The Greek Adjective Ἄσμενος: Its Etymology and History

2017.11.17 | By Charles de Lamberterie

Presented here is a preliminary draft of an English-language version of this essay by Charles de Lamberterie, translated by Ioanna Papadopoulou.

Antoine Meillet, Milman Parry, and Albert Lord.

Translated by Ioanna Papadopoulou

[This article was originally published in French as “L’adjectif grec ἄσμενος : étymologie et histoire du mot,” in Hommage à Jacqueline de Romilly. L’empreinte de son oeuvre, eds. Marc Fumaroli, Jacques Jouanna, Monique Trédé, and Michel Zink. Actes de colloque (Académie des Inscriptions et Belles-Lettres). Paris, 2014. The English translation is made available by permission of the author.]

1. Traditional thesis: ἄσμενος ‘happy, pleased’ cognate with the verb ἥδομαι ‘be pleased’.

The Greek adjective ἄσμενος ‘happy, pleased’, known since the Iliad and of frequent use in the classical language, is considered traditionally (and this was already the analysis given by the ancients) to be the participle of a verbal medio-passive stem, which disappeared as such, and is cognate with the verb ἥδομαι ‘rejoice, be pleased’. This verb likewise is common in the classical language; the Homeric corpus does not feature any forms in the present tense, but this absence is purely coincidental, because the sigmatic aorist based on the present tense of ἥδομαι is attested already since the Odyssey: ἥσατο δ᾿ αἰνῶς # ἡδὺ ποτὸν πίνων || (9.353–354) “he (sc. the Cyclops) took great pleasure in drinking this delicious beverage,” a figura etymologica of the verb and adjective derived from the Greek root *ϝhᾱδ- / *ϝhᾰδ- ‘please, like, be pleasant; find something pleasant, delicious’. Furthermore, the antiquity of the present ἥδομαι (< *ϝhᾱ́δομαι) is now confirmed by way of second millennium Greek, where we find the name of a man wa-do-me-no (PY Vn 130.5), which can be interpreted immediately as *Ϝhᾱδομενός; the name is comparable, from the point of view of meaning, to family names such as Lheureux, Legay or Joyeux in French, and relates to a type of substantivized participle (with a frequent but not systematic shift of the accent) well known in Greek anthroponymy (cf. Τεισαμενός, Ἀκουμενός, Κλύμενος, etc.), already widely productive in the Mycenaean tablets (ku-ru-me-no Κλύμενος, and many others). [1]

If we remain at the level of synchrony, this comparison is perfectly satisfactory, as it accounts for most of the uses of the adjective ἄσμενος, as shown by the following examples:

  • in the classical language: ἄσμενος ἰδὼν αὐτόν (Xenophon Cyropaidia 5.3.15) “happy to see him,” compared to ἥδομαι μέν σ᾿ εἰσιδὼν […] # ἀνώδυνον (Sophocles Philoctetes 882–3), “I rejoice to see you delivered from your sufferings,” or ἄσμενος ἀκούσας ἐκεῖνος τοὺς λόγους τούτους αὐτῆς (Demosthenes Against Neaira 32) “and he, happy to hear the words she had just pronounced …,” [2] in comparison with ἥσθη τε ταῦτα ἀκούσας ὁ Καμβύσης καὶ ἐπαίνεε τὴν Κροίσου κρίσιν (Herodotus 3.34) “Cambyses was delighted to hear his words, and he praised Croesus’s judgment”;
  • in the Homeric corpus: the hemistich ||ἐμοὶ δέ κεν ἀσμένῳ εἴη # (Iliad 14.108) “[if somebody found a means for us Greeks to hold out against the Trojans, when I cannot find any other way out but flight], I would be happy” is comparable both on the level of syntax and of meaning to phrases such as ὅσοισι δὲ καὶ ἡδομένοισι ἦν τὸ γινόμενον (Herodotus 8.10) “all those who rejoiced in what was happening,” which later become usual. Furthermore, the Greeks, it seems, were conscious of the equivalence ἄσμενος = ἡδόμενος in this type of construction, if we judge by the echo we find in Thucydides of the expression used by “the father of history”: ἀσμένοις […] ἐγίγνετο τοῖς σώφροσι τῶν ἀνθρώπων (Thucydides 4.28.5) “the sensible ones rejoiced in what was happening.” Even more relevant to the passage of the Iliad, we can quote a phrase from Plato like ἐμοὶ μὲν καὶ Μελησίᾳ τῷδε δῆλον ὅτι ἡδομένοις ἂν εἴη εἰ πάντα ἃ Σωκράτης ἐρωτᾷ ἐθέλοιτε λόγῳ διεξιέναι (Plato, Laches 187c) “For I and Melesias here would certainly be delighted if you would consent to answer with a detailed discourse all the questions of Socrates.” [3]

2. According to Wackernagel, the meaning of the word in Homer (‘saved’) points to a relation with νέομαι ‘return safe’. Reception of this thesis, state of the question.

That the adjective ἄσμενος is in origin a participle is a certainty, as the syntax shows. If this word were an adjective in the real sense of the term, it would be used as an epithet or an attribute of a noun. That never happens. We encounter it only in apposition to a verbal form, or, in a dative phrase (of which we have just quoted some examples), associated with a pronoun or a noun designating a person, i.e. in the syntactic function of a participle. But what is the verbal stem from which it originated and which disappeared as such? If we go from the level of synchrony to that of diachronic etymology, the traditional comparison with the family of ἥδομαι encounters serious difficulties, with both form and meaning. This is what the famous linguist and philologist Jacob Wackernagel stressed in the Vermischte Beiträge zur griechischen Sprachkunde (1897) by pointing out that for a word related to ἥδομαι and to ἡδύς one would expect a rough breathing, in conformity with the Indo-European etymology (PIE *swād-, with the noteworthy equations: Gr. ἥδομαι = Skt. svā́date ‘enjoy the taste’ < PIE *swad-e/o– and Gr. ἡδύς = Skt. svādú– ‘tasty’ < PIE *swād-ú-), and that this formal difficulty had consequences on the semantic level: is it absolutely certain that the basic meaning of ἄσμενος is ‘happy’, as philologists assume? I find it useful to quote fully the note that this eminent scholar devotes to the word we are dealing with: [4]

ἄσμενος heisst zwar an der Mehrzahl der Stellen “erfreut”, namentlich beim dativischen Ausdruck [ex.] und als prädikative Bestimmung zum Verbum des Sehens [ex.]. Aber daneben stehen Stellen wie Υ 350 φύγεν ἄσμενος ἐκ θανάτοιο, ι 63 = 566 = κ 134 πλέομεν ἀκαχήμενοι ἦτορ ἄσμενοι ἐκ θανάτοιο φίλους ὀλέσαντες ἑταίρους, Aesch. Pers. 736 (Xerxem) ἄσμενον μολεῖν γέφυραν, wo ἄσμενος durchaus nicht freudige Gemütsstimmung ausdrückt, sondern “gerettet, geborgen” bedeutet, entsprechend ἄσμενον μολεῖν “sich durchschlagen” (auch ἄσμενον (καθ)εύδειν Soph. Phil. 271 und Lys. 1,13 “behaglich ruhen”). Der Gedanke, dass hier ἄσμενος zu nes- mit der Bedeutungsfärbung von got. nasjan ganisan “erretten” bezw. “errettet werden” gehöre, also auf ns-s-menos beruhe, ist nicht abzuweisen. Entweder hat sich daraus ἄσμενος “erfreut” so herausgebildet, wie sonst aus Ausdrücken für äusseres Glück solche für Heiterkeit, Zufriedenheit, oder aber ein altes *ἅσμενος ist allmählich wegen seiner sonstigen Gleichlautigkeit mit ἄσμενος mit dessen Spiritus lenis gesprochen werden.

