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Greek and Latin. Expressions of Meaning

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Andreas T. Zanker

Appendix I: Expressions of Inanimate Signification in Herodotus

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  • 1 On Herodotus’ contemporaries and forerunners in the genre of history, see Fowler (1996) and, with (...)

1This book has of necessity been broad in range, and one thing that it clearly lacks is a case study of an individual author’s usage. This is due to my overall goal – to demonstrate the development of the vocabulary of meaning rather than to perform a synchronic analysis of its status at any single point in time. While certain authors have been mentioned piecemeal throughout, it will be useful to provide a study of an individual’s writing for the sake of comparison. Herodotus is in many ways an ideal subject for such an investigation: his history represents the first monolithic block of prose by an identifiable author to come down to us from antiquity, and so serves as one benchmark, at least, against which to measure earlier and subsequent usage.1 As such, it constitutes an important body of evidence for the process that I describe in Chapter 5, and provides a pendant to the writing of Plato, who has featured prominently in the preceding pages. Moreover, Herodotus engages with questions of signification with great frequency, and we might expect his vocabulary of meaning to be correspondingly rich.

  • 2 Nagy (1990), 165; cf. 166, 233-238, 272-273; Nagy (1992), 202-222.
  • 3 Miletti (2008), esp. 71-85, 111-115.
  • 4 Hollmann (2011), 20-47; e.g. “οἱ µὲν δὴ [κατὰ τὸν φραγµὸν] συνεβάλλοντο τοῦτο τὸ ξύλινον τεῖχος εἶ (...)
  • 5 Hollmann (2011), 176-207, gives a good account of the role of inanimate objects in communication, (...)

2The topic of signification in Herodotus has received much attention in recent years. Gregory Nagy has devoted a number of pages to the verb “σηµαίνειν” in Herodotus’ writing, particularly as we see it used in the first person: according to Nagy, the verb frequently implies that someone is communicating “from a metaphorically superior vantage point” and thus connotes a certain authority on the part of the individual transmitting the sign – be it a god, a poet, or Herodotus himself.2 Lorenzo Miletti, in his discussion of metalanguage in Herodotus, has considered the ways in which verbs such as “καλεῖν” and “δύνασθαι” were used to translate lexical terms from one language to another.3 Alexander Hollmann has provided lexicographical detail on further words in Herodotus that relate to communication and decoding, such as the verbs “φράζειν”, “λαµβάνειν”, “συµβάλλεσθαι”, “ἐννοεῖν”, and “εἰκάζειν”.4 In spite of this, it might be useful to lay out the vocabulary that Herodotus uses specifically for the signification of inanimate objects – what things mean, say, or show to an interpreter.5

I. Personification and Direct Inference

3First, we should consider two representative ways in which Herodotus could simply sidestep the need to apply a verb of signification to an inanimate grammatical subject. As mentioned in Chapter 5, the meaning of dreams could be articulated by the Homeric narrator by simply turning the dream itself into an animate being: Agamemnon’s dream descends to the camp of the Achaeans in much the same way as any other divine messenger. There are similar descriptions in Herodotus, for example in the episode concerning Croesus’ premonition about the death of his son, Atys: here, we indeed find the term “σηµαίνειν” being employed of the dream, but it turns out that the phrasing is not “it [inanimate dream] meant” but rather “it [animate dream] showed”:

1. τοῦτον δὴ ὦν τὸν Ἄτυν σηµαίνει τῷ Κροίσῳ ὁ ὄνειρος, ὡς ἀπολέει µιν αἰχµῇ σιδηρέῃ βληθέντα...

“The dream then showed this Atys toCroesus – how he would lose him by a blow from an iron spearhead” (Herodotus, Histories 1.34.2).

4Croesus explains to his son the reason for his unwillingness tolet him participate in the hunt for the Mysian boar thus:

2. ἀλλά µοι ὄψις ὀνείρου ἐν τῷ ὕπνῳ ἐπιστᾶσα ἔφη σε ὀλιγοχρόνιον ἔσεσθαι.

  • 6 Of course, the term “ὄψις” (“vision”) is the subject of the sentence, but we should take this clos (...)

“But a vision of a dream stood over me in my sleep and told me that you would be short-lived” (Herodotus, Histories 1.38.1).6

  • 7 It is clear that this is not necessarily the “true” meaning of the dream, merely what the dream “t (...)

5The dream “speaks”. Nor is this an isolated example: in book 7 of the Histories, in a section riddled with the personification of dreams, Artabanus puts the dream of Xerxes to the test, sleeping on Xerxes’ throne until it appears; upon doing so, the dream threatens Artabanus verbally and makes as if to burn out his eyes with hot irons (Herodotus, Histories 7.17.1-7.18.1). Once again, we can see here how the need to speak about what a dream “means” is defused – characters such as Xerxes and Artabanus did not need to describe what the dream “meant” but, just like Agamemnon, could simply articulate things in terms of what the dream “told them” or “said”.7

6To turn to a second mode of discussing inanimate signification without recourse to a specific vocabulary: as we also saw in Chapter 5, Homer often moves straight from an observation to an inference. Rather than using a phrase such as “this means” to mediate between the two, he would simply employ emphatic particles (for example, “ἦ µάλα”) to signal the transition. Οne can see similar leaps in Herodotus as well. The following excerpt concerns the oracle granted to Croesus, which states that Croesus should beware when a mule is king of the Medes; Herodotus has just cited the words of the oracle:

3. τούτοισι ἐλθοῦσι τοῖσι ἔπεσι ὁ Κροῖσος πολλόν τι µ άλιστα πάντων ἥσθη, ἐλπίζων ἡµίονον οὐδαµὰ ἀντ᾽ ἀνδρὸς βασιλεύσειν Μήδων...

