previous next


AENIGMA (αἴνιγμα), a riddle. It appears to have been a very ancient custom among the Greeks, especially at their symposia, to amuse themselves by proposing riddles to be solved. Their partiality for this sort of amusement is attested by the fact that some persons, such as Theodectes of Phaselis and Aristonymus, acquired considerable reputation as inventors and writers of riddles. (Athen. x. pp. 451, 452; xii. p. 538.) Those who were successful in solving the riddle proposed to them received a prize, which had been previously agreed upon by the company, and usually consisted of wreaths, taeniae, cakes, and other sweetmeats, or kisses, whereas a person unable to solve a riddle was condemned to drink in one breath a certain quantity of wine, sometimes mixed with salt water. (Athen. 10.457; Pollux, 6.107; Hesych. sub voce γρῖφος.) Those riddles which have come down to us are mostly in hexameter verse, and the tragic as well as comic writers not unfrequently introduced them into their plays. Pollux (l.c.) distinguishes. two kinds of riddles, the αἴνιγμα and γρῖφος, and, according to him, the former was of a jocose and the latter of a serious nature; but in the writers whose works have come down to us, no such distinction is observed; and there are passages where the name γρῖφος is given to the most ludicrous jokes of this kind. (Aristoph. Wasps 20; Becker-Göll, Charikles, ii. p. 363; K. F. Hermann, Gottesdienstl. Alt. § 62, 29.) The Romans seem to have been too serious to find any great amusement in riddles; and when Gellius (18.2) introduces some Romans at a banquet engaged in solving riddles, we must remember that the scene is laid at Athens ; and we do not hear of any Romans who invented or wrote riddles until a very late period. Apuleius wrote a work entitled Liber Ludicrorum et Griphorum, which is lost. After the time of Apuleius, several collections of riddles were made, some of which are still extant in MS. in various libraries.


hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: