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[237] The common rendering of this line is, ‘this will be the first thing I shall ask thee.’ But it fails to give the full emphasis due to αὐτή. Rather the meaning is, ‘I will begin (the conversation) by asking thee this.’ The use of πρῶτον to introduce the act of one, who, as we say, ‘takes the initiative,’ is not rare. Cp. Od.2. 39πρῶτον ἔπειτα γέροντα καθαπτόμενος προσέειπε”, describing the speech of Telemachus, in which, though Aegyptius had already spoken, the young prince was the first to make the debate personal between him and the chiefs. Similarly, Od.9. 224ἔνθ᾽ ἐμὲ μὲν πρώτισθ᾽ ἕταροι λίσσοντ᾽ ἐπέεσσι”, i. e. ‘before ever I thought about it myself;’ cp. also Il.9. 34ἀλκὴν μέν μοι πρῶτον ὀνείδισας ἐν Δαναοῖσι” (doubtless referring to Il.4. 370), where “πρῶτον ὀν”. seems equivalent to “ἦρξας ὀνειδίζειν”. In Il.24. 557, “ἐπεί με πρῶτον ἔασας . . ζώειν”, the meaning is, ‘since thou hast begun kindly relations in allowing me to live.’ The words of Arete in the present passage are put into the mouth of Penelope, Od.19. 104, where she is left alone with Odysseus, after the retirement of the company (for the presence of the old attendant need not be reckoned), and the rendering suggested above is even more appropriate there. Cp. Virgil's phrase, ‘dictis occupat ultro.’

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