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Headword: Λευκὴ στάθμη
Adler number: lambda,325
Translated headword: white measuring-line
Vetting Status: high
Translation:
[sc. A proverbial phrase] in reference to those marking obscurities with obscurities; or in reference to those who understand nothing. Sophocles in Kidalion [writes]: "I do not judge by these words of yours, no more than a white measuring-line [does] on white stone."[1]
For on white a white measuring-line is not able to show anything. A measuring-line is a builder's cord.[2]
Greek Original:
Λευκὴ στάθμη: ἐπὶ τῶν ἄδηλα ἀδήλοις σημειουμένων: ἢ ἐπὶ τῶν μηδὲν συνιέντων. Σοφοκλῆς Κιδαλίωνι: τοῖς μὲν λόγοις τοῖς σοῖσιν οὐ τεκμαίρομαι, οὐ μᾶλλον ἢ λευκῷ λίθῳ λευκὴ στάθμη. ἐν λευκῷ γὰρ λευκὴ στάθμη οὐδὲν δύναται δεικνύναι. στάθμη δέ ἐστι σπάρτος τεκτονική.
Notes:
= Pausanias the Atticist lambda14; cf. Timaeus, Platonic Lexicon 994a17; a scholion to Plato, Charmides 154B [see below]; Aelius Dionysius lambda8, Hesychius lambda789, Photius lambda220 Theodoridis, Zenobius 4.89, [Diogenianus] 6.8, Gregorius 2.67 Apostolius 10.64.
The locus classicus for the phrase, apart from the Sophocles passage quoted below, is Plato, Charmides 154B (web address 1).
While one might suppose that the phrase refers to a line dusted with white chalk, and hence potentially good for making a mark on surfaces that are not white, most commentators take it as referring to a bare line, untreated with the customary red or black powder (cf. Moeris 202.24; scholion to Homer, Iliad 15.10; scholion to Plato loc.cit.). Perhaps most of the commentary is generated by changing fashions in line-chalking that rendered Plato's phrase ambiguous to the incautious reader (this seems to have led Maximus of Tyre, for one, astray (18.4)); accordingly a passage is dredged up from one of Sophocles' obscurer plays employing the phrase in a context where a white line, chalked or unchalked, would be useless against a white background. For other applications of the phrase see Libanius, Epistles 481.2; Simplicius, Commentary on Aristotle's De caelo 7.404.
[1] Sophocles fr. 330 Radt. Up to this point the entry = Photius.
[2] cf. sigma 988; Synagoge and Photius s.v. στάθμη ; Hesychius sigma1422, sigma1599.
Associated internet address:
Web address 1
Keywords: architecture; art history; daily life; definition; imagery; law; philosophy; poetry; proverbs; science and technology; trade and manufacture; tragedy
Translated by: David Whitehead on 9 April 2008@06:51:19.
Vetted by:
Catharine Roth (cosmeticule, status) on 9 April 2008@12:09:32.
William Hutton (tweaked tr., augmented notes, added link and keyword, raised status) on 10 April 2008@01:58:09.
David Whitehead (another keyword; cosmetics) on 10 April 2008@02:49:34.
David Whitehead on 15 April 2013@07:48:17.
Catharine Roth (coding) on 22 December 2014@22:52:59.

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