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Non-Conventional, Non-Formulaic, and Recent Linguistic Features in Homeric Epics

Sara Kaczko

Universita di Roma - La Sapienza

2020 is an important anniversary for Homeric and Greek linguistics: 50 years ago, P. Wathelet (1970) drew attention to some non-formulaic “late” developments in Homer, such as the lack of 3rd compensatory lengthening in, e.g., μονωθείς, ξένος (vs. μουνω– < *μον.ϝω-, ξεῖνο- < ξέν.ϝο-), explaining them as Euboean elements. Over time, the exceptional archaeological finds at Lefkandi (Euboea), some remarks by Wathelet 1981 and Peters 1987, a systematic analysis by M. West (1988), and the ensuing lively debate with contributions by Cassio 1988 and [forthcoming], Forssman 1992, Janko 1992, Ruijgh 1995, Hackstein 2010, led to new observations and also new perspectives on some issues already analyzed in a seminal work by Wackernagel 1916. As a result, many experts on the Homeric and Greek language had come to the conclusion that a number of relatively uncommon and largely non-formulaic features of Homeric Greek reflect the cultural influence of Central and Western Greece, in particular of Euboea, Attica, Boeotia.

An important role of Euboea in the latest phases of the composition of the Homeric poems is now accepted by many scholars, for linguistic and cultural reasons (see the finds at Lefkandi, the hexameters on Nestor’s and Hakesandros’ cups), but it may not be the whole story: many innovations, including the lack of 3rd compensatory lengthening, in the Homeric diction may theoretically have originated in more than one dialect area, and more than one area was culturally advanced during the “Dark Ages”, Euboea of course, but also Boeotia and Attica. Scholars have become therefore not only increasingly interested in the relationship between the language of archaic Greek epic and, in particular, the dialects and (possibly) poetic traditions of Euboea and Boeotia, but also in some features and regions unthinkable, in the past, with regard to Homeric Greek: see West’s provocative observation: “no one speaks of Dorisms in Homer, because they fit no one’s theories, but what of this one [scil. ἐσσεῖται]? (and what of τεΐν = σοί?)”.

Indeed, pronouns like these seem prominent among elements that seem difficult or impossible to explain in terms of the generally accepted theory of the phases of Homeric diction: τεΐν, but also τεοῖο, ἁμός and others have parallels only in Boeotian, Doric, and West Greek, occur in lines that often seem suspiciously recent, and are, at any rate, non-formulaic. This talk will therefore discuss a few pronominal forms, such as ἑέ, ἑοῖ, εὑ, ἥμῑν, ἧμας and σφας, arguing that some might be artificial secondary creations, but that some are relatively late arrivals in an almost fixed diction owing to the cultural influence of Central and Western Greece (including Attica).

Session/Panel Title

Greek and Latin Linguistics

Session/Paper Number

2.5

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