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 Michael Psellos on locusts, humans and elephants
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8 Posts

Posted - 22 Apr 2013 :  00:16:52  

I am trying to translate the following from Michael Psellos 11th century Greek text, but seemed to have hit a number of roadblocks:

ὥσπερ δὴ καὶ τοῦ ἡλίου ἑστωτος ἐν μεσηβρίᾳ πάρνοπες καὶ νυκτάλωπες ἀμυδρον τι τοῦ φέγγους εἰσδέχονται, ἄνθρωποι δὲ καὶ ἐλέφαντες κατὰ τὴν προσοῦσαν ἑκάστῳ διάθεσιν μᾶλλον ἤ ἧττον ἐνοπτρίζονται.

Here is my translation so far...
"And as it were while the sun has stood in the midday, locusts and nuktalôpes take in something faint of the moon, men and elephants more or less gaze upon in relation to the common disposition in each one."

It doesn't feel right and it doesn't appear my dictionaries are treating some of the words correctly. One of them, νυκτάλωπες, I haven't found a decent English equivalent, so I have left untranslated. Perhaps I have missed the obvious grammatical points too.

Does anyone have any insights on this sentence? Your suggestions would greatly be appreciated.



615 Posts

Posted - 22 Apr 2013 :  03:48:11  


Νυκτάλοπες are people suffering from inability to view daylight well. The disease is called νυκταλοπία.

Φέγγος is not "φεγγάρι" (moon), it is the "light".

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8 Posts

Posted - 24 Apr 2013 :  00:40:34  


Thank you. φέγγους -- my mistake, I put "moon" in my translation but meant "moonlight". However, "light" seems to fit in nicer here. Νυκτάλωπες in this context does not seem to be based on the definition of people suffering from a disease that does not allow them to see daylight well. Stephanus Greek Dictionary has two definitions for this word. One is for not being able to see in the dark, and the other is for the ability to see in the dark, and some especially with the moon. The French picked up on this nuance and have a word derived from it, nyctalope -- an animal with night vision.
So I think now the translation should be in this part:

And as it were while the sun has stood in the midday, locusts and the things that see in the night take in something faint of the light...

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