Accusative and Infinitive

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237. Along with the use of the infinitive as an abstract noun, we find in Homer the later use by which it is in sense the verb of a dependent clause, the subject of the clause being in the accusative.

In the examples of the accusative with the infinitive we may distinguish the following varieties or stages of the idiom.

  1. The accusative has a grammatical construction with the governing verb.

    Il. 1.313 λαοὺς δʼ Ἀτρεΐδης ἀπολυμαίνεσθαι ἄνωγε
                  Agamemnon ordered the people to purify themselves
                  (= that they should purify)

    Il. 5.601           οἷον δὴ θαυμάζομεν Ἕκτορα δῖον
                  αἶχμητήν τʼ ἔμεναι κτλ.
                  (for being a warrior, how he was a warrior)

    This might be called the natural accusative with the infinitive.

  2. The accusative has not a sufficient construction with the verb alone, but may be used if it is accompanied by an infinitive of the thing or fact.

    βούλομʼ ἐγὼ λαὸν σῶν ἔμμεναι
    I wish the people to be safe
    (the safety of the people)

    οὕνεκʼ ἄκουσε τείρεσθαι Τρῶας
    because he heard of the Trojans being hard pressed

    τῷ οὐ νεμεσίζομʼ Ἀχαιοὺς ἀσχαλάαν
    wherefore I do nοt think it a shame in the Greeks to chafe

    In this construction the logical object is the fact or action given by the infinitive, to which the accusative furnishes a subject or agent, and thus turns it from an abstract noun to a predication (so that e. g. τείρεσθαι Τρῶας is virtually = ὅτι ἐτείροντο Τρῶες). It is found with verbs that usually take only a "cognate accusative" (neuter pronoun, etc.), as φημί, εἶπον, ἀκούω, πυνθάνομαι. οἶδα, ὀΐω, φρονέω, ἐθέλω, βούλομαι, ἔλπομαι, νεμεσίζομαι, φθονέω, etc. Thus it is in principle a particular form of the accusativus de quο (see § 140.3.b, also § 234.3).

  3. The accusative has no construction except as the subject of the infinitive. This accusative is chiefly found in Homer

    a. After impersonal verbs (§ 162.4)

    Il. 18.329 ἄμφω γὰρ πέπρωται ὁμοίην γαῖαν ἐρεῦσαι
                      it is fated for both to, etc.

    Il. 19.182         οὐ μὲν γάρ τι νεμεσσητὸν βασιλῆα
                    ἄνδρʼ ἀπαρέσσασθαι
                    it is nο shame that a king should, etc.

    (b) after πρίν and πάρος.

    πρὶν ἐλθεῖν υἷας Ἀχαιῶν
    before the Greeks came

    πάρος τάδε ἔργα γενέσθαι
    befοre these things came to pass

    The other examples are from the Odyssey.

    Od. 4. 210 ὡς νῦν Νέστορι δῶκε διαμπερὲς ἥματα πάντα
                      αὐτὸν μὲν λιπαρῶς γηρασκέμεν

    See also, 10.533, 14.193. This may be called the purely idiomatic accusative with the infinitive. It has evidently been formed on the analogy of the older varieties.

Suggested Citation

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