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

Lexicographic entries

ἀκροφύσιον, ἀπ’ ἀκροφυσίων λόγους ἐπιδεικνύναι
(Phryn. PS fr. 236)

A. Main sources

(1) Phryn. PS fr. 236 (= Σb 1617, Su. α 2874, ex Σʹ): ἀπ’ ἀκροφυσίων λόγους ἐπιδεικνύναι· οἱονεὶ καινοὺς καὶ νεοποιήτους. Ἀριστοφάνης· ‘ῥήματά τε κομψὰ καὶ παίγνι’ ἐπιδεικνύναι | πάντ’ ἀπ’ ἀκροφυσίων κἀπὸ κινναβευμάτων’. λέγει γὰρ διὰ μὲν τοῦ ἀπ’ἀκροφυσίων καινῶς εἰργασμένα καὶ οἷον ἐκ πυρός, διὰ δὲ τοῦ ἀπὸ κινναβευμάτων οἷον καινῶς πεπλασμένα καὶ διάθεσιν ἔχοντα. κίνναβος γὰρ τὸ εἴδωλον, πρὸς ὃ οἱ πλάσται καὶ οἱ ζωγράφοι βλέποντες διατίθενται πλάττοντες καὶ γράφοντες. κέχρηνται πολλοί.

For the text of Aristophanes’ fragment, cf. C.1 | Kock added the adjective καινὴν before διάθεσιν.

ἀπ’ ἀκροφυσίων λόγους ἐπιδεικνύναι (‘to display words [fresh] from the bellows’): As if innovative and newly made [words]. Aristophanes (fr. 719 = C.1) [says]: ‘to display refined expressions and jokes all [fresh] from bellows and frameworks’. For with ἀπ’ ἀκροφυσίων he means newly made things and as if [just forged] from the fire, while with ἀπὸ κινναβευμάτων [he means] newly moulded and formed things. For κίνναβος is the image looking at which moulders and painters give form to their objects when moulding and drawing. Many [authors] use it.

B. Other erudite sources

(1) Poll. 2.161: ἀπὸ δὲ ὀνύχων ἄκρων ἀκρωνύχια τὰ ἄκρα τῶν χειρῶν καὶ τῶν ποδῶν. προσήκοι δ’ ἂν οἶμαι δακτύλοις καὶ τὰ ἄκρα· ἀκρότατα, ἀκρωλένια, ἀκρόδρυα, ἀκροχειρισμός, ἀκροκώλια, ἀκρώρεια, ἀκροθίνια, καὶ παρ’ Εὐριπίδῃ ἠκροθινιαζόμην, καὶ ἀκροφύσιον καὶ ἀκροτελεύτιον παρὰ Θουκυδίδῃ, καὶ ὅσα ἄλλα ἐκ τῶν ἄκρων.

From ὀνύχων ἄκρων (‘nails’ extremities’), the hands’ and feet’s extremities [are called] ἀκρωνύχια (‘nails’). I think that τὰ ἄκρα (‘extremities’) would also be appropriately applied to fingers. [Other words derived from ἄκρος are] ἀκρότατα (‘the outermost parts’), ἀκρωλένια (‘elbows’), ἀκρόδρυα (‘fruits grown on upper branches’), ἀκροχειρισμός (‘wrestling with the tips of the hands’, i.e. ‘with the fingers’), ἀκροκώλια (‘extremities of the body’), ἀκρώρεια (‘mountain ridge’), ἀκροθίνια (‘firstlings’), and [the verb] ἠκροθινιαζόμην (‘I chose the finest’) in Euripides (HF 476), and ἀκροφύσιον (‘nozzle’) and ἀκροτελεύτιον (‘end’) in Thucydides (4.100.2; 2.17.1), and other such [words which are derived] from τὰ ἄκρα.

(2) Poll. 7.106: τὰ δὲ ἐργαλεῖα τούτων φῦσαι ἀκροφύσια, χοάναι, πυράγραι, ἄκμονες, ῥαιστῆρες σφῦραι, ἐσχαρίδες, ἀκόναι θηγάναι, κροταφίδες· σφῦραι δ’εἰσὶ σιδηραῖ, ἐκ θατέρου ὀξεῖαι.

