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Why the present tense here?

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Why the present tense here?

Postby Interaxus » Sun Nov 07, 2004 10:57 pm

In the Reading Matter after the exercises in d’Ooge’s L for B, at the start of ’How the Romans marched and camped’, page 214, I am confused by the following:

Exercitus qui in hostium finibus bellum gerit multis periculis circumdatus est. Quae pericula ut vitarent, Romani summam curam adhibere solebant.

Literally: An army which WAGES war in enemy territory WAS SURROUNDED by many dangers. The Romans used to take great pains to avoid such dangers.

Why is ’gerit’ in the present tense? Is this a similar construction to the use of the present tense after DUM? If so, where can I find that information in a grammar?

Or can ’circumdatus est’ also mean ’IS surrounded’, with the participle ’circumdatus’ functioning as a simple adjective? I don’t find it listed as an adjective in any of my dictionaries.

In other words, does the line really mean: ’An army which WAGES war in enemy territory IS SURROUNDED by many dangers’ or ’An army which WAGED war in enemy territory WAS SURROUNDED by many dangers’ (=’An army WAGING war in enemy territory WAS SURROUNDED by many dangers’.

Can anyone enlighten me, please?

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Postby Turpissimus » Sun Nov 07, 2004 11:08 pm

Exercitus qui in hostium finibus bellum gerit multis periculis circumdatus est. Quae pericula ut vitarent, Romani summam curam adhibere solebant.


You're quite correct. Gerit is in the present tense, and circumdatus est is in the perfect. I don't know the backround to the story, but it doesn't seem terribly bizarre that, for example, a messenger sent back by a general would be talking about an army surrounded by many dangers on a particular occasion, which is actually still on campaign.

But then the second sentence talks about the general actions of Romans in such circumstances. So I don't understand it either.

I'm sure Episcopus will be along in a moment to explain this apparent inconsistency in Mr D'Ooge's work.
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Postby benissimus » Sun Nov 07, 2004 11:19 pm

I don't see anything grammatically wrong with saying "the army which is waging war in enemy territory has been encompassed by danger" or something like that. The Latin perfect can either be a true perfect or a pseudo-aorist, so you have to check if this is merely a past event (were) or a past event that affects the present (have been). Then again, it is not exactly rare for Caesar to switch to the present out of the blue ;)
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Postby Interaxus » Mon Nov 08, 2004 3:43 am

Thanks for your insights and comments. The riddle has been solved and you are both right of course. :D

The text was not Caesar but Mr d’Ooge’s venture into story-telling half a century before Ecce Romani, Oxford/Cambridge courses, etc – a Roman youth (Publius) grows up and joins Caesar on his campaigns. Pages 204 - 225 in Downloadable D’Ooge from TextKit.

Well, I checked the previous section of the story, at the end of which Publius has just slipped through enemy lines to join Caesar currently besieged in his camp by the Gauls. 8)

So the first sentence (with my ’problem’) carries on in the narrative style of the empbedded reporter, while the second one starts a series of descriptive sentences (’solebant’, etc) about how the Roman army normally operated and how a typical camp was set up. The section ends:

’Talibus in castris qualia descripsimus Publius a Caesare exceptus est.”
(In such a camp as the one we have described, P was welcomed by C.)

So it’s a pure-and-simple case of historic present. Sorry to have troubled you! :oops:

Fruamini diei secundo! (?)
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Postby Episcopus » Mon Nov 08, 2004 12:49 pm

There is no inconsistency, I often use present tense to make scenes in the past more vivid. It's evident from context that it is really perfect indefinite. I think these are remnants of chinese people in the romans "Yesterday I go town buy noogles"

'Talibus in castris qualia descripsimus Publius a Caesare exceptus est.'

No! This is not historical present. Present of excipi is excipitur.

Remember the latin perfect participle is actually more consistent than the english one. It means only "having been X-ed". So think about it. Publius is having been welcomed = He was welcomed. If he exists NOW having been at some point in time welcomed, he was welcomed once.

