Page images

only word we can deal with, when looking for an etymology of the Greek word Athana. It is true that even this â ptyânâ does not exist in Sanskrit, but we find there âp-tya, i. e. aquaticus, an epithet of Trita, of Indra, and, later on, of a whole class of legendary beings. From this âp-tya, however, no road leads to Athana, and even Benfey himself is obliged to confess at almost every step, that the phonetic changes which he postulates are without any analogy whatsoever.

He first maintains that Athene is connected with Atthis. But though Atthis, or Attica, is under the patronage of Athene, the two names are quite distinct. This becomes still clearer, when he traces Atthis back to Attike, for how can tt ever stand for th? I admit that there is no proof of Attike being derived from åktń, shore, which would have rendered a transition to Atthis and Athene quite hopeless. But even after rejecting the derivation from åktń, how shall we get from â ptya to Attike? Benfey says the pt in â ptya may become tt, as in πέπτειν = πέττειν. But in πέπτειν (pas) the original final consonant of the root is a guttural, not a labial. Benfey himself feels this, and he therefore appeals to the base at for ap, which appears in Sanskrit ad-bhis instead of abbhis; and postulating a further case apt, he changes ap-tya into apt-tya. He then argues that in pty, p and t are assimilated to tt, that the last t is aspirated through the influence of y, so that to is=pty. But here again his conscience smites him, for he admits that ty in Sanskrit never becomes 0 in Greek. If so, it follows that pty cannot become to. Again, when he postulates the loss of t, in order to arrive from Atthis at Athene, he honestly confesses that no analogy can be found for this, and yet he adds: the connection of Atthis and Athene is so completely beyond the reach of doubt that it is not injured in the least by this defect.

Lastly, when he perceives that the first vowel in Athene is short, while it is long in âptya, he tries to explain this by the accent, which is again impossible ; or he simply postulates a form ăpty a, by the side of â ptya, which, however, has no existence.

I doubt whether after this, a single Sanskrit scholar would put his name to the equation âptyânâ = Athana, and there is no necessity therefore to examine the further speculations, which are based on it. If Athana, according to Benfey, is the lightning, and not the dawn, or if she is, according to others, both the lightning and the dawn, this would have to be established by other evidence; it cannot be established by her name. The equation Ahanâ = Athene, on the contrary, is phonetically irreproachable, and mythologically perfectly intelligible?. I do not wish to deny the principle to which Benfey appeals so frequently in his essay on Athana, namely that dialectic irregularities must by necessity abound in mythological names. There are limits, no doubt, to our respect for phonetic laws, but this applies chiefly to cases where the full bearing of a law has not yet been settled, not where we know the law and knowingly break it. If, for instance, we are told that there is no phonetic law

1 M. Darmesteter (Ormazd, p. 34), an excellent Zend scholar, evidently not convinced by Benfey's Zend etymology of Athana, suggests that the name of Athene may be connected with the Zend atar, fire, lightning, the Vedic *athar; but he has not shown how atar could be represented in Greek by αθήνη.

sanctioning the change of nis or nakta into vút, νυκτός, οf επτά and οκτώ into έβδομος and όγδοος, allI can say is, that though an adequate cause of the change of a into i and v, of u into B, and of k into y, is not yet known, it will be known in time. I am old and bold enough to declare that, in spite of all that has been written on the subject, I still believe in the relationship of Deós and deus, because, though I cannot fully account for it phonetically, it seems to me far more unaccountable that the Aryan word for God should have been lost in Greek, and been replaced afterwards by another, nearly identical in form and meaning, but totally distinct in origin 1. And even if we yielded on the point of Deós, and admitted that it could not be connected with Sanskrit deva, bright, and Latin deus, god, how could we separate the brilliant and heavenly goddess Theia from the root div or dyu, to shine, she who is the wife of Hyperion, the mother of Helios (Thiae clara progenies, Cat. 66, 44), of Selene, and Eos, and the daughter of Uranos and Ge? What can be the meaning of Oeios, Oéelos, Lakon. gelos, when applied to men like Odysseus, if not coelkelos, god-like, or decelòńs, of godly kind, or Ocoyevs, born of god ? If then the same Odysseus is called Aloyevńs, sprung from Zeus, or dĩos, divine, excellent, if we find in Homer Ociov yévos and dîov yévos, side by side, are we to suppose that Alo and Deo have no connection whatever with each other 2 ? By all means let us put a mark against all these names, for they still require justification ; but let us not suppose that to be dogmatic negatively is less objectionable than to be dogmatic positively.

See Selected Essays, vol. i. p. 215 ; Pott, in Kuhn's Zeitschrift, xxvi. p. 200 (1883).

2 On the word oeós, as derived from Oéelv, to run, see Cratyl. 397 D ; from Oeâodai, to see, Macrob. Sat. i. 23; from aileiv, Gregor. Nazianz. or, 30, c. 18 ; Migne, P. Gr. t. 36, vol. 128 ; 2. D. M. G. xxxvii. pp. 126, 451 ; xxxviii. p. 486.

If it could be proved that Greek and Sanskrit had no mythological names in common, there would, of course, be an end of Comparative Mythology in the narrow sense of the word. We might still be able to compare, but we could no longer think of identifying gods and heroes, having no common name, and therefore no common origin. We can, if we like, compare Jupiter, Jehovah, and Unkulunkulu, but we cannot identify them. We should find many things which these three supreme deities share in common, only not their names, that is, not their original conception. We should have in fact morphological comparisons, which are very interesting in their way, but not what we want for historical purposes, namely genealogical identifications.



Identification and Comparison. TT is curious that it should be necessary to repeat I again and again what seems almost self-evident, namely that it is one thing to compare, but quite a different thing to identify. No two deities can be identified, unless we can trace them back to the same name, and unless we can prove that name to have been the work of one and the same original name-giver. This is a point that must be clearly apprehended, if further discussions on mythology are to lead to any useful results.

But when the preparatory work of the etymologist has been finished, when we can show, for instance, that the Sanskrit name for dawn, Ushas, is the same as the Greek Eos; that the Sanskrit name for night, Nis, is but a dialectic variety of the same base which we have in Núš and Nox (noc-tis); that Dyaus is Zeus, and Agni, fire, is ignis, what then? We then have, first of all, irrefragable evidence that these names existed before the Aryan Separation ; secondly, we know that, whatever character may have been assigned to the bearers of these mythological names in later times, their original conception must have been that which their etymology discloses; thirdly, that

« PreviousContinue »