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

Lexicographic entries

ἄνεμος καὶ ὄλεθρος ἄνθρωπος
(Phryn. PS 21.12)

A. Main sources

(1) Phryn. PS 21.12: ἄνεμος καὶ ὄλεθρος ἄνθρωπος· Εὔπολις.

ἄνεμος καὶ ὄλεθρος ἄνθρωπος (‘A person [who is] wind and ruin’): Eupolis (fr. 406 = C.1) [uses it].

B. Other erudite sources

(1) Σb α 1351 (= Phot. α 1801, ex Σ´´´): ἄνεμος καὶ ὄλεθρος ἄνθρωπος· πάνυ καινῶς εἴρηται καὶ ἐναργῶς. ἔστι δὲ Εὐπόλιδος· τὸ μὲν γὰρ ἄνεμος δηλοῖ τὸ πανταχοῦ φερόμενον ἀνέμου δίκην καὶ ἀλώμενον καὶ ἀβέβαιον, τὸ δὲ ὄλεθρος ὀλέθρου ἄξιον καὶ ἀπωλείας. χρήσῃ δὲ τῷ λόγῳ, ὥς φησι Φρύνιχος, ἐν συνουσίαις.

ἄνεμος καὶ ὄλεθρος ἄνθρωπος (‘A person [who is] wind and ruin’): It is said in a quite novel and vivid manner. [The expression] belongs to Eupolis (fr. 406 = C.1); for the word ‘wind’ indicates something that goes in every direction, as the wind does, and that wanders about and is unfixed, while [the word] ‘ruin’ [indicates something] worthy of ruin and destruction. You should use the phrase, says Phrynichus (PS 21.12 = A.1), in conversation. (Transl. Olson 2014, 173, slightly adapted).

C. Loci classici, other relevant texts

(1) Eup. fr. 406 = Phryn. PS 21.12 re. ἄνεμος καὶ ὄλεθρος ἄνθρωπος (A.1).

(2) Ar. Lys. 321–5:
πέτου πέτου, Νικοδίκη,
πρὶν ἐμπεπρῆσθαι Καλύκην
τε καὶ Κρίτυλλαν περιφυσήτω
ὑπό τε νότων ἀργαλέων
ὑπό τε γερόντων ὀλέθρων.

τε νότων Wilson (2007 vol. 2, 21) : τε νόμων codd. : τ’ἀνέμων Oeri, see Henderson (1987, 19).

Fly, fly, Nicodice, before Calyce and Critylla go up in flames, fanned all around by nasty winds and old calamitous men. (Transl. Henderson 2000, 309, slightly adapted).

(3) Men. Sam. 348: χαμαιτύπη δ’ ἅνθρωπος, ὄλεθρος.

[She is] a prostitute, a scum.

(4) D. 9.31: ἀλλ’ οὐχ ὑπὲρ Φιλίππου καὶ ὧν ἐκεῖνος πράττει νῦν, οὐχ οὕτως ἔχουσιν, οὐ μόνον οὐχ Ἕλληνος ὄντος οὐδὲ προσήκοντος οὐδὲν τοῖς Ἕλλησιν, ἀλλ’ οὐδὲ βαρβάρου ἐντεῦθεν ὅθεν καλὸν εἰπεῖν, ἀλλ’ ὀλέθρου Μακεδόνος, ὅθεν οὐδ’ ἀνδράποδον σπουδαῖον οὐδὲν ἦν πρότερον πρίασθαι.

Yet they have no such qualms about Philip and his present conduct, though he is not only no Greek, nor related to the Greeks, but not even a barbarian from any place that can be named with honour, but a pestilent knave from Macedonia, whence it was never yet possible to buy a decent slave. (Transl. Vince 1930, 241–2).

