Homer: "...aien aristeuein..."?

Next >

Michael Zwingli

Senior Member
English - American (U.S. - New England)
At the outset, let me apologize for having to use Roman script to render the Greek words in this post; I have no available Greek keyboard at present. I am hopeful that my question will come across clearly.

This question pertains to ancient/archaic Greek, as found in Homer, and so, I suppose, "Epic" Greek. Particularly, my question has to do with a verb used by Homer within the speech of Glaucus to Diomedes in Book 6 of the Iliad. Therein, Glaucus famously says: "Hippolochus begat me...and instructed me...ever to be brave and to be preeminent among men.. ". In this passage, the wording rendered into English as "...ever...to be preeminent..." are Homer's "...aien...aristeuein..."; my first question is about the verb aristeuein, as I have been unable to find this verb online. Aristeuein appears to be the infinitive form of a stative verb derived from aristos/"best", which, as I am sure you must know, was used in Ancient Greek as the superlative form of agathos/"good". The verb in question, if I am right about that, seems to be: aristeo/"I am preeminent (I am best)". Am I correct in so surmising? If my reasoning about that is right, why have I been unable to discover such a verb on the internet? Is that a recognized verb of Ancient Greek? Might such a verb be a creation of Homer himself; did Homer create words as circumstance required as, for instance, was occasionally done by Shakespeare in his English plays, and has otherwise been done by superlative writers throughout history?

In searching online for the verb used by Homer in the instant passage from the Iliad, I encountered the fact that the phrase aien aristeuein, apparently having been inspired by the instant passage from Homer, is used as a motto of several educational institutions (e.g. St. Andrews University in Scotland and Boston College in the U.S.), and is, in these cases, usually translated as: "ever to excel". Is "to excel", as opposed to "to be best"/"to be preeminent", a valid translation of aristeuein? I only ask this because it seems to me that there is some semantic distance between these translations.

My second major question assumes that the verb in this case is, indeed, aristeo. I find myself questioning the form of the infinitive used by Homer in this case: aristeuein, which confuses me a bit. Homer clearly uses the thematic infinitive suffix here: -ein. l believe that in both Attic and Ionic (Homer's native dialect, no?), when the infinitive suffix -ein was used with a stative verb, the omega of the verbal "-eo" suffix was dropped while the epsilon was retained. This can be seen, for example, in the stative verb phileo: with respect to which the infinitive phileein/"to love" corresponds to phileo/"I love", as opposed to an infinitive with the form phileuein/"to love" corresponding to phileo/"I love". Even so, Homer seems to retain both the epsilon and the omega of the stative verbal suffix within the infinitive form (after suffixation with -ein). Why does Homer, within his text, seem to have retained the omega of the suffix of a hypothetical thematic verb aristeo in the thematic infinitive aristeuein, especially seeing as Ionic was Homer's native dialect? Why did Homer use the form aristeuein as opposed to aristeein for the infinitive of my presumed verb aristeo? Was retention of the omega within the thematic infinitive common in Epic Greek, or was this a case of usage of the suffix -ein peculiar to Homer himself?

I was unsure whether to post these questions here, or in the etymology forum, but ultimately decided to try here. If this thread should be moved to linguistics/etymology, then I shall appreciate for a moderator to do so. Thanks in advance for any help that I may receive regarding these questions.

- Mike
 
Last edited:
  • Michael Zwingli

    Senior Member
    English - American (U.S. - New England)
    Ah, you have explained everything in a word! Thank you, man. Now it makes perfect sense to me. That's what I get for making unwarranted assumptions.😁
     

    Αγγελος

    Senior Member
    Greek
    It might interest you to know that the verb αριστεύω is still used in modern Greek, mostly to mean 'to get full marks/a straight A', and the derived noun αριστεία is the standard translation of 'excellence'.
     

    ioanell

    Senior Member
    Greek
    In addition to the help you have received so far regarding your questions , here’s my own contribution.

    Was retention of the omega within the thematic infinitive common in Epic Greek, or was this a case of usage of the suffix -ein peculiar to Homer himself?
    Please, note that all verbs in the active voice (except some four cases) end either in -ω or, if contracted, in -ῶ. Τhe non-contracted verbs have present tense infinitives ending in -ειν, and all verbs either contracted or non-contracted have their future tense infinitives ending in -ειν as well.

    especially seeing as Ionic was Homer's native dialect?
    Homer may have lived in Ionia, but his epics were composed in an artificial literary language, never spoken, but comprehensible by the whole Greek-speaking world. Homeric language is fundamentally based on the Ionic dialect, but it shows features of multiple regional Greek dialects and periods, especially lots of Aeolian elements and even some older, Mycaenean forms.

