Thematic Aorist

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31. The verb stem is in the weak form: we may distinguish the following groups.

  1. With ᾰ as stem vowel (the strong stem with ᾱ or η).

    λάθε was unseen by
    λάκε crackled
    ἔλ-λαβε took
    εὔαδε (for ἔ-σϝᾰδε) pleased
    μακών bellowing
    φάγον ate
    δι-έ-τμαγον (τμήγω) parted
    ἀνέκραγον cried aloud (Attic perfect κέκρᾱγα)
    ἄρετο gained
    ἅλητοι (subjunctive) shall leap
    ἔ-χραε assailed (χρᾱυ-)
    δάηται (subjunctive) shall be burned (δᾱυ-)
    φάε shone (φᾱυ-, cp. πιφαύσκω), λάε seized, pinned (λᾱυ-, cp. ἀπο-λαύω), ἄλθετο was healed
    ἦλφον (optative ἄλφοι) earned
    ἤντετο met (participle ἀντ-όμενος)

    The forms φάε (Od. 14.502) and λάε, participle λάων (Od. 19.229, 230) are placed here provisionally. Each occurs once, in a context which does not decide between aorist and imperfect.

    The existence of an aorist ἔ-ϝαχ-ον has been made probable by W. Schulze (K. Z. xxix. 230). He shows that the form ἴαχον, generally taken as the imperfect of ἰάχω (§ 35), is an aorist in meaning, and constantly occurs after elision (μέγʼ ἴαχον, ἐπὶ δʼ ἴαχον, ἐπ-ίαχον). Consequently we can always read ϝάχον (μέγα ϝάχον, ἐπὶ δὲ ϝάχον, ἐπί-ϝαχον), or with augment εὔαχον (cp. εὔαδε for ἔ-ϝαδε). In Il. 20.62 καὶ ἴαχε would be read καὶ εὔαχε. The alternative is to suppose that ἐ-ϝίϝαχον became εἴαχον by loss of and contraction (Wackernagel, K. Z. xxv. 279): but contraction in such a case is very rare in Homer, and the aorist meaning of ἴαχον has to be accounted for. On the other hand if we accept Schulze's view we have still to admit a present (or aorist?) participle ἰάχων (ϝιϝάχων).

  2. With ε (strong η).

    ἔθων doing as he is wont (cp. ἦθ-ος for σϝηθ-ος, perhaps μέδ-οντο bethought them (μήδ-ομαι).

    The forms μέδοντο, etc., are generally referred to a verb μέδο-μαι: but no such present is found, and the other moods–subjunctive, optative, imperative, and infinitive–always admit the aorist meaning. As to ἔθων see § 243.1. If an aorist it should be accented ἐθών.

  3. With ῐ (strong ει).

    ἔ-στῐχ-ον (στείχω) marched
    ἐ-πίθοντο obeyed
    ἱκέσθαι to come to
    λιτέσθαι to entreat,
    ἤριπε (ἐρείπω) fell down
    ἤρικε (ἐρείκω) was torn
    ἤλιτεν offended (mid. ἀλιτέσθαι)
    ἄΐον heard
    δίε feared (δϝι-)
    δίον ran
    ἔ-κιον moved
    ἔ-πιον drank
    ὄλισθε slipped
    κρίκε cracked

    With αι.

    αἰθόμενον burning
    αἴδετο felt shame32.2)
    ἔχραισμε availed32.3)

    δίον ran (Il. 22.251) is not to be connected with δίε feared, but with ἐν-δίε-σαν, δίε-νται chase, of which we have the thematic subjunctive δίωμαι, optative δίοιτο, infinitive δίεσθαι. That they are aorists appears (e.g.) from Il. 16.246 ἐπεί κε δίηται when he shall have chased.

    ἔκιον is probably an aorist, since *κίω does not occur. The accentuation of the participle κιών is in favour of this, but not decisively (cp. ἐών, ἰών).

  4. With ῠ (strong ευ).

    κύθε hid
    φύγον fled
    τύχε hit upon
    πυθόμην heard tell
    ἔστυγον felt disgust
    ἔκτυπε sounded
    ἤρυγε bellowed
    ἤλυθον I came
    ἔκλυον heard
    ἄμ-πνυε recovered breath

    With αυ.

    αὖε shouted, αὕῃ (subjunctive) kindle
    ἐπ-αυρεῖν to gain from, enjoy

    With ευ.

    εὗρε found

    ἔκλυον is clearly an aorist in Homer. The present κλύω, which occurs in Hesiod (Op. 726 οὐ γὰρ τοί γε κλύουσιν) and in Attic poets, is perhaps only a mistaken imitation of the Homeric style.

