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Classical Greek Online

Lesson 9

Winfred P. Lehmann and Jonathan Slocum

Aristotle was born in Macedonia in 384 BC. In 367 BC he went to Athens to study with Plato. Plato had a high regard for him, calling him the "intellect of his school." He stayed in Athens until the death of Plato in 347 BC, and after several residences elsewhere he was invited in 342 BC by Philip of Macedonia to instruct his son, Alexander, who was then 13. In 335 BC Aristotle returned to Athens where the state gave him the Lyceum. In the walks surrounding it he gave lectures on philosophy to many scholars while walking up and down, for which the school was named Peripatetic. He remained head of the school until 323 BC, when he left Athens for Euboea, where he died in 322 BC. His treatises and lectures on philosophy have always been highly regarded.

Reading and Textual Analysis

The Poetics is the last work of Aristotle. It is not as widely cited as his Metaphysics, nor his Nicomachean Ethics, but was selected here to illustrate his interest also in the arts. He is considered to be the first literary critic. For him, the arts represent essential truths apprehended by the mind. He proceeds to analyze works of literature, as for their style and for the construction of their plot. Style of poetry is to be judged by the employment of meter and selection of vocabulary. For a plot, unity is essential, and among other things the type of hero. In his first sentence Aristotle states the aim for the treatise as depicting the essence of poetry, its various types, and the requirements for successful plots. Among the types are epic poetry, tragedy and comedy, and dithyrambic poetry as well as most flute- and harp-playing. For all of these he demands mimesis, or imitation of life. And he accounts for interest in them because humans have an instinct for representation and because they enjoy representations. The Poetics is relatively short, but also very compact, as the selection here illustrates. The selection below is from book IV: 22-26.

Archê men oun kai oion psuchê ho muthos tês tragôdias, deuteron de ta êthê.

  • archê -- noun, feminine; nominative singular of <archê> beginning, first principle -- first principle
  • men -- particle; <men> on the one hand -- on the one hand
  • oun -- adverb; <oun> indeed -- truly
  • kai -- conjunction; <kai> and -- and
  • oion -- adverb; <oion> so to say -- so to say
  • psuchê -- noun, feminine; nominative singular of <psuchê> soul -- the soul
  • ho -- article; nominative singular masculine of <ho> the -- the
  • muthos -- noun, masculine; nominative singular of <muthos> speech, plot -- plot
  • tês -- article; genitive singular feminine of <ho> the -- of ...
  • tragôdias -- noun, feminine; genitive singular of <tragôdia> tragedy -- tragedy
  • deuteron -- adverb; <deuteron> second -- the second
  • de -- particle; <de> and, on the other hand -- on the other hand
  • ta -- article; nominative plural neuter of <ho> the -- ta
  • êthê -- noun, neuter; nominative plural of <êthos> custom, character -- character

paraplêsion gar estin kai epi tês graphikês.

  • paraplêsion -- adjective; nominative singular neuter of <paraplêsios> such-like -- the same
  • gar -- conjunction; <gar> for -- indeed
  • estin -- verb; 3rd person singular present of <eimi> I am -- it is
  • kai -- conjunction; <kai> and -- also
  • epi -- preposition; <epi> on, about -- in
  • tês -- article; genitive singular feminine of <ho> the -- ...
  • graphikês -- noun, feminine; genitive singular of <graphikê> painting -- painting

ei gar tis enaleipseie tois kallistois pharmakois chudên, ouk an homoiôs euphraneien kai leukographêsas eikona.

