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Headword: Ὀρτυγοκόπος
Adler number: omicron,642
Translated headword: quail-tapping, quail-tapper
Vetting Status: high
A sort of game, in which they stand quails in a circle and hit them on the head. The one who downs a quail in the circle, takes as many in a row as he is able; but the one who misses lets the other one hit the quails, and they take turns doing this. Thus [Plato] says in Alcibiades: "you must [be] looking to Meidias the quail-tapper and others of his ilk."[1] In Phaedo [he says] that the contest is not against just anybody, but against the best; so there must be no slackening of the spirit.[2]
"[...] no quail-tapping and no flinching over such matters."[3]
Greek Original:
Ὀρτυγοκόπος: παιδιά τις, ἐν ᾗ ὄρτυγας ἱστᾶσιν ἐν γύρῳ, οὓς τύπτουσιν εἰς τὴν κεφαλήν. καὶ ὁ μὲν ἐν τῷ γύρῳ καταβαλὼν τὸν ὄρτυγα λαμβάνει ἑξῆς, οὓς ἂν δύνηται: ὁ δ' ἀποτυχὼν παρέχει θατέρῳ τοὺς ὄρτυγας τύπτειν: καὶ τοῦτ' ἀνὰ μέρος ποιοῦσι. λέγει οὖν ἐν Ἀλκιβιάδῃ: οὐκ, ἀλλὰ πρὸς Μειδίαν δεῖ σε ἀποβλέποντα τὸν ὀρτυγοκόπον καὶ τοιούτους ἄλλους. ἐν Φαίδωνι: ὅτι οὐ πρὸς τοὺς τυχόντας ὁ ἀγών ἐστι, πρὸς δὲ τοὺς ἀρίστους: διόπερ οὐ ῥαθυμητέον. μηδὲ ὀρτυγοκοπεῖν μηδὲ περὶ τὰ τοιαῦτα ἐπτοῆσθαι.
All but the last sentence of this entry (for which see n.3 below) is taken verbatim from Photius, Lexicon omicron532 Theodoridis. A rather different explanation of the game is to be found in Pollux 9.102 + 107-109 and in the scholia to Aristophanes, Plutus [Wealth] 1036. The scholia to Aristophanes, Birds 1297 seem more in line with Photius and the Suda. See also sigma 1266.
The translation 'quail-tapping', which sounds marginally less brutal than -striking or the like, comes from Dunbar 643-4.
[1] A ungrammatical garbling of a quotation from Plato, Alcibiades 1 120A (web address 1).
[2] There is no such quotation in Plato's Phaedo. Adler's apparatus notes two suggested emendations: ἐμ Φάωνι , a play by Plato Comicus (Bernhardy); and ἐμφαίνων , 'indicating', i.e. no second quotation here (Leopardi). The latter has won considerable support: besides Adler's comments see Theodoridis ad loc.
[3] Marcus Aurelius, Meditations 1.6.1.
Aristophanes, Birds, edited with introduction and commentary by Nan Dunbar (Oxford 1995)
Associated internet address:
Web address 1
Keywords: biography; comedy; daily life; definition; ethics; imagery; philosophy; zoology
Translated by: William Hutton on 12 June 2005@11:28:38.
Vetted by:
David Whitehead (augmented notes; tweaks to headword and tr) on 13 June 2005@03:06:16.
Catharine Roth (tweaked link) on 20 July 2013@19:07:04.
David Whitehead (updated primary note; more keywords; cosmetics) on 21 July 2013@04:09:21.
Catharine Roth (cross-reference) on 24 April 2014@01:23:44.


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