εἴηι is G. Hermann's reading, MSS. (whose testimony on the point is perfectly indifferent) having “εἴη”. This form of the subj. is found in 23.47 “μετείω”, and is possibly to be introduced in 9.245, 18.88, Od. 15.448 (for “ἔλθηι”), Od. 17.586. Of course “ἔσ-ηι”, the original form, could never give “εἴηι”: that can only be a late formation from a stem “ἠ-” abstracted from “ἦν”, on the analogy “εἴω”:“ἔην”::“βείω”: “ἔβην” (Mulvany in C. R. x. 25), or a purely metrical lengthening due to the sixth arsis (Schulze, see App. D). The opt. is quite out of place after the principal tense, and there is no clear instance of it in H. In Od. 17.243 “ὡς ἔλθοι” after an imperative expresses a wish, and here the opt. is in place. In 1.344 the reading is wrong. In Od. 17.250 we may read “ἄλφηι”. In no other case do we find the pure opt. in final sentences after principal tenses, and the opt. with “ἄν” and “κεν”, though not uncommon, is entirely confined to the Odyssey. (See Weber Entwickelungsgesch. der Absichtssätze pp. 43-5.) The fact seems to be that the form has been influenced by the opt. in 439, where it is necessary. Nestor's speech has been made up by expanding the actual account of the building in 435 ff.; all military wisdom has to be put into the mouth of the sage of Pylos, as usual. The refractory word “εἴη” was turned into a subj. in the process by the simple device of a false archaism. It is curious that there is another question between “-η” and “-ηι” in this same line. ἱππηλασίη as written must be an adj. = “ἱππήλατος” (Od. 4.607), but we should expect “ἱππηλασίηι” as a subst. (cf. 11.672 “βοηλασίη”), and this reading is mentioned in the scholia breviora.
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