Re: Pronunciation of Iesous

From: Carl W. Conrad (
Date: Thu May 20 1999 - 12:23:17 EDT

At 12:04 PM -0400 5/20/99, wrote:
>I may point out that in Greek meter, the name is composed of three three
>syllables, and appears in only two positions in the Paraphrase by Nonnos
>(curiously!). Unlike every other name, including Christ, the name Jesus
>appears only in the initial or ultimate position. Every other name may appear
>in any position in a line. I admit that I looked at only about 1500 of the
>3658 lines of the poem, and extrapolate from those.
>That being said, the name appears in the initial position as an obligate
>spondee: EE-YAY, and the first beat of the following spondee or dactyl:
>Ie^sous apameipto pare^goreo^n tini mutho^ (P.11.31)
>Ie^soun apeonta thee^goron.... (P.11.229)
>but in the terminal position, the iota is the last syllable of a dactyl, and
>the eta the first beat of the final obligate spondee, as:
>e^chi meno^n podos ichnos akampeos eichen Ie^sous (P.11 110)
>For what it's worth

Interesting again. I'm not quite sure what it's worth; the fact that Nonnos
is willing to use that initial Iota as a long vowel at the beginning of the
line and as a short vowel at the line-end means that his prosody is a
matter of metrical convenience. In this last example that you've cited with
the line ending, EICEN IHSOUS, the shortening of the iota in IHSOUS can't
be accounted for by the previous word ending in a vowel or diphthong as is
standard in epic hexameter metrical usage--so he's shortening it at will,
which means, I think, that he doesn't consider the Iota as having a
necessarily fixed long-I quantity. In fact, I guess he probably would have
pronounced the name at the line end as EE-EE'-SOUS, or--would there have
been, as Jim West suggests, a hint of consonantal Y sound giving us

Out of curiosity, are there any Latin proper names beginning in JU- like
Junia, Julius. The same issue comes up, of course, with Latin names
beginning with V and a vowel, where Greek tends to write a diphthong OU to
convey the sound of the Latin semi-vowel pronounced as a "w": e.g. Varus =

Carl W. Conrad
Department of Classics, Washington University
Summer: 1647 Grindstaff Road/Burnsville, NC 28714/(828) 675-4243

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