Temporal clause with an aorist stem: posteriority (‘before’, ‘until’)


A temporal clause with an aorist stem signals a posterior state of affairs as a satellite.

Lexical usage

The following conjunctions express goal in time (i.e. limited posteriority):

  • ‘real’ conjunctions: ἕως (less often τέως), μέχρι(ς), ἄχρι, ὄφρα, ἔστε, μέχρι ἕως ‘until’;
  • relative constructions: εἰς ὅ κε(ν), ἐς οὗ (in Ionic prose), μέχρις οὗ, ἄχρι οὗ ‘up to the moment that’;
  • further (without explicitly posterior meaning): ὅτε, ὁπότε, ἡνίκα, ὁπηνίκα, ὡς, ἐπεί, ἐπειδή ‘then, when’.

Posteriority generally is expressed by the conjunction πρίν. Other conjunctions include πρίν ἤ (Hdt.), πάρος (Hom.), πρόσθεν ἤ and πρότερον ἤ (both rare).

Translation tips

An unlimited posterior temporal clause is translated with conjunctions such as ‘before’ or ‘ere’. Limited posterior temporal clauses are translated with ‘till’ or ‘until’.

Syntactic behaviour (with oblique optative)

A posterior temporal clause usually follows the main clause.
Tenses and moods are used as follows

  • aorist indicative (neutral, past);
  • aorist subjunctive with ἄν (one-off or iterative plausibility).

Historical background

In epic poetry ὄφρα is used in the same way as ἕως.
The conjunction ἔστε, which does not exist yet in Homer, is used with the same meaning as ἕως in tragedy, in Attic prose (especially in Xenophon) and in Herodotus.
In later prose ἄχρι and μέχρι (as well as ἄχρι οὗ and μέχρι οὗ) ‘until’ are used in the same way as ἕως.


Temporal clauses with the meaning 'until' may be anticipated in the main clause by μέχρι τούτου ‘up to the moment (that…)’.

Example Sentences: 

οὐκ ἂν ἐπαυόμην διεξιὼν ὡς ὀρθῶς αὐτοῖς τὰ ὀνόματα κεῖται, ἕως ἀπεπειράθην τῆς σοφίας ταυτησὶ τί ποιήσει

Ik zou niet ophouden door te nemen hoe juist de namen [van de goden bij Hesiodos] zijn, totdat ik ervaren had waar deze wijsheid toe in staat was.

αὐτὰρ ἐγὼ καὶ ἔπειτα μαχήσομαι εἵνεκα ποινῆς | αὖθι μένων, ἧός κε τέλος πολέμοιο κιχείω

Maar ik zal dan hier blijven en strijden voor vergelding, totdat er een einde komt aan de oorlog.

Φαρνάβαζος δὲ ἀξιῶν δεῖν κἀκεῖνον ὀμνύναι, περιέμενεν ἐν Καλχηδόνι, μέχρι ἔλθοι ἐκ τοῦ Βυζαντίου

Pharnabazos, in de mening dat ook die man [= Alkibiades] de eed moest afleggen, bleef in Kalchedon, totdat hij uit Byzantion zou komen.

ὑδρευσάμενοι δ’ ἐκεῖθεν ἐπλέομεν εἰς τοὔμπροσθεν ἡμέρας πέντε παρὰ γῆν, ἄχρι ἤλθομεν εἰς μέγαν κόλπον, ὃν ἔφασαν οἱ ἑρμηνέες καλεῖσθαι Ἑσπέρου Κέρας

After we had drawn water there, we sailed along the coast for five days, until we reached a large bay, which our interpreters called the Horn of Hesperus.