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

οἱ μὲν οὖν πρῶτοι ὅμως τρόπῳ τινὶ ἐστρατοπεδεύσαντο, οἱ δὲ ὕστεροι σκοταῖοι προσιόντες ὡς ἐτύγχανον ἕκαστοι ηὐλίζοντο, καὶ κραυγὴν πολλὴν ἐποίουν καλοῦντες ἀλλήλους, ὥστε καὶ τοὺς πολεμίους ἀκούειν: ὥστε οἱ μὲν ἐγγύτατα τῶν πολεμίων καὶ ἔφυγον ἐκ τῶν σκηνωμάτων.

It's the little phrase in bold which I'm slightly puzzled by: from the context I, even at my low level, assumed this did not mean "they were shouting to each other loudly... and consequently they heard the enemies"... But I wonder if in another context there is a possibility of ambiguity: i.e. could τοὺς πολεμίους be the object of the verb (instead of being the subjects of what seems to be categorised as "reported speech" for the purpose of this phrase)... and could the subject of ἀκούειν be the men who are καλοῦντες ἀλλήλους?

Is this expression at all surprising? Is this construction specific in some way to ὥστε? Or are there quite a few such conjunctions which have the power to permit this "accusative + infinitive" construction (i.e. where we understand that the noun in the accusative is the subject of the verb)?

1 Answer 1


In this case, there isn't any ambiguity--but only because of a grammatical feature of ἀκούω, which takes the accusative for a thing heard but the genitive for a person heard. In your sample sentence, it would need to be

...ὥστε καὶ τῶν πολεμίων ἀκούειν...

if you wanted to say:

...so that they even heard the enemies...

See, for instance, a passage from Plutarch that uses a nearly identical construction with ὥστε + ἀκούειν, but this time with καλοῦντος in the genitive:

...χρόνῳ δὲ ποιησάμενος τιθασὸν οὕτω καὶ φιλάνθρωπον, ὥστε καὶ καλοῦντος ἀκούειν καὶ βαδίζοντί ποι παρακολουθεῖν... (Life of Sertorius, 11.3)

...in time he made it so tame and domesticated that it even listened to [him] calling and followed [him] wherever he walked...

We're not always so lucky though. It's perfectly possible, in Greek as well as in Latin, to have an accusative + infinitive (with or without ὤστε) where the accusative could either be the subject or the object. Context almost always makes it clear which is intended.

  • Thanks. I had no knowledge of the "genitive for a person heard" thing. But I'm not clear: is this specific to ὤστε (or equivalent in Latin, whatever that might be), or should I anticipate coming across this sort of construction quite frequently with other conjunctions? (or is it specifically "ὥστε καὶ" maybe...?) Commented Apr 30 at 20:48
  • @mikerodent It's a feature of all accusative + infinitive constructions. See, for instance, John 2:24: "διὰ τὸ αὐτὸν γινώσκειν πάντας." Ignoring context, this could mean either "because they all know him" or "because he knows them all."
    – brianpck
    Commented Apr 30 at 21:06

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