Re: the sense of APOLEIA

From: Carl W. Conrad (
Date: Wed Aug 19 1998 - 19:33:28 EDT

At 11:15 PM -0500 8/19/98, Ben Crick wrote:
>On Tue 18 Aug 98 (20:57:37), wrote:
>> Obviously, there are some theological undertones in a question such as
>> this, but my intention is merely to flesh out an understanding of the
>> word itself. I am not interested in sparking a theological debate of
>> any kind and I hope that this will not precipitate one.
> Roy, the last thing I want is a theological discourse! 8-)
> In lighter vein, I throw in this curious definition of the conqueror
> Napoleon's activities:
> Handbook/, s.v. Napoleon I)
> IMHO this only makes sense if APOLEIA means Destruction.

Interesting indeed. This is an example of a particular sort of Alexandrian
word game that was evidently the sport of Hellenistic poets. This one
involves a sequence of words each of which is a form of the preceding word
diminished by the initial character of that preceding word--such that EWN
is NAPOLEWN diminished by the first six characters of the latter. As I
recall, there are three poems in the Theocritean corpus displaying this
sort of word play; one of them is entitled PELEKUS (axe), another PTERUX
(wing); each involves a sequence of diminishing and then increasing
sequences of words so that the positioning of the successive lines forms a
picture of the axe or wing--sort of like ASCII art in e-mail.

One curious element in the line Ben cites is that, except for the proper
name with which the line begins, several of the other words are Ionic
dialect forms. APOLEWN would, I think, be an Ionic aorist active participle
of APOLLUMI; OLEWN an Ionic genitive plural feminine (from OLHWN with
psilosis--loss of initial aspiration--from hOLAWN); EWN is the Ionic nom.
sg. m. participle of EIMI; I'd understand this as, "Napoleon, a destroyer
of whole cities, being a lion ..." or the like.

Carl W. Conrad
Department of Classics/Washington University
One Brookings Drive/St. Louis, MO, USA 63130/(314) 935-4018
Home: 7222 Colgate Ave./St. Louis, MO 63130/(314) 726-5649 OR

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