Their (i.e. of blacksmiths) instruments are: φῦσαι (‘bellows’), ἀκροφύσια (‘nozzles’), χοάναι (‘funnels’), πυράγραι (‘fire-tongs’), ἄκμονες (‘anvils’), ῥαιστῆρες (‘hammers’), σφῦραι (‘mallets’), ἐσχαρίδες (‘braziers’), ἀκόναι (‘hones’), θηγάναι (‘whetstones’), κροταφίδες (‘pointed hammers’); σφῦραι (‘mallets’) are made of iron and are sharp on one side.

(3) Poll. 10.147: χαλκέως σκεύη ἄκμων ἀκμοθέτης, ῥαιστήρ, πυράγρα, φῦσαι φυσητήρ ἀκροφύσιον, χοάναι, ἀκόναι θηγάναι, ἐσχαρίδες, κροταφίδες.

The blacksmith’s tools [are]: ἄκμων (‘anvil’), ἀκμοθέτης (‘anvil-block’), ῥαιστήρ (‘hammer’), πυράγρα (‘fire-tongs’), φῦσαι (‘bellows’) φυσητήρ (‘bellow’) [and] ἀκροφύσιον (‘nozzle’), χοάναι (‘funnels’), ἀκόναι (‘hones’) [and] θηγάναι (‘whetstones’), ἐσχαρίδες (‘braziers’), κροταφίδες (‘pointed hammers’).

(4) Hsch. α 2633: ἀκροφύσια· τὰ ἄκρα τῶν ἀσκῶν, ἐν οἷς οἱ χαλκεῖς τὸ πῦρ ἐκφυσῶσιν.

ἀκροφύσια: The nozzles of the bellows, in which blacksmiths blow the fire.

(5) Et.Gen. α 373 (= EM 53.20, Et.Sym. 240.5, [Zonar.] α 112): ἀκροφύσια· τὰ ἀκροστόμια τῶν ἀσκῶν.

ἀκροφύσια: The nozzles of the bellows.

(6) Σb α 817 (= Phot. α 870, ex Σʹʹʹ): ἀκροφύσιον· τὸ τῇ χώνῃ προστιθέμενον. Σοφοκλῆς.

ἀκροφύσιον: The [object] attached to the funnel. Sophocles (fr. 992) [uses this word].

(7) Eust. in Il. 4.214.17–9: ἰστέον δὲ ὅτι τὰ μέρη τῶν φυσῶν τὰ τοῖς χοάνοις ἐνιέμενα ἀκροφύσια ἐλέγοντο καὶ ἀκροστόμια, οἷς φυσῶσιν οἱ χαλκεῖς.

One must know that the parts of the bellows which inject [air] into the funnels were called ἀκροφύσια and ἀκροστόμια (‘nozzles’), through which the blacksmiths puff [the fire].

(8) Schol. Thuc. 4.100.2: καὶ ἀκροφύσιον ἀπὸ τῆς κεραίας σιδηροῦν· ἀκροφύσιον, ὁ τῶν χαλκέων φυσητήρ, ὃς ταῖς φύσαις συνημμένος ἐντίθεται ταῖς καμίνοις καὶ παραπέμπει τὸ πνεῦμα.

καὶ ἀκροφύσιον ἀπὸ τῆς κεραίας σιδηροῦν (‘and from the end they overlaid a nozzle with iron’, Thuc. 4.100.2): The ἀκροφύσιον (‘nozzle’) [is] the blacksmiths’ instrument for blowing which, joined to the bellows, is inserted in furnaces and pushes the air.

C. Loci classici, other relevant texts

(1) Ar. fr. 719 = Phryn. PS fr. 236:
ῥήματά τε κομψὰ καὶ παίγνι’ ἐπιδεικνύναι
πάντ’ ἀπ’ ἀκροφυσίων κἀπὸ καναβευμάτων (cf. A.1).

Although all lexica have κινναβευμάτων, the noun is always corrected in καναβευμάτων in Aristophanes’ fragment due to metrical needs. Nevertheless, κιναβευμάτων might have been the original Aristophanean form (see F.1).