  • ei -- conjunction; <ei> if -- if
  • gar -- conjunction; <gar> for -- for
  • tis -- indefinite pronoun; nominative singular masculine of <tis> someone, something -- someone
  • enaleipseie -- verb; 3rd person singular aorist optative of <enaleipsô> paint, smear -- painted
  • tois -- article; dative plural neuter of <ho> the -- with the
  • kallistois -- adjective; dative plural neuter of superlative of <kalos> good, beautiful -- best
  • pharmakois -- noun, neuter; dative plural of <pharmakon> paint, color -- colors
  • chudên -- adverb; <chudên> at random, promiscuously -- at random
  • ouk -- particle; <ouk> not -- not
  • an -- particle; <an> if -- ...
  • homoiôs -- adverb; <homoiôs> similarly -- as much
  • euphraneien -- verb; 3rd person singular optative aorist of <euphrainô> delight, please -- it would ...delight
  • kai -- conjunction; <kai> and -- as
  • leukographêsas -- verb; nominative singular masculine of aorist participle of <leuko-grapheô> paint in white on a black background -- painting . . . in white on a black background
  • eikona -- noun, feminine; accusative singular of <eikôn> image, portrait -- an image

estin te mimêsis praxeôs kai dia tautên malista tôn prattontôn.

  • estin -- verb; 3rd person singular present of <eimi> I am -- it is
  • te -- conjunction; <te> and -- and
  • mimêsis -- noun, feminine; nominative singular of <mimêsis> representation -- a representation
  • praxeôs -- noun, feminine; genitive singular of <praxis> action in actual life -- of action in actual life
  • kai -- conjunction; <kai> and -- and
  • dia -- preposition; <dia> through, by -- because of
  • tautên -- demonstrative pronoun; accusative singular feminine of <houtos> this -- that
  • malista -- adverb; superlative of <mala> very -- most of all
  • tôn -- article; genitive plural masculine of <ho> the -- the
  • prattontôn -- verb; genitive plural masculine of present participle of <prattô> achieve, manage -- of those in action

Triton de hê dianoia.

  • triton -- adjective; nominative singular neuter of <tritos> third -- the third (element)
  • de -- particle; <de> and, on the other hand -- and
  • -- article; nominative singular feminine of <ho> the -- the
  • dianoia -- noun, feminine; nominative singular of <dianoia> thought, mind -- thought

touto de estin to legein dunasthai ta enonta kai ta harmottonta.

  • touto -- demonstrative pronoun; nominative singular neuter of <houtos> this -- this
  • de -- particle; <de> and, on the other hand -- and
  • estin -- verb; 3rd person singular present of <eimi> I am -- is
  • to -- article; accusative singular neuter of <ho> the -- the
  • legein -- verb; infinitive of <legô> say -- to say
  • dunasthai -- deponent verb; infinitive of <dunamai> be able -- the ability
  • ta -- article; accusative plural neuter of <ho> the -- (the) what is
  • enonta -- verb; accusative plural neuter of participle of <eneimi> to be in, to be possible -- possible
  • kai -- conjunction; <kai> and -- and
  • ta -- article; accusative plural neuter of <ho> the -- (the) what is
  • harmottonta -- verb; accusative plural neuter of present participle of <harmottô> fit together -- fitting

hoper epi tôn logôn tês politikês kai tês hrêtorikês ergon estin.

  • hoper -- relative pronoun; nominative singular neuter of <hosper> it -- it
  • epi -- preposition; <epi> on, about -- in
  • tôn -- article; genitive plural masculine of <ho> the -- the
  • logôn -- noun, masculine; genitive plural of <logos> word, reason -- the words
  • tês -- article; genitive singular feminine of <ho> the -- of the
  • politikês -- noun, feminine; genitive singular of <politikê> politics -- politics
  • kai -- conjunction; <kai> and -- and
  • tês -- article; genitive singular feminine of <ho> the -- of the
  • hrêtorikês -- noun, feminine; genitive singular of <hrêtorikê> rhetoric -- rhetorician
  • ergon -- noun, neuter; nominative singular of <ergon> work, deed -- (in the) activities
  • estin -- verb; 3rd person singular present of <eimi> I am -- is (provided)

hoi men gar archaioi politikôs epoioun legontas, hoi de nun hrêtorikôs.

  • hoi -- article; nominative plural masculine of <ho> the -- the
  • men -- particle; <men> on the one hand -- on the one hand
  • gar -- conjunction; <gar> for -- indeed
  • archaioi -- adjective; nominative plural masculine of <archaios> old -- old (writers)
  • politikôs -- adverb; <politikôs> like statesmen -- like statesmen
  • epoioun -- verb; 3rd person plural imperfect of <poieô> make, do -- made
  • legontas -- verb; accusative plural masculine of present participle of <legô> say -- (those speaking) the characters speak
  • hoi -- article; nominative plural masculine of <ho> the -- the
  • de -- particle; <de> and, on the other hand -- on the other hand
  • nun -- adverb; <nun> now -- current (writers)
  • hrêtorikôs -- adverb; <hrêtorikôs> like rhetoricians -- like rhetoricians

Estin de êthos men to toiouton ho dêloi tên proairesin, hopoia tis en hois ouk esti dêlon ê proaireitai ê pheugei.

  • estin -- verb; 3rd person singular present of <eimi> I am -- is
  • de -- particle; <de> and, on the other hand -- and
  • êthos -- noun, neuter; nominative singular of <êthos> custom, character -- character
  • men -- particle; <men> on the one hand -- and
  • to -- article; accusative singular neuter of <ho> the -- the
  • toiouton -- adjective; nominative singular neuter of <toioutos> such -- that
  • ho -- relative pronoun; nominative singular neuter of <hos> who, which -- which
  • dêloi -- verb; 3rd person singular present of <dêloô> be clear, reveal -- reveals
  • tên -- article; accusative singular feminine of <ho> the -- the
  • proairesin -- noun, feminine; accusative singular of <proairesis> choice -- choice
  • hopoia -- interrogative pronoun; accusative plural neuter of <hopos> what sort of -- what sort of thing
  • tis -- indefinite pronoun; nominative singular masculine of <tis> someone, something -- one
  • en -- preposition; <en> in -- among
  • hois -- demonstrative pronoun; dative plural neuter of <hos> this, that, he, she, it -- those where
  • ouk -- particle; <ouk> not -- not
  • esti -- verb; 3rd person singular present of <eimi> I am -- it is
  • dêlon -- adjective; nominative singular neuter of <dêlos> clear, obvious -- clear
  • ê -- conjunction; <ê> or, than -- or
  • proaireitai -- verb; 3rd person singular present middle of <proaireô> choose -- chooses
  • ê -- conjunction; <ê> or, than -- or
  • pheugei -- verb; 3rd person singular present of <pheugô> escape, flee -- avoids

dioper ouk echousin êthos tôn logôn en hois mêd' holôs estin ho ti proaireitai ê pheugei ho legôn.

  • dioper -- adverb; <dioper> therefore, so -- so
  • ouk -- particle; <ouk> not -- not
  • echousin -- verb; 3rd person plural present of <echô> have -- (those) ... have
  • êthos -- noun, neuter; accusative singular of <êthos> custom, character -- character
  • tôn -- article; genitive plural masculine of <ho> the -- (in) the
  • logôn -- noun, masculine; genitive plural of <logos> word, reason -- words
  • en -- preposition; <en> in -- in
  • hois -- relative pronoun; dative plural masculine of <hos> who, which -- which
  • mêd' -- particle; <mêde> and not -- not
  • holôs -- adverb; <holôs> wholly -- wholly
  • estin -- verb; 3rd person singular present of <eimi> I am -- it is ... (clear)
  • ho -- relative pronoun; accusative singular neuter of <hos> who, which -- what
  • ti -- indefinite pronoun; accusative singular neuter of <tis> someone, something -- ...
  • proaireitai -- verb; 3rd person singular present middle of <proaireô> choose -- chooses
  • ê -- conjunction; <ê> or, than -- or
  • pheugei -- verb; 3rd person singular present of <pheugô> escape, flee -- avoids
  • ho -- article; nominative singular masculine of <ho> the -- the
  • legôn -- participle used as substantive; nominative singular masculine of present participle of <legô> say -- (speaking one) speaker

Tetarton de tôn en logô hê lexis.

