From: Carl W. Conrad (
Date: Tue Feb 18 1997 - 10:55:53 EST

At 8:11 AM -0600 2/18/97, Jonathan Robie wrote:
>What is the force of the dative here?
>It seems to say "I agree with the law" hOTI KALOS, but isn't it the law
>itself which I agree is KALOS? How am I supposed to know that hOTI KALOS
>means something like hOTI hO NOMOS KALOS ESTIN, as it seems to be translated
>by most translations?

It is elliptical. Greek is almost always elliptical in that you have to
supply something understood from previous part of the discourse. The worst
is stichomythia in Attic tragedy, where each line of new-speaker discourse
has to be understood in terms of the grammar of the preceding line spoken
by someone else. Here, SUMFHMI TWi NOMWi is something like "I say yes to
the Law when it says to me that (it is) good."

Unfortunately this sense of discernment of what is elliptical requires a
heap of reading and seeing constructions like it, and staring at them for
minutes, or hours, and finally having the light dawn on you. Aeschylus uses
a metaphor of a dripping that keeps going on in your peripheral vision and
hearing that slowly ripens into discernment; he calls it the gift of the
grace of Zeus: PAQEI MAQOS, learning by slow torture.

>Ohne Verstand reicht Sitzfleisch auch nicht.
>The mind can absorb no more than the seat can endure.
>(The second is not a translation of the first, but they are somewhat related.)

The peasant at the opera in Munich turned to his neighbor and said (mutatis
mutandis, hochdeutsch freilich hat er nicht gesprochen), "Weisst Du, die
Haelfte verstehe ich nicht, und was ich verstehe, das verstehe ich auch

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

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