Hesiod’s Worst Hexameter.

This is very niche and very silly, but I can’t resist it (and hey, it taught me about Hermann’s Bridge and Meyer’s First Law); via Laudator Temporis Acti:

   But she bore Chimaera, who breathed invincible fire…

   ἣ δὲ Χίμαιραν ἔτικτε πνέουσαν ἀμαιμάκετον πῦρ…

West in his commentary ad loc.:

This peculiarly ungainly verse is the result of determination to combine the Chimaera’s epithets πῦρ πνείουσα (fr. 43 (a) 87, cf. Il. 6.182, Pi. O. 13.90) and ἀμαιμάκετος (Il. 6.179, 16.329), which has become transferred to πῦρ in the process. Wilamowitz is justified in calling it Hesiod’s worst hexameter (Gr. Verskunst, p. 8, n. 1: it violates Hermann’s Bridge, and it is the only line in early epic to combine such a violation with a final monosyllable; it also violates Meyer’s First Law (p. 95); and it has an un-Homeric correption before a mute and nasal combination (p. 98).

West, Introduction to Greek Metre (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1987), p. 21:

A ‘bridge’ is the converse of a caesura: a place where word-end is avoided. Gottfried Hermann observed in 1805 that it is avoided between the two shorts of the fourth biceps.

West in Ian Morris and Barry Powell, edd., A New Companion to Homer (Leiden: Brill, 1997), p. 225:

Meyer’s First Law states that words which begin in the first foot do not end between the shorts of the second foot, or at the end of that foot.


  1. it taught me about …

    And learnt me correption — which I was on the point of suggesting is a corruption of corruption. Of course anything un-Homeric would give you a seizure, now I come to think of it.

  2. I’ve always liked the word correption — which, yes, does have the pleasingly naughty look of being a corruption of corruption.

  3. ἣ δὲ Χίμαιραν ἔτικτε πνέουσαν ἀμαιμάκετον πῦρ

    Jon Solomon, ‘In Defense of Hesiod’s “Schlechtestem Hexameter”’, Hermes, 113. Bd., H. 1, pp. 21-30, available here, argues that this metrical monstrosity is a deliberate attempt at iconic representation of the Chimaera. Solomon’s argument is summed up by Athanassios Vergados in ‘Hesiod’s Monsters and the Limits of Etymological Signification’, Incontri di filologia classica XIX (2019-2020), as follows (p. 73):

    The true nature of the Chimaera is reflected actually in the structure of line 319, dubbed by Wilamowitz as Hesiod’s worst hexameter: with its metrical defects it represents the tripartite nature of the Chimaera that combines elements of three different animals and breaths forth fire.

    (For LH readers who are without institutional access but would like to read Solomon’s article—anyone can register without charge for a personal JSTOR account allowing free online access to 100 articles per month.)

  4. Correption made its irreption by subreption, as a species of obreption that tempts us to a correction but then snatches the opportunity away in a kind of direption (or better, a kind of ereption).

  5. Hesiod is hot! Earlier this week, Kiwi Hellenist posted about parallels in Hesiod to the statue of many metals in ch. 2 of Daniel. In both the different metals represent nations.

  6. Lars Mathiesen (he/him/his) says

    TIL that rapid is from the rape root.

  7. argues that this metrical monstrosity is a deliberate attempt at iconic representation of the Chimaera.

    And that reminds me of the famous line from Trediakovsky’s «Телемахида» (1766), “Чудище обло, озорно, огромно, стозевно и лаяй,” which is an imitation of Vergil’s “Monstrum horrendum, informe, ingens, cui lumen ademptum” (about Polyphemus).

  8. It reminds me of Virgil’s “procumbit humi bos,” which neatly captures the impression of a sacrificed ox flopping onto the ground.

  9. David Eddyshaw says

    Horace famously exploits the more bathetic possibilities of a final monosyllable with his

    parturient montes, nascetur ridiculus mus.

    The rhyme lus/mus in the final foot makes it even ridiculouser, of course.

  10. Ridiculūs mūs abūt domūs

  11. Lars Mathiesen (he/him/his) says

    abūt: My Latinity fails me. It looks like it should be a 3s active verb form, but that ū… (My first guess was abutor, but that’s not it because deponent?)

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