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Headword: *durra/xion
Adler number: delta,1586
Translated headword: Dyrrachion, Dyrrachium
Vetting Status: high
A city, the one (?)later called Epidamnos;[1] but now again called Dyrrachion[2] because, in accordance with its geographic position, with a crested promontory jutting out, the swell, striking and splitting up, creates a big cliff [rachia]; hence because of both the cliff and the difficulty of anchoring they named the place Durrachion.
Greek Original:
*durra/xion: po/lis, h( u(/steron klhqei=sa *)epi/damnos: pa/lin de\ nu=n kaloume/nh *durra/xion, o(/ti kata\ to\n to/pon proexou/shs a)/kras gewlo/fou to\ ku=ma prospi/pton kai\ sxizo/menon r(axi/an poiei= mega/lhn: o(/qen kai\ dia\ th\n r(axi/an kai\ to\ du/sormon *durra/xion w)no/masan to\n to/pon.
Entry lacking, Adler reports, in mss AFV. Identical one, with the addition of *)hpei/rou ('of Epirus') after po/lis, in Addenda in Etymologicum Gudianum and in Etymologicum Magnum = Aelius Herodianus et ps.-Herodianus, *peri\ o)rqografi/as (A. Lentz, Grammatici Graeci), through the Etymologicum Gudianum.
On Epidamnus/Dyrrachium -- present-day Durazzo in Albania -- see already delta 1585, and the OCD(4) entries under both names.
[1] Thucydides 1.24 (web address 1) explains that Epidamnos was a town 'founded by people from Korkyra' (present-day Corfu) in c.625 BCE, but with (as tradition dictated) an oikist from the original mother-city, Corinth: Phalios, a member of a family which claimed descent from Herakles. See further, next note.
[2] This phrase implies that the earliest name of the city, before Epidamnos, was Dyrrachion. But in Thucydides 1.24 (cf. n.1) there is mention neither of an earlier settlement nor of the name Dyrrachion. In Pliny the Elder, Natural History 3.145, the name Dyrrachium is imposed by the Romans, for they considered Epidamnus a name of ill-omen (Epidamnum colonia, propter inauspicatum nomen Dyrrachium appellata). In this sense too Dexippos, quoted by Stephanus of Byzantium, reports the change of name from Epidamnos to Dyrrachion. But note Strabo 7.5.8: *)Epi/damnos *Kerkurai/wn kti/sma, h( nu=n *Durra/xion o(mwnu/mws th=| xerronh/sw| legome/nh e)f’ h(=| i(/drutai, 'Epidamnos, a foundation of Korkyra, now called Dyrrachion homonymously with the peninsula on which it is situated'. Pausanias 6.10.8 (web address 2) records the coexistence of both names, arguing that in fact we have two different towns: Epidamnos the ancient one and Durrachion the new one with a location slightly different. There is no mention (as in the case of Strabo) of previous settlements, but he adds: o)/noma de\ th=| nu=n po/lei *Durra/xion a)po\ tou= oi)kistou=, 'the current name of the town is Durrachion from its founder', introducing a supposedly mythological element that could be related to the Illyrian civilization. Cassius Dio 41.49 (web address 3 below) reports, as in Pausanias, the tradition of a founder called Dyrrach(i)us but he gives no basis for evaluating the existence of an ancient settlement before the colonisation. Appian, Civil Wars 2.6.39, brings in important elements: 'the consuls crossed safely to Dyrrachion, which some persons, by reason of the following error, consider the same as Epidamnos. A barbarian king of the region, Epidamnos by name, built a city on the sea-coast and named it after himself. Dyrrachos, the son of his daughter and of Neptune (as it is supposed), added a dockyard to it which he named Dyrrachion'. An anonymous writer quoted by Stephanus of Byzantium s.v. says: *)Epi/damnos klhqei=sa a)po\ *)Epida/mnou. tou/tou quga/thr *Meli/ssa, h(=s kai\ tou= *Poseidw=nos o( *Durra/xios; 'it is called Epidamnos from Epidamnos. His daughter was Melissa, and Dyrrachios was son of her and of Poseidon'. It seems, therefore, that these mythological tales might refer to a pre-Greek settlement. Accepting this last hypothesis, perhaps one should also reconsider the Greek origin of the name Dyrrachion from the prefix dus- and r(a/xion, and to take into account another, possibly Illyrian, origin of the name. [Addendum (DW). For an expert view of this evidence see J.J. Wilkes and T. Fischer-Hansen in Hansen & Nielsen (below) 330-331 no.79. As regards the relevant entries in lexica, the editors of both Herodian and the Etymologicum Magnum solve the problem by printing h( pro/teron klhqei=sa *)Epi/damnos rather than u(/steron.]
M.H. Hansen & T.H. Nielsen, An Inventory of Archaic and Classical Poleis (Oxford 2004)
Associated internet addresses:
Web address 1,
Web address 2,
Web address 3
Keywords: aetiology; definition; dialects, grammar, and etymology; geography; history; mythology
Translated by: Stefano Sanfilippo on 14 March 2005@16:04:20.
Vetted by:
David Whitehead (tweaked translation; augmented notes and keywords; cosmetics) on 15 March 2005@03:35:07.
Catharine Roth (betacode cosmetics) on 15 March 2005@15:00:54.
Catharine Roth (more betacode cosmetics) on 15 March 2005@15:03:24.
Catharine Roth (betacode typo, deleted link) on 15 September 2011@18:43:39.
David Whitehead (tweaking) on 19 July 2012@05:04:36.
David Whitehead (updated a ref) on 3 August 2014@05:54:18.
Catharine Roth (coding, betacode typos) on 6 March 2015@01:11:25.
David Whitehead (addendum to n.1; cosmetics) on 16 November 2015@06:02:52.


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