Ab aquila consumptus eram = "I was having been eaten by an eagle" = "I had been eaten by an eagle"
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Postby Interaxus » Mon Nov 08, 2004 5:59 pm

No, Episcope, I only meant the word GERIT was historic present! In the context, the last sentence only signals the end of a descriptive passage and the resumption of the main narrative. So my first sentence

Exercitus qui in hostium finibus bellum gerit multis periculis circumdatus est.

becomes

“The army [a specific one now, Caesar’s], (which was) FIGHTING a war in enemy territory, WAS SURROUNDED [or if you like, is having been surrounded, now and therefore at some point in the past] by many dangers.

The story then goes on to tell about 2 rival centurions who were constantly competing with each other until they were forced to help each other during some tough fighting with the enemy. Must be a moral there somewhere ...

Thanks anyway for the drill on excipere and the scream of the bird’s dinner. :cry: I was reminded of Prometheus but I think in that case the vulture only feasted on ‘iecur-iecoris’.

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Postby Episcopus » Mon Nov 08, 2004 6:50 pm

Episcopus wrote:There is no inconsistency, I often use present tense to make scenes in the past more vivid. It's evident from context that it is really perfect indefinite. I think these are remnants of chinese people in the romans "Yesterday I go town buy noogles"



= referring to gerit!
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Postby Interaxus » Mon Nov 08, 2004 8:50 pm

Oh I agree. You're certainly one of the most historically present vivid-language exponents on the site - cordem tuum in manica geris.
:)

Here's a reflection on history from the Big Gold Book:

Historia est gesta res, ab aetatis nostrae memoria remota. ('History is actual occurrences remote from the memory of our age'). Cicero, De inventione (Treatise on Rhetorical Invention, 1.27).

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Postby Episcopus » Tue Nov 09, 2004 12:50 pm

Be careful with cor! The neuter is cor! Genitive cordis :wink:

He used the participle as an adjective there "History is a thing having been carried out" = an occurrence, agreed ? :)

Oh :oops: why thank you, take latin back to the streets
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Postby Interaxus » Tue Nov 09, 2004 11:54 pm

Thanks for putting me back on the straight and neutral, Episcope. That's what comes of trying to play with the big boys. :oops: D--- those neuters! Will I ever get them right? If I could find the text to Elvis's "Cor ligneum" I might go around humming that until I got 'cor' right at least ... (ie if it's translated with the accusative there).

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Re: Why the present tense here?

Postby Democritus » Tue Dec 14, 2004 2:55 am

Interaxus wrote:Exercitus qui in hostium finibus bellum gerit multis periculis circumdatus est. Quae pericula ut vitarent, Romani summam curam adhibere solebant


Rather than a narrative present, maybe this sentence refers to any army, at any time. "An army which wages war in enemy territory (ever, anywhere) is (has been) surrounded by lots of danger."

That's still true today, I understand. ;)
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Postby Interaxus » Wed Dec 15, 2004 2:42 am

Democritus wrote:
Rather than a narrative present, maybe this sentence refers to any army, at any time. "An army which wages war in enemy territory (ever, anywhere) is (has been) surrounded by lots of danger."


Yes, I agree the sentence works best as a generalization. But I still have a problem with the detailed translation. I can accept:

"An army which wages war in enemy territory is surrounded by lots of danger."

But I can’t accept::

"An army which wages war in enemy territory has been surrounded by lots of danger."

The catch is ‘circumdatus est’. So I prefer to interpret it as a generalisation about the past.

“An army waging war in hostile territory was surrounded by many dangers. The Romans used to take the great pains to avoid such dangers.“

I suppose ‘gerit’ is then some kind of historic present (though not particularly narrative). To understand what WAS written, we might also consider what was NOT written. Why not the following?)

Exercitus qui in hostium finibus bellum gerit multis periculis circumdabatur.

Clash between historic present and imperfect? What about this then?

Exercitus qui in hostium finibus bellum gerebat multis periculis circumdabatur.

Exercitus is no longer non-specific? Or is this possible?

Exercitus qui in hostium finibus bellum gerit multis periculis circumdatur.

Either way, I agree Bush and Blair learnt the lesson too late.

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