Angela Hurley

Angela Hurley (University of Southern California) : « Δαιμονοβλάβειαν as Shaping Force in Polybius’ Histories »

       In his Histories, Polybius’ extensively utilizes τυχή to denote a variety of meanings. Within these meanings, there is the concept of an external supernatural force at work, coinciding with his view of an overarching plan of events that ultimately lead to Rome’s domination. Simply, this concept has been broken down into four parts: as fate, as chance, as an avenging force, and as a person’s fortune, with context dictating which τυχή Polybius is referring to but it is not uncommon that more than one can be implied. Within this concept is an overlooked word that only appears in Polybius and only twice therein. The word is δαιμονοβλάβειαν and is often translated to mean a bewitchment, but even with these translations, there is never one option used, even by the same author. This paper explores Polybius’ use of the word and argues that there is more to its use than previous translations have been able to convey. This word is unique to Polybius and is only used throughout his Histories in two examples, once in reference to Perseus of Macedon and once for the Macedonians following Andriscus in war against the Romans. In each example, however, it is used in reference to their mental state and implies an irrational misjudgment on their part which leads them to a wrong decision, incidentally a decision that ultimately helps Rome. The word is a compound, composed of two words which individually have their own significance and which Polybius takes advantage of. The first part utilizes δαίμων, a complicated noun that varies in its expression of a supernatural force from substituting for a god, θεός, to mean a lesser deity, or even in a prepositional phrase denoting chance, κατὰ δαίμων. The second part is taken from βλάβη whose verb, βλάπτω, can have three different meanings specifying variations in injury. I posit that Polybius uses this word as a subcategory of the word τυχή though one with less ambiguity in meaning. The word reflects a forceful deception of one’s mental state and within the contexts of it’s uses, aids in the teleological narrative of Rome’s rise at the expense of Macedonia. The breakdown of the word exposes the explicitly violent nature of the word, and therefore it’s use, as well as signifying to his audience that something more is happening within the context of it’s use. Falling under a subcategory of τυχή, δαιμονοβλάβειαν becomes a marker for the audience, expressing more than a simple translation can convey and therefore becoming untranslatable. Through this word, Polybius is able to express his perception of τυχή’s involvement in the events beginning with Philip V and ending with the Macedonian’s backing of Andriscus and subsequent ruin of Macedonia. His creation of the word enables him to connect for his audience the external force shaping events into what he considers the natural evolution of history, Rome’s domination over the Mediterranean. In translating this word, it loses its nuance and implicated meaning both for those it is used for as well as Polybius’ narrative and only in an understanding of the range this word has can one appreciate Polybius’ creation and use of it.

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