“Croesus rejoiced above all in these verses, since he expected that a mule would never be king over the Medes instead of a man” (Herodotus, Histories 1.56.1).

7Here we witness the interpretation of Croesus (marked by the participle “ἐλπίζων”), but Herodotus effectively “bypasses” the need to apply an expression of meaning (“the dream meant ‘X’”), articulating what the oracle “signified” to Croesus by a different method.

ΙΙ.“σηµαίνειν”

  • 8 See Hollmann (2011), 20-27, although Hollmann does not expatiate on usage 6. On “σηµαίνειν” in Her (...)

8Moving on to the vocabulary of inanimate signification itself, we should first consider the verb “σηµαίνειν”.8 When it comes to communication, three main usages can be discerned in Herodotus: its employment of (4) animate beings making a sign (and thus often commanding) either by speech or gesture, (5) figures interpreting or simply relaying a sign to another party, and (6) the meaning of signs in their own right:

4. οὐ γὰρ σοὶ πέφηνε, ἀλλ᾽ ἐµοὶ σηµαίνει ὁ ἐν Ἐλαιοῦντι Πρωτεσίλεως...

  • 9 Cf. the passage mentioned above: “τοῦτον δὴ ὦν τὸν Ἄτυν σηµαίνει τῷ Κροίσῳ ὁ ὄνειρος, ὡς...” (“the (...)

“For it [the sign] has not appeared for your sake, but rather Protesilaus of Elaeus signals tome” (Herodotus, Histories 9.120.2).9

5. αὕτη δὴ ἡ µελιτόεσσα ἐν τῷ πρόσθε αἰεὶ χρόνῳ ἀναισιµουµένη τότε ἦν ἄψαυστος. σηµηνάσης δὲ ταῦτα τῆς ἱερείης...

  • 10 Cf. “ἐκ γάρ οἱ τῆς ὄψιος τῶν µάγων οἱ ὀνειροπόλοι ἐσήµαινον ὅτι µέλλοι ὁ τῆς θυγατρὸς αὐτοῦ γόνος (...)

“This honey-cake had always been taken in previous times, but was then left untouched; the priestess interpreted the significance of this...” (Herodotus, Histories 8.41.3).10

6. τὰ δὲ στίγµατα ἐσήµαινε, ὡς καὶ πρότερόν µοι εἴρηται, ἀπόστασιν.

“The tattoos signified, as I mentioned previously, revolt” (Herodotus, Histories 5.35.3).

  • 11 There are two other possible instances of inanimate “σηµαίνειν” (and its derivatives) in Herodotus (...)
  • 12 Cf. “συνέπιπτε γὰρ καὶ τὸν ἐστιγµένον τὴν κεφαλὴν ἀπῖχθαι ἐκ Σούσων παρὰ Ἱστιαίου σηµαίνοντα ἀπίστ (...)

9In this last example (6), we see the tattoos on the head of Histiaeus’ slave literally “signifying” something. This usage of “σηµαίνειν” is in fact very rare in Herodotus (although it had existed in Aeschylus – see Chapter 3), and this is the only occurrence of the verb in his history that is indisputably attached to an inanimate subject.11 It may be relevant that the passage that immediately precedes is in fact marked by two other instances of “σηµαίνειν” where the verb is applied to human beings: Histiaeus “wanted to signify to Aristagoras that he should rebel”, and the messenger “signified” to Aristagoras that he should do so.12 It is possible that these two prior applications to animate subjects prompted Herodotus to use the verb of the brandings themselves for the sake of uariatio.

III. “λέγειν”

  • 13 Cf. Powell (1960) s.v. “λέγω” II: “metaph. of inanimates”.

10When it comes to the interpretation of written words, we see further interesting phenomena – for example, the “speaking” inscriptions in the first two books of the Histories, which fit in with the early material presented at the beginning of Chapter 6:13

7. ἐνεκόλαψε δὲ ἐς τὸν τάφον γράµµατα λέγοντα τάδε · “τῶν τις...”

  • 14 For a different example, see Herodotus, Histories 1.187.5.

“And she inscribed on the tomb letters that said the following, ‘any of the...’” (Herodotus, Histories 1.187.1).14

8. ἐκ δὲ τοῦ ὤµου ἐς τὸν ἕτερον ὦµον διὰ τῶν στηθέων γράµµατα ἱρὰ Αἰγύπτια διήκει ἐγκεκολαµµένα, λέγοντα τάδε · “ἐγώ...”

  • 15 Cf., of a statue, “... λέγων διὰ γραµµάτων τάδε ‘ἐς ἐµέ τις ὀρέων εὐσεβὴς ἔστω’” (“[Inscribed] wit (...)

“Inscribed sacred Egyptian letters stretch across the chest, from one shoulder to the other, which say the following, ‘I myself...’” (Herodotus, Histories 2.106.4).15

9. ἐν τῇ γράµµατα ἐν λίθῳ ἐγκεκολαµµένα τάδε λέγοντά ἐστι · “µή µε κατονοσθῇς...”

