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Archaic Truth Author(s): Thomas Cole Source: Quaderni Urbinati di Cultura Classica, New Series, Vol. 13, No. 1 (1983), pp. 7-28 Published by: Fabrizio Serra editore Stable URL: . Accessed: 15/04/2013 08:51
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Archaic Truth Thomas Cole

The study of early Greek notions of truth is still dominated, fifty years later, by Heidegger's influential restatement1 of the view2
to me lanthanon?i.e., and essentially, is, originally or "unforgotten". If Heidegger and his followers are correct, al?theia must be a quality in objects inherent perceived or information a certain received: self-evidence, clarity or abiding that to a-lethes the "unhidden" memorableness3. against the derivation those who Against this view reject altogether from the root lath-)4 also, (though the correctness Bruno Snell has by implication, or relevance of recently suggest


that the l?th? excluded by a-letheia is something found in per

1 In Sein und Zeit (= Jahrbuch der Philosophie und ph?nomenologischen 33 and 220-223. Cf., also, Piatons Lehre von der Wahrheit, Forschung 8, 1927) Bern 1947, 26-33 and 'Al?theia (Herakliit, Fragment 16)', in Vortr?ge und Aufs?tze3 3, T?bingen 1967, 54-61. 2 First stated by J. Classen, Beobachtungen ?ber den homerischen Sprach gebrauch, Frankfurt 1867, 195. 3 See, most briefly, the articles in the etymological dictionaries of Frisk
(s.v. 'al?th?s') 4 and Chantraine (s.v. 'lanthan?'), and, most exhaustively, J.-P. Le

vet, Le vrai et le faux dans la pens?e grecque archdique, Paris

E.g., Quart. 66, A.W. 1972, H. 6-7. Adkins, Cf., also, Kosmos 'Troth, Friedl?nder's and suggestion Arete {Plato1

Class. transi. 1, eng.

in Homer',


and largely abandoned in Plato1 1, Berlin 1958, 221?modified that the word 1964, 234-236) may not even be Indo-European. 5 In (= Wurzb?rger AAH0EIA, Festschrift f?r Ernst Siegmann Jahr b?cher f?r die Altertumswissenschaft 1, 1975), 1-18. See, especially, 14 "fckr?ic ist das im Ged?chtnis l?ckenlos Festgehaltene (das in seiner F?lle hergez?hlt
kann)", and 11, " einem bestimmten Wissens-Kontinuum nichts



der Lethe 'ETYM02 al?theia

anheimfallen lassen". Snell seems indebted to T. Krischer's study, und AAH0EZ', Philologus 109, 1965, 161-174 for his notion of as the larger whole from all of whose parts the process or idea

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8 sons rather rather than hiddenness than things: forgetfulness in the memory is that which is retained A-lethes

Th. Cole

forgotten. In

or being without

any of the gaps to which


such le the would give rise.

of the established, reformulation "objec "subjective" tive" interpretation, al?theia becomes the result of the way an original not an in the perceiving remains apprehension subject's memory, or information as originally But of objects apprehended. or no to continues be of if major, ception longer apprehension The discussion which follows tral, importance. accepts Snell's aspect in the main but for further per cen sub

argues jective interpretation of communication rather tion, this time in terms of the processes or than perception: is that which is involved results from, al?theia in, a transmission in the of information that excludes whether l?th?, or ignoring6. to notice, The semantic failure forgetfulness, a meant thus posited, word that originally development by which a synonym for truth like "conscientious became reporting" something or a eteon in has close the earliest attested Greek) (etymon parallel in the transformation of Latin accuratus ("careful", usually of speech form of or writing) development some of the original into English "accurate". The Greek counterpart to trace: is more al?theia and harder complex to this absorbs


terms of two other more meaning specialized some of its own to a third (akrib?s) and transmits (n?mert?s, atrek?s) in the most before the mid-fifth century, general finally becoming, and for truth. Moreover, the important word are its documented much better stages of history in all its phases But the development ing ones. if the consequences here than where spectacular of departure. reformulation, is excluded.

initial than is worth

and the

terminal interven

at reconstruction, are less thought ology serves Snell's associated with

being merkt "unnoticed"



an attempt the history of Greek etym

the Heideggerian

as a point subjective


as originally


the lath- root

rather (than

For Krischer
or "forgetful", das

this idea is that of

so that an aleth?s

logos is "...der

Bericht der die Dinge

(op. cit. 167; cf. 165:


ohne das dabei etwas unbe

nichts [dem Angere


corresponding verbs lanthan? and l?thomai, the distinction between unintentional forgetting or failure to notice and intentional ignoring is not strictly observed. The meaning posited is broad enough to include both.

deten] entgeht)". 6 As in the

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Archaic Truth

to be offered here, removes the most by him or in the revised version crucial problem alternative. Hiddenness (or posed by its objective are conditions to be remembered) failure and its opposite which as to the content Yet should attach to things as well of statements. to the latter that al?th?s refers in its first two it is almost exclusively A Greek may, and a half centuries from the very be of attestation. is not until much it "true but the truth (or ginning, things"), speak

later that he is able to hear it (Aesch. Ag. 680), or see it (Pind. N. 7,25), or be truly good (Simonides 542,1 Page), or believe in true gods (Herodotus 2,174,2). And it is later still that al?theia comes
to refer to the external tions. Other lanthanein reality of which discourse and art are imita (and alastos, derivatives?lathra, lathraios

if it belongs to this group)?are


applied freely, at all periods of their

to persons, ? The things and situations; why not al?th?s as well7 to answer to if is al?theia taken becomes be, in question fairly easy a a human kind of quality and origin, specifically "unforgettingness", one which of human is most discourse crucially 8. and consistently important in the realm

That the word should be applied to the verbal manifestations of this quality rather than the people who exhibit it,whether verbally
is unexpected, but certainly non-verbally, n?mert?s the related may compare adjective derived
7 Usage



unparalleled. pp. 13-15),

One also

(below, a personal
of W.

used regularly of discourse, even though the verb from which

is rarely

it is

so used









bis De in der griechischen Philosophie ('Wahrheit, Licht und Erkenntniss 10, 1966) that the Homeric world is one mokrit', Archiv f?r Begriffsgeschichte which knows "keinen Unterschied zwischen Wahrheit und Wirklichkeit" (31), and in which "die Dinge und die sie bezeichnenden W?rter noch in einem
untrennbaren Wirkungszusammenhang 17. stehen" (37). This may be true in general,

and for etymos

n. 4, and

(text, p. 13), but not for al?th?s. Cf. Snell

(above, n. 5)


link to the meaning found in the noun l?th? or the medio-passive lethomai seems to be regular in lath- derivatives with a long vowel in the root syllable. Cf. epil?thos, epil?smon, l?thargia, Uthedanos, l?thiponos. L?thanemos h?ra dit Simonides 508, 4 Page may be the season which eludes the wind, but it is more logically taken as the one which allows men to forget about the wind leaves lesimbrotos (H. Herrn. 339) as the only (cf. lathik?d?s)?which secure instance of such a derivative with the "objective" meaning found in the
active lanthan?.

8 This

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10 are personal, non-verbal of al?th?s applications completely One such appears in the earliest clear gloss on the word, Hes.

Th. Cole

absent. Theog.

233-236 9:
Nrjpea 8* ?ipsuS?a xai akrft?a yelvocto IIovto? irpscr?iiTaTOV ira?Swv a?x?p xa\?ou<n y?povua o?vExa virpEpTife te xai ??tcio?, o?S? ds[xicri:?wv ?\Xa Sixaia xai ijma 8iQV?a o?Sev


and another is to be found at Iliad 12,433 (below, p. 14).

Also in which pleteness, a number are the contexts interpretation subjective of Homeric instances of al?th?s Com appear. non-omission of any relevant whether particular, through or ignoring, is certainly what is expected of Phoenix when in favor of Snell's so that he report Tdemachus and can keep al?thei?n requests track concerning from Nestor (memne?ito) it (II. in in

forgetting as an observer he is posted of the race of the course 23,361); and it is also what

quiring of Agamemnon's fate (Od. 3,247, 254) and gives to Penelope (17,108) in his detailed account of the trip to Sparta and Pylos (cf.,
enumeration of the guilty 22,420 [Eurycleia's serving maids]). are more But against these five passages one can set others which to square with difficult Snell's definition ?and suggest the need for the seems further reformulation mentioned for example, earlier. Al?theia, to be a property true stories Odysseus of all the substantially tells? also, from the exceedingly full versions of the career of Neoptolemus and

the trip from Calypso's island found at 11,506-537 and 7,241-297, to the nine lines (16,226-234) that inform Telemachus of the how
statement and why of his arrival in Ithaca, to the five-line (21,212 and Philoitios. There are, 216) of how he plans to reward Eumaeus contexts where it is not freedom from omissions but just moreover, the opposite?freedom from irrelevant or misleading inclusions?that seems to designate. the word in the form of encour Such inclusions, on are prob but ill-founded leads the whereabouts of aging Odysseus, ably what Eumaeus has in mind when he says that travelers are

unwilling al?thea myth?sasthai in the tales they tell Penelope (14,124

9 For later glosses which seem to establish a similar link between al?theia see Pind. 0. 10, 3-4 and Plato, Phaedr. 248b (in conjunc and unforgetfulness, < A-AH0EIA in Plato ', Glotta 41, tion with Rep. 10,621a?cf. H. D. Rankin, 1963, 51-54).

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Archaic Truth


125). The pseudea {ibid.) which result are not simply untruths but,
as Eumaeus himself no one indicates three rications: confronted, of being rewarded for any good tation epos paratektainesthai. Priam similar elaborations?<as well as as the fab (128), elaborate travelers the prospect are, with news he brings can resist the temp may be on his guard against he asks tactful omissions?when lines later


(disguised as a servant of Achilles) 24,407) on the fate of Hector's body.

for pasan al?thei?n (II.

is used twice in contexts it is a near which Di?neke?s, suggesting seems same to the of al?the?s the have double synonym 10, non-epic

reference. Applied (Od. 7,241) to the narrative (cf. above) described as al?thei?n in 1,291, it contains the idea of starting from the begin
to the end. But the word refers point by point, ia "straight-tbrough'' at 4,836-837: not different omissions but a "straight-out" evasion telling without telling without or inconsequentiality to dream refuses either di?neke?s say (Penelope's n is alive or dead whether or?the alternative?to Odysseus indulge seems very much in windy talk \_anemolia hazein]). Here the contrast ning and proceeding, to something quite (cf. above) between by Eumaeus straightforward, al?thea cumstantial and pseudea and more (fuller, presumably, and invention. tailed) based on guess-work In even briefer seus "meant the serving maids' conviction compass, what he said" \xiv akrftia (cp?v yap just that drawn cir de

that Odys jxu?hfaacrfrai:

18,342) in threatening to report Melantho's

simply refusal the other

insuk to Telemachus is

of his side of the coin to Telemachus' justification am at 17,15 to help the supposed beggar to ("I given saying I mean": fj yocp ?[xol cp?V ocXiQ&?apAJ??)o,a<rdai). Odysseus just what are both saying what is strictly on their mind?no and Telemachus more than what one intends to do in the former instance (as also p. in the promise to Eumaeus and Philoitios at 21,212-216 [above, 10]),

10 to Perhaps excluded for purely metrical reasons. Synizesis (? X rj fr ? <; is required if the word is to fit into a hexameter at all, and the resulting is largely confined to line end?a position which truth formulae shape (^_) reserve for a verb of saying, usually 11The same meaning at Od. 12,56-57 (Circe's refusal to say di?neke?s which path to follow between Scylla and Charybdis). Cf., on the word in general, Levet (above, n. 3), 192-194.

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12 no less than what one feels in the latter. Context determines on no no or is the the more, less, emphasis equally on both. The existence of these

Th. Cole


could perhaps be ex usages contrasting as the result of a natural extension of the meaning plained posited by Snell. An original "the whole becomes also "the d?lections" story?no whole truth as the al?theia mental reference formation but said also story?no or nothing additions" but the so that al?theia truth. But the is alternatively the whole "extended" can, meaning the of excluded forgetting transmission?not is based. of of

I think, be derived more simply and plausibly from the same source
"original" involves will one?by primarily on which apprehension then be, not that assuming the process the by the The


simply or failure to through forgetting to not forgetting from one minute and not

to non-omission to

take notice

in pieces or ignoring, what was

the next

said or unsaid, before, letting anything, of its consequences and implications slip by without being mindful use or a reflexive the later of the verb with without (cf. lanthanein,

a few minutes

and followed by a participle, to indicate doing [or saying] something

without munication realizing which from it). It would arises under a com to describe appropriate as such conditions the a-l?th?s, whether be

the adjective derives

aphrad?s think of, of


from l?thomai
indirectly, via an

(like, for example,

almost unattested


l?thos (Theoor. 23, 24; cf. ak?d?s from k?domai via k?dos),
the communication What or al?theia. as containing, is involved is strict

and to

rendering or irrelevance

reporting?something as it is of omission or

or being itself an instance (or strict and scrupulous) as exclusive of bluster, invention It is not, as

or understatement.

the interpretations of Snell and Heidegger

clarity of of a perception the percipient's total

imply, the compelling

command in recalling and how of a

it that come to be combined in a (to us) confusing way with the idea
truth. given It is, rather, truth and method, communication that are so combined. the what

The positive evidence (18 instances of aleth?s or ai?thei? in Iliad and Odyssey) on which this modification of Snell's view is based
stands, body meric as will of evidence passages be seen, obtained in which in substantial by considering al?th?s jai?thei? accord with the much and comparing is not used, but larger those Ho

some' other

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Archaic Truth

13 The commonest of such instances)12. root etthe from derive and seem etymos, et?tymos) to the same range of meanings al?th?s was which (over 100 They to be to a communica applied in with the facts, 14, conformity contrast with uninformed report, can be

truth word words to have


(eteos, much

acquire in the fourth century. is 13,or will prove tion which or to what is in fact the case wishful proper at Od. or as yet

thinking, names (Eteooles, Eteocretes) seems 3, 241, the meaning common n?mert?s like it, than and to have these,

15,by unconfirmed

In compound hypothesis. and in the phrase nostos et?tymos to be "real" or "genuine". common than to which are parallel are al?th?s, it in form

Less two words, and seem,

but more

All three meaning. specialized from the Indo-European the same privative show (derived prefix to does not miss n?mert?s that with which referring syllabic nasal), to not deviate atrek?s that does its mark and which (hamartano)16 or distort the phrase (cf., for the root trek-, Latin torqueo o?x ocv Eywys/aXXa -rcap?J; eltoi[xi and, ^apaxXiSov for the metaphor, o?8' ?rca

atrek?s, a more

Tifau at Od. 4,348

and 17,139).


the isolated (ap)hamar

non-privative 17, their original

is the only corresponding 13,824) (II. 3,215; toep?s as a contrary for any one of these words form attested a negative18. The primary reference of all three

privative force is still strong enough to prevent their being used with
is to the transmission 12 In what fallows I am much indebted the clear collection and classifica tion of all Homeric examples given by Levet (above, n. 3). 13Cf. II. 10,534; 14,125; 20,255; 23,440; Od. 4,140; 19,203 and, by a
natural extension from

II. 1,558 (of a promise), 2,300 (prophecy), Od. 16,320 (portent), and 19,567 (etyma krainousin ["bring true things to pass"], said of dreams which say things that come true). 15 Usually in the phrase el ete?v (ye)... Cf., also, II. 13,111; 18,128; Od. and 23,26 4,157. 16 is not missed is presumably the truth (etymon), though there is What often the added idea of speaking unerringly what one's interlocutor wants to know (cf. Snell [above, n. 5] 13-14) and occasionally that of not coming up with the wrong thing to say: cf. the adjective (ap)hamartoepes at II. 3,215 and 13,824, and the phrase ou8' ifpapxavE p?dwv (Od. 11,511). 17 On the other (rare) occasions when a contrary appears it is pseud?s (Od. 2,19-20 = 337-338 [contrasted with n?mert?s] and 14,124-125 [text, p. 10]). 18 On the two occasions where al?th?s appears alongside ouk or oud* the negative forms a single idea with the verb: ouk ethelousin at Od. 14,124 (text, p. 10) and o?S' ? Y ?XTjft?oceins, rc?XLv S' o ye XA?eto ^?frov at 13,254.









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14 of information

Th. Cole

the transmission whether be un through discourse, or strict and and undistorting, (i.e., erring, undeviating scrupulous as to since and these attach much the qualities "unneglectful")19; as to in of his the discourse the transmitted process framing speaker speech, they all suggest forms of truthfulness as well as truth: sure strict truthfulness. accurate More straight truthfulness, one or could that the of truth idea is not truthfulness say ly, perhaps, course in the words contained themselves of things, but, in the normal trathfulness,

implied by the context in which

normally a person most true who speech, but n?mert?s

they appear. Unerring

may be used, as etymos

speech is
is not, at Od.

of a plan that will not miss being realized (Od. 1,86; 5,30)20 or of
is infallible (in the phrase y?pwv akioc, vrpEpTife

4,349, 384, 401, 542; 17,140).

The same holds true for atrek?s in

on one occasion to the instructions contexts, (Zeus' though to in II. 2,10) is false; and it the information be transmitted dream not is strict, unneglectful truthful accounting, teffitag, that charac as she raises terizes the yuv?) xepvffri? the akr$fr\ci of II. 12,433 sure on one to that the make wool the balance aloft side equals on The the other21. are not and the strict and scrupulous sure, the straight, so far apart as to exclude the existence of statements that are all termed n?mert?s, of the Homeric atrek?s three, and many speeches to fall into this in isolation, considered and al?th?s seem, when category?hence the meanings
In the latter


to provide just

little But

basis their

oud}... eipe

of for empirical verification number is radically reduced

way of saying palin lazeto.


Odysseus did not speak out, but instead held back, the ale the a my thon he might have told. 19The preference for adverbial atreke?s as against adjectival and substantival al?th?sIal?thei? and adverbial-adjectival n?merte?s/n?mert?s may reflect noth
ing more than the constraint of hexameter composition. normal Atrekeia and atrek?s


to be metrical,
from that given

a different
currency in

scansion of

the initial



has a pattern
line end.


largely confined,

like that of al?the?s

(above, n. 10) to

20 Cf., also, H. Apoll. 132, 252, 292. 21The variant al?tis (still favored by, e.g., Levet [above, n. 3] 91-93 and Mette [Lexikon der fr?h-griechischen Epos, s.v.]) requires the unlikely as
sumption that a wandering beggar woman could also be a piece worker earning

a wage


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Archaic Truth

15 certain of context where one word or the






is consistently

favored or excluded

throughout Iliad and

for example, unless they and 21,212-216 [above,

True statements about the future, Odyssey. a intentions refer to (Od. 18,342 speaker's

p. 11])22 or what will occur because it occurs habitually (Od. 4,383, 399) ^ are either n?mert?s (Od. 5,300; 11,96, 137, 148; 12,112)
or designated by an et- word?never atrek?s or al?th?s. Here the

difficulty of forgetting or letting slip by unnoticed something which

excludes has not yet occurred practically al?th?s; and atrek?s suggests, a model not in that is already it does from if non-deviation demand, On the other hand, the clear parallel existence. the spatial between distance distance mert?s a marksman from his target and the temporal separating a n? fulfillment of and makes between delivery prophecy contexts. an obvious choice for such reference from is not to the future, n?mert?s or is regularly dis of the importance

When tinguished information

accessibility assumes Atrek?s command found

atrek?s by the greater urgency to be communicated24, atrek?s from al?th?s by the greater and its greater ease of transmission. of the information as a matter is to be with of course that It the communicated.

of what

in connection



is in full speaker is thus the only word of an order (II. 2,10

formula alX9 &ye pm t?Se zii? [above, p. 14]); and in the standard a certain xa? ?cTpEx?w? xoctocXe^ov it does little more than contribute to hundrum of the tl? izb?ev tic, ?vSpwv inquiries epic elevation This however, may create special overtones very routiness, variety25.
22 Cf., also, H. Herrn. 459 (atreke?s).

23The two speeches of Eidathea introduced by atreke?s katalex? in these lines contain advice and prediction, but they are largely concerned with where Proteus is regularly to be found and what he does when someone attempts to
use force

for example (Od. 3,19 [below, p. 18]; 17,561; of Odysseus, 19,269; 23,35), or Zeus' orders to Calypso (5,98), or what the suitors want 'to know about Telemachus' departure and intentions (4,642). See, for other and below, n. 26 (?/. passages, text, p. 19 (II. 6,376 and Od. 15,263-264) 14,470). 25 For the routineness of the information sought or supplied atreke?s, cf. Od. 1,169, 179, 206, 214 (name and parentage), 24,256 (master's name), (immediate practical instructions), 24,287 ("How long 11,140 and 16,137 and 380 ("Where are you going since...?") II. 24,655 ("How long until...?") and what are you doing?"). The communication is more important and com




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Th. Cole

a in passages where discreditable is piece of information possibly involved between and Dolon, (four times in the exchanges Odysseus

II. 10,384, 405, 413, 427), once at II. 15,53 [Zeus to Hera]
once, perhaps, If a transmission distortion?not result atrekeia accurate at Od. the 24,123 [Amphimedon's is not atrek?s it can only ghost be because to Agamemnon's]).


of deliberate

in a failure transmission

temporary lapses or partial to be al?th?s or n?mert?s. where will not there occur is some

that might ignorance so to insist on And reason to believe of that to demanding, self-incrimi

in a situation

or offering, nation 26.



can be equivalent at the cost

a certain deter Al?theia, atrekeia, presupposes by contrast with or effort at recall on the part of the speaker, concentration mination, a to produce and so a degree of commitment and concern, whether on or to a maintain others effect standard for the oneself (cf. given ... ccX [xvifaacrdE ... aXxfjc;, \zka<7[izda/'kzka<T\xi\)ov recurring phrases xt)<;, ?Xxffe-\affby\xoii is linked to the absence, above (or below) a similar concern, or lack thereof, where or presence, of l?th?). The gods are regularly secure as they are of their own effec such concern,

tiveness and unavailability

pronouncements whether directly phrases quoted make

in all dealings with men.

the course of


so the

during they dealings, or through seers, are never al?th?s 27. (Cf. the two earlier [p. 14]: y?ptov ftXioc vTnn?pTT)<; and yuvtq xzpvfiiic,


plicated, but neither urgent nor difficult to make, at Od. 4,486; 11,457; 15,353 (news of someone other than Odysseus); 1,224; 16,113 (the political situation at Ithaca) and 8,572; 11,170 and 370; 14,192 and 15,383 (past experiences of the informant). 26 If this suggestion is correct, atreke?s might have been expected in a similar demand for a demaging admission at II. 14,470. Polydamas must there
answer yes ?to Ajax's question, "Tell me n?mert?s: wasn't the man I killed

so acknowledge worth as much as the man you killed?"?and that he has been powerless to prevent Ajax from getting his revenge. But Ajax wishes to
be insulting as well as force an admission. He knows the answer to his question

perfectly well, but sarcastically uses a word (n?mert?s) which suggests urgent need for information of the sort only a seer such as Polydamas can supply. 27
Gf. Snell (above, n. 5) 15: "Bei Homer ...wurde akrft?c, nie auf ?ber menschliche Wahrheit angewandt". The generalization does not, of course,

(H. Dem. apply to what gods say when disguised as mortals 121) or when to each other 433 account of circumstantial (ibid. talking [Persephone's full, the painful details of her abduction] and, probably, Hes. Theog. 233-236 [text, p. 10] where Nereus' themistes are presumably given to gods, not men).

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Archaic Truth


with their contrasting images of divine infallibility and human ocXtqotq?,

accountability). Though the through the characteristic contrast with semantic the field of al?th?s is best seen atrek?s, in the course another has information are alike in that two words of one character's corroboration

they may not be used or impugning of what on the basis of one's that etymos, atrekeia of present or even or al?theia intention


to know just said. It is possible statement is that a particular so use ect it is unerringly of n?mert?s (cf. the than a brief 18,342 statement p. 11) And

II. 3,204, Od.

17,549, 556); but to be in a position to judge the

of anything more elaborate such as that found at Od. of all the information (above,

being conveyed. implies prior possession or desiring to hear the speech at exclude needing this will normally or narrower the restrictions when all. Even apply plausibility prob at telling pseudea a at is issue. is of adept Odysseus speech ability are etymoisin the sort of homoia which (19,203)?i.e., recognizably so (presumably) But readily believed. actually occurs and to in are no recurring such characteristics recognition permit at different the case of those statements which, places and times and or undeviat to be in the mouth of various unerring, speakers, happen thing there that ing, or strict Penelope's less an immediate Eumaeus scrupulous. are unwilling to informants and reaction to the reports says (above, speak al?thea, than an explana themselves on other p. 10) that but this is

tion of why

they always turn out to be false. And

their falsity is

is convinced of which Eumaeus grounds?whether something or because comes ever of because them, they insist on the nothing he is certain return?which imminence of the one thing?Odysseus' will never occur (cf. 14,363-368). The under follows: n?mert?s TruthWord
Time ? Speaker ? human


restrictions is subject

to which may be

the use set forth



three words form as


in summary

atrek?s al?th?s
reference ? only past or present


of information conveyed tine

important or urgent ? Transmission

less important or rounon-problematic

formation readily

(in- difficult


cessible to speaker) not immediately verifiable

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18 are maintained

Th. Cole





seem scrutiny of those passages which justify closer is In most that the violation instances there are reasons for believing a seem to in formal considerations taken have few, only apparent; precedence To those the over semantic ones; I find none where the restrictions are

to consistency to violate them.

totally disregarded.
first of the demands by of passages where several groups category belong seem to have been overriden an immediate context one. Telemachus' request, made not to first gloss to Nestor over or to Menelaus


of a larger and then


embellish out of a desire to spare his feelings:

t? p.' aiSopisvoc [xeikivcrzo [xtq8' ?Xsatpwv, [XTjS? ?Xk9 su |xol xax?Xs^ov ottooc i]VTiQcra<;otzwtzti?, to expect in the line with which al?th?s the entire speech t&v vGv jxoi [xviQcrai, xai [xol vrpspxec ?vicrra? (3,101 = 4, 331. Cf. Priam's [above, p. 11]). But the speech request at II. 24,407 to a larger pattern in the later book, belongs verbatim itself, repeated leads one


of inquiry that begins with

to seek out sure information

the injunction of Athena-Mentor


from Nestor. line The (n?mertea) on its appearance in 3; and in 4 above recalls this injunction quoted from Nestor, it recalls a similar injunction who cannot supply n?mertea to seek them from Menelaus himself but urges Telemachus (3,327). is only completed The pattern when Menelaus he has reports what = 384 = 401 = heard from the yepoov aXio? vrpepTifc 542). (4,349 to the immediate Here dictates the larger context one, just as it does on three other occasions capable of n?mertea, lest her revelations subsequent is presenting presence later ones in the book. doubtless Eidothea, though at 383 and 399, is only allowed to speak atreke?s to Menelaus in importance the with compete At 314, on the other hand, Menelaus of Proteus. to learn n?merte?s the reason form one for Telemachus' in such a request, Atreke?s close is the expected

as wanting

in Sparta. at the

but the line is a deliberate anticipation of what

(331) determined later of Telemachus' requests Telemachus will (17,122) there because al?thei?, they are part of cf. above, p. 10) of his entire narrative for n?mertea reply: already mentioned. call the contents of the larger to Penelope.

appears 17 lines
of this al?thei? More Thirteen the pattern books same reply simply,


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Archaic Truth

19 to n?mert?s to Penelope the man There at is at tell her was one is subject involves

Odysseus' verbatim n?mert?s of



17,561 can

least partially determined by Penelope's original offer (17,549, related

at 556) to reward by Eumaeus about the fate of her husband. means who n?mert?s truth that

of designating the sort of a hearer to corroboration (above, p. 17)28. by On three other occasions variation between the normal distinctions

truth words

or nuance. in meaning request Theoclymenus' is only appropriate, for n?mertea about Telemachus' (15,263) identity to situation?it is essential and present given his mantic profession subtle know for sure whether or the man reply is the Telemachus whose murder has any ties are pursuers Telemachus' routine they -roiy?cp eyw toi to Theoclymenus' to avenge. seeking %?ive, jx?X' ocxpE


x?co??yopzxxxu (266), and by bringing the exchange back to a more

a measure of it already conveys is Hector's also behind request Urgency on Andromache's whereabouts?whether information level reassurance. for sure (II. 6,376) with his sisters,

or in the temple of Athena. return to the He must his-sisters-in-law, soon and only has time to look for her in one place. In re battle euei as "Exxop, [xocV ?vcoya? ?Vr)&?a [xu?hfaaa'dai phrasing his question (382) before they reply, a kind of correction?in the servant the event like Telemachus, women, that the original list was offer meant

to be exhaustive. They would be speaking n?merte?s if they simply

as they do at first, that Andromache is at none of the places a a account for strict it is demand (al?theia) enumerated; full, only to in of them add she which has gone to the that, fact, point requires To Hector's truthful (386). unerring "Say to me with city wall can we in strict ness..." truthfulness "Hector, (coyly?) they reply replied,

at Od. 13,254 (above, n. 18) may the tendency (text, p. 10) for all of Odysseus' true It is not simply the truth, but an account such as he refrains from giving to Athena. 29Cf. Snell (above, n. 5) 11 n. 8, who draws
between Hector's request rather you than for " Zutreffende " and


be similarly determined by accounts to be called al?th?s. that he earlier told Akinous a somewhat
the serving

similar contrast
women's modest

claim to know only "was ihr 'bewusst ist". But one would
to contain the less more than but what when was we about ward places the wall...". mentioned, asked?e.g., last saw her


such a reply
don't know to going

she was

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20 More

Th. Cole

is Theoclymenus' ?Tp?x?co<; yap toi ixavTEUffo^xai complex o?S' ?7nxEUo,w at 0?/. on the the seer's insistence where 17,154, to of he has about what whereabouts say certainty Odysseus' might as a n?mert?s. But the speech must be heard lead one to expect and complete (al?th?s [above, to and p. 10]) report Sparta. rejects trip Pylos Theoclymenus all that has been heard about Odysseus that trip as uncertain during o? ca?a o?Ssv (153). and imprecise: Telemachus (or Menelaus) on the other hand, an to is give going undeviating Theoclymenus, his mantic tell him. What he says is, by powers report of what to call it that would but make Telemachus n?mert?s; implication, sequel of the or pseud?s [see above, p. 13, with (hamartoep?s wants is And this further than 17]) by Theoclymenus not to go. Of is truth words used for the three available (al?th?s utterances mantic the one which [above, p. 15]), he tactfully chooses mistaken n. contrast. refers ment. not to straight Since the transmission transmission rather involves to than or true state 'infallibility to not available information atrekeia in making it need or Menelaus to Telemachus' conscientious

Telemachus involve Formal

a claim and Menelaus, invidious comparisons. considerations

are probably in two passages decisive common ?W most truth formula the single ayt y,oi TaSs involving dn? xai ocTpEx?oo? xoct?cXe^ov. This phrase any re always precedes it is It connected. for information which with may not, there quests it introduces in the and another when follow verb fore, imperative; a series of requests that are interrupted order, by a second generalizing xai formula: another the latter involves jioi tout' ay?pEuo-ov ?t/)tu follow The questions which [xov, ocpp' ?? ?l8& (Od. 1,174 = 24,258). no different in character from those the second formula are, however, is here a purely formal vari which Either, then, et?tymon precede. or else?since in ant on atreke?s atreke?s almost always speaking more (above, p. 13) but not vice-versa?a et?tymon speaking more a to is referred back and continued idea gen being by specific the simple form of a verb takes up eral one, as often occurs when 30. first designated and refers to something by one of its compounds volves The that, former even seems suggestion the et?tymon when somewhat formula more appears likely, given the from fact the separately

30 See R. Renehan, Greek Textual Criticism. A Reader, Cambridge Mass. Studies in Greek Texts (= Hypomn?mata and 77-85 43, 1976) 11-27. 1969,

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Archaic Truth


other (Od. 4,645;

every instance in the traces but request For tions The to

the last

14,186; 24,403),
(an indication rather than of

it follows closely, in
"lateness"?), another

the Homeric

the Hymns; clearest

excep formally dictated one must and go to Hesiod system described, are slight and infrequent. and even there the divergences are at H. Herrn. of an 561 (ai?thei? of the responses

imperative. of semantically

not an oracular (atreke?s used to describe, oracle) and 564 response, of meaning found but the effort to elicit one)31. The generalization in the earlier passage may in Hesiod's references also be present

(Erga 768 and 818) to those who celebrate the last day of the month
"on the basis of a true observing of distinctions" (al?thei?n kr mon

tes) and designate the 27th of the month "by its true name" (al?thea
these On the other hand, it is just as possible?unless kikl?iskontes). two lines are evidence of the whole for the lateness "Days" section in Homeric of truth but, of the poem?that is not thinking Hesiod of a strict fashion, from the beginning when 30 days have rather (tetras krino than?counting phthinontos)32. rather than a verb keeping of each elapsed from If track?one calendar rather which reckons month, celebrating than upon completion direction?"fourth from earlier consistently end month of a lunar last" is

cycle, and calling the 27th the "third ninth day" (triseinas [814])
the other so, from the divergence usage

purely syntactic (ai?thei? and al?th?s construed with

of Al?theia is also

kikl?isk? or

saying). in the famous claim of the Muses ambiguous ... as to to well as pseudea know how ety speak al?thea (Theog. 28) on etyma, and moisin The word may be a simple variant homoia. discourse its use in connection discourse?and divine with pertain or as present to essomena (32) as well ing, at least by implication, the On other whole un-Homeric. the pass hand, past?is certainly to sort that of the taken as referring poetry age is often specifically is to follow of its Homeric
31 n?mert?s 32 For

case al?th?s may retain enough in which in the Theogony, to contrast Hesiod's circumstantial catalogue meaning
see H. of reference, be a similar transfer may ant o does not mean unerringly" "they spoke Dem. but 294, rather, own where "they occa


mythes For the

did not fail to say [what they had been commanded

different systems of reckoning involved,

to say]"
and Hesiod's

sional inconsistency

in using

them, see West

ad loc.

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22 of cosmic moisin

Th. Cole

the basically realistic with and genealogies (ety dynasties fic and but ornamented33 homoia) extensively stylistically to Muses learned of heroic tionalized narrative have epic. Hesiod's as well as inspired of past achieve do strict reporting celebration and it is the content changed. of their al?th?s, that has the Homeric and However not the meaning repertory, one interprets this passage, of the


promise at the opening of the Erga to speak et?tyma (10) falls well
within hortation been range so concerned of meanings: follows what N?mert?s the future. with is largely ex have would

an excessively a possible but perhaps arrogant one. alternative, It qualifies than human divine (hence, no doubt, speech more often as the favored its position truth term in the Hymns)34. Little can be (the most terminology) learned from the isolated texts references to al?theia appear in other pre-fifth-century conservative?or that one to suggest changed. at Vers. how Here 35, and Homeric?of once and whether the functions it is only with in later writers a body of sys and the original of atrek?s


Aeschylus his truth evidence tem



large enough has of meaning n?mert?s (found only by al?th?s; and

taken over 246) have been completely in somewhat the same relation the latter now stands of the "smooth,
L. West

33The absence from the Theogony

of the Homeric manner is noted by M.

leisurely espansiveness"
Theogony, Oxford


1966, 73-74). 34 41 per cent of all occurrences (see Le vet [above, n. 3] 33). For other instances of essentially Homeric use of truth words in Hesiod and the Hymns,
see the passages cited above notes 20, 22 and 27 and?most strikingly per

haps?Hermes' speech ?n his own defense before Zeus (H. Herrn. 368-386). The strict circumstantiality of the whole account is announced at the start (368: al?thei?n katalexo), as well as the speaker's infallibility (n?mert?s te gar eimi [369]), but the crucial denial ("I didn't drive home Apollo's cows and never even ventured beyond my own threshold") is followed immediately by the in sistent atreke?s (380) that makes any accompanying untruth the result of delib erate falsification (text, p. 16). 35 E.g., FVS 22B 112 (Heraclitus) and FGrHist 1 F 1 b (Hecataeus), where
to write the promise current diculous logoi ingness to make &<; \xoi ?XTjd?a Sox?a slvou could al?theia of rather indicate someone than an among the Greeks about the reproduce un-Homeric logoi the unwill (cf. text, ri



p. 17, with Krischer [above, n. 5] 173; and contrast FVS 21B 35 [Xenopha nes]: eoikota tois etymoisin). But Hecataeus may be doing nothing more than Eumaeus did (text, pp. 10 and 17) when he concluded that Penelope's informants were unwilling al?thea mythe sas thai.

