ὁπάων and ὁπάζω: A Study in the Epic Treatment of Heroic Relationships

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III. The Formulaic Use of Opazō

In attempting to understand what a word means in traditional diction, it is necessary to examine the ways it is employed, the formulas of which it is a part. We may begin with Milman Parry’s definition of a formula as “a group of words which is regularly employed under the same metrical conditions to express a given essential idea.” [1] One of the principal phrases in which opazō occurs, *kudos opazein, appears, as it is used in the Homeric Epos to be by this definition a formula. It occurs under the same metrical conditions, in the space from the bucolic diaeresis to the end of the line:… —5 6— in the following instances.

νῦν μὲν γὰρ τούτῳ Κρονίδης Ζεὺς κῦδος ὀπάζει
Θ 141
θέλγε νόον, Τρωσὶν δὲ καὶ Ἕκτορι κῦδος ὄπαζε
Μ 255
ἧκε φόβον, Τρωσὶν δὲ καὶ Ἕκτορι κῦδος ὄπαζεν
Ο 327
ἧκε κακόν, Τρωσὶν δὲ καὶ Ἕκτορι κῦδος ὄπαζεν
Π 730
χαλκῷ δηϊόων· τῷ γὰρ Ζεὺς κῦδος ὀπάζει
Ρ 566
ἔμμεναι· αὐτάρ οἱ Κρονίδης Ζεὺς κῦδος ὀπάζει
Φ 570
ἀνθρώπων ἔργοισι χάριν καὶ κῦδος ὀπάζει
ο 320
οἴκου κήδεσθαι, τῷ τε Ζεὺς κῦδος ὀπάζει
Τ 161
Νέστορι μὲν πρώτιστα καὶ υἱάσι κῦδος ὄπαζε
γ 57
δέγμενος ἐξ ἐμέθεν· σὺ δέ μοι, φίλε, κῦδος ὄπαζε
Η. Merc . 477
ἴσην ἀμφοτέροισι βίην καὶ κῦδος ὄπασσον
Η 205

All of these instances contain a form of opazō either in the indicative or in the imperative. The only instance of *kudos opazein outside of the position —5 6 # employs an imperative:

καί σφιv κῦδος ὄπαζε μίνυνθά περ, ὄφρ’ ἔτι εὕδε
Ξ 358

We may schematize the meter as —1 | —2 ⏑ 3 and note that this corresponds exactly to —4 | —5 ⏑ 6 as in the expression, Ἕκτορι κῦδος ὄπαζε(v) (Μ 255, Ο 327, Π 730). [2]

It is clear that the phrase * kudos opazein is used regularly under the same metrical conditions to express the same idea. [3] An important feature of the attestations of *kudos opazein is that they almost exclusively involve the imperfect or present tenses to convey the imperfective aspect. In order to understand better the force of this use, we need to examine other cases of opazō when the imperfective aspect is used.
The imperfective aspect must be distinguished from the aorist aspect. Recalling the categories of unmarked and marked that we employed earlier to distinguish singular and plural, we can say that aorist aspect is unmarked and imperfective is marked. [4] The aorist aspect is the unmarked category, because it expresses action as simply happening and conceived of as occurring in discrete units of time. The imperfective aspect is marked because it connects those discrete moments, and expresses action as continuous and on-going from one moment to the next. The imperfective speaks of the process, rather than of the episode. We turn to opazō to see how the imperfective aspect marks certain usages.
A sense of movement is sometimes explicit when imperfective forms of opazō are used. For example, in

χείμαρρους κατ’ ὄρεσφιν, ὀπαζόμενος Διὸς ὄμβρῳ
Λ 493

opazomenos describes a river which is flowing, or driven on, by the rain of Zeus. The main verbs in the two following lines, ekikhane ‘it reached’ and epaiksaske ‘it rushed’, also emphasize motion:

ἀλλ’ ὅτε δή ῥ’ ἐκίχανε πολὺν καθ’ ὅμιλον ὀπάζων
Ε 334
ῥεῖα δ’ ἐπαίξασκε πολὺν καθ’ ὅμιλον ὀπάζων
Ρ 462

Similarly in:

ἔργῷ δ’ ἔργον ὄπαζε ταμὼν κρέα πίονα δημῷ
Η. Merc . 120

Hephaistos opaze ‘moves’ from task to task. The imperfective aspect is appropriate here, since motion, in itself, expresses what happens in between being first in one place and then in another.

