Hiatus

Book Nav

main

379. Hiatus is a term which is used by writers on meter in more than one sense. It will be convenient here to apply it to every case in which a sword ending with a voςwel or diphthong i- followed by a word beginning with a vowel, and the two vοwel sounds are not merged together (as by elision, crasis, etc.) so as to form one syllable for the meter.

It would be more scientific, perhaps, to understand the word Hiatus as implying that the tςwο vowels are separated by a break or sboppage of vocal sound, so that the second begins with either the rough or the smooth 'breathing.' Γhus it would be opposed to every form of diphthong (including synizesis), the characteristic ob which is that the two vowels are slurred together, by shifting the position of the organs withoult any perceptible interruption of the current of breath. This definition, however, might exclude the case of a long vowel or diphthong shortened before an initial vοςwel (as τὴν δʼ ἐγὼ οὐ, where the final ω seems to be partly merged in the folloςwing ο). Again vwhen a final ι or υυ comes before a vοςwel without suβfering elision, it is probable that the correspondingb semi-vοwelb (τπ our γ or κw) is developed from the vowel sound, and prevents complete hiatus.

380. Long vowels before hiatus. The general rule is that a long final vowel or diphthong coming before a vowel forms a short syllable in the metre. This shortening is very common in Homer: cp. Π. Il. 2ὡ9 οὔτε σοὶ οὔτε τῳ ἄλλῳ, ἐπεὶ κτλ., where it occurs in three successive feet.

But the natural quantity may be retained before hiatus when the vοςwwel is in the arsis of the foot, as Ἀτρείδῃ Ἀγαμέμνονι, ὅς κ εἴποι ὅτι κτλ. And in a feςw instances a long vowel or diphthong is alloςwed to remain long in thesis, as ll. Il. 39 5μινθεῦ· εἴ ποτέ τοι κτλ.

The readiness with which long syllables are allowed before hiatus varies with the several long vowels and diphthongs; partly also it depends on the pause of the sense.

The long diphthongs (as they may be called), viz. ῃ and 9, are the most capable of resisting the shortening influence of hiatus ; next to them are ευυ and ο, and the long voςwels η and ω: while εἰ, οἱ and αἱ are at the other end ob the scale. Α measure of this may be gained by observing how often each of these terminations is long before a vowel, and comparing the number ςwith the total number of times that the same termina- tion occurs. Thus it appears that out of every 100 instances ο final ῳ, it is long before hiatus about 23 times. Similarly final -η is long 19 times, -ευυ 67 times, -ουο 6 tiunes, -η 5'7 time6, -οω 4 times, -εἰ 1·8 times, -οἱ 1·6 times, and -αἱ only 1ʼ3 times. Thus hiatus after ῳ and is scarcely avoided, while after εἰ, οἱ and αἱ it is very rare.

In a large proportion of the instances in vwhich a long vowel retains its quantity before hiatus it wit be found that the hiatus coincides ςwith a division either in the sense or the rhythm. Of the examples in the arsis of the foot, more than half occur before the penthemimeral caesura, vwhere there is almost alςways a pause : ςwhile in thesis the same thing is chiefly found to occur either after the first foot, as B. 2. 209 ἠχῇ, ὡς ὅτε κτλ., Od. 11. 188 ἀγρῷ, οὐδὲ κτλ.; or after the fourth foot (in the Bucolic diaeresis).

381. Shortening of Diphthongs Before Hiatus. Regarding the nature of the process by which a diphthong before hiatus ςwas reduced to the time or metrical value of a short syllable two probable views have been maintained.

  1. Curtius holds that whenever long syllables are shortened by the eβfet of hiatus something of the nature of Etiςοa takes place. Thus η and ω lose the second half of the vowel sound, ςwhile αἱ, eι, οἱ lose the ι. In support of this he points to the facts of Crasis: thus καὶ ἐγώ in becoming κἀγώ may be supposed to pass through the stage κα ἐγώ.
  2. According to an older vieςw, which has been revived and defended with great ingenuity by Hartsl,1 the ι or υ in a diphthong is turned into the corresponding spirant ; so that καὶ ἐγώ becomes κα-χ-εγώ, and ἐκ Πύλου ἐλθόν becomes ἐκ Πύλο-2- ελθόν.

