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image of Mnemosyne

The current view about the construction oι περι + acc. nominis proprii is subject to doubt. The most thorough investigation of the phrase maintains that in narrative prose of the Hellenistic and Roman period the periphrastic use (i.e., oι περι τινα as the equivalent of the proper name alone) is common when περι governs two or more names, but unevidenced if the preposition has only one object. The pattern is said to have been already fully formed when it first appeared in the Histories of Polybius. The evidence from that author, however, does not support this view. Each of the passages offered as clear examples of periphrasis admits of a more plausible interpretation. For some, the context makes clear that Polybius has in mind specific referents for the phrase which cannot then be periphrastic. In other passages the phrase belongs to one of several types recognizable according to Polybian usage, whose details tell against the periphrastic interpretation. Thus, oι περι X and oι περι X και Y are indistinct with respect to this usage and there is no certain instance of periphrastic o περ τινα in the Histories, the work with which this idiom is perhaps most closely identified.


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