Classical Inquiries | A sampling of comments on Iliad Rhapsody 8

In his recent Classical Inquiries posting, Gregory Nagy focuses on Iliad rhapsody 8 and shares a sampling of selected comments with his readers.

tagging: terpikeraunos ‘he whose bolt strikes’
occurrences of terpikeraunos ‘he whose bolt strikes’: I.01.419, I.02.478, I.02.781, I.08.002, I.11.773, I.12.252, I.16.232, I.24.529

anchor comment at I.08.002: terpikeraunos ‘he whose bolt strikes’
This compound noun terpi-kéraunos, interpreted here as ‘he whose bolt strikes’, is an epithet that applies exclusively to Zeus: a parallel epithet, also applied exclusively to Zeus, is the compound noun argi-kéraunosat Ι.19.121, I.20.016, I.22.178, which can be interpreted to mean ‘he whose bolt shines’ (GMP 195). Both epithets fit Zeus in his role as a thunder-god. The second part of both compounds terpi-kéraunos and argi-kéraunos is clearly derived from keraunós ‘thunder’, and the first part of argi-kéraunos is clearly related toarg‑ós (earlier *argr‑ós) ‘shining, speeding’, but the first part of terpi-kéraunos seems at first unclear. Related forms in other Indo-European languages, however, help elucidate the meaning of terpi‑ as combined withkeraunós. In the case of keraunós, we find in the Baltic and Slavic branches of Indo-European the parallel forms perkūnas and perunŭ respectively, both of which are nouns meaning ‘thunder’ and/or ‘god of thunder’. Although the Greek and the Baltic/Slavic roots here, *kerh₂(u̯)‑ and *per(kʷ)‑ respectively, are different in form, they are parallel in meaning, ‘strike’, and the morphology of their suffixation is also parallel. (GMP 194–195). As for the terpi‑ of terpi‑kéraunos, we find a comparable form in the Italic branch of Indo-European: it is the Latin noun quercus, meaning ‘oak tree’. This form, it can be argued, refers to the defining sacred moment when a thunderbolt strikes an oak tree: here the root of the u-stem noun quercus, from *perkʷu‑, is *perkʷ‑, meaning ‘strike’ (GMP 186). So, terpi‑kéraunos can be derived from *erpikéraunos via metathesis from *perkʷikéraunos. [[GN 2016.08.16 via GMP 181–201; see also Nagy 2010:337.]]

“Hera, Athena, and Iris in the Trojan War,” Jacques Réattu, 1760–1833. Image via Wikimedia Commons.
“Hera, Athena, and Iris in the Trojan War,” Jacques Réattu, 1760–1833. Image via Wikimedia Commons.

During the past few weeks, Gregory Nagy has shared samplings of his commentary on rhapsodies 1 through 8 of the Iliad. By focusing on these rhapsodies and experimenting with a variety of features in his comments, Professor Nagy offers a preview of  the larger, forthcoming project: A Homer commentary in progress.

For more on this evolving project, be sure to check out these other postings on Classical Inquiries: