Monday, November 28, 2005

After trying in vain to fulfil Lipman's request by cutting and pasting the epigram from TLG, here is the Greek of Meleager's epigram ( unfotunately without critical marks and accents)

Δημω λεθκοπαρειε, σε μεν τις εχων υποχρωτα
τερπεται, α' δ' εν εμοι νυν στεναχει καρδια
ει δε σε σαββατικος κατεχει ποθος οu μεγα θαυμα
εστι και εν ψυχποις σαββασι θερμος Ερως

on υποχρωτα Gow and Page have this to say: (following A. Hecker Commentatio Critica de Anthologia Graeca) "this form, comparable with υποχειρα is suggested by the tradition and is appropriate to the sense; it is not attested elsewhere, nor is it recognized by LSJ.

I stand by my earlier suggestion that this word means "having a little color"- or "being a little flushed" but I have to admit that I haven't done my homework on this one. I suggest the following translation then.

White cheeked Demo, someone has you flushed and takes his delight
If it is some Sabbatical desire, no great wonder!
Eros is hot even on cold Sabbaths.

If someone objects, I am most willing to hear emendations.

By the way, Mar Gavriel, I have not had time to check on מקבת but my guts say indo-european. Have to check BDB and Even Shoshan but haven't had then time.

ancient transexuals

Following a lead from book 13 of Josephus' Jewish Antiquities which mentions a certain General Ammonius who betrayed the Ptolemaic king Ptolemy Philometor to his Seleucid ally Alexander Balas (roughly 145 B.C.E). Ammonius is said by Jospehus to have "been cut down as a woman, for he made an effort to conceal himslef in woman's dress." According to Ralph Marcus, the translator and editor of the Loeb Josephus volume, Josephus had the following story from Diodorus of Sicily in mind:

"There was dwelling at Abae in Arabia a certain man named Diophantus, a Macedonian by descent. He married an Arabian woman of that region and begot a son, named for himself, and a daughter called Herais. Now the son he saw dead before his prime, but when the daughter was of an age to be married he gave her a dowry and bestowed her upon a man named Samiades. He, after living in wedlock with his wife for a year, went off on a long journey. Herais, it is said, fell ill of a strange and altogether incredible infirmity. A severe tumor appeared at the base of her abdomen, and as the region became more and more swollen and high fevers supervened, her physicians suspected that an ulceration had taken place at the mouth of her uterus. They applied such remedies as they thought would reduce the inflamation, but notwithstanding, on the seventh day, the surface of the tumor burst and projecting from her groin there appeared a male genital organ with testicles attached..."

Herais continues living as a woman. Her husband returns and when she refuses to sleep with him, he brings her to court. Just as the verdict is about to be given in favor of the husband...

"She at last revelaed the truth. Screwing up her courage, she unloosed the dress that disguised her, displayed her masculinity to them all and burst out in bitter protest that anyone should require her to cohabit with another man... Herais, now that her shame had been publicly exposed, exchanged her woman's apparel for the garb of a young man... changing her name to Diophantus, was enrolled in the [Alexander Balas'] cavalry.

Diodorus Siculus XXXII.10- trans. Francis R. Walton

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Was Judah Maccabee really ugly?

"While a number of well-known generals and leaders of antiquity were endowed with unusual stature or beauty that contributed to their glory and were important elements in their charismatic authoritativeness, Judas Maccabaeus evidently had no such advantages... In this connection it is worth considering the possibility proposed by some scholars that the epithet 'Maccabaeus' is derived from the word 'maqvan' a man with a head like a 'maqevet' (= mallet c.f. Bekhorot 7:1), presumably a hammer with one end pointed and the other broad, i.e. that his forehead and back of his head portrude."

-a hypothesis as to why Judah Maccabee had no offspring- namely that he was ugly or else the panegyrics in I and II Macc would have mentioned his appearance. Also that he had a head shaped like a hammer which can't have helped with the ladies.

from Bar-Kochva, Bezalel Judas Maccabeus: the Jewish Struggle Against the Seleuecids. p.148-9

Monday, November 21, 2005

Is it me or were the antisemites wittier in Hellenistic Egypt

Apion's False Etymology of the word Sabbath from Jospehus' "Contra Apion":

"After a six days march," [Apion] says, "[the Jews who left during the Exodus from Egypt] developed tumors in the groin, and that was why, after safely reaching the country now called Judaea, they rested on the seventh day, and called that day 'Sabbaton,' preserving the Egyptian terminology; for disease of the groin in Egypt is called 'sabbo."

Ethne from Aprodesias

Demo is a chick

I have been informed that Demo is indeed a female name. It is really frustrating when you overlook simple realities like that.

Sunday, November 20, 2005


The following is a epigram from the Greek Anthology written by Meleager. I came across it while studying for my Ph.D. oral exams in Ancient Jewish History.

White Cheeked Demo, some one hath thee named next to him and is taking his delight, but my own heart groans within me. If thy lover is some Sabbath keeper- no great wonder! Eros is hot even on cold Sabbaths.

Taken from Menachem Stern's Greek and Latin Author's on Jews and Judaism. p.140

There are a few really interesting things about this epigram which I have not seen made reference to in the literature. First- is Demo male or female. Logic seems to suggest that he is male, and that a homosexual encounter, perhaps at a symposium is mentioned. This all depends on the word which both Stern and W.R. Paton translates as "has the named next to him" in greek υποχρωτα (in case this is not showing up in Greek, the word is "upoxrwta"). So far I have not been able to identify this word. I am assuming that it is a noun in the accusative from xrws- meaning body or color or perhaps skin. If so it is inconclusive. I am also assuming that Demo is a male name but have not yet checked on this. Any one who knows better is urged to correct me.