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Unread 07-02-2018, 03:52 PM
Orwn Acra's Avatar
Orwn Acra Orwn Acra is offline
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Default Herodotus and Oil


ἀντλέεται μὲν κηλωνηίῳ, ἀντὶ δὲ γαυλοῦ ἥμισυ ἀσκοῦ οἱ προσδέδεται· ὑποτύψας δὲ τούτῳ ἀντλέει καὶ ἔπειτα ἐγχέει ἐς δεξαμενήν· ἐκ δὲ ταύτης ἐς ἄλλο διαχεόμενον τρέπεται τριφασίας ὁδούς. καὶ ἡ μὲν ἄσφαλτος καὶ οἱ ἅλες πήγνυνται παραυτίκα· τὸ δὲ ἔλαιον οἱ Πέρσαι καλέουσι τοῦτο ῥαδινάκην, ἔστι δὲ μέλαν καὶ ὀδμὴν παρεχόμενον βαρέαν.

Godley (1920) translates the description of oil as “dark and evil-smelling” and I want to know the literal translation of this part. Rawlinson and Holland translate it differently. “Evil-smelling” is a touch of art that Herodotus displays elsewhere—but the adjective is so prophetic that I feel it must be more the work of the translator. Any help is appreciated.
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Unread 07-02-2018, 05:47 PM
Julie Steiner's Avatar
Julie Steiner Julie Steiner is offline
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Location: San Diego, CA, USA
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Orwn, the adjective βαρύς (heavy) often has a negative/offensive connotation when used with smells, but the actual words to convey that negative connotation are at the discretion of the translator. So you're right--there's nothing inherently "evil" in that word.

Here's a literal crib of the part you care about:

τὸ δὲ ἔλαιον (and the oil,) οἱ Πέρσαι (the Persians) καλέουσι (call) τοῦτο (it) ῥαδινάκην (rhadinakē), ἔστι δὲ (and is) μέλαν (black--neuter, in agreement with "oil") καὶ (and) ὀδμὴν (smell-) παρεχόμενον (furnishing) βαρέαν (feminine, in agreement with "smell"--literally, "heavy in weight"--when used of "impressions on the the senses," though, the lexicon says that the word means "strong, overbearing, or offensive").

Click on the links below if you want to see the full dictionary entries for the last three words:

μέλας black, dark

παρέχω hand over, furnish, yield, exhibit

βαρύς, εῖα, ύ, "heavy"--Go to section III.2 of the definition and you'll see this very passage. Heh.
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Unread 07-02-2018, 06:11 PM
Nicholas Stone's Avatar
Nicholas Stone Nicholas Stone is offline
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Posts: 772

I agree with Julie. Odmh (osmh) requires context before it's necessarily good or bad, barus probably means the smell is unpleasant rather than merely powerful. I don't know if "evil-smelling" might be a bit strong. I'll look into this in more detail shortly.
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Unread 07-03-2018, 07:58 AM
Orwn Acra's Avatar
Orwn Acra Orwn Acra is offline
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Julie, Nicholas, thanks for your help.
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Unread 07-03-2018, 01:35 PM
Allen Tice's Avatar
Allen Tice Allen Tice is offline
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Location: Brooklyn, NY USA
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Walter (or Orwn), a fascinating question. You continue to surprise me.
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