Simple Athematic Aorist

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13. The Simple Athematic Aorist. This term includes the "2nd aorists" such as ἔ-βη-ν, ἔ-στη-ν, etc., and also those so-called 1st aorists in which the -ᾰ of the 1st singular active is added directly to the verb stem, as in ἔ-χευ-α.

Variation of quantity is rare in the active, but the stem is usually shortened in the middle. The chief forms are

I went

βᾰ́-την (3rd dual; but also ἐ-βήτην)
ὑπέρ-βᾰ-σαν (3rd plural)
μετά-βηθι (imperative)
βή-μεναι (infinitive )

I stood

στή-την (dual)
ἔ-στη-μεν, ἔ-στη-τε, ἔ-στη-σαν (plural)
στῆ-θι, στῆ-τε (imperative)
στή-μεναι (infinitive)

came before

φθᾰ́-μενος (participle)

flew out (Hes. Op.98)

κατα-πτή-την (3rd dual)

ἔ-πτα-το (middle)

was quenched

I endured

ἔ-τλη-μεν, ἔ-τλη-τε (plural)
τλή-τω, τλῆ-τε (imperative)

I knew

γνώ-την (3rd dual)
ἔ-γνω-σαν (3rd plural)

did sail over

ἐπι-πλώς (participle)

let him live

βιῶ-ναι (infinitive)

to be taken

ἁλούς (participle)



sank under

ἐ-δῡ́-την (3rd dual)
ἔ-δῡ-τε (2nd plural)
δῦ-θι (imperative)
δύ-μεναι (infinitive)


ἔ-φῡ-σαν (3rd plural; H. Ven. 265)

λύ-το (once λῦ-το, Il. 24.1)
was loosed


κλῦ-τε (plural; participle κλῠ́-μενος as a proper name in Homer).

On the forms ἔσσῠ-το, ἔ-χῠ-το see § 15.

The vowel is invariably long in ξυμ-βλή-την the two encountered, middle βλῆ-το was struck; πλῆ-το was filled; πλῆ-το came near; ἀπ-όνη-το profited, imperative ὄνη-σο, participle ὀνή-μενος; ἄμ-πνῡ-το recovered breath; ἔ-στρω-το was strewed: see § 14.

On the other hand the vowel is short throughout in κατ-έ-κτᾰ-ν (Il. 4.319, where some ancient critics read κατέκτᾱ), 3rd singular ἔ-κτᾰ (the quantity is proved by Od. 11.410 ἔκτα σὺν οὐλομένῃ κ.τ.λ.), 1st plural ἔ-κτᾰ-μεν, participle κατα-κτάς, middle ἔ-κτᾰ-το, infinitive κτά-σθαι, participle κτᾰ́-μενος. The longer form of the root is κτεν- (present κτείνω for κτενιω). A similarly irregular 3rd singular in -ᾰ is found in οὖτα (he wounded), infinitive οὐτᾰ́-μεναι, participle middle οὐτᾰ́-μενος: perhaps also in ἀπ-ηύρα-ς, ἀπ-ηύρα. For, comparing the participle ἀπο-ύρας, middle ἀπο-υρά-μενος (Hes. Sc. 173), we may conjecture that the indicative should be written ἀπ-εῦρα-ς, ἀπ-εῦρα (or ἀπ-έ-ϝρᾰ-ς, ἀπ-έ-ϝρᾰ), where ϝρᾰ- is the weak form of a root ϝερ- (Meyer, G. G. § 524). We have -ᾰ for -εν also in ἀπ-έ-φα-το died (Hesych.), from the root φεν- (perfect πέφᾰ-ται).

On the athematic aorists with stems ending in a consonant, such as ἆλτο, ἔ-παλτο, ὦρτο, δέκτο, λέκτο, μίκτο, etc., with the infinitive πέρθαι and the participles ἄρμενος, ἴκμενος, ἄσμενος, see § 40.

