If you have not already done so, you may wish to read the
Introduction to Gnomica.
Friday 23 March 2012
πολλὰ τὰ δεινὰ κοὐδὲν ἀν-
θρώπου δεινότερον πέλει·
Many are the marvels and nothing
exists more marvelous than man.
Sophocles Antigone 332-333 (442 BCE)
Here is an anthropocentric view that would seem far to antedate Christianity and its development in Western culture of what in my view is an essentially misanthropic outlook on man – would seem! For the word δεινὰ is a slippery one: its meaning can be either positive or negative. Consider our use of ‘bad’ – yes, it means just that, bad, but it also means great, good, terrific, right on, sharp, etc., as in “She’s bad!” So, too, δεινὰ can mean something marvelously awesome but also something terrifyingly awesome.
Thus, one could cite the lines above to suggest either – I think Sophocles meant it in the less flattering of the polar senses. We’ve already seen this kind of contradictorily polysemous deployment of the lexicon in the famous line of Terence that are consistently cited to mean exactly the opposite of what Terence himself meant by them (see here!).
Is this a species of sarcasm?