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Translation Help: Pliny, Epistula XVI.VI

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Translation Help: Pliny, Epistula XVI.VI

Postby Iacobus de Indianius » Wed Aug 14, 2013 2:46 pm

Dudes -

I'm having a terrible time translating a sentence in Pliny's 16th (in bk 6) Epistle to Tacitus concerning the death of Pliny the Elder. I have underlined the sentence below.

1 Petis ut tibi avunculi mei exitum scribam, quo verius tradere posteris possis. Gratias ago; nam video morti eius si celebretur a te immortalem gloriam esse propositam. 2 Quamvis enim pulcherrimarum clade terrarum, ut populi ut urbes memorabili casu, quasi semper victurus occiderit, quamvis ipse plurima opera et mansura condiderit, multum tamen perpetuitati eius scriptorum tuorum aeternitas addet. 3 Equidem beatos puto, quibus deorum munere datum est aut facere scribenda aut scribere legenda, beatissimos vero quibus utrumque. Horum in numero avunculus meus et suis libris et tuis erit. Quo libentius suscipio, deposco etiam quod iniungis.

Here is what I think is going on.

"For although he died in the destruction of the most beautiful lands, in a memorable ruin such as he will always live, along with the people, along with the cities; although he himself produced many works and lasting things, nevertheless the lasting effect (aeternitas) of your writings shall add much to the perpetuity of his."

The front end of the sentence is strange to me. "Quasi semper victurus" doesn't make sense, nor does "ut populi ut urbes." I think the general idea is that although the circumstances of Pliny the Elder's death will afford him lasting fame, the mention of him in Tacitus' works will increase his fame, and the fame of his writings. I just can't get the Latin to make sense.

Overall his style seems very condensed, much more so than I'm used to. Is this characteristic of Pliny or letter writing in general?

Thanks in advance for your help.
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Re: Translation Help: Pliny, Epistula XVI.VI

Postby Qimmik » Wed Aug 14, 2013 11:10 pm

To begin with: Quasi semper victurus occiderit: this is an oxymoron - the idea is that although he died, he will live forever on account of the circumstances of his death, which will be remembered forever. victurus is the future active participle of vivo, not vinco. victurus and occiderit are juxtaposed. There should probably be no comma after casu, and there should be commas after populi and urbes.
Last edited by Qimmik on Wed Aug 14, 2013 11:13 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Translation Help: Pliny, Epistula XVI.VI

Postby adrianus » Wed Aug 14, 2013 11:11 pm

"For although he, as someone who will live practically forever, was killed in the destruction of very lovely lands, as [were] people and cities in that memorable calamity, although he himself composed very many works that will also endure, nevertheless the eternal nature of your writings will contribute much to his memory."
I'm writing in Latin hoping for correction, and not because I'm confident in how I express myself. Latinè scribo ut ab omnibus corrigar, non quod confidenter me exprimam.
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Re: Translation Help: Pliny, Epistula XVI.VI

Postby Qimmik » Thu Aug 15, 2013 3:07 am

Here's how I would punctuate the sentence:

Quamvis enim pulcherrimarum clade terrarum, ut populi, ut urbes, memorabili casu quasi semper victurus occiderit, quamvis ipse plurima opera et mansura condiderit, multum tamen perpetuitati eius scriptorum tuorum aeternitas addet.

In translating, I would turn victurus and occiderit around and make victurus the main verb of the "although" clause. The point of the quamvis clause is not so much that he died, but that the circumstances of his death will make him immortal--notwithstanding that he will already be immortal, Tacitus' written account of his death will enhance P.'s immortality. There's a contrast between the perfect of occiderit and the future of victurus that I wasn't quite able to capture in English. quasi tempers the rhetorical extravagance of claiming he will live forever, after having died. There's also the somewhat chiastic rhetorical juxtaposition of perpetuitati eius and scriptorum tuorum aeternitas.

