Athematic Tenses with a Suffix

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38. The tense stems which remain to be discussed are formed (like the presents in -νημι and -νυμι) by means of a characteristic suffix. Of these tense stems three are athematic, viz. those of the aorists formed by the suffixes -σᾰ, -η, and -θη.

It is important to notice the difference between these formations and the perfect and aorist stems which take -κᾰ. The suffix -κᾰ in such cases is not characteristic of the tense stem. It is only found as a rule with certain personal endings.

39. The aorist in -σᾰ (called "sigmatic" and "weak"[fn]The term "weak" implies formation by means of a suffix. It was suggested by the analogy between the two aorists and the strong and weak preterites of the teutonic languages.[/fn] aorist). The Suffix -σᾰ is joined to the verb stem (usually in its strong form), as

ἔρρηξε (ῥηγ-)
ἠλειψα-ν (ἀλειφ-)
ἔ-πνευ-σα-ν (πνευ-)
ἔδεισε (for ἔ-δϝει-σε) feared

The following are the chief varieties.

  1. Verb stems ending in a dental or σ, preceded by a short vowel, form -σσᾰ or -σᾰ: thus we have

    ἤρεσσα and ἤρεσα (for ἠ-ρετ-σα, from ἐρετ-)
    ἕσ-σατο, ἕσασθαι (ϝεσ-)
    σβέσ-σαι, τρέσ-σαι
    ἕσας, ἐφ-έσσα-το (ἑδ- for *σεδ-)
    ἔ-θλασε and θλάσ-σε
    σπάσα-το, ἐ-δάσ-σα-το, ἐσ-ε-μάσ-σα-το, νάσ-τα (§ 51.2)
    χάσσα-το (cp. ἔ-χαδε), ἐ-φρασά-μην (φρᾰδ-), ῥάσσα-τε (ῥᾰδ-), πασά-μην (πᾰτ-)
    ἐλλισά-μην (λῐτ-), ὠδύσα-το (ὀδυσ-)

    Verbs in -ζω form the aorist in this way


    or (less commonly) in -ξᾰ


    ἁρπάζω forms ἥρπαξε and ἥρπασε.

  2. Derivative verbs in -αω, -εω, -οω, -υω usually form the aorist with a long vowel (in -ησα, -ωσα, -ῠσα). But the verbs in -εω often form the aorist in -εσσα, -εσα; not only the verbs derived from noun stems in -εσ, such as τελέω, νεικέω, ἀκηδέω, but also several Verbs derived from masculine nouns in -ο-ς.

    ἐκορέσ-σατο was satiated (perfect κεκορη-μένος)
    κοτέσ-σατο was enraged (κεκοτη-ώς)
    πόθεσαν longed for (ποθή-μεναι)
    ἄλεσσαν ground

    Other examples of σσ in the aorist though the verb stem cannot be shown to end in -σ- or a dental, are:

    • ἠγάσσατο (ἄγα-μαι)
      was amazed
    • ἐτάλα-σσα
    • κέρα-σσε
    • πέρα-σσα
    • ἤλα-σσα
    • ἠρα-σάμην
    • ἐδάμα-σσα
    • ἱλά-σσονται (subjtv)
      shall appease
    • καλέ-σσαι
      to call
    • ὀλέ-σσαι
      to destroy
    • ἐτάνυ-σσα
    • ἐκάπυ-σσε
    • ἐρύ-σσαμεν
    • ἄε-σα
    • λοέ-σσατο
    • ὀμό-σαι
      to swear
    • ὀνό-σσατο
      made light of (see § 51

    Note that when -σα is preceded by a short vowel there is always a collateral form in -σσα: the only exceptions are στορέ-σαι (to strew) and κρεμά-σαι (to hang), and these are due to metrical reasons.

    Most of the aorists in -ᾰσσα, -εσσα, etc., are evidently due to the analogy of those in which -σα was originally preceded by a short vowel and a dental or -σ-. That is to say, ἐτάλα-σσα, ἐκάλε-σσα, etc., do not follow the type of ἔρρηξα, ἤλειψα (as ἔβη-σα, ἔφῡ-σα did), but the type of ἔθλασ-σα, ἐτέλεσ-σα. Thus -σσᾰ becomes the tense suffix after a short vowel, just as -σᾰ is after a long vowel or diphthong.

