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Headword: *dioshmei/a
Adler number: delta,1205
Translated headword: Zeus-omen, Zeus-sign
Vetting Status: high
A [sign of] divine anger.[1]
"The thousand Scythians were present, more rapid than any Zeus-omen, whether a flash of light or a hurricane or a thunderbolt or a storm or a meteorite".[2]
Aternatively a dioshmi/a is an unexpected storm. Aristophanes[3][writes]: "it is a divine omen,[4] and a raindrop[5] has struck me!" –- [Herald:] "the Thracians are to withdraw,[6] and return the day after tomorrow;[7] for the prytaneis are dismissing the assembly".[8] In reference to business being postponed. The Athenians were respectful[9] of divine omens and used to break up the assemblies or everything else they were going to accomplish, every time a sign came from the sky.
And Eunapius says about the emperor Carinus: "and all of his outbursts were more violent than a Zeus-omen and he used to have fits of rage in the midst of his subjects".[10]
Greek Original:
*dioshmei/a: qeomhni/a. parh=san de\ oi( xi/lioi *sku/qai, pa/shs o)cu/teroi dioshmei/as h)/toi a)straph=s h)\ prhsth=ros h)\ keraunou= h)\ skhptou= h)\ dia/|ttontos a)ste/ros. h)\ *dioshmi/a e)sti\n o( para\ kairo\n xeimw/n. *)aristofa/nhs: dioshmi/a e)sti/, kai\ r(ani\s be/blhke/ me. tou\s *qra=|kas a)pie/nai, parei=nai d' ei)s e)/nhn: oi( ga\r pruta/neis lu/ousi th\n e)kklhsi/an. e)pi\ tw=n a)naballome/nwn. parefula/ttonto de\ *)aqhnai=oi ta\s qeoshmi/as kai\ die/luon ta\s e)kklhsi/as dioshmi/as genome/nhs, h)\ a)/llo ti me/llontes a)nu/ein. kai\ *eu)na/pio/s fhsi peri\ *kari/nou tou= basile/ws: kai\ pa/nta h)=n au)tou= baru/tera dioshmi/as kai\ e)lu/tta e)n me/sois toi=s u(phko/ois.
The headword is also written dioshmi/a: Aelius Aristides, Pros Platona, p.105 Jebb, 22; Cassius Dio 38.13.4, al. One frequently finds the ending -ei/a in manuscripts as an orthographic variant (an accepted form in later Greek; see Hesychius delta1918 dioshmei/a: tera/stion shmei=on; Simplicius on Aristotle, Physics 221b23; John Lydus, De ostentis 1; 15b; 37; 38; [John Lydus] De mensibus 2. However, I doubt that we should read here –ei/a and –i/a a few lines afterwards. Adler’s apparatus attributes –ei/a to mss A (which bears -i/a as a correction) and FV; in the second occurrence, only FV read –ei/a. Adler has evidently chosen to follow A’s reading in any case.
[1] *qeomhni/a is better characterized as "negative sign" (see Herodian, Partitiones p. 56, 15 qeomhni/a: h( tou= qeou= o)rgh/) as referred to plagues and famines; Anna Comnena, Alexiad 4, 2, 1; Arrian, Bithyniaca fr. 37, 4; scholia to Hesiod, Works and Days 661; scholia to Homer, Iliad 8 77a2. The word is very frequently used by George the Monk, Malalas, Nicephorus Gregoras. Hesychius epsilon2620 gives dioshmei/a as a gloss for the very rare word e)naisimi/a.
[2] Quotation (from the lost section of the Excerpta Constantini) unidentifiable. Cardinal Mai’s attribution of it to Dexippus (delta 237), based on De legationibus 386,15, is arbitrary, as Adler remarked (temere attribuit).
[3] Aristophanes, Acharnians 171-173 (web address 1), with comment from the scholia there. A discussion is taking place in the Assembly about paying the wage the Thracian mercenaries are asking to ransack Boeotia. Dicaeopolis takes his advantage from a drop of rain, interpreted as a portent, to find a good excuse to break up the meeting as inauspicious and have it adjourned to another day. He is tired of war and is disagreeing with an assembly whose only interest is the increase of the scale of the conflict; moreover, he is clearly against giving a salary to soldiers whose "barbarian" manners appear immediately, since they try to steal the garlic Dicaeopolis has brought for himself. For other allusions to the violent, often bloody behaviour of the Thracians see Aristophanes, Lysistrata 563f; cf. Thucydides 7.29.4, describing a savage attack of the mercenaries on Mycalessos.