“On it [the pyramid] there are letters incised on the stone that say the following, ‘do not scorn me...’” (Herodotus, Histories 2.136.3).

  • 16 Cf. “ἕτερος δὲ τρίπους ἐν ἑξαμέτρῳ τόνῳ λέγει· ‘Σκαῖος πυγμαχέων με ἑκηβόλῳ Ἀπόλλωνι νικήσας ἀνέθη (...)
  • 17 On oracles in Herodotus, see Crahay (1956); Kirchberg (1965); Hollmann (2011), 94-117; Grethlein ( (...)

11Here we can note a reflex that has persevered in the modern western languages – the usage of a verb of speaking to describe the “action” of what are in fact mute symbols (see Chapter 2). The use of “Ich-Rede” (see Chapter 6) is reflected on other occasions in the Histories where it is not the writing itself that “enunciates” but rather the object upon which the writing was written: we find, for example, tripods “speaking” their inscriptions in the fifth book of the Histories16 Writing was also a function of oracular procedure – according to Herodotus, oracles were written down in Delphi and brought back to the relevant city by the delegation.17 Just like the writing on monuments and statues, these written oracles appear to have been able to “speak”, for example the ones that Cleomenes brought back to Sparta:

10. ἔτι τε πρὸς τούτοισι ἐνῆγόν σφεας οἱ χρησμοὶ λέγοντες πολλά τε καὶ ἀνάρσια ἔσεσθαι αὐτοῖσι ἐξ Ἀθηναίων...

“In addition to this, the oracles spurred them on – these said that many hateful deeds would be committed against them by the Athenians...” (Herodotus, Histories 5.90.2).

  • 18 Cf. “οἱ γὰρ Εὐβοέες παραχρησάμενοι τὸν Βάκιδος χρησμὸν ὡς οὐδὲν λέγοντα...” (“for the Euboeans, di (...)
  • 19 Cf. “τάχα δ᾽ ἂν καὶ τὰ χρηστήρια ταῦτά οἱ προλέγοι...” (“this happened to be also what the oracles (...)
  • 20 Cf. “λόγον τὸν ἐκεῖνοι ὑπολαβόντες Κύρῳ προσήνεικαν λέγοντα τάδε...” (“a speech which they took fr (...)

12Oracles could also “say nothing”,18 as well “predict”.19 In fact, in Herodotus even a λόγος can λέγειν.20

IV. “(ἐ)θέλειν”

  • 21 On “εἶναι” as a verb of meaning in Herodotus, see below.
  • 22 LSJ s.v. “ἐθέλω” II. 2. On “(ἐ)θέλειν”, see Chapter 2.

13Another source of vocabulary for inanimate signification consisted in the expression “(ἐ)θέλειν” + infinitive, whereby the infinitives used were of the type “σημαίνειν”/“λέγειν”/“εἶναι”,21 although there is still some debate about the fundamental meaning of “(ἐ)θέλειν”: the verb could certainly be translated as “to want”, but there are also instances where it verges closer to meaning “to be capable of” or even “to be in the habit of”.22 Thus, for example, we find in Herodotus:

11. οἰκότα µέν νυν βουλευοµένοισι ἀνθρώποισι ὡς τὸ ἐπίπαν ἐθέλει γίνεσθαι.

“Reasonable things are inclined to occur for men who have reasonable plans” (Herodotus, Histories 8.60γ).

14In any case, we find such expressions used frequently of the signification of inanimate objects, including linguistic items:

12. ἀπικοµένοισι δὲ τοῖσι θεοπρόποισι καὶ µαθοῦσι πρὸς Τελµησσέων, τὸ θέλει σηµαίνειν τὸ τέρας, οὐκ ἐξεγένετο Κροίσῳ ἀπαγγεῖλαι.

  • 23 Cf. “... καὶ εἴρετο τοὺς µάγους τὸ θέλοι προφαίνειν τὸ φάσµα” (“and he asked the Magians what the (...)

“But it was not possible for them to announce to Croesus what the portent meant, although the seers had come and learned this from the Telmessians” (Herodotus, Histories 1.78.2).23

13. αὐτοὺς δὲ τοὺς Πέρσας ἐκέλευε, εἰ σοφοί εἰσι, γνῶναι τὸ θέλει τὰ δῶρα λέγειν.

  • 24 Cf. “τὸ δὲ ἔπος τοῦτο ἐθέλει λέγειν, ὡς...” (“and this expression means that...” Herodotus, Histor (...)

“He bade the Persians understand what the gifts meant, if they were clever enough” (Herodotus, Histories 4.131.2).24

14.... τὸ θέλει τὸ ἔπος εἶπαι, τό σφι ἀπείλησε ὁ Κροῖσος.

  • 25 Hude endorses the correction of “εἶπαι” for “εἶναι” here; Rosén comments “fort. recte”.

“... what the threat of Croesus to them might mean” (Herodotus, Histories 6.37.2).25

15This type of phraseology is not too distinct from the simple “λέγειν”, “σηµαίνειν”, or (as we shall see) “εἶναι”, although the verb “(ἐ)θέλειν” perhaps adds a suggestion of increased difficulty in interpretation. That this type of diction had not lost its original force (that of “to speak”) is shown by the following example:

15. ἐγώ µοι δοκέω συνιέναι τὸ θέλει λέγειν ἡµῖν τὸ µ αντήιον...

“I think I understand what the oracle wants to say/means to us” (Herodotus, Histories 5.80.1).

