Appendix. The Etymology of Mênis

After the in-depth contextual analysis of mênis provided above, it should be possible to resolve some of the lingering questions about its etymology. In this appendix, I propose to (1) point out the existence of a word ultimately related to mênis that is attested in the oldest surviving texts from ancient Iran, the Avestan Gāthās , and from ancient India, the hymns of the Rig Veda, and (2) determine which of the currently competing etymologies of mênis best concurs with its meaning.

An Indo-Iranian Term Related to Mênis

All of the current etymologies actually do converge on one point, namely, that Greek mênis is ultimately a derivative of the Indo-European root *men- ‘activate the mind’. [1] The noun that I wish to bring into consideration is an archaic derivative of this same root in Vedic Sanskrit, manyú- ‘zeal, desire, anger’, an action noun exactly cognate with the Avestan word mainiiu- (maniiu-) ‘(good/bad) spirit’. The only archaic words parallel to it in form are vāyu ‘wind; the war god, Vāyu’ in Vedic and its exact Avestan cognate vaiiu- ‘air’, both from a root vā- ‘blow’, IE *h2ueh1 (attested in Greek ἄησι ‘blows’); and Greek υἱύς ‘son’, Tokharian B soy, Tokharian A se ‘son’ from *suhx-ı̯u-. In regard to manyú-, there is disagreement on the point at which its stem ends and its suffix begins, but it is clear that, like mênis, it is an ancient derivative of the root *men-. [2]
In the Gāthās , the Old Avestan hymns of Zarathustra (= Zoroaster), mainiiu- is the name for the twin conflicting spirits, one good and the other evil, who stand at the origin of the world:
aṭ tā mainiiū paouruiiē     yā yə̄ mā xvafənā asruuātəm
manahicā vacahicā     šiiaoθanōi hī vahiiō akəmcā
åscā hudåŋhō     əraš vīšiiātā nōiṭ duždåŋhō

aṭ cā hiiaṭ tā hə̄m mainiiū     jasaētəm paouruuīm dazdē
gaēmcā ajiiāitīmcā     yaθācā aŋhaṭ apə̄məm aŋhuš
acištō drəguuatąm     aṭ ašāunē vahištəm manō
Yes, there are two fundamental spirits, twins which are renowned to be in conflict. In thought and in word, in action, they are two: the good and the bad. And between these two, the beneficent have correctly chosen, not the maleficent.
Furthermore, when these two spirits first came together, they created life and death and how, at the end, the worst existence shall be for the deceitful but the best thinking for the truthful person.
Yasna 30.3–4 [3]
In the sixth stanza of this same hymn, we learn that the daēuua , the traditional gods as opposed to the Ahura of Zoroastrianism, chose the deceptive, evil mainiiu-, and “they then rushed into fury with which they have afflicted the world and mankind.” So at the beginning of Yasna 45, Zarathustra warns:
nōiṭ daibitīm     duš.sastiš ahūm morąšiiāṭ
akā varanā     drəguuå hizuuā āuuərətō
May not the deceitful one of evil doctrine destroy the world for a second time, he who has turned hither with his tongue and his evil preference.
Yasna 45.2 [4]
The world was first destroyed when the daēuua chose the evil mainiiu- . Now it is time for the correct choice. The hymn continues:
aṭ frauuaxšiiā     aŋhə̄uš mainiiū paouruiiē
yaiiå spaniiå     ūitī mrauuaṭ yə̄m angrəm
nōiṭ nā manå     nōiṭ sə̄nghā nōiṭ xratauuō
naēdā varanā     nōiṭ uxδā naēdā šiiaoθanā
nōiṭ daēnå     nōiṭ uruuąnō hacaintē
Yes, I shall speak of the two fundamental spirits of existence (mainiiū), of which the virtuous one (spaniiå) would have spoken thus to the evil one (angrəm): “Neither our thoughts nor teachings nor intentions, neither our preferences nor words, neither our actions nor conceptions nor souls are in accord.”
Yasna 45.2 [Insler]
The two mainiiu- represent a contrastive pair of initial beings such as we have seen in the context of Hesiodic cosmogony. [5] According to some authorities, they are the Zoroastrian replacement for the inherited Indo-Iranian primordial god, Vāyu, a cosmic starting point whose name means ‘air, wind’. [6] As Malamoud points out, the word mainiiu- by itself is so lacking in intrinsic color that it is necessary to specify whether it is spaniiå ‘good’ or angrəm ‘bad’. [7] But the concept of a cosmogonic moral force represented by this word is not irrelevant to the study of Greek mênis, as I hope to demonstrate.