To be able to appreciate the import of this text one must recall a historical fact. During the nineteenth century many classical philologists showed an attitude of either ignorance or sheer hostility towards the comparative grammar of Indo-European languages, being convinced that their discipline was self-sufficient and being bewildered by what they considered to be an intrusion of alien elements into the classical languages. It is precisely thanks to eminent scholars like Wackernagel that, most happily, an evolution of mentalities took place in the last years of the 19th century. A Hellenist (and Indologist) of the highest order and at the same time a comparative linguist, Wackernagel was acknowledged, beginning with his earliest work, as one of the leading specialists in Homeric philology, and he shows here that if we want to understand the meaning of words in the Homeric poems we cannot take classical Greek as a point of departure: by acting in that way we are exposed to the risk of anachronism. We should consider the epic vocabulary per se first, which will lead to revealing differences with later stages of Greek, and then consider it in the light of comparison. In other words classical philology cannot dwell in its ivory tower and be satisfied with a static vision of the Greek language. It has to take into account the historical dimension of the language, a procedure which necessarily entails the comparative approach.


Antoine Meillet, Milman Parry, and Albert Lord.


How was this analysis, which represents a radical break from the traditional conception, received? Without claiming to sketch in detail the history of the question, I will limit myself to reference works. In his Griechisches etymologisches Wörterbuch, Hjalmar Frisk dismisses both the traditional thesis and the thesis of Wackernagel, and concludes with a non liquet. He barely touches upon the semantic aspect of the question, simply deeming the meaning gerettet ‘rescued’ postulated by Wackernagel to be not self-evident, but he does not examine the data nor does he engage in a real discussion of this subject. [5] Such an attitude is typical of a purely formal conception of etymology.

On the other hand, in his Dictionnaire étymologique de la langue grecque, whose subtitle Histoire des mots indicates clearly its orientation, Pierre Chantraine takes care to establish accurately the meaning of the word in its earliest attestations: [6]

ἄσμενος: “joyeux, content”; 5 ex. hom. en 3 formules dont deux expriment la joie d’hommes sauvés de la mort [ex.]. Fréquent en ion.-att. dans des emplois comparables [ex.]. Exprime la joie du salut, du retour, d’une rencontre, etc.

As regards the etymology in the proper sense, i.e. the investigation into the origin of the word, P. Chantraine underlines the weaknesses of the traditional analysis and expresses the following appreciation of Wackernagel’s analysis: [7]

Wackernagel, Verm. Beiträge 6 suppose que la forme est apparentée à νέομαι en posant *n̥s-s-menos, également participe aoriste (?), et pense que le sens originel est “sauvé”, ce qui est ingénieux.

This cautious attitude towards etymological origin is typical of Chantraine; it is a well-known fact that in academic rhetoric the qualifier ingénieux ‘ingenious’ is a way of distancing oneself. But if we read the article in DELG carefully, we notice that in the eyes of its author, Wackernagel’s analysis is the one that agrees best with what the history of the word indicates, namely that our adjective initially “expresses the joy of salvation,” even if Chantraine did not deem it necessary to develop this point nor to commit himself in a clearer way. A similar attitude can be found in an article written by Bruno Mader in the Lexikon des frühgriechischen Epos, but with a clearer commitment to Wackernagel’s analysis, a commitment still accompanied by a prudent “vielleicht. [8] By contrast, in his very recent Etymological Dictionary of Greek, published in 2010, our Dutch colleague Robert Beekes revives Frisk’s tradition:

ἄσμενος [adj.] ‘well-pleased, glad’ (Il. +). […] An isolated participle, which has been interpreted as a sigmatic aorist *̈ϝαδ-σ-μενος from the root of ἁνδάνω, ἥδομαι, but note that the form has no aspiration. Wackernagel 1897:6 proposed connection with νέομαι ‘to return’ as *n̥s-s-menos, assuming an original meaning ‘safe’ (see DELG). Not compelling.

This is the current state of the question, and we see where the dividing line is located: whereas linguists who have a purely formal conception of language remain skeptical as regards Wackernagel’s analysis, those who care about the history of words tend to follow him. That seems only right: while Wackernagel denounced, rightly, the aporiai of a self-centered philology, we see today that a linguistic and etymological analysis has to build on good philology. And it should be noted that in this respect considerable progress has been made in the field of Homeric studies. I refer to a noteworthy book by the American Hellenist and comparatist Douglas Frame, published in 1978 (at the same time exactly as the article in LfgrE, and ten years after the first issue of the DELG), entitled The Myth of Return in Early Greek Epic. Our colleague undertakes an in-depth study of the forms of the Indo-European root *nes– in Greek, and he shows, through a detailed study of epic formulaic language, that Wackernagel’s analysis is fully convincing. [9] It is highly surprising, to say the least, that this book is not even mentioned in an etymological dictionary published thirty years later; on this point as on many others, Beekes’s work is disappointing and is not up to the current state of the art in linguistics: it fails to pay due attention to philological data. As to the most recent dictionaries, namely the Diccionario griego-español (1991[III]:557) and the second edition of Vocabolario della lingua greca, greco italiano (2004:358), they are out of date as well: by giving the meaning “contento, de buen grado” (DGE), “lieto, felice, contento” (GI), they give no account at all of the real conditions of use in the oldest texts. Of course, we could not ask an author of a dictionary to have read all of the specialized studies on Greek vocabulary. It is strange, though, that for a word so well attested in the Homeric poems, our lexicographical colleagues have not benefited either from the indications given by Chantraine in the DELG (1968) or from the article on ἄσμενος in LfgrE (1978), where the data are established in a precise way.

3. Study of the morphology of the verbal stem from which ἄσμενος derives.

From a formal point of view, the connection of ἄσμενος with the family of the verb νέομαι ‘come back, return (in particular “come home”)’ is accepted, rightly, in the most recent reference works on the formation of verbal stems in Greek and in the Indo-European languages. [10] Given that I cannot study in detail all the forms, verbal and nominal, of the PIE root *nes– in Greek, much less in all the Indo-European languages, [11] I will limit myself here to what relates directly to the word we are dealing with:

