I've read that Ανάβασις is quite a good choice for a first Ancient Greek text to read (i.e. relatively simple). This is a bilingual text from somewhere.

Ἀρίστιππος δὲ ὁ Θετταλὸς ξένος ὢν ἐτύγχανεν αὐτῷ, καὶ πιεζόμενος ὑπὸ τῶν οἴκοι ἀντιστασιωτῶν ἔρχεται πρὸς τὸν Κῦρον καὶ αἰτεῖ αὐτὸν εἰς δισχιλίους ξένους καὶ τριῶν μηνῶν μισθόν, ὡς οὕτως περιγενόμενος ἂν τῶν ἀντιστασιωτῶν. 1.10

Translated like this:

"Then there was the Thessalian Aristippus, Cyrus's friend, who, under pressure of the rival political party at home, had come to Cyrus and asked him for pay for two thousand mercenaries, to be continued for three months, which would enable him, he said, to gain the upper hand of his antagonists."

I had quite a good look at the Liddell Scott entry but enlightenment came there little. I've got this idea that one meaning of ἂν is to convey the idea of potentiality... or "if". But in the translation I wonder how "inferred" the "he said" is... has this got anything to do with the ἂν? Or would a translation which did not say something about Aristippus verbally promising a future result be just as good? i.e. "in order that he might prevail over the other factions...".

  • 3
    The "he said" is just a bit of slightly free interpretation on the part of the translator, it's not strictly literally in the text. ἂν goes with περιγενόμενος; see what your link has to say about ἂν + the sort of verbal form περιγενόμενος is (though you really want to consult a grammar for this, not a dictionary).
    – Cairnarvon
    Aug 9, 2023 at 21:10
  • 1
    The "he said" isn't related to ἄν but it is related to ὡς. See the LSJ entry, section C.I, "with Participles in the case of the Subject, to mark the reason or motive of the action": that is, it implies that this is Aristippus's stated justification for the request, rather than the author's or someone else's.
    – TKR
    Aug 9, 2023 at 22:58
  • @Cairnarvon Thanks. περιγενόμενος appears to be an aorist middle participle, but of a deponent verb. I just had another look at the LSJ entry and I couldn't see anything which corresponded: care to say which section is involved, bearing in mind also that we're talking about a following ἂν... ? Aug 9, 2023 at 23:25
  • 2
    @mikerodent A. VI. 2 b, "representing aor. opt.". It's the "would enable him to" in the translation that corresponds. Liddle and Scott both overcomplicate and underexplain things, though; just remember a participle + ἄν in any tense has the force of either a potential optative or a counterfactual indicative.
    – Cairnarvon
    Aug 10, 2023 at 1:40
  • Got it, thanks. Aug 10, 2023 at 6:18

1 Answer 1


Here's the listing from BrillDAG:

  1. ▸ with inf. and ptc.

A. pres., aor. and pf.

a. to express unreality, corresponding to ind. impf., aor. and ppf. (see supra 1 A a): ἀδυνάτων ἂν ὄντων … ἐπιβοηθεῖν since you were unable to come to help Thuc. 1.73.4; ἄριστος ἂν δοκεῖ ἄρχων γενέσθαι it seems he would have been an excellent leader Xen. Oec. 4.18 (= ἂν ἐγένετο); πάντα ταῦθ’ ὑπὸ τῶν βαρβάρων ἂν ἑαλωκέναι (he would say) that all this would have been taken by the barbarians Demosth. 19.312; δυνηθεὶς ἂν αὐτὸς ἔχειν εἴπερ ἐβουλήθη, παρέδωκεν he would have been able to keep this, had he wanted to, but he let it go Demosth. 23.107; οἴεσθε … τὸν πατέρα τὸν ἐμόν … οὐκ ἄν … φυλάττειν do you not think my father would have protected … ? Demosth. 49.35

b. to express possibility, corresponding to pres. opt., aor. and pf. (see supra 3 A a): οὐκ ἂν ἡγοῦμαι αὐτοὺς δίκην ἀξίαν δεδωκέναι I do not think these men received an adequate punishment Lys. 27.9; οὔτε ὄντα οὔτε ἂν γενόμενα things that do not exist nor could they exist Thuc. 6.38.1; ὡς οὕτως περιγενόμενος ἂν τῶν ἀντιστασιωτῶν saying that in this way they could have overcome the seditious faction Xen. An. 1.1.10; οἶμαι οὐκ ἂν ἀχαρίστως μοι ἔχειν I do not think you would find me ungrateful Xen. An. 2.3.18; δοκεῖτε δέ μοι πολὺ βέλτιον ἄν … βουλεύσασθαι it seems to me that you could have made much better plans Demosth. 4.31; πολλ’ ἂν ἔχων ἕτερ’ εἰπεῖν … παραλείπω though I have much else to say … I pass over it Demosth. 18.258 | inf. with art. πῶς ἔχεις πρὸς τὸ ἐθέλειν ἂν ἰέναι ἄκλητος ἐπὶ δεῖπνον; whatʼs your position on being willing to go to dinner without an invitation? Plat. Symp. 174b

<The Brill Dictionary of Ancient Greek, s.v. “αν,” 126.>

You'll notice, that in paragraph "b" the example you give above is listed in the entry. There's also some other examples to help give some context as to how it's used.

  • Thanks. "Could have" seems to say that they didn't in fact overcome... is this the sense of the Ancient Greek? Or is it, as per the translation in my bilingual text "... he pleads with him to give him X in order that he could do Y"? Aug 10, 2023 at 6:17
  • It's the latter: Potentiality: ⲱⲥ = "so as to/so that..."; ⲟⲩⲧⲱⲥ = "in this way"; ⲁⲛ = "possibly be able to." Cairnarvon is right. The tricky part is what to do with "περιγῑ́νομαι".
    – Epimanes
    Aug 10, 2023 at 13:04

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