14. Metathesis. This term has been employed to explain a number of forms in which a short vowel is lost before a liquid, and the corresponding long vowel follows the two consonants thus brought together.

ξυμ-βλή-την (βᾰλ- , βέλ-ος)

middle βλῆ-το
was struck

ἔ-τλη (τάλα-ς)

πλῆ-το (πέλα-ς)
drew near

πλῆ-το (Sanskrit par-)
was filled

ἔ-στρω-το (στορε-)
was scattered

κλη-τός (καλ-έω, κέλ-ομαι)

κασί-γνη-τος (γεν-)

μέ-μνη-μαι (μεν-)

δμη-τός (δᾰμᾰ-)

But this long vowel -ᾱ, -η, or -ω-is clearly of the same nature as the -η- of σχή-σω (σεχ-), ἐνι-σπή-σω (σεπ-), πε-πτη-ώς (πετ-, πί-πτ-ω), ἄημι (root -αυ- in αὔρα), or the -ω- of πέ-πτω-κα (πετ-), ἔ-γνω-ν (root gan), ζω-ός (root gi, hence Greek ζη- and ζω-, for γι̯-η, γι̯-ω). In these and many similar cases "metathesis" is out of the question. Moreover we find several stems of the same character with the long vowel ῡ as ῥῦ-σθαι to shield (ϝρῡ-), ῥῡ-τός drawn (ϝερῠ-, ϝρῡ-), τρῡ́-ω (cp. τρ-η-, root tar). Hence it is probable that the long vowel is of the nature of a suffix, by which a new verbal stem is formed from the primitive stem or "root". This vowel usually does not vary with the personal endings, but is long in all forms of the tense. It cannot be an accident, however, that the same stems appear also as disyllables with a short final vowel: τᾰλ-ᾰ, πελ-ᾰ, στορ-ε, καλ-ε (in καλέ-σαι), γεν-ε (in γένε-σις), δᾰμ-ᾰ, πετ-ᾰ, ϝερ-ᾰ in ἐρύ-σαι, and many others. What then is the relation between these forms and the monosyllabic τλ-η, πλ-η, στρ-ω, κλ-η, γν-η, δμ-η, πτ-η? Apparently the difference is ultimately one of accent. The same disyllable would become τάλ-α or τλ-ή as the stress fell upon the first or the second syllables.1

15. Aorists in -ᾰ and -κᾰ. These consist of (1) four aorists from stems ending in -υ, (2) three aorists in -κᾰ, and (3) the isolated forms ἤνεικα and εἶπα.

The four aorists ἔσσευ-α (weak stem σῠ-) urged, ἔ-χευ-α or ἔ-χε-α I poured, ἔ-κη-α (weak stem κᾰυ-) I burned, ἠλεύ-ατο avoided (optative ἀλέ-αιτο, infinitive ἀλέ-ασθαι) form the 1st singular with -ᾰ instead of -ν. Thus ἔ-χευ-α is formed like ἔ-φη-ν, except that, after the diphthong ευ the final m of the ending passed into -ᾰ, as in the imperfect ἦα (for ἦσ-α). So too in the accusative of nouns we have -ν after a single vowel (λόγο-ν, πόλι-ν, ἰχθύ-ν), but -ᾰ after ηυ, ευ or a consonant: νῆ-α (for νηῦ-α or νῆϝ-α), πόδ-α, as in Latin nāv-em, ped-em. The forms without υ, as ἔχεα, ἔκηα, are obtained by υ passing into the semi-vowel (ἔχε-α for ἔχεϝα).

The original inflection then was ἔ-χευ-α (ἔ-χεϝ-α), ἔ-χευ-ς, ἔ-χευ(-τ), plural ἔ-χῠ-μεν, ἔ-χυ-τε (cp. ἔ-κτᾰ-μεν, § 13), ἔ-χευ-αν, middle ἔ-χῠ-το (like ἔ-φᾰ-το, ἔ-κτᾰ-το), etc. Thus ἔχυτο and ἔσσυτο are primitive forms, standing to ἔχευα, ἔσσευα as ἔ-φᾰ-το to ἔ-φη-ν.

