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Headword: Τύχη
Adler number: tau,1233
Translated headword: stroke of fortune, unexpected turn of events, vicissitude, fortune, fate.
Vetting Status: high
Translation:
"Consider, in the name of the gods, the fates of two men. Hector, by the very belt presented by this man[1] as a gift, gnashed[2] from the chariot rail[3] was mangled[4] on and on, until he gasped out his life.[5] This man, having this gift, perished by it in a deathly falling." The story [is] about Hector and Ajax. And Sophocles [writes elsewhere]: "Listen.[6] It is inevitable to bear the strokes of fortune given by the gods.[7] It is not right for one either to excuse or to pity those who rest stubbornly, as you do, in voluntary injuries."[8]
Greek Original:
Τύχη: σκέψασθε πρὸς θεῶν τὴν τύχην δυοῖν βροτοῖν. Ἕκτωρ μέν, ᾧ δὴ τοῦτ' ἐδωρήθη πάρα, ζωστῆρι πρισθεὶς ἱππικῶν ἐξ ἀντύγων ἐκνάπτετ' αἰὲν ἔστ' ἀπέψυξε βίον: οὗτος δ' ἐκείνου τήνδε δωρεὰν ἔχων πρὸς τοῦδ' ὄλωλε θανασίμῳ πεσήματι. περὶ Ἕκτορος καὶ Αἴαντος ὁ λόγος. καὶ Σοφοκλῆς: ἄκουσον. ἀνθρώποισι τὰς μὲν ἐκ θεοῦ τύχας δοθείσας ἔστ' ἀναγκαῖον φέρειν. ὅσοι δ' ἑκουσίοισιν ἔγκεινται βλάβαις, ὥσπερ σύ, τούτοις οὔτε συγγνώμην ἔχειν δίκαιόν ἐστιν οὔτ' ἐποικτείρειν τινά.
Notes:
These two passages from Sophocles illustrate meanings of τύχη close to the etymological history of the related verb τεύχω, τυγχάνω (tau 435, tau 1147, 'hit, meet'). Events that cannot be or are not foreseen “strike us as blows” of fortune, of chance or of the gods; they become part of our fate or lot in life; they are our vicissitudes. See the bibliography below for the long and useful section on Sophocles and Herodotus in Villard Leglay's dissertation (314-76), distinguishing their period as replacing the joyous Pindaric use of τύχη for hitting the target of victory and joy in battle or sport with the concept that its uncontrollable vicissitudes threaten the supremacy of human reason, planning and foresight; cf. tau 1234 for this use in Thucydides. See also the studies of Oedipus and τύχη by Vernant and Knox, and Busch's treatment of τύχη in Euripides.
The first passage quoted is Ajax 1028-33 (web address 1), also in part at alpha 2769 (for its use of ἄντυγες ) and pi 2299. Teucer is pointing to the dead body of Ajax and holding the bloodstained (αἰόλος , alphaiota 253) sword on which he had fallen, the gift of Hector. This speech is represented in several other Suda entries (alpha 3638, alpha 3679, kappa 1882, mu 1019, omicron 750, pi 1933, pi 3069; cf. gamma 284, kappa 1288). Teucer compares the unforeseeable blows of fate suffered by Hector (epsilon 683) and Ajax (tau 253, cf. alpha 3901) at the end of their lives, and refers to a famous exchange of gifts between the two (Homer, Iliad 7.303-05), mentioned by Ajax in the play (661ff., web address 2) with an ominous reflection on the consequences of exchanging gifts with an enemy (665) that became proverbial (alpha 519, alpha 1144, epsilon 4028, mu 1234).
The second passage, the one explicitly attributed to Sophocles, is Philoctetes 1316-20 (web address 3). Philoctetes could not avoid the woes of his past, but now has the choice whether to prolong them or not. Here Neoptolemus [Author, Myth] argues in contemporary legalistic terms that his stubborn decision (not to go to Troy) is harmful also to the Achaeans and constitutes a legal injury to them.