Translating very freely:

For although he will, so to speak [quasi], live forever, dying as he did in circumstances that will long be remembered [memorabili casu], in the cataclysm of a gorgeous landscape, like the people, like the cities--although he himself created a rich and lasting legacy of works [plurima opera et mansura]--nevertheless, your writings, destined for eternity, will add an enormous contribution to his ever-lasting memory.

This is Silver Age Latin--rhetorical and baroque. It's a letter that was written to be published and admired for its style.
Last edited by Qimmik on Thu Aug 15, 2013 4:08 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Translation Help: Pliny, Epistula XVI.VI

Postby Iacobus de Indianius » Thu Aug 15, 2013 3:32 pm

Thanks for taking the time to explain things. Both of your translations were very helpful. Latin can be such a subtle language at times. It's funny, whenever I begin to be confident with my Latin, I come across a sentence like this that quickly humbles me. Well, nothing to do but get back to it. Cheers.
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Re: Translation Help: Pliny, Epistula XVI.VI

Postby Qimmik » Thu Aug 15, 2013 4:01 pm

One more thought: here is an excerpt from the Lewis and Short entry for ut:

2 In exclamatory sentences (in all periods of the language): ut omnia in me conglomerat mala! Enn. ap. Non. p. 90, 14 (Trag. Rel. v. 408 Vahl.): ut corripuit se repente atque abiit! Hei misero mihi! Plaut. Merc. 3, 4, 76: ut dissimulat malus! id. ib. 5, 4, 13: ut volupe est homini si cluet victoria! id. Poen. 5, 5, 15: ut multa verba feci; ut lenta materies fuit! id. Mil. 4, 5, 4: ut scelestus nunc iste te ludos facit! id. Capt. 3, 4, 47: ut saepe summa ingenia in occulto latent, id. ib. 1, 2, 61; id. Rud. 1, 2, 75; 2, 3, 33 sq.: ut falsus animi est! Ter. Eun. 2, 2, 42: heia! ut elegans est! id. Heaut. 5, 5, 19: fortuna ut numquam perpetua est bona! id. Hec. 3, 3, 46; cf. id. Phorm. 5, 8, 52: Gnaeus autem noster ... ut totus jacet, Cic. Att. 7, 21, 1: quae ut sustinuit! ut contempsit, ac pro nihilo putavit! id. Mil. 24, 64: qui tum dicit testimonium ex nostris hominibus, ut se ipse sustentat! ut omnia verba moderatur, ut timet ne quid cupide ... dicat! id. Fl. 5, 12: quod cum facis, ut ego tuum amorem et dolorem desidero! id. Att. 3, 11, 2: quanta studia decertantium sunt! ut illi efferuntur laetitiā cum vicerint! ut pudet victos! ut se accusari nolunt! etc., id. Fin. 5, 22, 61: ut vidi, ut perii! ut me malus abstulit error! Verg. E. 8, 41: ut melius quidquid erit pati! Hor. C. 1, 11, 3: ut tu Semper eris derisor! id. S. 2, 6, 53: o superbia magnae fortunae! ut a te nihil accipere juvat! ut omne beneficium in injuriam convertis! ut te omnia nimia delectant! ut to omnia dedecent! Sen. Ben. 2, 13, 1: ut me in supremis consolatus est! Quint. 6, prooem. 11.—


http://perseus.uchicago.edu/cgi-bin/philologic/getobject.pl?c.19:370.lewisandshort

I think the repeated uts are parenthetical exclamations--you can supply an understood verb -- occiderunt -- if you prefer: "how they perished!--the people! the cities!.

So I would repunctuate the passage as follows:

Quamvis enim pulcherrimarum clade terrarum--ut populi! ut urbes!--memorabili casu quasi semper victurus occiderit, quamvis ipse plurima opera et mansura condiderit, multum tamen perpetuitati eius scriptorum tuorum aeternitas addet.