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Archaic Truth


ship to et(?t)ymos as did the entire triad of words

thus what ?or, or continues is merely refer, except true, but to what about the to in the adverbial as well is truthful future, The three

in Homer.



in statements cursed of

to what main

(cf. above, the course of is

p. 14) events that all

will prove to have been truthfully said (Sept. 710, Ag. 1241, 1567)37
forms Homeric (except being 885-886, not truthfulness, (Sept. are now specific is confined **; and that et(?t)ymos that are true without V. 293 and 595)39 to statements can be al?th?s truthful. (Pers. Messenger speeches covered 946). just the innovation for which there were

words, at Prom. necessarily assumed

513, Ag. 622, 680, Choeph. 844), but only when

someone to be in a position to control

they come from

of what

the accuracy

si said. The haxis of Ag. 477 that has a chance of being et?tymos
is simply the second-hand that arises on the basis of as yet gossip at refers tout' et?tymon} Pers. Darius' and 131 unconfirmed reports; to his own anxious has just said: the messenger from what inference

it may be true, but it cannot be truthful. The cloud of dust which in and of itself tells of the approaching army at Sept. 82 is an etymos
are conceivably angelo s 40; but the beacon signals of the Agamemnon ... al?theis if true, they reflect the truth (490-491), because, par aliagas to mean "really", "in fact" at Bum. 796, Suppl. 585 and 86 (panal?th?s) and Simonides 542,1 (text, p. 9). The usage may have originated through shortening of a parenthetical &<; a)o)frw<; eitue?v or the like: "to speak
truthfully", and "to tell the truth", it hence "really", to mean "actually". like Cf. the interrogative


8Xr\fe? ("Really?") of Attic drama and adverbial atrekes at II. 5,208, Od.
Theognis or 167, too where seems simething "I exaggerate


(said of a numerical
too high low; "almost", 37 tension with Ag. of what "practically", 1547-1549 ?this meaning. is said,

compare when (alvov

the such use of


etco? eixe?v

that is likely to seem

[ouSe?c/tcocc] to mean

exaggeration . .. ?XaMa cppEv&v are sincere are al?theis

is involved). -tcovtqo-ei,) contains when they they are a natural ex in harmony

Vhrenes just as words

(al?theis) when


harmony with -the facts. Cf. Pind. O. 2,92 (al?thei noo?). 38This generalized meaning may already be present in Alcaeus 366/Z43 Lobel and Page (olvo? & (pikz -nm xal ?XadEa)?if the later writers (Schol. Plat. we owe our to Theocr. whom 29,1-2) knowledge of the passage Symp. 217e, were right in taking the meaning to be in vino veritas. 39Akribos oisth' at From. V. 328 is an additional divergence from the truth terminology of the other plays (see text, p. 25). 40Contrast the same phrase at Iliad 22,438 and H. Dem. 46, where no such limitation of meaning is involved.

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24 fulness Helen's ledge of

Th. Cole

series of transmissions. the original sender and a faithful name was bestowed foreknow (Ag. 682), without et?tymos a god) of its aptness; whereas that of (unless the namer was

in conscious

(Suppl. 312) was given al?th?s?presumably

reference Even to the touch more of conservative, impregnation or Homeric, on

by his mother,
is the of syntax saying, or

and release which

al?theia?always depending or referring back to a word for speech, speaker or speech modifying ... for et[?t]ymos, 1296 [et?tymos act41. (Contrast, oisthd], Eum. Ag.

him. produced of Aeschylean

a verb

496 [etyma pathea] and Choeph. 948 [et?tymos Dios kord]).

It system is only in Pindar and disappears completely. et- words confined truth, with mos and Bacchylides] [Pindar fic meanings reasons that 91 that writers subsequent now Al?th?s indicates to or specific eteon forms (e.g., the Homeric all kinds adverbial and of ety

speci [Aristophanes]) or used for and unpredicably ("genuine"), sporadically use as are often unclear. the object of The of al?theia it may 7,68-69: be more teXe?tocoev than simply S? X?ycov

verbs of perception (Pind. N. 7,25 [idemen]) or inquiry (Soph. Track.

or in contexts where [pythesthai]), a quality found in discourse (Pind. O. xopucpod ?v akaftz?a TCTOiom, I. 2,10: ?ouvov) objective One the suggests as well curious that the word

p^ix' aka?tz?ac, (k-z??) ?cyx^toc to be associated the with is coming as the subjective half of the logos-ergon dichotomy. is in meaning of this generalization consequence

use of atrekeia by itself, or of atrek?s as a modi (non-Aeschylean) in situations where Homer fier of al?theia, would have had probably a single al?th?s/al?thei?. can suggest that Thus Pindar (N. 5,16-17) punctiliousness often soph?taton), in telling exactly what happened 13,291) was (alathe? able atrek?s) to congratu is

not always the more profitable

just as Athena

(kerdi?n) policy

(tactful silence is

late Odysseus for being kerdaleos beyond all his competitors because of his skill in deceit (he had just been restrained by his polykerdea noon [254] from speaking al?thea about his identity)42. At Pind. O. 10,13 it is the privileged position of the goddess Punctiliousness
41Al?theis opseis at Sept. 710 may be "true visions", as well be "apparitions which speak truthfully".
42 The phrase eta alatheia read or restored by some


they can just

at I. 2,10

(text) and N.
a context cognate, where by

7,25 would
Homer itself.

be a parallel

instance of al?theia with

have used the modifying

a modifier
word, or




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Archaic Truth


(Atrekeia) at Locris which makes it especially important that Pindar

make ised the lapse of memory that late delivery of a prom more Even is the of might imply. striking prominence seems in to it where the atrek?s/atrekeia Herodotus, suggest both of Homeric atrekeia and the scrupulousness of Homeric precision for ode amends

al?theia. The result is a frequency (40 per cent of all truth words)
higher than lived, but its expanded in any other author. This one because suspects, only, sense came to be V. taken 328 popularity the gap to be short proved filled by atrek?s in In Attic

care of

in another way.

and all later prose the previously sporadic akrib?s (FVS 22B 101a
Aesch. [Heraclitus], over the function whose In sound Prom. of Homeric as meaning atrek?s and the Hippocratic and al?th?s, it echoes sketched 44. in the preceding p. 8) by the absence, trace of al?theia in a naturally usage was the raises determined the out takes corpus)43 a pair of words

as well

pages into well purely question

the development surveying one continues to be struck the fifth century, objective and how of or

primarily of whether

(cf. above, any extensive sense. And this

far that particular

of by philosophical particular by tendency assume to Greek with that the thinkers, beginning Parmenides, truly as the content of strict and care real must display the same qualities ful (al?th?s) discourse, is a better and that such discourse indication of the nature that of reality the earliest than observed passage facts and events. the extension It is worth of meaning reality, (p. 24) in which


noting of

has clearly taken place is Parmenides' famous account (FVS 28B 7-8)
journeying investigation 43
Hippocratic akrib?s:

is simultaneously that of along a path which and truth 45.The Pindaric above examples quoted