  • thematic root present *nés-e/o– (middle) > Gr. νέομαι ‘return, go to find’ = Ved. Skt. Násate ‘join one’s own people’ (compare saṃ-nasate ‘go to meet, unite with’), Gothic ga-nisan ‘heal [intr.], recover one’s health (= Germ. genesen), be rescued (translates Gr. σώζεσθαι)’;
  • reduplicated present *ní-ns- (middle) > Ved. Skt. níṁs– ‘return to one’s home’, hence, with thematization, *ní-ns-e/o- > Ved. Skt. níṁsate (same meaning) = Gr. νίσσομαι ‘return, go to find’;
  • causative present *nos-éy-e/o– > Proto-Germ. *nazij-i-/-a-. The form Gothic nasjan ‘heal [tr.], save (gr. σώζειν)’ owes its internal -s– (instead of *nazjan, expected under Verner’s law) to the influence of the intransitive verb which is the founding form; nevertheless the regular outcome is attested in the other Germanic dialects, as in Germ. nähren ‘feed, nurture’ (< ‘comfort, restore’). To the same grade of the root *nos-, on the same lexical level, belongs the Ved. Skt. nominal derivative nā́satya-, dual Nā́satyā ‘pair of healing gods’;
  • zero-grade root aorist middle stem *n̥s– (ind. 3rd sg. *n̥s-tó): Ved. opt. 1st pl. nasīmahi (reconfiguration of the expected form *asīmahi, on the basis of the full grade). This is the verbal stem from which Gr. ἄσμενος derives. In his foundational study, Wackernagel reconstructs this word as an etymon *ṇs-ménos, namely as a zero-grade sigmatic aorist stem unattested elsewhere. The reason for doing so was that phonologically a PIE etymon *ṇs-méno– should result in common Greek *ἄhμενο-, as in, for example, the pronominal stem, *ṇs-mé ‘we’ > com. Gr. *ἀhμέ (hence, in the first millenium, *ἄμμε in Aeolic and *hᾱμέ in the other dialects). So we should expect in Homer either *ἄμμενος (for the Aeolic form), or *ἤμενος (for the Ionian form), or *ἥμενος for an Ionian form transmitted through Attic); and we should have *ᾱ́̔μενος in Pindar, *ἥμενος in Attic, whereas starting from a sigmatic aorist formation justifies the conservation of the internal σ. This stratagem, though, not only compels us to postulate a verbal stem without support in Greek or cognate languages, but it leaves the problem of the expected initial rough breathing in Doric and Attic unresolved; thus, on this view, we are forced to consider ἄσμενος as an Ionism and/or a Homerism, and this is not self-evident for a word common not only in poetry (Theognis, Pindar) and tragedy, but also in Aristophanes and Attic prose (Thucydides and after him). Received opinion today acknowledges that ἄσμενος is a Panhellenic form and offers a different explanation of it, namely, analogy. It is assumed that the form *ἄστο, expected as a regular reflex of a PIE etymon *ṇs-tó in the indicative 3rd person singular, before disappearing as such, was preserved in the language long enough to influence, as a founding form, the form of the adjective ἄσμενος founded on it; this accounts for the internal sibilant and the absence of an initial rough breathing. [12] What makes this explanation plausible is the fact that pairs in which an indicative 3rd person singular ending in -το is connected with a participle ending in -μενος form a system abundantly represented in Homer for this type of verbal stem (athematic root aorist middle stems with zero-grade of alternating roots): for instance χύτο / χύμενος ‘pour’, δέκτο / δέγμενος ‘receive’, ὦρτο / ὄρμενος ‘rise up’, ἆλτο / -άλμενος ‘leap’, ἔπτατο / πτάμενος ‘fly’, λέκτο / -λέγμενος ‘lie down’, βλῆτο / βλήμενος ‘be wounded’, ἔκτατο / κτάμενος ‘be mortally wounded’, and many others. [13]
  • In the Indo-European roots where the initial is a sonorant (*y-, *w-, *n-, *m-, *l-, *r-), it is an established fact that beside the ancient zero-grade resulting from the vocalization of the above- mentioned sonorant before a following consonant (> *i-, *u-, *-, *-, *-, *-), we often observe the appearance of a new zero-grade reconfigured to conform with the syllabic structure of the full grade, namely with a consonant and insertion of an epenthetic vowel between this consonant and the one following (*y°-, etc.). In the case of the root *nes-, the reconfigured zero-grade *n°s- > *nas– is attested both in Greek and in Indo-Iranian: in Vedic Sanskrit in the above quoted optative form nasīmahi, which replaces the expected form *asīmahi; and in Greek in the lexical base νασ- (before sibilant or dental occlusive) / ναh- (in all other contexts) ‘inhabit, dwell’ of the present ναίω (Hom. +) and numerous cognate forms (μετα-νάστης ‘emigrant’, *ναhϝός ‘temple’ < –‘house of god’, etc.). [14] From the point of view of verbal aspect, the meaning “dwell, inhabit” is the stative and resultative corollary of the meaning “return home” of the verbal stems with dynamic value. [15]

4. Relation between the medio-passive participle morpheme -μένος and the verbal adjectives in -τος.

We know that in Greek medio-passive participles in -μενος are closely related to verbal adjectives in -τος. In a famous article, Antoine Meillet showed that originally there was a distribution between –μενος in the simple form and -τος in compounds, as, for example, in the expression in Plato, ὅσα ἀκίνητα καὶ κεκινημένα (Sophist 249d) “all that is not moving and all that moves.” [16] The decipherment of Linear B confirms this analysis: in the Mycenaean tablets we actually find pairs of the type ki-ti-me-na/a-ki-ti-to κτιμένᾱ/ἄκτιτον ‘cultivated (plot of land/terrain) /non-cultivated’ (vel sim.), and several other similar cases. [17] Moreover, as the suffix *-– of the verbal adjective with zero-grade of the root is productive already in PIE, both formations occur frequently in the same context. Thus the name Κλύμενος in alphabetic Greek (Homer and after Homer, with the feminine Κλυμένη), already attested in the second millennium (ku-ru-me-no, KN, PY), is based on a medio-passive aorist participle κλύμενος (Theocritus Palatine Anthology) ‘famous, renowned’ (literaly ‘of whom we hear’, cf. the active κλυ- ‘hear’) that we cannot separate from the verbal adjective κλυτός (Homer and after) with the same meaning, which is known to continue a PIE etymon *k̑lu-tó– and is largely supported in cognate languages (skr. śrutá-, etc.). [18] Doublets of this type are abundantly represented in all periods, both as adjectives and participles (χυτός / χύμενος, etc.) and in onomastics: as early as the second millennium, we find the name of a man a2-nu-me-no (PY) Ηανύμενος beside a-nu-to (KN, TH, TI) Ἄνυτος (the latter with psilosis, as in alphabetic Greek). [19]

Given these conditions, if it is true that ἄσμενος continues a medio-passive participle *n̥s-méno– of the PIE root *nes-, we should expect the existence of a verbal adjective *n̥s-tó– in this family. [20] There is no trace of it in Greek, but from this formation is derived in Indo-Iranian the neuter substantive Ved. Skt. ásta– (= Avestan asta-) ‘abode, dwelling’ where the shift of accent is linked to substantivization. In his Wörterbuch zum Rigveda (1873, col. 157–158), H. Grassmann defines the meaning of this word in the Vedic hymns as follows: “Heimat, Heimatstätte, besonders als Ort der Heimkehr, der Ruhe, des Behagens aufgefasst.” One could not express it better, and this confirms the etymology of the word from the root *nes-, accepted in the reference works. [21] Of course, one should recall here the Homeric formula (ϝ)οἶκόνδε νέεσθαι # ‘to return home’, [22] which shows the coherence of this group.

