Wednesday, July 16, 2008


Mesomedes, Hymn To Nemesis

William S. Annis in an email drew my attention to an example of asyndetic, privative adjectives in Mesomedes 3 (Hymn to Nemesis), line 7:
ὑπὸ σὸν τροχὸν ἄστατον ἀστιβῆ    7
χαροπὰ μερόπων στρέφεται τύχα

"Beneath your unresting, trackless(?) wheel
the grim fate of mortals turns."

The second one is a bit tricky. It can mean trackless, but it can also mean "not to be stepped on" or "holy."
The entire hymn is interesting. Here are a couple of translations, followed by the Greek text.

Translation by M.L. West, Ancient Greek Music (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1992), pp. 307-308:
Nemesis, winged one that tilts life's balance, dark-eyed goddess, daughter of Justice, that curbest the vain neighings of mortals with thy adamant bit, and in thy hatred of their pernicious insolence drivest out black resentment: under thy wheel that neither stands still nor follows a fixed track men's gleaming fortune turns about. Unobserved, thou treadest at their heel; the haughty neck thou bendest; under thy forearm thou measurest off life, and ever thou turnest thy frowning gaze into men's hearts, with the scales in thy hand. Be gracious, blest dispenser of justice, Nemesis, winged one that tilts life's balance.

Of Nemesis we sing, undying goddess, stern Victory with spreading wings, infallible, seated by the throne of Justice; of thee that resentest man's arrogance and sweepest it down to Tartarus.
Translation by D. Yeld reprinted in Michael B. Hornum, Nemesis, the Roman State & the Games (Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1993), p. 116:
Winged Nemesis, turner of the scales of life, blue-eyed goddess, daughter of justice, who with your unbending bridle, dominate the vain arrogance of men and, loathing man's fatal vanity, obliterate black envy; beneath your wheel unstable and leaving no imprint, the fate of men is tossed; you who come unnoticed, in an instant, to subdue the insolent head. You measure life with your hand, and with frowning brows, hold the yoke. Hail, blest immortal goddess, winged Nemesis, turning the scales of life, imperishable and holy goddess Nemesis; Victory of unfurled wings, powerful, infallible, who shares the altar of justice and, furious at human pride, casts man into the abyss of Tartarus.
Greek text from the very helpful edition with notes by William S. Annis:
Νέμεσι πτερόεσσα βίου ῥοπά,
κυανῶπι θεά, θύγατερ Δίκας
ἃ κοῦφα φρυάγματα θνατῶν
ἐπέχεις ἀδάμαντι χαλινῷ,
ἔχθουσα δ’ ὕβριν ὀλοὰν βροτῶν
μέλανα φθόνον ἐκτὸς ἐλαύνεις.
ὑπὸ σὸν τροχὸν ἄστατον ἀστιβῆ
χαροπὰ μερόπων στρέφεται τύχα,
λήθουσα δὲ πὰρ πόδα βαίνεις,
γαυρούμενον αὐχένα κλίνεις.
ὑπὸ πῆχυν ἀεὶ βίοτον μετρεῖς,
νεύεις δ’ †ὑπὸ κόλπον ὀφρῦν ἀεί†
ζυγὸν μετὰ χεῖρα κρατοῦσα.
ἵλαθι μάκαιρα δικασπόλε
Νέμεσι πτερόεσσα βίου ῥοπά.

Νέμεσιν θεὸν ᾄδομεν ἄφθιτον,
Νίκην τανυσίπτερον ὀμβρίμαν
νημερτέα καὶ πάρεδρον Δίκας,
ἃ τὰν μεγαλανορίαν βροτῶν
νεμεσῶσα φέρεις κατὰ Ταρτάρου.

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