Commentary on Seneca Epistle LXXIX
This commentary is complete only through section 10 of this letter.
Vocabulary is complete for the entire letter.
Commentary through section 10 by Stephanie Spaulding, revised by J.
Bailly: Sections 11-18 by J. Bailly
Seneca begins by inquiring about the sights Lucilius observed on
his journey around Sicily, including Scylla, Charybdis, and Mount
Aetna. He goes on to suggest that Lucilius treat Aetna in a
poetic work, as other poets (including Ovid and Vergil) had done. In
the remaining part, Seneca discusses the natures of success and fame as
they relate to literary renown. He then continues with thoughts on the
pursuit of the ideal of virtue and truth, concluding with a pithy
as he frequently does in these letters: veritas in omnem partem sui
eadem est. quae decipiunt, nihil habent solidi. tenue est mendacium;
perlucent, si diligenter inspexeris.
This text is slightly different from the one which the
commentary is based on: consult the OCT for places where the commentary
has a different text.
LXXIX. SENECA LVCILIO SVO SALVTEM
 Expecto epistulas tuas quibus mihi indices circuitus Siciliae
totius quid tibi novi ostenderit, et omnia de ipsa Charybdi certiora.
Nam Scyllam saxum esse et quidem non terribile navigantibus optime
scio: Charybdis an respondeat fabulis perscribi mihi desidero et, si
forte observaveris (dignum est autem quod observes), fac nos certiores
utrum uno tantum vento agatur in vertices an omnis tempestas aeque mare
illud contorqueat, et an verum sit quidquid illo freti turbine abreptum
est per multa milia trahi conditum et circa Tauromenitanum litus
emergere.  Si haec mihi perscripseris, tunc tibi audebo mandare ut
in honorem meum Aetnam quoque ascendas, quam consumi et sensim
subsidere ex hoc colligunt quidam, quod aliquanto longius navigantibus
solebat ostendi. Potest hoc accidere non quia montis altitudo
descendit, sed quia ignis evanuit et minus vehemens ac largus effertur,
ob eandem causam fumo quoque per diem segniore. Neutrum autem
incredibile est, nec montem qui devoretur cotidie minui, nec manere
eundem, quia non ipsum <ignis> exest sed in aliqua inferna valle
conceptus exaestuat et aliis pascitur, in ipso monte non alimentum
habet sed viam.  In Lycia regio notissima est (Hephaestion incolae
vocant), foratum pluribus locis solum, quod sine ullo nascentium damno
ignis innoxius circumit. Laeta itaque regio est et herbida, nihil
flammis adurentibus sed tantum vi remissa ac languida refulgentibus.
 Sed reservemus ista, tunc quaesituri cum tu mihi scripseris quantum
ab ipso ore montis nives absint, quas ne aestas quidem solvit; adeo
tutae sunt ab igne vicino. Non est autem quod istam curam inputes mihi;
morbo enim tuo daturus eras, etiam si nemo mandaret.  Quid tibi do
ne Aetnam describas in tuo carmine, ne hunc sollemnem omnibus poetis
locum adtingas? Quem quominus Ovidius tractaret, nihil obstitit quod
iam Vergilius impleverat; ne Severum quidem Cornelium uterque
deterruit. Omnibus praeterea feliciter hic locus se dedit, et qui
praecesserant non praeripuisse mihi videntur quae dici poterant, sed
aperuisse.  [Sed] Multum interest utrum ad consumptam materiam an ad
subactam accedas: crescit in dies, et inventuris inventa non obstant.
Praeterea condicio optima est ultimi: parata verba invenit, quae aliter
instructa novam faciem habent. Nec illis manus inicit tamquam alienis;
sunt enim publica. [Iurisconsulti negant quicquam publicum usu capi.]
 Aut ego te non novi aut Aetna tibi salivam movet; iam cupis grande
aliquid et par prioribus scribere. Plus enim sperare modestia tibi tua
non permittit, quae tanta in te est ut videaris mihi retracturus
ingenii tui vires, si vincendi periculum sit: tanta tibi priorum
 Inter cetera hoc habet boni sapientia: nemo ab altero potest vinci
nisi dum ascenditur. Cum ad summum perveneris, paria sunt; non est
incremento locus, statur. Numquid sol magnitudini suae adicit? numquid
ultra quam solet luna procedit? Maria non crescunt; mundus eundem
habitum ac modum servat.  Extollere se quae iustam magnitudinem
implevere non possunt: quicumque fuerint sapientes, pares erunt et
aequales. Habebit unusquisque ex iis proprias dotes: alius erit
affabilior, alius expeditior, alius promptior in eloquendo, alius
facundior: illud de quo agitur, quod beatum facit, aequalest in
omnibus.  An Aetna tua possit sublabi et in se ruere, an hoc
excelsum cacumen et conspicuum per vasti maris spatia detrahat adsidua
vis ignium, nescio: virtutem non flamma, non ruina inferius adducet;
haec una maiestas deprimi nescit. Nec proferri ultra nec referri
potest; sic huius, ut caelestium, stata magnitudo est. Ad hanc nos
conemur educere.  Iam multum operis effecti est; immo, si verum
fateri volo, non multum. Nec enim bonitas est pessimis esse meliorem:
quis oculis glorietur qui suspicetur diem? Cui sol per caliginem
splendet, licet contentus interim sit effugisse tenebras, adhuc non
fruitur bono lucis.  Tunc animus noster habebit quod gratuletur
sibi cum emissus his tenebris in quibus volutatur non tenui visu clara
prospexerit, sed totum diem admiserit et redditus caelo suo fuerit, cum
receperit locum quem occupavit sorte nascendi. Sursum illum vocant
initia sua; erit autem illic etiam antequam hac custodia exsolvatur,
cum vitia disiecerit purusque ac levis in cogitationes divinas
 Hoc nos agere, Lucili carissime, in hoc ire impetu toto, licet
pauci sciant, licet nemo, iuvat. Gloria umbra virtutis est: etiam
invitam comitabitur. Sed quemadmodum aliquando umbra antecedit,
aliquando sequitur vel a tergo est, ita gloria aliquando ante nos est
visendamque se praebet, aliquando in averso est maiorque quo serior,
ubi invidia secessit.  Quamdiu videbatur furere Democritus! Vix
recepit Socraten fama. Quamdiu Catonem civitas ignoravit! respuit nec
intellexit nisi cum perdidit. Rutili innocentia ac virtus lateret, nisi
accepisset iniuriam: dum violatur, effulsit. Numquid non sorti suae
gratias egit et exilium suum complexus est? De his loquor quos
inlustravit fortuna dum vexat: quam multorum profectus in notitiam
evasere post ipsos! quam multos fama non excepit sed eruit!  Vides
Epicurum quantopere non tantum eruditiores sed haec quoque inperitorum
turba miretur: hic ignotus ipsis Athenis fuit, circa quas delituerat.
Multis itaque iam annis Metrodoro suo superstes in quadam epistula, cum
amicitiam suam et Metrodori grata commemoratione cecinisset, hoc
novissime adiecit, nihil sibi et Metrodoro inter bona tanta nocuisse
quod ipsos illa nobilis Graecia non ignotos solum habuisset sed paene
inauditos.  Numquid ergo non postea quam esse desierat inventus
est? numquid non opinio eius enituit? Hoc Metrodorus quoque in quadam
epistula confitetur, se et Epicurum non satis enotuisse; sed post se et
Epicurum magnum paratumque nomen habituros qui voluissent per eadem ire
vestigia.  Nulla virtus latet, et latuisse non ipsius est damnum:
veniet qui conditam et saeculi sui malignitate conpressam dies
publicet. Paucis natus est qui populum aetatis suae cogitat. Multa
annorum milia, multa populorum supervenient: ad illa respice. Etiam si
omnibus tecum viventibus silentium livor indixerit, venient qui sine
offensa, sine gratia iudicent. Si quod est pretium virtutis ex fama,
nec hoc interit. Ad nos quidem nihil pertinebit posterorum sermo; tamen
etiam non sentientes colet ac frequentabit.  Nulli non virtus et
vivo et mortuo rettulit gratiam, si modo illam bona secutus est fide,
si se non exornavit et pinxit, sed idem fuit sive ex denuntiato
videbatur sive inparatus ac subito. Nihil simulatio proficit; paucis
inponit leviter extrinsecus inducta facies: veritas in omnem partem sui
eadem est. Quae decipiunt nihil habent solidi. Tenue est mendacium:
perlucet si diligenter inspexeris. Vale.
Text from www.thelatinlibrary.com, as submitted there by Hansulrich
Guhl (Frauenfeld, Switzerland) from an unidentified edition and (the
later books) by Sally Winchester from the Reynolds edition.
1 Seneca awaits letters from Lucilius about Lucilius' travels around
indices: future indicative from indico, -ere.
circuitus ostenderit: this whole clause is an indirect question that
functions as the first object of indices. The subject, cicuitus, is
proleptically put before the interrogative quid.
totius: fem. gen. sing. of totus,-a,-um agreeing with Siciliae(f.).
Masculine, feminine, and neuter genitives of totus are all in -ius
(adjectives of this pattern are unus, nullus, ullus, solus, nullus,
alter, uter, totus, and alius. Taking the first letter of each spells
out UNUS NAUTA, a handy mnemonic.)
novi: gen. sing. as partitive with quid: literally "what of news," but
it means "what new (thing)."
et omnia certiora : is an accusative direct object of indices. Thus,
indices is taking two different constructions, indirect question and
Charybdi: ablative modified by ipsa.
nam Scyllam optime scio: scio with acc. and infin. in indirect speech.
Scyllam: this is a far cry from the fearsome creature first found in
Odyssey who terrorized seafarers.
terribile: neuter acc. adj. modifying saxum; terribilis takes the
of person or thing frightened.
navigantibus: "the ones sailing" i.e. "sailors" or perhaps tourists who
go for a boat ride.
optime: modifies scio.
desidero: takes an indirect statement. In this case, the entire
question (Charybdis an respondeat fabulis)
takes the place of an accusative and is the subject of the infinitive
forte: abl. with si, "if by chance." observaveris is future perfect
in a future more vivid condition.
observes: subjunctive in a relative clause of characteristic.
fac: fac certiorem + acc. pers. means "to make someone certain" or
"to inform someone." Here facere is
imperative: certiores is acc. plural agreeing with nos (the "modest"
plural: also known more playfully as the "'we' of kings and Cicero").
utrum ... an ... et an ... : alternative indirect questions.
uno vento: i.e. a wind from only one direction. tantum is adverbial.
agatur: subj. in indirect question.
aeque: adverb from the adj. aequus, -a, -um "equally."
contorqueat: subj. in indirect question.
verum sit: the third indirect question, which itself has an indirect
statement dependent upon it (trahi and emergere and their subject).
quicquid illo freti turbine abreptum est: this whole clause is the acc.
subj. of the infinitives (trahi and emergere). Abreptum est indicative
although the subjunctive might be expected in indirect speech after
verum sit. When indicative occurs in subordinate clauses in indirect
speech, the clause with the indicative is not really
part of the indirect speech: it is presented as an actual fact, not a
reported fact, by the writer.
quicquid: an alternative form of quidquid.
conditum: a predicate term modifying quicquid.
