Edwin D. Floyd, University of Pittsburgh
Indo-European poetic formulas in Christian Greek literature

Studies of Indo-European poetics have relied heavily on second and first millennium B. C. Vedic and Greek texts. Old Irish and Old English, first attested from around 600 A.D., have also been used as providing valuable independent evidence, but "late" Greek texts, such as those found in Anthologia Graeca, have pretty regularly been eschewed. Many of these, however, both (1) antedate all of the relevant Celtic or Germanic material and (2) offer crucial supporting evidence for the validity of going into the first millennium A.D. in the discussion of Indo-European poetics.

Highly traditional uses of the formula represented by Greek kleos aphthiton and Vedic sravah ... aksitam "fame imperishable", for example, are found at Gregory of Nazianzus (4th cent. A. D.) 1313.7 and Cometas, Anth. Gr. 15.40.29 and 57.

The correlation of Greek androphonos with Vedic nrhan- "man-slaying" constitutes another example. At Nonnus, Dionysiaca, 29.96, for instance, the role of an errant wind current in causing Hyakinthos' death eerily parallels a reference to the Marutas (wind-gods) at Rig-Veda 7.56.17. Also, Gregory of Nazianzus' extensive use of androphonos to refer to the deadly fruit in the Garden of Eden draws on Indo-European as well as Biblical traditions.

The less familiar correlation of Greek menos mega "great spirit" with Vedic mano mahi patterns similarly. Two passages in the Rig-Veda, 1.165.2 and 10.103.9, use the combination in contexts of gods contending against gods. Greek parallels for this extend from Homeric passages such as Iliad 15.232 to Gregory's (547.2) reference to Saint Paul in the context of a debate between Virginity and Marriage.

Latin also provides evidence for the combination of *men-and *meg-, ranging from pre-Christian texts such as Vergil, Aeneid, 6.11 to the inscription on the Arch of Constantine (312 A.D.) Aided by what many viewers of the inscription would read as the help of the Christian God over pagan tyranny, Constantine defeated his enemies mentis magnitudine "by greatness of mind". Moreover, the validity of utilizing this inscription as evidence for Indo-European poetics is confirmed by the observation that it includes another arguably ancient locution, instinctu divinitatis "by the impulse of divinity". This too has a long history within Latin, and it is paralleled in various passages in the Mahabharata (1.26.32, 3.160.18, etc.), in which combinations of the Sanskrit cognates deva "god" and tejas "splendor" likewise appear in a context of divine conflict.