Bakker, Egbert J. 2005. Pointing at the Past: From Formula to Performance in Homeric Poetics. Hellenic Studies Series 12. Washington, DC: Center for Hellenic Studies. http://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:hul.ebook:CHS_BakkerE_Pointing_at_the_Past.2005.
Chapter 7. Similes, Augment, and the Language of Immediacy
Revisiting the Augment
ὅς κ᾿ εἴποι ὅ τι τόσσον ἐχώσατο Φοῖβος Ἀπόλλων
In the first extract the speaker is Homer, the narrator, and Hektor’s emotion is, as narrative, an event that took place in another time and place. The verb χώσατο, which does not carry the augment, is an act of narration that reports, reduplicates, the original event. In the second example the speaker is Achilles. His speech act pertains to the present situation; it does not refer to any previous anger of Apollo, but to the one that afflicts the army in the present, even though it may have been caused by something in the past. Apollo’s apparent anger is the source and motivation for Achilles’ present speech act. We note that the verb ἐχώσατο carries the augment. Consider also the following extract repeated from the previous Chapter, in which Diomedes addresses Hektor:
ἦλθε κακόν· νῦν αὖτέ σ᾿ ἐρύσατο Φοῖβος Ἀπόλλων
The three aorists ἔφυγες, ἦλθε, and ἐρύσατο, all augmented, do not refer to past events. The escape of Diomedes’ intended victim is a matter of the present. Notice that the temporal adverb nūn, the temporal adverb of the present, is used twice. 
Charting Homeric Augment
Table 1: Augment on the aorist in Narrative and Characters’ speech in the Iliad
|Total number of verbs||5795|
|Augment required by meter||1476||25.47%|
|Augment ruled out by meter||2600||44.86%|
|Augment required by meter||1045||23.01%|
|Augment ruled out by meter||2168||47.74%|
|Augment required by meter||431||34.39%|
|Augment ruled out by meter||432||34.47%|
Table 2: Augment on the aorist in similes 
|Augment required by meter||63||60.57%|
|Augment ruled out by meter||6||5.94%|
Table 3: Augment on aorists with the –σκ-suffix 
|Aorist with –sk-||37|
|Augment required by meter||0||0%|
|Augment ruled out by meter||27||72.79%|
Table 4: Augment in speech introduction
|Augment required by meter||167||45.01%|
|Augment ruled out by meter||62||16.71%|
and him she addressed, goddess gray-eyed Athene
The first hemistich τὸν δ᾿ αὖτε προσέειπε always precedes a noun-epithet formula and functions as what I have called elsewhere a “staging formula”: the phrase sets the scene for the appearance of a god or hero as well as for his or her noun-epithet formula in the metrical space of the hexameter. On the principle that formulas are the most grammatically perfect epic phrases, metrically, phonetically, and semantically, I suggest that the formulaic environment of this hemistich underlines the idiomatic status of augment in this type of context. 
Ἥφαιστος μὲν δῶκε Διὶ Κρονίωνι ἄνακτι,
αὐτὰρ ἄρα Ζεὺς δῶκε διακτόρῳ ἀργεϊφόντῃ·
Ἑρμείας δὲ ἄναξ δῶκεν Πέλοπι πληξίππῳ,
αὐτὰρ ὁ αὖτε Πέλοψ δῶκ᾿ Ἀτρέϊ ποιμένι λαῶν,
Ἀτρεὺς δὲ θνῄσκων ἔλιπεν πολύαρνι Θυέστῃ,
αὐτὰρ ὁ αὖτε Θυέστ᾿Ἀγαμέμνονι λεῖπε φορῆναι
Hephaistos gave it to Zeus the king, the son of Kronos,
and Zeus in turn gave it to the courier Argeïphontes,
and lord Hermes gave it to Pelops, driver of horses,
and Pelops again gave it to Atreus, the shepherd of the people,
and Atreus dying left it to Thyestes of the rich flocks,
but in his turn Thyestes left it to be carried by Agamemnon.
Table 5: Augment on backgrounded verbs in the Iliad:
|Event out of sequence||203|
|Augment required by meter||33||16.25%|
|Augment ruled out by meter||132||65.02%|
Table 6: Augment in narrative told by characters
|Narrative in char. speech||360|
|Augment required by meter||77||21.38%|
|Augment ruled out by meter||195||54.16%|
Table 7: Augment in character speech proper (nonnarrative)
|Character speech proper||889|
|Augment required by meter||351||39.48%|
|Augment ruled out by meter||236||26.54%|
τοὔνεκά τοι ἐρέω· σὺ δὲ σύνθεο καί μευ ἄκουσον·
therefore I will tell, and you in turn understand and listen.
ὃς ἔτλης ἐμεῦ εἵνεκ᾿, ἐπεὶ ἴδες ὀφθαλμοῖσι,
τείχεος ἐξελθεῖν, ἄλλοι δ᾿ ἔντοσθε μένουσι.
you who dared for my sake, when your eyes saw me, to come forth
from the fortifications, when the others stand fast inside them.
