Homeric Greek

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Homeric Greek is the form of the Greek language that was used by Homer in the Iliad and Odyssey and in the Homeric Hymns. It is a literary dialect of Archaic Greek consisting mainly of Ionic and Aeolic, with a few forms from Arcadocypriot and non-Greek languages, and a written form influenced by Attic.[1] It later served as the basis of Epic Greek,[citation needed] the language of epic poetry, typically in dactylic hexameter, of poets such as Hesiod. Compositions in Epic Greek may date from as late as the 3rd century AD, though its decline was inevitable with the rise of Koine Greek.

Main features[edit]

In the following description, only forms that differ from those of later Greek are discussed. Omitted forms can usually be predicted from patterns seen in Ionic Greek.


First declension[2]
Nominative singular: ends in -η, rather than long -ᾱ, even after ρ, ε, and ι (an Ionic feature): χώρη for χώρα. However, θεά and some names end in long -ᾱ. Some masculine nouns end in short -ᾰ rather than -ης (ναύτης, Ἀτρεΐδης): ἱππότα for Attic ἱππότης.
The genitive singular of masculine nouns ends in -αο or -εω, rather than -ου: Ἀτρεΐδαο for Attic Ἀτρείδου.
The genitive plural usually ends in -αων or -εων: νυμφάων for Attic νυμφῶν.
The dative plural almost always end in -ῃσι or -ῃς: πύλῃσιν for Attic πύλαις.
Second declension
Genitive singular: ends in -οιο, as well as -ου. For example, πεδίοιο, as well as πεδίου.
Genitive and dative dual: ends in -οιϊν. Thus, ἵπποιϊν appears, rather than ἵπποιν.
Dative plural: ends in -οισι and -οις. For example, φύλλοισι , as well as φύλλοις.
Third declension
Accusative singular: ends in -ιν, as well as -ιδα. For example, γλαυκῶπιν, as well as γλαυκώπιδα.
Dative plural: ends in -εσσι and -σι. For example, πόδεσσι or ἔπεσσι.
Homeric Greek lacks the quantitative metathesis present in later Greek:
Homeric βασιλῆος instead of βασιλέως, πόληος instead of πόλεως
βασιλῆα instead of βασιλέᾱ
βασιλῆας instead of βασιλέᾱς
βασιλήων instead of βασιλέων
Homeric Greek sometimes uses different stems:
πόλεως instead of πόλιος


First-person singular ("I")
Nominative singular: ἐγώ, ἐγών
Genitive singular: ἐμεῖο, ἐμέο, ἐμεῦ, μεῦ, ἐμέθεν
Dative singular: ἐμοί, μοι
Accusative singular: ἐμέ, με
First-person plural ("we")
Nominative plural: ἡμεῖς, ἄμμες
Genitive plural: ἡμείων, ἡμέων
Dative plural: ἡμῖ(ν), ἄμμι(ν)
Accusative plural: ἡμέας, ἧμας, ἄμμε
First-person dual ("we both")
Nominative/Accusative dual: νῶι, νώ
Genitive/Dative dual: νῶιν
Second-person singular ("you")
Nominative singular: σύ, τύνη
Genitive singular: σεῖο, σέο, σεῦ, σευ, σέθεν, τεοῖο
Dative singular: σοί, τοι, τεΐν
Accusative singular: σέ
Second-person plural ("you")
Nominative plural: ὑμεῖς, ὔμμες
Genitive plural: ὑμέων, ὑμείων
Dative plural: ὑμῖν, ὔμμι, ὗμιν
Accusative plural: ὑμέας, ὔμμε
Second-person dual ("you both")
Nominative/Accusative dual: σφῶϊ, σφώ
Genitive/Dative dual: σφῶϊν, σφῷν
Third-person singular masculine ("him")
Genitive singular: οὗ, εἷο, ἕο, εὗ, ἕθεν
Dative singular: ἑοῖ, οἱ
Accusative singular: ἕ, ἑέ, μιν
Third-person plural ("them")
Genitive plural: σφείων, σφέων
Dative plural: σφι(ν), σφίσι(ν)
Accusative plural: σφε, σφέας, σφας
Third-person dual ("them both")
Dative dual: σφωϊν
Accusative dual: σφωε
Third-person plural pronoun ("he, she, it") (the relative) or singular article ("the")
Nominative singular: ὁ, ἡ, τό. (etc.)
Third-person plural pronoun ("he, she, it") (the relative) or plural article ("the")
Nominative plural: οἰ, αἰ, τοί, ταί.
Dative plural: τοῖς, τοῖσι, τῇς, τῇσι, ταῖς.
Interrogative pronoun, singular and plural ("who, what, which")
Nominative singular: τίς.
Accusative singular: τίνα.
Genitive singular: τέο, τεῦ.
Dative singular: τέῳ.
Genitive plural: τέων.

