Archaisms & the Hellenistic Perfect

Post Reply
MAubrey
Posts: 940
Joined: May 6th, 2011, 8:52 pm
Location: Washington
Contact:

Archaisms & the Hellenistic Perfect

Post by MAubrey » May 6th, 2011, 11:45 pm

I've been reading through Coultier H. George's Expressions of Agency in Ancient Greek, which surveys forms that the semantic agent takes in passive constructions--the syntactic passive, not morphological (e.g. not -θη)--from Homer to the medieval period (12th century). His primary interest in the development of constructions other than ὐπό+gen and how they came to displace that default construction.

Through the discussion, he gives special place to the dative agents used with perfect passives and their decline. George suggests that the agent dative with perfect passives was a result of the semantic nature of the perfect as stative. This is from his concluding summary:
The perfect passive ... did not like the present and aorist passive, describe a dynamic action ("The door was opened"), but rather an unchanging state ("The door was open"). It was thus incompatible with an agent marking like ὐπό. Later, by the fifth century BC, as the transitive perfect active became more widespread, the perfect passive, increasingly viewed as its intransitive counterpart, came into closer alignment with the present and aorist passive. ... At this point it was longer purely stative. ... But ὐπό at first only occurred with the perfect passive in two environments. First it was used when a noun in the dative might have been interpreted as something other than an agent [MGA: e.g. an indirect object]. Second, it was used when then [subject] patient of the verb was animate, e.g. "The man has been sent by the king." (266-7)
George also notes that even in the Koine/Hellenistic period, the dative agent with the perfect passive does not actually change its distribution. The same two environments still hold, but the number of perfect passives with overt agents decreases dramatically. With regard to Plutarch, George makes the following statement:
As for the two examples from Plutarch, one occurs close to the beginning of Phocion, in a context that suggests that the dative of agent, by now rare, could be used as a higher register rhetorical device:
(14) Plut. Phoc. 1.2 τοῦτο δ' εἰ καὶ τῷ ῥήτορι θρασύτερον εἴρηται
"and if this has been said by the speaker rather boldy"
If this is an accurate description of the development of this Greek verbal form from denoting stativity early on and then developing into a "standard" perfect, then I would wonder if we could extend George's idea for the dative of agent of the perfect passive in the Koine period as a higher register to the use of the perfect passive itself with certain verbs. Specifically, I'm wondering whether the extremely common use of γράφω in the perfect passive in the NT. If this is more of a high register archaism used centrally in quite formal contexts, perhaps the perfect passive γέγραπται (and other similarly formal perfect passives) should not be taken as any kind of representative use of the Koine perfect for normal speech. It seems quite clear to me that γέγραπται is one of a number of verbs that continues to quite clearly be stative in its meaning, but perhaps that has little to do with the function of the perfect, as a whole, during the period and merely a formal language relic of the past similar to the use of thee and thou in Modern English*.

Thoughts?

Notes:
*It should be emphasized that this conclusion in no way suggests that the perfect passive was always formal. To extend the analogy of English pronouns, thee and thou, historically, were previously the common pronouns that took on a formal register after they fell out of use in normal language.
0 x


Mike Aubrey, Linguist
Koine-Greek.com

cwconrad
Posts: 2109
Joined: May 5th, 2011, 5:52 pm
Location: Burnsville, NC 28714
Contact:

Re: Archaisms & the Hellenistic Perfect

Post by cwconrad » May 7th, 2011, 6:02 am

Mike, this is very interesting, and I'm glad we have these categories and subcategories in
Jonathan's proposed forum structure.

a couple thoughts come to my mind:

(1) γέγραπται is distinctly Hebraic/LXX Greek, isn't it? A quick check of all the GNT instances of
γέγρατπται doesn't bring up any used with a so-called "dative of agent." Rather, the sense is always
"It stands written in scripture." Classical Greek writers will use a specific φησι(ν) with a proper
noun or φασι(ν) generalizing. We don't find the perfect active γέγραφε(ν) in the third-singular
(although we do find Pilate's ὃ γέγραφα γέγραφα). We find the aorist ἔγραψε(ν) several times
with a specific subject. On the other hand, Luke (1:3) uses the infinitive γράψαι with a σοι
referring to Theophilus. The classical and, I think still Hellenistic words for "author" and "compose
a text" are συγγραφεύς and συγγράφω, but neither of these words appears in the GNT.

(2) Your focus here is on semantic passive and the agent construction, but some of what you've
said here seems to accord with my sense that the Hellenistic perfect tense is in process of
fusing with the aorist as a "past indefinite."
0 x
οὔτοι ἀπ’ ἀρχῆς πάντα θεοὶ θνητοῖς ὑπέδειξαν,
ἀλλὰ χρόνῳ ζητέοντες ἐφευρίσκουσιν ἄμεινον. (Xenophanes, Fragment 16)

Carl W. Conrad
Department of Classics, Washington University (Retired)

MAubrey
Posts: 940
Joined: May 6th, 2011, 8:52 pm
Location: Washington
Contact:

