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Headword: Ἔσχατος Μυσῶν πλεῖν
Adler number: epsilon,3254
Translated headword: to sail last of the Mysians
Vetting Status: high
When the Greeks were beset by plague, the god[1] gave them the oracular injunction "to sail to the last of the Mysians." At first they did not know what to do, but again [...] they discovered Aiolis at the boundaries of Mysia. Some say that the proverb of the oracle occurred when Telephos was consulting the oracle in regard to his parents [and asking] to what places he might go to find his parents, and that the god commanded him "to sail to the last of the Mysians", and that when he arrived at Teuthrania -- for the Mysians cultivate these regions -- he encountered his mother. The proverb is applied to those who are commanded to do difficult things.[2]
'Last' derived from 'checking' and hindering: the final one.[3] And 'latest', both because the 'standing' is 'beneath' him, and it is no longer possible to proceed further, but 'he stood' 'later', since there was no first.[4] Also 'utmost', from 'to have stopped'[5] and 'terminal', the last, from 'terminus', that is, 'end'.[6]
Greek Original:
Ἔσχατος Μυσῶν πλεῖν: Ἕλλησι λοιμῷ κρατουμένοις ὁ θεὸς ἔχρησεν, ἐπὶ τὸν ἔσχατον Μυσῶν πλεῖν. οἱ δὲ τὸ μὲν πρῶτον ἠπόρουν: αὖθις δὲ τὴν Αἰολίδα παρὰ τοῖς ἐσχάτοις τῆς Μυσίας εὗρον. ἔνιοι τὴν παροιμίαν τοῦ χρησμοῦ λέγουσι Τηλέφῳ μαντευομένῳ γεγονέναι περὶ γονέων, ἐπὶ τίνας τόπους ἐλθὼν εὕροι τοὺς γονεῖς, τὸν δὲ θεὸν προστάξαι, πλεῖν ἐπὶ τὸν ἔσχατον Μυσῶν. ἀφικόμενον δ' εἰς Τευθρανίαν, νέμεσθαι γὰρ ταῦτα τὰ χωρία Μυσούς, ἐπιτυχεῖν τῇ μητρὶ αὑτοῦ. τάττεται δὲ ἡ παροιμία ἐπὶ τῶν δυσχερῆ ἐπιτασσομένων. Ἔσχατος δὲ παρὰ τὴν σχέσιν καὶ κώλυσιν, ὁ τελευταῖος. καὶ ὕστατος, καὶ ὅτι ὑπ' αὐτόν ἐστιν ἡ στάσις, καὶ οὐκέτι προβῆναι δύναται, ἀλλ' ὕστερος εἱστήκει, τοῦ πρώτου μὴ ἐῶντος. καὶ τὸ πύμα- τος, ἀπὸ τοῦ πεπαῦσθαι, καὶ τέρμιον, τὸ ἔσχατον, ἀπὸ τοῦ τέρματος, ὅ ἐστι τέλους.
For Mysians and a proverb cf. mu 1478, mu 1479.
[1] Apollo. For this particular oracle see J. Fontenrose, The Delphic Oracle (1978) 382-383 ##L73-74.
[2] This portion of the entry is also in Photius, Lexicon epsilon2050, and is ascribed by Erbse to Pausanias the Atticist (epsilon58). Similar material -- especially similar in the account of Telephos -- appears in a scholium to Euripides, Rhesos 251, where Mysians are mentioned. The same scholium presents an extended version of the first explanation given here and ascribes it to the Attodographer Demon (FGrH 327 F17). A fragment of different, but broadly similar, material appears in Hesychius epsilon6456 (where the headword phrase, as again in Photius, lacks 'to sail'). For further references see the apparatus of Adler and of Theodoridis on Photius. (The lacuna between "again" and "they discovered" is a suggestion of Erbse, who would supplement it with one or more additional consultations of the oracle -- a suggestion consistent with the longer account in the Rhesos scholium.) Oddly, here in the Suda and already in Hesychius and Photius, the headword phrase presents the word 'last' (ἔσχατος ) in the nominative case, whereas in the proverb cited twice in the text of the entry, it occurs in the accusative as the object of a preposition ('to the last...'). This explains the discrepancy in translation between the headword and the body of the entry. The bulk of the text seems to reflect a search for recherché explanations to a saying the meaning of which looks rather obvious. Since (apart from its outlet on the Aegean coast) the territory of Mysia was landlocked, "to sail to the last of the Mysians" from the standpoint of a mainland Greek would be a physical impossibility.
[3] Here commences a series of etymological speculations on the origin of ἔσχατος ('last') and words that are semantically similar. Very similar material appears, post-Suda, in Etymologicum Magnum 384.21-25; see Adler's apparatus for more comparanda. In this first effort ἔσχατος is derived from σχέσις ('holding', 'checking').
[4] This opaque sentence seems to derive the superlative 'latest' (ὕστατος ) and the comparative 'later' (ὕστερος ) from a combination of ὑπό ('under') and στάσις ('standing').
[5] πύματος ('utmost') from πεπαῦσθαι ('to have stopped').
[6] τέρμιον ('terminal') from τέρμα ('terminus') -- the only one of these etymologies that actually has some validity.
Keywords: aetiology; agriculture; daily life; dialects, grammar, and etymology; economics; gender and sexuality; geography; historiography; imagery; medicine; mythology; proverbs; religion; science and technology; tragedy; women
Translated by: William Hutton on 3 February 2008@07:55:58.
Vetted by:
David Whitehead (augmented notes and keywords; tweaks) on 3 February 2008@09:11:43.
William Hutton (augmented and rearranged material in nn. 1 and 2; cosmetics) on 4 February 2008@05:15:13.
David Whitehead (tweaking) on 2 November 2012@06:55:56.
David Whitehead (coding and other cosmetics; more keywords) on 18 February 2016@07:59:24.
David Whitehead (typo) on 10 September 2016@06:51:56.


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