Homeric and Attic Use of the Article

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264. Homeric and Attic Article. After the account given in the preceding chapters of the Homeric uses of the article it is hardly necessary to show in detail where they differ from the corresponding uses in Attic Greek. What we have chiefly to observe is that the difference is often greater in reality than it appears to be at first sight. Familiar as we are with the defining article of modern languages, and of Attic Greek, we naturally import it into Homer whenever it is not made impossible by the context. But even when a Homeric use falls under the general head of the "defining article" (§ 261), the effect is perceptibly different from that of the definite article properly so called. In Homer the article indicates, not that a person or thing is a known or definite one, but that it is presented to us in an antithesis or contrast. Objects so contrasted are usually definite, in the sense that they are already known or suggested by the context hence the readiness with which the later defining sense can be applied to passages in Homer. Thus αὐτὰρ ὅ γʼ ἥρως can usually be translated but the herο (before mentioned), as though ὁ distinguished him from other heroes. But when we find that αὐτὰρ ὁ in Homer constantly means but he, or but the other, and that it may be followed by an epexegetic noun

αὐτὰρ ὁ βοῦν ἱέρευσεν ἄναξ ἀνδρῶν Ἀγαμέμνων

we see that ὁ is more important than a mere article, is in fact a substantival pronoun, to which ἥρως is added as a kind of epithet—but he the hero.

This point has been explained in connection with the use of the attributive article, § 259.a. It may be further illustrated from instances in which the article marks contrast, but not definition, and consequently cannot be translated by the. Such are

Il. 15.65           πολέας ὀλέσαντʼ αἰζηοὺς
              τοὺς ἄλλους, μετὰ δʼ υἱὸν ἐμὸν Σαρπηδόνα δῖον

not the others, but others as well, certain others.

Il. 5.672 ἦ προτέρω Διὸς υἱὸν ἐριγδούποιο διώκοι,
              ἦ ὅ γε τῶν πλεόνων Λυκίων ἀπὸ θυμὸν ἕλοιτο
              or should take the liνes of more Lycians instead

Here οἱ πλέονες does not mean "the greater number," but "a greater number" in contrast to the one person mentioned.

Il. 22.162 ὡς δʼ ὅ’ ἀεθλοφόροι περὶ τέρματα μώνυχες ἵπποι
                ῥίμφα μάλα τρωχῶσι· τὸ δὲ μέγα κεῖται ἄεθλον
                and there a great prize lies ready

Od. 20.242 αὐτὰρ ὁ . . ὄρνις
                   but a . . . bird

The same thing is shown by μνηστήρων τῶν μὲν κτλ. (§ 259.b). It is evident that τῶν is used, not because the suitors are definite persons, but because a contrast is made by μέν.

The same remark applies to the use with adjectives (§ 260), especially to the use by which they are turned into substantives, as τὸ κρήγυον, τὰ κακά. In Homer τὰ κακά is said because in the particular context κακά evils are opposed to good. In Attic τὰ κακά or τὸ κακόν implies that evils form a class of things, distinguished from all other things. This again is a difference, which does not come out in translating Homer, and is therefore apt to be overlooked.

The use with cardinal numerals (§ 260.c) is to be similarly explained. It is not peculiar to Homer, but is regular in Attic also, where it may be regarded as a survival of the Homeric use of the article.

The use of the article in Hesiod shows some advance. Thus the use to form a class is no longer confined to the case of a particular contrast given in the context.

Op. 280 τὰ δίκαιʼ ἀγορεῦσαι

Op. 353 τὸν φιλέοντα φιλεῖν καὶ τῷ προσιόντι προσεῖναι

The use with adverbs is commoner.

Op. 35 τὸ θύρηφιν

Op. 457 τῶν πρόσθεν

The prepositional phrase in Op. 364 τὸ ἐν οἴκῳ κατακείμενον is quite post-Homeric. The same may be said of the articular infinitive in Op. 314 τὸ ἔργάζεσθαι ἄμεινον (§ 259.c). It will be found that the article occurs nearly twice as often in Hesiod as in Homer.

It is a further question, and one that cannot be fully discussed here, whether any uses of the article found in our text of the Iliad and Odyssey are post-Homeric, and evidence of a later origin of the books or passages where they occur. It will be seen that in the case of the uses which have been noticed as rare or exceptional most of the examples come from books 9, 10, 23, and 24. See especially the uses treated of in § 260.f-g, and 261.3. Others again seem to belong to the Odyssey ; see § 261.3, and cp. § 259.a. The use of the article in the 10th book of the Iliad seems clearly later than in any other part of Homer.

Il. 10.97 δεῦρʼ ἐς τοὺς φύλακας καταβήομεν

Il. 10.277 χαῖρε δὲ τῷ ὄρνιθ’ Ὀδυσεύς

Il. 10.322 ἧ μὲν τοὺς ἵππους τε καὶ ἅρματα κτλ. (so 330)

Il. 10.408 πῶς δʼ αἱ τῶν ἄλλων Τρῶων φυλακαί κτλ.

Also πεδίον τὸ Τρωϊκόν (10.11), ὁ τλήμων Ὀδυσεύς (10.231, 498), τὴν νύκτα (10.497). So in the Catalogue of the Ships we have θάμυριν τὸν θρήϊκα (Il. 2. 595), and τὸ Πελασγικὸν Ἄργὸς (2. 681).

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/index.php/grammar/monro/homeric-and-attic-use-article