In the absence of a verbal adjective, the Greek language presents the abstract substantive νόστος ‘return’ (< *nós-to), with the same suffix but a different root grade (and consequently accent), a form that also belongs to an old and productive type in the Indo-European languages. [23] It is hardly necessary to remind ourselves of the importance of this word in the literary tradition of archaic Greece. From this substantive derives the denominative verb (ἀπο)νοστέω ‘return’, whose aorist ἐνόστησα functions in Homer in suppletion with the present νέομαι. [24]

5. Study of the uses of ἄσμενος in the Homeric poems. Demonstration of the semantic link with νέομαι.

As I said earlier, it is D. Frame’s merit to have shown the link between the adjective ἄσμενος and the verb ‘return’ (νέομαι, νοστέω) in Homeric formulaic language. [25] Here I will review the relevant examples he provides and add the results of my own readings. In general, as P. Chantraine and B. Mader, following J. Wackernagel, had already established, ἄσμενος “expresses the joy of salvation,” which in formulaic language entails a connection with the aorist ἔφυγον ‘escaped danger’ and/or with the verb σαόω ‘save’, where the idea of salvation is opposed to the idea of loss expressed by the verb ὄλλυμι. Some correspondences, though, are even more precise.


Let us consider in this respect the three examples of the word in the Odyssey. The first occurs in Odysseus’ long narrative in the palace of Alkinoos, when the hero recounts his fight with the Cicones, first of a long series of ordeals from which he will come out unscathed but alone (all his companions having disappeared), and arrive to the Phaeacians (φυγὼν ὕπο νηλεὲς ἦμαρ #, Od. 9.17, compare as well νόστον ἐμὸν πολυκηδέ᾿ ἐνίσπω#, in v. 37):

ἓξ δ᾿ ἀφ᾿ ἑκάστης νηὸς ἐϋκνήμιδες ἑταῖροι
ὤλονθ᾿· οἱ δ᾿ ἄλλοι φύγομεν θάνατόν τε μόρον τε.
Ἔνθεν δὲ προτέρω πλέομεν ἀκαχήμενοι ἦτορ,
ἄσμενοι ἐκ θανάτοιο, φίλους ὀλέσαντες ἑταίρους.

“… and out of each ship six of my strong-greaved companions were killed, but the rest of us fled away from death and destruction. From there we sailed on, glad to have escaped death, but grieving at heart for the loss of our dear companions.”

Odyssey 9.60–63

The other two examples are a verbatim repetition of the first, the one at the end of the Cyclops episode (Odyssey 9.565-566 = 9.62-63) and the other at the end of the Laestrygonian episode:

ἀσπασίως δ᾿ ἐς πόντον ἐπηρεφέας φύγε πέτρας
νηῦς ἐμή· αὐτὰρ αἱ ἄλλαι ἀολλέες αὐτόθ᾿ ὄλοντο.
Ἔνθεν δὲ πρότερω πλέομεν ἀκαχήμενοι ἦτορ,
ἄσμενοι ἐκ θανάτοιο, φίλους ὀλέσαντες ἑταίρους.

“Gladly my ship, and only mine, fled out from the overhanging cliffs to the open water, but the others were all destroyed there. From there we sailed on, glad to have escaped death, but grieving at heart for the loss of our dear companions.”

Odyssey 10.131–134

This repeated verse must be compared to another repeated verse, which appears in the prophecy delivered to Odysseus first by Teiresias, then by Circe (Odyssey 11.114 = 12.141):

ὀψὲ κακῶς νεῖαι ὀλέσας ἄπο πάντας ἑταίρους.

“you will come home in a bad state, with the loss of all your companions”

This prophecy is echoed by Athena when she welcomes Odysseus upon his arrival at Ithaca (Odyssey 13.339–340):

αὐτὰρ ἐγὼ τὸ μὲν οὔ ποτ᾿ ἀπίστεον, ἀλλ᾿ ἐνὶ θυμῷ
ᾔδε᾿ ὃ νοστήσεις ὀλέσας ἄπο πάντας ἑταίρους.

“And I never did have any doubt, but in my heart always knew how you would come home, having lost all your companions.”

All this is quite clear, and we cannot but agree with the conclusion drawn by D. Frame following his comparison of those passages: [26]

When they (sc. these lines) were composed […], the form ásmenos was necessarily still a part of the paradigm of néomai.

In fact, the expression ἄσμενοι ἐκ θανάτοιο meant literally, at the outset, ‘having returned from death,’ i.e. ‘having escaped death’ (cf. φύγομεν θάνατον). Certainly nothing prevents us from continuing to follow tradition and translate ‘glad to have escaped death’, but what is essential is to trace the semantic steps whose outcome is de facto ‘joy of salvation’, as proved by the relation, accompanied by a verbal echo, between ἄσμενοι and ἀσπασίως in Book 10, as well as the contrast with ἀκαχήμενοι ‘afflicted’.


An examination of one of the two passages of the Iliad, where our adjective appears, confirms this analysis. After Aeneas escapes Achilles’ blows, thanks to Poseidon’s intervention, his enemy abuses him with sarcasm (Iliad 20.349–350):

ἐρρέτω· οὔ οἱ θυμὸς ἐμεῦ ἔτι πειρηθῆναι
ἔσσεται, ὃς καὶ νῦν φύγεν ἄσμενος ἐκ θανάτοιο.

“Let him go! He will not again have the heart to try me in battle, since he was glad to have escaped from death.”

This complex construction φύγεν ἄσμενος ἐκ θανάτοιο combines the two syntagmas attested in Book 9 of the Odyssey, respectively φύγο/ε- θάνατον and ἄσμενο- ἐκ θανάτοιο. We are then right to conclude that in the beginning ἄσμενος ἐκ θανάτοιο meant, in this case as well, ‘having returned from death’ but that the term has ceased to be understood because of its isolation; this could explain the semantic development whose outcome is ‘having escaped death’, which gives the impression of an unnecessary repetition with φύγεν. In fact, this verb can be constructed with either accusative or ἐκ + genitive, as in Odyssey 16.21 ἐκ θανάτοιο φυγόντα#, referring to Telemachus, who is received by Eumaeus like a son by his father after a long and dangerous trip. In the Iliad, where the main theme is death in battle, we find expressions like ὅς κε φύγῃσι # δηΐου ἐκ πολέμοιο (Iliad 19.72–73) ‘he who will escape deadly battle’. And, very logically in this formulaic system, the verb ‘return’ can be used in the same construction, as, for instance, in Iliad 17.238-239:

ὦ πέπον, ὦ Μενέλαε διοτρεφές, οὐκέτι νῶϊ
ἔλπομαι αὐτώ περ νοστησέμεν ἐκ πολέμοιο.

“Gentle friend, divine Menelaos, dear friend, I no longer have hope that even you and I can come back out of the fighting.”

The combination of these different terms results in passages like Iliad 1.59–61 (Achilles to Agamemnon):

Ἀτρεΐδη, νῦν ἄμμε παλιμπλαγχθέντας ὀΐω
ἂψ ἀπονοστήσειν, εἴ κεν θάνατόν γε φύγοιμεν,
εἰ δὴ ὁμοῦ πόλεμός τε δαμᾷ καὶ λοιμὸς Ἀχαιούς.

“Son of Atreus, I believe that we now, driven back from our goal, must make our way home if we can but escape death, if fighting now crushes the Achaians and the plague likewise.”

And we find a paradigmatic alternation between πόλεμος and θάνατος in the phrase ‘save from death / from battle’, for instance σαώσετον ἐκ πολέμοιο # (Iliad 17.452) compared with ἐκ θανάτοιο || σαώσομεν (Iliad 22.175).

