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185. The prepositiοn περί (or πέρι, § 180) has in Homer the two meanings around and beyond. Both these meanings are common in the adverbial use; the second often yields the derivative meaning beyond measure, exceedingly.

Il 16.186 πέρι μὲν θείειν ταχύν
                 exceeding swift to run

Il. 18.549 πέρι θαῦμα τέτυκτο
                  was an exceeding wonder

Od. 4.722 πέρι γάρ μοι Ὀλύμπιος ἄλγεʼ ἔδωκε
                  for Zeus has given to me griefs beyond measure

The meaning beyond is found in tmesis

Il. 12. 322 πόλεμον περὶ τόνδε φυγόντες
                   escaρing this war

Il. 19. 230 πολέμοιο περὶ στυγεροῖο λίπωνται
                    shall remain over from war

and in composition.

I excel

I get beyond, surpass

I know exceeding well[fn]Il. 13.728 βουλῇ περιίδμεναι ἄλλων
to be knowing in counsel beyοnd others
cp. Od. 3.244, 17.317.[/fn]

The genitive in such constructions is ablatival (§ 152).

186. The dative with περί (as with ἀμφί) is locatival

Il. 1.303 ἐρωήσει περὶ δουρί
                will gush over (literally around upon) the spear

Il. 2.389 περὶ δʼ ἔγχεϊ χεῖρα καμεῖται
                his hand will be weary with holding the spear

Il. 2.416 χιτῶνα περὶ στήθεσσι δαΐξαι
                to tear the chiton about (around on) the breast

Also of an object of contention, over,

Il. 16.568 περὶ παιδί . . . πόνος εἴη
                  the toil (of battle) might be over his son

Cp. Il. 17.4, 133, Od. 5.310; and in a derivative sense

Od. 2.245 μαχήσασθαι περὶ δαιτί
                    to fight about a feast

  1. It is a question which meaning is to be given to περί in

    Il. 5.566 περὶ γὰρ δίε ποιμένι λαῶν (so 9.433, 11.556)

    Il. 10.240 ἔδεισεν δὲ περὶ ξανθῷ Mενελάῳ

    Il. 17.242 ὅσσον ἐμῇ κεφαλῇ πέρι δείδια (or περιδείδια)

    and in the compound

    Il. 11.508 τῷ ῥα περίδεισαν

    Il. 15.123 περιδείσασα θεοῖσι

    also Il. 21.328 and 23.822. Most commentators here take περί = exceedingly and the Dative of the Person as a dativus ethicus.

    περὶ γὰρ δίε ποιμένι
    for he feared exceedingly for the shepherd, etc.

    But it is difficult to find Homeric analogies for such a use of the dative, and the meaning over, on behαlf of is supported by later writers

    H. Merc. 236 χωόμενον περὶ βουσί

    H. Cer. 77 ἀχνυμένην περὶ παιδί

    Hdt. 3.35 περὶ ἑωυτῷ δειμαίνοντα

    Thuc. 1.60 δεδιότες περὶ κτλ.

    also by the use of ἀμφί with the dative (§ 182) in nearly the same meaning.

  2. Much difficulty has been felt about the use of περί in a group of phrases of which the following are the chief instances.

    Il. 4.53 τὰς διαπέρσαι, ὅτʼ ἄν τοι ἀπέχθαωνται περὶ κῆρι (cp. 4.46, etc.)

    Od. 6.158 κεῖνος δʼ αὖ περὶ κῆρι μακάρτατος ἔξοχον ἄλλων

    Il. 21.65 περὶ δʼ ἤθέλε θυμῷ (so 24.236)

    Il. 22.70 ἀλύσσοντες περὶ θυμῷ

    Od. 14.146 περὶ γάρ μʼ ἐφίλει καὶ κήδετο θυμῷ

    Il. 16.157 τοῖσίν τε περὶ φρεσὶν ἄσπετος ἀλκή

    Οd. 14.433 περὶ γὰρ φρεσὶν αἴσιμα ᾔδη

    In all these places the dative may be construed as a locative (although κῆρι without περί is only found in Il. 9.117); the only question is whether the preposition is to be taken in the literal local sense around, all over, or in the derivative sense exceedingly. In favor of the latter it may be said that the same combinations of preposition and verb are found without a dative such as κῆρι or θυμῷ, where accordingly περί must mean exceedingly; compare

    Il. 13.430 τὴν περὶ κῆρι φίλησε πατὴρ
    Od. 8.63 τὸν περὶ Μοῦσʼ ἐφίλησε

    Od. 14.433 περὶ γὰρ φρεσὶν αἴσιμα ᾔδη
    Od. 2.88 περὶ κέρδεα οἶδε

    Il. 16.157 τοῖσίν τε περὶ φρεσὶν ἄσπετος ἀλκή
    Od. 12.279 πέρι τοι μένος

    Od. 5.36 περὶ κῆρι θεὸν ὣς τιμήσουσι
    Il. 8.161 περὶ μέν σε τίον Δαναοί

    Again, in Il. 4.46 τάων μοι περὶ κῆρι τιέσκετο the meaning beyond is required by the genitive, τάων; cp.

    Il. 4.257 περὶ μέν σε τίω Δαναῶν ταχυπώλων

    Il. 7.289 περὶ δʼ ἔγχει Ἀχαιῶν φέρτατός ἐσσι

    Il. 17.22 περὶ σθένεϊ βλεμεαίνει

    So with the accusative in Il. 13.631 περὶ φρένας ἔμμεναι ἄλλων.

