Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema RA, Sappho and Alcaeus, credit Wikipedia

THE CAMBRIDGE GREEK LEXICON, ed. James Diggle et al., Vol. I A – I; Vol. II K – Ω, Cambridge, 2021, $84.99. Pp. i-xxiii, 1;1529, reviewed by Darrell Sutton

Sophists in ancient Greece employed figures of speech in formal addresses and publicized their rhetorical skills through sophisticated arguments. As collectors of proverbs, tales and choice terms, certain Sophists created crude glossaries to clarify the gist of Homer’s idiom and that of other authors. That impetus did not die with them. Scholars in the medieval age, as well, lacked suitable lexical tools. And this deficiency induced a handful of persons to compile lists of words for their own private tuition and for personal reference. Manuscripts which contained intelligent marginalia or scholia were usually added by individuals whose knowledge of that idiom ranged widely. In time, glossaries proved to be useful for research and writing.

In contrast to other ancient tongues, Greek writings have for a long time been supplied with lexical tools. This advantage is hard to quantify. The old stand-by dictionary compiled by Liddell-Scott-Jones, also known as LSJ, because of its later supplements by H.S Jones, was used by all. First published in 1843, it became the yardstick by which other lexicons were measured. In due course it was abridged, revised, and augmented several times. But shortcomings soon became apparent. Notable scholars referred to its deficiencies both orally and in print, especially its treatment of terms in the Septuagint. John Chadwick (1920-1998), an erudite forerunner in the study of Linear B texts, provided the Greek scholarship and lexical insights which contributed significantly to procedural improvements to Greek lexicography. Chadwick’s genius in this regard was deployed deftly in his volume Lexicographica Graeca (1996).

The faculty board of classics at Cambridge, under the chairmanship of Professor James Diggle, have just completed a praiseworthy project. Work towards its completion continued for over two decades (see Preface pp.vii-viii). The Cambridge Greek Lexicon (henceforth CGL) is unique in the way it highlights the development of a locution’s nuances and meanings over time, rather than adhering strictly to chronological and grammatical norms. Excellent digital resources were utilized. CGL covers major authors that span the eras from Homeric literature to Plutarch’s Lives.

Initially, the CGL project called for a revision of the Intermediate Greek Lexicon (1889) of LSJ. That plan soon seemed impracticable. Project members devised a new one. It was agreed that an altogether new dictionary based upon fresh and independent readings was required. The result of their labors is now before us and it is impressive.

Vulgar terms or speech are neither neglected nor omitted. In this electronic age with technology at one’s fingertips, specific uses for each expression can be examined in the original sources. But full citational references would have enriched these two volumes further. Comparison should be made with entries from the Brill Dictionary of Ancient Greek (see Appendix below). However, supplied below is an extract from the CGL (Vol. II, p.884).

λῡ´ω vb. | ep.pres. usu. λυ˘´ω | impf. ἔλυˉˉον, ep. λυ˘´ον | fut. λῡ´σω | aor. ἔλυˉˉσα | pf. λέλῠκα || mid.: impf. ἐλυˉˉόµην, ep. λῠόµην | aor. ἐλυˉˉσάµην | ep.athem.aor. (w.pass.sens.) λυ˘´µην, 3sg. λύτο, also λῦτο, 3pl. λύντο || pass.: fut. λῠθήσοµαι | aor. ἐλυ˘´θην, ep.3pl. λύθεν | pf. λέλῠµαι, ep.3sg.opt. λελῦτο | λελῡ´σοµαι || neut.impers.vbl.adj. λυˉˉτέον || The sections are grouped as follows: (1–8) set loose (fr. another’s control, a physical constraint or unwelcome condition), (9–18) loosen a fastening or sthg. fastened, (19) make loose or slack, (20– 24) disintegrate, dissolve, break up, or weaken, (25–29) bring to an end, (30–35) discharge, fulfil or pay off. |

