Sunday, April 17, 2016


Menoetius, a Taciturn Man

Posidippus 102 Austin and Bastianini (tr. Frank Nisetich):
What brings you people here? Why not let me sleep?
Why ask who I am, who's my father, where I'm from?
Pass by my tomb! I'm Menoetius, son of Philarchus,
from Crete (a foreigner here, I don't talk much).

τί πρὸϲ ἔμ' ὧδ' ἔϲτητε; τί μ' οὐκ ἠάϲατ' ἰαύειν,
    εἰρόμενοι τίϲ ἐγὼ καὶ πόθεν ἢ ποδαπόϲ;
ϲτείχε<τέ> μου παρὰ ϲῆμα· Μενοίτιόϲ εἰμι Φιλάρχω
    Κρήϲ, ὀλιγορρήμων ὡϲ ἂν ἐπὶ ξενίηϲ.
In line 4, ὀλιγορρήμων (speaking little, reticent) seems to be a hapax legomenon. At least it's not in Liddell-Scott-Jones, which does, however, have a similar compound, μεγαλορρήμων = talking big (whence also μεγαλορρημονία and μεγαλορρημοσύνη). In E.A. Sophocles, Greek Lexicon of the Roman and Byzantine Periods (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1914), p. 577, I see θεορρήμων and θεορρημοσύνη. Maybe there are other compounds of -ρήμων, but I'm unaware of them. I don't have access to Carl Darling Buck and Walter Petersen, A Reverse Index of Greek Nouns and Adjectives (1945; rpt. Hildesheim: George Olms, 1984).

Update, from Joel Eidsath:
αἰϲχεορήμων αἰϲχρήμων αἰϲχρορρήμων ἀρρήμων ἀχρήμων κακορρήμων καλλιρρήμων κομποφακελορρήμων μεγαλορρήμων μυχορήμων πολυρρήμων πολυχρήμων βαθυχρήμων βαρυρρήμων βραχυρρήμων ὑθλορρήμων φιλοχρήμων χρυϲορρήμων ψευδορρήμων εὐθυρρήμων εὐρήμων θεωρήμων

To generate the above, I ran 'git clone' to download the Perseus lexica project from github (git clone Then, after cd'ing into the directory, I ran

git grep rh/mwn | grep key | awk '{print $2}' | cut -d'"' -f2

After that, I used a custom python library to convert it to unicode.
The list needs weeding (eliminate αἰϲχρήμων ἀχρήμων πολυχρήμων βαθυχρήμων φιλοχρήμων θεωρήμων), but this is extremely useful. Thanks very much to Joel.

For uncompounded ῥήμων see Plutarch, Table Talk 2.675a (tr. Paul A. Clement, with his note):
But I scorned all this hackneyed lore of the schoolroom, dismissing also the "speakers" (rhemones) in Homer, as read by some for "throwers" (hemones)b at the funeral of Patroclus, as if Achilles had awarded a prize in speaking in addition to the other prizes.

b Iliad, xxiii.886

καταβαλὼν δὲ ταῦτα τῷ διατεθρυλῆσθαι πάνθ᾿ ὑπὸ τῶν γραμματικῶν, καὶ τοὺς ἐπὶ ταῖς Πατρόκλου ταφαῖς ἀναγιγνωσκομένους ὑπό τινων οὐχ "ἥμονας" ἀλλὰ "ῥήμονας," ὡς δὲ καὶ λόγων ἆθλα τοῦ Ἀχιλλέως προθέντος, ἀφείς.
The answer to τίϲ (line 2 of Posidippus' epigram) is of course Μενοίτιόϲ (line 3), but both the interrogatives πόθεν and ποδαπόϲ have twofold meanings. πόθεν can mean whence either of place or of parentage, and ποδαπόϲ can mean either from what place or of what sort. In our epigram, is the answer to πόθεν only Φιλάρχω (parentage), or both Φιλάρχω and Κρήϲ (parentage and place)? Is the answer to ποδαπόϲ either Κρήϲ (from what country) or ὀλιγορρήμων (of what sort) or both?

I don't think the Cretans in general were known for their taciturnity in ancient times. The Spartans were, of course, and so were the Boeotians. See a fragment from Mnesimachus' Busiris (tr. J.M. Edmonds):
I'm a Boeotian and I act as such, / Speaking but little.

εἰμι γὰρ Βοιώτιος / ὀλίγα μὲν λαλῶν.

λαλῶν: ἄλλων
There is independent evidence to corroborate the taciturnity of the Boeotians. Plato, Symposium 182 b, says that the Boeotians are unskilled in speaking (μὴ σοφοὶ λέγειν), and Alcibiades (see Plutarch, Life of Alcibiades 2.5) says that the sons of the Thebans don't know how to converse (διαλέγεσθαι γὰρ οὐκ ἴσασιν).

Some people think that σύντομος in Callimachus, Epigrams 111 Pfeiffer, describing the Cretan Theris, means concise of speech, but others interpret it as meaning short of stature. Besides, Theris there is an individual, not a representative of his island. In Posidippus' epigram, the reason for Menoetius' taciturnity is ὡϲ ἂν ἐπὶ ξενίηϲ (as might be expected in a foreign country). While metics in Athens may have had free speech (Old Oligarch, Constitution of the Athenians 12), probably foreigners in other Greek states were wise to watch their words. See e.g. Aeschylus, Suppliant Women 194-203 (tr. Alan H. Sommerstein):
Answer the natives in words that display respect, sorrow and need, as it is proper for aliens to do, explaining clearly this flight of yours which is not due to bloodshed. Let your speech, in the first place, not be accompanied by arrogance, and let it emerge from your disciplined faces and your calm eyes that you are free of wantonness. And be neither forward nor sluggish in speech: the people here are very ready to take offence. Remember to be yielding—you are a needy foreign refugee: bold speech does not suit those in a weak position.
See also Euripides, Phoenician Women 388-392 (tr. David Kovacs):
What is it like to be deprived of your country? Is it a great calamity?
The greatest: the reality far surpasses the description.
What is its nature? What is hard for exiles?
One thing is most important: no free speech.
A slave's lot this, not saying what you think.

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