To display refined expressions and jokes all [fresh] from bellows and frameworks.

(2) Leo Choerosphactes Chiliostichos theologia 731–4 Vassis:
πίστευε ταῦτα τοὺς ἀνουστάτους τρέπων
ὡς ἀμβλυδερκεῖς, ὡς παρεξεστηκότας,
ὡς σκαιότητος ἐμμενοῦς πεπλησμένους,
κενὰ ψοφοῦντας ὡς ἀπ’ ἀκροφυσίων.

Vassis retains the adjective καινά of cod. Vat. gr. 1257 but considers the phrase as deriving from Phryn. PS 83.8, where κενά is undoubtedly correct.

You should believe these things, turning away from foolish [people who], as though dull-sighted, out of their senses and full of abiding perversion, make empty sounds as from the bellows.

D. General commentary

An identical entry in the Synagoge and the Suda, ascribed to de Borries to Phrynichus’ Praeparatio sophistica (A.1), deals with the expression ἀπ’ ἀκροφυσίων λόγους ἐπιδεικνύναι (‘to display words [fresh] from the bellows’). The entry focuses on the metaphorical use of ἀκροφύσιον (‘nozzle’, ‘bellow’), illustrated through a reference to Aristophanes (fr. 719, C.1), where expressions and jokes are said to be ἀπ’ ἀκροφυσίων κἀπὸ καναβευμάτων (‘[fresh] from bellows and frameworks’). The same information, expanded with the addition of material from other erudite sources, is later repeated by the Greek humanist, Michael Apostolius, in his collection of proverbs (Apostol. 3.37Apostol. 3.37, see below). In what follows, we focus on the words ἀκροφύσιον and κανάβευμα, before turning to the metaphorical meaning of the phrase as a whole.

ἀκροφύσιον denotes the ‘nozzle’, i.e. the tube of a bellow through which the air is forced out. It is a determinative compoundCompounds of the type [AN]N which has the adjective ἄκροςἄκρος as its first constituent, conveying the idea of extremity (see DELG s.v. ἀκ-), and the feminine noun φῦσαφῦσα (‘bellow’) as its second constituent (see EDG s.v.). The literary occurrences of ἀκροφύσιον are scarce. Besides Aristophanes’ fragment (fr. 719, C.1), it is found in Thucydides (4.100.2, cf. B.8) and Cassius Dio (2x, at 78.30.1 with the metaphorical technical meaning ‘comet’s tail’), while its occurrence in Sophocles (fr. 992) is testified by Σb α 817 and Phot. α 870 (B.6). ἀκροφύσιον also occurs three times in Pollux’ Onomasticon: once in a list of compounds of ἄκρος (B.1; cf. F.1), and two times in sections dealing with tools used by blacksmiths and bronze sculptors (B.2, B.3). In these two last passages, ἀκροφύσιον denotes the same object as φῦσαι and φυσητήρ, that is, the bellow(s): the same synecdoche ‘nozzle’ > ‘bellow’ also occurs in Aristophanes (C.1; cf. also B.6). Lexica gloss the singular ἀκροφύσιον with τὸ τῇ χώνῃ προστιθέμενον (‘the object attached to the funnel’, see B.6; cf. also B.7), and the plural ἀκροφύσια with τὰ ἄκρα τῶν ἀσκῶν (‘the nozzles of the bellows’: see B.4, B.5; cf. also B.8).

The second object involved in Aristophanes’ metaphor is a κανάβευμα (‘armature’), a hapax. This noun does not occur in the lemma of A.1, which is devoted only to the expression ἀπ’ ἀκροφυσίων λόγους ἐπιδεικνύναι. However, the interpretamentum proceeds to discuss Aristophanes’ quotation (where κανάβευμα is given in the form κιννάβευμα), as well as its base-form, κάναβος. The morphology of these forms and Aristophanes’ fragment are discussed in F.2.

