Another Avatar of Mātariśvan? On the Hesychian Gloss Ἴθας, Ἴθαξ (ι 387 L)

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The ancient lexicographer Hesychius (ι 387 L) preserves an isolated tradition on a character named Íthas or Íthaks, namely: ‘herald of the Titans, Prometheus’. I propose that Íthas and Íthaks reflect substantivizations or transferred epithets, which can be traced back to IE *h2ei̯dh “to kindle,” cf. αἴθω “to kindle.” The association between ‘kindling / producing warmth’ and Prometheus results consistent with Prometheus’ role in the fire-myth. In Hesiod, he steals fire using a “hollow fennel stalk”; therefore, he is considered the inventor of fire sticks by later authors, (Diod. 5.67.2). The association between Íthas/Íthaks (: Prometheus) and the function “herald” can be understood referring to two striking traits Prometheus has in common with Mātariśvan, the protagonist of the Vedic fire-theft episode: Mātariśvan, who is often identified with the fire-god Agni, is called “messenger.” Furthermore, the discovery of fire is connected with the act of kindling, denoted by Ved. sam edh (cf. samídh “fire stick”), etymologically related to Gk. aíthō and, consequently, to Íthas/Íthaks.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationProceedings of the 29th Annual UCLA Indo-European Conference
EditorsDavid Goldstein, Stephanie Jamison, Brent Vine
Place of PublicationBremen
PublisherHempen Verlag
Publication date2019
Pages147–62
Publication statusPublished - 2019

ID: 218583496