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Genitive absolute: cause as satellite

Syntactical Level

πάντες δὲ ᾤοντο ἀπολωλέναι, ὡς ἑαλωκυίας τῆς πόλεως.

‘They thought they were all doomed, because the city had been occupied.’ (Xen. Anab. 7.1.19)

The genitive absolute, often accompanied by ἅτε or ὡς, signals a cause as a satellite. The referent of the subject of the genitive absolute is never identical to that of the main clause (so coreferential situations are impossible).

Syntactic usage

The two particles each have their own nuance:

  • ἅτε (sometimes οἷον or οἷα, in Herodotus ὥστε) denotes an objective cause ('since');
  • ὡς denotes a subjective cause ('under the impression that, on the pretext that').

ὄντος, the participle van εἰμί, may be omitted if the genitive absolute is accompanied by a particle, .


These genitive absolutes are usually not anticipated by a signal word, unlike other causative satellites.

Example Sentences: 

καὶ οἷα δὴ ἀπιόντων πρὸς δεῖπνον καὶ συσκευαζομένων τῶν πελταστῶν, τῶν δ᾽ ἱππέων τῶν μὲν ἔτι καταβεβηκότων, τῶν δ᾽ ἀναβαινόντων, ἐπελαύνουσι

And as the peltasts left to dine and prepare for that, as some of the horsemen were still ascending and others were ascending, [the Thebans] attacked them. [provisional translation]

ὡς ἐγνωκότων ὑμῶν καὶ πεπεισμένων, παύομαι λέγων

Since you are resolute and convinced, I will stop speaking. ֍

δεῖ γάρ , ἔχοντος ἐκείνου ναυτικόν , καὶ ταχειῶν τριήρων ἡμῖν , ὅπως ἀσφαλῶς ἡ δύναμις πλέῃ .

Since he [Philip] has a fleet, it is important that we should have swift triemes so that our military force can sail safely.

ὅτι μὲν γάρ τινων αἰτίων ὄντων κακῶς τὰ πράγματ’ ἔχει, πάντες ἐπιστάμεθα

For that the situation is in a bad way through the fault of certain men we all know. ֍