Posted by Dennis » 1 Comment »
I’ve argued before that Michael Choniates (archbishop of Athens at the time of the 4th Crusade) was a true scholar, and I’d like to point out something I’ve just spotted in his famous poem lamenting the state of the city he had inherited against the one he’d loved in his study of the past.
He cries out for the missing face of his lost love, calls himself another Ixion (who embraced an image, a cloud, rather than Hera herself), and wishes even for the courts and assemblies of the ancient city. Near the end he says this:
Ὄλωλε σύμπαν τῶν Ἀθηνῶν τὸ κλέος·
γνώρισμα δ’ αὐτῶν οὐδ’ ἀμυδρόν τις ἴδοι.
The glory of Athens has entirely passed away;
nor can one see a faint trace of it.
What interests me most here is the meter. The poem is written in the iambic trimeter, and τις must be long. Do you know why?
Choniates seems to know about the digamma before ἴδοι. I don’t know much about Byzantine knowledge of the digamma, and this could be a sign that he recognized not the presence of a missing consonant but a metrical ‘irregularity’ in poets before this particular word. Still, that makes him a sensitive and careful reader of ancient verse.
I have seen gamma used in place of digamma in Hesychius, for example, so that’s something. Still, it was exciting to me as I read the poem today.