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Antoine Fabre d’Olivet-Homeric Etymologies

HOMER: THE ILIAD. Homer Invoking the Muse. Line engraving after the drawing by John Flaxman, 1805.


Today’s sharing from the Blue House of HYGEIA is an excerpt from Antoine Fabre d’Olivet ‘s ‘Discourse Upon the Essence and Form of Poetry‘, 1813, published as an introduction to his edition of the ‘Golden verses of Pythagoras‘ with his commentaries. Treuttel & Wurtz, Paris and Strasbourg. It is a foot-note within Chapter III, devoted to Homer and his time. The English translation was done in 1916 by NAYÁN LOUISE REDFIELD.

We will follow with this chapter III and later with one golden verse and its commentary about prayer.


I have said in the above that the name of Helena or Selena was that of the moon in Greek. The root of this word is alike Celtic and Phœnician. One finds it in Teutonic hell, which signifies clear, luminous, and in Hebrew ‏חלל‎ (hêll), which contains the same sense of splendour, glory, and elevation. One still says in German heilig, holy, and selig, blessed; also selle, soul, and seilen, souls. And this is worthy of the closest attention, particularly when one reflects that, following the doctrine of the ancients, the moon helenê or selenê was regarded as the reservoir of the souls of those who descend from heaven to pass into bodies by means of generation, and, purged by the fire of life, escape from earth to ascend to heaven. See, concerning this doctrine, Plutarch (De Facie in Orb. Lun.), and confer with Beausobre (Histoire du Manich., t. ii., p. 311).


The name of Paris, in Greek Πάρις, comes from the Phœnician words ‏בר‎ or ‏פר‎ (bar or phar), all generation, propagation, extension, and ‏‎ (ish), the Being-principle.


The name of Menelaus, in Greek Μενέλαος, comes from the Phœnician words ‏מן‎ (men), all that which determines, regulates, or defines a thing, properly, the rational faculty, the reason, the measure, in Latin mens, mensura; and ‏אוש‎ (aôsh), the Being-principle acting, before which is placed the prefix ‏ל‎ (l), to express the genitive case, in this manner, ‏מנח-ל-אוש‎ (meneh-l-aôsh), the rational faculty or regulator of the being in general, and man in particular: for ‏אש‎, ‏אוש‎, ‏יש‎, ‏איש‎ (ash, aôsh, ish, aîsh), signifies equally fire, principle, being, and man.


The etymology of these three words can, as one sees, throw great light upon the fable of the Iliad. Here is another remarkable point on this subject.


Homer has never used, to designate the Greeks, the name of Hellenes, that is to say, the resplendents, or the lunars: it was in his time quite a new name, which the confederated Greeks had taken to resist foreign attack; it is only in the Odyssey, and when he is already old, that he employs the name Hellas to designate Greece. The name which he gives constantly to this country, is that of Achaia (Ἀχαϊα), and he opposes it to that of Troy (Τρωία): now, Achaia signifies the strong, the igneous, the spiritual; and Troy, the terrestrial, the gross. The Phœnician roots are ‏הוי‎ (ehôi), the exhaling force of fire, and ‏טרו‎ (trô) the balancing power of the earth. Refer, in this regard, to Court de Gébelin (Mond. prim., t. vi., p. 64). Pomponius Sabinus, in his ‘Commentaires sur l’Enéïde‘, said that the name of the city of Troy signified a sow, and he adds that the Trojans had for an ensign a sow embroidered in gold.


As to the word Ilion, which was the sacred name of Troy, it is very easy to recognize the name of the material principle, called ὔλε (ulè) by the Greeks and ylis by the Egyptians. Iamblichus speaks of it at great length in his Book, ‘On the Mysteries’ (§ 7), as the principle from which all has birth: this was also the opinion of Porphyry (Euseb., Præp. Evang., l. ix., c. 9 and 11).


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Antoine Fabre d’Olivet-Homeric Etymologies

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