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Headword: *bwmolo/xos
Adler number: beta,489
Translated headword: altar-ambusher
Vetting Status: high
[Meaning] he who lies in wait[1] around the altars, with the purpose of getting something from those who are sacrificing. But metaphorically also [it means] he who flatters certain people, in pretty much the same way, for profit. Also [sc. attested are] bwmakeu/mata[2] and bwmoloxeu/mata.[3] Apollodorus of Cyrene [sc. says it means] the witty flatterer[4] and jester. Some [sc. say that it means] the man who flatters with a certain wit.[5] But also [it means] the scoundrel up to every trick and the sycophant.[6]
Greek Original:
*bwmolo/xos: o( peri\ tou\s bwmou\s loxw=n, u(pe\r tou= labei=n ti para\ tw=n quo/ntwn. metaforikw=s de\ kai\ o( paraplhsi/ws tou/tw| w)felei/as e(/neka/ tinas kolakeu/wn. kai\ bwmakeu/mata kai\ bwmoloxeu/mata. *)apollo/dwros *kurhnai=os, o( eu)tra/pelos kai\ gelwtopoio/s. tine\s to\n meta/ tinos eu)trapeli/as ko/laka. kai\ to\n panou=rgon de\ kai\ sukofa/nthn.
This entry is identical to Pausanias the Atticist beta2b and Photius, Lexicon beta321. It is based in part on observations of the grammarian/lexicographer Apollodorus of Cyrene (RE 1.286 'Apollodorus 65'). It should be read in the context of complementary observations in beta 486, beta 487, beta 488, beta 490 and chi 296.
The rascally begging around altars by people (apparently even the musicians and priests responsible for ritual music and prayer) who regularly cracked jokes at once witty and cheap, must have been a feature of Athenian life, at least in the time of Aristophanes. The term clearly became current for a type of joking somewhat witty and ingratiating and yet vulgarly trivial. A joke of this sort by a parasite or hanger-on of Maecenas in the days of Augustus at the end of the Roman Republic and beginning of the Empire, when the urbane wit of a Catullus was highly prized, can be classified by Aelian as bwmoloxi/a (beta 488 note 4).
[1] For the second part of this compound, from the verb loxa/w 'waylay, ambush', see lambda 711, lambda 720.
[2] This word (beta 484), 'acts of the altar-watchers'(?), is attested only as a synonym for the headword given by Apollodorus of Cyrene, as cited in the scholia on Plato, Republic 606C (and Etymologicum Magnum 218.7). It would be derived from 'altar' and a verb for watching attested only in the Cypriot dialect by Hesychius and possibly in Cretan (Leg. Gort. 2.17). Thus perhaps altar-ambushers were also called 'altar-watchers'.
[3] See beta 487.
[4] This word eu)tra/pelos, 'well-turned', is capable of two meanings, "the socially adept wit who can turn a witty phrase" or "the tricky and self-serving jester" (LSJ at web address 1). It is clear that "altar-wit" as a concept embraces both senses; cf. beta 488.
[5] The same word for wit as in note 4 above.
[6] For 'sycophants' see generally sigma 1330, sigma 1331, sigma 1332.
Associated internet address:
Web address 1
Keywords: comedy; daily life; definition; dialects, grammar, and etymology; economics; ethics; imagery; religion
Translated by: Robert Dyer on 25 February 2002@11:42:25.
Vetted by:
David Whitehead (added note; cosmetics) on 2 September 2002@08:14:16.
David Whitehead (another keyword) on 18 October 2005@06:04:02.
David Whitehead (cosmetics) on 3 June 2012@06:55:27.
Catharine Roth (coding) on 12 August 2012@00:55:57.
Catharine Roth (tweaks, cross-references) on 16 August 2012@00:55:38.
Catharine Roth (further tweaks) on 17 August 2012@01:11:20.
David Whitehead (more keywords; cosmetics) on 17 August 2012@03:33:10.
David Whitehead (coding and other cosmetics) on 23 September 2015@08:27:05.


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