On the other side, the representation of a feeling as something surrounding or covering the heart, midriff, etc., is common in Homer.

Il. 11.89 σίτου τε γλυκεροῖο περὶ φρένας ἵμερος αἱμεῖ

Od. 9.362 ἐπεὶ Κύκλωπα περὶ φρένας ἤλυθεν οἶνος

So of a sound

Il. 10.139 περὶ φρένας ἤλυθʼ ἰωή

Cp. Od. 17.261. And more frequently with ἀμφί; cp. Od. 19.516

πυκιναὶ δέ μοι ἀμφʼ ἀδινὸν κῆρ ὀξεῖαι μελεδῶνες ὀδυρομένην ἐρέθουσι

and the other passages quoted at the end of § 181. Similarly, περὶ κῆρι, περὶ φρεσί, may have been meant in the literal sense—the feeling (fear, anger, etc.) being thought of as filling or covering the heart. On the whole, however, the evidence is against this view—unless indeed we explain περὶ κῆρι as a traditional phrase, used without a distinct sense of its original meaning.

The occasional use of the dative with περί in Attic is probably due to familiarity with Homer.

187. The accusative with περί is used (as with ἀμφί) when mοtiοn or extent in space is expressed.

Il. 1.448 ἑκατόμβην ἔστησαν περὶ βωμόν
                placed the hecatοmb rοund the altar

Il. 2.750 περὶ Δωδώνην οἴκιʼ ἔθεντο
                 made their dwellings round Dοdοna

Generally speaking, the accusative implies surrounding in a less exact or complete way than the dative. It makes us think of the space abοut an object rather than of its actual circumference. Occasionally, οf course, the circumference in the space over which motion takes place, or extent is measured.

Il. 12.297 ῥάψε ῥάβδοισι διηνεκέσιν περὶ κύκλον
                   round in a circle

Il. 18.274 ἑστάμεναι περὶ τοῖχον
                  to stand along the wall all around it

188. The genitive with περί is used in three distinct ways

  1. With περί meaning beyοnd(in the figurative sense = excelling) it expresses the object of comparison.

    Il. 1.287 περὶ πάντων ἔμμεναι
                     to surpass all

    Od. 1.235 ἄϊστον ἐποίησαν περὶ πάντων
                     have made him unseen mοre than all men

    Od. 4.231 ἐπιστάμενος περὶ πάντων

    This use is distinctively Homeric. The genitive is ablatival, as with adjectives of comparison (§ 152).

  2. With περί = round, ονer(in the local sense) the genitive is very rare; the instances are

    Od. 5.68 ἠδʼ αὐτοῦ τετάνυστο περὶ σπείους γλαφυροῖο
                    ἡμερὶς ἡβώωσα

    Od. 5.130 τὸν μὲν ἐγὼν ἐσάωσα περὶ τρόπιος βεβαῶτα

    The genitive may be akin to the (partitive) Genitive of Place (§ 149) the vine e. g. grew round in or οver (but not covering) the cave.

  3. With περί = over(the object of a contest)

    Il. 16.1 ὡς οἱ μὲν περὶ νηὸς ἐϋσσέλμοιο μάχοντο

    Il. 12.142 ἀμύνεσθαι περὶ νηῶν
                      to defend the ships

    sometimes also in the figurative sense, about

    Il. 11.700 περὶ τρίποδος γὰρ ἔμελλον θεύσεσθαι

    Od. 9. 423 ὥς τε περὶ ψυχῆς
                        as when life is at stake

    and of doubt.

    Il. 20.17 ἦ τι περὶ Τρώων καὶ Ἀχαιῶν μερμηρίζεις

    The use with verbs of anger and fear is closely akin.

    Il. 9.449 παλλακίδος πέρι χώσατο

    Il. 17.240 νέκυος πέρι δείδια
    (unless we read περιχώσατο, περιδείδια.)

    The weapons of the contest are said to be fought over in Od. 8.225 ἐρίζεσκον περὶ τόξων; so Il. 15.284 ὁππότε κοῦροι ἐρίσσειαν περὶ μύθων. And this is also applied to the quarrel itself, Il. 16.476 συνίτην ἔριδος πέρι θυμοβόροιο (cp. 20.253).

    Under this head will come the genitive in

    Il. 23.485 τρίποδος περιδώμεθον
                      let us wager a tripod

    Od. 23. 78 ἐμέθεν περιδώσομαι αὐτῆς
                        I will stake myself

    Whatever may be the original meaning of περιδόσθαι, it is construed as if = to join issue, contend (Latin pignore certare); cp. the Attic use περιδίδομαί τινι περί (genitive of the thing staked).

    By a not unnatural extension, περί with the genitive follows verbs meaning to speak, know, etc., but only in the Odyssey.

    Od. 1.135 (= 3.77) ἵνα μιν περὶ πατρὸς ἀποιχομένοιο ἔροιτο

    Od. 15.347 εἴπʼ ἄγε μοι περὶ μητρὸς κτλ.

    Od. 17.563 οἶδα γὰρ εὖ περὶ κείνου

    also Od. 1.405, 7.191, 16.234., 17.371, 19.270. Note that the corresponding use of ἀμφί with the dative is similarly peculiar to the Odyssey (§ 182).

    The origin of this group of constructions is not quite clear. It may be noted, however, that they answer for the most part to constructions of the genitive without a preposition; cp. ἀμύνεσθαι περὶ νηῶν and ἀμύνεσθαι νηῶν; and again εἰπὲ περὶ μητρός, οἶδα περὶ κείνον, etc., with the examples given in § 151.d.

Suggested Citation

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