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Lingua Latina, CAP VI, - 75

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Lingua Latina, CAP VI, - 75

Postby svaens » Tue Oct 19, 2010 10:07 pm

Hi all,

Been slowly making my way through this great book. Came to something that I am not sure about;

"iam muri Romani ab eo videntur et porta Capena"

If this had simply had: "iam muri Romani ab eo videntur".

I'd have had (or at least thought I had) no problems. It'd translate to something like: "now the roman wall by him is seen".

But then they smack that "et porta Capena" at the end of it. Firstly, my uneducated guess says it could be that this person (Medus) sees the gate (porta Capena).
But if so, it just looks uncharacteristically untidy. It doesn't look like this "et porta Capena" is at all the subject of the passive verb "videntur" as is obviously "muri Romani".

What I would have expected to see (although it is quite likely incorrect, coming from me) is:

"iam muri Romani et porta Capena ab eo videntur "

But, obviously, Mr Hans Oerberg knew much more about Latin that I probably ever will ... so I have to assume whatever the intended meaning of the sentence, it is written correctly.

Can anyone help me with this one?

Actually, the next bit in the parenthesis also throw me for word order.

"(Is qui via Latina venit per portam Capenam Romam intrat)"

Which I take it to mean something like: "He who come through gate Capena enters Rome"

But as you can see, I don't even know in English what to do with the bit "via Latina". I'd probably try to turn the word "via" into a verb.. which is anyway (i think) wrong:
(he who comes via the Latina road through gate Capena enters Rome)

Help!! ;)

thanks for any response,

Sean
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Re: Lingua Latina, CAP VI, - 75

Postby Craig_Thomas » Wed Oct 20, 2010 2:53 am

In the first sentence, "porta Capēna" is unambiguously in the nominative case (you can tell this because if it was ablative there would be macra above the "a"s: "portā Capēnā"), and so it must be the subject of a verb. And because "videntur" is the only verb in the sentence, we must take it as meaning "the Roman walls and the Capenan gate are seen by him".

There is almost always a good reason for some violation of normal word order. It is sometimes done to create suspense, or to emphasise a word, or to give the language an attractive balance or rhetorical force. Here, as often in narrative, the word order seems to suggest the chronology of the action, i.e., that Medus, as he approaches Rome, first sees the walls, and then spots the gate.
Last edited by Craig_Thomas on Wed Oct 20, 2010 3:23 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Lingua Latina, CAP VI, - 75

Postby Alatius » Wed Oct 20, 2010 3:08 am

svaens wrote:"iam muri Romani ab eo videntur et porta Capena"

"Now he sees the Roman wall, [oh] and [also] the Capenan gate."

svaens wrote:Actually, the next bit in the parenthesis also throw me for word order.

"(Is qui via Latina venit per portam Capenam Romam intrat)"

Which I take it to mean something like: "He who come through gate Capena enters Rome"

But as you can see, I don't even know in English what to do with the bit "via Latina". I'd probably try to turn the word "via" into a verb.. which is anyway (i think) wrong:
(he who comes via the Latina road through gate Capena enters Rome)

Not a bad try... "Via Latina" here are in the ablative case (note the ā ending, which I suppose is there in your book), and one very common function (out of many) of the ablative case is to express the "instrument", the thing by means of which something is done. Here he is coming by, or indeed, via, the Latin road. (As it happens, the Latin word "viā" = "road by which" has been borrowed into English as an adverb!)

So you understand the meaning of the phrases, but you miss the point of the sentence, which, as you say, probably is because of the word order, which is different from the English. Remember, there were several roads that lead to Rome, and consequently, there were also many gates in the wall... What is special about the traveler who approaches by the Latin road is that he enters Rome through the Capenan gate. In other words, "per portam Capenam" should be understood together with "intrat".
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Re: Lingua Latina, CAP VI, - 75

Postby Craig_Thomas » Wed Oct 20, 2010 3:22 am

And the word order gives a good clue as to which verb "per portam Capēnam" belongs with. Just as a verb likes to sit at the end of a sentence, so it also likes to sit at the end of each clause. And so the relative clause here that begins with "quī" ends with "venit": "is quī viā Latīnā venit per portam Capēnam Rōmam intrat", he who comes by the Via Latina enters Rome through the Capenan gate.
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Re: Lingua Latina, CAP VI, - 75

Postby svaens » Wed Oct 20, 2010 4:10 am

Hi both (craig and Atlatius).

Thanks very much for both your replies, your hints and help, I definitely need to go back and review uses of the Ablative case, and other aspects of this sentence which had escaped me.
In fact, the ablative, with its form, is something i'd decided to go back to later. I guess "later" has come. It is time to make sure I understand it better.
But I do now mostly understand the sentence and how it works, and see roughly how it means what it does:

"he who comes by the Via Latina enters Rome through the Capenan gate"

Just one main thing to clarify completely in my mind;

Is there a general rule about the Ablative that I could know, and having first known what 'via' means, determine what form 'viā' means in the sentence too?
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Re: Lingua Latina, CAP VI, - 75

Postby Craig_Thomas » Wed Oct 20, 2010 5:31 am

The ablative case is certainly the trickiest of Latin's cases, largely because it is really three cases that have become one.

The word "ablative" comes from the verb "aufero" ("to carry away") and so it often expresses separation in some sense, and is best translated as "from _____" (e.g., "ab Italiā"). But it is also a locative case, "in ______" (e.g., "in Italiā"), and the case of association and instrument, "with ______" (e.g., "cum puerō", "puer ferrō pugnat", the boy fights with his sword).

As Alatius said, "viā Latīnā" is in the ablative to express this idea of "instrument", so it's closest to that last parenthetical example above: "puer ferrō pugnat". The boy uses his sword to fight; it is the instrument with which he fights. Similarly, Medus uses the Via Latina to get to Rome.

This may all sound rather daft. And I suspect part of Orberg's reason for writing his books wholly in Latin was to get away from this sort of business of slicing each case up into 1,001 special uses, and lead the student toward developing an intuitive sense of what the noun endings felt like to the Roman.

For what it's worth, the traditional way of tackling the ablative case is to think of it as the "by/with/from" (though more accurately the "in/with/from") case, and to translate a word in the ablative by putting one of those English prepositions in front of it. And this can indeed be useful, but it works against the special ambition of the Lingua Latina books.
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