PURA. Purism In Antiquity: Theories Of Language in Greek Atticist Lexica and their Legacy

Lexicographic entries

μεῖζον μεῖζον, μικρὸν μικρόν
(Antiatt. μ 22, Antiatt. μ 23)

A. Main sources

(1) Antiatt. μ 22: μεῖζον μεῖζον· <**>.

μεῖζον μεῖζον Valente (2015), who edits μικρὸν μικρόν separately as Antiatt. μ 23    : μεῖζον μεῖζον, μικρὸν μικρόν cod., Bekker (1814–1821 vol. 1, 108.7).

μεῖζον μεῖζον: <the interpretamentum is missing>.

(2) Antiatt. μ 23: μικρὸν μικρόν· ἀντὶ τοῦ ἀεὶ κατὰ μικρόν. Ἀντιφάνης Ἀγροίκῳ.

μικρὸν μικρόν Valente (2015) : μεῖζον μεῖζον, μικρὸν μικρόν cod., Bekker (1814–1821 vol. 1, 108.7).

μικρὸν μικρόν: meaning ‘little by little’. Antiphanes in the Agroikos (fr. 10 = C.1).

B. Other erudite sources


C. Loci classici, other relevant texts

(1) Antiph. fr. 10 = Antiatt. μ 23 re. μικρὸν μικρόν (A.2).

(2) LXX Ex. 23.30.2–3: κατὰ μικρὸν μικρὸν ἐκβαλῶ αὐτοὺς ἀπὸ σοῦ, ἕως ἂν αὐξηθῇς καὶ κληρονομήσῃς τὴν γῆν.

Little by little I will drive them out from before you, until you have increased [in number] and possess the land.

(3) LXX De. 7.22.1–3: καὶ καταναλώσει κύριος ὁ θεός σου τὰ ἔθνη ταῦτα ἀπὸ προσώπου σου κατὰ μικρὸν μικρόν.

The Lord your God will drive out those nations before you, little by little.

(4) Apoc.Bar. 7.3.1–2: καὶ ἐν τῷ ὁμιλεῖν με αὐτῷ, ὁρῶ τὸ ὄρνεον καὶ ἀνεφάνη ἔμπροσθεν, καὶ πρὸς μικρὸν μικρὸν ηὔξανε, καὶ ἀνεπληροῦτο.

And while I was talking to him, I saw the bird, it appeared in front of me and little by little it became bigger and finally it gained its full size.

(5) Symeon Neotheologus Gratiarum actiones II 36.255–6: ταῦτα εἰπὼν ἐσιώπησας καὶ μικρὸν μικρὸν ὁ γλυκὺς καὶ καλὸς Δεσπότης ἐκρύβης ἐξ ὀφθαλμῶν μου […].

Having thus spoken you were silent and little by little, my sweet and good Lord, you were hidden from my eyes.

(6) Aristid. 25.62.3–5 Behr (= 43.821.11–13 Dindorf): οὐ γὰρ εὖ πράξασα, εἶτα χεῖρον ἔπραξεν οὐδ’ ἀεὶ κατὰ μικρὸν ἕως ἀπέσβη, ἀλλ’ οὖσα μὲν ἦν μεγίστη […].

For having fared well [this city] did not next fare worse, nor even gradually diminish until it was extinguished, but while it existed it was the greatest […]. (Transl. Behr 1981, 71).

(7) Amph. Or. 8.124–7: σιδήρῳ γὰρ ὁ πληγεὶς καὶ ῥεῖον τὸ τραῦμα λαβὼν οἴχεται ἀναισθησίᾳ φυγὼν τοῦ πάθους τὴν χαλεπότητα, ὁ δὲ ἀκουσίῳ πενίᾳ τετοξευμένος θάνατον ἔχει τὸν πόνον καὶ τέθνηκεν· οὐχ ἅπαξ δαπανούμενος, θνῄσκει δὲ ἀεὶ κατὰ μικρόν.

He who is smitten by a weapon, even when he receives a slight wound, dies in a state of unconsciousness, avoiding the hardship of pain. But he who is hit by involuntary poverty experiences deadly suffering and then he lies dead. He is not destroyed in one go but dies little by little.