  5. With ᾰρ, ρᾰ, ρ (strong ερ, ρε).

    ἐ-πράθ-ο-μεν (πέρθ-ω) we sacked
    κατ-έδραθον went to sleep
    ἔ-δρακον (δέρκομαι) looked
    ἔδραμον (δρόμος) ran
    ἔ-τραπον turned
    ἔτραφε (τρέφω) was nurtured
    ταρπώμεθα (τέρπω) let us take our pleasure
    ἔβραχε rattled
    ἅμαρτε (also ἤμβροτε) missed
    ἔπταρε sneezed
    ἔγρ-ετο (ἐγερ-) was roused
    ἀγρόμενοι (ἀγερ-) assembled33)

    With ᾰλ, λ (strong ελ).

    ἔ-βαλ-ον (βέλ-ος)
    ἔ-πλ-εν, ἔπλετο turned, came to be33)

    With ορ, ολ.

    ἔ-πορ-ον furnished
    ἔθορε leaped
    ἔτορε pierced
    ὤρετο was stirred up
    ἔκ-μολ-ε came out
    ὀλέσθαι to perish

    The ε of the strong stem appears in εἷλον, ἕλ-ον took, ἐρ-έσθαι to ask (cp. § 22.6). It will be seen that ᾰρ, ρᾰ, ᾰλ are generally placed between consonants, where ρ, λ would be unpronounceable. The only exceptions are, ἔπταρον and ἔβαλον, On the other hand ορ, ολ only appear before a vowel.

  6. With ᾰ (strong εν, εμ).

    ἔ-παθ-ον (πένθ-ος) suffered
    μάθ-ον learned
    ἔλαχον obtained as share
    ἔχαδε (future χείσομαι) contained
    δακέειν to bite
    δάηται shall learn (δᾰσ-, strong form *δενσ-, cp. δέδαεν, § 36.5)

    ᾰν, ᾰμ (before a vowel).

    ἔ-κταν-ον killed
    ἔθανε died
    ἔ-καμ-ον wearied
    τάμε cut (cp. ἐ-δάμ-η, § 42)

    εν appears in γεν-έσθαι to become.

  7. With loss of ε.

    ἔ-σχ-ον held (ἔχ-ω for σέχ-ω)
    ἔσπετο followed, infinitive ἐπι-σπέσθαι (ἕπομαι for σεπ-ομαι)
    ἐπιπτέσθαι (πετ-) to fly over
    ἕζετο sat (for ἐ-σδ-ετο, Ahrens, Gr. F. § 95).

    The ε is retained in

    ἔ-τεκ-ον brought forth
    ἀπ-εχθ-έσθαι to incur hatred
    ἔσχεθον held (?).

    In these cases loss of ε is phonetically impossible.

    ἀπ-ήχθε-το is an aorist in Homer (the present being ἀπ-εχθάνο-μαι), although a present ἔχθο-μαι is found in Attic. The simple ἤχθετο (Od. 14.366, ἔχθεσθαι Od. 4.756, ἐχθόμενος Od. 4.502) is called imperfect by Veitch; but the meaning in the three places seems to be the same as in ἀπ-ήχθετο–not was hateful, but came to be hated.

    The only ground for taking ἔσχεθον to be an aorist is the infinitive σχεθέειν (Il. 23.466, Od. 5.320). Possibly this may be a present infinitive in -εεν (§ 85.2), preserved owing to the impossibility of σχέθειν in the hexameter.

32. The foregoing list calls for some further remarks.

  1. Comparing the 2nd aorists of later Greek, we are struck by the number of instances in Homer in which the thematic ε or ο follows another vowel.

    In ἔχραε, φάε, λάε, δάηται (for ἔ-χρᾰϝ-ε, φάϝ-ε, λάϝ-ε, δάϝ-ηται) the hiatus is due to the loss of ϝ. So in λόε (for λόϝε). Similarly σ is lost in δάηται (δᾰσ-) shall learn.

    In several cases the thematic inflection is found intermingled with non-thematic forms. Thus we have

    ἔκλυον, imperative κλῦθι
    ἄμ-πνυε, mid. ἄμ-πνῡ-το
    ἔπιον, imperative πῖθι (Ar. Vesp. 1489)
    δίον ran
    ἐν-δίε-σαν chased (δίη-μι).

