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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.

Ἀρχὴ μὲν οὖν καὶ οἶον ψυχὴ ὁ μῦθος τῆς τραγῳδίας, δεύτερον δὲ τὰ ἤθη.

  • ἀρχὴ -- noun, feminine; nominative singular of <ἀρχή> beginning, first principle -- first principle
  • μὲν -- particle; <μέν> on the one hand -- on the one hand
  • οὖν -- adverb; <οὖν> indeed -- truly
  • καὶ -- conjunction; <καί> and -- and
  • οἶον -- adverb; <οἶον> so to say -- so to say
  • ψυχὴ -- noun, feminine; nominative singular of <ψυχή> soul -- the soul
  • -- article; nominative singular masculine of <> the -- the
  • μῦθος -- noun, masculine; nominative singular of <μῦθος> speech, plot -- plot
  • τῆς -- article; genitive singular feminine of <> the -- of ...
  • τραγῳδίας -- noun, feminine; genitive singular of <τραγῳδία> tragedy -- tragedy
  • δεύτερον -- adverb; <δεύτερον> second -- the second
  • δὲ -- particle; <δέ> and, on the other hand -- on the other hand
  • τὰ -- article; nominative plural neuter of <> the -- ta
  • ἤθη -- noun, neuter; nominative plural of <ἦθος> custom, character -- character

παραπλήσιον γάρ ἐστιν καὶ ἐπὶ τῆς γραφικῆς.

  • παραπλήσιον -- adjective; nominative singular neuter of <παραπλήσιος> such-like -- the same
  • γάρ -- conjunction; <γάρ> for -- indeed
  • ἐστιν -- verb; 3rd person singular present of <εἰμί> I am -- it is
  • καὶ -- conjunction; <καί> and -- also
  • ἐπὶ -- preposition; <ἐπί> on, about -- in
  • τῆς -- article; genitive singular feminine of <> the -- ...
  • γραφικῆς -- noun, feminine; genitive singular of <γραφικῆ> painting -- painting

εἰ γάρ τις ἐναλείψειε τοῖς καλλίστοις φαρμάκοις χύδην, οὐκ ἂν ὁμοίως εὐφράνειεν καὶ λευκογραφήσας εἰκόνα.

  • εἰ -- conjunction; <εἰ> if -- if
  • γάρ -- conjunction; <γάρ> for -- for
  • τις -- indefinite pronoun; nominative singular masculine of <τις> someone, something -- someone
  • ἐναλείψειε -- verb; 3rd person singular aorist optative of <ἐναλείψω> paint, smear -- painted
  • τοῖς -- article; dative plural neuter of <> the -- with the
  • καλλίστοις -- adjective; dative plural neuter of superlative of <καλός> good, beautiful -- best
  • φαρμάκοις -- noun, neuter; dative plural of <φάρμακον> paint, color -- colors
  • χύδην -- adverb; <χύδην> at random, promiscuously -- at random
  • οὐκ -- particle; <οὐκ> not -- not
  • ἂν -- particle; <ἄν> if -- ...
  • ὁμοίως -- adverb; <ὁμοίως> similarly -- as much
  • εὐφράνειεν -- verb; 3rd person singular optative aorist of <εὐφραίνω> delight, please -- it would ...delight
  • καὶ -- conjunction; <καί> and -- as
  • λευκογραφήσας -- verb; nominative singular masculine of aorist participle of <λευκο-γραφέω> paint in white on a black background -- painting . . . in white on a black background
  • εἰκόνα -- noun, feminine; accusative singular of <εἰκών> image, portrait -- an image

ἔστιν τε μίμησις πράξεως καὶ διὰ ταύτην μάλιστα τῶν πραττόντων.

  • ἔστιν -- verb; 3rd person singular present of <εἰμί> I am -- it is
  • τε -- conjunction; <τε> and -- and
  • μίμησις -- noun, feminine; nominative singular of <μίμησις> representation -- a representation
  • πράξεως -- noun, feminine; genitive singular of <πράξις> action in actual life -- of action in actual life
  • καὶ -- conjunction; <καί> and -- and
  • διὰ -- preposition; <διά> through, by -- because of
  • ταύτην -- demonstrative pronoun; accusative singular feminine of <οὗτος> this -- that
  • μάλιστα -- adverb; superlative of <μάλα> very -- most of all
  • τῶν -- article; genitive plural masculine of <> the -- the
  • πραττόντων -- verb; genitive plural masculine of present participle of <πράττω> achieve, manage -- of those in action

Τρίτον δὲ ἡ διάνοια.

