Order of the day

The imperative.

The quantity of reading for Unit 17 [of TY Classical Greek] has rather slowed me down with maxims from Delphi, proverbs, and stories about the pithy wit of the Spartans, all of which come to more than just one sentence per question. The most annoying sentence is this one

πολλὴ ἔχθρα καὶ μῖσος ἀλλήλων τοῖς πολίταις ἐγγίγνεται, δι’ ἃ ἔγωγε μάλα φοβοῦμαι ἀεὶ μή τι μεῖζον ἢ ὥστε φέρειν κακὸν τῇ πόλει συμβῇ.

which needed a little more annotation than it has in the book. It appears that μεῖζον should be taken with κακὸν, and that the standard of comparison is ἢ ὥστε φέρειν. It seems to mean “Much hostility and mutual hatred appear among the citizens, because of which I always fear lest some greater evil befalls the city than it can bear”.
The unit covers the imperative, and the comparative and superlative. Greek has both 2nd and 3rd person imperatives, and present and aorist forms. The distinction between the present and aorist is aspect, the former being imperfective (continuous) and the latter being perfective (non-continuous). And there’s a tendency to use them with verbs which are inherently one sort of action or the other.
The regular comparative and superlative endings are –τερος and –τατος which cause the stem vowel of o-stem adjectives to be lengthened when the preceding syllable is short. I’ve never seen an explanation of this phenomenon, which produce forms ending in LHLL beside HLLL. as far as I’m aware, Greek does this nowhere else.
n-stem adjectives have acquired their comparative and superlative from the s-stems, hence –εσ-τερος and –εσ-τατος. Other adjectives have retained older comparative and superlative endings in –(ι)ων (-[ι]ον-) and –ιστος, or are suppletive (e.g. ἀγαθός good, ἀμείνων better, ἄριστος best). Curiously, μεῖζων greater shows a mixture of n- and s-stem forms in its declension with an accusative sg μείζονα beside μείζω (< *μεγjοσα, presumably). The Latin comparative is from the s-stem form *-jos-.
The unit ends with a section on verbs which have suppletive passives such as ἀποκτείνω kill which uses ἀποθνῄσκω be killed (usually die).
There’s some extra reading (another passage from Prometheus Bound, but that can wait for the moment.
The moment having been waited… The extract was Hermes rather rudely demanding the Prometheus should reveal the prophecy he knows about a marriage which will deprive Zeus of his throne. But Prometheus basically calls Hermes a parvenu and tells him to bugger off. Probably, the Greeks would’ve regarded Prometheus’ words as impious and self-condemning, but like Milton’s Satan, Prometheus is, to a modern audience at least, more admirable than wicked for his heroic defiance in the face of overwhelming odds.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s