As to aorists, i have recently read an article in Greece and Rome
, Second Series: October 2002, vol. 49 no. 2, by F. Beetham (The Aorist Indicative
)that deals exactly with the problem whether aorists are used only in past referring situations or not. The author believes that:
"A very simple explanation of verbal aspect is that it refers to the viewpoint of the speaker or writer. Leaving the perfect aspect on one side, when the present or imperfect tense is used (the imperfect having the same aspect as the present), the viwepoint of the speaker or writer is inside
the action being described. Use of aorist indicates that the viewpoint of the speaker or writer is outside
the action being described, while its beginning and end are in view. Accordingly, all aorist verbs have aspect, but only some have past tense." Then he quotes Il. 4.160-2 as an example of non-past referring aorist.
So, I think, we should start always with the aspect of the verb in mind, not its tense; the tense is easily recognized when one bears in mind the relations established by Dionysios Thrax in his [face=SPIonic]Peri/ rh/matos[/face]:
"Concerning the verb: Three tenses: present, past, future. Of these, the past has four divisions, imperfect, perfect, pluperfect and aorist, and there are three relationships between them, the present to the imperfect, the perfect to the pluperfect, the aorist to the future."
Greek is very fond of aspect, that is, the view of the speaker/ writer concerning the action being referred to; and the aorist aspect is that which is concerned with actions whose continuance in time is of no interest, or actions already taken as finished; i mean, the aorist describes not an on-going action, but a state of affairs already defined and so it suits perfectly historic narratives. Also, the so-called gnomic aorist, which expresses an universal truth, is used exactly because of the universality of the truth, it may not change, it is finished, it is not subject to time.
And if the aspect of the aorist is much more relevant in the indicative than its tense (which may or may be not past referring), in the other moods only the aspect remais, the tense being establish either by context or by the tense of the main verb.
Approaching aorists only as past reffering may be misleading, so, here is my advise, always ask yourself about the aspect of the verb.