    Is "to excel", as opposed to "to be best"/"to be preeminent", a valid translation of aristeuein?
    Here ἀριστεύω is the verb in question. As can be seen in the Homeric text, the phrase “αἰὲν ἀριστεύειν” and the following phrase "ὑπείροχον ἔμμεναι ἄλλων" are the infinitive objects of the verb “ἐπέτελλεν” [=instructed, enjoined], whereas the phrase “αἰὲν ἀριστεύειν”, when isolated and used separately as a motto, looks like imperative giving a mild paternal instruction. This phrase alone means “always be best/[here, bravest in the battle], whereas the following (after the connective καὶ) phrase "ὑπείροχον ἔμμεναι ἄλλων" means “be pre-eminent above all [others]”. Apart from the very famous phrase “αἰὲν ἀριστεύειν”, the longer phrase “αἰὲν ἀριστεύειν καὶ ὑπείροχον ἔμμεναι ἄλλων” also seems to be a longer motto. As for the etymology of the words: infinitive ἀριστεύειν<verb ἀριστεύω <adj. ἄριστ[ος]+verbal suffix -εύω or noun ἀριστεύ[ς]+verbal suffix -jω / infinitive ἔμμεναι <Aeol. ἔμμι [εἰμί]=to be, and its predicate ὑπείροχον [=pre-eminent].
     
    Last edited:

    Michael Zwingli

    Senior Member
    English - American (U.S. - New England)
    Hi, Ioanell. I just checked back here after a while. You have provided a lot of useful background information. Thank you.
    Homer may have lived in Ionia, but his epics were composed in an artificial literary language, never spoken, but comprehensible by the whole Greek-speaking world. Homeric language is fundamentally based on the Ionic dialect, but it shows features of multiple regional Greek dialects and periods, especially lots of Aeolian elements and even some older, Mycaenean forms.
    Ah, and that "artificial language" is what we know as "Epic Greek"?
    Here ἀριστεύω is the verb in question. As can be seen in the Homeric text, the phrase “αἰὲν ἀριστεύειν”...This phrase alone means “always be best/[here, bravest in the battle]...
    I find it somewhat odd that only the superlative form of the old IE adjective *heristos (="most fitting", "most suitable", itself the superlative of *heryos = "fitting", "suitable", which would have appeared in Greek as something like arios, I think) descended into Greek, as the superlative of an entirely different adjective with a different, but semantically related meaning (namely, agathos ="good"). Language is fickle in it's evolution, is it not?
     

    Perseas

    Senior Member
    I find it somewhat odd that only the superlative form of the old IE adjective *heristos (="most fitting", "most suitable", itself the superlative of *heryos = "fitting", "suitable",
    Yes, I found this analysis in Wiktionary:
    From Proto-Indo-European *h₂éristos (“fittest, most fitting, most suitable”), the superlative of *h₂er- (“to fit, be suitable”).

    According to Babiniotis dictionary, άριστος comes from the augmentative prefix (αυξητικό πρόθεμα) αρι-, which is attested in ancient compounds (e.g. αρί-ζηλος, αρί-γνωτος, αρι-ήκοος) and denotes that something is obvious, apparent. The same dictionary does't rule out that άριστος might be related (at least semantically) to the word family of αραρίσκω (αρετή, αριθμός, αρμός e.t.c.).
     
    Yes, I found this analysis in Wiktionary:
    From Proto-Indo-European *h₂éristos (“fittest, most fitting, most suitable”), the superlative of *h₂er- (“to fit, be suitable”).

    According to Babiniotis dictionary, άριστος comes from the augmentative prefix (αυξητικό πρόθεμα) αρι-, which is attested in ancient compounds (e.g. αρί-ζηλος, αρί-γνωτος, αρι-ήκοος) and denotes that something is obvious, apparent. The same dictionary does't rule out that άριστος might be related (at least semantically) to the word family of αραρίσκω (αρετή, αριθμός, αρμός e.t.c.).
    For Beekes, Babiniotis' analysis is considered improbable. For Beekes the superlative ἄριστος to the comparative «ἀρείων» ăreí̯ōn --> better, stronger, nobler, is probably from «ἄρος» ắrŏs (neut.) --> advantage, related to the deponent verb «ἄρνυμαι» ắrnumai̯ --> to win, gain, acquire with cognate in other IE languages the Armenian առնել (ar̄nel), to take, purchase.