Given these conditions, we can perceive how the complex construction φύγεν ἄσμενος ἐκ θανάτοιο ended up meaning ‘glad to have escaped death’; it seems to me that the semantic development that accounts best for this evolution is the one sketched by B. Mader in LfgrE (fasc. 8, 1978, col. 1416): “Bedeutung-Entwicklung dann etwa ‘glücklich [objektiv] davongekommen’ > subjektiv ‘glücklich [davongekommen]’.” Ιn fact, the parallel glücklich in German or heureux in French can be illuminating, because these adjectives can have an objective value (‘a happy result’) or a subjective one (‘I am happy with this result’). This is, in fact, the situation of Aeneas, happy because of the happy outcome of the fight: “he came back whereas he might have remained there,” the combatants of the Great War (1914–1918) would have said.


This evolution seems to have completed itself in the other example in the Iliad, which I already mentioned briefly at the beginning of the present study (Iliad 14.107–108):

νῦν δ᾿ εἴη ὃς τῆσδέ γ᾿ ἀμείνονα μῆτιν ἐνίσποι,
ἢ νέος ἠὲ παλαιός· ἐμοὶ δέ κεν ἀσμένῳ εἴη.

“Now let someone speak who has better counsel than this was; young man or old; and what he says will be to my liking.”

The character speaking is Agamemnon, who has just been rebuked by Odysseus for having proposed to leave Troy instead of continuing the war. It has to do, here again, with the idea of escaping a bad situation, as the words of Agamemnon himself show a few lines earlier (ll. 80-1):

οὐ γάρ τις νέμεσις φυγέειν κακόν, οὐδ᾿ ἀνὰ νύκτα ·
βέλτερον ὃς φεύγων προφύγῃ κακὸν ἠὲ ἁλώῃ.

“There is no shame in running, even by night, from disaster. The man does better who runs from disaster than he who is caught by it.”

6. ἄσμενος after Homer.

As P. Chantraine indicates in the article in DELG cited above, the uses of the adjective after Homer show, essentially, continuity with the epic usage: the happiness expressed by ἄσμενος is the relief one feels when one has just escaped danger or when one sees a hope of salvation, be it in war, travel, or any other critical situation. A good number of examples relate to the joy of returning home, arriving safely at the end of a long and dangerous journey, and this brings us tο the theme of νόστος. I only quote here a few passages among many, giving them enough context to highlight the value of the terms.


In continuity with the Homeric uses, ἄσμενος appears frequently next to the verbs ‘flee’ or ‘save’, as in:

οὐκέτ᾿ ἐρῶ παιδὸς, χαλεπὰς δ᾿ ἀπελάκισ᾿ ἀνίας,
μοχθούς τ᾿ ἀργαλέους ἄσμενος ἐξέφυγον

“I am no longer in love with a boy, I have kicked aside harsh pain,
I have gladly escaped from grievous hardships.”

Theognis 1337–1338

ΒΑ.μονάδα δὲ Ξέρξην ἔρημόν φασιν οὐ πολλῶν μέτα
ΔΑ. Πῶς τε δὴ καὶ ποῖ τελευτᾶν ; ἔστι τις σωτηρία ;
ΒΑ. ἄσμενον μολεῖν γέφυραν γαῖν δυοῖν ζευκτηρίαν
ΔΑ. καὶ πρὸς ἤπειρον σεσῶσθαι τήνδε, τοῦτ᾿ ἐτήτυμον ;
ΒΑ. Ναί· λόγος κρατεῖ σαφηνὴς τοῦτό γ᾿, οὐδ᾿ ἔνι στάσις.

QUEEN. And Xerxes himself, they say, alone and forlorn, with only a few men—
GHOST OF DARIUS. How did he finish up, and where? Is there any chance of his being safe?
QUEEN. —has arrived, to his relief, at the bridge that joins the two lands together.
GHOST OF DARIUS. And has come safe back to our continent? Is that really true?
QUEEN. Yes, that is the prevalent and definite report; there is no dispute about it.

Αeschylus Persians 734–738

Καὶ τοὺς μὲν οὐκέτ᾿ ὄντας ἀριθμῆσαι πάρα,
τοὺς δ᾿ ἐκ θαλάσσης ἀσμένους πεφευγότας.

“We can call the roll of those who perished
and those who escaped sea perils and arrived home safely”

Euripides Helen 397–398

ΑΜ. Καὶ ποῦ᾿ στιν; ἢ γῆς πατρίδος οἴχεται πέδον;
ΗΡ. Βέβηκ᾿ Ἀθήνας νέρθεν ἄσμενος φυγών.

AMPHITRYON. Where is he? Has he gone off to his native land?
HERACLES. He has gone back to Athens, glad to have escaped from the Underworld.

Euripides Heracles 620–621

Ταῦτα βουλευσάμενοι κείνην μὲν τὴν ἡμέρην πᾶσαν προσκείμενης τῆς ἵππου εἶχον πόνον ἄτρυτον · ὡς δὲ ἥ τε ἡμέρη ἔληγε καὶ οἱ ἱππέες ἐπέπαυντο, νυκτὸς δὴ γινομένης καὶ ἐούσης τῆς ὥρης ἐς τὴν δὴ συνέκειτό σφι ἀπαλλάσσεσθαι, ἐνθαῦτα ἀερθέντες οἱ πολλοὶ ἀπαλλάσσοντο, ἐς μὲν τὸν χῶρον ἐς τὸν συνέκειτο οὐκ ἐν νόῳ ἔχοντες, οἱ δὲ ὡς ἐκινήθησαν, ἔφευγον ἄσμενοι τὴν ἵππον πρὸς τὴν Πλαταιέων πόλιν …

Having made this plan, all that day they suffered constant hardship from the cavalry which continually pressed upon them. When the day ended, however, and the horsemen stopped their onslaught, then at that hour of the night at which it was agreed that they should depart, most of them rose and departed, not with intent to go to the place upon which they had agreed. Instead of that, once they were on their way, they joyfully shook off the horsemen and escaped to the town of Plataea.

Herodotus 9.52

καὶ δὴ καὶ Σοφοκλεῖ ποτε τῷ ποιητῇ παρεγενόμην ἐρωτωμένῳ ὑπό τινος · Πῶς, ἔφη, ὦ Σοφόκλεις, ἔχεις πρὸς τἀφροδίσια ; ἔτι οἷος τε εἶ γυναικὶ̀ συγγίγνεσθαι ; Καὶ ὅς · Εὐφήμει, ἔφη, ὦ ἄνθρωπε · ἀσμενέστατα (v.l. ἀσμεναίτατα) μέντοι αὐτὸ ἀπέφυγον, ὥσπερ λυττῶντά τινα καὶ ἄγριον δεσπότην ἀποφυγών.

“and again I was once present when someone asked the poet Sophocles: ‘How do you get on with sex, Sophocles? Can you still make love to a woman?’ And he replied: ‘Mind what you say. Let me tell you I am so glad to have escaped from it; it was like getting away from a raging, savage master.”

Plato Republic 329c


The pleasure of arriving safely, of returning home in order to experience a well-deserved rest is an equally frequent theme, sometimes linked to the previous one (as in Euripides Hercules 620–621) or developed for its own sake, as in Aeschylus Prometheus Bound 392–396:

ΠΡ. Στέλλου, κομίζου, σῷζε τὸν παρόντα νοῦν.
ΩΚ. ̔Ορμωμένῳ μοι τόνδ᾿ ἐθώϋξας λόγον ·
λευρὸν γὰρ οἶμον αἰθέρος ψαίρει πτεροῖς
τετρασκελὴς οἰωνός, ἄσμενος δὲ τἂν
σταθμοῖς ἐν οἰκείοισι κάμψειεν γόνυ.

