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Classical Greek Online

Lesson 2

Winfred P. Lehmann and Jonathan Slocum

The Homeric poems are among the most read, admired and discussed works of literature. They are credited to a poet about whom nothing certain is known, but who apparently lived around 850 B.C. in one of the Asiatic Greek cities, probably Smyrna (Izmir) or Chios. Every Greek schoolboy is said to have known them, as have many in the western world until recent times. Their origin has been the subject of much discussion. By investigating Yugoslav oral poets of his day Milman Parry (1902-35) established the view that they were the results of a long tradition in which bards recited or sang shorter poems or lays that were the basis of longer poems, such as the Homeric epics. Such epics were recited by outstanding poets like Homer, and might later be fixed by written versions. Parry's contributions are readily available in The Making of Homeric Verse The Collected Papers of Milman Parry, ed. Adam Parry (New York: Oxford University Press, 1987). According to ancient tradition, the Homeric poems were first written down by Pisistratus in the sixth century B.C. They were later studied, especially by the Alexandrian grammarians, among whom the great critic, Aristarchus of the second century B.C., produced an edition that has been the basis of the poems ever since.

The lines of the Iliad and the Odyssey are composed in dactylic hexameter, with a caesura typical after the fourth member, and a a dactyl [- v v] rather than a spondee [- -] in the fifth. Among characteristics of epic verse are formulae, such as dios Achilleus of line 7 below and hekêbolou Apollônos of line 14, in a different case in line 21. Parry published two long "Studies in the Epic Technique of Oral Verse-Making" (1987: 266-364). Especially the second of these with the sub-title "The Homeric Language as the Language of an Oral Poetry" may be consulted for further details.

Reading and Textual Analysis

The theme of the Iliad is given in the preamble of seven lines. It is the anger of Achilles. This was first directed at Agamemnon as they were besieging the city of Troy. But after the death of his friend, Patroclus, it was directed at his slayer, Hector, the prime warrior of the city. The poem deals with other combat during the intervening three weeks, such as that between Paris, son of Priam, head of Troy, and Menelaus, husband of Helen whom Paris had abducted, thereby causing the attack by the Greeks. The poem concludes with the death of Hector at the hands of Achilles, and his burial.

Mênin aeide, thea, Pêlêiadeô Achillêos

  • mênin -- noun, feminine; accusative singular of <mênis> anger -- anger
  • aeide -- verb; 2nd person singular imperative of <aeidô> sing, chant -- sing
  • thea -- noun, feminine; vocative singular of <thea> goddess -- oh goddess
  • Pêlêiadeô -- noun, masculine; genitive singular of <Pêlêiadês> son of Peleus -- son of Peleus
  • Achillêos -- noun, masculine; genitive singular of <Achilleus> Achilles -- of Achilles

oulomenên, hê muri' Achaiois alge' ethêke,
# Note that final vowels may be elided to provide regular meter (herein, muri' and alge' have lost final a).

  • oulomenên -- participle; accusative singular feminine of present participle middle of <oloô> to destroy -- baneful
  • -- relative pronoun; nominative singular feminine of <hos> who, which -- that
  • muri' -- adjective; accusative plural neuter of <murios> countless -- countless
  • Achaiois -- noun, masculine; dative plural of <Achaios> Achaean -- on the Achaeans
  • alge' -- noun, neuter; accusative plural of <algos> woe -- woes
  • ethêke -- verb; 3rd person singular aorist of <tithêmi> put, place -- brought

pollas d' iphthimous psuchas Haidi proiapsen

  • pollas -- adjective; accusative plural feminine of <polus> many -- many
  • d' -- particle; <de> and, on the other hand -- and
  • iphthimous -- adjective; accusative plural feminine of <iphthimos> valiant -- valiant
  • psuchas -- noun, feminine; accusative plural of <psuchê> soul -- souls
  • Haidi -- noun, masculine; dative singular of <Haidês> Hades -- to Hades
  • proiapsen -- verb; 3rd person singular aorist of <proiaptô> send forth -- sent forth

hêrôôn, autous de helôria teuche kunessin

  • hêrôôn -- noun, masculine; genitive plural of <hêrôs> hero -- of warriors
  • autous -- pronoun; accusative plural masculine of <autos> oneself, he -- those
  • de -- particle; <de> and, on the other hand -- and
  • helôria -- noun, neuter; accusative plural of <helôrion> spoils, booty -- spoils
  • teuche -- verb; 3rd person singular imperfect of <teuchô> make ready, make -- made
  • kunessin -- noun, masculine; dative plural of <kuôn> dog -- for dogs