In the Vedic hymns, by contrast, the cognate of mainiiu-, manyú-, offers a range and richness of significations that borders on incoherence. Surveying its uses in the Rig Veda, in the more recent Atharva Veda , and in rituals described in subsequent texts, Charles Malamoud has attempted not to dismiss the multiplicity of its meanings but to discover their underlying core. [8] His point of departure for integrating the whole history of meanings in this word is one of its latest attestations in the Rig Veda, Hymn 10.83, in which the noun manyú- has become a new, “abstract” divinity, abstract in that he lacks a biography and a developed mythology. For Malamoud, such late hymns represent not a new departure, but a recapitulation of the representation of manyú- in all the earlier parts of the Rig Veda: “for the most recent parts of the collection, the whole Veda is alluded to in each hymn.” [9] Hymn 10.83 and its shorter sequel, Hymn 10.84, were actually recited to foment the lust for battle in warriors, and they were also part of a divination ritual that preceded the battle itself. While murmuring these two hymns to Manyu, a diviner would stand between the two opposing armies and set fire (with a fire called āṅgirasa ‘burning coal’, a term associated with the fire god Agni) to a special bundle of branches. The side that drew the smoke from the burning bundle was declared the loser. [10]
These ritual uses of the hymns to Manyu make clear that the frame of reference for manyú-in them is the world of the warrior, but that is only one, albeit a fundamental, aspect of the term. In fact, Georges Dumézil has tried to show that Manyu in 10.83 is operative in all three spheres of the Indo-European ideology as he reconstructs it, namely, the priest’s domain of sovereignty and magic, the warrior’s domain of force, and the people’s domain of fertility and well-being. [11] Here are the first four stanzas of the hymn whose content he analyzes in this way:
1a.yás te manyo ávidhad vajra sāyaka     sáha ójaḥ puṣyati víśvam ānuṣák |
1c.sāhyā́ma dā́sam ā́iyaṃ tváyā yujā́     sáhaskṛtena sáhasā sáhasvatā ||

2a.manyúr índro manyúr evā́sa devó     manyúr hótā váruṇo jātávedāḥ |
2c.manyúṃ víśa īḻate mā́nuṣīr yā́ḥ     pāhí no manyo tápasā sajóṣāḥ ||

3a.abhī̀hi manyo tavásas távīyān     tápasā yujā ví jahi śátrūn |
3c.amitrahā́ vr̥trahā́ dasyuhā́ ca     víśvā vásūni ā́ bharā tuváṃ naḥ ||

4a.tuváṃ hí manyo abhíbhūtiyojāḥ     svayambhū́r bhā́mo abhimātiṣāháḥ |
4c.viśvácarṣaṇiḥ sáhuriḥ sáhāvān     asmā́su ójaḥ pŕ̥tanāsu dhehi ||
The man who served you, o Manyu, o thunderbolt, o arrow, he causes his superior force to flourish, his formidable force, complete in continuous fashion. May we force the Dāsa [enemies] and the Arya with you as our ally, with a superior force born from a superior force endowed with superior force.
Manyu (was) Indra, Manyu himself was (some) god, Manyu is also a hotar [sacrificer], he is Varuṇa, (he is Agni) the Jātavedas. The tribes of mankind invoke Manyu: protect us, Manyu, together with the burning fire (of your weapon)!
Attack, o Manyu, you who are stronger than the strong (itself)! Scatter and kill your enemies with the burning fire (of your weapon) as an ally! As killer of adversaries, killer of enemies, and killer of Dasy-u’s, bring all the goods to us!
Yes, you, o Manyu, who has a formidable force (that constitutes) superiority, (you are) the outbreak (of anger), spontaneously generated, forcing (victory) on the aggressors. Common to all populations, dominator, endowed with superior force, grant us formidable force in battles!
10.83.1–4 [12]
Dumézil points out that in the second strophe, Manyu is first identified with the warrior par excellence, Indra; then with Varuṇa, a sovereign and priestly god whom Dumézil considers to be here represented with the attributes of the fire god, Agni; and lastly, the hymn tells us that the tribes of humans praise Manyu. It is problematic to associate Varuṇa, as Dumézil wishes to, with the term hotar ‘sacrificer’ and the epithet Jātavedas, both of which belong to Agni, a divinity who can bypass trifunctional sequences since he fits all three of the functions. [13] I would suggest that Agni as fire god has been inserted into the three-part sequence with good reason, because of the overwhelming association of manyú- in this and other hymns (as also in the ritual noted above) with fire. [14] In the concluding line of this same strophe, that association is explicit: “protect us, Manyu, together with the burning fire!” But there are other trifunctional features in this hymn in which the tripartite sequence remains intact; they strengthen Dumézil’s point. For instance, in the first and fourth strophes, there is a sequence of terms referring to the force gained by devotees of Manyu. In the first strophe mention is made of sáhas, which denotes force superior to that of another person, power over another; then ójas , a term for physical force that is part of the vocabulary of Indra; these two nouns are then followed by the adjective víśvam ‘complete’, a word related to and, according to Dumézil, playing upon the noun víś ‘clan’, regularly used for massed humans in references to the third function. Then, in the fourth strophe, the three terms recur: “Common to all populations (viśvácarṣaṇih), dominator endowed with superior force (sáhas), grant us formidable force (ójas) in battles.” [15]
Taking his cue from Dumézil’s demonstration that Vedic manyú- is not simply a term restricted to the warrior sphere but functional in other contexts as well, Malamoud asserts that it is also not a term for a passing emotion like anger or rage. Instead it is the name of a permanent faculty in both humans and gods whose content varies in precise ways. As he states it, manyú- is a faculty “placed on the same plane as the essential forces of cosmic life.” [16] Among humans, manyú- belongs to specific individuals who are typically hostile or wicked: strangers (1.104.2: dā́sa; 7.60.11: arí), enemies (6.25.2, 10.152.5: amítra), malicious persons of one sort or another. [17] Also attested is a more generalized manyú- in groups of people that does not escape the attention or surpass the power of Indra (7.78.6), Varuṇa (7.61.1), and Agni (8.71.2). For Malamoud, all these instances of apparently negative manyú- are in fact self-affirmations by individuals or groups that put them into active conflict or competition with others, not proof that manyú- itself is inherently negative. [18] He cites the following lines as evidence that one person’s negative manyú- can be counteracted by Indra’s positive manyú-:
índro manyúm manyumíyo mimāya
Indra who thwarts the manyú- of him who wishes to thwart his manyú-
prá yó manyūṃ rírikṣato minā́ti
(Indra) who thwarts the evil manyú- of those bent on harm
Among the gods—principally Indra and those associated with him, but also (Mitra-) Varuṇa, Brahmaṇaspati, and Agni— manyú- is “the élan that makes [the god] accomplish the deeds that affirm his divinity.” [19] For instance, the manyú- of Mitra-Varuṇa correlates with their specific function as divinities:
yád dha tyán mitrāvaruṇāv ṛtā́d adhi     ādadā́the ánṛtaṃ svéna manyúnā
dákṣasya svéna manyúnā |
You two, Mitra and Varuṇa, have placed disorder (ánṛtaṃ) apart from order (ṛtā́d) thanks to the proper manyú- of the Effective One, thanks to his manyú-. [20]
For Agni, his manyú- is explicitly reflexive—what suits his particular desire and expectation:
káyā te agne aṅgira     ū́rjo napād úpastutim |
várāya deva manyáve ||
How, o Agni, ο Angiras, ο son of the power-nourisher, (are we going to) present you with praise (so that it will be) according to your wish, o god, (conforming to your) manyú-? [21]
Finally, Indra’s manyú-, the most commonly attested, was expressed when he slew the serpent Vṛtra with his thunderbolt as Sky and Earth trembled. [22] Here is a sample of passages:
ádha dyaúś cit te ápa sā́ nú vájrād     dvitā́namad bhiyásā svásya manyóḥ |
áhiṃ yád índro abhí óhasānaṃ     ní cid viśvā́yuḥ śayáthe jaghā́na ||
Heaven itself gave way before your thunderbolt and especially in fear of your manyú-, when Indra struck down for all time the boastful serpent in his lair.
