ISBN: 978-2-87457-118-3
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The “Head” as a Synecdoche for “Person, Self”. The Connection with Life in the Homeric Poems and in Ancient Near Eastern Texts

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by Claudia POSANI, in Res Antiquae 17, 2020.

This paper is aimed at a comparative study of the figurative use of the word(s) for “head” in Greek and Ancient Near Eastern texts. As for the Greek texts, in the Homeric poems the terms for “head” κάρα and κεφαλή are sometimes used as metaphor for “life” or as a synecdoche for “person”. The context of these occurrences is often connected with situations of life-threatening; further, they are often used in direct speech. A detailed analysis of the connection between direct speech, performatory purpose and figurative meaning is therefore required. The figurative use of the words for “head” is widely attested in Ancient Near Eastern texts too, from the Old-Babylonian period down to the Iron Age. Here follows an overview of a selected number of Near Eastern occurrences, with a special attention to the Anatolian cultural world and especially to the hieroglyphic Luwian texts. This study confirms the connection between the use of “head” as a synecdoche and situations in which human life is deadly threatened, in highly performatory contexts.

Keywords: head, person, life, synecdoche, metaphor, Homer, akkadian, luwian