D. General commentary

Phrynichus’ gloss (A.1) is concerned with the idiomatic expression ἄνεμος καὶ ὄλεθρος ἄνθρωπος (‘a person [who is] wind and ruin’), which is ascribed to the comic poet Eupolis. To fully appreciate Phrynichus’ interest in this expression, it is necessary to focus on its individual constituents. ὄλεθρος (‘ruin’, ‘destruction’) is frequently attested in Homer and in the epic tradition (see, e.g., Hes. Th. 326; Pi. P. 2.41; B. 5.139) and is later well attested in Attic tragedy (e.g. Aesch. Ch. 862, Eu. 935, Eur. Me. 993 + 13x, Soph. OT 450 + 5x), comedy (e.g. Aristophanes 7x), and prose (e.g. Plato 14x, Demosthenes 26x). ὄλεθρος may also be used metaphorically as a Schimpfwort: in this sense, it means ‘which causes destruction’ (see LSJ s.v.), ‘calamitous’, or ‘who deserves destruction’, i.e. ‘worthless person, scum’, as argued in the item shared by the Synagoge and Photius (B.1) and in schol. (Ulp.) D. 18.224b (see also Sommerstein 2013, 210: ‘one who deserves to be destroyed’). This metaphoricalMetaphors use of ὄλεθρος in which Phrynichus is interested and with which he credits Eupolis (C.1) is typical of comic abuse. Aside from its occurrence in Lys. 325 (C.2, on which see Henderson 1987, 109), Aristophanes also uses it in Ec. 934 and Th. 860, in both cases as a direct insult (ὦλεθρε, ‘you disaster’, ‘you scum’), and in Men. Dysc. 365–6 and Sam. 348 (C.3, on which, see Sommerstein 2013, 210). Although it is typical of comedy and likely originates from the genre, the pejorative use of ὄλεθρος is not uncommon in prose: Demosthenes, for instance, refers to Philip as ὄλεθρος Μακεδών (C.4) and, at 18.127, describes Aeschines as ὄλεθρος γραμματεύς (‘a clerk [who is] ruin’, on which see Wankel 1976 vol. 2, 678–80; Yunis 2001, 184; Worman 2008, 267–8); see also D. 21.209 and D. 23.202. ὄλεθρος also occurs as a Schimpfwort in Lucian’s prose: see, among others, Luc. Par. 42.29 (on which see Nesselrath 1985, 416, with parallels). On ὄλεθρος and other abusive metaphors, see also Svennung 1958, 61.

Whereas ὄλεθρος is a consolidated insult in the comic tradition and elsewhere, no analogously abusive meaning of ἄνεμος is attested beyond Eupolis’ fragment (C.1). This unprecedented usage of ἄνεμος, apparently modelled on the well-known usage of ὄλεθρος, may be precisely what attracted Phrynichus’ interest and led him to highlight Eupolis’ expression as remarkable and valuable. Note that an abusive sense of ἄνεμος is later attested in Medieval Greek, in which ἄνεμος can also means ‘devil’ (Kriaras, LME s.v., see E.).

The gloss shared by the Synagoge and Photius (B.1) preserves a more extended version of Phrynichus’ entry, allowing us to appreciate a doctrine of the PS that might otherwise have been lost as a result of the epitomisation to which the work was subjected. The evaluative terminology of the extended version (B.1) suggests that Phrynichus’ item (A.1), now heavily abridged, was originally intended to draw attention to what Phrynichus considered to be a callida iunctura. In describing the expression ἄνεμος καὶ ὄλεθρος ἄνθρωπος as innovative (καινῶς) and vivid (ἐναργῶς), the gloss yields interesting insights into register and rhetorical efficacy. The indirect tradition of the PS preserves several entries that use the concept of καινότης for callidae iuncturae, unusual word pairings that are perceived as notable and witty (the other field to which the category of innovation is applied is syntaxSyntax: for a more extensive account of καινότης in the Synagoge’s tradition and in Photius in relation to the PS, see entry ἀγανακτῶ σου). Other glosses of the indirect tradition of the PS that comment on unusual expressions include Phot. α 1488 (where the expression ἀναιδὲς καὶ θρασὺ βλέπειν, ‘to look greedily and insolently [at something]’ [Cratin. fr. 377], is promoted for its novelty), corresponding to Phryn. PS 14.16Phryn. PS 14.16; Phot. α 1913, corresponding to Phryn. PS 44.7–10Phryn. PS 44.7–10; and Phot. α 551, corresponding to PS 20.1–2Phryn. PS 20.1–2 (see entry ᾄδειν ὅμοιον). Furthermore, de Borries identified Σb 304 = Phot. α 273, Σb 404 = Phot. α 414, and Phot. α 1980 as fragments of Phrynichus’ PS (respectively, Phryn. PS fr. *66Phryn. PS fr. *66, fr. *91Phryn. PS fr. *91, and fr. *193Phryn. PS fr. *193) precisely because they base their evaluation on the criterion of καινότης (see de Borries 1911, 141: ‘Phrynichi more dicta’).