  1. set loose (a person, fr. restraint or captivity); release, free —a person, their hands (sts. w.gen. or prep.phr. fr. bonds or sim.) Hom. Hes. Alc. Pi. Hdt. Trag. + || mid. free oneself Od. || pass. be freed Od. A. Hdt. E. +; (of a people) be given liberty —w.inf. to speak freely A.
  2. set loose (an animal); unyoke —horses, mules (freq. w.prep.phr. fr. a chariot or wagon, or fr. beneath the yoke) Hom.(sts.mid.) —oxen Hes.; untether —horses Il.; unleash —a dog X. —a sow Ar.
  3.  set free (fr. sthg. unwelcome); set free, release —a person (w.gen. or prep.phr. fr. troubles, pain, fear, ruin, or sim.) Od. Sapph. Pi. B. Trag. +; (mid.) Hes. A. || pass. be freed —w.gen. fr. pain
  4. (of a pillaging warrior) app. free, strip —houses (w.gen. of their valuables) Pi.
  5. (usu. in military ctxt.) release in return for payment; release, ransom —a captive (sts. w.dat. to someone, sts. w.gen. for a price) Il.; restore —a corpse, a slain man’s armour (to the enemy) Il. || mid. purchase the release of, ransom —a captive or corpse Il. Hdt. Att.orats. +; (gener., without notion of payment) secure the release of, rescue —someone Od. Pi. || pass. (of a captive or corpse) be released or ransomed Il. +
  6. || mid. buy the freedom of —a slave girl Hdt. Ar. D. || pass. (of a slave girl) be freed —w.gen. for a large sum of money Hdt.
  7. || mid. buy back —a horse (fr. its new owner) X.; redeem —a piece of land (fr. the mortgagers) D.
  8. (wkr.sens.) release (fr. one’s control), relinquish, give up —royal power Pi.
  9. loosen (a fastening); loosen, undo, unfasten, untie —bonds or sim. A. E. Ar. —a noose (w.gen. fr. someone’s neck) A. E. —a ship’s mooring-cables Od. E. —its tackle, its sail Od. hHom. Archil. || pass. (of ropes) be undone hHom.; (of stitches, fastenings) come undone Od. E.
  10. loosen or unfasten (fr. the body); loosen, undo, unfasten —someone’s belt or breastplate Il. —a dead man’s armour (as plunder) Il.(mid.) —someone’s shoes A. —one’s clothing S. —a head-dress (w.prep.phr. fr. oneself) Od. || mid. undo, take off —one’s breast-band Il. Ar. —one’s belt Hdt. || pass. (fig., of the yoke of despotism) be loosened or removed A.
  11. (specif., of a man) loosen, untie —a woman’s girdle (as a prelude to sexual intercourse) Od. hHom. Alc. Mosch.; (of a woman) —her girdle Pi. AR. —(fig.) her maidenhood E.; (mid., of a woman) —her girdle (in childbirth) Call.
  12. Ii mid. let loose or down —one’s hair Bion
  13. 13 unloose (fr. moorings), release, unmoor —a ship’s stern E.; (periphr.) —a ship’s course (i.e. unmoor it and set it on course) E.
  14. 14 (of a bird) release (fr. its throat), let out —its song Ar.
  15. 15 untie, undo —a knot Hdt. Plu. —(fig.) a knot of words E.; (intr., fig.) untie a knot (i.e. resolve a difficulty) S.; (of a dramatist) unravel a plot Arist.

Although only 15 connotations are displayed in the excerpt, in total there are 35 of them given under ‘λῡ´ω’. The editors express themselves resolutely, even redundantly at times. As for the lexicon’s presentation, there is a two-column layout for each page in a clear font, and granting that it is not the case above, explanatory data are slightly indented below the main entry, the latter of which always is bold-faced. Clearly readers are not burdened with a cluttered arrangement; but the abbreviations (pp.xxi-xxiii) must be mastered to make the best use of this resource. Each entry is depicted with its part of speech or functional label, root, and sometimes its modified form as it appears in various epochs, e.g. Lyric, Attic etc. If the main entry is of compound form it is hyphenated. Guidewords are in the header of each page, also conveniently boldfaced. In defining each entry, nuances are numbered for easy reference. And the name of the ancient author in which the word-form can be found is noted down.

All Greek words/forms are accented appropriately after the main entry. Therefore Greek lexemes are not inserted into the numbered subsets of definitions. Ancient authors and grammatical tags (i.e. act., pass., aor.), too, are listed in the numbered sense-divisions. Good decisions were made regarding variant readings. Where recorded, Greek homographs and homophones are verified. All the same, transliterations for the correct pronunciation of words are not offered.

