Copy of my reply to Pothier, on Numbers

From: Edward Hobbs (
Date: Sun Aug 17 1997 - 12:34:40 EDT

From: LUCY::EHOBBS "Edward Hobbs" 12-AUG-1997 10:17:31.08
To: IN%""

Dear Edward,

        Rarely do I have the opportunity to address a letter "Dear Edward",
though that is way all those I _receive_ begin!

        I want to thank you for posting your (partial) paper on the Greek
numeric notation system to this List -- most of all because the large
majority of its subscribers have not studied classical Greek, where they
would (should?) have learned about it, but also because many courses in
classical Greek do not bother with it. Probably many more will be
interested because of Rev. 13 than because of the question which prompted
you to post it (a question which is probably unanswerable, short of finding
the autographs of the NT writings).

        I have downloaded it, in fact, and would like to print it out as a
handout for those of my non-Greek students who are especially interested in
the 666-question; it covers the ground very nicely for a non-Greek. If I
may have your permission to do that (I would of course keep your name on it
as author), I would also like your permission to make a small change in it,
to correct a slightly misleading wording.

You write:

" The digamma at 6, however, will be directly relevant for the
representation of six hundred sixty-six. This letter also became
known as stigma (note the "t") because the form of writing it
looked like the ligature (writing together) of the two Greek
letters sigma and tau, roughly corresponding to our s and t. [If
not done carefully, it can even look like just a sigma, which
would be an error.] For most of the rest of this study this
obsolete letter pushed into service to represent the numeral for
6 will be referred to as stigma."

        The letter-name "digamma" (from its shape) was actually called FAY
(to use their spelling), pronounced "fow" (rhymes with "cow"); it looked
like our letter capital "F", and was pronounced like our letter "w". Later
on, as cursive characters came into use, the "stigma" form was pressed into
use (as a cursive form of FAY, written F in uncial). Hence, it is usually
called by paleographers "digamma" when in an uncial MS., and "stigma" when
found in a cursive.

        So I would like to edit your second sentence above to read:

"Later on, as cursive writing came into use, this letter was no longer
written as a digamma (which looked like a capital F, hence its name
"digamma", i.e. "double-gamma") but as a "stigma", the ligature often used
for sigma+tau (s=t)."

        Or something analogous which you could write for me.

        Would this be acceptable to you?

        I will not, of course, reproduce anything without your permission.

I cannot refrain from asking whether by any chance you are related to a
William (Bill) Pothier, originally from this area. I know that he was a
devoted tennis player; in his thirties, he studied theology and became an
Episcopal priest on the west coast. He died about a year ago, in his
seventies. I ask because he was my student in the year 1958-59, and we
stayed in touch through the years. The name "Pothier" is not common --
yours is the first I have encountered since knowing him.

Edward C. Hobbs
Wellesley College
(Sometime Frothingham Professor, Harvard--retired)

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