The use of the adverb ἐναργῶς (‘vividly’) is particularly interesting in its evocation of ἐνάργεια (‘vividness’), a key concept in rhetoric concerning expressive means that exert a visual impact and the ability to evoke vivid images (on the definition of ἐνάργεια and related ancient doctrines, see Berardi 2017, 143–7, particularly regarding the progymnasmataProgymnasmata, Nünlist 2009, 194–8; note that, to highlight its visual connotation, Nünlist [194] translates the word as ‘graphic quality’). The use of ἐνάργεια as an evaluative category reveals an interest that is not limited to linguistic purism but extends rather to efficacy and rhetorical strength. Similarly to καινότης, ἐνάργεια, which otherwise appears to be absent from Atticist lexica, is certainly employed once by Phrynichus (PS 12.9–10)Phryn. PS 12.9–10 and is found in the indirect tradition of the PS: see Phot. α 2058, corresponding to Phryn. PS fr. *23Phryn. PS fr. *23, Σb α 1350 = Phot. α 1784 (see Phryn. PS fr. *185Phryn. PS fr. *185), and Σb α 404 = Phot. α 414 (see Phryn. PS fr. *91Phryn. PS fr. *91). The latter combines both the criteria of καινότης and ἐνάργεια, as our entry (B.1) does, and, remarkably, it adopts a quasi-identical formulation (B.1: ‘πάνυ καινῶς εἴρηται καὶ ἐναργῶς’, Σb α 404 = Phot. α 414: ‘πάνυ καινὸν καὶ ἐναργῶς εἴρηται’, ‘it is said in a quite novel and vivid manner’). It is likely that both καινότης and ἐνάργεια are distinctively employed in the PS as stylisticStyle criteria that Phrynichus values in the context of training prospective rhetors to select suitable and profitable expressions. While both criteria are scarcely visible in the epitomeEpitome as it is preserved today, the vestiges of their presence may be more extensively witnessed in the lexicon’s indirect tradition.

E. Byzantine and Modern Greek commentary

Both ἄνεμος and ὄλεθρος survived throughout the centuries, preserving their original meanings; ἄνεμος in particular has remained productive, serving as the basis on which several compounds were formed in Medieval and Modern Greek (see Kriaras, LME s.v.; LKN s.v.). ὄλεθρος is widely used across different registers and also forms part of several proverbial expressions (see e.g. Su. ε 97, κ 1606: Κιλίκιος ὄλεθρος, ‘Cilician ruin’). Its metaphorical use to indicate a person whom the speaker wishes to insult is also attested in Byzantine Greek, albeit infrequently: see e.g. Nicephorus Basilaces (Ep. 1.35), directly (although freely) quoting Demosthenes’ passage (C.4), Arethas (66.54.9–10 Westerink) and George Gemistus Plethon Op. 1 (E Diodoro et Plutarcho 46, p. 26.3–4 Maltese). The derogatory application of ἄνεμος to a human referent (as in A.1, B.1), rather, does not appear to occur in Byzantine literature. Nevertheless, in Medieval Greek, ἄνεμος occurs as a synonym of διάβολοςδιάβολος (‘devil’, ‘demon’, see Kriaras, LME s.v., ILNE s.v.). This semantic shiftSemantic shift may rest on the Biblical parable of the house built on a    foundation of rocks (NT Ev.Matt. 7.24–7; NT Ev.Luc. 6.46–9): indeed, the wind that strikes the house, challenging the stability of its foundations, is explained by Athanasius (Quaestiones MPG 28.711.49–712.1) as a metaphor for the devil's besieging human faith (the house) and putting its firmness to the test.