imé cit táva manyáve     vépete bhiyásā mahī́ |
yád indra vajrin ójasā     vṛtrám marútvāmँ ávadhīr
From fear these two great ones (Sky and Earth) were trembling before your manyú-, when you, club-bearing Indra, in league with the Maruts, smote the Vṛtra with formidable force.
yád asya manyúr ádhvanīd     ví vṛtrám parvaśó rujań |
apáḥ samudrám aírayat ||
When his manyú- fumed, while he broke the Vṛtra to pieces limb by limb, then drove the waters to the sea.
táva tviṣó jániman rejata dyaú     réjad bhū́mir bhiyásā svásya manyóḥ |
The Sky trembled at your birth [from fear of] your fire, the Earth trembled from fear of your manyú-.
It should be clear by now that the personages with whom Manyu is identified in the second strophe of Hymn 10.83—Indra, Varuṇa, Agni, and the tribes of humans—are in fact those to whom the noun manyú- is attributed in the earlier hymns. But Malamoud pushes his analysis of the word’s core meaning a step further to explicate the sense of two words attested as qualifiers of manyú-, a noun which rarely has any. One is the adjective satyá, the other the rare word svayaṃbhū́ (attested only at 10.83.4 in the Rig Veda). Malamoud defines satyá to mean “destined for accomplishment, sure to be realized,” such that manyú- so qualified is the “élan which makes someone bring to fulfillment their desires, translate their thoughts into deeds.” [23] The manyu- of Indra is satyá in 4.17.10 and causes universal fear; or the poet says at 10.112.8:
prá ta indra pūrviyā́ṇi prá nūnáṃ     vīríyā vocam prathamā́ kṛtā́ni
Now I will sing, Indra, of your earlier, your primordial exploits, you whose manyú- is satīná
where satīná means ‘realized’. So in regard to the following assertion of the primacy of manyú- in Indra’s exploits, which was deprecated by Louis Renou on the grounds that it was a “contamination” caused by a rhetorical “condensation of formulas”:
śrát te dadhāmi prathamā́ya manyáve     áhan yád vṛtráṃ náriyaṃ vivér apáḥ
I put my confidence in your initial manyú-, when you struck down the Vṛtra, when you accomplished the heroic deed.
Malamoud counters that such a “condensation” could not have taken place unless manyú-actually was a primordial determinant of deeds at the origins of the world, like Old Avestan mainiiu-. [24] Such a quality in manyú- is confirmed by the second qualifier explicated by Malamoud, the neologism svayaṃbhū́ ‘spontaneously generated’, a rare epithet elsewhere attested, for example, of the king in the rājasūya ritual, in which he “symbolically creates space and time, organizes the universe around him, and reproduces the cosmic process of creation and maturation.” [25]
In sum, Vedic manyú- has the following semantic and thematic attributes:
  • It denotes not a transient emotion, but a permanent, primordial, conflictive, and active cosmic force among gods and men.
  • It operates in all three of the domains of Indo-European society as reconstructed by Dumézil.
  • It is fundamentally characteristic of Indra, in whom it is expressed by the fear-inspiring thunderbolt and fire.
Old Avestan mainiiu- shares in the first of these attributes, but not the others. Given the Zoroastrian function of mainiiu- at the zero point of the world, however, inherited features of the term may have been stripped from it. All three of these semantic and thematic attributes are present in Greek mênis and are especially strongly associated with Zeus. [26] In the Indic pantheon, however, Indra has taken over the functions of the inherited divinity represented in the Greek pantheon by Zeus, wielder of the thunderbolt and king of the gods. Accordingly, I would suggest that the semantics and thematics of manyú- listed above were associated in Indo-European with the root *men- and the lord of the pantheon. They were thence inherited, on the one hand, by Vedic manyú-, which is chiefly associated with Indra, and, on the other, by Greek mênis, which is chiefly associated in Greek epic with Zeus, his thunderbolt, and its destructive fire. Homeric mênis is also actively associated with the root noun of *men-, Greek ménos, [27] to which it is ultimately related.

Three Etymologies of Mênis

The details of the connection between the root *men- and the word mênis are the subject of confusion and dispute. In order to clarify the issues, I first offer a summary of the three currently competing views on the formation of mênis. Then I will explain and justify my preference among them.
