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δέλτον: the tablet mentioned in 47, recording the oracle given to Heracles at Dodona.

ἐγγεγραμμένην ξυνθήμαθ̓, ‘inscribed with tokens,’ i.e., the writing in which Heracles had taken down the oracle (1167). The acc. with the pass. partic. denotes the object of the act. verb (“ἐγγράφω ξυνθήματα δέλτῳ”): cp. Her.7. 69λεοντέας ἐναμμένοι”: Xen. An.5. 4. 32ἐστιγμένους ἀνθέμια”: Verg. Ecl. 3. 106inscripti nomina.” The word ξυνθήματα recalls the Homeric “σήματα λυγρά” ( Il.6. 168),—now generally held to denote some kind of alphabetic or syllabic writing (Introd. to Homer, p. 112, n. 1). In later Greek “συνθήματα” meant a preconcerted cipher: Polyb. 8. 17. 9συνθ. λαβὼν καὶ πίστεις” (‘a letter in cipher, and credentials’): cp. id. 8. 18. 9συνθηματικὰ γράμματα”. There is possibly a touch of designed archaism in the poet's phrase; he may have felt that it suited the heroic age to speak of writing as a mystery. This is more likely than that he thought of Heracles as using secret symbols.

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hide References (6 total)
  • Commentary references from this page (6):
    • Herodotus, Histories, 7.69
    • Homer, Iliad, 6.168
    • Xenophon, Anabasis, 5.4.32
    • Polybius, Histories, 8.17
    • Polybius, Histories, 8.18
    • Vergil, Eclogues, 3
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