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νή or μά with the accusative: that by which one swears
δύο τρόπω νὴ τὸν Δία
‘There are two types [of memory], by Zeus.’ (Aristoph. Cl. 480)
The particles νή or μά, followed by an accusative, signal the person or object by which one swears an oath.
The name of the deity is sometimes omitted out of respect (νὴ/μὰ τόν ‘by …’) or replaced by a different word, such as an animal (νὴ or μὰ τὸν κύνα ‘by the dog’ – as often as 14 times in Plato), a vegetable (ναὶ μὰ τὴν ἀμυγδαλῆν ‘yes, by the cabbage’ – Eupolis, Fragmenten (ed. Kock) 70) or a different object (ναὶ μὰ τόδε σκῆπτρον ‘yes, by this sceptre’ – Homeros, Ilias 1.234). Many of these 'oaths' are not meant seriously, such as μὰ τὸν χῆνα ‘by the goose’, a parody of μὰ τὸν Ζῆνα ‘by Zeus’.
While νή is always affirmative (and, incidentally, cognate to ναί ‘yes’), μά is invariably negative, unless preceded by ναί. Consequently, we translate ‘[yes,] by Zeus!’ as νὴ Δία or ναὶ μὰ Δία.
These accusatives are sometimes analysed as a direct object with a (sometimes implicit) verb of ‘swearing’.
μὰ τὸν Ἀπόλλω οὔκ, ἤν γε μὴ
For Apollon, no, unless you swear to me... [provisional translation]
ἀλλ’ ἐξολεῖς με ναὶ μὰ τὴν ἀμυγδαλῆν
Yes, yes, you will perish, by the almond tree!