16The pronoun “ἡµῖν” suggests that the oracle really is “talking” (“λέγειν”) to somebody: “to us”. The syntax of interpersonal communication is preserved. Once again, we are here dealing with an attempt todescribe what things meant based on metaphorical vocabulary: we have seen how “λέγειν” could be employed of inanimate objects, and here we merely see the addition of a verb of desire (“θέλειν”).

V. “νόος”

  • 26 For a different interpretation of this phrase, see Hollmann (2011), 37.

17This usage of “(ἐ)θέλειν” should be set next to the noun “νόος” (generally “mind”, “intention”).26 In the following sentence, we see how the term could be used both of the intention of (a) an act and (b) of Themistocles:

16. ὡυτὸς δὲ οὗτος ἐὼν τυγχάνει νόος τοῦ πρήγµατος καὶ ὁ Θεµιστοκλέος ὁ ἐπ᾽ Ἀρτεµισίῳ.

  • 27 Cf. “Πέρσαι δὲ τὸν φέροντα τὰ δῶρα ἐπειρώτεον τὸν νόον τῶν διδοµένων” (“the Persians asked the one (...)

“The intention of this act happened to be the same as that of Themistocles at Artemisium” (Herodotus, Histories 9.98.4).27

18The phrase “νόος τοῦ πρήγµατος” is probably simply the equivalent of “the intention of the individual who was the cause of the act”: as argued in previous chapters, we are either dealing with an ellipsis (whereby the originator of the intention is left out for reasons of economy) or with a metonymy (whereby the intention is associated with the act by association). The act (“πρῆγµα”) has no intention of its own (it has no mind), but “πρῆγµα” can nevertheless stand in the genitive case after the term “νόος”. The motivation for using this type of expression, and its conceptual consequences, has been outlined in Chapter 4.

VI.“καλεῖν” and “δύνασθαι”

  • 28 On this terminology, see in particular Miletti (2008); Chamberlain (1999) and Munson (2005), 30-66, (...)
  • 29 Considerations concerning naming in other languages can also be found in Hecataeus; cf. FGrHist 1 (...)
  • 30 We also find the verb “ὀνοµάζειν” (“to name”) being used in this sense: “Κανδαύλης, τὸν οἱ Ἕλληνες (...)

19Certain types of phrase in Herodotus were dedicated specifically to linguistic signification – what words and phrases meant. 28 These terms could not be used of broader types of meaning, such as the meaning of oracles or events, but featured prominently in Herodotus’ translations of words from different languages. The older type of construction involved the verb “καλεῖν” (“to call” or “to name”) and appears in Homer (see Chapter 5); while not strictly a verb of signification of the kind in which we are interested, it was nevertheless one of the chief modes by which Herodotus described what foreign words meant.29 In Herodotus we see it taking both active and passive forms:30

17. Λίβυες γὰρ βασιλέα “βάττον” καλέουσι...

  • 31 Cf. “οὔνοµα δὲ τῇ γυναικὶ ἦν τῇ συνοίκεε ‘Κυνὼ’ κατὰ τὴν Ἑλλήνων γλῶσσαν, κατὰ δὲ τὴν Μηδικὴν ‘Σπα (...)

“For the Libyans call aking ‘battus’...” (Herodotus, Histories 4.155.2).31

18. καλέεται δὲ ὅ τε τράγος καὶ ὁ Πὰν Αἰγυπτιστὶ “Μένδης”.

  • 32 Cf. “ἔστι δὲ Αἰγυπτιστὶ ὁ Λίνος καλεύµενος ‘Μανερῶς’” (“but Linus is called ‘Maneros’ in Egyptian” (...)

“Both the he-goat and Pan are called ‘Mendes’ in Egyptian” (Herodotus, Histories 2.46.4).32

20While the syntax is different from the other examples that we have been considering, such uses of “καλεῖν” appear to be at least functionally equivalent to a phrase such as “‘battus’ means ‘king’ in Libya”.

  • 33 A related usage in Herodotus is that of the worth of coins, for example at Histories 3.89.2; see t (...)
  • 34 Cf. LfgE s.v. “δύναµαι”; LSJ s.v. “δύναµαι”.

21The other main expression employed by Herodotus of the meaning of phrases and words was the verb “δύνασθαι” (generally “to be able”),33 a sense that appears to be first attested in the Histories.34 The verb “δύνασθαι” took the thing that “meant” as its subject (19), although it was sometimes used in tandem with “καλεῖν” (20):

19. τὸ δὲ οὔνοµα τοῦτο ἐστὶ µὲν Λιβυστικόν, δύναται δὲ κατ᾽ Ἑλλάδα γλῶσσαν “βουνοί”.

  • 35 Cf. “δύναται δὲ κατὰ Ἑλλάδα γλῶσσαν ταῦτα τὰ οὐνόµατα, ‘Δαρεῖος’ ‘ἐρξείης’...” (“as for the meanin (...)

“This is a Libyan word, and means ‘hills’ in the Greek language” (Herodotus, Histories 4.192.3).35

20. τὰς δὲ Ἀµαζόνας καλέουσι οἱ Σκύθαι “Οἰόρπατα”, δύναται δὲ τὸ οὔνοµα τοῦτο κατὰ Ἑλλάδα γλῶσσαν “ἀνδροκτόνοι”· “οἰὸρ” γὰρ καλέουσι ἀνδρα, τὸ δὲ “πατὰ” κτείνειν.