Table 8: Augment on negated verbs in character speech
|Verb under negation||63|
|Augment required by meter||14||22.22%|
|Augment ruled out by meter||27||42.85%|
The Near, the Actual, the Visualized
ἔμπης δ᾿ οὐκ ἐδάμασσα· θεός νύ τίς ἐστι κοτήεις
yet still I have not beaten him; now this is some god who is angered.
ἦ μάλα σ᾿ οὐ βέλος ὠκὺ δαμάσσατο πικρὸς ὀϊστός·
νῦν αὖτ᾿ ἐγχείῃ πειρήσομαι αἴ κε τύχωμι.
Now I will try with the throwing-spear to see if I can hit you.
οἷον Πειρίθοόν τε Δρύαντά τε ποιμένα λαῶν
men like Peirithoös, and Dryas, shepherd of the people.
οὐ γάρ πώ ποτέ μ᾿ ὧδε θεᾶς ἔρος οὐδὲ γυναικὸς
θυμὸν ἐνὶ στήθεσσι περιπροχυθεὶς ἐδάμασσεν
so melted about the heart inside me, broken it to submission as now.
In the first extract Nestor is saying that he has never seen the likes of Peirithoos or Druas then, legendary heroes from the past, and the negated verb denotes the non-event for which the augmentless verb seems to be the appropriate expression. In the second extract, Zeus is saying that he has never been so much stricken with desire as he is now: the non-event has occurred in the past and is contrasted with the very positive and concrete occurrence of eros in the present. The occurrence of augment in negated contexts, where augment is generally disfavored, then, is equally revealing as the scarcity of augment in negated contexts in general as opposed to character speech as a whole. In other words, what seem to be mere exceptions may in fact be a confirmation of the rule.
Similes, Proverbs, and the Language of Immediacy
ἄλλῳ δ᾿ ὀρχηστύν, ἑτέρῳ κίθαριν καὶ ἀοιδήν,
ἄλλῳ δ᾿ ἐν στήθεσσι τιθεῖ νόον εὐρύοπα Ζεὺς
ἐσθλόν, τοῦ δέ τε πολλοὶ ἐπαυρίσκοντ᾿ ἄνθρωποι,
καί τε πολέας ἐσάωσε, μάλιστα δὲ καὐτὸς ἀνέγνω.
to one to be a dancer, to another the lyre and the singing,
and in the breast of another Zeus of the wide brows establishes
wisdom, a lordly thing, and many take profit beside him
and he saves many, and in particular he has recognized this himself.
We see here augmented aorists (ἔδωκε, ἐσαώσε, ἀνέγνω) alongside the present (τιθεῖ), for which sometimes the characterization “generic” is used, in line with the gnomic nature of the aorist. It is true, of course, that these sayings are not first time observations: prior experience and general knowledge of the world is involved. Yet it remains to be seen whether this general knowledge is as such the crucial element in the meaning of the verbs or even of the proverb as a whole. I believe that our preoccupation with the generic, “gnomic,” or timeless nature of aphorisms as they are used in oral traditions derives from our own literate conception of language: we tend to view the proverb as a proposition, in terms of its semantic content. In this way, we see the fool in Menelaos’s aphorism or the persons mentioned in Polydamas’s priamel as generic types, in accordance with the “gnomic” reading of the aorists.
νωθής, ᾧ δὴ πολλὰ περὶ ῥόπαλ᾿ ἀμφὶς ἐάγῃ,
κείρει τ᾿ εἰσελθὼν βαθὺ λήϊον· οἱ δέ τε παῖδες
τύπτουσιν ῥοπάλοισι· βίη δέ τε νηπίη αὐτῶν·
σπουδῇ τ᾿ ἐξήλασσαν, ἐπεί τ᾿ ἐκορέσσατο φορβῆς
and many sticks have been broken upon him,
but he get in and goes on eating the deep grain; and the children
beat him with sticks, but their strength is infantile, yet at last
by hard work they drive him out when he is glutted with eating.
Here, too, the present and the aorist have been associated with the timeless and generic. Yet at the same time scholars, today as well as in Antiquity, have used such epithets as “concrete” and “vivid” to characterize the effect of similes, and stressed their intensely visual nature. Just as in the case of the aphorisms, I argue that timelessness and previous experience enhances the impact of the simile in the present. The effect of the simile quoted above depends, of course, on common, generic knowledge of donkeys and their behavior. It is true also that there is a strong, experiential association between the various details (the grazing donkey, the useless force of the childen, etc).  Yet as an image visualized, created in the epic performance and jointly watched by the poet and the audience, the donkey and its behavior cannot but become highly specific. The sharpness of the image derives from common knowledge, but should not be confused with it. The present tense and the augmented aorist do not express, as “gnomic” tenses, the common knowledge; they pertain to the image and its presence in the performance, as it is visualized and perceived by the poet and his audience.