μάν, μήν, μέν

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342. The three words μάν, μήν, μέν agree so nearly in meaning and usage that they are to be regarded as etymologically connected, if not merely varieties of the same original form. The two former (with the long ᾱ, η) express strong affirmation (= surely, indeed, etc.). The shorter form μέν is also originally a particle of affirmation, but has acquired derivative uses of which the chief are

  1. the concessive use, preparing us for a clause with an adversative δέ, αὐτάρ, ἀλλά, etc.
  2. the use in the second of two clauses with the meaning yet, nevertheless.

Taking the generally received text of Homer, we find that μάv occurs 24 times, and that there are only two places in which it is not followed by a vowel. The exceptions are

Il. 5.895 ἀλλʼ οὐ μάν σʼ ἔτι δηρὸν ἀνέξομαι ἄλγεʼ ἔχοντα

where άv may be due to the parallel

ll. 17.41 ἀλλʼ οὐ μὰν ἔτι δηρὸν ἀπείρητος πόνος ἔσται


ll. 5.765 ἄγρει μάν οἱ (i. e. ϝοι) ἕπορσον κτλ.

Cp. Il. 7.459 ἄγρει μὰν ὅτʼ ἂν κτλ. On the other hand μήν, which occurs 10 times, is followed by a consonant in every place except

ll. 19.45 καὶ μὴν οἱ τότε γʼ εἰς ἀγορὴν ἴσαν

These facts have not yet been satisfactorily explained. Bekker in his second edition (1858) wrote μήν throughout for μάv, and sought to distinguish μήν and μέv as far as the meter allowed according to Attic usage (H. B. pp. 34, 62). Cοbet on the contrary proposed to restore μέν for μήν (Misc. Crit. p. 365), and so far as these two forms are concerned his view is probable enough. But how are we to explain the peculiar facts as to μάν? We can hardly account for it except as a genuine Homeric form, and such a form must have been used before consonants as vowels. If so, we can only suppose that an original μάv was changed into μέv whenever it came before a consonant, and preserved when the meter made this corruption impossible.

It is to be observed also that μάν and μήν are almost confined to the Iliad, in which μάv occurs 22 times and μήν 7 times. In the Odyssey μάv is found twice, viz. in 11.344, 17.470, and μήν three times, in 11.582 & 593, 16.440 (= Il. 23.410). It appears then that μέν is the only form which really belongs to the language of the Odyssey. Consequently, the substitution of μέν for μάν in the Iliad may have taken place very early. The change of μέν to μήν probably belongs to the later period when μήν had been established in Ionic and Attic prose.

343. μάν has an affirmative and generally a hortatory or interjectional force, as in ἄγρει μάν may come! (Il. 5.765, 7.459), and ἦ μάν, οὐ μάν, used when a speech begins in a tone of surprise, triumph, or the like

Il. 2.370 ἦ μὰν αὖτʼ ἀγορῇ νικᾷς, γέρον, υἷας Ἀχαιῶν

Il. 12.318 οὐ μὰν ἀκληεῖς Λυκίην κάτα κοιρανέουσιν
                ἡμέτεροι βασιλῆες

Cp. 4.512, 13.4 4,14.454, etc. An approach to the force of an emphatic yet appears in

Il. 8.373 ἔσται μὰν ὅτʼ ἂν αὖτε φίλην γλαυκώπιδα εἴπῃ·

and in ἀλλʼ οὐ μάν (Il. 5.895, 17.41 & 418, etc.), μὴ μάν (Il. 8.512, 15.476, 22.354).

344. μήν with a hortatory force occurs in

Il. 1.302 εἰ δʼ ἄγε μὴν πείρησαι
              come, do but try

The combination μήν is affirmative (rather than merely concessive)—not so much admitting as insisting upon an objection or reply.

Il. 2.291 ἦ μὴν καὶ πόνος ἐστί
              it is true enough that there is tοil

Il. 7.393 ἦ μὴν Τρῶές γε κέλονται
              assure you that the Trojans bid him

Il. 9.57 ἦ μὴν καὶ νέος ἐσσί
            we must remember that you are young

In καὶ μὴν it emphasizes the fact introduced by καί.

Il. 19.45 καὶ μὴν οἱ τότε γʼ εἰς ἀγορὴν ἴσαν
              observe that even these then went

345. μέν is very common in Homer. The original simply affirmative force appears especially in the combinations ἦ μέν, καὶ μέν, and the like, in which it is indistinguishable in sense from μήν.[fn]On the uses of μέv see the dissertation of Carl Mutzbauer, Der hοmerische Gebrauch der Partikel MEN, Köln. 1884-86.[/fn]

ἦ μέν is regularly used in oaths, and is even found with an infinitive in oratio obliqua.

Il. 1.76 καί μοι ὄμοσσον
            ἦ μέν μοι . . . ἀρήξειν

So in a strong asseveration.

Il. 7.97 ἦ μὲν δὴ λώβη τάδε γʼ ἔσσεται
             this will really be a foul shame

Od. 19.235 ἦ μὲν πολλαί γʼ αὐτὸν ἐθηήσαντο γυναῖκες
                   you may be sure that many women gazed with wonder at it

In these and similar passages μέν strengthens a purely affirmative ἦ, and there is no sense of contrast. The adversative use may be perceived, as with the simple ἦ (§ 338) and ἦ μήν, when a speaker insists on his assertion as true along with or in spite of other facts

Od. 10.64 πῶς ἦλθες, Ὀδυσεῦ; τίς τοι κακὸς ἔχραε δαίμων;
                 ἦ μέν σʼ ἐνδυκέως ἀπεπέμπομεν
                 surely we sent you on your way with due provision

and in the common form of reproach.

