Pulling Apollo Apart

In: Mnemosyne


This paper considers the etymologising of the names of Apollo in Plato, Cratylus and Plutarch, The E at Delphi. It is argued that the richness of the god’s etymologies in these texts and in classical literature more generally suggests that a special connection was seen between the nature of Apollo and the practices of etymologising; this connection is in part owed to the similarities between etymologising and prophetic speech and practice and in part to the fact that ancient etymology reveals settled, unchanging truths about language, just as Apollo manifests the settled, unchanging order of the world. The paper sheds light not just upon ancient etymological practice from Homer onwards but also on certain conceptions of the nature of Apollo.

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