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It has long been the general belief that the words νέσου (or νέσσου) θ᾽ ὕπο, found in the MSS., have arisen from a gloss,—the name of Nessus having been introduced to explain μελαγχαίτα. But otherwise there has been little agreement. The views of various critics are given in the Appendix.

Here I may briefly state my own conclusions. (1) μελαγχαίτα, ‘the blackhaired one,’ could probably stand without a substantive, or proper name,—esp. as “Κενταύρου” has occurred not far back; though it would be somewhat harsh.

(2) Comparing v. 830 with v. 840, we see that the words “ἔχοι θανὼν λατρείαν” in 830 correspond metrically with “-α^ κέντρ᾽ ἐπιζέσαντα”. The words “ἔτι ποτ᾽ ἔτ᾽ ἐπίπονον” in 830 ought therefore to correspond with what stands between “αἰκίζει” in 839 and the “α^” before “κέντῤ” in 840: viz., acc. to the MSS., “νέσου” (or “νέσσου”) “θ᾽ ὕπο φοίνια δολόμυθ-”.

(3) Now, if νέσου θ᾽ ὕπο were ejected, this correspondence would be obtained by reading ὑπόφονα (instead of “φοίνια”) δολόμυθα. The form “ὑπόφονος”, though not extant, is correct (cp. “ἀπόφονος” in Eur. Or.163Eur. Or., 192). The “κέντρα” would be “ὑπόφονα” as being ‘secretly fraught with death.’ The hiatus in “αἰκίζει” | “ὑπόφονα” is not unexampled, though it has not the usual excuse of a slight pause: cp. 833 f., 846 f.; Ph.832 n. Such a hiatus has been assumed here by Hermann and others. It might be avoided, however, by reading φόνια δολιόμυθα. The forms “δολόμυθος” and “δολιόμυθος” are equally correct: cp. “δολόμητις” and “δολιόμητις, δολόφρων” and “δολιόφρων”. In this case, the origin of ὕπο would remain obscure.

(4) But a closer adherence to the MS. text becomes possible, if, with Gleditsch, we read Νέσσου ὑποφόνια δολιόμυθα κέντρ᾽ ἐπιζέσαντα, and in 830 ἔτι ποτ᾽ ἔτ᾽ ἐπίπονον <πόνων> ἔχοι θανὼν λατρείαν. The form “ὑποφόνιος” occurs in the neut. pl. “ὑποφόνια”, as a subst., meaning the “ποινή” paid to the kinsfolk of a slain man (Harpocr.). The great recommendation of this reading is that it fully accounts for the traditional text here,— the insertion in the MSS. of “θ̓” before “ὕπο” being a trivial error of a common type; while in 830 “πόνων” might easily have dropped out after “ἐπίπονον”.

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hide References (4 total)
  • Commentary references from this page (4):
    • Euripides, Orestes, 163
    • Euripides, Orestes, 192
    • Sophocles, Philoctetes, 832
    • Sophocles, Trachiniae, 833
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