Tuesday, June 03, 2014


The Wandering Dead

Euripides, Suppliant Women 60-62:
παράπεισον δὲ σόν, ὤ, λισσόμαι, ἐλθεῖν τέκνον Ἰσμη-
νὸν ἐμάν τ᾽ ἐς χέρα θεῖναι νεκύων
θαλερῶν σώματ᾽ ἀλαίνοντ᾽ ἄταφα.

60 λισσόμαι Stinton: λισσόμ' Tr
62 σώματ᾽ ἀλαίνοντ᾽ ἄταφα Murray: σώματα λάινον τάφον L
Text and apparatus are from David Kovacs, ed. and tr., Euripides, Suppliant Women, Electra, Heracles (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1998), p. 18, who translates (p. 19):
Prevail on your son, I beg you, to go to the Ismenus River
and put into my hands the bodies
of the young dead who are unburied.
Kovacs adopts Gilbert Murray's conjecture σώματ᾽ ἀλαίνοντ᾽ ἄταφα in line 62, but (unless I'm missing something) I don't see ἀλαίνοντ᾽ (present participle of ἀλαίνω, "wander") rendered in the English.

Erwin Rohde (1845-1898), Psyche: The Cult of Souls and Belief in Immortality among the Ancient Greeks, tr. W.B. Hillis (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1925; rpt. Chicago: Ares Publishers, Inc., 1987), Appendix VII, pp. 593-595, discusses three categories of those who wander after death: those who died untimely (ἄωροι), those who died violently (βιαιοθάνατοι, usually suicides), and those who weren't buried (ἄταφοι). See also Robert Garland, The Greek Way of Death (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1985), pp. 77-88 (ἄωροι), 95-99 (βιαιοθάνατοι), and 101-103 (ἄταφοι).

For another unburied wanderer see Euripides, Trojan Women 1082-1084 (tr. Kovacs):
Ah dear husband,
you wander in death
unburied and with no lustral water...

ὦ φίλος ὦ πόσι μοι,
σὺ μὲν φθίμενος ἀλαίνεις
ἄθαπτος ἄνυδρος

At Euripides, Suppliant Women 62, Gottfried Hermann conjectured σώματ᾽ ἀλαίνοντα τάφου. He explained the genitive τάφου by claiming that the verb ἀλαίνω could imply a lack, and by comparing ἀλάομαι ("wander, roam"), which can (with a genitive) have the additional meaning "wander away from, miss a thing."

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