Explanation from the Nature of ϝ

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403. The theory recently advanced by Prof. Hartel is one to which it is difficult to do justice in a short statement. The careful re-examination which he has made of the metrical facts has convinced him that the influence of the ϝ is not occasional or arbitrary, but in the strictest sense universal in Homer. He does not however regard the passages in which the ϝ appears to be neglected as corrupt or spurious, but explains them on the theory that the ϝ in Homer has not the full value of an ordinary consonant: comparing it, for instance, not with the initial V of Latin, but with the sound which that letter has in the combination QV.

Hartel's chief argument is that hiatus after short vοwels is the most common of the metrical facts pointing to a lost ϝ, and especially that it is much commoner than lengthening by position, the numbers being 2995 and 359 respectively. But the force of this argument depends in the case of each word on the metrical form; thus before a wοrd of iambic form the syllable must be short, hence we may find hiatus, but not lengthening: before an anapaest the reverse holds gοοd. If (using Hartel's list) we take the instances in which ϝ is followed in the verse by two short syllables—the words being ἄγεν, ἅλις, ἔαρος, ἕλικες (with ἑλίκωπες, etc.), ἔπος, ἐρόω, ἔτος, ἰαχή, ἴδον—we shall find that they number 415, and the ϝ makes position in 98. But this is not materially different from the proportion which will be found to obtain in the case of any common word of the same metrical form (such as πόλεμος).