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298. The rule in Homer is that the subjunctive is not used in a subordinate clause to express a past purpose, condition, etc. It may be used however

  1. When the governing verb is a a gnomic aorist.

    Il. 1.218 ὅς κε θεοῖς ἐπιπείθηται μάλα τʼ ἔκλυον αὐτοῦ

    Od. 20.85           ὁ γάρ τʼ ἐπέλησεν ἀπάντων
                     ἐσθλῶν ἠδὲ κακῶν, ἐπεὶ ἂρ βλέφαρʼ ἀμφικαλύψῃ

    Or an aorist used to express a general denial.

    Od. 10.327 οὐδὲ γὰρ οὐδέ τις ἄλλος ἀνὴρ τάδε φάρμακʼ ἀνέτλη,
                       ὅς κε πίῃ κτλ.
                       (cp. Od. 12.66)

    Or in a simile.

    Il. 4.486 ἐξέταμʼ, ὄφρα ἴτυν κάμψῃ κτλ.

  2. Further if the action expressed by the subordinate clause is still future at the time of speaking.

    Il. 5.127 ἀχλὺν δʼ αὖ τοι ἀπʼ ὀφθαλμῶν ἕλον ἢ πρὶν ἐπῆεν,
                  ὄφρʼ εὖ γιγνώσκῃς ἠμὲν θεὸν ἠδὲ καὶ ἄνδρα
                  I have taken away the mist—that you may know, etc.

    Il. 7.394 καὶ δὲ τόδʼ ἠνώγει εἰπεῖν ἔπος, αἴ κʼ ἐθέλητε κτλ.

    Il. 18.189 μήτηρ δʼ οὔ με φίλη πρίν γʼ εἴα θωρήσσεσθαι
                    πρίν γʼ αὐτὴν . . . ἴδωμαι
                    (before I shall see her, etc.)

    Od. 11.434 οἷ τε κατʼ αἶσχος ἔχευε καὶ ἐσσομένῃσιν ὀπίσσω
                      θηλυτέρῃσι γυναιξί, καὶ ἥ κʼ εὐεργὸς ἔῃσι

    So ll. 9.99, 20.126, 24.781. In these places the governing verb is generally to be translated by the English perfect with have (cp. § 73)

    The real exceptions to this rule are not numerous, and may be due in several cases to alteration of the text through the influence of the later usage. The reading is uncertain (e. g.) in

    Od. 14.327 τὸν δʼ ἐς Δωδώνην φάτο βήμεναι ὄφρα θεοῖο[fn](= Od. 19.296)[/fn]
                       ἐκ δρυὸς ὑψικόμοιο Διὸς βουλὴν ἐπακούσῃ

    where the subjunctive was read by Aristarchus, the optative ἐπακούσαι by Aristophanes and Herodian. Again in

    Od. 10.65 ἦ μέν σʼ ἐνδυκέως ἀπεπέμπομεν, ὄφρʼ ἂν ἵκηαι

    the best MSS. have ἵκηαι, but others have ὄφρʼ ἂν ἵκοιο and ὄφρʼ ἀφίκοιο. See also Il. 15.23; Od. 15.300, 22.98: and cp.

    Il. 5.567 μή τι πάθοι, μέγα δέ σφας ἀποσφήλειε

    Il. 15.598 ἐμβάλοι . . . Θέτιδος δʼ ἐξαίσιον ἀρὴν
                    πᾶσαν ἐπικρήνειε

    In these places the MSS. generally have πάθῃ, ἐμβάλῃ, but the optative in the clause following has led the editors to adopt πάθοι, ἐμβάλοι.

    Other places where the subjunctive is contrary to the rule now laid down are Il. 13.649, 14.165, 16.650 (see La R.), 19.354, 24.586; Od. 9.102, 10.24, 16.369, 17.60, 22.467. In all the optative may be substituted without affecting the meter; and when we consider the number of places where the MSS. vary between subjunctive and optative forms, we can hardly doubt that it would generally be right to make the change.

    The Homeric rule is οbserved by Plato (see Riddell, Dig. §§ 90, 91), but not by Attic writers in general.

Suggested Citation

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