How then are we to account for such forms as ἐ-χεύα-μεν, ἐ-χεύα-το, σευά-μενος, ἠλεύα-το? They are obtained from the 1st singular and 3rd plural by treating the stem plus the -ᾰ as a new stem or base, to which the personal endings are then attached. Thus ἔ-χευα-ς, ἐ-χεύα-μεν, ἐ-χεύα-το are duplicate forms, related to ἔ-χευ-ς, ἔ-χῠ-μεν, ἔ-χυ-το as the later οἶδα-ς, οἴδᾰ-μεν to οἶσθα, ἴδ-μεν. The 3rd singular in -ε(ν), follows the analogy of the thematic conjugation (ἔχευε like ἔλεγε). The three aorists in -κᾰ, ἔ-θηκα (I put), ἕ-ηκα (I sent forth), ἔ-δωκα (I gave), are inflected as follows:

  Sing. Dual Plur.
1. ἔ-θηκα -- ἔ-θε-μεν
2. ἔ-θηκα-ς ἔ-θε-τον ἔ-θε-τε
3. ἔ-θηκε(ν) ἐ-θέ-την



Imperative θέ-ς, θέ-τω, plural θέ-τε, θέ-ντων.

Infinitive θέ-μεναι, θέ-μεν, θεῖναι, participle θείς, θέ-ντος, etc.

Middle ἐ-θέ-μην etc. with θε- as stem throughout.

Thus θηκα-, ἡκα-, δωκα- alternate with θε-, ἑ-, δο- as long and short stems respectively. The only forms in Homer which do not conform to this scheme are the 1st plural ἐν-ήκα-μεν (Od. 12. 401), and the 3rd singular middle θήκα-το (Il. 10.31, 14.187, also Hes. Th. 175). The primitive 3rd plural ἔ-δο-ν occurs in Hes. Th. 30, and in Doric: ἔ-θε-ν only on inscriptions (C. I. 29).

The Homeric forms with the stem ἑ- do not take the augment: in Attic we have (e. g.) εἷ-μεν εἶ-τε (for ἐ-ἑ-μεν ἐ-ἑ-τε). In respect of the -ᾰ of the stem the 2nd singular ἔ-θηκα-ς is formed like ἔ-χευα-ς, and the occasional examples of the type ἐ-θήκα-μεν, ἐ-θήκα-το are parallel to ἐ-χεύα-μεν, ἐ-χεύα-το. That is to say, the -ᾰ comes from ἔ-θηκα, ἔ-θηκα-ν. The relation of ἐ-θήκα-μεν, ἐ-θήκα-το to ἔ-θε-μεν, ἔ-θε-το, is complicated by the use of a new verb stem (θη-κ- instead of θη-). Thus it is the same as the relation of ἑστήκα-μεν to ἕστᾰ-μεν (§ 22).

The aorist ἤνεικα (without augment ἔνεικα) shows no variation of stem; 1st plural ἐνείκα-μεν, 3rd plural ἤνεικα-ν and ἔνεικα-ν, imperative ἐνείκα-τε, middle 3rd plural ἠνείκα-ντο.

On the aorist εἶπα see § 37.

  • 1. Joh. Schmidt, K. Z. xxiii.277; Brugmann, M. U. i.1-68; Fröhde. B. B. ix. 1119. The whole subject, as Brugmann has recently warned us (Grundriss, ii. § 8, n.1), is full of uncertainty, and it is possible that forms such as plē- represent the "root" or primitive word, from which not only plē- (πλη-, Latin plē-nus) and pele-, but also pel- (Sanskrit pi-par-ti) and pl- (πί-πλᾰ-μεν), are derived. We are dealing here, not with the derivation of Greek, etc. from Indo-European- where the comparison of other languages, such as Sanskrit, may give us help- but with the formation of Indo-European itself, to which the comparative method is ex hypothesi inapplicable.