In 1931, Eduard Schwyzer proposed that the word was derived from the root *mnā- attested in the verbs mi-mnḗ-skō ‘remind’ and mn ā́ omai ‘be mindful of’. [28] With the addition of a noun suffix -ni-, Common Greek *mnā-nis became mânis (mênis in Attic-Ionic) when the first nasal consonant disappeared as a consequence of its dissimilation from the second one. Schwyzer found formal support for this hypothesis in the poetic expression mnā́mōn Mênis teknópoinos ‘mindful (from the verb mn ā́ omai) child-avenging Mênis’ attested in the opening choral ode of Aeschylus’s Agamemnon (155). But he subsequently lost confidence in the etymology, apparently because there is no parallel in Greek for the dissimilation of the nasal consonants. [29]
In 1977, however, Calvert Watkins revived the etymology that Schwyzer had himself withdrawn. Watkins tried to demonstrate that mênis is not only dangerous to provoke but also a dangerous word to utter. On his view, it is unthinkable that a speaking subject, god or Achilles, use the word to speak of his or her own mênis. Every time the occasion presents itself, persons speaking of their own mênis use a substitute, such as the words khólos or mēnithmós or ménos. [30] At the same time, Watkins asserted, mênis is only used once by any mortal subject; the one example, it turns out, occurs at a moment in the Iliad that requires an absence of reticence, when Phoenix asks Achilles to return to battle. [31] The usage restriction that Watkins noticed is significant for the etymology of the word, because if mênis is a tabu word, then, like other tabu words and phrases, it could have undergone unpredictable phonological deformation (as opposed to an otherwise unattested regular phonological change). The problem of the unparalleled loss of the nasal consonant in Schwyzer’s etymology is solved.
In addition, Watkins found more contextual evidence (like the Aeschylean phrase cited above) to confirm Schwyzer’s etymology. He showed that the word ópis is a near synonym of mênis with a straightforward etymology: it is a derivative of the root *op-, which, like the root of mn ā́ omai ‘remember, keep in mind’, denotes a form of sense perception. One can compare its verbal derivative opízomai ‘look at, pay attention to’, a word which is actually attested in epic with the noun mênis as its direct object. [32] As mênis is to ópis, so mnā́omai is to opízomai. Watkins pointed to passages in epic or lyric poetry where mênis is associated with or even defined by forms of the verb mémnēmai ‘remember’. Since the root *mnā (< *mneh2-) is a “Theme II” enlargement of the root *men - (attested in Greek ménos, etc.), it must have been generated in Indo-European rather than independently in Greek and Sanskrit, even though the Theme II root is only attested in Greek and late Vedic Sanskrit. In support of this part of his hypothesis, Schwyzer had already found parallels to the suffix -ni- in Armenian and Old Church Slavonic, where it is attached to roots whose form is comparable to *mnā -. Watkins concludes that, along with the formation of its root, the suffixation of mênis is of Indo-European date. [33]
In 1985, Patrick Considine, in disagreement with Watkins and Schwyzer, revived a different neglected hypothesis on the etymology of mênis. It was first suggested in 1949 by Carl Darling Buck, [34] and it is most easily expressed as an analogy: baínō ‘go’: bā-, bē- :: maínomai ‘rage’ : mā-, mē-, whence Common Greek *mā-nis, Attic-Ionic mênis. The advantage of this hypothesis over Schwyzer’s is clear: the form of mênis can be explained in positive terms, in parallel to an attested phonological process, rather than by way of a unique dissimilation or a tabu deformation. [35] But the Buck-Considine etymology is certainly speculative. It explains one enigma by comparing another, since the alternation between baínō ‘go’ / bā- and bē- (*gem-/*geh2-), which can only be a morphophonemic phenomenon, is an isolated occurrence among the Indo-European languages. Considine tries to prove that phaínō ‘show/phā-, phē- is a parallel to it, suggesting that Vedic bhánati ‘speaks’ presupposes a root *bhen- whose alternation with *bhā - would be the same as *gem-/*geh2-. [36] For phā- in contrast to phan- the only attested form is pephḗsetai (future of the verb phainō), a hápax legómenon that has been explained as analogous to bḗsetai ‘he will go’! [37] But an isolated form should not be the basis for analogical formations. Reduplicated future middles like memnḗsomai provide a better model, as Chantraine pointed out. [38] Considine’s whole argument is neither more nor less than a possibility. [39]

Mênis as a Tabu Deformation

In terms of the phonological criteria of historical linguistics, it is clear, Watkins’s etymology is the strongest of the three. But the validity of his revival of Schwyzer’s etymology depends on the notion that mênis was a tabu word. Watkins supports that idea not by discussing the meaning of the word, but by citing a usage constraint on the root noun mênis in Epic diction: a speaking subject cannot utter the word in referring to his or her own mênis. But the value of this usage constraint as evidence of a language tabu has been seriously challenged. Jean-Claude Turpin has pointed out that tabu words are deformed so that they can be uttered. [40] Apparently, the deformation of mênis was a failure! Turpin also maintains that a tabu on the first-person usage of a word is unexampled and inconsistent with the structure of the relationship between the persons of the verb in general terms. In his view, if a first-person usage was forbidden, so should a second-person usage. [41] So Turpin willingly embraces Schwyzer’s original hypothesis despite its unresolved phonological difficulties. [42]
For my part, I propose to answer Turpin’s objections to Watkins’s hypothesis and to provide additional support for the notion that mênis was a tabu word: its attested meaning. First, with regard to the contradiction in maintaining that a word is at the same time tabu and deformed, since the purpose of deforming a word is to make it possible to utter it: the loss of one consonant, the second nasal of *mnā-nis, barely qualifies as a deformation, but the only way to salvage Watkins’s hypothesis is to suppose that the word, once deformed, has become tabu again. That seems doubtful at best. Yet I do know of one parallel: the English word pee was originally a children’s euphemistic form, like French pipi, for the vulgar word piss, but it is no longer perceived as a euphemism and has become mildly obscene. [43] If there is one example of such a phenomenon, there may well be others. It is plausible, it seems to me, that a deformed word can again become tabu if, for one reason or another, the word in question loses its oppositional relationship to the tabu word from which it was originally deformed. If the tabu word has disappeared completely, or if the derivational relationship between the two words is lost completely for other reasons, the original word’s functions can be taken on by the new, deformed word, which will then also acquire the same prohibitions as the old one, provided that the social conditions that motivated the deformation in the first place continue to flourish. Such a process is just a special case of the lexical renewal rule specified in Kurylowicz’s Fourth Morphological Typology, and, as Claude Sandoz has made clear, tabu words can and do disappear. [44] In the case that concerns us, it behooves us to suppose that the prohibition on the undeformed form of mênis was so strong and effective that this form has disappeared, while the reasons to prohibit the utterance of the word remained.
