Re: 3rd Aorist ??

Carl William Conrad (
Mon, 28 Oct 1996 15:09:15 -0600 (CST)

On Mon, 28 Oct 1996 wrote:

> I got a message from someone regarding a 3rd Aorist. Can someone explain
> what this person is talking about??
> << You might pick up a copy of Smythe. Although it is very long, incredibly
> boring, etc. it is very solid, and is referred to as a primary source by many
> Greek teachers, including, I think, Blass, DeBrunner, Funk, etc. Anyway,
> Frank Gignac, whose work is in Papyrology, and has another of those very
> long, incredibly complex and boring works that are nonetheless rated very
> highly, himself recommends it as one of the half-dozen texts which "anyone
> should have who does any work beyond introductory Greek". Of course, he's
> also the one who requires that we know and understand the 3rd aorist--even
> though I've yet to find another grammar that calls it that. And I can't
> explain the 3rd aorist to you, either. I've had it explained to me a few
> times, and it always is a case of: "Now I understand it" And an hour later
> it is GONE. The closest I can come to are "long vowel, athematic aorists"
> There is supposed to be a list of these verbs in Smythe, but if so, it is
> not obvious to me where. Oh, well.... >>

Smythe does not use the term, "Third Aorist," and so far as I know, I'm
the only one who has used this term. Having protested against the
invention of new categories, I guess I should defend the invention of this
one. It has always seemed to me to be perfectly reasonable that we
distinguish between a First (Sigmatic or Alpha) Aorist and a Second
(Thematic) Aorist--but there is a type of "Second" Aorist that is quite
distinct from those thematic Second Aorists, namely the athematic types
that are generally formed by adding personal endings directly to a vocalic
EFANHS, EFANH ... EFANHSAN. Most of these verbs actually have an Eta stem,
and it is from them historically that the Aorist Passive system developed
by using the intransitive forms with an agent construction and giving them
a passive sense. Strictly as a pedagogical device, I have found it useful
to teach students three kinds of aorists: sigmatic, thematic, and
athematic and to give them the three distinct names, First, Second, and
Third Aorists. But nobody else does this, so far as I know, and certainly
Smythe does not. Smythe's is the most eminently sensible grammar available
in English for Greek of any period of the language.

Carl W. Conrad
Department of Classics, Washington University
One Brookings Drive, St. Louis, MO, USA 63130
(314) 935-4018 OR