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If I'm understanding correctly, άείδω is used with the accusative, and it means to sing about something. In English the object of the verb would be the song, not the thing being sung about. In Greek how would we express the notion of singing a certain song?

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Generally, in Greek there is no difference between "he is singing" and "he is singing a song." Both phrases would be represented with ἄειδε. If it wasn't a song before the singing, it becomes one by the act of singing it.

That said, there are examples of "sing a song", i.e. the verb with a cognate accusative.

Aeschylus Agamemnon 1191-1192:

ὑμνοῦσι δ᾽ ὕμνον δώμασιν προσήμεναι / πρώταρχον ἄτην.
Seated in their home they sing a song about the original crime.

Aeschylus uses two accusatives. The first, ὕμνον, is the cognate accusative, and ἄτην is the direct object.

Heraclitus 15:

ὕμνεον ᾆσμα αἰδοίοισιν.
They were singing a song to the genitals.

Here ᾆσμα is the cognate accusative and the addressee of the song is put in the dative.

You also get νόμον ὑμνεῖν in in Plato Laws 871a.

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  • Thanks, that's helpful. So the answer seems to be that you either use two accusatives or an accusative for the thing being sung and a dative for the topic. I don't think the first paragraph adds anything.
    – user3597
    Jun 7, 2021 at 21:25
  • @BenCrowell I think the dative αἰδοίοισιν in Heraclitus expresses addressee rather than topic (they're singing "to" the phallus in a Dionysian revel). // For completeness the more specific θρηνέω "sing mournfully" could be added, with an accusative as e.g. ᾠδὰς θρηνέω "sing songs of lamentation".
    – TKR
    Jun 7, 2021 at 23:54

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