  • τρίτον -- adjective; nominative singular neuter of <τρίτος> third -- the third (element)
  • δὲ -- particle; <δέ> and, on the other hand -- and
  • -- article; nominative singular feminine of <> the -- the
  • διάνοια -- noun, feminine; nominative singular of <διάνοια> thought, mind -- thought

τοῦτο δέ ἐστιν τὸ λέγειν δύνασθαι τὰ ἐνόντα καὶ τὰ ἁρμόττοντα.

  • τοῦτο -- demonstrative pronoun; nominative singular neuter of <οὗτος> this -- this
  • δέ -- particle; <δέ> and, on the other hand -- and
  • ἐστιν -- verb; 3rd person singular present of <εἰμί> I am -- is
  • τὸ -- article; accusative singular neuter of <> the -- the
  • λέγειν -- verb; infinitive of <λέγω> say -- to say
  • δύνασθαι -- deponent verb; infinitive of <δύναμαι> be able -- the ability
  • τὰ -- article; accusative plural neuter of <> the -- (the) what is
  • ἐνόντα -- verb; accusative plural neuter of participle of <ἔνειμι> to be in, to be possible -- possible
  • καὶ -- conjunction; <καί> and -- and
  • τὰ -- article; accusative plural neuter of <> the -- (the) what is
  • ἁρμόττοντα -- verb; accusative plural neuter of present participle of <ἁρμόττω> fit together -- fitting

ὅπερ ἐπὶ τῶν λόγων τῆς πολιτικῆς καὶ τῆς ῥητορικῆς ἔργον ἐστίν.

  • ὅπερ -- relative pronoun; nominative singular neuter of <ὅσπερ> it -- it
  • ἐπὶ -- preposition; <ἐπί> on, about -- in
  • τῶν -- article; genitive plural masculine of <> the -- the
  • λόγων -- noun, masculine; genitive plural of <λόγος> word, reason -- the words
  • τῆς -- article; genitive singular feminine of <> the -- of the
  • πολιτικῆς -- noun, feminine; genitive singular of <πολιτική> politics -- politics
  • καὶ -- conjunction; <καί> and -- and
  • τῆς -- article; genitive singular feminine of <> the -- of the
  • ῥητορικῆς -- noun, feminine; genitive singular of <ῥητορική> rhetoric -- rhetorician
  • ἔργον -- noun, neuter; nominative singular of <ἔργον> work, deed -- (in the) activities
  • ἐστίν -- verb; 3rd person singular present of <εἰμί> I am -- is (provided)

οἱ μὲν γὰρ ἀρχαῖοι πολιτικῶς ἐποίουν λέγοντας, οἱ δὲ νῦν ῥητορικῶς.

  • οἱ -- article; nominative plural masculine of <> the -- the
  • μὲν -- particle; <μέν> on the one hand -- on the one hand
  • γὰρ -- conjunction; <γάρ> for -- indeed
  • ἀρχαῖοι -- adjective; nominative plural masculine of <ἀρχαιος> old -- old (writers)
  • πολιτικῶς -- adverb; <πολιτικῶς> like statesmen -- like statesmen
  • ἐποίουν -- verb; 3rd person plural imperfect of <ποιέω> make, do -- made
  • λέγοντας -- verb; accusative plural masculine of present participle of <λέγω> say -- (those speaking) the characters speak
  • οἱ -- article; nominative plural masculine of <> the -- the
  • δὲ -- particle; <δέ> and, on the other hand -- on the other hand
  • νῦν -- adverb; <νῦν> now -- current (writers)
  • ῥητορικῶς -- adverb; <ῥητορικῶς> like rhetoricians -- like rhetoricians

Ἔστιν δὲ ἦθος μὲν τὸ τοιοῦτον ὃ δηλοῖ τὴν προαίρεσιν, ὁποῖά τις ἐν οἷς οὐκ ἔστι δῆλον ἤ προαιρεῖται ἤ φεύγει.

