PURA. Purism In Antiquity: Theories Of Language in Greek Atticist Lexica and their Legacy

Lexicographic entries

ἀμείνω, ἥττω
(Moer. α 75, Moer. η 10)

A. Main sources

(1) Moer. α 75: ἀμείνω Ἀττικοί· ἀμείνονα Ἕλληνες.

Users of Attic [employ] ἀμείνω. Users of Greek [employ] ἀμείνονα.

(2) Moer. η 10: ἥττω Ἀττικοί· ἥσσονα κοινόν.

Users of Attic [employ] ἥττω. ἥσσονα [is] common.

B. Other erudite sources

(1) [Plu.] Vit.Hom. 12: ὁμοίως δὲ καὶ τοῦτο Ἀττικὸν ‘οἱ πλέονες κακίους, παῦροι δέ τε πατρὸς ἀρείους’, ὃ λέγομεν ‘κακίονες’ καὶ ‘ἀρείονες’.

In like manner, this too is Attic (Hom. Od. 2.277): ‘Most are worse (κακίους), few better (ἀρείους) than their fathers’, [for] which we say κακίονες and ἀρείονες.

(2) Thom.Mag. 171.1: ἥττους καὶ ἥττω οὐδετέρως ἐπὶ εὐθείας καὶ αἰτιατικῆς τῶν πληθυντικῶν Ἀττικοὶ λέγουσι· καὶ ἁπλῶς τὴν τοιαύτην κρᾶσιν ἐπὶ πᾶσι τοῖς εἰς -ων συγκριτικοῖς καὶ ἐν τοῖς τρισὶ γένεσι ποιοῦσιν.

Users of Attic say ἥττους and ἥττω in the neuter for the nominative and accusative plural: they simply make such a crasis in all comparatives in -ων and in the three genders.

C. Loci classici, other relevant texts

(1) Eur. Hipp. 500:
αἴσχρ’, ἀλλ’ ἀμείνω τῶν καλῶν τάδ’ ἐστί σοι.

These things are vile, yes, but better for you than what is supposed to be noble.

(2) Ar. Nu. 1444–6:
τί δ’ ἢν ἔχων τὸν ἥττω
λόγον σε νικήσω λέγων
τὴν μητέρ’ ὡς τύπτειν χρεών;

But what if despite my weaker position I can still defeat you in argument and prove that my mother needs beating? (Transl. Halliwell 2015, 80).

(3) Pl. Ap. 18b.7–9: Σωκράτης […] τὸν ἥττω λόγον κρείττω ποιῶν.

Socrates […] who makes the weaker argument the stronger.

D. General commentary

Moeris prescribes the use of ‘short’ comparatives such as ἀμείνω and ἥττω instead of ἀμείνονα and ἥσσονα: this is hardly surprising, given that ancient scholars typically regarded such forms as Attic (B.1, B.2; see entry βελτίους, βελτίονες, which collects other sources). However, comparatives formed with the suffixes *-(i)i̯os- and *-īi̯os- are very well attested as acc. sing. m. and f. and nom. acc. pl. n. in both literary and documentary sources as early as the Mycenaean period (for further details, see entry βελτίους, βελτίονες; see also K–B vol. 1, 427; Chantraine 1958–1963 vol. 1, 55; Schwyzer 1939, 536–7; Bartoněk 2003, 269–70; Barber 2013, 145–86). They were often (even if not exclusively) used by Atticist authors: see Schmid (Atticismus vol. 3, 23–4, vol. 4, 17–8).

A strange feature of Moeris’ lemmas is that ἥσσονα, with the non-Attic -σσ-, is said to be κοινός – ‘common’ – while the corresponding ἀμείνονα is labelled as ‘Greek’ – a distinction that merits further investigation. Regarding A.1, the accusative ἀμείνω is considerably more represented than ἀμείνονα, although the latter and other similar forms with a nasal affix (*-is-no-) are well attested in literature: to cite just one example, ἀμείνονα is often found in Plutarch (8x), although he also uses ἀμείνω (6x; long forms, however, are also attested in Attic authors, see K–B vol. 1, 427; sometimes short and long forms occur together, see e.g. Pl. Plt. 297c.3). This may explain why, in A.1, ἀμείνονα is categorised as ‘Greek’: indeed, according to Maidhof, in Moeris such a label denotes the cultivated written koine (Maidhof 1912, 319–38).

