Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Oppian of Corycus, Halieutica 2.99-106

Antennarius pictus
Copyright of Jeffrey Rosenfeld
(Image from Tree of Life)

My regular, esteemed reader and occasional commenter Michael Gilleland, who takes a professional interest in quotes from antiquity and their grammatical analysis, including informative material that I have previously dredged up, has assisted me in making sense of yesterday's Greek quote from Oppian of Corycus, both grammatically and contextually. I initially requested his help on the grammar by means of alerting him to my blog post:
You might find this blog entry interesting:

οὐδ᾽ ἐνόησαν ἑὸν σπεύδοντες ὄλεθρον

Oppian, Halieutica ii 106

I'd be interested in a grammatical analysis of the clause. I presume that ἑὸν . . . ὄλεθρον is an accusative object of σπεύδοντες. Is that correct? That would explain why it translates as "They knew not hastening their death" rather than "They knew not their hastening death," right?
Mr. Gilleland responded with confirmation and context:
Your grammatical analysis is 100% correct. I downloaded A.W. Mair's edition and translation of Oppian in the Loeb Classical Library series (London: William Heinemann Ltd., 1928) from the Internet Archive web site, and here is a translation of the entire sentence in context (Halieutica 2.99-106, Greek on p. 290, English on p. 291, but I didn't transcribe the Greek):

"As when a man, devising a snare for lightsome birds, sprinkles some grains of wheat before the gates of guile while others he puts inside, and props up the trap; the keen desire of food draws the eager birds and they pass within and no more is return or escape prepared for them, but they win an evil end to their banquet; even so the weak Fishing-frog deceives and attracts the fishes and they perceive not that they are hastening their own destruction."
Moreover, the generous Mr. Gilleland offered even more:
Also, on my last visit to the library, I copied the title page and pp. 825-826 of Guy L. Cooper, III (after K.W. Krüger), Attic Greek Prose Syntax (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1998), which has many examples of this construction. Despite the book title, many of the examples come from poetry. I've been trying to figure out how to make a .pdf file out of these pages to send to you. I don't have a scanner. This week maybe I'll go to Kinko's and see if they can make a .pdf file. This is probably not a book you have in your university library, but if you do, let me know, and I won't bother sending you the pages.
I look forward to this if he's able to make time for it. Meanwhile, I found some material that interests both him and me, a 'copyable' online Greek version of Oppian of Corycus, Halieutica, from which I was able to copy and paste 2.99-106:
ὡς δ᾽ ὅτε τις κούφοισι πάγην ὄρνισι τιτύσκων,
πυροὺς τοὺς μὲν ἔρηνε δόλου προπάροιθε πυλάων,
ἄλλους δ᾽ ἔνδον ἔθηκεν, ὑπεστήριξε δὲ τέχνην·
τοὺς δὲ λιλαιομένους ἕλκει πόθος ὀξὺς ἐδωδῆς,
εἴσω δὲ προγένοντο, καὶ οὐκέτι νόστος ἑτοῖμος
ἐκδῦναι, δαιτὸς δὲ κακὴν εὕραντο τελευτήν·
ὣς κείνους ἀμενηνὸς ἐπέσπασεν ἠπεροπεύσας
βάτραχος, οὐδ᾽ ἐνόησαν ἑὸν σπεύδοντες ὄλεθρον.
Just to clarify, for those who might not know Greek, this is the poetic original to the prose translation found by Mr. Gilleland. I've gone on to find a more 'poetic' translation on page 307 of Frogfishes of the World: Systematics, Zoogeography, and Behavioral Ecology (Stanford University Press, 1987), by Theodore W. Pietsch and David B. Grobecker, who provide more of the context. They refer to Oppian of Corycus by his other title, "Oppian of Anazarbus," and quote the 1722 translation by William Diaper and John Jones, Halieuticks, of the Nature of Fishes and Fishing of the Ancients, but abruptly stop without providing the two lines at the end, and no wonder since Diaper and Jones also fail to provide a proper rendering of them. The lines are differently numbered, too, for what was 2.99-106 in the Greek are lines 2.168-175:
The Fowler thus the feather'd race deceives,
And strows beneath his Snare the rifled Sheaves.
The busy Flocks peck up the scatter'd Seed,
Nor midst their Joy the fatal Engine heed;
Till with loud Clap the tilted Cover falls,
And the close Pit the flutt'ring Prey enthralls.
Sea-Toads with Foxes may for Cunning vie,
These too (as Rusticks tell) will feign to die. (page 66)
Those last two lines here in Diaper and Jones offer a rather free translation that betrays the original meaning in the Greek. The frogfish in the Greek text deceives the other fish upon which it preys, but not by itself feigning death; rather, it dangles its lure (see photo above) and thereby entices other fishes that expect to feed, knowing not that they are hastening their own deaths. Mair's prose translation provided by Mr. Gilleland offers an English version more consonant with Satan's role in luring Eve to the forbidden fruit, which she expects to eat, but which instead 'eats' her.

Diaper and Jones are thus wrong in their prose rendering, but as noted in yesterday's blog entry, my investigation of John Milton's meaning in Paradise Lost 9.792 ("And knew not eating death") is taking me many places . . . some of them rather odd.

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