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Headword: Γρῖφος
Adler number: gamma,457
Translated headword: riddle, conundrum
Vetting Status: high
Translation:
[Meaning] a [sc. fishermen's] net.[1] It also means an utterance[2] hard to explain and intricately woven.
The [utterance] having a feature in it unexpressed.
Greek Original:
Γρῖφος: τὸ δίκτυον. λέγεται δὲ καὶ ὁ δύσκολος καὶ συμπεπλεγμένος λόγος. ὁ ἔχων πάθος ἐν ἑαυτῷ μὴ φαινόμενον.
Notes:
[1] The word for a fishermen's net or basket came to mean a riddle, in association with the myth of Homer's death on Ios (gamma 458).
"A riddle is a problem put in jest, requiring, by searching the mind, an answer to be given for a prize of forfeit." Athenaeus, in his lengthy and useful discussion of riddles at dinners and symposia (10.69-89 Kaibel = 448B-459C, cf. Epitome, ed. S.P. Peppink, 2.2.44-52), attributes this definition to Clearchus of Soli (also known as Soleus), On Riddles (FHG II 31). Pollux 6.19, from the same source, classifies it among "questions over the wine-cups" (ζητήματα κυλίκεια ) or "to test memory" (μνημόνεια ), and distinguishes it from enigma as having not only the character of a game but also a serious side. The person solving the riddle received a particular portion of meat, the loser(s) had to drink salted water. Athenaeus cites with evident pleasure many riddles from Greek comic playwrights (Alexis, Antiphanes, Diphilus, Eubulus) and elsewhere, and demonstrates the extraordinary literary and intellectual breadth required by this game.
The griphos was included as one form of allegory in some rhetorical lists of figures of speech. Philodemus, however, in reporting this, excludes griphos and urbane witticism from allegory, accepting enigma, paroemia (the misapplication of a proverb to a situation in order to undercut the statement) and irony (Rhetorica I p.181 Sudhaus; cf. R.R. Dyer, Journal of Roman Studies 80, 1990, 27-30). Quintilian includes in his definition of allegory (8.6.44-59) continued passages of changed meaning (modern 'allegory', cf. Cicero, de Oratore 2.65.261-7; 3.41.106) and irony (within which he includes paroemia, with sarcasm, urbane witticism and antiphrasis, as one of its four types), but classes enigma, from its obscurity, as a stylistic flaw (and, a fortiori, griphos, which he does not mention). See the references for Schultz's collection of hellenistic riddles and for the recent work and bibliography by P. Pucci.
[2] Greek logos, 'argument, calculation, word, sentence, utterance, mode of discourse' (see LSJ). The many possible senses of the word give rise to ambiguity in its use. Here it refers to a party game of words and meanings and might be translated 'word game'. However, as a type of allegory in rhetoric, it would be a type in a particular 'mode of discourse' known in antiquity as "figured speech" (τὸ ἐσχηματισμένον , Latin oratio figurata, cf. Dyer 18ff., nn. 23, 24, 53, 54, 57), used to disguise political dissent under tyrants or the jargon of minorities subject to discrimination (e.g. the jargon of homosexuals in previous centuries).
References:
Pucci, P. Enigma, segreto, oracolo (1996), with bibliography, annotated in Italian, 203-08.
Schultz, W. Rätsel aus dem hellenistischen Kulturkreise, 2 vols. (1905, 1912).
Keywords: comedy; daily life; definition; food; imagery; philosophy; proverbs; rhetoric; trade and manufacture; zoology
Translated by: Robert Dyer on 12 December 2000@09:36:24.
Vetted by:
Ross Scaife ✝ (cosmetics) on 12 December 2000@09:51:44.
Robert Dyer (added references) on 13 March 2002@17:54:50.
David Whitehead (augmented keywords; cosmetics) on 29 July 2003@09:55:03.
Catharine Roth (italics) on 7 October 2012@00:09:56.
David Whitehead (cosmetics) on 29 September 2015@10:00:28.
Catharine Roth (cosmetics) on 16 April 2016@22:17:50.
David Whitehead (more keywords) on 17 April 2016@03:21:47.

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