Saturday, August 20, 2016


The Day of Datylus

Erasmus, Adagia II iv 97, in Collected Works of Erasmus, Vol. 33: Adages II i 1 to II vi 100, translated and annotated by R.A.B. Mynors (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1991), p. 236 (adage misnumbered as 96):
Datyli dies
The day of Datylus

Δατύλου ἡμέρα, The Day of Datylus. When things have gone very well. Taken from a man called Datylus, who achieved the highest honours at Athens.
The Latin:
Δατύλου ἡμέρα, id est Datyli dies, vbi res feliciter successerunt. Sumptum a Datylo quodam, qui apud Athenienses summos est honores consecutus.
Mynors' note on p. 420 (where he has the correct numbering of the adage):
There is a famous fragment of the early Lesbian lyric poet Alcaeus (346 Lobel-Page), in which he calls to his companions: 'Let us drink! Why are we waiting for the lamps? Only a finger breadth of day remains.' This last phrase was, or became proverbial, and is in the collections (Zenobius 3.10, Diogenianus 4.13, Suidas Δ 28); but daktylos, finger(breadth), has become a proper name in the genitive, 'of Daktylos,' and in Zenobius the name is Datylos. The collectors then had to provide 'the day of Da(k)tylos' with a historical explanation which looks quite spurious, and Erasmus simply translates this.
But Datylos (or Datyllos) seems to be elsewhere attested as a proper name. See Diccionario Griego–Español, s.v. Δατύλλος:
Datilo héroe aten. IG 13.383.76 (V a.C.), SEG l.c., prob. el mismo mencionado en el prov. Δατύλλου ἡμέρα Com.Adesp.305, recogido c. otra explicación, prob. errónea, en la forma Δακτύλου ἡμέρα por Zen. 3.10, Diogenian. 1.4.13, Apostol. 5.86, Sud.
and Poetae Comici Graeci, Vol. VIII: Adespota, edd. R. Kassel and C. Austin (Berlin: Walter de Gruyter, 1995), p. 101, number 305:

If I understand this correctly, Kurt Latte in his edition of Hesychius (unavailable to me) suggested that the day of Daty(l)lus may have been the day during the festival of Pandia on which sacrificial meat was distributed to the people.

I don't have access to Lobel and Page, edd., Poetarum Lesbiorum Fragmenta, but here is the fragment of Alcaeus (cited by Mynors) from David A. Campbell's Loeb Classical Library edition:
Let us drink! Why do we wait for the lamps? There is only an inch of day left. Friend, take down the large decorated cups. The son of Semele and Zeus gave men wine to make them forget their sorrows. Mix one part of water to two of wine, pour it in brimful, and let one cup jostle another.

πώνωμεν· τί τὰ λύχν᾿ ὀμμένομεν; δάκτυλος ἀμέρα·
κὰδ δἄερρε κυλίχναις μεγάλαις, ἄϊτα, ποικίλαις·
οἶνον γὰρ Σεμέλας καὶ Δίος υἶος λαθικάδεα
ἀνθρώποισιν ἔδωκ᾿. ἔγχεε κέρναις ἔνα καὶ δύο
πλήαις κὰκ κεφάλας, <ἀ> δ᾿ ἀτέρα τὰν ἀτέραν κύλιξ

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