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

Lexicographic entries

(Phryn. PS 128.11–3)

A. Main sources

(1) Phryn. PS 128.11–3: ψυχορροφεῖν· ἐπὶ τοῦ τὴν ψυχὴν ἐκροφεῖν διὰ κακῶν παρουσίαν ἡ τραγῳδία. ὁ δὲ Πλάτων ἰδίως ἐπὶ οἴνου διαψύχρου πινομένου τίθησιν.

Kassel and Austin (PCG vol. 7, 545) propose the restoration of ψυχ<ρ>ορροφεῖν in Plato Comicus, instead of ψυχορροφεῖν | διαψύχρου Meineke : διὰ ψυχροῦ cod. : Bekker (1821, vol. 3, 1074) suggests emending the phrase to ἐπὶ ὕδωρ ψυχρὸν πίνοντος.

ψυχορροφεῖν: Tragedy (Trag. adesp. fr. *602 = C.1) [uses this form] to denote the action by which [somebody’s] soul is drained as a consequence of wicked events. Plato [Comicus] (fr. 292 = C.2) uses it in a peculiar way to denote wine [that is] drunk cold.

B. Other erudite sources

(1) Phot. ψ 656 (= Su. ψ 171, ex Σʹʹ): ψυχορροφεῖν· τὴν ψυχὴν ἐκπίνειν.

ψυχορροφεῖν: To drain [the] soul.

(2) Hsch. ψ 296: ψυχορ<ρ>όφους· τὰς τὴν ψυχὴν ἐκπινούσας.

The addition of <ρ> was first suggested by Schmidt (1862) in his apparatus | Kannicht and Snell (TrGF vol. 2, 168) propose δυστυχίας as the hypothetical noun to which the adjective might refer.

ψυχορ<ρ>όφους: [Misfortunes?] that drain [the] soul.

C. Loci classici, other relevant texts

(1) Trag. adesp. fr. *602 = Phryn. PS 128.11–3 re. ψυχορροφεῖν (A.1).

(2) Pl.Com. fr. 292 = Phryn. PS 128.11–3 re. ψυχορροφεῖν (A.1).

(3) Leo Choerosphactes Chiliostichos theologia 87–9 Vassis:
λάτρευε δή μοι τὴν πεπηγυῖαν φύσιν
λάλων πιθήκων ἐκφυγὼν πανουργίας
ψυχορροφούσας ἐνσεσεισμένων φρένας.

Vassis inserts a comma after πανουργίας, associating the participle ψυχορροφούσας with φρένας. However, it should in fact be associated with πανουργίας, in which case no punctuation is necessary to separate them. | The participle ἐνσεσεισμένων was conjectured by Vassis; the cod. (Vat. gr. 1257) probably has ἐνέσεις μένων.

Therefore, honour [God’s] immutable nature, avoiding the soul-draining villainies of loquacious monkeys (i.e., of the heretics), who are weak in their minds.

D. General commentary

Phrynichus’ entry (A.1) deals with the semantics of the verb ψυχορροφέω, for which he identifies two competing meanings: ‘to drain somebody’s soul’ and ‘to drink cold wine’. The PS attests to the occurrence of the meaning ‘to drain somebody’s soul’ in tragedy (C.1), and ascribes the alternative sense – ‘to drink cold wine’ – to the comic poet Plato (C.2). According to Phrynichus, therefore, both meanings are attributed to the same form. However, we might more appropriately posit the existence of two homographHomography verbs, both of which are based on compounds ending in ‑ρρόφος: ψυχορροφέω (‘to drain somebody’s soul’), with ψυχήψυχή (‘soul’) as its first constituent, and ψυχορροφέω (‘to drink cold wine’), based on ψῦχοςψῦχος (‘cold’).