It is worth stressing, however, that even if such a semantic process and its consequence, phonological deformation, did not take place in the case of mênis, the word may still be tabu. The usage and semantic content of a word in its proper social context determine whether or not it is tabu, not its deformation, and for mênis, there are other plausible explanations of its form. Turpin realizes that the constraint Watkins has noticed—the absence of subjects speaking of their own mênis—requires an explanation. He has even added to Watkins’s dossier by pointing out that derived forms such as the verb mêníō are not attested in the first person. [45] According to Turpin, however, these usage restrictions can be explained by “the very nature of the idea.” Mênis is not “the anger of the gods,” but it is in itself a divine object; consequently, it is never said to reside in the mental equipment of Homeric persons as do other words meaning “anger.” The epic even takes the trouble to make explicit the emotional consequences of mênis as though they were not in fact part of its meaning, as though mênis were a “numinous object” independent of human feeling. That is why one cannot speak of one’s own mênis. [46]
Turpin’s observations on the independence of mênis are pertinent. Yet if it is not possible to attribute mênis to oneself, then why on his explanation is it possible, as he admits it is, to attribute mênis to “you” or “him” or “her”? Furthermore, his description of certain states of mind as external objects in the epic world is questionable. The strict separation between mind and body that is second nature to us cannot be projected upon the Homeric world, since the physical and external aspect of mental states that we consider immaterial and interior is a constantly recurring feature of epic language and thought. In this respect, mênis does not seem to me different from a term such as átē ‘moral blindness’, also a divine and numinous force: Agamemnon wishes to represent his átē as something distinct from himself, but in a context where he intends to dissociate himself from it and deflect blame for what he has done. [47] Mênis is independent and “almost a hypostasis,” as Turpin does well to point out, but these qualities do not require that epic personages cannot consider it to be theirs.
The last problem that Turpin raises is the credibility of a tabu on the first grammatical person that does not also fall upon the second (and for that matter, also the third). In fact, Greek epic contains at least one exact parallel to such a tabu. When epic characters are asked their identity, they do not respond with their name, only with their patronymic and place of birth; but in the second and third persons, people often refer to each other by name with or without a patronymic. [48] The prohibition against speaking one’s own name can, however, be violated in special circumstances, such as the moment when Odysseus finally identifies himself to the Phaeacians by his name and his patronymic, or when a goddess reveals herself to mortals. For Sandoz, who describes a whole range of language tabus from “systematic avoidance” to “simple reticence,” such flexibility in the rules of speech is predictable and commonplace. [49] For an example of an exclusion of the first person in contrast with the two others that is closer in context to mênis, I cite Walter Burkert’s dictum on Greek funerary customs and beliefs: “Ritual and belief are almost exclusively concerned with the death of others; one’s own death remains hidden.” [50] In this perspective, the prohibition against using the word mênis by a subject who is speaking of his own mênis can be motivated by reasons and feelings comparable to those evinced by one’s own death. With respect to the horror surrounding mênis, it suffices to consider the complete list of verbs of which it is the direct object in epic diction: hupodeídein ‘be afraid of’, aporrhí̄ptein ‘hurl away’, aleúesthai ‘shun’, opízesthai ‘watch out for’, apoeipeîn ‘renounce’. [51]
So it is possible to salvage from Turpin’s critique the hypothesis that mênis is a tabu deformation. Even so, the extent to which mênis is tabu needs to be qualified. According to Watkins, epic persons behave as if forbidden to speak of their own mênis. Instead of uttering it, they employ a substitute word, such as ménos, khôlos, mēnithmós, or ópis. But in fact this speech tabu is not very stringent. On two occasions, Achilles speaks of his own mênis with a verbal derivative of the root noun, (‘while I have / had mênis’—emeû apo mênis antos: Iliad 9.426, 19.62), and on two other occasions he uses the secondary suffixed form, mēni-thmós (16.62, 202). A gross offense to convention does not seem intended. The relaxation of a speech tabu for secondary forms of a tabu word is possible but not automatic. If the derivational link is apparent to native speakers, and the denotation of the founded form is unchanged from the founding form, it is almost difficult to credit. To cite an example of the relaxation of the tabu for a founded form, a word like “Christian” has no tabu attached to it although “Christ” is tabu in many contexts (as in ‘taking the Lord’s name in vain’), because the semantic reference and usage of the tabu term and its derivative are not the same. On the other hand, French emmerder in its transitive form is as vulgar as its founding form merde, because the semantic and the derivational links are transparent and in force; but the reflexive form of the same verb, s’emmerder, is not vulgar. When Achilles says emeû apo mênis antos in Iliad 9.426, he is patently referring to the theme of the poem expressed in its first line with a verb overtly derived from the noun. The same is true of the other instances cited just above where he uses a mênis derivative. Moreover, Watkins mistook the overall rarity of mênis in spoken discourse. [52] Epic mortals (Kalkhas, Iliad 1.75; Aeneas, 5.178; Phoenix, 9.517; Menelaos, 13.624; Telemachus, Odyssey 2.66; Nestor, 3.135; Aithon/Odysseus, 14.283) utter the root noun as frequently as the poetic narrator (six times) and more often than the gods (Hermes, Odyssey 5.146; Athena, Iliad 5.34; Thetis, 19.35; Aphrodite, Hymn to Aphrodite 290). Nor is the distribution of mênis derivatives meaningfully different from that of the root noun. It is spoken by mortal speakers eleven times, by the narrator seven times, and by gods once. On each occasion the derivative either refers to an otherwise identifiable instance of a nonderived form of mênis, or it occurs in a context comparable to one in which the root noun is also used. [53]
