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238. Occasionally the potential optative expresses what may hereafter prove to be true or to have been true. E.g. Ποῦ δῆτ᾽ ἂν εἶεν οἱ ξένοι; where may the strangers be? (i.e. where is it likely to turn out that they are?SOPH. El. 1450. γὰρ ἐμὴ (sc. σοφία) φαύλη τις ἂν εἴη, “for it may turn out that my wisdom is of a mean kind.” Symp. 175E. Ἑλλήνων τινάς φασι ἁρπάσαι Εὐρώπην: εἴησαν δ᾽ ἂν οὗτοι Κρῆτες, and these would prove to be Cretans (or to have been Cretans). HDT. i. 2. Αὗται δὲ οὐκ ἂν πολλαὶ εἴησαν, and these (the islands) would not prove to be many. THUC. i. 9.

This has nothing to do with the Homeric use of the optative with κέ or ἄν in a present or a past sense (438; 440). See the similar use of the subjunctive with μή after verbs of fearing (92).

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    • E.C. Marchant, Commentary on Thucydides Book 1, 1.9
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