Tauromenitanum litus: Tauromenium is a town on the east coast of
2 Reports about Mount Aetna say it is being reduced, but it is not,
because it is fed from beneath.
si ... tunc ... : future more vivid condition.
haec: n. pl. acc., referring to the indirect questions of the previous
mandare: mandare is transitive: its direct
object is the indirect command ut clause.
ascendas: subj. in indirect command.
hoc: hoc (and illud) can mean "the following," as it does
here, referring to the quod clause that follows.
colligunt: with acc. + infinitives (quam consumi et subsidere) in
quidam: refers to those who hold a rival theory.
quod: "the fact that."
aliquanto: ablative of degree of difference with comparative (longius)
"from a little bit
solebat: with the infin. (ostendi). The imperfect "it kept being
(shown)" works well with
aliquanto longius. "Used to be shown" would work well too, but would
make less sense given the earlier sensim subsidere, which apparently
indicates a gradual process over time.
hoc: refers to the fact just reported in support of the theory that the
mountain is decreasing.
minus: adverb with both vehemens and largus, which are nominative
predicate modifiers of ignis.
ob eandem causam fumo quoque per diem
segniore: ablative absolute phrase.
per diem: "day by day."
Neutrum incredibile est: neutrum refers to the acc. and infin.
phrases following (montem minui and ignem manere).
devoretur: subjunctive is the norm for verbs in subordinate clauses in
quia non ... sed ... : quia introduces the explanatory clauses that
follow explain why neutrum incredibile est. In the first clause, non
... exest, Seneca rejects the claim that the fire eats up the mountain.
The clauses after sed give Seneca's preferred reasoning.
ipsum: antecedent is mons.
ignis: the texts of the Manuscripts did not make sense, so Buechler and
Reynolds suggested adding ignis. The < > indicates it is an
editorial addition (with no manuscript support) which the editors
consider necessary for the passage to make sense.
aliis: "other" fires or materials.
habet: the subject of habet is ignis.
3 A remarkable region of Lycia.
Lycia: a country in Asia Minor.
solum: solum, -i, n., "ground."
pluribus locis: abl. of place where.
quod: object of circumit. It refers back to solum.
nascentium: growing things (i.e. plant
nihil flammis adurentibus ... refulgentibus: ablatives absolute. nihil
the object of adurentibus.
4 But more on such matters later, for Lucilius will want to write
poetry about them.
reservemus: jussive subjunctive.
ista: refers to what Seneca has just been writing to Lucilius about.
quaesituri: nominative plural agrees with subject of reservemus.
cum rescripseris: temporal cum takes indicative when
referring to present or future, as here.
quantum absint: indirect question.
quas: refers to nives.
ne ... quidem: "not even."
est quod: used idiomatically, est quod means 'there is a reason why '
and takes an indirect question.
daturus eras: future can be expressed by the simple future or by esse +
a future participle. Here, the form of esse is
imperfect, which allows Latin to express the thought 'you were going to
morbo: in Silver Latin, this word can mean 'weakness,' as in 'I have a
weakness for chocolate.' The verb dare can be loosely translated as
"give in to (your weakness)."Seneca is lightly teasing Lucilius when he
says that there is no reason why Lucilius should take Seneca's current
words as an indication of any interest in the matter (which the next
couple clauses let us know is Lucilius' poetry), especially since
Lucilius would probably do what Seneca is suggesting (write a poem on
Aetna) even without Seneca's encouragement.
mandaret: imperfect subjunctive in present contrary-to-fact protasis.
5 Why should I try to dissuade you from writing about Aetna when it has
offered such fruitful subject matter to other poets?
quid tibi do ne: to express this thought, English might say something
like 'what reason am I giving you not to ,' but Latin evidently needs
no word for 'reason' to express the thought.
ne ..., ne ...: two negative purpose clauses in asyndeton.
omnibus poetis: goes with sollemnem.
quem: a 'linking relative' serving to link the sentence with something
preceding (the most recent masculine singular
noun), just as 'this,' 'that,' or 'which' can do in English. 'Linking
relatives' do not
introduce subordinate relative clauses. In English, such words are
often ambiguous because it is not clear to what they are referring, but
given that they have gender and number in Latin, it is usually quite
quem quominus ... impleverat: a typical example of a verb of
which takes quominus + subjunctive. The subject of obstitit is quod iam
Vergilius impleverat, in which quod means 'the fact that.' Quod: takes
the indicative when it means 'the fact that' or 'as to the fact that."
Such clauses are substantive clauses because they act like nouns (see
Severus Cornelius: a poet who flourished ca. 38 BCE.
omnibus: Cicero means that Aetna gives herself to anyone who wants her
as the subject of poetry.
et qui ... aperuisse: although it might be argued that once Vergil has
covered a topic, there is no reason to return to it (Who can
hope to better Vergil? or Ovid?), it
can also be claimed, as here, that predecessors open up the subject for
further poetic expression. The
development of poetry seems to show that the latter argument is true of
subject matters, but not always of genres: usually, once Ovid plays
with a genre, it is hard for subsequent authors to simply go back to
the genre, because he has stretched the genre's limits so much that it
seems like 'old hat' to return to it. Poets feel pressure to innovate
in terms of genre, but not so much in terms of subject matter.
quae dici poterant: n. pl. nom. quae has no expressed antecedent. If
the antecedent were expressed, it would be the direct object of
6 The poet who covers material other poets have already covered has
advantages over predecessors.
sed multum ... accedas: the main clause is multum interest, which is
followed by two alternative indirect questions.
inventuris inventa: Seneca enjoys the cleverness of alliterative
polyptoton, which give his pithy sayings more zing. Alliteration
is the use of words that begin with the same sound. Polyptoton is a
figure of speech in which the same word is used more than once in
ultimi: predicate genitive. Substantival use of adjective.
aliter instructa: a circumstantial participial phrase. Such phrases can
be the equivalent of causal, temporal, concessive, or conditional
clauses. For example, ego amatus a te hoc feci could mean "Although I
loved by you, I did this," "Because (since) I was loved by you, I did
this," "When (once, after) I had been loved by you, I did this," or "If
I was loved by you, I did this." The reader must decide what force the
participial phrase has in such cases.
illis: dat. referring back to verba.
