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Greek and Latin. Expressions of Meaning

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Andreas T. Zanker

Chapter 5: Evidence from Early Greek Poetry

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ἀνάγκη δὴ πᾶσα τοῖς φιλοσόφοις ἢ χρῆσθαι ξέναις λέξεσι καὶ τῶν συνήθων ὀνοµάτων ἀπηλλοτριωµέναις, ἐπειδὴ καὶ τῶν τοῖς πολλοῖς ἀγνώστων πραγµάτων εἰσὶν ἐξηγηταί, ἢ τῇ προχείρῳ χρῆσθαι συνηθείᾳ καὶ τὰ ἐπ᾽ ἄλλων κείµενα ὀνόµατα µεταφέρειν·

  • 1 Cited by Kotzia (2007), 1102.

“It is entirely necessary, then, for philosophers either (a) to use unusual terms that are alien to ordinary speech, since they are the interpreters of things that are unknown to the general public, or (b) to employ ordinary speech and transfer words that have been established for other things” (Dexippus, on Categories 6.10-13 Busse).1

1In Chapter 3, we established that the verb “σηµαίνειν” was not used in the Homeric epics in the sense of “to mean”. We have yet, however, to comment on a feature of Homeric diction that emerges from the preceding discussions – that there is in fact no word for “meaning” or “to mean” (used of inanimate subjects in the sense of “to signify”) in the Iliad or Odyssey at all. While it is perhaps difficult for speakers of English to conceive of language without one, these early poems present no verb for talking about what (I) normal observed phenomena, (II) divine portents, (III) language, or (IV) dreams signify. The absence of this terminology does not, of course, entail that the concept of meaning did not exist – language does not necessarily reflect the intellectual furniture of its users, and, as we shall see, the Homeric narrator had other ways of negotiating scenarios in which the words “to mean” and “meaning” might have appeared – but the finding is nevertheless of clear interest for our investigation since it introduces the possibility of tentatively fixing a period for the initial set of metaphorical transferences considered in Chapter 4. In this chapter, we shall go through a representative selection of points a twhich an expression of meaning might have been employed, surveying examples where both linguistic and inanimate meaning more broadly conceived are in question. We shall then move on to discuss the Archaic period as a possible context for the transference of the vocabulary. The Greek material is particularly important for our investigation; it is worth investigating at some length.

I. The Interpretation of Ordinary Phenomena in Homer

2First of all, we should note that the Homeric narrator does not describe the Achaean and Trojan heroes as having recourse to a vocabulary of meaning in reasoning about the purport of standard observed phenomena that do not have an intention behind them; that is to say, the subsequently attested terminology does not appear in the context of the interpretation of events, actions, and non divinatory signs. At the beginning of Iliad 18, for example, Achilles is waiting for news from the battle and has yet to be informed of the death of Patroclus; Antilochus, who bears the news, has not yet reached him. Nevertheless, Achilles independently infers from the fact that the Trojans have gained the upper hand in the battle that Patroclus must have been slain:

1. ὤ µοι ἐγώ, τί τ᾽ ἄρ᾽ αὖτε κάρη κοµόωντες Ἀχαιοὶ
νηυσὶν ἔπι κλονέονται ἀτυζόµενοι πεδίοιο;
µὴ δή µοι τελέσωσι θεοὶ κακὰ κήδεα θυµῷ,
ὥς ποτέ µοι µήτηρ διεπέφραδε καί µοι ἔειπε
῾Μυρµιδόνων τὸν ἄριστον ἔτι ζώοντος ἐµεῖο
χερσὶν ὕπο Τρώων λείψειν φάος ἠελίοιο.
ἦ µάλα δὴ τέθνηκε Μενοιτίου ἄλκιµος υἱός,
σχέτλιος. ἦ τ᾽ ἐκέλευον ἀπωσάµενον δήϊον πῦρ
ἂψ ἐπὶ νῆας ἴµεν, µηδ᾽ Ἕκτορι ἶφι µάχεσθαι.

“Ah, woe is me, why are the long-haired Achaeans once again being driven to the ships in rout over the plain? Let it not be that the gods have brought to pass woes grievous to my heart, as my mother declared to me, telling me that even while I lived the best of the Myrmidons would leave the light of the sun beneath the hands of the Trojans. Surely the powerful son of Menoetius is dead, headstrong as he was. Indeed, I commanded him that he was to return to the ships when he had pushed away the destructive fire, and not to contend in might with Hector” (Homer, Iliad 18.6-15).

  • 2 Compare Edwards’ paraphrase of this episode in his commentary: “Akhilleus realizes that the rout o (...)

3In this excerpt, Achilles interprets what has happened from the evidence to hand, but does not avail himself of any verb of meaning in order to describe what the retreat of the Achaeans signifies: he simply introduces his inference with the emphatic “ἦ µάλα” (“surely”). The “skipping” of the expression of meaning contrasts with what we might perhaps expect of an author such as Herodotus or Plato in the articulation of the thought-processes of a character: Achilles simply asserts the conclusion without linking it to his observation by means of a verb like “σηµαίνειν”.2

4A different (and more famous) example will reinforce the point. In book 19 of the Odyssey, the old maid Eurycleia has been charged to wash the feet of the disguised Odysseus, who has returned to Ithaca without the knowledge of anybody in the palace; it is she who first discovers his true identity by the scar, obtained while hunting, on his thigh:

2. νίζε δ᾽ ἄρ᾽ ἆσσον ἰοῦσα ἄναχθ᾽ ἑόν· αὐτίκα δ᾽ ἔγνω
οὐλήν, τήν ποτέ µιν σῦς ἤλασε λευκῷ ὀδόντι...

“So she, drawing closer, washed her lord; and immediately she noticed the scar which long ago a boar had driven into him with his white tusk” (Homer, Odyssey 19.392-393).

5Again, there is no expression of meaning employed in this or the adjoining passage; the maid “notices”, or “recognizes” (“ἔγνω”), the scar, but the scar does not mean anything to her. After a lengthy narration about how Odysseus acquired the wound, Eurycleia addresses Odysseus, proclaiming that she has recognized him:

3. ἦ µᾶλ᾽ Ὀδυσσεύς ἐσσι, φίλον τέκος· οὐδέ σ᾽ ἐγώ γε
πρὶν ἔγνων, πρὶν πάντα ἄνακτ᾽ ἐµὸν ἀµφαφάασθαι.

“Surely you are Odysseus, dear child; but I did not recognize you until I had handled the whole body of my lord” (Homer, Odyssey 19.474-475).

6Here, one does not read “this means/signifies that you are Odysseus” – once again, the inference is introduced by the affirmative “ἦ µάλα”. These two moments are cited solely byway of example: vocabulary that is ubiquitous in the literature of later periods is not employed by the Homeric narrator in descriptions of sign interpretation in non-divinatory contexts.

7We can also note this in the poetry of Hesiod. We have already seen that the verb “σηµαίνειν” is entirely absent from the Theogony and Works and Days, but should now add that the remaining vocabulary of meaning is missing as well. At times the narrator of the Works and Days gets close – particularly in the influential section in which he explains what needs to be done by the farmer in late October:

4. φράζεσθαι δ᾽ εὖτ᾽ ἂν γεράνου φωνὴν ἐπακούσεις
ὑψόθεν ἐκ νεφέων ἐνιαύσια κεκληγυίης,
ἥ τ᾽ ἀρότοιό τε σῆµα φέρει καὶ χείµατος ὥρην
δεικνύει ὀµβρηροῦ.

