Distributive Singular

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170. The wοrd ἕκαστος is often used in the singular with a plural verb.

ἔβαν οἶκόνδε ἕκαστος
they went home, each one

δεδμήμεσθα ἕκαστος
we are each one obedient

Other words in a clause may follow ἕκαστος in respect of number.

Il. 2.775 ἵπποι δὲ παρʼ ἅρμασιν οἷσιν ἕκαστος
                the horses each beside his chariot

Il. 9.656 οἱ δὲ ἕκαστος ἑλὼν δέπας ἀμφικύπελλον σπείσαντες
                παρὰ νῆας ἴσαν πάλιν

Even the verb is made singular in Il. 16.264

οἱ δʼ ἄλκιμον ἦτορ ἔχοντες πρόσσω πᾶς πέτεται
καὶ ἀμύνει οἷσι τέκεσσι

but this is a slight boldness οf expression.

On the same principle we may explain the singular in 

Od. 4.300 αἱ δʼ ἴσαν ἐκ μεγάροιο δάος μετὰ χερσὶν ἔχουσαι
                 (= each with a torch in her hands)

Il. 13.783 τετυμμένω κατὰ χεῖρα
                 (each of the twο) wound in the hand

Il. 3.235 οὕς κεν ἐῢ γνοίην καί τʼ οὔνομα μυθησαίμην

So in Il. 17.260

τῶν δʼ ἄλλων τίς κεν . . . οὐνόματʼ εἴποι

we should doubtless read οὔνομα (ϝείποι).

Similarly the dual is used of a group of pairs.

Il. 16.370 πολλοὶ δʼ ἐν τάφρῳ ἐρυσάρματες ὠκέες ἵπποι
                  ἄξαντʼ ἐν πρώτῳ ῥυμῷ λίπον ἅρματʼ ἀνάκτων

where the dual ἄξαντε (like the singular ῥυμῷ) refers to οne chariot. Probably, too, we should read ἅρμα ἀνάκτων (i.e. ϝανάκτων).

Il. 23.362 οἱ δʼ ἅμα πάντες ἐφʼ ἵπποιϊν μάστιγας ἄειραν

Od. 20.348 ὄσσε δʼ ἄρα σφέων δακρυόφιν πίμπλαντο

Also Il. 9.503. Od. 19.444.

The dual is often used in this way in Aristophanes: cp. Aν. 622 ἀνατείνοντες τὼ χείρε, and other instances given by Bieber (De duali numero, p. 44)

In Il. 5.487

μή παως ὼς ἀψῖσι λίνου ἁλόντε πανάγρου

the dual ἁλόντε is explained by Schol. B ὑμεῖς καὶ αἱ γυναῖκες. If so, it is a distributive use; "see that you are not taken, man and wife in one net." But more probably it refers to Hector and Paris.

In speaking of the characteristics of a group or class it is common to pass from the plural to the singular, or νice νersa

Od. 4. 691 ἥ τʼ ἐστὶ δίκη θείων βασιλήων, ἄλλον κʼ ἐχθαίρῃσι
                     βροτῶν κτλ.
                   it is the way of kings, (a king) will hate οne, etc.

and in the same clause

Il. 10.259 ῥύεται δὲ κάρη θαλερῶν αἰζηῶν
                  (of a kind of helmet)

Il. 2.355 πρίν τινα πὰρ Τρώων ἀλόχῳ κατακοιμηθῆναι
                 beside the wife of some Trojan

Il. 19.70 ἀλλά τινʼ οἴω . . . ὑπʼ ἔγχεος ἡμετέροιο
                 before the spear of οne of us

The distributive τις is equivalent to a plural.

Hence a peculiar vague use of the plural.

Il. 3.49 νυὸν ἀνδρῶν αἰχμητάων
              the bride of sοme warriorʼs sοn1

Il. 4.142 παρήϊον ἔμμεναι ἵππων (v. l. ἵππῳ)

Il. 21.499 πληκτίζεσθʼ ἀλόχοισι Διός
                 (less directly personal than ἀλόχῳ)

Note— Another example of the distributive use of the singular is

Od. 13.78 ἀνερρίπτουν ἅλα πηδῷ
                 they threw up the salt sea (each) with his oar blade

So in the recurring phrase of the Odyssey

ἅλα τύπτον ἐρετμοῖς

we should probably read ἐρετμῷ (§ 102), which may be similarly distributive. Or we may take ἐρετμός in a collective sense, oarage.

  • 1. Literally daughter-in-law of warriors; i. e. of this or that warrior.