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

Lexicographic entries

μᾶλλον μᾶλλον
(Antiatt. μ 21)

A. Main sources

(1) Antiatt. μ 21: μᾶλλον μᾶλλον· ἀντὶ τοῦ ἀεὶ καὶ μᾶλλον. Ἄλεξις Πεζονίκῃ.

ἀεὶ καὶ Bekker (1814–1821 vol. 1, 108.5–6), based on Su. μ 115 : δεῖ καὶ cod., Phot. μ 77 : †δεῖ καὶ† Valente | Ἄλεξις Πεζονίκῃ cod., Bekker : <Ἄλεξις Ἀτθίδι· πῶς ἐπινεφεῖ τὸ πρῶτον ὁ Ζεὺς ἡσυχῇ, ἔπειτα μᾶλλον μᾶλλον. Ἀναξίλας Ὥραις,> Ἄλεξις Πεζονίκῃ Valente (cf. Phot. μ 77, Su. μ 115 = A.2, and F.1).

μᾶλλον μᾶλλον: It means ‘ever more’. Alexis in the Pezonike (fr. 186 = C.1).

(2) Phot. μ 77 (= Su. μ 115.27–8, ex Σ′′): μᾶλλον μᾶλλον· ἀντὶ τοῦ ἀεὶ καὶ μᾶλλον. Ἄλεξις Ἀτθίδι· ‘πῶς ἐπινεφεῖ τὸ πρῶτον ὁ Ζεὺς ἡσυχῇ, ἔπειτα μᾶλλον μᾶλλον’. Ἀναξίλας Ὥραις, Ἄλεξις Πεζονίκῃ.

ἀεὶ Su. : †δεῖ† Phot. (see F.1).

μᾶλλον μᾶλλον: It means ‘ever more’. Alexis in the Atthis (fr. 29 = C.2): ‘How Zeus first clouds over quietly, and then increasingly […]’. Anaxilas in the Orai (fr. 31 = C.3). Alexis in the Pezonike (fr. 186 = C.1).

B. Other erudite sources

(1) Phot. μ 76 (= Orus B 96): μᾶλλον <μᾶλλον>· οὕτως λέγουσιν ἄνευ τοῦ καὶ συνδέσμου. οὕτω Μένανδρος.

μᾶλλον μᾶλλον: They use it in this way, without the conjunction καί. Thus Menander (fr. 555).

C. Loci classici, other relevant texts

(1) Alex. fr. 186 = Antiatt. μ 21 re. μᾶλλον μᾶλλον (A.1).

(2) Alex. fr. 29:
πῶς ἐπινέφει τὸ πρῶτον ὁ Ζεὺς ἡσυχῇ,
ἔπειτα μᾶλλον μᾶλλον […]. (Cf. Su. μ 115, Phot. μ 77 = A.2)

How Zeus first clouds over quietly, and then increasingly […].

(3) Anaxil. fr. 31 = Phot. μ 77, Su. μ 115 re. μᾶλλον μᾶλλον (A.2).

(4) Men. fr. 555 = Phot. μ 76 re. μᾶλλον μᾶλλον (B.1).

(5) Ar. Ra. 1001–3:
εἶτα μᾶλλον μᾶλλον ἄξεις
καὶ φυλάξεις,
ἡνίκ’ ἂν τὸ πνεῦμα λεῖον καὶ καθεστηκὸς λάβῃς.

[…] then little by little make headway and keep watch for the moment when you get a soft, smooth breeze. (Transl. Henderson 2000).

(6) Eur. IT 1406: μᾶλλον δὲ μᾶλλον πρὸς πέτρας ἤιει σκάφος.

Closer and closer to the rocks came the ship.