    The presumption is that the non-thematic forms are older, the others being derived from them as ἔον I was and ἤϊον I went from corresponding parts of εἰμί, εἶμι (cp. § 18). Similarly we may account for ἔκιον (κι- in present κί-νυμαι), and perhaps δίε feared, ἄΐον heard.

  2. Another characteristic group is formed by the aorist stems in which we find initial α either entering into a diphthong (αἰ-, αὐ- or followed by a double consonant: viz. αἰθ-, αἰδ-, αὐ- (in αὖε , αὐ- (in αὕῃ kindle), αὐρ-, ἀλθ-, ἀλφ-, ἀντ-. Some of these which are usually counted as present stems require separate notice.

    αἰθ- occurs in Homer only in the participle αἰθόμενος burning: as to the adjectival use of participles see § 244. The stem is found in the Sanskrit idh-ati burns.

    αὶδ- occurs in the indicative αἴδετο, imperative αἴδεο, participle αἰδόμενος; the corresponding present is always αἰδέομαι.

    αὖε shouted may always be an aorist (Il. 11.461, 13.477, 20.48, 51). We may identify this αὐ- with u in Sanskrit u-noti calls. The ἀ is a distinct syllable in the aorist ἄῡ-σε, cp. ἀῡτή.

    αὕῃ (Od. 5.490, v. ll. αὕοι) makes good sense as an aorist, expressing the act of kindling. The stem is weak (αὐσ- = Sanskrit ush- in ush-ás, Aeolic αὔως); the strong form appears in εὕ-ω, Lat. uro.

    ἐπ-αυρεῖν exhibits the thematic form answering to ἀπ-ηύρα, ἀπο-υράς (§ 13).

    ἄλθ-ετο, found only in Il. 5.417, is clearly an aorist.

    ἀλφ- occurs in ἦλφον, optative ἄλφοι, with aorist meaning.

    ἀντ- in ἤντετο, συν-αντέσθην, infinitive ἄντεσθαι, participle ἀντόμενος, always with clear aorist meaning. Accordingly ἄντεσθαι in Il. 15.698 (the only place where it occurs) was accented by Tyrannio ἀντέσθαι.

    The ἀ- of αἰθ-, αὐσ-, etc., is discussed by De Saussure along with that of ἀρχ-, ἀγχ- in a passage quoted above (§ 30 note). He regards it as "prothetic," so that the stems in which it appears are generally in the weak form. The ῠ of αὐ- may answer to either ϝε or ευ in the strong form; thus αὐδ-ή: ἀϝείδ-ω = αὔξα : ἀϝέξ-ω (Sanskrit vaksh-) = αὐχ-ὴ: εὔχ-ομαι, perhaps ἐπ-αυρεῖν: εὑρ-εῖν. A similar ἀ- appears in ἀ-μείβω, ἀ-μέλγω, ἀείρω; perhaps in ἀ-λιτέσθαι, ἁ-μαρτεῖν (but in these it may be originally significant, infra, 3).

    In ἀλθ-, ἀλφ-, ἀντ- the form is weak (perhaps ἀλθ- is to a strong ἀλεθ- as ἄλγ-ος: ἀλέγ-ω or ἀλκ-ή: ἀλεκ- in ἀλέξω), or else the strong and weak forms coincided (as in ἀρχ-, ἀγκ-, § 30).

    It appears then that in the tenses with which we are dealing the strong stem has generally disappeared, and the present has been derived afresh from the weak stem, by means of one of the various suffixes. Thus we have αἰδ-, present αἰδ-έομαι; αὖε, present ἀϋτέω; αὐρ-, present ἐπ-αυρ-ίσκω; ἀντ-, present ἀντιάω, ἀντιάζω. The process has been the same in ἀλιτ-έσθαι and present ἀλιτ-αίνω, ἁμαρτ-εῖν and ἁμαρτ-άνω, εὑρ-εῖν and εὑρ-ίσκω, ἐχθέσθαι and ἀπ-εχθ-άνομαι, ὄλισθε and ὀλισθ-άνω, also in Attic αἰσθ-έσθαι and αἴσθ-άνομαι. The last is interesting as the only post-Homeric 2nd aorist which is used in good Attic prose.

  3. Α few thematic aorists seem to be formed from the stems of nouns of the ο-declension. Thus ἔχραισμε availed is generally derived from χρήσιμος useful (Curt. Verb. ii. 13). So, according to Curtius, θέρμε-τε warm you, θέρμε-το grew warm, from θερμός; ὅπλε-σθαι (Il. 19.172, 23.159) to get ready, from ὅπλον (ὁπλέ-ω); γόον (Il. 6.500) bewailed, from γόος (γο-άω); ἁμαρτ-εῖν to miss, from ἀ-μαρ-το- without part in.

