The second stanza of Sappho's Poem 16 is reconstructed as follows:

πάγχυ δ' εὔμᾱρες σύνετον πόησαι
πάντι τοῦτ', ᾱ γὰρ πόλυ περσκέθοισα
κάλλος ἀνθρώπων Ἐλένᾱ τὸν ἄνδρα
τὸν πανάριστον

I'm mostly familiar with Attic, but trying to branch out into other dialects. Most of the unfamiliar Aeolian words are fairly easy to figure out: for instance, πόησαι is Attic ποίησαι, and is Attic .

But I'm unsure what to do about περσκέθοισα. LSJ lists no stems starting with persk-, nor with peri-sk-. What word does this come from? And what form is it?

  • There are a couple of typos in the Greek: πανάριστον in the last line; περσκέθοισᾱ should have short -α; definite article ᾱ is conventionally written with rough breathing (though in Aeolic, which is psilotic, that's actually a misleading convention). – TKR Jul 1 '17 at 17:30
  • @TKR Fixed the rho, thank you! Leaving the long alpha as it is because that's the word under consideration, and it's how my source listed it (whether or not it's correct). – Draconis Jul 1 '17 at 17:47
  • @Draconis What's your source of ᾱ? – Alex B. Jul 2 '17 at 0:51
  • @AlexB. ancientgreekonline.com/Sappho/Sappho16.htm which was linked to me in chat as an answer – Draconis Jul 2 '17 at 1:01
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    There's at least one other quantity error in that source, μελαινᾱν in line two (for μέλαινᾰν). Both are in line-final syllables, and the description of the Sapphic stanza in the same page wrongly says that the last syllable of the first three lines must be long, which may explain the errors: actually the last syllable is anceps. – TKR Jul 2 '17 at 2:01
up vote 8 down vote accepted

It is, believe it or not, a form of ἔχω. Specifically, it's a feminine nominative singular of the aorist active participle of the compound περι-έχω "have beyond, have in a greater measure than others". The Attic form would be περισχοῦσα.

ἔχω has a rare alternative aorist ἔσχεθον, attested for example in Iliad 14.427-8:

ἀλλὰ πάροιθεν ἀσπίδας εὐκύκλους σχέθον αὐτοῦ
"but before him they held their round shields"

It appears that in Aeolic, the form was instead ἔσκεθον, with the velar presumably deaspirated by Grassmann's Law. There are a few other verbs which show such alternate aorists in -θ-, e.g. ἐέργαθον, ἠμύναθον, ἐδιώκαθον; this may be related to the -θ- of the aorist passive in -θην.

The ending -οισα is the Aeolic equivalent of Attic -οῦσα; both derive by regular sound change from the original *-ontya (through an intermediate stage -ονσα).

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    περσκεθοισα = περισχουσα < περιεχω as explained here: ancientgreekonline.com/Sappho/Sappho16.htm – fdb Jul 1 '17 at 18:36
  • A side note. Holt Parker (in Parker 2009) writes that Lesbian has "[a] limited number of cases of ri > ry > rr", "[o]ne is by late syncope in the preverb περί-, so περί-οχος > πέρροχος, *περ<ρ>έχοισ᾽ (= Att. περι-έχουσα); the inscriptional form, however, is always περί" (p. 456). So, I was wondering why there's no gemination in περσκέθοισα. I should mention that Parker does say that the change *CriV > CerrV is only "a possible rule" though. – Alex B. Jul 2 '17 at 3:43
  • @AlexB., but here the environment would be *VriC, περισχ-. – TKR Jul 2 '17 at 4:25
  • @TKR I will admit - Greek is not my forte. The verb is περιέχω (present indicative 1sg), its aorist form is περιέσχον, the aorist participle would be περιέχών and - all of those are unsyncopated forms. But in our case, since a rare, poetic aorist form was used, ἔσχεθον, whose aorist participle would be σχεθών, the aorist participle would be περισχών/περισχοῦσα? Why is the vowel syncopated in the participle? Why not περιέσχεθών? Incidentally, Montanari also mentions geminated forms - Aeol. pres. περρέχει and Aeol. fem. περρέχοισ(α) - hence my question and some confusion. – Alex B. Jul 2 '17 at 15:16
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    @AlexB., that's correct -- only finite indicative forms (of the aorist, imperfect, and pluperfect) get the augment. – TKR Jul 2 '17 at 17:27

I'm not absolutely sure about this, but this looks a dialectal form corresponding to Attic περιέχουσα from περιέχειν, meaning "encompassing" or similar. (The σκε in the Aeolic from would correspond to the by-stem σχε of ἔχειν [‹ *σεχ] with loss of aspiration in Aeolic.)

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