Bryn Mawr Classical Review

BMCR 2017.12.36 on the BMCR blog

Bryn Mawr Classical Review 2017.12.36

Luca Bettarini, Lingua e testo di Ipponatte. Syncrisis, 3.   Pisa; Roma:  Fabrizio Serra editore, 2017.  Pp. 160.  ISBN 9788862279383.  €52.00 (pb).  

Reviewed by Shane Hawkins, Carleton University (

This is an excellent slim volume on Hipponax divided into five chapters that focus on connections between the language of the poet and the literature of archaic epic and lyric. The unifying thread throughout is Bettarini’s desire to support some of the more remarkable Hipponactean forms attested in our sources by appealing to the poet’s use of parodic or burlesque archaisms derived from the formal or poetic register. On the whole, the book is well-researched and judicious, and it will be a valuable resource for anyone working on Hipponax or interested more broadly in archaic lyric.

Chapter 1 looks at a set of compound words, for which Bettarini adopts the Norse term kenningar. Such words function as substitutive periphrases for common nouns, often requiring some exegetical effort in order to be appreciated. Working with a very broad definition of this term, Bettarini includes examples from Hipponax such as the small animal, perhaps the centipede, called χιλιάγρα (181D) ‘having a thousand hooks/claws’, which can be taken literally or as a metaphor for a greedy person, and χειρόχωλος (180D), in which an impairment of the hand alludes metaphorically to a person’s avarice (compare English ‘tight-fisted’).

The chapter commences with a lengthy discussion of the word κρεκύδειλος ‘crocodile’ (40D, 135D), which is usually emended metri causa. Following earlier scholars, Bettarini understands this as a compound word meaning ‘who has a worm (δρῖλος) for a tail (κέρκος)’ and supports an emended reading κερκύδιλος. The evidence for a stem κέρκυ- is slight and comes from names that are possibly non-Greek: ΚΕΡΚΥΣ on an inscription from Phrygia in the imperial era, Κερκυών of Eleusis the mythical foe of Theseus, and the otherwise unknown ΚΕΡΚΥΝΟΣ on an Apulian pelike of the 4th century BCE (LIMC VI, 1992 s.v. Kerkynos). Hesychius’ κέρκυ, I suggest, is actually a distortion of the neighboring entry Κερκυραία μάστιξ, which is explained using similar language (διπλῆ αὕτη / διπλᾶς αὐτὰς). Perhaps most relevant for Hipponax, but not mentioned by Bettarini, is the supposed name of Sappho’s husband, Kerkylas of Andros (‘Dick from the Isle of Man’), an obscene joke with origins possibly in late Attic comedy, but possibly also a real name (cf. Κερκύλος of Euboia (LGPN 1:254, also not mentioned).

There follows a long section on κυνάγχα and the much-discussed fragment 2D. Bettarini briefly touches on σκαπερδεῦσαι, unfortunately accepting the explanation offered by Tzetzes (συμμαχῆσαι), which is clearly autoschediastic, while largely ignoring solid recent proposals that explain it as a Lydian loanword. On the name Candaules he prefers Felix Solmsen’s etymology ‘dog- strangler’, ignoring again more recent work connecting it to Anatolian words for ‘king’.1 And, in spite of the evidence for Hermes’ early association with dogs, Bettarini goes to great lengths to argue that κυνάγχα is merely a kenning, no more than a comic replacement for φιλήτης, with no specific reference to Hermes throttling dogs.2

Bettarini considers ὀμφαλητόμος ‘navel-snipper’ (33D) a kenning for μαῖα, and possibly a burlesque creation of Hipponax or a colloquialism taken from quotidian language. But it is difficult to believe that this is a kenning in a meaningful sense of that word, and not simply a colorful compound. The same could be said for the four words examined here that probably describe prostitutes: ἀνασεισίφαλλος ‘cock-shaker’ (151D), ἀνασυρτόλις ‘skirt-raiser’ (152D), βορβορόπη ‘smut-hole’ (158D), and κασωρῖτις ‘brothel girl’ (165D). It is difficult, I think, to imagine any of these as kenningar rather than simply as epithets of a prostitute or some other object of abuse.

