This is l. 28 (the last line) of P.Sapph. Obbink:

enter image description here

I read it as:

ΝΘ̣€Ρ+ . . +Ι̣

where the uncertain theta could be an epsilon (Obbink reads €̣) and the pluses denote a blank spot in the papyrus, thus equivalent to a lacuna, but not due to a hole in the papyrus AFAICT. I am pretty sure I saw ἔερθαι or something like that (perhaps ἔερθε) somewhere, so I go ahead and complete:

]ν ἔ̣ερ+θα+ι̣.

But, there is a problem: I cannot for the life of me find a citation form for this supposed verb. Perseus gives nothing for εερθαι, ερθαι, ηρθαι, and my dictionary has nothing that suggests this form as far as I could find yesterday. The closest thing I can find is αἴρω > ἀέρθαι, but that alpha would probably not turn to an epsilon in Sappho (by whom the poems on the papyrus are), and I even found a contraction of this to ἆρθαι in the line Οὔδεν ἄδομ' ἔπαρθ' ἄγα[ν ἐπ' ὄλβῳ (aka Οὔδεν ἄδομ' ἔπερθα γᾶ[ς ἔοισα if you're reading Campbell), found in this poem. So is this actually a valid Greek verb form, or did I dream of seeing it? And if the former, what is the dictionary form of this verb? And is this an aorist infinitive as I would guess from the -αι at the end? What voice (active, middle, passive)?


When I say "somewhere", I'm not implying it should be in something related to this poem, or even to Sappho. In fact, my vague memory suggests Iliad or Odyssey. I ruled out the former by searching each and every book of it as present on Greek Wikisource for ερθ and coming back with loads of ύπερθε (with or without prefixes) and other irrelevant words, and Googling έρθ on site:el.wikisource.org and not finding anything from Homer. Googling ἔερθαι returns no results, and Googling ἔερθε returns stuff I have yet to browse through.

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    I think the best first step would be to locate whatever source supplies "ἔερθαι." This one, which seems pretty comprehensive, just has "νεερ."
    – brianpck
    Apr 9, 2018 at 13:07
  • @brianpck I do not know of any source that fills that hole. The only source I have is The Newest Sappho, by Anton Bieri and André Lardinois, which contains as its chapter 1 the article The Newest Sappho: Text, Apparatus Criticus, and Translation by Obbink himself. And that also only has νε̣ερ . [.]αι̣. As for the extra vestiges around the pseudohole, I suspect it's because of the dark margins of the pseudohole itself.
    – MickG
    Apr 9, 2018 at 14:03
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    I completely agree with @brianpck . The correct practice is to fill gaps either with known words or with hitherto unattested words with a plausible justification. Postulating -θα- here is as arbitrary as any other guess. All seems to point to your having dreamt of ἔερθαι.
    – Dario
    Apr 10, 2018 at 0:01
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    In our time and age, there is a quick way to check this - TGL stephanus.tlg.uci.edu/index.php
    – Alex B.
    Apr 10, 2018 at 2:57
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    @MickG Set up an account and find out! The wonders of the TLG are manifold and marvellous :)
    – brianpck
    Apr 10, 2018 at 12:25

2 Answers 2


Given I couldn't find ἔερθαι or ἔερθε via Google nor on the TLG, and the commenters have no miraculous ideas as of now, I must conclude I imagined this form. Too bad.

Supposing this is a verb form, the ending -αι is likely. Starting from εερ . αι, one can feed in μ, σ, τ, getting ἔερμαι, ἔερσαι, ἔερται. These are the singular indicative perfect middle-passive of εἴρω, respectively first, second, and third person. This verb means "to fasten in rows" or "to say" or "to ask".

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    And indeed ἐέρθαι is the Epic infinitive corresponding to ἔερμαι. ἔερθαι would be its recessively accented Aeolic counterpart. Jul 29, 2018 at 13:15

The closest thing I can think of is ἐέρσαι, which I guess is pronounced like ἐέρθαι if you have a lisp.

Less likely, but If the theta was definitely there, perhaps you forgot a nu and were remembering ἔνερθε(ν)? I doubt it, because it's such a common word that one would hardly forget, but I figure I'd mention it anyway just in case.

Meanwhile, ἐέρσαι is found only in the Iliad at 14.351:

τῷ ἔνι λεξάσθην, ἐπὶ δὲ νεφέλην ἕσσαντο
καλὴν χρυσείην: στιλπναὶ δ᾽ ἀπέπιπτον ἔερσαι.

  • The theta and alpha are completely lost to a blanked region of the papyrus. The final letter is a vertical line, so almost certainly an iota, though there is a depression in the papyrus to its left which could have been the diagonal stroke of an N, so a nu with its left leg on the edge of the blank is also possible. Eerthai was just something that came up in my mind. @NickNicholas comments my answer saying it's "the Epic infinitive corresponding to ἔερμαι", which I assume is also what eersai is? Or is that the plural of eersa "dew"? You can see the image of this line in the question, btw.
    – MickG
    Sep 14, 2021 at 8:50
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    @MickG I was thinking more in the sense that since εερθαι is unattested, what might you actually have come across in Homer. That's why I thought of ἐέρσαι. And yes, it is the plural of ἐέρση.
    – cmw
    Sep 15, 2021 at 21:51

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