Persius 1.4: Machinical Error?

A minor question of orthography:

ne mihi Polydamas et Troiades Labeonem

The name of the Trojan hero Πολυδάμας does not scan in hexameters: the first three syllables are short. Homer therefore lengthened the first syllable to make Πουλυδάμας. How that should be spelled in Latin is not entirely settled.

The latest editors of the three Augustan poems in which Πολυδάμας is mentioned all print forms of Pulydamas: Heyworth in Propertius 3.1.29, Knox in Ovid, Heroides 5.94, and Tarrant in Ovid, Metamorphoses 12.542. Propertius’ older manuscripts are divided, with N giving poli and the descendants of A (FLP, Heyworth’s Π) puli (both as separate words). But the older manuscripts of Ovid – quite a bit older than Propertius’ – give Poly- in both works. Nevertheless, none of the three editors argues the point, and neither Knox nor Tarrant even mentions it in his apparatus, printing accusative Pulydamanta in both texts without explanation. Nor do Heyworth or Knox argue the point in their commentaries. It seems to be the consensus of modern editors (perhaps only ‘Anglo-Saxon’ editors) that Pulydamas is the proper way to spell the name, at least in the higher genres of verse during the reign of Augustus.

Is that how Persius would have spelled the name? His editors much prefer Polydamas: of those I have seen, only Valpy and Némethy print Pulydamas. However, only Gildersleeve and Kißel argue the point at all. I find their arguments unconvincing, and have therefore printed Pulydamas in my text. Kißel (116) adduces the preponderance of manuscripts in verse authors who name Polydamas, but does not explain why he would have preferred the Doric-Aeolic form. (Besides Propertius and Ovid, the sources are Ilias Latina 786 and Silius 12.212.) Gildersleeve doesn’t argue so much as assert: “Some write Pulydamas, corresponding with the Homeric form, Πουλυδάμας; but Pōlydamas (Πωλυδάμας) is the Sicilian Doric, like pōlypus (πωλύπος).” He goes on to expound the allusion to the Iliad, which makes nonsense of the supposed Sicilian origin. It seems obvious to me that most Romans would have learned pōlypus at the fishmarket, where Sicilian dialect would have been likely enough, while those Romans who knew the name of the hero at all would have learned it from reading Homer. They would have had no more need to assimilate the two spellings than the spellings of machina and mechanicus. Here, too, the less learned borrowing (machina from μαχανά) presumably came from personal contact with Dorian speakers, while the more learned (mechanicus from μηχανή) would have come from reading Attic texts.

This entry was posted in Critical Texts, Persius, QLTP and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *