So the Lane Fox book sent me to my copy of Roberto Calasso’s The Marriage of Cadmus and Harmony, which has been patiently waiting on my shelf for years; I’m almost finished with it, and while it’s too long and I could do without the navel-gazing sessions in which the author cogitates on the Meaning of It All (“Zeus has no character, he is the support beneath every character”), I have enjoyed his fresh take on the hoary old stories (particularly welcome after Graves’s slanted scholarship). The lack of an index is annoying, but thanks to the magic of the internet one can search in the Google Books text if need be.
But I’m not here to praise Calasso, I’m here to get off my chest one of those incredibly petty gripes nobody cares about but me. Tim Parks has done, as best I can tell without having read the original, a good job of translating a text full of recondite material, but he blew it in one case that cost me a good bit of googling to remedy. On page 382 of my paperback copy he says “Haematius, king of the city, welcomed Cadmus as a guest.” I looked up Haematius in Wikipedia, as is my wont (I often wind up adding the Greek name to articles, and sometimes doing more revising), but there was nothing there. I googled the name: nothing except a few false hits from A Dictionary of Christian Biography, Literature, Sects and Doctrines (the book has HARMATIUS, which was mis-scanned). Luckily, Google Books has the Italian edition; it’s only Snippet View, but I was able to determine that the original talks about “Ematio sovrano,” and some more detective work convinced me that the Greek name was Ἠμαθίων or Emathio(n), a name associated with the Macedonian region of Emathia: Pape-Benseler tells me that Nonnus mentions a king of Samothrace of that name, and the scene here is Samothrace. So in the unlikely event anyone else runs into the false name, the explanation is here to enlighten them.

One of Aeneas’s companions also bears that name, and Gawin Douglas in his The Æneid of Virgil Translated into Scottish Verse has “Nane mar expert than this Emathio.”


  1. Bill Walderman says

    There’s an Emathion who shows up in Ovid’s Metamorphoses at the big battle at Perseus’ wedding to Andromeda, at 5.100 of Ovid’s Metamorphoses. The battle is an outrageously grotesque parody of Homeric battle scenes and Virgilian battle scenes after the Homeric model, with lots of gory and bizarre wounds and named individuals killing one another, one after the other, sometimes with brief pathetic details (in Ovid’s case, mock-pathetic details) about a particular victim. The names are all plausible Greek names made up or pulled out of the air by the poet. (The two big Homeric battle scenes in the Metamorphoses are fights that break out at weddings–the other one is the fight between the Lapiths and the Centaurs in Book XII, which is told at tedious length by long-winded Nestor.)
    Emathion in the Metamorphoses is an old guy–too old to fight, but he is just and pious. Someone named Chromis lops off his head as he clutches the altar, and the head continues mouthing imprecations. (I think there’s a head somewhere in the Iliad that keeps on talking after being severed.) The name “Emathion,” like the character in the Aeneid, is simply a Greek name conveniently attached to a very minor character by the poet precisely because the name has no well-known mythological referent.

  2. Bill Walderman says

    Interestingly, the Virgilian Emathion is also a name attached to a Trojan (the Virgilian Trojans generally have Greek names) who is killed in a Homeric battle scene at Aeneid 9.571. Unlike the Ovidian Emathion, this one doesn’t get an obituary–he’s just a name in a sequence of victims.

  3. Bill Walderman says

    I guess I wouldn’t be too hard on Tim Parks for reconstructing Italian Ematio as Haematius. It looks like Calasso may have made up the name Ematio out of whole cloth, and it could just as easily be reconstructed as Haematius. Actually Emathion would become Ematione or Emazione, not Ematio, in Italian, anyway. Ematio could be reconstructed as Emathius–which Ovid uses as an adjective meaning “Macedonian” (from Emathia), not as a personal name–as well as Haematius. I think Ematio is just a convenient name, like Emathion in Virgil and Ovid.

  4. I enjoyed Calasso’s “Ka” at the time, too; though I’m not certain I still would.

  5. I guess I wouldn’t be too hard on Tim Parks for reconstructing Italian Ematio as Haematius. It looks like Calasso may have made up the name Ematio out of whole cloth, and it could just as easily be reconstructed as Haematius.
    I don’t really understand this. The author is talking about a king of Samothrace, Nonnus talks about a king of Samothrace named Emathio, the author frequently uses Nonnus as a source… and you’re suggesting that in this case he happened to make up a name that happened to be close to the one that Nonnus uses for the same person? You’re hanging a noodle on my ears, as the Russians say. It may be “just a convenient name,” but it’s a particular name, and it’s the translator’s job to render that particular name as it should be rendered in English, not make something up.

  6. And just so we’re clear, there is no name “Haematius.” It’s not like Parks used a convenient name that one could pardonably assume was the source of Calasso’s Ematio; there is no such name in the entire history of Greek. If there were, Pape-Benseler would list it, and the closest thing listed there is Aimathe (a Syrian girl sacrificed under Seleucus).

  7. Bill Walderman says

    Well, maybe you’re right, but I don’t happen to have a copy of Nonnus handy. I could order the three Loeb volumes from Amazon, but then I’d have to order Quintus Smyrnaeus, too, and I already have too many books. But if Nonnus refers to Emathion and Calasso had intended to refer to the same individual, Calasso would have written “Ematione” or “Emazione” in Italian, not “Ematio,” wouldn’t he?

  8. Bill Walderman says

    Here’s another Emathion: Hesiod, Theogony 985. He’s listed as the son of Tithonus and Eos (Dawn), and referred to as “Emathiona anakta,” which might be the source of Calasso’s “Ematio sovrano.” Emathiona anakta, interestingly, is a formulaic expression that preserves the digamma (from wanakta), so there may have been some lore about him in archaic Greek poetry, although I wonder if the formula isn’t just a convenient way to fill out a hexameter.
    There’s a note on this in West’s edition of the Theogony, for what it’s worth. “the scholiast tries to connect this name with Emathie–Macedonia, and refers to Pherecydes (3 F 73) [a 6th c. BCE prose writer], according to whom Heracles killed Emathion in the course of his quest for the golden apples. We know, however, that Pherecydes located Heracles’ wanderings on this occasion entirely in the west and south (fr. 17 = scholia on Aristophanes Frogs 4.1396); so it looks as if Emathion may have been an occidental, his subjects taking the place of the western branch of Aithiopes. Diodorus Siculus 4.27.3 puts him in Ethiopia, Apollodorus 2.5.11 in Arabia . . .” (I’ve taken some liberties to make the citations clear.)

  9. Bill Walderman says

    “there is no such name in the entire history of Greek. If there were, Pape-Benseler would list it,”
    Please don’t take this feedback amiss–I don’t mean to sound strident or contentious, and I appreciate the effort you’ve put into nailing this point. But Pape-Benseler is nearly 100 old. Due to epigraphical and papyrological work, there are many more ancient Greek names to contend with today than there were a century ago. (I’m not prepared to go to the effort of tracking down more modern prosopographical reference works in a major library, though.)
    And even if Haematius (or Haimatios) is not attested, it’s not an implausible ancient Greek name and it seems like a good guess at a reconstruction of a Greek name from the Italian Ematio–a better reconstruction, in fact, than Emathion. If there’s blame to be cast here for a misidentification of an apparently throwaway character, some of it should be laid at Colasso’s doorstep.

  10. John Emerson says

    Pistols at dawn!
    I’ll bring the popcorn.

  11. and I already have too many books.

    LE GASP!
    IMPOSTER! You, sir, are no Hattian!

  12. J.W. Brewer says

    Since we’re talking about a translation into English, presumably we shouldn’t care so much about the Greek original as the standard English version of the name, if there is one (at least if, like me, you generally prefer that English translations of Homer refer to Achilles by his English name rather than as “Akhilleus”). Should I take it from the reference to the translation of the Aeneid into Scots that the same name as Latinized may not be Englished uniformly in other translations of the Aeneid? Is there a standard English rendering of the name as it appears in Nonus? (Is it even in a work by Nonus that exists in translation, or at least in a translation done within the last century?) If there is no standard English rendering of the Greek original Ematio was likely intended as an Italian rendering of, I have no strong view as to what the translator ought to have done, other than to suggest that this is evidence that the original referent is so obscure that confusion is comparatively unlikely.
    I suppose absent a standard English form it’s plausible that direct transliteration from the Greek would be the simplest default solution, if we had a single method for such transliteration, which of course we do not. But I wouldn’t want to say ex ante that a different approach might not be a legitimate exercise of the translator’s literary discretion. In particular, a newly-coined English version that looked as if it had been Latinized in its journey from Greek to us might have aesthetic appeal in the proper context. I expect that the process by which Greek proper names were Latinized was not entirely mechanical and predictable (i.e. not all of the Latinized forms we have can be accounted for by a single set of Greek->Latin rules), and I do not know enought about how much variability there was (although LH well may) to know if Haematius is outside the range of conceivable results. Indeed, if one were just reverse-engineering from Italian to Latin (without worrying about where Latin might have borrowed the proper name from), is Haematius a more plausible result?

  13. Bill Walderman says

    LH is correct that Calasso is building on Nonnus’ account of Cadmus on Samothrace, where Nonnus says Emathion was king at the time. There’s a translation executed around 1940 of Nonnus’ (or Nonnos’) Dionysiaca in the Loeb series. I guess Tim Parks could have tracked down the reference in Nonnus, but maybe he was misled by Calasso’s Italianization of the name as Ematio.

  14. Here’s another Emathion
    Oh, there are a bunch of Emathio(n)s; Pape-Benseler lists five, and as you point out, more may have turned up since 1911. However, while you are technically correct that that work does not exhaust the possibilities and that “there are many more ancient Greek names to contend with today,” I still say it’s a reasonable assumption that if a name is not attested in Pape-Benseler and gets no Google hits, it’s very unlikely to actually be a Greek name, however plausible-looking it is. And the issue of the existence or otherwise of a name “Haematius” is a sideshow; the fact is that there was an Emathio who was (said to have been) king of Samothrace, and that is unquestionably who Calasso was referring to (as I say, he cites Nonnus frequently in his notes), and to render the name “Haematius” is a mistake plain and simple, regardless of the possible existence of such a name. If Calasso had mentioned a king of Athens named Teseo and Parks had rendered it “Teseius,” I trust you would agree that that was a mistake. (As for the source of Calasso’s “Ematio sovrano,” I’m pretty sure that’s from Nonnus; why else would P-B list “K. in Samothrake, Nonn. 13, 395”?)
    Please don’t take this feedback amiss
    Are you kidding? I love feedback and I love quibbling! If you had evidence that persuaded me that due to some amazing concatenation of coincidences Parks was right and I was wrong, I’d be thrilled. But you don’t. (And as the good Sili says, “too many books” is a concept alien to me.)
    And thanks to J.W. Brewer’s question, I’ve just discovered that there is a standard English form, and it’s Emathion! I don’t quite understand why, since normally Greek names in -ων become English names in -o (cf. Plato), but there it is. However, Emathio is also used, if less frequently (this post is now the number one Google hit for it!), so I’m going to add it to the Wikipedia article as an alternative.

  15. I guess Tim Parks could have tracked down the reference in Nonnus, but maybe he was misled by Calasso’s Italianization of the name as Ematio.
    Yeah, and I’m not really blaming Parks; I doubtless couldn’t have done any better back in the dark days before the Internet (or rather before the wide availability of reference works thereupon). But that reminds me of another thing that puzzles me: shouldn’t the Italian form be Emazio?

  16. Bill Walderman says

    It should be Emazione. Emazio would be from a second declension name ending in -ius: Emathius.
    The form ending in -o is a Latinized form. The Greek form is Platon and the -n isn’t optional. But the Romans were inconsistent–sometimes they dropped the -n, especially for very common names, to conform to the Latin 3d declension: Plato, Apollo; but sometimes–more often than not, I think–they preferred the Greek form, and that has carried over into English: Endymion, Jason, Actaeon, Agamemnon, Solon, Hephaestion. Plato seems more like the exception than the rule. Some Greek names in -on (omega nu) are formed from roots ending in -ont- (omicron nu tau), such as Xenophon and all the other -phons, and I don’t think these can ever drop the -n in English. But the others are from roots ending in -on (omega nu).

  17. It should be Emazione. Emazio would be from a second declension name ending in -ius: Emathius.
    D’oh! Yes, of course; I just had “Emazio” in my head from back when I was still thinking in temrs of Parks’s “Haematius.” Thanks for the correction.
    they preferred the Greek form, and that has carried over into English: Endymion, Jason, Actaeon, Agamemnon, Solon, Hephaestion. Plato seems more like the exception than the rule.
    Thanks for that as well; I’ll try to recalibrate my brain on the subject—I must have gotten “Plato” stuck in there at an early age and never noticed the overwhelming evidence to the contrary.

  18. Bill Walderman says

    “the fact is that there was an Emathio who was (said to have been) king of Samothrace, and that is unquestionably who Calasso was referring to (as I say, he cites Nonnus frequently in his notes),”
    I think you’re right that Calasso was referring to the Emathion mentioned in Nonnus, but I doubt there ever was an Emathion king of Samothrace. I suspect that once again Nonnus simply pulled a metrically convenient name out of thin air as needed for his fiction–I doubt that before Nonnus (around 400 CE) there was any body of mythological lore surrounding an Emathion king of Samothrace (and I doubt even more strongly that such a person ever existed in fact). There were, as you note, a number of minor mythological or fictional characters in various works named Emathion–mostly, I suspect, inventions to fill out a line of hexameter–but is there any evidence for a legendary king of Samothrace by that name before Nonnus? I doubt it.

  19. Oh, I doubt it at least as much as you do, and I wouldn’t blame Calasso for putting anyone he wanted on the throne of Samothrace. But it seems to me that once he’s chosen his royal name, it’s the translator’s duty to respect it.

  20. Bill Walderman says

    I’m curious whether Nonnus writing in the 5th century CE uses the Hesiodic formula “Emathiona anakta,” which reflects a trace of the digamma in allowing the hiatus between -a of Emathiona and a-of anakta. It would be part of the epic dialect derived from Homer and the other archaic poets that epics were conventionally written in, even in late antiquity. Nonnus might have known that in Homeric language hiatus was permissible and even appropriate before some words such as anax, even though he probably wouldn’t be aware that it was due to the after-life of the digamma. But I can’t find a Greek text of Nonnus on-line.

  21. David Marjanović says

    even though he probably wouldn’t be aware that it was due to the after-life of the digamma.

    Though that can’t be excluded – that it had died out in Attic and Ionic doesn’t mean it was extinct everywhere throughout Greek; as we found out a few threads ago, Tsakonian preserves the digamma as /v/ to this day.

  22. Some more close misses:
    ~Harmodios and Aristogeiton-Athenian tyrannicides
    ~Hermolâos-royal page to Alexander the Great who plotted to kill him
    but what about this one:
    ~Haemus, a mountain in Great Balkan. This is all Greek to me but the wiki says

    In Greek, the Balkan Peninsula is thus known as the Peninsula of Haemus (Χερσόνησος του Αίμου).

    In classical Latin poetry Haemus was drawn into association with the Roman civil wars; although geographically incorrect, it was attractive most likely because it was a homonym with the Greek word for blood (haema) and bloody (haimon)

    Oh, and I was interested to find out Samothrace was where Alexander the Great’s parents Olympia and Philip, King of Macedonia, met at a weekend celebration of the mysteries of Kabeiroi. Visions of sacrifices and snakebite-induced hallucinations come to mind.

  23. I sent you to Pape-Benseler, I now send you to the Pape-Benseler killer :
    Nothing starting with ΗΜΑ- reported at all at http://www.lgpn.ox.ac.uk/database/lgpn.php , which tells you the online LGPN has not knocked P-B off its perch yet.
    54 instances of the Ἠμαθίων lemma in the TLG. Nine mentions in Nonnus, none with tell-tale hiatus (no accusatives or datives). Not that it would prove a thing if it did: Nonnus was writing in museum-piece book Homeric, which had absolutely nothing to do with the spoken language of his time. (And Bill, I know you know.)

  24. > In Greek, the Balkan Peninsula is thus known as the Peninsula of Haemus (Χερσόνησος του Αίμου).
    Weeeell, you’ll hear it, but rarely—when someone learnèd wants to make a point of avoiding the Turkish word:
    http://www.google.com/search?client=safari&rls=en-au&q=χερσόνησος+αίμου&ie=UTF-8&oe=UTF-8 : 13,800 hits
    http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&client=safari&rls=en-au&q=βαλκάνια&aq=f&oq=&aqi= : 896,000 hits
    The most prominent instance of the term is the Ινστιτούτο Μελετών Χερσονήσου του Αίμου in Thessalonica, which in English goes as just “Institute for Balkan Studies”.

  25. Bill Walderman says

    Thanks, Nick. I can’t access either of those databases currently but I’m considering subscribing to TLG. I was wondering whether Nonnus observed hiatus where Homer would have due to the ghost of the digamma. But I’m too cheap to actually buy a text of Nonnus, whom I doubt I’ll ever get around to reading–I have enough of those books already.
    I don’t think Nonnus or maybe even “Homer” would have been aware of the reason for hiatus: it was just viewed as a permissible metrical irregularity in Homeric hexameter verse until Bentley explained it around 1700. But the existence of the digamma in some dialects was well known in antiquity, and as David pointed out /w/ must have persisted in some dialects into Nonnus’ time, and at least one literary text I’m aware of–the Louvre papyrus of Alcman’s Partheneion, which is dated to the first century CE–seems to have the digamma in one or two words. One of those words happens to be “wanakta” (Column i, line 6).
    Sorry to go off on a tangent. Now let’s get back to assigning blame for Tim Parks’ mistranslation of Ematio.

  26. Nick, I was hoping you’d drop by! Thanks much for the added information.
    Sorry to go off on a tangent.
    Nonsense! If we didn’t have tangents, how could we have sines and cosines? And frankly, the tangent is more interesting than the minor dereliction of the good Mr. Parks.

  27. David Marjanović says

    the Louvre papyrus of Alcman’s Partheneion

    Is it on exhibit? I’m in Paris, I could go see it on the weekend…

  28. Bill Walderman says

    “Is it on exhibit?” Probably not. Papyri are very fragile and aren’t generally made accessible to the public at large, especially since most members of the public don’t have the slightest interest in Alcman . If you want to ask to see it, the catalogue number is E3320 (xiv. 60, no. 3320, nouv. no. 71) in the De/partment des Antiquite/s e/gyptiennes. (I get this information from Denys Page, Alcman: The Partheneion (Oxford 1951, reprinted, Salem, Mass. 1985).) They probably won’t let you see it, though, even if you ask nicely. But there’s plenty more to see in the Louvre.

  29. marie-lucie says

    LH, your encouragement of tangents is one of the joys of this blog. It is what distinguishes your salon from some other forums which are more reminisceht of a classroom or lecture hall.

  30. your encouragement of tangents is one of the joys of this blog
    Except for the semiotically inclined, who would prefer more posts about sines.

  31. David Marjanović says

    But there’s plenty more to see in the Louvre.

    You don’t say! 🙂

  32. I zipped through the Louvre in the 15 minutes before closing (got in cheap). I never mention it in public, though, because it makes me look like a philistine.

  33. D’oh!

  34. Bill Walderman says

    By the way, if anyone is interested in an up-to-date text of the Dionysiaca of Nonnus (and who wouldn’t be?), the new Bude/ is now complete in 19 volumes. It comes with a French translation (but you don’t need that, do you?).
    The Loeb is only 3 volumes, but it doesn’t have an apparatus criticus, so why bother? There’s also a two-volume edition from Olms-Weidmann originally published in 1959 for only $224 euros, but I’m sure you’d be happier with the new Bude/ text. With all this talk of Nonnus (mostly by me) I broke down and sprang for a 100-year-old used Teubner, but I’m cheap.

