Tag Archives: Classical Greek

‘King of Gore’ joins T rex family tree | Science | The Guardian

‘King of Gore’ joins T rex family tree | Science | The Guardian.

The King of Gore also highlights ignorance of Classical Greek and word formation among palaeontologists. λύθρον (neuter, which can also be λύθρος [masculine]) has a stem λύθρ(ο)-, the final vowel of which is elided when the following element begins with a vowel. My first thought was that the word was an n-stem, but it is actually a neuter o-stem.

The sole recorded compound is λυθρ-ώδης “defiled with gore”, with the stem vowel duly elided.

The noun ἄναξ “lord, master; king” is an interesting case because it was Ϝάναξ [wanax] at the time The Iliad and The Odyssey were composed. It explains why word-final VC-syllables are sometimes scanned as heavy before a word which otherwise seems to begin with a vowel.

When Homer was composing his poems, the presence of digamma would have resulted in the retention of the stem vowel, and the compound would presumably have ended up as λυθροάναξ in Classical Greek because of this lost consonant. Even if later speakers of Greek were unaware of the digamma, the compound would have been λυθράναξ with the stem vowel of the first element elided, not the initial vowel of the following element.

Although I cannot speak for all languages on this particular point of morphology, the principle in Greek was obviously that the root remains intact or, OT-like terms, Root » Stem Vowel.

I can only hope that palaeontologists have some official naming body and that it’s not too late to correct this faux pas.

Predicative adjectives, wordpress blogs

And the three-hares problem.
three_hares I’ve mentioned wordpress in the title because on a whim I thought I’d try a link to a wordpress blog while I was looking for a picture for the three-hares problem. And there they are in the picture – all hairy [Are you sure about that? –ed.] and problematic. And lo and behold! the wordpress blog was accessible, though perhaps not unto the seventh generation. I note, on the other hand, that livejournal blogs are still off the menu.
Anyway, that’s not why we’re here today. I worked my way through the Greek exam from Durham University which I found while searching, I think, for Dikaiopolis, who features in JACT Reading Greek. I didn’t attempt the thing under exam conditions, but it was, in my view, a fairly easy exam. To get back to Dikaiopolis, though, he’s the main character in Aristophanes’ play Acharnians, which is a satire on the Peloponnesian War. Dikaiopolis concludes a private peace treaty with Sparta. I assume that the JACT text is based on the play, but is actually artificial Classical Greek prose. The passage in the exam was fairly simple, I thought.
For some reason this got me wondering about predicative adjectives. For those of you who missed the memo, a predicative adjective is the complement of a verb such as be, become, seem, appear, turn etc. as well as a few which take a direct object and an adjectival complement such as turn (e.g. The chemical turned the water green) and paint (e.g. They painted their house white). And Classical Greek was fairly similar.
One difference is that εἶναι “to be” may be omitted and the adjective may occur before or after its NP (e.g. καλὴ ἡ γυνή or ἡ γυνὴ καλή “The woman is beautiful”). It’s not really the same as Chinese in which adjectives are stative verbs, but the two languages do bear a superficial similarity on this point. On the other hand, Greek goes well beyond paint-verbs. A common pattern I’ve noticed on this occasion (of reacquainting myself with Classical Greek, that is) is the fronting of predicative adjectives. Morwood (2001:125) has this example:

ἀθάνατον τὴν περὶ αὑτῶν μνήμην καταλείψουσιν “They will leave behind a memory of themselves (that will be) immortal.”

(Isocrates 1.9.3)
If you wanted to be really prosaic about it, you could translate it as “Immortal will be the memory of themselves that they will leave behind”, although this sort of translation won’t necessarily work with more complex sentences or, indeed, even some simple ones. For example, Weir Smyth (1920:257, §915) has

μετεώρους ἐξεκόμισαν τὰς ἁμάξας “They lifted the wagons and carried them out.”

(Xenophon, Anabasis 1.5.8)
which more literally is “They carried out the wagons (which had been) raised”.
I assume that this fronting is emphatic, although that sentence from Xenophon hardly seems to demand that the adjective should be emphasised (“Raised were the wagons which they carried out” – O noble exercise in vehicular logistics!). But I’m not sure whether such adjectives are performing a limiting or non-limiting function, or whether they can do either. As far as I can find in Weir Smyth, there’s nothing about this.
As for what can be modified, Weir Smyth (1920:275ff., §1040ff.) mentions the usual verbs (be, become etc.) as well as active verbs which take a preposition.

