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291. Clauses with εἰ. The use of the particle εἰ (or αἰ), in the clauses with which we have now to do, is to make an assumption or supposition. In most cases

  1. this assumption is made in order to assert a consequence (εἰ = if): in other words, it is a condition.
  2. But an assumption may also be made in order to express end.

    εἶμι . . . αἴ κε πίθηται
    I go . . . suppose he shall listen

    equals "I go in order that if he will listen (he may do sο)". Accordingly the clause may be virtually a final clause.

  3. Again with certain verbs an assumption may be the object.

    τίς οἶδʼ εἴ κεν . . . ὀρίνω
    who knows . . . suppose I shall rouse

    equals "who knows whether I shall rouse." We shall take these three groups of clauses in order.

292. Conditional Protasis with εἰ. The chief point of interest under this head is the use of κεν or ἄν. The rules will be found to be essentially the same as those already laid down for the corresponding clauses with the relative (§ 283.b) and the relatival adverbs (see esp. § 289.1.b), and to be even more uniform in their application.

a. The pure subjunctive is used in general sayings, and in similes.

Il. 1.80 κρείσσων γὰρ βασιλεὺς ὅτε χώσεται ἀνδρὶ χέρηϊʼ
            εἴ περ γάρ τε χόλον γε καὶ αὐτῆμαρ καταπέψῃ,
            ἀλλά τε καὶ μετόπισθεν ἔχει κότον

Il. 12.238           τῶν οὔ τι μετατρέπομʼ οὐδʼ ἀλεγίζω,
                εἴ τʼ ἐπὶ δεξί ἴωσι πρὸς ἠῶ τʼ ἠέλιόν τε,
                εἴ τʼ ἐπʼ ἀριστερὰ τοί γε κτλ.

Od. 16.97           κασιγνήτοις . . . οἷσί περ ἀνὴρ
                μαρναμένοισι πέποιθε καὶ εἰ μέγα νεῖκος ὄρηται

Il. 11.116 ἡ δʼ εἴ πέρ τε τύχῃσι κτλ.

So Ιl. 4.261, 9.481, 10.225, 16.263, 21.576, 22.191; Od. 1.188, 7.204, 12.96, 14.373.

If the principal verb is a future (or implies reference to the future), the pure subjunctive with εἰ indicates that the supposed occasion is indefinite—one that happens repeatedly, or at any time, or may not happen at all.

Il. 1.340           εἴ ποτε δὴ αὖτε
              χρειὼ ἐμεῖο γένηται κτλ.

Il 12.245 εἴ περ γάρ τʼ ἄλλοι γε περικτεινώμεθα πάντες κτλ.

Od. 1.204 οὐδʼ εἴ πέρ τε σιδήρεα δέσματʼ ἔχῃσι

This form is naturally employed by a speaker who does not wish to imply that the occasion will actually arise.

Il. 12.223 ὣς ἡμεῖς εἴ πέρ τε πύλας καὶ τεῖχος Ἀχαιῶν
                ῥηξόμεθα σθένεϊ μεγάλῳ, εἴξωσι δʼ Ἀχαιοί,
                οὐ κόσμῳ παρὰ ναῦφιν ἐλευσόμεθʼ αὐτὰ κέλευθα

Polydamas is interpreting an omen which he wishes to remain unfulfilled. Similarly

Il. 5.258 εἴ γʼ οὖν ἕτερός γε φύγῃσι

Il. 22.86 εἴ περ γάρ σε κατακτάνῃ, οὔ σʼ ἔτʼ ἔγωγε
             κλαύσομαι ἐν λεχέεσσι

Od. 5.221 εἰ δʼ αὖ τις ῥαίῃσι θεῶν κτλ.

Od. 12.348 εἰ δὲ χολωσάμενός τι . . .
                       νῆʼ ἐθέλῃ ὀλέσαι κτλ.

The object of the speaker in these examples is to treat the supposed case as imaginary or unpractical.

b. The subjunctive with κεν or ἄν indicates that a particular future occasion is contemplated.

Il. 4.353 ὄψεαι ἢν ἐθέλῃσθα καὶ αἴ κέν τοι τὰ μεμήλῃ

Il. 11.404 μέγα μὲν κακὸν (sc. ἔσται) αἴ κε φέβωμαι

Il. 24.592 μή μοι . . . σκυδμαινέμεν, αἴ κε πύθηαι κτλ.

Od. 2.218 εἰ μέν κεν πατρὸς βίοτον καὶ νόστον ἀκούσω,
                 ἦ τʼ ἂν τρυχόμενός περ ἔτι τλαίην ἐνιαυτόν

Od. 11.112 εἰ δέ κε σίνηαι, τότε τοι τεκμαίρομʼ ὄλεθρον
                  (I prophesy your destruction)

So, though the verb of the governing clause is a present.

Il. 6.442 αἰδέομαι Τρῶας καὶ Τρωάδας ἑλκεσιπέπλους,
              αἴ κε κτλ.
              (= I fear what they will think if, etc.).

Il. 8.477           σέθεν δʼ ἐγὼ οὐκ ἀλεγίζω
              χωομένης, οὐδʼ εἴ κε τὰ νείατα πείραθʼ ἵκηαι
              = I do not care for you, (and shall not) even if, etc.

