questions about Hesiodos' Theogonia

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nayu
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questions about Hesiodos' Theogonia

Post by nayu » Tue Mar 21, 2017 10:54 am

Hello everyone, I have been learning ancient Greek on and off for some time now, and I am currently trying to read Theogonia alongside its translation. I'd appreciate some help along the way as I am not experienced with reading real Greek as opposed to textbook Greek. I don't consider myself an advanced student, and perhaps my question is a very simple one.

I am confused with the use of the verb αρχώμεθα in the first line, the full line is

μουσάων Ἑλικωνιάδων ἀρχώμεθ᾽ ἀείδειν

If I am not mistaken, and correct me please if I am, αρχώμεθα is the middle/passive present subjunctive of the verb ἄρχω. I do not understand why it is used in middle/passive instead of active. It is translated as "Let us begin/start...", but doesn't "άρχωμεν", the active present subjunctive form translate as such as well? Is there no difference in meaning between the two forms, άρχωμεν and αρχώμεθα and why does Hesiodos use the latter one instead of the former? Is it right to translate αρχώμεθα as "Let us begin..."?

The only explanation I found for this is that

"The middle represents the subject as doing something in which he is interested. He may do something to himself, for himself, or he may act with something belonging to himself. " from Perseus Library

Is this a correct way to interpret the usage of the verb?

Thank you for reading this post and thank you in advance for helping me.
Last edited by nayu on Tue Mar 21, 2017 6:39 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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jeidsath
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Re: line 1 of Hesiodos' Theogonia

Post by jeidsath » Tue Mar 21, 2017 4:39 pm

Smyth has the following discussion of the Middle Voice, and that's a good resource when you don't know why a verb is middle versus active. Here you may wish to see 1734 for ἄρκειν:
5. ἄρχειν begin, contrasts one beginner of an action with another, as ἄρχειν πολέμου take the aggressive, strike the first blow (bellum movere), ἄρχειν λόγου be the first to speak, ““ἦρχε χειρῶν ἀδίκων” he began an unprovoked assault” L. 4.11; ἄρχεσθαι make one's own beginning, as contrasted with the later stages, as ἄρχεσθαι πολέμου begin warlike operations (bellum incipere), ἄρχεσθαι τοῦ λόγου begin one's speech. ““πολέμου οὐκ ἄρξομεν, ἀρχομένους δὲ ἀμυ_νούμεθα” we shall not take the initiative in the war, but upon those who take it up we shall retaliate” T. 1.144.
Another resource is the LSJ article for ἄρχω:
in Time, begin, make a beginning, Act. and Med. (in Hom. the Act. is more freq., in Att. Prose the Med., esp. where personal action is emphasized)
To me, this means that in Attic Greek it would have been the most standard to use the middle. And maybe there is a hint of that in this usage. Or perhaps Hesiod thought that middle and active were equivalent here, and used the one that suited the meter. Or maybe it's a plain old middle, indicating that they are singing for their own enjoyment rather singing praise to a God, etc. I don't know.
Joel Eidsath -- jeidsath@gmail.com

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Paul Derouda
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Re: line 1 of Hesiodos' Theogonia

Post by Paul Derouda » Tue Mar 21, 2017 5:23 pm

Hello and welcome to Textkit!
nayu wrote:"The middle represents the subject as doing something in which he is interested. He may do something to himself, for himself, or he may act with something belonging to himself. " from Perseus Library

Is this a correct way to interpret the usage of the verb?
Yes, you are correct. When you begin to do something, you are yourself affected by the action, the idea is that you set yourself to do something, hence the middle. With the active, the emphasis is different: ἀρχώ "lead (others)", "begin (something)/precede (others in doing something)". Compare λούω "I wash (something)", λούομαι "I wash myself", "I bathe".

Do continue with the Theogony and post here any question that bothers you! Reading real Greek is the way to learn real Greek, although it will seem difficult in the beginning.

nayu
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Re: line 1 of Hesiodos' Theogonia

Post by nayu » Tue Mar 21, 2017 6:39 pm

Thank you very much for the quick and helpful responses.

I am continuing to read Theogonia, and I do have some more questions. I hope it's okay if I ask them here. (I will edit the title of the thread of course)

This time I am confused about the use of genitive in lines 5-6:

καί τε λοεσσάμεναι τέρενα χρόα Περμησσοῖο*
Ἵππου κρήνης Ὀλμειοῦ* ζαθέοιο

Why are the places where the muses are bathing themselves in genitive? Is there an implied noun like "(the waters) of Περμησσοῖο and Ἵππου κρήνης and Ὀλμειοῦ ζαθέοιο"?

