Monday, May 08, 2006


Fraenkel on Asyndetic Privative Adjectives

Aeschylus, Agamemnon. Edited with a Commentary by Eduard Fraenkel (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1950), vol. 2, p. 217 (on line 412):
The use of the privative τρίκωλον is very old and widespread, and perhaps we can find one of the roots of it in phrases such as ἀφρήτωρ, ἀθέμιστος, ἀνέστιός (I 63), of which the form and content are associated with solemn imprecations.1 It will suffice here to quote from Aeschylus Ag. 769 ἄμαχον ἀπόλεμον ἀνίερον, Cho. 54 ἄμαχον ἀδάματον ἀπόλεμον, as well as S. Ant. 876 ἄκλαυτος ἄφιλος ἀνυμέναιος, 1071 ἄμοιρον ἀκτέριστον ἀνόσιον, Oed. C. 130 f. παραμειβόμεσθ᾽ ἀδέρκτως ἀφώνως ἀλόγως τὸ ... στόμα ... ἱέντες, 1236 f. ἀκρατὲς ἀπροσόμιλον γῆρας ἄφιλον, Eur. Andr. 491 ἄθεος ἄνομος ἄχαρις ὁ φόνος, Ar. Frogs 838 ἀχάλινον ἀκρατὲς ἀπύλωτον, and in more comic form ibid. 204 ἄπειρος ἀθαλάττωτος ἀσαλαμίνιος, Phyrinichus Com. ap. Phot. Berol. p. 118.25 ἄσιτος ἄποτος ἀναπόνιππος. The figure is one which invites imitation: in tragic language, e.g. Paradise Lost, ii.185 unrespited, unpitied, unreprieved (ibid. v.895 f. in quadruplet form, unmoved, Unshaken, unseduced, unterrified), in comic (with παρατραγωιδεῖν of Shakespeare's line in Hamlet, i.5.77 unhouseled, disappointed, unaneled), L. Stern, Tristram Shandy, chap. 35 unwiped, unappointed, unannealed.

1 There is a much later instance (IV/III cent. B.C.), but conceived in the same spirit, in the curse recorded on the Attic lead tablet, Dittenberger, Syll. 1175 l. 10 ἄχωρα καὶ ἄμοιρα καὶ ἀφανῆ αὐτῶι ἅπαντα γένοιτο. Cf. ibid. l. 28 f. R. Hirzel, 'Die Strafe der Steinigung', Abh. Sächs. Ges. d. Wiss., phil.-hist. Kl. xxvii, 1908, 253 n. 7, observes: 'In Hom. Il. 9.63 in the words spoken against the man who stirs up civil discord, ἀφρήτωρ ἀθέμιστος ἀνέστιός ἐστιν ἐκεῖνος, I cannot help recognizing an ancient formula of proscription or of permanent and complete banishment, only, as happens elsewhere too, it is proleptically transformed from a wish or a curse into an affirmation. "He is tribeless, hearthless", instead of "he deserves to be...."' This coincides exactly with my own assumption. For the asyndetic tricolon in general cf. F. Leo, Analecta Plautina, iii (Göttinger Univ.-Programm, 1906), 6 ff.
On my next trip to the library, I'll try to find the discussions of Hirzel and Leo.

Earlier posts on this subject:It's encouraging to see that we (I include my correspondents) uncovered some examples not mentioned by Fraenkel.

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