As Tosi (2021, 42) points out, in the entry attributed to the PS (A.1), there is no agreement between the lemma, which is the phrase ἀπ’ ἀκροφυσίων λόγους ἐπιδεικνύναι, and the interpretamentum, which consists of two adjectives (οἱονεὶ καινοὺς καὶ νεοποιήτους). According to the interpretamentum, the tools of blacksmiths and bronze sculptors (the bellow and the armature) are used as a metaphor for words that demonstrate particular novelty in language and style. Nevertheless, no further information is provided concerning the favourable or derogatory way in which this novelty should be regarded, an otherwise crucial component in understanding Aristophanes’ fragment (C.1). Some scholars interpret the fragment as a praise of Aristophanes’ own poetic art (see Kassel, Austin in PCG vol. 3.2, 367; Bremer 1993, 165; Pellegrino 2015, 410). Thus, the poet would be referring to his ability to create innovative words and jokes in opposition to someone else’s roughness and commonness (a similar image in Nu. 546–8).

However, the couplet in the fragment is more likely to have originated from an invective. A deprecating context has already been imagined by Mattusch (1975, 316), who, following an idea which she attributes to Ronald S. Stroud (note 27), suggests that Aristophanes’ lines might refer, derogatorily, ‘to words and tricks that are overly subtle and that resemble the air which is blown from the bellows and needs the support of an armature’. For this interpretation, Mattusch relies on the disparaging meaning that κανάβευμα has in lexicography; it is glossed by Hsch. κ 2709 as πανουργεύματα (‘knavish tricks’) and by Phot. κ 723 as πονηρευμάτων (‘[of] villanies’). Moreover, Bagordo (2018, 472–6) duly notes the sneering use of the adjective κομψόςκομψός as ‘skilled in subtleties’, and highlights that both κομψόςκομψός and παίγνιον are sometimes used to mock people acting like sophists and to discredit their credibility. Taillardat (1965, 443) cautiously proposes to identify the tragic poet, Agathon, as the addressee of such mockery (on the basis of the manufacturing images applied to him in Thesm. 52–7), while Bagordo (2018, 476) suggests Euripides, whose style and vocabulary were close to that of the sophists (on Euripides as ‘the archetypal sophist’ in Frogs, see Carey 2000, 429). The only other literary occurrence of the expression is in Leo Choerosphactes’ Chiliostichos theologia (C.2, on which see further F.3). Here, the phrase ἀπ’ ἀκροφυσίων is used disparagingly – a fact that further hints at Aristophanes’ reproachful tone. It is of note, however, that Choerosphactes does not take the expression from Aristophanes, but rather from the PS.

If de Borries’ reconstruction is correct, the PS lemma devoted to ἀπ’ ἀκροφυσίων was later acquired by the Synagoge-tradition. The Suda testifies to a continuing interest in this expression, which goes beyond the repetition of the same material transmitted by the Synagoge (A.1). Besides this fuller gloss, the Suda also has additional entries on the same expression. Two of them, Su. α 1022Su. α 1022 and Su. κ 1624Su. κ 1624, are devoted respectively to ἀκροφυσίων λόγους and κινναβευμάτων; both refer the reader back to Su. α 2874 (A.1). A third entry, Su. κ 1625Su. κ 1625, repeats verbatim the last part of Su. α 2874 (A.1: κίνναβος· τὸ εἴδωλον, πρὸς ὃ οἱ πλάσται καὶ οἱ ζῳγράφοι βλέποντες διατίθενται πλάττοντες καὶ γράφοντες. Ἀριστοφάνης, καὶ ἄλλοι πολλοί).

