I was translating a simplified version of Two Friends and a Bear, one of Aesop's fables, listed as #65 in the Perry Index. The text begins with the sentence:

Δύο φίλοι τῇ ὁδῷ τῇ εἰς τὴν χώραν ἔσπευδον.

(My translation) Two friends were hastening by means of the road into the country.

I wanted to know, why is the definite article τῇ duplicated in this sentence? You can see that there are two definite articles surrounding ὁδῷ (road).

(Last I heard, Ancient Greek questions were kosher on this forum. Forgive me if I'm wrong, or if the rules have changed without me knowing.)

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    The tag says that questions on the interaction between Greek and Latin are allowed, which this is not... in any case, make sure you're following the Greek site proposal Oct 11, 2016 at 0:44
  • Thanks for sharing the Greek site proposal. I signed up as a follower. Regarding relevance, we have had several discussions about this question, and I feel like there has been no definitive answer. It would be nice to have a provisional home for Greek questions, until the topic receives its own beta forum. By posting this question, I thought it would do no harm and be a good way to test the waters.
    – ktm5124
    Oct 11, 2016 at 16:28
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3 Answers 3



I followed the road to Sparta.

This could mean two things, which will become clear if you add more context:

Departing Athens I took the road to Sparta. I followed the road to Sparta for twenty minutes, until I came across a soothsayer's booth.

This means there is a road to Sparta, and I followed it.

I departed Gytheion for Sparta and took the main road to Megalopolis. I knew that road passed by Pharis and Sparta, so I followed the road to Sparta and found lodgings in a sparsely furnished, uncomfortable inn (so I knew I had arrived in the right city).

This means there is a road to Megalopolis, and I followed it until I reached Sparta.

In the former example, the road to Sparta is best considered a unit: the phrase to Sparta can be said to belong to the road, and not to the verb followed directly.

In the latter example, to Sparta modifies the verb followed: it does not belong with the word road specifically.

In Greek, when you want to indicate that a certain phrase belongs to a specific noun, you can do this by repeating the article after the noun and before the phrase, as it was done in your text.

  • Thanks! Great explanation. It ties into what I learned about the attributive position. The phrase "to the country" is an attribute of "road", and is placed in the attributive position by the second τη.
    – ktm5124
    Oct 10, 2016 at 19:19
  • @ktm5124: I agree!
    – Cerberus
    Oct 10, 2016 at 19:20
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    @Cerberus I love Greek and don't mind Greek questions, but I was under the impression that the last discussion determined that these kind of questions are off-topic. Thoughts?
    – brianpck
    Oct 11, 2016 at 0:55
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    @brianpck: Well, that's sort of true: there was a Meta question about allowing Greek questions, and the answer with the most votes was against it. But answers to (partly or entirely) allow Greek also received quite a few votes. What does that mean? Should we follow the majority? I'm not sure, but in general I'm somewhat less inclined to align with a majority when it wants to restrict what the minority can do, if there is nothing like a consensus. On the other hand, I'm biased because I like Greek. And ultimately the community decides, of course. ...
    – Cerberus
    Oct 11, 2016 at 1:51
  • But is the community the majority? Joonas and Nathaniel and I were in fact just discussing what to do with Greek. My suggestion was, since we get hardly any Greek questions of acceptable quality, that perhaps we could just do nothing for the time being, see how it goes, see whether the occasional Greek question bothers people, and come up with a policy as the need arises. ...
    – Cerberus
    Oct 11, 2016 at 1:52

As you probably already know, Ancient Greek has a syntactic distinction between attributive and predicative modifiers. ὁ MOD NOUN or ὁ NOUN ὁ MOD are "attributive" (the MOD NOUN), while ὁ NOUN MOD and MOD ὁ NOUN are "predicative" (the NOUN is MOD).

Notably, though, this syntax can be used even when the modifier isn't an adjective: in this case, ὁδῷ is the noun, and the prepositional phrase εἰς τὴν χώραν is the modifier, in attributive position. So this literally means "the road, the into-the-country one" or "the into-the-country road".

In idiomatic English, we would just say "two friends were hurrying down the road into the country". But as Cerberus explains, the Greek syntax here is making it clear that the "into the country" modifies the road, not the hurrying; in English, it's ambiguous (even though it doesn't make much difference to the meaning).


Δύο φίλοι τῇ ὁδῷ τῇ εἰς τὴν χώραν ἔσπευδον.


Δύο φίλοι ἔσπευδον τῇ ὁδῷ τῇ (ἀγούσῃ) εἰς τὴν χώραν.

(ἁγούσῃ < ἄγω = οδηγώ = lead)


Δύο φίλοι πήγαιναν βιαστικά δια μέσω της οδού που οδηγούσε στη χώρα.


Δύο φίλοι περπατούσαν βιαστικά στο δρόμο για τη χώρα.


Two friends were hurrying in the street (leading) to the city.

Τhe word "χώρα" originally means "region", but later "city or village".

  • Welcome to the site, Dina! I reformatted your post slightly; it seemed that you intended to have row breaks. Can you explain your answer more? The question asked about duplication of the article. It is unclear (to me) what you are exactly trying to say. You can edit your post by clicking the "edit" button below it.
    – Joonas Ilmavirta
    Dec 1, 2016 at 9:23
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    @DinaGiaprou Thanks for the contribution, but please note that this question specifically asks about a construction in Attic Greek, whereas your answer seems only to offer a paraphrase in modern Greek.
    – brianpck
    Dec 1, 2016 at 17:16
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    @MickG I rolled back your edit, since it introduces a few errors (like the masculine article for feminine hodos) and seems to add a bit of material that wasn't in the original answer.
    – brianpck
    Jan 15, 2021 at 17:08

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