νόμους ἔθεσθε ἐπ’ ἀδήλοις τοῖς ἀδικήσουσι “You have enacted laws with regard to offenders who are unknown.”

(Demosthenes 21.30)
I’m not really certain what Weir Smyth actually means because the verb is transitive and has an adverbial adjunct which, itself, contains a predicative adjective. Or perhaps he’s referring to the participle, ἀδικήσουσι “those who offend; offenders”. On the other hand, that’s dative because of the preposition ἐπί.
In other instances, an adjective of time, place or order of succession is used where English would use an adverbial expression instead (e.g. κατέβαινον σκοταῖοι “they descended in the dark”). Adjectives of degree and manner are used in the same way (e.g. φέρονται οἱ λίθοι πολλοί “The stones are thrown in great numbers”, Xenophon, Anabasis 4.7.7).
Although I’m unsure of the exact details because I’m not a syntactian, the adjective either remains in situ (e.g. φέρονται οἱ λίθοι πολλοί) or gets raised (e.g. μετεώρους ἐξεκόμισαν τὰς ἁμάξας). This would also apply to my original examples, καλὴ ἡ γυνή and ἡ γυνὴ καλή. I don’t know whether there are sentences of the type ἐξεκόμισαν μετεώρους τὰς ἁμάξας, but presumably it’s possible. It would also seem that the adjective cannot be raised outside of a preposition, although in the example above, it’s behaving like a conjunction. There’s probably some principle in syntactic theory which would explain this. I just don’t happen to know what it is.
And finally, what about attributive adjectives, or more exactly, the construction ἡ γυνὴ ἡ καλή “the beautiful woman”? One DP/NP or two? Have to be two, but I don’t know what the structure is above that.

The end of the Apology

Ever so sorry.
I finished the last selection from the Apology last night. The final extract was Socrates hoping that death might be a good thing. I wonder if he really believed that or whether he was merely trying to annoying the ἄνδρες δικασταί by making it seem as if they’d done him a favour. O Socrates, said Anytus. If I was actually clever, I would observe that if you consider life to be such a trial and death such a benefit, you should have killed yourself long ago. “Don’t worry,” Plato whispered to Socrates, who was looking slightly perplexed. “I’ll edit that bit out in the published version.”
The extracts from the Apology amounted to about a quarter of the entire work. The next selection is from Crito which is, if I remember rightly, an attempt to persuade Socrates to flee, which he rejects because it’d be against his principles and because he’d probably still make a nuisance of himself no matter where he went.

An easy selection?

Did you bump your head, Arthur?

Last night’s selection from the Apology was fairly straightforward with no major difficulties. I’ve been doing what I’ve always done – copying out the sentences and then translating them. 

But today’s selection (36b in the Apology) begins with a few short remarks and then dumps this 110-word monstrosity on you:

Τί ἄξιός εἰμι παθεῖν ἢ ἀποτεῖσαι, ὅτι μαθὼν ἐν τῷ βίῳ οὐχ ἡσυχίαν ἦγον, ἀλλ᾽ ἀμελήσας ὧνπερ οἱ πολλοί, χρηματισμοῦ τε καὶ οἰκονομίας καὶ στρατηγιῶν καὶ δημηγοριῶν καὶ τῶν ἄλλων ἀρχῶν καὶ συνωμοσιῶν καὶ στάσεων τῶν ἐν τῇ πόλει γιγνομένων, ἡγησάμενος ἐμαυτὸν [36c] τῷ ὄντι ἐπιεικέστερον εἶναι ἢ ὥστε εἰς ταῦτ᾽ ἰόντα σῴζεσθαι, ἐνταῦθα μὲν οὐκ ᾖα οἷ ἐλθὼν μήτε ὑμῖν μήτε ἐμαυτῷ ἔμελλον μηδὲν ὄφελος εἶναι, ἐπὶ δὲ τὸ ἰδίᾳ ἕκαστον ἰὼν εὐεργετεῖν τὴν μεγίστην εὐεργεσίαν, ὡς ἐγώ φημι, ἐνταῦθα ᾖα, ἐπιχειρῶν ἕκαστον ὑμῶν πείθειν μὴ πρότερον μήτε τῶν ἑαυτοῦ μηδενὸς ἐπιμελεῖσθαι πρὶν ἑαυτοῦ ἐπιμεληθείη ὅπως ὡς βέλτιστος καὶ φρονιμώτατος ἔσοιτο, μήτε τῶν τῆς πόλεως, πρὶν αὐτῆς τῆς πόλεως·

And that’s just to a semicolon. In another edition of the text there are another 16 words to go before you see the end of the sentence. I have a reasonable idea what it means, but if Socrates thought that he might persuade the audience to vote in his favour, this is where he probably lost them.

