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Clauses of comparison: manner or degree as modifier (or satellite)
καὶ ἔκραξεν φωνῇ μεγάλῃ ὥσπερ λέων μυκᾶται
‘And he [the Angel] shouted with a loud voice, as a lion roars.’ (
A finite subordinate clause, introduced by one of the conjunctions below, signals a manner or degree based on a comparison as a modifier, often called a comparative clause. Less commonly this clause occurs as a satellite.
Nature of the governing word
The governing word of the construction, whether this is a noun or an adjective, pronoun or adverb, expresses a measurable manner (‘How...?’), property (‘How...?’), quantity (‘How many...?’) or degree (‘To what extent...?’).
Of all the conjunctions with this role only καθάπερ and ὥσπερ are exclusively comparative. The other conjunctions can also fulfil a different semantic role:
- [time, goal or cause] ὡς;
- [goal] ὅπως;
- [result] ὥστε (current in Ionic, as in Herodotus, and elsewhere poetic; often in tragedy);
- [cause] ἅτε (only in epic and early poetry, as in Homer and Pindar), also ἠῦτε (only in Homer) or εὖτε.
In many cases clauses of comparison are introduced by the relative counterpart of a correlative pronoun (such as ὅσος or οἷος) or adverb (such as ᾗ, ᾗπερ of ὅπῃ).
Syntactic usage (possible optativus obliquus)
The moods are the same as in the relative clause: indicative for a neutral manner, subjunctive with ἄν for a plausible manner, optative with ἄν for a possible manner, optative (without ἄν) for an repeated manner, secondary indicative with ἄν for a counterfactual manner. The indicative is the most common by far.
If the predicate of the subordinate clause is the same as that of the main clause it is often omitted. The subject of this omitted predicate can take the case of the other element of the comparison: οὐδαμοῦ γὰρ ἔστιν Ἀγόρατον Ἀθηναῖον εἶναι ὥσπερ Θρασύβουλον (Lys. 13.72) ‘For it is altogether impossible that Agoratus is an Athenian like Thrasybulus.’ The complete comparison, without ellipsis, would have been ... ὥσπερ Θρασύβουλός ἐστιν.
In Homer's epics the choice of conjunctions is limited to ἠύτε and ὡς (the latter also in the form ὡς... περ).
A comparative clause is often anticipated in the main clause by correlative pronouns or adverbs:
- οὕτως, ὧδε, ὡσαύτως, τοιοῦτον (non-Attic: τοῖον)… ὡς, ὥσπερ ‘as… as’
- τοσοῦτον, τοσούτῳ (non-Attic: τόσον)… ὅσον, ὅσῳ ‘as great… as’
The conjunctions ὡς and ὥσπερ can also be anticipated by ἴσος ‘equal (to)’, ὁ αὐτός ‘the same (as)’ or ὁμοίως ‘in the same way (as)’.
Moreover, compare the construction: ‘the more ...’ (with a comparative or - less often - a superlative taken up into the clause of comparison. In this case one of the comparatives is often left implicit.
ἄν τις ἀποκτείνῃ ... τὸν ἀνδροφόνον ... τοῖς αὐτοῖς ἐνεχέσθω καθάπερ ἂν τὸν Ἀθηναῖον ἀποκτείνῃ
If someone kills an assassin, he must suffer the same punishments as if he were killing an Athenian. [provisional translation]
νομίζων, ὅσῳ μὲν θᾶττον ἔλθοι, τοσούτῳ ἀπαρασκευαστοτέρῳ βασιλεῖ μαχεῖσθαι, ὅσῳ δὲ σχολαιότερον, τοσούτῳ πλέον συναγείρεσθαι βασιλεῖ στράτευμα
in the opinion that, the sooner he advanced, the more unprepared he would fight against the king, and that, the slower he advanced, the larger the army would be that gathered around the king [provisional translation]
κατέπεφνε δειπνίσσας, ὥς τίς τε κατέκτανε βοῦν ἐπὶ φάτνῃ
He killed him over dinner, like somebody would kill a beef over his manger. [provisional translation]