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273. Before entering upon an examination of the Homeric uses of the moods, it will be convenient to give some account of the different kinds of sentences and clauses with which we shall have to deal.

A Simple Sentence—or the principal clause in a complex sentence—may be purely affirmative. Or, the affirmation may be turned (either by the use of a suitable pronoun or particle, or by the tone and manner in which it is uttered) into a question: i. e. the sentence may be interrogative. Or, a predication may be framed in order to be denied, in which case a particle is added to make the sentence negative. Or, the sentence may express wish, purpose, or command; and any of these may again be combined with a negative, so as to express some variety of prohibition. Or, once more, the sentence may be conditional—i. e. may assert, deny, command, etc.—subject to a hypothesis; this hypothesis or condition may be expressed by a subordinate clause, or by an adverb or adverbial phrase (then, in that case, or the like), or the condition need not be expressed at all but conveyed by the drift of the context.

A Subordinate Clause may be so loosely connected with the principal clause as to be virtually an independent sentence. We have seen that this is generally the case (for example) with clauses introduced by the article (§ 262). The clauses which chiefly concern us now are

  1. Dependent interrogative clauses.
  2. Prohibitive clauses (μή = lest).
  3. Relative clauses proper (introduced by ὅς).
  4. Clauses introduced by a relatival adverb (ὡς, ὅθι, ὅθεν, ὅτε, ἕως, ὄφρα, etc.; also ἔνθα, ἵνα, and ἐπεί).
  5. Clauses introduced by εἰ if.

This classification is based upon the grammatical form of the clause. If we look to the relation in point of meaning between the two clauses of a complex sentence, we find that subordinate clauses fall into a wholly different set of groups. Thus there are

  1. Clauses expressing cause or reason.

    Il. 2.274 νῦν δὲ τόδε μέγʼ ἄριστον ἐν Ἀργείοισιν ἔρεξεν,
                  ὃς τὸν λωβητῆρα ἐπεσβόλον ἔσχʼ ἀγοράων

    And clauses like

    Il. 4.157 ὥς σʼ ἔβαλον Τρῶες
                  since the Trojans have thus shot at you

    Il. 6.166 οἷον ἄκουσε
                  at hearing such a thing267.3)

    as well as in the regular causal use of ὅ, ὅτι, ὅ τε (§ 269), and οὕνεκα.

  2. Clauses expressing the object of verbs of saying, knowing, thinking, etc. (i.e. the fact or thing said, etc.).

    Il. 2.365 γνώσῃ ἔπειθʼ ὅς θʼ ἡγεμόνων κακός, ὅς τέ νυ λαῶν

    Od. 6.141           ὁ δὲ μερμήριξεν Ὀδυσσεὺς
                     ἢ . . .
                     ἦ κτλ.

    Il. 18.125 γνοῖεν δʼ ὡς δὴ δηρὸν ἐγὼ πολέμοιο πέπαυμαι

    Il. 18.601 πειρήσεται αἴ κε θέῃσιν
                    (tries if it will run)

  3. Clauses expressing condition or limitation, which may be introduced

    By ὅς.

    τῶν οἵ νῦν βροτοί εἰσι
    of the mortals now living

    ὅς κʼ ἐπιδευής
    he who is in want

    ὅς κε θεοῖς ἐπιπείθηται
    he who shall obey the gods

    ὅ τι οἱ εἴσαιτο
    whatever seemed to him

    By a relatival adverb: of manner.

    ὡς ἂν ἐγὼν εἴπω
    as I shall speak

    of time: ἐπεί, ὅτε, etc., also ἕως and ὄφρα when they mean so long as.

    of place.

    ὁππόθι πιότατον πεδίον
    where is the richest of the plain

    By εἰ: the common form of conditional protasis.

    It will be convenient to term all these clauses "conditional"—the word being taken in a wide sense, so as to include every clause of the nature of a definition or limitation, as well as those in which actual priority in time is implied.

  4. Final clauses, expressing end or purpose: introduced

    By ὅς.

    Il. 4.190           ἐπιθήσει
                 φάρμαχʼ ἅ κεν παύσῃσι
                  will apply drugs which shall stay

    Il. 14.107 νῦν δʼ εἴη ὃς . . . ἐνίσποι
                    may there be one who may tell

    By ὡς, ὅπως, ἴνα—the ordinary forms expressing purpose.

    By ἕως (better written ἧος in Homer[fn]It is often convenient to use the Attic form ἕως as the name of the particle, but this cannot be the true Homeric form. The meter shows that it must be a trochee; and the Doric ἇς (Ahrens, Dial. Dor. p. 200) represents contraction of ἇος: cp. the Cretan τάως for τέως (Hesych.). Hence we should have in Homer either ἧος (the older Ionic form, cp. νηός) or ἇος, which would properly be Doric or Aeolic, like λᾱός, etc. Of these ἧος is evidently the more probable.[/fn]) and ὄφρα, when they mean till such time that. To these we may add εἰς ὅ until, which (like οὕνεκα) is practically a single word.

    By εἰ or αἴ.

    Il. 1.420 εἶμʼ αὐτὴ . . . αἴ κε πίθηται
                  I go in the hope that we will listen

    By μή lest (= ἵνα μή).

It is important to observe that the several groups of clauses now pointed out are generally indistinguishable in respect of grammatical form; so that clauses of the same form (introduced by the same pronoun or particle, and with a verb of the same tense and mood) often bear entirely different meanings. This will be shown in detail in the course of the present chapter; meanwhile a few instances may be noted as illustrations.

  1. Final clauses introduced by ὅς are in the same form as the conditional or limiting clauses such as

    ὅς κε τύχη
    ὅττι κεν εἴπpς, etc.

  2. The regular final clauses with ὡς and ὅπως are in the same form as the limiting ὡς ἂν ἑγὼν εἴπω as I shall speak, ὅπας ἑθέλῃσιν as he pleases, etc.
  3. Clauses with ἕως and ὄφρα may either be conditional (when the conjunction means so long as), or final (when it means until).
  4. The final clause with εἰ is indistinguishable in form from the ordinary conditional protasis: compare αἴ κε πίθηται to see if he will listen with Il. 24.592.

    μή μοι Πάτροκλε σκυδμαινέμεν αἴ κε πύθηαι
    be not angry in case you hear

  5. Clauses with μή may either be final (when μή = ἵνα μή), or object clauses after a verb of fearing (δείδαω μή).

From these examples it is evident that in this as in so many parts of Greek grammar the most important differences of meaning are not expressed by corresponding distinctions of form. The pronoun or conjunction which connects the subordinate with the principal clause generally leaves the real relation between the two clauses to be gathered from the context.

These different kinds of sentence are distinguished to some extent by means of particles, of which it will be enough to say here that

  1. Strong affirmation is expressed by ἦ, and the same particle is employed in interrogation (especially with ironical force).
  2. Negation is expressed by οὐκί (οὐκ, οὐ), prohibition by μή.
  3. The particle εἰ, in its ordinary use, marks a conditional protasis, i.e. a clause stating a condition or supposition.
  4. The particles κε(ν) and ἄν mark a predication as being conditional, or made in view of some limitation to particular conditions or circumstances.

Suggested Citation

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