  • tetarton -- adverb; of <tetartos> fourth -- fourth
  • de -- particle; <de> and, on the other hand -- and
  • tôn -- article used as pronoun; genitive plural neuter of <ho> the -- of the (elements)
  • en -- preposition; <en> in -- in
  • logô -- noun, masculine; dative singular of <logos> word, reason -- the literary items
  • -- article; nominative singular feminine of <ho> the -- the
  • lexis -- noun, feminine; nominative singular of <lexis> style -- style

legô de, hôsper proteron eiretai, lexin tên dia tês onomasian hermêneian.

  • legô -- verb; 1st person singular present of <legô> say -- I mean (that)
  • de -- particle; <de> and, on the other hand -- and
  • hôsper -- conjunction; <hôsper> as -- as
  • proteron -- adverb; <proteron> earlier, before -- earlier
  • eiretai -- verb; 3rd person singular present passive of <eirô> speak, say -- has been said
  • lexin -- noun, feminine; accusative singular of <lexis> style -- style
  • tên -- article; accusative singular feminine of <ho> the -- (is) the
  • dia -- preposition; <dia> through, by -- by means of
  • tês -- article; genitive singular feminine of <ho> the -- the
  • onomasian -- noun, feminine; accusative singular of <onomasia> language -- language
  • hermêneian -- noun, feminine; accusative singular of <hermêneia> interpretation -- interpretation

ho kai epi tôn emmetrôn kai epi tôn logôn echei tên autên dunamin.

  • ho -- relative pronoun; nominative singular neuter of <hos> who, which -- this
  • kai -- conjunction; <kai> and -- and
  • epi -- preposition; <epi> on, about -- for
  • tôn -- article; genitive plural masculine of <ho> the -- the
  • emmetrôn -- adjective; genitive plural masculine of <emmetros> metrical -- poetry
  • kai -- conjunction; <kai> and -- and
  • epi -- preposition; <epi> on, about -- for
  • tôn -- article; genitive plural masculine of <ho> the -- the
  • logôn -- noun, masculine; genitive plural of <logos> word, reason -- (words) prose
  • echei -- verb; 3rd person singular present of <echô> have -- has
  • tên -- article; accusative singular feminine of <ho> the -- the
  • autên -- pronoun; accusative singular feminine of <autos> oneself, he -- same
  • dunamin -- noun, feminine; accusative singular of <dunamis> power -- force

Lesson Text

Archê men oun kai oion psuchê ho muthos tês tragôdias, deuteron de ta êthê. paraplêsion gar estin kai epi tês graphikês. ei gar tis enaleipseie tois kallistois pharmakois chudên, ouk an homoiôs euphraneien kai leukographêsas eikona. estin te mimêsis praxeôs kai dia tautên malista tôn prattontôn. Triton de hê dianoia. touto de estin to legein dunasthai ta enonta kai ta harmottonta. hoper epi tôn logôn tês politikês kai tês hrêtorikês ergon estin. hoi men gar archaioi politikôs epoioun legontas, hoi de nun hrêtorikôs. Estin de êthos men to toiouton ho dêloi tên proairesin, hopoia tis en hois ouk esti dêlon ê proaireitai ê pheugei. dioper ouk echousin êthos tôn logôn en hois mêd' holôs estin ho ti proaireitai ê pheugei ho legôn. Tetarton de tôn en logô hê lexis. legô de, hôsper proteron eiretai, lexin tên dia tês onomasian hermêneian. ho kai epi tôn emmetrôn kai epi tôn logôn echei tên autên dunamin.

Translation

The plot is truly the first principle and so to say the soul of tragedy; and the second is character. It is the same also in painting. For if someone painted with the best colors at random, it would not delight as much as painting an image in white on a black background. For it is a representation of action in actual life, and because of that most of all of those in action.
The third element is thought. This is the ability to say what is possible and what is fitting. It is provided in the words and the activities of the statesman and of the rhetorician. For the old writers made the characters speak like statesmen and the new writers like rhetoricians.
Now character is that which reveals choice, i.e. what sort of thing one chooses or avoids among those where it is not clear. So those have no character in the words, in which it is not wholly clear what the speaker chooses or avoids.
The fourth of the elements in the literary items is style. And I mean, as has been said earlier, that style is the means of interpretation through meaning. And this has the same force for poetry and prose.

