In 280 BC, Pyrrhus of Epirus attacked the Romans. Before doing so, he consulted the oracle of Delphi. According to Ennius, Annales
179, the oracle’s reply wasAio te Aeacida Romanos vincere posse
which would mean ‘I say that you, son of Aeacus, the Romans will be able to win’ the oracle being ambiguous, since it is not clear who will be able to win after all. Ennius’ line is cited by Cicero, De Divinatione
, 2.56, 116, and used by Shakespeare in Henry VI
(Act 2, Scene 2). A greek rendering of that same line is given on p. 352 of the 4th volume of the Ιστορία του Ελληνικού Έθνους
(where it is stated that this is only a possible translation of the latin text, and not the original): Νικᾶν σ’ Αἰακίδην Ῥωμαίους φημὶ δύνασθαι.
Now, in a couple of sources (funnily enough, they all seem to come from the 19th c.) this line appears along with the line ibis redibis nunquam in bello peribis
(e.g. in H. Coppée, Elements of Logic
, Philadelphia 1858, p. 193, and see also http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Orakel_von_Delphi
). However, it seems that the second line is not being cited by any of the ancient sources, greek or latin, although many books refer to the line as one of the best known examples of delphic ambiguity.
Could it be that the second line comes from a different oracle, and was combined at some point with the oracle given to Pyrrhus? Or was the oracle simply 'expanded' at some point? By whom and when? And of course, as Nikos says, by whom and when were the lines translated into Greek?
Not a clear answer, obviously, but I though it might be of some interest.