The use of περὶ in verse 65 of Odyssey A is not entirely clear to me, neither in syntax nor in meaning:

πῶς ἂν ἔπειτ᾿ Ὀδυσῆος ἐγὼ θείοιο λαθοίμην,
ὃς περὶ μὲν νόον ἐστὶ βροτῶν, περὶ δ᾿ ἱρὰ θεοῖσιν
ἀθανάτοισιν ἔδωκε, τοὶ οὐρανὸν εὐρὺν ἔχουσιν;

"How could I forget godlike Odysseus, who [is wiser than other?] mortals, and who has [more than others?] sacrificed to the immortal gods, who occupy broad heaven?"

The 1919 translation from Perseus has, "who is beyond all mortals in wisdom, and beyond all has paid sacrifice to the immortal gods".

If perhaps something like περὶ πάντων should mean "more than all (other)", with elliptical πάντων, then it would make sense, but I'm not sure. The word περὶ is quite far removed from βροτῶν to be a praeposition, rather than an adverb, but I suppose that is possible in poetry.

I would also like to see something like "other" instead of just "beyond mortals". But I suppose the use of "other" in Greek does not always work the same way as what we're used to?

If νόον is an accusativus respectus, "with respect to his mind", then, with the above assumptions, it may work: "who is beyond (other) mortals in mind".

Then, in the second clause, περὶ would need to be adverbial, because there is no genitive: "exceedingly, in a way beyond others". I believe the boundary between praeposition and adverb was far more flexible than now, so I suppose repeating the mere praeposition could work in Greek. So "and who sacrificed exceedingly / more than other mortals to the immortal gods".

When I read back, I suppose this might all make sense. What do you think?

1 Answer 1


You're right to think of this not as a preposition, but I think the error is in translating as "more" instead of with a supreme sense. I would translate it thus:

ὃς περὶ μὲν νόον ἐστὶ βροτῶν
who is beyond the mortals in intelligence

The translation given in Huebeck, West, and Haineworth is formulated similarly:

The first περὶ is to be taken with ἐστὶ, governing βροτῶν, 'he surpasses all men in wisdom'; the second is adverbial, equivalent to περισσῶς, 'beyond all other men.'

With the Greek, there's some equivalence to be made: 'better than all the other mortals' is equivalent to 'best of all the mortals,' and this usage is frequently found with πάντων or ἄλλων or both as the LSJ shows:

III. before, above, beyond, of superiority, chiefly in Ep., “π. πάντων ἔμμεναι ἄλλων” Il.1.287; “π. δ᾽ ἄλλων φασὶ γενέσθαι” 4.375; “τετιμῆσθαι π. πάντων” 9.38; “ὃν π. πάσης τῖεν ὁμηλικίης” 5.325 ; “ὃν . . π. πάντων φίλατο παίδων” 20.304; “π. πάντων ἴδριες ἀνδρῶν” Od.7.108; “κρατερὸς π. πάντων” Il.21.566, cf. 1.417, Od.11.216: in this sense freq. divided from its gen., π. φρένας ἔμμεναι ἄλλων in understanding to be beyond them, Il.17.171, cf. 1.258, Od.1.66

Without πάντων or ἄλλων, though, the LSJ does give one other parallel at Iliad 7.289:

περὶ δ᾽ ἔγχει Ἀχαιῶν φέρτατός ἐσσι
and you are the best of [all] the Achaeans with the spear

I guess that's not a perfect parallel, since it does have an explicit superlative, yet its inclusion reinforces the idea that there's just an elliptical superlative or πάντων, perhaps just because there's not enough room for it in the line.

  • 1
    Gratias, I guess all of this matches the thought I reached as I was finishing my answer! Nice to have the quotations.
    – Cerberus
    Jun 25 at 2:54

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