F. Commentary on individual texts and occurrences

(1)    Eup. fr. 406 (C.1)

Bothe (1855, 206) proposed the restoration of Eupolis’ verses in iambic trimeter, as follows: ἄνεμος κὤλεθρος | ἄνθρωπος. Nevertheless, as Olson (2014, 173) notes, ἄνθρωπος is more likely to function as a ‘place-holder’ here (definition by Olson, Seaberg 2018, 204–5) to indicate that the metaphor is intended for a human referent. Besides Phryn. PS 21.12 (A.1), ἄνθρωπος is likely to be a ‘place-holder’ in several other glosses of the PS: see, among others, Phryn. PS 2.1‒3Phryn. PS 2.1–3 (ἄνθρωπος φιλοπραγματίας, ‘a meddlesome person’, corresponding to Cratin. fr. 382Cratin. fr. 382, on which, see Olson, Seaberg 2018, 205–6); Phryn. PS 13.11‒2Phryn. PS 13.11–2 (ἄνθρωπος λυπησίλογος, ‘a person who gives pain while talking’, corresponding to Cratin. fr. 381Cratin. fr. 381, on which see Olson, Seaberg 2018, 204–5), and Phryn. PS 76.3Phryn. PS 76.3 (ἰχθυολύμης ἄνθρωπος, ‘a person [who is] a plague of fish’, said of a fish-eater, corresponding to Ar. Pax 811Ar. Pax 811). In the latter case, we know with certainty that ἄνθρωπος has been added in response to lexicographical needs, to make the referent of ἰχθυολύμης explicit, and that the singular masculine nominative is due to standard lemmatisation, as ἄνθρωπος does not occur in Aristophanes’ verse and ἰχθυολύμης is inflected in the nominative plural. ἄνθρωπος is not the unique place-holder employed for human referents in the PS; also ἀνήρἀνήρ can play the same role: see, e.g., Phryn. PS 26.16Phryn. PS 26.16: ἀγροβόας ἀνήρ (‘a rudely shouting man’, corresponding to Cratin. fr. 371Cratin. fr. 371, on which, see Olson, Seaberg 2018, 193). Such metaphorical associations must have been common in comedy as a form of abuse, and they are likely to have entered the lexicographical tradition precisely as a result of its interest in scoptic expressions. The abundance of lemmas that have ἄνθρωπος as a referent marker in the PS suggests that the lexicon, despite its alphabetical structure, to some extent also had an interest in collecting expressions that might be usefully applied to the same referent, an interest that is typical of onomastic lexica, such as that by Pollux.


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Giulia Gerbi, 'ἄνεμος καὶ ὄλεθρος ἄνθρωπος (Phryn. PS 21.12)', in Olga Tribulato (ed.), Digital Encyclopedia of Atticism. With the assistance of E. N. Merisio.
DOI: https://doi.org/10.30687/DEA/2974-8240/2023/02/029

This article provides a philological and linguistic commentary on the metaphorical expression ἄνεμος καὶ ὄλεθρος ἄνθρωπος discussed in the Atticist lexicon Phryn. PS 21.12.

Abuse (terms of)ComedyInnovative formsRhetoricἄνθρωποςἐνάργειακαινότης