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The Wound of Glaukos

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  05 January 2009


The standard rendering of the prayer of Glaukos is: ‘For I have this grievous wound and my arm on this side and on that is shot through with sharp pangs.…’

In 1. 510 Χείρ is always correctly translated: ‘With his hand [Χειρὶ] he held his arm [βραΧίονχ]’ where he had been wounded, a little below the shoulder (xii. 389). Homer knew a lot about the results of arrow and other wounds. His translators do not. Failing to understand how a wound in the arm can cause pain in the hand, they have attempted to ‘correct’ what was written, and in so doing have destroyed the sense, the explanation why an apparently simple flesh wound was so crippling. This is an excellent description of injury to the median nerve in the (upper) arm, causing (1) sharp pain felt in the area—palm, thumb, and fingers—supplied by that nerve, (2) aching ‘referred’ to the region just below the shoulder supplied by the circumflex nerve (arising from the same spinal segments, cervical 5 and 6), and (3) paralysis of the flexor (‘grasping’) muscles of the wrist and hand. We should therefore translate: ‘For I have this grievous wound and my hand is pierced through with sharp pangs … and my shoulder is made heavy thereby, nor have I power to grasp my spear firmly.’

Research Article
Copyright © The Classical Association 1959

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1 As in Murray, A. T.'s Loeb edition (London, 1924)Google Scholar; cf. the version by Lang, A., Leaf, W., and Myers, E. (London, 1882)Google Scholar, and Rieu's, E. V. Penguin translation (Harmondsworth, 1950).Google Scholar