More on “Magganum” and St George

Following yesterday’s post, a kind correspondent wrote to tell me of a Greek word in wiktionary that seems relevant, μάγγανο.  This noun may be a form of war machine, but also a type of crane, or a windlass.  The email continued:

The -um endings in Latin coincide with the Greek ending -on, hence, “magganon”.

It is a byzantine war machine like a catapult, but also a windlass or a winch.   I looked into the biographies of Saint George, and one of the tortures he was made to suffer by the relentless persecuter Diocletian was a wheel, to which he was strapped, and as it was turned (by a windlass?) his body was slashed by various sharp objects.

This is an icon of that torture:

St George on the wheel

Another tidbit, regarding the term “magganon”: a modern, composite Greek word for the instrument used for drawing water out of a well (πηγάδι) = μάγγανο-πήγαδο.

The icon is very helpful.  It shows George, tied to the wheel with rope, and the swords positioned underneath to injure him.

Now this does indeed look like the right approach.  There are mentions in the Life of daggers, right next to the references to “maggana”.  It works!


10 thoughts on “More on “Magganum” and St George

  1. So magganum is a windlass, but it’s also connected to the well bucket that you crank up. So that makes sense of the drinking vessel.

  2. Interesting – I suppose the rollers of a mangle are not too dissimilar to the rollers on a rack or the handle-crank of a windlass!

  3. I was thinking more of expressions such as “his mangled body” than domestic laundry equipment.

  4. Apparently there are two “mangle” words stalking the world, and one is from French “mangoner”, to cut apart or cut up into pieces. So there is a sort of etymological convergence of destruction.

    Mangonel is also.supposed to.come from “magganon.”

  5. Magganon appears in both early and later Rabbinic literature in the sense of war machine, wheel, torture apparatus or machination as well. See Sokoloff’s JBA, s.v. מנגן; Kohut (ed.), Arukh Completum, v.5, pp. 77-78, s.v. מגנון, and p. 172 s.v. מנגנון.

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