One might expect to find the same evaluation regarding ἥσσονα in A.2, which nonetheless describes the comparative as a κοινός (i.e., ‘common’) equivalent to ἥττω. The issue is further complicated by the existence of several alternatives (ἥττω, ἥσσω, ἥττονα, ἥσσονα), whose distribution is worth investigating to better appreciate Moeris’ lemma. To begin with, ἥττω and ἥσσω (with the former prevailing) found their place in Attic, Great Attic, and high-level koine: note, for example, that Thucydides has only ἥσσω, while ἥττω occurs five times in Polybius and three times in Dionysius of Halicarnassus. Meanwhile, ἥττονα, found in Attic as well as in later literature, is significantly more represented than ἥσσονα (however, despite their relative rarity in literature, ἥσσονα, ἥσσονας, and ἥσσονες occur many times in Euripides: see Andr. 894, Supp. 492, El. 1078, Hel. 1660, Or. 1485, Ba. 1090, IA 1272, fr. 261.1). Moreover, ἥττων, ἥττον, ἥττονα, etc. are likely to have been perceived as more formal than their competitors ἥσσων, ἥσσον, ἥσσονα, etc.: see e.g. τῷ ἥττονι γένει, found in BGU 5.1210.112 (= TM 9472) [Theadelphia, 149 CE after] = P.Oxy. 42.3014.17 (= TM 25076) [138–161 CE], an epitome of the regulations governing the office of a magistrate called Idiologus – and therefore a piece of ‘bureaucratic’ language (on which see also entry ἴναι and compounds). Moreover, the adverbial ἥσσον occurs considerably more frequently than ἥττον in documentary papyriPapyri, such as private letters.

In light of the above, we may perhaps explain the different evaluations of ἀμείνονα and ἥσσονα in A.1 and A.2 as follows: Moeris may have considered ἥσσονα to be ‘common’ not only by virtue of its non-Attic phonology (ἥσσ- instead of ἥττ-) and its relative rarity in literature but also because it was perhaps perceived as more informal than its competitors.

As for A.2, something further can be said: owing to the existence of various forms (ἥττω, ἥσσω, ἥττονα, ἥσσονα), all attested in both Attic and non-Attic literature, it may be that Moeris’ lemma was originally more articulated, perhaps judging ἥσσω and ἥττονα as ‘Greek’ in opposition to the ‘Attic’ ἥττω and ‘common’ ἥσσονα. Such a structure is not at all alien to Moeris’ lexicon, and it may have been more common than initially appears: see Moer. ε 21Moer. ε 21, Moer. ο 19Moer. ο 19, Moer. ρ 10Moer. ρ 10; cf. also Moer. λ 2Moer. λ 2.

E. Byzantine and Modern Greek commentary

Both ἀμείνω and ἥττω survive in Byzantine literature together with residual forms such as μείζων etc. Primary comparatives, however, are rare in non-learned texts: see CGMEMG (vol. 2, 773, 820). ἀμείνω largely prevails over ἀμείνονα, even if the latter occurs more than once in authors such as Michael Choniates, whose language generally conforms to Atticist views (cf. e.g. Kolovou 2001, 26–9). Regarding ἥττω, ἥττονα, ἥσσω, and ἥσσονα, the first two forms are widespread, even if their distribution eludes further analysis.

F. Commentary on individual texts and occurrences



Barber, P. (2013). Sievers’ Law and the History of Semivowel Syllabicity in Indo-European and Ancient Greek. Oxford.

Bartoněk, A. (2003). Handbuch des mykenischen Griechisch. Heidelberg.

Chantraine, P. (1958–1963). Grammaire homérique. 2 vols. Paris.

Halliwell, S. (2015). Aristophanes. Clouds, Women at the Thesmophoria, Frogs. A Verse Translation, with Introduction and Notes. Oxford, New York.

Kolovou, F. (2001). Michaelis Choniatae epistulae. Berlin, New York.

Schwyzer, E. (1939). Griechische Grammatik. Allgemeiner Teil, Lautlehre, Wortbildung, Flexion. Munich.


Andrea Pellettieri, 'ἀμείνω, ἥττω (Moer. α 75, Moer. η 10)', in Olga Tribulato (ed.), Digital Encyclopedia of Atticism. With the assistance of E. N. Merisio.
DOI: https://doi.org/10.30687/DEA/2974-8240/2022/01/004

This article provides a philological and linguistic commentary on the comparative forms ἀμείνω, ἥττω, discussed in the Atticist lexicon Moer. α 75, Moer. η 10.