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Linguistic Notes (λαικάζω, πόσις, ρηχίη, φάρ and φήρ, rex)

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  08 May 2015

G.P. Shipp*
University of Sydney


The verb is translated as ‘wench’ by LSJ, λαικάστης as ‘wencher’ and λαικάστρια as ‘strumpet’. They are followed by Frisk with ‘huren’ and Chantraine with ‘forniquer’. Against the Grecians, Walde-Hofmann and Ernout and Meillet s.v. laecasin equate the Greek verb with fellare. An examination of the evidence shows that the Latinists must be right. The Grecians had no Heraeus to guide them.

Research Article
Copyright © Australasian Society for Classical Studies 1977

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1 See ‘Προπεώ’,Rh.Mus.70(1915),1–41.

2 Λαικάς in Aristaen. 2.16 is a reading proposed by Nauck. If the reading is correct the word is used by a woman contemptuously of herself. The word is also cited by Chantraine from an inscription not accessible to me.

3 My material is drawn partly from Heraeus, op.cit. 38 note. Add also from him the evidence for the abbreviation λ, e.g. Ar. Eccl. 920 λάβδα κατά τους Λεσβίους and schol. Add to both Hesych. λeσβάeiv… Λβσβίάδας ϒàρ τάς λαικαστρίας λeyov. [Cf. also Gomme-Sandbach, on Men. Dysk. 892 (p.270)Google Scholar and Perik. 485 (p.505). Edd.]

4 This note enlarges the Greek portion of an article on words for man, husband, etc. in various European languages which has appeared in Festschrift for Ralph Farrell (Bern, 1977), pp. 165–73.

5 My interpretation is substantially that of Kamerbeek in his edition (1949): ποσις ‘lawful husband’ ‘spouse’, άνήρ ‘mate’, with its physical implications. However, any translation which obscures the regular use of άνήρ as ‘husband’ is unsatisfactory, as indeed all translations must be. Kamberbeek rightly disagrees with Jebb’s supplying of ή with άνήρ, and with his translation of άνήρ as ‘paramour’. Language would not work if a word in regular use as ‘husband’ could suddenly mean ‘paramour’. (Jebb’s ‘mate’ in his translation is better.)

Longò, O., Commento linguistico (Padua, 1968),Google Scholar quotes for the ‘exceptional’ άνήρ ‘amante’ Theoc.l5. 131, where Adonis is the άνήρ of Cypris, but there is nothing to show that in such a case the poet would differentiate between ‘husband’ and ‘lover’, any more than would man if it were standard English; also Pherecr. 155:

where άνήρ is necessary for the joke, to the exclusion of e.g. εραστής, and the whole point is the physical relationship; compare the description of Caesar as omnium mulierum virum in Suetonius quoted by Kock.

Incidentally, Longo’s interpretation of ποσις as ‘amante’ is beside the mark. In Il.iii 329 Alexander is Ελένης ποσις ήϋκύμουο, her ‘husband’, as is shown by 429 ‘MenelaosoV; έμ.ός πρότερος πόσις ήευ’. To take the word in this way in Eur. Or. 561 Αϊγισβος ήν ò κρυπτός èv δομοις πόσις is to ignore the Ιδίοισιν vnevalouji of 557. It is the writer’s intention that should be considered in all such cases, not the facts as we may see them.

6 It is hoped that this essay, apart from other considerations, will provide a good illustration of the value of modern Greek for the understanding of the ancient language. I am grateful to Professor Ritchie and Dr. John Lee for their interest in this essay and the latter’s comments.

7 1852).

8 Lexikon der Archaismen in neugriechischen Dialekten (Wien, 1974). Andriotis follows the traditional view of ρηχίη.

9 ‘The proposal to excise is to me good evidence that something has been misunderstood’, J.L., who also believes that ‘the idea that ρηχίη = “flood-tide” derives almost entirely from mistaken interpretation of the other two passages in Herodotus.’

10 Literature in Fraenkel, , Plautinisches im Plautus (Berlin, 1922), p.192 n.l.Google Scholar Fraenkel’s own analysis of the word in this and other connexions is found at pp.188–97.

11 Harsh, Philip W., ‘Possible Greek background for “REX” as used in Plautus’, CPh 31 (1936), 62–8,Google Scholar quotes passages which he thinks disprove Fraenkel’s views here. His quotations do not prove very much. It is a far cry from the use of βασιλεύς in e.g. Pseudo-Phocylides 113 (Bergk) to the fully established Latin use of rex. (In passing one may note the similarity of this Greek passage to Trin. 493–4 aeque mendiais atque Ule opulentissimus censetur censu ad Accheruntem mortuos.) In regard to the adj., subbasilicanus (Capt. 815) proves no more that basilicus was ‘thoroughly familiar in Latin’ than basilica itself does.

12 Fraenkel neglects the use of the word for ‘rich man’ simply, without reference to a parasite; cf. Ter Phorm. 70 Oh, regent me esse oportuit, Hor.Sat. ii 2.45 necdum omnis abacta pauperies epulis regum, Petr. 38 solebat sic cenare, quomodo rex; much the same idea is involved in Poen. 671 rex sum, si ego ilium hodie ad med hominem adlexero (‘a made man’).

13 See also Marx ad loc.

14 Here, as elsewhere, the similarity of the parts played by slaves and parasites comes out. For other examples see Fraenkel, op. cit. p.246.

15 ‘Der Ausdruck regnum ist wohl mit Rucksicht auf die röm. Zuschauer statt des dem Griech. entspr. tyrannis gewählt worden’: Dziatzko-Hauler on the Adelphoe verse.

16 Op.cit. p.197.

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Linguistic Notes (λαικάζω, πόσις, ρηχίη, φάρ and φήρ, rex)
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