Homeric and Attic Uses of Prepositions

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229. The development of the language between the Homeric and the Attic period is especially shown in the uses of prepositions. It may be convenient here to bring together some of the chief points.

  1. Most of the prepositions—but especially ἀμφί, περί, παρά, ἐπί, ὑπό, προτί, ἐνί—are used in Homer adverbially, i. e. as distinct words. Afterwards, they become mere unaccented words or prefixes.
  2. Α variety of the same process shows itself in the disuse of tmesis. Besides the prepositions already mentioned, this applies to μετά, ἀνά, κατά, διά, ἐξ, ἀπό, εἰς.
    In these processes of development we have seen that the loss of independent meaning is accompanied by a change (which is in all probability simply a loss) of accent.
  3. The construction with the dative (which is mostly locatival) is the one in which the preposition retains most nearly its own "adverbial" meaning—so much so that it is often doubtful whether the preposition can be said to govern the case at all. Accordingly, we find that this construction is comparatively rare in Attic. It is virtually lost (except as a poetical survival) with ἀμφί, περί, μετά, ἀνά, and σύν.
  4. On the other hand, the genitive is more frequent in Attic, and not confined (as it generally is in Homer) to uses in which it has either an ablatival or a quasi-partitive sense. Thus it is used with ἀμφί, περί, and μετά, also with διά of motion through. In such uses as these the case ceases to have a distinct meaning; it merely serves (as with the improper prepositions) to show that the noun is governed by the preposition.
  5. The development of meaning is chiefly seen in the extension from the literal sense of place to various derivative or metaphorical senses. Some of these senses are beginning to be used in the Homeric language.

    ἀμφί with the dative = about, concerning

    περί with the genitive (probably also the dative) in the same meaning

    παρά with the accusative = in excess of, in violation of

    μετά with the accusative = after

    ἐπί with the accusative = towards (a person)

    διά with the accusative = owing to

    ἐξ = in consequence of

    Others may safely be counted as post-Homeric; note in particular

    περί with the accusative = about, nearly (of time and number); alsο concerning, in relation to

    παρά with the dative = in the opinion of
            with the accusative = during the continuance of; also compared with

    κατά with the accusative = answering to; also during the time of
            with the genitive = about, agaίπst

    ἐπί with the dative = in the power of, with many phrases in which the force of the preposition is vague, such as διʼ ὀργῆς, ἀνὰ κράτος, πρὸς βίαν, ἐκ τοῦ ἐμφανοῦς, etc.

  6. There are slight but perceptible differences between the usage of the Iliad and that of the Odyssey (§§ 182, 188, 195, 199, 215). Some uses, again, are peculiar to one or two books of the Iliad, especially 9, 12, 23, 24; see §§ 199.4, 220, 223(fin).


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/homeric-and-attic-uses-prepositions