    The forms λοῦσε, λοῦσαι, λούσαντο, λούσασθαι, etc., which suppose an aorist *ἔ-λου-σα can nearly always be written λοε-. The exceptions are

    Il. 14.7 θερμήνῃ καὶ λούσῃ ἄπο βρότον (read λοέσῃ τε ἀπὸ)

    Od. 6.210 λούσατέ τʼ ἐν ποταμῷ

    Od. 6.219 ἀπολούσομαι

  3. With verb stems ending in μ, ν, ρ, λ, the σ is usually lost, and the preceding vowel lengthened, ε becoming ει.

    • ἔ-γημα (γαμ-)
    • κρηῆναι (κρᾱαν-, § 55)
    • ἐπ-έ-τειλα (τελ-)
    • ἐ-φίλα-το (φῐλ-)
    • ἤγειρα (ἐγερ-)
    • χήρα-το (χαρ-)[fn]The form ἤρᾰ-το, which is usually taken to be an aorist of ἄρ-νυ-μαι, may stand to ἀρέσθαι as ἔ-πτᾰ-το to πτέσθαι, ὤνα-το to ὄνο-μαι, δίε-νται to δίε-σθαι (see however Cobet, Misc. Crit. p. 400).[/fn]

    A few stems retain σ.

    • ὦρ-σα
    • ἄρ-σαι
    • ἀπό-ερ-σε
    • ἔ-κερ-σε
    • κύρ-σα-ς
    • φύρ-σω
    • ἔλ-σα-ν
    • κέλ-σαι
    • κένσαι

    This is the rule when -ρ- or -λ- of the stem is followed by a dental, as in ἔ-περσε (for ἐ-περθ-σε), ἤμερσε (ἀμέρδω). But -ν- before -δ- is lost in ἔ-σπεισα (for ἐ-σπενδ-σα): cp. πείσομαι for πένθ-σομαι, etc. The form κένσαι (Il. 23.337) is later. The verb stem ὀφελ- makes an aorist optative ὀφέλλειε: see § 53.

40. Primitive aorists with suffix σ. Originally the sigmatic aorist was inflected like the aorist in -ᾰ- already described (§ 15): that is to say, the
-α- appeared in the 1st sing. (perhaps also 3rd plur. -ᾰν) and the stem was liable to variation between a strong and a weak form. Thus from a stem τευκ-, τῠκ-, with the regular phonetic changes, we should have had

  Active Middle



Sing. 1 ἔτευξα ἐτύγμην
2 ἔτευξ
3 ἔτευξ
Plur. 1 ἔτευγμεν, ἔτυγμεν



2 ἔτευκτε, ἔτυκτε



3 ἔτευξαν    
Dual 3   ἐτύχθην
Inf. τύχθαι
(τυκ-σ-σθαι or τυκ-σ-θαι)
Part. τύγμενος

Several forms belonging to this scheme have survived in Homer.

ἔλεξα; mid. ἐλέγμην, ἔλεκτο; imptv. λέξο
inf. κατα-λέχθαι; part. κατα-λέγμενος

(ἐδεξά-μην), δέκτο; imptv. δέξο; inf. δέχθαι

ἔμιξα; mid. ἔμικτο and μῖκτο

ἔπηξα; mid. κατ-έπηκτο (Il. 11.378)

ἔπερσα; mid. inf. πέρθαι

ἔπηλα; mid. ἀν-έπαλτο, πάλτο

(ἥλα-το), ἆλσο, ἆλτο (better ἄλσο, ἄλτο); part. ἐπ-άλμενος

ὦρσα; mid. ὦρτο; impf. ὄρσο; inf. ὄρθαι; part. ὄρμενος

ἦρσα; part. ἄρμενος

(ἥσα-το); part. ἄσμενος

(ἐλελιξά-μενος), ἐλέλικτο (read ϝελιξάμενος, ἐϝέλικτο, § 53)

γέντο seized (γεμ-)

ἐμίηνα; 3rd dual μιάνθην (cp. πέφανθε for πεφαν-σθε)

ἷκτο (Hes. Th. 481); part. ἴκμενος coming

Add εὖκτο (Thebais, fr. 3), κέντο (Alcm. fr. 141).

The 'regular' forms, such as ἐδέξατο, ἥλατο, ἥσατο, are to be explained like ἐχεύα-το, etc., (§ 15). On this view ἐδέξατο and ἥλατο are related to δέκτο and ἄλτο precisely as ἐχεύατο to χύτο, and similarly ἥσα-το to ἄσμενος as ἐχεύατο to χύμενος.