* These words actually don't come up in the Perseus library at all, but I assume they are genitive as well because their forms are similar to the other words in the verses that are genitive.


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Paul Derouda
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Re: questions about Hesiodos' Theogonia

Post by Paul Derouda » Tue Mar 21, 2017 7:31 pm

Btw, it's not limited to λούω. We have, for instance, Odyssey book II, lines 260-261:
Τηλέμαχος δ᾽ ἀπάνευθε κιὼν ἐπὶ θῖνα θαλάσσης,
χεῖρας νιψάμενος πολιῆς ἁλὸς εὔχετ᾽ Ἀθήνῃ

Telemachus, having gone apart to the shore of the sea and washed his hands [with the water] of the gray salt[-sea], prayed to Athena.

Περμησσός and Ὀλμειός are proper nouns, so you're not likely to find them in a dictionary. The genitive in -oio is an archaism you can find in early poetry (i.e. most importantly Homer and Hesiod) (as well as in Linear B tablets), Attic Greek would have Περμησσοῦ and Ὀλμειοῦ. (Although this might be an oversimplification - proper nouns also have different forms in different dialects, and for Περμησσός, Tερμησσός is also attested as a variant; I don't know what would have been the exact Athenian form.)

What textbook have you been using? Does it take account of the differences between "Epic Greek" (Homer and Hesiod, mainly) and other dialects?

If you don't mind, I'll move this thread to the "Homeric Greek and Early Greek Poetry" subforum, where it properly belongs!

nayu
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Re: questions about Hesiodos' Theogonia

Post by nayu » Wed Mar 22, 2017 6:54 am

Thank you both very much for the quick responses. It's a great help. Of course, feel free to move the thread to where it belongs, initially I wasn't sure about where to post this.

I've previously studied from Cambridge's Reading Greek and Athenaze and some passages from the Bible (I only studied the first volumes of the textbooks mentioned which mostly consist of "baked" texts that are not real Greek, these were great to start with but I was a bit impatient to attempt to understand the original language. I do realize that the older texts might not be the better place to start as the language is more complex, but my intention is being able to read poetry and philosophy as well as the Bible, so here I am. I understand there is a long road ahead of me) I am currently revising through the videos of The Center for Hellenic Studies*.

I've recently read a translation of Theogonia for the first time and found it very beautiful, and after checking different translations that interpret the original language differently, I thought I'd attempt the original thing, though as I imagined, it's quite difficult for me.

I will research about some resource that will help me with the Theogonia journey, I had only been using Perseus Library's resources and google searches up to now. If you have any recommendations, like a commentary on Hesiodos' use of language or anything I could benefit from to continue reading without having to ask to the forum on every second line, I would really appreciate it. I really am thankful for all your responses but am also kind of embarrassed that I have to ask questions so frequently.

* https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=P ... pwrkURbLjT
These are Prof. Leonard Muellner's videos on learning Ancient Greek which I am currently using to revise, I found them quite useful as he provides insight from a linguistic and historical point of view as well. I wish they recorded the actual classes too.

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Paul Derouda
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Re: questions about Hesiodos' Theogonia

Post by Paul Derouda » Wed Mar 22, 2017 7:29 pm

I wouldn't say the language of older poetry is more complex - syntactically Homer and Hesiod are clearly easier than, say, Plato and classical drama. The main difficulties are the largish vocabulary, with many words that are attested only once (so called hapax legomena), and the great number alternative word forms and alternative word endings that stem from different dialects. The epic language is different from later Greek but not actually harder (except maybe compared to some Koine Greek, especially some parts of the NT).

A particularly recommendable book is M.L. West's commentary on the Theogony. Although already 50 years old, it will probably remain the standard reference for many years to come. As a philological commentary written for advanced students there's probably much that will be too difficult for you now, but I think there's still much that you can profit from. And as a companion volume to that, you might take West's translation of Hesiod (which also has a tiny bit of less advanced commentary material.
https://www.amazon.co.uk/Theogony-Unive ... t+theogony
https://www.amazon.co.uk/Theogony-Works ... t+theogony
(I'm not saying you should buy the books through Amazon, just showing you which books. The commentary especially is pretty expensive, but you can probably find it in a university library if you have access to one.)
EDIT: amazon.com's preview to the commentary (and probably the Kindle book as well?) is to another (i.e. wrong!) book entirely!

For the language, the material is typically written for Homeric Greek, but that's basically the same thing.

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