A note on nouns:

  • -σ- and -σσ- alternate in Homeric Greek. This can be of metrical use. For example, τόσος and τόσσος are equivalent; μέσος and μέσσος; ποσί and ποσσί.
  • The ending -φι (-οφι) can be used for the dative singular and plural of nouns and adjectives (occasionally for the genitive singular and plural, as well). For example, βίηφι (...by force), δακρυόφιν (...with tears), and ὄρεσφιν (...in the mountains).


Person endings
-ν appears rather than -σαν. For example, ἔσταν for ἔστησαν in the Third-person plural Active.
The third plural middle/passive often ends in -αται or -ατο; for example, ἥατο is equivalent to ἧντο.
Future: Generally remains uncontracted. For example, ἐρέω appears instead of ἐρῶ or τελέω instead of τελέσω.
Present or imperfect: These tenses sometimes take iterative form with the letters -σκ- penultimate with the ending. For example, φύγεσκον: 'they kept on running away'
Aorist or imperfect: Both tenses can occasionally drop their augments. For example, βάλον may appear instead of ἔβαλον, and ἔμβαλε may appear instead of ἐνέβαλε.
The subjunctive appears with a short vowel. Thus, the form ἴομεν, rather than ἴωμεν.
The second singular middle subjunctive ending appears as both -ηαι and -εαι.
The third singular active subjunctive ends in -σι. Thus, we see the form φορεῇσι, instead of φορῇ.
Occasionally, the subjunctive is used in place of the future and in general remarks.
The infinitive appears with the endings -μεν, -μεναι, and -ναι, in place of -ειν and -ναι. For example, δόμεναι for δοῦναι; ἴμεν instead of ἰέναι; ἔμεν, ἔμμεν, or ἔμμεναι for εἶναι; and ἀκουέμεν(αι) in place of ἀκούειν.
Contracted verbs
In contracted verbs, where Attic employs an -ω-, Homeric Greek will use -οω- or -ωω- in place of -αο-. For example, Attic ὁρῶντες becomes ὁρόωντες.
Similarly, in places where -αε- contracts to -α- or -αει- contracts to -ᾳ-, Homeric Greek will show either αα or αᾳ.


Adverbial suffixes
-δε conveys a sense of 'to where'; πόλεμόνδε 'to the war'
-δον conveys a sense of 'how'; κλαγγηδόν 'with cries'
-θεν conveys a sense of 'from where'; ὑψόθεν 'from above'
-θι conveys a sense of 'where'; ὑψόθι 'on high'


ἄρα, ἄρ, ῥα 'so' or 'next' (transition)
τε 'and' (a general remark or a connective)
δή 'indeed'
περ 'just' or 'even'
τοι 'I tell you ...' (assertion)

Other features[edit]

In most circumstances, Homeric Greek did not have available a true definite article.[3]


Homer (the Iliad and the Odyssey) uses about 9,000 words, of which 1,382 are proper names. Of the 7,618 remaining words 2,307 are hapax legomena.[4][5]


The Iliad, lines 1–7

Μῆνιν ἄειδε, θεά, Πηληϊάδεω Ἀχιλῆος
οὐλομένην, ἣ μυρί’ Ἀχαιοῖς ἄλγε’ ἔθηκε,
πολλὰς δ’ ἰφθίμους ψυχὰς Ἄϊδι προΐαψεν
ἡρώων, αὐτοὺς δὲ ἑλώρια τεῦχε κύνεσσιν
οἰωνοῖσί τε δαῖτα· Διὸς δ’ ἐτελείετο βουλή·
ἐξ οὗ δὴ τὰ πρῶτα διαστήτην ἐρίσαντε
Ἀτρεΐδης τε ἄναξ ἀνδρῶν καὶ δῖος Ἀχιλλεύς.

Robert Fitzgerald (1974):

Anger be now your song, immortal one,
Akhilleus' anger, doomed and ruinous,
that caused the Akhaians loss on bitter loss
and crowded brave souls into the undergloom,
leaving so many dead men—carrion
for dogs and birds; and the will of Zeus was done.
Begin it when the two men first contending
broke with one another—
                    the Lord Marshal
Agamemnon, Atreus' son, and Prince Akhilleus.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Stanford 1959, pp. lii, liii, the Homeric dialect
  2. ^ Stanford 1959, pp. lvii-lviii, first declension
  3. ^ Goodwin, William W. (1879). A Greek Grammar (pp 204). St Martin's Press.
  4. ^ The Iliad: A Commentary: Volume 5, Books 17-20, Geoffrey Stephen Kirk, Mark W. Edwards, Cambridge University Press, 1991, ISBN 978-0-521-31208-0 p53, footnote 72
  5. ^ Google preview


External links[edit]