Wednesday, March 18, 2009


Proleptic Adjectives

B. Perrin on Homer, Odyssey 1.30 (τηλεκλυτός = far-famed):
rather proleptic, since Orestes won his fame by avenging his father (cf. γ 203 f., 306 ff.). Prob. in a similar way the epithets πτολίπορθος, πολυτλήμων are applied to Odysseus in some passages of the Il., though earned by him in a period subsequent to the action of that poem.
The epithets are proleptic, or anticipatory, because they describe the future, not the present, condition of the persons they modify.

Orestes only became far-famed (τηλεκλυτός) after he killed Aegisthus in revenge for the murder of his father Agamemnon; he was not yet famous when he killed Aegisthus. Likewise, it was fitting to call Odysseus sacker of cities (πτολίπορθος) only after the fall of Troy, not before, and Odysseus suffered much (πολυτλήμων) in the course of his attempt to return home after the Trojan War, not at some time during that war. The action of the Iliad takes place before the fall of Troy.

There is a striking example of a proleptic adjective in Keat's Lamia, XXVII:
The two brothers and their murder'd man
Rode past fair Florence, to where Arno's stream
The man was not yet dead when he rode.

I haven't seen Jan Gonda, "'Prolepsis' of the Adjective in Greek and Other Ancient Indo-European Languages," Mnemosyne 11 (1958) 1-19, rpt. in his Selected Studies (Leiden: Brill, 1975), pp. 88-106.

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