Very loose translation:

For although he will, so to speak, live forever, dying as he did in circumstances that will long be remembered, in the cataclysm of a gorgeous landscape--o the people! o the cities! how they perished!--although he himself created a rich and enduring legacy of works, nevertheless, your writings, destined for eternity, will add an enormous contribution to his ever-lasting memory.
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Re: Translation Help: Pliny, Epistula XVI.VI

Postby Qimmik » Fri Aug 16, 2013 12:22 pm

Mynors' OCT (if that is what you are reading from) punctuates just as you did originally:

Quamvis enim pulcherrimarum clade terrarum, ut populi ut urbes memorabili casu, quasi semper victurus occiderit, quamvis ipse plurima opera et mansura condiderit, multum tamen perpetuitati eius scriptorum tuorum aeternitas addet.

So maybe my efforts to repunctuate were misguided. You might supply occiderunt after memorabili casu.
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Re: Translation Help: Pliny, Epistula XVI.VI

Postby Iacobus de Indianius » Fri Aug 16, 2013 2:12 pm

Qimmik wrote:Mynors' OCT (if that is what you are reading from) punctuates just as you did originally:

Quamvis enim pulcherrimarum clade terrarum, ut populi ut urbes memorabili casu, quasi semper victurus occiderit, quamvis ipse plurima opera et mansura condiderit, multum tamen perpetuitati eius scriptorum tuorum aeternitas addet.

So maybe my efforts to repunctuate were misguided. You might supply occiderunt after memorabili casu.



The punctuation I used was from Loeb, which was the same as that of the Latin Library. However, I think your punctuation better captures the feeling Pliny was trying to achieve, as I understand it. Thanks again for the help.
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Re: Translation Help: Pliny, Epistula XVI.VI

Postby Iacobus de Indianius » Thu Sep 05, 2013 5:42 pm

Alright, two follow up questions. Here's the passage in question:

(Line 11) Iam navibus cinis incidebat, quo propius accederent, calidior et densior; iam pumices etiam nigrique et ambusti et fracti igne lapides; iam vadum subitum ruinaque montis litora obstantia.

http://www.thelatinlibrary.com/pliny.ep6.html

Translation: "Now ash was falling upon the ships, hotter and heavier as they approached nearer; now even black pumice stones and rocks having been scorched and crushed by fire; now, the shores obstructing, suddenly, the ford from the falling of the mountain.

1. What type of ablative is the "quo"? I thought it was a comparative relation of distance and "as" would be an appropriate translation.

2. How does the translation of the last clause hold up, "iam...obstantia"? My initial impression was something like, "the sea/shoal, and the shores are being blocked by the falling of the mountain," but that doesn't work with a present active participle.
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Re: Translation Help: Pliny, Epistula XVI.VI

Postby Qimmik » Thu Sep 05, 2013 6:15 pm

1. See Allen & Greenough sec. 414a. "...the ash was falling on the ships--the closer they approached, the hotter and denser"; eo is understood with calidior et densior.

http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/text?doc=Perseus%3Atext%3A1999.04.0001%3Asmythp%3D414

2. vadum subitum ruinaque montis litora obstantia

These noun phrases have no verb: this is vivid writing conveying what Pliny the Elder encountered as he sailed in the bay. Maybe something like this: "now a sudden shoal [rather than ford--we're out in open sea] and the shores obstructing [his approach] with the ruin of the mountain"

ruinaque montis - maybe a sort of instrumental ablative.
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Re: Translation Help: Pliny, Epistula XVI.VI

Postby Iacobus de Indianius » Thu Sep 05, 2013 6:45 pm

Qimmik wrote:1. See Allen & Greenough sec. 414a. "...the ash was falling on the ships--the closer they approached, the hotter and denser"; eo is understood with calidior et densior.

http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/text?doc=Perseus%3Atext%3A1999.04.0001%3Asmythp%3D414

2. vadum subitum ruinaque montis litora obstantia

These noun phrases have no verb: this is vivid writing conveying what Pliny the Elder encountered as he sailed in the bay. Maybe something like this: "now a sudden shoal [rather than ford--we're out in open sea] and the shores obstructing [his approach] with the ruin of the mountain"

ruinaque montis - maybe a sort of instrumental ablative.