    Some at least of these instances may be otherwise explained. For ὅπλεσθαι we may read ὁπλεῖσθαι (the uncontracted ὁπλέεσθαι is impossible in the hexameter). γόον in Il. 6.500 αἱ μὲν ἔτι ζωὸν γόον ῞Εκτορα κ. τ.λ. makes better sense as an imperfect: Fick reads γόαν, 3rd plur. of an 'Aeolicʼ γόημι. Possibly γόον is for γόεον by hyphaeresis (§ 105.4).

33. In several cases it is difficult to say whether loss of ε is characteristic of an aorist stem, or is merely phonetic, due to "syncope." Thus we have ἀγέροντο, participle ἀγρόμενοι: ὤφελον ought and the Attic ὦφλον owed: πέλω and the syncopated forms ἔπλεν, ἔπλετο, participle ἐπιπλόμενος, etc., (not ἔπελεν, ἐπέλετο, etc., in Homer).

ἀγέροντο were assembled, infinitive ἀγέρεσθαι (so accented in MSS.) imply a present ἀγέρω; but the participle ἀγρ-όμενοι seems to be an aorist The -ε- is only lost in the participle, whereas in the undoubted aorist ἔγρ-ετο the form ἐγερ- never occurs (optative ἔγροιτο, infinitive ἔγρεσθαι). In Il. 7.434, 24.789 ἀμφὶ πυρὴν . . . ἔγρετο λαός Cobet (Misc. Crit. p. 415) proposed to read ἤγρετο, from ἀγερ-. The emendation gives a good sense, but is not absolutely necessary.

ὤφελον ought ( = would that) bears a different sense from the aorist ὦφλον, but is indistinguishable from the imperfect ὤφελλον (Od. 8.312 τὼ μὴ γείνασθαι ὄφελλον, so Il. 7.390, 24.764, Od. 14.68, 18.401). Hence ὤφελον is probably an older form of the imperfect which has survived in this particular use.

ἔπλεν, ἔπλε-το, etc., must be aorists, since

  1. ἔπλετο occurs in the ’gnomicʼ use

    Il. 2.480 ἠΰτε βοῦς ἀγέληφι μέγʼ ἔξοχος ἔπλετο πάντων·

    and so in Il. 24.94, Od. 7.217. This use is not found with the imperfect.

  2. ἔπλετο with the meaning of a present can only be explained as an aorist = the English perfect, has turned out, has come to be, (and so is): see § 78, and cp. Il. 12.271 νῦν ἔπλετο ἔργον ἁπάντων now it has become: with another aorist similarly used, Il. 15. 227 πολὺ κέρδιον ἔπλετο, ὅτι ὑπόειξεν it is better that he has yielded: also Il. 6.434, 7.31, 8.552, 14.337, 19.57, Od. 20.304, etc.

    The participle occurs in ἐπι-πλόμενον ἔτος (Od.) and περι-πλομένων ἐνιαυτῶν, with much the same force as the present participle in the equivalent phrase περιτελλομένων ἐνιαυτῶν. But, as we shall see, an aorist participle may have the meaning of an adjective (§ 244): cp. volvenda dies.

34. Comparison of the thematic 'strong' aorists found in Homer with those of other periods of Greek brings out strikingly the relation between the Homeric and the later dialect.

It may be assumed that the strong aorists, like the strong preterites in English, were a diminishing class, never added to (except by learned imitators of the Epic style), and gradually superseded by the more convenient forms in -σα. Hence the comparative frequency of these aorists in an author indicates either an early date or (at least) the use of an archaic style.

Curtius enumerates altogether 117 strong aorists, of which 84 are found in Homer. Of these 84, again, about 30 occur also in prose, while as many more are used in the later poetical style (ἔλακον, ἔκιον, ἔκλυον, μολεῖν, πορεῖν, etc.). Of the non-Homeric examples only one, viz. αἰσθέσθαι, belongs to the language of prose; about 15 are found in good early poetry (e.g. δικεῖν, θιγεῖν, κανεῖν, βλαστεῖν, in Attic dramatists) ; most of the others are evidently figments of learned poets, imitated from actual Homeric forms, e.g. ἔδαεν (from Homeric δέδαεν), ἔμμορον (from μόρος and the Homeric perfect ἔμμορε), ἔδουπε.

These facts seem to show both the high antiquity of the Homeric language and the position which it held as the chief though not the only source of the poetical vocabulary of historical times.