pster wrote: Yes, I noticed the textual difficulties around 3.17, and so decided to not linger very long there.
Still, I want to ask about this nominative business. I was imagining that all the cases are possible. Indeed, that was why I wanted to examine 3.17. I agree with you about all of the other examples being nominative. I have the vague sense that you seem to be leaning towards the view that the nominative is required. Correct me if I'm wrong.
If the nominative is indeed required, then that would give us something meaty to ponder. So what is your view? And do any of the commentaries address this?
pster - thanks. I'm not sure I'm really inclining towards the nominative being absolutely required, though the example at 4.105.1 does stand out by being in the dative. Some scholars have considered amending certain examples to the dative, but others have pointed out that textual corruption could have led to changes having been made either way (nominative to dative or vice versa), and so they are inclined to leave things textually as they are, but to treat the sense of the idiom as unaffected by whether it's nominative or dative.
Andrewes (A Historical Commentary on Thucydides, vol. 5) does suggest a distinction, with the dative adjective meaning 'among the first'; at 8.89.2 he therefore suggests reverting to the reading of MS B, ἐν τοῖς πρώτοις, which Bekker had amended to ἐν τοῖς πρῶτοι, as Andrewes wants the restrictive shade of meaning here. However, his logic doesn't seem watertight, since, as I mentioned before, he also attempts to take 8.68.4 (καὶ Θηραμένης ὁ τοῦ Ἅγνωνος ἐν τοῖς ξυγκαταλύουσι τὸν δῆμον πρῶτος ἦν) as 'a weak superlative', and restrictive in sense, even though we have the nominative there!
So I'm not sure how much further the nominative/dative distinction will actually take us. It partly depends, I suppose, on whether one is willing and able to 'unpack' the construction in a certain way (e.g. along the lines of the unusual example at 8.68.4 quoted above), and whether one thinks that this takes the meaning in a certain direction.