“But the Scythians call the Amazons ‘Oiorpata’; this name means ‘man-killers’ in the Greek language: for they call a man ‘oior’, and killing ‘pata’” (Herodotus, Histories 4.110.1).

22As mentioned in Chapter 2, this expression would occupy an important position in subsequent discussions of language.

VII: “εἶναι”

23The final types of expression comprise a motley ensemble. One can sometimes, for example, find instances where one might loosely translate the verb “εἶναι” (“to be”) as a verb of inanimate meaning:

21. ἀλλὰ µᾶλλον µὴ οὐ τοῦτο τὸ χρηστήριον.

  • 36 Cf. “συνεβάλοντο οἱ Παίονες τὸ χρηστήριον αὐτὸ τοῦτο εἶναι” (“the Paiones reckoned that this was e (...)

“But probably the oracle did not mean this” (Herodotus, Histories 5.79.2).36

24This use of the verb “to be” serves as a copula between two items (see Chapter 2). Correspondences between words in different languages could be set up by using parallel phrases where the “name” of the object in each language is mentioned:

22. οὔνοµα δὲ τῷ δείπνῳ τούτῳ Περσιστὶ µὲν “τυκτά”, κατὰ δὲ [τὴν] Ἑλλήνων γλῶσσαν “τέλειον”.

“The name for this feast in Persian [is] ‘tukta’, in the Greek language ‘perfect’” (Herodotus, Histories 9.110.2).

25Here, the verb “εἶναι” is implicit, and no real expression of inanimate signification is employed. As we have seen (section IV), in Herodotus “εἶναι” could also be used in conjunction with “ἐθέλειν” in the sense of “to mean”.

VIII. “φέρειν”+“ἐπί”/“ἐς”

  • 37 Cf. Powell (1960), s.v. “φέρω” II. 2.

26Finally, the verb “φέρειν”+“ἐπί”/“ἐς” was sometimes used metaphorically of the “bearing” or “reference” of a dream/oracle; although not an expression of the same type as the others, I include it for interest’s sake:37

23. τρίτη ὄψις ἐν τῷ ὕπνῳ ἐγένετο, τὴν οἱ µάγοι ἔκριναν ἀκούσαντες φέρειν τε ἐπὶ πᾶσαν γῆν δουλεύσειν τέ οἱ πάντας ἀνθρώπους.

  • 38 Cf. “Λακεδαιµόνιοι δὲ µαθόντες οὐκ ἐς γυµνικοὺς ἀλλ᾽ ἐς ἀρηίους ἀγῶνας φέρον τὸ Τεισαµενοῦ µαντήιο (...)

“A third dream came [to Xerxes] in his sleep, which the Magi, having heard it, interpreted as referring to the whole earth, that is, that all men would be his slaves” (Herodotus, Histories 7.19.1).38

27In one or two contexts, it appears in a phrase such as “φέρον ἐς τὠυτὸ [καί]”, which may be translated as “referring to the same thing [as]”; the following excerpt is particularly rich in terms of inanimate signification (“ἄσηµον”, “φέρον”, “λέγον”):

24. τοῖσι τὸ µὲν πρότερον γενόµενον χρηστήριον ἐς Κόρινθον ἦν ἄσηµον, φέρον τε ἐς τὠυτὸ καὶ τὸ τοῦ Ἠετίωνος καὶ λέγον ὧδε...

“But the earlier oracle sent to Corinth had been meaningless (‘ἄσηµον’) to them, despite the fact that it referred to the same thing as the oracle of Eetion, and said the following...” (Herodotus, Histories 5.92β. 3).

  • 39 Cf. Powell (1960), s. v. “ἔχω” IV.B.3.b: “τὸ µέν νυν ἐς τοὺς Ἀργείους ἔχον...” (“the one referring (...)
  • 40 Cf. “ὥστε καὶ τοῦτο τοῦ ᾄσµατος πρὸς τοῦτο τείνει...” (“so that the upshot of the poem is this...” (...)

28One might also note the phrase “ἔχειν” + “ἐς”, which could be used in a somewhat similar fashion.39 In general, these expressions of reference were not employed of words but rather of oracles, dreams, and the like.40

IX. Conclusion

29We have considered the ways in which Herodotus expressed the idea of inanimate signification. We may tabulate these as follows:

Primary vocabulary

Secondary vocabulary

Other modes

“σηµαίνειν”

“καλεῖν”/“ὀνοµάζειν”

personification

‘λέγειν”

“φέρειν”/“ἔχειν”+“ἐπί”/“ἐς”

inference

“(ἐ)θέλειν”+ infinitive

etc.

“νόος”

“δύνασθαι”

“εἶναι”

  • 41 Cf. Powell (1960), s. v. “δύναµις”.

