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Subjugation of Agamemnon by Clytemnestra

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Subjugation of Agamemnon by Clytemnestra

Postby C. S. Bartholomew » Fri May 03, 2013 4:03 pm

1448
Χορός
φεῦ, τίς ἂν ἐν τάχει, μὴ περιώδυνος,
μηδὲ δεμνιοτήρης,
1450
μόλοι τὸν αἰεὶ φέρουσ’ ἐν ἡμῖν
Μοῖρ’ ἀτέλευτον ὕπνον, δαμέντος
φύλακος εὐμενεστάτου καὶ
πολλὰ τλάντος γυναικὸς διαί·
πρὸς γυναικὸς δ’ ἀπέφθισεν βίον.

1448
CHOROS.
Alas, that some
Fate would come
Upon us in quickness --
Neither much sickness
Neither bed-keeping --
And bear unended sleeping,
Now that subdued
Is our keeper, the kindest of mood!
Having borne, for a woman's sake, much strife --
By a woman he withered from life!
— R. Browning


Recalling Elizabeth Vandiver's discussion of Clytemnestra as a manlike figure intended to outrage the sensibilities of Athenian citizens, it seems like the participial δαμέντος from δαμάζω might be understood as a shocking (not to us, but to Athenians) reversal of gender roles. The word δαμάζω from Homer to late Koine includes subjugate, overpower, dominate as elements in the semantic domain. The word can be used of a male forcing himself on a female against her will. In light of the other sexual imagery in Clytemnestra's prior speech, it doesn't seem too far fetched to read this metaphorically as a sexual conquest of Agamemnon resulting in his death, where Agamemnon is cast in the passive role which was an abomination for a man of Athens and especially for a warrior-king.
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Re: Subjugation of Agamemnon by Clytemnestra

Postby C. S. Bartholomew » Sat May 04, 2013 9:02 pm

LSJ:
πρὸς γυναικὸς δʼ ἀπέφθισεν βίον had his life taken by a womanʼs hand, A.Ag.1454

Synopsis of LSJ:
Here we see an active verb form ἀπέφθισεν which can be intransitive in pres., perish utterly, die away, A.Ag.857; ἀποφθίνει τὰ χρηστά , or causal, in fut. -φθίσω, aor. ἀπέφθισα [ῑ Ep., ῐ Trag.]:— make to perish, waste away, destroy; causal, in fut. -φθίσω

But in A.Ag.1454 the active ἀπέφθισεν has an agent πρὸς γυναικὸς which is not the subject of the verb and also a patient βίον. The meaning is clear but the syntax is at least interesting enough for Cooper[1] to comment on it. Cooper considers the notion of agency associated with πρὸς + gen less direct ("urgent" Cooper) in comparison to agency marked by ὑπὸ + gen with a passive and for this reason it is suitable for use with an intransitive, a virtual passive, or nearly passive. I don't have a clue what virtual passive or nearly passive refer to so we will jump take a look at intransitive.

If we consider Agamemnon the subject of the verb then the subject is affected but there is also a patient βίον which appears semantically superfluous. We wouldn't expect to see a patient with an intransitive would we? Perhaps βίον is not a patient, rather something akin to an adverbial adjunct. On this Copper[2] states:
A verb is intransitive when it is used absolutely or with only adverbial modification. This [That?] is modification by an adverbial accusative, or genitive, a dative, an adverb or a prepositional phrase.


[1] Greek Syntax v. 4, p.2803 2:68.37.3.D
[2] Attic Greek Syntax v. 1, p. 560, 1:52.1.0
Last edited by C. S. Bartholomew on Sat May 04, 2013 11:56 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Subjugation of Agamemnon by Clytemnestra

Postby NateD26 » Sat May 04, 2013 11:39 pm

So, according to Cooper, If we render the sentence in English as "he perished
with respect to his life by the hand of a woman", is it considered intransitive still?
Nate.
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Re: Subjugation of Agamemnon by Clytemnestra

Postby C. S. Bartholomew » Sun May 05, 2013 12:01 am

NateD26 wrote:So, according to Cooper, If we render the sentence in English as "he perished
with respect to his life by the hand of a woman", is it considered intransitive still?


Nate,

Yes I think so. But accusative of respect is treated as different animal than an adverbial accusative in some grammars. Frankly I don't get too concerned about use of the metalanguage. Calling it adverbial just leaves the question of semantics open-ended. The important thing for this discussion is deciding if ἀπέφθισεν is used absolutely or if βίον is the semantic patient of ἀπέφθισεν. If we follow the suggestion of middle-Liddell and render ἀπέφθισεν in this context to lose, βίον Aesch, then we have a transitive (not absolute) use of ἀπέφθισεν.
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