On balance, then, and with the qualifications stated as to the nature and strength of the speech tabu, Watkins’s revival of Schwyzer’s etymology appears to be the most consistent with the word’s meaning and usage. In fact, the absence of a stringent speech tabu against mênis supports Watkins’s overall argument better than its presence. It seems plausible to argue that what once was a tabu word has been deformed and is therefore relatively utterable. Reticence is by no means ruled out by the semantic or the phonological evidence, and reticence is in fact a diminished form of speech tabu. [54] This discussion inevitably raises a further question about the semantic content of mênis that no one has yet addressed. To put it simply, why should this word be tabu? Whence the horror surrounding it? The hypothesis that mênis is a tabu word may be sustainable on the basis of its usage and despite Turpin’s pointed objections, but it is still not clear why a word that means “solemn anger,” as Watkins defines it, should be dangerous to speak (and possibly still dangerous even after deformation). The answer to this question, however, imposes itself after a systematic review of the usage of the word in context like the one undertaken above in Chapters 1 and 2. Mênis is an emotion that acts to change the world. It is not a word for “solemn anger” but the sacred name of the ultimate sanction against tabu behavior, and epic personages invoke it to forestall people from breaking fundamental cosmic rules. So it would not be surprising if the word mênis were endowed with the same dread as the behavior that can bring it down upon a whole community. It is also economical if a language tabu explains both the usage and the form of mênis.


[ back ] 1. For the meaning of this root, see the monograph of Meillet 1897, 10: “one can easily discern that this root signifies that the mind is aroused … either for understanding or for desiring or for getting angry or for warning” [facile perspicias hac radice “mentem moueri” significatum esse … uel ad intellegendum uel ad cupiendum uel ad irascendum uel ad monendum].
[ back ] 2. On the form and history of manyú-, see Mayrhofer 1963, II, and Mayrhofer 1986-, II. s.v. manyúḥ; Wackernagel and Debrunner 1954, 842, sec. 680; and Renou 1930, 1:232, sec. 185. Frisk (1946), working with a different definition of mênis than mine, found no cognates to it in Indo-European but considered the concept of righteous divine anger to be inherited; Considine (1966, 22 with n. 11) challenged Frisk’s view of its ethical connotations, on which see n. 42 below. But mênis is not a word for divine anger—indeed, it actually requires an attribute such as “of Achilles,” “of Zeus,” or “of gods,” which would be redundant and inconsequent if it were—but for an active emotion that includes the specific social and cosmic results that it inevitably entails; it is the sanction against tabu behavior.
[ back ] 3. Text and translation: Insler 1975, 32–33.
[ back ] 4. Text and translation: Insler 1975, 74–75.
[ back ] 5. See above, 57–59· For the semantic dualism of derivatives of the root *men-, see also Meier-Brügger 1989, 43, who speaks of a primordial subject/object contrast within the root.
[ back ] 6. As mentioned above, the name Vāyu is exactly parallel in form to mainiiu-. On mainiiu- replacing Vāyu, see Dumézil 1947, 90–91; Duchesne-Guillemin 1962, 179, 182–183, 199; Malamoud 1968, 504 n. 2. On Vāyu in general, Wikander 1941.
[ back ] 7. Malamoud 1968, 504 n. 2.
[ back ] 8. Malamoud 1968.
[ back ] 9. Malamoud 1968, 507: “pour les parties les plus récentes du recueil, le Veda tout entier est alludé dans chaque hymne.”
[ back ] 10. Malamoud 1968, 493–494; although Malamoud does not mention it, a scenario like the one in the ritual is explicitly described in 7.25.1, where Indra is invoked to intervene in the confrontation between two armies sámanyavo ‘with equal manyú-’!
[ back ] 11. Dumézil 1948, 101–111.
[ back ] 12. Vedic text provided here and elsewhere is from van Nooten and Holland 1994; translation here based on Renou 1966, 15:172; translations of Rig Veda elsewhere are my renderings of the German in Geldner 1951 unless indicated otherwise.
[ back ] 13. On Agni’s commonness to the three functions, see Nagy 1990a, 85–121, especially 99–110.
[ back ] 14. For the specific association of Agni with Indra’s ójas- ‘force’ and vájra- ‘thunderbolt’, see Rig Veda 10.52.5, 1.109.7, and Nagy 1990a, 109.
[ back ] 15. On the third function associations of the word viś, see Nagy 1990a 281–282. Dumézil notes other trifunctional sequences as well. For instance, in the second line of the third stanza, there is a sequence of three compounds all ending with the suffix –há̄ ‘-slayer’: amitrahá̄, literally slayer of adversaries, but with a play on Mitra, the sovereign god paired with Varuṇa; vr̥trahá̄, slayer of the Vṛtra, the serpent whom Indra slew; and dasyuhá̄, slayer of the Dasyu, the massed enemies of the Arya.
