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Headword: *ma/xaira
Adler number: mu,302
Translated headword: dirk, sabre, sword
Vetting Status: high
[ma/xaira means the same as] spa/qh.[1]
"The Celtiberians differ greatly from others in the construction of their swords; for it has an effective point, and can deliver a powerful downward stroke from both hands.[2] Wherefore the Romans abandoned their ancestral swords after the [war] against Hannibal, and adopted those of the Iberians. But while they adopted the construction of the swords, they can by no means imitate the excellence of the iron or the other aspects of their careful manufacture."[3]
Dream interpretation of Nikephoros the patriarch:[4] 'A sword being held depicts a battle. To crush swords reveals the crushing of enemies.'
Greek Original:
*ma/xaira: h( spa/qh. oi( *kelti/bhres th=| kataskeuh=| tw=n maxairw=n polu\ diafe/rousi tw=n a)/llwn: kai\ ga\r ke/nthma praktiko\n kai\ katafora\n e)/xei duname/nhn e)c a)mfoi=n toi=n xeroi=n. h(=| kai\ *(rwmai=oi ta\s patri/ous a)poqe/menoi maxai/ras e)k tw=n kat' *)anni/ban, mete/labon ta\s tw=n *)ibh/rwn, kai\ th\n me\n kataskeuh\n mete/labon, au)th\n de\ th\n xrhsto/thta tou= sidh/rou kai\ th\n a)/llhn e)pime/leian ou)damw=s du/nantai mimei=sqai. lu/sis o)nei/rou *nikhfo/rou patria/rxou: ma/xhn ma/xaira zwgrafei= kratoume/nh. sunqla=n maxai/ras dusmenw=n dhloi= qla/sin.
[1] For the several related applications of the headword machaira see LSJ s.v. The glossing word spa/qh likewise is attested in several senses, all related to the idea of a blade or something comparably shaped (cf. sigma ); the one required here is LSJ's no.6. (There is no need to invoke Lewis & Short, A Latin Dictionary s.v. spatha, III, 'a broad two-edged sword without a point (the Italian spada)'; this manifestly does not fit Appian's description of a pointed sword, about to be quoted here.)
[2] i.e. it can deliver an effective cut with both edges. The change of number from plural to singular ('swords . . . it has') is in the Greek.
[3] Polybius fr. 179 Büttner-Wobst [ = Polybius, Histories. Evelyn S. Shuckburgh, translator. London & New York (Macmillan) 1889; reprinted Bloomington 1962. fr.XXII (96), available on Perseus.] For the Celtiberians (and Polybius) see also under iota 112 = kappa 1306, and generally OCD(4) s.v. ('a name used by Graeco-Roman writers to describe several peoples (Arevaci, Lusones, etc.) living around the middle Ebro valley and in the eastern Meseta of Spain'). -- An alternative translation of e)pime/leia would be 'points in which they are so elaborately finished'. Büttner-Wobst notes (537-538) that Lipsius (Joest Lips, 1547-1606) attributed this fragment to Polybius. Büttner-Wobst also follows (ibid.) the suggestion by Lipsius that xeroi=n (hands, genitive dual of the feminine noun xei/r) be replaced by meroi=n (thus, from both parts); cf. n.2 above. As to the context, Walbank (754) notes that the fragment -- together with Polybius fr. 163; cf. iota 112 and n.2 thereto -- might belong either with the account of the Celtiberian War at Polybius 35.1 (web address 1) or with the geographical narrative at Polybius 34.8-9 (web address 2).
[4] See notes at beta 351 and theta 11. Like the 'solutions' quoted there, the words quoted here are in iambic trimeters.
T. Büttner-Wobst, ed., Polybii Historiae, vol. IV, (Leipzig 1904)
F.W. Walbank, A Historical Commentary on Polybius, vol. III, (Oxford 1979)
Associated internet addresses:
Web address 1,
Web address 2
Keywords: daily life; definition; dialects, grammar, and etymology; dreams; geography; historiography; history; imagery; military affairs; meter and music; poetry; science and technology; trade and manufacture
Translated by: Catharine Roth on 10 October 2004@22:13:05.
Vetted by:
Catharine Roth (translation submitted by Andres Rodriguez Cumplido) on 10 October 2004@22:16:25.
Catharine Roth (modified translation of dream-interpretations) on 10 October 2004@22:45:40.
David Whitehead (tweaks to tranlation; augmented n.2 and keywords; betacoding and other cosmetics) on 11 October 2004@03:20:58.
David Whitehead (another headword; augmented n.2) on 11 October 2004@06:07:30.
David Whitehead (another keyword) on 30 September 2005@08:31:50.
D. Graham J. Shipley (Tweaked translation; added n. 2 and renumbered nn.; tweaked former n. 3 (now n. 4).) on 20 February 2007@06:26:19.
David Whitehead (restored full range of keywords) on 20 February 2007@09:20:02.
Abram Ring (added X-ref n. 4) on 10 February 2008@16:48:53.
David Whitehead (modified n.1; tweaking) on 9 May 2013@05:47:13.
David Whitehead on 9 August 2014@07:29:48.
Ronald Allen (expanded n.3, added bibliography) on 7 November 2018@18:06:38.
Ronald Allen (further expanded n.3, corrected error in given name, added bibliography item, added cross-reference, added links) on 7 November 2018@21:37:39.


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