    It might interest you to know that the verb αριστεύω is still used in modern Greek, mostly to mean 'to get full marks/a straight A', and the derived noun αριστεία is the standard translation of 'excellence'.
    And the motto of the Greek National Defence General Staff (Joint Chiefs of Staff)
     

    Michael Zwingli

    Senior Member
    English - American (U.S. - New England)
    Again, please forgive my lack of a Greek language keyboard (I usually am typing on my telephone with in my replies here).

    ...Babiniotis dictionary...does't rule out that άριστος might be related (at least semantically) to the word family of αραρίσκω (αρετή, αριθμός, αρμός e.t.c.).
    Yes, I think it is generally accepted that all these lemmas: the Greek inchoative verb ararisko, and arete, arithmos, and armos, and arthros (joint) as well, all ultimately derive from the IE root *her-, which is a verbal root carrying the meaning "to fit together".
    For Beekes, Babiniotis' analysis is considered improbable. For Beekes the superlative ἄριστος to the comparative «ἀρείων» ăreí̯ōn --> better, stronger, nobler, is probably from «ἄρος» ắrŏs (neut.) --> advantage...
    This is probably a highly presumptuous statement, but I might tend to hesitate about Beekes analysis, unless said Greek aros is a corruption of an earlier hypothetical arios, meaning either "fitting"/"suitable", or perhaps "good". This would, of course, have come into Greek from IE *heryos, which is the positive form of superlative *heristos and has the meaning "fitting", "suitable", of course from the same verbal root *her- "to fit together". My question of above is why a positive adjectival form like arios never made it's way into Greek, as it did into Sanscrit, where arya took up the meaning "noble" from the original "fitting"/"suitable" of IE *heryos. Perhaps because it would have had to displace an already established agathos to enter into Greek? Or, perhaps the form was not liked by Greek because -ios was not suffixed to verbal stems to create abjectives? In any case, the adjective *heryos seems to me to have been lost to Greek during the time that the Proto-Greeks were making their way from the Pontic-Caspian Steppe to the South of the Balkan Peninsula.​
    Now, I am simply musing...​
     
    Again, please forgive my lack of a Greek language keyboard (I usually am typing on my telephone with in my replies here).


    Yes, I think it is generally accepted that all these lemmas: the Greek inchoative verb ararisko, and arete, arithmos, and armos, and arthros (joint) as well, all ultimately derive from the IE root *her-, which is a verbal root carrying the meaning "to fit together".

    This is probably a highly presumptuous statement, but I might tend to hesitate about Beekes analysis, unless said Greek aros is a corruption of an earlier hypothetical arios, meaning either "fitting"/"suitable", or perhaps "good". This would, of course, have come into Greek from IE *heryos, which is the positive form of superlative *heristos and has the meaning "fitting", "suitable", of course from the same verbal root *her- "to fit together". My question of above is why a positive adjectival form like arios never made it's way into Greek, as it did into Sanscrit, where arya took up the meaning "noble" from the original "fitting"/"suitable" of IE *heryos. Perhaps because it would have had to displace an already established agathos to enter into Greek? Or, perhaps the form was not liked by Greek because -ios was not suffixed to verbal stems to create abjectives? In any case, the adjective *heryos seems to me to have been lost to Greek during the time that the Proto-Greeks were making their way from the Pontic-Caspian Steppe to the South of the Balkan Peninsula.​
    Now, I am simply musing...​
    But it did make it, the first element «ἀρι-» ari- in inseparable compounds (meaning, the word is never found alone), derives from the said PIE root *h₂er- and in verbal governing compounds conveys the meaning of goodness, excessiveness or excellence e.g «ἀρίδηλος» ărídēlŏs --> very famous, «ἀρίγνως» ărígnōs --> easy to recognise, «ἀρίδακρυς» ărídakrus --> (person) shedding tears excessively, «ἀριδείκετος» ărĭdeí̯kĕtŏs --> very famous (lit. very easy to point at) etc
     

    Michael Zwingli

    Senior Member
    English - American (U.S. - New England)
    But it did make it, the first element «ἀρι-» ari- in inseparable compounds (meaning, the word is never found alone), derives from the said PIE root *h₂er-...
    Thanks, I was not aware of that, but it makes a certain sense. I still wonder why the positive form of the adjective never made it in, though.
     