oiônoisi te pasi, Dios d' eteleieto boulê,

  • oiônoisi -- noun, masculine; dative plural of <oiônos> large bird, bird of prey -- for the birds of prey
  • te -- conjunction; <te> and -- and
  • pasi -- adjective; dative plural masculine of <pas> all, every -- for all the
  • Dios -- noun, masculine; genitive singular of <Zeus> Zeus -- of Zeus
  • d' -- particle; <de> and, on the other hand -- and
  • eteleieto -- verb; 3rd person singular imperfect passive of <teleiô> fulfill, complete -- was fulfilled
  • boulê -- noun, feminine; nominative singular of <boulê> will -- the will

ex hou dê ta prôta diastêtên erisante

  • ex -- preposition; <ex> from, out of -- from
  • hou -- relative pronoun; genitive singular neuter <hos> who, which -- that (time)
  • -- particle; <> indeed -- indeed
  • ta -- article; accusative plural neuter of <ho> the -- the
  • prôta -- adverb; accusative plural neuter of <prôtos> first -- first
  • diastêtên -- verb; 2nd person dual aorist middle of <di-istêmi> separate, strive -- they separated
  • erisante -- verb; 2nd person dual aorist participle of <erizô> quarrel -- quarreling with one another

Atreidês te anax andrôn kai dios Achilleus.

  • Atreidês -- noun, masculine; nominative singular of <Atreidês> son of Atreus -- the son of Atreus
  • te -- conjunction; <te> and -- and
  • anax -- noun, masculine; nominative singular of <anax> ruler -- ruler
  • andrôn -- noun, masculine; genitive plural of <anêr> man -- of men
  • kai -- conjunction; <kai> and -- and
  • dios -- adjective; nominative singular masculine of <dios> godlike, noble -- noble
  • Achilleus -- noun, masculine; nominative singular of <Achilleus> Achilles -- Achilles

Tis t' ar' sphôe theôn eridi xuneêke machesthai?

  • tis -- interrogative pronoun; nominative singular masculine of <tis> who, what -- who
  • t' -- conjunction; <te> and -- ...
  • ar' -- interrogative particle; <ara> then -- ...
  • sphôe -- pronoun; accusative dual masculine of <sphôe> those two -- the two of them
  • theôn -- noun, masculine; genitive plural of <theos> god -- of the gods
  • eridi -- noun, feminine; dative singular of <eris> strife -- in strife
  • xuneêke -- verb; 3rd person singular aorist of <suniêmi> bring together -- brought together
  • machesthai -- verb; infinitive middle of <machomai> fight, quarrel -- to quarrel

Lêtous kai Dios huios? ho gar basilêi cholôtheis

  • Lêtous -- noun, feminine; genitive singular of <Lêtô> Leto -- of Leto
  • kai -- conjunction; <kai> and -- and
  • Dios -- noun, masculine; genitive singular of <Zeus> Zeus -- of Zeus
  • huios -- noun, masculine; nominative singular of <huios> son -- the son
  • ho -- article used as pronoun; nominative singular masculine of <ho> the -- he
  • gar -- conjunction; <gar> for -- for
  • basilêi -- noun, masculine; dative singular of <basileus> king -- the king
  • cholôtheis -- verb; nominative singular masculine of aorist participle passive of <choloô> anger -- angered at

nouson ana straton ôrse kakên, olekonto de laoi,

  • nouson -- noun, feminine; accusative singular of <nousos> sickness -- a sickness
  • ana -- preposition; <ana> on -- on
  • straton -- noun, masculine; accusative singular of <stratos> army -- the army
  • ôrse -- verb; 3rd person singular aorist of <ornumi> stir up -- brought about
  • kakên -- adjective; accusative singular feminine of <kakos> evil, poor -- evil
  • olekonto -- verb; 3rd person plural imperfect passive of <olekô> kill -- were perishing
  • de -- particle; <de> and, on the other hand -- and
  • laoi -- noun, masculine; nominative plural of <laos> people -- people

houneka ton Chrusên êtimasen arêtêra

  • houneka -- conjunction; <houneka> because -- because
  • ton -- article; accusative singular masculine of <ho> the -- the
  • Chrusên -- noun, masculine; accusative singular of <Chrusês> Chryses -- Chryses
  • êtimasen -- verb; 3rd person singular aorist of <atimazô> dishonor -- he had dishonored
  • arêtêra -- noun, masculine; accusative singular of <arêtêr> priest -- priest