  • ἔστιν -- verb; 3rd person singular present of <εἰμί> I am -- is
  • δὲ -- particle; <δέ> and, on the other hand -- and
  • ἦθος -- noun, neuter; nominative singular of <ἦθος> custom, character -- character
  • μὲν -- particle; <μέν> on the one hand -- and
  • τὸ -- article; accusative singular neuter of <> the -- the
  • τοιοῦτον -- adjective; nominative singular neuter of <τοιοῦτος> such -- that
  • -- relative pronoun; nominative singular neuter of <ὅς> who, which -- which
  • δηλοῖ -- verb; 3rd person singular present of <δηλόω> be clear, reveal -- reveals
  • τὴν -- article; accusative singular feminine of <> the -- the
  • προαίρεσιν -- noun, feminine; accusative singular of <προαίρεσις> choice -- choice
  • ὁποῖά -- interrogative pronoun; accusative plural neuter of <ὁπος> what sort of -- what sort of thing
  • τις -- indefinite pronoun; nominative singular masculine of <τις> someone, something -- one
  • ἐν -- preposition; <ἐν> in -- among
  • οἷς -- demonstrative pronoun; dative plural neuter of <ὅς> this, that, he, she, it -- those where
  • οὐκ -- particle; <οὐκ> not -- not
  • ἔστι -- verb; 3rd person singular present of <εἰμί> I am -- it is
  • δῆλον -- adjective; nominative singular neuter of <δῆλος> clear, obvious -- clear
  • -- conjunction; <> or, than -- or
  • προαιρεῖται -- verb; 3rd person singular present middle of <προαιρέω> choose -- chooses
  • -- conjunction; <> or, than -- or
  • φεύγει -- verb; 3rd person singular present of <φεύγω> escape, flee -- avoids

διόπερ οὐκ ἔχουσιν ἦθος τῶν λόγων ἐν οἵς μηδ' ὅλως ἔστιν ὅ τι προαιρεῖται ἢ φεύγει ὁ λέγων.

  • διόπερ -- adverb; <διόπερ> therefore, so -- so
  • οὐκ -- particle; <οὐκ> not -- not
  • ἔχουσιν -- verb; 3rd person plural present of <ἔχω> have -- (those) ... have
  • ἦθος -- noun, neuter; accusative singular of <ἦθος> custom, character -- character
  • τῶν -- article; genitive plural masculine of <> the -- (in) the
  • λόγων -- noun, masculine; genitive plural of <λόγος> word, reason -- words
  • ἐν -- preposition; <ἐν> in -- in
  • οἵς -- relative pronoun; dative plural masculine of <ὅς> who, which -- which
  • μηδ' -- particle; <μηδέ> and not -- not
  • ὅλως -- adverb; <ὅλως> wholly -- wholly
  • ἔστιν -- verb; 3rd person singular present of <εἰμί> I am -- it is ... (clear)
  • -- relative pronoun; accusative singular neuter of <ὅς> who, which -- what
  • τι -- indefinite pronoun; accusative singular neuter of <τις> someone, something -- ...
  • προαιρεῖται -- verb; 3rd person singular present middle of <προαιρέω> choose -- chooses
  • -- conjunction; <> or, than -- or
  • φεύγει -- verb; 3rd person singular present of <φεύγω> escape, flee -- avoids
  • -- article; nominative singular masculine of <> the -- the
  • λέγων -- participle used as substantive; nominative singular masculine of present participle of <λέγω> say -- (speaking one) speaker

Τέταρτον δὲ τῶν ἐν λόγῳ ἡ λέξις.

  • τέταρτον -- adverb; of <τέταρτος> fourth -- fourth
  • δὲ -- particle; <δέ> and, on the other hand -- and
  • τῶν -- article used as pronoun; genitive plural neuter of <> the -- of the (elements)
  • ἐν -- preposition; <ἐν> in -- in
  • λόγῳ -- noun, masculine; dative singular of <λόγος> word, reason -- the literary items
  • -- article; nominative singular feminine of <> the -- the
  • λέξις -- noun, feminine; nominative singular of <λέξις> style -- style

λέγω δὲ, ὥσπερ πρότερον εἴρεται, λέξιν τὴν διὰ τῆς ὀνομασίαν ἑρμηνείαν.