7 You want to handle Aetna in poetry, but your modesty holds you back.
There is a poem entitled Aetna
whose author is unknown. This letter provides evidence for the debate
about its authorship. Summers points out that Virgil and Ovid treated
Mt. Aetna in episodes of their poety, and thinks it likely that
Cornelius Severus did as well. He suggests that it is a mere
possibility that Lucilius could be the author of the anonymous Aetna, and is sceptical of all
efforts to determine Aetna's
salivam movet: a colorful way to describe Lucilius' desires.
sperare: complementary infinitive dependent on permittit.
tanta ut videaris: the result clause is prepared for by tanta.
retracturus: with videaris, you expect an infinitive:
supply an esse to form a future periphrastic
infinitive. "Periphrastic" is a term used to describe any verbal phrase
that takes more than one word to express. For example, in English, all
futures are periphrastic, because they have "will" or "shall" plus a
vincendi: gerunds occur in every case but the nominative and vocative.
English gerunds have -ing. For example, in the phrase "fear of
flying," flying is a gerund. Notice that gerunds are different from
gerundives: gerunds are active and are nouns, but gerundives are
adjectives and passive.
priorum: an objective genitive. Objective genitives are dependent
on nouns that describe some action, in this case revering. If you
transform the noun into its corresponding verb (to revere), then the
genitive would be that verb's object (to revere predecessors). Hence
8 Wisdom cannot be surpassed, because, so says Seneca, it does not
admit of degrees. The idea is that it is impossible to say of two wise
people that one is wiser. It would be like saying that water in one
glass is wetter than that in another.
boni: partitive gen. with hoc. English might say that wisdom has 'this
'this amount' of goodness.
ascenditur: impersonal passives like this one occur frequently in Latin
where English might use 'one' in a phrase like "while one is on the
perveneris: generic "you" rather than specific to Lucilius.
incremento: this ablative of quality modifies locus. A place 'with
growth' is a position that is amenable to or admits of higher and lower
degrees. Seneca is saying that wisdom is like pregnancy: there is no
such thing as "a little bit pregnant" or "more pregnant." One either is
or is not wise. Those who are not may or may not be progressing towards
wisdom, but even those progressing towards it cannot be called wiser
than others, for they are not yet wise.
statur: impersonal passive "one remains stable" or "there is a standing
9 Whoever is wise is equally wise, just as whoever is content/happy is
Their differences lie in things that are indeed desirable. But those
are not essential for wisdom or happiness.
extollere possunt: the unexpressed antecedent of relative pronoun quae
is the subject of
implevere: alternate form of impleverunt.
quicumque ... aequales: notice that the verbs are the same as those of
future-more-vivid condition, and that relacing quicumque with si would
leave the thought largely intact. Relative clauses can
take the place of conditional protases.
eloquendo: both active and a noun, is this a gerund or a gerundive?
agitur: the verb ago is a generic verb that can have all sorts of
meanings, just as 'turn' or 'run' can in English (check out how many
definitions each has in a good dictionary!). Here, ago is impersonal. A
translation like "(that about which) we are discussing," or "we are
puzzling" gets the thought. It is important to wrap one's mind
around the fact that an impersonal passive in Latin can have a subject
'we' or 'one' in English, and that a verb like ago can have any number
of correct English translations.
quod beatum facit: understand "one" or "a person" as the object of
facit and beatum as agreeing with "one" or "a person." Quod, referring
back to illud, is the subject of facit.
10 The earth may have high mountains, and they may fall down, but
excellence is the only pinnacle which will never be lowered.
an ... an ... : beginning with an leads us to expect that this is an
question: nescio at the end will confirm that.
per vasti maris spatia: it is good Latin style to surround one phrase
word (vasti maris) with another one which that phrase or word depends
on (per spatia). The two together form a larger phrase.
vis: fem. sg. nom.
nescit: Seneca personifies maiestas.
ut caelestium: treat this as a parenthesis. Not every ut introduces a
clause. Sometimes it just
nos conemur educere: nos could be nominative or accusative, but the
infinitive educere is transitive, which means that it needs an object.
That should tell you whether nos is nominative or accusative.
11 Virtue is not a relative thing consisting of being better than
others. It is being excellent absolutely: no virtuous person is
"better" than another. (Compare Socrates' argument in Republic 1 against Thrasymachus:
Socrates claims that virtue is a matter of achieving an optimum,
whereas Thrasymachus claims that it is a matter of achieving a maximum
that exceeds others).
multum operis effecti est: est means "exists."
non multum: supply the verb from the
pessimis esse meliorem:
a nominative infinitive phrase. The whole phrase is the subject of est.
Meliorem is predicate
accusative agreeing with the (unexpressed) subject of esse. Pessimis is
abl. of comparison.
licet: impersonal licet "it is granted" (can be translated "although")
takes a semi-independent subjunctive.
contentus: takes complementary infinitive. Modifies the unexpressed
antecedent of cui.
fruitur: the subject is the unexpressed antecedent of cui.
12 There is something to really brag about once our soul has been
purified of faults and has returned to the pure state from whence it
The structure of the first sentence is:
tunc . . . cum: the tunc prepares for the temporal cum clauses.