  35. David Marjanović says

    I zipped through the Louvre in the 15 minutes before closing

    Probably you only zipped through, like, a quarter of the building. It’s one of those that are bigger on the inside than on the outside.

  36. D’oh!
    Not like you to be caught in an act of praeteritio, LH. Myself, I persuaded implacably officious functionaries that an Antipodean visitor ought to be allowed into a wing of the Prado that had just closed. Took all the specious rhetorical devices I could muster, ex tempore. But it was worth the six minutes.

  37. I once had an extra 15 minutes between trains in Paris, popped my backback in a storage locker and went straight to the Louvre to gaze on that winged Nike they have on that stairway. Some guy was playing with the lighting system and showing a group how to spot light it then backlight it and so forth, turning it up gradually with a rheostat.
    Then I retrieved my pack and got on the night train for Denmark.
    That Nike statue is the best thing they’ve got there.

  38. marie-lucie says

    Nijma: The museum is huge. In 15 minutes, you would not have had the time to see much more, especially if you stood there watching the light show on the Nike.

  39. That’s all I wanted to see.

  40. I knew exactly where it was from a previous visit, of course. If you had 15 minutes to spend in Paris, where would you go? Coffeeshop?

  41. I once had fifteen minutes between flights at Rome and I did the whole city plus Florence and Venice. My favourite sight was the Parthenon.

  42. And the goat you rode in on.
    Nike of Samothrace

  43. My favourite sight was the Parthenon.
    When I visited the Parthenon, it wasn’t there. Someone had taken it apart and laid the pieces on the ground. I wonder if they ever got it put back together.

  44. John Emerson says

    I once had eight hours between buses in Salt Lake.I wandered around the whole time and ended up in the sleaziest, most depressing bar I’ve ever seen anywhere. An older woman was using hand signals to order beer because emphysema had silenced her, but either she’d been cut off or the bartender just didn’t like her. In one corner were what seemed to be young male prostitutes, and in the other corner were what seemed to be old, decrepit gay men. Not what I would have expected there. Probably it was the concentrated vice of the whole city.

  45. I once had eight hours, or close to it, between buses in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. It wasn’t supposed to be nearly that long, but me and a guy I’d made friends with on the bus ride had decided to hang out in a bar, and we lost track of time. We rushed back to see our bus disappearing into the distance, learned the next bus for New York wasn’t until 2 AM or some such hour, and went back to the bar to drink more scotch. We managed to catch the next bus, sozzled though we were, and staggered off the bus at the Port Authority to try to make our way to our further destinations.
    The point to all this? It turned out that was the night of Three Mile Island. I figure the alcohol warded off the radioactivity.

  46. I was up at 115th Street that day, you could have stayed at my place.

  47. All the various poets and philosophers named Βίων are Bion in English: they would look very naked as Bio.

    Which reminds me that the inestimable Mark Shoulson told me he was playing a trivia game once and was asked “What does biology mean in Latin?” He replied, “Um, it’s Greek” but then gave the desired answer. I looked in Lewis & Short: not there, even as a borrowing.

  48. January First-of-May says

    During my, IIRC, fourth visit to Petrozavodsk – that would’ve probably been August 2004 – the train stopped there for something like 32 minutes. We (I and my mother) ran out of the train, ran a few blocks to a book shop (with appropriate stops at traffic lights, naturally), bought one book that we really wanted, ran back, and returned to the train with less than five minutes left. No, I don’t recall why we did that.
    It was rather surreal even at the time, and it’s only feeling more surreal when I write about it today.

    To add to the name near-misses: Hermaios, late Indo-Greek ruler. (Would the Italian for that be Ermaio?)

  49. Great story, and I can imagine myself doing the same thing!

    Would the Italian for that be Ermaio?

    Alas, the Wikipedia article has no Italian version, but my guess would be Ermeo.

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