Accusative absolute

Syntactical Level

A participle in the accusative, of which the subject is not coreferential with another constituent, signals a satellite. This construction is called the accusative absolute or accusativus absolutus.
Accusative absolutes generally express the semantic role concession; also sometimes cause or time.

Lexical usage

Present active (or middle) participle: most common

γενόμενον ἐπ' ἐμοί ‘because/although/when it was in my power’, δέον ‘… it is necessary’, δοκοῦν ‘… it is approved’, ἐξόν ‘… it is possible’, μέλον ‘… it is an object of care’, μεταμέλον ‘… it is a cause for regret’, παρέχον ‘… it is in one's power’, παρόν, μετόν, πρέπον, προσῆκον ‘… it is seemly’

Aorist active participle: rare

δόξαν (or δόξαντα) ‘because/although/when it seems good’, παρασχόν ‘… it is in one's power’, τυχόν ‘… it chances to happen’ → ‘by chance’

Passive participle: especially perfect

ἀμεληθέν ‘because/although/when it is neglected’, ἀπορρηθέν ‘… it is forbidden’, γεγραμμένον ‘… it is written’, δεδογμένον ‘… it seems (good)’, εἰρημένον ‘… it is said’, καταχειροτονηθέν ‘… it is voted on by a show of hands’, κῡρωθέν ‘… it is approved, ὁρισθέν ‘… it is divided’, περανθέν, χρησθέν ‘… it is needed’, προσταχθέν, προστεταγμένον ‘… it is enjoined’

Adjective with ὄν

δυνατὸν ὄν ‘because/although/when it is possible’, δίκαιον ὄν ‘… it is justified’ etc.

Syntactic behaviour

Two cases are possible:

  • impersonal verbs and expressions, invariably in the neuter singular and usually with an infinitive as subject (= the most common construction);
  • personal verbs, usually accompanied by ὡς or ὥσπερ, and with a subject in the accusative.

Note that the modality and the time value of accusative absolutes is neutralised. This means that the present παρέχον and the aorist παρασχόν are interchangeable.

Historical background

Although this construction is traditionally known as the accusativus absolutus, synchronically speaking (at least in the case of impersonal participles) it might also be called the nominativus absolutus: in the neuter there is no formal distinction (Buijs 2014). The choice for the label of accusative is based on the consideration that the participle in these constructions probably began as a modifier or as an apposition with the object of the main clause. An example of this would be: προσταχθὲν αὐτοῖς οὐκ ἐτόλμησαν εἰσαγαγεῖν (Isaeus 1.22) 'They did not dare to carry him in, although this was commanded them.'
The accusative absolute occurs from the 5th century B.C. onwards.

Frequential information

De losse accusatief is heel zeldzaam: in de eerste twee boeken van Thucydides komt hij maar 10 keer voor (0,38 % van alle deelwoorden - Coppieters, apud Duhoux). Bij Isocrates is de verhouding even laag: 0,39 % van de deelwoorden (Dupuis, apud Duhoux).

Example Sentences: 

οἱ μὲν πολλοὶ τῶν ἐνθάδε ἤδη εἰρηκότων ἐπαινοῦσι τὸν προσθέντα τῷ νόμῳ τὸν λόγον τόνδε, ὡς καλὸν (sc. ὂν) ἐπὶ τοῖς ἐκ τῶν πολέμων θαπτομένοις ἀγορεύεσθαι αὐτόν

De meeste heren die hier voorheen gesproken hebben, prijzen hem die deze toespraak aan de wet toegevoegd heeft, aangezien het goed is deze toespraak te houden op de begrafenis van de oorlogshelden.

φίλους κτῶνται ὡς βοηθῶν δεόμενοι, τῶν δ’ ἀδελφῶν ἀμελοῦσιν, ὥσπερ ἐκ πολιτῶν μὲν γιγνομένους φίλους, ἐξ ἀδελφῶν δὲ οὐ γιγνομένους

Zij maken vrienden omdat ze hulp nodig hebben, maar verwaarlozen hun eigen broers, alsof men vrienden kan worden onder medeburgers, maar niet onder broers! [persoonlijk; met ὥσπερ]

ὧν τὴν μίαν παρεῖλες, ὦ κάκιστε σύ, | ἐς παῖδα τὸν σόν, ἐξὸν εἰς ἐχθρόν τινα

Van die [vervloekingen] heb jij, ellendeling, er één over je eigen kind uitgesproken, terwijl je dat over een vijand had kunnen doen.

ὥστε ὑμέων ὅσοι τυγχάνουσι εὔνοοι ἐόντες Πέρσῃσι, ἥδεσθε τοῦδε εἵνεκα ὡς περιεσομένους ἡμέας Ἑλλήνων

En daarom, iedereen onder jullie die de Perzen goed gezind is, wees blij, want wij gaan het halen van de Grieken.