30What can we derive from this foray into the usage of an individual author? First, that Herodotus had a robust vocabulary for inanimate signification at his disposal – the gap between what we see in his Histories and what was apparently available to the early poets is remarkable. Nevertheless, one can also note that Herodotus’ vocabulary was not as expansive as that of Plato, Aristotle, or the Stoics. Herodotus had, for example, employed the verb “λέγειν” of what inscriptions and oracles “said”, but Plato could use the term of an individual word; whereas Herodotus had employed “(ἐ) θέλειν λέγειν” in order to describe the meanings of things and linguistic phrases, we see Plato utilizing the phrase “βούλεσθαι” (with or without the “λέγειν”); while Herodotus was perfectly willing to attach the noun “νόος” to an inanimate object in order to describe its intention (really the intention of an individual), we only see the verb “νοεῖν” used of inanimate things in the later authors; although Herodotus was perfectly content to use “δύνασθαι” in order to articulate what words meant, only after his time do we see the noun “δύναµις” taking on the sense of “meaning [of a word]”.41 The question of the meaning of signs, portents, and dreams was certainly crucial for Herodotus (as it had been for the Homeric singers before him): in no other history, in fact, is the incorrect interpretation of divine signification fraught with greater danger. Nevertheless, as we have seen in Chapters 2 and 3, the Greek vocabulary of inanimate signification was set to broaden over the following centuries.

Notes

1 On Herodotus’ contemporaries and forerunners in the genre of history, see Fowler (1996) and, with special reference to Hecataeus, West (1991). The Old Oligarch and elements of the Hippocratic Corpus provide examples of prose possibly contemporaneous with that of Herodotus, although here the dating remains uncertain – a reasonably conventional date for the former is431-423 BC; see Marr & Rhodes (2008), 5, who themselves suggest 424 BC. For the connections between Herodotus and the Hippocratic corpus, see Lateiner (1986) and (Rosalind) Thomas (2000), especially Chapters 2and 3.

2 Nagy (1990), 165; cf. 166, 233-238, 272-273; Nagy (1992), 202-222.

3 Miletti (2008), esp. 71-85, 111-115.

4 Hollmann (2011), 20-47; e.g. “οἱ µὲν δὴ [κατὰ τὸν φραγµὸν] συνεβάλλοντο τοῦτο τὸ ξύλινον τεῖχος εἶναι” (“these interpreted the fence [i.e. of the Acropolis] to be the wooden wall” Herodotus, Histories 7.142.2); “οἱ γὰρ χρησµολόγοι ταύτῃ ταῦτα ἐλάµβανον...” (“for the oracle-interpreters took the [verses] in this way...” Herodotus, Histories 7.142.3); “τοῦτον τὸν χρησµὸν οὐκ οἷοί τε ἦσαν γνῶναι...” (“they were not able to understand the prophecy” Herodotus, Histories 3.58.1); “πρὸς δὲ καὶ αὐτοὶ δοκέοντες ἐξευρηκέναι τὸ µαντήιον, τὸ ἡ Πυθίη σφι ἔχρησε...” (“also because they thought that they had found out the meaning of the oracle that the Pythia had told them” Herodotus, Histories 8.51.2). For misinterpretation, the negative particle could be applied: e.g. “οὐ συλλαβὼν δὲ τὸ ῥηθέν...” (“not understanding what had been said” Herodotus, Histories 1.91.4). The verb “ἁµαρτάνειν” (“fail at”, “misinterpret”) could also be used for misapprehending the meaning of an oracle; e.g.“Κροῖσος δὲ ἁµαρτὼν τοῦ χρησµοῦ...” (“Croesus, misinterpreting the oracle...” Herodotus, Histories 1.71.1).

5 Hollmann (2011), 176-207, gives a good account of the role of inanimate objects in communication, although he does not focus on the verbs with which they are paired; cf. Lateiner (1987), esp. 95-100 and 115-116; Dewald (1993); Chamberlain (1999); Munson (2005), 30-66; Miletti (2008), 71-85.

6 Of course, the term “ὄψις” (“vision”) is the subject of the sentence, but we should take this closely with the genitive “ὀνείρου” that follows. Immediately after the quoted excerpt, we again read of the dream’s speech (“φήµη”): “ὁ µὲν δὴ βληθεὶς τῇ αἰχµῇ ἐξέπλησε τοῦ ὀνείρου τὴν φήµην” (“he [Atys], having been pierced by the spear, fulfilled the declaration of the dream” Herodotus, Histories 1.43.3).

7 It is clear that this is not necessarily the “true” meaning of the dream, merely what the dream “tells” the dreamer; dreams are notoriously unreliable in Herodotus.

8 See Hollmann (2011), 20-27, although Hollmann does not expatiate on usage 6. On “σηµαίνειν” in Herodotus most recently, see Branscombe (2013), 135-136; Grethlein (2013), 208-211.

9 Cf. the passage mentioned above: “τοῦτον δὴ ὦν τὸν Ἄτυν σηµαίνει τῷ Κροίσῳ ὁ ὄνειρος, ὡς...” (“the dream then showed this Atys to Croesus – how...” Herodotus, Histories 1.34.2); cf. 1.45.2 with Nagy (1990), 246-247; 7.142.2, 7.173.3.

10 Cf. “ἐκ γάρ οἱ τῆς ὄψιος τῶν µάγων οἱ ὀνειροπόλοι ἐσήµαινον ὅτι µέλλοι ὁ τῆς θυγατρὸς αὐτοῦ γόνος βασιλεύσειν ἀντὶ ἐκείνου” (“... for the dream-interpreters of the Magi stated on the basis of the vision that the offspring of his daughter would rule instead of him” Herodotus, Histories 1.108.2). For an example of simple relay, see the episode where the herdsman relays the first words of the experimental children to Psammetichus at Herodotus, Histories 2.2.4; on the experiment of Psammetichus and its modern analogues, see Gera (2003), 68-111.

