What subjunctive is this? (from Livy)

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praepositus
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What subjunctive is this? (from Livy)

Post by praepositus » Sun May 05, 2019 12:09 am

From Livy book 5:

"Quod ad vos attinet, tribuni plebis, minasque vestras, ne ego libenter experirer quam non plus in iis iuris quam in vobis animi esset."

You'll notice that "experirer" is in the imperfect tense. The presence of "ne" suggests that it's either a iussive or an optative. If iussive, the meaning would be "I should not have willingly proved how there's no more lawfulness in them than courage in you." If optative, it would read "I wish I had not willingly proved how there is no more lawfulness in them than courage in you"

Neither really makes sense.

Here's Rev. Canon Roberts's translation of this passage:

"As for you and your menaces, tribunes of the plebs, I should very much like to put it to the proof how your threats possess as little legality as you possess courage to carry them out."

Of course this makes perfect sense, but having spent half an hour with a dictionary and Allen and Greenough I still can't figure out how ne ... experirer becomes "I should like to put it to the proof." Is the speaker perhaps indirectly expressing the preference of those he's addressing rather than his own? Even so, why is it in the imperfect?

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Re: What subjunctive is this? (from Livy)

Post by Hylander » Sun May 05, 2019 1:52 pm

5.9.5

I can't find anything on point about this in Allen & Greenough or in Woodcock, but I think this is a sort of warning -- something like : "Be careful that I don't . . . '" or maybe "Don't let me . . . ". But the verb is imperfect subjunctive, I think, because Servilius' threat is "irrealis", like a contrary to fact conditional: Servilius isn't going to put his threat into effect because he won't oppose the authority of the Senate. But it's also rhetorically effective, I think, suggesting that he's on the verge of carrying out his threat. If my explanation is correct, it's difficult if not impossible to capture the modal force of the imperfect subjunctive in English, and that's why your translator has resorted to his non-literal translation. That's my explanation, though I wouldn't stake my life on it.

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Re: What subjunctive is this? (from Livy)

Post by Constantinus Philo » Sun May 05, 2019 6:24 pm

This ne is not negative but asseverative meaning certainly. Cf Cicero: ne illi vehementer errant si ellam meam lenitatem perpetuam sperant Futuram.
The imperfect subj expresses unattainable wish in the present.. the subordinate clause is modally attracted.
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Re: What subjunctive is this? (from Livy)

Post by praepositus » Mon May 06, 2019 12:55 am

Thank you! I was thinking along pretty much the same lines as Hylander. But Constantius's reply sent me back to the dictionary, and there is indeed another ne, which I'd completely missed: it's an interjection that means something like "truly." Then libenter experirer is technically an optative counterfactual meaning something like "I would gladly test."

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Re: What subjunctive is this? (from Livy)

Post by Barry Hofstetter » Mon May 06, 2019 11:11 am

praepositus wrote:
Mon May 06, 2019 12:55 am
Thank you! I was thinking along pretty much the same lines as Hylander. But Constantius's reply sent me back to the dictionary, and there is indeed another ne, which I'd completely missed: it's an interjection that means something like "truly." Then libenter experirer is technically an optative counterfactual meaning something like "I would gladly test."
This seems right. The words also are true homographs, having different etymologies.
N.E. Barry Hofstetter
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καὶ σὺ τὸ σὸν ποιήσεις κἀγὼ τὸ ἐμόν. ἆρον τὸ σὸν καὶ ὕπαγε.

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Re: What subjunctive is this? (from Livy)

Post by praepositus » Tue May 07, 2019 11:57 pm

Barry Hofstetter wrote:
Mon May 06, 2019 11:11 am
This seems right. The words also are true homographs, having different etymologies.
Very interesting. Thank you.

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Re: What subjunctive is this? (from Livy)

Post by Constantinus Philo » Wed May 08, 2019 5:22 am

Where does one look up Latin etymology please
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Re: What subjunctive is this? (from Livy)

Post by Barry Hofstetter » Wed May 08, 2019 10:01 am

Constantinus Philo wrote:
Wed May 08, 2019 5:22 am
Where does one look up Latin etymology please
The OLD in this case. I also have:

Wharton, E. R. (1890). Etyma Latina: An Etymological Lexicon of Classical Latin. London: Rivingtons.

A bit dated, but still useful.
N.E. Barry Hofstetter
The Jack M. Barrack Hebrew Academy
καὶ σὺ τὸ σὸν ποιήσεις κἀγὼ τὸ ἐμόν. ἆρον τὸ σὸν καὶ ὕπαγε.

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Re: What subjunctive is this? (from Livy)

Post by talus » Sun Sep 15, 2019 1:12 pm

This post suggests a translation for the negative optative ne ego libenter experirer.
From Livy, The History of Rome, Book 5, Chapter 9
quod ad vos attinet, tribuni plebis, minasque vestras, ne ego libenter experirer, quam non plus in iis iuris quam in vobis animi esset
as far as it pertains to you, tribunes of the people, and to your threats, let me not lay out willingly (or, I very much unwilling lay out) as not more in the laws than in yourselves is this [their demands] of sound reason
Strictly speaking the hortatory translation should be restricted to first person present subjunctive, which this is not. However English is not as fussy and its hortatory gets the point across.
To stick to good grammar and a literal rendering, we have to look at ne and at the subjunctive imperfect. This combination gives us the optative. Allen and Greenough §441 "the imperfect as unaccomplished in present time." ne ego libenter experirer can be translated as "I do not willingly wish to be standing up here and have to explain this but I am and here it is..." Or, "Really, gentlemen, I am embarassed to have to tell you the obvious."
[Note on animi: animi is the genitive as predicate, indicating a belonging to or having a quality of.]

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Re: What subjunctive is this? (from Livy)

Post by Hylander » Sun Sep 15, 2019 1:35 pm

Experirer is potential subjunctive in Allen & Greenough's terminology (sec. 445 ff.), subjonctif de possibilité in Ernout & Thomas (sec. 254, p. 236)

It has already been established that ne is an emphatic affirmative particle, not a negative. Something like English 'indeed".

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