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question from Mastronarde Unit 11

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question from Mastronarde Unit 11

Postby akhnaten » Sun Jul 13, 2014 5:13 am

unit is on present/middle passive, but my question is about use of dative.

Unit XI, Section III, Question 9:
οὐκ ἔξεστι τοῖς παιδίοις τοῖς θεοῖς σπένδειν.

I came up with two possible translations:
1) It is not permitted to the children to pour libations for the gods.
2) It is not permitted by the gods for the children to pour libations.

#1 is what is found in Mastronarde's answer key. He tends to give multiple answers at this stage if the wording is vague. I have come back to this once, and I understand that #1 is perhaps the more common translation. But it seems that τοῖς θεοῖς can serve as a "dative of means" in this construction and not just the the indirect object of σπένδειν. σπένδw was just introduced this chapter, so I do not know how often it is seen with the dative.
Is there only one correct way to interpret this?
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Re: question from Mastronarde Unit 11

Postby Qimmik » Sun Jul 13, 2014 1:52 pm

2 is really not possible here.

The dative without a preposition is used to mark the instrument with which an action is accomplished, but only with the perfect tense (generally) is the dative used to mark the agent with a passive verb, i.e., a being endowed with the capacity to act of its own volition, as opposed to a lifeless thing. (In other contexts ὑπό + genitive is usually used to mark the agent of a passive verb.)*

The complement of σπένδω (if it has one) is typically a dative indirect object -- to pour libations to someone or something.

In any event, ἔξεστι is really not a passive action verb that could take an agent as a complement. The English translation "it is not allowed" is a little misleading in this respect because it's passive and it can take an agent as a complement in English: "it is not allowed by X." A translation that better reflects the Greek would be "it is not possible" or "it is not permissible."

*In the case of the perfect, "agent" is perhaps not the right word. The perfect generally denotes a present state resulting from a past action. Thus, "the party responsible for the current state of the subject" might be be a better description than "agent". But this is too technical and it's irrelevant to Mastronarde's sentence.
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Re: question from Mastronarde Unit 11

Postby akhnaten » Sun Jul 13, 2014 10:18 pm

thank you for the full explanation. as you mentioned, ἔξεστι is not really passive in Greek, and that's why i didn't expect ὑπό + gen. the note on dative w/o preposition in perfect tense compared to others is much appreciated. i'll return to the thread once the perfect is introduced. thank you!
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