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Prose Translation Question, Ch. 13

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Prose Translation Question, Ch. 13

Postby jeffclef » Thu Jul 10, 2008 9:16 pm

I'd appreciate any help translating the following passage from Chapter 13 ("Alexander the Great and the Power of Literature").

Magnus ille Alexander multos scriptores factorum suorum secum semper habebat. Is enim ante tumulum Achillis olim stetit et dixit haec verba: "Fuisti fortunatus o adulescens, quod Homerum laudatorem virtutis tuae invenisti." Et vere! Nam, sine Iliade illa, idem tumulus et corpus eius et nomen obruere potuit. Nihil corpus humanum conservare potest; sed litterae magnae nomen viri magni saepe conservare possunt.

Here's my translation: "...Indeed, he once stood before the grave of Achilles and uttered these words: "You were lucky, young man, because you discovered Homer, the chronicler of your courage. And verily! For, without that [epic] Iliad, the same grave and its body and name could bury [you?]...."


With especial regards to the sentence in bold, I expect a direct object given the transitive verb obruere [to bury, overwhelm]. So why am I having so much difficulty finding it? Have I got the cases wrong or is the direct object only implicit? I think the sentence means the same grave and its body could bury your name, but if that's the case, shouldn't "et nomen" be "tuum nomen"? Please help.
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Postby Twpsyn » Thu Jul 10, 2008 9:43 pm

Invenisti is the end of Alexander's talking, so the meaning is not 'your name' but 'his name'. That detail aside, note that tumulus has to be nominative, but corpus and nomen are both neuter and, indeed, in this case are both accusative. Eius refers not to the tumulus but to Achilles, and you should construe it with both corpus and nomen. Notice the tense of potuit: 'could have buried' (because we're talking about what might have happened to Achilles in the past).
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Postby jeffclef » Fri Jul 11, 2008 12:43 am

Twpsyn wrote:Invenisti is the end of Alexander's talking, so the meaning is not 'your name' but 'his name'. That detail aside, note that tumulus has to be nominative, but corpus and nomen are both neuter and, indeed, in this case are both accusative. Eius refers not to the tumulus but to Achilles, and you should construe it with both corpus and nomen. Notice the tense of potuit: 'could have buried' (because we're talking about what might have happened to Achilles in the past).


Thanks for giving me a push in the right direction. Let's try that again...

Is enim ante tumulum Achillis olim stetit et dixit haec verba: "Fuisti fortunatus o adulescens, quod Homerum laudatorem virtutis tuae invenisti." Et vere! Nam, sine Iliade illa, idem tumulus et corpus eius et nomen obruere potuit. Nihil corpus humanum conservare potest; sed litterae magnae nomen viri magni saepe conservare possunt.

..Indeed, he once stood before the grave of Achilles and uttered these words: "You were lucky, young man, because you discovered Homer, the chronicler of your courage." [Cicero speaking now after giving his anecdote of Alexander] And verily! For, without that [epic] Iliad, the same grave could have buried [both] his [Achilles'] body and name. Nothing can preserve the human body; but great literature can preserve the name of a great man."



I'm still confused by one thing. If "tumulus" is the subject of the verb phrase "obruere potuit" and "corpus eius et nomen" the direct object, what is the "et" after "tumulus" doing there?
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Postby Kasper » Fri Jul 11, 2008 1:49 am

the " et ... et ... " construction is a common phrase in latin, meaning something like 'both X and Y".

so in this case, read it as 'et corpus eius et nomen': the mount could have buried BOTH his body AND name.
“Cum ego verbo utar,” Humpty Dumpty dixit voce contempta, “indicat illud quod optem – nec plus nec minus.”
“Est tamen rogatio” dixit Alice, “an efficere verba tot res indicare possis.”
“Rogatio est, “Humpty Dumpty responsit, “quae fiat magister – id cunctum est.”
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Postby jeffclef » Sun Jul 13, 2008 9:30 pm

Thanks for clarifying, Kasper
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