The Subjunctive in Subordinate Sentences

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280. Clauses with ἠέ . . . ἦε. Doubt or deliberation between alternative courses of action is expressed by clauses of the form ἠέ (ἤ) . . . ἦε (ἦ) with the subjunctive, dependent on a verb such as φράζομαι, μερμηρίζω, etc., or an equivalent phrase.

Il. 4.14 ἡμεῖς δὲ φραζώμεθʼ ὅπως ἔσται τάδε ἔργα,
            ἤ ῥʼ αὖτις πόλεμόν τε κακὸν καὶ φύλοπιν αἰνὴν
            ὄρσομεν, ἦ φιλότητα μετʼ ἀμφοτέροισι βάλωμεν

Od. 19.524 ὣς καὶ ἐμοὶ δίχα θυμὸς ὀρώρεται ἔνθα καὶ ἔνθα,
                  ἠὲ μένω . . . ἦ ἤδη ἅμʼ ἕπωμαι κτλ. (cp. 22.167)

This form is also found (but rarely) expressing, not the speakerʼs own deliberation, but that of a 3rd person.

Od. 16.73 μητρὶ δʼ ἐμῇ δίχα θυμὸς ἐνὶ φρεσὶ μερμηρίζει,
                ἢ αὐτοῦ παρʼ ἐμοί τε μένῃ καὶ δῶμα κομίζῃ, κτλ.

The speaker (Telemachus) here expresses himself from his motherʼs point of view, only putting the 3rd person for the 1st.

So of doubt as to which of two possible results of the speakerʼs action will be realized.

Il. 13.327 εἴδομεν, ἠέ τῳ εὖχος ὀρέξομεν, ἦέ τις ἡμῖν

Il. 16.243 εἴσεται ἤ ῥα καὶ οἶος ἐπίστηται πολεμίζειν
                ἡμέτερος θεράπων, ἦ οἱ κτλ.

where ἐπίστηται (is to knοw = will prονe to knοw) is used nearly as the Latin subjunctive in indirect questions.1 An example after a past tense is found in Il. 16.646 ff.; see § 298 fin.

281. Clauses with μή. These are mainly of two kinds

  1. Final Clauses: the verb of the principal Clause being

    a. an imperative, or equivalent form.

    Il. 3.414 μή μʼ ἔρεθε, σχετλίη, μὴ χωσαμένη σε μεθείω

    b. a present or future in the 1st person.

    Od. 6.273 τῶν ἀλεείνω φῆμιν ἀδευκέα, μή τις
                    ὀπίσσω μωμεύῃ

    In these places the governing verb shows that the purpose expressed is the speakerʼs own. The only instance of a different kind is

    Il. 13.648 ἂψ δʼ ἑτάρων εἰς ἔθνος ἐχάζετο κῆρʼ ἀλεείνων,
                    πάντοσε παπταίνων, μή τις χρόα χαλκῷ ἐπαύρῃ

    Here (if the reading ἐπαύρῃ is right) the poet describes the fear as though it were present to himself (see however § 298 fin).

    The two groups of clauses under discussion agree in using only the pure subjunctive (not the subjunctive with κεν or ἄν). In this respect they adhere to the form of the Simple Prohibitive Clause.

  2. Clauses following a verb that expresses the fear of the speaker.

    δείδω μή τι πάθῃσι
    fear that he will suffer

    Here the clause with μή, although of the same form as the independent clauses given in § 278, is practically subordinate, and serves as object to the verb. The verb, it is to be observed, is always in a present tense, and in the 1st person: i.e. it is the speakers own present fear that is expressed.

    Such a clause may be object to a verb of knowing, etc.

    Il. 10.100 δυσμενέες δʼ ἄνδρες σχεδὸν ἥαται, οὐδέ τι ἴδμεν
                    μή πως καὶ διὰ νύκτα μενοινήσωσι μάχεσθαι

    The fear expressed by μή πως κτλ. is subordinated (or on the way to be subordinated) to ἴδμεν: we do not knοw (said apprehensively) whether they will not be eager, etc. So

    Od. 24. 491 ἐξελθών τις ἴδοι μὴ δὴ σχεδὸν ὦσι κιόντες
                      some one gο out and look whether they are not near.

    And in the prohibitive use

    Il. 5.411 φραζέσθω μή τίς οἱ ἀμείνων σεῖο μάχηται, μὴ δὴν κτλ.
                  let him see to it that no one, etc., lest, etc.

    Od. 22.367 εἰπὲ δὲ πατρὶ μή με περισθενέων δηλήσεται.

    So with a verb of swearing,

    Od. 12.298 ὀμόσσατε μή πού τις . . . ἀποκτάνῃ
                      swear that nο one shall slay

     also Od. 18.55.

282. Relative Clauses. These fall into the two groups of Final Clauses and Conditional or limiting Clauses.

The relative clauses called final in the strict sense of the word are those which follow a clause expressive of will; and the reference to the future is shown in most cases by κεν.

