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Monday, December 06, 2010

Richard Bauckham or Sophocles Electra?

I see that I have another ILL book waiting at the library, JESUS AND THE GOD OF ISRAEL. I now have three weeks to read about 2,000 pages of  Richard Bauckham. Not sure I am going to get all of that read before Jan 1, 2011.

I normally put off secondary literature until after dinner and do my work on primary sources  in the morning because it is far more demanding work. This morning I went back and took another pass at the chorus S.El 1384-96. This is near the climax of the play so I want to really read chorus, not just plow through it to get it out of the way. There are a significant number of unusual words and the syntax is not always simple.  

Here is the passage for anyone who wants to read it.

S.El 1384-96
{ΧΟ.} Ἴδεθ' ὅπου προνέμεται {Str.}
τὸ δυσέριστον αἷμα φυσῶν Ἄρης·
βεβᾶσιν ἄρτι δωμάτων ὑπόστεγοι
μετάδρομοι κακῶν πανουργημάτων
ἄφυκτοι κύνες·
ὥστ' οὐ μακρὰν ἔτ' ἀμμενεῖ
τοὐμὸν φρενῶν ὄνειρον αἰωρούμενον. 
Παράγεται γὰρ ἐνέρων {Ant.}
δολιόπους ἀρωγὸς εἴσω στέγας,
ἀρχαιόπλουτα πατρὸς εἰς ἑδώλια,
νεακόνητον αἷμα χειροῖν ἔχων·
ὁ Μαίας δὲ παῖς
Ἑρμῆς σφ' ἄγει δόλον σκότῳ
κρύψας πρὸς αὐτὸ τέρμα κοὐκέτ' ἀμμένει.

Ares, the subject of the first clause is postponed until the end of the line 1385. The subject of the next clause starting with the verb βεβᾶσιν isn't specified, but is understood as Orestes and Pylades. The adjective ὑπόστεγοι "under the roof " qualified by genitive δωμάτων "house" and followed by another adjective μετάδρομοι, this entire cluster might be construed as a substantive serving as the subject of βεβᾶσιν but probably not.  The expression μετάδρομοι κακῶν πανουργημάτων is really opaque. The etymology of μετάδρομοι is "running after" and as a hapax legomena we can only guess — LSJ gives these alternatives "running after, pursuing, taking vengeance for".  I would construe μετάδρομοι  with the genitive phrase κακῶν πανουργημάτων, "evil deeds achieved through stealth" and I assume the referent is the murder of Agamemnon. So we have two adjectives, either of which might serve as substantive subjects of βεβᾶσιν, it really doesn't matter but at this point I lean toward reading μετάδρομοι as the subject and δωμάτων ὑπόστεγοι as location modifier of μετάδρομοι which refers to Orestes and Pylades.  ἄρτι "right now" a temporal adverb qualifying the verb βεβᾶσιν.  

This is not really "reading", rather more like decoding an encrypted message. But short of being a senior professor of classics this is the sort of preparation that is required before reading can commence with difficult material. 


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