σθένεϊ βλεμεαίνων: origin and evolution of a Homeric formula
Passa, Enzo; Tribulato, Olga
The Paths of Greek: Literature, Linguistics and Epigraphy
Place of publication
978-3-11-062108-2 ; 978-3-11-062174-7
Trends in Classics - Supplementary Volumes
The meaning of the Homeric formula σθένεϊ βλεμεαίνων has been debated since Antiquity, with some sources assuming a basic notion of ‘determination’ and others preferring a (par)etymological connection with the verb βλέπω ‘glance’. In modern scholarship both positions have found adherents, and additional reference has been made to the post-Homeric adjective ἀβλεμής whose semantics are equally unclear. A critical reassessment shows, however, that the common postulate of a base noun *βλέμος cannot be supported by the surface parallelism of βλεμεαίνω with μενεαίνω ‘desire eagerly’. Instead, it is proposed that βλεμεαίνω represents the remake, for metrical reasons to do with the morphological evolution of the preceding dative, of a denominative verb *βελεμαίνω ‘hurling missiles’ ← Homeric βέλεμνα. A resemanticization of the formula by secondary (re)association with intr. βάλλω/βάλλομαι ‘rush’ then led to the historical distribution in the Iliad.