I'm translating another sentence from Plato's Republic, and I'm a little confused about why ἐδόθη (3rd sg aorist passive indicative) is not plural.

μουσικὴ μὴν ἐκείνοις γε καὶ γυμναστικὴ ἐδόθη.


Plato's Republic, Book 5, section 452a

Shouldn't it be ἐδόθησαν? Or am I wrong to impose my biases from English grammar, where two nouns connected by "and" require a plural verb?

I also wanted to compare my translation with one I found on Perseus. Here is my translation:

"Indeed, music and athletics were given to the men, at any rate."


The one on Perseus is far more liberal.

“Now music together with gymnastic was the training we gave the men.”


An English translation from 1969

I don't understand where the 1969 translation gets the meaning of "together with". Is it just an addition that makes it sound better in English?

Also, why doesn't this translation capture the sense of γε, meaning, "at any rate" or "at least"? Why doesn't it capture the sense of μὴν, meaning, "indeed"?

I asked a lot of questions here, but I think the most important is the title question, and any improvements you might make on my translation. Grateful for any feedback.

  • 3
    I don't have time to write up an answer, but this article looks pretty exhaustive.
    – brianpck
    Feb 22, 2017 at 16:02

2 Answers 2


Your main question has been well answered by Penelope and in the article linked by brianpck: when there is a coordination of more than one subject, the verb can agree with the entire coordination or just with the nearest member. So I'll address your other questions, about particles.

First, a general point about translating Greek particles: don't get too wedded to one-to-one translations, like thinking that γε always has to be translated as "at any rate". Particles are too nuanced and context-sensitive for such an approach to work, especially as in many cases the English translations that are traditionally offered are themselves rather vacuous: e.g. you may have been told that μήν is to be translated "indeed", but what does the English word indeed actually mean outside a specific context? Not to mention that the same indeed also gets offered up as a translation of δή or γε, which have completely different functions from μήν.

Let's look first at the γε in ἐκείνοις γε. The function of γε is most often as follows: it picks out one entity out of a set of possible entities in the discourse, and says that the current predication should only be assumed to hold of that particular entity; it may or may not hold for the others -- γε is noncommittal on that point. The entity γε picks out is the word immediately preceding. So in this case, ἐκείνοις γε means that the predication "we have given music and athletics to X" should at this point only be assumed to hold when X = ἐκείνοις, that is, "the men in the ideal state". This is because Socrates has not yet discussed the tasks of women; he's going to go on to say that the same predication should be extended to the women too, but that hasn't happened yet. In terms of translation, "at any rate" gets the point across but is a little cumbersome; more naturally in English one would express this type of meaning with intonational emphasis and possibly fronting the phrase to the beginning of the clause: "Now, to the men, we gave athletics and music."

Now for μήν, which is more complicated. I recommend the discussion in Denniston's Greek Particles (both for μήν specifically and for other particles). A few relevant points:

  • In Attic prose μήν usually occurs with a negative, as in οὐ μήν; the positive use, however, is typical of Plato's later works.
  • (This is not in Denniston, but is my sense of the basic function of μήν.) What μήν often does is to mark a statement as something that the speaker is certain of and is willing to fight for, so to speak -- that is, even if you, the hearer, don't agree, I'm prepared to argue for the truth of the μήν statement. In this it's different from δή, which usually assumes the hearer agrees with or shares the attitude being expressed.
  • Out of this basic function (this is now Denniston's "progressive" use) arises a use of μήν to introduce a new point in an argument, but one which is based on another point that was already made and settled. This arises from the previous function because the speaker is expressing certainty about the previously settled point, which he is now going to use as a foundation for a new argument. A translation like "well" or "now" will often work -- the Perseus translator chose the latter.

(Finally, I have to disagree with Penelope's suggestion that καί in this sentence may be the adverbial καί meaning "also" or "even" -- it can only be a connective "and", conjoining the two nominatives; syntactically the sentence cannot do without a coordinator at that point.)

  • Really great to learn about particles. Thanks. I never thought of them that way... I was much more likely to adhere to a strict translation. I think this will help me going forward.
    – ktm5124
    Feb 24, 2017 at 21:14

Apparently, two or more subjects can occur with a singular verb, with the verb understood to be agreeing with the nearest or most important subject (Smyth 963 & 966 (c)).

Perhaps this is what is happening here? Perhaps Socrates is wishing to draw attention to the athletic training in particular. He certainly does proceed to play on the apparent absurdity of women training at the gymnasia, so it is possible that he adumbrates this by emphasising it in this sentence.

Και doesn’t have to be limited to a straight conjunction. It could also be adverbial, meaning also, even. Further, Smyth notes that adverbial και “stresses an important idea; usually the idea set forth in the word that follows” (2881). A translation could, therefore, be:

Musical [training] was given to the men, also athletic [training]. (This could be what the 1969 translation was getting at with “together with”).

Or perhaps:

Musical [training] was given to the men, even athletic [training] [Plato’s subtext: just think about where I’m going with this – women receiving athletic training!].

Μην can be translated yet, however while γε could simply be indeed. With these tweaks, the sentence possibly reads:

Yet musical [training] was given to the men, indeed even athletic [training] [Plato’s subtext: just think about where I’m going with this – women receiving athletic training!].

  • It's good to know a verb can agree with its nearest subject. That was really counter-intuitive to me as a native English speaker. Thanks for your answer.
    – ktm5124
    Feb 24, 2017 at 22:22
  • Wow, I got a down vote on this. That's harsh :( Would the down-voter like to leave a comment explaining their reasons?
    – Penelope
    Feb 26, 2017 at 4:04
  • There's a serial down voter who down votes any and all Greek questions - has been plaguing me for months, like a thorn in my flesh. Perhaps it was this mystery person. Ahem Greek proposal. Ahem Sour grapes.
    – ktm5124
    Feb 26, 2017 at 4:33
  • Hmm, I see. I won't take it personally then! Thanks for letting me know :)
    – Penelope
    Feb 26, 2017 at 5:05
  • 1
    Ohhh, I've just been reading all the previous Meta discussions re: Latin vs Greek. I had no idea it was such a hotly-debated issue! As a classicist, reading and answering a Greek question seemed totally natural.
    – Penelope
    Feb 26, 2017 at 5:33

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