When two vowel letters that normally form a diphthong, such as αι, are meant to be pronounced as two syllables, how is this normally indicated in modern printing of Ancient Greek?

Is a trema ever used, as in e.g. Latin aër? I think I have seen this in Greek as well, but I am unsure now.

When there is no trema, but a diacritic was placed on the first letter, is that a clear indication that it is no diphthong? Example from the Odyssey:

enter image description here

Here I believe the metre indicates diaeresis, or I wouldn't know how to scan the verse.

1 Answer 1


One option, as you say, is putting a diacritic on the first vowel. Since diacritics are always put on the second vowel of a diphthong, and breathings are always put on the first vowel of a word, αἰ must be one syllable, and ἀι must be two.

But sometimes the not-a-diphthong isn't conveniently at the start of a word, and doesn't have the ictus on the first element. In this case, the diaeresis is used. Here's Iliad I.3 in the Chicago Homer edition:

a line of Homer showing diaereses in Ἄϊδι προΐαψεν

And in the Loeb:

the same line in another edition

Both of these use the diaeresis even when the breathing and accent should be sufficient, like in Ἄϊδι; this isn't universal, but is convenient. I haven't dealt with any editions that don't use the diaeresis on words like προΐαψεν, especially in poetry, but there are probably some out there in the world.

Skimming through the Odyssey, there should be a diaeresis in δαΐφρονι in I.48. Does your edition have that one? Or does it leave it to the reader's scansion skills? (If you don't have book I in that edition, I can find another instance; the Odyssey has fewer of these than the Iliad but there should still be a handful around.)

  • Thanks, that makes sense! The photo is from an edition that we have lying around at school: I will consult it again on Tuesday. Another example, Odyssey I.99: εἵλετο δ᾽ ἄλκιμον ἔγχος, ἀκαχμένον ὀξέι χαλκῷ, from the Perseus text. It does have one on δαΐφρονι, or you wouldn't be able to tell in any other way, as you said.
    – Cerberus
    Commented Dec 3, 2022 at 18:12
  • 2
    doesn't have the ictus on the first element -- do you mean "accent"?
    – TKR
    Commented Dec 3, 2022 at 18:24
  • @TKR Yes, but I've heard ictus used specifically for the thing that falls on a certain mora, as opposed to the accent which falls on a certain syllable.
    – Draconis
    Commented Dec 3, 2022 at 22:16
  • @Cerberus On δαΐφρονι, I mean—the places where it's needed to avoid ambiguity. Edited to make that clear.
    – Draconis
    Commented Dec 3, 2022 at 22:16
  • @Draconis: Clear now!
    – Cerberus
    Commented Dec 3, 2022 at 22:32

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