Homeric Greek
Homeric Greek is the form of the Greek language
Greek language
Greek is an independent branch of the Indo-European family of languages. Native to the southern Balkans, it has the longest documented history of any Indo-European language, spanning 34 centuries of written records. Its writing system has been the Greek alphabet for the majority of its history;...

 that was used by Homer
In the Western classical tradition Homer , is the author of the Iliad and the Odyssey, and is revered as the greatest ancient Greek epic poet. These epics lie at the beginning of the Western canon of literature, and have had an enormous influence on the history of literature.When he lived is...

 in the Iliad
The Iliad is an epic poem in dactylic hexameters, traditionally attributed to Homer. Set during the Trojan War, the ten-year siege of the city of Troy by a coalition of Greek states, it tells of the battles and events during the weeks of a quarrel between King Agamemnon and the warrior Achilles...

and Odyssey
The Odyssey is one of two major ancient Greek epic poems attributed to Homer. It is, in part, a sequel to the Iliad, the other work ascribed to Homer. The poem is fundamental to the modern Western canon, and is the second—the Iliad being the first—extant work of Western literature...

. It is an archaic version of Ionic Greek
Ionic Greek
Ionic Greek was a subdialect of the Attic–Ionic dialect group of Ancient Greek .-History:Ionic dialect appears to have spread originally from the Greek mainland across the Aegean at the time of the Dorian invasions, around the 11th Century B.C.By the end of the Greek Dark Ages in the 5th Century...

, with admixtures from certain other dialects, such as Aeolic Greek
Aeolic Greek
Aeolic Greek is a linguistic term used to describe a set of dialects of Ancient Greek spoken mainly in Boeotia , Thessaly, and in the Aegean island of Lesbos and the Greek colonies of Asia Minor ....

. It later served as the basis of Epic Greek, the language of epic poetry, typically in dactylic hexameter
Dactylic hexameter
Dactylic hexameter is a form of meter in poetry or a rhythmic scheme. It is traditionally associated with the quantitative meter of classical epic poetry in both Greek and Latin, and was consequently considered to be the Grand Style of classical poetry...

, of poets such as Hesiod
Hesiod was a Greek oral poet generally thought by scholars to have been active between 750 and 650 BC, around the same time as Homer. His is the first European poetry in which the poet regards himself as a topic, an individual with a distinctive role to play. Ancient authors credited him and...

. Unlike later forms of the language, Homeric Greek did not have available in most circumstances a true definite article
Definite Article
Definite Article is the title of British comedian Eddie Izzard's 1996 performance released on VHS. It was recorded on different nights at the Shaftesbury Theatre...

. 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
Koine Greek
Koine Greek is the universal dialect of the Greek language spoken throughout post-Classical antiquity , developing from the Attic dialect, with admixture of elements especially from Ionic....


Main features

Only irregular forms are provided, omitted forms can usually be predicted by following patterns seen in Ionic Greek.

First Declension
Nominative Singular: ends in -η, even after ρ,ε, and ι
Ionic Greek
Ionic Greek was a subdialect of the Attic–Ionic dialect group of Ancient Greek .-History:Ionic dialect appears to have spread originally from the Greek mainland across the Aegean at the time of the Dorian invasions, around the 11th Century B.C.By the end of the Greek Dark Ages in the 5th Century...

. For Example, χώρη, rather than χώρα. However, some nouns do end in -α.
Genitive Plural: usually ends in -αων or -εων. For example, νυμφάων, rather than νυμφῶν.
Dative Plural: almost always ends in -ῃσι or -ῃς. For example, πύλῃσιν is equivalent to πύλαις.
Certain first declension nouns may end in -α (ἱππότα) rather than -ης (ναύτης, Ἀτρεΐδης). For Example, ἱππότα, rather than ἱππότης.
Genitive Singular of these nouns ends in -αο or -εω, rather than -ου. For example, Ἀτρεΐδαο, as opposed to Ἀτρεΐδου.
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
Quantitative metathesis
Quantitative metathesis is a specific form of metathesis or transposition involving quantity or vowel length...

