Philostratus, Lives of the Sophists 1.18:

ἡ Ἀθήνησι δημαγωγία διειστήκει πᾶσα, καὶ οἱ μὲν βασιλεῖ ἐπιτήδειοι ἦσαν, οἱ δὲ Μακεδόσιν, ἐφέροντο δὲ ἄρα τὴν πρώτην τῶν μὲν βασιλεῖ χαριζομένων ὁ Παιανιεὺς Δημοσθένης, τῶν δὲ ἐς Φίλιππον ὁρώντων ὁ Κοθωκίδης Αἰσχίνης

W.C. Wright in the Loeb edition translates:

The whole government at Athens was divided into two parties, of which one was friendly to the Persian king, the other to the Macedonians. Now among those who favored the Persian king, Demosthenes of the deme Paeania was the recognized leader, while Aeschines of the deme Kothokidai led those who looked to Philip

ἐφέροντο τὴν πρώτην clearly means "were the leaders", but it looks like an idiomatic phrase in which some feminine noun has been elided. What is that noun?

LSJ s.v. φέρω mentions τὰ πρῶτα φέρεσθαι (sc. ἄεθλα) "win first prize", which is very close but has a neuter plural noun instead.


It clearly implies τάξις: ἐφέροντο δὲ ἄρα τὴν πρώτην (τάξιν) = "they occupied the first place".

τὰ πρῶτα φέρεσθαι means "obtain the first place" (see D. Cass. 42,57,2). With the verb φέρω in the middle you can compare Hdt. 8,104: φερόμενος οὐ τὰ δεύτερα … παρὰ βασιλεῖ (occupying the first place among the king).

I did not find the expression with τάξις, but I believe that the elliptical expression is unequivocal. Here is an example with φέρω in the middle taken from the Lives of the Sophists (2,8):

ὁ Ἀμφικλῆς, καὶ γὰρ δὴ καὶ ἐτύγχανε τῶν Ἡρώδου γνωρίμων τὴν πρώτην φερόμενος.

"Amphicles was precisely the first (literally: "he got the first place") among the disciples of Herod".

  • τάξις was my own guess too -- what gives me pause is that I'm not sure a "place" is something you can (even metaphorically) "carry away", as a "prize" is in τὰ πρῶτα (sc. ἄεθλα) φέρεσθαι. Are there attestations of τὴν πρώτην τάξιν φέρεσθαι?
    – TKR
    Aug 2 at 18:19
  • φερώ in middle by extension could mean "obtain" (φέρεσθαι τί τινος "means obtain something from someone", e.g. Hdt. 4,129,3, 7,211,2; Soph. OT. 500; Eur. Hec. 348): see LSJ s.v. φέρω VI 3 (stephanus.tlg.uci.edu/lsj/#context=lsj&eid=113588). Literally it would be "Demosthenes and Aeschines obtained the first place among those who favored the Persian king"
    – qwertxyz
    Aug 2 at 20:00
  • 1
    Right, that's the LSJ section I quoted in the OP; the examples there seem to be with objects that are easier to conceptualize as being "carried" than a τάξις, which is why I'd like to see an attestation of the unelided phrase τὴν πρώτην τάξιν φέρεσθαι to be more sure that that's the word being implied here.
    – TKR
    Aug 2 at 20:07
  • I edited the answer adding another example of the elliptical form
    – qwertxyz
    Aug 2 at 21:01

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