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νεακόνητον αἷμα χειροῖν ἔχων. The words, if sound, mean, ‘bearing keen-edged death in his hands.’ “αἷμα” is the deed of blood by which vengeance is to be taken. “νεακόνητον” refers primarily to the keen edge of the weapon (sword or dagger) with which the blow is to be dealt; but may suggest also the keen edge of the avengers' resolve ( Aesch. Th. 715τεθηγμένον τοί μ᾽ οὐκ <*>παμβλυνεῖς λόγῳ”).

The bold use of αἷμα may be illustrated by Aesch. Ch. 932πολλῶν αἱμάτων”, ‘many deeds of blood’; Eur. Or. 284εἴργασται δ᾽ ἐμοὶ” | “μητρῷον αἷμα”, ‘the murder of a mother.’ Eur. Itshould be remembered that Orestes does not enter the house with a weapon displayed in his hands. The sword or dagger is concealed. We may be sure, then, that, whether “αἷμα” is genuine or not, at least Sophocles did not use any word (such as “μάχαιραν”) denoting a weapon; since then the words χειροῖν ἔχων would necessarily have had their literal sense, ‘holding in the hands’; they could no longer have meant, as the context requires them to mean, simply, ‘charged with,’ ‘bearing with him.’ This fact—that some abstract word is required—is, to my mind, the strongest argument in favour of αἷμα.

If νεάκονητον is right, the α must be short. The verse corresponds with 1387 “με^τ <01> α^δρο^μο_ι_ κα^κ” | “ω_ν πα^ν” | “ου_ργη_μα^τ” | “ω_ν Λ” ||, a dochmiac dimeter. Now, analogy would suggest that “νεακόνητον” is Doric for “νεηκόνητον”. Cp. “νεηκονής” ( Ai. 820): “νεηκής” (Hom. ): “νεηλιφής” (“νέος, ἀλείφω”, Arist. ). Even when the second part of the compound begins with a consonant, we find such forms as “νεα_γενής” ([Eur. ] I. A. 1623), “νεηθαλής, νεήτομος, νεήφατος”. Yet at least two exceptions occur. (1) “νεα^λής” in Nicander Alexiph. 358 and 364; although the “α” is normally long. (2) Anthol. Pal. 7. 13 “παρθενικὴν νεάοιδον”: in an epigram ascribed to Leonidas of Tarentum, c. 280 B.C. It seems possible, then, that Sophocles should have written “νεα^κόνητον”.

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hide References (4 total)
  • Commentary references from this page (4):
    • Aeschylus, Libation Bearers, 932
    • Aeschylus, Seven Against Thebes, 715
    • Euripides, Orestes, 284
    • Sophocles, Ajax, 820
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