He’s wondering about what a suitable punishment might be. He wonders why he didn’t keep his trap shut and engage in the activities which everyone else in the city does. He didn’t turn up to save himself, but tried to benefit people privately, making them better for it and the city in the same way.

That is a rough paraphrase at best, but there’s quite a bit there which leaves me baffled possibly because there may be things I’m meant to understand. For example, I assume that οἱ πολλοί needs to be supplied with a suitable finite verb. I’m not sure what ἢ is doing between εἶναι and ὥστε, unless, again, there’s some sort of ellipsis. I’m not even sure how ὥστε fits. I only now discover that οἷ is an adverb meaning “to where”. The notes say that the presence of ἰὼν is difficult (in fact, it’d seem safe to ignore it), but what about ἐπὶ δὲ τὸ ἰδίᾳ ἕκαστον…εὐεργετεῖν? Is this an infinitive as a verbal noun? Is τὴν μεγίστην εὐεργεσίαν accusative of respect?[1] () μήτε…μήτε at the end is obviously forms parallel clauses, the second clause requiring ἐπιμελεῖσθαι “to take care of”, which takes a dO in the genitive, to be supplied.[2] Is τῶν ἑαυτοῦ μηδενὸς “none of his own things”? That is, μηδενὸς is the actual dO of the verb (though what’s the deal with τῶν? Genitive of respect?).[3] Is the following clause πρὶν ἑαυτοῦ ἐπιμεληθείη “before he cared for himself”? The final two clauses would seem to be something about someone caring for the city before the city cares for itself.

But this doesn’t constitute an easy selection without a great deal more annotation and even trying to break it down into smaller pieces doesn’t help.

Ugh. I’m feeling frustrated and stupid, and feel that hemlock might’ve been too kind a punishment for Socrates.

1. No. It seems that μηδενὸς is neuter.
2. I assume that the infinitive is dependent on πείθειν.
3. Nope, it’s a cognate accusative according to LSJ, thus making the clause something like “and I came here, as I said, to do each the greatest service”.

It’s not just rhetoric

Well, some of it is, I suppose.

As you may recall, ὦ ἄνδρες Ἀθηναῖοι, I expressed vexation at the long-standing claim that Classical Greek was allegedly a bit quodlibet when it came to word (i.e., constituent) order. Out of curiosity, I decided to have a closer look at a short section of Lysias’ On the murder of Eratosthenes and found that a high degree of regularity was the order of the day. Here’s the section in question.

[8] ἐπ’ ἐκφορὰν γὰρ αὐτῇ ἀκολουθήσασα ἡ ἐμὴ γυνὴ ὑπὸ τούτου τοῦ ἀνθρώπου ὀφθεῖσα χρόνῳ διαφθείρεται· ἐπιτηρῶν γὰρ τὴν θεράπαιναν τὴν εἰς τὴν ἀγορὰν βαδίζουσαν καὶ λόγους προσφέρων ἀπώλεσεν αὐτήν.

The subject of the first sentence is ἡ ἐμὴ γυνὴ “my wife”, which is modified by two non-finite verb clauses, αὐτῇ ἀκολουθήσασα “while she followed her” and ὑπὸ τούτου τοῦ ἀνθρώπου ὀφθεῖσα “seen by this person”. Note the structure of both of these. The complement (αὐτῇ, ὑπὸ τούτου τοῦ ἀνθρώπου) precedes the head (ἀκολουθήσασα, ὀφθεῖσα). Note also how αὐτῇ ἀκολουθήσασα, which is a modifier, precedes its head, ἡ ἐμὴ γυνὴ, but in order to avoid the whole phrase being top-heavy, Lysias places the second modifier after the subject and gets a nice modifier – head – modifier pattern. 

I got tripped up by χρόνῳ “in time”, which actually follows the same pattern because it goes with the verb διαφθείρεται “she was seduced”. However, as a speaker of a VO language, my inclination was to take it with the preceding verb. Nonetheless, the sentence ends up being subject – adverbial adjunct – verb. 