D. General commentary

The expression μᾶλλον μᾶλλον is an example of intensification through the reduplication of a comparative adverb. In the linguistic literature on Ancient Greek, reduplication is described and termed in different ways: from simple ‘iteration’ (Schwyzer, Debrunner 1950, 699–700; Andriotis 1956), which gives exclusive weight to the structure of these expressions, to ‘amplification’ (Thesleff 1954, 17–8), ‘exaggeration’, and ‘emphasis’ (both Stevens 1976, 17), which also attempt to capture their pragmatic function. Here, ‘reduplication’ is preferred (as in Giannakis 2013; Kallergi 2015), so that syntactic formations such as μᾶλλον μᾶλλον are distinguished from the classic category of iterative compounds (the Sanskrit amredita: Andriotis 1956, 25–6; Tribulato 2015, 67–8). The syntactic status of reduplicated formations is confirmed by the fact that conjunctions or particles can come between the two words, which cannot happen in a true compound (Andriotis 1956, 25).

In Ancient Greek, syntactic reduplication applies to adjectives, verbs, and numerals (some examples appear in Schwyzer, Debrunner 1950, 700; Andriotis 1956, 25). Reduplicated numerals such as μίαν μίαν ‘one by one’ (Antiatt. μ 24) express distribution, whereas reduplicated adjectives usually express intensification or emphasis (as in μᾶλλον μᾶλλον ‘more and more’, σφόδρα σφόδρασφόδρα σφόδρα ‘very forcefully’, ταχὺ ταχύταχὺ ταχύ ‘very quickly’, Modern Greek σιγά σιγά σιγά σιγά and Italian piano piano, both ‘very slowly’). Intensification can be defined as ‘the linguistic indication of high […] degree of intensity in a concept’ (Thesleff 1954, 20), i.e. ‘an increase in quantity or quality’ (Dressler, Merlini Barbaresi 1994, 416). Gradable adjectives and adverbs are particularly common: in addition to μᾶλλον μᾶλλον, other examples include ὀλίγον ὀλίγονὀλίγον ὀλίγον ‘little by little’, ὅσον ὅσον ‘very little’ > ‘for a little while’ (see entry οὐδ’ ὅσον, ὅσον ὅσον), πλέον πλέονπλέον πλέον ‘more and more’, μεῖζον μεῖζον ‘more and more' (Antiatt. μ 22), μικρὸν μικρόν‘little by little’ (Antiatt. μ 23). Parallel constructions are also found in Latin, especially in comedy (see Bagordo 2001, 131–2; Fedriani 2017).

Scholarship ranks these reduplicated expressions among Greek colloquialismsColloquial language: see Stevens (1976, 17), Arnott (1996, 127), and Collard (2005, 361) on μᾶλλον μᾶλλον; Dover (1968, 244) on πλέον πλέον. The criteria for defining colloquialisms have been amply debated and are ultimately subjective. Impressionistic judgments are not infrequent. Dover (1968, 244), for instance, argues that πλέον πλέον of Ar. Nu. 1288 ‘sounds colloquial, and perhaps usually was’. Collard (2005, 350–60) provides a review of the different approaches taken since Stevens (1976). Such reduplicated comparatives are often assumed to be colloquial in character because of their attestation in comedy and in prose passages not marked by high register.

The interest shown by the Antiatticist may indeed confirm this interpretation implicitly: some strict Atticists perhaps found fault with μᾶλλον μᾶλλον, μεῖζον μεῖζον, and μίαν μίαν, though the situation is not identical for every lemma. Concerning μᾶλλον μᾶλλον, it is telling that Photius (B.1) identifies it as an ancient or Attic expression as opposed to μᾶλλον καὶ μᾶλλον, tacitly considered to be more common (in the text, the expression οὕτως λέγουσιν ‘they use it in this way’ must refer to Attic authors, given that a reference to Menander follows).

