Textkit Logo

codes?!? in homer's and tragedians' intros

Here you can discuss all things Ancient Greek. Use this board to ask questions about grammar, discuss learning strategies, get help with a difficult passage of Greek, and more.

codes?!? in homer's and tragedians' intros

Postby chad » Wed Jul 28, 2004 2:40 am

this sounds bizarre, and i don't find co-incidental patterns interesting, but i haven't heard about this before and i'm wondering if anyone here has heard about this and whether it's been generally approved/rejected:

i'm just reading The Homer of Aristotle by D Margoliuoth, Oxford 1923 who says that there was a practice of all Greek tragedians, mentioned in Diogenes Laertius, of inserting cryptic signatures in the tragedies to prove their authenticity. It then sets out for each of the plays of Sophocles, Euripides and Aeschylus, re-arrangements of the letters in the first 8 lines (grouped into 4 sets of 2 lines) which contain the following messages:

lines 1, 2: the signature, containing the author's name or identifying description,

3, 4: the chronogram, containing the olympiad number in which the play was composed,

5, 6: the homage to Athena,

7, 8: the admonition, ironically warning the reader not to look for further codes after the 6th line.

i could type out some of the codes: there's pages of them: but they're all set out in the book. at first glance they appear quite convincing: much more believable than the "homer codes" in the next chapter...

the author says that the tragedians' practice developed from the codes at the start of homer's!?! works... a tradition which italicus did in fact perpetuate, recording his name into his latin translation of the iliad. the iliad code (which comes from re-arranging the first 2 letters, then the 2nd 2 letters, &c of each line: that's why this code seems a bit empty to me) is short enough that i can type it out now (as the people queueing to use the computers here in this public lib scowl on):

[face=SPIonic]9Omh/rou 0Ih/ta' o1p' e0ci/llwn o3rwn,
w} ou]le dai=mon, dhi/aj e0nanti/aj,
th=i du/se h[it' e1dute pe/nqh 0Orfe/wj:
mi/mn' u3daq', a#pte d' oi[a pu=r ai1aj ce/naj.
a#yw d' 0Axillhi\j xa/rij Troi/hi du/w:
Danaoi/ te dh\ sa& t' h0u\j w} Ai0ne/a te/kea
di/x' e1llax' e1rg'. ei0 d' 1Erisi klei=' eu] poi/eon,
o3 t' )Aqhnai/hj boulai=j x' e3lhij ske/yeu te/loj.[/face]

...which the author translates (1923-style):

Into the voice of Homer of Ios, "expelling" [referring to the etymology of Apollo] from the bounds,
O gracious deity, the contrary fiends,
Enter even as you entered the laments of Orpheus;
Waters stopped, like fire they kindled strange lands.
Let me, the Achilleis, a gift to Troy, kindle two;
Of the Danai and thy children, brave Aeneas,
The allotted lands are sundered. And if I have
composed with skill takes for the powers of Strife,
Consider what tribute tho wilt take for the counsels of Athene.

There's also one for the Odyssey...

So i was wondering if people have heard about this, or whether it's just a re-construction out of nothing (this definitely seems more likely for the homer codes than for the tragedy codes, which were attested in ancient times and are consistent across all the plays). the homer codes seem a bit forced for homer's (simpler) language...

btw, since the authorship of the "Rhesos" isn't clear: the old critics apparently thought it was by sophocles; today it's ascribed to euripides but peck mentions that the authorship is unclear:

http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/cgi-bin/pt ... d%3Drhesus

this is a bit interesting: the signature code in the first 2 lines suggests that it's by sophocles: the author re-arranges the lines to form:

[face=SPIonic]a!llass' a!kroin g' a!rrht' e0poi=n tragwidi/aj
stre/f' e1ph su\ d' e1kleg' e)k Kolwnh=qe/n g' e1bhn[/face]

which is translated by the author as:

Substitute unspoken words for the topmost couplet of the tragedy:
Twist the words and pick out: I started from Kolonos.

i'll mention again that i'm not pushing this as a theory: just passing it on because it's a bizarre theory which i haven't heard mentioned before, to do with the books i'm reading. :)
Textkit Zealot
Posts: 757
Joined: Tue Jul 22, 2003 2:55 am

Postby Eureka » Thu Jul 29, 2004 12:22 am

Morning, Chad.
The problem as I see it, is that the classical-era codes appear to be smaller and simpler than the Homeric codes (going by what you've said). This is counterintuitive. You'd expect coding to become more complicated as the tradition develops. Also, Homer's code seems to be saying something quite different from the later codes.

It would be interesting to see if anyone has done a counter experiment. That is, take random pieces of writing, and see if supposed 'codes' can be found in them.
User avatar
Textkit Zealot
Posts: 741
Joined: Tue Feb 17, 2004 3:52 am
Location: Melbourne, Australia

Postby chad » Thu Jul 29, 2004 12:53 am

hi eureka, i completely agree w/ you; like i said i find the homer codes suspicious anyway because it's such a forced "hidden" text that it sounds like it's been pulled out of nothing. it's actually the tragedy codes that are a bit interesting, because (1) they're actually attested in diogenes laertius, and then (2) the 4th couplet (lines 7 and 8 ) can be made to say "don't waste your time re-arranging the letters of the 4th couplet" across all tragedies of aeschylus, sophocles and euripides, using the same verbs for re-arrange/twist, and referring to "4th couplet"...

the author basically relies on these 2 facts to argue "beyond co-incidence" for the existence of the codes. i always stubbornly reject these numerology hidden code secret meaning arguments instead of wasting the time thinking about them, but this one might be different, i don't know, and so i'm wondering if people who've studied these texts (like at uni or something) and have researched their authorship/dates have come across this before. :)
Textkit Zealot
Posts: 757
Joined: Tue Jul 22, 2003 2:55 am

Postby GlottalGreekGeek » Mon Dec 19, 2005 4:08 am

Very interesting, though more for the tradgedians than Homer. Whenever my Greek is up to the level to follow this kind of thing, I will.
User avatar
Textkit Zealot
Posts: 903
Joined: Sun Dec 12, 2004 3:37 am
Location: Mountain View

Postby swiftnicholas » Tue Dec 20, 2005 2:39 pm

Yeah, I haven't seen this post before, thanks for bringing it to my attention GGG. I'm interested to look at that book you mention, Chad; have you read or thought any more about this? I'm very skeptical of things like this, but I was fascinated to hear that it is mentioned in at least one ancient author. And does it really seem to work well for all tragedies?

Textkit Enthusiast
Posts: 383
Joined: Fri Jan 07, 2005 4:04 pm
Location: New York

Postby Skylax » Wed Dec 21, 2005 8:35 pm

User avatar
Textkit Enthusiast
Posts: 672
Joined: Fri Jun 06, 2003 8:18 am
Location: Belgium

Return to Learning Greek

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 85 guests