Philogelos 63 and the Meaning of ἐώρα

In an unassuming story 63 from the Philogelos collection, a one-eyed governor goes εἰς ἐώραν, praising to his companion “the grapevines on the left side (of the road)”. A set of attested meanings of ἐώρα / αἰώρα (literally, ‘a hanging’, ‘swinging’) does not suit the context. The story is extant only in a longer variant of the collection; its first editor, J. F. Boissonade (1848), supposed that ἐώρα in this context means ‘grapes suspended from trees’. The successive commentators and translators, having accepted his idea, understand it as ‘a vineyard’; meanwhile, the Greek lexicons, from LSJ to F.Montanari, have ignored both Boissonade’s interpretation and the passage itself. The article stresses that Boissonade profited from an unmentioned gloss of G.Wakefield, surviving in the London (1821) and Parisian (1831) revisions of Thesaurus Graecae Linguae of Henri Estienne, as well as from the glossed passage Suda αι 261 Adler itself (a schoolroom interpolation in the text of Babr. 19). While in Ps.-Babrius the word is used in its common meaning (‘something hanging’), in the context of Philog. 63 one expects rather a statement of the purpose of the governor’s outing: the words “when he went out into the vineyard”, lacking any explanation whatever, make an ex abrupto beginning. Dismissing the interpretation of Boissonade, the author draws attention to the fact that in writers of the 5–6th c. ἐωρίζομαι (Malal. Chron. II, 8; V, 3 Thurn; cf. Hesych. ε 7751 Latte) and ἐώρησις (Ioseph. Hypomn. 46) are attested in the meanings ‘to take a walk’ and ‘a walk’ resp.; the same meaning should be supposed for ἐώρα in Philog. 63. In all probability, the semantic shift from ‘swinging’ to ‘walking’ was prompted by the usage in the Empire of αἰ-/ἐώρα, αἰ-/ἐώρησις as equivalents to the Latin gestatio — a therapeutic practice of a mild agitation of the patient’s body (be it in a carriage, a litter, on board a ship, or in a hammock). Medical prescriptions of doctors and literary works of their clients alike mention gestatio alongside walking, which may have contributed to a broadening of respective units.

 Zeltchenko_Philogelos 63 and the Meaning of ἐώρα