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Headword: *)/empousa
Adler number: epsilon,1049
Translated headword: Empousa, Empusa, Banshee
Vetting Status: high
A daemonic ghost sent by Hecate[1] and appearing to the ill-fated.[2]
[Something] which seems to change into many forms. Aristophanes in Frogs [sc. indicates this]. [It is called] Empousa from the fact that it moves on one leg [heni podizein], i.e. that its other leg is bronze. Or because it used to appear from dark places to the initiated. She was also called Oinopole.[3]
But others say [sc. that it bore this name] because it changed form. It also seems to appear in the light of day, when they are offering sacrifices to the dead. Some say that she is the same as Hecate. But [another name for her is] Onokole, because she has a donkey's leg; which they call manure [boli/tinon], that is donkey manure. For bo/litos [is] the proper word for donkeys' excrement. Aristophanes in Frogs [says]: "by Zeus, I see a huge wild beast. -- What kind? -- Terrible. At any rate it's everything at once: first a cow, then a mule, then again a most beautiful woman. -- Where is she? I’m heading towards her. -- But she's no longer a woman, but a dog now. -- It is Empousa, then. -- At any rate the whole face is glowing with fire. -- And does she have a bronze leg?."[4]
Greek Original:
*)/empousa: fa/ntasma daimoniw=des u(po\ th=s *(eka/ths e)pipempo/menon kai\ faino/menon toi=s dustuxou=sin. o(\ dokei= polla\s morfa\s a)lla/ssein. *)aristofa/nhs *batra/xois. *)/empousa de\ para\ to\ e(ni\ podi/zein, h)/goun tou= to\n e(/teron po/da xalkou=n e)/xein. h)\ o(/ti a)po\ skoteinw=n to/pwn e)fai/neto toi=s muoume/nois. e)kalei=to de\ au(/th kai\ *oi)nopw/lh. oi( de/, o(/ti e)chlla/tteto th\n morfh/n. dokei= de\ kai\ tai=s meshmbri/ais fanta/zesqai, o(/tan toi=s katoixome/nois e)nagi/zwsin. e)/nioi de\ th\n au)th\n th=| *(eka/th|. *)onokw/lh de/, o(/ti o)/nou po/da e)/xei: o(\ le/gousi boli/tinon, toute/stin o)/neion. bo/litos ga\r kuri/ws tw=n o)/nwn to\ a)popa/thma. *)aristofa/nhs *batra/xois: kai\ mh\n o(rw= nh\ to\n *di/a qhri/on me/ga. poi=o/n ti; deino/n: pantodapo\n gou=n gi/netai: tote\ me/n ge bou=s, nuni\ d' o)reu/s, tote\ d' au)= gunh\ w(raiota/th tis. pou= 'sti/n; e)p' au)th\n i)/w. a)ll' ou)ke/t' au)= gunh/ e)stin, a)ll' h)/dh ku/wn. *)/empousa toi/nun e)sti/. puri\ gou=n la/mpetai a(/pan to\ pro/swpon kai\ ske/los xalkou=n e)/xei.
See generally RE 5 (1905) 2540-2543; OCD(4) s.v. Empusa. [The credit for the present translation goes to my friend Dimitra Voulgaris, of Mykonos, Greece.]
[1] From the scholia to Aristophanes, Frogs 293; see further below.
[2] From Harpokration s.v. (commenting on Demosthenes 18.130: D. is being rude about Aeschines' mother).
[3] cf. the scholia to Aristophanes, Frogs 293-4. Here is the first acknowledgement in the entry of the creature's gender; cf. OCD, 'a Greek bogey-woman'. Oinopole is evidently a garbled version of the name that will appear below.
[4] A quickfire exchange between Xanthias and Dionysos in Aristophanes, Frogs 288-294 (where the answer to the final question is 'yes, by Poseidon, and the other is of dung'); it is preceded here by yet more material comparable with that in the scholia to 293-4.
Keywords: biography; comedy; definition; dialects, grammar, and etymology; mythology; politics; religion; rhetoric; women; zoology
Translated by: Do Lee on 8 September 2003@12:22:13.
Vetted by:
David Whitehead (modified aspects of translation; supplied notes; augmented keywords) on 9 September 2003@05:11:18.
David Whitehead (more keywords; tweaks and cosmetics) on 7 July 2011@04:33:51.
David Whitehead (updated a ref) on 3 August 2014@07:45:37.


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