3

Homer several times uses the subjunctive αἰδέσεται. I would have expected this to be αἰδέσηται, and wiktionary agrees with me. I guess the lack of an augmented initial vowel is a hint that this is a subjunctive. Homer seems to do this fairly often with the aorist middle, so we get ἀμείψεται, γεύσεται, δαμάσσεται, δοάσσεται. In some cases, like δαμάζω, wiktionary lists these as epic forms, and the ε only seems to happen in the third person singular.

Is this just some random thing about how this particular tense, mood, number, and person is inflected in Homer's dialect? Is there something more understandable going on? Is it just a cheat to fit the meter?

5

This is a relic of an older set of rules for forming the subjunctive.

In Proto-Indo-European, the subjunctive was formed by adding *-e/o- to the verb stem. In thematic forms, which already end in *-e/o-, the result is contraction into a single long vowel; this is the familiar way of forming the subjunctive in Attic Greek, where it has been generalized to all kinds of stems. But in athematic forms (meaning not just -mi verbs but any stem that doesn't end in a thematic vowel, such as sigmatic aorists) the subjunctive originally had just a single short vowel.

This older state of affairs is preserved in some non-Attic dialects, including that of Homer, where it is inconsistent. It's possible that some or all of the Attic-style Homeric subjunctives (ones with an unetymological long vowel) are later corrections made where this change preserves the meter, while the surviving short-vowel subjunctives are those that could not be lengthened without spoiling the meter.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.