[ back ] 16. Malamoud 1968, 499.
[ back ] 17. Also 8.19.15: dūdhí ‘malicious person’; 8.36.4: rírikṣant ‘who seek to destroy’; 3.23.12: śárdhant ‘insolent person’; 5.6.10 adhríj ‘competitor’.
[ back ] 18. Malamoud 1968, 499–500.
[ back ] 19. Malamoud 1968, 500. He points out, however, that the manyú- of Brahmaṇaspati is “paradoxically Indraic” (500 n. 7), as in 2.24.14.
[ back ] 20. Translation after Renou 1966, 5:8. Interpretation after Geldner 1951, 1:193: “when you two, Mitra and Varuṇa, separated right from wrong with your manyú-, with the proper manyú- of your strength of mind.”
[ back ] 21. Translation after Renou 1966, 13:80. One can also compare 6.16.43: ágne yukṣvā́ hí yé táv a     á śvāso deva sādhávaḥ / áraṃ váhanti manyáve “harness your excellent steeds, Agni, who go according to your manyú-.”
[ back ] 22. For the mythology and the poetics of dragon slaying, see Watkins 1995.
[ back ] 23. Malamoud 1968, 502–553.
[ back ] 24. Renou and Benveniste 1934, 108–109; Malamoud 1968, 504 and 504 n. 2.
[ back ] 25. I refer the reader to Malamoud’s detailed discussion (1968, 505–507) of this complex term.
[ back ] 26. See above, 26–27, for details on the three functions of mênis; for an additional example of mênis preserving the sovereignty of Zeus, see 119–120.
[ back ] 27. As noted by Watkins 1977, 198–199.
[ back ] 28. Schwyzer 1931, 213–17.
[ back ] 29. Schwyzer 1968, 1:260; 1:495 n. 8; as Watkins 1977, 188, points out, no dissimilation occurs in words such as mnâma or mnā́mōn where the nasal consonant is -m- instead of -n-. The Hesychian gloss μνανόοι may be an error for μνακόοι.
[ back ] 30. Watkins 1977, 187–209, esp. 193–194.
[ back ] 31. Iliad 9.517. But Watkins’s statement that this is the only occasion on which a mortal utters the root noun (194: “le mot mênis n’apparaît qu’une seule fois dans le discours d'un mortel”) is incorrect. See below, p. 193, for a list of persons who do so and the consequences for his argument.
[ back ] 32. See also n. 35 below for the Luvian evidence supporting this semantic typology.
[ back ] 33. Watkins 1977, 204-205.
[ back ] 34. Buck 1949, 1134. Considine wrote a dissertation on divine anger (1969) and three articles on the etymology and meaning of mênis (1966, 1985, and 1986). The 1985 article gives the fullest exposition of his hypothesis on the etymology. My thanks go to Brent Vine for his generous and expert analysis of the linguistic problems raised by Considine s papers.
[ back ] 35. However, Considine 1985, 145-146, considers the value of the etymology to be semantic rather than phonological. For him, the problem with Watkins’s views is that in Greek (not, for example, in Latin, where memini ‘remember’ derives from *men-) derivatives of the root *mnā- always mean ‘think, remember’ while those derived from the root *men- mean ‘to be enraged’. But in my view the distinction is, if not false, at least exaggerated: Greek ménos, for example, has a range of meaning from ‘heightened state of mind’ to ‘fury,’ and it is directly associated with the verb mémnēmai in epic diction: cp. the description of the actions performed by Athena/Men-tes (sic) on Telemachus as explained in Nagy 1974b, 266–268; τῷ δ' ἐνὶ θυμῷ / θῆκε μένος καὶ θάρσος, ὑπέμνησέν τέ ἑ πατρὸς (Odyssey 1.320–321) ‘in his spirit she put ménos and courage and reminded him [verb hupémnēsen from the root *mnā-] of his father’. Moreover, as the semantic typology for the parallel word ópis cited above shows, the meaning ‘rage, fury’ can be either an old or a new development from the meaning ‘aroused thought, perception’. Watkins 1986 offers even stronger evidence in regard to that semantic typology. In an inscription (Starke 1980, 142–144), the cognate of the root *mnā- (*mneh2-) in Luvian actually means ‘see’, exactly like the meaning of the Greek root *op- whose derivative ópis is a synonym of mênis. Antoine Meillet fully understood and accounted for this range of meanings in the root *men-; see his definition cited in n. 1 above.
[ back ] 36. The forms cited are Considine’s, sometimes with and sometimes without laryngeals. See Mayrhofer 1963, 469-470 s.v. bhánati for other possibilities (that Considine considers less convincing).
[ back ] 37. So Frisk 1970, s.v. φαίνω. In the formulaic system of epic, in fact, the form πεφήσεται ‘will appear’ varies with τετεύξεται ‘will happen’, and both have the same metrical value: compare ||τετεύξεται αἰπὺς ὄλεθρος# ‘sheer destruction will occur’ (Iliad 12.345, 358) with ||πεφήσεται αἰπὺς ὄλεθρος# ‘sheer destruction will appear’ (Iliad 17.155); compare also ἀναφαίνεται αἰπὺς ὄλεθρος # in the same context (17.244) but also elsewhere (11.174) and even a conjugated, demetaphorized form of the same expression: ὄρος αἰπὺς πέφαντο# (Hymn to Apollo 428). Forms of φαίνομαι are more systematically attested in these formulae than forms of τευχ-. In fact, τετεύξεται may well be a more recent form replacing πεφήσεται. According to Chantraine 1958, 448, πεφήσεται from φαίνω was the model for πεφήσεται the future of θείνω ‘slay, smite’ (*g eh-); but it is at least possible that the latter is also an old form and represents another example of the morphophonemic alternation (here *g eh- / (* g -). See below on the relationship in Indo- European between the –ı̯e/o- suffixed presents based on the degree zero of the root and an old athematic present; the form in question for this root is attested in Old Church Slavonic žinjǫ ‘cut, harvest’. However, both examples of πεφήσεται are more simply understood as analogous to futures such as μεμνήσομαι, etc.
