In Attic Greek, where is it appropriate to find βλέπω instead of ὁράω, and vice versa? Do the verbs have different connotations, or different shades of meaning? As far as I know, they both mean "to see", and I'm curious when you would expect to find one instead of the other. Or, when composing Attic Greek, when should you use one instead of the other?

1 Answer 1

  1. The absolute meaning of βλέπω is "to see", "have the power of sight" (opposed to τυφλός εἰμι, cfr. LSJ ad l.):

S. OT 302-303: πόλιν μέν, εἰ καὶ μὴ βλέπεις, φρονεῖς δ' ὅμως / οἵᾳ νόσῳ σύνεστιν;

S. OC 73: τίς πρὸς ἀνδρὸς μὴ βλέποντος ἄρκεσις;

Ar. Pl. 15: οἱ γὰρ βλέποντες τοῖς τυφλοῖς ἡγούμεθα;

In a broad sense, βλέπω could also mean "look", "look to" or "look for":

A. Pers. 801-802: ἐς τὰ νῦν πεπραγμένα βλέψαντα;

Thuc. 7,71,3: οἱ δ' ἐπὶ τὸ ἡσσώμενον βλέψαντες;

Sol. 11,8 εἰς ἔργον οὐδὲν γιγνόμενον βλέπετε (rely on).

  1. ὁράω is used either with the abstract meaning of "see", "look", or, more specifically, in a translate sense with the meaning of "be aware of" (and, metaphorically, "discern", "perceive", as attests the well-known perfect οἶδα, "I see with the mind's eye, i.e. I know" [cfr. LSJ ad l.]):

Here are a few examples of these two different meanings:

Arist. Po. 1460a 14: τὸ μὴ ὁρᾶν εἰς τὸν πράττοντα;

Thuc. 2,93,4: ἀκρωτήριον τὸ πρὸς Μέγαρα ὁρῶν;

Hom. Il. 2,799: ἀλλ' οὔ πω τοιόνδε τοσόνδέ τε λαὸν ὄπωπα;

Pl. R. 327c: ὁρᾷς οὖν ἡμᾶς, ἔφη, ὅσοι ἐσμέν;

A. Ag. 1623: οὐχ ὁρᾷς ὁρῶν τάδε (combining the two meanings).

These are the specifications which concern the general (i.e. not the particular cases) understanding of the two verbs.

  • 1
    In case it isn't clear: βλέπω can be used transitively, though using a preposition seems much more frequent.
    – brianpck
    Jan 20, 2017 at 18:13
  • 3
    +1. A couple additional details: the "see" sense of βλέπω is, I think, mainly found in verse -- in prose, it generally means "look"; and ὁράω too can sometimes mean "have sight" (LSJ I.2). (Btw I'm not sure what you mean by "the abstract meaning of 'see'".)
    – TKR
    Jan 21, 2017 at 1:20

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