Indirect Discourse

Rather than quoting someone directly, Indirect Statement (Indirect Discourse) reports what someone has spoken:

Direct Statement:  Athamas killed his son Learchos. Ἄθαμας Λέαρχον τὸν παῖδα ἀπέκτεινεν.

Indirect Statement: Ino knows that Athamas killed his son Learchos.
οἶδεν Ἰνὼ ὅτι Ἄθαμας τὸν υἱὸν Λέαρχον ἀποκτείναι (3rd sing. aor. optative).

There are three ways that Greek expresses indirect discourse:

  1. A verb of speaking (e.g., λέγω/εἶπον) or knowing (γιγνώσκω, οἶδα) followed by ὅτι or ὡς plus the indicative or optative.
    Example:  λέγεται ὡς ἐς τὴν Μολουρίδα πέτραν φύγοιεν Ινώ καὶ Μελικέρτης. It is said that Ino and Melicertes fled to the Molourian rock.
  2. A verb of speaking or thinking (e.g., φημί, νομίζω, οἶμαι, ἡγέομαι, ἐλπίζω) followed by an accusative subject and infinitive.
    Example: ἐς τὸν ἰσθμὸν κομισθῆναι τὸν Μελικέρτην ὑπὸ δελφῖνος νομίζουσιν. They think that Melicertes was brought to the isthmus by a dolphin.
  3. A verb of perceiving or learning (e.g., ἀκούω, ὁράω, πυνθάνομαι) followed by an accusative subject and a participle.
    Example: Ἄθαμας οὐκ εἶδεν τὴν Ἰνὼ τὸν παῖδα Μελικέρτην ἔχουσαν. Athamas did not see Ino holding their son Melicertes.

Note 1: in classical Attic Greek, the optative occurs in the ὅτι/ὡς clause when the main verb of speaking is in the past.  Pausanias uses the optative in the subordinate clause even when the main verb is in the present tense.

Note 2: the final -αι of the 3rd sing. aor. optative counts as long.  Thus, aor. optative ἀποκτείναι receives an acute on the penult vs. the aor. infin. αποκτεῖναι with a circumflex on the penultimate syllable.


First, become familiar with words of speaking, thinking, knowing or perceiving that introduce indirect statements.

In the following sentences, identify (a) the main verb of speaking, thinking, or perceiving; (b) the subject of the indirect statement; and (c) the verb of the indirect statement (tense and mood):

α. λόγοι εἰσιν ὡς ἀπὸ ταύτης τῆς πέτρας Ἰνὼ ῥίψαι (throw) αὑτὴν ἐς θάλασσαν.

β. λέγεται δὴ καὶ μανέντα δρᾶσαι ταῦτα Ἀθάμαντα.

γ. λέγεται δὲ καὶ ὡς ἐς τὴν Ἰνὼ καὶ τοὺς παῖδας χρήσαιτο (behave, conduct oneself) ἀκρατεῖ τῷ θυμῷ.

δ. Ἄθαμας αἰσθάνεται βουλεῦσαι ἐπὶ τούτοις πᾶσιν τὴν Ἰνὼ.

ε. τὴν Μολουρίδα πέτραν ἰερὰν ἤγηντο.

ζ. τὰς μετὰ ταύτην πέτρας νομίζουσιν ἐναγεῖς (unholy, accursed).

η. φασὶ ἐπὶ τοῦ συμβάντος αὐχμοῦ (drought) ὕσαντά τε ἀφεῖναι τὸν Δία.

θ. Εὐρυσθέα φεύγοντα ἐκ τῆς Ἀττικῆς ἀποθανεῖν ὑπὸ Ἰολάου λέγουσιν.

ι. Εὔμηλός φησιν Ἐφύραν Ὠκεανοῦ θυγατέρα οἰκῆσαι ἐν τῇ Κορινθίᾳ γῇ.