Grammar

41. Verbs in -mi; the present and imperfect active system.

A small number of frequent verbs have different endings and formations from those of the general verbs. Among these are tithêmi 'put', hiêmi 'send', histêmi, and didômi 'give'. The present forms of tithêmi are given here to illustrate their forms. The forms of the others are comparable, though didômi has o-vowels corresponding to the e-vowels of the three other verbs.

    Present   Imperfect
1 sg   tithêmi   etithên
2 sg   tithês   etitheis
3 sg   tithêsi(n)   etithei
         
1 pl   tithemen   etithemen
2 pl   tithete   etithete
3 pl   titheasi(n)   etithesan

    Subjunctive   Optative   Imperative
1 sg   tithô   titheiên    
2 sg   tithês   titheiês   tithei
3 sg   tithê   titheiê   tithetô
             
1 pl   tithômen   titheimen    
2 pl   tithête   titheite   tithete
3 pl   tithôsi(n)   titheien   tithentôn
42. Forms of the aorist active.
    Indicative   Subjunctive   Optative   Imperative
1 sg   ethêka   thô   theiên    
2 sg   ethêkas   thês   theiês   thes
3 sg   ethêke(n)   thê   theiê   thetô
                 
1 pl   ethemen   thômen   theimen    
2 pl   ethete   thête   theiête   thete
3 pl   ethesan   thôsi(n)   theien   thentôn
43. Forms of the Present and Imperfect system of eimi 'am'.
    Present   Imperfect
1 sg   eimi   ên
2 sg   ei   êstha
3 sg   esti(n)   ên
         
1 pl   esmen   êmen
2 pl   este   ête
3 pl   eisi(n)   êsan

    Subjunctive   Optative   Imperative
1 sg   ô   eiên    
2 sg   ês   eiês   isthi
3 sg   ê   eiê   estô
             
1 pl   ômen   eiêmen    
2 pl   ête   eiête   este
3 pl   ôsi(n)   eiêsan   estôn
44. Forms of oida 'I know'.

oida is a perfect with present meaning. It is based on a root meaning 'see', so that the perfect has developed in meaning from 'I have seen' to 'I know'. The forms representing present and past time are given here.

    Present   Past
1 sg   oida 'I know'   êdê 'I knew'
2 sg   oistha 'thou knowest'   êdêstha 'thou knewest'
3 sg   oide(n) 'he/she knows'   êdei 'he/she knew'
         
1 pl   ismen 'we know'   êdmen 'we knew'
2 pl   iste 'you know'   êdete 'you knew'
3 pl   isasi(n) 'they know'   êdesan 'they knew'
45. Particles.

As you have noted in the texts, particles are numerous in Greek texts. Moreover, they are often left untranslated. They may modify meaning much as intonation does in English; if then translated with their meaning given in dictionaries, such as 'indeed, to be sure' and so on, the English sentence is turgid. In combinations, such as kai de, kai merely adds emphasis. Particles then must be treated in relation to one another and to the entire sentence.

There are two negative particles, also called adverbs, ou (oute, ouk, etc.), and , which is required in sentences expressing a desire and is used in conditions.

There are several interrogative particles, of which and ara are the most frequent. Other particles are listed here in alphabetical order.

alla 'on the other hand, but, on the contrary'
hama 'at the same time, at once'
ara 'therefore, then' (note the different accentuation from the interrogative particle)
gar 'for'
ge 'indeed, certainly'
de 'but, however' (often used as a connective, and need not be translated)
'already, now' (or used to add emphasis)
ê 'truly, really'
ê 'or' (often doubled with the meanings 'either ...or')
kai 'and' or, as used for emphasis, 'even'
men 'indeed' (may be used with de to indicate a correlation, and not translated)
oude 'and not'
oun 'indeed, certainly; therefore'
oute ... oute, mête ... mête 'neither ... nor'
per 'even, indeed'
te 'and'; te ... te 'both ... and'; te ... kai 'not only ... but also'