Prepositions with the genitive: agent

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καίτοι πολλοὶ διεκλάπησαν ὑπὸ τῶν στρατιωτῶν

And yet many [Athenian prisoners of war] were stolen by the [Spartan] soldiers.


The preposition ὑπό with the genitive signals an agent. Less frequent are ἀπό, ἐκ, παρά and πρός.

Lexical usage

The construction involving ὑπό with the genitive can also indicate an instrument, if this instrument is conceived of as an agent.
Sometimes classical authors use other prepositions, depending on the meaning of the verb:

  • ἐκ (Herodotus) or παρά (Attic) with ‘sending’ or ‘giving’;
  • πρός (Herodotus) with 'thinking' or 'believing' (where Attic uses παρά with the dative).


Some writers have a very distinctive use of prepositions:

  • Homer also has ἐκ or πρός with verbs of 'achieving' or 'reaching',
  • Thucydides often uses ἀπό:
    • with verbs such as λέγω to place two agents in opposition to each other;
    • with verbs such as πράσσω to mark an indirect agent;
  • Demosthenes often uses παρά;
  • In Attic tragedy the monosyllabic prepositions ἐκ and πρός often occur under metric pressure;
  • Bible translations such as the Septuagint sometimes use ἀπό to translate the Hebrew מִן min pr מֵא ('by', but also 'away from').

Historical background

From Homer until the 5th-6th century A.D. ὑπό with the genitive is the standard marker for the agent. After this period ὑπό is replaced by παρά in non-literary registers. From the twelfth century A.D. ἀπό gradually replaces παρά, to become the standard preposition in modern Greek.

Example Sentences: 


τὰ μὲν οὖν ἐξ ἀρχῆς ὑπάρξαντα καὶ παρὰ τῆς Τύχης δωρηθέντα τηλικαῦθ᾽ ἡμῖν τὸ μέγεθός ἐστιν

Zo groot zijn dus de giften die wij van in het begin hadden en die ons door het Lot geschonken zijn. [attribuut; verpersoonlijkt]



ὁ μῦθος δηλοῖ ὅτι οἱ ἀδικοῦντες τοὺς εὐεργέτας ὑπὸ θεοῦ κολάζονται

De fabel toont aan dat wie zijn weldoeners kwaad berokkent door de godheid wordt gestraft.

Aisopos, Fabels 79.3.8



μηδεὶς πειραζόμενος λεγέτω ὅτι “ἀπὸ θεοῦ πειράζομαι”· ὁ γὰρ θεὸς ἀπείραστός ἐστιν κακῶν, πειράζει δὲ αὐτὸς οὐδένα

Niemand mag zeggen, als hij op de proef gesteld wordt: “Ik word door God op de proef gesteld.” Want God wordt niet door het kwaad beproefd, en zelf stelt Hij niemand op de proef.



ἀνθρώποισι τὰς μὲν ἐκ θεῶν | τύχας δοθείσας ἔστ᾽ ἀναγκαῖον φέρειν

Het is noodzakelijk dat mensen de lotgevallen verdragen die door de goden worden gegeven. [attribuut]



ἦ σοὶ ἄριστα πεποίηται κατὰ οἶκον πρὸς Τρώων;

Of werden zulke daden bij jou thuis door de Trojanen verricht?