The PS entry (A.1) ends with the statement κέχρηνται πολλοί (‘many [authors] use it’). This statement is ambiguous. It could refer to the main lemma itself, ἀπ’ ἀκροφυσίων λόγους ἐπιδεικνύναι, though it is hard to imagine that such a phrase could be of common use among authors. Alternatively, the statement may refer to the recurring use of κάναβος/κίνναβος only, to which the last part of the gloss is dedicated. Indeed, it is more likely that the word κάναβος was employed frequently, given that it was used in both a concrete and a metaphorical sense, and that it has survived (albeit with a change and a specialisation in meaning) into Modern Greek (see further E. and F.2). This suggests that in its present form, the entry of the PS conflates two formerly separate glosses, focusing respectively on the phrase ἀπ’ ἀκροφυσίων λόγους ἐπιδεικνύναι and the word κάναβος/κίνναβος. The presence of κίνναβος as a separate lemma in Su. κ 1625Su. κ 1625, although added in the margin, could also point in this direction; and even more so since this entry contains a similar statement concerning the frequency of κίνναβος (Ἀριστοφάνης, καὶ ἄλλοι πολλοί, ‘Aristophanes and many others [use it]’). A parallel process of conflation is clearly visible in the collection of proverbs by Michael Apostolius (3.37)Apostol. 3.37. Apostolius repeats Phrynichus’ gloss (A.1) almost verbatim, and then, since in its last part the word κίνναβος is explained with εἴδωλον, he further adds the definition of εἴδωλον: σκιῶδες ὁμοίωμα ἢ φαντασία σώματος, σκιά τις ἀεροειδής (‘εἴδωλον: [It is] the resemblance or the appearance of a body, an airy shadow’). Apostolius derives this (again verbatim except for the omission of the last part) from Σ ε 95 (= Phot. ε 183, Su. ε 45; see also EM 295.58–296.10, Et.Sym. ε 126, Lexicon Sabbaiticum ε 53.20–4). In Apostolius’ entry, we clearly see a process of blending, one that may also explain the presence of the final section devoted to κάναβος/κίνναβος in the gloss of the PS (A.1).

E. Byzantine and Modern Greek commentary

Apart from Aristophanes’ fragment, the phrase ἀπ’ ἀκροφυσίων has a unique literary attestation in Leo Choerosphactes’ Chiliostichos theologia (l. 734) (C.2). The passage concludes a section of Choerosphactes’ poem praising the qualities of nature and of all other God’s creations, including human intellect, as visible evidence of his existence. After articulating his precepts, Choerosphactes pleads with the reader to believe them (πίστευε ταῦτα) and to turn away from foolish people (τοὺς ἀνουστάτους) and their false theories (κενά). Here, Choerosphactes refers to heretic beliefs, which are always present in his didactic poem as the wicked counterbalance of his pious doctrines. Indeed, each subsection of the Theologia ends with the exhortation to have faith in pious and orthodox dogmas and to avoid all other beliefs as heretical. There is thus no doubt that the phrase ὡς ἀπ’ ἀκροφυσίων (‘as from the bellows’) has a strongly disparaging sense, being even more derogatory than the mocking tone of Aristophanes’ fragment (C.1).

Choerosphactes often uses sequential expressions derived from Phrynichus’ PS: see for instance ψυχορροφούσας and ἐνσεσεισμένων at l. 89 (from PS 128.11–3 and PS 69.6–8), γερόντων στυππίνων, ἀπλύτους πώγωνας, and κρεῶν σωρούς at ll. 467–9 (respectively from PS 59.7–9, PS 4.1–2, PS 109.11–2; see also entries ἄπλυτος πώγων and ψυχορροφεῖν). In l. 734, too, before ὡς ἀπ’ ἀκροφυσίων, he uses κενὰκενός ψοφοῦνταςψοφέω, which is taken from Phryn. PS 83.8Phryn. PS 83.8: κενὰ ψοφεῖν· κενῶς κομπάζειν (‘κενὰ ψοφεῖν: To boast pointlessly’). Phrynichus’ gloss is based on Alexis’ fr. 25 (= Ath. 8.336f): κόμποι κενοὶ ψοφοῦσι ἀντ’ ὀνειράτων (‘empty boasts that ring as hollows as dreams’, transl. Olson 2008, 31), where the κόμποι κενοί (‘empty boasts’) are the subject, not the object, of the verb ψοφέω (note that Kaibel 1887, 240 restored Alexis’ line as κόμποι κενὰ ψοφοῦντες ἀντ’ ὀνειράτων ‘boasts that sound vainly as dreams’, based on Phryn. PS 83.8). Vassis (2002, 124) chooses to preserve the reading καινὰ ψοφοῦντας of cod. Vat. gr. 1257 (which he translates as ‘schwatzen sie Neuartiges’), and suggests that Phrynichus’ lemma be corrected into καινὰ ψοφεῖν (‘to make new noises’) based on the fact that καινά and καινῶς are the manuscript’s readings. Νevertheless, the phrase κενὸς ψόφος (‘empty sound’), occurring for the first time in Eur. Rh. 565–6 (ἢ κενὸς ψόφος στάζει δι’ ὤτων; ‘or an empty sound drop into [my] ears?’), is recurringly attested throughout Greek literature to debase words by labeling them as pointless and undeserving of attention. The phrase has dozens of occurrences in the Byzantine age, when it is attested in texts of all registers. For instance, it is used by Symeon Metaphrastes in the Martyrium Sanctae Theclae (BHG 1719.841: Θεοκλείᾳ δὲ ταῦτα ψόφοι μόνον ἦσαν κενοί, τῶν μὲν ὤτων καταχεόμενοι ‘but for Thecla those [words] were only empty sounds poured down upon [her] ears’) and by John Mauropous in Ep. 91.36 (οἱ δ’ εἰσὶν οὐδέν, πλὴν μόνον κενοὶ ψόφοι: ‘but they [scil. these words] are nothing but empty sounds’).

