10 December 2007

A Particular Proverb

I recently ran across an old collection of Greek Proverbs (Corpus Paroemiographorum Graecorum, Ernst von Leutsch, Friedrich Wilhelm Schneidewin, at the googleborg). It's great for random browsing. Most of the time the proverb is listed with with explanatory material, usually short but sometimes quite extensive. Some of them, however, are self explanatory, such as this one that comes in two variants:

οὐδὲν ἦν τἄλλα πάντα πλὴν χρυσός (p. 285)
It was all nothing else except gold.

The variant collected from Plutarch, however, is more interesting:

οὐδὲν ἦν ἄρα τὰ ἄλλα πλὴν ὁ χρυσός (p. 335)
It was nothing except the gold after all.

Both versions are appropriate to politics of all periods, but the second one is especially nice, demonstrating as it does a special use of ἄρα which indicates the new perception of a previously unrecognized truth. It frequently does this in the company of imperfects of εἶναι, as here. This use of ἄρα seems to have been fairly persistent. I cannot think of any Homeric examples, but Hesiod starts off his Works and Days with an example:

οὐκ ἄρα μοῦνον ἔην Ἐρίδων γένος, ἀλλ’ ἐπὶ γαῖαν       11
εἰσὶ δύω·

There wasn't only one race of Strife after all, but upon the earth
there are two.

Sadly, the index nominum didn't deem ἄρα worthy of indexing.