    Michael Zwingli

    Senior Member
    English - American (U.S. - New England)
    I have just added an item about Modern Greek keyboards for users of mobile devices to the Greek Resources Suggestions thread here.
    Haha, now if you can find me a keyboard that will type the macrons for Latin text, I will be complete! ( I haven't tried really hard to find these things, and so have been remiss myself).
     
    Last edited:

    Scholiast

    Senior Member
    Ὦριστοι

    Followers of this thread and other enthusiasts may care to know that ΑΙΕΝ ΑΡΙΣΤΕΥΕΙΝ is the motto of Kelvinside Academy in the West End of Glasgow (Scotland), and together with the school's heraldic crest is emblazoned on the blazers of the pupils there.

    Σ
     

    Michael Zwingli

    Senior Member
    English - American (U.S. - New England)
    Ὦριστοι

    Followers of this thread and other enthusiasts may care to know that ΑΙΕΝ ΑΡΙΣΤΕΥΕΙΝ is the motto of Kelvinside Academy in the West End of Glasgow (Scotland), and together with the school's heraldic crest is emblazoned on the blazers of the pupils there.

    Σ
    Hello, Scholiast. Nice to "see" you outside of the confines of the Latin Forum! Yes, that phrase is an obvious choice for a motto, and graces the arms of St. Andrews University (Scotland), and Boston College in the U.S., and I am sure of more than a handful of other institutions as well.
    If you would not mind, I began a thread in the Etymologies Forum regarding the etymology of Latin heredito, and would like to have your opinion on my position therein expressed.😊
     
    Last edited:

    ioanell

    Senior Member
    Greek
    In reference with other postings above:

    From Proto-Indo-European *h₂éristos (“fittest, most fitting, most suitable”), the superlative of *h₂er- (“to fit, be suitable”).

    In my opinion, the wording of this Wiktionary’s analysis looks (maybe inevitably) somehow odd. When writing “the superlative of”, one would expect a [reconstructed P.I.E.] adjective to follow, instead of only the verbal root *h₂er- (with its verbal meaning “to fit, be suitable”). Perhaps "...the superlative of a [non-yet constructed, but implied] positive deriving from the verbal root *h₂er-". As it is, it’s like saying φίλτατος, the superlative of (the verb) φιλέω.

    ἄριστος and ἀρι-

    It’s odd, in my opinion, that Beekes, whereas doesn’t give the derivation for these two but a question mark (?), in the section ETYM. of ἄριστος says “A primary superlative to the comparative ἀρείων. It is sometimes considered to contain the prefix ἀρι-, but this seems improbable to me…”, and on the other hand, in the section ETYM. of ἀρι-, without presenting any other reliable derivation/etymology suggestion, he says that linguist “Willi …maintains the widely accepted connection with ἄριστος”, a view which can be easily supposed and interpreted as being accepted by him as well. Somehow contradictory, in my opinion.

    Language is fickle in it's evolution
    I think most of our co-posters would agree with this statement, adding “in many cases”.

    unless said Greek aros is a corruption of an earlier hypothetical arios
    I don’t think there’s any indication whatsoever for such a corruption of ἄρος and I can’t say whether a word arios [<IE *heryos] has ever existed in Greek, except for Ἄριος=Median [<Medes]

    I find it somewhat odd that only the superlative form of the old IE adjective *heristos (="most fitting", "most suitable", itself the superlative of *heryos = "fitting", "suitable", which would have appeared in Greek as something like arios, I think) descended into Greek, as the superlative of an entirely different adjective with a different, but semantically related meaning (namely, agathos ="good").
    My question of above is why a positive adjectival form like arios never made it's way into Greek, as it did into Sanscrit, where arya took up the meaning "noble" from the original "fitting"/"suitable" of IE *heryos.
    All asterisk-marked forms are reconstructed items of a proto-stage; so, the case of IE *heryos making its way into Sanskrit as arya may be just an isolated example with no outer-Sanskrit counterpart, a similar linguistic phenomenon which must have happened in many other circumstances with other IE languages. BTW, apart from the quoted superlative *heristos and the positive adjectival form *heryos, there seems that a comparative degree of this IE adjective couldn’t be reconstructed. I don’t know if *heristos has been the proto-form of any word in another IE (and specifically European) language.

    the superlative of an entirely different adjective with a different, but semantically related meaning (namely, agathos ="good").
    I guess you know that ἀγαθός, besides ἄριστος, has another three superlative forms, βέλτιστος, κράτιστος and λῷστος, with their corresponding comparatives.
     