The second sentence shows a similar sort of patterning in some of its parts. τὴν θεράπαιναν τὴν εἰς τὴν ἀγορὰν βαδίζουσαν “the maid who was walking in the market place” follows the spec + noun + spec + modifier pattern (e.g. ἡ γυνὴ ἡ σοφή “the wise woman”), but inside the modifying phrase, εἰς τὴν ἀγορὰν βαδίζουσαν follows the adjunct/complement + head order. So does λόγους προσφέρων “addressing arguments” with the dO preceding the verb. αὐτήν “her”, on the other hand, stands in a marked position, which makes it emphatic.

The point is that Classical Greek had some sort of constituent order, albeit one that could, for whatever reason, be violated. However, this modifier-head pattern in the language could be helpful in deciding what to do with adverbial adjuncts: as a general principle, they might be taken with what follows rather than with what precedes.

The Ephemeron

What has wings, four legs and lasts a day?

While I was compiling a table of contents for the Greek reader I mentioned yesterday, I came across the following in the natural history section.

περὶ τὸν Ὕπανιν ποταμὸν τὸν περὶ Βόσπορον τὸν Κιμμέριαν, γίγνεται ζῶον πτερωτὸν, τετράπουν. ζῇ δὲ τοῦτο καὶ πέτεται ἐξ ἑωθινοῦ μέχρι δείλης· καταφερομένου δὲ τοῦ ἡλίου, ἀπομαραίνεται, καὶ ἅμα δυομένῳ ἀποθνήσκει, βιοῦν ἡμέραν μίαν· διὸ καὶ καλεῖται Ἐφήμερον.

Around the River Hypanis in the area of Bosporus in Cimmeria, there is a winged, four-footed animal. It lives and it flies from early morning until the afternoon; and when the sun sets, it wastes away, and together with the setting of the sun, it dies, living one day; and for this reason, it’s called an Ephemeron.

And who’s the source of this information? Aristotle. (Yeah, that Aristotle, the one who blighted Western thought for so long.)

I find that these days an ephemeron is something from computer science.

Socrates is the wisest

And you believe some stoner chick, do you?
socrates_hemlock I’ve been a little tardy working my way through the second selection from the Apology of Socrates. Translating Greek vacuums up a lot of time to the detriment of other activities. This selection is about Chaerephon going to the oracle at Delphi and asking “εἴ τις [Σωκράτους] εἴη σοφώτερος” (whether anyone is wiser than [Socrates]). And the oracle replies “μηδένα σοφώτερον εἶναι” (no one is wiser). Socrates assumes that the oracle can’t be taken literally (which it usually couldn’t) and the god can’t be lying. He searches among various groups of people trying to disprove the declaration, but can find no one who’s wise enough to admit their ignorance.
Of course, if Chaerephon had been wittier, he would’ve asked, “Is there a bigger pain in the arse than Socrates?” to which the oracle should’ve said, “No one’s a bigger pain in the arse”. Socrates would then have tested the truth of the statement, found that he was the biggest pain in the arse in Athens, and have been spared a hemlock cocktail after a trial – it would’ve been served to him beforehand.
Meanwhile, my gallivanting about on line has reminded me of the dreaded unseen, some piece of prose or verse, the sole purpose of which seemed to be to baffled and bamboozle. But in the course of my wanderings, I found a guide to doing unseens. I don’t remember ever being given one of these. I do remember being given unseens. The problem was, I suppose, that they didn’t seem to achieve anything apart from vexation. For example, if the unseen was practice tackling a specific grammatical construction, these things might’ve been useful.

Is it an adverb? Is it a conjunction?

Or is it an enormous pain in the arse?

There are only two parts to the grammar in Unit 22 [of TY Ancient Greek] and one of them is about ὡς. I wrote that out in my notebook, not verbatim, but just the details and the examples. That took up seven pages and I’m still none the wiser when it comes to spotting some of the less obvious functions of this pesky little word.

The other part of the grammar was various other functions of the accusative, which means verbs taking two accusatives and cognate accusatives.

