Monday, April 28, 2008

Some Notes on Pre-Epic Diction

Gerald M. Browne makes a short study of some pre-epic diction in an article published in Mnemosyme (2000). He looks at Watkins' "How to Kill a Dragon", which, in one section, focuses on the Luwian phrase "alati Wilshati", meaning 'steep Wilusa'. Watkins then refers to the Greek "(w)ilios aipeine" (steep Ilios) and wonders if, in these two phrases, there is shared poetic convention in the form of a forumulaic utterance.

The Luwian "ali-" (high, lofty, steep) is also connected with the Latin 'al-tus'. Call to mind Virgil's phrase in the Aeneid, when he describes the walls of Rome as 'altae meonia Romae' (I.7); translated as the 'high/lofty walls of Rome'. Thus, if is is the case that there is a shared forumulaic convention running from the Luwian phrase (though, perhaps even earlier to an Indo-European forumula) to the Homeric, Virgil is also included in this. He (and perhaps Homer alike) could have hardly known that they were invoking a pre-epic formula; it is nonetheless present.

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