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The ‘Flower of the Argives’ and a neglected meaning of ἌΝΘΟΣ

  • E. K. Borthwick (a1)


Along with Pindar, Aeschylus is doubtless the user of the most spectacular and colourful imagery among classical Greek authors, and like Pindar he is not afraid to mix his metaphors. These lines from the Agamemnon would probably be placed in such a category by most readers who attend to the combination of images, ἄνθος Ἀργϵίων being taken as the rather commonplace and ‘dead’ metaphor of the ‘flower of the host’, etc., found elsewhere in Aeschylus and other writers before and after him; and I have the impression that none of the commentators seems to have thought it worth asking in what sense a flower could be spoken of as ‘carded by rubbing’. Now I do not think Aeschylus chose his words so carelessly—or with such deliberate incongruity—as this, and propose that with ἄνθος he was at the same time alluding to another sense of the word which more effectively sustains the image when juxtaposed to the words τρίβῳ κατέξαινον. Although this sense is not well attested, nor recognized in the lexica, it seems that ᾄνθος might be used of the flock or nap on wool, like ᾄωτος.



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1 Pers. 59, etc.

2 Or at least contemporary: it is uncertain whether Pindar, 's ἡρώων ἄωτοι (Nem. viii 9: cf. fr. 111a7), in an ode which has been dated as early as 491 and as late as 457, precedes the earliest Aeschylean example. Pindar, also has ναυτᾶν ἄωτος (Pyth. iv 188), but I should not be surprised if the metaphor were not older than fifth century. On ἄωτος = ἄνθος, however, see below.

3 Even in prose (Thuc. iv 133).

4 The striking effect of using metaphorically words associated with so humble a trade as wool-carding in conjunction with a proud, heroic host was earlier employed by Aeschylus in Pers. 576, where we find γναπτόμενοι (on this occasion by the waves) of the βασιλεία ἰσχύς (590) of the Persian armament. ‘Carding’ comes close to literalness with the following phrase πεισμάτων ἀφειδεῖς. Aeschylus seems to have favoured the notion of ‘lacerating’ winds, to judge also from fr. 407 N., where it appears from Hsch. that αἰγίζειν (ἐκ μεταφορᾶς ἀπὸ τῶν καταιγίδων) was used = διασπᾶν.

5 Lexilogus (trans. Fishlake), p. 187.

6 Eustathius in a comment on ἄωτος in Homer (cf. οἰὸς ἄωτος Il. xiii 599, imitated by Theoc. ii 2) calls it τὸ ἐξ ἐρίων ἀνθηρὸν ὕφασμα, and wool δέρματος οἶον ἄνθος (1429.10–17). Com. fr. adesp. 1309 has ἐσθὴς δὲ προβάτων ἄνθος. I am incidentally reminded of Hesiod's (Erg. 504 ff.) preoccupation with the penetrative power of Boreas, which cuts through oxhide, goatskin, animal fur, but fails only against the ἐπηεταναὶ τρίχες of sheep.

7 See Hsch., Suid. s.v. ἐπενήνοθεν · ἐπήνθει, Et. M. 354.41 (with Gaisford ad loc), Eust. 1600.42, etc., and the lengthy discussion in Buttmann, op. cit. pp. 110–41.

8 For a similar image in Aristophanes, see fr. 651 ἀνήσω κροκύδα μαστιγουμένη.

9 Cf. also Alciphr. iii 41.2.

10 That ἀνατρίβω is not used here of rubbing the nap away altogether, but means literally ‘rub up’ is shown by Dsc. iii 33 ἀνάτριπτα ἱμάτια ‘with rough, raised pile’ LSJ. Κρούω and its compounds are commonly used of beating up with the σπάθη (AP vi 283.3, Hsch. σπάθημα, σπαθητόν, etc.). In Hsch. συγκρούει, συναθροίζει ἒ συνευφραίνεται, the latter verb should surely be συνυφαίνεται (for the former cf. Ar. Lys. 584–5 τὸ κάταγμα λαβόντας / δεῦρο ξυνάγειν καὶ ξυναθροίζειν εἰς ἕν, and coire et iungi in the Senecan passage quoted above).

