I'm reading Ανάβασις by Ξενοφών. I came across this sentence:

στρατευόμενος οὖν καὶ αὐτὸς εἰς ταύτας τὰς χώρας, οὓς ἑώρα ἐθέλοντας κινδυνεύειν, τούτους καὶ ἄρχοντας ἐποίει ἧς κατεστρέφετο χώρας, ἔπειτα δὲ καὶ ἄλλοις δώροις ἐτίμα:

It's this word ἧς which I don't understand. I searched, and as far as I can make out this is not a typo. There seem to be few possibilities: it could apparently be a Doric variant of εἱς, but is much more likely to be a relative pronoun or possessive adjective, both deriving from ὅς, but in both cases it would therefore be gen. f. s.

Some kind of relative pronoun could, it seems to me, make sense here: "... (he made these bold men rulers), whose countries he was subduing ...". But why is it feminine? Or maybe it isn't feminine?

Could it be a variant of ὡς, with a meaning "... when (while) he was subduing countries ..."? No hint of such a variant is found in Wiktionary or Perseus. But also that would make "countries" indefinite, which strikes me as awkward.

1 Answer 1


ἧς is indeed the relative pronoun ὅς in the feminine and the genitive. The reason it's feminine is because it refers to the one feminine noun in that entire sentence: χώρας.

More puzzling is why it's a genitive. Considering just the minimal sentence:

τούτους καὶ ἄρχοντας ἐποίει ἧς κατεστρέφετο χώρας

If you ignore the relative clause "ἧς κατεστρέφετο", it should be reasonably clear this means something like:

And those he made rulers of the region.

(Note that χώρας is a singular genitive here, not a plural accusative as earlier in the sentence.)

καταστρέφω means 'to subdue', so you'd expect the relative clause to mean something like "[the region] that he subdued", but in that case ἧς should be in the accusative, as the direct object.

What we have here is a case of case attraction. As Smyth puts it (§2522):

A relative pronoun is often attracted from its proper case into the case of its antecedent, especially from the accusative into the genitive or dative.

It's not one of Greek's prettier features, and arguably just a grammatical error, but it's not uncommon. The line is effectively equivalent to:

τούτους καὶ ἄρχοντας ἐποίει τῆς χώρας ἣν κατεστρέφετο

  • I'm glad a point of interest emerged which your expertise solved. I had a complete blind spot over χώρας, assuming it could only be acc. pl.. Isn't it nonetheless strange that he switches to the singular of "country" despite the facts that 1) τὰς χώρας is used earlier and 2) these "rulers" are obviously plural. Having said that, in English "country" has that same capability of meaning (countable) regions and/or something vaguer. Maybe that's the explanation here in the Greek ...? Commented Feb 23 at 12:22
  • @mikerodent Yeah, I do think it's a case of multiple χώραι adding up to one χώρα. The ἧς actually signals χώρας must be singular in this instance, but that obviously doesn't help if the construction isn't transparent to the reader.
    – Cairnarvon
    Commented Feb 23 at 15:56

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