- Tunc animus noster habebit (main clause #1)
- quod gratuletur sibi (relative clause of characteristic with
omitted antecedent: the antecedent would have been "something")
- cum emissus his tenebris (beginning of first part of temporal
- in quibus volutatur (relative clause with tenebris as
- non tenui visu clara
prospexerit (conclusion of first part of temporal cum clause)
- sed totum diem admiserit (second part of temporal cum clause)
- et redditus caelo suo fuerit, (second main clause)
receperit locum (temporal cum clause)
- quem occupavit sorte nascendi. (relative clause with locum as
quod gratuletur sibi: a relative clause of characteristic.
emissus his tenebris: just as e/ex takes the ablative, when it is
prefixed to a verb, that verb sometimes takes the ablative. The same
thing occurs below with exsolvatur.
prospexerit . . . admiserit . . . fuerit . . . receperit . . .: the
Latin future perfect is much more frequent than the English future
illum: refers to the subject of the previous sentence.
illic: illic = locus quem occupavit sorte nascendi.
hac custodia: refers to the figurative shackles of earthly existence.
13 Even if no one knows about our virtue, it sheds glory on us, and we
will be known for it eventually.
hoc: both instances refer to the general course of action Seneca is
agere . . . ire . . .: infinitive subjects of iuvat (iuvat is singular,
and so another iuvat should probably be understood with agere).
licet: when it means "although," licet takes the subjunctive.
nemo: understand sciat.
visendam: a gerundive modifying se.
maiorque quo serior: quo is an ablative of degree of difference with
the comparative serior. Both maior and serior modify an understood
14 Many now famous people were far from famed in their lifetime.
Democritus: a philosopher who believed in atoms.
Socraten: accusative of Socrates. Greek nouns sometimes are declined
with Greek instead of Latin endings.
Catonem: the stoic champion of the Republic who committed suicide at
Utica rather than live under Caesar.
respuit nec intellexit: the object of these transitive verbs must be
understood from what precedes.
cf. Ep. XXIV.4: Damnationem
suam Rutilius sic tulit tamquam nihil illi molestum aliud esset quam
quod male iudicaretur. Exilium Metellus fortiter tulit, Rutilius etiam
libenter; alter ut rediret rei publicae praestitit, alter reditum suum
Sullae negavit, cui nihil tunc negabatur.
lateret . . . accepisset . . . : mixed contrary to fact conditional.
dum violatur AND dum vexat: dum takes the historic present, which
should be translated as if imperfect.
quam multorum: quam is adverbial modifying multorum, "how."
profectus: 4th declension.
ipsos: intensive pronoun with multorum as antecedent.
15 Epicurus and his friend Metrodorus were practically ignored by
Athens when they lived there, and Epicurus later wrote that it had not
harmed them a bit.
Epicurum: this accusative is placed proleptically here to highlight
that Epicurus is a great example. The most famous example of such a
proleptic construction is: "consider the lilies of the field, how they
grow." In normal unassuming prose, it would be "consider how the lilies
of the field grow."
Epicurus, of course, was the founder of the Epicurean school of
quantopere ... miretur: indirect question.
haec: modifies what fem. sg. nom. noun?
hic ignotus ipsis Athenis fuit: ignotus is in "predicate" position.
Namely, it should not be translated "this unknown man ..." but rather
"he was unknown ...." Ipsis Athenis is ablative of place where.
circa quas: quas refers back to Athens, which is fem. pl.
multis annis superstes: multis annis is ablative of degree of
difference with superstes, which has a sort of comparative notion in
it: consider English, "he survived her by a decade."
cum . . . cecinisset: when a temporal cum clause refers to the past,
its verb is usually subjunctive.
hoc novissime adiecit: the words of Epicurus reported here are Fragment
188 in Usener's collection of Epicurus' fragments.
hoc . . . adiecit . . . nihil . . . nocuisse . . . quod . . . : the
quod clause as a whole is the subject of nocuisse. Nihil is adverbial
and modifies nocuisse. Nocuisse is infinitive in indirect statement
dependent on adiecit: remember that noceo takes dative of the person
harmed. Hoc is in apposition to the entirety of the indirect statement.
For the whole construction, consider the parallel English construction,
"Consider this, that the fact that he is Caesar is not at all
16 Later, Epicurus achieved lasting fame. His friend Metrodorus claimed
that after he and Epicurus were gone those who followed would win glory.
postea quam: postea is a comparative concept, and so Latin uses quam
opinio eius: eius is not a possessive genitive, but rather an objective
quadam epistula: the words reported here are fragment 43 of
Körte's collection of fragments.
post se et Epicurum: the preposition post governs two objects.
magnum paratumque nomen habituros: this is indirect speech. There is an
understood esse that makes habituros an infinitive.
17 Virtue does not go to waste, even if it lies long hidden. It will
come to light and later generations will revisit the virtuous figures
of the past even after those figures are dead.
ipsius damnum: another objective genitive.
veniet qui ...: English prose word order might be: dies veniet qui
publicet [virtutem, quamquam] conditam et compressam
malignitate sui saeculi. Quamquam is added because it makes explicit
the concessive force of the participles conditam et compressam, both of
which modify an understood virtutem.
paucis: dative of advantage. What does it mean to be "born for few"?
cogitat: "think about, be concerned about." As frequently happens, the
Latin transitive verb with its accusative object can be translated by a
verb plus prepositional phrase in English.
milia: in the singular, mille is an indeclinable adjective, but in the
plural, it takes the genitive (which is the same as English: 'a
thousand women,' but 'thousands of women').
indixerit: indico + acc. X + dat. Y = "impose X on Y."
venient qui: qui has no explicit antecedent: supply illi or the like.
si quod est pretium virtutis ex fama: the source of the pretium of
virtue is fama, which is a convoluted way of saying that virtue will
eventually be rewarded and accorded its true value by the reputation it
enjoys among later more impartial generations.
nec hoc interit: the antecedent of hoc must be pretium, which should be
translated as "value."
non sentientes: modifies an understood nos.
