a yellow thread

I’ve been thinking about Xanthias, the slave of Dionysos in The Frogs.

Here he is on a 4th century BCE red figure vase from Campania.

He shares his name with a number of slave characters in the plays of Aristophanes, a name that I’ve always taken to come from ξανθός “yellow,” indicative of his flaxen hair and barbarian origin. However, something I read in the journal Classical Philology (Volume 31, Number 1 Jan., 1936) has me reconsidering that, despite the Starry Bear implications.

Namely, G. W. Elderkin’s suggestion that it is derived from ξανθεις, the aorist passive of ξαινειν “to card,” since slaves – like Herakles under Omphale – often carded wool. You can read more about it here.

Either way, I’m intrigued. I wonder where this yellow thread will lead…

4 thoughts on “a yellow thread

  1. That is fascinating. I have always assumed his name came from “yellow” too…I want to read that article. That connection to weaving/spinning, etc. really is intriguing.


  2. I’m never disappointed by threads that Sannion finds that leads down the rabbit hole…or is it the labyrinth? You have been missed my friend! This post is the second omen I’ve received today (the first being I work security for a major shipping facility and the talk was of they were shipping a dolphin to the Zoo in Atlanta. Sadly, I didn’t see said dolphin, so I have to take people’s word for it). I’m ready to go spelunking! Lead on, Sannion!


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