[4] cf. Eustathius on Homer, Iliad 1.34 to\ a)stra/ptein to\n *di=a, h)/toi to\n a)e/ra [...] (o(\ kai\ dioshmi/a dia\ tou=to w)no/mastai, "[a manifestation of divine will is] when Zeus, or the sky, shows a sudden lightning: for this reason, that [phenomenon] is called dioshmi/a". Some natural phenomena, such as earthquakes, thunders and storms, were held by the Athenians to be bad omens, so that they would interrupt an assembly and suspend a deliberation every time such an unexpected event occurred. Thucydides 5.45.4 has an earthquake as a dioshmi/a (web address 2); see also Dio Chrysostom 38,18; Philostratus, Life of Apollonius of Tyana 4.34. For other portents, such as a flash of lightening, see Aristophanes, Ecclesiazusae 792; Clouds 579; Philostratus, op.cit. 8.23.
[5] r(ani\s "raindrop", a word reminiscent of Euripidean language: see Andromache 227, Iph.Taur. 645, Ion 106, Iph.Aul. 1515, fr.856.4.
[6] a)pie/nai: jussive infinitive; cf. Aristophanes, Wasps 386.
[7] ei)s e)/nhn, "the day after tomorrow" (e)/nefin Hesiod, Works and Days 410, quoted by the scholiast ad loc., which explains the word: ei)s tri/thn h(me/ran). Cf. Antiphon 6.21; Theocritus, Idylls 18.14; Hesychius epsilon1116 and epsilon2996; epsilon 1292. The old adjective e(/nos (cf. Latin senex), normally with rough aspiration in Attic, meaning “belonging to last year” or generally “old” (Plato, Cratylus 409B) is attested only in a few instances, mostly in formal language, with reference to magistrates: cf. Aristotle, Politics 1322a12; idem, Athenaion Politeia 4.2 strathgoi\ e(/noi; IG 12.324.26 *(ellhnotami/ai e(/noi; Demosthenes 25.20; epsilon 1197 ai( e(/nai a)rxai/. See also the common phrase e)/nh te kai\ ne/a (Aristophanes, Clouds 1134; epsilon 1292, epsilon 1293), which indicates the last day of the month. The connection between the meaning of the adjective e(/nos and the expressions ei)s e)/nhn (sc. h(me/ran) or e)/nefin is unclear; however, the lack of the aspiration, rather than being a mere graphical or regional variant, might also indicate a totally different derivation of e)/nh and also support the hypothesis of a relationship with the Sanscrit an-ja-s, "another".
[8] The authority to dismiss a meeting due to a bad omen rested with the presiding magistrate(s). According to Pollux 8.24 the e)chghtai\ were appointed to the interpretation of signs and used to give instruction about the will of gods.
[9] The information given by the Suda stems from the scholia vetera and Tricliniana, which, however, read *dio\s h(me/ras instead of dioshmi/as.
[10] Eunapius fr.4 FHG (4.14); cf. kappa 291. The cruelty of Emperor Carinus’ character as described by Eunapius is echoed by other sources. See Historia Augusta, Carus, 16 sqq.; Epit. 38, 7; Eutropius, Breviarium 9.19.1. The historical reliability of such accounts is questionable, however, since any negative detail about Carinus may have been exaggerated during the reign of Diocletian, his rival and successor (delta 1156).
Aristophanes, Acharnians, edited with introduction and commentary by S. Douglas Olson, Oxford-New York, Oxford Clarendon Press 2002
Aristophanes, Acharnians, edited with introduction and commentary by A. Sommerstein, Warminster, Wiltshire, Aris & Phillips, 1980
Associated internet addresses:
Web address 1,
Web address 2
Keywords: biography; comedy; constitution; daily life; definition; dialects, grammar, and etymology; ethics; historiography; history; imagery; poetry; religion
Translated by: Antonella Ippolito on 24 January 2005@21:15:01.
Vetted by:
David Whitehead (modified headword and aspects of transation; cross-references; more keywords; (extensive) cosmetics) on 25 January 2005@05:42:36.
Catharine Roth (betacode cosmetics) on 26 January 2005@14:33:33.
Catharine Roth (corrected my correction of betacode) on 27 January 2005@00:17:11.
Catharine Roth (adjusted links) on 12 February 2005@12:10:31.
Catharine Roth (tried again to fix link) on 12 February 2005@12:11:55.
David Whitehead (more keywords; tweaks and cosmetics) on 13 July 2012@03:51:34.
Catharine Roth (coding and other cosmetics) on 11 November 2014@17:24:38.
Catharine Roth (cosmetics) on 16 November 2014@01:37:03.
Catharine Roth (reordered links) on 5 September 2016@01:18:29.


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