Whither Capnius?
June 22, 2006 9:28 PM   Subscribe

Can you explain this line from Aristophanes' "The Wasps"?

In the play, Bdelycleon states: "But am I not the most unfortunate of men? Henceforward I shall only be called the son of Capnius." (Ctrl+F to find the line)

I can't find any reference to Capnius that doesn't stem from this play. Is this a joke? Does it have to do with etymology that I just don't understand?

Who is Capnius, or what does it mean?
posted by hermitosis to Writing & Language (4 answers total)
Apparently it was a nickname of the comic poet Ecphantides. [1] [2] It means "smoky". They are talking about smoke just beforehand.
posted by gubo at 9:46 PM on June 22, 2006

Sorry, forgot to add that the Greek name is written Καπνίας.
posted by gubo at 9:58 PM on June 22, 2006

gubo has it. κάπνιον ('capnion', or, latinized, 'capnius') means "little smoke". This nickname was later used by Johann Reuchlin, the German humanist.
posted by trip and a half at 10:00 PM on June 22, 2006

Thanks, that was fast and super helpful. Gubo, it also says in one of your links that it is also been used in reference to a kind of jasper.

It seems that Aristophanes ridiculed Ecphantides over artistic differences, so the comment has a clear double meaning.

I'd be interested in reading any works by Ecphantides, but it doesn't look they have been well preserved.
posted by hermitosis at 6:48 AM on June 23, 2006

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