restricted access Chapter 22: Sparta

From: Black Athena

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512 BLACK ATHENA CHAPTER 21 SPARTA The Dorians took possession of the rich vale of the Eurotas, and, keeping their own Dorian stock pure from the mixture of alien blood, reduced all the inhabitants to the condition of subjects . . . The eminent quality which distinguished the Dorians . . . was that that we call “character” and it was in Lakonia that this quality was most fully displayed . . . for here the Dorian seems to have remained most purely Dorian. J. B. Bury, A History of Greece (1900) INTRODUCTION I n this chapter, I shall range widely on the strong Afroasiatic connections of what has generally been seen as the most “Aryan” of the Greek states. The first section deals with the derivation of the name Sparta from the Egyptian spÅt “nome, district” and the district’s capital. The second is concerned with the Egyptian jackal god Anubis “Lord of SpÅ,” guide for the dead, and his Greek counterpart Hermes. The chapter continues with a consideration of the meanings of the names Lako–n and Lakedaimo–n as “howler, biter” and “howling biting spirit” and with the importance of canines in Spartan tradition. Lakedaimo–n is explained as a calque of * KÅ >Inpw “Ka or spirit of Anubis” rendered Kano–pos in Greek. A short study of the derivation of the name Hermes from the complicated semantics of the Semitic root ÷h≥rm follows. In a section devoted to the cult at Amyklai I argue that, rather than the festival of Hyakinthia gaining its name from a mythical hero Hyakinthos, the hero gained his name from the festival. Furthermore, I argue that Hyakinthia was a rendition of the Egyptian festival of death and rebirth WÅg in a form I postulate as * WÅg ntr “sacred WÅg.” I then discuss linguistic evidence that the failure to pronounce the /Å/ as /r/ or /l/ in this case suggests a wider pattern indicating that much of the [CH. 21] SPARTA 513 special Lako\nian vocabulary with plausible Egyptian etymologies was borrowed late—some perhaps even as late as reforms of Lykourgos around 800 BCE. The last sections consider the likelihood that Sparta had a special cult of death and, finally, the contacts between the Spartan King Areios I and the Jewish High Priest Onias. SPARTA: *SPER AND SPÅT August Fick provided no Indo-European etymology for the toponym Sparta. He merely called it “doubtfully Lelegian.”1 The name could be derived from the root * sper “to sow,” an extremely productive root in Greek. Sparta could then mean “sown land.” Such an etymology would fit the legend of Kadmos’ having sown dragon’s teeth at Thebes to grow Spartoiv “warriors.” Indo-Europeanists have deemed this explanation improbable and not accepted it. In an extended sense, however, I believe that this version might be correct. Two related roots, * per, * por “to separate , divide” and * pir, * per “to bring forth, bear fruit” are both found throughout Nostratic.2 In Afroasiatic many verbs have been prefixed by a causative s-. Thus, in Canaanite, for instance, one finds the biblical name Sipråh given to a midwife, someone who causes birth.3 There is also the word sapar “beautiful,” used of brides and fruitful plains. The Greek words speivrw “sow,” spevrma “seed” and spovra “sowing” etc. could possibly be derived from this Canaanite root. It would seem more likely that, as Hermann Möller suggested in 1911, and Carleton Hodge revived more recently, the so-called “s-mobile” is in Indo-European—as in Afroasiatic—a causative usually, but not always, prefixed to the root. That is to say it is Nostratic.4 The s-mobile explains some English words, such as spill “make fall,” split “cause to part,” stir “turn” and swirl “whirl.”5 Both the root ÷pr and the causative s- existed in Egyptian. There are the words prt “fruit,” prˆ “go, come out, burst forth,” spr “arrive, reach,” spri “expel.” Similarly pÅ “fly” parallels spÅw “birds made to fly.” In a semantically derived sense—resembling the Latin pars/partis and separ- “separate”—one finds the Egyptian spÅt “district, nome” apparently coming from a meaning “section, division.” Whether or not one derives spÅt from * s+pr, SpÅt is by far the most plausible etymon for Sparta. In many sophisticated societies, the line between a territorial division and its capital or center of administration is difficult to draw. In China a xian is both the county and the county 514 BLACK ATHENA seat, a similar...