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239. The potential optative may express every grade of potentiality from the almost pure future οὐκ ἂν μεθείμην, I will not give up (under any circumstances), to “οὐκ ἂν δικαίως ἐς κακὸν πέσοιμί τι,” “I could not justly fall into any trouble,” SOPH. Ant. 240 , where δικαίως points to the substance of a limiting condition, if justice should be done. From this the step is but slight to such cases as οὔτε ἐσθίουσι πλείω δύνανται φέρειν: διαρραγεῖεν γὰρ ἄν, they do not eat more than they can carry; for (if they should) they would burst, XEN. Cyr. viii. 2, 21 , where εἰ . . . ἐσθίοιεν is necessary to complete the sense and is clearly understood from the preceding words. A final step in the same direction is taken when the condition is actually stated as part of the sentence. As ἔλθοι ἄν means he would go (under some future circumstances), if these limiting circumstances are to be definitely expressed it is natural to use the corresponding form of condition, εἰ with the optative, as εἰ κελεύσειας ἔλθοι ἄν, if you should command he would go. The protasis is thus assimilated to the apodosis in form, as it conforms to it in sense and general character. So when a conclusion is to follow such a condition as εἰ κελεύσειας, the corresponding optative with ἄν, i.e. the potential optative, is naturally chosen, although nothing but regard to harmony and symmetry makes either if you should command he will go or if you command he would go, or the equivalent Greek forms, objectionable. In fact, these very forms are far more common in the more fluid Homeric language than in the fixed and regular style of Attic prose. There is, therefore, no necessary or logical bond of union between two forms like εἰ κελεύσειας and ἔλθοι ἄν. This connexion is, indeed, far more the effect of assimilation in form, as appears especially when the apodosis contains an optative in a wish; as in “ὡς ἀπόλοιτο καὶ ἄλλος ὅτις τοιαῦτά γε ῥέζοι,” “may another perish also who shall do the like” (Hom. Od. i. 47) , where if ἀπολέσθω had been used we should naturally have had ῥέζῃ.

For examples of the optative with ἄν or κέ with a definite protasis expressed or implied in the context, see 455 and 472.

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