“Pay attention, when you hear the voice of the crane calling every year from the clouds above: she brings the sign for plowing and indicates the season of winter rain” (Hesiod, Works and Days 448-451 West).

  • 3 West (1978), 272, on “ἥ τ᾽”: “the γέρανος, I take it, not the φωνή”. Aratus (third century BC), wr (...)
  • 4 An Aeolic form of the verb “δεικνύναι” is used of the sun at Hesiod, Works and Days 526 West: “οὐ (...)
  • 5 Instead of talking about what a phenomenon “means”, Hesiod frequently uses a “when... do this” or (...)

8The crane literally bears a sign, which is not too far from the sense that we are looking for – it is not a massive leap from “σῆµα φέρει” to “σηµαίνει” in the sense of “it means”. Nevertheless, the subject of the verb remains an animate being that literally “carries” the sign, the “ἥ” ostensibly referring back to the crane herself.3 Similarly, the verb “δεικνύει” appears to pertain to the crane, who “shows” the farmer the onset of the rainy season.4 While the excerpt is suggestive, and should beset next to the example of Agamemnon’s dream (to be discussed presently), in Hesiod we do not see the verb “σηµαίνειν” being used in the later sense of “to mean”, nor was any other vocabulary employed in this manner.5

II. The Interpretation of Divine Signs in Homer

  • 6 On signs in Homer, see Nagy (1992), 202-222; Kahane (2005), 95-131. For Herodotus, see Appendix I.

9The context surrounding the interpretation of divine signs and oracles is another place where we might expect a vocabulary of meaning to be found in the Homeric poems (“the sign/oracle means”), and it is certainly encountered in such a connection in later literature from Herodotus onwards;6 again, however, we are disappointed. When Zeus wishes to communicate with mortals, he “makes a sign” (“σῆµα”, “τέρας”):

5. οἱ δ᾽ ἔθελον δόµεναι καὶ ἐπῄνεον ὡς ἐκέλευον·
ἀλλὰ Ζεὺς ἔτρεψε παραίσια σήµατα φαίνων.

  • 7 Cf. Homer, Iliad 2.353. For an example from the Odyssey: “ἔφηνε θεὸς τέρας” (“the god showed the s (...)

“And they [the men of Mycenae] were willing togrant [Tydeus] allies, and were assenting just as they commanded, but Zeus deterred them by revealing adverse signs” (Homer, Iliad 4.380-381).7

6. οἷον δ᾽ ἀστέρα ἧκε Κρόνου πάϊς ἀγκυλοµήτεω,
ἢ ναύτῃσι τέρας ἠὲ στρατῷ εὐρέϊ λαῶν...

“Just as the son of crooked-counseling Cronus sends a star either as a sign for sailors or for abroad army of warriors...” (Homer, Iliad 4.75-76).

  • 8 Cf. Odysseus’ reaction to Zeus’ signal at Homer, Odyssey 20.104: “γήθησε δὲ δῖος Ὀδυσσεύς” (“and n (...)
  • 9 Cf. Heubeck & Hoekstra (1989), 242, on “ὑποκρίνεσθαι”: “in Homer its meaning oscillates between ‘i (...)

10In such cases there is no employment of any vocabulary of meaning: the situation is generally framed in a manner analogous to the interpretation of natural phenomena.8 This is the case even when there is some doubt as to what the sign means – for example when Hector disregards Polydamas’ correct reading of the sign to retreat (Homer, Iliad 12.195-250). One sometimes, however, finds a verb of interpretation such as “ὑποκρίνεσθαι” (“to interpret”, “to explain”),9 as in the following example, where Menelaus considers how to interpret the appearance of an eagle sent by Zeus:

7. ὣς φάτο, µερ µ ήριξε δ᾽ ἀρηΐφιλος Μενέλαος,
ὅππως οἱκατὰ µ οῖραν ὑποκρίναιτο νοήσας.

  • 10 The polysemy of “ὑποκρίνεσθαι”, it should be noted, also allows this excerpt to be translated as “ (...)

“So he spoke, and Menelaus, dear to Ares, wondered as to how he might with understanding interpret [the sign] properly” (Homer, Odyssey 15.169-171).10

11Thus, although these poems lack the subsequently attested terminology for inanimate meaning (even though words such as “σηµαίνειν” were already being used in other senses), the act of interpreting a sign is certainly represented in the Homeric vocabulary. Heroes could interpret and understand signs, although the Homeric narrator does not frame this in terms of their meaning.

  • 11 Even non-seers could perform this function; see, for example, Helen’s interpretation of the sign a (...)
  • 12 “ἀλλ᾽ ἄγε δή τινα µάντιν ἐρείοµεν ἢ ἱερῆα... ὅς κ᾽ εἴποι ὅ τι τόσσον ἐχώσατο Φοῖβος Ἀπόλλων” (“but (...)
  • 13 Compare the interpretation of the portent by Halitherses at Homer, Odyssey 2.161-176.

12If we focus on the interpretation of the sign we come across the figure of the seer.11 When the Achaeans are trying to determine why Apollo is punishing them with plague in Iliad 1, Achilles suggests that Agamemnon summon a µάντις or ἱερεύς in order that he might give the cause of the god’s anger (Homer, Iliad 1.62-67).12 Calchas thereupon gives an authoritative pronouncement, discounting the other possible causes for Apollo’s wrath and determining instead that Agamemnon’s failure to return Chryseis to her father is responsible for the Achaeans’ woes (Homer, Iliad 1.93-100). Nowhere in this episode is an expression of meaning employed. A final example comes from the second book of the Iliad, where Odysseus recounts how Calchas interpreted the prodigy at Aulis involving a snake and a bird’s nest:13 the snake devours all eight chicks and the mother bird herself, whereupon he is turned to stone by Zeus. Calchas is confident in his interpretation (although he might have expressed himself more clearly), nor is this questioned by the other Achaeans:

8. ὡς οὗτος κατὰ τέκνα φάγε στρουθοῖο καὶ αὐτὴν
ὀκτώ, ἀτὰρ µήτηρ ἐνάτη ἦν ἣ τέκε τέκνα,
ὣς ἡµεῖς τοσσαῦτ᾽ ἔτεα πτολεµίξοµεν αὖθι,
τῷ δεκάτῳ δὲ πόλιν αἱρήσοµεν εὐρυάγυιαν.

“Just as [the snake] has eaten the children of the sparrow and her herself (eight, however the mother who bore them was the ninth), we will fight here for as many years. But in the tenth we shall capture the city of broad streets” (Homer, Iliad 2.326-329).

  • 14 Compare the phrasing found in the commentary of Kirk (1985), 150: “one might expect the meaning to (...)

13Later authors might have utilized an expression of meaning in order to describe what the portent meant,14 but Calchas simply uses the particles “ὡς” (“as”) and the accentuated form “ὥς” (“thus”) in order to build an analogy between the omen and the future destruction of Troy. The Homeric narrator effectively bypasses the need to apply one of the subsequently attested expressions of meaning, employing the structure of the Homeric simile in order to create an analogy between the observed phenomenon and what it means.

III. The Interpretation of Language in Homer

  • 15 See Gera (2003), 1-4. On discourse in the Homeric poems in general, see, for example, Martin (1989 (...)
  • 16 Hesiod, in describing the sounds emitted by the monster Typhon, mentions that sometimes the gods c (...)

14A third context in which we might expect to find an expression of meaning employed in the Homeric epics is that of the translation and interpretation of language, yet, despite the fact that the Homeric narrator reveals a definite awareness of differences in tongue,15 we do not find the subsequently attested vocabulary of meaning employed in order to describe what characters’ words signify.16 At the end of Iliad 2, for instance, the narrator balances the catalogue of Achaean ships with a catalogue of Trojan forces; Iris, disguised as Polites, advises Priam to separate the leaders of the various allies in order that they might communicate with their men in their own language:

9. πολλοὶ γὰρ κατὰ ἄστυ µέγα Πριάµου ἐπίκουροι,
ἄλλη δ᾽ ἄλλων γλῶσσα πολυσπερέων ἀνθρώπων.

  • 17 Kirk (1985), 245-246, notes how unnecessary such an injunction would have been at this stage in th (...)

“For there are many allies throughout the great city of Priam, and each tongue of the scattered men is different from the others” (Homer, Iliad 2.803-804).17

  • 18 One might also adduce the instances of the phrase “ἀλλοθρόους ἀνθρώπους” in the Odyssey (“men who (...)

15In describing the army of the Trojans, the narrator corroborates the presence of different languages at Troy:18

10. οὐ γὰρ πάντων ἦεν ὁµὸς θρόος οὐδ᾽ ἴα γῆρυς,
ἀλλὰ γλῶσσα µέµικτο, πολύκλητοι δ᾽ ἔσαν ἄνδρες.

“For they had not all the same speech or one language, but their tongues were mingled, and they were men summoned from many lands” (Homer, Iliad 4.437-438).

16Evidently, communication is at least a potential concern among the Trojans and their allies, yet in practice it works extremely well – warriors such as Sarpedon and Hector are able to understand their Greek adversaries as well as each other, and there is certainly no need to inquire as to what another hero’s words might mean. Indeed, reference to meaning is missing from the broadest discussion of language in the Iliad, the speech of Aeneas to Achilles in Iliad 20, where clear allusion is made to the variegation of speech:

11. ἔστι γὰρ ἀµφοτέροισιν ὀνείδεα µυθήσασθαι
πολλὰ µάλ᾽, οὐδ᾽ ἂν νηῦς ἑκατόζυγος ἄχθος ἄροιτο.
στρεπτὴ δὲ γλῶσσ᾽ ἐστὶ βροτῶν, πολέες δ᾽ἔνι µῦθοι
παντοῖοι, ἐπέων δὲ πολὺς νοµὸς ἔνθα καὶ ἔνθα.
ὁπποῖόν κ᾽ εἴπῃσθα ἔπος, τοῖόν κ᾽ ἐπακούσαις.

“There are insults for both of us to utter, many of them; nor would a ship with a hundred benches bear the load of them. Pliant is the tongue of mortals, and there are in it all sorts of different words, and the range of speech is wide on this side and on that. Whatever word you speak, such a word you will hear” (Homer, Iliad 20.246-250).

17Once again, we find mention (in highly metaphorical language) of the multifarious nature of language and its effects, but nowhere lexical reference to meaning or signification.

  • 19 Compare the simile likening Sleep to a bird in Homer, Iliad 14: “ὄρνιθι λιγυρῇ ἐναλίγκιος, ἥν τ᾽ ἐ (...)

18This also holds when it comes to the different names that men and gods use in the Homeric epics, for instance the use of “Scamander” by men and “Xanthus” by gods for the river in the Trojan plain; in such scenarios, the narrator simply says that each group calls the object by a different name, whereby a verb such as “καλεῖν” (“to call”) is employed.19 We have an example of such a usage in Iliad 6inorder to explicate the meaning of the name “A styanax” (although there is some suspicion that these lines are interpolated):

12. τόν ῥ᾽ Ἕκτωρ καλέεσκε “Σκαµάνδριον”, αὐτὰρ οἱ ἄλλοι
“Ἀστυάνακτ᾽”· οἶος γὰρ ἐρύετο Ἴλιον Ἕκτωρ.

“Hector called him [his son] ‘Scamandrius’, but the others [Trojans] called him ‘A styanax’; for Hector alone saved Ilium” (Homer, Iliad 6.402-403).

19The one referent (Hector’s son) has two different names, whereby the verb “καλεῖν” takes the namers as its grammatical subject; rather than equating the two terms by saying that “‘X’ means ‘Y’”, we find Hector and the other Trojans simply naming the referent differently; an explanation for the second name is introduced by means of the particle “γάρ”.

  • 20 See Pfeiffer (1968), 3-5. Fried (2005) interestingly links “Ὀδυσσεύς” with “ὀδοὺς συός” (“tooth/tu (...)
  • 21 On Homeric names, see von Kamptz (1982).

20The same can be said for puns and etymologies embedded within the diction of the Iliad and Odyssey. The narration of the Odyssey in particular betrays a keen awareness of language: the name “Odysseus” is punned upon multiple times,20 and in Odyssey 9 (the adventure in the cave of Polyphemus) a good deal of emphasis is placed on the usage of words such as “οὔτις” (“no-one”) and “µῆτις” (“cunning”). Moreover, the frequency of names relating to mental activity within the poem (“Mentes”, “Mentor”, “Alcinous”, etc.), illustrative of the broader themes of the Odyssey, reveals sensitivity to synonymy.21 Never, however, is an expression of meaning employed in order to analyze the signification of names; although the Homeric narrator makes use of polysemy, synonymy, and wordplay, he does not employ a vocabulary in order to describe meaning. Generally, puns are left implicit – as in the long-marked wordplay on the name “Odysseus” found in Athena’s speech at the very beginning of the Odyssey, or even on the potential pun on the name “Hera” towards the end of the Iliad:

13. τί νύ οἱ τόσον ὠδύσαο, Ζεῦ;

  • 22 Cf. Heubeck, West, & Hainsworth (1988), 83; Stanford (1952); von Kamptz (1982), 355-360. See also (...)

“Why then do you hate him [Odysseus] so, o Zeus?” (Homer, Odyssey 1.62).22

14 ....ἠέρα δ᾽ Ἥρα
πίτνα...

  • 23 See Richardson (1993), 54; cf. Plato, Cratylus 404b. Plutarch (Isis and Osiris 363d) and later all (...)

“Hera spread a mist” (Homer, Iliad 21.6-7).23

21The listener is evidently intended to pick up such effects on his or her own; no aid is given, nor is the pun explained, and we certainly do not find phrases such as “‘X’ means ‘Y’” to make it explicit. One might compare the examples of wordplay in Hesiod where no expression of meaning is employed – for example, in the linking of Aphrodite’s name to the manner of her birth (Hesiod, Theogony 195-198 West), or that of the term “Titans” to the participle of “to strive” (“Τιτῆνας”, “τιταίνοντας” Theogony 207-209 West).

22Nor do we encounter expressions of meaning on the level of communication between characters, for example when a hero asks for clarification concerning a point that someone else has made. When Menelaus inquires about how Agamemnon intends him to gather the leaders of the Achaeans (in the prelude to the Doloneia), he puts the question in the following way:

15. πῶς γάρ µοι µύθῳ ἐπιτέλλεαι ἠδὲ κελεύεις;
αὖθι µένω µετὰ τοῖσι δεδεγµένος εἰς ὅ κεν ἔλθῃς,
ἦε θέω µετὰ σ᾽ αὖτις, ἐπὴν εὖ τοῖς ἐπιτείλω;

“For how do you enjoin or command me with your speech? Shall I wait with them there, waiting until you should come, or should Irun back to you again, whenever I have fully instructed them?” (Homer, Iliad 10.61-64).

  • 24 Words are of course described metaphorically in Homer: “ἔπεα πτερόεντα προσηύδα” (“he spoke winged (...)

