theories of ϝ

Book Nav


399. The main question which arises on these facts evidently is : Hοςw can the great number of passages in which the F afβfects the metre ob Homer be reconciled ςwith the not inconsiderable number of passages in which it is neglected?

The scholars who first became aware of the traces of a lost letter in Homer assumed that in the original form of the poems this letter, or at least the consonantal sound for which it after- wards stood, vwas consistently used-that it vwas in fact one of the ordinary sounds of the language-; and accordingly they directed their efβforts to restoring it to the text. This ςwas the principle on which Bentley made his famous series of emen- dations: and vwhich vwas carried out by Bekker iεn his edition of 1858. Of late years, hoςwever, diferent vieςws of the matter have been taken. Leskien seems to have been the first to maintain that the passages which do not adgmit are not necessarily corrupt or spurious, but are to be regardedἄ as evi- dence of an original fluctuation in the use of the sound. His vieςw is adopted and defended by Curtius(6τuπd2. p. 550, 5th od.). Prοb. Hartel has more recently put forςward a theory which agrees ςwith that of Curtius in treating the apparent neglect of the f as part of the original condition of the text. But he ascribes this neglect, not to irregularity in the use of the sound, but to the intermediate half-vοςwel character of the sound itself.

400. If we are not satisfied that the f had the value of an ordinary consonant at the time vwhen the Homeric poems vwere produced (or when they received their present form), we may explain the influence which it has on the metre in several ways.

Hypothesis of alternative forms. We may suppose that each word that originally had initial f was known to Homeric times in tςwο forms, an older form ςwith the f-confined perhaps to the archaic or poetical style -and a later in which f ςwas no longer heard. Just as the poet could say either σῦς or ὗς, either πόλις or πτόλις, either τελέσσαι or τελέσαι, so he may have had the choice betςween ἄναξ and ἄναξ, ηδός and ηbός, etc.

In order to test the probability of this hypothesis, let us take a few common words of different metrical form, and which show no trace of f, the ςwοrds λρης, ἄριστος, ἔγχος, ἢμμαρ, ὅμιλος, ὀφθαλμός, ὅδωρ, ὕπνος. These words, with their immediate derivatives, occur in the Iliad 1022 tines ; and the places that ςwould not admit an initial consonant number 684, or just two-thirds of the ςwhole. Again, take some of the commonest vwords ςwith f, ἄνα7, ἄστυ, ἔργον, οἶκος, and the Aοrist ἰδεῖν. These occur in the iadd 685 times, and the exceptions are hardly 50, or about one- fourteenth. Compared with the other proportion this surely proves that the recognition of the F in these words vwas not arbitrary, but was the rule in Homeric verse.