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Mispronouncing Ancient Greek (Demosthenes)

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Mispronouncing Ancient Greek (Demosthenes)

Postby Qimmik » Fri Apr 04, 2014 6:11 pm

Along the lines of γαλῆν ὁρῶ vs. γαλήν' ὁρῶ, the scholiast on Demosthenes' most famous speech, On the Crown (no. 18 in the Demosthenic corpus) tells an amusing if probably apocryphal story.

Demosthenes' policies, largely directed against the aggressive expansionism of Philip of Macedon, ended in failure when an alliance crafted by Demosthenes between Athens and Thebes, traditional enemies, was defeated by Philip at Chaeronea in 338. In On the Crown, Demosthenes is defending his entire career against a savage attack by his bitter and hated political antagonist, Aeschines. The year is 330. Philip was assassinated in 336, and Alexander is now the Macedonian king.

At sec. 52 of "On the Crown," Demosthenes is on the offensive, attacking Aeschines for being in the pay of the Macedonian rulers (Aeschines claims he was just their friend). Demosthenes turns to Aeschines and addresses him directly:

ἀλλὰ μισθωτὸν ἐγώ σε Φιλίππου πρότερον καὶ νῦν Ἀλεξάνδρου καλῶ, καὶ οὗτοι πάντες. εἰ δ᾽ ἀπιστεῖς, ἐρώτησον αὐτούς, μᾶλλον δ᾽ ἐγὼ τοῦθ᾽ ὑπὲρ σοῦ ποιήσω. πότερον ὑμῖν, ὦ ἄνδρες Ἀθηναῖοι, δοκεῖ μισθωτὸς Αἰσχίνης ἢ ξένος εἶναι Ἀλεξάνδρου; ἀκούεις ἃ λέγουσιν.

"But I say you were in the pay of Philip before and you are now in the pay of Alexander, and all of these men [the jurors, numbering in the hundreds] say so too. If you don't believe me, ask them--no, I'll do that for you. Do you, gentlemen of the jury, think that Aeschines is in the pay of Alexander, or just his friend? [Turning to Aeschines again:] You hear what they say."

Presumably, the jurors responded to Demosthenes' question by yelling "μισθωτός" -- "In his pay!"

In asking the jurors "μισθωτὸς Αἰσχίνης ἢ ξένος;", Demosthenes would, of course, have run the risk of getting the wrong answer from the crowd. The scholiast says that when he actually delivered the speech, Demosthenes deliberately mispronounced "μισθωτὸς" as "μίσθωτος", so that the jurors yelled back at him "μισθωτός" to correct his mispronunciation -- and he got the answer he wanted.

Se non è vero, è ben trovato
Last edited by Qimmik on Fri Apr 04, 2014 9:53 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: Mispronouncing ancient Greek -- Demosthenes

Postby anphph » Fri Apr 04, 2014 6:34 pm

Hah, great one. Who'd have thought linguistic orthodoxy was bi-partisan!
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Re: Mispronouncing Ancient Greek (Demosthenes)

Postby Qimmik » Wed May 21, 2014 10:33 pm

"Hireling" or "paid servant" might be a better translation of μισθωτὸν.
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