23The relevant clause is difficult to translate into English – the phrase “with your speech” is largely redundant – but the key point here is that we do not see the Homeric singer making the noun “µῦθος” the subject of a sentence and employing an expression of meaning of it (“what does your speech mean?”): in this excerpt, the emphasis is on the intention of the speaker (Agamemnon) rather than the purport of his instructions.24

  • 25 On this much-debated passage, see for instance Yamagata (2005). For the passage’s status as an all (...)

24The same holds in the case of a speaker commenting on the meaning of something he has just said; in summing up his tale of Ate and the Litai (Homer, Iliad 9.502-514), for example, Phoenix does not say “this means” or “the point of this is”, but phrases things thus:25

16. ἀλλ᾽ Ἀχιλεῦ πόρε καὶ σὺ Διὸς κούρῃσιν ἕπεσθαι
τιµήν...

“But, Achilles, see to it yourself that reverence accompany the daughters of Zeus” (Homer, Iliad 9.513-514).

  • 26 Cf. “ὦΠέρση, σὺ δ᾽ ἄκουε Δίκης, µηδ᾽ ὕβριν ὄφελλε” (“but you, Perses, listen to right and do not f (...)
  • 27 Cf. Theognis, Elegies 681-682, just after the image of the Ship of State caught in a storm.

25The meaning of the tale is left unexplained. Similarly, in the Works and Days Hesiod concludes the αἶνος of the Hawk and the Nightingale with an injunction rather than an explanation:26 the audience is expected to interpret the meaning of the allegory for itself.27 Evidently, interpretation is an issue, but the singer does not employ the vocabulary that we investigated in the earlier chapters in order to bring it to the fore.

  • 28 For a treatment of these instances, see Macleod (1983), 1-15; Halliwell (2012), Chapter 2.
  • 29 Cf. Halliwell (2012), 45: “The most basic level of poetic experience in Homer is, unsurprisingly, (...)

26Beyond such perfunctory moments, we might also consider opportunities for the interpretation of poetry itself in the epics – the “beginnings of criticism”.28 Once again, we draw a blank: there is no mention of the specific “meanings” of the songs of the various ἀοιδοί depicted within the Odyssey – Odysseus refers to the charm of Demodocus, but makes no mention of the significatory power of his song or its components:29

17. Ἀλκίνοε κρεῖον, πάντων ἀριδείκετε λαῶν,
ἦ τοι µὲν τόδε καλὸν ἀκουέµεν ἐστὶν ἀοιδοῦ
τοιοῦδ᾽, οἷος ὅδ᾽ ἐστί, θεοῖς ἐναλίγκιος αὐδήν.

“Lord Alcinous, most conspicuous of all men, truly this is a good thing – to listen to a singer such as this man is, similar to the gods in voice” (Homer, Odyssey 9.2-3).

  • 30 Cf. Alcinous on Odysseus’ speech: “µῦθον δ᾽ ὡς ὅτ᾽ ἀοιδὸς ἐπισταµένως κατέλεξας” (“you have spoken (...)

27Earlier, towards the end of the previous book (Homer, Odyssey 8.489), Odysseus had praised the bard for singing “κατὰ κόσµον” (“in proportion”, “giving each part its due”, “well”): Demodocus is skilled at his trade, and arranges his subject matter well, but there is no use of a verb such as “to mean” in Odysseus’ praise,30 the song being appreciated for what it is and not for how it signifies. To give a final example, Phemius is described in book 1ofthe Odyssey as singing of the return of the Achaeans; Penelope begins to weep and asks the singer to sing a different song, but Telemachus tells her to put up with it (and one may note here how the verb “ἀµφιπέληται” takes the song as its grammatical subject):

18. τούτῳ δ᾽ οὐ νέµεσις Δαναῶν κακὸν οἶτον ἀείδειν ·
τὴν γὰρ ἀοιδὴν µᾶλλον ἐπικλείουσ᾽ ἄνθρωποι,
ἥτις ἀϊόντεσσι νεωτάτη ἀ µ φιπέληται.

“For this man, there is no retribution if he sings the evil doom of the Danaans; for men praise that song the most which is the newest to hover around their ears” (Homer, Odyssey 1.350-352).

  • 31 As we saw in the previous chapter, expressions of meaning also fail to materialize in the few case (...)

28Here, Telemachus applies a different method of judging poetry from simply focusing on the skill of the singer – the newness of the tale told – but there is still no reference to the meaning/significance of the singer’s words and song.31

IV. The Interpretation of Dreams in Homer

29Nor is the vocabulary used of dreams; εἴδωλα (“likenesses”) and ὄνειροι (“dreams”) are generally interpreted in much the same way as divine portents. For example, when Penelope asks Odysseus, still disguised as a beggar, as to the meaning of her dream (Homer, Odyssey 19.535-575), she phrases her request in the following manner:

19. ἀλλ᾽ ἄγε µοι τὸν ὄνειρον ὑπόκριναι καὶ ἄκουσον.

“But come – hear and interpret my dream” (Homer, Odyssey 19.535).

  • 32 For an interesting reading of this passage, see Levaniouk (2011), 229-246. Rutherford, following t (...)

30Odysseus himself uses the same verb in his response, where he states that there is only a single way of interpreting the dream: “οὔ πως ἔστιν ὑποκρίνασθαι ὄνειρον ἄλλῃ ἀποκλίναντ᾽” (“there is no way to interpret the dream by bending in any other direction” Homer, Odyssey 19.555-556).32 Here things are phrased as a matter of interpretation (in the use of the verb “ὑποκρίνεσθαι” we can see a basic similarity to Menelaus’ interpretation of the divinely sent sign at Odyssey 15.170), but not in terms of what the dream means. The vocabulary of meaning appears to be missing in this case as well.

  • 33 One might also note Achilles’ dream of Patroclus in Iliad 23. Compare the longer passage at Homer,(...)

31There was, however, a different way of having a dream mean something without using the vocabulary that we have been considering (and this is of particular importance for our investigation): one could turn the dream into an animate being in its own right. The description of Agamemnon’s dream in the second book of the Iliad (Homer, Iliad 2.1-34) involves precisely such an ascription of animacy to an inanimate entity:33 Zeus summons and addresses the dream (“ὄνειρος” here is masculine) as he would any other actor within the poem (the similarity to Iris is particularly striking):

20. καί µιν φωνήσας ἔπεα πτερόεντα προσηύδα.

“And addressing him [the dream], he spoke winged words” (Homer, Iliad 2.7).

32The commands that Zeus lays upon the dream – “ἀγορευέµεν” (“address [him]”, Homer, Iliad 2.10) and “κέλευε” (“command [him]” Homer, Iliad 2.11) – are those that one would give to any subordinate. The dream goes to the Achaean camp as soon as he hears – “ἄκουσε” (“he listened”) and “βῆ” (“he went”, both Homer, Iliad 2.16) – what Zeus has to tell him; when he reaches the tent of Agamemnon, he stands above the head of the leader of the Achaeans in the form of Nestor, addresses him – “προσεφώνεε θεῖος ὄνειρος” (“the divine dream addressed him” Homer, Iliad 2.22) – and relays Zeus’ message. When Agamemnon wakes, the king summons a council and proclaims what the dream has “told” him:

21....στῆ δ᾽ἄρ᾽ ὑπὲρ κεφαλῆς καί µ επρὸς µ ῦθον ἔειπεν.

“...he [the dream] stood above my head and addressed me” (Homer, Iliad 2.59).

  • 34 Aristotle already comments on personifying metaphor in Homer at the lexical level (Rhetoric 1411b2 (...)
  • 35 For a speaking dream in Pindar, see Pythians 4.163. Aratus, writing in the third century BC, incid (...)

