Monday, April 28, 2014


Consequences of Keeping or Breaking an Oath

P.J. Rhodes and ‎Robin Osborne, Greek Historical Inscriptions, 404-323 BC (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007), no. 88, lines 43-44 (text on p. 442, translation on p. 443):
καὶ γυναῖκες τίκτοι-
εν ἐοικότα γονεῦσιν, εἰ δὲ μή, τέρατα

and may the women bear children like their parents, but if not, monsters
This is an item in a list of consequences if those swearing an oath keep it, or break it. If they keep the oath, "may women bear children like their parents;" if they break it, "may women bear monsters," i.e. children with birth defects.

Liddell-Scott-Jones define γονεύς as "begetter, father, mostly in pl., parents." Here I might translate γονεῦσιν as "fathers" specifically, rather than as "parents" generally. In the days before blood and DNA tests, a child's resemblance to its father was prized, as a sign of its mother's virtue and as evidence of paternity. See Children Who Resemble Their Fathers. The language of this clause in the oath recalls Hesiod, Works and Days 235:
τίκτουσιν δὲ γυναῖκες ἐοικότα τέκνα γονεῦσιν.

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