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265. In Herodotus v. 79 we have ἀλλὰ μᾶλλον μὴ οὐ τοῦτο τὸ μαντήιον, but I suspect rather that this may prove not to be the meaning of the oracle. This is the first example of a construction, very common in Plato, used also by Aristotle, and found once in Demosthenes, in which μή with the subjunctive expresses a suspicion that something may be (or may prove to be) true, and μὴ οὐ with the subjunctive a suspicion that something may not be true; the former amounting to a cautious assertion, the latter to a cautious negation. Examples from Plato are:—

Μὴ ἀγροικότερον τὸ ἀληθὲς εἰπεῖν, “I am afraid the truth may be too rude a thing to tell.” Gorg. 462 ε. Μὴ ὡς ἀληθῶς ταῦτα σκέμματα τῶν ῥᾳδίως ἀποκτιννύντων, I suspect these may prove to be considerations for those, etc. Crit. 48 C. Μὴ φαῦλον καὶ οὐ καθ᾽ ὁδόν, I think it will be bad and not in the right way (i.e. μὴ οὐ ). Crat. 425B. Ἀλλὰ μὴ οὐχ οὕτως ἔχῃ, ἀλλ᾽ ἀναγκαῖον εἰδότα τίθεσθαι (i.e. μὴ ). Crat. 436B. Ἀλλὰ μὴ οὐ τοῦτ᾽ χαλεπὸν, θάνατον ἐκφυγεῖν, “but I suspect this may not be the hard thing, to escape death.” Ap. 39A. Ἡμῖν μὴ οὐδὲν ἄλλο σκεπτέον , “I am inclined to think we have nothing else to consider.” Crit. 48 C. Μὴ οὐ δέῃ ὑπολογίζεσθαι, I think there will be no need of taking into account, etc. Crit. 48D. Μὴ οὐκ διδακτὸν ἀρετή, “it will probably turn out that virtue is not a thing to be taught.” Men. 94E Ἀλλὰ μὴ οὐχ οὗτοι ἡμεῖς ὦμεν, “but I think we shall not prove to be of this kind.” Symp. 194C1

See also Aristotle, Eth. x. 2. 4, μὴ οὐδὲν λέγωσιν (v. l. λέγουσιν), there can hardly be anything in what they say. (See 269.)

In DEM. i. 26 we have μὴ λίαν πικρὸν εἰπεῖν , I am afraid it may be too harsh a thing to say.

The present subjunctive here, as in dependent clauses of fear (92), may refer to what may prove true.

1 Other examples in Plato are Phaed. 67B, Phaed. 69A; Theaet. 188D; Crat. 429C, Crat. 432A, Crat. 432B, Crat. 435C, Crat. 438C, Crat. 440C; Men. 89C, Men. 94B; Lys. 209A, Lys. 219D, Lys. 220A; Symp. 214C; Parm. 130D, Parm. 132B, Parm. 134E, Parm. 136D; Leg. 635; Theag. 122B; Amat. 137 See Weber B. (pp. 191, 192), who gives these examples in Plato, with HDT. v. 79 and DEM. i. 26, as the only cases of independent μή or μὴ οὐ in this peculiar sense before Aristotle.

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