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[*] 57. Since the same event may thus be stated by the aorist or the imperfect according to the writer's point of view, it is natural that it should occasionally be a matter of indifference which form is used, especially when the action is of such a nature that it is not important to distinguish its duration from its occurrence. For example, this distinction can seldom be important in such expressions as he said, he commanded; and we find ἔλεγον and ἐκέλευον in the historians where no idea of duration can have been in mind. See “οἱ δ᾽ ἐκέλευόν τε ἐπιέναι, καὶ παρελθόντες οἱ Ἀθηναῖοι ἔλεγον τοιάδε,” THUC. i. 72 , followed, at the end of the speech in 79, by τοιαῦτα δὲ οἱ Ἀθηναῖοι εἶπον and Ἀρχίδαμος ἔλεξε τοιάδε. In such cases as the following (cited with others by Krüger) it was not important to the narrative whether the idea of duration was included in the expression or not: βάλλετο and βάλετο, Il. ii. 43 and 45; θῆκεν and τίθει, Il. xxiii. 653 and 656; δῶκε and δίδου, Il. vii. 303 and 305; ἔλιπεν and λεῖπε, Il. ii. 106 and 107; compare also μίστυλλον with ἔπειραν, ὤπτησαν, and ἐρύσαντο, Il. i. 465 and 466. In all these cases the fundamental distinction of the tenses, which was inherent in the form, remained; only it happened that either of the two distinct forms expressed the meaning which was here needed equally well. It must not be thought, from these occasional examples, that the Greeks of any period were not fully alive to the distinction of the two tenses and could not use it with skill and nicety. But the Greeks, like other workmen, did not care to use their finest tools on every occasion; and it is often necessary to remember this if we would avoid hair-splitting.
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