 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)
Genitive Singular: ἐμεῖο, ἐμέο, ἐμεῦ, μευ, ἐμέθεν.
First Person Plural (We)
Accusative Plural: ἡμέας, ἄμμε.
Genitive Plural: ἡμείων, ἡμέων.
Dative Plural: ἄμμι(ν)
Second Person Singular (You)
Genitive Singular: σεῖο, σέο, σεῦ, σευ, σέθεν.
Second Person Plural (You)
Accusative Plural: ὕμέας, ὕμμε.
Genitive Plural: ὕμείων, ὕμέων.
Dative Plural: ὕμμι(ν)
Third Person Singular Masculine (Him)
Accusative Singular: ἕ.
Genitive Singular:εἷο, ἕο, εὗ, ἕθεν.
Dative Singular: ἑοῖ, οἰ.
Third Person Plural (Them)
Accusative Plural: σφε, σφέας, σφας.
Genitive Plural: σφείων, σφέων.
Dative Plural: σφι, σφισί.
Third Person Singular Pronoun (He, She, It) (The Relative) OR Singular Article (The) (This is rare)
Nominative Singular: ὁ, ἡ, τό. (etc.)
Third Person Plural Pronoun (He, She, It) (The Relative) OR Plural Article (The) (This is rare)
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
I. -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.
II. 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. Resultantly, necessary adjustments may need to be made in compounds; in this vein, ἔμβαλε would 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: force conveys transition: 'so' or 'next'
δή: force conveys emphasis: 'indeed'
ἦ: force conveys emphasis: 'surely'
περ: force conveys emphasis: 'just' or 'even'
τε: force conveys a general remark or a connective: 'and'
τοι: force conveys assertion: 'I tell you ...'


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
Hapax legomenon
A hapax legomenon is a word which occurs only once within a context, either in the written record of an entire language, in the works of an author, or just in a single text. The term is sometimes used incorrectly to describe a word that occurs in just one of an author's works, even though it...



The Iliad
The Iliad is an epic poem in dactylic hexameters, traditionally attributed to Homer. Set during the Trojan War, the ten-year siege of the city of Troy by a coalition of Greek states, it tells of the battles and events during the weeks of a quarrel between King Agamemnon and the warrior Achilles...

, lines 1-7

Robert Fitzgerald
Robert Fitzgerald
Robert Stuart Fitzgerald was a poet, critic and translator whose renderings of the Greek classics "became standard works for a generation of scholars and students." He was best known as a translator of ancient Greek and Latin...

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.

Alexander Pope
Alexander Pope
Alexander Pope was an 18th-century English poet, best known for his satirical verse and for his translation of Homer. He is the third-most frequently quoted writer in The Oxford Dictionary of Quotations, after Shakespeare and Tennyson...

Achilles' wrath, to Greece the direful spring
Of woes unnumber'd, heavenly goddess, sing!
That wrath which hurl'd to Pluto's gloomy reign
The souls of mighty chiefs untimely slain;
Whose limbs unburied on the naked shore,
Devouring dogs and hungry vultures tore.
Since great Achilles and Atrides strove,
Such was the sovereign doom, and such the will of Jove!

Samuel Butler
Samuel Butler (novelist)
Samuel Butler was an iconoclastic Victorian author who published a variety of works. Two of his most famous pieces are the Utopian satire Erewhon and a semi-autobiographical novel published posthumously, The Way of All Flesh...

Sing, O goddess, the anger of Achilles son of Peleus, that brought countless ills upon the Achaeans. Many a brave soul did it send hurrying down to Hades, and many a hero did it yield a prey to dogs and vultures, for so were the counsels of Jove fulfilled from the day on which the son of Atreus, king of men, and great Achilles, first fell out with one another.

Andrew Lang
Andrew Lang
Andrew Lang was a Scots poet, novelist, literary critic, and contributor to the field of anthropology. He is best known as a collector of folk and fairy tales. The Andrew Lang lectures at the University of St Andrews are named after him.- Biography :Lang was born in Selkirk...

Sing, goddess, the wrath of Achilles Peleus' son, the ruinous wrath that brought on the Achaians woes innumerable, and hurled down into Hades many strong souls of heroes, and gave their bodies to be a prey to dogs and all winged fowls; and so the counsel of Zeus wrought out its accomplishment from the day when first strife parted Atreides king of men and noble Achilles.

Robert Fagles
Robert Fagles
Robert Fagles was an American professor, poet, and academic, best known for his many translations of ancient Greek classics, especially his acclaimed translations of the epic poems of Homer...

Rage—Goddess, sing the rage of Peleus' son Achilles,
murderous, doomed, that cost the Achaeans countless losses,
hurling down to the House of Death so many sturdy souls,
great fighters' souls, but made their bodies carrion,
feasts for the dogs and birds,
and the will of Zeus was moving towards its end.
Begin, Muse, when the two first broke and clashed,
Agamemnon lord of men and brilliant Achilles.

External links

  • http://www.Handheldclassics.com has interlinear versions of the Iliad and Odyssey for the Palm Pilot
  • The Chicago Homer http://www.library.northwestern.edu/homer provides a Web-based interface for studying Homer (and Hesiod) suitable for beginners or experts


  • Pharr, Clyde. Homeric Greek: A Book for Beginners. University of Oklahoma Press, Norman, new edition, 1959. Revised edition: John Wright, 1985. ISBN 0-8061-1937-3.
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