It remains possible that Choerosphactes read Phrynichus’ lemma as καινὰ ψοφεῖν and ascribed the concept of novelty a sufficiently disparaging sense. Nevertheless, the presence of the phrase κενὰ ψοφοῦντας in Choerosphactes’ passage would also be perfectly coherent (he is indeed degrading others’ words and doctrines saying that it is only ‘foolish [people] making empty noises’) and placed in a consolidated tradition. Οn the contrary, καινὰ ψοφοῦντας would be not only less pejorative (weakening the passage’s polemical strength), but also unparalleled, since there is no occurrence of the adjective καινός used with ψόφος or ψοφέω (unless Phrynichus’ lemma is corrected in καινὰ ψοφεῖν as Vassis suggests). The presence of καινά in the manuscripts of both the PS and the Theologia can be explained as a common misspelling due to phonetic reasons, since κενά and καινά were homophones in Medieval Greek. The text of the Theologia in cod. Vat. gr. 1257 is frequently incorrect, with many mistakes in spelling and word-division (for example, the genitive σκαιότητος occurring in the previous verse is spelled as ὠς καὶ ὄτιτος in the manuscript). Modern Greek has the noun ακροφύσιον ‘nozzle’, a technical internal borrowing.

F. Commentary on individual texts and occurrences

(1)    Poll. 2.161 (B1)

The passage is likely to have suffered from heavy epitomisation. After saying that τὰ ἄκρα (‘extremities’) might be also used for fingers, Pollux lists compounds in ἀκρο‑: ἀκρωλένια (‘elbows’), ἀκρόδρυα (‘fruits grown on upper branches’), etc. This sudden transition from a semantic to a morphological criterion could be a consequence of shortening at some stage of the transmission.

(2)    Ar. fr. 719 (C.1) = Phryn. PS fr. 236 (A.1)

The form κινναβευμάτων attested by lexicographers cannot be accommodated in Aristophanes’ line (C.1) for metrical reasons. It is thus corrected by editors into καναβευμάτων, replacing the long syllable κινν- with the short syllable κα- metri gratia. This would be the only occurrence of κανάβευμα in Greek. The word is based on κάναβος, itself a derivation of the Semitic loanword κάννα (‘pole-reed’) through the rare suffix -βος (see DELG, s.v.). We shall first examine the occurrences of κάναβος in Greek to see if κανάβευμα may fit the context of Aristophanes’ line, and then consider the transmitted form κινναβευμάτων.