In PCG (vol. 7, 545), Kassel and Austin propose an alternative explanation for this second meaning – namely, that the form used by Plato Comicus should be restored as ψυχ<ρ>ορροφεῖν. As such, the compound verb would be of the [A V]V type rather than the [N V]V type. ψυχ<ρ>ορροφέω would be comparable to its synonym ψυχροποτέωψυχροποτέω (‘to drink cold water’ – see also the nouns ψυχροπότης ‘cold-water drinker’ and ψυχροποσία ‘a drinking of cold water’, both used by Plutarch) and to other verb-final compounds based on ψυχρόςψυχρός: ψυχρογραφέω ‘to write frigidly’ (Eust. in Il. 4.404.16); ψυχρολογέω ‘to talk nonsense’ (Luc. Pseudol. 27.27); and ψυχροφυσικεύομαι ‘to talk nonsense as a natural philosopher’ (schol. [Tz.] Ar. Nu. 160).

The verb ῥοφέωῥοφέω (‘to gulp down’), which derives from the Indo-European root *s(e)rbh- (‘slurp’) and is an iterative-intensive formation (see EDG, s.v.), is regularly attested in Ancient and Byzantine Greek, and survives in Modern Greek as ρουφώ. ψυχορροφέω – the only known [NV]V compound derived from ῥοφέω – is probably formed through incorporation and modelled after the forms derived from ῥοφέω by prefixationPrefixes, which are ubiquitously attested across several centuries (see, for example, ἐκροφέω, Archil. fr. 328.9, Ar. Eq. 360; καταρροφέω, X. Cyr., with a notable peak in the Byzantine era (including rare forms, such as the 12th-century hapax legomena προσροφέω ‘to sip’ and συρροφέω ‘to gulp together’). Alternatively, it may be a denominative based on the adjective ψυχορρόφος (‘who drains somebody’s soul’); however, this is attested only considerably later (see below). According to Headlam (1899, 5), Phrynichus’ theory in the PS (A.1) most likely reflects the conflation of two originally separate entries – one dealing with ψυχορραγεῖνψυχορραγέω (‘to agonise’, ‘to lie at the last gasp’, with ῥαγ- from ῥήγνυμι as the second constituent) and the other dealing with ψυχορροφεῖν. Headlam hypothetically reconstructs the original entries as follows: (i) ψυχορραγεῖν· ἐπὶ τοῦ τὴν ψυχὴν ἐκπνεῖν διὰ κακῶν παρουσίαν ἡ τραγῳδία (‘ψυχορραγεῖν: Tragedy [uses this form] to refer to the soul being drained due to the occurrence of calamitous events’); (ii) ψυχορροφεῖν· τὴν ψυχὴν ἐκροφεῖν καὶ ἐκπίνειν (‘ψυχορροφεῖν: To gulp down and drain [somebody’s] soul’). A similar sequence occurs in Hesychius’ lexicon (Hsch. ψ 295Hsch. ψ 295: ψυχορ<ρ>αγεῖ, ψ 296 = B.2: ψυχορ<ρ>όφους), but no other evidence exists to support Headlam’s reconstruction, and no cogent argument has been offered in support of the entry ψυχορραγεῖν in Phrynichus’ PS. In any case, the compound verb ψυχορραγέωψυχορραγέω, which is amply attested in ancient texts and persists in Modern Greek, might plausibly have served as the model for the formation of ψυχορροφέω.

Hesychius’ lexicon (B.2) attests to the corresponding adjective ψυχορ<ρ>όφους (‘those who drain somebody’s soul’) in association with a feminine (plural accusative) noun, which Kannicht and Snell (TrGF vol. 2, 168) hypothetically restore as δυστυχίας, and as agreeing with the participle ἐκπινούσας. The adjective, which is attested in later texts, was probably formed after the corresponding verb (see F.1). Miccolis (2017, 300) duly traces a parallel between the adjectives ψυχορρόφος and αἱματορρόφος (‘blood-drinking’; Archipp. fr. 53 = Soph. fr. 743), both of which have as their second constituents the stem ῥοφέω. αἱματορρόφοςαἱματορρόφος, whose corresponding verb (the hypothetical *αἱματορροφέω) is not attested, occurs in tragedy as a poetic compound (see Aesch. Eum. 193 and Soph. fr. 743). Miccolis (2017, 299) argues that Archippus’ use of the adjective is likely to have been intended as parodicParody and paratragic. The parallel with the already tragic αἱματορρόφος may suggest the priority of ψυχορρόφος over ψυχορροφέω, thereby implying the verb’s denominative formation. Nonetheless, the scant occurrence of these forms prohibits irrefutable conclusions.

