Tuesday, April 07, 2009


Troglodytes and Hobbits

Online Etymology Dictionary, s.v. troglodyte:
"cave-dweller," 1555, from L. troglodytae (plural), from Gk. troglodytes "cave-dweller," lit. "one who creeps into holes," from trogle "hole" (from trogein "to gnaw;" see trout) + dyein "go in, dive in." Slang shortening trog "obnoxious person, boor" is recorded from 1956.
See E.H. Warmington, forward to G.W. Murray, "Trogodytica: The Red Sea Littoral in Ptolemaic Times," The Geographical Journal 133 (1967) 24-33 (at 24):
The ancient Greeks and Romans had a word troglodytai (Greek τρωγλοδύται, Latin troglodytae) which meant 'cave-enterers' and was used to describe primitive people who lived in caves. Such people may well have been included among the Troglodytes recorded in Greek and Roman authors as dwelling in Moesia south of the Danube and in the region of the Caucasus mountaines, and possibly those who lived in Nabataean Arabia. But scholars of to-day are agreed that the right 'hellenized' name for some primitive peoples of Africa is Τρωγοδύται (Trogodytae) without the letter l; that, whatever the meaning might be, this was what the Greeks and Romans normally called them; that the chief land of such people was called by them Τρωγοδυτική (Trogodytica); and that, wherever the letter l occurs in these names in the manuscripts of authors, it is an error, most probably having its origin in a popular mistaken alteration of the right name to one which had a simple and recognizable meeting.

Omission of the l rests on good authority. Greek papyri found in Egypt have Trwgo, for example P. Cair. Zen. 40.2; Papiri gr. e lat. IV.332, 14; Class. Philology XIX, 233, 234 (all of the 3rd century B.C.); P. Theb. Bank 9.2 (1st century B.C.); so has an inscription (Orientis. Gr. Inscript. i.70, Egypt, 3rd century B.C.); Strabo, born c. 63 B.C., seems to have omitted l though apparently he knew of the spelling with l, and all the manuscripts of his works include it. In Latin authors we have no l in Pliny VI 169, 173, etc.; cf. Cicero Div. ii.44, 93. Manuscripts called A, B and C of Herodotus (fifth century B.C.) have Τρωγο at IV.183; so has the Codex Vaticanus (codex B) of the Septuagint at ii Chronicles XII.3. To these examples others could be added. Murray was therefore right to insist on the name Trogodytica and the Trogodytai, English Trogodytes. The original draft of his paper contains a footnote to the title: 'Not Troglodytes. There are no caves in the eastern desert; and the Trogodytes probably lived in wickerwork huts as the modern Bega do'.
According to an ancient biography, Euripides was a part-time troglodyte. See David Kovacs, Euripidea (Leiden: Brill, 1994), pp. 6-7:
They say that he fitted out a cave on Salamis opening on the sea and that he passed his days there avoiding the crowd; and that is the reason he takes most of his similes from the sea.

φασὶ δὲ αὐτὸν ἐν Σαλαμῖνι σπήλαιον κατασκευάσαντα ἀναπνοὴν ἔχον εἰς τὴν θάλασσαν ἐκεῖσε διημερεύειν φεύγοντα τὸν ὄχλον· ὅθεν καὶ ἐκ θαλάσσης λαμβάνει τὰς πλείους τῶν ὁμοιώσεων.
Likewise Aulus Gellius 15.20.5 (tr. Kovacs, pp. 28-29):
Philochorus reports that there is a foul and horrible cave on the island of Salamis, which I have seen, in which Euripides used to write his tragedies.

Philochorus [FGrH 328 F 219] refert in insula Salamine speluncam esse taetram et horridam, quam nos vidimus, in qua Euripides tragoedias scriptitarit.
Yannos G. Lolos, The Cave of Euripides on Salamis, locates the cave above the Bay of Peristeria on the southern tip of Salamis.

J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, Appendix F:
The origin of the word hobbit was by most forgotten. It seems, however, to have been at first a name given to the Harfoots by the Fallohides and Stoors, and to be a worn-down form of a word preserved more fully in Rohan: holbytla 'hole-builder'....Hobbit is an invention. In the Westron the word used, when the people was referred to at all, was banakil 'halfling.' But at this date the folk of the Shire and of Bree used the word kuduk. Since, as has been noted, the Hobbits had once spoken a language closely related to that of the Rohirrim, it seems likely that kuduk was a worn-down form of kûd-dûkan [='hole-dweller']. The latter I have translated, for reasons explained, by holbytla ['hole-builder']; and hobbit provides a word that might well be a worn-down form of holbytla, if the name had occurred in our ancient language.

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