Atreidês; ho gar êlthe thoas epi nêas Achaiôn

  • Atreidês -- noun, masculine; nominative singular of <Atreidês> son of Atreus -- the son of Atreus
  • ho -- article used as pronoun; nominative singular masculine of <ho> the -- he
  • gar -- conjunction; <gar> for -- for
  • êlthe -- verb; 3rd person singular aorist of <erchomai> come, go -- came
  • thoas -- adjective; accusative plural feminine; of <thoos> fast -- the fast
  • epi -- preposition; <epi> on, about -- to
  • nêas -- noun, feminine; accusative plural of <naus> ship -- ships
  • Achaiôn -- noun, masculine; genitive plural of <Achaios> Achaean -- of the Achaeans

lusomenos te thugatra pherôn t' apereisi' apoina,

  • lusomenos -- verb; nominative singular masculine of future participle middle of <luô> loosen, free -- to free
  • te -- conjunction; <te> and -- and
  • thugatra -- noun, feminine; accusative singular of <thugatêr> daughter -- his daughter
  • pherôn -- verb; nominative singular masculine of present participle of <pherô> bear, bring, carry -- bearing
  • t' -- conjunction; <te> and -- and
  • apereisi' -- adjective; accusative plural neuter of <apereisios> countless -- countless
  • apoina -- noun, neuter; accusative plural of <apoina> ransom -- ransom

stemmat' echôn en chersin hekêbolou Apollônos

  • stemmat' -- noun, neuter; accusative plural of <stemma> wreath, garland -- garlands
  • echôn -- verb; nominative singular masculine of present participle of <echô> have -- having
  • en -- preposition; <en> in -- in
  • chersin -- noun, feminine; dative plural of <cheir> hand -- his hands
  • hekêbolou -- adjective; genitive singular masculine of <hekêbolos> far-shooting -- of far-shooting
  • Apollônos -- noun, masculine; genitive singular of <Apollôn> Apollo -- Apollo

chruseô ana skêptrô, kai lisseto pantas Achaious

  • chruseô -- adjective; dative singular neuter of <chruseos> golden -- golden
  • ana -- preposition; <ana> on -- on
  • skêptrô -- noun, neuter; dative singular of <skêptron> sceptre -- sceptre
  • kai -- conjunction; <kai> and -- and
  • lisseto -- verb; 3rd person singular imperfect of <lissomai> pray -- prayed
  • pantas -- adjective; accusative plural masculine of <pas> all, every -- all
  • Achaious -- noun, masculine; accusative plural of <Achaios> Achaean -- Achaeans

Atreida de malista duô, kosmêtore laôn;

  • Atreida -- noun, masculine; accusative dual of <Atreidês> son of Atreus -- sons of Atreus
  • de -- particle; <de> and, on the other hand -- but
  • malista -- adverb; superlative of <mala> very -- chiefly
  • duô -- number; dual of <duo> two -- the two
  • kosmêtore -- noun, masculine; accusative dual of <kosmêtôr> commander -- commanders
  • laôn -- noun, masculine; genitive plural of <laos> people -- of the peoples

"Atreidai te kai alloi euknêmides Achaioi,

  • Atreidai -- noun, masculine; vocative plural of <Atreidês> son of Atreus -- Sons of Atreus
  • te -- conjunction; <te> and -- and
  • kai -- conjunction; <kai> and -- and
  • alloi -- adjective; vocative plural masculine of <allos> other -- other
  • euknêmides -- adjective; vocative plural masculine of <euknêmis> well-greaved -- well-greaved
  • Achaioi -- noun, masculine; vocative plural of <Achaios> Achaean -- Achaeans

humin men theoi doien Olumpia dômat' echontes

  • humin -- pronoun; dative plural masculine of <su> you -- to you
  • men -- particle; <men> on the one hand -- indeed
  • theoi -- noun, masculine; nominative plural of <theos> god -- the gods
  • doien -- verb; 3rd person plural optative aorist of <didômi> give -- may . . .grant
  • Olumpia -- adjective; accusative plural neuter of <Olumpios> Olympian -- Olympian
  • dômat' -- noun, neuter; accusative plural of <dôma> house, home -- homes
  • echontes -- verb; nominative plural masculine of present participle of <echô> have -- who have

ekpersai Priamoio polin, eu d' oikad' hikesthai!