33The dream does not simply “mean” or “signify” something – he actively tells Agamemnon in the role of messenger (“ἄγγελος” Homer, Iliad 2.26) what Zeus wishes to relay to him. This ascription of agency to the dream reflects a general tendency within the Homeric epics,34 but the usage of verbs such as “ἀγορεύειν”, “κελεύειν”, and “λέγειν” ofthis personified dream is perhaps also aclue to understanding the development of verbs such as “ἐθέλειν”, “βούλεσθαι”, “νοεῖν”, “λέγειν”, and “σηµαίνειν” in the later sense of “to mean”: Homer gives form and agency to something that most would consider to be inanimate, employing terms that suggest that the dream has a communicative power of its own.35

V. Development in the Archaic and Classical Ages

34We have seen a number of ways in which the Homeric narrator engages with the concept of significance and meaning without recourse to the vocabulary that we see in the texts of the Classical period. First, (a) the speaker can circumvent the need to use an expression of meaning by launching straight into the interpretation, possibly employing emphatic particles such as “ἦ µάλα” (“truly”); (b) verbs of interpretation such as “ὑποκρίνεσθαι” (“to interpret”) can be employed in inquiries as to the meanings of things like dreams and words; (c) when two names exist for one referent, we can find individual parties naming (“καλεῖν”) an object differently, which establishes a correspondence between the names;(d) it is also possible to inquire as to the meaning of a command by employing phraseology that puts the command itself (for example, “µῦθος”) into the dative; (e) characters can frame what a sign means by using the terms of a simile (“ὡς”/“ὥς”); finally,(f) we see things like dreams being transformed into animate subjects in their own right (for instance, Agamemnon’s dream at the beginning of Iliad 2). The Homeric narrator deals with issues of interpretation and signification in ways that are different from what we find in the writing of the fifth and fourth centuries BC: nowhere do we find an expression of meaning (in the sense of “to signify”) employed in the Homeric or Hesiodic poems, save perhaps for the fairly trivial example of the verb “εἶναι” in the sense of “X is [the same as] Y”.

35There are, of course, various factors that we should bear in mind in weighing this evidence. First, we should not conclude that expressions of meaning necessarily did not exist during the prehistoric period just because the relevant terminology does not occur in the Homeric corpus: it may simply be a fluke of the tradition that we do not find any examples preserved. Second, the Homeric dialect does not represent the language of real life – it is an artificial language formed under exigencies that would never have manifested themselves in everyday speech. Third, although there were opportunities for the application of an expression of meaning in these early poems, their subject matter differs greatly from that of the works of Herodotus and Plato: indeed, Apollonius’ Argonautica, which covers similar subject matter to the Iliad and Odyssey yet was written centuries later (and well after Plato), also shows scant usage of expressions of meaning, although this may simply reflect the fact that Apollonius is successfully imitating Homeric diction. It should also be noted that the third-century poet certainly did use the verb “σηµαίνειν” of inanimate grammatical subjects, an application that is unattested in Homer (see Apollonius Rhodius, Argonautica 4.1378-1379).

  • 36 Besides a possible participle whose root resembles that of “δεικνύναι”, I have been unable to find (...)
  • 37 The example is found in Riemer (2010), 10.
  • 38 I have been unable to locate any verb of meaning applied to an inanimate grammatical subject in ea (...)

36Ultimately, however, the Homeric (and Hesiodic) poems are the earliest relevant corpus at our disposal.36 Moreover, it is not as if the forms “σηµαίνειν” and “νοεῖν” did not exist – on the contrary, they are important Homeric words, and there are no metrical or formal issues that prevented the appearance of the subsequently attested vocabulary of meaning. The verbs are simply not attested in the sense of S-meaning. In what follows, I would like to interpret the early Greek evidence in the most radical manner possible, advancing the thesis that the vocabulary that we are considering did not exist during the period in which the bulk of the two epics was being composed. While this may be alarming to some, it should be remembered that not all languages possess expressions of meaning of the same type as English, French, and German: the Australian language Warlpiri, for instance, has no specific verb for performing the task of determining the synonymy of linguistic items and sets up an equivalence by other means. For example, the phrase “‘Ngalyarra’ ngula-ju yanjilypiri panu” can be translated as “‘Ngalyarra’ – that is many stars”, which serves more or less the same function as “‘Ngalyarra’ means ‘many stars’”.37 While the Homeric narrator had other means of conveying the senses of “X means Y” and (for words) “‘X’ means ‘Y’”, as we have seen, we should not automatically assume that expressions such as “this means” always existed in Greek and entertain the possibility that this terminology is a relatively late development.38

  • 39 For strong interpretations of the changes that literacy brought with it, see in particular Snell ( (...)

37If we entertain this radical hypothesis, the late Archaic and early Classical ages would have been key to the development and naturalization of this vocabulary. This was a period of great change in the Greek world: while one should be cautious about positing a single cause for the expansion of the Greek vocabulary of meaning, it is possible to suggest a few aspects of this period that might have been conducive to such a phenomenon. First, the development of the Greek alphabet from the Phoenician script, whereby consonants and vowels were for the first time separated, is generally recognized as one of the most important developments of Greek civilization. Although the specifics of his argument are perhaps overambitious, Eric Havelock was surely correct in his broader insight that the spread of writing between the seventh to fourth centuries ushered in profound changes in Greek language and society.39 The use of writing made possible the investigation of language beyond the moment of its utterance; as George Kennedy puts it:

  • 40 Kennedy (1989), 88.

22.“It [writing] facilitated comparison of contexts, either in two or more works or within a single work, encouraged re-reading with knowledge of the text as a whole, allowed a greater accuracy of citation, and helped to ensure a greater integrity of preservation of the original. A ‘word’ became an entity, clearly distinguishable from and intermediate between authorial enunciation and reader reception”.40

  • 41 See the indices in Diels and Kranz, s.v. “λόγος”, “νοῦς”. For a quick overview of the question of (...)

38In addition, the explosion of philosophical thought, for which the new medium served as a catalyst, made use of language in striking new ways: Heraclitus’“λόγος” and Anaxagoras’ “νοῦς” present just two examples of an old word being re-deployed in order to articulate a new philosophical concept during this period.41 Might not the same be true for the vocabulary of meaning?

  • 42 On this, see in particular Pfeiffer (1968); Ford (2002); Obbink (2010).
  • 43 See Yunis (2003), 194: “Both Xenophanes and Heraclitus assume that Homer’s text is a transparent, (...)
  • 44 Pfeiffer (1968), 9-10. Ford (2002), 71: “Unlike Theagenes, most rhapsodes did not write up this lo (...)
  • 45 In the fifth century, Metrodorus of Lampsacus appears to have continued this allegorical trend (if (...)
  • 46 On the changes of this period, see Yunis (2003).