Chapter 2 is devoted to seven cases of Homeric or solemn forms in Hipponax that derive their comic strength from the contrast between their high formal style and the triviality of the context. Among the more interesting examples there is the verbal suffix -σκ-, which appears in iambic/elegy only here in Hipponax (twice) and once in Mimnermus. In non-Ionic authors it is typically considered an epicism, while in Ionic authors it is usually considered an Ionicism. Bettarini suggests that given its rare occurrence it is a very studied morphological form that belonged to a high register. This is fitting for θύεσκε and the parodic tenor of fragment 107D,3 but such an interpretation seems unlikely for the fragment in which one finds φοίτε[σκε (78.11D), besides which the epic form is φοιτάω.

The triple-compound μεσσηγυδορποχέστης (171D) ‘mid-supper-shitter’ is a sort of Hipponactean joke in miniature. The geminate form μεσσηγυ-, an Aeolism from epic language, and the solemn δορπο- are comically deflated by –χέστης, producing a travesty of formal diction. The 3rd singular accusative reflexive pronoun appears nowhere in iambic or elegy except in an emendation in Solon (13.27W) and in West’s emended text of Hipponax 34D; Bettarini nevertheless maintains it is possibly used as a comic bit of intentionally misplaced high style.

In Chapter 3 Bettarini marshals support from literary sources to argue in favor of certain forms found in our text of the poet. Hipponax’s ἅδηκε (137D), perfect of ἁνδάνω, only appears here and once, with reduplication, in a Locrian inscription. The fact that Hipponax’s form is a relatively recent kappa formation but unreduplicated is noteworthy, and Bettarini takes it as a poetic form inspired by the Homeric phrase ἥνδανε βουλή, where the imperfect is often thought to be an (Attic) replacement of the augmentless ἅνδανε. This augmentless imperfect, he reasons, induced Hipponax to extemporize an unreduplicated perfect. Ionic ληός (140D) is taken as an archaism of poetic diction, borrowed from an older non-Homeric, but probably epic, Ionic poetic tradition, which Hipponax knew and used here for reasons unknown. As Bettarini himself shows, however, forms in λᾱο-, ληο-, and λεω- are all known to epic bards and lyric poets, and ληός also appears in Herodotus (5.42), so recourse to a lost poetic tradition seems unnecessary. It might be simpler to suppose that Hipponax chose, from the possibilities available to him, the metrically expedient form that was markedly Ionic.

The apparent locative Πυγέλησι[ is attested in a patchy papyrus (95.15D). Bettarini, however, has seen a correction that has passed unnoticed by editors, in which the eta is crossed out and ΛΟΙ is written superscript, giving Πυγέλλοισι. The resulting form is unmetrical and taken as a slip for Πυγέλοισι. As Bettarini notes, the correction is in line with double-lambda forms attested for Pygela elsewhere and it eliminates “the uncomfortable locative”.4 I do not think, however, that the lectio difficilior can be so easily removed. In line eleven the papyrus gives the Attic form ὀσμήν (rightly corrected by editors to ὀδμήν), suggesting a normalizing hand at work on the papyrus.

Bettarini next discusses two cases of distraction explained as artificial poetic forms created by the rhythmical necessity of the performance and admitted in the production of lyric as a stylistic choice. He would connect ]επλοωσεν[ (77.3D) to some form of πλώω and explain the unusual distraction with reference to similar cases in archaic poetry where long vowels which are not the result of previous contractions are nevertheless distracted. The few parallels he adduces, however, are problematic and admit solutions without appeal to this process of distraction. More straightforward is an explanation of ἀνοιίη (79.3D; cf. ἀνοιία in Alcaeus 112.1W, 199.5W) for ἀνοίη as a kind of metrical lengthening seen elsewhere in words like ὁμοίιος, γελοίιος, and ὀλοίιος. Given the context of this fragment, B. thinks ἀνοιίη is used parodically here.

