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167-171

ἀλλ᾽ ὅτε γὰρ δὴπτήξειαν ἄφωνοι. The most probable account of this passage is that δ̓ should be inserted after “αἰγυπιὸν” in 169 (cr. n.). ‘We can do nothing without thee;—no (we are helpless), for, when they have escaped thine eye, they chatter like flocking birds; but (“δέ”) terrified by the mighty vulture, perchance they will suddenly cower,’ etc. Note these points:—

(1) ἀλλὰ prefaces a confirmation of the statement just made in a negative form (165 “οὐδὲν σθένομεν”): cp. El. 307ἐν οὖν τοιούτοις οὔτε σωφρονεῖν, φίλαι”, | “οὔτ᾽ εὐσεβεῖν πάρεστιν, ἀλλ᾽ ἔν τοι κακοῖς πολλή ᾿στ᾽ ἀνάγκη κἀπιτηδεύειν κακά”.

(2) ἀλλὰγὰρ is elliptical; ‘No (we can do nothing), for’ etc.: cp. El. 223ἀλλ᾽ ἐν γὰρ δεινοῖς οὐ σχήσω κ.τ.λ.”, ‘but (ye speak in vain), for’ etc.: Ant. 155ἀλλ᾽ ὅδε γὰρ δὴ”.. | “χωρεῖ”, ‘but (let us cease), for’ etc.

(3) The reading μέγαν αἰγυπιὸν δ᾽ ὑποδείσαντες, which allows the words “μέγαν αἰγυπιὸν” to begin the clause describing the sudden discomfiture of the foes, gives those words a signal force and spirit. They become much tamer, if, deleting “ὑποδείσαντες” and the stop after “ἀγέλαι”, we place a comma after “αἰγυπιόν”, and govern it by “ἀποδρᾶσαι” supplied from ἀπέδραν.

(4) This reading is confirmed by the fact that since ὑποδείσαντες refers to the foes of Ajax (and not, as the schol. took it, to the birds), there is a change from simile to metaphor: the ‘vulture’ is Ajax. This is quite in the manner of Sophoclean imagery: cp. n. on Ant. 117 ff.— For other views, see Appendix.

ὅτεδὴ, epic, ‘when now,’ ‘when at length,’ Od. 2. 314νῦν δ᾽ ὅτε δὴ μέγας εἰμί.

ἀπέδραν, for “ἀπέδρασαν” ( Thuc. 1. 128), like the poetical “ἔβαν, ἔσταν, ἔτλαν”, etc.

αἰγυπιὸν, an Homeric image: Od. 22. 302οἱ δ̓, ὥς τ᾽ αἰγυπιοὶ γαμψώνυχες ἀγκυλοχεῖλαι ἐξ ὀρέων ἐλθόντες ἐπ᾽ ὀρνίθεσσι θόρωσι.

τάχ᾽ ἂν can mean only ‘perchance’: we cannot take “τάχα” separately, as=‘swiftly’; ἐξαίφνης should be taken with πτήξειαν, notwithstanding Alcaeus fr. 27, which the poet clearly had in mind, “ἔπταζον ὥστ᾽ ὄρνιθες ὦκυν αἴετον ἐξαπίνας φάνεντα.

σιγῇ πτήξειαν ἄφωνοι: “σιγῇ” implies motionless awe; cp. Pind. P. 4. 57ἔπταξαν δ᾽ ἀκίνητοι σιωπᾷ”. Cp. too the Homeric “ἀκὴν ἐγένοντο σιωπῇ”.


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hide References (8 total)
  • Commentary references from this page (8):
    • Euripides, Electra, 223
    • Euripides, Electra, 307
    • Homer, Odyssey, 22.302
    • Homer, Odyssey, 2.314
    • Sophocles, Antigone, 117
    • Sophocles, Antigone, 155
    • Thucydides, Histories, 1.128
    • Pindar, Pythian, 4
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