  • λέγω -- verb; 1st person singular present of <λέγω> say -- I mean (that)
  • δὲ -- particle; <δέ> and, on the other hand -- and
  • ὥσπερ -- conjunction; <ὥσπερ> as -- as
  • πρότερον -- adverb; <πρότερον> earlier, before -- earlier
  • εἴρεται -- verb; 3rd person singular present passive of <εἴρω> speak, say -- has been said
  • λέξιν -- noun, feminine; accusative singular of <λέξις> style -- style
  • τὴν -- article; accusative singular feminine of <> the -- (is) the
  • διὰ -- preposition; <διά> through, by -- by means of
  • τῆς -- article; genitive singular feminine of <> the -- the
  • ὀνομασίαν -- noun, feminine; accusative singular of <ὀνομασία> language -- language
  • ἑρμηνείαν -- noun, feminine; accusative singular of <ἑρμηνεία> interpretation -- interpretation

ὅ καὶ ἐπὶ τῶν ἐμμέτρων καὶ ἐπὶ τῶν λόγων ἔχει τὴν αὐτὴν δύναμιν.

  • -- relative pronoun; nominative singular neuter of <ὅς> who, which -- this
  • καὶ -- conjunction; <καί> and -- and
  • ἐπὶ -- preposition; <ἐπί> on, about -- for
  • τῶν -- article; genitive plural masculine of <> the -- the
  • ἐμμέτρων -- adjective; genitive plural masculine of <ἔμμετρος> metrical -- poetry
  • καὶ -- conjunction; <καί> and -- and
  • ἐπὶ -- preposition; <ἐπί> on, about -- for
  • τῶν -- article; genitive plural masculine of <> the -- the
  • λόγων -- noun, masculine; genitive plural of <λόγος> word, reason -- (words) prose
  • ἔχει -- verb; 3rd person singular present of <ἔχω> have -- has
  • τὴν -- article; accusative singular feminine of <> the -- the
  • αὐτὴν -- pronoun; accusative singular feminine of <αὐτός> oneself, he -- same
  • δύναμιν -- noun, feminine; accusative singular of <δύναμις> power -- force

Lesson Text

Ἀρχὴ μὲν οὖν καὶ οἶον ψυχὴ ὁ μῦθος τῆς τραγῳδίας, δεύτερον δὲ τὰ ἤθη. παραπλήσιον γάρ ἐστιν καὶ ἐπὶ τῆς γραφικῆς. εἰ γάρ τις ἐναλείψειε τοῖς καλλίστοις φαρμάκοις χύδην, οὐκ ἂν ὁμοίως εὐφράνειεν καὶ λευκογραφήσας εἰκόνα. ἔστιν τε μίμησις πράξεως καὶ διὰ ταύτην μάλιστα τῶν πραττόντων. Τρίτον δὲ ἡ διάνοια. τοῦτο δέ ἐστιν τὸ λέγειν δύνασθαι τὰ ἐνόντα καὶ τὰ ἁρμόττοντα. ὅπερ ἐπὶ τῶν λόγων τῆς πολιτικῆς καὶ τῆς ῥητορικῆς ἔργον ἐστίν. οἱ μὲν γὰρ ἀρχαῖοι πολιτικῶς ἐποίουν λέγοντας, οἱ δὲ νῦν ῥητορικῶς. Ἔστιν δὲ ἦθος μὲν τὸ τοιοῦτον ὃ δηλοῖ τὴν προαίρεσιν, ὁποῖά τις ἐν οἷς οὐκ ἔστι δῆλον ἤ προαιρεῖται ἤ φεύγει. διόπερ οὐκ ἔχουσιν ἦθος τῶν λόγων ἐν οἵς μηδ' ὅλως ἔστιν ὅ τι προαιρεῖται ἢ φεύγει ὁ λέγων. Τέταρτον δὲ τῶν ἐν λόγῳ ἡ λέξις. λέγω δὲ, ὥσπερ πρότερον εἴρεται, λέξιν τὴν διὰ τῆς ὀνομασίαν ἑρμηνείαν. ὅ καὶ ἐπὶ τῶν ἐμμέτρων καὶ ἐπὶ τῶν λόγων ἔχει τὴν αὐτὴν δύναμιν.

