Book Nav

333. The chief use of the adversative particle δέ is to show that a clause stands in some contrast to what has preceded. Ordinarily, however, it merely indicates the continuation of a narrative (i.e. shows that the new fact is not simultaneοus). It is especially used to introduce a parenthesis or subordinate statement (whereas τε introduces something parallel or coordinate.

νοῦσον ἀνὰ στρατὸν ὦρσε κακήν, ὀλέκοντο δὲ λαοί, οὕνεκα κτλ.

Here a prose writer would say ὀλεθρίαν, or ὥστε ἀπόλλυσθαι τὸν λαόν, or ὑφʼ ἧς ὁ λαὸς ἀπώλλυτο, etc.

Ἀντίλοχος δὲ Μύδωνα βάλʼ, ἡνίοχον θεράποντα,
ἐσθλὸν Ἀτυμνιάδην, ὁ δʼ ὑπέστρεφε μώνυχας ἵππους,
χερμαδίῳ ἀγκῶνα τυχὼν μέσον

I.e. "struck him as he was turning the horses."

δέ is nearly always the second wοrd in the clause. It is occasionally put after

  1. A preposition and case form,

    ἐπʼ αὐτῶν δʼ ὠμοθέτησαν


  2. an article and numeral,

    τῇ δεκάτῃ δʼ κτλ.

    but not after other combinations. Hence καὶ δέ, as

    Il. 7.113 καὶ δʼ Ἀχιλεύς
                  and eνen Achilles

    never καὶ Ἀχιλεὐς δέ, as in later Greek.

334. δέ of the Apodosis. While δέ generally stands at the beginning of a new independent sentence, there are certain uses, especially in Homer, in which it marks the beginning of the principal clause after a relatival, tempοral or conditional protasis. This is found where there is an opposition of some kind between the two members of the sentence.

Il. 4.261 εἴ περ γάρ τʼ ἄλλοι γε κάρη κομόωντες Ἀχαιοὶ
              δαιτρὸν πίνωσιν, σὸν δὲ πλεῖον δέπας κτλ. (so 12.245)

Il. 5.260 αἴ κέν μοι πολύβουλος Ἀθήνη κῦδος ὀρέξῃ
              ἀμφοτέρω κτεῖναι, σὺ δὲ . . .
              ἐρυκακέειν κτλ.

Od. 7.108 ὅσσον Φαίηκες περὶ πάντων ἴδριες ἀνδρῶν
                 νῆα θοὴν ἐνὶ πόντῳ ἐλαυνέμεν, ὡς δὲ γυναῖκες
                 ἱστὸν τεχνῆσσαι (cp. Od. 14.178 & 405, 18.62)

With οὐ and μή, giving οὐδέ, μηδέ.

Il. 5.788 ὄφρα μὲν ἐς πόλεμον πωλέσκετο δῖος Ἀχιλλεύς,
              οὐδέ ποτε Τρῶες κτλ.

Il. 6.58           μηδʼ ὅν τινα γαστέρι μήτηρ
            κοῦρον ἐόντα φέροι, μηδʼ ὃς φύγοι.

Od. 1.16-8 ἀλλʼ ὅτε δὴ ἔτος ἦλθε . . .
                  οὐδʼ ἔνθα κτλ.

Od. 10.17-8 ἀλλʼ ὅτε δὴ καὶ ἐγὼ ὁδὸν ᾔτεον . . .
                    οὐδέ τι κεῖνος κτλ.

This use, which was called by the ancient grammarians the δέ ἀποδοτικόν, or "δέ of the apodosis," has been variously explained by scholars.

  1. In many places the clause introduced by this δέ stands in a double opposition, first to the immediate protasis, and then to a preceding sentence.

    Il. 2.716-8 οἳ δʼ ἄρα Mηθόνην . . . ἐνέμοντο,
                     τῶν δὲ Φιλοκτήτης ἦρχεν κτλ.

    Philoctetes is opposed as commander to the people of Methone, and the whole statement is opposed to the previously mentioned peoples with their commanders. So in a period composed of twο pairs of correlated clauses.

    Il. 1.135-7 ἀλλʼ εἰ μὲν δώσουσι γέρας . . .
                  εἰ δέ κε μὴ δώωσιν, ἐγὼ δέ κεν αὐτὸς ἕλωμαι

    Il. 9.508 ὃς μέν τʼ αἰδέσεται κούρας Διὸς ἆσσον ἰούσας,
                  τὸν δὲ μέγʼ ὤνησαν καί τʼ ἔκλυον εὐχομένοιο·
                  ὃς δέ κʼ ἀνήνηται καί τε στερεῶς ἀποείπῃ,
                  λίσσονται δʼ ἄρα ταί γε Δία κτλ.

    Here the δέ of the last clause appears to carry on the opposition of the second pair to the first, and so to repeat the δέ of its own protasis. This use of δέ in apodosis to repeat or carry on the opposition of the whole sentence is regular in Attic.