11 Poll. vii 32. Plato (Phdr. 268a) uses a metaphor from an

12 itself is used of the warp threads in Plt. 282e—cf. Poll, vii 30 (sc. )— and in AP vi 285.2.

13 Jacobs, in the only note on this passage that I have seen, compares the embroidering of flowers called in Il. xxii 441, but it is difficult to see how such flower patterns could be said On see below.

14 μίτοι need not be only the warp threads (LSJ)— see Gow/Page on AP vi 285.1 (Gk. Anth., Hellenistic Epigrams 2737).

15 Cf. the tonsilia tapetia of Plaut. Pseud. 147.

16 Cf. Hipp. Diaet. 1.14 Eust. 603.20 (of the fringe or tassels of the aegis). Note also Aeschylus' metaphorical use of in Suppl. 666 where the shearing of a whole surface (e.g. of a meadow) by Ares the harvester (637) follows a metaphor of plucking individual blooms (663). In the metaphor of Eur. HF 875 it is noteworthy that the compound is almost exclusively used of the close cropping of either human hair or animal fleece.

17 Poll, vii 29 explains the action

18 Sophocles uses κάταγμα of a shred of wool or fluff (Trach. 695).

19 Note also the expression in Str. xv 20 (693).

20 Cf. the proverbial (App. Prov. i 42: cf. Ar. fr. 657, Theoph. Char. 2.3, etc.) of flatterers who ostentatiously remove shreds of fluff from the clothes of those they fawn on.

21 There may be a reminiscence of Homer's (Il. ix 661).

22 There seems no very good reason for understanding as subject (Meineke, etc.), simply because is so used in Ar. Av. 1717. The verb (glossed or by the lexicographers) is used in Opp. Hal. ii 115 of birds' ineffectual tearing at a fox's fur. The simple verb is used of gentle scrubbing in Eun. VS p. 486B.

23 Presumably is adverbial here (unless it is a casual gloss on cf. Poll, vii 64 ). In the earlier part of the sentence, something seems to have been omitted. e.g.

24 Cf. Plat. Crat. 388b, Plt. 282b, Soph. 226c, Arist. Phys. 243b, AP vi 174.6, schol. Ar. Lys. 577, 581, Hsch. s.v. Et. Gen. B, s.v. Theogn. Can. 25.8

25 For confusion of καινόν, κενόν, see Jacobs, , Animadversiones in Ach. Tat. p. 15.7, Classen on Thuc. iii 30, Luc. Fug. 13.

26 Cf. Hsch.

27 Hermes vii (1873) 141.

28 It is worth noting that the citation of the Hermippus lines in An. Bekk. 404.28 includes a third reference to the Μαμμάκυθος of Aristagoras, this being the description in Ar. Ran. 990 of Melitides, the proverbial male counterpart of Acco, about whom there may have been some similar tale.

29 See Renehan, R., Glotta l (1972) 46. Latte's emendation σπαθητόν is uncalled for.

30 I do not know what the received text is supposed to mean: would scarcely be used of the period of flowering youth (Plat. Rep. 475a Callistr. Stat. 6.4 etc.), and I am doubtful if would be used as an equivalent metaphor to our ‘the time is ripe’, although cf. AP x 100.3 (Antiphanes) Callistr. loc. cit. where, however, he is describing a statue of Kairos personalised, (6.1).

31 The latter gloss suggests to me that the other Hesychian gloss on τρόνα· ἀγάλματα may be an error for κατάλματα, which is used also as a gloss word on μήρυμα, μήρισμα. Lawler's rendering of ἀγάλματα in PhQ xxvii (1948) 81 ‘figures or flowers sewed on (a garment)’ seems to confuse weaving with embroidery on a finished woven product—see the strictures of Wace, A.J.B. in AJA lii (1948) 51, on Homeric commentators' confusion about the two passages referred to above.