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 -μι; 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 τίθημι 'put', ἵημι 'send', ἵστημι, and δίδωμι 'give'. The present forms of τίθημι are given here to illustrate their forms. The forms of the others are comparable, though δίδωμι has ο-vowels corresponding to the ε-vowels of the three other verbs.

    Present   Imperfect
1 sg   τίθημι   ἐτίθην
2 sg   τίθης   ἐτίθεις
3 sg   τίθησι(ν)   ἐτίθει
         
1 pl   τίθεμεν   ἐτίθεμεν
2 pl   τίθετε   ἐτίθετε
3 pl   τιθέασι(ν)   ἐτίθεσαν

    Subjunctive   Optative   Imperative
1 sg   τιθῶ   τιθείην    
2 sg   τιθῇς   τιθείης   τίθει
3 sg   τιθῇ   τιθείη   τιθέτω
             
1 pl   τιθῶμεν   τιθεῖμεν    
2 pl   τιθῆτε   τιθεῖτε   τίθετε
3 pl   τιθῶσι(ν)   τιθεῖεν   τιθέντων
42. Forms of the aorist active.
    Indicative   Subjunctive   Optative   Imperative
1 sg   ἔθηκα   θῶ   θείην    
2 sg   ἔθηκας   θῇς   θείης   θές
3 sg   ἔθηκε(ν)   θῇ   θείη   θέτω
                 
1 pl   ἔθεμεν   θῶμεν   θεῖμεν    
2 pl   ἔθετε   θῆτε   θεῖητε   θέτε
3 pl   ἔθεσαν   θῶσι(ν)   θεῖεν   θέντων
43. Forms of the Present and Imperfect system of εἰμί 'am'.
    Present   Imperfect
1 sg   εἰμί   ἦν
2 sg   εἶ   ἦσθα
3 sg   ἐστί(ν)   ἦν
         
1 pl   ἐσμέν   ἦμεν
2 pl   ἐστέ   ἦτε
3 pl   εἰσί(ν)   ἦσαν

    Subjunctive   Optative   Imperative
1 sg     εἴην    
2 sg   ᾖς   εἴης   ἴσθι
3 sg     εἴη   ἔστω
             
1 pl   ὦμεν   εἴημεν    
2 pl   ἤτε   εἴητε   ἔστε
3 pl   ὦσι(ν)   εἴησαν   ἔστων
44. Forms of οἶδα 'I know'.

οἶδα 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   οἶδα 'I know'   ᾔδη 'I knew'
2 sg   οἶσθα 'thou knowest'   ᾔδησθα 'thou knewest'
3 sg   οἶδε(ν) 'he/she knows'   ᾔδει 'he/she knew'
         
1 pl   ἴσμεν 'we know'   ᾔδμεν 'we knew'
2 pl   ἴστε 'you know'   ᾔδετε 'you knew'
3 pl   ἴσασι(ν) 'they know'   ᾔδεσαν '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 καὶ δέ, καὶ 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, οὺ (οὔτε, οὐκ, etc.), and μή, which is required in sentences expressing a desire and is used in conditions.

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

ἀλλά 'on the other hand, but, on the contrary'
ἅμα 'at the same time, at once'
ἄρα 'therefore, then' (note the different accentuation from the interrogative particle)
γάρ 'for'
γέ 'indeed, certainly'
δέ 'but, however' (often used as a connective, and need not be translated)
δή 'already, now' (or used to add emphasis)
'truly, really'
'or' (often doubled with the meanings 'either ...or')
καί 'and' or, as used for emphasis, 'even'
μέν 'indeed' (may be used with δέ to indicate a correlation, and not translated)
οὐδέ 'and not'
οὖν 'indeed, certainly; therefore'
οὔτε ... οὔτε, μήτε ... μήτε 'neither ... nor'
πέρ 'even, indeed'
τέ 'and'; τέ ... τέ 'both ... and'; τέ ... καί 'not only ... but also'