Tuesday, August 23, 2016



Alan Cameron and Jacqueline Long, Barbarians and Politics at the Court of Arcadius (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1993), p. 343, n. 42, commentary on Synesius, Egyptians, or On Providence 1.3 (92 B):
ἔρρεγκε, in Greek used for both the (properly) involuntary noise "snore" and the voluntary "snort." There can be little doubt that Synesius is inspired by Or. 33 of his idol Dio Chrysostom, an extraordinary attack on the people of Tarsus for making just this noise, a "harsh, disgusting sound produced by violent inhalation or exhalation through the nose," according to C. Bonner, "A Tarsian Peculiarity," Harv. Theol. Rev. 35 (1942): 2; cf. C.P. Jones, The Roman World of Dio Chrysostom (Cambridge, Mass. 1978), 73-74; G. Highet, Classical Papers (New York 1983), 95 n. 53. Dio goes so far as to claim that it is the sort of sound one expects to hear in a brothel (Or. 33.36). Bonner collects various other examples from the second to the seventh century (though omitting both Synesius's and Ammianus's account of the Roman plebs: "turpi sono fragosis naribus introrsum reducto spiritu concrepantes," Amm. Marc. 14.6.25), all cases where ῥέγκω or a similar word is used of a sound clearly felt to be utterly disgusting. According to Sophronius, a young man was deservedly struck blind for making such a noise in the shrine of Saints Cyrus and John (Mir. SS. Cyr. et Ioh. 31 (N. Fernandez Marcos, Los Thaumata de Sofronio: Contribucion al estudio de la Incubatio Cristiana [Madrid 1975], 306).
Gilbert Highet, "Mutilations in the Text of Dio Chrysostom," in his Classical Papers (New York: Columbia University Press, 1983), pp. 74-99 (at 95, n. 53):
ῥέγκουσι, 33.18. This is the only passage in pagan literature known to me where the sound of snorting or snuffling is given an explicitly sexual connotation. The verb, and nouns allied to it (ῥέγκος, rhonchus in Latin, ῥέγξις, ῥωχμός), are used of (1) snoring in sleep: Aesch. Eum. 53, Ar. Nub. 5; (2) the wheezing of persons stuffed with food: Clem. Al. p. 219; (3) a sniff expressing disdain and hostility: Mart. 1.3.5, 4.86.7; cf. sanna in Juv. 6.306, and see Amm. Marc. 14.6.25: turpi sono fragosis naribus introrsum reducto spiritu concrepantes. However, C. Bonner, "A Tarsian Peculiarity," HThR 35 (1942) 1-8, cites two passages from Christian authors in which snuffling or nasal speech and sexual perversion are clearly associated: Tatianus, Ad Gr. 22 and Clem. Al., Paed. 3.29.2-3. C.B. Welles, "Hellenistic Tarsus," MUB 38 (1962) 65-68, thinks Dio's denunciation is "a monstrous jest" designed to carry the true charge that the men of Tarsus were shaving their beards and neglecting philosophy. It is difficult to read the vivid description of homosexual behavior in paragraphs 52 and 63-64 (cf. Epict. 3.1) and accept Welles' kindly interpretation.
In my ideal Greek dictionary, if I looked up ῥέγκω, these discussions and others like them would be quoted in extenso.

See also Cécile Bost-Pouderon, "Le ronflement des Tarsiens: l'interprétation du Discours XXXIII de Dion de Pruse," Revue des Études Grecques 113.2 (2000) 636-651.

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