Can anyone identify the language in the top line of text below?

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This seems to come from A collection of English proverbs digested into a convenient method for the speedy finding any one upon occasion : with short annotations : whereunto are added local proverbs with their explications, old proverbial rhythmes, less known or exotick proverbial sentences, and Scottish proverbs, by John Ray, 1678.

The bit at the top is definitely in the Greek alphabet, and seems to be Greek. It uses a number of old-fashioned Greek ligatures, which are a pain in the ass to decipher if you're not familar with them.

I think it is a (possibly slightly garbled) version of a line in Lysistrata by Aristophanes,

τὰ δ᾽ ὑπέρτερα νέρτερα θήσει

The reasons I think it might be slightly mis-transcribed (take this with a huge grain of salt as I don't know any Greek) are the apparent absence of the "δ" and the apparent use of "θῆσαι" (which apparently means "suckle"; Liddell & Scott) as the last word instead of "θήσει." But maybe there is some reason for those that I am unaware of.

The line in Lysistrata doesn't say anything about hunger or a horse, as far as I can tell. It corresponds to the part in Jack Lindsay's translation that goes "(great Zeus the Thunderer) Shall put above what was below before."

The meaning of each of the words seems to be:

  • τὰ: neuter plural demonstrative or pronoun
  • δέ: (contracted to δ᾽) some kind of conjunctive particle
  • ὑπέρτερα: upper
  • νέρτερα: lower
  • θήσει: put, place

Based on the meaning, I think it may in fact have been meant to match up with the preceding line in the book,

To throw the house out of the windows.

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  • Thanks. That's quite helpful but unfortunately doesn't give any more clues as to the horse's behind.
    – Hot Licks
    Mar 30 '17 at 12:03
  • I guess that hoUse thrown out of the windows is actually a typo, the correct word should be hoRse since that section deals with horses. Generally speaking, the whole book is massively idiosyncratic and I'd abandon any hope to find logic in the selection of those sayings.
    – Yellow Sky
    Mar 31 '17 at 9:12
  • 1
    My Greek friend who is a linguist says the phrase means "To make the highest ones lowest".
    – Yellow Sky
    Mar 31 '17 at 9:45

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