11 There are two other possible instances of inanimate “σηµαίνειν” (and its derivatives) in Herodotus. One is the grandiloquent usage, “φιλέει δέ κως προσηµαίνειν, εὖτ᾽ ἂν µέλλῃ µεγάλα κακὰ ἢ πόλι ἢ ἔθνεϊ ἔσεσθαι” (“usually there is some sign when great evils loom over either a city or a people” Herodotus, Histories 6.27.1); this may be impersonal, although How & Wells (1928), 2.74, recommend supplying “ὁ θεός”. The other is also apparently impersonal – a signal to the fleet, “τοῖσι δὲ Ἕλλησι ὡς ἐσήµηνε... δεύτερα δὲ σηµήναντος” (“as the signal was given to the Greeks... when it was given a second time” Herodotus, Histories 8.11.1), although Bowie (2007), 103, reasonably suggests that once again a suppressed subject such as “ὁ σαλπιγκτής” (“the trumpeter”) might be supplied.

12 Cf. “συνέπιπτε γὰρ καὶ τὸν ἐστιγµένον τὴν κεφαλὴν ἀπῖχθαι ἐκ Σούσων παρὰ Ἱστιαίου σηµαίνοντα ἀπίστασθαι Ἀρισταγόρην ἀπὸ βασιλέος. ὁ γὰρ Ἱστιαῖος βουλόµενος τῷ Ἀρισταγόρῃ σηµῆναι ἀποστῆναι...” (“for it occurred that the one who had been branded on the head arrived from Susa from Histiaeus, who signified that Aristagoras should rebel from the king. For Histiaeus wanted to signal to Aristagoras to rebel...” Herodotus, Histories 5.35.2-3).

13 Cf. Powell (1960) s.v. “λέγω” II: “metaph. of inanimates”.

14 For a different example, see Herodotus, Histories 1.187.5.

15 Cf., of a statue, “... λέγων διὰ γραµµάτων τάδε ‘ἐς ἐµέ τις ὀρέων εὐσεβὴς ἔστω’” (“[Inscribed] with words, saying the following, ‘let whoever beholds me be reverent’” Herodotus, Histories 2.141.6).

16 Cf. “ἕτερος δὲ τρίπους ἐν ἑξαμέτρῳ τόνῳ λέγει· ‘Σκαῖος πυγμαχέων με ἑκηβόλῳ Ἀπόλλωνι νικήσας ἀνέθηκε τεῒν περικαλλὲς ἄγαλμα’” (“another tripod says in hexameter, ‘Scaeus the boxer, having been victorious, set me up for Apollo the far-shooter, a lovely gift” Herodotus, Histories 5.60.1); for other interesting examples, see Hollmann (2011), 182 n. 302.

17 On oracles in Herodotus, see Crahay (1956); Kirchberg (1965); Hollmann (2011), 94-117; Grethlein (2013), 208-223.

18 Cf. “οἱ γὰρ Εὐβοέες παραχρησάμενοι τὸν Βάκιδος χρησμὸν ὡς οὐδὲν λέγοντα...” (“for the Euboeans, disregarding the prophecy of Bacis as being devoid of meaning/saying nothing...” Herodotus, Histories 8.20.1).

19 Cf. “τάχα δ᾽ ἂν καὶ τὰ χρηστήρια ταῦτά οἱ προλέγοι...” (“this happened to be also what the oracles predicted” Herodotus, Histories 8.136.3).

20 Cf. “λόγον τὸν ἐκεῖνοι ὑπολαβόντες Κύρῳ προσήνεικαν λέγοντα τάδε...” (“a speech which they took from him and laid before Cyrus; it said the following...” Herodotus, Histories 9.122.1). It should also be noted that even things that had no writing on them could λέγειν: “...εἰκάζοντος τὰ δῶρα λέγειν” (“...reasoning that the gifts were saying...” Herodotus, Histories 4.132.2).

21 On “εἶναι” as a verb of meaning in Herodotus, see below.

22 LSJ s.v. “ἐθέλω” II. 2. On “(ἐ)θέλειν”, see Chapter 2.

23 Cf. “... καὶ εἴρετο τοὺς µάγους τὸ θέλοι προφαίνειν τὸ φάσµα” (“and he asked the Magians what the omen might signify” Herodotus, Histories 7.37.2). Note that the Magians respond here in terms of what the god augurs: “οἱ δὲ ἔφασαν ὡς Ἕλλησι προδεικνύει ὁ θεὸς ἔκλειψιν τῶν πολίων” (“they said that the god was foretelling the abandonment by the Greeks of their cities” Herodotus, Histories 7.37.3).

24 Cf. “τὸ δὲ ἔπος τοῦτο ἐθέλει λέγειν, ὡς...” (“and this expression means that...” Herodotus, Histories 2.13.3).

25 Hude endorses the correction of “εἶπαι” for “εἶναι” here; Rosén comments “fort. recte”.

26 For a different interpretation of this phrase, see Hollmann (2011), 37.

27 Cf. “Πέρσαι δὲ τὸν φέροντα τὰ δῶρα ἐπειρώτεον τὸν νόον τῶν διδοµένων” (“the Persians asked the one carrying the gifts as to their meaning” Herodotus, Histories 4.131.2). It is worth noting that the probably spurious phrase “οὗτος δὲ ὁ νόος τοῦ ῥήµατος, τὸ ἐθέλει λέγειν...” (“this was the intention of the statement, it meant...” Herodotus, Histories 7.162.2), condemned by editors since the nineteenth century, combines the “νόος” and “(ἐ) θέλει λέγειν” constructions; it is possible that the one glosses the other.