Although ψυχορροφέω cannot be ascribed to a precise context in tragedy, the verb’s tragic background can surely be identified for the interpretamentum τὴν ψυχὴν ἐκπίνειν (‘to drain the soul’), which is cited in both Phot. ψ 656 and Su. ψ 171 (B.1) to define ψυχορροφεῖν, and which also corresponds to Hesychius’ interpretamentum of ψυχορ<ρ>όφους (B.2). The suggestion of one who is tormented to the point that they experience the sensation of having been drained is indeed discernible in both tragedy and comedy. The verb ἐκπίνωἐκπίνω occurs twice in Sophocles with the sense of draining somebody’s soul: see Creon’s words to Ismene in Ant. 532Soph. Ant. 532 (μ’ ἐξέπινες ‘you drain me’, see Griffith 1999, 213) and Clytemnestra’s words regarding Electra in El. 785–6Soph. El. 785–6 (τοὐμὸν ἐκπίνουσ’ ἀεὶ | ψυχῆς ἄκρατον αἷμα ‘always draining the pure blood of my life’; on the suffering caused by the forced cohabitation, see Finglass 2010, 343–4). In the comic context, we may cite Strepsiades’ complaint in Ar. Nu. 712Ar. Nu. 712 (καὶ τὴν ψυχὴν ἐκπίνουσιν ‘and they drain my soul’, on which see Dover 1968, 189 and Starkie 1911, 167–8, the latter of whom suggests that Strepsiades’ employment of a metaphor centred on the ψυχή is due to the metaphor’s ‘philosophical import’). Herodas later employs an analogous image in 5.7Herod. 5.7 (καὶ μὴ τό μευ αἶμα νύκτα κἠμέρην πῖνε ‘and do not drain my blood night and day’, see Headlam, Knox 1922, 233).

In using the expression κακῶν παρουσία, Phrynichus, who occasionally quotes tragic verses in interpretamenta (see de Borries 1911, XXXII for the specific case in which both the lemma and the interpretamentum depend on the same author), may be evoking Odysseus’ words to Hecuba in Eur. Hec. 227–8Eur. Hec. 227–8 (γίγνωσκε δ’ ἀλκὴν καὶ παρουσίαν κακῶν | τῶν σῶν ‘acknowledge the strength and the concrete presence of your misfortunes’), which are parodiedParody in Ar. Th. 1049Ar. Th. 1049 (τίς ἐμὸν οὐκ ἐπόψεται | πάθος ἀμέγαρτον ἐπὶ κακῶν παρουσίᾳ ‘who will not see my unenviable pain in circumstances of misfortunes?’). In conclusion, while no direct evidence exists in support of Phrynichus’ assertion that ψυχορροφέω occurs in tragedy, we may not outright exclude the possibility that the verb is of tragic origin, denoting a character who perceives his soul as having been drained by an enemy’s actions or as a result of evil circumstances. Plato Comicus’ use of the same verb may, in turn, be regarded as paratragic, perhaps constituting a pun on the two homographs’Homography meanings: ‘to drain somebody’s soul’ and ‘to drink cold wine’.

E. Byzantine and Modern Greek commentary

Aside from Phrynichus’ assertion that ψυχορροφέω occurred in Attic tragedy, the verb has a unique literary attestation in the Chiliostichos theologia by the Byzantine official Leo Choerosphactes (9th century, C.3). In his theological didactic poem, Choerosphactes often employs rare words and phrases derived from Phrynichus’ PS, a list of which is provided by Vassis (2002, 40–1). In the Theologia, Choerosphactes uses the phrase ψυχορροφούσας πανουργίας (‘soul-draining villainies’) to refer to erroneous doctrines concerning the nature of God, which the good Christian must avoid.

Vassis restores the participle ἐνσεσεισμένων (from ἐνσείω ‘to shake’) in place of the transmitted reading ἐνέσεις (probable) μένων (certain) in cod. Vat. gr. 1257Vat. gr. 1257. He thus envisages a direct quotation from Phrynichus’ PS – that is, from the entry on ἐνσεσεισμένη, concerning the description of a woman weakened by old age (Phryn. PS 69.6–8Phryn. PS 69.6–8 = com. adesp. fr. 1001: ἐνσεσεισμένη· ἡ προήκουσα τῇ ἡλικίᾳ καὶ ὑπὸ χρόνου διασεσεισμένη, καὶ μηκέτι σφριγῶσα μηδὲ ἰσχύουσα, ἀλλὰ σαθρὰ οὖσα, ‘ἐνσεσεισμένη’: ‘[A woman] who is of an advanced age and is weakened by time, [who] is no longer healthy and strong, but rather unsound’). Choerosphactes thus collects and juxtaposes two rare words derived from the PS. This is not an isolated case: see also Chiliostichos theologia 467–9, where he uses the expressions γερόντων στυππίνων, ἀπλύτους πώγωνας, and κρεῶν σωρούς, all of which he has derived from the PS (PS 59.7–9Phryn. PS 59.7–9, PS 4.1–2Phryn. PS 4.1–2, PS 109.11–2Phryn. PS 109.11–2, respectively; see also entries ἄπλυτος πώγων and ἀκροφύσιον, ἀπ’ ἀκροφυσίων λόγους ἐπιδεικνύναι).

The passage in C.3 lends itself to slightly different interpretations. Vassis (2002, 79) translates it as follows: ‘Verehre mir also die festgegründete Natur und fliehe die Verschlagenheit geschwätziger Affen und die Seelen aufsaugende Geister der Narren’, thus taking ψυχορροφούσας φρένας to be the object of the participle ἐκφυγών alongside πανουργίας (‘avoiding the villainies […] and the soul-draining thoughts’). However, given that φρένας is often used as an accusative of respectAccusative of respect (see, for instance, Hom. Od. 18.327: σύ γέ τις φρένας ἐκπεπαταγμένος ἐσσί, ‘you are stricken in your mind’), it may plausibly fulfil the same function here, where it is paired with the participle ἐνσεσεισμένων (‘of those who are weak in their minds’, ‘weak-minded’). Contextualised against the theological assessment of the qualities of God’s nature, the phrase is likely to denote those who are weak in their faith and in their knowledge of God – that is, the heretics. If this is correct, Vassis’ punctuation should be modified so that the participle ψυχορροφούσας would agree, in enjambement, with the preceding πανουργίας (‘soul-draining villainies’). Thus, the phrase would refer to people –the so-called loquacious monkeys – who propagate false doctrines concerning God’s nature (described as ‘soul-draining villainies’). Moreover, the expression ἐνσεσεισμένων φρένας could be referred to λάλων πιθήκων (‘of loquacious monkeys who are weak in their mind’) as a likely reference to the monkeys’ proverbial mendacity (see Aesop. 83). Hesychius’ (B.2) association of the adjective with a feminine accusative plural – in addition to the analogy of Choerosphactes’ πανουργίας to the δυστυχίας proposed by Kannicht and Snell (see the apparatus to B.2) – may favour this interpretation.

F. Commentary on individual texts and occurrences

(1)    Hsch. ψ 296 (B.2)

Given the active sense of the compound ψυχορρόφος, the accentAccent must be placed on the penultimate syllable rather than the antepenultimate, as is favoured by some modern lexica (see, for example, GE s.v. ψυχόροφος). Although Hase, Dindorf and Dindorf (1865, col. 1955) defended the form ψυχορόφους, positing its derivation from a locus where the simple consonant was required owing to metrical needs, the form ψυχορ<ρ>όφους is preferable. Indeed, the earlier lemma shows the same consonantal degeminationDegemination: in Hsch. ψ 295 (ψυχορ<ρ>αγεῖ), Musurus had already revised the manuscript’s original form ψυχοραγεῖ as ψυχορ<ρ>αγεῖ.


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Giulia Gerbi, 'ψυχορροφεῖν (Phryn. PS 128.11–3)', in Olga Tribulato (ed.), Digital Encyclopedia of Atticism. With the assistance of E. N. Merisio.
DOI: https://doi.org/10.30687/DEA/2974-8240/2022/01/026

This article provides a philological and linguistic commentary on the compound verb ψυχορροφεῖν discussed in the Atticist lexicon Phryn. PS 128.11–3.

ComedyCompoundsLeo ChoerosphactesTragedyψυχορρόφος