R. HUNTER & R. LAEMMLE: Pulling Apollo Apart

Richard Hunter (Cambridge University, Great Britain)

Rebecca Laemmle (Cambridge University, Great Britain)

Pulling Apollo Apart

Apollo’s name was more productive of etymologising than that of any other Olym­pian. In this paper we examine two important moments of explicit ancient etymo­logising about the god, before going back to seek the roots of this practice in the etymologies of poetry itself. Our concern is both with the nature of Apollo and with the practice of ancient etymologising. We begin from the discussion in Plato’s Cratylus in which Socrates offers multiple explicit etymologies for Apollo, corresponding to Apollo’s four δυνάμεις, but which also evokes other etymologies for both Apollo and Phoibos. Our focus here will be on Apollo as the god of μαντική and hence of ‘truth’, a notion manifestly important to a practice of ἐτυμολογία, as is already visible in a famous passage of the Phaedrus; we will also consider the relationship between Apollo and other divine etymologies in the Cratylus, notably that of Pan. If, moreover, Apollo is ‘true and single’, why are there so many etymologies for his name, and what does this multiplicity tell us both about the god and about the purpose of etymology? Our second text is Plutarch’s The E at Delphi which considers not just the meaning of the god’s names, but also his relationship to Dionysus, the other Delphic god. Here the oneness of Apollo and the etymologies of his name stand in sharp contrast to the god with whom he has been closely matched in the Western mind since Nietzsche, and this contrast too is illuminating both for the nature of the two gods and for how ancient etymology worked. When we turn back to poetry, we will be concerned with how hard a line should in fact be drawn between explicit and implicit etymologising. Our principal examples will be drawn from Homer, where Apollo and his name make a dramatic entrance.