Sappho Voigt 117A Campbell 117A number 2 (Campbell has two 117As, one is a quotation from Michael of Italy, the same as Voigt 194A, and the other one is Voigt 117A) is a quote from Hesychius, which reads:

Ξοάνων προθύρων· ἐξεσμένων

Campbell translates it as:

Smooth doorways, i.e. polished

What I was wondering was: where do those words come from? I mean, ξόανος is, I assume, an otherwise unattested word, so why translate it as "smooth"? Or is it otherwise attested, just not recorded in Perseus's LSJ digitalization? Wait: ξόανον is a noun meaning "carved image" or "musical instrument"? How does it fit here with another noun? I mean, I guess πρόθυρος could be an adjective meaning "(placed) before the door", but that doesn't match Campbell's translation, so… And ἐξεσμένων appears to be a perfect participle, but of which verb? Maybe ἐξέζομαι? Not on Perseus, and neither is ἐξίζομαι… What is up here?

  • 1
    There is a discussion of this gloss in Beekes s.v. ξεω, with some further literature.
    – fdb
    Oct 29, 2018 at 12:52

2 Answers 2


Here's at least a partial answer:

Ξόανον, "carved image" looks like it comes from ξοΐς, "sculptor's chisel", which in turn comes from ξέειν, "to smooth or polish by scraping". It looks like ἐξεσμένον is a passive participle of the latter verb.

So, at least the general idea of polishing (by scraping) is present in both ξοάνων and ἐξεσμένων, although the details of the construction are not completely clear to me.

Actually, πρόθυρον means "front door", so one can see how ξοάνων προθύρων could have the meaning "polished doors".

  • One correction though. ξόανον is an adjective here - see my screenshot from Latte 1952 (this reference is mentioned in Voigt of course, but MickG did not mention it).
    – Alex B.
    Oct 28, 2018 at 18:25
  • @AlexB.: yes, I was unsure whether it should be construed as a adjective or a noun in apposition.
    – varro
    Oct 28, 2018 at 18:27

Correction, based on Latte 1952

enter image description here

  • <<Es ist der einzige unmittelbar erhaltene Beleg für das von xéō abgeleitete Adjektivum xŏanós (gebildet wie pithanós steganós epsanós), während sonst nur das Substantivum xóanŏn "Schnitzbild" vorkommt.>>, aka <<It is the only directly obtained evidence for the adjective xŏanós derived from xéō (built like pithanós, steganós, epsanós), while otherwise onlythe noun xóanŏn, "carved image", occurs>>.
    – MickG
    Oct 28, 2018 at 19:53
  • @MickG and? How much was actually preserved from Sappho? Mostly fragments.
    – Alex B.
    Oct 28, 2018 at 21:27
  • I was just translating for those (me in primis) who have a hard or impossible time reading German. After working on Sappho so long, I very well know how fragmentary the preservation of her poems is. What did you think I was insinuating with that translation :)?
    – MickG
    Oct 28, 2018 at 21:30
  • @MickG I see. Thanks for the English translation then! I thought you were trying to say it was a hapax legomenon.
    – Alex B.
    Oct 28, 2018 at 21:33
  • 1
    Well, technically it is, as far as we know, isn't it? I mean, the sentence I translated seems to say so... In any case, being attested only once may draw skepticism, but when the adjective is kind of expected, and in a quotation like this where the known noun doesn't fit, I think the only way to make sense of the passage is to posit the adjective. Besides, Hesychius glosses it with an adjective, and he cannot be glossing prothýrōn with that, another anti-skepticisim observation.
    – MickG
    Oct 28, 2018 at 21:52

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