    Xen. Anab. 5.6.20 εἰ δὲ βούλεσθε . . . πλοῖα δʼ ὑμῖν πάρεστι

    Isocr. 4.98 ἃ δʼ ἐστὶν ἴδία . . . ταῦτα δʼ ἐμὸν ἔργον ἐστὶν
                      εἰπεῖν (Κühner, § 533.2)

    It has been regarded as the key to the Homeric usage now in question:[fn]So in the first edition of this book, following the discussion of Νägelsbach in his Anmerkungen zur Iliαs (p. 261 and p. 271, ed. 1834). The Excursus on the subject vwas omitted in later editions. For the view adopted in the text the author is indebted almost wholly to Dr. R. Νieberding, Ueber die parataktische Anknüpfung des Nachsatzes in hypotaktischen Satzgefügen, insbesondere bei Hοmer, Gross-Glogau, 1882.[/fn] but this would compell us in many cases to give different explanations of uses to which the same explanation is evidently applicable. For instance, in the four lines last quoted, if we account for the δέ of λίσσονται δʼ ἄρα κτλ. as a repetition of the δέ of its protasis ὃς δέ κʼ κτλ., how do we treat the δέ of the first apodosis (τὸν δὲ κτλ.)? The two forms are essentially similar.

  2. The δέ of the apodosis is commonly regarded as a survival from a period in which the relative clause or conditional prοtasis was not yet subordinate, so that the apodosis, if it followed the other, still needed or at least admitted of a connecting particle. Such an explanation is attractive because it presents us with a case of the general law according to which the complex sentence or period is formed by the welding together of originally distinct simple sentences.[fn]On the danger of explaining the syntax of complex sentences by recourse to a supposed survival of paratactic structure there is a timely warning given by Bruggmann, Gr. Gr. § 203.[/fn] It is to be observed, however, that the phenomenon in question is not necessarily more than a particular use of δέ. The survival may be, not of a paratactic form of sentence, but only of a use of δέ where it is not a conjunction. Such a use has been already seen in the particle καί. In the correlation ἀλλʼ ὅτε δὴ . . . καὶ τότε δὴ we need find nothing more than the ordinary use of καί with the meaning alsο, eνen; that is to say, it emphasizes the sequence of the apodosis, just as it often emphasizes single words or phrases. Similarly δέ may have been used to mark the adversative character of an apodosis.
  3. These points may be illustrated by the parallel between καί alsο, even and οὐδέ or μηδέ = nοt eνen, alsο not. In this use δέ is clearly not a conjunction, but merely serves to mark the natural opposition between the negative and some preceding affirmation (expressed or implied). Thus it is closely akin to the use in apodosis, the difference being only that it belongs to a single word rather than a lause.
  4. It is a confirmation of this view that among the cases of δέ in the apodosis we never find one in which the protasis is introduced by the corresponding μέν,[fn]Nieberding. op. cit.p. 4.X 2[/fn] Where this is apparently the case it will be found that the μέν refers forward, not to the δέ of the immediate apodosis, but to a new sentence with δέ or some equivalent particle.

    Il. 2.188 ὅν τινα μὲν βασιλῆα καὶ ἔξοχον ἄνδρα κιχείη,
                  τὸν δʼ ἀγανοῖς ἐπέεσσιν κτλ.

    Il. 2.198 ὄν δʼ αὖ δήμου τʼ ἄνδρα ἴδοι κτλ.

    where the correspondence is not ὃν μὲν . . . τὸν δὲ, but ὃν μὲν . . . ὃν δʼ αὖ . . . See also Il. 9.508 & 550, 12.10, 18.257, 20.41; Od. 9.56, 11.147, 19.329.

    It has been observed that when the protasis is a relative clause, δέ of the apodosis is generally found after a demonstrative. The only exceptions to this rule are

    Il. 9.510 ὃς δέ κʼ ἀνήνηται . . .
    λίσσονται δʼ ἄρα ταί γε κτλ.


    Il. 23.319-21 ἀλλʼ ὃς μέν θʼ ἵπποισι . . .
    ἵπποι δὲ πλανόωνται κτλ. (Schömann, Opusc. Acad. ii. p. 97)

335. Enclitic δέ. There are twο uses which may be noticed under this heading

  1. The δὲ of ὅδε, τόσοσ-δε, τοῖόσ-δε is properly an enclitic (as the accent shows).

    The form τοῖσ-δεσι or τοῖσ-δεσσι may be a trace of an inflected pronoun akin to δέ (related to it perhaps as τις to τε); or it may be merely a form created by the analogy of other datives in -εσσι, -εσι.

  2. The δὲ which is suffixed to accusatives expressing motion to is generally treated as an enclitic in respect of accent, as οἶκόνδε, πόλεμονδε. The ancient grammarians, however, wrote δέ as a distinct orthotone wοrd, hence οἶκον δέ, πόλεμον δέ, etc., (but οἴκαδε, φύγαδε were made exceptions. It seems likely that the -δὲ of these two uses is originally the same. The force in both cases is that of a local adverb. Whether it is to be identified with the cοnjunctiοn δέ is a further questiοn.


Suggested Citation

D.B. Monro, A Grammar of the Homeric Dialect. Carlisle, Pennsylvania: Dickinson College Commentaries, 2014. ISBN: 978-1-947822-04-7.