Instances οf κεν or ἄν in a sentence οf general meaning are

Il. 3.25 μάλα γάρ τε κατεσθίει, εἴ περ ἂν αὐτὸν
            σεύωνται κτλ.
            (eνen in the case when, § 363.1.b)

Il. 11.391 ἦ τʼ ἄλλως ὑπʼ ἐμεῖο, καὶ εἴ κʼ ὀλίγον περ ἐπαύρῃ,
                ὀξὺ βέλος πέλεται

Il. 12.302 εἴ περ γάρ χʼ εὕρῃσι παρʼ αὐτόφι κτλ.

Od. 11.158           τὸν οὔ πως ἔστι περῆσαι
                  πεζὸν ἐόντʼ, ἢν μή τις ἔχῃ εὐεργέα νῆα.

But with εἰ κε there is the same doubt as with ὅς κε (§ 283), and ἐπεί κε (§ 296). As to ἢν, which occurs in a general saying in Il. 1.166 and Od. 11.159, see § 362.

293. Final Clauses with εἰ. After a principal verb expressive of the speakerʼs will (an imperative, or 1st person), a final clause may be introduced by εἰ κεν or ἤν.

Il. 8.282 βάλλʼ οὕτως εἴ κέν τι φόως Δαναοῖσι γένηαι

Il. 11.791 ταῦτʼ εἴποις Ἀχιλῆϊ δαΐφρονι εἴ κε πίθηται

Od. 4.34 δεῦρʼ ἱκόμεθ’ αἴ κέ ποθι Ζεὺς . . .
               παύσῃ κτλ.

The effect of using εἰ (instead of ὡς or ἵνα) is to express some degree of uncertainty. The end aimed at is represented as a supposition, instead of being a direct purpose.

In the existing text the pure subjunctive occurs only in Il. 14.161-5

ἀρίστη φαίνετο βουλὴ ἐλθεῖν . . . εἴ πως ἱμείραιτο. . . τῷ δʼ. . . χεύῃ

(where we should perhaps read χεύαι; or change χεύῃ ἐπὶ to χεύειε) and in Od. 5.470-2

εἰ δέ κεν . . .
καταδράθω, εἴ με μεθήῃ
ῥῖγος καὶ κάματος, γλυκερὸς δέ μοι ὕπνος ἐπέλθῃ

where the MSS. have the optative μεθείη, ἐπέλθοι. But if ἢν has sometimes crept in instead of εἰ, as is probable (§ 362) there may be other examples.

Il. 22.418 λίσσωμʼ ἀνέρα τοῦτον . . .
                ἦν πως κτλ.

Od. 1.281 ἔρχεο πευσόμενος πατρὸς δὴν οἰχομένοιο,
                ἤν τίς τοι εἴπῃσι κτλ.

294. Object Clauses with εἰ This term will serve to describe the form of clause in which the supposition made by εἰ takes the place of an accusative of the thing. It may be regarded as a special form of the final clause (cp. § 285.2).

Il. 18.600 ὡς ὅτε τις τροχὸν . . . πειρήσεται εἴ κε θέῃσι

"tries in respect to the supposition that it will run," hence tries whether it will run.

Il. 4.249 ὄφρα ἴδητʼ εἴ κʼ ὔμμιν ὑπερσχῇ χεῖρα Κρονίων

Il. 15.32 ὄφρα ἴδῃ ἤν τοι χραίσμῃ κτλ.
              that you may see whether it will avail, etc.

Nοte that the subjunctive here has a distinctly future meaning, as in final clauses; the same words taken as a conditional protasis wοαld mean if it has availed. So after εἰπεῖν

Il. 7.375 καὶ δὲ τόδʼ [leg. τὸ] εἰπέμεναι πυκινὸν ἔπος, αἴ κʼ ἐθέλωσι
              say the word supposing that they shall be willing
              (= ask if they will agree)

Il. 17.692 εἰπεῖν, αἴ κε τάχιστα νέκυν ἐπὶ νῆα σαώσῃ

and οἶδα in the phrase τίς οἶδʼ εἴ κεν who knows but (Il. 15.403, 16.860; Od. 2.332). and οὐ μὰν οἶδʼ εἰ (Il. 15.16).

The use of the accusatives de quo140.3) should be noticed; especially after οἶδα, anticipating the clause with εἰ.

Il. 8.535 αὔριον ἥν ἀρετὴν διαείσεται εἴ κʼ ἐμὸν ἔγχος
              μείνῃ ἐπερχόμενον

meaning "he will know as to his prowess whether it will enable him to withstand my spear". So Od. 22. 6 σκοπὸν ἄλλον . . . εἴσομαι αἴ κε τύχωμι (cp. § 140.3.b).

In one place the clause with εἰ serves as explanation of a neuter pronoun in the nominative.

Il. 20.435 ἀλλʼ ἦ τοι μὲν ταῦτα θεῶν ἐν γούνασι κεῖται,
                εἴ κέ σε χειρότερός περ ἐὼν ἀπὸ θυμὸν ἕλωμαι

295. The Subjunctive with ὡς εἰ occurs in a single place only.

Il. 9.481 καί με φίλησʼ ὡς εἴ τε πατὴρ ὃν παῖδα φιλήσῃ

Here the assumption εἰ . . . φιλήσῃ is made for the purpose of comparison. Thus the meaning is nearly the same as with ὡς ὅτε (§ 289.2), and the clause is essentially conditional.

Suggested Citation

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