  • ekpersai -- verb; aorist infinitive of <ekperthô> destroy -- that you destroy
  • Priamoio -- noun, masculine; genitive singular of <Priamos> Priam -- of Priam
  • polin -- noun, feminine; accusative singular of <polis> city -- the city
  • eu -- adverb; <eu> well -- safely
  • d' -- particle; <de> and, on the other hand -- and
  • oikad' -- adverb; <oikade> home -- home
  • hikesthai -- deponent verb; infinitive aorist middle of <hikneomai> reach -- return

paida d' emoi lusaite philên, ta d' apoina dechesthai,

  • paida -- noun, masculine/feminine; accusative singular of <pais> child -- child
  • d' -- particle; <de> and, on the other hand -- and
  • emoi -- pronoun; dative singular masculine of <egô> I -- to me
  • lusaite -- verb; 2nd person plural optative aorist of <luô> loosen, free -- free
  • philên -- adjective; accusative singular feminine of <philos> dear, friendly -- dear
  • ta -- article; accusative plural neuter of <ho> the -- the
  • d' -- particle; <de> and, on the other hand -- and
  • apoina -- noun, neuter; accusative plural of <apoina> ransom -- ransom
  • dechesthai -- verb; infinitive of <dechomai> receive -- receive

hazomenoi Dios huion hekêbolon Apollôna."

  • hazomenoi -- verb; nominative plural masculine of present participle middle of <hazomai> stand in awe of -- respect with fear
  • Dios -- noun, masculine; genitive singular of <Zeus> Zeus -- of Zeus
  • huion -- noun, masculine; accusative singular of <huios> son -- the son
  • hekêbolon -- adjective; accusative singular masculine of <hekêbolos> far-shooting -- far-shooting
  • Apollôna -- noun, masculine; accusative singular of <Apollôn> Apollo -- Apollo

Lesson Text

Mênin aeide, thea, Pêlêiadeô Achillêos
oulomenên, hê muri' Achaiois alge' ethêke,
pollas d' iphthimous psuchas Haidi proiapsen
hêrôôn, autous de helôria teuche kunessin
oiônoisi te pasi, Dios d' eteleieto boulê,
ex hou dê ta prôta diastêtên erisante
Atreidês te anax andrôn kai dios Achilleus.
Tis t' ar' sphôe theôn eridi xuneêke machesthai?
Lêtous kai Dios huios? ho gar basilêi cholôtheis
nouson ana straton ôrse kakên, olekonto de laoi,
houneka ton Chrusên êtimasen arêtêra
Atreidês; ho gar êlthe thoas epi nêas Achaiôn
lusomenos te thugatra pherôn t' apereisi' apoina,
stemmat' echôn en chersin hekêbolou Apollônos
chruseô ana skêptrô, kai lisseto pantas Achaious
Atreida de malista duô, kosmêtore laôn;
"Atreidai te kai alloi euknêmides Achaioi,
humin men theoi doien Olumpia dômat' echontes
ekpersai Priamoio polin, eu d' oikad' hikesthai!
paida d' emoi lusaite philên, ta d' apoina dechesthai,
hazomenoi Dios huion hekêbolon Apollôna."

Translation

Sing, oh goddess, of the wrath of Achilles, son of Peleus, the baneful wrath, which brought countless woes on the Achaeans and sent many valiant souls of heroes to Hades; But it made them themselves spoils for dogs and all kinds of birds, while the wish of the god was fulfilled. (Sing) from the time when, quarreling with one another, they first separated, the son of Atreus, ruler of men, and noble Achilles.
Who now of the gods brought those two to quarrel in strife? The son of Leto and Zeus! For he, angered at the king, brought about an evil sickness on the army, and the people were perishing, because the son of Atreus had dishonored Chryses, the priest. For he had come to the swift ships of the Achaeans to free his daughter, bearing countless ransom and having in his hands on a golden scepter garlands of far-shooting Apollo. And he requested of all the Achaeans, but chiefly the two sons of Atreus, commanders of the people: "Sons of Atreus and other well-greaved Achaeans, may the gods, who have Olympian homes, grant to you that you destroy the city of Priam and return safely home. But free my dear child to me, and receive the ransom, in awe of far-shooting Apollo, son of Zeus."

