A Brief Note on Epigraphy and Rare Forms

I have mentioned in the past that my research concerns Koine Greek documentary evidence. Among other things (e.g., ostraca, graffiti, mummy cartonnage), this includes primarily papyri and inscriptions from the Ptolemaic period of Egypt. Not infrequently I search papyri.info (see posts here and here) or epigraphy.packhum.org to see what there is to see in terms of a particular word’s usage.

SEG 15:678

Today I was searching for occurrences of the word λάπτω, which occurs in the LXX only in Judges 7. There, in both A and B texts of Rahlfs’s Septuaginta the word occurs in vv. 5 (2x), 6, and 7. It is thus a rare word, at least in terms of its Septuagintal use.

In the process of searching out the various morphological permutations of the word, I found one inscription that looked promising: SEG 15:678 (here). Here is a transcription and the beginnings of my translation:

[—]ντων, λαμβάνειν δὲ τὰ δέρματα κ[αὶ] τὰ ἄλλα γέρεα· ἢν ἓν θ[ύη]ται, λά[ψε]-[ται γλῶσ]σαν, ὀσφὺν δασέαν, ὤρην· ἢν δὲ πλέω θύηται λάψεται ἀπ’ ἐκάστου ὀσφὺ[ν]

[δασ]έ̣αν καὶ γλῶσσαν καὶ κωλῆν μίαν ἀπὸ πάντων· καὶ τῶν ἄλλων θεῶν τῶν

[ἐν]τεμενίων ὅσων ἱερᾶται ὁ ἱέρεως, λάψεται τὰ γέρεα τὰ αὐτὰ καὶ κωλῆν ἀντὶ

[τῆ]ς ὤρης ἢμ μὴ βασιλεὺς λαμβάνηι· ἢν δὲ εὐστὸν θύηι ἡ πόλις λάψεται γλῶσ-

σαν, ὀσφὺν δασέαν, ὤρην· ἢν ξένος ἱεροποιῆι τῶι Ἀπόλλωνι, προϊερᾶσθαι τῶ[ν]

ἀστῶν ὃν ἂν θέληι ὁ ξένος, διδόναι δὲ τῶι ἱερεῖ τὰ γέρεα ἅπερ ἡ πόλις διδοῖ π[άν]-

[τα] χωρὶ[ς] δέρματος· ἢν δὲ τοῖς Ἀπολλωνίοις θύηι̣ ξέ̣ν̣ο̣ς̣ π̣[ροϊερᾶσθαι —]

[a]ll, and to take both the skins and the other perquisites. If one is to be burnt up, he will take the tongue, the hairy loin, [another piece]; and the rest are to be burned, from each a hairy loin and a tongue and one thigh from all. And the priest will administrate over the many other gods in the temeniōn, [and] will receive

Morphology Hallucinations

If you haven’t already checked, λάπτω means “to lap up [with the tongue.” It occurs in the Gideon narrative when he pares down his men by checking who drinks from a brook with his hand, and who laps the water up like a dog (7:5). It’s a surprisingly well established word in classical Greek (e.g. Homer Il. 16.161; Aristophanes Nub. 811; Aristotle Hist. an. 595a7). And I was tempted on the basis of the use of γλῶσσα in the inscription to think that I had found the one instance of it’s use in the Koine inscriptional data. The content was just bizzarre enough to sway me into thinking that “lapping with tongues” was plausible in the context.

But alas, as I translated I realized that what I thought was λάπτω in third singular future middle indicative was in fact λαμβάνω (3rd sg fut ind mid). The forms are identical.

Maybe next time, λάπτω.

3 comments

  1. I remember “proofreading” the computer-genereated morphological analysis of LXX and being befuddled many times to words that were … unusual. “Graecum est non legitur” (marginalia from a medieval manuscript (of Greek)) was often muttered.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s