Sunday, August 19, 2007


Empyroscopy and Empyromancy

Google yields no hits for empyroscopy. Google Book Search yields one — Jon D. Mikalson, Honor Thy Gods: Popular Religion in Greek Tragedy (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1991), p. 94, who defined it as "the study of the movements of the flames as they consumed offerings on the altar" for purposes of divination. Maurice Platnauer, in his commentary on Euripides, Iphigenia in Tauris 16, used the Greek word ἐμπυροσκοπία. No such word appears in Liddell & Scott's Greek lexicon, which does however have an entry for ἐμπυροσκόπος, "one who divines by ἔμπυρα." ἔμπυρα (sc. ἱερά) are burnt sacrifices, as opposed to ἄπυρα, unburnt sacrifices.

By contrast, there are quite a few Google hits for empyromancy. Nicolaus Wecklein, in his commentary on Aeschylus, Prometheus Bound 496 ff., used the Greek word ἐμπυρομαντεία. This also does not appear in Liddell & Scott, although without the prefix ἔμ- the rare words πυρομαντεία (divination from fire) and πυρόμαντις (fire-diviner) do appear. The difference between empyromancy and pyromancy seems to be that the former requires a fire burning a sacrificial victim, whereas just a simple fire suffices for the latter.

There are many other English words derived from the Greek roots πῦρ (pyr = fire), σκοπιά (skopia = lookout, watch), and μαντεία (manteia = divination, prophecy).

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