Constructions with Abstineō

Abstaining from an object in Latin can leave you with one of three grammatical constructions, given here in the order of frequency:

  • abstinēre aliquid/sē + ablative of object
  • abstinēre aliquid/sē (absolute)
  • absintēre aliquid/sē + genitive of object (cf. Greek ἀπεχἐσθαι τινός)

Here some examples of how and from what the Romans refrained—

  • virgō nuptā abstinet — virgins abstain from marriage
  • vir sapit quī urbis rēbus abstineat — the wise man holds off from politics
  • mē ostreīs et muraenīs facile abstinēbam — I easily abstained from oysters and eels — Cicero, Ad Familiārēs 7.26 (they make him nauseated)
  • mihi abstinē invidere! — don’t bother pitying me!
  • animum coluit abstinentem pecūniae — she cherished a frugal mind

The Reflexive Inter Sē

There are multiform variations on the inter sē construction, which I feel it best to expand on here. The basic structure is something like this:

  • Inter sē cōncertant: they compete amongst themselves.

The basic sense in which this is a ‘reflexive’ construction seems clear here. However, we can (i.e. the Romans did) expand this idea into a variety of related senses dense and enigmatic:

  • CIcerōnis puerī amant inter sē: the children of Cicero love one another
  • furtim inter sē aspiciēbant: they stole glances at one another (think Jason and Medea upon first meeting)
  • collēs duōs inter sē propinquinōs occūbat: they occupied two hills near to one another
  • quod nos inter sē sit: which we’ll keep between us
  • rēs inter sē similēs: matters sharing qualities
  • fāta quae inter sē continentur: fates which hang together

An alternative to this reflexive idea is the alter alterīus/ alterī construction, similar to the ἀλλοs ἀλλοθεν idea of the Greek idiom, but I’ll cover that more in a forthcoming post!

  • alter alterīus ōva frangit: they break each other’s eggs

The Essential AG: 145c, 301f