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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 37

Figs—Sycophant

Figs—Sycophant.

The history of the fig comprises a very extended period of time: by some the tree is considered to have been known to the inhabitants of the East even before the various species of com. Mention of it is frequently made in the Scriptures; it was highly esteemed by the Jews and by most of the eastern nations, among which it was evidently regarded as an important if not a primary article of food.

It is a curious fact, not perhaps generally known, that our word sycophant has been derived from two Greek words the simple meaning of which conveys no idea of the modern acceptation of the word. S u k o p h a n t e s is derived from S u k o n 'a fig,' and p h a i n o 'I show,' 'make appear,' or 'manifest;' and in Athens it was applied to persons ('informers') who gave information of the clandestine exportation of figs. It is inferred from this fact that the Athenians considered figs as a fruit of such great importance as to cause the prohibition of their export from Attica.