Re: Archaisms & the Hellenistic Perfect

Post by MAubrey » May 7th, 2011, 1:56 pm

cwconrad wrote:Mike, this is very interesting, and I'm glad we have these categories and subcategories in
Jonathan's proposed forum structure.
Agreed. It's wonderful.
cwconrad wrote:γέγραπται is distinctly Hebraic/LXX Greek, isn't it? A quick check of all the GNT instances of
γέγρατπται doesn't bring up any used with a so-called "dative of agent." Rather, the sense is always
"It stands written in scripture." Classical Greek writers will use a specific φησι(ν) with a proper
noun or φασι(ν) generalizing. We don't find the perfect active γέγραφε(ν) in the third-singular
(although we do find Pilate's ὃ γέγραφα γέγραφα). We find the aorist ἔγραψε(ν) several times
with a specific subject. On the other hand, Luke (1:3) uses the infinitive γράψαι with a σοι
referring to Theophilus. The classical and, I think still Hellenistic words for "author" and "compose
a text" are συγγραφεύς and συγγράφω, but neither of these words appears in the GNT.
I'm not sure that its necessarily Hebraic. T. V. Evans in his Verbal Syntax in the Greek Pentateuch suggests that the use of the perfect as a whole in the LXX is quite natural and suggests that, at least in 2nd Century BCE, still denoted stativity and that the creation of the so-called "aoristic perfect" probably began in the 1st century. I also note that γέγραπται isn't all that common in the LXX and that φησι(ν) appears more often (44x vs. 25x).

I did a search on the UofC version of Perseus for γέγραπται this morning and got the following results:

http://artflx.uchicago.edu/cgi-bin/phil ... eekFeb2011

Looking through Plutarch and other 1st century authors, it seems that γέγραπται is often use for authors to refer to either other works they have written (or things others have written), like Plutarch does here:

ὡς ἐν τοῖς περὶ ἐκείνου γέγραπται. Τοσοῦτον ἦν τὸ κράτος ἐν τῷ δήμῳ τοῦ Περικλέους. Plut. Per. 9.4
περὶ ὧν ἐν τῷ Δημοσθένους βίῳ γέγραπται. Plut. Thes. 27.6
ὅτι δὲ Ἡρακλῆς πρῶτος ἀπέδωκε νεκροὺς τοῖς πολεμίοις, ἐν τοῖς περὶ Ἡρακλέους γέγραπται. Plut. Thes. 29.5
οὐ μὴν ἀλλὰ Κίμων ἑλὼν τὴν νῆσον, ὡς ἐν τοῖς περὶ ἐκείνου γέγραπται Plut. Thes. 36.1

Plutarch does, though, have a dative of agent in one of his examples with γέγραπται.

καὶ λόγος Ἰσοκράτει γέγραπται περὶ τοῦ ζεύγους ὑπὲρ τοῦ Ἀλκιβιάδου παιδός Plut. Alc. 12.3
And a speech was written by Isorates, "Concerning the Team of Oxen" for the sons of Alkibiades.

Strabo has this one as well:

τὴν δὲ δύναμιν τὴν Ἐρετριέων ἣν ἔσχον ποτὲ μαρτυρεῖ ἡ στήλη, ἣν ἀνέθεσάν ποτε ἐν τῷ ἱερῷ τῆς Ἀμαρυνθίας Ἀρτέμιδος· γέγραπται δ’ ἐν αὐτῇ τρισχιλίοις μὲν ὁπλίταις ἑξακοσίοις δ’ ἱππεῦσιν ἑξήκοντα δ’ ἅρμασι ποιεῖν τὴν πομπήν·
The power which the Eretrians once possessed, is evinced by a pillar which was placed in the temple of Diana Amarynthia. There is an inscription on it to this effect, that their processions upon their public festivals consisted of three thousand heavy-armed soldiers, six hundred horsemen, and sixty chariots. Str. 10.1.10
0 x
Mike Aubrey, Linguist
Koine-Greek.com

cwconrad
Posts: 2109
Joined: May 5th, 2011, 5:52 pm
Location: Burnsville, NC 28714
Contact:

Re: Archaisms & the Hellenistic Perfect

Post by cwconrad » May 7th, 2011, 3:38 pm

The citations from Plutarch are relevant, but it should be remembered that Plutarch
was a card-carrrying Atticist, one whom you'd expect to be using a dative of agent with
a perfect passive. The Strabo citation is different, however: there the dative is not of
agent, it's rather instrumental with ποιεῖν τὴν πομπήν, I think, with "Eretrians" the
implicit subject of ποιεῖν.
0 x
οὔτοι ἀπ’ ἀρχῆς πάντα θεοὶ θνητοῖς ὑπέδειξαν,
ἀλλὰ χρόνῳ ζητέοντες ἐφευρίσκουσιν ἄμεινον. (Xenophanes, Fragment 16)

Carl W. Conrad
Department of Classics, Washington University (Retired)

MAubrey
Posts: 940
Joined: May 6th, 2011, 8:52 pm
Location: Washington
Contact:

Re: Archaisms & the Hellenistic Perfect

Post by MAubrey » May 7th, 2011, 4:07 pm

Well, I'm less interested in the dative of agent constructions themselves anyway, and you've already confirmed (I think) my suspicions that truly stative perfects like what we see with γέγραπται constitute a more formal level of speech--or at least it was becoming that way. This is something I might have to look into in more detail. Perhaps I can attach an appendix on the subject to my thesis.
0 x
Mike Aubrey, Linguist
Koine-Greek.com

Post Reply