Wednesday, November 08, 2006


An Attic Idiom

R.E. Wycherley, The Stones of Athens (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1978), p. 93:
What struck the ancient commentators most was the way in which the names of the various commodities were used for the places in which they were sold. Enumerating the parts of a city, Pollux says:
The Attic writers named places after the things sold there; for instance they might say, "I went off to the wine, the olive oil, the pots"; or again in the words of Eupolis, "I went around to the garlic and the onions and the incense, and straight around to the perfume."9
99.47-48; Edmonds FAC I 418.
Aristophanes, Wasps 788-789 (tr. anon.):
He received a drachma for the two of us and went on the fish-market [literally, on the fish] to get it changed.

δραχμὴν μετ᾽ ἐμοῦ πρώην λαβὼν / ἐλθὼν διεκερματίζετ᾽ ἐν τοῖς ἰχθύσιν.
Douglas M. MacDowell ad loc.:
It is an Attic idiom to use the names of goods sold for the places where they are sold; cf. Frogs 1068 περὶ τοὺς ἰχθῦς, Antiphanes 125 ἐν τοῖς ἰχθύσι, and for other instances with other types of goods Clouds 1065, Birds 13, Lys. 557, Ek. 303, Eupolis 304, Lys. 23.6, D. 19.245, Thphr. Char. 11.4. The existence of the idiom proves that in the Agora shops or stalls selling the same kind of goods were grouped together.
Here are some of the passages cited by MacDowell:

Lysias 23.6-7 (tr. W.R.M. Lamb):
Well, they were all ignorant of his name, but they told me that I should get the most definite information if I went to the fresh-cheese market [literally, to the green cheese] on the last day of the month: for on that day in each month the Plataeans gathered there. So I went on that day to the cheese market [literally, to the cheese] and enquired of the people if they knew a certain Pancleon, their fellow-citizen.

πάντες οὖν ἀγνοοῦντες τὸ ὄνομα αὐτοῦ, ἀκριβέστατα ἂν ἔφασάν με πυθέσθαι ἐλθόντα εἰς τὸν χλωρὸν τυρὸν τῇ ἕνῃ καὶ νέα: ταύτῃ γὰρ τῇ ἡμέρᾳ τοῦ μηνὸς ἑκάστου ἐκεῖσε συλλέγεσθαι τοὺς Πλαταιέας. ἐλθὼν οὖν εἰς τὸν τυρὸν ταύτῃ τῇ ἡμέρᾳ ἐπυνθανόμην αὐτῶν, εἴ τινα γιγνώσκοιεν Παγκλέωνα πολίτην σφέτερον.
Theophrastus, Characters 11.4 (tr. R.C. Jebb):
When the market-place is full, he will go up to the place where nuts or myrtleberries or fruits are sold [literally, to the nuts or the myrtleberries or the fruits], and stand munching while he chatters to the seller.

καὶ πληθούσης τῆς ἀγορᾶς προσελθὼν πρὸς τὰ κάρυα ἢ τὰ μύρτα ἢ τὰ ἀκρόδρυα ἑστηκὼς τραγηματίζεσθαι, ἅμα τῷ πωλοῦντι προσλαλῶν.

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