All meanings attested in Ancient Greek for κάναβος seem to derive from its primary meaning as ‘structure made with reeds’. In Aristotle, κάναβος occurs twice in a simile in which blood vessels are compared to the sketches of the human body drawn on the walls, presumably, of Aristotle’s lecture room (see Reeve 2019, 285, n. 537): see GA 743a.1–4 (ἐκ δὲ τῆς καρδίας αἱ φλέβες διατεταμέναι, καθάπερ οἱ τοὺς κανάβους γράφοντες ἐν τοῖς τοίχοις· τὰ γὰρ μέρη περὶ ταύτας ἐστίν, ἅτε γιγνόμενα ἐκ τούτων ‘the blood vessels spread out from the heart, as [when people] sketch mannikins on the walls: the parts of the body are around them, since they are formed from them’) and HA 515a.34–5 (αἱ μὲν γὰρ φλέβες, ὥσπερ ἐν τοῖς γραφομένοις κανάβοις, τὸ τοῦ σώματος ἔχουσι σχῆμα παντός ‘the blood vessels, as in the drawn mannikins, have the shape of the whole body’), cf. also GA 4.764b.29–31. John Philoponus, in his commentary on Aristotle’s GA, wrongly explains the word κάναβος as ‘cistern’ (Phlp. in GA 14.3,109.27–8: κάναβος δέ ἐστιν ἡ δεξαμένη, ἣν κινστέρναν ἡ Ῥωμαίων οἶδε γλῶσσα καλεῖν ‘κάναβος is the cistern, which the Latin language calls κινστέρνα’), misunderstanding the Aristotelic simile. Pollux 7.164 instead defines κάναβος as the wooden armature used by sculptors (περὶ ὃ δὲ οἱ τοὺς πηλίνους πλάττοντες τὸν πηλὸν περιθέντες πλάττουσι, τοῦτο τὸ ξυλήφιον κάναβος καλεῖται ‘the wooden structure around which clay-sculptors put the clay is called κάναβος’), a definition repeated in 10.189 that deals with the lost-wax technique in bronze-sculpting. A similar definition is offered by Hsch. κ 629, and Phot. κ 309. Poll. 10.189 also registers the parodic use of κάναβος to denote a very skinny person: ὅθεν καὶ Στράττις ἐν τῷ Κινησίᾳ τὸν Σαννυρίωνα διὰ τὴν ἰσχνότητα κάναβον καλεῖ ‘from which Strattis (fr. 21) in [his] Cinesias calls Sannyrion κάναβος (‘skeleton’) for [his] thinness’ (for the translation ‘skeleton’, see Fiorentini 2017, 111–2). The same information is repeated in Hsch. κ 629.

According to Phrynichus (A.1) and to Su. κ 1625Su. κ 1625 (on which see also D.), the κάναβος/κίνναβος would be an εἴδωλον (‘image’) that artists look at while sculpting and painting – probably as a preparatory sketch used as a guide for accurately rendering shapes and proportions. Accordingly, Mattusch (1975)    defines the κάναβος as a ‘framework’ or an ‘armature’ that could be either bi-dimensional (as in Aristotle and possibly in Phrynichus’ gloss) or tri-dimensional (as in Pollux, Hesychius, and Photius). Apart from lexicographical passages, this meaning of κάναβος does not survive in Byzantine Greek, where κάνναβος occurs only as a by-form of καννάβη and κάνναβις ‘hemp’, ‘hemp rope’ (see Kriaras, LME s.v.). In Modern Greek, however, κάνναβος survives in the technical vocabulary of architecture, meaning ‘grid’ (see LKN s.v.).

Returning to Aristophanes’ fragment, the word κιννάβευμα must be the equivalent of κάναβος, indicating an armature or framework (see LSJ s.v. which first registers its metaphorical meaning of ‘knavish trick’ established by ancient lexicography). Bagordo (2017, 123) considers the word to be a vox nihili, possibly engendered by a contamination with κιννάβαρι (‘cinnabar’), but this interpretation seems to be far-fetched. Although the forms in κίνν- in ancient lexica depend on an expansion of the Synagoge (Σʹ), which could easily be corrupted, a contamination with κιννάβαρι does not seem the most reasonable explanation. κιννάβευμα could instead be a geminated form of κινάβευμα (the doubling of consonants being anything but rare in nouns of non-Greek origin, see e.g. Furnée 1972, 387, for the case ν ~ νν). There are no metrical reasons to exclude the idea that κιναβευμάτων could be the form that Aristophanes actually employed, since its short syllable κι- would meet the metrical needs of the line. The use of κιναβευμάτων by Aristophanes is moreover supported by two independent lemmas in Hesychius and Photius, which are likely to originate from this Aristophanean passage: see Hsch. κ 2709, κιναβεύματα, and Phot. κ 723, κιναβευμάτων, which has, noticeably, the same genitive form occurring in Aristophanes’ fragment.