Opazō with the imperfective aspect is used formulaically in invocations, particularly at the end of some Homeric Hymns.

πρόφρων δ’ ἀντ’ ᾠδῆς βίοτον θυμήρε’ ὄπαζε
Η. xxx 18
χαῖρε, ἄναξ, πρόφρων δὲ βίον θυμήρ’ ὄπαζε
Η. xxxi 17
πρόφρονες ἄντ’ ᾠδης βίοτον θυμήρε’ ὄπαζε
Η. Cer . 494

The imperfective aspect of the present tense verb complements the object, biotos or bios. The poet asks the god to grant him a means of living such as would come from being a good poet. The biotos or bios is not confined to the episodes when the poet is performing, but is what sustains him from song to song. The poet is saying “cause a means of living to accompany me,” and the imperfective aspect stresses the sense of accompaniment fitting to the nature of the object.

Similar connections between the verbal aspect and the object appear in σ 19:

ὥς περ ἐγών, ὄλβον δὲ θεοὶ μέλλουσιν ὀπάζειν.

olbos denotes prosperity, particularly that derived from a wealth of material possessions. Yet olbos is not a single piece of that wealth, but a characterization of the whole of life. As an enduring quality, olbos requires the imperfective aspect, as expressed by the main verb in the present and the present infinitive, opazein. [5]

A subtlety in the imperfective aspect of opazō appears when the line:

Εὐρύμαχ’, οὔ τί σ’ ἄνωγα ἐμοὶ πομπήας ὀπάζειν
υ 364

is contrasted with:

γηθήσειν κατὰ θυμόν· ἐπεὶ ῥά οἱ ὤπασα πομπόν
Ν 416
‘Ερμείας· σοὶ γάρ με πατὴρ ἅμα πομπὸν ὄπασσεν
Ο 461
τοῖον γὰρ οἱ πομπὸν ὀπάσσομεν Ἀργειφόντην
Ω 153

We have seen above how opazō contains a causative notion ‘to cause to accompany.’ Within this meaning semantic weight may be placed on either of two facets. The stress can fall either (1) on the act of causation happening in a discrete moment of time, or (2) on the act of going along or being with, in which case what is important is the continuity through units of time and place. The emphasis is made, in the first option, by the use of aorist aspect, and in the second, by the use of the imperfective. This distinction is paralleled in the four lines quoted by a split in the meaning of the objects. Both pompos and pompēas are derivatives of pempo ‘I send’; pompos designates the person who is sent as a companion, whereas pompēus is the act of accompaniment itself. Here we notice the same distinction between the start of the action and the process of it that we saw above in opazō.

Turning back to the lines quoted, we observe in the first (υ 364) that the present tense of opazō matches the sense of pompeas. In the others, opazō in the aorist aspect corresponds to its object, pompos.
The various imperfective uses of opazō in the Homeric Epos provide insight into the dynamics of that aspect. We have seen how the imperfective aspect expresses the motion from one place to another and the endurance of a quality from one time to another. It also describes the act of accompaniment in a way that stresses the process of accompaniment rather than the instigation of that action. These characteristics of the imperfective aspect are the senses conveyed by the context and by the direct object of opazō. The noun form corresponding to opazō, opaōn, contains all of these qualities. The opaōn goes with the hero from one point to another, and stays with him as a continual companion from one time to another. Also, in the behavior of the opaōn the fact that he is accompanying the hero so closely as to be an alter-ego is stressed rather than how he came to be in that position. With this understanding of the semantic force behind the imperfective use of opazō, we may go on to investigate the phrase * kudos opazein.


[ back ] 1. Parry, p. 270.
[ back ] 2. Nagy, 1974, pp. 63-64.
[ back ] 3. Technically there may be a variation in essential meaning expressed according to the use of the indicative or imperative, imperfect or present.
[ back ] 4. Fred. W. Householder and Gregory Nagy, Greek: A Survey of Recent Work (The Hague: Mouton, 1972), p. 42.
[ back ] 5. If olbos is an enduring quality of life bestowed by wealth, it is possible to understand the derivation of olbios as ‘blessed, immortal’; the prosperity endures even beyond death, not only in the direct presence of material possessions (also see Gregory Nagy “Another look at kleos aphthiton”, unpublished paper, 1981) p. 49.