    It is certainly in favor of this alter supposition that it does not oblige us to suppose the frequent elision of the two vowels which in general are the least liable to be elided. The explanation however is not a complete one. It does not account for the shortening of ῃ and ῳ, which on the principle assumed by Hartel would become ηι, ι. On the whole it seems most probable that the shortening in question was effected, for diphthongs as well as for simple long vowels, by a process in which ancient grammarians would have recognized rather "Synizesis"—viz. the slurring of vowels together without complete loss of any sound—than either Elision or Contraction. And this conclusion is supported by the general tendencies of the Ionic dialect, which was especially tolerant of hiatus, and allowed numerous combinations of vowels, such as εα, εο, εωr, εοι, to have the value either of one syllable or two.2

382. Hiatuus After Short Syllables. The vοwels which are not liable to elision may generally stand before hiatus: thus we find ζωστῆρι ἀρηρότι (ἢ 375, 3), πρὸ ὁδοῦ, πρὸ ἀχαιῶν, αὐτὰρ ὁ ἐμμεμαώς, ἑτάροιο ἐνηέος, and the like. Hiatus is also tolerated occasionally in the pauses of the verse

  1. In the trochaic caesura of the third foot: as-

    Il. Il. 569 καί ῥʼ ἀκέουσα καθῆστο, ἐπιγνάμψασα κτλ.

    Od. 3. 175 τέμνειν, ὄφρα τάχιστα ὑπὲκ κτλ.

  2. In the Bucolic diaeresis: as-

    Il 8. 66 ὄφρα μὲν ἠὼς ἢν καὶ ἀέξετο ἱερὸν ἦμαρ.

    Od. 2. 57 εἰλαπινάζουσιν πίνουσί τε αἴθοπα οἶνον.

The vοwel of the Person-endings -τὸ, -vτο seems to be especially capable of standing before hiatus in these places. t appears in more than a fourth of the vwhole number of instances given by Κn6s (pp. 42-45).

Hiatus in the Bucolic diaeresis is commoner in the Odyssey than in the Iliad, in the proportion 2 : Il. Hiatus after the vowel ε is also comparatively rare in the liaddd : Κn6s reckons 22 instances (many of them doubtful), against 40 in the Odyssey. It is vworth notice that in both these points books xπiii and xxiς of the liadd agree vwith the Odyssey, also that book xxiς of the Odyssey contains an unusual number of instances of hiatus, both legitimate (ll. 63, 215, 328, 374, 466) and illegitimate (ll. 209. 351, 430).

Illegitimate hiatus, like other anomalies, may be diminished by emendation. Thus in Od. 5. 135 ἠδὲ ἔφασκον we may readd ἠδέ 2ʼ ἔφασκον : in 5. 257 ἐπιχεύατο ὕλην vwe may insert ἄρʼ, on the model of ll. 5. 748 ἐπεμαίετ’ ἄρʼ ππους. But in Ll. 13. 22 ἄφθιτα αἰεί must stand because ἄφθιτος αἰεί is a fixed phrase. t is unlikely, then, that Hiatus was ever absolutely forbidden in Epic verse.

  • 1. Homerische Studien, iii. pp. 7 ff.
  • 2. The use of εο for εω in Ionic inscriptions shows, not indeed that ευ and εο were identical in pronunciation, or that εο vwas a true diphthong, but certainly that εο was very like ευ, and might be monosyllabic in scansion. Probably monosyllabic εο (when it was not a mere error for ευ) stood to ευ as the Synizesis έ9. 9, θh, etc. to the contracted η, or, οἱ. See Erman in Curt. Stud. v. 292 ff