This lexicon is innovative. Unlike the LSJ intermediate dictionary, CGL editors organize entries in accordance with the meanings of words, chronicling their growth and expansion through the centuries. Moreover, explanatory definitions in CGL replace the bare translations that once obscured a word’s more general meaning. Older dictionaries confined themselves to ordinary translation, narrowly limiting its meaning to a specific context and not to broader elucidation through paraphrase. One may have mixed feelings about this technique. But the use of this method explains why, in CGL, so many shades of meaning are furnished.

Obscenities are not expurgated but given in contemporary English. Homer, Sappho, the Gospels and Acts, even Plutarch, are not omitted. An added bonus is that the bulk of the Greek of the epistles of the New Testament are lexically defined in CGL. Papyri and fragments were utilized. Though less represented, there must be more interest among academics to grasp the subtleties of the Greek of the Septuagint than that of the tragic fragments. Among other mysterious persons in antiquity, nothing is known of Hermolochus, yet, whoever he was, memory of him is preserved in CGL by the few words in D.L. Page (1908-1978), Poetae Melici Graeci.(1962). Still, readers who delight in comparative philological investigations will need to look elsewhere. Shrewd analyses, founded upon surveys of ancient usage, reflect the editors’ extensive studies, and guarantee the utility of these volumes for years to come.

Something to consider. CGL is descriptive and not necessarily prescriptive in design. The marketplace can stand both types. It would not be surprising to one day find editors of critical editions of classical texts, especially ones that lack translations, forming their own concise glossaries as appendices for their editions, to propound to readers what he or she believed an ancient author meant when making use of a particular word or phrase. Words in CGL seem to be classified impartially. Some MS spellings that were discarded long ago by text-critics in their study of the relations of medieval MSS, appear here, but are used for comparative purposes. All in all this opus is noteworthy.

The field of lexicography is hardly an appealing area of interest. Ample imagination is needed to succeed in this specialty. Individuals drawn to it tend to enjoy orthography, appraising curious readings, puzzling out archaic inscriptions and their syntactical arrangements; but the study of history, literature and their interpretation are important influences too. No canon of beliefs exists in this discipline because lexicographers are piloted only by principles that are shaped, and regularly reassessed, in the course of learning and mastering the language. CGL is veritable proof of that claim.

Students and scholars whose duties require specific information for their ancient Greek lexical research will find CGL to be a safe and reliable source. It serves as a model for the future construction of intermediate dictionaries in any language. CGL is compendium of new and true designations, a noble example of the original pathways now being paved through the science of lexicography, and it is founded upon a secure philological basis.

Beautifully bound in navy blue, these two stout volumes are impeccably edited. Here and there, graphics, or visual arts, were needed to illustrate numerous entries.

Appendix:  Brill Dictionary of Ancient Greek

ἁγίζω [ἅγιος] impf. ἥγιζον || aor. ἥγισα Epigr. 2.245.2 || pf. mid. pass. ἥγισμαι L. EGud. || aor. ptc. pass. ἁγισθείς; ➊ act. to sanctify, consecrate, with sacrifices Aristoph. Pl. 681 etc.; Ποσειδαονίῳ θεῷ βούθυτον ἑστίαν ἁγίζων consecrating to the god Poseidon an altar with the sacrifice of a bull Soph. O.C. 1495 ➋ mid. to venerate Alcm. 128 ➌ pass. to be consecrated Pind. O. 3.19 Dion. 1.38.2

ᾰ̓γῑνέω, contr.[ἄγω] ➊ act. to lead, bring, carry Il. 18.493, al. Od. 17.294, al. Hdt. 3.89.3, al. Callim. H. 2.82 etc.; πλοῦτον ἀ. … εἰς ἀρετήν to bring wealth to virtue Crat.ⁱ 18; παιγνίην ἀγινῆτε to take vacation, at schoolHerond. 3.55 ➋ mid. to have brought Hdt. 7.33 ➌ pass. to be led, be brought Arr. Ind. 32.7 etc. • esp. ep. and Ion. pr. and impf. || epic pres. inf. ἀγινέμεναι || Ion. impf. ἠγίνεον, ἀγ- iter. ἀγίνεσκον (ἠγίνεσκον Arat. 111) || fut. ἀγινήσω.

Darrell Sutton is a regular contributor to QR

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