Rules for the Latin Period

Sample Latin Period

Here’s the same sample Latin period from last time:

Volscī exiguam spem in armīs, aliā undique abscissā, cum tentāssent, praeter cētera adversa, locō quoquo inīquō ad pugnam congressī, inīquiōre ad fugam, cum ab omnī parte caederentur, ad precēs ā certāmine versī dēditō imperātōre trāditīsque armīs, sub iugum missī, cum singulīs vestīmentīs, īgnōminiae clādisque plēnī dīmittuntur. -Livy, iv.10

The Volscians, determined on trying the slender hope they had in arms, all others now cut off, besides many other disadvantages, having come to an engagement unfavorable for fighting, and still more so for retreat, when they were being cut down on every side, from fighting have recourse to entreaties, having given up their general and surrendered their arms, they are sent under the yoke and dismissed full of disgrace and suffering, with one garment each. (trans. Spillan)

Rules Observed in Latin Periodic Sentence Structure

“The main subject or object is put in the main clause, not in a subordinate clause.” -AG, 602

  • So here, the subject Volscī is within the same clause as the main verb, dīmittuntur (a passive that takes no object)
  • In this period, the main clause is divided by a series of subordinate clauses

Subordinate clauses are arranged meaningfully.

  • They are arranged for emphasis, prominence of importance, distance from the speaker, following a rotation of deictic gestures, etc.
  • They place cause before result, purpose before act, etc.

Asyndeton occurs frequently.

  • Asyndeton is the use of coordinate clauses within their copulative conjunction.
  • Here, in locō is given merely as locō, and the following, parallel clause lacks even locō itself
  • Further, there are numerous plausible et‘s and atque‘s missing

Pronouns disappear save where they are needed for clarity

  • Subordinate clauses are intentionally structured to surround all action around the original subject, permitting the writer to imply everything with the number, case and gender of a minimal number of words
  • Objects, too, may be repeated or replaced as rarely as possible

The Romans, especially in oratorical prose, use particular patterns of verse when ending their periods

  • quod scīs nihil prōdes, quod nescīs multum obest : what you know is of no use, what you do not know does great harm (Cicero, Dē Orātōre, 166) [— — ̆ x ]
  • I admit no knowledge of what the ‘preferred’ patterns of verse are for ending sentences, but I imagine professional orators had specific personal tastes
The Essential AG: 602

Famous Phrase: vēnī, vīdī, vīcī : I came, I saw, I conquered.

[commentary by Caesar on his short war with Pharnaces II in 47 BC; a light patch of asyndeton missing a few et‘s]

The Latin Period

Introduction to the Period

No, not this :         .

The Period is an extended and logically coherent sentence structure, with its subject and main verb placed at or near the final position in order to ‘hold suspense’ of sense until the entire sentence is read.

  • English is given to short sentences, not periodic sentences.
  • Latin (an inflected) is friendly toward period structure because the relationship between all words within a longer sentence are easily comprehended by the specific case of each word. Case lends internal structure or Latin sentences, where English relies on specific word order, clauses and their transitional particles.
  • The Period encourages Latin reads to view sentences as wholes, where English readers view (long) sentences as interrelated parts.
  • The Latin periodus, -ī (complete sentence) is from the Greek περιοδός, -οῦ (cycle, unit) [viz. περὶ + ἣ ὃδος, road]

Period Samples

An English period (rare):

High on a throne of royal state, which far

Outshone the wealth of Ormus and of Ind,

Or where the gorgeous East with richest hand

Showers on her kings barbaric pearl and gold,

Satan exalted sat. —Milton, Paradise Lost, ii 1-5

————————————————————————————————————————

A Latin period (appreciably less rare [though not quite common]):

Volscī exiguam spem in armīs, aliā undique abscissā, cum tentāssent, praeter cētera adversa, locō quoquo inīquō ad pugnam congressī, inīquiōre ad fugam, cum ab omnī parte caederentur, ad precēs ā certāmine versī dēditō imperātōre trāditīsque armīs, sub iugum missī, cum singulīs vestīmentīs, īgnōminiae clādisque plēnī dīmittuntur. -Livy, iv.10

The Volscians, determined on trying the slender hope they had in arms, all others now cut off, besides many other disadvantages, having come to an engagement unfavorable for fighting, and still more so for retreat, when they were being cut down on every side, from fighting have recourse to entreaties, having given up their general and surrendered their arms, they are sent under the yoke and dismissed full of disgrace and suffering, with one garment each. (trans. Spillan)

The central verb of the unit, dīmittuntur, is held to the very end, and a grand tapestry of meaning, history and structure is woven from one clause to the next, all hanging in the air until that summary, ultimate note.

The Essential AG: 601

Famous Phrase: quārē nōn, ut intelligere possit, sed, ne omnīnō possit nōn intelligere, cūrandum

[therefore, we must care that the reader be unable to misunderstand, not able to understand]

Related Link: Hyperekperissou, “Translating

(periodic sense-shift in action)