Predicative Nouns: Attraction

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240. Corresponding to the nominative in the predicate (§ 162), an infinitival clause may have a predicative accusative, in agreement with its (expressed or understood) subject.

Il. 4.341 σφῶϊν μέν τʼ ἐπέοικε μετὰ πρώτοισιν ἐόντας
              it becomes you that γοu should stand among the foremost

Il. 8.192                   τῆς νῦν κλέος οὐρανὸν ἵκει
              πᾶσαν χρυσείην ἔμεναι
              whοse fame reaches heaven that it is all gold

Or the wοrds which enter in this way into an infinitival clause may follow the construction of the principal clause, and thus be put in the nominative or dative.

Il. 1.76                       καί μοι ὄμοσσον
            ἦ μέν μοι πρόφρων . . . ἀρήξειν

Il. 12.337 οὔ πώς οἱ ἔην βώσαντι γεγωνεῖν

Here πρόφρων is said to be "attracted" into the nominative (agreeing with the subject of ὄμοσσον), and βώσαντι into the dative (agreeing with οἱ).

The difference of meaning given by the two constructions is generally to be observed in Homer, at least in the case of the dative. Α nοun or participle is put in the accusative if it is closely connected with the infinitive, so as to become an essential part of the predication, whereas a dative construed with the principal clause expresses something prior to the infinitive (either a condition or a reason). Thus

ll. 1.541 αἰεί τοι φίλον ἐστὶν ἐμεῦ ἀπὸ νόσφιν ἐόντα
             κρυπτάδια φρονέοντα δικαζέμεν

means "you like to decide apart from me," i.e. "you like, when you decide, to be apart from me"; with ἐόντι the sense would be "when you are apart from me you like to decide." So Il. 15.57 εἴπῃσι Ποσειδάωνι ἄνακτι παυσάμενον πολέμοιο ἱκέσθαι "shall bid Poseidon to cease from war and come," not "when he has ceased, to come."

But with a dative

Il. 6.410                       ἐμοὶ δέ κε κέρδιον εἴη
              σεῦ ἀφαμαρτούσῃ χθόνα δύμεναἱ
              it were better fοr me, if (or when) I lοse you, to etc.

Il. 8.218 εἰ μὴ ἐπὶ φρεσὶ θῆκʼ Ἀγαμέμνονι πότνια Ἥρη αὐτῷ ποιπνύσαντι θοῶς ὀτρῦναι Ἀχαιούς

"who had of himself made hot haste," αὐτῷ as in the phrase μεμαῶτε καὶ αὐτώ (13.46, 15. 604).1

Il. 15.496 οὔ οἱ ἀεικὲς ἀμυνομένῳ περὶ πάτρης τεθνάμεν
                to die when fighting for his country

So Il. 5.253, 13.96, 20.356, 21.185, 22.72.

There are some exceptions, however, if our texts are to be trusted; i. e. there are places where a word which belongs to the predication is put in the dative owing to a preceding dative.

Il. 15.117 εἴ πέρ μοι καὶ μοῖρα Διὸς πληγέντι κεραυνῷ
                κεῖσθαι ὁμοῦ νεκύεσσι (cp. Od. 19.139, 284).

This seems to be always the case when there are two successive participles, the first of which is properly in the dative.

Il. 12.410 ἀργαλέον δέ μοί ἐστι καὶ ἰφθίμῳ περ ἐόντι
                μούνῳ ῥηξαμένῳ θέσθαι παρὰ νηυσὶ κέλευθον

Here the meaning is, "to break through and make" etc., and therefore ῥηξάμενον would be correct; but after ἐόντι the change from the dative to the accusative would be very harsh. So Il. 13.317-319, Od. 10.494-5. In other places the text may be at fault. As attraction became the rule in later Greek, and the two case forms are generally of the same metrical form, it would be easy for a dative to take the place of an accusative: e. g. in

Il. 9.398-400 ἔνθα δέ μοι . . . ἐπέσσυτο θυμὸς ἀγήνωρ
                     γήμαντι . . .
                     κτήμασι τέρπεσθαι

where for γήμαντι, the reading of Aristarchus, and others gave γήμαντα, which conforms to the principle laid down.

When the subject of the infinitive is also subject of the governing verb the nominative is generally used,  as Il. 1.76 (quoted above), 1.415, 4.101-3, 8.498, etc. An exception is Od. 9. 224.

ἔνθʼ ἐμὲ μὲν πρώτισθʼ ἕταροι λίσσοντʼ ἐπέεσσι,
τυρῶν αἰνυμένους ἰέναι πάλιν
that they might take of the cheeses aπd so gο back

  • 1. This is pointed out by Dingelddein, De Participio Homerico, p. 8.