(a) The collocation [βαρύλογονἔχθος]* (Pind. P. 2.55), which reflects a traditional conceptual association in Greek, cf. βαρύς – ἔρις (Hom.+), βαρύς – πόλεμος (Aesch.) etc., finds a perfect match in Platonic prose, cf. Leg. 935a ἐκ λόγων [...] καὶ ἔχθραι βαρύταται γίγνονται, “from words, there spring things most heavy, even hatreds” (de Lamberterie 1990:534–5). Furthermore, the analysis e Graeco ipso of the Platonic passage (Leg. 934d–5e) reveals that it shares remarkable lexical and thematic correspondences with the Pindaric one, namely:

(1) The theme of public verbal abuse, expressed by Gk. κακηγορία: μηδένα κακηγορείτω μηδείς “nobody shall abuse anybody” (Leg. 934d), δάκος ... κακαγοριᾶν (Pind.);

(2) The reference to the semantic field [food] for [evil feelings/words], cf. ἐμπιμπλὰς ὀργὴν κακῶν ἑστιαμάτων “sating his passion with foul foods” (Leg. 935a), δάκος ἁδινός; βαρυλόγοις ἔχθεσιν || πιαινόμενον (Pind.);

(3) The mention of iambic poets as public verbal abusers par excellence, cf. ποιητῇ δὴ κωμῳδίας ἤ τινος ἰάμβων “a composer of a comedy or of any iambic song,” (Leg. 935e), ψογερὸν Ἀρχίλοχον (Pind.).

In the light of these systematic matches, it may be assumed that Pl. Leg. 934d–5e actually conceals more than a random Pindaric echo.

Additionally, the association of the IE root *gerh2‑ ‘heavy’ and [evil] is well attested in onomastics, cf. Myc. MN pu2‑ke‑qi‑ri /Phuge‑grīns/ (PY) ‘who escaped the heavy one’ (García Ramón 2009), and the IE lexicon, cf. OHG kreg ‘war’ (:*grih2kó‑, cf. Kölligan 2013). Specifically, IE *gerh2‑ often occurs in connection with [malevolent/offensive word], cf. Lat. grauissimas uerborum contumelias (Caes. Civ. 3.81.1+), Ved. gurú‑ – mántra‑ ‘heavy spell’ (RV 1.147.4).

(b) The image underlying βαρυλόγοις ἔχθεσιν πιαινόμενον (cf. Brown 2006), might also fit into the framework of poetic metaphors, in which the poetic word is represented as a drink or a type of food (Nünlist 1998:178–99; 314–6). Such metaphors are widely attested in other IE languages, where ‘to fill’ is expressed by synonymic lexemes, such as *pleh1‑ in Rigvedic hymns and in the Old Norse kenningar, šunna‑ḫḫi ‘fill, pour’ in Hittite, cf.

-      RV 5.11.5cd tvā́ṃ gíraḥ síndhum ivāvánīr mahī́r ' ā́ pr̥ṇanti śávasā “you do the songs fill with vast power, like great streams the river [=the Sindhu]” (Jamison and Brereton 2014);

-      Óðreris ok Boðnar ok Sónar ok fyllr ‘fill of Óðreyrir, of Boðn, of Són’ : [poetry] (Skáldsk. 10a);

-      KBo LIII 12 A iii 36f., 43 (CTH 381 Prayer of Muwattallis II) A-NA DINGIR.MEŠ anda šunni nu⸗[mu] ištamaššandu “ergieße die Wörter zu den Göttern hinein, lass sie zu mir hören” (García Ramón 2010).

In the framework of these conceptual patterns, the collocation páyasvantvácas- “speech ... full of milk” (RV 10.17.14) may partially be compared to °λόγοις ... πιαινόμενον, as both páyasvant‑ and πιαινόμενον can be traced back to IE *pei̯H‑ ‘to swell,’ while λόγος is a synonym of ἔπος.

In conclusion, comparative analysis shows that two phraseological items of Pindar’s Pythian 2 have significant parallels in other IE languages, shedding light on tradition and renewal of Pindaric poetic images.

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Greek and Latin Linguistics

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