Monday, March 04, 2013
Diminutives in the Begging Scene of Aristophanes' Acharnians
Dicaeopolis uses diminutives to denote most of the stage props he wants Euripides to give him:
- A little rag (ῥάκιον, diminutive of ῥάκος, line 415)
- A little cap made of felt (πιλίδιον, diminutive of πῖλος, line 439)
- A little staff or cane (βακτήριον, diminutive of βακτηρία, line 448)
- A little basket (σπυρίδιον, diminutive of σπυρίς, lines 453 and 469)
- A little cup (κοτυλίσκιον, diminutive of κοτύλη, line 459)
- A little jar (χυτρίδιον, diminutive of χυτρίς, line 463)
- A little sponge (σπογγίον, diminutive of σπόγγος, line 463)
For the use of diminutives throughout the begging scene, Petersen 163; Dover on Nu. 92.I don't have access to "Dover on Nu. 92," i.e. K.J. Dover's commentary on Aristophanes' Clouds (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1968). "Petersen 163" is Walter Petersen, Greek Diminutives in -ION: A Study in Semantics (Weimar: R. Wagner Sohn, 1910), p. 163, § 215, who writes:
Closely related to the use of a diminutive because of modesty is the use of one designating an object of which the speaker asks that it shall be given to him. This is already repeatedly mentioned by the Greek grammarians, e.g. in the scholia to Dionysius Thrax AB. 855, ἱππάριόν μοι χάρισαι· μειῶ γὰρ τὸ ζητούμενον ἵνα ἑτοιμότερον πρὸς τὸ δοῦναι ποιήσω τὸν ἔχοντα. Similarly Michael Syngelus ap. Cram. Anecd. 4.273.9, γίνεται δὲ τὰ ὑποκοριστικὰ ... δι' ἀναγκαιότατα [sic], ὡς ἐὰν ὃ αἰτῇ τις σμικρύνῃ, ἵνα μὴ μεγάλην ποιήσῃ τὴν χάριν· ᾧ κέχρηνται οἱ κωμικοί, ὡς ἔχει τὸ παρὰ Μενάνδρῳ λεβήτιον. The motive, then, as understood by the Greek grammarians, was the desire to appear modest in asking.Here are my translations from the grammarians quoted by Petersen.
First, the scholia to Dionysius Thrax, in Alfred Hilgard, ed., Scholia in Dionysii Thracis Artem Grammaticam (Lepizig: B.G. Teubner, 1901), p. 226, lines 17-19 (cf. also p. 375, lines 3-5, and p. 539, lines 22-24):
"Kindly give me a little horse." For I disparage the thing asked for, to make the one possessing it more ready to give it.Next, Michael Syngelus (or Syncellus), from the text in J.A. Cramer, ed., Anecdota Graeca, Vol. IV (Oxford, 1837), p. 273, lines 9-11:
Diminutives occur...by necessity, as if someone belittles what he asks for, to make the favor smaller; the comic writers used this, as the "little kettle" in Menander [Dyscolus 472].By using diminutives, Dicaeopolis lowers the value of the items asked for, so that it might appear less of a sacrifice for Euripides to give them up.