39Moreover, towards the end of the sixth century we can note amidst the rubble of the tradition the beginnings of the criticism of poetry with specific reference to its content and meaning.42 Xenophanes of Colophon criticized the depiction of the gods in Homer, stating that the poet had attributed to his deities “every kind of behavior that is the object of reproach among men” (21 B 11.2 DK). While the question of Homer’s meaning may have been of faint interest to Xenophanes himself,43 his criticism seems to have given rise to a series of allegorical interpreters who sought to defend the poet from the charge that what he said was unseemly. Theagenes of Rhegium, whose works have been entirely lost, is on record as having written allegorical interpretations of Homer;44 possibly a rhapsode himself, he seems to have been an analogue for the later Platonic characters Ion and Hippias, the former claiming that he knew “many good thoughts concerning Homer” (Plato, Ion 530d). Probus reports that Pherecydes (probably late sixth century BC) was also performing etymologies, explaining the name “Κρόνος” with reference to “χρόνος” (7A9DK).45 For our purposes, the key point is that in order to make an allegorical interpretation it is necessary to separate the apparent meaning of the words from what the author really meant. When one combines such forms of criticism with the general increase in philosophical sophistication, this historical period (from the seventh century BC to the dawn of the fifth) seems to provide a fitting context for the creation of the subsequently attested vocabulary of meaning – or rather, the transference of vocabulary in order better to discuss new types of question.46

  • 47 The first examples of medical literature (the earliest texts from the Hippocratic Corpus), which d (...)
  • 48 Cf. Sluiter (1990), 4-13; Sluiter (1997). On the creation of philosophical terminology in Greek, s (...)
  • 49 Cf. Yunis (2003), 206: “[Socrates] scrutinizes any utterance, discourse, or text that he encounter (...)

40The great majority of the Greek excerpts in the previous chapters issue from the period between 450 B C and 300 BC – the age of Herodotus, Euripides, Aristophanes, Plato, and Aristotle.47 These authors were the beneficiaries of a prior history of experimentation with expressions of meaning and had at their disposal an expansive vocabulary to talk about language itself. Sophists of the fifth century such as Gorgias, Prodicus, and Protagoras would have been important in the naturalization of this vocabulary,48 and the greater bulk of it was certainly established by the time when Plato was writing; in the passage from the Euthydemus that we considered in the Introduction, it is clear that the verb “νοεῖν” was being used in everyday conversation to denote what an expression means – it is precisely the appropriateness of the verb in this usage that makes the objection of Dionysodorus ludicrous. Plato represents for us the tail end of a largely undocumented experiment with language that begins with our earliest literary remains; it is only with the copia of the philosopher’s dialogues, however, that we are able to note the profound linguistic and conceptual changes that had occurred since the composition of the Homeric epics. Unlike Homer and Hesiod, Plato is able to apply expressions of meaning to inquire what words themselves mean;49 words for Plato “make signs” without any direction from Zeus.

  • 50 One might perhaps also mention Callias’ comedy, The Letter Show, discussed fleetingly by Athenaeus (...)

41We should pause at this point to review the remarkable things that were accomplished in the fifth and early fourth centuries BC. To begin at the end of this period, in the early fourth century we find one of the seminal texts in the history of media studies (Plato’s Phaedrus), in which the merits of writing and spoken dialectic are weighed (to the detriment of the former). The first reference to an individual perusing a book by himself is to be found in Aristophanes’ Frogs (52-54) in the late fifth century, where Dionysus develops his pothos for Euripides’ poetry.50 A quarter of a century before that we have in Euripides’ Hippolytus an ascription of desires to the tablet of Phaedra; Theseus is speaking:

23. θέλει τι σηµῆναι νέον;
... ἴδω τίλέξαι δέλτος ἥδε µοι θέλει

  • 51 Cf. Halleran (1995), 222: “the tablet and its contents are personified several times in this scene (...)

“Does it [the tablet] want to tell me something new?... Let me see what the tablet wants to tell me” (Euripides, Hippolytus 857-865).51

  • 52 For other instances, see Pfeiffer (1968), 17 and 26. Today, of course, the computing metaphor for (...)
  • 53 See Ford (2002), 131-157. The older term was “ἀοιδός” (“singer”). Sophisticated metalanguage (lang (...)
  • 54 Compare Svenbro (1993), 5: “Not until silent reading was conceptualized – possibly as early as the (...)

42In the first half of the fifth century, Aeschylus and Pindar made use the “tablets of the mind” metaphor, which explicitly set the workings of human memory in terms of the new technology (see, for example, Aeschylus, Suppliants 176-179).52 It is only in the early fifth century that the principal Greek verb of reading (“ἀναγιγνώσκειν”) is first attested in the relevant sense (see Chapter 7). Indeed, the Greek words “ποιητής” (“craftsman”) and “ποίη µ α” (literally, “made thing”), which we take for granted as set fixtures of ancient Greek, were actually creations of the fifth century and represent are flex to changing attitudes towards song culture and criticism.53 Experimentation with the new medium was occurring at a rapid pace, and the changes may very well have also been reflected in the development of the Greek vocabulary of meaning.54 By the time of Plato, the process was essentially complete: the terminology of meaning was, save for a few exceptions, set from the early fourth century onwards and in a position to influence the subsequent European languages (be it directly or indirectly).

43The foregoing must, however, remain a theory: there is no way to prove the case either way. My overall argument does not concern the precise dating of the metaphorical transference as much as it does the fact that one took place; given the evidence that we have been considering in this book, it seems as if it did. This transference has undergirded a substantial percentage of our own vocabulary of meaning, since the modern languages derive largely from the ancient ones. We are dealing with a tradition that spans languages as well as centuries: Greek expressions of meaning influenced the Latin ones, which in turn evolved into the Romance items, which came ultimately to influence the English vocabulary of meaning. The Anglo-Saxon verb considered at the beginning of Chapter 2, which ultimately yielded the English “to mean”, seems only to strengthen this understanding of the origins of the classical expressions of meaning – here we have an unrelated expression at the beginning of its historical record that displays the same polysemy as the classical examples; although the etymology of the verb is unclear, the case for metaphorical transference would seem to be compelling here as well.

VI. Conclusion

44In this chapter I have laid out an argument for a development that occurred at an extremely important yet obscure juncture inhuman history – the Archaic and early Classical ages in the Greek-speaking world. The Homeric poems, the product of perhaps a millennium of oral poetry, entirely lack the subsequently attested vocabulary of meaning, while the authors of fourth-century Athens had at their disposal a range of different expressions. Obviously, much must remain speculative; I would only emphasize that it is by no means obligatory for a language to contain expressions of meaning beyond the standard copula of the verb “to be”. I would moreover suggest that the development of such terminology in Greek depended on certain cultural and technological innovations, which facilitated a different type of interaction with language than had been possible before; the first inkling of this can be noted in the early allegorical tradition, but it was developed over the course of the late sixth and early fifth centuries, and may well have had a pre-history. At the end of it all, we find Socrates and Dionysodorus disputing the appropriateness of the verb “νοεῖν” when applied to inanimate subjects.

Notes

1 Cited by Kotzia (2007), 1102.

2 Compare Edwards’ paraphrase of this episode in his commentary: “Akhilleus realizes that the rout of the Greeks (6-7) and the remembered prophecy (7-11) must mean Patroklos is dead, despite his own attempt to prevent this”; Edwards (1991), 143 (my emphasis).

3 West (1978), 272, on “ἥ τ᾽”: “the γέρανος, I take it, not the φωνή”. Aratus (third century BC), writing in a Hesiodic vein, simply describes the movement of geese as a sign for a storm: “καὶ χῆνες κλαγγηδὸν ἐπειγόµεναι βρωµοῖο χειµῶνος µέγα σῆµα...” (“geese as well, hurrying noisily to their source of food, are a great sign of a storm...” Aratus, Phaenomena 1021-1022).

4 An Aeolic form of the verb “δεικνύναι” is used of the sun at Hesiod, Works and Days 526 West: “οὐ γάρ οἱ ἠέλιος δείκνυ νοµὸν ὁρµηθῆναι” (“for the sun does not show [the boneless one] a range towards which it can set out”); the sun is frequently personified in Hesiod (see, for example, Theogony 371-375 West). Something similar might be noted in the case of “ὄσσα” (“rumor”), personified as a divine messenger at e. g. Homer, Iliad 2.93-94 and described as “carrying” renown at Odyssey 2.216-217.

