«Остроумие» в Византии: Eutrapelia

Sergei Arkadʹevich Ivanov


The Old Greek term «eutrapelia» cannot be easily rendered in other languages: Its literal meaning is «turnability», but it is generally translated as «ready wit» or «liveliness». Whatever its semantic nuances, eutrapelia was anathematized by St. Paul in his Epistle to the Ephesians, and (since then) in all the subsequent Church writings it acquired negative connotations of «frivolous talk». Yet, the divide between religious and secular was far from clear in Byzantium. This article is the first attempt to map this term in the semantic realm of Byzantine Greek. It turns out that some genres, such as theology and ascetics, adhered to the St. Paul’s precept but this is not necessarily true of homiletics and hagiography: some contexts sound quite approving of this quality. As for the secular literature, everything depends on the author’s individual choice: for example, Michael Psellos always presents eutrapelia as something disgusting; on the other hand, for Nicetas Choniates «eutrapelia» is a laudable quality. Some authors switch from one genre to another: for example, Eustathius of Thessalonica castigates «eutrapelia» while in his capacity of a preacher, but approves it as a Homer commentator. The uncertain perception of «eutrapelia» is vividly reflected in Byzantine lexicography: one comes across different, sometimes mutually exclusive interpretations given in neighboring entries. An overview of all the occurrences of this word found in the latest version of TLG allows to follow the emergence of new meanings, nonexistent in the ancient Greek: that of «adroitness», «acid tongue» and «adulation». To sum up, «eutrapelia» in Byzantium not only survived in spite of the biblical interdict but lived a full life.

Ключевые слова

Византия, источниковедение, историография.

Полный текст:

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