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

Lexicographic entries

ἄπλυτος πώγων
(Phryn. PS 4.1–2)

A. Main sources

(1) Phryn. PS 4.1–2: ἄπλυτον πώγωνα· εἰ θέλοις ἀνεπαχθῶς σκῶψαί τινα πωγωνίαν.

ἄπλυτον cod. : ἄπλατον Kock (in CAF vol. 3, 556) : ἄπλετον de Borries (1911).

ἄπλυτον πώγωνα (‘unwashed beard’) (Com. adesp. fr. *556 = C.1): If you want to tease a bearded man without being offensive.

B. Other erudite sources

(1) Σb α 1794 (= Phot. α 2444, Su. α 3241, ex Σ´): ἄπλυτον πώγωνα· σκώπτων.

The sources depending on Σ´ add a final element to round off the gloss: Photius adds χρήσῃ τῇ λέξει, the Suda εἶπε, and Eudemus (teste Cunningham) εἰπέ (see also B.2).

ἄπλυτον πώγωνα (‘unwashed beard’): [You can use this expression] to tease [someone].

(2) Apostol. 3.53: ἄπλυτον πώγων’ ἔχεις· σκώπτων εἰπέ.

Final ἔχεις was probably added on the model of a number of comic passages where elided πώγων’ occurs towards line-end before a form of the verb ἔχω (see Ar. Ach. 120, Th. 190, Ec. 102).

ἄπλυτον πώγων’ ἔχεις (‘You have an unwashed beard’): Say [this] to tease [someone].

(3) Poll. 2.10: εἰς ἀνδρῶν ἡλικίαν ὑπαλλάττων, γενειῶν, γενειάσκων, πώγωνος ὑποπιμπλάμενος, πωγωνίας, ὡς Κρατῖνος.

[The words for one] who is entering the age of adult men [are] γενειῶν (‘growing a beard’), γενειάσκων (‘beginning to get a beard’), πώγωνος ὑποπιμπλάμενος (‘gradually filling out a beard’) (Pl. Prt. 309a.4), πωγωνίας (‘bearded [man]’), as Cratinus [says] (fr. 485).

(4) Poll. 2.88: καὶ πώγων, ἐπειδὰν ὑποπλησθῇ. […] καὶ πωγωνίας δέ.

And [one says] πώγων when [the beard] is filled out […] And [one calls a bearded man a] πωγωνίας.

(5) Su. π 2151: πωγωνίας· ὁ μέγας πώγων.

Kuster and Bernhardy in their editions restored the interpretamentum respectively as ὁ μέγα<ν> πώγων<α> <ἔχ>ων and ὁ μεγαλωπώγων.

πωγωνίας: A big beard.

C. Loci classici, other relevant texts

(1) Com. adesp. fr. *556 = Phryn. PS 4.1–2 re. ἄπλυτος πώγων (A.1).

(2) Leo Choerosphactes Chilistichos theologia 467–70 Vassis:
ὅθεν γερόντων στυππίνων μυθῳδίας
εἰς ἀπλύτους πώγωνας ἐγκαυχωμένων
γῆς ἄχθος ὄντας ἢ κρεῶν σωροὺς μόνους
σοφῶς βδελύττου, μή τι προσπταίσῃς πλέον.

Hence, you must be wisely disgusted by the fabulous talking of tow-like old men, who pride themselves in [their] unwashed beards, who are only a burden on the earth or mounds of flesh, so that you will not trip up anymore.

D. General commentary

Phrynichus (A.1) recommends ἄπλυτος πώγων as an inoffensive way to tease a bearded manScoptic language. For this use of ἀνεπαχθῶς, one may compare Phryn. PS 94.19–20Phryn. PS 94.19–20: ὁ λόγος ὅδε οὐκ εὖ φρονεῖ· εἰ βούλει πρός τινα μὴ ὀρθῶς εἰπόντα ἐνσημήνασθαι, ἀνεπαχθὴς ἔσῃ (‘‘This line of reasoning does not make good sense’: If you want to raise an objection to someone who is not speaking rightly, you will not be offensive [if you use this expression]’). The derivation of the lemma from a comic source is very likely, although little progress can be made towards an identification.

The adjective ἄπλυτος is used often for food (radish in Eup. fr. 338.1, Pherecr. fr. 190.1, and Antiph. fr. 273.2) and more rarely for items of clothing (only Semon. fr. 7.5 West) and body parts (only Ar. V. 1035). It is perhaps because this adjective may be used in a fairly neutral fashion (‘dirty’, as opposed to more loaded words, such as ‘filthy’ or ‘grimy’) that ἄπλυτος πώγων is said by Phrynichus to be inoffensive.

In pre-Hellenistic times, the beard was a sign of maleness and virility, especially in opposition to eunuchs and effeminate men (see Ar. Ach. 120-121 and Th. 189-192 and, further, Arnott 1996, 747). In comedy, people with thick beards could be singled out or teased (see Philonid. fr. 10), and long beards were distinctive of philosophers (see Phoenicid. fr. 4.16–7 and Ephipp. fr. 14.7, where a long, thick, and well-kept beard is part of the attire of a young dandy who aspires to become a philosopher). This lemma, like many other unattributed lemmas of the epitome of the PS, is tentatively ascribed to comedyComedyComic adespota. Thus, it is at least possible that in its original context, ἄπλυτος πώγων might have been a detail in the parody of a philosopher (or perhaps an aspiring philosopher).

E. Byzantine and Modern Greek commentary

Phrynichus’ gloss (A.1) evidently served as the model from which Leo Choerosphactes derived the expression ἄπλυτος πώγων (C.2, on which see further F.2). However, Leo Choerosphactes’ use of ἄπλυτος πώγων is decidedly more aggressive than Phrynichus recommends. (On the parody of bearded men, which is still topical in Byzantine literature, see e.g. Kucharski, Marciniak 2017 on Theodorus Prodromus.)

F. Commentary on individual texts and occurrences

(1)    Phryn. PS 4.1–2 (A.1)

According to the transmitted text, the recommended inoffensive way to tease a bearded man would be to call him ἄπλυτος πώγων ‘unwashed beard’. Kock and de Borries respectively suggested emending ἄπλυτον into ἄπλατον or ἄπλετον, both meaning ‘immense’ or ‘endless’, on account of the fact that πωγωνίας in the interpretamentum does not itself entail the idea that the beard be unwashed; they also both considered it unlikely that ἄπλυτος πώγων could actually be an inoffensive way to tease a bearded man. However, since ἄπλυτον is also in the parallel lemma in Σb and likewise in the entries of Photius and the Suda which go back to Σ´, subsequent scholars have rightly resisted either emendation (see Kassel and Austin in PCG vol. 8, ad loc. and Olson, Seaberg 2018, 321).

(2)    Leo Choerosphactes Chilistichos theologia 467–70 Vassis (C.2)

The passage is replete with poetic allusions (duly recorded by Vassis 2002, ad loc.). Notice, in particular, that – like εἰς ἀπλύτους πώγωνας – the expressions γερόντων στυππίνων (line 467) and κρεῶν σωρούς (line 469) are derived from Phrynichus’ PS (see respectively PS 59.7–9Phryn. PS 59.7–9 and 109.11–2Phryn. PS 109.11–2). Another case where Leo Choerosphactes uses multiple expressions taken from Phrynichus’ PS in the same passage is Chilistichos theologia 89 Vassis, where ψυχορροφούσας is taken from PS 128.11–3Phryn. PS 128.11–3 and ἐνσεσεισμένων from PS 69.6–8Phryn. PS 69.6–8 (on both, see the forthcoming entry on ψυχορροφεῖν). For an overview on these and other cases where Leo Choerosphactes depends on Phrynichus and other lexicographical sources, see Vassis (2002, 40–1).


Arnott, W. G. (1996). Alexis. The Fragments. A Commentary. Cambridge.

Kucharski, J.; Marciniak, P. (2017). ‘The Beard and its Philosopher. Theodore Prodromos on the Philosopher’s Beard in Byzantium’. BMGS 41, 45–54.

Olson, S. D.; Seaberg, R. (2018). Kratinos frr. 299–514. Translation and Commentary. Göttingen.

Vassis, I. (2002). Leon Magistros Choirosphaktes. Chilistichos theologia. Editio princeps. Einleitung, kritischer Text, Übersetzung, Kommentar, Indices. Berlin, New York.


Federico Favi, 'ἄπλυτος πώγων (Phryn. PS 4.1–2)', in Olga Tribulato (ed.), Digital Encyclopedia of Atticism. With the assistance of E. N. Merisio.
DOI: https://doi.org/10.30687/DEA/2021/01/045

This article deals with the expression ἄπλυτος πώγων discussed in the Atticist lexicon Phryn. PS 4.1–2.

BeardComedyComic adespotaLeo ChoerosphactesScoptic language