5 Instead of talking about what a phenomenon “means”, Hesiod frequently uses a “when... do this” or “this will happen” construction, for example: “Πληιάδων Ἀτλαγενέων ἐπιτελλοµενάων ἄρχεσθ᾽ ἀµήτου...” (“when the Atlas-born Pleiades rise, start the harvest...” Hesiod, Works and Days 383-384 West); cf. Works and Days 458-459, 564-567, 571-572, and 609-611 West.

6 On signs in Homer, see Nagy (1992), 202-222; Kahane (2005), 95-131. For Herodotus, see Appendix I.

7 Cf. Homer, Iliad 2.353. For an example from the Odyssey: “ἔφηνε θεὸς τέρας” (“the god showed the sign” Homer, Odyssey 15.168). See also the longer excerpt at Odyssey 20.95-121, where we find the phrases “Διὸς τέρας ἄλλο φανήτω” (“let another sign from Zeus be shown” 101), “σῆµα ἄνακτι” (“a sign for the lord” 111), and “τέρας... φαίνεις” (“you are showing a sign...” 114).

8 Cf. Odysseus’ reaction to Zeus’ signal at Homer, Odyssey 20.104: “γήθησε δὲ δῖος Ὀδυσσεύς” (“and noble Odysseus rejoiced”).

9 Cf. Heubeck & Hoekstra (1989), 242, on “ὑποκρίνεσθαι”: “in Homer its meaning oscillates between ‘interpreting’ and ‘answering’”.

10 The polysemy of “ὑποκρίνεσθαι”, it should be noted, also allows this excerpt to be translated as “how he might with understanding reply”.

11 Even non-seers could perform this function; see, for example, Helen’s interpretation of the sign at Homer, Odyssey 15.172-178. On seers more generally, see Flower (2008).

12 “ἀλλ᾽ ἄγε δή τινα µάντιν ἐρείοµεν ἢ ἱερῆα... ὅς κ᾽ εἴποι ὅ τι τόσσον ἐχώσατο Φοῖβος Ἀπόλλων” (“but come, let us ask some seer or priest... who may say why Phoebus Apollo has grown so angry” Homer, Iliad 1.62-64).

13 Compare the interpretation of the portent by Halitherses at Homer, Odyssey 2.161-176.

14 Compare the phrasing found in the commentary of Kirk (1985), 150: “one might expect the meaning to be that eight years had passed and Troy would fall in the ninth” (my emphasis).

15 See Gera (2003), 1-4. On discourse in the Homeric poems in general, see, for example, Martin (1989); Pelliccia (1995); Mackie (1996); Gera (2003); Beck (2005).

16 Hesiod, in describing the sounds emitted by the monster Typhon, mentions that sometimes the gods could “hear” him: “φωναὶ δ᾽ ἐν πάσῃσιν ἔσαν δεινῇς κεφαλῇσι, παντοίην ὄπ᾽ ἱεῖσαι ἀθέσφατον · ἄλλοτε µὲν γὰρ φθέγγονθ᾽ ὥς τε θεοῖσι συνιέµεν...” (“there were voices in all his dreadful heads, sending forth every kind of sound unutterable: sometimes they made sounds such as the gods heard...” Theogony 829-831 West). Cf. LSJ s.v. “συνίηµι” II. This passage opens the discussion of ancient criticism in Too (1998); cf. Goslin (2010), who sets the defeat of Typhon, occurring shortly before the birth of the muses, within the civilizing process of the triumph of Zeus.

17 Kirk (1985), 245-246, notes how unnecessary such an injunction would have been at this stage in the war. Cf. Homer, Odyssey 19.545: “φωνῇ... βροτέῃ” (“human speech”).

18 One might also adduce the instances of the phrase “ἀλλοθρόους ἀνθρώπους” in the Odyssey (“men who speak a different language” Odyssey 1.183, 3.302, 15.453).

19 Compare the simile likening Sleep to a bird in Homer, Iliad 14: “ὄρνιθι λιγυρῇ ἐναλίγκιος, ἥν τ᾽ ἐν ὄρεσσι ‘χαλκίδα’ κικλήσκουσι θεοί, ἄνδρες δὲ ‘κύµινδιν’” (“like to a shrill bird in the mountains, the one which the gods call ‘chalcis’, while men call it ‘kumindis’” Homer, Iliad 14.290-291). For moments where the different vocabulary of gods and men comes to the fore, see Homer, Iliad 2.813-814; 20.74; 1.403. Cf. Ennius, Annales fr. 487 Skutsch. The Australian language Warlpiri, which lacks a dedicated verb of S-meaning, can phrase things in the same way; for examples, see Riemer (2010), 10.

20 See Pfeiffer (1968), 3-5. Fried (2005) interestingly links “Ὀδυσσεύς” with “ὀδοὺς συός” (“tooth/tusk of a boar”).

21 On Homeric names, see von Kamptz (1982).

22 Cf. Heubeck, West, & Hainsworth (1988), 83; Stanford (1952); von Kamptz (1982), 355-360. See also the naming of Odysseus at Homer, Odyssey 19.406-412.

23 See Richardson (1993), 54; cf. Plato, Cratylus 404b. Plutarch (Isis and Osiris 363d) and later allegorists such as Cornutus (Compendium 3) made much of the etymology.

24 Words are of course described metaphorically in Homer: “ἔπεα πτερόεντα προσηύδα” (“he spoke winged words” Homer, Iliad 1.201). On this expression, see e.g. the first chapter of Martin (1989). Cf. “ποῖόν σε ἔπος φύγεν ἕρκος ὀδόντων” (“what word has escaped the barrier of your teeth?” Homer, Odyssey 1.64).

25 On this much-debated passage, see for instance Yamagata (2005). For the passage’s status as an allegory, see Hainsworth (1993), 128-129.

26 Cf. “ὦΠέρση, σὺ δ᾽ ἄκουε Δίκης, µηδ᾽ ὕβριν ὄφελλε” (“but you, Perses, listen to right and do not foster outrage” Hesiod, Works and Days 213 West). For bibliography on this passage, see Zanker (2009).

27 Cf. Theognis, Elegies 681-682, just after the image of the Ship of State caught in a storm.

28 For a treatment of these instances, see Macleod (1983), 1-15; Halliwell (2012), Chapter 2.

29 Cf. Halliwell (2012), 45: “The most basic level of poetic experience in Homer is, unsurprisingly, a matter of ‘pleasure’ or ‘gratification’, signified above all by the verb τέρπειν-εσθαι (give/take pleasure) and its cognates”.

30 Cf. Alcinous on Odysseus’ speech: “µῦθον δ᾽ ὡς ὅτ᾽ ἀοιδὸς ἐπισταµένως κατέλεξας” (“you have spoken your story skillfully, like a poet” Homer, Odyssey 11.368).

31 As we saw in the previous chapter, expressions of meaning also fail to materialize in the few cases where writing possibly figures in the Iliad. We have along way to go before the “criticism” of Plato’s Protagoras. On this development, see Ford (2002).

32 For an interesting reading of this passage, see Levaniouk (2011), 229-246. Rutherford, following the orthodox interpretation, applies the participle “ἀποκλίναντ’” to the interpreter in the sense of “bending” or “twisting”; he provides the gloss “twisting it [the dream] to mean anything else”; Rutherford (1992), 195-196.