(3)    Leo Choerosphactes Chiliostichos theologia 731–4 Vassis (C.2)

Besides two phrases quoting Phrynichus’ PS (see E.), Choerosphactes uses another word he derives directly from a lexicon. This is the compound adjective ἀμβλυδερχής (‘dull-sighted’), attested only in the lexicon of his almost-contemporary Photius, who ascribes it to the tragic poet Nicomachus (Phot. α 1166: ἀμβλυδερκές· Νικόμαχος Ἀλεξάνδρῳ· Διὸς γὰρ οὐκ ἀμβλυδερκὲς ὄμμα ‘ἀμβλυδερκές: Nicomachus (fr. 1) [uses it] in [his] Alexander, [where he says]: ‘Zeus’ eye is not dull-sighted’). The word has no other occurrence in Greek. Its presence further demonstrates Choerosphactes’ recurrent use of lexica as a source of unusual words and phrases.


Bagordo, A. (2017). Aristophanes fr. 675–820. Übersetzung und Kommentar. Heidelberg.

Bagordo, A. (2018). ‘κομψευριπικῶς. Tracce di Euripide socratico-sofistico nella commedia attica’. Bigliazzi, S.; Lupi, F.; Ugolini, G. (eds.), Συναγωνίζεσθαι. Studies in Honour of Guido Avezzù. Verona, 457–90.

Bremer, J. M. (1993). ‘Aristophanes on His Own Poetry’. Bremer, J. M.; Handley, E. W. (eds.), Aristophane. Sept exposés suivis de discussions par Enzo Degani, Thomas Gelzer, Eric W. Handley, J. M. Bremer, Kenneth J. Dover, Nicole Loraux, Bernhard Zimmermann. Vandœuvres–Genève 19–24 août 1991. Geneva, 125–72.

Carey, C. (2000). ‘Old Comedy and the Sophists’. Harvey, D.; Wilkins, J. (eds.), The Rivals of Aristophanes. Studies in Athenian Old Comedy. London, 419–36.

Fiorentini (2017). Strattide. Testimonianze e frammenti. Bologna.

Furnée (1972). Die wichtigsten konsonantischen Erscheinungen des Vorgriechischen. Mit einem Appendix über den Vokalismus. The Hague, Paris.

Kaibel, G. (1887). Athenaei Naucratitae Deipnosophistarum libri XV. Vol. 2: Libri VI–X. Stuttgart.

Mattusch, C. C. (1975). ‘Pollux on Bronze Casting. A New Look at κάναβος’. GRBS 16, 309–16.

Olson, S. D. (2009). Athenaeus. The Learned Banqueters. Vol. 5: Books 10.420e–11. Edited and translated by S. Douglas Olson. Cambridge, MA.

Pellegrino, M. (2015). Aristofane. Frammenti. Lecce, Rovato.

Reeve, C. D. C (2019). Aristotle. Generation of Animals & History of Animals I, Parts of Animals I. Translated with Introduction and Notes by C. D. C. Reeve. Indianapolis, Cambridge.

Taillardat, J. (1965). Les images d’Aristophane. Études de langue et de style. 2nd edition. Paris.

Tosi, R. (2021). ‘Alcune osservazioni sui frammenti tramandati dai lessici’. Mastellari, V. (ed.), Fragments in Context. Frammenti e dintorni. Göttingen, 39–48.

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


Giulia Gerbi, 'ἀκροφύσιον, ἀπ’ ἀκροφυσίων λόγους ἐπιδεικνύναι (Phryn. PS fr. 236)', in Olga Tribulato (ed.), Digital Encyclopedia of Atticism.
DOI: https://doi.org/10.30687/DEA/2974-8240/2022/01/003

This article provides a philological and linguistic commentary on the noun ἀκροφύσιον discussed in the Atticist lexicon Phryn. PS fr. 236.

ComedyMetaphorsRhetoricScoptic languageSophistsκάναβοςκινάβευμακίνναβος