ἐν πρώτοις ἕπει. The image is from the case of leaders in battle, whose men follow them in several ranks; this old man is in the front rank. Cp. Il. 8. 337“Ἕκτωρ δ᾽ ἐν πρώτοισι κίε”. The military sense of “ἕπομαι” is frequent (e.g. Il. 11. 795“ἀλλὰ σέ περ προέτω, ἅμα δ᾽ ἄλλος λαὸς ἑπέσθω”). In prose “ἐν πρώτοις” is sometimes little more than imprimis ( Plat. Rep. 522C): but this would be tame here.
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