PROM. On your way, then; off you go; maintain your present intentions.
OCEAN As you speak these words, I am already starting off. My four-legged bird is beating the smooth pathway of the air with his wings; he will be glad to have a rest in his home stables.

τότ᾿ ἄσμενοί μ᾿ ὡς εἶδον ἐκ πολλοῦ σάλου
εὕδοντ᾿ ἐπ᾿ ἀκτῆς ἐν κατηρεφεῖ πέτρῳ

“Gladly then they saw me sleeping on the shore
in a rocky cavern after much tossing from the waves.”

Sophocles Philoctetes 271–272

ΔΙ.Φαλῆς, ἑταῖρε Βακχίου,
ξύγκωμε, νυκτοπεριπλανη-
τε, μοιχέ, παιδεραστά,
ἕκτῳ σ᾿ ἔτει προσεῖπον εἰς
τὸν δῆμον ἐλθὼν ἄσμενος,
σπονδὰς ποησάμενος ἐμαυ-
τῷ, πραγμάτων τε καὶ μαχῶν
καὶ Λαμάχων ἀπαλλαγείς.

Dikaiopolis: Phales, friend of Bacchus, revel mate, nocturnal rambler, fornicator, pederast, after six years I greet you as I gladly return to my deme, with a peace I made for myself, released from bothers and battles and Lamachuses.

Aristophanes Acharnians 265–270

Κἀγὼ τούτων οὐδὲν ἐνθυμούμενος οὐδ᾿ ὑπονοῶν ἐκάθευδον ἄσμενος, ἥκων ἐξ ἀγροῦ.

“And me, without noticing anything, without suspecting anything, I slept, happy < to enjoy a well-deserved rest > returning from the fields.”

Aristophanes Lysistrata 13

῾Ως ἄσμενος, ὦ Σώκρατες, οἷον ἐκ μακρᾶς ἀναπεπαυμένος ὁδοῦ, νῦν οὕτως ἐκ τῆς τοῦ λόγου διαπορείας ἀγαπητῶς ἀπήλλαγμαι.

“How gladly do I now welcome my release, Socrates, from my protracted discourse, even as a traveler who takes his rest after his return from a long journey.”

Plato Critias 106a


As to the dative construction, one can cite, in Sophocles:

Τοιόνδ᾿ ἐγὼ μνηστῆρα προσδεδεγμένη
δύστηνος αἰεὶ κατθανεῖν ἐπευχόμην,
πρὶν τῆσδε κοίτης ἐμπελασθῆναί ποτε.
Χρόνῳ δ᾿ ἐν ὑστέρῳ μέν, ἀσμένῃ δέ μοι,
ὁ κλεινὸς ἦλθε Ζηνὸς Ἀλκμήνης τε παῖς,
20ὃς εἰς ἀγῶνα τῷδε συμπεσὼν μάχης
ἐκλύεταί με·

Deianira: Expecting such a suitor as that I, poor creature, was always praying that I might die before ever coming near his bed. But at the last moment, and to my relief, there came the famous son of Zeus and Alcmene, who contended with him in battle and released me.

Sophocles Trachinian Women 15–21

Here again we can spot a Homeric reminiscence, modest but real. Agamemnon in the Iliadic passage was looking for a man of providence who could save the Achaeans from their desperate situation; Deianeira expresses her joy at seeing her savior Heracles arrive.

I hope that this study has shown the mutual enrichment that linguistics and philology can offer to each other. In a conference organized in honor of Jacqueline de Romilly, I do not consider out of place to recall all that we owe to Pierre Chantraine, with regard to whom Jacqueline de Romilly always aknowledged her debt and expressed her admiration. [27]


Abbreviations and References

Bader, Françoise. 1986. “De Pollux à Deukalion: la racine *deu-k- ‘briller, voir’.” O-o-pe-ro-si. Festschrift für Ernst Risch zum 75. Geburtstag, ed. A. M. Etter, 463–488. Berlin.

Beekes, Robert S. P. 2010. Etymological Dictionary of Greek (EDG). 2 vols. Leiden Indo-European Etymological Dictionary Series 10.1–2. Leiden.

Blanc, Alain. 2011. Review of R. Beekes, EDG. BSL 106:178–199.

CEG = Blanc, Alain, Charles de Lamberterie, and Jean-Louis Perpillou. 1996–2011. “Chronique d’étymologie grecque.” Published in Revue de Philologie. CEG 1, RPh 70:103–138; CEG 2, RPh 71:147–179; CEG 3, RPh 72:117–141; CEG 4, RPh 73:79–108; CEG 5, RPh 74:257–286; CEG 6, RPh 75:131–162; CEG 7, RPh 76:113–142; CEG 8, RPh 77:111–140; CEG 9, RPh 78:155–179; CEG 10, RPh 79:159–180 (+ index of CEG 1 to 10, p. 181–193); CEG 11, RPh 80:339–369; CEG 12, RPh 83:285–328; CEG 13, RPh 85:335–366.

Chantraine, Pierre. 1968–1980. Dictionnaire étymologique de la langue grecque, Histoire des mots (DELG). Paris. I (Α-Δ), 1968; II (Ε-Κ), 1970; III (Λ-Π), 1975; IV/1 (Ρ-Υ), 1977; IV/2 (Φ-Ω), by Jean Taillardat, Olivier Masson and Jean-Louis Perpillou, supervised by Michel Lejeune, with contributions by Françoise Bader, Jean Irigoin, and Pierre Monteil, 1980. — A new edition of DELG was published by the same publisher in 2009; the text remains the same but it was recomposed (this entailed a modification of pagination: 1-1260 instead of 1-1306), and the volume contains, as a supplement, the first 10 issues of the CEG (p. 1261–1383). In the present article, the abbreviations “DELG” and “DELG 2009” refer respectively to the original edition and to the new edition.

———. 1942, 1953. Grammaire homérique (GH). Vol. 1, Phonétique et morphologie (3rd ed. with a new conclusion, 1958). Vol. 2, Syntaxe. Paris.
DELG = Chantraine 1968–1980

DGE = 1980–. Diccionario griego-español. Redactado bajo la dirección de Francisco Adrados, Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas. Madrid.

Dieu, Éric. 2010[12]. “L’étymologie de l’adverbe grec νόσφι.” RPh 84:51–80.

Dmic = Aura Jorro, Francisco. 1985, 1993. Diccionario micénico. 2 vols. Madrid.

EDG = Beekes 2010.

EWAia = Mayrhofer 1997–2001.

Frame, Douglas. 1978. The Myth of Return in Early Greek Epic. New Haven.

———. 2009. Hippota Nestor. Hellenic Studies Series. 37 Cambridge, MA.

Frisk, Hjalmar. 1960–1972. Griechisches etymologisches Wörterbuch (GEW). Heidelberg. I (Α-Κο), 1960; II (Κρ-Ω), 1970; III (Nachträge, Wortregister, Corrigenda, Nachwort), 1972.