28 On this terminology, see in particular Miletti (2008); Chamberlain (1999) and Munson (2005), 30-66, provide further details.

29 Considerations concerning naming in other languages can also be found in Hecataeus; cf. FGrHist 1 F 15, 21, and 22; for foreign language equivalents in the early historians, see Fowler (1996), n. 94.

30 We also find the verb “ὀνοµάζειν” (“to name”) being used in this sense: “Κανδαύλης, τὸν οἱ Ἕλληνες ‘Μυρσίλον’ ὀνοµάζουσι” (“Candaules, whom the Greeks call ‘Myrsilus’” Herodotus, Histories 1.7.2); cf. Chamberlain (1999), 277 n. 33.

31 Cf. “οὔνοµα δὲ τῇ γυναικὶ ἦν τῇ συνοίκεε ‘Κυνὼ’ κατὰ τὴν Ἑλλήνων γλῶσσαν, κατὰ δὲ τὴν Μηδικὴν ‘Σπακώ’ τὴν γὰρ κύνα καλέουσι ‘σπάκα’ Μῆδοι...” (“the name of this woman was ‘Cyno’ in the Greek language, but ‘Spaco’ in that of the Medes: for the Medes call a dog ‘spaco’” Herodotus, Histories 1.110.1); “πυνθανόµενος δὲ εὕρισκε Φρύγας καλέοντας τὸν ἄρτον” (“and having inquired he [i.e. Psammetichus] discovered that the Phrygians call bread by this name [‘bekos’]” Herodotus, Histories 2.2.4); “‘ἄριµα’ γὰρ ἓν καλέουσι Σκύθαι,‘σποῦ’ δὲ ὀφθαλόν” (“for the Scythians call the number one ‘arima’, and an eye ‘spou’” Herodotus, Histories 4.27.1).

32 Cf. “ἔστι δὲ Αἰγυπτιστὶ ὁ Λίνος καλεύµενος ‘Μανερῶς’” (“but Linus is called ‘Maneros’ in Egyptian” Herodotus, Histories 2.79.2).

33 A related usage in Herodotus is that of the worth of coins, for example at Histories 3.89.2; see the interesting comments of Chamberlain (1999), 275-276.

34 Cf. LfgE s.v. “δύναµαι”; LSJ s.v. “δύναµαι”.

35 Cf. “δύναται δὲ κατὰ Ἑλλάδα γλῶσσαν ταῦτα τὰ οὐνόµατα, ‘Δαρεῖος’ ‘ἐρξείης’...” (“as for the meaning of these names in the Greek language: ‘Darius’ means ‘doer’...” Herodotus, Histories 6.98.3); “τοῖσι δὲ αὐτοµόλοισι τούτοισι οὔνοµά ἐστι ‘Ἀσµάχ’, δύναται δὲ τοῦτο τὸ ἔπος κατὰ τὴν Ἑλλήνων γλῶσσαν ‘οἱ ἐξ ἀριστερῆς χειρὸς παριστάµενοι βασιλέϊ’” (“these deserters had the name ‘Asmach’; and this word means in the Greek language ‘those who stand on the right-hand side of the king’” Herodotus, Histories 2.30.1).

36 Cf. “συνεβάλοντο οἱ Παίονες τὸ χρηστήριον αὐτὸ τοῦτο εἶναι” (“the Paiones reckoned that this was exactly what the oracle meant” Herodotus, Histories 5.1.3); cf. Histories 7.142.2 with Hornblower (2013), 228; LSJ s.v. “εἰµί” B: “... hence, signify, import”.

37 Cf. Powell (1960), s.v. “φέρω” II. 2.

38 Cf. “Λακεδαιµόνιοι δὲ µαθόντες οὐκ ἐς γυµνικοὺς ἀλλ᾽ ἐς ἀρηίους ἀγῶνας φέρον τὸ Τεισαµενοῦ µαντήιον...” (“but the Lacedaemonians, learning that the oracle of Teisamenus did not refer to athletics but rather to manly contests [i.e. battle]” Herodotus, Histories 9.33.3); “ἐχρήσθη ἐπίκοινον χρηστήριον, τὸ µὲν ἐς αὐτοὺς τοὺς Ἀργείους φέρον, τὴν δὲ παρενθήκην ἔχρησε ἐς Μιλησίους” (“a common oracular response was given, the one referring to the Argives, but there was an additional response for the Milesians” Herodotus, Histories 6.19.1).

39 Cf. Powell (1960), s. v. “ἔχω” IV.B.3.b: “τὸ µέν νυν ἐς τοὺς Ἀργείους ἔχον...” (“the one referring to the Argives...” Herodotus, Histories 6.19.2).

40 Cf. “ὥστε καὶ τοῦτο τοῦ ᾄσµατος πρὸς τοῦτο τείνει...” (“so that the upshot of the poem is this...” Plato, Protagoras 345b). Similar locutions existed in Latin; cf. “hoc quam ad rem credam pertinere somnium nequeo inuenire” (“I cannot find out what I should think the dream pertains to” Plautus, Mercator 252-253); Plautus, Rudens 611-612 (“attinere” of a dream: “pertains to”).

41 Cf. Powell (1960), s. v. “δύναµις”.

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