Textbook Sentence Ambiguity

How do I work out the meaning of a Greek text? How can I best understand the forms and vocabulary in this particular text?
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Textbook Sentence Ambiguity

Postby smsvt99 » May 14th, 2012, 9:57 am

Hi all, new guy here.
I'm going through a textbook called "Alpha to Omega." It's for Classical Attic Greek, but I was hoping you all could still help me or else point me elsewhere.
So here's what I'm looking at:

ὣρα κελεύειν τὰς δεσποίνας θύειν ταῖς θεαῖς;

Just want to make sure I'm looking at this the right way. As I see it, since κελεύω can take either the dative or accusative I can translate this a couple ways.

1. Is it time to order the ladies to offer sacrifice to the goddesses?
2. Is it time to order the goddesses to sacrifice the ladies?

Is this reasonable?
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Re: Textbook Sentence Ambiguity

Postby Scott Lawson » May 14th, 2012, 10:00 pm

smsvt99 wrote:'m going through a textbook called "Alpha to Omega." It's for Classical Attic Greek,


Hello Mr./Mrs./ Ms. smsvt99,

#1. makes most sense.
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Re: Textbook Sentence Ambiguity

Postby Louis L Sorenson » May 14th, 2012, 10:28 pm

This sentence was written with English word order assumed (imoho). But the structure ὤρα (nom.) followed by the accusative is valid. Here are some examples. It is most likely possible to ask the author what they intended and what their source patterns were.

Euripides Trag., Heraclidae
Line 288

{Χο.} ὥρα προνοεῖν, πρὶν ὅροις πελάσαι
στρατὸν Ἀργείων·
μάλα δ' ὀξὺς Ἄρης ὁ Μυκηναίων,
ἐπὶ τοῖσι δὲ δὴ μᾶλλον ἔτ' ἢ πρίν.

Plutarchus Biogr., Phil., Themistocles
Chapter 16, section 4, line 5

οὐ τὴν οὖσαν οὖν’ ἔφη ‘δεῖ γέφυραν ὦ Θε-
μιστόκλεις ἡμᾶς ἀναιρεῖν, ἀλλ' ἑτέραν εἴπερ οἷόν τε
προσκατασκευάσαντας ἐκβαλεῖν διὰ τάχους τὸν ἄνθρω-
πον ἐκ τῆς Εὐρώπης’, ‘οὐκοῦν’ εἶπεν ὁ Θεμιστοκλῆς
’εἰ δοκεῖ ταῦτα συμφέρειν, ὥρα σκοπεῖν καὶ μηχανᾶσθαι
πάντας ἡμᾶς, ὅπως ἀπαλλαγήσεται τὴν ταχίστην ἐκ τῆς
Ἑλλάδος.

Plutarchus Biogr., Phil., Titus Flamininus
Chapter 21, section 15, line 3

Ἐπεὶ δ' οὐδεμίαν ἔτι τούτων κατόπιν οὔτε πολιτικὴν
τοῦ Τίτου πρᾶξιν οὔτε πολεμικὴν ἱστορήκαμεν, ἀλλὰ καὶ
τελευτῆς ἔτυχεν εἰρηνικῆς, ὥρα τὴν σύγκρισιν ἐπισκοπεῖν.
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Re: Textbook Sentence Ambiguity

Postby Scott Lawson » May 14th, 2012, 11:01 pm

Louis L Sorenson wrote:This sentence was written with English word order assumed (imoho).


I agree with Louis.

From the textbook by Ann H. Groton pg. 31:
"When ὥρα is combined with an infinitive, you will very often find that the sentence appears to have no main verb. Actually it is just that the speaker has chosen to leave out the word for "is," assuming that you will supply it. The best way to translate the idiom into English is to begin with "it is" ("it is the hour to..." or, more simply, "it is time to...") The person who is expected to do the action is put into the accusative or the dative case, depending on the speaker's point of view (see note above on κελεύω). Example: ὥρα τὴν θεράπαιναν [or τῇ θεραπαίνῃ] θύειν ("it is time for the maid to offer sacrifice")."

Her focus seems to be on the ellipsis.I would use her example as a guide as to who offers sacrifices. I don't think she was deliberately creating an ambiguous sentence.
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Re: Textbook Sentence Ambiguity

Postby Louis L Sorenson » May 15th, 2012, 7:08 am

ἀνάγκη also works this way, being a noun.

Epictetus Phil., Dissertationes ab Arriano digestae
Book 1, chapter 4, section 19, line 3

ἀλλ' ἀνάγκη μεταπίπτειν καὶ μετα<ρ>ριπίζε-
σθαι ἅμα ἐκείνοις καὶ αὐτόν, ἀνάγκη δὲ καὶ ὑποτετα-
χέναι ἄλλοις ἑαυτόν, τοῖς ἐκεῖνα περιποιεῖν ἢ κωλύειν
δυναμένοις·

Epictetus Phil., Dissertationes ab Arriano digestae
Book 1, chapter 20, section 17, line 3

ἂν οὖν ἐλθὼν Ἐπίκουρος εἴπῃ, ὅτι ἐν σαρκὶ δεῖ εἶναι τὸ
ἀγαθόν, πάλιν μακρὸν γίνεται καὶ ἀνάγκη ἀκοῦσαι τί
τὸ προηγούμενόν ἐστιν ἐφ' ἡμῶν, τί τὸ ὑποστατικὸν καὶ
οὐσιῶδες.
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Re: Textbook Sentence Ambiguity

Postby Louis L Sorenson » May 15th, 2012, 7:39 am

The poster wrote

Just want to make sure I'm looking at this the right way. As I see it, since κελεύω can take either the dative or accusative I can translate this a couple ways.

1. Is it time to order the ladies to offer sacrifice to the goddesses?
2. Is it time to order the goddesses to sacrifice the ladies?


There are some cases where you can have a double accusative in the accusative + infinitive construct and you are unsure of the subject because of the flexibility of Greek word order.

μετὰ τὸ αὐτὸν αὐτὴν καταφιλῆσαι.
μετὰ τὸ αὐτὸ αὐτόν εἰσελθεῖν.
ἐν τῷ αὐτὸν αὐτούς λιθάζειν

Here is where context and common sense comes into play. When was the last time goddesses offered sacrifices to ladies? It would be good to make a list of NT examples where this kind of ambiguity (uncertainty about the subject of an infinitive) occurs. I think most of these ambiguities can be resolved from context.
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