18 Virtue rewards both the quick and the dead and is always the best
policy. One should act the same whether one is likely to be discovered
or not, and one should not deceive or have pretense. Both will
eventually be discovered.
Nulli ... et vivo et mortuo: et vivo et mortuo modifies nulli, but in
predicate position. English prose word order might be: Nulli virtus non
rettulit gratiam et vivo et mortuo.
secutus est . . . exornavit et pinxit . . . fuit . . . videbatur . . .:
the subject of all these verbs is generic "one" and refers back to the
same person as nulli (no one).
bona . . . fide: bona modifies fide.
ex denuntiato: idiomatic for "with fair warning."
videbatur: passive, not deponent meaning.
nihil: adverbial, "not at all," "not a bit."
imponit: impono + dat. = "trick, deceive."
leviter extrinsecus: both modify inducta.
sui: genitive of the third person personal pronoun, not a form of suus,
-a, -um. This genitive is never used for possessive genitive, but it is
used for partitive genitive (as here).
nihil . . . solidi: nihil is the object of habent and goes with the
neuter genitive solidi. If nihil boni means "nothing good," what does
nihil solidi mean?
abripio, -ripere, -ripui, -reptum, to lay hold of, to snatch
accedo, accedere, accessi, accessum, approach
accipio, accipere, accepi, acceptum, accept, receive
accido, -cidere,-cidi, to happen
adduco, adducere, adduxi, adductus, bring
adeo, adv, to the extent that
adicio, adicere, adieci, adiectum, add
admitto, admittere, admisi, admissus, admit to the senses or mind,
aduro, -urere, -ussi, -ustum, to set fire to, to singe
aequalis, -e, equal
aestas, aestatis, f., summer; summer heat
aetas, -atis, f., age, generation
affabilis, -e, courteous, kind
alienus, -a, -um, another's, belonging to another, borrowed
alimentum, -i, n., food
aliquando, sometimes, at some time
aliquanto, somewhat, a little, rather
altitudo, -inis, f., height
amicitia, -ae, f., friendship
an, whether; or whether
antecedo, antecedere, antecessi, antecessum, precede
antequam, conj., before
aperio, aperire, aperui, apertum, open, uncover
ascendo,-scendere,-scendi,-scensum, to mount, to go up, climb
Athenae, -arum, f. pl., Athens
attingo, attingere, attigi, attactum, mention, touch upon lightly
audeo, audere, ausus sum, to venture, to dare
autem, however, but, or, and
aversus, -a, -um, back, rear, remote
beatus, -a, -um, happy, content, fulfilled
bonitas, -atis, f., goodness
cacumen, cacuminis, n., peak, height, summit
caelestia, caelestium, n. pl., heavenly bodies
caelestis, -e, heavenly
caelum, -i, n., heaven, sky
caligo, caliginis, f., darkness
cano, canere, cecini, cantum, sing; celebrate, tell of
carmen, carminis, n., poem, song
circa, + acc., in the neighborhoud of, near
circuitus, -us, (circu(m)itus) m., a circuit or going around, a trip
circumeo, -ire, circumii, circuitum, to circle around
civitas, -atis, f., state
clarus, -a, -um, lucid, clear
cogito (1), think about, pay attention to
cogitatio, -onis, f., thought
colo, colere, colui, cultus, pay attention to, foster
colligo,-ligere,-legi,-lectum, to conclude
comito (1), accompany
commemoratio, -onis, f., memory, recalling
complector, complecti, complexus, embrace
comprimo, comprimere, compressi, compressum, subdue, hold down, repress
concipio, concipere, concepi, conceptus, catch (fire)
condicio, condicionis, f., state; rank, place
conditus, -a, -um, hidden
condo, -ere, -didi, -ditum, to pull away (safely)
confiteor, confiteri, confessus, profess, admit
conor (1), try
conp-, see comp-
conspicuus, -a, -um, visible, in sight; remarkable, distinguished
consumo, -ere, -sumpsi, -sumptum, use up; waste away
contentus, -a, -um, happy, content
contorqueo, -torquere, -torsi, -tortum, to whirl or turn violently,
cotidie, adv., daily, day by day
cresco, crescere, crevi, cretum, grow
custodia, -ae, f., imprisonment, restraint
damnum, -i, n., loss, damage
decipio, decipere, decepi, deceptum, deceive
delitesco, delitescere, delitui, go into seclusion, withdraw
denuntio (1), announce, give notice of; ex denuntiato, with fair warning
deprimo, deprimere, depressi, depressus, press down, crush
desidero (1), to want or wish
desino, desinere, desi(v)i, desitum, cease
deterreo, deterrere, deterrui, deterritus, frighten, scare, put off,
detraho, detrahere, detraxi, detractus, reduce, take away from
devoro (1), to consume
dignus, -a, -um, worthy
diligenter, carefully, diligently
disicio, disicere, disieci, disiectum, scatter, disperse, dispel
divinus, -a, -um, godly, divine
dos, dotis, f., dowry, gifts
educo, educere, eduxi, eductus, educate, train, raise
effero, efferre,extuli, elatum, to raise up
efficio, efficere, effeci, effectum, do, complete, accomplish
effugio, effugere, effugi, flee, escape
effulgeo, effulgere, effulsi, shine forth, flash, gleam
eloquor, eloqui, elocutus sum, give a speech
emergo, -mergere, -mersi, -mersum, to rise up
emico, -are, -ui, -atum, dart forth, dash out; flash forth
Emitto, emittere, emisi, emissus, send out of, release
enitesco, enitescere, enitui, become evident; start to shine forth
enotesco, enotescere, enotui, become well known
epistula, -ae, f., letter
ergo, thus, therefore
eruditus, -a, -um, learned
eruo, eruere, erui, erutum, destroy, root out
evanesco, evanescere, evanui, to vanish, disappear
evado, evadere, evasi, evasum, pass, flow away
exaestuo (1), to boil up
excelsus, -a, -um, high lofty
excipio, excipere, excepi, exceptum, take up
exilium, -i, n., exile
exorno (1), deck out, decorate, enhance
expeditus, -a, -um, unencumbered, unhampered; prompt, ready at hand
exsolvo, exsolvere, exsolvi, exsolutum, set free, release
exspecto (1), to look out for, to await
extollo, extollere, lift up, raise, exalt
fabula, -ae , f., tale, story, fable
facies, faciei, f., appearance
facundus, -a, -um, eloquent, fluent
fama, -ae, f., reputation (good or bad), public opinion
fateor, fateri, fassus, declare, profess
feliciter, with good results, fruitfully, auspiciously
fides, fidei, f., loyalty, faith
flamma, -ae, f., flames
foro (1), to bore, to pierce
fors, fortis, f., chance, luck
frequento (1), visit frequently
fretum, -i, n., strait, channel
fruor, frui, fructus, enjoy (+abl.)
