Attributes of Earth

The commonest epithet applied to the earth in Indo-European poetic traditions is 'broad'.52 The Homeric evpeia finds its etymological counterpart in RV 6. 17. 7 ks&m ... urvfm, while at 1. 67. 5 and 10. 31. 9 we have kseem . .. prth(i)vim, with the adjective that is related to Greek nXarvs. This is exactly paralleled in Avestan zgm porod im (Y. 10. 4, Yt. 13. 9, cf. Vd. 9. 2), and presumably reflects an old Indo-Iranian formula. As we have seen, prthivT or prthvi used as a feminine substantive, is the commonest Vedic word for the iearth or the Earth-goddess, and a cognate kenning appears in Greek Platai(w)a, Old Norse fgld, Old English folde, and perhaps Gaulish Litavi-.

Analogous expressions with different vocabulary occur in Germanic verse. In the Old High German Muspilli (58) we find daz preita wasal, 'the broad

50 Gimbutas (1971), 169; U. Dukova, Orpheus 4 (1994), 10.

51 LD 27340, 27406, 27519-21, 27699 = Jonval no. 1205-10; Usener (1896), 108; Biezais-Balys (1973), 453.

52 Durante (1962), 29 = (1976), 92 f.; Schmitt (1967), 181-3. It is also formulaic in Akkadian: West (1997), 221.

wetland'; in Old English poems, widre eorpan, Genesis 1348; geond ginne grund, Widsith 51, cf. Judith 2, Judgment Day A 12.

We saw that Vedic and Greek agree in speaking of heaven as the 'seat' of the gods (sadas-, sadman-, eSos). The term is used of the earth too. In RV 1. 185. 6 Heaven and Earth, the recipients of the hymn, are called urvi sadmani, the two broad seats, that is, the dwelling-places for gods and mortals. Hesiod (Th. 117 f.) speaks of TaVevpVoTepvos, ndvTwv e'Sos dofiaAes alei I ddavarwv, 'Earth the broad-breasted, ever the sure seat of all the immortals'. The association of 'broad' and 'seat' in relation to the earth is clearer in Simonides' phrase evpveSeos ... [email protected], 'the broad-seated earth' (PMG 542. 24), and it may well underlie the Homeric formula x^ovos evpvoSefys, where the irregularly formed epithet is suspected of having taken the place of an older * evpveSei^S.53

In the Atharvaveda Earth is characterized as 'bearing all (things or creatures)': vifvabhft (5. 28. 5), visvambhara (12. 1. 6). Similarly the Gatha of the Seven Chapters speaks of imam.. . zq,m ... ya na baraiti, 'this earth that bears us' (Y. 38. 1). The same verb is often used in Greek of the earth 'bearing' its produce; one of its traditional epithets is fiepeo ios, 'bearing (bringing forth) (the means of) life', and Aeschylus calls flowers napfiopov raias reKva, 'the offspring of all-bearing Earth' (Pers. 618). The universality expressed in the Vedic vifva- and Greek nav- compounds is a typical theme. So too, for instance, in RV 2. 17. 5 prthivfm vifvadhayasam, 'the all-nurturing earth'; Cypria fr. 1. 4 nap wropa yaiav, Soph. Phil. 391 nap mti ra, with the same meaning; Hymn. Hom. 30. 1 f. Taiav napp^Teipav .. . tf fiep ei lnl x^ovl ndvff onoo' loTiv, 'Earth the all-mother ... who nourishes everything there is'. The common epic formula, with the original word for 'earth', is x^dva novAv oTeipav, 'much-nurturing'.

In many traditions the earth is characterized as 'dark' or 'black'. In Hittite literature dankui degan, 'the dark earth', is a frequent formula, used especially of the underworld, but sometimes also of the earth's surface. The adjective, like the noun, is Indo-European; it is related to German dunkel. It is possible to imagine a PIE alliterative phrase *dheghom dhngu-/dhengwo-.54 Outside Hittite, however, other adjectives are current. The Greek epic formula is yaia peAaiva. In Old Irish it is domun donn, properly 'brown earth'.55 In Slavonic poetries we find the reflexes of a proto-Slavonic *crna(ya) zemya: Igor 67 cruna zemlya; SCHS ii, no. 4. 12 zemlje crne, 1562 erne zemlje; no. 11. 477

54 Cf. N. Oettinger, Die Welt des Orients 20/21 (1989/90), 83-98; Meid (1978), 9 f. with 22 n. 30; Bader (1989), 230.

55 Examples are quoted by Meid (1978), 21 n. 28.

zemlju crnu, 478 s crnom zemljom. In Serbian the phrase is employed especially in connection with death or burial.56 A Lithuanian affirmation takes the form 'may the black earth not support me'.57

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