The benevolent ones (was: war and death are in my hand)
|From:||Raymond Brown <ray.brown@...>|
|Date:||Saturday, June 16, 2001, 8:34|
At 2:53 pm -0400 15/6/01, Douglas Koller, Latin & French wrote:
>Ray lé gefröl:
>>No need for any knitted eyebrows, David. Your quote has got us some
>>interesting translations and Douglas' observation that _dirarum_ might be
>>_Dirarum_ was one that hadn't occurred to me and is, at least to me, very
>>interesting and wouldn't have happened if you hadn't started the whole
>Were "Dirae" and "Furiae" used concurrently, or did the latter
>supercede the former, or...?
Concurrently - both are used by Vergil (died 19 AD). (Dirae - Aeneid: 12,
845 sqq; 4, 473. Furiae - Aeneid: 3, 331)
_Dirae_ (the fearsome ones, the terrible ones) is found also in the
writings of Valerius Flaccus (fl. 70 AD), Aurelius Victor (fl. 360 AD); of
course the ordinary adjective _dirus_ ('dire') was used at all periods.
_Furiae_ is found in the writings of Cicero (died 43 BC) & Horace (died 8
BC). _furiae_ was also used generally to mean "avenging spirits" with no
special reference to the three Furies; we find this usage in Cicero and
Livy; also the singular, Furia, could be applied to an individual, e.g.
Cicero calls Clodius "illa Furia ac pestis patriae", and Livy says of
Hannibal "hunc iuuenem tamquam Furiam facemque huius belli odi ac detestor"
(I hate and destest this young man as a Fury and the firebrand of this
war). And, of course, _furia_ was originally, and continued to be, a
common noun meaning 'violent, passionate rage', 'madness', and hence the
This might suggest that the use of _Furiae_ is slightly older than that of
_Dirae_ and the latter continued to be used later. But I think the number
of instances are not enough to provide sound evidence.
Cicero, Vergil & Horace also call them by their Greek common name
_Eumenides_ (the benevolent ones - a euphemism); and their older Greek
name, _Erinyes_, is used by Ovid (died 17 BC) and Statius (died 96 AD)
Interestingly, these words are rarely found in the singular, except the
last. The singular _Erinys_ is used also by Ovid, and the word is found
only in the singular in Vergil who, as well as applying it to any
individual Fury (Aeneid 2, 337; 7, 447 & 570) also uses it of Helen, whom
he calls: Troiae patriae communis Erinys - the common Fury of the Trojan
The latter use is not uncommon in Greek (and Vergil knew his Greek very
well) where it may be applied to any individual who was seen to be the
instrument of (righteous) vengeance; we even find it used as an epithet of
the goddess Demeter (Ceres).
It was also used in Greek as a common noun meaning, "guilt" or "punishment
invoked upon the guilty". That, of course, is what the Furies were:
personifications of pangs of conscience, particularly in cases of parricide
(murder of a near relative) and perjury. Helen was the instrument of
Juno's vengeance against the Trojans, just as Alecto was in the passage
from book 7 of the Aeneid, which began this thread.
A mind which thinks at its own expense
will always interfere with language.
[J.G. Hamann 1760]