Livy Book 9.18.6,7

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Aetos
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Livy Book 9.18.6,7

Post by Aetos » Sun Nov 10, 2019 12:09 am

This is a question (or, what I learned about reading Latin) on punctuation:

The context of the passage is that Livy is discussing what would have happened if Alexander the Great had invaded Italy and basically presents three areas of comparison, (1) the capabilites of the Roman commanders vs. Alex. (2) the element of luck and (3) number of troops available on both sides. As he winds up his comparison of commanders, Livy decries Alexander's degeneration by the Persian culture and the extension of that to his army, thus implying that he would come to Italy with a much weaker force than the one he took to Asia and asks the question "Do we allow our commanders' excellence to be degraded so?" This is the final sentence of his commander comparison:

id vero periculum erat, quod levissimi ex Graecis, qui Parthorum quoque contra nomen Romanum gloriae favent, dictitare solent, ne maiestatem nominis Alexandri, quem ne fama quidem illis notum arbitror fuisse, [7?] sustinere non potuerit populus Romanus; et adversus quem Athenis, in civitate fracta Macedonum armis, cernentes tum maxime prope fumantes Thebarum ruinas, contionari libere ausi sunt homines—id quod ex monumentis orationum patet—adversus eum nemo ex tot proceribus Romanis vocem liberam missurus fuerit (!?.)

"There was certainly a danger, which the shallowest of Greeks, who also favour the glory of the Parthians to the Roman name, are wont to proclaim, that the Roman people could not have withstood the majesty of Alexander's name which I don't think they (the Romans) had even known and against whom in Athens, a city broken by the Macedonian arms, seeing at close hand the smoking ruins of Thebes, men have dared to freely harangue -that is evident from the records of the orators- that against him no one out of so many Roman nobles would have been able to speak freely (!?.)"

Now here's the question: I have seen the end of this period punctuated (OK, a small pun) three different ways. I have been using an old textbook by Omera Floyd Long, who uses the Weissenborn text and there it ends in a question mark. I have looked at the version on Perseus, which is supposed to be the Weissenborn text, and the sentence ends in an exclamation mark! I then looked at my SPQR app on my I-Phone and it ends in a period. Checking the original Weissenborn text, I saw that it ends in a question mark. Which is correct? Knowing that the Perseus has a lot of transciption and OCR errors and that the SPQR app is largely a mirror of Perseus, I decided to trust Weissenborn and went with the question mark.

This all probably seems a bit trivial, but I had a bugger of a time understanding this sentence, because I didn't really notice the difference in punctuation right away. Once I decided to treat it as a question and realised that Livy is asking (rhetorically) how is it that the Athenians dared to voice their ideas and the Romans couldn't, the whole sentence fell into place (Of course, the use of missurus fuerit should have been a big clue!).I got into this "predicament" because I usually read Long's book at home, the SPQR app in waiting rooms, restaurants, etc. and use Perseus on my desktop for quick vocabulary lookup and to check my work. Anyway, what I learned was that even small clues like punctuation can make a difference and that attention to detail is paramount. I think I'll just go back to scrolls and deal with scriptio continua!

P.S. I really couldn't think of a good word for levissimi. All I know is Livy really didn't hold the Greeks in any level of esteem, so the more deprecatory, the better.

Hylander
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Re: Livy Book 9.18.6,7

Post by Hylander » Sun Nov 10, 2019 6:21 pm

I had a difficult time making sense of this sentence, too., and I was helped by your translation.

I think you've got it basically right, but the exclamation point is a possible punctuation, indicating indignant irony. "Sure, there really wold have been a danger . . . " It would have to be ironic, because L's point is that there really was no danger that the Romans would not have stood up to Alexander.

If it is a question, though, wouldn't you expect something like idne vero periculum erat, as in the preceding sentence, which is clearly a question? Or could the question be inferred from the preceding sentence?

If it is a question, doesn't the main clause of the sentence have to be the question: "But would there really have been a danger . . . ?"

One minor point. et adversus quem -- the grammatical referent of quem is not Alexandri in the previous segment but rather eum later on: The structure is adversus quem . . . adversus eum . . .. in English you would have to turn this around to capture the structure of the Latin: ". . . that no one out of so many Roman nobles would have been able to speak freely against the man against whom in Athens, a city broken by the Macedonian arms, seeing at close hand the smoking ruins of Thebes, men dared to freely harangue . . ." Ausi sunt is best translated by English past tense rather than present perfect.

I think erat has to be interpreted as an indicative in a contrafactual: "would have been", since the Romans never actually had to face Alexander. Allen & Greenough 517b:
b. In the apodosis of a condition contrary to fact the past tenses of the Indicative may be used to express what was intended, or likely, or already begun. In this use, the Imperfect Indicative corresponds in time to the Imperfect Subjunctive, and the Perfect or Pluperfect Indicative to the Pluperfect Subjunctive:—

“sī licitum esset, mātrēs veniēbant ” (Verr. 5.129) , the mothers were coming if it had been allowed.
“in amplexūs fīliae ruēbat, nisi līctōrēs obstitissent ” (Tac. Ann. 16.32) , he was about rushing into his daughter's arms, unless the lictors had opposed.
“iam tūta tenēbam, nī gēns crūdēlis ferrō invāsisset ” (Aen. 6.358) , I was just reaching a place of safety, had not the fierce people attacked me."
I wonder whether the text is entirely sound here. Usually Livy's periodic style, though complicated, is quite clear. To me, without some particle marking whether this sentence is an ironic statement or a question, it seems uncharacteristically convoluted.

Shallowest" is perfect for levissimi..

mwh
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Re: Livy Book 9.18.6,7

Post by mwh » Sun Nov 10, 2019 7:11 pm

Once again Hylander got in first. Here, independently, is what I was going to post.

Well, it’s not framed as a question; there’s no -ne or interrogative. At the same time, it’s not a straight statement, since he means to say that there was no such danger. Maybe ?! would best get the sense (it is rhetorical, after all), but of course editors who don’t even allow exclamation marks would never countenance that. Isn’t it to be read as sarcastic? (“Yeah, sure.”) In which case a period (full stop) would be proper.

CIcero has a habit of starting a sentence as a question and running it on with a set of subordinate statements, so that by the time the sentence actually ends the reader has lost sight of the opening syntax. That presents modern editors with a bit of a problem—a problem from which Latin writers and ancient editors, with no question mark at their disposal, were happily exempt.

Aetos
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Re: Livy Book 9.18.6,7

Post by Aetos » Sun Nov 10, 2019 9:35 pm

Hylander & Michael,
Thank you both very much for your comments. Hylander, thanks for clarifying the adversus quem … adversus eum relationship. I don't think I really understood Long's note "adversus eum: resuming adversus quem". I was trying to make the condition work without reversing the word order in English (resulting in bad English!). Michael, thanks for pointing out that instances of "runaway clauses" (that's probably not a good description) aren't unusual. I definitely agree that the overall theme of the sentence is a sarcastic rejection of the Greeks' boast. Weissenborn's question mark did help me see that though, by pointing out the unreality of the situation and thus enabling me to see the contrafactual condition in the second half of the sentence (et adversus quem...),
Reading this sentence, I can almost picture Livy saying "You mean to tell me that those lily-livered Athenians can get away with haranguing Alexander and we can't?!"

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