Il. 9.165 ἀλλʼ ἄγετε κλητοὺς ὀτρύνομεν, οἵ κε τάχιστα
              ἔλθωσʼ ἐς κλισίην

Il. 24.119 δῶρα δʼ Ἀχιλλῆϊ φερέμεν τά κε θυμὸν ἰήνῃ

Od. 13.399                          ἀμφὶ δὲ λαῖφος
                  ἕσσω, ὅ κε στυγέῃσιν ἰδὼν ἄνθρωπος ἔχοντα

Il. 19.403 ὄνομʼ εὕρεο ὅττι κε θῆαι

With ellipse of the antecedent, so that the clause supplies an object to the governing verb

Il. 7.171 κλήρῳ νῦν πεπάλασθε διαμπερὲς ὅς κε λάχῃσι.

In other instances the notion of end is less distinctly conveyed, so that the subjunctive need only have the emphatic future meaning (§ 275.b).

Il. 21.126               μέλαιναν φρῖχʼ ὑπαΐξει
               ἰχθύς, ὅς κε φάγῃσι Λυκάονος ἀργέτα δημόν

Od. 10. 538 ἔνθα τοι αὐτίκα μάντις ἐλεύσεται, ὄρχαμε λαῶν,
                   ὅς κέν τοι εἴπῃσι κτλ.

So Od. 4.389, 756; 11.135.

The prophetic tone prevails in these places, cp.:

Il. 8.33 ἀλλʼ ἔμπης Δαναῶν ὀλοφυρόμεθʼ αἰχμητάων, οἵ κεν δὴ . . . ὄλωνται

where the subjunctive is used as in an independent sentence.

The chief examples of a pure subjunctive in a final clause are

Il. 3.286 τιμὴν δʼ Ἀργείοις ἀποτινέμεν ἥν τινʼ ἔοικεν,
              ἥ τε καὶ ἐσσομένοισι μετʼ ἀνθρώποισι πέληται.

Od. 18.334 μή τίς τοι τάχα Ἶρος ἀμείνων ἄλλος ἀναστῇ,
                   ὅς τίς σʼ . . . δώματος ἐκπέμψῃσι.

So Il. 18.467 παρέσσεται οἷά τις . . . θαυμάσσεται (unless this is future), also the object clause

Il. 5.33 μάρνασθʼ, ὁπποτέροισι πατὴρ Ζεὺς κῦδος ὀρέξῃ
            tο fight (out the issue) to which of the two Zeus
             shall give victory
(i.e. till one or other wins).

The want of κεν or ἄν is owing to the vagueness of the future event contemplated, i. e. the wish to exclude reference to a particular occasion.

The relative is sometimes used with the subjunctive after a negative principal clause—where there is necessarily no actual purpose.

Od. 6. 201 οὐκ ἔσθʼ οὕτος ἀνὴρ . . . ὅς κεν . . . ἵκηται (v.l. ἵκοιτο).

Il. 23.345 οὐκ ἔσθʼ ὅς κέ σʼ ἕλῃσι κτλ.

and withοut κεν

Il. 21.103 νῦν δʼ οὐκ ἔσθʼ ὅς τις θάνατον φύγῃ (v. l. φύγοι).

In these places the construction evidently follοws that of οὐ and οὐκ ἄν with the subjunctive in simple sentences (οὐκ ἔσθʼ ὅς φύγῃ = οὔ τις φύγῃ). Otherwise we should have the optative (§ 304.b).

The subjunctive is quite anomalous in

Od. 2.42 οὔτε τινʼ ἀγγελίην στρατοῦ ἔκλυον ἐρχομένοιο,
               ἥν χʼ ὑμῖν σάφα εἴπω, ὅτε πρότερός γε πυθοίμην.

But here the speaker is repeating what has been said in the 3rd person (30, 31), and with the regular optative (εἴποι, πύθοιτο). He evidently uses εἴπω because εἴποιμι does not fit the meter.

It is wοrth notice that the relative of purpose with the subjunctive is much commoner in the Odyssey than in the Iliad. Of the group which Delbrück describes as subjunctives of will with κεν, eleven are from the Odyssey, two (Il. 9.166, 24.119) are from the Iliad (Synt. Fοrsch. I. pp. 130-132). In Attic the idiom survives in a few phrases, as ἔχει ὅ τι εἴπῃ (Goodwin, § 65, n. 3).

283. Conditional Relative Causes. The numerous clauses which fall under this heading may be divided again into two classes distinguished by the presence or absence of κεν or ἄν.

a. The pure subjunctive is used when the speaker wishes to avoid reference to particular cases, especially to any future occasion or state of things. Hence the governing verb is generally a present or perfect indicative.

Il. 1.554 τὰ φράζεαι, ἅσσʼ ἐθέλῃσθα (whatever you choose)

Il. 14.81 βέλτερον ὃς φεύγων προφύγῃ κακὸν ἠὲ ἁλώῃ

Od. 8.546 ἀντὶ κασιγνήτου ξεῖνός θʼ ἱκέτης τε τέτυκται
                ἀνέρι ὅς τʼ ὀλίγον περ ἐπιψαύῃ πραπίδεσσι

In similes this usage is extremely common.