García Ramón, José Luis. 2004. “Zum Paradigma von idg. *nes-: homerisch ἀπενάσσατο, kausat. ἀπονάσσωσιν als Aoriste von (°)νέομαι und die Entstehung des Präs. ναίω.” Analecta homini universali dicata: Arbeiten zur Indogermanistik, Linguistik, Philologie, Politik, Musik und Dichtung; Festschrift für Oswald Panagl zum 65. Geburtstag, ed. Thomas Krisch et al., 33–47. Stuttgart.

GEW = Frisk 1960–1972.

GH = Chantraine 1942, 1953.

GI = Montanari 2004.

Gotåō, Toshifumi. 1987. Die “I. Präsensklasse” im Vedischen. Phil.- Hist. Klasse, Sitzungsberichte, 489. Bd. Vienna.

IEW = Pokorny, Julius. 1959, 1969. Indogermanisches etymologisches Wörterbuch. Bern. I (texte), 1959; II (index), 1969.

Jackson, Peter. 2006. The Transformations of Helen: Indo-European Myth and the Roots of the Trojan Cycle. Münchener Studien zur Sprachwissenschaft, Beiheft 23. Dettelbach.

Jasanoff, Jay H. 2003. Hittite and the Indo-European Verb. Oxford.

Kölligan, Daniel. 2007. Suppletion und Defektivität im griechischen Verbum. Münchner Forschungen zur historischen Sprachwissenschaft, Band 6. Bremen.

Kuryłowicz, Jerzy. 1956. L’apophonie en indo-européen. Wrocław.

———. 1968. Indogermanische Grammatik. Vol. 2, Akzent · Ablaut. Heidelberg.

Lamberterie, Charles de. 2012. “Sur un anthroponyme héroïque du grec ancien (hom. Ἀμυθάων, myc. a-mu-ta-wo), avec un excursus relatif à la famille du verbe ἔχω et à la loi de Grassmann.” REG 125:341–363.

———. 2013. “Grec, phrygien, arménien : des anciens aux modernes.” Journal des Savants 2013:3–69.

Lejeune, Michel. 1955–1997. Mémoires de philologie mycénienne (MPM). 4 vols. I (1955–1957), Paris, 1958; II (1958–1963), Rome, 1971; III (1964–1968), Rome, 1972; IV (1969-1996), Rome, 1997.

LfgrE = Snell, Bruno, et al., ed. 1955–2010. Lexikon des frühgriechischen Epos. 4 vols. Göttingen.

LIV = Rix, Helmut, et al., ed. 1998. Lexikon der indogermanischen Verben: Die Wurzeln und ihre Primärstammbildungen. Wiesbaden. – 2nd revised and extended edition, ed. Martin Kümmel und Helmut Rix, 2001.

LSJ = Liddell, Henry George, and Robert Scott. 1940. Greek-English Lexicon. 9th ed. revised by H. Stuart Jones and Roderick McKenzie. Oxford. Revised supplement by P. G. W. Glare and A. A. Thompson, 1996.

Mayrhofer, Manfred. 1986–2001. Etymologisches Wörterbuch des Altindoarischen (EWAia). 3 vols. Heidelberg. I (A-DH), 1986–1992; II (N-H), 1992–1996; III (Jüngere Sprache, Register), 1997–2001.

Meillet, Antoine. 1929. “Les adjectifs grecs en -τος.” Verzameling van opstellen door oud-leerlingen en bevriende vakgenooten opgedragen aan mgr. Prof. Jos. Schrijnen (Donum Natalicum Schrijnen), 635–639. Nimègue and Utrecht.

Montanari, Franco. 2004. Vocabolario della lingua greca, greco italiano (GI). 2nd ed. Turin.

MPM = Lejeune 1955–1997.

NIL = Wodtko, Dagmar S., Britta Irslinger, and Carolin Schneider. 2008. Nomina im Indogermanischen Lexikon. Heidelberg.

Perpillou, Jean-Louis. 2004. Essais de lexicographie en grec ancien. Bibliothèque d’études classiques 42. Louvain.

Risch, Ernst. 1974. Wortbildung der homerischen Sprache (WHS), 2nd ed. Berlin and New York.

Ruijgh, Cornelis J. 1967. Études sur la grammaire et le vocabulaire du grec mycénien. Amsterdam.

———. 1987. “À propos de ϝισϝο- (wi-so-wo-), ἐϝισυ- (e-wi-su-) et hom. ἐ(ϝ)εισάμενος.” Studies in Mycenaean and Classical Greek presented to John Chadwick (= Minos 20–22), 533–544.

———. 1991, 1996. Scripta minora ad linguam graecam pertinentia. 2 vols. Amsterdam.

Stefanelli, Rossana. 2004. “Greco νόσφι.” Arch. Glott. Ital. 89:183–199.

———. 2009/10. “Νόος ovvero la ‘via’ del pensiero.” Glotta 85:217–263.

Wackernagel, Jacob. 1897. Vermischte Beiträge zur griechischen Sprachkunde. Basel.

———. 1953, 1979. Kleine Schriften. 3 vols. Göttingen. I–II, 1953; III, 1979.

WHS = Risch 1974.


[ back1. See Lejeune 1972 (MPM III), chapters 37 and 38 (< 1965), with the mention of wa-do-me-no *Ϝhᾱδομενός p. 26, 32 and 34; a consensus has been reached on this analysis since the beginning of Mycenaean studies (DMic II, 397, with the history of the question). It is regrettable that this anthroponym is not cited under ἥδομαι in the etymological dictionaries of Greek, including the most recent among them (R. Beekes, 2010, EDG 509-510). For abbreviations of the titles of secondary scholarship (such as DELG, DMic or LfgrE), see the list of abbreviations and references at the end of this contribution.

[ back2. A variant of this common phrase is attested with the adverb ἀσμένως, e.g. ταῦτα δ᾽ ἀσμένως τινὲς ἤκουον αὐτοῦ (Demosthenes On the Crown 36) “Some of you were delighted to hear him (sc. Aeschines) say all this.” In some passages from 4th century prose authors, the manuscript tradition features both the adjective and the adverb: as in Xenophon Cyropaidia 5.4.6 ἀσμένους / ἀσμένως (and even ἡδέως); 6.1.45 ἄσμενος/ ἀσμένως.

[ back3. The phrase is elicited by the one that precedes immediately: εἰ δὲ βουλομένοις ὑμῖν ἐστι περὶ τῶν τοιούτων ἐρωτᾶσθαί τε καὶ διδόναι λόγον, αὐτοὺς δὴ χρὴ γιγνώσκειν “but it is for you to decide for yourselves whether you want to be questioned and to offer an answer on such points.” In Plato again, note also: Ὅθεν δὲ ἀπελίπομεν ἐπανέλθωμεν, εἴ σοι ἡδομένῳ ἐστίν. —Ἀλλὰ μὴν ἡδομένῳ γε· πῶς γὰρ οὐ μέλλει; (Phaedo 78b) “But let us return to the point where we left off, if you are willing. —Oh, I am willing; of course.” In the context of argumentation, the set expression in the first phrase is a technique used in a dialogue or a discourse in order to obtain the agreement of the interlocutor or the audience; the most ancient example of this rhetorical expression of politeness can be found in Antiphon On the Chorus Boy 8: ἐὰν ὑμῖν ἡδομένοις “if you so desire,” which means “unless you have any objections” with the copula omitted. [ backThe interplay between ἥδομαι and ἡδύς that we encountered in the Odyssey (9.353–354) can be found again in the classical period, for example: Καὶ αὐτοῖσι ἡμῖν πάλαι […] ἐν νόῳ ἐγένετο εἰπεῖν ταῦτα τά περ ὑμεῖς φθάντες προφέρετε· ἀλλὰ γὰρ ἀρρωδέομεν μὴ ὑμῖν οὐκ ἡδέες γένωνται οἱ λόγοι. Ἐπεὶ δ᾽ ὦν αὐτοὶ ἐμνήσθητε, καὶ ἡδομένοισι ἡμῖν οἱ λόγοι γεγόνασι καὶ ἕτοιμοί εἰμεν ποιέειν ταῦτα (Herodotus 9.46) “We too had it in mind to make that suggestion which now has first come from you. We were hesitant, though, because we feared that such words would be disagreeable to you. But since you have mentioned them yourselves, we too hear your words very gladly and are ready to do as you say.”
[ back
4. Wackernagel 1897:6n2, reprinted in the Kleine Schriften of the author (1953[I]:767).

