The Geoponica and Sotion’s Agricultural Magic

I’ve had the Geoponica on my mind lately as I’m tracking down bibliography for a seminar paper on Late Antique Agronomy. While reading through Dalby’s translation, I was struck in particular by 2.19.1, a supposed excerpt from an otherwise unknown “Sotion.” The Greek (from Beckh) reads:

Ἐπίγραψον ἐν τῷ ἀρότρῳ φρυήλ, καὶ ἐν τῷ νεάζειν καὶ ἐν τῷ σπείρειν τὴν γῆν, καὶ εὐθαλήσει ἡ χώρα.

Dalby transliterates φρυήλ as “Phyrel” without comment, while other commentators suggest that it’s some sort of acrostic that’s not clear. Having had a brief stint with Hebrew (which I unfortunately can no longer read), though, I immediately suspected “-el” was something to do with a Hebrew name for God (El). H.J. Rose apparently caught this back in his 1933 article, “The Folklore of the Geoponica“, where Rose gives (at the suggestion of a colleague) פְריִאֵל phri El, “fruit of God.”

Always pays off to be a bibliographical pedant. Or at least most of the time?


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