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Headword: *ai)o/llei
Adler number: alphaiota,246
Translated headword: turns, variegates
Vetting Status: high
[Meaning he/she/it] varies [i.e. mixes colours or coloured substances, changes colour], turns, confuses [sc. the issue].
Greek Original:
*ai)o/llei: poiki/llei, stre/fei, plana=|.
See Anecdota graeca, ed. L. Bachmann, 48.27; Photius, Lexicon alpha655; cf. Hesychius alpha2024 (replacing the third gloss here, plana=, with the preferable kinei=); the scholia to Nicander, Theriaca 155b (kinei=, stre/fei, poiki/llei); the scholia to Homer, Odyssey 20.27 (poiki/lws stre/fh|, kinh=|, cf. the scholia to Iliad 2.816, 3.83, 324); the scholia to Pindar, Pythians 4.414b (tara/ssein); Ambrosian Lexicon 309. Ancient commentators such as Porphyrius (on Odyssey 20.27ff., cf. his long and useful discussion at Zetemata cod. Vat. 284col.1-286col.1.9) and Eustathius (his scholia to Aristophanes, Clouds 729ff.) were perhaps overly impressed by the similarity of this rare verb to a)/ella ('hurricane, tornado': alpha 545); cf. alphaiota 253. The verb also appears in two other forms. As ai)ole/w it appears among the etymologies in Plato's Cratylus (409A, cf. ai)o/lhsis at schol. Pindar Pythians 4.412, on the verb e)o/lei, perhaps related); the passage appears corrupt but is worth studying for the implied etymological connection to a)ei/; cf. notes on alphaiota 253. The meaning 'distracts, causes (sc. the mind) to wander', given here in the glosses, in fact belongs to the medical verb ai)ola/omai, used only in the Hippocratic Corpus at De mulierum affectibus (On women’s disorders) 2.174b.
The best-known use of the headword is the one cited above: Homer, Odyssey 20.27, in a simile for Odysseus turning over in his mind what to do with the suitors: “as when a man with a great fire burning turns a haggis this way and that, full of fat and blood, and longs to have it quickly roasted, so…” (web address 1). Those who have never cooked a haggis may imagine that this implies stirring into a whirlwind the stew cooking in the sheep's stomach, but the stomach is sewn before final cooking and, by or over an open fire or over a cooking surface heated from below, would need to be turned for proper cooking. The translation is not then the common 'stirs up' but 'turns', as this gloss correctly says; cf. Apollonius, Homeric Lexicon 15.29-34, 'through proper turning' (although based on an unlikely reading and invented headword, a)ollh/).
The only other uses in extant literature seem to have different meanings. At Hesiod, Shield 399, the verb is used in the middle or passive for the darkening of the unripe grapes (evidently the black grapes of mavrodaphni) of Dionysus at the end of summer, perhaps implying the transforming power of the god (cf. alphaiota 249).
At Nicander, Theriaca 155 it is used of either the variegated colour or the motion of an unidentified type of snake (sh/y), similar to the cerastes or horned viper. Pausanias 8.4.7 tells us on the basis of autopsy that the seps was of a drab colour, changing to match its hole, and that it advances like the cerastes in a crablike (or side-winder) motion by throwing its body forward in a series of loops, leaving a track of disconnected lines, oblique to the direction in which it is moving (Gow and Scholfield). The verb seems more likely to imply this motion: 'the greenish scales (the singular is used collectively, see LSJ lepi/s 2) turn its huge coil side to side'. But it is probably safer to take it as 'the greenish horns (the modified scales that are the distinctive feature of the horned viper) variegate (the colour of) its huge coil'. Cf. the diverse meanings of ai)o/los at alphaiota 253.
Nicander, The Poems and Poetical Fragments, ed. A.S.F. Gow and A.F. Scholfield (Cambridge, 1953) esp. pp. 173 (notes 147-55), 175 (n. 266).
Associated internet address:
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Keywords: botany; daily life; definition; dialects, grammar, and etymology; epic; food; imagery; medicine; poetry; zoology
Translated by: Robert Dyer on 27 February 2003@10:22:15.
Vetted by:
David Whitehead (added keyword; cosmetics) on 27 February 2003@10:38:15.
Catharine Roth (cosmetics, keyword) on 10 November 2005@11:22:20.
David Whitehead (cosmetics in notes) on 15 May 2012@08:03:13.
Catharine Roth (coding, upgraded link) on 26 May 2012@01:10:22.
Catharine Roth (coding) on 29 December 2014@00:33:03.
David Whitehead (coding and other cosmetics) on 29 November 2015@04:51:15.
Catharine Roth (cosmeticules) on 2 November 2018@01:51:30.


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