The form μιάνθην (Il. 4.146) is now generally taken as 3rd plural, for ἐμίανθεν, or ἐμιάνθησαν. The 3rd plural in -ην is found occasionally on inscriptions in other dialects (Meyer, G. G. p. 468); but that is very slight ground for admitting it in Homer. In any case it is later than -εν, and due to the analogy of the other personal endings.[fn]One of the reviewers of the former edition (Cauer in the Jahresb, d. philol. Vereins) objects that the dual does not suit the context ("hier gar nicht in den Zusammenhang passt"). The subject is μηροί, which is dual in sense; and the dual might well be restored throughout the sentence (τοίω τοι, Μενέλαε, μιάνθην αἵματι μηρὼ εὐφυέε, κνῆμαί τε κ. τ. λ.). The explanation of μιάνθην as a dual is due to Buttmann (Ausf. Spr. ii. 244, ed. 2).[/fn]

The Homeric forms of the subjunctive also presuppose a stem without final -α-: e.g. the subjunctive βήσ-ο-μεν points to an indicative *ἔ-βησ-μεν (§ 80). The existence of such indicatives in an earlier period of the language is proved by the Sanskrit aorists with S, many of which join the personal endings directly to the stem, without an 'auxiliary' a (except in the 1st sing. and 3rd plur.); e. g. the root ji gives ajaish-am, 3rd sing. ajais (for a-jai-s-t), 1st plur. ajaish-ma, etc.

Upon this stage of inflection Joh. Schmidt has based a very probable explanation of the 3rd plural ending -σαν (K. Z. xxvii. p. 323). It is evident that owing to the loss of -σ- the tense stem of such forms as ἔτευγμεν, ἔτευκτε, ἔτυκτο appears as τευκ- or τυκ-, instead of τευξ-, τυξ-. Consequently the form ἔτευξαν would be felt as ἔτευκ-σαν; that is to say,
-σαν would become in fact the 3rd plural ending. Such an ending would then be easily transferred to other tenses–ἔδο-σαν, ἔστα-σαν, etc. The usual theory is that -σαν in these forms comes from the regular aorist in
-σα. But this does not explain why it is confined to the 3rd plur.–why we have (e. g.) ἔδο-σαν but not ἐδό-σαμεν.

41. Aorist in -σε(ο). Several stems form a weak aorist as a thematic tense, with -ε- or -ο- instead of -ᾰ-.

ἐ-δύσε-το (δυσό-μενος Od. 1.24)


πελάσσε-τον (Il. 10.442)


ἀξέ-μεναι (Il. 23.50, 111 )
οἰσέμεναι (Il. 3.120)

perhaps also ἔ-πεσο-ν (πετ-).

The forms ἐβήσετο, ἐδύσετο were preferred by Aristarchus to those in
-σᾰτο: see Schol. A on Il. 2.579, 3.262, 10.513. They were regarded by ancient grammarians as imperfects (Schol. A on Il. 1.496); and this view is supported by one or two passages, esp. Od. 10.107, where ἡ μὲν ἄρʼ ἐς κρήνην κατεβήσετο must mean she was going down to the spring (when the messengers met her). So in the participle

Od. 1.24 οἱ μὲν δυσομένου Ὑπερίονος οἱ δʼ ἀνιόντος
Il. 5.46 νύξʼ ἵππων ἐπιβησόμενον
pierced as he was mounting his chariot, cp. 23.379.

The forms ἷξο-ν, ἀξέ-μεναι, etc., answer closely to the Sanskrit preterite in -sa-m, as á-diksha-m. ἔπεσον is difficult to explain as ἔ-πετ-σον, both (1) because it can hardly be accidental that we never have ἔπεσσον, and (2) because it has to be separated from the Doric ἔπετον. Possibly there was a primitive athematic *ἔ-πετα, ἔ-πες, ἔπες (for ἐ-πετ-ς, ἐ-πετ-τ), dual ἔπεστον, etc., 3rd plur. ἔ-πετ-αν, from which both ἔπετ-ον and ἔπεσ-ον might be derived in much the same way as ἔ-κταν-ον from the primitive ἔ-κτενα, plur. ἔ-κτᾰ-μεν (§ 13).

42. The Aorist in -η-ν. The stem of this tense is formed by suffixing -η- to the weak form of the verb stem. This -η- becomes -ε- in the 3rd plural (-εν- for original -εντ-), the optative and the participle (i.e. before -ι- and -ντ-). The personal endings are those of the active, but the meaning is either intransitive or passive.

