Uses of Diēs

Lewis and Short have a different take on the masculine/feminine division of diēs. They claim that diēs is properly masculine, but appears in poetry (metrī gratiā) as a feminine noun to mean ‘day’ in prose to mean ‘time’ or ‘date.’

They pull a number of examples from Ennius, Ovid, Horace and Vergil to support this, but then also lay bare that Julius Caesar (feminine) and Sallust (masculine) use the two genders of diēs for the same phrases. What are your thoughts on this?

Caesar actually uses a variety of diēs phrases:

postridiē eius diē : after that day

diem ex diē dūcere : to lead (troops) day by day

The phrase in diēs is generally translated ‘every day.’ Cf. cotidiē and in diem, which mean roughly the same.

The feminine uses of diēs in prose are generally of a piece: dictā, edictā, cōnstitūtā, praestitūtā, pacta, statā, annuā… you get the idea.

A few more phrases:

  • dicere diem alicuī : to bring a charge against someone (by specifying a court day)
  • diēs natālis : birthday
  • in diem vīvere : to live day-to-day (paycheck-to-paycheck, so to speak—hopefully few of my readers!)

It Won’t Always Be Summer

I was tracing a Latin quote from Erasmus and it went a little deeper than expected, so I thought it best to share—

The quote from Erasmus: nōn semper erit aestās (Adagia, 4.3.86)

The immediate comparison to this in Latin would be Seneca’s dicēbam vōbīs: nōn semper erunt Satūrnālia (Apocolocyntosis, 12)

The general sense here is “winter is coming,” and therefore scholars have rightly traced these sentiments back to Hesiod, Work and Days 503:

“οὐκ αἰεὶ θέρος ἐσσεῖται—ποιεῖσθε καλīάς!”

The καλιά is a storage barn, though searching for καλιάς on Google I found this little gem:

Greek Patronymics in Latin

Patronymics are generally Greek-derived Latin nouns with special endings, appearing frequently in epic poetry and rarely elsewhere. They may be masculine or feminine, but always one or the other, depending on the specific ending:

  • -adēs, idēs, īdēs and -eus are masculine
  • ās, is, and -ēis are feminine

In Greek, these are usually adjectives; in Latin, they are usually nouns.


  • Tydareus, -ī (the Spartan king) —> Tyndaridēs, -ae (either Castor or Pollux, the twin sons of Tyndareus)
  • Tydareus, -ī (the Spartan king) —> Tyndaris, -idis (Helen, the daughter of Tyndareus)
  • Anchīsēs, -ae (Anchises, the Dardanian prince) —> Anchīsiadēs, -ae (Aeneas, the son of Anchises)
  • Tydeus, -ī, (Tydeus, the Aeolian hero) —> Tydīdēs, -ae (Domedes, the son of Tydeus)
  • Oīleus, -ī (Oileus, the Locrian king) —> Aiāx Oīleus, Aiācis Oīleī (Ajax Minor, the son of Oileus)
  • Hesperus, -ī (the Evening Star) —> Hesperis, -idis sg. (a daughter of Hesperus) —> Hesperides, -um pl. the Hesperides (not Hesperidēs, -ae, which would be masculine)

The Essential AG: 244


On the Manifest Erudition of Ms. Sweet Brown

(Latin for Addicts recently celebrated its first birthday, so I thought I’d have some fun with this one.)

In a recent interview with KFOR News Channel 4, Ms. Sweet Brown suggested to a reporter that neither she nor anyone has the time in their lives to deal with the drastic inconvenience of developing bronchitis. Because her phrasing was fairly inconsistent with English prescriptivist snark, she received extended (and continued) mockery around the internet for her statement.

As Latinists, we ought to redeem Ms. Brown in light of her public shaming by demonstrating the extent to which her grammar is entirely acceptable in the Roman view. If we remind the present-day, pedantic peddlers of grammatical ‘rules’ that many such rules were founded on a failed attempt to create an English register which imitated the grammar of Latin, then they will be forced to admit that not only does Ms. Brown’s statement conform to this grammar, but also reaches the highest registers of Augustan verse poetry.

Let us review the statement.

“I got bronchitis. Ain’t nobody got time for that.”

The first portion of Ms. Brown’s statement, ‘I got bronchitis,’ correctly expresses the passive role of a victim in the context of a disease. The proper phrase, ‘I caught bronchitis,’ uses an equally Germanic verb ‘catch,’ which effects a clumsy idiom, since none of us heads out with a net (or an open mouth) deliberately seeking disease. Instead, disease attacks us, and Ms. Brown has rightly made use of the passive ‘get,’ which we see holds a passive sense in the following exempla: ‘I got your letter.’ ‘I got gum on my shoe.’ ‘I got laid.’ Her phrase, ‘I got bronchitis,’ is nicely aligned with these counterparts, whereas ‘I caught the letter,’ ‘I caught gum on my shoe,’ and ‘I caught laid,’ all render various awkward images. It seems Ms. Brown was calling attention to the inappropriate nature of this ‘correct’ English idiom and substituting the more appropriate ‘got.’