    Last edited:

    Michael Zwingli

    Senior Member
    English - American (U.S. - New England)
    Thank you, Ioanell, for taking time to address many of my thoughts on this. I value the opinions of others in such matters.
    All asterisk-marked forms are reconstructed items of a proto-stage; so, the case of IE *heryos making its way into Sanskrit as arya may be just an isolated example with no outer-Sanskrit counterpart, a similar linguistic phenomenon which must have happened in many other circumstances with other IE languages. BTW, apart from the quoted superlative *heristos and the positive adjectival form *heryos, there seems that a comparative degree of this IE adjective couldn’t be reconstructed. I don’t know if *heristos has been the proto-form of any word in another IE (and specifically European) language.
    If memory serves me, said *heryos was most fully expressed in Proto-Indo-Iranian and it's descendants; elsewhere, as with the instant Greek terms, the expression was fragmentary. In PII, *aryas apparently became an ethnic autonym for a particular south-central Asian population, probably from a sense meaning "allied" or "joined". In addition to becoming arya/"noble" in Sanscrit (through so-called "Proto-Indo-Aryan"), this developed through Proto-Iranian and into Old Iranian as something like *ariya(h)/", where it remained an autonym having a sense like "compatriot". Actually, the name of the country Iran is generally taken to be a derivative of said *ariya, so having a meaning like "land of the compatriots". Fascinating enough to be worthy of mention...
    l can’t say whether a word arios [<IE *heryos] has ever existed in Greek, except for Ἄριος=Median [<Medes...
    Ah, yes! Given the great (and often intense) historical contact between the Hellenic and Iranic peoples, this Greek term seems surely to have come into Greek from the Old Iranian autonym, rather than as a direct descendent of *heryos, wouldn't you think? I wonder: was this term only applied to Medes, or to Iranic peoples in general?
    I guess you know that ἀγαθός, besides ἄριστος, has another three superlative forms, βέλτιστος, κράτιστος and λῷστος, with their corresponding comparatives.
    Yes sir, I am aware of that. I think it illustrates the organic, uncontrived nature of the evolution of most of our languages.
     

    Michael Zwingli

    Senior Member
    English - American (U.S. - New England)
    While perusing the various Fora, I just came upon a thread in the Etymology Forum which might interest. It is entitled: "Greek: Ariobarzanes and it's Iranic antecedents."
     

    ioanell

    Senior Member
    Greek
    Hi,

    this Greek term seems surely to have come into Greek from the Old Iranian autonym
    When in #16 above I said that the word ἄρος is not a corruption of an earlier hypothetical arios, this had to do with your question why IE *heryos entered Sanskrit and not Greek and with the contestation/exclusion that a word (adjective) ἄριος ever existed in Greek with the meaning of "fitting"/"suitable". But, of course, I will easily agree with you that Ἄριος=Median [<Medes] seems surely to have come into Greek from the Old Iranian autonym *ariya.

    I wonder: was this term only applied to Medes, or to Iranic peoples in general?
    The Greeks, having probably heard this word from the locals, gave the name Ἄριοι only to the Medes, although the term *ariya was used throughout the empire of Cyrus II, who conquered their territory in 550 BC. Making use of the Iranian toponym Fars (see Farsi) or Pars [> Gr. Περσίς], especially after their contact with the Iranians since about the middle of the 6th century BC, the Greeks named the whole country of Cyrus as Περσία and the Iranic peoples in it as Πέρσαι, terms which also passed into the Western World. Anyway, the word Ἄριος in Greek just denotes an ethnonym and bears neither the meaning of "fitting"/"suitable" /"noble" nor the meaning of "compatriot". All these, of course, refer to the antiquity and the meaning that the word "άριος" took mainly in beginning of the last century, in Modern Greek as well, is another story.
     
    Last edited:
    Next >
    Top