Il. 5.5 ἀστέρʼ ὀπωρινῷ ἐναλίγκιον, ὅς τε μάλιστα
          λαμπρὸν παμφαίνῃσι (3.62, 5.138, 10.185, etc.)

Od. 13.31 ὡς δʼ ὅτʼ ἀνὴρ δόρποιο λιλαίεται, ᾧ τε πανῆμαρ
                νειὸν ἀνʼ ἕλκητον βόε οἴνοπε πηκτὸν ἄροτρον

Where the principal verb refers to the future, and κεν or ἄν is not used, the intention is to make the reference quite general and sweeping.

Od. 20.334 ἀλλʼ ἄγε σῇ τάδε μητρὶ παρεζόμενος κατάλεξον
                  γήμασθʼ ὅς τις ἄριστος ἀνὴρ καὶ πλεῖστα πόρῃσι

Forms of the 3rd singular pluperfect are sometimes given by the MSS. and older editions in clauses of this kind: as πεφύκει (Il. 4.483), ἑστέχκει (Il. 17.435), etc. These were corrected by Hermann (Opusc. ii. 44), reading πεφύκει, ἔστήκει, etc. See La Roche on Il. 4.483.

b. The subjunctive with κεν indicates limitation to particular circumstances in the future. Hence it is used (with few exceptions) when the gοverning verb is a future, or implies futurity (an imperative, subjunctive or optative).

Il. 1.139 ὁ δέ κεν κεχολώσεται ὅν κεν ἵκωμαι

Od. 2.25 κέκλυτε δὴ νῦν μευ, Ἰθακήσιοι, ὅττι κεν εἴπω

Il. 21.103 νῦν δʼ οὐκ ἔσθʼ ὅς τις θάνατον φύγῃ, ὅν κε θεός γε κτλ.

Od. 1.316 δῶρον δʼ ὅττι κέ μοι δοῦναι φίλον ἦτορ ἀνώγῃ,
                αὖτις ἀνερχομένῳ δόμεναι (cp. Od. 6.28).

And after a verbal in -τος expressive of necessity.

Il. 1.527 οὐδʼ ἀτελεύτητον ὅ τι κεν κτλ.

Il. 3.65 οὔ τοι ἀπόβλητʼ ἐστὶ . . . ὅσσα κεν κτλ.

The reference to a particular future occasion may be evident from the context.

Od. 6.158 κεῖνος δʼ αὖ περὶ κῆρι μακάρτατος ἔξοχον ἄλλων,
                ὅς κέ σʼ ἐέδνοισι βρίσας οἶκονδ’ ἀγάγηται.

In the following places this rule appears to be violated by κέ(v) being used where the reference is generαὶ; Il. 1.218, 3.279, 6.228, 229, 9.313, 510, 615, 11.409, 14.416, 16.621, 17.99, 19.167, 228, 260, 21.24, 484, 23.322, 24.335; Od. 4.196, 7.33, 8.32, 586, 10.22, 74, 328, 14.126, 15.21, 55, 72, 345, 422, 19.564, 20.295, 21.313, 345. There is strong reason, however, to believe that in most of these instances the appearance of the particle is due to alteration of the original text. Of the three forms κεν, κε, κʼ, the first is on the whole the most frequent in Homer. But out of the 35 places now in question the form κεν only occurs in six (not counting Il. 14.416 ὅς κεν ἴδηται, where κεν is more than doubtful on account of the ϝ); and these six are all in the Odyssey (8. 586, 15.21, 55.345, 20.295, 21. 313). This can hardlγ be mere accident, and the obvious explanation is that in most of these places, at least in the Iliad, ὅς κε and ὅς κʼ have been substituted for ὅς τε and ὅς τʼ. Thus we should probably read (e.g.)

Il. 1.218 ὅς τε θεοῖς ἐπιπείθηται, μάλα τʼ ἔκλνον αὐτοῦ

9.508-510 ὅς μέν τʼ αἰδέσεται κούρας aιὸς . . .
                ὅς δέ τʼ ἀνήνηται καί τε κτλ. (cp. 23.322).
                (instead of the strange correlation μέν τε . . . δέ κε).

The real exceptions are most commonly passages in which a singular is used after a plural antecedent.

Od.20. 294 οὐ γὰρ καλὸν ἀτέμβειν οὐδὲ δίκαιον
ξείνους Γηλεμάχου, ὅς κεν τάδε δάάὼμαθʼ ἵκηται.

With the change of number we seem to pass from a general description to a particular instance. So in Od. 15.345, 422, and perhaps in Il. 3.279, 6.228, 16.621; Od.7.33: see 362.6.

c. The use of ἄν in the clauses of this kind is very rare. In the two places Il. 8.10 and 19.230 the reference to the future is plain. The remaining instance is Od. 21.293 ὅς τε καὶ ἄλλους βλάπτει, ὃς ἄν κτλ., where there is the change from the plural to the singular just noticed.

  • 1. It is impossible to agree with the scholars who explain ἐπίστηται here as an indicative; see G. Meyer, G. G. § 485.