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Headword: Ἤλεκτρα
Adler number: eta,199
Translated headword: elektra, lyre-pegs
Vetting Status: high
In a special sense the ivories placed upon beds used to be so called, ἤλεκτρα . Aristophanes [says]: "with the pegs falling out and the tone no longer there". Consistently, after the bed he also mentioned the 'tone'. A bed's 'tone [comes from] its cables, and metaphorically it means the tuning of the voice. For ancient beds used to have their feet set with dark precious stones and amber, just as now [they are decorated] with silver and tin. The parts of the couches which are held together are [sc. an image for] harmony. [Thus] he adhered to his metaphor.
Greek Original:
Ἤλεκτρα: ἰδίως τὰ ταῖς κλίναις ἐπιβαλλόμενα ἐλεφάντινα οὕτως ἐκάλουν, ἤλεκτρα. Ἀριστοφάνης: ἐκπιπτουσῶν τῶν ἠλέκτρων, καὶ τοῦ τόνου οὐκ ἔτ' ὄντος. ἀκολούθως μετὰ τὴν κλίνην ἐμνημόνευσε καὶ τοῦ τόνου. τόνος δὲ τῆς κλίνης τὰ σχοινία, τροπικῶς δὲ δηλοῖ τὴν τῆς φωνῆς τάσιν. αἱ γὰρ ἀρχαῖαι κλῖναι τοὺς πόδας εἶχον ὠφθαλμισμένους ἄνθραξι καὶ ἠλέκτροις, ὥσπερ νῦν ἀργύρῳ ἢ καττιτέρῳ. ἁρμονίας δὲ τὰ συμπησσόμενα τῶν κραββάτων μέρη. ἐπέμεινε δὲ τῇ τροπῇ.
Aristophanes, Knights 532 (web address 1), with scholion; cf. alpha 3977, tau 768, omega 276. Cratinus (kappa 2344) is being compared to a worn-out lyre.
On the neuter noun ἤλεκτρον , here in the plural (as in the Aristophanes passage), see generally LSJ s.v. It has two basic senses: amber, and the (naturally-occurring) alloy of gold and silver (for the latter cf. eta 200); and the specialised meaning deployed by Aristophanes here, the pegs of a lyre, belongs under the second of these heads. Why the scholiast brought in ivory, or ignored Aristophanes' musical-instrument metaphor in favour of one related to the construction of beds, is unclear.
Associated internet address:
Web address 1
Keywords: biography; comedy; definition; dialects, grammar, and etymology; imagery; meter and music; poetry; science and technology; trade and manufacture
Translated by: Antonella Ippolito on 15 March 2006@16:55:53.
Vetted by:
Catharine Roth (tweaked translation and link) on 15 March 2006@17:18:38.
David Whitehead (modified headword and translation; augmented notes and keywords) on 16 March 2006@03:34:00.
David Whitehead on 11 December 2012@09:13:04.
Catharine Roth (upgraded link) on 17 December 2012@22:03:14.


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