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]

Comparative Subordinate Conjunctions

Comparative Subordinate Conjunctions

Summary of Use

Conjunctions are either coordinate or subordinate

  • Coordinate conjunctions connect “coordinate or similar constructions” (AG, 223a)
  • Subordinate conjunctions connect a main clause with the clause it modifies (i.e. subordinates)

Comparative subordinate conjunctions are sub-class of subordinate conjunctions imply both comparison and condition between the two clauses

Comparative subordinate conjunctions may introduce indicative or subjunctive clauses, often hinged on the presence of near the conjunction

  • ut, utī, sīcut, prout, and praeut will produce indicative clauses
  • velut, velutī and ceu may produce either indicative or subjunctive clauses
  • tamquam (tanquam), quasi, ut sī, ac sī and velut sī will produce subjunctive clauses

Indicative Exempla

ut, utī, sīcut, or velut, just as, like

  • Fātur ut fātur meus pater: He speaks just as my father speaks.
  • Pugnat utī quae nihil āmittere habet: She fights like one with nothing to lose.
  • Ex altā arbore cadunt sīcut sidera summō caelō: they fall from the high tree. like stars from high heaven

prout or praeut like as, exactly as

  • these are more precise or emphatic than those at (2.1)
  • Fātur prout fātur meus pater: He speaks just like my father speaks.
  • Vidēris praeut tuus pater: You look exactly like your father.

ceu, just as, like

  • a poetic variant of those at (2.1)
  • tenuis fugit ceu fūmus in aurās: Fleeting, he flees as smoke in air.

Subjunctive Exempla

tamquam (tanquam), quasi, ut sī, and velut sī, as if

  • He mourns as if Asia were closed: luget tamquam clausa sit Asia
  • He speaks as if he were my father: fātur quasi meus pater sit.
  • She fights as if she had nothing to lose: pugnat ut sī nihil āmittere habeat.
  • They dreaded his cruelty as if he were present: crūdeēlitātem horērent velut sī cōram adesset.

ac sī, exactly as if

  • this is more emphatic than those at (3.1)
  • You do exactly as if you had asked me: similter facis ac sī mē rogēs. 

Famous Phrase: si fueris Romae, Romano vivito more; si fueris alibi, vivito sicut ibi

(if you will be at Rome, live in the Roman custom; if you will be elsewhere, live as those there)

[attributed to St. Ambrose, who received it as advice, this is the very clumsy predecessor do our own ‘when in Rome, do as the Romans do’]