The current most prolific and influential metaphor theory is the cognitive linguistic approach (and conceptual metaphor theory) following the seminal work of George Lakoff and his collaborators (esp. Lakoff and Johnson, 1980 and Lakoff and Turner, 1989). Their approach established metaphor as a fundamental pattern of human thought, cognition, and language (rather than a mere figure of speech) which makes it possible for human beings to think and speak about abstract and often phenomenologically inaccessible concepts by employing images drawn from more concrete and relatable source domains. One such abstract target domain where metaphors are expected to occur regularly is the field of emotions, a claim which has been tested with regard to several different modern languages (e.g. Athanasiadou and Tabakowska, 1998 and Kövecses, 2000).
This paper proposes to examine the emotion metaphors of our extant early Ancient Greek sources, briefly addressing the principles of metonymical expression before considering both general metaphorical mechanisms such as ontological metaphor (personification/reification) and orientational metaphor (metaphorical use of directionality, often framed as movement) as well as more specific metaphorical conceptualizations drawing on embodied ideas: Despite having no grounding in physical reality, immediately relatable and familiar notions such as temperature (warmth – cold), consistency (hard – soft, solid – liquid – gaseous), or physical processes (contraction – expansion) along with bodily sensations drawn from other fields of experience (e.g. taste, cf. Horn, 2016; for the general principle vide Speed et al. 2019) are frequently used to express complex emotional experiences which would be difficult or impossible to convey literally. The following examples from Homeric epic for the emotions of fear and mercy use an orientational metaphor and the conceptual metaphor hard is pitiless respectively:
Il. 15.280: τάρβησαν, πᾶσιν δὲ παραὶ ποσὶ κάππεσε θυμός.
they were all terrified, and their spirit dropped beside their feet.
Od. 5.190–1: (...) οὐδέ μοι αὐτῇ
θυμὸς ἐνὶ στήθεσσι σιδήρεος, ἀλλθ ἐλεήμων.
(...) the heart in my breast is not made of iron but is disposed to pity.
To date, there has been no systematic application of the cognitive linguistic theory of metaphors to the Ancient Greek material, even though there have been individual studies demonstrating the general validity of the approach (cf. e.g. Cairns, 2016a, 2016b; Horn, 2016; Forte, 2018). With regard to the study of emotion metaphors, the cognitive linguistic approach provides a theoretical framework which makes it possible to relate individual metaphors, which are usually studied separately, to one another when they draw on shared underlying conceptualizations. While the metaphors occurring in any single domain of experience are usually not fully consistent but merely illustrating individual aspects, this paper aims to demonstrate that with emotion metaphors in Ancient Greek, there is at least a coherent system of conceptual metaphors often making use of opposite but coordinate conceptualizations (such as the aforementioned warm – cold opposition, cf. Zink, 1961). At the same time, it will be argued that the lack of consistency exhibited by the expressions concerning the bodily reactions of emotions, which has caused confusion for interpreters before and led to peculiar interpretations, can be explained if phrases referring to conceptually flexible ‘physical organs’ such as θυμός or φρήν/φρένες, are treated as metaphorical images rather than biological realities.
Metaphor in Early Greek Poetry