Proclus, Elements of Theology, proposition 123:

ἀλλ᾽ ἀπὸ τῶν ἐξηρτημένων οἷαί πέρ εἰσιν αὐτῶν αἱ ἰδιότητες γνωρίζονται, καὶ τοῦτο ἀναγκαίως.

English Translation:

Nevertheless from the beings dependent upon them the character of their distinctive properties may be inferred, and with cogency.

I can't understand the relevance of nominative οἷαί.

1 Answer 1


Here is a more literal translation (elements not found in Greek but needed in English are in square brackets):

ἀλλ᾽ ἀπὸ τῶν ἐξηρτημένων = but from the beings dependent [upon them]

αὐτῶν αἱ ἰδιότητες = their properties

γνωρίζονται = are known ( = can be inferred )

οἷαί πέρ εἰσιν = such as [they] in fact are (but see below: this is either a relative or an indirect interrogative clause)

καὶ τοῦτο ἀναγκαίως = and this necessarily

From what depends on them, their properties, such as they really are, can be inferred with cogency.

This works, but the following would also work:

From what depends on them, it can be determined which kind of properties they really must have.

In Greek, it is often very hard to tell a relative clause from an indirect interrogative one. This is one of those cases. The verb γνωρίζονται has two effects: first, it is a verb of knowing and as such it enables regular relative pronouns as interrogative ones; second, it is in the present tense, that is, a primary tense, and this allows the indicative mood to be retained in an indirect interrogative clause. In fact, a singular verb in the main clause (as the English “ it can be determined”) would make an indirect interrogative clause the only possible choice, but the plural verb γνωρίζονται (“they are/can be known”) points to a relative clause without really ruling out the alternative. To some extent, the question is moot, because, grammatical technicalities aside, the meaning is clearly that “it can be inferred what those properties are like”, and this is what the translation you give says.

Finally, the translation you give interprets πέρ as meaning distinctively, which is surely possible in context. I stick to the more standard translation in fact/really, because its exact value is a matter of philosophical debate beyond the scope of this answer...

EDIT: There is in fact at least another point of philosophical debate which should be mentioned: the basic meaning of γνωρίζονται ... ἀναγκαίως is that the properties are already necessarily known, and all translations considered here extrapolate that they may/can be known somehow, albeit “with cogency”, implying that they are not already known. I do not commit myself to one or the other interpretation. In fact, I am writing this edit to distance myself from the interpretation I gave in the first version of the answer, following the translation given by the OP. My answer is about syntax, not its philosophical implications.

  • 2
    My sense is that an interrogative reading is unlikely here, both because the interrogative use of οἷος (as against (ὁ)ποῖος) is less common and especially because of περ, which I don't think is normal in interrogative contexts.
    – TKR
    Commented Apr 24, 2023 at 16:37
  • @TKR you are right on both counts. However, I have seen (mistaken?) translations with indirect interrogatives... Most translations avoid the problem altogether, like Dodds 1933 cited by OP, writing something like the character/nature of their properties is/can be known I think that this is the best approach.
    – Dario
    Commented Apr 24, 2023 at 18:29

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.