Grammar

6. Conjunctions and Particles.

As these texts exemplify, Greek makes great use of conjunctions and particles. These may have basic meanings, but many of them simply suggest relationships between syntactic units, so that they vary in use and may even not need to be translated.

The most common conjunction is kai, with a basic meaning of 'and' but also 'even' and at times 'but'. Another common conjunction is gar, with a basic meaning of 'for' but also 'now', or it may be added simply to strengthen questions.

Particles typically stand right after the first content word in sentences. Among the particles, de is very common, as in our texts; it has a basic adversative meaning and may often be translated 'but' or 'on the other hand', but is often redundant. In a different meaning it is attached to names of places that are in the accusative, and then means 'to'. In addition it may be added to pronouns to strengthen their meaning. The particle te is also very common, and has the meaning 'and'; it is often used after both nouns that are conjoined. Moreover, in epic poetry it is added to other particles or to pronouns without adding to their meaning. The particle men often stands in clauses that are followed by other clauses including de, where it means something like 'one the one hand'; it may also be combined with other particles, as in men ara, where it means 'and'. The particle indicates emphasis, as on the word preceding it. In short, particles often supply meaning much as intonation does in English. The meaning of the content words in sentences may be a guide to interpretation of the particles included in them.

7. Participles.

Participles are often used to function as verbs of modifying clauses. These modifying clauses may correspond to relative clauses, as does echontes in line 18 of the Iliad text. The relationship to a principal clause may require a further interpretation, as does that of the participle lusomenos in line 13 or that of azomenos in line 21. On the other hand, they may be treated as participles in English, as for example pherôn in line 13. They may also be adjectival; an example is oulomenên in line 2. The interpretations will generally be clear from the contexts in which they are found.

8. Nouns in consonantal declension.

Nouns in the consonantal declension often have the final consonant elided before the nominative ending, so that their stem form must be determined from the genitive or other oblique cases. Examples are given here of nouns with stems ending in -d- and -r-.

    Masculine   Feminine   Feminine
Nom sg   ho pais 'child'   hê hEllas 'Hellas'   hê thugatêr 'daughter'
Gen sg   tou paidos   tês Hellados   tês thugateros
Dat sg   tô paidi   tê Helladi   tê thugateri
Acc sg   ton paida   tên Hellada   tên thugatera
             
Nom pl   hoi paides       hai thugateres
Gen pl   tôn paidôn       tôn thugaterôn
Dat pl   tois paisi       tais thugatersi
Acc pl   tous paidas       tas thugateras
9. Personal pronouns.

The first and second personal pronouns have enclitic forms in the oblique cases of the singular, which are given here after the regular forms; they have no accent. The third person forms, for 'he, she, it', are supplied by the intensive pronoun meaning 'self'; the genitive singular forms would have the meanings 'of him, of her, of it', the dative singular forms would have the meanings 'to him, to her, to it', and so on.

    1st Person   2nd Person   3rd Person
            Masc.   Fem.   Neut.
Nom sg   egô   su   autos   autê   auto
Gen sg   emou, mou   sou, sou   autou   autês   autou
Dat sg   emoi, moi   soi, soi   autô   autê   autô
Acc sg   eme, me   se, se   auton   autên   auto
                     
Nom pl   hêmeis   humeis   autoi   autai   auta
Gen pl   hêmôn   humôn   autôn   autôn   autôn
Dat pl   hêmin   humin   autois   autais   autois
Acc pl   hêmas   humas   autous   autas   auta
10. The Present System of verbs.

The present system includes five categories of forms: the present indicative, the imperfect, the subjunctive, the optative, and the imperative. In addition there is an infinitive and also a participle. The first two categories have been given in Lesson 1; the others are given here using the verb [infinitive] paideuein.

    Subjunctive   Optative   Imperative
1 sg   paideuô   paideuoimi    
2 sg   paideuês   paideuois   paideue
3 sg   paideuê   paideuoi   paideuetô
             
1 pl   paideuômen   paideuoimen    
2 pl   paideuête   paideuoite   paideuete
3 pl   paideuôsi(n)   paideuoien   paideuontôn

The participial forms, nominative and genitive singular, are as follows.

    Masculine   Feminine   Neuter
Nom sg   paideuôn   paideuousa   paideuon
Gen sg   paideuontos   paideuousês   paideuontos