Il. 11.765 ὦ πέπον, ἦ μὲν σοί γε Μενοίτιος ὧδ’ ἐπέτελλε

Cp. 5. 197, 9. 252. So with ironical emphasis

Il. 3.430 ἦ μὲν δὴ πρίν γʼ εὔχε κτλ.
              why surely you boasted, etc.

cp. Il. 9.348.

The corresponding negative form μὴ μέν occurs in formal oaths (§ 358.b), and with the optative in a sort of imprecation in

Od. 22.462 μὴ μὲν δὴ καθαρῷ θανάτῳ ἀπὸ θυμὸν ἑλοίμην κτλ.

Cp. μὴ μάν. Denial insisted upon in view of some state of things is expressed by οὐ μὲν.

Il. 4.372 οὐ μὲν Τυδέϊ γʼ ὧδε φίλον πτωσκαζέμεν ἦεν
               (why do you shrink?) surely Tydeus did not

The form καὶ μέν answers closely to the Attic καὶ μήν, which is used to call attention to a fact, especially as the ground of an argument.

Il. 18.362 καὶ μὲν δή πού τις μέλλει βροτὸς κτλ.
                a mortal, remember, will accomplish his will
                (much more a great goddess)

Il. 1.269 καὶ μὲν τοῖσιν ἐγὰὼ μεθομίλεον
             (these were the mightiest of men):
             yes, and I was of their fellowship

Sometimes the fact is first indicated, then dwelt upon in a fresh clause with καὶ μνέν.

Il. 9. 497 στρεπτοὶ δέ τε καὶ θεοὶ αὐτοί . . .
               καὶ μὲν τοὺς θυέεσσι κτλ.
               even gods may be moved . . .
               they are indeed turned from their anger by sacrifice, etc.

Cp. Il. 24.488; Od. 7.325, 14.85.

Similarly when a new point in the narrative is reached.

Il. 6. 194 καὶ μέν οἱ Λύκιοι τέμενος τάμον
               yes and (besides what the king gave)
               the Lycian people made him a temenos

Cp. Il. 6.27, 23.174, 24.732.

The adversative sense—but yet, but surely—is chiefly found after a negative, μέν being used either alone or in combination with an adversative conjunction (ἀλλά, ἀτάρ).

Il. 1.602 δαίνυντʼ, οὐδέ τι θυμὸς ἐδεύετο δαιτὸς ἐΐσῃς
              οὐ μὲν φόρμμιγγος
              nor yet the phorminx

Il. 2.703 οὐδὲ μὲν οὐδʼ οἳ ἄναρχοι ἔσαν, πόθεόν γε μὲν ἀρχόν

Od. 15.405 οὔ τι περιπληθὴς λίην τόσον, ἀλλʼ ἀγαθὴ μέν

Il. 6.124 οὐ μὲν γάρ ποτʼ ὄπωπα . . .
              ἀτὰρ μὲν νῦν γε κτλ.

Also after a question.

Il. 15.203 ἦ τι μεταστρέψεις; στρεπταὶ μέν τε φρένες ἐσθλῶν

With the article μέν is sometimes used to bring in a parenthesis, which may be simply affirmative, or indicate some opposition.

Il. 1.234 ναὶ μὰ τόδε σκῆπτρον, τὸ μὲν οὔ ποτε φύλλα καὶ ὄζους
              (= by this scepter, eνen as it shall never, etc.).

Il. 5.892 μητρός τοι μένος ἐστὶν ἀάσχετον, οὐκ ἐπιεικτόν,
              Ἥρης, τὴν μὲν ἐγὼ σπουδῇ δάμνημʼ ἐπέεσσι
               she is indeed one whom I can hardly tame

Cp. Il. 10.440, 15.40, 16.141. Α less emphatic use (merely to bring out a new point in the story) is not uncommon.

Il. 2.101 ἔστη σκῆπτρον ἔχων, τὸ μὲν κτλ.

Cp. Il. 18.84 & 131, 23.328 & 808; Od. 9. 320-1. Further, the interposed statement may have a double reference, a corresponding clause with δέ or αὐτάρ serving to resume the narrative.

Il. 8.256 ἀλλὰ πολὺ πρῶτος Τρώων ἕλεν ἄνδρα κορυστήν,
              Φραδμονίδην Ἀγέλαον· ὁ μὲν φύγαδʼ ἔτραπεν ἵππους,
               τῷ δὲ μεταστρεφθέντι κτλ. (so ibid. 268-271)

Again, the return to the main story after a digression may be marked by a similar form: e.g. in Od. 6. 13 (after a parenthetical account of the Phaeacians and Alcinous) τοῦ μὲν ἔβη πρὸς δῶμα κτλ. now it was to his house that she went. Cp. Od. 9.325.

Suggested Citation

D.B. Monro, A Grammar of the Homeric Dialect. Carlisle, Pennsylvania: Dickinson College Commentaries, 2014. ISBN: 978-1-947822-04-7. https://dcc.dickinson.edu/grammar/monro/%CE%BC%CE%AC%CE%BD-%CE%BC%CE%AE%CE%BD-%CE%BC%CE%AD%CE%BD