Compare the similar distribution

of what corpus) skethros ("exact", that which does not may well "careful"). let

in early texts (Prom. V. 102, 488 and the

have been an unsuccessful from schein If derived (see competitor Frisk of s.v.),

the word

is semantically parallel to al?th?s:

slip by in

that which
(the other.


fast in the one


obscure. 45

similarity of sound may well have been sufficient to suggest to speakers an etymological link, though the real origin of the word remains
Snell (above, n. 5), who seems to favor an affirmative answer to the


question (17) "...hat erst Parmenides den Wahrheitsbegriff geschaffen, der Sein und Denken in eins setzte, indem er das ete?v und das ?Vnft?? in einen Begriff

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26 much be more excluded. nor ambiguous, In particular, can

Th. Cole

are, by Eleatic P. 3,103:

contrast, influence

the possibility of the parallel between

s? S?



?X?L . . .?Xai?z?ac,


and FVS 28B 2,1-4:

?yobv ?p?w, x?pi?om S? cb [xOdov ?xoucra? o S o i [xoOvai Si?^/jat?c ?10*1 v o f? o*a 1 te xa? ob? oux ?cm \ii] ??vai, ?) [x?v otccoc; ?0*TLV Iladou? ecti x?taudo? ('A X, tq3*e t rj y?p ?7rr)S??) oarap may well cedented be more character coincidental, given the way both passages traveled in, or by, the mind46. of problems of interpretation, than the unpre completely as a of al?theia speak in so far as el 8' ay'

to be pathway Such larger present absence ence,


they involve the period after 450 B. C,

lie beyond the scope of the

one is hampered For the earlier period investigation. by the of any sizeable body of post-Homeric, evid pre-Aeschylean in be order. That but one or two further may suggestions should cause give way no surprise to a more expressive, emphatic, Most

et(?t)ymosIetymos history47 and need

specific alternative is in accord with

a general principle of linguistic

when it occurs in Greek.

one can compare of what may well the history strikingly, perhaps, has the same be a cognate of etymos, "sooth". The word English as root et- in Homer, in does the position Anglo-Saxon preponderant to it is confined in later Greek, but in modern like etymos English, isolated words over form of survivals. continue archaic the content in which the the oddly similar ways (Compare a particular to appear in two compounds designating to rec learned efforts and discourse ["soothsaying"] of archaic discourse in general [etymologia]). When

sooth gave way to truth it was displaced by a word which had orig
46 With akr\Mx? y?p ?it-nSet one may also compare I. 2,10 (?tju/ ?\aMa<; aYX^^oc ?aivov). It is perhaps worth noting that all the Pindaric passages which (allow an objective sense to al?theia (cf., in addition to those cited in the text, O. 8,1 and 10,54) are from works which postdate the poet's Sicilian visit.
47 Cf. H. ' Frisk, 'Wahrheit' und 'Luge' in den indogermanischen Sprachen',



(= Studia Gothoburgensia




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Archaic Truth


inally referred, like al?th?s, to a specifically human quality (reliabil ity, loyalty: cf. German treu and Middle English "troth") often re
vealed came in, but not to designate confined and one which later to, discourse, only or of a statement the correctness (13th century)

reality of a thing (14th-15th centuries)48. That Englishmen should look for truth to someone who is loyal
and Greeks should ethnic of In cause to no someone on what he is about keeps his mind more But either. than surprise something specific itself as an explanation for the success suggests its two equally rivals. expressive emphatic, equally who

stereotypes over al?theia an

it might well have age of intellectual inquiry and ferment, a come to easier of certainty designated quality by than the dead exact in a wider n?merteia of situations than the and useful variety transmission It was for the discovery of of atrekeia. also a quality whose could rational criteria presence criteria which be devised, such would as coherence be especially was beginning, and consistency dur important in certain con vehicle 3,12,2 excell

ing a period when oral communication texts at any rate, to be challenged by written akriheia for the transmission of truth. Unlike 1413b8-9), ence of written al?theia never came but to be it had felt been

as the principal (cf. Arist. Rhet. as a characteristic


of care, precision, ginning, with qualities are more in written than and more available easily verified readily to be measured in in oral discourse; and as truth came increasingly

from the be associated, that order and coherence

terms of such qualities it would have been easy to identify the thing
al?th?s m. Al?theia the measure: with is, by etymon with ?at the truth?first rational rate, pos methodical, sober, any origin Muses oracles later session of men (Hes. Theog. 28), alone, though even gods and eventually 993; Eur. (H. Herrn. 561), (Soph. Phil. to its Hel. and partially 1150) learn transforming speak it, diluting success can be explained? in the process. Its linguistic character measured
48 See ?the entries in the OED, s.v. 'torue' and 'truth'.

49The first prose writer in whom this identification is complete is Thucy and dt dides; may be more than mere coincidence that he is also the first writer to combine investigation of al?theia with a style and manner of presentation
that makes complete storico use of ?a certain range e la of possibilities inherent in written

rather than oral discourse.

del discorso nel

See, for the latter, B. Gentili

greco storiografia

and G. Cerri, Le teorie

romana arcaica, Roma


1975, 22-26.

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Th. Cole

approximately eral passage

but, I think, aspect of the gen yet another truly?as to logi in Greek from oral, mythical and poetic thought to To emphasize is not necessarily this connection cal and rational. we the which the with have importance, period during downgrade of more of forms of cognition: the direct revelation, the compelling "unhiddenness" of awareness, to insist that, however such important phenom not what he for the archaic Greek, they were spoke of al?theia 50.


concerned, flash non-verbal

It is merely things. ena may have been he had in mind when Yale


50 The}' loom large, for example, in D. Bremer's Licht und Dunkel in der zur Vorgeschichte der Lichtmeta fr?h griechischen Dichtung, Interpretationen s Be Archiv Bonn and the amount 1976); f?r physik (= griff geschickte Suppl. 1,
of evidence assembled there is impressive, whether or not one accepts, as Bremer

R. A.

(p. 161, n.
Prier, 'Sema


the equation
the Symbolic


al?th?s with








1978, 91-101.

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