The earliest documented use of μᾶλλον μᾶλλον is found in Ar. Ran. 1001 (C.5), but the Antiatticist quotes Alexis (C.1), while Photius and the Suda (A.2) quote a line from another play by Alexis (C.2). The fragment seemingly describes a storm building up, which perhaps served as a metaphor for someone’s anger (see Meineke, FGC vol. 3, 397, though Arnott 1996, 121 remains sceptical). Although Aristophanes would have provided a stronger Attic status to μᾶλλον μᾶλλον, the Antiatticist, Photius, and the Suda (of which the last two both depend on the Antiatticist via the Synagoge tradition) quote only poets of New Comedy (see C.1, C.2, C.3, plus C.4 quoted in another lemma of Photius, B.1). The discrepancy could be explained by the fact that the Antiatticist used only part of a previous selection of comic lexeis (a likely candidate is that by Aristophanes of Byzantium).

In Aristophanes (C.5), μᾶλλον μᾶλλον appears in a choral part wherein the chorus addresses itself to Aeschylus and invites him to reply to Euripides and to Dionysus’ words in his favour (vv. 971–91). The chorus begins by quoting Aeschylus’ Myrmidons and then uses two metaphors – one from racing, the other from sailing – to prompt a thoughtful and calm reply from Aeschylus. μᾶλλον μᾶλλον modifies the action expressed by ἄξεις ‘make headway’, suggesting that it should happen gradually (see Dover 1993, 317 for a discussion of this often contested verbal form). The colloquialism should not be considered out of place in a choral part that, despite a grand opening, develops with two everyday images in language that is not particularly high. In Eur. IT 1406 (C.6), a line from the messenger’s long speech describing Iphigenia and Orestes’ flight by ship, the two occurrences of μᾶλλον are separated by a δέ that introduces a contrast between the prayers elevated by Iphigenia and the unstoppable racing of the ship towards the rocks: it is a moment of heightened pathos, further strengthened by the adverbial μᾶλλον μᾶλλον. There are no other attestions of μᾶλλον μᾶλλον in Classical Greek: some other occurrences are rather sequences of two instances of μᾶλλον with different syntactic functions (see e.g. Pl. Gorg. 498e.2–5, R. 585d.11–e.2). On balance, we may be dealing with a rare expression that died out, overcome by the more common (and possibly more transparent) μᾶλλον καὶ μᾶλλον.

E. Byzantine and Modern Greek commentary

Reduplicated expressions are common in Medieval and Modern Greek, where many instances are lexicalised (see Kallergi 2015 for a recent survey as well as a discussion of earlier bibliography on the topic). Examples include λίγο λίγο ‘slowly, little by little’, σιγά σιγά ‘slowly, imperceptibly’. Their morphological status is debated: some scholars treat them as a special kind of ‘loose’ compound (e.g. Manolessou, Tsolakidis 2009, 24); others, given that the [word word] structure of these expressions does not comply with the [stem word] or [stem stem] structure of Greek compounds (Ralli 2013, 39–42) and that both words are accented, consider them phrasal lexemes (for a review of the debate in earlier literature, see Kallergi 2015, 29–30; 273–7; 283–97: she concludes by assuming that reduplicated formations could be seen as ‘a compound-like construction type’ that does not, however, equate to compounding). μᾶλλον μᾶλλον does not continue into Modern Greek, where the adverb μάλλον itself is a learned revival (meaning ‘rather’).

F. Commentary on individual texts and occurrences

(1)    Antiatt. μ 21 (A.1)

The Antiatticist entry, as transmitted by cod. Par. Coisl. 345Par. Coisl. 345, is corrupt. δεῖ cannot be the right form here and the same mistake is carried over into Phot. μ 77 (A.2). The correct form is preserved in the Suda (μ 115, cf. A.2): it is an intensive ἀεί. While Bekker (1814–1821 vol. 1, 108.5–6) has ἀντὶ τοῦ ἀεὶ καὶ μᾶλλον (as in Adler’s edition of the Suda), Valente also obelises the καί, following the anonymous review of Bekker’s Anecdota Graeca in the Allgemeine Literatur-Zeitung vom Jahre 1816, van Dam (1873, 41), Kock (CAF vol. 2, 308), and Kassel and Austin (PCG, vol. 2, 41, and 127). However, it is unnecessary to posit a corruption here and Bekker’s text is sound: there is ample evidence that in Greek prose, from the Hellenistic age onwards, the adverbial expression ἀεὶ καὶ μᾶλλον was used with an intensifying function (‘even more’, ‘more and more’). Examples in Hellenistic prose include:

  • Plb. 1.42.10–1:Plb. 1.42.10–1 γινομένης δ’ ἐνεργοῦ καὶ καταπληκτικῆς τῆς πολιορκίας, καὶ τῶν πύργων τῶν μὲν πονούντων ἀν’ ἑκάστην ἡμέραν, τῶν δ’ ἐρειπομένων, ἅμα δὲ καὶ τῶν ἔργων ἐπιβαινόντων ἀεὶ καὶ μᾶλλον ἐντὸς τῆς πόλεως […] (‘The siege was carried on with vigour and terrific energy: every day some of the towers were shaken and others reduced to ruins; every day too the siege-works advanced farther and farther, and more and more towards the heart of the city […]’);
  • Plb. 3.11.3:Plb. 3.11.3 προβαίνοντος γὰρ τοῦ χρόνου, καὶ τοῦ βασιλέως ὑπόπτως ἔχοντος ἀεὶ καὶ μᾶλλον πρὸς τὸν Ἀννίβαν […] (‘As time went on the king became ever more and more suspicious of Hannibal’);
  • Posidon. fr. 281a Kidd (= 62a Theiler):Posidon. fr. 281a Kidd (= 62a Theiler) ὥσπερ δὲ ἀπὸ ἔθνους <ἑνὸς> ὑπολαμβάνειν ἐστὶν εἰς τρία διῃρῆσθαι κατὰ τὰς τῶν κλιμάτων διαφορὰς ἀεὶ καὶ μᾶλλον ἐξαλλαττομένων, οὕτω καὶ τοῖς ὀνόμασι χρήσασθαι πλείοσιν ἀνθ’ ἑνός (‘and just as we may suppose that the one tribe was split into three by the differences of the increasingly changing degrees of latitude, so too they use many names from a single one’);
  • D.S. 9.23.3:D.S. 9.23.3 […] Γέλωνα δὲ μετὰ τὴν μάχην ἀεὶ καὶ μᾶλλον ἀποδοχῆς τυγχάνοντα παρὰ τοῖς Συρακοσίοις ἐγγηρᾶσαι τῇ βασιλείᾳ καὶ τελευτῆσαι θαυμαζόμενον […] (‘[…] whereas Gelon after the battle received even greater approbation every year at the hands of the Syracusans, grew old in the kingship, and died in the esteem of his people […]).

As suggested by its common use in authors such as Polybius, Diodorus Siculus, Strabo, and Galen, ἀεὶ καὶ μᾶλλον was pervasive in koine Greek prose. Its attestations, however, wane significantly after late antiquity. The odd piece of evidence in Byzantine sources often comes from the quotation of earlier texts (as, for instance, is the case with the four attestations in Constantine Porphyrogenitus). This probably reflects the gradual disappearance of both its component parts (the adverbs ἀεί and μᾶλλον) from the language. It is therefore likely that, as a gloss of μᾶλλον μᾶλλον, the expression ἀεὶ καὶ μᾶλλον dates back to the production period of the Antiatticist itself.


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Olga Tribulato, 'μᾶλλον μᾶλλον (Antiatt. μ 21)', in Olga Tribulato (ed.), Digital Encyclopedia of Atticism. With the assistance of E. N. Merisio.
DOI: https://doi.org/10.30687/DEA/2021/01/014

This article deals with the reduplicated comparative adverb μᾶλλον μᾶλλον, discussed in the Atticist lexicon Antiatt. μ 21.