[ back5. Frisk 1960 (GEW I): 166 (Lieferung 2, 1954): “Isoliertes Partizip unsicherer Herkunft.” Wackernagel’s analysis is described as “kaum nötig.”

[ back6. Chantraine 1968 (DELG I): 125. As fascicle I of this dictionary covers the letters A to Δ, we can conjecture that the writing of the article on ἄσμενος dates back to the early 60’s. It is certain, in any case, that Chantraine had on his desk the published fascicles of the GEW when he was writing his DELG (see Preface, p. vii).

[ back7. Same reference, with mention of another etymological conjecture, that we owe to Leonard Palmer, Sprache 5, 1959: comparison with the group of ἆσαι ‘satisfy hunger.’ This presupposes a semantic development ‘satisfied’ > ‘content, happy’ which, without being impossible as such, does not correspond at all to the more ancient uses of the word in the texts (136).

[ back8. LfgrE I, Lieferung 8 (1978), col. 1415–1416: “viell. […] mit Wackernagel […] zu νέομαι ‘heimkehren, heil davonkommen’ (Bed.-Entwicklung dann etwa ‘glücklich [objektiv] davongekommen’ > subjektiv ‘glücklich [davongekommen]’).” As usual, the article offers the whole Homeric dossier.

[ back ] 9. See Frame 1978:6–33 for the word we are dealing with. The author later reworked his 1978 book, enlarging it considerably, in an impressive book published under the title Hippota Nestor (2009, 912 p.). In this recent book, ἄσμενος is only briefly mentioned, as the doctrine remains the same (pp. 39–41).

[ back ] 10. See LIV 454–455 (by Th. Zehnder), and Kölligan 2007:363–376; on the Vedic data, Gotō 1987:200–201 and Mayrhofer 1992–1996 (EWAia II): 30 and 41. In addition to the verbal stems mentioned in these works of reference, we might have to reconstruct in Indo-European the formations with a lengthened grade of the root (for this view, Jasanoff 2003:224).

[ back ] 11. For a complete treatment of the question, see IEW I, 766–767; Ruijgh 1967:369–372; Frame 1978 and 2009; Bader 1986:483–486); Jackson 2006:95–109. To limit ourselves to Greek, it is plausible to include in this family the substantive νὀος ‘mind’ (for this view, recently, Stefanelli 2009[10]) and the adverb νόσφι ‘apart from’ (excellent demonstration, based on a precise examination of epic formulaic language, in Dieu 2010[12]: the basic meaning is ‘escaping from,’ which reminds us closely of ἄσμενος). I leave aside the onomastic data, abundantly attested since the second millennium (ne-e-ra-wo Νεhέλāϝος, and many others).

[ back ] 12. See in this connection Frame 1978:8, and, independently, Ruijgh 1996:156 (< Ruijgh 1987:542), albeit without any reference to Frame’s work, which is regrettable. This doctrine is accepted in LIV (454–455) and in Kölligan 2007:374–375, as well as in CEG 7, 2002:114 (note by P. Ragot, reprinted in DELG 2009:1274). Again in the same connection, García Ramón 2004:34 and 43; Frame 2009:39 and n70; Dieu, 2010[12]:71–73; recently, Blanc 2011:187 (= review of R. S. P. Beekes, EDG).

[ back ] 13. This is well known and noted in the reference works (Chantraine 1942 [GH I]: 377–386; Risch 1974 [WHS] §86). See, recently, de Lamberterie 2013:45 and n114.

[ back ] 14. See Kuryłowicz 1956:176 (and also 1968:246). It is surprising to observe that this foundational work is not cited in later studies, despite the fact that everything is laid out perfectly. Kuryłowicz himself refers on this point to a study by Güntert 1916, where this doctrine was already expounded. I do not wish to draw the conclusion that in comparative grammar “everything has been said and one comes too late”; but a significant number of older works, quite forgotten in the meantime, still maintain all their value today.

[ back ] 15. On this family of words and its relations with the family of νέομαι, see the thorough study by García Ramón 2004; the author shows that the present *nas-ye/o- probably replaces a perfect. With the same view, Kölligan 2007:374–375.

[ back ] 16. See Meillet 1929.

[ back ] 17. On the Mycenaean data and their importance for the analysis of those of the first millennium, see Perpillou 2004:77–79.

[ back ] 18. On PIE *k̑lu-tó-, see, to mention only one recent reference work, the data collected in NIL 426.

[ back ] 19. On these two names, see recently de Lamberterie 2012:360n40 (with references).

[ back ] 20. On the origin of the Greek participial morpheme -μἐνος and its exact correspondent in Phrygian, see de Lamberterie 2013:43–47: the comparison with Armenian invites us to start with a PIE etymon *-méno-, preferable to the etymon *-mə1no– that several comparatists reconstruct, at least as regards the Balkan area of Indo-European to which these three languages belong. The interplay we see in Greek between -μένος and -τος can be found in Armenian; thus we have, from the PIE root *mer– ‘die,’ Arm. marmin (gen. marmnoy) ‘body,’ which is a substantivization of a medio-passive participle *mr̥-méno- ‘perishable’ (to be compared with Ved. Skt. ámr̥ta ‘he died’ < *é-mr̥-to), and mard (gen. mardoy) ‘man’ (in the sense of ‘human being’) < *mr̥-tó- ‘mortal’ (= Gr. βροτός).

[ back ] 21. See EWAia I, 149–150. If we keep in mind the relation that verbal adjectives in *-tó– frequently have with the abstracts in *-tí-, we must recall here the Skt. noun s(u)vastí– ‘salvation, prosperity’ (hence svastika– ‘talisman, lucky charm’), a compound of the meliorative prefix s(u)v– and of an abstract noun based on an etymon *n̥s-tí- (EWAia II, p. 796-797).

[ back ] 22. The connection has been established by Frame 2009:39.

[ back ] 23. On the relation between * n̥s-tóet *nós-to-, see Jackson 2006:105–109.

[ back ] 24. On this point see Kölligan 2007:363–376.

[ back ] 25. Frame 1978:6–24 (with an echo in 2009:39–41).

[ back ] 26. Frame 1978:12.

[ back ] 27. As is shown mainly by her contribution in Mélanges de linguistique et de philologie grecques offerts à Pierre Chantraine, Paris, Klincksieck, (Études et Commentaires, 79), 1972: “Vocabulaire et propagande ou les premiers emplois du mot ὁμόνοια,” p. 199–209.