32 Although the witness of F is in general of primary importance (Dodds, intro. 41 ff.), the authenticity of its reading in this particular word is thrown into some doubt by the fact that Olympiodorus, with whose text F is otherwise often in agreement (ib. 59–60), can be shown to have had like BTW, which he makes the best of with the curious interpretation F's may represent an intelligent attempt—before Canter did the same—to emend this already corrupt word, for which cf. Luc Am. 53 where recc., (here no doubt the true reading) corrects of P E. In Meno 76d, F again reads (absurdly) for BTW, whereas in Artem, iv 2 (p. 244, 18) is an erroneous variant for

33 Cf. κομμωτριῶν, κουρέων together in Rep. 373c.

34 Especially as the deception of false hair is a theme continually referred to from fifth-century comedy to Lucian (Crat. frr. 282, 319, Ar. frr. 320.2, 321, Philostr. Ep. 22, Athen. 523a, Luc. D. Mer. 11.3, 12.5, etc.), and in the Cratinus citations the verb is actually used as a synonym for

35 Eub. fr. 98.7–8, Men. fr. 679 Koerte (610 Kock), Alciphr. fr. 5, Plut. Mor. 771b, Ael. VH xiii 1, Luc. Am. 40, D. Mer. 11.3, id. AP xi 408.1, Palaeph. 43 (who attributes the invention to Medea!), and in general Poll, ii 35.

36 Ar. Ec. 735–6 and schol, on the proverbial Lysicrates (cf. Apost. x 97, etc.), Duris ap. Athen. 542d, Ael. VH ix 9: cf. Plat. Lys. 217d.

37 See Stanford, , Greek Metaphor, 111–4. More recently in Glotta xli (1963) 271–8, J. M. Aitchison in a paper on ἄνθος in Homer, has proposed that the basic meaning is ‘upward, visible growth’.

38 The fact that the same Θρῇκιαι πνοαί (654) again harry the unlucky Argives is another significant link between the two passages.

39 See examples above. So too Callimachus uses (fr. 260.57).

40 Verrall claims to see ‘a last glimpse of the metaphor from the herd’. Page, not uncharacteristically, finds it ‘an exceptionally incongruous metaphor’. Stanford, W. B., Greek Metaphor 111–14, while sensitive to the different aspects of meaning in perhaps goes too far in the opposite direction from Paley in saying ‘the notion of blossoms must have been the least prominent meaning’ in the poet's mind here, for it undoubtedly lends much pathos to the image.

41 Pindar's association of youth and effervescence may be illustrated also by comparing his use of (on which see Barrett's note on Eur. Hipp. 1211) in Pyth. iv 179 and Ol. vii 1–2

42 Fire Imagery in two poems in the Anthology (Class Phil lxiv [1969], 114–15). In the other poem treated there (AP v 62) Rufinus also plays on two meanings of Cf. also Ar. Ec. 1121 where, although the metaphor is of the afflorescence of perfume, there may be a half-conscious Homeric echo, as the epic form of verb (read in mss.) suggests (cf. Cobet, Var. Lect. 305). In his recent edition, Ussher refers to Alexis fr. 45.4, where I note yet another example of a double allusion—to the age of men and the bouquet of wine; and I have made a similar point about in AP vii 718.2 (Nossis) in CQ. xix (1969) 308–9.

43 This phrase was an ancient alternative for the reading of Il. ix 212, which in the traditional version ends As is basically a fire word, note also the probable metaphorical implications of Philo ii 264 = spec. leg. i 282 (of ).

44 Although it is fair to add that perhaps Aelian understood it so—at least his fr. 130 presents an almost incredible verbal coincidence with key words in the Agamemnon passage,

45 JPh xvi (1887) 290.

46 For the association of ideas, cf. Plutarch's consecutive anecdotes involving in Mor. 830c.

47 Vesp. 1148; cf. Dion. Trag. fr. 12.

The ‘Flower of the Argives’ and a neglected meaning of ἌΝΘΟΣ

  • E. K. Borthwick (a1)


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