"Abstract for concrete" - could anyone explain?

By Phoebus Apollo, in 'Latin Grammar Questions', Sep 12, 2017.

  1. Phoebus Apollo Civis Illustris

    • Civis Illustris
    In this sentence from Cicero's Pro Caelio, section 22,

    "hoc ex genere si qui se in hoc iudicium forte proiecerint, excluditoteeorum cupiditatem, iudices, sapientia vestra, ut eodem tempore et huius salutiet religioni vestrae et contra periculosas hominum pot-entias condicioniomnium civium providisse videamini."

    the commentary I'm reading (Austin) says that this is an 'abstract for concrete' and that it should be translated as 'dangerous, powerful personages/individuals'. Lots of other translations I've read translate it in the same way. I've never come across this before and would have translated it as 'the dangerous power of men'. The Austin commentary directed me to a grammar book explaining it, but unfortunately it's in French so I have tried and failed to understand it - I've had a search in other places too, but can't seem to find an explanation. Would anyone be able to explain and/or direct me to a grammar which does explain it? Thanks
  2. Pacifica grammaticissima

    • Civis Illustris
    Location:
    Belgium
    "Abstract for concrete" means that you use an abstract noun, like "powers", to denote something concrete, like "powerful people". Power, in its literal sense, is abstract: it's a concept rather than something that can be physically seen, pointed at, or touched. A person, on the other hand, is concrete; it's a physical entity which you can see etc.

    Whether in this case periculosas hominum potentias should be translated as "dangerous powerful individuals" rather than somewhat more literally as "the dangerous power of some individuals" is debatable, though. Personally I think the closer translation works well enough. To my mind, protecting people against a power makes sense; we don't even necessarily need to assume that "powers" here was really meant to stand for people.

    Is the French explanation long? If it's short, I could probably translate it for you.
    Last edited by Pacifica, Sep 12, 2017
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  3. Hemo Rusticus Member

    Location:
    Scurrarum Urbs
    Showing off, artow? How typical of you Phrankofones.
  4. Phoebus Apollo Civis Illustris

    • Civis Illustris
    Thanks Pacifica! Yes I think I'll use the more literal translation just to be safe. That's very kind of you but it's a few pages long and I could only find it scanned onto archive.org so I can't copy and paste it!
  5. Pacifica grammaticissima

    • Civis Illustris
    Location:
    Belgium
    You could post a link if it were short, but a few pages long is too much for me to translate gratis, anyway. :p

    You're welcome.
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  6. Dantius Homo Sapiens

    • Civis Illustris
    Location:
    in orbe lacteo
    It's worth noting that L+S does not call this passage "abstract for concrete", it just says:

    B. Political power, authority, sway, influence (class.): potentia est ad sua conservanda et alterius obtinenda idonearum rerum facultas, Cic. Inv. 2, 56, 169: postquam divitiae honori esse coeperunt, et eas gloria, imperium, potentia sequebatur, Sall. C. 12, 1; Caes. B. G. 6, 14: erant in magnā potentiā, qui consulebantur,were in great authority Cic. Mur. 11, 25: potentiam alicujus criminari, id. Mil. 5, 12: singularis,the rule of an individualmonarchical power Nep. Dion, 9, 5: rerum,supreme dominionsovereignty Ov. M. 2, 259.—In plur.: contra periculosissimas hominum potentias, Cic. Cael. 9, 22.—
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