Re: Acrostic What is it?

From: Mary Pendergraft (
Date: Sun Feb 13 2000 - 08:34:12 EST

Steve Puluka wrote:
> Sorry for being slow on the uptake here, but I actually just looked this up
> in webster's. What to my surprise, but the Hebrew verse of the Psalms is
> definition number two!
> Number one is from the Greek AKROSTICHOS, a construction, usually in verse,
> where a certain letter of each line spells the name, title or motto of the
> subject of the verse.
> Is anyone aware of any examples of this construction in Greek, or any other
> langauge for that matter?

One of my favorite topics! A well-known acrostic in Greek appears in
Aratus' _Phaenomena_ 783-787, where the first letters of each line spell
LEPTH "fine, light, narrow, slim...."--an important buzz word in the
arguments over good vs. bad poetry in his day (mid 3rd century b.c.e); a
similar poetic discussion occurred among Roman poets in Vergil's day,
and he too seems to embed modified acrostics in the Eclogues.

There's a large literature on the acrostic (see, e.g., E. Vogt, "Das
Akrostichon in der griechischen Literatur" _Antike und Abendland_ 13
[1967] 80-95) but Aratus' poem may be of particular interest in this
forum because it seems to be the source of Paul's quotation "as some of
your poets have said, TOU GAR KAI GENOS ESMEN" at Acts 17.28--the same
statement also occurs in Cleanthes' "Hymn to Zeus," that's prob.
contemporary with Aratus' _Phaen._


Mary Pendergraft
Associate Professor of Classical Languages
Wake Forest University
Winston-Salem NC 27109-7343

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