fumus, -I, m., steam, smoke
furo, furere, rage, behave wildly, be insane
gloria, -ae, f., praise, honor, distinction
glorior (1), take pride in, boast of (+abl. or acc.)
gratus, -a, -um, grateful
gratia: idiom gratias agere = give thanks, thank, express thanks
gratulor (1), congratulate (+dat.), give thanks to (+dat.)
habitus, -us, m., character, quality, disposition
herbidus, -a, -um, grassy
honos, honoris, m., esteem, glory
iam, at the time, at this time, already, now
idem, eadem, idem, same
ignoro (1), fail to recognize, be unaware of
ignotus, -a, -um, unknown, not famous
illic, there, in that place
illustro (1), shine upon, give glory to
immo, no, on the contrary, rather
imparatus, -a, -um, unprepared
imperitus, -a, -um, uneducated; unskilled
impetus, -us, m., thrust, impulse, urge, attack, effort
impleo, implere, implevi, impletum, cover with writing, fill up (a book)
impono, imponere, imposui, impositum, deceive, trick (+dat)
imputo (1), charge to someone's account; expect someone to be grateful
inauditus, -a, -um, unheard of
incola, -ae, c., inhabitant
incrementum, -I, growth, increase, addition
indico, -ere, -dixi, -dictum, to make known, to announce; impose (+
acc.) on (+dat.)
induco, inducere, induxi, inductum, put on, apply, bring to bear
infernus,-a, -um, below, lower
inferus, -a, -um, low
ingenium, -I, n., genius, character
inicio, inicere, inieci, iniectus, impose, apply
initium, -i, n., beginning
iniuria, -ae, f., harm
inl-, see ill-
innocentia, -ae, f., blamelessness
innoxius, -a, -um, harmless, safe
inp-, see imp-
inspicio, inspicere, inspexi, inspectum, look at , examine
instruo, instruere, instruxi, instructus, provide, prepare, build
intellego, intellegere, intellexi, intellectum, understand
interim, sometimes; meanwhile
intereo, interire, interii, interitum, perish, die
invenio, invenire, inveni, inventum, find, discover, invent
invidia, -ae, f., envy, hate
invitus, -a, -um, unwilling, involuntary
iudico (1), judge
iustus, -a, -um, proper, just, right
iuvo (1), please
laetus,-a, -um, rich, fertile
languidus, -a, -um, weak, faint, sluggish, listless
largus, -a, -um, abundant, numerous
lateo, latere, latui, be in hiding
levis, levis, leve, light, fleet, nimble
leviter, gently, slightly, mildly
litus, -oris, n., shore
livor, -oris, m., envy, ill will, malice
loquor, loqui, locutus, speak
lux, lucis, f., light
maiestas, -atis, f., dignity, grandeur
malignitas, -atis, f., ill will, maliciousness
mando (1), to commit, to entrust
maneo, manere, mansi, mansum, to stay
mare, maris, n., sea
materia, -ae, f., subject matter
melior, melius, better
mendacium, -i, n., lie, falsity
mille (pl. milia), thousand
minuo, minuere, minui, minutum, to make smaller, to diminish
miror (1), admire
modestia, -ae, f., moderation, temperance
modus, -a, -um, measure
morbus, -I, m., sickness; fault, weakness
mortuus, -a, -um, dead, in death
moveo, movere, movi, motus, provoke, instigate, move (to)
multus, -a, -um, much; many
mundus, -I, world, universe, heavens; earth
nascor, nasci, natus sum, be born, rise up
navigo (1), sail
nescio, nescire, nescivi, nescitus, not know (how to [+ inf.]), be
neuter, neutra, neutrum, neither
nihil, adv., not at all
nix, nivis, f. (often in plural), snow
nobilis, -e, exalted, noble
noceo, nocere, nocui, harm (+dat.)
nomen, nominis, n., name
notitia, -ae, f., fame, celebrity; notoriety
novus, -a, -um, new; recent
novus, -a, -um, novel, strange, new
numquid (an interrogative particle that expects or assumes a negative
observo (1), to watch, to observe, to attend to
obsto, obstare, obsteti,prevent (+ ne, quominus); get in the way of,
obstruct (+ dat.)
