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Headword: Εἵλως
Adler number: epsiloniota,132
Translated headword: helot
Vetting Status: high
[genitive] εἵλωτος : the slave. [1] And the ethnic[2] Heilotes [is used] among Lakedaimonians [for] illegitimate men and those slaves born from captives;[3] from the [word] Helos. Helos [is] a polis in the Peloponnese.[4]
So the Lakedaimonians, because of being always at odds with their slaves, used to call them helots by way of dishonour and insult.[5]
The [participle] κατειλωτισμένος has been noted for its (?) shortening.[6]
Greek Original:
Εἵλως, εἵλωτος: ὁ δοῦλος. καὶ τὸ ἐθνικὸν Εἵλωτες παρὰ Λακεδαιμονίοις οἱ νόθοι καὶ οἱ ἐξ αἰχμαλώτων δοῦλοι γενόμενοι: ἀπὸ τοῦ Ἕλους: Ἕλος δὲ πόλις ἐν Πελοποννήσῳ. οἱ οὖν Λακεδαιμόνιοι διὰ τὸ ἀεὶ διαφόρους εἶναι ἀλλήλοις τοὺς δούλους αὐτῶν ἐκάλουν εἵλωτας κατὰ ἀτιμίαν καὶ ὕβριν. τὸ δὲ κατειλωτισμένος σεσημείωται εἰς τὴν συναλιφήν.
See also epsiloniota 133, epsiloniota 134, epsiloniota 135.
[1] This is probably incorrect. Another lexicographer, Pollux, famously defines the helots as ‘between free and slave’, and it is generally agreed nowadays that they were not chattel slaves (to be bought and sold, as at Athens and elsewhere), but a serf population attached to farms and living a reasonably normal, Greek-style existence with a family structure.
[2] Ethnikon: an adjective denoting ethnicity or nationality, usually membership of a polis, e.g. Athenaios = citizen of Athens.
[3] In fact, even if this statement were true, they would not be descendants of captives in war in general, but only of the original Helots, supposedly the previous inhabitants of Laconia and Messenia whom the Lakedaimonians (including the Spartans) reduced to serfdom, perhaps in the 8th century BC.
[4] More precisely in southern Laconia: see Strabo 8.5.2, etc. The derivation of 'heilos' is still a matter of debate, as to whether it is from the place-name or from the root hel-, 'take', found in εἷλον , the aorist of αἱρέω .
[5] From the scholia to Thucydides 1.101.2, where helots are mentioned.
[6] (For 'has been noted' see under nu 249.) Shortening: συναλιφή , also spelled συναλοιφή , means the running of two syllables into one through synaeresis, crasis, or elision (LSJ s.v.). The shortening in κατειλωτισμένος , the perfect passive participle of an otherwise unattested verb, κατειλωτίζω (which can only mean 'I reduce to helot status' or serfdom), is in the omega (crasis of two omicrons), as is regular in verbs with vowel stems ending in omicron. At kappa 1033 κατειλωτισμένος is defined as κατεδεδουλωμένος , 'enslaved'.
P. Cartledge, Sparta and Laconia, ch. 10
G. Shipley, 'Lakedaimon', in M.H. Hansen and T.H. Nielsen (eds), An Inventory of Archaic and Classical Poleis (Oxford, 2004), 569–98, at 574 (Helos)
Keywords: definition; dialects, grammar, and etymology; ethics; gender and sexuality; geography; historiography; history; military affairs
Translated by: D. Graham J. Shipley on 7 February 2005@06:08:07.
Vetted by:
David Whitehead (tweaked translation; augmented (and rearranged) notes; added more keywords; cosmetics) on 7 February 2005@06:58:59.
David Whitehead (expanded n.6) on 25 July 2007@04:49:28.
David Whitehead (another keyword; cosmetics) on 25 November 2012@07:30:28.
Catharine Roth (tweak) on 27 December 2012@12:28:20.


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