The prize for most puzzling sentence in the reading has to go to δίδου πένησιν ὡς λάβῃς θεὸν δότην. The first part is simple enough: “Give to the poor”. Since the verb is subjunctive and there’s no sign of ἄν, it would appear that ὡς is introducing a purpose clause. The verb seems to be taking some sort of double accusative, but I didn’t know that λαμβάνω “take; receive” could do that, LSJ has

6. c. dupl. acc., take as, λαβὼν πρόβλημα σαυτοῦ παῖδα τόνδ’ Id.Ph.1007; ξυμπαραστάτην λ. τινά ib.675; τοὺς Ἕλληνας λ. συναγωνιζομένους Isoc.5.86.

But where does that leave the sentence in question? “Give to the poor to take the giver as a god”? That doesn’t make much sense and reversing the order of the two accusatives makes even less sense. I admit defeat. The book has, “Give to the poor in order that you find god a giver”. Er, all right. λαμβάνω can mean “find”, but in the sense “come upon”.

Another sentence which could do with some additional explanation.

Of what kind

He is such a kind, sort of.

The likes of τοσοῦτος/ὅσος “so many/much” and τοιοῦτος/οἷος “such” predict the likelihood of at least one sentence in any subsequent reading which I’ll probably find incomprehensible. I’ve never been disappointed on other occasions, and I certain wasn’t disappointed this time. The sentence is

οἵῳ τις ἂν τὸ πλεῖστον τῆς ἡμέρας συνῇ, τοιοῦτον ἀνάγκη γενέσθαι καὶ αὐτὸν τοὺς τρόπους.

The first part isn’t so dire. It runs something like “Whoever is with a certain sort of person most of the day”.

The dark corners

I guessed that τοὺς τρέπους “in habit” was accusative of respect. Initially, I came to the same conclusion about τοιοῦτον…αὐτὸν because there isn’t a transitive verb in sight. I actually have no idea what αὐτὸν is doing there and whether I’m even right to assume that it has a connection with τοιοῦτον. It shouldn’t have any connection to ἀνάγκη [ἐστί] “must” because that takes a dative and infinitive.[1] It looks like the second clause means “he must also become such a person in his habits”.

A light is shone into the dark corners

The notes in the book shed no light on this. The meaning appears to be obvious and even if the translation can’t be literal, I still want to know what the grammar is up to. Consulting Weir Smith (see fn. 1) reveals that αὐτὸν is probably the subject of ἀνάγκη [ἐστί], and τοιοῦτον, therefore, is probably the complement of γενέσθαι “become” because with this particular verb, the complement agrees in case with the subject (cf. archaic English it is I; I am he etc.). But without this additional piece of information, the reader is going to be baffled. It’s possible that somewhere in TY Ancient Greek there’s a note which says that ἀνάγκη [ἐστί] can also take an acc/inf. construction, but that’s buried somewhere.

So if I’m right about this, I can now see what the mechanics of the sentence are instead of merely knowing what the words mean and then arranging them intelligibly in English. The point is that a piece of information which is necessary for the reader to know to understand this sentence properly is missing or hidden.

I can at least say from an online search that it’s a fragment of Antiphon (c. 485-390 BC).


1. According to the glossary in TY Ancient Greek. On the other hand, Weir Smith (1920:442, §1985b.) says that it can take the accusative or dative and infinitive.

When it’s Saturday afternoon

You do Unit 20.

Unit 20 covers -νυ-μι verbs, which, if I remember rightly, are Class 5 verbs in Sanskrit. ἵημι “let go, send forth” and its irksome compounds make an appearance. This is the other especially annoying μι-verb in Greek.

The next couple of sections are about specialised uses of the genitive and accusative cases, which is where we finally get that old chestnut, the accusative of respect. And there’s πόδας ὠκὺς Ἀχιλλεύς “swift-footed Achilles”.

The sentence from the reading which wins the award for Most Pretentious Word Order goes to

ὁ Σωκράτης φανερὸς ἦν οὐ τῶν τὰ σώματα πρὸς ὥραν, ἀλλὰ τῶν τὰς ψυχὰς πρὸς ἀρετὴν εὖ πεφυκότων ἐφιέμενος.
Socrates clearly desired not those naturally well-endowed in body with respect to beauty, but those naturally well-endowed in spirit with respect to virtue.

where the verbs of the two subordinate clauses are right at the end. εὖ πεφυκότων “being well-endowed by nature” goes with the gen pl articles, while ἐφιέμενος “desiring” goes with Σωκράτης.

[06.08.13. Added tags and edited the formatting. Wondering why <span> tags are being used within <div> tags to format text.]