Rivers stuffed with corpses

I was looking at the fragment of Archilochus that I had seen at the Ashmolean museum at Oxford – see


and sententiaeantiquae referred me to his paper at


I may be a bit out of my depth here but when I saw this sentence

ἐϋρρείτης δὲ Κ[άϊκος
π]ιπτό̣ντων νεκύων στείνετο καὶ [πεδίον

The fair-flowing river Kaikos and the plain of Mysia were stuffed with corpses as they fell.

I wondered whether “στείνετο” or “stuffed” could be applied to a plain. To me the word suggests being confined in a limited space from its base meaning which is “to be made narrow”.Thus it would apply to a river perfectly but not a plain and in fact Homer uses it exactly the same sense as above when applied to a river.

οὐδέ τί πῃ δύναμαι προχέειν ῥόον εἰς ἅλα δῖαν
στεινόμενος νεκύεσσι, σὺ δὲ κτείνεις ἀϊδήλως.

Nor can I (Scamander or Xanthus) flow my stream into the bright sea as I am stuffed by corpses and you are killing ruthlessly.

Iliad 21.219

And Hesiod uses it of the earth where the Giants are confined.

ἣ δ᾽ ἐντὸς στοναχίζετο Γαῖα πελώρη

Great earth groaned within being confined (by her children who were hidden within her)

Hesiod Theogony 159

Homer also uses it metaphorically of the ram to which Odysseus was tied when escaping from the Cyclops.

ὕστατος ἀρνειὸς μήλων ἔστειχε θύραζε
λάχνῳ στεινόμενος καὶ ἐμοὶ πυκινὰ φρονέοντι.

Last of all the sheep the ram came out, burdened by its coat and scheming me.

Odyssey 9.444

But of course Archilochus could be using the word in a looser sense or in the sense that there were so many corpses that even the plain was not large enough to hold them.

I was also reminded of the passage in Thucydides where the Athenians are finally defeated in Sicily and the corpses are piled up on top of each other in the river Assinarius.

τέλος δὲ νεκρῶν τε πολλῶν ἐπ᾽ ἀλλήλοις ἤδη κειμένων ἐν τῷ ποταμῷ καὶ διεφθαρμένου τοῦ στρατεύματος τοῦ μὲν κατὰ τὸν ποταμόν, τοῦ δὲ καί, εἴ τι διαφύγοι, ὑπὸ τῶν ἱππέων, Νικίας Γυλίππῳ ἑαυτὸν παραδίδωσι, πιστεύσας μᾶλλον αὐτῷ ἢ τοῖς Συρακοσίοις:

Finally when so many corpses were lying on each other in the river and the army was destroyed, some of it at the river and some, if they managed to get away, by the horsemen, Nicias gave himself up to Gylippus trusting him more than the Syracusans.

Thucydides 7.85

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