Ah, I get it now. Thanks for the help.
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Re: Translation Help: Pliny, Epistula XVI.VI

Postby Iacobus de Indianius » Fri Sep 20, 2013 6:20 pm

Confused again.

Middle of para 13:

1. Ille agrestium trepidatione ignes relictos desertasque villas per solitudinem ardere in remedium formidinis dictitabat.

Something is missing here that I can't put my finger on. "He [i.e. Pliny the Elder] in remedy of their fear was declaring that the fires were burning those abandoned by the fear of the countrymen [agrestium] and their villas in the midst of the wilderness.

2. Tum se quieti dedit et quievit verissimo quidem somno; nam meatus animae, qui illi propter amplitudinem corporis gravior et sonantior erat, ab [para 14] iis qui limini obversabantur audiebatur.

Just a quick question on this one. What's going on with the se quieti? Is it, "Then he [again Pliny] offered those of [the ones] calmed a reprieve and he rested with indeed the truest/soundest sleep...


My translation of the first sentence can't be right. People and houses are burning, and Pliny decides to take a nap?
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Re: Translation Help: Pliny, Epistula XVI.VI

Postby Shenoute » Fri Sep 20, 2013 10:22 pm

1. Maybe supplying esse after ignes relictos would help ("he repeated it was houses burning and fires left behind")... Interestingly, there's a reading igni relictas desertasque villas, "houses deserted and left to fire". I don't know of it is based on manuscripts or if it has been "made up" by editors also finding this line difficult.

2. se quieti dare, litt. "to give oneself to sleep", so "to go to bed".
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Re: Translation Help: Pliny, Epistula XVI.VI

Postby adrianus » Sat Sep 21, 2013 12:11 am

"To alleviate their [/In relief of listeners'] dread, he kept saying that [only] isolated homes were burning, ones empty and abandoned by the peasants' fear of the flames. Then he settled down to sleep and went into a very deep sleep indeed."
I'm writing in Latin hoping for correction, and not because I'm confident in how I express myself. Latinè scribo ut ab omnibus corrigar, non quod confidenter me exprimam.
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Re: Translation Help: Pliny, Epistula XVI.VI

Postby Victor » Sat Sep 21, 2013 1:04 am

adrianus wrote:"To alleviate their [/In relief of listeners'] dread, he kept saying that [only] isolated homes were burning, ones empty and abandoned by the peasants' fear of the flames."

I don't see anything in the Latin corresponding to "peasants' fear of the flames". The peasants' trepidation causes them to abandon their homes with the hearths still blazing. It's not easy to say whether both ignes relictos and desertasque villas are the subject of ardere, or just desertasque villas. Assuming the latter is the case we would have to supply esse with ignes relictos, as Shenoute suggests.
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Re: Translation Help: Pliny, Epistula XVI.VI

Postby Iacobus de Indianius » Sat Sep 21, 2013 2:52 am

Thanks everyone.
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Re: Translation Help: Pliny, Epistula XVI.VI

Postby adrianus » Sat Sep 21, 2013 1:26 pm

Victor wrote:
adrianus wrote:"To alleviate their [/In relief of listeners'] dread, he kept saying that [only] isolated homes were burning, ones empty and abandoned by the peasants' fear of the flames."

I don't see anything in the Latin corresponding to "peasants' fear of the flames".

I see what you mean, Victor. I must have read Shenoute's note above and read "ignis/igni relictas desertasque villas" into "agrestium trepidatione ignis/igni + relictas desertasque villas"

Sententiam tuam capio, Victor. Forsit "[agrestium trepidatione] igni [vel ignis] relictas desertasque villas" legi pro illâ notâ surprâ de Shenoute.

Aliter hoc // Otherwise

"To alleviate their [/In relief of listeners'] dread, he kept saying that [only] isolated abandoned homes and fires left untouched out of the peasants' fear were burning. Then he settled down to sleep and went into a very deep sleep indeed."
I'm writing in Latin hoping for correction, and not because I'm confident in how I express myself. Latinè scribo ut ab omnibus corrigar, non quod confidenter me exprimam.
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