In the Septuagint, Gen. 3:15 says this: καὶ ἔχθραν θήσω ἀνὰ μέσον σου καὶ ἀνὰ μέσον τῆς γυναικὸς καὶ ἀνὰ μέσον τοῦ σπέρματός σου καὶ ἀνὰ μέσον τοῦ σπέρματος αὐτῆς· αὐτός σου τηρήσει κεφαλήν, καὶ σὺ τηρήσεις αὐτοῦ πτέρναν.

I will put hostility between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed. He will strike your head, and you will strike his heel (Holman)

My question is these two words: σπέρματός and σπέρματος What's the difference? They are both seed, but both appear to be singular to me. Is one plural?

Thank you.

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The words σπέρματος and σπέρματός share the same meaning; they are both declined in the genitive case, singular number from the lemma σπέρμα. The pronoun σοῦ is one of several enclitics. Accordingly, its accent falls on the preceding word, σπέρματος, which becomes σπέρματός after receiving the accent from σοῦ.

Herbert Weir Smyth wrote,1

The accent of an enclitic, when it is thrown back upon the preceding word, always appears as an acute:

A proparoxytone or properispomenon receives, as an additional accent, the acute on the ultima:


Smyth, Herbert Weir. A Greek Grammar for Colleges. New York: American Book, 1920.


1 p. 42, §182–183


The two words would have been identical in the oldest manuscripts, since they had no accents marks or punctuation, but in any case the two words are both the genitive singular for σπέρμα. They seem to have been accented correctly. This seems to be a case of an obscure rule for accenting nouns within phrases. I ran across this somewhat profane explanation:

Remember the God-given Rule of Greek stress? The one saying that no stress can go beyond the antepenult, the 3rd syllable from the end? (If you already forgot it, take another look at it in the blue box at the top of this page.) Well, combinations like the above make up a single unit of four syllables, at least the way they are pronounced. There already is a stress on the antepenult (e.g. μάθετε), so when the enclitic is adjoined (e.g., -μας), the whole unit makes up four syllables, the first of which is stressed (e.g., μάθετε-μας). And the Holy Rule says you drop dead if you do that kind of Greek sacrilege. So what you do to avoid Zeus’s thunderbolt is to put another stress on the penult of the entire unit (e.g., μάθετέ μας). Note that this additional stress is not secondary, i.e., weaker (not as in “dictionary”), but is produced with the same power as the first stress.

I believe this is the explanation for why σπέρματος has an extra accent in the first clause (τοῦ σπέρματός σου), but not the second (τοῦ σπέρματος αὐτῆς).


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