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Headword: *te/teuktai
Adler number: tau,375
Translated headword: has been crafted, has been prepared, is made, is ready, is; has been chased and embossed
Vetting Status: high
[Meaning] has been prepared.
Greek Original:
*te/teuktai: kateskeu/astai.
'Chased and embossed:' of the chasing of bronze and other metals, e.g. the Shield of Achilles.
Homer normally uses the form te/tuktai: see tau 420, with the same glossing as here, and the same pair of entries already in Hesychius (tau593, tau 674) and Photius' Lexicon (tau185 and 209 Theodoridis). The related passive persons, infinitive, imperative and participle are also in tetug-, tetukh-, etc., in Homer. They are forms of teu/xw, tugxa/nw (tau 435, tau 1147, tau 3344), cf. the passive derivatives teukto/n, tukto/n, eu)tukto/n (tau 428, tau 1149, epsilon 3780). The form teteu/xatai in Homer (and constant imitation in the later epic style) is taken by modern grammarians (Smyth, Greek Grammar p.155, §465f.note) as the 3rd. person plural, although it has a neuter plural subject in all instances but Odyssey 19.563. Ps.-Zonaras takes it as an Ionic form of the singular (our headword). Both instances of its pluperfect form have normal plural subjects (Iliad 11.808, 18.574).
All instances of the above forms in Homer can be explained with the generic translations above (e.g. has been prepared, is) of preparing given above (cf. tau 420). Frontisi-Ducroux and most earlier scholars accept 'prepare, produce' as the meaning of the verb teu/xw, its forms and its derivatives. Both philologists and historians of art have, however, tried to link them to specific craft techniques appropriate to the root meaning of the verb and its associated noun tu/xh (tau 1231, tau 1232, tau 1233, tau 1234) 'hit at the right place at the right moment' (see, in particular, Eckstein and Villard Leglay). The following paragraphs give the evidence for translating the participle, when used of artefacts, as 'having been chased', at Iliad 14.9, 16.225, 23.741, Odyssey 9.223 (cf. LSJ I2, web address 1) and for translating teteu/xatai at Hesiod, Theogony 581 as 'have been chased' (web address 2, with neuter plural subject). Some confusion will be found in non-experts between the concepts of chasing, chiseling, engraving, cold inlay, fusion overlay, sphyrelaton (see Hampe), repoussé, raising, embossing, etc. I follow Erika Simon's authoritative study in EAA, where she shows that the craftsmen of almost all epochs, but chiefly the earliest, often employed in a single work several of these techniques, which she groups together under toreutica (English chasing), as those requiring chisels and raising and surfacing hammers.
The scholiast on Theocritus, Idylls 1.28 (describing a brand-new wooden vase) glosses neoteuxe/s (nu 211) as “newly chiseled and engraved” (h)/goun to\ newsti\ toreuqe\n kai\ glufe/n, referring to the toreutikh/ of his day, cf. Latin caelatura). The shield-maker Tychios (Iliad 7.220, tau 1238), working in leather, may owe his name to the hammering of leather or of metal overlays. The builder’s hammering picks for quarrying and surfacing stone called tu/xoi, tu/koi (tau 1146) may come from the same root (but see Chantraine, Etym. gr. 1143).
The strongest evidence comes from Homer’s description of the forge where the god Hephaestus crafts the Shield of Achilles (Iliad 18. 468ff., web address 3, cf. Fittschen in bibliography) and other armour. This ecphrasis is to be placed, on linguistic, stylistic and archaeological grounds, in the very latest stratum of the work, thus unquestionably the poet’s own invention (or personal elaboration of a traditional IE motif of magical armour). See Schadewaldt in bibliography. It has all the benchmarks of personal observation of the workshops in which heated metals were chased in his own day (cf. Erika Simon's study of toreutikh/, p.926), even if enhanced by poetic imagination of a divine world. His forge is not designed for hammering inlays of cold plate familiar on Mycenaean swords: “Depressions showing the patterns in blank outline were cut and hammered out of the cold bronze base. The plates of the inlaying metal were cut to the right shapes and hammered cold into the depressions” (Gray p.4; cf. Fittschen 6 and Karo 313f.). The forge is designed for work with molten and reheated metal. This technique of embellishing bronze was introduced among the eastern peoples (see Simon), and not widely known, if at all, in the Greek cities of his day. His account may imply knowledge of foreign production.
The decoration of the shield itself, best reconstructed by Weniger (Fittschen, Pl. VIIb), has parallels in the Cretan shields from the Idaean cave (not securely dated, but certainly no later than Homer, see Kunze [1931] Pls. 3, 4, 10; Fittschen fig. 1), an 8th. Century Urartean shield in Erevan (Simon fig. 1039; Akurgal 37, figs. 14,15), Phoenician-Cypriote cups illustrated by Fittschen (figs. 2-4) and Simon (fig. 1040), and the chased silver found in the Bernardini tomb in Etruria (Curtis 33ff., Pls. 12-18; Fittschen Pl. VIIIb; perhaps of Phoenician origin in the first half of the 7th. Cent. B.C., now in the Museo Preistorico, Rome).
Thetis has gone to Hephaestus (Iliad 18.369ff.) to ask him to create divine armour (teu/xea, tau 432) for her son, who is, as she knows, soon to die. He prepares his forge, equipped with an anvil and with crucibles of molten bronze, gold, silver and tin over furnaces heated to different temperatures by bellows. He holds in his two hands tongs (pura/grh), to place the bronze shield over the heat and render it malleable, and a r(ai/sthr, with which to work the metal. The latter instrument is derived from the verb r(ai/w, used for grooving (cf. the chases on a gun barrel) and for the gashes of rocks that split open a skull and, underwater, sink a boat (LSJ). It may have been similar in shape to the o)/ruc, a pointed pick for quarrying stone, from which the desert antelope or oryx takes its name (see omicron 647). The upright, pointed horns of the oryx are up to a metre long, used in combat for dominance, often bent backwards at an angle or in a curve. Such an instrument would be effective in “raising” embossed points, lines or forms from the interior of a heated metal surface.
For the work creating the designs on the shield Homer uses four verbs: e)n… e)/teuce, e)n… poi/hse, e)n… e)ti/qei, poiki/lle. There are three possible explanations. (1) They are merely metrical alternatives and synonyms for work vaguely described. (2) They originally represented four consecutive stages of the same work, for the third verb seems to imply setting in place a (cold) inlay, but Homer has not understood his tradition. (3) They represent four differentiated techniques used on the same shield (as the Cretan shields and Bernardini silver are both raised in relief and chiseled), ending with a process that probably here implies setting a design of scattered (cf. sigma 1513) coloured gems or stones into chases (cf. sigma 1104, epsilon 1244, kappa 997, kappa 691) to make a colourful chorus of dancers. If this is the right way to take the four verbs, e)/teuce refers specifically to raising into relief, by strokes of the r(ai/sthr on the interior of the bronze, the bands that separate the concentric circles of sky, earth and sea and then embossing the sun, moon and stars. The second verb implies the complicated craftsmanship of designing two cities, of peace and justice and of war, by embossing and incising forms on which thin plates of heated gold and other metals are to be fused by delicate hammering. The third technique appears to inlay three strips (of a farm, with the ploughed field rendered black by the normal technique of overheating bronze, of a king’s estate and of a vineyard), worked separately (cf. Kunze [1950] on the metal coverings for shield straps at Olympia). Finally there are two brief scenes introduced by e)n… poi/hse, of a herd of cattle attacked by a lion, and of sheep. At some point the delicate work on the shield would no longer permit reheating and cold inlay was inevitable.
No doubt we will never be certain of the techniques that Homer rendered in his account of a divine forge, but they appear to give some level of support to the meaning ‘chased’ (or ‘raised in relief’ or ‘hammered’) for tetugme/nos and other forms of teu/xw, at least sometimes. At Hesiod, Theogony 581ff., where Hephaestus makes a crown of gold to place on the head of the Ancestress of Woman, there can be little doubt: “On it were chased many works of art, a marvel to see, wild creatures that land and sea nourish in great numbers” (th=| d’ e)ni\ dai/dala polla\ teteu/xato, qau=ma i)de/sqai,// knw/dal’, o(/s’ h)/peiros polla\ tre/fei h)de\ qa/lassa, web address 2).
Akurgal, E., Die Kunst Anatoliens von Homer bis Alexander (Berlin, 1961)
Blümner, H., Technologie und Terminologie der Gewerbe und Künste bei Griechen und Römern (2nd. edn., Leipzig, 1912) 4.241ff.
Catling, H. W. Cypriot bronzework in the Mycenaean world (Oxford, 1964)
Curtis, C. Densmore, “The Bernardini tomb,” Memoirs of the American Academy in Rome (1919) 1-90 (esp. 33-37), Pls. 1-71 (cf. on the Barberini tomb, vol. 5, 1925, 1-52)
Fittschen, K., “Der Schild des Achilleus” in Archaeologia Homerica, ed. F. Matz & H.-G. Buchholz (Göttingen), vol. 2 N1, esp. p.6 n.25; cf. also F. Eckstein (fasc. L on handcrafts), H. Borchhardt (fasc. E 1ff. on shields), F. Canciani (fasc. N2 on Homer and the monuments), R.J. Forbes (fasc. K on mining and quarrying)
Forbes, R.J., Studies in Ancient Technology vol.8 (1964) 133ff. (esp. 139-40)
Frontisi-Ducroux, F., Dédale : mythologie de l’artisan en grèce ancienne ((Paris, 1975)
The Gordion Excavations I, Three great early tumuli, ed. R.S. Young (Philadelphia University Museum Monograph 43, 1981)
Gray, D.H.F., “Metal-working in Homer,” Journal of Hellenic Studies 7 (1954) 1-15
Hampe, R., “Sphyrelaton” in Enciclopedia dell’Arte Antica 7.444-46
Karo, G.H., Die Schachtgräber von Mykenai (Munich, 1930-1933) 313f.
Kunze, E., Kretische Bronzereliefs (Stuttgart, 1931)
Kunze, E., Archaische Schildbänder, ein Beitrag zur frühgriechischen Bildgeschichte und Sagenüberlieferung (Berlin, 1950)
Muhly, J.D. Copper and Tin: the distribution of mineral resources and the nature of the metals trade in the Bronze Age (extract from Transactions of the Connecticut Academy of Arts and Sciences 43, March 1973) 155-535
Przeworski, S., Die Metalindustrie Anatoliens (1939)
Schadewaldt, W., “Der Schild des Achilles” in Von Homers Welt und Werk (3rd. edn., Leipzig, 1959) 352-74, 480-85
Simon, E., “Toreutica” in Enciclopedia dell’Arte Antica 7.919-48
Villard Leglay, L., Tyche, des origines à la fin du Vème siècle avant J-C (Diss. Paris-Sorbonne, 1987) 43-46 and n.192
Associated internet addresses:
Web address 1,
Web address 2,
Web address 3
Keywords: architecture; art history; daily life; definition; dialects, grammar, and etymology; epic; military affairs; mythology; poetry; science and technology; trade and manufacture; zoology
Translated by: Robert Dyer on 26 May 2003@09:57:18.
Vetted by:
David Whitehead (small internal rearrangement (of material from headword to note field); other cosmetics) on 26 May 2003@10:15:52.
David Whitehead (another keyword) on 21 November 2005@06:39:32.
Catharine Roth (betacode cosmetics) on 7 February 2012@22:13:36.
Catharine Roth (tweaked links, other cosmetics) on 8 February 2012@00:57:15.
David Whitehead (tweaks and cosmetics) on 9 January 2014@05:30:39.
Catharine Roth (tweaked link) on 31 August 2014@07:43:38.
Catharine Roth (coding) on 29 April 2015@00:03:29.
David Whitehead (codings) on 27 May 2016@11:28:25.
Catharine Roth (cosmeticule) on 14 July 2022@17:54:44.


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