The second portion of Ms. Brown’s statement, ‘Ain’t nobody got time for that,’ replicates the sort of double negation, internal elision and relative pronominal ellipsis achieved only in the highest register of Latin verse. Her phrase might be rendered thus in the Latin:

nōn nullō est tempus ad istum.

Why, we can even see that Ms. Brown’s statement could nicely produce a line of hexameter.

Bronchitatum tūlī. Nōn nullō tempus ad ist’ est.


The woman is brilliant. Make no mistake. Below are the references in AG for double negatives, elision and ellipsis.

The Essential AG: 326a, 612, 640


Colloquial Omission of Verbs

In colloquial and poetic language, common verbs like dīcō, faciō, agō and the like are often omitted.

  • What does this aim at: quō hōc [spectat]?
  • You will know a lion by his claws: ex ungue leōnem [cōgnōscēs].
  • What shall I say of this: quid [dē hōc dicam]?
  • The songstress thus spoke in replay: haec contrā cantrix [inquit].
  • Then Cotta said: tum Cotta [inquit].
  • Where are you from, and where are you of to: unde [venīs] et quō [tendis]?

Sum, as a copula, is omitted quite frequently where it is a present indicative or present infinitive:

  • You are his wife: tū coniūnx [es].
  • What need of many words: quid multa [verbōrum est]?
  • What then? Am I the boldest of all: quid ergō [est]? audācissimus ego ex omnibus [sum]?
  • The best things are rare: omnia praeclāra rāra [sunt]?
  • Hear first what must be accomplished: accipe quae peragenda prius [sunt].

As you might imagine, omission of sum will be especially popular in proverbs and sententiae, where clever identities and definitions are made all the time, making a est or a sunt all too predictable.

The Essential AG: 319a


Dative of Agent (2/2)

This post considers places where the Dative of Agent invades what would normally be constructions suitable to the Ablative of Agent.

With Passive Perfect Participles

With passive verbs, the Dative of Agent is most common with perfect passive participles, especially when these are virtually adjectival.

  • It has been deliberated and established by me: mihi dēlīberātum et cōnstitūtum est.
  • This has been provided for by you: tibi haec prōvīsa est.
  • The lights have made me dizzy: lūcibus cālīgātus sum.

Note that, with the final expression, lūcibus may be either Dative or an Ablative of Instrument (but not an Ablative of Agent, since there is no ā/ab). In this case, assume it’s an Ablative of Instrument, which is altogether more common, especially with something inanimate like ‘lights.’

With Passive Verb

The Dative of Agent is not unheard of with standard passive verbs, especially with the poets.

  • He is not seen by anyone: nōn cernitur ūllī.
  • He was favored by the nymph: Nymphō fovēbātur.

With Videor

The construction ‘it seems to x‘ is expressed with videor, vidērī, visus + Dative of Agent.

  • He seemed to me a horse with wings: mihi equis cum ālīs vidēbātur.
  • It seemed otherwise to the gods: dīs aliter vīsum est.
  • It seems to me that you are a slob: sordidus mihi vidēris.

With Probō

According to AG, probāre takes a Dative of Reference, but it’s so regularly attached that it seems like a Dative of Agent. I’m not sure I buy this, but here’s what they mean:

  • This view was approved by both him and me: haec sententia et illī et mihi probābātur.
  • This plan was not approved by the majority: hōc cōnsilium plēris nōn probābātur.

The Essential AG: 375


Scanning Aloud

Allen and Greenough offer this tip for learning the rhythm of Latin poetry:

“‘Scanning aloud’ is sometimes useful in the early stages of the study of Latin meter. Scanning aloud ignores the natural stress of the Latin words, instead treating all long syllables as stressed, all short syllables as unstressed. In effect, this technique replaces a quantitative pattern with a stress pattern.” -§607n1

  • If they mean what I believe they mean, I don’t see where this would be effective
  • Personally, I found that learning Latin verse based on the stress of its meter, not its syllables, works well
  • Would a spondee be read with double stress in this method? What would that accomplish?

Here’s an earlier post I did on a site with some sample readings aloud.

Does anyone else have experience with / thoughts on how to read Greek and Latin aloud, and how to use this as a teaching tool?

I had the fortune of reading about 50 lines of Greek and 40 lines of Latin in front of the kids at the Center for Talented Youth this summer. They were very taken with it. This was during a camp talent show with a Harry Potter theme, so, to preface, I told them that Greek was the language of Hufflepuff (with all its aspirates), and Latin the language of Slytherin (which was at least true of Aeneid 6.1-41, the highly sibilant passage I read them).

The Essential AG: 607 n1