Finally, Bettarini explains the unexpected aspirate in ν]ενυχμένωι (107.32D), from νύσσω, as either an expressive form or an intentional archaism put to burlesque ends. Outside of μεμορυχμένος and ἀκαχμένος, the aspiration is not common in epic. Archilochus’ much-discussed ἐσμυριχμένας (48.5W) is certainly neither archaic nor expressive. Similar forms in Alcman and Sappho are sometimes explained as reanalyzes of the infinitive (-χθαι) or second plural of perfect middle passive (-χθε), which suggests that Hipponax’s forms may be neither expressive nor archaizing, but rather a simple by-form in the language.5

Chapter 4 handles select characteristics of the Ionic dialect that have repercussions for Hipponax’s text. Psilosis is attested across the board with the exception of two examples in the manuscripts, both regularly corrected by editors (121D, 122D) and two examples from a single papyrus (81.3D, 86.5D). Bettarini would emend ἔννεφ’ ὅπως (126.3D), while he views κατευδούσης (69.7D) as an intrusive hyperionism and ὑφέλξων (20.3D) as a comic archaism. There are two instances of metathesis of aspiration: κύθρος for χύτρος (118D) and θεῦτις for τευθίς (162D). In both cases the lack of context is a problem, but Bettarini suggests these may be colloquialisms used to characterize someone’s speech. There is an interesting section on the writing and prosody of <εο>, <εου> and <εω> and endings in –εος and –εως. With three exceptions, Hipponax has -ευ: θεόσυλιν (129a.1D), and the Atticisms μου (121D) and φρονοῦσι (119D). West, Degani, and Gerber generalize the correction to contracted forms in –εο- (and φρονέουσι), but against this generalization Bettarini argues that if -ευ- was already used in 6th century and in the Homeric text (whatever that means at this time), it must also have been available for Hipponax. He prefers to read the problematic ἔτνεος (118D) as a bisyllable, taking the line as an iambic trimeter catalectic, otherwise unattested in Hipponax but identified as one of his meters by Servius.

The final chapter is an interesting study of onomastics as a source of iambic wit. Both Archilochus and Hipponax play on names and confer patronymics on squalid characters, but there are indications that Hipponax develops this in ways unfamiliar to Archilochus. One of these is Hipponax’s predilection for geographical names used in malam partem, such as Σινδικὸν διάσφαγμα (4bD), which is atypical of Archilochus but common in later comedy. Also unknown to Archilochus but present in Hipponax are names ‘parodicamente storpiati’ (e.g., Κυψώ, an obscene pun on Καλυψώ), which, of course, are also well-attested in comedy. Also unlike Archilochus, Hipponax seems to have relished mythological names. He heaps scorn on three individuals with dubious mythological namesakes: Arete ‘desired/cursed’, the incestuous wife-sister of Alcinoos, Pandora (here, perhaps, the name of a prostitute), and Eurymedon (126D). Bettarini suspects the poet linked the last of these to his Odyssean eponym, progenitor of the royal house of Phaeacia and king of Giants who was destroyed by the gods (Od. 7.58–60). He sees here genuine political involvement by the poet in the affairs of the city; the demos is the object of the poet’s darts while the descendant of Eurymedon, a competing fellow aristocrat, is attacked for his unrestrained gluttony and marked for elimination by expulsion from the city and stoning as a pharmakos.6


1.   Shane Hawkins, Studies in the Language of Hipponax (Bremen: Hempen Verlag, 2013), 167–82 on Candaules, 190–94 on σκαπερδεῦσαι.
2.   See Diether Schurr, Kadmos 39 (2000) 165–76 and 40 (2001) 65–6, Hawkins op. cit., p. 167–82, and now Alexander Dale’s (forthcoming) paper arguing for a rich association of themes among Hermes the dog-throttler, Candaules the semi-mythical king with voyeuristic sexual appetites, and the rich and exotic Greco-Lydian delicacy known as kandaulos.
3.   On the epicizing vocabulary in this fragment see the forthcoming treatment by Alexander Dale in ZPE.
4.   And therefore renders my suggested supplement Πυγελησί[ου (op. cit., p. 135) very unlikely. A digitized image of the papyrus is available at PSIonline. See further Rafaelle Luiselli, Analecta Papyrologica 28 (2016) 235–38.
5.   I suggested (op. cit., p. 61) the aspiration arose by a process of analogy; pace Bettarini, I did not mean to suggest that the analogy worked directly on the perfect form.
6.   Missing from this discussion is the sexual innuendo associated with the name Eurymedon; see James Davidson, Courtesans and Fishcakes (London: Harper Collins, 1997), 167–82.

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