  • ἐ-χάρ-η
  • ἐ-δάη
    was taught
  • ἐ-φάν-η
  • τράφ-η
    was nurtured
  • ἐ-άλ-η
    shrank (stem ϝελ-)
  • δι-έ-τμαγ-ε-ν
    parted asunder
  • ἐ-πάγ-η
  • ἐ-δάμ-η
  • ἐ-άγ-η
  • ἔ-βλαβ-εν
  • ἐ-μίγ-η

τάρπ-η-μεν and (with metathesis) τραπ-ή-ομεν (τέρπ-ω) etc.

The stem is long in ἐ-πλήγ-η (cp. ἐ-πέπληγ-ον, πληγ-ή), and once in ἐάγη (ᾱ in Il. 11.559).[fn]In the former edition Bekker's reading ἐάγῃ (perfect subjunctive) was given as the probable correction for this passage. But the sense required is rather that of the aorist–were (i.e. had been) broken–than the perfect–are in a broken state. Cp. Hes. Op. 534 οὗ τʼ ἐπὶ νῶτα ἔαγε whose back is broken down, i.e. bowed. As to the -ᾱ- of ἐάγη see § 67.3.[/fn] The infinitive τερσή-μεναι (τερσῆναι), which occurs in Il. 16.519, Od. 6.98, need not be an aorist: see the similar forms in § 19. The participle ἀνα-βροχέν (Od. 11.586) is not connected with ἀνα-βέβροχεν (§ 25); see Buttmann, Lexil.

There is evidently a close relation between these 'passive' aorists and the forms discussed in § 14 (such as ἔ-βλη-ν, ἔ-πτη-ν, ἔ-τλη, ἔ-σβη), and we can hardly doubt that they are nothing more than an extension by analogy of that older type (see Brugmann, M. U.i. 71). The chief difference is that (as in the thematic aorist) the stem is usually disyllabic, retaining the short vowel of the root: thus we have ἐ-δάμη, but δμη- in δέ-δμη-ται, etc.

The aorists with stems in -ᾱ- and -ω- (§ 19) are parallel to the aorists in
-η-. Thus γηρᾶ-ναι, βιῶ-ναι, ἁλῶ-ναι only differ in the quality of the vowel from δαῆ-ναι, ἀλῆ-ναι: and there might have been numerous aorists in -ᾱν and -ων along with those in -ην, just as there are derivative verbs in -αω, -οω as well as in -εω.

Note— The Aorist ἐτράφην, which occurs four times in our texts of the Iliad, is probably post-Homeric. In Il.2.661 for the vulgate τράφη ἐν (μεγάρῳ) nearly all MSS. have τράφʼ ἐνί in the two similar places, Il. 3.201 and 11.222. In Il. 23.84 the MSS. have ἀλλʼ ὁμοῦ ὡς ἐτράφην περ, with the v. l. ἐτράφημεν; the quotation in Aeschines (Timarch. 149) gives ὡς ὁμοῦ ἐτράφεμέν περ, from which Buttmann (Ausf. Sprachl. ii. 307) restored ὡς δʼ ὁμοῦ ἐτράφομέν περ. On the other hand the thematic ἔτραφον occurs with the intransitive or passive meaning in Il. 5.555, 21.279 (where ἔτραφʼ is the only possible reading), and in the recurring phrase γενέσθαι τε τραφέμεν τε. The variation in the MSS. (including vox nihili ἐτράφεμεν) is sufficient evidence of the comparative lateness of the forms of ἐτράφην. Buttmann's reading (adopted by Nauck) is supported by the apodosis in line 91 ὣς δὲ καὶ ὀστέα κτλ. See Christ (Proll. p. 115) to whom I am indebted for the reference to Buttman.

43. The Aorist in -θη-ν. The stem of this tense is formed by the suffix
-θη-. The personal endings are the same as those of the aorist in -η-, and the meaning is reflexive or passive. In later Greek the verb stem is mostly in the strong form


but this does not seem to have been the original rule: e.g. Homer has ἐ-τύχ-θη was made, Attic ἐ-τεύχ-θη. So we find the weak stem in

  • κατ-έ-κτᾰ-θεν (κτεν-)
  • τᾰ́-θη (τεν-)
  • τάρφ-θη (τέρπ-ω)
  • τραφ-θῆ-ναι (τρέπω)
  • ἐ-στᾰ́-θη (Od. 17. 463)
  • λῠ́-θη
  • ἐξ-ε-σύ-θη
  • ἔ-φθῐ-θεν

The stems of κλίνω and κρίνω vary in regard to the -ν-: we have ἐ-κλίν-θη and ἐ-κλῐ́-θη, κριν-θέ-ντες and δι-έ-κρῐ-θε-ν.

Suggested Citation

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