[1] Teucer, here and in the following sentence, points to the dead body on stage.
[2] The passive participle used here (from the verb for sawing, abrading: web address 4, and see pi 2299) is particularly violent and rich in overtones. A dog bites with his teeth and hangs on; an angry man gnashes his teeth; the metal buckle of a belt often pierces its clasp, as we must imagine in the scene described. The participle is modified by one or two adverbial phrases: 'by the belt' and, probably, 'from the chariot rail', though the latter may also be taken with the main verb.
[3] See alpha 2769 for this circular rail, protecting the front and sides of the chariot platform. The dying man, presumably thus attached by a waist-size belt in front of Achilles, would have been visible to him, and literally sawed into by the spinning wheels on either side of him.
[4] Another violent verb, of torturing by a fuller's carding comb, bending, twisting mangling (web address 5). It is also transmitted in our mss in the archaic form γνάπτετ' or γνάμπτετ’ .
[5] This version of the dragging of Hector's body round the walls of Troy by Achilles differs from Homer, Iliad 22.395ff. (web address 6), where Hector is already dead. See the appendix to Jebb's edition of the play for possible sources. Vergil describes Hector’s feet as swollen (Aeneid 2.273, pedes tumentes), a sign that he was not yet dead at the time.
[6] The quotation omits the direct object of the verb, which has been given in the preceding line (1315): "listen to the things I desire to obtain (τυχεῖν , cf. epsilon 3344) from you." Note the double genitive with τυχεῖν , for the object aimed at and the person from whom it is desired.
[7] A commonplace in Sophocles: see also Oedipus at Colonus 1694, fr. 584 Pearson/Radt (512 D). Villard Leglay discusses at length the τύχη θέων (cf. Philoctetes 1326) as deriving from the notion of the gods crafting human suffering (a normal use of τεύχω , tau 435).
[8] This is a notable use of the legal concept of voluntary torts or injuries, discussed at length by Aristotle in Nicomachean Ethics Book 5 (chs. 8-9, 1135a17-6b14, web addresses 7-9), where the long sentence 1135b11-25, distinguishing voluntary from involuntary βλαβαί (beta 313), is mispunctuated in some modern texts, such as Bywater's on Perseus (see R.R. Dyer, 'Aristotle's categories of voluntary torts,' Classical Review 15, 1965, 250-252), but not in Rackham's translation and note there. Neoptolemus argues in legalistic fashion that Philoctetes' refusal voluntarily injures not only himself but others and therefore constitutes a crime under (sc. Athenian) law.
References:
Busch, G., Untersuchungen zum Wesen des Tyche in den Tragödien des Euripides (Heidelberg, 1937)
Knox, B.M.W., Oedipus at Thebes (New Haven, 1957)
Vernant, J.P. in Vernant and P. Vidal-Nacquet, Mythe et tragédie en Grèce ancienne (Paris, 1972) 19-40, 43-74, 101-31
Villard Leglay, Laurence, Tyche, des origines à la fin du Vème siècle avant J-C (Diss. Paris-Sorbonne, 1987)
Associated internet addresses:
Web address 1,
Web address 2,
Web address 3,
Web address 4,
Web address 5,
Web address 6,
Web address 7,
Web address 8,
Web address 9
Keywords: athletics; definition; dialects, grammar, and etymology; ethics; historiography; law; mythology; tragedy
Translated by: Robert Dyer on 25 April 2003@05:44:37.
Vetted by:
David Whitehead (added keyword; cosmetics) on 25 April 2003@06:18:25.
David Whitehead (another keyword) on 18 November 2005@10:24:11.
Catharine Roth (cosmetics) on 14 April 2013@01:40:09.
Catharine Roth (tweaked links) on 2 October 2013@00:12:20.
Catharine Roth (tweaked more links) on 2 October 2013@00:17:16.
David Whitehead (tweaking) on 16 January 2014@09:32:52.

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