D. General commentary

The expressions μεῖζον μεῖζον and μικρὸν μικρόν are instances of reduplication, a phenomenon that also concerns the preceding lemma, Antiatt. μ 21 on μᾶλλον μᾶλλον as well as the following, Antiatt. μ 24 (μίαν μίαν). We therefore have here a small, thematic section in which the Antiatticist deals with the same linguistic phenomenon (an overview of Greek reduplication is provided in the entry on μᾶλλον μᾶλλον). μεῖζον μεῖζον and μικρὸν μικρόν occur in the same line in cod. Par. Coisl. 345Par. Coisl. 345 and are edited as one lemma by Bekker (1814–1821 vol. 1, 108.7). This would mean that epitomisation caused the loss of the interpretation for μεῖζον μεῖζον, since the surviving interpretation ἀντὶ τοῦ ἀεὶ κατὰ μικρόν refers only to μικρὸν μικρόν.

Valente (2015) chooses to split the two sequences across two lemmas. His decision is guided by the fact that in editing Antiph. fr. 10 (C.1), Kassel and Austin signal in their apparatus that they view only μικρὸν μικρόν as belonging to Antiphanes’ fragment. This is probably the right choice, given that these two reduplicated expressions, though structurally identical, have different functions and semantics, and are therefore unlikely to have been included in the same explanation. μεῖζον μεῖζον is not found in any text apart from Antiph. fr. 10, the locus classicus quoted by the Antiatticist (the occurrence of μεῖζον καὶ μεῖζον in Maximus Planudes, Epistulae 119.99 is a ‘false friend’ in that it modifies a preceding κακόν). It is probably an instance of reduplication with an intensifying function (like μᾶλλον μᾶλλον ‘more and more’) and an emphasis on size (‘bigger and bigger’: unlike μᾶλλον μᾶλλον, where the emphasis is on quantity). On the other hand, in μικρὸν μικρόν the reduplication of an adverb of quantity expresses gradation, as shown by the interpretamentum κατὰ μικρόν ‘little by little’. Semantics aside, the occurrence of the two reduplicated expressions in two successive Antiatticist lemmas is clearly motivated by the antonymic nature of their headwords.

μικρὸν μικρόν as such is not attested elsewhere in ancient Greek texts, including inscriptions and papyri, though it resurfaces sporadically in some later Byzantine works (e.g. Nicolaus Catascepenus, Vita sancti Cyrilli Phileotae 37.1.7; George Pachymeres, Historia brevis 4.31.82). By far the most normal expression is κατὰ μικρὸν μικρὸν, first attested in the Septuagint (C.2, C.3). The Greek Apocalypse of Baruch (C.4) also corroborates the existence of the variant πρὸς μικρὸν μικρὸν. κατὰ μικρὸν μικρὸν itself is a strengthening of the simple κατὰ μικρὸν, a very common phrase in Ancient Greek. The Antiatticist’s interpretation, ἀντὶ τοῦ ἀεὶ κατὰ μικρόν, shows that κατά κατά was part of the common intensifying strategies used for μικρόν (see too C.6, C.7). As with μᾶλλον μᾶλλον, the attention given to μικρὸν μικρὸν in the Antiatticist may have been sparked by its rarity in relation to other, more common variants.

E. Byzantine and Modern Greek commentary

For the few Byzantine instances of μικρὸν μικρόν, see D.. μικρόν μικρόν continues into Modern Greek, but with a different meaning: it instead expresses emphasis (‘very small’: see example no. 8.12 in Kallergi 2015, 312). Semantically speaking, the corresponding expressions would be λίγο λίγο ‘little by little’, gradually’ or μικρόν κατά μικρόν ‘gradually’.

F. Commentary on individual texts and occurrences



Behr, C. A. (1981). P. Aelius Aristides. The Complete Works. Vol. 2: Orations XVII–LIII. Leiden.

Bekker, I. (1814–1821). Anecdota Graeca. 3 vols. Berlin.

Kallergi, H. (2015). Reduplication at the Word Level. The Greek Facts in Typological Perspective. Berlin, Boston.

Valente, S. (2015). The Antiatticist. Introduction and Critical Edition. Berlin, Boston.


Olga Tribulato, 'μεῖζον μεῖζον, μικρὸν μικρόν    (Antiatt. μ 22, Antiatt. μ 23)', in Olga Tribulato (ed.), Digital Encyclopedia of Atticism. With the assistance of E. N. Merisio.
DOI: https://doi.org/10.30687/DEA/2021/01/017

This article deals with the reduplicated comparative adverbs μεῖζον μεῖζον and μικρὸν μικρόν, discussed in the Atticist lexica Antiatt. μ 22, and Antiatt. μ 23.