Wednesday, June 28, 2006


Greek Freckles

In an earlier post, I wondered about the ancient Greek word for freckles and confessed my inability to understand a passage from Plutarch's Life of Sulla. Neil O'Sullivan comes to the rescue and informs me that there are at least two possible words for freckles in Greek, πέρκωμα (pérkōma) and ἔφηλις (éphēlis).

Liddell-Scott-Jones, s.v. πέρκωμα:
dusky spot on the face, Hsch. (pl.).
Liddell-Scott-Jones, s.v. ἔφηλις:
A. rivet, burr or clinch to secure a nail, Ph.Bel.63.50, IG11(2).165.13 (Delos, iii B.C.).
II. in pl., rough spots which stud the face (from ἧλος), or, acc. to others, freckles (from ἥλιος), Hp.Prorrh.2.23, Alim.20, Mul.2.215, Thphr.HP9.20.3, Sor.1.44 (sg.), etc.: acc. pl. ἐφήλεις Dsc.1.123.
As Neil points out, Greek éphēlis resembles Latin felix, thus giving rise to Plutarch's remark that "his surname was given him because of his complexion."

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