The Ass and the Lyre: On a Greek Proverb
The topic of this article is the syntactic structure, meaning and origin of an ancient Greek proverb about an ass and a lyre. The syntax of the proverb (or, more exactly, the proverbial expression) ὄνος λύρας seems to be very simple, but the lack of a verb or preposition makes its meaning vague. What is this proverbial ass doing with the musical instrument? Is he listening? Or playing? Or something else? An answer depends on the syntactic motivation of the genitive case λύρας . It is quite evident, that ancient poets and writers were not unanimous in their understanding of this proverbial expression, which may mean that the proverbial phrase ὄνος λύρας was not the result of a reduction of a full-fledged proverb, but originally appeared in the Greek language in precisely this form and then, in the course of time, developed full-fledged proverbial contexts.