33 One might also note Achilles’ dream of Patroclus in Iliad 23. Compare the longer passage at Homer, Odyssey 4.795-841, where Athena sends a dream in the shape of a woman to Penelope; also compare Penelope’s description of the dreams moving through the gates of horn and ivory in Odyssey 19.560-569, where she refers to them as “ἀκριτόµυθοι” (“babbling”).

34 Aristotle already comments on personifying metaphor in Homer at the lexical level (Rhetoric 1411b24-1412a9).

35 For a speaking dream in Pindar, see Pythians 4.163. Aratus, writing in the third century BC, incidentally uses this method of conferring agency on what are essentially inanimate signs: “ἐσκέψατο δ᾽ εἰς ἐνιαυτὸν ἀστέρας οἵ κε µάλιστα τετυγµένα σηµαίνοιεν ἀνδράσιν ὡράων” (“[Zeus] organized stars on a yearly basis, so that they might signal the most clearly defined signs of the seasons to men” Aratus, Phaenomena 11-13); cf. “ἀστέρες ἀνθρώποισι τετυγµένα σηµαίνουσιν” (“the stars that signal clearly defined signs to men” Aratus, Phaenomena 757); “ἄλλα δέ τοι ἐρέει ἤ που διχόωσα σελήνη...” (“some things the moon will tell you, either halved...” Aratus, Phaenomena 773); “ὁπποίην καὶ σῆµα λέγοι” (“[such a day appears] as the sign foretells” Aratus, Phaenomena 1148). On signs in Aratus, see Volk (2012). The technique was broadly used in this period; compare Theocritus, Idylls 22.22.

36 Besides a possible participle whose root resembles that of “δεικνύναι”, I have been unable to find the vocabulary in the MGL; extant Mycenaean Greek has few verbs.

37 The example is found in Riemer (2010), 10.

38 I have been unable to locate any verb of meaning applied to an inanimate grammatical subject in early Greek lyric, iambus, and elegy; nor is the vocabulary represented (in the relevant sense) in the fragments of the Presocratic philosophers. The first appearances of S-meaning usages are from the fifth century (see Chapters 2and 3).

39 For strong interpretations of the changes that literacy brought with it, see in particular Snell (1953), Havelock (1963), Havelock (1986), Goody & Watt (1968), and Ong (1982). McLuhan (1962/2011), 27, puts the view forward vividly: “But the means of arrested visual analysis, namely the phonetic alphabet, was as new to the Greeks as the movie camera in our own century”. The “Toronto School” of communication studies was motivated in large part by Albert Lord (2000, originally 1960) and the fieldwork of Milman Parry. For a deflationary take, however, see Thomas (1992), 44-51; Foley (1999), 1-15; Bakker (1999); for a reappraisal (and coining of the term “neo-Havelockian approach”), see Ford (2003).

40 Kennedy (1989), 88.

41 See the indices in Diels and Kranz, s.v. “λόγος”, “νοῦς”. For a quick overview of the question of literacy and early Greek philosophy, see Kahn (2003). Heraclitus himself was certainly interested in issues of language, commenting, for example, on the striking similarity of “βίος” (“life”) and “βιός” (“bow”) in Greek: “τῷ οὖν τόξῳ ὄνο µ αβίος, ἔργον δὴ θάνατος” (“the name of the bow is ‘life’ but its work is death” Heraclitus 22B48 DK); for some interesting thoughts on this fragment from the perspective of literacy, see Gianvittorio (2013), 15. For the translation of “λόγος” as “Sinn”, see Diels and Kranz’ translation of 22 B 50 DK and Snell (1966), 139 (“er ist der Sinn, der in der Welt liegt, der der Welt erst ihren Gehalt gibt”), although this is controversial. For a strong interpretation of Heraclitus, see Kennedy (1989), 81: “It was perhaps Heraclitus who first recognized that a word, or a text, could have more than one valid meaning, which he seems to have thought of as resulting not from conventional association, but from the nature of words as motivated signs”. For Parmenides on language, see 28 B8.38-41 DK and 28 B19.3 DK: “τοῖς δ᾽ ὄνοµ’ ἄνθρωποι κατέθεντ᾽ ἐπίσηµον ἑκάστῳ” (“and for these things, human beings have applied a name that marks each one”).

42 On this, see in particular Pfeiffer (1968); Ford (2002); Obbink (2010).

43 See Yunis (2003), 194: “Both Xenophanes and Heraclitus assume that Homer’s text is a transparent, non problematic entity; its meaning is obvious and non contravertible. Nothing suggests that Xenophanes and Heraclitus were incapable of distinguishing between what Homer means and what he says. But since Homer’s meaning was apparently not at issue for those to whom Xenophanes and Heraclitus directed their criticism, to raise the question of what Homer meant would have added unwanted complications and distracted from their task”.

44 Pfeiffer (1968), 9-10. Ford (2002), 71: “Unlike Theagenes, most rhapsodes did not write up this lore since it was their stock in trade. Theagenes’ fame may spring from the fact that either he was the first to do so or he did it so well that no earlier work on Homer reached later antiquity”.

45 In the fifth century, Metrodorus of Lampsacus appears to have continued this allegorical trend (if we are to rely on later references); see Pfeiffer (1968), 35.

46 On the changes of this period, see Yunis (2003).

47 The first examples of medical literature (the earliest texts from the Hippocratic Corpus), which deal heavily with symptoms and signs, also belong to this era.

48 Cf. Sluiter (1990), 4-13; Sluiter (1997). On the creation of philosophical terminology in Greek, see Kotzia (2007).

49 Cf. Yunis (2003), 206: “[Socrates] scrutinizes any utterance, discourse, or text that he encounters, without regard for the manner in which he encounters it, the person from whom it emanates, or the form that it has, and he asks ‘what does it mean?’”.

50 One might perhaps also mention Callias’ comedy, The Letter Show, discussed fleetingly by Athenaeus and possibly dating to the late fifth century, which featured a chorus dressed as actual letters; cf. Svenbro (1993), 183-186; Rosen (1999).

51 Cf. Halleran (1995), 222: “the tablet and its contents are personified several times in this scene – 877 (“cries out, cries out”), 879-80 (“giving voice”), and at 881 (“leader”) – and the lei here and at 865 probably forms part of this personification”; cf. Aeschylus, Seven Against Thebes 646-647, on the representation of Dike on the shield of Polyneices: “Δίκη δ᾽ ἄρ’ εἶναί φησιν, ὡς τὰ γράµµατα λέγει” (“she claims to be Dike, as the writing proclaims”).

52 For other instances, see Pfeiffer (1968), 17 and 26. Today, of course, the computing metaphor for mental processes exerts a strong influence.

53 See Ford (2002), 131-157. The older term was “ἀοιδός” (“singer”). Sophisticated metalanguage (language for talking about language) is not something one would expect to find in a nearly culture; the terms “ὄνοµα” and “ῥῆµα” only came to be used in the definite senses of “noun” and “verb” in the fourth century (Plato, Sophist 262a). See Gianvittorio (2013), 5.

54 Compare Svenbro (1993), 5: “Not until silent reading was conceptualized – possibly as early as the late sixth century BC – could writing be regarded as representing a voice. Now the letters could themselves ‘speak’ directly to the eye, needing no voice to mediate... In short, the internalization of the voice in silent reading corresponds to the metaphor of ‘letters that speak’, which became current at the point where silent reading began to be more or less commonly practiced. For anyone reading in silence, as Theseus does in Euripides’ Hippolytus, the letters ‘speak’, they ‘cry out’, or even ‘sing’. The eye is the sound”.

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