[ back ] 38. Chantraine 1968–79, s.v. θείνω.
[ back ] 39. Considine probably goes too far in suggesting that μαίνομαι itself is derived from a degree- zero *mh2- followed by a “nasal extension” (therefore *mh2n-), which is a form that cannot be motivated in Indo-European; alternatively, he suggests that it is a secondary derivative of an unattested verb *μάω or *μάομαι which became μαίνομαι within Greek itself, like δράω, δραίνω, etc. The traditional explanation derives μαίνομαι from *mn̥- ι̯ e-toi, a form that has an exact cognate in Vedic mányate, Old Avestan mainiietē, Cuneiform Luvian maliti ‘thinks’, Old Irish muinelhar, etc.
[ back ] 40. Turpin 1988, 247–260.
[ back ] 41. Turpin is referring to Benveniste 1966c, 225–236, on the structure of the relationship between the verbal persons; but the existence of a structural contrast between the first and second persons of the verb as against the third person does not eliminate the distinction between the first and the second persons!
[ back ] 42. Considine 1985, 162–163 n. 7, and 1986, 58, also denies that mênis is a tabu word. He admits that the word “expresses a response of awe” and that it is “too solemn except in a religious use,” which for him accounts for the fact that one does not speak of one’s own mênis. But if the word is solemn and if it expresses “a response of awe" and if that is why people do not utter it, then it is tabu. The parallel that Considine offers, namely, that in English one cannot speak of one’s wrath (Considine 1985, 163 n. 7) has nothing in common with the prohibition on the usage of mênis. English wrath is a word of epic style that no one uses in everyday speech, whereas the prohibition on mênis that Watkins has described is of an epic word within epic diction. [ back ] There is also a logical inconsequence in Considine’s earlier (1966, 22 n.11) contention that mênis has no moral value since words signifying “divine wrath” are certain to be used in connection with the transgression of a moral precept. But if it had no moral connotations, why would the word mean “divine wrath” in the first place? In effect, Considine’s point denies the value of contextual restrictions and associations in recovering the meaning of words. Moreover, he contends that Frisk failed to show that mênis was an ethical term because he did not show that it was used more often than other words for wrath in cases of moral transgression. Since mênis is only used for cases of moral transgression, his objection is ill-taken and easily countered by the first use of the words khólos ‘anger’ and kótos ‘rancor’ at Iliad 1.81 and 82. They do not refer to a transgression but to Agamemnon’s angry reaction to the bad news that Kalkhas is about to convey to him. But Considine does not provide what his point requires and what he cannot provide, namely, evidence that mênis is used in contexts other than those concerning the transgression of moral rules. As explained in Chapters 1 and 2 above, the word mênis is the name of the sanction for fundamental transgressions of the cosmic order, not “divine wrath"; see also n. 2 above.
[ back ] 43. Morris et al. 1969, s.v. pee2. My thanks to Leslie Kurke for this example.
[ back ] 44. Kurylowicz 1966, 121–38: “When, as the result of a morphological transformation, a form undergoes differentiation, the new form corresponds to the primary (founding) function, while the old form is reserved for the secondary function” (my translation). It frequently happens that the “old form” disappears, as with mênis. Sandoz 1984, 144, who speaks of the disappearance of a word as the strictest and simplest form of linguistic tabu.
[ back ] 45. Turpin 1988, 252 n.23, 256; although there is an expressive exception in Athenian tragedy, Euripides Hippolytus 146 māníō theoîsin "I have mênis against the gods,” which is actually a double inversion of the word’s usage rules. It is the only example of the verb in the first person, and there is no other instance of mortals with mênis against the gods (as opposed to the reverse, which is common).
[ back ] 46. For a similar explanation of the avoidance of first person usage, see Redfield 1979, 97 n. 5. Redfield views mênis as an “anger that is dangerous to someone," as anger seen from without. This is the distinction between subject and object in another guise, on which see the following paragraph; on the systematic danger that his mênis constitutes to Achilles himself, see above, Chapter 5.
[ back ] 47. See his excuses to Achilles and the Achaeans at Iliad 19.86–144; Dodds 1951, 2–4, shows how Agamemnon cannot avoid his responsibility to compensate Achilles for the mistake he has made.
[ back ] 48. For the rule and its expressive exceptions, see Muellner 1976, 74–75 n. 9.
[ back ] 49. Sandoz 1984, n. 17.
[ back ] 50. Ritual und Glaube haben es fast ausschließlich mit dem Tod der anderen zu tun; der eigene Tod bleibt im Dunkel”: Burkert 1977, 293.
[ back ] 51. As noted by Watkins 1977, 193.
[ back ] 52. See above, 187 and n. 31.
[ back ] 53. To mention what first appears to be the most difficult example, see the discussion above in Chapter 2, 37–39, of the plausible mênis of a beggar.
[ back ] 54. See again Sandoz 1984, 144. In an earlier study of the etymology and semantics of mênis, I supported Watkins’s position on the speech tabu (Muellner 1991); that position now seems to me too rigidly formulated, which is not to deny the fundamental value of Watkins’s study in other respects.