Clarification on the use of ind./subj. in Seneca's "De brevitate vitae", IV

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marcovlatinforum
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Clarification on the use of ind./subj. in Seneca's "De brevitate vitae", IV

Post by marcovlatinforum » Sat Aug 10, 2019 11:54 pm

Hi Textkit. In the following passage, taken form Seneca's De brevitate vitae, IV:
Potentissimis et in altum sublatis hominibus excidere voces videbis, quibus otium optent, laudent, omnibus bonis suis praeferant.
the presence of the three subjunctives is a little confusing to me. Seems it is some kind of coniunctivus obliquus (or coniunctivus fortuitus), but I'm not sure about it (and not even about the adjective fortuitus: my grammar textbook calls it "congiuntivo eventuale", since its aim is to convey "eventuality"). (Subjunctive by attraction?)

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Ser
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Re: Clarification on the use of ind./subj. in Seneca's "De brevitate vitae", IV

Post by Ser » Mon Aug 19, 2019 12:28 am

marcovlatinforum wrote:
Sat Aug 10, 2019 11:54 pm
the presence of the three subjunctives is a little confusing to me. Seems it is some kind of coniunctivus obliquus (or coniunctivus fortuitus), but I'm not sure about it (and not even about the adjective fortuitus: my grammar textbook calls it "congiuntivo eventuale", since its aim is to convey "eventuality"). (Subjunctive by attraction?)
I think these subjunctives are used here because they represent the speech of other people.

Different Latin grammars use different terminology. I don't know what your Italian grammar of Latin would call this, if it discusses this phenomenon at all, but for what it's worth, Allen & Greenough's New Latin Grammar for Schools and Colleges (1903, 2nd edition) refers to it as the subjunctive of Informal Indirect Discourse (see subsection 3 of section 592). ("Informal" here doesn't mean "colloquial/familiar/vulgar", but rather it indicates that the verb of speech is not present.)

Alternatively, you could think of them as subjunctives of Clauses of Characteristic (the relevant sections in Allen & Greenough are 534 and 535). This way, the subjunctives would be used here because it is not a rule that all powerful people are like that. You might encounter some who praise leasure time as the best like that, but it's not a guarantee.

As I said, these terms for particular uses of forms are not standardized (although a few terms are very common), so I wouldn't worry too much about things like whether "coniunctivus obliquus/fortuitus" are appropriate.

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Re: Clarification on the use of ind./subj. in Seneca's "De brevitate vitae", IV

Post by talus » Tue Sep 10, 2019 1:28 pm

This post is about the role of quibus in the subjunctive clause of characteristic.
"One will see that words fall from men of great power, those elevated to lofty positions, who desire, extol, and set above all their blessings a life without care."
[Note: videbis is the indefinite, gnomic (general truth) "one will see."]
A previous post states that the quibus clause is a Relative Clause of Characteristic which explains the three subjunctives
and this is correct. So should not quibus be instead qui as subject of the subordinate clause and its subjunctives? A Relative Clause of Characteristic characterises persons. But the translations one finds out in Internet land take quibus's
antecedent to be voces. For instance is this translation, "You'll find that the most powerful men of high position drop words in which they pray for leisure, praise it, and prefer it to all their blessings."
Because this is a Relative Clause of Characteristic with qui expected as subject, then the ablative quibus must be attracted in case to its antecedent, the ablative hominibus. The ablative quibus is the subject of the subordinate clause but in a state of attraction to its antecedent.
A&G write in §306a that the "relative occasionally agrees with its antecedent in case (by attraction)" and they give an example of relative case attraction from Cicero.
We see that the inverse of this also occurs, in which the antecedent is attracted by case to the relative which in the sentence order precedes the antecedent. Here is an example of this inverse attraction from Tacitus Annals Book 4 Chapter 46:
transcendere ad ea, [they] changed the argument to these things, quis [read quibus] maxime fidebant, in populum Romanum officiis in which they were very greatly confident, the services to the Roman people
Here officiis, the ablative, stands in apposition to ea, the accusative, though it is not apparent at first glance because they do not agree in case.
A more straightforward sentence would be
transcendere ad ea, in populum Romanum officia, quis [read quibus] maxime fidebant [they] changed the argument to these things, the services to the Roman people, in which they were very greatly confident
In this transposed version, officia, like officiis, takes its same place in apposition to ea, but the construction is more obvious and the cases are in agreement.
[Note on the above: Tacitus frequently writes quibus as quis.]

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Re: Clarification on the use of ind./subj. in Seneca's "De brevitate vitae", IV

Post by Hylander » Tue Sep 10, 2019 5:20 pm

Potentissimis et in altum sublatis hominibus excidere voces videbis, quibus otium optent, laudent, omnibus bonis suis praeferant.

Here quibus is an instrumental ablative, the antecedent of which is voces, not hominibus.

hominibus is an "ethical" dative or dative of "disadvantage": the words slip out (excidere) of their mouths involuntarily.

The subordinate clause is a relative clause of characteristic. Translating crudely: they let drop "the kinds of words/expressions with which they might wish for, praise, prefer to all their advantages freedom from care."

I think the characteristic clause, with its subjunctive verbs, reinforces the haphazard and involuntary nature of their admissions -- not specific assertions making definite statements, but vague expressions of the sort that/such as to involuntarily reveal their true feelings in spite of themselves.

This is the sense: "You will see involuntarily slipping from the mouths of the high and mighty the kinds of expressions they might use to wish for, praise, prefer to all their advantages freedom from care."

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