Saturday, May 30, 2015


Epipompē in an Epigram by Posidippus

Posidippus, Epigram 30 Austin and Bastianini (P.Mil.Vogl. VIII 309, col. V, lines 16-19), tr. Frank Nisetich in The New Posidippus: A Hellenistic Poetry Book, ed. Kathryn Gutzwiller (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003), p. 23:
A statue has sweated: what toil for a man of the city,
    what a blizzard of spears is coming against him!
Beseech the sweating god, though, and he will drive away
    the fire, turn it upon the enemy's house and harvest.
The Greek:
ξέϲματοϲ ἱδρώϲαντοϲ ὅϲοϲ πόνοϲ ἀνδρὶ πολίτηι
    καὶ δοράτων ὅϲϲ‹οϲ› προϲφέρεται νιφετ̣ό̣ϲ̣·
ἀλλ̣ὰ̣ τὸν ἱδρ[ώϲα]ντα κάλει θεόν, ὅϲτιϲ ἀπώϲε̣[ι
    πῦρ ἐπὶ δυ[ϲμε]νέων αὔλια καὶ καλάμα[ϲ.
Cf. Eduard Fraenkel (1888-1970), Horace (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1957), pp. 410-411 (written before the discovery of the new epigrams by Posidippus; footnote omitted):
This type of prayer is based on a widespread and very ancient belief. If a daemon or god is bent on harming you—and in the early days, before the gods became humanized, that seems to have been their favorite occupation—it will do you little good if you just cry out 'spare me' (φείδου, parce). You have to do that as a matter of form, but if you are wise you will add some more effective bait. If you are able to point to a really attractive substitute, then, perhaps, you may succeed in diverting the god from his original object, from you and yours. An obvious candidate for such a substitute is an enemy, either your country's or a personal one; but if you do not want to be so specific, you may be content with asking the daemon to prey on 'others'.
The sweating statue is a prodigy threatening evil. The impending evil can be averted only by driving it away to some other place. Richard Wünsch (1869-1915) first used the terms apopompē (ἀποπομπή) and epipompē (ἐπιπομπή) to describe two different ways of banishing evil. See his "Zur Geisterbannung im Altertum," Festschrift zur Jahrhundertfeier der Universität zu Breslau = Mitteilungen der Schlesischen Gesellschaft für Volkskunde 13/14 (1911) 9-32. Wünsch used apopompē to mean simply driving away evil, epipompē to mean driving away evil onto someone or something else or to some other specific location. In this epigram by Posidippus we see a striking example of epipompē.

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