Barry Newman's Blog

July 10, 2011

The Cup of the Lord ? (part 2)

Filed under: Eucharist,Holy Communion,Lord's Supper,The cup of the Lord — barrynewman @ 12:44 am

The Cup of the Lord? (part 2)

Of the forty five (45) instances examined, three (3) refer to a deity in the accusative case, the deity being the direct object of the verb involved.  Example: “With the first cup of diluted wine given after dinner they call upon (epiphoneo) Zeus Saviour.”[1]  All relate to the giving of a toast.

Eight (8) instances occur in the dative case and they relate to one or more gods or “the heroes”.  In each instance, the verb has as its indirect object the deity, deities or “the heroes”.  Examples: “Every time that they filled it up they would make a libation (apospendo) to the gods from the phiale”; “We have seen a lettered cup of that sort dedicated (anakeimai) to Diana in Capua in Campania”; “Theophrastus in his treatise On Drunkenness says that the cup called the rhyton is rendered (apodidomi) only to the heroes”; “With a filled skypphos I drank it out (ekpino) to the white crested Erxion.”  Again, all relate to the giving of a toast.

The thirty four (34) remaining instances occur in the genitive case and as with the above, all relate to the giving of a toast. There is one (1) instance where the reference is to “the name of” – “He brandished a large metaniptris over which the name of Hygieia was pronounced”. There are four (4) instances of a lettered cup. Examples: “There were eleven [letters] weren’t there, in gold dedicating it to Saviour Zeus? (Dios Soteros has eleven letters); “The tragic poet Achaeus in Omphale, also mentions a lettered cup and represents the satyrs saying this about it: ‘The cup of the god has long been inviting me’”.   There is one (1) reference to a cup described as an instrument of a god – the cup called a therikleios is described as “the tool of Zeus Saviour”.

Often the expression used is an idiomatic one (see some of the examples above) where reference to a cup is taken as a reference to the wine in the cup. (In English we often use a similar idiomatic expression.)  (The cup itself can be spoken of as either diluted or undiluted.) There are a number of such instances in the remaining twenty eight (28) cases.  In some however, the idiomatic usage could be understood as going a step further.  The actual reference is to what is drunk, but the cup, used as a toast to a deity, should probably be understood as a “to a deity cup”.  Occasionally, there is not even mention of a cup, whatever its type.

Examples: “Everyone raised a large Zeus Saviour akatos” (or a large akatos to Zeus Saviour); “The undiluted Good Deity[2] phiale (or the undiluted phiale to the Good Deity) that I downed, finished me off completely”; “Fill for him a Hygieia metaniptris (or a metaniptris to Hygieia”); “Gulping down a Good Deity metaniptris (or a metaniptris to the Good Deity)”; “I’ve had enough of eating but I can accept the handles (of the cup understood) of a Good Deity”; “You jumped up and left without first taking a Good Deity or a Zeus Saviour”.  (Remember, all twenty eight (28) instances have the deity in the genitive case.)  Some of these expressions could be understood as a reference to a cup designated, perhaps by lettering, for exclusive use in the toast of a specific deity, though the evidence is not explicit.

In the majority of cases, where the genitive is used, it is arguable that an adequate English translation would employ the word, “to” or the phrase “in honour of” or something similar.  Examples: “It is the custom they say, when undiluted wine is served during a meal to greet it with the words, ‘To the Good Deity’ but when the cup is passed around after the meal diluted with water, to cry out, ‘To Zeus, Saviour’”[3]; “I have drunk respectfully to King Ptolemy from a chutridion”;  “After dinner most of the guests called for a cup to the Good Deity, some to Zeus, saviour, others to Hygieia, one selecting one deity, another, another”;  “From a very large lepaste she drinks up undiluted wine in honour of the Good Deity”; “Archilochus, accept this metaniptris in honour of Zeus Saviour and the Good Deity”; “The undiluted wine offered after dinner, which they refer to it as a drink in honour of the Good Deity, is taken only in small quantities”.


[1]Most translations are dependent to some extent on those of C. B. Gulick.  His work is entitled, “Athenaeus, The Deipnosophists” and occurs in seven volumes in the LOEB Classical Library series.   Books xi and xv, being the ones consulted, are to be found in volumes V and VII respectively.  However to some extent I have tried to independently assess the Greek text.

[2]A more literal translation of the deity would be “Good Demon” – a way of referring to Dyonisus.  Since however, the reference to a demon was not necessarily a reference to an evil being, but a common way of referring to a god, I will use “Good Deity” as it is less misleading.

[3] In the forty five instances examined, the “Good Deity” and “Zeus” are by far the most common deities mentioned.

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