occupo (1), hold, inhabit
oculus, -i, m., eye
offensa, -ae, f., harm, detriment
opus, operis, n., work, task
opinio, -onis, f., reputation
os, oris, n., mouth
ostendo, -tendere, -tendi, -tentum, to expose to view, to display, to
par, paris, (+ dat.), equal, on a par, a match for
paratus, -a, -um, ready
paro (1), prepare, make ready
pascor, pasci, pastum, to feed on (+ abl.)
pauci, -ae, -a, few
perdo, perdere, perdidi, perditus, cause ruin; kill; spoil; lose
periculum, -i, danger, risk
perluceo, perlucere, transmit light
permitto, permittere, permisi, permissum, allow
perscribo, perscribere, perscripsi, perscriptum, write out in full
pertineo, pertinere, pertinui, be a concern, be relevant
pervenio, pervenire, perveni, perventus, reach (+ ad + acc.)
pessimus, -a, -um, worst
pingo, pingere, pinxi, pictum, color, paint
plus, pluris, more
populus, -i, m., people
posterus-, -a, -um, later, future
praebeo, praebere, praebui, praebitum, show oneself as, present oneself
as, prove to be (reflexive)
praecedo, praecedere, praecessi, praecessum, go before, precede
praeripio, praeripere, praeripui, praereptum, snatch before,
pretium, -e, n., prize; value; price, cost
prior, prioris, earlier, predecessor (as noun)
procedo, procedere, processi, processum, go
profectus, -us, m., headway, advancement
profero, proferre, protuli, prolatus, bring forward, advance
proficio, proficere, profeci, profectum, achieve, be advantageous,
promptus, -a, -um, prompt, ready; bold, enterprising
proprius, propria, proprium, proper to one- or it-self
prospicio, prospicere, prospexi, prospectus, look forward, see before
publico (1), make publicly known
purus, -a, -um, clean, blameless, pure
quamdiu, how long (interrogative, relative, or exclamatory)
quantopere, how greatly
quemadmodum, how, in the way in which
quicumque, quaecumque, quodcumque, whoever, whatever
quominus, that not
quoque, adv., also
recipio, recipere, recepi, receptum, take back, receive; accept, admit,
reddo, reddere, reddidi, redditum, give back, restore
refero, referre, rettuli, relatus, bring back, bring down; gratiam
refero, express thanks
refulgeo, -fulgere, -fulsi , to gleam, to shine brightly
regio, -onis, f., region
remissus -a, -um, ppp. from remitto, mild, gentle
reservo (1), to save, to lay up
respicio, respicere, respexi, respectum, look, pay attention
respondeo, -ere, -spondi, sponsum, to correspond to, to agree (+dat.)
respuo, respuere, respui, reject, disdain
retraho, retrahere, retraxi, retractum, draw back ,withdraw
reverentia, -ae, f., awe, respect
ruina, -ae, f., tumbling down; disaster; defeat
saeculum, -i, age, era, generation
saliva, -ae, f., drool, saliva
sapientia, -ae, f., wisdom
satis, enough, sufficient(ly)
saxum, -i, n., rock
scio, scire, scivi, scitum, know
secedo, secedere, secessi, secessum, withdraw
segnis, -e, sluggish, slow
sensim, adv., gradually, slowly
sentio, sentire, sensi, sensum, feel, perceive
sequor, sequi, secutus, follow
serus, -a, -um, late
sermo, -onis, m., talk, gossip
silentium, -i, n., silence
simulatio, -onis, f., pretense, pretending
sine, + abl., without
sive, or if, whether, or
Socrates, Socratis, m., Socrates
sol, solis, m., sun
soleo, solere, solui, solitus, (+ inf.),be wont, usually be, be
solidus, -a, -um, integral, shole, solid, sound
sollemnis, sollemne, annual, periodic; usual; festival
solum, -i, n. , the ground
sors, sortis, f., lot, chance
spatium, -i, n., space, expanse
splendeo, splendere, shine, be bright
sto, stare, steti, status, stand, fix, make stable, establish
subigo, subigere, subegi, subactus, subdue, conquer; discipline, tame
sublabor, sublabi, sublapsus sum, collapse; glide imperceptibly; fall
subsido, -ere, -sedi, -sessum, to settle down
superstes, superstitis, adj., remaining alive after, surviving (+dat.
supervenio, supervenire, superveni, come in addition, supervene
suspicor (1), guess at, suspect, have an inkling, infer
tamen, nonetheless, however
tamquam, as, as if, just as
tantus, -a, -um, so great
tempestas, -atis, f., storm
tenebrae, -arum, f. pl., darkness
tenuis, -is, -e, poor, weak; thin
tergum, -i, n., back
terribilis, -e, adj., terrible, frightful, dreadful
tracto (1), handle, write about
tunc, then, at that time
turba, -ae, f., crowd, mob
turbo, -inis, m., an eddy, storm
ubi, where, when
ultimus, -a, -um, last
ultra, beyond, farther
umbra, -ae, f., shadow
unusquisque, each and every one
valeo, valere, valui, be well; vale, valete, farewell, good-bye
vallis, vallis, f., valley
vastus, -I, -um, vast, wide
ventus, -I, m., wind
veritas, -atis, f., truth
vertex, -ices, m., whirl pool
verus, -a, -um, true
vestigium, -i, n., footstep, trace
vexo (1), harry, treat harshly
vicinus, -a, -um, neighboring
vinco, vincere, vinci, victus, conquer, overcome; surpass
violo (1), treat violently
vires, virium, f. pl., strength
virtus, -utis, f., excellence
vis, (no gen.), f., power; violence; assault
visendus, -a, -um, worth going to see
viso, visere, visi, go and look at, view
vitium, -i, n., fault, vice
vivo, vivere, vixi, victum, live
vivus, -a, -um, live, while living
voco (1), call, summon
voluto (1), roll, cause to roll